Monday, September 1, 2014

The Left's Moral Cowardice

What happens when a society is so steeped in the dogmas of liberal multiculturalism that they're no longer willing to hold others to the same standard of behavior as everyone else because to do so, they fear, is to impose one's values on others, or to blame the victim, or to impose a tyranny of a majority over a minority, or to tacitly claim one's own values to be superior to those of other cultures, et cetera?

What happens when the authorities in a community are so morally pusillanimous that they recoil from making any judgments, moral or legal, about the behavior of members of other races or ethnicities? Where does such cowardice lead?

John O'Sullivan's article in National Review Online shows us where progressive multiculturalism has led the British. O’Sullivan writes:
Britain has felt real shock and horror over the report that 1,400 young women in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham had been groomed, raped, prostituted, trafficked, and brutally abused in almost every possible way by a criminal gang for the last 16 years. In addition, the authorities — which in this case are the local government authority, the police, and the child-protection services — had been repeatedly informed of these crimes but had dismissed the reports as false or exaggerated and taken no action to investigate, halt, and punish them.
O'Sullivan goes on to describe some of the horrors these young girls endured. He also says, as hard as it might be to believe, that despite having almost full knowledge of what was going on the authorities did nothing to stop it. Why? The reason lies in part in these two facts:
The 1,400 girls were all white and of Christian background and English ethnicity while all but one of their exploiters were Muslims of Pakistani heritage. (The report describes the men delicately as “Asians,” but so far no Hindus, Sikhs, or Hong Kong Chinese are among their number.) As in other recent cases, the men targeted the girls in large part because they were white Christians, culturally speaking, and thus “worthless.” They actually told the girls that this was so.
There's another relevant fact:
But what explains the silence, the acquiescence, even the cooperation of the authorities? Their motives seem to derive from the rich stew of progressive absurdities that constitute official attitudes in modern Britain. The first is the fear of being suspected of racism. Again and again the police and the social workers shrank from intervening or responding to complaints because to do so would invite the accusation that they were “racist.”

Most people in the Muslim community were unaware of this criminal conspiracy (and, shocked and horrified like everyone else, they now condemn it). But when it was brought to the attention of “community leaders,” they too played the race card to suppress further investigation. To uncover such scandal would be not only racist, it would commit a sin against the ideal of multiculturalism that now actuates much official policy.

The Labour member of Parliament for Rotherham from 1994 to 2012, Dennis MacShane, admitted yesterday that as a Guardian-reading left liberal, he had shied away from looking into such topics as the oppression of women in “bits of the Muslim community.” He ought to have done something about it, but, well, you understand . . . “I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat, if I may put it like that.”
So much for the progressive's professed concern for the oppressed. You can bet that had the rapists been white and the victims young Pakistani girls the leftists would've been marching in the street proclaiming their outrage, but it takes no courage to condemn the crimes of the majority or to enforce the law against them. Leaders of the white community would not have called the politicians and police racist for arresting white rapists. For the left, the rape culture is just part of the wonderful multicultural mosaic, as long as the perpetrators are minorities and the victims are white.

O'Sullivan describes some of the crimes committed by the liberal authorities:
Some of the examples of this depraved official indifference are barely believable. In one case, a girl was found drunk in the company of her exploiters and was arrested while the men were let free. In another, a father found his daughter, tried to rescue her, complained to the police, and was himself arrested while the authorities took no action on his complaint.

It is not as if this series of crimes was hidden or unknown. No fewer than three official investigations (prior to this one) looked into these crimes. They reported the broad truth that we now know and called for further investigations and arrests. The police and child-protection services did nothing whatever about them. Indeed, they quietly pigeonholed the findings with dismissive comments. The local councilors looked the other way or, on some occasions, intervened to discourage investigations by the police. Only the general public was innocently ignorant.
This is where multiculturalism combined with liberal progressivism leads. Some people just get a pass if they're members of a minority because to enforce the law against them is to be seen as culturally chauvinist racists, or whatever.

There's much, much more to this story, and I encourage readers to go to the link to get the full effect of the left's bigotry against the class - white, middle class, and Christian - the majority of these girls came from.

