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"Ouch! Those darn senses are deceiving me again!"
For the beginning of the debate, and Table of Contents, see Correspondence with Mr. Jason Ferenc, part 1
-----Original Message----- From: J. Ferenc Sent: 21 avril 2008 21:37 To: Stefan Jetchick Subject: Some further thoughts on science and reality Dear Stefan, Thank you for your response! As usual, it was a pleasure to read. Let's see... >>OK. But now I'm willing to defend it. That's fantastic! I know that I always love defending myself to people who don't have a clue what the heck I'm saying! (If you get to Oprify, so do I!) >>Whew! I need an aspirin. (But I still think Thonnard is clearer than >>the Catholic Encyclopedia on this one.) I agree. Although I wish you'd spend time generating the need for an aspirin on my stuff instead! :-) >>But I'm wading in water too deep for my fishing boots here, and I >>don't even have a translated Thonnard to hang on to avoid drowning. Don't worry - what's too deep for your fishing boots is probably over the top of my snorkel! >> >> When speaking of the outside natural world, our ability to be certain >> >> is based on an imperfect process of discovery. >> ... and that statement of yours is certain? i.e. based on a >> perfect process of discovery? No! That's the point!! It might be perfect, it might not be. See?! >> But you can get the same effect with a real refrigerator and real >> eggs, just by staying up 48 hours...In other words, you need to know >> your "instrument" to avoid misusing it. Correct; and just like the apple, our knowledge of our instrument is based upon a process of continuing discovery. We do not innately know what our eyes are capable of and not capable of. That is why optical illusions must be discovered, and that is also why we do not know with absolute certainty whether some new failing of our eyes will emerge unexpectedly. Presumably, more optical illusions are out there awaiting discovery, right? Bear in mind, as I have said many times, I am not saying that if I saw a ham in the fridge, I would immediately disbelieve my eyes on the basis that they could be misleading me. That would be illogical and silly, and Occam's Razor prohibits that conclusion. >>I'm assuming you've already read: "Error: 'Our Senses Deceive Us!'" Yes, and the question more or less becomes, "How do you know that your senses are being used within the range of permitted values, with the appropriate precision, and the sense-organ is not sick or damaged?" This is a big question, and since we do not have innate knowledge of the capabilities of our organs, the answer to this question is a result of continuing discovery. Like the chess game. If you doubt that it is tricky to determine whether or not our senses are working properly, just reflect on the legendary unreliability of eye-witness testimony, where several witnesses have been absolutely positive of something they saw, only to have the truth of their recollections later disproved by other evidence such as DNA testing. >> If you mean: "The mere mechanical collection of sense-experience is not >> sufficient to attain truth", I think I could Concedo. That is what I was thinking. >>...you seem to assert the scientific method (for experimental sciences >>that are subalternated to mathematics) is inserted between >>all sense-experience and all knowing of truth. >>Then I'm not sure. Well, here I'm not so sure, either. I think perhaps there is a disagreement as to exactly what the scientific method is, if you are thinking of it as capable of being "inserted between all sense- experience and all knowing of truth." You will have to develop that idea more for me to respond fully, but my sense is that this is not what I was saying. In my conception, the scientific method is never "inserted between" a sense experience and the truth. Rather, the scientific method exists subordinate to sense-experience. For example, my "Method #1", below, would be an example of how the scientific method is used to support sense-experience and prevent error. >>> I merely argue that we can never be certain that any of our >>> perceptions are, in fact, perfectly accurate. >>OK, how about I swing by Amherst for a visit, and I'll perform >>the following experiment: Goodness! You just love this little experiment, don't you! I knew it was only a matter of time before the glove came on! ;-) Let's see...you believe that causing the infliction of torture upon people is the ultimate and perfect way to make them see truth... right...and the name of your website is..."inquition.ca"? Oh, dear! ;-) ;-) (Just teasing, of course!) Seriously, I don't see how slapping yourself in the face helps at all. If I slap myself in the face, then I know that whatever is happening is certainly causing me displeasure! But this still doesn't help me to know whether I am "really" slapping myself in the face, or whether an evil person has slipped LSD into my tea and I'm dreaming of slapping myself in the face! Either way, I'll stop! But this raises the difficult question, "How do we know whether our senses are impaired at this moment?" It is partly the uncertain answer to this question which causes nscience to demand repeated observations, and also causes us to require a confirmed report before believing that there is such a thing as extraterrestrial UFO's, adamant statements by "eye-witnesses" notwithstanding. >>By conceding that truth could exist, you're.... Confound it! I never in my life said that truth could exist! I say that it does exist! >>you're prattling what the PoMos >>(Post-Modernists) have indoctrinated you with. Am I? >>Shall we experiment? I'll bring bags of ice to reduce the pain of my >>hand, after slapping you as hard as I can! You're "bitch-slapping" your way through open doors! I never would be so illogical as to suggest that, if you stand under an apple when it is dropped it won't bonk you on the head, or that a train won't run you over, or that a hand traveling at high velocity won't smart when it hits! My certainty when saying these things is based upon a theory developed after many, many observations, just like the apple. I admit that there is a mathematical possibility of error, but I have seen enough apples drop, and enough hands slap, to be entirely comfortable with the idea that if I slap myself, the same thing is going to happen which happened the last umpteen times! I don't need to slap myself any more times to be convinced by those odds! >>> This is why no natural >>> scientific question will ever be closed with complete finality >>Here again, you insert the scientific method (for experimental sciences >>that are subalternated to mathematics) between all sense-experience >>and all knowing of truth, which is not always the case. What on earth do you mean? >>"Accident" is used technically in my statement. I'm assuming you're >>familiar with the 10 categories of Aristotle? The theory with the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct! ;-) I'll see if I can rustle them up, though! >>I'm not sure I understand how you could see that as insulting human >>reason. >>Aquinas is just repeating standard dialectics: [...] Very true, but this doesn't mean that the argument from authority based on human reason is "the weakest"! I would say that an argument from authority based on who has the brightest color clothing is probably weaker still! >>Basically, it's better to be able to open your eyes and observe your >>hand has five fingers... Concedo, of course. >> In theory, if a statement was made by God, it is supremely trustworthy. Concedo. >>(I'm teasing you a bit, here! But also, you either have faith in >>science, which is unscientific, or you know what science is, and >>can point to good books or a good book on the topic, the same way >>I can.) I believe myself to be a competent reader, yet I cannot point to one single teacher or one book which has taught me how to read, or which contains all of the important elements as I understand them. If I were a teacher of reading, then I could probably point to one, but alas I am not. Similarly, I believe my understanding of science to be quite solid. There have been many teachers which have informed my current views, as well as many books and many fragments of books and other texts. At the moment, there isn't any single text which I have read recently enough, or comprehensively enough, to be assured that there are not important portions of it with which I would disagree. Recommending a book is kind of like finding a book that says what one would have written, if one were to write a book. I'm sure there are such books out there, and I really ought to find them, so that I can be a teacher as well as a knower. The moment I do, I'll let you know. In the meantime, the best way to find out my specific views on any subject is to ask. >>Well, think about it. Assuming God exists (and "God" strictly speaking, >>someone perfectly good, perfectly wise, etc.), would He throw some >>paper rag at us and watch us interpret it all wrong? I doubt it. >>..The "empirical approach"... I don't think that remarkable stability is necessarily an indication of truth. As a matter of fact, much other knowledge of man which is most accurate has gone through a conspicuous evolution as our understanding of the world has increased. Thus, complete stability of an idea does not necessarily indicate that it is completely correct. The only exception to this would be if we knew that the idea was given by God. Of course, if we already knew this, then analyzing the stability of the teachings would then become unnecessary. >>Jesus has >>people announce His coming, in writing, for millenia before He shows up! >>Pretty neat trick! Try it! Find some existing religion that has been >>around for thousands of years, then insert yourself into prophecies >>you didn't write and have no control over! This assumes that it has been proven that Jesus Christ was the person spoken of, and that the Old Testament was accurate in this respect. Both of these things have not yet been established, so we're getting ahead of ourselves, I think. >>You can also compare the official teachings of the Magisterium with >>Science! Yes, you are automatically excommunicated if you deny the >>capacity of human reason to attain certain truth without religious faith! >>(The Church defends human reason.) And guess who invented Universities? >>The Church, of course! Very noble, and all of which draws my loud and unreserved applause, and my intellectual curiosity. >>Etc., etc... But here our discussion is not about Apologetics. I must confess, that is where I ultimately hoped we would go. Hence my desire to nudge you in the direction of St. Augustine. See below. >>> Have you >>> ever seen optical illusions? >>Yep. Have you ever wondered why we all call them "illusions", with >>great certainty? >>;-) Ha! Gotcha! We know that they are illusions because our initial observations have been tested using other methods. For example, why do we say we know that it is not an optical illusion that our hand has five fingers? Method #1, as I said in my previous email: "You would ideally use other methods to count the number of fingers. For example, you could tap your fingers one at a time upon a drum, and count the number of beats with your ears. In this case, the information which our eyes have given us has been independently tested. You should ideally use many different methods of making this determination, each of which has a small probability of error, and repeat them many times. In this way, the possibility that our senses deceive us can be reduced to an inconceivably low statistic. But theoretically, error is always possible." When other methods show the initial visual observation to be incorrect, we can conclude that we have an optical illusion on our hands. Is it conceivably possible that the initial observation was correct and that all the other methods are illusions? Well, it is possible, but so outlandishly unlikely that we can safely conclude that the apparent truth of the initial information given to us by our eyes was in error. And that is how the scientific method works to support our senses, by encouraging the use of many different methods and repeating them many times. >>Did I mention my literary masterpiece called: >> Error: "Our Senses Deceive Us!" Same response as above. "How do you know that your senses are being used within the range of permitted values, with the appropriate precision, and the sense-organ is not sick or damaged?" Learning how our own eyes work is a bit like learning the chess game. >>> it is >>> impossible to control for all possible variables in any experiment >>> involving the natural world (and I include our eyes as part of this >>> natural world). >>Here again, you are making a very bold statement about an absolute >>truth. You need to: #1 justify how you can assert with certainty >>that we can never assert with certainty; and #2 pass the experiment >>described above. #1: Sorry, let me rephrase: We cannot know with certainty that we are in fact controlling for all the important variables. For example, perhaps due to some bizarre interaction of the earth's magnetic field with the magnesium ions in our nerve cells when stimulated by a certain wavelength of light, etc, etc, all objects will appear blue if you stand on your head at a certain point on the earth's surface during a solar eclipse when the temperature is between 75 and 82 degrees, and after having eaten pork. Nobody ever bothered to examine the effect of these variables on the human eyes because we have no reason to believe that they are important! (If the part of the earth where you must stand doesn't naturally attain a temperature between 75 and 82 degrees, then our chances of discovering this phenomenon certainly decrease drastically, don't they!) But could such a bizarre phenomenon exist? Sure, it might. There no reason we know of why such a phenomenon is absolutely impossible. #2: I don't see how slapping myself in the face is going to prove or disprove anything. Slapping myself in the face is just like watching the apple drop. It would be a safe bet that the same thing is going to happen which happened the last umpteen times. That is why none of us (except perhaps ascetics) go around slapping ourselves in the face: because we have good reason to believe that it will hurt, just like it did last time. >>> This is the reason why it is impossible to develop >>> the "perfect experiment" >>Hum! That's a catchy name! "The Perfect Experiment!" >>Yes, I like it! Stefan, the only difference between your slapping experiment and my apple experiment is that you want me to metaphorically stand under the apple when it falls! This is very theatrical of you, but it really doesn't do anything to help enhance the experiment except that you get to hear me say "ouch" instead of hearing the apple say "thud!" >>> But that does not mean that I can make the >>> statement with the same certainty as cogito ergo sum. >>Wait until I've translated Thonnard's Criteriology. OK. >>> My hand is not >>> something which dwells within my mind >>How can you be so sure? Because I do not have innate knowledge of it. >>> All of the information about my hand comes to me >>> through conduits of information which might not be absolutely >>> accurate. >>How can you be so sure? >>Another way of putting it is: "Doubt is good, but as long as you >>really doubt, seriously doubt, diligently doubt." In other words, >>you also have to doubt your doubt. >>Then you need to perform the Perfect Experiment and read up on >>Criteriology. I do not have to "doubt my doubt." My doubt is a positively constructed entity which exists within my mind, and has no parts which I have not ascribed to