A mascot for a Brazilian non-profit that fights testicular cancer.
Opinions and musings on religion, philosophy, science, politics, and life from a conservative Catholic neurosurgeon.
When did morality and moral responsibility begin?
Readers here will know that, being a determinist, I’d prefer to dispense with the term “moral responsibility,” replacing it with the simply idea of “responsibility.” That’s because I don’t think we have dualistic free will that would allow us to decide between doing “right” and “wrong”. If that’s the case, then why add the adjective “moral,” which implies that one does have a choice?If we have no free will, we can't choose our acts. If Jerry Coyne has no free will, he didn't choose to write his blog post. Jerry's blog post was determined by natural history and physical laws, not by anything intelligent.
And, as most of you know, I don’t think this omission would overthrow society.Right. Morality has noting to do with the social order.
We’d still put people in prison for bad behavior (but for sequestration, rehabilitation, and as deterrence, but not for retribution), and could also praise them for good behavior—for praise is an environmental effect that can change someone’s behavior or impel others to act well—but we would be less likely to see people as good or bad by “choice”.The problem with Jerry's plan to suppress bad behavior by sequestration and rehabilitation, rather than by retribution, is that being sequestered and rehabilitated have nothing to do with having actually committed a crime.
And the prison system would be run more humanely, involving studies about the best way to change people’s behavior or the best way to deter other people’s latent criminality.Changing behavior and deterring latent criminality doesn't depend on conviction for an actual crime. Lots of folks behave badly and have latent criminality, yet they've committed no crime. Jerry has a (humane) prison cell waiting for them.
What I’d like to ask here, though, is when humans supposedly became morally responsible—if that’s what you believe.
We always hear that “unlike humans, nature is amoral.” You can’t say that the actions of animals are moral or immoral—they just are. When a male lion invades another group and kills the cubs, when a chimp tears another chimp to bits, those are just bits of nature, and aren’t seen as wrong. And the amorality of nature is touted even by those who realize that our primate relatives show rudiments of morality, making it likely that some of our moral instincts were inherited from our pre-hominin ancestors. So why, when a stepfather kills his stepchild (something that, presumably is not something he decides to do “freely”), that is morallywrong, but when a lion does it, or a chimp kills an infant, it’s just nature, Jake.Jerry's atheism and materialism leaves him no way to distinguish behavior in animals from morality in man. This upsets Jerry.
Now the idea of ethics—a codified set of rules to which we adhere for various reasons, usually as a form of societal glue—clearly was concomitant with the rise of human society and language. But much of our morality is surely based on evolution.None of our morality was based on evolution.
I’m not saying that those evolved principles are the right ones to use today: clearly in many cases, as with xenophobia, they aren’t. But some of them remain salubrious, including reciprocal altruism, shame, guilt, and so on.Evolution explains xenophobia, altruism, shame, guilt and salubriousness. And it explains their opposites. It's flexible.
So why can we do wrong but chimps can’t?If a chimp wrote Jerry's silly blog post, the chimp would be doing wrong.
In other words, is it really true that all of nature, including primate societies, must be seen as amoral, while human actions must be judged by this thing called “morality”?...***
You may recall that a pan-European pagan revival was something I predicted a few years ago ago. Secularism is not an option because it has nothing to offer philosophically or spiritually; that's precisely why the humanists are always producing manifestos as well as books attempting to explain why it is possible for someone to square a circle even though no one has managed it yet. Thispetty Greek paganism is insignificant today, but if they are successful in marrying it to the powerful nationalist revival represented by Golden Dawn, it could prove surprisingly popular.
In the last few years, though, some have come to distrust that prism, and to say so in public. While Church membership is still extremely high (more than 95% of all Greeks are at least nominally Orthodox) and the leadership is still highly involved in state affairs, there has been a resurgence of popular interest in the pre-Christian past. With it has come a small explosion of pagan groups, philosophical societies, Spartan schools, "Hellenist" magazines and performances of classical theater....
One of the most visible facets of the revivalist movement has been the campaign for recognition for the Dodecatheon, or "Religion of the Twelve Gods." The campaign has hardly been successful: polytheists have twice applied to the Greek religion ministry for official status, and twice they have been ignored. Coverage of the movement in the popular press has not been flattering. (The word many Greeks use when asked about the pagans is "funny.") But the movement has been attracting attention.
