I’ll just leave these here…

Sometimes things get said so well that there’s no point in my digesting and putting my own spin on them. Today we have a few of those, which I’m just going to leave here and suggest you read.

1. 90% of prominent Climate Change deniers are linked to Exxon Mobil

A recent analysis conducted by Carbon Brief which investigated the authors of more than 900 published papers that cast doubt on the science underlying climate change, found that nine of the ten most prolific had some kind of relationship with ExxonMobil.

Links to these papers were proudly displayed on the denialist Global Warming Policy Foundation website, where they are still fanning the dying embers ofClimategate hoping something will catch, under the heading, “900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of ‘Man-Made’ Global Warming (AGW) Alarm.”

The top ten contributors to this list were responsible for 186 of the 938 papers cited.

Hey denialists (coughcoughcoughgrassrutecough) – want to talk some more about how climate change is just a scam? Just be aware that your position was bought and paid for by oil companies. Why don’t we look at the evidence rather than accusing each other of having some secret financial motive?

2. The appeal of the “New Racism”

The New Racism manifests itself in many ways–school choice, the obsession with property values, including the rise of Neighborhood Watch in the 1980s; the differences in prison sentences for those convicted of possessing crack as opposed to cocaine, etc.

We’ve lost an understanding of what racism means in this country. We’ve forgotten that it’s race hate combined with power. A white person being harassed in a black neighborhood is not experiencing racism–that person can call the police and get a response. My students refer to anything other than whatever they think of as Martin Luther King’s dream as racism. Like with so many other words, conservatives have won the rhetorical war. We need to define racism as what it actually is and reclaim the rhetorical ground on moving toward real equality.

To the list of code words that don’t sound racist but are, I would add ‘personal responsibility’. While personal responsibility is a good thing, its usage in discussions of race inevitably cast black and brown people as being personally irresponsible, as though some genetic flaw makes us incapable of achievement (which, in turn, explains why we deserve to be poor and why any attempt to balance the scales is ‘reverse racism’).

3. Seriously, Fuck Ayn Rand

We all know that liberalism is for the (naive, inexperienced, foolish) young while conservatism is a natural byproduct of aging, maturing, and gaining experience with the world, right? Conventional wisdom gets it wrong yet again. The surge in popularity of objectivism and libertarianism on campus underscores how right wing ideology, not pie-in-sky liberalism, is the real fantasyland for kids who have absolutely no experience in the real world.

Yes, Ayn Rand is making a comeback among the college-aged. Objectivism is even getting some mainstream press in light of Commissar Obama frog-marching the nation toward hardcore Communism. Heroic individualists are threatening to “go galt” now that Obama has completely eliminated all incentive for anyone to work ever again, re-enacting their own version of the “producers’ strike” in Atlas Shrugged.

I’ve gotten a little more mellow in recent years, believe it or not, less keen to argue and more able to see middle ground. But there is no middle ground here, no way for us to meet halfway in intellectual compromise: If you are an Objectivist, you are retarded. This is a judgment call, and I just made it. Grow up or fuck off. Those are your two options.

So I decided to give you 1000 words on objectivism last week. Gin and Tacos gives us an… alternative take on the same position. While I’m not a fan of the use of the word ‘retarded’, the rest of the piece is worth reading. Edit: I should note that there is at least one person who is a Rand devotee and whose intelligence and opinion I respect, even if I do not agree.

4. 10 Ways the Birthers are an Object Lesson in White Privilege

Ultimately, the election of Barack Obama has provided a series of object lessons in the durability of the colorline in American life. Most pointedly, Obama’s tenure has provided an opportunity for the worst aspects of White privilege to rear their ugly head. In doing so, the continuing significance of Whiteness is made ever more clear in a moment when the old bugaboo of White racism was thought to have been slain on November 4, 2008.

To point: Imagine if Sarah Palin, a person who wallows in mediocrity and wears failure as a virtue, were any race other than White. Would a black (or Latino or Asian or Hispanic) woman with Palin’s credentials have gotten a tenth as far? Let’s entertain another counter-factual: If the Tea Party and their supporters were a group of black or brown folk, who showed up with guns at events attended by the President, threatening nullification and secession, and engaging in treasonous talk, how many seconds would pass before they were locked up and taken out by the F.B.I. as threats to the security of the State? If the Tea Party were black they would have been disappeared to Gitmo or some other secret site faster than you can say Fox News.

