Jeremy Pierce: July 2005 Archives

Julia Annas has produced a remarkable volume intended as a reader for introductory ancient philosophy classes. I'm using it in my class right now, and I'm finding it to be exactly what I was looking for.

An upper level ancient philosophy course should be more directed toward examining the whole of a philosopher's thought, and reading longer works in context with the entire philosopher's outlook is ideal in that environment. In an introductory course, however, students are taking philosophy for the first time, and the ancient philosophers are merely a means to learning philosophy for the first time. Focusing on issues is thus more important than getting the whole of a philosopher's thought down in every way.

This book presents six topics, with ancient philosophers' writings on the topics organized as a conversation. The six topics are (1) Fate and Freedom (which includes divine foreknowledge and the fixity of the future), (2) Reason and Emotion, (3) Knowledge, Belief, and Skepticism (including relativism), (4) Metaphysical Questions (including paradoxes, the Forms, cause/explanation, and time), (5) How Should You Live?, and (6) Society and the State.

The 81st Christian Carnival will be held at Dunmoose the Ageless this week. 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:

This is the the fourth 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.

The first response to Descartes' particular version of skepticism didn't take very long to surface. Indeed, Descartes was its author. He wasn't a skeptic himself. His goal in writing the Meditations on First Philosophy, where his most extended treatment of skepticism is found, was to argue that our knowledge is indeed well-founded. It's just that his view that knowledge requires absolute certainty pretty much required him to present reasons for doubting before he could reconstruct the certainty of knowledge from its basis. His argument is nowadays seen to be wholly unconvincing in more than one place, but I'll sketch the general outline of it anyway so you can see how he tried to respond, because any response that might be successful would have to avoid the problems with his attempt.

Descartes picked up on Augustine's argument that there's got to be at least one thing that we know, no matter how much doubt we engagw in. Augustine was dealing with the ancient skeptics who claimed not to have any beliefs. They saw belief as a way to open yourself up to error, since nothing can be trusted as reliable. Certain things appear to be the case, and the skeptics might assume those things in some sense, but they won't believe them. Augustine argued that this very reasoning process involves thinking, and someone's got to be doing that thinking. How can you doubt something if you don't exist? I'm raising doubts, so I must exist. I think, so I must exist. The most famous formulation of this is "I think; therefore I am", which doesn't occur in Descartes' Meditations as such but is in one of his other works, and the main argument does occur in the Meditations. It's not originally his argument, though, despite the popular notion that he came up with it. It's really Augustine's argument. Descartes did make use of it, though, to begin his way back up the path to knowledge. He at least knows that he exists, because he knows he thinks.

Last week I said the following about people who make themselves feel superior by criticizing how some people use language but turn out actually not to understand the linguistic principles of the case and thus criticize something that's perfectly fine:

Those who make fun of people who say things like this are therefore ignorant about how the English language works. It's kind of ironic that it's so easy for people to place themselves as having a superior understanding of language by making fun of people who talk about PIN numbers, when doing so is actually betraying their own ignorance of how language works. Unfortunately, this sometimes goes along with a sense of superiority about being a better master of the language, and as with those who criticize President Bush's regional dialect as unintelligent it just turns out to be arrogant ignorance disguised as intelligence and superiority, a very unattractive combination.

A similar phenomenon occurs with reviews of science fiction. Those who simply don't like sci-fi sometimes speak of it as fantasy adventure stories for children and thus reveal that they themselves are either ignorant of what the best sci-fi is really like or not intelligent enough to understand the intelligence behind much science fiction.

This is the the third 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.

One bad objection to the arguments in the previous post is that the cases it involves are fairly extreme and seem unlikely. It's a bad objection because the point doesn't involve any assumption that the cases are likely. The point is very simple and straightforward. You can't rule these cases out. They're within the realm of possibility as far as our evidence is concerned. Our evidence is just as consistent with the Matrix or an evil demon's deception as it is with what most of us believe to be true. All that matters is that it's possible. If it's possible that something is true, even something you think incredibly likely, then you can't rule it out. If it were true, it would mean your beliefs are false. That means you can't rule out the possibility that your beliefs are false, and you don't know those things that you believe. How likely the skeptical scenarios are plays no role in the argument. If the argument is bad, it's not because the skeptical scenarios are far-fetched. Some other error in reasoning must have taken place.

Nonetheless, the skeptical argument can easily be framed in very mundane circumstances that aren't all that far-fetched at all. In fact, they're things that happen all the time. For instance, I might walk to campus and then wonder if I know where my car is. I know where I parked it. Do I know it's still there? I haven't moved it. Maybe it's moved from where I put it, however. How would it do that? Well, it's possible that someone broke into it and stole it. What's more likely is that my wife got into it and drove it somewhere when I wasn't expecting her to do so. Can I rule that out? So I don't really know if my car is where I left it. It may not be all that probable that she'd go somewhere on a day when I don't know she's going somewhere, but that doesn't mean she didn't. Even if she didn't, I don't know that she didn't, so I don't know that the car is where I left it.

This is a list of posts in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series, based on my lecture notes from a class I have taught by that name. I will add links to posts as I post them:

1. Intro

Knowledge
2. Cartesian Skepticism
3. Skepticism from Ordinary Cases
4. A Priori Responses to Skepticism
5. Berkeley's Idealism
6. Idealism: the Arguments
7. Sidebar: Theories of Perception
8. Pragmatism
9. Contextualism
10. Reliabilism
11. Skepticism About Science
12. Responses to Skepticism About Science

Knowledge and God
13. No-Evidence Arguments: Divine Silence Argument
14. No-Evidence Arguments: Evidence for God?
15. No-Evidence Arguments: Explanatory Adequacy and Ockham's Razor
16. Responses to No-Evidence Arguments
17. No-Evidence Arguments: Some Final Thoughts

