Tag Archive | philosophy

The Fairytale Universe

I have had moments when thinking about eternity and God and heaven when the complete “otherness” and strangeness of it hits me.  Not strangeness in the sense that I disbelieve it, but in that it’s all so different than anything I have experienced.  I understand why an unbeliever would call it a fairytale.

But then I think of the fairytale I’m living in now.

I didn’t exist, and then I did – just like the universe itself.  We move bodies of matter through space with our minds.  Space?  What is that anyway?  Or matter, for that matter? And don’t get me started on “time.”  (A theory/B theory anyone?)

Then there’s gravity, and energy, and magnetism.  Why, it’s practically… magical.

Humanity started out with the earth.  There we were, marooned in the universe on a rocky green and blue island in space with nothing but rocks, trees, grass, and the duck-billed platypus.  And then there we are on the moon.  THE MOON, PEOPLE!  We built devices and dropped them on Mars and Titan, flew by Neptune and taken pictures of galaxies as numerous as the stars in our sky.

Through math we know the orbit of every planet in our solar system 1000 years in the past, and a 1000 years in the future.  In other words, we have been given a tiny piece of information about the future.  What is this prophet we call math? Using numbers to understand the skies?  It sounds too amazing to be believed.

Our problem isn’t that spiritual realities are unbelievable, it’s that we have taken the material reality for granted.

 

 

Abortion and Incoherent Worldviews

I mentioned that I had a discussion on Twitter about abortion. I had posted a link to an article about Oregon’s suspension of the death penalty (that had nothing to do with abortion) and an acquaintance of mine posted a reply stating he didn’t get pro-lifers (though he used the term “anti-choice”) who supported the death penalty. Was only some life sacred?

Now, first of all, it struck me as an odd way to phrase an objection. Especially since by any scientific definition of life, an embryo meets the criteria for being alive. Some may argue that it’s not a person, but stating out right that it’s not alive is simply false. So unless he holds that the unborn isn’t alive at all, then he’s just cut his own legs out from under him. Because he supports the killing of the unborn life but not the guilty criminal. Is only some life sacred?

Given the choice between arguing in favor of the death penalty and against abortion, I’ll take the abortion debate every time. Simply because I think it’s a greater evil to kill the innocent than let the guilty go free. And that’s really the key issue for the “I-don’t-get-the-pro life/pro-death penalty” position. The issue is innocence and guilt. If those terms have any meaning, there is no contradiction. You might not agree with it, but it’s not hard to understand. When someone makes this type of statement, it tells me that they really haven’t listened to the other side. You should be able to articulate, accurately, the position you disagree with.

We went back and forth for a while, and since Twitter is a bit of a disjointed medium to begin with (making longer points requires more posts, but the other person can post in between your points, making it one hot chronological mess) I’m piecing together his main points from the conversation. I should note first of all that it was a very civil conversation.

His main arguments in response to me were:

1) Society determines who has value.

2) The unborn is not human until it is born and breathes oxygen on its own.

3) It would be wrong for society to start saying killing toddlers is okay, because that would be moving backwards.

4) Killing just one innocent person through the death penalty makes us all murderers.

Some quick thoughts about these. If society determines who has value, then society can say who lives and who dies. They are beholden to nothing and no one but themselves. But to make points 2 & 3 contradict this. #2 states it’s wrong because of a property of the baby itself, not because it’s what society determines on its own. #3 implies a larger standard outside of society. Otherwise “forward” and “backwards” have no meaning, since there’s no external reference point to measure those “movements.”

Furthermore, 2 is extremely problematic since the baby is processing oxygen from the mother, and when born begins to take in oxygen to process through his/her lungs. The only difference is the source of oxygen. Nothing intrinsically about the baby has changed. Only location. By this definition the moment you need insulin or kidney dialysis, you cease to be human since you’re not able to survive without aid. If that sounds ridiculous, it is. But it follows logically from the position. Reductio ad Absurdum.

#4 strikes me as odd because if one mistake in the death penalty makes us all murderers, what does a wrong judgement about abortion make us? We’ve killed over 40 million unborn babies since Roe v. Wade alone. And yet this seems to be one of the least thought out issues, yet most dividing.

Throughout the conversation I was trying to demonstrate the weakness of these points, but was told that I kept “shifting parameters.” It took me a day or two afterwards to figure out how I was the one shifting parameters, but finally I think I understand. This particular person’s worldview is so compartmentalized into different areas that incoherence doesn’t matter to him. It’s very relativistic. So whereas I’m applying logic and taking his reasons seriously (and to their logical conclusions) he simply treats them as totally unrelated situations.

Not every pro-choice proponent holds to these particular arguments or holds to such a relativistic, compartmentalized worldview. But in this particular case, when you hold a philosophy that insulates you from having to face the logical implications of your positions, it is by definition, irrational.

BBC News Shows Its Hand on the Value of the Unborn

I was listening to NPR the other night when the BBC news came on to report about the defeat of the Mississippi “Personhood amendment”.  The announcer said that the law in effect would outlaw abortion and went on to add “even in cases of rape or incest.”

