May 2009 Archives
May 1, 2009
TLS on radio
Here you can find an archive of my interview Thursday night on The Jim Bohannon Show regarding The Last Superstition. It begins roughly one-third into the broadcast. We had a vigorous exchange, though I think we ended up talking past each other to some extent. And then there was the caller who wanted to turn the discussion into a debate about the Rapture, with Jim to all appearances happy to oblige. I thought it best at that point to sit back for a while and let them go at it.
May 2, 2009
“It’s just so obvious!”: The case of torture
In the combox to his recent post on waterboarding, Zippy writes:
That what we actually did to prisoners was immoral torture, yes, is just so obvious.
I assume that “what we actually did to prisoners” refers specifically to waterboarding the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and that this in Zippy’s view would have been “immoral torture” even if it happened only once. If that is what Zippy meant, then I don’t think this claim is “obvious” at all. It might well be true. But it isn’t obviously true.
May 3, 2009
Who Needs Orwell...
...when you've got the AP? which "reports":
"Obama's search to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter should extend beyond the current roster of federal judges, senators from both political parties said Sunday.
"'I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge,' said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold hearings when Obama makes his nomination.
"Noting that all nine justices came directly from the federal appeals court, senators on the committee said someone with a wider breadth of experience would be a plus..."
Well, ummm, yeah, so what's your point, Senator Leahy? What's this "wider breadth of experience" you're after? Might it possibly be...
...might it just possibly be...
May 4, 2009
New issue of The Christendom Review
Bill Luse writes,
Paul, the 2nd issue of The Christendom Review is now online. The special features section focuses on the legacy of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, The Modern Error on (in Rick's words) "the legal and moral obfuscations surrounding the court-ordered death of Terri Schiavo." I have an article in that section, but of particular importance is Lydia's, which demonstrates to my satisfaction that, contrary to the common wisdom, the law was not followed in bringing this woman to her end. It may also be the first time ever that anyone has attempted such a rebuttal based on all of the witness testimony from the 2000 trial. (The transcripts are available at her website.) Lydia has a follow-up article on this subject appearing in the June issue of Touchstone. Also to be found in the issue is a remarkable short story by Bill Miles, poetry by Anthony Esolen, and paintings by the brilliant Catholic artist, Timothy Jones. [I've looked at some of these; brilliant is right -- Ed.] Those who wish to support the site can do so by clicking on that link in the left margin to purchase a softcover edition of the Review. And as always there is a free pdf version available on the right.
The Christendom Review, like this site, exists only because of the generosity of Todd McKimmey, our webmaster extraordinaire.
May 5, 2009
The Speech Privilege
Morally, speech is a privilege. That is, speech is not morally neutral, and since there is no moral right to commit evil there is no moral right to free speech. Materially evil speech has no privileges. (Note that this is a moral point, not a political point).
A person who refuses to unequivocally concede that cutting a living four-month fetus to pieces in a woman's womb is an immoral act of murder has no standing to speak on the subject of abortion. He may engage in all sorts of casuistry about ectopic pregnancies and difficult scenarios for pregnant women; he may be genuinely conflicted in his own subjective interior intellection; he may, indeed, be in need of apologetical help in order to see the error of his ways. But his speech on the subject is the banging of a gong, emptiness poured into the void.
Same with the subject of torture, for someone unwilling to concede that waterboarding KSM was unequivocally immoral torture. [Note: I've retracted "and a war crime", which I had originally written - Z]
Mark Shea, Torturer!
Jimmy Akin has the video evidence.
And with this chilling last word from Mr. Shea, can we let the subject die for a while, folks? 'Cause we ain't happy, and we know it...
May 6, 2009
Lives of the Founders
ISI Books has inaugurated a superb new historical series. Each volume is a slim, elegant, crisply-written study of what we might call the Lesser Founders. These are the men who built America but who, obscured by the towering giants of that age, haven’t been properly given their due. In comparison with Washington or Hamilton, few men measure up. But these Lesser Founders were impressive men in their own right, independent of mind, bold of action, mostly self-made, morally and philosophically serious, and they lived in fascinating times.
