The Republican Establishment Needs to Respect Ron Paul

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Congressman Ron Paul at an event hosted in his...

Congressman Ron Paul at an event hosted in his honor at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Please attribute to Gage Skidmore if used elsewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Republican establishment has never liked Ron Paul. The warmongering Neoconservatives that control the party dislike his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Rockefeller country club Republicans (who make up the RINOs–Republicans in Name Only) dislike his libertarianism and his support for small government. Mr. Paul has been busy gaining delegates to the Republican National Convention. Of course Mitt Romney will be the nominee, but Mr. Paul would like some say on the platform and wants a voice at the convention. Now in caucus states, if more Paul supporters show up, he gets more delegates. If the Republicans in those states do not like the results, they should change the system. What they have been doing, however, is challenging the legitimacy of the delegates that Mr. Paul won under the rules of the caucus states fair and square. The Establishment has voiced disdain for Paul’s views and have labeled him as an extremist. What is so extreme about him? He wants small government. The Republican establishment claims that it wants small government, but they really want what the Democrats want without spending quite as much money. Mr. Paul opposes abortion; so has every Republican Party Platform since 1976 (even with Mr. Ford, who supported abortion rights, as the nominee in 1976). Mr. Paul supports a national interest foreign policy–that is not an isolationist position, but it suggests that foreign entanglements should be regarded with caution and with proper concern taken for American interests.Mr. Paul opposes government surveillance of American citizens. Since when did that become a radical position?

Now many Ron Paul supporters would vote for Mr. Romney if he and the Republican establishment would show them respect, let them keep the delegates they earned in states where they won the caucuses, and allow them to have a voice at the Republican National Convention. If the Republican establishment continues its present course, they will guarantee four more years of Mr. Obama. What is frightening is that the powers that be in the Republican Party despise Mr. Paul and his followers so much that they are apparently willing to risk losing the presidential election. Sadly, the Republican party has become a tent of warmongering Neoconservatives, Premillenialist Fundamentalist Christians to whom Israel can do no wrong, Red State Fascists who want no limits on federal police power, and RINO country clubbers. Hopefully if there are voices of reason in these groups, they will listen to what Mr. Paul and his followers, many who are young and energetic, want to say. If not, the Republican Party will slowly die a well-deserved death.

Duns Scotus, God’s Ability to Keep Forms in Existence, and Animal Immortality

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John Duns Scotus (c. 1266 – November 8, 1308) ...

John Duns Scotus (c. 1266 – November 8, 1308) was a theologian and philosopher. Some think that during his tenure at Oxford, the notion of what differentiates theology from philosophy and science began in earnest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is well-known that John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) had a more voluntarist bent in his philosophy than did St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). Scotus, writing in light of the Condemnation of 1277, in which the Bishop of Paris declared a number of Aristotelian propositions to be heretical, was careful to stay in line with current church teaching. Now the two great medieval thinkers would agree that God can do anything logically possible that is consistent with His nature. Aquinas, however, included all ten commandments under the natural law, while Duns Scotus held that the commandments dealing with human conduct were consistent with the natural law, but could be overridden by God given particular circumstances. Another issue to which Scotus devotes attention is whether God could maintain plant or animal souls (forms) in existence in the same way that the human soul is naturally immortal. (Unlike Aquinas, who believes in absolute proof of the immortality of the human soul, Scotus suggests that although probable arguments can be given to justify the soul’s immortality, conclusive arguments are lacking. Scotus, unlike Aquinas, emphasizes the freedom of God to maintain plant and animal souls in everlasting existence if He so chooses. Now Aquinas says that when a plant or animal dies, the soul is corrupted with the body, since plant and animal souls depend on a functioning body for their existence. Scotus accepts that position, but also emphasizes, as usual, God’s freedom.