Earlier this week President Obama tried to be the adult in the room by surrendering his birth certificate in an effort to satisfy the Birthers and their cabal leaders Donald Trump and Pat Buchanan. Of course, his generous act does nothing to satisfy the Birther beast for it is insatiable in its madness. Nevertheless, a lesson can still be salvaged by exploring the rank bigotry which drives the Birther movement. In an era of racism without racists, the Tea Party GOP Birther brigands provide one more lesson in the permanence of the social evil known as White privilege.

Still confused about how white privilege works? Here’s a few concrete examples.

I guess I should get a tumblr or something for this stuff…

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Believers are still out there

Being a skeptic is incredibly hard work. I’m not referring to the fact that many people have a completely vacuous and dizzyingly inaccurate idea of what ‘skepticism’ means – that it’s simply the refusal to entertain or accept new ideas – that’s tough enough. No, even if everyone had the definition right (skepticism being the practice of questioning all assertions about reality and apportioning the strength of one’s belief to the strength of the available evidence), it would still be a slog. Not only does a skeptic have to question the opinions of others, she/he must repeatedly check her/his own assumptions and thoughts constantly.

Skepticism, like the concept of ‘enlightenment’ found in Zen teaching, is an abstract; a goal that can never be fully attained but which should be constantly pursued. Nobody can ever be a ‘true’ skeptic, as we constantly find ourselves falling back into our human failings. One of the things I keep finding myself blindsided by is the occasional realization that while, as far as I’m concerned, the supernatural aspects of religious belief are the stuff of juvenile fantasy, there are still lots of people out there that really do believe that shit:

Belief in a god, or a supreme being, and some sort of afterlife is strong in many countries around the globe, according to a new Ipsos/Reuters poll. Fifty one per cent of the 18,829 people across 23 countries who took part in the survey said they were convinced there is an afterlife and a divine entity, while 18 per cent said they don’t believe in a god and 17 per cent weren’t sure.

But only 28 per cent believe in creationism, the belief that a god created humans, compared to 41 per cent who believe in human evolution and 31 per cent who simply don’t know what to believe.

From my personal experience, even those religious people I regularly spend time with say that most of their beliefs are more allegorical than literal. They believe in ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ in abstract terms representing a belief in some sort of ultimate justice. They believe in ‘god’ as a vague description of some kind of greater organizing force that permeates the universe. As such, they describe themselves as ‘religious’ in the sense that they do not accept that the universe can be entirely explained through cause/effect chains. If you really drill down to the core of modern theology, it eventually becomes various forms of this kind of ecumenical refusal to be certain about anything.

While infuriating from a rationalist point of view, this kind of belief system is not the kind of thing that inspires people to go out and murder their fellow man or oppress her rights, and often these people are able to pivot that kind of fuzzy ‘religion’ into something constructive (which, I think, points even more strongly to the fact that belief is entirely ancillary to human virtue). And while I think this kind of belief is an intellectually lazy way of having your cake and eating it too, I can at least appreciate the impulse to retain some kind of belief in the supernatural.

That’s why I am gob-smacked when I am confronted with the fact that more than half of my fellow creatures believe in the literal truth of life after death and an ultimate supernatural entity. Not as a vague abstract notion, but as a real being with conscious decision-making abilities and a penchant for judgment. I can handle the abstract concept of people who believe this kind of stuff, but from time to time my brain grabs onto it semantically, shakes my conscious mind and says “can you believe this shit?”

And of course, they do:

Mexicans were the most likely to accept the idea of an afterlife, but not heaven or hell, followed by Russians, Brazilians, Indians, Canadians and Argentines. Believers in creationism were strongest in South Africa, followed by the United States, Indonesia, South Korea and Brazil.

