Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Scientists have proved…

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…well, what, exactly?

Reading Clark's The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God (1964), I noticed an interesting link between his comments on the underdetermination of scientific data and James Ross's argument about the immateriality of the intellect (as a power that can determinately dematerialize [or, "pick from among"]) formal operations. Clark says this of scientific laws (pp. 58-60):

[S]ince the Newtonian laws do not describe the actual workings of nature, [but only ideal-theoretical descriptions,] they cannot be used as a satisfactory demonstration of the impossibility of God and miracles. … [N]on-observational factors are essential ingredients in scientific law. … [When deriving a law from measurements why] does the scientist choose the mean rather than [the median or the mode; i.e., the middle number or the most common number, respectively]? … [N]othing in the observational data has dictated his choice. … [When plotting a graph to describe the data in a law-like correlation,] the empirical data do not necessitate any given curve. … [T]he scientist could have chosen a law other than the one he actually selected. Indeed, his range of selection was infitnie; and out of this he chose, he did not discover, the equation he accepts. … [I]f mathematical equations could describe nature, the chance of choosing the correct description is one over infinity, or zero. Therefore, all the laws of physics are false. … [Can empirical] acquaintance with any part of the universe justify a conclusion true for the universe as a whole?

The point is that physical reality can accommodate an infinity of mathematical descriptions, since nothing in the physical world perfectly fulfills or instantiates one mathematical-nomic description to the exclusion of other descriptions.

Clark then presents his critique of scientific verificationism (p. 71), a critique stated in formal logic around the border of the book's cover: If p, then q; q; ∴ p.

A simple argument of verification proceeds as follows: The given hypothesis implies certain definite results; the experiment actually gives those results; therefore, the hypothesis is verified and can be called a law. Obviously, this argument is the fallacy of asserting the consequent; and since all verification must commit this fallacy, it follows that no law or hypothesis can ever be logically demonstrated.

Consider this syllogism (NB: attributed to Bertrand Russell, but, distressingly, I have had trouble finding a primary citation):

If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone and stones are nourishing.

Now read this in conjunction with Ross's summary of his argument for the immateriality of thought and, thus, the mind (found in the 4th footnote of his stimulating essay, "The Fate of the Analysts: Aristotle's Revenge*: Software Everywhere" (my comments in brackets):

(1) Every physical process, no matter how long (even infinite), is indeterminate among incompatible pure functions [i.e., it could always be described as, or according to, some other function, say by both "p + q = r" AND "p + q = r except after r exceeds n" -- EBB]; (2) so, no such process can be IDENTICAL with any of them, nor can it uniquely determine a function among processes that is IDENTICAL with any pure function [i.e., it doesn't exhaust the options of instantiating that function, e.g., it could always be exemplified-plus-one -- EBB]. [That follows from the arguments used by Wittgenstein, Goodman, Kripke and many others.] (3) But we know beyond any doubt that WE think in forms that are pure functions (addition, squaring, conjunction, modus ponens) and are not indeterminate among incompatible functions. THEREFORE, our thinking, in so far as it is the realization of a determinate pure function, cannot be any material process or any function among material processes. Thus, human thought, as intelligent, is immaterial.

I think that argument will survive along with the argument that the understanding can have no organ and similar considerations recited in that Chapter. But one must remember that the argument is not to be understood to deny that the medium of human awareness is animal consciousness, [See Aristotle and Aquinas, both saying human understanding requires {animal -- EBB} sensation], which is properly regarded as a physical (or physically based, anyway) process, explicable scientifically.

Hence, showing the brain at work in all thought processes utterly misses the point, that point being that while human thought is always sensible and neural, yet thought per se, though mediated by perceptual-neural physical reality, is immaterial and therefore performed by an immaterial power. Brains, like computers, can simulate thought without actually, formally dematerializing it. In this case, a completely physical description of human cognition qua physico-chemical phenomenon is possible and desirable, without however accounting for the immaterial source of thought as such, such a reduction being the goal of physicalism as opposed to physics proper, of scientism rather than science.

Jesus in China (VCD)

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(forwarded to me via email, advised to watch before links removed)

Jesus in China - Part 1

Jesus in China - Part 2

Jesus in China - Part 3

Jesus in China - Part 4

So that's what I've been up to with all this procrastinating!

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Cardinal Urges Religious to Get Blogging

Says Internet Youth Forums Need Real Christian Message

ROME, OCT. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's vicar for the Diocese of Rome expressed his hopes that religious men and women increase their use of information technology, and thus take advantage of what he called a new form of apostolate.

Cardianl Camillo Ruini spoke to the religious at the Pontifical Urbanian University during the diocesan gathering of the Union of Major Superiors of Italy, which represents 1,287 communities and 22,000 religious in Rome.

According to the Roman diocesan weekly RomaSette, Cardinal Ruini said: "A priest from Novara told me that the theme of 'Jesus' is very much discussed by youth in blogs. The focus, though, comes from destructive books that are widespread today, and not from Benedict XVI's book 'Jesus of Nazareth.'

"What will the idea of Christ be in 10 years if these ideas triumph?"

The true Jesus

The 76-year-old prelate admitted, "I don't understand the Internet, but especially young religious ought to enter blogs and correct the opinions of the youth, showing them the true Jesus."

"The teaching emergency is central in Benedict XVI's concerns," the cardinal said. "For him, education in the faith coincides with service to society, because to form someone in the faith means to form the human person.

"Simply giving motivations for living defeats nihilism and gives value to the human person, a value that is based on Christ himself, the fact that God became a man."

The cardinal asserted that an educator's testimony and content can matter more than pedagogical techniques.

He called for catechists to be creative in finding occasions for promoting Benedict XVI's book, saying it shows the solidity of faith in the historical Jesus of the Gospels, and bases the identity of the Christian in a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Cardinal Ruini said that in Catholic schools, "the religious can witness to Christ in all their lessons, in the sciences, in history and even in Italian literature, in an inseparable union of faith and culture. Your creativity ought to find new techniques for the vocational challenge, which ought to develop in step with society."

Monday, October 29, 2007

From one rabbi to another…

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This Saturday I MC'd at a fellow parishioner's wedding and as I walked out of the chapel (having just come down from the roof to peal our awesome real bell!), he and his mom both said if I slapped on a yarmulke I'd look just like a rabbi. Not the first time I've heard that either.

So then I got this (a bit outdated) news form Israel about a "fellow" rabbi's passing and his message from the grave.[#1]

A few months before he died [at 108], one of the nation’s most prominent rabbis, Yitzhak Kaduri, supposedly wrote the name of the Messiah on a small note which he requested would remain sealed until now. When the note was unsealed, it revealed what many have known for centuries: Yehoshua, or Yeshua (Jesus), is the Messiah. …

The secret note said:

Concerning the letter abbreviation of the Messiah’s name, He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid.