Arguments for the Existence of God
18. Cosmological Argument
19. Cosmological Argument: Objections
20. Design Argument I: the General Argument
21. Design Argument II: The Fine-Tuning Argument
22. Design Argument III: Many Worlds or a Designer?
23. Moral Argument I: The Inadequacy of Naturalistic Ethics
24. Moral Argument II: Non-Naturalistic Ethics
25. Moral Argument III: The Euthyphro Dilemma

Problem of Evil
26. The Logical Problem of Evil
27. Against the Logical Problem of Evil
28. The Evidential Problem of Evil
29. Explanations for Evil, Part I
30. Explanations for Evil, Part II
31. Explanations for Evil, Part III
32. Explanations for Evil, Part IV

Philosophical Theology
33. Omnipotence and Possibility
34. Omniscience and Time
35. Omniscience and Freedom
36. Goodness and Revelation

Freedom and Determinism
37. Determinism and Fatalism
38. Arguments for Determinism
39. Arguments for Free Will
40. Freedom and Determinism: Possible Views
41. Libertarian Freedom and Incompatibilism
42. Problems with Libertarian Freedom
43. Arguments for Compatibilism
44. Compatibilist Freedom
45. Moral Luck: The Cases
46. Moral Luck: Responses

Mind and Body
47. Three Arguments for Dualism
48. Leibniz's mill argument
49. The Interaction Problem

Personal Identity
61. Nihilism

Cartesian Skepticism

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This is the the second post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for the introduction to the series that explains what it's all about and the list of posts in the series, which I will update as they appear.

Perhaps the most famous line in the history of philosophy is Descartes' "I think therefore I am". What's often misunderstood is what he meant and why he was saying it. He wasn't saying that only things that think exist, as if thinking is what makes us exist, though many jokes rely on that mistake. [Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender asks him if he wants a drink. He says, "I think not" and promptly disappears.] What Descartes was up to with that line, often called the Cogito (from the Latin "cogito ergo sum"), was a response to a particular skeptical claim, and it was the beginning of an extended response to skepticism that most philosophers today believe was completely ineffective. They do, however, tend to think that the skeptical questions he raised are very difficult to get around, and they attribute the persistence of skepticism to him, even if his goal was to refute it. This is how these things go sometimes.

What I want to do in this post is motivate the kind of skepticism Descartes raised. I'll proceed to other kinds of skepticism and responses to skepticism in further posts.

The 80th Christian Carnival is at Daddypundit. I was going to submit my John 4 post, but last night ended up being too busy with taking care of the kids by myself for half the night and then finishing up my reading for today's class and the take-home exam that I gave to my students this morning, which went beyond midnight before I was done, so I completely forgot. Abednego did remember to submit his post on Edwards on making the most of time, so the carnival gets a link anyway.

doctors who give non-pregnant women abortions
So what is it that they're supposed to be aborting?

jeremy pierce midichlorian count
My Midichlorian count is zero. Midichlorians don't really exist. George Lucas made them up.

is john edwards of crossing over a christian?
I assume you mean John Edward. John Edwards is a senator from North Carolina who ran for vice-president in 2004. John Edward is a fraudulent psychic who claims to communicate with the dead. There is no one named John Edwards from the show Crossing Over. On the question you meant to ask, I wouldn't think it very likely that he's going to be all that positive about Christianity, given that the Christian scriptures repeatedly condemn the thing he's basing his career on as downright evil.

I've been wanting to work through some of the material in the introduction to philosophy course (Theories of Knowledge and Reality) that I've now taught seven different times (five of those seven with two sections, so really twelve times of teaching the material). On most of the topics I've got well-organized and carefully written class handouts. If I do this, I can basically have much of my course materials online so that those who want to can look at the substance of what I teach in that class, which is not only my favorite course to teach but the one that I think I'm best at teaching. I'd love to be able to point people to that if they want to get a sense of how I cover certain issues and so on. It will also give me a chance to get feedback from a wider variety of people than just my students on how this material can be presented and on whether my evaluations of certain positions and arguments are correct.

I want to stress that this isn't what you would get by taking my course. Much of the learning that goes on in the classroom comes from direct interaction. I will tease out certain ideas, often getting students to come up with them. For some reason my teaching style lends itself well to the process of presenting some bits, being hit with an objection, responding to the objection, using that response to lead into the next bit, with its own objections to follow, and so on. Some of that might come across in handouts, but the idea is that the student's own objections will be part of this process. Sometimes that requires my clarifying questions to see what someone really has in mind. You can have these back-and-forth processes in comments on a blog post, but you can't do it in the middle of a post before you read the rest of the post the way you can do it in a live conversation. So I want to say that these notes don't duplicate what goes on in the classroom. What they do is present much of the content of what I want to get across in this class, and they give some sense of how I think about the various arguments and positions that arise, of how I organize the information and the issues, of how I think certain answers to certain questions will have some bearing on how you might answer other questions.

More Pictures

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I'm writing an exam again while preparing for tomorrow's class. Yes, I am doing both simultaneously, and no this is not multi-tasking. In this case doing one is part of the work for doing the other, and doing them together is easier than doing one and then the other. I've finished everything except the stuff on tomorrow's material, and reading with a view toward writing questions is much easier than reading and preparing lecture and then thinking up questions afterward.

Anyway, I don't have time to write a contentful post at the moment. The stuff I've written ahead of time has now all been posted or still needs some more work before posting. Instead, check out Isaiah playing in the neighbor's birdbath. You can't see all of his face, but it's hard to get pictures of him even this good. He doesn't cooperate with cameras. Sam also took some pictures of the local flora and fauna, including some nice blowups of our resident stinging insects.

'Which' and 'That'

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Language complainers like William Safire and Richard Lederer often complain about the misuse of 'which' and 'that'. In school I learned the standard SAT usage of these two terms, and it made complete sense to me, because in my dialect you just didn't use these terms the way some people do. Linguists who observe the way the English language really works (as opposed to how Safire and Lederer want it to work) point out that the so-called misuse is not a misuse. It's a normal part of the English language. Arnold Zwicky even claims that virtually everyone uses 'which' in exactly the ways the style manuals say not to, including the writers of those manuals.

