Monday, June 30, 2014

SCOTUS and Oderberg


Today, with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court of the United States has partially redeemed itself after its disgraceful 2012 Obamacare ruling.  Readers of this blog will be particularly interested to learn that the work of the esteemed David Oderberg (specifically, his article “The Ethics of Co-operation in Wrongdoing”) is cited in footnote 34 of the decision.  Also cited are two other, older works of traditional Thomistic natural law theory: Thomas Higgins’ Man as Man: The Science and Art of Ethics and Henry Davis’s Moral and Pastoral Theology.

208 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Interesting. I never expected an association between the two, but that may be because I don't know SCOTUS's modus operandi in detail. Do they usually refer to academic philosophy in their decisions on ethical matters?

(Btw, this ruling has driven Jerry Coyne and the FFRF crowd wild over the alleged imminence of a US theocracy:

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/the-ffrfs-take-on-the-hobby-lobby-decision/)

ccmnxc said...

5-4 is still a bit of a nail-biter. Is it conceivable that this ruling could be somehow nullified in the near-future? Or is this (hopefully) going to be the lay of the land for awhile?

Timotheos said...

Man, and all the debating that has gone on here recently over Feser's book had led me to believe that Scotus would never quote a Thomist approvingly... :P

Nick Corrado said...

This isn't unheard of. If I remember correctly, Alito referred to George, Anderson, and Girgis' What is Marriage book in his dissent to the Prop 8 ruling, and George is considered a Thomist. Still really cool though!

Francis Beckwith said...

I caught it too, Ed. Pretty cool!

Crude said...

I remember a while back getting into an argument on here with someone who insisted that Thomistic arguments about morality would never persuade most people. I replied that not every argument has to persuade most people - in the case of the SCOTUS, you may well just need to persuade one single person.

So the Oderberg thing is making me grin big today.

ccmnxc said...

Heh, looking at the link anon provided, it does provide some humor value as to the fact that both Coyne (along with his commentors) and the FFRF couldn't be doing a better job of making themselves look like complete fanatics. Due to the fact that some companies cannot be forced to buy contraception for their employees (and thus will likely be passed on to some part of the federal government), we are, apparently, a theocracy. Go figure.

dguller said...

Help me out here. I'm a Canadian, and so I don't fully understand what happened. It seems that a corporation, if small enough, is now a religious person that can refuse to provide some kinds of reproductive care to its female employees, who have paid for that care via medical insurance, on the basis of its religious faith. However, that same corporation can't discriminate against others, or refuse to pay for vaccinations, on the basis of its religious faith? Why not?

And isn't a corporation an artificial entity that is specifically designed to shield its owners by virtue of being a distinct entity? How is a corporation now all of a sudden a personal extension of the owners' religious beliefs? If the owners are now no longer shielded, then why can't they be personally responsible in case the corporation goes bankrupt?

And it's all fine and good that the conservative judges cited Thomist scholars in support of their position, but aren't they supposed to cite American legal principles instead? What precedent was there in American law that corporations, which were never treated as religious extensions of their owners, are now to be treated as such?

It seems to me to be a naked power grab by conservative natural law rather than a ruling based upon U.S. precedent and law.

But then again, I'm definitely no expert here.

Anonymous said...

Got that right, dguller.

You are no expert.



How about this.... why don't you explain how you think a company should be forced to cover morning after 'treatment'.

It's not a medical treatment. Because being pregnant is not a disease.

dguller said...

And in case anyone wants to make the case that natural law is actually on the side of Hobby Lobby here, it should be noted that Hobby Lobby made no objection to covering vasectomies (and Viagra), which seems to make their decision less about natural law, especially when it might inconvenience men, and more about simply restricting women's reproductive choices.

Anonymous said...

dguller....
you get that corporations are simply concepts right?

They're not living and breathing things with volition.


It always boils down to an individual.... always.
Corporations are these lumbering entities that just happen to have deep pockets with money in it.

That money comes from someone ultimately.
It's the profit of the company owners that fund this. So they would be complicit in this sin.

How can you possibly have missed that?

Do you really think of corporations as 'another being' that somehow has financial resources completely independent of any actual person with agency??

Me said...

dguller....
you are so off it's not even funny.

You do understand that 1 sperm is not a human life, right?

I mean, you understand that, right?

That the union of a sperm and an egg has all of the dna content that that human will have for the rest of their life.

You can't be this dumb

me said...

dguller....
Hobby Lobby is covering 16 of the 20 drugs mentioned in the mandate.
And those 4 drugs that are left out cause abortion.


The entitled mindset of someone like dguller "but we deserve more! more!! MORE!!!"

Getting pregnant is not a disease nor a disorder.
Shouldn't even be covered regardless.
But you still get your 16 out of 20. Never enough for people like you.

Anonymous said...


What do we make of this objection?

"So help me out. What’s the moral difference between one piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for a big range of things, one of which is contraception” and a second piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for an even bigger range of things, one of which is contraception”? Why are those your stakes? I’d really like to understand better."

http://religiondispatches.org/a-question-for-hobby-lobby-supporters/?utm_source=feedly&utm_reader=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-question-for-hobby-lobby-supporters

dguller said...

@Anonymous:

How about this.... why don't you explain how you think a company should be forced to cover morning after 'treatment'.

It's not a medical treatment. Because being pregnant is not a disease.

The morning after pill delays the release of the egg from the ovary in order to prevent pregnancy from occurring. If someone does not want to get pregnant, then why not use this method to avoid getting pregnant? It’s not even an abortion! To refuse to allow this treatment would be tantamount to refusing to allow a man from pulling his penis out of his partner’s vagina prior to ejaculation. Are you saying that the man must fully ejaculate into the female reproductive tract during any sexual encounter?

Do you really think of corporations as 'another being' that somehow has financial resources completely independent of any actual person with agency??

They are legal entities designed to shield their owners from certain financial responsibilities that they would otherwise have had. For example, during a bankruptcy, a person would have to pay their creditors, but with a corporation, only the corporation must pay, and the personal assets of the owners are protected. It is precisely this protective barrier that is the purpose of the corporation to begin with. This ruling seems to put a hole in that barrier.

dguller said...

@Me:

That the union of a sperm and an egg has all of the dna content that that human will have for the rest of their life.

I do understand that. That is why I mentioned how the morning after pill actually works. It does not abort a pregnancy. There is no pregnancy at all! It only delays the release of the egg until most of the sperm are dead, which precludes the pregnancy from occurring. Once the egg is released, and the sperm penetrates the egg, creating a zygote, the morning after pill is useless.

And those 4 drugs that are left out cause abortion.

No, they don’t. They prevent fertilization from occurring, and without fertilization, there is no pregnancy. An abortion can only occur after fertilization has occurred, i.e. once there is a zygote.

Me said...

Legal entities or not, dguller.
Where do you think the money to support that comes from?

I'll say it again: It always boils down to an individual.

Why should contraceptives even be covered at all?
Getting pregnant is not a disorder, it is not a disease.
It's the result of two, hopefully, adults getting ready to have a family.

I'm sorry you live in a sexually depraved world where "getting ones rocks off" with little consequence is of the most important merit to you.


You want to kowtow to sexually depraved, lack-wits with nary a hint of responsibility by find more ways to pander to their sexual irresponsibility?
Wow

ccmnxc said...

And in case anyone wants to make the case that natural law is actually on the side of Hobby Lobby here, it should be noted that Hobby Lobby made no objection to covering vasectomies (and Viagra), which seems to make their decision less about natural law, especially when it might inconvenience men, and more about simply restricting women's reproductive choices.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that the Greens (who own Hobby Lobby) aren't really Natural Law theorists any more than your average Christian might be (so essentially, not at all, at least in the formal sense). So I would say that it isn't like they are being inconsistent in their Natural Law approach so much as they don't have one. In other words, I entirely agree that it isn't likely based upon full-blown Natural Law theory. For them, it was less the contraception itself (which Catholics are opposed to, but I am pretty sure they aren't Catholic) and more the fact that abortifacients were included in the package. In their eyes, they were basically being forced to provide their employees with abortions, which is obviously a big no,no for most Christians. I guess if you want that to be equivalent to "restricting...reproductive choices," that's your prerogative, but that seems a bit one-dimensional. It seems to me that they simply don't want to be forced to pay for such choices (and thus be indirectly complicit). So yeah, it's a restriction insofar as they would rather not be forced to pay for someone else's abortifacients, but it is a restriction of a completely justified kind in my view and the view of most here. That being said, American legal principles do not exist in a vacuum, and I think it is fine for Natural Law principles to be used to support this or that facet of American legal theory.

Me said...

And you are beyond wrong.
Conception can happen as fast as 30 minutes.
So you can't be certain that it hasn't happened.
Certainly not for "the morning after".

For someone clucking around about evidential support.... why on EARTH would you fault on the side of "hmmm... there might be no life there".... when there is close to no way of you actually knowing that.
With conception happening possibly as soon as 30 minutes after the act.

How could you be so depraved and callous to fault on the side of it possibly not being a life when it's just as likely that there's already a life there?

UnFuggingbelievable.


"Shouldn't we check the building first before we demo it, dguller?"

Dguller, "nah, it's probably empty."

"But how do you know that?"

Dguller, "I don't know.... it's just easier assuming this"

Anonymous said...

It seems that a corporation, if small enough, is now a religious person that can refuse to provide some kinds of reproductive care to its female employees, who have paid for that care via medical insurance, on the basis of its religious faith.

The female employees have not paid for that care; Hobby Lobby is required to pay for them, and is therefore complicit in that care. They object to the forms of "care" that may induce abortion.

I agree that "religious faith" is not sufficient for exemption. It is required, I think, that the position be rationally defensible (even if not by the particular company in question, and even if not convincing to everyone who would disagree). There are defensible philosophical positions against abortion, so one should be able to claim a religious exemption in that area. I am not aware of analogous cases against blood transfusions. (This last paragraph is not explicitly part of the Court decision, which I've not read. But I think this sort of reasoning may be implicit in the Court's attempt to strike a middle ground and avoid permitting all sorts of religious exemptions. The idea that any religious exemption could lead to the litany of horrors strikes me as one of those "slippery slope" fallacies that conservatives are frequently accused of.)

Paul Amrhein said...

@Dguller

Somewhere in *The Last Superstition* Professor Feser says that, yes, sex must always end with ejaculation into the vagina. This goes back to the Biblical story of Er and Onan. They were brothers. One of them, I forget which, died. The other was supposed to take his wife and have children with her. Instead he ejaculated onto the ground. He was later struck down by lightning. (I’m in a rush so please forgive if some of these details are off.) Hence the name “onanism” for masturbation. Darn, gotta go. More later maybe.

BenYachov said...

dguller it is very simple.

If you work for me you can' t force me to provide you with insurance that covers Birth control or abortion.

I pay for the insurance and I provide it & my conscience tells me that artificial birth control perverts the natural ends of sex and is thus intrinsically evil and abortion is murder. So I refuse to participate in what I believe to be evil.

You may as a free American with 1st amendment rights go to any TARGET drug store and with your own money buy for about $9 a month a prescription of Birth Control Pills for your use with your significant other.

I can't & won't stop you but you can't make me participate in this against my will.

Now too be clear I am addressing this from the perspective of American Constitutional civil liberty.

I don't care if you can or cannot make what you might think is a good argument for or against birth control from the perspective of natural law.

President Obummer via his pet Toad Secretary Sebellias made a regulation that forced employers to violate their religious consciences and provide birth control to their employees in their health insurance.

It is the moral equivalent of taking a semi Atheist/Deist ex-Muslim Doctor and forcing him via government mandate to pay a Stipend to a Priest to say a Mass for one of his employees'*

(Now for arguments sake I am assuming you might resent being forced to do such a thing against your will and without your conscient).

Christian said...

I was excited to see the reference to Oderberg and the other Thomistic materials in the decision.

I am however very confused about the responses of those who don't agree with the decision. On the one had they say it is horrible now that employers can impose there views on their employees. So, forcing your employer to buy things that he is morally opposed to is fine, but allowing someone to run his business according to his own conscience is not? No one is stopping these people from buying contraceptives on their own. None of their responses make any sense.

Crude said...

On the one had they say it is horrible now that employers can impose there views on their employees.

Present company excluded of course, but I get the feeling most of the people who claim it's horrible for an employer to 'force their views on their employees' (By way of not offering a particular benefit) were cheering loudly when Eich got routed.

And, with some apologies to dguller, I think the only problem many people nowadays have with 'naked power grabs' is when the wrong people make them. I don't think any such thing was present here, but again I refer to Eich. Where were the cries of employers imposing their views on their employees?

Oh, wait. It's merely the -wrong- views that cannot be so imposed.

Brandon said...

dguller,

Starting with the simplest point:

And it's all fine and good that the conservative judges cited Thomist scholars in support of their position, but aren't they supposed to cite American legal principles instead?

They didn't cite Thomist scholars in support of their position; Alito cited Thomist scholars in support of the particular point that a particular claim raised issues of moral cooperation. (This would contrast with a case like, for example, R. v. Morgentaler before the Canadian Supreme Court, in which Wilson's concurrence cited C. E. M. Joad extensively for a substantive account of democracy, which would indeed count as a case of a justice citing philosophers rather than Canadian legal principles.)

It seems that a corporation, if small enough, is now a religious person that can refuse to provide some kinds of reproductive care to its female employees, who have paid for that care via medical insurance, on the basis of its religious faith.

I'm not quite sure what this is supposed to mean. Corporations don't provide health care for their employees in the US any more than they do in Canada. Since health care is a transaction between the patient and the health care provider, a patient with the relevant medical insurance could not possibly be blocked by any corporation from having any kind of health care. The difference between the US and Canada is that in the US most people get most of their medical insurance as part of their benefits package with their employer. The Supreme Court decision is not based on any claim that corporations are "religious persons" but on the claim that refusal to give closely held corporations the kind of exemptions already given to other organizations (like churches or religious charities) for religious reasons violated a law that Congress passed requiring that regulations meet certain conditions protecting religious liberties. (This is why everyone is calling it a narrow ruling: it simply stated that the regulation violated a law passed by Congress, not that it was unconstitutional.)

And isn't a corporation an artificial entity that is specifically designed to shield its owners by virtue of being a distinct entity? How is a corporation now all of a sudden a personal extension of the owners' religious beliefs?

I'm not sure why you think that shielding owners from liability immediately implies that the owners cannot build the values, mission, or manner of operation of the corporation in light of their religious beliefs. In any case, it's not 'now all of a sudden'; in the US, except for those directly hinging on non-profit status, there aren't all that many legal differences between a corporate organization like a Catholic school or a religious charity and a corporate organization like a business: they both function as legal persons under principles of restricted liability. But it's uncontroversial that some kinds of regulations applied to a religious school might at times place a severe burden on the religious practice of real people. The Court simply noted that closely held corporations are not sufficiently different on this particular point to be treated differently under law as it currently exists, so regulations must meet the same protective standards required by law, and then ruled that the protective standards were not in fact met.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Dguller,

I'm not an American either, and I believe that this decision was based upon a statute and not the First Amendment of the U.S constitution.

However, the best way I heard the religious liberty position advanced was this. Essentially, the U.S constitution and law strongly protects liberty of conscience and religion. This means that there has to be a very good reason to infringing upon the freedom of religion and conscience, at least by the federal government.

I have a hard time seeing how a reasonable person wouldn't think the requirement to provide and pay for these forms of contraception (or any contraception, indeed) on the part of closely held corporation was an unnecessary infringement of religious liberty. Contraception is not a necessary medical device and it can be purchased inexpensively by women if they want it.

On the other hand, if your religious beliefs included human sacrifice, then I think reasonable people would think that prohibitions on this were supported by good enough reasons to be constitutional.

Of course, there are grey areas, but this one seems clear cut to me. Not that four judges didn't manage to vote against it, but their dissent, in my humble and non-expert opinion, was terrible. The core of it is just left-liberal social policy served up as jurisprudence. It is ominous that four justices supported her viewpoint. That is almost as important as the victory.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Christian,

You have to remember a lot of people's ideas of freedom today include extensive freedom for other people to pay for stuff for them.

Personally, I'm suspicious of rights that come out of other people's pockets.

ccmnxc said...

it simply stated that the regulation violated a law passed by Congress, not that it was unconstitutional.)

And it should be noted: So far as I know, said relevant law states in particular that any burden that is placed un religious liberty must come after less intrusive options have been exhausted. Forcing a company like hobby Lobby to pay for things like abortifacients definitely seems like a stretch as far as the claim that all other potential options wouldn't work (like, as I stated before, some government agency paying for them).

Step2 said...

dguller,
Outside the looking glass of feudalistic nonsense and torture of common sense known as “corporate personhood” here is a better view of the legal picture.

You unfortunately neglected to mention how tragic-comical it was when Hobby Lobby reviewed their insurance after the law passed and discovered *surprise, surprise* they were already covering Plan B and Ella. On top of that, a full year after bringing the lawsuit all nine of their pension funds were still invested in companies that produce contraceptive and abortifacient drugs.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Step2,

I'm not a legal expert, but I didn't find that link particularly persuasive. Their first point seems to rely on a black and white dichotomy: that corporations and shareholders are completely distinct. But there are different kinds of corporations, with different levels of separateness between shareholders and the corporation. This couldn't be the case if it was just a black or white distinction. Ultimately, the distinction any corporate form creates can have varying degrees of separation.

