Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More Reading

Well, if I had the time. While I'm enjoying the Art History Course (and wishing I knew some of this stuff when I was in Italy or visiting the Prado) My abysmal ignorance of music and music history has been bothering me. Maybe this recommendation would help:

Shawn Tribe: Music History for the Shy and Intimidated: "

People have funny attitudes toward the topic of music, especially serious music. The attitude is that it is like physics or metallurgy or something: you have to be an expert or you dare not speak out on the topic for fear of showing one's ignorance. I can understand this. For non-musicians, musicians seem to speak a foreign language, and they are passionate about disagreements. No one wants to make a misstep for fear of being blasted and humiliated. This is a special problem today since music (again, serious music) is not taught like it once was.

Well, I'm here to tell you about a fun workaround that I've recently read. It is called A Student's Guide to Music History, by R.J. Stove. The size is great: about 90 pages. The price is right: $8. More than that, I'm amazed at how much content and substance that the author is able to pack into such a small space and not have it read like a series of small biographies and program lists.

Most music history texts treat pre-Bach music almost as if it is pre-music music. This one is different. A major and very impressive feature is that the author is familiar with Gregorian Chant and the polyphonic tradition, so we get very nice and respectful treatments of the lives and works of Palestrina, Josquin, Tallis, Victoria and others. And by the time that we arrive at the Baroque, it is clear that it doesn't emerge out of nowhere: hundreds of years of great development precede.

The author has the right mix of repertoire, biography (always a fascinating anecdote about each composer!) and any historical data of the time that had an impact. I've learned so much about, e.g. how the Protestant reformation ended up nationalizing music styles, and the impact of the emergence of the nation state on music and culture.

This is not a religious work, but the author is not shy about telling the reader when a motivation of a performance or composition is religious. So in this way, the book is more complete than others, despite its size.

Another point about the subject matter: the author is writes unashamedly about Western music. His point is not that there are not great musical traditions that are part of India or China or Japan. There are but to cover all of that in a perfunctory way is more of an insult than a compliment. So he dispenses with all the multicultural pieties to write only about Western music. He also avoids the absurd cliche of all art histories in attempting to say that all things culminate in such and such famous guy who is alive today (and probably forgotten tomorrow). This book solves the problem completely: he ends in 1945.

I'm current using the text for a small class for young teenagers, and they love it, even though the prose is actually a serious challenge for them. To me, this is a plus: it never talks down to readers. He offers judgments on the music as he goes along but it is clear that his primary purpose is not to get the reader to believe what he believes; rather he is there to serve the main purpose of the volume, which is to educate.

While this book won't teach you to read music, it is guaranteed to make you conversant in the topic, so much so that you will be able to enlighten even people who think they are knowledgeable. And you will be better prepared to listen to music of the great composers, and imagine them almost as friends. I hope that some major publisher finds this work and commissions the author to write a large series. Until then, this little gem will serve as an excellent substitute.


(Via New Advent World Watch.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Civil Discourse

is sadly so rare on the subject of abortion and Embryonic Stem Cell Research">ESCR. I was an early purchaser of the book being discussed below, but haven't yet read it through. Given that there are only a couple of months left in the Introduction to Philosophy course that inspired me to purchase the book, I'd better get going.

That being said, here is part of what seems to be a model of civility:



On NRO, by George and Tollefsen:

Will Saletan has posted a reply to our response to his review of our book Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. His efforts to shore up the points on which we criticized his review are, we believe, unavailing, but before identifying what strike us as grave defects in his argument, we wish to say a word about Saletan himself and why we appreciate this opportunity to engage him in debate. He is an intellectually honest and deeply morally serious man who genuinely aspires to get to the right answer on the vexed question of the moral status of the human embryo. He is unfailingly civil in engaging people with whom he disagrees, and he is, on any reckoning, one of the smartest and best informed journalists writing on bioethical issues. ...

Saletan challenges our argument on the scientific facts, and we are happy to engage him precisely there. ...

Via Heart, Mind & Strength

Friday, February 22, 2008

Faith in Reason

is aptly summarized by GKC:

The Stupidity of Talking About the Superiority of Reason Over Faith, Summarized...:

"‘It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.’ - G.K. Chesterton"

(Via Catholic and Enjoying It!.)

Why We Blog

Trust Mark to summarize the soul-searing importance of our mission:

My Life in Pictures...: "My Life in Pictures


(Via Catholic and Enjoying It!.)


Too heavy for me to process right now. But it does look interesting:

I. Introduction: "This article is meant to stimulate thought and discussion. As that discussion unfolds, I expect that this article will be revised over time in the same way that a paper submitted to a journal is often revised during the process of review. The purpose of this article is to attempt to bring some clarity to the discussion of intelligent design and the origin and diversity of biological life. Essentially, we have two options. Either biological life required intelligent design or it did not. As with most problems in science, it is difficult to prove one option or another with absolute certainty. Instead, options can be evaluated against each other in an attempt to estimate which option is more likely. Even then, the fact that one option may be more likely than another does not 'prove' that it is actually the case. Instead, I will propose a way in which both options can be evaluated against each other. The results indicate that it seems highly likely that intelligent design was required for biological life.

Next: II. Defining some terms and concepts"

(Via Post-Darwinist.)

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

Why is the title Ephemeris? First off, I spent four years in high school studying Latin. I learned more about English grammar there than in all of the English classes I took. Of course, I can't speak or read Latin any more. It's on my list of things to do: revive my Latin and read something interesting in that language.

Secondly, I'm a bit of a snob (you hadn't noticed, had you?) and Latin titles for blogs just seem more interesting. Ephemeris was the first choice in my dictionary for "journal". So that made that easy.

And, finally, the idea that any writing I would do here would be of passing interest, not great or meaningful was haunting me as I contemplated starting a blog. I didn't and don't consider that this is of lasting importance to anyone. So the association of Ephemeris with ephemeral was the clinching point. So, now you know...

Writing the blogibus: "

Scriptorium ponders the question that has kept many a Catholic blogger awake at night: 'What are the Latin words for the noun ‘blog’ and the verb ‘blogging’? Would blogis and blogere be appropriate?' Read the possible answers.


(Via Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Strange Numbers

may lie at the root of the nature of our universe:

Cosmic coincidence spotted: "An absurdly large number could hold the key to universal mysteries."

(Via New Advent World Watch.)

He Who Says A Must Say B

Which is another way of saying that some ideas have logical corollaries. And Darwinian ideas may, in fact, lead logically to eugenics.

Darwin, moral relativism, and "soft eugenics": "

Catholic Education Resource Center has posted the chapter, 'Charles Darwin,' from
Architects of the Culture of Death
(Ignatius, 2004), authored by Donald DeMarco and Benjamin Wiker. In my July 2004 interview with the authors, I asked Dr. Wiker this question: Darwin and Darwinian evolution have been,
of course, very controversial for many decades. What do you think are
the biggest misconceptions and incorrect notions about Darwin and his
beliefs that exist today? How seriously is Darwinian evolution taken today
in the scientific community?

