Monday, January 29, 2007

Deadly, Right-Wing, Living Constitution

The Rabbis asked why the Torah forbade adding to the Torah and taking away from it. It makes sense that it would have forbidden removing things, but what is so bad about adding? The answer is that once you have the power to add things there will be nothing stopping you from taking things away.
In tonight’s episode of 24, Thomas Lennox, President Wayne Palmer’s conservative advisor justifies the flagrant violation of the civil liberties of American citizens by arguing that the Constitution cannot be viewed as applicable in a situation in which Islamic terrorists have set off a nuclear bomb on American soil. As Lennox sees it, the Constitution is all well and good at a time when you needed thirty seconds to load a single shot musket in order to kill one person. Now terrorists have killed thousands of Americans by the push of a button in less time then what it used to take a man in order to load a gun. Clearly then you cannot assume that the rights given by the Constitution are still the same rights.
This is a wonderful example of why you cannot follow a “living” constitution and why you cannot have activist judges. Once you allow activist judges to start rewriting the Constitution they can go in any direction, left or right. If they can invent rights they can also start taking rights away.
Sure the founding fathers may have lacked our appreciation of the need to protect the rights of women and blacks. They might not have known that women needed to have a right to an abortion in order to take their rightful place in society. They also did not know about the internet and how easy it would make spreading “false” and “dangerous” information. So should we even recognize the existence of a right to free speech?
The choice is clear. We must hold that that the Constitution that we have is the same one made by the founding fathers, plus the added amendments created through the legal processes of that same Constitution and it means the same thing as it did when it was created. If we need to make some changes from time to time we can make the needed amendments. Our founding fathers did not claim to be God Almighty. The alternative is no Constitution and the rule of nine unelected judges or even a rogue advisor to the President.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Case Against Women

Here is an argument that can be made in order to justify a patriarchal system of rule.

1) Women are more likely to think in terms of a relationship ethic (that ethical decisions should be made based on the desire to help people get along with eachother.) while men are more likely to follow a rule based ethic (that ethical decisions should be made so that ones actions confirm to a formal code of behavior.)
2) A rule based ethic is superior to a relationship based ethic.
Alternative: It is better to have a government, legal system and a society that is run according to a rule based ethic then a relationship based ethic.
3) Those who are superior in their ethical reasoning should be rule over those who are inferior in their ethical reasoning.
Alternative: One should go about forming a government, a legal system and a society so that these things will be in the hands of those best capable of handling them.
Conclusion: Men, as they tend to lean more toward a rule based ethic, are superor to women, who lean toward a relationship based ethic.
Alternative: Men should control the government, legal system and society, as this will lead to these things being run based on a rule based ethic.
Assumption one is made by Carol Gilligan, a feminist, in her book In a Different Voice. She does not accept assumption two, which saves her. The problem though is that just about every thinker who has ever lived did accept assumption two.
The fact is, is that just about every thinker in history has accepted the three assumptions in question. Taken together they undermine all 150 years of the women's movement. As such we cannot blame those thinkers who put women at a lower level then men. There was nothing wrong with their reasoning.
I, for my own, have doubts about all three assumptions.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November: Why Television is Evil.

I was just watching the film V for Vendetta. In the futuristic universe of V, Britain is under the control of a Fascist, Fundamentalist Christian regime that rules through a mixture of brutal police tactics and their control of network television. I found the films jabs at television to be amusing. So let me get this straight, watching television is supposed to leave the individual open to propaganda from organized religion. Those who watch television are mindless drowns imbibing what ever they are told.… Wait I have heard this story before. Except that in the version of the story that I am familiar with, television is part of a conspiracy hatched by those atheistic materialists to spread their heresies. Those who watch are mindless drowns whose sole purpose in life is now to buy the products and nihilism being sold on screen.
One could go for the cheap shot of hypocrisy by pointing out that we are dealing with an action film, as smart and as witty as it may be, that bashes its own medium and questions the intelligence and worth of the film's audience for having watched it. I think though that there is a more important point to be made here; the weakness that lies at the heart of the entire humanities project and what makes us who deal in the humanities vulnerable to attack. The humanities have no utilitarian value nor do they deal with any universal Truths. We, who deal in the humanities, cannot offer a cure for cancer, we cannot reveal the nature of the universe, we cannot make people moral, good or just, we cannot show people what is the best possible life to lead, we cannot show the way into heaven. All we do is examine the arbitrary and subjective world of human beings.
I do not have any bullet proof defense for the value of bad films nor do I have any way to give any intrinsic worth to good films, like this one, and for that matter I have no way of defending the great classics of art such as Homer or Shakespeare. Is television simply a matter of a human being sitting dumbly before a screen? For that matter is reading the mere glancing at a page? Are we listening to the voice of the revolution, the government’s loudspeaker, a siren’s song to materialism or the drumbeat toward fanaticism. As with all the humanities there is no true or false answer. All answers are subjective and arbitrary.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Gator Trap

