Monday, May 21, 2012

The Flying Spaghetti Multiverse: So what was that about science being falsifiable?

I have commented before on this blog about the argument used by Darwinists that Intelligent Design is false because it is not falsifiable--an argument that surely wins the prize for brazen ridiculousness.

I don't have a position on ID per se, other than to question whether, as philosophers like Ed Feser point out, it doesn't operate within the same modern mechanistic paradigm as does Darwinism. Creationism too, whatever its other, scientific challenges, seems to have this same philosophical problem.

But it is not only the low standards of argumentation employed against non-Darwinian explanations of origins that are remarkable, but the willingness of modern scientism to employ completely different standards of what constitutes science, as it suits their fancy.

Physicist Brian Greene has just written an article for Newsweek magazine on Multiverse theory. This is the idea that some of what we know of our present universe us unexplainable without postulating that there are other, parallel universes.

Now we have all heard of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the creation of critics of creationism and Intelligent Design used to underscore their argument that these scientifically heretical views are the unscientific products of the overly-credulous. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is used as an analog for religion. Like the God of religion, say the New Atheists who invented him, the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe (when none of us were around to see it; he helps those who believe in him to explain the universe as they see it; but his existence cannot be verified. There is literally no way to prove his existence (or to disprove it).

But the New Atheists all of a sudden have a brain lapse when theories of their own suffer from the same problem. Not only do they not apply the falsifiability standard to their own beliefs, they go so far (as Lawrence Krauss does in his A Universe from Nothing) to champion such unverifiable beliefs.

Multiverse theory (or string theory for that matter) displays the same characteristics of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: It is used to explain the origin of the universe and its current state, and it is entirely unverifiable. And, like the adherents to "Pastafarianism" (the name of Flying Spaghetti Monster religion) scientists averse to a belief in God find it a great comfort to believe in him.

As far as I know, these facts are not even in dispute. Every scientist I have ever read who comments on it admits this. There is not only no way to verify it; there is not even any conceivable way of verifying it.

Behold the Flying Spaghetti Multiverse. Bow the knee, ye credulous scientistic people.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tyranny of Liberalism: The marginalization of traditional institutions

One step in the process of instituting the Liberal Regime of Mandatory Tolerance is to marginalize those institutions inconsistent with the totalitarian liberal social order. After instituting government programs that make Christian charity redundant and after evacuating the culture of all religious, cultural, or sexual standards, we, of course, get all the social maladies we have today, including high rates of teen pregnancy and high rates of divorce. Both of these, of course, only heighten the need in people's minds for the very things that brought them about: problems which liberalism brought about are championed as things liberalism can solve.

Once again, here is James Kalb, from The Tyranny of Liberalism: Administered Freedom, Industrial Tolerances, and Equality by Command, on how liberalism has marginalized traditional human institutions in favor of formal liberal institutions, all of which it has done in the name of freedom and equality. Only problem is, they are not really free and equal:
Only rational formal institutions remain functional and authoritative. What were once traditional social institutions with definite form, function, and authority become personal pursuits that each can make of what he wishes so long as all others remain free to participate or abstain as they will. [Note the difference between these institutions, now voluntary, with liberal ones, which become increasingly mandatory] Marriage and family are replaced by "relationships" and "living together"; religion becomes a freeform pursuit of individual fulfillment; and inherited culture becomes an optional consumer good, a matter of personal style or group assertiveness. 
Such tendencies make it impossible to deal reasonably on their own terms with issues of identity, such as sex, kinship, ethnicity, and religion. Those distinctions play no role in the liberal understanding of rational social functioning, so they are understood as pure principles of irrational opposition and hatred: absolute, unbridgeable, and impossible to reconcile with a peaceful, just, and efficient social order. The consequence is that they must effectively be abolished--trivialized, conceptually dissolved, canceled through reverse discrimination, or kept from entering into thought at all.  
Under the regime of liberalism, the way in which people have traditionally understood themselves and others now can have no bearing on their relations to each other, at least to the extent that those relations have substantive consequences. Who you are can have no connection to how things are with you, except to the extent that "who you are" refers to your relation to institutions liberalism accepts as authoritative. A man and woman have to be the same, but a Harvard and state-university graduate can be different. The result is the forcible imposition on everyone of a wholly abstract and radically depersonalized order that abolishes the connections and distinctions by which human beings have always lived in favor of more formal ones such as wealth, education, and bureaucratic position. Factually considered, that new order is unequal and unfree, but it is able to pass itself off as an indisputable application of neutral principles to which no sane and moral person could possibly object.
And even saying such a thing will make you a target of charges of insanity and immorality. Cue the comments: three, two, one ...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mandy Redux: No, opposition to same-sex marriage isn't exclusively religious

I began responding last week to some of the arguments being commended to her listeners by Mandy Connell, the ostensibly conservative host of WHAS's morning talk show in Louisville, in regard to same-sex marriage. In going back to check on several things that were said, I listed to the podcasts of a couple of shows last week and was reminded of two maxims I voiced to myself many times which I repeatedly (to my own woe) fail to heed :

1. Never listen to radio talk shows. Just don't do it. You either have to listen to people who disagree with you on an issue who you just want to reach into the studio from your car radio and strangle or you have to listen to people who agree with you on an issue who you want to reach out and strangle even worse. Do something more enjoyable with your time. I suggest having your skin slowly peeled from your body.

2. If the talk turns to religion, turn the channel. As fast as you can. Forever. And don't come back. Whenever a conversation turns to religion on a talk radio show, you have the faux theological experts showing up: the Biblical revisionists who think they know what they are talking about but don't, and the Biblical fundamentalists who think they know what they are talking about but don't. When the show is over the Bible is in complete tatters and no listener in his right mind wants anything to do with it. The only thing that prevents a resulting mass exodus from Christianity is some even more insipid atheist calling up and proving that he is even more narrow-minded and ignorant than the religious people he called to insult.

