Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century, having authored or edited more than 500 books. The level of his genius is evidenced by the fact that those works have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification systems used in libraries. A professor of biochemistry, he wrote nonfiction in popular science, science textbooks, essays and literary criticism. He is, however, probably more well know for his hard science fiction, mystery, and fantasy writings. A contemporary of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov was considered one of the “Big Three” writers of science fiction during his lifetime.
One of his more well known science fiction series is the Robot series, a collection of 38 short stories and 5 novels, the first one being I, Robot. Yes, this is the book upon which the 2004 movie of the same name, starring Will Smith, is based. Alas, the title and Dr. Susan Calvin are about the only things in common between the book and movie. Read the book; it’s more interesting.
That said, “the unique feature of Asimov’s robots are the Three Laws of Robotics, hardwired in a robot’s positronic brain, with which all robots in his fiction must comply, and which ensure that the robot does not turn against its creators.” And again, yes, Trekkies, Lieutenant Commander Data’s positronic brain originated with Asimov, not the creator(s) of Star Trek Next Gen (or any other Star Trek version for that matter). It is to those three Laws of Robotics that I want to turn our attention to at this point.
These three laws were essentially how Asimov solved the problem (and introduced some very interesting unexpected consequences…see the Robot series) of how to define and constrain robotic behavior in such a way that humans would not, indeed, could not be harmed by their electronic creations. Let’s look at those three laws:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
What I want you to notice is that these laws form a hierarchy. The first law supersedes and overrides the other two. The second law is just as important as the first, but if obedience to the second law conflicts with the first law, the first law “wins.” Likewise, the third is dominated by the first and second. Think about it. In order to ensure the most benefit, robotic behavior cannot be defined by only one principle. It requires several, and they must be structured and inter-dependent in their relationships.
In a similar vein, how does God go about defining human behavior that pleases Him? Does He have only one principle for us to obey? No, He summaries it in two that are also hierarchical (Matthew 27:37-40): loving God and loving our neighbor. Loving God supersedes loving our neighbor, but both are important. And these two actually summarize what, when presented with more detail, require ten such principles for human conduct (Exodus 20:1-17).
OK, you say, so what does this have to do with voting??? Patience, dear reader. We’re almost there.
Based on the above considerations, I would assert that most complex behaviors and decision processes, of which voting is one, can not be determined by applying only one principle. Unless you have more than the wisdom of Solomon, no one principle will encompass all possibilities that can be encountered. Applying this to voting: for those who say they cannot vote for a candidate with whom they have principled disagreements (i.e., they must vote their conscience; dare I point out how nebulous and subjective “conscience” can be at times?), they are really attempting to apply just one principle to the process in a simplistic and naïve fashion: if a candidate doesn’t share my values, and have shared them for an adequate period of time so that I know he’s really a photocopy of me, then I can’t vote for him. The reason this is simplistic and naïve is simple: unless you personally run for office and vote for yourself, there is no one candidate that will agree with you 100% on every issue, let alone on all the issues you may want to list as important to you.
It is rare that we will have someone who shares all our positions and values, so what do you do? First, acknowledge that you can seek to vote for the one who comes the closest even if that is still so far distance from you that you have to hold your nose to do so. Second, it is perfectly all right, indeed, a duty to vote for someone as a vote to prevent someone else who is far worse from taking office.
So I would propose the following Three Laws of Voting, tailored after the Three Laws of Robotics and with a bow to Dr. Asimov:
- A voter may not injure his/her country or, through inaction, allow his/her country to come to harm.
- A voter must place a vote for the candidate who conflicts least with the First Law.
- A voter must protect his/her own conscience as long as such protection does not conflict with the First and Second Laws.
- Perhaps not as eloquent as Dr. Asimov, but still more inclusive of the possible eventualities we might face in elections in this country than the simplistic “only vote for your twin” that many are seeking to apply this election cycle.
Think about it.
