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The Leiter side of OCD

A philosopher writes:

I hate calling attention to this creepazoid, but Leiter is at it again, and is attempting once again to smear W4.

I think it might be fun if you all decided to simply respond in kind. That is, ask your Atheist friends some questions and see whether Leiter's views fall within the "mainstream" of atheist philosophers. Maybe some questions like the following:

1) Did you think the collapse of the Soviet Union was unfortunate, politically and morally speaking?

2) Do you think that there is a noteworthy moral difference between heteronormative sexual morality and believing that homosexuals should be executed?

3) Do you believe there is a noteworthy moral difference between the Taliban and people who think it should be legal to voluntarily pray in public schools?

4) Do you think it is morally appropriate for a notable professional philosopher to personally attack graduate students and untenured faculty in a highly public and visible forum?

5) Do you think it is misogyny to acknowledge genetic differences between men and women?

6) Do you think it would have been a gross exaggeration to say that George W. Bush is a theocrat and/or a fascist who was planning to "imminently" reinstate the draft or "imminently" bomb Iran?

7) Do you think it would be a gross exaggeration to compare Bill O'Reilly with Joseph Goebbels?

8) Did the clips of Jeremiah Wright's sermons make you more favorably disposed towards Obama?

etc. etc. etc.

Good questions, though we loyal Leiter Reports readers already know the answers. But here’s another one for Big Bri himself: If W4 is so “marginal,” how come you simply can’t shut up about it?

Sounds like a nasty case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The key thing is not to give in to the urges, though if history is any guide we’ll see another lapse within a day or two, followed by occasional spasms over the next few weeks and months. But don’t get discouraged, Brian. You can beat this thing. We’re all pulling for you!

Comments (56)

I was amused by this from Prof. Leiter's correspondent:

In fact, I get emails from Christians in philosophy about W4 and we laugh and/or cry together.

I don't know exactly why I find this so funny. I guess it's just the picture of Christian philosophers (presumably, ones rather to the left of me, but that's okay) e-mailing one another about W4 and laughing or crying together. Wow. We've made the big-time. Or something.

And I'm puzzled by the question that forms the topic of Leiter's post. Did we _claim_ to be representative of something or other in a statistical sense? Not that I can recall. We're just a group of people who have decided to work together and write on a blog to support values we think important. Some of us who contribute here aren't even professional philosophers in any sense. It just strikes me as such an odd question. The blogosphere is pretty much all about private associations, people who get together and do things because they share ideas and values. Contributor lists at group blogs are often in a state of flux, people come and go. Nobody has some sort of aim to be statistically representative of this group or that. We're just friends doing this together.

Does Leiter ask this because he thinks the views expressed at his blog are representative of _non_-Christian philosophers? Do they need to be? (I sure hope they're not, but I suppose they might be.)

I'm amused by the compulsion some people experience to repeatedly indulge in the reading of things they detest. There is, after all, a line separating the rage some experience upon reading certain things, and ordinary hathos. I wouldn't read, for example, any scholarly treatments of the Marquis de Sade, because I not only believe the subject unworthy of the attentions, but because those treatments would just make me angry. On the other hand, I might read a political site with which I disagree, with a view to the hathotic pleasures such a reading might afford me. There is, I repeat, a difference between spluttering rage, and amusement at the benighted, though even the latter can degenerate into rank obsession.

In other words, if you cannot stand to read defense of certain moral traditions, or certain theological traditions, just move along.

The level of decline in American universities is directly proportionate to how seriously Leiter is taken by other academics.

1: No, it was a very good thing
2: Here's a question back at you. Do you think executing people for their sexual preference is a bad thing?
3: Do you think it's a bad thing that people who don't want to pray shouldn't have to? Do you think it's a good thing to make children of religions different from yours participate in your prayers?
4: Why not? There's obviously nothing keeping you from firing back because you just did.
5: Depends on what you think those genetic differences are and what conclusions you draw from them.
6: An exaggeration yes. A gross exaggeration, not so much.
7; See 6
8: Nope.

@tricksterson:

You are awfully clever. I suggest that you brush up a little bit before getting yer snark on, however. For instance, with number 2), you might be surprised to learn that it is possible to believe that X-actions are immoral without also believing that people who-X should be killed. I know this is a very subtle technical distinction, so don't get discouraged. Even Leiter had some trouble with it.

Do you think executing people for their sexual preference is a bad thing?

Of course it is. Do you really think we orthodox Christians generally believe otherwise? What are you, some kind of bigot?

Do you think it's a bad thing that people who don't want to pray shouldn't have to?

Of course not. Do you really think we orthodox Christians generally believe otherwise? What are you, some kind of bigot?

Do you think it's a good thing to make children of religions different from yours participate in your prayers?

Of course not. Do you really think we orthodox Christians generally believe otherwise? What are you, some kind of bigot?

Apparently so!

Why not? There's obviously nothing keeping you from firing back because you just did.

Irrelevant, since I am neither a grad student nor untenured.

A gross exaggeration, not so much.

Ah, a bigot and a fantasist. They do often go hand in hand...

No, Lydia, the beauty part is: "Three anonymous schmucks in a combox said it, so it must be true."

1) Did you think the collapse of the Soviet Union was unfortunate, politically and morally speaking?

Politically, no, although that "collapse" isn't as complete as the Reaganites seem to think. Morally/ethically, no, although the rise of the Russian Mafia, and the large number of missing nuclear arms gives me pause.

I find the fascination with the Soviet Union interesting. They are hardly the most important power left.

One could ask if the move to the left in Central and South America was fortunate, politically and morally speaking?

=================

2) Do you think that there is a noteworthy moral difference between heteronormative sexual morality and believing that homosexuals should be executed?

As long as individuals respect that difference, yes. However, there is a long history of "I hate X" crossing over to killing X, regardless of the X (note that this is not a "left-right" issue, but a mob mentality one).

===============

3) Do you believe there is a noteworthy moral difference between the Taliban and people who think it should be legal to voluntarily pray in public schools?

It is currently legal to pray in public schools. What's not legal is to force anyone else to join your prayer.

