Saturday, April 29, 2006

More on Marketing the Evil Gay Agenda:

Just recently, a librarian at Ohio State University got in trouble for recommending rightwingnut David Kupelian's book for freshman reading. I'm skirting the whole freedom of speech issue. Clearly, the book is the ravings of a deluded crank. But cranks have First Amendment rights too.

Rather, I'm going to update a point I made earlier when I discussed Kupelian's book. The book relies heavily on Marshall Kirk's and Hunter Madsen's book, After the Ball -- a progay rights book, written by two marketers who suggested using classic marketing techniques to change people's minds in favor of gay rights -- as the prototype for The Marketing of Evil.

Kupelian, and many other like-minded folks before him, act as though After the Ball is a secret playbook driving "The Gay Agenda." Indeed, Kuznicki's recent post links to an article which notes:

The agenda of homosexual activists is basically to change America from what they perceive as looking down on homosexual behavior, to the affirmation of and societal acceptance of homosexual behavior.

It is an agenda that they basically set in the late 1980s, in a book called "After the Ball," where they laid out a six-point plan for how they could transform the beliefs of ordinary Americans with regard to homosexual behavior — in a decade-long time frame.

And Kupelian himself just wrote an article commenting on the Ohio State University controversy which again trots out Kirk and Madsen's book as the driving force behind "marketing" homosexuality.

To prepare you for what we'll encounter at OSU – and at most any other school today – let me introduce you to two experts on the selling of homosexuality to America; in fact, they wrote the book. Harvard-educated marketing professionals Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen authored the acknowledged PR bible of the gay-rights movement, "After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the '90s."

The problem with Kupelian's thesis is that its simply not true. Most gay people, and most proponents of gay rights have never read or even heard of the book. The book was, until recently (I do believe) out of print. A few months ago when I wrote my original post, when I googled for the book, no Amazon links even came up (at least, not on the first few pages). Presently, when you google for "After the Ball," Amazon does indeed come up as the first link. Why the change? Well, let's look and see who is buying After the Ball. Kupelian's book, alas, seems to be selling quite well. He seems to have revived interest in Kirk and Madsen's book.

As Amazon tells us, customers who bought After the Ball also bought:

The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today by Alan Sears

The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom by David Kupelian

The Aclu Vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values by Alan Sears

Outrage: How Gay Activists and Liberal Judges Are Trashing Democracy to Redefine Marriage by Peter Sprigg

Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Jeffrey Satinover

If you look at what comes up under google, two Amazon links are first, my old Positive Liberty post is the fourth link and every other link is a rightwing antigay conspiratorial type page. The critical discussion on the "gay rights" pages is absolutely mum.

So why is that? 1) Either gays and advocates for gay rights simply are, for the most part, unaware of the book or unconcerned with its contents, or 2) like the Masonic handshake, we've all conspired to keep our reliance on After the Ball a "secret." And now the secret is out.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Am I Tackling a Strawman? (Or Why I Do What I Do):

One of the niches that I have carved out in the blogsphere is a thorough (but I think ultimately fair) examination of the key Founders' religious beliefs, done in the context of refuting the "Christian Nation" thesis. Note, refuting the "Christian Nation"* myth (as I think I have aptly done many times over) is not the same thing supporting a modern, 20th Century, post-Everson, ACLU style notion of the Separation of Church and State. Indeed, it's far easier to refute the Christian Nation thesis than to demonstrate that the Founders would have seen eye-to-eye with the ACLU's absolutist notion of the doctrine of Separation of Church and State.

Indeed, one can understand that the key Founders were not orthodox Christians (arguably, as theological Unitarians, not Christians at all) and that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution have little if anything to do with creating a "Christian Nation," but still vehemently disagree with the Court's modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence. Fair enough.

And indeed, few if any in the historical academy (including the relatively small number of conservatives in respectable positions in the Academy) take the "Christian Nation" claim seriously.

So one big question that I often ask myself is, "Am I tackling a strawman?"

Yes and no. Why is tackling the Christian Nation thesis necessary? Based on my meticulous studying of this issue over a number of years, I have concluded that millions of people are being mislead by the likes of D. James Kennedy, David Barton, Rod Parsley, William Federer and others into believing the "Christian Nation" myth. If it weren't for the millions who believe this twaddle, I would indeed be tackling a strawman. In terms of the practical effect of exposing their myth -- if they realize that the US wasn't "founded" by Christians to be a "Christian" nation, that indeed the key founders were theological Unitarians, thus not Christians as they understand that term, that they never "owned" the Founding as they were (mis)taught, they'd be less zealous about trying to "Reclaim America" and perhaps adopt a more "live and let live" attitude about culture and society.

And if religious conservatives are being treated unequally by the Courts or public institutions, I'll back them in their dispute. But, as many have pointed out, the "war against Christians" in many ways is a loss of privilege, NOT real unequal or unfair treatment. When it comes to hate-crimes laws that might stifle their freedom of speech, I'm entirely on their side. When it comes to expression of religion in the public square, I'm all for it as long as it's done pursuant to a generally applicable, neutral program where their traditional religious speech is given no special privilege against non-traditional, unorthodox, religious or atheistic speech.

But whatever the legitimate gripes of religious conservatives, our Founders didn't establish this nation so that we could be ruled by revealed religion. America was founded under the rubrics of "Nature" and "Reason," and in the ideal, our Founders desired that we be ruled by self-evident principles ascertainable by Man's Reason alone.

*Whether America was founded by "Christians" (meaning orthodox evangelical/fundamentalist types), for "Christians" to create a "Chrisitan Nation" (in a public/governmental sense, as opposed to a private/demographic sense). For instance, in a demographic sense, we are predominantly white. Yet, our public institutions are ideally neutral on matters of race. Thus, those who thunder that America is a "white nation" are certainly attempting to make a much larger (and nefarious) point than merely describing America's racial demographics. As the Christian Nation myth goes (I'm exaggerating a little bit for rhetorical flair; but not too far off from the way Barton, Kennedy, Demar, et al. tell the story), the Founders "opened" their Bibles and "found" the Declaration and the US Constitution in there. Moreover, the US was "founded" so those Christians could write as much of the Bible as they wanted into the civil law and the citizenry be ruled by (their interpretation) of revealed religion. This is what it means to be a nation "Under God" according to their understanding of the phrase. In short, the "Christian Nation" crowd has a theocratic agenda that distorts history to suit that agenda.

Monday, April 24, 2006

John Adams Quotation of the Week:

It's funny. See this thread on worldmagblog, which illustrates that stubbornness is intractable in human nature. Someone possesses an erroneous assumption. They are given more than adequate evidence refuting the assumption. Yet, they stubbornly refuse to let go of their error.

In this case, it's a fellow named Joel Mark who assumed that John Adams was an orthodox Christian, and not a Unitarian, was shown overwhelming evidence to the contrary, complete with references to primary sources, yet still refuses to let go of the notion that Adams was a traditional minded Christian. In one comment directed at me, he wrote:

Jon Rowe,

You are flat out wrong....John Adams was NOT a Unitarian. That was never how he identified himself or was identified and the Unitarians were not even around in Massachusetts or America in his prime years.

You are unreliable on this matter. maybe its just that your sources are poor. But you are wrong.

He further asks for "smoking gun" evidence demonstrating that Adams identified himself as a Unitarian. Ye ask, and ye shall receive. Here is Adams himself on the matter:

I thank you for your favour of the 10th and the pamphlet enclosed, "American Unitarianism." I have turned over its leaves and have found nothing that was not familiarly known to me.