The second point they make seems to me to just beg the question. Whether or not this law should stand as it is, is what is in dispute. And if the argument is that exemptions would change the conditions facing different kinds of companies, it is, one, hard to see how meaningful that is in this case and, two, it would depend upon what the difference in conditions was. Different forms of companies by definition face different conditions, to a degree, and there are often exemptions to laws for different individuals and organisations. Whether an exemption from a law creates unacceptably different conditions amongst companies cannot, I think, be decided in the abstract. So we must assess individual cases.

And the third point just seems to rely on the assumption we would all recoil in horror if a publically listed company acted as Hobby Lobby did. It also seems to rely on their being no meaningful distinction between publically listed companies and closely held one. Whereas it is surely common sense that a closely held one is less separate from his shareholders - as the very name suggests.

Besides, that piece does not mention the central point - whether the conditions set by governments on private individuals and closely held corporations - should respect liberty of conscience and freedom of religion, unless a very good reason can be given why they should not.

Anonymous said...

That very blog has at least one article by those who someone who largely agrees with the ruling.

Brandon said...

Mark Rienzi has some comments on the direct legal implications of the decision, as well as some of the possible indirect legal implications for cases currently wending their way through the courts.

Paul Amrhein said...

@dguller

Strike the part about the lightning. That's not in the text. It just says that God "slew him."

Anonymous said...

So help me out. What’s the moral difference between one piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for a big range of things, one of which is contraception” and a second piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for an even bigger range of things, one of which is contraception”? Why are those your stakes? I’d really like to understand better.

Brandon said...

So help me out. What’s the moral difference between one piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for a big range of things, one of which is contraception” and a second piece of paper that says “This is compensation I’m giving you, my employee; and it can, by force of law, be used for an even bigger range of things, one of which is contraception”?

Since pieces of paper are not usually themselves considered subjects of moral differences,it would help if you actually stated what it is you don't understand rather than simply throwing out vague questions whose assumptions you have not explained.

Greg said...

To show that two acts are morally equivalent, it is also not sufficient to show that two descriptions of those acts are morally equivalent. As Elizabeth Anscombe pointed out, almost every, if not every, act can be described in a morally neutral way. Committing perjury can be described as signing your name. Committing homicide can be described as shooting a gun or contracting your finger muscles.

The "distance" of one from the evil act that will be committed is relevant. But it isn't, as the ReligionDispatches article suggests, a function of how many products money versus insurance can be used on.

Anonymous said...

Time to retire the metaphor of "corporate personhood". It's turned into a hoax. Do the metaphysics.

Anon.2

Brandon said...

Time to retire the metaphor of "corporate personhood". It's turned into a hoax. Do the metaphysics.

If it's a metaphor, it needs to be established why the metaphysics would be relevant; particularly since no one thinks legal personhood is equivalent to metaphysical personhood.

In any case, I look forward to your account of how to rebuild contract law from scratch without taking corporate entities to have property rights or the ability to enter into, or be held to, contracts.

Matt Sheean said...

It is interesting to me that the issue of contraception is so wedded to religious interests, in that it is always described as a matter of religious freedom first, while conscience might receive passing mention. When I was in high school and was asked why I wasn't participating in an activity that was, in fact, immoral, I would answer that I would not because I was a Christian. Nowadays I think I would simply say that the activity was immoral and offer some reasons to think it really was.

This is me asking a question, I guess... Given that the natural law was available to The pagan Aristotle as well as to the Christian Aquinas, why is it the case that what seems (to me) to be more accurately described primarily as a matter of conscience is much more often described as a religious matter?

Jim Soriano said...

Check out Hadley Arkes's two-cheers-for-the-ruling essay on The Catholic Thing. Arkes's misgiving about the ruling is that it is basically a carve-out for something called "religious belief," a term any good Aristotelian would demand to be defined. In court, the Hobby Lobby owners professed their "belief" that human life begins at conception, whereas they should have used the verb "to know". We know from science that human life begins at conception; we don't profess a religious belief about it. In other words, in order for natural law arguments on conception and abortion to get into the game, we need to get the debate framework out of the domain of religious freedom and into the domain of science.

Anonymous said...

Brandon --

Metaphysics is always relevant.
The problem with metaphors is that they mean only part of what they say, and the problem is to discover which part is meant. After the intended part is defined, then the metaphysics can be done.
I have no idea how to define the intended part of "corporate personhood". That's what lawyers are for. Ask them. They saddled us with the phrase in the first place.

Anon.2

Brandon said...

Metaphysics is always relevant.

No, it's not.

I have no idea how to define the intended part of "corporate personhood".

I didn't ask you to. But if you aren't just jibber-jabbering, you've thought through any potential negative implications of "retiring" the concept and how they might be dealt with. So, I still look forward to your actual account of how to do without the legal category you say we should do without.

Ty said...

@Brandon: " 'Metaphysics is always relevant.'

No, it's not."

!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!?

Why...why say you so? Metaphysics is the study of things qua things. Since every thing is a thing, it follows that metaphysics is always relevant. I think I know what you were trying to say, but this caught me a bit off guard.

Brandon said...

Metaphysics is the study of things qua things. Since every thing is a thing, it follows that metaphysics is always relevant.

This is a logical fallacy. From the fact that every thing is a thing it does not follow that the study of things qua things is relevant to a particular topic. We see this in other cases. From the fact that all clothes are physical objects, for instance, and that physics is the study of physical objects, it does not follow that physics, as the study of physical objects, is relevant to whether I should think of my suit as out of date. It could conceivably be -- perhaps it's a spacesuit and physics has developed new theories that make a better spacesuit possibly -- but it isn't automatically.

The reduplication, however, intensifies the problem: metaphysics doesn't deal with everything, simply speaking, but only things in one aspect. If we're dealing with things under a different aspect -- for instance, if we're dealing with beings not qua being but qua owned-by-me -- the metaphysics is not necessarily relevant. It has to be established whether it is and in what way.

Paul Amrhein said...

@Brandon

This goes to dguller’s question about precedent. I don’t know the history of SCOTUS as well as I’d like. But I have the impression that there is a time to cite precedent and a time to cite other possible sources of wisdom. I know that, for example, the court has in recent years taken to citing foreign courts, not technically as providing precedents, but rather as sources of wisdom. And our system of law has roots as far back as ancient Rome. (If I’m not quite mistaken the natural law tradition goes back all the way to Cicero.) I can’t cite examples of the court citing philosophers or other extra-legal sources, but I believe they must be plentiful. Can you corroborate this?

Scott said...

I agree with the ruling, but just barely. (I should mention that although I am a lawyer, I am not an expert on corporate law.) Here are a few points that indicate the issues are a bit more complicated than they might appear at first glance.

(1) dguller is quite right that corporations (of all kinds) make a sharp distinction between the corporate entity itself and its shareholders, for the express purpose of relieving those shareholders of personal responsibility for the actions of the corporation.

(2) dguller is also quite right that the contraceptives in question are miscalled abortifacients. As I understand it, Plan B, Ella, and IUDs all work by preventing conception, not by killing zygotes; they don't work if fertilization has already occurred. Sure, preventing conception is a grave sin according to Catholicism, but it's not homicide; at any rate, the Hobby Lobby folks aren't Catholics (and don't object to other methods of contraception) and they've got the science wrong.

(3) The Hobby Lobby "corporate person" does not fund/provide contraception. The insurer funds/provides contraception. Hobby Lobby just pays for the insurance, which may or may not be used for that purpose.

I'm on board with not making employers pay for things to which they object on religious, moral, or other grounds. But this ruling is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

Brandon said...

Paul,

Court justices regularly cite non-legal sources, although not generally to identify general legal principles. For instance, the following is a footnote in a dissenting opinion from BARNES v. GLEN THEATRE, INC., 501 U.S. 560 (1991):

JUSTICE SCALIA suggests that performance dancing is not inherently expressive activity, see ante, at 577, n. 4, but the Court of Appeals has the better view: "Dance has been defined as "the art of moving the body in a rhythmical way, usually to music, to express an emotion or idea, to narrate a story, or simply to take delight in the movement itself." 16 The New Encyclopedia Britannica 935 (1989). Inherently, it is the communication of emotion or ideas. At the root of all `[t]he varied manifestations of dancing . . . lies the common impulse to resort to movement to externalise states which we cannot externalise by rational means. This is basic dance. Martin, J., Introduction to the Dance (1939). Aristotle recognized in Poetics that the purpose of dance is "to represent men's character as well as what they do and suffer." The raw communicative power of dance was noted by the French poet Stephane Mallarme, who declared that the dancer "writing with her body . . . suggests things which the written work could express only in several paragraphs of dialogue or descriptive prose." 904 F.2d, at 1085-1086. JUSTICE SCALIA cites Dallas v. Stanglin, 490 U.S. 19 (1989), but that decision dealt with social dancing, not performance dancing; and the submission in that case, which we rejected, was not that social dancing was an expressive activity, but that plaintiff's associational rights were violated by restricting admission to dance halls on the basis of age. The Justice also asserts that, even if dancing is inherently expressive, nudity is not. The statement may be true, but it tells us nothing about dancing in the nude.

Roe v. Wade explicitly cites Plato (Republic) and Aristotle (Politics); it also cites several philosophical works on the morality of abortion and the history of medicine. It's pretty easy to find other examples.

Anonymous said...

The Supreme Court justifies abortion on the grounds of 'the mystery of life' and rules that two men or two women can indeed become married and the religion of the left screams imminent theocracy when it decides that no, no one is constitutionally obliged to provide someone with birth control.

What a joke.

As I said to someone on facebook: do you think the constitution of the U.S requires people to provide you with condoms? If it obviously doesn't oblige people to provide condoms, why then would it oblige people to provide birth control?

Brandon said...

Eric Posner has some interesting comments at Slate, in which he argues that Alito's argument is a probably-correct interpretation of the law (with which he does not agree).

Jeffrey S. said...

Scott,

You say:

"(2) dguller is also quite right that the contraceptives in question are miscalled abortifacients. As I understand it, Plan B, Ella, and IUDs all work by preventing conception, not by killing zygotes; they don't work if fertilization has already occurred."

Wrong.

The word you are looking for is "implantation". They don't prevent conception, they prevent implantation. Some libs think there is some sort of meaningful difference between "pregnancy" (which they define as a zygote getting implanted into the uterus) and human life. The natural moral law, as well as basic Christian ethics, disagrees.

Scott said...

@Jeffrey S.:

"The word you are looking for is 'implantation'. "

No, the word I was looking for was the one I used: "fertilization," which is what the Plan B and Ella pills and IUDs prevent. Although the mechanisms by which these pills and devices worked was not clear when they first became available, it's well settled now. Perhaps you have in mind another form of "emergency contraception."

Me said...

Hi Scott,

But how can we be certain?
Fertilization, Implantation, Conception.

Isn't this a case of fall on the side of caution?
We could all be wrong and it very well may be that a unique life has already formed.
We could all be wrong and it very well may not be a life at all.

But doesn't the fact that we can't be 100% certain demand that, in respect for all human life, we err on the side of caution?

Alypius said...

All methods mentioned (Plan B/Ella/IUDs) help to prevent fertilization, but aren't 100% effective.

When they fail, when it comes to implantation, here is what their effect is:
Plan B - probably does not prevent implantation. Was originally thought to but some evidence came out a couple years ago that it probably doesn't.
Ella - probably doesn't prevent implanatation either, though this is less certain. There is evidence however that there is a higher rate of miscarriage for the embryos that implant which would suggest that Ella is affecting the health of the embryos.
IUDs - I'm not sure about hormonal IUDs (which have a different mechanism) but copper IUDs DEFINITELY prevent implantation. There is no scientific question surrounding this.

I don't have the relevant evidence handy (just leaving the office now) but could provide this if anyone here wants further info.

Greg said...

The Wikipedia article on IUDs cites two articles (notes 37 and 38) that say that, when IUDs fail to prevent fertilization, they often prevent implantation as well.

(The distinction between pregnancy and implantation, which a lot of sources in the news seem to focus on, seems more or less irrelevant. If pregnancy is defined as occurring after implantation, then that would mean an IUD is technically not an "abortifacient" if an abortion is a termination of a pregnancy. But it's not "termination of pregnancy" per se that people tend to object to. They object to the intentional killing of an innocent human life, which would certainly be the case for IUDs that kill the fertilized egg.)

Scott said...

Fair enough; let's take it that IUDs prevent implantation when they fail to prevent fertilization/conception. Hobby Lobby still has its science wrong on Plan B and Ella, and they don't object to contraception per se.

Joe K. said...

Scott,

I've written pretty extensively on the topic (I even have a law review article published on the issue, which I would like to keep anonymous), and I'd like to address some of your points.

(1) dguller is quite right that corporations (of all kinds) make a sharp distinction between the corporate entity itself and its shareholders, for the express purpose of relieving those shareholders of personal responsibility for the actions of the corporation.

People mention this a lot, but it really is besides the point in many ways. If you and I get together to do things: sell things, buy things, whatever, the corporate entity, while a separate "person," is really just us. In the same way the Church is just a group of people with varying views on different things. Put it in a purely religious context. Would it be just to force a church provide abortion coverage for the employees? If not, why not? Because of its religious purpose? If so, why can't a group that sells things also have a religious purpose? What specifically changes between an entity like a church an entity like a corporation? It's all just group actions.

And regardless of this corporate protection, the shareholders themselves have RFRA protection. A law that forces the president to order the corporation to do things he considers immoral infringes on his rights Through the corporation. One could always say, "Well, fine, then quit, and someone else could do it." But this would be an even greater burden on the person. He would be forced to lose his company or his rights to run the company how he sees fit.

(2) dguller is also quite right that the contraceptives in question are miscalled abortifacients. As I understand it, Plan B, Ella, and IUDs all work by preventing conception, not by killing zygotes; they don't work if fertilization has already occurred. Sure, preventing conception is a grave sin according to Catholicism, but it's not homicide; at any rate, the Hobby Lobby folks aren't Catholics (and don't object to other methods of contraception) and they've got the science wrong.

This seems to me to be correct. I've heard conflicting arguments about this, but it does appear that those devices prevent fertilization, not implantation (which apparently can happen sometimes). But this is also is besides the point in a lot of ways. I don't like when people make unscientific claims, but the principle is what's at issue. Imagine a law that says every corporation must provide for abortion coverage for all female employees when requested. The Court needed to address the underlying principle.

(3) The Hobby Lobby "corporate person" does not fund/provide contraception. The insurer funds/provides contraception. Hobby Lobby just pays for the insurance, which may or may not be used for that purpose.

I disagree with this formulation. I think it's more appropriate to understand insurance like vouchers. Buying insurance is buying specific coverage for specific things. Insurance policies list specifically what's covered, which is unlike wages or money, which can be used to purchase anything. In the case of insurance, the employer has to specifically identify what he or she wants covered. And so, in a relevant way, when the coverage is used for the immoral thing, the employer wanted that covered event to occur.

RFRA is an interesting law. But the ruling makes sense considering RFRA precedent. It's incredibly powerful and was formulated to be such.

Scott said...

@Joe K.:

"People mention this a lot, but it really is besides the point in many ways. If you and I get together to do things: sell things, buy things, whatever, the corporate entity, while a separate "person," is really just us. In the same way the Church is just a group of people with varying views on different things. Put it in a purely religious context. Would it be just to force a church provide abortion coverage for the employees?"

Very possibly not. But in that case there's serious question about whether the "corporate veil" is licit in the first place.

"In the case of insurance, the employer has to specifically identify what he or she wants covered. And so, in a relevant way, when the coverage is used for the immoral thing, the employer wanted that covered event to occur."

I think the latter is an overstatement; it would be better, I think, to say that the employer is willing that the covered event should occur. That may be enough for your purposes, though.

Ty said...

@Joe_K

This sounds like a stupid objection, and it probably is, but how would you respond to a Scientologist who, reading about this decision, makes a religious objection to paying for his employees' antidepressants? Or a Jehovah's Witness who does the same wrt blood transfusion?

(In case you're curious, my gut instinct is that it would indeed be injust to make the Scientologist and Jehovah's Witness cover the expenses, but I haven't figure out how to say that in public without getting lynched)

msgrx said...

@ Ty:

The first difference which comes to mind is that depression and blood loss are actually serious medical conditions, whereas pregnancy isn't. Plus of course it's easy not to get pregnant, but not so easy to avoid getting depression or ending up in a horrific accident which leads to large amounts of blood loss.

Joe K. said...

Ty,

I'd say they'd have a pretty solid RFRA claim, considering this case and previous precedent. RFRA effectively gives each person and now closely held corporations the right to demand that the government proves there is no other way to accomplish its compelling interest. And compelling is the highest standard we have. (I honestly think the government should have lost here. There's no way in my mind women having "free" contraception is a compelling, pressing need, but I digress). All the person or corporation needs to do is show that their religious belief is genuine and that the law significantly harms religious action or inaction, even if just incidentally. The scientologist or Christian scientist would be able to make a solid case.