it. Therefore, I am certain about my doubt. As for the conduits which give me information about the outside world, they (just like the falling apple) have proved themselves to me only through a process of discovery. Since I have no innate knowledge about them, I cannot be certain that they are perfectly accurate in all circumstances, since I have not tested them under all circumstances. Rather, I have tested them under a small subset of circumstances, and from this I extrapolate and assume that they are accurate under all circumstances until proven otherwise (as with optical illusions). Furthermore, actual experience (as with optical illusions) has shown us that, indeed, there are times when any single conduit of information can fail us. If it is true that there are times when any single conduit can fail us, then mathematically it must be true that there could be a time when all conduits might fail simultaneously. This mathematical possibility does not anywise prevent me from assuming the truth of any information given to me by my senses, but this is also the reason why I cannot assert the truth of the existence of my hand with the same certainty as cogito ergo sum. >>> Proof: Evidence sufficient to establish a theory as true, according >>> to a given level of rigorousness, which may be absolute or somewhat >>> less than absolute. >>Hum, interesting. Here are a few of my thoughts, after comparing the >>RHCD ("Random House College Dictionary") definition with Thonnard's. First off, be careful. I said "mostly pulled from RHCHD." The RHCD definition is everything up to the word "true." The rest I added myself to establish a working definition that would not conflict with my assertion that there are theories which we cannot know with absolute certainty. >>First, a good definition is a proximate genus and specific difference. >>(Example: "Man is an animal endowed with reason and free will".) Here, >>RHCD seems to say the genus of "proof" is "evidence". We have already >>seen how ambiguous that word is, in modern mouths. If we take "evidence" >>in the modern sense, then it is equivalent to saying: "A proof is something >>that makes us consider an assertion as more or less probable." First, >>the word "something" is not exactly a proximate genus! Second, >>a proof is precisely not a clue or an argument in favor of. It's >>much more than that. Basically, I am trying to say that a proof is evidence (yes, in the modern sense), sufficient to convince the logical person that a theory is true. Bear in mind that we do not require absolute proof in order to be convinced of the truth of something. Otherwise, we would walk home, see our house engulfed in flames, say to ourselves, "Our senses could be deceiving us," and walk blithely right in the front door! (This also applies to bitch-slapping.) I have the distinct feeling that this is an area in which you are more qualified by training than am I. Therefore, since you have by this time been made intimately familiar with my position on the subject, I will allow you the pleasure of proposing a definition of the word "proof" which encompasses my stated meaning when I say "the theory of gravity has been proven." Then, you will always know what I mean when I write the word "proof." I have a feeling that your own definition of the world proof is much closer to what I would call "absolute proof," and I'll bear that in mind. Oh, and I beg of you, let me use the modern definition of "evidence," since I know of no other word which I could substitute for what I now think of an "evidence"! >>Second, RHCD seems to say a "proof" concerns a "theory", i.e. it establishes >>a theory as true. Except you've been saying all along that a theory can >>never be proven true. So the definition of "proof" becomes: "Something >>sufficient to establish a theory as being what it is unable to be". I say that theories, specifically in natural science, can be proven, just not absolutely. It depends on the definition of "proof" which you are using. By my definition of the word, given above, there is no contradiction in saying, "the theory of gravity has been proven"! >>> Hypothesis: A rational conjecture >>"Conjecture" is a synonym for "hypothesis". In other words, not a >>"proximate genus". >>> A good >>> theory must [...] make testable predictions about observations >>So must a hypothesis, otherwise it cannot "guide investigation" >>So must a hypothesis, otherwise it cannot "guide investigation" >>So must a theory, otherwise it cannot be used as a "principles >>of explanation for a phenomenon or class of phenomena". Well do feel free to help out with a good definition! >>In a way, we can define words any way we want, and have an intelligent >>conversation. Just as long as you and I agree what we mean by such >>and such a word. >>In another way, you are just the victim of "magna est vis consuetudinis" >>(great is the force of habit). You've just been accustomed to an >>incorrect use of the words "opinion" and "belief". Grammarians have for centuries insisted that we must bow to common usage in making definitions of words. If the entire population defines a word one way, and you and a handful of philosophers define the word another way, then no matter how logical your reasons, this will not help the word fulfill its one true purpose: to make thoughts easily understood by others. >>> There is a possibility that any theory will be proved wrong. >>Theory: large five-fingered entities travelling at high velocity can >>really slap hard! >>But seriously, if you reduce the number of assertions you consider >>as "theories", to restrict them to some conclusions of some >>sciences known as "empirio-metric sciences", Concedo. Whew! Thank you! If by "empirio-metric sciences" you mean "natural sciences", then I think I can jump for joy! >>> matter and >>> energy are interconvertable! >>Thonnard says that, strictly speaking, that is not true. Then Thonnard can go mail a bear! :-) Seriously, we do have to be careful how we define "matter" and "energy." But, using the classical definitions of these words, then, yes it is true. I have confirmed it with a physicist, and can provide any number of primary references upon request. >>> and the creation of pure energy in the form of photons. >>Careful with your use of words. See "Creation" in Verbal Inflation >>and Impoverished Thought and Section 2.3 in How To Evolve >>A Debate Against A Darwinist. Concedo. But you're just directing me toward the Darwinism page because, deep down in your subconscious, you know how hopelessly wrong you probably are on the subject! :-) :-) Seriously, I'm not "tooled up" for a debate on Darwinism at the moment, but I suggest that it sounds like an intriguing conversation, and I'd love for us to tackle it together sometime! >>> What we thought was a hard and fast >>> certainty turned out to be wrong under certain conditions! >>Don't get all "reved-up" too quickly! I'm not! I'm trying to prevent you from getting revved-up too quickly! :-) >>Wow, man! You're using French! I have to agree with you here! Thanks, but not really. I'm just repeating what fencing players say, as you guessed. Two years of French in high school didn't teach me anything which I could not forget! I decided to spend my last two years learning Ancient Latin instead. It was a great relief to me when I learned that my classics teacher, who could speak Ancient Latin and Ancient Greek fluently, had taken "French 1" four times in college!! I remember just enough Latin to be irritated whenever anybody says "antenn-ah" for "antennae" or pronounces the Latin "c" with a "cha" sound! :-) >>> I believe that my definition is far more >>> prevalent in both the scientific community and the general >>> population than your definition. >>Why "believe" when you can know? Because in order to know I would have to spend days collecting evidence! >>Sociological inquiries, using the scientific method adapted >>to studying large groups of human persons, would prove beyond >>a shadow of a doubt that your definition "is far more >>prevalent in both the scientific community and the general >>population". I'm sure that's true. >>Then, after establishing that, we can think about the consequences >>of defining "Science" as "that which the majority considers >>as science". Remember Section 3.2 of Public Enemy #1: Religious >>Obscurantism? This logically means that if the majority >>considers Witchcraft to be a science, then Witchcraft is a science! Well, yes, it is always a pain in the neck when somebody would do significant violence to the established meaning of the word. Then we just have to find some other word to express what we mean, like "nscience"! :-) >>Then, we can compare your definition of Science with Thonnard's, >>and see which one passes The Perfect Test of common sense and >>logic. I was never a big fan of the logical definition of words. The sole function of a word is to adequately convey meaning. I'm sure that there are many words out there which "should" have a meaning different from that of popular usage, but changing horses in mid-stream doesn't help us to communicate any easier! >>(Well, OK, this debate is public, so we have to make it interesting >>for readers! Call it the "Oprah-fication" of Philosophy"! :-) Oh, good grief! :-) I've spent a lifetime avoiding that show, and still it haunts me! >>> Rather it arises from knowledge about the means which I am using to >>> gain knowledge of the world. >>So the means you are using to know the world are out of this world? >>How do you define "world"? "World" in this context means all of existence which is external to my own mind. >>The Perfect Experiment can still leave you in a state of doubt. >>I wish I had your fortitude. It might come in handy >>some day! I am NOT in a state of doubt to begin with. I merely assert, as with the apple, that "it takes the certainty of the mentally constructed theory to make the absolute statement, which has been inferred from the facts using a philosophical method." While I am not in doubt, I confess that there is some possibility that my theory will be proved wrong one day. Until that day, however, I am not in doubt, because of Occam's Razor. >>Actually, I kind of look forward to hearing your reaction to Thonnard's >>assessment of The Discourse. Unfortunately, I'm not finished with it yet. I'll send it along as soon as I am done! >>Lord, we're having problems here! :-D >>> I'm saying that you do have evidence about what is in the fridge. >>No you don't. Yes, I do! >>Unless you define "evidence" incorrectly (which you do, well, actually, >>which "that portion of the academic community to which [you are] >>habitually exposed" does.) Yes, I do define it incorrectly. Myself, and the rest of the English-speaking world! If you have a bone to pick with the irresistible force of common usage, then I suggest that you walk down to your nearest seashore and try commanding the tide to halt. In the meantime, I think I ought to continue expressing myself in such a way that people who speak English will be able to understand me! >>Seriously, of course there are similarities. Let's try to sort this >>out: >>[Table] Concedo, but irrelevant. Nice table, though! Remeber what I said: The intelligence and good will of the wife certainly enter into it, but are not absolutely necessary to establish a conduit of information as being reliable. Of course, all of the human attributes of the wife make the continued reliability of this conduit all the more difficult to determine. >>> it is at least conceivable for our senses to be >>> unpredictably unreliable. Right? >>Right. Thank you. >>Then that doubt is eliminated scientifically. No, it's not. Let me direct you to my references which are in Swahili. >>"Critique or criteriology is the scientific examination of >>our spontaneous certitudes [...] criteriology is a >>scientific knowledge, which proceeds by rigorous demonstration, >>but it is not a separate science, being a part of >>Metaphysics." Once you translate the text from French to English, you might have to translate it from Philosopher-speak anyway, so that a person such as myself, who is not trained in the vocabulary and writing style of professional philosophers, would be able to understand it. So why not just give me a quick synopsis yourself, instead of telling me to slap myself in the face! Who knows? You might be able to convince me after just a paragraph and one or two examples! If I have any specific objections, I would raise them, and you could just answer. Sheeesh! >>I'll let you be the stuntman. :-) >>Pesker me to translate. Translate! >>> If the husband knew himself to be notoriously absent minded >>> and forgetful, he might very well count the wife's assertion as more >>> reliable than his own recollection! >>Unless he forgot his wife was less absent-minded. Is that a "concedo"? >>> Here we go. Please read what follows carefully. >>OK. :-) >>No. I like my scenario. It is Officially Endorsed® by real >>modern experimental scientists! Fine, you can have your scenario. Just substitute "car" for "apple" and "kill you" for "fall to earth." >>If the protocol says: "Start by taking 3 milligrams of H2SO4", >>and you immediately say: "Hum, lets replace that with apple juice and >>continue with the rest of the protocol!" Fine. The argument works just as well with your example. >>I give you a perfectly clear description of a scientific experiment, >>then you go and change that experiment and declare I'm wrong because >>the results are different! Alright, alright, you can have your scenario! Please!!! >>Seriously, you cannot change the scenario. "Objects always fall to earth" >>is not the same thing as "Our senses, when healthy and placed in >>front of their proper object, do not deceive us". The first is >>a principle, the second a demonstrated conclusion of the science >>of criteriology. I do not disagree with that conclusion of the science of criteriology. As a matter of fact, I am willing to grant it as true. >>Principle: [...] Well, that pretty much encompases most nscientific theories that I know! >>> it takes the certainty of the mentally >>> constructed theory to make the absolute statement, which has been >>> inferred from the facts using a philosophical method (logic). >>Concedo... Thank you. >>Concedo... Thank you. >>Concedo... Thank you. >>Concedo... Thank you. >>> since nobody knows the mechanism. Your knowledge, rather, is based >>> purely on the theory of gravity which we have developed after many, >>> many, many observations. >>Concedo... Thank you! >>> the reality is that watching an apple fall >>> every time you drop it is not per se an absolute guarantee that it >>> will fall the next time. >>Concedo... Thank you! >>I'll let you approach the asymptote. :-D :-D I will entirely grant that "Our senses, when healthy and placed in front of their proper object, do not deceive us." However, I think you'll find that satisfying the above stipulation puts you in a position that is identical to the observer in the apple experiment. I will say it again for emphasis: Just like the apple, our knowledge of our "instrument" is based upon a process of continuing discovery. We do not innately know what our eyes are capable of and not capable of. That is why optical illusions must be discovered, and that is also why we do not know with absolute certainty whether some new failing of our eyes will emerge unexpectedly. Presumably, more optical illusions are out there awaiting discovery. I am not saying that if I saw a ham in the fridge, I would immediately disbelieve my eyes on the basis that they could be misleading me. That would be illogical and silly, and a violation of logic (Occam's razor). But it takes the certainty of the mentally constructed theory to make