Friday, March 30, 2012

Are conservatism and libertarianism incompatible?

There are a lot of libertarians out there who think they are conservatives. Hold on, says Peter Schlueter:
The contemporary Tea Party Movement, like its revolutionary ancestor, looks to principles for guidance. Yet an old but active fault line runs just beneath the surface of the movement that has the potential to cause a fatal rupture. Tea Partiers simultaneously promote both a conservatism based upon the principles of the American founding and a libertarianism based on individualism, but the two are ultimately incompatible ...
Read the rest here.

Separation of church and state group should get a life

There's a lot of views you can have about the "Ark Park" that Answers in Genesis is wanting to build here in Kentucky. My own view is rather dim, since turning Bible stories with serious theological points into theme park attractions seems rather to undermine than underscore the message.

In fact, it should be Christians who should have the most trouble with this kind of thing. I'm trying to think, for example, how a roller coaster down through the Tower of Babel is going to do anything other than trivialize the issue of human speech and its cultural consequences--or how a water slide out of the hold of Noah's ark is going to promote a serious understanding of human obedience and God's reaction to human evil.

But whatever you think about an "Ark Park" one of the available reasonable responses to it is not to oppose improving the roads around it, as Americans United for Separation of Church and State has chosen to do.

Since when do we choose whether to build or improve roads on the basis of what they lead to?

Church state separatist and atheist groups don't need a theme park to trivialize their views. They do a good job of it already.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sauce for the Gander: Are liberals going to get a taste of their own medicine on Obamacare?

It appears the Obama administration didn't fare too well in the oral arguments on Obamacare yesterday, what with justices asking mostly critical questions and Obama's solicitor general choking in broad daylight in the most high profile case before the highest court in the land.
"This was a train wreck for the Obama administration," Toobin said Tuesday. "This law looks like it's going to be struck down. I'm telling you, all of the predictions, including mine, that the justices would not have a problem with this law, were wrong."
So points out Maggie Gallagher.
So ... Go through the hard slog of getting a law passed (like, say, Proposition 8 in California) only to have progressives go to court and get it struck down on the grounds it offends some radical new norm no author of our Constitution would recognize. 
Since at least 1973, when Roe v. Wade struck down anti-abortion laws in all 50 states, progressive elites have looked on the Supreme Court as their wholly owned subsidiary -- a trump card only they get to play. 
The Supreme Court's job, in their view, is to strike down popular laws supporting traditional moral norms -- especially sexual norms -- that progressives would have trouble winning at the ballot box. The discovery and invention of new rights, from abortion to gay marriage, was their turf, their "Get Out of Democracy Free Card." 
Or so they thought. 
... Now, liberal Democrats are looking straight into the abyss of a world where courts can step in and take away what they fought hard for at the ballot box. 
Perhaps they will suddenly develop a little sympathy for the conservative half of the country whose laws and norms they go to court to throw out? 
Don't count on it.
Read the rest here.

An update from the Church of Atheism

More evidence for my thesis that atheism is a Christian heresy, this time from Stanley Fish in the New York Times, discussing an interview of Richard Dawkins and Stephen Pinker by Chris Hayes on MSNBC :
Pushed by Hayes, who had observed that when we accept the conclusions of scientific investigation we necessarily do so on trust (how many of us have done or could replicate the experiments?) and are thus not so different from religious believers, Dawkins and Pinker asserted that the trust we place in scientific researchers, as opposed to religious pronouncements, has been earned by their record of achievement and by the public rigor of their procedures. In short, our trust is justified, theirs is blind. 
It was at this point that Dawkins said something amazing, although neither he nor anyone else picked up on it. He said: in the arena of science you can invoke Professor So-and-So’s study published in 2008, “you can actually cite chapter and verse.” 
With this proverbial phrase, Dawkins unwittingly (I assume) attached himself to the centuries-old practice of citing biblical verses in support of a position on any number of matters, including, but not limited to, diet, animal husbandry, agricultural policy, family governance, political governance, commercial activities and the conduct of war. Intellectual responsibility for such matters has passed in the modern era from the Bible to academic departments bearing the names of my enumerated topics. We still cite chapter and verse — we still operate on trust — but the scripture has changed (at least in this country) and is now identified with the most up-to-date research conducted by credentialed and secular investigators.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The God of men—and of Elves: How C. S. Lewis became a Christian

The following article will appear in the spring issue of my Classical Teacher magazine:

From earliest times, Christians have argued about the role of pagan learning in Christian education. The debate has never gone away, but generally speaking the church has preferred rather to use the learning of the pagans than to repudiate it.

An essential part of the classical Christian education that held sway in schools from the Middle Ages until fairly recent times was a familiarity with Greek and Roman mythology, a mastery of the history of these great civilizations, and an immersion in their literature. Medieval philosophers and theologians drank deeply from the well of philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle in their quest to make intellectual sense of and to articulate Christian truths. And Christian thinkers since then have not only availed themselves liberally of the classical heritage in history and literature, but have been on the vanguard of classical learning.

There are many examples of contemporary Christian thinkers who have professed a debt to the learning of the ancients, but none is more well known than C. S. Lewis.

Almost 50 years after his death, Lewis' writings are still among the most widely read and discussed Christian works. Virtually all of his books are in print, and many of them are still best-sellers. His works of Christian apologetics remain among the most lucid statements of Christian belief ever penned.

Everything Lewis wrote bears the marks of a mind soaked and steeped in the classics of Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem—as well as the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic cultures that mingled with the Biblical and classical cultures to produce English and American culture as we know it.

But many even of Lewis’ most devoted readers do not know why Lewis became a Christian. It is a story that tells us much about the relationship between Christianity and the paganism it superceded.

In his book The Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter tells the story of an after-dinner walk Lewis took in September of 1931 with his friends J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson on the grounds of Magdallen College, a part of Oxford. Lewis was a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature there and he invited the two fellow professors over to the college. After eating, the three men strolled along the banks of the River Cherwell, and the talk turned to mythology.