Of course there are two different ways of looking at these findings. Yes, depressingly 3 or 4 billion people in the world think that their entire lives are nothing more than the staging area for some post-mortem talent contest judged by the ultimate Simon Cowell. However, it’s almost perfectly balanced by people who either recognize that there’s no evidence for such an assertion or simply reserve judgment on that particular issue. Nearly half of my fellow creatures live their lives under the operating assumption that this life actually matters, not as a screening process for some kind of real life that happens after you die, but to the planet they live on and the beings that share it. Even if it turns out that there is an afterlife (although the very idea seems preposterous – what part of you goes to the afterlife? And no, ‘soul’ isn’t a meaningful answer to that question), the world we do know exists is made better through the actions of people that live as though their existence matters now.

Opinion polls are largely unimportant when it comes to determining truth about reality (saving those exceptions where we are trying to describe the reality of human belief), but they do give us a pretty significant nod in the direction that our policies and decisions will take us. It’s crucial to never underestimate the fact that while I (and many of you, I’d imagine) have abandoned the false promises given by those who claim knowledge of the afterlife, we share our space with literally billions of other who every day trade the cow of their life for the magic beans of faith.

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Mining a silver lining

First off, I want to apologize for shirking my duties this past week. I squandered my weekend, when I should have been writing the posts for last week, doing other stuff. When Monday came around, I had decided to write a post-mortem on the election after the results were in. However, by the time I got home from working at the polls I was so tired and disgusted with the outcome that I couldn’t really marshal my thoughts enough to write anything that I could feel good about. This is the reason why I usually set up a buffer of posts, so as to avoid this exact type of thing.

Secondly, I find it troubling that the week that I decide not to post, my hit count explodes :P

Finally, this post is going to be a sort of amalgamation of some thoughts that have been kicking around my head for the past week since the election. I’ve titled this post ‘mining a silver lining’, because while it pretty much goes without saying that I am disappointed and fearful about what it means that the Republican North party has a legislative fiat (both in the Parliament and ostensibly in the Senate), I think there are some real good news stories to come out of the election. The political content of the archives of this blog should be sufficient to explain why a Republican North majority is a bad thing for Canada; I will instead focus on some good news speculation.

ALL THE PROGNOSTICATION MEANS ABSOLUTELY DICK

There will be a lot of political commentators (myself among them) who will make predictions about what will or won’t happen under a Republican North majority. The sheer variety of opinions and predictions ensures, mathematically, that most of them will be wrong. Political decisions are influenced by ideology and promises, but occur on a day-to-day basis and are affected by human events. Nobody can predict exactly what human beings will do, as this world is a chaotic place. Nobody would have expected U.S. foreign policy to make a dramatic series of shifts based on events in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Fewer still would have predicted that Japan’s economy would take a tumble after an earthquake and resultant nuclear accident.

My point here is that no matter who makes the predictions, policy will adapt to the the immediate circumstances around it. Changes in technology, in climate, in foreign politics, in any number of things will have a strong influence on how Stephen Harper’s policy decisions will be made. Trying to predict specific actions over a four-year period is a complete waste of time, and can be enjoyed only as an intellectual masturbatory exercise.

Now I will commence to fapping.

STEPHEN HARPER IS THE LEADER OF A DIVIDED PARTY

The Republic North party is made up of two core constituencies: social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. The perhaps unspoken (or certainly under-spoken) reality that accompanies such a grouping is that while they may claim to be related ideologies, the two are in fact orthogonal. There is nothing in the doctrine of social conservatism that lends itself to fiscal conservatism – in fact the two are often at cross purposes. Libertarians and Classical Liberals believe that the government has no business whatsoever legislating either social issues or economic issues – only in safeguarding individual liberties. The reason the Republican North party was able to pick up so much support is because they catered to the economic centre/right, which is also a part of the Liberal party’s core constituency.

The only way (as far as I can see) that the RNP was able to stitch these two groups together was to simultaneously forge a false equivalence between these two perpendicular political perspectives, and to publicly proclaim disinterest in social policy while quietly whispering assurances to their social base that those issues would come to the fore once a majority was achieved. Now that this is a political reality, Prime Minister Harper will have to ‘pay the piper’, so to speak, by advocating positions that are wildly unpopular among the Canadian majority. If he fails to do this, social conservatives who have long felt ignored by the federal government will abandon the RPN and revive the Reform party. Should he capitulate to their whims, he will alienate the Libertarian/Classical Liberal wing of his party.

This must be a deft balancing act that will take an extraordinary statesman and leader to accomplish. Stephen Harper is neither of these.

