What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

« October 2007 | Main | September 2014 »

November 2007 Archives

November 1, 2007

Why you shouldn't send your child to live on-campus at a secular university: Reason #2,387

You may have seen it elsewhere in the blogosphere, but the legal advocacy group FIRE is warning the University of Delaware about its creepy leftish re-education camps, aka, dormitories.

Actually, the news of the University of Delaware's program doesn't come as too much of a surprise to me. Word has been leaking out for some years now that various state universities are using the residence hall "campus experience" as an opportunity for indoctrination, though by my recollection the other cases I've heard of have involved RA's who stood to lose their jobs if they didn't toe the line in various indoctrination sessions of their own. But that fact itself betokened attempts to brainwash students who were not RA's. This program is the most explicit I've heard of, though, almost a parody of itself. If you wrote it up as satire, no one would believe you. The two chief items of religious education, not surprisingly, are "oppression" and environmentalism. I won't steal FIRE's thunder. You can see the examples for yourself. FIRE has saved all the pdf's, which looks like it's a good thing, as a commentator on LGF says the University of Delaware is taking down the copies on its own web site.

Some classes at secular universities can be fine. But living there is something else, again.

Update: Wow, that was fast! University of Delaware has backed down and formally discontinued the program. Via LGF. Hey, it's a step in the right direction!

November 3, 2007

Social Conservatives Concede The Game, But Think They Are Winning

In the comments thread of my post on fusionisms and the pointlessness of same, Cyrus requested
elaboration upon my concluding estimate of much of the social conservative movement:


At the meta-level, this is one reason why the social conservatives are not only dupes and suckers, often enough, but almost destined to witness the defeat of their ostensibly highest aspirations: their functional non-negotiables accept all the premises of their substantive adversaries. They have conceded 90% of the debate already.

I'll admit that when I wrote the foregoing, I had in mind a variety of things, which is perhaps not optimal if one is striving for clarity; but that cluster of thoughts is united by the impression that social conservatives, for the most part, are engaged well beyond their depth rating when they turn to electoral politics. The fundamental reason for this, I believe, is that they are often attempting to restrain the inexorable outworking of the liberal idea - a laudable goal - while accepting, sometimes tacitly, sometimes openly, some of the foundational assumptions of that liberal idea. They generally espouse what can be described as a liberal creed, something evidenced by the pervasiveness of rights-discourses and a sort of individualism, among other things - albeit one given a vaguely rightist construction. In consequence, even social conservatives have a tendency, in their arguments, apologetics, and polemics, to subordinate the determinate relations within communities and families to an ahistorical, abstract, and yes, somewhat ideological morality. It is not that they seek to subvert these things, only that, often enough, their expressed moral theory is pursued to its conclusions as though the specific obligations attendant upon certain relationships and statuses were irrelevant to those conclusions. Moreover, it is important to note that this omission does not necessarily result in the conclusions being altogether erroneous, only that they are fragmentary, and thus, misleading.

Continue reading "Social Conservatives Concede The Game, But Think They Are Winning" »

Wow... Just Extraordinarily Disappointing

Via Rod Dreher, this John Whitehead interview with Frank Schaeffer. The entire interview is well worth reading, though this might not owe to its content so much as its text-for-the-times quality. Interested readers are invited to jump over to the interview, while I'll only offer a few observations here.

First, as one of Dreher's commenters remarks, Schaeffer's treatment of his father is startlingly unfilial. Things of the nature he discusses in his new book - the occasion for the interview - one might discuss with a confessor, confidant, or small circle of friends from whom one has sought counsel and prayer. To discuss them, however, in a book which will be read by tens of thousands, and to drop intimations of them in interviews which will, by the miracle of the internet, receive widespread attention - well, that strikes me as a failure to honour one's parents, and if that means that I've no real use for many memoirs, well, so much the worse for their authors.

There is also a spurious argument against the prohibition of abortion - abortion is a tragedy, and Roe established a terrible precedent, but abortion we have always had with us. Okaaayyy.

There is, additionally, much hand-wringing and finger-pointing over the stance of the Religious Right on homosexuality, some of which is apropos (Homosexuality need not be regarded as a special sin which exceeds in wickedness other, more comfortable sins, such as adultery and easy divorce.), some of which is deeply misguided (Perhaps the advocacy of the Religious Right is rooted in a perception that a defense of the ontology of marriage and sexual distinctions is now logically prior to what we do once we recognize those distinctions, and not in some irrational antipathy, as Schaeffer seems to want to have it. What, after all, is the point of attempting to shore up marriage if the institution no longer carries a public meaning?).

Finally, Schaeffer does recoil from the longing for apocalyptic vengeance that some strands of evangelicalism often manifest, not simply a magnetic attraction to the negative, but a presumptuous longing for judgment.

