Friday, October 12, 2012

Time Travel, Prenatal Ethics and other Miscellania

Random thoughts, mostly things I have posted online elsewhere:

Wow, this is simply HORRIBLE journalism. There are so many things wrong with this article - it's simply sensationalism. A text from hundreds of years after Jesus' death, written in the area from which we get all Gnostic writings which mixed up Jesus and Christianity with the mystery religions, has Jesus mention a "wife", a fact that even the person working on the text admits has nothing to do with whether Jesus was ever married, and what does the journalist say? "A small fragment of faded papyrus contains a suggestion that Jesus may have been married...The discovery, if it is validated, could have major implications for the Christian faith. The belief that Jesus was not married is one reason priests in the Catholic Church must remain celibate and are not allowed to marry. It could also have implications for women's roles in the church, as it would mean Jesus had a female disciple." Ugh. Then the journalist proceeds to undermine everything they just said. Way to go.

The real title of this article should be "I Like Incoherent, Logically Inconsistent Stories because I cannot Understand the Concept of Time Travel", but I think that would've been too long. It's because of writers like this that we have all the incoherent time travel stories that we do (and which I therefore despise, though I tend to give Doctor Who and Back to the Future a pass since criticizing them for lack of logic is like criticizing the Hitchhiker's Guide for letting Arthur turn into an infinite number of penguins). Seriously, this is horrible. Not all of the 4 options are even KINDS of time travel at all, nor even necessarily incompatible options. Number 3 is simply incoherent, 4 isn't really time travel but universe-hopping. Number 2, which is how non-contradictory time travel would work, has nothing to do with predestination, pre-ordination of events, or lack of any agency.

(1) New-born infants have a right to live;
(2) If there is no relevant intrinsic difference between the members of two sets, then the members of one set will have the same rights as the other;
(3) There is no relevant intrinsic difference between new-born infants and late-term, un-born fetuses;
(4) Therefore, late-term, un-born fetuses have a right to live.
This is a deductively valid argumen
t, which means the only way to avoid the conclusion would be to reject at least one of the premises 1-3. But 2 seems to be a basic principle about rights and 3 is a scientific fact. 1 is therefore the most vulnerable, but few, I think, would be able to stomach the idea that infants have no right to live - to accept that would be pretty implausible. Since 1-3 are fairly certain and the argument is valid, then, we have to accept 4 as well.
Obama seems to deny 4, though, which makes me wonder which of 1-3 he would reject. But I'm sure he hasn't really thought about it (remember the "above my paygrade" remark?). This is just one of the reasons why I cannot understand people's enthusiasm for Obama (his unprecedented rolling back of various freedoms including religion and conscience are some of the other reasons). I understand people really liking some things about him or liking him more than Romney or liking him in general, but the unqualified enthusiasm some people have I cannot relate to. (Almost no one has any kind of enthusiasm for Romney (I certainly don't), so that's not an issue on his side!)

Since I did a potshot at Obama, here's one aimed at Romney: I think the rich should be taxed a lot more than the poor sheerly as a matter of fairness. Suppose we tax everyone 10% - then the person making 20,000 a year will be forced to pay 2000 - a chunk of their income they would be much better off holding onto. For them, missing that money is going to make a noticeable difference in their life. But suppose then we have someone making 100 million - 10 million is just a drop in the bucket and won't affect the quality of their lives in any noticeable way. Money has a diminishing marginal value as income goes up - 10% for a rich person, say, is an entirely different beast from 10% for a poor person. Suppose we actually scaled taxes according to the actual value money has for the individuals concerned (our tax brackets go some way towards this), then the rich person would be paying a much higher percentage of their income then the poor person and the two would be equally affected (or not affected) by the tax. And that's not even taking into account arguments you might make concerning the increased debt the rich have towards society for creating the possibility and infrastructure for such wealth in the first place. Those are just my own opinions, though.
 I don't always agree with him or think he's always fair to conservatives, but Jon Stewart is reliably hilarious. Apropos the above on taxation, this is pretty entertaining (be sure to click to watch on part two too).

I don't agree with all of this, but some interesting thoughts from a Christian philosopher on reforming higher education.

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