In the preface Unitarianism is represented as only thirty years old in New England. I can testify as a Witness to its old age. Sixty five years ago my own minister the Reverend Samuel Bryant, Dr. Johnathan Mayhew of the west Church in Boston, the Reverend Mr. Shute of Hingham, the Reverend John Brown of Cohasset & perhaps equal to all if not above all the Reverend Mr. Gay of Hingham were Unitarians. Among the Laity how many could I name, Lawyers, Physicians, Tradesman, farmers!

John Adams to Jedidiah Morse, May 15, 1815. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 122, Library of Congress.


We Unitarians, one of whom I have had the Honour to be, for more than sixty Years, do not indulge our Malignity in profane Cursing and Swearing, against you Calvinists; one of whom I know not how long you have been. You and I, once saw Calvin and Arius, on the Plafond of the Cathedral of St. John the Second in Spain roasting in the Flames of Hell. We Unitarians do not delight in thinking that Plato and Cicero, Tacitus Quintilian Plyny and even Diderot, are sweltering under the scalding drops of divine Vengeance, for all Eternity.

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816, Ibid, reel 430.

These quotations are featured in James H. Hutson's fine book of quotations, pp. 220-221.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Electric Chamber Music:

That's the term that guitar legend Steve Morse used (coined?) to describe the music he writes and plays with the Dixie Dregs (a group which consists of guitar, bass, drums, keys, and violin). As this article notes:

Taking the fusion idea to its logical extreme, the band melded strains of bluegrass, Southern rock, and classical into a boiling cauldron of distinctly American, and sometimes blindingly fast, instrumentals they've referred to as "electric chamber music."

I should note that, among their different styles, the instrumental rock element is dominant.

This style -- what Morse refers to as electric chamber music -- is one of my favorites. Electric chamber music could also describe the music of some of the so called "progressive rock" (or "art rock") artists. Kansas, like the Dixie Dregs and Mahavishnu Orchestra (and a few other bands) also featured the guitar/bass/drums/violin/keys line-up. And "electric chamber music" certainly describes much of their music. Indeed, Steve Morse briefly joined Kansas in the 80s and put out two decent albums. (They could have been a lot better; some prog rock groups -- Yes, Genesis, ELP, Rush -- have had a few big AOR "hits" which have made record companies far more $$ than their ten minute long suite form epics. And so the pressure was on for Kansas to produce such a "hit" in the 80s. These two AOR genre albums flopped. They actually got rid of the violin; but with Morse, of course, there are smoking guitar solos. Those albums are worth it just for the guitar solos.)

Anyway I just got news that original violinist with Kansas, Robbie Steinhardt, is out and David Ragsdale, who replaced Steinhardt in the 1990s, is back in. While Steinhardt's presence in the band adds to the nostalgia, Ragsdale is a significantly better violinist (indeed, when original members are replaced in established bands, their replacements are almost always better technical players, though not necessarily better "artists." For instance, Sammy Hagar is a better singer than David Lee Roth; Steve Vai is a better guitarist than Eddie Van Halen; Ronnie James Dio is a better singer than Ozzy Osbourne; Randy Rhoads was a better guitarist than Tony Iommi, etc. etc.).

Anyway here is a 9:30 minute clip of Kansas in 1995, featuring David Ragsdale, which is in my opinion, electric chamber music at its finest. Note Steve Walsh's voice is a lot rougher than it was in the 70s (excessive screaming has caused a lot of rockers to lose the tone in their voice as they age); but he still puts his heart & soul into every note and phrases brilliantly.

I look forward to seeing them with Ragsdale the next time they come around.
Am I in the Right Business?

Or should I with my MBA (and JD, and LL.M.) be making a lot more money in the private sector as an executive. I noticed that CBS is in the midst of making a multimillion dollar decision, following my advise. Well, I'm just kidding; I doubt they actually read my blogpost; however, that they adopted an idea virtually identical to what I suggested they do does show perhaps that I have the mind for making these kinds of decisions (well, let's see how it works out first).

What am I talking about. A while back I suggested that

Howard [Stern] come back to CBS and stay at Sirius at the same time. Negotiate a contract between Stern, Sirius and CBS. Just like the local affiliates of receive nationally broadcast shows via a Satellite feed, have Stern do his unedited show from 6:30 or 7:00am till 10:00am on Sirius. Then, that day, from 9:00am-12:00pm have the "edited" version of the show air on CBS stations. Hire engineers who can edit all of the stuff that could possibly cause trouble with the FCC within two hours or so of the broadcast (so you'd be hearing a show that is 2 hours old).

And now it looks like CBS is going to do this....Except they are doing it with Opie and Anthony.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - CBS Corp is in talks with XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. to bring back radio bad boys "Opie & Anthony," replacing rocker David Lee Roth in his embattled run to succeed shock jock Howard Stern, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Both XM (down $0.80 to $22.48, Research) and CBS Corp. (up $0.14 to $24.70, Research) declined to comment, but the person familiar with the matter said the two companies were discussing a satellite-to-terrestrial radio syndication deal under which CBS (up $0.14 to $24.70, Research) would air a three-hour version of the "Opie & Anthony" show to be simulcast uncensored on XM, followed by two hours by the duo airing exclusively on XM.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Book Recommendation:

Well, I haven't read the whole thing, but from what I have read of it, this looks to be a very good book on the founders and religion: The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes (a professor at the College of William and Mary).

In one passage, the author writes:

But if census takers trained in Christian theology had set up broad categories in 1790 labeled "Atheism," "Deism and Unitarianism," "Orthodox Protestantism," "Orthodox Roman Catholicism," and "Other," and if they had interviewed Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, they would undoubtedly have placed every one of these six founding fathers in some way under the category of "Deism and Unitarianism." pp 50-51.

The author apparently isn't aware of Gregg Frazer's thesis or the term "Theistic Rationalist," to describe the Founders' religious beliefs; but the facts uncovered in this book line up neatly with Frazer's argument.

And for those who believe America is a "Providential" nation, one chosen by God Himself as something *special,* who look back especially to the Founding era with sacred reverence, one has to ask why God chose to give these theological unitarians who disbelieved in eternal damnation such a *special* place in America's history as the first five Presidents and key leaders in Declaring Independence and constructing the Constitution. Perhaps, in doing so, God is sending a theological message.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Harry Jaffa gets called a Jacobin...:

And doesn't like it. There are a number of interesting recent posts on Claremont's site where Claes G. Ryn, a (Russell) Kirkian traditionalist, criticizes Claremont's embrace of Man's Reason/and the anti-traditionalism of the Declaration of Independence. Ryn's criticisms have prompted Jaffa to respond:

As a disciple of Leo Strauss, I protest vehemently at being classified with Jacobins. I assure my readers, that no one has had a greater abhorrence of Jacobinism than I -- or Strauss....Of course, there are many ancient customs, like slavery and human sacrifice, that we do not think anyone ought to follow. Willmore Kendall used to say that tarring, feathering, and riding on a rail was as much an American tradition as the free speech guarantee of the first amendment. And he was right. Only the one was a good tradition and the other a bad tradition. Ryn himself says that "we need the best of the human heritage to guide us." But how are we to know the best, and avoid the worst, except by the use of our reason? To incorporate tradition into our political thought we must be able to distinguish the good from the bad.

I largely agree with Jaffa's sentiment; although I obviously disagree with many of Jaffa's conclusions that, using Reason as a guide, he reaches. But, the point of agreement between Jaffa/Claremont on the one hand and more libertarian classical liberal thinkers like yours truly on the other, is that public moral arguments should take place mainly within the domain of Man's Reason. What's written in the Bible, tradition, and history may be useful guides in some respect; but they are to be subservient to Reason.

