The New Yorker ponders journalism’s future, ignores Walter Lippmann in profession’s past

A decent essay from Jill Lepore at The New Yorker. Longish, but worth the read.

However, one point where I strongly differ from Lepore:

For Pressman, the pivotal period for the modern newsroom is what Abramson calls “Halberstam’s Golden Age,” between 1960 and 1980, and its signal feature was the adoption not of a liberal bias but of liberal values: “Interpretation replaced transmission, and adversarialism replaced deference.” In 1960, nine out of every ten articles in the Times about the Presidential election were descriptive; by 1976, more than half were interpretative. This turn was partly a consequence of television—people who simply wanted to find out what happened could watch television, so newspapers had to offer something else—and partly a consequence of McCarthyism. “The rise of McCarthy has compelled newspapers of integrity to develop a form of reporting which puts into context what men like McCarthy have to say,” the radio commentator Elmer Davis said in 1953. Five years later, the Times added “News Analysis” as a story category. “Once upon a time, news stories were like tape recorders,” the Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors commented in 1963. “No more. A whole generation of events had taught us better—Hitler and Goebbels, Stalin and McCarthy, automation and analog computers and missiles.”

These changes weren’t ideologically driven, Pressman insists, but they had ideological consequences. At the start, leading conservatives approved. “To keep a reporter’s prejudices out of a story is commendable,” Irving Kristol wrote in 1967. “To keep his judgment out of a story is to guarantee that the truth will be emasculated.” After the Times and the Post published the Pentagon Papers, Kristol changed his spots. Journalists, he complained in 1972, were now “engaged in a perpetual confrontation with the social and political order (the ‘establishment,’ as they say).” By 1975, after Watergate, Kristol was insisting that “most journalists today . . . are ‘liberals.’ ” With that, the conservative attack on the press was off and running, all the way to Trumpism—“the failing New York Times,” “CNN is fake news,” the press is “the true enemy of the people”—and, in a revolution-devouring-its-elders sort of way, the shutting down of William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, in December. “The pathetic and dishonest Weekly Standard . . . is flat broke and out of business,” Trump tweeted. “May it rest in peace!”

Liberal, i.e. left-wing, “bias” and values — I don’t see Lepore’s distinction — were baked into journalism’s professional ethic when Walter Lippmann decided to develop one in the early 20th century. Lippmann pioneered journalism’s turn to objectivity, a methodological process carried out by technocrats, i.e. journalists, that was supposed to resemble science and emulate its epistemological rigor in scrutinizing society instead of the natural world. This is in large part because the masses, for Lippmann, could not be counted on to grasp what was really going on outside “the pictures in their heads” and accordingly make the appropriate electoral decisions.

So, for the liberal ideal of democracy to have a chance, the right public opinion — or range thereof — had to be nurtured and cultivated by a class of objective experts. Self-rule was perhaps only possible if elites gave citizens the information they needed to be truly autonomous. In other words, social reality was too complex, the electorate too incompetent for everyday people to govern themselves without the expertise of journalists.

That’s the theoretical basis in the 1920s that gets you in no small part the news analysis and “interpretative” coverage that Lepore notes occurred in the second half of the century. It’s also a significant factor in how we get a frantic press corps sallying its mighty influence to take down down a Constitutionally-elected president in Donald Trump in 2019.

This type of professional behavior was and is most definitely ideologically motivated. Modern journalism emerged from the moral fervor of American progressivism and its attendant influences. How could it not have similar values and beliefs? How does this not manifest in bias, particularly in these turbulent days?

To put it another way, Trump is the chosen talisman of the recalcitrant American masses who are repudiating the self-important oligarchical status quo within which journalists are a main player. He is an avatar of the populism threatening the neo-liberal order and their vaunted place in it. Thus, the reported narrative about his election and presidency tells of “white supremacy” and authoritarian impulses endangering democratic institutions — especially freedom of the press — empowered by an ascendant fascism percolating from 63 million “deplorable” voters. Hyperbolic and hysterical, this interpretation of the so-called facts, mind you, comes from those who see themselves as the objective caretakers of the “Marketplace of Ideas.” Yet, as evidenced by their histrionics, like in the above-mentioned yarn, these supposed adepts seemingly possess a disqualifying ignorance of the produce, the exchange of which they’re apparently duty-bound to curate. It’s that old Platonic notion of rule by the wise, except legacy news organizations, the self-proclaimed practitioners of objectivity, are increasingly proving themselves to be lacking the humility, temperance, and open-mindedness indicative of what the ancients called wisdom. So forget Lippmann and press theory. Nowadays, one just has to look at a grandstanding Jim Acosta on CNN or read the self-aggrandizing platitude of “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on top of the Washington Post‘s website — the addition of which occurred after Trump’s election — to discern the Fourth Estate’s dogmatism. No journalist is required to glean the truth here.

Shhhsh! They don’t want you to know that! And that patronizing attitude, dear readers, is the point. Such self-serving elitism is ideological. Moreover, it’s not a bug to be worked out of the operating system; thanks to Lippmann, it is a permanent feature of it. Lepore fails to see, let alone admits, this, projecting instead her own partisanship on the right, writing off conservatives as merely grumbling about phantasms of “liberal media bias” spawned by the specter of Spiro Agnew. It’s poor tact in an otherwise trenchant take on the crisis of modern journalism.

Real it all here.

Philosophy and the existence of alien life

Do aliens exist? Are we alone in the universe?

These are the sorts of questions I’ve been asked by people when they learn I somewhat have a background in philosophy. They’re interested in my opinion on the existence of extraterrestrial life. It’s occurred enough that it’s become a bit predictable.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not being snobbish about it. These are good questions. I sympathize with the obvious curiosity inspiring them. Who hasn’t wondered if there are alien species, or perhaps even civilizations, not of this earth? Certainly not this guy!

However, this isn’t the sort of question in which philosophers are interested. Or, if there are any philosophical implications concerning the existence of aliens, they are very limited.