the absolute statement, "my eyes are in front of their proper object," when looking at an object which your eyes have never seen before, or under circumstances which are even slightly new. Who knows? You may have just discovered the newest optical illusion! Is it highly unlikely? Yes. That is why, when we see a train coming, we get our caboose away from the tracks! >>Really, the problem is caused by me... I agree entirely! :-) >>Anyway, sorry about all the virtual bitch-slapping. Maybe I should >>just say things like: "If one apple decided to fly instead of >>falling, but you could never be sure of your senses, how could >>you say your theory was proven false?" See my definition of "proof" and you will know. Just because there is the theoretical possibility of error in any observation does not mean that we do not rely upon our senses - we merely strive to corroborate, as much as possible, what they tell us. If you saw a flying apple, would you believe your eyes right away? I didn't think so. It would take repeated observations, and probably some corroboration of your other senses (such as by touching the apple), and even corroboration from other people's senses, before you believed what you saw the first time. That is all that certainty demands. I do not dispute the basic trustworthiness of the human senses. Well! I think that the seemingly impossible has happened: I think that we are likely in substantive agreement with each other! (Unless you throw me a real curve ball in your response to this email!) At least, what you say is "absolutely true" (your hand will hurt the next time you slap yourself), I say I am willing to think of as absolutely true. I think that these differences are not material, at least for our purposes, since even if we both believe our senses for different reasons, or by more or less convoluted paths of reasoning, we are, at least, both willing to behave as though what our senses tell us is true, and we both believe in the basic trustworthiness of our senses, when placed in front of their proper objects, and not sick or injured, etc. That provides a firm basis for talking about something really mouthwatering. If you have by this time become sick of listening to me prattle, by all means let me know. But as I said to begin with, what I was really looking foreward to was hearing your reactions to the strengths and limitations of a proof for the existence of God, and ultimately delving into apologetics. Through an act of phenomenal presumption on my part, I will send you a copy of a paper I wrote on Book II of St. Augustine's "On Free Choice of the Will." I will also send you a xerox of my copy of the work (which is stunningly short), so that I might, if you were to ever feel inclined, hear your responses. Yours Most Sincerely, J. Ferenc
Hello again J. Ferenc. Sorry about the long delay, I was busy continuing to digitize Thonnard's History of Philosophy. (Finished Husserl. Finishing Heidegger.) >> No! That's the point!! It might be perfect, it might not be. >> See?! I'm not sure. You said here: "When speaking of the outside natural world, our ability to be certain is based on an imperfect process of discovery." [my emphasis] Which seems to me like a direct contradiction with what you say in your subsequent e-mail: "It might be perfect, it might not be". To be consistent with yourself, shouldn't you state: "When speaking of the outside natural world, our ability to be certain might be based on an imperfect process of discovery, but then it might not be either." You cannot have it both ways. Either, while you are being flogged to death by the Romans, you know with certainty that you are being flogged to death, or you don't. >> just like the apple, our knowledge of our instrument is >> based upon a process of continuing discovery. Distinguo. As for the knowledge of how our senses tell us about the outside world, Concedo. For example, we can think about everything we've learnt about our eyes over the past hundred years or so (retinal, rhodopsin, transducin, PDE, cyclic guanosine monophosphate, etc. Campbell, 7th ed., p. 1061.) As for the knowledge our senses provide us about the outside world, Distinguo again. As for the perceptions provided by our senses, Concedo. This relates to the whole topic of the "training of our senses". For example, learning that my hand, when it appears as a colored spot this big, is closer to my face than when it appears as a much smaller colored spot. As for the external sensible intuition provided by our senses, Nego. The slap on your face gives you knowledge about the outside world. A very rudimentary and painful knowledge, but knowledge none the less. Same with colored spots seen with your eyes, or noise heard by your ears, etc. That knowledge is certain. >> that is also why we do not >> know with absolute certainty whether some new failing of our eyes will >> emerge unexpectedly. Nego, see above. >> That would be illogical and >> silly, and Occam's Razor prohibits that conclusion. Distinguo. As far as trusting your senses that are telling you there is a ham in the fridge, Concedo. I'm sure you trust your senses, otherwise you wouldn't have lived long enough to send me e-mails about your senses (you would have been squished by a car, etc.). As far as trusting your senses because of Occam's Razor, Nego. You have to stick your nose in the facts, not in substandard philosophy books. While the Roman soldiers are whipping you, you are certain that they are whipping you, with absolute certainty, and you will beg them for mercy. Occam's Razor will never cross your mind. This is very important. You can with your lips say: "Maybe my senses deceive me", but you cannot psychologically think it. Call the Roman soldiers if you have doubts. >> the question more or less becomes, "How do you know that your >> senses are being used within the range of permitted values, with the >> appropriate precision, and the sense-organ is not sick or damaged?" >> This is a big question Nego. Call the Roman soldiers if you have doubts. >> the answer to this question is a >> result of continuing discovery. Distinguo. For excruciatingly mathematical details, Concedo. For example, how many Decibels, for how many minutes, are required to permanently damage hearing and block out frequencies between 10 KHertz and 12 KHertz. For normal sensations, Nego. For example, you might not know at exactly how many micro-Pascals you will stop feeling a slap in the face, because it won't exert enough pressure for you to feel it, but you sure know that when you get slapped in the face, there is something out there hitting you! >> Like the chess game. Nego. The chess game is an excellent example of your misunderstanding. If you don't know the rules of the game, you can try to deduce them by looking at how the pieces are moved on the chessboard. You have no direct evidence (correct use of the term) of those rules. (That evidence will only come if you will read the rule book for chess.) But you do have evidence of the pieces on the chessboard! You have external sensible intuition of them. You can smell the rook, taste the queen, bite the bishop. That is precisely not like guessing the rules! >> If you doubt that it is tricky to determine whether or not our senses >> are working properly, just reflect on the legendary unreliability of >> eye-witness testimony Let's examine the "legendary unreliability of eye-witness testimony". Put somebody in a high-stress situation, show them a complicated event that happens very quickly and very far away, then wait several months and ask them what happened. Of course you will have discrepancies! Why? High-stress situation = tachycardia, tunnel vision, survival instinct (i.e. comparable to a mild disease of the senses) complicated event = precisely the opposite of direct proper sensibles fast = no time to ascertain show them... far away = the sense of certainty is the sense of touch, not the sense of sight wait several months = your dealing with the reliability of memory here, not the reliability of external sensible intuition Try this instead: gather all your friends in front of your fridge, then let them open the door and stare for as long as they want at your ham, then ask them: "How many of you just saw a reddish-colored spot?" 100% reliability of eye-witness testimony. >> Let's see...you believe that causing the infliction of torture >> upon people is the ultimate and perfect way to make them see truth... :-) No, of course. But people in bad faith will say anything. When arguing with somebody in bad faith, the only way to make them stop blabbering is to either threaten their wallet, or threaten their physical integrity. >> If I slap myself in the face, [...] this >> still doesn't help me to know whether I am "really" slapping >> myself in the face, or whether an evil person has slipped LSD into >> my tea and I'm dreaming of slapping myself in the face! The difference between dreaming and being awake is quite clear. Nobody actually doubts the difference. Go walk in front of a moving car if you have any doubts. But you don't want to go walk in front of a moving car. So ask yourself "Why"? Because you are convinced that you are not dreaming, or drugged, and that you are in full contact with reality! Unless I find some Roman soldiers, I cannot help you more here. You have to honestly look inside your mind and ask yourself: "Do I really have any doubts?" You can express such doubts, write about them, talk about them, but you cannot live by them. This is why we talk about "in actu exercito", as opposed to "in actu signato". You can express the doubt that you are currently dreaming because of LSD, but you cannot live that doubt. You are psychologically unable to do so. The cold, hard fact is that some certainties in your life are necessary. That is one of the elements required to solve the problem of Criteriology. (The other two are a problem and a critical subject to solve the problem.) >> "How do we know whether our senses are impaired at this moment?" Go back to my text Error: "The Brain In A Vat" If you start out by saying: "Let's assume we cannot tell the difference between dreaming (or being drugged, etc.) and being in the real reality, how then can we tell the difference?" The answer, as I've said, is: "You cannot". You have assumed there was no way of telling the difference, so therefore there is no way! But that is an assumption. Is that assumption true? We have to look! >> It is partly the uncertain answer to this question which causes >> nscience to demand repeated observations Nego. Science, any Science, cannot be based on a totally silly theory like that of the Post-Modernists! If slapping yourself is not evidence of yourself being slapped, then there never will be any evidence, no matter how many microscopes and telescopes and spectroscopes you dig out. >> Confound it! I never in my life said that truth could exist! >> I say that it does exist! ... but from what I can gather, you also repeatedly state that we cannot know with certainty whether we are in possession of that truth. Check out here, and here, and here, among others. Knowing that truth exists, but never knowing whether we possess it, is just as bad as not having any truth at all! If you are starved, and you know food exists, but you don't have any food, you're still starved! >> My certainty when saying these things is >> based upon a theory Nego. Observe a baby burning his hand on a stovetop for the first time of his existence. He knows he has just hurt his hand, but he doesn't have a theory. Theories about the existence of reality come with PoMos and university grads with too much time on their hands! >> >> Here again, you insert the scientific method (for experimental sciences >> >> that are subalternated to mathematics) between all sense-experience >> >> and all knowing of truth, which is not always the case. >> >> What on earth do you mean? Exactly what is written in that sentence above! >> Similarly, I believe my understanding of science to be quite solid. >> There have been many teachers [...] many books OK, which ones? >> The only >> exception to this would be if we knew that the idea was given by God. >> Of course, if we already knew this, then analyzing the stability of the >> teachings would then become unnecessary. The hypothesis is that the "idea was given by God". So that provides a testable prediction: "this idea will be stable throughout the history of that religion". So you can test the prediction. Will that prove, in itself, that this religion is true? No, but it will increase the probability that the hypothesis is true. Isn't this "nscience"? But then, I'm not so sure my "understanding of science [is] quite solid". >> Both of these things have not yet been established Of course. I'm pointing out some conclusions of Apologetics, not providing all the arguments behind those conclusions. That requires entire books. >> Hence my desire to nudge you in the direction of St. Augustine. >> See below. >> We know that they are illusions because our initial >> observations have been tested using other methods. Hum. All the optical illusions I have seen were detectable using my eyes. Example: The "which line is shorter" is not an illusion about sensation of a proper sensible or a common sensible (See Error: "Our Senses Deceive Us!" for the terminology). It is a problem of perception, in this case judging which line is longer. Just sticking a ruler next to the line solves the problem, and we can see it clearly. Other example: The "dog or old woman" illusion. Same thing. Not an illusion about sensation of a proper sensible or a common sensible. Our eyes can see quite clearly which parts of the sheet of paper are black, and which parts are white. No illusion there. I looked up "optical illusion" in Wikipedia, and started to have fun! - Same color illusion: just hide the other squares with your fingers or some piece of paper, and you see they are the same color. - scintillating grid illusion: it's not an illusion! Well, if you take the image on Wikipedia, it's not an illusion (maybe the real image does work). The image on Wikipedia, when screen- captured and enlarged, clearly shows grey dots at the intersections. - etc. I was able to figure out these were illusions by "going down" to the actual information supplied by my eyes (proper and common sensibles). >> When other methods show the initial visual observation to >> be incorrect >> we can conclude that we have an optical illusion on our hands. Hum. In my book, "Uncertainty + Uncertainty + Uncertainty" does not equal "Certainty". And I don't need Roman soldiers to know with certainty that the external sensible intuition provided by my senses is true. >> And that is how the scientific method works to support our senses, by >> encouraging the use of many different methods and repeating them many >> times. Nego. The scientific method does not, cannot, never will provide us with external sensible intuition. Moreover, the scientific method does not, cannot, and never will provide us with proof that our external sensible intuition is truthful. >> Learning how our own eyes work is a bit like learning the chess game. See above. >> For example, perhaps >> due to some bizarre interaction of the earth's magnetic field with the >> magnesium ions in our nerve cells when stimulated by a certain wavelength >> of light, etc, etc, all objects will appear blue if you stand on your >> head at a certain point on the earth's surface during a solar eclipse >> when the temperature is between 75 and 82 degrees, and after having eaten >> pork. See above. >> could such a bizarre phenomenon exist? Sure, it >> might. There no reason we know of why such a phenomenon is >> absolutely impossible. Concedo. But then