110 percent is the answer

After all, if we can magically fix things halfway around the world in a Muslim country, we can surely do it just off Miami. Derb has a thought:

Reading [Haiti in Extremis], though, I had a thought that many other readers must have had, viz.: If, after prolonged occupation twice by U.S. (1915-34) and internation forces (1990-present), the place is still in such an appalling mess, what are our chances with far more populous, diverse, and lootable Iraq?

Perhaps we should establish a rule that no U.S. government should attempt to establish durable democracy in any place until it has first done so in Haiti.

VPFL Week 12

109 COS McRays
63 Burns Montgomerys

90 East Mesa WhiteTrash
78 Greenfield Grizzlies

82 Pale Horse Cowboys
61 Mile High Club

55 Santa Barbarians
35 West Texas Vikings

54 Mounds View Meerkats
49 Newport Sea Dogs

I’d feel a little more confident about remaining in first if Peyton was throwing more touchdowns, but I’ll take it for now.

Atheists are more criminal

Sam Harris, like many other atheists, likes to claim that the religious are no more moral than the non-religious. Unsurprisingly, he makes use of a nonsensical argument, a transitive one in which he states that since crime rates are higher in conservative states than in liberal states and liberals are less religious than conservatives, this means that the non-religious are more moral than the religious.

Never mind the fact that in every state, most crime occurs in large cities, those hotbeds of Christian conservatives. And of course, he avoids any actual statistics, such as the survey of the British prison population:

59.1% Christian
31.9% No religion

Compare this to the British population in the 2001 Census:

71.6% Christian
15.5% No religion

Based on these government statistics, the irreligious are overrepresented in prison by 110 percent. Christians, including even the most nominally Christian, are underrepresented by 17.5 percent. Based on Harris’ own stupid* metric, then, the non-religious are far less moral than Christians.

*Stupid because, as I’ve often written, legality is not morality

Never trust the tadpoles

Thomas Sowell on the importance of deeds, not words:

The two visions [of left and right] are different in another way. The vision of the left exalts the young especially as idealists while the more conservative vision warns against the narrowness and shallowness of the inexperienced. This study found young liberals to make the least charitable contributions of all, whether in money, time or blood.

I don’t know why the left lionizes students. I mean, the fact that they are supposedly there to learn tends to indicate that they don’t know anything, so unless you’re looking for some useful idiots, they’re basically worthless until they prove otherwise.

Does Richard Dawkins hate Jews?

As is his occasional wont, Orac again shows off his reading disability. In a response to my post about Dawkins wishing to reopen the eugenics discussion, (please note the link is right here at the top, one wouldn’t wish to wound him to the quick again), he strangely claims the following question is “the old “atheists are inherently immoral and nihilistic” canard taken to a truly idiotic “atheism leads to necrophilia” extreme.”

Seriously, on what basis does the atheist prosecute the individual who digs up a few kilos of rotting flesh in order to have sex with it?

So,Orac not only mischaracterizes my question, he fails to even begin to answer it. I did not state that the necrophiliac was an atheist, I merely wanted to know what universal claim the atheist makes for his morality that would suffice to at least criticize the amorous shoveler, to say nothing of prosecuting him criminally. This is ironic, given that Orac’s post claims that I am mischaracterizing Dawkins position on eugenics.

Since I think this could be reasonably argued, why don’t we consider Dawkins’ position in a slightly different light. There were other aspects of the Hitler show besides eugenics, after all. What would a reasonable reader conclude about Richard Dawkins had he written this?

Today, I suspect that anti-semitism is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, and my conjecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change. Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular…. I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between executing criminals and killing Jews. Or why it is acceptable for the Israelis to oppress Palestinians, but not for Europeans to oppress Jews. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?

So, Orac, is the above paragraph anti-semitic? (And by anti-semitic, I mean the conventional Judenhassen sense of the term.) Do let me know. I’m genuinely curious about what you think here.

Now, one doesn’t have to already have an answer in mind to ask a question, but given what we know of Dawkins through his books, I don’t think one has to be overly suspicious of the man to not at least suspect that the guy would be delighted to be given the chance to head up a department of evolutionary eugenics at Oxford.