This I have signed in the month of mercy,
Yitzhak Kaduri

The Hebrew sentence (translated above in bold) with the hidden name of the Messiah reads: Yarim Ha’Am Veyokhiakh Shedvaro Vetorato Omdim

I found especially interesting his description of the Messiah:

“It is hard for many good people in society to understand the person of the Messiah. The leadership and order of a Messiah of flesh and blood is hard to accept for many in the nation. As leader, the Messiah will not hold any office, but will be among the people and use the media to communicate. His reign will be pure and without personal or political desire. During his dominion, only righteousness and truth will reign.

“Will all believe in the Messiah right away? No, in the beginning some of us will believe in him and some not. It will be easier for non-religious people to follow the Messiah than for Orthodox people.

“The revelation of the Messiah will be ful[fi]lled in two stages: First, he will actively confirm his position as Messiah without knowing himself that he is the Messiah. Then he will reveal himself to some Jews, not necessarily to wise Torah scholars. It can be even simple people. Only then he will reveal himself to the whole nation. The people will wonder and say: ‘What, that’s the Messiah?’ Many have known his name but have not believed that he is the Messiah.”

I know some readers who will find this all extremely intriguing. Others will just shakes their heads at us bearded rabbis.

[#1] Israel Today, 30 April, 2007, "Rabbi Reveals Name of the Messiah"

I can not tell a…

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historical anachronism from a genuine historical explanation.

A student just asked me if the tale of George Washington and the cherry is true. I did not know, so I consulted my extruded mind, aka Google, and found out, no, it is not true, but was written by Mason Locke Weems in his Life of George Washington; with Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honorable to Himself, and Exemplary to His Young Countrymen (1800).

What I found most interesting in the article that told me all this [#1], is how Ms. Kion explained Weems's motive for writing the book. She says:§

What the public in 1800 needed was something new to talk and think about, no matter if it was true or not. The public was between major wars. The Revolutionary War was behind them. It would be late in 1806 before Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would trek across the country to the Pacific and return. And the War of 1812 was even further away. The public, in 1800, was badly in need of a hero.

But isn't this highly anachronistic? In 1800 did Americans, the young Americans, know they were in need of a hero? Did they know they were in between wars? How could they? Ms. Kion's claim seems to be sheer conjecture. Of course, considering her conclusion -- "The answer [to whether the tale is true or not] lies is [sic] in the heart, which does not always distinguish between fact and fiction but always knows what it cherishes" -- there is little wonder she is fast and loose with facts.

To be fair, I'd like to see her sources for myself to see if they provide any evidence for the sweeping psychosocial "explanation" Ms. Kion gives for Weems authoring the book. She may be right but her explanation seems just as fabricated as the story it purports to account for.

Yes, I've been pondering the philosophy of history lately.

(Oh, I just added an Firefox plug-in called Bork, in honor of the Muppets' Swedish Chef, and felt he should have a go at quoting Ms. Kion:

Vhet zee poobleec in 1800 needed ves sumetheeng noo tu telk und theenk ebooot, nu metter iff it ves trooe-a oor nut. Zee poobleec ves betveee mejur vers. Zee Refulooshunery Ver ves beheend zeem. It vuoold be-a lete-a in 1806 beffure-a Cepteeens Mereevezeer Looees und Veelliem Clerk vuoold trek ecruss zee cuoontry tu zee Peceeffic und retoorn. Und zee Ver ooff 1812 ves ifee foorzeer evey. Zee poobleec, in 1800, ves bedly in need ooff a heru.)

[#1] "Washington’s Cherry Tree: Legend or Fact?" © Mary Trotter Kion, Apr 14, 2006, at suite101.com

Friday, October 26, 2007

Über die Positivität des Christentums

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While puttering through this book and that, that page and this, in my little mission of late to help Brandon with some bibliographical leads in support of the claim I made as a fundamental reorientation of Lessing's ugly ditch problem (das Lessing'sche Problem des garstigen, breiten Grabens) -- to wit, "The confusion is to treat man as an ever burning eye of pure present consciousness, rather than as a substantial being rooted in biological and historical reality." -- I came upon some intriguing comments by Pope Benedict XVI née Joseph Ratzinger in his Einführung in das Christentum (Introduction to Christianity [1968]), his much-praised reflections on the Nicene Creed. (I "only" have the original German edition, which I bought in Köln while serving at World Youth Day, so I can't make authoritatively translated quotes from it in English, not the least because I don't even have the book before me now!)

In an excursus on "the structure of the Christian", Ratzinger addresses the tension between the gap, much stressed by Lessing, between vérité de fait and vérité de raison (or, contingent, historical truth and universal, rational truth). Addressing the tension is, however, only an oblique result of the larger contrast Ratzinger presents between Christian faith as a fundamentally passive, receptive stance toward God and the fundamentally active, combative nature of Marxism. Whereas Christianity rests upon a suffering-for, Marxism rests on a suffering-against. In the former, the Suffering Servant lays down his life for God's people; in the latter, the Persecuted Proletariat takes his place and lays down other (bourgeois) lives for the goal of a classless utopia. In the former case, God's people passively receive the Suffering Servant's vicarious life as a Gift; in the latter case, the proletariat aggressively take other lives in order to seize its destiny.

The problem Ratzinger sees with the Marxist's fundamental stance toward life is that it destroys man's most essential characteristic, namely, his radical and primary capacity to receive love, which he in turn reciprocates in freedom. Because a gift is by nature contingent, unnecessary, and particular, there is no choice but for man to appropriate it in accord with his own nature as a contingent, historical being. The upshot is that Ratzinger argues for the, so to speak, necessary contingency of divine revelation in history, in the proper mode of human existence. Revelation is necessarily subject to the weakness and uncertainty -- the contingency on 'that' side of the ditch -- of historical, empirical truth, since any other form of truth would either be a mere rational proposition or a corruption of man's dignity as a free, and free precisely because contingent, being. I would extend Ratzinger's argument a bit by saying, if the Gift were wrapped in pristine rationalist paper, it would then be the quasi-Marxist task of man to overthrow and 'cancel' -- quite in the sense of Hegel's Aufheben -- the 'decadent' régime of higher competing 'bourgeois' propositions, and thus, via action rather than reception, actively take in his own hand what is in fact essentially a Gift, a Gift not subject to seizing but only receiving in faith. The classless utopia of Marxism is analogous to the non-contingent, incorrigible utopia of pure rationalist certainty for which Lessing's critique, at least ostensibly, longs. If a perfect, mono-layered grasp of truth were the only goal of human knowledge, it would be the bitter duty of man to fight for the truth, in contrast to the Christian attitude of fighting on behalf of the truth -- yet only after one has received it in thanks and faith.