Mandy is not to blame for this. In fact, she is victimized by the nature of her format as much as her listeners. I used to think it was just their implicit secularity that caused talk radio hosts to avoid talking about religion. But now I see the wisdom of the policy.

Mandy herself is clearly not well-versed in the Bible or in theological topics, but she's cognizant of the fact. Some of the people who call in do seem to have a familiarity with Biblical texts, but even then they falter in articulating it because what they have in the way of Biblical knowledge they lack in the rhetorical arts.

But the chief problem is that Mandy seems to have bought in to the idea unfortunately propagated by both sides of most of her audience on this, which is that current marriage laws are premised on a religious objection to same-sex marriage, and that, because such a restriction is irrelevant to the secular purpose of the law, the default position on the issue is that it shouldn't exclude same-sex relationships.

Well, first off, this isn't even close to being correct. Current laws don't even contemplate the issue of same-sex marriage because same-sex relationships have never been thought to have anything to do with marriage. The historic definition of marriage by its very nature excluded anything like it.

Marriage excludes same-sex relationships not because they are wrong according to religious moral traditions but because it is not and never has been a part of the definition of marriage. I know people have a short attention span anymore, but nobody even thought to suggest same-sex relationships could even contemplated in a marriage context until about five years ago.

No one. Including non-religious people.

More on the "sliming" of Manny Pacquiao by same-sex marriage advocates

Here's Michelle Malkin on the mean-spirited smear of Phillipine boxer Manny Pacquiao who must wonder, at this point, what the United States is good for anyway:
Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao is guilty — of being true to his Catholic faith. The gay-marriage mob is guilty — of the very ugly bigotry it claims to abhor. And left-wing media outlets are guilty — of stoking false narratives that shamelessly demonize religion in the name of compassion. 
Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to Become a Liberal Hero: Go with the flow

Liberals? Employing doubles standards? Get out! Here's Charles Krauthammer on Obama's newfound position on same-sex marriage:
He was pro when running for the Illinois legislature from ultra-liberal Hyde Park. He became anti eight years later when he was running for U.S. senator and had to appeal to a decidedly more conservative statewide constituency. And now he’s pro again.  
When a Republican engages in such finger-to-the-wind political calculation (on abortion, for example), he’s condemned as a flip-flopper. When a liberal goes through a similar gyration, he’s said to have “evolved” into some more highly realized creature, deserving of a halo on the cover of a national news magazine.
Read the rest here.

The Seven Habits of Highly Educated People

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

There was an old Indian method of torture that consisted of tying someone down in the hot sun next to a pond or lake. The victim would thirst to death only inches away from the water. Our education system today employs a similar method with students.

Most critics of American education today have a good grasp of one part of the problem: our children don’t have enough knowledge. They cite poor test scores and the general lack of awareness of important events in history as proof of this. And they are right.

But although this analysis is correct, it is not complete. There is, after all, no shortage of information. It is everywhere. In fact, students today, with their access to the internet alone, have greater access to the world of knowledge than ever before.

They are thirsting to death on the shore of a sea of information. Why is this?

I think that at least one of the reasons has to do with the lack of order both in our conception of education and in the actual curricula we use in our schools. There are a lot of things we want our students to know, but our own lack of any understanding of the structure of reality prohibits us from getting this knowledge into the heads of our students.

Many people have heard of the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman. But many people have not heard of a speech Postman gave in 1990 to the German Informatics Society titled, “Informing Ourselves to Death.”

In the speech, Postman talks about buying a deck of cards. When you first open it, he says you find all the cards in a particular order. First there are, say, the hearts, from Ace to King, and then the spades, and the diamonds and the clubs, each in the same order. What this allows you to do, he points out, is to make sense of the whole deck. As you look at each successive card, you know exactly what you will find. And you can say why the previous card was what it was. All because you know the order.

But when you shuffle the deck, you destroy the order of the cards so that, if you were to go through them again, you would not know which card should come next or why the card before was the one it was. The order would be lost, and you would have no knowledge of the inherent structure of the deck, unless you already knew it before.

For purposes of playing a card game, the random ordering of the cards is necessary, but for purposes of understanding the inherent order of the deck, it is problematic.

Postman points out that there are times in history when we have had an unshuffled cultural deck:
The belief system of the Middle Ages was rather like my brand-new deck of cards. There existed an ordered, comprehensible world-view, beginning with the idea that all knowledge and goodness come from God. What the priests had to say about the world was derived from the logic of their theology. 
... The medieval world was, to be sure, mysterious and filled with wonder, but it was not without a sense of order. Ordinary men and women might not clearly grasp how the harsh realities of their lives fit into the grand and benevolent design, but they had no doubt that there was such a design, and their priests were well able, by deduction from a handful of principles, to make it, if not rational, at least coherent.
But, he points out, our world today is nothing like the world of the medievals:
The situation we are presently in is much different. And I should say, sadder and more confusing and certainly more mysterious. It is rather like the shuffled deck of cards I referred to. There is no consistent, integrated conception of the world which serves as the foundation on which our edifice of belief rests. And therefore, in a sense, we are more naive than those of the Middle Ages, and more frightened, for we can be made to believe almost anything.
The situation in which the modern world finds itself—one in which there is no acknowledged order to reality—is reflected in our institutions of education. Not only do they not acknowledge any coherent picture of the world, but, more to the point, they acknowledge no inherent order in either the structure of knowledge itself or in the way it should be presented to students.

Our students are faced with wave after wave of random, disconnected information. And because it is presented in no discernible order, and because they are not provided with any kind of mental structure within which it can be made sense of, we frequently do little more than confuse those whom we pretend to teach. “[W]hat started out as a liberating stream,” says Postman, "has turned into a deluge of chaos.”

