Friday Highlights

Good morning. Congrats to Bert Grabsch of Germany on his great ride yesterday, 43.7 ks at over 50kph.

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16 comments

  1. An interesting take on the abortion debate, the zygote … what is it?

    That blog apparently censored my comment there, as many religious/right-wing blogs do. My comment was thoughtful and measured, I thought, but the gist of it was, no, a zygote is a cell that has a moderate (50%-70%) chance of growing into a human being, which exists inside an actual human being. The burden of proof is on those who would make criminal the act of removing said zygote to die.

    DIY LED tail-light.

    I thought this was going to be about LED scrolling “bumper stickers.” I was behind one recently that said, “I would drill Pelosi for cheaper fuel.” In one sentence, he managed to highlight pretty much everything that’s wrong with the Republican base.

  2. Mark says:

    JA,
    It may not have been explicit censoring. Spam filtering in my small experience can often cause comments to be “edited” or not included. For example, I can no longer comment at Positive Liberty, against the express desires of the site manager (Mr Kuznicki) because their spam filter decides my last name is objectionable.

    I thought that the approach, “what is it part of you or your property” to be a tack I haven’t heard. I’m unclear on what the “chance of survival” is affected by that question.

  3. #

    JewishAtheist said,

    September 26, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Did you delete my comment?
    #

    a thomist said,

    September 26, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    yes

  4. Boonton says:

    I got censored on only two sites I know of: the first was TexasDarlin’s blog who ran me in circles pretending she couldn’t understand what was wrong. Her blog seems to mostly be a fringe affair dedicated to the idea that Obama can’t take office because he is not really a US citizen. After a little digging I found some other site that speculate the blog is really a front for a nutcase man who made a little bit of fame for himself by claiming he once had sex with Obama.

    Over on ChicagoByz I lost a few posts about Palin. When I emailed the address they gave for tech support I got a vague answer. When I asked if I should repost they said the post’s author probably deleted them. I asked if they could forward my email to him so I could know if there was some reason for the deleting and they said no (even though I was using the address they explicitly gave for problems with deleted comments).

    Almost always censoring comments is, IMO, a sign of insecurity. Spam is always a problem but there’s lots of ways to have an open comment policy and police spam effectively. TO his credit, Joe Carter on Evangelicaloutpost has never censored my comments (although he has done so to at least one other person…there are few perfect saints out there). (and Mark hasn’t censored me….but with so few regular commentors so far I suspect he can’t really afford to just yet 😉 )

    The one time censoring would be acceptable IMO is if a blogger wanted to have a real discussion with one POV…..say like a ‘football huddle’ where he says something like “OK pro-lifers, what’s the best arguments to respond to X”. You’re being explicit and upfront about that which is great. I rarely see this type of thing, though. Often blog owners will participate a bit in comments but they put most of their writing time into new posts.

  5. What drives me nuts is when someone posts something that is clearly an argument and then deletes any comments which disagree with that. When they don’t even note that they are censoring the opposition, it becomes fundamentally dishonest.

    And I’ve been censored on lots of sites, all of them conservative. I’ve never seen a liberal site that deletes conservative comments or an atheistic one that deletes religious ones. As you allude to, one side tends to be more secure than the other side. That itself is some evidence regarding who is right, methinks.

  6. Boonton says:

    I thought that the approach, “what is it part of you or your property” to be a tack I haven’t heard. I’m unclear on what the “chance of survival” is affected by that question.

    I’ve heard the “part or property” argument before (on EO). I think it rests on a logical fallacy of excluding other possibilities. Who says everything must be either part or property? Why not neither? Sure it’s a unique category but pregnancy is a pretty unique condition that isn’t easily given to realistic hypotheticals. (Most hypotheticals are very unrealistic….i.e. you wake up connected to some type of duel life support that is keeping some poor sick person alive at your expense can you walk away without committing murder etc.)

    A good question that ended up getting EO to ban a commentator was based on a hypoethical fire. You rush into a IV Fertilization clinic that is on fire. There happens to be a live baby in a crib crying. There is also a heavy 60 pound mini-freezer whose label says it contains 150 frozen fertilized eggs. There are only moments to spare and youc an only carry one out. Which is it?

