Thursday, 15 March 2007

Twenty Years Ago

3-15-87 Sunday. The Catholic church recently issued a proclamation concerning surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, and test-tube babies. As expected, it banned all three of these practices, calling them, among other things, “unnatural.” Years ago, the church banned contraception and abortion, but, so far as I know, many Catholics ignore these teachings. Some even get divorced, and yet consider themselves Catholics. This most recent pronouncement does not surprise me. I read a book several years ago entitled Man and Wife [Marc Oraison, Man and Wife: The Physical and Spiritual Foundations of Marriage, trans. Andre Humbert (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958 [1956]); I finished reading this book on 18 March 1983], and in the course of reading it I realized that two basic premises underlie all Catholic teaching on matters sexual. First, sex must be confined to the marital relationship. This means that homosexuality, adultery, and fornication are forbidden, for by definition these kinds of sex acts are between unmarried partners. Second, sex must have one purpose: procreation. Sex must never be an end in itself, nor can pleasure be its inspiration. The couple is permitted to have sex only to produce offspring. Any pleasure that they get is incidental to this purpose—a happy by-product, so to speak.

Cynic that I am, I interpret the Catholic position on sex as follows: It would be a better world, all things considered, if sex were unaccompanied by pleasure; that is, if orgasms were nonexistent. Then again, perhaps pleasure is necessary, for without it, there would be nothing to rail against, nothing to give effect to the sense of duty. Pleasure is the background against which duty makes sense. The duty is to procreate, not experience pleasure. Procreation is good, while pleasure is bad. Isn’t this crazy? One would think that a more plausible position would be this: There is a duty to procreate (for married couples only, of course), but sex may also be used as a source of pleasure. The fact that sex produces pleasure in addition to children is a goodmaking feature, not a badmaking feature. Once again, the Catholic church has taken the most implausible and indefensible position, one that is calculated to generate enormous guilt, resentment, and psychological problems. What in the world is wrong with these people?


Somebody tell me what this woman wants. There are so many rants going on in so many directions that it’s hard to tell.

John Edwards Is No Jonathan Edwards

See here. (If you don’t know who Jonathan Edwards is, see here.)


Here is a blurb from Cyclingnews about yesterday’s confusion in the Paris-Nice stage race:

Russian rider Alexandr Kolobnev delivered a fantastic performance, winning for the first time for his new team CSC on Wednesday. The former Rabobank rider was part of a break for 213 of the 216 kilometres from Limoges to Maurs, which made up the third stage of Paris-Nice, and finished by crossing the line solo with about 15 seconds to the main peloton.

Kolobnev broke away from his escape group with 10 kilometres to go before the finish. At that point they only had about 40 seconds to the peloton, but the hilly terrain towards the end worked in Kolobnev’s favour. “I actually didn’t think I’d make it all the way home, but I had to give it a go because I still felt strong even though it was late in the stage. Luckily there was a descent, which was just steep enough so the main peloton couldn’t catch me,” he said after the stage.

Kolobnev didn’t make a secret of the fact that this was the biggest victory in his career so far, as the peloton only managed to gain about 25 seconds on him during the final 10 kilometres.

“I’m so proud of this. It’s a great feeling and it means a lot to me to prove to myself that I have what it takes, but it means just as much to be able to give something back to the team, because they believed in me right from the start,” continued Kolobnev.

“It was world class what Alexandr did today,” commented a happy sports director Alain Gallopin. “We’re all so happy about this. But we’d had a serious word with all the guys this morning, because we weren’t one hundred percent at the end of Tuesday’s stage—but hey, what a comeback!”

Meanwhile, due to misinformation, bunch sprint favourite Tom Boonen thought he was the lucky winner of the stage just behind Kolobnev, and raised his arms as he crossed the line in Maurs. “I really thought I had won,” Boonen told Sporza after the race. Obviously, team Quick-Step hadn’t counted the breakaway riders they had reeled in with just a few kilometres to go, and prepared their sprint as usual. “I didn’t know that there was still a rider in front of the peloton. Shit, after two unlucky days I thought I finally had the win in my pocket. But when I lowered my arms, I saw that CSC was celebrating, too.”