Benjamin Wiker: I think there are two very serious misconceptions
about Darwinism today. First, that Darwinism is a well-established theory,
with no considerable intellectual difficulties. The second, one more directly
related to Architects, concerns the essential moral implications
of Darwinism. Generally, historians and scientists alike have tried to
distance Darwin’s biology from the eugenics movement—an understandable
move, given the ugliness of the eugenic programs of Nazi Germany. If we
read Darwin, however, we find that he himself understood eugenics to be
the obvious inference from his biological theory of evolution through
natural selection. Natural weeds out the unfit; so should we, or at least
keep the unfit from breeding. Further, he also understood quite clearly
that his evolutionary account of morality, which destroyed the permanency
of human nature, provided the most radical moral relativism possible.
As for the scientific community, it generally accepts Darwinism without
question, which means that it generally hasn’t studied the theoretical
and evidential problems facing Darwinism. Happily, more and more scientists
have found the courage to look at Darwinism with a clearer, more critical

Read the entire interview. And here is the table of contents for Architects of the Culture of Death.


(Via Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog.)

What Has Mark Been Up To?

Look up crapulence and you'll know:

Sick Scratchy throat, fever, headache, chills, general crapulence. I'll blog...: "Sick

Scratchy throat, fever, headache, chills, general crapulence. I'll blog more when I'm better. Prayers appreciated!"

(Via Catholic and Enjoying It!.)

Sense and Nonsense

Atheism is selling a lot of books these days. How good is the thinking that underlies them?

The Irrational Atheist: "

Just when atheists thought it was safe to enter the public square, a book like this comes along. The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day is not a work of Christian apologetics. It is, instead, a merciless deconstruction of atheist thought—or what passes for thought. That’s the gimmick, if you will, of the book: Day does not accept a single assertion made by any one of the ‘Unholy Trinity’—Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens—without first pinning it to a sheet of wax as in a seventh-grade science class, dissecting it until there’s nothing left but a case for anti-vivisection legislation.

(A quick Google search, by the way, will reveal that Day bears a striking resemblance to one Theodore Beale: Christian fantasy and sci-fi writer, computer-game designer, and libertarian. Some would go so far as to say they’re the same person. I will continue to use the name that appears on the book, however, and that also is appended to the blog Vox Popoli.)

Day starts off with the charming declarative sentence ‘I don’t care if you go to hell’—this despite being a Southern Baptist, a group not known for complacency in such matters. But the author wants to make clear that he’s not trying to convert anyone to Christianity, only to ensure that those readers who are susceptible to straw-man arguments, tautologies, clich├ęs, and urban legends understand that the New Atheists—who are on a conversion mission—are not only guilty of all of the aforementioned but also are seemingly incapable of mustering anything stronger by way of Reason in their own cause.

To take just one of many examples, a common trope among atheists is that religion is the No. 1 cause of wars in history. ‘If religion were an important element of warmaking, one would expect to find a great deal of text commenting upon it,’ Day writes. But you don’t. After reading the great war theorists, from Sun Tzu to Von Clausewitz, Day found pages and pages about perseverance, spies, geometry, inspirational music—but virtually nothing about religion.

As for the nature of the wars themselves, talk about specific: Day found 123 wars that could validly be claimed to have religion at their heart—a grand total of 6.98 percent of all wars fought. ‘It’s also interesting to note that more than half of these religious wars, sixty-six in all, were waged by Islamic nations,’ Day offers as an aside.

Of the New Atheists Day examines in The Irrational Atheist, the most irrational, by the author’s lights, is the man who started the atheism bestselling craze, Sam Harris. ‘Harris is an appallingly incoherent logician. He frequently fails to gather the relevant data required to prove his case, and on several occasions inadvertently presents evidence that demonstrates precisely the opposite of that which he is attempting to prove.’ One quick example: Harris asserts that most suicide bombers are Muslims. Yet, ‘the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who are not Muslims but a Marxist liberation front that committed 168 of the 273 suicide bombings that took place between 1980 and 200, have historically been the leading practitioners of suicide bombing.’

Dawkins doesn’t fare much better in Day’s analytical meat grinder. Day sics the anthropic principle on him, which Dawkins rejects because any God capable of fine-tuning the universe so as to make possible the advent of DNA is at least as improbable as the universe in question, because he would have to be a being of unimaginable complexity. Day offers as a refutation the existence of the mathematician who calculated the ‘goldilocks values’ (the cosmic fine-tuning that the birth of man would require) in the first place, this ‘despite being less complex than the sum of everyone and everything else in the universe.’ Day, who creates computer programs, is well placed to demonstrate how ‘mass quantities of information can easily be produced from much smaller quantities of information’—as anyone familiar with computer-generated fractals understands.

As for some atheists’ resorting to ‘multiverse theory’ in a desperate attempt to answer the probability problem of a human-compatible Earth, ‘not only is multiverse theory every bit as unfalsifiable and untestable as the God Hypothesis, it is demonstrably more improbable,’ replies Day.

Day then aims his rhetorical guns at Christopher Hitchens. When the latter states that ‘what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence,’ the former lays out quote after quote of unsupported and ‘auto-refutable statements’ culled from the pages of God Is Not Great. Needless to say, Hitchens is dismissed rather quickly.

Day is kinder to Daniel Dennett, whom he dubs ‘the pragmatic philosopher.’ Despite some of Dennett’s more supercilious comments regarding believers’ intelligence, he, according to Day, is willing to at least ‘examine’ religion in the light of science. Day nevertheless rejects Dennett’s ‘claims that ‘brights’ have better family values than born-again Christians,’ a contention based on George Barna’s flawed 1999 study. The fact that ‘half of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married’ turns such a charge into an ‘apples and oranges’ error. Day cites the more reliable 2001 ARIS study and finds that atheists are ‘twice as likely to get divorced and have fewer children than any other group in the United States.’

I could go on and on, but I’m afraid Day’s publishers will come after me for copyright violation. Let’s just say that all this is but a drop in a deep bucket, which, by the book’s end, is so filled with the bad reasoning of the champions of Reason and the blind faith of the Faithless that you cannot believe any religious believer could credit atheism with sufficient explanatory power to deter them from so much as modifying a most rigorous self-mortification regimen.

It was only toward the end of the book that I began to question a few of Day’s own arguments. Here he offers what could be construed as a draft of an apologetic, at least as far as the theodicy question is concerned. Day is a proponent of ‘open theism,’ which ‘chronicles the many biblical examples of God being surprised, changing his mind, and even being thwarted,’ and leaves ‘open’ the future as something not controlled by God but to be determined by his free creatures as they do battle with the true ‘god of this world,’ Satan. As far as I read it, the open theism view of God’s ‘limitations’ bears less resemblance to the kenosis of Christ in his incarnation as it does to a kind of deism in which it is unclear whether God can interfere in the world, rather than whether he simply wills to. Day’s notions of human freedom will definitely irk Reformation types (like me) for whom the sovereignty of God is nonnegotiable and the idea of untrammeled free will has the stink of semi-pelagianism about it. (Whether open theism can be reconciled with a Molonist ‘middle knowledge’ view of God’s omniscience is something that bears further investigation.)

I was also disappointed to find that the subject of evolution over and against a literalist reading of Genesis does not merit attention by the author. Day describes himself, in a footnote, as an evolution skeptic, which may be why he doesn’t get into a subject broached repeatedly by the New Atheists. In any event, the debate over the historicity of the Fall given evolution’s account of the rise of homo sapiens needs to be addressed in a serious yet accessible manner, which is a nice way of saying that someone out there should get off the stick.

Nevertheless, whether you embrace Day’s theology or toss it, there is no avoiding the cumulative force of the author’s counterassaults or the sting of his wit when it comes to the true focus of the book—atheism’s continuing love affair with nonsense. In short, The Irrational Atheist is a blast and will no doubt occasion many a late-night debate. And don’t forget to thank your village atheist when you get the chance. Like heretics before them, atheists are inspiring a steady flow of truly inspired Christian polemic, which may prove to win the world for Christ in ways that must send shivers down the collective spine of that most ‘Unholy Trinity.’