To return to Ratzinger's exposition: Christian revelation, in its anthropological dimensions, is rooted in a positivity, a phenomenological directness of either reception or rejection, that befits both the literally gratuitous nature of its object (life with God in Christ) and the contingent nature of man as a contingent, free being (un être de fait). In Ratzinger's own words:

…diese Verzerrung des Grundskandals christlichen Glaubens eine sehr tiefreichende Sache ist, der man weder mit Theorien noch mit Aktionen ohne weiteres beikommen kann. Ja, in gewissem Sinne wird hier erst die Eigenart des christlichen Skandals greifbar, nämlich das, was man den christlichen Positivismus, die unaufhebbare Positivität des Christlichen nennen könnte. Ich meine damit folgendes: Christlicher Glaube hat es gar nicht bloß, wie man zunächst bei der Rede vom Glauben vermuten möchte, mit dem Ewigen zu tun, das als das ganz andere völlig außerhalb der menschlichen Welt und der Zeit verbliebe; er hat es vielmehr mit dem Gott in der Geschichte zu tun, mit Gott als Menschen. Indem er so die Kluft von ewig und zeitlich, von sichtbar und unsichtbar zu überbrücken scheint, indem er uns [G]ott als einem Menschen begegnen läßt, dem Ewigen als dem Zeitlichen, als einem von uns, weiß er sich als Offenbarung. Sein Anspruch, Offenbarung zu sein, gründet ja darin, daß er gleichsam das Ewige hereingeholt hat in unsere Welt: »Was niemand je gesehen hat – der hat es uns ausgelegt, der an der Brust des Vaters ruht« (Joh 1,18) – er ist uns zur »Exegese« Gottes geworden, möchte man in Anlehnung an den griechischen Text beinahe sagen.

This distortion, or bias, of the fundamental scandal of Christian faith is a very deep-seated matter, and is overcome by neither theories, nor actions, nor anything else of the kind. Indeed, in a certain sense, only here is the uniqueness of Christian faith manifest, namely, in what one could call Christian positivism, the irrefragable positivity of the Christian. By that I mean the following: Christian faith has not only to do with the eternal (as many initially suspect in discussions of faith), with the totally 'other' remaining outside the human world and outside time. No, it has much more to do with God in history, with God as Human. In so far as He [Christ] appears to bridge the cleft between eternal and temporal, between visible and invisible; in so far as He allows us to encounter God as a man, the eternal as temporal, as one of us -- only thus is He truly known as revelation. His claim to be revelation is grounded in the fact that He has in one stroke incorporated the eternal into our world: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." (John 1:18, RSV). He has become for the "exegesis" of God, if one may closely adapt from the Greek text.

(PDF WARNING: »Glauben in der Welt von heute« = Über das christliche Menschenbild, Das erste Kapitel aus Einführung in das Christentum. Vorlesungen über das Apostolische Glaubensbekenntis (München: Kösel, 1964) [my translation]

If the truth were just hanging "up there", "out there", it would be incumbent upon humans to strive with all their might to align themselves with a higher, unblinking truth. The radical gratuity of Christianity, however, cuts down at the knees such Marxist attempts, leaving man in awe as a recipient of grace he can not fight for but only accept.

Along similar lines I read with great interest C. Stephen Evans's analysis, in the eighth and ninth chapters of his The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith, of the covertly rationalist assumptions behind Lessing's supposedly empirical objection to revelation. The rationalist impetus of Lessing's critique transforms, wittingly or not, empirical difficulties as insurmountable a priori objections to any contingent expression or conception of divine truth. A theological rationalist (like Kant, Wittgenstein, or Hegel) assumes man should at some point just "see" or "get" religious truth, and so short of that numinous clarity, any empirical grounding for revelation ipso facto undercuts its claim to be truly transcendent revelation. The theological rationalist claims that while the path to the truth may not be easy, yet once it is attained it is no longer subject to empirical corroboration or refutation. In opposition to this halcyon vision of faith, Evans notes Kierkegaard's objections to theological rationalism by suggesting that the harder truth we must face is that man is actually not on such "good terms" with truth. If man were not a fallen, sinful creature, it would be safe to say we do just "get" truth. But since we are in fact fallen, freely cut off from God, God must "intrude" on our self-made noetic, spiritual horizons with some device that alters, jars, our whole perception of the world. And such an intrusion can only happen in a historical way, as an historical event. Hence, Evans is arguing that the constitution of man as a religious, albeit, flawed, being requires an historical revelation, including all the apparently messy problems of empirical uncertainty and contingency. Rationally, we might like to say, God would not do things this way, or, God would surely do things that way; but the big, historical, free, contingent fact is that or this is not how He did things: Christ is.

I believe Fr. Keefe's Covenantal Theology can shed tremendous light on these matters -- particularly with its emphasis on the radically free, and thus necessarily contingent intelligibility, of the Christ-event as a Gift -- but I haven't the time now to turn the spotlight any farther this way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This one goes out to Matty P

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Charlie Kaufman: There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window. You were talking to Sarah Marsh.

Donald Kaufman: Oh, God. I was so in love with her.

Charlie Kaufman: I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was really sweet to you.

Donald Kaufman: I remember that.

Charlie Kaufman: Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. It was like they were making fun of *me*. You didn't know at all. You seemed so happy.

Donald Kaufman: I knew. I heard them.

Charlie Kaufman: How come you looked so happy?

Donald Kaufman: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn't have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.

Charlie Kaufman: She thought you were pathetic.

Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago.

from the Charlie Kaufman film, Adaptation

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Zufällig über einen garstigen, breiten Graben

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Other late twentieth century apologists discussed by Dulles include Hans Urs von Balthasar, who, having learned a great deal from his dialogue with Karl Barth, accented the dangers of anthropological thinking and reacted against Lessing’s “broad, ugly ditch” between necessary truths of reason and contingent historical events. Lessing’s dichotomy represented Idealism at its worst, sanctioning a priori limits on God’s action in history, thereby rendering itself incapable of recognizing Christ as the image of divine love. Resonances of Balthasar’s thought may be found today in Jean-Luc Marion, especially in Marion’s denunciation of those philosophies that reductively and unimaginatively seek to limit the impossible, the excess, the unexpected Gift.

from "Apologetics, Unapologetically" by Thomas Guarino
Copyright (c) 2006 First Things (March 2006).

This is in response to an open query Brandon Dahm put on his blog concerning Lessing's challenge to faith in light of the distance of the historical past in which religious events take/took place. He asks in the combox:

"…given the above difficulties - the contingencies and distance of history - it seems unreasonable to base one's entire life on such information. How do I reasonably cross the ditch and make Christianity my own?"

I can't make a substantial contribution here, now, but I think the issue is amenable to a phenomenological analysis. The confusion is to treat man as an ever burning eye of pure present consciousness, rather than as a substantial being rooted in biological and historical reality. Man's entire perceptual awareness of each present moment only survives in conjunction with an 'historical' faith in his past experiences. The field of perceptual awareness is a kind of historical record. Only by recognizing our own background can we rationally and peacefully choose to live a certain way in the present. This act of appropriating the past for the present is but an analogy of the act of faith. We are not radically separate from 'religion' since religion is an intrinsically human reality. Hence, the question is not whether to base our lives on distant history but to choose how MUCH of man's inescapable religious consciousness one is willing to appropriate in each concrete Present. Historical debate about the veracity of the Christ-events are secondary to how we interpret them in the larger field of religious sensibility.