Paganism looks funny from the perspective of the post-Christian, who has the benefit of more than a thousand years of Christian civilization. It's not quite so funny if you happen to be sufficiently well-educated about historical paganism; there is a reason why "the Dark Ages" historically refers to the time before the coming of Jesus Christ, The Light of the World.
(The so-called "Enlightenment", like all Satanic inspirations, is nothing more than a cheap and perverted knock-off of the original concept.)
In any event, the history of the 20th century should demonstrate that pagan nationalists, particularly those with pan-European ambitions, are no laughing matter.It's a mistake to see atheism as the future of the West. Atheism is a cultural dead letter-- a sort of societal autism. Atheism is horrendously deadly (it snuffed one hundred million lives in the 20th century), but it has no staying power. Atheism is sterile, and inspires no one outside of a mental institution.
Progressives, Democrats must stand with New York Times against Obama on NSA phone records collection
We have arrived at a defining moment for the progressive movement in this nation.
The New York Times editorial board, which has generally given this president a lot of leeway throughout his career, wrote a scathing denunciation Friday of the Obama administration’s use of data mining, claiming that “the administration has now lost all credibility" on the issue of balancing civil rights with national security.
Every progressive with even a shred of moral consistency should side with the New York Times against the White House.
The events of the past month – from the Associated Press subpoena to the James Rosen search warrant to the revelation that our government has been indiscriminately collecting phone records data – have forced liberals to make a choice between complacency and outrage, between keeping silent because one of our own is in the White House and calling him out on betraying the principles for which we have fought for so long.
Every progressive with even a shred of moral consistency should side with the New York Times against the White House.
Consistency has never been the fiber of political discourse but it is nonetheless a vital ingredient of credibility.
Progressives rightly denounced the overreach of the Bush administration when it came to abuses of the Patriot Act. We should just as strongly denounce the expansion of those abuses by this administration.
Many of us did not buy the previous administration’s excuse that overreaching infringement upon the civil rights of ordinary Americans was a necessary step in keeping those same ordinary Americans safe. We should not buy it from this administration now, simply because this president is ostensibly one of us.
If this White House truly wanted to level with the American people, the president would have gone on national television to explain the necessity of these programs and the trade-offs between civil liberties and security he believes are consistent with his policies.
That he has failed to do this for nearly six years is evidence of the fact that there is likely no excuse for such blanket surveillance upon the American public, aside from the usual “it’s necessary to keep us safe” bromide.
Once the shock of 9/11 wore off for a lot of us, it became apparent that our government was happy to use its pretext for all sorts of questionable activity.
From the invasion of Iraq to the nearly unanimous passage of the Patriot Act, elected officials on both sides of the aisle did not hesitate to grab as much power as possible under the guise of national security.
This behavior was not limited to one political party or the other – so the criticism of this behavior should not be emanating from one party and not the other.
Over the past several days, conservatives have pilloried this administration for a policy that began under the previous one with the mantra that Bush only went after terrorists, while Obama is going after regular Americans.
This is as ridiculous as it is false.
No one should give any president a blank check to vastly expand executive power based on his word that he is doing it in the national interest.
The phone records of millions of Americans have been collected and analyzed by both administrations without any explanation of how violating our privacy protects our security.
As progressives, we cannot remain silent when a president, whom we worked hard to elect and defend at every turn, betrays the very values upon which he ran five years ago.
The New York Times was right to call out the administration on this, just as others have been right to call out its egregious behavior towards the Associated Press and James Rosen.
Progressives should stand with the Times on this. Otherwise, we are just rooting for the name on the jersey, and not for the values that the jersey represents.
"a mob is a mob, whether made up of Government officials acting under instructions from the Department of Justice, or of criminals and loafers and the vicious classes."
[T]he apparent wave of racist graffiti at Oberlin College was yet another campus hoax. So were the anti-Semitic and anti-gay graffiti and the reported sighting of a white-sheeted Klansman on campus. The sightings seemed unlikely at the time, yet they caused a day of class cancellations and fostered much hand-wringing about the persistence of racism and bigotry at one of the nation's left-most colleges.
