Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Archive for July 2009

Jul/09

14

The logic of belief: the Palin version

Sarah Palin loves God. God loves Sarah Palin.

And that is why they hate her…and Him.

And why she — and He — will be back.

From God and Sarah Palin. So if they didn’t love each other, they’d both stay away?   Can we intercede?

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Jul/09

14

Playing the Roman Fool

John, when it comes to something that is quite literally a matter of life and death, I think that the slippery slope argument has rather more force than is usually the case – any changes to the existing legislation would need to be drawn up very carefully indeed. The concern that people might be bullied into ‘choosing’ death is legitimate, as is the fear that medical staff might be compelled to assist in a procedure that they believe to be akin to murder.

That said, if we disregard the religious objections (and we should), the argument for change in at least one instance-that of the physically incapacitated individual who wishes to end it all but is unable to do so-appears to me to be irresistible. I’m not so worried about the able-bodied: they can almost always make their own arrangements, but the plight of, say, the paralyzed man who is desperate to die but has no realistic way of achieving that objective for himself, is truly hideous – and so are the laws that stand in his way. They should be changed.

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Jul/09

14

Nations of suicide

The World Values Survey 2005 has a question about whether suicide is every justifiable. Below the fold are the responses for a list of nations. Not to put too fine a point on it: the more open a nation seems to suicide the less likely I feel I’d want to kill myself if I lived in that nation. This follow the paradox that the more unhealthy a nation’s social indices the more religious it is, though within nations the religious tend to be healthier and happier.
(more…)

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Jul/09

14

Creationism, Right and Left

For a long time I’ve been noticing (as I’m sure other contributors have) curious parallels between religious creationists (Everything is the work of God! Who lives in the sky!) and left-liberal “culturists” (All group differences are due to Culture! Which drops from the sky!)

The blogger who calls himself One Standard Deviation (not to be confused with the different blogger who calls himself Half Sigma) has done a very neat tabulation of these parallels.

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Jul/09

14

Blog of Death

This is a touching story.

One of Britain’s greatest conductors and his wife have taken their own lives at the Swiss assisted suicide clinic Dignitas.  Sir Edward Downes, 85, and his 74-year-old wife Joan travelled there to end their lives, his family said in a statement.  Sir Edward, who was principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 1980 to 1991, had suffered with near blindness for the past 15 years and was going deaf. Lady Downes had terminal cancer and “he could not go on living without her,” said Sir Edward’s agent Jonathan Groves.

I am a strong Right-to-Death proponent — as, according to the article, are an overwhelming majority of Britons:

There is massive public support for a change in the law to allow assisted dying, with polls regularly showing more than 80 per cent of the public want it made legal.

I have never been very clear about the religious objections to suicide and assisted suicide.   The only time I tackled a religious colleague about it he launched into a “slippery slope” argument.   Well, I suppose some slopes are slippery, and some aren’t. I can’t see this one as being particularly slippery.   In any case, slippery-slope is not a religious argument.   What is the religious argument?  Are there any secular ones, other than the slippery slope?

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Jul/09

14

Year One: Better than the Creationism Museum

I cautiously recommend Year One, the Jack Black comedy about the early chapters of the Old Testament.  Granted, my frame of reference is exceedingly narrow, since I am only interested in comedies these days and see very few of even those.  But the movie has a nice undercurrent of ironic humor that doesn’t try to draw attention to itself.   Jack Black is a hunter-gatherer loser who is banished from the jungle by his tribe after he eats the forbidden golden fruit—with no noticeable effect on his brain power.  He emerges from the dense wild greenery into open plowed fields and several centuries of Biblical history, getting drawn into the dysfunctional family of Cain and Abel and intervening in the abortive sacrifice of Isaac.  Isaac turns out to be a snotty teenager with a penchant for sneaking off to Sodom and Gomorrah for debauchery.  The pace of Iron Age technological change is sometimes more than Black and his touchingly delicate sidekick Michael Cera can tolerate: the blinding speed of an ox-cart, with those new-fangled wheel contraptions, causes them to get car sick.  Whether deliberately or not, the movie captures the weirdness of our making the goings-on of primitive Middle Eastern tribal societies our moral frame of reference.

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Jul/09

13

Relevant and Challenging?

Over at the New York Times today, Ross Douthat describes the pope’s new encyclical as “relevant and challenging.” Well, those are adjectives that can mean anything, but so far as the politics (I have no comment on the theology) of what the pope had to say are concerned, there was very little really that was new, let alone (as Ross suggests elsewhere in the same piece) “radical”.  If I may quote something I wrote (I know, I know) on NRO’s  Corner the other day:

So far as I can discern, Benedict is basically doing little more than reiterate the “social market” view of political economy that has long been at the core of continental european Christian Democracy or, to put it another way, the “Rhineland-model” capitalism under which he spent most of his adult life. This is not a view I, or many, supporters of the “Anglo-Saxon” (to use the adjective often used to describe it) approach to the market economy, would share, but it’s hardly new. As to the pope’s (dreadful) idea that there should be some sort of “world political authority” to, in some respects, “manage” the global economy, that again should be no surprise. Of all the forms of Christianity, Roman Catholicism is traditionally probably the most “universalist” (in the sense of the lack of attention it pays to the nation-state) and the Vatican is, of course, no stranger to notions of either top-down government or, dare I say, it, the authoritarian. Under the circumstances the pope’s support for this world authority may be thoroughly misguided, but it’s hardly a shock.

As it happens, I have thought for quite a while that the GOP may be evolving in the direction of european Christian Democratic parties such as Germany’s CDU (albeit with some distinctly American characteristics). If the pope’s encyclical is interesting in any political sense, it is interesting primarily as a reminder of where the priorities of such parties lie.

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Jul/09

12

Exhibitionism: more universal than faith

Why else would contestants volunteer for this Turkish atheists-convert reality show: to prostrate themselves several times a day at Mecca just for the thrill of it?

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One of the strange things one observes in political discussions is the selective usage of the “precautionary principle.” For example, in general the modern Left tends to be sanguine about disruption of accepted social norms and institutions. It believes that society is robust and resilient enough to be periodically disrupted from its equilibrium. That human flourishing will persist. Similarly, many conservatives are skeptical about too great a concern about disruptions of the environmental equilibrium, believing that the earth is robust and human ingenuity inevitably will avert various natural resource catastrophes. Libertarians and some strains of cultural conservatism (the latter more prevalent outside of the United States) are consistent, but these are minority factions.

I thought of this when I saw this comment in response to my pointing out that liberals are out of step with scientists in regards to nuclear power:

I agree with Sam C. Even if there is a medically significant difference in the background radiation levels, there is every reason to believe that the levels at Cornwall will remain stable regardless of the state of the infrastructure and of the diligence (or lack thereof) of the people who live and work there.

And one suicide bomber or rogue missle could also significantly change things for the worse at Sellafield.

I responded that it seems everyone has their own private “One Percent Doctrine.” The objection above is logically coherent, but one wonders about the utility of a police-state as a solution to the terrorist threat? Of course most people would object based on the fact that such actions have other consequences which we might not enjoy. Similarly, the presence of nuclear power plants does entail a certain level of risk, but their lack is not without consequence either. Both action and inaction in many situations have consequences, but partisans tend to be very careful in terms of weight or noting the alternative outcomes based on normative or cultural preferences. Rationality and rationalization are generally found together.

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Jul/09

12

Sarah Palin

Discuss.

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