Thursday, December 15, 2011

Plantinga's New Book

Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times has a fine piece on one of the most consequential philosophers of the last half century, Alvin Plantinga, on the occasion of the release of Plantinga's new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism.

Schuessler writes:
There are no atheists in foxholes, the old saying goes. Back in the 1950s, when the philosopher Alvin Plantinga was getting his start, there were scarcely more religious believers in academic philosophy departments.

Growing up among Dutch Calvinist immigrants in the Midwest, Mr. Plantinga was used to intense theological debate. But when he arrived at Harvard as an undergraduate, he was startled to find equal intensity marshaled in favor of the argument that God didn’t exist, when classmates and teachers found the question worth arguing about.

Had he not transferred to Calvin College, the Christian Reformed liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Mich., where his father taught psychology, Mr. Plantinga wrote in a 1993 essay, he doubted that he “would have remained a Christian at all; certainly Christianity or theism would not have been the focal point of my adult intellectual life.”

But he did return, and the larger world of philosophy has been quite different as a result. From Calvin, and later from the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Plantinga has led a movement of unapologetically Christian philosophers who, if they haven’t succeeded in persuading their still overwhelmingly unbelieving colleagues, have at least made theism philosophically respectable.

“There are vastly more Christian philosophers and vastly more visible or assertive Christian philosophy now than when I left graduate school,” Mr. Plantinga said in a recent telephone interview from his home in Grand Rapids, adding, with characteristic modesty, “I have no idea how it happened.”

Mr. Plantinga retired from full-time teaching last year, with more than a dozen books and a past presidency of the American Philosophical Association to his name. But he’s hardly resting on those laurels. Having made philosophy safe for theism, he’s now turning to a harder task: making theism safe for science.
Alvin Plantinga

The rest of the article discusses his book and some of the reaction of his atheistic colleagues to his work. It's good to know that Plantinga, though retired form teaching, is still in the trenches waging intellectual combat.

Rape of the Soul

Several posts in recent days have centered around the moral predicament postmodern man finds himself in having discounted the existence of any moral authority beyond human subjectivity. My friend Mike has responded with a poem which addresses this theme:
Rape Of The Soul
I want to seek out
Those who won’t come out
Of their lust-licensing oblivion,
Those envelope-pushing minions.
I will raise an acute rage
Against the naked emperors
In Bertrand Russell’s relativistic parade.
Against those who would violate us all,
Who would rape our souls,
By pretending God and morality
Are things we chose,
Like sweetener in our Starbucks,
Or the color of our clothes.
“All meta-narratives are suspect,”
Says the trendy postmodern prof.
Not nearly as much as the thug who murders his wife;
Trendy philosophies are flimsy
When applied to your own life.
Take your subjective morality
To Nanking or Rwanda or Darfur.
You’ll be an Ivan Karamazov,
Left writhing in hope for more
Than your childish evasion
That puts up love and justice for sale,
That frees your money and libido
To go wherever your appetite drives them,
And frees the forces of evil to drive the world to Hell.
As an illustration of the last few lines of Mike's poem consider the post immediately below this one.

Normalizing Pedophilia

Janice Shaw Crouse, the author of "Children at Risk," reveals in the Washington Times the agenda of organizations which are lobbying to make pedophilia and pederasty legal.

It may be hard to believe that these organizations even exist, but when a society can no longer talk about moral good and evil, when right is whatever you feel good about and wrong is whatever makes you feel bad, then there's no limit to the perversity men will pursue.

Crouse writes:
B4U-ACT is a small group of mental health professionals and pedophile activists who seek greater tolerance for "minor-attracted persons" (pedophiles). Indeed, those involved in the lobbying want to decriminalize, even normalize, pedophilia. They are working to change public perceptions so that raping children is acceptable behavior.

Among the academics lending respectability to these efforts by speaking at the recent conference in Baltimore were researchers from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and the universities of Louisville and Illinois.

The fringe activists promise to disrupt future meetings of the APA until they are successful in normalizing pedophilia, a strategy successfully employed in the 1970s to get homosexuality removed from the DSM [Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] - not because of new scientific evidence, but because of political pressure by a small group of activists. For instance, in 1990, the Journal of Homosexuality published a special double issue devoted to adult-child sex, calling it "male intergenerational intimacy."

Now the pedophilia activists are flexing their political muscles and with some success, changing the culture through changing the language of social science and medical terminology. To be released in 2013, the DSM proposes subtle yet significant revisions to its featured section on "paraphilic" disorders. The term "paraphilia" encompasses a wide range of aberrant sexual urges and behaviors, including but not limited to pedophilia, exhibitionism, fetishism, sexual sadism and masochism.

In every version of the DSM, such forms of sexual deviance have been classified as paraphilic disorders. But now, radical fringe groups with a bully pulpit are arguing that people with "atypical, culturally forbidden or religiously proscribed sexual interests" should not be labeled ill, and they are putting tremendous pressure on the APA to comply.

Surely, the skeptic in all of us wants to cry out, "This can never happen. Pedophilia can never be normalized." After all, it doesn't take a medical or theological degree to know that child rape is wrong. But as David Brooks noted in a NewYorkTimes column, "Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it's thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart."

Due to our human sensitivities and American values of fairness and equality, our nation has been duped into accepting the unacceptable, all because the lies have been packaged for us so nicely. We were told that morality is relative and that right and wrong are simply cultural preferences. We were told that adhering to an absolute truth that judges between good and evil is narrow-minded. We were told we needed to alter our language to become more politically correct - that pedophiles are simply "minor-attracted persons" who are the victims of societal stigma, bigotry and intolerance. We are told that our children are sexual from birth and have the capacity to be willing participants in intercourse from their infancy.
A society that abandons its Judeo-Christian heritage and embraces secularism should not be shocked, I guess, that there are those who wish to turn the country into a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. Unfortunately, we've forfeited as a society the only ground we had to stand on from which we could oppose this agenda, i.e. the assurance that there are behaviors which are objectively and absolutely wrong. Using children for sexual gratification is one of them. We need to reclaim that ground before Jerry Sandusky is no longer seen as an aberration but rather as a common type.