Category Archives: logic

News from the World of Geocentrism

First, it has been reported (coincidentally, by the same “Dallas Area Catholics” blog I cited yesterday) that controversial traditionalist (more on that in a moment) Fisher More College will be officially closing in May. They were controversial, as you may know, for issues ranging from leaning towards “radical” traditionalism to financial mismanagement to teaching geocentrism.
On a side note, the use of the term “radical traditionalist” or “RadTrad” has come to be the subject of controversy recently, and many across the board have called for the cessation of its usage due to lack of clarity and its having become something of an epithet. Fair enough, and when it comes to geocentrism, that steps way out of the range of even “Radical Traditionalism” into “just plain nuts.” It has become a pet cause of Robert Sungenis, formerly a mainstream Catholic apologist, turned schismatic trad., turned “in union with Rome” but still a bit off his rocker. Sungenis has produced a “documentary” called The Principle, trying to promote geocentrism, and has tapped none other than Kate Mulgrew to narrate it.

Here’s Kate Mulgrew as Admiral Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek Nemesis, the most depressing Trek movie ever.

The headline of the article posted about it on Monday and linked above reads, “‘Star Trek’ actress lends her gravitas to film promoting idea that sun revolves around Earth.”

I have several thoughts on this subject:

1) Going with the gut reaction that she somehow supports the project, it makes me kind of curious. Obviously, she’s one of Hollywood’s most openly Catholic actresses (one of the reasons she gets few roles). Like ex-Catholic Patricia Heaton, Mulgrew is very active in Feminists for Life and a few years ago took a break from acting to try and help her husband get elected governor of Ohio as a pro-life Democrat. From what I can tell, while, unlike Heaton, Mulgrew is economically liberal, and, like Heaton, liberal on non life-related moral issues. So it kind of surprises me that, as a more “progressive” Catholic politically, she would align herself with a far right, anti-Semitist on a geocentrism project. On the other hand, 10 years ago when he was popular on the interview circuit, Mel Gibson often said that, other than abortion his political views were generally more Left Wing, so maybe something similar is at work *if* she sees it as anything more than a paycheck.
2) OTOH, she’s not the first Trek star to lend her “gravitas” to a pseudo-science documentary (Leonard Nimoy and Jonathan Frakes come to mind).
3) However, what really strikes me is how people are taking issue with the use of the term “gravitas,” saying that she lacks “gravitas” because she isn’t a “real scientist.”

According to dictionary.com, “gravitas” means “seriousness or sobriety, as of conduct or speech.” It has nothing to do with academic credentials and everything to do with style.
Few “real scientists” have “gravitas.” It’s why St. Augustine in On Christian Doctrine said we need rhetoric and logic together. Another comment I saw was that she lacks gravitas because she started out in soaps. However again, good soap actors and actresses have lots of gravitas. One of the reasons Joan Collins quit her much publicized stint as Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light (and few actresses in TV history have had the “gravitas” of the late Beverlee McKinsey, for whom the role was created) was, by her own admission, she didn’t realize the acting ability daytime actually requires: learning and performing a new script every day, without the teleprompters everyone thinks they use(d).

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Rape and Abortion.

I’ve been engaging in a rather long and heated, yet interesting, discussion on InsideCatholic with an alleged Catholic who supports abortion in the case of rape, but who echoes the kinds of comments made by “Operation CounterStrike.”

To sum up, the person in question has stated the following positions:
1. That we should not “force” women to have pregnancies they don’t want
2. That a baby conceived from rape is the “progeny of a rapist,” and therefore deserves to die
3. That enduring a pregnancy resulting from rape is like reliving the rape.
4. That abortion in the case of rape is self-defense.

I have made repeated attempts to get this person to explain why she thinks this, but she refuses to give the points remises that underlie these opinions or the syllogisms that connect them.

I, and several others, have asked her what guilt the “progeny of a rapist” bears that requires the death penalty, why she thinks abortion in this case qualifies as “self-defense,” and why she thinks pregnancy is so traumatic, but she refuses to explain. Instead, using typical pro-abortionist rhetoric, she accuses us of being idiots, lunatics, fanatics and liars (I’ve been accused of all four). She accuses us of lying about who we are.

She talks disparaingingly of “minor traditions” like relics and indulgences. When I pointed out that those are not optional–you can’t have a valid church without relics, and if you say, “I don’t participate indulgences,” that means you never pray, read the Bible, go on pilgrimage, etc.

Anyway, the conversation is well worn out, but it once again shows how pro-abortionists really can provide no philosophical foundations for their positions, other than vague emotional appeals. The baby deserves to die, in their view, because the poor, wimpy women can’t separate the baby from the cause of the baby.

It dawned on me last night to point out one of my usual arguments on this issue: the rape is one thing. For a conception to result, God has to step in, so obviously God intends for the baby to exist. If you believe life begins at conception (as this person claims to believe), then God created that soul at the moment of conception (and of course, the conception could occur as much as five days after the rape).