(Via First Things.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thinking About Thinking

While I'm taking a break from cramming studying for a Mid-term today (what is a spandrel, anyway?). So read this and think about it:


about "critical thinking"?

I'm inclined to agree that people throw the expression around too often, without really thinking through exactly what it's supposed to mean - and also that people are far too willing to pit the need for "critical thinking" against the need for mastering (including memorizing - as well as understanding) content.

Via Heart, Mind & Strength

Thursday, February 14, 2008

If The Brain-dead Aren't Persons

What is this lady? We've been discussing what makes a person a person in Philosophy. Consciousness is one of the leading contenders. Of course, that makes no sense to me, since all of us are unconscious every day--it's called sleep. Read the news and decide for yourself:

"I'm a lucky lady. I owe it to the grace of God."...: "'I'm a lucky lady. I owe it to the grace of God.'

Brain-dead women wakes from coma.

(Via Catholic and Enjoying It!.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No Soap Box Today

I'll let Rich do the blogging:

Populist scrutiny: "Fr. George Rutler's 'acerbic' review of Archbishop Marini's new book, a nostalgic treatment of the heady days of liturgical experimentation in the aftermath of Vatican II, has been making the rounds on St. Blog's:

Considerable erudition was at work in those years, but too often did its populism overrule the people. It was like Le Corbusier sketching a new metallic Paris. Marini complains about ' a certain nostalgia for the old rites. ' In doing so he contradicts Pope Benedict's distinction between rites and uses, but he also fails to explain why nostalgia for the 1560's is inferior to nostalgia for the 1960's, except for dentistry. This book's editors want to 'keep alive' the 'vision' of the Consilium, but their diction is a voice in the bunker embittered by many ungrateful people. If an organism is truly healthy, it does not need a life support system. In his preface to 'The Reform of the Roman Liturgy' by Klaus Gamber, Cardinal Ratzinger said plainly: 'We abandoned the organic living process of growth and development over the centuries, and replaced it, as in a manufacturing process, with a process, with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.' In consequence, the fragile construction must be pumped up by multiple Gnostic-Docetic innovations such as dancing, referred to in a prescriptive text as 'pious undulations.' Hula dancers at the beatification of Father Damien in 1995 hardly gave a sense of verisimilitude in Brussels. Having eliminated the papal flabella and burning flax as the detritus of imperial Rome, it was even more anachronistic to trumpet the Great Jubilee in modern Rome with costumed men affecting familiarity with the art of blowing elephant tusks.

Nowhere does one feel like 'populism overrules the people' than when liturgists unleash the Lenten 'scrutinies' on unsuspecting worshipers this time of year. These optional rites showcase a handful of engaged would-be converts who've been coaxed into RCIA by their cohabiting Catholic fiances. Anyone who has been trying to engage in lectio divina during Lent by reading ahead in the Sunday lectionary is faced with an inexplicable alternate set of readings. The highlight is a slow-motion procession of candidates up the main aisle of the church led by their oh-so-serious-looking program director. All told, it's about as organic as a three-pack of Zingers.

(Also, you can read Fr. Alcuin Reid's review of Archbishop Marini's book here.)"

(Via Ten Reasons.)

True Love

does not come from knowing the Quadratic Formula. I was a bit of a math whiz in high school, up to intermediate algebra, anyway. And the ladies did not come running. Yeah, me and Einstein...

Today at the Design of Life blog: "Did math really evolve? Or is it just us connecting to the universe?"

(Via Post-Darwinist.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Love's First Kiss

never impressed me as a good indicator of a future mate. Yet I remember our first kiss more vividly than she does--just a peck, but full of meaning for me. And now science is ganging up on me too:



From today's WP: "The Differences in Gender -- Sealed With a Kiss"

A kiss, it turns out, is definitely not always just a kiss.

As Valentine's Day approaches, research has begun shedding light on that most basic of all human expressions of love -- the smooch -- which has received surprisingly little scientific scrutiny. ...

Via Heart, Mind & Strength

Timing is Everything

So, in honour of today's feast, here is something celebrating God's timing:

The Exquisite Timing of Lourdes: Confronting the Skeptics by John F. Kippley
The timing of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes beginning on February... >>read more

Via Catholic Exchange

What He Said

Here's a more articulate version of the foetal pain issue:

Fetal Pain: Another Sign of Personhood: "Here is the link to a fascinating article in the Sunday N.Y. Times Magazine entitled 'The First Ache.' The article starts with a pediatrician-researcher who asserts that the evidence indicates that the fetus feels pain at '20 weeks gestation (halfway through a full-term pregnancy) and possibly earlier.' The bottom-line is that no one really knows when the fetus first begins to experience pain, but the evidence is now very clear that the fetus does feel pain at least halfway through a full-term pregnancy.

The article is fascinating in the way science--common sense science--confirms the humanity of the fetus. After all, as one priest I admire put it, the word 'fetus' is merely Latin for 'offspring.' The pediatrician introduced in the beginning of the article is a pioneer in the field of infant and fetal pain and first began his inquiry into their experience of pain when he noticed years ago how infants who were routinely denied anesthesia during surgical operations were in 'terrible shape' after their operations. This particular pediatrician did what a good scientist does and tested if the poor post-surgical condition was due to the stress of being operated on without anesthesia. You guessed it: those infants given anesthesia during surgery came out in extraordinarily better shape. Yet, it was routine, accepted medical practice twenty-five years ago to deny anesthesia to newborn infants because doctors 'were convinced that newborns' nervous systems were too immature to sense pain, and that the dangers of anesthesia exceeded any potential benefits' (p. 46).

The old rationale for denying surgical anesthesia to newborns reminds me of the cavalier way in which neurologists averred that Terri Schiavo could not feel the pain of her lengthy, court-ordered starvation and dehydration. Doctors commonly make knee-jerk and off-the-cuff analyses that need to be tested by the more scientifically minded. If medicine is a science and not just a collection of customary, convenient practices at any given moment, then the off-the-cuff assumptions must be rigorously questioned.

The article is full of good quotes and insights. I will pick one to share here. The scientifically curious pediatrician described above is a Dr. Sunny Anand, whose work led to abandoning the assumption that newborns don't feel pain (by the way, how could anyone have bought into that assumption when newborn boys cry loudly when circumcised in the hospital?). Here is Dr. Anand's scientific view of the fetus:

The fetus is not 'a little adult,' Anand says, and we shouldn't expect it to look or act like one. Rather, it's a singular being with a life of the senses that is different, but no less real, than our own.

'The First Ache,' at p. 47.

Anand's statement gets to the crux of the primitive and unjust discrimination against the unborn: you are too different to merit personhood and its protections. Our society uses the same primitive reasoning to exclude people like Terri Schiavo from the protections given to persons. The same reasoning is extended to unborn children with Down's Syndrome who are being aborted at alarming rates. 'You are too different to merit personhood'--Hitler would have agreed with that sort of reasoning.

(Via Catholic Analysis.)

Sentient Beings

How do women in a high-stess, high-risk pregnancies feel about the thing that is inside them? Some states in the U.S. now require the abortionist to offer the woman anaesthesia for the fetus, since it almost certainly can feel pain from twenty weeks and probably before that.

This is clearly what the philosophers call a sentient being. Cutting a dog or cat to pieces without trying to alleviate the pain and terror of the experience could put you in court; at the least, very unpleasant publicity would given you. (Well, unless you're a scientist in a laboratory, "working for the good of mankind".) So, how does this happen everyday to human beings without the press raising holy hell about it?