As far as the French Revolution is concerned, I obviously think that it -- and by that I mean the theoretical case for it (not! how the Revolution, in practice, turned out) -- was a good idea; indeed, support for the theoretical/ideological case made in the Declaration of Independence demands in principle support for the French Revolution given that the ideas in the French's Declaration of the Rights of Man strikingly parallel those of America's Declaration. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence was heralded in France and helped spark their revolution. Jefferson, the Declaration's author, while in France, supported and helped to spur on their Revolution. He even assisted in writing the French's Declaration of the Rights of Man. Thus, there is an irrefutable ideological connection between these events.

In practice, the French Revolution turned out not so well. But in fairness, they had a monarchy to overthrow and a national church to disestablish.

A side note: I'm continually amazed by those who would argue that America's Declaration of Independence is a Biblical document. See Gordon Mullings, on this thread, stubbornly continue to argue this even as he is continually shot down. His case largely relies on the fact that the Dutch, in 1581, then a fairly orthodox Protestant nation, constructed a document which anticipated *some* of the ideas contained in America's Declaration, and otherwise bears a faint resemblance to it. He then, based on this tenuous connection between the two documents deems America's Declaration to be "Biblically" based.

Well, given that there is far more of a resemblance and connection between America's DOI and the French's Declaration of the Rights of Man, if we are going to "credit" the "Bible" for the Declaration of Independence, and hence America's Revolution, we likewise must "blame" the Bible for France's "Biblically based" Declaration of the Rights of Man and hence the French Revolution.

For crying out loud, even Robert Bork, on page 58 of Slouching Towards Gomorrah, has the honesty to write "Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment, and the Declaration of Independence is an Enlightenment document."
How Gay Human Accomplishment is in tension with *Multicultural* Ideals:

A brilliant post by The Gay Species, aka D. Stephen Heersink, left in the comments section of my earlier post on Gays and Human Accomplishment.

My previous digression (supra.) didn't address your keen observations, which I think are very important.

First, without stating it this way, you've addressed the distinction between "multiculturalism" and "pluralism" and "dogmatism." Multiculturalism regards all cultures as essentially worthy and esteemible in their own context, and more, in "our" own context. Bull-pucky! Totalitarianism is not on par with democracy, any more than historical Christianity is on par with fundamentalist Christianity, any more than socialism is on par with capitalism. Humans have this wonderful capacity to distinguish between "better" and "worse," and the multiculturalists' objective is to deny us this capacity.

Dogmatists, on the other hand, have an apriori conception of what the ideal "should" be, and anything less is not only unacceptable, but intolerable. That intolerance is itself intolerable.

When two or more ideas, concepts, expressions, principles, etc. are set in juxtaposition, some are clearly superior to others. Call me an Elightenment snob, but medieval Europe is not on par with Industrialist Europe, much less on par with Moorish Spain versus contemporary Spain. Ovid, the Latin poet, may be similar to Shakespeare, but Lawrence Ferlinghetti is by no means Shakespeare. Gertrude Stein may have her merits, but compared to her contemporary Faulkner, there is no comparison. Humans are a "discriminating" animal, and Matthew Arnold, that great English literary critic, clearly demonstrated that different cultures may have important contributions to make, but that does not grant them parity.

Pluralism understands this fundamental distinction. It grants that not all cultures are equal, nor all religions meritorious, nor all economics the same. Perhaps each and all have something to contribute to our appreciation, understanding, evaluation, and distinctions, but human nature allows for differences of accommodation, and grants idiots the same space as intellectuals, but it does not confuse one for the other, much less consider one equal to the other. Until academia twisted our inheritance, pluralism was our noble inheritance, multiculturalism and dogmatism our perverse antogonists.

Enter homosexuals. Their cultural contributions to our social melieu are clearly disporportionate to their number, and many a homosexual (e.g., Plato, Keynes, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Michaelangelo, et alia) have made extraordinary contributions to our culture by anyone's measure. That recognition is simply a pluralist's persepctive, one without dogmatism or multiculturalism attached. Why so many homosexuals have offered culture so many appreciable values, I cannot possibly say, other than to hypothesize that marginalization, in some instances, has found creative outlets in others (hardly a novel theory). But to claim from such observations that therefore homosexuality is obviously equal to, or superior to, heterosexuality would be preposterous. In modern parlance, it would be a categorical mistake.

Multiculturalists deny this fundamental observation, and conflate all cultural contributions as more or less equal. They are equally notrorious for making categorical mistakes, such as insisting all categories are equally tenable. Here's one homosexual who is delighted that homosexuality is not the dominant paradigm (as say in ancient Athens and Sparta), for some relatively ostensible reasons, of which survival of the species probably trumps them all. But unlike the dogmatist (the extreme opposite of the multiculturalist), I don't deny homosexuals' contribution to our better and nobler instincts are any less esteemible because homosexuals made them. Indeed, I wouldn't want to argue that we should make homosexuals' lives any more difficult or compromised so that society could benefit from their creative expressions diverted from their sexual preference.

At some point, we must still aspire to our Founders' aspirations to create and sustain a pluralistic liberal democracy, which necessarily entails variety and difference. That, in the homosexual's case, is neither to grant special accommodation, nor to deny equal access, but to grant the pursuit of happiness to everyone. Homosexuality, for example, fits me just fine, but I therefore don't want to claim that it must be the dominant paradigm or that it should be eschewed for religious reasons. I'm sure homosexuals can find contentment in their universe and religious wingnuts contentment in theirs and pluralists in theirs without trying to equalize or epitomize either.

Pluralism vs. multiculturalism and dogmatism is certainly to be favored, not because of any intrinsic merit of pluralism, but because it claims no intrinsic merit for anyone. Provided no harm comes to anyone, each must stake out an existence than suits his or her uniqueness, without anyone compromising the differences, nor anyone trying equalize their uniqueness. That's the difference between pluralism, dogmatism, and multiculturalism. The last two ideologies deny our fundamental human nature, only pluralism extols it. And however that nature is expressed, with the criterion of "harm" as its measure, so long as no one is harmed, then all differences should be able to express themselves or harmonize themselves, as each sees fit, but no one should try to equalize, conflate, monopolize, or abrogate one's indivdual contentment in order to diminish its uniqueness nor fit someone else's agenda.

So two forces are working, hopefully, in synergy: (1) pluralism and (2) human excellence. The antagonists are (3) multiculturalism and (4) dogmatism. One of the Englightenment's most noble concepts is that each person is free to set his or her own valuations, and that such valuations obviously matter, if only to the one making them. While we have the freedom to advocate our particular values, so does our opponent, but neither is free to impose his or her values on the other. That is pluralism in a liberal democracy's promise, and many of us are still awaiting its fulfillment.
The Marathon Man:

I want to congratulate my older brother Jamie for completing the Boston Marathon (not his first Marathon, but his first Boston Marathon).

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Queer Eye for the Western Guy:

Check out The Gay Species's post reacting to my post on gays and human accomplishment.

In particular, he talks about some type of "ethereal" or "elusive" quality that gay men seem to have. (Being gay is more than just having sex with the same sex.) As I noted in the comments section, could this "quality" to which he refers be related to the so called "Queer Eye"?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gays and Human Accomplishment:

I think this California Bill requiring "schools to buy textbooks 'accurately' portraying 'the sexual diversity of our society'" is a bit silly. I'm not entirely against "gay studies" -- but 1) it shouldn't be mandatory in public schools, and 2) more interestingly, most of the new ______________ studies (fill in the PC blank) programs seem to me to be a demand for "equal time" against the disproportionately European male human accomplishers most responsible for what we know of as "the Western Canon." And as I will argue, given that gays appear to be disproportionately responsible for that Canon, gays clearly don't need such "special time." Indeed, given the relatively small percentage of gays in the population, "equal time" would only shrink the coverage we give to the great gay minds and talent of the past.