JACK LAYTON MAY EXERCISE A GREAT DEAL OF CONTROL

Part of the success of the RPN during their successive minority governments was Stephen Harper’s ability to keep the reins of his party tightly held. Information did occasionally leak, but for the most part the government spoke from one perspective only. Considering the number of wingnuts in the party, keeping that communication clamped down was an extraordinary achievement that served the party’s interests well. Jack Layton may be able to exercise the same kind of party discipline, albeit in a dramatically different way.

Nobody really predicted that the NDP would make the strides they did in this past election (owing largely to Quebec, but also partially due to the implosion of the Liberal party). Jack Layton now finds himself the leader of a party with 102 seats, many held by rookie politicians. The NDP brand has been, since the early 2000s, consistently centred on Jack Layton himself, rather than a particular policy position. The rookie MPs will be looking to Mr. Layton for guidance and instruction, more so than would a team of seasoned veterans. While Jack will have to pull in some of his own wingnuts and handle more than the ordinary number of blunders born of inexperience, he will also have a party that gets virtually all of its cues from him. In this way, the NDP can appear more organized and credible than they legitimately are. This means that progressive decisions and policies can be articulated without seeming like they’re coming from the hippie fringe.

ELIZABETH MAY WAS ELECTED

I am not a Green voter. I did vote Green in 2006, because my riding was a safe bet and I supported electoral reform. I think the Green party can articulate a non-corporate perspective that is sorely and noticeably absent from the other three major parties. Elizabeth May is a gifted speaker and is able to articulate environmental policy issues well. She’s also shown herself to be indomitable and highly resistant to intimidation in the face of overwhelming opposition. While I don’t necessarily agree with her party’s platform on many issues (medicine and health care being chief among those), I am glad to see a more pluralistic Parliament.

Her election also serves the purpose of giving the Green party legitimate political status. Voting Green is now a legitimate alternative, and while the party is still in its infancy in terms of credibility, having elected an MP (over a RPN cabinet minister, no less) certainly vaults it into the standings. After all, they only have 3 fewer seats than the Bloc, who used to be the official opposition :P

POLARIZATION IS BAD, BUT NOT ALL BAD

One doesn’t have to look much further than the United States (a name that is becoming progressively more ironic) to see how dangerous political polarization can be. Polarization forces people to make choices to support positions they don’t agree with in the name of party affiliation. Having a plurality of perspectives means that government will be more stable, rather than erratically jerking back and forth from right to left. Canada has elected a far-right government with a far-left opposition (although I don’t think either of those descriptions are really fair in the general scheme of things), meaning that for the first time in a long time we see a stark separation between the usually moderate people of this country.

However, there is one upside to polarization that has to do with a necessary consequence of good government. When the government is largely running things behind the scenes and caters to the will of the majority, people become complacent. Why bother getting up in arms about a government whose actions are largely invisible and that I agree with for the most part? Having the debate happen more to the extremes, with policies to match, means that government activity will become increasingly salient to the average Canadian. People will see that their actions (or inactions, as the case may be) can allow dangerous legislation that is contrary to their personal interests to be passed largely without comment. Perhaps having a RPN majority government is what Canada needs as a kick in the pants to spur increased political involvement by its populace.

SUMMARIZING THOUGHTS

As I’ve made clear, I’m not happy about this election. My best-case scenario would have seen a diminishing Harper minority with a strong NDP opposition – allowing the further fragmentation of the right and bringing progressive issues to the fore. What I got instead was a bizarro world in which a 2% increase in political support for the RPN means 30 more seats and the Bloc has all but evaporated. It is an interesting time for Canadian politics, and while there will undoubtedly be some serious damage done in the interim (I’m thinking specifically of crime, climate change and the strength/direction of the Canada Health Act), there may yet be some positive stories to come out of this.

I am back to my regular self, and am recommitting myself to articulating my position. I promise – no more weeks of rage (well… hopefully).