Please note that the term "American Taliban" refers not to those who want to pray quietly but to those who would inflict their morality on all of us.

=================

4) Do you think it is morally appropriate for a notable professional philosopher to personally attack graduate students and untenured faculty in a highly public and visible forum?

It depensds on what they did. Just as an extreme example, if said student painted a swastika on a building, I think we'd both agree that the philosopher was right.

================

5) Do you think it is misogyny to acknowledge genetic differences between men and women?

No, but it is misogyny to assign gender roles based on those differences, unless the roles are SPECIFICALLY related to the differences (birthing a baby, frex).

================

6) Do you think it would have been a gross exaggeration to say that George W. Bush is a theocrat and/or a fascist who was planning to "imminently" reinstate the draft or "imminently" bomb Iran?

Bush acknowledged that "Jesus guided his actions" -- as such he was a theocrat. He further based decisions his understanding of the Bible, rather than law.

Would he have bombed Iran? Considering that he started a war based on lies, I don't think we could rule anything out.


===================

7) Do you think it would be a gross exaggeration to compare Bill O'Reilly with Joseph Goebbels?

I try to avoid "Godwinning" a conversation, so no. In so far as O' Reilly is one of the Ministers of Propoganda (with Limbaugh and the rest of the Fox crowd) for the corrupt and dangerous right (not all conservatives, just the loud and stupid ones), a comparison of roles (ragardless of the actions of the group he is propagandizing for) is not far-fetched.

One could compare any Secretary of State/ Minister of War with another, in terms of how and how well they do their job, without comparing the agencies they represent.

==============

8) Did the clips of Jeremiah Wright's sermons make you more favorably disposed towards Obama?

Actually, yes. Because I lstened to the whole sermons, not just the sound bites. Wright goes too far (although, knowing of the Tuskegee Experiment, one can hardly blame him), but he is a man who loves his country and wants what's best for it. He is a Christian, at the true meaning of the word.

================

Your blog showed up at our blog, which is why you're getting a number of dissenting voices. I don't agree with much written here, but I will try to be polite.

Do you think it's a good thing to make children of religions different from yours participate in your prayers?

Of course not. Do you really think we orthodox Christians generally believe otherwise?

Many Christians think that public prayer in public school is a good thing. I commend you for thinking otherwise, but it isn't out of the question to believe that you might not.

See, "public prayer" equals "making children of other religions participate."

In case we didn't get that.

I wonder what these chaps think of the California curriculum in which children of other religions actually were forced to play-act being Muslims for several days. Being "forced to participate," you see.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that Leiter is just as far left among atheists as he considers those of you who write and those of us who read W4 are to the right.

To be honest though, his obsession is a good thing for him. Rarely do leftist elitists come out of their small circles of friends to associate or even acknowledge that there are other people and other views.

Wait, does Brian Leiter actually believe that "the collapse of the Soviet Union was unfortunate, politically and morally speaking?" Serious question, as I have no idea.

Also, Jeff says "No, but it is misogyny to assign gender roles based on those differences..." -- No it isn't. For one, this would mean matriarchy is misogynistic. For two, it would mean many women right now hate themselves. Misogyny is a strong word; let's be more careful with it.

I wonder what these chaps think of the California curriculum in which children of other religions actually were forced to play-act being Muslims for several days.

Cite, please. I found a number of web-sites up in alarm about this, but I couldn't find a primary source. I found one article that seems to indicate that an isolated incident was blown out of proportion:

The San Diego Unified School District determined that a teacher's aide was wrong to lead Muslim students in prayer.

That seems to indicate that the curriculum does NOT allow Muslim prayer.

Misogyny is a strong word; let's be more careful with it.

It wasn't my word -- I'd have used "sexism". It covers more ground, including matriarchies.

(although, knowing of the Tuskegee Experiment, one can hardly blame him)
Ahem.

"Bush acknowledged that 'Jesus guided his actions' -- as such he was a theocrat. He further based decisions his understanding of the Bible, rather than law."

Jeff, do you think it's the case that any elected official who takes his religion seriously enough for it to inform and sometimes guide his decisions, especially ones for which existing law doesn't force him to decide in a certain way (e.g., the current health care reform measures, as well as most of what a president does), is a theocrat? I.e., any state that has as its head of state someone who is religiously serious is a theocracy, a la Iran and the Taliban-era Afghanistan? That seems to me to be incorrect.

See, "public prayer" equals "making children of other religions participate."

You gotta be real careful how you describe the issue. When I was in high school, there was a group that held public prayers at the school. It was before classes, it was voluntary, and I don't object to it. It would be something else if it were compulsory or if it were an official school function, or if authority figures affiliated with the school actively encouraged it, or whatever. But it was neither compulsory nor official.

Dr. McGrew, I get the idea that you think Jeff is attacking a straw man, and that nobody is advocating official, compulsory school prayer. But where I live, people advocate that. They don't get why some people have a problem with it. So it doesn't seem like a straw man to me.

I wonder what these chaps think of the California curriculum in which children of other religions actually were forced to play-act being Muslims for several days.

It depends on the details. I wonder if you wouldn't mind providing a link to more information. Thank you.

Tuskeegee Experiment

The Tuskeegee Experiment is a drop in the bucket of a long, horrible history of black people in America. Not that facts don't matter, but black people have a lot to be upset about.

There was a long lawsuit about the case. Here is a low-key report on it, not some "web site up in arms."

http://www.finepointeconsulting.com/files/Role_Play.pdf

Students were given Islamic names..., gave up items to represent Ramadan fasting, and simulated pilgrimages to Mecca. They also memorized portions of Islamic prayers and Koran verses. All of this transpired in students’ efforts to complete projects representing Islamic Pillars of Faith, earn class points, and learn about Islamic history and culture. In June 2002, parents of one of the students in the class filed suit against the Byron Union School District, arguing that the Islamic-themed unit violated their son’s constitutional rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs objected to class handouts encouraging their son to “become Muslim” and instructions that their son take an Islamic name and say certain religious phrases.

