Sunday, October 31, 2010

Howard Stern Illustrates A Reality in Which Most Folks are Not Aware:

As I noted in my last post, we are going to look all over to place to understand what I want to convey. This relates to a rut many well intentioned otherwise good middle class parents fall into. There are "bad" parents. Those who neglect, abandon, and/or physically abuse.

What the Stern example illustrates this problem endemic to middle class parents. His were "good" parents, in a comparative sense (they always provided and didn't do the "bad" things above mentioned).

But the way they dealt with him on an emotional level was unhealthy, suboptimal, and caused damage.

Scenario One: Young Howard pushed his father's buttons which caused his father to flip out and humiliate him in public.

Truth: His father failed to properly react to the situation. Humiliating your children, especially in public, is wrong. That's not to say it's okay for them to misbehave. But the right way is to be patient, but firm. Getting angry at your children and taking it out on them is always wrong. It may be unavoidable. If my underaged son took my car out without permission and got a DUI and ended up in prison, I might, understandably, get angry and take it out on him. But I still fail to properly react to the circumstance.

And it is NO EXCUSE that everyone does it. If everyone does, it's akin to original sin.

Howard claims: He doesn't take his anger out on his kids. When he finds himself yelling at them like his father yelled at him, he leaves the room because he remembered what a jerk he felt like when his father did that to him. If he is being honest, he does the right thing and is a better father, at least in that respect.

Personal example: I remember in law school, one of my classmates -- she seemed like a perfectly nice lady -- middle aged (if I remember properly she had a PhD) regularly brought her kids -- her three little girls -- to school. They had to wait outside when mommy was in class. She used emotional pressure, guilt, and humiliation to "keep them in line." I remember a number of occasions where she got frustrated with them, screamed at her little girls, took her furious anger out on them, seemingly completely unaware of the incident it caused.

I thought in my head, "man I wouldn't be surprised if those girls grow up to hate her."
A New Direction:

I had an "a ha" moment today. I'm going to start blogging about a complex topic which I've only hinted at over the past six years. I don't even know what to call it because I DO NOT want to be the next New Age self help guru; but there's going to be times when I sound like I am. I plan on making NO money off this. Rather, it's in the charitable spirit of good will and philosophy (discovery of truth).

You are going to hear names and terms like Deepak Chopra, Roy Masters, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Howard Stern, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John Lennon, Frederick Von Hayek, Jesus, the Bible, Aristotle, Stoicism, Sam Harris, and Robert Wright, and many others (many esoteric ones), all tied together to support a comprehensive teaching.

None of them is an "authority" because, as we know (or should) appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. Indeed, I take issue with most of the above named on certain, sometimes many issues. All of this is, for the most part, compatible with Aristotle and philosophy 101.

Therefore, I am no authority. I say things that are true because they are and it's up to you to "see" that. And if you don't, oh well. You can't push or bully people into truth, at least not in an emotionally healthy way for either party. That is, one of my truth discoveries.

There are emotionally healthy and unhealthy ways of accepting and living by truth.

I'll give an example. Truth: It's good to wash your hands a few times a day to avoid germs. The healthy way of living that truth: Wash your hands a few times a day on autopilot, unthinkingly. The unhealthy way: Worrying about getting sick and washing your hands, compulsively. An intrusive thought comes into your head: "You better wash your hands or else you are going to get sick!" Coupled with anxiety.

Truth: The voice in your head is unhealthy and unneeded. It is a metaphorical demon that needs to be exorcised.

And then the compulsive hand washer brags to everyone about how much he washes his hands and hasn't had a cold in 5 years. The person accomplishes a positive result but for the wrong reasons. Something dark and unhealthy, evil indeed, motivates them and takes a psychological toll.

This is, I believe, a more dangerous form of obsessive compulsive "disorder" because the person who turns the lights on and off five times before entering the room or else something horrible will happen is (or usually is) consciously aware that no rhyme or reason justifies the ritual. Yet, the person who washes the hands can rationalize (the perfect tool for human delusion) the unhealthy way of ultimately, doing the responsible thing (washing your hands to avoid germs).

The right way to learn truth is for folks to accept it on their own, not as a response to emotional pressure. To have an "a ha" moment, precisely NOT because someone told them it was true and tried to bully them into it. The bully might be in possession of that aspect of truth (while simultaneously having something wrong with them that makes them bully). And if they succeed in bullying someone into accepting X, it comes with unhealthy resentment. Reverse psychological effects, also, abound precisely for this reason.

