Criminal Justice Professionals vs. “Pure Academicians”

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Criminal justice professionals, such as police officers, corrections officers, crime scene investigators, attorneys, and judges have a variety of political opinions ranging from left to right. This is to be expected, since professionals in any field hold diverse ideas. But most professionals in criminal justice are constrained by the practicalities of their chosen field to avoid extreme positions. Their focus is on what works in everyday life, at a practical, concrete level.

Academics live in a much more sheltered environment. Many, though not all, academics who teach criminal justice lack practical experience as criminal justice professionals. As such, they can “afford” to be more radical in their political views because their views are not necessarily tested in a real-world setting. It is perfectly acceptable to be naive about evil in human nature if one is standing before a classroom or sitting in a room with other academics.

Recently I attended a criminal justice academic conference–not one of the national ones, but local. There were almost no criminal justice professionals in the audience, as one might expect–the audience was composed almost solely of academicians. There was one police officer who presented an excellent paper on police leadership as well as some interesting student papers. The academicians were focused, sadly, on the usual mumb0-jumbo quasi-Marxist theories of identity politics so popular in colleges and universities today. Instead of focusing on personal responsibility, the papers focused on social oppression as the cause of crime, and on race, class, and gender being the only determinants of personal identity and behavior. “Diversity” was interpreted in the narrow sense of gender and race, now and then with economic status interspersed. A true diversity of ideas (or even a true cultural diversity) was not celebrated–any deviation from the radical left wing determinism by race, class, and gender was considered unacceptable–a sign of racism, classism, or sexism.

The problem with such theories is that the ignore the fact that all human beings have freedom and dignity–and freedom includes the freedom to make wrong moral (and legal) choices. The criminal justice system preserves human dignity by affirming that crime is an evil against others, that it must not be tolerated by society, and that the guilty should pay for their crimes. Disparities in crime statistics regarding minorities are not necessarily due to oppression by the majority of a minority, but due to the breakdown of family and social order in some minority communities that leads children to have poor role models and thus to grow up with a vicious, rather than a virtuous, character. To deny a minority the right to be punished for wrongdoing or to always blame the majority for the minority’s crimes is to deny the minority freedom and dignity. It is to place a member of a minority outside the bounds of the universal human condition of “fallenness” and outside the knowledge of sin. Such a view, in effect, dehumanizes minorities. Police officers see this human fallenness on an everyday basis and do not care, in general, for making excuses for bad human behavior. Unless criminal justice academics remove their heads from their rear ends and examine the real world of the police or correction officer, lawyer, or judge, they will remain oblivious to reality–and criminal justice professionals and academics will remain permanently estranged.

Immigration and Multiculturalism: European Leaders are Wising Up; American Leaders are Not

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Some European leaders, such as President Sarkozy of France, Prime Minster Cameron of the U.K., and Chancellor Merkel of Germany, have openly stated that “multiculturalism has failed” (http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110210/wl_afp/francepoliticsimmigrationsociety_20110210231042). If only the President of the United States or more people in Congress had the courage to say the same thing. It is ironic that those academics and journalists who focus on cultures being irreducibly different also believe that cultures with radically different world views can peacefully co-exist. Until about 1965, the dominant culture of the United States was based on British culture and European Protestant Christianity with an American revivalist flavor. Roman Catholics, such as John F. Kennedy, fit into the general culture because they accepted the notion that the Roman Catholic Church should not be favored over other churches–in addition, Roman Catholics of Irish and European background understood democracy and the freedoms guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. But after another Lyndon Johnson disaster, the 1965 Immigration Act, which no longer favored European immigration over immigration from other countries, the old Angl0-Protestant culture began to be superseded by a Balkans-like “multicultural” society. Massive immigration, both legal and illegal, has altered the social landscape so rapidly that communities hardly have had time to react. As more immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, come to the country from Mexico and Central and South America, usually from countries that lack a tradition of democracy, millions of people are entering the United States without an adequate knowledge or appreciation of our democratic heritage. While most legal Hispanic immigrants want to learn English (and to give them credit, some illegal immigrants), many illegal immigrants want a permanently separate society in which Spanish is the only language taught in their communities. Local communities, especially in the South, which have been stable for over one hundred years, have turned into unstable gathering points for illegal immigrants where locals who have sacrificed much of their livelihood and lives for the land on which they live feeling unwelcome and driven out.

