Monthly Archives: May 2007

Culture clash

The Difference Of Love

Found at Aqoul.

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Why do men have nipples?

Perhaps man was made in woman’s image?

Read all about this and other conundrums for creationists: top ten vestigial organs that somehow slipped past god’s master plan.

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Hillary: Freedom is slavery

Hillary Clinton wants to replace our “ownership society” with a society of “shared prosperity.” Sharing normally refers to voluntarily sharing some of your property, but Hillary clearly has another definition in mind:

“I prefer a ‘we’re all in it together’ society,” she said. “I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none.”

In case she wasn’t clear, Hillary isn’t offering to “share” her millions with you – she wants government goons to “share” your income with her constituents.

Not content with obliterating one word, Hillary goes after another:

“There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed,” she said. “Fairness doesn’t just happen. It requires the right government policies.”

Translation: Freedom is best – except when it isn’t. The right “policies” are necessary to replace free markets with a government-imposed state of “fairness.” “Freedom” normally means the absence of government coercion – Hillary defines it as the presence of force.

Socialists like Hillary have accepted the nominal failure of socialism – and decided to rebrand their ideology with a “market-flavored” version of the same. You won’t find any principled ideology here – except the promise that unless you’re “in it together” with Hillary, she’ll “share” some of your property using the “the right government policies” when she considers it “fair.”

Hillary isn’t promoting a “society of sharing” at all – she wants a society of looting.

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More One Minute Cases

In case you missed them, I’ve been busy writing more one minute cases (with help from Galileo Blogs.) I’ve also started recording posts to make them available as a podcast – just add the url or do a search in iTunes.

What topics would you like to read/hear next?

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Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

I remember a student asking this question in my intro philosophy class back in school. It sounds like a silly question, but it has fueled vigorous theological argument. The question can be analyzed on several levels:EVILution1

Superficially, the problem is that belly buttons are a scar remaining from the detachment of the umbilical cord, and since Adam and Even were fully-formed in their adult form, they would have no trace of such a scar. So the answer is no.

Not so fast. “God created man in His own image”, so if every man has a belly button, God must have one too! But belly-buttons are unnecessary to an immortal being, so if God took on the shape of a mortal being, he must have formed Himself in man’s image! (Perhaps men formed God in their image?)

Would God create a fictional ancestry for man, or provide demonstrative proof of his creation but also show than mortal men are not made in his image after all?

A related debate has been held in the field of astronomy.

The speed of light was first measured in the 17th century by observing that the orbit of Jupiter’s moon Io took slightly longer when earth moved away from Jupiter. The delay of 16 minutes and 40 seconds was caused by the longer time the light reflected from Io took to reach earth. Since that time, we have much more sophisticated methods for measuring the speed of light – such as a microwave lined with marshmallows.

In 1838, astronomers were able to use the motion of the earth to measure the distance to stars, and realized that some of them were very far away. This can be confirmed visually by observing that the position of stars within constellations do not change between summer and winter, despite the fact that earth moves to a different position within the solar system. In fact, the stars are so far away, that the starlight we see in the night sky might have started out thousands, millions, or even billions of years ago! If that’s true, then how can the earth’s age be the biblically-correct value?

A similar question has been posed by geologists, biologists, nuclear physicists, cosmologists, molecular biologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists, geneticists, and other assorted heathens and skeptics regarding the age of the earth. How can God-fearing folk reconcile so many observations with the Holy Word?EVILution2

One response is to say that God created the universe in its current form to make it appear old. Why would He do this? Perhaps it’s a test of our faith. If we could see the evidence of the creation miracle firsthand, it wouldn’t be called “faith,” would it? The idea that God is fooling us may be hard to grasp, but so is the idea that Noah tended to a T-Rex on the Ark, men rode triceratops, and a flood carved the Great Canyon.

But if God is fooling us, is there any point to science at all? After all, the universe may have been created 5,000 years – or 5 minutes ago in its present form, with memories of things that never happened. On the plus side, there would be no point in trying to prove how old the universe is, since the evidence would be conveniently set up to mislead us. On the down side, it would be just as futile for creationists to prove how young the earth is, since they would be trying to find gaps in the illusion of an infallible being.

