Friday, March 23, 2012

In which the pot beats the kettle over the head with its Bible

A blogger named Carson at the Reasons for God blog is criticizing the Reason Rally for featuring speakers who are known to have made sexist remarks. I welcome and approve of this criticism, and would encourage the accused speakers - Bill Maher, Penn Jillette, and Richard Dawkins - to include a statement or two earnestly promoting gender equality or denouncing sexism.

Know what else would be nice? If the major religions of the world would in turn, kindly excise sexism from their religious doctrines. Stop veiling women, stop asserting control over their bodies, stop policing their sexual behavior, stop slicing their genitalia, stop stoning them for the crime of being raped, stop imprisoning them in their homes, stop demanding submission, stop the patriarchy.

Considering religion's long, all-encompassing history of patriarchy and the suppression of women's equality, is it any wonder that its vestiges can be found in even the most enlightened circles? Does the author believe that any of the men mentioned would actually support any of the crimes I mentioned above?

We'll try and stop smatterings of "bitch" and "cunt" if religion promises to stop blaming Eve for the fall of mankind. Deal?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Occam’s Razor and God

A blogger named Benton Moss claims that Occam’s Razor and God are not in conflict because of his unevidenced belief that his god is simple (whatever that means) and that more complex things like creation and the laws of physics are merely sub-creations that flow from an infinitely more simple cause.

Occam's razor is about economy and parsimony, meaning that we should choose the hypotheses that make the fewest assumptions. Unfortunately for Moss, the various material explanations produced by our natural sciences are sufficient to explain our universe and they work with or without the extra assumption of a superfluous deity. Furthermore, it doesn't matter how "simple" you assert your particular deity to be. It's an entity that introduces an entirely new paradigm - that of the supernatural - that subtracts from our current understanding of the natural. How does a non-physical entity interact with physical matter and energy? How does its consciousness operate without a physical brain? From where does this deity draw its power? What is the nature of its power? These and countless millions of other questions must be asked if we are to even consider reconciling this entirely new paradigm with that of the natural world, which makes the notion of a god infinitely more complex.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

C'mon guys, that's exactly what it's for

I would love to send my future children off to Camp Quest:
Astronomy, critical thinking, philosophy and pseudo-science are covered at Camp Quest.
One of the most popular exercises is the invisible unicorn challenge. The children are told there are two invisible unicorns who live at Camp Quest but that they cannot be seen, heard, felt or smelt, and do not leave a trace. A book about them has been handed down through the ages but it is too precious for anyone to see.
All counsellors – as the adults are called – are said to be staunch believers in these unicorns.
Any child who can successfully prove that the invisible unicorns do not exist is rewarded with a prize: a £10 note with a picture of Charles Darwin on it signed by Richard Dawkins, or a "godless" $100 bill, printed before 1957 when "In God We Trust" was added to paper currency in the US.
What a fantastic idea! There's probably no better place on earth to inoculate your child from the mental poison with which religion handicaps our youth from day one. Unfortunately, the camp's director is all too familiar with the stigma necessarily attached to the tutelage of free and rational inquiry.
Stein said that the exercise was not about trying to bash the idea of God – just to make the children think critically and rationally.
The idea of god is a silly and dangerous one, Ms. Stein, and you shouldn't hide the fact that you are providing guidance of great importance. By all means, teach the children to bash away at gods, prophets, angels, demons, holy books, and frivolous rituals. The future will thank you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adventures in Math and Marriage

I'm suddenly confronted by one of my life's biggest regrets, and it's much bigger than boilerplate minutiae like wishing I'd worked more or kept my friendships closer - yawn. This occurred when out of curiosity I decided to peruse the short essay that my conservative Christian friend from the previous post was sure would enlighten me. Now, I can only wail and gnash my teeth at having missed the opportunity to point and laugh at this argument.

The essay in question is A defining moment in mathematics and the Gay Marriage decision, written in September 2004 by Daniel Henry Gottlieb, a professor emeritus of mathematics at Purdue University.

The entire first half of his essay describes the genesis and pursuit of his notion that mathematics could be defined as "the study of well-defined concepts". The journey he takes in defining mathematics is irrelevant to his conclusion regarding gay marriage, so it will suffice to simply state the precis of this first half: mathematics, concludes Dr. Gottlieb, is a subdiscipline of the study of well-defined concepts, and Pure Mathematics is now his choice of words for that definition.

What does this have to do with gay marriage? Hopefully all this talk of definitions tips you off. Gottlieb's argument boils down to the fact that he resents the gay rights movement and the courts that have ruled in their favor by redefining marriage.

