Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reflections on American Idol possibly going off the air

Well, according to some reports, the show "American Idol" may be coming to an end. This is unfortunate, since I have never seen the show that so many people talk about, and I was looking forward to continuing to be a non-viewer for years to come. So it comes as a hard blow to know that I now will be unable to continue to refrain from watching this great pop cultural spectacle.

But at least I can continue to be a non-viewer of other television shows of similar importance, such as "Dancing with the Stars," "CSI," and (probably my favorite show not to watch) "Desperate Housewives."

In fact, it is probably a good thing that "American Idol" may be going off the air, since it reduces the number of shows I don't watch, giving me more time not to watch others.

So many programs not worth watching, so little time not to watch them ...

Ann Rice: "I quit being a human"

Anne Rice who became famous for her vampire novels before announcing she had become Catholic, now says she simply refuses to perpetuate the charade of being human:
It's simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.
She is now seeking other species with which she can join in solidarity (preferably herbivores) to promote peace and tranquility, and teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

Oh, wait ... Hold on.

Actually, Rice announced that she is renouncing Christianity because it is quarrelsome, hostile, and disputatious. I don't know how I could have become so confused.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Will this health care bureaucracy be more efficient?

How Obamacare works:

Now, raise your hand if you think this is going to make our health care system more efficient...

Some groups are "green" in more ways that one

Like I've always said: Follow the money. There are big profits to be made in green technology, and the multi-national corporations aren't leaving anything to chance. And many Green groups, who purport to be independent voices on environmental issues, may well be on the take.

And why is it that the President of BP, yes that BP, is on the advisory board of the Earth Institute?

Check out the Times Higher Education Supplement for an eye-opening exposé.

HT: Bishop Hill

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Western vs. Eastern logic

In Our Oriental Heritage, Will Durant explains the Hindu system of logic. Like categorical logic in the Aristotelian system, Hindu logic recognizes the central place of the middle term, but the structure in its stated form is slightly different. Whereas the Aristotelian system contains only three premises:
(1) All men are mortal
(2) Socrates is a man
(3) Therefore, Socrates is mortal
The Hindu expression of the argument contains five statements:
(1) Socrates is mortal
(2) For he is a man
(3) All men are mortal
(4) Socrates is a man
(5) Therefore Socrates is mortal
Now there is nothing fundamentally different about the nature of the reasoning in these respective forms; the only difference is in the expression. Note that the first and fifth statements in the Hindu syllogism are the same, as are the second and fourth. All the Hindu syllogism does is to state at the beginning where the argument is going and bring attention to the minor premise. It is really an enthymeme of the Aristotelian form appended to the beginning.

There is a lot of talk about how different Eastern logic is from Western, but if there is a difference, it certainly isn't evident here.

Toro! Toro! Toro!

Catalonia is banning bullfighting, another modern victory for animal rights at a time when countries are continuing to liberalize their abortion laws, which once again proves my thesis that, when the qualitative distinction between humans and animals is erased, the result is either requiring that animals be treated with the same respect as humans or that allowing that humans be treated like animals.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Child Poverty is Up: More news on what happens when you have fewer traditional families

Child poverty is in the news again, this time because of a newly-released report from Kids Count. As the Louisville Courier-Journal put it:
The number of children living in poverty has increased in Kentucky and Indiana, following a national trend of high unemployment and growing poverty in families, according to the latest “Kid Count,’’ an annual state-by-state survey of child well-being by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The poverty rate for children is listed at 23 percent in Kentucky, up from 22 percent last year. That is overstated, of course, since Kids Count relies on U. S. Census data which only takes account of a family's annual income, not it's total assets.

The Census data is notoriously unreliable as an indicator of poverty, since the average family living "in poverty" is actually not all that bad off. Almost half own their own air-conditioned home and have at least two color televisions; over two-thirds own their own car (a third have two); and the majority of the "impoverished" have VCR or DVD, have cable or satellite reception, and have a microwave oven and automatic dishwasher.