Keep in mind though that they would probably have pretty bad first amendment claims. All of the controversy would likely go away if they repealed RFRA (or just made exceptions to RFRA). Also note that if states pass their own mini contraception mandates, they'd likely be fine (assuming that state doesn't have a Mini-RFRA, which many do), as RFRA only applies to federal law.

Ty said...

@Joe K,

Sure, they might have a solid RFRA claim, but is that good policy?

Is it morally *right* to exempt JWs and Scientologists from paying for important medical services (actually important medical services, not fake ones like contraception).

Again, my primary gut instinct here says "yes", but my secondary gut instinct tells me that's insane.

Joe K. said...

Ty,

Sorry, I misunderstood your question a little bit. Is it good policy? I think it's fine. You need to step back and recognize what it really is. When you do, you see that it isn't "insane."

All a person or company is saying is this: "Hey, government, you think it's really important that women have contraception or that people get antidepressants. Fine. But WE DON'T. So if you want to get what you want, YOU do it. Or find someone else to do it. But just don't put that on us, unless there is No Other Way to accomplish it, because that's your thing, and it violates our values."

Now, if health care were Solely through employers by law, and if there were no other way for people to get it (including charities, the government, whatever else), then it would be more insane. But that's a problem with how health care is done in the country. If we're going to tie health care to the employer, we have to recognize the employer's rights. There's just no way around it.

And of course there are plenty of ways to get health care in this country. Definitely not just through employers who oppose blood transfusions or anti-depressants or contraception. You can go to a different employer. You can get the coverage yourself. You can petition the government for help. You can do lots of things. But the one thing you can't do is force your employer to provide it in a way that violates his religious beliefs. It's really not an odd idea at all.

Step2 said...

I composed a nice story for Jeremy to appreciate.

For those who wish to participate in open and frequent business activity there are many risks that can hinder a promising venture. In order to experience the many benefits of business activity while minimizing potential liabilities, it is often very useful to implement a legal barrier or protection in the form of contra…um, incorporation. This way, exposure to the full consequences of unrestrained business activity is maintained at a safe distance from the private affairs of the owner. In fact, to be prohibited from the benefits of incorporation and to become fully exposed to the unfiltered results of business activity is a severe detriment to the well-being and health of the owner.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Maybe you should talk to the leader of my Church, Step2. He seems to be in a little bit of hot water about business links between the corporate body he overseas and morally dubious companies:

http://www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2014/jun/25/church-england-wonga-stake-archbishop-payday-lender

(Note: Just in case anyone is worried, I don't actually read The Guardian.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

-oversees

Jeremy Taylor said...

Also, my understanding is that, although it is unusual and perhaps arguable, it is certainly possible that IUDs and Plan B can cause abortions. But surely, though uncertain, the chance is enough?

Here's a site which claims that they do not cause abortions, which then goes on to say that they may prevent fertilised eggs from implantation: so, in other words, they can cause abortions.

http://ec.princeton.edu/questions/ecabt.html

Chad Handley said...

For the record, Crude, I applaud yesterday's decision. But the case was decided on the basis of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not Thomistic metaphysics.

While we're going down memory lane, I remember arguing with someone here that the Catholic Church should refuse to fight the culture war when it came to gays and atheists. . I had a good little grin myself when a few days later the Pope said the same thing.

Ty said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

"Also, my understanding is that, although it is unusual and perhaps arguable, it is certainly possible that IUDs and Plan B can cause abortions. But surely, though uncertain, the chance is enough?"

This was my understanding until recently, but I've been contradicted. When I check my sources, however, I see a lot of "well 60-80% of fertilized eggs fail to implant even in normal, non-contracepted circumstances, and that would mean that 60-80% of pregnancies end in abortion, which is absurd; ergo, we redefine pregnancy to mean the time when the egg is implanted in the womb and onwards; ergo, Plan B doesn't cause abortion", which is a stupid line of argument, and doesn't say if Plan B raises that 60-80% chance to 70-90% or anything, which is the information we're after.

Also, fellow Thomists, now that we know that most fertilizations do indeed end in the death of the baby, do we have a moral obligation to develop technologies to prevent this from happening? There's no real theological absurdity in the statistic: St. Thomas lived in a time where such high infant mortality was true on the macroscopic level as well as the microscopic. I'm just curious where our moral obligations lie in this situation

Crude said...

I had a good little grin myself when a few days later the Pope said the same thing.

I've repeatedly defended the Pope's approach to these questions. But I don't recall him declining to fight the culture wars - he said a new approach was needed. I've said the same for a long time now.

Greg said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

Also, my understanding is that, although it is unusual and perhaps arguable, it is certainly possible that IUDs and Plan B can cause abortions. But surely, though uncertain, the chance is enough?

Here's a site which claims that they do not cause abortions, which then goes on to say that they may prevent fertilised eggs from implantation: so, in other words, they can cause abortions.


It seems like a lot of people are saying that the pills, Plan B and ella, do not prevent implantation. (The data is apparently less certain on ella.) However, according to two references on the Wikipedia page (37 and 38), IUDs almost certainly prevent implantation on occasions that they fail to prevent fertilization.

It seems like pregnancy is often defined as beginning with implantation. So if abortion is the termination of the pregnancy, then technically speaking an IUD isn't an abortifacient. That seems pretty irrelevant, though, as anyone's objection to abortifacient is that they end a human life, not that they end a pregnancy per se. A fertilized egg is clearly just as much a human life before implantation as after.

vexingquestions said...

Mechanism of Action for Ella: When taken immediately before ovulation is to occur, ella postpones follicular rupture. The likely primary mechanism of action of ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception is therefore inhibition or delay of ovulation; however, alterations to the endometrium that may affect implantation may also contribute to efficacy.
(http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022474s000lbl.pdf)

Mechanism of action for Plan B: Emergency contraceptive pills are not effective if a woman is already pregnant. Plan B One-Step is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium). It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun.
(http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/021998lbl.pdf)

vexingquestions said...

If the science overturns these statements by the FDA, then perhaps Hobby Lobby can reconsider whether they are morally opposed to them. I would make my moral determinations based on what the FDA currently says rather than on the latest pronouncements from an article in a medical journal (especially given how rampant retractions have become http://retractionwatch.com). In matters like this, I would side on caution and depend upon scientific understanding that is time-tested. That a recent study suggests this or that is hardly a good reason to ignore an FDA label.

Daniel said...

A few thoughts: Whilst I am very much for state healthcare I find the assumption that either employer/state insurance providers should be expected to cover things like contraception in the first place. To put it simplistically: we might divide medical procedures into Wants and Needs, of which the latter would be covered by healthcare plans whilst the former falls within the sphere of the individual’s choice. Now procedures like Vaccinations, Caesareans, Post-Natal care and others are examples of ‘Needs’ whilst surely contraceptive procedures, fertility treatments, sex changes and the like are ‘Want’ based and thus depend upon the person.

It is important to separate the issue of Abortion from that of Contraception and of ‘Women’s Rights’ the fact we speak of gender rights as opposed to Human Rights is rather disturbing). This may sound rather distasteful but it would make no difference were human young to develop independently of the mother when it comes to the question of the morality of terminating developing embryos. These issues are fraught with horrifying distortions of priority – I recall Ed once mentioned a poll which showed that more people were concerned with the question of Gay Marriage than with Abortion. Now, regardless of what stance one ultimately takes on that issue surely the fact that it concerns questions of the very nature and value of Life must prove it to be of higher account than squabbling over the meaning of marriage.

dguller said...

A few comments.

First, it seems pretty clear that the contraceptives at issue either delay ovulation or inhibit implantation. I think that we can all agree that if ovulation is delayed to the point that the sperm decay or die before fertilization, then there is simply no abortion at all. But it seems that there is a disagreement regarding whether the prevention of the implantation of the zygote counts as an abortion, because there is a disagreement about whether the pre-implantation zygote counts as a human being, or only after it has implanted into the uterine wall to receive the necessary physical sustenance to continue its development.

(And interestingly enough, the Supreme Court has now extended their ruling to cover all contraception, including those that prevent pregnancy in the pre-zygote phase altogether, which means that this is not about abortion per se, but rather about controlling and regulating the sexual activity of women towards procreation, irrespective of the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy upon the actual lives of those women.)

Second, if it turns out that the religious beliefs of the employer are simply factually wrong, then do they still need to be respected as more important than the rights of their employees? In this situation, the employers believe that contraceptives that do not affect the zygote actually do affect the zygote, then why should their religious beliefs trump scientific fact, especially when it would lead to a burden upon their employees? And the burden is that their employees are typically low wage earners that would struggle to pay for contraception on their own, and an unplanned pregnancy would compromise their ability to continue to work, which could have a highly detrimental impact upon their lives. Certainly, if the employees received generous maternal support, including extended paid leave, and childcare benefits once they return to work, then matters would be different, but I don’t think that’s the case here.

Third, I don’t think it’s a good argument to avoid the use of contraceptives that delay ovulation simply on the basis that there is a chance that they could also kill zygotes that are formed prior to the use of the contraceptive. The issue is whether they are likely to do so. There are numerous human activities in which it is possible that people will die, but that is not necessarily a reason to avoid them. If the benefits of the activity in question are greater than the risks (such as the risk of death), then there is a good reason to perform the activity.

Fourth, the medical insurance coverage is something that the employees earn by their labor as part of their compensation package, and employees should be free to use their compensation as they see fit as part of what they have earned. If one wants to say that the religious beliefs of employers permit them to restrict what their employees do with their earnings, then why not also restrict what they do with their salaries? In other words, why can’t an employer make their employees sign a contract saying that their payment for their work is conditional upon their inability to use any part of those earnings in activities that the employer finds objectionable?

dguller said...

Fifth, there is something unseemly about prioritizing the conscience and religious sensibilities of powerful employers over the needs of their employees. Those female employees that cannot afford to have an unwanted pregnancy will be substantially burdened in ways that go beyond the hurt feelings of their employers. And note that this includes those who are in committed marriages, but who simply lack the financial resources to lose the income from material leave and child care. The needs of these people simply do not matter, and only because the religious needs of their wealthy and powerful employers are more important. Again, that just seems wrong to me.

And if people really wanted to support these women, then they should first fight for substantial support and care for these women, should they become pregnant and have to leave work, and once that is in place, then fight to restrict their contraceptive options. To first fight to restrict their reproductive choices, and completely ignore their material need for support, is not only cruel, but also counter-productive, because these women will simply turn to other, more dangerous, means to eliminate their unwanted pregnancy, which puts them in a greater degree of risk. In other words, it really seems that there is a complete disregard for the well-being of the women in the way that the issue is approached here.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Dguller,

On your second point, I think the use of the term right is misguided. You are essentially referring to the right for other people pay for things for you. And in this instance we aren't even talking about the state. This reminds me, personally, of the use the likes of the EU make of the term right.

Most contraceptives are relatively inexpensive. And they are not necessary medical devices.

I agree with your third point. I think, though, for most opposed to abortion, a small but not miniscule chance is too much of a chance. The devices mentioned either are in that category, or there are conflicting research findings that may put them in that category.

On the fourth point, I think the point is that the company is providing healthcare directly, in the same way they might provide a company car. This means the company is more closely entangled with the provision than when it just gives a salary.

dguller said...

Jeremy:

On your second point, I think the use of the term right is misguided. You are essentially referring to the right for other people pay for things for you. And in this instance we aren't even talking about the state. This reminds me, personally, of the use the likes of the EU make of the term right.

I didn’t use the term “right” in that point at all. My only point was that if people claim to be absolved of certain responsibilities on the basis of facts that turn out to be false, then should they still be absolved of those responsibilities, just because they think they are right. I think that they shouldn’t, unless their beliefs are grounded in fact.

Most contraceptives are relatively inexpensive.

That is true.

And they are not necessary medical devices.

That is true. But then again, neither are vasectomies, erectile dysfunction medications, any cosmetic surgery, and many other medical treatments, and yet they are all covered by medical insurance without any controversy from the religious right. I suppose if the religious right organized around prohibiting insurance coverage of these services, as well, then it would be easier to take their concerns seriously as about more than the control and regulation of the sexual activity of women towards a primary focus upon procreation.

I agree with your third point. I think, though, for most opposed to abortion, a small but not miniscule chance is too much of a chance. The devices mentioned either are in that category, or there are conflicting research findings that may put them in that category.

Then they should be opposed to all medical care, because there is always a risk of death of varying degrees. But again, the point is that they are not opposed to all medical care, which renders the principles that they use to object to coverage for contraceptive services suspect in my eyes.

On the fourth point, I think the point is that the company is providing healthcare directly, in the same way they might provide a company car. This means the company is more closely entangled with the provision than when it just gives a salary.

First, the company owns the car, but does not own the insurance company. In effect, they are hiring an outside company to provide a service that they must provide by federal law, and they are doing so as compensation for the labor of their employees, which entitles them to the services of that outside company.

Second, they are also “directly” giving the employee money in the case of a salary, and thus should also be “closely entangled” with what the employee chooses to do with that money.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I also think that you are conflating the questions of religious liberty with those of economic power.

Belloc was one of the pioneers of distributism, but he criticised laws passed in Britain in the late 19th century which made companies pay compensation to workers who were killed or injured by dangers they knew about when they took the job (where the company has taken all the precautions it could be expected to). He felt this was a reintroduction of a feudal mindset (indeed, the mindset of a capitalist feudalism worse than the feudalism of the middle ages). He felt it was of the utmost importance to respect the freedom and responsibility of the worker.

Vic said...

"Fifth, there is something unseemly about prioritizing the conscience and religious sensibilities of powerful employers over the needs of their employees. Those female employees that cannot afford to have an unwanted pregnancy will be substantially burdened in ways that go beyond the hurt feelings of their employers. And note that this includes those who are in committed marriages, but who simply lack the financial resources to lose the income from material leave and child care. The needs of these people simply do not matter, and only because the religious needs of their wealthy and powerful employers are more important. Again, that just seems wrong to me."


dguller,
I can't help but read this without picturing the image of a child who wants to have her way regardless of the cost and does not want to be burdened with the natural outcomes (consequences) of a certain action.

On your reasoning shouldn't weight loss pills be covered too?
Eating is more of a fundamental need than sex.

In your reasoning you're assuming that a person lacks the temperance to bridle such actions (sex) in the face of the resulting consequences (having children).

Well, eating is more fundamental than sex. People can be just as lacking of temperance with respects to consumption appetites as they are with sexual appetites.

And these unbridled desires with respects to consumption appetites leads and has lead to numerous people being grossly overweight.

Wouldn't you think it time that employers stop hindering their employees by not funding for weight loss pills?

Vic said...

When one thinks of it they must just be blown away at the inability of others, or the assumed inability of others, to bridle their sexual appetites. In a reasonable world some lady would complain "but I don't have the ability to afford another child and my employers won't pay for my contraception. What am I to do?!".
The clearest, most obvious, sane response would be, "then don't have sex."

How hard is that to grasp?
How depraved of a society is it where the mere mention of "then don't have sex" is met with shock and incredulity.
Where usually reasonable folk like dguller don't even just assume that as a very reaonable, if not the most reasonable, position.

If you're that given to those sexual appetites then how about another very reasonable "then have your male friend where a condom.... very cheap, and you get alot of them."

vexingquestions said...

"But it seems that there is a disagreement regarding whether the prevention of the implantation of the zygote counts as an abortion, because there is a disagreement about whether the pre-implantation zygote counts as a human being, or only after it has implanted into the uterine wall to receive the necessary physical sustenance to continue its development."

Yes, that is a major point of disagreement. Frankly, I am mystified by the idea that a human being comes into existence not at conception but when it implants itself to the uterine wall. Why would that be the moment? I am glad the court has decided that the government should not be the arbiter of metaphysical distinctions.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Dguller,

You did use the term rights.

I think the pertinent point is no one is opposed to those other unnecessary medical procedures, medications, or devices.

On the dangers of these pills, either you misread me or, I think, your point is fallacious. Different procedures have different levels of risk. If the risk these drugs caused abortions was one in five or one in ten, then you'd presumably agree there was no flawed reasoning in the concern of the Greens, from their own point of view. My point is that the dangers from these products, as far as I can make out, is not negligible - like one in ten thousand or something. Now, I'm not an expert on these products, and one could quibble about just how high the risk must be for concerns to be valid, but I don't think your comments accurately reflect the situation.

Well, having worked only student jobs and academic jobs, I must confess I don't know much about company cars, but I had assumed some at least were given to employees. Anyway, I do think there is a clear difference between a company providing a service themselves and just giving their employees a salary. In the former the company is directly involved in providing a service or at least working as a middle man in a definite supply chain. And I think this is the situation when it comes to providing healthcare.

Brandon said...

And interestingly enough, the Supreme Court has now extended their ruling to cover all contraception

This is not true; the Court has reset, so to speak, all cases of this general kind so that they can be reassessed in light of the new ruling, which is standard procedure.

Second, if it turns out that the religious beliefs of the employer are simply factually wrong, then do they still need to be respected as more important than the rights of their employees?

