American Education’s Collapse, Caught On Video

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This assistant principal’s behavior is disturbing on many levels, most of which are too obvious to require comment. He’s rude and his language is offensive, even as he complains about the pro-life pair “harassing” students. You can add your own descriptions.

But what I really want you to see is the collapse of American education, displayed here in microcosm.

He’s an administrator at an elite high school in Chester County, Pennsylvania, yet he thinks he can say of those who are aborted, “They’re not children, they’re cells!” (around 2:00). “They are cells! You are at a science-based school! Those are cells!”

Science says they’re cells. Right. And science says that you and I as adult humans are cells. So far we’re all on the same page. I’ve never met a pro-life person who disagreed that humans are made of cells. Maybe we haven’t heard it yelled quite as loudly as this assistant principal said it. If we had, then we’d know they’re cells. Maybe if someone reminded us just as emphatically as he did that it was science, we’d agree they’re cells.

Except we already do agree with that.

Irrational Argument, Poor Education

So let’s talk about education failing here.

An educated person would know there ought to be some connection between his premises and the point he wants to make. There’s no such connection here. We all agree the unborn are made of cells, as are also those of us who have made it as far as being born. Cells are not some special class of creature that deserve death just for being cells. Some of them make up living human persons — and plants and animals, too — whose death is not justified merely because they’re composed of cells.

By the way, though we didn’t see the picture he was pointing at when he yelled, “Those are cells!” an accompanying report hints that the picture displayed a fetus, which would have been well beyond the blastocyst stage where the young human looks like mere cells, and long into the stage when tissues, organs, and systems have begun to develop. So even his science was incomplete at best.

Educational Leadership In Action!

But that’s not even the point. His argument was irrational. Totally vacuous. Inane. He didn’t know how to connect a premise to a conclusion through a valid line of thinking. And he’s an assistant principal at an elite high school. What are the students going to learn under that kind of leadership?

His not-so-gentle reminder that they were at a SCIENCE school was no help — though it does illustrate more of the failure of education. Science knows what cells are made of, and it’s gaining an increasing understand of how they work on the inside, but as science it knows nothing whatsoever of cells’ moral worth — much less human persons’ moral worth. That’s not a scientific question; labs have no scales or measuring sticks to compute moral worth.

Too much of the American public has been hoodwinked into thinking that what science tells us about the unborn — that they’re made of cells — is the whole truth of the matter. It isn’t. Every educated person knows it can’t be.

This is a picture of the collapse of American education.

P.S. He doesn’t represent education very well, either, when he tells them later, “This is a public school, we don’t believe in that here” — meaning, “we don’t believe in Jesus.” That’s a twisted version of constitutional law even under today’s strange judicial church-state interpretations. He was quite wrong to say anything like that. Do you suppose they train administrators in these things? What do you suppose they tell them?

Image Credit(s): YouTube.

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59 Responses to “ American Education’s Collapse, Caught On Video ”

  1. Tom said:

    This is a picture of the collapse of American education.

    Ok. But:

    Downingtown Area School District released a statement regarding the incident as the video spread on social media, a local NBC News affiliate reported Thursday.

    “We do not condone or support the conduct expressed in the video and are deeply disappointed that this incident occurred,” the school said. “His conduct does not represent the values of the school district or the respect we expect our employees to show for the civil rights of others.”

    Patricia McGlone, director of public information for the Downingtown School District, said Mr. Ruff will remain on leave pending a formal investigation, the station reported.

    You really didn’t research this enough, or seemingly at all. Your example of the collapse of American education is one guy who lost his cool and was subsequently met with (pending) disciplinary action.

    To be fair, I actually agree with you that American education is in a sorry state. But for very different reasons.

    Do you suppose they train administrators in these things?

    No, they probably don’t train high school administrators to be well-versed in constitutional law. That’s what the school’s legal departments are for.

  2. I’m not sure what evidence led you to conclude my research was faulty here, Skeptic. What you refer to is also mentioned in the report I linked to. But it was tangential to my point so I didn’t bring it up. The school’s statement noted his violation of the pro-life people’s civil rights, and his rudeness. That wasn’t my main concern here, here, but rather his seriously illogical and irrational statements concerning science and the moral worth of life.

    If you know of anyone correcting him on that, that would be interesting additional news. It would show that even though this man was poorly educated, and installed as an assistant principal in spite of that, at least someone was doing something about it for the sake of educational excellence.

    Otherwise this stands as a picture of our educational collapse, in microcosm.

  3. S.F. I agree that in any such situation a district will distance themselves from such and did so here. I think “one of” the primary points of Tom’s is simply that a leader of both educational and appropriate (legal) interfaces demonstrated a failed understanding of both educational and appropriate (legal) interfaces. A kind of top-down happenstance, so to speak.

    On Convergence of Pro-Life Hope and Pro-Choice Hope:

    Interestingly, Non-Theists and Non-Christians very often describe a hope that the overall abortion rate would be lower rather than higher.

    “Do you feel we are better off as a society if the rate itself is on the high side? On the low side?”

    Almost everybody agrees that fewer is better. Now, then they immediately qualify that with something like, “….lower rate because of lower poverty…and lower… and lower….” But if you are patient and keep the focus of the question on the rate itself, the overall per-day-itself, that sentiment remains quite strong among pro-choice folks (….fewer is better….) even if you remove all the “primary” problems which so many often sight. Granting universal wealth is the best way to remove all those upstream/downstream currents and to diagnose the core hope/sentiment.