So let's think of this in some perspective.

But the interesting thing about the data is that, along with the "poverty" rate, the percentage of children growing up in one-parent homes is continuing to rise. Gee, I wonder if those two things have something to do with each other.

In fact, the two chief predictors of whether a person will go on welfare is whether he or she (usually she) has had a baby out of wedlock or is divorced.

Go figure.

But let's not get all excited and do something crazy like have our schools and other cultural institutions start to uphold the traditional family as some kind of ideal or anything (Not like there's really any danger of that happening).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Conway's Stealth Strategy: Flying below radar has certain political disadvantages

Let the bloodhounds loose! It may be the only way to find Jack Conway, who, in his campaign against Rand Paul for Kentucky's second U. S. Senate seat, has yet to be sighted.

Conway has been running, but, as the Lexington Herald-Leader has pointed out, most of the running seems to be away from actual voters. While Paul is out pressing the flesh among electorate, Conway has been is apparently working "behind the scenes" building a "network."

He's a crafty one, that Jack.

One Conway hunter, Mandy Connell, host of WHAS's morning talk show, almost treed Conway last week, but the elusive candidate slipped away, failing to show up for her show, apparently to concentrate on "networking." Connell now says, however, that she has laid a trap for him this Wednesday, when he is rescheduled to show up.

I hope Connell has people there with camouflage khakis and tranquilizer darts to take the man into captivity, where he can be questioned at length.

The difference in coverage is striking:
In the last three months — April 22 through July 21 — major Kentucky newspapers, including the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, mentioned Paul 305 times in the first paragraphs of stories compared with 150 times for Conway.

... Among newspapers outside of Kentucky listed in the top 50 in circulation in Editor & Publisher Year Book, Paul’s name was in the first paragraphs of stories 196 times. Conway’s name appeared in opening paragraphs 12 times.
You could argue that some of Paul's publicity has been bad publicity, but given that Paul has postured himself as the anti-establishment candidate, you could easily argue that being hammered by the establishment simply contributes to the image he is trying to cultivate with voters.

Given the discrepancy in media coverage, you would think that, instead of taking cover whenever the media shows up, he would be out flagging down news trucks, showing off his newest press release.

But no. There's networking to do.

The only problem with flying below radar as a political strategy is that no one knows you're there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Right to Life of KY responds on Obamacare

Michael Janocik of Right to Life of Kentucky takes on a response to his original letter in the Louisville Courier-Journal on Obamacare:

My sympathy and prayers go out to C. Stone, who lost her young husband to cancer. In her rebuttal to my letter in the Louisville Courier-Journal, "Obamacare Leads Us Down a Dangerous Path," Stone rightly points to serious flaws in the current third-party private health insurance market. Most Americans believe we can do better and I applaud Mrs. Stone for her contribution to do so on behalf of her husband and others. The point of my CJ letter is that Obamacare will exacerbate, not alleviate, the problems with which we are all too familiar - the denial or hindrance of health care coverage by third party payers.

Notwithstanding Stone’s helpful criticisms, her rebuttal actually affirms my argument. Stone writes: "Janocik, assistant director of Right to Life Educational Foundation of Kentucky, and his ilk continue to spout these "death panel" threats and continue to obscure what health care reform is all about. Can we please quit terrifying people?” Nary a handful of keystrokes click by before she writes, “I do agree with his comment that ‘when third-party, unaccountable bureaucracies control health care decisions, rather than patients and physicians, involuntary rationing is the inevitable result, with involuntary euthanasia not too far behind’,” citing the role that private insurance played in denial of care for her husband.

To redress that denial of coverage, Stone wrote she was able to pay for care above and beyond what her insurance covered. That is true and that is precisely one of the freedoms, among others, that Obamacare will abolish - Stone’s ability to purchase health care treatment beyond the scope of her government-approved insurance policy.

