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Well, that explains a lot!

Political Cartoons by Steve Kelley

The Horror!!!

Happy New Year!

13 Jan 2017 1 comment

Ah, Political Clarity at last!

20 Sep 2016 1 comment

How to Unite

31 Aug 2016 1 comment

Ben Shapiro’s essay, We Have Nothing Left Holding Us Together, says it well.  Read the whole thing below (emphases added).  Despite what they say, liberals/progressives/the Left are not pursuing unity.

On Friday, a South Carolina high school stopped students from bringing American flags to a football game against a heavily Hispanic rival school. Why? The principal was presumably worried that waving the flag might offend the Hispanic students. According to the principal, “This decision would be made anytime that the American flag, or any other symbol, sign, cheer, or action on the part of our fans would potentially compromise the safety of all in attendance at a school event.”

This isn’t the first such situation. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that a public school in California could ban students from wearing a shirt emblazoned with an American flag on Cinco de Mayo thanks to fears over racial conflict at the school. The lawyer for the children complained, “This opens the door for a school to suppress any viewpoints that are opposed by a band of vocal and violent bullies.”

Meanwhile, has-been San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been widely praised in the media for refusing to stand for the national anthem during football games. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” explained the man earning an average of $19,000,000 per year for sitting on the bench. He continued: “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

We’re watching the end of America in real time.

That doesn’t mean that the country’s on the verge of actual implosion. But the idea of America required a common definition of being American: a love of country on the basis of its founding philosophy. That has now been undermined by the left.

Love of country doesn’t mean that you have to love everything about America, or that you can’t criticize America. But loving America means understanding that the country was founded on a unique basis — a uniquely good basis. That’s what the flag stands for. Not ethnic superiority or racial solidarity or police brutality but the notion of individual liberty and equal rights before God. But with the destruction of that central principle, the ties that bind us together are fraying. And the left loves that.

In fact, the two defining philosophical iterations of the modern left both make war with the ties that bind us together. In President Obama’s landmark second inaugural address, he openly said, “Being true to our founding documents … does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way.” This is the kind of definition worshipped by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has singlehandedly redefined the Constitution. He said, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

But this means that liberty has no real definition outside of “stuff I want to do.” And we all want to do different stuff, sometimes at the expense of other people’s liberty. Subjective definitions of liberty, rather than a common definition, means a conflict of all against all, or at least a conflict of a government controlled by some who are targeting everyone else. It means that our flag is no longer a common symbol for our shared definition of liberty. It’s just a rag that means different things to different people based on their subjective experiences and definitions of reality.

And that means we have nothing holding us together.

The only way to restore the ties that bind us is to rededicate ourselves to the notion of liberty for which generations of Americans fought and died. But that won’t happen so long as the left insists that their feelings are more important than your rights.

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Voting Like a Robot

Isaac_AsimovIsaac 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 ensureltc data 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:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. 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:

  1. A voter may not injure his/her country or, through inaction, allow his/her country to come to harm.
  2. A voter must place a vote for the candidate who conflicts least with the First Law.
  3. 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…

The Pyramid of Disagreement: A Critical Tool for Analyzing Arguments

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.

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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.

Thomas Jefferson

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.

image

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).