THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH and conservatives are appalled by the idea of homosexual marriages, and rightly so. It is a weird idea, akin to house-man marriages--- that is, the terms in the phrase just don't fit together. What it means, of course, is the elevation of a certain kind of homosexual relationship to the same level of government approval as marriage. But what interests at me at the moment is why it is this issue which is exciting attention, rather than, say no-fault divorce, which has had such a deleterious effect on the family and society that "gay marriage" has little left to kill. Just look at all the turmoil listed in Ted Olsen's Christianity today web-log of July 14.
I think the reason can be found in the difference between natural law and divine law. Natural law refers to moral principles common to most or all human cultures. One can believe that natural law comes from God, from evolution, or from some other source; what matters for present purposes is that it is universal. People don't like snakes, or cannibalism, or hurting babies. Divine law, on the other hand, is law promulgated by God via revelation. Divine law is not univerally known, though it may be universally binding. If you do not believe in God, then you will not find divine law compelling, or even, really, acknowledge its existence. Christians do not acknowledge the divine law in the Talmud or the Koran, for instance.
Not all divine law is natural law, and not all natural law is divine law, but there is some overlap. Murder violates both divine and natural law. For a Christian to make an idol of Jehovah violates divine law, but not natural law. To eat human flesh violates natural law, but not divine law (the Old Testament culinary laws do not apply to Christians, and there is no New Testament prohibition of cannibalism).
Homosexuality violates both natural and divine law. It is universally abhorred (yes, I know it is tolerated in some cultures, but so is cannibalism and murder-- but those are exceptional cultures), and it is condemned both in Romans and Leviticus. Thus, not surprisingly, conservatives and churches oppose it, and oppose the even more unnatural concept of homosexual marriage.
No-fault divorce, on the other hand, does not violate natural law. It is common in many cultures for a man to be able to discard his wife without much reason; he just has to be willing to suffer the antipathy of his wife's family. Divorce for any reason except adultery does, however, seem to violate divine law. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says that even though Jewish law allowed easy divorce, it still is wicked except in cases of adultery ("sexual impurity", actually, if I remember rightly, but this would at least include adultery). From the standpoints of natural law, including what a reasonable and intelligent person would think after careful deliberation, this wickedness is not obvious. It would seem that if a husband beats his wife out of pure desire to cause pain, refuses to support her, and threatens to kill the children, then she has reason to divorce him. But Jesus forbids it; she may desert him indefinitely, perhaps, and perhaps get a civil divorce, but she may not undo the marriage and marry someone else instead.
I think this explains what gets many churchgoers upset. Most churchgoers, even sincere Christians, do not get detailed religious teaching, especially regarding unpleasant truths. Such teaching is a duty of a pastor, not a pleasure, and his congregation is not going to thank him for it. Thus, most Christians, including even most evangelicals and Catholics, are not opposed to an at least moderately liberal divorce law. Such a law-- say, one that allows divorce by mutual agreement or even if one party disagrees, if that party has committed a severe fault--- is in accord with natural law. If pastors do not draw attention to biblical teaching on the subject, their flocks will not know the divine law.
Homosexuality, on the other hand, is an obvious enough evil that it does not require special teaching. Indeed, special teaching is required to make people believe homosexuality is not a bad thing, and that is one reason why there is so much agitation for official approval from homosexuals.
Appendix: I think official Catholic teaching may be that divorce is a violation of natural law, but that is making natural law into "What is truly right" rather than "What is written in the hearts of men". The bad thing about the idea "natural law" is that so often it is used simply to refer to what the speaker thinks the law ought to be. We should recognize that many bad deeds are not prohibited by natural law, though, presumably, a Christian ought not to do any of them because he does not wish to displease God even in things that God has not specifically told us about.
[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.19a.htm ]
MARK STEYN has scored another hit with his column on European integration, "There was a European, a European and a European . . ." A sample paragraph:
Under the convention's proposals, a new European Trait Commissioner will be given the authority to break down trait barriers within the EU and correct regional imbalances. "Mr Berlusconi, for example, would benefit from being more Finnish and dour, or if necessary Swedish and suicidal."[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.18a.htm ]
Instapundit points out a CBS story on FBI incompetence. Translator Sibel Edmonds complained about purposeful slackness and a Turkish spy, and was fired. Senator Grassley has been investigating. Excerpts:
Because she is fluent in Turkish and other Middle Eastern languages, Edmonds, a Turkish-American, was hired by the FBI soon after Sept. 11 and given top-secret security clearance to translate some of the reams of documents seized by FBI agents who, for the past year, have been rounding up suspected terrorists across the United States and abroad.Which is more incompetent, the FBI or the federal immigration bureaucrats? Time after time, the FBI demonstrates that it is a rotten organization. Why is there no housecleaning?