It seems counter-intuitive then, that Stone would defend health care legislation that would, by her own acknowledgment, 1. ) further concentrate power to deny health care coverage within one federal bureaucracy, rather than within hundreds, if not thousands, of private insurers and, 2.) deny her the means by which to pay for additional medical care for her husband that will not be covered by “universal health care.”

Stone’s exegesis of the current health care failings seems well-informed by her personal challenge to do right by her beloved husband. Perhaps her perception of the solution, however, is clouded by same.

Michael Janocik
Assistant Director
Right to Life Educational Foundation of KY

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is there a way to criticize Christianity without assuming it?

There are a number of tangents commenters on the last few posts have gone off on, most of them interesting and worthy of discussion (I may have started a few of them myself). One of them had to do with the foundations of moral judgment. There were several claims being aired. Among them:

1. That moral judgment requires divine warrant (like a theistic God)
2. That moral judgment assumes some metaphysical standard

It seems to me that the first is a species of the second. It was unclear to me whether the atheist posters on the post were denying just 1. or whether they denied 2. as well, but it seemed to me that they were denying both--and they clearly reject the authority of Christian ethics.

All of which makes me wonder why they keep making moral judgments on Christians--and Christianity--that derive from Christian ethics.

If they want to reject Christianity, isn't it a little self-defeating to employ Christian ideas in order to do it? If Christianity is bogus, then there ought to be some other ethical standpoint from which to criticize it. If so, then what is it, and why don't they use it? And if there really is some other ethical standpoint from which you can criticize Christianity, what obligation, outside the anti-Christian's own preferences, does anyone have to accept it as authoritative?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Toward a theory of why atheists think there is a moral obligation to have an opinion on the age of the earth

Okay, I think I've figured this out.

Several posts ago, I asked whether it was reasonable to ask people who didn't have any expertise or knowledge about the issue to take a public position on the age of the earth. P. Z. Myers responded with a few arguments before doing what dogmatic atheists always do, which is call you names, tell you you're ignorant, and then characterize you as morally deficient, all in the service of saying that, yes, even if you don't have any particular knowledge or expertise on the question, you should still have a position on it.

As Thomas, my co-blogger has pointed out, it seems rather strange for anyone to say that there is some kind of moral obligation to have a position on this one scientific issue. In fact, it's rather strange for atheists, most of whom are mechanistic materialists of some form, to say anyone has a moral obligation to do anything.

But if you think about it, it actually makes sense.

To atheists, questions like the age of the earth have an almost holy status--like the doctrine of the Double Nature of Christ for Christians, or the Eightfold Path for Buddhists. The Age of the Earth is one of the Five Pillars of Atheism.

It's not only holy: it's necessary. If you're going to be an atheist, you have to believe it, since it is necessary for your system of belief, and maintaining it becomes a matter of vital necessity. There are many creationists who hold to their position for exactly the same reason: they view a literal seven day creation and a strict reading of the genealogies as necessary to their faith. For historic Christianity, however, the question is simply not crucial. Nothing important hangs on it. God could have created the world quickly or slowly.

So when someone tells an atheist he doesn't think it's a particularly important issue, they react like natives whose god has been insulted. You have defiled the holy place. And so they point their rhetorical spears at you indignantly, jump around making threatening gestures, whooping and hollering, at which point you have to make a run for it before they boil you in a pot or something.

You just don't tell these people that one of their central religious dogmas is not important. It makes the scientific gods angry. It's taboo.

Just like the religious fundamentalist, the atheist's position on the age of the earth is part of his creed. It is not just a matter of scientific importance to these people; it's a matter of moral imperative because their whole belief system is bound up in it.

This, of course, says nothing about whether the evidence is good or bad. Despite what several commentators have implied, I have never argued that the evidence for the older age of the earth is problematic. I really don't have any problem with it, other than I think holding people to particular figures two or three places to the right of the decimal point in your millions of years figure is a little silly.

The only real material difference I have with the atheist fundamentalists is that I don't need to believe it. My worldview is just fine no matter how old the earth is. To me, the age of the earth is, indeed, a scientific question. But to the atheist it is a religious question. That is the single and only reason why anyone would say you have a moral obligation to have an opinion on it.

