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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Deranged shooters

Just a few thoughts about deranged shooters, like the one in Newtown, CT.

Some people think that violent video games contribute to these behaviors. I am not a psychiatrist, so what do I know? Well, I know something about how people behave, because I am one, and I observe them, and ethics is all about why people do what they do. I think that someone whose mentally balanced and who has a good ethical foundation will not be induced to violent acts by violent games - and let's include violent music while we're at it. I do think, however, that a person inclined to violent acts may be facilitated by the violent entertainment. They work themselves up to believing that what they want to do is doable - celebrities and the heros in the games endorse the violence in their media after all. And so they want to go one better and do it for real.

One of the classic definitions of insanity is the ability to distinguish right from wrong. People who know a thing, deep down, to be wrong can convince themselves that it's right. You can see how ethics and mental health go together. But some people think that the violent prone individuals need medication and counseling. What it seems to me they really need is a strong foundation in ethics - knowing right from wrong - so when they battle their demons (real or figurative) they can keep telling themselves, "NO, that's WRONG, it's EVIL, I will NOT do it, I want to in a way, but DEEP DOWN, I do NOT want to." And while bonafide mental illness may be behind why some people actually do violent acts, but that does not mean it is behind all violent acts. Many other maniacs do not start out mentally ill, but make themselves that way by working themselves up to do something they sort of want to do but know is wrong. I am not a professional on this issue by any means, as I say, and these things are complex, but I know how hard people struggle with the desire to do things one ought not to do. Just take a simple case of losing weight or controlling cholesterol. We stare at the forbidden food both wanting it and not wanting it, and wanting to overcome our own resistance until we do... or don't. If we give in, we begin an unhealthy pattern of behavior, and why should the dynamics necessarily be different when the object of the act is violence instead of bagels?

Some people think that guns promote violent acts. I say if someone is prone to commit a violent act, he will do it with whatever weapon he has available. As Samuel L Jackson - a star of violent action movies - it's not about guns but about people not valuing life. He makes the point of being surrounded his whole life by people with guns in Tennessee, and no one ever committing a violent act against another human being with them. So Mr. Jackson also sees the problem being a poor foundation in ethics and morality. Certainly the availability of guns to people inclined to such things is something to look at and if possible restrict. But universal gun control is clearly not the answer.

Yes, there is mental illness involved. Yes, guns play a role. Yes, the situation is way more complex than I can imagine.

But we also live in a world where ethics are all about what "I" want and not about distinguishing "right" from "wrong" except insofar as these concepts conduce to what "I" want. And until we recapture our ethical bearings in this society, we can see more and more of this sort of violence.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Barack Is Hung Up On B Words

Big B, little b, what begins with B?

Big Bird.




Birth Control.

B. b. B.

IMHO, BHO gets an F.

Obama "First Time" Ad Shows He Is Ethically Corrupt

They obviously think it's a cute joke. Young ladies talking about their "first time" with someone who cares, someone really cool, someone who brought the troops home from Iraq. Their "first time" with Obama.

The notion that women just becoming old enough to vote in their first presidential election would respond to an ad making a joke about having sex with Obama is pathetic.

It is juvenile humor.

It is demeaning to the women it targets.

It is a dirty joke, and unbecoming a President of the United States.

And if Obama really believes that it's a good ad, then his ability to reason ethically is severely atrophied. Corrupted. He simply does not know right from wrong, and good from bad.

Aquinas says that the whole purpose of government is to lead the people governed to goodness and right actions. Obama is a BAD leader. Period. This is proof.

Still like the guy? Go and vote for him. You vote for someone without an ethical bone in his body.

Look, regardless of the guy's positions on issues and stuff -- and really his record is way more important than his promises -- the very fact of this ad means he is unworthy of the office of president.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Romney Up or Down in Latest IBD/TIPP Poll?

You can go see the results of the IBD/TIPP poll here. In a nutshell, the have it thus:

O: 46.5
R: 44.8
U:   6.6

(That doesn't add up, so I guess the balance is Other.)

In this study, Romney is leading Independents 47% to 36%, with 13% undecided. The split along party lines is almost exact mirror images: 89% along the party line, 6 or 7% across the line, and the rest undecided. So, if you assume a close to even split between Dems and Reps, the margin Romney enjoys among Indies should give him

But note that this survey has 37% Dem respondents, 30% GOP, 32% Independents. That's a 7-point spread in the advantage of Obama that most analysts say will not hole up on election day. For instance, Gallop's Party Affiliation Poll, most recently taken a few weeks ago, has only 32% Dem, 28% GOP, and 38% Independent. That's only D+4 versus GOP, and a much bigger chunk of Independents.

Now I'm no mathematician, so if anyone can correct my math, I would appreciate it. But according to my calculations, if the IBD poll results by party affiliation were weighted according to the Gallop survey, the results would be:

O: 44%
R: 46%
U:   7%

So, it's quite possible that the IBD poll means that Romney is up by about 2, and not down by 2!

Now the science of polling is a little more complex than using Gallop's surveys to weigh IBD's polls, but from what I've been reading a D+4 might even be generous to the Democrats this year. And I have to believe that there will be a shift of Dems away from Obama. I cannot believe he is doing that well among Democrats and that it is only Indies that are shifting Romney's way.

This has nothing to do with bioethics, I guess. Except, we all form ourselves by our chosen actions. We reveal ourselves to be such a person, and we reinforce that we are. In a way, all of our actions alter us in some way. And that is a bioethical concern. And... IBD reveals themselves, too.

Yet of course there is no direct bioethical import to this poll. I'm just sayin' that statistics can be manipulated.

Monday, October 15, 2012

UPDATE: Anticipating the Next Presidential Debate

Read that graphic carefully. It does not say "FORWARD."

Definition of the word in the graphic:

1: habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition

2: archaic : adverse
I am anticipating sheer nastiness this next debate. This is Obama's last chance to do, as Ryan said, paint his adversary as someone to run from. The very best thing, strategically, Obama can do is simply come off as decisive, aggressive, and yet dignified. But I personally don't think he can avoid going on the attack, however, and that will just make him look bad.

All Romney has to do is keep is cool and keep turning things back on Obama's record. His campaign already seems to be doing just that. It's a win. If Obama turns nasty, he will succeed only in making himself look like someone to run from. But if Obama stays polite although aggressive, Romney can still trounce him on his record.

We'll see.

UPDATE: Well, Mr. Obama was fairly froward in my book, but he wasn't as bad as he could have been. By the way, he talks a good talk and it's easy to start believing him -- the master of that kind of charisma was Bill Clinton.

But I have one question for the President. Actually a statement, followed by a question. What you have done so far is clearly not working very well -- be it regarding the economy or foreign policy or whatever. If your plans that you're offering in this campaign are so wonderful for the future and are different from what you've been doing -- why on earth are you waiting until after the election and not simply DOING THEM NOW?

Friday, October 12, 2012

UPDATE: The White House Just Threw the State Department Under the Bus

If you like Obama, God bless you. But the man is day by day proving himself less and less worthy as a leader.

This is an attempt to control the whacky comments by the Vice President that he and Obama did not know the Libyan embassy wanted more security. Simply put, the White House is claiming that the President and Vice President did not know because that information did not trickle up to them. The State Department knew, however, and it was their responsibility to deal with the requests.

So. Obama is blaming Hillary. If I were Hillary, I'd quit. Right now. Not in disgrace (although there is that) but in distaste for being made a scapegoat.

It is backfiring for two reasons.  First, Obama proves he did not know what was going on. He was out of touch. And people died because of his lack of leadership.

Second, Obama proves that he can stab anyone in the back, including his highest ranking cabinet officer who happens to be the wife of his biggest and most charismatic supporter.

This is ugly, Mr. President. U.G.L.Y.

Oh, and your VP is a dope.

Man, if I were Hillary I would bail. I really would. It would seal the deal in terms of Obama's chances at reelection and maybe she wants to be a "team player" and all that. But he's becoming increasing toxic to her career, so she has really got to distance herself from him ASAP. Unless she wants to retire. Which would be ok by me.

And what does this have to do with bioethics?

Well, bioethics requires sound moral reasoning. And it is quite clear that our President is really very bad at that. It spills over into bioethical issues, too.

UPDATE: Looks like Bill is working on ways of removing Hillary from the fray so this episode does not stain her career. Keep tuned. And remember, I predicted it!