Of Note: "The Science of Fetal Pain (NY Times Magazine)"

(Via First Things.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Don't Read This Article

Because, if you end up agreeing with it, you'll be labelled a "free-speecher" and, Lord knows, you don't want to be called, gasp, names. After all, the highest good is to stamp out hate. Of course, real free speech means allowing inhabitants of our country to publicly advocate the murder of our soldiers. What? What contradiction? I don't see one:

Steynianism 48.0: "Mark Milke wonders what about treason? …. (,"

(Via Free Mark Steyn!.)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Just So We Hit All the Sore Spots

Here's a post (via Free Mark Steyn!) that notes the progress of the liberal project (as Mark Shea says so often) from "what could it hurt?" to "how were we supposed to know?"

ProWomanProLife » Who’s laughing now?: "


Who’s laughing now?

Published by Brigitte Pellerin at 3:15 pm under Feminism, Policy, Politics, Women's rights

Remember when we were debating same-sex marriage some of us tried to point out that once you start messing with the definition of marriage there’s no telling where it’ll end? That polygamy would be next? Because once you decide that a marriage is simply the recognition of a loving relationship, there’s no reason to get hung up on the number of people involved in said loving relationship?

I remember. We were laughed at. We were told tut-tut, of course not, because polygamy is illegal.

Oh yeah?

Hundreds of GTA Muslim men in polygamous marriages — some with a harem of wives — are receiving welfare and social benefits for each of their spouses, thanks to the city and province, Muslim leaders say.

Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, said wives in polygamous marriages are recognized as spouses under the Ontario Family Law Act, providing they were legally married under Muslim laws abroad.

“Polygamy is a regular part of life for many Muslims,” Ali said yesterday. “Ontario recognizes religious marriages for Muslims and others.”


However, city and provincial officials said legally a welfare applicant can claim only one spouse. Other adults living in the same household can apply for welfare independently.

Once again, I wonder where the feminists are… Why aren’t they up in arms about this? Do they think polygamy is good for women?"

(Via ProWomanProLife.)


is a ten dollar word for what can we know? And how do we know it? And I suppose the Philosophy of Mind is a branch of that. Or maybe it's shared between Epistemology and Metaphysics (what is real?).

Anyway, it's nice to see that there's some enthusiasm in academia for these questions, even if a love triangle is the real engine of the debate:

Consciousness: Recent public squabble between philosophers of mind rates better than most sitcoms: "Better even than a Britcom, which it actually is.

A hilarious public feud between two philosophers - Ted Honderich and Colin McGinn over consciousness (as recounted by Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian Unlimited), mainly shows how little is known of the subject:

The row started decades ago over a girl (well, that's the claim, anyway) and culminated with a damning review of yet another book on consciousness:

'Is there anything of merit in On Consciousness? Honderich does occasionally show glimmers of understanding that the problem of consciousness is difficult and that most of our ideas about it fall short of the mark. His instincts, at least, are not always wrong. It is a pity that his own efforts here are so shoddy, inept, and disastrous (to use a term he is fond of applying to the views of others).'

Meanwhile, Jeffries asks the dissed author Honderich for a response:
What does the man on the receiving end think of this review? 'It is a cold, calculated attempt to murder a philosopher's reputation,' says Honderich. The review has reignited a feud between the two philosophers that shows how bitter, unforgiving and (to outsiders) unwittingly hilarious academic disputes can be. It certainly makes the bear pit that is journalism seem like sunshine and lollipops by comparison.

and, last I heard, he wanted compensation from the journal.

In case you thought philosophy of mind was boring ...

Chill, guys. Books on consciousness are difficult by their nature. We all know we're conscious, but what does that mean? Maybe they should just have kept going on about the girl?"

(Via Mindful Hack.)

What Does Science Say About God?

Well, nothing would be my first reply. Some leap to the conclusion that that means there is no God. That would only be true if the only meaningful knowledge we could have is scientific knowledge.

But that's contrary to our lived experience. Science hasn't assured me of my wife's love for me; hasn't made the appreciation of beauty possible; hasn't even explained whether or not I should continue to support the forlorn Canucks. While the power of science and technology are all around us, the meaning and joy and sorrow of our lives are untouched by it.

So this is interesting to me:

New atheists vs. the ex-atheist: "Marvin Olasky muses on the recent popularity of 'new atheist' books:

Atheistic authors see themselves as avant-garde, but they merely are echoing the riffs of 19th-century scoffers who predicted the imminent demise of Christianity. Gilded Age orator Robert Ingersoll, for example, said that when Christians dominate schools and media, it is hard to mount an attack on concepts of revelation and miracles, but 'now that religion's monopoly has been broken, it is within the compass of any human being to see those evidences and proofs as the feeble-minded inventions that they are.'

So what happened? Why are many churches in the U.S. booming? Why is Christianity expanding so rapidly in Africa and China? To begin to answer that, we should let our imaginations run wild: What if in the 20th century, in the biggest country by land area and also in the biggest country by population, leaders had required the teaching of atheism in all schools? Freed of 'feeble-minded inventions,' wouldn't the world be a better place?

Oh, you say we don't have to imagine? You say the Soviet Union and China did establish atheism and the results were not pretty?

He thinks it's a passing fad. I think it's a last ditch effort to sell atheism before the science evidence for meaning and purpose in the universe makes atheism as implausible as the fairies in the bottom of the garden.

At least in the Western context. You could still be an atheist in the Eastern context, but that wouldn't abolish anything that the new atheists want to get rid of. Yu'd have karma instead of God.

For example, right in the middle of the organized atheist uproar, an atheist who was far more highly respected than any of these others, Antony Flew, came to the conclusion, based on science evidence, that there IS a God. I have written about that here.

The important thing to see is that he did NOT have an old tyme religious experience and did NOT become a fundamentalist. He simply came to the conclusion that the science evidence is best explained by the idea that there is a God. That's more or less what I think too after co-writing The Spiritual Brain.

Yes, yes, I was a Christian before that, but I didn't realize how much science evidence supports theism. I had never been asked to look at my faith that way; it was all experiential. The Spiritual Brain (I am Mario Beauregard's co-author) was a chance to look at one huge line of evidence from neuroscience about the reality of the mind.

One difference between ex-atheist Flew and the new atheists may be that Flew doesn't appear to have bought into materialist ideas of the mind - that here is really no mind, no free will - what Mario calls the central dogma of modern neuroscience.

And if you think that there is a mind, there is free will, why not a Mind behind it all, idf the evidence suggests that? Not proven, but a reasonable assumption, and certainly worthy of further investigation."

(Via Mindful Hack.)

There May Be Hope For Me Yet

According to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, if I persevere in study and the practice of virtue, I might yet become wise:

Thought for the day: Can everyone be wise?: "David Warren comments on perennial philosophy:

While reading recently the third edition of After Virtue by the great living philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, I was struck once again by the notion of the 'philosophia perennis.' This is the notion that there is one, and only one, recurring and inevitable set of mutually dependent universal truths on the nature of man, and of the world in which he appears -- one and only one convincing view of what we can mean by the good, the true, and the beautiful. This view is accessible to all men who can summon the intellectual and moral resources to be wise, which include the patience to deeply consider the alternatives and reject all those that ultimately contradict themselves.

MacIntyre is not a philosopher with whom I feel entirely at home. ...
Mario Beauregard, my lead author on The Spiritual Brain, is a perennialist, and Warren's take is interesting."

