Sunday, December 4, 2016

Conspiracy-Theorizing, Clinton-Style

Not all "conspiracy theorists" are "right-wing," apparently.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Straw-Man 'Libertarianism'

Presumably in its attempt to be comical, this picture-text misrepresents (intentionally or unintentionally) philosophical libertarianism.

On one minimalist construal, philosophical libertarianism is simply a theory of justice which advances the idea that what is “just” is that “persons” (whatever those are) do not “interfere” (whatever that cashes out to be) with one another.[1]

A person barreling through intersections ignoring stop signs interferes with the liberty of whoever is unfortunate enough to be in the way. Hence, (a plausible articulation of) philosophical libertarianism does not license the behavior that the author envisions.

The version of “libertarianism” being attacked is neither the strongest version available nor the version that is typically defended in the relevant political-philosophy literature. However humorous it may be, then, the post commits the straw-man fallacy (in the language of informal logic).

Without affirming or denying philosophical libertarianism, one may - and should - condemn such fallacious polemics.

See also:

Noam Chomsky Reminds: Clintons Are Republicans

Let’s Throw Our Brains and Our Guns Into the Toilet at the Same Time (Parody)

ISIS: The US-CIA Connection

A Few Words on the Second Amendment's Historical Meaning

[1] For more information on this sort of libertarianism, see the discussion of “Spencerian Libertarianism” here: Peter Vallentyne and Bas van der Vossen, “Libertarianism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2014 Ed., Edward N. Zalta, ed., <>.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Noam Chomsky Reminds: Clintons Are Republicans

See, e.g., Noam Chomsky, "Rollback," part 1, Z Magazine, Jan., 1995,

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Towards an Epistemology of 'Global Warming' Skepticism

In a previous weblog post, I raised what I called an “epistemic concern” for global warming alarmists who intone “hottest [month / year] on record” mantras.[1]

Briefly summarized, the worry was this. Careful temperature measurements have only been made since the late 19th century. However, given scientific estimates for the age of the earth, these 135 odd years of meteorological data-gathering represent a vanishingly small percentage of the age of the earth (or of the time during which humans have inhabited it).

Thus, when it comes to “directly measured” temperatures, we have a data set that is so deficient, to call it “incomplete” is a monumental understatement.[2]

Hence, climate cultists who expect or demand obeisance on this basis are not just short-circuiting rationality, they are arguably behaving positively irrationally. [3]

Predictably, I have caught flak from several true believers for having blasphemed against a tenet of the climate creed.

Let me take a step backward, therefore, and make a more general statement expressing – if not quite explaining – the genesis of my skepticism on this constellation of issues.

Are weather and climate different, or aren’t they?

In the first place, there seems to be a disparity between the treatment of data supporting “warming” and data supporting “cooling.” If warm-temperature trends are supposed to stand as evidence for “global warming,” then it seems reasonable to expect that cool-temperature trends be counted as evidence for global cooling.

It’s a fair question, I think. Would those who post links to “warmest year”-type articles, expecting readers to fall lockstep behind the current crop of scaremongers, themselves jump off of the “global warming” bandwagon if the headlines suggested that temperatures were going the other way?

It does not appear so. Routinely, when cold weather dominates the headlines, one reads grave warnings about how one must not think that cold and snowy weather militates against the dogma of “global warming.”

Take this, for instance: “For years, climate contrarians have pointed to snowfall and cold weather to question the scientific reality of human-induced climate change. Such misinformation obscures the work scientists are doing to figure out just how climate change is affecting weather patterns year-round.”[4]

Since my point, here, could be easily misunderstood, let me try to restate it.

I am not arguing or supposing that it is physically impossible (or anything relevantly similar) that cooling temperatures be compatible with the truth of “global warming” hypotheses. What I am objecting to is the treatment of “warming trends” as clear or obvious “proof” of global warming. Call this sort of thing a kind of naïve view about climate-temperature correlation.

To be sure, if “global warming” is happening – and more on the framing of this question, below starting with the subheading “Framing the question” – then temperatures are increasing globally. The consequent (temperatures are increasing globally) follows trivially from the antecedent (“global warming” is happening).

However, if “global warming” is a nuanced enough concept that record-cold temperatures do not count against it, then surely naïve views about climate-temperature correlation are being (or ought to be) rejected.

Indeed, one reads that “[n]orthern hemisphere winter weather patterns are a complex interplay between the upper atmosphere conditions over polar regions and mid-latitude conditions over the oceans and on land. Factors that come into play for regional weather (and indeed global weather) are Earth’s seasons, ocean patterns, upper winds, Arctic sea ice, and the shifting shape of the jet stream… .”[5]

But if this is so, then it seems to be a tad bit dishonest to flip-flop between being a “naïve correlationist” when the temperatures go up and “sophisticated correlationist” when they either don’t go up or when they actually go down.

To develop the point just a bit further, I note that the author of the relevant article thinks that the following is important enough to warrant its own breakout box. “Understanding the difference between climate and weather[:] Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a snowstorm or a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades.”[6]

So let me put the point this way.

A naïve correlationist is a person who thinks that there is a forced march from weather data (like temperature) to climate conclusions (like “global warming” or “global cooling”). A sophisticated correlationist is a person who thinks that there is not necessarily any such forced march. But we have seen that “global warming” believers deny that cooling (and even record-cold) temperatures impel us to believe in “global cooling.” Therefore, it appears that these sorts of “global warming” believers are – functionally, anyway – sophisticated correlationists. However, according to sophisticated correlationism, there is no forced march from weather data to climate conclusions.

From all of this it follows that “global warming” believers, at least insofar as they are sophisticated correlationists about weather and climate, should (on pain of inconsistency) forgo demanding that “global warming” skeptics affirm “global warming” (a climate conclusion) on the sole basis of weather data (like temperature readings).

Now, presumably, many “global warming” believers are springing to their feet to adumbrate all of the other, non-weather-data evidence for “global warming.” Well and good. I have no problem giving any candidate piece of evidence a fair hearing.

My initial criticism, you hopefully will recall, was directed against authors that expect readers to assent to their climate conclusions on the basis of weather (temperature) data alone.

40 years ago, the media was warning about an impending “ice age.”

In the second place, and relatedly, those who fret about and wring their hands over the prospect of melting polar ice caps – and since it’s nearly March, one can expect commentators to worm out of the woodwork prognosticating doomsday scenarios published coincidentally with the yearly spring melt – seldom give equal “warmest [such-and-so]” and “coldest [yakety yak]” headlines equal play.

For example, in 2008 “climate change” fear-mongers were set to propagandize bikers and strollers for Earth Day in Canada when, ironically, frigid temperatures rendered the “global warming” hype cooler than it had been in years. I am sure that quite a few Chicken Littles were chagrined. But a columnist for the Edmonton Sun seems to have seen the humor in it.

“So much for global warming. Earth Day festivities went ahead despite the blast of frigid weather yesterday. Vendors and presenters from various eco-friendly groups, including Bullfrog Power, CO2 Reduction Edmonton and the local solar energy society, crammed into a lone tent in Hawrelak Park after a blizzard forced them to abandon their original locations. Organizers crammed over 40 groups in a space that would normally be occupied by half that number. …A handful of visitors still took the time to inquire about several solar-powered products on display at the M.E.C. booth and browsed several others before running off toward the lone heater in the tent to warm up. A lemonade vendor towards the front might as well not have been there.”[7]

Or again, at the end of 2014 it was reported: “The contiguous United States is having its coldest year through November since 1997…”.[8]

And these sorts of decrease are not exclusively local events. Consider this report from 2008.

“Global temperatures for 2008 will be slightly cooler than last year as a result of the cold La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said…”.[9]

Downplaying the dropping temperatures wasn’t always the way. Back in the 1970s, in fact, the situation was somewhat reversed. News dispatches about coldest years and record snowfalls received top billing.

At that time, there was something of a “scientific consensus” that the world was about to enter a new “ice age.” No kidding.

For example, in a Newsweek article of April 28, 1975, columnist Peter Gwynne informs readers:

“The evidence in support of these [cooling-world-related] predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. …The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down.”[10]

Science-fiction author Isaac Asimov penned an article for TV Guide in which he explained: “Air-pollution particles tend to reflect sunlight back into outer space, thus cooling the planet. …Since 1940, perhaps airborne particles have taken the lead, thus cooling the Earth.”[11]

Hardly confined to popular-level publications, worries about a “new ice age” were considered matters of national security. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) compiled a report on the “disturbing …thesis that the weather …is …highly abnormal …While still unable to explain how or why climate changes, or to predict the extent and duration of change, a number of climatologists are in agreement that the northern hemisphere, at least is growing cooler. …According to Dr. Herbert Lamb – an outstanding British climatologist – 22 out of 27 forecasting methods he examined predicted a cooling trend… A change of 2°-3°F. in average temperature would have an enormous impact.”[12]

I can scarcely do better than an intrepid blogger named “Andrew,” who has compiled this helpful overview of the climate-reporting situation 1970-1979.[13]

From the 1980s onward, impending-”ice age” speculations have decreased dramatically. What is interesting – to me, anyway – is the extent to which these “global cooling” reports were bundled with alarmist rhetoric much like what we read in conjunction with today’s crop of “global warming” announcements.

In 1975, “…[Meteorologists were] almost unanimous in the view that the [cooling] trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.”[14]

Then, as now: “Climatologists [were] pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climactic change, or even to allay its effects.”[15]

Amongst the recommendations was “…melting the arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers…”.[16]

One can only imagine the potential catastrophe that might have resulted had such an extreme proposal been carried out. Had the weight of the then-current “scientific consensus” been sufficient to impel such heavy-handed (and socio-politically-tinged) interventions, we might all be a lot worse off now. I am assuming that this verdict is plausible since the relevant, past scientific consensus is (presumably) now believed to have been dead wrong.

In order to have full confidence in the current interventionist schemes for combating ”global warming” , it seems to me that I would need to believe that climate science has advanced to such a degree in the last 3-4 decades that a similar monumental miscalculation is no longer conceivable. In other words, I would have to think that, “ice-age” doom-saying be damned, this time, the alarmism is right.

Color me skeptical.

When did dogmatism get added to the scientist’s toolkit?

And, anyway, isn’t skepticism the supposed lifeblood of the scientist?

The celebrated Carl Sagan, an indefatigable cheer leader for science, once articulated the contents of what he termed a “baloney-detection kit.”

“What’s in the kit? Tools for skeptical thinking. …

“Among the tools: Whenever possible, there must be independent confirmation of the ‘facts.’ Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all the points of view.[17] Arguments from authority alone carry little weight – ‘authorities’ have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which systematically disprove each of the alternatives. …Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis… See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. …Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. …Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.”[18]

“Inveterate” or not, this (local) skeptic does not follow the “global warming” reasoning too well. I have already shared several reasons for this. The temperature data set is incomplete and, contra sophisticated correlationism, urges global, diachronic conclusions be drawn from local, synchronic data – thus conflating climate and weather. Moreover, weather reports are not treated equally. And so on. (For the details, see above.)

But enough about me. One reader complained as follows after reading (I presume) my previous blog post.

Objections and replies

“[S]cientists didn’t reach the conclusions they reached regarding a[n]thropogenic climate change simply by measuring temperature for the last 135 years. They reached these conclusions by comparing carbon dioxide fluctuations and temp[e]rature over a vast geological timescale.”

By way of reply let me just stake out a crude position in logical space.

I will tentatively argue from the standpoint that “global warming” alarmism[19] is based upon scientific guesswork that, informed as it may be, is not indubitable.

Although I disagree with them, my main problem is not that there are people who believe that the threat of “global warming” is genuine.[20] My problem is that there are people who will not permit anyone else to believe that it is not.

I am concerned about the “shaming” of people who cannot bring themselves to have faith in the climate cult. So in my previous post, I posed a question, occasioned by the proclamation that 2015 was the “hottest year” since 1880, which tried to unpack one of my concerns.

Of course I am aware that scientists didn’t reach the conclusions they reached regarding anthropogenic climate change simply by measuring temperature for the last 135 years.

I did register this awareness, albeit briefly and obviously inadequately, in footnote #4. Presently, let me say something more about this evidence – and this “vast geological timescale.”

I am not a climatologist. However, if I am supposed to believe in “global warming” then, as Sagan says, I “must be given the chance to follow [the] reasoning” of the “global warming” believers.

I have to stress, up front, that my remarks are merely rough-and-ready. This is not meant to be a final statement. Herein, I can nly hope to make salient (to receptive readers) some of the issues that currently block me, personally, from having faith in the “we’re gonna fry; we’re gonna die” storyline.

Let’s begin.

Not all “evidence” is equal.