Lewis was intimately familiar with the classical mythology of Greece and Rome, and was even more enamored of the Norse myths of Scandinavia and Iceland. Lewis believed these stories he admittedly loved to be lies, he told Tolkien, albeit beautiful lies—“lies and therefore worthless,” he said, “even though breathed through silver.” He was overcome by the beauty of the stories of the ancients. They appealed to the human imagination in a way that struck squarely at the heart.

And he was familiar even then with the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, accounts which he had no doubt at least claimed to be historical:
All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legend or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff.
The problem for Lewis, however, was that, while myth harbored meaning and beauty ("Joy," he would later call it), it was not true. History, on the other hand, while true, harbored no meaning or beauty.

But Tolkien protested. The myths were not lies, said the man who would later go on to write his own British mythology, published as The Silmarillion, from which he derived the stories that we now know as The Lord of the Rings. And as he said this, says Carpenter, a breath of wind blew through the leaves. “We held our breath,” Lewis later recalled.

Carpenter portrays Tolkien, his attention now turned toward the trees along the river, responding to Lewis by attacking the mechanistic mode of thought that Lewis espoused that saw the mythological view of the world as merely fantastic:
To you, a tree is simply a vegetable organism, and a star simply a ball of inanimate matter moving along a mathematical course. But the first men to talk of ‘trees’ and ‘stars’ saw them very differently. To them the world was alive with mythological beings. They saw the stars as living silver, bursting into flame in answer to the eternal music. They saw the sky as a jeweled tent, and the earth as the womb whence all living things have come. To them, the whole of creation was “myth-woven and elf-patterned.”
Tolkien saw that there is more than just impersonal, mechanistic law behind the world, and that there was no problem reconciling the imagination and the intellect.

But Tolkien had not finished.

Because man was made in the very image of God, he argued, man is not ultimately a liar. He may pervert the things of God for his own ends, but he can never fully efface the image of God in him. He can never really be satisfied with lies. He can never escape who he really is. And for this reason, even the pagan myths retain a semblance of eternal truth, however corrupted. Ultimately, even in his imaginative creations, man is pulled back to the truths that answer to the call of his own true nature.

But it was late, and so the three men returned to Lewis’ rooms, where the talk now turned specifically to Christianity. And it was at this point that the course of Lewis’ life changed forever.

After sitting down and filling their pipes, Tolkien called Lewis’ notice to an interesting fact: the similarity of the Christian story to pagan mythology. If you look at the myths of pagan civilizations, they all seemed to have certain things in common. Late 19th century and early 20th century scholars like George Frazer and Otto Rank observed that there were certain mythological motifs that recurred across civilizations and across time: the Creation, the Flood, the Apocalypse. Joseph Campbell, the late 20th century writer, noted that all hero stories in all civilizations contain the same basic elements: a miraculous birth, a trial and quest, a descent into the underworld, a death and resurrection, and an ascension and apotheosis. George Lucas, an avid reader of Campbell, consciously included these elements in his Star Wars movies.

All these scholars had differing theories about what Rank called the “baffling similarity” in these myths, but they all seemed to agree that the similarity of the pagan myths to Christianity meant that Christianity was just another myth—perhaps more developed and advanced, but mythical—and unhistorical—just the same.

The idea that Christianity was just another myth had been addressed by Chesterton a number of years before. In 1904, Chesterton had engaged in a public debate with the British atheist newspaper editor Robert Blatchford, in which he addressed this argument:
Mr. Blatchford and his school point out that there are many myths parallel to the Christian story; that there were Pagan Christs, and Red Indian Incarnations, and Patagonian Crucifixions, for all I know or care. But does not Mr. Blatchford see the other side of the fact? If the Christian God really made the human race, would not the human race tend to rumours and perversions of the Christian God? If the centre of our life is a certain fact, would not people far from the centre have a muddled version of that fact? If we are so made that a Son of God must deliver us, is it odd that Patagonians should dream of a Son of God?
The Blatchfordian position really amounts to this—that because a certain thing has impressed millions of different people as likely or necessary, therefore it cannot be true … I like paradox, but I am not prepared to dance and dazzle to the extent of [Blatchford], who points to humanity crying out for a thing, and pointing to it from immemorial ages, as proof that it cannot be there. 
The story of a Christ is very common in legend and literature. So is the story of two lovers parted by Fate. So is the story of two friends killing each other for a woman. But will it seriously be maintained that, because these two stories are common as legends, therefore no two friends were ever separated by love or no two lovers by circumstances? It is tolerably plain, surely, that these two stories are common because the situation is an intensely probable and human one, because our nature is so built as to make them almost inevitable.
Tolkien tried to disabuse Lewis of the notion that the mere similarity of the Christian story with pagan myths was a reason to reject the Christian story. Like Chesterton, he argued that the case was just the reverse.

The first step in Tolkien's argument was to show that the gospel stories themselves (stories Lewis already believed to be historical claims) were themselves mythical in their imaginative appeal. He compared the Gospel story in this respect with a particular kind of myth: the fairy tale.

One of the things that distinguishes fairy tales from other myths, he argued, is something he called Consolation. Consolation is the joy of a happy ending. And the highest form of this Consolation is the kind of happy ending that surprises us. Tolkien coined his own term for this surprise happy ending: eucatastrophe.  At the end of the traditional dramatic tragedy, the protagonist experiences a sudden turn for the worse: a catastrophe. But euchastrophe is different. It is, literally, “the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous ‘turn’.”

In his later autobiography, Lewis himself gives an example of eucatastrophe from the story of Odysseus returning home after ten years to find his house filled with suitors accosting his wife. She had been stalling, hoping against hope for the return of her husband. But what can he do against the over 100 men who have occupied his home? Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, arrives back at his dining hall, takes up the bow of Iphitus hanging on his wall, strings it and, to the surprise and shock of the suitors drinking his food and his wine, he slaughters them all.