What is significant about Scotus’ view has to do with the question of any child who has suffered the loss of an animal companion: “Will my (dog, cat, ferret, rabbit, hamster, etc.) go to heaven? For Aquinas, the answer is a definite “no.” Neither plants nor non-human animals will live in Heaven, but only human beings among embodied creatures. The four elements–earth, air, fire, and water will remain, though in a perfected fashion. When this world comes to an end, so do all the animals.

This is an uncomfortable position for the Thomist to hold, especially given the cosmic eschatological statements of Romans 8 which seem to imply that all of creation will be redeemed. It also ignores the great love between people and their companion animals, a love that is a good for the universe, a love that surely does not die forever with the animal’s death. Given the mistreatment of animals by human beings, it would be fair for animals to share in the eschaton.

If God wanted to keep a dog soul in existence (or a cat soul, a ferret soul, and so forth), according to Scotus He could do so. This does not imply that God would do so, but given the nature of God as love, it is difficult to believe that He would not raise those animals that are precious to human beings–and given God’s plenitude, why would he not raise other animals to whom individuality has worth?  A soul is a form, an informational pattern that acts to organize matter in a particular way. Even if it is not normally ontologically separate from a particular body, according to Scotus, God could miraculously maintain a dog or cat soul in existence up to an infinite future. Then at the resurrection, God would create a new body and allow that animal soul to inform that new piece of matter, perfect the composite, and by His grace grant eternal life to that animal. Scotus’ emphasis on the freedom of God gives more hope to the believer that animal resurrection may take place. That is my hope and prayer.

Parapsychology and Positivism

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Auguste Comte

Although “mainstream” psychologists may disagree, in its attitude toward science, parapsychology competes with psychology for being the most conservative of the sciences. Now there are parapsychologists who do not resemble the original positivists in the line of Auguste Comte or the twentieth century logical positivists in any respect. The late John Beloff was a good example. Today Allen Gauld is in that broad tradition of scientists open to philosophical insight. He appealed to the works of philosophers as well as those of scientists in his work, and he was among the most philosophical of professional parapsychologists. For the most part, I have seen little evidence of positivism among the members of the Society for Psychical Research in the U.K. This is a credit to that organization, which has traditionally held a “big tent” for not only scientists, but also for philosophers, theologians, and other scholars in the Humanities. I will not name them, but there are parapsychologists who believe that philosophy and theology should play no role in either truth claims or theories concerning the various aspects of psi. They desire that parapsychology should be respected as a science like any other field of science. In this respect they are similar to psychologists, who often believe the old-fashioned positivist view that science is the only path to knowledge of reality. Thus even metaphysical issues such as the existence of God, if not amenable to scientific study, cannot be about truth claims. That such a position is a philosophical position seems lost on some psychologists and parapsychologists. Organizations with this line of thought may, from time to time, publish historical studies in their journals, but philosophical papers are almost nonexistent, and all other papers take a quantitative psychological approach to parapsychology. For all the good work J. B. Rhine did to put experimental parapsychology on a firm foundation, his approach also tended to be narrower than the approaches of the Society for Psychical Research and of the American Society for Psychical Research. Some writers today distinguish psychical research from parapsychology, holding that parapsychology takes a more narrow approach to psi, focuses almost exclusively on a “scientific method” of procedure, and deals very little with the issue of survival after death. When I first became interested in parapsychology, I thought that this was inaccurate, and that currently psychical research and parapsychology are coextensive. As I talk with more people in the field, I find more philosophical materialists who also tend to hold that science is the exclusive source of reliable knowledge about reality. I wonder if F. W. H. Myers would be welcome to present a paper at some contemporary gatherings of parapsychologists.  By eschewing philosophical approaches, these parapsychologists may be blind to their own philosophical biases, biases that are present among scientists in every field of study.from physics to biology. I appreciate the open approach to the field taken at the University of Virginia. The research professors there do careful empirical research, but with a true interdisciplinary focus that takes account of the best work in, for example, the philosophy of mind. In a field that necessarily deals with phenomena about which many disciplines make knowledge claims, it is important for practitioners have an open mind and that they be well-read in a variety of fields. I would also encourage those psychical researchers who desire to revitalize psychical research in the United States to communicate with one another and perhaps organize to revitalize the field and keep it from being lost in a plethora of statistics.