On the continuum of empirical evidence[21] let us mark off a few relevant places – acknowledging that there are likely intermediate notches between them. On one pole, we have what I will for expedience call direct evidence, that is, evidence proceeding from “simple” observation.[22] What I have in mind is the sort of evidence that comes to us immediately by way of our five senses, when those sense are working properly and are activated in suitable contexts. To put it slightly differently, “direct evidence,” in this sense, is not filtered or mediated through instruments of any kind.[23] If I have reasonably functioning vision and I see an entity flying above me, at a not-too-distant height and in good lighting (and so on), then my visual observation of said entity counts as direct evidence of it.

Somewhere else along the continuum, we have what I will term (somewhat opaquely, I admit) assisted evidence. Let this evidence be evidence that is obtained by the five senses working through various instruments that are designed to facilitate the observation of entities or supposed entities that could not be directly observed without assistance. If I have reasonably functioning vision and I look through a microscope (at something small) or through a telescope (at something distant), then what I observe counts as assisted evidence in my provisional lexicon.[24] Or if I have dysfunctional vision and I see an entity flying above me, at a not-too-distant height and in good lighting (and so on), then my assisted-visual observation of said entity (suppose that I am wearing properly-fitted glasses) counts as assisted evidence of it.

On the other end, we have what I will, again for convenience, label indirect evidence, that is, evidence that consists in inferences from direct evidence or from assisted evidence. So, for instance, seismograph reports are pieces of paper (for instance) taken to have recorded particular motions of the earth’s tectonic plates. If I look at a paper on which is represented seismograph data, I directly perceive various lines. From these lines, I may perhaps infer the past motions of several of the earth’s plates.

Of course, inferences from (or, if you like, interpretations of) evidence are plausibly best-construed as areas of expertise.

If I, not being a particle physicist, am handed a print out from a cloud chamber (say), I may successfully directly perceive squiggly lines on the pages. But I might have to be told, by various chemists or physicists perhaps, that – according to the rules of their respective disciplines – it is possible to infer from these lines the existence or movement of various entities (“subatomic particles,” etc.).

One question that emerges from this rough picture is this: Whence come our data on “carbon dioxide fluctuations” and temperature? Is the evidence “direct,”[25] “assisted” or “indirect”?

From the way that I have set up the definitions, it is pretty clear that temperature measurements are not the sorts of things that can be “direct.” We can see people shivering or wearing bathing suits (or both) but we cannot see “temperature” directly. To be sure, we can directly see mercury rise inside of glass cylinders. But to move from the mercury shows such-and-so to the “temperature” is such-and-such is something like an interpretation of or an inference from the behavior of the mercury in the device.

But let this pass. Let us assume that to see thermometer reading counts as “direct evidence” for the “temperature.” One way that the evidence for temperature and “carbon dioxide fluctuations” would be direct on this expanded view of “directness” would be if we had thermometer readings and carbon-dioxide-level measurements from people of earlier epochs.[26] In other words, and per impossibile, if our early human ancestors had taken direct, real-time readings of temperature and carbon dioxide levels using reliable temperature and carbon-dioxide-measuring devices, then we could refer to that data in our present “comparisons.”

Plainly, we do not have this. We only have “direct” evidence (in the revised and operative sense) of “carbon dioxide fluctuations” and temperatures – e.g., thermometric readings and CO2 tests – going back 135 years.

What we have instead are inferences about past temperatures and no-longer-obtaining carbon-dioxide levels that issue out of the interpretations of presently-existing paper records; earth, ice-core and tree-ring samples; and other such things.

In order to responsibly deal with this evidential “assistedness” or indirectness, we must rephrase the objector’s opening assertions. Suitably qualified, we get something like the following.

Some scientists reached their “climate change” conclusions by comparing educated conjectures about past carbon dioxide fluctuations with intelligent surmises about past temperatures.

This statement, with which I agree, captures the speculative – though defensible – nature of the conclusions.

However, my final question in the previous post was: Is it irrational for me to doubt these conclusions?

I do not see how it is irrational to doubt conjectures and surmises made about the interpretation of data.[27]

Continuing, the objector wrote:

>>They [climatologists] reached these [“global warming”] conclusions by employing the scientific method…<<

The myth of the “scientific method.”

The myth of a single procedure that answers to the definite description the “scientific method,” while it is perpetuated at the Science-101 level, has been nearly universally rejected by philosophers of science.

On one extreme, some philosophers of science deny that there is any such thing as a distinctly scientific methodology at all.[28] The most famous, although by no means the exclusive, denial of this probably owes to Thomas Kuhn,[29] the details of whose view need not detain us.[30]

One does not have to follow Kuhn very far, however, to appreciate the weight of his criticisms of the unsophisticated advocacy of one-and-only-one “scientific method.” For my rudimentary purposes, it will suffice for me to say that the largely legendary “view [that there is one, distinctly ‘scientific method’ of investigation] …met explicit challenges, …most fatally in Thomas Kuhn’s demonstration that the actual practice of science does not illustrate application of the scientific method.”[31]

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the notion that there is something called “the scientific method” – in which scientists, starting with presuppositionless observations, collect facts until they have a critical mass, at which point the facts can be enumerated inductively into general laws – is mostly a fairy tale.[32]

One Professor David Blitz says it well on his webpage ostensibly for an introductory course in philosophy of science. “It is easy – and almost any high school textbook does so – to invoke ‘the scientific method’ as a nearly infallible means by which scientists develop their theories. But this is …to oversimplify – much of philosophy of science is devoted to demystifying this simplification, by showing the complex and varying approaches which science has taken to natural phenomena.”[33]

This is emphatically not to say that scientists lack often rigorous methodological principles for their various enterprises. It is simply to say two things.

Number one, it is probably better to think of science as a loose collection of tools – both practical and theoretical – than as a discipline distinguished by some, one “method” that is unique to it.

And relatedly, number two, the line between science and non-science is a bit fuzzier around the edges than cheer leaders like William S. “Bill” Nye, the late Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson would have their legions of fawning admirers believe.[34]

Let me try to be just a bit clearer.[35]

Instead of beginning without presuppositions, scientists usually begin with a problem to be solved[36] and a fairly robust set of ideas about where to begin looking for solutions. Additionally, scientists operate on the basis of definite presuppositions – for instance, about what is probably relevant (and irrelevant) to observe for their specific problem-solving purposes.[37]

Instead of “direct observation,” scientists are “often interpreting data in light of a large number of theoretical background assumptions about the thing being observed and the instruments used to observe it.”[38]

W. V. O. Quine called something in this vicinity the theory-ladenness ofobservation,[39] that is, the notion that all of our observations are embedded in a fabric of background assumptions and socio-cultural factors, and expressed in terms of linguistic constructions, that are complex, impinge upon the observation and were they removed would render the observation, if not incomprehensible, then certainly unevaluable.

Instead of restricting themselves to generalizing from these sets of observational data (however indirect or theory-laden they may be) scientists avail themselves of all manner of inference. By turns, science involves adduction, deduction and induction.[40]

There is no such thing as the “scientific method.”

>>…where doubt and alternative possibilities are strenuously examined.[41] Some of the scientific methods they employed include studying the heat-absorbing properties of greenhouse gases as well as sampling ancient air bubbles from sheets of ice drilled from arctic ice and measuring the concentration of C02 from these ice samples, and comparing it with geological epochs (such as ice ages.) What climate change “alarmists” are most concerned about is something called “the greenhouse effect.” This is simple to understand. The sun rays heats up the surface of the planet, but this heating is mitigated by some of the heat radiating out of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, however, with enough concentration begin to block the radiation of heat energy from out of our atmosphere. This is a scientifically proven fact, and it doesn’t require much C02 to disrupt heat radiation (we’re talking parts per million.) To cast doubt upon this fact is to be ignorant of two centuries of scientific inquiry. It’s tantamount to saying that the “germ theory of disease” isn’t settled science.<<

I have (no fewer than) three problems with this.[42]

Framing the question.

First, “global warming” (or the Newspeak phrase “Climate Change”[43]) is really an abbreviation for a complex tissue of theses. By my own rough enumeration, I get these.

Number one, there is some thesis floating around, in the vicinity of one of the following, about increasing temperatures. This is a what-thesis, that is, it purports to tell us what is the case.

1a) The earth is (getting) warmer than it has ever been.

1b) The earth is (getting) warmer than it has been since humans have inhabited the earth. (Thus I mean 1b) to mark out a subset of the times covered by 1a).)

1c) The earth is (getting) warmer than it has been since x years ago. (Thus I mean 1c) to mark out a subset of the times covered by 1b).)

Number two, there is a thesis, something like one of the following, about rising CO2 levels. This also seems like a what-thesis.

2a) The earth presently displays higher levels of CO2 than there has ever been.

2b) The earth presently displays higher levels of CO2 than there has been since humans have inhabited the earth. (Thus I mean 2b) to mark out a subset of the times covered by 2a).)

2c) The earth presently displays higher levels of CO2 than there has been since y years ago. (Thus I mean 2c) to mark out a subset of the times covered by 2b).)

Number three, there is a thesis about the classification of CO2. Let’s say that this includes what-theses that are something like these:

3a) CO2 is a “greenhouse gas.”

3b) CO2 has propensities p1, p2, p2, …pn.

Number four, there is a thesis filling in the details about what a “greenhouse gas” is.

4) A greenhouse gas is a gas that contributes to the “greenhouse effect.”

Number five, there is a thesis filling in the details about what the “greenhouse effect” is.

5) The greenhouse effect is “the trapping of the sun’s warmth in a planet’s lower atmosphere due to the greater transparency of the atmosphere to visible radiation from the sun than to infrared radiation emitted from the planet’s surface.”

We have another what-thesis reporting on a correlation between temperature and CO2.

6) Temperature and CO2 are correlated.

Then we will have why-theses, something like these.

7a) Temperature rises because CO2 rises.

7b) CO2 rises because temperature rises.

7c) Temperature and CO2 rise because of some third factor, z.

7d) Temperature rises because of some third factor, a; CO2 rises because of some fourth factor, b.

Why are these various theses worth noting?

Firstly, it seems obvious to me that the number of discrete theses leaves open the possibility of accepting some while rejecting others. I have never understood why these discrete propositions are routinely conflated. “Global warming” is far too often distilled down to an epistemological “package deal” that one either “affirms” – in toto – or “denies” – tout court.

To put it slightly differently, one is given the impression that one must answer “yes” to all of the following “is there ‘global warming’?; is it due to greenhouse gases?; and are those gases due to human activities?” Or one has to be consigned to the flames of “denier” hell.

There are an awful lot of distinct theses, here. I think it’s irresponsibly to package them together in that way.

Secondly, the “germ theory” may very well be, at the level of epistemology, analogous to the greenhouse effect. However, “climate change” skeptics are not “denying” that there is a greenhouse effect.

Instead, skeptics are denying things like this: that the greenhouse effect tells the entire story about “global warming”; that the byproducts of human activity are definitely and wholly responsible for “global warming”; etc.

It’s simply contemptible to place these specific denials on the level of a sweeping and general denial of germ theory! As my grandma used to say: “Oh, come off it!”

What seems to me to be a more apt comparison is to say that those who make such grandiose claims are themselves rather like people who believed that pellagra and scurvy were bacterial or viral illnesses. I suppose that there were those who believed so firmly that scurvy (say) was bacterial that they might have been willing to exclaim: “Why, to deny that scurvy is bacterial is tantamount to denying the germ theory of disease!”

Of course, were there any such people, we now know that they were wrong on both counts. Scurvy (and pellagra) is caused by dietary deficiencies. Thus denying that scurvy (for instance) is bacterial does not – and never did – necessitate a denial of the germ theory of disease.

The germ theory is true. And it’s true that scurvy is not caused by a germ at all.

Similarly, some who contend that “global warming” is a genuine phenomenon, believe that the cause is something other than “anthropogenic” gases. If this is the case, then it will turn out that “global warming” and the “greenhouse effect” are both real phenomena, but that even so “global warming” is cause by something other than SUVs. Maybe it’s solar activity.[44]

Second, while the objector seem to be recommending another sort of naïve view where various “scientific” propositions can be “proven,” count as “facts” and finally graduate into something called “settled science,” I just do not share this framework.

This is not because I lack an elementary grasp of such things as the high school-level, natural-science definition of “greenhouse effect.”[45] Rather, it’s because I have self-consciously, and after reflection on at least some of the relevant philosophical issues, embraced a view of what science is that precludes the sort of certainty that the objector appears to think that I should have.

Simply stated, I hold that “proof” (and its mirror-image, refutation) only exists in (certain branches of) mathematics and logic. All other areas of human inquiry traffic in evidence, rather than proof.