Well, I want to say that there is something bad about this normal part of the English language. It is a stylistic issue, and it's one that conveys something about the speaker. It's not grammatically wrong. It does sound uppity, though. In my dialect, you would never say "hand me the phone which is on the table" unless you wanted to sound like a snob. You might say "hand me the phone that's on the table". You might say, "The phone, which is on the table, is not plugged in." You wouldn't really even use 'that' unless you needed it. "Hand me the phone on the table" is much better than either, but the one with 'that' sounds ok. The one with 'which' just sounds like the kind of thing you'd expect someone with lots of money and private tutors to say.

Last I'd heard, the New York Times online had gone paid subscription only, but I was able to access this piece with a BugMeNot password. It's a surprisingly positive article on John Roberts. [Hat Tip: Orin Kerr]

Along the way, it lists a really strange critique of Roberts from one of the liberal special interests groups. Roberts, when he was working for the office of the Solicitor General under the first President Bush, was assigned the task of writing some arguments for the administration's (entirely reasonable, in my opinion) view that religious expressions can play a role in public life, including government activities, as long as they aren't setting up a state religion or coercing religious activities. The Supreme Court at the time voted 5-4 against the government's case, which means the strongest minority possible agreed with the case Roberts was arguing. The article says the following:

Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Wednesday that Judge Roberts's participation in the case makes him "unsuited for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court." He said that if confirmed to the court, Judge Roberts would "open the door to majority rule on religious matters."

can intersexuals develop inside a surrogate
Why not? I don't think embryos that will develop as intersexuals have any special resistance to developing that an artificial implantation would make more difficult. The main cause behind intersexuality is genetic anyway, so it's not as if implantation in a surrogate would prevent those characteristics from developing through providing a different environment. Even if that were to happen, it could happen the other way too. Someone who might not have developed as an intersexual in the biological mother's uterus could in a surrogate's.

veggie tales sexist
I'm going to need to see an argument for that one.

Now on to the Googlanche (I'm trying out different spellings to see what looks best). When President Bush announced his pick for the next Supreme Court justice, I started to get loads of Google searches for words related to his choice, often with relevant keywords related to finding information about him, occasionally with really strange associated keywords. I normally get 300-500 visitors a day (you count as a new visitor if it's been more than an hour since your last page load). Occasionally it goes into the 600s, rarely if at all into the 700s. According to Sitemeter, the amount of traffic I was getting between 10pm and midnight that night would have been the equivalent of getting 1000 visitors a day. At that point, since I still had all my Sitemeter pages still open, I decided to catalog all the various hits I was getting from Google. It would have been insane to try to count how many I've gotten of each. For some of them it would probably be in the 30s or maybe even in the 40s. Most of them are in the single or double digits, a few only once. Oh, and if you got here looking for real information on John Roberts, go to the main page and do a search of that page, or if some time has gone on by the time you arrive here you might want to check the July 2005 archive. I imagine the August, September, and October archives will have posts on him too, but those haven't happened yet as I write this. On to the searches:

The 80th Christian Carnival will be held at Daddypundit this week. 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:

Michael Eric Dyson is on C-SPAN2 right now at the Harlem Book Fair. Someone just asked him if you can simultaneously say that we need to work on structures in society and work on attitudes within the black community. He didn't really answer the question at first but spent a long time complaining about Bill Cosby's steretypes of what counts as attitudes worth changing. He picked out the names Bill Cosby made fun of, names typically found among black Americans that were made up to sound African but with no basis in Africa (and one Islamic name, Muhammad). He picked out styles of dress that count as illegitimate, seeing one style of dress as superior. The only example Dyson mentioned, though, is the unwillingness to pull pants up high enough to cover underwear, which I think does have a moral element. Flashing people just isn't socially appropriate, and that's not a racist attitude.

This Week's Carnivals

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ChristWeb stepped in at the last minute and hosted Christian Carnival LXXVIII this week. Three Parableman posts are there, one from me for this week, one from Abednego for this week, and one from me that was supposed to be in last week's. No wonder I've been getting more traffic from this carnival than I sometimes do!

Meanwhile, Carnival of the Vanities CXLVIII is at New World Man, guest hosted by the members of the Supreme Court. starts here. My post is under Justice Scalia's section, presumably because it's about what some call strict constructionism, though ironically Justice Scalia hates that term and prefers to call his view originalism, and besides, this post criticizes Justice Scalia and defends Justice Thomas on the issue of stare decisis.

John 4 in the ESV

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I was reading through John 4 in the ESV recently, and I realized just how bad (in one sense) its translation of John is. This isn't the first chapter that I've noticed such things, but it's the first time I've seen so many in such a short space. Whoever translated John in the ESV seems to me to be more inclined to use expressions and word ordering that are simply not grammatical, or at the very least incredibly awkward sounding, in English. Consider the following examples:

I often hear statements involving an acronym and then one of the terms the acronym stands for immediately after. So it might be something like talking about the NIV version of the Bible (New International Version version), the GOP party (Grand Old Party party_, the HIV virus (HIV: Human Immuno-deficiency Virus), your ATM card's PIN number (PIN: personal identification number), or the ATM machine itself (ATM: automated teller machine). See Wikipedia's entry on RAS Syndrome (RAS: Redundant Acronym Syndrome) for many more examples and further discussion of this phenomenon (though, as I will explain, I find their conclusion that this phenomenon is incorrect to be itself incorrect; they do go on and give justifications for doing the technically incorrect thing, but I don't even think it's right to say it's technically incorrect).