On the whole, however, I perceive a sort of trainwreck, where those things left unsaid in the memoir and interviews are the true keys to understanding. Something has been left out.

November 5, 2007

Hawkish on sedition

One of the more remarkable ironies of what is infelicitously called the War on Terror is the rigid mental partition we have set up between its foreign policy aspect and its domestic security aspect. The basic way this works is that the domestic aspect is ignored in its specifics, while the foreign policy aspect is exaggerated in generalities. A politician who talks tough on foreign policy, but almost exclusively in the comfortable language of political abstraction, is labeled a Hawk; while a politician (at this point only imaginary) who talks tough about the specific details of the domestic threat, will probably be labeled a bigot.

Now this is all very strange to me. Consider: The only reason the Jihad is a real threat to us is because its agents and propagandists are in our midst. In other words, the Jihad has not the wherewithal (yet) to deliver us blows from without. It must rely on infiltration into, or recruitment in America. That is a fact.

Continue reading "Hawkish on sedition" »

Fred Thompson Comes out of the Closet

As a pro-choicer, that is.

Well, sort of. He still calls himself "pro-life." I don't know how that makes him compare to Rudy Giuliani. Does that make Giuliani more honest, or what?

Some of us have had real questions about Thompson on this score already because of the statements he made in 1994. (Please note that the guy whose blog this is was evidently the founder of the libertarian organization that gave Thompson the interview in 1994 in which he said that "government should stay out of" the abortion decision.)

But anyway, the 1994 remarks are more or less moot now, given this recent interview with Tim Russert. Thompson is unequivocal there that abortion should not be illegal, though he still says definitely that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

He casts the question of legality in typically pro-choice terms: throwing "very young girls, their parents, and their family doctors" in prison. Has the man never heard of Planned Parenthood? Doesn't he know that abortion clinics exist? Does he really believe that pro-lifers want to throw thirteen-year-old girls into prison for obtaining abortions?

And I wouldn't care if a doctor as homey and paternal-looking as C. Everett Koop performed an abortion. An abortionist is an abortionist, whether he is a "family doctor" or not. This is all typical pro-choice claptrap. It is hard to believe that Thompson either believes it himself or thinks he can get away with spouting it and also being considered pro-life. But if Rudy is wooing social conservative voters without calling for the overturn of Roe, merely by mouthing a mantra about judicial appointments, why shouldn't Thompson try to get one up on him, grabbing the "pro-life" label by advocating overturning Roe, while advocating legal abortion?

Sadly enough, we've come far enough down in our political process that that is, pragmatically speaking, a good question.

Sedition And Centralism

Paul makes some good points in his post on sedition, though the abuses of the Palmer raids and the excesses of Wilson's wartime government in particular should be remembered for their overreaching and paranoia. Wilson made a habit of jailing legitimate critics of the war, and fostered an atmosphere in which calls for the arrest of Sen. La Follette, for example, were commonplace.

I would follow up by noting what I think is still a relatively little-known fact: Jefferson objected to the Alien and Sedition Acts in large part on account of their redundancy and encroachment on the rights of the states. State laws c. 1798 already outlawed sedition, and Jefferson framed his protests against the Acts as a defense of state sovereignty. In other words, one of the basic problems Republicans had with the federal legislation on sedition in particular was that it was an act by the federal government in an area where it lacked authority and after the states had already addressed at least part of the problem. It was not ultimately a defense of seditious speech in the name of freedom of speech, but a protest against perceived encroachment by the center against the states. The complaint about the federal legislation fit into Jefferson's general anxiety about Federalist "monocracy" and his pamphleteering and propaganda struggle against what he regarded as Federalist usurpation (mostly related to the fight over the Bank).

One of the reasons for the generally poor memory of Adams' administration over the years is that the Quasi-War has never struck the popular imagination as a particularly serious or important conflict (and it was admittedly a minor, essentially entirely naval war that had limited impact on most citizens), which makes what were effectively wartime measures seem more unnecessary and excessive than they, in fact, were. The Republicans of the period did not distinguish themselves as good judges in their sympathy for the Revolution. It is impossible to separate the reaction of the Adams administration from the episodes involving the breakdown in relations with France and earlier attempts to draw America into the war on France's side that preceded the final rupture. Under the circumstances, and in light of what President Jefferson actually did once he was in power and was enforcing the Embargo Act, we can be fairly impressed by the restraint shown by Adams.

November 6, 2007

Greetings from Waco, Texas

It is truly an honor to be a contributor to What's Wrong With the World. Readers of the blogs Right Reason and Southern Appeal may remember me from those venues, which have since ceased their operations. I hope to post entries on WWTW that are not unlike those I posted on RR and SA.

Thank you, Paul Cella and Todd McKimmey.

And a warm hello to RR's Steve Burton and Lydia McGrew, both of whom are scary smart.