Further, I think the epistemological weakness of Lessing's problem is that it takes natural induction as so much more obvious than historical induction when in fact science is just a form of the latter. The only way we can coherently integrate new data with our scientific theory (or vice versa) is to base them on a massive implicit background body of knowledge about the entire cosmos reaching back billions of years. This background is not observable and not repeatable. We can "do science" only by simultaneously holding together, or actively 'knowing', a huge faith in the physical consistency of the universe for all time and a phenomenological belief that the event we are presently observing accords with the same laws, and is not describable by some other law (sort of like Kripke's quus-plus or Goodman's grue cases). Much the same goes for faith. There is a symbiotic relationship between historical-scientific assumptions, or kerygma, and ongoing experiments, or steps in faith. Just as our background knowledge (or working meta-knowledge) of the reigning scientific Weltanscahuung contextualizes, or theoretically determines, how we interpret each new experiment or physical anomaly, so too our basic stance towards the historical signs of the magnalia Dei heuristically contextualizes our religious experiences and skeptical arguments. As each scientific experiment is meant to confirm or disconfirm our implicit picture of the world, so religious and theological knowledge can be used to strengthen or weaken our basic religious position. And just as anomalies or error-ridden experiments can not derail a whole scientific paradigm, neither can existential disjunctions (between creed and experience) or doubt in and of themselves overturn a whole religious conviction. Religious data is not explained by reference to historical 'proof'; it is only interpreted in parallel with it as its own kind of legitimate 'data'. Hence, it is no more out of place to use present religious experience and theological knowledge as a confirmation of an implicit historical faith in Revelation than it is to use experiments to retroactively describe or illuminate how accurate a broad physical theory is.


There's been a little action in this debate, mostly in the combox on Brandon's blog, so I'll add it into this post:

John Loftus said, "An 'existential leap' as I mean the phrase, is a leap beyond what the evidence leads you to...ultimate commitment. If the most that Christianity offers is a certain degree of probability, then that's all the commitment you should have toward Christianity."

To which I replied (with some corrections and alterations here added):

Given the above explanation I must ask what Mr. Loftus would consider suitable of claiming ultimate commitment. Commitment is an intrinsically volitional term, so as soon as you say ultimate commitment requires absolute proof, you've denatured commitment as such, rendering it into a sheer cognitive response to an a priori. We don't commit to believing 2 + 2 is 4. We have no choice in that ultimate commitment. Refuting the validity of commitment based on a lack of less than absolute proof is really just an attempt to refute nearly all aspects of human life, a relentlessly theletic affair. If, given our natures, we follow truth where it goes, that is really all we can ask of cognitive warrant. The task Mr. Loftus has is to prove a commitment without absolute, deductive proof is in fact cognitively, epistemically unwarranted.

Then Brandon replied, here at FCA, to this post:

I have one objection. You wrote "Further, I think the epistemological weakness of Lessing's problem is that it takes natural induction as so much more obvious than historical induction when in fact science is just a form of the latter."

But history is different than the natural sciences in that the kind of historical research we are talking about, whether or not X happened, doesn't abstract from the particular. Natural sciences consider particular beings in motion, for example, and induce to a general theory of beings in motion. We can repeat the observation over and over to better induce.

But with history, we can't do this because we are worried about the particular as particular. This doesn't allow us the same kind, or at least the same route to the same kind of certainty as general or abstracted sciences allow.

and on his own blog to my comments there:

I agree that absolute certainty cannot be required for an ultimate commitment. But do you think that the principle "There should (rational 'should') be some proportion between evidence and commitment" is completely false? The merits of this principle are part of what I am trying to figure out. It at least has some intuitional import, but I'm not sure if it stands up to scrutiny.

Whereupon I answered:

First let me speak to your objection to what I was saying about science and history. I agree that history mostly deals with the particular as such, whereas science aims to abstract general laws from many particulars. My point is that the very device we use to evaluate a historical particular is itself an abstraction from other particulars which dictate for us how likely or unlikely the particular we're examining is. The inductive background of historical laws and probabilities is an abstraction from particulars. What gives that inductive background any grounding other than a decision to weigh some facts more than others?

The nature of commitment depends on the object of commitment, not the quality of our epistemic certitude. Commitment to Christ rests on the nature of His person. There is no brute judgment on the historical reasonability of a personal/philosophical commitment, since how we parse the historical evidence depends on a number of other commitments in different fields of knowledge. We may be convinced of the existence and goodness of God (for metaphysical and moral reasons); we may also be mesmerized by the lives and testimony of the Apostles; and we may believe the nature of human existence makes sense only in light of a final vindication of triune love over wrath and guilt (as Cornelius van Til and René Girard have, in different ways, argued in numerous places); all of which will in turn 'calibrate' how we assess, not the historical soundness of the Resurrection as historical event, but its heuristic meaning as a revelation of the true nature of the world and God's will. The temporal gap between us and the Resurrection can, as you said, be filled with good historical evidence. But then, what we will do with the Fact of the Resurrection? Committing to the Resurrected Christ means converting, or seeing converted, the Fact into the Truth. And it is a moral imperative to commit to Truth, even when the noetic bases for action are murkier than we'd like.

I can't do it right now, but I suggest doing a retorsive analysis of the ditch-claim itself. Are there cases or conditions in which the "evidence α commitment" clause is not applicable? Is it subject to the same internal contradiction that dispels positivism? As I said in the notes I sent you by email, I see Lessing's take on history as just a form of positivism and thus in fact subject to the same weaknesses as logical positivism.

The basic problem is about induction, not about raw facts, since our conception of induction determines how we respond to historical data. If John Foster's work in The Divine Lawmaker: Lectures on Induction, Laws of Nature, and the Existence of God is any good, it seems the nature of induction itself has theistic implications, which of course transfigures the entire debate.

It's official...

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You've been here before.

"Chinese authorities issued a new regulation in July 2007 that requires all reincarnations … to be approved by the government."

And in other madcap China news:

"Although there are hundreds of millions of workers and peasants, they don't count. You can ignore them. You can also rob and exploit them. It's not a problem. The most important thing is to get the powerful on your side."
-- Kang Xiaoguang, Professor of Regional Economics and Politics

I'm fairly certain the good professor is not prescribing this for China, simply describing the hard truth, for as they say, "The truth conquers all sophistry (事實勝於雄辯 shìshí shèngyú xióngbiàn)."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dare I claim another?

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While working on my essay about common, indeed all too common (or, ordinär, as the Germans would say), arguments against faith, I think I may have coined a new word.


It is a combination of "fallacy" and "argument" and is pronounced /fəl'argjəmənt/ or "fuh-LAR-gyu-ment".

I Googled it and only found two references to the word, in what I think is Swedish. I tried fallargumentation too and found it in many more pages (esp. in German, which, admittedly, is the default language I use for Google). (When I set my Google to English-default, I still only got two results, also in German.)

In Germanic languages "Fall" means "case, circumstance, state of affairs" (as in a hard case or a legal case). I reckon Fallargumentation is a legal-philosophical term for arguing from (or about?) a given case rather than in the abstract, sort of like arguing about common law as law for life as-it-happens, rather than about the conflict or harmony of law with general moral principles. Point being, I feel justified in claiming the words as my own.