The Oberlin Police Department identified Dylan Bleier, a leftist student and former head of a voter registration drive for President Obama, and his partner in the spree, Matt Alden, as two of the principal architects of the Oberlin hoax.
As we wrote back in March the staging of hoaxes can seem irresistible, "Fake rapes and fake attacks on minorities are no longer unusual on campuses. One reason is the post-modern theory that there is no truth, only voices and narratives. If the narrative is all-important, why bother with facts? Why not sell the narrative directly ?" Shortly after the graffiti appeared. Oberlin announced that two unidentified students, no longer on campus, were responsible. But the college released no details, leaving the implication that racists had written the graffiti. The administration should be asked when it knew it was a hoax and why it took so long to tell us the truth.
As a legal scholar considering the future of society, Ottaviani’s fear was that religious freedom would result in religious indifference and then a collapse of religious conviction, which would in turn lead to state hostility toward religious believers and religious institutions. His theological argument against religious freedom, widely held in the Roman universities of the day, rested on the proposition that “error has no rights.” The council’s response to that claim was that persons have rights, whether their religious opinions be erroneous or not, and that, in any event, states lack theological competence.
Alfredo Ottaviani lost virtually every one of the battles he fought at Vatican II, but from his present, post-mortem position he may be enjoying a last laugh (if of a subdued, even sorrowful, sort). For the notion that “error has no rights” is very much alive—and precisely in those quarters where religious indifference has indeed led to intolerance of religious conviction.
When a Canadian Evangelical pastor is levied a significant fine for advocating biblical truth about men, women, and the nature of marriage, or when a Polish priest and magazine editor is punished with even stiffer fines (these, like the Canadian fines, were later thrown out) by a Polish court for accurately describing in print what an abortion does, the forces of coercive political correctness (embodied in the gay insurgency and the global campaign for “reproductive health”) are using state power to nail down the notion that “error has no rights.”
When the present U.S. administration attempts to overturn decades of equal employment opportunity law by attacking the legal exemption that allows religious bodies to choose their religious leadership according to their own criteria, the same dynamic is at work. And that mantra—“Error has no rights!”—will, inevitably, be used to punish religious bodies that do not recognize any such thing as same-sex “marriage”: by taking away their tax-exempt status, denying their ministers the legal capacity to act as witnesses of marriage under civil law, or both.
An idea long associated with the farther reaches of Catholic traditionalism has thus migrated to the opposite end of the political spectrum, where it’s become a rallying point for the lifestyle left. There are many reasons why Kathleen Sebelius, the HHS secretary responsible for the coercive contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate currently being fought by the seriously Catholic elements of American Catholicism, is ill-cast in the role of Ottaviani redivivus. But in the oddities of history, that’s what has happened. The Catholic Church in the United States, which did more than any other local church at Vatican II to disentangle the universal Church from the notion that, in the civil order, “error has no rights,” is now being hard-pressed by aggressive secularist forces arrayed under that banner.
There are many ironies in the fire.
The gun-control debate is one of the most dishonest arguments we have in American politics. It is dishonest in its particulars, of course, but it is in an important sense dishonest in general: The United States does not suffer from an inflated rate of homicides perpetrated with guns; it suffers from an inflated rate of homicides. The argument about gun control is at its root a way to put conservatives on the defensive about liberal failures, from schools that do not teach to police departments that do not police and criminal-justice systems that do not bring criminals to justice. The gun-control debate is an exercise in changing the subject...
[There are] various inflated statistical claims about the effects of gun-control policies made by both sides of the debate. You will not, in the end, find much correlation. There are some places with very strict gun laws and lots of crime, some places with very liberal gun laws and very little crime, some places with strict guns laws and little crime, and some places with liberal gun laws and lots of crime. Given the variation between countries, the variation within other countries, and the variation within the United States, the most reasonable conclusion is that the most important variable in violent crime is not the regulation of firearms. There are many reasons that Zurich does not much resemble Havana, and many reasons San Diego does not resemble Detroit.
