Best of the Web, mid-March

Via Touchstone, I was led to two disturbing articles:  one on how the girl scouts is exposing its members to Planned Parenthood propaganda encouraging promiscuity and perversion, the other on the new U.N. international sex education guidelines encouraging five-year olds to masturbate and teenagers to take advantage of all the contraception and abortion services at their disposal.  The justification of all of this is to fight the spread of HIV.  Get that:  chastity causes AIDS; promiscuity will prevent it.  Where, oh where, do we conservatives get the idea that the liberals are out to corrupt our children?

Mark Richardson explains, to those for whom it’s not obvious, that government support for working mothers is a plot to supplant the role of the father.  The husband is made obsolete, and the state assumes his role for the mother and child.

Does evolution prove that love, patriotism, and religion are really illusions?

Here’s the next chapter in my Aristotle and Darwin essay.  It’s about two pages.  In this chapter, I address the debunking claims sometimes made (and often implied) by evolutionary psychologists.  Again, my argument is not with the science, or even with the speculation, but rather with  the interpretation. Continue reading

What about people who are stupider than animals?

I’ve just said that it’s the capacity for abstract reasoning that makes humanity special.  There would seem to be a big problem with this claim:  some people don’t have this capability.  Consider the following:

1)      Babies.  For at least the first year after birth, human cognitive ability is probably not greater than adult members of other primates.  Does this mean that infants should have no more “human” rights than gorillas?

2)      Severely brain damaged people.

3)      An unconscious person.  If he’s drugged, it might not even be possible to immediately wake him.  Such a person has less cognitive power than an insect.  A related case would be a person in a coma—temporary or permanent.

Continue reading

Evolution and human distinctiveness

Here’s the next chapter of my “Darwin and Aristotle” essay.  In it, I address the claim that evolution have proven that human beings are really no different from other animals.  (This one is a few pages.)

Continue reading

Misappropriations of evolution II: Intrinsic Teleology

Below is the second chapter of my essay on the philosophical consequences of the theory of evolution (or, rather, the lack thereof).  The essay is turning into an exposition of Aristotle, which is something more interesting than I’d originally planned.  In this chapter (about one page), we consider the possibility of objective purposes in nature.

Continue reading

On misappropriations of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Chapter I

I’ve started a new essay in which I aim to refute claims that the essentialist/theistic worldview has been disproved by Darwin’s theory of evolution.  I find the pseudo-Darwinian arguments for materialism to be silly and uninteresting, resting as they do on a refusal to make elementary philosophical distinctions.  However, they’ve become quite popular, unfortunately, so I feel it’s my duty to say something about them.  I will be assuming throughout that the biological theory of evolution by natural selection itself is entirely true, which seems most likely to me.  I will only be arguing that it does not prove–or even suggest–nominalism, atheism, or materialism.  Below is the introduction.  (It’s one page.)

Continue reading

“To be a man is to suffer for others”

I came across a very interesting essay on Cesar Chavez, the famous Mexican-American labor activist, through Arts and Letters Daily.  The author, Richard Rodriguez, is strangely ambivalent in his estimation of Chavez.  Many of the aspects of Chavez which the author is reluctant to endorse–his penchant for failure, his opposition to immigration, his aceticism and piety–will hardly seem like vices to conservatives.  It thus seems rather unfair for Rodriguez to lump Chavez and M. L. King Jr. together as “flawed” sixties heroes.  King’s known flaws were much more serious.

Rodriguez claims that Chavez lacked the rhetorical brilliance of contemporary black Protestant civil rights preachers.  However, one thing Chavez the Mexican Catholic said did strike him as memorable:

The speech Chavez had written during his hunger strike of 1968, wherein he compared the UFW to David fighting Goliath, announced the Mexican ­theme:  “I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally ­non-­violent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be ­men.”  

