29 November 2006

The Case for Faith (1)

A reply to Sam Harris’s “A Dissent: The Case Against Faith”

[Headnote: This posting is a reply to this piece in Newsweek, 13 November 2006, by Sam Harris. I’d meant to do this sooner, but I’ve been busy.]

When someone attempts to criticize (note that I did not say critique) the Christian worldview by referring to “scientific insights” which supposedly defeat any Christian claim inarguably, as Harris does, I am prepared not to take him seriously. This notion of “scientific insights” is the product of a view of reality—a view which, as a Christian theist, I do not hold—which is itself being critiqued by the so-called postmoderns. It is a view of reality which is presupposed, not proven—or even provable.

Ask yourself how “scientific insights” ought to be received if the following assertions hold (see Betty Jean Craige, Reconnection: Dualism to Holism in Literary Study; location unknown: these are from my reading notes and I neglected to note the page number):

1. Things and events do not have intrinsic meaning. There is no inherent objectivity, only continuous interpretation of the world.
2. Continuous examination of the world requires a contextual examination of things. The persons doing the examining are part of that context.
3. Language (including, as far as I’m concerned, “scientific” language) is not neutral but is relative and value-laden. It is the medium through which we do our thinking.
4. Language and discourse (even “scientific” language and discourse, on my view) convey ideology, and a society’s intellectual discourse rests on political values and effects society in political ways.

The implications of postmodernism for scientific thought are unpleasant, to say the least. For one thing, the knower has no access to reality; all he has is language, interpretation. Sadly, the postmodern critique, if true, means that language does not ‘label’ real categories of meaning, categories which exist independently of language. The knower, in our case the scientist, ‘creates’ the universe he studies by creating the categories which he subsequently ‘labels’.

Behind the “scientific insights” to which Harris alludes is a decision, a pre-logical decision. And it is this: that for all practical purposes (to give the formulation its softer form) God does not exist. The decision is a decision made at the outset to know in accordance with epistemic norms (i.e., rules of inductive inference) which begin by denying the very things which Harris believes the application of these norms have falsified!

Then there’s David Hume. He’s important to the discussion because much of scientific thought and discourse employs causal inference reasoning. A certain event E1 precedes a subsequent event E2. We observe that for as long as the two events have been observed E1 always (or at least more often than not) precedes E2: it has rarely, if ever, been observed that E1 occurs without E2 occurring afterward; and E2 is rarely, if ever, observed but that E1 occurs prior to the observation of E2.

While this sort of thinking does seem to make sense, Hume wants us to slow down and really think about it.

“When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able…to discover any…necessary connexion…which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other. We only find, that the one does…follow the other. The impulse of one billiard-ball is attended with motion in the second. This is the whole that appears to the…senses. The mind feels no sentiment of inward impression from this succession of objects: Consequently, there is not, in any single, particular instance of cause and effect, any thing which can suggest [a]…necessary connexion” (An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, sec. 7, para. 7, emphasis mine).

When you translate that into everyday language what Hume is saying is that although you see E1 precede E2 every time you observe the two, what you don’t see is that “quality” (or thing) which “binds” E1 and E2 together in such a way that E1 can be known to be the cause of E2.

If you are thinking something like, “Well it just makes sense to conceive of the whole matter in this way,” then you are doing just what the postmodernist says you are doing: creating categories of meaning, in this case, ‘causality’. You are creating the universe you study because you don’t really know that there really is such a thing or quality as ‘causality’.

Of course, you could say, “Well, it can’t just be a coincidence that E1 always precedes E2.” Perhaps you are right, but the postmodernist will have the same response: you are creating categories of meaning. Besides, you don’t really know that the two can’t be coincidental. (Well, you can on a Judeo-Christian view of the world, but since Harris denies that view it doesn’t really matter.)

But even if we just wanted to dismiss the postmodern critique as easily as Harris wishes to dismiss the Christian worldview, there is another matter. Science is supposed to be an empirical matter, free (or so we are told) of philosophical (and hence unprovable) speculation. The whole notion of causality is a philosophical notion, not a scientific one; causality certainly is not a matter of empirical observation. You may infer that E1 causes E2, but only if ‘causality’ exists. And whether ‘causality’ exists is not a scientific question. (You see? Philosophy really does precede science!) And, in a nice bit of irony, since ‘causality’ is not empirically subject either to falsification or probabilification, it is a matter of faith.

It’s almost humorous to see the same people who demand empirical probabilification for everything, take on faith the very notion (i.e., ‘causality’) that makes possible this probabilification. Let’s say, just for purposes of argument, that there is no ‘causality’. These “scientific insights” that Harris speaks of are no insights at all. They simply comprise portions of a non-theistic myth.