What I hear people saying frequently in such cases is that "NIV version" is redundant (or whatever example it might be; this isn't about Bible versions but about acronyms). In most of these cases, the final word that the acronym stands for is repeated immediately after the acroynm, and that's said to be repeating something that the meaning of teh acronym already contained. Therefore, it's redundant. I used to think this was the right thing to say. Now I'm not so sure. Is "NIV version" redundant? Is "HIV virus" redundant? Is "PIN number" redundant? I say no.

Over the last couple days we've been hearing about how Bush has changed his stance on what would bring him to fire someone over the Valerie Plame leak. Well, ThreeBadFingers and JustOneMinute correct the historical revisionism. Bush originally said that he would fire anyone who did anything illegal. In 2003 he said, "And if the person has violated the law the person will be fired." In 2004, he was asked if he stood by his original claim, and he said yes. Now when he's asked if he will fire anyone involved, he says he'll fire anyone who can be shown to have done something illegal. Where is this supposed change in stance? [hat tip: Instapundit, who refers to this as moving the goalposts]

This reminds me of when everyone was saying that Bush invented the humanitarian aid defense on the eve of the attack on Iraq, when he had been giving it in speeches months beforehand. Read the longer quotes from Bush in those two posts, and then read the Reuters story on this. I have a hard time reading this as anything but outright lying given what Bush had originally said in 2003, what they asked him in 2004 that he said yes to, and what they're now saying about those events. It's not just the media. Howard Dean is accusing Bush of lowering the ethics bar from where he had originally set it. But people will believe this revisionism and repeat it, so their willingness to lie about Bush will have its desired effect. I wonder if that's all that counts for some of these people.

[Update (7 April, 2006): Since so many people are finding this post due to Lewis Libby's testimony that the president authorized him to reveal classified information, I should link to my discussion of that information.]

"The next appointment, for Chief Justice, is not going to be a woman, so we're going to see two real conservatives on the court." So says Susan Estridge Estrich, who apparently doesn't think a woman can be a real conservative. This was after announcing that John Roberts is a nice guy, a friendly guy, but a hardcore conservative, as if that's an unusual combination. She's one of the better liberal analysts on cable news. This sort of thing is really out of character for her. I guess her acknowledged disappointment that a woman didn't get nominated has thrown her a bit loopy.

"The burden is on the nominee for the Supreme Court to prove that he is worthy, not on the Senate to prove that he is not." So says my senator, Chuck Schumer. Is this even a plausible view? The duty of the Senate is to examine the nominee to give their advice and consent to the president in his nomination if the nominee is to be confirmed. Where in that is there anything of the nominee having to prove anything to them?

Someone or other should be hosting the 79th Christian Carnival this week, but no one seems to know who, and the carnival-runner isn't responding, so we'll see if it happens. In case it does, 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:

Mark Heath has a nice breathtaking post about two examples from the ESV translation of II Chronicles 9. I agree with him on both points that the ESV made the wrong translation decision, but I don't want to duplicate his post, so I'll just tell you to read it yourself. One further thing that interested me about his first example is that this is yet another case of translations not lining up in the standard ways. The ESV gives the most so-called literal rendering in this case. The NIV is the least close to the so-called literal rendering. In between are the NASB, CEV, and NLT, which all translate the passage the same way. Then you find two that give the ideal translation, which is in my view a little closer to the so-called literal translation than the NASB, CEV, and NLT and much more than the NIV. Those two translations are the HCSB and the Message. Compare the standard hierarchy of tendencies from more formally equivalent to more functionally equivalent:

I'm too busy (preparing for class, adjusting my readings schedule for class due to not having known how long certain topics would take to discuss, and writing an exam) to post anything of consequence, but here are some more searches of absolutely no consequence.

sabbath rules pharisees "pick your nose"
Ha! Somehow I don't think the Pharisees had any explicit rules about that.

bible in original klingon
OK, I'm fully aware that the Bible is being translated into Klingon, some of which is available online, but what does it mean to speak of the Bible in original Klingon?

Weasels give birth through their mouths
No joke. Someone really searched for that and got my blog. Through better tactics with a search engine than the person who arrived at my blog had used, I managed to find this, which says, "The ancients believed that weasels gave birth their young through their mouths, probably because these animals are known to carry them with their teeth."

"guaranteed to happen" and other slang phrases
I didn't know that was a slang phrase to begin with. I guess that's why this search turned up only four sites, none of which treat this phrase as slang.

muslims say they believe in the same religion as Christians
No, they don't. They say there's only one God, and they say Christians believe in three. They say Muhammad is his prophet, and they know full well that Christians don't believe that. Their basic confession of faith consists of those two things, both of which they see as distinguishing them from Christians. It's liberal Christians who think the religions are the same. Muslims are under no such illusion.

Girls = Evil fallacy
Yes, someone actually wants some written support for the thesis that girls are not equivalent with evil. Of course, girls are evil. We all are, but that doesn't mean girls are equivalent with evil. 'Girls are evil' is only true if you're using the attributive sense of the verb 'to be'.

Kid Pictures

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This time we've got pictures of all three. Here's one of Ethan at school. Isaiah's still sleeping on the floor, but this time he's got Larry-Boy and the curtains for company. Sophia pictures have been lacking of late, but Sam's got four up now.

Those who are sometimes called strict constructionists call it judicial activism when a judge first enumerates a right that is not explicitly formulated in the Constitution. The standard liberal response to this is that the 9th Amendment allows for rights that are not enumerated in the Constitution. Thus there are rights that are not listed, and therefore it's not judicial activism for a judge to proclaim what they are. This seems to me to be a fallacious move.

The 9th Amendment acknowledges the existence of rights that the Constitution doesn't enumerate. It doesn't say what they are. It's an interesting case of indeterminacy in law, because it declares that something is true while not filling out any details at all about what it makes legally true. So the right for gay people to engage in sodomy, for instance, is not in the Constitution on the grounds that the Constitution admits that there are some rights that aren't enumerated. The Constitution doesn't just leave it open that there are rights that it doesn't cover. It says that there are such rights. That's what's wrong with what some conservatives say. The rights explicitly in the Constitution aren't the only ones we have. Still, the Constitution doesn't say what those rights are, so it is going beyond the Constitution to claim that some purported right is one of the ones the 9th Amendment might refer to. It's therefore judicial activism.