In addition, millions of unassimilated Muslims have entered the United States. Secular Muslims fit well into a democratic culture; however, Muslims of a fundamentalist bent do not. The seeds for terrorism against the American people are today not as much with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as in our own local communities. Although many Muslims are not fundamentalist, the United States has failed to take action even when officials knew a threat existed–as was the case in Fort Hood, Texas. The near-open border with Mexico is another place that Islamic terrorists might use as a crossing point. In the meantime, due to the political correctness and multiculturalism of the political left, of academic, and of the media, the United States fails to secure its borders and instead wastes lives, time, effort, and money into foreign wars that only serve to embitter our enemies more than before.

Europe has seen its very culture threatened by multiculturalism and by rapid immigration from non-Western cultures. In addition, some of these immigrants have carried out terrorist attacks against European nations. The European leaders understand that multiculturalism has failed. It will fail in the United States–it is already in the process of failing, as the Mexican illegal immigrants in California who refuse to play the Star Spangled Banner at ball games but instead play the Mexican national anthem with a Mexican flag flying high–witness. The drain of illegal immigrants who are not loyal to the U.S. and who desire the Southwest to be returned to Mexico has wrecked the state budgets of some states. In my home state, Tennessee, TennCare, the state insurance for the poor, was cut drastically when an unelected judge said that benefits had to be given to illegal immigrants. It is sheer madness for a country to allow massive illegal immigration (just what about the word “illegal” does the Left fail to understand?) by people from cultures hostile to the United States or at least not sympathetic to American ideals, to continue in this country. Hopefully soon an American political leader will have the courage to speak out as have the European leaders mentioned above.

The Modern American City

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No reasonable person could deny that there is some good in large American cities–symphony halls, museums, unique shops, and in some cities, classical architecture (Nashville, Tennessee’s building housing their symphony orchestra is an example). Overall, however, the verdict on most of America’s large cities must be negative. Large cities have become cesspools of crime, alcoholism, illegal drug use, prostitution, lonely, isolated people, rudeness–places where the dregs of human existence can hide. This is not to deny that there is much evil in small towns and in rural areas; as Flannery O’Connor pointed out in “Good Country People,” there are wicked people in the country as well as in the city.

That caveat aside, large American cities have, in the individualistic culture of the United States, become havens for evil and vice of all stripes. Often there is very little interaction between people who are strangers to each other, who often come from many parts of the country and from many other countries. The stable neighborhoods necessary to establish healthy human communities rarely exist in the contemporary large metropolis. Although community is breaking down in every area, a person is more likely to find a human community with healthy interactions, families, and stable friendships in a small town or in a rural area. Thomas Jefferson noted this fact over two hundred years ago. He believed that Americans could, despite their individualism, live a virtuous life (in the sense of eudaimonia, Aristotle’s term for enlightened well-being, a well-lived life) in small towns and in small family farms that nurture human interaction and overcome the self-seeking of individuals striving to seek the products of their own desires. Small communities help a person to reach outside himself for the good of those he loves, beginning with his family, then outward to close friends, and then to the wider community. A sense of obligation to the wider community is more likely when the community is small and when people share common values and goals. In large cosmopolitan cities, there are few shared ends, and there are so many people that any obligation outside an illusory self-fulfillment is difficult to accept. The loneliest people live in large cities because they do not know anyone who shares their values, and they can hide in the lies of seeking money, status, or power. Like Citizen Kane, they would be happiest near their family, around people they know and love, and perhaps doing something as seemingly mundane as playing on a sled. Kane tried to help mankind and ended up losing his fellow man.

With the loneliness and isolation of individuals in large cities and the attendant breakdown of families, more and more citizens of large American cities will grow up into vicious, rather than into virtuous, human beings. Vicious human beings can only be controlled, as Thomas Hobbes recognized, by law, by a state that sets up penalties strong enough to deter crime. For less vicious people, contracts may hold them in line for a while, but contracts, already based on distrust, are not the best tool for uniting a human community. In the small town South and Midwest prior to World War II, a man’s word was his bond. Local businesses routinely gave credit to poor farmers while the farmers waited for the harvest so they could pay their bills. It was rare that such agreements were written down on paper. Those who violated their agreements, unless there were extenuating circumstances, were, at the very least, ostracized from the community. Even “rough people” who would get into fights, wound honor the ancient code that if one is beaten, he should walk away. There was none of the barbarism of today’s fights, when the loser of a fair fight tries to murder the winner. In a small community that values honor, such behavior would get the dishonorable person either killed or exiled from that community. Such honor is possible on a small scale. But the notion of “fairness” is defined differently  by the various groups in a large city–not all would accept the notion of a fair fight or of honoring one’s word. The overall moral direction in such large cities is inevitably down–until finally people get tired of anarchy and a strongman takes power over the state to enforce order–and people willingly accept such dictatorship in order to feel safe. I pray that the United States does not get to that level, but unless the country can focus less on large urban population centers with large, faceless businesses and more on small towns and small farms with community-based businesses, there will be little hope for avoiding the final end of the republic.