Every single person in a position of authority who knew about these crimes and didn't do anything about them but instead let these girls be terrorized for years should be sent to jail. The prison yard is an environment rich in opportunities for multicultural experiences. Liberal progressives would like it there.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cruel Logic

I posted this last January, but, since the topic is coming up in my classes again this week I thought it'd be appropriate to post it again:

Here's the background. A professor has given a lecture this evening in which he claims that our behavior is the product of our genetic make-up. We don't really have free will. We're pretty much at the mercy of our genes which means that we're not really responsible for what we choose to do.

A psychopath has managed to kidnap the professor and challenges him to defend this thesis in the real world. The video, titled Cruel Logic, is pretty grim but as you watch it ask yourself, given the assumptions of the professor, what answer could he make to the psychopath's challenge.
If you were in the professor's position what could you say to save your life? Does the psychopath's behavior make sense if the professor is correct? If man truly is morally autonomous, if there is no objective standard of right and wrong, then what's actually wrong with the psychopath's behavior, beyond the fact that we're repelled by it? Does being repelled by something make it morally wrong?

The only way to resist the conclusion that there's really nothing wrong with what he's doing is to deny the premise that morality is a completely subjective phenomenon. But, in the absence of an objective, transcendent ground for moral behavior, there is no way to judge the psychopath's behavior as being wrong.

As philosopher Richard Rorty once said, the secular man has no answer to the question, why not be cruel. Ideas do indeed have consequences. If you believe that gratuitous cruelty is in fact wrong then you have to acknowledge that there's an objective standard of morality, but once you've taken that step, it's very hard to avoid the conclusion that there's a transcendent, personal, moral authority that has established that objective standard.

In other words, it's very hard to see how one can be a naturalist (i.e. an atheist) and also believe that what the psychopath in this video is doing is wrong.

Friday, August 29, 2014

No Strategy for Dealing with ISIS

In a press conference yesterday President Obama announced that he doesn't have a strategy yet for dealing with ISIS in Syria, and a lot of people are wondering why that is. The military, after all, spends countless hours working up detailed plans for every contingency. Surely they had a plan for dealing with ISIS long before anyone in the public ever heard of the group since our intelligence services have known about them for at least a year. For the president to sound as if ISIS just came along and now we have to come up with a strategy to address the threat they pose does little to bolster confidence in his leadership.

We can be assured that Mr. Obama would have no trouble coming up with a strategy for dealing with, say, John Boehner and the Republicans. I'm reasonably confident that he already has a strategy for dealing with the Republicans if they win the Senate in November, so why is it so hard to come up with a strategy for dealing with an army which everyone in the region despises and which has no air force.

Perhaps Mr. Obama's hectic schedule of sundry vacations, fundraisers, golf games and whatnot has made it difficult for him to sit down and actually pick one of those contingency plans to execute. Okay, but as the President eases himself into semi-retirement we can hope he soon comes up with a plan to neutralize the threat because it won't be long before these savages are doing to Americans here what they're doing to non-Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.

Robert Tracinski at The Federalist writes:
It has become obvious that the group that calls itself ISIS or just the Islamic State is the most serious terrorist threat to the United States since 9/11, and allowing its formation is the biggest mistake of President Obama’s administration.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently called ISIS “a force and a dimension that the world has never seen before.” It is not just a terrorist group distinguished by its brutality and fanaticism. It is not just a group that has demonstrated its interest in killing Americans. Worst of all, this is a group filled with an unprecedented number of jihadists from Europe, and even a few from America—Western passport-holders who will almost certainly make their way back home. According to the group’s own threats, ISIS members or sympathizers are already here.

So it cannot be allowed to exist, not without courting the risk of another 9/11. But no one in the administration seems to have figured out what will be required to make that happen.

I don’t just mean the size of the effort, though that’s part of it. While it would be nice to rely on local proxies like the Kurds, it’s becoming clear that there is no one on the ground in Iraq and Syria who can defeat them. Eradicating ISIS—not just suppressing them or stopping their advance, which is all we’ve done so far—will require a much larger effort. I’m pretty certain it will require American boots on the ground.