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Atheist bus ads get raptured

I’ve written about the mysterious disappearance of two bus ads from the Atheist Bus Campaign in Kelowna, BC. You can read the writeup here:

It’s not like they’re held on with velcro or chewing gum – these bus ads are meant to withstand winter weather, rain, wind, and exposure. They are held on with strong adhesive – they don’t just slip off on the side of the road somewhere. They certainly don’t just slip off in pairs. There’s only one logical, rational explanation for this disappearance: they were taken into the sight of Jesus in a localized mini-Rapture. How else can you explain them vanishing without a trace (a source inside the bus company said that it looks like they were ‘professionally removed’ due to the lack of residue – who’s more professional than Jesus?)

Sometimes it’s nice to cut loose and let the ridicule fly.

The hate is winding down…

I am slowly de-Hulking, and will likely be back to normal by the weekend, which means new stuff for you to read at the beginning of next week. Until then, this might help tide you over:

The United States is about to undergo a major makeover. By 2050 – though some demographers predict it will be by 2042 – the U.S. will have a non-white majority population for the first time in its history. No tightening of immigration laws can hold this off: The biggest jump in the 2010 census, for example, came not from Latino immigration but from the Latino birth rate. In fact, except for European-Americans, every ethnic and racial group – African-Americans, Asian-Americans, even American Indians and Alaska natives – is growing by double-digit percentages. The hardening of political battle lines we have witnessed since the election of U.S. President Barack Obama is just a foretaste of what will probably be a rocky transition to a new United States. Will it be less united than ever?

In reality, even after 2050, whites will remain the group with the largest plurality. More importantly, liberal inheritance laws have produced a cross-generational payoff for the legacy of white economic advantage. This means that the distribution of economic resources will not change as quickly as the demographics because, as Andrew Hacker revealed in his study “Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal,” the way race affects economics is not measured in wages but in real estate (most households’ primary source of wealth). For every dollar that white families have, African-American families have only 10 cents, and Latino families have only 12 cents. Furthermore, the recent subprime mortgage crisis hit the newest and poorest homeowners the hardest – groups that are disproportionately made up of people of color.

It’s interesting and worth a read.

Today’s word boner…

…is brought to you by Tim Wise:

Partying is what we do when we kill people, when we beat someone, when we grind them to dust. It is not what we do when we save lives or end suffering. Saving lives or doing humanitarianism is like making love, while killing people is tantamount to a good, hard, and largely one-sided fuck; and unfortunately we know which of these two things men, in particular, are more apt to prefer. [bolded emphasis mine]

Ayup. And while I’m not too sad that we the United States (look at me buying into the jingoism… weird) engaged in this intercontinental fuck, I do recognize that the rather inconclusive (in a grand sense) death of one particular psychopath isn’t the dawn of a new day, nor is the death of a human being a cause for celebration, no matter how detestable that person might be.

As always, the full piece is worth clicking through to read.

I get e-mail

Crommunist is still mad at you. I’ll be back from hiatus when I feel like it.

Last week, I pointed out what I thought was a really cool story in the news:

A [city] church has voted to stop signing marriage licenses in protest of the state of [state]‘s denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Douglass Boulevard Christian Church made the unanimous vote Sunday. The Rev. Derek Penwell, senior minister of the church, said it’s unjust that heterosexual but not homosexual couples can benefit from marital rights involving inheritance, adoption, hospital visits and filing joint tax returns, saving thousands in annual taxes.

The Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in Lousiville, Kentucky (yes, that Kentucky) decided to do something courageous. Today I got an e-mail from a representative at the church:

Greetings,

We want to thank you for your kind words of support. We have been humbled deeply by your support and the support of countless people like yourself that have found hope in the action Douglass Blvd. Christian Church took on April 17, 2011.

We pray this message finds you well and ask that you continue to support us in prayer. The day has not arrived that all in the family of God are equal. Until that day arrives it is our hope that we as a community of faith continue to be instruments of Gods love, Gods peace and Gods love.

Blessings, Rev. Derek Penwell, Rev. Ryan Kemp-Pappan & the members of Douglass Blvd. Christian Church

For the record, I am not going to join them in prayer. I will do something only slightly less useless – publicize it on my blog. God’s peace is kind of hilarious, considering the number of religious wars currently going on in the world, and I’m not sure why God’s love is listed twice, but I’ll pass all the same. Still, I will give credit where it’s due, and all the deity babble aside these guys have done something truly incredible.