(Via Mindful Hack.)

Build It and They Will Come

So here's something for the youthful enquirer:

Quo Vadis?: "Quo Vadis is the youth branch of the Coming Home Network (CHN) dedicated to assisting young people come home to the Catholic Church. I recently received an email from Mary Clare Piecynski at CHN, asking us to help spread the word about Quo Vadis to any children, relatives or friends we might have who are young adults (teens through college aprox.) and are already Catholic, on the journey to the Catholic Church, or just have questions about the Catholic faith. What does Quo Vadis offer teens and young people? For starters, it will have a monthly newsletter (the first will be on Mary), a group on facebook, a website is in the works, there will also be weekly chats and a section of the Coming Home Network forum dedicated to Quo Vadis. If you or anyone you know is interested in Quo Vadis please have them contact Mary Piecynski and she says she will give them whatever help can! You can have the person contact her through e-mail -- maryp[at]chnetwork[dot]org -- snail mail (P.O. Box 8290 Zanesville, OH 43702) or by phone at 1-800-664-5110 ext 105."

(Via Musings of a Pertinacious Papist.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Lenten Checklist

Via Gregory Popcak, whose radio podcasts with his wife I enjoy so much:

9 TASKS OF MARRIAGE. [Gregory Popcak]


Here is an interesting look at the 9 tasks every marriage must accomplish in order to be healthy.

How are you doing?

Via Heart, Mind & Strength.

As Long As We're Talking About Art

Here's a lovely icon. We only started with Thirteenth Century Italy, so Cimabue and Giotto are still clearly working from Byzantine forms. But the Fourteenth Century turns to other inspirations and new forms.

Icon at Nearby Byzantine Church...: "Icon at Nearby Byzantine Church


(Via Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor.)

Florence in the Fifteenth Century

was an exciting, dangerous place to be. We're just preparing for a mid-term that will include the art of this time and place. So this news was very interesting. The allusions to Pico della Mirandola's possible homosexual liaison lend credibility to the idea that Donatello's David may have a sensuality inspired by homosexuality:

Medici philosopher’s mystery death is solved: "

From the Telegraph: Medici philosopher’s mystery death is solved.

After 500 years, one of Renaissance Italy’s most enduring murder mysteries has been solved by forensic scientists.

Ever since Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a mystical and mercurial philosopher at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, suddenly became sick and died in 1494, it has been rumoured that foul play was involved.

Pico’s fame has faded, but he was a celebrated figure at the Medici court.

He gained notoriety when, at the age of 23, [continue]



God Bless Bishop Henry

And here I was thinking nothing good would ever come from Calgary:

In other Episcopal Spine News... Bishop Fred Henry and...: "In other Episcopal Spine News...

Bishop Fred Henry and various other Catholics are battling the soft tyranny of the Canadian Human Rights Commission attempts to crush free speech."

(Via Catholic and Enjoying It!.)

Universities Should be Bastions of Free Speech

So I'm disappointed to see that part of my student fees go to this fascist authoritarian organization:

Canadian Federation of Students’ Dangerous Waters: "

Due to recent scandals in which student unions across the country have begun usurping the freedoms of expression and from discrimination, it was only a matter of time before the CFS decided to comment on this issue. Now, I’m not sure on how correct Warren Kinsella is when threatening people every time he feels offended by their blog posts, but if his latest threat to a blogger who implied that he was a Nazi has any merit, the following comment might be trouble for the CFS:

When asked whether Ryerson students should be exposed to both sides of the abortion issue, Hudson said allowing an anti-choice group would be like allowing a white supremacist group on campus.

If there’s a lawyer out there that can share some insight on this, I’d be most grateful. More as it develops…


(Via ThePolitic - Canadian Political Weblog.)

For All Your Lenten Needs

Have a look at this poster:

Hang or stuff: "Consider printing and hanging this excellent 'Guide to Lent' poster from Our Sunday Visitor in your parish vestibule. You could also ask that it be included as a bulletin stuffer. As a last resort, tack it to your 'fridge."

(Via Ten Reasons.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Le Mieux Est L'ennemi Du Bien

So with the ashes nearly invisible (in conformity with today's gospel), I'm considering Voltaire's insight: "The perfect is the enemy of the good". Setting goals only to fail and become discouraged may happen in part because we won't accept our brokenness. As I tried to encourage my oldest daughter: it isn't how fast we're getting there, it's whether or not we're going in the right direction.

Lenten resolutions are of the same species as New Year's resolutions: commitments to improve ourselves in some specific way. Baby steps as my wife likes to say.

So, don't aim too high. Don't let small failures get you down. Find an area of your life that is a source of unhappiness for you and make a specific resolution to improve it in some way. Forty days will fly by and you will be a (slightly) better person for it.

Daily spiritual reading is my resolution, by the way. Hmmm. More reading, where have I seen that before?

New Beginnings

Time to renew our New Year's Resolutions or start new ones.

An Acceptable Time: "
We begin the 'joyful season' of Lent today. That description usually sounds a little hollow in our ears, I suspect. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving usually don't make the top ten list of ways of expressing joy. Perhaps that in itself is evidence that our lives are a bit our of kilter.

When Jesus is asked by a scribe to name the greatest commandment (a serious question for the first century Jew who was encouraged to keep all the commandments with equal energy), Jesus replies,

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.' Mt 22:37-40.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are practices meant to help us fulfill these two commandments. Our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves - to love and care for ourselves first, then our neighbor, and to place God last. Of course, the neighbor we tend to care for is the one who is like us, or who has demonstrated some love for us first. And while God's expectations of us are clear in the Scriptures, He doesn't seem to force them - or Himself - upon us from day to day.

Even the 'give ups' we embrace at the beginning of Lent can really be self-centered. Some people give up chocolate or dessert (perhaps in the hope of losing a few stubborn Christmas-New Years pounds). Lent can become a time of 'self-improvement' based on superficialities (less caffeine in my system, less time wasted in front of the TV). But Lent is a time of turning away from myself and back to God and neighbor, so why would I ask God for the grace to do that during Lent, only to return to my 'normal' ways Easter Sunday?

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are intimately linked. In fasting, whether from food, a vice, or time-consuming activity, God invites me to deny myself in order to break the illusion that I my life is about myself. In fasting, God teaches me that my needs - which often are really wants - do not have to be filled in order for me to be content. Fasting also prepares a space in my life in which more prayer can take place. So in choosing your fast this year, ask yourself, 'what activity has taken hold over my life in such a way that it is interfering in my relationship with God and/or my neighbor?'

Prayer is our conscious, intentional turning towards our Creator. It acknowledges our Source and our End, and places Jesus and His Father and their mutual Love, the Holy Spirit, nearer the center of our life. Perhaps our best prayer might be to acknowledge our complete dependence upon God and to beg that knowing, loving and trusting Him might become our greatest desire. Perhaps in prayer, God may reveal to us the idols that we have worshipped instead of him; idols like wealth, security, power, our favorite sports team, beauty, etc.

The prophet Isaiah links fasting with our relationship to our neighbor:
Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Isaiah 58:5-7
Again, we see that almsgiving also focuses our attention away from ourselves. The 'fast' Isaiah describes requires us to see the needs of the oppressed, the imprisoned, the hungry, naked, and homeless. It demands that we expand our understanding of 'our own' beyond the narrow confines of family and friends.

How is Lent a 'joyful season'? Perhaps that answer lies in actually praying, fasting, and giving alms. Maybe being less selfish and self-centered, maybe being more focused on a lived relationship with the God who loved us so much that He came to share our life, will be its own reward."