... A few years ago some people wanted to form partnerships to which the same laws and privileges accorded to partnerships of married people held. Rather than fight for the entitlements via the legislative process, they declared that their relationships, call them Y, were actually marriages and that the state, in not agreeing to bestow the name of marriage to Y were acting in a unfair manner discriminating against those people who wanted to form Y partnerships with all the entitlements of marriage. The Massachusetts supreme Court agreed that Y's were in fact marriages, and the state had to accord Y's the same status as marriages. In effect, the Court changed the legal meaning of the word marriage.
Now the Court did something analogous to my Hijacking the name Pure Mathematics for X [Gottlieb's temporary placeholder for "the study of well-defined concepts" -J]. No one who disagrees with my position is required to use my definition, and he can continue to use the words Pure Mathematics for whatever he thinks it means. But the Supreme Court has rendered it impossible for the people's legislature to use the word marriage in its standard meaning without involving Y's. For example, suppose a brother and sister want to form a Y. In most societies they are prevented from being married because of the horrible afflictions which will probably be suffered by their offspring.Yet isn't it just as unfair to discriminate against the brother and sister as it is to discriminate against any one else who wants to form a Y?
Gottlieb makes the exact same error that my Facebook opponent does. He has an a priori definition of marriage that he doesn't realize requires its own justification, and so anything that doesn't meet his subjective definition is different (Y) and therefore unacceptable. And we can't forget the conservative code of argumentation that requires mentioning the orgy of alternative marriages that will inevitably result from changing the man-woman definition. They really do seem to believe that people everywhere are chomping at the bit to marry their horses.
Now in my desire to legitimize X, I nevertheless stopped before hijacking the word Mathematics for X due to the long history of the word and utility of having a descriptive definition for Mathematics. But whatever pedigree the word mathematics has, it comes from Classical Greece, the word Marriage has an order of magnitude more. I have never heard of a human culture, which did not have some type of marriage; although it always involved the two sexes, it was not always a partnership. Some marriages had several women and only one man, and a few had only one woman and several men. Whatever the grouping it always involved the opposite sexes. The most primitive tribes have marriages only involving the opposite sexes. It is hard to imagine a word which has so many analogues in every language all with the same meaning over so long a period of time as the word marriage does. It even has similarities in the animal kingdom.
Opponents of gay marriage simply assume without examination that their preferred definition of marriage has always been and should always be the status quo. Gottlieb goes on and on about how his definition of marriage has remained unchanged throughout all cultures and societies in history, while remaining sublimely oblivious to the contradictions of polygamous and polyandrous marriages. Is he seriously arguing that a polyamory is in essence no different than contemporary marriage as long as opposite genders are involved? In addition to that, history also provides further contradictions. There are multiple cases of same-sex marriage throughout history and multiple cases of homosexuality throughout the animal kingdom. Gottlieb could really benefit from examining his assumptions.
Now if the Massachussets Supreme Court can change the milleniums old meaning of the word marriage, it can change the meanings of other words such as Freedom of Speech, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Man, Women, or any language written in the Constitution to reestablish the traditional meaning of marriage. Most of those words do not appear from the beginning of mankind in some form and are not found in most present day cultures. This is a very frightening development and requires a new check and balance. I propose a Constitutional amendment to the effect that a jury of scholars be appointed yearly, people who know the history of words, and science and statistics and mathematics, and when they see hijackings of common words such as marriage, they can nullify the courts decision subject to a popular referendum of the people. And if the decision of the Court is over ruled by the people, then the court must resign and a new one be appointed.
When a change in the legal definition of marriage is described as a "hijacking", it's highly likely that your interlocutor is ignorant of the actual history of marriage. To hijack is to imply that property has unjustly been seized, but the problem is that Gottlieb and religious conservatives in general are only assuming that marriage is their property. When it comes to matters of liberty and equality, history is just as often (if not more) a guide on what not to do. For the majority of human history, mankind didn't flinch when confronted with the injustice of slavery and racism, and only through questioning and criticizing unexamined assumptions like Gottlieb's can we militate the moral failings of society.


Until those opposed to gay marriage finally learn this lesson, their argument will always be reduced to nothing more than a silly tautology: 


"Redefining legal definitions is bad because it redefines legal definitions."

Monday, February 27, 2012

For Posterity: A Study in Conservative Christian Intellectual Dishonesty

Over the course of the last week, I found myself in a Facebook argument over same-sex marriage, which ended abruptly when my opponent decided to block me. I've decided to reproduce the entire conversation here, not to crow about my apparent victory, but to provide what I believe is a typical case study of what happens when an opponent of gay marriage finds himself confronted with someone who doggedly demands empirical evidence for why gay marriage should be considered a threat.