Take, for example, the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of reality and its first principles, metaphysics. To put it crudely, it’s uncontroversial to metaphysicians that stuff exists (To be a bit more refined: For some x, x exists iff a) x is conceivable in some possible world y and b) y is in fact the actualized, real world). What is controversial, however, is how stuff (x) exists, what kinds of stuff (x) exist, and, last but not least, if this stuff exists out of necessity (in all possible worlds) or is it contingent on some other stuff (z) for its existence and or being. These are the sorts of navel-gazing matters for which it’s worth growing long white beards, stroking those beards while thinking about said matters, and being so immersed in thought about them, one’s navel collects the ensuing detritus as lint. Unseemly hygiene aside, it’s a noble tradition that dates back before Socrates.


…For philosophers, aliens do indeed qualify as stuff — contingent stuff, as it’s possible for not only aliens not to exist, but also any sort of creature, including us, homo sapiens. It might be unlikely based on the universe being so vast, but the probabilities aren’t relevant here, only the broad metaphysical possibility that they don’t exist. In other words, it’s not necessary that aliens, us, or any creature to exist. The universe could have just kept on spinning without life of any kind. Yet, contingent creatures do exist, and not since Descartes has someone seriously entertained something close to the opposing notion. So, it’s not a revelation, philosophically speaking, if there are contingent creatures not native to our third rock from the sun out there among the stars.

But I anticipate someone raising what I call a Neil-deGrasse-Tyson-BatmanvSuperman objection:

I find deGrasse Tyson’s reasoning unpersuasive in the clip. He opines that the existence of Superman, an alien, “challenges our own sense of priority in the universe,” which, with the comments about Copernicus and Darwin’s theory of evolution, compose a jab at the Judeo-Christian-influenced view that humans are God’s children and thus “special” among all the rest of the flora and fauna of reality. Unfortunately for deGrasse Tyson, as a matter of logical deduction, it doesn’t land.

Consider the two central propositions of “mere Christianity,” both of which are necessary for the truth of the Christian worldview. If any of these are false, Christianity must be false too:

  • (1) God exists
  • (2) Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead

For the sake of simplicity, let’s not worry about the theological details of God’s nature. (1) just affirms a general theism. Likewise, most of the accompanying Christian doctrines implicit in (2) (e.g. Jesus being the incarnated Second Person of the Godhead, sinless, and the need for the remission of sins, etc.) are also not of concern here save one. Namely, (2) implies we are special — “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) — in a way deGrasse Tyson denies. Call this belief (2a).

Now, suppose the following proposition is true:

  • (3) Extraterrestrial life exists

Can propositions (1), (2), (2a), and (3) all be true at the same time? Is there some logical contradiction between them like there is with these three propositions if all true?:

  • (4) All bachelors are unmarried
  • (5) Tim is a bachelor
  • (6) Tim is married

In sum, the existence of aliens is logically consistent with Christian theism and its belief that humans are “special.” deGrasse Tyson fails to demonstrate the naturalistic conclusion to which he’s arguing, specifically that humans are just one of many types of animal life that so happen to exist on a small blue planet in the godless, meaningless, purely material cosmos.

However, I predict another objection of an inductive kind: The Bible only depicts God interacting and caring about man; its narrative seems exclusionary to any sort of extraterrestrial people, i.e. rational animals of an alien sort on another world. Their existence would be prima facie evidence of the Bible’s fallibility — a book that is supposed to be without error — and thus a strong reason to be skeptical of Christianity.

The problem with this reasoning, though, is the assumption the Bible, if the Word of God, must contain accurately our scientific discoveries, especially the “big” ones capturing the popular imagination. The Bible is not a scientific text. Though some Evangelicals try to read it as such, especially Genesis, many Christians throughout history didn’t and still don’t. Poor theology doesn’t debunk all theology. If there are alien civilizations out there, their existence has little bearing on whether Christianity is true. Moreover, Jesus’ commandment in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations” can easily be interpreted to extend to peoples not of this Earth.

See, the confusion comes from a widely-held misconception about what is of philosophy, as well as related disciplines like theology, and what belongs to science. This question about alien life is the province of the latter, specifically xenobiology. Additionally, if there are alien societies, then sociology and anthropology have relevance too. But when it comes to philosophy and metaphysics, ET phoning home isn’t of much pomp and circumstance. With all due respect for the deGrasse Tysons of the world, whatever the fact of the matter, it doesn’t support naturalism, Christian theism, or other positions involving problems in philosophy of religion and other areas of special metaphysics, e.g. issues of personhood. Unwittingly, deGrasse Tyson and those like him are merely reading their prior-held metaphysics and values into a strictly empirical and valueless domain of study.

That’s all that’s going on here. Nothing more, nothing less.

Queer Theology: ‘Jesus is polyamorous’

For your viewing disgust:

Good Lord! I don’t what’s worse—his warped, facile interpretation of straightforward Biblical passages or the smug nonchalance dripping from his sacrilegious tongue. I’ll deal with the former first and then explain the implications of the latter.

His argument seems to be as follows:

1) The Bible’s account of Jesus is authoritative about what is morally good for a Christian

2) The Bible affirms that Jesus has many “personal relationships” with multiple individual members of the church

C) It’s morally good for a Christian to have “personal relationships” with multiple individual persons, i.e. be polyamorous

Now, I’m sure the perverts are about to rejoice with an orgy at this profound theological development, but I’m going to have be a party-pooper on this one (Yeah, sorry-but-not-sorry). The reasoning of our “reclaimed and empowered kind of slut” equivocates, which is a fallacy. He uses the same key phrase in two differing senses when inferring his conclusion. In this case, it’s “personal relationships,” i.e. love. So let’s talk about it.

Living in a Hellenistic culture, many early Christians, like the Greeks before them, identified and differentiated between varying forms of love—namely storgephiliaeros, and agape. As a learned man familiar with these distinctions, Paul in Ephesians was referring to agape, the unconditional, perfect love, of Jesus in relation to his bride, the body of believers, the church. He’s calling husbands to a higher, transformative love directed toward their wives that resembles the sort of selfless love Jesus demonstrated on the cross. Ephesians 5:25-27:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Mr. Queer Theology omits this context, fixating on Paul’s marriage metaphor in verse 30 but interpreting it rather literally and shallowly as a crude sexual relationship—in other words, eros, erotic love, lust. Moreover, “church,” “body of believers,” and the allegorical “bride” are all collective singular nouns. It’s convenient how this advocate for Biblical polyamory takes the liberty of treating them as collective plural nouns, grouped individuals doing their own things—as well as everyone else’s apparently. With these sleights-of-hands, he justifies homosexual polyamory as being not just permissible but also positively Christlike!

