Friday, December 01, 2006

Points to Ponder:
(On Patriotism and Building a Just Society)

With soul enlightened by the Gospel, it is possible to better understand how it is necessary to love one’s homeland, so that it actively makes its contribution as it progresses on the road of culture and civilization. Membership in a certain nation should be accompanied by sacrificial efforts and the sincere exchange of gifts received as an inheritance from previous generations, in order to build a society open to other peoples and the exchange of traditions. [Pope John Paul II (circa 2003)]

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oh, in the refining and reposting of a thread from November 27, 2006, I included a link to a term I just defined yesterday on the Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous blog. Rather than say what it is, I refer you to the previous posting on this weblog as it is noted in there...

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Highlighting a Key Problem With Common Apologetics Methodology:

Unlike any other subject matter which I have dealt with on this weblog, the ancillary subject matter briefly touched on in this thread (read: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) is one that I will not respond to email traffic on in any forum until at least next August. Readers of this weblog for more than a year presumably know the reason why I have taken this position and if not, they can consider the threads in footnote one{1} to be my main reason for that decision -as what interests me at a given time can differ for various and sundry reasons. Having noted that, there is a larger issue of which the ancillary issue is a subtext and it is for that reason that I will touch on the subject at this time.

To start with, what brought about this post is what I view as a cheap trick attempted by Jimmy Akin to comment on something without seeking to substantiate his position by rational argument. I view such tactics as lowbrow and in proportion to my respect for the intelligence of the person making them, a degree of disgust is inevitable. In the case of Jimmy Akin, that makes the degree of disgust quite high indeed because he is a very intelligent man and one of the best of the contemporary Catholic apologists. In response to his attempted slipping of a blurb about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings into what was otherwise a very enjoyable sci-fi thread, I made the following brief comment in the comments box of the thread. Jimmy's words will be italicized in the original comments and in darkgreen throughout the balance of this posting.

In real life, some argued during World War II that the entire population of Japan was functioning as combatants and so we could nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is not tenable, given human nature

When dealing with a conscripted population, the dynamic of the situation is different than when dealing with unconscripted civilians. When that is taken into account along with a plethora of other factors{1} that are glossed over in simplistic fashion by not a few "apologist" sorts, what is rashly presumed to be "untenable" becomes quite tenable indeed.

Too bad you had to ruin a really good sci-fi post with that attempted fast one.

I decided to omit the footnote from that response as the link it contained is among the ones in the first footnote of this post. In response to Jimmy, original blurb, Greg Mockeridge also wrote some stuff -indeed much more than I did. Readers interested in what he said can peruse that combox thread at Jimmy's blog.{2} My interest in this posting is fourfold: (i) to respond to what Jimmy said to Greg and myself, (ii) to deal with the broader issue of certain fallacies which are common to many who approach this issue, (iii) to cover them at the same time, and (iv) to be reasonably brief about it all. How well I succeed in achieving all four objectives in this post will be debatable of course but without further ado, here goes...

Shawn & Greg:

I know that y'all have a burr under your saddle on the subject of the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but you really need to keep perspective on matters.

If I have a burr under [my] saddle on anything Jimmy it is (i) the complete lack of sound thinking that permeates Catholic circles on these subjects and (ii) the way Greg and I have been treated by members of the apologetics oligarchy when discussing this subject. I am also aware that if an opinion is reiterated enough, many people will accept it as correct even if it is not. The latter is human nature sadly whereas the former is something that should be of concern to those who believe that Catholics have important contributions to make to the arena of ideas. There are serious problems here which too many want to pretend do not exist which I have noted in past public postings on this subject matter:

Catholic apologists are oftentimes intellectually dependent. I say this because they demonstrate a serious lacuna in their ability to utilize the thinking mechanism. Their intellectual dependence is on what the Catholic Church's magisterium[...] says on issues. Where this authority speaks with a clear voice, they can wade their way into issues of discussion with a degree of comfort. However, where this authority does not speak[...], they are at a loss of what to do. This is where they flail around like a drowning man seeking to find anything they can remotely ascribe to a magisterial statement on the issue in question as their way of coping with a lack of such guidance which they so evidently need.