So far there have been studies of Luther Martin, “forgotten Founder, drunken prophet” according to Mr. Bill Kauffman’s subtitle; of the “incautious man,” Gouverneur Morris; and of that ablest of Washington’s lieutenants, Nathanael Greene.
These books belong in the library of any student of Amerca.
What would referring for abortions mean?
I've discussed here the very real possibility that laws will be passed at various jurisdictional levels--one is under consideration in California right now--that would require doctors at least to refer for abortions. If the doctor won't perform an abortion, he has to provide the woman with "access" to abortion by helping her find an abortionist. A law like this is already in place Down Under, in Victoria, Australia.
I have predicted that, faced with such laws, some doctors and/or hospitals will capitulate insofar as they will do the referrals while refusing to (in the case of hospitals) allow abortions on-site or (in the case of doctors) perform abortions themselves.
My guess is that this will be rationalized on the grounds that the referral is purely pro forma, that the woman could have found an abortionist for herself anyway, and that therefore one is not making it materially easier for her to get an abortion by providing her with phone numbers and a referral. And by cooperating with the law, doctors who do not themselves provide abortions, who are personally pro-life, and hospitals that provide important services to the public, can remain open and continue to help people and provide a good influence. So, I conjecture, the reasoning will go.
Why is this reasoning misguided?
Thomas More: Then & Now
Forty years ago, Thomas More, saint and martyr, was celebrated in the prize-winning play & movie, A Man for All Seasons:
(This is the beginning of the brilliantly written & performed trial scene, all of which may be seen on YouTube).
May 7, 2009
Unseen Chasms of Perdition
What follows is a post I have long and devoutly hoped that I would never fell compelled to write. I intend no recondite ratiocinations to follow, though there may or may not be a few florid turns of phrase - this, because I will compose my thoughts through the medium of composing this brief entry - but only to intimate something of the abyss that now lies before vast swathes of the conservative movement, and particularly social conservatives and sympathetic fellow-travelers. Perhaps what I propose to say will be dismissed, on the grounds that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I think that such a response, if and when it is given, will be profoundly misguided.
The burden of my post may be succinctly stated: the embrace by the political right of torture, whether as a matter of principle or as an expedient invoked to defend an indefensible administration, has contributed to the obloquy the right now bears; moreover, the cultural and social conservatives, through the instrumentality of a variety of apologias and apparent temporizations on the subject, have yoked the defense of torture and the pro-life movement, and social conservatism generally, in the minds of a substantial percentage of the rising generational cohort. I can point to at least half a dozen friends and acquaintances who have, though previously politically conservative or libertarian, and all inclined to social conservatism to one degree or another, more or less walked right out of the political right, and social conservatism, in consequence of this yoking together of conservatism and torture. Now, this is not to state that they refused to vote for the Republican ticket on account of the torture question; they would have refused, as I did, to vote for the Republican ticket on other grounds altogether. No, the significance of their alienation is more profound than matters of electoral politics: the political and cultural right is dead to them, as, having been discredited in practice by the calamitous misgovernance of the Bush administration and the Congressional GOP, the intellectual contortions undertaken to support, simultaneously, social conservatism and torture have indelibly branded this failure with the mark of intellectual unseriousness, hypocrisy, partisanship, incoherence. In their minds, the political right stands foursquare for a failed foreign policy, the rote incantation of failed politico-economic dogmas, and torture, and indicates not the slightest inclination to introspection; and the social conservatives now represent, again in their perceptions, those who prattle on about the dignity of human life, except, perhaps, when the utility function of derogating from that dignity is sufficiently high. It is no defense to contend - which is unexceptionably true - that, even assuming the intrinsically evil status of both abortion and torture, the former is manifestly graver, for this is merely to argue that one should keep the camel's nose out of the tent but to permit the donkey to enter.
At this point, it is all but certain that some readers are snorting their coffee and whinging on about anecdotes and data. But the trouble is that the sentiments expressed by my friends are mirrored in the political sources they now consider more congenial, the proliferating variety of progressive internet outlets and forums. They have undergone, or are still undergoing, political transitions, but what is salient is that torture was the last push, that last of the efficient causes, and the synecdoche for the entire transition. The proverbial straw. The last outrage that finally pushed them to mutter, "Farewell to all that."