    Pro-life logic would seem to dictate the freezer, although almost no one will every say this would be their choice. If they happen to be pro-lifers they will construct very intricate rationalizations for not choosing the freezer but I’ve yet to hear one that is very convincing.

  7. Boonton:

    It’s striking how many examples one can come up with to show the difference between pro-life rhetoric and pro-life reality:

    Abortion in the case of rape? According to the rhetoric (and a few consistent souls like Palin) it shouldn’t be allowed. According to most “pro-lifers?” Sure.

    Should women who have illegal abortions be tried as murderers? Should their doctors? Rhetoric says yes, reality says no.

    Your fertility clinic example is a great one, too.

    When it comes down to it, we just have different moral intuitions, and come up with post hoc rationalizations for them. The problem with religious people is that they always get to say God’s on their side, so case closed. It’s just not as simple as that.

  8. Boonton says:

    True but that knife cuts two ways. If you hear a certain woman has had ten abortions in five years you’re probably going to feel something like disapproval in the back of your head….not quite the same thing as if a woman told you she has had ten different lovers in her life or fell off her diet last week. Intuition does not let us say abortion is trivial or irrelevant but as you noted it doesn’t squre with pro-life rhetoric either.

  9. Mark says:

    Guys,
    Well, are you done patting yourselves on the back?

    I’m confused a little by the frozen zygote/infant saving as paradox. I think one consistent pro-life position is also against IVF and the hyper-production of eggs externally fertilized for possible (but not necessary) implantation. Can you reframe the question in a way that doesn’t entail the saving of a thing which is a crime to create in the first place? I’m betting you can pose moral paradoxes in the context of exterminations camps for which the moral conundrum can be cut via Gordian methods by noting that the extermination camp shouldn’t exist at all.

    Have I ever argued a moral case by saying “God is on my side” and therefore it’s the right answer?

    I consider myself pro-life. I’ve argued politically that the issues such as abortion should be decided locally and that the local solution I’d push for where I live is that it is a moral issue and that we should seek legislation to insure that people take their moral choices seriously and carefully.

    As for left vs right bloggers … its true I haven’t your experience of being censored, but then again I’ve never been able to find a left leaning blog worth reading or commenting on regularly. I occasionally comment on David Schraub’s blog. I’ve asked you fellows explicitly on more than one occasion for suggestions of semi-philosophical thoughtful left leaning blogs akin to the Libertarian Positive Liberty or Richard Fernandez at PJ Media or ginny at Chicago Boyz whom I find often to be the best writing right leaning blogs out there. I’ve gotten a goose egg. Apparently you find no left wing blogs worth reading … although my additional condition desiring irenic conversation and limiting abuse and profanity to be problematic for it seems many left leaning blogs think that sort of thing gives them authenticity or something like that.

    But back to abortion. I’d offer that the left has similar difficulties justifying late term abortion as do those on the right who make the rape exception. By what argument is it justifiable to abort a viable infant recalling that a newborn is more difficult to care for than a fetus and infanticide is considered off limits except those extreme consequentialists like Mr Singer.

  10. Mark,

    Our comments above (or at least mine) were about the “pro-life” position that a fetus is morally identical to a human being. This is quite a commonly voiced position, yet people who voice it tend not to follow it to its logical conclusion.

    That does not mean one can’t be opposed to abortion yet believe it is not as bad as murder. Of course you can. That’s the Orthodox Jewish position, for example. For them, you’re not allowed to have one, but if you do, it’s not at all like murder. It’s just something you’re not supposed to do, like using a condom (without a rabbi’s permission.)

    If you told me a woman had ten abortions, I would say, wow that’s an irresponsible woman. I wouldn’t say that woman was immoral. It’s just not a moral issue for me, except possibly for late-term abortions.

    I agree with you that there is no intrinsic moral difference between very late-term abortion and infanticide. Many cultures throughout history have had no problem with infantacide. HOWEVER, viability makes a good (if fuzzy) line and birth makes for a good and not at all fuzzy line.

    As for left-wing blogs “worth reading,” you’ve narrowed your criteria so that it would be hard to come up with anything that met them.