There is a range of philosophical matters behind the “scientific insights”; and they make science problematical. Harris ignores them; or he doesn’t know about them. Given that he studied philosophy as an undergrad, at Stanford no less, I doubt that he doesn’t know about them. So he ignores them.

This is relevant to his overall criticism of religious belief. As he writes in the seventh, and final, paragraph of his article: “Religion is the one area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give good evidence and valid arguments in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet these beliefs regularly determine what they live for, what they will die for and—all too often—what they will kill for.”

With this posting as a sort of background, I’ll deal with this issue of evidence and argument presently.
27 November 2006
To listen to the news before the elections you wouldn’t know this:

"The perception that there is a long list of unimplemented 9/11 recommendations is simply not accurate." -- Brian Jenkins, terrorism analyst with the RAND Corp. research firm.

Rush was right, so to speak. He said the news about reality before the elections would change after the elections.
22 November 2006
Mike Rosen has available on his web page the audio to a parody of the old Sinatra song, “Stangers in the Night.” The parody is called “Strangers on My Flight.” It’s hilarious. You can listen or download it here.
21 November 2006
I'm listening to the news on the radio. Charlie Rangle criticizes the Administration for not encouraging enlistment on the basis of patriotism, but rather on the basis of enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses.

Is he for real?

Could you imagine what would be the result if the Administration made an appeal for military service on the basis of patriotism? Why they’d be criticized for saying that people who don’t enlist are not patriotic! It would sound like this: “First they told us that disagreement with them was unpatriotic. Now they tell us that not volunteering to die in Bush’s illegal war for oil is unpatriotic!”

I wish Democrats would stop trying to pretend that there is a way for this Adminsitration to win with them. There isn't.

20 November 2006
This is why those of us who take the military seriously think that your average Democrat has no business shaping military policy.

Charles Rangle wants to reinstate the draft. Why? Because of the small size of the military (due, let’s recall, to the ‘RIF’ perpetrate during the adminstration of the current President’s predecessor)? No.

Normally, a nation wants a fighting force that can win wars. Rangle, and others like him (who will control both houses of Congress beginning next year), want a military that more accurately represents America, demographically.

That’s nice. When that military gets defeated (as it just might, given that victory is clearly not a major concern here), most of us will be despondent over the loss. Rangle and others will be congratulating themselves, saying, “Sure they got their asses whooped. But ours is the most demographically representative of any nation in history. We can be proud of that.”

Rangle says he wants to reinstate the draft as a way to avoid war: “There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel said.

But, being a politician, Rangle kept talking and ultimately (and inevitably) contradicted his own reasoning. (That reasoning, bear in mind, was that the draft would deter us from wars like the one we are presently fighting.) “I don’t see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft,” said Rangel, who you may recall also proposed a draft in January 2003, before we invaded Iraq. “I think to do so is hypocritical.”

First, the draft would have prevented our entering the war which Rangle opposes. Now, if you support the war which Rangle opposes you should support the draft.

I think it would be easier to listen to a lecture on the ultimate expression of silence than to understand Rangle's logic there. (Or, as my daughter would say, What the crap?) But I digress.

I’m one of the 7 in 10 Americans who oppose the draft. And I do so as one who volunteered. Frankly, I’m more than a little miffed that recruiters aren’t turning away more ‘cruits than they’re signing up. But that’s a different matter.

Let me illustrate my position this way. You’re a rich guy with a wife and a couple of teenage daughters for whom you wish to hire bodyguards. Are you selective at all? Or will any Tom, Rick, or Harry just off the street do as long as he can fight and handle a fire arm?

Of course, the logically astute will say, “But James that argument only works if you regard your country the same way that a man might regard his wife or daughters.”

I reply: That’s right. And although I am by no means rich I regard my wife pretty highly; and she would be happy to tell you about the near fist-fight I got into at a supermarket several years ago just because some jackass spoke unkindly to her. And my daughter’s fiancee can tell you how highly I regard my daughter.

I don’t want the random buck-seeking thug off the street safeguarding the women of my house. And I don’t want non-committal draftees safeguarding our country.

17 November 2006

When worldviews collide

This is rich. The Dutch have recently passed a law prohibiting the wearing of burqas in public. Dutch Muslim groups are complaining that a burqa ban would make the country's 1 million Muslims feel “victimized and alienated.”

I have not yet had the pleasure of traveling to a country in which Muslims dominate, but I strongly suspect that Muslims in those countries don’t give much thought to whether non-Muslims feel “victimized and alienated.”

Converting to Islam is not punishable by death in the Netherlands, as converting to Christianity is in some Muslim countries.

