I leave you this fine evening with an essay by Frank Furedi. If you really want to spite the misanthropists, have a baby. Or two.
Sunday, 1 July 2007
Besides being influenced by [Gilbert] Ryle, I was also much impressed by F. Waismann and G. A. Paul, and by the sort of second-hand Wittgensteinianism which was in the air generally. This second-hand Wittgensteinianism was partly characterized by talk of “this is the language game” and by a certain unacknowledged verificationism. Unacknowledged and even consciously denied presuppositions are of course the most insidious ones. This sort of Wittgensteinianism helped me to avoid facing certain important issues for some time, and in particular the question of whether I could honestly continue the practice of religion, to which I was emotionally very drawn despite the fact that another side of my nature craved an austerer metaphysics. What finally made me break with religion was getting interested in biology, largely because of the excellent biological discussion group which centered on the zoology department of the University of Adelaide. When one comes to see man as a zoological species, a lot of the Christian story seems most unplausibly [sic] anthropocentric. Moreover, how can one think biologically of immortality and of prayer? Could there be an information-flow model of prayer? Such questions could no longer be blocked by evasive Wittgensteinian talk about language games.
(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 64)
Note from KBJ: This is bizarre. Smart admits that he was “emotionally very drawn” to religion, so you would think that he would abandon it only if he had to, i.e., only if it were logically inconsistent with something else he believed even more firmly. He says it was biology that made him “break with religion.” So he must think that certain biological propositions are inconsistent with religion. But how could they be? Biology is about the natural world. It has nothing whatsoever to say about the supernatural world, including whether there is a supernatural world. A fortiori, it has nothing whatsoever to say about whether the Christian god exists. Something is not right here. Either Smart is being dishonest in reporting his abandonment of theism or he’s irrational (in the sense that he gave up something he wanted without having to).
In 1971, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled, in Baker v. Nelson, that (1) the state’s marriage law does not authorize two men (or two women) to marry each other and (2) the law does not violate the United States Constitution. See here for the text of the opinion. I lectured on this case in my Sex, Ethics, and the Law course 20 years ago (at the University of Arizona). It’s interesting that the court addressed the argument, which is now often heard, that if (i.e., since) the purpose of marriage is procreation, heterosexual couples who can’t procreate should not be allowed to marry. The court wrote:
The equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, like the due process clause, is not offended by the state’s classification of persons authorized to marry. There is no irrational or invidious discrimination. Petitioners note that the state does not impose upon heterosexual married couples a condition that they have a proved capacity or declared willingness to procreate, posing a rhetorical demand that this court must read such condition into the statute if same-sex marriages are to be prohibited. Even assuming that such a condition would be neither unrealistic nor offensive under the Griswold rationale, the classification is no more than theoretically imperfect. We are reminded, however, that “abstract symmetry” is not demanded by the Fourteenth Amendment.
This is exactly right. Law is not morality. It deals with classes, not individuals. Homosexual couples cannot procreate. Heterosexual couples can. That is the difference that makes the difference.
Here is Linda Greenhouse’s review of the recently concluded Supreme Court term. Isn’t it ironic that progressives such as Greenhouse worry about the overruling of previously decided cases? This isn’t because progressives value stability in the law; nor is it because they think legal change should be incremental rather than precipitous. It’s because they like the precedents, such as Roe v. Wade (1973), that are in danger of being overruled. The current Court has shown, this term, that it is willing to correct the mistakes made by previous lawless Courts. Remember: An old mistake is still a mistake. I didn’t hear progressives arguing in 2003 that, because Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) was 17 years old, it should not be overruled. Nor did I hear them complaining when the Court, in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), overruled it.
Here is a New York Times story about Wikipedia, to which I link on a regular basis. You should not assume that I believe everything in every entry to which I link. I assume that some, perhaps most, of the information is correct. Wikipedia is a good place to start an investigation. It is a bad place to stop.