Taking a hiatus

For the first time in the year I’ve been blogging, there will be no post today. Quite frankly, I am sick to my stomach that my fellow countrymen are so stupid and have been paying so little attention to what’s happening that they would give majority governmental power to someone who was a tyrant when he DIDN’T have an unchecked majority.

Regular blogging will resume when I stop vomiting, and when I stop hating the Canadian people.

“Natural Law” – When to ignore someone (pt. 4)

Arguments are powerful things in the world of rhetoric. When considering any given topic, familiarity with the cognitive and evidentiary frameworks that pertain to that topic can be of great use both in understanding and defending a position. Some arguments (albeit few) are powerful enough to justify a position all by themselves; most positions require a variety of arguments to be fully persuasive. Conversely, there are some arguments that are so weak that it is reasonable to completely ignore anyone who would try and press them into service.

I have so far dealt with four such arguments: “common sense”, “I’ve done my own research”, any sentence that starts with “I believe that…” and back-filling explanations to satisfy an a priori conclusion. “Common sense” is a poorly-named concept, because it presumes that people perceive and process information in a uniform way. Doing your own research rarely meets the standard of “research” required to be authoritative or replicable. A person’s individual belief in a thing does not grant it legitimacy, regardless of the sincerity of that belief. Finally, reliable information cannot be gained by assuming the truth of the conclusion, then looking for confirmatory evidence.

These are all specious and worthless arguments, and carry with them no persuasive force when the audience is able to think about them critically. To this list, I would like to add any argument that is contingent on the concept of “natural law”. There are a surprising number of thinkers and theorists that use this concept, and a separate definition for each. The particular understanding of the concept that I find to be most vacuous is perhaps best articulated by the Catholic Church:

The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie: The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin… But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.5

The general thrust of this definition is that humans have an innate sense of right and wrong, and that this sense is both reliable and derived through human reason. The weaknesses of the Catholic position (the conjuring of the existence of their specific god and a human soul) aside, the very concept is still meritless, or at least not borne out by evidence. Given the diversity of ways in which people react to similar moral quandaries is evidence that there is not a uniform moral sense. The existence of quandaries – situations in which a reasonable case can be made for or against a given action – is evidence enough that there is nothing “written and engraved in the soul” of anybody.

There are a variety of reasonable ways of arriving at a moral decision – the entire field of ethics attests to this fact. A variety of ethical constructs and theoretical scaffolds have been invented to codify a method of consistently arriving at conclusions that maximize the good and to minimize the negative. However, when a given action may cause both good and evil (e.g., giving a life-saving blood transfusion to a Jehova’s Witness against her/his will), our supposed innate moral sense fails us. One person may choose to ignore her innate moral sense to preserve life in favour of obeying the patient’s wishes, while another may reject the patient’s irrational belief in favour of giving him life-saving treatment. Both of these choices are justifiable (although, for the record, medical ethics fall firmly on the side of patient autonomy). Neither can be said to either violate human reason or some kind of ‘natural law’.

While this argument would be merely annoying if invoked in abstract, it is sometimes assumed to be valid, and then used to justify all manner of harm:

…tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

Basing regulations on the non-existent natural law is dangerous and detrimental to those caught outside the realm of what the authority deems acceptable. Two women that are in love, or a man that wants to leave his abusive wife, are shit out of luck because those things are ‘against natural law’, as though loving who you choose and self-preservation are some kind of irrational goal.

What we see in both the conception and application of ‘natural law’ is simply a collision of ‘common sense’ and back-filling. “I don’t like these things for whatever reason, and so I will look for a justification for my dislike that makes them seem rational.” As an argument, it is the equivalent of throwing up your hands and saying “because I said so, that’s why!” It takes courage and honesty to recognize that things you don’t like may be honestly justifiable to some, based on valid precepts (and no, I don’t count cultural norms or appeals to tradition among the list of valid precepts). Homosexuality seems weird to me, and I may not like it (for the record, I don’t really have strong feelings one way or the other, although I am immensely proud of our society whenever I see a gay couple together openly). I don’t agree with polygamy. I think that religious rules about diet or medical treatment are stupid. My personal discomfiture with a practice is, however, not evidence that said practice is ‘against natural law’. It just means I don’t like it.

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