This is part four of the list of commentaries I recommend. The series starts here. This is a selection of commentaries that have not yet been published that I expect may well be worthy of being in my recommendations. For a longer list of forthcoming commentaries, see this post. I've tried to indicate what level I expect each to be, but some series have no volumes out yet, and others can vary in level of detail, so it's a little hard to predict this in some cases.

This is part three of a four-part list of commentary recommendations. Part one is here. Now I want to list what I take to be the best scholarly commentaries. Not all of these are evangelical, so evangelicals will first want to have some ability to sift through them for what's valuable, and many of them assume some knowledge of the original languages, though you can sort of follow most of them without that. (I don't know Hebrew, for instance, but I read commentaries on the Old Testament from this list all the time.) This list is especially subjective according to the judgment of one person (who still has read lots of reviews and either possesses or has library access to many of these volumes), but these are the ones I think would be most valuable to someone who had to write a research paper in Bible school or seminary or to give the best background information and exegetical help to a pastor with good training.

This is part two of my commentary recommendations post. I'm separating it out into four parts because of its length. Part one is here. None of this is new. It's just a new post so I don't have it all in one long post.

This post is the list of intermediate level commentaries, what I would recommend for experienced Bible study group leaders, with more detail than some of the basic commentaries give but not necessarily requiring seminary or Bible school training (as a fully technical commentary might).

Richard Chappell of Philosophy et cetera is trying to move the IPIP-NEO personality test into the more conservative parts of the blogosphere, and he's enlisted me to help. To participate, just follow the instructions below. I do consider this the most informative personality test I've ever taken, and I took the time to interact with my results with some criticism and some appreciation back when I took it. That post gives a good sense of what the test looks at. He's combined this with the Political Compass, which I've also taken, but I can't seem to find a post where I discuss the results. He doesn't link to The Blogosphere Political Compass Project, which records different bloggers' scores on that test. I'm glad I submitted mine, or I would have to take it again. The Political Compass is a much more nuanced political categorization than standard left-right analyses. It separates two ways of being libertarian. One opposes authoritarianism, the other collectivism. Where you stand on each scale might be independent of where you stand on the other.

Carnivals

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Carnival of the Vanities CXLVII is at Wallo World. I accidentally sent my Christian Carnival post this week to Bill, so he's got two of my posts there. This is one problem with using the automated carnival submissions form at Conservative Cat. If you want to submit posts to two carnivals in succession, you have to change which carnival you're sending it to, or they'll both go to the same place.

Hosts have the right to exclude posts that they didn't receive on time, even if the post in question was submitted on time but to the wrong carnival, and I guess my explanation wasn't excusing enough to get my post into this week's Christian Carnival. That means you'll have to find the link the to current Christian Carnival at Matt Jones's list of Christian Carnivals. Linking to a carnival shows my appreciation that they included my post, so I have a policy of not linking to carnivals I'm not in, because that would defeat the purpose of linking to carnivals I am in. Since I'm in the CotV twice, I therefore ought to link to it again in the spirit of the original principle.

I did forget last week to link to Christian Carnival LXXVII: The Jedi Edition at the Bible Archive, which does have one of my posts. I not only forgot to thank Rey for including a post submitted more than 20 hours after the deadline due to my being out of town and preoccupied with anything but blogging, but I forgot even to link to the carnival!

Update: Philosophers' Carnival XVI is now up. It contains posts from all three blogs I contribute to, though only one of them is mine.

Orin Kerr puts Clinton's consultation with Orrin Hatch about Supreme Court nominees into perspective. Clinton consulted with Hatch out of political necessity, because he wanted to be sure he didn't nominate someone who couldn't be confirmed, and he was worried his first choices wouldn't. If Bush needs to consult with senators for the same reasons Clinton did, I wouldn't call that the best of motives. It's not as if it would be about honoring the senators' advice. It would be a practical necessity. That's not how it's being painted, though. Al Franken was making comments on the air Wednesday about how Bush needs to do this and how Clinton didn't need to be told to do it. I don't see any reason why Bush shouldn't hear out the advice leading senators might have for him, but telling him that he must do this on the grounds that Clinton did isn't exactly the way to motivate it on moral grounds, not given Clinton's own motivations.

This one really shocked me. This is from Doug Wilson, of all people. Gay marriage is a judgment on our culture, and as God's people Christians should allow that judgment to play out. Now this shouldn't be too shocking from someone who thinks we need to make a strong distinction between the heavenly reality of the church (what Augustine called the City of God) and earthly governments. Wink and I disagree on how much the government has a moral responsibility to represent moral truth as taught by Christianity, which we both believe to get moral teaching correct, but we agree on the strong distinction between the two cities of Augustine. For those who don't know who Wilson is, he's a theonomist, maybe the most influential one in the world. That means he sees no such distinction. For him to say something like this sounds really strange, at least if you think of theonomy the way pundits complaining about conservative evangelicals' politics think of it. However, those complainers don't understand what the more sane versions of theonomy really amount to, and Wilson's stance on this issue demonstrates that. [Hat tip: World, whose weird code for links I can never get to work either in Internet Explorer or Firefox, which is why I'm not giving any links to Wilson himself.]