For it is easy to argue a position where there are definite guidelines of sorts and Catholic doctrine does provide certain principles which are able to be grasped. The problem is the areas where there is not the same authoritative guidance. Finding themselves unable to argue a position on the grounds of what is reasonable and what is logical[...], they seek to manufacture an intervention by magisterial authority in the hopes of avoiding accountability for the grey matter between their ears. This approach is (of course) not a properly Catholic one and any hope of convincing non-Catholics that their position is the correct one evaporates like dew on a hot summer morning. The end result is various apologists claiming magisterial sanction for certain doctrinal applications and parroting sections of the catechism where general principles are espoused as if they are one and the same. Then, when you point out to these "apologists" that they are not defining their terms either at all or at least not correctly, the response in return is either hostile shrieking, insults, or continued repetition of the same flawed approaches as before as if such repetition constitutes a valid argument. From there, a disintegration of any genuine dialogue occurs (if one existed to begin with) and the end result is hardly edifying in any way to those who are casually observing what is going on--let alone to those who are involved in the disputation as active (or passive) participants.

Anyway, that is what we have seen occurring in recent years in the Catholic apologetics movement with the old apologetics hegemony breaking down and the previously unchallenged bigwigs not being properly equipped to provide a coherent and persuasive voice in the arena of ideas viz. application of principles in the public square. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa August 5, 2006)]

And again:

Frankly, what I wrote is not a rubix cube. It is a theory properly understood and is intended to provoke logical thought and reasoned analysis. And as logical thought and reasoned analysis is quite rare in most circles (including "apologetics" ones), a degree of condescention is required to outline certain elementary factors that are required for that.

It is indeed unfortunate but after over seven years of observing this phenomenon of "Catholic apologetics" and seeing this problem manifest itself not only amongst the neophytes but to a larger extent the seasoned apologists, I am not about to stand by and pretend that the ship is not sinking when indeed it is. On making a positive contribution to the arena of ideas and influencing culture for the good, Catholic apologists are (as a whole) miserable failures!!! A key reason for this is that they presume a competence in certain issues[...] which they do not have.

Furthermore, as many of them evince either ignorance of (or an unwillingness to differentiate) between what is an authoritative Church pronouncement and what is not, they inevitably[...] throw everything into the same kettle and this is erroneous. It is also disingenuous to no small degree.

I am beyond tired of seeing illogical fideism and warmed over neo-ultramontanism by these self-anointed "experts." All they do is provide fuel for the anti-Catholic caricatures of Catholics as intellectual infants who cannot think and blindly accept anything that is said by a curial representative -no matter how illogical and opposed to sound reasoning it happens to be. As Catholics we recognize that magisterial teachings require religious submission. This is a tall order and it should not be casually presumed without adequate warrant. I refuse to stand by, even by proxy, and watch a bunch of ignorant self-anointed "experts" lump every curial utterance into that category as a cheap expedient to shut off legitimate and necessary debate on various issues. This kind of crap has gone on for too long and it needed to be stopped yesterday. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa August 22, 2006)]

More could be noted{3} but that suffices to get my point across adequately at the present time.

Now despite more and more evidence that there are few who take the idea of sound rational logical thought seriously in Catholic circles, I am perhaps a bit of an optimist in thinking there are still some out there who have not bent the knee to the Baal of intellectual dependence yet -even among those who call themselves "apologists." But based on what I have observed, I have found myself as a rule less and less optimistic{4} as the years go passing by.

The fact that the Japanese--unlike the Borg and the Cylons--had free will means that one cannot simply rely on the idea that "they all count as aggressors" and exterminate them en masse.