First of all, I understand the point.  Those are extremely hard circumstances to deal with as the victim or family of a victim.  But the fact that he had to explicitly say that betrays a confused philosophy of the unborn on the side of the news agency.  By virtue of even saying it, it implies the unborn is not valuable.

Just like we don’t kill infants and toddlers who were concieved through such unfortunate circumstances, if the unborn is a human being then it is equally unjust to kill them because they remind us of those circumstances.  In other words, we don’t kill children for the crimes of their fathers.

I know the objection: “But a woman shouldn’t have to bear that burden since it was forced upon her against her will!”  But here again, like the objections I’ve already mentioned, this finds a moral difficulty and tries to remedy it by setting the unborn’s value to zero.  But that doesn’t tell us anything about the unborn.  It avoids the question entirely.  And if that answer is wrong, it is catastrophically wrong.  The question is, is a child already in the world?

And that can only be answered by looking at the child and what he/she is, not by looking at the circumstances of their origins.

 

 

 

Gay Marriage: Creating “Equal” Rights out of Thin Air?

One of the most mindlessly used terms these days is “equality.”

Every word has a range of meaning, but we never hear this term defined.  It’s usually thrown around as a way to shut up opposition.  “There should be equality, so X should be supported.”  “Those who don’t agree with X are perpetuating inequality.”

Mostly we hear this in the same-sex marriage debate and, more recently, in regards to the economy.

I was watching a debate between Dennis Prager and Perez Hilton when Prager said that men and women were equal but not the same.  Hilton reacted as if Prager had uttered nonsense which tells me that “sameness” and “equality” are synonyms in Hiton’s mind.  But the question is sameness in what regard?  Equal in what? 

There may be equality among individuals, but that does not mean that all relationships between those individuals are equal.  And the marriage debate is about relationships, not primarily individuals, even though individuals are involved.

So when a man and a woman are in a lifelong committed relationship, they are not in an identical relationship as two men or two women in a same-sex committed relationship.  How do I know?  I know because:

  • 1)The natural outcomes are not the same* (heterosexual relationships naturally produce the next generation of society, as a rule)
  • 2) There are innate differences between men and women. 

Though many would contest #2, the fact is a man can never truly know what it’s like to be a woman and vice versa.  That innate distance creates a dynamic between heterosexual couples that does not exist between same sex couples.

Individuals may be equal in terms of basic human rights, but that does not mean individuals have a right to everything.  I do not have the right to engage in certain things just because others do.  And incidentally, every American citizen currently has the same rights.  Everyone (straight and gay) can engage in, through marriage,  the type of relationship that results in the next generation of society and is with someone of  the opposite sex.  No one (straight nor gay) can engage, through marriage, the type of relationship through marriage that does not result in that end, and is with someone of the identical sex.

Everyone currently has the same rights. No one has ever been able to legally engage in the relationship they are trying to legitimize through legislation. Those who champion gay marriage as a right that has been denied are simply wrong.

 

 

*Obviously not all heterosexual relationships are able to result in children.  But those are exceptions.  I am talking here about categories as a whole.  Childless heterosexual couples are still not the same as same-sex couples because #2 still holds.

Lesbian couple gives son hormones to delay puberty

There’s a lesbian couple in California who have an 11-year-old son.  He says he wants to be (or is) a girl.  So they are giving him hormones to delay the onset of puberty to give him more time to make his decision as to which gender identity he wants.

They say Tommy – whom they now call Tammy — began taking GnRH inhibitors over the summer to give him more time to explore the female gender identity with which he associates.

Tommy began saying he was a girl when he was three years old, his parents said. He was learning sign language due to a speech impediment, and one of the first things he told his mothers was, “I am a girl.”

When I was 11, I wanted all kinds of things that were foolish.  And when I was three?  I’m pretty sure I was still discovering that the people on TV couldn’t hear me when I talked to them.  (I was trying to diffuse uncomfortable misunderstandings between characters.  Those episodes still make me stressed.)

Tommy will continue the treatment until he turns 14 or 15, at which point he will be taken off the blockers and pursue the gender he feels is the right one.

So, I have two questions:  1) If gender is naturally a result of environmental factors, and not intrinsic or based on biology, why would you need to suppress nature to make the choice?   2) If gender identity are merely affectations forced upon us by society, why not be content with merely acting like the other identity without trying to manipulate your physical body?

To physically attempt to alter your body to accommodate your preferred gender identity is to head down a continuum from one sex to another.  Any attempt to manipulate the body in this way can never achieve the goal.  There is a impenetrable wall, and that wall is the biological design.

No matter how many surgeries, no matter  how many hormones, Tommy can never truly be a “Tammy.”  For starters, he will never give birth, he will never menstruate, and he will never change Y chromosomes in to X chromosomes and vice-versa.  This should be a clue to the absurdity of the desire.

Just because we think or feel we are something does not mean we are that thing.  The fact that inhibiting hormones are needed to aid in this decision shows this couple knows it, too.