Liberties vs. Rights?

De Jasay makes a distinction between these, saying, as I understand it, that a liberty to Smith presupposes a duty to Jones not to interfere with Smith's exercise of the liberty; while a right entails a duty on the part of Jones to undertake a positive performance. "Only in the limit is bearing and fulfilling it a matter of indifference." (219)

A ___ to "health care" should then be filled with "right," because it coercively enjoins the taxpayers to pay for other people's pleasures. But a ___ to "free speech" is essentially a liberty, since no one is required to do anything other than not to beat the speaker up.

The difference is well-taken, even though it is not generally observed in common speech.

Freedom to do X is best defined as at least one and normally both of the following:

(1) having no serious moral duty not to do X;
(2) facing no threat of punishment from the government for doing X.

This definition combines two "permissions," as suggested by my understanding of metaethics: "internal", as if from nature and nature's God, to do X in the form of absence of a duty; and "external" or absence of threat of physical punishment. Again, duty is a categorical command; law backed by threat is a hypothetical incentive.

Thus, one would have no freedom to murder even in the absence of government in the state of nature from (1) alone, because there is a "serious" moral duty not to murder.

But one also has no freedom to exceed the speed limit from (2) alone: there is no serious moral duty to comply, but one is still afraid of getting a ticket.

Freedom typically prevails when both conditions are satisfied.

Pursuit of “Values”

Anthony de Jasay issues a penetrating one-sentence summary of ideological politics:

Secular historical experience largely bears out that liberty has a cost in terms of security, security in terms of progress, progress in terms of equality, equality in terms of respect of rights, and so forth. (144)

According to this, are libertarians extremists who value liberty and progress and despise what are actually legitimate values of security and equality?

For example, in his discussion of inequality under laissez-faire capitalism (HA, 840-51), Mises advances no arguments against this "value" as such. He says only that

the inequality of incomes and wealth is an inherent feature of the market economy. Its elimination would entirely destroy the market economy. ...

The triumph of this liberal philosophy produced all those phenomena which in their totality are called modern Western civilization.

However, this new ideology could triumph only within and environment in which the ideal of income equality was very weak.

But this is merely a reiteration of the incompatibility of equality and progress thesis. What can be replied to a man who desires to "exchange" some progress for some equality?

I think we have to condemn equality on moral grounds, as a perverse, evil value. The "trade-off" is of the same sort as the alleged trade-off between Smith's desire not to be murdered and his desire himself to murder others. The latter is not a innocuous "value" that ought to be balanced with others. It's entirely vicious and ought to be repressed by Smith within his own soul and deterred by threat of punishment by the government.

Similar with security (851-3): perfect economic security, understood as a government-guaranteed permanent place in the economy or at least substantial protection from competition that would otherwise come from new entrepreneurs, prevails in a caste society or under socialism of the Cuban pattern also at the expense of progress:

A characteristic feature of the unhampered market society is that it is no respecter of vested interests. Past achievements do not count if they are obstacles to further improvement. The advocates of security are therefore quite correct in blaming capitalism for insecurity. ...

It is certainly true that the necessity of adjusting oneself again and again to changing conditions is onerous. But change is the essence of life.

In an unhampered market economy the absence of security, i.e., the absence of protection for vested interests, is the principle that makes for a steady improvement in material well-being.

This is somewhat better. "Security," Mises says, not only conflicts with progress but is in a way inhuman. I agree with this 100%: human nature finds its fulfillment in everlasting progress. Coercively imposed "security" is contrary to natural law, another proposition of ethics.

Thus, libertarians, far from picking an extreme arbitrary combination of values, are in fact much better attuned to both economics and ethics than their opponents.

Branches of Government and Anarchy

De Jasay concludes his essay on Hayek: his theory, he says,

leads straight as an arrow to the facile conclusion of an indispensable state that alone upholds property and contract. They exist by the grace of society acting through the political authority. They function as society chooses that they should.

The massive chorus we have been hearing from the left and center, chanting that property is a bundle of separable privileges granted and withheld by society, and the freedom of contract is subordinate to public policy, is vindicated by the very theory that should have prevailed over such a chorus with a clearer, a most powerful voice. (Against Politics, 129)

But Jasay's condemnation of Hayek does not follow. I have suggested on this blog that the 3 branches of government exhibit different "privatizability."

The judicial branch can and ought to be fully private;

the legislature is part-time, insofar as an occasional positive law or written custom can be a useful addition to natural law;

and the executive must remain fully public and probably tax-financed.

