Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Today Darwin, Tomorrow Newton

Recently the conservative author and provocateur, Ann Coulter, advanced another embarrassingly silly notion. No, I’m not talking about her statements on the so-called “9/11 widows.” That’s minor. She’s obsessed with Darwin, who she sees as a source of a satanic secular religion. Darwin, in her view, is pseudo-science used to prop-up a materialist atheistic valueless worldview. With the Catholic Church gun-shy since its debacle with Galileo, the church of Coulter is taking over.

Let’s review history.

There is indeed a materialist/relativist philosophy on the left but it doesn’t originate with Darwin. It goes back to Hobbes in the 17th century. The 18th century philosopher, Kant, saw the world we experience as governed by Newtonian mechanics. But in the 19th century, with Marx, the materialist determinist worldview reached its greatest influence.

Material reductionism isn’t the dominate viewpoint in the history of secular philosophy. Neither Plato nor Aristotle subscribed to this viewpoint. Indeed, they explicitly rejected the materialist/mechanical/reductionist viewpoint of their contemporary, Democritus. Both Plato and Aristotle saw man as volitional and life as purposeful.

Of course, Newton and the 17th century physicists (they were called natural philosophers back then) aren’t to blame for the distortions and inappropriate speculation of materialist philosophers. But if Coulter wants to attack the scientist whose theory inspired materialism in modern times, Newton is her man. Darwin, incidentally, is a naturalist whose methods often seem quaint to biologists who believe bio-chemistry explains everything. And to the chagrin of some biologists, Darwin had great admiration for Aristotle.

The left dominates junk-science. Michael Fumento is one crusading journalist who exposes such nonsense. Robert Bidinotto, also, does good work in this arena. An excellent source for scientific rebuttals to junk science is the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Consider, for example, the Rachel Carson-inspired ban on DDT. It had led to the deaths of millions in Africa, which desperately needs a cost-effective means of fighting malaria.

Coulter, unfortunately, is only creating new right-wing junk science to compete with the decades of leftist nonsense. Unfortunately, some hallowed journals on the right agree with Coulter. For conservatives, this should be an embarrassment.

58 Comments:

Blogger Weingarten said...

I have some major qualms about Ann Coulter, and as Jason points out, she should be an embarrassment for conservatives. (Her nastiness has been decried by Bill O'Reilly.)

Still, the main point of her book is that liberalism is a religion, for it is immune to reason or evidence. As she says "By denying that liberalism is a religion, liberalism is able to permeate government institutions, most obviously, the public schools."

I view those who deny that life today evolved out of the life that existed a billion years ago, as having no more credibility than Holocaust deniers. So I would not discuss Darwin with Ms. Coulter (although there are worthy proponents of Intelligent Design).

6/13/06, 12:42 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

I tend to wonder how "scientists" who look at ancient fossils and see ancestors get by without mistaking antifreeze for lime Kool-Aid and drinking it.

Of course, after the first few "scientists" went blind, they probably thought to consider the substance of the antifreeze a bit more in depth than they did the old bones.

6/13/06, 1:54 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Ayn Rand is also a big material determinist. In fact she is closer to Marx than most, she just gives the poliburo a different look.

6/13/06, 4:23 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Jason, if you want to do some research on DDT in Africa you will find that there are a number of alternatives to DDT that aren't nearly as destructive.

The question isn't Africa not being able to use DDT but Africa being able to afford any chemicals at all.

South Africa has been using DDT effectively in very localized applications for malaria retardation.

As usual you don't even manage to get below the surface. You talk a good game but like any Randoid you can't deliver.

6/13/06, 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason,

What is the essence of Coulter's argument? I don't understand it. Is it the time tested complaint that logic has nothing to do with morality? Is she attacking Evolution because she thinks it is *bad* science or because it *is* science? Does she defend the scientific method? If not, is she really that militantly irrational in her professed beliefs? Could you lay out exactly why religionists hate evolution. How exactly does it attack their worldview?

You know I can't help but add a comment relating to Islam. A Lebonese friend of mine who is an athiest and hates Islam told me how many Muslims will define parralles lines in the Middle East. The definition goes like this:

Parrallel lines are two lines that never shall meet, unless Allah wills it.

If Ann Coulter is typical of today's Christians, she (and they) has more in common with Islam than she realizes.

Saul Shapiro

6/13/06, 8:37 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Yeah, Jason - what YOU said. There's nothing more to add.

Except that, wouldn't it be a wonderful world if only Horace Mann hadn't gotten away with establishing a government-run, taxpayer-supported, attendance and curriculum compelled, non-constitutionally mandated educational system?

Poor Horace; he was a descendant of the original inhabitants of the Massachussets Bay Colony. They had established the above-mentioned kind of school system for their individual municipalities, modeled after the kind established by the rulers of the German states at the behest of Martin Luther in 1524.

Martin Luther wanted this system in place because he knew that his break from the Catholic Church was not viewed with favor by everyone, and that if his ideas were to "stick," he would have to do whatever he could to teach Lutheran piety to an entire generation of school children, or he risked the possibility that his new belief system would not survive.

This was the first time in history (with the possible exception of Sparta) that compulsory education was specifically created to be used as a means of implementing government policy.

Mann agreed with his ancestors' view that the only way to establish social stability was to compel all children to learn the same belief system. In the absence of competing ideas, there would be peace.

It was the immigration of thousands upon thousands of Catholics that caused him to believe that the very salvation of the nation was at stake, and that it was imperative to compel the teaching of Protestant orthodoxy to all children, no matter what their parents' beliefs. He, like Martin Luther, believed that a tax-supported, compulsory, compelled curriculum was the only way to succeed with the goal of teaching a single, uniform belief system.

The social stability he so desperately sought by this means blew up in his face. The new government schools were so abhorrent to Catholic parents - who called the public school system "Protestant Schools" - that they split off and established their own system, which remains to this day.

Societal rifts continued and grew more contentious, particularly with the increasing numbers of discoveries made in science. The very idea that life could arise in the absence of divine help was akin to blasphemy by many, and the very idea that life, once having arisen through natural means could then become - well, US - was anathema. Every time a discovery was made, it was considered a threat.

I wish we still had the rich and varied private system that existed before Horace Mann had his little panic attack. The folks who prefer to see the existence of humans as a special gift of the divine, and all that this subsumes, could go happily about their way, while those of us who find the evidence for a natural explanation for our existence compelling, with all that this subsumes, could go happily about our way.

The bickering back and forth could take place without "benefit" of lawsuits. Oh, to be sure, there would be plenty of bickering in op-eds, syndicated columns, TV documentaries, books, magazines, and so on, but none of this would have an influence on school free and private school curricula.

A lot of the dilution of knowledge (that would be "dumbing down") that has gone on in our "one size fits all" educational system has occurred because of the pressure exerted on publishers to be sure that textbook content be agreeable to all. This is an impossible dream where the views of some and the views of others are mutually exclusive. The solution?

Compromise.

With the need to compromise, the task becomes one of eliminating anything that someone, somewhere, might find "offensive."

Not much is left, once that's been done.

With a strictly private educational system, with no intervention from government, and with no exclusion of material desired by one set of parents, but found offensive by another, the freedom of ideas - including philosophical ideas - to compete would be unquestioned and unfettered.