If you step outside the theological system of the atheists, why is it that you have a moral imperative to set forth your position on the issue of the age of the earth and to be able to say that it is exactly 4.567 billion years old? There are a whole lot more fundamental scientific issues out there. Why this one?

Should everyone have a well laid out position on quantum mechanics? The origin of the earth was, presumably, a very long time ago. Quantum mechanisms are operating now.

Where is Rand Paul on the issue of quantum gravity? What does he think about string theory? What a loon he must be for failing to have a position on the issue! He must be some kind of nut.

Maybe, but only from the perspective of someone to whom scientific questions are held as religious dogmas.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

In Defense of Atheists

Well, the good folks from P. Z. Myers blog have shown up here in force, and I wanted to make sure that our regular readers understood why the level of discourse seems to have experienced a noticeable decline. I felt the need, you see, to make special accommodations for the atheist crowd in order for them to be able to give full vent to their emotions by temporarily suspending the normal posting rules having to do with name-calling and questioning of motives.

This is important for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is probably good for them. Repressing your emotions can result in sometimes unhealthy neuroses. We don't want to see them hurt themselves, so I think it would be best to let them get it out of their systems.

Secondly, we want them to be able to adequately make their point and it would be unfair to dogmatists not to allow them to engage in what dogmatists always do when you question their cherished orthodoxies: lash out emotionally at those who disagree with them.

But I also wanted our loyal readers to understand the causes behind this behavior. What we have here, after all, are a group of presumably higher level hominids who--despite their pretensions of occupying the highest branch on the evolutionary tree--seem not to have developed any noticeable system of manners.

Note the litany of epithets and questioning of intentions, along with accusations of moral turpitude. Then there are the accusations of a lack of courage (and hypocrisy)--made, ironically, by people who refuse to identify themselves.

There are other things we have noticed as well. In fact, we have watched them, clipboard, stopwatch, and other scientific instruments in hand (in the scientific attitude) and made some very important empirical observations, the most significant of which seems to be that there are two varieties of atheist species: the consistent ones and the inconsistent ones.

The inconsistent atheists are the ones who still unaccountably cling to rationality, despite the fact that their own materialistic view of the world precludes it (truth and validity both being metaphysical concepts). They still make the attempt to make rational arguments despite the fact that their largely materialist assumptions rule out the very procedure they try to employ.

The consistent ones (which our observations indicate are far more numerous) are the ones who either don't bother to argue at all, but simply use taunts or epithets to make their case--or who attribute their opponents position, not to some mistaken chain of reasoning, but to some underhanded motive. Rationality being impossible in their worldview, they must attribute people's word and actions, not to a rationale, but to a cause--usually some form of intellectual dishonesty.

Among these latter individuals, the correct position on any scientific matter is intrinsically bound up with morality to the extent that truth and good are completely indistinguishable. Since the two cannot be separated, this means that if you believe someone to be incorrect on an issue, they must also therefore be evil. No one can be honestly wrong, This accounts for the penchant (typical of dogmatists of all varieties) to impart some sort of intellectual dishonesty to their opponents.

Furthermore, these characteristics make them indistinguishable in many ways from the religious fundamentalists they profess to scorn, living in a similar black and white world where there exists only the one morally correct position, and all others are to be scorned.

So, while we spend a few days disentangling the arguments from the epithets in order to answer them, please take these things into account and be patient with them.

Will P. Z. Myers need to be tranquilized? More on scientific dogmatism

We are hearing some further cage rattling over in the higher ape section of the park, and it appears to be ... yes, it is. None other than P. Z. Myers, one of the more dominant males of the species scientificus dogmaticus (a species with characteristics similar to the howler monkey), is chattering and whooping over my comment that people who don't have expertise in science have no obligation to hold public positions on the age of the earth.