    Now, that hope/sentiment is peculiar and diagnosis a belief among pro-choice folks that the event itself is a primary end-point worthy of lowering along with all the (….usually sited…) downstream and upstream causes which are sited as in-play.

    So let’s diagnose a few things:

    In my core I hope, mostly, that, in and of itself, when it comes to the event which we term abortion, granting that everyone is wealthy, that…..

    [1] The overall abortion rate/ratio on the planet, on the globe, worldwide, increases.

    [2] The overall abortion rate/ratio on the planet, on the globe, worldwide, stays the same

    [3] The overall abortion rate/ration on the planet, on the globe, worldwide, decreases.

    Most go with [3].

  4. School administrators are supposed to know the law as it applies to their work, by the way. Legal counsel isn’t just there to clean up ignorant errors after the fact.

    But that’s postscript material, not the main topic of interest.

  5. Edited:

    I agree that in any such situation a district will distance themselves from such and did so here. I think “one of” the primary points of Tom’s is simply that a leader of both educational and appropriate (legal) interfaces demonstrated a failed understanding of both educational and appropriate (legal) interfaces. A kind of top-down happenstance, so to speak.

    On The Convergence of Pro-Life Hope and Pro-Choice Hope:

    Interestingly, Non-Theists and Non-Christians quite often describe a hope, a sentiment, that the overall abortion rate (…per capita…) would be lower rather than higher.

    Do you feel we are better off as a society if the rate (…per capita…) itself is on the high side? On the low side?

    Almost everybody agrees that fewer is better. Now, then, for understandable reasons, many will immediately qualify that with something like, “….lower rate because of lower poverty… or because of lower… and lower….”

    But if you are patient and keep the focus of the question on the rate itself, the overall per-day-itself and per-capita-itself, that sentiment – that hope – remains quite strong among pro-choice folks (….fewer is better….) even if you remove all the “primary” problems which so many often sight. How do you remove said primary problems? Granting universal wealth is the best way to remove all those upstream/downstream currents and to diagnose the core hope, the core sentiment.

    Now, that hope/sentiment is peculiar and diagnosis a belief among pro-choice folks that the event itself is a primary end-point worthy of lowering along with all the (…usually sited…) downstream and upstream causes which are sited as in-play.

    Let’s diagnose our near universal sentiment, our overall hope:

    In my core I hope, mostly, that, in and of itself, when it comes to the event which we term abortion, granting that everyone is wealthy, that…..

    [1] The overall abortion rate on the planet, on the globe, worldwide, increases.

    [2] The overall abortion rate on the planet, on the globe, worldwide, stays the same.

    [3] The overall abortion rate on the planet, on the globe, worldwide, decreases.

    Most go with [3].

    The convergence of Pro-Life Hope and Pro-Choice Hope is peculiar.

  6. Mmmmm, how effective it preaching on the streets in the USA? Is this a relevant method for 2017? Just asking cos I’m not in the USA.

  7. SCBrownLHRM:

    I am pro-choice, and I do want the abortion rate to go down, but only by proxy. In other words, what I want is for there to be fewer unwanted pregnancies in the first place (ideally, none). But if the world woke up tomorrow and we somehow found ourselves with a billion unwanted pregnancies all at once, my stance would be: “well that’s weird, we need to figure out how this happened. in the meantime, time for a billion abortions.”

    Tom:

    That wasn’t my main concern here, here, but rather his seriously illogical and irrational statements concerning science and the moral worth of life.

    Like I said, he lost his cool. He was angry. This doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of constructing an argument in general, and it doesn’t mean that he’s been teaching students bad science for the past five years.

    Imagine if the pro-life group outside his school had instead been a group waving signs depicting hardcore pornography, or the dead bodies of suicide victims, or pictures of advanced necrosis. I could construct several very strong arguments against such behavior, and if I’m here in a comments section I’d be happy to talk about those arguments all day. but if I was in front of the people waving such signs, I’d probably take them by force and throw them in the trash (the signs, not the people). And that would be the appropriate response.

    Now, I’m not saying that pro-life signs are necessarily the same as those other signs. That might be the case, but as you said, we don’t know what was on their signs. If the signs depicted something grotesque that high schoolers shouldn’t see, the assistant principal’s response didn’t go far enough. And if they didn’t depict such things, his flaw isn’t that he’s bad at argument, but that his anger and subsequent rudeness was unjustified.

  8. There are so many layers to this event. I chose to focus on only one, the educational deficit apparent in this administrator. Maybe that’s because I had last week’s March for Science in my mind, where similar mistakes were found in abundance.

  9. I said this was a microcosm of what we are generally in education, Skep. It works that way even if he doesn’t teach that way all the time. The error he made is exceedingly common. So common, in fact, I’d be quite willing to bet he would repeat that same point in a calmer moment too. People do it all the time.

    He displayed a bad argument. Our educational system supports this kind of bad argument across the board, because we don’t teach good thinking skills. This incident illustrated something that happens too often.

    That’s my point.

  10. For all your claim to skepticism first, there is one thing you are never in doubt about. You are always certain I am wrong: you will always find something to disagree with here, even if it’s something that I clearly explained I wasn’t even talking about.

    Must be fun watching for me to say something so you can disagree.

  11. And what could be this “grotesque thing that students shouldn’t see”? Cells? Cells i different colors and different shapes. Why would the asst. principal have the slightest objection to pictures of cells, if that’s all they are?