And I was wrong: It was several weeks, not several days.

But here’s another one for Big Bri himself: If W4 is so “marginal,” how come you simply can’t shut up about it?
To paraphrase the Eagles's "Lyin' Eyes":
He can't hide his Leiter eyes

From this blog that gives him a rise

I thought by now he'd realize

That he can't restrain his urge to Leiterize


Thanks for the link, Dr. McGrew. The document to which you refer indicates that parents had the opportunity to "opt out" of the exercise. So nobody was "forced to play-act being Muslims for several [weeks]". It was optional. (The parents claim they didn't realize it was optional, but they lost the lawsuit and they lost an appeal. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. So it seems like it really was optional.) The court also found that the exercise was secular in nature. Twice. So I guess I don't see what the problem is.

So I guess I don't see what the problem is.

Trial balloon.

We cannot forget how the lover affair began, Dr. Eddie. A true classic fisking:

To take the latter first: Professor Brian Leiter, who fancies himself an arbiter of all things academically respectable, disagrees with my assertion that conservatives are treated with condescension and hostility in the modern university. His way of proving me wrong is to call me "embittered" and a "crackpot," a "lunatic" whose "ranting" and "paranoid" "lies" are not only "embarrassing," but raise "a serious psychological question" about my mental stability. Then, calling in the heavy intellectual artillery, he links approvingly to another blog which characterizes my article as "bullshit" and "total crap," and me personally as "nuts," a "Neanderthal," "stupid," "dim-witted," "a twit," "a moron," a product of "the breeding ground of chaos and hate in this country [which] lies nested in the pathological conservativism of murderous anti-abortionist goons, right-wing militias, and wanna-be theocrats," and -- the coup de grace -- "Ann Coulter's long lost fraternal twin." At this point Professor Leiter and his fellow bloggers apparently exhausted the thesaurus.

A wag once wrote that no one doubted the existence of God until some philosopher tried unsuccessfully to prove it while delivering the Gifford Lectures. Of that I'm not so sure, but it seems to me that if there was any doubt about the truth of my own thesis, Professor Leiter has kindly, if inadvertently, provided the missing evidence with his eloquent "refutation" of it.

Leiter also goes on at length about the negative impact my article might have on my professional standing, and has evidently employed a crack staff of blog readers to track down a number of obscure bits of Feser trivia from around the Internet, which he has posted and analyzed meticulously. His interest is flattering, if creepy. But it leaves me puzzled. If my thesis is wrong, why should my article cause me any professional trouble? Won't the conservatives with which the academy is, by Leiter's lights, veritably teeming, welcome me with open arms in reward for my service to the cause?

Now maybe he thinks that even such conservatives would, given their sense of academic decorum, refrain from associating with a fellow right-winger who would dare to break ranks with his fellow professors by writing a critique of the contemporary academy. Yes, that must be it. After all, a left-wing professor who claimed, say, that the universities were in thrall to corporations and the military-industrial complex would be run out on a rail by outraged fellow liberals who would not stand for such crackpot ranting even from one of their own. We can expect Noam Chomsky's sacking from MIT any day now.

But wait: though in his comments on my article Leiter dismisses the suggestion that conservatives are underrepresented in academia, one finds on perusing an earlier blog post of his -- one concerning the now-notorious comments of Professor Robert Brandon on conservatives in academia -- that he there acknowledges the "small number of conservatives in academia" and that "certain kinds of conservative views are underrepresented in the academy."

What's going on here? Perhaps, despite his apparent contempt for my admiration for the philosophers of the Middle Ages, Professor Leiter has himself taken on board a version of one of the less happy specimens of Medieval philosophy, the notorious and allegedly Averroist doctrine of "double truth": when a liberal professor like Brandon affirms the paucity of conservatives on the faculty, what he says is true; but when one of us benighted conservatives affirms the same proposition, what is true is its negation. This is a remarkable development in contemporary philosophy, and it is odd that Professor Leiter, whose blog is so devoted to chronicling the ups and downs and ins and outs of the exciting world of academic life, has failed to make more explicit note of it. But that is, no doubt, merely owing to his evident modest and self-effacing nature.


Read the whole lovely "Dear Brian" letter here: http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=022004C

It should be obvious that Leiter is totally full of sh*t. No one with his intelligence can spout this contemptible bile of half-truths and outright lies unless one is insane or wicked. I don't think he's insane. One can never, of course, be too sure given Leiter's sycophantic devotion to assorted loony-lefties such as Zinn and Chomsky, two gulag apologists who helped fertilize the Killing Fields, which is just a mega-abortion clinic for the "we need jto ust break a few eggs to make an omelet" neo-Leninists.