It will also be objected, doubtlessly, that none of this addresses the substantive and theoretical considerations that have arisen over the past week, and that is certainly true of some of those considerations. But time stretches out before us as an indefinite horizon, and there will always be additional opportunities to entertain disquisitions on the subject, casuitical parsing of circumstances, and the like. For the present it suffices to note that the social conservatives have consigned themselves to political perdition, among other forms of potential damnation, not merely by yoking themselves to the eight-year odyssey of incompetence that was the Bush administration, but by the manner of their defenses, and the disputed issues defended. To my friends, the association of torture with opposition to abortion is an obscenity. Frankly, I concur. For this we sold our souls? Torture? Lord, have mercy.
The next stage in the culture war
I probably don't need to tell my astute readers that the culture war is entering a new phase. But in case you question this, let me give you a few instances. I see the new phase of the culture war in...
--the move to ban or censure Christian schools who advertise in Jobs for Philosophers if they require their faculty members not to engage in homosexual acts,
--the move to force doctors to participate--at least by referral--in abortion and other culture-war activities like assisted suicide,
--the move in my own town to pass a brand-new ordinance banning "discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation or "gender identity" (the latter meaning a biological man who "identifies" as a woman must be treated as one in all areas, including the use of public women's restrooms),
--the many punishments under similar ordinances of private businessmen for refusing to produce homosexual advocacy materials, photograph homosexual commitment ceremonies, etc.,
--the move to put all public-school children into "community service" assignments. (I refer to HR 1388. I've had some correspondence with the HSLDA on this act, and they inform me that the section requiring setting up a committee to look into service requirements for everybody [!] has been deleted, but that it still contains a provision requiring public schools to enroll at least 90% of their students into such service programs.)
What do these have in common?
May 8, 2009
Act and potency
Friends, it’s time for some old time metaphysics. Find that easy chair. Then put it aside and sit in something uncomfortable. While you’re at it, pour yourself a Thirsty-Two Ouncer cup full of battery acid coffee and maybe put on a nicotine patch or three. You just might need it.
Keith Pavlischek, writing at First Things, highlights a portion of an interview with Bob Dylan that you just gotta love:
Flanagan: In [your new song] IF YOU EVER GO TO HOUSTON the character sends messages to three sisters in Dallas; two get off with a friendly greeting but then the other is warned to “Pray the Sinner’s Prayer.” What’s the Sinner’s Prayer?
Dylan: That’s the one that begins with “Father forgive me for I have sinned.”
I wish I could have been there to see the look on the interviewer’s face for that deadpan.
For all the sadness, yearning, and dark humor on this album, Dylan, as always, does not present himself as a man without hope. He’s just investing it where he feels it rightfully belongs. In that, as in much else, he’s a model of consistency, and the music that still flows from this tower of American song seems to be striking chords with more listeners than ever before.
It’s a fine album. I’m amazed that this guy can still put out such remarkable songs.
May 9, 2009
May 10, 2009
Happy Mothers' Day!
From all of us here at W4 to all of you mothers out there, Happy Mothers' Day!
May 12, 2009
Stove Award competition heats up!
How do we know that Francis Beckwith is not an Intelligent Design theorist? Well, first of all, because he has publicly said that he isn’t. Second, because some ID defenders themselves have (with evident frustration with him) publicly said that he isn’t. And third, because the metaphysical position he is committed to – Thomism – is incompatible with standard ID methodology, or at the very least is hard to square with it. (My own readers know that I have been pretty hard on ID, both in The Last Superstition – which Frank kindly endorsed – and in the long and bloody combox exchange we all had on this subject some months back. Fr. Edward Oakes pitted Thomism against ID in a well-known exchange in First Things some years ago. Beckwith cited Prof. Michael Tkacz’s Thomistic critique of ID here. Etc.)