We can easily correctly judge property, freedom of contract, and natural law to be pre-state and rationally deducible a la Rothbard, while admitting that the public police is still "indispensable" for enforcing these.

Nor need we further entertain the grotesque idea that "property is what you can defend," which would again imply that the state, in enforcing the law, determines the law's content.

I therefore agree in part with the first paragraph of the quote while rejecting the second paragraph.

Defining Public Goods

On p. 124 of Against Politics, Anthony de Jasay makes an illuminating point in discussing the "textbook division of the universe of goods and services into two exogenously determined halves, public and private":

Nothing is "excludable" without further ado; for nothing can be sold without the seller incurring costs to exclude from access those who would not pay the price.

Exclusion cost is no more avoidable in a good destined to be sold than is the cost of production and transport. Everything is excludable at some cost that may be high or low, depending on a host of circumstances, of which the physical characteristics of the good is only one.

Over the universe of goods, exclusion cost is a continuous variable. ... Providing a good publicly saves exclusion cost. This advantage may be partly, wholly, or more than wholly offset by costs arising from wasteful use of the good the consumer can have without paying for it, and from other, less direct risks.

If social choice were usually "collectively rational," goods would be provided publicly if the saving of exclusion cost outweighed the disadvantages and added costs of publicness.

So, whether a given good is public or private is an economic matter not technological one. For example, when a store owner invests into video cameras and security personnel to deter shoplifting, he spends money on enforcing exclusion. But no one seriously suggests that this cost is a good argument for communizing supermarkets.

Note that the last paragraph of the quote does not supply a sufficient condition for producing a good publicly, because even if the savings are considerable, it may still be that the good ought not to be produced at all, whether privately or publicly.

Let's dub the criteria for publicness as follows:

Excludable (costs of exclusion are low) - e-happy;
Nonexcludable - e-sad;

Nonrivalrous (marginal variable cost is low or zero, at least until a certain point) - r-happy;
Rivalrous - r-sad.

Then

(1) e-sad, r-sad: common resource subject to overexploitation, tragedy of the commons, and pure costs that are not captured as benefits by anyone: no good solution;
(2) e-sad, r-happy: public good: government production;
(3) e-happy, r-sad: private good: market production;
(4) e-happy, r-happy: "natural monopoly": still market production.

Regarding (1), for example, congested roads within a city generate the costs of wasted time and road rage which are offset with no symmetrical benefits. Like waiting in line, they are pure costs or human misery with no redemptive value.

In (3), entrepreneurs can compete both on price and product / quality; in (4) they can compete on product only, since the MVC is already zero.

Thus, a movie theater bears the same costs of production regardless of whether its rooms are filled to 10% capacity or 90% capacity. Since the products will all be different, each producer will have a "monopoly" on his own uniquely differentiated product. It will enjoy a natural unenforced monopoly in a vacuous or tautological sense.

Meaning of Life

I have identified two termini of the human life: relative in one's own happiness and absolute in God.

This is how they differ: own happiness is of the self; God is the connection between self and everything else, especially through the mutual indwelling of charity but also through knowledge and power.

Absence of either would make life meaningless; presence of both assures meaning.

Through union with God, one comes to be in all, and all in him. No thing is beyond a man's purview, as though irrelevant. But having thus provisionally grasped the infinite, the world without end, man finds life's meaning in the pursuit of happiness in it.

Original Sin and the Purpose of Evil

"How could a morally perfect, all powerful God," asks McCloskey, "create a universe in which occur such moral evils as cruelty, cowardice, and hatred, the more especially as these evils constitute a rejection of God Himself...?" The typically given answer is that "free will alone provides a justification for moral evil. ... men have free will; moral evil is a consequence of free will; a universe in which men exercise free will even with lapses into moral evil is better than a universe in which men become automata doing good always because predestined to do so." (217) This version indeed has the difficulty that it would also perversely justify a world with no moral good and unshakeable moral wickedness. As a result, theists must insist that "in fact men do not always choose what is evil."

McCloskey then brings up the question of why free will and absolute moral goodness are incompatible. At the very least, he suggests, free will should be compatible with must less moral evil than marks this world. In what follows, I will reply to this objection.

Beside physical and moral goods, there is further metaphysical good such as indeed free will which McCloskey does not identify as such. In discussing it, it will help to divide it into "levels." On level 1, the metaphysical good is the degree of perfection of creaturely essences. To illustrate: Socrates is better than a pig metaphysically; Socrates is better than a fool morally; and Socrates satisfied is better than Socrates dissatisfied physically. Here metaphysical evil is the distance between the completeness of a creature and the completeness of God, with God being perfect and containing zero metaphysical evil.

