Contra Mozilla

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Free Answers for Shipman-Wilson-Higgins-Torres An Introduction to Physical Science

Normally I wouldn't post free answers to a textbook as a professional courtesy to the authors. However, I've noticed something when looking through their multiple choice questions. Whenever "all of the above" or "all of the preceding" is an option, it is the right answer. No, I have not exhaustively checked every question, but I've seen a fair sampling from the first dozen or so chapters (which is what I generally cover in my class), and so far the pattern seems to be holding at a glance.

Also, since the answer key to all of the multiple choice questions is included in the back of their book, I guess giving away this answer really doesn't matter. Still, I'm of the opinion that every multiple choice question should include either "all of the above" or "none of the above" as a possible option.

Friday, May 22, 2015

RIP National Review

That magazine once stood athwart the march of progress yelling, "Stop!" Now, it seems, that they are standing athwart the march of history and yelling, "Stop! Wait for me!" First, let us acknowledge soem fo the good that National Review has done:
For decades, National Review has performed a hygienic function on the right, defining the bounds of respectable conservatism, marking it off from unreasoned, bigoted or conspiratorial worldviews. It acted as a virus check, targeting ideas which in fact were Trojan horses for dangerous radicalism — whether racial, religious or ideological. On several occasions, that magazine used its power for good, excluding from its pages apologists for ultra-nationalism, eugenics, racism, anti-Semitism and paranoid anti-government hysteria.
Now, for the bad, and I expect it to eventually get ugly.

I do not have the time for a full fisking of this piece. It does not rise to the level of an honorable surrender. Four points stand out, however:
  1. Steorts writes that
    "Civil marriage was instituted, let us concede, to safeguard the interests of children by endorsing and protecting the kind of stable, committed relationships that produce them and are suited to their upbringing. But there is no way to know in advance which couples can or will have children."
    If this is the reason for the government's having instituted civil recognition of marriages, and such has failed, then the correct solution of to cease insisting on such civil recognition. Abolish the death tax, or allow joint ownership of property, and allow up to two people to file taxes jointly (better still, get rid of the IRS entirely), etc., and call a failure a failure and remove it rather than expanding it.

  2. Later in the article, he states that "Many traditionalists do deny that same-sex couples have any reason to adhere to traditional marital standards. This denial is usually based on the idea that their relationships have no value to begin with." Here he is not merely arguing that we should surrender on a lost cultural front, but is in fact insisting that the view that such relationships between sodomites are inherently bad. Implication--those of us who continue to recognize sin as sin are to be cast out. To whit: "In their ideological absolutism, many traditionalists today stand in the way of such a synthesis. Their position on same-sex marriage is tragic, in that they have taken a stand against burgeoning social endorsement of commitment and sexual exclusivity as ends in themselves." This misses a large part of the point of why sexual exclusivity and commitment matters to begin with. Morally, the answer is evident, but beyond the religious aspects of morality, there is this: the point of exclusivity and commitment is to foster a healthy relationship between two people, to foster a healthy intimacy. Homosexual relationship lack this, because the two do not become "one flesh," neither in the spiritual-religious moral sense nor the strictly physical, biological, anatomical, and physiological sense.
  3. There is one point which he gets partially correct, namely:
    "There is something that traditionalists could do to make their views seem less cruel and arbitrary: They could return to Christianity’s original, austere understanding of the purpose of sex. The early Christians hotly debated whether marriage even between a man and a woman should be endorsed; many thought celibacy was to be preferred. And even though marriage was finally recognized as a sacrament, the mainstream of the early Church did not think of marriage and sex as a way of expressing love and affection at all, but rather regarded procreation as its sole purpose."
    Ignore the part where he puts an implicit opposition between a sacramental view of marriage and the early Church's view of it. This diagnosis is in part correct in that if we Christians would abide by our marital vows--including, notably, openness to life (which precludes contraception) and closedness to the false idea of dissolving marriages with divorce, then so-called "gay marriage" would likely not be such an issue.
  4. He attempts to throw a bone towards traditionalists (and Christians) by stating that there is a difference between opposition to homosexual relationships and racism, between opposing "gay marriage" and supporting racial segregation. There is, after all, a choice involved in engaging in homosexual activity. But then, he writes
    "But one can push that point only so far, given the reality of congenital sexual orientation, i.e., the fact that, for many people if not for all, the kind of emotional and physical attraction that precedes sexual intimacy is by nature limited to or predominately directed toward members of a particular sex. What traditionalists must in honesty be said to reject is, if not a deep aspect of personal identity per se, then the expression of a deep aspect of personal identity. And the significance of that rejection is often minimized in ways so glib and irrelevant as to suggest that those who offer them refuse to grapple seriously with the issue — for example, their facile observation that there are many people who, for whatever reason, are unable to achieve romantic fulfillment (as if being unable to achieve it were the same thing as being told not to try), and their facile observation that “we are all sinners” (as if what counts as a sin were not in question here)."
    In other words, we who call a sin a sin ought to just keep our mouths shut, because anything we say will always sound hollow or "glib" or callous. Perhaps it will, and that's unfortunate. We can always improve in the tactfulness and charitableness departments. But ceasing to proclaim some aspect of truth because it hurts someone's feelings? That seems like a bit of an overcompensation in the other direction. And, of course, it also can lend itself to severe curtailing of free speech and freedom of religion, if acted upon.
This is all disappointing, but not unexpected.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why the Church Appears to Be Losing

The gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, that we know. But there is a rather bleak picture of how the Church is faring in the present cultural milieu. Take, for example, the recent Pew Research Center survey showing a decline in self-identified Christian believers, including Catholics; or, if you believe that this survey is an outlier, consider that many--a majority, in fact--of Catholics do not seem to take seriously the full teaching authority of the Church. Certainly if these polls and surveys are to be believed, there aren't many orthodox Faithful in the Church, as the great bulk have one (or several) doctrines or even dogmas which they outright reject.

Might it have something to do with the lack of leadership from the bishops on matters of moral teaching (usually one of the first things to be openly jettisoned in this age)? Even otherwise good Church leaders (such as our pope) make the mistake of allowing softened rhetoric to seem like softened doctrine. Is it any wonder, then, why there are so few people who bother with forming their beliefs according to the fullness of the Church's teachings?

What Are Universities For

There seems to be some disagreement about what a university is primarily "for." I say this, having now survived my first year as a visiting professor at a small(ish) teaching-oriented university, and having just inked a contract to start as a tenure-track professor here.

The students and legislators mostly seem to think that the point of a university is to provide an education, or the opportunity for an education, and a degree at the end. Much of the faculty, in particular senior faculty, is willing to go along with this in the form of keeping a full load of teaching classes for each faculty member, barring of course those who have some exemptions (mostly senior, tenured faculty).

But, in talking to quite a few higher-ups (department chairs, deans, tenure and promotion committee members, etc), it would seem that the purpose of a university is also to do publishable research. To the extent that a university offers graduate degrees, these two things are largely intertwined, but to the extent that the bulk of the teaching is often geared to undergraduate non-majors, the two are largely separate.

Problem: the people who pay for the university are largely the students, and to a lesser extent the legislature (via taxpayers), and many of them don't care a bit about research. However, the people who get to decide whether individual faculty members well remain employed at the university care more and more about the research. One tenure and promotion committee member took me aside and told me that the teaching side of things is virtually irrelevant--as is the service to the department, college, and university--unless the requisite number of papers published is met. Since the tenure-and-promotion members are generally elected by the college and by the university, it may be safe to assume that their views are at least somewhat representative of the faculty opinions in general. Therefore, there is some disagreement between the university's patrons and clients, on one hand, and its faculty and especially decision-making faculty, on the other hand, as to what the university's purpose is.

I do not see this ending well for said university. Oh, and one more thing--I've had similar conversations with faculty at a number of other smaller, tier-2 and tier-3 universities.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Few Good Links (vol. 20)

Classes are out for summer, but soon the summer semester starts. I've been kept busy as a result.
  1. Bill Nye the Science Guy has launched a kickstarted to launch a solar-sailing satellite. I guess that it may well be possible to keep going into space (albeit unmanned) while the government cuts funding from one of the few things that they've done reasonably well.
  2. While I don't like his generally anti-religious tone, Ace is on to something with this post. Leftism, statism, Marism...these are all religions for Godless people. I would add Progressivism, but there are a few people who are genuinely religious, God-loving (if not God-fearing) and yet progressives. In other news, I dislike that "religion," "dogma," and "doctrines" are terms which are often imbued with such negative connotations. All three are essentially good things which have been ill-used and thus sullied.
  3. Crisis Magazine has published an excellent essay by Mr. Tyler Balnski about the state of sexuality in the current culture. The rise of the homosexualists is linked to the rejection of the nature of sex as an inherently fruitful interaction.
  4. Great advice from Fr. Mike Walsh for recent high school graduates and other soon-to-be college students
  5. Some miracles are only apparent in hindsight.
  6. Much is being made of that recent Pew Poll about the decline in religion in the US. I'm just going to round up links without further comment today. Ok, one comment emerges: largely, this is a movement of "nominals" to "nones," though I have noticed that it is a small (and all-too-easy) step from "faithful" to "creedal," and from there to merely "nominal," "spiritual," and at last to "none." It's this gradual change which these polls don't, even can't, measure; but a gradual change is often just as bad (and far easier to swallow) than a sudden one.
Also, please pray for the soul and family of my boss, the late dean of my college. He died unexpectedly this last weekend. I didn't know him well, but never had an unpleasant interaction with him. And those who have been here longer than I have been mourning his passing this week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When Is Vandalism Justified?