Here's to neologomania and neologomaniacs like me that love it! Here's to neologophilia and neologophiles like me that love it!

Wow, where did that come from?

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I go through cycles, I guess, oscillating between voracious reading and compulsive writing. Some of last week and this weekend were spent on the heavy-writing end of the swing.

Wednesday I submitted a fairly substantial letter to a local paper, but, seeing as I don't think it made press, I intend to rework it into a self-standing essay.

Thursday evening I pumped out, to my own surprise, a 3,000-word critique of some recent lectures by a philosopher of biology.

On Friday afternoon I compiled my better short stories, a number of my poems, and a handful of my essays into a book I will try printing independently next month or in December, tentatively titled If Trampled Fruit Can Make Wine. Later that night I stripped another year or so of content off of FCA and threw it into any of four text files (Culture & Theology, Philosophy, Memoirs, Teaching in Taiwan), which I intend to sift through, edit, and use to produce more essays, maybe even chapters in projected books. Specifically, I've got in mind one book on matters theological and spiritual, and another on matters philosophical and historical.

Friday evening, also to my own surprise, I cranked out "The Death of the Soul in the Reign of Pro-Choice", my notes on classroom games, and other bits on FCA, all of which amounted to about 3,500 words.

Saturday afternoon I made some good revisions to a book review I need to submit to inFORM, which will finally take flight in November (we have a new editor, I've found a local printer I like). I have been woefully neglectful in my share of getting inFORM formed, but I feel a new strength and focus to really get the leg up on it this time.

Then, last night, all alone in my quiet little dorm cell, I churned out a 5,000-word essay on some common arguments against faith and religion.

It must be the seal oil, coenzyme Q10, cocoa flavonols, and OPC antioxidants I've been eating lately, but golly, if I can get my hands on some nootropics (esp. choline + hydergine + piracetam), my productivity might go through the ceiling! It's amazing what I could make of all the words I've poured into this blog alone.

Of course, considering that I overslept this morning, I am humbly aware of the weakness of my frame.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Did you hear about the latest China toy recall?

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I can't see the harm, can you?

While I was teaching

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Over the years I've played relatively few games in class. I know lots of teachers who have an armory of games ready for any class. But me, well, I am notorious for making "deals" with my students which usually end up leaving ten minutes or so for a game because they broke their end of the deal, namely, shutting up and letting us get through what I have to present. Every time I feel fatigued or aggravated and I tell myself, "Okay, just play a game," I just can't find it in myself to do a mindless game-game. It's always got to have some kind of didactic value, which requires me to be involved lest everything really just become a bedlam of kids playing in Chinese.

This year however I have done better about integrating games into the schedule. This involves a game of Mafia every week or two for every class. But I've also made up or adapted some games, which are what I want to get on record now, mainly so I don't forget them some day when in a teaching pinch.

1) Tic Tac Toss

Nothing too brilliant here. Just playing tic tac toe with a ball being thrown at the board. There are catches though. Like, if X hits an O, the O gets erased. Or if the ball hits outside the square, the opposing team gets two throws. Didactically, depending on the students' ability, I put a hash mark on their side for every miss, and, if they lose, the other team can find a word in the dictionary of the same number of letters as hash marks, whereupon the losing team must spell that word correctly in 10, 20 or 30 seconds. Alternatively, for better students, the winners can think of as many words as hash marks and the losers must use them correctly in one sentence.

I'm still fiddling with this game, trying to make it more complex and stimulating, since much of the time it's just kids cheering or jeering. I have added a requirement that on each throw the player must announce at which square she's aiming, so they can practice coordinate prepositions (upper-right, bottom-left, etc.). I may add a feature that the opposing team to say any one letter for each miss the other team throws, and then at the end of the game, both sides (or maybe just the losers) have some small number of seconds to spell a word with those as many of those letters as possible. I mustn't put the letters on the board for students to see, lest they cook up a word in advance, but will secretly write down what their opponents say and then announce the letters at crunch time.

Clearly, being a middle school teacher is like being in the CIA, wheels within wheels, man, wheels within tiny slippery wheels.

2) Scrabble Scramble, or Tile Tumble (...just made those titles up for the illusion of being sharp)

Each team has 25 pieces of paper with a letter of the alphabet on each one (though X and Y share a tile). I then say a word, or a number of letters, and the students must correctly arrange their tiles on a book and then walk up to me to show me what they spelt. The catch is mainly that they can't run, or the tiles will flutter away and the courier must go back to spell it again, nor can they hold down the tiles or curve the book to shield the letters. If a word has duplicate letters, like "book", they can use substitute letters and spell out the word before me so I know they know I know they know, etc.

3) Monkey Bridge, Bridge Monkeys

I'm kind of proud of this one, since it came to me a true pinch. I had not corrected a class's books yet so I couldn't give them back and thus had no real lesson to do from the book, all of which I only realized as class was starting, so I did a little bluffing, confirming who would clean, etc., and then I found monkeys scrambling through my mind.

The game is based on imagining what monkeys would do on a bridge. They would climb and hang from the beams above. The game works like so: two people from each team (or more, I suppose) line up, I say a number of letters or a word, then I say Go, and the first player runs to the board to write some word horizontally, then she runs back and her partner runs up to write words horizontally "hanging" from the "bridge" word, each "monkey" word beginning with the same letter as the letter from which it hangs. I can change the values, but generally words of 1-3 letters are 1 point, 4-6 letters 2 points, 7-10 letters are 3 points, and 11 or more letters are 4.

This game is lots of fun, especially when I raise the stakes by forbidding certain frequently repeated words, like apple for a, elephant for e, etc.

Advice or ideas welcome! And if you want to polish your English, I might pencil in some time for one of these games!

The death of the soul in the reign of pro-choice

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This is a comment that swelled to post-size proportions. I think the issue of abortion and the truth of the pro-life movement demands "front-page" attention. Although I am speaking to a specific commenter, I want the 'you' I use to be understood as also referring to anyone who supports the so-called right to abortion, a term as incoherent as the right to tyranny. If what I say strikes you as sound, please pass along this post, either to challenge a pro-choicer or strengthen a pro-lifer. My first interaction with the same commenter on this same issue came from news I posted about a similar video being criticized in Taiwan but being defended by Fr. Lou Aldrich, SJ.

In response to my posting a video of the actual carnage of abortion, Michael Turton said the following:

Hey? Got any videos from the thousands of mothers who die in agony each year because abortion is illegal in their nation?

Naw. It's much harder to watch a 13 year old girl die on the operating table because the doctors have refused to operate on her because they cannot under the law because abortion is illegal. I should introduce you to some of the parents I knew in Kenya who lost daughters that way.

Want to reduce the number of abortions and the number of dead mothers? Legalize abortion, engage in comprehensive sex ed, give women more control over their lives. Anti-abortion isn't about saving lives, but about controlling the sexuality of women.