First, the context. The following image was posted by a friend of mine:



To which I responded,
"No."
- Conservative Christianity
Shortly thereafter, a conservative Christian acquaintance of his, henceforth known as CC, took exception to my comment, and what follows is our debate. Had I been aware of the absolutist's tendency to censor opposing views, I would have taken screen shots. That said, I did my best in reconstructing the dialogue by copying my posts directly from Facebook and, using the time stamps, inserting my opponent's responses taken from Facebook's notification emails.
CC 
I don't take offense to this but this question or statement rather is absolutely absurd. Life isn't less valuable because a person may become gay. To say otherwise is completely ignorant of the pro-life stance. <- Conservative Christian
Jared Asay
If a gay person's life is no less valuable, then why the attempt (traditionally from conservative Christianity) to limit their rights?

CC 
@Jared it is the Conservative agenda to preserve rights and liberty not limit them. If you are speaking about gay marriage than all people have the right to marry there is no one stopping gays to goto a church to get married where a minister will marry them. However, it is not recognized by most states because the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. Redefining the definition of marriage infringes on the rights of married couples that are currently recognized by the state.

...should the state recognize this mans relationship with his car and grant tax exemptions?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RClo_MuDJRs 
Here is something else to think about. If the states decide to change the definition of illegal immigrations to something that equates to granting equal rights and citizenship wouldn't that devalue you and your rights as an American born citizen?"
Jared Asay
CC, exactly what right do you lose when a gay person gets married to another gay person?
And to answer your incredibly revealing immigration question: no, not at all. I would still have the same rights I had before.

CC 
@Jared ok then lets open up the borders and give everyone citizenship and see what happens to your freedom and rights that you enjoy ;) 
Jared Asay
I don't understand. Mexicans are out to take away my freedom now? I kid, I kid. But seriously, you just dodged my question. Exactly what right do you lose when a gay person marries another gay person. No dodging this time.

CC  
If wording in legislature is redefined it could infringe on any rights that the legislature describes. This should be a pretty basic concept to grasp as I've given you examples above like if the legislature change it would still need to be defined so you don't have unionships or marriage between a man and car or a woman and a rock...or granting citizenship to illegal immigrants. Eventually your rights will slowly be stripped away if you completely negate this concept. 
Jared Asay
I'm seeing "could" and "would", but I'm not seeing what specific right you, Conservative Christian, lose when a gay person marries another gay person. In other words, when gay marriage is finally universally legalized in this country, what right will you no longer have, CC? What will you no longer legally be able to do? Stop the obscurantism.

CC  
I, Conservative Christian, could lose any and every right if the Judicial branch rules against the definition that is defined in any legislature that protects my rights.
Jared Asay
Then this is nothing more than a broad complaint about judicial activism (in conservative land, this means any judicial ruling a conservative disagrees with). Ostensibly, all of us could lose any right if a high court ruled on a whole variety of issues, so this answer just doesn't work.
I'm asking about your specific objection to gay marriage, namely, what right you lose when a gay person marries another gay person. Pretend some horrible activist liberal judge made gay marriage unequivocally legal. What would you no longer legally be able to do, CC? You're still avoiding the crux of the argument.

CC  
Absolutely correct...now we're getting somewhere. It is a broad complaint to make sure proper checks and balances are in place to preserve the rights as legislation describes. Primarily, most conservatives will state that this is not a case of bigotry as the media portray and most liberals will chose ignore with their own hateful and judgmental comments. There are many angles to this and you're failing to see any of the points I've made and coursing me down a path so that I may state, I will not lose any rights, only to prove a point that is not even in related to the argument or the true conservative viewpoint. However, in a general sense this does infringe on the rights of everyone if the definition of legislation could be changed by the supreme court. What would stop the supreme court from redefining any type of wording in any legislature if its allowed to do so with the definition of marriage? Its the principal of the matter.
Perhaps this will help enlighten you with a better described viewpoint on this subject. http://www.math.purdue.edu/~gottlieb/Law/gaymarriage.html
Jared Asay
Look CC, you assert, and I quote, that "redefining the definition of marriage infringes on the rights of married couples that are currently recognized by the state". I'm simply asking you to name at least one of those rights that you claim will be infringed upon. Clearly, you are unable to do this. Instead, you engage in sophistry by telling us your only concern is with some vague threat brought on by judicial rulings. Judicial rulings overturn legislation all the time: that's the very purpose of the judicial branch - to provide your much vaunted checks and balances against an overreaching legislature or executive branch. 
You're avoiding your own argument by claiming one branch of our government shouldn't be doing its job, the fattest red herring I've seen in a while. I'm not going to let you shy away from your position that a redefining of marriage to include homosexual couples would infringe upon your rights. You made the claim. Now back up your claim.

CC  
@Jared I did several times with several different angles and approaches.
Jared Asay
Gee, you actually named a specific right you would lose if the gays can marry? I must have missed it. Kindly repost it.