Never. Almost Never. And If I lived in Austria, especially Vienna, I would be livid too. It's disappointing to see how quickly so many of the "holdouts" in the west are folding. And in other news, it's not just the so-called gay "rights" issues that Christians nations (and, to be blunt, Christians themselves) seem to be willing to fold on. It's on a lot of issues, if certain theologians and commentators are to be believed.

Sometimes it's government impositions, and sometimes they are obvious, which weaken a religion. Other times it more subtle. I expect an onslaught of both where the religion called Christianity is concerned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Next Time the Racism/Sexism Card is Played...

Next time that the racism or sexism card is played against you, fellow white male readers, you need only point to this list to prove that you are not, in fact, privileged. Because according to this list, there are literally not many white men in the world at all. That is all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Raped by Rape Culture Warriors

One argument against allowing concealed carry of firearms on campuses runs as follows. We shouldn't allow guns on campus, because one day a disgruntled student might enter the classroom (or even just his professor's office) and blow the professor's head off. That kind of targeted nightmare scenario is relatively rare, even with the plethora of school shootings (they seem to be more frequent nowadays, but this might be sampling bias by the media). Nevermind that a disgruntled student can in theory still in theory do that now--if he's willing to break the law against murder, why would a law against carrying a weapon stop him? It might, however, stop the professor and/or his students from having a means of defending themselves--such has been the case in practice in virtually every school shooting which has occurred since guns were removed from campuses.

Funny how the argument is never applied towards the rhetoric of "rape culture." It's only a matter of time before a disgruntled student--probably a female, likely a radical feminist--makes a false "rape" accusation against a professor which ends up getting him suspended until he can prove his innocence. And the likely next step is a false rape accusation against a professor, which gets him fired before he has any chance to prove his innocence, in the name of something like "zero tolerance" (I'll bet); this will happen even if the professor in question has never had contact with the student outside of the classroom or other public settings, and even if the student has no evidence to bring forward.

Sure, he's not been shot by the disgruntled student--but he is an innocent victim nonetheless, one whose life and livelihood may be permanently ruined over it. The way campus administrations and feminist circles are heading, it may be only a few short decades before this particular scenario is a reality.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Social Justice Warriors

The Christian bakers from Oregon whose bakery has been driven out of business through legal action are now facing a fine of $135 000 for refusing to bake a cake for a pair of lesbians:
The state of Oregon proposed a $135,000 fine to be levied on the Christian-owned bakery, with the money to be paid to a lesbian couple to compensate for their pain and suffering when the cake-makers declined to bake pastry for their wedding.

So, there we have it: the Social Justice Warriors, not content to have driven this bakery out of business, are now trying to prevent people from giving the bakers money to pay their monumental fine. It is not enough for the SJWs that the Klein family business was destroyed. And it is not enough that the Kleins are now struggling to feed their five children, and facing a $135,000 fine that will probably drive them to bankruptcy.

Nope, the progressive stance is now to grind those people to dust, in the name of social justice.
Let that sink in for a moment. These people were force to close their business and have had their lives totally disrupted, and now are being fined for $135 000, because they inconvenienced a pair of lesbians, and possibly hurt their feelings. They have also faced constant harassment, up to and including this not-at-all-a-hate-crime:
And Melissa Klein previously told TheBlaze that someone broke into the Sweet Cakes truck in September 2013 — a vehicle the family uses to advance its business.

The truck was parked in the Kleins’ driveway, which was particularly nerve-wrecking for the family, as their home is in a highly secluded area — one that is nowhere near where their former shop.

“Somebody came up into our driveway and rummaged through our truck and took stuff out,” she told TheBlaze. “The really strange thing is, they didn’t steal anything, they just made a mess. It kind of was a little creepy.”
This is justice? Might I suggest that the pejorative "Social Justice Warrior" is too kind of a euphemism. There is a better term, since warriors typically have a sense of honor. These are social justice brownshirts, or perhaps stormtroopers. Indeed, replacing the swastika with a "marriage equality" badge may not seem so out-of-place in the near future, terrifying as that vision may seem.

History rarely really repeats itself--but it often rhymes very strongly.