Much has been written on the comparative damage the two candidates from the two parties could do to the country, so I’ll not rehearse those considerations here. Suffice it to say that Clinton would do more, being more of Obama’s destructive policies than Trump. Voting for Clinton violates the Second Law. Voting for a third party candidate violates the First and Second Law, primarily because it would ensure another Clinton presidency. Voting for Trump might require a nose pin to withstand the stench, but it would not violate any of these laws (and I did not vote for Trump in the primaries). Regardless, please don’t…
I am the police, and I’m here to arrest you. You’ve broken the law. I did not write the law. I may even disagree with the law but I will enforce it. No matter how you plead, cajole, beg or attempt to stir my sympathies, nothing you do will stop me from placing you in a steel cage with gray bars. If you run away I will chase you. If you fight me I will fight back. If you shoot at me I will shoot back. By law I am unable to walk away. I am a consequence. I am the unpaid bill. I am fate with a badge and a gun. Behind my badge is a heart like yours. I bleed, I think, I love, and yes I can be killed. And although I am but one man, I have thousands of brothers and sisters who are the same as me. They will lay down their lives for me, and I them. We stand watch together. The thin-blue-line, protecting the prey from the predators, the good from the bad. We are the police.
(Note: this quote comes from an R rated movie, End of Watch, that I don’t really recommend. But these opening lines are poignant and true nonetheless.)
Truly, the only hope:
Thanks to the so-called “progressive” left, the number of reality-challenged induhviduals in this country, particularly in today’s universities, is growing at unprecedented rates. At all too many institutes of alleged higher education, the next generation (and that should really scare you if you think about it) is being told to “follow your heart” as you chart your future. Moreover, they are instructed to do so no matter what anyone tells them to the contrary, for in so doing, they are being “authentic.” This turns one’s life into an “heroic” narrative that all too many are embracing even when the contrarian is the cold, hard facts of reality.
Probably one of the most recent instances of this are alleged transgenders, and those hyperventilating on their behalf, who want to ignore their own biology because their heart tells them otherwise and to demand access to the public restroom of the gender to which they identify (again, regardless of what their chromosomes are rather clearly tell them).
So, why is it these induhviduals, and those advocating for them, are not considered anti-science in the same way Creationists are? Why aren’t they considered science deniers the same way those who question anthropomorphic Globaloney WarmingTM are? They are much more boldly flying in the face of Science by denying obvious biological reality.
The fact that they don’t call themselves by their desired gender, but have to invent the word “transgender” for identification purposes lets you know they really know what they are. Simply put, no, gender is NOT a social construct; it is a biological reality created by the type of chromosomes you inherit from your parents. It is not a complicated issue. And young people who are confused about their gender identity need to come to grips with how they were created and what they are as determined by the physical reality of their own body. They shouldn’t be coddled with lies about their feelings and told to follow those nebulous impulses originating from who knows where.
As for following your heart, those promulgating and believing such drivel should seriously heed God’s warnings about that in Jeremiah 17:9:
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
The last phrase indicates the capability of strong self-deception. The heart is not to be trusted, and young people with little to no experience of the realities of life especially should not “listen to their heart” no matter how attractive and/or romantic and/or heroic such a path might sound.
This is not just Old Testament wisdom. Listen to Jesus’ warning/explanation in Matthew 15:19:
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
So, you want your life to be characterized ultimately by such attributes, by all means, “follow your heart!” But if you don’t, consider God’s wisdom (Proverbs 23:19):
Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way.
Your heart needs to be guided, not listened to. And guided in God’s way, not your own.
Dennis Prager hits it out of the ballpark in his recent essay by this title. (On a side note, Mr. Prager uses “liberal” is the historic sense compared to how I use it here on this blog. Modern leftists tend to self-identify [inaccurately per Mr. Prager and reality] as liberals and progressives, thus I use the term. In this latter sense, I would consider it pejorative in nature, whereas in Mr. Prager’s more historically accurate sense, it is not.)
A primary quote to whet your appetite (but please go read the whole thing in context), the answer to the question…
So, the Big Question is, why? Why is the left hostile toward Western civilization?
After decades of considering this question, I have concluded the answer is this: standards. The left hates standards — moral standards, artistic standards, cultural standards. The West is built on all three, and it has excelled in all three.
Why does the left hate standards? It hates standards because when there are standards, there is judgment. And leftists don’t want to be judged.
Mr. Prager then continues to demonstrate his thesis from the facts, of which there is an overwhelming plethora of examples.
Sadly, this still rings true. Originally posted June 2008.
Given the current political circus rambling around the country, you, dear reader, may be forgiven if you think I am about to engage in a rant regarding the total vacuity of the political platform of one party, or the wrongheadedness of a significant portion of the other side’s platform (at least at this point). However, such is not the case. Others are doing an admirable job on this issue and I will let them take main stage in that arena. Instead, I am going to pontificate based on a thoroughly glorious experience of this past [i.e., in June 2008] weekend about the cultural vacuum currently strangling the vast majority of composers of music in this fair land.
