January 2017 Archives
January 2, 2017
California goes Swedish on child prostitution
California has decided to try the famed "Swedish solution" to prostitution--specifically, child prostitution.
The idea of the "Swedish solution" is that if you decriminalize the selling of sex by individuals while retaining criminal penalties for purchasing sex and for trafficking and pimping, and while offering lots of "support services" for those who don't want to be prostitutes, you will magically make prostitution disappear. Really. Google it and you'll see the paeans of praise to the Swedish solution. Color me skeptical about these reports from Sweden, and color me even more skeptical about the probability that decriminalizing children's selling sex will lower the incidence of child prostitution in California. Color me very, very skeptical.
January 9, 2017
Classifications of undesigned coincidences
In preparation for a project I hope to work on in probability theory, I have prepared a partial taxonomy of undesigned coincidences. In the nature of the case, this is not going to be a rigorous taxonomy such as a set of mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive categories, for two reasons. First, there are fuzzy edges to what we include in the overall category of "undesigned coincidences." Second, sometimes it is somewhat arbitrary whether one includes a coincidence in one category or another, depending (for example) on whether one regards something as an "event" or a "detail," what counts as "the same event," and so forth.
Nonetheless, I think that a classification is useful. For one thing, it's useful for geeky types who have never heard of an undesigned coincidence and aren't satisfied with concrete examples. Some people work better mentally with general descriptions, or at least find them useful in addition to concrete examples.
A classification like this can help someone who has been introduced to the argument with examples only from one category to appreciate other kinds of undesigned coincidences as well.
Another useful thing about classifying undesigned coincidences is that it can draw our attention to what is usually most confirmed by a particular type of coincidence. For epistemological purposes, we want to be thinking about what is confirmed and how much it is confirmed when we use an argument.
"When the Rome Hits Your Eye, That's Amoris"
[To be sung to the tune of Dean Martin's "That's amore."]
UPDATE at Jan 17 below.
Those who have been paying attention to the shenanigans in the upper ranks of the Catholic Church know that there is a bit of a brawl brewing – or being played out in slow motion perhaps – following on Pope Francis’s release of Amoris Laetitia. What’s it all about? And what’s a Catholic to do about it all? This post is mainly to answer questions at least related to the latter – what’s is a Catholic to do in a situation like this. But I will touch on other questions.
First, the bare bones of events:
The Church held a synod on the family, in two parts. First part was in 2014, and it did not go quite the way the Pope wanted.
The second part was in October 2015, where the people the Pope put in charge of running it eventually elicited the required 2/3 majority approval for documents speaking their mind, more or less. These, too, were in some ways short of what the Pope hoped for.
In April 2016, the Pope issued the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (hencefore, just “AL”) to the Church and the world based somewhat loosely on what the Synod said.
January 15, 2017
Come Unto Me, and I Will Give You Rest
I have a new devotional post up at my personal blog on Jesus' words, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Feel free to comment in either location.
January 24, 2017
Killing the untermensch
It's always worth remembering that the worldview of the left is not, in fact, ultimately kind and gentle and loving. In particular, idealistic young Christians who are, shall we say, trying to learn from the left should remember this fact. What fellowship has light with darkness? The left has identified itself squarely with the murder of the helpless again and again, and this is no accident. It is the logical conclusion of an ethical worldview that devalues human life.
Some links that bring that fact home. In Switzerland, the Salvation Army runs a nursing home. They have been told that they will lose "charitable status" if they do not have the killing of their elderly residents (you know, "assisted suicide") carried out on-site. I don't know all the legal and financial ramifications of the loss of charitable status in Switzerland. Presumably it means the loss of any government funding. In the U.S. such a loss would also mean that donations are not tax deductible, that in-take of money is taxable, and (at a local level) that the property can have heavy property taxes levied. This would drive many charities out of business, precisely because they really are charities rather than for-profit entities and cannot afford to operate as the latter. Similarly, Quebec requires all hospitals and nursing homes, including those with a Christian identity, to offer euthanasia.
Ethical health professionals are thus faced with a devil's alternative--go out of business and leave the field to those with no qualms about murder, or participate in the killing. The only tertium quid is quiet, secret civil disobedience. But it is unlikely that that would be allowed for long. Any institution that refused a family's request for euthanasia for an elderly relative would doubtless be "outed" quite quickly and the "wrong" put right.
January 25, 2017
Update on That's Amoris
For those of you who liked my recasting of Laetitia Amoris into Dean Martin's song "That's Amore", I offer you this rendition of the idea. More developed than mine, but mine came first. It's really pretty good, you should check it out.
On the serious side, we have finally had a defense of Amoris that is worthy of the name: it isn't filled with denunciations of those who have problems with it, it isn't filled with empty rhetoric, it addresses the real problems seriously, and it takes seriously both the ancient teaching and the more modern resolution of that teaching into decrees, canons, etc. It's by someone named Scott Smith.
I don't agree with everything in there, not by a good margin. I have made a few critical comments, and will be making more as we go along. I think Scott misses some significant distinctions, but he doesn't do it wrong-headedly, and by and large he is very careful to present the full rationale behind the problems he gives solutions for, not straw men positions. He and I agree on a fundamental point: Amoris has to be read through the lens of 2000 years of prior teaching, and anywhere it is ambiguous but only one sense is compatible with Tradition, you have to give it that sense.
January 27, 2017
William Pryor--of personalities and constitutional law
Years ago I was privileged to hear Alabama's Judge Roy Moore speak. During that presentation he ran a clip of his cross-examination for "acknowledging God." The man who carried out that cross-examination and Moore's eventual removal for retaining the Ten Commandments in the face of a SCOTUS determination of "unconstitutionality" was William Pryor, currently a front-runner for the next SCOTUS nomination.
The clip made a big impression on me. It was the impression of a man so wedded to the idea that the rules (as he perceived them) must be followed that he was tone-deaf to what I can only call creepiness. Specifically, the creepiness of asking a man if he will continue to acknowledge God and trying to get him in trouble for doing so. One got the odd impression that Pryor thought this was the only way to get a straight answer from Moore--by speaking Moore's language. If Moore was going to call it "acknowledging God" to continue to display the Ten Commandments, then Pryor was going to adopt that language in order to get Moore to admit that he would defy the Supreme Court. Something had gone badly wrong.
Yet when Pryor's name was mooted for a possible SCOTUS nominee, I nonetheless was cautiously optimistic. Why in the world would I feel optimistic at all?
January 29, 2017
Taking Another Bite At The Alt-Right
I’ve avoided saying much about neo-reactionaries or the alt-right since I wrote a long piece about both last year, but with the election of Donald Trump being credited by some as a triumph of the alt-right I thought I would use a very thoughtful piece by a chastened liberal to revisit some alt-right ideas and see whether or not they merit new consideration.
Professor Daniel Gordon teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and while I haven’t studied his academic work, judging from this essay I’m going to analyze below and his current position in heart of liberal academia, I get the sense that he comes from an older tradition of more humane scholarship – he’s the kind of liberal who actually wants to understand his conservative opponents and/or doesn’t like the radical (and often ignorant) Left that has taken over campus activism and in many cases, academic scholarship.