A Note on Radical Life Extension

Peter Suderman, writing at The American Scene, apparently wishes to analogize radical life extension to ordinary health care:


One of the biggest political debates in the country right now is over health care and health insurance. Read books like Jonathan Cohn’s Sick and you’ll be inundated with stories purporting to show situations in which people died for lack of care. The underlying reasoning here — reasoning that I suspect is shared by the majority of the population — is that no one should die when the technology exists to keep them alive. So why does technology-driven radical life extension spook so many people? I’m honestly baffled by this, and have yet to read anything that amounts to much more than someone’s account of having a vague moral instinct that living that long would be a perversion of human existence.

James Poulos, in response - with a clever way of denominating this hypothetical social order, no less - argues that the objections to radical life extension are "that the ‘perversions’ of human existence with which we’ll have to contend are likely less to be perversions of the human experience of being alive per se as perversions of some of the definitional tenets of what our shared humanity entails." Specifically, the ostensible benefits of radical life extension are likely to be unfathomably expensive, which will necessitate

...a transfer of resources away from two kinds of people: (a) some who are already alive and don’t have the potential or wherewithal to buy into the methuselocracy and (b) a possibly very large number of people who will have to not be born.

Essentially,

Human rights will be fundamentally rejiggered in the methuselocracy, for no more grandiose reason than that people who are alive have a selfish interest in generally not dying for as long as their resources and ingenuity permit.

Suderman is quite probably correct that there does exist, in the general population, a sort of 'reasoning' according to which no one should die if the technology to keep them alive is available. However, contra Suderman, this 'reasoning' really ought not be categorized even as a vague moral intuition. As much as he categorizes the opposition to RLE as grounded in vague intuitions, which he clearly intends to dismiss as being sub-rational, the sentiment that he identifies does not rise to the level of a moral intuition, at least not in the sense he requires. The term 'technology' covers a lot of ground in terms of means, and 'keeping them alive' conflates innumerable particular sets of circumstances, when it is not obvious that the same moral obligations attach to all of them.

Continue reading "A Note on Radical Life Extension" »

Welcome to Frank Beckwith

We at What's Wrong with the World are pleased to welcome aboard Frank Beckwith as a contributor.

Frank is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University. His home page is here. Among his many publications, his most recent book is Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice.

Frank has been a blog colleague of mine and Steve Burton's at Right Reason, where we very much enjoyed working with him. Here is his archive page there.

We look forward to having Frank blogging with us.

November 7, 2007

Defining Pro-life

One October 21, op-ed writer for the Waco Tribune-Herald, John Young, published a piece entitled,"In search of `pro-lifers who are really anti-abortion." I published a response in the paper eight days later, "Let us define pro-life for you." I reproduce it here:

In his Oct. 21 column, John Young claims to offer a critique of the pro-life position on abortion. Yet, he never once reveals to us the content of the pro-life position.

What then is the pro-life position? It is the view that the membership of the human community includes prenatal human beings, even if excluding them would benefit those who are more powerful than the prenatal and who believe that the prenatal’s destruction is in their interest.

It is the view that human beings have intrinsic dignity by nature that is not a consequence of their size, level of development, environment or dependency.

Continue reading "Defining Pro-life" »

Kent's "Church"

Where the sacred and profane meet... (HT: Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con)

We've plummeted a long way from The City of God to City Church. St. Jude, pray for us.

November 8, 2007

Non-discrimination goes even more ideological

In a development that for some reason seems to be flying under the radar of the conservative blogosphere, the House of Representatives has passed legislation that would make it a federal crime to discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation.

I can't quite understand why I'm not reading about this in more places. Casting my net more widely than my usual round, I checked Eagle Forum's web site. Nothing. HSLDA, which often does stake out positions on non-home-schooling issues (and has plenty of small Christian entrepreneurs as members). Nothing.

It's very strange. Does everyone else know something I don't know, like that President Bush is going to veto it? (Apparently it did not pass with a veto-proof majority in the House.)

Update: Commentator KW points out to me that HSLDA has indeed reported this, here. I am happy to make the correction.

Giving a whole new meaning to 'negligent'...and 'evil'

Somebody page Humpty Dumpty. Some folks in Washington State think they can make the word 'negligent', in a legal context, mean whatever they want it to mean. These stellar parents sued doctors at the hospital where their baby was born for negligence for continuing resuscitation efforts for an hour when the child was born without a heartbeat...because he survived with disabilities.

It boggles the mind.

A hearty cheer for the Washington State Supreme Court, however. I don't know much about that court, and for all I know it may have handed down lots of other bad decisions, but this time, the court did the right thing and came down on the side of the doctors.