My daughters are classical musicians, most recently trained in a major university here in the Midwest. A young man of our acquaintance graduated with them with a bachelor’s in composition, and from his shared experiences with my daughters, and my own observation, the composition “teachers” (and I use that term loosely at this point) at this university pride themselves in being “on the cutting edge” of avant-garde music. Their output is, to put it mildly, as memorable as the screeching of tires just before the impact in a 50 car pileup on a foggy day…and about as pleasant to the ear. These poor souls think they are oh so sophisticated in their rejection of the “Old School” that believes that, perhaps, music should be beautiful, melodious, and follow certain rules of structure and composition. Yet, having cast aside these “oppressive shackles,” their creations insult the definition of music, fitting much more readily into the category of noise, and cacophonous noise at that. Root canals are more pleasant, and ultimately, their output stimulates at best the three R’s: rejection, revulsion, and regurgitation!
In stark contrast to these emperors running around with no clothes, we have the titans of music from the past fully clothed in true regal splendor, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms to name just the “3 B’s,” whose works are beloved still and have stood the test of time, and whose names are foreign to only the most illiterate (i.e., the public school educated). The experience to which I referred above was a performance of Beethoven’s glorious Ninth Symphony. Glorious is, was, and will be the word for such music. But why? What sets this music apart? Great, glorious, memorable music reaches into the human soul and resonates with the human spirit, elevating and reminding him of his divine origin, as the Psalmist so pointedly exclaims:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands…. (Psalm 8:3-6)
Remember that the Psalms were Israel’s hymnal. Johann Sebastian Bach said, “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” Not to be outdone, Martin Luther said of music:
He who despises music, as do all the fanatics, does not please me. Music is a gift of God, not a gift of men…. After theology I accord to music the highest place and greatest honor.
This connection to the divine is, of course, a primary reason for the degradation of the musical arts. Having its roots in Marxist/Leninist philosophy, the liberal worldview knows nothing of God and seeks to chase God from the culture and public discourse in all possible venues. This is not some shadowy conspiracy theory. In a previous post entitled The Enemy Within, I documented goals the Communist Party drafted and published in the 1950’s and which they then went about to implement all too successfully into the American cultural milieu to bring us down. Two of them read:
Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward, meaningless forms.”
Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”
Note the adjectives they chose to describe what they wanted to create: “shapeless, awkward, meaningless, ugly,” and their goal to apply this to “all forms of artistic expression.” While the above only mentions art as found in museums, the art of the concert hall falls under this purview as well, and has suffered under their attack.
What to do?
Support your local radio station that plays classical music. Take your children to classical concerts and go yourself even if you don’t have children. (Hmm, take someone else’s?) Enrich your life with the glory of good music. Above all, be aware of this front on the cultural war and take your place on the line wherever you can.
An essential skill in evaluating and discussing, mastering the ability to recognize the level of disagreement to which you and/or your opponents are appealing will help discernment to be achieved in almost any debate. Originally posted in April, 2008.
Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities… With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.
When confronted with an idea, proposition, or any content with which one disagrees, several responses are possible. One can ignore it, consider the points of disagreement and become convinced that they are correct and you have been mistaken, or one can continue to disagree and make an attempt at explaining why. Here in the blogosphere, this frequently occurs in the comments section, although the size limitation makes extended and detailed discussions difficult at times.
Nonetheless, to be effective, an effort should be made in determining how to do so. To that end, the preeminent anti-Idiotarian, Dr. Sanity, has brought to light this essay by Paul Graham entitled How to Disagree, which has been supplemented here with this tremendously valuable graphic depicting the Pyramid of Disagreement in which the various possible methods of disagreement are ranked in order of prevalence and effectiveness.
As you move up the pyramid, the effectiveness increases. Mr. Graham labels the bottom method DH0 (Disagreement Hierarchy) on up to DH6. It is important to note that anything below DH4 (counterargument) he labels as “unconvincing,” but could also be labeled “invalid,” or “ineffective.” Thus, if one truly wants to convincingly deal with a topic, one should engage in counterargument (DH4), refutation (DH5), and/or refuting the central point (DH6).
An additional benefit of this pyramid is the ability to recognize what kind of presentation one is reviewing or formulating, i.e., it serves as a tool for analysis of argumentation by providing a framework to judge the level of effectiveness of an argument, another’s or your own.