The Left, of course, very strongly desires not to discuss those reasons, because those reasons often point to the failure of progressive policies. For this reason, statistical and logical legerdemain is the order of the day when it comes to the gun debate...
But if you want to find large concentrations of violent crime in the United States, what you are looking for is a liberal-dominated city: Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Oakland, St. Louis, Baltimore, Cleveland, Newark — all excellent places to get robbed or killed. By way of comparison, when Republican Jerry Sanders handed the mayoralty of San Diego over to Bob Filner in December, it was pretty well down toward the bottom of the rape-and-murder charts. The same can be said of New York. I agree with every word of criticism my fellow conservatives have heaped upon nanny-in-chief Michael Bloomberg, but would add this caveat: When he gets replaced by some cookie-cutter Democratic-machine liberal, we are going to miss his ridiculous, smug face. I lived for years in what once was one of the most infamously crime-ridden parts of New York, the section of the South Bronx near where the action of Bonfire of the Vanities is set in motion, and the worst consequences I ever experienced from wandering its streets at night were a hangover and the after-effects of an ill-considered order of cheese fries...
By way of comparison, Chicago is populated by uncontrolled criminals, and not infrequently governed by them. The state of Illinois has long failed to put career criminals away before they commit murder, as we can see from the rap sheets of those whom the state does manage to convict for homicide. Even Rahm Emanuel can see that. But still, nothing happens. Like those in Chicago, Detroits’ liberals and Philadelphia’s are plum out of excuses: They’ve been in charge for a long, long time now, and their cities are what they have made of them...
You can chicken-and-egg this stuff all day, of course: It may be that Detroit is poor, ignorant, and backward because it is run by liberals, or it may be run by liberals because it is poor, ignorant, and backward. You can point the accusatory vector of causation whichever direction you like, but the correlation between municipal liberalism and violent crime remains stronger than that of violent crime and gun restriction...
If a court can decide that Mann's research "and conclusions" have been sufficiently vindicated as to be judged provably "sound" -- that is, sound enough to be regarded as legally unassailable -- then what does this imply about the research and results of all those who believe they are proving Mann's conclusions false? The implication is clear enough: anthropogenic global warming is one area of truth-seeking that is no longer merely "settled science" (whatever that means), but is now settled law. It is now, apparently, legally dangerous to question this theory, unless one prefaces one's questions with the proviso that the research supporting the theory was conducted with the purest scientific heart, and that its conclusions are sound.
New Jersey bans gay conversion therapy
(Reuters) - New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie on Monday signed into law a measure to prevent therapists from counseling gay and lesbian youths to change their sexual orientation, making his the second U.S. state to ban so-called conversion therapy.
I think the “gun-safety” crowd — they seem not to like the term “gun control” anymore — need to think bigger. Enough with the roundabout measures. Let’s get to the heart of the problem: the intention to commit crimes with a gun.
Congress should pass a law forthwith requiring every gun buyer to declare whether or not he intends to commit a crime with the gun. If a would-be buyer says yes, he would be denied a gun and his declaration should be publicized far and wide so that no one else will sell him a gun. The government could even set up a website with the names of all would-be buyers who declared their intention to commit a crime with a gun. This would ensure that even black-market dealers would refuse to sell guns to these people. Knowledge is power. And if a gun dealer sells a gun to a self-declared criminal, he would be charged as an accessory. That would deter even black-market dealers.
But what if a would-be buyer lies about his intentions? Let’s have stiff penalties for lying on the declaration form. I’m sure that anyone planning to commit murder or armed robbery would be stopped by the threat of jail time for lying about that intention.
This, of course, doesn’t address the full problem. What about the Adam Lanzas who take their parents’ guns? Since they don’t present themselves to a gun seller, how would they be required to declare their intentions?
Here’s the solution: All gun owners should be required to keep their guns under lock and key at the local police station. Whenever they, or members of their families, want to use a gun — say, in self-defense against an armed home invader — they would have to sign a declaration of intent. Guns would be issued only to those who declared they have no criminal designs.
This seems a far more effective way to keep guns out of the wrong hands than mere background checks and weapons bans. Since that’s what the “gun-safety” lobby says it wants, let’s see if they go for this modest proposal. It would target only the criminally minded, not the law-abiding among us, so the lobby should have no problem with these measures. Gun-safety advocates certainly cannot claim these requirements would not work, because then they would have to admit that the proposals they favor also would not work.
