Category Archives: Philosophy

How Can They Know?

There’s a new study seemingly funded to (among other things) justify fishing with live bait, that purports to prove that worms on a hook feel no pain. It also says that lobsters don’t suffer when put into a pot of boiling water. Apparently, the authors of the study think that these critters are too dumb to hurt.

Now, I don’t know how to get into the head of a crustacean, let alone a night crawler, but I’m always a little suspicious of such firm pronouncements on subjects that truly are ultimately unknowable. They sound more like rationalization than science (like the old theory, that’s unfortunately not all that old, that the medical profession had that newborns were also insensate to pain, and that their cries and wails during unanaesthetized surgical procedures was just a reflexive response). It may be that worms wiggle mindlessly, but I suspect that if a lobster being put in a pot of boiling water didn’t mind, one wouldn’t have to work so hard to keep them in it.

A Critique, Not A Theory

OK, one more before we take off. John Derbyshire has a slightly different perspective on the ID controversy:

I would like to see some scientifically literate school board somewhere mandate stickers in biology textbooks stating that “INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT A THEORY, BUT A CRITIQUE.” Then we might be getting somewhere with this dismal business.

Just so.

Now, really, see you later. She’s dragging me out the door, fingers still frantically stabbing at the keyboard. Why didn’t I get a wireless keyb….

A Need To Believe

Apropos the ongoing ID discussion, John Derbyshire has an interesting post:

Horrors like the S. Asian tsunami have very little to do with free will, of course, and much more to do with the great cold indifference of the universe. Very hard to square with an involved Deity. I can’t do it myself, yet I am constitutionally unable to NOT believe in that Deity. I think I’ll go lie down for a while.

Just as he is unable to NOT believe in it, I am similarly unable to believe. I wasn’t very old before I realized that the God thing just didn’t make much sense to me (but on the other hand, making sense is beside the point, isn’t it?). I just don’t get it. I feel (which to say, using a different meaning of the word, “sense”) no presence of a deity in the universe, though I find that universe awesome, whether gazing at distant images through a telescope, or viewing a plain from atop a mountain, or contemplating the peace of a grove of redwoods.

But from talking to people who do believe, it’s clear to me that their belief, and sense of a God’s presence, is very real, and I think that it foolish and presumptious to deny it for them. They have their reality, and I mine. And of course, my inability to believe troubles me not at all. I not only have no sense of God, I also have no sense of a need for one.

I think that there is a spectrum of levels of belief (just as there’s one for degrees of homosexuality). At one end are the clear unbelievers (such as me), and at the other end are the clear believers, and there are many in the middle whose belief is affected mostly by life circumstances.

Logic would dictate, of course, that we aren’t all correct–either there’s a God or there isn’t, but then, logic only applies if one’s belief system thinks that a requirement. Which is why it’s impossible to prove something to someone whose means of attaining knowledge isn’t logic driven, and who uses a different set of axioms.

It’s entirely plausible to me that for those who feel His presence, God is as real as anything else in this existence. But not for me. And because of this, while what happened in south Asia this past week is unspeakably tragic, it disrupts my worldview not at all. I have nothing with which it must be reconciled.

What Is Human?

Over at the corner, KLo complains about cloning and a judge that rules that anencephalic babies should be aborted:

Besides the culture of death embraced by New Jersey and California on human cloning (we can clone as long as we kill that new life), the courts insistence on legal infanticide re disallowing partial-birth-abortion bans, and, of course, Roe, Shannen Coffin reminds me that two federal judges here ruled that the government had to pay for abortions of anencephalic babies because they had no chance of survival, i.e., no value to life. (Fortunately, some cooler heads prevailed in the court of appeals where one of those two decisions was reversed (another is pending in the dreaded Ninth Circuit.) How far off are we, really?

At the risk of creeping people out (hey, I have to (re)establish my non-conservative bona fides occasionally here, what with all the complaints about this being a “right-wing” site), I have to say that she sets much too much store by DNA. This all really begs the question of what is human, and what represents human life (an essay that I’ve been meaning to write for years, but never get around to, primarily because it’s a tough problem). The short version is that I don’t believe that having human DNA is either necessary or sufficient to be human, or at least to be a person with rights.

While I can see the conservative objection to aborting “human” clones (it’s at least consistent with aborting in general), I’ve never understood the convervative objection to cloning in general (other than the Leon Kass “Yuck factor“).

I use the word “human” in quotes because I’m on the fence as to when an embryo actually attains that state. I don’t believe that it’s at conception, but I do believe that by the time there’s a brain stem there, you’ve got something that shouldn’t be deliberately killed without a damn good reason. Which brings us to her second complaint, about aborting “babies” that literally have no minds.

These are creatures with human DNA, but can they really be said to be truly human? I think that much of what makes us human resides in our minds, and that absent a brain, there’s no possibility of humanity. For a person in a coma, it can be argued whether or not they are really “there,” even if there’s no measurable brain activity, but if there’s not only no activity, but literally no brain at all (at least none with any higher functions) and no prospects for developing one, what are the prospects for a meaningful life, and what indeed, is the value of such a mass of tissue?

A Profound Insight

…into Loony Tunes from a commenter at the Aussie Oppressor’s site:

Wile E. Coyote is a mythic fusion of Sisyphus and Tantalus. He is doomed to labor eternally at a task that he can never complete, tormented all the while by the presence of the sustenance he craves (the Road Runner) just outside his reach, but close enough to see, hear, and even smell. He is continually subjected to agonizing pain and massively crippling injuries, but he can never die; instead, he heals instantaneously and is forced to continue his hopeless efforts.

In short, Wile E. Coyote is in Hell — a Hell as cruel and sadistic as anything that Dante envisioned.


You have to feel for Sylvester, too – once he finally gave up on the bird, he settles down, has a kid, then spends his declining years plagued by hallucinations about a giant mouse. Poor bastard.


The thing that REALLY steams Me about the RR cartoon is not just that the coyote always loses (though that’s annoying to this canine fan), but that he’s an engineer or at least a technician. You get the message that technology will never solve any problem.

I think the USSR had a cartoon which had a wolf chasing a rabbit, but the rabbit was the inventor and his inventions WORKED.

Why did the damned commies do something right that we didn’t?

A New Blooksite

I just made up that word, for a site about a book that’s part blog (well, actually, the book (and theme) blog may not be up for another couple of days). But anyone who’s been paying attention to Glenn’s blogads will notice one for Jim Bennett’s new book on the Anglosphere, which he seems to have almost singlehandedly invented. I’m just pointing it out as well.

Hey, I’m just sayin’…