In Tolkien's own Lord of the Rings too, the journey of Sam and Frodo through Mordor and to the fires of Mt. Doom is perhaps the best example of eucatastrophe: just as it seems that the entire quest has been in vain because of Frodo’s final decision, in the end, to keep the ring, Gollum steals it from him and unwittingly falls into the fire, destroying himself and the ring—and saving Middle Earth.

We don’t know exactly how the conversation went that night in Lewis’ rooms, but we know from the scraps of information given by both men that they discussed how the Christian gospel was the ultimate eucatastrophe, and a eucatastrophe that exceeded all others because of its historical truth. Tolkien articulates this in his essay in "On Fairy Stories," published some 16 years later in a book that Lewis himself edited:
The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.
But how did this answer Lewis’ objection? He had believed that fairy stories were meaningful but not real, while history was real but not meaningful. How could these two things—the real and the meaningful—be brought together? Tolkien continues:
It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.
Chesterton once said that Christianity was the "fulfillment of paganism," an expression which strikes the Christian ear wrong. Christianity has faced to Nemeses: the idolization of the intellect, which we see in modern secular rationalism, and the idolization of the imagination, which we see in ancient paganism.

The answer, however, is to see that Christianity is the fulfillment both of man's intellectual and imaginative quests. The apostle John says in his Gospel that Jesus was the logos, a reference to the underlying principle of the cosmos which philosophers had been seeking since before Socrates. Lewis would realize this as well. But it was Tolkien who made him realize that, in addition to Christ's fulfilling man's search for the True, He was also the fulfillment of man's search for the Beautiful—and that, in fact, they culminate in the same thing.

Christianity was a true myth—a story with all the meaning and beauty of a myth, but, unlike the other myths, it was one that had actually happened in history. The myths themselves, a testimony not to history but to human desire, were pointers to the culmination of history in the Gospel story.

Carpenter relates that Tolkien left his rooms, and that he and Dyson continued to talk until 4:00 a.m. In  his autobiography, Lewis related his acceptance of God two years earlier. But this was a conversion “only to theism, pure and simple,” he said, “not to Christianity.” But twelve days after saying goodbye to Tolkien and Dyson at Magdalen College, says Carpenter, “Lewis wrote to another friend Arthur Greeves: ‘I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ—in Christianity’.”

Lewis came not only to accept, but embrace Tolkien's view of Christianity as a true myth. And it was through this that, in his own mind, the True and the Beautiful "met and fused."

The Old Boys Club (a.k.a., the Kentucky House)

Time magazine claims that Kentucky is one of the "top five worst" states in the nation for women. Of course their criteria includes the liberal sacrament of abortion, which it says is not available to many women in the state. One wonders how this is a detriment to women, particularly those still in utero.

But what is also remarkable is that even though one of their criteria is the participation of women in government, and the fact that they never mention the fact that no woman has ever served in a party or chamber leadership position in the Democratic controlled State House. Ever.

Compare that with the Republican controlled State Senate in which several women have served and one is serving right now.

One guess as to why they didn't mention that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Can science explain how something came from nothing?

One of the dogmas of the New Atheism is that science is superior to philosophy and theology as a means to truth--in every way, on every question. The trouble is, every time its exponents make a pronouncement based on this assumption, they get schooled by some philosopher or theologian on whatever non-scientific issue they have waded into, thinking that the only thing they needed was their science.

Just check out the exchanges between New Atheist biologist Jerry Coyne and Catholic philosopher Ed Feser if you want a good example.

Now we have New Atheist physicist Lawrence Krauss, whose new book A Universe from Nothing purports to explain how something came from nothing (as he defines it). My review of the book will be up this week, but in the meantime, there is philosopher David Albert's takedown of Krauss' book in the New York Times, which he summarizes as "the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb."

Of course the issue of where scientific explanation begins and ends is not, as scientists like Krauss seem to believe, a question in the field of science, but, ironically, in the field of philosophy, philosophy of science in particular. Albert points out one of the central flaws of Krauss's entire position:
It happens that ever since the scientific revolution of the 17th century, what physics has given us in the way of candidates for the fundamental laws of nature have as a general rule simply taken it for granted that there is, at the bottom of everything, some basic, elementary, eternally persisting, concrete, physical stuff. Newton, for example, took that elementary stuff to consist of material particles. And physicists at the end of the 19th century took that elementary stuff to consist of both material particles and electro­magnetic fields. And so on. And what the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all there is for the fundamental laws of nature to be about, insofar as physics has ever been able to imagine, is how that elementary stuff is arranged. The fundamental laws of nature generally take the form of rules concerning which arrangements of that stuff are physically possible and which aren’t, or rules connecting the arrangements of that elementary stuff at later times to its arrangement at earlier times, or something like that. But the laws have no bearing whatsoever on questions of where the elementary stuff came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular elementary stuff it does, as opposed to something else, or to nothing at all.

...The fundamental physical laws that Krauss is talking about in “A Universe From Nothing” — the laws of relativistic quantum field theories — are no exception to this ...and they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story.
But it's not like Krauss or any of the other New Atheists are actually going to pay any attention to the fact that their field of expertise has nothing to do with the questions they think they can use it to address. That would be an admission that the scientism they champion is completely bogus.

He also points out one of the central problems of the book, which is Krauss' definition of "nothing," which, it turns out, happens to be something, namely vacuum states:
But that’s just not right. Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! ... And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.

The book is, indeed, a mess, which, of course, didn't stop fellow New Atheist Richard Dawkins from hailing the book. Read the rest here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Decline and Fall of the Book: Why the demise of the Encyclopedia Britannica means the end of Western civilization

There was the Great Flood. There were the Ten Plagues of Egypt. There was the Fall of Rome. There was the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem and the Fall of Constantinople. And now this.

The Encyclopedia Britannica is going out of print.

While the Simpsons just celebrated its 500th show, the world's greatest learned publication couldn't even make it to its 250th anniversary. Will the last person who even knows what Western civilization is please turn out the lights?