However, it will immediately be apparent that each creature is content with being what it is; thus, frogs do not dream of wanting to be cats; nor cats, humans; nor (it seems) humans, angels. Despite the fact that a cat has the cat nature and not the divine nature, the cat is at peace and does not envy God. On level 2, there is no metaphysical evil at all!

Level 3 comes in when we admit that humans are a unique and astonishing exception to the rule. Humans are the only creatures with an ineluctable tendency to corrupt their own nature, as the Christian story of the Original Sin indicates. Now the story of man's fall from grace is compatible with old earth, etc. if we follow Dembski and propose that Adam and his Garden may have been created billions of years ago, but the universe was created still earlier with physical evil in anticipation of Adam's sin which God had foreseen.

In thus sinning originally, Adam and Eve brought the entire lower world down with them, which explains animal suffering. Both human and external nature are now partially corrupt; moreover, actual sin follows on original, and men can now act in morally evil ways.

Human corruptibility is a unique metaphysical defect of the human nature. When tempted with the promise that "you will be like gods," man, by unjustly coveting the divine nature, despised and therefore corrupted his own human nature. (God made us as good as possible, and though it was not good enough, God's ad extra omnipotence is safeguarded.) It was therefore impossible to make humans who would always choose good. Provisions were made through the incarnation of the Son much later for the partial amelioration of this defect. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son," etc. We cannot hope to deal with the problem of evil without rightly understanding early Genesis.

So much for revelation. But reason suggests the same answer. We need to undo our corruption. We must purposely purge the evil from our souls, purify our nature of its innate corruption evident to everyone (and not just to Christians). It is ironic that our physically evil environment reflects our fallen nature and proneness to commit moral evil. The world is as wild and savage and merciless physically as man is wild morally. The only way for us to succeed in staying alive and avoiding pain and physical disorders of every kind is to cooperate and in so doing relentlessly abide by natural law and justice. God is not sticking it to us, rubbing our noses in our flaws with this irony. The point was to make justice toward men the crucial means to success in subduing the earth. Mastering the natural world -- and the concomitant alleviation of physical evil -- depends greatly on mastering one's own human nature. Physical suffering is an incentive to us to be moral.

The moral good promoted by physical evil is not heroic sainthood or glorious works of mercy inspired by divine grace but merely purity of the human nature. It is not divine Christian love but merely absence of demonic hatred. But that is sufficient. For one, corrupt nature is the greatest obstacle to grace. Heal the nature, and God will not disappoint us with His supernatural gifts. McCloskey considers the argument that "pain is a goad to action and that part of its justification lies in this fact." I agree with him in rejecting this defense, because even absence of pleasure (coupled with anticipation of future utility) is sufficient for action, not any pain. It would seem that in paradise that will be precisely the reason for the everlasting economic improvement. It could have been this way in this world, too, and the reason why it's not is the corrupt human nature which makes occasional physical pain necessary in order for man to regain his full humanity.

Nor is physical evil a good incentive to charity. Even without this evil, one can be motivated by a desire to improve his neighbor's welfare. Even if one could not relieve the neighbor's pain under no-physical-evil, he could still create pleasure for him. But does not physical evil grow charity more efficiently? Is man best motivated by the plight of his fellow men than by opportunity to bring about pleasure? Further, under pure nature and no physical evil, nature alone suffices to yield fastest economic progress. What use is there for charity then? And isn't it a mighty spiritual achievement to learn to love people who ought to be loved but are somewhat unlovable? Well, charity makes practical interpersonal utility comparisons possible. Therefore, one is enabled to improve overall happiness through some sacrifices of own smaller interest for the beloved's greater interest. This can be accomplished even in a physically perfect world. Now Jesus said: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (Jn 15:13) But in a no-physical-evil world there is never a need to lay down one's life. Hence expressions of perfect love are impossible in an Earthly Paradise. I do not know how great a loss this would be, but my guess is not enough of a loss to justify physical evil.

Moral goods like courage and prudence, too, can co-exist with absence of physical evil. Courage can be cashed out as tactical mastery, athletic performance, presence of mind, and so on. There is no need for violent aggression toward fellow men in order to manifest courage.