The extent of his excitement is evident from the following utterance our anthropological staff here at Vital Remnants have transcribed:
If you are a creationist who regularly complains about "Darwinists" and promotes intelligent design creationism, yet declaims at length that you are so abysmally ignorant that you can't even make up your mind whether to trust
elementary geology, then nothing you can say about any science is trustworthy. It's fine to admit that you are an empty-headed goober who hasn't bothered to look up any relevant science at all, but when you set up a soapbox and pontificate about the insupportability of "Darwinism" from your platform of self-admitted lack of knowledge, you've upgraded yourself from silly schlemiel to arrogant putz.
So despite the fact that I have stated I don't have a public position on the issue, Myers has labeled me a "creationist," despite the complicating factor that (and one has to employ a fairly complex intellectual procedure here to derive this, which consists of actually reading what I have said), I am not. I even went to the trouble, after I became concerned about the physical harm to themselves that could have resulted from the violent din among the Darwinists ensuing upon my remarks--and despite my better judgment--to indicate that it seemed to me the earth was very old.

And despite the fact that I have said repeatedly on this blog that I don't have a particular view on the particular theories of Intelligent Design that are now extant--other than to say that I think Aristotle was correct in thinking that natural things have an intrinsic formal and final cause, however that might work out developmentally--Myers says I "promote intelligent design creationism."

He then goes on (and here the logical syntax of his utterances get so confused that our simian linguistic staff have a little trouble following his thought patterns, such as they are) and says that I "can't even make up" my "mind" on these issues. Of course, I didn't say I hadn't make up my mind: I said I didn't think it was responsible to take a public position. But this is a distinction that is hard for the dogmatic members of his subspecies to mentally grasp. In fact, fine distinctions seem to be completely alien to their thought patterns. Perhaps in a few years their development will advance to a stage in which such distinctions will be understandable, but it could take some time.

Despite these mistakes on such simple facts--a result of not reading or understanding what I clearly stated--he asks us to believe him about all things scientific. Myers says he knows the age of the earth because he reads books, "even the simple books for the lay public — and they describe the evidence for the age of the earth." Well, let's hope he pays more attention to his books that he does to simple statements on weblogs.

In an intellectual maneuver characteristic of his subspecies, Myers defends dogmatism by relabeling it "pragmatism." It is pragmatic, Myers suggests, to make confident public declarations on matters in which you have no deep level of knowledge or expertise.

Now what you have to understand about Darwinists is that they too are evolving--right in front of us. Furthermore, their evolution has a peculiar cyclical pattern, with cycles repeating themselves in some cases in a matter of days. The observers here on our staff have noted the curious penchant for saying, on one day, that they are against appeals to authority because they are relics of an ignorant religious age, and then saying the very next day that the public at large should acquiesce to their authority because they "read books."

We are to trust people who say we should not trust people. We are to believe the dogma of people who are opposed to dogmatism. We are to trust the authority of people who are against appeals to authority. Our staff is still working on finding the exact mechanism that causes Darwinists to think this makes sense.

Finally, with his customary care and thoughtfulness, Myers criticizes my comment in which I simply posted a link to a site explaining how the age of the solar system just got changed again within the past year. I posted it, he says, in order to justify my "agnosticism on the age of the earth." Dogmatists can also apparently read minds. Actually, I posted it because the previous commenter had posted a link to another age of the earth site now rendered mistaken by new discoveries. I posted it without comment, but with the idea that the certainty of exact formulations of the earth's age (e.g. "4.5 billion years") are always precarious. In fact, explains the post, that formulation is now considered off by "a million years or more."

While Myers characterizes this discovery as essentially meaningless, the scientists who found it didn't characterize it that way:
One million years is still an eyeblink at this scale, representing the difference between 4.566 and 4.567, but this difference is important in understanding the infant solar system ...“The building blocks of planets all formed within the span of 10 million years at most,” says coauthor Meenakshi Wadhwa, also of Arizona State. “When you start to try to unravel the sequence of events within that 10 million years, it becomes important to resolve the time scales within a million years or less.”
Apparently, something important hangs on the difference. And one wonders what they would have said had the mistaken factor by which the earlier mistaken figure had been derived had been much larger, which it easily could have been. What other aspect of dating systems could be found mistaken in the future?