Fact-checking Joe Biden on Abortion

Fact-checking has become yet another tool of political spin and mere honest errors have become outright lies in the process. Was Joe Biden merely wrong about the Catholic Church's doctrine on abortion, or was he lying? Well, first we have to determine whether he was right or wrong. I will not judge his honesty -- although I have my doubts. In this case, I believe "Uncle Joe" is simply clueless.

He said that the Catholic doctrine that life begins at conception is "de Fide." This is a technical term when used of the Catholic faith with a specific meaning. It refers to those doctrines that the Catholic Church holds by faith because they have been revealed and cannot be known by human reason alone. The notions that God is a Trinity, that He became Incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, that bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ -- these are articles of faith that cannot be determined by natural human reason alone but do not contradict reason, and that have been revealed by God. It is possible that God be a Trinity; it is possible that He became Incarnate; it is possible that He transubstantiates bread and wine. They are possible; they are revealed; they are held by Catholics "de Fide." 

The beginning of human life, however, as Congressman Ryan noted, can be known by reason and scientific evidence. It is clear that a pregnancy in a human woman occurs as a result the reproductive act. What is conceived is clearly, and in some sense, human, alive, a unique and unrepeatable individual, and on a developmental trajectory toward adulthood. If any of these things are not true, then a woman is not pregnant. Science bears up these statements; there is nothing in science to contradict them; they are not articles of faith. It is only politics that doubts them. It is only politics, seeking the right to terminate a living, human individual, that wonders if an embryo or fetus is legally a "person" and protected by law. Politics contorts the definition of "person" and "life" and "human" and "individual" and wraps it up in scientific-sounding jargon, so that killing of "non-persons" can be legally protected.

And it is only politics that says, "it's not right to force my beliefs on others." (Yes. Well. All laws are an imposition of someone's morality precisely on those who believe the opposite.)

Let me repeat that the beginning of human life it is not a matter of "belief." The Catholic Church holds its position on abortion not because of revelation or religious opinion, but because of the facts listed above, which are knowable through human reason and empirical science. There is an objective reality here, which the Church recognizes, namely, the unborn living, human, individual. 

Also, it is not being "imposed" on people, any more than it is imposed on people that the sun is hot or that water is necessary for life on earth or that in transubstantiation the Body and Blood of Christ retain all the external properties of bread and wine. The Church does not impose but merely recognizes objective realities. What is mere opinion, what is imposed on everyone, is the notion that "person" and "life" and "human" and "individual" are determined by their definitions, definitions that can be changed on a whim, rather than the other way around. Reality up until now worked by having definitions reflect objective reality rather than attempt to make reality to be a certain way.

This is not the first time Biden has misrepresented the Catholic Church on this issue. In the last presidential election, he completely misrepresented St. Thomas Aquinas on the issue of ensoulment

Neither the Church's doctrine on the beginning of human life and on grave moral wrong of abortion are "de fide" in the technical sense. It is not heresy to deny that human life begins at conception; it is merely a denial of objective reality. It is not heresy to claim that abortion is sometimes permissible; it is merely defective moral reasoning (as opposed to doctrinal reasoning). However, for a Catholic to publicly doubt either thing, or to reduce these things merely to personally held beliefs that are impolite to impose on others, does foment scandal. And that is something our illustrious Catholic Vice President does.

But, is Biden a liar? I leave that for others to determine. But a quick fact-check of this statement shows him to be wrong.

Oh. And one more thing. Catholic politicians do have a duty as Catholics to oppose laws that permit abortion, as being unjust to the unborn. Biden also misrepresents his duty as a Catholic when he talks about his hands-off attitude toward legalized abortion.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Are the Mainstream Media Biased?

No, of course not!

That's why the Washington Times has an article about Romney headed up by a video clip of Obama talking about a totally unrelated topic.

Yeah, their article about Romney's upcoming speech has the title, Romney to Slam Obama on Warfare. Under that headline is a huge embedded video of a self-deprecating Obama poking fun at his own debate performance last week. Then comes the main body of the article.

First, what is that video doing there? Really. Couldn't anyone at the Washington Times think of a more relevant video? Or even a photo? Maybe one of, oh, I don't know, Romney. But if you're gonna show Obama, why ought it not be relevant to the topic of foreign affairs? The self-deprecating Obama is the absolute best of any recent Obama clips, I admit. But, video of the mid-September Mideast violence at our embassies might be a tad more relevant.

Now, showing that sort of thing might be to Romney's favor. And we want to be un-biased, right, and not substitute bias for Obama with bias for Romney. And they favor Obama. So, why not have a photo or video of Obama with some other heads of state? Or at the UN? Or something like that? Why this totally unrelated, but Obama-in-the-best-light-possible video?

Also take note of the headline. This is a foreign policy speech Romney is going to make. It isn't about warfare, or at least not warfare alone. "Warfare" is a loaded word, it narrows the scope of Romney's speech to something nasty, and it makes it seem like Romney is all about waging war -- which, by the way, is how Democrats have been painting Republicans since Lyndon Johnson's famous atomic bomb TV commercial that defeated Goldwater. (See the back story here, where there is a link to the TV commercial that ran in 1964.) I have been alive since JFK was president, and have yet to see the war-mongering stereotype played out. Anyway, it's a loaded and biased headline.

I can't wait for the next few weeks to go by. Then I can stop talking about politics again!

Well, unless Obama wins.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Presidential Debate

Every four years I go through agony. I listen or watch and agonize over the grand opportunities the opponent gives my candidate, only to watch them slip away. It was horrible to hear McCain last time. And two campaigns of Bush -- well, Gore wasn't much of a debater at least. Still, it is very painful to be a strategic marketer and see golden opportunities turn to lead every 4 years since 1992.

I was only mildly pained last night, and a good deal of that was because Obama really faltered. But Romney also did pretty good, got in a few good shots, and he was fairly animated at least -- and, even if you disagree with him, he came off as something other than an evil person wanting to enslave everyone. He made the Obama campaign's maligning of him to seem simply malicious, which it is.

On the other hand:

  • Romney is really not a conservative. We have a huge government, and we will continue to have a huge government under Romney. And it's not only because it's difficult to really cut back on government because of inertia and processes, but because he's really not a small-government guy. He might be a step in the right direction, but the difference between him and a big-government liberal is not as dramatic as would like.

  • The federal government will remain entrenched in healthcare, just as it is in retirement and other things that it really has no business being entrenched in. And this is a great, great, great victory for liberal politics. Romney talks "repeal and replace" but if you "replace" with something fairly the same, then the government remains entrenched where it really doesn't belong. If Romney's plan will truly dis-entrench the government, well, I'll believe it when I see it.

Anyway, I'm only mildly pained after last night.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

This is how you know Obama is a hypocrite

In 2008, I had something like this as my mantra:

Whoever refuse to protect innocent life has no moral authority to speak about war or the economy, or to lead this nation.

Mr. Obama said at the UN recently: "There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents."

OK, what about: "The right to choose"?

Huh, Mr. President of the United States? How about them words?

So you refuse to illegalize infanticide in Illinois, you support embryonic stem cell research, you are a committed pro-abortion politician, your party -- the party of which you are the leader -- is full of people who support euthanasia, you kowtow to terrorists.

And we're supposed to take you SERIOUSLY when you speak at the UN?

Man, day by day, you prove more and more how totally UNQUALIFIED you are to be POTUS.

Thank you, Fr. Z -- yet, I think "hypocrisy" is a better word than "irony" in this case.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Another reason NOT to vote for Obama

This wonderful endorsement from Madonna.

She offers to strip naked if O gets reelected.

If Madonna keeping her clothes on isn't a reason to vote for Romney, I don't know what is.

Free phones and seeing Madonna naked. Obama can't run on his record, after all. Yet, it's not working for me, Barrack.

It's not.

Romney's 47% Comment and Free Obama Phones

Here's a YouTube video showing a pro-Obama protester at a Romney event. She got a free phone from Obama, she says. Apparently, folks in Cleveland, a major city in a vital swing state, if they're receiving government hand-outs in the form of Social Security, disability, and that sort of thing, can get a free phone.

A free phone.

A free phone.

Now, here's how this works. You tax your political enemies. You use that tax money to reward your political friends. You make those friends dependent upon you, and they'll support you in the future.

If 47% of the people depend on the government taxing the other 53%, do you not think those 47% will vote for politicians who supporting the programs paid for by the other 53%? What happens to the democratic process? What happens to principles of good government? What happens to liberty?

This is NOT NOT NOT about disparaging those 47%. It's about the government, and the philosophies of those politicians who use government to buy the 47% and keep them dependent upon themselves like junkies depend on a dealer.