I reply:

Somehow I knew you'd be the first, and maybe only, commenter on this post. Alas, no amount of snarky rhetorical questions will win this debate. You're wrong from head to toe by defending the sacrament of abortion, and as I will show in the following, you don't even defend your wrongness very well.

(BTW, did you see my comment on the post below, about chumming over beer and about your exposure to Fr. Jaki's work?)

Let me first dispense of a basic logical fallacy in your argument. The fact that doctors perform bad abortions, clinically speaking, is not grounds for legalizing abortion; it is just grounds for better training doctors. The deaths of pedestrians by drivers on the highway are not grounds for legalizing more walking on the highway but for inculcating better driving. Motor accidents are the fault of bad drivers not of the speed limit. Likewise, you can't blame a gun maker if an old, poorly handled, or even a cheaply made, because illegal, gun blows up in your hand, or just never fires, when you try to kill someone with it. It may be wrong that you can't legally find better guns in your society and it may be wrong for someone to sell you a low-grade gun, but it's still morally wrong as far as your own actions are concerned to try murdering someone with the technology you manage to find. Blaming pro-lifers because some women fatally resort to poor technology, or technology that fails them, is wrong-headed. If I were a pro-choicer, I would not use this argument.

As for specific things you said, I must say I was scratching my head about this:

It's much harder to watch a 13 year old girl die on the operating table because the doctors have refused to operate on her because they cannot under the law because abortion is illegal.

First of all, why is watching a video like that "harder" than watching doctors mutilate and kill babies? Both are very sad happenings and I pray for the souls of such women who suffer in such cases. At least they die without also committing murder. I pity the supposedly lucky ones who can go on living with the guilt of having aborted a young life from their own bodies. The point is not which case is "harder" to watch but which case is actually immoral. As I said in the original post:

[A]bortion is the murdering of human beings. Those words are just as true without photographic enhancement, but seeing the carnage of "free choice" up close, without blinders, is essential to properly weighing those infinitely heavy words. Evil need not always look ugly, but hideous evil can be denied only at grave peril to one's own soul.

Second, just what kind of situation are you describing here? Why is this 13-year-old girl dying? From the shame of getting pregnant? From having tried an abortion on herself? From some kind of rare lethal miscarriage? Had the doctors in your scenario begun an abortion on her but then stopped in midstream with a case of cold feet? A woman's body is designed to bring forth a child once impregnated. Abortion, not a refusal to operate, is what interferes with her natural functions. If left to herself, she will not die, but have a child to care for. That may be hard but it's not certain death on a medical bed. So why is this girl, or any pregnant girl unsuccessfully seeking an abortion, dying? What are you talking about? As it stands, your scenario, while vivid, is incoherent. Further, the very fact that you can't produce such a video suggests the relative lack of such problems compared to the glut of fetal carnage that abortion generates every month. The footage I posted was of a 6-minute documentary, which means it was but a tiny selection of probably hours and hours of similar footage, which itself would only be a small fraction of all abortions compared to those that go unfilmed. Is there anything this horrid available in so much Nazi-like detail? In strictly phenomenological terms, the cases you bring up of girls struggling with illegal abortion utterly pales in comparison to the undeniable, plain-as-day horror of abortion as a campaign against the voiceless.

A few lines later you say the hope of women lies with the following:

Legalize abortion, engage in comprehensive sex ed, give women more control over their lives.

But assuming abortion were completely legalized and as common as the dawn, how you can say that would really solve the problem? Strictly speaking, the problem is not a lack of abortion clinics but a lack of access, because of costs, to them. If all women and families had enough money, they could travel anywhere for an abortion. What this means is that once abortion were legal – geographically accessible – it would still not ensure all women would have the means to procure an abortion. In which case, we could still see just as many deaths by women opting for “bargain abortions” or for "kill-it-yourself" kits. At that point perhaps you'd just shake more blood off your hands and insist all abortions everywhere be subsidized by the government. If, however, you're prepared to take that step, it's obvious your stance as some kind of brave feminist prophet of infanticide is not about saving women's lives in harsh conditions but about maximizing comfort and promoting cosmetic abortion as a part of a chic modern lifestyle. No one has the right to murder an innocent fellow human being, so you make a basic category error by trumping the moral evil of infanticide with the ethical good of human rights. You can't defend the right of women to have an abortion since having an abortion is a basic violation of the rights of the very humans gestating in their own wombs! Giving women more control of their lives in no way means giving them license to commit the evil of murdering babies. You might as well say giving men more control over their lives entails legalizing rape. I've never seen a fetus sign a release form, so abortion is hardly a mutually consensual matter. Your slogan (a necessity, since surely there is no better way to win an argument than with a boomer sound bite):

Anti-abortion isn't about saving lives, but about controlling the sexuality of women.

while doctrinaire and progressive-sounding, really is meaningless, since the issue is not sexuality, but the abuse of maternal obligations and the killing of innocent babies. Women are free to indulge themselves sexually in anyway they like, but they should be just as prepared to deal with the biological consequences of that as a man is prepared to deal with STDs or with the burden of being a father. (God have mercy on us when we think of parenting and children as diseases, which is exactly all that pro-choice arguments boil down to: a child is a massive sexually contracted disease and a fetus is a human-shaped tumor.) As I'll point out below, a sheer Darwinist has no reason to object to the curious link (somehow still surprising after all this time) between vaginal intercourse and pregnancy: there is no one else to blame but Mama Nature and Papa Natural Selection, right, so why are you getting all bent out of shape over mere matter-in-motion?

I realize you have strong feelings about this matter but the basic moral point is that endorsing abortion (viz., by legalizing it) is immoral because it amounts to abetting evil so that good may result. Murdering Hitler outside the law would have been immoral regardless how much "good" it might have produced on a different track of history. Likewise, committing the evil of infanticide -- which is to say homicide -- is wrong no matter how much good might come of it from another perspective. By not murdering an abortion doctor, I am not endorsing what she does and, notice, I am choosing not to commit a "lesser evil" to bring about a "greater good". Despite your emotional appeals to hard cases, the bottom line is that in every case, aborting a baby means murdering a human. It is simply immoral to murder another human being who has committed no wrongs, a stricture that as much protects English teachers in Taiwan as old folks in Nebraska as infants in the womb in Kenya. When you ask a question like this:

Want to reduce the number of abortions and the number of dead mothers?

it's obvious you simply don't the grasp the fundamental issue.

Being pro-life does not primarily mean wanting to "reduce" the number of abortions. It means working for a society which not only forbids abortion as intrinsically immoral, and therefore as a grave violation of human rights, but also promotes an order in which abortion is not even needed, since all women would have a husband, or at least a secure means of passing a child on as an orphan. /EDIT/: I'm willing to admit much of the scandal of abortion is rooted in the scandal of Christians not willing to adopt the babies whose deaths they protest. I'm willing to admit the abortion debate can appear less black and white when some Christians are not willing to adopt the babies whose deaths they protest./EDIT/ In any case, hoping to reduce the number of abortions as an end in itself is like hoping to “reduce” the number of rapes or child molestations. Because abortion, like rape and child molestation, is wrong in all cases, it should be opposed in all cases, not simply engineered down to an hypothetically tolerable quota. Doing the right thing is not a matter of compromise. It is only Christians' unrealistic, other-worldly hopes for, and faith in, a new kingdom -- the kingdom of God -- that have propelled mankind into the wonders of science, capitalism, academics, etc. (Consider the works of R. Hooykaas, S. Jaki, R. Stark, P. Duhem, C. Dawson, T. Woods, M. Weber, R.H. Tawney, et al., to see how the Christian vision has positively shaped the modern world.) It is only the historic refusal of Christians to settle for a “reduction” of evil, in contrast to a principled, systematic removal and conversion of it, that has brought so much progress into our fallen world.