I’m a fairly nice guy, I think. I try to sympathize as much as I can. But Christians around the world, mostly in Muslim countries, live in fear of their lives because they are Christians. I have difficulty summoning up compassion for “victimized and alienated” burqa-less women in Holland.

More important than my feelings, however, is the truth. And the truth is that Dutch Muslims live in a secular nation and adhere to a (non-secular) worldview which does indeed make them aliens and strangers. Secularism and Islam are discrete worldviews, having greatly differing ultimate authorities, epistemologically and ethically, even metaphysically. It would be no exaggeration to say that Muslims and Secularists live in different universes.

Muslims live in a universe created by Allah. Their ultimate epistemological norm is the Quran, from which they also derive their ultimate ethical norms.

Secularists live in a universe which just happens to exist. They claim reason as their ultimate epistemological norm, but since the decision to do so is pre-logical their desires, whatever they may be, are their epistemological norms. This is true also with respect to ethics.

The two can get along well if they try hard enough. But in the end in some conflicts one of them will win and one of them will lose.
16 November 2006

If only my local teachers' unions would do this...

Wow!!! Here is something you hear about just every day:

“Harley-Davidson's union workers approved contract concessions, including cuts in pay and health benefits, that the motorcycle manufacturer said it needed to undertake a $120 million plant expansion project in Milwaukee.”

And this despite the fact that the company chalked up 2005 earnings of just under $1 billion.

Although the concessions grated on workers The local union president, Jim Wheiland, explains the reasoning:

"It burns us a lot to take concessions at a time like this," he told reporters. "We took the emotions out and we looked at the realities, and the realities were that a new plant (elsewhere) would have hurt us worse than taking these concessions."

If only more employees would look at realities, especially when it comes to the minimum wage. But I won’t
go back there again—for a while anyway.

Missing from this story, and sadly, was whether any executives took any cuts in salary, bonuses, or health benefits.
15 November 2006
I was listening to Laura Ingraham earlier this morning, criticizing Charles Rangle. Rangle was, apparently, on some news program, telling his interviewer that (regarding Iraq) Americans don’t want either to cut and run from Iraq or to stay the course. No, what we want, according to Rangle, is peace.

Laura responds: No, what we want is victory. And she asks why it’s so difficult for Democrats to understand that. Well, I just happen to have an idea.

These people are of the same sort as those who believe there should be no ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ in athletics; no scores should be kept. You know the sort I’m talking about.

‘Victory’, in Iraq or anywhere else for that matter, means that someone has ‘won’ and someone ‘else’ has lost. (For reasons I don’t have time to exlain, it’s difficult for Marxists, who believe in ‘classless societies’, to accept the proposition that there can legitimately be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.) We can’t have that. We cannot be permitted to win, for that would mean someone has lost. But peace, on the other hand, means no ‘winners’ or ‘losers’; it means there’s no conflict or contest in the first place, none worth ‘winning’ anyway.

Of course, when you think about it (which is manifestly what this sort does not do, preferring to emote instead) you can see a bit of a flaw here. Those who think that there ought not to be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ are party to a disagreement (the other party being those who, like myself, think there ought to be), a disagreement which they obviously want to, well, win. Right?

No ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ unless they are the ‘winners’ and their opponents the ‘losers’. And the biggest losers?

The people of Iraq, I believe.
14 November 2006

Let the soaking begin!!!

It’s good when a political opponent gives you keen insight into his thinking, or rather the lack thereof. Mike Rosen played a message yesterday (1st hour) that a Democrat voter left on his voice mail. In the course of his message the caller said he was looking forward to seeing Mike and all his rich friends pay what they “truly do deserve to pay, having the right to live in a country that provides you such wealth.”

You see it, don’t you? The country provides the rich with their wealth. The people who happen to be blessed enough to have earned enough to qualify for the upper echelons of the tax schedule, don’t work for their wealth. The people who “deserve to pay” deserve to pay because they must give back some portion of what the country has “provided” them.

Think of what it means to be “provided” or to have something “provided” to you. When you were a child, you parents “provided” and you did nothing for what they provided. If you are now an adult with children, you “provide” for your children; and your children do nothing for what you provide. In both cases the recipient (i.e., the child) is utterly passive in relation to the provision.

On this caller’s view, my money is simply “provided”. I don’t have it because I work 50 hours per week for an employer who pays me. And my employer doesn’t have the money to pay me because he sells a product which someone needs or wants. No, my employer, as it turns out, has the money to pay me simply because our country has “provided” him with it. There he sits on his behind while the money, some of which he turns round and "provides" me, just rolls in from the country’s coffers!

The sort of thinking that could actually lead to such a conclusion would defy logical analysis. But then, leftists don't really think their way through problems; they prefer to emote their way. And when you insist on thinking rather than emoting they respond by crtiticizing you for reducing human being to numbers.