Edmonds says that to her amazement, from the day she started the job, she was told repeatedly by one of her supervisors that there was no urgency - that she should take longer to translate documents so that the department would appear overworked and understaffed. ...
Sibel Edmonds was fired. The FBI offered no explanation, saying in the letter only that her contract was terminated completely for the government's convenience.
[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.17a.htm ]
JOE LIBERMAN was actually once thought to have more integrity than most politicians--- hard to believe, isn't it? But he's moved into more than just abandoning his religion for his campaign, as the American Prowler notes:
For example, both of the Lieberman children who are on the campaign are earning six- figure salaries. While it's fairly common for candidates of all ilk to bring family on board, the Lieberman payouts were surprisingly excessive for a man who prides himself on watching the bottom line.I wonder if it would be illuminating to look at other candidates' family loot?
[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.16a.htm ]
DID THE FRENCH TRY TO TRICK US about the purported Niger-Iraq uranium contacts? Bush cited British intelligence in his speech rather than documents which he had because the documents seemed suspicious--- and in fact were fairly clumsy forgeries, e.g., bearing the signature of a foreign minister 14 years out of date.
Where did the forgeries come from? The March 8, 2003 Toronto Globe and Mail says
The forgeries were sold to an Italian intelligence agent by a con man some time ago and passed on to French authorities, but the scam was uncovered by the IAEA only recently, according to United Nations sources familiar with the investigation.Slate has a good timeline of stories on the provenance of the documents.
[CNN, March 14] U.S. officials are saying that they got the documents from the intelligence service of another country, which was not Britain and was not Israel, but which they will not name.Thus, the picture we get is that the documents were forged by some private person and then passed through Italian and French government hands to the United States. But why would France, which was hostile to the U.S. case against Iraq, willing to pass along documents purporting to help the U.S. case?
April 10, 2003-- Washington Post
Western intelligence officials tell op-ed columnist David Ignatius that the forgery "was originally put in intelligence channels by France" but that "the officials wouldn't speculate on French motives."
July 14, 2003 -- Agence France-Presse
The news wire reports the Italian government's denial that its intelligence services "handed the United States and Britain documents indicating that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapons programme."
This "denial" fails to satisfy, of course, because earlier reports mentioned only that Italy provided a summary of the documents to the United States.
Finally, AFP cites a Financial Times report that Britain received information about Iraq's Niger uranium aspirations from two sources, "thought to be France and Italy"--- which brings us right back to where we started.
The obvious answer is that the French knew the documents were forgeries, and wanted to tempt the Bush Administration into citing them publicly. Somebody would then pull the rug out from under Bush. Or, the French could do it, if need be.
Note that this strategy is a good one regardless of whether Iraq really was trying to buy uranium from Niger. Either way, the Bush Administration would be embarassed. And if the contacts were real, then the forgeries would distract attention from genuine intelligence, and make the Americans reluctant to use the real stuff lest they be burned twice.
This reminds me of something else related to France. During the War, I expected that afterwards we would discover records of bribes to French officials and covert deals between Iraq and French companies (and German, Belgian, etc. companies). We haven't. I'm surprised.
I did, however, come across a Pravda article laying out the story of Iraq's first nuclear weapons program-- the one that Israel blew up, to universal condemnation by the civilized world. The article is rather wild (it talks about Israeli assassinations of Iraqi nuclear scientists and blowing up equipment in France before it could be delivered to Iraq), but I suppose it is correct when it says that the Soviet Union refused to help Saddam with his nukes, but France stepped in to help, for a hefty price.