This is jumping to a great many conclusions that are unjustified at this point. (1) The question at hand was only the authority of the federal government to impose such requirements; states, under whose authority health matters directly fall, have more discretion on these matters, and the ruling does not affect them at all -- that's one of the consequences of the Court making it a statutory rather than constitutional issue. (2) The standard way of doing things up to this point has always been that the insurance in question was entirely at the discretion of the employer in the offering of their benefits package as part of the overall employment contract; pretty much the only limitation on this was state regulation, based not on supposed rights but on public health considerations. The particular right you are suggesting simply hasn't existed at all in the United States; the ruling does not actually restrict any already-standing right of the employees. (This is quite uncontroversial; even the arguments of most supporters of the new regulations recognize it.) And if it's going to be introduced, it has to be introduced in a way and form that's both constitutional and legal.

the medical insurance coverage is something that the employees earn by their labor as part of their compensation package, and employees should be free to use their compensation as they see fit as part of what they have earned.

This is going to be true no matter what; use of their insurance is at discretion of the employees, regardless of what it covers. And no insurance covers everything, or everything in exactly the same way, so there are always going to be limitations; doing insurance through employers buying on the market already guarantees that. In the long past this would have been handled by employees buying supplementary insurance for things they themselves particularly wanted that weren't covered; the reason this is less of an option now is expense of insurance.

And if people really wanted to support these women, then they should first fight for substantial support and care for these women, should they become pregnant and have to leave work, and once that is in place, then fight to restrict their contraceptive options.

Hobby Lobby is famous, at least around here, for accommodating family issues like pregnancy or family emergencies; it's part of their cultivated image. (Likewise Hobby Lobby's insurance packages before the regulations were extremely good, far above the market standard and on most matters above the current minimum requirements were all the ACA regulations to stand, and better than any insurance I can get now.) But there's no way to enforce the sort of thing you are suggesting by law.

And, again, it's not a fight "to restrict the contraceptive choices of women" but a fight not to expand them in a way that suddenly forces people to pay for things they think are immoral. In the Hobby Lobby case, we were literally arguing over four out of twenty different kinds of contraceptive coverage required.

dguller said...

Vic:

I can't help but read this without picturing the image of a child who wants to have her way regardless of the cost and does not want to be burdened with the natural outcomes (consequences) of a certain action.

Well, it’s unfortunate that you see women who want access to affordable contraception as immature and reckless sluts who cannot control their sexual impulses, and thus do not deserve any assistance to prevent the possible natural consequences of their reckless behavior. And even if they were out of control in that fashion, then why wouldn’t you intervene to minimize the harmful fallout of their behavior? Would you not prevent a drunk person from driving a car to protect him (and others) from the dangerous consequences of drunk driving? My inclination would be to intervene to help in whatever way is possible to minimize the potential and actual damaging consequences of their actions. But that’s just me.

On your reasoning shouldn't weight loss pills be covered too?
Eating is more of a fundamental need than sex.


Sure.

In your reasoning you're assuming that a person lacks the temperance to bridle such actions (sex) in the face of the resulting consequences (having children).

Most people have faced moments of weakness in which they acted in ways that they later regretted, including many religious individuals, especially with regards to sexual attraction. Although I can see a certain degree of justice in them facing the full fury of the consequences of their actions, I tend to be more forgiving and compassionate, and would much rather spare them pain and suffering, if possible.

The clearest, most obvious, sane response would be, "then don't have sex."

If only it were that easy. Some women are simply seduced by male predators into having sex. Some women are intoxicated, and taken advantage of. Some women simply get caught up in the heat of the moment without a prior intent of meeting a man for a sexual encounter. Some women have psychological issues such that their only sense of self-worth is as a physical sexual object for men, often quite abusive men. My only point is that there is a wide variety of possible scenarios here, and to treat them all as reckless sluts who deserve to have their lives ruined as fair punishment for their stupidity is simply cruel.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Brandon writes,

But there's no way to enforce the sort of thing you are suggesting by law.

I'm not sure it is that important, but in Britain and Australia at least, mandated, paid maternity leave, as well as state childcare subsidies, are available, for better or worse.

Indeed, in Britain and Australia these things are a good example of the expansion of the term right. Many seem to see them as some sort of obvious right.

dguller said...

Jeremy:

You did use the term rights.

You are right, I did. Sorry about that.

My point is that the dangers from these products, as far as I can make out, is not negligible - like one in ten thousand or something. Now, I'm not an expert on these products, and one could quibble about just how high the risk must be for concerns to be valid, but I don't think your comments accurately reflect the situation.

I think the issue is that those who oppose such contraceptives on the basis of the risk of killing a zygote would not accept any level of risk. At least, that is what Me implied at June 30, 2014 at 6:35 PM. But I could be wrong. I was about my use of “right”, after all. ;)

Anyway, I do think there is a clear difference between a company providing a service themselves and just giving their employees a salary. In the former the company is directly involved in providing a service or at least working as a middle man in a definite supply chain. And I think this is the situation when it comes to providing healthcare.

I just don’t see why it would make a difference whether the compensation that an employee earns is directly or indirectly provided by the company. The point is that it is part of their contract for do work X and receive compensation Y for X. If the employer can restrict what the employee does with one kind of compensation, then why not with all compensation? To say that they are “closer” does not help, because one can argue that unless the employer is forced to directly provide the controversial service themselves, then there is clearly a distance or gap between the employer and the service in question. So, one would have to arrive at an agreed-upon distance between the employer and the service such that the employer would feel adequately shielded from the moral implications of the utilization of the service by the employee.

Vic said...

"Well, it’s unfortunate that you see women who want access to affordable contraception as immature and reckless sluts who cannot control their sexual impulses, and thus do not deserve any assistance to prevent the possible natural consequences of their reckless behavior. And even if they were out of control in that fashion, then why wouldn’t you intervene to minimize the harmful fallout of their behavior? Would you not prevent a drunk person from driving a car to protect him (and others) from the dangerous consequences of drunk driving? My inclination would be to intervene to help in whatever way is possible to minimize the potential and actual damaging consequences of their actions. But that’s just me."

dguller, it's simply being unable to control their sexual urges. It's a very reasonable response to someone who can't afford the consequences.

Regarding the drunk driver - good thing insurance companies aren't covering the purchase of booze.



"Although I can see a certain degree of justice in them facing the full fury of the consequences of their actions, I tend to be more forgiving and compassionate, and would much rather spare them pain and suffering, if possible."

Full fury of the consequences?
Sadly enough, with your contraceptive mind set that having a child would be viewed as "full fury".
Again, maybe if people learned to bridle their appetites and learned to accept the consequences then there would be more respect for both the life that is produced and the nature of the sexual act itself.

Regarding viewing these women as 'reckless sluts'....
I'll say this, I am married I have one child and we can't afford another child right now. I refuse to have my wife use contraception for various reasons (one being you can never be certain the totality of effects taking 'mediciation' like that can have) and I am a committed Catholic.... so you know what we do? We don't have sex.

And yes, I would be reckless with actions and debased with mindset if I couldn't control that desire in face of those outcomes.

Brandon said...

Jeremy,

I don't consider maternity and paternity leave "substantial support and care"; but I take your point.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Dguller,

I must admit I'm slightly bemused by the indirect versus direct point. It seems very obvious to me. An employer, unless he is to be some kind of feudal master, can only have so much responsibility for his employees. When you pay someone their wages it is expected that you don't bear responsibility for what they do with them. This seems to me quite clearly distinct to a situation where the employer is involved in providing or procuring servives to an employee.

Vic said...

"If only it were that easy. Some women are simply seduced by male predators into having sex. Some women are intoxicated, and taken advantage of. Some women simply get caught up in the heat of the moment without a prior intent of meeting a man for a sexual encounter. Some women have psychological issues such that their only sense of self-worth is as a physical sexual object for men, often quite abusive men. My only point is that there is a wide variety of possible scenarios here, and to treat them all as reckless sluts who deserve to have their lives ruined as fair punishment for their stupidity is simply cruel."

And many, many, many women are none of those and simply looking for the satisfaction without the consequence.

And even in your scenarios.
What kind of dad would you be? "Oh honey, you got drunk, had sex, and are now pregnant? You innocent pure little flower. You are absolved from all wrong doing."


Greg said...

@ Daniel

A few thoughts: Whilst I am very much for state healthcare I find the assumption that either employer/state insurance providers should be expected to cover things like contraception in the first place. To put it simplistically: we might divide medical procedures into Wants and Needs, of which the latter would be covered by healthcare plans whilst the former falls within the sphere of the individual’s choice. Now procedures like Vaccinations, Caesareans, Post-Natal care and others are examples of ‘Needs’ whilst surely contraceptive procedures, fertility treatments, sex changes and the like are ‘Want’ based and thus depend upon the person.

This is my impression as well. What is somewhat troubling is that some forms of contraception do have other medical uses, and a Catholic (for example) might regard it permissible to use some of them if one were not sexually active at the time.

Given the "least restrictive means" condition, though, the ruling seems to be fair anyway. The fact that contraceptives are by and large used for contraceptive sex, a form of entertainment, seems to warrant some other entity that is capable (like the government) paying for contraceptives.

dguller said...

Brandon:

This is not true; the Court has reset, so to speak, all cases of this general kind so that they can be reassessed in light of the new ruling, which is standard procedure.

After reading a bit more on this, I see that you are correct … as usual!

(1) The question at hand was only the authority of the federal government to impose such requirements; states, under whose authority health matters directly fall, have more discretion on these matters, and the ruling does not affect them at all -- that's one of the consequences of the Court making it a statutory rather than constitutional issue.

But that doesn’t address my point. Hobby Lobby wanted an exemption from federal health care law, because it believed that certain treatments caused abortions, which would violate their religious beliefs. If those treatments do not, in fact, cause abortions, then their beliefs are completely undermined by reality, and thus should not justify an exemption from federal law, unless one wants to argue that religious beliefs should be completely unmoored from objective facts altogether, which would be a radical step to take.

But there's no way to enforce the sort of thing you are suggesting by law.

A federal law mandating paid maternal leave and universal child care would be two ways of achieving this, I think.

And, again, it's not a fight "to restrict the contraceptive choices of women" but a fight not to expand them in a way that suddenly forces people to pay for things they think are immoral. In the Hobby Lobby case, we were literally arguing over four out of twenty different kinds of contraceptive coverage required.

And it turns out that two of them do not actually cause abortions at all, which only leaves IUD’s, and they can only be considered to cause abortions if implantation of the zygote is not a necessary condition for the life of the zygote. In other words, you cannot kill what is not alive to begin with, and the question is whether the zygote is considered to be alive before implantation. Now, given that the zygote clearly has vegetative powers at that point in its development by virtue of cellular metabolism, for example, and vegetative powers are necessary and sufficient for a being to be considered alive, then it would follow that the zygote is alive, irrespective of whether it implants into the uterine wall.

dguller said...

Vic:

dguller, it's simply being unable to control their sexual urges. It's a very reasonable response to someone who can't afford the consequences.

And I’m saying that matters are a bit more complicated than a bunch of out of control sluts.

Regarding the drunk driver - good thing insurance companies aren't covering the purchase of booze.

Contraception does not impair one’s judgment, but rather serves to protect someone from an unwanted consequence of sexual activity. A better analogy would be with seatbelts. Yes, mandating the use of seatbelts could increase the chance of reckless driving by people who believe themselves to be safe from the medical consequences of a car accident, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t mandate seatbelt use to let idiot drivers get into car accidents that they fully deserve due to their own personal stupidity.

Sadly enough, with your contraceptive mind set that having a child would be viewed as "full fury".

For a single woman living on minimum wage, and unable to afford a child, having a child under those circumstances, without adequate support and aid, would be catastrophic. That is why women have had unsafe abortions throughout history. It was not to avoid a minor inconvenience or due to being a horrible human being. It was that they did not feel that they had the abilities or resources to properly care for a child. In many cases, they probably were right.

Again, maybe if people learned to bridle their appetites and learned to accept the consequences then there would be more respect for both the life that is produced and the nature of the sexual act itself.

Sure, and maybe if people stopped being human and learned to be angels, then we wouldn’t have any problems here at all.

so you know what we do? We don't have sex.

And good for you! But just because you can do it, does not mean that everyone can (or should).

And yes, I would be reckless with actions and debased with mindset if I couldn't control that desire in face of those outcomes.

But you would be responsible if you took precautions to minimize the negative outcomes with protective measures. For example, drinking excessively would be irresponsible, but if someone had a predetermined designated driver and other safeguards, then they are actually being quite responsible. Similarly, if a woman knows that she is unable to be a good mother at that time in her life, but still wants to enjoy having sex, then using contraception is actually being quite responsible, given the circumstances. Sure, it would be better if she remained celibate, but human nature being what it is, contraception is a reasonable and responsible protective measure.

And many, many, many women are none of those and simply looking for the satisfaction without the consequence.

And they should be forced to carry their unwanted baby to term, and either deal with the emotional consequences of raising the child themselves, a child that they are unprepared to care for, and could possibly neglect, or give that child up for adoption, which can itself be a traumatic experience for a woman. But I suppose that’s all a fair price to pay for being horny and giving in to temptation.

What kind of dad would you be? "Oh honey, you got drunk, had sex, and are now pregnant? You innocent pure little flower. You are absolved from all wrong doing."

Actually, what I would say is, “Oh honey, you got drunk, had sex, and are now pregnant? I love you no matter what you do, and will help you figure out what is best to do in this situation. If you want to have an abortion, then I’ll support you through that. If you want to keep the child, then I’ll support you through that.” She wouldn’t need to hear from me that she made a mistake, because she would probably already know that. I see no need to rub salt in her wounds, especially if she’s my daughter who I love. But again, that’s just me.

Brandon said...

Hobby Lobby wanted an exemption from federal health care law, because it believed that certain treatments caused abortions, which would violate their religious beliefs. If those treatments do not, in fact, cause abortions, then their beliefs are completely undermined by reality, and thus should not justify an exemption from federal law, unless one wants to argue that religious beliefs should be completely unmoored from objective facts altogether, which would be a radical step to take.

You have the structure right -- the request for exemption was based on religious beliefs. That the reasons for them were flawed doesn't make them any less religious. And it's religious belief and practice that's protected; only necessity of governance and safety of citizens give the government room to maneuver on this. There are two additiona issues in what you are suggesting. (1) By what practical means is the government going to assess the scientific accuracy of the religious beliefs of its citizens in order to only protect the scientifically accurate ones? (2) Are you really suggesting that if a religious group has scientific incorrect ideas that this in and of itself gives the government of a free society the right to persecute them? Because in practice that's what it is. That's why the Supreme Court in its decision here deliberately warned the government about approaching the matter in a way in which it assumes it has the right to decide what religious views are acceptable.

A federal law mandating paid maternal leave and universal child care would be two ways of achieving this, I think.

It doesn't -- it seems to me simple nonsense to pretend that either or both of these things constitute "substantial care and support" rather than obvious stopgap measures. But as I noted to Jeremy, I take the point. It's just that neither of these things have a necessary connection to this issue.

And it turns out that two of them do not actually cause abortions at all,

And you have not established the relevance of this -- it doesn't magically turn a situation in which government coercion is used to force people to do things the people think is immoral into anything else.

Vic said...

dguller, then you would make a horrible father.

Because only a horrible father would support their daughter getting an abortion. Killing another innocent life. Not only that, but your daughter would also be a volitional agent. She very well would suffer from the psychological damage of knowning that she killed a child (her child).
But you, the doting, supportive father would be very understanding as she made that terribly incautious decision.


Everything else you have said boils down to "people shouldn't have to be responsible for their actions.... and their employers should foot the cost of supporting their sexual urges".

"She wouldn’t need to hear from me that she made a mistake, because she would probably already know that. I see no need to rub salt in her wounds, especially if she’s my daughter who I love. But again, that’s just me."

Oh.... how sentimental.
Your love allows you to myopically focus on being "the good ol' pops". Who doesn't feel the need of being an actual support to his fictional daughter.
Because we all know that condemning bad behaviors and praising good behaviors really gets a parent nowhere.

dguller said...

Brandon:

That the reasons for them were flawed doesn't make them any less religious.

And I think that is a huge problem, because laws shouldn’t just be able what people thought was true, but rather about what is true. If someone broke a law, because they thought what they did was legal, then they are not automatically absolved of guilt, although a judge may be lenient with them. Again, what matters are the facts of the matter. Furthermore, say that someone wants to opt out of a federal law, because their religious beliefs declare them to be aliens in disguise, and thus not human, and thus not bound by human laws. Surely, you would balk at granting them religious immunity, and your rejection would probably be based upon the fact that their beliefs are objectively false. In other words, there must be some limit to what one’s religious beliefs entitle one to do (and not do), especially when those religious beliefs are allegedly rooted in objective facts.

(1) By what practical means is the government going to assess the scientific accuracy of the religious beliefs of its citizens in order to only protect the scientifically accurate ones?

If a religious belief makes a claim about a scientific matter, then the scientific consensus should prevail over the religious belief. Note that this has nothing to do with whether abortion is right or wrong, but only about whether certain methods of contraception cause abortion to occur at all, which is a scientific matter, once a definition of “abortion” is agreed upon.