We cannot forget how the lover affair began, Dr. Eddie. A true classic fisking:
To take the latter first: Professor Brian Leiter, who fancies himself an arbiter of all things academically respectable, disagrees with my assertion that conservatives are treated with condescension and hostility in the modern university. His way of proving me wrong is to call me "embittered" and a "crackpot," a "lunatic" whose "ranting" and "paranoid" "lies" are not only "embarrassing," but raise "a serious psychological question" about my mental stability. Then, calling in the heavy intellectual artillery, he links approvingly to another blog which characterizes my article as "bullshit" and "total crap," and me personally as "nuts," a "Neanderthal," "stupid," "dim-witted," "a twit," "a moron," a product of "the breeding ground of chaos and hate in this country [which] lies nested in the pathological conservativism of murderous anti-abortionist goons, right-wing militias, and wanna-be theocrats," and -- the coup de grace -- "Ann Coulter's long lost fraternal twin." At this point Professor Leiter and his fellow bloggers apparently exhausted the thesaurus.
A wag once wrote that no one doubted the existence of God until some philosopher tried unsuccessfully to prove it while delivering the Gifford Lectures. Of that I'm not so sure, but it seems to me that if there was any doubt about the truth of my own thesis, Professor Leiter has kindly, if inadvertently, provided the missing evidence with his eloquent "refutation" of it.
Leiter also goes on at length about the negative impact my article might have on my professional standing, and has evidently employed a crack staff of blog readers to track down a number of obscure bits of Feser trivia from around the Internet, which he has posted and analyzed meticulously. His interest is flattering, if creepy. But it leaves me puzzled. If my thesis is wrong, why should my article cause me any professional trouble? Won't the conservatives with which the academy is, by Leiter's lights, veritably teeming, welcome me with open arms in reward for my service to the cause?
Now maybe he thinks that even such conservatives would, given their sense of academic decorum, refrain from associating with a fellow right-winger who would dare to break ranks with his fellow professors by writing a critique of the contemporary academy. Yes, that must be it. After all, a left-wing professor who claimed, say, that the universities were in thrall to corporations and the military-industrial complex would be run out on a rail by outraged fellow liberals who would not stand for such crackpot ranting even from one of their own. We can expect Noam Chomsky's sacking from MIT any day now.
But wait: though in his comments on my article Leiter dismisses the suggestion that conservatives are underrepresented in academia, one finds on perusing an earlier blog post of his -- one concerning the now-notorious comments of Professor Robert Brandon on conservatives in academia -- that he there acknowledges the "small number of conservatives in academia" and that "certain kinds of conservative views are underrepresented in the academy."
What's going on here? Perhaps, despite his apparent contempt for my admiration for the philosophers of the Middle Ages, Professor Leiter has himself taken on board a version of one of the less happy specimens of Medieval philosophy, the notorious and allegedly Averroist doctrine of "double truth": when a liberal professor like Brandon affirms the paucity of conservatives on the faculty, what he says is true; but when one of us benighted conservatives affirms the same proposition, what is true is its negation. This is a remarkable development in contemporary philosophy, and it is odd that Professor Leiter, whose blog is so devoted to chronicling the ups and downs and ins and outs of the exciting world of academic life, has failed to make more explicit note of it. But that is, no doubt, merely owing to his evident modest and self-effacing nature.
Read the whole lovely "Dear Brian" letter here: http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=022004C

It should be obvious that Leiter is totally full of sh*t. No one with his intelligence can spout this contemptible bile of half-truths and outright lies unless one is insane or wicked. I don't think he's insane. One can never, of course, be too sure given Leiter's sycophantic devotion to assorted loony-lefties such as Zinn and Chomsky, two gulag apologists who helped fertilize the Killing Fields, which is just a mega-abortion clinic for the "we need jto ust break a few eggs to make an omelet" neo-Leninists.

The document to which you refer indicates that parents had the opportunity to "opt out" of the exercise. So nobody was "forced to play-act being Muslims for several [weeks]". It was optional.

May we assume, then, that Mr. Zero has endorsed publicly-sponsored Christian prayer in schools, so long as there is an opt-out clause in the policy?

I am an occasional German reader of the W4 blog. Although I heavily disagree with most of the political and philosophical views expressed by the contributors, I usually found the posts revealing, interesting, sometimes inspiring, sometimes outrageous - but never (never!) unintelligent.
This has changed.
Maybe Jeff Culbreath is not a "lunatic mysogynist" - as Leiter had it - but that he is a complete dumb you can't deny. His piece on " ... and women rule over them" is among the most idiotic texts I've ever read. There is not a single serious thought, let alone argument in it.
To be honest: the post on Howard Zinn doesn't fare much better. If Zinn died as the bad historian and anti-American you think he was - what about some fair analysis and CONCRETE examples that may prove the point, instead of the smear and slander you offer, Paul?.
Is this the new policy of W4: brainless idiocy in place of the former intelligent, enraging, entertaining, thought-provocing radicalism??

The court also found that the exercise was secular in nature. Twice. So I guess I don't see what the problem is.

You know, I just knew it. The argument from "the court said it."

So, if there were a program as much parallel to this as possible with Christianity (the taking of names, however, is not as significant in Christianity as it is in Islam, where it has legal significance in Muslim countries) with an opt-out clause which parents didn't hear about, and some atheist child were required to memorize Christian prayers and phrases, pretend to be a Christian for several weeks, prepare for Lent by giving things up, and so on and so forth, Zero would have no problem with it _if_ the court said it was okay?

But someone's getting up and praying in front of people at an official function, such as a football game, is a case of people's being "forced to participate" in Christian prayers?

Amazing.

May we assume, then, that Mr. Zero has endorsed publicly-sponsored Christian prayer in schools, so long as there is an opt-out clause in the policy?

I wonder why you think so. The document to which Dr. McGrew refers does not indicate that prayer was included in the activity. They memorized portions of Muslim prayers, but they did not pray them. The courts have twice found that the exercise was secular in nature. So I think you're just making stuff up. A similar, optional exercise in which students learned but did not pray the Lord's Prayer or learned but did not affirm the Apostle's Creed, and which had the legitimate secular purpose of teaching about an important religious faith would be fine.

with an opt-out clause which parents didn't hear about, and some atheist child were required to memorize Christian prayers and phrases, pretend to be a Christian for several weeks, prepare for Lent by giving things up, and so on and so forth

You claimed that students were forced to play-act being Muslims. In response to my request for more information, you linked to a document that doesn't support your contention at all. I can respond only to the information you provide. The parents say they didn't know about the opt-out or that it was otherwise illegitimate, but the courts have twice found that it was optional and served a narrowly secular purpose.

I'm not arguing that it was okay because the court says it was; I'm responding to your argument that the exercise was wrong because there exists a lawsuit that failed in District Court and failed again on appeal. Maybe you've got real evidence that there was something wrong with the exercise. If so, you've kept it to yourself.

If the parents don't hear about the opt-out, both they and the child are under the impression that he has to do this. From the child's perspective and that of his parents, this is required. I really do not believe you would not be bothered if such an impression were conveyed to atheist parents. Moreover, if the instruction really was "secular" in nature in the view of the court, it's not clear to me that an opt-out was legally necessary but rather just an extra argument. Can you think of a reason why it would be? The ostensibly secular nature should remove any legal need for an opt-out clause.