There are two proposed solutions to this problem: the modern one and the classical one.

The modern solution to the problem of random, disconnected information consists of providing students with more of it. “Education technology”—in other words, more computers—will solve our educational problems. This often takes the form of computers in the classroom.
Through the computer, the heralds say, we will make education better, religion better, politics better, our minds better—best of all, ourselves better. This is, of course, nonsense, and only the young or the ignorant or the foolish could believe it.
It is presented to us, says Postman, as a “technological messiah.” Apple spends hundreds of millions of dollars providing schools with free computers. They are marketed as an educational elixir that will cure all educational ills.

But the truth is something different:
The computer cannot provide an organizing moral framework. It cannot tell us what questions are worth asking. It cannot provide a means of understanding why we are here or why we fight each other or why decency eludes us so often, especially when we need it the most. The computer is, in a sense, a magnificent toy that distracts us from facing what we most needed to confront—spiritual emptiness, knowledge of ourselves, usable conceptions of the past and future.
An Apple a day keeps learning away.

The answer to the modern educational problem of too much ill-ordered information is not, itself, modern. It is an ancient answer that has not been lost, but only ignored. The answer to the problem is the sequence of learning known as the “liberal arts.” The liberal arts were an ordered set of seven skills that provided educators with a guide to teaching and students with an order in light of which they could make sense of what they were taught.

“Wisdom hath builded her house,” says the writer of Proverbs, “she hath hewn out her seven pillars.”

The trivium skills of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, the first three liberal arts, served as the elementary skills. Grammar is the study of the structure and content of language; dialectic was the practical study of logic; and rhetoric was the practice of speaking and writing. These formed the foundation of the last four arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music—the quadrivium. While the arts of the trivium were linguistic and qualitative, the arts of the quadrivium were mathematical and quantitative.

Although the liberal arts were taught and practiced since the time of Greece and Rome, it was the Middle Ages in which they were shaped into the seven discrete arts—the Seven Habits, we might call them, of Highly Educated People.

It was this educational structure that dominated learning until the turn of the 20th century, when it was largely pushed out of schools in order to accommodate the progressivist pragmatism that now dominates education. The liberal arts were abandoned but never replaced.

These seven educational habits do not have the glamour of a new iPad, and there are few new "apps" to accompany them. To many modern educators, they seem a hoary relic from a bygone age. But such a criticism, of course, is irrelevant. “What avails a golden key,” asks St. Augustine, “if it cannot give access to the object which we wish to teach, and why find fault with a wooden key if it serves our purpose?”

That an educational method was old was once a recommendation to educators, who valued the tried and true. This attitude, however, has been replaced by a kind of neophilia which threatens the entire educational enterprise, if not our culture itself.

To fail to pass on these basic intellectual skills, skills without which learning can become a torture, is to consign the modern student to death by intellectual thirst  just out of reach of the educational water.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gays hating the gay haters

Here is Chris Hartman, director of the "Fairness" Campaign, in a much calmer mood than when I last saw him stomping around the hallway of the State Capitol, pointing his finger in the face of Family Foundation policy analyst Andrew Walker and trying to intimidate him after the faux bullying bill was defeated in committee last session. He's representing "Straight against Hate."

I'm wondering why, with Hartman heading it up, they didn't call it something like "Cracking Heads against Hate," or "Giving Haters a Knuckle Sandwich," or maybe just "Hating the Haters."

"Hate" is a term gay leaders affix to people who disagree with them on issues like same-sex marriage, making them perpetrators of precisely what they claim to oppose.

Hartman talks about the "alphabet soup" of the gay community: "the LGBTQQI [pant, pant, sit down for a moment, take a breather, stand up, continue...] ...AAPH community ..." He then points out that "We'll never probably be a majority of the population ..."

Oh, I don't know. If they continue adding to that acronym, won't it eventually include everyone?

Boxer banned from shopping center for disagreeing with Obama on same-sex marriage

That sound of goose-stepping you hear is the Tolerance Police banning boxer Manny Pacquiao, the winner of six world titles, from The Grove, a Los Angeles shopping center where he was scheduled to be interviewed, after publicly disagreeing with President Obama on gay marriage.

But first, the media had to misrepresent what he actually said. A reporter for the L. A. Examiner falsely reported that Pacquiao had quoted Leviticus 20:13, a verse referring to laws under the Hebrew theocracy in which homosexuality is a capital crime. It then accused him of advocating the killing of homosexuals.

As it turns out not only did Pacquiao not quote the verse, he's not even read Leviticus yet. The journalist who conducted the interview from which the quote allegedly came said, "That, Pacquiao never said nor recited, nor invoked and nor did he ever refer to such context."

But it doesn't matter. Intolerance must be stamped out. With steel-toed boots.

Government spending over the past 50 years


The Tyranny of Liberalism

Just so we all understand what is happening to us and why, we'll be running occasional excerpts from James Kalb's The Tyranny of Liberalism, perhaps the best book published in recent years on Tolerance Regime that is now consolidating its power.

Pay attention you conservatives out there who don't even realize you're liberals but really are. With each step liberals take to dismantle traditional society as we have known it, you can turn to the appropriate page and have Kalb's explain to you why this is.