...That-era French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac offered Saddam a reactor, which was rather powerful for that time. In addition to the reactor, Chirac offered Hussein a laboratory with a yearly reserve (72 kilos) of 93% enriched uranium. Nothing was mentioned about IAEA guarantees, although that quantity of nuclear fuel was enough for producing several A-bombs, the capacity of which could be comparable to the one that was dropped on Hiroshima. The French definitely realized that offering the nuclear fuel and the reactor to Iraq was not a game. However, France eventually sacrificed that for the sake of three billion dollars. Paris thought that Iraq would not be able to extract plutonium without a very important component. Saddam did not ask for it, which meant that he was going to build just a network of nuclear power plants in his country. However, Baghdad turned out to be rather sly: in 1976 Iraq signed a contract with Rome to purchase that very missing component v the so-called hot chamber. This chamber is used to process radioactive ingredients of the nuclear fuel, extracting plutonium as a result.There's lots more to the article, though how much of it is true I don't know
The USSR was very unhappy to learn about the deal between Iraq and France. Foreign Minister Gromyko was very upset, when he read a paragraph of the official agreement, which ran: ?All persons of Jewish nationality can not take part in the program either in Iraq or in France.¦ Gromyko concluded that an A-bomb was meant for Israel....
JULY 19. The latest news implies, without saying it outright, that the French were not involved and U.S. knowledge of the false documents came straight from Italy. See the Washington Times of July 19.
[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.15a.htm ]
IRAQ DID NOT, IT SEEMS, PURCHASE URANIUM from Niger. Democrats therefore say that President Bush is a liar. But they are lying themselves, as a Clifford May tells us in National Review, because that is not what Bush said. What he said in his State of the Union address was:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.All that is entirely true. President Bush did not say that Hussein had bought uranium from Niger. Rather, he said that the British believed that Hussein had tried to buy uranium (not that he had succeeded), and that the IAEA said in the 1990's that Hussein was working on nuclear weapons. Both of those are indisputably true statements. Moreover, the British, and, as far as I know, the IAEA, still hold by their claims.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.
Mr. May also dissects the New York Times piece by Joseph Wilson, a recently retired career diplomat who was asked by Vice-President Cheney to go to Niger to check into the uranium story. Wilson says in the second sentence of his article,
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.But what is his evidence? --That when he went to Niger, the U.S. ambassador there was skeptical that Saddam had tried to buy uranium, that all the Niger officials he talked with denied it, and that if Saddam had tried, he would have been blocked because it would have required approval of Niger government officials and a company controlled by Japanese, French, German, Spanish, and Nigerian interests.
We all know that people from those countries wouldn't lie in exchange for a few million dollars apiece, don't we?
Thus, Mr. Wilson's evidence that the Administration twisted intelligence information boils down to the fact that it ignored his report that nobody in Niger would risk their jobs by telling him the Niger government was lying.
It slips through in Wilson's article that he was on the National Security Council Staff under Clinton. And-- in a bit of honest journalism that does the NYT credit-- he admits that he was a critic of Gulf War II. But what is not mentioned-- but what Mr. May points out-- about Wilson is, that in addition to all the career credentials that are mentioned in the article,
He's an "adjunct scholar" at the Middle East Institute -- which advocates for Saudi interests. The March 1, 2002 issue of the Saudi government-weekly Ain-Al Yaqeen lists the MEI as an "Islamic research institutes supported by the Kingdom."Returning to the Wilson article, we discover at the very end that Wilson himself thinks it is quite plausible that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons, and is sure that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons programs! All that Wilson objects to is that the Administration claimed that Saddam was trying to develop nuclear weapons when Wilson's "information" about Niger was negative. This has to be seen to be believed. Here are Wilson's last three paragraphs:
He's a vehement opponent of the Bush administration which, he wrote in the March 3, 2003 edition of the left-wing Nation magazine, has "imperial ambitions." Under President Bush, he added, the world worries that "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness."
He also wrote that "neoconservatives" have "a stranglehold on the foreign policy of the Republican Party." He said that "the new imperialists will not rest until governments that ape our world view are implanted throughout the region, a breathtakingly ambitious undertaking, smacking of hubris in the extreme."
He was recently the keynote speaker for the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, a far- left group that opposed not only the U.S. military intervention in Iraq but also the sanctions-- and even the no-fly zones that protected hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Shias from being slaughtered by Saddam.
If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.July 18: Here's the Democratic Party site that simply lies about what Bush said (go to the supposed transcript on the site; I don't know if they falsified their soundfile too):
I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program -- all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested.
Read His Lips[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.14a.htm ]
In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush told us of an imminent threat.
