Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Equal outcomes not equal means

Ed note: Since I originally scheduled this for Monday you guys get a bonus.  Normally today would be Ignitum Today Wednesday.   Enjoy!

One logical error that frequently comes up in discussions regarding Natural Family Planning (NFP) and artificial contraception is this idea that because both methods achieve the same result, they are equal in their moral evaluation.  This can be best summarized as:
The moral value of two actions is equivalent so long as the outcomes are the same.
As a technical matter I am not sure of the specific type of philosophy this is.  It can be argued this is a form of consequentialism (a action's moral weight is dictated solely by its results) but to me this is incorrect due to the idea of the comparison.  The actions' moral value is not stated.  The only thing the principle states is that the actions are equivalent if the outcomes are the same.

The argument in question goes something like this:
If NFP is used to prevent having children, and artificial contraception does the same, why not use artificial contraception?  The two accomplish the same thing.
To examine the error, let us consider another example.  Suppose I wish to earn $100.  Of the top of my head I have three choices:

  1. I can beg in the street until I have enough money.
  2. I can get a job to earn the money.
  3. I can shoot and rob people until I get the money.

Clearly these methods to obtain the $100 are not morally equivalent.  Yet this is exactly the argument used by those who attempt to draw a comparison between contraception and NFP.

This is not to defend the validity of NFP.  But it points to one of the major mistakes that people make when discussing the topic.  I suspect it comes from our society's utilitarian viewpoint that creeps in on a regular basis. Nevertheless it is a fallacy to equate methods with the outcome of those methods.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Was under the weather

Friday and over the weekend.  Hopefully the worst is past now.  We will resume our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, April 20, 2012

They are representative

A number of folks seem to be asking these days if we truly live in a democracy.  With the selection of Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate Mark Shea wonders how in the world a candidate that no one wants is now the Republican hope for 2012.  Democrazy blames the two party system.  While there is some weight to that I fear the reason is far simpler and far more sinister.

Sadly to my mind I think we actually vote for people who represent us.  When I look at Congress I see us.  When I look at Obama I see the current American mind in play.  When I see the dysfunction, bickering, and self-absorption I see little more than if I was looking at America's reflection.

Take for example the national debt.  A growing problem that threatens to destabilize the future economy and credit rating of this country.  By the numbers alone we are in trouble.

Now one would think that such a crisis would focus us toward attempting a solution.  The future of our children is at stake.  Sanity should prevail, etc.

So why is it this only seems to be a peripheral concern to your average voter?  Oh sure, there is the Tea Party to some extent that is mobilizing around this issue.  But if public enthusiasm is any gauge, this seems to be a concern only in concept, not in reality.

I would propose that the reason why is that we ourselves are in so much debt in our daily lives that to accuse our government of excess is to point the finger right back at us.   This need for instant gratification is so pervasive that the average household debt is toxic.  So when we bleat about the national debt it rings hollow, and I suspect our leaders know this.

Our leaders are inept, way too powerful, and completely clueless.  The problem has gotten so big I suspect there isn't really an answer to the debt problem.  And so they use charged rhetoric to hold on to their seats in the hope that with all the verbal fireworks we don't realize that NO ONE has a real solution.

But isn't that our thought process nowadays?  The problems in our lives are to be ignored?  The suffering we experience to be done away with rather than confronted?  To live the good life before death, and to exploit ourselves and others for the sake of pleasure?

To criticize our leaders and demand change will only result in more of the same kind of people being elected to office.  To me the issue is not the government per se.  It would seem that the real issue is ourselves.  And those in power are merely the result of giving the modern American the power that comes with being a person in government.

So my question then is, what can we do about ourselves?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bp. Jenky

launches a salvo against those who choose this world over the Church.

Honestly I can't think of any time in my lifetime where the bishops have spoken so forcefully.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One thing or another?

Dr. Taylor Marshall (I find that name very cool for some reason) wrote about a month ago regarding the HHS mandate.  Basically he believes that we as Catholics are missing an opportunity to write about the real issue about the HHS mandate; that is, the evil of contraception, abortion, and sterilization.

While I sympathize with Dr. Marshall's view I do not think this is an either/or situation.  For myself, talking about both religious freedom and these evils the mandate is foisting on us are mutually complementary discussions. And I'm not alone in this assessment.

To me this highlights two issues.  The first is that in any discussion about Catholic doctrine we will find that there is a great deal of intertwining.  If one takes contraception for example, we will discuss marriage, sexuality, the human person, and the nature of male and female.  The Faith does not lend itself well to bullet points or slogans.

 The second issue is that the HHS mandate really is evil.  It encroaches on just about everything, from the fundamental nature of the human person to how someone can run a business.  It cuts across moral and political lines in an hostile and arrogant fashion.  As such to criticize the mandate from a variety of perspectives is not only reasonable, it is required to illustrate the full scope of how bad it is.

So from my point of view this is not an either or scenario.  Some will be moved to look at the mandate from the religious freedom perspective.  Others will look at confronting the evil head on.  While Dr. Marshall's concerns are noted, I do not think we are missing any opportunities.  In fact, as Desmond's article illustrates, the mandate has given society a change to talk about the evil that has consumed families like a cancer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Apologies for no post

Allergies have crippled this author over the weekend so no thinking was going on much less writing.  Hopefully the summer will kill off everything (it gets hot here in Texas).

Check back here Wednesday.

The Management

Friday, April 13, 2012

Jesus died for morons too

I've noticed these past few days that things seem to irk me more.  Two days ago I was sitting at an intersection with a stop sign waiting for a chance to make a left.  The guy behind me started honking his horn to signal that he would rather have a 12 car pileup accident then wait another second for me to make the turn.