Here is Kalb's description of the general problem with what he calls the "politically correct managerial liberal regime" :
In a society that claims to be base don free speech and reason, intelligent discussion of many aspects of life has become all but impossible. Such a state of affairs is no passing fluke but a serious matter resulting from basic principles. It is the outcome of rationalizing and egalitarian trends that over time have become ever more self-conscious and all-embracing until they now make normal informal distinctions--for example, those between the sexes--seem intolerably arbitrary and unfair. Those trends have led to the politically correct managerial liberal regime that now dominates Western public life and makes demands that more and more people find unreasonable and even incomprehensible. 
What defines that regime is the effort to manage and rationalize social life in order to bring it in line with comprehensive standards aimed at implementing equal freedom. The result is a pattern of governance intended to promote equality and individual gratification and marked by entitlement programs. sexual and expressive freedoms, blurred distinctions between the public and the private, and the disappearance of self-government. To implement such a program of social transformation an extensive system of controls over social life has grown up, somethings public and sometimes formally private, that appeals for its justification to expertise, equity, safety, security, and the need to modify social attitudes and relationships in order to eliminate discrimination and intolerance. 
The last are never clearly defined, but in practice they turn out to include all attitudes and distinctions that affect the order of social life but cannot be brought fully in line with market or bureaucratic principles, and so from the standpoint of those principles are simply irrational. "Discrimination and intolerance" are thus held to include those attitudes, habits, and ties--sex roles, historical loyalties, authoritative cultural understandings, religious commitments and teachings--on which independent, informal, traditional, and non-market institutions and arrangements normally rely in order to function and endure. 
Because such arrangements operate on principles that are regarded as irrational, and because they are difficult to supervise and control in the interest of rationality and equal freedom, they have no place in advanced liberal society and are edged out as the social order progresses.
Get your copy form ISI Books now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your moment of political clarity

Paul Greenburg on Obama's rapid evolution on same-sex marriage--not to mention the 24/7 gay rights messages coming across our telescreens:
But let us be thankful for any moment of clarity in politics even if it's only a moment. Ever since the love that dare not speak its name became the love that just won't shut up, what used to be a taboo has become a real yawner.
Read the rest here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Last Dance with Hope and Tiffany: Why the forces of Political Correctness need to leave Lexington Catholic alone

The decision by Lexington Catholic High School to refuse to admit two girls to the school's prom as a couple has the liberal media in a tizzy and the Tolerance Police reaching for their truncheons.

It's no big secret where the school stands on the issue of same-sex couples. In fact, the very title of the school contains a word the should tell anyone bothering to pay attention how it would come down on an issue like this: the word "Catholic."

The Catholic Church hasn't exactly been vague about how it views marriage and sexuality. And the school correctly underscored its adherence to Catholic teachings. All of them.

So then what do you say about the two girls?

Well, for one thing, if they don't believe in Catholic teachings, then why are they enrolled in an institution whose stated purpose is to teach them to students? And given this, why were they surprised when the school acts on these principles? Is it really all that shocking?

Would anyone be surprised if they weren't allowed to brings drinks to an AA meeting? Are there really people out there who wouldn't be able to figure out why they couldn't smoke while sitting under a "No smoking" sign? Maybe there are, I don't know. But it's kind of hard to empathize with them.

I know it's a revolutionary concept, but if you don't agree with the beliefs of an institution, then don't join it. Go join one you agree with. Better yet, found your own. One nice thing about belonging to an institution you founded yourself is that you'll never have to kick yourself out.

In fact, the girls told the newspapers that they went out and had their own little party in the parking lot and had just a fine time. Good. I'm happy for them. But that doesn't seem to be enough. They seem to want the school to change its policy and violate it's own standards.

The girls argue that they would have been fine with the school's action if they had been consistent:
“I would understand and respect the school’s decision if they truly upheld church teachings,” Wright said. “They didn’t forbid the entrance of all the couples who’ve had premarital sex and all the kids who planned to get drunk after the prom.”
Raise your hand if you really think it would have been just fine with the girls if the school had barred everyone from the prom for doing all these things. Now, those of you who did? We're going to show you the door here at Vital Remnants for violating our policy of being hopeless credulous.

You can go have your own little gullibility party outside. Have fun.

Of course, there's very little the school can do about the dissolute behavior that goes on outsides its doors, other than teach students why they shouldn't act this way when its got them inside its doors, which, hopefully, it does. The argument would make more sense if the drinking and the premarital sex were actually happening on the premises during the prom. But it isn't.

But for argument's sake, let's say the school really wasn't upholding its standards on other kinds of bad behavior. It is really a mature position to take to say that the school should lower its ethical bar further because it won't let you do what you want to do? No, its not.

In fact, that's why they're students and other people are teachers and administrators. The latter are presumed to be mature and the former are not.

And these particular students just confirmed that.

Should more Democrats be ex-cons?

Kentucky Democratic state chairman Daniel Logsdon defended Carroll Hubbard, the Democratic candidate for a Western Kentucky state senate seat who, while serving as Kentucky's 1st district congressman, "pled guilty to three felony charges of violating federal campaign spending rules, conversion of federal property, theft and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas and fined $153,794," according to Real Clear Politics, which included him its list of the 10 Most Corrupt Politicians.

But it's okay that the Democrats are running an ex-con for office, says Logsdon. He's "paid his debts to society." He has "great name recognition." The folks that know him "like and respect him." They're "willing to overlook the issue that happened in the early 90s." He's "admitted he was wrong." He "served his time for that."

And besides, the real issue is ... David Williams.

This defense of ex-felons in office came on Ryan Alessi's show on CN2. A few minutes later, Alessi asked Logsdon about the issue of same-sex marriage, which he responded to firmly, decisively, and courageously ... "we really don't have a position on that."

This stirring rallying cry didn't do much for Logston in the eyes of Jake at Page One Kentucky, who called it, "Democratic cowardice and obfuscation at an all-time high."

Jake knows that even most Democratic officeholders in the state are con on the same-sex marriage issue, and he really wants them to be pro. What he apparently hasn't considered is that, if they do what he wants them to do--change from con to pro, then not just Hubbard, but most other Democrats would be ex-cons.

HT: Jake

More gay hate speech

The people who disagree with same-sex marriage are all hateful and the people who agree with it are all loving and kind. Keep repeating that to yourself just so you don't have to think about all the evidence to the contrary. Like this post. [Inappropriate Language Alert]

Heterophobic Jake warns of freak outs in the process of freaking out

Jake at Page One, in the process of freaking out over Rand Paul's statements in defense of marriage, predicts his detractors will "freak out."

