Tuesday, 20 May 2008

“The New Climate Religion”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Lorne Gunter.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia. Here is tomorrow’s stage. Ouch.


Somebody help me out here. The percentage of blacks who vote for Barack Obama is much higher than the percentage of whites who vote for Hillary Clinton. So why are the whites racist and the blacks not?

Animal Rights

A few years ago, philosopher David Oderberg published an essay entitled “The Illusion of Animal Rights” in The Human Life Review. A few months ago, having belatedly discovered Oderberg’s essay, I wrote a critique entitled “Oderberg on Animal Rights,” which I duly submitted to The Human Life Review for publication. The editor rejected it, which means Oderberg gets the last word as well as the first. It’s unlikely that any other periodical would publish my essay, since it’s a critique rather than a stand-alone essay, so I decided to “publish” it here and on my Animal Ethics blog. Enjoy!

“Pious Hand-Wringing”

Is anyone surprised that a group with the name “Roman Catholics for Obama” is dishonest? How can a Roman Catholic vote for someone who believes that women ought to have a legal right to kill their babies? Isn’t the Catholic injunction against taking innocent human life absolute?


Don’t you love it when Bill Clinton (a.k.a. Slick Willie) pretends to be principled? I’m looking forward to tonight’s primary coverage. I’ll be watching Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. This is not because I like them. It’s because I can’t stand the people on Fox. You have to work hard to make American politics boring, but Fox manages to do it.


Have we achieved parity? It appears so. In the four-team American League West Division, there is a seven-game spread (in the loss column) between the first-place team (the Los Angeles Angels) and the last-place team (the Seattle Mariners). The spread is seven games in the Central Division and five in the East Division. We’re more than a quarter of the way into the 162-game season and no American League team is out of contention! Even my beloved Detroit Tigers, who have done almost nothing right this year, are within striking distance (seven games) of first place. I keep hoping the team starts to click, but so far it’s been nothing but confusion, disappointment, and frustration. The worst part is that I can’t torment Yankee fans until (note that I didn’t say “unless”) the Tigers reach .500. Why did I make such a stupid vow?

In the National League East Division, there is a seven-game spread. In the Central Division, there is a seven-game spread among six teams. In the West Division, there is a 14-game spread. In fact, of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball, only three—the Colorado Rockies, the San Francisco Giants, and the San Diego Padres—are out of contention. Only two teams in either league (the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks) have won 60% of their games thus far. To what do you attribute this year’s parity (assuming you believe, as I do, that there is parity)?


Here is a New York Times story about the rebranding of the Republican Party. What changes would you propose if your aim were to reinvigorate the party?

Progressive Dogmatism

A dogma, according to Simon Blackburn, is “a belief held unquestioningly and with undefended certainty” (The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996], 109). Progressives flatter themselves that only conservatives (especially those of a religious bent) are dogmatic. This is risible, for in my experience, progressives are every bit as dogmatic as conservatives, if not more so. Here are two flagrant examples of progressive dogmatism:

1. Voting behavior. Progressives think that there is only one basis on which to vote, namely, economic self-interest. When confronted with the fact that many poor and working-class Americans vote Republican, progressives are dumbfounded. It must be false consciousness of the sort Karl Marx (1818-1883) used to insulate his theory from empirical refutation. The masses (progressives say) have internalized the values of their capitalist oppressors! They come to believe that free enterprise benefits them, when in fact it exploits and enslaves them. As for how this happens, progressives postulate many ways. One is the use of manipulative language by Republican candidates, who take advantage of people’s love of country, fear of terrorism, anxiety about cultural loss, and hope of personal improvement (among other powerful emotions). It never crosses progressive minds that poor and working-class Americans care about many things besides economic self-interest. That anything other than a welfare state could actually be in the economic self-interest of poor and working-class Americans is, to the progressive mind, inconceivable.

2. Religious belief. Progressives are convinced that there is no god. They don’t argue for their atheism; they assume it. When confronted with the fact that most people believe in a supreme being and an afterlife, progressives are dumbfounded. The belief (they say) must be rooted in fear, hope, anxiety, bad faith, or some other emotion. People need a stern but loving father, so they invent one (Freud). Those who have social power (the aforementioned capitalists!) induce people to believe in an afterlife so they won’t protest against the injustices of this earthly life (Marx). Religious belief is a misfiring of an evolutionarily useful ability: agent-detection (Darwin). No attempt is made to examine the grounds of religious belief. It can’t possibly be true, so its persistence must be explained naturalistically.