PRESIDENT BUSH: "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." [2003 State of the Union]
America took him at his word.
But now we find out that it wasn't true.
Far worse, the Administration knew it wasn't true.
GOING TO CHURCH is neglected by many people who call themselves Christians. That is a mistake. If you really wish to serve God (a big if, admittedly), then you should realize that churchgoing provides at least a minimal amount of each of several things you should be doing weekly. These are things it's pretty hard to argue with, no matter what your variety of Christianity (as opposed to, say, Communion, the need for which is debated).
[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.13a.htm ]
ROTTEN ORGANIZATIONS do not indicate their rottenness so much by operational problems as by the way they deal with the problems, and, in particular, how they punish those to blame. A case in point is Brooklyn College. The Johnson tenure case shows that the history department is thoroughly corrupt, but that does not by itself indicate that the college is corrupt as a whole. The best organizations have the occasional problem. But if it is a good organization, the problem is precisely the occasion on which its quality is revealed.
If the college administration had responded by punishing those in the history department who tried to block Johnson's tenure in retaliation for his opposition in new hiring, that would show us that Brooklyn College as a whole was sound. But Erin O'Connor's July 8 web-log tells us otherwise.
One might think that in the wake of such public exposure, Burrows, along with Gallagher and the other players in Brooklyn College's malicious and damaging little game, might face some sort of official censure for their illegal and immoral activities. One would think, at the very least, that Brooklyn College administrators would be feeling rather cool toward the faculty who brought such deserved disgrace upon the school. But one would be sorely wrong to cherish any such expectations. No such punishment appears to be forthcoming. And at least one figure in this hideous academic drama is getting rewarded for it: Burrows has just been awarded the elite and sought-after post of "Distinguished Professor." On July 2, President Kimmich announced that Burrows has been named to the prestigious post, which carries with it an annual sinecure of $25,000 on top of Burrows' regular salary. Choosing Burrows over other candidates because he is, in Kimmich's words, "a scholar of great distinction, a much-prized teacher and a valued colleague," Kimmich has made a virtue of Burrows' underhanded and two-faced conduct in the KC Johnson affair and has, by implication, announced his ongoing support for Brooklyn College faculty who abuse their power.Instead, what President Kimmich should have done was to have given 0% salary increases to every member of the History Department, except perhaps Professor Johnson. If some of them left in a huff, that would be all to the good.
[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.12a.htm ]
JUDICIAL SUBVERSION of the Constitution is old news, I guess, but Eugene Volokh points out a particularly egregious case by the Nevada Supreme Court. The Nevada state legislature was deadlocked and hadn't authorized state spending-- a not uncommon problem in legislative brinkmanship, and one that has often happened before in Nevada. Also, the state constitution (a) requires the state to fund public schools, and (b) has a 2/3 requirement for enacting tax increases. What the Court did in Guinn v. The Legislature , with just one dissent, was to order the legislature to fund the state government immediately rather than wait until the start of the new fiscal year, and to do it by ignoring the 2/3 requirement needed for new taxes. They do this quite baldly. Rather than hint that they won't object if the Legislature violates the 2/3 requirement they command the Legislature to ignore it-- a command presumably enforceable by jailing the legislators indefinitely for contempt until they obey the Court's order:
Therefore we grant the petition in part and order the clerk of this court to issue a writ of mandamus directing the Legislature of the State of Nevada to proceed expeditiously with the 20th Special Session under simple majority rule.As Volokh points out, this is totally outrageous. The Court could more plausibly have ordered the Legislature to pass a budget, or even have ordered the Governor to continue spending on education at the previous year's level. But to order a tax increase is simply judicial lawlessness. They might just as well have said that a 30% margin was enough to pass a tax increase.
I am glad that Volokh proposes impeachment for the judges. It is surprising that this remedy is not used for judges who break their oaths of office, and, indeed, that law professors are so shocked by the idea that judges might need to be disciplined for decisions that purposely ignore the law.
WHICH DO WE REMEMBER BETTER, good events or bad events? Thomas Gilovich notes in How We Know What Isn't So that although one might think that the problem with gamblers is that they remember their wins but not their losses, in fact the opposite seems to be true. He found in experiments that they remembered their losses-- but only because they wanted to find excuses for them.