I’m sorry if that makes you nervous or breaks a campaign pledge or means you have to turn your back on your dad’s anti-war rhetoric. Don’t want another 9/11? Then you’ve got to get serious about ISIS. Suck it up.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey has been telling everyone, taking down ISIS will also require intervening in Syria. And that’s the real problem, the one issue that no one seems to have thought through. If all we do is go after ISIS, we are acting as shock troops for Bashar al-Assad (By eliminating his biggest threat and allowing him to focus his fire on the more moderate rebel groups).

If it seems like a disaster that we’re being drawn into a wider war in the Middle East, the irony is that this is a consequence of the Obama administration’s attempt to withdraw from the region and leave it to its own devices. It turns out that we can’t do that. Aside from the strategic importance of the region’s oil, the Middle East is the center and homeland of Islamic jihadism, which sees us (correctly) as its antipode and seeks to do us harm. This is a threat that we can’t allow to grow, which is what 9/11 taught us.
The days when we could retreat behind two big oceans and hide our heads in the sand are over. The Islamists simply won't allow us that option. They want to kill us and we're only making it easier for them by refusing to get involved now while they're still acquiring their strength.

Meanwhile, if the president is entertaining ideas for an immediate tactic while he mulls over a long-term strategy at his next fundraiser perhaps he might consider putting enough air assets into place in both Iraq and in bases near Syria so that every time an ISIS member peeks out a window he beholds a missile hurtling at several hundred miles per hour directly toward his Adam's apple.

No thanks or remuneration from the White House for this suggestion are necessary.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Molecular Machines

There are three possible positions to take with respect to biological evolution. One can hold that (1) all of life arose by random, unguided processes driven by nothing more than chemistry and natural selection; or one can hold that (2) evolution never occurred at all; or one can hold that (3) to the extent that evolution has occurred it was somehow directed by an intelligent agent.

Watch the following video about a cellular nanomachine called kinesin, one of thousands of such tiny molecular machines in every cell of every living organism and ask yourself which of the above views seems intuitively most likely.
Not only is the work of this vanishingly small molecule itself amazing but remember that something must be directing it in the cell so that it transports its cargo to the proper location, so that the microtubule on which it "walks" gets constructed, so that it recognizes whether another kinesin needs help, so that its own construction is executed properly so that it functions effectively, and all of these directions require information that must somehow have arisen and is stored somewhere in the cell and accessed where and when needed. This is all nothing short of astonishing.

I don't know which of the alternatives in the first paragraph is the correct one, but I hope I'll be forgiven for saying that I have a great deal of trouble seeing how it could possibly be (1).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How Liberalism Stifles an Economy

Burger King is joining the growing list of corporations which are relocating their corporate offices outside of the country in order to avoid our onerous 35% corporate income tax. This is the highest tax rate in the developed world and since Mr. Obama took office in 2008 two dozen corporations have decided that the United States is simply too expensive to live in.

The flight to cheaper climes is called inversion and it's got a lot Democrats in a swivet which is ironic since deep down Democrats realize that taxes provide all sorts of disincentives for businesses, or at least they seem to since television commercials are running locally trying to persuade businesses to move to New York, a blue state, by offering tax breaks to businesses that come there.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration and others on the left refuse to change the U.S. rate and instead criticize and threaten corporations which participate in the exodus.

When businesses leave the country they not only pay less in taxes to Washington, they also take jobs with them which means more unemployment and even less tax revenue. The Obama administration is calling these corporations unpatriotic and threatening them with coercive sanctions to keep them here, a sort of economic Berlin wall, so to speak, to prevent corporations from going where they can thrive and prosper. It's the universal knee-jerk reaction of those with dictatorial inclinations to solve every problem by curtailing freedom.

Inversion is similar to the problem liberals have created in many of our urban areas. They tax those who pay taxes so heavily that anyone with money flees the city and all that's left are those too poor to leave and too poor to pay taxes. It's one reason why so many of our cities take on the aspect of a vast wasteland. High taxes drive out wealth.