  12. You are always certain I am wrong: you will always find something to disagree with here

    It’s true that I usually disagree, but that’s not always the case and you know it. In this very thread, I agreed with you that there’s problems with american education. In the past, I’ve agreed with your assessments of the arguments of “new atheists” such as John Loftus, Peter Boghossian, and John Loftus. I’ve also had nothing to say on many other topics, which is neither agreement nor disagreement. And there’s probably a few more examples that I can’t recall at the moment.

  13. And what could be this “grotesque thing that students shouldn’t see”?

    Here is an example of such an image: http://imgur.com/Rhwfqgx (don’t click on this if you’re squeamish).

    And for the record, my objection isn’t that the image is morally grotesque, rather that it’s physically grotesque. I feel the same way about images of intestinal surgery being shown outside high schools.

    To contrast, here’s a pro-life image that isn’t grotesque: http://www.lifenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/prolifeimage46.png – my only objection to this one is that I think it’s a bad argument. This image should indeed be met with a counter-argument.

  14. Feel free to wonder. Take a deep breath. Give yourself all the time you need.

    I didn’t say an illustration can’t be an argument. I said this one wasn’t.

    I really do suggest you slow down a bit. I mean, I can’t help wondering why you jumped to that wrong conclusion. It sure seems like you’re on a hair trigger to find things wrong with what I say, even if you have to dig it out of something I didn’t say.

  15. You said “That second image is an illustration, not an argument.” You’re clearly implying that illustrations can’t be arguments, because the reason you gave for it not being an argument is that it’s an illustration.

    You’re probably going to say something like “no, that’s not what I meant at all, I was just commenting on the nature of the image. That doesn’t mean that it being an illustration is why I think it isn’t an argument.”

    But if that’s the case, then why comment on the nature of the image in the first place (are you somehow under the impression that I think the image is a photograph? or a book? or a banana?), and why not give the actual reason why you think it’s not an argument?

  16. No, I wasn’t implying anything about illustrations and arguments in general. But I will now.

    An argument is a series of propositions usually starting from axioms, evidence, observations, and/or agreed facts, with the intent or purpose of proceeding logically to other propositions by means of rational inference, and intending to demonstrate a point.

    There is no series of propositions in that drawing. Therefore it’s not a argument. It’s an illustration someone devised, probably to help clarify some argument, but it’s not an argument in itself.

    An illustration may be used to support an argument, and if said illustration includes propositional content it might be an. argument in its own right. This one doesn’t.

    Slow down. Take a breath. You’re still on that hair-trigger.

  17. An argument is a series of propositions usually starting from axioms, evidence, observations, and/or agreed facts, with the intent or purpose of proceeding logically to other propositions by means of rational inference, and intending to demonstrate a point.

    I disagree. That’s a great definition of a formal argument, but formal arguments are not the only kind of arguments there are.

    …and if said illustration includes propositional content it might be an. argument in its own right. This one doesn’t.

    Not explicitly, but at least one proposition is implied (and probably a few more).

    Slow down. Take a breath. You’re still on that hair-trigger.

    Your analysis of my state of mind is waaaaaaaaaay off, dude.

  18. Then tell me, please, what makes this, specifically, a bad argument. Because the only way I know an argument can be bad is by employing faulty axioms or evidence, by starting on facts or observations that aren’t in agreement, or by committing fallacies of the sort that only propositions can commit.

    Or by leading to a conclusion people don’t like, or by using naughty words, or by offending people unnecessarily, but that’s “bad” in a different sense of “bad.” Maybe that’s the sense you meant. I don’t know.

    Anyway, If my assessment of your mental state is wrong, then I’m at a loss to understand why you’re caviling so over such a small matter. It seemed the most likely explanation for it in my mind.

    It might help if you’d at least acknowledge that nothing I said earlier on was intended, either directly or by implication, as a general statement regarding illustrations and arguments. Then we could just drop this whole sideshow. You wouldn’t even need to answer the question I started with just now.

    Because this isn’t about what happened at that school, it’s about some other illustration you found somewhere else. You have only conjecture guiding you as to what they were picturing there, which means this part of the discussion probably has nothing to do with what happened there.

    If you think I’m wrong, and that there actually is a connection, kindly draw our attention back to that connection so we can proceed from there.

  19. Tom, in my comment #13, I just used that image as an example of a non-grotesque image that I’d have no objection to being displayed outside of a high school. You’re the one who started us down this rabbit trail about what constitutes an argument. I was just following the course of the discussion.

    If you want to get back to the point I made in the last paragraph of #7, we can do it. Or if you want to give some reason to think that the assistant principal’s behavior is indicative of a larger problem, rather than merely stating it, we can do that too.

  20. We could cavil even longer about who took us off on a tangent, but I won’t.

    If you have anything further you want to talk about, well, the floor is yours.

  21. S.F.,

    ….it’s time for a billion abortions….

    I believe you feel that way nevertheless the convergence not only stands but stands as informative. The by-proxy you mention is not uncommon and comes in many forms. Most are bothered by a billion unwanted pregnancies and bothered by a billion abortions. This in part leaks out by how affirmative Pro-Choice folks are on rates falling should any A or B or C of theirs be successful in lowering rates. That is, on many levels the lower rate itself is found praiseworthy, good, desirable. It’s a plus. It’s not at all neutral. That you’re not bothered by a billion abortion, all things equal, is interesting but, as an outlier, trivial.

  22. S.F.,

    Typo in the last sentence:

    This:

    “….That you’re not bothered by a billion abortion….”