I submit that this is the most significant cultural event of the last fifty years. No. Make that a hundred. The New Dark Ages are upon us.

T. S. Eliot ended his poem, "The Hollow Men," with the words:
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
The sing-song rhythm of the first three lines evokes a child's careless playground chant, as if Eliot meant to say that the end of the world would be attended with a general lack of awareness that anything significant was really happening--and that, when it did happen, it might go unremarked or even unnoticed.

If you want proof that our own culture is experiencing this very kind of end, just look at the malaise with which we have greeted the Britannica announcement. Note the general cultural yawn directed toward the announcement that they will be suspending their print edition.

The best anyone could do was to give the glib assurance that there was nothing to worry about, since Britannica will continue in an electronic edition.

If someone important to you died, would you find comfort from being told that he or she would continue on in a digital form? No. Encyclopedia Britannica is dead. We now have only its electronic ghost.

Our cultural landscape is fast becoming welter and waste. Before the barbarian onslaught of the computer, one would go to a place and read a thing. There was a library, and it had books, and one went there to read them. Go into a library now, and look to the right, where there are rows of shelves of books, but no people. Then look to the left, where there are rows and rows of people--sitting at computers.

Soon the shelves will be gone, the books sold, leaving only the people, staring mesmerized at their screens. They won't even notice that the books have been taken away.

Every technological revolution has its benefits--and its casualties. The invention of writing was itself a technological  revolution. In his dialogue Phaedrus, Plato tells a story about the old god Theuth, the inventor of many arts, including arithmetic and geometry. But his greatest discovery, said Plato, "was the use of letters." He came one day to Thamus, the Egyptian god-king, who dwelt in Thebes. Theuth presented his great invention, writing, to the king. "This," said Theuth," will make the Egyptians wiser. It will increase their memory and improve their wit." But the Egyptian king was not impressed.

"Because these letters are like your own offspring," he said, "you are blind to their faults. This discovery of yours will only create forgetfulness in the learner's soul because he will no longer need to use his memory. He will trust to the written characters instead of his memory, and will not remember them himself. These letters of yours may help in reminiscence, but they are not an aid to memory. Your hearers will become, not disciples of the truth, but of a semblance of truth only. They will be hearers of many things, but they will learn nothing."

This seems a harsh judgment to us today, and yet there is truth in it. Writing brought about many improvements, but it would be false to think that, in moving away from an oral culture where memorization was the primary method of learning, something was not lost.

The invention of letters was followed more than two millenia later by the invention of movable type, a revolution without which the Renaissance and the Reformation would not even have been possible. But with the increase in the availability of the written word, there have been losses once again. For every work of Shakespeare put between covers, there were twenty cheap romance novels. For every book designed to teach an intelligent public, there are fifty newspapers distorting events. And for every learned tome, there are an hundred volumes of pornography.

But over the last twenty years, we have been taking another step. What Marshall McCluhan called the "Guttenburg Galaxy" displaced the Parchment Planet. But as we have moved into the Electronic Era, we find that the actual universe itself cannot contain it.

The material on which we would now inscribe our thoughts and our dreams is not material at all. For at least two millenia we have seen the physical act of writing as a kind of embodiment. Our thoughts were somehow rendered complete by being made incarnate on the written page.

They became flesh and dwelt among us.

The digital revolution comes at us with a kind of Gnostic pretense. Far from any kind of embodiment, it promises to liberate us from the physical altogether. Just listen to the justifications from those who have abandoned their books for Kindles or Nooks or iPads:

The "delivery method is convenient." delivers my books right to my home. And if I go to a bookstore (which is something I do, not as a chore, but because I actually like to do it), I have this trick I perform with my arm whereby I lift it vertically in the air, grasp the book on the shelf in my hand and bring my arm (in another intricate movement) back down again.

After a while you get pretty good at it.

"iPads and Kindles are good for the environment." Is that before or after we found out that the manufacturing plants discharge toxic metals that can cause birth defects into nearby streams in China? Producing books may involve killing trees, but you can grow more trees. But if you're born with three noses because of toxic chemicals in your ground water from the nearby iPhone plant, growing another one won't do you much good.

You "don't have to carry fifty pounds of books everywhere." Neither do I. If I have fifty pounds of books, I'm carrying too many books. Who needs to carry around fifty pounds of books? Some students say they have to carry around fifty pounds of books, but that's probably more a function of inefficient study practices than anything else. And if you really have to spend a day at school and you're a commuter and you have to carry around fifty pounds of books, the get a travel bag with wheels.

I will admit that my wife accuses me of carrying around fifty pounds of books, but I deny it. I only carry around, oh, I don't know, about thirty pounds of books. And I really don't need them all. I tell my wife I bring them with me for the same reason I bring her: because I take comfort from having them there.

"You can highlight things in a kindle that can be easily erased" and "make notes." Look folks, GET A PENCIL.

My books have a number of distinct advantages over your iPad.

When the stewardess comes around and tells everyone to turn off their electronic devices, I just look around and laugh an evil laugh as all of these people with iPads and Nooks have to stop reading until we reach the right altitude. I, on the other hand, go on reading. The next time I'm on a plane and the stewardess gives this command, I'm going to flag her down and tell her that I can't find the on/off switch for my print copy of Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy and so what should I do?

She may call TSA on me, but it will have been worth it.

And when I get old and die, I can hand on my books to my children. If I have a Kindle, what am I going to do? Hand down an old Kindle that will undoubtedly be completely obsolete by them?

Each one of my books has a history. Some of them are previously owned books. The other day a student's paper fell out of the pages of one old book I had. It had the teacher's marks and the student's own amusing responses. It was from the 1950s. I don't remember anything falling out of any digital device I have ever owned that did not render it inoperable.

I can sometimes tell something about the previous owner of a book. I have a small set of philosophy books I bought once and I can tell that the man who owned them was a smoker. I have imagined that maybe it was a priest, sitting in his study, reading about Thomas Aquinas' metaphysics.

