Jeremy Pierce: November 2005 Archives


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Stuart Taylor examines the claim that Judge Alito is outside the mainstream, concluding that he's well within both the general American mainstream and the legal/judicial mainstream. [Hat tip: SCOTUSBlog]

William Wainwright has updated his Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Jonathan Edwards, originally authored in 2002. Most Edwards fans don't look at his philosophy as much as other aspects of his work, so I very much appreciate when a philosopher takes an interest in the first great American philosopher. Wainwright has done a lot to motivate thinking of Edwards as up there with the great early moderns, and I have to agree. Edwards and G.W. Leibniz are by far my favorite early modern philosophers. Edwards anticipated both Berkeley and Hume in interesting ways.

Brooksilver at The Lord of the Blog Rings has a nice post about Christian parables within The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I'm beginning to realize how little I remember from those books. I must have been 10 or so when I read them. I highly recommend his blog as a whole, by the way. I discovered it during his recent hiatus when he wasn't posting anything, but he's been a good friend for years, and I intend to read everything he posts now that he's back to blogging.

Two more pictures of the kids: Isaiah prim and proper and Sophia's underwear hat

Click on the picture for the full-size version. They've got Robby Steinhardt's photo above the Phil Ehart blurb, but otherwise this is pretty funny. One of the people on the discussion list where I found this spoke of Phil looking more and more like Robby every day!

What's funniest to me about this isn't intentional. It's that the members who would be most likely to favor ID aren't even in the current lineup, which is the group the picture shows. What follows close behind is that Kansas actually does have lyrics that deal with intelligent design. Then there's the fact that Kerry Livgren now thinks of Dust in the Wind as expressing the main theme of Ecclesiastes. It's not as if that song is contrary to Christian teaching, except in a couple of details ("nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky?" as if either would last forever anyway).

What's a little disappointing is the insinuation that intelligent design is about religion and the suggestion that it has anything to do with opposition to gay marriage. I'd guess that Kerry Livgren does oppose gay marriage, and I know he encourages all to become Christians, but this isn't about Livgren's current views and how he'd adjust the song in light of them. It's about how Dust in the Wind could be adjusted to sound like the ID proponents. Those would have been more important to put in the last box with those who prefer Foreigner to progressive rock. It's also a little unfortunate that ID is being held up against evolution, given what I argued in my last post on the topic. Good humor is good humor, but it still needs to be evaluated for its philosophical presuppositions.

Christian Carnival XCVII


The 97th Christian Carnival (part one, part two) is at Thought Renewal. The next episode will be tomorrow, so get your entries in by midnight tonight.

It's occurred to me that a common complaint against intelligent design is a huge mistake. In particular, it misrepresents the ID movement. That's no surprise to regular readers of this blog, who should have been explose to numerous misrepresentations of the ID position by now. This one isn't a stupid mistake, though. I can understand why people might make this mistake, but it's a mistake nonetheless and a philosophical one.

I've seen ID opponents make the complaint that ID requires special creation even if the people making ID arguments claim otherwise. By special creation here, I don't mean the creation of the universe to begin with. Any theist will believe in special creation in that sense. Special creation here means miraculous intervention to create certain biological elements that we don't have explanations for at this point. Immediately, I already see one problem with this. Intelligent design requires no such thing, because some intelligent design arguments have nothing to do with biology. Some are about fine-tuning of the cosmological constants. But even leaving that issue aside, I think this misunderstands those who endorse the biological ID arguments, including most notably Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Philip Johnson.

Christian Carnival XCVIII Plug


The 98th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Cadmusings. 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:

You scored as The Hulk. The product of a science experiment gone awry, Bruce Banner turns into the unstoppable green monster the "Hulk" whenever his temper rises. The more angry he gets, the stronger the Hulk becomes. Bruce travels the world, hoping to find a cure for the Hulk and bring his life back to normal. However, he often has to become the Hulk to save those he loves when danger threatens.

The Hulk


Mr. Fantastic












The Human Torch


The Invisible Girl






The Thing


The Punisher


Which Marvel Super Hero Are You?
created with

Those who opposed invading Iraq in 2003 have often been accused of not being patriotic. I think it's a slimy complaint. Some of them surely are not patriotic. Some have demonstrated by their actions and statements that they prefer al Qaeda to succeed if that's what it takes for Bush to fail. I'm convinced that such a view is much more mainstream than some people think. But many people opposed the war because they considered it immoral and didn't want their country doing immoral things. That's patriotism. This is all old news, though. Why am I talking about it now?