You may need to, because you have no other choice, humiliate someone who intends to harm you to protect yourself; and once out of the picture, they can figure things out themselves.

(The example I'm thinking of is a bully comes after you to impress his friends and you slap him down, if you can. Hopefully, he will eventually stop bullying people. If not, to Hell with him. God or Fate will get him in the end.)

Or, if he comes to you for help, you can help him (and you would if you didn't resent him; resentment, as an emotion, we will later see, is never justified; you must forgive those who have done you wrong, for your sake more so than theirs).

But humiliation when you could have handled the situation patiently is wrong. In terms of the parent child model, it's a form of imperfection that is endemic to much of middle class society who otherwise make "good" parents (that is, where the parents remain intact and otherwise provide for their children and do not physically abuse them; Howard Stern will provide a great example later).

Sam Harris and Robert Wright are an extremely important part of the mix because they too seem to be "on" to some of these things, but have credibility with hard nosed scientific, skeptically minded folks. Not that "credibility" with anyone matters in terms of truth discovery (that's just another form of the appeal to authority logical fallacy). But I do want to show that these things are compatible with hard nosed scientific skepticism and philosophy 101.

Likewise, I will discuss what the West can learn from the East. Certainly, Western Civilization invented a disproportionate share of "modernity" that's been exported to much of the non-Western world. Indeed, many Asian nations now seem to be beating the West at this game. Modernity, technology, scientific achievement. These are good. But the East has, I think, much it could teach the West in terms of "how to deal with things."

And who knows, maybe this has been all part and parcel of the West all along, even "Judeo-Christianity." One of the above mentioned names actually argues this IS authentic Judeo-Christianity, completely compatible with everything the Bible says and in fact, what Jesus is all about.

I'm not sold that this is Judeo-Christianity, but it may well be authentically Western. I had another "a ha" moment when teaching Buddhism to my international business class. (Again, I doubt I am the first, in fact, I am almost certain I am not, to make this connection; but the fact that I had the "a ha" moment made the discovery all the more valuable.)

So much of Buddhism with its idea of resigning oneself to Fate sounds like Stoicism (the philosophy of the pre-Imperial, pre-Christian, noble pagan republican Romans). And indeed we get much of this Stoicism synthesized with Judeo-Christian Providence in the American Founding. As George Washington said: "the ways of Providence [are] inscrutable...." More modern folks have said, "let go and let God." God might not exist. To the atheist or agnostic, "let go and let Fate." As Neil Peart put it: Roll the Bones.

In many ways, this is something that I've been looking into my entire life; but for years my mind was undisciplined, unaware of the logical fallacies in philosophy. I might go off half cocked and sometimes half joking during a drunken college bull session, seeking to get at the truth, but find out years later that I was full of shit.

I am at a point now where I think I've found a great deal of truth that I am ready to discuss. Though admittedly, I have much to learn. I am wise enough to know I don't have the whole truth.

What the Hell am I talking about? You are going to have to wait and see as this unfolds.
One Instance Where I think the Religious Left is more Biblical:

No it's not on redistribution. Certainly, charity and voluntarily giving away wealth is a biblical concept. I'm not convinced government redistribution is.

Yes, I understand modern capitalism arose out of "Christendom." (Arguably a lot of a-biblical and anti-biblical things did as well). But there are two things about capitalism that seem in DEEP tension with what the Bible teaches: One it's a system based on materialistic coveting. That violates one of the Ten Commandments. And two it's a system that requires usury in order to work, something the Bible arguably categorically forbids.

One could argue Islam has not advanced economically because they don't permit usury. But one could also argue this is the more authentically biblical Christian position as well.

Indeed Christendom used to outlaw virtually all forms of usury. The Bible, at its most charitable, cautions against usury. At its least charitable the Bible, like the Koran, bans it. The Bible never mentions anything positive about lending money and charging interest on it (correct me if I am wrong).

Aristotle too thought there was something "unnatural" about money making money.

Yet, arguably our modern system of wealth creation wouldn't work without it. Arguably Christianity had to "find" a way to reconcile itself with usury in order to usher in the modern world of material comfort. Arguably whenever Bible believers use their credit card, get paid interest on a cash bond or in a bank, they do a Thomas Jefferson and cut out those verses of the Bible which suggest it's sin. (Or do Bible believers repeatedly confess this as a sin?)