It is better to say nothing at all than play this kind of "lets take a position but slip it into an unrelated post to appear to be not taking a position per se" kind of game. It is disappointing to see that even someone as intelligent as you are Jimmy can fail to make some of the necessary distinctions in this situation that need to be considered for a fair assessment on the matter. Maybe the argumentation fallacy of provincialism that impairs a lot of Catholic approaches to this issue is a deeper problem than I initially presumed.

You'd have to *show* that they were all aggressors, which is dubious in view of the fact that different human use their free will in different ways.

Jimmy, when the mass population was conscripted and working actively against the allied forces in the war -and even had brainwashed children to act as little kamikazes- this is not the same as opening fire on a defenseless city or populace. But rather than speak in the abstract, lets make of this a more real life situation.

Assume for a moment Jimmy that you are a soldier in Okinawa in 1945 and a child sidled up to you with a bomb pack on. Are you telling me you would stand there and let yourself get blown away??? Hardly, you would with the greatest of likelihood do what you could to make sure the bomb would not hurt you -even going so far as shooting the child if you had to. The latter would not be done because you wanted to hurt the child but because if you did not, you would be killed too: either by the child's bomb or by your fellow soldiers who would see any attempt at helping to be giving aid and comfort to the enemy.{5} These kinds of decisions are always made in a snap second and with survival in mind.

That you see is what such children would be (enemies) in the scenario noted above. And for the sake of survival in that situation they must be viewed as such. It is a ghastly picture but guess what: war is a very ghastly business and there is a reason why it should never be undertaken lightly.

In a post *about* killing fictional races that do not have human freedom of will, it is entirely appropriate for me to make passing mention of this difference and to state what is, in fact, the dominant opinion among Catholic thinkers about the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And as I have noted on more than one occasion Jimmy, opinions unsubstantiated by rational argumentation are not worth consideration no matter who makes them. There is no shortage of uninformed opinions out there; ergo one must judge an opinion by objective criteria. The problem is, people are disposed to think of what certain people say as being right irregardless of the merits of their arguments (if they provide any). That is why I would not consider on this matter of discussion that there are many "thinkers" at all: even normally very sharp knives react emotionally to the issue and that impairs the thinking mechanism more times than not. Throw in a general ignorance of many prevalent factors involved and the dominant opinion does not surprise me at all.

Arguing to consensus is of course a fallacious form of argumentation but I trust you were not doing that with your statement but instead making a general statement. Nonetheless, to address the majority view briefly, I know Jimmy that you know as well as anyone that the predominant view of theologians can change on issues and indeed has changed on many of them. Indeed, many of the theological positions taken by the Second Vatican Council were hardly majority viewpoints prior to the convening of that synod. Other examples could be noted but that suffices to point out the problem with staking anyone's tent with "the majority view" among theologians.

There is another problem more implicit and it is this Jimmy: you happen to be one of these people, by virtue of your position in apologetics and the overall quality of the work you have done over the years, whom many people will accept something as true simply because you say it. This is problematical in some respect because there are a lot of people who do not know how to think very well and that is how they approach people whom they have an implicit faith of sorts in. This is why such people need to be careful in what they say and how they say it.

Surely you do not think I am somehow unaware that most theologians disagree with the position I have taken. If anything, I have been far more generous in giving those who disagree with me a fair amount of latitude as long as they stick to the issues and do not attempt indirect attempts to cut myself or others down or shut off legitimate disagreement on the issue as not a few so-called "apologists" do when the shoe is on the other foot: both on this issue and also several others which could be noted.

Another reason I will not call most who disagree with me on this issue "thinkers" as far as the issue goes because frankly, I have seen no attempts thus far to put together a hypothesis on the matter that can be subjected to reasonable scrutiny. And until I see such an attempt made, it would be fallacious to accept the opinion of anyone whomever they are. That is the problem with many if not most on this issue: they namedrop people whose opinions seem to concur with theirs but without presenting any evidence as to how said people arrived at their opinions. Sorry but that is not think[ing] Jimmy no matter how you chop the turkey.