    Should have been:

    “…..That you’re not bothered by a billion abortions, all things equal, is interesting but, as an outlier, trivial….”

  23. SCBrownLHRM said:
    That is, on many levels the lower rate itself is found praiseworthy, good, desirable.

    But I don’t think a lower rate of abortion is necessarily desirable. What I meant was that a rate that roughly matches the rate of unwanted pregnancies is desirable. If the rate of abortion is high, that’s indicative of a bad situation, but what’s bad isn’t the rate of abortion, it’s the rate of unwanted pregnancies. I find a low rate of abortion paired with a high rate of unwanted pregnancies to be very undesirable. Conversely, a high rate of abortion paired with a low rate of unwanted pregnancies isn’t undesirable per se, but nonsensical. The only way that could happen would be if a bunch of abortions were being forced on people who didn’t want them – and then, the force would be the bad thing, not the abortions themselves.

  24. S.F.,

    Yes, I know you don’t think fewer abortions worldwide is desirable. You stated that quite clearly in your earlier affirmation of the goodness, loveliness, and beauty of one billion abortive events in sum “itself” given but one setting: unwanted.

    I was simply contrasting your unidirectional sentiment there to the many, many pro-choice folks who do house a genuine bidirectional sentiment there with respect to what is beautiful, lovely, to be desired, to be hoped for. It leaks out it various forms in various conversations, as briefly alluded to earlier.

    In short, I was not contradicting you.

    I was affirming you.

    LHRMSCBrown

  25. “And then, the force would be the bad thing, not the abortions themselves.”

    I think what you’re saying is you value personal freedom very, very highly. I would further guess from earlier conversations that you value personal sexual freedom very highly; and the freedom to abort is of course closely related to that, since it’s part of a package we could call freedom for sex without consequences. I wonder where that ranks on your list of values, compared to others, say, enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

  26. Tom,

    You’re pretty much correct, although I’d use slightly different language – I value autonomy very highly. You could consider that a package which does include sexual freedoms, but also includes things like freedom of movement, and freedom to pursue interests. Sexual freedoms are important to me, but I’m not hyper-focuses on them to the exclusion of other freedoms; although it may seem that way to you because my comments here are responses to what you write about, and you tend not to write about those other things.

    I’m not really in the habit of ranking my values, though. They all, or at least all of the major ones, seem equally important to me. But here are some other things I value: love, kindness, solidarity, passion, justice, knowledge, wisdom, and praxis*. You’ll probably be quick to notice that “life” is not on this list. This is intentional, because that word tends to mean very different things to different people.

    As far as the bill of rights is concerned: I have a whole, whole lot to say about that; and I mean the entire thing, not just the most often discussed first two amendments (seriously, I am super into politics). For now, just a brief comment about amendment 1: I value a form of free speech that is in some ways more restrictive and in other ways less restrictive than the form we find in the Constitution & related jurisprudence. I am definitely not a “free speech absolutist”.

    *praxis is both the opposite of theory and its counterpart. you could consider it to be “applied theory”. For example, in terms of Christian apologetics, theory would be constructing and refining arguments for the existence of God, and praxis would be inviting people to church.

  27. S.F.,

    Incidental meat-robots with intrinsic rights. Is that your Politic? Or do you never allow yourself to live the examined life? You know what I’m asking. It’s a race to first principles, so get to the point or take a pass and go on with Tom.

    I’m not patient with hedges and equivocations.

    I don’t mind discussions which take place “just” within the arena of this or that Politic, but, my interest in this question is not anything which takes place “there” but in the irreducible, non-illusory necessary transcendentals of one’s moral ontology which [1] either are or are not convertible and which [2] necessarily precede, and therefore define all terms, “there”. So, if you disagree with the following primers, please show where they “get it wrong“, or, instead, pass and go on with Tom.

    Three primers in case you decide to hedge and go anywhere other than the rock-bottom of your own moral ontology:

    Primer 1:

    Reason, appetites, will, and reality converge in the following:

    Quote:

    Assuming that the meaning of “good” in morality, at least in its most general aspect, is identical to its meaning outside morality, we must appeal to the fulfilment of appetite in defining the fundamental test or primary criterion of moral behavior. But that cannot be the whole story, since as argued earlier, reason and will must be essentially involved in the test. So I propose that what we end up with is the following formula:

    The fundamental test of morality is whether an act is directed by reason to man’s ultimate end.

    Now the ultimate end is just another way of talking about the ultimate appetite or essential tendency (perhaps tendencies/appetites in the plural) the fulfilment of which perfects human nature.

    To appeal to the ultimate end is, from the ontic point of view, to dismiss the idea that there can be an endless series of appetites, each one such that its fulfilment is at the same time the means to the fulfilment of the next one in the series, where the next one will be broader, more general or all-encompassing. To countenance the thought is effectively to deny that human beings can ever fulfil their natures, that they can ever be just good. Apart from the intolerable hopelessness this would inject into morality, it would involve attributing a kind of infinite nature to a manifestly finite being, which verges on metaphysical absurdity. From the practical point of view, the appeal to an ultimate end is just to endorse Aristotle’s famous doctrine that all practical reasoning must find a terminus.