To conclude, a world in which physical evil is plentiful but not overwhelming is justified by the need for it for purification of human nature. A world in which further moral evil is plentiful but also not overwhelming is justified as an inevitable result of free will. It's not the case that every particular physical evil is an essential part of the overall good. A given moral evil can never be justified, but moral evils are permitted by God through His mercy for the metaphysically problematic human nature: "Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings, since the desires of the human heart are evil from youth; nor will I ever again strike down every living being, as I have done." (Gen 8:21)

Note again that (1) the presence of both physical good and evil means that the world is physically, regarding narrow happiness, ambivalent;

(2) the presence of both moral good and evil means that the world is morally evil, since even a single sin or vice can ruin a person;

(3) finally, the world is as metaphysically good as it can possibly be which means that it is metaphysically good tout court.

McCloskey on the Problem of Evil

In a penetrating paper, H.J. McCloskey considers a number of arguments in defense of God's existence when faced with the theological problem of evil.

Let me mention a few that seem to be straw men that McCloskey gleefully demolishes. The second argument is "physical evil is God's punishment for sin. This kind of explanation was advanced to explain the terrible Lisbon earthquake in the eighteenth century, in which 40,000 people were killed. There are many replies to this argument, for instance Voltaire's. Voltaire asked: 'Did God in this earthquake select the 40,000 least virtuous of the Portuguese citizens?'" (209) But the argument rather is that the world with physical evil (i.e., one in which such evil occurs from time to time) is punishment for the Original Sin to the human race as a whole; it's not the case that a given instance of physical evil is punishment to a particular Smith for a particular actual sin.

Prior to that, McCloskey ascribes to theists the fault of "denying the reality of evil by describing it as a 'privation' or absence of good." (207) Now evil is not mere absence of good; it is absence of good that ought by right to be there. This is unlike true absence of good for which it is not the case that this good ought to have been there all along. An obvious example of the latter is poverty. It's a natural human condition of lack of wealth; that man ought to be prosperous is in no way the "correct" state of affairs unjustly violated; hence poverty is not an evil but absence of good. It is ironic that McCloskey dismisses this argument, since any genuine physical evil depends on the existence of a good God who for seemingly unfathomable reasons lets us suffer. It is McCloskey who must deny the reality of evil. It is wrong to conflate evil and absence of good; but it is also wrong to fail to realize that it is meaningless to speak of physical evil without God.

(Another example: a gifted child has more potential than a regular child. If evil were merely absence of good, then the former would have to be judged worse than the latter, since being gifted yet undeveloped implies a greater distance from self-perfection. This perverse conclusion is avoided once we grasp that it's not the case that a gifted kid ought to be perfect but only that he ought to strive to become a perfect adult much later in life.)

The fifth argument is that "the universe is better with evil in it." McCloskey wants proof that all physical evil is "in fact valuable and necessary as a means to greater good." (212) Again, however, the problem of evil is a logical -- and hence strong -- puzzle of how a good and perfect Creator can co-exist with a perilous world like ours. In order to dispose of the paradox, it is sufficient "simply to suggest that physical evil might nonetheless have a justification, although we may never come to know this justification."

McCloskey goes on to assert that on this argument "we could [then] never know whether evil is really evil, or good really good. ... By implication it follows that it would be dangerous to eliminate evil because we may thereby introduce a discordant element into the divine symphony of the universe; and, conversely, it may be wrong to condemn the elimination of what is good, because the latter may result in the production of more, higher goods." (213) But he himself disposes of this objection by admitting that "physical evil enriches the whole by giving rise to moral goodness..., noble moral virtues -- courage, endurance, benevolence, sympathy, and the like." When a man eliminates physical evil, he by that fact creates a moral good; moreover, no discordant element is introduced, because he leaves "enough and as bad," to parody Locke, for everyone else.

Now moral good can be elicited by physical evil, but so can moral evil. The theist "then goes on to account for moral evil in terms of the value of free will and/or its goods." (214) McCloskey objects that free will would then seem to justify a hellish world with only moral evil, and in such a world physical evil would incidentally not be justified.

We will deal with moral evil in the next post.

Essentially Lovable

There are only two things that are lovable essentially.

First, man's own happiness, relatively, by man's nature. In other words, man seeks his happiness necessarily.

Second, God, absolutely, by God's nature. God is goodness itself and is lovable by anyone who sees it for what it is.

As a result, any search can terminate either in man or in God. Both the relative and absolute termini have their places in the scheme of things.

Authoritarian vs. Humanistic Religions?