Well, it occurred to me recently that this is the same general phenomenon that I've also talked about a number of times on this blog with respect to accusations of anti-semitism in the gospels (and in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ). I've elsewhere argued that the gospels are Jewish works engaging in self-criticism of their own culture, much as the Hebrew prophets were. Jesus was particularly hard on his own people, but that didn't make him anti-semitic, and it doesn't make the recordings of his life and sayings in the gospels anti-semitic. They do indeed record harsh statements against the Jewish leaders, and John even directs these statements to what he calls the Jews (which careful scholars realize amounts to exactly the same thing). What was funny to me was realizing that those who are so inflamed at those who claim anti-war demonstrators to be undemocratic might well be exactly the same people accusing the gospels or Mel Gibson's use of them (which amounted pretty much to direct quotes of them) as being anti-semitic. It's the same error in reasoning in both cases. (Incidentally, it occurred to me after writing this post that this probably also applies to those who say someone is self-hating for criticizing the behavior of a contingent of their own ethnic or racial group, e.g. Bill Cosby.)

If you can be patriotic while engaging in self-criticism of your own culture, then it isn't anti-semitic to engage in self-criticism of your own culture if you're Jewish. But that's exactly what the gospels do when making the sorts of claims about the Jews of the time that the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and a few more liberal contemporary gospel scholars declare to be anti-semitic. People on the left make this sort of blunder as easily as people on the right do.

Trackback Ethics

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I've encountered a strange trackback dilemma. It's standard blogging convention that you don't send trackbacks to a blog post unless you link to that blog post. See this post on the history of trackback for an explanation of its original purpose, and see Outside the Beltway, The Moderate Voice, and Eternal Recurrence for standard accounts of what not to do and why. Most bloggers who pay attention will delete any trackback that doesn't give any reference to their post but is merely sent to garner attention without repaying the compliment. I deleted a trackback within the last week that fit this description exactly. Someone wanted to draw attention to his blog, so he was sending trackbacks to any posts about the subject he was writing about without discussing anything on those blogs and without linking to it. I resolved to write a post about the ethics of trackback so I could point to an encapsulation of the issues really easily. Then the post I intended took a turn for the more complicated.

In the last few days I've received trackbacks on these two posts. The posts they point to do link to the posts in question, and they describe the posts here as related blog posts. The only problem is that they're clearly not related in any important way. One is a book review of a novel, and it points to a book review Abednego wrote here of something completely unrelated. One is about dating Jewish men, and it points to a post of mine about the dating of the when the Edomite nation existed.

I'm of two minds on this. It seems like a genuine abuse of trackback and deserving of deletion, but the posts in question do link here. So what does standard blogging convention have to say about such a situation? My impression is that it wouldn't be wrong to delete these trackbacks and to institute a policy of deleting all such trackbacks, but I'd like to hear from others before I do so. Ideally you will give arguments for your view. A stronger view is even possible. One might think I have a moral obligation to delete these trackbacks if leaving them up endorses the immoral flouting of standard blog conventions. So, any thoughts?


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Blogs4God has President George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789.

More Ethan pictures: Sam took him outside to play with the fallen leaves.

Proto-Kaw (the band Kerry Livgren of Kansas has reformed based on an earlier incarnation of Kansas that never released anything until this decade) has a new album coming out in February, called The Wait of Glory. We had the pleasure of seeing them and meeting them all this summer, and it was one of the highlights of the last decade for me. The lyrics for the Wait of Glory are up now. I can't wait to hear it. Everything I've heard is that it's even better than their last album Before Became After, which was one of Livgren's best works.

For some really perverse fun, see A Night at the Roddenberry. [Hat tip: The Gnu]

Speaking of the Gnu, he has a response to a few of Scott Adams's comments on Intelligent Design (see Abednego's post). I think his point about Crick and Watson is particularly interesting.

Seven 7s

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Sam tagged me with this meme, so here we are. I'll leave all the answers under the fold, because it's pretty extended. Here are the questions:

1. Seven things to do before I die
2. Seven things I cannot do
3. Seven things that attract me to Sam
4. Seven things I say most often
5. Seven books (or series) I love
6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)
7. Seven people I want to join in, too

You scored as The Amazing Spider-Man. After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker was transformed from a nerdy high school student into New York's greatest hero. Peter enjoys the thrill of being a super hero, but he struggles with the burdens of leading a double life. He hopes someday to win the heart of his true love Mary Jane, the woman he's loved since before he even liked girls. Right now, he just wants to make it through college and pay his bills.