So which scientists are we to believe? The first scientist (Wadhwa) who is an expert in this area who uncovered the mistake, or the second scientist (Myers,) who claims to know and agree with the first scientist but seems to contradict what the first scientist actually says? I'm tempted to go with the first scientist on this one. He sounds a little less dogmatic to me than the second one.

Monday, July 05, 2010

What will Jack Conway say at this year's Fancy Farm?

Fancy Farm, Kentucky's traditional old-time political stump event is banning profanity. Da ..., er, I mean, that's a shame. What is Jack Conway going to say this year? "I'm one tough cookie?"

But the big question is, will this new rule placate John David Dyche, who last year (or was it the year before, or the year before that?) wrote the whole Fancy Farm thing off as an disturbing display of course behavior that clearly scared his horses.

"The Fancy Farm follies," he sniffed at the time, "are mercifully over." He acknowledged, with all the grace and dignity of which he is capable (and that is substantial) that the speaking and heckling for which Fancy Farm is famous can be "fair," but added (and one can imagine him clearing his throat at this to point to allow himself time to select just the right expression), "in these parlous times they seem almost recklessly inappropriate."

It is indeed sobering to consider how apparently oblivious were the hooligans crowded around the Fancy Farm stage that year to Dyche's severe state of discomfort at the proceedings. It could be the crowd simply refused to part when Dyche's carriage arrived.

"Americans," Dyche asserted, are troubled "economically and existentially." And I will confess Dyche is probably correct in thinking that most of the crowd at Fancy Farm did not have the existential condition of their fellow Americans on their minds. In fact, there were people dressed up in quite a variety of costumes, but apparently no one was dressed up as Jean Paul Sartre.

As I recall, Dyche--the liberals favorite Kentucky conservative--then went on to laud Greg Stumbo, indicating that the only parlous thing about the times is that there are ostensible conservatives lauding liberals on a fairly regular basis.

O course, the problem with Fancy Farm is not that there's too much profanity--or too little decorum. The problem with Fancy Farm is that there are no longer any politicians worthy of the event. The art of making ex tempore political speeches (and I throw in the Latin here in order to more effectively communicate this point to Dyche) has simply gone the way of the dodo.

Where are the Wendell Fords? Where are the Larry Forgy's? Where are the people who could grab a microphone and deliver an impromptu speech filled with barbed wit and clever satire.
These voices were silenced some years ago now, I'm afraid. Today, we have only the stuffed shirts who show up, speechwriter-written address in hand, to deliver a few canned jokes about their opponent, who, in return

Pity Jack Conway, who suffered the derision of almost everyone last year for a line he paid someone else to write for him.

The irony is that the hooting and howling that was once directed in fun at clever speeches and witty verbal take-downs of one's own favored candidate can now be directed legitimately at almost every speech given there, so illiterate--or, as Dyche would put it, "parlous"--has become the state of our politics.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Should scientists demand that others act unscientifically? Further proof that Darwinists are dogmatists

The topic of what we are to think about Rand Paul declining to state his view of how old the earth is at a recent home school conference has been a hot one on this blog for the last few days. Paul has been criticized for being some kind of closet creationist trying not to alienate voters who believe in evolution or for believing in evolution but not wanting to alienate his creationist audience.

Fair enough.

My comments here on this blog on the criticism of Paul for doing this were designed to simply contrast the civility of the creationist response with the incivility of the Darwinist response--an incivility that characterizes much of the Darwinist response to people who differ with them. In the process, I have been asked to state my own position on the age of the earth, to which I have responded that I really don't have one. This has provoked further ire on the part of the advanced ape contingent in the comments section of this blog.

Several of them have demanded that I state my position. I find this rather ironic.