Not only that. But isn’t this caller really saying, in a way, that we must pay for our rights? The rich, he says, deserve to pay more in taxes for the right to live in a country that provides them the wealth out of which those taxes are paid.

So, the non-rich get their rights for free, and the rich (however that term is defined) pay for theirs.
10 November 2006

Hitchens on the Saddam verdict

No the other Hitchens:

“What a silly mess the tough liberals have got themselves into over Saddam Hussein. Their left-wing war against Iraq (and I don't see how else you can describe this idealist expedition, which wasn't in the interests of Britain or America) now leaves them either having to support the ex-tyrant's execution, or look even sillier than they already do. Mr Blair, of course, cannot look any sillier than he already does on this issue, and should just go away and leave us all alone.”

“Actually, if we were serious about getting rid of tyrants, we would not invade their countries, killing their people and causing chaos to them and to ourselves. We would approach them with offers of immunity from any prosecution, with the freedom to draw from their Swiss bank accounts and live out their days in wealth and comfort. As it is, these silly, hypocritical trials merely persuade the world's large club of despots that the only safe thing to do is cling to power until they die.”

Peter Hitchens, unlike his brother Christopher (who is better known to Americans because he's a citizen of the U.S.), is no fan, to put it mildly, of the war in Iraq. But you can't have everything, not even from people you'd probably like if you knew them personally.
To read this person’s comments (on this post, commenting on this article, written, I'm informed, by 'ignorant' and 'frightened' people), you’d think I was the one who said Europeans know only how to enjoy freedom, but not fight for it.

Okay, so I said Europe is a continent of Paris Hiltons. But now that I'm thinking about it, maybe they're not so much like Paris Hilton. I'll give that bimbo this: She probably wouldn't say she'd prefer to be raped than hurt in trying to struggle against it. I could be wrong, of course, but for now I have difficulty seeing her allowing herself to be raped.

Anything's possible, though.
09 November 2006

War is problem-solving

Listening to Laura Ingraham and Brit Hume. Hume says that when he interviewed Nancy Pelosi recently she said that Iraq was not a war to be won, but a problem to be solved. Like any other typical bloviating politician she probably thinks she has said something profound by making war and problem-solving somehow antithetical to each other. She does so, of course, by over-looking the fact that sometimes war is problem-solving. (Reminds me of a great line from the movie, Blackhawk Down: In Mogadishu, killing is negotiation.)

The Romans solved a great deal of problems by utterly defeating the Carthaginians. About 225 years ago a bunch of "farmers with pitch-forks" defeated the British Empire, solving a whole host of problems (listed for posterity on a piece of paper called The Declaration of Independence, perhaps you've heard of it). About 84 years after that the decendants of those pitch-fork bearing farmers concluded a 'civil' war which resulted in freedom for slaves and solved a certain legal-philosophical problem related to the concept of federalism. About 61 years ago one coalition of nations, called the "Allies", defeated another coalition of nations, called the "Axis" and thereby (arguably) saved at least Europe from darkness.

That's just a short list of the sorts of problems that war can and has solved. Much could be written, but this is a blog, not a book.

Besides, even if we wanted to accept the proposition that Iraq is a 'problem' to be 'solved', I think we have also to accept that spewing forth, "Iraq is a problem to be solved" doesn't tell us anything about the problem. It would be more correct to say something like, "Something about Iraq is a problem."

But what is that problem? It used to be that a terrorist supporting dictator ruled there. Now he doesn't. Now a democratic government is struggling for survival with help from a coalition of which the United States are a part. The problem now seems to be that the sort of people against whom a war was declared (i.e., terrorists) have decided that Iraq is the central focus of their terrorist attention. They seem to have decided that getting the coalition to leave Iraq will be just as much a victory (if not, perhaps, greater) as any other victory terrorists have gained against us, you know, like the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole (12 October 2000), the U.S. Embassy bombings (7 August 1998), Khobar Towers (25 June 1996), the World Trade Center bombing (26 February 1993), the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (21 December 1988), the 5 April 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin (This was long a personal 'favorite' of mine since it was two days before my 21st birthday, I was stationed in Germany at the time, and planning a trip to Berlin and, given my habits at the time, might have ended up partying there had the place not been bombed.), Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon (23 October 1983), the U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon (18 April 1983).

Hmmmmm. How best to solve that problem?
08 November 2006

Wow. You really showed 'em

I've been listening to Michael Medved. Several callers have explained that for various offices they wrote themselves in on the ballot. Well, they didn't want to vote Democratic, after all. And who could blame them. But they wanted to teach Republicans a lesson.