The Amazing Spider-Man


Batman, the Dark Knight


Lara Croft


James Bond, Agent 007




Neo, the "One"


The Terminator


Indiana Jones


El Zorro


Captain Jack Sparrow


William Wallace


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with

Eugene Volokh posts about the judicially inactivist decision declaring that the Constitution doesn't talk about parental rights over what public schools can say to students whose parents send them to public school. I blogged about this before. Now the House of Representatives has joined the conservatives in California who pursued the judicially activist result here, even though there's nothing at all in the Constitution that guarantees such parental rights. Yet they call the decision itself activist. I think Volokh is right that 'judicial activism' for these people just stands for results they disagree with. The historical content no longer remains if this counts as judicial activism. I don't think this is true of originalists as a rule, as some have complained, but it's certainly true of many who vote for conservative politicians to get judges who will favor certain results but then say they oppose judicial activism.

Exam Cheating II

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I had another instance of what looks to be cheating on a take-home exam. See this post for the first case. It involves the same two students. The first time I couldn't be sure if they were cheating or just working from close notes from class. They didn't even answer all of the same questions, but the ones they answered in common (maybe 60-70% of them) were very similar. They tended to start out with identical wording, but it was because it was based on the exact wording of the question they were answering. From there the answers tended to follow similar paths but with different wordings from each other, sometimes with a sentence by one that wasn't close to anything in the other but largely consistent with working from the same outline as each other, which is what I'm guessing happened. I couldn't rule out that they had simply availed each other of each other's class notes, which I told them they could do as long as they didn't help each other arrive at their answers in any way further than that.

Well, the third exam came along, and I was right to be suspicious. The same two have submitted exams that are very similar again, but this time they did exactly the same questions. I'm guessing that they did work together on the second exam and figured I didn't notice, so they went all out this time thinking they'd be home free. The sad thing about it all is that their answers tend to be among the best in the class. I think it would have been immoral to fail them the first time, given that I couldn't really have ruled out an alternative explanation besides cheating, but it seems to me that the second time gives me enough evidence to do something.

I've decided not to fail them outright. I'd like to encourage them to come forward and admit it to me, so I'm offering a lower penalty for them if they come forward. I'm going to tell the class the basic information about the first and second occurrence and why I did nothing the first time but think it's too clear now the second time. I'll then say that I'll give half credit on each exam to each student if they don't come forward (after all they did presumably each do half the work; both are good students, as demonstrated by other work). That will still be a failing grade, but it won't be a zero. But if they come forward I'm going to be willing to let them improve their grade by answering more questions to be able to avoid failing. I won't have graded the exams yet when I say this, so they won't know if they're the ones I'm talking about, and it really will be on them to come forward. I think this is a strong enough warning to them to show that cheating is serious while giving freshmen in their first college experience a chance to make up for it if they're honest about it and willing to do the work they should have done in the first place.

The 97th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Thought Renewal. 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:


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Christian Carnival XCVI is at Jordan's View.

Have you heard about the 18-year-old elected mayor as a write-in candidate? [Hat tip: Mark Olson]

Ben Witherington reviews Anne Rice's new novel about Jesus' childhood. I can't help but mention that he also gives Firefly and Serenity a thumbs up.

Here's Ethan a few years ago looking like his ducky (that's old ducky, which his mean aunties lost at the store 723 days ago; the new one has a much bigger bill, which I hope his mouth never looks like).

Alito on Free Speech

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Eugene Volokh has a nice article about Judge Alito on free speech and free exercise.

It's interesting in two ways. It shows that his differences from some of the justices he's being compared to (most notably Scalia but also Rehnquist), and it shows how the usual categorizations of the justices on the 1994-2005 Rehnquist court don't easily map onto the tendencies on these issues. Scalia is a moderate on free speech, while Thomas and Rehnquist are on opposite ends. Souter is on the same end as Thomas. Breyer is on the same end as Rehnquist. The standard categories or liberal, conservative, and moderate have completely failed us in predicting free speech votes on the Supreme Court.

