Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Exodus, Moses and Zipporah
I have been reading Exodus again. Trouble ahead! By general agreement, Exodus 4:24-26 is one of the most puzzling passages in the Bible. Look it up and you will see what I mean. Out of the blue it tells us that Yahveh wanted to kill Moses. No preamble, no explanation. But Zipporah (wife of Moses) saved Moses from death by circumcising one of her sons
What gives? The most usual answer is that Moses had got behind on his circumcising of his sons and Yahveh was mad about that. So when Zip did the deed (with a sharp rock!) Moses was off the hook.
But the text doesn't say that. It does not say what got Yahveh mad. And what Zip said when she did the cut doesn't seem to relate to anything anyway. She touched Moses's feet with the detached flesh and said: “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me". Was it some sort of wedding?
So what is a "bridegroom of blood" anyway and why did that mollify Yahveh?
I think I can suggest a very tentative answer: Blood was identified with life in the OT and the Israelites were even forbidden to eat the blood of their animals (Leviticus 17:14). Hence Kosher slaughter to this day. No black pudding for Jews! So spilling blood was a big-deal sort of sacrifice and Yahveh liked sacrifices. And the point of Zip's words was that she and Moses were joint authors of that sacrifice.
And why was Yahveh mad at Moses in the first place? Because Moses had been a big-time foot-dragger (what's the Yiddish for people like that?) up until that point. Yahveh had to wheedle him to undertake his mission to Egypt. So Yahveh simply got fed up with Moses.
If my account of Yahveh portays him in a very human light, forgive me. Exodus does the same.
Leftist bias beats facts every time
PZ Myers is an American biology professor but his dismissal below of work by Satoshi Kanazawa is just Leftist bluster -- all too reminiscent of that old fraud Stephen Jay Gould. He accuses Kanazawa of being unscientific but what does he offer in replacement of Kanazawa's data and arguments? He offers a personal anecdote, some reasoning and lashings of self-righteous abuse. His resort to bad language and an accusation of racism shows how thin his arguments are. I have no background in the psychology of aesthetic judgments so have no opinion about the rightness or wrongness of Kanazawa's claims -- but at least Kanazawa seems to have had some data. Myers offers none
Kanazawa is the guy who claimed to look objectively at the data and thereby determined that black women are ugly (he also thinks Africans are stupid), and whose data were examined and found to have been selectively extracted. He got a lot of flak for that, and while he wasn't kicked out of Psychology Today, where he had his column, he hasn't posted anything there in over a year, so I suspect there was some pressure applied. Which is too bad.every time he opens his mouth, he's a great target for beating up bad science.
He argues that he was just paying attention to other people's data. He attended a seminar in which data on the dating behavior of 20,000 college people was discussed, and part of that data showed that black females and Asian males had the fewest dating partners, and he just wanted to explain it:
"My initial suspicion was that this might be because black females and Asian males were less physically attractive than their competitors. Thus began my scientific interest in race differences in physical attractiveness. "
And we're off! That's a very peculiar leap: why would you assume that the number of dating partners would correlate with physical attractiveness? My wife is a very attractive woman, but she had one partner in college (me). I'm a homely guy, and I also had one partner in college (her). It seems to me that number of partners is going to be more strongly affected by the strength and stabiity of relationships, which is going to be a consequence of far more than just appearance, and it's simply odd to leap to the hypothesis that it's because of physical beauty or lack thereof.
It's also odd because of Kanazawa's own premises. Listen to his introductory interview on Big Think, if you can; right at the beginning, he announces that the evolutionary goal of all organisms is reproductive success, and the key to achieving that is 1) status, and 2) access to resources. He must know that status is going to involve more than just appearance. So why doesn't he listen to the data in that seminar and think, "Hmm, maybe black women have lower socioeconomic status and fewer resources - I wonder if further analysis of the data would show that?" But no, that's complicated. He instead jumps to the conclusion that black women must be ugly. Why? Because he's a goddamned racist.
U.S. Government: Fire Good Employees, Hire Bad Ones
The Obama administration is pressuring employers outside the financial sector to hire felons, even as its regulations force employers in the financial sector to fire “thousands of employees,” including exemplary employees who once committed misdemeanors decades ago. As Walter Olson notes:
Thanks to new federal banking and mortgage guidelines with $1-million-a-day penalties for noncompliance, banks are scrambling to fire any employee who has previously been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty. Among those tossed out: a bank employee with seven years’ service who used a slug in a washing machine in 1963, and a 58-year-old customer service representative with a shoplifting conviction forty years ago. A lawyer says thousands of employees have been fired under the new rules.