Erich Fromm distinguishes them, condemning the former and generally praising the latter:

The essential element in authoritarian religion... is the surrender to a power transcending man. The main virtue of this type of religion is obedience, its cardinal sin is disobedience. Just as the deity is conceived as omnipotent or omniscient, man is conceived as being powerless and insignificant. ...

Humanistic religion, on the contrary, is centered around man and his strength. Man must develop his power of reason in order to understand himself, his relationship to his fellow men and his position in the universe.

He must develop his powers of love for others as well as for himself and experience the solidarity of all living beings.

His must have principles and norms to guide him in this aim. (164-5)

It's ironic that Fromm's "anti-authoritarian" "religion" is interspersed with so many "musts."

Fromm completely ignores the crucial task of reforming criminals, psychopaths, perverts, and cruel abusers. A "humanistic" religion is for humans, but these miscreants are anything but; they are precisely subhumans who must be punished, including and especially for their own sake, lest they in their savagery destroy their own souls.

Eric Hoffer propounds the following monstrosity:

It's disconcerting to realize that businessmen, generals, soldiers, men of action are less corrupted by power than intellectuals...

You take a conventional man of action, and he's satisfied if you obey. But not the intellectual. He doesn't want you just to obey. He wants you to get down on your knees and praise the one who makes you love what you hate and hate what you love.

In other words, whenever the intellectuals are in power, there's soul-raping going on.

Now this is slander of astonishing viciousness. An intellectual is a man with interesting new ideas. It turns out, according to Hoffer, that having interesting ideas ineluctably leads one to rape others. What other pearls of wisdom will our author offer from on high?

In any case, however, there are people who must change themselves indeed to "love what they hate and hate what they love." Such people need not intellectuals but demons to beat them with many blows. They need to purify their evil wills through strenuous self-denial and discipline.

I'd have thought that a murderer who finds pleasure in his victims' suffering must go through a (hopefully) temporary stage where his ill-directed power must be reduced to nothing before he can cultivate his powers to do good. Complete surrender is indeed the hidden key.

Religion is and ought to be authoritarian whenever a man's nature is corrupt and disordered; it becomes humanistic only when his nature is healed and grace is bestowed on him.

The Christian church, consistent with its mission of being all things to all people, thus properly retains within itself both authoritarian and humanistic aspects.

Then, Fromm writes, "God is not a symbol of power over man but of man's own power." (172, italics removed) Well, first, God is not a symbol; He is a real thing. Second, "man's own power" can be either creative or destructive. If it is creative, then it is rather man who is a "symbol" of God, imitating Him. If, however, it is destructive, then the authorities of the world ought to punish him for violating the natural law.

E.g., love is a Christian, and not natural, phenomenon. If the natural law is fully heeded, no external religious constraints are necessary, and a man is free to "self-actualize," including grow in charity; for a bad man, Christianity (justly) consists mostly in a litany of prohibitions.

Fromm's thesis of course also suffers from failure to admit grace as the "beginning of glory" which lifts man above his nature into deiformity or the state of being godlike.

Finally, religion is not "humanistic" but divine insofar as the object of man's happiness is God. Again, God is not a "symbol of man's need to love"; God is the unique thing that is perfectly lovable by its very essence.

Why Rational Theology Is Important

In an earlier post I wrote that regarding existence of God, "absence of evidence is not evidence for absence."

This may be true formally but I now think is mistaken in substance. First, complete lack of evidence for "God" would make it impossible to know what the term "God" even meant.

Second, if an arbitrary idea of God were floated (and many very different ones might be), a god that left no evidence of himself in the world is not one I'd bother with heeding in my personal life. As per the previous post, I'd be an "agnostic atheist."

A distinction could be made between knowing that God exists and being able to prove definitively that God exists to another person. One may "know" via some "self-authenticating" mystic communion or private revelation, but be helpless in trying to persuade, i.e., "show," someone who was not a beneficiary of such grace. However, I think that this sort of "faith" could not work at all without a solid foundation in reason.

Agnosticism vs. Atheism

Some people draw spurious distinctions between the pair "gnosticism" / agnosticism and theism / atheism, saying that the former concerns "knowledge" while the latter, "belief."

But "belief" is not "blind faith without evidence"; it's a very normal and everyday intellectual phenomenon: an assent to a proposition. Further, knowledge is often defined in philosophy (not entirely correctly, but let's not worry about that now) as justified true belief. Knowledge and belief are not independent of each other. One cannot know P without giving mental assent to, i.e., without extending belief to, P.

