True tolerance

Chris Broussard at ESPN said that Jason Collins, the NBA player who’s come out as gay, isn’t a true Christian and is “in open rebellion to God.”  So what?  Well, he got some blowback from a variety of sources.  So what?  Well, he’s now got to clarify things, and when he does, he also needs to clarify a concept for all of us:

true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle [differing lifestyle beliefs] as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names

I don’t think that’s true tolerance.  Tolerance means that even when you think someone else is wrong about something that matters, you don’t exclude them or prohibit them from doing the things that they do.  Tolerance isn’t tolerance if you like what they do.  It means putting up with things you hate.  That, by the way, was one of the reasons why the stoics thought of themselves as the ones who kept the old Republican virtues alive, by the way. But, notice, that doesn’t mean that you have to hold your tongue.  In fact, tolerance without care for criticism and correction isn’t much of anything — it’s more like ignoring each other.  Oh, and convenient that he’s NOW saying that tolerance is not criticizing others.  Again, sometimes inconsistency is evidence of a double standard.

Doctor, but not a real one

A quick lesson on equivocation and how not to charge that it’s occurring.  Charles Cooke has a piece over at NRO about how Jill Biden, who has a Ed.D., has been tweeting under the handle ‘DrBiden’.  The tweets have been about educational issues in the US and updates about her recent work promoting educational initiatives.  Cooke objects to her use of ‘Dr’ as part of her title.  It’s primarily that those who have doctorates aren’t real doctors.

Wherever she goes and whatever she does, Dr. Biden is always referred to as “Dr. Biden.” “Is Joe Biden married to a physician?” wondered the Los Angeles Times in January. “You might have gotten that impression while watching television coverage of the inauguration.” Yes, you might have indeed. Dr. Biden isn’t a physician, of course. She has a doctorate – in “educational leadership,” whatever the hell that is….

One can only wonder what Dr. Biden’s response would be to the urgent question “Is there a doctor in the house?!” Perhaps “Yes! Don’t worry, I’m here! I’m not too sure how to do a tracheotomy, though . . . ”

OK.  So Cooke’s objection is that ‘Dr’ carries with it a lot of weight in this culture, and it comes from the status that Medical Doctors have.  Then there’s a quick lesson about why folks with still get called ‘doctor’.

It’s somewhat by chance that the recipients of Ph.D.s may even presume to call themselves “doctors,” the unfortunate product of a thousand-year-old liberal-arts tradition …. “Ph.D.” stands for “Philosophiae Doctor,” a Latin term that (rather obviously) means “Doctor of Philosophy” in English. The “Philosophy” bit was intended loosely, in the classical sense of “love of learning”; the “Doctor” bit derives from “docere,” which simply means “to teach.”

Erm.  That’s all totally backwards.  So it’s not really by chance that Ph.D.’s are called ‘doctor.’  That’s, like, what the degree means — the one who teaches others about the area, the one who is nobody’s student. It’s actually by chance that medical doctors are the ones who get all the cred for the title.  Cooke’s got the implications of his own evidence entirely backwards.

But now Cooke pauses to concede that sometimes it’s appropriate to use the title ‘doctor’ for someone with a doctorate:

American etiquette books tend to mark this dichotomy, holding that it is acceptable for Ph.D.s to use “Dr.” within the context of their business but inappropriate everywhere else.

Oy.  And what was Jill Biden tweeting about?  Matters regarding education.  Precisely what her doctorate is in.  KA-BOOM.  And now Cooke has provided all the evidence to show that he has absolutely no point at all, other than to complain that someone he doesn’t like uses a term of intellectual distinction.  Good things conservatives don’t do anything like that. (Oh, yes they do.)

Just little old me…

Dennis Prager’s post at NRO today is literally a series of conservative talking points on Islam and terrorism.  All pretty much familiar fare, from identifying a persecution complex in their opponents (the irony!) to blaming the Left for encouraging them to their acts of violence, to just stopping short of calling Islam an ideology of indecency.  But it’s with the last line of thought  that Prager has an interesting line of argument.  He holds that “Any religion or ideology that is above good and evil produces enormous evil”, and then he plays to make a contrast.