The Des Moines Register notes,“Big banks have been firing low-level employees like Eggers since the issuance of new federal banking employment guidelines in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines in February.” (Richard Eggers is the 68-year-old Wells Fargo employee fired for using a slug in 1963, nearly half a century ago.) Additional coverage of this can be found in USA Today and the ABA Journal.
While pressuring banks to fire good employees, the Obama administration is pressuring other employers to hire bad employees. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, dominated by anti-business Obama appointees, recently sued Pepsi for doing criminal background checks on job applicants, forcing it to pay $3.1 million to settle the lawsuit. It has previously sued other employers who take serious criminal records into account, or use criminal background checks, even though employers who hire criminals end up getting sued when those employees commit crimes. The EEOC’s demands place employers in a no-win position where they can be sued no matter what they do.
Employers’ ability to hire and fire based on merit is being undermined by the EEOC, which has ordered employers to discard useful employment tests and accommodate incompetent employees. For example, a hotel chain was recently compelled to pay $132,500 for dismissing an autistic desk clerk who did not do his job properly, in order for it avoid a lawsuit by the EEOC that would have cost it much more than that to defend. The EEOC has sued companies that quite reasonably refuse to employ truck drivers with a history of heavy drinking, even though companies that hire them will be sued under state personal-injury laws when they have an accident. The EEOC is also threatening employers who require high-school diplomas with lawsuits under the ADA. The EEOC forced a cafe owner to pay $20,000 for not selecting a hearing- and speech-impaired applicant for a cashier’s position, even though such impairments obviously affected the applicant’s qualifications for the job.
The Obama administration has interfered with employers’ merit-based hiring, thus discouraging job creation, by imposing a wide array of costly, harmful new labor and employment rules on American manufacturers.
The administration has also harmed the economy through Obamacare, which has caused layoffs in the medical device industry, and wiped out jobs in other industries. The Dodd-Frank financial law passed in 2010 is also expected to shift thousands of jobs from America to foreign countries. The administration has managed to alienate even some Democratic businessmen, like Steve Wynn, who called President Obama “the greatest wet blanket to . . . job creation in my lifetime.”
Christianity is Compatible with Ayn Rand
Increasingly, priests and pastors are preaching that socialism (in the name of “social justice”) is Christ-like. In truth, capitalism, not socialism, reflects Christian values. I think Christians would be less likely to embrace socialism if they understood that the economic philosophy of Ayn Rand is compatible with Christianity.
‘Social Justice’ Evolves
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle speaks of a general form of justice that encompasses all virtue. Describing general justice, Aristotle writes: “It is complete virtue and excellence in the fullest sense… It is complete because he who possesses it can make use of his virtue not only by himself but also in his relations with his fellow men; for there are many people who can make use of their virtue in their own affairs, but who are incapable of using it in their relations with others.”
Thomas Aquinas, a renowned Catholic philosopher adopted a form of Aristotle’s idea of general justice. Eventually, the Catholic Church attempted to modernize Aristotle and Aquinas’ idea of general justice by calling it “social justice.”
The Catholic Church developed the term primarily to help explain justice in a modern society that was moving from farming to more complex forms of production and human interaction. As Michael Novak with the Heritage Foundation points out, Pope Leo XIII specifically slammed socialism and praised the natural differences in talents and abilities among human beings as beneficial to society.
Novak explains how, over time, progressives warped the term “social justice” to mean “equality” (redistribution of wealth and resources based on arithmetic, not individual production), the “common good” (determined by federal bureaucrats) and “compassion” (forced sharing).
Today, numerous pastors are preaching a version of social justice that is basically no different from socialism. I encourage Christians to exchange the convoluted idea of “social justice” for “capitalism.”
Atheism, A Mere Distraction
Rand was one of the best defenders and articulators of capitalism. Unfortunately, many Christians dismiss her economic philosophy because of her personal beliefs on religion.
Rand was an atheist. However, one does not need to be an atheist in order to be a capitalist. Indeed, in Rand’s magnum opus novel, Atlas Shrugged, the core takeaway is not that the hero is an atheist but that he is a capitalist.