we would immediately see it as what it is: another case where the limits of the sense organ are trespassed. Remember the Roman soldiers: we know when we are in contact with reality, so if that contact is lost, a big flashing red light comes on. >> #2: I don't see how slapping myself in the face is going to prove or >> disprove anything. Precisely. It cannot provide a proof. A proof is a kind of "movement" from the known to the unknown. We take some elements that are true, and use them to acertain elements which we had doubts about. A proof cannot continue into an "infinite regression". At some point of time we have to stop on some "immediate" knowledge (as opposed to mediate knowledge). A slap in the face provides you with evidence (real evidence, not the silly modern meaning of the word). You just need to observe the data (in this case: "ouch!"). >> Slapping myself in the face is just like watching >> the apple drop. As explained above, I use that slapping example because (a) the sense of touch is the sense of certainty; (b) people who claim to have doubts about their senses are usually only amenable to financial or physical pain; (c) my example used to be "I slap you in the face", but I was told that was nasty, so now my example is "You slap yourself in the face". (But the evidence is clearer if I do the slapping. Once again, political correctness gets in the way of Science!) >> Stefan, the only difference between your slapping experiment >> and my apple experiment is that you want me to metaphorically stand >> under the apple when it falls! Nego. See above. >> I do not have to "doubt my doubt." My doubt is a positively >> constructed entity which exists within my mind, and has no parts >> which I have not ascribed to it. Therefore, I am certain about my >> doubt. Distinguo. You know that you have constructed an artificial PoMo doubt in your mind. Concedo. But if the Roman soldiers were currently flogging you to death, you would have doubts? Nego! The type of doubt that you have constructed requires rich parents (or some State-funded university, or a fat scholarship, etc.) and some PoMo "friends" to contaminate your mind. >> but this is also the reason >> why I cannot assert the truth of the existence of my hand with the >> same certainty as cogito ergo sum. Somebody, call the Roman soldiers! I have another PoMo who thinks "cogito ergo sum" is somehow more certain that "ouch! ouch! ouch!" >> Oh, and I beg of you, let me use the modern definition of "evidence," >> since I know of no other word which I could substitute for what I >> now think of an "evidence"! Somebody, call the Roman soldiers! I have another PoMo who isn't sure about the true meaning of the word "evidence"! >> Well do feel free to help out with a good definition! See Thonnard. (For translation from Swahili to English, see Assimil. [SJJ: there was a reference for Amazon on Assimil here, but in was invalid HTML and caused the validator.w3.org to choke, so I removed it.]) >> Grammarians have for centuries insisted that we must bow to common >> usage in making definitions of words. Actually, Aristotle said that over 2 millenia ago. (Sorry, I don't have the precise reference just here and now, but I'm willing to bet 5 slaps.) >> If the entire population >> defines a word one way, and you and a handful of philosophers >> define the word another way, then no matter how logical your >> reasons, this will not help the word fulfill its one true >> purpose: to make thoughts easily understood by others. Distingo. If we're just talking about changing the sounds related to concepts, then Concedo. (For example, if a huge majority starts to use the word "safe" when they mean "dangerous", and "dangerous" when they mean "safe", I'll follow common usage.) But if we're talking about destroying the correct concepts, then Nego. (For example, if a huge majority starts to use the word "subhuman" when they mean "Jew", then I will refuse common usage, and fight this horrible error.) The words for which I put up a fight (like "evidence", "opinion", "science", etc.) are words which, when incorrectly defined, destroy all possibility of knowing God, of finding out the difference between good and evil, etc. >> I have confirmed it with a physicist, >> and can provide any number of primary references upon >> request. I stand my ground. >> I'm not "tooled up" for a debate on Darwinism at the moment, but I >> suggest that it sounds like an intriguing conversation, and I'd >> love for us to tackle it together sometime! Apparently, you didn't take the time to read. Darwinism is totally irrelevant here. >> I'm sure that there are many words out there which "should" have a >> meaning different from that of popular usage, but changing horses >> in mid-stream doesn't help us to communicate any easier! See above. >> While I am not in doubt, >> I confess that there is some possibility that my theory will be >> proved wrong one day. Distinguo. As per the correct definitions of "doubt" and "opinion", Concedo. By definition, when you have an opinion, you think you are correct, but you know you could be wrong. When you are in doubt, you don't assert. You don't have any reasons to pick one side more than another, hence you doubt. But I claim science, strictly speaking, is not opinion. And I claim we can scientifically know, without any doubt, without any possibility of error, infallibly, that our senses, concerning their proper object, when healthy, when used within their limits, tell us the truth. And that we can scientifically know when they are telling us the truth! So Nego in that sense. >> Let me direct you to my references which >> are in Swahili. :-) Let me broaden your horizons! [SJJ: there was a hyperlink to Amazon for Assimil for French here.] >> So why not just give me a quick synopsis yourself, instead of >> telling me to slap myself in the face! Who knows? You might be >> able to convince me after just a paragraph and one or two examples! >> If I have any specific objections, I would raise them, and you >> could just answer. Sheeesh! I started, then realized I've got a lot of work to do, and what is worse, Thonnard explains it better than me. And there might be some excellent and free English philosophy textbooks out there that I haven't found yet. Let's say I'll let you read all of the Thonnard you have in English (cover to cover), then we'll see. >> I will say it again for emphasis: Just like the apple, our knowledge >> of our "instrument" is based upon a process of continuing discovery. See above. >> But it takes the certainty of the mentally constructed theory >> to make the absolute statement, "my eyes are in front of their proper >> object," Nego. Using the word "theory" as you define it, you will never attain any certainty about external sense intuition. >> Well! I think that the seemingly impossible has happened: I think that >> we are likely in substantive agreement with each other! I don't think so. >> I was >> really looking foreward to was hearing your reactions to the >> strengths and limitations of a proof for the existence of God Offhand, I would think we would be wasting our time given your current misunderstanding of essential notions like "evidence", "proof", etc. See Section 2.4 of: The Proofs of God's Existence: Some Preliminary Groundwork. Cheers! Stefan
-----Original Message----- From: J. Ferenc Sent: 4 mai 2008 14:03 To: Stefan Jetchick Subject: Re: Response Hello Stefan, I've just by chance seen your response to my last post; thank you. I was just about to write you an email myself, apologizing that it is taking me so long to write my response to Thonnard. Finals are coming up, and I am extremely busy. I will get to it as soon as possible. In summary, I can tell you that I agree with almost all that Thonnard writes in his chapter on Descartes. Several points I must react to now, since I will need clarifications before I continue with those parts of your email: >>> I have confirmed it with a physicist, >>> and can provide any number of primary references upon >>> request. >> >> I stand my ground. You are standing in truth upon no ground at all, since your original statement was merely, "Thonnard says that, strictly speaking, that is not true." Choose some ground and stand upon it, then. Make an affirmative statement of some kind, explaining what you mean by "strictly speaking," (I.e., do you disagree with the entire statement, or parts of it, and for what reasons?) and I will respond with pleasure. >> >> Here again, you insert the scientific method (for experimental sciences >> >> that are subalternated to mathematics) between all sense-experience >> >> and all knowing of truth, which is not always the case. >> >> What on earth do you mean? >> Exactly what is written in that sentence above! Are you a charitable and generous teacher of knowedge, or do you merely take a selfish comfort in the knowledge that you know what you mean to say? >> I started, then realized I've got a lot of work to do, and what >> is worse, Thonnard explains it better than me. And there might >> be some excellent and free English philosophy textbooks out there >> that I haven't found yet. >> >> Let's say I'll let you read all of the Thonnard you have in >> English (cover to cover), then we'll see. Stefan, do you not believe that I, as well, have "a lot of work to do?" I have 16 credit hours per week in classes, in addition to 34 hours of work, plus studying. I can still find time to write a paragraph or two and defend my opinions when discussing subjects which I find important. Of course, my intention is to read Thonnard, and I certainly will, since it seems like an interesting book, but as far as I can tell, the book is NOT about criteriology. Am I not correct? So, then, what is this? Are you the guru upon the mountain, and I must jump through hoops of fire to gain the priviledge of speaking with you on a subject which does not relate to hoops or fire? Please explain yourself. Have a nice Sunday! Best, J. Ferenc
-----Original Message----- From: J. Ferenc Sent: 4 mai 2008 23:56 To: Stefan Jetchick Subject: RE: Response Dear Stefan, I am pleased to tell you that I have found two texts in English which address the issue of criteriology. The amount of work on the subject appears to be scant, and the word itself seems to be an invention of neo-scholasticism. The first book is: Elementary Course of Christian Philosophy, Based on the Principles of the Best Scholastic Authors; Adapted from the French of Brother Louis de Poissy, by The Brothers of the Christian Schools, 1898. The second book is "Knowledge and Justification," by John Pollock, Princeton Univeristy Press, 1974. At first glance, the text's treatment of criteriology appears to be a critique, but I will let you know. Happily, both books are available online. If you happen to have any off-hand objections to either of these two texts, please let me know. Best, J. Ferenc
-----Original Message----- From: Stefan Jetchick Sent: 5 mai 2008 08:43 To: J. Ferenc Subject: RE: Response Hello J. Ferenc, >> I've just by chance seen your response to my last post Actually, I had not responded to you yet. I always send an e-mail telling the person I've posted my response on my web site. I had posted my draft response, and was planning on re-reading it slowly the next morning to refine it. Apparently you're polling my site on a regular basis. >> In summary, I can tell you that I agree with almost all >> that Thonnard writes in his chapter on Descartes. Good! >> You are standing in truth upon no ground at all, since your original >> statement was merely, "Thonnard says that, strictly speaking, that >> is not true." Choose some ground and stand upon it, then. Dear J. Ferenc. If you click on that hyperlink, you end up on all the required explanations in Thonnard's book. That is the ground I stand on. >> Are you a charitable and generous teacher of knowedge, or do you >> merely take a selfish comfort in the knowledge that you know what >> you mean to say? I have tried my best to explain that statement in the longest debate yet on my web site: 195 kilobytes of raw text. Honest, I don't know what else I can do. Maybe you could try listening to my advice and read the book I've asked you to read, cover to cover? >> Stefan, do you not believe that I, as well, have "a lot of work to >> do?" Dear J. Ferenc. I too have a life and many things to do. Two other ongoing debates have been on hold ever since you wrote me for the first time (one with Jehovah's Witnesses, one concerning Noam Chomsky). Honest, I have not been neglecting you. I've rather been neglecting the others! >> Of course, my intention is to read >> Thonnard, and I certainly will, since it seems like an interesting >> book Good! >> but as far as I can tell, the book is NOT about criteriology. Apparently, you know how to read the title of a book! Congratulations! Yes, that book by Thonnard is about the history of Philosophy, so it only starts to talk about criteriology when, historically, philosophers start to talk about criteriology (around Kant's time, 1724-1804). >> Are you the guru upon >> the mountain, and I must jump through hoops of fire to gain the >> priviledge of speaking with you Dear J. Ferenc. The hoop of fire I'm asking you to jump through is the same hoop of fire I've been holding with my bare hands for over four years now. In other words, I'm recommending you read Thonnard's History of Philosophy, which should take you a few weeks. I've been dedicating my life to digitizing the works of Thonnard since the year 2004. I do a few translation contracts to pay the bills, then I do Thonnard the rest of my waking hours. Whatever "pain" I'm trying to inflict on you, I've inflicted on myself at a far greater degree. Am I a "guru upon a mountain"? All I know is I spent (wasted?) five years studying Philosophy at Laval University in Quebec City, and after I found two books by Thonnard which in a few months could have taught me much more, faster, and with fewer errors! So my philosophical life is currently dedicated to pointing my finger at Thonnard and saying: "If you want to save years and years of useless toil, read these books carefully!" If that message is not agreeable to you, there are other mountains and other gurus to choose from. >> If you happen to have any >> off-hand objections to either of these two texts, please let me >> know. I've been dedicating my life to encouraging people to read such-and-such a book, and you ask me whether instead you should read such another book? I'll point to my life as an answer to your question! OK, now the guru on top of his mountain will make a pronouncement: "Dear J. Ferenc, please don't e-mail me again, until you've read Thonnard's History of Philosophy, cover to cover, with great care, and with great docility. Don't worry if that takes time, I'll be on top of this mountain until I die. You know the way to get here. No need to knock, there is no door." In Christ, Stefan