On the more general point about Theocracy Paranoia, Gene Veith said something a few weeks back that I thought was incredibly insightful. The primary things people are worried about are the unsuccessful attempts by conservatives, many of whom are Christians, to limit abortion and to prevent marriage from being gender-neutral. Consider the failed attempt to limit what can best be described as the most barbaric abortion procedure ever invented That description of it is almost a direct quote from a Norwegian atheist philosopher friend of mine who is thoroughly opposed to the pro-life position. He says he doesn't know how American politicians like my senators can defend such an barbaric procedure. Even after Congress passed it and the president signed it, judges wouldn't allow the ban, claiming that it might sometimes be healthier for a woman to kill her child during birth than to go ahead and finish delivery. If the so-called theocrats can't even accomplish that small and relatively reasonable restriction on a dreadful procedure, I don't know why there's such paranoia about the looming theocracy that we all need to beware of. Anyway, in the light of that point, Veith asks the following question. "A few decades ago, when abortion was against the law and homosexuality was assumed by all sides to be immoral, was that a theocracy?"

Update: I hadn't thought to run my mouse over the World link and then type in the URL. I've done that. Apparently it's a piece by Doug Jones and Doug Wilson together. My thoughts on the actual piece follow below the fold.

Gnu at Wildebeest's Wardrobe reflects on the Declaration of Independence as a model of a cumulative case argument. As a result, he thinks it's also a model of what an overall Christian apologetic will look like. If you want to see some real fun, look at his philosophy disguised as fantasy role-playing post, and if you have any idea what he might be getting at please comment. These posts usually have some significant point, but I'm still trying to figure this one out.

Adrian Warnock found the Oxford English Dictionary statement on the use of 'they' as a singular in contexts of unspecified gender:

The word they (with its counterparts them, their, and themselves) as a singular pronoun to refer to a person of unspecified sex has been used since at least the 16th century. In the late 20th century, as the traditional use of he to refer to a person of either sex came under scrutiny on the grounds of sexism, this use of they became more common. It is now generally accepted in contexts where it follows an indefinite pronoun such as anyone, no one, someone, or a person, as in anyone can join if they are a resident and each to their own. In other contexts, coming after singular nouns, the use of they is now common, though less widely accepted, especially in formal contexts. Sentences such as ask a friend if they could help are still criticized for being ungrammatical. Nevertheless, in view of the growing acceptance of they and its obvious practical advantages, they is used in this dictionary in many cases where he would have been used formerly.

Adrian's comments are also worth reading, as is his suggestion as to the best way to deal with one issue in gender translation. The translation he gives of the verse he considers is, I think, the best solution I've seen. It's certainly more fitting with standard spoken English, and it's just about the most common way to say this sort of thing even in the formal settings I often find myself in. Things are in flux with how positively to deal with it (though it's clear that the negative step of rejecting inclusive 'he' and so on is established), but singular 'they' is pretty much accepted in formal contexts enough of the time that I'd say it's grammatical not just in informal English.

Outhouse Lawyers

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Juan Non-Volokh points out another case of assuming a judge's view on abortion from little to no evidence. This time it's Judge John Roberts, for whom the only evidence is that he worked in the solicitor general's office while the administration who put him there was pro-life. While working there, he had to give the best arguments he could come up with in defense of some pro-life positions, but that doesn't mean he endorses everything he said. It's a bit beyond the evidence to call him a real hardliner, which everyone seems to be doing.

This complements my own contention that we know next to nothing about Alberto Gonzales' views on abortion. Many people are saying he's liberal or moderate on abortion, but I don't think we have any reason to think that. We know one thing. He believes that when a state has a law that a judge should decide whether a girl is mature enough to make moral decisions that display awareness of the relevant issues, he believes that such a judge should make an accurate assessment of that girl's maturity. The only evidence of anything he's said about abortion is based on exactly that. He may have opposed the law in question, for all we know. All we do know is that he was following the law in determining whether this girl was morally mature enough that she was aware of the relevant issues. Of the two, I think the guesswork for Roberts is more likely to be accurate, but even there I don't think we should assume he agrees with all the positions that it was his job to write on behalf of the administration.

[For some evidence that Gonzales may oppose the law he followed, consider this quote: "While the ramifications of such a law and the results of the Court's decision here may be personally troubling to me as a parent, it is my obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of this state without imposing my moral view." (source: slate, though I think that column makes the very mistake I've been explaining) That quote suggests to me that his moral view is that such laws shouldn't exist and that parents should be able to restrict their children of this age from having abortions, no matter what judges think.]

Speaking of which, Another Man's Meat has just revised his Outhouse Lawyers from last year. This is not only my favorite post Phil has ever written, but it's my favorite term any blogger has ever coined. It's sort of like backseat drivers or armchair quarterbacks, only much more informative about what sort of advice or criticism is actually being given. I think it's pretty appropriate for many of the people deciding the views of judges whose records are at best not clear.

For lack of a better 1250th post, I'm posting this in that coveted spot. These are the most entertaining searches I've had in the last week or so, partly because they had no chance of finding what they were supposed to find. how to use 10% of my brain I know there are people who think we don't use any more than 10% of our brains, but if you really want to use only 10% of it I'm sure someone could arrange that. It would take a lobotomy and probably a good deal more brain damage than that, and maybe you wouldn't live very long afterward, but I suppose it's possible. On the other hand, you probably use 10% of your brain already. I suspect people in a persistent vegetative state are using far more than 10% of their brain. In fact, I'm quite sure we use a lot more than 10%, something like 99%. So the answer to your question is simply to go on living. former Antony Flew still athiest This one always amuses me (even aside from the misspelling that makes it sound as if someone is saying he's still the most athi, whatever that means). For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, Antony Flew is a famous philosopher among those who follow atheism/theism debates but not very highly regarded among philosophers for any real philosophical work. He spent most of his life defending atheism but now at the end of his life has accepted intelligent design arguments based on fine-tuning of cosmological constants and thus believes in some sort of higher being (though clearly not traditional theism). He's been such a hero of the Prometheus Books crowd (a publication house dedicated to opposing theism and anything like it) that some people from that mindset found some statement he made three years before he became a theist stating that he was not a theist, and they left comments on every blog mentioning his conversion (if you want to call it that) saying that the claims that he is now a theist are a hoax. This hoax about a hoax got passed around the blogosphere like wildfire. Every blogger I know of who posted about this got some commenter spreading the misinformation that he was still an atheist. For links, see the post that this search turned up. I presume this search was looking for confirmation of the claims that those hoaxsters were perpetrating. That's not exactly what the search led to. premarital foreplay mortal sin engaged I don't even know what to say about this one, but I thought it was strange enough to make fun of. Someone please do so.