(2) Are you really suggesting that if a religious group has scientific incorrect ideas that this in and of itself gives the government of a free society the right to persecute them?

No. What I’m saying is that if a religious person claims the right to do (or not do) X on the basis of objective facts Y, then if Y is false, then they lose the right to do (or not do) X.

It doesn't -- it seems to me simple nonsense to pretend that either or both of these things constitute "substantial care and support" rather than obvious stopgap measures. But as I noted to Jeremy, I take the point. It's just that neither of these things have a necessary connection to this issue.

First, if you want to know how substantial such measures would be to the lives of families, then either take them away from people who have them, or give them to people who don’t, and I’m pretty sure you’ll see that people’s lives are quite transformed, either way.

Second, I think they do have a necessary connection to this issue, because those who insist on all women to avoid all forms of contraception and abortion must accept the inevitable consequences of a large number of pregnancies that would carry a substantial financial burden upon the women involved. For those same people to not work equally hard to establish a system to support those women during the pregnancy and in helping them properly raise their children afterwards would seem to be a matter of bad faith, at least to me.

And you have not established the relevance of this -- it doesn't magically turn a situation in which government coercion is used to force people to do things the people think is immoral into anything else.

It does, if the factual basis of their claims is demonstrated to be false. Remember that their position is that if these products cause abortions, then we have the right to restrict their use by our employees. The antecedent has not been demonstrated, and thus the consequent does not follow.

Vic said...

"She wouldn't need to hear from me that she made a terrible mistake because maybe, she probably, possibly, knows that it could be the case that she might just have possibly made a terrible mistake."


Yeah, dguller, best to err on the side of not being a noble figure for you daughter because who knows... she might already, probably, knows that she may just have possibly made a bad decision.


You would put forth a more consistent effort in correcting the religiously minded folk of this blog than trying to help your daughter make good decisions.

Bravo.

Brandon said...

And I think that is a huge problem, because laws shouldn’t just be able what people thought was true, but rather about what is true.

This is an obviously incoherent conception of law, which is about practical reality and requires the cooperation of citizens, not about what might be best in the abstract.


If a religious belief makes a claim about a scientific matter, then the scientific consensus should prevail over the religious belief.


This doesn't answer the question at all. By what practical means is the government to assess the scientific accuracy of religious beliefs so as only to protect the religious views that are scientifically accurate?

No. What I’m saying is that if a religious person claims the right to do (or not do) X on the basis of objective facts Y, then if Y is false, then they lose the right to do (or not do) X.

This directly implies that governments can persecute religious groups that believe false things by pressuring them out of ordinary participatory activities in society.

I’m pretty sure you’ll see that people’s lives are quite transformed

I find this a ridiculously low standard; it lets anything that is widespread and has economic effects count as 'substantial support and care'. But as I said, I take the general point about law being able to do something.

those same people to not work equally hard to establish a system to support those women during the pregnancy and in helping them properly raise their children afterwards would seem to be a matter of bad faith, at least to me

(1) You haven't established that they don't, particularly given the low standard you've already suggested. (2) What if it is bad faith? Lots of politics is; that doesn't change most of the practical realities.

It does, if the factual basis of their claims is demonstrated to be false. Remember that their position is that if these products cause abortions, then we have the right to restrict their use by our employees.

(1) This is not in fact their position; the employees can use them all they want. Their position is that they do not want to be morally complicit in actively contributing to the ability to do it. (2) Again, you have not established that the demonstration of its falsehood is relevant. You have merely restated it over and over again instead of drawing it from actual principles governing civil life in a free society.

Brandon said...

dguller,

It's worth noting, incidentally, that the role you are insisting scientific results have is exactly the same as the role some people gave above when they said, "just do the metaphysics", and your claims about its relevance appear to be based on the same logical fallacy, at least as far as I can tell from what little you've said justifying it.

dguller said...

Vic:

Because only a horrible father would support their daughter getting an abortion. Killing another innocent life. Not only that, but your daughter would also be a volitional agent. She very well would suffer from the psychological damage of knowning that she killed a child (her child).

The reality is that in such a situation, there is a great deal of psychological risk, irrespective of what a woman chooses to do. Keeping a child that results in a woman having to abandon important hopes and dreams is a breeding ground for resentment and psychological abuse, especially if keeping the child results in a lower socioeconomic quality of life. Abortion also carries risks in terms of long-term regret. Ultimately, it would be up to my daughter to decide what was best, and I would try to give her time and space to make a decision. She got into this problem due to impaired and impulsive thinking, and I would rather she made a considered choice than another rash one.

Everything else you have said boils down to "people shouldn't have to be responsible for their actions.... and their employers should foot the cost of supporting their sexual urges".

No. People will face consequences for their actions, no matter what, but I would try to minimize the worst of the consequences, if possible. I mean, say that someone had sex, and became pregnant in an unwanted fashion. Furthermore, say that they had not adequately prepared financially to have the child, and say that there were financial supports available to ease the burden. Would you say that they shouldn’t take advantage of those financial supports, and should go into poverty instead, because she made a bad choice? Of course not. You would assist her in taking advantage of whatever supports are available to ease her burden, because the greater her burden, the harder it will be for her to be a good mother to the child.

Oh.... how sentimental.

Yup, that’s me. Trying not to pour gasoline on fire.

Your love allows you to myopically focus on being "the good ol' pops". Who doesn't feel the need of being an actual support to his fictional daughter.

Again, I don’t see the benefit to my daughter to rub her face in her mistake, when she already knows that she made a mistake. Do I need to point out the obvious to her, just so I can feel morally superior to her? Am I without sin? Can I cast the stone?

Chad Handley said...

I don't recall him declining to fight the culture wars - he said a new approach was needed. I've said the same for a long time now.

He said that the Church has a right to express its opinions but that it shouldn't interfere in the lives of gays and lesbians. When I said that pretty much verbatim here, you not only disagreed, you proceeded to interrogate me to determine whether or not I was actually a Christian.

So, excuse me for assuming that his new approach is not your new approach.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"What I’m saying is that if a religious person claims the right to do (or not do) X on the basis of objective facts Y, then if Y is false, then they lose the right to do (or not do) X."

Under the applicable law in this case, though, that's not true; the RFRA doesn't (and, Constitutionally, shouldn't) say a word about the objective truth of anyone's religious belief.

If Hobby Lobby was wrong on the facts about how the birth control methods in question actually work, then it's arguable that (a) Hobby Lobby (by its own standards) should have taken a different view of those methods, and/or (b) the Supreme Court should have declined to hear the case on the grounds of lack of ripeness (though I don't see how they could have done so without at least enough of a hearing to make a finding on the scientific facts). But so far as I can see, neither of those affects the soundness or otherwise of the ruling it issued under the RFRA.

There's also, to my mind, a possible Constitutional difficulty about a law that requires the government to decide what is genuinely going to count as a religious belief and provide legal protection on that basis. Your objection about the underlying factual basis of belief might be better made on those grounds—though, again, that affects the Constitutionality of the RFRA itself, not the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case (which didn't address the Constitutionality of the law in question).

"It does, if the factual basis of their claims is demonstrated to be false. Remember that their position is that if these products cause abortions, then we have the right to restrict their use by our employees. The antecedent has not been demonstrated, and thus the consequent does not follow."

As Brandon has already noted, that's not Hobby Lobby's position. However, I do agree that at some point during the upward climb through the courts, someone should have argued that Hobby Lobby's position was factually inaccurate. (And I don't know that no one did; I haven't traced the case back down through the lower courts. But even though I think the case was rightly decided, something's not quite passing the smell test for me.)

dguller said...

Brandon:

This doesn't answer the question at all. By what practical means is the government to assess the scientific accuracy of religious beliefs so as only to protect the religious views that are scientifically accurate?

Let’s look at this case. Does Plan B cause an abortion? Well, an abortion is necessarily caused after fertilization. The scientific fact is that Plan B works by preventing fertilization by altering reproductive hormone levels. Since Plan B acts before fertilization, its activity cannot cause an abortion. So, in this case, the practical means is the scientific study of how Plan B prevents pregnancy, and the determination of whether or not its mechanism of action is operative before or after fertilization.

This directly implies that governments can persecute religious groups that believe false things by pressuring them out of ordinary participatory activities in society.

If those religious groups hinge their activities upon factual claims, then the falsity of those claims nullifies the very justification for their activities. That has nothing to do with the government, but with their own rationale undermining itself.

I find this a ridiculously low standard; it lets anything that is widespread and has economic effects count as 'substantial support and care'. But as I said, I take the general point about law being able to do something.

And I’d say that allowing a woman to continue to earn a living, while not having most of her earnings used to pay for day care, and being allowed to take maternity leave with pay, would lessen the burden of motherhood, and thus remove some incentives towards contraception and abortion. I think it’s fair to say that no amount of support would eliminate all risk of unwanted pregnancy, but it would go a long way towards significantly decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, which would be a goal that conservative Christians would share with everyone else.

(1) You haven't established that they don't, particularly given the low standard you've already suggested.

That’s true. Can you direct me to any resources of anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive organizations lobbying the government and business and religious institutions to provide support for women with unwanted pregnancies and limited supports?

(2) What if it is bad faith? Lots of politics is; that doesn't change most of the practical realities.

But it goes to show that they do not actually care about the women. Say that you want end E to occur. There are conditions C in which E would occur with a greater degree of goodness. If someone says that they want E, but does not work towards C, then why don’t they? Don’t they want an E that is as good as possible, or is the goal to have E occur, even in a minimal state of goodness? In this case, is the goal to have women with unwanted pregnancies deliver babies, or is the goal to have women with unwanted pregnancies to deliver babies and be able to care and support their children as much as possible?

dguller said...

(1) This is not in fact their position; the employees can use them all they want. Their position is that they do not want to be morally complicit in actively contributing to the ability to do it.

I don’t think you avoid my point, though. Yes, they do not want to be morally complicit in actively contributing to the ability to use contraceptives that cause abortions, but they are agreeable to be morally complicit in actively contributing to the ability to use contraceptives that do not cause abortions. If two of the contraceptives that they believe to cause abortions, in fact, do not, then they should have no moral issues with supporting their use, on their own terms.

(2) Again, you have not established that the demonstration of its falsehood is relevant. You have merely restated it over and over again instead of drawing it from actual principles governing civil life in a free society.

If someone believes that certain activities follow from certain objective facts, then if those objective facts can be shown to be false, then that will nullify and negate the rationale and basis of support for the activities, irrespective of what someone believes. If someone believes that they can fly, then it does not follow that they can, in fact, fly, and any attempt would meet with dire consequences. Again, this has nothing to do with a believer’s beliefs about God or their religion, but about how those beliefs interact with the material world that science studies. It is only in that domain that their beliefs can be assessed from a scientific standpoint, and if certain beliefs are unsupported by scientific conclusions, then any behavioral consequences from those beliefs are equally unsupported.

Greg said...

He said that the Church has a right to express its opinions but that it shouldn't interfere in the lives of gays and lesbians.

To which of his comments are you referring?

dguller said...

Scott:

But so far as I can see, neither of those affects the soundness or otherwise of the ruling it issued under the RFRA.

I understand. I wasn’t making an argument on the basis of American law here, but on the underlying principles involved. I think that if someone’s religious beliefs make objective claims that are within the domain of science to study, and science shows those objective claims to be false, then whatever behavioral consequences were justified on the basis of those objective claims should be thereby nullified. For example, say a religious believer stated that if they believe that they do not earn any money, then they should not have to pay income taxes. If it is then demonstrated by an investigation that the believer does, in fact, earn money through work, then it does not follow that they should not have to pay income taxes, because the antecedent condition of the major premise is false. It does not matter if they do not believe that they earned money through work, because they did, in fact, earn money through work. That’s the general idea that I’m defending.

Brandon said...

Let’s look at this case. Does Plan B cause an abortion?

Again, you're avoiding the question. Vague appeals to vague scientific research is not a 'practical means' of any kind. By what practical means is the government to assess whether religious beliefs are scientifically accurate enough for protection? What is the due process here?

If those religious groups hinge their activities upon factual claims, then the falsity of those claims nullifies the very justification for their activities. That has nothing to do with the government, but with their own rationale undermining itself.

This is irrelevant. It's not justifications that are protected but beliefs affecting practices and the practices themselves.

Can you direct me to any resources of anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive organizations lobbying the government and business and religious institutions to provide support for women with unwanted pregnancies and limited supports?

There are lots; most large-scale pro-life organizations in the US do it, and there are significant numbers of Catholic organizations, of course, involved in these kinds of activities. But this is irrelevant as well; your argument requires that we be talking about the same people, and here we're talking about Hobby Lobby and other corporations that might claim the exemption. So the question is whether the owners of Hobby Lobby take steps to help women in need of support, both through the corporation and independently. That's just a matter of public record; I've already noted their reputation, at least. So the question would be (1) is this 'substantial care and support' (it seems to be by the standard you suggested) and (2) how do other corporations claiming the exemption fare?

But it goes to show that they do not actually care about the women.

It does not; it merely says something about priorities. All for-profit corporations will have higher priorities than care for employments -- e.g., continuing to exist. But if they really don't care? What practical significance does that have? Should we have government authorities going around assessing whether people really and truly care, as well as assessing whether they have false premises, before we recognize rights?

If two of the contraceptives that they believe to cause abortions, in fact, do not, then they should have no moral issues with supporting their use, on their own terms.

Without them being convinced of the facts, you are still advocating that the government actively coerce them into doing something they regard as immoral.

If someone believes that certain activities follow from certain objective facts, then if those objective facts can be shown to be false, then that will nullify and negate the rationale and basis of support for the activities, irrespective of what someone believes

It will mean that that rationale was wrong, yes; but you have again not established that this has anything to do with civil rights or the protection of free citizens. There is no other right that you lose simply by being mistaken or stupid, and there are phrases for when governments take it on themselves to strip people of rights entirely on the justification that they are wrong: infringement of rights and usurpation of power. Having the rights of a citizen is not conditional on being informed and brilliant enough never to reason badly. Any conception of law under which this is how rights work is, again, incoherent.

Brandon said...

For example, say a religious believer stated that if they believe that they do not earn any money, then they should not have to pay income taxes. If it is then demonstrated by an investigation that the believer does, in fact, earn money through work, then it does not follow that they should not have to pay income taxes, because the antecedent condition of the major premise is false.

This is not right. The reason they have to pay taxes is that tax collection is literally necessary to the governance of the society and they meet the conditions that have been established by constitutional process, not the fact that they are incorrect about anything. They have to pay taxes because they have no prior right not to pay them.

Vic said...

When did it even become an issue that insurances should be covering contraceptive means?
Even things like vasectomies.

When did these first start getting covered?


I'd be fine if all them were not covered.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the HHS mandate and the moral theology issue of "commission of sin" and complicity in sin, there was an excellent article discussing that issue published before the Hobby Lobby ruling was decided:
http://ethikapolitika.org/2014/01/20/curmudgeon-argument-notre-dame/

The author uses Alphonsus Ligouri's discussion really well

msgrx said...

dguller:

Cancer causes more deaths than road accidents. Does it therefore follow that road-safety campaigners don't really care about reducing deaths unless they also spend time helping to cure cancer?

Chad Handley said...

Greg:

The comments in this article:

http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2013/09/19/pope-francis-church-shouldnt-interfere-spiritually-lgbt-lives

Paul Amrhein said...

@Vic

I think you should be grateful for the unusual willpower you have been given, by God’s grace, rather than, as you *seem* to be, contemptuous of those who lack it. It would be wonderful if you could teach others how reach your level.

msgrx said...

@ Paul, dguller:

'Tis odd, but from reading your comments I'd never have guessed that humanity managed to get on perfectly fine before condoms were invented. Maybe -- just maybe -- not sleeping around isn't actually as difficult as you seem to think.

The Irish Thomist said...

dguller

I don’t think you avoid my point, though. Yes, they do not want to be morally complicit in actively contributing to the ability to use contraceptives that cause abortions, but they are agreeable to be morally complicit in actively contributing to the ability to use contraceptives that do not cause abortions. If two of the contraceptives that they believe to cause abortions, in fact, do not, then they should have no moral issues with supporting their use, on their own terms.

Please define your terms or rather – what do you mean when you use the word 'abortion'? I suspect you may be using the word slightly differently to those replying to you.

I don't have time to reply back and forth; I am just going to make an observation. My position is certainly not supporting this enthusiasm to force people to do what they think is murder of the innocent. Atheists also oppose abortion (from personal experience) so I would argue this court case also comes down to principles of conscientious objection that can be defended on rational terms. I can't say the same for Jehovah's Witnesses in relation to blood transfusion or a myriad of other 'beliefs' but this is certainly defensible – well because it happens to be true in my opinion.

I don't think it is reason taking the front seat, but rather passion ruling reason when people are so fanatical about their 'free' sex lives that they want to impose their 'choice'* (in this case being complicit with murder) on others.