And if they do not have my own marks and notes, they have the marks and notes of others who owned them before. I buy a lot of used books, and a couple of years ago I bought a used copy of The Idea of Nature, by R. G. Collingwood, online. When I received it, I opened the cover and beheld a bookplate with the name Richard Niebuhr. Niebuhr had marked the book extensively, and so what I had received in the mail was not just a good book, but the thoughts about the book from one of the great Christian thinkers of the 20th century.

A book can almost have a personality. It was written by somebody, and it is about something. Neither of these things can be said of a Kindle, or a Nook, or an iPad. They are not written at all and are not about anything.

After libraries have all closed down or become free computer centers, there will still be people like me, feeling like monks in monasteries preserving books in their own private libraries.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A response to novelist Silas House on the faux "bullying bill"

Novelist Silas House complains about legislators on a State House committee who voted down the so-called "bullying bill" (HB 336) on the grounds that the bullying law passed in 2008 already protects all students.

House says the “logic” of these legislators "falls short." Laws that protect everyone, he argues, don't protect everyone and so what we need to do is to specify who everyone is. Only then will everyone be protected.

Apparently it's just too hard for our school officials to figure out who "everyone" is.

In reality, HB 336 was a cynical attempt by a political group to use the tragedies of several students to promote their own political agenda. If groups like the Fairness Campaign want to pursue laws that benefit their constituency, they should do it with a law that’s properly labeled, not one that masquerades as something that it isn’t.

If current laws that already prohibit bulling aren’t enough, then why is one gay rights group going to schools around the state saying that current laws are enough to deal with this problem and asking schools to do so?

The chairman of the House committee refused to hear testimony from opponents of the bill and after it was voted down anyway, the leader of the Fairness Campaign made a spectacle of himself in the Capitol Annex hallway by engaging in the same threatening and intimidating behavior the bill he was supporting prohibits.

But maybe House didn’t know about these things, since the CJ didn’t report them.

Should we specify who should be protected from murder and stealing by listing all the different types of people who shouldn’t be murdered and stolen from?

That may make logical sense to House, but to us it clearly “falls short.”

Mob rationality

Ed Feser points out that about the last place you'll find reason is in an emotional crowd. But that's exactly the environment in which atheists think they're going to conjure it up at March 24th's Rally for Reason:
How fitting, then, that the Counter-Religion that is the New Atheism has now decided to make of itself a mob. Something called the “Reason Rally” is scheduled for March 24 at the National Mall in Washington, D. C. and the Counter-Prophet Richard Dawkins is headlining as chief rouser of the “rationalist” rabble. The name alone exposes it for the farce that it is -- a “Reason Rally” being (for the reasons just given) somewhat akin to a “Chastity Orgy” or a “Temperance Kegger.” As always, the New Atheist satirizes himself before you can do it for him.
Of course rationality for the scientific materialists putting this show on is just a pose. The implication is that scientific thinkers are rational and religious and philosophical thinkers are not, an intellectual posture that is called into question almost every time Jerry Coyne or P. Z. Myers tries to address an issue of philosophy or theology (politics and social issues don't fare too well either).

I mention before my of applying for an exhibitor's pass so I can hand out a copy of the final exam in my introductory logic course just to see how these champions of reason actually perform. But it would be just as much fun to have copies on hand of random passages from some medieval thinker, say an article from St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, or a random treatise from William of Ockham or Duns Scotus or Henry of Ghent--just to see if they could even understand it.
The aim of this “movement-wide event,” we are told, is “to unify, energize, and embolden” the secularist faithful. Naturally, this is not the reason of Socrates, but that of the “Religion of Reason,” of the French and Russian Revolutions, of Comte. It is “Reason” as a slogan, something to stick on a banner and march behind, and in the name of which to promote an agenda and shout down critics. Fortunately, the “movement” hasn’t yet reached the guillotine stage, and the mob will have to satisfy itself with “music, comedy, great speakers, and lots of fun” -- rather than, say, storming Vatican City and arresting the Pope, as Dawkins would no doubt prefer.
And Ed has unearthed a preview of the rally, the script for which appears to have been written by P. Z. Myers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gay rights leader's rampage ignore by state's two biggest papers

The most prominent gay rights leader in the state goes berserk in a Capitol Annex hallway after a so-called "Bullying Bill" goes down to defeat after it was exposed as an attempt to write gay rights language into school law and what does the Louisville Courier-Journal do?

Runs a cartoon showing conservative Republicans going berserk.

In fact, the account of the Fairness Campaign's Chris Hartman hallway rampage went entirely unreported in the CJ's print edition. And the Lexington Herald-Leader? They just pretended it didn't happen at all.

So kudos to the Frankfort State-Journal, which apparently doesn't censor news. It not only mentioned it, but put it on their front page, as well as the AP, which even ran a picture of Hartman in mid-convulsion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

KY gay rights group says current bullying law is sufficient

Wait a minute. Remember how we were told only yesterday by advocates of HB 336, the so-called "Bullying Bill" that is really a gay rights bill, that the 2008 bullying law wasn't enough to deal with bullying in schools?

Well, apparently the Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay rights group, didn't get that memo.

The group is going after several schools it says have not dealt adequately with bullying at their schools. What is the problem? According to Jordan Palmer, the group's president, the school are paying attention to current law:
"Kentucky Equality Federation has received multiple reports from each school," said Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "The problem is the lack of enforcement and an lack of understanding of existing Kentucky school bullying laws."
Did we hear that right? Did Palmer really say exactly what opponents of HB 336 said yesterday in the House Education Committee where the bill went down in defeat? Let's see if we can get some clarification:
The National Bully Police gives the Commonwealth's anti-bullying laws an A++ Rating. House Bill 91 was proposed in 2008 and passed by the Kentucky House of Representatives. The Senate passed it, and it was signed into law by The Honorable Steve Beshear, governor of the commonwealth, on April 15, 2008. The law is commonly referred to as “The Golden Rule Act.”
Whoah. Palmer must be reading Family Foundation talking points. If we didn't know better, we would say that these people really didn't think we needed another bullying law like HB 336. I wonder what other members of this gay rights group say:
“It does absolutely no good to pass new legislation when existing legislation isn’t being enforced or education officials have no knowledge of the law,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation Vice President of Policy & Public Relations, Joshua Koch.