Jake, who frequently terms people who disagree with him on gay rights as "gay haters," then accuses the senator of "homophobia," a gay hate term, and calls religious people "mouth-breathers" (another common gay hate term).

That's what happens when people freak out.

Why is the CJ ignoring gay hate speech?

The Courier-Journal reports that Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Alliance, is criticizing Rand Paul for being insensitive toward gays in his remarks responding to Obama's announcement that he supports gay marriage.

Gosh, I hope this doesn't make Hartman angry. I mean, the last time he did he went haywire and started yelling and accusing people of promoting violence against children. Of course, the CJ didn't mention that, did they?

Now, I'm digging around in my records here to see when the last time the CJ did a story on the increasingly hateful rhetoric of gays. Let's see, where's that story they did on gays calling religious people "bigots"? I could have sworn it was here somewhere.

Hmmm. And didn't I see them print something about Jake Payne calling Christians "mouthbreathers" almost every day at his blog Page One Kentucky? Shoot, I can't find it. Oooh. Well, wouldn't you know. He did it again today. I'm sure CJ reporter James Carroll is on it.

And I just know that they wrote something up about Mary Lou Marzian calling the people who opposed her gay rights bill disguised as a bullying bill "homophobic." I just know it.

But for some reason, I just can't lay my hands on them. I wonder why?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Conservative Crack-Up: Mandy Connell edition

It wasn't that long ago that conservatives negotiated the same-sex marriage issue with ease: they were against it. But over the last few years, there is something in the philosophical physiology of many who claim the conservative mantle that has dramatically changed.

When confronted with the issue today, many so-called "conservatives" begin to twitch nervously. Beads of sweat begin to form on their brow and they begin to ramble incoherently. Basic conservative principles are suddenly forgotten and tradition, which once meant something to the conservative mind, is discarded. Rational thought is cast to the wind.

Either that, or they just run for the political hills in order to avoid having to talk about it.

You can say this about Mandy Connell, host of the Mandy Connell Show on WHAS in Louisville: She's not one to run. But after having listened to two or three shows from last week, you begin to wonder about the state of conservative thought generally and whether this is what we are to expect in the coming debate over same-sex marriage, a debate, that is, of course, already upon us.

Now don't get me wrong, Mandy is smart and articulate. She's a one-woman wrecking crew when it comes to most liberal idiocies. And that's what makes it all the more remarkable that she's bought into this particular one. She's also got a pretty thick skin, and so I doubt she'll get too bent out of shape by my criticisms.

She's a big girl. She can handle it.

On several shows devoted to the issue last week, the number and severity of the errors and fallacies began to approach Bidenesque proportions. In the course of several short hours, Connell argued that:

  • It is stupid to spend "time and energy" on an issue like this.
  • People won't become Republicans if they take this position.
  • Same-sex marriage "doesn't affect me and my family"
  • The opposition to same-sex marriage is primarily religious in nature.

Et cetera.

Seriously? These are the arguments people who call themselves "conservative" are reduced to making in order to justify their abandonment of the traditional view of marriage?

If conservatives oppose same-sex marriage for no other reason, they should do it because, when they do the opposite, they suddenly abandon all intellectual standards, making liberals seem positively rational in comparison.

I will deal with some of these arguments in succeeding posts, but for now, let me just address the issue of civil unions.

On Wednesday's show, Mandy brought on CBS reporter Jim Krasula to explain why the amendment in North Carolina included a ban on civil unions. Krasula was obviously clueless about this particular feature of the law, one that Krasula seemed to think somehow unusual, saying that, in banning civil unions, the North Carolina law "went beyond what many gay marriage amendments have done."

In fact, at least 18 states have either a law or a constitutional amendment restricting or banning civil unions. It is hardly exceptional.

"I really don't understand the logic behind this," said Connell, and asked Krasula to explain, which he clearly was not competent to do.

Of course, the logic behind it is simple, since one of the reasons conservatives don't like same-sex marriage laws is because they constitute a government endorsement of a behavior they think is immoral or harmful to society. So do laws approving same sex unions. They realize that what gays mostly want out of these laws is not practical benefits, but the legitimacy it lends their movement. Now you can disagree with the view that the behavior is abnormal or harmful to society, but the logic isn't mysterious at all.

Kresula went on to argue that the amendment could cost North Carolina economically. Really? Like the 41 other states that either have a constitutional amendment or a law banning same-sex marriage? In fact, outside of New England, only two states don't have either an amendment or a law.

So far, we have not seen a flood of companies packing up their belongings and moving to Iowa and New Mexico, the only two states west of Pennsylvania that haven't passed same-sex marriage laws. And  if there has been some economic influx into business-friendly states like New York and Massachusetts, I'd like to know how that's going.

I realize I have absolutely no influence on who Mandy gets on her show to discuss issues, but couldn't we have somebody who at least has a clue about what they're talking about?

"But man," said Connell, "this thing about banning civil unions, doesn't that just seem mean? It's like, not only can you not get married, ... now you can't even set up a standardized legal arrangement with someone you may have lived with for 25 years."

Okay. Stop. Yes they can. There are all kinds of standardized legal arrangements you can have without being married. You can leave your fortune to your pet parakeet, for crying out loud.

Are there some benefits the government gives to two heterosexual people who get married? Sure there are. But, for one thing, you don't need a law instituting civil unions to change that. Just pass laws that extend some of the benefits now enjoyed by married people to people who aren't.

This is like the argument that we need laws allowing same-sex marriage because there are gays whose partners are not allowed to visit them in the hospital. There are? Where? Which hospital? And if it were a problem, do you need to redefine marriage to take care of it? Of course not. In fact, Kentucky has already passed a law to deal with this that didn't involve changing the marriage laws.