And then what happens when 100% of us are dependent upon the government in some way, say, for health care? What happens to democracy then?

You know, say what you want about Republicans -- and I'd probably agree with a lot of what you say -- I think it's definitely a much more principled position to say that the government should not be so involved in people's daily lives. I just trust someone more who says, "Let's not use the government's power to tax to buy votes. Let's tax everyone less, and keep government out of things as much as possible." Rather than someone who says, "We need the government to provide healthcare, food, money, housing, and phones, because to do any less means we do not care for the disadvantaged among us." One smacks of political deceit more than the other. I'm not saying Republican politicians are an honest lot. I am saying, though, the Democrats are bald-faced liars.

It cannot be popular with people who want governments to give them phones, money, food, housing, healthcare. Taking the unpopular position is far more noble, far less political.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

And that protester who got the phone -- what does she think of Romney? "He sucks!" Brilliant. Absolute brilliance.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Secret Service Investigating "Lynching" of an Empty Chair While Our Ambassador in Lybia REALLY Gets Lynched

Now, I haven't been able to confirm any report of the Secret Service investigating the guy who "lynched" an empty chair down in Texas, but it would be standard procedure under the circumstances, so let's assume it's happening. I think the display was in bad taste and we can talk about the limits of the First Amendment, and all that.

On the other hand, the chair symbolizes the President. It's nice to know that the President accepts the symbol and sees himself in it enough to let the SS go and investigate the guy.

But, an ambassador is not a mere symbol, but a legal, internationally protected extension of the person of a head of state to another country. As far as Libya is concerned, the ambassador from another country IS, for all intents and purposes, the other head of state. The murder of our ambassador should be seen by the president as a direct attack on himself.

He should see it as an act of war.

He should have seen it coming. He should have protected American interests and personnel, who represent himself after all, better.

His response couldn't be any more wimpy.

Blame a video for the death of your ambassador? Why not blame the maniacs, who killed the ambassador, for killing the ambassador? Blame the killing on the killers who killed. Don't blame the motive. It's like blaming an insurance policy for the murder of a rich man by his wife. As if -- as if a stupid video was actually the motive.

A good or understandable motive does not justify killing an innocent person. But given the left's perspectives on euthanasia and abortion and all that, you can see how the President reacted the way he has.

This is beyond the pale.

Give an empty chair SS protection. Fail to give your ambassador in a hostile, Muslim country on the anniversary of 9-11 military protection.

I think everyone will be happy to know that the chair has survived its lynching and is now happily occupying a nice piece of lawn. Where it continues to symbolize the accomplishments of the President.

The ambassador to Libya is dead,  however.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Vote for Obama? Give me one good reason.

I have never been a huge fan of Romney and wished Republicans had nominated someone else. But I intend to vote for him.

And the main reason is that Obama appears to have failed on every measure of being President of the United States. And I generally align with Romney on the issues.

So I ask any Obama supporters out there who might happen to read or stumble onto this blog: Can you give me any good reason -- any at all -- to give the guy another 4 years?

Now here are the rules:
  • No trashing Romney. This is about Obama and his qualifications and successes and so forth. If you trash Romney, then it will serve as another reason to vote against Obama, because the only success you can mention is that he's good at making his rivals look bad, and that's not a good quality in a president.
  • No blaming Bush. This is about Obama, not Bush. Yeah, Obama started his presidency under very difficult conditions, but after 4 years he has not appeared to overcome the difficulties he inherited.
  • No blaming Congress. Yes, Congress has been pretty obstinate. But again, that only means Obama has appeared to fail to overcome partisan tendencies in Washington.
  • Focus on Obama and his qualifications to continue his administration another 4 years.
I have questioned Obama's bioethical reasoning in numerous other posts, and feel personally insulted by him on some issues. I also watch our embassies burn across the Muslim world on the anniversary of 9/11 and have to wonder about the guy's foreign policy. His economic policies, insofar as they've been thwarted by the Republicans in the House, perhaps have not been given a chance, but their value is only theoretical. They do not sound very good to me, and sometimes "doing something" is not really better than "doing nothing," so I tend to side with the Republicans on this one. Perhaps things aren't even worse now because of those obstinate Republicans. I see GM heading for bankruptcy again as it sells Volts for half their manufacturing costs with taxpayer money keeping them afloat. I see our national debt skyrocketing and our credit rating plummeting. I see a future where our dollar becomes even more worthless than it is. I wondered the other day about whether we should stop minting pennies, and I figure we should probably stop minting nickels, too, and maybe we should just stop making coins altogether. The US Dollar: The new penny.

Anyway, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why on earth anyone supports the guy.

So tell me: What's a good reason to vote for Obama?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Abortion and the Bible

Here is the text of Exodus 21:22-25 in the King James Version, a passage long cited in the abortion debate -- and the debate has been around from the very beginning of the Church. (Italics by the way in the KJV are original.)
22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Do you see anywhere in that text anything about the baby or the mother dying? I don’t. But some people do. RH Allen, author of a book called A Christian Looks to the Bible for Guidance on Abortion (which is free on iBooks), does. Here’s Allen’s exegesis of this passage in that book – and I want to emphasize that his book uses the KJV exactly as I have given it. I am adding emphases so you don’t miss any of his tricks:
The scripture directs that if the fetus is aborted as a result of the injury, the offending man must pay retribution as determined by the woman’s husband. 
However, if the woman herself dies, then the man must die (i.e., “give life for life”). Obviously, the Jewish Law treated the death of a fetus and the death of an actual living and breathing person differently. If the fetus had the same rights as the woman and was considered a separate life and entity of its own, the punishment for the fetus’ loss and the punishment for the loss of the woman’s life would have been the same. It wasn’t, so we see that - although a fetus was valued and important to the parents (i.e., its loss was required to be compensated by the harming party) - it was not given the same status as a person who was alive on his/her own, without the need for the mother’s body to provide it food, oxygen, and other important nutrients and growth-related products through the umbilical cord. 
The lesson we get from this, is that as long as the fetus is in the womb, it is not considered a viable entity on its own, and treated by God’s law as a living person. No matter how man tries to define the beginning of life, if his definition gives a fetus “life” or individual “rights” (reserved for those entities who are alive) before it’s exit from the womb then he is trying to rescind the principle we see clearly stated in God’s Law, as given to Israel in Ex 21:21-25 [sic]. 
OK, so according to RH Allen, we violate God’s Law by defending the life of the unborn. But where is it in God’s Law exactly? Because I don't see in Ex 21:22-25.

What I see in this passage is a woman who is struck such that she gives birth prematurely. And, if “no mischief follow” – that is, if no further harm is done – the person responsible is to pay a fine. Note that the “mischief” is not defined. It could be to the woman, or it could be to the baby, but it is not defined.

And “if any mischief” does follow – to the baby or the mother – the guilty party has to endure a just punishment. If “any mischief” in verse 23 pertained only to the death of the mother, why on earth would God’s Law prescribe “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” when “life for life” is the only possible punishment?

No, God’s Law states that causing a premature birth is a punishable offense, and causing any further injury to that – to either baby or mother – is punishable more severely. There is nothing in this passage to justify Allen’s conclusions. There is nothing in this passage to justify abortion or to prohibit limitations on abortion. Quite the contrary in fact.

Now it’s not all Allen’s fault. This passage has been misinterpreted ever since it was translated from Hebrew into Greek in the second or third centuries BC. The Greek of the Septuagint could be rendered into English much like this:
22  Now if two men fight and strike a pregnant woman and her child comes forth not fully formed, he shall be punished with a fine. According as the husband of the woman might impose, he shall pay with judicial assessment.
23  But if it is fully formed, he shall pay life for life,
24  eye for eye, etc. 
(You can find this rendering here: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/02-exod-nets.pdf)

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, the issue of “formed” versus “unformed” was often debated, in parallel with the debate about when ensoulment occurred. But in both cases, the Church only saw the issue as pertaining to the seriousness of killing an unborn baby, depending on when in the pregnancy it occurs. However, The Church always considered abortion as a serious moral evil, and the relative aspects of “formed” versus “unformed” (or ensouled versus unensouled) pertained only to the severity of ecclesiastical penalties.

The real question is, what does the Hebrew say?  According to Stand to Reason, the English is best rendered thus:
22  And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that the child comes forth, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide.
23  But if there is any injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life,
24  eye for eye, etc.
So, let me ask: Is the nature of “injury” specified? Is the one who is injured? No, clearly not.