Unfortunately, most religious and secular ideologues find preoccupation with human decency boring. The greatest moral idea in history, ethical monotheism, doesn’t excite most people.

First, there are factual things in question.  One is that most of the ideologies run on making the case that they are the last and best hope for decency.  They wouldn’t be convincing otherwise.  Liberalism is posited on the appeal of decency, by the way.  Second, is ethical monotheism really “the greatest moral idea in history”?  Solve the problem of evil before you say that, buddy.  Moreover, I don’t even seen ‘ethical monotheism’ as really a moral idea — it’s more a meta-ethic, that God is the source of moral norms.  That’s more a metaphysical idea.  And aren’t there actual moral ideas that seem to be considerably more powerful than ‘ethical monotheism,’ anyhow?  Deontology?  Eudaimonistic ethics?  Consequentialism? (It’s one thing you can say for Roger Scruton is that he’d never write anything this stupid.  NRO and The American Spectator will miss his intellectual heft for sure.)

Finally, I suspect Prager’s got a very specific monotheism in mind when he says this… but, you know, his favorite ethical monotheism doesn’t have a particularly good track record, either.   Would we want Christianity judged by the decisions made by George W. Bush?

Factual questions aside, Prager’s case is interesting argumentative strategy.  It’s a kind of downplayer, but on his own side. As if to say, “Well, nobody pays attention to little old me… I just try to do my best to be moral and upright and stuff…”  The implicature of the speech act, of course, is to make the contrast — so as to say that popularity is a kind of negative authority of what’s right and true.

I’ve started calling strategies like this ‘persecution strategies,’ those that set up the dialectical board in a way that makes it inappropriate to overtly challenge the view.  It runs:  this view has had a long line of critics and rejections, and most folks think it’s crazy.  But it hasn’t had a fair hearing.  The strategy, then, is to identify most of the going criticisms of the view as mere expressions of the standard knee-jerk rejection of the view.  Now, for sure, some views haven’t had a fair hearing, and it’s worth making the case they should be given it.  But, as we’ve noted with the iron man, not all views need to be fully developed before we can see they are losers. And sometimes, it’s not worth our time and effort to do the work.  Recently, in my survey of informal class, I’ve started calling this tactic the little view that could.

I don’t have evidence to back that up

The work of Timothy McVeigh, Islamic Extremist

The FBI and I don’t know who planted the bombs in Boston.  Nor does Susan Collins, Senator from Maine.  She, however, is willing to speculate (from Dave Weigel at Slate):

“Whenever we have an attack like this it’s difficult not to think that it’s somehow involved in Islamic extremism,” said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, until recently a top member of the Homeland Security committee and still a prime mover on security bills. “I don’t have evidence to back that up. That’s just based on previous attacks.”

This is really dumb–“based on previous attacks” is evidence.  Really bad evidence.  Via Ballon Juice:

Except maybe here, here, here, here, here and here.

Maybe there ought to be some kind of history test for Senator.

The Kim Jong-Un of rhetorical analogies

David Brooks, arguing that sequestration has put government spending well below ideal levels for sustainable economic culture:

Right now, we are the North Korea of fiscal policy.

That’s laying it on pretty thick.  Though, given the way Republicans talk about Obama being a socialist, it may be the only way to cut through the nonsense.

Do you like your herring red or blue?

Matt Purple’s got a great change of subject for Republicans concerned about election futures (HERE).  When there are laments about how shallow the Republican bench for 2016 is beyond Christie and Rubio, he’s got a new topic of conversation:

Let’s step onto the 2016 chessboard, no matter how premature it might seem. Republicans certainly have their problems. But focusing obsessively on them obscures the woeful state of affairs on the other side of the aisle.

Or better, focusing on the woeful state on the other side of the aisle obscures the Republican problems.

Some analogies are are like propositions that aren’t true

Sometimes when you make an analogy, you really just show how little you understand. Or, perhaps, how little you want to.  Charles Cooke at NRO thinks that taxing ammunition at a higher rate, perhaps at 50%, is not just bad economic policy, but is an infringement on basic rights.  He makes this point with an analogy.