So did Adam have a belly button? If he did, then God is deceiving us about the origin of the universe, and any search for evidence of the divine is a futile challenge to His omnipotence. One would have to rest one’s beliefs entirely on faith and abandon reliance on reality. If he did not, then the evidence must be all around us – making faith entirely superfluous.

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The One Minute Case Against Antitrust

The great successes in business were achieved by companies that began small, and became large through innovation and lower prices. Antitrust did not make those successes happen. On the contrary, antitrust is poised like a guillotine at the throats of every businessman who has the foresight, perseverance and pluck to become successful.

read more | digg story

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Introducing The One Minute Case

What is it?

The One Minute Case is a new collaborative blog which will present a brief argument about a controversial issue that can be read in under a minute. The goal is to publish one case per day. You can read the cases to learn something new about an issue or use them as a source for longer arguments of your own.

Why so short?

Some issues can be summarized in 60 seconds, while in other cases, we’ll try to make you aware of a new perspective. The goal is to encourage critical thinking and discussion rather than present an open and shut case. If you disagree, or think something is missing, comment away!

What do the cases look like?

Here’s the first one.

How to contribute

Just register and a submit a case (such as one of the proposed topics) as a comment or email. If we like your style, you’ll be given publishing privileges.

If you know anyone who might be interested in contributing, please let them know!

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Follow up on my Down syndrome post

Here is a response to some of the comments in my last post in Q&A format. (Some of the comments come from responses to my comment to other’s posts arguing against genetic screening for DS. )The questions are classified by two categories – the morality of abortion as such, and the morality of “eugenics.”

Abortion:

“You are pretty emphatic that a fetus is not a baby. Why?”

The essential issue here is whether a fetus has the rights of a human being. My answer is no for two reasons:

  • Pro-lifers confuse the potential with the actual. An actual human being is a physically distinct being who survives by the use of reason. (Yes, babies are helpless after birth, but their very existence does not impose an obligation on the mother –other are capable of taking care of them.)
  • There is no right to be a parasite. The fetus is essentially a parasite because its very existence imposes an obligation on the mother. A fetus has no more “right” to live of the mother than a thief has to live on others wealth.

“[You make] the common mistake of thinking that the unborn are not human persons because they are so small… Does your personhood derive from your size? Is Arnold Schwarzenegger more of a person than Gary Coleman?”

No, the essential issue here is metaphysical independence.

“[Don’t] infants with trisomy deserve to live just like any other infant does?”

Yes, once they are born. Prior to that, they are to human beings what an apple seed is to an apple tree, or an egg is to a chicken. Most people don’t claim that eggs are chickens – why do they make the same error with a fetus?

“Under current law, protected life begins at viability. Is that a bad idea?”

Actually, since Roe vs. Wade, it mostly does not. To the extent that it is protected, the law is wrong.

For more on this issue, I suggest reading the One Minute Case For Abortion Rights

Eugenics:

Have you “embraced eugenics?”

Eugenics is a vague term. If we view it as selective breeding on an individual level, then every parent advocates and practices it, since we all choose partners with certain genetic traits (a particular appearance or personality) rather than practice completely indiscriminate sex. If we define birth control as eugenics, then everyone also practices that also, since we choose when to have sex even when we don’t use technological aids. If we define it as the selection of particular combinations of genes, rather than the selection of the partner from whom those genes will come, in the form of genetic and prenatal screening, then I advocate that too, when feasible.

A different definition of eugenics is that which is practiced on a social level, as the voluntary or coercive selection of prevention of certain human genes from being expressed. I, like most people, advocate that only in a very limited basis, that being inbreeding between siblings and the cloning of human beings using current technology.

As it applies to Down syndrome, my belief that choosing to have children with DS is immoral is actually the opposite of eugenics. DS severely retards fertility, so having kids with DS does not increase its incidence as a hereditary trait. On the other hand, having less kids with DS does make room for those parents to have more normal kids with dormant DS genes, so it may actually increase the incidence of DS.

“Down syndrome is not a disease. It is not an illness… We all have our special needs, don’t we?”