If we can’t count on gun buyers to declare honestly if they have criminal intentions, how can we count on them not to buy guns in background-check-free zones?Heh.
In order to escape their truly wretched past..., modern Democrats have adopted as an article of faith the bedtime story that, thanks to Tricky Dick Nixon’s “southern strategy,” the racists who had been the backbone of their party for the better part of a century suddenly switched to the GOP en masse some time around 1968, with the happy result that now all the racists are on the right. Presto — instant virtuousness and a clean slate!
It’s a lie, of course. But don’t take it from me, take it from my National Review colleague Kevin Williamson, who addressed this issue brilliantly last year:
Worse than the myth and the cliché is the outright lie, the utter fabrication with malice aforethought, and my nominee for the worst of them is the popular but indefensible belief that the two major U.S. political parties somehow “switched places” vis-à-vis protecting the rights of black Americans, a development believed to be roughly concurrent with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the rise of Richard Nixon. That Republicans have let Democrats get away with this mountebankery is a symptom of their political fecklessness, and in letting them get away with it the GOP has allowed itself to be cut off rhetorically from a pantheon of Republican political heroes, from Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to Susan B. Anthony, who represent an expression of conservative ideals as true and relevant today as it was in the 19th century. Perhaps even worse, the Democrats have been allowed to rhetorically bury their Bull Connors, their longstanding affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, and their pitiless opposition to practically every major piece of civil-rights legislation for a century.
As Kevin goes on to point out:
If the parties had in some meaningful way flipped on civil rights, one would expect that to show up in the electoral results in the years following the Democrats’ 1964 about-face on the issue. Nothing of the sort happened: Of the 21 Democratic senators who opposed the 1964 act, only one would ever change parties. Nor did the segregationist constituencies that elected these Democrats throw them out in favor of Republicans: The remaining 20 continued to be elected as Democrats or were replaced by Democrats. It was, on average, nearly a quarter of a century before those seats went Republican. If southern rednecks ditched the Democrats because of a civil-rights law passed in 1964, it is strange that they waited until the late 1980s and early 1990s to do so.
And yet this myth persists — in fact, it’s just about the only response today’s Democrats have to their own sordid history: pinning it on the other guy. It makes them profoundly uncomfortable that among the 21 who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can be found Albert Arnold Gore, Sr., the founder of the Hillbilly Dynasty; Robert “KKK” Byrd, the Conscience of the Senate; and Sleepin’ Sam Ervin of Watergate fame...
The Republican ascendancy in Dixie is associated with the rise of the southern middle class, the increasingly trenchant conservative critique of Communism and the welfare state, the Vietnam controversy and the rise of the counterculture, law-and-order concerns rooted in the urban chaos that ran rampant from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, and the incorporation of the radical Left into the Democratic party. Individual events, especially the freak show that was the 1968 Democratic convention, helped solidify conservatives’ affiliation with the Republican party. Democrats might argue that some of these concerns — especially welfare and crime — are “dog whistles” or “code” for race and racism, but this criticism is shallow in light of the evidence and the real saliency of those issues among U.S. voters of all backgrounds and both parties for decades. Indeed, Democrats who argue that the best policies for black Americans are those that are soft on crime and generous with welfare are engaged in much the same sort of cynical racial calculation President Johnson was practicing when he informed skeptical southern governors that his plan for the Great Society was “to have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” Johnson’s crude racism is, happily, largely a relic of the past, but his strategy endures.It is wrong, I think, to understand the Democratic Party as the party of racism, although Democrats utterly own racism in American culture. But racism is not precisely what defines them. Democrats haven't the integrity to be just racists-- that is, mere racism, for all of its odiousness, ignorance, and cruelty, is at least an honestly held view. Racists actually believe something.
|Population control: China's One Child Policy. |
A baby girl, dumped on a street in China.