When it comes to our basic rights, the rule of thumb is that as little as possible should be put in the way of their exercise. The Second Amendment is often treated differently from the other component parts of the Bill of Rights, but it damn well shouldn’t be. Unless you consider that the right to bear arms is less important in a republic than is the right to vote — which I most decidedly do notthen putting a special tax on firearms is no less outrageous than putting a tax on voting. Why one but not the other?

Notice, first, that this is an argument that, as we say in philosophy, proves too much.  If we’re really to take the conclusion seriously, then it should be that we shouldn’t tax gun or ammunition purchases at all.  If there’s no taxing voting, then there’s no taxing guns and gun-related stuff.   His argument isn’t one that proves that we shouldn’t tax ammo at a high rate, it’s that we shouldn’t tax it at all.

Second, notice that Cooke thinks that gun-rights are more important than voting rights.  I wonder what he thinks of Canada.  A real democracy? Germany or England?  If you click his link, there’s a paywall for the whole article — but he does answer one question.  With another question.  To the challenge why does he need military style firearms?  His reply is:

A better question: “Why don’t you want me to have one?”

Yep.  His argument is pretty much that his possession of a firearm ensures that his voting rights can’t be taken away.  Seriously, though, who’s he gonna shoot if his voter registration card doesn’t get recognized at the polling station?

Third, and finally, isn’t the difference between voting and buying guns and bullets is that with the latter, you’re purchasing a product?  It’s a financial exchange of goods and money, one that the government can tax as necessary.  It’s not that the argument by analogy proves too much, it’s that the analogy isn’t appropriately framed.

The old ball and chain

Fig. 1: Marriage

A playground loser may save his ego with the following: I didn’t want to win anyway.  Here’s Yale Professor David Brooks’ latest version.

But last week saw a setback for the forces of maximum freedom. A representative of millions of gays and lesbians went to the Supreme Court and asked the court to help put limits on their own freedom of choice. They asked for marriage.

Marriage is one of those institutions — along with religion and military service — that restricts freedom. Marriage is about making a commitment that binds you for decades to come. It narrows your options on how you will spend your time, money and attention.

Whether they understood it or not, the gays and lesbians represented at the court committed themselves to a certain agenda. They committed themselves to an institution that involves surrendering autonomy. They committed themselves to the idea that these self-restrictions should be reinforced by the state. They committed themselves to the idea that lifestyle choices are not just private affairs but work better when they are embedded in law.

This is correct only in the most restrictive sense–the sense in which every choice to do some activity x involves doing x (and maybe for a time not y).  But in every other meaningful sense it’s appalling dumb: having the right to marry recognized involves adding choices to one’s life.

El milagro de los milagros

A viewer of televangelist Pat Robertson’s 700 Club asked an obvious but important question about Miracles.  Here it is (via Raw Story via Reddit):

On Monday’s episode of CBN’s The 700 Club, Robertson responded to a viewer who wanted to know why “amazing miracles (people raised from the dead, blind eyes open, lame people walking) happen with great frequency in places like Africa, and not here in the USA?”

That is a good question.  For one famous answer, see David Hume.  For another answer, listen to Pat Robertson:

“People overseas didn’t go to Ivy League schools,” the TV preacher laughed. “We’re so sophisticated, we think we’ve got everything figured out. We know about evolution, we know about Darwin, we know about all these things that says God isn’t real.”

“We have been inundated with skepticism and secularism,” he conintued. “And overseas, they’re simple, humble. You tell ‘em God loves ‘em and they say, ‘Okay, he loves me.’ You say God will do miracles and they say, ‘Okay, we believe him.’”

And that’s what God’s looking for. That’s why they have miracles.”

One could argue the reverse ought to be the case: you need a background knowledge of the laws of nature in order to appreciate their violation.  But what does he know, he didn’t live in Africa.

Who loves the ad baculum?

Mallard Fillmore, that’s who.

MFT20130328

Well, I should say, actually: Who loves to attribute the ad baculum?  This seems a very strange sort piece of communication, one that were it actually true or believed to be true, wouldn’t actually be performed in this fashion.  That is, if Bruce Tinsley really believed that the President would bomb him for opposing his agenda or other democrats or for thinking that Nancy Pelosi isn’t attractive (WHUH?), he’d order a drone strike.  Or would be willing to threaten one… would Tinsley write a version of this cartoon?  Surely not.  So what’s this cartoon actually communicating?