But let's ask another, more fundamental question: Is there some legitimate justification for the government to grant incentives for the formation of families in which there are two biological parents that does not exist for same sex couples or same sex couples in civil unions?

Let's see. Hmmm.

How about that the one sociological fact we know better than just about any other is that families in which there are two parents living with their biological children do more to produce a stable society than any other social arrangement? We know this better than just about any other sociological fact. Not only is it not disputable, I don't know of anyone even remotely well-informed who even bothers to dispute it.

Okay, so where is the similar evidence of the benefits to society and social stability of same-sex relationships?

Now you could make the argument that government has some role in making everybody happy, but I'd like to see Mandy make that argument. And then she could explain how that fits into her libertarian philosophy.

And what's this about opposing civil unions--or same-sex marriage for that matter--being mean? On Thursday's show, Mandy cried foul about some of her listeners who interpreted her disagreement with religious beliefs about homosexuality as being "disrespectful" toward religion. So if her listeners are not justified in interpreting her disagreement with religious believers as being disrespectul of religion, then how is it justified to interpret someone's disagreement with civil unions as being mean-spirited?

Maybe we could investigate the logic of that.

But part of the issue here is that Mandy is a libertarian, not a conservative. That's not a criticism; it's just a matter of truth in labeling. Conservatism is at least partly about ... how should I phrase this ... conserving things. And, as I've said before, when it comes to social issues, if you can't bring yourself to conserve traditional marriage, then you can't be counted on to stand up for much else when the political hard times come.

Many people who call themselves conservatives these days are Rush babies. Their cultural awareness extends no further back than about the early 90s. If you asked most prominent conservatives about Edmund Burke, T. S. Eliot, F. A. Hayek, Michael Oakeshott, or Russell Kirk they'd get a blank look on their face and wonder who you were talking about.

William F. Buckley, Jr.? Who's that?

The traditional conservatism that was preserved and transmitted in the old National Review magazine for so many years and which nurtured people like Ronald Reagan is being fast forgotten in favor of Fox News.

I have no idea who is on Mandy's reading list, but I'm willing to bet it's heavy on libertarians and neocons and largely devoid of traditional conservatives. You know, the ones whose conservatism involved the belief that the judgment of the generations was better than the narrow prejudices of the present, and which extended beyond a sort of Hobbesian self-interest?

You remember Thomas Hobbes. The great conservative thinker?

Prominent conservatives used to feel like they needed to choose between Madison and Jefferson. Now many of them couldn't tell you who Madison and Jefferson were, much less have read them. Instead of championing the conservatism of the American founders, today's average consumer of conservative rhetoric is fed a kind of Readers Digest condensed version of French Revolutionary political rationalism--or, what's worse, Randian objectivism.

It's sad.

One thing the great libertarians of the past could say was that they had read the traditional conservatives and found them wanting. They were libertarians by choice, and knew the difference between traditional Burkean conservatism and their own classical liberalism. But modern "libertarian conservatives" are not libertarians by choice; they're libertarians because they don't know anything different. They caught their libertarianism by contagion and were told it was bad case of conservatism.

I'm being too hard on Mandy here, and not all of these criticisms necessarily apply to her. But the kind of things you hear on her show on issues like this are symptomatic of larger trends in conservatism that will ultimately destroy the movement from within if people who conservatives rely on tell them the way things ought to be don't get back in touch with real conservatism.

A Lesson in Sophistry: Why laws against same-sex marriages are not like laws against interracial marriage

One of the arguments made by opponents of the traditional view of marriage is that laws that effectively prohibit same-sex marriage are like laws that once prohibited interracial marriage. In fact, one of the commenters on this blog is particularly fond of this argument

The only problem with that argument is that the two things are entirely different, legally and philosophically. The purported justifications for "miscegenation" (laws against interracial marriage) were completely different from those for traditional marriage laws.

The question of whether people of different races should marry was about whether marriage laws should apply to people in a mixed race relationship, while the question of whether two people of the same sex can marry was about whether such a thing is even possible, given the definition of marriage. The first was a question about ethics: should the law be applied to mixed race marriages; the second was about epistemology: can the law apply to same sex-couples.

The two questions are not only different questions, they are different kinds of questions: The question in miscegenation laws was who should be able to marry, not about what marriage is.

They were also different as a practical matter in relation to the operation of law: Given the definition everyone was agreed on, any prohibition on interracial marriages involved an additional law, while any prohibition of gay marriage only requires keeping the current ones. Stopping interracial marriage involved changing the law; stopping same-sex marriage involves keeping it the same.

In their paper What is Marriage? Sherif Girgis (PhD. candidate, Princeton), Robert P. George (Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton), and Ryan Anderson (Ph.D candidate, Notre Dame) put it as follows:
Opponents of interracial marriage typically did not deny that marriage (understood as a union consummated by conjugal acts) between a black and a white was possible any more than proponents of segregated public facilities argued that some feature of the whites‐only water fountains made it impossible for blacks to drink from them. The whole point of antimiscegenation laws in the United States was to prevent the genuine possibility of interracial marriage from being realized or recognized, in order to maintain the gravely unjust system of white supremacy.9  
By contrast, the current debate is precisely over whether it is possible for the kind of union that has marriage’s essential features to exist between two people of the same sex. Revisionists do not propose leaving intact the historic definition of marriage and simply expanding the pool of people eligible to marry. Their goal is to abolish the conjugal conception of marriage in our law10 and replace it with the revisionist conception. [See footnotes below]
Opponents of current marriage laws will continue to repeat these arguments of course, but they are based on a flawed interpretation of history and law, and are at bottom an emotional appeal that attempts to hijack the visceral repulsion most people have to racism in order to direct it toward the traditional and historical idea of marriage. They will probably have some success in doing it too.