The Concussion Problem in American Football

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Image:Wilsonnflfootball.jpg, modified to have ...

Image:Wilsonnflfootball.jpg, modified to have a transparent background. All rights released to the original author. The original description was: “Picture of generic football, GFDL, that FutureNJGov took a while back (2003? 2004?) for a school project. FutureNJGov shrunk it down in size and uploaded it to Wikipedia for a free image of a football.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It really should be no surprise that there have been more concussions in recent years in American football. Players are much bigger than before. When I was growing up  in the 1960s and 1970s, a 260-pound lineman was huge. Now there are NFL linemen who weigh 340 or more and can still run a fast 100-yard dash. Force equals mass times acceleration, and when a 300+ pound defensive back runs into a 200-pound running back, the forces involved, even with advances in helmet technology, can be greater than the brain can bear. Brain against skull = a brain bruise, a concussion. Some former NFL players have permanent damage and early-onset dementia, and recent suicides of former players have brought this issue to the public’s attention again. Can anything be done to stop the increase in brain injuries among football players at all levels?

First of all, bans on dirty play should be strictly enforced in football from the elementary school level to the NFL. Players who violate rules against head shots should be automatically suspended on the first offense, and there should be an ascending scale of punishments for further offenses, up to a permanent ban from playing football. One would think that the players’ union would want to protect NFL players from such hits by supporting strong punlaishments to deter others, but the recent union reaction to the NFL Commissioner‘s punishment of players from the New Orleans Saints who were allegedly involved in a “hit list” of players to intentionally hurt does not bode well for the union’s supporting strict penalties. Too often, the union has called for reducing punishments for players who violate the rules, even players who take blatant head shots at other players. Management and labor must get on board to stop dirty hits that can so easily maim–or even potentially kill–a football player. College coaches should be willing to suspend any player, including a star player, who makes a dirty hit, and for repeat offenders the college or university administration should consider expelling players for particularly egregious actions. Fans should realize that dirty play by a player on the team they like is never justified and should be disciplined.

Many clean hits lead to concussions or more serious injury. Further work can be done to improve technology in protective equipment, including helmets. There is always fear when improvements are made that personal injury lawyers will sue the helmet manufacturing company when a player is hurt, claiming that “This occurred before the new helmet came out. So the company made an unsafe helmet and knew it.” Such actions are blatantly unfair, and personal injury lawyers know it. It may be a bit much to ask some personal injury lawyers to be ethical, but juries should be aware that advances in football safety equipment will not occur if companies get blamed for less safe equipment made before design improvements. Hopefully companies will ignore the risk and and work with their research and development division to make better safety equipment.

Players’ insurance policies should include provisions for long-term care, including psychological help with the effects of brain damage on the mind. The NFL can afford to include such provisions; colleges and universities should also include those provisions in the insurance plans they contract to offer players.

There is a long tradition in the United States of allowing consenting adults to engage in risky sports activities as long as they realize the extent of the risk. All sports have risks: a baseball player can be hit on the head or in the solar plexus; the former can cause serious brain injury and the latter, in some cases, can cause ventricular fibrillation and sudden death. Basketball players get hit when they run into or are run into by other players. Anyone who believes that hockey is safe is kidding themselves. Even running can contribute to a fatal heart arrhythmia in susceptible people. President Theodore Roosevelt threatened to ban football after several on-field deaths. While this went beyond his authority as president, it encouraged the rule change legalizing the forward pass, effectively changing a rugby-like game to modern football. I do not support a ban on football. As far as children playing (with parents’ permission), this is a tricky matter. If coaches carefully supervise players so as to minimize injuries it would be morally acceptable, in my judgment, for children to compete in football. If such discipline is not provided, someone points this out, and nothing is done about it, then allowing children to play is morally problematic. Children should be taught the difference between legal and illegal hits, taught to control their tempers on the field, and to play aggressively but with safety in mind. The game should be a fun activity, not an ancient Roman gladiatorial match.