Of course, this is the same group that screamed bloody murder when a Jackson County high schooler claimed she was a victim of a hate crime when it turned it was only a prank that she herself was in on. Basically everyone (including the county prosecutor) has said that this was not a hate crime, but the Kentucky Equality Federation still lists it as one.

But if these new allegations are true, my suggestion is to send Chris Hartman of the Fairness Campaign in to crack some heads.

Do we need an anti-queening law in Kentucky?

Over at Front Page Kentucky, Jake is recovering from his bout of political sobriety (in which state he opposed expanded gambling legislation) and we now have the first sign that he is back to his old self. We were beginning to worry about him, but now we feel much better.

He runs an excerpt from the Family Foundation press release yesterday in which I gave a blow-by-blow report of Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman's meltdown after his "gay rights in schools" bill went down to defeat. After spending weeks lecturing other people on how we need to have another law (we already have one) prohibiting threatening and intimidating behavior in schools, Hartman walks out into the hall and starts ranting and raving in front of a whole crowd of people (media included), stalking around yelling and cornering people and screaming in their face.

If anyone is trying to figure out what to get Chris Hartman for his next birthday, may we suggest a straightjacket?

But no problem, says Jake. It was just an "instance of queening." Oh. Okay. We get it now. We're glad Jake explained it to us: This is just how gays act.

We thought the problem was straight-on-gay violence? And Jake is now saying this kind of out of control behavior is just typical of gays? So maybe this bullying bill is going in the complete opposite direction we need to be going.

If we follow Jake's reasoning, then what we really need is an anti-queening law. It could be called the "Chris Hartman Act."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The KY Fairness Campaign is against bullying. Except when THEY do it

Anti-bullying rules for thee, but not for me.

After verbally and physically harassing Family Foundation policy analyst Andrew Walker in the hallway after the "Bullying Bill" (HB 336) went down to defeat in a State House committee, Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign denied it in today's Louisville Courier-Journal:
Hartman acknowledged that he was angry and confronted Walker after the meeting. But he said that his actions didn’t rise to the level of verbal or physical abuse and that he reconciled with Walker in a hug a few moments later.
Hartman engaged in the very behavior his groups says constitutes bullying in schools. But when he does it, it's not bullying. And after denying that's what he did (in plain sight of a whole crowd of people and causing a State Policeman to start making his way through the hallway to deal with it), Hartman went on to say the charge was a "distortion":
This sort of distortion of events is a perfect example of the type of tactics that were used to kill this bill,” he said.

Maybe we need an amendment to the "Bullying Bill" that allows children to avoid charges that they were bullying if they hug the people they were bullying after they've done it.

Bullying Bill supporter harasses opponent in Capitol Annex hallway

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—The leading supporter of the so-called "Bullying Bill" became verbally and physically abusive in a Capitol Annex hallway with an opponent of the bill after the bill went down to defeat in a House committee, attracting the attention of State Police and other observers. The Family Foundation called on the Fairness Campaign to issue a public apology for the behavior of its director, Chris Hartman.

"If you are really opposed to bullying, the last thing you probably want to do is engage in it in plain sight after a meeting in which a bill prohibiting it was just discussed," said Family Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran.

Hartman obstructed the path of Andrew Walker, who had lobbied the committee against the bill, harassing him as he was leaving the restroom after the meeting and began interrogating him in an intimidating way. Several minutes later, Hartman cornered Walker again and began verbally bullying him with charges of being opposed to student safety. After Walker and Alliance Defense Fund attorney Bryan Beauman began leaving to avoid the confrontation, Hartman began yelling threateningly to reporters and others standing in the hallway about his disenchantment with opponents of the "Bullying Bill." "If you want to know who killed this bill, there he is," he said, pointing to Walker.

The incident occurred in front of the press and others who had just left the committee meeting. A state policeman began moving toward Hartman, but backed off when Walker began to leave. "These actions were all things that, had they occurred in a school, would have constituted bullying under the present school safety laws," said Cothran. "It is just bizarre to see proponents of so-called bullying legislation using bullying tactics themselves in plain sight."

Cothran said his group was looking into the possibility of filing a formal complaint over the incident.


What passes for reason at the Rally for Reason

Ed Brayton, an atheist who spends the better part of his time patrolling the internet for stupid-things-people-who-disagree-with-him-say then blogging-about-them-as-if-anyone-really-cares (he must provide World Net Daily with the better part of their site hits) commented on the possibility of protests at the Rally for Reason from Christians.

Ed the Logician has already refuted any arguments these irrational Christians might use:
"They’ll undoubtedly be using the same tired arguments we’ve all heard a million times."
I mean, we all know, don't we, that all it takes for an argument to be rendered invalid is that it be used multiple times? I guess this is the kind of thing that will be passing for Reason at the Rally.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Are Georgetown law school students really this clueless?

You'd think people smart enough to make it into Georgetown Law School could figure this out:
Although Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke testified to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee last month that contraception can cost a law student $3,000 over three years and that some of her fellow students could not afford it, a Target store only 3 miles from the law school currently sells a month's supply of birth control pills for only $9 to people who do not have insurance plans covering contraceptives.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Southern Poverty Law Center: "We have a list ..."

Sen. Joseph McCarthy once famously announced that he had "here in my hand a list" of communists in the U.S. State Department. He proceeded o McCarthy's remarks have ever since been viewed as ideologically driven drivel, prompted by a general malice toward anyone to the left of his rather hard right political beliefs.