The Search Goes On

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How people are getting here isn't really becoming more interesting, because some great sitemeter catches have been around since I first started looking, but there's always something new:

how to silence your conscience
I'm well aware that we can come up with make ourselves feel better about our evil, but doesn't it defeat the purpose if you're explicitly aware that that's what you're doing?

philosophy insult
Do you mean like saying an argument is rhetoric? That's got a long-standing tradition as an insult in philosophy. Or perhaps this is supposed to include the more recent practice of calling something spooky because it isn't the kind of explanation you'd like there to be. It's almost become a technical term at this point.

why are there no laws against children who view porn
What do you want to do, lock them up?

I came across an interesting except from Abraham Lincoln on the meaning of "all men are created equal", from his debates with Douglas. I got this from a comment here. There seem to be a few typos, but I'm leaving it as the commenter had it.

Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case, admits that the language of the Declaration is broad enough to include the whole human family, but he and Judge Douglas argue that the authors of that instrument did not intend to include Negroes, by the fact that they did not at once, actually place them on an equality with the whites. Now this grave argument comes to just nothing at all, by the other fact, that they did not at once, or ever afterwards, actually place all white people on an equality with one or another. And this is the staple argument of both the Chief Justice and the Senator, for doing this obvious violence to the plain unmistakable language of the Declaration. I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal -- equal in "certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This they said, and this meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere. The assertion that "all men are created equal" was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack. I have now briefly expressed my view of the meaning and objects of that part of the Declaration of Independence which declares that "all men are created equal.

This quote is interesting in a number of ways. It serves to distinguish between original meaning and original application, which is why the commenter brought it out in a discussion of those. (For what seems to me to be the right take on those issues, see Larry Solum. The hat tip on all of this goes to Randy Barnett.)

I have a few questions. I'm not going to argue for anything in this post. I just want to get a sense of what people think about a philosophical issue that's been bugging me a lot lately. I'm trying to think through the relationship between rights and obligations. In particular, do the two go hand in hand, or are there times when you have one but not the other? Some philosophers take them to be two sides of the same coin. If I have a right, that means people have an obligation toward me (e.g. if I have a right not to be killed, then you have an obligation not to kill me). If I have an obligation, then you have a corresponding right (e.g. if I have an obligation to keep a promise to you, then you have a right to my keeping that promise).

Does this sound right? Or are there cases when someone might have an obligation to someone without that person having rights to what is owed? I've come across two examples in philosophical literature recently. One was a claim by Judith Jarvis Thomson that when a brother is given a box of chocolates he has a moral obligation to share them with his brother, but his brother has no right to any of the chocolates, since they were given to his brother and not to him. The second was in an animal rights discussion by Carl Cohen. He thinks we have obligations to animals, but they're not the sort of creatures who have rights. Another example (this time mine) might be owing someone respect in a way that they have no right to expect it. Can I have such an obligation to do something the person has no right to expect? In general, can I have an obligation to someone who has no right to the thing I owe them?

Michael Piller (1948-2005)

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Ron Moore has written a tribute to Michael Piller, head writer of Star Trek: The Next Generation in its latter (and best) years. Piller died November 1 of a long battle with cancer. It gives an interesting picture of what it was like landing a job writing for that show and how writing for that show worked behind the scenes.

Piller didn't actually write many scripts, but many of the ones he did write were some of the best. His best known work might well be the two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds", in which Captain Picard gets assimilated by the Borg and then leads an attack against the Federation. He also got a story credit on "Unification", the two-part episode that featured Ambassador Spock and his work trying to reunify Vulcans and Romulans. He created Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which I think was the best Trek show, and he wrote a number of early episodes of that show, particularly a number of key episodes early in the show. He left (before it got really good) to create Voyager, which he worked with for a few years, but he mostly wrote scripts based on other people's stories for that show. One key story he did write fully was "Basics", one of my favorites of the whole series, in which the Kazon manage to take over the ship, stranding the crew all on a planet, and the holographic Doctor and Ensign Lon Suder have to retake the ship. Suder was a crew member turned murderer played by Brad Dourif (Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Brother Edward of Bablyon 5's "Passing Through Gethsemane", the voice of Chucky in the Child's Play movies, and if those roles aren't disturbing enough check him out in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). It was Piller's last Trek episode. He left Voyager to work on his final Star Trek script, the ninth film Star Trek: Insurrection.