This is not "attempting a fast one." The mention must be brief because of the nature of the post.

Other examples could have been made and you could have avoided giving the impression that this is a closed issue when in fact it is not. Again, your word carries a lot of weight with people Jimmy. There are those who would take your word over any assemblage of facts and rational analysis that would be provided by others. It is a sad spectacle{6} but it is what it is.

I am not obligated, just because I known that some Hiroshima-defenders out there, to slam on the brakes and conduct an extended discourse on the moral illegitimacy of the indiscriminate killing of Japanese people.

You assume it is indiscriminate but do not make any attempt to defend this assumption by rational argument. Apparently, people are supposed to tip the biretta, bow three times, and uncritically incense it because Jimmy Akin says so. In reality, the burden is on someone who makes an assumption to defend it or else to not make it. And this works both ways Jimmy, not just one way.

The burden is on defenders of the nuking to prove that it was morally legitimate to indiscriminately kill Japanese people--particularly given what the Catechism says on the subject of indiscriminate killing in wartime.

Again, the burden Jimmy is on both sides, not merely one.{7} For those who claim that the Catechism passage on indiscriminate killing in wartime applies to what happened on August 6, 1945 and August 9, 1945, they have to demonstrate this and cannot merely assume it. I have already explained in detail why this assumption is faulty for many reasons but I am not about to rehash the issue here. I have already more than established a solid burden of proof for my theory{8} on this matter. Beyond that, the arguments on this score from people of your persuasion without fail tend to be normative and thus subjective rather than non-normative and objective.

For example, does any bomb really kill with discrimination when it hits its target??? Obviously not. I have yet to find a bomb that actually asks who is home before it explodes so that it only kills the persons so aimed for. Therefore, the problem in the atomic bombing case is not what you claim it is. You and others essentially make an arbitrary normative or subjective "it is too big" attempted argument which is hardly non-normative or objective no matter how you slice the bread. More could be noted but as I have already more than adequately established by sound rigorous logical argument my position on this matter and various contingent factors in a series of threads{9}, I am not about to do so again.

And, let me point out, this combox is not the proper place for that discussion.

That is why I blogged this thread and will post the link to the combox so it does not clutter your combox. But kindly keep matters in context Jimmy: when this subject erupted back in 2005, you were AWOL on it as was (in truly predictable fashion) the rest of the apologetics oligarchy. I did not anticipate that my theory would be accepted either immediately or without some friction but I was shocked at the unethical behaviour that masqueraded about as "apologetics"{10} by some whom I once thought fairly highly of. Not a few persons disgraced themselves in how they handled this matter -some more so than others.

Despite what happened, I still think highly of you Jimmy (you are one of a select few apologists I can say that about). What happened in 2005 was a symptom of a much larger problem that has been going on for a long time. I hope therefore that you will call those self-styled "apologists" I refer to in the previous paragraph from the cliff over which they are running (to the discredit of Catholic apologetics). Again, you do have that kind of influence Jimmy -you are probably one of the few who does. It is my hope that you will use it and not seek merely to preserve the status quo: a subject I will touch on another time in another posting when I feel inclined to speak on these matters again.

Notes:

{1} Threads on the Atomic Bomb Droppings, Military and Statistical Calculations, the Moral and Ethical Aspects of the Subject Matter in Question, Etc. (circa August 17, 2005-September 20, 2005)

"Armstrong Illusions" Dept. Revisited (circa January 23, 2006)

Preserving the Historical Record (circa January 26, 2006)

Guest Editorial on the Atomic Bombings, the Continued Emphasis on it Publicly by Certain Apologists, and the Goal of Catholic Apologetics --By Dr. Art Sippo (circa January 26, 2006)

A Followup Guest Editorial on the Atomic Bombings, the Continued Emphasis on it Publicly by Certain Apologists, and the Goal of Catholic Apologetics--By Dr. Art Sippo (circa January 31, 2006)

Some Brief Wrapup Comments on the Previous Guest Editorial (circa January 31, 2006)

Dismantling the GS 80 Attempted "Argument" By Recourse to General Norms of Theological Interpretation (circa February 4, 2006)

{2} Which for the record is among my semi-regular reads.