Modern democratic-capitalist systems treat usury similar to earned wages. We let the market determine the numbers, but get to a point where we draw a line with a minimum wage or maximum interest rate cap.

And free market economics teaches, probably correctly, that these interferences have unintended but foreseeable negative consequences. See Todd Zywicki's latest post on proposed state law to cap non-traditional loans at 36%. There probably are bad consequences, which may outweigh the good, that will come from such a law. Lenders simply won't loan folks who they'd like to charge above the cap rates. Many of those borrowers will go to loan sharks instead.

(Likewise with the minimum wage, I wish every McDonald's worker could be paid a "living wage"; but what would actually result is they wouldn't have jobs and more skilled workers would be hired to do the work; I had a student who was a manager at McDs; he didn't know about any of this economic theory; but he testified that one manager could do the work of 3-4 minimum wage McD workers.)

On the other hand, it could be irresponsible folks are already in too much debt and not getting ANY loan is better than getting a high interest loan.

Again, as a free market guy who is not much of a religious believer, I don't want to see stricter usury laws. I see usury (that is, ANY interest) in principle like cocaine. Payday loans are like crack. I think these should be legalized as well; but I don't suggest getting involved with it.

But I'd like to see socially conservative Christians, who think liberty must yield to public issues of morality, make reforming usury laws with much stricter caps something central to their political agenda.

There is nothing wrong with lending money in and of itself. If there were no inflation, then there would be no need for interest. Getting paid interest that equals inflation is, in my view, not usury, but like lending money and getting back what you lent out. But we need additional interest in order to make the system work.

In other words, we need to take a neutral mechanism (lending money) and sprinkle it with a little cocaine (something bad but that should be legal) to make the system work.

That's how I view our modern banking system on which capitalism depends.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Who Are the Righteous:

This post does not intend to be another "David Barton sucks" post. Rather it seriously asks what some of his more vocal critics have not: Who are the "righteous"?

In the most recent voter video Wallbuilders produces, Barton harps on Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation," and asserts the Bible (and "coincidentally," America's Founders) teaches you need to get "the righteous" in power to enact "righteous" policy. Or else (you know).

I think I know what Barton means by "righteousness" -- his socially conservative fundamentalist understanding of what the Bible teaches that is amenable to what other religious conservatives (whether Jewish, Mormon, Roman Catholic, etc.) would, in large, support. (Abortion, same sex marriage, etc.)

But who are the "righteous"? Folks who support "right" policies whether they be Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist?

Or folks actually OF the "right" religion? And is it the case that you have to be of "the right religion" to govern effectively?

My biggest problem with Barton to date is his lack of clarity pertaining to these terms. And some of his (1) religiously conservative Christian (2) followers (I am neither) seem to be coming around. They see Barton in political-theological communion with the Mormon Glenn Beck, praying together, seemingly, to the same Providence? With the implicit suggestion that the "God" of the Declaration of Independence is One, non-descript enough that Christians, Mormons and who knows else equally can claim Him because of His non-descriptiveness? (Perhaps believers like Barton should believe the god of the DOI is a he not a He).

When Barton says the "righteous" should rule, I don't hear him saying someone who supports righteous policy as opposed to someone who is a "Christian" like him. Not that he rejects the votes of non-Christians who support his preferred policies. No, they can come along for the ride. But the "righteous" are the "regenerate." I don't want to put words in his mouth. He can clarify. That reading (as others) seems very plausible, to me.

Indeed, Barton uses the term "Christian" in a narrow enough sense to suggest he doesn't see President Obama or Speaker Pelosi as "Christians" even though they say they are. What about Glenn Beck? Where is the basis for the idea that if you are a socially conservative heretic, cult member (according to evangelical thought) you get to be "righteous" but if you are a political liberal, you are not even if you claim to be a "Christian"?

Please explain. That's all I ask.

I'll end with Roger Williams, no theological liberal, but a fanatical fundamentalist of the Baptist tradition. Yet, he understood religion & politics dramatically differently than did his fellow fundamentalists, the Puritans of Massachusetts.