A Ticking Time Blog will be hosting the 78th Christian Carnival this week. 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:

David Howard is the author of the New American Commentary volume on Joshua and of the forthcoming New International Commentary volume on Kings, along with An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books. His thoughts on commentaries and their use are thus worth reading. I've added this to my list of resources on commentaries.

New Blogger

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Wink and I will be joined by a third blogger very soon. He's called Abednego. I'll let him say whatever else he wants to say about himself, but this is someone I have full trust in to be a great addition to this blog.

That's the title of Jeff Shartlet's Rolling Stone article on chastity and virginity among young evangelicals. He keeps calling them fundamentalists, but that's just wholly inaccurate for the people he's talking about). This piece is mostly fair and accurate, though, much more so than most media pieces on evangelicalism. For example, he describes someone's being convicted of secular music as deciding it would lead him to sin rather than what I would expect someone who isn't an evangelical to interpret it as, i.e. simply thinking secular music is wrong. Another telling moment is when he describes one young man's realization that his sexual interactions had adopted a sexist standard of the world, one that evangelicals' standards have countered. You don't see articles in secular magazines pointing out things like that very often. They're usually more inclined to try to find sexism in evangelicalism than they are to point out ways it resists sexist double standards.

Also see the GetReligion critique, which makes some fair points against some of the misunderstandings and flat-out errors in the piece. They're not the only ones or even the ones that seemed most obvious to me. For example, it's a little odd to portray Campus Crusade for Christ as an insidious group seeking to invade segments of society to spy on them when all they're trying to do is be salt in a highly secularized world, which sometimes takes understanding the culture by participating in it. There are various threads within evangelicalism on this issue, that might generally be classed loosely as a movement, and the piece reflects quite a lot of this without commenting too much on any negative opinion he might have about it. The overall movement Shartlet is treating includes all these threads, but I don't see it as a united movement, and some of these threads run counter to each other.

Ecosystem Help

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I've got an Ecosystem problem, and I can't figure out what to do about it. My blog has been deleted from the Ecosystem for reasons unknown to me. My June archives and my old mt.ektopos.com archives that don't exist anymore are part of the Ecosystem, also for reasons unknown to me. I can't add my blog because the Ecosystem thinks it's a duplicate address due to the presence of the June archives. Since you can't delete blogs or even recommend blogs for deletion anymore, I don't know what to do. I've emailed N.Z. Bear, and he hasn't responded. It's been almost a week. Any ideas?

time signature carry on wayward son 4/4
Yes, it's 4/4, fairly boring for Kansas. There are lots of other Kansas songs to pick if you want 11/8, 13/8, 7/8, 9/8, 5/4, or whatever unusual time signature you need. You probably have all of those and more just in The Spider, and that's only like three minutes long.

must be a Christian Hedonist to be saved
This one amazed me. It led to some people taking Piper way out of context. He says that you need to find joy in what God has done in Christ before you can receive it, which is just astoundingly obvious. How could someone receive the gift of God while finding it horrific? These people think Piper is teaching that you need to have an explicit affirmation of the thesis of Christian hedonism to be saved, which isn't even close to what he says. Piper is making a very small point. He thinks Christian hedonism is true, and he thinks those who have accepted the Christian gospel and repented of their sin are living as Christian hedonists to some degree, even if they pretend they aren't. So when someone asks him if you need to fulfill your desires in God to be saved, of course he'll say yes. To paint him as if he's saying that someone can't be saved without affirming the words that he uses to describe Christian hedonism is simply bearing false witness against him.

This one was good for a laugh. I'm looking through the latest issue of TIME, and there's a section on the Supreme Court. They've got an picture of the current justices with color-coding for where they stand ideologically. Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist are staunch conservatives. Anthony Kennedy is a moderate conservative. They claim O'Connor as neutral, though Kennedy is a little more often the swing vote to make the liberals the majority than O'Connor is (with abortion as the most famous exception, though I think the only recent case when he went with the conservatives was the partial-birth one). Then they list Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens, and Breyer all as moderate liberals and claim that there's no staunch liberal on the court in the mold of Thurgood Marshall "or even Harry Blackmun".

Are the four liberals really more conservative than Blackmun and Marshall, or are they really just more conservative with respect to the general outlook of their time? Blackmun and Marshall did say some pretty radical things for their time, but don't these current four basically assume those things that were radical thirty years ago? Also, is Kennedy really more conservative than O'Connor, or are they letting the abortion issue, the main issue with respect to which she's slightly more liberal, wholly define these two? The standard categorization of three conservatives, two moderates, and four liberals seems much more accuarate to me than trying to make the court look more conservative than it is. There's a statement in the article itself that says if Bush replaces O'Connor with a true conservative, the conservatives will have a "rock-solid majority". No, it will be dead even.

Update: After reading the TIME piece, I proceeded to Newsweek, and I found some interesting statements in comparison with the TIME ones I highlighted above:

She could generally be found in the center -- not of public opinion generally, but of so-called elite opinion, the consensus of the chattering classes that is often to the left of the rest of the country.

That sounds much more accurate to me, perhaps even insightful. There are a few other quotes that seem really strange, however, and I'm not sure they're from the same writer:

Lucas Links?

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I've been talking to people in real life and online about a site that as far as I can tell looks as if it's an official George Lucas Star Wars site. There's lots of interesting stuff there. It has plot synopses of episodes VII, VIII, and IX. They don't sound all that thrilling, but these are pretty general at this point, and many things would all depend on the director. Lucas says he's got a short list of directors that would pass muster for doing these.

