Friday, August 3, 2007

Looking for Straw Men in a Mountain of Straw [Jay]

JivinJehoshaphat linked to this post by “Beket” at DailyKos. Beket, an abortionist, apparently confuses Jivin for someone who accused him of being demon possessed or at least for managing a Blog where such an accusation was leveled. I have still not seen where the demon possessed comment came from, but to associate that comment with Jivin is utterly ridiculous and deplorable in its own right. Even if a commenter leveled such a charge somewhere, it is the weakest sort of “guilt by association” argument to besmirch Jivin’s character as a result.

That said, Beket has developed an interesting defense against criticism with this post. This plodding, nearly 7,000 word rant against organized religion in general and the Catholic Church specifically is so filled with bad arguments, inaccuracies, and misunderstandings that it ought to invite easy criticism. The problem is that in order to sort them out one must be willing to endure a painful explosion of unnecessary adverbs, distracting run on sentences, and a torturous section on how he was shunned as a child in Texas for intellectually dismissing his belief in Santa Claus. It would take someone willing to publish an equally long response to address the sum total of problems. That would be unfair to those who dedicated themselves to staying awake during the workday.

Some quick issues that I would like to address. Becket is incredibly inconsistent. For example, he repeatedly excoriates religious folk for having an arrogant certainty of the nature and existence of God. Then he goes on to say things like this:

Thusly, the systems of belief and superstition known as religion were born out of the human mind and elaborated upon through many centuries of richly imaginative folklore, ritual, and art.

I've found that generally, in regard to matters beyond the mundane and practical, believers do not think, and thinkers do not believe.

Perhaps the main reason religious dogma has survived and flourished through the ages of human history is that chieftains, rulers, and monarchs, both secular and sectarian, found the fear of imaginary "gods" so useful as a means of maintaining control over subjected masses of people by perpetuating myths of their own "divine" selection or guidance - exactly the manner in which, and the reason, religious belief is kept alive today.

He does sound certain that God does not exist and that the belief in God is irrational. But it is the certainty and the arrogant presumption that others ought to act according to our beliefs that bohers him most right? Let see:

No human and no human institution, religion, or philosophy is infallible, perfect, or above criticism - and nothing is more contrary to, and irreconcilable with, the fundamental ideals and principles of the United States of America than attempts to force upon others dogmatic and absolute religious beliefs and philosophies about what to think and how to behave.

So he categorically believes that it is wrong to force your beliefs on others and law ought to be crafted and protected solely from this philosophical perspective. But that is exactly the arrogant presumption that he hates in pro-lifers.

He claims that pro-lifers believe that abortion is immoral because of the presence of a soul in the unborn and that all life is God created and therefore precious. Although I agree with the latter part of that assertion, I have never read in any of Dr. Beckwith’s, Greg Koukl’s, or Scott Klusendorf’s arguments nor written in any of my own posts that the presence of the soul is material to the question of the morality of abortion. I have seen and made the argument that the substance or nature of the unborn as a human being affords the unborn protection under the law and that unnecessarily killing human beings is morally wrong. This is not stripping one group of people, women, of a right but justly including another group of people, the unborn, in the most basic and fundamental right that we already acknowledge to exist. That is the right for innocent human beings to live. The right to not have your life unnecessarily terminated.

Beket radically misunderstands the cosmological and the teleological arguments for the existence of God and misrepresents them in his post. He makes critical errors that either indicate he has not thoroughly researched this topic or is out of his element in addressing them. It is odd how people that respect the amount of study it takes to become a medical doctor and the expertise necessary to practice medicine routinely insult theologians and philosophers by wading uninvited into these fields and making a bloody mess of things as they do so.

As quickly as possible, the first cause argument is now most often championed in the form of Dr. William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological argument. It says that anything that began to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore the universe has a cause. This makes Becket’s objection that the causal agent lacks a cause irrelevant as the causal being in question is by nature the necessary being of the universe and never began to exist.

The teleological argument is not based on the appearance of design in the human body, but the appearance of fine tuning in the initial conditions of the universe that are responsible for creating a life producing and sustaining environment. Perhaps he is confusing this with Behe’s irreducible complexity arguments. Either way, he does not fairly represent either idea and one must assume he is unaware of the actual arguments versus his gross misrepresentation.

He seems to believe that by teaching that people ought to wait until marriage to have consensual monogamous sex the Catholic Church is responsible for the AIDS/HIV pandemic. It hard to imagine how that is reasonable considering if the world were taking those teachings seriously many of the ills that bother Beket would be less severe. He also rails against the Catholic Church for the Inquisition and not apologizing for executing Bruno. That is helpful in the debate over abortion.

There are so many strange things in this voluminous post. It includes but is not limited to his apparent argument that human life is no more precious in creation than the life of a chimpanzee, that religion is responsible for global misery and overpopulation, the always lovely myth of a plague of back alley abortions prior to Roe v. Wade, and his biblical exegesis on abortion. There is far too much to fully address. One very odd point for me is that this courageous and bold attack on Catholicism inspired by the imagined slight from a non-Catholic blogger is posted under a pseudonym. That is very courageous indeed.


  1. Obviously what I wrote clashes with what you so desperately want to believe, Jay. I understand that. Perhaps no one said it any more succinctly than Leo Tolstoy:

    "I know that most men...can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their lives."

    I have neither the time nor the interest in responding point-by-point to your flippant denunciation of me and my thoughts. I only invite readers of your cocky little critique to read my Daily Kos posts for themselves, hopefully with minds less defensive and more open than yours.

    These are the posts referred to:

    5/14/07 Abortion Rights 101

    6/4/07 The Inquisition lives. Ask a woman with an unwanted pregnancy.

    7/2/07 Safe, Legal, and Rare - or Goldilocks, the Three Bears, and Abortion Rights

    7/8/07 The Ecclesiastical Sopranos, Abortion Rights, Honesty, & Reason. An Open Letter to Catholic Clergy.

    7/18/07 Is Abortion Dangerous? Just Buckle Your Seatbelts.

    7/29/07 Exorcize this! (I'm just a demon walking the earth.)

    BTW, the link to "Jivin's" blog was a careless mistake that I have corrected, not a malicious accusation as you have characterized it. I have corrected it and thanked "Jivin" for making me aware of the error.


  2. Jay,
    What a lazy thinker Beket is. He thinks he's taken you to the woodshed, but he's to lazy to actually confront your refutation of his own original piece. Instead, he resorts to shameless name-callng and even more ad-hominem attacks.

    Is this the best the other side has to offer?

    Let's hope so.

  3. I wonder if Dr. "Beket" realizes that his beloved Tolstoy quotation:
    "I know that most men...can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their lives."
    ... applies to himself as well? Hmmmm....

  4. I posted the following comment to Beket at Jivin's Blog after he complained about his comment not being posted here:


    As to your not being allowed to respond on LTI, I am not the administrator of the website so I can not post comments. The man who can has been on vacation. I did not say your accusation of Jivin was malicious I said it was ridiculous and deplorable to drag him through the mud for something someone else said.

    It is interesting that you quote Tolstoy as he seemed to struggle with metaphysics as well. You are free to hold whatever opinion you wish, but when you blatantly misrepresent arguments in support of your position it is neither flippant not cocky to point that out. It is correct argument. Your refusal to address actual arguments is traditionally seen as a concession of points in proper debate.



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