But ID critic Prof. Barbara Forrest will hear nothing of it. Beckwith is an “ID supporter,” she assures us, his protestations notwithstanding. In support of this claim, she marshals copious evidence of what everyone already knows, and what Beckwith has never denied: that he thinks the usual constitutional arguments against teaching ID in public schools are no good. I see a Stove Award in Prof. Forrest’s future; at the very least, this very fine specimen of the non sequitur should put her in the running. Presumably Prof. Forrest takes the view that her fellow philosophers should be able to teach arguments for (say) dualism, idealism, theism, and natural law theory in public universities. Does this show that she is a “supporter” of these views? Of course not; certainly her work gives evidence of precisely the opposite of sympathy for these views. So how does Beckwith’s defense of the teaching of ID show that he “supports” ID? The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t.
Why, then, does Forrest pretend otherwise? Well, the non sequitur is not the only weapon in her arsenal of fallacies. She is also an absolute master of guilt by association, and precisely because she deploys it so clumsily. Her unwary reader thinks: “Huh? But that argument sucks! Well, she can’t mean that, then. To be sure, I don’t know what the hell she does mean, but by golly the good people at Americans United for Separation of Church and State would never associate themselves with someone who’d resort to such crudities. So…” And before you know it the reader, or at least the reader who already agrees with Forrest anyway, is convinced that the argument must be good, because the only alternative is that it is so unspeakably awful that it should never have appeared in print or even pixel.
And here’s the thing. Forrest really, really wants to be able to call Beckwith a “Creationist.” That’s the scare word of choice among the anti-“Texas Taliban” brigade. You let that sucker fly, and you’ve won the debate, or shut it down, anyway. At the very least, you’ll get plaudits from Leiter Reports, and goodness gracious sakes alive there’s nothing better in the world than that! So: “Creationist” he must be labeled. Since your gang has already succeeded in assimilating “ID theorist” to “Creationist,” at least among people deficient either in actual knowledge of ID theory or in intellectual honesty, you can pull it off as long as you can peg Beckwith as an ID theorist. Trouble is, he isn’t one. What to do? Easy: Non sequitur comes to the rescue of guilt by association. Beckwith defends the right to teach ID theory, “therefore” he is an ID theorist, “therefore” he is a Creationist. The weasel expression “ID supporter” helps this fallacious Double Shot go down easier.
Keep it up, Prof. Forrest, and that Stove Award is yours!
May 13, 2009
Stop Muslim immigration for the sake of parental rights
Privilege implies responsibility. Conservatives realize quite well that it is not laws, or not laws alone, that best guard our freedoms but mutual trust and common understandings. Which is not to say that laws are unimportant. Indeed, they become more important the more mutual trust and common understandings go by the board.
The trust that people have in parents is a result of the fact that most parents don't abuse their children. The trust that people have in parents in raising their children is a result of a common understanding--however loose--of what constitutes good motherhood and fatherhood.
Conservatives are quite rightly concerned that parental rights be maintained. In fact, our best hope for influencing the future lies in the education and upbringing of our own children, and we rightly feel horrified and chilled by liberal statements to the effect that parents have no right to raise their children in ways that conflict with a liberal view of society.
For this reason, the Home School Legal Defense Association and its spin-off group, Parentalrights.org, constantly warn about possible dangers to parental rights and strongly urge support for a parental rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
What does all of this have to do with Muslim immigration?
My friend Hunter Baker of Houston Baptist University has a written a smart response to the latest End of Christian America fad.
(Was that a Dylan reference in there, Hunter?)
May 14, 2009
Davidson’s anomalous monism
Over at my personal blog: Some more philosophy of mind, if that's your bag.
Hadley Arkes' 2009 Hillsdale College Commencement Address
My dear friend, Hadley Arkes, was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Hillsdale College this past Saturday, May 9. Excerpts of his commencement address have been published on The Catholic Thing. I republish some of them here:
Aristotle said that the polis, the political order, was prior in the order of nature to the family. This urbane man certainly knew that people were perfectly capable of having sex even when their governments broke down. But that was different from a family. For what constitutes a family? Would it be two people – or several joined together in a polygamous or polyamorous ensemble? Would it be two people of the same sex, the same species? What constitutes a family is something that has always depended on the moral understanding that pervades the community and finds expression in “the laws.”