I have said that I don't really have a position on the issue of the age of the earth for a simple reason: I don't know the age of the earth. But this answer has proven unsatisfactory to these champions of scientific certainty. They think that--even though I have no expertise in any field that would bear on the question or any great familiarity with the state of knowledge in this area that I should have a position anyway.

What are we to make of people who profess to be opposed to holding positions based on ignorance but who think a person who doesn't know something is still ethically obliged to hold a position on it?

We can't believe them on scientific grounds because we are not scientists. We have insufficient access to scientific evidence which is the only way we can ground our beliefs, and we don't have the familiarity with the research that would be the only basis for such a sound belief. But they demand it anyway.

I don't know the age of the earth, but I know that someone who thinks that someone who doesn't know the age of the earth should have a position on the age of the earth anyway is a dogmatist. What else could he be?

This is the curious thing about people who hold to Darwinism: they demand that people with no scientific expertise hold scientific opinions. But on what basis? Many people can't hold them on a basis of scientific knowledge, since they don't have sufficient scientific knowledge to hold them. There is only one basis upon which they can hold them, and it is the basis upon which Darwinists demand they hold them: on the basis of authority.

Why is this curious? Because it is precisely authority we are supposed to abandon in this brave new scientific world. Authority is what religious dogmatists practice. It is what scientists are supposed to avoid. Yet here we have people who at least pose as scientific people (many of whom, of course, are not themselves scientists) who demand that we accept their opinions as truth merely on the grounds that they are scientists--or, alternatively, because they are making scientific statements.

We are to believe them because they wear laboratory smocks in the same way religious people used to believe others because they wore priestly robes. But, of course, we're not supposed to notice this parallel.

And the other irony is that, if we did set forth a belief in some scientific question which differed from their own beliefs, we would be criticized for having no scientific basis for the belief or for being scientifically illiterate--or both. Scientific illiteracy is no problem if you hold to the beliefs they champion, but they are grounds for being charged with scientific illiteracy--and treated with verbal abuse--if you disagree with them.

It is common to see reports of evolutionary scientists upset that more Americans don't accept their theories. But why should they accept them? Because a majority of scientists say so? Well, if you believe in adherence to authority, and you accept current scientific opinion as authority, then that's a fine idea.

But there's one problem: whether trust in the scientific establishment is well-placed or not, it's not a scientific idea of how one should form his opinions. There's not a particle of scientific method in it. So why do scientists so often demand it?

Should scientists demand that others act unscientifically in the name of science?

In which Martin Cothran tries to explain satire and irony to Lisa Graas

When you are writing in an era that has experienced a cultural lobotomy, it is sometimes hard to get your message across.

Lisa Graas, who is apparently a Catholic blogger, takes notice of the little back and forth between Jake and I. Now I have said before that I find Jake's blog amusing--albeit not terribly reliable, since he is, by his own admission, something of a muckraking rumor monger. Still, I find myself laughing out loud at times. And since I find laughing out loud enjoyable, I find myself being grateful to him.

Since he makes me laugh, I basically look the other way when he directs salacious and fundamentally rude remarks my way, as he has several times over the last several days--and multiple times over the last several years. In what seems to me a charitable spirit, I just pass it off as the result of his fundamental inability to intellectually engage the issues he discusses on his blog. I think there is more to it than that, but, since I'm trying to be nice, I won't go into that.

But, again--despite his serious lack of manners--I enjoy him. I can even say I like him. I'm sure that, were we to actually meet, I could sit down and have a beer and a cigar with him--although, I admit, I would enjoy it all the more knowing that he probably hates smoke and detests beer. But I would try to suppress this latter kind of enjoyment in favor of the sheer enjoyment of his company and his sense of humor.

So anyway, after viewing Jake's comments, in which he calls me names, accuses me of bad motives, and threatens to reveal scandalous things about me that he has somehow gleaned from people I have never met, Lisa Graas turns her criticism on ...

... me.