I have never played football in any formal team setting, though I enjoyed playing with neighbors informally (tackle and flag football) as a child. I love to watch the game–the combination of the athletic skill combined with the intellectual complexity of contemporary football is intriguing. Hopefully measures will be taken to make the game safer for players so that American football can continue to be a staple of life in the United States for a long time to come.

The Whining of the “I’m Outraged” Crowd about North Carolina

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State seal of North Carolina

State seal of North Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

North Carolina voters passed the marriage amendment with a vote of 61% in favor and 39% against. In my own county (Cumberland) the vote was 69% for and 31% against. With the cry from the Left and from many of the “intelligentsia” (notice the quotation marks), one would think that the world is coming to an end. To the elites of society, North Carolina is full of backwoods people who are not enlightened enough to support same-sex marriage. To the majority of the people of North Carolina, the “elites” are out of touch with natural law, with Christianity, and with their fundamental values, values that would have been accepted by the majority of the “elites” only forty years ago. Calm down, ye “outraged.” What has happened in North Carolina is in the state constitutions of thirty states; this is not some new thing that makes North Carolina unique. Instinctively, the majority of people now and throughout history have recognized that marriage is only between a man and a woman. “Oh, the horror,” say the elites. “An appeal to nature is a fallacy.” Really, now. To the modern and contemporary worlds, nature is considered to be infinitely malleable by human will, so it would not make sense to modernity to appeal to a stable natural law. Beliefs do not change facts. Only a man and a woman can produce a child. Appeals to the possibility of cloning do not suffice to argue against the view that in human nature, without massive technological intervention, only a man and woman can bring a child into the world. Usually it is the biological parents that rear the child, and in order for the child to have a stable home, a permanent bond, marriage, has been established by almost all known human societies. There may be differences in the number of spouses allowed and in other details, but all such arrangements are between men and women. Even an enlightened ancient Roman who was tolerant of homosexuality would be horrified at the contemporary attempt to legitimize what cannot be legitimized. Most people recognize this unless they have had this belief educated out of them by liberal and radical elites.

The reason for the vicious anger and personal attacks by supporters of same sex marriage on decisions such as the one the voters made in North Carolina is not mere disagreement. After all, people disagree over many things, but do not post a message on a blog calling the blogger a f….g a…..e, as someone posted to me a couple of weeks ago. This is an issue involving world views: one world view affirms natural law, the other denies it. There may also be a sense among some people that their actions are wrong, and it infuriates them when someone challenges their lifestyle. If they were secure in their beliefs, why would they become so angry? Who knows–judging motivations is risky, but I do know that I am proud of my adopted state of North Carolina for doing the right thing and adding the provision in the state constitution affirming that marriage is only between a man and a woman. If whiners, the outraged, and those who are the real haters wish to attack this vote (and those who supported it) with viciousness, so be it.

On the Ban of Bake Sales

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at the bake sale

at the bake sale (Photo credit: tiny banquet committee)