In other words, if the baby is born prematurely and everyone is alright otherwise, then there is a fine. But if there is any further injury – and it doesn't matter if it's to the baby or the mother or anyone else for that matter – then there is further and proportionate punishment.

Now this being an election year, you are surely going to hear pro-abortion politicians quoting St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas trying to justify the notion that the Church did not consider fetuses as complete people or something, just as Nancy Pelosi did, or as Joe Biden did (be sure to click Show More Text at the bottom of these msnbc.com transcripts to find the passages). (Man, Biden really rambled there, didn’t he? I mean, that paragraph is almost completely unintelligible.) But the Church has never taught what they claim, and the metaphysical debate that they refer to was settled centuries ago and not in a way that supports their views.

And so you are also likely to hear politicians quoting the Bible to say things much as RH Allen did. Now you know more than they do.

Speaking of RH Allen, the book I cited above has a little bio about him at the end, where he describes himself as having been "a youth leader, divorce recovery counselor, and Bible Study teacher for decades." Hmm.

Michelle Obama is gonna run for office!

Remember, you heard it hear first. Of course, I don't watch much TV so it's possible someone else has said this, too. But I do believe that Michelle is being groomed to run, probably for Senate like Hillary, and maybe even one day for President. Or maybe she'll start small and run for Mayor of Chicago.

Of course I'm no fan of her husband. And I'll never vote for her either.

But that doesn't mean she's not being groomed for future campaigns. We'll see.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I actually agree with Michelle Obama...about some things

Check out this radio interview with our First Lady.

I gotta hand it to her. She's a real campaigner. An evangelist, of sorts.

When she says that people who are complacent or undecided are knuckleheads and confused, I AGREE! Totally. In fact, given the state of the economy, I can't believe her husband's approval rating is as high as 43% and his disapproval rating is as low as 51%. We haven't had an official budget during this administration. Unemployment remains as high or higher than when he took office. The dirty campaigning. Accusing Romney of felonies, not paying taxes (what idiot would run for president and be wanted by the IRS? Geesh, it insults the intelligence), for a guy's wife's cancer. I could go on and on. But in this economy, if you are undecided about this presidential election, then yeah, Michelle Obama is right: You are a confused knucklehead. Well, at any rate, you shouldn't be undecided as to who should not be reelected.

And when she delineates what's at stake in this election, I AGREE!! But, I don't agree with who she feels are the ones who want to fundamentally fix our economy and who wants to write big checks. Yes, the stakes are high. I agree. And yes, for the thing she mentions, one candidate is horrible and the other not so much. But I don't agree with her as to which candidate is which.

I want to say that I'm not real happy with the choice of Romney. Never have been. But I will unhesitatingly vote for the guy considering who the alternative is. I mean, he's not the worst candidate the GOP has nominated in my voting lifetime. (McCain was worse.) I'm okay with voting for him. He's not ideal, but he's okay.

At any rate, I have mentioned Our Fearless Leader (remember Boris Badenov, the communist spy?) in the context of bioethical issues. And he comes up short on those things, too. If the economy were ok and he weren't a dangerous socialist, I would still oppose him for his bioethical reasoning.

Monday, August 6, 2012

This guy was an intolerant, hateful coward, too

I'm talking about the apparent perpetrator of the massacre at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The fellow's music and history speak for themselves. White supremacist, punk rocker with a penchant for violent lyrics and all manner of hatred. He was the prototypical target of hate laws.

What I've written the past few days was not advocacy of any position on recent events, except insofar as I distance myself from American liberalism in a general way. I am pointing out the tactics and the actions of a few, and not the positions of anyone. I happen to think the positions of the Sikh temple gunman are unconscionable and irreconcilable with the US constitution and a rational concept of justice.

But it is not only people who target those of non-white skin and non-white religion who can be perpetrators of hate crimes. The typical victims can resort to them, too.

Ethics is not about justifying what we want to do. We can "justify" using hate crimes against people who commit hate crimes against us, but that is not ethics. Ethics pertains to the rightness and wrongness of the action we propose to take. Having been a victim of a heinous act does not give us the right to commit the same heinous act in return. If the act is heinous, then it is heinous, and we shouldn't do it. Killing innocent people is wrong. If some of "us" innocent people get killed, as horrible as it is, it does not give us the right to kill innocent people who belong to "them." Ganging up on a harmless guy reading his Bible is wrong. Having been ganged up on while minding our own business does not give us the right to gang up on a harmless stranger. Vandalizing a building is wrong. Going into a house of worship and shooting people is wrong. Having a racial epithet painted onto my front door does not give me the right to vandalize someone else's property. Do the Wisconsin Sikh's now have a right to go to the perpetrator's church (if any) and kill the congregants? No. Of course not.

Justice is not about getting even. Justice is about doing the right thing by others, even when it is not what we want to do. The lex talonis ("eye for an eye") is misunderstood if it is understood to mean that "I" get to do to others what they do first to me. No. The point of the lex talonis is to prevent excessive retribution. If someone puts out my eye, I cannot have their head. Its purpose is not to ensure a perpetrator is adequately punished, but to prevent victims from exacting excessive punishment.

Justice too quickly becomes vengeance. Ethics too quickly becomes an exercise in coming up with a good excuse.

Justice thus depends on an unbiased forum for adjudication. Ethics depends on squelching anger self-interest, and thinking clearly and objectively about the intended action. Vandalism, bullying, massacres all have in common an attitude of taking vengeance, and for what one believes to be a good reason. But, they are neither just nor ethical.

Anyway, there are all manner of intolerant, hateful cowards in the world. They seem to be coming out of the woodwork these days.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Intolerant, Hateful Cowards

But they obviously consider themselves brave crusaders against hate and intolerance.

Check out the video here. If these are Chicago values, I'm glad I live 1000 miles away from Chicago.

This isn't about any position on the issue. It's about tactics. It's about what they do, not what they stand for.

Brave homosexuals harassing an innocent and helpless homeless guy whose big crime was to be reading a Bible at a Chick-Fil-A. They ganged up on him and berated him, lectured him, were such models of tolerance and justice and decency.

I challenge them to do the same thing there in Chicago -- but better yet, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran -- but to target guys reading the Koran and berate them for their hate against homosexuals. I would call them brave then. I would call them consistent.

But as long as they continue to gang up like this on harmless individuals, I call them hypocrites. Cowardly, immature, hypocritical bullies.

You  know, but it's stuff like this that make me wonder about whether the gay rights movement is rooted in justice or something else. I'm thinking something else. If anyone wants me to think differently about the movement, well, talk to me when this sort of stuff stops.

Friday, August 3, 2012

(Update) ...because some people can only be victims and not perpetrators of hate

What idiotic hypocrisy.

Go and perpetrate a hate crime to protest against what you call a hate crime. Because it is so mature to engage in playground justice, to strike back against someone who wants to play tag when you want to go on the swings, and yell, "well, HE started it! HE hates me!" It's like the guy who bullied people about bullying. Playground justice.

And here's the thing. It seems that the people who painted that hate-filled, and hate-mongering, graffito feel that it is impossible for them to be anything but victims of hate. No matter how they act, they cannot possibly be perpetrators of hate. It goes against the definition of hate.

It seems to me that the people who yell loudest for tolerance really mean others must tolerate them, but they do not have to tolerate anyone.

(From the LA Times: "Denise Spencer, who visited the restaurant on Friday, said she was sad to see the vandalism and that it hurts the tolerance message that gay marriage proponents are pushing." Hmm. Maybe they're not really pushing a tolerance message after all, Ms Spencer.)

Those who yell loudest that it's wrong to impose your morality on others are the first to do it. And what they really mean is that it's wrong for you to tell them what is right and wrong, but they have every right to tell you what's right and wrong.

Those who most vehemently accuse others of being closed-minded are the most closed-minded of all, and what they really mean is that they resent you disagreeing with them.

And those who are most likely to accuse the owner of Chick-Fil-A of hate -- HATE!!!!! -- are the people most filled with hate directed at those who disagree with them. Look, all the guy said was that he believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that whatever else same-sex couples do, it isn't and can't be "marriage." Does that means he's filled with hate? -- HATE, I tell you, H-A-T-E!!!!!!!

No. It means he disagrees with people who feel otherwise.

And unless we live in a tyranny, he's perfectly entitled to it. So, is he entitled to it or not? Are people who disagree with him the only ones with the right to speak their mind?

But vandalism is a crime. What is the difference between what they did and spray painting a swastika on a Jewish person's front door, or burning a cross on a black person's front yard, or putting pig's heads on spikes at an Arab heritage event, or using ethnic slurs? It is both vandalism and a hate crime.