Sick and Searches

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I've managed to get violently ill after already already having been pretty sick (and then perfectly better) twice in the past week. This third time is the worst. I hope to post something with more content tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some more searches.

sitting duck period of presidency
Well, if the lame duck period is supposed to be after the next president-elect has already won the election, I suppose the sitting duck period must be during the election itself?

Black women who marry white men to have lighter skinned kids
You know, some people do marry for pretty stupid reasons, but I have a hard time believing very many people will marry someone simply to have lighter-skinned kids. This is especially so in a culture where you get teased for acting or looking too white. Most people actually want their kids to look like them, and this isn't just true of white people. Anyone who works in the field of adoption will tell you that.

john kerry isnt a good president
I suppose not. Of course, he isn't a bad president, either.

The 96th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Jordan's View. 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:

Deceitful Grading

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I have two students whose take-home exams seem to follow the same lines of argument in a few questions. They use different sentence structure but use largely the same vocabulary and make mostly the same points in the same order. They didn't answer all the same questions, and sometimes one said a lot more than the other, but it really looks as if they were working together on some of the questions and deliberately trying to avoid looking as if they did. So here's my question. I had the thought to grade a couple of their similar answers with drastically different grades. If indeed they cheated, and I rob one of them of a whole bunch of points, the student probably deserves a lot worse. But it's not fair. I should do it to both. That's the downside of my plan. The upside is that it would almost assuredly motivate them to come to me to complain, and then I could point out how remarkably similar their exams were with both exams right in front of them. I'm not asking for advice here. I'm not going to do this. What I'm interested in is the ethical question. Would it be wrong to do something like this?

condoleeza rice supports the book and theory 'the bell curve'
I very much doubt it, though I'm not sure if she's even said anything on the subject, ever. If she's familiar with the issues, I'd expect her to take Sowell's views, which accept 90% of the book on the non-racial issues but not the stuff on race and the assumption that it's based on genetics. If she's not too familiar with the book or the conservative literature on it, she probably just accepts the standard line that it's psuedo-science.

spongebob jew
Last I knew, he was a sponge. Sponges are not Jews. They're invertebrates.

reese witherspoon black ancestry
Yeah, I guess I see what you're getting at. I'm surprised no one else has drawn that connection.

Especially while the Miers nomination was still in play, but still occasionally since then, I've been hearing a mantra from judicial conservatives, and I'm trying to figure out what it means. The line is that a Supreme Court nominee needs to have a comprehensive theory of judicial interpretion. Otherwise, we're going to have someone without any judicial principles who will simply legislate preferred social policies from the bench. See, for instance, Kenny Pearce. I agree with most of what he says, actually, but I'm trying to figure out what counts as a comprehensive theory of judicial interpretation.

Kenny's example is Justice Scalia, whose vote is thoroughly predictable due to having a clear judicial philosophy, while Justice O'Connor has been the opposite. I'm not sure predictability is necessarily a sign of a clear judicial philosophy. Someone might be predictable precisely because they do favor a certain set of outcomes and base their decisions solely on such considerations. Some do accuse Scalia of not being truly consistent with his comprehensive judicial philosophy when he doesn't want to be (which I think is at least a worry with his affirmative action position). But he does have an official one, however consistent with it he may or may not be in practice. So it's not having one that's important. It's following one. And it's not just following any old one, because it would be a comprehensive judicial philosophy to say that we should simply uphold all lower court holdings. What matters is having a good judicial philosophy, not just having any old comprehensive view.

Nonetheless, I'm interested in the question of what it is to have a comprehensive judicial philosophy and why that's even necessary. Does Judge Alito, for instance? He seems not to be an originalist, anyway, at least not in the absolutist way that Justices Thomas and Scalia claim to be. Chief Justice Roberts flatly denies that he's one. Maybe these two are just more honest about other principles that enter into their decision, but the question I have is whether you need to have a comprehensive theory that goes only on some central standard like original meaning or original intent, taking such a principle as absolute. Both would say that they pay attention to a variety of factors. Roberts denies that he has such a comprehensive theory. I'm wondering why this is bad, for one. I'm not even sure it's right to deny it the status of a comprehensive judcial theory, either.


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Christian Carnival XCV is at Eternal Revolution.

Mark Roberts has finished his 30-part series Are the New Testament Gospels Reliable? I mentioned it before, when he started it. I haven't gotten through the whole thing yet, but what I've read so far has been excellent. I highly recommend it.