I really *would* like to know why these people think this way. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re wrong, but it would make it a lot easier to refute them. I tried to suggest some of the reasons I’d heard before, but she accused me of misquoting her.

In any case, the “forcing” thing is a stupid argument. There’s a big difference between “forcing” someone to do something and taking away the option.

It is quite interesting, in fact, that pro-lifers oppose the UN’s International Criminal Court for its provisions on “forced pregnancy”. We’re assured that this does not refer to outlawing abortion, but rather to situations like women taken captive in war and forced into sex slavery.

Yet the pro-aborrtionists have adopted the rhetoric of “forced pregnancy” in the context of making abortion illegal.

“You wouldn’t force a woman to have a baby that would traumatize her?” they ask.

So I proposed, “What if the woman was abused and had a baby that looked like her abusive husband or parent or relative; wouldn’t that traumatize her?”
I was assured that this was an irrelevant analogy. I’m still not sure why.

What about, “You wouldn’t *force* a man who’s psychologiclaly compelled to rape to resist his urges, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s psychologically compelled to murder to endure the trauma of not murdering, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s desperately in need to *not* rob a bank, would you??”

It’s the most meaningless argument a person can make, and somehow they have no idea how meaningless it is. It’s baffling to me. And women say men are sexist when we accuse them of being emotional rather than logical.

Of course, another fall back in the discussion is always, “Well, abortion is legal, so deal with it.” Duh. That’s why we’re debating about whether to make it illegal.

Then there’s the Rousseauian classic, “Well, the Catholic Church is responsible for a lot of the social posroblems that cause abortion,” and “The Catholic Church facilitates rapists.”

OK, what a good, faithful Catholic you are.

Socio-economic circumstances don’t cause sin; original sin does.

“What about the women who have abortions?”

Pro-abortionists have a particular question they like to throw out at pro-lifers.  Like the Pharisees trying to trip up Jesus, they think this question particularly clever and creates an impossible dilemma.

My recent interlocutor, the pro-abortion terrorist and demonaic who goes by “Operation Counterstrike”, prides itself on its website for supposedly “confounding” pro-lifer bloggers with this question.  Although I answered the question on its blog, and the direct question never came up here in our lengthy exchange, this person (whom I strongly suspect has gender identity issues, given that its rhetoric sounds like NOW but seems to avoid the personal identification with abortion that radical feminists have) tried to say that I put its comments under moderation because of my inability to confront that question.

No, I put its comments under moderation because a) the arguments were getting circular and unprogressive and b) the person insisted on using language that was both rude and crude, as well as personally attacking my friends. This individual needs to learn about a modicum of civil discourse.

Anyway, the question goes like this:

“If abortion is made illegal, and you consider abortion to be murder, what should happen to the women who have abortions?”

They see this is an an “aha!” question, exposing us for either being hypocrites or for “not really thinking abortion is murder.”

The paradox, they think, goes this way:

1.  If you think they should be punished as murderers, they’ll call you “unreasonable.”

2.  If you say they shouldn’t, they say, “Then you don’t really think abortion is murder.”

Of course, these are the kinds of people, especially the CounterStrike person, who think that people like Scott Roeder, Paul Hill and John Salvi are the only consistent anti-abortionists.  According to their logic, a) if you believe abortion is murder, then b) the only way to punish a murderer is to c) kill him/her in an act of vigilantism.  Otherwise, you’re a liar and/or hypocrite in that a) you don’t “really” believe abortion is “murder” or b) you’re not “really” pro-life.

Of course, they set up the false dichotomy in that, case they set up the false dichotomy in this one, too.

Yes, the question does pose a paradox for certain kinds of Republicans and conservatives, but it shouldn’t pose a paradox for a Christian, or certainly any person with an understanding of psychology or legal responsibility.

There is a difference between the objective nature of an act and the subjective culpability of the actor.  When a teenaged girl has an abortion, is she really culpable?  Does she know abortion is murder?  Does she know the unborn child is a person?  (Not if the pro-aborts have anything to say about it; they do everything in their power to fight informed consent, waiting periods and sonogram laws–they know most women would reject abortion if shown this information).  Are they really making the “free choice” that pro-aborts allege?  Or are they pressured by family, society, money, etc.?  What is their mental state?

Is a girl who has an abortion fully morally culpable for what she does? 

Now, this is quite different from, say, some upper middle class white woman who gets an abortion to avoid the stretch marks or pursue her career or something.

Interestingly, Patrick Madrid has been involved in a parallel exchange from the other end, on his Facebook page, radio show and blog, in which a pro-life advocate apparently took a fairly hardline stance with some women who had repented of past abortions, insisting they were still “murderers”.

Of course, objectively, the woman who has an abortion is a “murderer,” but that leads to two issues: 1) her aforementioned culpability and b) her intention of repeating the crime.

A person who copies and pastes a bunch of paragraphs out of Wikipedia and Cliff’s Notes is, objectively, a plagiarist.  However, a good teacher knows how to distinguish unintentional acts of plagiarism from intentional academic theft.  Sometimes, especially in this example, the student just doesn’t know how to cite or how to write a proper research paper, and thinks the copied and pasted paragraphs constitute “research.” 