(Via Intentional Disciples.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Congratulate Me

I've been promoted to Associate Member of the Socon Blogs.

Just to Keep Up the General Negatvity

Here's a brief post on Family and what it isn't:


"U.S. Judge Allows Gay Couples to Register for Domestic Partnerships in Oregon"

"'We're a family ...,' said a beaming Cathy Kravitz of Portland."

Uh ... no.

(Via Heart, Mind & Strength.)

What's This Got to Do With RCIA

RCIA was where, as a team member, I first ran into the Catholic Updates. And, several times, grew to loath them:

Bulit-in fuzziness: "You'll recall that last month I fisked an egregious Catholic Update written by Xavier University's Ken Oberberg, S.J., that the Franciscans at American Catholic posted to their web page devoted to the 2008 National Prayer Vigil for Life.

Diogenes looks at the same piece and finds a 'built-in fuzziness.' (And take note of John Finnis's clarifying explanation of the operation of moral norms.)

To repeat: consistency in one's ethical commitments is a good thing, and recent popes have given us excellent guidance in defending human life across the board. But too often the 'consistent ethic' language is employed to smother pro-life action even as it pretends to incite it. Far too many progressivist Christians keep mum about abortion and euthanasia for forty month stretches, and then when there's an election underway cram the 'life issue' full of Leftist entitlements in order to stuff it down our throat like a sock. As one specimen among many, here's a forward-thinking Christian ethicist, coaching us in consistency:
If we are consistent, we must speak and act concerning abortion and euthanasia but also concerning welfare and immigration, sexism and racism, cloning and health-care reform, trade agreements and sweatshops, the buying and selling of women for prostitution, genocide and many other issues. Based on our ancient Scriptures and attentive to contemporary experiences, the consistent ethic of life provides an ethical framework for confronting the moral dilemmas of a new millennium. It helps us to promote the full flourishing of all life.

All the key distinctions are blurred here. The built-in fuzziness helps to camouflage the truth that, by their nature, absolute moral norms have priority over moral norms that are not absolute. Moral absolutes, as John Finnis writes
are negative norms (praecepta negativa) which hold good always and on every occasion (semper et ad semper), whereas the many other essential and affirmative moral principles and norms (praecepta affirmativa) hold good semper sed non ad semper -- are always somehow relevant but leave it to your moral judgment to discern the times, places, and other circumstances of their directiveness.

(Via Ten Reasons.)

Evolutionary Psychology

Seems like a very doubtful enterprise to me. Make up an explanation, one that doesn't have any meaningful way of being tested; because if it could be tested it would be a hypothesis. Broadcast that idea as science. You know, science, where ideas are turned into hypotheses, tested, revised, tested, and when, finally, they can correctly predict the result of the test, they are raised to the level of theory. Or not:

Fun sendup and straight talk about evolutionary psychology - why does anyone take it seriously?: "Columnist Mike Adams, whose spoofs regularly outrage odd, tax-funded people at universities, was last seen fronting the 'Journal of Genetic Rationalization', whose research projects include the following:

The Tardy Gene. Attention seeking has been a common explanation for chronic lateness. Television star and psychologist Dr. Phil has advised – to Brittany Spears and others he is unqualified to counsel – that such strategies often backfire. A person will often make late appearances at social gatherings in order to draw attention without realizing that the attention she draws is significantly more negative than she had expected. Since it is assumed that people are not likely to make choices that bring about adverse consequences – even when those adverse consequences were unforeseen – the existence of a tardiness gene is assumed. Researchers are encouraged to begin the search for evidence of a tardiness gene before it is too late.

Seriously, the basic problem with evolutionary (= gene-driven) psychology (EP), as I explained in a recent piece in Salvo 4, is that EP must locate the causes of human behaviour in genes inherited from prehuman ancestors - genes that want to replicate themselves - rather than in decisions made by conscious minds today. So what you do is driven by your genes, not by your current perceptions of your environment.

That entails an amazing number of silly ideas. For example,
A recent article in Psychology Today (July/August 2007) avers that men prefer women with big breasts because the man can see whether the woman’s breasts sag, which indicates reduced fertility.

Really? Isn't the general human preference for the anticipated pleasure of abundance over scarcity a better explanation - and a wee bit simpler too? But to think that way is to be out of step with the whole point of evolutionary psychology, which derives from a materialist view of human nature. To say that men prefer abundance to scarcity is to say that they have minds and that - to their minds - abundance seems better than scarcity.

But to an evolutionary psychologist, framing the preference that way is simply not acceptable. Evolutionary psychology looks for a program in the genes that governs what men like. Its practitioners are entirely convinced that such a program exists. The program must exist because the mind does not cause anything to happen. Men do not know what they like until their selfish genes act on their neurons, creating the appropriate buzz. The man himself has no preferences, but his genes do.

Believe it or not, the central dogma of neuroscience today is that the mind is an illusion, but Mario Beauregard and I dispatch that doctrine handily in The Spiritual Brain.

Actually, evolutionary psychology contains within itself the seed of its own downfall. Taken seriously, it means that precisely nothing has changed since the days of our prehuman ancestors. In that case, no evolution occurred. That is strange, considering the wonders Darwinists attribute to natural selection. And if nothing has changed between our prehuman ancestors and ourselves, has anything changed between the amoeba and ourselves?

Either Darwinian evolution can induce real change (in which case, the evolutionary psychologists' pursuit is highly doubtful) or it can't, in which case it is futile because evolution did not happen by Darwinian means.

Essentially, evolutionary psychology, in an effort to prop up Darwinism, is stabbing it through the heart by trying to show that no evolution in human behaviour has actually occurred. In all that time, no evolution occurred ... Well, then, ... you shouldn't have even asked."

(Via Post-Darwinist.)


Maybe not. But I weighed in on an on-line philosophy debate about the existence and nature of God a couple of days ago. And now this turns up:

Who Cares?: "Dinesh D'Souza explains the argument from morality to prove the existence of God. This is the one that really did it for me during my 'Ayn Rand phase.' Watching hardcore objectivists use tortured logic to explain why, to use D'Souza's examples, a gentleman vacates his seat for an old lady or a Franciscan gives his life for a stranger, led me to believe that the simpler explanation was the better one.

This entire framework of Darwinian analysis does not even come close to explaining morality. It confines itself to explaining altruism, and at best it explains 'low altruism.' But humans also engage in 'high altruism' which may be defined as behavior that confers no reciprocal or genetic advantage. A man stands up to give his seat on the bus to an older woman. She is nothing to him, and he is certainly not thinking that there may be a future occasion when she will give him her seat. He does it because he's a nice guy. There's no Darwinian rationale that can account for his behavior.

Consider the true story of the Catholic priest Maximilian Kolbe, who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp for his anti-Nazi activities. Each day the Nazis would choose one person from the group for execution. One of the first persons they selected was a man who pleaded for his life, saying he had a wife and children who were dependent on him and he needed to live in order to look after them. Just as the Nazis were about to drag him from the room, the priest stood up and said, 'Take me in his place.' The Nazis were baffled and refused, but the priest insisted. The man was equally uncomprehending, so the priest told him, 'I don't have a family, I am old and won't be missed like you will.' The Nazis finally agreed, and the priest went to his death. The man whose place he took survived the war and returned to his family.