{3} I could also mention the public flap over supposed "torture" but will save that one for another time as this is too long already. Oh and another more explicit writing is being considered for posting which would get to the core of what is noted above amongst the apologetics oligarchy and do so in a much briefer and much less irenic way. Whether or when it is blogged remains uncertain at this time.

{4} Fortunately (I suppose) in recent weeks I have found some Catholics who can honestly interact with an issue on its merits and this has made me at least cautiously optimistic that there are more people of character out there than I was starting to presume. I refer of course to Dr. Scott Carson and Dr. Michael Liccione. Maybe the reason they can do this is partly because they are not part of the apologetics oligarchy and therefore have no vested interest in circling the wagons to protect one another from legitimate scrutiny while hypocritically condoning similar scrutiny being hurled at rival apologist camps.

{5} I am sure some of the brainless overreactive sorts will claim that this means I endorse murder or something equally as stupid: I note it here so that when it happens, people cannot say that I did not anticipate this pathetic Jerry Springeresque-mainstream mediaesque attempt to avoid intelligent discussion via cultic deadangenting tactics.

{6} I do not mean this in any way as a personal slight against you Jimmy, only as a lament of sorts against people in general. (The metaphor of people as sheep which was used in the Gospels makes more and more sense to me the longer I observe humanity.)

{7} To assert otherwise is to endorse (however tacitly) intellectual and ethical laziness on one side of the issue.

{8} I say theory because it is far more than a mere hypothesis.

{9} See footnote one.

{10} The problems were many but one which was particularly noxious was the violation of private correspondence by a certain party I will not name at this time. When it happened again, I wrote a blog post on the subject which can be read HERE. Certain persons whom I shall not name tried to assert that I "lied" on this matter but if not for my growing tired of responding to them only to have said parties dodge the issues and involve themselves in more character assassination, I would have easily dispatched with this baseless assertion and done so by objective criteria as I had previously done with a panopoly of their other public assertions. Or as I have noted elsewhere:

As for the claim that I lied about his violation of private correspondence, I could easily shred that thread also if (i) I wanted to take the time to do it and (ii) if I actually thought it would do any good to take the time to do it.[...] Unfortunately, unlike XXXX, I do not have all the time in the world to cut and paste people's work to create libelous distortions even if I wanted to. And I most certainly do not countenance this attitude at all -viewing instead a potential excess of prose as preferable to such mutilations of the work of others to insure that the words of others are not taken out of context. [Excerpt from an Unsent Email Correspondence (as of November 25, 2006)]

The approach take by the apologetics oligarchy against one of their own engaging in this unethical libelous behaviour??? Why silence of course.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Points to Ponder:
(On Discussion Subjects That Interest Me at a Given Time)

[A] subject as a rule needs to be of contemporary significance to be of interest to me in its discussing. This can take many forms including but not limited to (i) something that interests me that I have a reasonable degree of knowledge about which I may not have discussed before and want to discuss for some reason, (ii) that someone emails me on a subject previously discussed and I am predisposed for some reason to discuss it again at or approximate to that time, (iii) contemporary events which provide for the opportunity to in some fashion expound on timeless principles pertaining in some fashion or another to the subject so discussed, (iv) something I recall from reading which is of interest to me at a given moment in time, or (v) a situation whereby some additional threads can be added to the mosaic of subjects which have been of interest to me at various times as a way of further refining through development my views on a given subject matter. [Excerpt from an Email Correspondence (circa November 27, 2006)]

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