Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sure, Blame the Old Guys

In an outpouring of left-wing ageism and sexism the older white men of the UK are being blamed and pilloried for the United Kingdom's decision to exit the European Union.

The older generation is comprised of racist xenophobes, so go the allegations, who are robbing the young of their future, etc., and they have no right to do that:
Hard to argue with that, I guess. After all, why should the people who've paid taxes all their lives, fought in their country's wars, built the nation's economy and infrastructure, are presumably wiser and more experienced in life, and, indeed, made the decision to enter the EU in the first place, think they have the right to decide whether they want to yield their nation's sovereignty, the sovereignty of the nation they've built, to some faceless, anonymous bureaucrats in Brussels? Don't they realize they have a duty to defer to the petulant will of pampered young socialists who have yet to do much of anything for their country?

It's perhaps noteworthy that when the election of Mr. Obama was essentially determined by the support of two demographics comprising the least educated, least invested, and most apathetic segments of the American population - young people and minorities - this was seen as presaging the coming of the Age of Aquarius, but when a demographic in the UK that's accused of being uneducated and uninformed (though it might well be the most well-informed, best educated, and most psychically and economically invested in the country) - i.e. seniors - decide they want to rescue their independence from the globalists intent on building a European superstate somehow that's regarded as an injustice.

Maybe instead of blaming their elders for depriving them of their "future" they should be thanking them for saving them from a future of tyrannical servitude to anonymous, unaccountable bureaucrats.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Debate on the Existence of God

There was an interesting debate in London recently between a rabbi, Daniel Rowe, and one of the premier atheist philosophers in the world, A.C. Grayling, on the topic of the existence of God.

Grayling's performance deeply disappointed at least some of his fellow atheists. Jerry Coyne offers a sympathetic critique at his blog where he records the dismay expressed by one of his readers:
[R]eader Mark...made this comment: "I have to admit to finding the prospect of an orthodox rabbi holding his own in a debate with Dr. Grayling on God’s existence rather disheartening, but I’m afraid that’s exactly what went down the other night in London."

Knowing Anthony [Grayling], I was dubious, but I have to say that having watched the debate, I see that Mark is right.
Coyne goes on to observe that the argument that gave Grayling the most difficulty was the argument from cosmic fine-tuning, to which Coyne acknowledges at the end that atheists have to find a better answer. His own suggested counters to Rowe's arguments don't seem to me to be much better than Grayling's, but readers can judge for themselves.

Here's the debate:
Much of Grayling's response to the arguments with which Rowe confronts him was quite irrelevant to the topic, and his rather blithe dismissal of Rowe's claim that the exquisitely precise calibration of the cosmic forces and parameters is prohibitively improbable just doesn't work. Grayling argued (37:45) that, like the existence of the universe, his own existence is also incredibly improbable since it's based on highly improbable fortuitous events such as the unions of all of his ancestors, yet here he is. Likewise, the high improbability of a universe like ours is no reason to think that God must have created it.

Rowe replied (43:15) with a good illustration of why Grayling's analogy fails which you might wish to check out.

Here's another way of looking at the problem with Grayling's analogy:

Almost all of the universes that could possibly exist are life-prohibiting universes, universes in which there is no carbon, or no stars, or in which gravity is too strong, etc. The number of possible life-prohibiting universes is nearly infinite. On the other hand, only a relative few possible universes have the necessary conditions to allow for the emergence of life, especially conscious life. Thus, it's far more likely that chance would produce a universe that's life-prohibiting than that it would produce one that's life-permitting. The fact that the odds against a life-permitting universe existing are so unimaginably high (see video below), yet nevertheless such a world exists, demands an explanation.

A more apposite analogy than the one Grayling employs might go like this: Imagine a large barrel filled with a million dice which are then poured out over the floor of an airplane hangar. There would be six to the millionth power possible patterns of numbers the dice could show, each of which is equally likely (or unlikely).

Suppose now we specify before doing the experiment that the pattern of every single die showing a six will represent a life-permitting universe and every other pattern represents some form of life-prohibiting universe. It's unimaginably more likely that, when the barrel is emptied, we would get some pattern other than all sixes from this experiment than that we would get all sixes. Getting all sixes is no less probable than any other specific outcome would be, but the point is that getting all sixes is extraordinarily less likely than getting some pattern that is other than all sixes.

Likewise, it's far more likely that chance would produce a universe that's life-prohibiting than that it would produce one that's life-permitting.

Since we obviously live in a life-permitting universe, one which is far less probable than even the all-sixes result of the dice experiment, we're justified in believing that something more intentional than chance was at work in producing it.