That’s what’s humongously abominable here: His casual denigration of Jesus’ perfect sacrificial love by conflating it with carnal desire. For instance, in the beginning of the video, he dubs Jesus, his supposed Lord and Savior, the Second Person of the Godhead, a mere “slut” and proceeds to proclaim himself one too, equivocating again. Thus the holy and divine is rendered equivalent to what’s animalistic and sensual. Calvary is as sacred as the San Francisco bathhouse.

It’s also not the most damning part of it either. Consider the fact that this deviant wants to have his Christianity and promiscuous sodomy too, just not in that order. He is a child of the Sexual Revolution before he is a child of God. His Christianity is subordinated to his leftist weltanschaunngmy will be done” instead of  “thy will be done.” And as such, it can’t be any other way. One can’t serve two masters especially when each of their commands are fundamentally incompatible with the other’s. So, the Christianity of this false prophet is indeed an ersatz faith because it’s founded not on the worship of God. It’s build on the worship of himself and his sexual gratification. He’s an idolator first, a sexual miscreant second, and a “devout” theologian whenever it suits the other two.

It’s also a terribly subversive combination, and I’m sure that’s the point: Taking the Highest of the High and making it tantamount to our lower impulses; calling what’s sinful saintly; replacing the heart of Christianity with what is anti-Christian and selling the desiccated remains as the real thing with a self-assured smirk. This is evil, and it’s increasingly evident it has infiltrated our institutions and corrupted our teachings. With Pope Francis flirting with heresy, men of the cloth doing far worse than mere flirting, and secular dogmas fast supplanting traditional ones, we, as a church, are in a sorry state.

May God have mercy on the false prophet above; may God have mercy on us all.

Vox Day, ‘political philosopher’?

His words. Not mine. To be fair, I’m assuming, though not implausibly, they’re Vox Day‘s in the following blurb for his latest book, Jordanetics: A Journey Into the Mind of Humanity’s Greatest Thinker:

Jordan Peterson is believed by many to be the greatest thinker that humanity has ever known. He is Father Figure, Philosopher-King, and Prophet to the millions of young men who are his most fervent fans and followers. He is the central figure of the Intellectual Dark Web, an academic celebrity, and an unparalleled media phenomenon who has shattered all conceptions of what it means to be modern celebrity in the Internet Age.

He has, by his own admission, thought thoughts that no man has ever thought before. He has dared to dream dreams that no man has ever dreamed before.

Of course, Jordan Peterson also happens to be a narcissist, a charlatan, and an intellectual con man who doesn’t even bother to learn the subjects upon which he lectures. He is a defender of free speech who silences other speakers, a fearless free-thinker who never hesitates to run away from debates, difficult questions, and controversial issues, a philosopher who rejects the conventional definition of truth, and a learned professor who has failed to read most of the great classics of the Western canon. He is, in short, a shameless and unrepentant fraud who lacks even a modicum of intellectual integrity.

But is Jordan Peterson more than a mere fraud? Is he something more sinister, more unbalanced, and even more dangerous? In JORDANETICS: A Journey Into the Mind of Humanity’s Greatest Thinker, political philosopher Vox Day delves deeply into the core philosophy that Jordan Peterson advocates in both his written works and his video lectures. In doing so, Day methodically builds a shocking case that will convince even the most skeptical Jordan Peterson supporter to reconsider both the man and his teachings.

Some comments:

  1. Serious thinkers don’t begin an abstract or preview of their work in passive voice with the vague plural pronoun “many.”
  2. Who exactly thinks “Peterson is the greatest thinker that humanity has ever known”? His peers? His fans? Historians? I hope Day has done the empirical leg-work here to support all his provocative claims in this book.
  3. Philosophers aren’t aghast when other thinkers reject the “conventional definition of truth,” i.e. the correspondence theory of truth (CTT). Hegel, Nietzsche, the American pragmatists — to name a few — were no proponents of it either. Were they just intellectual frauds too?
  4. Serious intellectuals, political philosophers included, avoid polemics and facetious rhetoric when criticizing someone.
  5. Philosophers don’t conflate dialectic with invective. They don’t make intellectual disagreement personal. This preview is a prologue to what looks to be a hatchet job.
  6. Serious intellectuals and philosophers tend not to carelessly assert dubious claims and demonstrable falsehoods in their published work. For example, is Peterson’s célébrité really comparable to the influence of a religious figure like a prophet to his fans? How does Day know these fans’ psychology so well as to claim that? Furthermore, Google Scholar shows Peterson’s work has been cited more than 10,000 times, strongly suggesting he indeed thinks “thoughts that no man has ever thought before” precisely because many other men doing original research give him credit for conclusions and ideas he’s produced. It also debunks the libelous contention that “he lacks a modicum of intellectual integrity,” as hundreds of scholars find his work worth adducing. And the notion he’s a hypocritical free-thinker “who never hesitates to to run away from debates, difficult questions, and controversial issues” is laughable. What was Peterson’s stand against Canada’s Bill C-16 about then? He’s engaged hostile journalists in interviews and debated social justice warrior professors. Is Day’s audience too drunk on Alt-Right Kool-Aid not to see through this nonsense?
  7. The gratuitous hypocrisy in these four paragraphs is dumbfounding. If you’re going to condemn a man for not reading most of the seminal works of Western civilization, then don’t complain when he doesn’t maintain the CTT. Don’t decry a well-published academic as a “charlatan, an intellectual con man” when making no effort to observe the mores of the vita contemplativa, proclaiming yourself a political philosopher, and promoting your book that almost certainly is more concerned with malicious ad hominem than truth.

I’ve argued for it once before, but Day is a petty and envious sophist and ideologue. The tirade above is proof positive.