It is also worth mentioning, in passing, that there is an intuitive difference between what we might call “ideal science” and “politicized science.” Ideal science might well move along scrupulously running alternatives up the flagpole. But politicized science is what we seem to be stuck with in the U.S. in 2016.

Let me just give a few considerations in favor of this admittedly pessimistic appraisal.

“In the United States we take science as gospel. …The public perception is that faking science is rare. The truth is it happens all the time.”[46]

“A wide-ranging study of the incidence of scientific fraud in the United States has just been published, and the results are alarming: Scientists resort to fraud more commonly than we think. Scientists enjoy a broad level of trust in their public statements – from global warming to cloning to finding evidence of new extraterrestrial worlds. But this study implies that such trust may be misplaced.”[47]

“The grandees of the scientific establishment regularly proclaim that scientific fraud is vanishingly rare and that perpetrators are isolated individuals who act out of a twisted psychopathology. As a corollary, they insist that science is self-correcting. Typical is the lofty assertion by Roald Hoffman, a professor of chemistry at Cornell University, at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in 1996. Fraud in science ‘is no a real problem,’ he said. ‘This is because of the psychology of the perpetrators of fraud ...the psychopathology of fraud.’ And, he said, ‘there are extraordinarily efficient self-corrective features in the system of science.’

“The grandees make these claims as a matter of faith. They could not be so dogmatic if they had considered what evidence there is that might back up general conclusions, positive or negative, about the nature and incidence of scientific fraud. Their claims about science are unscientific.”[48]

“A rough base line can be set for fraud sensu stricto, or fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. The Public Health Service and the National Science Foundation account for the vast bulk of federal fundnig of research, leaving out military research and development. In the decade to 2002 the two agencies dealt with somewhat more than two hundred cases, twenty to thirty per year. These, of course, are the most serious ones, and not resolved, or suppressed, by the research institutions. With an estimate of, say, two to three hundred thousand scientists enjoying grant money, that suggests and incidence of one in one hundred thousand. Nobody close to the problem believes that the figure is that low. Surveys of conduct that respondents say they have observed come up consistently with rates on the order of one in one hundred. What evidence exists suggests that a high proportion of instances are not reported.”[49]

“...Elizabeth Knoll, then science editor at the University of California Press ...spoke tartly of ‘a remarkably uncritical faith in the peer-review system.’ She went on: ‘In only a generation [peer review and refereeing became dominant only after the second world war], editorial peer review has become a powerful social system. In the process, formal peer review has taken on some of the supposed objectivity of research that the peer review process is meant to judge. Insitutionally and individually, we tend to forget that just because peer review reviews scientific work does not mean that it is itself a scientific process.’ ...Though she was speaking of refereeing of journal articles, what she said applies with equal force to the review of grant applications. ...Faith [in the peer review process] is strong and eloquent, trustworthy evidence for or against the efficacy of peer review is vanishingly rare.”[50]

Derailment of the “ideal scientific process” does not always occur through conscious deception – though, as we have seen, it sometimes does. It can occur simply as an outworking of the dog-eat-dog world of government grant financing.

When “President Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer[, b]iologists grumbled that money was being allocated to targeted research when fundamental, pure research was needed.”[51]

“For funding to be maintained and regularly increased, scientists must court, placate, never upset the sources. Thus funding of science has an inescapable political aspect – which means that the independence and self-government of the sciences are always potentially at risk, sometimes actually. (One small sign of this is the use of earmarks, that is, allocations within research appropriations of support to projects specified by the legislators rather than by the normal scientific granting agency…)”[52]

In the case of “global warming,” who controls the grant dollars? Despite vague whispers about “oil company” money, it does not appear to me to be the “global warming” skeptics who are getting their research projects funded.

>>…And here is a link which details the vast history of scientific inquiry regarding the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas effect. If, upon fully reading this history of the study of C02 concentrations and temperature, you still doubt climate change is happening and is being exacerbated by human greenhouse gas emissions, then you’re just being pretentious and assuming you know more than what over a century of scientific inquiry have concluded and what 97% of climate scientists agree is happening:<<

I find the tenor of this passage disturbing.

Imagine rolling the clock back to the “High” Middle Ages, say the 1200s. Consider (again, per impossible) that an Incarnation- or Trinity-skeptic is told the following.[53]

“And here is a book which details the vast history of philosophic and theological inquiry regarding the Incarnation or Trinity. If, upon fully reading this history of that study, you still doubt the Incarnation or Trinity, then you’re just being pretentious and assuming you know more than what over thirteen centuries learned inquiry have concluded and what 97% [or thereabouts] of church doctors agree is true.”

I am not interested, here, in pursuing sidelights about the demarcation between “science” and “non-science,” on which to some degree I have already written about elsewhere.[54] Or, if that example is too religiously-tinged for your tastes, consider another one. Let’s transport ourselves to the dawn of the 16th century. Consider a young Copernicus being derided for misplaced skepticism by a true believer in geo-centrism.

“And here is a book which details the vast history of natural philosophic/scientific inquiry regarding the geo-centrism. If, upon fully reading this history of that study, you still doubt geo-centrism, then you’re just being pretentious and assuming you know more than what over fourteen centuries (since Ptolemy) to eighteen centuries (since Aristotle) of learned inquiry have concluded and what 97% [or thereabouts] of academics agree is true.”

One might complain that Copernicus was a bona fide scientist and that he was opposing an “unscientific view” about the relative arrangement of the earth and the other planets. But this first of all does an injustice to the history of geo-centrism. Numerous, complicated mathematical and physical models had been devised trying to secure solid rational foundations for that theory.

Secondly, and more importantly, my point is that nothing better would have been able to succeed geo-centrism if each and every skeptic had been bullied into believing it on the basis of then-current “consensuses” of authorities to the contrary.

Or again, and to piggyback off of a previous exchange, let’s assume the received view of the Civil War, where the South takes all of the blame and the North was led into a heroic victory by Saint Lincoln.

Suppose we run a Philip K. Dick-esque, Man-in-the-High-Castle-like scenario in which the dastardly (on the standard view) South wins and (contrary to what I believe the South’s aims even were) runs roughshod over the entire nation, turning previously free Northern blacks into slaves. Suppose, further, that an anti-slavery reformer is put in his place as follows.

“And here is a book which details the history of the well-nigh universal human experience of slavery – present in virtually every society since the dawn of time. If, upon fully reading this history, you still doubt moral acceptability of slavery, then you’re just being pretentious and assuming you know otherwise than what the entire course of human civilization has demonstrated.”

The point?

Consensus views can be wrong. Furthermore, rank-and-file believers do not change the course of the history of ideas. Skeptics tend to do that. And in science, skepticism is held aloft as a virtue.

The rebuke is supposed to be: Either fall in line with “the consensus” or take a hike. So much for Carl Sagan’s warning that science should have no “authorities.”

True, Sagan did admit scientific “experts.” But what qualifies someone as a “climate expert”?

It is disturbingly easy to cook up definitions to suit our pet hypotheses. For instance, if we say that a prerequisite for climatological “expertise” is belief in the truth of “global warming, then it will come out that only those who believe in the truth of “global warming” could possibly count as climate experts. That’s a pretty good trick![55]

There all sorts of learned and scientifically-degreed academics who voice doubts on at least some facet of the “global warming” story.[56]

And why must my doubts be a product of “pretension”?

Consider the (naïve) conception of what I earlier termed “idealized science.” It is this science that is plausibly the sort wherein one finds “doubt and alternative possibilities [being] strenuously examined.”

Apart from my worries that actual, politicized science has not responsibly examined – either strenuously or in any other principled way – “alternative possibilities” to the man-made global warming story, what I want to know is, if it is proper for scientists to display methodological doubt and to entertain alternative possibilities before affirming a particular hypothesis to be true, then why can I not adopt this sort of scientific spirit to my acceptance of “scientific” claims?

To put it another way, why can I not be “scientific” – in Sagan’s sense – about my own beliefs?

Specifically, “[w]henever possible,” may I be allowed to “independent[ly confirm] …the ‘facts’[?] [May I [e]ncourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all the points of view[?] [May I be mindful that] …‘authorities’ have made mistakes in the past …[and that t]hey will do so again in the future[?] …[May I entertain] more than one hypothesis[?] If there’s something to be explained, [may I] think of all the different ways in which it could be explained[?] …[Is it okay for me] to [not] get overly attached to a hypothesis[?] …[May I s]ee if [I] can find reasons for rejecting it? …[May I ask] whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified[?] …[May I put on my i]nveterate [skeptic] hat …[and] be given the chance to follow [the] reasoning …[of any who are trying to convince me to accept their favored hypotheses?]”

[1] Note well, dear reader, I do not profess to have raised an epistemic concern for people whose belief in “global warming” is held on grounds other than journalistic pronouncements of “hottest” this or that’s. Nor, I should add, have any persons – if there are any – whose affirmations of “climate change” are humble or tentative. The worry that I have identified attends to dogmatic varieties of climate change alarmism.

[2] I.e., considered statistically, what we do have is a paltry subset of what we would have if the data set were anywhere near complete.

[3] I am not going to get bogged down with a lot of detail for several reasons. Firstly, I have a couple of major deadlines to meet and just do not have the time to spend on this, stimulating though it may be. Secondly, I am incompetent to traffic in the finer points of climatology and meteorology. However, the issues that I am keen to raise are not meteorological, they are epistemic. So, thirdly, I will forebear from entangling myself in the technicalities of “climate science” because my criticisms display a greater degree of generality.

[4] “It’s Cold and My Car is Buried in Snow. Is Global Warming Really Happening?” Union of Concerned Scientists, Dec. 17, 2015,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Brookes Merritt, “No heaven on Earth Day: Wintry Blast Cools Global Warming Fervor,” Edmonton Sun, Apr. 21, 2008,

[8] “Brrr: Contiguous U.S. Is in Coldest Year Since 1997,” NBC News, Dec. 8 2014,

[9] Roger Harrabin, “Global Temperatures ‘To Decrease’,” BBC News, Apr. 4, 2008,

[10] Peter Gwynne, “The Cooling World,” Newsweek, Apr. 28, 1975, p. 64.

[11] Isaac Asimov, “‘The Weather Machine’: Is It Grinding Slowly But Inexorably Toward a New Ice Age?” TV Guide, Feb. 22, 1975, p. 10.

[12] Directorate of Intelligence, Potential Implications of Trends in World Population, Food Production, and Climate, Office of Political Research, CIA, doc. no. OPR-401, Aug., 1974, p. 215 and n. **.

[13] Andrew, “1970s Global Cooling Alarmism,” Popular Technology [dot] net [weblog], Feb. 28, 2013,

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Of course, dogmatists posing as champions of science have a neat trick, here. If a dogmatist wishing to exclude a point-of-view, she can lean heavily on the word “knowledgeable,” such that she could “justify” the exclusion on the basis that the point-of-view does not issue from a “knowledgeable” source. This is transparent bluster.

[18] Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, reprint ed., New York: Ballantine, 1996, pp. 210-211.

[19] I mean this to be functionally synonymous with “climate change cultism.”

[20] Nor I am necessarily disquieted by the fact that there are those who believe that catastrophe is imminent. More on this in a moment.

[21] Note that I am putting aside non-empirical (e.g., rational, non-rational and irrational) forms of evidence, at least for the time being.

[22] Even “immediate observation” depends upon a tissue of background assumptions (not least about what it is relevant to observe and what it is permissible to ignore) and certainly is never “presupposition-less” or independent of theoretical pre-commitments.

[23] On this account, even looking through a pair of eyeglasses would not be “direct.” I accept this liability and remind the reader that I am sketching a view only roughly.

[24] Of course, all of the senses can be thus assisted. Seismographs arguably assist our tactile apparatuses, hearing aids and amplifiers assist our auditory senses, various chemical tests may assist our gustatory and olfactory perception and so on.

[25] See the previous footnote.

[26] Of course, even if people of earlier epochs had taken thermometer readings, evidence that was direct to them would not be direct for us. Presumably, if we have records of their thermometer observations, then they would have written them down for us. What we would them have would be written records of past thermometer observations, not the direct observations themselves. Hence, we would might to infer the existence of past thermometer observations from a host of presently-available records that were not themselves thermometers. But let this pass too.

[27] My doubt is not a parlor game. I believe that I deal responsibly with the evidence that I have seen or with which I am presented.

[28] More extreme denials issued from the “epistemological anarchist,” Paul K. Feyerabend. (See Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge, London: NLB; Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1975; Contre la méthode: esquisse d'une théorie anarchiste de la connaissance, Paris: Le Seuil, 1975.)

[29] See his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1962.

