Archive | March 2014

Abortion

Recently, I found a story of incredible interest. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10717566/Aborted-babies-incinerated-to-heat-UK-hospitals.html In the UK, according to this story, over the past two years as few as 15,000 aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated in waste-to-energy systems to help the hospitals be more green. For those who are pro-life, this story is truly disturbing, and for those who are pro-choice it ought not mean a thing. If it does, I believe it is important that you ask why.

I am always hearing different terms being used to determine when it is morally acceptable to abort a child. I hear fetus, baby, tissue, future tax payer, and I hear qualifiers such as viability, when life begins, when it can live outside the womb, and when the state has a vested interest in the child. Why are there so many terms? Why is this issue so complicated? Is it a matter of women’s rights or the rights of the child? What about the father? I think the best way to answer all of these questions is to start at the beginning of the line of reasoning; to observe the origins of the idea.

It may seem that I am diverting here, but bear with me. Not many people seem to be aware that at the onset of the 20th century there was a Socialist Party in the United States. The party managed to take a number of lower level political positions, and they even ran a candidate for president if I recall. However, the party was fairly short-lived as “socialism” became a dirty word to many Americans when it’s effects were observed in Europe. Instead of changing their platform and ideas, they simply changed their name to Progressives. Basically, they were an off-shoot of the Republican Party, but their only similarity was patriotism. This kind of mindset is called National Socialism, or as it is perhaps more commonly known, Nazism. Examples of progressives would be Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood and author of “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990368/pdf/eugenrev00388-0032.pdf ). The eugenics movement began in the United States and was particularly strong in California. Californian eugenists had a very strong influence on German scientists promoting forced sterilization and elimination of “undesirables”. The idea was eventually dropped in the United States, but Hitler took it and ran with it.

Margaret Sanger’s goal in founding Planned Parenthood was to deliberately build the facilities in areas occupied primarily by minorities to eliminate the “undesirables”. It is estimated that 40-50 million babies are aborted every year globally, and as I recall about 1.2 billion with a “B” babies have been aborted globally since the 1970’s. I mention the origin of these ideas for two reasons. One, to illustrate the mindset in which these ideas were formed, and two, to explain why the terminology used is so extensive and ill-defined. It is a progressive tactic to simply change the terminology. They don’t  change the idea but how they say it.

So, what terminology should we use to assess this matter?  Well, a fetus is obviously “alive” at conception. Cells are alive. There is no dispute there; so I suppose that wont work. “Viable” also doesn’t seem appropriate. There is a time after which the fetus is considered “viable”, or rather, capable of  living outside the mother’s womb. With today’s technology, I find it unlikely that an artificial womb is out of grasp, but it would certainly be possible in the future. So, that seems an insufficient term. The concept of state interest in the child is idiotic. It’s none of the state’s business; so I wont waste my time addressing that.

We have all these arguments over “when life begins” and “when the fetus becomes viable”. The real question that needs to be asked is, is the fetus human? What is the answer to that question? Because if the fetus is indeed human, it is entitled to all the same rights that the rest of us are. That includes the right to life, a right we “hold to be self-evident” (a right to life amendment might be a good idea.) If the fetus is not human, then there is no problem with burning them for fuel, and clearly, no non-human entity can be entitled to human rights. So, who wants to argue that the fetus is not human? I have heard the argument rebutted, however, that its humanity is irrelevant. The fetus is not sentient. It cannot comprehend its rights. (Imagine my words are thick with sarcasm) Ah, well now it all makes sense. That means that Miranda rights are unnecessary, rights for the mentally impaired are obviously out too, and I guess if you can’t quote the Bill of Rights you don’t have those rights either. Certainly, if you cannot comprehend all your rights and their origins, you do not have them. I wonder how many millions or billions of people no longer have rights under that line of reasoning? Quite obviously, an inability to comprehend all your rights does not mean you do not possess them.

I think it is important for us to remember the words of Voltaire,”Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Humans have done horrible things when we have convinced ourselves that others were sub-human. Hitler considered Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, ect to be sub-human… Lesser humans who needed to be eliminated. Slavery in the US was perpetuated because we convinced ourselves that Africans were sub-human. Pol Pot was convinced that the wealthy and educated were inherently evil human beings and he held racism against the Laotians and Vietnamese; so he attempted to exterminate them. There was also racism against Native Americans which led to their near extermination. Andrew Jackson was largely responsible for that. There are many instances of this behavior throughout history. We cannot fall into the trap of deeming someone sub-human.

Perhaps this is a bit superfluous, but perhaps it is noteworthy. Take into account that this opinion comes from a Deist. In ancient times, people used to sacrifice their children to Baal, the god of the Earth, fertility, weather, heaven, and agriculture. The Carthaginians were one culture that did this, and the Romans condemned them for it. And it’s not like Rome was the great bastion of morality in the ancient world. If the ancient Romans condemn it, it must be pretty bad. Back then they sacrificed to Baal, and today, we sacrifice to convenience… to self. If you really want to notice similarities, burning fetuses and miscarried babies to help the environment is eerily familiar to worshiping Baal. I’m not insinuating that people are actually worshiping Baal, but some are certainly worshiping the environment. They are willing to sacrifice babies to the environment. Others seem to worship themselves. Some sacrifice to themselves. Their convenience, their lifestyle is too important to be troubled by a baby, and so they are willing to sacrifice children to themselves. These have to be among the most deplorable actions humans can commit.

