A few notes about this poll:
The group that sponsored this (Public Policy Polling) focuses on polls useful to the Democratic party. There are a number of polls I can think of that would be quite unflattering to Democrats, but you’d have to look elsewhere for something like that. And any pollster who would dare such a stunt would be written off as a hack organization by Democrats, who wouldn’t get past the bias to consider the results.
If asked whether you support bombing Agrabah, how would you respond if your only answers were “Yes,” “No,” and “Not Sure?” Certainly, many of these people knew it was fictional but they had to give some kind of answer. Given that the song about this place includes the line (in the original movie), “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face,” I might well have answered “Yes” myself. Is saying that you would NOT bomb a fictional city any more ridiculous than saying “Yes” or “I don’t know?”
Here is a surprisingly good article, by today’s standards, from a secular publication that touts the virtues of tolerance as consistently applied. It regards Wheaton professor, Larycia Hawkins, who has gotten into trouble with this evangelical Christian college for showing her solidarity with Muslims on something of a theological level. What it doesn’t do, however, is touch upon the interesting question of what is so wrong with claiming that Christians and Muslims all worship the same God.
The problem is that “God” is simply a word, and words have meaning. The meanings of most words are pretty uncontroversial and agreed upon by all parties. Some are not as well defined, though. For instance, the meaning of the word “liberal” depends upon the country or historical time-frame to which one is referring. The definition of the word “God” is perhaps the most controversial of all, and is the very reason why there are different religions to begin with. Some take “God” to be the universe, or an impersonal force, or a physical being, or an immaterial person, or a plurality of beings. If “God” were a pitcher, then each religion fills it with a different fluid.
Read the rest of this entry
Those who decry climate change “deniers” tend to lump them all into one group that rejects the entire suite of concerns. In reality, it is far more complicated than that. The climate change controversy is made up of many separate, cascading propositions.
While climate alarmism appears to be premised upon the acceptance of the entire program, the “deniers” are a more diverse group that may reject, or merely be skeptical of, one or more points in the narrative. I believe it does a disservice to legitimate debate, at best, and is disingenuous, at worst, to overlook the many levels of questions that make up this issue.
Here are what I see as the high level breakdown of separate concerns in this debate.
Read the rest of this entry
Try to argue with LGBT advocates and you will often find that their justifications sound a lot like bumper sticker slogans, and seldom go much deeper than that. This is partly due to the fact that they aren’t offered as rational justifications at all (as though their preferences in these matters were subject to reason), but as a conversation stopper. Even so, they deserve some response, but given the dismissive way these arguments are usually offered it may be in the interest of your time and their patience to stick with terse replies.
Here, then, is a list of some of these bumper sticker “arguments” along with some suggested bumper sticker responses.
- Since it could be said that everyone is born with something, then you seem to be implying that everything is okay.
- That’s a bold psychological claim. Can you prove it?
- How does that make it automatically good?
- Is it even remotely possible that it could be a defect?
- Some people are born without limbs. Are you saying they should celebrate that and not try to correct it in any way?
- Does that mean that if you weren’t actually born that way, it would be bad?
- A paedophile could make the same claim. What’s your point?
“I’m a speck standing on a speck orbiting a speck with a bunch of other specks in the middle of specklessness. I suck.” — Bill Nye
This is a commonly expressed sentiment among atheists, though seldom expressed so inarticulately. It seems to suggest that value is in a directly proportional relationship with size: the larger a thing the more valuable. But this seems obviously false.
Some things are more valuable by their very nature. A diamond is more “valuable” than a ton of gravel, and a baby is more precious than a star. In fact, humans have qualities that make them unique in the natural world: self-awareness. The largest objects in the universe do not think, or know they exist, or ponder their origins. On this measure of reckoning, humans have infinitely more value than the largest galactic cluster.
I’ve been seeing a story floating around recently on Facebook. Apparently, there’s a young girl who reconnected with her mostly absent father. After doing so, they discovered a mutual sexual attraction which they chose to pursue. They will eventually move to a state where incest is legal and marry.
The common reaction to this is that it’s “just gross” or it’s “wrong.” I’m not seeing anyone bold enough to affirm it, even among a crowd who is quick to affirm other kinds of non-traditional sexual relationships. Thus far, any possible approval is only held in timid silence. Read the rest of this entry
Theophilus: “I heard the gunman was a recent convert to Islam.”
Lucretius: “That’s not Islam. Islam teaches peace. That’s some violent, fascist group.”