[30] Similarly to Friedrich Nietzsche, it is perhaps fair to say that Kuhn had two projects, one negative and one positive. The negative project partially consisted in a critique of naïve views about “the scientific method.” There are many valuable and widely-accepted insights resulting from Kuhn’s negative project. His positive project was, as such projects usually are, more contentious. To give short shrift to lots of important details, Kuhn envision science proceeding in terms of what he called “paradigm shifts.” In his analysis, “reigning paradigms,” that is, presently accepted theoretical frameworks, are highly resistant to replacement – and are even kept in place by academic protection-rackets. However, unexplained (or anomalous) bits of data accumulate over time. Eventually, they reach a critical mass and force a revolutionary overthrow of the paradigm. The resultant "paradigm shift" sees the enthronement of a new theoretical framework, and the process starts all over again.

[31] Henry H. Bauer, Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, Urban, Ill. and Chicago, Univ. of Ill. Press, 1994, p. 111; archived online at <>.

“Some long-running disputes among historians, philosophers, and sociologists will be resolved only by recognizing the distinction between frontier and textbook sorts of science. Traditionally, there have been two schools of thought about the historical development of science: the internalist and the externalist. According to internalists, since correct science reflects nature, it is unaffected by the human traits of ambition, ideology, prejudice, or dishonesty that individual scientists might have displayed or the particularities of the human societies in which they lived. Thus internalist history is purely intellectual history, tracing the development of scientific theories toward those now held to be true. According to externalists, by contrast, the science that people produce, just as everything else they do, reflects their biases and wishes and social environment; an so externalists are as much interested in dead ends and failures in science as in successes.

“Historians and philosophers of science were predominantly internalists until a few decades ago. Their focus was on the successes and growth of science – in other words, on the logic and power of textbook science. As earlier described, that focus led naturally to explanation in terms of the scientific method; and anything that did not fit with the notion of a logically impartial method was overlooked or brushed aside. Historians could hardly avoid noticing that some brilliant discoveries reflected passionately judicious choice of hypothesis; but the import of this was discounted as philosophers of science argued for a distinction between ‘the context of discovery’ and ‘the context of justification.’ The context of discovery included the human and social characteristics that were regarded as not amenable to logical analysis: genius, serendipity, and the like. Since those belonged, it was said, to the nonrational part of human experience, they were by definition irrelevant to science, which was the preeminently rational enterprise. Only the context of justification was supposed to bear on the nature and progress of science, in which the ideas that came mysteriously from somewhere or other were selected out logically and impartially by the scientific method. This argument is circular, of course, but that went unnoticed so long as the conclusion (that is, the assumption) was widely enough shared.

“This view soon met explicit challenges, however, most fatally in Thomas Kuhn’s demonstration that the actual practice of science does not illustrate application of the scientific method.” (Ibid., pp. 110-111.)

[32] Oh, sure, there are a handful of shopworn idols – like Gregor Mendel and his fabled peas – that come close to this. But this tidy “textbook” science just does not comport neatly with what most work-a-day scientists actually do.

[33] David Blitz, “Thomas Kuhn's Theory of Scientific Revolutions,” Phil. 135: Nature, Mind and Science, Central Connecticut State Univ., New Britain, Conn., <>.

[34] I hasten to add that I am by no means anti-science. Although I am anti-Scientism. Additionally, I enjoyed the movie Contact (Warner Bros., 1997) and have shed more than a few tears thinking about our “pale blue dot.”

[35] For expedience, my presentation, here, is really a (very haphazard and selective) summary of material found in J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003, pp. 307ff.

[36] Some lines of investigation manifest in even less orthodox ways. Einstein was spurred along on the road toward his Theory of Special Relativity by a “daydream of racing a light beam” – or so the story goes. Michio Kaku, “The Theory Behind the Equation,” NOVA, Public Broadcasting Service, Oct. 11, 2005, <>.

[37] Take a case. Mendel did not bother to record tide levels or wind speed when he dealt with his plants. And he certainly felt himself justified in disregarding the color of his shirt. Of course, if one has absolutely no presuppositions – as the caricaturists of “scientific method” sometimes claim – then one would not rule out any of these factors, a priori, as irrelevant to the study of peas. That they – and much else besides – were ruled out shows that Mendel and like researchers were not presuppositionless.

[38] Moreland and Craig, op. cit., p. 321.

[39] “Theory-ladenness of observation holds that everything one observes is interpreted through a prior understanding of other theories and concepts. Whenever we describe observations, we are constantly utilizing terms and measurements that our society has adopted. Therefore, it would be impossible for someone else to understand these observations if they are unfamiliar with, or disagree with, the theories that these terms come from.

“An example of this could be given for determining an object's acceleration. If someone is to understand the measurement of 2 miles per second squared, he needs an understanding of the concepts of distance, time, and velocity. Our observation of how much something is increasing in speed depends on our previous knowledge of these theories. As a result, such an observation is said to be theory-laden.” Adam White, “Theory-Ladenness of Observation,” Evelyn Brister, ed., Rochester Inst. of Tech., Spring, 2004, <>.

[40] Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this! But all sorts of other fields utilize these inference schemas also; there is nothing distinctively “scientific” about this methodology.

[41] It’s not obvious to me how “doubt” could be “strenuously examined.” After all, “doubt” designates “a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.” Perhaps a therapist could “strenuously examine” a person who is doubting this or that (or at least help the doubter to examine her own feelings). But this aside, what could it mean to “strenuously examine” doubt? Would the goal be to rule out all doubt?

It one has no doubt regarding some proposition, p, then it appears that one is in a psychological state of “certitude” with respect to p. But is certitude a character trait that a “scientist” has or should have? I submit that this would not be the case on a Sagan-esque construal of “science,” anyway.

[42] I should say openly that I am not altogether sure that I understand what the objector is getting at. But let me try to make a few guesses.

[43] I term this “Newspeak,” in a nod to George Orwell, since the earth’s “climate” changes continually. From seasonal changes to the great shifts that characterize past periods of geological time, it is not clear to me when “climate change” has not been true of the planet earth. It is thus either a trivially true proposition or it is virtually meaningless – or perhaps some combination thereof.

[44] Valentina Zharkova has recently explored some questions in this vicinity.

[45] Frankly, I was waiting for the objector to send me links on how plants convert sunlight to energy and how salt can be dissolved in water. I am fascinated to learn :P

[46] Ray Taylor, attorney and forensic pathologist, San Antonio, Texas; quoted by John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne, “Tainting Evidence: Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab,” New York Times, <>; John F. Kelly and Phillip Wearne, “Introduction,” Tainting Evidence: Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab, New York: Free Press, 1998, p. 13.

[47] Saswato R. Dasjune, “There’s More of It Than You Think,” New York Times, Jun. 30, 2008,

[48] Horace Freeland Judson, The Great Betrayal: Fraud in Science, Orlando: Harcourt, 2004, pp. 26-27.

[49] Ibid., pp. 163-164.

[50] Ibid., pp. 248-249.

[51] Ibid., p. 3.

[52] Ibid., p. 27.

[53] I myself believe in both the Incarnation and the Trinity. And, if I may say so, I believe that I have a somewhat sophisticated appreciation of both. But I do not begrudge honest skeptics their doubts. I think that they are wrong – and that many of them are closed-minded, despites pretenses to the contrary – but I would not be entirely comfortable with a state-of-affairs in which people were bullied into being either doctrine (even in the Middle Ages, when it would have been easy to do – and, in fact, was done.)

[54] As I said earlier, there is no sharp distinction between “science” and “non-science,” when to comes to methodology. I will not rehearse this, presently, though you may certainly wish to revisit my previous remarks. But I will say, explicitly, that this lack of clear boundaries means that what “scientists” do is not best understood as different in kind – and certainly did radically different in kind – from what other sorts of researchers do. Partly on this basis, I would argue that, say, disciplines philosophy can be every bit as precise, progressive and even pragmatically useful as “science.”

Presently, I am setting aside “verificationist” or “confirmationist” epistemological orientations.

[55] We could define “reputability” similarly. It will turn out that “no reputable climatologist denies ‘global warming’” if we just require that “reputable climatologists” affirm “global warming.”

[56] Some noteworthy names include: Habibullo Ismailovich Abdussamatov, Syun-Ichi Akasofu, Timothy Francis Ball, John Raymond Christy, Ian D. Clark, Piers Richard Corbyn, Eigil Friis-Christensen, Freeman John Dyson, Richard Siegmund Lindzen, Patrick J. Michaels, Patrick Moore, Paul Reiter, Nicola Scafetta, Nir Joseph Shaviv, Siegfried Frederick Singer, Roy Warren Spencer, Philip Stott and Henrik Svensmark.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Closing Statement to Cory

On the Picture-Text

Recall my initial complaint regarding the photograph that Angie posted. After you tagged me, I wrote:

“…I cannot understand how anyone trained in philosophy could see anything of interest in it.”

I gave two reasons.

Number one, I pointed out “that there is nothing provided by way of explanation or context (Who is the man? Is the image staged? Has it been "Photoshopped"? Etc.)…”. Now, I take it that most of what you have written has been an attempt – imaginative, I confess – on your part to provide the missing “explanation” and “context.” I will appraise your effort, momentarily.

But, number two, “I observe[d] that [the picture-text is] just comprised of an assertion (the sentence beginning with ‘This is not...’) and an ad hominen attack (the sentence starting with ‘This is a moron...’).”

Then I asked what was (and is) for me the key question, not only for this conversation but also for any topic that actually holds any philosophical interest.[1]

“What is the argument supposed to be?”

I ultimately put my hope this way: “I just wish you would admit that the picture-text’s ‘caption’ is rubbish.”

Although you initially seemed hesitant to concede that the picture-text is “rubbish,” I was happy to read that you have now reversed yourself.

In your most recent reply you seem to finally have come around to my original position. You now observe: “[I]t’s foolish to look for ‘sound argumentation’ from a meme on Facebook.”

Of course, this is what I have been saying from the first paragraph of my first comment on this thread.[2]

Given that something has philosophical interest only insofar as it is not “foolish” to look to it for “sound argumentation,” I concluded that there is nothing of philosophical interest inherent in this picture text. Now you are admitting the same thing. So much for that, then!

(I am relegating to a footnote my final rebuttal to your recent attempt to defend your slang use of the word “parody.”)[3]

In my opinion, the picture-text bears on no other element of our discussion. To put it differently, we could be having the same discussions about the “Civil War,” ethics, “gun control,” Lincoln and the Second Amendment that we are in fact having without either of us ever having laid eyes on this miserable, cross-dressing gun-toter.

Let me make a few concluding remarks about some of these topics. (Note: Other topics, which I have judged to be of lesser importance or interest, have been relegated to the footnote section.)

On the Second Amendment:

You now say: “The text from the picture quotes the second amendment, saying (in a sense) that we have deviated from it's [sic] original intent, therefore would it not be prudent to mention a certain interpretation of the second amendment, even if it's an interpretation of the second amendment you (or conservative supreme court judges) do not agree with? If you wish me to formulate it in the same way you did, it would go like this:”

“1) Reading the entire 2nd amendment as a single statement, we can conclude “right to posses [sic] firearms shall not be infringed” as being contingent upon “a well regulated militia.”

2) From that conclusion, we determine that the second amendment stipulates the rights of gun ownership are for forming militias, the intent of which are keep the government from becoming too powerful.”

Of course, the “way” I have been formulating my arguments involves a bit more than simply numbering the statements. I have been trying to articulate deductive arguments that are formally and informally valid and that employ premises that are more plausible than their negations.

One problem with your “argument,” here, is that it’s not at all obvious what the entailment relationships are supposed to be. This is certainly not a valid deductive argument, for instance.

It won’t do to simply make hand-waving remarks about how you are invoking or summarizing “a certain interpretation[4] of the second amendment”.

The reason for this is that I already gave, not just a rebuttal, but an actual refutation of one popular argument formulation of the interpretation you seem to be gesturing towards. Note well that my refutation was not just a series of numbered sentences, but a formal argument for which I (preemptively) specified clear entailment relationships.

Although you reproduced my text (which was itself a quotation from attorney Stephen Halbrook), you failed to grapple with it responsibly. Here is what I wrote.

“This interpretation appears to reduce the amendment to a conditional or hypothetical syllogism, with its first premise as follows: If a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state (p), then the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (q); that is, p implies q. Standing alone, p and q constitute, respectively, the second premise and the conclusion of the syllogism, which appears thus: [p ⊃ q; p; ∴ q] and is valid by reason of [the logical rule known as] modus ponens.

“Yet the denial of the antecedent, should it be expressed in the second premise, fails to imply the denial of the consequent in [an alternate] conclusion; that is, even if a militia is not necessary for the existence of a free state, [for all that the above reasoning shows] the people still have a right to keep and bear arms. The fallacy of denying the antecedent is committed in this form: [p ⊃ q; -p; ∴ -q.]”