Even though the Belgian was disappointed not having scored a single victory at this year’s Paris-Nice (he won two in 2005, and three in 2006), he was also glad that the sprint stages are over. “A stage victory in Paris-Nice is not a necessity,” he continued. “Besides, this was one of the most dangerous sprints of my life. We were riding at 80 km/h; I will never forget this sprint!”

Eighty kilometers per hour is 49.7 miles per hour.

Addendum: Here is a scene from today’s stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, won by Russian Alexandr Arekeev. Here is a scene from today’s stage of Paris-Nice, won by Spaniard Alberto Contador.

From the Mailbag


I saw this article in today’s Boston Globe and couldn’t help but laugh. Long ago, the Catholic Church sold indulgences offering much the same trade-off: part with some money, achieve peace of mind. Buying carbon offsets to balance out one’s carbon footprint appears to have many of the same problems as the buying of indulgences.



Here is the latest apostolic exhortation from Pope Benedict XVI. I found section 83 the most interesting:

Eucharistic consistency

83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms (230). These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature (231). There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them (232).

Are you listening, John Kerry?


Here is a column about digital media.

Preliminary-Exam Reading List

A few weeks ago, I scanned, uploaded, and posted my Preliminary-Exam Reading List of 20 years ago. I did so for two reasons. First, someone asked me for a copy. Second, I thought that other graduate students, and even undergraduates, might find it interesting. After preparing the Reading List, I tweaked it by adding and deleting items (in consultation with my committee members). Here is the final version. For those of you who haven’t earned a doctoral degree, I should explain what this is. Having done all my course work in the Ph.D. program at the University of Arizona, I was about to begin work on my dissertation. But the Department of Philosophy requires that doctoral candidates pass a series of oral and written examinations prior to being allowed to go forward with the dissertation. They call these Preliminary Exams. (Some departments call them Comps, or Comprehensive Exams.) The Reading List is compiled jointly by the candidate and his or her committee members. The candidate can be examined on anything on the list. To study for the exams, I read and outlined every item.  It took months. I then studied my outlines. Did I pass? You’ll have to wait and see.

R. R. Reno on Paul Tillich (1886-1965)

By my reading, Paul Tillich helps the barbarians maintain their illusions. His primary role in the twentieth century was to unburden the consciences of clergy who no longer believed but wanted to maintain their roles and reputations as men and women of spiritual seriousness. I have difficulty thinking of a more destructive writer. Give me the ardent atheism of Richard Dawkins any day over the pseudo-mystery and easy spiritualism of Paul Tillich.

(R. R. Reno, “Correspondence,” First Things [February 2007]: 3-4, at 4)

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Top General Explains Remarks on Gays” (news article, March 14):

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has refused to apologize for his remarks about what he called the immorality of homosexual conduct. While I understand that this is his opinion, it is not an opinion shared by everyone. But I think that most people would agree that bigotry is immoral.

General Pace demonstrates marked ignorance and bigotry, and that kind of immorality doesn’t belong in our military . . . or our society.

(Rev.) William H. Carey
Ferndale, Mich., March 14, 2007

Note from KBJ: “If you don’t share my values, you’re a bigot.” This is what passes for argumentation among progressives. Note that by the letter writer’s standard, the vast majority of people in the world today are bigots, for the vast majority of people in the world today believe that homosexual conduct is wrong. And what exactly is General Pace ignorant of? What piece of information does he lack? Never mind. “You’re ignorant” has no cognitive meaning; it’s simply a form of abuse, no different in principle from hitting someone over the head with a two-by-four. Progressives are great abusers—both of those with whom they disagree and of the language.

Note 2 from KBJ: The editorial board of The New York Times chimes in. No wonder the Times‘s readership is falling like a house of cards. People don’t take kindly to being insulted day in and day out.

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