To the Chinese authorities, abandoned girls are merely worthless trash. “I called the emergency services, but nobody came,” says the woman who found this latest little victim. (For fear of official reprisal, she wishes to remain anonymous.) “The baby was lying right near the government tax office, so many people in government just walked past.” Eventually, an old man picked up the child, put her in a box, and dropped her in a garbage bin. When the police finally arrived, they showed no interest in investigating her death. They instead arrested the woman who’d tried to save her. “I took some photographs, because it was so terrible; the police were more worried about my pictures than the baby,” she says. The police only released the woman once she handed over her film.
There is a certain flavor of misconception that occurs when a cultural belief intersects a scientific factoid that superficially seems to support the belief. A powerful meme emerges to the effect of – science now proves what we have known/believed all along. Gurus latch onto this idea to provide apparent credibility to their mysticism. The media eats it up.
One such meme that has been around for a while is that the heart contains brain cells, and therefore has a mind of its own, or at least is part of the human mind. There is a related meme that the GI system (the gut) also has a mind of its own.
The notion of “brain cells” in the heart has been co-opted to support various beliefs. One artist writes:
But for me it was exciting further evidence that thinking and mind is a deep connection between brain and mind and that we need to trigger all of our senses for effective creativity and learning.
A Times of India article declares:
It seems both heart and gut have minds of their own. Besides communicating with the brain, they might also be helping it develop, reducing depression and increasing the level of the individual’s well-being.
Guru Joseph Pearce (who apparently likes to be called, Joe) is quoted as saying:
The idea that we can think with our hearts is no longer just a metaphor, but is, in fact, a very real phenomenon. We now know this because the combined research of two or three fields is proving that the heart is the major center of intelligence in human beings.
He goes on to cite research about the feedback mechanisms from the heart to the limbic system of the brain.
What are these people talking about? The primary misconception here is to confuse “neuron” with “brain cell,” followed by equating brain cells with mind.
Not all neurons are brain cells (and not all brain cells are neurons – there are glia also, but that’s another story). Neurons are specialized cells of the nervous system that use the electrical potential across the membrane of all cells, which in neurons have evolved a special function, to trigger depolarizations that send an electrical signal down their axons which then sends a signal to another cell.
Not all neurons are in the brain. There are neurons in the spinal cord and in the peripheral nervous system as well.
Further, not all neurons contribute directly to the mind – conscious processes – or even subconscious processes beyond some basic sensory feedback to the brain. There is, for example, the autonomic nervous system, which (as the name implies) is concerned not with thinking but with regulating basic bodily function. This includes the function of the GI system and the heart.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the heart and the guts will contain their own specialized neurons that participate in autonomic function...
None of this adds up to the heart or gut having a mind. The mind is entirely the product of the brain, which of course is part of the body and is extensively connected to the body through various feedback mechanisms – hardly a surprise.
Here’s another challenge for the growing atheist movement: can we avoid the trap of charismatic leadership and the cult of personality? As church attendance declines (a good thing), as pastors wake up and realize their faith was a lie (a very good thing), and as we try to embrace even church leaders who want to join the secular movement, we have to beware of the temptation to just put them to work doing the same old thing they’re familiar with, in atheist “churches”...
What we need to construct are egalitarian institutions that do not simply co-opt the corrupt schema of existing religious institutions. We should be modeling democratic political forms rather than buying into destructive ecclesiastical patterns of organization.
Concerning the sub-thread on incestuous "marriages" -- can you imagine how the "liberals" will freak out when some "evil" rich man figures out that he can "marry" his son, and so pass on the family fortune without the death-tax eating it alive. At the same time, when a Kennedy uses this method, it will be OK.
[Gay marriage] is the issue of the age, and for the church, one that will challenge her standing as both the taproot and centering pole of Christian teaching. The world wants a confrontation, even if the church does not, and it can only end in one of two ways: either it will move the church to change a most fundamental (and very mystical) teaching in order to suit the times — and thereby send the message that “truth” really is a relative and changeable, not eternal, thing — or it will create a chasm between the Roman and orthodox churches (both small-o and large) and the world that will bring about a time or serious persecution and suppression.
RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”... You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)Collaboration with gay marriage will be forced on Christians-- in schools, in government, in businesses, eventually in churches-- with the intent of breaking Christian consciences and driving faithful Christians out of the public square and Christian business owners into bankruptcy. Prosecution of Christians for refusing to collaborate in gay marriages is already happening.