Here you say simply that this reasoning strikes you as “word salad” because you “have never studied formal logic.”

I appreciate your admission,[5] but this text is so crucial for our discussion, and your failure to grasp its significance so problematic, that I am really faced with only two practical options. Either I need to bow out of the entire discussion until you get around to acquiring the requisite logical tools on your own, or I need to provide you with at least a quick-and-dirty set of tools myself.

As a courtesy, I will attempt the latter.

What I am going to start off by doing is to (try to) capture the sort of “contingency” (technically, it is not “contingency,” but material conditionality) that you seem to have had in mind when you wrote statement 1). My candidate is as follows, which I will label 4).[6]

4) If a person is a member of a well-regulated militia, then that person may keep and bear arms.

The question, here, becomes: Does premise 4) capture the sense of “contingent upon” (i.e., conditional upon) that you had in mind in your statement 1)?

Consider John Doe. Suppose that John Doe is a card-carrying member of some militia – whatever sort of militia you would recognize as being “kosher” in any sense that strikes you as relevant. For this example, the details do not matter. Make the militia as “well-regulated” as you like, in any way that you like.[7] And then make John Doe a member of that militia.

Given that John Doe is a member in good standing of your own brand of “well-regulated militia,” presumably, you would assent to the following proposition.

5) John Doe is a member of a well-regulated militia.

Hopefully, you can see that 4) and 5) together entail:

6) Therefore, John Doe may keep and bear arms.

So far so good?

Let me introduce a little terminology. The form (or shape) of the argument in 4)-6) is as follows.

The first premise expresses what is called a “conditional.” It says: If [some proposition], then [some other proposition]. It is conventional to call the proposition that follows the “if,” P,[8] and the proposition that follows the “then,” Q.[9] The conditional says that If P is true, then Q is true too.

The second premise says that, yes indeed, P is true. This is called “affirming the antecedent.”

However, if it is the case both that If P is true, then Q is true too, and P is true; then it follows deductively that Q is true too. This sort of argument (called modus ponens) is formally valid for any substitutions of P and Q.

Of course, an argument can be formally valid and still fail. Its premises may be untrue, for instance.[10]

Okay, let me preserve the form of the above argument, but switch out some of its content. Take the following set of propositions.

7) If it is raining outside, then the streets are wet.

8) It is raining outside.

9) Therefore, the streets are wet.

Again, the first premise, 7), expresses a conditional (If P, then Q). The second premise, 8), affirms the antecedent (P is true). Finally, the conclusion, 9), allows us to deduce (in the strict sense) the consequent (Therefore, Q is true).

Suppose we consider 7) again.

7) If it is raining outside, then the streets are wet.

Can I argue like this?

8’) It is not raining outside.

9’) Therefore, the streets are not wet?

8’) incorporates what is called a “negation.” This is expressed with the “not”-operator. Premise 8’) says that It is not the case that it is raining outside.

What follows from 7) and 8’)? Can we conclude 9’) on the basis of 7) and 8’)?

We cannot.[11]

The streets could be wet for some other reason.[12] A water main could have broken, for instance, or a lawn sprinkler might have been badly aimed.

It is important to understand that 7), 8’) and 9’) are fallacious because of their form. The argument’s invalidity can be illustrated with stories about water mains and sprinklers, but it is not in virtue of these stories that the entailment amongst 7)/8’) and 9’) fails. The entailment fails because If P, then Q; not-P, therefore not-Q, fails for any substitutions of P and Q. The argument is malformed.

To put it slightly differently, nothing follows deductively from premises 7) and 8’).

To reiterate: This holds for any substitutions for P and Q. The form of the argument is bad, irrespective of its content. This sort of argument failure is termed a “formal fallacy.” We never get to the point of even evaluating the premises or conclusion for content. The argument failure occurs at the formal level. Such is argument is structurally malformed.

In the present case, 7) and 8’) together are labeled the “fallacy of denying the antecedent.”[13]

Now we can go back to premise 4).

4) If a person is a member of a well-regulated militia, then that person may keep and bear arms.

Let’s deny the antecedent.

5’) Jane Doe is not a member of a well-regulated militia.

Can we conclude from 4) and 5’) together that:

6’) Jane Doe may not keep and bear arms?

Again, we cannot.[14] This sort of argument is formally fallacious. The meaning of such terms as “arms,” “bear,” “keep,” “militia” and “well-regulated” does not even enter into this judgment.

The argument denies the antecedent and any argument with this form is simply formally invalid. Any argument of this sort is malformed – for any substitutions of P and Q.

Here is the bottom line.

If 4), 5’) and 6’) together capture your favored interpretation of the Second Amendment, then your favored interpretation of the Second Amendment, when spelled out deductively, commits the formal fallacy known as denying the antecedent.

I would therefore argue like this:

10) If an interpretation of the Second Amendment is formally fallacious, then that interpretation is not a plausible candidate for being the correct interpretation.[15]

11) An interpretation (like, I am presuming, yours) that is expressible in ways relevantly similar to 4), 5’) and 6’) is formally fallacious.

12) Therefore, an interpretation (like, I am presuming, yours) that is expressible in ways relevantly similar to 4), 5’) and 6’) is not a plausible candidate for being the correct interpretation.

Now you proceed to say that there are all sorts of practical impediments to what you perceive as “my interpretation” of the Second Amendment.

So, if I say that the “militia” is “all able-bodied men in the nation”; “well-regulated” means “well trained in the use of firearms”; “the right to keep and bear arms …shall not be infringed” implies a right that it not conditional upon militia membership; rather, militia membership presupposes, as a necessary condition, an armed population of citizens; and so on; you respond by saying:

“You don't need to employ formal logic to understand that you're going to need more than firearms to overthrow the United States government [should it become totalitarian] So should “every citizen of the state” have access to tanks, rocket launchers, chemical/biological weapons, missiles and bombers? If you're going to propose that the militia fights tyranny and that it needs guns to do so, why not propose that the militia also needs all those other weapons as well? After all, how well regulated can it be, if it only has access to small arms?”

But, look, this is just changing the subject.

On the one hand, there are questions like: What is the correct interpretation of the Second Amendment? And: What is the nature of the right to “keep and bear arms”?

Presumably, these questions are answered by investigating the development of the Bill of Rights, the historical context, the jurisprudential context, the underlying logic and so on.

In making these investigations, if it turns out that the correct interpretation is (close to) what I have been maintaining all along that it is, you cannot defeat this by saying, “Well, that’s not going to ‘work’ in 2016.” For where, pray tell, do you find a “sunset clause” in the Second Amendment?

Questions about “workability,” interesting and important as they are, are secondary to the question of the correct interpretation of the Second Amendment.[16] In any case, practical questions regarding the feasibility or practicability of the relevant interpretation are quite separate questions from those regarding its truth.

Even if you have succeeded in showing that “my” (really, the historic) interpretation of the Second Amendment is “unworkable” in 2016 – which, mark you, I have not conceded – this does not suffice to show that “my” interpretation is false.

I have argued for the truth (workability is another, secondary matter) of an interpretation of the Second Amendment whereby the right to keep and bear arms is not conditional upon militia membership. [17]

Number one, I said that the citizens’ “militia” was, during the Founding era, understood to include all able-bodied free men, not a subset of them. I quoted Thomas Jefferson to the effect that “…’the militia of the State …’ is …’ every man in it able to bear arms” and the Supreme Court to the effect that “…[T]he Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”[18] You did have never contested these factual points.

Number two, I argued that the interpretation of the Second Amendment that you seem to be endorsing, whereby keeping and bearing arms is materially conditioned upon militia membership, does not rule out non-militia members keeping and bearing arms. To conclude from “If you’re in a militia, then you can keep and bear arms” and “you’re not in a militia” that, therefore, “you cannot keep and bear arms” commits the formal fallacy of denying the antecedent.[19]

If you still cannot see this after my attempted explanation, above, then I invite you to obtain any introductory book of logic and study the examples given for “denying the antecedent” until one of them resonates with you.

I conclude, therefore, that “my” interpretation of the Second Amendment is the only one that has been shown, in this exchange, to be both non-fallacious and supported by historical facts.

On the “Civil War”:

I had written: “I can defend the ‘South,’ broadly construed, because (I believe that) the ‘South’s’ actions in the ‘Civil War’ were not primarily aimed at protecting slavery; they were aimed at protecting the spirit of the Constitutional agreement that the individual States had entered into during the late 18th century.”

Here you say: “This is wrong, and we need only look at the words of the leaders of the confederacy to see how”.

I would like to get a bit clearer on what you think you are doing, here. Perhaps I am wrong, but you seem to impute to me the proposition that the “Civil War” had nothing whatever to do with slavery. This is absurd. I never made any such claim.

Of course, this has not stopped you from trying to saddle me with contradictory positions, such as the Orwellian slogan “Freedom is slavery.”

After warning you not to interpret my remarks as a “defense of the institution of slavery,”[20] I made the claim that protection of slavery was not the South’s primary motivation.

I almost hesitate to bring the dictionary back into our discussion, since my previous lexical observations have seemingly worked you into something of a tizzy, but “primary” variously means “most important,” “most basic or essential” and “happening or coming first.”[21]

Something’s being a “primary” aim or motivation does not entail that it is the only aim or motivation. The fact that red, yellow and blue are the primary colors, for instance, does not mean that they are the only colors.[22]

My claim is perfectly compatible with protection of slavery having been a secondary, tertiary, quaternary, n-ary motivation of the South.[23]

You then introduce carefully-tailored excerpts from several of the seceding states’ “Declarations of Cause.” You begin with South Carolina.

Keeping in mind my actual claim – “the ‘South’s’ actions …were …primarily …aimed at protecting the spirit of the Constitution” – I observe the following.

South Carolina starts its enumeration of causal declarations by stating: “The people of the State of South Carolina …declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union…”.[24]

Oops. It looks like, among the causes of secession listed by South Carolina, the first – that is, primary one – was “frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States by the Federal Government.” That is exactly what I have been saying.

Even in the portion of South Carolina’s declaration that you yourself reproduced, we read that South Carolina was concerned about slavery insofar as that institution’s subversion was being orchestrated “for the submersion of the Constitution”.[25]

Still, if one desires greater clarity, Alabama’s resolution of secession is easily consulted. In it, we read:

“An ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of Alabama and the other States united under the compact styled ‘The Constitution of the United States of America.’ …[M]any and dangerous infractions of the constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the Northern sectionis a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security…”.[26]

Even if these express statements, which I have provided to remedy the contextual deficits of the excerpts that you provided,[27] had been absent from the causal declarations and secession ordinances, it is apparent that the idea of the South having sought, as a primary aim (just as I maintained), extrication from a dysfunctional “Union,” is in no wise incompatible with the truth that the South was also defending its institutions.

Why was the institution of slavery being attacked?

You have assumed, but have not remotely argued, that the “North” really believed in the equality of Africans with Europeans and that the “Civil War” was conducted as a moral crusade.

This is arguably false, at least in regards to the “Great Emancipator.” Lincoln pithily – if privately – summarized his opinion with the memorable quip: “Negro equality, Fudge!![28]

No, the sorry truth seems to have been that the Northern powerbrokers found the abolitionist cause a convenient cudgel with which to beat their Southern competitors.

Further along you complain that, when I summoned Lincoln’s own words to Horace Greeley, I was “cherry picking …a single reconciliatory quote” and basically “character assassinati[ng]” poor Honest Abe all over again. For, you assert, Lincoln spent “his entire political career campaigning against the expansion of slavery, an institution he deemed immoral.”

Let no one say that I have denied the shrewdness of Lincoln and his coterie. Championing abolition was a major public relations victory on Lincoln’s part. By obfuscating his tyranny with talk of “equality,” he managed to secure defenders over 150 years later. Never mind that he himself did not seem to believe his own press releases.

If we care more about historical accuracy than we do about polishing our busts of Lincoln, then we would be well advised to consult Lincoln’s own explanation of his crusade. Here is the reason that Lincoln himself gave for his career-long “campaign against the expansion of slavery”:

There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation.” – Abraham Lincoln.[29]

Whoa, Nelly! When Lincoln wanted to justify his opposition to slavery, what reason did he give? He said that he opposed slavery because he opposed race mixing. You won’t find that quote on the wall of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

You then quote Lincoln to the following effect:

“The doctrine of self government is right – absolutely and eternally right – but it has no just application, as here attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such just application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government – that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal’; and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.” Abraham Lincoln, Peoria, Illinois October 16, 1854

Here Lincoln does indeed appear to endorse black self-determination. But notice four things.