Update: Joss Wedon gets trashed on twitter by the Feminazi wing of the Social Justice Brownshirt movement, because (wait for it) he does not have enough strong female characters in his works (specifically, in the latest Avengers flick). They don't do reality very well. John C Wright has the autopsy on his blog.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Rape Culture Warriors

The title is more of an adjective than an imperative statement. I have to wonder wonder, sometimes: are the people who push the boundaries on what constitutes "rape" or "rape culture" sane, or are they serious? Either way, there is a point at which they can no longer be really taken seriously, and they are rapidly approaching that point, so much the worse for actual rape survivors. Because the latest, greatest boundary-push in the question of "was it rape?" seems to fit the pattern of "it was rape because at some point one person involved decided it was." To wit, the concept of being "raped by rape culture."

Explicitly given consent is no longer enough, because now even "yes" can mean "no" after the fact.

First, let me reiterate that there is, of course, a simple solution to all of this: that is the very solution that these people oppose. A return to the so-called "Judeo-Christian" sexual ethic does largely get rid of these problems, and it does entirely get rid of them if understood via theology of the body, etc. A culture which adopts a sexual ethic which places the greatest emphasis on purity of heart or even simple chastity is a culture in which rape ceases to be a problem. Avoid fornication, adultery, etc, because in the context of marriage you can build the kind of relationship and trust to understand your spouse's desires, to say nothing of consent*. Barring this, another simple lesson from the Bible comes to mind: " Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37).

Second, stupid ideas like the one presented by Miss Bosiljevac--that one cane be "raped by rape culture"--are of concern to everyone, in that when people begin to take them seriously, a whole host of real and imagined victims are created. The imagined victims are those who claim to have been "raped" when no rape has taken place; the real victims are largely men, but also women who suffer from actual rapes and are not believed. Indeed, there are cases now of lives being ruined over an alleged rape in which no sexual encounter of any sort has occurred, and some reasonably widely read organs of propaganda which have helped to create these victims. To the extent that one need only be accused of being a rapist--without evidence, without, in some cases, even necessarily knowing the victim--to be treated like a rapist, well, this whole movement is a threat not so much to rapists, but to ordinary and ordinarily innocent men (and perhaps even women) everywhere.

*Yes, there is such a thing as marital rape, and it too is a horrible thing. It has no place in an authentically Christian marriage, or, really, any authentically loving marriage. Neither do false accusations have any place in any authentically loving relationship.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Secular Shariah

There is a sort of Shariah of the Left, of Secularist Shariah if you prefer, which is being slowly but surely enforced on society. For example, Rick Garnett writes on the Mirror of Justice blog that
"It seems clear to me that, in the coming years, a variety of means -- including conditions on accreditation, licensing, grants, contracts, funding, public-forum access, and tax-exempt status -- are going to be used to bring the practices of religious institutions into what Nancy Rosenblum and others call 'congruence' with the requirements of certain version of political liberalism."
Indeed. We actually already see something like this in the way that people of faith are treated in the marketplace, namely with lawsuits and heavy fines and shuttered businesses when they refuse to bend the knee to the secularist piety of "gay marriage" (by whatever name you want to call it). Ah, but those are just private citizens who are being hit with this, and so far are "isolated" cases. Perhaps they are isolated, because many more have already given in out of fear of suffering the same treatment.

Also, it's worth noting that there is a different sort of tactic being used to impose the Secularist Shariah against private individuals (and their businesses) than against religious institutions. The private businesses are targeted by a series of seemingly unrelated laws and regulation, which collectively have the effect of imposing this Shariah. For example, consider the case of the tyrannical HHS mandate--the one which requires employers to provide coverage for their employees to obtain contraception, abortion, and sterilizations. The counter-argument is all-too often*, "well, not all of an employer's employees may share his religious beliefs."

Set aside for the sake of argument that fact that these beliefs are not religious only (they are largely rooted in things like Natural Law Theory, which while not accepted by everyone, is also not limited to any one particular religion, even if the major modern proponents tend to be overwhelming Catholic). Also set aside for the sake of argument the fact that this is really a poor argument even if it could be reduced to a question of employers practicing their religious code of ethics at the price of making employees live under these: the mandate actually acts to force the ethics of the employees onto the employers, which is no better.

With these aside, it is worth noting that one reason why employers have employees whose beliefs differ from their own is because the Civil Rights Act (and its additions) prohibits a non-ministerial employer from choosing employees based on religious beliefs. This is done for better or for worse, but it will inevitably result in non-uniform sets of beliefs in a given company. So, these two seemingly unrelated rules--Civil Rights Act and HHS Mandate--work together to impose a specific set of ethics onto all people in the public square (which in this case consists of the marketplace). This is just another form of Shariah, for to disobey it is to become a second-class citizen just as in those countries and regions where Islamic Shariah is the rule. And as a bonus, there is in fact a double-standard which is often applied to the two "sides" in these things.

*Meanwhile, without a hint of irony, they are quick to say that we must be made to change our beliefs.