Here's an interesting study on the differences between men and women's responses to humor. Not at all what I would have expected. [Hat tip: Orin Kerr]

Eugene Volokh takes on the suggestion that Judge Alito thinks private ownership of machine guns should be legal. The best part is where the same line of reasoning makes Justice O'Connor out to favor violence against women.

Finally, Sam's put up a host of pictures since the last time I pointed any out. There's the salamander in the driveway. Sophia meets spaghetti. It's been warm, so we've still got some excellent fall foliage. Isaiah's still dodging cameras. Ethan enjoys the weather. Finally, Sophia's beginning to look a lot like Ethan did at her age.

Todd Zywicki points to a study that concludes that mandatory waiting periods for abortion reduce suicide rates after unplanned pregnancies. I haven't looked at the study itself, but some of the comments on Todd's post seem to me to be unjustifiably critical. In particular, they claim that a libertarian view of the purpose of law wouldn't allow the kind of paternalism that such laws are based on. I think this is completely wrong.

The libertarian argument fails for a number of reasons (including that libertarianism is wrong), but the most notable is that this isn't paternalism in the ordinary sense. Paternalism is usually thought of as government interference in people's decision-making process when someone has legitimately consented to a practice that the government is rejecting as legitimate consent for no reason other than that they consider such consent irrational. Requiring motorcycle helmets would be such a paternalistic law. We don't, however, consider it paternalistic to restrict a four-year-old from doing things that it takes an adult understanding to consent to. By the same reasoning, we don't consider someone to have consented to sex if under the influence of a mind-altering drug. Waiting period laws are a simple step further in the same direction. Someone who has just found out she is pregnant will not be thinking as rationally as someone forced to wait 24 hours before making an irrevocable decision. For the same reason that euthanasia advocates insist that some time be taken before considering someone to have consented rationally to being killed, those who favor waiting periods for abortion think rational consent requires taking some time before having an abortion. This seems not only eminently reasonable to me but perfectly consistent with a libertarian view of the purpose of law.

Pseudo-Polymath has started a series on one of the most important Christian works of all time, Augustine's City of God. The second post on suicide is also up, and the third one seems to be taking its time. I have a few thoughts on the second post. Most of what he says is exactly right, and it's worth reading on your own. There's a lot there that would take too long to try to encapsulate briefly.

There are some interesting things in Augustine's discussion of suicide that Mark didn't get into. The first one isn't central to Augustine's argument and probably would be politically incorrect to say now, but I find it fascinating. In arguing that women who have been raped are not morally responsible for being raped, Augustine is way ahead of his time. Greek and Roman culture considered such a thing shameful, not to the rapist but to the victim. Augustine says that such a view is nonsense. Christian women realized this, and when Rome was sacked the Christian women responded very differently than others did to being raped. They didn't see themselves as having been shamed. This is part of Augustine's overall apologetic for Christianity over paganism, that Christianity has a view on this issue that is thoroughly at odds with the pagan view, and the Christian one easily comes out on top.

At the same time, one thing he says sounds really insensitive. As he's explaining why it's not immoral to be raped, he has a little aside about the one possible (though perhaps he would admit very unlikely) exception to when someone might do something morally wrong in being raped. If it turned out the person enjoyed it, he thinks it would be wrong. That strikes most modern readers as being really odd, and it sounds as if he doesn't understand anything about rape. How could someone enjoy being raped?

In a summary section before a reading on Plato in her Voices of Ancient Philosophy, Julia Annas has the following sentence about Plato (p.235):

He always avoids writing from authority in his own person, since it is important to him that the reader think about ideas for herself rather than accept them on the writer's authority.

Did Plato really expect women to be reading his dialogues? I kind of doubt it. If not, this sentence seems as bad as "If anyone is a misogynist, she might have a hard time accepting women as equal to men." Plato might have thought it would be within the realm of possibility that women would read his work, but it might also be within the realm of possibility that a woman could be a misogynist. It's not as bad as, "Anyone considering having an abortion really ought to think through his reasons for doing so before acting rashly", but it still seems to me to be the wrong sort of place for inclusive language. It's when the speaker genuinely intends to include people who are female that alternating, inclusive, or whatever sort of device meant not to sound exclusively male is appropriate.

The 95th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Eternal Revolution. 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:

Alito Roundup

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I predict that it won't be too long before we start hearing opposition groups to Judge Alito claiming that he likes to give cops the freedom to strip search little girls for their ogling pleasure. Judge Alito's actual decision, based on one actual set of circumstances, has nothing to do with that. John Hinderaker has a good discussion.