CC 
Jared, I never said "lose"... that is something you came up with. Let me try another stab at this and this will be my last attempt. To rule in favor that would redefine marriage is an act that disregards and devalues an agreement, the rights from that agreement, and under the condition of the law that I married under. The definition of marriage as it is written in legislature has always been interpreted as between one man and one woman. At no point am I against equal rights. I believe equal rights can be obtained through unionships under new legislature which most conservatives I know are also for. Liberals and gays however make this a case of bigotry which I find they are sometimes bigots themselves especially when posting absurd and ignorant images like the one we are commenting on.
Jared Asay
New legislation is just as capable of infringing on our rights as any judicial ruling. So much for principles

CC 
Yes, you're right but new legislation can also be properly be defined and go through proper checks and balances. Not abruptly be interpreted differently.
That's like someone saying diet coke is infringing on coke's recipe. That sounds a little less silly than someone saying coke is is now diet coke. Well it's not diet coke... diet coke is diet coke. Well then what makes coke "diet"... diet is debatable. or How about we just let coke be coke and diet coke be diet coke as its been branded.
CC 
***oops i meant more silly not less
Jared Asay
Lose. Infringe upon. Tomato. Tomahto. You still don't name a single right that is infringed upon. 
Your last attempt is very revealing though. Marriage, according to you, is an agreement from which certain rights flow. Redefining marriage to include gay people, according to you, would infringe upon at least one of these rights. Which ones specifically is apparently an utter mystery. What's revealing is that redefining a rights-giving institution to make it more inclusive - that is, giving more people these rights - is somehow devaluing it to you, yet you can't explain why. Stating that a certain class of people would devalue an institution just because they get to share it with you is a damn good definition of bigotry.

CC  
lol infringement and losing are two very different things. It is a breach in an agreement that I've entered with the state and federal government when legally married. I explained why repetitively and in numerous different approaches. Sorry, you don't quite understand and continue to look past, negate, or misconstrue the points I've made.
Jared Asay
Infringement and the loss of rights are similar in this case, in that you can't provide a single specific example. 
If you want to carry on with this intellectual cowardice, that's fine. What exactly in your marriage arrangement would be breached? I won't be holding my breath for a straight answer on this one either.

Jared Asay
I'm "negating" your point that your rights have been infringed upon because you can't provide a single supporting example. I'm "looking past" your concern about judicial activism because it's obvious red herring. And I've "misconstrued" nothing. And if I have, we certainly can't count on you to provide any backup for this accusation, can we?

Jared Asay ‎
"I, Conservative Christian, could lose any and every right if the Judicial branch rules against the definition that is defined in any legislature that protects my rights."
Key word: "lose"

CC 
Uh, the entire marriage agreement would be in breach of the definition of what marriage is open for interpretation. I'm not quite sure why you don't understand that concept. Are you asking me what specific rights the government grants married couples?
CC 
Key word: "could" and was generalized about rulings.
Jared Asay
OK, so an old definition of marriage would get updated. So what? I'm still looking for one of these mysterious rights that are supposedly lost and/or infringed upon.
Alternatively, you can also retract your claim due to insufficient evidence.

CC 
So could an old definition of freedom, or legal citizenship...so what? ... but these are points I've already made.
Jared Asay
Yes, an old definition of freedom/legal citizenship/anything could get updated. And yes, the implications of this updating could be dangerously huge. 
But you know what the proper response is? 
Weigh the merits of the proposed change. Conduct rational discourse on what rights we value might be upset in any way as a result of this proposed change. Just like I'm attempting to get out of you in this specific case. 
Know what the irrational response is? 
Oppose the change solely because it is a change. So far the only consequence of redefining marriage that you can come up with is that it redefines marriage. Tautology doesn't get you very far, it's time to actually weigh the merits of a legal changing of the definition of marriage. So far, you've got zilch against it.

CC 
Yes, anything can get updated with proper legislation as I've mentioned before. Thus, conservatives stance is to merely protect the laws we have in place and if something needs to be amended then let's conduct rational discourse as you stated. However, lets not allow the courts to rule without proper discourse and change the age old definition of marriage. This can be done through unionships, domestic partnership, etc. This has been my point the entire time and to deflect that not all Christian Conservatives are bigots as you portrayed in your first comment.
Jared Asay
Actually, on the marriage issue, proper discourse has been conducted, it's just that those opposed to SSM can't come up with a single reason, other than the useless tautology, why the definition shouldn't be refined. I'm still waiting for the examples of specific rights violated/lost/undermined/infringed upon, as per the rational discourse to which you've agreed.