And how can children demonstrate that they have memorized the Lord's Prayer if they don't quote it? So you would have no problem with requiring secular children or Buddhist children or whatever to quote the Lord's Prayer to their teacher as part of a supposedly "secular" educational exercise? But you do have a problem with public prayer before football games as "forcing" people to participate?

I am struck by how predictable so many of the answers here are to questions. Not all by the same person, to be sure. But above, we had someone defending Leiter's gross exaggerations, defending the use of "American Taliban," calling public prayers at public functions "forcing" participation, now we have Zero defending a Muslim unit which included memorization of Muslim prayers, taking Muslim names, etc., as an official activity of the school while deploring all Christian prayers at official functions. It's just pretty predictable right down the line.

And nobody seems to feel that _they_ look extreme or lockstep.

I mean, I don't actually much care what their opinions are. But in the main post Ed's correspondent suggested some questions for the Leiter crew, and now we find that the answers are mostly as expected.

But don't worry: Since we're unrepresentative of Christian philosophers, most of whom would be more diffident in encountering the Leiter bunch, y'all don't _have_ to institute (according to APA policy, unethical) discrimination against Christians in hiring. I realize this has been suggested by a commentator in Leiter's comboxes (or so I'm told), but you can hold off for now. Those who laugh and cry together over W4 are perhaps more typical, and you ought to get along with them just fine.

@Jeff 7:32:

Thanks for being so polite. However, I see that you too had trouble with some of the subtle conceptual distinctions at play in question 2). You see, the issue is whether you can believe that X is morally wrong without believing that people who X should be executed. I see that you immediately changed the subject to "people who hate X." You too might be interested to learn that one can think "X is immoral" without also hating people who X. Don't be discouraged, though, philosophy is hard.

Also, you might want to look up the word "Theocracy" in a dictionary. You see, making political decisions for religious reasons isn't exactly the same thing a believing we should have a theocratic government. This too is a rather subtle distinction, but nothing that a good dictionary or thesaurus can't clear up.

If the parents don't hear about the opt-out, both they and the child are under the impression that he has to do this.

That seems right to me. It seems to me that if the school failed in their obligation to inform the parents that the exercise was optional, the parents would have had a pretty serious case. But your document doesn't contain any specific information about whether and/or how the parents were informed; it just says that the Courts found that the exercise was genuinely optional. Twice. If you have evidence that the parents are right, and it was not genuinely optional, you have kept it to yourself.

Moreover, if the instruction really was "secular" in nature in the view of the court, it's not clear to me that an opt-out was legally necessary but rather just an extra argument. Can you think of a reason why it would be?

To reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit, for they can be expensive and time-consuming even if you're right.

And how can children demonstrate that they have memorized the Lord's Prayer if they don't quote it

They can't. Luckily, quoting it and praying it are two different things. They could even write it down.

now we have Zero defending a Muslim unit which included memorization of Muslim prayers, taking Muslim names, etc., as an official activity of the school while deploring all Christian prayers at official functions.

I deplore religious observances at official school functions. But I've also said that religious observances at unofficial functions are fine, as are units about religious traditions that do not contain any actual religious observances. Such a unit about Christianity would be fine by me. My disagreement with you about the Muslim unit concerns whether it constituted a religious observance--although you seem to think it did, the Courts have twice found that, on the contrary, it served a legitimate, narrowly secular purpose. If you've got evidence that contradicts this finding, again, you've kept it to yourself.

To reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit, for they can be expensive and time-consuming even if you're right.

Okay, so you seem to be acknowledging that at least plausibly the school district would have been "in the right" according to the court's reading of a "secular purpose" even without the opt-out. And you support the court's ruling of a secular purpose. So it seems to me we can just waive the opt-out issue and say that it _appears_ that you would not object to such a unit on Islam even if it really were mandatory. Which, again, seems to me rather predictable.

So it seems to me we can just waive the opt-out issue and say that it _appears_ that you would not object to such a unit on Islam even if it really were mandatory.

You said kids were forced to play-act at being Muslims. Your "evidence" does not support this contention.

Now you're saying that because it is your legal opinion that the "opt-out" clause is legally unnecessary, and because I can think of an obvious non-legal justification for it, that I must think that the a mandatory Muslim unit would be okay. This doesn't follow. For one thing, I know you well enough to know not to trust your intuitions about how the law works. For another thing, the fact (if it's a fact) that the "opt-out" clause is legally unnecessary does not entail or imply that I find it unimportant. For a third thing, this is irrelevant. You said, "how do you feel about the time children were forced to play-act at being Muslim?"; the answer is, "That's not what happened."

From the cited blog post at the beginning of this article:

(

1) As a Christian faculty member who knows other Christian faculty at places like, say, Rutgers, MIT, Brown, and Yale, I have to say that I think it's really unrepresentative among what you might think of as the mainstream research departments.

I did not know that MIT had a theology department :) Does it, in fact, have a philosophy department? How Christian is Christian? This seems like a nebulous sample, since what is a Christian faculty? Please, define.

The Chicken

What does Mr. Zero think of President Obama's statement in his Cairo speech last year where he said he considered his responsibility as President of the United States to defend the Islamic religion against stereotypes "wherever they appear"?

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/013375.html

Hi MC,

"Does [MIT], in fact, have a philosophy department?"

Yes, and it's excellent.

"How Christian is Christian? This seems like a nebulous sample, since what is a Christian faculty? Please, define."

All I can tell you is that Roger White is a faculty member at MIT who is at least a theist, and perhaps a Christian.

Mr. Zero has asked for details on the Islamic "educational" materials at the heart of the case Lydia was mentioning. We might all profit from a little closer inspection of what is contained in Islam: A Simulation of Islamic History and Culture, 610-1100, which is the 7th grade curriculum in question. Here are a few places to start:

Students are encouraged to pick two out of a set of proposed projects which they will then present during "festival days." Examples of the projects:

* Become a Muslim warrior during the crusades or during an ancient jihad. Explain weapons, tactics, etc.

* Prepare a presentation on the Five Pillars of Faith.

Students are encouraged to wear Muslim clothes, which for girls includes long-sleeved dresses and a head scarf. Children unwilling to adopt Muslim garb are to sit mutely in the back of the room.