Of course, there is also the issue of rape and incest. I will never experience such a despicable act. I will never be able to understand the torment… That being said, there is no reason the child should be denied life. There are plenty of couples out there who would love to adopt a child. I cannot imagine having to carry to term a child you didn’t ask for and that you didn’t want to risk having. Not to mention the knowledge that it is the offspring of the monster who forced himself on you. However, I don’t see how that atrocity justifies the death of a child. The child did not choose the circumstances of its conception. If the fetus is human, it deserves life same as the rest of us. Lastly, I have heard the argument that giving rights to the child would take rights from the mother. When did it ever become a right to murder?

 

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Right to Privacy

The issue of privacy has been a hot debate lately. Against their principles, many republicans (most regretfully) supported  the Patriot Act, and democrats today are turning a blind eye to NSA spying.  It seems to me that a great number of people are not aware of the necessity of privacy, and are not aware of where they are guaranteed this right. Naturally, your business is your business and no one else’s, and as government gets it’s authority from us, it can perform no action that we cannot (at least not while abiding by natural law). We the people have agreed, per the constitution, that government may only search or seize our property if they legally acquire a warrant based on probable cause. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”–4th Amendment Bill of Rights. Governments throughout history have violated the individual’s right to privacy and property all under the presumption of improved safety.  It may be an appeal to authority, but it was Ben Franklin who warned us, “Those who will trade liberty for a little safety deserve and will receive neither.” There are about 350 million people in this country, and the idea that they all should be and can be monitored effectively is absurd. But how often do we hear, “What do I care? I’m not doing anything wrong.” The trouble is that you don’t get to decide whether or not you’re doing something wrong. That is why the 4th Amendment is essential. If you knew all your neighbors darkest secrets, you would have incredible power over him. Any control or power that is gained by the government is lost by the people; it is an exchange. Today, with the exponential development of technology this issue is even more concerning.  It is a false assumption to believe that an increase in surveillance will aid our defense. London has more surveillance cameras than any other city (last I checked), and that has not solved their terrorism and violent crime problems. It is significantly worse there. So, what is the solution? To do things the way we used to do them. This nation has existed for nearly 240 years, and we have had spies and surveillance since the Revolutionary War. Yet, it has only been recently that government has felt the need to spy on all of it’s citizens in an attempt to prevent crime. Why all of a sudden? “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”–James Madison. Today, we are fighting a non-traditional, guerrilla, and infiltrating foe. Not to mention the issue of maintaining public order and stopping crime. We know that Hezbollah has been sneaking in from the southern border, and we know that crazy people and criminals can attack people.  But that does not mean that I, my friends, my grandmother, colleagues, etc. need our data, property, information, etc. confiscated, observed, or stored. Of the 350 million people in this country, how many of them are our enemies? How many of them are legitimate threats? We are wasting our resources by spying on millions of innocent people when we ought to be devoting all our resources toward spotting the bad guys and spying on them. Remember “Innocent until proven guilty”? Now we are all just assumed to be guilty. Clearly, as these policies cannot make us any safer. Spying on law abiding citizens without a warrant does not improve our safety. So what is the solution? Re-devote the spying agencies resources to spotting and spying on actual potential enemies, and if they cannot produce probable cause, then there is no justification for spying. Spy and police action that is unwarranted to protect us from crime and terrorism is truly morally reprehensible.  I’m posting a link on the issue of safety in general. Skip to 21:00 for the most relevant issue. If you find language and or nudity offensive, I would not recommend watching. Again, for the relevant information skip to 21:00. Despite constant fear mongering on the part of the media, violent crime has gone down in recent years, and we have had no successful terror attacks on American soil since 9/11. That doesn’t mean we should let our guard down and walk through life without fear, but it certainly doesn’t mean we treat innocent citizens the way those kids were treated in this video. If you have any retorts please post in the comments.

 

Throw the First Stone

This is my first blog post; so I imagine I ought to introduce myself.  My name is Presley.  I am a student at the University of Texas, I was previously self-educated for several years, and prior to that I attended both a public and private school.  I’m a country boy, and I fancy myself a “gentleman scholar”.  I chose the blog title “The Lyceum” as that was the name of Aristotle’s school where he would walk about the grounds, gardens, and olive trees providing lectures and debating his colleagues.  As I spend a very large amount of time walking the trails and woods near my home, and I’ve had a life long love affair with olives, I thought it was suitable:). I hold a profound interest in the dialogues and writings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Cicero, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Adam Smith, Rousseau, Voltaire, etc. I am bound and determined to eventually read all of their works.  However, down to the point of this post.

Today, I noticed a story in the news about a church that posted this sign.