Not that there aren't brilliant female and non-Western European artists and thinkers; there are and they shouldn't be given short-shrift (and the injustices -- sexism and institutional homemaking -- which prevented such "on par" achievement should be also duly noted). But "greatness," not "equal time" or "diversity" should be the standard. The equal time standard, by its very nature, gives more time to works that, while they may be good, don't belong in the Canon next to Shakespeare, Milton or Proust.

For instance, we can't give "equal time" to female classical composers because, for whatever variety of reasons, 50% of the great composers have not been female (although let me point out that at 16, my classical guitar teacher rightly told me that the greatest living classical guitarist was a female, Sharon Isbin, who also happens to be a lesbian and first cousin of the late great gay libertarian radio talk show host David Brudnoy).

See this classic article by Bruce Bawer on the matter, where he writes:

It's also confining, for there's no part of the cultural landscape without a gay element. Even if gays constitute as much as fifteen percent of the population, the gay contribution to Western art, architecture, music, and literature far exceeds what it should be statistically. If you accept the right-wing claim that only one in a hundred people is gay, then the gay contribution is truly extraordinary. Think about it: A group comprising one percent of the population producing Erasmus, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Marlowe, Bacon, Hölderlin, Hans Christian Andersen, Tchaikovsky, Proust ... the list goes on and on to include three of the four major nineteenth-century American novelists, one (perhaps both) of the two great nineteenth-century American poets, and two of the three most noted mid-twentieth-century American dramatists.

Or as Richard Posner writes in Sex and Reason:

A person who knows that James I, Francis Bacon, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster, Pyotr Illich Tchaikovsky, George Santayana, T.E. Lawrence, Alan Turing, and Ludwig Wittgenstein were homosexuals, and that Sophocles, Socrates, Plato, Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Richard the Lion-Hearted may have been, is not so likely to believe that homosexuality is merely a ghastly blight. p. 141.

I'm all for honestly discussing the homosexuality of these great figures. But clearly, gays don't need any "special attention" in terms of historical artistic and intellectual achievements.

A more interesting question might be, why it is that gays seem to have over accomplished? An honest answer would be "got me?". Gay men have been "stereotyped" as having "female" psychology. However, it's historically been men and not women who have been the greatest artists and achievers, and disproportionately gay men. In some ways, like the need for sexual release, gay male psychology is stereotypically male, not female (perhaps because of their male biology and the testosterone that goes with it).

Camille Paglia has an interesting theory. In Vamps & Tramps, she writes:

For me, civilization is art, and art is the highest record of humanity. One day, when we represent ourselves to inhabitants of distant galaxies, it will be by our art that we will want to be known. Therefore, anything that contributes to art must be nurtured and preserved. What seems irrefutable from my studies is that male homosexuality is intricately intertwined with art, for reasons we have yet to determine. p. 22.

She then gives what the reason could be:

It is possible that gay men are caught midway between the male and female brains and therefore share the best of both. Talent in the visual arts may be related to a sensory or perceptual openness, detectable (as responsiveness to light and color) in early childhood and perhaps related to autism, where the flux of sensations is cognitively uncontrolled. The gay male brain seems to me permanently switched "on." p. 75

I remember once being involved in an email exchange with a prominent anti-gay sociobiologist/conservative columnist (I think you can guess), who once wrote of the day when we could test for homosexuality in the womb and "correct it." And if, as Paglia argues, "civilization is art, and art is the highest record of humanity" and "anything that contributes to art must be nurtured and preserved" and "[w]hat seems that male homosexuality is intricately intertwined with art," it might not be such a good idea for humanity to "wipe" homosexuality from human nature.

Perhaps because I came on a little too strong, he dismissed the premise as "homopropaganda." I think I initially gave him some cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, he was a homophobe. On the other, he championed the extremely controversial idea that certain social groups have accomplished more civilization than others and that IQ scores reflect those differences. I even noted to him that some studies demonstrate that gays have higher incomes, possess more wealth and are better educated. And the social science which he lauds connects higher rates of wealth, income and education with higher IQ. (And indeed, look at the typical real estate values of the neighborhoods where gays congregate.) Thus, it was likely that gays have higher IQs.

Of course, given the closet and the ultimate uncertainly as to who really is and was gay or bisexual, there will always be room for reasonably doubting these group differences. You do have to do a little "dot connecting" to arrive at the assertion that gays are greater Human Accomplishers.

Though, I have to note, a few months after my email exchange, it was with delicious irony that I read this article by him lauding Charles Murray's book Human Accomplishment while he picked out one figure whom he thought best represented human accomplishment of the 20th Century. And he picked...Cole Porter, a gay man (duly noted in the article).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


You know you are about to read a really bad article when the author's scholarly credentials are being that of a "coach." And so it is that "Coach Daubenmire" writes an article on America's Christian Heritage which relies on David Barton's phony quotations, the gift that keeps on giving.

Update: Ed Brayton gives this article the full treatment here. As I've said before, there is a serious case to be made for a First Amendment jurisprudence that allows far more expression of religion in public life than "Strict Separationists" desire. But the Christian Nation/Christian Heritage argument is a pious fraud.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Countering "Christian Nation" Twaddle...Again:

Readers know that refuting the ahistorical and inaccurate claims of the "Christian Nation" crowd is something in which I specialize. Sometimes I worry that I am knocking down a "straw man." After all, one doesn't need to accept "Christian Nation" nonsense to advance the serious claim that the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause decisions have not been altogether proper or that the Founding Fathers allowed more expressions of religion in public life than what the ACLU or other proponents of "strict Separation" desire.

See this article by uber-Paleocon Thomas Fleming for an historically honest argument (with which I disagree, though) that both 1) rejects the Christian Nation claim, but 2) nonetheless advances a states rights oriented position on the Establishment Clause highly critical of modern Supreme Court decisions. Fleming writes:

America, they insist, was founded as a Christian country and, were it not for federal judges, it would be a publicly Christian country today....Ultimately, they believe, our religious freedom rests upon the Declaration of Independence, a fundamental part of our constitutional law, whose references to God give Christianity a protected position within the American system. God has blessed Americans, so long as we have publicly acknowledged His laws by praying in school and by hanging up copies of the Ten Commandments, and He will withdraw that blessing if we persist in our wicked ways.

It is a pretty fiction, and one that I would like to believe. The American founding is a complex story, and there were many Christians among the leaders in the seceding states. However, neither the leaders of the Revolution nor the principal authors of the Constitution were, for the most part, devout and orthodox Christians....

If the Supreme Court were to apply such a standard to school prayer or Judge Moore's monument, the justices would have to declare it within the rights of the state of Alabama to decide its own religious questions. If Alabama wanted to establish Islam or the Southern Baptist Convention as the official religion of the state, collect tithes and pay ministers, there is nothing that any branch of the federal government acting under the original Constitution could do about it....

If Dred Scott is a slender reed for conservatives to rely on, the Declaration of Independence is a morass. Whatever Mr. Jefferson and his colleagues thought they were doing (other than restating Enlightenment platitudes that have nothing to do with Christianity), they were not writing the fundamental law of a nation that did not yet exist. If they had been intending to establish Christianity at the center of the American system, they would have used Christian language instead of such deistic phrases as "Nature's god." Although some conservatives have made valiant efforts to give the Declaration a harmless reading, Harry Jaffa and other leftists have ensured that the Declaration is read today as a revolutionary manifesto for natural rights that transcend the pettifogging restrictions of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment, guaranteeing the rights of the states.