Orac goes on to discuss a theoretical justification of voluntary eugenics, which is interesting, but unfortunately skates lightly over the coercive element inherent in the term “breeding”. And given Dawkins’ examples of domesticated animals, it is clear that he isn’t talking about a voluntary program here, but an involuntary one imposed on those being bred. As such, it is grossly reprehensible from both a moral and an ideological point of view.

Now, while I do think it would be interesting to cross several generations of Shannon Dohertys with other bizarrly asymetrical individuals and create human flounders or security guards with eyes on either side of their heads. But barring coercive force, I don’t see how it would be possible. One doesn’t have to be a monster to ask questions about eugenics, but on the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that not every inquiry by an influential public intellectual is an innocent one.

Sam Harris embarrasses himself… again

The White Buffalo draws our attention to this debate:

Wars are still waged, crimes committed, and science undone out of deference to an invisible being who is believed to have created the entire cosmos, fine-tuned the constants of nature, blanketed the earth with 20,000 distinct species of grasshopper, and yet still remains so provincial a creature as to concern himself with what consenting adults do for pleasure in the privacy of their bedrooms. Incompatible beliefs about this God long ago shattered our world into separate moral communities—Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc.—and these divisions remain a continuous source of human violence.

What’s hilarious isn’t the way that Sam Harris barely manages to address a single point made by Dennis Prager, (who is a good guy but isn’t exactly the sharpest theist in Creation), nor the way Harris later lies and tries to pretend that Prager hasn’t addressed his points, but the way that some clueless atheists actually think he acquitted himself well and won the debate.

Seriously, Prager could have nailed Harris to the wall on day one after that stupid “continuou source of human violence” bit. And what science is being undone? How, precisely, does one undo science? Seriously, as I wrote in my column today, Harris can’t write a paragraph without making multiple errors of fact and logic.

Mailvox: play nice or Ann will sing

JWB raises an oft-heard objection:

I’ve been enjoying the installments in your “Clowns of Reason” series. Being neither a theist nor atheist, but rather a positivist who eschews all metaphysics (as fruitless, rather than meaningless), I’ve taken some argument “talking points” from your latest writings.

I did have one response to a point you made in your broadside against Dennett. It is to a throw-away laugh line in your piece, so it isn’t substantial to your argument. But calling modern philosophy equivalent to extensive bong usage? Being both a philosopher of science and a neuroscientist, I can’t defend 9/10 of what my professional philosophy colleagues say–but not because they’re drug-addled! Most are sober thinkers who work on narrow, assumption-ladled issues that are of no real consequence to anybody. Your caricature built on a 1960s stereotype detracts from your credibility.

In any case, I’ll look forward to more of your writings.

Given the way in which modern philosophy has failed to produce a Hume or Nietzsche, let alone a Plato, Descartes or Aquinas, I think it rather deserves mocking. And given that the philosophy professor I knew best in college never hesitated to fire up the bong with a philosophy major who was a friend of mine, I think the crack is merited.

I’m curious, though, to know how my occasional rhetorical barbs can somehow detract from my credibility when easily demonstrable errors and even outright howlers never seem to render intellectual figures such as Harris, Dawkins and Dennett any less credible. I mean, Dennett was absolutely shredded by Wieseltier in the New York Times – my column was kind by comparison – and yet many people will continue to take him seriously.

Does accuracy truly count for less than style?

I don’t believe so. This objection, which JWB is far from the only one to make, reminds me a little of when a family member remarked that Ann Coulter would be more popular if only she wasn’t so nasty. I laughed and responded that given her indisputable position as the premier right-wing commentator, who has more books written about her than most commentators write, the only way she could become more popular would be to release a sex tape and record a mediocre pop album.

Come to think of it, what would an Ann Coulter CD look like? I imagine tracks like this:

Joe McCarthy (a remake of Desperado)
Don’t Call Me, Al
The Devil Went Down to Arkansas
Fort Marcy Blues
The Wind Beneath the Right Wing (featuring C tha E from the Fraters Libertas)
Drumstick