So, let’s say the teacher decides to give the student a second chance, or that a student who was expelled from one institution for plagiarism gets admitted to another.  In either case, our plagiarist has learned his or her lesson.  He or she remains a plagiarist, but the question is: will he or she *continue* to commit plagiarism?

Inspector Javert chases Jean Valjean for years because he thinks that one act of theft should mark a man for life.

Christians technically believe in repentance and forgiveness.  The pro-life movement is an embodiment of this.  Many of our leaders have themselves been directly involved in abortion in the worst ways: Norma McCorvey, Sandra Cano, Bernard Nathanson, John Bruchalski and so many others have come to the pro-life cause after repenting of their involvement in abortion, whether it was their own abortions, abortion practices, or political/legal work.

Yes, we want to see abortion illegal so that it is stigmatized, and society can heal from the rift in Natural Law caused by legalized abortion.  Yes, we want to save babies’ lives.  Yes, those who are consciously and deliberately involved in abortion–and unrepentant–should be punished for it. 

Those who lack full moral responsibility, however, should be given clemency and understanding.  Those who have repented and turned over a new leaf should be given the benefit of the doubt.  They remain, objectively, murderers, but the real question is whether they will murder again.

There is no better illustration of this than a conundrum presented regarding George W. Bush when he was still Governor of Texas, a situation that puzzled liberals to no end.  It was the case where a woman on death row in Texas had converted to Christianity, repented of her crimes and showed a complete remorse.  Pro-life Christians argued that she should not be subject to the death penalty, and even that she should be released.

“Our God is the God of second chances.”

That’s what Christianity is all about: repentance of sins:

“The only thing certain about the missing link is that it’s missing.” –G.K. Chesterton

Evolution, we’re told, is dogma.  Strangely, when every other area of modern science admits to being subject to revision, evolution is held dogmatically.  It can’t be disproven.  The evidentiary holes and logical leaps used by evolutionists are to be ignored and unchallenged.

Yet, every so often, as today, there’s a report that rattles the bones of evolutionists and shakes up their “conventional wisdom” like a student playing with a laboratory skeleton. . . . .

“Lucy” is not the common ancestor of chimps and humans. They’ve found a 4.4 million year old skeleton that has human-like features that apes do not have.  They emphasize that “apes evolved differently,” of course. 

But, the real point is that every direct human ancestor they can find points to the idea that humans at least separated from other primates a *long* time ago. 

Here’s a legitimate question: how do they know these things had hair?

What is a logical fallacy?

I often wonder if we need to revise the way we treat logical fallacies. Fallacy is reallly a matter of function more than content.

For example, the fallacy of redirection. It is not uncommon to see any given topic in Catholicism have the issue of sex abuse by priests come up. Depending upon *why* the issue is raised, it may be “redirection,” it may be “getting off topic,” or it may be a valid question to raise.

For example, if, in a discussion of some social issue, the issue is raised to question the credibility of the Church’s teachings, it *may* be very relevant, or if the issue is raised to illustrate a parallel error. On the other hand, the issue must be discussed only in that context in which it is raised, if that is the case.

One “fallacy” thats fallaciousness has always seemed suspect to me is “slippery slope.” If “slippery slope” is always a fallacy, then Humanae Vitae is fallacious.

Very often, however, slippery slope is exactly how things work. One man’s slippery slope is another man’s incrementalism.

Or ad hominem. When I teach critical thikning, I call on my students to carefully analyze who the writer is, who the publishers and sponsors are, and what ulterior motives they may have. If there’s researched involved, who paid for the research?

To examine such questions is not to engage in ad hominem but to examine the credibility of the source.

Also, when I teach writing, I tell my students to be careful about audience, to consider exactly who they are (indirectly) addressing their piece to. What are the needs of the audience? Their interests, agendas, existing knowledge, questions, etc.?

Mary has a friend who is now a professor at a Catholic college, who got banned from campus retreats when they were in college because of a discussion with a homosexual man.

Now, the conversation was, from the perpsective of Mary’s friend and his interlocutor, a mildly heated but fruitful intellectual dialogue. However, the interlocutor did not disclose that he, personally, was struggling with the sin of homosexuality. Mary’s friend, in retrospect, said that his argument would have been different if he’d known his audience was an actual homosexual, rather than thinking it was purely a discussion of principle.

In any case, some third party overheard the conversation and complained to the directors of the retreat ministry. So her friend was banned from leadership in that retreat ministry because of upholding the Church’s teachings.

In any case, the incident raises the question of self-explanation. If critical readers are to evaluate the writer’s possible motives and agendas, and if a good writer considers his audience’s motives and agendas, then shouldn’t writers be required in principle to offer some self-explanation?

The tradition of Western formal academic writing has grown that writers are not supposed to self-reference, but this is intellectually dishonest. It is really important that a writer express why the subject is important to him or her personally, what personal experience he or she has in that field, etc. What metaphorical axes is the writer trying to grind?

To do otherwise creates a huge impediment to actual dialogue.