So nowadays, "hate" just means people that disagree with the contemporary liberal agenda. It's the only possible reason people could possibly disagree with the liberal agenda, by the way. Well, if you don't count profound ignorance and total stupidity. HATE.

I think they tip their hand.

And it's bedfellows like that, that have driven me away from the liberal end of politics. Seriously, I would be a help-the-poor, stand-up-for-the-little-guy kind of liberal. But I just don't like the tactics of the whiners the liberal party attracts.

And it isn't because I hate them or anyone else. Just the opposite, in fact. They're the haters.

And I know why. They are deprived of love. And I don't mean that in the 1960s, Beatles, what you do to a cute puppy kind of love. I mean CHARITY. But out of charity I must oppose their agenda and their tactics, just as I out of charity oppose my kids' tantrums, both the tantrum itself as well as whatever it is they're trying to get out of me. Charity does not let the recipient define the terms of what "love me" means, which is exactly what the tantrum is about. "I WANT THAT TOY!" Yeah, well, I love you, therefore you're not gonna get the toy and you are gonna get a time out, because doing otherwise will only encourage you to manipulate me and others, and that is not a good way to grow up.

Some people will not be manipulated. And that is when the tantrums start. The lashing out. The exhibitionist attempts at getting attention.

And the playground justice.

UPDATE: God bless Mr. Charlie Daniels. I used to play his music in a band when I was a kid. I met him in Nashville once. Here's what Mr. Daniels has to say about all this:
Muslims don't believe in same-sex marriage either, but have any of the stalwart mayors attacked any Muslims or Muslim businesses or told them they were not welcome in Chicago, Boston or San Francisco?
Like Mr. Daniels says, I don't give a hoot what your position is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I say, if you're a supporter and you like protesting at Chick-Fil-A, then I dare you -- I DOUBLE DARE YOU!!! (keeping with playground justice) -- go spray paint a mosque with something about how they are filled with hate because the Koran puts down homosexuality just like the Bible does. Go have a same-sex kiss-in in front of a mosque. Go dress up like Mohammed like has been done with the Pope and protest in front of the Egyptian embassy. It is hypocrisy to target Chick-Fil-A and let all the Muslim business go without equal attention. Of course, since I abhor the vandalism at Chick-Fil-A, I would equally abhor anything of the sort against a Muslim business.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Democrats are Out of Touch -- Update

Surely you have seen that the Democrats are pushing to put same-sex marriage into their platform for this year's election. I hope they do. Not because I support the plank, but because it shows just how out of touch they really are.

Even as the economy continues to tank, the Senate has yet to formulate a budget since 2008 and Obama has offered absolutely no leadership on the issue. Check out this graph based on Obama's prediction of the unemployment rate with and without the stimulus package. The stimulus package passed. The unemployment rate remains intolerably high. And what is the solution? More stimulus. More taxes. Pushing forward with a health plan that is doomed to fail and wreak more havoc in the economy, and that few people really want in its present form.

Meanwhile, tensions are rising between Israel and Iran, the situation in Syria is decaying, Eric Holder remains in office, the White House appears to be leaking sensitive information to make the president look good, the president is out campaigning. While America burns.

With this backdrop, we see the priorities of the Democrats. Gay marriage. Chick-Fil-A boycotts. Check out this 2008 presidential election map by county. The blue areas are mostly cities. The rest of the country is red. Look at Texas. Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio are blue. And the border areas with high Hispanic populations. Look at Wyoming. Jackson Hole and Cheyenne are the only places that are blue.

The Democrats are becoming more and more myopic. More and more self-focused. More and more "everyone thinks like us" because they are surrounded in their little urban utopias by like-minded people.

Sorry. Gay marriage -- whatever your position on the issue is -- is simply not one of the more pressing issues facing our country. The fact that the Democrats want to make it an issue means they are not really paying attention to the rest of us, or if they are, they hold us in disdain that we think differently than they do. If we don't want gay marriage, it's because we're bigots who should not be allowed to open businesses or hold jobs or run for public office. It we don't want Obamacare, it's because we want sick people to suffer and die with neglect. If we don't like Social Security, it's because we want old people to starve and freeze to death. And so on.

I wrote a couple of years ago that I'm not a liberal today because modern American liberalism pushed me away. I've been recently accused (if "accused" is really the right word) of being a libertarian, which I'm not. Well, if I seem like I'm way to the right, it is only because the left has gone further and further left, while I've stayed pretty much in the same spot I was in for the 1980 election. It's been 32 years -- 32 years! -- and the Democrats have been pushing me away this whole time.

No wonder people like me seem like extremists to them. But it is they who are out of touch.

UPDATE: Proof of what I'm saying is that Obama is on the verge of losing a very important constituency, African-Americans. Black religious leaders are exceedingly upset with the prospect of the gay marriage plank. This is a demographic that Obama should win 90% of or more. Tried and true Dems are becoming sick and tired of this leftward drift. As Rev. Owens said, "And I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard for a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman." Check out the whole video. This particular demographic has been vocal on this issue since before Prop 8 out in California, and was vocal this past spring. Dems are so out of touch they do not understand what is happening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rahm Emmanuel and Chicago Values

The Mayor of Chicago has banned Chick-Fil-A from opening new outlets in his realm. He says that Chick-Fil-A values are not Chicago values.

I just want to say that when I lived out west and drove east to visit family, we'd pass by ol' Rahm's area. I was struck by the number of billboards for escort services, strip joints, and other similar businesses. I was also struck by how high the price of gas was (I quickly learned to gas up before Illinois), and how run-down the area looked. You can see it all from I-80.

I guess we know what Chicago values are.

And you gotta wonder about a guy who goes from being the president's right hand man to being mayor of Chicago.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Proper Role of Government

A lot has been in the news about Obama's remarks to business owners. I have to admit, the more conservative news outlets have made it sound that Obama is giving credit to government for the success of private businesses, which is not precisely what he said. He was pointing out that businesses succeed when governments help facilitate the process.

But what is Obama really arguing for? That America needs to have a government? Who would say, No? America has very few anarchists, and most of them are a little nuts from what I understand. Is he arguing that government should step in when major projects -- highways, for instance -- are not easily or efficiently achieved by private persons or small communities? Again, who would say No to that? Even hardened libertarians agree that governments are good for something, and things like interstate infrastructure and national defense and things of that nature are precisely the sort of thing the federal government should be focusing on.

But what is he arguing for? He's arguing for higher taxes to pay for the things government does so that businesses can be successful.

If only our taxes went only to such things.

Obama has never seen a budget get passed during his administration. Do you realize that? Now, over at Politifact.com there is an article from a couple of months ago that describes the modern process of federal budgeting. Yet it nitpicks on terminology and fails to describe the Constitutional process accurately. According to the Constitution, is it Congress who has the responsibility of determining the budget. It has become a custom, not required by the Constitution, that the sitting president offer an opinion, and nowadays Congress tends to use that as a starting point, as the article says. But the budget, officially speaking, originates in Congress, specifically in the Senate. Still, the president has a role in making sure that Congress does its job. And while it may be true that a budget passed by Congress does not require the president's signature, budget-related appropriations bills do. The Democrat-controlled Senate has not passed a single budget during the Obama administration.

So, the government is spending money hand-over-fist on God knows what, and Obama is asking people and businesses to pay taxes for it all. Everyone agrees that it is hemorrhaging, and one way to deal with it is to increase taxes. But no one really knows what the budget is, or what is in it!

The questions being begged are these: What does Obama want the money for? What in his view is the role of government in the life of this nation?

It seems to me that he's saying, "Look, you couldn't have your success without the infrastructure and key services that government provides with your tax money. And we need more money to keep the infrastructure and services functioning so you can continue to be successful. So, all we're asking is that the folks with more money to pay more taxes. That's fair, right? And isn't it what businesses need after all." Well, that would be fine if all he were talking about were essential government activities. But the reason the government is spending so much money is that it is spending way too much on the wrong things.

So, here's what I hear Obama saying: "You're dependent on the government, and that's a good thing. The dependency of business on government is what makes business work. So, what we need is more government dependency, and in fact, Americans in general should all become more dependent on government. For education, food, rent, medicine, doctor's visits, preschool, after care, and now also jobs. It's what American success is built on, so what we need is more of it."

Now, does any of this have a bioethical dimension?

Not really. Just letting off some steam in an election year.