That's the thing about sophistry: It works pretty well, practically speaking. But if it does work, it won't be because the argument is a sound one, because it isn't.

9 See Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 11 (1967).

10 Throughout history, no society’s laws have explicitly forbidden gay marriage. They have not explicitly forbidden it because, until recently, it has not been thought possible. What is more, antimiscegenation laws, at least in the United States, were meant to keep blacks separate from whites, and thus in a position of social, economic, and political inferiority to them. But traditional marriage laws were not devised to oppress those with same‐sex attractions. The comparison is offensive, and puzzling to many—not least to the nearly two‐thirds of black voters who voted to uphold conjugal marriage under California Proposition Eight. See Cara Mia DiMassa & Jessica Garrison, Why Gays, Blacks are Divided on Prop. 8, L.A. TIMES, Nov. 8, 2008, at A1.

Friday, May 11, 2012

President Obama's selective application of the Golden Rule

In appealing to the Bible as his rationale for abandoning the Biblical view of marriage, President Obama invoked the Golden Rule. It will not be the first time that political expediency has been used as a method of Biblical interpretation.

Not so fast, says Christian philosopher Francis Beckwith, who lists some of the things to which Obama does not apply the Golden Rule:
Although the president is mistaken about the Golden Rule, it would be interesting to see to what extent he is willing to apply his version of it more generously, to really “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” 
Will he extend it to the unborn or even the survivors of abortion?  
Or church-affiliated and private businesses that cannot in good conscience provide contraception and abortifacient coverage under his HHS mandate?  
Or private citizens, businesses, and charitable organizations whose moral theology forbids them from blessing or supporting same-sex unions?  
Or the Christian youngsters who were publicly bullied by White House supported activist, Dan Savage?
The implied answer is, "Not on your life." Read the rest here.

Is Obama imposing his religion on Americans?

Obama invoked his Christianity as a reason to take the position he did on same-sex marriage, specifically citing the Golden Rule, and the liberal media cheered. I'm wondering what the response of the liberal media would have been if a conservative sitting president had cited his Christianity as his reason for opposing it.

Never mind. I don't have to wonder. I know exactly what they would say. He's imposing his religion on the American people.

Funny how that works

Did Obama just give evangelicals the reason they needed to vote for Romney?

Pat Buchanan gives voice today to the same thought I had: Now evangelicals have a reason to vote for Romney. Whether Obama helps or hurts himself among his own constituency is still unclear--to me, anyway. But what he's done is energize a portion of the Republican base that has been iffy for him during the primary season.

Obama just made the battle lines are clear: Romney is a conservative economically and socially, and Obama is a full-fledged left-wing socialist.

Here's Pat in fine form:
It took Joe Biden's public embrace of same-sex marriage to smoke him out. But after Joe told David Gregory of "Meet the Press" he was "absolutely comfortable" with homosexuals marrying, Barack Obama could not maintain his credibility with the cultural elite if he stuck with the biblical view that God ordained marriage as solely between a man and woman. The biblical view had to go. 
Obama had to move, or look like a malingerer in secularism's next great moral advance into post-Christian America. 
... Obama may also have just solved Mitt Romney's big problem: How does Mitt get all those evangelical Christians and cultural conservatives not only to vote for him but to work for him? 
Obama, by declaring that homosexual marriages should be on the same legal and moral plane as traditional marriage, just took command of the forces of anti-Christian secularism in America's Kulturkampf. And Nov. 6, 2012, is shaping up as the Antietam of the culture war.
And the trouble for liberals is that not even by dredging up Romney's high school past will make a difference. High school, for crying out loud.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough: Will conservative leaders sell out on same-sex marriage?

In making his announcement that he has given up on the traditional view of marriage, President Obama has thrown down the gauntlet to conservative leaders, who will either take a firm stand or give up on the issue.

It will separate the conservative men from the libertarian boys.

My bet is that over the next two years, many "conservative" public intellectuals will cave, and it will tell us a lot about their real philosophical convictions--or lack thereof. Just watch conservative spokespersons short selling on the marriage issue. A good example was Jonah Goldberg on Piers Morgan last night. And it will be interesting to see how Romney responds.

But any conservative who cannot stand up for marriage cannot be counted on to have the fortitude to stand up on any other conservative issue in the face of adversity and should in all honesty renounce the conservative label.

If traditional marriage is not central to conservative social thinking, then what is?

Marriage has always stood as a pillar of conservative social conviction, along with the sanctity of human life, and the belief that the concept of private property is essential to other freedoms. The so-called conservative leaders who renounce the first should never be trusted on the others. Given sufficient pressure, they will cave on those too.

That liberals want to redefine marriage is not in question; whether conservatives want to redefine conservatism is. But make no mistake, it would be a redefinition.

Nothing has changed on this issue except the polls, and although the polls are shifting, it is not a forgone conclusion that they will continue to shift or that the traditional view of traditional marriage is on its way out. Fully half of American (depending on the poll) still favor the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

And one of the ways to make sure that the polls do not change further is for conservative public intellectuals to hold their ground on the issue.  There are other conservative positions with less support than this which are not being abandoned by so-called conservatives.

It is not unreasonable to conclude that the people who are changing their public positions on this issue are people who never really held them in the first place. If you have a philosophical grounding that undergirds your political positions, then the political positions will not change with every wind of politics. Conversely, if your views change with the political winds, it is an indication that you don't have a philosophical grounding for your political positions. And if that's the case, you should either get one (a philosophical grounding) or keep your opinions to yourself.

There are certain postures that can be called conservative. Standing for what you believe is one of them. Putting your wet finger in the air is not.

Obama shifts with political winds

For Immediate Release
May 9, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—"It's a funny thing about politicians whose views 'evolve' on controversial issues," said Martin Cothran, in response to the announcement today by President Barack Obama that he approves of same-sex marriage. “They always seem to evolve in the direction in which the political winds are blowing."