Eventually, the ideas that best served those who held them would float to the top and predominate, simply because the people holding them would be able to function better in life.

I have to admit to experiencing occasional bits of vicarious pleasure from some of Coulter's remarks about liberals, but more often, I am very distressed by the steady growth of the hostility towards reason of the sort she so strongly exhibits.

6/13/06, 8:47 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Jason

I do not define Darwin in a political template. I have my own issues with Coulter and her critics . Speaking of evolution when did poultry learn to type. AFLAC

The problem is the core definition of what a liberal is has changed.
There is zero wrong with Free Market anti Communist liberalism in the mode of Scoop Jackson. However, through deception marxist elements and fellow travelers like John Kerry and Ron Dellums have corrupted the party.

Coulter mistakes todays definition of liberalism for historic liberalism. Scoop Jackson was a patriotic liberal. John Kerry is an
appeaser and at minimum a fellow traveler.

6/14/06, 6:37 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

That’s a good question, Saul.

In some senses it is odd that anyone would find evolution objectionable. After all evolution doesn’t say we are monkeys but that we are something much more … i.e. we’ve evolved. While Aristotle didn’t know about evolution he and the Greeks spoke of man as a rational animal. That we were a kind of animal wasn’t even a question. There was clearly a biological component that he’d refer to as vegetative (we’d say metabolic or physiological) as well as animate (i.e. animal.) That wasn’t meant to deny that we were much more—volitional rational beings who are responsible for our character and behavior. There was no lack of dignity in the Ancient Greek conception of man.

However, today there is a common assumption that character is determined by nature or nurture. Volition (free will) and individual responsibility (self-determination) are omitted in that false alternative. Human dignity is under attack. The materialist view is that we can be reduced to nothing more that physics and chemistry as we currently understand these subjects and thus we are no more than machines. This is absurd and unwarranted speculation. Absurd, since it contradicts the nature of consciousness required to even consider that idea. Speculative, since applying past knowledge in a new context of such complexity, one must assume research in this area will go on for generations.

Thus, it is valid to complain about the materialist/reductionist/valueless orientation of academia today. However, blaming it on Newton, Galileo, or Darwin makes no sense. And, in fact, it precedes them.

Cubed is right, this issue wouldn’t have to be resolved if we weren’t “jointed at the hip” by government educational institutions. If schools were private education would vary considerably. Those of us who learn science will do science and those who don’t will go onto other occupations.

Beak is right: Ducks clearly aren’t evolved as is shown by their lack of reading comprehension.

Coulter can be fun when she’s on target. Treason helped inform the general public about the Venona tapes and the fact that alleged communists were indeed communists in almost all cases. Sure she’s rough around the edges but in her usual venues it’s par for the course.

6/14/06, 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

I'm pretty much neutral on Coulter because I have very little first-hand exposure to her writings. I hear about what she says, or is reputed to have said, mostly from other sources, generally hostile. I've read the occasional Coulter column, and what I've read, I've agreed with. And not just agreed with but enjoyed. I like her ability to come up with the "mot juste." From what little I know of it, I don't see what the big to-do is regarding her 9/11 widows comment. She wasn't, as I understand it, criticizing all 9/11 widows, just the leftist ones who are (she feels) using their bereavement to add "moral authority" (a la "Casey's Ma"*) to their pronunciamentoes about the war.

The current meme (is that the correct word? I'm not up on modern jargon) about AC among her critics on the Right is that she's a idea-less huckster and an opportunist, who has found bashing "liberals" to be a good source of income and mines it for all it's worth. I don't know how one would know this, unless you tapped her phone and heard her say something like, "You know, I'm really a socialist who votes Democratic in almost every election, but the boobs pay me big bucks for this reactionary gig. If only they knew I secretly donate most of my royalties and speaker's fees to MoveOn.org--nyahh-hah-hah!"

On the other hand, I could be just cutting her some slack because the idea of a pro-freedom babe turns me on.

(Now Bill O'Reilly--who definitely doesn't turn me on--there's a huckster.)

Be that as it may (and--as Steve Allen used to add--I'm not sure that it was) . . . I think that regardless of her views on Darwin and science, she is on the right track in categorizing the hodgepodge of neo-Marxist sociology, neo-mediaeval economics, New Agey anti-rationalism, and old-fashioned State-worship that we call "liberalism" as a religion. I've never encountered a "liberal" who, when you stripped his argument of rhetoric and got down to basic premises, could ever justify his agenda with anything much more than, "I believe in it because I want to believe in it." (Usually followed by "And you're a callous, selfish, racist poo-poo head for not believing in it.") That's a religion.

I don't even have a problem with that. It's when the followers of a religion want to use the State to enforce obdience to its dogma--in other words, when religion becomes theocracy--that I have a problem with it.

*An ATLAS SHRUGGED reference for you "Randroids." By the way, what is it, Duck Pasha, that Randroids promise but don't deliver? Inquiring minds want to know.

6/14/06, 1:55 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

While I don't like Coulter's writings and rantings, I do think she is a very smart woman. It would seem that she would have to understand the history of materialist reductionism as you explain it here.

I have to wonder if perhaps she picks Darwin, because he is an easier target for popular consumption, than are Hobbes and Newton.

Let me be clear, I am not defending Coulter on this. I am simply offering an explanation other than sheer stupidity.

Additionally, while I am a Christian who doesn't have a problem with the theory of evolution, I do want to point out that Darwin has been used in precisely the opposite way from what it seems Coulter is trying to do. What I mean is, there are many who have used the Theory of Evolution as "proof" that God doesn't exist and/or could not have created the Universe.

You know, Jason, that such a proof is not logically possibly. You can't prove a negative.

So, there is quite a bit of illogic on the anti-Christian side of the fence as well.

:)

6/14/06, 2:25 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I guess that I'll have to read Coulter's book for myself and come to my own conclusions. While I don't always like her tone, sometimes I find nuggets in what she's said.

6/14/06, 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Additionally, while I am a Christian who doesn't have a problem with the theory of evolution, I do want to point out that Darwin has been used in precisely the opposite way from what it seems Coulter is trying to do. What I mean is, there are many who have used the Theory of Evolution as "proof" that God doesn't exist and/or could not have created the Universe."

But pro-reason advocates don't have to prove that God exists. Its up to the believers to prove that. And they can't. Hell, to be accurate, the concept God is so full of contradictions that it can't even be properly defined. So no equivalency exists between those who embrace the scientific method and those who embrace wishful thinking and fantasies.

Gordan Davis

6/14/06, 3:11 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Yes, the left is definitely dogmatic and impervious to evidence. On that Coulter is right and that’s her main point even if I don’t agree with every example.

However, while I share the criticism of what’s wrong with the left (dogmatic, materialist, subjectivist, anti-responsibility, nihilistic, etc.) I don’t accept the false alternative that she’s helping to establish. In the history of philosophy, materialism and relativism have been the exception prior to Kant and only slowly have they become entrenched in the last two centuries. The object of her complaint is worthy of contempt but her explanation is faulty; but it serves her purpose of manufacturing a false alternative.