Indeed, since a life-permitting universe could actually be expected if the universe were intelligently designed, the astronomical improbability of our life-permitting universe existing counts as evidence that it is in fact intentionally designed.
Coyne is right. this is a very compelling argument, and naturalists need to come up with a more convincing way to address it, if indeed there is such a way, than they have heretofore.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Some Identity Claims Are More Acceptable Than Others

The Daily Caller's Christopher Bedford makes a clever point. It's easier nowadays for a man to convince liberals that he's a woman, Bedford observes, than it is for a terrorist to convince liberals that he's a Muslim.

Despite repeated insistence by Omar Mateen that he was acting on behalf of Islam when he murdered 49 people in an Orlando night club, folks on the left just refuse to believe him, but if he had insisted to the media or government bureaucrats that he be considered a female they would've tripped all over themselves to accommodate him:
The federal government is clear on identity: “Managers, supervisors, and coworkers should use the name and pronouns appropriate to the gender the employee is now presenting at work.”

The New York Times style guide demands that reporters, “Use the name and pronouns (he, his, she, her, hers) preferred by the transgender person.”

The Associated Press agrees: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals.”

So why did reporters across the media, as well as the head of the Department of Justice, spend so much energy questioning the “preferred” and “appropriate” identity of that coward in Orlando?

The shooter called 911 the night he murdered 49 people at a gay club in Orlando to identify as a killer for the Islamic State carrying out its leader’s will. He also called a television station that night, once again identifying as a killer for the Islamic State carrying out its leader’s will.

“I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State,” he told the station.

“I pledge my alliance to [Islamic State leader] abu bakr al Baghdadi...may Allah accept me,” he wrote on Facebook as the shooting went on.

One wonders what more he has to do to convince people that he is what he says he is, yet his choice to identify as a terrorist was given less credence than if he’d declared himself to be a woman.
Examples of this willful blindness abound and Bedford describes a lot of them in the rest of his column:
“What motivated a killer?” CNN asked one day after the shooting. The article took 19 paragraphs to mention ISIS, has no mention of “Muslim,” and only includes the word “Islam” once– as part of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called the attacks “a hate crime.”

Two days after the shooting, AP reported that Orlando was mourning “as possible motives emerge for club gunman.”

“Despite Mateen’s pledge of support to the Islamic State,” the article goes, “other possible explanations emerged.”

“While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, it is evident that Mr. Mateen was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians,” The New York Times editorial board opined three days after the shooting. “Hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain.”

The editorial does not use the words “Islam,” “Muslim,” or even “ISIS,” but blames Republicans and Donald Trump four and two times, respectively, for contributing to apparently negative discourse.

Four days after the shooting, in an article entitled, “Toxic Masculinity and Murder: Can we talk about men,” a writer at The Atlantic opined that, “The Orlando murderer appears to have been a violent bro who, in the moments before his death, bizarrely identified with the Boston Marathon murderers, with whom he had nothing apparent in common but a violent quest for self-actualization.”

That same day, a frightened luminary at Vox wrote, “I don’t believe we can blame the Orlando shooting on ‘radical Islam,'” instead choosing to ponder the shooter as “a product of America’s hypermasculine, police-worshiping society that screamed at him from all directions to stay in the closet, to hide any sort of mental illness, or risk not being a ‘real man.'”

“Islamist ideology … [is] almost like an afterthought,” a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center is quoted under a Miami Herald headline that asks, “What motivated Orlando killer?” The article was published five days after the shooting.

“We know that he apparently had some concerns or issues with the LGBT community,” Attorney General Lorretta Lynch said one week after the shooting. “It was also Latin night at the club. So again, we’re very concerned about the motivations that led him to that particular club at that particular place.”

“It’s really too early to talk about other individuals in the investigation,” she later added, “except to say that we are talking to everyone who had a connection to this killer.”

“We do want to be as transparent as possible in this investigation so people can see not only what he was thinking, what he was doing,” Lynch said Sunday, “but also the kind of information that we’re looking at.”
Links to all these quotes can be found in Bedford's piece at The Daily Caller. It's hard to determine exactly why it is that this White House and those who take their cues from the administration are so loath to identify, not just Mateen, but numerous other mass killers, as Islamists. It certainly seems that Mr. Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and those who think like they do will go to any lengths, no matter how absurd, to see the world the way they wish it to be and not the way it is.

Self-delusion must be a powerful drug because it appears to have a large percentage of both our population and our leadership in its grip.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit

The Brits have voted 52 - 48 to leave the European Union. For what it's worth, I understand why they voted that way. The EU has been gradually arrogating to itself more and more of the sovereignty of its member nations. It has over the years established its own currency, its own parliament, its own flag, its own anthem and its own foreign policy.

If the founders of the United States had known how little sovereignty the individual states would have by the 21st century and how much power the central government in Washington has seized for itself they never would have ratified the Constitution. Perhaps, British voters saw the same currents that have largely reduced the fifty states to the status of vassals to Washington sweeping Great Britain toward a similar fate vis a vis Brussels.