Our late friend, Allan Bloom, wrote that “the children who are the products of nature and real love lack something that can be provided only by law and its constraints”:It is only within the context of the law that a man can really imagine that the offspring from his loins can people the world. . . . The law that gives names to families and tries to insure their integrity is a kind of unnatural force and endures only as long as does the regime of which it is a part.Those laws on marriage invited us, as parents, to say the most telling words that parents may say, as they claim their children as their own, and do it through that simple device of imparting a name. As they do that, they replicate those words spoken by God in relation to Israel. And is there finally anything simpler or more decisive than those words that come back to us from Isaiah: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine.”
This is a day when we celebrate again the parents who have given their names to children, borne the responsibilities for them, and the students who have borne their own responsibility, in a handsome way, by working faithfully to justify the sacrifices made for them…
You can read more here.
May 15, 2009
Today at the distance of some 20 centuries, Peter's successor, the Bishop of Rome, stands before the same empty tomb and contemplates the mystery of the Resurrection. Following in the footsteps of the Apostle, I wish to proclaim anew to the men and women of our time the Church's firm faith that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and was buried, and that on the third day He rose from the dead, exalted at the right hand of the Father. He sent us His Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Apart from Him, whom God has made Lord and Christ, there is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we are to be saved.
Pope Benedict XVI, today, at the Holy Sepulcher
Constitutional scholar Steven Gey's philosophical take on the establishment clause
In Professor Barbara Forrest's recent diatribe against me--brought to your attention, and ably refuted, by my colleague Ed Feser--she asserts the following: "I am indebted for this point to Prof. Steven Gey, who, unlike Beckwith, is both an attorney and a constitutional scholar." Ironically, in my recent Santa Clara Law Review piece in which I clarify my views on intelligent design, I briefly critique Professor Gey's philosophical take on the establishment clause of the U. S. Constitution's First Amendment. In order for readers of W4 to get an understanding of Professor Gey's scholarship, and what Professor Forrest perhaps finds so intellectually compelling about it, I reproduce below a portion of my article in which I assess Professor Gey's argument.
May 16, 2009
J. P. Moreland's new book, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism
Today I was blessed to receive a signed copy of J. P. Moreland's new book, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (SCM Press, 2009)
J. P. is a dear friend who I have known since 1987. We edited a book together (along with William Lane Craig, who is pictured with J. P. and me above), To Every One An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (IVP, 2004), have lectured together at a variety of venues and academic conferences, and are the general editors of a forthcoming monograph series with InterVarsity Press on Christian Worldview Integration. He has been not only a dear friend, but a Christian scholar from whom I have learned so very much both philosophically and spiritually. And during some very difficult times each of us has had over the past decade (mine, unlike J.P's, made the papers), we leaned on each other's counsel and encouragement.
So, I was deeply moved when I saw that J. P. dedicated his new book to me:
"To Francis Beckwith. Sturdy lover of the Imago Dei."
I am humbled by the honor bestowed on me by my dear friend.
How fitting that J. P.'s book arrived only moments before my wife and I drove to Saturday vigil Mass at which we heard these words of Christ in the Gospel reading (John 15:9-17 - NAB):
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another."
May 20, 2009
Why I don't teach my kids that Santa Claus is real
Curmudgeon alert: If the title of this entry offends you, read no farther. I wouldn't want to upset anybody. (Right? I'm always very careful not to offend anybody...) Seriously, I'm not implying that anybody is a bad parent for teaching his kids to believe in Santa Claus. To be sure, in giving one of my own chief reasons for not doing so, I mean to present this as a reason for others to consider not doing so, either. But I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time. End of introduction.
The story told here illustrates a major reason why I don't teach my kids--at any age--that Santa Claus is real.
Here's another anecdotal example of a child's linking belief in God and in Santa Claus dangerously: In March a young girl visited my (small) church, and my eldest daughter spent some time talking with her. My daughter ended up much concerned about her. The younger girl, age 9, had clearly been trying to test the waters to see what the 16-year-old wanted her to say. At one point she said, "I'm not even sure I believe in God. Well, I sort of believe in Him. I sort of believe in God and Santa Claus." This was not reassuring.