The latest display of such dishonest "Christian Nation" history was featured in the "War on Christians Conference." See Elizabeth A. Castelli demolish the historical claims presented at the conference here, an author named "Mainstream Baptist" and his takedown here, and Ed Brayton's here. As these sources note, the conference had some pretty powerful and influential political players (who represent, in my opinion, the worst elements in modern conservatism). And folks like Rod Parsley and D. James Kennedy mislead followers by the millions. So as long as they continue to spout their Christian Nation twaddle, I'll continue to refute it.

As Brayton's post notes, these folks don't realize how absolutely laughable it is that they invoke Puritan Massachusetts and John Winthrop's "experiment" to Found a "Christian Commonwealth," a "shining city on a hill" if you will. The Puritans/Pilgrims, were terribly persecuted dissents in England who briefly took refuge in Holland shortly before they fled to America. So when they came to America and established the Massachusetts colony, did the Puritans, as the now "dominant" sect, reflect on their terrible experiences as "dissidents" and decide to tolerate other religions? Hell no -- now that they were in power, the Puritans would be just as intolerant. The above link by the Baptist author discusses what things were like for dissident Christian sects in good ole Colonial Massachusetts. This first quotation focuses on the treatment of Baptists:

John Clarke, pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island published an account of religious persecution in New England in his Ill News from New-England(1652). In it he told how in the summer of 1651, Obadiah Holmes, John Crandall, and John Clarke -- all members of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island -- were arrested and imprisoned for holding an unauthorized worship service in the home of a blind Baptist named William Witter who lived at Lynn, Massachusetts outside Boston. They were sentenced to be fined or whipped. Fines for Clarke and Crandall were paid by friends. Holmes refused to let friends pay his fine and was publicly whipped on the streets of Boston on September 6, 1651.

This passages tells us what it was like for the Quakers:

Sydney Ahlstrom records some of the ways that the authorities dealt with Quakers, "In July 1656 the ship Swallow anchored in Boston Harbor. It became known quickly that on board were two Quaker women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, who had shipped from Barbados. The authorities moved swiftly. The women were kept on ship while their belongings were searched and more than one hundred books confiscated. Although there was as yet no law against Quakers in Massachusetts, the two were hurried off to jail, stripped of all their clothing, and inspected for tokens of witchcraft. After five weeks, the captain of the Swallow was placed under a 100 pound bond to carry them back to Barbados." A Religious History of the American People, p. 178.

And God help you if you didn't worship the Biblical God; the Puritans had laws on the books which merited the death penalty for worshipping any God but the Lord God, complete with references to Scripture (including the First Commandment) as justification.

Moreover, do keep in mind that these people -- the Puritans -- knew the Bible as well as anyone. It wasn't until Roger Williams, who in reflecting on the problem of religious persecution, that we got an interpretation of the Bible that demanded religious liberty. To which some in the Christian Nation crowd reply: "Aha -- religious liberty is a Biblical idea."

Well, not so fast. Here is the context which must be taken into account. Williams's interpretation of the Bible and Civil government was not only utterly novel for its time, but also concluded that government should have nothing to do with the Christian Religion and vice versa. Williams first used the phrase, "Wall of Separation," well before Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. He rejected the Calvinistic/Puritan notion of the "Christian Commonwealth." (He once famously said, "No civil state or country can be truly called Christian, although the Christian be in it.") And Williams explicitly connected his case for religious liberty to the notion that government should be secular in its essential functions. As he wrote in 1644 in The Bloody Tenent, Of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, "All civil states with their officers of justice, in their respective constitutions and administrations, are . . . essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the Spiritual, or Christian, State and worship. . .."

And the Puritans banished Williams from Massachusetts to found Rhode Island for daring to question their precious little theocracy.

For a good laugh, see this debate thread on the Evangelical Outpost where someone named Gordon Mullings makes practically every single erroneous "Christian Nation" assertion, in the context of delivering dissertation length posts full of grammatical errors. Here is a typical paragraph of his:

This is all I need for my basic point: Christians and thinkers influenced by the Christian faith made material contributions to the rise of modern liberty and as such have been open to genuine reformation and liberation across centuries. There fore those who would in our time poison the wellby robbing us of this past and implying or assering that Bible-believeing Christians today are dangerous enemies of liberty, are deceivers [if they are intentionally lying or are wild=fully refusing to face the truth] or are taken-in, ignorant passers on of deception.

Somewhere in the middle of that muddled mess is a point that needs to be answered. Yes, some "Bible-believing Christians" both today and in the past are "enemies of liberty" and some are defenders of liberty. John Winthrop, John Calvin, the Puritans and countless others were enemies of liberty; Roger Williams and the Baptists were early defenders of liberty. Today the Christian Right, like those from the War on Christians Conference, by defending the notion of the "Christian Nation" operate in the tradition of the Christian enemies of liberty. One wishes they would instead opt for Roger Williams's noble Christian tradition of defending liberty. But to do that, they'd have to abandon their "pretty fiction" that America is or ever was a "Christian Nation."
John Adams would have loved The DaVinci Code:

Well, probably. I have not yet read The DaVinci Code, although I will certainly see the movie. Over the weekend, I was watching Coral Ridge (as I often do for entertainment and fodder for my blog), and Rev. D. James Kennedy did a feature on the book which he described as containing both "heresy" and "blasphemy."

One of the many heresies of the book, the first which Kennedy discussed, was the notion that Jesus wasn't God, and that it wasn't until a few hundred years after Christ's time that the Church in the Council of Nicea "voted" that Jesus was God.

This blog makes a similar point:

From time to time scholars suggest the divinity of Jesus is a later invention of the Church. Jesus, they claim, did not believe himself to be God, nor did he claim to be. His first followers, and the early church, likewise did not believe he was God but rather thought of him as a good teacher and moral example. The Da Vinci Code echoes such sentiments by declaring that "Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal." He was not considered to be God until the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325.

And Kennedy even mentioned that the book argues that it was only by a "slim" margin that the Council of Nicea decided that Jesus was God.

Kennedy also comes down hard on the heresy/blasphemy of the "Gnostics" of early Christianity, which greatly influenced the book. The good Reverend is also a proponent of the "Christian Nation" myth. And one wishes that Kennedy would be so hard on the heresy and blasphemy of our key "Christian" Founders.

When listening to his sermon I was struck by how much of the heresy of The DaVinci Code parallels our key Founders' heterodox religious beliefs. They would have fit right in with the "Gnostics" of the early Church. The key Founders certainly were theological Unitarians (some of them militantly so) and tarred the early Church's councils and creeds as "corruptions" of Christianity. Indeed, as John Adams wrote:

"The Trinity was carried in a general council by one vote against a quaternity; the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son, and Spirit only by a single suffrage."

John Adams to Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812.


"An incarnate God!!! An eternal, self-existent, omnipresent omniscient Author of this stupendous Universe, suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has stupified the Christian World. It has been the Source of almost all of the Corruptions of Christianity."

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816:

Adams's words sound like they could have been lifted right from The DaVinci Code.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Swindle on "V":

Be sure to check out David Swindle's review of V for Vendetta.

I saw the movie, but didn't comment on it because I thought I really didn't have much new to say as what had already been written in other reviews. I enjoyed the movie and got the impression that it stayed fairly faithful to the original comic series (they didn't "rape" Moore's work like the adaptation of League of Extraordinary Gentleman did). Yet, I read the original series many years ago and didn't reread it in preparation for the movie (so perhaps my thoughts would have been different if I did).