Edward Feser on Humean skepticism

Responding to philosopher Simon Blackburn’s review of his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God in The Times Literary Supplement, fellow philosopher Edward Feser writes:

The broadly Humean epistemology he deploys against the Scholastic theism I defend in Five Proofs of the Existence of God requires a careful balancing act.  On the one hand, Blackburn must limit the powers of human reason sufficiently to prevent them from being able to penetrate, in any substantive way, into the ultimate “springs and principles” of nature.  For that is the only way to block ascent to a divine first cause – the existence and nature of which, the Scholastic says, follows precisely from an analysis of what it would be to be an ultimate explanation.

These limits have to be even more severe than those that Aristotle, Plotinus, Aquinas and other ancient and medieval philosophical theists would already draw themselves.  Precisely because of its ultimacy, the divine cause of things is only barely intelligible to the human mind.  Reason’s grasp of it is genuine, but only at the fingertips.  Hence Aquinas’s heavy emphasis on the via negativa and the analogical use of language.  The intellect gets in just under the wire.  To avoid theism, the Humean has to make sure that the intellect doesn’t even get to the wire.

On the other hand, Blackburn has to make sure that this skepticism is not so thoroughgoing that it takes science and Humean philosophy down too, alongside natural theology.

It is one of the key contentions of my book that this balancing trick cannot be pulled off – that to keep reason robust enough to support science and philosophy (even Humean philosophy) as going concerns will inevitably make it robust enough to support Scholastic theism as well.

One way to see this is by way of the principle of sufficient reason, which the Humean must deny.  According to the weak version of the principle that I would endorse (which owes more to Aquinas than to the excessive rationalism of Leibniz), all concrete reality is intelligible.  Humeans like Blackburn cannot accept the “all” without becoming Scholastic theists.  But they cannot replace it with “no” without undermining both science and their own philosophical position.  So they must claim that some concrete reality is intelligible and some is not.  But where to draw the line, and why there exactly?

No principled answer is forthcoming.  Certainly there is no coherent way to draw it, as many atheists attempt to do, at the fundamental laws of nature.  Higher-level laws are explained by lower-level laws in something like the way the book on the top of a stack is held up by the ones below it.  Take away the floor, and there is nothing that gives the bottom book any power to hold up the top book.  Similarly, make the fundamental laws into unintelligible brute facts, and they have no intelligibility to pass upward to higher-level laws – which in turn will have no intelligibility to pass along to the phenomena they are supposed to be explaining.  The world’s being just a little bit unintelligible is like its being just a little bit pregnant.  Or it is like having a cancer that metastasizes unto the remotest extremity.

Another way to see the problem is by consideration of Hume’s Fork in its contemporary guise – the conceit that if you’re not doing natural science, then the only thing left for you to be doing is “conceptual analysis,” which tells us at best how we have to think about reality, but not how reality itself really is.  The trouble with this supposition is that it is itself a proposition neither of natural science nor of conceptual analysis, but rather reflects precisely the third sort of perspective which it alleges to be impossible.  Faced with traditional metaphysical claims, the Humean begins with an incredulous stare.  But he ends with a coprophagic grin, caught in the very act – metaphysics – he decries as philosophically unchaste.

Read it all here.

Related: David Hume’s Double-Edge Sword.

P.S. “Coprophagic” — verbiage I had to look up — is a fancy way of saying “feces-eating.”

A note on Avengers: Infinity War (LOTS OF SPOILERS)

It’s a little more sophisticated than one might think. Sure, it’s not quite as philosophically ambitious as the original The Matrix, but it has more depth and layers to it than a massive blockbuster with a reported production budget between $316 to $400 million should. Putting aside the villain’s Malthusian-inspired ideology and his god-complex, what’s of more philosophical interest, I think, is how Infinity War portrays in stark terms the centuries-old debate in normative ethics between means and ends, i.e. consequentialism versus deontology.

Consequentialism refers to those views that hold that what determines an act’s moral goodness or badness is its results. Deontological theories are those that contend that whether an act is moral or not depends on how well it comports with prescribed duty and rules. So, for consequentialism, the ends justify the means. For example, knowingly diverting a trolley to save five people at the expense of one is morally permissible according to what’s considered typical of consequentialism. In contrast, deontology’s rules-based approach tends to be too rigid to allow such ethical flexibility. “Thou shall not kill” is theoretically difficult to reconcile with the proverbial dilemma about taking a relatively few lives to save many, e.g. President Truman’s use of nuclear weapons against Japan in World War II.

Infinity War is built around the conflict between these competing schools of thought. Thanos wants to collect the six “Infinity Stones” for his “Infinity Gauntlet,” thus enabling the “Mad Titan” to literally to snap his fingers and remove half the universe’s population from existence so sentient life won’t face extinction and the suffering he links to over-population. So he’s the consequentialist’s consequentialist and also most likely a utilitarian. For him, this act of cosmic culling is good, i.e. “mercy.” The end — “watching the sun rise on a grateful universe” — pays for wiping out trillions. On the contrary, the Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, et al.), our heroes, are explicit, if not implicit, deontologists. For example, when one of the Avengers, Vision, who’s powered by the Mind Stone, proposes destroying it and thereby himself to deny Thanos, Scarlet Witch rebuffs the idea, insisting, “That’s too high a price.” Likewise, the always honorable Captain America responds, “We don’t trade lives, Vision.” Speaking as good deontologists, both are treating the android as a Kantian end in himself, not as a mere means. Lest we think the Vision is an exception to such a view, near the film’s climax, he parrots the same line back to Cap after saving the First Avenger at great risk to his own life and the Mind Stone. Most of the good guys here oppose Thanos because they believe it profoundly immoral to sacrifice one for any, let alone many.

