Thursday, October 23, 2008

Defending the Indefensible

Thirty two hundred university and college professors recently signed a petition defending William Ayers against those who call him an "unrepentant domestic terrorist" (which he is). Megyn Kelly gets one of them to submit to an interview on FOX News, and she insures he'll never make that mistake again. Be sure to watch the whole thing:

Professor Singer lauds Ayers for being an educational reformer. What he doesn't tell us is the sort of "reform" Ayers, and Senator Obama, have tried to bring about in Chicago schools. Ayers is a Marxist socialist who wants to use public education to create a generation of revolutionaries who will throw off democratic capitalism and usher in a new, North American version of Cuba.

Stanley Kurtz, whose article at NRO is linked to in the previous paragraph, ends his piece with this:

Ayers does not try to hide who he is or where he is coming from. He is a proud leftist revolutionary. His driving idea, in this phase of his career, is that the classroom is the frontline of the revolution. And when he was given the opportunity of a lifetime, a $150 million fund to be doled out as seed money for the kind of programs he thought would advance the cause, the guy brought in to run it was Barack Obama - with whom he worked closely on "change" in the schools for five years.

That's reassuring. In an ideal world there would be at least as many journalists seeking an interview with Bill Ayers as there were seeking to interrogate Joe the Plumber. In such a world these intrepid advocates of the public's right to know would ask Mr. Ayers this question: "Sir, do you think you know Barack Obama fairly well?" If Ayers' answer were yes, then the follow-up question should be: "Does he share the same views about the role of education that you do?" Unfortunately, real journalism appears to be dead, or at least comatose, in this country, so I have no illusions that this fantasy would ever be realized.

On the other hand, maybe FOX will send Megyn Kelly out to Chicago to ask Ayers the questions. Now that would be an interview worth watching.

HT: Hot Air


Rush and the Patio Man

Mind you, I listen in the car to Rush Limbaugh whenever I can. I enjoy him and am informed by him about the events of the day. I think his views on the issues are mostly correct, and he's not at all the man his critics often portray him to be. He's neither a hater nor a bigot. Like all of us, however, he does have his faults. His egotism is, unfortunately, only partly a pose, though he at least has the virtue of acknowledging it, unlike Sean Hannity who constantly reminds us, implausibly, that he's humbled by his success. Limbaugh's biggest flaw, however, is something else, something much more insidious than his mildly amusing bombast.

Joseph Knippenberg puts his finger on it in a post at No Left Turns in which he discusses a column by David Brooks. Brooks describes for us a "typical" affluent middle-aged American male whom he calls "Patio Man". Patio Man is concerned much more about stability, order, and his 401k than he is about the issues that stoke the fire in the hearts of the political bases of both left and right.

Knippenberg says this:

Patio Man doesn't appear to care much about social issues, according to Brooks. Judging from my neighbors, he's probably right. But that's because he and they wrongly think that you can have economic and social stability without a strong moral foundation. I don't blame proponents of abortion rights and same-sex marriage for the fix we're in. Their attitudes are symptomatic, not foundational. The foundational attitude is the self-indulgence in which we all share, a self-indulgence that is articulated every day on the radio by Rush Limbaugh and that is practiced by Patio Men, Women, and Children, but not so much by their parents and grandparents.

This is exactly right, and it goes to the core of my biggest problem with Rush, who is otherwise a national treasure. Day after day, show after show, Limbaugh champions a lifestyle of consumption and indulgence. Some of this is just intended to tweak the nose of the left, to be sure, but there can be no denying that he really does advocate conspicuous consumption.

I know his defenders will point to the fact that the man gives fortunes to charity and should be permitted his foibles, and I agree that he certainly seems to be generous beyond that to which most people aspire. Even so, his munificence occurs relatively quietly and without much fanfare whereas his self-indulgence is trumpeted publicly and blatantly. The lesson that a lot of people might be taking from his show, then, is not that charitableness is a virtue but that consuming is. I think this is a toxic message to spread abroad and has a pernicious influence on people, especially young adults, the patio men who might better be encouraged to constrain their appetites and to live comfortably but modestly. Indeed, if more of us valued a greater simplicity we probably wouldn't be seeing so much economic volatility and so many home foreclosures.

The idea of living large and boasting of one's excesses is one of the fundamentals, evidently, in Rush's philosophy of life, but it's one I'd be happy to see him push aside. He does a lot of good, in my opinion, but he's in a position to do a great deal more. I think it sad that he doesn't see it that way.


Without God (V)

As we've compared the compatibility of the theistic and atheistic worldviews with our existential experience I've argued that there's a significant number of facts about the world and about human life that make more sense given the truth of theism than given the truth of atheism.

To those facts we've already considered in our previous posts we can add our sense that we are free to make genuine choices and that the future is open. In the absence of God our intuition that we are free to choose and are responsible for those choices is problematic. In a Godless world we are just a collection of physical particles, and ultimately physical particles have no freedom, they simply move according to unyielding physical laws. In a Godless world our choices are nothing more than the product of chemical reactions occuring in the brain, and the reactions themselves obey the mechanistic laws of chemistry. There's no freedom in chemistry.

Thus for the atheistic materialist there can be no free will. There is only the inexorable laws of nature. At any given moment there is actually only one possible future, if there is no God, and our belief that we can freely create the future is pure sophistry and illusion. The future has been fixed since the Big Bang.

Consider the words of atheist Will Provine, an evolutionary biologist as he summarizes the views to which his Darwinism has led him: "There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death ... There is no foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will."

If there's no free will in the atheist's world then an atheist who faults me for writing this post would be acting inconsistently with his own assumptions. If there is no God I am driven to write by causes beyond my control and for which I am not responsible. Indeed, if there is no God, it's hard to see how anyone could be ultimately responsible for anything they do.

An atheist should be a determinist, but this puts him in a bind. If determinism is true then those who believe it do so for reasons unrelated to its truth, and those who disbelieve it should not be criticized for their disbelief since their skepticism is mostly a function of their genes and environment, over which they have no control. Should a determinist argue that he believes determinism because it's true he's pretty much denying the belief he claims to hold. If someone believes in determinism it's because he was determined by his life's experiences and/or his genetic make-up to believe in it. The truth of determinism is irrelevant or, at best, incidental to whether we believe it or not.