Now what is the Darwinian explanation for Kolbe's behavior? It does not exist. Ernest Mayr, a leading evolutionary biologist, admits that 'altruism toward strangers is behavior not supported by natural selection.' Richard Dawkins concedes that Darwinism cannot even explain why people donate blood, an action he puts down to 'pure disinterested altruism.' I enjoy reading Pinker, Trivers and the others, but I don't think that the Darwin Cleanup Crew is going to come up with a comprehensive account of morality. The simple reason is that the evolutionary project is necessarily confined to the domain of survival and reproductive advantage — in other words, to the domain of self-interest — while it is the essence of morality to operate against self-interest. The whole point of morality is to do what you ought to do, not what you are inclined to do or what it is in your interest to do.

(Via Ten Reasons.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

I am Free to Choose Determinism

Well, that seems to be the rationale of those who believe free will and determinism are compatible. Yeah, right. (Guess what my assigned argument is going to be about.)

Belief in free will keeps us honest, study finds: "Apparently, believing we have free will keeps us more honest. . In a recent study by psychologists Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota and Jonathan Schooler of the University of British Columbia,

The psychologists gave college students a mathematics exam. The math problems appeared on a computer screen, and the subjects were told that a computer glitch would cause the answers to appear on the screen as well. To prevent the answers from showing up, the students had to hit the space bar as soon as the problems appeared.
In fact, the scientists were observing to see if the participants surreptitiously used the answers instead of solving the problems honestly on their own. Prior to the math test, Vohs and Schooler used a well-established method to prime the subjects' beliefs regarding free will: some of the students were taught that science disproves the notion of free will and that the illusion of free will was a mere artifact of the brain's biochemistry whereas others got no such indoctrination.

The results were clear: those with weaker convictions about their power to control their own destiny were more apt to cheat when given the opportunity as compared to those whose beliefs about controlling their own lives were left untouched.

Of course, the study does not show that free will exists; it shows what happens when people believe it doesn't.

Here's the paper."

(Via Mindful Hack.)

Is That A Light at the End of the Tunnel?

The Centre of the Universe has re-discovered free speech:

Power to the Bloggers; MSM Lock Busted: "

Well, if you can’t even count on the Globe & Mail to come to your rescue, you know things are bad for the ‘perpetually-a-victim, my-FEELINGS-NOTHING-MORE-THAN-FEELINGS!-are-really-really-hurt’ crowd.

Hey Shirley!  Yo Laurie!  Time to start looking for a new gig. 

There comes a time that belonging to a pariah organization - even if it is sponsored by the gov’ment - is still not that great for one’s own reputation.

When this ship finally sinks, we need to have a party, man.

Still, it is a positive sign that the Left is split on this issue. It means that they are thinking outside of the gulag they helped to create these past forty years.  Maybe it will mean more critical examination of the other foolish dogmas they try to enforce on the sheep in Canada.

The MSM tried to protect their lock on our reality by virtually ignoring this story for three weeks. Only when Keith Martin started making some political movements did they start to wake up, but even then, they attempted to warp the coverage into some kind of ‘white supremacist’ cause.  How thoroughly bankrupt and pathetic they are.

Power to the Bloggers and YouTube for once again showing the utter irrelevancy of the MSM.  People saw Ezra’s ‘Braveheart’ performance 500,000 times before the MSM finally rolled out of their beds.  Wake up guys, you’re three weeks late and are taking up airwaves.  Message to the MSM: ‘Why don’t you step aside and let real reporters do the job that you refuse to do?’ 

The thing about free speech that we all have learned through this whole debacle is this: IF YOU DON’T USE IT, YOU’LL LOSE IT.  If Ezra had not published those cartoons, we’d still be sinking further and further into the socialist, islamic gulag without even knowing it. Sometimes, you need some shock treatment and, boy, did Ezra ever push the right button.

During the last Ontario provincial election, there was a record low 52.6% turnout.  That kind of gives you an indication what Canadians think of exercising their free speech.  Materialism and self gratification leave little room for pushing back a tyrannical kangaroo kourt abetted by decades of socialist group-think legislation when you’re on the dole and your biggest complaint in life is not getting a clear signal on the dish.


(Via SoCon Or Bust.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ok, Just One More

Are the Liberals in favour of free speech or not?

Is It Time For Keith Martin To Return His Original Team?: "

I’m a little surprised as I read around the blogsphere to find that many Blogging Tories who are giving Liberal MP Keith Martin his due praise haven’t been making mention of his past history and drawing up some obvious questions that his new landmark human rights legislation are putting in my head. Namely, is it time for Keith Martin to come back to his natural party?

Martin, you see, is the lesser known defector to the Liberal Party in December, 2003 after the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties ratified a merger agreement, the other being former every-party leadership contender and cabinet minister Scott Brison. I think a lot of history’s forgetfulness of Martin stems from the fact that Brison hailed from the PC Party (and was therefore considered ‘moderate), which Martin came from the Alliance benches. In fact, I’m still puzzled as to why Martin joined the Liberals to this day since, unlike Brison, he was never offered a cabinet position in Paul Martin’s government and has largely faded into the woodwork of a caucus that supports initiatives that Keith Martin, the dark horse Canadian Alliance leadership candidate of 2000 would be cringing over.

News that Stephane Dion’s office will now ask Martin to withdraw his human rights motion for fear of upsetting the ever-restless Liberal base might trigger Martin to examine whether he should be sticking it out with the Liberal caucus or not. Again, I’m not sure what led an MP to leave a then-leaderless party but it appears that Martin’s attitudes haven’t chanced that much from when he was a CA MP and hence, he’d find more friends in the government caucus these days than he would among his current colleagues.


(Via ThePolitic - Canadian Political Weblog.)

The News is Spreading

to Quebec:

Steynianism 40.0: "~ STEYN: ‘RIGHTS COMMISSIONS ARE STIFLING OUR RIGHTS’: The Montreal Gazette speaks up …. (montrealgazette)"

(Via Free Mark Steyn!.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Apropos of Nothing

Jimmy posts a picture of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, which is one of the works on my flash card list:

The Nekkid Truth: "

BotticellivenusAnother from Old World Swine;

I remember the first time I sat in a figure drawing class and worked
from a real, live, nekkid model. I was a little nervous before, as were
probably a lot of us wet-eared art undergrads. I don't know how
everyone else responded when the young lady dropped her bathrobe, but I
expect their experience wasn't too different from my own; there were a
few moments of awkward ogling, a few moments of stern and studied
pretense at ignoring the obvious, and then - something else. I began to
think about how I could wring a good drawing out of the pose. As I
started to draw, my brain began to break the model down into her
component elements... line and form, light and shadow, muscle and bone.
Within a minute, and for the remainder of the class, she registered no
more on my libido-meter than a clay pot or a fern. And I was not nearly
such a paragon of virtue and restraint as I am now.

Not everyone has had the benefit of such a class, of course, but it
did demonstrate to me in unmistakable terms the very real difference
between appreciating the beauty of the human form and what might be
called the Look of Lust. I had the great privilege of having my view of
the female form somewhat redeemed and baptized long before I knew
anything of John Paul II's Theology of the Body. In this work, he makes
brilliantly clear that the mere repression of lustful thoughts is not
enough, and may even be unhealthy in the long run. We must learn -
through the help of the Holy Spirit, the teaching of the Church, the
sacraments and prayer - to change the way we perceive the human body.
We must have our thoughts redeemed. We should work toward being able to
thank God for the breathtaking beauty of the human body, and through
giving thanks and praise to the Creator, disarm and disable Lust.