Firstly, I never denied that Lincoln believed in black self-determination. (Where do you think that I denied this?)

Here is what I actually wrote.

“The United States as a corporate entity was formed when the individual States agreed to the terms and conditions of the federal government as set forth in the Constitution. …The ‘North’ …violated the terms of the Constitutional agreement. The Confederacy basically responded by saying that if the Constitution was no longer to be followed, then it (the Confederacy) would no longer recognize the union that the Constitution had brought into being. The North, via Lincoln, countered by declaring that ‘preserving the union’ was of ‘paramount’ concern. Lincoln famously wrote:

“‘I would save the Union. ...My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.’”

What I wrote was that Lincoln’s stated motivation for going to war was the “preservation of the Union.”

So, secondly, notice that this is the clearest statement that either of us has marshalled with respect to Lincoln’s express motivation for prosecuting a war against the “South.”

How is it “cherry picking” to take the most direct answer to the question asked? Good grief!

For a reminder, the question I was answering was: Why did Lincoln go to war?

The answer, whether you can bring yourself to admit it or whether you prefer, risibly, to dismiss Lincoln’s unequivocal answer as a “single reconciliatory quote,”[30] from Lincoln’s own pen, is: to “preserve the Union.”

Thirdly, your quotation merely establishes that Lincoln believed in black self-determination.

So what? That Lincoln went to war to “preserve the Union” hardly entails that he denied black self-determination. Why should this cause trouble for me?

It is likely that Lincoln believed lots of things. Supposing that I could locate a quotation in which Lincoln states clearly that he believed that “2 + 2 =4,” would it follow that he went to war over that belief, too – even if it could be shown that the “South” denied it? Of course not.

Did Lincoln believe in black self-determination? Yes.

Was black self-determination his primary motivation for fighting the “Civil War”? Not according to the Chief Executive of the United States.

According to Lincoln, his primary motivation was to preserve the Union.”

Fourthly and finally, pay careful attention to two things: number one, the argument that Lincoln gave for black self-determination; and, number two, the meaning of self-determination.

In the text that you reproduced, Lincoln basically argued as follows.

13) If blacks are men, then blacks should be self-determined.

14) Blacks are men.

15) Therefore, blacks should be self-determined.

Should we assume that Lincoln would have denied that there ought to be, mutatis mutandis, white self-determination? I see no reason to think so. White self-determination, as you are likely springing from your seat to shout at me, was a fact-on-the-ground. Therefore, we can assume Lincoln would have endorsed this parallel argument.

16) If whites are men, then whites should be self-determined.

17) Whites are men.

18) Therefore, whites should be self-determined.

However, I need to stop for a moment and ask: What does self-determination mean?

Like so many of the other words we have been arguing about, it is actually ambiguous – that is, it is susceptible to more than one definition. Let’s look at two possibilities.[31]

On the one hand, self-determination could designate (something like) the right of blacks to govern blacks and the right of whites to govern whites. On the other hand, it could signify the right of an integrated (forget truly amalgamated – no one at the time wanted that) black and white country to govern itself with input from both blacks and whites.

It is apparent that many people today endorse the latter. Probably, many Lincoln boosters assume that he endorsed the latter also. But what did Lincoln really believe?

For Lincoln, the endpoint of black self-determination was black repatriation. Where that was infeasible, Lincoln favored shipping blacks off the U.S. mainland to found South American colonies.

“Abraham Lincoln wanted to ship freed black slaves away from the US to British colonies in the Caribbean even in the final months of his life, it has emerged. …[H]e went on supporting the highly controversial policy of colonisation. It was favoured by US politicians who did not believe free black people should live among white Americans, and had been backed by prominent abolitionists like Henry Clay as far back as 1816. Mr Lincoln also favoured the idea. But he was believed to have denounced it after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed of most of America’s four million slaves, in January 1863. The notion that he came to regard it as unacceptable contributed to the legend of the 16th president, who is frequently voted America’s greatest, and is held by some to have left an impeccable record. Yet Phillip Magness and Sebastian Page, the authors of Colonisation After Emancipation, discovered documents in the National Archives in Kew and in the US that will significantly alter his legacy.

“They found an order from Mr Lincoln in June 1863 authorising a British colonial agent, John Hodge, to recruit freed slaves to be sent to colonies in what are now the countries of Guyana and Belize. ‘Hodge reported back to a British minister that Lincoln said it was his ‘honest desire’ that this emigration went ahead,’ said Mr Page, a historian at Oxford University. …’ Mr Lincoln also considered sending freed slaves to what is now Panama, to construct a canal — decades before work began on the modern canal there in 1904. …’ [A]s late as …’autumn [1864], a letter sent to the president by his attorney-general showed he was still actively exploring whether the policy could be implemented, Mr Page said. ‘It says ‘further to your question, yes, I think you can still pursue this policy of colonisation even though the money has been taken away’,’ he said.”[32]

This is yet another point that you have not adequately integrated.

Yes, Lincoln believed in black self-determination and white self-determination. But, unlike numerous contemporary “liberals,” Lincoln neither desired nor envisioned an integrated (let alone amalgamated), black-white-hybrid “Union.”

How did he reconcile these positions?

He advocated black repatriation and black colonization. He wished to see blacks given their own land, somewhere south of the United States, whereon they could exercise self-determination.

This would have left whites to be self-determined in the United States. This is apparently what Lincoln believed. It also provides some missing context to some of the other quotations that trouble you.

For instance, you quoted one John Sharp Williams: “Local self-government temporarily destroyed may be recovered and ultimately retained. The other thing for which we fought is so complex in its composition, so delicate in its breath, so incomparable in its symmetry, that, being once destroyed, it is forever destroyed. This other thing for which we fought was the supremacy of the white man’s civilization in the country which he proudly claimed his own; ‘in the land which the Lord his God had given him;’ founded upon the white man’s code of ethics, in sympathy with the white man’s tra­ditions and ideals.”

Of course, Williams was six years old when the “Civil War” began and, therefore, was hardly in a position to be counted as a credible observer. But let this pass.

What Williams seems to be saying – some four decades after the end of the “Civil War” – is that white self-determination was destroyed in the name of black self-determination. In the end, neither blacks nor whites were “self-determined” in the first sense sketched earlier. Rather, both blacks and whites were thrown together and are, even to this day, presided over by money elites (you know, the group you lambaste for being “fascist”).

This, Williams seems to note, is the legacy of the “Civil War.”[33]

In any case, Williams says nothing whatever about slavery or about what I earlier stressed was the primary motive of the “South” in fighting the “Civil War” – protesting the violation, by the “North,” of the U.S. Constitution.

Notice that Williams calls white self-determination the “other thing for which we fought” (emphasis supplied).

Another interesting point is that you have not remotely argued that Williams’s – or anyone else’s – view of white self-determination on U.S. soil implied black degradation. Oh, to be sure, you have everywhere assumed this. But you have nowhere argued for it.

Curiously, you have even provided evidence against this view.

You quote the “Confederate Veterans” to the following effect: “The kindliest relation that ever existed between the two races in this country, or that ever will, was the ante-bellum relation of master and slave – a relation of confidence and responsibility on the part of the master and of dependence and fidelity on the part of the slave.”

Again, this is a fairly late quotation. However, veterans of the “Civil War” would have been at least better-situated as observers than the above-quoted Williams. Taken at face value, though, this quotation seems to evidence the idea that Southern whites did not seek the degradation of blacks.

Given this, I cannot imagine how you thought that the reproduction of this quotation would advance your anti-Southern polemics. (Of course, the quote says not one word about slavery being a motivation for the “Civil War.”)[34]

In fact, as I have shown, Lincoln himself can be summoned as a politician who believed in white self-determination without believing in black degradation. It did turn out however, on Lincoln’s view, that both could only be achieved through the separation of the races.

No, all things considered, my point stands. When the Southern declarations are read in context and in their entirety, one is left with the unmistakable impression that the Southern States seceded because they believed that the North had betrayed the Constitution.

The South was not out to degrade blacks any more than Lincoln was when he advocated sending them all off to Central and South American colonies. Lincoln believed that blacks were suited to regions that resembled their native climates and that they could not thrive outside of those areas. Sending them “back” was, to Lincoln and other supporters of repatriation, doing blacks a good turn.

In contravention of the Constitution, Northern policymakers decided to use abolition as a means of one-upping their Southern counterparts.

This does not imply that the politicians of the South were angels. But the entire “Civil War” enterprise was fraught with moral problems.

To give you a flavor for what I mean, let me give me my “two mobsters” illustration.

Suppose that two mobsters decide to split “rackets” between them. One mobster (representing the North) takes gambling; the other (the South) takes prostitution. Suppose that the former gangster then decides to champion the cause of making prostitution illegal. My point is that we would be foolish to take this at face value and assume that the former mobster has, to quote from the movie Heat, “reformed his wayward ways and become a born-again good citizen.” It is plausible to believe that the head of the gambling racket merely used the anti-Prostitution crusade to rid himself of his competition.

That Lincoln did not advocate racial amalgamation (to say nothing about miscegenation) is abundantly clear from the man’s own words. (More dramatically, his “fudge” comment belies the current belief that he believed in absolute black-white “equality.”)

It is therefore reasonable to hold that Lincoln’s championing of abolition was plausibly adopted for mercenary reasons.

In any case, I conclude that you have not remotely shown that the “Civil War” was a just war.

Number one, as I stated previously, to show that a war is just requires more than merely showing that one’s opponent is engaged in immoral practices. It requires that one show that no peaceful alternative to war is available. You have not shown anything of the sort. You have not even tried.

As I put it already: “[T]he moral justification for waging war is not decided exclusively by recourse to the question: Is the opponent engaged in a moral evil?”[35]

Here you merely say:

“Who attacked first? The South did.”

You are just reciting a tenet of your statement of faith.

Even if the highly suspicious “attack” on Fort Sumter is accepted as the “official” start of the “Civil War” – and I am not conceding this – the “fort” was well inside of Southern territory. It is no more reasonable to call the South’s defense of its own territory an act of “aggression” than it would be to call my neighbor the aggressor for popping me in the nose if I were to stand menacingly right in front of his face on his doorstep.

Number two, I have twice raised the point (and you have twice ignored it) that Britain freed its slaves without a “Civil War.”

This shows that it would have been possible for Northern abolitionists to secure the freedom of the slaves by peaceful means, had they been interested in a peaceful alternative.[36] That the North showed no interest in a peaceful, monetary solution suggests that it was not simply Lincoln who prosecuted the “Civil War” for mercenary reasons.

You said it yourself, however: “One way or the other, slavery was out the door.” (Some speculate that southern slavery would not have lasted several decades in the South.) But this admission bodes ill for any case that the “Civil War” was necessary or just.

By the end of the war, the South moved to end slavery on its own, but this was not undertaken as a conciliatory act. It suggests that the South valued independence from the Constitution-trampling North more than it valued slavery – despite all of the money that the South had invested in that system.

Concerning the South’s justification for secession, I provided an argument. Let me rehearse that argument and see how it has held up. I noted, firstly:

13) The Tenth Amendment provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The Tenth Amendment clearly indicates that the Federal government is limited in its powers to what were explicitly assigned to it in the Constitution. However, it is simply a fact that:

14) At the time of the “Civil War,” the United States federal government had not been delegated any powers by the Constitution with respect to the issue of slavery.

It therefore follows straightforwardly that:

15) Therefore, powers with respect to the issue of slavery were, at the time of the “Civil War,” reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Here you say:

“[T]he slave-holder's argument, regarding the 10th amendment …[is] null and void, when you take into consideration the supremacy clause of the constitution, (article VI, paragraph 2) which states that federal law trumps state law…”.

The “Supremacy Clause” reads as follows:

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

What relevance is this supposed to have? The Supremacy Clause merely lays it down that “federal law trumps state law” wherever the two conflict. However, on the eve of the “Civil War,” the two did not conflict because federal law contained not one contradictory word on the subject of slave-owning.

On the eve of the “Civil War,” there was no Constitutional provision against slavery and was there was no federal law against it.

What there was, however, was the Tenth Amendment that, according to the Supremacy Clause, should have “trumped” any State-led effort to impose a pet activist initiative upon other States.

But you complain that:

“[I]f the federal legislature under the leadership of Lincoln wanted to make a federal law regarding abolition of slavery, that federal law would trump state law.”

Later, you expand this, stating: “Your entire argument for the confederate casus belli seems to lie in an incompleteness within the constitution, or the way it was interpreted. It was not settled at the time whether slavery was a state issue or a federal issue. But if the confederate states really believed in the constitution, they would've believed in the supremacy clause, which stipulated that should the federal government make slavery a federal issue, and establish a federal law or amendment outlawing slavery, the federal law would trump state law.”