HT Wesley J. Smith at Secondhand Smoke

November 9, 2007

Constitutional Illiteracy, Chapter MMMCXVI

Nat Hentoff on the, ahem, interesting Constitutional doctrine of Michael Mukasey:


In a 2004 article in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Mukasey argued that while the Constitution's first 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights) are noble, if you give constitutional prominence to these rights of individuals against the government, "then citizens will feel much less inclined to sacrifice in behalf of their government." (Sacrifice their individual liberties?) In that same article, he added, as the Bush administration also has with regard to these perilous times, that "at least in the first instance," citizens should give the government "the benefit of the doubt." (The most secretive government in our history?)

Libertarian author James Bovard, in an interview with Charles Goyette, characterizes this doctrine as the view that the secret meaning of the Constitution is that the government receives the benefit of the doubt when it purposes to do something. And while there are interesting legal and philosophical questions implicated in these controversies concerning the balance of powers, as well as the scope of governmental authority in wartime, it should be sufficient to observe that any Constitutional doctrine which posits "giving government the benefit of the doubt" as a balance to "individual rights inclining people against sacrificing on behalf of their government" (as opposed to, say, family, Church, people, community, etc.) is perilous. Though the phrase will undoubtedly have the ring of the antiquated, a government of limited and delegated powers is not one that ordinarily demands sacrifice of its citizens.

November 10, 2007

Against the Environment, For Nature

Georgetown Professor Patrick Deneen, objecting to the term "environment", on the grounds that it establishes an untenable dualism of man and the stuff of the physical world, which is then conceptualized as existing as the raw material of utilitarian pursuits, thereby begetting the political dualism according to which one is either for people or for the planet (or some part of it), writes:


It's worth reflecting on why we have so readily embraced the term "environment" but utterly eschew the word "nature." Nature, of course, is the "normative" term of Aristotelianism: it is a standard and represents a limitation. Humans are creatures of and in nature. We are subject to its laws and to its strictures. Nature is not separate from us; we are natural creatures (special ones - political animals - but animals nonetheless). To employ the word "nature" would mean a fundamental reconceptualization of the relationship of humans to the world with which we live. Rather than either extending human mastery over our "environment" or attempting to stamp out the contagion of humanity, to re-claim the language of nature would require us to change our fundamental conception of a proper way of living well. Living as conscious natural creatures in nature requires the careful negotiation between use and respect, alteration and recognition of limits to manipulation, and thus calls for the virtues of prudence and self-governance. Neither of these virtues are particularly valued in the "environmental" movement, whether that advanced by corporate America in the effort to continue our growth economy of itinerant vandals or the violent anti-humanism of radical environmentalists. Until we reacquaint ourselves with the language, and more importantly, the reality of nature, we will continue in our current condition of human-environmental dualism.

Or, in other words, let's have more Aquinas and less Bacon; more Aristotle and Augustine - even Maximos the Confessor - and less Locke. Let's talk more of the teleologies of persons, places, creatures, and things, and how these interact, and less about our desires and the means by which nature can be compelled and coerced into satisfying them. Man, after all, according to the scriptural telling, was placed in a garden, and instructed to name the creatures - which is to say, called to comprehend their natures and treat them accordingly. That is to say, man was called to cultivate the garden, which entails improving and rendering fit for human habitation, but called to do so as a steward, one who respects and preserves the creaturely integrity of these lesser natures.

All theological language aside, the dichotomy between the virulent misanthropy of some environmentalists and the pave-and-industrialize everything (or at least regard-the-prospect-with-sanguinity) mentality of some conservatives is not merely philosophically dubious, but politically unfeasible, quite apart from the possible (probable) wrongheadedness of certain contemporary environmental policy nostrums. Conservatives could attempt to orient these sensibilities in virtuous directions, or they could yield to inertia, allowing the corporatists and haters of mankind to define the debate.

I'll not be making any wagers. It is not without reason that the conservative persuasion has been deemed the stupid one.

November 11, 2007

My participation in the upcoming ETS (Nov. 14-16) and AAR meetings (Nov. 17-20) in San Diego.

My wife and I will soon be in San Diego attending both the 59th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (Nov. 14-16) and the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (Nov. 17-20). At ETS, on Friday Nov. 16, I will be participating in a panel discussion on my new book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007) (You can download the meeting program here).

But what I won't be doing at the ETS meeting is delivering its presidential address. It will be replaced by several brief talks on the 50th anniversary of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. As many of you know, I resigned as ETS president on May 5, 2007, a week after I had been received into full communion with the Catholic Church, the church in which I had been baptized and confirmed as a youngster. (See here and here). Although my wife and I are more certain than ever that we have indeed arrived at home in the Catholic Church, we dearly love our many friends in the ETS and look forward to our time with them. I have attended, and participated in, every ETS meeting since 1988 (except for 2000 when I was in law school). I have no plans to break that habit. (My successor, Hassell Bullock, the ETS Acting President and President-Elect, was recently interviewed online by Christianity Today, in which he previews the annual meeting).