-----Original Message----- From: Jason Ferenc Sent: 6 février 2010 19:30 To: Stefan Jetchick Subject: Why I am Pro-Life Hi Stefan, I have some feedback on your video entitled "Why I Am Pro-Life." I liked your video. However, I found what I believe to be an area of your argument that could be strengthened. I ask only that you read my email with the same thought that I put into composing it. In the video, you say: "This is the heart of the debate: what exactly is killed by an abortion." Perhaps that is the heart of the debate. If so, then abortion laws are a mistake. An error. A mere inconsistent anomaly in a society that is otherwise opposed to murder. If this were the case, one need only prove that a fetus is a person and, as you say, "Poof!" abortionists will become anti-abortionists. I will demonstrate that this is not the case. I will demonstrate that even if we assume that a fetus is a fully mature individual person with a right to life, abortion laws may still be consistent with our larger system of laws, and our larger sense of fairness and right. Therefore, I propose, we must look beyond merely whether a fetus is human. I. Is the fetus a separate human life? To put my argument into context, let's first ask the question from a scientific perspective, "Is a fetus alive and human?" Think about pregnancy from the microbiological perspective. Ask a natural scientist to say when a human fetus becomes both human and alive, and the microbiologist would be greatly puzzled by this silly question. From his perspective, there can be no doubt that a human fetus is at all times both (a) alive, and (b) human. This also includes the unfertilized eggs sitting in the mother's ovary, as well as the spermatocytes in the male testicle. They are all alive. They are all human. I must agree that a fetus is a human life. In your video, you seem to take pains to establish that a fetus is not "part" of its mother's body. Before we proceed, I have several questions which you can answer extremely briefly: (1) In making the point that a fetus is not part of the mother's body are you implying that you would approve of the voluntary destruction or mutilation of a healthy part of a person's own body, such as the removal of a healthy limb? (2) If you do not approve, would you restrain mutilation of one's own body by force of criminal law? (3) If you would be willing to legally proscribe mutilation of one's own body, should this legal prohibition include even minor mutilation, such as tongue piercing? Ear piercing? Tattoos? Circumcision? Let's consider, strictly biologically, whether a fetus is an "individual" human being with a life "separate" from that of its mother. To the nscientist this is a most irrelevant distinction. A collection of cells has certain characteristics whether it is thought of as "together" or "apart" from another organism. The fetus can be easily thought of as a piece of the mother which has simply split off (or is preparing to split off) from the larger whole like a growing algae. The fact that a multicellular organism divides its body into smaller offspring (with or without genetic input from another organism) is not remarkable. From a cellular perspective, the fetus can be thought of as a whole and separate organism; or it can be thought of as a part of the combined parent organisms; or it can be thought of as a part of only the mother organism, though it has assimilated foreign DNA. It can be thought of as a thing which will become a separate and whole human "being" only in the future, or it can be thought of already as a whole human being in which a number of features are merely immature or inchoate. To the biologist, it makes no difference. When the fetus becomes a "separate" life is a thoroughly arbitrary - and therefore thoroughly useless - natural scientific distinction. It would be foolish to stake an argument on it. In fact, if a time did have to be chosen at which a fetus becomes a separate life, the most logical time would be at fertilization. Either when the egg receives DNA from the sperm cell, or when it begins to produce proteins based on that DNA (a difference of several minutes). I concede the point entirely: a fetus is a human life separate and distinguishable from the mother from the moment transcription of the male DNA begins inside the fertilized egg. Of course, a biological analysis will only carry us so far. A human is not algae. A human is more than a mere collection of eukaryotic cells. To other humans, a human life has value and beauty far beyond the sum of its biological components. II. How does the law treat such a life? Now I will switch from a biological to a legal analysis. A society's laws are the shadows of its collective moral sense. While any legal analysis won't finally settle the question of an act's morality (an entire system of laws may be immoral) it makes an excellent starting point for discussion to examine whether an act is consistent with the greater system of laws in a society, and therefore consistent with a society's overall moral sense. My goal in this email is not to prove that abortion is good or morally right, but merely to show that the central issues for debate lie beyond the question of a fetus' humanity. I concede that all fetuses are: alive, human, and have a separate and independent life. (In fact, I will later posit that a fetus also has a right to life that is equal to yours and mine, but I am getting ahead of myself.) But I contend that alone does not nearly settle the issue. I argue that the real issues are: (a) whether this live separate human person is entitled to life, (b) under what circumstances is that right paramount to the rights of others, and (c) what affirmative duties if any does this right place on others. These are not foregone conclusions, because virtually all people of the earth will agree that in addition to mere life: (a) there are additional factors and circumstances which must exist to entitle a human to claim a paramount right to life, and therefore (b) living humans can forfeit or be stripped of their life in a variety of circumstances. Under what circumstances does our law allow human life to be taken? There are situations where our law (coincident with our current sense of morality) provides that a human may be lawfully killed by another human or allowed to die. We should examine these carefully to determine what the right to life means in practice. In a majority of the United States (at least) the following are true: (A) If a person commits a capital crime, a jury may sentence that person to death by execution. (B) A person may kill another person in necessary defense of their own life or to save a third person from unlawful killing. (C) A person may kill another person who forcibly and illegally enters their home while they are present in it. (D)(1) In wars between nations, soldiers of different nations may have the right to kill each other in battle. (D)(2) Soldiers of the same nation may, in some circumstances, cause each other to be killed. For example, the sergeant may say to the draftee private, "We are under heavy attack. The company is falling back to hill 403. You are assigned to the rear guard, we need you to cover our retreat. Man this machine gun." The private may ask, "For how long should I man it?" To which the sergeant may answer, "Never mind that, just man it." The soldier has been ordered to his certain death, yet it would be illegal for him to desert his post. (E) If a person's brain is completely nonfunctional - that is, no electrical activity emanates from the brain, and the breathing and heartbeat would be absent if they were not maintained by mechanical and medical means, then this person is legally dead. It is a corpse whose organic tissues are being kept alive artificially. Such a brainless body can be "killed" on the theory that it is already dead. (F) If a person is comatose, then they are legally living. However, every living person has the legal right to determine their own medical treatment, or to refuse medical treatment. Since the comatose person is unavailable for comment, authority to direct medical treatment is naturally delegated to the next of kin, who (in the absence of advance directives) may make all medical treatment decisions on behalf of the comatose person, including making the important decision to stop further medical treatment, thereby possibly allowing them to die. (G) In the absence of a voluntarily assumed special relationship between persons (e.g., parent/child, doctor/patient, innkeeper/guest, coachman/passenger, guardian/ward) the common law imposes no duty to rescue, aid, or sustain another human in distress. In the presence of a special relationship, the legal duty to act exists but it is minimal and will generally be satisfied by placing a call for help, even where simple additional actions could have been taken. A legal duty to aid never exists, even in the case of a special relationship, if taking action places the physical safety of the helper in jeopardy. If a person has voluntarily undertaken to aid another person, however, then they have a legal duty not to leave the person in a worse condition than they found them (again, provided it can be done without risk to their physical safety). So we see that there are a number of situations wherein a living human may be legally killed, or allowed to die. The foregoing list is not an empty recitation of unrelated laws. Understanding the situations in which our law teaches that a human life can be taken helps us to understand how the right to life coexists with other rights, and also what duties (if any) it lays upon others. I find rules F & G particularly intriguing, since a fetus in some ways is rather like a comatose person. We can almost imagine them as a comatose adult, but one whom we know will emerge from his coma within a certain time (which makes difference, of course). You seem irked by the comparison of a fetus to an appendix or other organ. While I have no doubt that the nascent state of the brain of an embryo or early fetus may have some importance as far as some of its rights are concerned, I will steer far clear of that reef for now. III. Is there any way we can categorize those situations where life may be taken? I propose that the examples above suggest three ways that we might imagine (without passing judgment) that a life may be forfeit: (1) If the right to life ceases to exist in a person. (2) If the right to life exists, but comes into conflict with one or more rights exercised by others, and the individual's right to life is not the paramount right. (3) If the right to life exists, and that right is not infringed even though a death occurs. IV. Our law in practice Suppose that I, Jason, were comatose right now. Suppose also that doctors could say with certainty that I will wake up from my coma, good as new, within three months. If you were my next of kin, could you elect to kill me on the basis that I am comatose today? Of course you could not! It would be murder to do that, and we know that at a future time I will surely awaken from my coma. But comatose persons require parenteral fluids and nourishment. Could you legally stop providing these to me? Only conditionally. If you wanted to stop caring for me it would be your duty to bring me to a hospital or other place where others could take over my care. Here we begin to distinguish between a right, and what obligations that right places upon others. Let's add a few twists which introduce the element which I believe is truly at the heart of the abortion matter. Suppose that I am sick, except that my condition is especially grave. Machines are not enough to keep me alive. Doctors say that in order to survive, my only hope is to be connected directly to another person's body via some complex tubing which will allow me to feed off of their body and use their internal organs. Doctors have searched far and wide for a compatible body, and you, Stefan, my next of kin, have the only one. In fact, it is not even necessary to imagine that I am unconscious. Let's imagine that I am fully conscious - as conscious as I am right now - but my internal organs have been injured and that to survive I must remain connected to you for several months until my bodily organs repair themselves. (In your video you go out of your way to emphasize that fetuses are persons and that mother and child are not the same body, and so I thought this analogy would be particularly apt.) Go ahead and visualize this, please. This is a real world situation. Would you be morally or legally justified if you were connected to me right now with tubes, in reaching behind yourself and forcibly yanking those tubes out from your body, even though the inevitable result would be my death? I propose that the conditions under which you came to be connected to me, and the conditions under which both of us can be safely unhooked from each other, are important if we are to correctly answer this question. Scenario A: Suppose that you have become connected to me through some accident, or by the crime of another. Suppose that a thug has physically overpowered you and has hooked you up to my internal organs against your own wishes. When you regain consciousness, will you have the right to disconnect the tubes joining us, thereby killing me? Legally, yes. You have the right to deny me the use of your body, especially since yours was connected to mine against your will, and without your express consent. It would not be a very charitable act on your part, and I might wish for my own sake that you would leave yourself connected to me, but it would unquestionably be your legal right to be disconnected. Under these circumstances, no criminal tribunal could fault you for disconnecting yourself - even from your next of kin - though your actions killed me. Obviously the analogous situation here is impregnation by rape. Above is the argument for allowing women to terminate early pregnancies which have been conceived without their consent, even though the fetus connected to them is very much a living person. Scenario B: Now, let us assume that you have voluntarily attached yourself to me. Let us assume that you offered me the use of your body, and we entered into a contract whereby you agreed to sustain my life, for a certain period in exchange for no consideration, as a gift. (Obviously I am alluding to conception where the parents intend to conceive a child.) Two months into our physical connection, you change your mind. You always were the fickle one, Stefan. You decide that you are tired of walking around connected to me with tubes, and you default on our written contract, unplug the tubes from yourself, and walk away from me. I collapse. As I lie on the ground, gasping out my last breaths, you eat a sandwich. Are you guilty of a homicide? This is a close question. There is a further question that now becomes relevant: was it then, or at any time before then, theoretically possible for me to be kept alive somewhere else, by some other person, or by another means aside from being connected to you and only to you? In other words, could you have brought me to a place where I could be kept alive, or were your particular organs my single and only hope for survival? (The analogous question is, obviously, whether a fetus has a good chance of surviving outside of the womb.) Let's look at both situations: Scenario B-1: If I were capable of surviving apart from you, then it seems clear that you have both a strong moral and a legal duty to deliver me safely into such situation before you disconnect your body from mine. You must bring me back to the hospital so that my life can be saved! Any other course of action would be impermissible. This situation is legally similar to the comatose next-of-kin scenario (supra). The analogy to a fetus that is capable of living outside of the mother's body is obvious. The special relationship that exists between us obligates you to bring me to a place of safety if such a place exists. Thus, by analogy, we might imagine that if a fetus could plausibly have life its sustained separate from the mother, then the mother is obligated to offer it the chance of that life (provided that can be done without any risk to her physical safety, see (G), supra.) Scenario B-2: However, if only your organs will suffice to keep me alive, and there is not now, nor was there ever any means of keeping Jason alive other than by being connected to Stefan, and only to Stefan, then the situation is much different. Under these circumstances, you would probably