Jake's comments she passes off as just something you would expect from someone who describes himself as a "dirty political commentator." He lowers the standards that apply to him and Grass can then accept whatever he says as par for the rhetorical course. I, on the other hand, have been identified by Grass as a "professional Christian," and am to be held to some kind of standard.

Graas apparently didn't notice that Jake and other prominent gays are the ones who are always accusing their critics of hate. You would think, then, that when they employ it themselves, they should be held to the same standard that they demand others abide by.

But let's pass that by for now and talk about Graas's criticism of me.

"Professional Christian"? I'd love to know how she derived this from what she has read (likely written by someone else). I'm a lot of things professionally--a writer, editor, teacher, media relations person, legislative relations person, and author, but I can't imagine where anyone would get the idea that I'm a "professional Christian." I comment on religious issues on my blog; I teach at a Christian school; I even go to church.

Is that all it takes? Is Graas a "professional Catholic" because she runs a Catholic blog, giving lectures to people she thinks are professional Christians the purpose of whose writing she clearly doesn't even understand?

I remember a couple of years ago when I was sitting in front of the House Health and Welfare Committee arguing against a bill that would have resulted in the forced vaccinations of middle school girls for sexually transmitted diseases. I sat down and presented the case against it, using arguments that mostly focused on the preservation of something called "freedom."

When I got finished, State Rep. Kathy Stein (D-Lexington) grabbed the microphone and began preaching a sermon about how I shouldn't bring my religious arguments before a state legislative committee. Then began waving an imaginary Bible in her hands and quoting scripture passages that militated against my case.

I had not made a single religious argument. Not one. The case I made was entirely based on reason and evidence, unlike hers, which was entirely religious in nature.

After reading Graas's criticism, I feel a little like I did at that committee table: bemused that someone looking at my arguments would give me a lecture on the religious arguments that I did not make, all the while employing religious arguments herself.

I suppose this kind of thing is the just an occupational hazard for a blogger: there are just going to be some people who simply don't understand what you're doing. In Grass's case, the problem seems to be a simple lack of understanding of the nature of my remarks. She says:
Mr. Cothran, professional Christian, responded by calling Jake and his readers lower life forms and went on to suggest that they be treated as such.

Graas apparently did not notice that what I was doing in the post she references is taking Jake's own professed view about human origins and applying it to his own behavior. It's not my view that I was purporting to take in the post, it was Jake's. I was criticizing Darwnism, Lisa, remember?

It's the Darwinists who view human beings as simply more complex (but not "higher" in the ontological sense) than the creatures "lower" than they are. In the Darwinist view there is no qualitative difference between humans and other animals: the only difference is their biological complexity. If you doubt it, try to use the word "higher" in relation to humans in some ethical sense and you'll get a little lecture from some Darwinist about how "higher" only has to do with complexity, not with ontological hierarchy.

If Grass has problems with people who think that humans are like animals, then her argument isn't with me, it's with people who actually believe that.

Now I'm going to explain to Lisa what I was doing, and in doing so (we need to be careful here to fully explain the poetic devices used just so there is no further misunderstanding), I am going to use a device known as "facetiousness," so be forewarned.

I was using something called "Satire." You are using satire (and another device called "irony") when you take someone else's view and employ it yourself to show how preposterous the view is. Your aren't purporting to believe the view you are taking, but actually to undermine it.

I wrote a satirical piece here a couple of years ago in which I championed the forced circumcision of all middle school boys, which was written as a satire of the attempt to force middle school girls to receive HPV vaccinations. I just took all the arguments they used for the administration of Gardasil, and applied it to circumcision, since research had shown the same kinds of health benefits.

Well, wouldn't you know it, some people took me literally, and railed against such an idea. How could I support such an obviously preposterous thing?


I suggest Graas put together a summer reading list strong on authors like the following: Mark Twain, Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, George Orwell, and Ambrose Bierce. Then, since she is a Catholic, she might want to throw in Catholic satirical writers like Walker Percy, G. K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, and Flannery O'Connor.

Then she could at least have an understanding of what she is criticizing.