At AAR, on Saturday Nov. 17, I will participate in the first meeting of the Intra-Christian Conversion Study Group. I will join Paul J. Griffiths and Scott Hahn as we discuss our conversions to Catholicism with respondents Michael McClymond and A. Edward Siecienski.

Some friends have asked me whether I am sad to not be giving the ETS presidential address. It is a good question, and one for which I have an answer: I indeed wish I were giving the presidential address, but I am far from sad. For in order to give the address I would have had to disappoint my nephew (see here) and enter the Catholic Church after November 16. No, I am not sad. I am blessed beyond words. Soli Deo Gloria

November 13, 2007

PC Tyranny: Sticking it to the Little Guy, Again

Your business is directly impacted by whether the bookkeeper you choose to hire is (for example) homosexual, Baptist, vegan, Korean, female, Catholic, or divorced. Employment law may require you to ignore many of these facts and many other true facts about prospective candidates; but nevertheless these attributes have a direct impact not only on the work environment generally, but directly on the profitability of your business.

Everybody knows this, but it is one of those uncomfortable facts that modern PC culture ruthlessly suppresses. If your photocopying business mainly employs avid hunters, and water cooler conversation is likely as not to be about the best way to dress a deer and what marinades work best when grilling venison steak, then chances are that hiring a vegan bookeeper is inter alia going to impact the business negatively versus hiring a meat eater. The work environment will not be as culturally cohesive; job satisfaction will suffer; the bottom line will be negatively impacted. To think otherwise is willful denial of the obvious.

Continue reading "PC Tyranny: Sticking it to the Little Guy, Again" »

What "The Russia Thing" Is All About: The Case of Georgia

With the much ballyhooed "Rose Revolution" of 2003 spluttering onward to its (frankly foreordained) ignominious and inglorious denouement, it might be worthwhile, by means of a little study in contrasts, to examine the bottom line of that Eurasian Hegemony which is the grand object of American foreign policy. To consider, that it is say, the point where the truncheon meets the skull of the dissident.

To foreshorten a long story involving indigenous post-Soviet political corruption, State Department and Soros-funded NGOs, and the pipeline politics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, suffice it to say that November of 2003 witnessed Georgian parliamentary elections, in which the party of then-incumbent president Eduard Shevardnadze initially claimed victory. This result was contested, by means of alternative ballot counts and exit polls, media campaigns, and street demonstrations, by the opposition, unified, per United States direction, around the candidacy of Mikhail Saakashvili - himself an American-trained lawyer. In the intervening four years, Saakashvili has assumed the authoritarian mantle that so disenthralled Georgians and - superficially at least - the United States with this predecessor.

But this is only part of the story. The backstory is much more interesting than even this (at least for those of us with a strange fascination for the politics of the region).

Continue reading "What "The Russia Thing" Is All About: The Case of Georgia" »

The Sand Castles of Liberalism, and What Lies Beyond

The liberal dogma of Zero Group Differences, explained by John Derbyshire in terms of the following experiment -


Experiment Y: Take a largish group—say five thousand—of people at random from any fairly compact, but not too compact, populated region—fifty to a hundred miles across, say—anywhere in the world. Now take a second group of the same size from some other similar region elsewhere. Run both groups through batteries of mental and personality tests.

Which is permitted to yield only the following conclusion -

Experiment Y will, under all circumstances, with all possible combinations of groups, deliver identical statistical profiles on all metrics, with only statistically insignificant variations.

has suffered the utter and absolute collapse of its foundations, and this has occasioned great anxiety, as liberals (and, truth be told, a fair number of conservatives as well) contemplate in fear and trembling the allegedly dire, antisocial, and retrograde consequences of the diffusion of this knowledge. It is curious, though, that this should be the case, given that the same sort of people who will, as good modernists and positivists, insist upon the most rigorous fact-value distinction imaginable, somehow forget that very dualism in this case. But leave that curiousity to the side. It is worth taking a brief and partial inventory of all of the silly and sometimes pernicious things that this liberal orthodoxy underpins: the affirmative action industry, which impacts everything from employment decisions and the fortunes of small businesses to college admissions; the festering culture of grievance, according to which the failure of certain subsets of the population to achieve outcomes comparable to those of other segments proves that the latter are somehow discriminating against and oppressing the former; the risible deconstructions of entire bodies of knowledge, which can no longer be accepted as the common heritage of our civilization, but must be reduced to the invidious products of Evil White Men bent upon domination and subjugation - a preposterous notion which, at its most extreme, characterizes linear, logical thought itself as an instrument of European hegemony; the self-serving agitprop disseminated by our elites, according to which mass immigration of the sort from which we suffer is not a problem, because the new immigrants are just like us in every important respect (except when they're not, as when they are easier to employ, but leave that aside, as well); the fetish for economic globalization, which presupposes that America and Americans are a sort of continental Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average and we can all have mentally stimulating employments designing electronic gadgets that will be produced in Japan and China, and all Americans are overqualified for jobs as menial as, well, making stuff; and, well, you get the idea.