By the way, it is interesting that the left is dogmatic, on the one hand, yet skeptical of knowledge, on the other. They are also fiercely judgmental (politically correctness, etc.) yet ethical relativists! This seems like a contradiction but I’ve wanted to write about how it really isn’t. Stay tuned.

6/14/06, 3:27 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Apparently, I’ve written on this topic last year where I argue many fail to make a lack of distinction between naturalism with materialism. And in this post I argued that privatizing education is the only long-term solution to differences in philosophy and religion. As Cubed points out, with government controlled education we’ll have to fight over what should be taught. With freedom, we can go our own way.

6/14/06, 4:14 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Jason,

I find Gordan Davis' argument to be idiotic and insulting. I would hope that you would defend me on that. It might help the guy come to an understand that he is illogical, if he hears it from a fellow atheist.

My point was well-grounded. Back me up, please. Or, if you don't agree with me, then I will fight this one on my own.

6/14/06, 7:02 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Jason,
Yes, you have written on this subject before. I remember that post. It was excellent.

6/14/06, 7:03 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Davis Gordon says two things: one about God’s existence and another about God’s identity. About God’s existence, he’s right; it is up to the believer to explain the reasons for believing, if they wish to argue the point. However, I find arguments about God’s existence tend to be either formal or poetic. And seldom is either side moved to change their view.

God’s identity is far more interesting. I don’t know what Davis was referring to but what I find most interesting is what a believer thinks God wants him or her to do. If He wants them to repent and believe that is one thing. If he wants them to conquer, dominate, and bring into submission, that concerns me. It’s the social and ethical aspects, not the metaphysical notions, that I tend to think about as I try to understand my fellow man. And that’s the bottom line for me.

That’s why I think the renewed obsession with evolution, a purely scientific issue, is odd. It’s interesting that it tends not to be the Catholic Church that wants to do battle on a scientific issue. Of course, they realize the long-term harm by making claims that can be disproved by science.

I’ve heard one explanation is that the literalness of the Bible requires that the earth is only a few thousand years old. But why focus on such a cosmological issue and not and ethical issue like divorce? After all in Mark 10 it is literally spelled out that divorce is forbidden. And yet most Protestant denominations don’t follow that literally nor do they want it outlawed and limited as it was in Catholic Ireland until quite recently. Given all the concern about marriage why isn’t that the central issue among those arguing a literal interpretation? Am I missing something? After all, why fight science?

I think the issues the center around how to live this life and live with others are the more interesting ones. I wonder why Coulter and some want to battle with science.

6/14/06, 8:46 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Thanks, Jason. But, that's not what I had in mind.

Here's the thing, Gordan Davis says:

"pro-reason advocates don't have to prove that God exists."

I say:

First off, I did not say they have to prove God exists. I said, they can't prove that he doesn't.

If you will remember, I was making the comment that some anti-religion liberals have, over the years, used Evolution and other Scientific ideas as "proof" that God doesn't exist.

It is one thing to say you don't believe in God. It is another thing entirely to say that He doesn't exist.

In fact, it is impossible to prove that God does not exist, because it defies the laws of logic.

Here is a link and a quote for you, Gordan: http://radicalacademy.com/askacademy30.htm

The question now is: "Do unicorns exist?" The new proposition is: "No, unicorns do not exist." This is a negative existential proposition. Is it true? How do we know? "Well," says the proponent, "no one has proved that unicorns exist." Does this constitute proof or evidence? Sorry, it does not and to argue in this manner is to commit an all-too-common fallacy, and it falls within the "you can't prove a negative" category. It is "possible," although highly unlikely, that unicorns exist. In other words, such a proposition cannot be dismissed as proven one way or the other. It is what I prefer to call an "open question." (But, believe me, I'm not going to go around searching for a unicorn just for sake of the argument; I don't think they exist, but I can't "prove" they do not.)

The basic form of this fallacy is : "There is no evidence or proof that it is the case that X; therefore, it is not the case that X." As philosopher Dr. Mortimer Adler says: "An affirmative existential proposition can be proved, but a negative existential proposition -- one that denies the existence of some thing -- cannot be proved."

6/14/06, 9:38 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

I will say that belief in God is a matter of faith. An intelligent believer will acknowledge this. Yes, there are believers who will say they have proof that God exists, but their appeal is to experience, usually their own. They believe God to exist because they feel Him, or because they believe they have witnessed a mirace which could only have "come from God."

These are not proofs of God's existence, though they may be seen as affirmations of one's own personal faith.

Additionally, Philosophers through the ages have offered "proofs" of God's existence. I, like Jason, am very unimpressed with them. They are really more like word constructions than logical arguments.

So, belief in the existence of God is a matter of faith. As such, it lies outside the realm of logic. Therefore, it cannot be proven either one way or the other.

However, Gordon made a statemtnt which indicates that people who believe in God "embrace wishful thinking and fantasies."

That's a hell of a thing to say when you can not disprove God's existence. Now, you may say that I am putting the burden of proof on you. No, I am not. You're making a statement. Your statement says God does not exist. You can not prove that, so it is an illogical statement, or a statement which appeals to nothing in the real world.

So, in this case, the Christian (that would be me) is speaking more logically than the rational believer in science (that would be you, Gordon).

6/14/06, 9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"God’s identity is far more interesting. I don’t know what Davis was referring to but what I find most interesting is what a believer thinks God wants him or her to do. If He wants them to repent and believe that is one thing. If he wants them to conquer, dominate, and bring into submission, that concerns me. It’s the social and ethical aspects, not the metaphysical notions, that I tend to think about as I try to understand my fellow man. And that’s the bottom line for me."

Wow Jason. Do you know how philosophically flawed this is? But it does explain alot about your blog and your coziness with Christians on things intellectual.

As for Pastorius' arguments... Well Jason, you know that he has violated at least a dozen principles of logic and rational argumentation, most notably granting legitimacy to the arbitrary. But if you won't defend such silly "metaphisical notions" because you don't want to offend "your fellow man" then I wont take it up either. What would be the point?

Gordan Davis

6/14/06, 11:06 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

My point to you, Gordon, was that you made the point that God is a fairytale.

You made the point. I am arguing against the point you made.

You can not support the point you made, can you?

Show me how I "granted legitimacy to the arbitrary." Show me my logical fallacies.

I showed you yours. Show me mine.

It seems to me you are one of those people who argues to win, and not to enhance understanding. I say this because you have resorted to insults which are founded on illogic. And, when confronted with it, you accuse me of violating "at least a dozen principles of logic and rational argumentation." But, that is vague, isn't it, my friend.

Why don't you enumerate them for me, genius?

6/14/06, 11:52 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

I don't believe in the existence of atheists.

6/15/06, 12:35 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

"But it does explain alot about your blog and your coziness with Christians on things intellectual."

I was confident that this was your concern. I make no apologies for aligning with Christians (who believe that religion is a private matter) to fight Islam (which believes that everyone must be forced to submit to Islamic rule.) I’ll state my differences on those private matters if it logically comes up in a discussion but I’ll save my breath to deal with more urgent affairs. In person I enjoy debates on such issues; online it is a distraction.