What would happen, though, if congress decided to reduce the corporate tax rate to bring it in line with other countries in Europe and North America? What impact would that have on corporate investment, hiring, and retail prices. It sounds like it would be a boon to the economy which pretty much guarantees it won't happen anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Age of Atheism

Lincoln Mullen has a review in Books and Culture of Peter Watson's The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God.

Mullen makes a point which I think needs to be clarified. He writes that:
The most common charge that Christians level against atheists is that they have no morals.
He might be right that this is a common charge, but even so the moral problem that Christians (and theists in general) have with atheism is not that atheists don't have moral values but rather that they have no ground for making moral judgments beyond their own subjective preferences.

Take a concrete example. A tobacco company lies about the danger its product poses to the consumer. A theist would say that such deception is objectively wrong because it violates the will of the Creator who ordains that people be treated with dignity, respect, and kindness, a command that rules out lying in any way that harms people.

The atheist may also be outraged that the tobacco company has lied to people about the hazards of using its product, but the only reason there would be, if atheism is true, for condemning the company's behavior is that one simply doesn't like it. If an atheist were to respond that it's just wrong to hurt people, the question needs to be asked, "Why is it wrong?" If atheism is true then we are here as a result of a blind, impersonal, evolutionary process, and blind, impersonal processes cannot impose a moral duty on any one. Nor can such processes prescribe behavior, nor declare the behavior wrong in any meaningful moral sense.

Lots of thoughtful atheists recognize this. Consider the following quotes by thinkers all of whom are, or were, atheists:
  • What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler was right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. ~ Richard Dawkins
  • What’s moral is what you feel good after and what’s immoral is what you feel bad after. ~ Ernest Hemmingway
  • This philosopher (Joel Marks is speaking of himself) has been laboring under an unexamined assumption, namely that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I now believe there isn’t…Thelong and short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality…I experienced myshocking epiphany that religious fundamentalists are correct; without God there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality....Even though words like “sinful” and “evil” come naturally to the tongue as, say, a description of child molesting. They do not describe any actual properties of anything. There are no literal sins in the world because there is no literal God…nothing is literally right or wrong because there is no Morality. Joel Marks
  • Morality is nothing but the sum total, the net residuum, of social habits, the codification of customs....The only immoral person, in any country, is he who fails to observe the current folkways. Margaret Sanger
  • For the secular man there's no answer to the question, why not be cruel. Richard Rorty.
  • The attempts to found a morality apart from religion are like the attempts of children who, wishing to transplant a flower that pleases them, pluck it from the roots that seem to them unpleasing and superfluous, and stick it rootless into the ground. Without religion there can be no real, sincere morality, just as without roots there can be no real flower. Leo Tolstoy
  • Communism abolishes all eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality. Karl Marx
  • One who does not believe in God or an afterlife can have for his rule of life…only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best. Charles Darwin
  • As evolutionists, we see that no justification (of morality) of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends . . . In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding....Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place. E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse
  • Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear – and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death....There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will.... Will Provine
  • I would accept Elizabeth Anscombe’s suggestion that if you do not believe in God, you would do well to drop notions like “law” and “obligation” from the vocabulary you use when deciding what to do. Richard Rorty
So, the problem with atheism, as the theist sees it, is not that atheists can't choose to adopt the sort of values that the theist calls moral. Of course, they can. The problem is that they wouldn't be wrong in any meaningful sense had they chosen to adopt completely opposite values. Their choice is purely a matter of personal preference, like choosing to paint their house brown instead of green. So it's puzzling when atheists adopt the view that they hold to a superior morality than Christians as Mullen asserts in a later passage:
Listen carefully to the debate on contemporary issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and you will hear moral reasoning on both sides; when atheists, agnostics, or "nones" take a position, they do so out of a conviction that their morality is superior to that of traditional Christianity.
The most the atheist can claim is that, on Christian assumptions, the atheist's views on these issues are closer to what God wills than are the Christian's views, but in order to make this claim the atheist has to piggyback on a Christian moral understanding.