As far as the "terrorism/freedom fighter" thing goes, forget whether the bad guys in the movie were metaphors for the neocons or for the Thacherites of the 80s (which is what Moore had in mind in his original series) and take the ruling powers at face value. As an earlier review pointed out (I can't remember which one) in the movie, Britain's rulers were like "what if Adolph Hitler had won World War II?" Putting it into that context helps to understand why the hero was so angry and wanted to blow up Parliament.

Swindle makes a good point. As bad as Bush or any Western ruler may be, it would be a Hell of a lot worse if Bid Laden or the Taliban actually ruled us. And the fascists in power in V were that bad. I know that were Bin Laden in charge in the USA, I certainly wouldn't gracefully submit to his administration's authority. As Swindle writes:

There's been plenty of controversy swirling around "Vendetta," most of it idiotic. What's the difference between 9/11 and V's bombings of various London buildings? Or, what's the difference between a terrorist (Bin Laden) and a freedom fighter (V)? Easy: V's acts of terrorism are designed to free an oppressed people. The goal of 9/11 was just the opposite: the promotion of a totalitarian ideology appropriately labeled "Islamofascism."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Self-Ownership and Lockean-Libertarianism:

See this post from Right Reason, where Ed Feser criticizes the concept of "self-ownership" as a libertarian underpinning.

In any event, my current views by no means rest entirely on the SOP. I would also now argue that, whatever one thinks of the SOP, the thesis of self-ownership itself is inherently indeterminate. Its history alone indicates as much. Most contemporary libertarians take the principle to imply that each man has absolute sovereignty over himself, and has a right to engage even in immoral actions -- suicide, drug use, etc. -- as long as these do not harm anyone else. But John Locke, whose advocacy of the principle has influenced so many libertarians, would have utterly rejected such a notion. For Locke, talk about "self-ownership" is really just a kind of shorthand for the leasehold rights God has granted us over ourselves as stewards of His property, and we have no right to do anything to ourselves which might damage that property. Hence Locke's famous claim that no one has a right to commit suicide or to sell himself into slavery (a claim that is crucial to his case for limited government, since if we have no such rights over ourselves, we cannot transfer them to government).

The key point is that to own something is just to have a bundle of rights over it, so that any theory of ownership (whether of ourselves or of anything else) presupposes a theory of rights. Moreover, people can own something without having an absolute right to it: hence someone who has paid off his mortgage really does own his home -- no one can take it from him or enter the premises without his permission, etc. -- even if there are easements on his property that put certain limits on what he can do with it. So any theory of self-ownership must begin by specifying exactly which rights we have over ourselves, and why; and only if it can show that we have over ourselves every possible right that could enter into ownership of a thing will it thereby show that our ownership over ourselves is full and absolute. If it shows instead that we have many or even most of these rights but not every single one of them, it may entail that we have a kind of ownership of ourselves, but not full and absolute ownership. In short, no appeal to self-ownership can suffice, all by itself, as an argument for libertarianism, or even as a way of giving determinate content to libertarianism, since the content of self-ownership can only be determined by a prior theory of rights.

Locke's theory of rights, given its foundation in our obligation to preserve God's property, yields an account of self-ownership that is clearly less than absolute. Alternative theories of rights might also yield less-than-absolute views of self-ownership. In particular, I have suggested that if rights are grounded in classical Thomistic (as opposed to Lockean) natural law theory, then this is bound to put even greater limits on self-ownership. For if, as some classical natural law theorists would argue, the function of rights is to safeguard our ability to realize our moral obligations and natural ends, then there cannot be such a thing as a right to do what is of its nature contrary to our natural ends and moral obligations. That doesn't mean there might not be reasons (even moral ones) for not interfering with the use a person makes of himself and his body, talents, and abilities. But it does entail that no one can have a natural right to do what is inherently immoral or contrary to one's natural ends, so that no one's self-ownership can be absolute, if that is meant to imply that one has a natural right to do whatever he wants to with himself as long as it hurts no one else. Whether this yields a version of self-ownership that can still be called "libertarian" (as I thought it did in my JLS article, though I no longer think this), it indicates that if, as many libertarians think, self-ownership is the central premise of libertarianism, then "libertarianism" is a very fluid concept indeed.

Contrast Feser's theory with Harvey Mansfield's argument about Locke and self-ownership:

Locke gives two descriptions of the character of men in their fundamental relation to liberty. He says that they are the "workmanship" of God, that men are "his [God's] property" and so belong to God; but he also says that "every man has a property in his own person."1 These appear to be directly contrary because the "workmanship argument" (as it is called by Locke's interpreters) would make man a slave of God2 whereas the idea of property in one's own person sets him free to do with himself what he wishes. Thus Locke says, in accordance with the former, that men have no right to commit suicide ("everyone is bound . . . not to quit his Station wilfully"3). But in accordance with the latter, though saying nothing directly about a right of suicide, he pronounces that in the state of nature, man is "absolute lord of his own person and possessions."4 Yet Locke does not make a point of the contradiction between these two descriptions. It is rather as if he had forgotten what he said earlier or perhaps lost his train of thought. Yet Locke does not seem to be a woolly-minded fellow, and his reputation shows that both his friends and his enemies take him seriously. His political thought typically contains contradictions, of which this one is perhaps the most important, but he leaves the reader to do the work of establishing the contradictions and working out their implications. In this case and in other cases, Locke does not leave the contradiction as flat as I have reported it; he teases readers with possible routes by which it might be harmonized.5 But most of all, Locke lets readers do their own harmonizing by allowing them to combine two things they want to believe. Almost all of Locke's readers would want to believe in the truth of Scripture, and many of them would like to think, or might be persuaded to think, that their belief is compatible with, or even entails, the notion of liberty that Locke sets forth.

The difference between belonging to God and belonging to yourself is not a small one....

Whether Locke was deliberately playing games with language, the kernel of Truth in Mansfield's theory is as follows: Some thinker comes forth with a revolutionary idea -- like Locke and self-ownership -- and explicates the idea in a particular way; but the idea then evolves beyond the original explication (or original expectation). The idea won't evolve randomly; often the idea unfolds in ways consistent with its original premises. One could easily see, for instance, if an individual owns himself, as Locke argues, that one does indeed have the moral and natural right to commit suicide or take drugs or do whatever he wants with himself-- his property -- so long as in doing so he harms no one else.

Indeed, in Bowers v. Hardwick, Justice Blackmun's dissent uses the self-ownership premise to argue for a "right" to commit sodomy because he believed, as did Locke, "that a person belongs to himself and not others nor to society as a whole."

Or take Locke and religious liberty. As I wrote in this post:

Locke, although not the first to argue for religious toleration, is without question the most important philosopher to America's notion of religious liberty: Locke formulated the notion that men have unalienable free and equal rights of conscience. Madison and Jefferson could not have argued for religious liberty as they did had there been no John Locke. But Locke, in his personal position, didn't believe in extending tolerance to, among others, atheists or Catholics! However, when Jefferson and Madison took Locke's ideas, they expanded them in the spirit of Locke, to apply universally. After all if "all men" have unalienable rights of conscience, why shouldn't Catholics or atheists possess such rights equally? Are they not human? As such, "Lockeans" Jefferson and Madison asserted that religious rights extended to "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

Indeed, Locke gave what he thought were good reasons for not extending rights to Catholics and atheists; but as soon as his idea began to evolve in the minds of our Founders -- Jefferson and Madison -- they just didn't hold up. Similarly, there is no good reason to believe (or Feser gives us no good reason) that we must view the concept of self-ownership exactly as Locke argued in the 17th Century -- "that 'self-ownership' is really just a kind of shorthand for the leasehold rights God has granted us over ourselves as stewards of His property, and we have no right to do anything to ourselves which might damage that property." For one, Locke was, as Alan Kors once put it, an "archetypical empiricist," and proving that God exists (whether Locke's conception of God or Feser's) is no easy task.