6/15/06, 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(1) i think it has been proven that there is evolution WITHIN a species.

can anyone give me one concrete example of speciation? either plant or animal.

theoretically, speciation seems possible, but logically it seems IMPOSSIBLE: at some point an offspring muist become a diferent species than its parents; this seems impossible.

hte knee-jerk answer is mutation, but for the mutant off-spring to become a spdies the mutation would have to (a) have beneficial effect on the differential of reporductive success; and (b) be present in EXACTLT the same way - at the same location, genetically speaking - in another offspring of the opposite gender who is also the same age and in the same locus as the first mutant --- otherwise they could reproduce.

that these two factors have been present over and over - millions oif times across millions of species over millions of years seems unlikely to me.

and again: no one I have ever asked has ever shown me a true example.

in fact, the BBC ran a BIG HEADLINED STORY on the FIRST DISCOVERY OF SPECIATION last year, (about butterflies; go google for it), and in the artricle the scienbtists admitted that the new "species" was able to reproduce with the old species and havce fertile off-spring; therefore, they admitted, it was NOT a true new speices.

a new species is a group of individuals with unique genes who can reproduce fertile off-spring.

for example. horses and donkey's can have offspring but noit fertile offspring. therefore horses and donkeys are separate species and their offspring is NOT a species.

(2) most people BELIEVE in Darwin as a simple act of faith; they can neither explain his theories, nor claim to have read his works.

they accept it as an article of FAITH.

yet they criticize people who have faith in a Creator/ID, etc.

this is simply HYPOCRISY.

evolution works one way: by effecting the differential of reproductive success.

i repeat the challenge: show me an example of true speciation. and explain how it occurred.

or admit that speciation is merely an article of faith of the godless who imagine they are purely rational but who are "faithfu;" people, too.

aside: leftism os a religion/cult - with many articles of faith: the marketplace is fundamentally unfair; men and women are equall; there is no such thing as deviancy/normalcy; there is nop objective truth/everything is subjective; "marx was right/socialism works in theory; it just hasn;lt ever been employed properly"; we lost vietnam (rather than admit we surrendered).

i could go on.

each of these are BELIEVED by a group of people in the word - the left - and yet NONE CAN BE PROVED; in fact, they can be proved WRONG.

post-modernism is a falsifiable cult.

speciation is a HYPOTHESIS which is plausible, but not yet PROVEN.

6/15/06, 8:02 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Quite the discussion here.

I can't logically and scientifically prove the existence of God. Still, I am a Christian.

I can, however, on the basis of the evidence prove the threat which Islam poses to Western civilization and, hence, to freedom. I want that freedom preserved so that those of faith and non-faith can be free to believe as they choose.

6/15/06, 8:05 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I concur with Jason when he writes “I make no apologies for aligning with Christians…to fight Islam...I’ll state my differences…if it logically comes up…but I’ll save my breath to deal with more urgent affairs.”

So, I would avoid theological discussions on this Blog, except insofar as they pertain to the mission of “Liberty And Culture” such as addressing the weakening of civilization by cultural disintegration. Yet now, on the other side of my mouth, I wish to comment on how people can more fruitfully discuss fundamental concepts.
*When it comes to the subject of ‘proof’ it can be necessary to define the term*, such as whether we are addressing pure logic, scientific demonstration, court of law, or confident plausibility, etc. For example, the existence of unicorns is highly implausible, in terms of the origin of the concept, the genetic family of horses, aerodynamics, etc. In this sense it is proven that they do not exist, rather than being an arbitrary opinion. Note that in a court of law, if one’s alibi were that he was flying on a unicorn at the time, he would be judged guilty. That however is not a purely logical refutation of the proposition that unicorns exist. Similarly, negative statements are proven daily, such as ‘Shakespeare is not alive’, since nobody can live that long.

This also holds for the issue of speciation. The formation of a new species has not been demonstrated, nor shown to derive from the Darwinian principles of random variation & natural selection. On the other hand, if certain species existed in 2 million BC, while additional species existed in 1 million BC, that proves speciation, for it is highly plausible that they arose out of the pre-existent species. Similarly, both plants and animals arose out of non-living matter (regardless of whether this was a result of deterministic processes or intelligent design).

So has it been proven that the sun will rise tomorrow? It has, in terms of reason and evidence, but not as a logical necessity. To reiterate, it comes down to what one means by ‘proof’.

Regarding the existence of God, Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote that one cannot derive His existence from any premises, for then His being could not be on a level that is existentially higher than those premises. Here, Heschel denies proof on the basis of premises, or scientific evidence, but elsewhere affirms it on the basis of what he calls ‘the sense of the ineffable’. Analogously, Lao-Tzu affirms the existence of the Tao, on the basis of what cannot be expressed in words (although ‘Tao’ and ‘God’ are not synonymous).

Again, I am not entering the fray of the theological, metaphysical, or existential arena, for they do not appear pertinent to the mission of Liberty And Culture. Rather I asseverate that if one avers that something has or has not been proven, it would be helpful to characterize what he means by ‘proof’.

6/15/06, 11:02 AM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Weingarten is right. If a person said, in a court of law, that they were flying a unicorn, they would not be believed. That's a very good point.

Likewise, if a person said in a court of law that they did something because God told them to do it, they wouldn't be believed.

That is at it should be.

If a person said, however, that they did a thing because the Bible says it is right to do so, their opinion would be respected. Likewise, if they did a thing because the scriptures of any of the major religions said it is right to do so, their opinion would be respected.

Their act would not be respected, if it were contrary to law, but their expressed reason for doing what they did would be taken into consideration, because we as a society respect religion.

In fact, of course, we swear on the "Holy Bible" before giving testimony in a court of law.

Why do we afford so much respect to religion in our society?

The answer is, among other things, because some of the greatest minds our society has ever produced believed in God.

A person who believes that anyone who believes in God is an idiot, is a bigot. Such a person is equal to a racist, in my mind.

And, finally, I want to note that larger, more powerful minds than the one possessed by Gordon Davis, have been believers in God. Somehow, the intelligence of these people did not cause them to veer recklessly of the road of logic, as has happened so tragically with Gordon Davis.

6/15/06, 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

On the subject of religion--and specifically related to the question of whether contemporary "liberalism" is a religion (i.e., based on dogma rather than reason), one should note the thesis of conservative scholar Eric Voegelin that the modern Left is an offshoot of the Gnostic heresy. I don't know enough about it to advocate the Voegelin thesis; but the irony of it--that "liberals" attack the Christian Right for mixing religion and politics when they are in effect a Christian Left (albeit a heretical one) tickles me no end.

6/15/06, 3:49 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

I'm still skeptical of the premise that atheists exist. How does someone who claims to be an atheist go about proving this claim to others? Just by saying so?

6/15/06, 11:29 PM  
Blogger leelion said...

mr. beamish, you may have missed this story but last week a nasty crowd of 10,000 rioting atheists stormed the offices of a Danish newspaper on reports that 12 sheets of blank paper were found on a cartoonist's desk.

6/16/06, 3:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how one can claim that modern worship of materialism is the sole vice of either the left or the right ; it seems to me like it is abundant on both sides, from the old school, country club Republicans, to statist Hollywood millionaires. To say nothing of all those Christianists who seem to find ways to use their faith as a means of attaining a higher materialistic status, whether it's through finding justification in the teachings of Jesus that validates a cushier existence in the physical world, or by using the network of their churches as a way to advance their careers. And that also goes for those "new age" spiritualists who ask some nebulous spirit guide to get them a lexus or a higher paying job, for example.