I began to have various violent fantasies about slashing his tires.  Even after finally making that turn I was seething about that colossal jerk.  Even my wife who was riding with me noticed my change in attitude.

Over the source of this week such feelings were not isolated incidents.  The random atheist leaving empty-headed comments on Reddit/r/Catholicism (which you should visit).  The jerk who thinks that a combo box means you can spew something you would never say in real life.

These things were getting to me.  Something about them that seemed to rankle me in ways that haven't for some time.  I was thinking about them far more than I should, and my soul was bent out of shape for doing such.

But a funny thing happen yesterday.  A thought popped into my head, as if a small light was shining on my dark thoughts.  "Jesus died for these morons too."

It is a humbling thought to think.  Even if it is the idiot who cut you off or someone worse like Hitler or Stalin, as Catholics we believe that Christ died for them as well.  Not only for all of mankind, but even if only one of us needed to be redeemed, He still would have done the same.

This little idea has some profound implications.  The largest being that we must then believe that there was something redeemable about these people that we regard as "evil."  Certainly they did evil things.  Christ would not have sacrificed Himself otherwise.  But that He did sacrifice Himself means that He not only loved them but they have worth to Him.  So much so that He still laid down His life just to give them the opportunity to be with Him.

This forces a radical shift of view.  We can no longer afford to see those who do evil as "less than human."  Christ saw them as human.  He saw their worth.  It is our duty to attempt to see the world as Christ sees it.

So the next time someone is honking at you to kill yourself so he can go, put down your favorite tire slashing instrument, and say, "Christ died for that moron."  You may still see him as a moron, but hopefully someday we will see Him in everyone.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy Easter Thursday!

Yes it is still the Octave of Easter.  Keep the party going!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lent Scorecard and Analysis

So with Lent in the rear view and the Octave of Easter in full swing I'm going to divulge the results of my Lenten promises and how well I kept them.  And apologies for what is an obvious filler post as I get back on track.

Overall the results are.....mixed.

Promise 1:  Curbing video game times to 1 hr per day.
Result 1: In my personal history of Lenten promises I have never failed so completely in a promise as this failure.  I think I've logged more time playing during Lent than before I made the promise. It is abundantly clear that video games have control over me and I must do something about this.  Right after finishing Mass Effect 3.

Grade: F-

Promise 2: Banning all video game purchases for the duration of Lent.
Result 2: I kept this one almost entirely.  I did purchase some downloadable content during the time, but it was for a video game that I already own and thought I had already.  And at $8 it was paltry compared to what I usually spend.

Grade: A-

Promise 3: Facebook withdraw
Result 3: This one was kept except for occasional checks of my notification lists.  I use Facebook to link to this blog so occasionally I would see a traffic spike and wanted to find out if I had been linked.  A lame excuse sure, but there it is.  Otherwise no games, no Wall posts (manual, auto posts of this blog are done via NetworkedBlogs).

Grade: B

So overall I think this worked out.  Though next Lent I'm pondering going cold turkey on the video games.  I find that if I don't do it at all I'm better off than try to keep to a set time.  But Lord I have no idea if I have the strength.  We shall see next Lent.

Happy Easter Wednesday to all!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Worse than the Nazi regime

A little historical tidbit that should give us pause about the HHS mandate.

H/T Mark Shea

Happy Easter Monday!

So a good and restful Easter was had by yours truly with family and stuff.  Will get back to regular posting on Wednesday.  Remember, it is still the Easter Season.  Hallelujah!

Monday, April 2, 2012


Given that it is Holy Week I have decided that I will take this week to reflect and rest.  So I will not be posting again for the rest of the week.  Have a Blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter.  We will resume our regular schedule on Easter Monday.

The Management

Real Thinking is Hard

I have a bit of a confession to make.  When I typically read the writing of others on say, Atheists of the Dawkins/Hitchens type, my eyes have a tendency to glaze over.  Not so much the arguments themselves (such as they are) but the insults, ridicule, and integrity attacks often make me skip over those sections, looking for when the argument comes back.

A mind that cannot think without vulgarity is a mind polluted.  A mind that assumes the worst of the other person is a mind that cannot consider another point of view.  And a mind that is unconcerned with the truth in small things is almost guaranteed to be wrong about the larger truths.

I don't know about you, but for me when an argument is laced with invective I often find myself thinking one of four things,

  • "This person hasn't really thought out his position"
  • "This person really doesn't understand the other side's argument"
  • "This person hates the other side so much he doesn't bother to understand the other side"
  • "This person is so infatuated with their own opinion that this person hasn't really checked their argument" 

In my own writing most of the time I find I'm too focused on the topic at hand to start launching an invective salvo.  This is not to say that I cannot do such a thing.  I've posted plenty of comments that I've wanted back.  But in my general writing on this blog I find that not so much that I cannot spew venom, it's that I don't have the time.

Real thinking and argumentation requires work.  It is hard.  It requires discipline. It requires focus and an attention to detail.  It requires checking and cross-checking assumptions and the thought processes that lead to the conclusions.  And ultimately it requires humility and a willingness to be wrong.

To me the breakdown in civility is a symptom of our societies' inability to think. We substitute invective for rational thought because we have lost the ability to articulate our position to others.  Our thoughts become our own personal mantra, our own creed, not the shaky personal knowledge that it really is, subject and vulnerable to our own bias and disordered natures.

On a more positive note, real thinking can be done by anyone.  It is much more an issue of discipline and virtue than any special talent.  There are wiser janitors in this world than some statesmen.  And a PhD is not an indication if one is wise.  But as I've written before, wisdom is available to everyone, provided one is willing to put in the effort to court her.

The question is, do we have the courage to "man up" and seek her?