And I'm not saying Romney is wonderful in all of this -- I'm saying I'm philosophically opposed to Obama. And even if conservatives have somewhat misrepresented his words, I think his underlying message is way more controversial and dangerous than the superficial stupidity the conservatives are accusing him of.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Fourth of July and Bioethics

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed. Let's take a look at the key paragraph of this singular document, one which states the principles by which the American colonies felt justified in separating themselves from Great Britain -- principles they realized that reasonable men across the world would recognize and agree with.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Self-evident truths. One of the reasons I have this blog is to argue for self-evident truths, and to use them as the basis for ethical reasoning. And the reason for that is that bioethics in America today has no basis in any truths that are either recognized as self-evident or even reliably true. The reigning moral system, if it can be called either moral or a system, is relativism: "It is wrong to force your idea of what is right or wrong on others." This is the closest thing to a self-evident truth at work in bioethics today. Yet, it is neither true nor self-evident (since it contradicts itself).

All men are created equal. Say what  you want about inconsistencies in American life regarding this statement, the signers nonetheless made it. A beggar is as much a human being and a subject of rights as is a king. All human beings are equally human. Today, we argue about the word "person" and try to define the word in a way that lets us get around this principle, this self-evident truth. See what I mean? The plain fact of "this is a living human being" is questioned as to whether or not that individual is a subject of rights and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How in the United States of American can there EVER be a discussion about the permissibility of infanticide or euthanasia or even abortion? I'll tell you how: When we've abandoned our founding principles, and reject the notion of self-evident truths.

Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Being created by GOD, and in being created as a human being, having unalienable rights that are from GOD, is a self-evident truth. This was not subject to debate; only a fool would be stupid enough to try to deny it. Being created by God with rights is the very basis of human equality: We are the same because we are made that way. Also, our rights do not come from the government or the Constitution -- we cannot invent rights that do not exist (say, the right to kill a newborn or a sick person or even oneself). Rights are not a matter of what the law says; rather, the law should articulate itself with respect to rights in order to be a just law. Nor can we remove rights that inhere in the person -- we can abuse, ignore, deny, and violate rights through the law, but we cannot actually change the self-evident and true reality that human beings have rights given them by God. Governments and laws must respect these rights, because they are prior to and superior to any government. A distinction: Some rights are unalienable, some can be conferred. The right to vote or run for office, for instance, is conferred and in being conferred is regulated, and is dependent upon the nature of the government where voting and politicking are part of the process.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The right to LIFE. It is the first right. Abortion denies human equality and the right to life, and makes both subordinate to the right of the abortionist to kill. I do not speak of the woman's choice here, because I have compassion on women facing an unwanted pregnancy; but I do not have compassion on the physician who seeks to exploit her desperation to make money. It is the physician's right to perform the procedure that is really at stake in our current abortion laws. Follow the money. Where does the money go in the abortion industry? Right. The repeal of prohibition -- was it about the people's right to drink alcohol? No, it was about the right of the manufacturers to make and sell it. Follow the money. Liberty is not license, nor is it freedom to do as one pleases, nor does the pursuit of happiness extend to harming others or acting in a way detrimental to society at large. With these rights comes responsibility.

Just powers from the consent of the governed. The government should have limited power, and its power is ordered to justice. That is to say, implicit in this phrase is acknowledgement that some governments can attain powers that exceed justice. And they may attain unjust powers through the consent of the governed -- for example: Obamacare. So the people have a responsibility to know what justice is, to understand and recognize self-evident truths as they relate to government, and to act with integrity and honesty in their civic duties of discerning candidates and voting. Or else, they deserve a hegemonic government that buys their votes with "free" stuff and eventually controls their whole lives.  If they could see us now, the Signers of the Declaration would think we've institutionalized the very thing they revolted against.

OK, I think that's enough. Personally, I think this next election is day is our chance to re-establish American government on our founding principles.

Hopefully, bioethics will follow suit.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Another inept attempt at solving the problem of evil

From an atheist of sorts. Giulio Prisco is a European rocket scientist, undoubtedly talented and brilliant in his field. But philosophy and theology are not rocket science. Prisco is out of his element and it shows.

In a recent article posted at Turing Church (an organization dedicated to proselytizing for the religion of scientism) and reposted at IEET (the first E ironically standing for “ethics”) called The Physics of Miracles and the Problem of Evil, Prisco advances the idea that perhaps we are all bots that live in a computer simulation game, and what we call “God” is really a meta-human (he uses “post-human” but that would not be correct, for reasons I explain below) player who has the power to alter the rules of his game, to intervene in our reality in a way that looks to us like a miracle.

I thought it would be instructional to take his text and critique it. Now, I am not a rocket scientist, so I recognize my limitations in terms of advanced math and physics and computer engineering and the technical aspects of artificial intelligence. I will not dispute Prisco’s expertise in these areas.

I will simply give you his text, and then insert comments, which will be in square brackets and italicized for clarity that it's me speaking.