6/16/06, 2:05 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Anonymous said...

"...theoretically, speciation seems possible, but logically it seems IMPOSSIBLE: at some point an offspring muist become a diferent species than its parents; this seems impossible."

I think a little mingling among the population geneticists would be fun for Anonymous.

For example, it was a single mutation that transformed the surface of the brain from a smooth one, with less surface area for cognitive processes to take place, to a convoluted one, with a markedly increased surface area for cognitive processes to take place.

In the old days (we're talking about the REALLY old days!), kinships stuck together, and a lot of inbreeding took place. This allowed a phenomenon called "genetic drift," where even a recessive trait could eventually become the predominant (not necessarily the dominant) trait in a population. Driving off the young males to seek their own fortunes is insufficient to keep this process from occurring, since the females go back and forth from their birth groups to the groups headed up by their cousins or half-brothers etc, and the inbreeding continues.

It takes only about 2000 years for a brand new mutation such as the one responsible for the convoluted brain to become "fixed" in the population. All this can begin with a single individual who may be the only person on the planet with that gene.

"hte knee-jerk answer is mutation, but for the mutant off-spring to become a spdies the mutation would have to (a) have beneficial effect on the differential of reporductive success; and (b) be present in EXACTLT the same way - at the same location, genetically speaking - in another offspring of the opposite gender who is also the same age and in the same locus as the first mutant --- otherwise they could reproduce."

There are all sorts of mutations, from one end of the "utility" spectrum to the other.

At the "lethal" end of the spectrum you find, for example, a "gene for non-implantation," where the fertilized ovum can't implant in the lining of the uterus. Another is a gene that fails to allow the initiation of birth. Both of these are "killer genes."

Then you move slowly up the spectrum to genes with progressively less and less lethal effects, until you reach the "optional" zone.

This is where all kinds of mutations exist that neither benefit nor harm the reproductive competence of their possessors. For the species as a whole, however, they are incredibly important, as they serve as a sort of "storehouse" for genetic variation

When the environment changes, the chances increase that somewhere in the group, there will be some individuals whose genes are up to the task of surviving the change, and they will go on to reproduce the particular gene set that enabled this to take place.

Then you keep moving along the spectrum until you get to mutations that benefit individuals in the current set of circumstances (there is no guarantee that they will be beneficial if conditions change again). The gene permitting a convoluted brain surface qualifies, as does yet another gene that permits more neuronal "support cells" (glial cells) and/or more efficient glial cells.

These were among the advantages that Einstein's brain had, even though his brain was slightly below average in overall size. His particular genes allowed him to use what he had a whole lot better than most of us can.

Another, very recent discovery was made in a simple lab mouse. As you may know, these little creatures are often injected with cancer cells, whereupon the get cancer and various treatments are tried. One mouse, Number 6, never got cancer, no matter how often or what kind they injected into him. It turned out that he had a mutation that made one of the componants of his immune system able to absolutely kill, over and over, any cancer cell that appeared. As luck would have it, even though he bred with females who did not possess this gene, 40% of his offspring have it. It's a very exciting discovery for the scientists. And it serves to illustrate another instance of a single mutation in a single individual passing that mutation along in significant numbers to his descendants.

Probably the best example of the usefulness of the "optional zone" genes for humans happened in the neighborhood of 71,000 to 76,000 years ago. The earth was well populated by modern humans then, as well as by other human species. The estimate for the total human population on the planet at that time numbered in the millions, with many modern humans as part of the mix (you may hear an estimate of "several thousand" made on a recent BBC Discovery Channel program, but this was an error by the script writer).

As you might well imagine, genetic diversity was HUGE at the time. But then Toba, a so-called "super volcano" in Sumatra, blew its top, and boy oh boy, did the environment change!

We nearly lost it as a species; our total numbers went from several million humans (and hundreds of thousands or so modern humans) down to a total of about 2000 to 5000. That was all that was left after the air cleared. All of the survivors were closely related, possibly just a few kinships.

The sudden reduction in genetic diversity is called a "genetic bottleneck" by geneticists and population biologists. The numbers of modern humans were so few, and the rate of inbreeding so high, that most human genetic diversity was wiped out.

The reason?

Its no state secret that only the people whose gene complement, for whatever reason, allowed them to survive this particular set of conditions were the only ones left to reproduce. All the others disappeared.

When the population began to increase again, and migrations around the planet began again, everyone on the planet was the descendant of those few individuals who survived Toba.

But conditions were good, and so the opportunities for the survival of a brand new collection of "optional" mutations began anew.

Today, minor "optional" genetic variation has once again reasserted itself. Some of us are blond, or have brown eyes, or have Type B blood, or have curly hair, or have a high surface-to-volume ratio to disperse heat readily, or low surface-to-volume ratio that retains heat efficiently, or brown skin, or body hair, etc. etc.

And of course, we can't forget the unfavorable genes, which have also reasserted themselves. And a few favorable genes, too.

Since there are a couple of natural phenomena waiting in the wings that could "change our conditions" very substantially, it's a good thing we have had the time to accumulate such a large collection of "optional" genes.

One of the phenomena is another super volcano, Yellowstone National Park. It's cycle of eruptions has been about once every 600,000 years, and it's been about 640,000 since the last one.

Another is an asteroid nick-named "Apophis" by NASA scientists (they are SG-1 fans), scheduled to do a close fly-by (22,000 miles, closer than our geosynchronous satellites) in 2029, which will all but certainly miss the earth, and another one, seven orbits around the sun later, in 2036, which the scientists cannot assure us will not impact the earth.

Let's hear it for the "optional genes"!

6/16/06, 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Beamish: I don't personally know any aetheists who feel they have to "prove" their belief to anyone. Just as a Christian or Muslim can't prove the existence of God by any other means than saying, "Because I believe he wrote this book." In all cases, it's a matter of faith.

6/16/06, 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Vlad said...

Coulter has a right to say any damn thing she pleases. When the 911 widows use their status to support certain political views, their comments are fair game. But what's distasteful about Coulter is the motivation she attaches to the widows BEFORE they became political players. To imply that they somehow welcomed the death of their spouses as a means of personal advancement is not only in poor taste, but it is wildly speculative. Most liberals believe she should not have a forum in which to speak; I say she simply has to be called on her pandering viciousness.

But of course, to folks like bilwick, this is all just fun and games and justified on the basis that it vexes his own demons. But if someone on the left wants to call Bush a pea-brained moron or Cheney an evil dupe of his corporate masters, this is just more irrational liberal demonization and the equivalent of calling them poo-poo heads.

6/16/06, 2:41 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

"Anonymous,"

I don't personally know any aetheists who feel they have to "prove" their belief to anyone. Just as a Christian or Muslim can't prove the existence of God by any other means than saying, "Because I believe he wrote this book." In all cases, it's a matter of faith.

It's worse than that. A Christian or a Muslim has various characteristic behaviors that readily identify them as members of their respective religions. A Christian can easily prove that he's a Christian. A Muslim can reasily prove that he's a Muslim.

Can an alleged atheist prove that he's an atheist?

How? And how would this alleged atheist distinguish himself from theists who are merely irreligious people? Or agnostics?

6/16/06, 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Beamish:

Still trying to understand your point here. What does it matter? I guess you can argue a devout Muslim or Jew MIGHT wear some sort of traditional garb and you can say "Ah, I know what he is." If I run into you on the street, how do I know you are a Christian? How is it you know what anyone is except by what they declare themselves to be? "Hello, I'm Joe, a Christian." "Hello. I'm Frank, an aetheist?" Then if Joe asks Frank if he believes there's nothing behind the universe, and Frank answers, "No I believe in a higher power," he's not an aetheist. Are we all supposed to walk around with signs identifying our beliefs?
"Devout Christian," "Allah is Great,""Raised Christian but no longer believe," "Think the universe is a barren wasteland with no purpose" etc. Why should aethesists--who arrive at their beliefs by an intellectual process-- be more required to justify their beliefs than anyone who claims to blindly adhere to what, on the surface, sound like children's fairy tale stories? Again, I'm sorry but I don't get your point.

6/16/06, 3:54 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I think I agree with the brilliant insight of Pastorius who proclaimed “Weingarten is right.” Perhaps however, we could afford some Christian charity to our fellow sinner Gordan Davis.

Bilwick considers that “the modern Left is an offshoot of the Gnostic heresy.” Perhaps there is a simpler interpretation. Whereas justice may be characterized by “as ye sow, so shall ye reap” the modern Left reverses this to punish the deserving, and to reward the undeserving. Thus it takes the religious notion of charity (or altruism) to such an extreme, that it undermines justice.

6/16/06, 5:39 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Anonymous,

You can't prove that you don't believe in God, only that you don't agree with arguments for belief in God. You literally believe nothing exists that makes a theist's argument valid.

But if there were no theists, would all that remained be atheists?

How?

6/17/06, 1:34 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks, Cubed, for a brief and insightful summary. It’s not often you get a factual response from someone actually educated in a biological field.

6/17/06, 7:59 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

For a theist, what is more interesting is: what God should I believe in and what does he say? If you believe in God do you follow the teachings of Jesus or Mohammad?

How do you decide? You can’t say “the religion tells me” because they both recommend themselves and you have to decide before hand which one is right. Very few people pick a religion because of its creation story. Usually, it is the appeal of the ethical worldview (or they are just passive and let someone else pick their religion for them) or political circumstances (Islamic conquests.) However, in America you can choose; and many people switch religions or leave religion altogether.

Thus, you have to know right from wrong before you decide which religion is just and respectable. This suggests that ethics can be known without religion and indeed it must if you are going to be able to avoid being trapped into a nefarious religion or denomination. You don’t just follow Jim Jones to Guyana … you use your own mind and decide this guy is pure evil. You don’t just join the jihad … you use your own mind and decide this path is barbaric. But that means you need a standard to judge—an ethical standard.

Most people, above, debate as if there is only one theory of God and the question is accept God or seek ethical knowledge elsewhere. However, given Islam, (let alone the vast variations among Christians) one can’t just say “I believe in God” and therefore I know right from wrong. Religions contradict each other. You have to have knowledge of ethics, justice and civility before you can judge a religion.

I think this is why some conservatives can’t be critical of Islam. They have to believe God wouldn’t allow a bad religion to develop and if you believe in God, he’ll lead you straight. These extreme ecumenical types have a problem: reality. But believers in Christianity have a problem, too: how do you argue that your path is best? If it is purely based on faith you are at the mercy of chance as to whether you accept Christianity, Islam, or no religion. That’s a disturbing notion is it not?

6/17/06, 8:14 AM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Beam,

"Can an alleged atheist prove that he's an atheist?"

Love ya, Beam, but why does it matter?

It matters to folks interested in philosophy because they are curious about things like metaphysics and epistemology. They are NOT motivated by a desire to "convert" others to their viewpoint; they do, however, insist on not being punished for their own.

Ever since the dawn of Christianity, philosophy has been "rolled into" religion, which then acted as its major vehicle. During the classical Greek and Roman eras, philosophy was a "stand-alone" discipline, and not strongly associated with religion.

The importance of this is that ethics, one of the five major branches of philosophy, was the most strongly emphasized by religion. And that was very smart.

It was smart because there is not a human being on the face of the earth who can function in the absence of a moral code, whether it is explicit or not. And moral codes are derived from - you guessed it - ethics.

It is as painful for people to feel immoral as it is for them to suffer physically. We often go to great lengths to avoid the pain of feeling immoral - we deny, we justify, we project blame, etc.

You have probably noticed that the Muslims are particularly good at these techniques. A lot of them "feel" bad, but refuse to look at their own ethics (or any of the rest of their fuzzy philosophy) to see if that might have something to do with it.

But back to the subject at hand: If we consider our moral code, our ethics, as being derived from the divine, then to reject the divine is considered the same as rejecting morality.

In fact, many theists often think that atheists are "immoral."

Atheists have a moral code,it's just that we derive it not from the divine, but from the reality we observe around us. We who see "life as appropriate to human beings" as our "standard of the good" say that thoughts and behaviors supporting life are "good," while thoughts and behaviors threatening life are "bad."

That's one reason we don't like Islam; it has a different moral code from ours, based on a different "standard of the good." Islam holds "the spread of Islam," not "human life," as their "standard of the good." Therefore, for Muslims, everything up to and including murder and mayhem, provided it is done in the service of the spread of Islam, is "good." Any practice which gets in the way of the spread of Islam, like, say, the recognition of human rights, is "bad."

That's why a terrorist can, for example, kill over 300 school children and think he's done something good. He can look at himself in the mirror after an act like that and smile.

Most atheists, unlike agnostics, are not "fence-sitters" with respect to the existence of the divine, and while we would enjoy an atmosphere where reason, and not faith, were universally accepted as the basis for acquiring knowledge, it's not something that armies of us will march out to force upon others.

The communists supported atheism NOT because they thought that reason was a valid means of acquiring knowledge, but because they feared that religion might successfully compete with the state, the government, for the affection and loyalty of the population. They wanted the people to look to the government as their all-powerful caretaker, and to rely on it as and the sole source of their well-being. If they could nurture this sort of dependence and wean them off religion, they figured it would be easier to control them. Totalitarians don't like competition.

So they did not want the people to turn to anything except the state for any comfort, even at the level of their emotions. For that reason, they attempted to stamp out religion by force, by using guns and jail time for the "offense" of believing.

That was just wrong.

Somewhere around 10% of Americans are said to be atheists. Many of us are, as some critics like to call us, "Randians" or "Randbots," etc. Our objective (no pun intended) is not to "convert" everyone to atheism, but to keep the government, with all its delegated access to force, off ALL of our backs, whether we are believers or not.

This - a "laissez-faire" approach to belief - was the original intent of the Framers of the Constitution (I'm working on a piece about that for a future posting at our new site), and let me tell you, people like Jefferson and other Framers were viciously smeared in a way that would make politicians today sit up and take notes.

Why was this? It is nicely summed up in his attitude which was illustrated in this statement: "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Will atheism ever be the norm?

Almost surely not, if E.O. Wilson, the "father" of sociobiology, is right. Wilson, an atheist himself, and some neurologists make a pretty darned good case for the "hardwiring" of the human brain (or at least most brains) for a predisposition to believe in the existence of something outside of existence, a "higher power," something "out there."

Some propose that this predisposition serves as a means of countering the effect of our awareness of death, and the terrifying prospect of dying, of "ceasing to exist" as they used to say on Star Trek. All religions include some sort of concept of an "afterlife," even the pagan religions (although theirs was a gloomy sort of existence).

My guess is that these - morality and the afterlife - are the two important reasons theists have for being nervous about atheism.

But I repeat: "Why does it matter?"

The only way it could ever really matter would be if one or the other of us forced the other to his will.

Let's hear it for the First Amendment!

6/17/06, 11:59 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Cubed,

I'm just stirring the pot. I'm basically trying to illustrate that an alleged atheist REQUIRES the counterpoints of theistic definitions of "god" to deny belief in. Atheism would lose its meaning without them.

Just as an illustration, what would be the atheistic argument against the existence of a real mountain in Australia that is worshipped as a god by aborigine tribes?

(For the record, I've been an atheist before, so I bear no ill-will to my former colleagues)

6/17/06, 4:52 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason, in speaking about religion, raises the apt question of method, asking “How do you decide?”

This is not only pertinent to whether one chooses between Jesus or Mohammed, but with regard to any religious, agnostic, or atheist position. I submit that *it can only be the individual, who makes the decision, that determines what it will be*. It cannot be made by another, or by anything else, for he is the only one who can so conclude. Even if God said to him “Here I am” the individual could choose to acknowledge or reject what he heard. Were he to let another pick a religion for him, he would nonetheless, have been the one to choose whom to do the picking.

That being the case, on what basis can an individual decide? Let us consider that people have three components, the body, mind, and spirit. By the ‘body’ I refer to what is noted by the senses, where just as an animal sees or hears, so does a person. By the ‘mind’ I refer to what is concluded by reason, where one thinks that certain propositions do or do not make sense. By the ‘spirit’ I refer to what one senses is of greatest importance to himself. This may be viewed as poetry, where someone can pledge his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor.

Now I recognize that: some view only the body (or the senses) as the measure of existence; others see no difference between the mind and the spirit; and still others have a different means of categorization entirely. At another point, if anyone is interested, I would be pleased to explain why I chose the above categorization. However, for now, I am simply trying to present my approach regarding how to decide.

When someone addresses what is of ultimate importance, he considers many things that he knows, many things that he values, and many things that he is unable to express. Perhaps some people do not have any ultimate desideratum, or cannot decide upon any central essence. However, I am confining my attention to the individual who has concluded what it is that is of ultimate significance.

Now I am perfectly willing to start with the brilliant proposition that “Weingarten is right”. Yet, believe it or not, I have sometimes been wrong, and am probably wrong now, so that cannot be my ultimate desideratum. When my view is wrong, by evidence, reason, or history, etc., I must acknowledge something higher, such as truth, justice, or natural law, that trumps what I believe. Thus, my ultimate desideratum transcends my judgment (even though I can only decide upon it by my judgment).

When someone decides upon an ultimate meaning or being, that corresponds to his desideratum, this need not pertain to any religious or non-religious essence. For Ayn Rand, it appears that she viewed objective reality as constituting what she had to pay (not pray) homage to. Conversely, the religionist, or Taoist, finds as most inspiring, something that goes beyond reality altogether. *Yet all of these find something that unifies, not only their life, but that of others, and of all existence.*

This raises as many questions as it answers. One is that different individuals can find different ultimates, so that there might not need to be a comprehensive ultimate for all. However, most individuals believe that there is a single ultimate, which will in time prove itself to be. Another is that when one finds a transcendent ultimate, it might unify his being by etiological means. Thus, believing in a voice that he hears could bring his life together, but it might be illusory, rather than real. This raises another issue, namely how to differentiate between an etiological and a real state.

In sum, I have asserted (without proof) that certain individuals have a spiritual (or poetic) sense by which they can decide what is of ultimate significance. It unifies their being, but could be transcendent or immanent. Whether it is a construct, or a real entity, is another matter, although most hold that in time, something will be found that unifies man’s existence across the board.

To return to Jason, one must know from within himself what is right, before he can decide upon religion. So he needs a standard (which could be ethical, or trans-ethical). However, a religionist (by believing in free will) can believe that God would allow a bad religion to develop, which includes not only the descendants of Ishmael, but the Tower of Babble, Noah’s flood, the Golden Calf, false messiahs, anti-Popes, fascism, communism, liberalism, etc.

I agree with Jason that believers have a problem, in how to determine that their path is best. Generally speaking, people fight to justify what they believe, rather than to find where they went wrong. However, Christians (and Jews) could have a corrective by their notion of original sin, whereby man decries his certitude, and seeks atonement. Here, they and all of us, know deep down, that it is better to find out what is really true, than to attempt to prove what we already believe.

Finally, let me restate, that I have tried to not debate religion or theology itself, but rather to address the method for doing so. Hopefully, religionists and atheists can agree that we possess a sense of sincerity, whereby we wish to be open to what is better than our current selves, rather than to try to justify what we already believe.

6/17/06, 5:55 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
Religions contradict each other. You have to have knowledge of ethics, justice and civility before you can judge a religion.

I think this is why some conservatives can’t be critical of Islam. They have to believe God wouldn’t allow a bad religion to develop and if you believe in God, he’ll lead you straight.


Preface: I'm speaking as a Christian here....

The religion of the ancient Canaanites was full of barbarity, including the sacrifices of children to the fire god. For me, obviously God did allow the Canaanites to develop a bad religion. Judeo-Christians would term it a false religion, of course.

Discussion of man's sinful nature isn't much in fashion these days. However, man can justify his own lust for power as a religion, which then isn't a religion at all except in the larger sense of the word's definition.

Also, one doesn't have to believe in a particular religion in order to support and follow that religion's moral code. Which comes first? The religion or the culture? Does it matter?

God wouldn’t allow a bad religion to develop

Is that straight out of a course in comparative religions?

I know that the discussion here is more complicated than what my comment addresses. I guess that I tend to look at the results of a particular religion or ideology more than at the underlying doctrines or philosophy. But that's just me.

Long live the freedom which allows us to have discussions like this one! Even if I don't follow every line of reasoning.

6/17/06, 9:42 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

God wouldn’t allow a bad religion to develop

By what ethical standard is a religion being judged as good or bad?

Why would it be good for God to select against the development of bad religions?

6/18/06, 2:58 AM  
Blogger leelion said...

I believe in the great fluffy bunny rabbit that created life, the universe and everything.

Who dares deny his existence?

Speak now or forever hold your peace.

6/18/06, 6:30 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

By what ethical standard is a religion being judged as good or bad?

If we use religion as a standard, all religions judge themselves to be good. If we use a secular standard of human life and well being, some religions are indeed horrendously oppressive and inimical to life.

Why would it be good for God to select against the development of bad religions?

I’m not saying He does. I’m speculating that some conservatives can’t see a major long-standing religion as bad. I suspect they worry it will open the door to an examination of the differences of each religion and threaten societal stability.