CC 
Jared, I don't consider it proper discourse for courts to rule against the law as its been defined and established. In my opinion proper discourse, should be new legislature such as Ive mentioned before, introducing alternative paths to family unions that gain equal rights. However, this needs to be defined so that unions aren't created unfavorably. For instance, a man entering into a union with a dog. As you can see if such measures didn't exist the marriage institution itself would be devalued into something that was once a holy matrimony and now a legal matter or mess rather. This is where rights are infringed upon. You can do your own research as to what rights you gain when entering a legal marriage agreement with the government. If that agreement changes because a court decides to rule differently one day then its an infringement on your rights...that is pretty straightforward. I'm not discussing this further. Sorry you can't comprehend that concept. 
Jared Asay
There you have it. 
Ladies and gentleman, my opponent before you today puts forth a claim to support his position that the legal definition of marriage should not be changed to include homosexual couples:

“Redefining the definition of marriage infringes on the rights of married couples that are currently recognized by the state.” 
This claim is entirely amenable to empirical scrutiny, was it not? I sure think it does. So what happens when Mr. Vancas is confronted with a request to name a single right that would be infringed upon? Instead of coming up with a single example, he hides behind a vague appeal to the conservative concern of judicial activism.

"If wording in legislature is redefined it could infringe on any rights that the legislature describes." 
This point is granted, but of course, my opponent refuses to accept the corollary of his logic: if the wording in legislature is redefined, it could also negate the oppression of a civil right. Nor does he accept the conclusion that flows from the above opposing facts: we therefore must weigh the merits of each proposed change on a case by case basis. This in turn, brings us back to weighing the merit of your claim, my originally stated request for him to put up or shut up.
Remember that claim Mr. Vancas? The one that is amenable to empirical scrutiny?
And still we’re given no support for this claim. Instead he harps on the same tired, laughably unprincipled fear of some vague attack on rights that may (or may not) happen, or even better, that a change in the legislation is bad because it’s a change in the legislation. Doesn’t he realize that this logic would have caused Loving vs. Virginia to rule the other way?

“Redefining the definition of marriage to include members of different races infringes on the rights of married couples that are currently recognized by the state! Redefining it could infringe on any rights that the legislature describes! What next, a man marrying a dog?” 
I’d just like him to engage in rational discourse with me. Like he agreed. We just need to weigh the merits of our claims in order to come to a rational decision. Like he agreed. I wish he could understand the concept.

Jared Asay
Damn, I'm sorely in need of an editor

CC 
Just because I didn't come up with an example to your liking does not give validity to your notion that I did not support my claim. Your aggressive approach to get me to name a civil right that would be infringed upon when a gay marries, did not give any weight to your claim which I'm not even sure what your claim is at this point. You only kept hounding that question and negating the valid points I made which addressed the main argument. In fact, I did answer your question and simply stated that "all" rights are subjected to be infringed upon if we let court rulings redefine words that has only ever been defined as one thing through-out history but you go ahead a chock that up as a red herring because that sure seems like that was what you were doing the whole time.
The points I made are valid and commonly shared among the conservatives I know but not often considered. I think this is where the misconception comes from and why Conservatives are instead viewed as bigots. The stance of disallowing courts to redefine the meaning of words written in legislature pushes the argument to a much deeper level. For instance, what would be the repercussions be if court rulings were determined by improper definitions of "adulthood" as anyone over the age of 3, "illegal immigrants" as involuntary citizens, or "marriage" as a man and a donkey, and what if the courts ruled in this way without first allowing proper procedure for legislature to be amended with explicit language if it was deemed by society that a certain group's rights were being oppressed? 
...and don't give me this Loving vs Virginia as a valid counter argument. Virginia had legislature with explicit wording preventing inter-racial couples to wed. It did not attempt to redefine marriage but rather lift restrictions that were in legislature concerning marriage. Which by the way, after a quick google search (yea I used google to look up the case--sue me), the Catholic Church supported inter-racial couples. 
So tell me then Jared, what is wrong with the conservative approach to amend this issue by introducing unions or domestic partnerships into legislation to grant equal rights? This approach safe guards and protects the definition of marriage as it has been distorted and grants equal rights to gays. Is this approach that of a Conservative Christian bigot? After all, this was the main argument that was started here. 
Jared Asay
This isn’t a matter of coming up with an example to my “liking”. This is about coming up with evidence for your claims. Apparently I can’t stress this enough. You, CC, made the claim that your rights would be infringed upon, so you, CC, are therefore required to give us an example of at least one of these compromised rights. Anyone paying attention thus far can see you’ve completely failed the task, so it behooves you to either present your evidence or retract your claim. You only dishonor yourself and your position by avoiding this duty that intellectual honesty demands. 
Now I completely understand that with any change in legislation, be it from judicial review OR from the legislative process, there is the possibility that any number of our rights could be infringed upon. I totally get that. Here is why, and please read carefully, this concern is nothing but a red herring. You have to accept the corollary of your logic. If change in legislation can bring about the negative result above, it can ALSO bring about positive results (see Loving v Virginia or the Civil Rights Act or any goddamn change in legislation that brought about something good). The only way to decide whether to support or object to any proposed change is to take each proposal on a case by case basis and weigh its merits on its own terms. Hence my insistence that you finally get around to supporting your assertion. 
What happens when a court ruling enacts changes in legislation that benefits you or favors the conservative platform? What if an “activist” judge went over the will of the people and struck down medical marijuana or assisted suicide (freedoms that conservatives are typically against). If, based on your argument, you are principled, you would fight that ruling tooth and nail, despite agreeing with it, right? I doubt it. 
And Loving v Virginia is a perfect example. It’s a change in legislation brought about by judicial ruling, the exact situation you are so worried about in the present case. Don’t try and bullshit me by claiming it didn’t redefine marriage for Virginia. If the language of the law explicitly prevented inter-racial couples from marrying, then that, my friend, WAS the definition of marriage in the state of Virginia. Likewise, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman is essentially explicit wording that prevents same sex couples from being wed. Both issues are examples of the definition of marriage changing from being exclusive to more inclusive, brought forth by those damn activist judges. You (hopefully) agree with the outcome of Loving vs Virginia, despite the fact that it was brought about by a process you claim conservatives mistrust as a matter of principle. Here’s how you save yourself from this rank hypocrisy: join me in weighing the merits of gay marriage by providing evidence to support you claim, or retract it. 
Now then, you support unions and domestic partnerships or anything that bestows the equivalent rights of marriage upon same sex couples. I’m truly delighted that you are more reasonable than the majority of your brethren (53% conservatives oppose, Pew Research Center, Oct ‘09), but you want to know what’s wrong with it? It’s no different than the “separate but equal” doctrine of the late 19th century. All the rights are there, but for some reason gay couples still aren’t valid enough for to you to earn the word marriage, and so they must be philosophically separated in some way from the rest of society. It’s yet another subtle form of segregation, so fuck that bigoted nonsense. Gay people are human beings who have every right that you do to legally call their union a marriage. 
So are you going take responsibility and defend your original claim, or are you going to retract it?