Can you think of other examples of progressive dogmatism?

A Year Ago


Thomas Nagel on Marriage

Marriage in the fairly recent past sanctioned and in a curious way concealed sexual activity that was condemned and made more visible outside of it. What went on in bed between husband and wife was not a fit topic for comment or even thought by outsiders. It was exempt from the general prurience which made intimations of adultery or premarital sex so thrilling in American movies of the fifties—a time when the production code required that married couples always occupy twin beds. Those who felt the transgressive character of even heterosexual married sex could still get reassurance from the thought that it was within a boundary beyond which lay the things that were really unacceptable—where everything is turned loose and no holds are barred.

We are now in a more relaxed sexual atmosphere than formerly, but sex remains in essence a form of transgression, in which we take each other apart and disarrange or abandon more than our clothes. The availability of an officially sanctioned and protected form of such transgression, distinguished from other forms which are not sanctioned, plays a significant role in the organization of sexual life. What is permitted is for some people still essentially defined and protected from shame by a contrast with what is forbidden. While the boundaries change, many people still seem to feel the need to think of themselves as sexually “normal,” and this requires a contrast. Although premarital sex is by now widely accepted, the institution of heterosexual marriage probably confers a derivative blessing on heterosexual partnerships of all kinds. That is why the idea of homosexual marriage produces so much alarm: It threatens to remove that contrastive protection, by turning marriage into a license for anyone to do anything with anybody. There is a genuine conflict here, but it seems to me that the right direction of development is not to expand marriage, but to extend the informal protection of intimacy without the need for secrecy to a broader range of sexual relations.

(Thomas Nagel, “Concealment and Exposure,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 27 [winter 1998]: 3-30, at 21 [italics in original])

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “What Social Security Isn’t Meant to Do” (editorial, May 12):

Just about a year ago, the Times editorial board was among the most forceful advocates of the so-called comprehensive immigration reform bill before the Senate. A key component of that legislation—in fact, the only component that offered anything at all to law-abiding citizens and immigrants—was the promise that a secure work authorization system would deter future illegal immigration.

Now that a stand-alone bill to implement the work authorization provision is before the House with broad bipartisan support, suddenly you object on the grounds of staggering costs (which actually amount to less, on an annual basis, than California alone spends educating the children of illegal immigrants) and the bureaucratic inefficiency of the Social Security Administration.

Oddly, staggering costs and bureaucratic inefficiency did not seem to The Times to be an obstacle to a huge illegal immigrant amnesty and the implementation of new guest worker programs. The cost and the bureaucratic infrastructure necessary to process tens of millions of amnesty applications, to weed out the fraudulent ones from the legitimate ones, to conduct background checks on tens of millions of applicants, and more were never a concern when it came to rewarding the people who broke our laws.

Imperfect recordkeeping on the part of the S.S.A. is not a valid reason for avoiding implementation of a work verification system in this country. It is, however, a very good reason for cleaning up the S.S.A.’s database.

Dan Stein
President, Federation for American Immigration Reform
Washington, May 12, 2008

Note from KBJ: Progressives prefer manipulative rhetoric to rational persuasion, since the latter is difficult, time-consuming, and, most importantly, not guaranteed to change minds. (To a progressive, the end justifies the means.) The editorial board of the New York Times uses the term “unauthorized immigrant workers.” Imagine calling murderers “unauthorized killers” or robbers “unauthorized property possessors.” They’re illegal aliens, for God’s sake. They’re aliens, rather than citizens, and they’re here illegally. They broke our laws. The board also refers to Tom Tancredo as an “anti-immigration extremist.” Since when is it extremism to want to enforce the law? I would have thought that the extreme position is not wanting to enforce the law.

From the Mailbag


This was a fun game to watch, as all no-hitters are, and Jon Lester is a truly likable character, even for Red Sox haters (I think). It is common that I have the game on, rare that I actually sit and watch, but last night I was drawn in by Ellsbury’s catch, noticed the zeros on the board as the telecast went to commercial, and then sat and watched every pitch from that point on. Nothing else in sport can match the tension and excitement of a baseball no-hitter.


Note from KBJ: Except that proper subset of no-hitters: perfect games.