May 21, 2009
The Leiter Reports, Wrongly
Professor Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago has, again, misrepresented my point of view on Christian academic institutions that forbid their faculty and students to engage in extra-marital acts of intimacy including homosexual ones. I do not attribute this to malicious intent on Professor Leiter’s part. But rather, I think it is a consequence of a general lack of serious and respectful study and reflection on the philosophical beliefs that undergird theological traditions with which he disagrees.
May 22, 2009
Classic SNL Star Trek skit
There's a new Star Trek movie. With all the attention this film has received, I was reminded of this 1986 skit from Saturday Night Live with William Shatner:
Some recent philosophical work
Being an independent scholar in philosophy has as an advantage that one gets the fun of philosophy without the fuss of faculty meetings, but it does have the occasional disadvantage that no one knows much of what you're up to. So here are a few links and blurbs:
I'll be on Hugh Hewitt and the Bible Answer Man next week, May 26 and May 28
I will be a guest on the Hugh Hewitt and Bible Answer Man programs on May 26 and 28. On the former I will be talking about my new book, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic (Brazos Press, 2009). On the latter I will be discussing a chapter I contributed to the new book published by Christian Research Institute, What is Truth?: The Best of the Christian Research Journal (CRI, 2009). The chapter, "Deconstructing Liberal Tolerance" was originally published in 2000 in the Christian Research Journal.
(Cross posted on Southern Appeal and Return to Rome)
May 23, 2009
"Rule of Law," just words
From the Heritage Foundation blog:
Today [May 21] President Obama stood on the world stage and demanded that suspected terrorists be treated under the “rule of law.” In fact, he used the phrase “rule of law” eight times. It is now time for him to use the phrase “rule of law” when it comes to Americans. In the next two weeks, the President will likely endorse a series of measures in his role as CEO of the car companies that may violate a number of U.S. contract laws, bankruptcy laws and financial rules and regulations....
Let’s back up and explain what we’re talking about: A bond is simply an “IOU” in which an investor loans money to a company in exchange for a predetermined interest rate. It has historically been a safer investment than stocks because your principle is generally guaranteed and if a company goes under, you are at the head of the line to get a return on that investment. Bondholders include pension funds, retired auto workers, non-profits, even your own grandparents. They also include workers in dealerships....
But not so fast. Unfortunately, GM’s bonds are different because they are investments in a company that is now controlled by big union bosses in the United Auto Workers and President Obama. The rule of law is apparently out the window. First, the UAW bosses need to be paid, and everyone else second. In fact, many of the individual bondholders are in fact retired union workers. So the UAW and President Obama are actually conspiring against the workers that paid their dues, in more ways than one.
As the Wall Street Journal points out: “The funds paid a premium to buy ’secured’ status, only to discover that they were politically outranked by the United Auto Workers in the White House hierarchy."
You can read the whole thing here. Perhaps President Obama should have said that nobody is pro anti-rule of law, and thus we should work together to make sure that there are fewer anti-rule of law incidents and that when they do occur they are safe and legal.
Riley Beckwith on Veterans and War
Below is an essay written by my 14-year-old niece, Riley Beckwith. She is the eldest child of my brother Patrick's five children. She won an award for this essay when she wrote it several months ago for Veteran's Day. Because I gave up blogging for Lent, I could not post it at the time she won the award. But I promised my brother that I would post it on Memorial Day Weekend, since it is during this time that we honor our fallen veterans.
(Riley is the brunette standing behind her siblings from left to right: Camilla, Sophie, John Paul, and Darby)
May 24, 2009
May 24, 2009 - Happy Birthday, Bob
Today is Bob Dylan's 68th birthday. Stay forever young!
The things which belong unto thy peace
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
We humans usually don't know what's good for us. Jesus addressed the City of Peace and said that its inhabitants would not know the things that belonged unto their peace.
It is often said by conservatives, and rightly, that ideology is a great danger. The ideologue gets hold of one truth and makes it into the only truth, the only thing that matters. He sacrifices all else to that one thing. That one ideal might be equality, beauty, health, or love, but when one makes second things first, the second things always turn vicious, and horrors follow.