be justified in disconnecting the tubes and killing me. Because even if I were soon to be able to live independent of your body, you still have a right to deny me continued use of your body at this moment. But what about our contract, you say? This was a voluntary arrangement! We had an agreement!! In writing, no less!! Well, in analyzing our arrangement a court might find it dispositive that there was not, nor had there ever been, a means of keeping me alive other than by connection with your body. And your gift has always been gratuitous. Under these circumstances, there is no greater harm to be avoided by a breach of the contract. What do I mean? Since we assume a special relationship exists between us, you are required to bring me to a place of safety before abandoning me. No such place exists. What remaining legal duty do you owe me? Only the duty not to leave me worse off than I would have been without your help. If you had never agreed to make the gift of your body, I would not have lived even as long as I did. (Or, if I were a fetus, I would never even have come into being.). Suppose at the time you unplug me that you and I have lived connected by tubes for three months and that in one more month I would have been able to live apart from you. The three months of life which you have given me through the use of your internal organs were a gift. The fact that you have decided to stop giving this gift does not make you a murderer - you are simply choosing to discontinue your charity and reclaim the control over your own body which you had all along. *Key Point #1: The fact that I would otherwise have had a long and fulfilling life ahead of me, does not entitle me to the use of another person's liver and kidneys. I am a helpless adult connected to you with tubes. If you offer the use of your liver to a sick man (you agree to go to the hospital and allow him to be connected to you with tubes) then each day of life that you give is an individual and separate free gift. You can legally change your mind and leave the hospital any time you wish, leaving the poor man to die. You are under no obligation to keep on giving. Even if my entire life up to this point has been made possible only through the use of your bodily organs, that does not give me any claim to the future use of your body. What you have freely given in the past, you are under no obligation to give tomorrow. Yesterday's gift was yesterday's gift - and does not guarantee future largess. Your refusal to allow me the further use of your body would be similar to my refusal to donate blood to a son or daughter who needed regular blood transfusions, and for some reason could take blood from only me. While my child might certainly die without the next blood transfusion, no court could order me to relinquish possession of one single drop of my own blood without my consent. Even assuming that my sick child only needs to borrow an amount of my blood, and will return it later, I have no obligation to give it to them. My overriding legal interest in the control of my own body is such that I may coldly ignore them and allow them to die, while remaining within my rights. At any rate, it is clear that my refusal to donate blood to my children is not at all the same as me slitting their throats. Morally repulsive, perhaps, but not illegal. Important: Law is the shadow of a society's moral sense, and I do not claim that each of the actions described above is necessarily right merely because we imagine it to be legal. That would be tantamount to arguing that abortion is right because it is legal! Besides, what is legal in one jurisdiction or country may be illegal in another. My whole intent so far has been to demonstrate that the key issues go beyond whether a fetus is a person. V. What can be learned about the law's understanding of the right to life from the examples above? Above I have shown a scenario where one innocent person is dependent upon another for life (in much the same way as a fetus), yet our law may allow them to be killed. Why? In the eyes of the law: (1) The right to life is a negative right (as defined below). This means that even if the right to life exsits and is inalienable, it does not necessarily impose any corresponding duty on another human to save or to assist in sustaining that life. (2) A person is thought to have a right to control their own body under virtually all circumstances (also a negative right), and the presumptions in favor of this right are extremely strong, and are given great weight. The criminal law looks with great suspicion on any supposed duty use one's body for the benefit of another, with the exceptions mentioned in (G)(supra). Combined with a negative right to life, this makes the law hesitant to declare that a human has any duty to use their body to benefit another (even to such a noble end as sustaining the life of another). When abortion activists shout, "It's my body you schmuck!" I believe it may be this overriding ownership interest to which they are referring, not necessarily to the idea that a fetus is a part of their body. (3) No great right can be permanently waived. If a person consents to waive their right to exclusive control of their body in order to sustain the life of another person, they may nevertheless reassert that right at any time. (4) Where a person has voluntarily undertaken to assist another person, this burdens them only with the obligation not to leave the assisted in a final condition worse than they found them. And if a question of physical safety arises, they may owe them even less than that. This is precisely why Stefan cannot legally disconnect Jason in scenario B-1 (above), but he can disconnect him in scenario B-2. If Stefan chooses to assert his rights, then his obligation is to leave Jason in a condition no worse off than he would have been without Stefan's help. If Jason would have been dead without Stefan's help, then Stefan merely owes Jason a duty not to leave him worse-off than dead! Since that is not possible, he may freely leave Jason to live (or die) on his own, without the benefit of Stefan's body to nourish him. (5) By ripping out the life-sustaining tubes you are not necessarily infringing on my right to life. I retain my right to life. Still, the mere fact that I am helpless and will certainly die without your body does not impose any further duty on you (aside from those above). If I am to be left no worse-off than I would have otherwise been, then the fact that I cannot breathe is entirely my own concern, and not yours. The law says that I should be grateful for the free assistance which you already gave me, and not pretend that I have any claim on future charity. (5) The right to life, as with all other rights, is limited by the competing rights of others. ___________________________________________________________________ Definition of Terms. I will always differentiate between positive rights and negative rights. The following are my definitions: "Negative right" means freedom to do something without positive interference by others. A negative right does not impose any corresponding affirmative duty upon other humans. One example of a negative right is the right to hold property. That right does not mean that others must provide you with property, nor must they help or assist you in keeping your property. Similarly, the right to raise children (if we can imagine such a right) does not mean that others must supply the children or the means to have them. Generally, the right to life is thought of as belonging to this category, along with most of the other "great" rights, such as the right to freedom of speech, the right to physical security, the right to health, et cetera. "Positive right" means a right which is always accompanied by a corresponding and affirmative duty in others to provide the benefits of that right for you. One example of a positive right is the right to an elementary education. The right does not merely give you the right to attend a school should one happen to materialize. Instead, others have a duty to provide a school, guarantee you a seat, provide a teacher and books, etc. These categories of rights are not necessarily fixed. A right which used to be thought of as a "negative right" but is now thought of as a "positive right" is the right to legal counsel when facing the possibility of imprisonment on a criminal charge. In practice, a right may not be entirely negative or entirely positive, and it may be accompanied by a gradation of affirmative duties imposed on others under different circumstances. ______________________________________________________________________ VI. Conclusion I will repeat what I have said before: my goal in this email is to hopefully shed some light on the issues, and to lay the groundwork for understanding how our society regards the human right to life (so that you can show me where it is wrong). I do not defend the morality of the system described above, but I present it to you for your consideration. VII. Stipulations My own personal opinions about abortion are not settled (though I tend toward deference to the majority opinion on this issue), but it would be my privilege to explore the issue with you. I genuinely and honestly would like to learn. If you are interested in discussing this issue, I would like to suggest a few stipulations: (a) Neither of us may authoritatively invoke religious doctrine. This includes an understanding that words in holy texts are not entitled to any presumption of truth (unless they are shown to be entitled to such presumption). (b) We have to pretend that we are stuck on a desert island together, and that in order to pass the time we have decided to have a debate. In other words, you can't send me away to read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages at a time from books! A few dozen pages at a time, perhaps. (c) I would prefer that the debate encompass not merely whether abortion is moral or immoral but also whether the activity should be illegal in fact, and if so, at what level of government. That is a question which interests me and one which will certainly have to be settled in practice. (d) You may not dismiss my arguments out of hand on the basis of my supposed ignorance, philosophical error, or any "intellectual disorders" I may have. Remember that my side of the debate has the majority of the people, the courts, the law, and the legislatures. In the United States I have 51% of the Catholic laity on my side when it comes to the abortion issue (not to mention 96% of the laity and 75% of the priests on the contraception issue)(references available). In other words you, as the one agitating for change, have the burden of persuasion. You have a duty not only to defeat my arguments but to educate me in order to convince me, just as you will need to convince the people of Canada. e) You are NOT allowed to pull one of these: "I have elegantly and conclusively proved 'X.' However this proof is not accessible to everybody. If you don't have sufficient mental capacity, or many years of spare time, or enough money to go to university, then you can't seriously study my proof. Yes it is unfair, but what can I do?" Why can't you pull one of these? Because demonstrating in the streets and lobbying government are both actions which implicitly assume that the average reasonably intelligent person can be successfully persauded by your arguments. If your proofs are so inaccessible to an ordinarily person, then you should pack up your picket signs and go home because then there is no chance of persuading the people of Canada and the world that you are correct. It will be my pleasure to read your thoughts. Best, Jason
-----Original Message----- From: Jason Ferenc Sent: 13 février 2010 23:54 To: Stefan Jetchick Subject: Errata and Clarifications (mine) Hi Stefan, I happened to read over my comments to your video, and I have noticed one or two things I would like to change (The last time I did this you said that I was rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. This time it is Lusitania whose deck chairs need rearranging!). I have clarified my cellular explanation for readability. I also made it clear that I am not implying that a strict biological analysis should define a moral inquiry. By the way, I'm up to my neck in work, so please take all the time you like (and more) to get back to me. When you do, I have a reply to your last email. Hope you are doing well! Best wishes, Jason +Change 1: Delete the final paragraph of part I and replace with the following edited version: Let's consider, strictly biologically, whether a fetus is an "individual" human being with a life "separate" from that of its mother. To the nscientist this is a most irrelevant distinction. A collection of cells has certain characteristics whether it is thought of as "together" or "apart" from another organism. The fetus can be easily thought of as a piece of the mother which has simply split off (or is preparing to split off) from the larger whole like a growing algae. The fact that a multicellular organism divides its body into smaller offspring (with or without genetic input from another organism) is not remarkable. From a cellular perspective, the fetus can be thought of as a whole and separate organism; or it can be thought of as a part of the combined parent organisms; or it can be thought of as a part of only the mother organism, though it has assimilated foreign DNA. It can be thought of as a thing which will become a separate and whole human "being" only in the future, or it can be thought of already as a whole human being in which a number of features are merely immature or inchoate. To the biologist, it makes no difference. When the fetus becomes a "separate" life is a thoroughly arbitrary - and therefore thoroughly useless - natural scientific distinction. It would be foolish to stake an argument on it. In fact, if a time did have to be chosen at which a fetus becomes a separate life, the most logical time would be at fertilization. Either when the egg receives DNA from the sperm cell, or when it begins to produce proteins based on that DNA (a difference of several minutes). I concede the point entirely: a fetus is a human life separate and distinguishable from the mother from the moment transcription of the male DNA begins inside the fertilized egg. Of course, a biological analysis will only carry us so far. A human is not algae. A human is more than a mere collection of eukaryotic cells. To other humans, a human life has value and beauty far beyond the sum of its biological components. II. How does the law treat such a life? +Change 2 (errata): Part IV, first paragraph. Change «because we know that at a future time...» to «and we know that at a future time.» +Change 3 (errata): Part V, second paragraph. Change "exsits" to "exists"