Last night I went over to Value City Arena in Columbus to watch the BCS championship game on a giant screen. Along with several thousand other Buckeye fans in attendance, I looked on in horror at what can only be viewed as one of the greatest embarrassments in the history of Buckeye sports. To those of you who may not have heard. The undefeated and heavily favored Ohio State Buckeye football team lost to the Florida Gators 41-14. The game was worse then even the score indicates. One of the OSU touchdowns was scored on the opening kickoff return by Ted Ginn Jr. The only sustained drive managed by the OSU offense was that second touchdown; other then that the OSU offense did nothing. Troy Smith spent the game running away from the Florida defenders, who managed to penetrate the pocket on almost every single play. Contrast that with Florida’s Chris Leak, who marched his team up and down the field at will.
I felt embarrassed watching this game and I was sitting in the company of fellow Buckeye fans. I cannot even begin to fathom the embarrassment felt by those Buckeye fans who traveled to Arizona, spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and had to watch this game in the company of Gator fans.
It is one thing to lose a game. I would have nothing to say against the OSU football team if they had lost like Oklahoma did to Boise State. But to go and not show up to a game that is beyond disgraceful. The players owe the fans an apology if not a refund.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Gay Chess II: Tax Breaks for Church Goers

Someone raised an argument against my Gay Chess post with the following example. “The government then makes a law stating that they believe, that church going is advantageous for society and gives tax breaks and the ilk for church goers. They go on to further state that those who do not attend church, or attend any other type of religious centers, are disadvantageous for society and place higher taxes on them.” Church going is an action so therefore it should not fall under the category of being and the government should be allowed to promote or prohibit it as it will.
My response to this would be that it would perfectly fine for the government to do this as long as it can convince five Supreme Court justices that they are not conspiring to create an established religion. The only way that I can see this happening is if the government would give the same privileges to people attending synagogues, mosques and even to secular humanists who gather together to contemplate the wonders of nature. This would not apply to issues of marriage because here the government can offer plausible explanations for why they wish to give special privileges to men and women who marry each other and not to men who marry men or women who marry women which do not involve government conspiracies to create an established religion. The government could argue that they wish to promote male/female relationships because such relationships bring about children. The fact that there are many male/female couples who cannot or will not produce children is not real issue because the government could say that they are promoting male/female relationships in general and since they are doing that they are willing to include those male/female relationships which will not produce the results that the government desires. The government could also argue that they are interested in promoting male/female relationships because there is a long history of those relationships being useful for the promotion of societal stability.
It should also be stated here that religion and even religious actions are in their own category, which gives them special protections and imposes special restrictions. The government offers me special protections when I wish to not work on Saturday and go to synagogue. Those special protections do not apply when I wish to not work on BCS championship day and go to Arizona to watch the Buckeyes. On the other hand there are fewer legal issues at hand if the Ohio State legislature wished to have a special session to watch BCS championship game on the floor of the house then if they wished to host a special session so that the bible could be read on the floor.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Mr. Enlightenment meet Meom Loez

I was walking around the gallery in downtown Columbus last night when I got handed a pamphlet titled: "What is Secular Humanism?" written by Paul Kurtz. These secular humanists have to be careful; someone might confuse them with the Jesus freaks handing out pamphlets. According to the pamphlet "secular humanism rejects supernatural accounts of reality; but it seeks to optimize the fullness of human life in a naturalistic universe." (pg. 9) To be a secular humanist you cannot resort to anything beyond material nature in order to explain the nature of reality so anyone who talks about gods or metaphysics should not count as a secular humanist.
The pamphlet gives a history of secular humanism. Its heritage goes all the way back to Confucian China. From China we move to the Carvaka materialist movement in ancient India and finally to ancient Greece, which produced such great secular humanists as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The glorious tradition of secular humanism now moves to the Romans who in addition to Lucretius produced the stoic philosophers Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Then came those Dark Ages “during which faith dominated Western culture and humans looked vainly outside of themselves to a deity for salvation.” (pg. 11) Things turned around though once we got into the Renaissance and people started to turn away from the bible. The great scholars of the humanist movement were Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Erasmus.
I do not know much about Confucian philosophy, but last I checked it involved metaphysics, various sorts of gods, ancestor worship and the belief that the emperor was the Son of Heaven. One wonders if Kurtz has ever bothered to actually read Greek philosophy particularly things like the Platonic dialogue, Timaeus. If Timaeus is secular humanism then so is the book of Genesis. The Epicureans may have been legitimate materialists, but the stoics were not. As for the Renaissance, one of the main things it was a renaissance of was biblical scholarship. How much did Erasmus need to write about the bible in order for him not to count as not being interested in it? Obviously a lot. I wonder do Martin Luther or John Calvin count as being interested in the bible? As for Ficino and Pico della Mirandola being secular humanists, I never knew that spreading Kabbalistic teachings was a hallmark of a secular humanistic mind-frame.
According to the commentary Meom Loez, Aristotle, right before he died, wrote a letter to Alexander the Great in which he expressed his regret for his “erroneous” teaching and that he wished that he could suppress and destroy his own books. For you see Aristotle had recognized that the God of Israel was the true God and Judaism the true religion.
We need to make a rule that if you wish to distort the views of past thinkers you should have to at least make up a decent deathbed conversion story. You should not be able to just have them believe the exact opposite of what they actually wrote.