This is an astounding inversion (some would even call it a perversion) of the function of the federal government. The function of “the federal legislature” is to enact laws that reflect the will of the people.

Phrases like “should the federal government make slavery a federal issue” make it appear as though the States are supposed to be waiting in anticipation while their federal overlords plan their futures for them.

The federal government was, in Jefferson’s words, supposed to be composed of men who were “[bound] …down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”[37]

As you are hopefully aware, even a proposal for a Constitutional Amendment must be endorsed by two-thirds of congressmen – which men are acting as representatives of their constituency, and not acting as tools of activist movements.

To pass an amendment requires ratification by three-fourths of the States. On the eve of the “Civil War,” there were fifteen slave-holding states and seventeen free-states. Had the South not seceded it is difficult to imagine how any anti-slavery Constitutional Amendment could ever have achieved the requisite three-quarters-level of support.[38]

Of course, the North did not leave things to chance and hastily created several new states – Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and West Virginia – to pad their voting bloc. Additionally, the federal Congress recognized “representatives” from States that had seceded – not on the basis of said “representatives” clear commitment to the will of their seceding constituents, but merely on the basis of sworn, personal loyalty oaths to abolitionism.[39]

You then continue your track record of bizarre – but appreciated – concessions to me. Now you say: “[A] federal law was necessary, because northern states were violating the Fugitive Slave act of 1950, under the justification that (what do ya know!?) slavery wasn't a federal issue, and in their states had outlawed slavery, so they had no reason to capture and return slaves. …[T]heir claim that their states rights have been violated, by northern states who would not return fugitive slaves.”

Of course, if the northern justification for violating federal law is accepted, then the South’s case is already made. But either way, the South was in the right.

Either the North was violating Southern States’ rights and slavery was not a federal issue, or slavery was a federal issue and the North was violating federal law that expressly underwrote the Southern slave system.

I conclude, then, that:

None of my main points regarding the South’s primary justification for secession has been overturned – if the Fugitive Slave Laws were legally valid, then the North flagrantly violated federal law; if, on the other hand, federal law was truly impotent to regulate slavery – and, indeed, the Constitution was silent on the issue – then the South was within its rights to secede when it tried to do so.[40]

None of your quotations overturn my contention that Lincoln’s primary war-aim was “preservation of the Union” – for Lincoln’s endorsement of black self-determination must be evaluated in light of both the presumption of white self-determination and Lincoln’s express opposition to racial amalgamation as well as his plans for black colonization.[41]



P.S. The footnotes contain my replies to what I take to be subordinate issues. Be sure to examine them, however, before you conclude that I have ignored something.

[1] I admit that there was some ambiguity in my initial protest. After all, it is not necessarily the case that “philosophers” be construed so as to be interested in all and only philosophy. A bona fide philosopher could have many non-philosophical interests. What I meant to say was that, I was shocked to think that philosophers would find anything of philosophical interest in this picture-text.

[2] Just so that I would not be accused of expecting too much from a “Facebook meme,” I remind you that I even gave what seemed to me to be amongst the only possible arguments one could possibly give, when limiting oneself to the resources provided by the picture’s text itself.

“(1) Cross-dressers are morons. (2) Morons cannot be trained in the use of firearms. (3) Therefore, cross-dressers cannot be trained in the use of firearms.”

Remarkably, you now have also given (an informal version of) this argument yourself.

“3) Someone who cross-dresses in confederate attire and takes a selfie posing with an assault rifle is NOT representative of the original spirit of forming into “well regulated” militias to combat governmental tyranny.”

However, this “argument” is multiply deficient.

Number one, it’s not an argument at all in the formal sense of a set of premises that, together, logically entail a conclusion. (Notice that the sample argument that I gave is formally valid.) It’s merely an assertion.

It’s not that arguments have to be put in “standard form,” as it were. But all sound arguments will be such that they could be expressed formally. When the entailment relationships between premises, or between premises and conclusions, are unclear, then specifying the argument formally assists evaluators in the task of assessing the argument for validity and soundness.

As I have argued elsewhere, “well-regulated militia” is designates a group of citizens, trained in the use of their firearms, who self-assemble into a force for the purposes of fighting and practicing. Let me put it more strongly, for the sake of discussion. At least two essential conditions for a citizens’ militia are these: (a.) having at least two citizens who are (b.) each trained, or who each could be trained, in the use of firearms.

As morally objectionable as I think cross-dressing is, it is not at all clear to me how the act of “cross-dressing” or how objects like confederate-flag bikinis have any bearing whatsoever on these essential elements, as specified in the aforementioned definition.

I am a little unclear as to whether you think that the problematic feature is the cross-dressing itself, or the cross-dresser’s confederate attire. So is it your position that cross-dressers should be disqualified from being a part of a citizen fighting force? Or are you saying that cross-dressers somehow obviously lack the ability to be technically proficient with firearms? (I, and I would think other “progressive,” “LGBT” supporters [like perhaps Angie], would be interested to know why. I am not saying that I disagree! I just think it’s a bit odd for someone who otherwise comes across as having liberal tendencies.)

Or is it your position that it’s not cross-dressing per se that disqualifies a person from being a part of a citizens’ militia, rather, it’s his or her style sense? Would it have been okay for the cross-dressing gun-toter to have sported a rainbow bikini, for instance? Is there some forced march from clothing selection to firearm proficiency or to availability for service in a citizens’ militia? (I suppose that it would have reduced your subsequent responses roughly in half, since without the confederate-patterned bikini you would have had little reason to bring in “slavery” and “racism.”)

Or is it your opinion that it’s fine, from the point-of-view of militia-membership, to be a confederate-cross-dressing gun-toter, so long as you don’t take “selfies” while cross-dressing and gun-toting? What connection do you perceive between the taking of a “selfie” and the demonstration of firearm proficiency? Or would you simply lay it down as a citizen’s militia membership rule that “selfie-takers need not apply”?

These questions, and more besides, surround your “cross-dresser argument.” This is what I mean when I typed: “Prima facie, the text is a mess.” Nothing you have said clears up in the least the myriad interpretive problems attending this “Facebook meme.”

Number two, your argument employs at least one ambiguous phrase. You do not explain what you mean by “representative of” as it occurs in the clause “representative of the original spirit of forming into ‘well-regulated’ militias”.

You merely assert: “The person in question is instead representative of lack of discipline, slavery, racism …and gun fetishism.” Before I can evaluate this statement for a truth value, I would need to know something about the truth conditions for this peculiar predicate “representative of.”

Ultimately, you have nothing more sophisticated than an exclamation that “This is not the sort of person I want to have a gun.”

Well, maybe it’s not the sort of person I want to have a gun, either. But, I refuse to be stampeded into jettisoning the Bill of Rights merely because someone looks a particular way.

I’m curious: Who would you appoint to decide, for you, whether you yourself are the sort of guy who looks like he should be able to have a gun?

I wouldn’t presume to speak for you on this, but, for me, I can say that I would not trust anyone to do so. I am personally glad that the founders recognized a Creator-given “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” that “shall not be infringed.”

[3] Nothing that you have written impels me to overturn the verdict that I passed earlier: You are simply not using the word “parody” according to the basic definition.

You now write that “words have multiple meanings” and accuse me of engaging in “a dishonest attempt to show [that you] didn't know what [you] was talking about.” I ask that you refrain from mud-slinging of this sort. I was neither being dishonest nor insinuating that you didn’t know what you were talking about. Apparently, you are using the word “parody” in line with Internet slang. That is fine with me, as I said. You could stipulate whatever word you want to use to cover over cases that interest you. But I do deny that this slang usage of “parody” is basic – according to the dictionary.

Citing the URL: <>, you write that “one of the definitions is ‘2: a feeble or ridiculous imitation’…” – which is true.

You go on to assert that this definition “is exactly the context with which I used the word, as evidenced by my further saying ‘a guy wearing confederate women's underwear waving a powerful assault weapon doesn't seem to get the joke.’”

I will try one last time to make this point. This is not “the [sense in] which [you] used the word.” Since my earliest replies, I have been maintaining (what is plain from the basic definition of “parody”) that a parody is the intentional use of exaggeration for comedic effect.

The definition you have now fixed upon turns on the meaning of the word imitation. Of course, when one looks up this word, one gets definitions such as the following: “imitation” is defined as “a thing intended to simulate or copy something else.”

(From Google, “Define: Imitation.” On the basic definition, it is simply ruled out, analytically, that a person doing a parody “doesn’t seem to get” his own joke. Of course, you keep flip-flopping between the assertion that the subject of the photograph is doing a “parody” and the assertion that the author of the meme is doing a “parody.” But the subject, since he is presumably oblivious, cannot be doing a “parody” since, on the basic definition, a parody is something done intentionally. The author of the “meme” seems more promising, for your purposes. But, as I said, directors of parodies hire actors who are “in on the joke.” The “meme” author is clearly mocking the subject of the picture. But mockery is not ipso facto “parody.”)

You are simply in error, then, when you write: “You went with the very first definition, in when I used the word parody.”

It doesn’t matter whether you pick definition 1 or definition 2. Intentionality is baked into both.

[4] Since we have had so much word trouble, I should explicitly stat that I am assuming “a certain interpretation” means .a particular interpretation and not an indubitable one.

[5] I share your appreciation for philosophy. One definition of “philosophy” that I am fond of is this: “thinking hard about some topic.” But there is a distinction between thinking hard and thinking well. If there is a rough-and-ready definition for “logic,” it might be “thinking well about some topic.”

[6] Incidentally, I label it 4) because 1), 2) and 3) already belong, in this discussion to statements of yours. Numbering each premise uniquely allows us to refer back to premises by their number designation alone.

[7] Of course, I am presuming that you would not set the bar so high for being “well-regulated” that no militia could ever attain to that height.

[8] The “If P” clause is called the “antecedent.”

[9] The “Then Q” clause is called the “consequent.”

[10] For example, suppose that, pointing to a random painting, I utter: “If that’s a painting, then that is a Picasso. That is a painting. Therefore, that is a Picasso.” This argument, although formally valid, is nevertheless unsound. Since not all paintings are Picassos, the first premise is untrue. A formally valid argument can also commit informal fallacies. For instance, “If the Pope says that ‘climate change’ is true, then ‘climate change’ is true. The Pope does say that ‘climate change’ is true. Therefore, ‘climate change’ is true,” commits, in its first premise, the informal fallacy known as “inappropriate appeal authority” (or, if you like, “appeal to inappropriate authority,” argumentum ad verecundiam.)

[11] We cannot do so deductively. There may some probability to 9’, that is, it may have some inductive strength. But it is not a valid deductive argument.

[12] A deductive argument is one in which, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.

[13] Just to round things out, If P, then Q; not-Q; therefore not-P is valid. Consider the rain illustration, again. “If it is raining, then the streets are wet; the streets are not wet; therefore it is not raining” is a deductively valid inference. On the other hand, If P, then Q; Q; therefore P is invalid, “If it is raining, then the streets are wet; the streets are wet; therefore it is raining,” is not deductively valid. Again, the streets could be wet for some other reason. As an aside, a deductively invalid argument might yet have some inductive or probabilistic plausibility. But this is another matter.

[14] Here’ another illustration. If Bob eats oranges, then he gets vitamin c. But what if Bob does not eat any oranges? From Bob does not eat oranges, can we conclude that Bob does not get vitamin c? No, because Bob could have obtained vitamin c from another source. He could have eaten strawberries, for instance, or taken a vitamin supplement. The only way we could conclude that Bob does not get vitamin c if he does not eat oranges is if oranges are the only source of vitamin c. But, the expressed premise “If Bob eats oranges, then he gets vitamin c” does not make any claim about oranges being the sole source of vitamin c. Therefore, the argument, as it stands, is invalid.

[15] As far as justifying premise 10), I would simply say that the framers were highly educated and would unlikely to have baked a formal fallacy into so important a document as the Bill of Rights.

[16] You seem to want to limit the pool of live interpretive options to those that are “workable” (whatever that means) in 2016, given the U.S.’s standing army as a fact-on-the-ground. I would say, on the contrary, that we should interpret the Second Amendment according to the intentions of the Founding Fathers and, if it turns out that this interpretation is hindered in its application by some factor (say a standing army), then We the People should aim to eliminate the problematic factor (e.g., by cutting military spending, etc.).

[17] The Second Amendment only precludes non-militia members from “keeping and bearing arms” in case “keeping and bearing arms were the exclusive province of militia members, which the Second Amendment does not state. Even if militia members were a subset of the free citizenry, which was simply factually false during the founding era, the logical structure of the Second Amendment does not permit us to conclude anything about non-militia-members' rights.