The New York Times has a pretty balanced presentation of Alito's record on abortion. The one thing they forgot to mention is that the law Alito wanted to uphold does indeed allow exceptions for the abusive situations and things along those lines, with a fairly easy way to establish that such conditions apply. Yet they manage to work in a soundbite from Kate Michelman making it seem as if the law in question would make wives who wanted abortions have to get permission from a husband who abandoned her. Other than that manipulative use of selective information, the piece is pretty fair.

And as for abortion, well, just see this. You need to read it from the beginning without a summary of what it says, so I won't spoil it. The overall conclusion there needs to be at the forefront of everyone's mind if they want an informed and reasoned conclusion about any judge's record.

Am I Sensing a Theme Here?

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I've been getting strange searches lately. There have been still been quite a few wondering what nationality Samuel Alito is, as if he could be a federal judge without being a U.S. citizen. The president isn't going to appoint a foreigner to the U.S. Supreme Court. One trend within the searches of late is represented well by the following three:

foreplay a sin
I sure hope you meant extra-marital foreplay. Anyone who thinks foreplay is intrinsically sinful needs a brain transplant. As for extra-marital foreplay, what do you think my wife would think if I told her I was engaging in foreplay with someone else?

forced sexual consent
I'm trying to figure out what that's even supposed to mean.

redefining adultery to include oral sex
I sincerely hope this was a typo and was supposed to say "exclude". Otherwise, my sincere hope is that this person is not and never will be married.

The most liberal of the courts of appeals in the U.S. would almost certainly be the 9th Circuit. Conservatives are often accusing them of inventing rights that the Constitution has nothing to say about and then calling them constitutional rights. For a change, they've issued an opinion that originalists and strict constructionists could be proud of, but some conservatives aren't exactly happy about the decision. I guess some conservatives are more principled than others. So which penumbras of which amendments are supposed to contain the right not to have people pronounce certain words around your kids?

Update: I thought of a term for this: liberal judicial inactivism!


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Christian Carnival XCIV is at Wittenberg Gate. Dory is in need of future hosts, so if you're interested follow her link at the top of the post. The Bible Archive is doing a series on Genesis. I especially want to direct your attention to his nice post on what Genesis 1 does say. All the debates about how to interpret the days and whether it's consistent with evolution easily distract from what the passage is about to begin with, and Rey brings our attention back to that. If you want to see his summary on those other issues, it's here, but why is our focus so often not what the focus of the text is? Walter Snyder has a good explanation of how it is that Bible publishers can justify charging royalties for the use of what is God's word (and thus should be free). [Hat tip: ESV Bible Blog] Belgium declares names and titles to be no longer capitalized. Well, I guess it's just politically incorrect names and titles. Actually, they've just singled out 'christ' and 'jew'* just to show how arbitrary they can be. Or is this arbitrary? [Hat tip: Sam] *Well, for 'Jew' it's only when the reference is religious rather than ethnic; if ethnic, it's still capitalized.


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Avery Tooley has some good thoughts on racism, or perhaps it would be better to say racisms. I agree with a lot of what he says (but not about the N-word; he's right that whether the word is bad depends on context, but I don't think anyone in this country is in a context where it's robbed of its demeaning implications). What struck me especially was his suggestion that our language is just impoverished. We don't have a fine-grained enough sense of the different sorts of things that people will call racism so that we can easily distinguish them. He gives various examples, and I could give lots more. I think people have tried to remedy this by coming up with terms like 'institutional racism'. Mainstream academics who work on this issue insist on calling something racism when they know full well that no malice is meant and no lower view of anyone is involved, but then when they have to clarify they say it's institutional rather than atittudinal racism.

So the vocabulary is there. They just don't make such distinctions when saying things in the moment, and many of the people seen as civil rights leaders by the black community make the same mistake. They call structures in society racist. They call innocent but racially harmful practices racist. They just don't usually clarify what they mean, and the way it's usually heard seems obviously false to most white people listening to them. But what's striking to me is that you can use the same sort of linguistic practice to declare racist what Avery describes as the assumption "that Black people should be some monolithic entity and all hold identical ideological positions, or be in the same political party". This assumption is common enough within the black community and especially fundamental for many liberal whites, at least in my experience.