The film’s screenplay, steered by Joe and Anthony Russo’s direction, does an excellent job playing up these divergent philosophies with multiple scenes and scenarios that contrast what Thanos is and the Avengers aren’t willing to do to accomplish their contradictory goals. In addition to the their reluctance to kill Vision to thwart Thanos, we witness Iron Man’s attempt to prevent Spider-Man, a teenager for whom he feels responsible to as a sort of surrogate father, from accompanying and aiding him on a mission he believes is a one-way trip, Star Lord’s vacillation in shooting Gamora per her request to stymie Thanos, Gamora’s own inability to safeguard critical information when faced with Thanos torturing her adoptive sister, Doctor Strange’s dealing the Time Stone to Thanos to spare Iron Man when he previously informed the billionaire that he “would not hesitate” to let Iron Man or Spider-Man die to protect it*, Star Lord’s costly outburst when he learns Thanos traded Gamora’s life for the Soul Stone (Thanos: “I haaaad to” / Star Lord: “No, you didn’t; no you didn’t!”), and Black Panther’s endangerment of his country and its citizens to keep Vision and his Infinity Stone away from Thanos’ forces. On the other hand, Thanos’ Gauntlet-wearing one, our villain repeatedly demonstrates his consequentialist resolve for the sake of his task, the ultimate means to what he believes is the ultimate end — “salvation” as one of his henchman at one point calls it. He physically tortures one of his “children,” putting the other, Gamora, in anguish, extorting her to reveal the Soul Stone’s location. Once there, he kills her, the “daughter” whom he genuinely loves, to attain it. Thanos is willing to lose “Everything” to achieve what he believes is his destiny.

And achieve it he does. At great personal cost, mind you, but he still succeeds. Our heroes fail repeatedly when matched against Thanos’ iron will. In so doing, the Russos have crafted perhaps the only blockbuster, especially such a prominent one tied to the pop culture of a particular generation, that at first glance is an argument for consequentialism over deontology. This is all the more remarkable when considering we live in a liberal age in which the lion’s share of political and moral concerns are expressed in the language extolling the inviolability of human dignity and individual rights. “We are all Kantians now.

However, this theme that runs against the zeitgeist won’t last. This is the Marvel Cinematic Universe after all. The multi-billion dollar franchise must go on. Thanos’ triumph, although gut-punching and way more effective cinema than it had any reason to be, is not final. Infinity War‘s sequel is slated for early next summer in which the purple-skinned baddie’s villainy will be undoubtedly undone.

However, as a standalone feature — and it strictly can’t be as an MCU flick — it’s a surprisingly good introduction to one of ethics’ foremost disagreements.

*As a caveat, it’s conceivable Doctor Strange handed over the Time Stone because when he foresaw 14 million possible outcomes to their upcoming fight with Thanos using said stone, the single case in which he mentions they win in the movie could revolve around Iron Man even after Thanos’ apparent victory.

The sophistry of Vox Day: Naked revulsion for Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and anything ‘Judeo-Christian’

Maybe it’s the journalist and philosopher in me, but I don’t like Vox Day. He is a sophist, a demagogue. My background in both disciplines fostered a healthy distaste for such people. At the very least, it’s clear to see he’s not the robust intellectual he portrays himself to be—a charade that unfortunately has duped too many of my millennial peers.

How do I know this? Well, for starters, take his hatred for conservative media personality Ben Shapiro as expressed in this diatribe against him:

The relentlessly dishonest Ben Shapiro was quick to publicly deny both Jesus Christ and the Christian heritage of America while taking speedy exception to a rabbi telling Christians the truth about her religion. Shut it down! Unfortunately for the Littlest Chickenhawk, Twitter was well-informed and having none of it. Do not be deceived. Shapiro is a lying, parasitical snake; he is a Fake Right Fake American who has been artificially propped up in the media for nearly two decades in order to lead Christians and conservatives astray.

Um, okay then. But what did Shapiro actually say? Day quotes Shapiro responding via Twitter to Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg:

“Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg@TheRaDR
This might be a good time to note that ‘Judeo-Christian’ is not a thing and we Jews would like you to stop conflating our tradition with your American Christianity.

Ben Shapiro@benshapiro
This is nonsense.

Ben Shapiro@benshapiro
Judaism and Christianity are deeply intertwined. American Christianity has generally had a deeper love for the Old Testament than European Christianity. And the vast majority of religious American Christians see the Jews as the root of the tree of Christ.

Ben Shapiro‏@benshapiro
The fact that America is Judeo-Christian and not merely Christian is a reflection of those facts”…

If one isn’t a rabid ideologue, it’s evident Day is the “relentlessly dishonest” one in his characterization of Shapiro here. Shapiro neither was “quick to publicly deny” Jesus Christ nor “the Christian heritage” of America (Yes, I know he is practicing orthodox Jew and rejects the divinity of Jesus, but he doesn’t articulate that view in the provided exchange on Twitter). The editor of The Daily Wire asserts that America is both a product of Judaism and Christianity—note the phrase “merely Christian.” Whether this is true or requires some qualification—something that Twitter’s platform makes difficult—it’s obvious Shapiro was not denying Christianity’s influence on America. I see no evidence of insincerity on his part for making the claims he does.

So, why does Day call him a “lying, parasitical snake” and a “Fake Right Fake American who has been artificially propped up in the media for nearly two decades in order to lead Christians and conservatives astray”? Why the vitriolic conspiracy theory-mongering?

Well, Day is of the Alt-Right. The Alt-Right is for the deployment of white identity politics in the face of the non-white identity politics that constitute the contemporary left. Jews, as a tribe, are not white; according to the Alt-Right, they have group interests that differ and, in some cases, are opposed to that of whites. Therefore, if America is fundamentally a white ethno-state, as the Alt-Right contends, then Jews are a foreign group who work against the social and political dominance of whites in their own countries and must be defeated. That’s why the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about “the Jews controlling everything behind the scenes” have found a comfortable home within the Alt-Right. The notion that the Western civilization, Christianity, and, by extension, America have roots in Judaism and Jewish Biblical narrative, which is true, is something Alt-Right anti-Semites like Day, who maintain America, Europe, and the West were formed by and can only be predominantly for whites, can’t ideologically stomach.

This explains Day’s irrational praising of “well-informed” red-pillers on Twitter who supposedly put the nefarious Shapiro in his place.

Ben, there is no Judeo-Christ!

Heather Anne@cler_morgaine
Judaism and Christianity are both *Abrahamic* faiths. The term ‘judeo-christian’ is used to to fake religious pluralism while excluding Islam, which arguably has more in common with both than they do each other.

Dr. Ramone, Esq.@melvinramone
Judaism rejects the core premise of Christianity. You’re making up facts.

Cornelius Rye@CorneliusRye2
It’s literally not. It’s a very recent invention by YOUR PEOPLE. Jews have very little to do with America pre-WWII.

You represent Talmudism. Different thing.

White evangelical Christians’ rate Jews 69 out of 100, but Jews rate evangelical Christians 34 out of 100. I look forward to the day when Christians wake up from the “Judeo-Christian” “greatest ally” con and realize that Jews hate them.

Please tell me which of the Founders was a Jew.

Deplorable Unum 🇮🇹@deplorable_unum
Wrong. America predates the 20th Century, when the “Judeo-Christan”  term first appeared. Stop trying to rewrite America history, little Benny.

The Forgotten Man@_ForgottenMan
As many of the presidents of the past have said, “This is a Christian nation.” The Judeo-Christian makes no sense, Judaism and Christianity are two very different religions.

These are red herrings that don’t refute the claim that America and the West owe much of their cultural heritage to Jewish monotheism, legalism, and the Imago Dei to which Shapiro, charitably interpreted, was referring. These and other ideas, which originate in Judaism, undergird—dare I say it—a “Judeo-Christian” value system that has been highly influential in the development of the West. It’s irrelevant if the term “Judeo-Christian” is a 20th century neologism, if some Jews have used it to advance their ethnic interests, or some people use it to promote “religious pluralism”, i.e. multiculturalism. Its referent, the object to which it refers, is real whether Day and company recognize it.

Likewise, Judaism indeed is a different religion than Christianity. But so what? Christianity and its revelation of the New Testament only makes sense in light of the Old Testament and its narratives and prophecies involving the Jewish people. At least, that’s how millions of Christians understand the Bible.

And no, acknowledging these cultural ties does not entail that I and other Christians are following “Judeo-Christ,” a supposedly humanist idol, instead of Jesus Christ. I don’t know how Day and some Alt-Righties go from a belief in an intertwined cultural inheritance shared with Jews to blasphemy for a secular pseudo-religion, but it’s the sort of dialectical slipperiness and presumptuous assertion befitting the most deliberately opaque continental thinkers. Less of a Christian—at least not in a meaningful sense—and more of a white nationalist, Day endeavors to obscure what’s plain and true to satisfy the tribalism he preaches.

It’s also hard to mistake the stench of jealousy wafting from his frequent assaults on Shapiro and now Jordan Peterson. Their influence on the right far surpasses Day’s. They’re also critical of the Alt-Right, and Day’s reaction to their criticisms and their profound popularity is telling. He not only name-calls (e.g. “Littlest Chickenhawk” for Shapiro and Peterson, the “nutcase,” who “is objectively stupid”), he denounces them as malevolently dangerous. They’re shams, charlatans, props for our globalist overlords in order to immunize white men from any red pill dissident geniuses like Day can bestow. You see, for Day, being a classical liberal, which both Shapiro and Peterson are, makes you “a leftist.” Advocating individual personal responsibility apparently implies denying your racial and other group identities. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” seems to be Day’s angry tune.

Sorry, I’m not marching to this fife; these are not the pronouncements of someone who is interested in the truth. They are in no way “substantive.” Rather, they’re the envious polemics of a man consumed by an ideology that rejects who and what each of us are fundamentally—persons whose being comes from our rational animal nature as created and sustained by God. It’s in this way more than any other in which Day and the Alt-Right are just the inverse image, a photo negative, of the social justice warrior whom they despise. To both, we all are just merely tokens of racial and or sexual types. Either way, we spiritually desecrate ourselves, as well as others, with the proliferation of such false identification.

Avoid both extremes and those who espouse them. Look for less paranoid, more intellectually rigorous voices on the right.

Evidence, miracles, and science: An argument against the existence of Jesus considered

In a recentish post, Arkhenaten advances two theses, one concerning the philosophy of science, the other history:

A) Sometimes science can test for and falsify supernatural phenomena (philosophy of science).

B) Jesus of Nazareth never existed (history)*.

More specifically, he writes:

If the theist wants the atheist to change – and aren’t they compelled to spread the Word? (sic) – then simply provide evidence that demonstrates the sincerity of their objective and the veracity of their claims.

At least provide the evidence that convinced them to become Christian.

Ah … but then we are back to things supernatural which cannot be tested by scientific means as they fall outside the natural world. Right?

Well, yes … and no.

Yes, he[Jesus] was a regular bloke. Except for miracles. The miracles he did. Not least of which was raising Lazarus from the dead.

And this is where we should expect to find evidence. Some independent attestation of the wondrous deeds he did. After all:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 21:25

It’s in the bible, and the bible is the inspired Word of God, right?

And, yet, what do we have?

Not a word, not a whisper.

A god who lived among humans as a human and as a god for over thirty years and left no trace outside of a story?

There is absolutely nothing that can be checked. Nothing to back a single claim.

In this case absence of evidence is most definitely evidence of absence.

Evidence of miracles? Hmm …. I don’t think so.

And under such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to draw the only logical conclusion.

The biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth is simply a work of fiction.

There are several things to be noted here:

1) Why must the Christian provide evidence to prove the “sincerity of their[sic] objective”? Why assume that when a Christian is evangelizing to the non-Christian he is doing so with nefarious intent? Perhaps this Christian knows nothing of apologetics and the rational case for the Christian worldview. Yet, when he recites John 3:16 to someone he’s proselytizing, what is there to suggest he’s doing so disingenuously and not with the belief that it’s for non-Christian’s best interest?

This Freudian slip suggests there is no “evidence” that will give Arkenaten cognitive pause because he is already convicted not to mull it due to prejudice he has about its source. Whether this prejudice is rationally justified, I’ll let the reader decide. For those who have met him online, I think the answer is readily apparent.

2) Arkenaten doesn’t flesh out the “scientific means” he has in mind to test the supernatural—also undefined. The supernatural, being super-, must be beyond the natural, which itself refers to what I’m interpreting as what the spacio-temporal exhausts. So, miracles from Jesus, Moses, or whoever are supposedly of the supernatural and workings not of this spacio-temporal realm. Indeed, according to Hume, miracles are by essence violations of observable natural laws. If science only operates within these observable natural laws of the spacio-temporal, then any miracle is beyond the reach of science to corroborate. To wit: Any miracle X that seems in violation of some natural law Y doesn’t provide prima facie evidence for the existence of X, but throws into question the veracity of Y as being a bonafide natural law.

So, it’s not clear what’s applicable for the natural can verify the supernatural. Though Arkenaten admits the difficulty here, he also thinks there is a way to get around this problem, vaguely appealing to “evidence.” However, it’s not obvious how science—understood as the empirical method that seeks knowledge of the physical spacio-temporal universe via continuous stages of observation, hypothesis, and experimentation—can provide evidence about whether a proposed historical figure existed (How do you test that?). The past isn’t empirical; why assume the “evidence” strictly is too?

Perhaps what Arkenaten means by “evidence” are archaeologically gathered artifacts, like contemporaneous manuscripts from the first century Roman Palestine. Well, deriving conclusions about the past from writings of a bygone era is not science but something closer to the discipline of history, which can be informed by science but not actually be of science as defined above.

So, Arkenaten seems to be stretching the bounds of empirical science in order to make a historical argument about whether Jesus existed. This either stems from a commitment to scientism, the incoherent view that the only genuine knowledge is scientific knowledge, or confusion about what science does and what constitutes its evidence. Regardless, both undermine his claim A) that science can test for and falsify supernatural phenomena. It also is unrelated to the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. These are separate issues.

3) As for Arkenaten’s historical argument for the non-existence of Jesus, it seems to be the following:

  1. If Jesus did exist, then there is independent attestation of his miracles.
  2. There is no independent attestation of Jesus’ miracles (indeed, nothing at all “outside of a story”).
  3. Ergo, Jesus did not exist.

As a modus tollens, the argument is formally valid, but that itself is not a guarantee of soundness. Indeed, I think both 1 and 2 can be rejected as false.

For premise 1, there isn’t a strong reason to think independent attestation, meaning contemporaneous references to Jesus’ miracles not from his disciples or their followers, would have much bearing on the question of Jesus’ existence. Either Jesus, as a mere man or the incarnated Son of God, did or didn’t exist; whether Roman historians or others of the time cited miracles attributed to him is logically irrelevant to the matter at hand. For it’s possible, even likely, that Jesus’ miracles wouldn’t be widely written down in the oral tradition-driven society of first century Judea. As for the occupying Romans, it’s probable they wouldn’t even be aware of Jesus until he would be leveraged as a symbolic figurehead for Jewish insurrection. The antecedent of 1 does not imply its consequent.

Moreover, Arkenaten provides no argument for this criterion of independent attestation found in the consequent. He just posits it as plausible and definitive. But why assume this? I mean, most of what we know about Socrates, a man who was amazing in his own right, comes from his followers. They’re not independent either, yet, while some might doubt some parts of Socrates’ life, no one doubts that Socrates even existed. That’s because there are other means historians use to establish the historicity of an event or person that this dogged insistence on independent attestation of miracles as what determines Jesus’ historicity precludes by seemingly capricious fiat. So, what is gratuitously asserted—if there was a historical Jesus, his miracles would be confirmed by contemporary independent sources—can be gratuitously denied.

Likewise, premise 2 can be regarded as false. Let’s grant Arkenaten’s call for “independent attestation,” albeit modified. While there isn’t a contemporary non-Christian reference to Jesus or his miracles (Tacitus and Josephus are later), it’s simply not the case that there is “Not a word, not a whisper … absolutely nothing that can be checked. Nothing to back a single claim” about Jesus. It’s not “In this case, absence of evidence is evidence of absence.” The Christian faith did not emerge from a vacuum. There are particular facts established by historian-developed methodologies in need of explanation which apologists use to make an abductive case for the Resurrection, the miracle upon which Christianity is erected, and, ipso facto, the historical Jesus.

For example, at least a few of Jesus’ apostles died espousing Jesus as Lord and Savior. Martyrs make terrible liars. It seems the likes Peter and Paul really believed what they were preaching. Well, it’s possible they hallucinated Jesus or were just plain crazy. But isn’t it much more likely they knew a person (or in Paul’s case, knew people who did) upon whom to base their radical new religion? As it so happens, the same sort of argument, mutatis mutandis, is used to claim the Resurrection as history.

So, it’s not enough for Arkenaten to declare victory here. These kinds of arguments from apologists have to be refuted, the historical facts explained better in terms New Atheists would accept, before justifiably dismissing Jesus’ existence, and thereby Christianity, not to mention the many secular accounts of the Gospels’ narratives in which Jesus is a historical figure.

4) Now, I’m sure this reasoning has little pull on Jesus mythicists, who occupy quite the redoubt on the internet when it comes to this area of New Testament scholarship. They’ll find this answer too speculative. After all, they’re demanding a “smoking gun” in a discipline where practitioners, more often than not, don’t possess one and must piece together what they do have to draw conclusions about the past. History is not a hands-on science.

Nevertheless, I suspect Arkenaten and company will treat it as such if it suits their ideological fancy. In my experience, “evidence” can be whatever they need it to be, hence the adamant Jesus mythicism in spite of the evidence that convinces the vast majority of academic historians, many of whom have no theological axe to grind, that Jesus, at least as a mortal, walked the earth two millennia ago.

Why do New Atheists cling to this benighted view about Jesus? My estimation: It’s not enough for Christians to be wrong—they must be hopelessly irrational too. Christianity, in their minds, is not merely false, but ridiculous. And those who believe in and live by the ridiculous in an increasingly secular society deserve ridicule from their more enlightened peers.

These anti-Christian beliefs form a cock-sure attitude. Neither falsifiable nor open for negotiation, they are dogma founded more in vitriolic politics than dispassionate reason.

For potential further evidence of it, read the comments.