[18] Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811 and U.S. v. Miller, 307 US 174, 179 [1939]; both quoted by Matthew Bell, “Towards a Jeffersonian Appraisal of the SCOTUS ‘D.C. Gun Ban’ Decision,” Liberty Bell [weblog], Jun. 30, 2008, <>.

[19] So that it may not be said that I have failed at due diligence, let me consider running the conditional the other direction. If you keep and bear arms, then you are in a militia. This fares even worse it seems, since this premise, conjoined with, “You do not keep and bear arms” cannot even show that “You are not in a militia.” One could say: If you keep and bears arms, then you are in a militia; you are not in a militia; therefore, you do not keep and bear arms. However, firstly, I have already showed that the operative conception of “militia” was all able-bodied men. Therefore, “you are not in a militia” is arguably true just case a person is not able-bodied. But suppose that a person is both able-bodied and not in a militia. What follows? The initial conditional provides the formula for a non-militia member to become a militia member, namely, acquiring arms. Here is the reasoning: If you keep and bears arms, then you are in a militia; you do keep and bear arms; therefore, you are in a militia.

The only other avenue open would be to argue that the Second Amendment expresses a bi-conditional: You keep and bear arms if and only if you are in a militia. One problem, here, is that this would rule out military men, police officers and security personnel keeping and bearing arms. The fact that we do presently have numerous classes of armed individuals shows that no one now believes that the Second Amendment expresses a bi-conditional.

[20] You evidently missed this caveat. Either that or you were grandstanding when you exclaimed: “And I would furthermore like to stress that in the interest of our continued friendship that you admit that the southern position _on slavery_ was at the very least misguided and inhumane.”

[21] “Primary,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online at <>.

[22] There are secondary colors – orange, green and purple – made by mixing the primary ones. I am ignoring such niceties as that there is a technical distinction between the primary additive and primary subtractive colors.

[23] A similar point can be made with respect to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln declared that his primary motivation for prosecuting the “Civil War” was to “preserve the Union.” Of course, he and his cohorts could have had – and did have – numerous ancillary motivations and goals.

[24] “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”; copied by Justin Sanders from J. A. May and J. R. Faunt, South Carolina Secedes, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1960, pp. 76-81; reproduced by Rick A. Swanson, “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States,” Univ. of Louisiana, Lafayette, n.d., <>.]

[25] Or again, less selective attention to Louisiana’s declaration turns up these relevant bits of information.

“She [i.e., Louisiana] believes the federal agent had betrayed her trust, had become the facile instrument of a hostile people, and was usurping despotic powers. …The people of Louisiana were unwilling to endanger their liberties and property by submission to the despotism of a single tyrant, or the canting tyranny of pharisaical majorities. Insulted by the denial of her constitutional equality…, and convinced that she was illustrating the capacity of her people for self-government by withdrawing from a union that had failed …to accomplish its purposes, she declared herself a free and independent State…”. “George Williamson (1829-82), Louisiana Secession Commissioner, ‘Letter to President and Gentlemen of the Convention of the People of Texas,’ February 11, 1861,” James W. Loewen and Edward H. Sebesta, eds., The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause”, Jackson, Miss.: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2011, p. 146; archived online at <>.

You might think that you do better with Mississippi, since its causal declarations include the strong statement: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery”. Still, as I said, I nowhere denied that the South’s position practically involved a defense of slavery; rather, I claimed that the South’s primary motivation lay in resisting the North’s attempt to ignore the Constitution. And this comes through clearly when Mississippi’s declaration is read in its entirety. The declaration concludes: “It [that is, a particular faction of social activists] has recently obtained control of the Government …and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood. Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England. …We follow their footsteps.” “Mississippi”; copied by Justin Sanders from Journal of the State Convention, Jackson, Miss.: E. Barksdale, 1861, pp. 86-88; reproduced by Swanson, loc. cit.

Regarding Alabama, Stephen F. Hale’s comments are, I think, sufficiently clear on the subject of the Northern derailment of the Constitution in virtue of “the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government”. And on and on.

[26] “Ordinances of Secession of the 13 Confederate States of America: Alabama,” Civil War Home Page, <>.

[27] I know that you are familiar with the phrase “cherry-picking.”

[28] Abraham Lincoln, marginalia on fragments of his speech notes, n.d., but ca. 1859; quoted by Roy P. Basler, ed., et al., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1953-1955, vol. 3, p. 399.

[29] Abraham Lincoln, speech, Springfield, Ill., Jun. 26, 1857; quoted in Basler, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 405, 408, 409. By the way, let’s examine your statement that Lincoln spent his “entire political career campaigning against the expansion of slavery.” In this quotation, one can see that, yes indeed, slavery was “an institution he [Lincoln] deemed immoral.” But, whatever you would like to believe, he did not deem it “immoral” because he believed in “racial equality.” I elsewhere documented Lincoln’s low opinion of that idea, which he dismissed as “so low a piece of demagogueism [sic].

Rather, Lincoln opposed slavery because he thought it was immoral to mix the races together. Thus, in the quotation partially reproduced above, Lincoln goes on to explain: “[A]s an immediate separation [of the races] is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas.” (Ibid.) His solution was to repatriate the blacks: “[I]t is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be.” (Ibid.)

[30] How many direct answers would he have to give before you believe him?

[31] There could be others.

[32] Jon Swaine, “Abraham Lincoln ‘Wanted to Deport Slaves’ to New Colonies,” Telegraph, Feb., 11, 2011, <>.

[33] Interestingly, given his endorsement of black colonization and repatriation schemes, it was seemingly not Lincoln’s stated desire that “the white man’s civilization in the country which he proudly claimed his own” should come to an end. However, in the wake the Civil War’s decimation of the Southern economy, the Northern troops of invading carpetbaggers and, later, of Lincoln’s assassination, this is exactly what occurred.

[34] Duncan Fletcher, who was also six years old at the outset of the war, says much the same things as Williams.

[35] In a footnote, I added: “Or else, how would you block George W. Bush from waging ‘just war’ against Saddam Hussein, given that Hussein was clearly guilty of killing and torturing his own people?” Unbelievably, it seems to be the case that you agree with George W. Bush and the neoconservative architects of the “war” against Iraq! After sketching your own interpretation of the preamble to the Declaration of Independent (DOI), you say that your “reading of the DOI actually justifies the people of the north to wage war on the south and destroy its government.” It’s a simple enough exercise to substitute “the United States” for “people of the north” and “Iraq” for “the south.” Doing so reveals that your reading of the DOI actually justifies the United States waging war on Iraq and destroying its government – just in case someone in the U.S. claims that Iraq isn’t sufficiently respectful of the “Life, Liberty and Happiness Pursuits” of the Iraqis.

Of course, the DOI licenses no such thing – for Iraq or for the North. There is no license in the preamble of the DOI for one people to overthrow the government of another people! The only license granted to northerners would have been a license to overthrow the government of the North in the event that the Northern government failed to service the interests of Northerners.

After secession, the only people who would have been licensed by the DOI to overthrow the government of the South were Southerners.

Elsewhere, you admitted this in a backhanded way when you wrote: “I wish there had been more Nat Turner rebellions, for is there nothing more poetic and just than the oppressed turning on their oppressors? Jefferson would've been proud.” Of course, if Southern slaves had organized an overthrow of the South this would have been an altogether different situation than the one that actually obtained. In the real world, well, I already said it. The cost of eradicating black slavery was paid for with the blood “of 600,000 dead Americans, most of whom were our European-American cousins and relations.”

[36] The slaves could have been freed by Northerners purchasing their freedom. This would have compensated the South for its massive financial loss and enabled it to reconstitute itself around another economic base.

[37] “Resolutions Adopted by the Kentucky General Assembly,” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 3, Jan. 1, 1798-Jan. 31, 1799, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003, pp. 550-556; reproduced online at <>.

[38] According to historian Graham Peck, if Illinois can be taken as representative, the number of abolitionists in the North hovered at most around 5-6% of the Northern populace by 1852. The Republican Party certainly had an abolitionist wing, but it was far from endorsing “abolitionism” outright. Yes, Lincoln’s abolitionist-friendly rhetoric helped him to leverage a political victory over Stephen A. Douglas. But even Lincoln was – as his quotations show – not an integrationist.

[39] But you say that it was the South that did not “believe in democracy.” Oh, brother. Besides being out-of-step with the facts about the federal legislative process, such a claim also ignores the true classification of the original United States government. It was formed as a republic, not as a “democracy.”

[40] Among the questions you have dodged is the question of how the Fugitive Slave Laws were passed in the first place. Which side is it that hates “democracy” when the laws on the books favor the South and the North simply refuses to follow them?

[41] I regret that I haven’t time enough to try to discern which of the definitions of the ambiguous word “racism” you have in mind in your several uses of that abusive term. And I cannot get into your seeming curious inference that a small genetic difference between blacks and whites somehow contradicts the proposition that there are real racial differences. (For one thing, as a first-pass, it is plausible to think that the genetic difference between males and females is a single, sex-determining chromosome out of 46. On this construal, the genetic difference between men and women is only a 2.2% difference. Yet that small difference seems extremely important and, in any case, does not tempt me to the view that there are no real sex differences.)

Nor do I have time, presently, to explore the many trails that we could investigate in ethics. But I will say, as a coda, that you have also misconstrued the point of my argument: If God does not exist, then absolute values do not exist; absolute values do exist; therefore, God exists.

The point was not that a person must believe in God in order to live a moral life. Nor was the point that a normative ethical system – like Kantian and Utilitarian ethics are – need make specific mention of God. Coherent normative ethical systems can certainly be constructed without mention of God.

My point was regarding the metaphysical status of supposed moral facts. Kantianism and Utilitarianism only get off the ground once a person makes the crucial assumption that human beings have value.

For a person who denies that human beings have value “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” has no force. If “I have no value” or “I don’t love myself” are true, then what sense is there to “I will love my neighbor equally”? (One attendant question is: Is there an objective reason that a person should adopt the moral point of view?)

Truthfully however, metaethical questions, like that of the objective ground (if any) for moral facts and that of the objectivity of the moral point of view, are more subtle than the issues regarding logic that have already held up our discussion. They should be reserved, therefore, for a much later time.

[42] I was going to add a subsection “On Tone,” but I will limit myself to addressing this as a sort of post script.

You have complained that you were “insulted” by my challenges of your use of “parody.” Two preliminary points. Firstly, you partially based this upon an uncharitable gloss of my words in which you alleged that I said you “didn’t understand the word parody” – which I nowhere said. But secondly, arguing over words is a large part of what analytic philosophy is about.

I am not a Wittgensteinian by any means, but Ludwig Wittgenstein had a point when he sketched his conception of philosophy-as-therapy. What sort of “therapy”? Word therapy. He said: “Our investigation is a grammatical one. Such an investigation sheds light on our problem by clearing misunderstandings away. Misunderstandings concerning the use of words, caused, among other things, by certain analogies between the forms of expression in different regions of language.” Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §90; quoted by Duncan J. Richter, “Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951),” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, <>.

However, and this is my main point, whereas you imagined that I had slighted you, you think nothing of peppering your text with phrases such as that my sincere lexical concerns embodied “a dishonest attempt” to bamboozle you, or that my genuine concern with the Constitution and abuses of federal power (both past and present) are “[u]sually” the expressions of “closet racists.” You then flippantly – and ambiguously, since you have not defined “racism” – ask: “Are you some kind of crypto racist…?” Then you simply forego even soliciting a reply from me and assert: “You've been arguing for racism this entire time…”. (As far as I can tell, no thinker has at any time labeled her own view “racism.” That word is always and everywhere a dismissive term of derision.)

It is difficult for me to construe these remarks as anything other than bullying. Are there some opinions that you think I am not permitted to express? Who gets to decide what opinions are verboten? As Jewish-atheist Christopher Hitchens once asked (I am paraphrasing): “Is there someone that you would feel comfortable appointing to decide, for you, what you may permissibly hear and think?” For me, nobody comes to mind.

As for me, I pursue truth. I believe that truth is helpfully discerned in the crucible of free and open debate – on any subject. I welcome candid criticism. You need not pull any punches with me, logically – provided that you are charitable. But I will not be stampeded into or bullied from the expression of an opinion out of fear of being branded with some smear word.

You earlier referenced George Orwell. It was Orwell who envisioned a nightmarish world in which some thoughts were labeled “Crimethink” and were placed outside the pale of respectability (and legality). If what I argue is false, then refute it – as I have done with your invalid misconstrual of the Second Amendment ;-) Just don’t address me with loaded questions of the sort that might be posed by any twisted thought cop in the service of misguided Utopian (really dystopian) tyranny. And, in return, I promise not to do so to you. You know. The Golden Rule and all that.