[Choice usually meaning – choice to end the life of the child developing/growing in ones womb. Intentionally vague and unspecific like 'Reproductive Health' i.e. mostly abortion but we will pretend we mean those other actual health problems as well]

Paul Amrhein said...

@Msgrx

All I need say is, perhaps “not sleeping around” it is more difficult for some of us than you think. If you really think it’s easy for everyone then you lack common sense

The Irish Thomist said...

@Paul Amrhein

While I agree that charity is important and we must be be merciful, especially to the weak etc. (and understand the endocrinology and psychology of sexual habits) I don't think you in the least made a counter argument to Vic. This is more of a red herring.

Her point was simple. I will put it in my own words; maybe avoid sex if you don't want children (and would rather kill them than have that responsibility). True this isn't a simple issue and there are many difficult situations which require genuine sensitivity. Although very often if not mostly its a case of ending their developing child's life rather than take responsibility for the natural consequence of sex.

Vic said...

"All I need say is, perhaps “not sleeping around” it is more difficult for some of us than you think. If you really think it’s easy for everyone then you lack common sense."


It's obviously very simple, because it involves inaction.

That's not to say it's easy, because people let their appetites run wild. Many folk, apparently, see no value in holding those appetites in check... or, don't understand that they should even be held in check (I doubt this one is the case though).
Or are so given to those appetites that Prudence and Temperance are simply snuffed out.

dguller said...

Brandon:

Again, you're avoiding the question. Vague appeals to vague scientific research is not a 'practical means' of any kind. By what practical means is the government to assess whether religious beliefs are scientifically accurate enough for protection? What is the due process here?

Okay. The government can create some kind of a food and drug administration that employs scientists who have access to researchers who study how contraceptive devices actually prevent pregnancy. They can engage in research that involves the administration of these devices, the monitoring of hormone levels, the observation of how the ovaries, ova, sperm, and other reproductive organs and products operate under those conditions. Based upon the results of these investigations, the mechanism of action of the contraceptives can be determined, and if the mechanism of action occurs prior to fertilization, then the contraceptive device cannot objectively cause abortions, which necessary occur after fertilization.

This is irrelevant. It's not justifications that are protected but beliefs affecting practices and the practices themselves.

As Scott mentioned, this may not be relevant to current American law. I was just making the broader point that it makes no sense, at least, to me, that a person can infer a consequence from a premise that they believe to be true, and even after that premise is shown to be false, can still sustain that consequence’s applicability.

There are lots; most large-scale pro-life organizations in the US do it, and there are significant numbers of Catholic organizations, of course, involved in these kinds of activities.

Great. Those organizations cannot be accused of operating in bad faith. My argument only applied to organizations that seek to restrict contraception and abortion options without also laying the groundwork to financially and emotionally support women who have unwanted pregnancies during the pregnancy and thereafter. Those organizations are operating on bad faith. They go to great lengths to force women to have unwanted babies, and then abandon them to deal with the consequences on their own without any further support, which would have a detrimental impact upon the quality of life of the mother and child.

So the question would be (1) is this 'substantial care and support' (it seems to be by the standard you suggested) and (2) how do other corporations claiming the exemption fare?

Regarding (1), I don’t know what Hobby Lobby is doing to support women who have unwanted pregnancies that want to keep their children. And I have no idea about (2), either.

It does not; it merely says something about priorities.

Yes, it says that life is more important than quality of life. In other words, once life is achieved, there does not have to be any consideration of the quality of that life or the need for any assistance to improve it. That is like a car dealer saying that the only priority is making a sale, and once the car is off the lot, the dealership is not responsible for whether the automobile is functional or not. After all, how well the car drives and functions is a secondary matter to simply getting someone to buy a car.

dguller said...

Without them being convinced of the facts, you are still advocating that the government actively coerce them into doing something they regard as immoral.

Yes, but only if it can be objectively determined that the basis upon which their claims of immorality are false.

It will mean that that rationale was wrong, yes; but you have again not established that this has anything to do with civil rights or the protection of free citizens. There is no other right that you lose simply by being mistaken or stupid, and there are phrases for when governments take it on themselves to strip people of rights entirely on the justification that they are wrong: infringement of rights and usurpation of power. Having the rights of a citizen is not conditional on being informed and brilliant enough never to reason badly. Any conception of law under which this is how rights work is, again, incoherent.

No-one has the right that the material world must operate according to how one believes it works, irrespective of what objective investigation has demonstrated. Religious believers may believe whatever they want, but when their claims meet empirical reality, then they must reckon with scientific conclusions about empirical reality, especially when their beliefs involve restricting the behavior of others. For example, would it be okay for a Christian to refuse to hire a Jew, because they believe the Jews murder Christian children in a ritualistic fashion, and they do not want to contribute financially to this Jewish custom, believing that the Jews that they hire must pay a fee to support the ritual murder? The Christian has a right to be “mistaken or stupid”, and still retain his rights, especially if he (or she) believes them to be part of their religious faith.

The Irish Thomist said...

All I need say is, perhaps “not sleeping around” it is more difficult for some of us than you think. If you really think it’s easy for everyone then you lack common sense

I agree. This is to do with forming habits, hormones and the like but then if you are trying to argue along the lines of "It's hard and I want" then even you can guess that isn't going to get very far.

We all struggle with many things; and fall (including everyone discussing this in the comments). Who is the better; those who try and desire to do good and not evil and maybe don't always get it right or those who constantly don't care about anything apart from their desires?

dguller said...

Brandon:

This is not right. The reason they have to pay taxes is that tax collection is literally necessary to the governance of the society and they meet the conditions that have been established by constitutional process, not the fact that they are incorrect about anything. They have to pay taxes because they have no prior right not to pay them.

But why can’t exceptions to tax collection be made? They are already made for those who are simply too poor to pay income taxes, because such payment would place a burden upon them. What about the moral burden upon those whose religious beliefs insist that they cannot earn income? Shouldn’t an exception be made for them? After all, there are still plenty of other people who pay taxes, and so the system will not collapse. This is just going to be a tiny, minor exception that shouldn’t be that much of a big deal.

Vic said...

Paul said:

"I think you should be grateful for the unusual willpower you have been given, by God’s grace, rather than, as you *seem* to be, contemptuous of those who lack it. It would be wonderful if you could teach others how reach your level."

You seem to think it very easy for me to do. While I grant you that God's grace informs my action, I still have to act in accord with that grace.

That's not always an easy thing to do.

Someone who doesn't prioritize their life can't simply say, "Well, God never graced me with the ability to prioritize my life".

I'm blessed to have the wife I have. I made a decision (even before becoming Catholic) that I did not want her to take some pill that will mess with her body so as to allow us to have sex with nary a consequence.
I think some of this is natural reasoning....
The significance or worth of our relationship does not hinge solely on how often we can make a run for the bedroom.

We are not wealthy either. Every time we have made that decision to have sex we both, unvocalized, understood that if God grants us another child then so be it.
If that means some of our interests will have to go back burner.... then so be that too.

Yes, I won't deny that God's grace has not been abundant in my life.
But there is still much heavy lifting required for both my wife and I.

Greg said...

@ Chad

He said:

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."

You said:

"[T]he Catholic Church should refuse to fight the culture war when it came to gays and atheists. . I had a good little grin myself when a few days later the Pope said the same thing."

And elaborating:

"He said that the Church has a right to express its opinions but that it shouldn't interfere in the lives of gays and lesbians."

If he had just said "interfere," rather than "interfere spiritually," your reading would be plausible. But he is stating a general principle that we cannot interfere spiritually in anyone's life. To take that broadly enough to engender a repudiation of the culture war is more than a little implausible.

Paul Amrhein said...

@Vic, et al



“That's not to say it's easy, because people let their appetites run wild.” Vic

Or because their appetites are so much stronger to begin with. Surely we are not all born equal in this regard. Furthermore, all too many of us, through no fault, may as well have been raised by wolves. A blanket stance of *contempt* toward the weak is plainly immoral.

Irish,
I think I missed your point. I don’t think I was quibbling with Vic’s reasoning, but rather with her *apparent* attitude.

Paul Amrhein said...

@Vic et al

I posted a reply before seeing some of your recent messages. I'm going to try to catch up. Then I'll wait a while before posting again.

Vic said...

"Or because their appetites are so much stronger to begin with. Surely we are not all born equal in this regard. Furthermore, all too many of us, through no fault, may as well have been raised by wolves. A blanket stance of *contempt* toward the weak is plainly immoral."

As much as I'd like to get into a "personal story pissing match", I won't.

And it's not so cut and dry about who was raised what what type of parent.
My parents were pretty open-minded about such things.
When I was in high school my dad found a condom in my jean pocket and his only comment was to get a better type next time (with a chuckle).

I find it funny how quickly you jump to it being contempt on my part.
There is no difficulty in me saying that I care very deeply for these people while at the same time holding great disdain for the action.

Can a child of an alcoholic not love his mom on the one hand while being furious with her over her consumption of alcohol?
If you think this is impossible, I can assure you it's not.

Vic said...

*ahem*
Vic is short for Victor.

:)

Vic said...

I bet a child of an alcoholic would be begging some of you to not hold this "well, no grace from God... no one's fault" when he looks upon his mother slouched in a recliner, on the verge of passing out.

He would probably be begging you to not come up with any more reasons to justify her indulgence in liquor.
Or to waive off any personal responsibility on her part in the face of those very strong appetites.

Paul Amrhein said...

@Vic,

“Yes, I won't deny that God's grace has not been abundant in my life.
But there is still much heavy lifting required for both my wife and I.”

I did get the impression that you thought it should be easy. Consider me disabused. You probably already do what I’m urging. You don’t really need me to tell you. I may have gotten a wrong impression of you. It wasn’t altogether clear to me that your disdain was for the action rather than the actor.
If I gave the impression of wanting to “waive” personal responsibility, I didn’t mean to. I can think of few things as important or rewarding as self-discipline.
PS Oops sorry, *Victor*

Chad Handley said...

Greg:

Maybe I should have cited this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/world/europe/pope-bluntly-faults-churchs-focus-on-gays-and-abortion.html?hp&_r=0

The point being, Francis has made a conscious decision to not talk much about he more incendiary Culture War issues of homosexuality, contraception, and abortion, and has instead decided to focus on other less controversial, but equally vital, aspects of the Gospel. It seems unavoidable that Francis is advocating, if not a retreat, then at least a cessation of hostilities along certain fronts in the culture wars, in favor of taking on fights that are more winnable in the public sphere. When I advocated this approach here a few weeks before Francis started making these public statements, Crude was among the majority shouting me down.

Greg said...

@ Chad

It seems unavoidable that Francis is advocating, if not a retreat, then at least a cessation of hostilities along certain fronts in the culture wars, in favor of taking on fights that are more winnable in the public sphere.

Even "a cessation of hostilities along certain fronts" (ie. homosexuality and abortion) is too strong, given that Pope Francis preached about abortion the day after that article was published.

Rather than ascribe a "rejection" or "cessation" of the culture war to Pope Francis, we should take him at his word: "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time." According to his own example, it is necessary to talk about these issues some of the time.

And his concern is with presenting them as a "disjointed multitude." That is of course a very legitimate concern. The Church's "moral edifice" is a vast system. Same-sex relationships, the killing of children in the womb--in the larger picture of Catholic moral theology, these are very specific questions of applied ethics. But they are the biggest ethical questions of our day, so overwhelmingly people talk about them in ways that are separate from the rest of the moral theological system, which causes a problem. The Church comes across as a stickler on specific issues without adequately grounding and exemplifying the reasons why it holds those positions in the first place.

But it's tough to read the Pope's remarks there as a repudiation of the culture war or a suggestion that the Church should cease focusing on those issues. Only a media outlet could spin that story.

Chad Handley said...

No one would deny that it's necessary for the church to talk about homosexuality, abortion, and contraception SOME of the time. However, apart from abortion, I would deny that these are the biggest ethical questions of our day. I think the amount of energy expended over the issue of homosexual marriage in particular vastly exceeds the actual severity of the problem.

At any rate, the Pope did say in that article that he's PURPOSELY avoided talking about those issues in favor of directing needed attention elsewhere. It's not spin to call that a tactical shift away from those fronts in the culture war. Of course Pope Francis isn't saying that Catholics should stop focusing on those issues at all, but he does seem to be saying that Catholics focus on those issues way too much at the expense of equally important issues.

msgrx said...

@ Chad:

As I recall, what you were actually saying was that it's fine to legally compel people to bake cakes for a gay wedding.

@ Paul:

And yet, people in general managed OK without contraception before the twentieth century. Are people nowadays just innately more weak-willed than their forebears were?

Paul Amrhein said...

@msgrx

I think I’m on safe ground saying that it has never been easy to refrain from sex. Professor Feser says exactly that somewhere in *The Last Superstition*. You seem to think, I don’t know why or based on what evidence, that our forbearers found it easy to refrain from sex. History, as I read it, shows quite the opposite. You should at least be able to explain how it can be the case BOTH that refraining from sex is easy AND population is growing faster and faster despite our knowledge of the resource problem, despite our having had, for hundreds of years, a very strong motive to refrain from sex

dover_beach said...

Paul, I think you've mis-read msgrx given his argument turns on a comparison of wills.

Crude said...

Chad,

When I advocated this approach here a few weeks before Francis started making these public statements, Crude was among the majority shouting me down.

Crude was not shouting you down, and Crude has repeatedly not only defended the Pope with regards to his interaction with the 'culture wars', but also critical of the social conservatives. I could link more of these - my criticism of social conservatives on this topic has been consistent (in fact, sometimes fiery, as has a good share of my praise of Pope Francis. I have repeatedly said that a new approach to these issues was necessary, and no - despite some's wishful thinking, the Pope has not given up and decided that gay marriage and anal sex are A-OK. He endorsed the catechism - consult it.

When I said that pretty much verbatim here, you not only disagreed, you proceeded to interrogate me to determine whether or not I was actually a Christian.

If you wish to bring this up here, I'm game.

First, you didn't say that 'pretty much verbatim'. I went hostile towards you when you clearly misrepresented your opinion on this issue, advising everyone to drop their opposition to legalized 'gay marriage' for 'the sake of winning souls' and that maybe the Church can revisit the issue in, oh, a century. When pressed, it turned out that you're quite in favor of legalized gay marriage anyway.

I will be blunt. I find that deceptive to an extreme. Pull that, and my trust of you falls through the floor. I don't care that you admitted to it once you were called on it - you shouldn't have needed to be called. I also found your 'we can't impose our moral views on society on this one but OH the craziest LGBT activists can because their view isn't religious, ignore the fact that Aristotilean reasoning isn't revelation' defense a stretch to put it mildly.

No, why be mild. I question your honesty. And once I do that, I do not care if we're in agreement on 90% of all issues - I can't trust you, and my respect drops like a stone thereafter.

I can talk peacefully, at length, with respectful Christians (and atheists) who disagree with me on these and other topics. This attitude remains so long as they're up front and reasonably respectful. It evaporates when I see willful dishonesty or insanity. Guess what I saw?

Paul Amrhein said...

@Dover

Please expand.

msgrx said...

Paul:

"I think I’m on safe ground saying that it has never been easy to refrain from sex. Professor Feser says exactly that somewhere in *The Last Superstition*. You seem to think, I don’t know why or based on what evidence, that our forbearers found it easy to refrain from sex. History, as I read it, shows quite the opposite. You should at least be able to explain how it can be the case BOTH that refraining from sex is easy AND population is growing faster and faster despite our knowledge of the resource problem, despite our having had, for hundreds of years, a very strong motive to refrain from sex"

I never said it was easy, just that it's clearly possible, because people have done it in the past. So, whilst there might be some unfortunate nymphomaniacs out there who just can't control their sexual urges, I'm extremely sceptical of the idea that there are sufficient numbers of such people to justify basing government policy on their behaviour. De minimis non curat lex, and all that.

As for population, I think the increase is actually levelling off now. The main cause of the increase, as far as I can tell, is improved healthcare leading to people living longer.

Miriam McCue said...

I had "Man as Man" as a textbook in my undergrad course at St. Jos. College in Philly.

It had a great influence on me. In his preface as I remember, Father said something like: "Someday some young man is going to rediscover metaphysics."
I understood "man" as a "generic" term as a young woman.

Wish the New Atheists would get down off their high horses and get humble enough to rediscover it too.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Chad,

Personally, I disagree with the narrative that social conservatives and traditional Christians spend a lot of time worrying about homosexuality or gay marriage. If you read this blog, you will see that the subject doesn't come up that often. I have a wide range of spiritual and political works, and homosexual marriage is the main topic of one of them, and a significant topic in a few others. Most of them do not mention homosexuality, or do so only briefly. For most Christians, the topic is quite far down on our list of priorities.

It is the modernists and secularists obsessed with such issues, not us, for the most part. It is simply that the modernists will brook no dissension - especially over homosexuality or feminism - and traditionalists will not give in on these issues.

So, with all due respect to Pope Francis, I don't think this premise of his point is valid. Nor do I see the reaching out to the modernists and left-liberal media as likely to bear much fruit. It is well known that it is liberal Christian denominations which have haemorrhaged members faster than any other. These people are fundamentally opposed to traditional Christianity and organised religion. There is little to gain and much to lose by being popular on CNN or the BBC.