There's a list of Midichlorian counts for most of the major characters, but you can see from the most powerful Jedi list that a Midichlorian count doesn't always line up with how powerful a Jedi is.. There's a history of the Jedi and the Sith, and Lucas (supposedly) answers questions in a blog format.

Sam has posted two more sets of pictures of the boys, Ethan's building projects around the house and Isaiah's own construction project resulting in a very large and very plastic hamburger.

This is from my Amazon review of Edmund Clowney's The Message of I Peter: The Way of the Cross in The Bible Speaks Today series.

Clowney gives a straightforward and helpful exposition of this significant epistle. This series is highly readable, and Clowney's contribution on I Peter is no different. He has clearly thought long and hard about most of what he says, even if some of the argumentation for his views is left out of the book.

For a more serious exegetical commentary, look to Paul Achtemeier's Hermeneia volume, J. Ramsay Michaels' work in the Word Biblical Commentary series, or Peter Davids' NIC volume. I probably would agree more with Clowney's conclusions than any of Achtemeier, Michaels, or Davids, but the reality is that he's giving more of an exposition without always giving the scholarly details to back up those conclusions. When he does give arguments, they're often not detailed enough for someone who can handle the more detailed commentaries to be satisfied with. So even if I'm attracted by his conclusions, I can't always see how to respond to the others' arguments at the level they're dealing with.

The Searches Continue

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belief of unitarians 1600's
My initial thought was to say, "they have beliefs?", but then I saw the year. Oh, well.

phil ehart christian
phil ehart gay
I'm guessing some of this is from people deliberately trying to get a mention on my blog. I got three of the latter within ten hours. I guess it's a good thing that my posting this is happening days later, so as not to reward this kind of behavior too much if that's indeed the motive.

Michelle Malkin hates white people
Well, this is a new one. Usually it's Asians that she hates, or perhaps herself (which I also got just yesterday).

IntolerantElle has a question for those who see baptism as a means of grace. Why do parents not baptize their children as soon as possible after birth? Now I believe she has in mind the Lutheran view, but Presbyterians have some answer to this question that I don't think is available to Lutherans. The extent to which they see baptism as a means of grace isn't any more than Baptists see baby dedications as a means of grace, which is pretty much equivalent to how all Christians see preaching, godly correction, Bible study, or the gift of encouragement as a means of grace. What's more difficult is if you mean something stronger in seeing it as a means of grace, which I think Lutherans do. But the most intriguing element of her post is the closing line, because it raises the issue that most fundamentally convinced me of the wrongness of paedobaptism, and it's something so radical that I refused to believe that paedobaptists really taught this until some of them insisted on it to me as an argument for their view. IntolerantElle says, "I know I couldn't stand to look my newborn in the eyes and know I was the one responsible for keeping him from being part of God's family."

Richard Chappell tagged me with this one. Thanks for the kudos. So now I'm supposed to find three people I disagree with a lot and say something nice about them.

Christians and July 4

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At this time last year, I wrote What Should Christians Think of July 4? I've been told my several people whose opinion I greatly respect that this is one of my best posts, and I think it's among the best of this blog myself, so I might mention it to those who didn't read it the first time around.

Update: Rey requests posts be submitted by 9pm EDT on Tuesday.

The Bible Archive will be hosting the 77th Christian Carnival this week. 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:

Patrick Taylor posts at Prosblogion regarding a new paper by Jeff Jordan on the problem of evil. Some philosophers have claimed that any suffering God allows will ultimately be in the best interest of the person suffering. I'm not sure I can agree with this claim, but I also can't agree with what Jordan thinks follows from it. He thinks that if you believe something like this you'll have to accept that it's never wrong to cause someone to suffer, because if you cause them to suffer and God allows it, it's really in their best interest. Similarly, it shouldn't ever be ok to reduce anyone's suffering, because that would be reducing what God has set for them in terms of their best interest. I have to say that I can't see how Jordan's conclusions would follow from that view, and his confusion seems to be a fundamental sort of confusion that I don't normally see except in introductory philosophy classes. This is basically the fallacious argument that some have called the Lazy Sophism, though I'm not going to address it in those terms. The rest of this post is adapted from my comment on Patrick's post.

Requirement by Southern Baptist convention that wives be subservient to husbands
What do you mean by a requirement? If this is a requirement by the denomination, then so is the requirement not to gossip and the requirement not to long for your neighbor's car.

To the Virgins, make Much of Time
I won't comment on the content, but it sounds like the sort of thing you might find backward-masked on an E.L.O. song. I remember playing one of their songs backwards years ago, and it said "The music is reversible. Time is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!" This was the beginning of the song, but it was the end of the backwards messages, which apparently went through the whole song. I didn't bother to listen to the whole thing. Of course, while I'm on backward masking I have to recommend that you listen to the instrumental solo in Weird Al Yankovic's "Nature Trail to Hell" backwards. It has an interesting comment about Satan ingesting cheese whiz.

The relationship between a person and the siblings he never had is what?
How do you have a relationship with someone who never existed?

Jonathan Ichikawa looks at a a study regarding private and public schools. Apparently the overwhelming support for the thesis that private schools are better disappears when you adjust for socioeconomic status. When you compare people of one class level, they do slightly better on standardized tests (well, really one standardized test) in public schools than in private. I don't think this shows that public schools are on the whole better, though.

This study doesn't seem to differentiate between two very different kinds of private school. There are the elite private schools like the one I went to for high school, and then there are the smaller, usually religious schools, which have a much lower tuition, often hire teachers with much less training, and don't attract students who are anywhere near as good. I suspect that many such schools are worse in most academic ways than the public schools in their area. Schools like the one I went to are just so clearly superior to the local public schools that I can't accept Jonathan's conclusion. That's not going to be representative of private schools on the whole, though. I'd like to see a study that compares students who went to a school like the one I went to with students in public schools alongside a separate category of those in smaller and less-funded private schools.

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