But there is another point, compatible with that point, that must be made too: When second things are made first, they destroy themselves. The ideologue does not even know what is best for the ideal he professes.
Take love, for instance...
Welcome to the World, John Henry!
Young John Henry has quite a name to live up to.
(Heh - yep...that's what Cardinal Newman will always be, for me.)
And then, on the other hand, there's one of the great American folk heroes - born, so they say, with a hammer in his hand...
May 25, 2009
Happy 79th Birthday to My Father, Harold "Pat" Beckwith
(My Dad, me, and brother Jim in front of Caesar's Palace in 1968. And yes, that is our white Mercedes Benz)
Today my father turns 79. He has been the best father any man can hope to have. Here are some excerpts about my father from my book, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic (Brazos Press, 2009):
May 26, 2009
NCRegister on TLS
“If you understand Aristotle, and Feser shows you just how commonsensical Aristotle really is, then you will necessarily understand why belief in God, an immortal soul, and natural law morality are all rational. You will also comprehend why atheism, a purely materialistic evolution, and contemporary ethics do not make sense because they are, at root, irrational. Far from being the redoubt of benighted fools, Feser shows that religion and natural morality are demanded by rationality. It is modern atheism that is the last superstition, the final holdout of an irrational illusion clung to by those who will not let their minds lead them to what is right in front of their noses…
In six exciting chapters, Feser demonstrates how and why Aristotelianism became the cornerstone of Occidental thought and why so many contemporary builders reject it. Far from fighting a rearguard action against the onslaught of modern barbarism, Feser argues that the best defense is a solid offense…
Though the book is academic, it is something for people of goodwill who want to understand why our culture is in the sorry shape it's in — and how to fix it…
Do you have a child or grandchild bound for college? Buy him this book and immunize him against the errors now hawked as ‘philosophy.’ More than anything else, Feser deserves praise for showing, in a comprehensible way, that philosophy makes sense and remains terribly relevant to how to live well in the world today.”
Still a semi-zombie after childbirth. (And you should see my wife!) Non-self-promoting posts to return shortly.
Why are artists, novelists, and "intellectuals" such dupes when it comes to tyranny?
I have no idea how to answer that question. But it never ceases to amaze me that the same sort of folks who were terrified that Sarah Palin would usher in theocracy become fawning sychophants in the presence of gangsta "statesmen" such as Castro, Chavez, and Stalin. (Compare, for example, Chip Berlet's bio with his piece on Palin). While they share a scotch and cigar with Castro, they conclude that the only injustice taking place in Cuba is on that tiny slice of it called "Gitmo."
George Marlin's recent piece on The Catholic Thing was the proximate cause of that reflection. Here are some excerpts from his outstanding essay:
Muslim Immigration and WWWtW
Let me start by saying that I have enormous respect for my WWWtW colleague Lydia McGrew, and I am usually in agreement with her on a variety of subjects. However, I have been thinking about her recent post on Muslim Immigration, and I have come to the conclusion that her approach is mistaken.
Although there are several issues I could raise, there is one in particular that has been gnawing at me. And that is the way that Catholic immigrants, including my maternal great grandmother, Vincenza Domino (d. 1979), were treated and thought of by Protestant America when they began arriving on these shores in the mid-19th century through the early 20th century.
( Anti-Catholic cartoon in Harper's Weekly, 30 September 1871)
The Joys of multicultural society, coming soon to an apartment building near you
Mr. Coutts in Toronto has a little problem. He's not allowed to say "Hello" to his neighbor's wife in his apartment building. His neighbor has already had one screaming match with him about it and complained to the owner of the building. She's in terror of the neighbor, afraid he could be dangerous, so she tells Mr. Coutts just to turn the other way when they come near and not to smile or say "hello" to the wife. In the neighbor's culture, wives aren't apparently allowed to speak to non-relative males. Mr. Coutts's neighbor, of course, is a follower of Rushdoony. Oh, wait...
In other news, Christian reconstructionists are radicalizing convicts in prison and sending them forth to wage war for a Christian theocracy. Oh, no, wait...