I suggest rather that the gnostic / agnostic distinction regards contemplative life, wherein proofs of God's existence or non-existence are entertained for the edification of all concerned.

The theist / atheist distinction regards the active life.

Here's the key difference: when speculating, one can assume anything and see where the assumptions lead him. One need not actually believe anything, and the assumption may be false, as long as it is useful or reasonable to assume it.

When acting, one must base his plans on true beliefs, regardless of evidence for or against them. If one is building a bridge, then one is ipso facto extending assent or beliefs to a vast number of (hopefully) true propositions in math, physics, etc. It may be that the builder is using a controversial theory in his project. Despite the fact that many scientists hold this theory in contempt, all is forgiven as long as the bridge works.

Thus, if you live your life without relying on God in any way, then you are a (practical) atheist. If, in building a life for yourself (and not just a bridge), you do not depend on anything God-related, regardless of any speculative disputes about any proofs of God's existence, you're an atheist. If you resolve in your heart: things of God "have no use to me, and so I make all my plans without regard to them," then you are a confirmed atheist.

Further, the distinction between agnostic theists and agnostic atheists is uninteresting in philosophy. The discussion proceeds between

1) those who think there is a proof of God's existence;
2) those who think there is a proof of God's non-existence; and
3) those who are unsure but are capable of contributing to the debate by taking, in a purely speculative way, at one point one side, and at another the other side, as matters appear to them.

Whether the agnostic is in addition a theist or atheist is his own personal life -- as in, paying heed to God or ignoring gods -- is his own business and no one else's.

Being unconvinced by arguments either for or against God's existence makes one an agnostic. If one also lives his life without worrying about God (or gods, or unicorns), then he is demonstrating his atheism to all concerned. But that's an arbitrary lifestyle choice of one's own personal career. It has no value for the speculative question of whether God exists.

If one is an agnostic, both atheism and theism are choices in the same manner as the choice of preferred ice cream flavor. For example, one might lean toward agnostic theism simply out of overabundance of caution, as per the Pascal's wager. Only if one is a "gnostic" is he ineluctably moved toward belief by evidence either for or against God's existence. I'm not concerned here to analyze Pascal's wager, only to point out that the two distinctions fall into the two axes of the division of life into active and contemplative.

Atheism vs. Materialism

Walter Block writes about Rothbard: "I'm an atheist, but I just know he's up there somewhere, looking down on us, and rooting us on."

Well, Block's atheism does not entail materialism, and as an Austrian economist, he'll probably want to disavow materialism on independent grounds.

But then Rothbard has an immaterial "soul," which may, for all Block knows, be immortal.

And in that case there may be, say, an infinite cycle of deaths and rebirths, such that a man lives in this world, dies, lingers in some sort of otherworldly heaven for a while, and is reborn again.

So, Rothbard may already have reincarnated; or he may indeed be "up there somewhere, looking down on us, and rooting us on," even if that new life for him still lacks God.

In short, "there is no God" does not entail "there are no men," i.e., there are only clouds of atoms that seem special and different from mere matter (as in, say, heeding the laws of economics) but in fact are an "illusion," whatever that means.

Specified Complexity and Design

Matson presents the "Humean" design inference in the following manner:

(1) Natural objects share with artifacts the common characteristics of adjustment of parts and curious adapting of means to ends.
(2) Artifacts have these characteristics because they are products of design.
Therefore,
(3) Natural objects are probably products of a great designer. (84)

He has 2 objections to it. First, this argument is "by analogy" and resembles too well an utterly fallacious reasoning such as:

(4) Natural objects share with artifacts the common characteristic of being colored.
(5) Artifacts are colored by being painted or dyed.
Therefore,
(6) Natural objects are probably colored by a great painter-dyer. (85)

My reply is that if we inspect any object that exhibits specified complexity (SC) (for "curious adapting," etc.) for which we can find out by other means whether it was intelligently designed, then it will turn out that it actually was intelligently designed. It will then stand to reason that even SC objects for which we have no other evidence that they were products of intelligent design still were products of intelligent design also.

Color, on the other hand, cannot spark a design inference. That X is red is no reliable indicator of X's having been designed, because many red objects that are such that we know whether or not they were products of ID (by evidence other than their color), were not in fact products of ID. Unlike SC objects. As a result, (3) follows, and (6) does not.

Second, Matson suggests that we are often "able to tell whether something is an artifact without knowing what it is for or whether its parts are accurately adjusted." (88) That's very true. (Note that complexity, purpose, and design inference are 3 different things.) Sometimes design may be inferred through something other than specified complexity. This does not affect the point that SC is in itself a reliable indicator of design. SC is sufficient for a design inference, even if not necessary. But no more than this is needed for ascribing design to many "natural objects" such as biological systems.