In general, if the point is to convince and persuade, you want to stick to the upper levels of argumentation. Unfortunately, these usually take more effort and are longer to prepare that the vastly easier lower levels. The progression up and down this pyramid can be correlated with at least two other characteristics: level of rationality and its converse, the level of emotionalism. The higher up the pyramid, the more you have to think and use rational argumentation. The more you sink to the lower levels, the more likely it is you will sink into emoting and reacting without thinking, and thus end up with drivel. The most petulant and peevish exchanges occur at these lower levels, especially at DH0. In addition, this pyramid helps to explain at least one potentially confusing couplet in Proverbs that some take as a contradiction:
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. (Proverbs 26:4-5)
Let’s first note that a fool will most likely answer with the folly of a DH0 or DH1 level response. The more intellectual ones might make it to DH2. So, don’t respond in kind, at the same level, because then you’ll be just like him, and you’ll be operating in the realm of the unconvincing. Yet there are times when it is necessary to formulate some response so that he doesn’t think he’s won (becoming "wise in his own conceit") and so that he doesn’t distort and corrupt someone else’s thinking with his poisonous pabulum. In those cases, you respond at DH4-DH6. With this framework, we see the statements are complementary and not contradictory.
As conservatives, let’s commit ourselves to operating at the DH4 and higher levels in our intercourse here in the blogosphere. If nothing else, it will drive liberals crazy!
ADDENDUM: Two further thoughts on DH0 level discussion, i.e., name-calling responses. First is one that Mr. Graham makes in the essay linked above: it doesn’t matter if one sinks into the gutter of vulgarity to call someone a [explicative deleted] or if one rises to the lexicon of loquacity to label someone a “poltroon of plenitudinous proportions,” it is still name-calling and does not address the issue under discussion and thus is only effective to the author in an emotive, cathartic way (which still may have some value for said author of such a comment, but does nothing to prove any point, or even that the name is an accurate assessment of the one to whom it is ascribed).
The second point is to answer the question, is it ever right to assign a derogatory label to someone, i.e., is name-calling a valid response in some situations? Here, I think there is a fine but finite distinction to be made between a.) responding to an argument and b.) attempting to describe someone or something based on the evidence at hand. Name-calling never answers an argument, period. Thus, it is never a valid response as a counterargument. However, some labels are accurate descriptors if sufficient data has been presented to make the case to use such a label. For example, it is not too difficult to label many liberals today as socialists because one can take their own statements and compare them to the statements found in socialist documents and find identity clearly manifested. Thus, based on the data, labeling someone with a name based on evidence is a valid exercise. It still is not an argument, but it consolidates data, is subject to verification and falsification, and can serve as a basis for argumentation.
Any additional thoughts on this or any other aspect of the pyramid are welcome.
ADDENDUM #2: For an interesting example of God Himself engaged in what I’m talking about in the Addendum above, check out Matthew 23, where Jesus takes on the religious leaders of the day with less than P.C. bluntness. It is critical to note that He supplies multiple examples of their behavior as evidence to justify the names He uses to accurately characterize the fruit of their lives. The grand finale of His indictment is in verse 33:
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
While this appears to be DH0 level “disagreement,” the juxtaposition to the evidence indicates otherwise: it is a descriptor and not an argument. His argument consists of the multiple examples where the religious leaders have consistently shown their contempt for God’s law by their meticulous search for all the loopholes they can find in their hypocritical pursuit of their own righteousness.
As a sidebar, let me also note that despite its vehemence, Jesus is not engaged in irrational emoting or an angry diatribe, although it is probably fair to say that a modicum of righteous anger/indignation was present. Jesus had and displayed emotion, but always under control. As one clear example of this, check out His cleansing of the Temple (e.g., John 2:13-17). Large cattle are not particularly easy to move, and turning over tables constructed to hold the necessary items of trade (scales, weights, coins) was not a job for a limp wimp (carpentry in this day and age would have provided any carpenter of the day with a good physical fitness program). We appear to see Jesus having a temper tantrum, but verse 16 we see the evidence that gives the lie to that conclusion:
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
In contrast to the larger cattle for sacrifices, doves are fragile birds that were in cages. Rather than throwing these to the ground and hurting the birds, He calmly commands their owners to pick them up and get them out…NOW! In so doing, He demonstrates His self-control even in the midst of an apparent storm. Of course, being the sinless Son of God also makes these kinds of activities substantially “safer” for Jesus than for us (James 1:20).