Texas is undergoing a rough, ugly battle about abortion. On Tuesday, activists for and against a proposed abortion law that would prohibit the procedure past the 20th week of pregnancy gathered at the state Capital in Austin for a bizarre shout-down. The prolife side sang Amazing Grace. The pro-abortion side tried to drown them out by shouting “Hail Satan!” I’m not making this up: you can view one of the confrontations on the video above and another via this link. Quite what Satan thinks about it all, we can obviously only speculate. But I'm guessing that even the Horned One would regard association with the US abortion industry as bad PR. More on why in a moment...
The abortion bill isn’t that big a deal; it’s already on the books in 12 other states. Charles Cooke has written a brutal take down of opposition to the 20 week ban, pointing out that a baby is pretty much a baby by that point (some studies show it can recognise its mother’s voice) and that a ban is actually supported by a narrow plurality of the American people. Women back it by larger percentages than men, which shoots down Wendy’s claim to speak for her gender. What she does speak for is a profitable industry damaged by bad PR that is desperate for poster-children like Wendy Davis to improve its image after the awful Gosnell case. Remember him? The guy who butchered women and babies through late term abortions carried out in filthy conditions in a surgery that reeked of cat pee? That’s the sordid reality of “safe, legal and rare”.
But back to the happy campers who yelled “Hail Satan!” at the prolife advocates who tried to sing a hymn. Of course those protestors aren’tactual Satanists, but their casual blasphemy reflects the nihilism at the heart of the pro-abortion lobby. They represent an extreme materialist philosophy that is uninterested in subtle debates about when life begins or in genuine attempts to negotiate between the needs of the infant and its vulnerable mother. No. They are only interested in total, unrestrained liberty – in the freedom to do whatever the Hell they want without any regard for ethics or the lives of others. They would do better to chant “Hail Ourselves!” – for they are a movement of the human ego at its most monstrous.
The Secret police—the NSA, the CIA, et al—are by their very nature antithetical [to democratic legitimacy], because openness and transparency about rules are essential to democratic public justification, and therefore to the legitimacy of state power. What must be secret cannot be fully democratic. One may well worry whether we can afford such a demanding standard of legitimate government in such a dangerous world. Perhaps we cannot. Perhaps it is foolish to be too good. But in that case we need to be clear-headed about it, and understand that secret police are a straightforwardly anti-democratic concession we make to a dangerous world. And we ought to accept that any strengthening of the powers of the secret police—especially the secret strengthening of the powers of the secret police—is a further blow to democracy and the legitimacy of our laws. The NSA's digital dragnet is a silent coup.
The funny thing about Hillary Clinton is how vastly her reputation exceeds her accomplishments. In reality, the only reason anyone has heard of her is that she married Bill Clinton. Otherwise, she would have toiled away as an obscure, reasonably competent if obnoxious lawyer. She was a relatively unpopular First Lady who is best remembered for being embarrassed by her husband’s serial infidelities. She served a brief term as a Senator from New York, a role in which she achieved nothing. Then she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, and punched her ticket during a singularly unsuccessful stint as Secretary of State. Never has she had an original thought, formulated a successful strategy, or stepped out of the shadow of her singular husband.
|Israelis murdered by liberated Palestinian terrorists|
As talks resume in Washington Palestinian president [Mahmoud Abbas] says ‘In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.’
A comment on my recent post about Backdoor Creationism calls into question the premise that the US Constitution demands separation of church and state, and therefore religious beliefs cannot be taught in public schools. The comment reads:
The first amendment states that the federal government can neither (sic) or prohibit the exercise of religion. “separation of church and state” is just a propaganda term used by some to stave off religious nuts who use undue social pressures or indoctrination to push their beliefs to others.
Here’s a section of the first amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
And here’s the definition of the word “respecting” from a dictionary dated 5 years after the adoption of the Bill of Rights.
RESPECT’ING, ppr. Regarding; having regard to ; relating to.
A little bit of history is in order. The term “separation of church and state” is not a propaganda term. It is a quote from Thomas Jefferson (who, I understand, had some familiarity with the Constitution) from his letter to the Danbury Baptists.