Tamar Jacoby says that “rage and rhetoric” defeated the immigration bill. I have no idea why she thinks this. On its face, it’s implausible. Why would there be emotion on one side of the debate but not on the other? Why would only one side use rhetoric (as opposed to logic)? Jacoby’s column itself shows that those who supported the bill were willing and able to use rhetoric to achieve their ends. Here is a paragraph from her column:
So on and so forth, all around the points of the compass. And as a result, support for the legislation was tepid. But opposition—the over-my-dead-body opposition of the anti-immigrant right—was red hot. Opponents were loud, angry, unrelenting—and terrifying to members of Congress, particularly those coming up soon for reelection.
Notice how she frames the issue. Those who opposed the bill are “anti-immigrant.” So you have those who are in favor of immigration and those who are against it. Which is more reasonable? The issue, of course, is illegal immigration. I could just as easily frame the issue as follows: There are there who are against illegal immigration and those, such as Jacoby, who are in favor of illegal immigration. Which is more reasonable?
The easiest thing to do, during a debate, is to arrogate reason to yourself and accuse your opponent of being emotional. Reason trumps emotion. This is often put in terms of logic and rhetoric. Instead of charitably reconstructing your opponent’s argument, and then criticizing it on factual or logical grounds, simply accuse your opponent of using rhetoric. By the way, Ted Kennedy is one of the sponsors of the immigration bill. He is hardly a paragon of reason, logic, temperance, charity, or civility.
Here is a New York Times story about one of my favorite states, which I visited in 1989 and 1991.
The All-Star teams have been announced. Here are the rosters. Six of my eight American League picks—David Ortiz, Placido Polanco, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, and Magglio Ordonez—will start. Two of my eight picks—Carlos Guillen and Grady Sizemore—were named as reserves. They were outvoted by Derek Jeter and Vladimir Guerrero, respectively. Five Detroit Tigers made the team. Three New York Yankees made the team. One Texas Ranger (Michael Young) made the team.
Only one of my eight National League picks—Chase Utley—will start. Three of my eight picks—Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Lee, and Matt Holliday— were named as reserves. They were outvoted by David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Barry Bonds, respectively. Four of my eight picks—Todd Helton, Edgar Renteria, Benji Molina, and Eric Byrnes—did not make the team, which is disgraceful. They were outvoted by Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Russell Martin, and Ken Griffey, respectively. They should leave the All-Star rosters to me.
Here is Richard John Neuhaus’s column about Mitt Romney. On the question whether Mormons are Christians, Neuhaus writes:
I believe that many Mormons are Christians as broadly defined by historic markers of Christian faith. That does not mean that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christian. It is indisputably derived from Christianity and variations on Christianity, but its distinctive and constituting doctrines are irreconcilable with even a very liberal construal of biblical Christianity. It is, as Rodney Stark and many others have argued, a new religion and, by the lights of historic Christianity, a false religion. It is true that there are Mormon scholars who are working mightily to reconcile the LDS with Christianity, and one wishes them well, but they have their work cut out for them.
I don’t get it. Many Mormons are Christians, but the Mormon church isn’t Christian?
Yesterday, in Stephenville, Texas, I did my 11th bike rally of the year and my 407th overall. I expected the worst as far as weather was concerned. It’s been ridiculously rainy in North Texas for the past two months, and the forecast all week was for storms on Saturday. I awoke to the sound of thunder several times during the night. But when the alarm clock went off, at five o’clock, I saw that the rain had stopped. Stephenville is 79 miles from my house, so I had no idea what it was doing there. It could be raining; it could be sunny; it could be somewhere in between. All you can do is drive there and find out.
No rain fell during the drive to Stephenville, during which I listened to one of my favorite albums of all time: Eddie Jobson’s The Green Album (1983). It sounded terrific on my Accord’s CD player. As day began to break, I could see that there were clouds overhead. When I got to the rally site—the campus of Tarleton State University—I found my friends Phil and Randy in the parking lot. Phil said he was sick, and, as it turned out, it affected his performance. Randy and I talked him into doing the long course with us instead of turning off on the 43-mile course. I feel bad about this, because not only did Phil suffer mightily during the ride; he fell behind us in the final 10 miles and got caught in a vicious rainstorm. I waited for him in the comfort of my air-conditioned car. When he rode up, he was soaked to the skin and whining like a baby. It turns out that he had a flat tire. Talk about adding insult to injury!