Whatever theory for which we advocate ultimately will rest on a moral premise that is unproven and unprovable in an empirical sense. So it wouldn't therefore be unreasonable to "scrap" the God part of the self-ownership principle and simply assert that an individual belongs to himself simpliciter (and if it's because God says so, then it's because God says so). "[A]nd then draw logical and necessary conclusions from those principles." But when we do this, we might "discover" that, gasp!, an individual really does have "a right to engage even in immoral actions -- suicide, drug use, etc. -- as long as these do not harm anyone else."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Swindle on Death:

David Swindle left an interesting comment featuring a quotation by the late Bill Hicks on death:

"All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves." -- Bill Hicks :-)

Whenever I'm feeling blue or having a down day I just remember that we're not just these isolated water sacks of neuroses. We can known on a very basic, quantum level that the matter/energy that makes us up used to be somewhere else, even a part of someone else.

And then there's also the question of death. In my view, something which one need not be particularly concerned. What is death? It is the point at which your chunk of the consciousness retracts back into the infinity of the universe. You become one with everything again. And in my book that's something to look forward to. Why? Because we experience a oneness with existence frequently throughout our lives. It's when we forget ourselves, stop thinking, and forget our isolation. You get that when you lose yourself in appreciating or creating art. You can get it through the use of numerous drugs from alcohol to marijuana to psychedelics. We can get it when we lose ourselves in physical exercies -- "the runner's high." Most tellingly, though is the sexual experience. The orgasm is a moment of oneness with existence. Thus what can we look forward to in death? Yes, you're right: a neverending orgasm.

Very Timothy Learian. I remember when Leary found out he was dying, he replied that he was elated. For him, it was the ultimate voyage. Who knows what happens after we die but, as long as your death doesn't occur in some type of terribly painful manner, supposedly death -- the shutting down process -- is a very pleasant and enjoyable experience.

I know, how do we really know because no one has lived to tell about it? Some have had near death experiences (this might be why some think they see Heaven during these NDEs). I seem to remember Foucault, certainly an atheist philosopher to the end, if there ever were one, had a near death experience (after being hit by a car I think) which was very pleasant -- like some type of ultimate high -- and he became obsessed with death from then on.
An Atheist asking for a Miracle:

I don't know how deep I'm willing to get into this debating God thing. As Richard Posner aptly put it: "You cannot convince a religious person that there is no God, because he does not share your premises, for example that only science delivers truths. There is no fruitful debating of God’s existence."

And vice versa.

However, I've detected in Sandefur's response an example of an atheist asking for a first miracle, which I don't think merits granting. He writes:

As to the persistence of time, I beg to differ. My understanding of the “big bang”—limited as it certainly is—is that time itself is a consequence of this incident, and therefore there is no sense in the question “What came before?” There simply is no before, because the concept of before has no referent except in the universe created through the big bang.

So he asks us to accept that time/space/matter/energy just appeared out of nothing that came before and that the big bang created the universe. This is asking for a miracle.

Of course, I've argued with atheists who say that the big bang didn't create the universe and that matter and energy and the time and space that would go with it, always existed -- the big bang was just a radical rearrangement of all this. See the theory of the expanding and contracting universe.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Limits of Atheistic Materialism:

Check out this brilliant post by D. Stephen Heersink, whom I understand is himself an atheist-materialist. This is the last paragraph:

Now, it's an enormous "leap of faith" to maintain that whatever this "life" is, that another "Life" must necessarily exist for the lesser "life" to exist. No such entailment follows. But materialists have reached the limit of their explanatory powers when they try to give a materialist reason for why a pulsating body is alive one moment and is moribund the next. No material explanation as yet exists. And, given that "life" is itself a central feature of the universe we know, the inability to give a material explanation for why the alive being differs from the dead one, is not a trivial failure.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Here is a statement of religious belief of mine which I wrote in the comments section of my blog a little while back.

Personally, I'm not an atheist and think there probably is a sentience behind the universe, that the universe, on a macro-level, probably has a "consciousness" which "sets up the rules" like E=MC squared.

However, the Supreme Intelligence who created the rules also choose to leave his/her/its/their presence undetected by such rules of empiricism. In other words, the existence of such a supra-intelligence is not a "falsifiable hypothesis." And science is in the business of teaching only those things which are falsifiable. Thus, I don't support teaching any of the myriad of intelligent design theories in science classes. Perhaps in public school philosophy classes, but not science classes.

So I guess that puts me somewhere between agnosticism and a very unorthodox kind of theism. I spend much time on my blogs criticizing the beliefs of some traditional orthodox religions. And indeed, I think that entire portions of the Bible are so unbelievable and absurd that I question the sanity of someone who does not read stories like Noah's Ark, the Garden of Eden, Sodom and Gomorrah, as just that -- stories and metaphors.

On the other hand, I've also encountered a number of "fervent" (I got in trouble for using the term "militant") atheists who, in my eyes, are just as fanatical as fundamentalist Christians -- Richard Dawkins types.

So for the rest of this post, I'm going to criticize such "fervent" atheism.

My biggest problem is this: In discussions, they act as though the existence or non-existence of God is falsifiable and the answer has been discovered: God(s) don't exist; the material world is all there is. And then when you question them, they give often glib answers that are just as unsatisfactory as the answers given by religionists.

This post isn't going be an exhaustive critique; I'll point out a few things. First, I'm hung up on the fact that time/space/matter/and energy exist to begin with. If there is nothing beyond the material world, then nothing should exist; but something does exist. Science tells us that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. To which the atheist responds, the universe and its matter have always existed (and indeed, the big bang doesn't disprove this -- see the theory of the expanding and contracting universe). Time is infinite in both directions.

Well, I have a big logical problem with that. It's possible that time is infinite in the forward direction. But that's the thing about infinite -- you never get there. It is not logically possible, on the other hand, that time is infinite in the backward direction. That would mean that we've already "done" infinite. And infinite is a concept which is never done.

As to the issue of infinite regress, if the first cause of the universe exists outside of the time/space/matter/energy framework, then we don't need an answer as to "what caused the first cause." That's like saying, if a baker bakes a pie, then who baked the baker. Similarly it's also possible that the "first cause" is not created, didn't always exist ad infinitum, but didn't just appear out of nowhere either, because, such an entity exists outside of time, and time didn't exist until the first cause existed.

Again, I'm not saying that such a being does exist or that any of the religions have the answer, but simply that glib atheistic answers, at times, can be just as unsatisfactory, unproven and unprovable.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Originalism for non-Originalists:

Feddie has a good post which links to one of Dahlia Lithwick's articles discussing problems with the theory of "The Living Constitution." There is just something about a "Living Constitution" that doesn't seem legitimate. Certainly a theory which purports to "strictly construe" the Constitution seems better.

The Founders didn't give us much; the Constitution is a relatively brief document. What they did give us is a text. Therefore, any theory which makes it seem like it's okay to disregard the text will (rightly) seem illegitimate. Therefore, we must regard the original meaning of the text as sacrosanct.

However, the original meaning of the text often doesn't result in a precise meaning. Often it takes us to a certain point, and doesn't lead us any further.