Actually, it’s universally recognized as a genetic disorder. “Disorder” means a condition which is unhealthy or detrimental to life as a human being. The specific problems related to DS are “cognitive impairment, congenital heart disease, hearing deficits, short stature, thyroid disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. Other less common serious illnesses include leukemia, immune deficiencies, and epilepsy..and “an average lifespan of 49 years.” This is qualitatively worse than the medical problems the average person encounters. For example, I have a genetic tendency for hypertension, which I counter with regular exercise. This is very different from a disorder which severely impairs most functions of everyday life.

“Just because a child is born with DS, [does that] mean that they are unhealthy or going to suffer for the rest of their lives?”

Not for their entire life. If someone were really going to endure constant suffering for the rest of their life, then I would suggest that they commit suicide. (Not murder, as some comments imply.) However DS does significantly affect the overall quality of life relative to a healthy personal. Some of the reasons for this are mentioned in my response above. If you still doubt this, then I would ask – how valuable would a cure for DS be to you if you or someone you loved has DS? Only someone who embraces human suffering could turn such an offer down.
One analogy to the quality of life of a DS person is wealth. Money does not guarantee happiness, but extreme poverty is an impediment to it by limiting our opportunity to pursue things that make us happy.

Do you advocate “playing God?”

Yes, in the sense that humans should strive to transform their environment and themselves in the image of their values.

“If there was a test for expecting mothers that predicts the IQ of their baby, every mother should have it done?”

If there was a test for mental retardation, then yes. If I could easily have a smarter child, then sure. Since abortions are expensive (not just financially), I only advocate them in cases where the child’s standard of life would be significantly impaired.

“If you don’t like the test results, [are] you going to keep on aborting the pregnancy until you’re happy[?]”

If I were a woman, and with the disclaimer above, yes.

“Good luck finding a woman that will do that for you.”

Thanks, I did.

“As the Bible says, the wisdom of man is foolishness to God. Those who think that they are so clever and know so much about medicine and science are like children to God, the creator of the universe.”

And you, of course, have a personal line to his office.

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Pro-down syndrome: a moral atrocity

Mimpy posted on the OO forum regarding an outrageous new movement: Pro-Down syndrome:

Summary: Down syndrome is a debilitating disease, which is characterized by an extra chromosome developed after conception. Doctors can test for this syndrome, but previously the test (amniocentesis) was found to increase the chances of miscarriage. Thus, only pregnant women over 35 were tested. Science has recently discovered a way to test for Down syndrome that inflicts no harm on the mother or baby. It makes sense now for every pregnant woman to be tested to see if her fetus is carrying the extra chromosome. Parents of children currently stricken with Down syndrome are unhappy with this technological advancement, however. Since 90% of woman already abort their pregnancies after discovering their fetuses will grow into babies with this disease, these parents (rightfully) suspect that with the new testing capabilities, there will be far less people with Down syndrome in the future. This worries them because then there won’t be many others like their own children. Tolerance, awareness, and funding will all decrease because there will be less people with Down syndrome. To reverse this, these parents are encouraging couples who find out their fetuses are carrying the 21st chromosome that being the parent of a child with Down syndrome isn’t that bad of an idea.

Essentially, these parents actually want more human beings with Down syndrome on the planet. Instead of trying to find a solution to this problem, they are encouraging others to produce beings that are not well suited for human life. They cannot enjoy to the same level the things that you and I enjoy, such as independence, strong romantic relationships, etc. These parents’ notion seems backward and downright evil to me. I don’t know anybody who would wish for a child with a disability. But these parents do. Their children suffer, so they want other children to suffer, as well…so their children will have friends and feel close to others like them. The person who is best adapted to life has the best chances of surviving. How anyone can want someone below normal is beyond me.

It is one thing to have a child born with a disability that you did not know about. At that point, you have a choice: you can either support the child yourself if you can (emotionally, monetarily, etc.) or you can give it up for adoption. But there is no way that anybody can actually be glad that their child is sub-normal. It can work out eventually, of course. But the initial desire for a less than perfect child (physically, at least) is impossible.

What is next? Should I get polio because kids in India have it and they might get lonely? It is a backwards and ridiculous idea.

Every child should be loved and valued – but a fetus is not a child until he or she is born – and what kind of monster do you have to be to want your children to suffer their entire life? Only the religious dogma behind the hypocritical “culture of life” is capable of sinking people to this level.

Update: I wrote a response to the comments on this post.

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