The topic of gay marriage has been gathering my attention lately.  I recently had the privilege  of attending a political action conference where I met many people with a variety of opinions.  I had the opportunity to debate a gentleman on this very topic. This issue needs to be addressed from two angles, political and religious.  I believe I will start with the political aspect of this issue.  When I had the pleasure of discussing this topic, the debate went a little something like this (the dialogue has been shortened as the gentleman would ramble before answering).

Gent: Sir, would you like a flier?
Me: Sure, may as well. I see you are discussing gay marriage. What is your stance?
Gent: Well, I am against it, sir! Our nation was founded on Christian principles, and we have to uphold them.  We see that this is the decline of our society.
Me: Interesting. I was just discussing this issue with my friend. Tell me, do you consider yourself a conservative?
Gent: Yes, of course.
Me: So, as a conservative, you hold the belief that the government possesses in no way the authority to command the way you live your life?
Gent: *long pause* Yes, I suppose.
Me: Well then, I should ask, what is the origin of government, or rather what are the origins of governmental power?
Gent: I assume you mean the “social contract”?
Me: Yes, sir. Exactly. We the people have formed a contract or constitution, and we elected representatives to sign this contract that defines how we agree to be governed. Ergo the origin of governmental power is the people.
Gent: True.
Me: So, by extension of what was previously admitted, if the government does not hold the authority to command your life, and government authority comes from the people, no individual or group possess that authority either.
Gent: *long pause and some  pointless chin wagging* Yes, I suppose that is true.
Me: So, under what authority can you, the government, or anyone else tell homosexuals they cannot wed?  That power is not vested in the government, and governmental power comes from you and me.  So I should also ask, where does your authority to control them come from?
Gent: You’re a libertarian aren’t you?
Me: Yes, sir.
Gent: Well, this has been an interesting conversation, and I will certainly do more research on your opinion. That really interests me. Well, I really must be going. *hurries away to speak to other passersby*
My Friend: Dude, that was awesome. You should start a blog.

I think having these discussions is incredibly important. If people who disagree cannot sit and have a meaningful dialogue, nothing can be learned or accomplished.  Right now our political parties fight incessantly over matters such as gun rights, gay marriage, drugs, religious liberty, and separation of church and state. Debates that need to be had.  The issue here is you have two groups of people trying to limit each others rights. One would outlaw gay marriage, drug use, and the ten commandments would be in every courthouse.  The other would ban weapons, offensive speech, and religious practices or speech in public places.   While both of them claim to strive for freedom.  I’m being perhaps a little dramatic here, but I’m trying to illustrate a point.

How often do you hear a political figure say you should be allowed to shoot your gun at the range with your spouse of whatever gender, go home and smoke a joint, and proselytize  the word of the all-mighty flying spaghetti monster.  We as people have a right to take any action that is physically and fiscally harmless to other people.

The only reason, it would seem, that gay marriage is even an issue is that government is involved in the private institution of marriage.  Instead of treating all people equally, married couples have special tax privileges, guardianship of their children, and spousal rights.  Why are these matters determined by a typically religious act like marriage?  Any person who is truly free should be allowed to marry whomever he or she wants.  If you get it on with a toaster, it’s no business of mine.  Then the various legal matters can be cared for in court, and yes there would be competency issues for the toaster:).  Marriage, civil union, partnership, etc are all civil matters outside of government authority.

Secondly, there is the religious motivator.  Many Christians today maintain, per the Bible, that homosexuality is considered a sin. This pastor in the story completely misquotes Jesus.  When asked whether the woman ought to be stoned he replied, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” –John 8:7 NIV. We always hear that our nation was founded on Christian principles. True, but it was also founded on pagan and deist principles.  Whether you consider Jesus divine or not is irrelevant.  He is at least on the same level as the great classical philosophers. “Love one another as your father in heaven loves you…”,”Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”,”If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Good stuff.  However, these are philosophies anyone can agree with.  They are not religious doctrines, but doctrines of reason.  Our founders esteemed reason, logic, republic, science, and inquiry. These are classical Greek and Roman, or rather, pagan principles.  The idea that people who disagree ought to be able to live among one another practicing their various personal walks with God, or lack thereof, without animosity toward one another is a deistic principle.

So many Christians want to adhere to certain parts of the old law or Old Testament, but at the same time believe that Jesus died for them so they would no longer live under the old law.  Remember the whole shredded curtain in the temple thing? That’s what that was about. Clearly, the peaceful teachings of Christ contradict the old testament, but that is to be expected.  You had one written by ancient men who had various political motivations and a desire to explain their world. Can you really reconcile that a loving God kills entire populations of cities for sin, and then tells Christians not to persecute sinners.  If I were an ancient man seeing an asteroid shoot towards the Earth and explode over Sodom and Gomorrah (archaeological evidence suggests this) with shrapnel friction heating the atmosphere to an excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, I would think it was an act of God as well.  It is the same false reasoning you hear so many use when the coast of the United States gets hit by a hurricane, “Why would God let this happen?” My point is, you can expect there would be difference in the teachings of ancient men and a brilliant philosopher.

In short no one has the authority to restrict someone’s rights.  Not everyone can agree, and diversity of opinions is a good thing.  However, the only way humans who disagree with one another can get along in society is to agree to debate, but to never force our opinions on one another.