For years, the political left ridiculed McCarthy's remarks and his attempt to demonize people with whom he disagreed politically. But as the memory of McCarthy recedes into the historical mist, the left itself has taken up McCarthy's tactics. 

Now we have the "Southern Poverty Law Center," a left-wing political group that has set itself up as the arbiter of what constitutes a "hate group." The SPLC now annually makes a public announcement that it "has a list" of such groups. Liberal journalists uncritically pass the nonsense along. It promotes their own political agenda so, hey, why not.

The only stable criteria the group employs in making this determination are a) the group must disagree with SPLC political ideology; and b) the group must be on the political right (which, as it happens, amounts to pretty much the same thing).

Along with with hate groups in good standing like the KKK, there appear groups whose status as hate groups or racist groups is hardly clear. In fact, their past designation of the Family Research Council, a fairly mainstream social conservative group, as a "hate group," I have argued, brings the SPLC's whole approach to this issue into question.

One of the groups on their list whose status as a "hate group" I challenged was the League of the South. Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Joe Gerth took exception to my assertion that there is no clear evidence that the League of the South is a "hate group." He brings up a number of things in his comments that he thinks qualifies it as one.

So here's what we're going to do. First of all, I'm posting our dialogue below for those who haven't seen it on Facebook. Then I'm going to take every one of the things that Joe says qualify this group as a "hate group." Then we're going to apply those same criteria to other groups. Mostly left-wing groups, no less. And we're going to see if Joe will be willing to apply the same criteria to these left-wing groups as he would like to apply to the League of the South.

Championing Anglo-Celtic Culture
As I stated in the dialogue below, ""Anglo-Celtic" culture is English culture. Are we now saying that anyone who champions Western civilization as it was handed down in its English form and as it has manifested itself in American culture is a hatemonger or a racist? Mainstream conservatives have always championed English culture in this manner and at least the more traditionalist ones who haven't become complete utilitarians still do. In fact you can still find it ensconced in any university humanities core programs. You can go to basically any major traditionalist conservative thinker, either in the political realm (Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, Jr., Leo Strauss) or the literary world, particularly among the humanists (T. S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More) and the New Critics (Robert Penn Warren, Alan Tate, Donald Davidson) and see them not only championing English culture, but using the same terminology to do it (e.g., "Anglo-Celtic"). Our political, economic, and moral orders are all innately Anglo-Celtic, and I am unaware of it ever being even controversial. Heck, have you been to a Celtic heritage festival recently? I'm trying to think how hate is promoted by attending, say, Riverdance."

Guilt by Association
Joe charges that the head of the League of the South, Michael Hill, was involved in some way in a Todd County incident where racism was involved. He doesn't charge that Hill did anything racist himself, but that he was on the same side as the racists in an incident in which a man displaying a confederate flag was murdered. Joe not having produced any actual documentation on this, I don't see how we really deal with it other than to note that he is saying that Hill is implicated by having some indirect association with racists. 

But here's the thing about guilt by association: it is a double edged sword. If Hill is implicated in hate because he was against the murder of a man displaying a confederate flag, then are Blacks all implicated in murder because they defended, in even some weak way, the murder of the man?

Joe produces some other examples of  incidents in which some here are there who is associated with the League of the South made racist remarks. Are we going to apply this principle equitably

Let's start with the idea of secession. I think this is the loopiest of the League's beliefs, but I see such things as more of an eccentricity than some kind of malignant belief. Joe is clearly of the Malignant School of thought on this. The assumption, of course, is that the belief in secession of itself implies hateful beliefs. There is never any attempt to justify the assumption, it's just taken for granted. 

But if secessionist sentiments are by themselves racist, then are we going to call the secessionists in Quebec racist for wanting to secede from Canada? Austria seceded from Britain. Belgium seceded from the Netherlands. Pakistan seceded from India. Croatia and Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia. Portugal seceded from Spain. There are still secessionist movements around the world today: in Australia, in Great Britain (and Ireland), and in India. There are racist motivations in some of these, I'm sure, but not most of them.

In fact, the United States for all practical purposes seceded from the United Kingdom.

I can understand that this position is unrealistic and absurd, but I'm looking for some evidence that it is hateful or racist, particularly when the League of the South is on record as explicitly repudiating racism.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Pot Calling the Kettle White: The "Southern Poverty Law Center"'s bizarre report on "hate groups"

As if on que, journalists at The New York Times and NPR--and even Kentucky's own normally more discriminating Al Cross--began regurgitating claims about an "explosive growth" in hate groups across the country.

The New York Times story reports on the "Southern Poverty Law Center" (which we place in quotation marks to indicate that its title has little to do with being Southern, only the most vague relation to do with Poverty, only slightly more to do with Law, and having almost nothing Centrist about it, thanks to its left-wing political agenda), which puts out a report purporting to count the number of "hate groups" (which we place in quotation marks to indicate that the term has little to do with hate and a lot to do with disagreement with the group's actual left-wing political agenda).

Yes, the story indicates, we must deal with the grim truth is that there are groups out there who disagree with the "Southern Poverty Law Center"'s left-wing agenda.

Clearly it is time to begin storing canned food in the basement, making sure your weapons are in good operating condition, and verifying that you have plenty of ammunition to survive the coming Right Wing Apocalypse of people who disagree with the "Southern Poverty Law Center"'s left-wing political agenda.

Oh, and did we mention that "Southern Poverty Law Center" had a left-wing political agenda?

The "Southern Poverty Law Center"'s list of "hate groups" includes groups who support the 10th amendment and any group that has anything good to say about the South, including the League of the South, a group that promotes Southern culture and has absolutely nothing to do with hate or racism. A chapter listed in Kentucky doesn't appear to have any more than one member.

In fact, it's kind of funny, but when you follow the links from various left-wing blog posts about the League of the South, the only evidence that the group has any kind of hate agenda is ... because the "Southern Poverty Law Center" says so!