Williams certainly wanted righteous policy, but made it clear that one's personal religious convictions had absolutely NOTHING to do with one's "fitness" to be a governor. And for that reason, he did away with religious tests in Rhode Island that he founded and, for the first time in Christendom (at least as it relates to America's lineage), formed a government that did not covenant with the Triune God.

As he put it, when he noted (in a novel revolutionary sense) that the UNREGENERATE and PAGANS were just as QUALIFIED to govern as "real Christians":

All lawful magistrates in the world...have, and can have not more power, than fundamentally lies in the bodies of fountains themselves, which power, might, or authority, is not religious, Christian, etc., but natural, human and civil. And hence, it is true, that Christian captain, Christian merchant, physician, lawyer, pilot, father, master, and (so, consequently,) magistrate, etc., is no more a captain, merchant, physician, lawyer, pilot, father, master, magistrate, etc., than a captain, merchant, etc., of any other conscience or religion... A pagan or anti-Christian pilot may be as skillful to carry the ship to its desired port as any Christian mariner or pilot in the world, and may perform that work with as much safety and speed....

America's Founders, it should be noted, followed Williams in this regard (see Art. VI, Cl. 3 of the US Constitution). Does Barton?
Email To Dave Welch:


You write:

"If we give any credence to the architects of the structure, it is clear that they believed both design and Designer of our constitutional republic were 'self-evident.' They believed that the bedrock upon which rested its posterity is found in – and only in – the pages of Holy Scripture."

I've read the Constitution, notes on the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers and they DO NOT ASSERT THIS. Certainly the Bible was *a* source of inspiration for the Founding Fathers (and even the Donald S. Lutz, et al., study shows the Bible was at its LEAST import when the Federalists WROTE and RATIFIED the Constitution). There were other sources of inspiration as well, in particular the noble paganism of republican Rome. The Founders adopted those surnames NOT Hebraic or biblical ones.

Likewise YOU may be able to connect separation of powers to the Bible. But the Founders DID NOT cite the Bible for the proposition, but rather, as you note, Montesquieu.


Jon Rowe

Friday, October 29, 2010

Email to J. Matt Barber:

Barber is a culture warrior and evangelical associated with among other places Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. He wrote an article for WorldNetDaily entitled Time To Reunite Church And State.

I wrote:


I didn't get thru your whole article (yet). [I since have.] I stopped reading after the Patrick Henry quote which is phony.

Likewise, when you write [America's Founding Fathers] were "overwhelmingly Christian," I have to wonder what you mean by Christian. Understanding themselves as "Christians"? Well yes, and that's how President Obama and the Democrats in Congress today understand their religious identity. But meeting your strict test for what it means to be "Christian"? It's simply not provable that the overwhelming majority were Christians in this sense. I doubt they were.


Jon Rowe

This is the offending passage from Barber's article:

John Adams, our second U.S. president, famously observed: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

The U.S. Constitution, indeed our entire republican form of government, was crafted by deeply pious men who were overwhelmingly Christian. It was fashioned within the context and framework of the Judeo-Christian zeitgeist of the time and was further intended to function in harmony with a Judeo-Christian worldview – period. Though leftists may deny this reality, it remains indisputable fact. The historical record is unequivocal.

Patrick Henry said this: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!"

Barber then goes on to note how Obama and the Democrats are godless, irreligious, secularists. To the contrary, as I have noted before there is more evidence that Obama is a "Christian" in some kind of minimal traditional sense than there is for George Washington or James Madison. The minimum that Obama would meet is believing Jesus a divine, resurrected Savior. On other issues like the nature of the afterlife and the infallibility of the Bible's text, Obama is obviously not that traditional (and again, little to no evidence shows GW or JM were either). Presidents Madison, Washington and Obama all considered, or likely considered themselves "Christians."

But I know, folks like Barber will say Obama is lying.

On the Henry quotation, it's not just proven "unconfirmed" (as David Barton has admitted) but also extremely out of character for not only Henry, but also most other Founders. The idea that the United States is a "great nation" smacks of the post-Lincoln era. Even most (all?) Federalists of the Founding era referred to the United States in a plural sense -- the United States "are" not "is."

Henry opposed the US Constitution because it began, "we the people" as opposed to "we, the states."

I know Henry wasn't always so militantly anti-Federalist. But he never got close to terming the US One__Great__Nation, something that would make him want to puke. And as noted, neither did the Federalists.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Being Insulted By Analogies or Comparisons:

I continue with the theme of arguing from analogy. I failed to note Dr. John Corvino greatly influenced my last post that asserted, to make an analogy is by nature to compare apples to oranges (hence there's something wrong with the way that term is commonly used).