Rand and her fictional heroes believe with almost religious zeal that there is no God—a belief that takes “faith.” For, it is impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that God does not exist, just as it is impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he does exist. To say either with absolute certainty takes faith (rational yet unconfirmed belief).
If it is rational for Rand to believe (without proof) that God does not exist, it is also rational for a Christian to believe that God exists. Since both atheists and Christians are rational, atheism is unessential to being a capitalist.
If there is a God, He is a Capitalist
That said, one may not believe in any “god” and still claim to be rational. For example, one cannot believe that God condones socialism because socialism is inherently irrational and violates natural law, as I explained here.
Natural law (that which we know through reason alone) tells us that private property and freedom are inherent human rights. Aquinas writes in his Treatise on Law that all human laws must stem from natural law: “But if in any point it [human law] deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of the law.”
Jesus did not say: “Blessed are the wicked, for they shall obtain equal salvation.” Jesus did not tell Caesar: “Take 90 percent from the wealthy and redistribute it among the poor.” As I’ve written, Jesus’ own biblical teachings were capitalistic in nature. So, if you claim to be a rational Christian, you must admit that Jesus is a capitalist.
Capitalism, Not Social Justice, Reflects Christianity
Rand may have been an atheist, but she embraced reason and natural law. Christians must do likewise. As Aquinas writes, if Christians embrace laws that violate reason and natural law, such as wealth redistribution mandates, they are in fact embracing injustice.
When Rand’s hero, John Galt, explains justice, he does so in a manner that is consistent with Aristotle, Aquinas and the biblical definition justice—in relation to objective truth and goodness: “Justice is the recognition of the fact that… just as you do not pay a higher price for a rusty chunk of scrap than for a piece of shining metal, so you do not value a rotter above a hero—that your moral appraisal is the coin paying men for their virtues or vices, and this payment demands of you as scrupulous an honor as you bring to financial transactions…”
I think Christians should avoid rushing to judgment on Rand’s philosophy because, at core, she has much to say about living with integrity and pursuing true happiness. No matter what term a pastor uses (think “social justice”), socialism is neither ethical nor Christian. Next week I will delve deeper into explaining how Rand’s beliefs are compatible with Christianity.
Fourth Amendment: RIP
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is, for all practical purposes, dead and buried on the streets of New York City. Police are doing things today to the citizenry there that they wouldn't have dared to even think about doing only a few years ago.
One no longer enjoys the basic fundamental constitutional right of personal security against unreasonable searches and seizures while simply walking down the street. New York City Police officers are randomly searching people without reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has been committed or that a subject has committed a crime.
I'm not talking about people at airports boarding airplanes that might have bombs or guns in their handbags. This is about innocent pedestrians taking their dirty clothes to the Laundromat or returning home from the grocery store.
"I was coming home from the Laundromat and I was stopped by the police officer. Asking me, `Let me see your ID. `Where are you from?' `Do you live around here?," says Chris Bilal, a black man who was simply walking down the street in his Brooklyn neighborhood when he was stopped by a police officer for no reason whatsoever.
The cop then rummaged through Bilal's bag of freshly cleaned and folded laundry to see if he was carrying anything illegal. He wasn't. "They were searching for drugs. The funny thing was that it was a mesh laundry bag. I'm not sure what I could hide," Bilal said.
Since arriving in the city a little over a year ago, he's been repeatedly stopped on the street, asked what he's doing, where he's going, and often being frisked. "I feel guilty all the time," he explained. "I feel like I'm being watched and targeted all the time."
Bilal is the frequent victim of the NYPD's policy of Stop, Question and Frisk, in which officers randomly stop a person to determine if they are up to any wrongdoing or possess weapons and contraband items. In 2011, the New York City Police Department stopped 685,724 people wholly without probable cause of whom an overwhelming 88 percent were deemed innocent.
Yes, I suppose it is a very effective policy for deterring crime. Random searches of citizens' homes would be equally effective but the only problem with that -- it blatantly violates the Fourth Amendment:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
SCOTUS is adept at crafting exceptions to constitutional provisions and they might well do so if the cops were restricting the policies mentioned above to high crime areas. A rationale could be that just by the person being in a high crime area the search is justified as "reasonable suspicion". I have no idea whether the NYPD does so restrict itself but it would be rational if the controversial searches are in high crime areas. I gather that Brooklyn is a high crime area. This map shows a lot of robberies in Brooklyn North and a lot of shouting in Broooklyn South (!) -- JR
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:35 AM