-----Original Message----- From: Jason Ferenc Sent: 21 février 2010 19:34 To: Stefan Jetchick Subject: Flash! Letter to Stefan from the Vatican FROM: The Vatican, Rome. Dear Mr. Jetchick, We must kindly ask you to please stop criticizing Vatican policy. You claim that the Pope is "off-limits," but your words are a de facto criticism of his decisions and his longstanding policies. You write, «I'll give you $1000 if you show me one crime (whether it's committed by a Pope, or a Bishop, or a Priest) which isn't explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church's official teachings. Or again, find me an official teaching of the Catholic Church that encourages some vice or crime.» But written policy and actual policy are two different things. Why do you pretend that the policies of the Church exist exclusively on paper? If it is only paper which reveals the true intentions of an orgnization, then show me the paper defrocking openly gay Archbishop Weakland, who shredded reports of sexual misconduct and openly said in 1990 that he would 'completely ignore' Vatican censure on his abortion studies. Where is that document? The Winnipeg Statement was issued in 1968. Four decades and four popes later, we hope that Rome's position on this subject is clear enough by now: the consistent policy of the Papacy is to teach a conservative line, while in fact tolerating a very broad diversity of views within the Church. The Pope certainly knows the current conditions. His own grand inquisitor, William Levada, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, comes from the Archdioceses of Los Angeles and San Francisc. If you think the Church in Quebec is liberal, I invite you to take a trip to L.A. A former girlfriend of mine who later became a practicing Wiccan was baptized without any trouble by the first priest she found in L.A., who also told her that it was perfectly OK if she continued to practice Wicca as long as she also accepted the truth of Jesus' message. What the Pope does not already know, Bill Levada can tell him. Cardinal Marc Oullet is also a fully qualified inquisitor. A member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, *and* the Congregation for the Clergy, he is a voting member in conclave for the selection of Popes. He was hand-picked by the Pope for his current position. Since the Pope has not seen fit to remove Cardinal Ouellet, you must assume that he is satisfied with the work that Ouellet is doing. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, fornication, adultery, sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, and blasphemy are all prohibited by law. The laws will remain on the books. But it is the policy of the state not to enforce these laws. It would be the height of naivety for an anti-fornication activist to proclaim that Massachusetts is an «anti-fornication state» on the basis of its «Official Statutes» while ignoring the long-standing policy of the state not to enforce them. It is equally unconvincing to the outside observer when you point to the "Official Teachings" of the Church while the clear policy of the Church is not to actually insist on strict adherence to these teachings. The overwhelming majority of bishops in the U.S. encourage or accept priests who teach that contraception is acceptable. If the Pope thought that this was a problem, or that anybody's soul was in danger, it stands to reason that he would have ordered them to stop, on pain of defrocking or loss of episcopal communion. It is easy to see what the Pope will not tolerate: it is exemplified by those who are defrocked or excommunicated. It is similarly easy to see what the Pope will accept: it is exemplified by those who are NOT defrocked or excommunicated. The Pope has decided that an inquisition is not necessary today. By sunset that decision will be final. Your website strongly suggests that he is wrong. Please stop questioning the decisions of our spiritual leader. Rest assured: if action of any kind were necessary, the Pope would take it. Sincerely, Jason Ferenc, Imaginary Assistant to the Pope
Hi Jason, >> I have some feedback on your video entitled "Why I Am Pro-Life." Great! Thanks! First, an abstract of my reply, then my reply as such. Basically, I think we would be wasting our time trying to argue about 3, 4 and 5, if we don't yet agree on 1 and 2. In other words, we need to back up a bit before actually debating about abortion. The first two questions I think we need to adress are: 1) Is it possible to be legal without being moral? (In other words, what is the relationship between morality and legality.) 2) Does an innocent human person have the right to life, by the very fact that he or she exists? You answer yes and no to those two questions, and I answer the contrary. So it would be illogical to proceed before clearing up those two questions. OK, now my detailed answer. >> I will demonstrate that even if we assume >> that a fetus is a fully mature individual person with >> a right to life, abortion laws may still be consistent >> with our larger system of laws Looking forward to seeing that demonstration! >> I must agree that a fetus is a human life. OK. >> are you implying >> that you would approve of the voluntary destruction or mutilation of >> a healthy part of a person's own body, such as the removal of a >> healthy limb? I'm mostly attacking the ubiquitous "My Body, My Choice" pro-choice argument. >> (2) would you restrain >> mutilation of one's own body by force of criminal law? Criminal law? I think we can assume someone who puts a chainsaw to his own leg is either: - Trapped in a sinking ship or something, i.e. in a situation where losing his leg is the only way of saving his life (Morally OK; Principle of double-effect). - Sick in his head, in which case he's not responsible, hence it cannot be a crime. He needs the help of a mental health professional, not a jail. >> (3) If you >> would be willing to legally proscribe mutilation of one's own body, >> should this legal prohibition include even minor mutilation, such as >> tongue piercing? Ear piercing? Tattoos? Whether it belongs to the human law to repress all vices? [Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 96, a. 2] >> When the fetus becomes a >> "separate" life is a thoroughly arbitrary "Thoroughly arbitrary"? Wow... "Thoroughly arbitrary"! That is one huge statement! Any facts or logic to back it up? >> a fetus is a human life separate and distinguishable from >> the mother from the moment transcription of the male DNA begins >> inside the fertilized egg. Not sure about that technical detail. "Transcription of the male DNA"? Isn't it rather from the moment of the union of the two haploid cells? Once DNA transcription begins, there is no longer a distinction between the DNA supplied by the mother and the DNA supplied by the father. It becomes one DNA for one cell, right? >> Now I will switch from a biological to a legal analysis. Why switch, especially now? Why not just continue your analysis, this time asking whether the "fetus" is a human person? >> A society's laws are the shadows of its collective moral sense. Distinguo. From the point of view of Sociology of Law, Concedo. But strictly speaking, Nego. Unjust human "laws" are non-laws, and just human laws are just because they are in accord with Natural Law, which itself is ruled and measured by the Eternal Law. The various kinds of law [Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 91] >> it makes an >> excellent starting point for discussion to examine whether an act is >> consistent with the greater system of laws in a society Ah, yes, really? (Especially since your whole e-mail depends on this assertion!) >> My goal in this email is not to prove that abortion is good >> or morally right, but merely to show that the central issues for >> debate lie beyond the question of a fetus' humanity. Let me see if I understand you correctly. You start by saying you are going to adopt the sociological point of view (which abstracts away from morality, for methodological reasons), then you will discuss the "central issues" of the debate? If you start with a definition of "justice" that is not based on Morality, then of course you can blabber all you want and conclude that this or that respects "justice". You simply started with a Mickey-Mouse definition of "justice" to begin with! During the rest of your e-mail, you will constantly refer to this or that as being "legal". Since you carefully started by defining "legal" as "unrelated to justice", then of course you "win"! Except I Nego your definition of "non-morally-based legality". So your whole e-mail, from here on, is useless. But let's read it anyway. >> virtually >> all people of the earth will agree that in addition to mere life: >> (a) there are additional factors and circumstances which must exist >> to entitle a human to claim a paramount right to life Hum, well, I guess if you substract 1.3 billion Catholics from your definition of "all people"... ;-) Strictly speaking, you are asserting here (implicitely) that Error: The simple fact that an innocent human person exits, does not thereby give that person the right to life. Something else is required. That is the exact contrary of the "Right-to-life" position. >> (b) living humans can forfeit or be stripped of their life in a >> variety of circumstances. Distinguo. Directly taking the life of an innocent man? Nego. Directly taking the life of a guilty man, when there is no other way of protecting society, Concedo. >> (A) If a person commits a capital crime, a jury may sentence that >> person to death by execution. Distinguo. In practice? Strictly speaking, I don't know since I've never studied the actual practical way that is implemented in the USA. In theory? Sub-distinguo. If CCC #2267 is respected, Concedo. >> (B) A person may kill another person in necessary defense of their >> own life or to save a third person from unlawful killing. Same comment as above, but with CCC #2263-#2265. >> (D)(1) In wars between nations, soldiers of different nations may >> have the right to kill each other in battle. Same comment as above, but with CCC #2309. >> (D)(2) Soldiers of the same nation may, in some circumstances, cause >> each other to be killed. For example, the sergeant may say to the >> draftee private, "We are under heavy attack. The company is falling >> back to hill 403. You are assigned to the rear guard, we need you >> to cover our retreat. Man this machine gun." Just plain Concedo here. Morality has nothing negative to say about bravery! >> (E) If a person's brain is completely nonfunctional - that is, no >> electrical activity emanates from the brain, and the breathing and >> heartbeat would be absent if they were not maintained by mechanical >> and medical means, then this person is legally dead. Same comment as above, but with CCC #2278, and with the additional reservation here below. >> Such a brainless body can be "killed" on the theory that it is >> already dead. Nego. As long as the body has not started to rot, i.e. that the "substantial form" is still united with the "primary matter", it's still a man. But that brings us back to the question: "What exactly is a man?" >> (F) If a person is comatose, then they are legally living. >> However, every living person has the legal right to determine their >> own medical treatment, or to refuse medical treatment. Same comment as above, but with CCC #2278. Also, careful about slipping from "really, really sick person with no medical hope" to "healthy person who just wants to commit suicide". >> (G) In the absence of a voluntarily assumed special relationship >> between persons (e.g., parent/child, doctor/patient, >> innkeeper/guest, coachman/passenger, guardian/ward) the common law >> imposes no duty to rescue, aid, or sustain another human in >> distress. Nego. Here, as in many other locations, you assume "a-moral legality". "Am I my brother's keeper?" [Genesis 4:9], said the first assassin in the History of Mankind... >> the legal duty to act [...] will generally be satisfied by >> placing a call for help, even where simple additional actions could >> have been taken. See comment above about "a-moral legality". Obviously, if a simple and safe additional action will save someone, you're bound to do it. What actual US law says, I don't know. But an unjust "law" is not a law. >> So we see that there are a number of situations wherein a living >> human may be legally killed, or allowed to die. Distinguo. See comment above, and in general carefully review (since you will probably try to mis-use it): 4) The Principle of double-effect ("indirect voluntary") >> I find rules F & G particularly intriguing I "negoed" G and "distinguoed" F heavily, so careful. >> (1) If the right to life ceases to exist in a person. In an innocent human person? Impossible. >> (2) If the right to life exists, but comes into conflict with one >> or more rights exercised by others, and the individual's right to >> life is not the paramount right. Nego again. Please carefully review (since you will probably try to mis-use it): 4) The Principle of double-effect ("indirect voluntary") >> (3) If the right to life exists, and that right is not infringed >> even though a death occurs. Not sure I understand. >> Could you legally stop providing these to me? No. See: The vulnerability of Terri Schiavo >> Let's add a few twists which introduce the element which I believe >> is truly at the heart of the abortion matter. I'll follow your meandering a bit longer, but I do want to point out to the jury that you are taking an exceptionally long and Byzantine crawl through all kinds of unrelated material. Is the direct killing of an innocent human person sometimes good? No. (See above.) So all we need to figure out is whether the thing-a-ma-bob inside the pregnant woman is a human person or not. QED. >> This is a real world situation. Nego. Strictly speaking, this situation has never happened as far as I know, and is so improbable that it might never happen. Imagine having to hire world-famous physicians to perform a difficult and expensive surgical operation, just to hook up two guys? Why not just spend a few bucks to build a huge bomb, stick the bomb somewhere filled with people, then ask for ransom? Now that is a real-world situation! You and I, hooked up by crooks? How could crooks hook us up? Our blood groups are probably incompatible. "But, what if they were?" OK, so, what could they hook up to what? "Suppose they rip out my heart and have your heart pump both our bloods?" Install an artificial heart in Jason. Wait for heart donor. "Suppose they remove my kidneys and send my blood through yours?" I can live with only one kidney. Make donation to Jason. "But suppose they remove one of your kidneys, and then plug us together?" One of my kidneys probably can't clean both our bloods, so we both are going to die. So they put you on dialysis and you wait for a donor. Etc, etc. Any silly situation you can dream up, whereby you and I are connected, can eventually be solved with the right technology to disconnect us. "Yes but, imagine if we can't be disconnected". That is starting to look more and more like the famous: If P, then Q. Let's assume P (but don't ask me why!) Then Q, sucker! [Source] Before I let the Prosecution Attorney run with it anyway, allow me to remind the Jury that the proper procedure is to go from clear principles and obvious cases, to progressively more difficult (but realistic) cases. Not start with unrealistic cases, before clear moral principles have been established. >> Would you be morally or legally >> justified if you were connected to me right now with tubes, in >> reaching behind yourself and forcibly yanking those tubes out from >> your body, even though the inevitable result would be my death? Nego. See above. >> Scenario A: [...] Suppose that a thug has >> physically overpowered you and has hooked you up to my internal >> organs against your own wishes. Did I mention hyperactive imagination? ;-) >> will >> you have the right to disconnect the tubes joining us, thereby >> killing me? Nego. See above. Especially if we were to be naturally separated within a few months! >> Legally, yes. Distinguo. "Legally" in the sociological sense? Maybe, I don't know, I haven't studied US scraps of paper generally considered to be "law". "Legally" strictly speaking? Nego. >> Obviously the analogous situation here is impregnation by rape. Obvious to Jason only! The pregnant woman is not guilty. The baby is not guilty either. The two will quite naturally be separated in 9 short months. Punish the bastard who did this, provide