This post references his work: John Corvino introduces the fallacy of the perverted analogy.

I know of what he speaks. Years ago, shortly after law school I started to better refine my argument skills by learning as much as I could about philosophy/logical fallacies; it was a hands on approach where I actively engaged those on the other side. Then, I found myself and others against whom I argued making the error about which Corvino writes.

Coincidentally, during this time, Dr. Corvino "stopped by," at my request, one now defunct online debate site and supported me. We discussed this article of his that references same sex marriage and its analogies to interracial marriage, infertile marriage, polygamy, bestiality and incest. My opponent, a smart, neurotic fundamentalist woman in her 60s, had the lamentable penchant to analogize homosexuality to pedophilia. She invariably used the reductio ad absurdum to pedophilia whenever one attempted to score a point for homosexuality.

So what is this "new" fallacy? Dr. Corvino explains with a dialog between two interlocutors:

Jack: I can’t support gay marriage because it violates my religion.

Jill: Some people’s religions teach that interracial marriage is wrong.

Jack: So, you’re saying that opposing same-sex marriage is just like racism?!

Jill: I should be allowed to marry whomever I love.

Jack: What if you love your brother? Should you be allowed to marry him?

Jill: So, you’re saying that homosexuality is just like incest?!

Exchanges like these have become familiar—so familiar, in fact, that it would be handy to have a name for the fallacy they contain.

Take the first exchange: Jill never said that opposition to marriage equality is “just like” racism. Rather, she used the analogy to interracial marriage as a counterexample to the implied premise that “Whatever a religion teaches is right.” In other words, she seems to be saying that citing religion doesn’t exempt a view from moral scrutiny.

Similarly, in the second exchange, Jack never said that homosexuality is “just like” incest. Rather, he used the analogy as a counterexample to Jill’s premise that people should be allowed to marry anyone they love.

Analogies can be tricky. They compare two things that are similar in some relevant respect. That does not mean that the two things are similar in EVERY respect, or “just like” each other. In both examples above, the second party is misreading the first’s analogy to have far broader implications than intended. This is a fallacy, whether the misreading is deliberate or just careless.

As noted, I've made this fallacy before and smarter and more philosophically learned folks have committed this error. Indeed, Princeton's Robert P. George, as smart and philosophically learned as anyone, apparently makes this error as Corvino's article notes and I briefly discuss below.

Here's a typical rut I fell into with my interlocutor:

She: Longstanding cross cultural tradition validates opposite sex marriage not same sex marriage.

Me: Longstanding cross cultural tradition also validated slavery.


Me: Sexual orientation is unchosen, unchangeable and likely has a strong biological component to it.

She: Pedophilia is an "orientation" too.

Indeed, it's possible that things worse than pedophilia like serial killing could be shown to have an unchosen, biological brain basis that gives folks irresistible impulses to commit terrible acts. Hence an unchosen "orientation."

In the first instance She would react like I just argued "bans on same sex marriage are just like slavery." In the second instance I would react like She just said "homosexuality is just like pedophilia or serial killing."

In reality, we both made valid arguments using the reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate the limits of two arguments. I demonstrated problems with argument from tradition. And She demonstrated problems with argument from "unchosen human orientation."

(Though analogy doesn't necessarily mean equivalence, sometimes folks do argue for equivalences. For instance, Harry V. Jaffa, whose work on Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence I enjoy, actually equated voluntary homosexual acts with slavery and serial killing; his arguments against homosexuality are not just fallacious but downright bizarre; a more charitable natural law analogy to homosexual acts is to other voluntary but purposefully non-procreative sex acts, like putting on a condom or pulling out.)

But still, given how common I see this error and the learned nature of the folks who make it, I wonder whether something about the act of making an analogy suggests the equivalence? Some kind of poetic bridge from something we see as "good" (to some folks, that's bans on same sex marriage, to others, that's homosexuality itself) to something we all agree is nasty (pedophilia, chattel slavery, Nazism, serial killing)?

Personally, I desire civil discourse; I respect many on the other side whom I do not want to insult. (Not that I can't get down and dirty with the ad hominem; it's not my preference.) Robert P. George, for instance. John Corvino has a laudable friendship with his long time evangelical Christian debate partner.