    End quote. (David Oderberg, “All for the Good”)

    Primer 2:

    [1] “The lack of an ultimate objective scientific grounding for morality can be worrisome. It implies that people with whom we have moral disagreements—whether it’s Hitler, the Taliban, or schoolyard bullies who beat up smaller children—aren’t wrong in the same sense that it’s wrong to deny Darwinian evolution or the expansion of the universe….But that’s how the world is.” (S. Carroll)

    [2] “Hume was right. We have no objective guidance on how to distinguish right from wrong: not from God, not from nature, not from the pure force of reason itself….Morality exists only insofar as we make it so, and other people might not pass judgments in the same way we do.” (S. Carroll)

    [3] “– Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. -Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. -Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (Hume, Treatise of Human Nature 2.3.3.6)

    [4] “Morality is just a matter of emotions, like liking ice cream and sex and hating toothache and marking student papers. But it is, and has to be, a funny kind of emotion. It has to pretend that it is not that at all! If we thought that morality was no more than liking or not liking spinach, then pretty quickly it would break down. Before long, we would find ourselves saying something like: “Well, morality is a jolly good thing from a personal point of view. When I am hungry or sick, I can rely on my fellow humans to help me. But really it is all bull___t, so when they need help I can and should avoid putting myself out. There is nothing there for me.” The trouble is that everyone would start saying this, and so very quickly there would be no morality and society would collapse and each and every one of us would suffer. So morality has to come across as something that is more than emotion. It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective. “Why should I be good? Why should you be good? Because that is what morality demands of us. It is bigger than the both of us. It is laid on us and we must accept it, just like we must accept that 2 + 2 = 4.” I am not saying that we always are moral, but that we always know that we should be moral. Am I now giving the game away? Now you know that morality is an illusion put in place by your genes to make you a social cooperator, what’s to stop you behaving like an ancient Roman? Well, nothing in an objective sense.” (Michael Ruse)

    [5] “Pressing on through Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, we come to Rosenberg’s treatment of morality. Followed out consistently, Rosenberg says, scientism entails nihilism. As Rosenberg is keen to emphasize, this is not the same as moral relativism or moral skepticism. It is not the claim that moral truth is relative, or that it is real but unknowable. Nor is it the claim that everything is morally permitted. It is a far more radical and disturbing claim than any of these views. Nihilism, as Rosenberg understands it, is the view that there is no such thing as being “morally permitted” or “morally prohibited” in the first place. For there is, given Rosenberg’s scientism, no intrinsic value in the world of the sort that is necessary for morality to be intelligible. Morality — not just commonsense or traditional morality, not just religious morality, but all morality, morality as such, including any purported secular, liberal, permissive morality — is therefore an illusion.” (…from http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/02/reading-rosenberg-part-vii.html etc…)

    Primer 3:

    Quote:

    “The West’s liberal ideals in a secular/atheist framework are practically mysticism. This idea of a “fundamental human right” in an evolutionary context is, as Bentham stated, “nonsense on stilts.” This is going beyond the otherwise-humble claims of the skeptic that morality is just a thing we have built into us, and is good for our evolutionary benefit. That’s fine, I can handle that and say “Ok well, good luck!” But then they go on to appeal to some concept of equality among individuals, which is utterly and perfectly contradictory to the fitness paradigm of the evolutionary future which we are bound to. The question to the skeptic is, how can you assert equality into a future that you anticipate will involve conditions requiring unfitness of certain types of individuals in the species? How can you begin to guess that our current, or ANY, pursuit of happiness is the scientifically verified insurance of survival and fitness for the species in the context of fundamental human rights and equality? I certainly don’t advocate judging the truth of a claim based on its consequences. However, for all the times that I am accused of cognitive dissonance, which I may be guilty of, I cannot imagine living under the volume of cognitive dissonance in saying incidental meat robots called humans have “fundamental human rights” while KNOWING those human rights could cause conditions that would be evolutionarily disastrous.”

    End quote. (by GM)

    Lastly, on the Christian’s moral ontology vis-à-vis love’s timeless Self-Giving in and by the metaphysic of Trinitarian processions (…if you cannot intellectually connect “love” and “self-giving” and “trinity” and “metaphysic” then you don’t understand the relevant part of the Christian metaphysic in play here….) if you succeed in showing where Primers 1, 2, and 3 get it wrong, perhaps then we can dive into the definitions which the Christian metaphysic logically compel with respect to privation and the many ways in which much of what we discuss is not just this or that “good” but also this or that “good minus something”. As in, say, the abolition of slavery and the cost paid in human life to “get there” was and is just and good, but it is also “good minus something” as the traversal there comes by suffering violence, which is not beautiful nor lovely nor do we wish for more of it nor do we find it desirable as it is that which is itself a slice of “privation’s pains”. That has much to “say” when it comes to what is beautiful, what is lovely, what is desirable, what is to be hoped for and speaks to the bidirectional sentiment housed within the observed convergence of the Pro-Choice Hope and the Pro-Life Hope. But all of that is found far, far ahead of anything here so far. Especially given the fact that your moral ontology affords no such thing as “Privation” given that it affords no such thing as Goal/Good for it affords you nothing other than the eternally open ended.

  28. SCBrownLHRM said: It’s a race to first principles

    I actually don’t agree with that. As I mentioned in #29, one of my values is praxis. Meta-ethics is an interesting technical discussion, but ultimately it doesn’t matter much. I’d much rather talk about what you (and Tom, and everyone else) are actually doing. Do you volunteer time in soup kitchens? Do you donate money to Doctors Without Borders? Do you help organize strikes to improve working conditions? Do you tutor your nephew in math? Do you stop on your way to work to move dangerous debris out of the road? Do you fill potholes that the city has ignored? Do you work with Habitat For Humanity?