CC 
I think you're confusing change in legislation with change in definition of existing law that results in improper ruling. Two different things. One I support with proper checks and balances the other I do not. That is my claim. Enough said.
Jared Asay
Sigh. Apart from the fact that a change in the definition of an existing law, in praxis, is absolutely no different than a change in legislation (both result in a change in the law), you are once again committing a gross tautological fallacy. 
You think that a court’s redefining of an existing law (hetero marriage) is an improper ruling because you are against courts redefining an existing a law that results in an improper ruling. This is unambiguously an unprincipled, substanceless tautology. What I’m trying to do is have a debate on why you think the ruling is improper in the first place. Once upon a time, you actually tried participating in rational discourse by claiming your rights would be infringed upon if the definition of marriage was changed. That’s a valid claim, but only if you can actually support it with evidence. So far we’ve seen no evidence.

CC 
/sigh last try--i promise...
Any legally binding contract that is undermined as a result of an improper ruling is an act that disregards the original agreement made. In the case of marriage, I've personally entered, first and foremost, into an agreement with my wife and God but secondly with the state and federal government. If the definition of marriage that is described through-out history was interpreted as anything else at a state or federal level than I would have not agreed to enter a legally binding contract with the government thus losing my entitlement to the same rights because it would no longer apply. This is a personal conviction but you go right ahead and say I only advocate against the liberal agenda and protect conservative agendas even when they are wrong--insert Ron Paul 2012 plug. To protect my agreement, the rights gained from this agreement, and not oppress the rights of others, the obvious choice in my opinion is to properly define family unions which would include both marriage and same-sex partnership at both the state and federal levels. 
I think your main objective here is to find holes in a made-up argument you came up with in which point you take no direct stance on except to object to mine. Which is fine... I'm not here to change your stance but instead rather argue the point that most Christian Conservatives that I know aren't set out to oppress gay rights or have hate towards them. This is why I find this fetus statement absurd and the comments made after because it suggests that all Christian Conservatives are bigots which is quite frankly bigotry in itself.
Jared Asay
And somehow you still don’t get it. 
Yes, any legally binding contract that is undermined as a result of an improper ruling is an act that disregards the original agreement made. 
But, read carefully: in the case of gay marriage, you are starting out with two un-argued assumptions: that (A) the court ruling is improper and (B) that the original agreement made contains no inherent flaws. 
My position is this: any court ruling that changes the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples is (A) entirely proper, because (B) the original agreement (definition of marriage) is morally flawed if it discriminates against any legitimate citizen of the U.S., which it does. 
My position on this matter flows from the fact that people like you can provide absolutely no legitimate secular reason as to why the importance of the current man+woman definition of marriage outweighs the precept of universal equality of the citizens of this country. 
And the act of including more diverse relationships in the definition of marriage does absolutely no damage to the legitimacy of yours, nor does it cause you to lose any current rights you have. At least, not until you can provide evidence of this occurring. Once again, we’ve come full circle. You can’t expect anyone to accept premises (A) and (B) without providing a hint of evidence for them.