The evils of so called gay marriage are not negligible, I'd say. This is because it is a parody of a sacred and natural institution enshrined by the laws of the land. This makes it quite ominous. It is almost as if the state started going around proclaiming 1+1=3. But still, it is hardly an issue traditionalists spend a lot of thinking about.

Paul Amrhein said...

@Msgrx

“I never said it was easy”

You did say the following;



“’Tis odd, but from reading your comments I'd never have guessed that humanity managed to get on perfectly fine before condoms were invented. Maybe -- just maybe -- not sleeping around isn't actually as difficult as you seem to think.”

If it isn’t actually as difficult as I think, what is it? Perhaps just a little less difficult? But that cannot have been your point. Or if it was, then so what? No, you didn’t say it was easy in so many words, but you did say it.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I too agree that Vic's comments gave a somewhat simplistic approach. Man is prone to sin, and we must remember this and not be too harsh (in general - I do think there times, though, when a big of harsh rhetoric has its place).

However, Paul, I feel your comments go too far the other way. You seem to imply that most people are slaves to their passions and cannot be expected to avoid temptation. Yes, if we look at history fornication is an ubiquitous failing, but there are many people who have not given in to temptation. It is quite possible not to give in to these sorts of temptations. Man is a responsible being with free choice, although his passions are not always easy to master.

We must drive a middle cause between harsh, self-righteous condemnation, on the one hand, and excusing and indulging immoral behaviour on the other

Paul Amrhein said...

@Jeremy

If that’s the impression I’ve left then I have gone too far. I agree wholeheartedly on driving a middle course. I will endeavor to be more balanced in the future.

malcolmthecynic said...

Greg,

And his concern is with presenting them as a "disjointed multitude." That is of course a very legitimate concern. The Church's "moral edifice" is a vast system. Same-sex relationships, the killing of children in the womb--in the larger picture of Catholic moral theology, these are very specific questions of applied ethics. But they are the biggest ethical questions of our day, so overwhelmingly people talk about them in ways that are separate from the rest of the moral theological system, which causes a problem...

But it's tough to read the Pope's remarks there as a repudiation of the culture war or a suggestion that the Church should cease focusing on those issues. Only a media outlet could spin that story.


Bingo.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude writes,

I also found your 'we can't impose our moral views on society on this one but OH the craziest LGBT activists can because their view isn't religious, ignore the fact that Aristotilean reasoning isn't revelation' defense a stretch to put it mildly.

It is my understanding that U.S constitutional law differentiates religion from other normative viewpoints. So, a public school textbook may cause trouble if it is overtly Christian, but textbooks can push broadly secular humanist viewpoints and been fine. Chad, previously, seemed to endorse a similar position.

Personally, I can't understand this position. As far as I can see secular worlviews and normative perspectives are of the same order of discourse and contentiousness as religion ones. I just can't understand the distinction.

Of course, I'm suspicious of secularism anyway; I cannot see how it can be truly neutral.

Brian said...

This is not an unmessy victory for the good guys, but I will take it. The Hobby Lobby was factually incorrect in its reasons for morally opposing contraceptives, and it was also inconsistent in its opposition. Since the corporation is lead by neither natural law theorists nor orthodox Christians, such error is to be expected.

The Catholic Church, though, has been fighting this fight since the beginning with a clear, consistent, and reasonable voice: no one should be forced against their conscience to materially cooperate in the wrongdoing of another. No one should be forced to directly support that which they deeply oppose. Professor Feser provided a link above to the ethics of cooperation, and I highly recommend it.

And the Church, unlike the Hobby Lobby, is consistent: no to all contraceptives (not just ones that may lead to abortions), sterilizations, etc.

Bill said...

dguller writes,

After all, there are still plenty of other people who pay taxes, and so the system will not collapse. This is just going to be a tiny, minor exception that shouldn’t be that much of a big deal.

Tiny?? Once people find out that they can opt out of income taxes in that manner, they'll get religion fast.

Ty said...

@Jeremy:



"It is my understanding that U.S constitutional law differentiates religion from other normative viewpoints. So, a public school textbook may cause trouble if it is overtly Christian, but textbooks can push broadly secular humanist viewpoints and been fine. Chad, previously, seemed to endorse a similar position.

Personally, I can't understand this position. As far as I can see secular worlviews and normative perspectives are of the same order of discourse and contentiousness as religion ones. I just can't understand the distinction.

Of course, I'm suspicious of secularism anyway; I cannot see how it can be truly neutral."

I think this follows from a naive Enlightenment philosophy, one which assumes that beneath each individual religious tradition there exists the same humanistic substratum. If true, this would mean that said humanism is "tradition-neutral" (hence the commitment to its public use) and also normative, insofar as it serves as the source and summit of all religion ("If you cut out all the extraneous details, religion is all about LOVE, you see?"

Ty

dover_beach said...

Hadley Arkes on Hobby Lobby: Joy – and Disappointment - http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2014/hobby-lobby-joy-and-disappointment.html
and for a broader discussion of the issue of religious freedom, see his lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6rP9CtvmlA

Brandon said...

Based upon the results of these investigations, the mechanism of action of the contraceptives can be determined, and if the mechanism of action occurs prior to fertilization, then the contraceptive device cannot objectively cause abortions, which necessary occur after fertilization.

So what we're doing here is actually developing a bureaucracy to monitor people's religious beliefs for scientific accuracy. How does one handle the problem that sometimes scientific consensus reverses or qualifies itself? How, precisely, is the decision made -- counting citations, a technocratic council voting, or what? How does one protect such a process from becoming politicized, given that we know that even the FDA doesn't always avoid buckling under political pressure? The problem is especially acute given that, in practice, what your scheme amounts to is judges deciding what's scientific -- organizations like the FDA avoid this because they are not assessing whether individuals actually have certain rights, and therefore the FDA is rarely taken to court. Do you honestly think people won't take your Scientific Accuracy Bureau to court over the question of whether they have to do something they think their religion says they shouldn't? So essentially the way it's going to work is that in dguller's ideal society, lawyers dictate what counts as scientifically accurate.

This is also essentially the Chinese solution; it's how the Chinese go about refusing to recognize minor religious groups as having any religious right -- superstitious medical practices and active opposition to the scientific truth of Chinese Communism. Your proposal reminds me of all those technocratic science fiction stories from the 1950s in which the governments are remarkably like Soviet governments with nary a whisper in the tale about how one has Soviet-style government without Soviet-style abuse.

Religious believers may believe whatever they want, but when their claims meet empirical reality, then they must reckon with scientific conclusions about empirical reality, especially when their beliefs involve restricting the behavior of others.

Again, this is mere assertion. I'm beginning to think you have no argument for your position -- you just take it as obvious despite the fact that no free society in the history of the world has ever worked like this, for a multitude of good practical reasons: the decisions cannot be easily shielded from political manipulation, governments arrogating the right to decide which religious beliefs are acceptable regularly become persecutory, it fails to recognize one of the key principles of liberal society, that basic rights of the citizen pre-exist or take precedence over any authority of government rather than being conferred by the latter, it overlooks the high level of intrusiveness required

But why can’t exceptions to tax collection be made?

Of course you can have exceptions to tax collection; but exceptions to tax collection are conferred by constitutional process in light of common good, exactly the same process by which tax collection, not based on individual rights. The two cases are in no way parallel: (1) religious rights are at least citizenship rights if not human rights, and there is no corresponding freedom from taxes the way there is a freedom from government interference with religion as such; (2) if, contrary to the practice of most free societies in the world, we take religious rights not to be citizen rights but derivative civil rights conferred by the government, you aren't suggesting that the standards be established by the same constitutional processes that confer the right.

Brandon said...

Sorry, that should be 'exactly the same process by which tax collection is applied'.

Brandon said...

dguller,

There are other issues that can be added to this. For instance, originally you stated the matter in entirely general terms, and you still seem to head into that direction. So do you think people have no right to vote if their reasons for voting the way they do are not scientifically accurate? Do you think people should have no right of free speech if happening to believe, for whatever reason, something scientifically inaccurate is part of their reason for speaking? Do you think the government should have the authority to deny that the Flat Earth Society can even assemble together according to a right of assembly? In Canada, you have mobility rights; do you think they only exist if you have scientifically accurate reasons for moving? In societies where women have rights to contraception and abortion, do you think they can be refused them if their specific reasons for trying to get them are scientifically inaccurate?

I could extend examples, but let's start with these. If this is how all rights work -- rationales must be assessed before the rights can be allowed -- in what sense is the society you are imaginging in any way a society of free citizens? And if it only applies to religion, why is that right the only odd right out?

msgrx said...

Paul:

"If it isn’t actually as difficult as I think, what is it? Perhaps just a little less difficult? But that cannot have been your point. Or if it was, then so what? No, you didn’t say it was easy in so many words, but you did say it."

It's quite simple really: abstaining from sex isn't easy, but nor is it so difficult that we should distribute free contraceptives to everybody on the grounds that they're all nymphomaniacs unable to keep it in their pants.

Glenn said...

Running a half marathon isn't easy. But maybe -- just maybe -- it isn't as difficult as running a full marathon.

Anyway, unless I misread Vic, he wasn't saying, "Hey, man, whatsamatta wit you? Easy as pie, man. E-Z as pie."

St. Thomas notes that, "Despair implies not only privation of hope, but also a recoil from the thing desired, by reason of its being esteemed impossible to get."

A recoil from the thing desired? By reason of its being esteemed impossible to get? Yikes.

So I think that by saying that maybe -- maybe -- a particular something it isn't as difficult as might be thought, Vic was endeavoring to reduce the impossible to the improbable (and maybe even a little further down the scale than that (though clearly not all the way down into EZ-land)).

One may think that, for all intents and purposes, there really isn't any worthwhile difference between "impossible" and "improbable".

But is such thinking really justified?

There is no hope with the impossible. And if there is no hope with the impossible, what in tarnation is the use of making even a half-hearted attempt to either fight against or refrain from succumbing to the inevitable?

But if it is improbable, then, however unlikely it may be, it still isn't impossible, i.e., it isn’t inevitable. And this is to say that hope abides even with the improbable. And where there is hope, even if only a little, there is a chink or fissure through which the grace from God may enter and aid the sincere effort to attempt to 'fight against' or 'refrain from succumbing'.

'course, it's not impossible that I might be wrong.

Timotheos said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

"It is my understanding that U.S constitutional law differentiates religion from other normative viewpoints. So, a public school textbook may cause trouble if it is overtly Christian, but textbooks can push broadly secular humanist viewpoints and been fine. Chad, previously, seemed to endorse a similar position.

Personally, I can't understand this position. As far as I can see secular worlviews and normative perspectives are of the same order of discourse and contentiousness as religion ones. I just can't understand the distinction."

Yeah, a lot of that is the result of Supreme Court cases which have ruled that the States, in addition to Congress, can't establish a religion via the "due process" clause of the 14th amendment, which had been determined to force the states to observe all the restrictions placed on the federal government in the Bill of Rights in an earlier ruling.

(Personally I can't tell how they can read out of "due process", "Congress shall establish no church" and "equal protection underneath the law" the idea that "states can't establish religion", but it's nevertheless the law)

Anyways, since this is the case, the states have to be very careful about what they allow for textbooks in school so it dosen't look like they are "establishing a religion" or even "favoring one religion", lest they be dragged into a federal case. But since secular humanism doesn't establish churchs (besides occasionally the government itself ;-) ) it isn't looked upon as unkosher and thus allowed.

Pretty doubled-handed if you ask me, since expressing some views that can be as "religious" in no ways entails the establishment of one, but that's the lay of the land right now...

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"Yeah, a lot of that is the result of Supreme Court cases which have ruled that the States, in addition to Congress, can't establish a religion via the 'due process' clause of the 14th amendment, which had been determined to force the states to observe all the restrictions placed on the federal government in the Bill of Rights in an earlier ruling."

This is close but not quite right. As a matter of history, the man most responsible for the drafting of the Fourteenth Amendment (Rep. John Bingham of Ohio) gave quite a lot of Congressional testimony showing that his own intent in drafting it was to apply the entire Bill of Rights to the states. The Supreme Court, however, has never followed that principle, and in the famous and controversial Slaughter-House Cases (the first set of cases the SCOTUS ever heard on the Amendment) expressly ruled to the contrary. At the Supreme Court level, there was never an "earlier ruling" that the entire Bill of Rights bound the states.

What's happened after that time is that the Bill of Rights has gradually been "selectively incorporated" (a legal term of art) into the Fourteenth Amendment, so that some/many/most provisions (including the Establishment Clause) have been held to bind the states as well.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

You're right, but I didn't want to get dragged into a big debate about how the Supreme Court has never confirmed the States as being completely bound by the Federal requirements in the Bill of Rights and has only "selectively" done so. (in a fairly arbitrary way it seems to me, but then again, I'm no legal expert)

Regardless, I think the way the Supreme Court ruled on the establishment clause was way too broad in its application, since it effectively makes everyone in Government hesitant to even look like they are possibly supporting religions unequally, but also allows one to be as openly secularist in operation as possible with little or no consequences.

dover_beach said...

More from Hadley Arkes: The New Jurisprudence of ‘Beliefspeak’- http://www.libertylawsite.org/2014/07/03/the-new-jurisprudence-of-beliefspeak/

Paul Amrhein said...

@Msgrx and Glen

I cannot defend what I did not say.

Is chastity an impossible virtue? No. Nor did I say that is is. Furthermore, I have advocated no policy based on the idea that chastity is impossible, e.g. Free contraceptive distribution.

Yet somehow I have left the wrong impression. I don’t know what to do about that at the moment.

DavidM said...

msgrx wrote: "'Tis odd, but from reading your comments I'd never have guessed that humanity managed to get on perfectly fine before condoms were invented. Maybe -- just maybe -- not sleeping around isn't actually as difficult as you seem to think."

'Tis also rather important to note that, human psychology being what it is, the invention (and proliferation) of condoms and other contraceptives can actually make not sleeping around more difficult than it once was. In other words, our mass-contraception culture - and all the people (including fathers) who promote it - makes it more likely that our daughters will fall into the pain and suffering occasioned by inopportune pregnancy, and that our sons will do the same - and that they will be more likely to imagine that they have no responsibility towards the children in whose conception they have formally participated, encouraged as they are by their 'loving' parents to think first (if not exclusively!) about their own selfish desires: "what's in it for me - how will this affect my future."

DavidM said...

Brandon asked: "In societies where women have rights to contraception and abortion, do you think they can be refused them if their specific reasons for trying to get them are scientifically inaccurate?"

Presumably the answer (at least in a broad range of cases) should be, Yes. Shouldn't it??

On the Hobby Lobby case, I hear Brandon's arguments, but it seems to me that Evangelical Christians, as such, plainly do not have beliefs about the mechanisms by which specific contraceptives function. Beliefs of this kind are plainly of extra-religious provenance, and thus (so it seems to me) cannot reasonably be defended under the aegis of freedom of religious belief.

Step2 said...

On the Hadley Arkes article, you can't have it both ways. You can't claim that religious belief is entirely reason based while also claiming it shouldn't be judged based on ordinary evidential reasons. As a legal primer, this link gives most of the relevant federal law although it also includes state law.

DavidM said...

addendum to my 12:47:
It seems to me that a contraceptive culture is an anti-virtue culture and thus an anti-humanistic culture (which does NOT imply that the practise of virtue is E-Z, only that it is indispensable for genuine human thriving - and you damn well ought to be teaching your daughters and sons that!).

DavidM said...

"In societies where women have rights to contraception and abortion, do you think they can be refused them if their specific reasons for trying to get them are scientifically inaccurate?"

Thinking about this more, there is no natural right to contraception and abortion (surely?), and insofar as there is a constructed legal right to these in some societies, why shouldn't such a constructed legal right have any number of restrictions built into it?

Jeffrey S. said...

Scott,

Thanks for responding to me earlier. Based on your response and on Joe K's comments, it does indeed appear that the birth control in question (especially the pills) rarely* prevent implantation. But of course, this is really mute from a legal standpoint as the Obama Administration conceded the point to Hobby Lobby -- in other words there was no debate over the science of how these drugs worked:

http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/365257/embryo-killing-contraceptives-ed-whelan

And as Ed explains, the science on IUDs definitely suggests they do prevent implantation when used "in emergencies" and therefore act as an abortifacient.

John Holmes said...

This seems interesting.

In Hobby Lobby's lawsuit papers it states that the Green family was unaware that their insurance policy actually covered the two objectionable contraceptives long before the Obama administrations ACA required them to.

Gee, how many years were the Greens paying for the destruction of innocent zygotes before our atheist/Muslim president legally required them to do so?

Shouldn't the Green family be thanking President Obama for bringing to their attention the savage murder of precious zygotes that had been occurring under their own personally approved insurance plan?

Let us all pray that the untold number of innocent zygotes that met a terrible fate under the Green family's approved plan had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior so that they will not have to spent their eternity in the blazing fires of hell. Alongside Adolph Hitler, of course.

Fellow Christians, please pray for the innocent zygotes!!!!! Pray that the precious blood of Jeezus washes over them!!