In any case, on your own view, as a hardcore Darwinist, all is biological, all is physical, and all is humanly constructed. This is the basis for denying personhood, with its attendant human rights, to the not-yet-born. But embyrologically and metaphysically there is no gap between a zygote and the man it becomes. They are the same person in different stages and therefore enjoy the same rights in all stages. Yet you deny the inviolability of their rights because they are not yet biologically viable, or perhaps not socially functional, or for some other humanist reason. Does it escape you that the same reasons could be applied to the girls who die of bad abortions? They are, by the hard logic of Darwinism, not fit to pass on their genes, nor are they making any significant contribution to society. Hence, they lack the same grounds for rights that you say infants lack.

Perhaps you might argue that, if given better conditions, better circumstances to develop their potential, these girls could make a biological and social difference and therefore be rights-bearers. But by the same logic, so could the not-yet-born! What you seem noetically blind to – and never forget the fall of mankind has wounded our bodies as well as our minds – is that your absolute pleas for women as victims of bad abortions are vitiated by your assertion that morality is arbitrary and that human rights are subject to being ascribed or denied to various people depending upon society's verdict. If infants have no inalienable rights as human beings, why do the young girls have those rights? You have no coherent grounds for ascribing human rights to people since you deny not only their status as RIGHTS -- for rights, as opposed to your misconstrual of them as socially achieved privileges, are by definition not negotiable -- but also deny the reality of something called human nature (which is what HUMAN rights would require to be coherently predicated of people). Since you “made the cut” out of the womb, you feel justified to judge which fetuses are worthy of sharing the air with you. Regardless how passionate you are, your moral protests are tellingly selective, something Ronald Reagan hit on the head by saying, "I see that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."

For what it's worth, by the way, Tony Kaye (who directed American History X) does present the woman's aspect of the abortion debate, particularly with one dead woman hunched over a coat hanger after trying to perform her own abortion. He's not a Christian, that I know of, and he's not arguing for pro-choice. But he does insist pro-choicers get off too easily if they don't ever face in vivid detail what their position entails. It's a legal truism, because true, that hard cases make bad laws. Well, your entire case amounts to a quilt of hard cases, which makes for a ragged legal principle. In every case, abortion is undertaken with the expressed purpose and the assured result of killing a human, which makes it evil in principle in every case. By contrast, in only some cases does an illegal abortion kill a woman, which makes it a tragedy in the name of well-meaning evil.

I'm coining it, I'm calling it...

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Instead of the ungainly Aristotelico-Thomism or Thomist-Aristotelianism or some such, I propose the term Aristhomism to label the spirit and thought of someone I might lovingly call Thomistotle.

Fakespeare, himself a raving Aristhomist, suggested this to me and I thought it should see the light of day. Shouldn't every day be a Thomistotelian day?


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"Intelligent people do not always know how to answer but they always know how to ask. Intelligent people do not always know when they are right but they always know when they are wrong."

-- Elliam B. Fakespeare

Thursday, October 18, 2007

From the mouths of babes!

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I was just grading some student books, the assignment being to write about two countries that interest you, and came across this little gem:

In my opinion, there are many people in China, but I think it wasn't [sic] a good place. Lots of bad people made some things worse.

I'm inclined to think it's just that simple.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lisska on natural law

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"Because the end itself determines the well-functioning of the human person. The disposition has, as a part of its very nature, a tendency towards a specific end. This end, when realized, contributes to the well-being of the individual. This is the crux of natural law theory. Nature has `determined', as it were, the ends which lead to the well-being of the individuals of the natural kind."

A. Lisska, Aquinas's Theory of Natural Law: An Analytic Reconstruction, p. 107

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Hard Truth"

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The following video is a short documentary, titled "Hard Truth", about the grisly realities of abortion. I found it in a post at the Roman Catholic Blog about another, recent, more mainstream, big-name documentary on abortion in America, Lake of Fire, by Tony Kaye.

Images strike the mind with elemental force and dispel the fog of words built up by so much ethical and legal huffing and puffing. The fact is, abortion is the murdering of human beings. Those words are just as true without photographic enhancement, but seeing the carnage of "free choice" up close, without blinders, is essential to properly weighing those infinitely heavy words. Evil need not always look ugly, but hideous evil can be denied only at grave peril to one's own soul.

Make no mistake: the footage is extremely graphic and disturbing. Watch it with care.

Oh, those crazy old Vatican archives

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Want more proof the Church systematically and unrelentingly covers its tracks and whitewashes history for its own world-hating ends? Well, your best bet is to ignore the steady stream of first-rate history that comes from the Vatican Archives.

For example, according to Malcolm Moore ("Vatican paper set to clear Knights Templar", telegraph.co.uk , 5 Oct 07) a new book, Processus contra Templarios, by Professor Barbara Frale, will be published by the Vatican's Secret Archive on Oct 25. "The new book is based on a scrap of parchment [known as the Chinon parchment] discovered in the Vatican's secret archives in 2001 by … Frale. The long-lost document is a record of the trial of the Templars before Pope Clement, and ends with a papal absolution from all heresies."

History is coolz.

Seeing red

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I was a good boy this weekend. Even though, it's true, I did indulge in my monthly book splurge, I did a good thing Saturday by reading an entire book in the bookstore, thus saving myself $700NT, hooray. I simply couldn't justify spending over $20US on a ~120-page book, but I couldn't resist its contents. The book is called The China Fantasy, by James Mann (at John Hopkins), and although it's short, it is chock full of interesting details and, while certainly vehement about its thesis, never descends to vitriol, remaining pellucid and concise.

Before I get into The China Fantasy, let me just note I really enjoyed Tvedten's The View from the Monastery (though I could have enjoyed it more with more content) and James Schall's Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How to Finally Acquire an Education While Still in College or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found (the title of which begs to be written at full length … and what's really scary is that two or three centuries ago in Europe and America, titles were customarily that long or longer!)

Now, concerning Mann's book.