Moreover, the atheist cannot say that the Christian is wrong in holding the views on these issues that he does. The most he can say is that the Christian is being inconsistent with what he professes. And that may be true, but the atheist judges the Christian for inferior morality while adopting values himself that are grounded in nothing but his own tastes. They have no objective purchase at all.

This is the point I seek to make in my novel In the Absence of God. An atheist, if he's to be consistent, can either give up the pretense of holding to some non-arbitrary moral standard and admit that he's just making his morality up as he goes along, or he can admit that he believes that right and wrong are not just matters of taste but are real, objective features of the world. But if he admits that then, to be consistent, he'd have to give up his atheism and become a theist. He has to do one or the other, or he could simply do neither and admit that he prefers to live irrationally.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

It's almost unsporting to look for examples of hypocrisy among the hosts on MSNBC. One almost has to swerve to avoid the examples that litter the network landscape.

Nevertheless, some are too good to ignore. One such is provided for us by the host of MSNBC's "All In," Chris Hayes. Hayes was reporting live from Ferguson and some of the protestors threw rocks at him. He wasn't hurt, but his reaction is a great example of both the double standard liberals cling to and also the racist attitudes they hold to which even they seem completely oblivious.

The Washington Free Beacon has an excellent column on this by Larry O'Connor:
After witnessing the spectacle of MSNBC host Chris Hayes getting pelted with rocks by an angry mob in Ferguson, Mo., Monday night, I was struck by a feeling of anger and frustration. Not at the rioters. Rioters throw rocks. That’s what they do. My anger was at the despicable display of “tolerance” and “understanding” displayed by Hayes, as he lowered his expectations for civil behavior to accommodate his liberal need to be accepted by the mob.

Chris Hayes and his MSNBC colleagues Rachel Maddow, Laurence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Al Sharpton, have spent hundreds of hours of air time explaining to the world how the grassroots conservative movement known as the “tea party” is the greatest threat to our democratic republic. Indeed, if Hayes or any of his colleagues were covering a tea party protest against Obamacare or big government spending and a stray rock was thrown his way, he would be suing everyone from Sarah Palin to Sean Hannity to Ted Cruz, and we’d be hearing all about the “violent extremists” on the right.

But, when multiple rocks are thrown at Hayes while reporting on a week-long riot, we are treated to this mind-numbingly stupid exchange:

HAYES: “People are throwing rocks at us”

RIOTER: “Y’all tell the true story!”

CRAIG MELVIN: “We ARE telling the true story!”

RIOTER: “Tell the true story!”

HAYES: “People are angry, man… they’re really angry.”

RIOTER: “Tell them what’s really goin’ on!”

HAYES: “We’re trying to… (To audience) A few rocks chucked at us. We’re fine, we’re fine!”

MELVIN: “This is something else we’ve seen a lot of tonight, Chris. People wearing masks.”

HAYES: ”Yeah.”

So, imagine if you will: The scene is a small town in Missouri and the tea party is holding a protest against high taxes, illegal immigration and Obamacare. Chris Hayes is reporting on the scene and conservatives wearing masks start throwing rocks at him and screaming at him to “tell the real story.”

Would Hayes’ response be “People are angry, man”?

Of course not. Why? Because Chris Hayes agrees with the rioter in Ferguson but not the tea party protester? I think there’s more to it than that. I think maybe it’s also because in Chris Hayes’ own arrogant, intellectually self-satisfied superiority, he actually expects less from the rock-throwers Monday night than he does other members of society. And that’s the real problem with progressivism.
I can't prove it but I think O'Connor is right. White liberals tacitly and subliminally assume that you cannot expect blacks to adhere to the same standard of civil behavior that they implicitly assume whites, especially white conservatives, should be held. If this isn't insulting to blacks, indeed, if this isn't racism, what is?

Of course, Hayes's assumption may be well-grounded. After all, as O'Connor notes, tea partiers are the people who, before leaving their protests, clean up whatever mess they've made. Such people don't throw rocks at people.

Thanks to Mary Katherine Ham at Hot Air for the tip. Ham's article is also well worth reading.