But hope never fully dies–more people are leaving large cities and moving to small towns and to the country. More people are going into gardening and into raising their own food. Even in large cities, unified communities, primarily ethnic, offer a sense of belonging to those people who live in those communities. Eventually, the methods of large corporate factory farms may backfire, and the government will be forced to allow room for the return of small family farms. There are still traditional churches who have not bought into liberal theology or the faddish worship trends of Evangelical Protestants. Not only do these churches affirm tradition, they also become surrogate families for people who no longer have a family in any meaningful sense. In the northern industrial states, large cities continue to shrink, but there are some small towns that are still thriving and have not been affected by the recent massive emigration to large southern cities. I would love an America that was again an agricultural country of small towns and only a few large cities. If American does not return to that state, I pray that some of the stopgap measures I mentioned above will hold enough virtuous people together to prevent total anarchy and to preserve the freedom within constraints of voluntary community that Jefferson desired.

Cosmological Arguments Based on Sufficient Reason are Flawed

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One of the most popular family of cosmological arguments for the existence of God is based on the principle of sufficient reason. This principle dates back to at least the time of Leibniz, who used the principle to argue that contingent beings must have a sufficient reason for their existence, and that reason is God. As much as I love the cosmological argument based on neo-Aristotelian notions of cause and effect, the argument from the principle of sufficient reason fails.

Leibniz’s own argument fails, first of all, because his notion of “contingency” is only an epistemological, not a metaphysical, notion. Beings and events are contingent only from our limited human point of view. But every object and event is logically necessary given God’s preestablished harmony between the monads, the ultimate (non-spatial, non-temporal, windowless) bits of “mind-stuff” that are the basis of all being. Leibniz was such a determinist that he believed that if at time A, person B had one less hair on his head, he would literally be a different person. Thus the contingency of being is only an appearance, only a quirk of human beings’ limited capacity to know a complex world, rather than an actual state of finite beings. Leibniz’s distinction between contingent and necessary being collapses into only necessary being, and since the distinction is essential to his cosmological argument, his argument fails. A similar criticism applies to all arguments from sufficient reason that posit a necessary connection between reasons in a deductive logic framework.

A major problem with all arguments based on the principle of sufficient reason is that this principle, beloved of many rationalists, subsumes causes under reasons. But not all causes are reasons and not all reasons are causes. The cause of the late President John F. Kennedy’s death was the bullet that caused fatal brain destruction. The reasons for his death are more complex and involve the motives of Oswald, perhaps too lax security, and so forth. It is true that we talk of reasons being causes in a loose, extended sense and vice versa, but this does not imply that the distinction is illusory or unreal.

If a cosmological argument for the existence of God is to be sound, it must start from cause and effect among finite beings, with the finite causes being contingent because they do not have the cause of their existence within themselves, and therefore they are liable to change, decay, and in the case of living things, death. Aquinas’ Five Ways to prove God’s existence are examples of arguments based on traditional Aristotelian causality. Of course the arguments will have to be updated to some degree due to their statement in terms of outmoded Aristotelian science, the substance of those arguments are correct–but that discussion is for another day.

The Warren-Flew Debate: Thirty-Five Years Later

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The Warren-Flew debate on the existence of God took place from September 20-23, 1976, on the campus of North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in Denton, Texas. Affirming the existence of God was Dr. Thomas B. Warren of the Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee. Denying the existence of God was Dr. Antony G. N. Flew of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. Both men have passed on now, but to this day that debate has influenced me–and is one of the main reasons I am a philosopher today.

Even as a child I was tormented by doubts about my Christian faith, doubts that continue to haunt me today. In junior high and in high school I wanted to defend the existence of God against atheists, at the time focusing on science. Although I do not agree with my position then, I fell in love with the young earth creationism of Henry Morris, Duane Gish, and the members of the Institute for Creation Research in California. I wanted to get a degree in one of the sciences–my childhood dream was to do what Hugo Ross is doing today–get a Ph.D. in astronomy and defend the Christian faith. Thank God I later recognized that young earth creationism is false–but by then I had an alternative field–philosophy. And it was the book on the Warren-Flew debate that led me into the field.