*I’m not being uncharitable about Arkenaten’s position either. He’s maintaining it’s not merely the Christian conception of Jesus Christ that is the myth, which allows the possibility of a historical person known as Jesus who’s merely a man, not divine. It’s Jesus wholesale. Note that Arkenaten expresses skepticism about even the seemingly most mundane details of his life, writing, “Jesus was born, lived – and one can presume he slept, ate and used the toilet just like regular people – and of course he died. Or at least this is the claim [emphasis mine]. He’s also said as much in previous comments on another entry of this blog.

Steven Crowder on David Hogg

As a bit followup to yesterday’s post, here’s conservative YouTube funnyman Steven Crowder on David Hogg, Leftist Christ Superstar.

Oh, and for those rankled by my not so subtle but clever suggestion that Hogg is like sadistic, child-murdering Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones, Crowder cleverly but not so subtly compares You-Know-Who to Hitler. So…I’m not the worst.

David Hogg: The ‘vicious idiot’ who would be king

David Hogg is a real piece of work. Really. It’s time to take off the kiddie gloves.

During the last two months, the teenager-turned-activist who survived the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting has burned through any goodwill he’s had for undergoing something highly traumatic and being wet behind the ears. Hogg’s proved himself to be a vile demagogue and an exception to the saying, “Only bad things happen to good people.”

Here’s a few of his greatest hits, as compiled by Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire staff and then mirrored by YouTuber TRUTHBOMBS:

For my mind, Shapiro, who has come down the hardest on Hogg among the conservative commentariat, is still too generous to the brat. He claims he is withholding judgment about whether Hogg is a nice guy outside of politics earlier in the video. Please. As exemplified above, the teenager has serially slandered Dana Loesch, Marco Rubio, the NRA to the point that his tirades push what’s normative for political discourse even in these polarized times. Sorry, Ben, media prop or not, a foul-mouthed, arrogant student who regularly and remorselessly bears false witness against his neighbors is not a mensch. Surviving a shooting is not a license to demand the infringement of people’s gun rights and be insufferable about it.

Hogg’s worse than that, though. This latest episode in which he’s orchestrated an advertiser boycott against Fox News’ Laura Ingraham also shows he’s thin-skinned and vindictive. For those who need to be caught up, Ingraham took time on Twitter to pick on Hogg for being rejected by some colleges in California. Since then, he and Media Matters have incited several companies to pull their advertising from her show, prompting the Fox talk show host to offer an apology, which he’s rebuffed.

On what grounds, you ask? Well, see for yourself the wisdom that spouted wondrously from Hogg’s own mouth:

How gracioushumble, and sincere the left’s new favorite talisman is! “I’m [emphasis mine] not the issue here,” and “when people try to distract, like Laura is doing right now, from what the real issue here is…,” said the precocious prince of the left’s effort to gut the Second Amendment and who could choose to make peace with Ingraham at any time. It looks like our rising star has a taste for exerting power upon people, making them squirm, making them hurt.

Don’t believe me? Well, apparently this dust-up with Ingraham isn’t the first time Hogg has gone out of his way to screw with someone’s livelihood for slighting him or his friends. Go ask the Redondo Beach, Calif., lifeguard who was put under review due in some part to Hogg’s footage of this confrontation between that lifeguard and a member of Hogg’s crew, who was recalcitrant about being admonished for covering a trash can at a beach with his boogie board.

Yeah, the lifeguard’s punishment really seems to fit his crime, if you can call his conduct with Hogg’s associate that. Our boy wonder apparently isn’t a fan of lex talionis. I, however, doubt he knows what that means even though he’s fixated on handing out deserts he believes are just to those who oppose him. A 4.1 GPA isn’t a reliable indicator of knowledge these days, though it might correlate with a grossly inflated sense of one’s capability to solve incredibly complex social problems, such as gun violence, specifically school shootings.

What’s perhaps even more ironic, which I’m sure others have pointed out, is that the left has gone all-in with the caustic, spoiled millennial as the face of its tyrannical gun control agenda, and he is unlikeable enough for it to all backfire. He’s sanctimonious, grudging, self-obsessed, and, worst of all, conceited enough to believe he knows how best to fix what ails society, i.e., “…our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.” The left has anointed someone who embodies the sort of authoritarian personality for which the right to bear arms exists—a foolish, self-righteous megalomaniac impulsive and vengeful enough to trample those he believes are beneath him. After the Parkland massacre, that’s gun-toting America and her political representatives. Although psychopath Nikolas Cruz pulled the trigger, for Hogg, everyone else is equally culpable and must have their liberty curtailed.

He’s basically Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones. No, really, the two are more alike than different: Both are entitled, come from well-connected families (it’s not by accident that Hogg has been quickly and regularly thrust in front of the camera across the country), feign either victimhood, heroism, or machismo when it suits their purposes, sic others on their political enemies to destroy them, boast irritating smirks and sneers, and clearly are products of incest—ideological incest, that is, for Hogg. All he needs to do is go blond and murder two whores for fun with a crossbow (I hear, however, he has something against bearing personal arms).

You don’t think he’s that evil? Sure, but hair dye is readily available; plus, given his background and exploits from the last several months, it’s evident he’s got potential.

Am I being too provocative? Too unfair? Too harsh in suggesting that the Iron Throne from the early GOT seasons fits? Well, at the very least, it’s fair to opine that something very sharp and pointy is far up his ass, and he needs to be slapped repeatedly, so to speak, for it. This is in part to show conservatives that their hands won’t fall from their wrists for striking a “vicious idiot king,” but also to drive home the point that civility is for the civil. Contra Matt Walsh, the cankerous Hogg can’t be ignored because he’s not going anywhere, at least not until his handlers realize he’s more trouble than he’s worth. Reasoned debate with him or his enablers is not possible and thereby a losing bet. In order to get rid of him, we mustn’t be afraid to resort to ridicule and mockery, especially because Hogg thoroughly deserves them for his smug demagoguery. Doing so is not character assassination because the boy who would be king hasn’t got any. As Bronn, another character from GOT, observes about Joffrey,

Indeed, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. Indeed.