Call that point -- the proper original meaning of the text -- point X. Which means that any result outside of X (lets call that point Y) is ipso fact wrong. However, point X may still give rise to theories X1, X2, and X3, etc., all derived from the original meaning of the text, and whose results may differ. As Richard Posner put it in Overcoming Law,

Many provisions of the Constitution, however, are drafted in general terms. This creates flexibility in the face of unforeseen changes, but it also creates the possibility of alternative interpretations, and this possibility is an embarrassment for a theory of judicial legitimacy that denies that judges have any right to exercise discretion. p. 233.

Even a "strict" interpretation of the words of the Second Amendment could lead one to believe that we have a right to the fuzzy limbs (arms) of an animal (bear). But there we'd clearly be in Y territory. So the original meaning of the Second Amendment obviously has something to do with a right to own guns. But that proper meaning doesn't tell us whether that right applies to machine guns or grenade launchers.

And to answer those more specific questions, we need a theory. And in constructing such a theory, it is inevitable that judges in a common law system such as ours, will engage in such a "common law method of judging" (which Feddie, Justice Scalia and other like minded jurists decry), and will end "making up the law" as he or she resolves specific cases and controversies arising under the text of the Constitution.

One common method that liberals and libertarians use to achieve "results" which are often criticized as "activist" is to look at certain principles which "underlie" the text. Now, both Randy Barnett and Lawrence Solum issue one big caution to the underlying principles approach. As Barnett puts it:

I do have one caution about Jack's [Balkin's] appeal to what he calls the "underlying principles" of the text. When the text is vague, appealing to the underlying principles to determine whether or not it covers a particular situation is appropriate and inevitable. But what is not kosher is to dive beneath the surface of the text to ferret out the "underlying principles" and then resurface somewhere else entirely. This is a standard technique by which the text itself can be replaced with the interpreter's version of the "underlying principles" that may even contradict the text itself.

Or see this post by Solum, where he cautions against "the use of underlying principles as a substitute for the constitutional text."

Points well taken. The original meaning of the text trumps and underlying principles are properly used only to supplement when the text is indeterminate in a specific case or controversy.

But nonetheless...this combination of "original meaning" of the text plus underlying principles can be used to vet results that are commonly decried as "activist" and which are not at all what the Framers and Ratifiers of the Constitution expected (hence Balkin's term "original expectation originalism" and his opposition to it).

Moreover, sometimes social conservatives, operating under the auspices of "Original Intent," use the "underlying principles" approach to do exactly what Solum and Barnett caution against: subvert the original meaning of the text of the Constitution by substituting such "underyling principles." For instance, take Joseph Story's commentary cited by the late Chief Justice Rehnquist in Wallace v. Jaffree, which gives one of the "underlying purposes" of the religion clauses:

"The real object of the [First] [A]mendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. It thus cut off the means of religious persecution (the vice and pest of former ages), and of the subversion of the rights of conscience in matters of religion, which had been trampled upon almost from the days of the Apostles to the present age. . . ."

Now, such an "underlying purpose" could lead one to the conclusion that only Christian sects have rights under the religion clauses of the Constitution. Indeed, see Clayton Cramer making such a mistake here, where he asserts

The idea that the establishment clause was intended to create "neutrality between religion and irreligion" is a cornerstone of the ACLU's litigation efforts, but it is simply false. The establishment clause was intended to create neutrality between Christian denominations.

Now, the text of the Constitution simply does not differentiate between the "Christian" and "non-Christian" religions. And when one examines the original meaning of the term "religion," for instance the debates over Article VI's "no religious tests" clause, we see that the Founding generation did not use "religion" as an exclusive synonym for the different sects of Christianity, but rather, they realized non-Christian religions exist as well and are therefore covered under the generic rubric of "religion." Therefore, if the Establishment Clause creates a "neutrality" or "non-discrimination" principle, the original meaning of the Clause dictates that it applies to all religions, Christian, and non-Christian (and if atheism and agnosticism are religions, which arguably they are, a neutrality principle between "religion and non-religion" which validates Everson).

And this creates problems for originalists, like Cramer. Thomas West realizes these undesirable results and somewhat disingenuously writes:

Hamburger does a good job showing that any idea of government support of "religion in general" is an illusion. There is no such thing as "religion in general." All meaningful government support of religion is always support of a particular religious view, as 19th-century Catholics bitterly experienced. Today, support of "religion in general" would include taxpayer funding of Wiccans, Satanists, Muslims (including those who teach hatred of America), and worshippers of that favorite goddess of some feminists, "Our Sweet Sophia."

I say "disingenuously" because, West realizes that if the Establishment Clause contains a non-discrimination principle, the results will be undesirable. And apparently for that reason alone, he rejects this interpretation.

The alternative, endorsed by West, is that the Establishment Clause simply forbids the government from "establishing" a national sect. And if government wanted to, through its aid or official acts, support some particular denomination of religion over others (Christianity over non-Christianity, Catholicism over Protestantism, Mormonism over non-Mormonism, etc. etc.) it could, which is why West writes, "[a]ll meaningful government support of religion is always support of a particular religious view, as 19th-century Catholics bitterly experienced," because, back then, government sometimes aided and endorsed Protestantism over Catholicism and the other non-Protestant religions. does Clayton Cramer respond to such a theory?

Nope. Look at the language of the establishment clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...." "Respecting" means "having to do with." How can Congress privilege one sect or another without passing a law that has something to do with that sect?

James Madison couldn't have said it any better, which is why he thought Congressional Chaplains were unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause. The point is, as I've just demonstrated, if the Establishment Clause requires government neutrality, the original meaning of the text requires that it apply to religion generally not just the Christian (or as some argue the "Protestant") sects, which leads us to the results which Thomas West wants to avoid (Wiccans, Satanists, Muslims being constitutionally eligible for support programs which government offers to "religion in general") and arguably requires constitutional neutrality between "religion" and "irreligion."

Thus, "original meaning originalism" can often lead to results which some originalists term "activist." Is this why Randy Barnett calls original meaning originalism "An Originalism for Nonoriginalists"?
Neuhaus on Waldman on the Founders and Religion:

Father Neuhaus addresses Stephen Waldman's article which claims that the Founders, though they were theists, were far from "evangelical Christian" types and that many evangelicals of the time (the Baptists) supported the Separation of Church and State. Neuhaus writes:

Well, yes and no....Of course Mr. Waldman and others are right in saying that the founders were not Bible-thumping fundamentalists of sweated born-againism along the lines of their caricature of Falwell and Robertson. The point is that people such as John Adams, Washington, Madison, and even Jefferson simply assumed the solidity of biblical (meaning Judeo-Christian) morality and its pertinence to the public order. Jefferson’s scissors-and-paste job on the teachings of Jesus only underscored what he took to be the self-evident truth of the Christian moral tradition.

To which I reply...Well, yes and no. It's true that the common morality during Founding times was different than it is today. You will hardly find any writings of theirs debating issues like abortion, sexuality, and the like. But they didn't view these things as "self-evident truths." It's important to understand what Jefferson et al. meant when they wrote of "self-evident Truths": They were those things that man could "discover" for himself from the use of his reason and senses. And man had recently discovered that he was born free and equal. Entire segments of traditional life had to be re-ordered to comport with these "new" discoveries. And indeed, things that are just accepted as "normal" according to "Judeo-Christian" morality have to give way to the self-evident Truth than man is by nature free and equal.

As Jefferson wrote:

“[L]aws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

One could argue that many things previously understood as "required" by "Judeo-Christian morality" -- sodomy laws, for instance -- are part of the "regimen of [our] barbarous ancestors."