Obama's remarks come the same day that most Americans found out that North Carolina citizens voted in favor of the traditional view of marriage. "Although it's becoming increasingly common for politicians to kowtow to liberal special interest groups, when this issue is put before people, they still vote to keep the traditional definition of marriage," said Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation.

"There are people whose moral convictions shift with the polls and there are people whose moral convictions are tied to something more permanent. The President has made it clear today which camp he's in."


Incoming: Pro-gay rights hate speech

Apparently the North Carolina marriage amendment that passed yesterday had something to do with beating up gays. At least that's the impression you get if you watched CNN last night, which featured Anderson Cooper playing a video of a fairly out-of-control North Carolina pastor telling his congregation to crush the limp wrists of their effeminate sons (or something like that), as if this were somehow representative of the majority of North Carolinians voting in favor of traditional marriage.

This seemed to be Cooper's only contribution to the coverage of the amendment.

On the other end of things, there seems to be some question about what is representative of the other side on this issue. It is not only not unusual but common to find advocates of same-sex marriage engaging in ugly rhetoric against their opponents: charges of bigotry, malicious impartation of hateful motives, as well as simple adolescent name-calling.

One thing I will say for the Peanut Gallery here at Vital Remnants: at least they know they have to make an argument for their position, and, for the most part, they do.

But here's the first comment on the Family Foundation's post of their press release from today, by Mike Hunt, and this is too often the kind of response you'll hear from the people who claim they are against hate:
You people suck. You're intolerant, bigoted, small-minded, arrogant, pompous, and so utterly dumb that it's quite surprising that you can even form complete sentences. I kindly direct you to the little sidebar, which states, "Let us know your thoughts on this post but remember to PLACE nicely folks!" It's PLAY, you absolute dip sticks. You don't even have the wherewithal to know a cliche? And after nicely, there ought to be a comma. Figures you have no sense of grammar because most of you are utterly uneducated redneck hicks. Here's a hint: pull your heads out of your medieval butt holes, come up for air, and breathe in the 21st century. Uh-duh. We cavemen who beat bible and pray to G-d to punish sinners. You people are so hypocritical it's pathetic. But you have to live with yourselves. Luckily, my conscience is clear. Remember to die nicely, folks!
If people who were opposed to same-sex marriage used rhetoric like this, they would be roundly castigated for it by the media. But since it is being leveled in the cause of gay rights, it's perfectly acceptable. The irony was that one of the points of the press release was to point out the hateful rhetoric of the same-sex marriage lobby.

Go Mike.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Political courage on the same-sex "marriage" issue

President Obama has traditionally been against same-sex "marriage," but, some report, his position is "evolving." More specifically, his press spokesmen seem to be positively confused on the matters since Vice President Biden seems like he's come out in favor of it.

Like many other politicians, Obama's opinion on the marriage issue will probably continue to "evolve" until the political benefit of being in favor of it clearly exceeds the political benefit of being opposed to it.

Then, when the political winds have fully shifted, he will announce his new position to accolades by his secular liberal supporters who will call him courageous for taking the new position--the one that would have been courageous had he made it when there was a real cost (rather than a political benefit) to taking it.

The fact is, there are few social costs to being gay and few political costs in most places to being in favor of same-sex "marriage." With the exception of much of rural America, where, for the most part, boys are expected to act like boys and girls like girls, being gay is positively celebrated and same-sex marriage seen as social progress.

The only real courage is among those who continue to believe what they've always believed on these issues and whose opinions, being based on solid moral convictions, don't change because of shifting political winds.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Why is Francis Collins doing more science than his atheist critics?

New Atheists Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, P. Z. Myers, and Sam Harris, the self-designated champions of science against religion, have severely criticized Francis Collins, the evangelical former head of the Human Genome Project and current head of the National Institutes for Health (NIH):

They publicly opposed Collin’s nomination to head the NIH by suggesting, without any evidence, that his religious faith would lead him to somehow harm the funding of scientific research. Harris has claimed that Collins “has repudiated the scientific worldview” and is “a man who believes that understanding ourselves through science is impossible.” 
... Coyne has accused Collins of being an “embarrassment to the NIH, to scientists, and, indeed, to all rational people” and an “advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs.” Myers calls him a “creationist dupe arguing against scientific theories” and “an amiable lightweight” who doesn’t know how to think like a scientist.

So says the blog Shadow to Light.

But the ironic thing is that it is the evangelical Collins who seems to have been more busy producing, like, actual science. Collins, says the blog, has produced somewhere between 384 to 483 scientific papers from 1971 to 2007. And brave defenders of science, Coyne and Co.? Only something less than 150.

Gee. Maybe if the New Atheists scientists spent a little less time posting snippy remarks on their blogs, they could be scientifically productive too.

HT: Dangerous Idea.

My article on Lexington gay T-shirt controversy runs in today's Lexington Herald-Leader

My article on the Tolerance Police cracking down on dissent from the new Gay Orthodoxy is in today's paper.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Was Adolph Rupp really a racist?

The Common Wisdom has always been that Adolph Rupp, the great basketball coach at the University of Kentucky from 1930 to 1972 (this was when coaches actually stayed at schools for longer than, oh, about 5 years), a man whose coaching success was superseded only by John Wooden of UCLA (maybe), was a racist.

The charge is usually leveled because Kentucky was an all-white team long after everyone knew blacks could play at least we well.

But what happened behind the scenes told a different story. Here is my hometown sports writer Larry Vaught telling the story of James D. Tucker of Paris, KY, a black player who later went on to a successful NBA career, and what Rupp did for him behind the scences. "He changed my life," said Tucker.

It won't please the Politically Correct, who will willing misread history to fit their narrative.