That's nice. Now we can kiss goodbye any opportunity for getting at least just one more 'constitutionalist' (a.k.a. 'originalist') jurist on the Supreme Court. So we can look forward to being brought into submission to even more European laws--and any other laws which Liberal jurists wish to subject us to. We can kiss goodbye the continuance of the economy-stimulating tax rate cuts. We'll probabably also say goodbye to the 'Patriot Act'. (On one hand, 'Patriot' was a silly name, right up there with 'freedom fries.') We'll get another attempt (maybe even successful this time) at socialized healthcare. And that is just the beginning of the spending they will push for. And what's ironic about that is that people largely responsible for the Democrat win are angry at the increased government spending wrought by Republicans. What do they do to top that? Kill their mothers so that their fathers can't cheat on them?

Spank the whole nation, including some who have yet to be born, or immigrate here to get back at a relative handful of people. Hmmmm. Not much different than terrorist logic, when you think about it!

I hope the lesson was worth what we'll more than likely end up paying for it!

This looks like a good place for a line from "A Few Good Men": All you did today was weaken a country.

Of course, as Hugh Hewitt explains, the fact that anyone even wanted to teach anyone a lesson is in the end the fault of several key Republicans, at least one of whom did not get the spanking he deserved. Arizonans must have decided that the worst Republican (this guy writing here) beats the best Democrat. I'd have done the same. I guess. Maybe.
According to Limbaugh the news from all over is suddenly going to start getting positive. For example, when fuel prices start increasing we'll be told how that is actually a good thing, for purposes of conservation.

Meanwhile, Dennis Prager has John Fund on why the Republicans lost. One main reason: Republicans paid mere lip service to things that their base care about. Then there's the increases in spending, illegal immigration. It's still difficult to see how handing things over to Democrats will resolve those issues. And, as Prager points out, this doesn't explain Santorum's loss.
Rush Limbaugh agrees with Michelle Malkin that although the Republican Party lost yesterday, conservatism did not.

Rush also thinks that there's no point in assigning blame.

I, however, will go continue to let the voters 'blame' themselves.

Home of the men without chests?

"We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful." -- C. S. Lewis, from The Abolition of Man

Well, I did wake up this morning rather inclined to blame the Maligning Stream Media for successfully turning the nation once again away from a war we were winning, but upon reflection I have to agree with this from The Pink Flamingo Bar:

"No Madrid Bombing but we still voted in those who promised talk to terrorists instead of taking action against terrorists. Shall we attempt to blame the politicians who admittedly botched much in the last two years or shall we blame the American people? We got the Government we deserved as a people, we blinked in the face of terror. Excuses that the Main Stream Media misled us do not impress because it is possible to bypass the MSM if you care enough to know. You can get the information to make informed decisions about politicians if you have the stomach to face the facts as they stand. But for many those facts are too bleak, and instead of facing them, we as a people have decided to believe that reality only exists if we admit to it" (emphasis mine).

We are worse cowards than the Spaniards we chided. Fox News Radio Reports that this election was decided by 'independents' who believe that the 'war' in Iraq has not made us safe. And the empirical evidence which supports them? Why it must be all those terrorist attacks which have been occuring here for the past three years.

The Spaniards may have been cowards (and I was one who suggested that they were, I admit). But we're something worse: we don't even need to be attacked in order to be convinced that we're less safe. Even my English degree fails me in finding the appropriate adjective. Maybe that's because 'coward' was too strong a word to use in reference to Spain. We don't even have the courage to face facts, much less terrorists.

Attention citizens of Spain: I apologize for calling you 'cowards.' As it turns out, the cowards seem to live on this side of the Atlantic. As evidenced by the fact that they don't even have to be attacked before they puss out. The descendants of those who took on and defeated empires cannot stand fast in the face of men who hide behind women and children. Hell, the word coward no longer seems appropriate to use in reference to a terrorist. For when an American sees a terrorist hiding behind women and children he says, "Run away! Run away!" Lo siento.

Home of the brave? No. The home is now over-run by the spineless; the brave are stuck down in the cellar, with all the other things we no longer value. Soon enough, all those people leaving Europe because they want to be free may have no place to go.
07 November 2006
If you are, as I am, (a) a Christian (and for my purposes on this blog, any denomination will do, provided it falls within ‘the pale of Christian orthodoxy’) and (b) concerned about the state of marriage among Christians, it may have occurred to you (if you’ve given the matter any thought at all) that the reason Christian marriages fail just as badly and in almost the same numbers is that the relationship get off to a false start.

In short, the purposes behind the relationships are just as selfish among Christians as they are among non-Christians. Here are two articles dealing with the subject, both with very provocative titles: “
Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend” and “What’s wrong with a test-drive?”.