    I’m probably being cynical, but I think philosophizing of the kind you are attracted to is an activity engaged in mostly by the right, who are attracted to Answers but too smart to settle for simple faith or simple rules. For example, if you want to be religious but couldn’t be satisfied with typical religious beliefs, you’ll want to construct (or borrow) an elaborate system built on air but conveying substance. You’ll steer far from clear, concise language because there’s nowhere to hide the groundless assumptions. For similar reasons, you prefer argument by analogy and deduction to argument by empiricism and the scientific method.

    Actually, I’m sure there are many on the left who use that sort of style, but I don’t read them because I find them unconvincing. (If I find a blogger on the right unconvincing, I’m moved to argue — if I find one on the left unconvincing, I don’t usually bother.)

    Most very good blogs are written by people who don’t neatly fit the left-right dichotomy. Mencius Moldbug at Unqualified Reservations is the smartest blogger I read, for example, and he’s a far rightist by any traditional understanding of the term, but he’s not a rightist like any Republicans are rightists. In fact, he just endorsed Obama. Other very good blogs by smart writers I read include Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution and Overcoming Bias. Again, you might consider them on the right, but they’re not typical Republicans, and consequently don’t need excessively “philosophical” writing to justify themselves.

    Then there’s Andrew Sullivan, who is more of an emotional writer who still believes in Goldwater’s conservatism, which now makes him a Democratic partisan. (Which party would Goldwater have agreed with about the war on drugs, the war in Iraq, deficit spending, etc.?) There’s Glenn Greenwald, who may be the best pure liberal blogger out there, but being a true believer sometimes goes a little off the deep end. Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein are two younger liberal bloggers who can be (but aren’t always) very good.

    So the problem isn’t that there aren’t good bloggers on “the left,” but that “the left” is a term that points to nothing, really. I myself can’t be wholly described as on the left, although the Republicans have been so full of ridiculous ideas throughout my lifetime that it’s been easy to ally myself with the Democrats and practically impossible to imagine voting for a Republican.

    I support the second amendment, fiscal discipline, and moderation in foreign policy. Those are typically thought of more as “right” than “left.” I also support progressive taxation and social spending, which is traditionally “left.” And then I’m a social libertarian on drugs, gay marriage, etc., which is neither-nor.

  11. Boonton says:

    I’m confused a little by the frozen zygote/infant saving as paradox. I think one consistent pro-life position is also against IVF and the hyper-production of eggs externally fertilized for possible (but not necessary) implantation. Can you reframe the question in a way that doesn’t entail the saving of a thing which is a crime to create in the first place?

    1. I’m not at all convinced that pro-lifers oppose IVF. Bush, for example, has praised IVF clinics. I’ll accept, though, that a consistent stance would require one to oppose IVF clinics, at least in the manner they are set up today where surplus embryos are purposefully created with full knowledge they will never be enough wombs to grow them to maturity.

    2. I don’t think the hypothetical should be restated. If you’re a firefighter you have to respond to the situation even if you would have rather the IVF clinic had never opened to begin with.

    I’m betting you can pose moral paradoxes in the context of exterminations camps for which the moral conundrum can be cut via Gordian methods by noting that the extermination camp shouldn’t exist at all.

    It sounds like you are trying to dodge the moral question. It hardly seems like a paradox to me at all. If a military planner sees two different plans, one would rescue a single person from an extermination camp while the other would liberate a hundred people it is not much of a paradox for the planner to choose the second. It’s hardly a Gordian knot. You are perfectly free to say the firefighter should opt to take the freezer because more lives would be saved….many more…than taking the single infant. You don’t want to say that, though, because it doesn’t quite feel right to you hence you try to fight the hypothetical by pretending it’s complicated or it could be defeated by saying the problem would never arise in an ideal world. A good line I heard from the show House, “It’s not complicated, it’s very simple. Hard yes but simple”.

    Apparently you find no left wing blogs worth reading … although my additional condition desiring irenic conversation and limiting abuse and profanity to be problematic for it seems many left leaning blogs think that sort of thing gives them authenticity or something like that.

