Friday, March 23, 2007

The Progressive Moral Reasoning of Margaret Sanger

I discussed some Darwinian-inspired "progressive" moral reasoning in a post two days ago. In this previous post, I provide some quotes from Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, from her 1922 book, The Pivot of Civilization. For example:
Moreover, when we realize that each feeble-minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny of defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded.

I invite you to go see why she thinks providing free medical and nursing facilities to poor mothers is an "insidiously injurious" form of philanthropy, and see how she uses the "colorful" phrase "a dead weight of human waste."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

I am mainly linking to this article because I thought the Supremes' questions involving hypothetical banners were funny. The Post's news article about the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case is here.

A portion of the first article:

As Ken Starr told the nine justices yesterday why a student's "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner didn't qualify as free speech, the whole bunch of them sounded one toke over the line.

"So if the sign had been 'Bong Stinks for Jesus,' that would be . . . a protected right?" asked Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"Suppose that this particular person had whispered to his next-door neighbor, 'Bong hits for Jesus, heh, heh, heh'?" contributed Stephen Breyer.

"What if the sign said 'Bong Hits Should be Legal'?" queried John Paul Stevens.

Anthony Kennedy got really psychedelic. "Suppose the banner said 'Vote Republican'?"

David Souter inhaled. Imagine, he said, that the student "just holds a little sign in the Shakespeare class that says 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' . . . and they say, 'Well, so-and-so has got his bong sign again.' They then return to 'Macbeth.' "

Far out. Antonin Scalia wanted a turn. "Smoke Pot, It's Fun," he proposed.

" 'Rape Is Fun'?" offered Kennedy.

" 'Extortion Is Profitable'?" Scalia rejoined.

This case is arguably related to the topic of this blog, as Krauze noted on Telic Thoughts:

This is a case with far-ranging implications. After all, if teaching evolution is part of a school's "educational mission", surely it also has the right to muzzle students whose beliefs conflict with that mission - like creationist students giving presentations or handing out materials on creationism.

I do not think the implications of this case are likely that great, no matter which way the Court goes. (By the way, Krauze was quoting from an editorial, not a news article.) Appropriate student speech at appropriate times could not be forbidden, under many prior cases. A school could not silence student comments in class based on the content of the speech, but the government and government schools have always been able to place neutral time, place and manner restrictions on speech. For example, a student cannot stand up and scream her opinion at a teacher while the teacher is in the middle of a lecture.

This case involves a banner with four words that made little sense and that was admittedly simply a prank to get on TV. I support free speech rights (even when the ACLU does not). I have not looked at all the facts in this case enough to form an opinion on how it should be decided.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Progressive Moral Reasoning of PZ Myers

The New York Times article noted in my last post states that advances in evolutionary science suggest that it is now for biologists, not philosophers or theologians, to say what the moral rules are. What better time to look at the moral views and example of one biologist, PZ Myers.

Here are a few quotes, reflecting Myers' thoughtful reflections on mankind's deepest moral issues:
Get meaner.

[O]ne of the things that really annoys me about my side of the debate is that so many sit in such terror of making anyone unhappy that they avoid any vigor in the arguments; they seem to blanch in terror that whomping down hard on the stupidity of their so-called "allies" will cause them to run away. Their strategy is to toady up to creationists and fencesitters and pious twits and ignorant theologians and little old ladies who faint at the sight of monkeys, and hope that mewling softly will win them over. Others can coddle the fools who dither and simper wishfully over gods and old myths and apologetics, but some of us have to charge forward and stake out a solid position, one that excludes altogether the ancient fairy tales.

Here is another:
Please don’t try to tell me that you object to the tone of our complaints. Our only problem is that we aren’t martial enough, or vigorous enough, or loud enough, or angry enough. The only appropriate responses should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many schoolboard members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians.

Yes, history has shown that getting meaner is very effective in resolving societal conflicts and dealing with the people with whom you disagree. Imagine a world in which everyone asks the simple question: What would PZ do?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Moral Reasoning Moved From the Philosophy Dept. to the Biology Dept.

This bit of rock solid science from the New York Times:

Biologists argue that . . . [animal] social behaviors are the precursors of human morality. They further believe that if morality grew out of behavioral rules shaped by evolution, it is for biologists, not philosophers or theologians, to say what these rules are.

Moral philosophers do not take very seriously the biologists’ bid to annex their subject . . .

Needless to say, the article did not discuss any experiments or testing that show definitive evolutionary connections of animal social behavior to human morality. But the article is full of rich speculation and lots of opinions, which is what science is all about, after all.

So let's get this straight. Exploring alleged evidence of the evolutionary origins of human moral codes and human religious ethical codes is "science." Exploring scientific evidence of design in biology is "religion." Ah yes, so simple. And the US Constitution says that school kids can hear about first, but not the second. Isn't that convenient?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dilbert Doubts Darwin- Again

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is doubting aspects of Darwinism again- this time with some colorful language:
If you are new to the Dilbert Blog, I remind you that I don’t believe in Intelligent Design or Creationism or invisible friends of any sort. I just think that evolution looks like a blend of science and bullshit, and have predicted for years that it would be revised in scientific terms in my lifetime. It’s a hunch – nothing more.

It is great that science corrects itself. Seems like the key point is that if a theory is constantly undergoing major revisions and is obviously driven heavily by speculation, then a little humility is in order. Scientists should be cautious not to overstate their certainty in their conclusions. Of course, in the area if evolution, they are quick to overstate their certainty, quick to make fun of those who doubt, and therefore many continue to lose credibility.

A previous post on Scott Adams and his beloved P.Z. Myers is here.


Post Note: I do not think Adams really means what he says in the title of his post- that fossils are bullsh*t. He seems to mean that the grandiose claims of what fossils prove is bullsh*t. As for me, I think the overall fossil record is very well developed and raises serious problems for evolutionary theory.