I don't think that religious objections to homosexuality automatically make one an anti-gay bigot; yes, some religious folks are bigots in a "if the shoe fits, wear it sense." And the line separating principled religious convictions from anti-gay or any kind of religiously inspired bigotry does not so easily draw.

I notice religious conservatives are sensitive when the pro-gay side makes analogies to race issues. It's true homosexuality is not race (no X is a Y). The better analogy is same sex relations to interracial relations. X is still not Y; but here we compare, not skin color to "behavior," but rather relations to relations. That analogy certainly functions fine as a reductio ad absurdum test. As Corvino pointed out, tradition frowns on homosexuality? Tradition also frowned on interracial relations.

Make that argument and religious conservatives likely will balk, "I'm a bigot like a racist?" This is, more or less what occurred between Robert George and his liberal Catholic co-blogger, Michael Perry, as Corvino's article discusses.

Perhaps because of the unique history of race and the likelihood of religious conservatives thinking we accuse them of being like racist bigots, we should avoid the interracial relations analogy. At least be very circumspect when using it.

(For a less loaded analogy, my preference is to infertile heterosexual couples.)

But the street of civility runs both ways. There are certain comparisons to homosexuality that are equally insulting, if taken as some kind of bridge from homosexuality to that.

I'm not talking about polygamy. I think it's fine to argue over that as a potential bridge. Or even consensual adult incest. (Indeed, and discuss the bridge from the Bible to brother/sister incest and polygamy: Where did Cain and Able's wives come from? What about those polygamous characters in the Bible?). Rather, I'm talking about pedophilia, bestiality and relations with inanimate objects (like "maybe I should be able to marry my toaster oven").

If you insist on using THOSE as analogies, I WILL reciprocate and use interracial relations as an analogy to homosexual relations. And I'm justified on logic and civility grounds in so doing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Michael Gerson on Christian Nationalism:



.... America is not a Christian country and has never been, for historical, theological and philosophic reasons.

First, the Constitution was designed for religious diversity because the Founders were religiously diverse. The 18th century was a time not of quiet piety but of religious controversy. It was a high tide of American Unitarianism, a direct challenge to Christian orthodoxy. Thomas Jefferson's deism flirted with atheism -- a God so distant that He didn't even require his own existence. As journalist Jon Meacham points out, the Founders were less orthodox than the generation that preceded them, as well as the one that followed them. Their commitment to disestablishment, in some cases, accommodated their own heterodoxy.

Second, American religious communities were often strong supporters of disestablishment. Dissenting Protestants had a long history of resentment for the established English church. Others -- Catholics and Quakers -- were minorities suspicious of majority religious rule. Christians generally saw state intrusion as a threat to their theological integrity and worldly power as a diversion from their mission. They supported disestablishment for the sake of the church. And their political independence contributed to their religious vitality.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Philip Hamburger's Weakest Argument Against SOCAS:

Note: I like Hamburger's book. I think it deserves much of the praise it got and that he is a top notch scholar. However that doesn't make it immune from criticism or serious error.

Jim Lindgren, no religious fanatic he (a self described atheist), and another top notch scholar (in my opinion; he wouldn't be blogging at Volokh if he weren't) has a post which peddles the weakest aspect of Philip Hamburger's work.

The following is an email I sent Prof. Lindgren. (I don’t expect a reply because I’ve sent him a few other emails over the years to which he didn’t reply):


In a general sense, I like Hamburger’s book and endorse the idea that “SOCAS” doesn’t properly vet constitutional religious rights, especially those that incorporate against state and local govts. I also think the research Hamburger et al. did with regards to the KKK and their anti-Catholic bias and endorsement of the separation principle is interesting.

However, to try to bring that up in an argument over the proper way to interpret the Constitution is weak. It’s the genetic fallacy/poisoning the well. And no, the evidence does not show Justice Black’s (or Rutledge’s) “Klan” mentality led them to decide the way they did in Everson.


Jon Rowe

Ed Brayton did a post on the matter a few years ago which raises a similar point.

I also noted on this First Things thread, this argument isn't just "poisoning the well"/the genetic fallacy, it's also a non-sequitur. That is, even IF Black was an anti-Roman Catholic bigot when Everson was decided, it doesn’t follow that he would deny Roman Catholics their religious rights.