If group differences are real as a matter of statistical averages, then disparate outcomes are more or less entailed, and those of European descent cannot be blamed for this. If so, vast sectors of our contemporary political and economic culture are an absurdist kabuki theatre, a tableau of pretense and, in the case of those, say, denied admission to schools for which they are plainly qualified, injustice. Immigration and globalization become, on various levels, alliances of the elites and the global poor and underclasses against the middle, and the American future begins to assume the sociological shape of Brazil, instead of that of a first-world nation. We can have our literature back. And so on and so forth.

Continue reading "The Sand Castles of Liberalism, and What Lies Beyond" »

If Norman Podhoretz Had Written the Declaration

A thoroughly entertaining neoconservative-themed rewrite of the Declaration of Independence, which, in the judgment of this reader, like all successful humour distills the truth and enables us to laugh at it. Courtesy of Lawrence Auster, with further discussion posted here. Laughing might be preferable to mourning at this point anyway.

My one qualification would be that, apropos of the actual conduct of American foreign policy in certain regions, the abstract nouns 'freedom' and 'democracy' ought to be ironized with quotation marks.

November 14, 2007

NRLC endorses...Fred Thompson?

It's taken me a little while to get around to blogging this myself. By this time it is no longer the hottest news. But I have to admit to being still astonished, still shaking my head.

As far as I know, this is a first: The National Right to Life Committee is officially endorsing a candidate who has recently (as in, last week) said that he doesn't think abortion should be illegal. Let that sink in for a minute.

Continue reading "NRLC endorses...Fred Thompson?" »

November 15, 2007

Noble Lies and the Superman

With respect to the Zero Group Differences mythology discussed in Maximos' post below, a commenter observes:

Essentially, a "noble lie" (Zero Group Differences) has been constructed to counter an ignoble one (ateleological reductionism), in order to prevent the horrific consequences that would follow from people accepting the latter on its own en masse.
The core of advanced liberal mythology involves a concept of the free and equal superman, emancipated from history and self-created through reason and will. Because this is an utterly inhuman anti-anthropology, though, it implicitly entails the existence of the untermensch, the less-than-human oppressor who through his actions or perhaps his mere existence (think of an unborn child) stands in the way of the full emergence of the free and equal new man. As an impediment to the emancipated equality of the superman, the untermensch is himself not a full member of the human race.

So my understanding of the strength of the "zero group differences" mythology in the face of what has always been massive evidence against is this: that implicitly everyone understands that it is the only thing standing between the advanced liberal superman and the nazi.

A Neoconservative Noble Lie - Debunked?


"What is Iran? Iran is nothing but some mountains and some plains, some earth and some water. A true Muslim cannot love a country--any country. For his love is reserved only for his Creator. We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

This, apparently, is a quote that Norman Podhoretz attributes to the Ayatollah Khomeini, for which his source is a 1989 work by Amir Taheri entitled Nest of Spies. The interest of Podhoretz pere in this quotation is, alas, obvious: he intends it as a piece of evidence for his contention that the Islamic Republic founded by Khomeini exists in a geopolitical realm beyond realpolitik and national interests, that it embodies implacable and relentless evil, such that war with it, for which he prays - on his own admission - is more or less mandatory upon The Empire the United States.

The trouble, however, is that the quote appears to be utterly bogus. Taheri claims that the quote is found in a book published under the name of Khomeini (the title of which I've not be able to track down), except that library queries here and abroad return no books by that title. Neither do book dealers in Iran know anything of it. Searches of Khomeini's speeches, utterances, and fatwas likewise reveal nothing akin to the quotation.

Podhoretz does have another quotation in this vein, attributed to former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the wealthiest, most worldly men of the regime, which suggests that such inflammatory rhetoric is for public consumption, and not a statement of geopolitical first principles. Like Andrew Sullivan, from whose blog I learned of this little datum, however, I am not convinced that accurate attributions and rigorous prudential reasoning are of paramount importance to those calling for a new theatre in their Fourth World War.

November 17, 2007

Energy Resources and American Geostrategy

Presented with only the minimalist observation that access to energy resources has long been a crucial component of American foreign policy, that the significance of this component is increasing under the combined pressures of globalization and development, stagnating or declining production, and the emergence of 'sovereign wealth' policies in certain major energy exporting nations, portending an epoch of decreased stability and more frequent military deployments, consider the following essay entitled, Preparing for a Life After Oil.