"In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'"Black failed to note that "separation of church and state" was first used publicly in America not by Thomas Jefferson but by Roger Williams In Rhode Island in 1644, and was widely discussed prior to ratification of the Constitution in 1789 (most prominently by Madison). Despite extensive public discussion of "separation of church and state" and its implications, or more accurately because of the discussion and its implications, "separation of church and state" was not mentioned even once in the Congressional record from June 7 to September 25 during the Founders' recorded official debate on the First Amendment in 1789.
The Earth is a Nursery
Last weekend, I went to Boston to meet with some college friends. I realized, to my shock, that it had been nearly twenty years since we first met each other. We go for months at a time without doing more than liking each other's baby snapshots on Facebook, but whenever we do meet, we just pick up where we left off. The only difference was that, when we first started meeting in Boston as new college graduates, we went bar hopping. This time, we met for lunch at a sit-down restaurant, and one of my friends asked the waitress if she could turn the music down. Nobody had more than one drink, because we had to drive home; and we talked less about concerts and guys and weddings, and more about dealing with high school guidance counselors, and whether or not we were planning to dye away the gray.
And two of us had babies with us. This isn't especially notable, for our Catholic crowd. But as we sat chatting and sipping iced coffee in Harvard Square, people stopped to stare. Literally every five minutes or so, someone would remark or exclaim over the babies. And the babies were very cute; that's indisputable.
But after a while, we started to glance at each other in bafflement. We're used to people saying, "Oh, what a cute baby!" We are not used to everyone stopping to say it, and to marvel that there are not one, but two -- two! -- babies in a group of five women. A policeman in a cruiser even pulled over, rolled down his window, and said, "Whoa, I didn't know this was the nursery!"
We smiled and laughed, but after he pulled away, the mother of the younger baby looked around our group, whispering a headcount to herself. ". . . Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen . . . " she said. "Should I run after him and tell him that, among us, we have twenty more kids at home?"
It was a lovely day, and I talked myself hoarse, and went home feeling grateful to have such good friends to visit, and such a big, happy family to come home to. But I couldn't help thinking of some of the stories my friends had told. In Harvard Square, it was all coos and admiration for the two pretty little babies who were just learning to try to grab Mama's coffee cup away.
But back home, when our family is out in full force, I've had a woman hold a door for my double stroller and hiss, "You have too many children." My friends have been lectured in their church parking lots about their irresponsible breeding behavior. They've been glared at for the high crime of bringing children into a supermarket. People get up and change seats with a groan of disgust when we come into a waiting room, as if the pretty little toddler in sandals and a sundress is covered in oozing sores. That phrase kept coming back to me: "I didn't know this was the nursery!" It's true. Nobody knows. People think you have to have a special reason to have a child (or another child, or another child) when you're married. People think the earth is some discrete entity that was rolling along in space just fine until these foul, pestilent humans barged in out of nothingness and started -- ugh -- reproducing, of all things.
In a way, the distaste children is easy to deal with. It's so obvious that only bad guys hate babies. But what tears my heart is the people who reach out in wonder and astonishment at a baby, as if she's a novelty, something lovely and exotic, a precious, aberrant artifact that they're drawn to and long for, but cannot understand. A baby is a sweet hallucination, something you enjoy before coming to your senses and getting back to your real life.
But babies are real life. The earth is a nursery. Of course it is. And we're called to clean up after ourselves, and not be wasteful and not wreck the place up. (Most of the big families I know live in such a way, because of their size, that their carbon footprint is the same or smaller than the average two-child American family; and when the children grow up and move out, they tend to live the same way.) But the only reason it's here -- the only reason it's in the Goldilocks Zone, which makes it possible for a planet to support life, is so that it can support life. It wants to support life. Why else would a planet exist? It's here so that people can live on it.
You married couples, have a baby if you can! Have another one. Don't be afraid. I know -- believe me, I know! -- that the circumstances are not always ideal. But I'm getting gray hairs. I'm looking at the end of my fertile years, and I'm telling you that the window for having children is actually pretty small. Don't be a fool. Don't join the crowd that looks in astonishment at a little baby, wondering why she is here.
She is here because the world was created to receive her.