KHigh said...

Best analysis of Hobby Lobby decision I've seen so far:

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-07-02/answers-to-all-your-hobby-lobby-questions

"What matters is their belief. We don’t require courts to stage an elaborate inquiry into whether American Indian beliefs about what happens when they ingest peyote are accurate; we say that as long as they sincerely believe that this is central to their religious practice, they are entitled to deference from the law."

Crude said...

Jeremy,

It is my understanding that U.S constitutional law differentiates religion from other normative viewpoints. So, a public school textbook may cause trouble if it is overtly Christian, but textbooks can push broadly secular humanist viewpoints and been fine. Chad, previously, seemed to endorse a similar position.

Personally, I can't understand this position. As far as I can see secular worlviews and normative perspectives are of the same order of discourse and contentiousness as religion ones. I just can't understand the distinction.

Of course, I'm suspicious of secularism anyway; I cannot see how it can be truly neutral.


As near as I can see, secularism is a religion like any other - it just has a far uglier, smaller God. Even Zeus looks noble in comparison. (And that's saying something.)

So I'm in agreement with you. It's a con game, a way to rule out everyone else's views and beliefs so only one set is really left by default.

dover_beach said...

"On the Hadley Arkes article, you can't have it both ways. You can't claim that religious belief is entirely reason based while also claiming it shouldn't be judged based on ordinary evidential reasons."

Luckily for Arkes, he isn't.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DavidM,

Yes, the term humanist is somewhat strangely used in contemporary culture. The secular humanists, under the leadership of John Dewey and his disciples, stole the term humanists from the new or American humanists, as represented by Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More.

The secular humanists did this because they disliked the dualism and emphasis on free will and imagination and literary and classical culture and learning that the new humanists professed. The secular humanists were, for the most part, monistic materialists and followers of scientism. Ironically, though, the secular humanists, unlike the new humanists, have little in common with historical humanism. They give little thought or place to classical, liberal education and were generally suspicious of free will and the strong emphasis on individuality of historical humanism.

So contraceptive culture is quite humanist if you mean secular humanism, but if you mean historical humanism (and meaningful humanism, because a humanism that can deny free will and even individual identity hardly deserves the name), then it must be opposed.

Glenn said...

Paul,

I cannot defend what I did not say.

Hopefully, you also cannot deny what you did say: "It would be wonderful if you could teach others how reach your level."

If you want to say that that was said to someone other than me, and that I therefore have spoken out of turn, then I'll accept the rebuke.

Paul Amrhein said...

@Glen

Why would I deny saying *that*, of all things?

The Irish Thomist said...

@John


Fellow Christians, please pray for the innocent zygotes!!!!! Pray that the precious blood of Jeezus washes over them!!

Sigh. Not offended, but I do think this was dumb. Just avoids the overall argument.

The Irish Thomist said...

@Paul

I think I missed your point. I don’t think I was quibbling with Vic’s reasoning, but rather with her *apparent* attitude.

Thank you for giving context to what you said. I retract what I said if that was not your point.

I agree it is not 'easy'.

Anonymous said...

Hello, and congratulations for your blog.
Why the vast majority of philosophers hate panpsychism?
What do you think about David Ray Griffin panexperientialism?
Charles.

DavidM said...

@Jeremy:
Indeed, I was speaking of meaningful humanism, not of anti-human secular humanism.

grodrigues said...

@Irish Thomist:

"Sigh. Not offended, but I do think this was dumb. Just avoids the overall argument."

It is a well-known barking troll; just pay no attention.

Paul Amrhein said...

@Charles

I don’t remember just where at the moment, but David Bentley Hart expressed sympathy for panpsychism. (I think it was *The Experience of God* but I’ll have to double check.)

Here’s a blurb from the Catholic Encyclopedia explaining St Thomas’ rejection of panpsychism.

“The first article of the eighteenth question in the first part of the "Summa Theologica" of St. Thomas is entitled: "Is every thing in nature alive?" It is a discussion of the theory of hylozoism and tells us also the position of the great scholastic on the question of panpsychism. St. Thomas decides that the test of life is to be sought in the possession of those characteristics that are proper to beings which are most evidently alive. These characteristics he embraces under what he terms the power of spontaneous movement. By this he does not mean the mere capability of moving about from place to place, but any spontaneous tendency towards any kind of change (quoecumque se agunt ad motum vel operationem aliquam). As examples of such motion he mentions the tendency of a thing from a less to a more perfect state (growth), and the sensations and understanding which constitute the activity of animals that have already acquired their full development. The question then becomes one of fact. Are there any things in nature that do not manifest the power of spontaneous movement, i.e. growth or the activity of sensory and intellectual life? Yes. There are things which have no spontaneous activity of their own and do not move except by an impulse from without, and these things are lifeless or dead. We may see analogies in them to living things, but they can never be said to live, except we are speaking poetically and by way of metaphor. St. Thomas therefore rejects hylozoism and panpsychism.

What is panexperientialsim?

PS We might be well-advised to take this discussion elsewhere if it gets at all lengthy, as it’s off the topic of the thread.

Miriam McCue said...

I once read,

"Pluralism is an unsolvable problem."

I agree.

This is true probably because cultures hate conflict and tend to unification at the expense of the beliefs of less vigorous competing religions. (Secularism is a religion, & "Religion is the basis of culture" Christopher Dawson.)

Every social unit has a unifying philosophy of religion, explicit or implicit, which informs it.

There can be no such thing as a stable multicultural society.

At this point, Secularism has the corner on power in the US aided by a secularist media, government policy, courts, lower accepted morals, etc.

Educational institutions are doing their part to keeping the secularist status quo by keeping our students ignorant of history & crucially ignorant of the rules of logic.

Ignorance of logical skills makes deep & correct thinking very difficult, giving aid & comfort to secularism which cannot stand under logical scrutiny.

In the Culture War, there can only be one winner, it seems.

All other religions will be marginalized.

John Holmes said...

Miriam wrote, "Ignorance of logical skills makes deep and correct thinking very difficult, giving aid & comfort to secularism which cannot stand under logical scrutiny."

WhaHooooo!! You're quite the comedian there, Miriam.

Yeah, that logical thinking stuff comes in really handy when you need to believe in virgin births, talking donkeys, angels having sex with humans, blood sacrifices, god/human hybrids trotting around the ancient Middle East desert, etc., etc,.

Yes ma'am!!!! Christians sure know how to put the old 'logical thinking' caps on, don't they?

Oh, Miriam, what a funny one you are!!

Miriam McCue said...

John Holmes: Ridiculing one's opponent does NOT disprove his ideas.

DavidM said...

"Ridiculing one's opponent does NOT disprove his ideas."

And just as importantly, ridiculing one's opponent only works if one's opponent is actually ridiculous, or if one's audience already believes or can be manipulated into believing that one's opponent is ridiculous. The attempt to ridicule simply doesn't work if the attempt is transparently moronic.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DavidM is correct, but still, don't feed the trolls. Such Gnu nonsense is not even worth responding to. One of the good things about Dr. Feser's blog is the "religion is like believing in Sky fairies" brigade largely fear to tread here.

I do love how Gnus like to pretend they are rational and logical, when they commit logical fallacies left, right, and centre. Dawkins even started a foundation of reason and science when, as David Bentley Hart quite accurately put it, the man could not reason his way to the end of a simple syllogism.

Miriam, Kudos for mentioning Christopher Dawson.

Bill said...

@ Brandon

How, precisely, is the decision made -- counting citations, a technocratic council voting, or what? How does one protect such a process from becoming politicized, given that we know that even the FDA doesn't always avoid buckling under political pressure?

Exactly. The Rights Bureau can simply say, "There is no empirical proof that any 'God' exists; therefore, any group espousing faith in such a 'God' is not a state-recognized religion."

DavidM said...

@Bill:
Exactly. The Rights Bureau can simply say, "There is no empirical proof that any 'God' exists; therefore, any group espousing faith in such a 'God' is not a state-recognized religion."

That's nonsense. There is no more central concept to religion than 'God,' and no one (here, at least - 'out there,' in whacko-land, who knows) is talking about imposing burdens of positive empirical proof for legitimating religious beliefs, as such. But if you're going to have a law specifically protecting exercise of religion, then 'religion' has to mean something specific. If it can be interpreted to apply to anything, absolutely any belief anyone holds, then it doesn't mean anything. And surely that was not the intent of the law (RFRA), as written (nor the intent of constitutional protections of freedom of religion). There is always a danger of politicization, judges are always flawed and fallible human beings, but if, nonetheless, you allow that the courts should be treated as juridically competent to consider things like the state of the debate over the ethics of cooperation in wrongdoing, why couldn't they also be considered competent to make judgments about the scientific standing of particular claims and differentiate properly religious from properly scientific elements of claims being presented to them? (I'm speaking in principle; as I understand it, such considerations were not relevant to the Hobby Lobby case as it was actually argued by HHS et al.)

John Holmes said...


So amusing to se 'sophisticated' Christians attempt to argue that 'their' religion isn't about sky fairies and virgin births.

But try as they might, they have yet to offer a remotely sane hypothesis as to how the Stone Age lunacy of blood atonement through human sacrifice is anything other than the ignorant, idiotic, barbaric, sadistic ravings of the ancient goat sacrificing religious fanatics who allowed their deluded, pre scientific minds to dream it up.

Christian doctrine is founded upon absurd, ignorant nonsense.

Pick any story from a Mother Goose children's book.
That story will be more 'rational' than anything in Christian doctrine.

And if Christians would simply keep their beloved myths about their sky fairies to themselves, without intrusion into the lives of others, then no one would remotely care about their obsession with ancient, silly myths.

Paul Amrhein said...

@John Holmes

“But try as they might, they have yet to offer a remotely sane hypothesis as to how the Stone Age lunacy of blood atonement through human sacrifice is anything other than the ignorant, idiotic, barbaric, sadistic ravings of the ancient goat sacrificing religious fanatics who allowed their deluded, pre scientific minds to dream it up.” John Holmes

Doesn’t this commit you to the view that some of the greatest minds of the West were barbaric idiots? (A position which is obviously false.) Was, for example, Isaac Newton (a believer) a great scientist or just some kind of idiot savant who wasted most of his time on alchemy? Was his a “deluded, pre scientific” mind?

PS Again this is off topic. I’m sure there’s somewhere else around here more appropriate, perhaps where Professor Feser introduces his *The Last Superstition*.

Crude said...

The problem with guys like John Holmes isn't just that their abandonment of reason and science is so total, but that they likewise don't have the mental fortitude to keep their weird obsessions to themselves.

Yes, John, we understand - you're angry and bitter towards God and Christians alike. We understand that this keeps you from reasoning properly about science, philosophy, culture, morality, and more. And we do sympathize with your plight, and wish you success in dealing with your defects. In fact, we don't even feel it necessary to disabuse you of your enchantment with your very magical, special world - where things exist or pop into existence magically without reason or cause or explanation, where inquiry into vast sections of the world (the origin of the universe, etc) are blocked off forever because of your opposition to free-thinking and enlightenment ideals.

But do we really need you displaying your mental illnesses in public? What is it about the modern Cultist of Gnu that gives them this weird form of Tourette syndrome?

As said, you can't really help yourself, John. We understand that you cling to your magical, irrational world and can't keep from lashing out at the God you hate and the people who scare you because *gasp* they disagree about things you barely understand. But even if it's hard for you, you should really try hard to muster some self-control. Reason, rationality and civil discourse is very preferable to rage, savagery, and the sort of magical, anti-scientific thinking the Gnu Atheist is known for.

Sometime, if you're capable, you should give it a shot. :)

Bill said...

@ DavidM

I stand by my comment. I agree with Brandon that what dguller is arguing demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what rights are.

Jeremy Taylor said...

John Holmes,

Which Christians here are repudiating the virgin birth? Your argument, to be generous and call it such, appears to be just a question begging appeal to your own idea of naturalistic good sense. It is supremely unconvincing. You ridicule with no attempt to give a proper argument.

And you'd have to be woefully ignorant of traditional Christian and Classical Theist thought, or a drooling moron, to think that the God of Christianity is the same as Sky Fairies.

Step2 said...

But if you're going to have a law specifically protecting exercise of religion, then 'religion' has to mean something specific.

In Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707, (1980), the Court stated religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection (Id. at 714). Furthermore, in U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944), the Court declared in applying the Free Exercise Clause, courts may not inquire into the truth, validity, or reasonableness of a claimant’s religious beliefs.

If it can be interpreted to apply to anything, absolutely any belief anyone holds, then it doesn't mean anything.

The restrictions on what qualifies as a religious belief are, in my opinion, much less vague than attempting to determine what counts as one. A belief is not religious if it is essentially political, sociological, or philosophical or based merely on a personal moral code.

I’m mildly upset about being recruited into the “religion” of secular humanism because the name is extraordinarily boring. If you are going to force me to adopt a religion at least don’t put me to sleep. The Church of Righteous Smooth Troubadours has a much nicer ring to it.

John Holmes said...

Jeremy, you asked which Christians here are repudiating the Virgin birth?

Well, I would suggest the sane ones are. But that would automatically disqualify most Christians on this blog, apparently.

And the main resource for believing that your God is in the same category as sky fairies is your ancient book of myths that you call a Bible.

Oh, and listening to Christians praise their personal sky fairy for personally entering the uterus of a young girl in ancient Palestine and implanting his special 'seed'. And Jeremy, do you suppose that God entered Mary's reproductive system through her vagina, or her belly button?

And Crude, you apparently attended the Kirk Cameron school of theology and auto mechanics.

Keep up the good work! You may just get your GED yet!!

(You do know what that stands for, right?)

Christians, please enjoy your special day where you give thanks to the invisible sky force that turned himself into a man two thousand years ago so that his own creation could hang him to a tree and savagely beat him to death to atone for your terrible sins.

Isn't that beautiful!!???

And, moe importantly, isn't that RATIONAL!!?

Anonymous said...

@JeremyH

So Jeremy do you believe it is irrational to believe that God created the world and that anything worthy to be called God would at least need in principle such power?

Oddly enough, it was the ancient pagan sky faery worshippers who most ridiculed the Virgin Birth. But if it is not ridiculous to believe that the universe might require some cause to explain it, then why would that which had the power to create the universe be incapable of causing a virgin to become with child?

Something cannot come from nothing. If ever there was just nothing, then there would still be nothing. But this is evidently false. So there must have always existed something and never nothing. Now even if we grant that there must always have been something, we still need to explain change and motion. For just because there is something, it does not follow that this something necessarily changed itself or something else. But obviously at some points things began to change and enter into motion. So now we need some ever existing something combined also with a cause of motion or change.

The above is evident to reason. Even a child could come to see it the soundness and necessity of the reasoning. The thinking is in fact scientific. Yet you imagine as if this sort of thinking is some form of lunacy.

Jeremy, in fine, your personal religion is oddly enough causing you to become perilously close to thinking that thinking itself is stupidity.

Anonymous said...

My apologies, the above comment was intended for John not Jeremy.

Scott W. said...

Please refrain from providing comestibles to dwellers underneath water-crossing conveyances.

Jeremy Taylor said...

John,

If fairies don't exist, it certainly seems like trolls do.

Buy a work on classical logic or critical thinking. It appears you cannot make an argument without committing multiple gross fallacies.

Try not to bother us with your facile, drooling nonsense until you have learnt some basic logic. You posts are worthless and not even worth refuting.

DNW said...

"I’m mildly upset about being recruited into the “religion” of secular humanism because the name is extraordinarily boring."

Why should anyone care if you are upset; mildly, or otherwise?

By the way, the non-trolls here will recall that the Humanist Manifesto did itself refer to the religion of secular humanism.

Classic comedy is watching nominalists plead on behalf of "humanity".

DavidM said...

@Step2:

"In Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707, (1980), the Court stated religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection (Id. at 714). Furthermore, in U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944), the Court declared in applying the Free Exercise Clause, courts may not inquire into the truth, validity, or reasonableness of a claimant’s religious beliefs."

I can accept all that as being somewhat grounded in reason, but it still seems to presuppose some determinate concept of a religious belief as such.

"The restrictions on what qualifies as a religious belief are, in my opinion, much less vague than attempting to determine what counts as one. A belief is not religious if it is essentially political, sociological, or philosophical or based merely on a personal moral code."

So what standards are used for distinguishing a 'religious belief' from, say, a 'personal moral code' (or from an 'essentially political/ sociological/ philosophical' belief)?

"I’m mildly upset about being recruited into the “religion” of secular humanism because the name is extraordinarily boring. If you are going to force me to adopt a religion at least don’t put me to sleep. The Church of Righteous Smooth Troubadours has a much nicer ring to it."

Heh. Good one. I too am mildly upset about having secular humanists 'recruited' into a 'religion.' 'Religion' is already loaded with enough bad connotations.(But of course the point stands that the state has even less business establishing SHism than it has establishing a particular religion.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

DavidM,

I agree, if, for example, religion is banned from being preached in public schools but another, secular normative perspective or worldview is not, this makes little sense to me. How is the distinction being made? As far as I can, secular or irreligious norms and worldviews are the same level of discourse as religious ones.

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