Theophilus: “Whatever religion it was is a real problem that needs to be addressed.”
Lucretius: “I don’t think it’s even a religion.”
Theophilus: “These people certainly think it’s a religion, and there’s a whole lot of them. In fact, they think it’s authentic Islam.”
Lucretius: “I think they are wrong about that.”
I’ve had a number of on-line debates on the issue of homosexuality. Mostly, these amount to unpacking the defenses of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, or just dealing with the ad hominem attacks against us “bigots” who are “obsessed” with this issue. However, I was recently challenged to make my own general argument against homosexuality, which I’d like to do now. I don’t presume that I will change any minds, especially given how personally invested some are in this issue in a way that transcends reason, but I’d at least like to demonstrate the reasonability of believing heterosexuality to be the norm and design for human beings.
The argument is pretty simple and straightforward, and almost so obvious it hardly needs to be spelled out. It’s why society has accepted it these long centuries, children intuitively understand it, and it takes a good dose of liberal reeducation to eclipse it. I believe it to be the foundational point of departure in the justification of homosexuality as a normal, moral, socially acceptable lifestyle.
It has often been said that all religions teach basically the same thing, or are just different paths to the same God. This idea of religious pluralism comes both from the mouths of those who have made a career of “religious studies” and from those who simply mean to brush aside the whole question of truth in religion. The claim itself can be answered in several ways, but I think that behind this idea stands a common presumption about the nature of God and what He expects from us.
For most, this claim is simply a matter of ignorance about what the various religions actually teach, or consider to be essential truths, but when the most foundational doctrines are taken into account irreconcilable differences immediately surface. For example, Islam says that Muhammad was the final and greatest prophet of God and that Jesus was a mere human prophet, while Christianity says that Muhammad was not speaking for God and that Jesus was actually God incarnate. Islam claims that the Christian’s divine view of Jesus is a mortal sin (the sin of “shirk”), while Christians say that you must accept His deity for salvation. There is no harmonizing these views. Other examples that could be cited would be the Buddhist idea of a non-personal God (in fact, Theravada Buddhism is essentially atheistic) vs. the eminently personal God of Christianity; or the Hindu/New-Age idea of reincarnation vs. the one-life model of Christianity.
Tolerance meant civil disagreement, rather than thinking that contradictory views can be valid.
Rights involved what others shouldn’t be allowed to do to you, rather than what they should be required to do for you.
Art was the aesthetically pleasing product of creative talent, rather than someone with two thumbs trying to make a shocking statement.
History was something you learned about in order to understand the present and improve the future, rather than something you redacted in order to support your ideology.
“Evolution by natural selection is one of the best ideas in all of science. It predicts and explains an incredibly wide range of biological facts.” So says a Wall Street Journal article, which ponders how we can teach children this “fact” and drive out of their little heads the mistaken intuition that biology is the product of design. It claims that so many people reject evolutionary theory simply because they don’t understand it, and suggests that we should remedy this by attempting to “reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place.”
Contrary to popular belief, many in the Intelligent Design community agree that we should teach evolutionary theory. If it is a theory in play within the scientific community, then it deserves to have a hearing. Even if it stopped being “consensus” science, then we should still teach it as a historical artifact, as astronomers do with the Steady State and Oscillating Universe theories. But if we’re going to teach it, then we should teach the whole thing, warts and all.
Provocative statement? Sure. But let me prove to you that it is necessarily true.
I’ve followed astronomy and cosmology for over three decades. In that time I’ve seen many discussions on the origin of the universe and its remarkable design. One of the things that has been increasingly revealed and noticed is that the universe seems to be fine-tuned for the existence of life. Not just “life as we know it,” but any life. In fact, fune-tuned for any complex molecules or objects at all. It has been noted that if any of the forces or constants of physics were tweaked up or down (often in even fractional ways) it would have a dramatic impact on the entire universe. We could get a universe that has no light elements, or one with no heavy elements. We could get one infested with black holes, or one with few stars. We could get one that is filled with nothing but diffuse hydrogen gas, or one that collapsed back upon itself before anything interesting happens.
As you might imagine, there has been quite a bit of reaction to these “anthropic coincidences,” some in book-length treatments(1). What is most interesting is to see what atheists do with this information after admitting it(2). What does one do with the thought that they live in a universe that is so providential? While some choose to offer flippant non-answers, like, “well you wouldn’t be here to observe it if it hadn’t happened,” many others have offered more creative solutions.