mental and physical assistance to the mother, and provide adoption services to the child if the mother can't psychologically bring herself to take care of it. Why kill the baby? Oh? It's not a baby? OK, we're back to what I claim is the "central issue": What is killed by an abortion? >> Above is the argument for allowing women to terminate early >> pregnancies "Terminate early pregnancies"? That is verbal manipulation. Correct English: "kill their babies". And Nego, of course. >> Scenario B: [...] >> Are you guilty of a homicide? Concedo. >> This is a close question. Hum, I don't think so. >> Scenario B-1: If I were capable of surviving apart from you, then it >> seems clear that you have both a strong moral and a legal duty to >> deliver me safely into such situation before you disconnect your >> body from mine. Concedo. >> Scenario B-2: However, if only your organs will suffice to keep me >> alive [...] you would probably be justified in >> disconnecting the tubes and killing me. Why? >> even if I were soon >> to be able to live independent of your body, you still have a right >> to deny me continued use of your body at this moment. Why? >> (Or, if I were a fetus, I would never >> even have come into being.). If you are a baby inside a mother's womb, you exist already. You can't "come into being", you exist already. If the thing-a-ma-bob inside the mother's womb is not a human person, then that's another story. Once again, the "central issue" is "what is the thing-a-ma-bob inside the pregnant woman's belly?" >> you are simply choosing to >> discontinue your charity and reclaim the control over your own body >> which you had all along. Wow! "Reclaiming control over one's body" sure sounds better than "killing an innocent baby"! What's wrong with: #1 Pregnancy is a totally natural phenomenon. Forget this silly crap about criminals hooking up a mother to her baby with tubes! That is a ridiculous metaphor. #2 If the thing-a-ma-bob is a baby, i.e. a human person, we must not kill it. It's never good, moral nor lawful to directly kill an innocent human person. #3 Just wait a few months and deliver a nice baby! >> *Key Point #1: [...] I am a helpless adult connected >> to you with tubes. Hence everybody should make a reasonable effort to help you, including me. >> You can legally change your mind and leave >> the hospital any time you wish, leaving the poor man to die. Nego. >> Even assuming that my sick child only needs to borrow an >> amount of my blood, and will return it later, I have no obligation >> to give it to them. Once again, confusion between a-moral "legality", and real legality. >> Important: Law is the shadow of a society's moral sense Once again, confusion between a-moral "legality", and real legality. >> My whole intent so far has been to demonstrate that the >> key issues go beyond whether a fetus is a person. If we assume a confusion between a-moral "legality", and real legality. >> V. What can be learned about the law's understanding of the right >> to life from the examples above? Nothing. >> (1) The right to life [...] >> does not necessarily impose any corresponding duty on another human >> to save or to assist in sustaining that life. Nego. >> When abortion >> activists shout, "It's my body you schmuck!" I believe it may be >> this overriding ownership interest to which they are referring, not >> necessarily to the idea that a fetus is a part of their body. I've never been spelunking inside the cold, dark and wet depths of the souls of baby-killers, but certainly every time I've talked with one of them, they firmly asserted that the baby was just a piece of their body. I've never heard your contorted argument from a pro-choicer. >> (3) [...] If a person consents >> to waive their right to exclusive control of their body in order to >> sustain the life of another person, they may nevertheless reassert >> that right at any time. Well, obviously, if that is true, abortion is peachy-keen! Except babies don't come from storks, and rights don't come from scraps of paper signed by old farts with white wigs. In other words, once again, sociological "legality" is not real legality. >> One example of a >> negative right is the right to hold property. That right does not >> mean that others must provide you with property, nor must they help >> or assist you in keeping your property. Huh? If the USA is attacked, I have a duty to defend my country. Yes, I have a duty to protect the property (and lives!) of my fellow countrymen. >> "Positive right" means a right which is always accompanied by a >> corresponding and affirmative duty in others to provide the benefits >> of that right for you. One example of a positive right is the right >> to an elementary education. So having the duty to provide a teacher and books exists, but not the duty to defend my country? Your distinction between "positive" and "negative" rights is weird. >> These categories of rights are not necessarily fixed [...] a right >> may not be entirely negative or entirely >> positive Pretty fuzzy definitions! >> I do not defend the >> morality of the system described above You can't. You carefully excised morality out of the debate right from the start! >> I genuinely >> and honestly would like to learn. Congratulations! >> (a) Neither of us may authoritatively invoke religious doctrine. As you know by now, one of the ground rules of any debate I have on abortion is: The first one to invoke a religious belief loses! [Source] (But we warned that my definition of "religious belief" is broader than what most pro-choicers expect.) >> (b) [...] you can't send me away to read hundreds >> and hundreds and hundreds of pages at a time from books! ... and this is coming from the guy who holds the all-time record on my web site for the longest and most numerous e-mails! ;-) Seriously, I try to "Assert by orders of hyperlinked magnitude", i.e. assert in one sentence, supported by a hyperlink to a a ten-sentence explanation, itself supported by a hyperlink to a hundred or thousand sentence explanation. >> (c) I would prefer that the debate encompass not merely whether >> abortion is moral or immoral but also whether the activity should be >> illegal in fact Actually, that is one of the two "central issues": can something be "legal" if it isn't moral? We can't solve the problem of abortion if that is not solved first. >> (d) You may not dismiss my arguments out of hand on the basis of my >> supposed ignorance, philosophical error, or any "intellectual >> disorders" I may have. So I MUST assume you are always fully-informed, and never caught up in any errors? In that case, you win all debates automatically! ;-) But if you remove "out of hand" in the sense of "without showing my ignorance or error", then of course I Concedo. >> my side of the debate has the >> majority of the people Nego. Show me an opinion poll where respondants are shown pictures of what comes out of a pregnant woman getting an abortion. >> In the United States I have 51% of the Catholic laity on my side Nego. It is scientifically impossible to be a Catholic and to be pro-choice. >> You have a duty not only to defeat >> my arguments but to educate me in order to convince me, just as you >> will need to convince the people of Canada. Concedo, but not because the polls are against me (they are not). >> demonstrating in the streets and lobbying government are >> both actions which implicitly assume that the average reasonably >> intelligent person can be successfully persauded by your arguments. Concedo. >> If your proofs are so inaccessible to an ordinarily person, then you >> should pack up your picket signs and go home because then there is >> no chance of persuading the people of Canada and the world that you >> are correct. Concedo. >> [I don't have the right to say] "However this proof >> is not accessible to everybody. If you don't have sufficient mental >> capacity, or many years of spare time, or enough money to go to >> university, then you can't seriously study my proof. Yes it is >> unfair, but what can I do?" Distinguo, based on how the word "seriously" here above is defined. I consider your level of mental horsepower and your method of correspondance to be "serious". You're a very rare type of pro-choicer (and I've met many). [Lighter e-mail, when Jason pretends to be a Vatican official] =================================================================== >> We must kindly ask you to please stop criticizing Vatican policy. (Starting here, of course, I will be using theological and Biblical arguments, since you are stepping outside of Philosophy and Politics.) First, technically, the "Vatican" is a secular State. The Government of the Catholic Church is not the "Vatican", but the "Holy See". The "Holy See" is mainly responsible for Dogma and Morals, not "policies". But of course I understand what you mean. I can't disagree with the ex cathedra decisions of the Holy See on Dogma and Morals, otherwise I would be automatically excommunicated. And as you can see by my web site, I only bark at Priests and Bishops when they themselves start to disagree with the Dogma and Morals proclaimed by the Holy See. As far as the practical "executive branch" decisions of the Pope, I must obey them, but such decisions are not "covered by the warranty", i.e. they can be wrong. All this is explained at length here: Papal Infallibility, and the Stupid Gods and here: A Little Course By Professor Madjisterioom >> You claim that the Pope is "off-limits," but your words are a de >> facto criticism of his decisions and his longstanding policies. I publicly disagree with Benedict XVI only once on my web site: Humility Is Acquired By Humiliations The reasons why I consider that to be acceptable are listed in the introduction of that article and in Section 9.3 of the preceding article. But Concedo for public and implicit disagreement (and private and explicit disagreement), although never about Dogma or Morals, for reasons stated above. >> But written policy and actual policy are two different things. Concedo. >> do you pretend that the policies of the Church exist exclusively on >> paper? First, [2Thessalonians 2:15]. So in that sense Nego, it doesn't have to be on paper to be something Jesus transmitted to His Church. Second, the media upon which a teaching is placed (paper, slate, CD-ROM, etc.) is basically irrelevant. What you mean is probably more like: "Can the Church teach something other than Her own official teachings?" To that second question, the strict answer is Nego. (See Sociological Law Of Gravity here above.) You might say the Church could be lying. A Sociologist will confirm that human groups are like human persons in that they can lie. A human group can "officially" say one thing, but have a different hidden agenda. I don't think that applies in this case. (See 2865 good reasons why.) But another sociological principle does apply in my opinion. Like living cells, human groups can be born, and die. Human groups can also merge, or split up. And because these changes don't occur immediately, human groups can be in the process of dying, or in the process of splitting up, etc. The Catholic Church is simply in the process of splitting up. There is another parallel government arising, and many are giving their allegiance to this new government. The split has not yet been formalized, but come to Quebec and speak to the people I hang around with, and they will probably mostly agree to the statement: "The schism might not be formalized, but it's nonetheless very real". In my opinion, the Pope has access to a very effective "catalyst" that would greatly accelerate this process and produce two clearly distinct human groups. Should he use it now, or continue to try to mend the incipient split using the "kinder, gentler approach"? You can guess my answer. I could be wrong. >> show me the paper defrocking openly gay Archbishop >> Weakland, who shredded reports of sexual misconduct and openly said >> in 1990 that he would 'completely ignore' Vatican censure on his >> abortion studies. There is no such document (unfortunately in my opinion), but neither will you find a document asserting that abortion or sodomy are OK! Quite the contrary! So the teachings of the Magisterium are clear, but mostly for the "geeks" who go and read them carefully. Large numbers of people are mislead by the effeminate approach of the Catholic hierarchy, in my opinion. >> the consistent policy of the Papacy is to teach a >> conservative line, while in fact tolerating a very broad diversity >> of views within the Church. Yes, Popes have been very effeminate for the past 40 years. >> A former girlfriend of mine who >> later became a practicing Wiccan was baptized without any trouble by >> the first priest she found in L.A., who also told her that it was >> perfectly OK if she continued to practice Wicca as long as she also >> accepted the truth of Jesus' message. I'm not surprised. I could talk for hours about similar incidents. Remember I'm the guy who publicly claims that only a massive application of the death penalty for corrupt Priests and Bishops is the only practical solution to save the Catholic Church in North America! >> Since the Pope has not seen fit to remove >> Cardinal Ouellet, you must assume that he is satisfied with the work >> that Ouellet is doing. Word on the street is that Ben16 is not satisfied with Cardinal Ouellet. But the Ad limina visits are in camera. Certainly, Ouellet is the least bad Bishop in the Province right now, even though I find him very sadly deficient in many ways. >> It would be the height of naivety for an >> anti-fornication activist to proclaim that Massachusetts is an >> «anti-fornication state» on the basis of its «Official Statutes» >> while ignoring the long-standing policy of the state not to enforce >> them. Yes, but Massachusetts is not a Church founded by God Himself, with a Magisterium which will be guided by God Himself until the end of days. And remember the Church teaches that Popes can go to Hell just like you and me. That means Popes can cause a lot of harm by their pastoral errors (but as usual, remember the Pope cannot err when speaking ex cathedra of Dogma or Morals). >> It is equally unconvincing to the outside observer when you point to >> the "Official Teachings" of the Church while the clear policy of the >> Church is not to actually insist on strict adherence to these >> teachings. Absolutely! That is why I scream and complain that, even though "theological power-users" can figure out what the true teachings of the Church are, in fact, many people will be suckered by the extremely effeminate approach of dealing with dissenting Priests and Bishops. >> The overwhelming majority of bishops in the U.S. encourage or accept >> priests who teach that contraception is acceptable. Concedo. >> If the Pope >> thought that this was a problem, or that anybody's soul was in >> danger, it stands to reason that he would have ordered them to stop, >> on pain of defrocking or loss of episcopal communion ... unless the Pope favored the effeminate approach to governing the Church. If you read his books and his speeches, you will more and more be convinced (like me) that his intentions are pure, his Faith is Catholic, and his balls are marshmallow. (OK, OK, this is starting to qualify as a public and explicit criticism of the Pope! Darn! I'm disobeying my own rules! Just because of you, darn it! :-) >> The Pope has decided that an inquisition is not necessary today ... or he doesn't have the balls to start one up! >> Imaginary Assistant to the Pope Your grasp of the current situation inside the Catholic Church is by-and-large correct. I'm serious. Cheers! Stefan
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