By carefully scrutinizing and explaining away their losses, while accepting their winnings at face value, gamblers do indeed rewrite their personal histories of success and failure. Losses are counted not as losses, but as `near wins' (p. 55).[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.11a.htm ]
DEFINING "HUMAN" is not easy and it matters. Whose death can be murder? Who counts in the utilitarian or Pareto calculus? Who has a soul that can be lost or saved? I just came across a 1997 posting by Dean Sherwood that introduces a new angle: the human as property-owner and contract-maker.
...our laws and customs will have to change to accommodate machine intelligence, enhanced animals, brainless human clones (organ banks), bio-gadgets using human brain tissue cultures, experimental human-animal chimeras, human minds copied into other media (and then altered or excerpted)... ... If nothing else, imagine the shopkeeper who, before accepting money for a box of crackers, must demand documentary evidence that the purchaser is "human" or risk prosecution (or forfeiture) for, in effect, receiving stolen money (because only a human is a moral agent capable of making a valid transaction).I'm not sure what to say on the big question, but I can turn with relief to the law- and-economics one.
Suppose I build a robot to do some of my work. This is not a menial robot. Rather, I want it to prioritize tasks that I give it, and to figure out how to do them, in a way complicated enough that I can't be sure at the end whether the robot did everything right unless I check everything so thoroughly that I lose the benefit of having a robot doing the work.
I would want to motivate the robot by giving it a utility function-- a distaste for effort and a taste for things that come with the wages of effort. Maybe I could simply make my robot a miser, paying him wages in toy money and making him want to maximize his toy money bank account. But there might be a reason I'd want to pay him in real money, which he would spend on real goods. In fact, going around the question of motivation, I might want him to pay for his own maintenance and upgrades, delegating to him the decision of when and how, and this would require giving him control over some money.
The robot is probably not like a corporation, a trust, or a government, because in this situation I don't want to have it acting under human control. Those three legal institutions are all "persons" in the law, I think, but they have fiduciary duties to humans and can take no action without human control.
My robot is more like a human slave. Slaves in Classical times and in the American South often owned property, in effect (I don't know about legally). Their masters wanted to motivate them, and so paid them extra--"tips" of a sort-- or allowed them to go off and earn money on their own. Morality would constrain seizing the slave's money even if the law did not, and, just as important, a master who paid wages and then took them back would not be able to motivate that slave or others in the future.
So I pay my robot money wages. Legally, I still own the money, in the Indiana of 2003. But what happens when the robot goes to the store and buys a book? Can I go and get my money back from the store?
First consider a couple of analogies. What would happen if I lost some money on the street and the storekeeper found it? I don't know, but my guess is that I would have to give it back. That is probably the right legal analogy here.
But what if a burglar stole my money and spent it at the store? Then the storekeeper keeps it, I think. (That is special to money and perhaps fungible securities-- I can get back my heirlooms if they're stolen-- but that's fine for our purposes.)
At any rate, I think I'd have to give back the book if I wanted the money back. So the storekeeper could feel pretty safe in selling books to robots.
The storekeeper would have an additional argument against me, especially if (a) the robot was indistinguishable from a human, or (b) if it had become a common custom to let robots buy and keep books: that I had caused the loss of the money by entrusting it to the robot. Some doctrine such as "unclean hands" or "estoppel" might apply (or might not--don't trust me on that point). In case (b), business custom might establish that I had in effect made a valid contract purchasing the book myself. I could take the book away from the robot, but not get my money back from the storekeeper. In fact, even if the robot merely ordered the book and had not yet bought it, I might be bound to pay and accept delivery.
In this second case, the robot is acting very much like what is called an "agent" in the law-- someone to whom I have given authority to act for me. Agents do not have to be human-- corporations or trusts can be agents. A machine is not a legal person, at present, but it could perhaps be made one.
Even if the robot does not rise to the dignity of an agent, it could still be considered as a method of placing an order. Suppose I write a macro for my computer which dials up Amazon every week, chooses a book at random, and orders it delivered to my mother-in-law, typing in my credit card number. Surely I am legally bound in that transaction. My robot is more intelligent, but it is still a machine to whom I have given the ability to make transactions with what is legally my money.
I don't think I've exhausted the subject. I'll bring it up at my law- and-economics lunch today.
[ http://php.indiana.edu/~erasmuse/w/03.07.10a.htm ]
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