    I do things like that all the time; nearly every day. If you do as well, then I think that’s great, even if your “moral ontology” is grounded in a deity that I don’t believe exists. And if you don’t do these things, and you think your time is better spent waxing philosophical about ultimate ends while people suffer and die, then shame on you. In fact, if you don’t currently act ethically in an active way, I’ll make you a deal: if you start doing so, I will gladly concede the moral ontology debate – you’re right, I’m wrong, there is no justification without God, my ethical actions are entirely without merit. I’m not going to stop performing those actions, though. Praxis is one of my values, but philosophical consistency really isn’t.

  29. So it’s an arms race: who’s the real moral person here?! I’ll arm-wrestle you for it!

    Bleah.

    I don’t do any of those specific things. I do donate money. Lots of it. I volunteer time to help people in multiple ways. I don’t organize strikes because I don’t know of any local circumstances where it would do anyone any good. I don’t fill potholes for many reasons, one of which is that I don’t want to create traffic problems doing something when I don’t even know what I’m doing. I do have a track record for caring for people in need when I encounter them.

    Bleah.

    I also help people understand the truth about God and reality: theology and philosophy. This, too, is a moral act, because it can point people toward eternal life. If you think that’s small stuff, then you had better get your own philosophical consistency act in order.

  30. S.F. thanks for the friendly heads up but we actually already knew consistency in truthfulness isn’t something you practice/praxis. Noble Lies and all that.

  31. So it’s an arms race: who’s the real moral person here?! I’ll arm-wrestle you for it!

    No, absolutely not. I just want everyone to do something. In fact I’ll be the first to admit that I could probably do a lot more than I am.

    I don’t do any of those specific things.

    That’s fine. Those were just examples of a few things someone could do. There are thousands of other things you specifically can do.

    I do donate money. Lots of it. I volunteer time to help people in multiple ways… I do have a track record for caring for people in need when I encounter them.

    This is excellent, seriously.

    I don’t organize strikes because I don’t know of any local circumstances where it would do anyone any good. I don’t fill potholes for many reasons, one of which is that I don’t want to create traffic problems doing something when I don’t even know what I’m doing.

    Again, that’s fine. Some things require a specific set of talents, and not everyone has those talents (myself included). But what you can do is networking – if you happen to see, for example, that someone is organizing a group to fill potholes, and you happen to have a friend that used to work in road construction, send information about that group to your friend and ask them to volunteer.

    I also help people understand the truth about God and reality: theology and philosophy. This, too, is a moral act, because it can point people toward eternal life. If you think that’s small stuff, then you had better get your own philosophical consistency act in order.

    Well, obviously I don’t think this is important, being an atheist. But it might surprise you to learn that it doesn’t bother me that you do this, as long as it’s not interfering with the stuff I do think is important.

    S.F. thanks for the friendly heads up but we actually already knew consistency in truthfulness isn’t something you practice/praxis.

    I’d be willing to bet that it doesn’t actually bother you all that much either. Given that I can’t force myself to change my mind on moral ontology, would you rather I stop doing good things and live my life consistently as a selfish nihilist, or would you rather I keep doing good things despite the inconsistency?

  32. S.F.,

    What do you mean by your moral ontology when you reference good acts? If you’re going to go with that then you’re contradicting Carroll, Hume, Ruse, and Rosenberg as per the primers earlier. Did you just hedge and equivocate there or are you prepared to show where those fellas fell off the rails?

    Is lying a good thing?

    Is self deception?

  33. What I meant was that a rate that roughly matches the rate of unwanted pregnancies is desirable.

    SF,

    Though this is another tangent, I find the whole idea of unwanted pregnancies questionable. If you engage in sexual intercourse how do you have a right to claim the pregnancy was unwanted? (And for the sake of this argument I’ll except cases of rape.) Isn’t this what is classically called “assumption of the risk.” Can you explain how the people who have “unwanted pregnancies” are somehow exempted from the responsibilities of their own voluntary actions.

  34. What do you mean by your moral ontology when you reference good acts?

    I’m going to grossly oversimplify here, because as I said, I’m not really big on theory. But: Good acts are acts which promote the well-being of sentient creatures. You’ll probably disagree, but before you do, note that disagreement on this doesn’t bother me much. I’m fine with saying, “ok, you’re right, good acts are something else. if that’s the case, I’m not concerned with good acts. I’m concerned with acts that promote the well-being of sentient creatures, whatever you want to call them.”

    If you’re going to go with that then you’re contradicting Carroll, Hume, Ruse, and Rosenberg as per the primers earlier.

    I don’t care what they think, unless what they think causes them to stop caring about acts that promote the well-being of sentient creatures.

    Is lying a good thing?

    Is self deception?

    Usually not, but there are some cases where it’s justified.

  35. BillT:

    When I talk about unwanted pregnancies, I mean it literally – I’m talking about people who are pregnant and do not desire to be pregnant at that time. That doesn’t sound questionable at all.

  36. S.F.,

    You didn’t define good diffently than a monster. You’ve left open the eternally open ended. Give it another try. So far on reason, reality, and reason’s obligation as truth-finder, by far Hume, Ruse, Rosenberg, and Carroll have far more thoughtful and cogent arguments than the diffuseness you’ve made claims upon. Reason isn’t obligated to chase after the illusory “qua” Truth.

  37. SCBrownLHRM,

    You didn’t define good.

    Yes I did: “Good acts are acts which promote the well-being of sentient creatures.”

    So far on reason, reality, and reason’s obligation as truth-finder, by far Hume, Ruse, Rosenberg, and Carroll have far more thoughtful and cogent arguments than the diffuse hedges you’ve made claims upon.

