Philosophy: May 2005 Archives

Jesus' Reasoning

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Joe Carter hosted a project I call Jesus' Reasoning a little while ago, and I never managed to put together a post with links to all the entries I contributed. Here is that post. Joe explains the project here, and the entries are all here.

In Jesus the Logician? I express why I don't like Joe's name and insist on calling it Jesus' Reasoning. Since Joe organizes the posts by passage, I'll put them in the order I wrote them:

1. John 9:1-3
2. Mark 7:1-23
3. Matthew 10:40-42
4. Luke 21:1-4
5. Mark 11:27-33; Matt 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8
6. Matthew 21:28-32
7. Mark 12:18-27; Matt 22:23-34; Luke 20:27-40

This is part ten of an ongoing series on affirmative action that I've been continuing sporadically. The first post is here. It introduces the series and provides links to each post in the series. This is my final post on the arguments in favor of affirmative action, and I've saved the one I think is best for last. One common objection to affirmative action is that it's in principle ruled out by the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court hasn't been willing as a body to go along with this, but three justices (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas) do seem to me to think it's a good argument. If it's unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of race, then why is it ok to discriminate in admissions on the basis of race?

I don't ultimately think that's a good argument, for one reason. Race can be used as the basis of discrimination when race is relevant. If a government-funded performing arts company decided to stage a perfomance about Malcolm X, they are well within their rights to discriminate against white or Asian actors for the part of the lead character. They'll want someone black. If they were doing a perfomance about President Bush, they won't select a black lead unless they want to do some weird sort of parody. [People sometimes do this. Othello has been done with the races of characters all reversed.] Most of the time it's perfectly ok to see being black or being white as a qualification to play a character who is specified as black or white. It's technically discrimination, but it's not legally discrimination, because race properly counts as a qualification for the position in question. Some have argued that affirmative action can be justified on similar grounds. If race counts as a qualification, then affirmative action is merely treating qualifications as what they are. Not using affirmative action would then be ignoring real qualifications.

Semicolon hosts the 69th Christian Carnival (yes, I'm well over a week behind). My contribution is ID is Science, Sort Of.

If you're interested in seeing a healthy theonomistic view that attempts to be grounded in biblical principles about government and about the difference between old covenant and new, you should check out By What Authority and By What Standard? at Wittenberg Gate. I'm not a theonomist, but I don't think Dory's version of theonomy (she doesn't call it that in this post, but she uses the term, with some cautionary notes, in the ensuing discussion here) is much like the sort of thing some people call by that name. This view is a kind of theonomy, though, and I think it's good to be aware that there's a much healthier version of it than what in compasrion seems like a caricature that some people manage to believe anyway.

Mr. Standfast connects being the salt of the earth with the beatitudes in an interesting way, looking at how the beatitudes reflect God's heart that he has made us to have, resulting in a call to live in a way reflecting what we are.

Attention Span has a great post about Rick Warren and the Purpose-Driven Phenomenon. It avoids extremism on both sides, something almost no one seems willing to try to do. What I really appreciate is the recognition of what Warren is doing right, what he's emphasizing that evangelicalism really needs to hear that enough people aren't hearing otherwise, and what he truly fails at in incredibly unfortunate ways. He also shows how you can take what he says for what it is and no more and thereby find it useful for what's good in it without sacrificing the things Warren can sacrifice at times.

A Physicist's Perspective reviews John MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus, the book that popularized the term 'Lordship Salvation', which is basically the view that becoming a Christian involves a commitment to Christ and not mere intellectual assent or emotional experience.

All Kinds of Time starts from some observations about the population shift to urban centers and then gives some thoughts on how Christians should respond, most especially by opposing the evangelical trend and moving to cities.

Cerulean Sanctum presents a new name for an old bad habit among Christians -- the Faith Bomber.

I can't resist commenting on two lines people keep talking about in Episode III. If you want absolutely no spoilers, don't read this, but this spoils so little that most of you won't care. People have been complaining or rejoicing (depending on their view on the issue) at what they perceive to be Lucas' use of this film as a jab at Bush in the war on terrorism. I haven't seen it yet, but I did hear Lucas' response to these claims, and I know enough about the film and about the issues in question to say something, pending my viewing of the film of course for a final judgment. I'll keep the rest of this in the extended entry for those who are absolutists about spoilers, but this really won't spoil much of anything.

In response to an argument that agnostics are intellectually dishonest, Clark Goble at Mormon Metaphysics suggests that perhaps the difference depends on how one conducts the inquiry, and the atheist who insists that it can only be rational if it's in the way that leads to atheism is perhaps wrong in assuming that an honest inquiry must go exactly that way. I think the same can be said for how theists might think about atheists and agnostics who claim that the evidence leads to disbelief in God, and I'm sure Clark would agree.

Blake makes an interesting observation in the comments that what counts as publicly verifiable (or, I would assume, falsifiable) based on evidence seems to vary from person to person because people have different accounts of what is good (and thus of what a good God would allow). Is it verifiable that some state of affairs is better than another or that a certain conception of omnibenevolence is the right one? It assumes we can verify an account of the good. We can't treat such things as if they're of the sort that evidence speaks well to, at least in a publicly verifiable way. (The guy he's responding to nicely illustrates this, in fact, in his subsequent comments, by his assumptions of what counts as good or best.)

David Velleman has a nice, balanced post up about ID and schools. I don't quite agree with everything, but he's close to being right on everything. My first comment makes my views clear enough, as if my post here didn't already do so. There is a little more in that comment than I said in the post, though, and this is more succinct, so I'm reproducing that comment here for posterity along with a second comment clarifying some elements of evolutionary theory that are philosophical arguments:

Prosthesis has put into words what I've been trying unsuccessfully to say for quite a while now. Intelligent Design is technically philosophy and not science, but it's no as simple as that. It's the most recent form of the teleological argument for the existence of God, in the tradition that began at least as far back as Aristotle, something like 2500 years ago. For him, of course, it was natural philosophy, which has become the science of today, so it's not as if it's outside the realm of what we now call science, but that argument has remained in philosophy as most other subject matters of Aristotle's natural philosophy have become known as science.

Intelligent Design is certainly not religion. That's evidenced by the people who support it who do not believe in any religion. Antony Flew is just the latest and most famous proponent of ID not to accept any religion as a result of it (or even many of the traditional attributes of God). Michael Denton was saying similar things in the 1980s. He's an atheist, and he thinks some sort of argument along the lines ID people give is correct against the standard neo-Darwinian picture (though he accepts large parts of it, as do most IDers). It's true that most ID people are Christians, but that doesn't mean it's religion, either in principle or even for those Christians who accept it. It's a philosophical argument that many Christians accept, and they accept it because they think it's a good argument, not because it occurs in the Bible.

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