John Adams was an anti-Catholic bigot, but, nonetheless believed in respecting the religious rights of Roman Catholics.

“I do not like the late Resurrection of the Jesuits. They have a General, now in Russia, in correspondence with the Jesuits in the U.S. who are more numerous than every body knows. Shall We not have Swarms of them here. In as many shapes and disguises as ever a King of Gypsies, Bamfield More Carew himself, assumed? In the shape of Printers, Editors, Writers School masters etc. I have lately read Pascalls Letters over again, and four Volumes of the History of the Jesuits. If ever any Congregation of Men could merit, eternal Perdition on Earth and in Hell, According to these Historians, though like Pascal true Catholicks, it is this Company of Loiola [Ignatius Loyola -- Ed.]. Our System however of Religious Liberty must afford them an Assylum. But if they do not put the Purity of our Elections to a severe Tryal, it will be a Wonder.”

- John Adams (1735-1826), Letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 6, 1816, quoted in The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations, James H. Hutson, editor (Princeton University Press: 2005), 44-45.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Compare Apples To Oranges, It's What Lawyers And Philosophers Are Paid to Do:

It's called, arguing by analogy. Eugene Volokh addresses. I know what people mean when they say this, or think they mean: You made a bad analogy. The reason I think this needs discussion is folks seemingly take this phrase too literally. In doing so, they err. For instance, a Volokh commenter noted:

“Apples and Oranges” is a short-hand refutation of an argument assimilating one thing to another. It just means “they’re not the same.” And they’re not. It isn’t a matter of their not being comparable.

Wrong wrong wrong. Whenever one makes an analogy in an argument -- what lawyers and philosophers are paid to do -- one compares apples to oranges. As noted, folks mean when they use this term: You made a bad analogy because the subjects, in the context discussed, distinguish meaningfully.

Yet, how likely is it, in a given context, that an apple so meaningfully distinguishes from an orange. They are both fruits; they are both round, baseball sized of similar mass. Perhaps a lemon better analogizes to an orange, a pear to an apple. But apples to oranges compare much better than apples to typewriters or apples to skyscrapers.

I know I shouldn't be so pedantic. There are many words and terms whose on their face meaning is ironic, oxymoronic or otherwise problematic. "Homophobia"; "Anti-Semitism"; "sleeping together."

But still, some seemingly bright folks don't seem to realize that apples to apples means to compare duplicates. To demand an apples to apples comparison, in a strict sense, what some folks do to try to win arguments, is to say X is sui generis, that is it is off limits to ANY ANALOGY because it can't be compared to ANYTHING that is not X.

How convenient for that side.

In reality, everything is sui generis, if you want, for the sake of argument. If that's so, the door to arguments from analogy closes. Once that door opens, nothing is sui generis.

How does this play out in real world argument? Let's see:

I say, “I should have a right to marry someone of the same sex.” You counter, “if that’s true, then I should have the right to marry two women not just one.” I reply, “you have compared apples to oranges.” And that’s because, charitably towards your argument, you have. (In an uncharitable sense, you have compared apples to typewriters.)

Change the context. I say, "I should have a right to marry someone of the same sex." You reply, “no you shouldn’t.” I counter, “but you support letting people of different races marry.” You reply, “you have compared apples to oranges.” And that’s because I have. (Ditto with the charitably concept.)

Apples to apples compares same sex marriage to same sex marriage. Oranges to oranges compares polygamy to polygamy. Lemons to lemons compares miscegenation to miscegenation. Someone tries to argue for X, and in doing so you find yourself comparing it to Y, you compare apples to oranges. X is not Y. X is X. Y is Y.

In terms of charitable readings, one predisposed to same sex marriage might argue same sex marriage to interracial marriage is apples to oranges (a good analogy), same sex marriage to polygamy is apples to typewriters (a bad analogy). Or one predisposed against same sex marriage would note same sex marriage to interracial marriage as apples to typewriters (a bad analogy); same sex marriage to polygamy, apples to oranges (a good analogy).

But, be sure, NO ONE when they argue from analogy, argues "apples to apples." The best you can do (probably) is apples to oranges. Maybe, if you are really lucky, you get an oranges to lemons. Perhaps, if you are super lucky, oranges to tangerines. But once you get to apples to apples, you no longer argue from analogy but rather, sui generis.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Davis on America's Theocratic Planting:

As opposed to its non-theocratic "Founding."