If we restrict our attention to SC, then we may indeed miss a few instances of design, such as based on "machining, materials that do not exist in nature, regular markings, and the like." (89) There may be false negatives. But there will not be false positives; SC is almost fully guaranteed to yield correct inferences. Once again (3) follows from (1) and (2), even if on occasion we might fail to detect design via those premises.

Wise Dembski

William Dembski has used the term "4th law of thermodynamics" to describe the law of conservation of information. For this he was savaged by the Darwinian fanatics who suggested that postulating a new law of nature was insane.

But here is philosopher Wallace I. Matson who in a 1965 book The Existence of God gave an example similar to one Dembski used to illustrate the law:

A common example of increase of entropy is the diffusion of liquids.

Half fill a beaker with water and then very carefully pour red wine into the upper half. There will then be two layers, the bottom one colorless and the top one red. If the beaker is left undisturbed, in time the differentiation will vanish; a uniformly pink fluid will be found in it.

This is because the molecules of water and wine at the boundary are in constant random motion, some up, some down. The molecules of wine will pass into the water, and vice versa. The process is not reversible...

But suppose now that a solid disc is placed horizontally in the middle of the beaker. There is a hole in it just big enough to allow a single molecule to pass; and the hole is provided with a cover. This cover is held by an infinitesimal but intelligent being ("Maxwell's demon") who is able to distinguish water molecules from wine molecules, as in their random motion they approach the hole.

Whenever he sees a wine molecule approaching from below, or a water molecule from above, he opens the hole and lets the molecule pass through; otherwise he keeps it shut. In this way, the mixture might separate itself (for the demon does not shove any of the molecules; he does no work on this isolated system), and its entropy might decrease under the guidance but not added physical energy of an intelligence. (Critiques of God, 79)

Matson then objects that human intelligence is embodied, and so the 4th law is not by that fact an exception to the 2nd law. There may be something to this objection, but the point is this: as long as an intelligent agent has certain true beliefs, however acquired, then he may be able to costlessly decrease the entropy in a system.

It may be that in order to obtain those true beliefs, such as which molecules are water and which are wine, an embodied intelligence must expend energy and in the end increase overall entropy, with the upshot that "there is no 'anabolic and antientropic factor of whose existence we are certain in ourselves.'" But an ideal mind is immaterial, as for that matter is God. Hence the argument works, and Dembski is correct.

Leftist Race Fanaticism Explained

Progressives define racism as prejudice + "power." Thus, Tom Woods writes, in connection with the looming official robbery of whites in South Africa:

So if as a black person you were to say, "Let's start burning down white neighborhoods," this would not be racist.

But what about in black-run countries, where virtually all-black political parties rule? Surely those black people, who obviously do hold power, can be racist?

(Doesn't a person who is burning down a neighborhood have power over his victims? Why limit power to holding political office?)

Progressives believe that black people cannot be racist even when they hold all power in African countries and proceed to loot and murder whites, because blacks, they feel, are pathetic miserable sad sons of bitches who should be pitied for their weak and woeful worthlessness.

They are just animals, or at best half-devils, half-children. It's as absurd to blame blacks for killing whites as to blame wolves for killing sheep.

Their minds are too primitive to come up with an ideology, even as dumb as racism.

White people's flaws, on the other hand, cannot be forgiven so easily, e.g., "from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded," etc.

In short, white liberals consider blacks to be like the zerg, an infestation, a natural disaster. Blacks are a plague of locusts that destroys entire towns, which is a defensible opinion. But locusts are man's natural enemies and to be exterminated at will, and lefties also tend to grasp, rightly, that blacks are human beings who cannot be exterminated and ought even to be loved. The contradiction and cognitive dissonance thereby created are the reason for the left's striking fanaticism about race.

All Partial Evil, Universal Good?

Ernest Nagel criticizes the argument that

the things called evil are evil only because they are viewed in isolation; they are not evil when viewed in proper perspective and in relation to the rest of the universe. ...

it is unsupported speculation...