It is the unfortunate impulse of those who govern to accumulate and exercise their power, and the flow of power always goes ineluctably in one direction - from the people to the central authority. It rarely goes the other way. Indeed, those voices in the U.S. who supported "Bremain" (Britain remaining in the EU) have belonged to - in every instance with which I was familiar - a progressive liberal, that is, an enthusiast for big, centralized government.

The further away from the local community power resides, however, the less influence individual citizens have in their governance, and this lack of influence almost always is to their detriment and to the detriment of the nation.

Citizens who feel they have little control over the decisions which govern their lives tend toward lassitude and dependency, gradually becoming serfs of the state, lacking initiative and any sense that they have an investment in their communities and their future.

One proponent of "Bremain" argued that Britain should stay in the EU because the Union had kept the peace in Europe since its founding in the post WWII era, but this struck me as something of a post hoc argument. It could just as easily be asserted that Europe has been at peace (not counting the Balkans wars) because of the U.N., or Nato, or the influence of the U.S., or the fear of nuclear escalation.

Nor do I think the economic arguments for staying in the EU have been very compelling. It seems to me that the other 27 nations in the Union (excluding Germany) needed Britain more than Britain, the world's fifth largest economy, needed them. Nor is it clear why leaving should limit their trade opportunities overmuch, nor detract from the "special relationship" it has with the U.S., Mr. Obama's unseemly threats to the contrary notwithstanding.

The fear now is that other nations will follow Britain and exit the EU and that the Union will eventually collapse. If so, it'll be because Brussels left a lot of Europeans feeling powerless to influence the policies that affect their lives, and as they peer into the future they foresee that trend only getting worse.

For a much more thorough, informed, and erudite, argument for Brexit see the column composed by the editors of National Review here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The End of Science (Pt. II)

Yesterday, I suggested that science would deeply harm itself if it abandoned the distinctive criteria that set it apart from other intellectual pursuits. Today I'd like to consider another reason science is jeopardizing its own fruitfulness, and it's a consequence of the naturalism (i.e. the view that the natural, physical world is all that exists) that led to the problems discussed yesterday.

This additional way in which naturalism and its adherents may be bringing about the demise of the scientific enterprise is highlighted in a piece at Stream.org. Here's an excerpt:
In his profound new book The Death of Humanity, Richard Weikart documents how self-appointed spokesmen for “Science” such as “New Atheist” Richard Dawkins — and thousands who follow his lead — reject the idea of objective morality, free will, and the meaningfulness of life. Instead they blithely insist that everything — every single thing — in human nature can be traced to natural selection and blind variation. Religious impulses, altruism, friendship, love, even scientific curiosity, must all be explained away as the purposeless side-effects of mutations.

Human consciousness itself is a purely chemical, deterministic process entirely driven by the firing of neurons in the brain — which means that it is impossible to describe knowledge as objective, or any statement as really “true.” The perception that each of us has that a proposition is provable, or an experiment is conclusive, is no guarantee of anything in external reality; instead it is the outcome of subatomic dominoes falling in random patterns. How can science continue if even scientists start to believe this about their minds?

The answer is that it cannot. The death of humanity which Weikart describes will also be the death of science. We are already seeing state attorneys general trying to prosecute scientists who question the political orthodoxy of climate activists, federal regulations overriding the medical judgments of doctors treating “transgender” patients, and a dogmatic refusal on part of many well-educated people to admit that a human embryo is living or human, or that physical sex exists.
In other words, science is naturalism's summum bonum, but naturalistic assumptions are corrosive, if not fatal, to science. Science arose and flourished in the Christian culture of the West, a culture that took it for granted that the world was created by a rational, logical God who created man in the image of himself and that the world was thus orderly and law-like and would yield its secrets to logical inquiry by men who were it's divinely appointed stewards. They believed that because the Creator was rational there was a reason why everything happened and that those reasons could be uncovered by rational investigation.

Naturalism, though, rejects the notion of an intelligent, personal Creator without realizing that everything else that it wants to hold on to is contingent upon the conviction that the world is the product of such a being as they deny. In the absence of God, belief in an objective, law-governed universe, discoverable by human reason crumbles like very old paper as soon as it's touched.

Naturalists, ironically, exalt science without realizing that science and naturalism are fundamentally incompatible and cannot indefinitely co-exist.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The End of Science (Pt. I)

Science has flourished for three hundred years in the West, and has been in many ways a marvelous blessing to the world, but it may nevertheless soon find itself on life support. Ironically, the agent of its potential senescence is the rejection of a couple or three metaphysical assumptions that many credit with having given it its robust vigor and success in the first place.