The beauty of these two articles is that they apply Christian world-view thinking to an area which, unlike others (e.g., philosophy, science and faith, politics, etc) get very little philosophical attention. Of course, these articles also start with the assumption that having girlfriends (or boyfriends, as the case may be) is even consistent with that Christian world-view in the first place. Some people are sceptical.

Oh well. You can’t have everything.

Macht (I’ve been remiss in visiting).
I'm old enough to remember this too. And it makes me sick. Thank you, Democrats for giving this man hope.

H/T: Dennis Prager.
In more important news here are 8 ways to keep a hyperactive mind on task – in case you need them.

Okay. Back to work.
I know it's election day, but in other truly important news it seems that circumcision cuts STD risk. Let me just take time out here to say, "Thanks, mom. I needed that."

Of course, that doesn't really help women, though.

Let me think. What would Rush Limbaugh say about this? Probably something like, "Circumcision cuts STD risk. Women and minorities hardest hit."
06 November 2006

Ted Haggard and Giovanni Battista

News about Ted Haggard still manages to make the front page in my local paper. I suppose, given where I live, some bit of local news should make the front page. And Ted Haggard is local news.

I spend a great deal of my time thinking about psychology, which, as a Christian, I consider to be still a branch of philosophy and not a natural science. But I digress.

Haggard has admitted that homosexuality is something he has struggled against all his life. This made my wife wonder why he even bothered going into the ministry. I told her it’s what I call the ‘Nostromo Syndrome’ an idea I got from the Joseph Conrad novel, Nostromo.

The novel is set in the fictional South American country of Costaguana. It is a time of political unrest. In this atmosphere, a man named Charles Gould, who who controls a silver mine and is trying to save it from the corrupt government, becomes obsessed with saving the silver from the mine and employs two men, Decoud and Monygham, to aid him. They turn to Giovanni Battista Fidanza (a.k.a., “Nostromo”), a popular hero, who sails with Decoud to hide the treasure. But disaster strikes and they collide with an enemy boat. They arrive on an island and Decoud remains behind to protect the silver while Nostromo leaves to continue his mission. However, Decoud goes insane alone on the island and shoots himself before drowning, tied to some of the silver. When Battista returns there is of course some silver missing. Battista’s reputation as an honest man (not necessarily well deserved, by the way) is at stake. If he returns the silver minus even one bar he will lose his reputation; for it will be thought that he stole the portion that is missing. So he decides to grow wealthy slowly, which he does, maintaining his reputation in the process. In short, Battista “becomes” dishonest in order to keep his reputation as an honest man.

Ted Haggard’s ministry began small enough, in his basement. As can happen, certain talents which he may never really have credited, got him propelled along on a path which he may never have chosen for himself. Over time he acquired, whether legitimately or not, a certain reputation, even a certain amount of prestige and position. Some time along the way he should really have put up his hand and said, “Enough.” But to do so would require some explanation, to someone. A man of his (arguable) ability doesn’t just say no to a ‘promotion.’ He must explain himself. Certainly, he can cite ‘family reasons.’ But that would mean explaining, even if to no one else, to his family (at least only his wife) why he’s refusing. Think of it. By this point in time (i.e., prior to three years ago) he is who he is known to be and so far everything’s fine. Somehow, by God’s grace, he’s managed to keep himself under control. Tell his wife that he can not go further along because he stuggles with homosexuality or whatever? Unthinkable. Better to go along, keep things under control and wait for the day when it’s all over and he can rest. (That is, rest from the energy-consuming struggle to keep under control burdens which no one else could help him carry because he foolishly kept the struggle to himself.) I would guess that Haggard was relatively successful in the early days at keeping himself in line.

But ‘keeping oneself in line’ requires a great deal of mental energy. And every promotion he accepted only deprived him of energy which he desperately needed to spend keeping himself ‘in line’. Paradoxically, Ted Haggard may never have slipped up if that church he founded had not got much further than out of his basement. Also paradoxically, had he told his wife before he married her that he struggled with a form of sexual temptation that most males don’t, he might still have done well. His problem is that over time he found himself keeping the wrong secret; and he became a dishonest man by trying to maintain a reputation which, at least in his case, he initially deserved.

It’s something like the ‘
Peter Principle’: Ted Haggard simply rose to the level of his incompetence (i.e., his competence both to minister and to control himself).

None of that, of course, means that Haggard isn't responsible. And it sounds, from what I hear him saying, that he knows that.
Just so you know, eight of the nine justices, in the Hamdi decision affirmed the principle that habeas corpus rights of a citizen of the United States can not be revoked. You wouldn't know that by listening to people such as the one I just mentioned, below.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhh!!! I just heard it again!!!