For the argument can be turned around: what we judge to be a good is a good only because it is viewed in isolation; when it is viewed in its proper perspective, and in relation to the entire scheme of things, it is an evil. This is in fact a standard form of the argument for a universal pessimism. Is it any worse than the similar argument for a universal optimism? (Critiques of God, 13-4)

Yes, but the point is that as long as it is merely possible, even if unknown and unproven, that all partial evil contributes to the universal greatest good, the attack on theism by the problem of evil is to an extent blunted. I already pointed out that, contra Nagel, atheism dissolves rather than solves the problem of evil, as an atheist is willy-nilly forced to contend that there is no such thing as evil at all. At the same time, the theological problem of evil posits a logical contradiction between the goodness and perfection of the Creator and the sorry state of the creation. Since our author does not demonstrate that this is not the best possible world, his refutation of this particular defense fails.

God’s Formal Cause

Recall that man has his material, efficient, and final causes within, but his formal cause, the answer to the question, "What am I?" is external to him and is determined by God.

God in turn has all 4 Aristotelian causes inside natively. This has two implications.

First, God is His own eternal act of self-actualization, such that His self-discovery and self-creation are one and the same act. God "comes to be" upon understanding Himself, as His act, essence, and existence are numerically identical with each other.

Second, God must agree to be God. He must approve of it and like it. As a result, God even upon grasping His own simple essence is free to become anything. If God had been annoyed at being God and preferred to be a horse instead, He had the right to become a horse. Thankfully for all concerned, it pleased God immensely to be Himself.

Christ’s Free Knowledge, 2

I have considered one reason contra and one pro to the effect that God the Son was fully ad extra omniscient prior to the Incarnation.

The question is motivated by Mt 24:36, "But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

But reason, too, suggests something like that, insofar as Christ must've lived through the human experience before He could "learn" how He would decide.

One consideration inclines to the opposite conclusion: how could the entire project of creation have been started (such as perhaps billions of year ago with some Big Bang), unless it was foreknown in advance that its final 3rd stage, the Incarnation of the Son, would, too, be successful? Would God have begun to build with no assurance that He would finish?

But in reply I answer that it was sufficient for the Father to have foreknown the future events. The Son would of course put 2 and 2 together and guess what His actions were going to be in AD 30. But in a standard move, the Father's foreknowledge did not necessitate the Son's actions. The Father foreknew what Jesus would freely do, i.e., accept the grace of love for men, not what He had to do or was forced to do.

The Biblical passage then hints on an astonishing truth: not only were creation and sanctification contingent events; but so was redemption by Christ. God chose to love us, having had before Himself also the option to loathe us instead.

Dynamics of a Citizens Revolt

Given that the US military boasts enormous firepower, what use is even widespread private gun ownership against such might?

Well, guns are a deterrent to tyranny. If a man actually uses a weapon against a government functionary, then the deterrent has failed, and the result is unfortunate.

The state will practice repression and double down on it again and again, but only for a time.

Its strength lies in its design as the monopoly punisher which can overwhelm any individual or private organization within its domain.

For example, the government may wipe out a whole city, murdering all men, women, and children in it, to strike terror into the hearts of others who might contemplate a rebellion.

But its crucial weakness is its tendency to make martyrs of those who resist it justly. The state cannot afford to slaughter "its own" people with tanks and attack helicopters... too much, for fear of turning public opinion decisively against it.

If that happens, the state's own soldiers will desert, refuse to protect the chiefs, and join the opposition.

There are never any guarantees, but on occasion, individual resistance can break the state's will to rule. The soldiers will drop their weapons; the prison guards will abandon their posts; the IRS agents will no longer evoke fear in the populace and disappear.

As a result, despite its massive military, the government's options are not unlimited.

“Identifying” As Napoleon vs. Transgender

It's hard for me to understand how one can maintain a delusion of grandeur by insisting he is Napoleon. How would such a person respond to the argument that (1) "Napoleon was a historical figure who died in 1821. If you are him, you must be dead. Are you dead?"

The delusion consists not so much in imagining oneself to be Napoleon but in the auxiliary false beliefs that accompany it, such as:

"I am the emperor of France."
"I command vast armies."
"I have been planning an invasion of Russia."
"All shall bow to me and acknowledge me as their ruler."

When a biological male imagines himself a woman, does he fall prey to a similar delusion? Here's why I think the analogy is less than perfect. For while both claims can be mistaken, a transsexual need not have the extra false beliefs like:

"I can bear children."
"I have a pussy."
"My breasts can produce milk."
"I am physically attractive."

And of course, it is impossible for anyone to be Napoleon; but it is possible for a person to be a woman; so (1) cannot be deployed against a trans person.

Hence a transgender person need not be considered insane like someone who "identifies" as Napoleon.