Mann's thesis is that "American's current China policy amounts to an unstated bargain: We have abandoned any serious attempt to challenge China's one-party state, and we have gotten in exchange the right to unfettered commerce with China" (p. 110). Part of the problem with the one-state system in China is that it is wrapped up with a host of other political evils, namely, a stricture on political organization, puppet-string freedom of the press, and a basic degradation of most of China's population, as hard laborers and peasants, for the good of China's shiny happy new progressive urban face. (One aspect of China's slippery geopolitics that really grabbed me was the fact that China has been, and is, a consistent backer of some of thw world's more unjust regimes. For example, not only did China provide weapons to Syria but also awarded Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe an honorary degree [p. 24-25]!) Indeed, while most visitors to China are impressed with the progress being made in big cities among the rising middle class, this impression is subject to what Mann calls the Starbucks fallacy, or McDonald's triumphalism. The fallacy is part of what he calls the Soothing Scenario, an approach towards China that assumes that once it starts reaping enough benefits of capitalism, it will inevitably play along and become more democratic. The alternative view is the Upheaval Scenario, which assumes China's Communist regime will simply collapse from corruption or be torn apart by public protests. Mann posits a third option, which amounts to the claim, the open question really, that China might both enjoy market progress and persist in its totalitarian ways, or, alternatively, that China may well neither collapse nor open itself to greater democracy. Here is a nice précis by Mann himself on his Third Option.

The illusion of a progressive, open China is created in American minds by the vivid, and carefully propagandized, glimpses of happy Westernization they experience in the cities. But the shiny gloss put on China's urban better half does not account for the fact that the country's ten largest cities account for only 5% (62 million) of China's total population. In effect this means that as long as the upper-middle is well publicized and well fed, the world can -- nay, does -- by and large ignore the crushing conditions of the other 95%. Mann sees the upcoming Olympics as a major test for China. Will it put on a happy face for the world and then slip back into hardline repression in the ensuing years? How will Beijing handle possible political protests in the city? Mann makes the insightful argument that the Orientalism in which the Olympics will be soaked -- smiling peasants, soothing tones of the pipa, alluring shots of martial artists, etc. -- will only serve to make China cute, and thus to deflect any light from its dark side. I have been told Beijing even plans to ghettoize the poor in the city during the Games (I await confirmation of this in Chinese news, but once I get it, I will post it here). Mann's basic claim is that it is highly naive of American leaders to play along with China's veneer of democracy, as Clinton did when he accepted the 1993-94 Mitchell-Pelosi legislation to link trade benefits (and penalties) with China's human rights progress (and affronts), but only on an executive, as opposed to congressional, basis, thus making it easier to revoke at any time later (p. 81). Mann is not partisan about, claiming instead that every president since Nixon has played fallen prey to the China Fantasy in some form. It is time to wake up.

Beijing is, by all accounts, the world's dirtiest city. It is time to wake up about its equally sooty political career. I for one intend to boycott the Beijing Olympics. And in this I am not alone.

1) Boycott Beijing

By Dr. Chuck Baldwin
Posted: July 21, 2001

Baldwin argues:

The idea of allowing Red China to host the Olympics in order to make it more civilized is also laughable. The 1936 games didn't convert Hitler – the 2008 Olympics won't convert Zemin. It takes more than a bunch of people playing games to change a tyrant's heart.

The cruel conduct of the criminal cabal in China is well documented. Since seizing power, the Communist Chinese have murdered more than 65 million people. They continue to persecute people of faith and imprison political dissidents. The ghoulish practice of using capital punishment to harvest human body parts is also well established. Forced abortions, torture and brutality is the Communist government's normal modus operandi. But to the Olympics Committee, this means nothing.

2) Boycott Beijing?

By Frederick Stakelbeck
web posted May 15, 2006

According to Stakelbeck:

Arguments in support of a U.S.-led boycott of the Beijing games are based on a number of important issues. First, violations of basic human rights in the areas of speech, religion and assembly have continued under the close watch of President Hu. Second, Beijing continues to impede UN Security Council action against Iran by refusing to support economic sanctions or military action. Third, invasion threats made by China against Taiwan, coupled with the veiled buildup of the country's extra-regional military capabilities, continue to endanger world peace. Fourth, Beijing's refusal to adequately address the revaluation of its currency the yuan is counterproductive to global prosperity and market stability. Fifth, the Chinese government increasingly uses sophisticated technologies and penetration techniques to attack critical U.S. computer networks, stealing highly sensitive information from government agencies, financial institutions and defense contractors. Finally, President Hu and his comrades continue to actively support leaders such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe in Africa and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in South America, providing economic, military and technical assistance that is contingent upon their support of a "One-China" policy.

He ultimately demurs, however, on actually doing anything about this, since the economic repercussions for Wall Street, not to mention the wasted US athletic talent, would be a greater loss. Stakelbeck ends by musing about the "geopolitical posturing" that may precede the games; meanwhile he seems quite unaware of the moral posturing of his own editorial. Rank proportionalism at work. It helps not to voice moral complaints if they are ultimately drowned out by louder economic belly-aching.

3) Boycott Beijing

by Courtesy of The Providence Journal By By Jonathan Zimmerman,
POSTED: Mar 24, 2006

Zimmermann claims "we can expect China's dictators to disguise their cruelties in a colorful haze of artistic and technological wizardry. To be fair," he concedes,

the Chinese leaders have never demonstrated the genocidal mentality or the global ambitions of Nazi Germany. And nominally, of course, China remains a 'communist' nation. But make no mistake: It's also a fascist one.

According to my American Heritage dictionary, fascism is marked by four characteristics: centralization of authority under a dictator; stringent socio-economic controls; suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship; and a policy of belligerent nationalism. The Chinese regime exhibits all four."

Zimmermann concludes by saying:

[S]pare me the anguished retort about "politicizing" the Olympics. The Olympics have always been political. And no one understands that better than the Chinese leaders, who are counting on the Games to advertise their achievements _ and mask their misdeeds.

The only question is whether the rest of the world will play along.

4) Repression continues in China, one year before Olympic Games

Reporters without Borders, who labels China the "biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents", claims:

When the International Olympic Committee assigned the 2008 summer Olympic Games to Beijing on 13 July 2001, the Chinese police were intensifying a crackdown on subversive elements, including Internet users and journalists. Six years later, nothing has changed. But despite the absence of any significant progress in free speech and human rights in China, the IOC’s members continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated appeals from international organisations that condemn the scale of the repression. ...

The world sports movement must now speak out and call for the Chinese people to be allowed to enjoy the freedoms it has been demanding for years. The Olympic Charter says sport must be “at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Athletes and sports lovers have the right and the duty to defend this charter. The IOC should show some courage and should do everything possible to ensure that Olympism’s values are not freely flouted by the Chinese organisers.

5) Boycott Beijing?

Tim Dunlop
Monday, October 08, 2007

Dunlop notes Christoher Hitchens's "concern over their [China's] role in boycotting action in Darfur, their oppression in Tibet, their role in Zimbabwe and North Korea, as well as the influence they might be able to bring to bear in Burma." Hitchens asks, “How long can Southeast Asia bear the shame and misery of the Burmese junta?” answers, “As long as the embrace of China persists.”

Meanwhile, Dunlop notes, Hitchens says "everybody is getting ready for the lovely time they will have at the Beijing Olympics. If there could be a single demand that would fuse almost all the human rights demands of the contemporary world into one, it would be the call to boycott or cancel this disgusting celebration."