The assumptions I refer to are these: 1. The conviction that science should limit itself to the study of natural, physical causes, and 2. that the theories it propounds should be based on physical, empirical evidence. Those theories, moreover, should 3. have the quality of being in principle falsifiable - that is, there should be a way to test the theory and a conceivable result of that test which, if it obtained, would show the theory to be false. Whatever hypotheses cannot meet these criteria - e.g. religious, ethical, epistemological, or aesthetic theories - belong to philosophical inquiry and reside outside the boundaries of science.

That's been the prevailing view ever since the Enlightenment, but there's sympathy in some scientific and philosophical precincts today for quietly doing away with both the need for empirical evidence as well as the falsifiability criterion, and the reasons for this, or at least a couple of them, are interesting.

Some scientists, for instance, think these criteria are too confining and, worse, they lead to unhappy metaphysical conclusions about the existence of God.

Specifically, some (many?) philosophers and scientists want desperately to legitimize multiverse hypotheses as legitimate science because if our universe is the only one that exists the conclusion that it is intentionally designed becomes virtually inescapable. As you might imagine, this ineluctability makes metaphysical naturalists (atheists) quite uncomfortable. As Bernard Carr, a cosmologist at Queen Mary University of London puts it, it's either the multiverse or God. Those are the only two live options.

The reason the multiverse seems necessary to save naturalism is that cosmic fine-tuning is so compelling (see video below), and the probability of a universe as incredibly fine-tuned as ours existing is so infinitesimally tiny, that if one wishes to avoid the conclusion that a supernatural Designer exists, or even the weaker but still important conclusion that the universe affords much evidence that such an intelligence exists, one has to hold that there's an infinite array of worlds in which every possible universe is actual. If so, then in an infinity of worlds every possible world has a probability of one, including our world. This would mean that the cosmic fine-tuning may be no big deal.

Thus, the multiverse is seen as the best way on offer to rescue naturalism from the theists. But the problem is there's no physical evidence that such a plethora of worlds really does exist, only that their existence is possible, nor is there any way to test or falsify the claim that this ensemble of worlds does exist. Thus, many philosophers and scientists argue, the multiverse theory is not a scientific hypothesis at all. It's metaphysics, just like religion, ethics, etc.

This "reduction" of the stature of the theory won't do, because if it's not a "scientific" theory it won't have any particular authority or claim on people's minds, so what's the solution? If the hypothesis doesn't meet the criteria of science then one solution is to drop the inconvenient criteria altogether so that science becomes simply whatever it is that scientists do. But this makes science something other than what it's been for three centuries. It robs it of its distinctive character and transforms it, as I said, into an exercise in metaphysics, just like religion.

There's another way science seems to be losing its distinctive character, and we'll look at that tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sweet-Talking Lady

Those who've been paying attention to the Clintons for the last twenty five years or so are well-aware that Mrs. Clinton has often found the sewer a ready resource from which to draw her modes of self-expression. It's long been known that she has a penchant for vulgar verbs and participles, and her anti-semitism was noted back in the nineties, but her cruelty toward unfortunate children is less well-known.

Now one of Bill Clinton's army of ex-paramours has come out with a book that pulls back the curtain on Hillary's awful bigotry and hard-heartedness. Dolly Kyle, who dated Bill in high school and was a lover after their graduation, has published a book titled Hillary: The Other Woman.

In it she exposes Bill and Hillary as racial bigots, anti-semites, and cruelly contemptuous of the disadvantaged.

For example, she alleges that Hillary once called mentally-challenged children at a White House Easter egg hunt "f*****g ree-tards" because they had trouble picking up the eggs and also employed bon mots such as "stupid k**e" and "f***ing Jew b*****d" when describing her Jewish acquaintances.

Not to be forced to take a backseat in the bigotry sweepstakes, Bill once referred to Jesse Jackson as a "G**damned n****r". Indeed, he was sued several times as governor of Arkansas by blacks and Hispanics for violations of the 1965 Voting rights Act and famously commented in 2008 that Barack Obama should be serving him coffee rather than running for president.

There's more on this delightful couple in the article at the link. Kyle's book follows hard upon another by a former secret service agent Gary Byrne (Crisis of Character) who exposes Hillary's insufferable, overbearing treatment of subordinates in her days in the White House and her "volcanic" temper tantrums.

Neither of these revelations will deter many of Hillary's supporters who, like the woman in the following video, would vote for her even were she Lady Macbeth as long as she could be counted upon to keep abortion legal.
It is ironic that Trump gets excoriated in the media for being racist because he wants to profile Muslims and send illegal immigrants back home, but the media will never investigate nor complain about Hillary's cruelty and anti-semitism. Instead, like the woman in the video, they'll try their best to redirect the conversation away from Hillary's execrable character and back to Trump's political maladroitness.

After all, in our media culture to have a "D" after your name renders you immune to the criticisms for which those with an "R" are zealously burned at the stake of public opinion.