Almost every day I read an article from a news source and wonder, “Is this for real?” and I cross-check other sources to make sure the story is accurate. Here is an example that turns out to be accurate: A number of schools in the United States have banned bake sales as fundraisers due to their selling “junk food” and alleged encouragement of obesity. Apparently one place this has happened is in the schools of Massachusetts (surprise!) and another place is a district in Maryland.  Now obesity is not a good thing–it can lead to serious health problems. It is also true that Americans have an addiction to junk food. However, to police what children can sell at bake sales smacks of Puritanical totalitarianism. Those Americans who are not busybodies about violators of religious orthodoxy find another religion, whether it be the War on Drugs or the fight against junk food. In the past, Prohibition was the great Puritanical crusade. Some Americans are not happy unless they can force their nosiness down the throats of others by government power. Thus, food totalitarians have banned bake sales, which are excellent means of fundraising by school organizations. Many clubs on the university campus where I teach have bake sales, and I buy and enjoy the “junk food.” To any Puritan who wishes to force his beliefs on me, my response is “Don’t tread on me.” Thankfully, parents see the silliness of the bake sale ban. A simple way to stop such nonsense is to elect a school board that is not composed of nosy busybodies who have nothing better to do than to police free people’s food. They may reply, “But some of this junk food is being sold to children!” Unless parents have a child who is morbidly obese and overstuff him, which is an extreme case anyway, if parents have no problem with their children eating what is sold at bake sales, there should be freedom to decide what foods to buy. Those arranging bake sales should also have the right to sell cookies, brownies, and other staples of bake sales, as well as the usual hot dogs and hamburgers. If Ms. Yogurt Breath still wants to discourage junk foods (by the way, I like yogurt), she can use education and try to convince people to change their minds. It is way past time to get the food police out of the schools of the United States.

 

Europe’s Road Toward Economic Ruin

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Relief map of Europe and surrounding regions

Relief map of Europe and surrounding regions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the defeat of President Sarkosy of France by the Socialist Party candidate, Francois Hollande, France is most likely only the first of other European countries where voters will throw out governments that support austerity measures. Already German Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats have lost a key local election, and popular sentiment in Greece is such that its government’s fall is just a matter of time. Europeans, like many Americans, have been spoiled by years of government benefits. Since they are used to such benefits, the idea of losing them is repugnant to the European public. Like most people, they think in terms of their short-term wants rather than the good of the whole. Government programs cost money, and raising more money to mitigate austerity measures means raising taxes. Raising taxes will result in a more sluggish economy and possibly less revenue for the government. If the current trend away from austerity continues, it appears that massive defaults by European nations are inevitable. The consequences, not only to the people of Europe, but also to the people of the world, could be devastating.

If the government treats people like children they will behave accordingly. Europeans naturally wanted an easier life after the horrors of a worldwide depression and two world wars. “The Sweet Life” with two-month paid vacations and limited hours working each week was too attractive for them to resist. As long as Europeans had a moderate to high birth rate, this system could, more or less, work, since young and productive workers continued to be added to the tax base. However, a birth rate below the population replacement value has left Europe aging, with entitlement programs draining treasuries to the point that the only choice for solvency is to borrow more. Debt piles up to the point that a country’s credit rating drops, making it harder to get good loans with reasonable interest rates. If loaning institutions lose confidence in a country over its lack of an ability to ensure a lender a return on investments, those institutions naturally would stop loaning money.

Europeans do not understand that a massive default would destroy the solvency of all the government programs and entitlements that they want. Some austerity now may allow a chance for recovery, provided that the pool of young (especially the skilled young) workers is replenished. This will most likely not be the case, as France and other European countries import foreign workers to meet their employment needs. Considerable opposition in France to such immigration and resulting damage to French culture is reasonable, but then there should be a concomitant interest in native French having more children. Given the contemporary notion that children are a burden rather than a gift, it is doubtful whether most French people will do so, even if offered government incentives. The majority of the French want to eat their cake and have it too (which is the right metaphor, by the way)–to continue to have extensive government benefits while watching what is left in the treasury melt away, only replaceable by higher and higher loans.

A massive default could lead to a worldwide Depression such as has not been seen in Europe since the 1920s (and from late 1929 onward in the United States). If other world markets collapsed, there could be a worldwide Depression that would make the post-1929 Great Depression in the U.S. look like good economic times.

The individualism and egoism of the Enlightenment is finally coming to fruition. Self-centered people will leave a world of economic ruin to those who come after them. Socialism, unlike its proponents’ claims, leads not to greater cooperation, but to greater selfishness. Such selfishness, when “fullgrown,” will leave its ruinous fruits behind if Europeans (and Americans) to not change their course.