CC 
"why the importance of the current man+woman definition of marriage outweighs the precept of universal equality of the citizens of this country."
...for the reasons I've already stated lol and somehow you still dont get it but that's ok.
Jared Asay ‎
*And the reasons you’ve stated are either hopelessly tautological or assume the truth of their premises without arguing for them. Get it? Keep on dodging.*

CC 
Likewise
Jared Asay
Good response. I'm glad this conversation has been recorded for prosperity. Now everyone can see the emptiness of conservative anti-gay marriage rhetoric.

CC 
or the bigotry against Christian Conservatives.
Jared Asay
Right, criticism = bigotry in the Christian world. 
CC 
Jared Asay "No." - Conservative Christianity
^ Criticism or judgmental?
Jared Asay
Verifiable fact. Apparently you didn't pay attention to the Pew poll I cited.

CC 
lmao... oh ok it is a verifiable fact that Christian Conservatives (don't single anyone out there buddy) that we believe if a "fetus" is gay we won't protect its rights to live. Unbelievable ignorant
Jared Asay
“Among most political groups, half or more support civil unions, including 59% of moderate and liberal Republicans, 63% of independents, 54% of moderate and conservative Democrats and 76% of liberal Democrats. The only exception to this pattern is conservative Republicans, among whom a slim majority (53%) opposes civil unions.” 
“Most white evangelicals oppose civil unions (57%), with opposition especially concentrated among the most-observant white evangelicals (67% among those who attend church at least weekly). Black Protestants are divided on the issue, with 43% in favor of civil unions and 49% opposed.” 
“A majority of same-sex marriage opponents, however, still oppose civil unions (66%).”
http://www.people-press.org/2009/10/09/majority-continues-to-support-civil-unions/ 
Darn those pesky facts. 
Oh, and nice try dishonestly changing what the original picture says. It doesn't say "will you continue to protect its right to live", it says "will you continue to protect its rights." And statistically speaking, Conservative Christians will not. 
Jared Asay
Congrats on being part of the 1/3 minority 
CC
Dishonest? Are you that ignorant? Why would this statement inject the word fetus into this question if it was not both implicitly speaking on both the pro-choice and gay marriage matter? 
Oh and congratulations on your google search. However, in the blanket absolute statement you made was extremely judgmental. Otherwise, you would have phrased it as "No" - Some Conservative Christians but your point wasn't to target some but instead all Conservative Christians but you go ahead and try to deny that now.
Jared Asay
I'm sorry my original pithy 3 word response wasn't comprehensive enough of an argument for you. Statistically, it's still true. 
And I'm really not concerned about who is judging who. Yeah, I'm judging your character. You are judging mine. Liberals judge conservatives, atheists judge Christians, and vice versa. You're the only one who seems to be getting a case of the vapors over it. 
How about we grow thicker skin and deal with the substance of these judgments; namely - supporting your claims with anything other than your circular arguments of tautology or begging the question. 
CC 
It must be easy to tout tautology by negating any and all of my rebuttal. Well done. Perhaps a 4 year old poll and the statistical approach you're describing to judge all conservative Christians is fueling your bias. Perhaps you should instead respect my opinion instead of attempting to disprove the premise on which my opinions are formed because you have yet to make a claim that does so except a failed attempt of citing a 4 year old poll (a poll... really?) to support your bias.



Our conservative Christian friend decided to block me shortly after posting that last comment, thereby preventing me from responding and him having to see it. It's amusing that he attempts to dismiss the implications of the poll I cited simply by scoffing at it. While it's not concrete science, does the poll not accurately reflect the attitudes of conservative Christianity towards gay marriage? Does he really believe that  because it's 4 years old that its conclusions are entirely unreliable? Does he honestly believe that a more recent poll would reveal drastically different opinions?

Yes, I quickly go from being cordial to rude, but I feel his intellectual obstinance and dishonesty merit every ounce of harsh criticism I could throw at him. Note the number of times I request that he provide evidence for his original assertion, and the myriad ways he dodges this request. Note my multiple patient explanations of how his position relies on nothing but tautology and question-begging, and his brazen repetition of the same. You couldn't find a more representative sample of the intellectual bankruptcy of religious conservatives' position on gay rights.

False compromises

In reading one of PZ Myers’ latest blog posts, I realized I’m becoming far more aware of the fallacies of compromise when it comes to culture war topics involving the religious. PZ was writing about the current round of contraception debates, and how we shouldn’t compromise our own arguments because all they do is give the other side rhetorical capital with which to continue retarding social progress. Specifically, it’s a mistake to argue that contraception should be made freely available not just because women want to have sex, but because it is often useful in ablating the effects of endometriosis or cramps.