May 27, 2009
The Onion: Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'
May 29, 2009
Woods on TLS
“A crushing reply to the string of recent books by the so-called New Atheists… a stunning work…
The Last Superstition is a persuasive and powerful argument in defense of theism and Aristotelian metaphysics. It is sophisticated enough to convey to professional philosophers the seriousness and rigor of the theistic argument, while still being clear enough for the intelligent layman to understand. Indeed, it gives the layman the indispensible knowledge he needs to defend theism against the smart alecks who try to intimidate him but who themselves, as Feser shows, represent far more bluster than substance.
The presumption these days is to ask, ‘If you’re so smart, why are you religious?’ In light of Edward Feser’s indispensible book, a better question would be, ‘If you’re so smart, why are you still an atheist?’”
By the way, Woods, the author of many fine books and articles on history, politics, economics, and religion, has most recently published the best-selling Meltdown, a must-read presentation of the Austrian School analysis of the current economic crisis.
A Tale of Two Tests: Together We Learn to Read and Write
"The ink is black, the page is white
Together we learn to read and write
A child is black, a child is white
The whole world looks upon the sight
A beautiful sight.
And now a child can understand
That this is the law of all the land
All the land.
The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day, and then by night
A child is black, a child is white
Together they grow to see the light
To see the light.
And now at last, they plainly see
They'll have a dance of liberty, liberty."
Consider two cases about two tests. The first, Bartlett v. the New York State Board of Law Examiners, is from 1997. The other, Ricci v. DeStefano, is presently on appeal before the U. S. Supreme Court, which will issue its opinion sometime soon. In the first case, the jurist who issued the ruling was Judge Sonia Sotomayor when she served on the bench of the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York. In the latter case, the Supreme Court will be assessing a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in which Judge Sonia Sotomayor participated.
What follows is a summary of the first case, found in the article authored by Ruth Shalit, "Defining Disability Down," published in the August 25, 1997 issue of The New Republic:
Grin & Bear It
Mark Krikorian, who I generally think of as one of the good guys (i.e., one of the real conservatives) at National Review, argues that Republicans shouldn't call Sonia Sotomayor a "racist," despite her membership in the National Council of La Raza, her notorious remarks about the superiority of "wise latina" over "white male" life experience, her attempt to deep-six the Ricci case, etc.:
May 30, 2009
Billy Raftery (1952-2009), R. I. P.
It is with great sadness that I report the death of my friend, Billy Raftery. I have known Billy and his wonderful parents and siblings since I was a student at St. Viator Elementary School in the late 1960s. During my years at Bishop Gorman High School (1974-78), Billy was the most enthusiastic fan and supporter. He bled orange and blue.
Billy lived a full and flourishing life, touching the lives of countless friends and admirers who had the privilege to cross his path. Although his time with us has been brief, his personal virtues and deep love for friends, family, and community have left an indelible mark on so many of us. Here his is obituary in this morning's Las Vegas Review Journal:
Men's faults, women's faults, and feminism
Provocative statement for discussion: The besetting vice of women is vanity. The besetting vice of men is sensuality. Feminism exacerbates both vices, hence making both men and women maximally unhappy with reality as they find it.
Slightly longer discussion: Women are naturally vain and want to be admired. Contemporary feminism teaches them to want to be admired both for traditionally feminine traits such as beauty and motherliness and for traditionally masculine traits such as professional accomplishment and financial independence and success. Women come to believe that if they are perfect in all possible areas, they will be admired in all these areas, and then they will be happy. Men are naturally sensual and want a physically easy life with their physical desires satisfied with little trouble. Contemporary feminism teaches them that if they have a perfect woman, they can have it all, too. The woman who is perfect in every way will satisfy her husband's physical desires, make sure the kids are taken care of somehow (or make sure there are no kids), and take the financial stress and pressure off of her husband by making plenty of money on her own.
Since reality does not usually work out this way, both men and women raised with feminist ideology find themselves unhappy.
HT to Michael Liccione for an interesting Facebook discussion that prompted these thoughts.
Book of the Year
May 31, 2009
Who'd a thunk it?
Researchers Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers discover, in a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, that, on the whole, the triumph of feminism has made men happier and women unhappier: