Sunday, 13 May 2007
Heh. Let me get this straight. It’s morally permissible to kill a perfectly healthy fetus for no reason other than convenience, but impermissible to kill one because it’s defective. What a world.
Addendum: What we’re seeing, now that technology has advanced far enough to make properties of fetuses known, is a clash between two progressive principles:
1. Women have a right to control their reproductive lives.
2. It is wrong to discriminate against individuals on the basis of traits over which they have no control.
These principles come into conflict in cases in which a woman wishes to abort a defective fetus or a female fetus. Which principle will prevail? Or, to put it bluntly, which industry will prove to be strongest: the abortion industry or the disability industry? Stay tuned.
Law professor Eugene Volokh is appalled (as I am) by Tufts University’s decision to stifle criticism of Islam. What are the odds that the university would have made the same decision if the speech had been about Judaism or Christianity? Welcome to PC University, where the overriding imperative is the prevention of discomfort.
Christianity has regarded the Old Testament as in a sense and to a degree licensed by Christ. He took it largely for granted in his teaching, and the Church which he founded proclaimed it (with the exception of the laws about ritual and sacrifice) as God’s message. The Old Testament in telling in Genesis 1 and 2 the Creation stories seems to presuppose that animal species came into being a few thousand years ago virtually simultaneously. The theory of evolution showed that they did not. So some rejected Christianity on the grounds that it taught what was scientifically false, and others rejected the theory of evolution on the grounds that it conflicted with true religion. But it seems odd to suppose that the religious message of what is evidently a piece of poetry was concerned with the exact time and method of animal arrival on the Earth, or that that was what those who composed it were attempting to tell the world. Their message concerned, not the details of the time and method of animal arrival, but the ultimate cause of that arrival.
(Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], 182 [footnote omitted])
Steve Sailer thinks we should enforce our immigration laws. I agree. How did it come to pass that there is disagreement about whether our laws should be enforced? Whether to enact a given law is, of course, debatable; but once a law is enacted, how can it seriously be maintained that it shouldn’t be enforced?
In case you’re not visiting Dr John J. Ray’s blog every day, here is his latest batch of posts.
Here is Michael Kinsley’s review of Christopher Hitchens’s new book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Does anyone find it ironic that Hitchens was named after Jesus? I’m surprised he hasn’t changed his name.
Addendum: The following paragraph leapt out at me:
Hitchens is attracted repeatedly to the principle of Occam’s razor: that simple explanations are more likely to be correct than complicated ones. (E.g., Earth makes a circle around the Sun; the Sun doesn’t do a complex roller coaster ride around Earth.) You might think that Occam’s razor would favor religion; the biblical creation story certainly seems simpler than evolution. But Hitchens argues effectively again and again that attaching the religious myth to what we know from science to be true adds nothing but needless complication.
This is silly. First, there is no reason to believe that “simple explanations are more likely to be correct than complicated ones.” Second, even if this principle were true, Hitchens could not get to his destination with it, for the simplest explanation of the natural world is that an omnipotent, omniscient being—God—created it. Hitchens should read Richard Swinburne, Is There a God? He might learn something about science, religion, and philosophy. Actually, Hitchens isn’t interested in learning, for that means hewing to the truth. He’s interested in money, which can be made by antagonizing people. Only in America can outrageousness be the ticket to wealth and celebrity.
Ever heard of the World Transhumanist Association? It was founded by two philosophers, including one (Nick Bostrom) who teaches at Oxford University. Here is the WTA’s website. Here is its declaration. I like the following provision:
Transhumanism advocates the well-being of all sentience (whether in artificial intellects, humans, posthumans, or non-human animals) and encompasses many principles of modern humanism. Transhumanism does not support any particular party, politician or political platform. (Emphasis added.)
I wonder how many of the signatories eat meat?
We’ve had a rainy spring in North Texas, so I was worried that I’d get soaked during yesterday’s bike rally in Cedar Hill. Luckily for my friends and me, the rain held off. In fact, the weather was perfect. The wind was out of the north, which meant lower than usual humidity; it was light (6.5 miles per hour, on average); and the temperature was ideal (upper sixties and lower seventies, degrees Fahrenheit). By the time we finished riding, just before noon, it was getting hot. (The official high for the day was 88°.) I commented to my friends that it’s starting to feel like summer. Before long, we’ll be riding in scorching heat. That’s why they call the annual rally in Wichita Falls the Hotter ’n Hell Hundred.
This is the first year for the Cedar Hill rally. I hope the rally was successful enough in raising money to be held annually. Some rallies are more than 20 years old. Others died out after a few years. One thing I don’t understand is why there are sometimes two rallies on the same day. For example, there was a rally in Saginaw yesterday. Why wasn’t this rally held a week ago? I would have been happy to do it. As it was, I stayed home that day, since there were no rallies to attend. The rally organizers need to get together before the rally season begins and distribute the available dates. Everyone would benefit from this, including the various charities. If I had my way, I’d do a rally every Saturday from late March to mid-November. I did 25 rallies in 2006. I’d be happy to do 30 or more each year.
The name “Cedar Hill” may conjure images of hills and valleys, and indeed the country around Cedar Hill is quite bumpy; but the rally route was remarkably flat. I’m a rouleur. This means I can ride hard and fast for a long time on a flat course. I get dropped on hills, however, and I don’t have sprinting ability. (Not that sprinting ability is important in rallies, which are not races.) I had a ball yesterday on some of the long, flat stretches. It didn’t matter to me that I was wearing myself out. My goal is to get stronger with each ride. To do this, I need to ride hard for at least part of each rally, whether it’s at the beginning, in the middle, or near the end. I’m also building my endurance. Yesterday’s 65.5-mile ride was my longest in over seven months. By late summer, I’ll be able to ride 100 miles without devastation. Whether I actually ride that far in a given rally remains to be seen; but I like to be in a position to do so. For the past few years, I’ve ridden 74 miles rather than 100 in Wichita Falls—mainly to get home at 2:30 instead of 4:30. This year, I may do the long course again, just for old time’s sake. My friend Joe will appreciate the company, I’m sure—as long as I don’t yack too much.
Yesterday’s rally was my fifth of the year and 401st overall. I averaged 18.9 miles per hour for the first two hours and 15.47 for the final 1:45:49, for an overall average speed of 17.29 miles per hour (for 65.1 miles). I got dropped by my friends once we turned into the headwind. Ironically, that’s when I needed them the most. (With friends like these, who needs enemies?) But sometimes it’s best to ride alone, even if it means going slower than you otherwise would. You need to gather yourself, mentally, and find a sustainable pace. When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is think about staying with someone or doing your share of the work in a paceline. I wish I had taken my Zune music player with me. I left it in the car because, with several friends in attendance, I didn’t think I’d need it. Oh well, you can always hum a favorite song while you’re turning the pedals.
I love having a calorie counter on my bike’s computer. I burned 2,321 calories during yesterday’s ride, which is an average of 35.6 per mile. Just knowing that I burned that many calories makes me feel less guilty about exceeding my 2,200-calorie-per-day limit. I’ve heard that professional cyclists burn over 5,000 calories in a long race. If you like to eat, bicycling is the sport for you! I find that on the day after a bike rally, I’m famished. My body cries out for calories to replace those burned the previous day. I always listen to my body, but I’m no slave to it. Very often, I tell my body “No.” With obesity rampant in our society, it appears that many people are unable to do this. That’s fine; just don’t look to me to subsidize your lack of control. One reason I oppose national health care is that it transfers wealth from those of us who exercise self-control to those who don’t. Government should never be in the business of subsidizing weakness of will. As the old saying goes, if you want less of something, tax it; if you want more of something, subsidize it. We do not want more obesity.
I made only one stop yesterday, about halfway through. It’s always nice to get off the bike for a few minutes to stretch the legs and back. I saw one accident. My friends and I came upon a man sitting in the road, with emergency workers hovering over him. He must have crashed. Bicycling is a dangerous sport. You must be vigilant at all times. A simple touch of wheels can spell disaster. I’ve had one crash in 401 rallies. I’ve been lucky.
To the Editor:
Conservatives who believe a Darwinian view of human nature supports their policies are being very selective. True, our competitiveness and acquisitiveness make capitalism good for productivity, but we still have to rein in corporate greed, pollution, gun violence, militarism and other excesses.
Darwin’s brilliant theory of evolution by natural selection explains that we became what we are because, in the ancestral environment, traits that promoted survival and reproduction were passed on. Somehow, our brains grew big enough to give us our adaptability, inventiveness and morality.
Ever since, our cultures and technology have evolved much faster than our biology.
Our evolutionary past doesn’t tell us what choices we should make today; old strategies don’t always work in a new environment. Darwin himself had a strong moral sense and clearly saw that we had to transcend our animal natures to build a better world. Let’s hope our brains are big enough.
Gerald W. Neuberg, M.D.
Irvington, N.Y., May 7, 2007
Note from KBJ: It’s hilarious that progressives and conservatives are “fighting” over Darwin. “He’s mine, dammit!” “No, he’s mine!” Here are two books for your edification and enjoyment: Peter Singer, A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation; Larry Arnhart, Darwinian Conservatism. Think about the implications of fighting over Darwin. It means that Darwinism has prevailed. If your ideology is incompatible with Darwinism, it has no chance of success. Feminism may be the only ideology (other than religious fundamentalism) that has not come to grips with Darwinism, although certain feminists, such as Katharine K. Baker, are coming to the realization that it must do so in order to survive. See here. If an ideology can’t adapt, it dies.