But why distract attention from the crux of the issue? Do we or do we not believe in liberty for all man and womankind? There is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman who enjoys safe, consensual sex between herself and other adults; and to refrain from dispelling that notion can only delay humanity’s exodus from our prudish and priggish past. Contraception’s useful secondary benefits are just that, an added bonus to the argument for liberty.

If religious conservatives don’t like contraception, then they don’t have to use it. THAT’S the compromise.

We can see this compromise in the same-sex marriage issue as well. Why are liberals/secularists willing to accept the sterilized term of "civil union" when the word marriage works just fine? This compromise is nothing more than a tacit admission that marriage is owned by religion - it's not - and that homosexuals should still be separated in some way from the rest of society.

Again, if you don't approve of gay marriage, then don't get gay married. THAT'S the compromise.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Francis Beckwith: Smophist

Smophistry. That's a word I made up just now, and I think it accurately describes a quote by Francis Beckwith I happened upon while stalking Christian blogs for my own fodder. Smophistry is defined as an especially smug use of sophistry.

The quote in question came from the comments section of a post entitled "Should Christians Impose Their Moral Standards on Society?".

The author, Alan Shlemon, is completely oblivious to the crux of that question, which is whether religious people should impose their solely religious morals on a society that doesn't share them. No reasonable human being would reject to a moral motivated by religion as long as it had a rational secular justification. Christians are undoubtedly aware of this principle when they forego Bible thumping and instead make secular arguments against same sex marriage, or when Intelligent Design proponents attempt to make their creationist beliefs seem scientific. They realize that while some citizens are Catholic and some are Baptist and others are Mormon, every citizen, no matter what their confession, inhabits the secular sphere and therefore any arguments proposed within that context apply to every citizen - no matter what their confession.

The smophistry comes in when someone known as KVM posted a quote by Beckwith, which you'll see completely misses the crux as well:
This is where we find ourselves: the sophisticates are confronted by what they have been told simply cannot exist in a liberal democracy--real live, well-educated, thoughtful theists and social conservatives with actual arguments offered in a public setting without the benefit of special revelation. But here's where the bait and switch comes in. You see, in a liberal democracy, we are told, arguments, no matter how sound or strong, cannot be placed in the public square if their advocates are citizens motivated by their theological sensibilities.

Rather than putting us in literal internment camps, they choose a less expensive alternative: categorical internment campus. We don't even have to leave our homes! As long as we speak only when spoken to, and sit quietly in the back of the secular bus with our hands gently folded and saying "yessir Mr. Secularist, thank you very much," we will be fine.
Aaargh! The smug, it burns!

Beckwith's employment of the conservative canard playbook is impressive. First you have the dreaded sophisticates (gasp!), an ever-handy way to appeal to the anti-intellectualism and xenophobia of your audience. Apparently you can't expect to garner the support of conservative Christianity without painting the picture of a black and white "us vs. them" struggle. Am I the only one who finds this tactic to be extremely condescending to conservative Christianity? Next comes the reliable claim that these scary sophisticates (read: secularists) won't allow religion in the public square - a usually intentional conflation of government endorsement of religion, to which secularists are opposed, with public expressions of faith by private individuals, to which secularists are happy to support.

As if those tactics weren't slimy enough, Beckwith goes the extra mile by playing both the Nazi and the race cards! Yes, that's right, Christians, we secularists would like to put all of you in "literal internment camps", but it turns out it's just too damn expensive. So instead, we want you to know your place and sit in the back of the "secular bus". Don't go thinking you can get all uppity and drink from the secular water fountains, either.

Smophistry of the highest order. It's disgusting.

If Beckwith, KVM, Shlemon, and anyone else harboring a misguided fear of secularism would realize that "actual arguments offered in a public setting without the benefit of special revelation" is exactly what we secularists are looking for, there would be no need for all this persecution posturing.

Gay marriage is an abomination to your god. OK. We get that, and we have no objection to it within the context of your religion. But I and millions of other citizens of this country don't share your religion, and we don't have to prostrate ourselves to your homophobe of a god. I laud your attempt to put forth secular arguments against gay marriage, and I encourage more of it, because none thus far have passed the test of reason.

You believe your god created the world in six days six thousand years ago. OK. We get that, and you have our support should the right to believe that ever be in peril. But I and millions of other citizens of this country don't share your religion, so where do you get the right to have public schools instruct our children about your personal myth as if it were science?

Please drop the smophistry. Keep the reasoning behind your moral impositions secular, so that they apply to everyone, and more importantly, keep the uniquely solely religious impositions to yourself.