    That’s fine. I refer you back to comment #31.

  38. Glad to hear I’d lose that bet.

    So let’s define well-being: that which produces and is in accord with a mimnimum of pain or distress among sentient creatures; except among humans the far greater priority is the increase of virtue, including self-sacrificial love, courage, emotional fortitude, chastity, temperance, and strong nuclear families headed by a married man and woman; ultimately leading toward eternal joy in relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

    That’s part of how I would define it. I didn’t include everything, just enough to show that when you say “well-being,” it means one thing to you, another thing to another person, and ultimately since it means different things to everyone, it communicates nothing much at all to anyone; and it certainly provides no basis for agreement on any ethical decisions whatsoever.

    The only way out is through solid meta-ethics, which you eschew but you cannot avoid. You can’t avoid diving deeper into the question. Not unless you want to say that you’re content with your own private vision of “well-being;” but then you’d have to explain how that differs from, “my view on ethics is exactly what my view on ethics is, no more and no less, and there you have it.”

    I don’t mean to be caricaturing your position at all. I just can’t see how you can claim to have an ethic of well-being, sans meta-ethics, that doesn’t reduce to an ethic of private opinion without a reasoned basis. Meta-ethics just is the discipline of developing reasoned bases for ethics.

  39. In other words, this got you exactly nowhere:

    “Yes I did: ‘Good acts are acts which promote the well-being of sentient creatures.'”

    You might as well have said good acts are acts which promote the reginyopiness of sentient creatures. You used an undefined term in your definition, which means you provided no definition at all.

  40. The only way out is through solid meta-ethics, which you eschew but you cannot avoid. You can’t avoid diving deeper into the question. Not unless you want to say that you’re content with your own private vision of “well-being;” but then you’d have to explain how that differs from, “my view on ethics is exactly what my view on ethics is, no more and no less, and there you have it.”

    I’m content with my own private vision of well-being.

    More specifically, as I’ve already said, I care about actions far more than theory. In fact, I’ve changed my mind on meta-ethics several times in my life, and that’s not changed my actions at all (my actions have changed, but for reasons unrelated to a change in meta-ethics). That’s also been my experience when talking to others who have changed their minds in the same way.

    Now for some meta-commentary: I get the feeling that you value theory very highly, perhaps even to the point where you think that any action is a bad action if it’s not backed by well-substantiated theory, and that you get bothered when other people don’t share your value of theory. Is this the case?

    If that is the case, then do you think that I should cease the large amount of charitable action that I currently engage in until I figure out the theory? If it’s not the case, then what goal are you hoping to accomplish by having this conversation with me?

  41. S.F.,

    We know you’re content with your own feelings as you’ve reminded us of that. Why do you claim that anyone claims that all actions are bad if there is not a sound moral ontology behind them? Whether you know it or not that sums to a premise that our own beliefs and our own feelings are in fact the end of the line again, as in your view. You’re projecting. That’s not helpful for mutual understanding.

    It seems you believe you are just fine with people doing differently than you so long as they remain true to promoting well-being, which of course they all assure us they are doing even as they run about doing differently than you. Now, that you believe that about yourself, that you are okay with that, is wonderful. Unfortunately it is impossible for your own praxis to convince us of that as you run about making moral claims while claiming you are just fine with people doing differently than you so long as they remain true to promoting well-being, which of course they all assure us they are doing as they run about doing differently than you.

  42. My goal is to help you realize that you don’t know what you’re talking about, which hopefully would lead you to some very deep and significant self-reflection until you realize you need more than your own self-satisfied ethics-without-thinking-about-what-good-means

    For clearly you haven’t thought about it, and even now you’re resisting thinking about it. You’re not dealing with questions put to you about it. You’re content with your own private vision of well-being, as if you have the wisdom and knowledge to understand what we’ll-being really is!

    I want to challenge you on that deeply hubristic and/or lazy self-contentment, until you finally admit you really don’t know what good means, and since you don’t don’t what good means, you have absolutely no basis for believing you are doing anything truly good.

    I want to see that question go deep enough into your soul that you will refuse to be content with thoughtless non-answers, and so you’ll begin seeking the truth about goodness. I want you to search until you find the answer in the only place it can ultimately be found in God, so that you turn to him and gain new life.

    That’s my goal: your true eternal good, in God through Jesus Christ.

  43. Now for some meta-commentary: I get the feeling that you value theory very highly, perhaps even to the point where you think that any action is a bad action if it’s not backed by well-substantiated theory, and that you get bothered when other people don’t share your value of theory.

    No. My point is that if you don’t know what good is, you had better find out while there’s still time. I am pressing on your lack of theory because it demonstrates that you you have no basis for calling anything good. And that ought to bother you, if you care about good. I care about your good, not just my own, and I see you missing it very badly by not knowing what’s truly good.

    Ultimately this isn’t about theory, it’s about true life.

  44. SCBrownLHRM:
    It seems you believe you are just fine with people doing differently than you so long as they remain true to promoting well-being, which of course they all assure us they are doing even as they run about doing differently than you.

    You’ve got that backwards – I’m fine with people thinking differently than me, as long as they’re doing good things. I care about whether people are standing next to me in the soup kitchen or not. I don’t care about the reasons the people who are standing next to me have for doing it. In fact, a majority of them are Christians and are doing it for religious reasons. I technically disagree with their reasons, yes, but they’re still there, and that’s what counts.