The idea is not to cage our lust, but to drag it out into the light where it can be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Not that nudity is something to be treated lightly. We are fallen,
after all. There is nudity - even under the pretext of art - that is
wholly inappropriate. If it is intended to excite lust, or if it in
fact does so, then it is unhealthy.

How do we tell the difference? Obviously, this is a matter of
judgment. For one aware of his own weakness, one sincerely committed to
trying to please God in everything, one familiar with Original Sin, one
who has been trained to respect the dictates of conscience... a
certain' amount of confidence in personal judgment is possible, and can
be developed. In the words of St. Augustine, 'Love God and do as you

For one lacking these things, it may be impossible, though I believe
that even based only on natural law one can tell the difference between
a painting that is basically an act of praise and homage, and one in
which the body is displayed like a piece of meat in a butcher shop
window. In the first case, the viewer's response is 'Yes, that is
beautiful - God does great work'. In the latter case, the viewer's
response is 'I want that'.

In short, if you are truly concerned about lust in regard to viewing
nude figures in art, then the battle is half won already. Trust your
judgment, and be watchful of your own thoughts. Where truly great,
classical, historically significant art is involved, I don't think even
children need be' cocooned and shielded as much as one might think.
Most children likely have a much saner and simpler response to these
things than we give them credit for. If you have concerns for kids,
look things over for yourself first, but don't get too wound up over
them seeing this or that body part, in the right context.



Free Speech...

isn't an Anglican value?

Rowan Williams has been a ninny for a long time......: "Rowan Williams has been a ninny for a long time...

But now his ninnyhood threatens free speech in Britain. He wants a law against 'thoughtless and ... cruel styles of speaking and acting.' From the well-meaning attempts of fools to legislate virtue, dear Lord, deliver us."

(Via Catholic and Enjoying It!.)

It's baaaack....

Actually, it just won't go away. Nixon declared victory in Vietnam and promptly decamped. But declaring victory in the abortion controversy and wishing it out of existence isn't working at all:

Everyone’s hip to the times but the baby killers: "

And yet, beneath the veneer of tribal sisterly celebration, I did manage to detect a strain of underlying tension. It came out on those few occasions when one of the speakers made oblique allusion to that taboo question in the pro-choice camp: How late is too late?This should be a question of special interest to anyone who’s managed to escape the tribal polarization of the abortion debate. Squeezed between the two tribes are a few of us (including me) who think a woman should have a broad right to abort her fetus when it is an insentient bundle of cells, but are appalled by the fact that Canada — alone among industrialized nations — permits ‘socially motivated’ abortion in the second and even third trimesters. Yet in a full day of presentations purporting to comprehensively evaluate the state of abortion in this country, no one at this symposium took on this one disturbing, and truly unique, feature of our country’s legal landscape.Even in the Q&A, the issue came up only twice — and then, only obliquely. The first came when an audience member bemoaned the fact that most doctors in Western nations wouldn’t perform abortions after 24 weeks — and asked, with apparently genuine curiosity, why this was so. The panelist who answered, National Abortion Federation director Dawn Fowler, refused to supply a reason, merely demurring that ‘It will be interesting to have the physicians appearing later today [as speakers] comment on that.’ (None did.) A few hours later, a male student rose during the Q&A to broach the issue indirectly with legendary Canadian abortion doctor Garson Romalis. The student asked whether late-term unborn children should be supplied pain-killers as part of the abortion procedure. Romalis (who, by way of background, has survived two murder attempts by pro-life fanatics) dismissed any evidence that aborted fetuses feel pain, and with it the entire issue, in a single sentence. And that was it. The interesting thing is that several of the symposium speakers — most notably, University of Toronto Law School professor Joanna Erdman — vigorously assured the audience that very few abortions take place in Canada ‘for social reasons’ beyond 20 weeks, and none beyond 24 weeks. No doubt, the data show this to be true. But why was this fact so important as to deserve emphasis? Similarly, why did Gavigan take such pains to dismiss anecdotes of women having abortions for capricious reasons (e.g., looking good in a bikini on an upcoming vacation) as ‘preposterous misogynistic fables.’ If it is really true that ‘the unborn child and the pregnant mother speak with one voice,’ then presumably they have the right to assume a voice that is selfish and vain. If the ‘dominant ideology of the unborn child’ is nothing but a misogynistic construct invented by patriarchal moralists, why does it matter if that so-called unborn child weighs one pound — or five? Why strike such defensive postures against a issue that no one in the room would even discuss?   (National Post)

We are living in amazing times in Canada.  I would never have believed that, in 2008, abortion would be back on the front burner as a legitimate social and moral question.  But, reading the news reports and columns, it is clear that there is a definite shift in blindly accepting the feminist dogmas of yesteryear. This isn’t your typical ‘choice’ culture anymore.  People have gathered their collective minds and are starting to ask: ‘Um…choice? Choice to do what?’

The pro-aborts tried to convince Canadians that the issue was ‘settled’.  After all, didn’t Jean Chretien and Paul Martin tell us that?  Henry Morgentaller and his shills has been telling us that for the past 20 years.  Maybe it’s just me and my personal sensitivities on this issue, but it seems to me that they are telling us that more frequently and much louder in the last year or so.  It’s like they have to raise their voices because they sense, quite correctly and understandably, that they are starting to lose influence and slowly losing the debate.  It reminds me of the old Communists under the thumb of Josef Stalin. When uncle Joe would laugh, he would look around the table to be sure that everyone was laughing too.  Rumors had it that if you were the last to laugh, you would be on a train to Siberia the next day.  It’s kind of like that with the abortionists and the Death and Dismemberment Department of  Reproductive Health.  After blathering on about the supreme euphemism of ‘choice’, they look around the audience to ensure that smiley happy, faces stare back at them, knowing that today’s audiences are more discriminating, thoughtful, and informed about the development of the unborn child.

They are also not buying the refusal of the abortion lobby to answer the question of late term abortions.  The pro-aborts aren’t talking about that one, understandably. Or, if they are, they are saying that it doesn’t exist. Of course, that is a lie just like abortion is a lie.  A few years back Margaret Sommerville cited a Stats Can statistic of there being 230 or so late term abortions in Canada.  When I ran in the last provincial election, I was able to get my hands on some information on late-term abortions.   Not only are we doing them here in this country, we are paying the United States to do it when we cannot. Here is the blog entry from my campaign log with the relevant links:

Our provincial government does that sort of thing for about 60 women a year in this province at a cost of $400K (click here). Tiller would have done the job and Ontario taxpayers would have picked up the tab. It would have spared the champagne liberals across the province a lot of discomfort in explaining how this situation is all that different from the hundreds of late-term abortions that occur every year in this country (click here). I believe we are at a point in this culture where our opponents have really and truly lost their collective minds. I sincerely doubt that there would be much outcry at all if we were to legalize infanticide — provided, of course, that we did it within say, 30 days after birth. I think that’s a reasonable compromise, don’t you?

The jig is up for the abortion propagandists in Canada. Their days are numbered one way or another. They are getting old (like Morgentaller who is 84 years old), they are losing the arguments, they are being undermined by the stark reality of the unborn child that science is clearly demonstrating, and they have fewer and fewer recruits.  Oh yes, one more factor. While pro-lifers have been popping them out like like-minded rabbits these past 20 years, the pro-aborts have been skinning and disposing of their own.  One need not a crystal ball to see the future, just an ability to count and read the signs of the times.  Everyone is beginning to read the writing on the wall, except the pro-aborts and their ideological buddies of a bygone era.  And, like the past anti-life comrads, they’ll suffer the same fate and the full judgement of history.


(Via SoCon Or Bust.)