Student activities include not only reading the Koran but reciting it from memory and writing verses from it on a banner. Each team of students is to create a banner for its own city that includes the name of the city and the Bismillah ("In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate").

Other activities include the adoption of Muslim practices such as taking off shoes, sitting on prayer rugs, washing their hands at appointed times coordinated with Muslim rituals, adopting Muslim names, and acting out the Five Pillars of the Faith, including the giving of zakat and taking a pilgrimage to Mecca.

And praying. In particular, the curriculum gives them this prayer to say (complete with the typo in line 10):

In the name of God, Most Gracious,
Most Merciful.
Praise be to God, The Cherisher
and Sustainer of the Worlds;
Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgment;
Thee do we worship,
And Thine aid we seek,
Show us the straight path,
The way on those whom Thou
hast bestowed Thy Grace.
Those whose portion is not wrath,
And who go not astray.
Amen

While they are sitting on those prayer rugs, the students get to hear about "The Prophet Muhammad" from the teacher. The teacher answers questions that range from biographical bits to ... well ... here are some examples:

* When and where was Prophet Muhammad born? Prophet Muhammad was born in 570 in Makkah, which is about halfway down western Arabia near the Red Sea. He was called al-Amin -- "the trustworthy man," and his Arabic name means "highly praised."

* Prophet Muhammad is God's messenger and the final prophet. How did God reveal His Message to him? God revealed His Message to Prophet Muhammad through revelations and through Angel Gabriel. They were written down during his lifetime and became the Holy Qur'an.

* Can you describe the occasion when Prophet Muhammad visited in heaven? God transported Prophet Muhammad to Jerusalem where he ascended from the Dome of the Rock to heaven upon the grand horse, Buraq.

[Fact check: Buraq-the-flying-horse aside, construction on the Dome of the Rock began in AD 685 under Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, half a century after Muhammad's death, n'est ce pas? Oh well ...]

Directions to the teacher for this particular activity read: "To give extra flavor to the presentation, you should use proper phrases like 'God willing' and 'Allah has power over all things,' as well as quote appropriate proverbs."

Skeptical folk who are still reading will be glad to know that the curriculum affords some scope for religious doubt. Students are encouraged, for example, to ask whether they should "worship Prophet Muhammad, God, or both." Positively latitudinarian, that. At about the same time that this was being reported (the summer of 2002), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was in the process of handing down a decision that having school children recite the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional because the phrase "... one nation, under God, ..." constituted an endorsement of monotheism.

To test their assimilation of the materials presented, students collect and recite information from "Wisdom cards" that are labeled "Truth," "Fact," or "Trivia." These are a real mishmash of straightforward historical fact and Islamic doctrine. For example:

* People who believe in Islam are called Muslims. Truth

* The Qur'an is the sacred book of Islam. Truth

* Archangel Gabriel came to Prophet Muhammad while he meditated in a cave and revealed
God's word to him. Revelations continued for 23 years. Truth

* The Kaaba in Makkah is the holiest shrine of Islam. It was originally built by Adam
and later rebuilt by Abraham and his son, Ismail. The Black Stone came down from heaven
with Adam and was placed by him in the southeastern corner of the Kaaba. Truth

* Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol. Fact

* Throughout the Islamic World, the faithful are called to prayer by a muezzin, sometimes with a loud speaker. Fact

* The Qur'an has 114 chapters or suras, has 6,226 verses, and is God's third revelation that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Fact

* Jinns, who were created from fire, can be good or evil, with the chief evil jinn being "Iblis" or Satan. Fact

* Islam uses a lunar calendar. Trivia

* Prophet Muhammad first began to receive revelations from God at the age of 40. Trivia

* The holy books of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all have much of the same history, stories, and beliefs. Trivia

None of the cards is labeled "Traditional Islamic belief" or "So they say, but why don't you make up your own mind." The creation of the Jinns from fire is presented as a fact, right up there with the fact that Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol. It's true that Adam built the Kaaba, just like it's true that followers of Islam are called Muslims.

If all of this serves a legitimate secular educational purpose, then I think that the Christians have been seriously lacking in creativity. There is an amazing educational opportunity out there just waiting to be seized.

And if you're not a Christian, don't complain. We'll be sure to tell you -- after we're done with your kids -- that you could have opted out.

Actually, this curriculum is not so much an attempt to convince the students of the truths of Islam, but rather is a subtle attempt at fostering Indifferentism - the belief that one religion is as good as another or that all religions are equally valid. I think that this really is a subtle violation of the First Amendment, since Indifferentism is a belief system. Mnsr. Ronald Knox said it best: "Those who study comparative religions run the risk of becoming comparatively religious."

The Chicken

Mr. Zero wrote:

"The Tuskeegee Experiment is a drop in the bucket of a long, horrible history of black people in America. Not that facts don't matter, but black people have a lot to be upset about."

Well, in the first place, the "Tuskegee Experiment" wasn't even a "drop in the bucket of a long, horrible history of black people in America." It was, on the whole, a counterexample.

And, in the second place, while the history of black people in America is, no doubt, fairly horrible, it's not nearly as scary as what they left behind.

Remember the immortal words of The Champ: "Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat."

I hope, without much confidence, to live to see the day when historians can tell the whole story *wie es eigentlich gewesen* without risking their careers.

Okay, I admit it: I have no idea of what Dr. Leiter is speaking. Would someone describe the ideal Christian philosopher from which, presumably, WWWtW deviates (or at least Leiter's idea of TICP). It might give me and others who don;t follow such things a starting point to understand the conflict.

The Chicken

The ideal Christian philosopher in Dr. Leiter's mind is a political liberal. Preferably one who reads his blog and writes him letters telling him how bad W4 is. I don't actually know who these last are, though I could make some shrewd guesses. I could also name names regarding the former, but that would be considered ignoble, so I won't. But it's really very simple. An ideal Christian philosopher (for example) engages in a lot of breast-beating about Christians' terrible history of homophobia. Such a person may even say that Christian institutions, because of this history, have no "moral standing" to defend their positions against homosexual acts, even if their policies _might_ be objectively defensible. In short, the ideal Christian philosopher, to Dr. Leiter, is a Leiter sycophant who wishes whenever possible to prove his political liberal credentials so that others will forgive him for being a Christian.