(Nearly three decades later, in the program for Chavez’s funeral, the wording of his psalm was revised—“humanity” substituted for “manliness”: To be human is to suffer for others. God help me to be human.)Nothing else Chavez would write during his life had such haunting power for me as this public prayer for a life of suffering; no utterance would sound so Mexican. Other cultures in the world assume the reality of suffering as something to be overcome. Mexico assumes the inevitability of suffering. That knowledge informs the folk music of Mexico, the bitter humor of its proverbs, the architecture of its stoicism. To be a man is to suffer for others. The code of machismo (which in American English translates too crudely to sexual bravado) in Mexico derives from a medieval chivalry whereby a man uses his strength to protect those less powerful. God help us to be men.

Rodriguez suggests a very important point here.  When some idiot priest decided to change Chavez’s saying at his funeral to make it more “gender inclusive”, he totally ruined it.  (Isn’t it odd that to find the elements in the Catholic Church effectively censoring a labor leader widely regarded as a hero on the Left for being insufficiently liberal?)  “To be a man is to suffer for others” has a much deeper resonance.  It brings to mind the whole code of chivalry, a distinctly masculine ideal of the protector-father.  The word “human” is just bland–it might as well be “homo sapien”.  It brings to mind no sense of social role or expectation.

The funny thing is, one could also say “To be a woman is to suffer for others”, and this would also touch us on a deep level.  It brings to mind all the self-sacrifice made by generation after generation of wives and mothers.  As an example, remember when Julie Jordon, the heroine in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, sings

Common sense may tell you that the neding will be sad
And now’s the time to break and run away.
But what’s the use of wondering if the ending will be sad
He’s your fella and you love him.  There’s nothing more to say

Something made him the way that he is
Wether he is fast or true
And something gave him the things that are his
One of those things is you

So when he wants your kisses
You’ll give them to the lad
And anywhere he leads you you will walk
And anytime he needs you
You’ll go running there like mad

You’re his girl
And he’s your fella
And all the rest is talk

Isn’t there something so very feminine about this acceptance of suffering for the sake of love?

To sum up:  to be a man is to suffer for others; to be a woman is to suffer for others; to be a human doesn’t have this meaning.  How can this be?  Because man and woman are two distinct callings to loving self-sacrifice.  Let us not be mere humans.  Let us be men and women.

More on atheists being smarter than theists

Another study has been released purporting to show that liberals are smarter than conservatives.  This time, the study focuses on religion:  atheists were found to have an average IQ 11 points higher than theists.  I discussed such claims in an earlier post here.  As I said then, it is unsurprising that liberals outnumber conservatives in the cognitive upper class, because liberalism is itself an ideology that legitimates rule by experts.  To the extent that atheism is connected to liberalism, it will be similarly overrepresented among the cognitive elite.

Then there’s the issue of conformism.  Atheist liberalism is the de facto ruling ideology of the modern world.  People tend to conform to the ideology of their society, and smart people use their smarts to be better conformists than the average Joe.  This point is made forcefully at View from the Right, which is conducting a conversation on this issue.

Interestingly, the evolutionary psychologists responsible for this study also bring up the issue of conformism in the linked CNN article.  They, however, attribute the correlation between high IQ and atheism to a less conformism among the more intelligent, rather than more.  They suggest that smart people might be more inclined to embrace unorthodox and unpopular positions than the less intelligent.

Well, then, there seems to be a disagreement on an empirically determinable point.  This suggests an interesting research project.  Suppose we check for correlations not between IQ and particular beliefs, but between IQ and the variance of beliefs.  I claim that, all other things being equal, there will be less variety in beliefs among a group of high IQ people than a group of low IQ people.  They claim the opposite, that the low IQ people will all embrace a dull orthodoxy while the high IQ people will have opinions all over the place.  This would be a great thing to check.  Of course, one would have to introduce some metric for how different any two given beliefs are.  The nice thing about this, though, is that it’s something that people with opposing opinions can often agree on.  For example, among the three belief systems of Thomism, Calvinism, and Marxism, people will differ very much about which is most daring or most intelligent, but most people would agree that the first two are closer to each other than either is to the third.

Any social scientists here are invited to get to work on this.  Just make sure to put me down as a coauthor on the paper.