From historian Kenneth Davis. Quote:

From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation."

Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan.

This is a theme I've long explored. For instance, in my recent post entitled, Would the Puritans Have Executed John Adams For His Religious Heresy?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Straight Side of the Kinsey Scale:

It's always interesting to learn about the "straight" side of the Kinsey curve. Note, I understand much of Kinsey's research is unreliable, but this is one idea of his that I think is spot on. I know most men are either 0s (totally straight) or 6s (totally gay). (Women? They are a horse of a different color.) But the continuum is, (at least as far as I observe) a reality. And many on the 0-3 end are into trannies.

Sorry Eddie Murphy, you may pretend to be a 0, but you are at best a "1."

As far as British trannies go, no one holds a candle to Jaye Davidson.
Sandefur at Volokh:

Timothy Sandefur (my blogfather) finished an outstanding week run guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thoughts On Online Education:

Between 1/4 and 1/3 of my teaching load is, voluntarily, online. I've been teaching online for (I think) about 7-8 years.

There are pluses and minuses. A major plus is the ability to instantly link to valuable Internet resources (though it requires someone like, ahem, me, who is well familiar with what's good and what's bad on the Internet). Though this is a gap that is closing as more classrooms become "wired" and offer instructors immediate Internet access with a projector and audio for the entire class to see and hear.

The obvious minus is the lack of Face2Face interaction and coldness at not being able to make a "human" connection. For professors who DON'T teach with their personalities (the Ben Stein, Ferris Bueller types) online classes would subtract nothing. However, for the rest of us, something serious does lack when they can't see my facial expressions or hear the changes in tone of my voice. But, technologies like Skype may one day close that gap as well. (When something like Skype is boiler plate included on all cheap computers.)

Yeah, you've heard this before. But here's an observation perhaps you've not yet heard (and maybe I'm wrong; maybe this is just me seeing things). As a community college professor, I'm increasingly noticing "extremes" in the kinds of students who take online classes. More of the bad students who think online edu will be a cakewalk; many don't complete the course and get "Fs" for that reason. But also (this is, in part, judging on the informed well written comments on discussion boards I'm noticing; plus the self described professional backgrounds of students on the "introduce yourself" board), really good students, tending to be older and in need of a higher ed degree, who understand they need to take classes more as a means to an end, who understand the time you save in NOT having to commute to school during work hours and the ability to do the school work at your own convenience permits you to get the credits without paying the opportunity cost of lost hours for employment. And community colleges are the most economically affordable game in town. So get as many credits there as you can.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Shockingly Amusing...

Or Amusingly Shocking. That THIS PERSON is a pretty good Supreme Court oral arguer. I can't say for sure whether I could do as well. I do know this: If you can handle yourself as competently as she did at a SCOTUS oral argument, you demonstrate a marketable ability that can make millions in private sector litigation. I doubt she'd get an offer from any firm that knows of her background. But if you were wondering why she hasn't been fired from her state of Kansas prison lawyer job, it's probably because she does a good job there and there would be First Amendment concerns in firing her.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Joe Sobran on Anarchist Orthodox Christian Political Theology:

Sobran died the other day. A good writer, but one who alas, had some really wacky mean spirited opinions on certain topics. I'm not an anarchist. But this is NOT what I refer to when I criticize him for being wacky and mean spirited.

From this article:

My fellow Christians have argued that the state’s authority is divinely given. They cite Christ’s injunction “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and St. Paul’s words “The powers that be are ordained of God.” But Christ didn’t say which things — if any — belong to Caesar; his ambiguous words are far from a command to give Caesar whatever he claims. And it’s notable that Christ never told his disciples either to establish a state or to engage in politics. They were to preach the Gospel and, if rejected, to move on. He seems never to have imagined the state as something they could or should enlist on their side.

At first sight, St. Paul seems to be more positive in affirming the authority of the state. But he himself, like the other martyrs, died for defying the state, and we honor him for it; to which we may add that he was on one occasion a jailbreaker as well. Evidently the passage in Romans has been misread. It was probably written during the reign of Nero, not the most edifying of rulers; but then Paul also counseled slaves to obey their masters, and nobody construes this as an endorsement of slavery. He may have meant that the state and slavery were here for the foreseeable future, and that Christians must abide them for the sake of peace. Never does he say that either is here forever.