This is called being a "centrist" or "mainstream."

I hope that's helpful, MC. :-)

Tim, THANK YOU for the details on this "secular" program.

Can we just decide that the courts of the 9th Circuit no longer have any standing to be followed for any purpose, and ignore them from now on? If they think calling this a secular operation is sensible, then they belong in a nuthouse.

As a Christian faculty member who knows other Christian faculty at places like, say, Rutgers, MIT, Brown, and Yale, I have to say that I think it's really unrepresentative among what you might think of as the mainstream research departments.

Of course, if Leiter had been sent notes by scores of Christian philosophers saying the opposite it would not change the quality of his case one wit. If he believes y'all are bigots because you believe that sex has an intrinsic purpose that excludes extra-marital and sodomiac acts, then why should it matter whether one, none, or zillion Christians agree with Leiter?

Leiter advertises his blog as a "Philosophy Blog." Hardly. A "philosophy blog" does not offer a textbook example of the bandwagon fallacy as a litmus test for assessing a serious question in Christian moral theology.

I think it's time that the readers of W4 go after of TLR's advertisers and ask them if they want to continue to be associated with the vicious hate speech that emanates from that the twisted mind of that Lying Liar.

Shockingly, Notre Dame's philosophy of religion center advertises on TLR. This is why, by the way, Leiter does not go after the ND signatories of the counter-petition. No calling Plantinga, Van Inwagen, and MacIntyre bigots. Why? Because that may disrupt the cash flow. The only "bigots" in the Leiter-universe are conservatives who can't disrupt Leiter's ubermanche aspirations. And he has the gall to pronounce others "unethical." It is wonder that anyone with any sense takes his crackpot rants seriously.

If the curriculum Tim gives us is accurate, it sounds like indoctrination to me - into a religion whose major precepts are alien to our culture, and the enemy of the one that actually played a part in forming it.

Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol. Fact

That does it for me.

Children unwilling to adopt Muslim garb are to sit mutely in the back of the room.

The dhimmis.

mutely in the back of the room.

You gotta admire the incredible historical blinders here, the astounding lack of sensitivity. They know just where second class citizens belong, the back of the bus, er, room. Where is Rosie Parks when you need her?

not observantly , or studiously , or simply kindly . No: mutely . No outside perspectives need apply. Because, after all, we are doing diversity training here, opening up students to a WHOLE NEW FORM of indoctrination.

In Leiter's latest addendum, he strongly suggests that he pays very little attention to W4: "I last wrote about Feser & his lunatic colleagues eight months ago," Posted by Brian Leiter on February 02, 2010 at 06:36 AM. However, one need only scroll down the page of Leiter Reports to January 25, 2010 at 05:53 AM and check out the brilliantly titled post, "Anti-Gay Bigots Never Rest," which links to W4, calls the writers here "anti-gay crazies," and suggests the clever verb forms of "Feser" and "Beckwith." And, of course, if we look at Leiter's past posts and add all the 'addendums' and 'updates,' we easily find over a dozen W4 related posts. All of which of course makes one wonder how the "Sure, I've stalked her in the past, but I haven't stalked her in eight months -- except that episode a week ago I completely forgot about" defense would work...

Leiter has a man-crush on Feser and Beckwith. It's obvious. He always writes of them in the context of "gay" issues. (Besides, have you seen those guys. Total studs, if you ask me).

As for the "anti-gay crazies" charge, it's Leiter that's the nut-job. Feser and Beckwith seem to understand that reasonable people may disagree with their view of homosexual acts. But Leiter simply cannot conceive how anyone in their right mind could possibly believe that sex has a purpose and it is only in the coupling of a man and woman committed for life. That's Finnis' view, by the way, and Leiter thinks he's a great philosopher of law. Why hasn't Leiter called Finnis an "Anti-gay crazy"? Finnis has power, and Leiter won't cross him. That makes Leiter a coward, and Feser and Beckwith real men. Hence, the man-crush. Brian craves their masculinity so that he can make it his own.

My personal favorite is the matter-of-fact statement that Feser isn't "rhetorically talented." This, of course, is coming from a grown man who think it's clever to conjure up titles like "instaignorance" and "Texas (sic) Taliban." Considering that Leiter's own rhetorical "prowess" is more or less exhausted by exaggerations, hyperbole and a painful overuse of rhetorical pauses, I think it's safe to conclude that his sense of proportion is not(shall we say?) robust.

Here is link to the actual document Islam: A Simulation of Islamic History and Culture, 610-1100. http://michellemalkin.com/archives/files/islamlesson2.pdf. Folks might want to compare what's actually in and how it's been represented here. There's nothing about students who don't want to participate being made to sit 'mutely' in the back. Nor are the students being told how to pray. In fact they are explicitly told "you should not simulate Islamic prayer."

Tristian,

All I get from your link is a 404 error.

Oh, yes, let's look at some of the document:

From the beginning, you and your classmates will become Muslims...
Just as Muslims value education and knowledge, so should you. (VALUE JUDGMENT, not program parameters) Your participation in this simulation is important to your own personal enrichment...
This simulation lasts 10 to 15 days, depending on your teacher...
You could be attacked by a rival tribe, misdirected by a “jinn” (devil)...

So we are to simulate historical facts of rival attacks on the exact same basis as "misdirection" by "devils". What if those were actually interventions by angels? Or pure imaginative fictions? Or superstitious nonsense? Or...[Sorry, I forgot we don't want to confuse the student with the distinction between religion an superstition, because we atheists don't really think there is a distinction.]

Both Muslim males and females dress modestly, especially in public, therefore loose fitting clothing that reveals only one’s face, hands and feet is customary in Islamic countries...

I suppose this "therefore" means that people who don't cover loosely all but their face, hands and feet DON'T dress modesty? And what about the Muslims who cover everything but the eyes? And what about Muslims who go about in Western clothes in order to "simulate" attacks on Western countries without being noticed. Are they dressing immodestly?