Where are the Daughters of the Confederacy on this list of "hate groups"?

In 2010 the "Southern Poverty Law Center" labeled the Family Research Council, a fairly mainstream social conservative group as a "hate group." The reason? FRC was opposed to same-sex marriage and gay rights.


Curiously, FRC doesn't appear in the group's 2011 report. Has the "Southern Poverty Law Center" backed off? If so, why? Did the FRC changed its position? Or did the Southern Poverty Law Center realize how utterly bone-headed it was in doing it in the first place and realized it's claims were starting to look comical?

Times writer Kim Geverson, whose critical antennae appear to be nonexistent, reports that the number of "hate groups" "continues to grow" (a phrase we put in quotation marks to indicate not only that it is a quote, but that the acceptance of the fact the quote asserts is directly contingent on the acceptance of the "Southern Poverty Law Center"'s left-wing political agenda).

We also have to wonder whether the "Southern Poverty Law Center" is itself a White Supremacist group. As the group Watching the Watchdogs points out, the leadership of the group is exclusively white. If a group can be labaled a "hate group" for preaching white supremacy, why can't the "Southern Poverty Law Center" be labeled a "hate group" for actually practicing it?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Learning logic vs. learning about logic

If you wanted to learn to be a mathematician, you wouldn't want to read about mathematics; you would want to actually do math. If you were wanting to learn how to learn how to write, you wouldn't settle for just reading about writing, you would want instruction that involved actual writing.

The art of logic is like math or writing: you can't learn how to do them without actually doing them.

Most logic books are not logic books; they are books about logic. But doing logic and reading about logic are two very different things.

I noticed a post on a Christian apologetics blog the other day that referred to some logic classes at an online school. And I took a look at the books they were using in their class. One of them was Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide, by Tracy Bowell and Gary Kemp. It looks like a fine book about logic, and one that I will probably pick up for my own enrichment. It defines logic, divides it, and generally explains what logic is. Now that certainly is a part of actually learning logic, but just doing these things will not train you in how to actually use logic yourself.

Another is A Rulebook for Arguments, by Anthony Weston. I actually have this one in my library. Again, it is a useful book for someone who knows logic or generally how to argue. It has a lot of great tips about things you should do when you are actually engaged in argumentation, but it doesn't actually teach logic.

These are books about logic. They are not a logic books.

I would say the same thing about most books that try to teach fallacies. Of course, they do not really teach fallacies. There wouldn't be much use in having students learn how to commit fallacies, would there? All these books do is teach students how to identify certain bad argument forms. But students never really learn why these fallacies are mistakes in reasoning because they have not been taught how correct reasoning works.

Identifying something is the most basic step in understanding what something is, but it doesn't get you very far in the process of actually learning how to use it.

In order to be able to use logic, you have to spend time methodically learning a number of particular concepts and practice them repeatedly. You then have to practice applying these concepts to arguments, and know how to internally manipulate arguments.

The two most valuable drills in logic are

  1. Backing in to a missing premise; and
  2. Reducing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th figure categorical syllogisms to the 1st figure

If a student is able to do these things competently, then you know he knows all the important aspects of logic. If he can't, then you cannot say he knows how to "do" logic. The student will still be a spectator of the subject, and not an actual practitioner.

This kind of skill constitutes competence in basic logic. I would add that, if you want to determine whether a student is

It's interesting to note, by the way, that most modern logic programs pass these things over.

If a logic program doesn't incorporate these two drills, then it really isn't a good logic program. Again, it may be a great book about logic, but, as I said, that is a very different thing.

Open-minded atheist writes history book

The newest issue of Books and Culture reviews Niall Ferguson's Civilization: the West and the Rest, which gives a fittingly adulatory treatment of Western civilization. Reviewer Timothy Larson says Ferguson "offers six factors which explain why the West became the greatest civilization in the history of the world: competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic."

My first response was why religion was not one of these. Being an atheist, maybe Ferguson sticks to the atheist party line and thinks religion is only a scourge on history.

Not so, says Larson.
Moreover, although Ferguson is a lifelong atheist married to an atheist activist (to whom this book is dedicated), his to-hell-with-political-correctness attitude means that he ends up repeatedly lauding religion, more particularly Christianity, more specifically Protestantism, and decidedly including Protestant missionaries to the Majority World: "The level of Protestant missionary activity has also proved to be a very good predictor of post-independence economic performance and political stability."
It's not like Catholics didn't contribute here, but, hey, we're thankful for small things these days. And then there's this:

If that were not enough for Books & Culture readers, Ferguson goes on to reflect that a civilization is essentially the texts its reads and values: "But what are the foundational texts of Western civilization, that can bolster our belief in the almost boundless power of the free individual human being?" His own answer to this question begins: "I would suggest the King James Bible …."

Read the rest of the review here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Rally for Reason: An Aquarian Exposition

We here at the BBA (the Bureau for Better Atheists) were, of course, pleased when one of the participants in the March 24 "Rally for Reason," P. Z. Myers, announced that they would be bringing no guillotine's on to the National Mall, which would be a break from previous historical atheist precedent.

We will, of course, in the scientific spirit, have to verify that there will be no guillotines on the Mall experientially by seeing what actually happens.

In the meantime, while we are waiting to see if, in fact, there are no guillotines on the Mall, we note that Rally organizers are calling the event the "Woodstock of Unbelief."

That means, of course, that the Rally will consist of a bunch of overgrown spoiled adolescents who, as I have pointed out before, were members of the first generation of Americans to be excessively coddled by their parents who read too much Dr. Spock, given too much money and comfort, and who, in what was undoubtedly one of their many attempts to escape responsibility, ran away from home for three days and then tried to justify their self indulgence by spouting meaningless platitudes.

Not to mention getting exotic sexually transmitted diseases, lice, and having to listen to Country Joe and the Fish. And are they going to subtitle the event "An Aquarian Exposition"?

Maybe the guillotine idea wasn't so bad after all.