But there's this standard linguistic practice in calling the hiring of one's friends racist, on the grounds that if whites have fewer black friends they'll hire fewer blacks, which is a negative effect even if it's innocently done. Why, then, do so many people who take more liberal views on race issues get so upset when conservatives say that it's racist to call black conservatives House Negroes or to say that Clarence Thomas isn't really black? [Hat tip: Sam] It seems to me that a good argument can be made that it involves the same sorts of institutional and social assumptions that involve racially harmful consequences, and if that's what it takes to be institutionally racist then these things are institutional racist. If it's ok to abbreviate that as racism, then it's racism. You can't have it both ways. I understand Avery's point. He thinks we should stop calling both things racism and come up with a new term (or perhaps just insist on using the modifier 'institutional'). That would be fine. Given that it doesn't take place, I'll happily say that the suggestion that my wife is a House Negro a racist suggestion, even if it's held from a heartfelt conviction that she's harming her own people by voting Republican.

In preparing for my discussion of euthanasia next week, I was reading through a summary of Dan Brock's positions on the matter. Brock is widely considered one of the foremost medical ethicists among philosophers. After explaining why self-determination is a good thing, he argues that one of the things that it's good to have self-determination about is our own death. There are important factors in self-determination that are served if we have control over our own death. I'll grant that having some control over some things to do with our death serves the value of self-determination in some important ways. But then he summarizes his discussion with the following statement:

If self-determination is a fundamental value, then the great variability among people on this question makes it especially important that individuals control the manner, circumstances, and timing of their dying and death.

Maybe I've been reading the Stoics too much, but this just sounds irrational. Someone who wants to die soon and figures out how to kill themselved in the way they want at the time they want can usually do a very good job of fulfilling this especially important goal, but most people would like to live fairly long lives if possible. Some might not want to live under certain conditions, which is his point, but how can someone who wants to keep living place this sort of control over your death as such an especially high level and then want to keep living? If it's that important, we should just kill ourselves and be done with it. Wouldn't it be better to live in such a way that if we die we would consider our life to have been what we would want it to have been in the time alotted to us? Putting such high value in something we can't control unless we choose to die soon just seems fruitless. The Stoics were right about at least this. It's setting yourself up for valuing something especially high that chances are you simply won't achieve. But if that's so, then I just can't understand choosing to value it at such a level.


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At Real Clear Theology, you can find excerpts of D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo's section on the New Perspective on Paul in their new edition of An Introduction to the New Testament, a book I would wholeheartedly recommend. [Hat tip: Rebecca]

Tyler Williams looks at witches in the Bible and traces out the origin of our modern conception of a witch. The first comment (the only one so far) is priceless.

Ed Feser at Right Reason takes apart Simon Blackburn's critique of Elizabeth Anscombe's natural law theory. [Hat tip: Philosophers' Carnival XXI] Standout quote:

Blackburn appears to be the sort of philosopher who, as an undergraduate, read a few excerpts from Anselm and Aquinas in some textbook, along with the standard potted “refutations��? deriving from Hume and Kant, and never looked back – assuming ever since that no one could seriously believe that the existence of God could be demonstrated philosophically. He shows no awareness of the extent to which many of these standard objections are based on caricatures or oversimplifications of the traditional theistic arguments, nor any appreciation of the work done in defense of them by contemporary philosophers of religion like Plantinga and Swinburne, much less by analytical Thomists like John Haldane, whose work is most relevant to the matters presently at issue.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. It doesn't seem good for those who have insisted that Bush really wanted a war no matter what.

Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Mike DeWine (OH) were among the seven Republicans in the Gang of 14 who conspired to prevent Democrats from filibustering President Bush's judicial nominees and Republicans from using what's been called the nuclear option to remove the ability to filibuster judicial nominees. Since there are 55 Republicans, and 50 (+ Vice President Cheney's tie-breaking vote) would be needed to change the filibuster rule, only 6 Republicans were needed for the Gang of 14. They had 7. They now have at most 5, at least with respect to Samuel Alito's nomination for the Supreme Court. Graham and DeWine have indicated that they would not allow a filibuster on this nomination. It remains to be seen if the 44 Democrats (plus independent Senator Jim Jeffords of VT) would have enough votes to filibuster to begin with. The Gang of 14 again needs 6 votes to oppose the filibuster. As far as I know, not one of them has indicated anything on how they will approach Alito's nomination.



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