Some readers might discern a slight reductionist tendency in the analysis, but this ought not be permitted to occlude the reality that energy policy is a linchpin of the foreign policy consensus that unites Democrats and Republicans, whatever the fulminations of public rhetoric might seem to indicate. The comments section also 'has it all', running the gamut from cranky lefties to intemperate exchanges over abiotic oil theory.

(HT: Patrick Deneen.)

"A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth"--Now available in draft

I'm pleased to announce the completion and posting in draft of an article written by Tim McGrew and me that I hope will be of help and interest to a variety of readers. "A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth" is available on my web site here. It has been commissioned for the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland. Blackwell has given us permission to post a draft version of our own, with none of their pagination or typesetting, to a personal web site. If you refer others to the on-line version, please make it clear that it is a draft and that the "real" final version will be published on paper with Blackwell.

The main thing missing from this version is the bibliography, which is presently being formated. The article is in MLA style, so if you should want full reference information for a given book, please feel free to e-mail me and ask.

Since the piece is very long, I'm giving here a few highlights and features, with some page numbers in the PDF, in case you want to zero in on particular sections rather than either browsing it or trying to read the whole thing.

Update The bibliography is now available here.

Continue reading ""A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth"--Now available in draft" »

November 18, 2007

A fragment on Conservatism and Progress

Here is a Sunday question: what is the status of the idea of PROGRESS in Conservative thought?

Continue reading "A fragment on Conservatism and Progress" »

November 19, 2007

Paradigm Shift Alert

William Saletan at Slate says the unsayable:

"Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn't 'the same as ours.' 'Racist, vicious and unsupported by science,' said the Federation of American Scientists. 'Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence,' declared the U.S. government's supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied 'that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn't a scientific leg to stand on.'

"I wish these assurances were true. They aren't."

Saletan goes on to offer a very short course on the science of racial difference, which I read with deepest wonder - not because anything in it comes as news to me, but because it's being said by a prominent liberal in a prominent liberal publication. Herewith a few particularly outrageous bits:

Continue reading "Paradigm Shift Alert" »

Bibliophilia; Or, Your Tax Dollars At Work

The best things in life are free, and columnist Kevin Jones explains how public libraries are becoming the new taxpayer funded peep shows.

Money quote:

While acknowledging that library rules forbid overt sexual conduct from patrons, the administrator insisted sexual arousal does not violate regulations: "We offer lots of materials that patrons might use to arouse themselves; they range from romance novels to photographic works," she writes. Even in context, this reads more like a recommendation than anything else.
It all makes sense if you think about it. We aren't permitted to make moral judgements about the substance of things in the advanced liberal order, especially not when it comes to public services like libraries. As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." So as far as the government in the advanced liberal order is concerned content is arbitrary, and public libraries have to cater to the needs of all content consumers equally. Anything else would be unfair, biasing one concept of "the mystery of human life" over another in the use of public funds, and we can't have that.

If that means you have to watch where you step and send your teenage daughter to the library with a bodyguard, well, that's just the price of progress.

November 20, 2007

Ambush in Samarra

I’ve been remiss in not mentioning this before. My friend Jeff Emanuel, formerly of Air Force special forces and veteran of the war in Iraq, went back to Iraq earlier this year to do some of the most extensive embedded reporting by anyone, anywhere. This month’s American Spectator features his fine article “Ambush in Samarra.” It is a story of courage, grit and sacrifice. As I have said elsewhere: it is the kind of thing that reminds us that not everything in war is wicked.

Healthy Distinctions

I've done very little thinking about health care policy. I realize that it is important, but every time I've attempted to think about it I've just glazed over. It isn't even that it is intrinsically uninteresting: as a key human concern in the modern world where technology, morality, life and death come together I am hard pressed to think of another subject that objectively ought to be more interesting.

But I haven't thought about it much.

Nevertheless it is a subject of enough importance that you can't help but encounter it periodically if you regularly read blogs with political and social content. And it seems to me that there are any number of quite distinct things which are entangled together in discussions about health care.

One thing to realize is that on average insurance is a lousy deal, on purpose, and that is a good thing. Much like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it is designed to be a lousy deal on average. That is pretty much its central point. The risks insurance cover are small in probability, but large in terms of financial (and other) consequences. So when we buy insurance we intentionally pay more than we are statistically likely to pay if we didn't buy insurance; but we are protected against catastrophic loss. That is pretty much the whole point to it: when we buy insurance we are betting against the house and hoping to lose. And it is worth it.

Continue reading "Healthy Distinctions" »

November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

For a Thanksgiving post, I can do no better than to quote the Book of Common Prayer.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men; we bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to all our readers!

Cross-posted at Extra Thoughts

November 23, 2007

J.P. Moreland's ETS Paper and Extra-Biblical Theological Knowledge

Philosopher J. P. Moreland is a dear friend with whom I co-edited (with W. L. Craig) a book three years ago, To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press, 2004).

