Monday, November 21, 2005

OT: Air America

Okay, I listened to Air America last night.

Randi Rhodes said that the House had only narrowly defeated the motion to pull the troops out of Iraq. The vote two-hundred-something to two hundred something, she said, with several Republicans crossing over. Maybe she was thinking of the narrowly-passed budget bill which had a vote of 216-215. The vote to pull out of Iraq was defeated 403 to 3. Anyway, Rhodes took the closeness of what she thought was the vote to indicate that "it's over" for Bush's war and that he should get out and "not let the door hit him where the Good Lord split him." Maybe there was some other vote on Iraq on November 19th or 20th that I'm not aware of. Otherwise. Rhodes embarrassed herself.

Later a host name Laura came on. She said she was going to give an alternative Iraq policy. I was pleased. I eagerly awaited some healthy, substantive deliberation between left and right over Iraq. But then she stated that to this end she would enlist the thought of Gore Vidal, Robert Scheer, and Ted Rall.

Oh, well.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Natural Law Theory is a Kind of Divine Command Theory

Natural Law Theory holds that beings such as us have ends from which our obligations may be inferred. I'll give you an example.

Suppose a natural law theorist holds, as he is apt to do, that homosexuality is wrong because heterosexuality is our natural purpose. This is to say that our natures are such that homosexuality is unnatural behavior for us and therefore immoral.

The obvious and common retort is to charge natural law theory with the naturalistic fallacy. This is to charge that it invalidly infers from the fact that something is unnatural in some biological sense to the conclusion that it is wrong. The reply from the natural law theorist is that the inference is indeed valid because here by "biological" we include the notion of God's creation.

However, this reply is just to say that we may infer our moral obligations from what is natural because God has chosen which things to make the natural things.

Another example will help. A natural law theorist is liable to argue that a human embryo is a rational being and therefore, in spite of the fact that it has not brain, has a mind and a right to be treated as any human being with a mind ought to be treated. His reasoning is that the embryo is rational in that its nature has been selected to be such that it will someday reason. His reasoning is not that the embryo has a genetic tendency to go on to become rational. The difference between these two kinds of reasoning is that the natural law theorist's reasoning assumes that God's choosing a thing's natural tendencies give that thing its end. In other words, it is only because of God's choice that the being in question has such and such an end. That is the Divine Command Theory.
Iraq War

Just a bit of refereeing the "debate." I say that with scare quotes because it isn't really a debate. There has never been a plausible moral case against the liberation.

1. A point of logic. The carping by the American left continues unabated. It is stupendous in its nonsense. Let's consider the claim, "Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism."

It makes no sense to say that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism. It begs the question so blatantly that it should take your breath away when anyone whose job it is to consider these issues says this. Bush gave an argument that it does have something to do with terrorism. You can't just deny his claim without refuting his argument.

But you can't refute the argument: With an oppressed Middle East, the terrorists can win. But with a free Middle East living under rule of decent laws, they can't win. Iraq was by far and away the best place to start the liberation, for geographical, strategic and historical reasons.

2. A Moral Constraint on the "Debate." There has never been a plausible moral argument against the liberation. This is for obvious reasons. It is impossible to refute the claim that it is permissible to liberate 25 million people from a mass-murdering tyrant whose heirs were psychopathic sadists. You'd have to show that the invasion would kill as many or more than the tyrannical regime would kill given another 30 years' reign.

It is impossible to refute the claim that a mass-murdering tyrant with a WMD program, who has liassons with terrorists and shares with them the same enmity towards us, and who therefore could help those terrorists put WMD in an American city, should not be violently deposed by us.

3. Miscellany.There have been plausible arguments from prudence that liberating Iraq was too much against American self-interest to count as prudent. But I don't think those arguments succeeded, and anyway they are beside the point. Those arguments are for military strategists to evaluate; I'm not qualified. They are not philosophical or moral topics.

By the way, I was once scolded by a anonymous journal referee for using the term "self-interest." He considered it obfuscating jargon, preferring I say "interest." But that's not right. I have self-interests and non-instrumental interests in others' welfare. Both are interests. An argument from prudence against an action that will help others attempts to show that the sacrifice to the agent is too great. It attempts to show that, though morally permissible (and supererogatory, or "above and beyond the call of duty") the action is too great a sacrifice to be considered rational.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Intelligent Design Theory

One side says it's not science. The other side says it's good science. Actually, it's bad science.

The theory is a testable hypothesis. There would be evidence for the theory if all the facts about biology were in and there were origins of life forms that were inexplicable other than by appealing to a supernatural designer. Everything has a cause. If we were to gather all of the facts in biology labs and, sifting through these facts, find that they are unable to account for the origins of life forms, we would be warranted in appealing to supernatural causes.

However, ID of today is, to put it mildly, premature. Biologists haven't gathered all of the facts yet. To assert at this time that there are mysteries, irreducible complexities, or what have you shows considerable doxastic incontinence. When you jump the gun, you get refuted the next year by other biologists. For example, Behe's theory that evolution can't explain certain complex arrangements in nature involved his assuming that evolution couldn't explain how a complex arrangement could arrise by evolution when it could not exist without any one of its components. But other biologists demonstrated that he shouldn't have been so credulous.

People like Behe should put their manuscripts aside and wait a couple hundred years. Maybe by then biology will be finished and leave an impossible remainder of mysteries requiring supernatural explanation. Given that it's got just about everything sewn up at this point, I wouldn't bet on evolutionary theory failing to finish the story complete. But who knows? It's possible. Some people, like Art Bell or whoever, think the planet was seeded by a dying race of Martians. God, Martians, ordinary evolution? We'll see. So far no sign of God or Martians yet.