Your group must complete the Muslim’s Five Pillars of Faith.

Although told not to simulate prayer, you are told to simulate (or actually DO) the others, which are of themselves aspects of obedient faith in Islam. Nothing in the instructions provides the student with a separation between doing the required activities and actually living the 5 pillars of faith as a Muslim, so nothing separates this from a religious activity.

The section 2 on page 4 discusses prayer but says NOTHING about not actually praying or simulating prayer. The student can easily be led to confuse the requirements, thinking that prayer is required.

Page 8, on history of dynasties, is really funny, in addition to being propaganda: it completely muddles the reference to the first and second "golden ages", saying the second comes "after" the first but giving dates that show the second starting before and running after the first. Hmmmm.... But in addition to that, there is no mention at all of the all the wars of conquest (religiously motivated). In fact, in the section on other religions, it mentions that Muslims view Christians and Jews as people of the book, but simply ignores the fact that this din't preclude conquest, oppression, dhimmitude, and murder, all officially sanctioned.

There is a brief reference to the initial periods of the caliphs, but it fails to mention that Islam doesn't even attempt to distinguish between secular or religious rulership.

Between what the student is required to practice, and what is left out of the material, there is no possible conclusion but that this is indoctrination / religious training. The judge who claimed that this is secular is totally benighted and it would be unsurprising if he were an anti-Christian bigot of the first order, though more evidence would be needed to determine that. Even on legal grounds, one of the classic requirements for a secular basis is treating other religions in the same manner: are there comparable units on Protestantism? Catholicism? Hinduism? Mormanism? Even on its own ground, the claim fails a basic test.

How far into pure, unadulterated insanity must our 9th circuit judiciary go before people refuse to accept their stupidity and simply defy their results? Does anybody notice that these judges are approximately as connected to reality as Frost or Withers at N.I.C.E.?

Bobcat, you have to take the last period out of the address.

Can I add that this does not look like it constitutes the entirety of the material?

Thanks, Tony.

I'm imagining Hebrews at the foot of Mt. Sinai telling others not to simulate dancing before the golden calf.

it mentions that Muslims view Christians and Jews as people of the bookbut simply ignores the fact that this din't preclude conquest, oppression, dhimmitude, and murder, all officially sanctioned.

Yeah the line from the program is, "Muslims believe Christians and Jews are People of the Book or people deserving respect for their religious beliefs" which is pure crap. Frankly, looking at the document itself makes one want to compel the judge to take a drug test.

I'm imagining Hebrews at the foot of Mt. Sinai telling others not to simulate dancing before the golden calf.

Priceless.

But, hey, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so that _means_ the curriculum was secular.

In confirmation of Tony's conjecture, yes, Tristian's link gives only 24 pages. The entire curriculum, with handouts, is 114 pages.

I do like the map for the "Race to Mecca" on the final page, though. Starting in Cordova. Did the school district provide grief counseling for those poor kids when all their camels drowned in the Strait of Gibraltar?

Never has so much be made of someone so little. I think we need to keep some perspective, perhaps extend some christian charity or at least pity for Professor Leiter. Remember, this is a grown man with Nietzsche worship who professes to be a leftist, the intellectual contradictions alone are enough to make one weep.

Juvenile dichotomies, oversimplification and making broad proclamations about things for which you have no relevant expertise sounds like Nietzsch...I mean Leiter. I want to talk about Nietzsche briefly, because I think it might give some insight over what's going on with Professor Leiter.

Nietzsche knew far less than he could have possibly imagined, his misanthropy and sociopathy meant that he saw himself as shunned but destined for greatness...like alot of manic depressives with dellusions of grandeur. His inability to relate to everyday people and concerns meant that everything to him was a cosmic struggle, an epic in which he and his kind were the heros, just as a lonely child might use escape into fantasy as a defense mechanism.

His own work largely mocked in his own lifetime by reputable philologists and only later re-emerged when authoritarianism and the idea of a vanguard gained currency with the late 19th-early-20th century literati, Nietzsche's name is unfortunately spoken in the same breath as Soren Kierkegaard, a vastly superior thinker. His emergence was an unfortunate accident of history.

The same 19th century incoherent sophmoric prattle that animates Nietzsche's work, I'm afraid, afflicts Leiter. The ability to argue wasn't exactly Nietzsche's strong suit, and of course, it isn't Leiter's, who's response to this post is simply to call an entire group of people "bigots." But did you really expect rebuttal in the form of rational argument?

When one asks what intellectual progeny Nietzsche brings us, the answers are not exactly inspiring, nazism and authoritarianism vis-a-vis Heidegger, the reactionary leftism of Foucault, Neo-Conservatism of Leo Strauss and, on a far far far more modest scale, the endless blogsploitation of Brian Leiter.

What raises this from mere farce to tragedy, is that Leiter does not betray any actual understanding of Nietzsche, if he does, I've yet to read it. Neitzsche defended a form of elitism whereby the function of the laws, both human and natural, were to protect the few from the many. Nietzsche's admonitions against socialism, charity and welfare are found throughout every period of his work. Were he alive today, Nietzsche would more likely be bosom buddies with Grover Norquist than Denis Kucinich. Which leaves us one of two possible conclusions about Leiter, who professes sympathies for the left:
1) Either he read the work and didn't understand it.
2) He is willfully deceitful about the works he read and has ulterior motives for his dubious hermeneutics.

I suspect he's 2) in a long-line of fashionable Nietzsche apologists who delight in Nietzsche's misanthropy and elitism, as a mirror for their own, and like that his hyperbolic expectorations make for far easier (mis)interpretation to fit their own prejudices than do the reasoned works of more serious thinkers like Plato or Kant.

One of the ways to avoid the proliferation of Nietzscheanism to a new generation of intellectually unarmed and impressionable students is to ensure a thorough philosophical education. Where possible, rational arguments should be lauded over flashy aphorisms spoken stylishly.

As for Leiter's personal attacks, as a great philosopher once said "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."

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