I'm listening to Dennis Prager. A caller has just whined about our loss of habeas corpus rights and reminded us all that this is a right we have enjoyed since the days of Magna Charta!!!

I remember learning about Magna Charta in the 5th grade (i.e., the 1975-76 school year). Are the rest of these people just learning it?

I'm starting to wonder if these callers even know what Magna Charta was, or if they just heard some one else say something about "this right that goes all the way back to the glory days of Magna Charta."

Next thing you know, someone will come out with a beer called Magna Charta and the slogan will be, "Magna Charta: Don't let anyone take it from you" or some such nonsense.

A Continent of Paris Hiltons

Over the weekend my wife and I were discussing European attitudes toward Americans. (We have a friend who works in Salamanca, Spain.)

Anyway, still having this article and this post in mind, in the course of the conversation I dropped this pearl o’ wisdom on my wife:

“Freedom is an inheritance more valuable than money. And western europeans are a bunch of Paris Hiltons. They know how to spend it, but they have no idea how to acquire it, or keep it.”

I have to find a way to fit that into my little ‘handbook’ on diplomacy.
03 November 2006
I might have to change my template again. Some say it's more difficult to read. Maybe I'll just increase the font size for now and see if that helps.

More interestingly the Master Gunner has had to do some smack-down. Near as I can tell it couldn't have happened to a nice guy. Sometimes bad things happen to bad people.
Some people around the world think our president is a bigger threat to world peace than North Korea’s communist dictator.

So what?
We’ve already covered what sort people we’re talking about.

He paid male prostitute for sex. Therefore, what?

Last night the Letterman Show was interrupted by the local CBS affiliate with what they called ‘breaking news.’ Ted Haggard, former President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had admitted that certain allegations made by Mike Jones were true.

Wow. Not that I mind seeing Letterman interrupted. But wow.

The allegations, as is now well-known, were made by Jones because, he says, he needed to expose the hypocrisy involved in Haggard’s sexually deviant behavior and his opposition to same sex marriage. It sounds good, I suppose, admirable even. Do the honorable thing: expose hypocrisy.

According to the
Denver Post, these allegations could shape the votes on Amendment 43. Jones says he hopes they will.

They probably will. But they shouldn’t, not logically. (And, of course, that’s the problem: logic. Not a whole lot of it goes around under the best of circumstances; and it’s the first thing to go during election season.) But, really, logically the ‘hypocisy’ question should have no bearing.

For one thing, I don’t see the hypocrisy. Haggard paid for ‘gay’ sex, therefore he ought not be opposed to same sex marriage? Assuming the worst (i.e., that Haggard is either gay or a MSM) it just doesn’t follow that he must be in favor of same sex marriage. As sexual libertines keep informing us: sex has nothing to do with marriage. Or is it the other way around? I can’t recall. I no longer have any statistics at my fingertips, but not all gays believe in marriage. Many heterosexuals don’t either. I once didn’t. Many think that other sex marriage is freedom-inhibiting, unnecessary, anachronistic even.

But even if there were some hypocrisy involved here, I don’t see how that should change anyone’s vote. Are people in Colorado supposed to change their view on same sex marriage? “Oh,” someone is supposed to say, “Ted Haggard, who was my reason for opposing same sex marriage, is a hypocrit. Therefore, since he really ought to be in favor of same sex marriage, and I’m in favor of whatever he is in favor of (and opposed to whatever he’s opposed to) I will now vote in favor of same sex marriage.” Or something to that effect, I guess. Thus we are treated to another tacit assertion that people on the ‘religious’ Right just follow their ‘leaders’ around blindly and mindlessly. (I know quite a few religous leaders. It does not look to me like their people just follow them around! Quite the contrary, in fact.)

This ‘scandal’ raises in my mind a different sort of question, especially as a Catholic friendly Reformed Protestant. Whenever there is some scandal involving a Roman Catholic priest and a young male, someone (including unbelievers, Protestants and even a few Roman Catholics) inevitably blames the rule of clerical celibacy. If those priests weren’t required to live such sexually unhealthy lives, the argument goes, they wouldn’t be abusing young boys.

Ted Haggard was under no obligation to live a celibate life. If the allegations are true, that didn’t help him.

This ‘scandal’ also raises another question for me, as a Christian thinker—a question about Chrisitian ethics and morality. (For me, the ethical person knows what is right, but may not do it, ever; the moral person knows what is right and does it, usually, though not always.) The question is this: Ought Christians to ‘change their story’ about ethics (especially sexual ethics) and morality, since so many of their leaders can’t live up to the standard?

In a word, No. Christian ethics is not about what Christians do, or are able to do. Christian ethics is about what God has said is right or wrong. Christianity is what it is; and so, therefore, is Chrisitan ethics. We can do very little about it. And neither are we prevented asserting the standard as the standard just because we fail to achieve the standard. Indeed, there would be very little, if any, talk of failing to meet a standard if there were not a standard to try to meet!

If we would give up the standard, then we must give up the Christian faith itself. The reason for this is that our failure to meet the standard is what tells that we need, and can never stop needing, precisely that which Christianity offers. And the chief offer of Christianity is not a standard of ethics. Pick any system of ethics that you want. Christianity will still assert that you need what is offered, because regardless the ethical system you choose you will at some point fail to meet that standard.

I am not surprised to find that Ted Haggard needs precisely what he preaches about most. And what he preaches about most is not Amendment 43 (despite the media talk). What Ted Haggard preaches about most is what the Church (by which term I mean ‘the entire body of practising Christians’) has always preached: Jesus Christ.

In the interests of full disclosure: Ted Haggard is not my pastor; he isn't even a member of my denomination. And I am not a fan of his--not that any Christian ought to be a 'fan' of any pastoral office-holder.

UPDATE: Just heard on Dennis Prager's that Jones failed a polygraph test.
02 November 2006

You'd think something like this could make a front page somewhere

Leave it to the uneducated dolts in our nation’s military to give a lesson in how not to ‘botch’ an attempt at humor.

I don't care who you are, that’s funny!!!

The Queen of All Evil

I know: I should probably be doing a bit more 'scholarly' stuff, but I'm having way too much fun. Besides, I need to enjoy this side of the mood-swing spectrum while it lasts. Most likely want to die tomorrow.
01 November 2006

Oh, it was a joke! I get it.

The aforementioned insult to members of the military wasn’t. It was really a “botched joke” referring to the President. That’s what John Kerry is saying, in addition to saying that he’s being ‘swiftboated’ again, and that Republicans are afraid to stand up to a real veteran (meaning, of course, John Kerry, who many people don’t know served briefly in Vietnam). Effing Whiner.

You see he left out the word ‘us.’ The last phrase of the supposed insult (i.e., “…you get stuck in Iraq”) was really to have been “…you get us stuck in Iraq.”

On one hand, this is probably the best attempt at a save he could try to pull off. I mean, most people remember (from the 2004 presidential campaign) just how well—to put it honestly, if not bluntly—he just down right SUCKS(!!!) at jokes. Now, either John Kerry has no idea just how well he SUCKS(!!!) at being funny, in which case he’s not as bright as he wants us to believe he is, or he knows exactly how well he SUCKS(!!!) at being funny and tried it anyway, in which case he’s not as bright as he wants us to believe he is. There is, of course, another alternative: John Kerry meant exactly what we think he meant, in which case he’s not as bright as he wants us to think he is.

But does the botched joke baloney really, uh, cut the mustard? If it really was an attempt at a joke then John Kerry really is as stupid as he thinks we are. Let’s say that he really was talking about the President. Kerry asserts two general alternatives: (1) get an education and do well, and (2) get [us] stuck in Iraq. This means that you do one or the other, but not both. According to the logic that Kerry himself sets up here the President didn’t get an education; he just got us stuck in Iraq. But in humor, there has to be some truth involved in a joke. And the truth is that the President and John Kerry both went to Yale, and the the President’s grades were a little better than John Kerry’ were. So the President (giving John Kerry the benefit of the doubt) has done both of the two alternatives Kerry set up.

Kerry’s stupidity? He set up what is called a false dilemma. So, if it was a joke he botched it in two ways: he left out the “…got us stuck…” and he set up a false dilemma.

Here’s a dilemma: (1) either John Effing Kerry is both a liar and not very bright; or (2) John Effing Kerry is either a liar or not very bright.

But he marries well.

Like I told
The Master Gunner (see the comments): I’d rather be stuck in Iraq with the TankerBrothers than in the United States Senate with John Effing Kerry.

Now that’s funny.

One more thing: We are supposed to give John Kerry the benefit of the doubt. I have a two-word response to that joke of an idea, two proper nouns actually: Trent Lott. Let’s give John Kerry the same benefit of doubt that was given to Trent Lott.

(Heard this on Laura Ingraham’s show this morning. A caller says: If John Kerry thinks that the American military are intellectually challenged, then he is perfectly qualified to lead them. To tell you the truth, even if I were to stipulate to Kerry's assertions about the military, I would still insist that he's not qualified to lead them.)

Editorial Post Script: The references to 'John Effing Kerry' come from Senator Kerry himself during the '04 campaign. However, it occurs to me that for obvious (I hope) reasons I should probably stop doing that. So I will. This supposed to be a family oriented blog after all.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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