    Tom:
    you need more than your own self-satisfied ethics-without-thinking-about-what-good-means

    Assuming that I actually am doing good things, why do I need that?

    I want to challenge you on that deeply hubristic and/or lazy self-contentment, until you finally admit you really don’t know what good means, and since you don’t don’t what good means, you have absolutely no basis for believing you are doing anything truly good.

    Ok. I really don’t know what good mans. I have absolutely no basis for believing I am doing anything truly good.

    I want to see that question go deep enough into your soul that you will refuse to be content with thoughtless non-answers, and so you’ll begin seeking the truth about goodness. I want you to search until you find the answer in the only place it can ultimately be found in God, so that you turn to him and gain new life.

    This sounds like it will take a large amount of my time, which is currently spent caring for homeless people in various ways, and there’s not really anyone in my area able to pick up the slack if I stop. Many people will become ill if I do this, and some may even die. In light of that, do you still recommend that I do this?

    I am pressing on your lack of theory because it demonstrates that you you have no basis for calling anything good.

    You be the judge, then:

    I feed the homeless. Is that good, or should I stop?
    I help victims of domestic violence escape their abusers. Good or not?
    I connect people to mental health resources. Am I doing ok yet?
    I’ve stopped a small child from drinking drain cleaner, literally saving his life. Should I have watched him do it?
    I’ve never raped or murdered anyone. Do I need to take up some new hobbies?
    I’ve never owned another human being as a slave. Should I? It’s a mystery, I guess.

    Maybe my lack of theory should make me seriously question my behavior in these areas. Or maybe, just maybe, most situations that people actually find themselves in are so obviously good or bad that they don’t need any theory backing them.

  45. btw:
    That’s my goal: your true eternal good, in God through Jesus Christ.

    If this is really of such vital importance, then God can show up at my house anytime he wants. Or maybe he can join me at the soup kitchen and help take care of all those hungry people. Or perhaps create some houses ex nihilo so there aren’t a bunch of people sleeping on the street. Until he does that, I guess it’s my job to take care of the people he created and supposedly loves.

    That sounds flippant, and I suppose it kind of is. But I just can’t bring myself to think very highly of an absentee deity.

  46. When I talk about unwanted pregnancies, I mean it literally – I’m talking about people who are pregnant and do not desire to be pregnant at that time. That doesn’t sound questionable at all.

    SF,

    I don’t see how this, in any way, addresses the point I made so let me rephrase it.

    How can someone “not desire to be pregnant at that time” when they voluntarily engaged in an act that is specifically designed to create pregnancy. And since they voluntarily engaged in an act that is specifically designed to create pregnancy how did they not “assume the risk” of being pregnant? That seems to be a contradictory position, in other words, a position not justified by the actions of the people that are taking them.

  47. BillT:

    I fell off a ladder once (don’t worry, I sustained no serious injuries). I desired to climb the ladder. I knew there was a chance I would fall – and a fairly high chance too, since it had just rained. I assumed the risk, but I did not desire to fall off the ladder.

    If a wizard had stopped time mid-fall, would you consider it contradictory for me to ask him to put a net down to catch me? Would asking for a net be unjustified by my actions?

  48. S.F.,

    Doing and desiring to promote human well being as they run about doing differently than you.

    Gonna evade that again?

    It seems you believe you are just fine with people doing differently than you so long as they remain true to promoting well-being, which of course they all assure us they are doing even as they run about doing differently than you.

    Gonna evade that again?

  49. S.F.,

    Do you believe the real world matters?

    Do you believe the praxis of interfacing with the real world matters?

    You believe you are just fine with people doing differently than you so long as they remain true to promoting well-being, which of course they assure you they are doing even as they run about doing differently than you.

    Gonna hide from that real world? Praxis.

    So far you have been. Praxis.

    The world in which people run about doing differently than you all the while promoting well being.

  50. SF,

    Thanks for your replies. I’m sure anyone reading them will see, like I do, you continue to avoid addressing the issue that was raised. Not that it’s surprising in any way. I do though appreciate your confirming my expectations.

    (BTW, I’d be glad to discuss it further if you’d care to address my points directly.)

  51. A Pro-Choice Atheist’s Inconsistency” looks at a small slice of this and the comment box evolves into interesting approaches to the common and shared goal of both Pro-Choice and Pro-Life folks in desiring fewer abortions and calling said decline in and of itself a good thing. It starts at http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2016/03/a-pro-choice-atheists-inconsistency/comments/ and progresses through the usual blog-comment-box circuitousness in its thread and ends at the third page of the comment box at http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2016/03/a-pro-choice-atheists-inconsistency/comments/page/3/#comments as the stage is found being set, as of today, by the Pro-Choice folks who genuinely desire fewer abortions and who perhaps have not valued empowering women and society with the proper stages and proper tools to help achieve that goal.

    Our praxis may in fact undermine our desired ends after all.

    The minority of Pro-Choice folks who are only out to win debates rather than build a loving society cannot afford to affirm that a falling rate of said taking of said human life is “good”, in any actual sense as said Crusader would then have to be “consistent” with all sorts of other implicit and explicit noise from such a claim.

  52. We can grant the following edit to the last paragraph as it leaves us in the same place:

    The minority of Pro-Choice folks who are only out to win debates rather than build a loving society cannot afford to affirm that a falling rate of abortion is “good” in any actual, ontic, sense as said Crusader would then have to be “consistent” with all sorts of other implicit and explicit upstream and downstream noise from such a claim.

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