Begin Prisco:
We may be bots in a reality-wide simulation, and perhaps the player(s) from above can violate our simulated physics when they want. [Descartes said something similar, supposing perhaps that everything present to his mind was a grand illusion perpetrated by some being with the power to do it. Welcome to the 17th Century, Dr. Prisco. Actually, Descartes thought it through a little more than Prisco does. He reasoned that the only thing he could be reasonably sure wasn’t an illusion was his own existence. Everyone else he encountered could be, in his view, an illusion. And since “I” cannot get into another person’s head, I can never be sure anyone else is real like I am. The presumption that everyone is as sentient as I am is not borne up by my experiential data, given the ability of someone else to give me an adequately sophisticated illusion. So it might not be that "we" are all bots, but that "I" am among bots and whether or not "I" am a bot, too, is subject to debate.] In a more popular formulation of the same concept, called Religion, the player(s), called God(s), created our reality and can perform miracles.
[So, he’s basically setting up a technological explanation for what we call supernatural events. Pretty much what Christianity has faced since people first called Christ a magician.]
The two formulations are equivalent for all practical purposes. Many religions assume that Gods are omnipotent and benevolent, but then we have the problem of evil: how can omnipotent and benevolent Gods permit evil and suffering? [The question comes up in the fact of a deficient concept of God, of evil and suffering, and of man. He basically defines "benevolent and omnipotent God" as "that which would not permit natural and moral evils." And since we have natural and moral evils, God cannot exist. But what if that definition is wrong? What if the meaning of "benevolent and omnipotent" is not "what I in my limited human knowledge and wisdom think God should do, or what would do if I were God," but something else? Indeed, that is the case -- the working definition of God in Prisco's argument is faulty in the extreme, and he as a brilliant scientist has no excuse for taking on faith this lame definition that he's heard from others.]
[We could simply stop here and not read the rest because he has identified himself as someone who simply does not know what he is talking about, and his argument ends up being severely and fatally flawed. But keep reading and see what mischief ignorance and misinformation can cause in an otherwise intelligent mind.]
If omnipotent and benevolent Gods permit evil and suffering, then they are either not omnipotent, or not benevolent, or neither, or perhaps they don’t exist at all. [See, I was right about his definition of "omnipotent, benevolent God." There are other possibilities Prisco cannot even fathom. What if God made humans with free will and, in order not to violate that freedom, permits evil? And what if there are greater goods than those lost in suffering, and God has the power and the justice to make up for suffering in an infinitely abundant way? I’m just asking.] In fact, the problem of evil is one of the main reasons why former believers become atheists. [Another main reason is, apparently, intellectual weakness and/or dishonesty.] It turns out that the problem of evil has a simple solution. [Keep that in mind: A simple solution.]
The picture [in the original post] is a screenshot taken in the popular computer game Half Life 2 by Valve Software. The people in the picture are bots, or Non-Player Characters (NPCs). They have a limited “intelligence” and can respond to a limited range of situations that can arise in the game, for example if you go near the guards they will beat you.
The “intelligence” of bots in computer games is still light years behind real intelligence. However, I am persuaded that real, self-aware AI of human and higher-level will be achieved someday, perhaps by the computer gaming industry itself, and perhaps in the next couple of decades. Then, computer games will contain sentient, intelligent persons [programs] like you and I. [Yes, the games will contain sentient persons who are slaves of the user, created to be toys, with no destiny other than the entertainment of the user. If Prisco is right in the reality-is-a-computer-game model, then we have a chance to avoid committing the very evil that “god” has apparently perpetrated on us, namely, having made us not with our own being and our own free will but simply as entertainment slaves. But the only way to do that is to not pursue AI any further than what we have already.]
If computer game bots can be intelligent and sentient, perhaps we are sentient and intelligent computer game bots. Do we live in a computer simulation? This is a frequent discussion topic in transhumanist interest groups, and a matter of scientific investigation. Who is running the simulation? Perhaps unknowable aliens in another level of reality have invented our world and us. A frequent assumption (see The New God Argument) is that future humans run our reality as a historically accurate simulation of their past (our present). [Impossible because it would result in an infinite regression of simulations within simulations within simulations, with no assurance that the future humans are themselves not a simulation already.]
[This is all part of the simple solution of evil. Simple.]
In a 1992 essay entitled Pigs in Cyberspace, Hans Moravec formulated (in modern terms) the idea of our reality as a simulation. “The very moment we are now experiencing may actually be (almost certainly is) such a distributed mental event, and most likely is a complete fabrication that never happened physically,” he says, implying that observers living in simulated realities may vastly outnumber observers living in original physical realities.
Bishop George Berkeley thought that the reality we perceive, and ourselves in it, exist in the mind of “that supreme and wise Spirit, in whom we live, move, and have our being“: God. In other words, we are thoughts in the Mind of God. It is easy to see that Berkeley and Moravec say very similar things (actually, the same thing), each in the language of his philosophy and age.
Apparently, there is an important difference between Berkeley and Moravec: As a 18th century Christian and a representative of the Church, Berkeley believed in supernatural phenomena, in principle not understandable by science, while Moravec, as a modern engineer, believes reality is fully understandable and explainable by science. [Actually, Berkeley would say that the physical world is explainable by science fully to the same degree as Moravec would. The difference is that Berkeley believes there is part of reality beyond the physical world, which Moravec cannot accept because it is beyond his science to detect and measure. Yet, as a consequence, Moravec proposes a fully anthropomorphic “god” – the simulation designer in this case – whose existence he cannot prove, whose attributes he cannot know, and whose purposes are inscrutable. Funny, huh? In order to accept reality without God, he had to invent a god in his own image, whose existence and properties are even more unlikely and unattractive than God’s.] Future engineers within the framework of future science will develop Moravec’s simulated realities [within the framework of future science in our simulation reality, a game in a higher-level reality that itself is most likely a simulation. Indeed, we could have a multiplicity of simulations running within our reality, which might be only one of a multiplicity of simulations in a higher-level reality, which itself could be one of a multiplicity of simulations within another, and so on]. If our reality is a simulation, everything in our universe can be understood in terms of the physical laws of the higher-level reality in which it is simulated [and whose physical laws are defined by the next-higher-level reality in which it is simulated, and so on.]
But… this does not mean that it [the simulation that is our reality] must always be understandable in terms of our own physical laws: Moravec’s simulation cosmology may contain supernatural phenomena, because the reality engineers up there may choose to violate the rules of the game. Yes, as Richard Dawkins says, they are creatures [=things created, implying a creator] naturally evolved in their physical universe [or rather programmed to inhabit a simulation universe like ours by an even higher computer engineer] and they cannot violate their physics [because Dawkins knows these things, and he’s always right; but of course the designer-users of that computer simulation world can. And so on, and so on…], but they can violate ours if they want [but only because they were designed to have that power by someone else.]
[Ok, let’s use our imaginations, shall we! Because we have been well grounded in logic and reality so far, and it’s just good to think outside the box a bit. Let’s propose that we are on the bottom rung of an immense ladder. Each rung represents the computer-simulation-reality game of the rung above (making us the bottom rung, but working on building a rung below us). Naturally, as we go up the rungs, we encounter increasingly superior and advanced and evolved computer simulation engineers. Well, why should there not be a being who is so advanced, so evolved, so superior at the top of the ladder that he doesn’t need computers, but simply has to think and his thoughts become reality? Not simply thoughts in his mind, but these thoughts having their own true, real existence. The “simulated reality” whose “bots” think they are living in a computer simulation would actually be real beings living in a true reality, albeit one thought up and made real by this superior intelligence. And the theory rampant among them that they are living in a computer simulation would be mere superstition of their religion of scientism, but an expected one, considering their limited intelligence and their arrogance borne of the knowledge of their own superiority to other things they encounter, such that they suppose anything superior to them has to be like them and equally dependent upon technology.

At any rate, if “we” are in a computer simulation, then our “reality engineers” are quite likely to be in one too, and so are their reality engineers, and theirs, onward either to an infinite progression (which is logically impossible) or to one Supreme Engineer who is in a real reality and in whose creation all of the lower rungs of the ladder exist, down to our bottom rung. Why is so far-fetched to think that such a Supreme Engineer can make a real universe without the use of technology? The Supreme Post-Human, no? And then all the levels between the Supreme Post-Human and us become unnecessary to suppose.]