Only a couple of drops of rain fell on me during the 3:27:37 of the ride. I rode 20 miles during the first hour. Randy had gone out early, after the racers left, while Phil and I, who are law-abiding, started with the rally riders at eight o’clock. We knew we’d hook up with Randy eventually, if only at a rest stop. Meanwhile, Phil and I fell in with a small pack of riders and kept up a good speed. At one point, Phil complained that we were going 30 miles per hour. (Phil complains a lot.) I loved it. It felt effortless. I also knew, as sure as I knew what day it was, that we would pay for this enjoyment. In cycling, as in economics, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. For every descent, there is an ascent. For every tailwind, there is a headwind.
As we expected, Randy was waiting for us at a rest stop about 20 miles in. He had been hammering. The three of us rode together after that—until Phil got dropped near the end. The humidity was very high, so much so that I felt like I was swimming rather than riding my bike. It was particularly bad when we stopped. When we were moving, the air made the perspiration evaporate, which had a (slight) cooling effect. Randy and I ate dill pickles at a couple of rest stops. Phil said we were crazy. I told Phil that dill pickles put hair on a man’s chest. Phil is a wimp.
The final 10 miles were great fun, despite the many rolling hills. A tailwind is a cyclist’s best friend. I finished with an average speed of 17.54 miles per hour for 60.7 miles. I reached a top speed of 37.4 miles per hour on one of the many hills. My maximum heart rate was 151 and my average 119. I burned 1,881 calories. I’m glad it didn’t rain on us, although, given the heat (the official high for the day was 89° Fahrenheit), it would have felt good. The drive home was perilous. It rained almost all the way, sometimes torrentially. Visibility was poor. The storm was at its worst when I reached my house, with trees bending and rain coming down in sheets. It felt good to get inside.
Get well, Phil. You done good for a sick man. As usual, Randy rode strongly. Not bad for a sack of potatoes. I need nicknames for these home boys. Phil has a reputation as a sandbagger, so I’m going to call him “Sandman” from now on. Randy is “Mr Potato Head.” Me? I’m “Philosopher-King.”
Can you imagine a debate between Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich? He would destroy her. First, he’s smarter than she is. Second, he’s a student of history, which helps him see things in context. Third, he knows the sordid details of the Clinton administrations. Fourth, he’s a master rhetorician. See here for a column about Newt.
To the Editor:
Re “Young Americans Are Leaning Left, New Poll Finds” (front page, June 27):
As a professor who for years has spoken on the virtues of liberalism, I find it extremely pleasing to know that young Americans are once again beginning to lean on the left.
It gives me great hope that this new generation will go on to restore what has been taken away from us in the last seven years of the ultraconservative Bush administration and its collaborators in Congress.
While your conservative readers will accuse me of being yet another liberal professor indoctrinating students, it is more important to have voters who support universal health coverage for all, believe that gay marriage and abortion should be legal and that global warming is a serious problem, and finally, willing to vote for a presidential candidate who smoked marijuana, who is a woman or African-American.
In short, these voters will turn our nation into a kinder and gentler place and that is so much better than the current divisive, religion-suffocating, anti-science and war-filled living conditions.
Stony Brook, N.Y., June 27, 2007
Note from KBJ: Thank goodness this man teaches molecular biology and not, say, philosophy!
Here is a humorous op-ed column about e-mail. I have no problems with e-mail. I have two accounts: one through my university and one with my Internet service provider, Charter. Both of them must have good spam filters, because I rarely get junk e-mail. Every now and then, I get an abusive message from some creep, but as soon as I see that the message is abusive, I delete it. (All such messages are anonymous; courage is in short supply these days.) During the fall and spring semesters, when I’m teaching, I get e-mail messages from students. There could come a day when I get so many messages from students that I have to stop encouraging them to write to me, but that day hasn’t come. In short, I like e-mail.