Of course, there’s no reason one can’t part ways on those aspects of religion that are purely personal--requirements for salvation, for example. Some believe you have to accept Jesus for salvation and some religions don’t. People may understandably share their enthusiasm but if anyone wants to opt out of a discussion on such a personal matter we rightly respect their wishes.

But when the religion has a political agenda, it has to be critically assessed and discussed as any secular political movement. Today, that is Islam. It’s being a religion is secondary to its being a political ideology.

6/18/06, 8:38 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
I’m speculating that some conservatives can’t see a major long-standing religion as bad.

I think you'r right there.

I suspect they worry it will open the door to an examination of the differences of each religion and threaten societal stability.

Possibly, though I don't personally know anyone who admits to feeling that way. I myself don't feel that way.

when the religion has a political agenda, it has to be critically assessed and discussed as any secular political movement. Today, that is Islam. It’s being a religion is secondary to its being a political ideology.

Hear, hear! Supremely important sentences there!

6/18/06, 5:27 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

AOW, that's the important point.

But I'd like to hear why some are so over-considerate and over-generous when it comes to understanding Islam. Some are ignorant but of those who have looked into the religious ideology, some still can't believe their eyes or make excuses. I'd like to know what people are finding in their experience from their location from around the country when it comes to the denial of the Islamic threat.

6/18/06, 5:40 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Jason,

I'd like to know what people are finding in their experience from their location from around the country when it comes to the denial of the Islamic threat.

There are lots of people in my state with family members deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, all with the attendant second-hand impressions from their relatives' experiences.

Of course we have our own set of eternally drooling leftist morons who believe another round of singing kumbayah will make Islamic terrorism go away, but if you get away from the cities and towards people who work for a living and own property, you run into another set of people entirely.

Most of these are upset that pilgrimages to Mecca don't require radiation suits.

6/19/06, 4:29 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Jason,

I'd like to know what people are finding in their experience from their location from around the country when it comes to the denial of the Islamic threat.

There are lots of people in my state with family members deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, all with the attendant second-hand impressions from their relatives' experiences.

Of course we have our own set of eternally drooling leftist morons who believe another round of singing kumbayah will make Islamic terrorism go away, but if you get away from the cities and towards people who work for a living and own property, you run into another set of people entirely.

Most of these are upset that pilgrimages to Mecca don't require radiation suits.

6/19/06, 4:29 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason asks "By what ethical standard is a religion being judged as good or bad?" I had written that *an individual must employ his spiritual sense (or ultimate desideratum) to judge religion and ethics itself*. Thus, one can neither judge religion by religion, or by metaphysics, or by any tangible standard (although that is part of what one incorporates). *It must come down to what an individual knows is most important to himself.*

Of course, with regard to the political dimension, religious positions must be judged by the same evolved criteria as that for all political policies. Here, there are ethical and philosophical standards, such as the inalienable rights of the individual.

Jason says "I'd like to hear why some are so over-considerate and over-generous when it comes to understanding Islam." Actually, the question is broader than Islam, for most in the West have been over-generous, when it came to fascism, communism, socialism, anti-Americanism, etc. Let us note that *positions stem from beliefs, and that the fundamental Western belief is Social Democracy*, where all people are the same, and good, and in need of receiving benefits.

It is then anathema to say that any people, nation, or religion, is evil. Although it is contradictory, Social Democrats at the same time find that those who wish to defend against evil (which cannot exist, and must not be fought), are themselves evil, and must be fought.

Consequently, those who said that communism was an evil empire, are themselves evil, and must be opposed. Similarly, Bush, who speaks of defending against terrorism (although he does not seriously act that way) is an evildoer who must be fought.

Yet Social Democracy is not constant, but devolves into denying that there is any danger (except from those who claim there is danger). So to the left and the liberals, we can get along with Islam, for the Arabs and Muslims are just like us. But we cannot permit any defense against aggression, for that would be admitting that Social Democracy is in error.

6/19/06, 10:23 AM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Wiengarten,

"Perhaps we could afford some Christian charity for our fellow sinner, Gordon Davis."

I don't think I insulted him, but I know he insulted me, and anyone who believes in God.

However, ok, I apologize if my defense of my position got out of hand.

6/19/06, 6:10 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Good show, Pastorius!

6/20/06, 8:57 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Weingarten,
I don't understand. What do you mean?

6/21/06, 12:24 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Pastorius, I was complimenting you for your willingness to be more charitable. "Good show" is an English phrase, which I thought most people understood, for example in the way it was used in the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai."

I find that people rarely acknowledge even the hint of criticism, so that when someone does, it is worth complimenting. I apologize for being unclear.

6/21/06, 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Bilwicl said...

"Vexes my demons"? Vlad, I am impaled! And I hope when Mr. Weingarten wrote "Bilwick considers that the Modern Left is an offshoot of the Gnostic heresy" that he is using the term "considers" in the sense of "contemplates" and not "believes." The Gnostic-heresy theory is Voegelin's, not mine. I don't know what to make of it. Back when his massive multi-volume "Order and History" magnum opus was the real hot item among conservatives--in other words, back when I considered myself a conservative--I started to read him but found it tough sledding. Maybe not enough fun and games. (And remember, vlad, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.) However, when I was in YAF, I used to wear a "Don't let THEM Immmanentize the Eschaton" button. It used to vaguely annoy the campus Left, which was pretty much all I wanted to do anyway. It's always fun to vex the demons. Now that I'm of a more scholarly temperment (though you wouldn't know it from my posts) I may devote part of my twilight years to tackling "Order and History" once more. Given that Voegelin (am I even spelling his name right?) was a hero to the "trads" (traditionalist conservatives) I suspect he would include my own classical (i.e., anti-statist) liberalism a Gnostic offshoot, too. From what little I've read of the Gnostics in recent years they weren't total bad guys, either.

6/21/06, 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

For you true Coulter haters, Andrew Sullivan's blog has a link to a test you might enjoy. It's a list of quotes denouncing liberals, and you have to choose whether the quote comes from Adolph Hitler or Ann Coulter. I suppose the test is designed to make Coulter look similar to Hitler. Have fun--although it should be pointed out that when Hitler was denouncing liberals and liberalism he was almost certainly (I would have to see the entire context to know for sure) would have been denouncing classical, anti-statist liberalism, which he loathed for the same reasons power-seekers invariably hate classical, anti-statist liberalism. My understanding is that even today, in Europe, the term "liberalism" retains its original political meaning, which is roughly equivalent to what in the US is called "libertarianism." To the extent that Coulter's conservatism is mainstream American "fusionist" conservatiism--that is with a strong strain of libertarianism--Hitler, were he speaking today, would be denouncing Coulter, who whatever her flaws is certainly closer to the classical-liberal outlook than her statist opponents.

I have had similar fun with leftwingers who like to denounce "fascism." I've showed them a series of quotes, all of which could have spoken by almost any mainstream American psuedo-liberal government-groupies. That is, all the quotes reflected love of the State, worship of the collective, and distrust if not outright hate for individuals seeking freedom. The quotes were all from the writings and speeches of Mussolini.

6/22/06, 3:30 PM  

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