Last week at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (14-16 November 2007), Moreland delivered a paper that caused quite a stir, "How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What can be Done about It." (You can find the paper on the web site for his book The Kingdom Triangle). It all began last Wednesday with a Christianity Today blog post in which his paper presentation at ETS was covered. (See Moreland's response here). Not only were there numerous comments posted in the combox of the CT post, scores of bloggers followed up with their own assessments of Moreland's paper and thesis.

Some of the anti-natural law (and anti-natural theology) commentators on the CT blog and elsewhere are deeply troubling to me, since they seem to not understand how difficult it is to extricate oneself from the force of natural law reasoning. Consider a brief argument I present in a small article I recently published in the Catholic Social Science Review XII (2007), "Doing What Comes Naturally and Not Knowing It: A Reflection on J. Budziszewski’s Work" (footnotes omitted):

Continue reading "J.P. Moreland's ETS Paper and Extra-Biblical Theological Knowledge" »

Is it Just Me, or Is This Really Tasteless?

A friend of mine forwarded to me these introductory comments made by Pastor John Piper in a chapter in a book he co-edited with Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ:

Continue reading "Is it Just Me, or Is This Really Tasteless?" »

New information requires rethinking on the ethics of making pluripotent cells

Now, I know what you're thinking: So suddenly scientists discover they can indeed reprogram adult skin cells back to a pluripotent state, the pro-life community goes wild with joy, the end of the stem-cell wars seems to be in sight, and Lydia gets cold feet about biting the bullet she said she would bite on exactly this sort of reprograming. (Mixed metaphor alert.)

Those of you who slogged through my earlier ANT-OAR post will remember that I said that making pluripotent stem cells like embryonic stem cells in the lab is wrong even if it doesn't involve making and destroying any live embryos, because it is analogous to making a "headless body," which is macabre and prima facie unethical. At that time I admitted that a counterintuitive consequence of this position is that it would be similarly unethical to make such cells by reprograming adult cells back to a pluripotent state, but that I was prepared for the nonce to bite that bullet.

So why am I rethinking?

Continue reading "New information requires rethinking on the ethics of making pluripotent cells" »

November 27, 2007

On French Youth

The quotable Lawrence Auster, on the media's conspicuous and universal avoidance of the accurate term "Islamic" to describe the rioters in France:

[E]ven if the French themselves no longer care, I am still very grateful to Charles Martel for turning back that youth invasion of France in 732. If they had won, they would have forced all the French to become teenagers.

November 28, 2007

A Technical Query

Suppose that you're a social scientist, studying ethnic tensions in the Balkans.

And suppose that you're focusing on an area where the ethnic make-up of the population is about 90% Croatian & about 10% Serbian.

And suppose that your thesis is that, in their endless, pointless feuding with one another, Croats & Serbs are just about equally guilty: i.e., that Croats hate Serbs just as much as Serbs hate Croats, and that Croats are just as likely as Serbs to express their hatred through acts of violence. And vice versa.

Given all that, what would you expect, in your area, when it come to acts of violence motivated by ethnic hatred?

Continue reading "A Technical Query" »

November 29, 2007

Are there any mere symbols?

To begin with, I'm going to answer the question in the title. Yes, there are mere symbols. One can make up arbitrary symbols and use them to stand for trivial things. So in the grand scheme of things, there can be mere symbols.

But here's the more interesting question: When people think it is important to say, "Such-and-such is a mere symbol," are the symbols in those cases really "mere"? Herewith, a few examples.

Continue reading "Are there any mere symbols?" »

November 30, 2007

The Grave & Gathering Danger of White Racism

Liberal dogma tells us that the differences between the races of man (assuming, for the moment, that such races exist at all) are only skin deep. To challenge that dogma too openly is to commit professional suicide.

But why? What's the big deal?

The problem is that, in the past, claims of racial "inferiority" have been used to justify some of the worst crimes of history - above all, American slavery and Nazi genocide. So shouldn't we suppress any research and/or expressions of opinion that could be interpreted as supporting claims of racial "inferiority?"

True, slavery and genocide don't seem to threaten, at the moment, here in the U.S. But still: mightn't such research and/or such expressions of opinion embolden the racist perpetrators of "hate crimes?" And aren't racist "hate crimes" a grave and gathering danger?

So we're invited to believe, by this FBI report and its attendant coverage in the press:

"Hate crime incidents rose nearly 8 percent last year, the FBI reported Monday, as civil rights advocates increasingly take to the streets to protest what they call official indifference to intimidation and attacks against blacks and other minorities."

And the numbers are, indeed, alarming. The FBI confirms no fewer than 7,722 hate crimes in 2006 - up from 7163 in 2005. And 2,640 of these crimes were "anti-black," compared to only 890 that were "anti-white."

Continue reading "The Grave & Gathering Danger of White Racism" »