Make this simple experiment [you mean try this simple exercise]: Run a Conway’s Game of Life program, choose an initial pattern, and let it evolve for a while. Now, stop the program, flip a cell, and resume the program. You have just performed a miracle: something that goes against the physical laws (the simple cellular automata evolution rules of Life) of the lower-level reality that you are simulating. Of course simple Life patterns are not complex enough to be sentient observers, but hypothetical observers within Life would observe an event that cannot be understood in terms of the physical laws of their universe. A miracle.
In the short movie CA Resurrection below [imbedded in the original], made with a Game of Life program, the protagonist pattern is doomed to certain death by interaction with a very unfriendly environment (sounds familiar?), but is copied before death and restored to life [he means the copy is pasted] in a friendlier environment. This (scientifically plausible) computational resurrection is equivalent to the religious concept of resurrection in Heaven. [Analogous in a certain sense, perhaps, but not equivalent by any means, unless you have a deficient understanding of our earthly environment, death, resurrection, and heaven. Oh, right, yes, I forgot. Perfectly logical that he thinks it’s equivalent. And, given the existence of God -- properly understood, which excludes Prisco -- religiously described resurrection is also scientifically plausible.] I am a pattern doomed to certain death by interaction with a very unfriendly environment, and I hope to be copied and resurrected. [So here are some ways they are not equivalent. When we die, we are not copied and pasted, not even analogously. Death is not really death in the absolute sense, but rather death of the body, for there is a continuity of life and consciousness and experience and identity in terms of the soul, whose existence of course Prisco would probably deny. However, he posited resurrection and heaven, even if just for the sake of argument, which would be unintelligible if he also posited for that argument the non-existence of the soul. At any rate, it is not copying while still alive, letting the original die in its hostile environment, and then pasting the copy somewhere else. If it is a copy, then it is not the original. The life of the pasted copy in a friendly environment is not resurrection, but simply the life of a copy pasted in a different place from where the original met its demise. It’s more like a clone than a resurrection. Resurrection, on the other hand, is not a copy and paste job, but a restoration of “this” body that I’m in right now.]
If we admit the possibility of a God who created our reality (or a post-human player who runs the simulation that is our reality, but the two concepts are really one and the same), able to perform miracles, we must face the Problem of Evil: a benevolent and omnipotent God would not permit evil, so since evil exists, God is either not benevolent, or not omnipotent, or neither.
[We’ll get to the problem of evil. Eventually. For the simple solution. Here is that word, post-human, which I promised to explain. A post-human by definition is somehow derived from us, “after” us, either as a “more evolved” (so-called) biological descendent of ours or as a human-created thing either biological or AI that becomes our successor or some combination of these. However, “god” as used by Prisco is not post-human but prior to us because it is the one who created that program in which we are mere bots. I would give Prisco the benefit of the doubt and say, “aw, you know what he means,” but instead I’m going to hold him to higher standards and say that to call the “god” that created our computer simulation reality a post-human is just plain inane.]
[What follows would also get, like, a D in Intro to Philosophy 101 at a community college.] The medieval philosophers, who were as smart as contemporary philosophers and thought a lot about these things, knew that “omnipotent” is a concept that needs to be defined and limited. [A link to Wikipedia rather than, say, a medieval philosopher.] Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it? If he could lift the rock, then it seems that the being could cease to be omnipotent, as the rock was not heavy enough [this does not make sense]; if he could not, it seems that the being was not omnipotent to begin with.
But a rock so heavy that it cannot be lifted by an omnipotent being cannot exist, because an omnipotent being is defined as a being who can lift all rocks [say it with me, kids!]. The rock is a contradiction in terms and a logical impossibility, like a triangle with four sides (a triangle is defined as a polygon with three sides).
No God can ever draw a triangle with four sides, because a triangle with four sides cannot exist by definition. [And the implications of the fact he enunciates elude him. If a four-sided triangle cannot exist, it is not because of definitions or logic or defects in the power of the one drawing it. It is because it is impossible for a triangle to have four sides. It is impossible for a triangle. The triangle is the thing with defective power, totally unable to have anything other than three sides. If God cannot make a four-sided triangle, it is because of the triangle. There is no doubt that God can make a four-sided figure; but no four-sided figure can be a triangle. The defect of power is in the thing’s inability to exist in a certain way that, if it did exist in that way, would annihilate it as the thing that it is.] I don’t believe in the supernatural [ha!], but I can believe in natural Gods [if they’re natural in the sense he means, they’re not gods], and I can believe that natural Gods created our reality [but nothing stops those “gods” from being computer simulations created by something else, which is probably not what he means by “natural” since they’d be synthetic]. A natural God is only omnipotent in the sense that he is much more powerful than us, but still has necessary limitations. [That depends on how far up the ladder you go, which Prisco’s mind has not considered. His argument is this. Triangles cannot have 4 sides. God cannot make a 4-sided triangle. Therefore, God is not omnipotent. Ridiculous. Human languages are capable of nonsense -- just look up the lyrics of Oh Susanna -- and the rock "paradox" is one such combination of words. By the way, some people hold that the immovable stone that God has created is the human heart once the human has darkened and frozen it by sin and arrogance.]
[This is all part of the simple solution to the problem of evil, by the way. Remember, simple.]
If reality is a computation, it is probably [probably] an incompressible computation with no shortcuts: the only way to know what happens at time t, is to run the computation until time t. Besides some very simple initial configurations, the Game of Life is incompressible: if you want to know what happens at time step t, you must run the program through all intermediate time steps.
It makes sense to assume that reality is an incompressible computation, and the universe is the fastest computer that can compute itself [the universe is both the computer and the program. Nice.]. In other words, a 100% complete and accurate prediction of tomorrow’s weather cannot be done in less than 24 hours, and the only way to predict the future with complete accuracy is waiting for the future to happen. [From our perspective, anyway. It is arrogant to think our perspective is the only one. Note the way he defines the situation: The ONLY way FOR US to predict the future IN OUR REALITY with 100% COMPLETE ACCURACY.]
[Another imagination exercise. Let’s imagine a computer program so sophisticated that it can account for every sub-atomic particle’s behavior in the universe, every motion of every blade of grass in the breeze, the relationship of every grain of sand to every other as the waves crash upon the beach and of every hydrogen molecule in the infinite space between the stars. But, let’s imagine that this highly sophisticated program and the machinery and the brilliant user who developed it have no reliable predictive capacity or tools, no ability to project based on, say, lower level computer simulations that at least let the user anticipate a range of likely future events.]
This assumption makes sense [uh-huh] because the existence of a faster-than-the-universe computer within the universe would lead to logical contradictions. [So? We’ve had a few of those already. And this applies only to OUR ability to predict our future in our simulation reality, not the User/god's ability to predict our future in HIS reality.] Suppose you could compute the state of the universe tomorrow faster than the universe itself. The results of the computation will include the color of the shirt that you will wear tomorrow. Then you can invalidate the prediction by simply wearing, tomorrow, a shirt of another color.
[Invalidating a prediction is not a logical contradiction, but a demonstration of human freedom and the limitations of the prediction program. If you could change the color of your shirt, then the most logical conclusion is that the prediction was wrong, not that you caused temporal rift or “changed the future” – this is a difficulty with the 100% complete accuracy criterion. The prediction would a) not be infallible; b) not be a determinant or cause of the future, but only a reader of one likely outcome; c) inherently be only of limited utility because only the User/god’s computer can really run the universe program rightly, and it is already a contradiction in terms to say that a subroutine within the universe program can run the whole universe program faster than the computer running the universe program. Ridiculous actually. Also, Prisco sets up a time-t snapshot here, not a video of all day tomorrow. If at time t tomorrow I am predicted to have on a red shirt, I could think I’d be thwarting the future by wearing a blue one all day; but what I don’t know is if I will encounter circumstances requiring me to change my shirt at t minus some amount of time and end up in a red shirt anyway.]
The life of the prisoners brutalized by the guards in the Half Life 2 scene in the picture above is very ugly, and if they were sentient they would suffer a lot. [And they would have no choice. If the guards were also sentient, maybe they’d not be so brutal. Maybe the prisoners wouldn’t even be in prison. If the prisoners were sentient but the guards not, they should be able to work out their escape. If. If. If. If.] Unfortunately, similar [in a certain, limited, nuanced sense] things have happened in our reality, for example in the 1930s, and millions of sentient persons have been brutalized by evil regimes, and suffered a lot. Surely a benevolent and omnipotent God would try to do something to avoid that.
[Two things to say here. One is, well, we really don’t know what God did, now do we? In theory, God could be constantly – and without us ever able to know – averting for us evils and horrors far greater than what we’re experiencing, while respecting the freedom of human individuals, and realizing that earthly suffering isn’t really the worst thing that could happen to someone. But that takes a clear and relatively complete understanding of God, man, freedom, and evil that is utterly lacking here. And Two, the Holocaust and getting smacked by a guard are not the same thing. The Holocaust was not a sudden event, and Auschwitz or something like it, could easily have been predicted by a wise User/god, years (in our time) before it happened.]
But there are no computational shortcuts [that he is aware of]. The only way to predict with complete accuracy that certain events would lead to, say, Auschwitz, is to let the computation unfold until Auschwitz. [OK, if we cannot predict the emergence of a particular Nazi death camps, we might -- given the level of knowledge that User/god would undoubtedly have -- be able to predict that sort of thing with fair reliability. But what Prisco is trying to say is that what people of religion call “God” is unable to see the future and powerless to do anything about it; therefore “god” cannot be an omnipotent supreme being, but only some fallible, limited creature, underscoring the likelihood that “god” is User/god.]
But wait a sec — you may be thinking — can’t God [he means User/god, not God in the common sense] just use a faster computer to make the prediction? After all, we can predict the evolution of a Game of Life on our computer, by running it on a faster computer. If we see (on the faster computer) that something bad will happen to our favorite pattern, we can stop the game and try to flip some cells to ensure it doesn’t happen in our game.
Well, no, it wouldn’t work. Remember that these computations contain sentient beings. If God uses a faster reality simulator to predict Auschwitz before it happens in our reality simulator… Auschwitz will happen in the faster simulator, and people will suffer in the faster simulator. [So some copies are different from the originals, except when pasting a copy is resurrection, then they’re the same.]
[Besides which, after running the program for a while and finding an Auschwitz, he would have to run, oh, about INFINITE what-if scenarios, to find out what happens if he prevents Auschwitz – doesn’t this rocket scientist watch Star Trek? In averting a horrible evil by saving Joan Collins’ life, Kirk would let the Nazis win the war and dominate the world and he would eradicate the future in which he and his pals live. So he has to let her die instead.]
This “solves” [HAH! Note the use of scare quotes] the Problem of Evil [and it's a simple solution, is it not?], because God is unable to predict the future with complete accuracy and can only work with incomplete resources and information, like us. [So User/god is not omnipotent -- but then again, neither is he benevolent, and indeed he is intentionally cruel!]
OK, that's it for Prisco's piece. What do you think of the conclusion? Satisfying?

Not much of a solution if you ask me. One objection is the necessity of having “complete” accuracy in predicting the future – and I speak here as granting Prisco’s notion that we’re in a computer simulation with a User/god. What a moron the User/god must be that he can make such a complex and sophisticated program and not be able to foresee the horrors of the Holocaust, or stop it when only, say, millions had been killed with no sign that it was gonna stop soon. Even if User/god cannot predict a sudden evil, he should at least do something about habitual and growing evil, which he would know from the past, not the future. This is really goofy reasoning.

Another is this: What if User/god DOES have complete prognostic accuracy, but LIKES the game the way it is? Clearly User/god is not at all benevolent, but rather far more defective and cruel than the traditional notion of God. It’s cruel, in the extreme. User/god programmed the universe full of sentient beings and intentionally included unavoidable evil, knowing he'd enjoy causing untold suffering.

Why not create a universe in which there are no natural disasters, no diseases, no accidents, and no moral evil? I'll tell you why. BORING. This is a game for User/god, with no purpose but his entertainment. How totally DULL a game with no evil would be! Also, the only way to do that is to make the ostensibly sentient bots without free will, unable to choose what User/god calls evil.

Actually, it's probably a multi-player game, with natural and moral evils simply tactical ploys of the different players in the attempt to win. THAT is a more likely explanation of evil than limited prognostic accuracy.

As far as how a theist would explain the existence of evil, given the existence of God, I leave it to you to look into.