Memory fails me regarding when I received the book–perhaps it was a Christmas present. I was in the middle of the ninth grade. The first thing that impressed me about the book was its dedication by the publishers–“To all who love truth and are willing to make the search to find it.” It was truth I had always sought–what was and is important is that God exists in truth, in extramental reality. As I read on, I believed (and still do) that Dr. Warren got the better of Dr. Flew in the debate. Perhaps Dr. Flew was not ready for an American style of all-out debate rather than a quiet discussion of the issues. In any case, I admired Warren’s chart of “Chinese Boxes,” each of which Flew had to know to know that God does not exist.  The idea of consciousness arising from that which has no consciousness or intelligence from the non-intelligent still seems fantastic to me today.

This is not to say that Dr. Warren did not equivocate–many of his arguments are vulnerable to attack. Warren’s pseudo-dilemma about which came first, a human mother or a human baby, and how it is impossible for a nonhuman mother to bear a human baby misses the point of evolution. Flew noted this weakness but did not do an adequate job of refuting Warren’s point. Later, Wallace Matson in his debate with Warren offered an effective argument from an analogy with language: “When did Latin become French.” Just as it is impossible to say at what exact point Vulgar Latin ended and Old French began, so it may not be possible to determine when an ape-like primate ended and a human being was born. Despite these flaws, I admire Dr. Warren’s use of logic, his consistent evidential apologetic position, and his willingness to stick to his guns and debate the leading atheists of his day. Reading that book first gave me a love for philosophy that remained in the back of my mind and finally came to fruition when I took some philosophy classes at David Lipscomb University (although my major was Biblical languages) and especially when I took Dr. Harold Hazelip’s classes in the philosophy of religion at Harding Graduate School of Religion, Dr. Warren’s old school. By the time I entered Vanderbilt University for an M.A. in Religion, most of my courses were in philosophy as well as my thesis. By then the course was set, and I thought of Dr. Warren and his debate the day I received my Ph.D. in philosophy from The University of Georgia.

If Dr. Warren were alive today, he would be disappointed in me–he was an old-fashioned believer in the New Testament as a constitution-like document with a set pattern for doctrine and practice that he believed was only fulfilled in the present day through Churches of Christ. In 1983 the paper The Firm Foundation published Warren’s article, “The Only Christians” that argued that the only Christians were members of the Churches of Christ. The article contained a great deal of equivocation on the term “Church of Christ.” Sadly, Dr. Warren would think, if he were still living, that I am on the road to hell. He was man consistent with his convictions to the end of his life, and I admire that. But I believe that it was proper to offer a tribute to Dr. Warren for being, unknowingly, a major inspiration for my decision to go into the field of philosophy–and I thank him.

“Hate Studies”

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Gonzaga University has recently created a  “Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies” (http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?doctype_code=Article&doc_id=1142). Although hate is a legitimate subject for philosophy, theology, psychology, and sociology to study, the sad truth is that this program is one that will inevitably label those who hold traditional moral values or conservative political views as “haters.” The article in the link from the National Association of Scholars website discusses the program from the perspective of academic sanity. Glenn Ricketts has examined the journal published by the Institute and discovered what he suspected: that “hate studies” is an excuse to push a particular cultural, religious, and political agenda. Any Christian who believes that abortion is morally wrong, or who believes that practicing homosexuality is morally wrong, would be classified as someone full of hate. Any political conservative who opposes racial quotas would be labeled as a hater. Gonzaga has created a propaganda mill for the most radical wing of the Democratic party, the wing of which most academics, at least in the Humanities, are members.

Gonzaga is Jesuit, and although there are traditional Jesuits who still exist, this institute shows how far a Jesuit institution of learning can sink. But it also shows the level to which academia as a whole has sunk with its myriad of “special studies programs” that support a privileged status for the interest group they claim to represent. This is the case whether the group is a particular race, gender, economic class, or “sexual orientation.”

If a student wants an education rather than propaganda he should avoid such programs. He should find a college or university that teaches the history and philosophy of Western Culture first, so students understand their own culture, and then teach about other cultures and beliefs–that is true diversity. The pseudo-diversity of “race, class, gender, and sexual orientation” is only a con game for radical special interest groups to con money and favors from society. Marcuse’s Marxism for the masses through the alteration of culture has, since the 1962 Marxist takeover of the Students for a Democratic society, has come to fruition in contemporary colleges and universities. The only thing that saves American culture from ultimate disaster is that many students have enough common sense to avoid believing bull. Traditional academics have put up a fight through the National Association of Scholars and other organizations which have both liberal, moderate, and conservative members who all agree that the radical’s use of special studies programs, such as “Hate Studies,” have changed much of the academy into a version of Huxley’s “brave new world.” It is past time for traditionalists who have not joined the battle to fight back against the radicalization of higher education in the United States.