    Sadly I tend to lean towards seeking out people who disagree with me so I don’t often hit many left wing blogs or when I do I’m dropping by to read a single post. I suppose the best I could suggest to you is Andrew Sullivan even though he is a conservative, his opposition to anti-gay marriage proposals and decision not to support McCain might give you the your left wing fix. Unfortunately his blog doesn’t have comments and if it did I think it would be a circus with every post generating thousands of comments from the massive size of his audience. Obsidian Wings seems good although I don’t know what their comments are like and their posts tend to pile up in my Google Reader as unread. Another one that is very good is Overcoming Bias but I’m not sure they are left wing but there’s often very good posts on it that merit careful reading. Again I tend to let that one pile up in my reader.

    The censorship issue seems to come, IMO, on more right wing blogs than left wing ones. Before I pat the left on the back, the abuse and profanity you don’t like might serve as a substitute for censorship….but given a choice between the two I’d rather have some commentator calling me nasty names than to see my posts selectively disappear whenever I make a point that makes someone feel uncomfortable.

  12. It’s silly to avoid writers who use profanity. Some of the best have always been at times profane. Do you shun Shakespeare because of all the sex jokes?

  13. Mark says:

    JA,
    I already read most of the blogs you listed … alas. To be honest, I probably would put up with some profanity if the conversation was irenic. But alas that’s rarely the case.

    I used to read Yglesias, but de-listed him when a series of uber-partisan remarks flipped the idiot bit and I realized I hadn’t for some time learned anything from reading his posts.

    I’m a bit troubled by you contention about “Answer” and the left. That seems to imply that the left, by and large, has decided there is no point in thinking because there is no right answer? So just do whatever. That’s pure hogwash, and I think you know it.

    And I don’t reject arguments build only on empiricism and scientific method because they are not useful. It’s just that Logical Positivism is passe because those methods can’t address so much of the human experience.

    Boonton,
    Catholic doctrine, if I recall, is against IVF. And besides, I’m not arguing a “generic” pro-life position. I’m arguing mostly for my pro-life position.

    What if the “hundred you might save” from death in the internment camp situation … were the guards? And besides that wasn’t my point. The point was not to come up with a precise analogy with your saving the child or the frozen blastocyst. It was that one could come up with moral set-piece situation in which the problem is better solved by the Gordian solution, i.e., the very existence of the the camp is the bigger problem.

  14. Boonton says:

    Imagine tomorrow IVF is outlawed. We will have thousands of frozen blastocysts sitting in freezers. Catholic doctrine would hold that you couldn’t just thaw them out and flush them. I recall reading about a group that volunteers to receive unwanted frozen embryos. I suppose some women would step forward and volunteer to receive them so they have a shot at life and I suppose Catholic doctrine might permit that as a life saving measure but odds would be you’d still be stuck with lots of freezers and since you outlawed IVF many of those clinics won’t have the money to keep them going.

    So in this world you’re walking down the street and see a fire. You hear the baby crying and rush in to try to save it when you see the situtation I put forth. You are confronted with the choice even though you never approved of IVF in the first place and had no role in creating the clinic.

    The problem, though, is that it’s not clear taking the freezer is the right choice. The question is why? If it is because there’s something fundamentally wrong with pro-life assumptions then it follows other doctrines that follow as a consquence might also be flawed.

    So it is kind important here to address the hypothetical instead of trying to fight it.

  15. I’m a bit troubled by you contention about “Answer” and the left. That seems to imply that the left, by and large, has decided there is no point in thinking because there is no right answer? So just do whatever. That’s pure hogwash, and I think you know it.

    My contention is that the intellectuals on the left engage in apologetics less than those on the right do, not that they engage in less thinking.

    And I don’t reject arguments build only on empiricism and scientific method because they are not useful. It’s just that Logical Positivism is passe because those methods can’t address so much of the human experience.

    You’re right that they can’t address much of the human experience. That doesn’t justify the angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin-style reasoning engaged in by the intellectual right, though.

  16. And I capitalized Answers to highlight the right’s tendency to convince themselves that their conclusions — which are based on convoluted apologetics more than on anything else — are objectively true, that their morals align with objective morals. Then they make fun of liberals for being “moral relativists.” Well, if we were as dishonest as modern conservatives, we’d just declare that OUR morals are objectively correct. But we are not that dishonest. We differentiate between objectively empirical claims and, for example, moral claims.