Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/21/17

1. No, there is nothing “ironic” about Rep. Steve Scalise being shot. I finally lost my restraint and pointed out to a gaggle of left-wing Facebook friends that their writing that Scalise’s shooting was “ironic” because he opposes gun control, or because one of his rescuers was gay (because he opposes gay marriage) was as much a of a hateful comment as saying that it was “karma” (another popular sentiment from progressive friends) or that he “reaped what he sowed” (yet another). They protested loudly and angrily that this was an unfair rebuke on my part, that they were not cheering the crime, just observing that the shooting was “ironic” which, they insisted, it was.

Disingenuous and evasive.

The seriousness,  criminal, hateful and absolutely inexcusable nature of Scalise’s shooting had absolutely nothing to do with his political beliefs unless you agree with the shooter, who used those beliefs as his motive. Karma, “reaped what he sowed” and irony (which implies an amusing or humorous nature) all signal and are intended to signal the same sentiment in the Facebook echo chamber—“It’s a shame that he got shot, but in a way he asked for it.” Oh, how those who sought to signal their virtue and their dislike of Scalise just hated to be called on the ugly impulses behind their words, and how they wriggled and spun to deny it.

What made the shooting ironic? Why, Scalise opposes gay marriage, I was informed. That’s neither a logical nor a justified answer. Although gays find it satisfying and expedient to automatically attach the label of  homophobia to those who haven’t yet adapted to one of the fastest cultural paradigm shifts in U.S. history, there is no evidence that Rep. Scalise believes that LGBT individuals cannot or should not be medical or law enforcement professionals. Scalise’s position on gay marriage is irrelevant to his shooting, unless that position—the same position Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held for a very long time—makes you think his shooting and the subsequent assistance of gay citizens is somehow deserved and funny. Similarly, the fact that Scalise was shot does not undermine the justification for his support of the Second Amendment, except in the closed minds of Second Amendment opponents. Nor does that make his shooting “ironic,” except to those whose gut reaction was “He was shot? Serves him right. Let’s see how he likes it.”

So many progressives have become so instinctively hateful and bitterly partisan that they are incapable of realizing it.

2. Are there any ethics takeaways from last night’s Republican victory in Georgia’s 6th District? Pundit Charles Glasser wrote that “Ossoff raised $23.6 million to make a symbolic run against President Trump, most of it from Marin County, California and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Running the numbers, Democrats might have been better off considering that same amount would have bought 855,072 school lunches (at $2.76 each); 236,000 elementary school textbooks (at $100 each) or even 956 Priuses (at $24,685 each). Max Weber said that the purpose of a bureaucracy is to maintain or expand its own power. Who cares about children, education or the environment when there’s power to be grabbed?”

As a rule I object to the “spending money on A is unethical because you could have spent it on B” line of reasoning, since it can be applied to almost any purchase. Nonetheless, that’s a lot of money to be used by outsiders to influence a local election, particularly when the donors also decry the effect of money in politics. And as with Hillary Clinton’s defeat, this result suggest that money isn’t nearly as decisive as those who want to constrain political speech think it is. Continue reading

The Science Guy, Debating Faith, and the Ethical Duty Not To Engage

creationism

Thanks for nothing, Science Guy.

You know, back when I was in college (stop me if I’ve told this story here before), a call-in show on one of the local TV talk shows (called “Cracker Barrel”)  staged a debate on the existence of God. On the “God exists” side was a religious fanatic named Mrs. Warren who had achieved Boston notoriety by picketing local banks for some reason; my father, in fact, had a confrontation with her in his capacity as a savings bank executive. On the atheist side was none other than Madeline Murray O’Hair, she of the Supreme Court case knocking down school prayer.

The “debate” was idiotic, unfair from the start since Mrs. Warren was a prattling dolt who also spoke in what sounded like a fake Italian accent, like Chico Marx, making it even harder to take her seriously. Mostly it was idiotic, though, because such debates can’t be anything but idiotic—the adversaries are not using the same assumptions, definitions, or modes of analysis. O’Hair would mention a scientific study, and Mrs. Warren would quote the Bible, which had to be true because God dictated it. As will always happen when one is debating a fool, O’Hair was dragged into the depths of stupid argument—and whatever she was, she was not stupid—by recounting that she realized that there was no God when her son was lost on a jungle expedition, and though she prayed for his return, he never came back. After being barely restrained by my roommates from calling into the show and shouting “MOM! I’m back! It’s a miracle!” (for some reason they thought it would be in bad taste), I got a toilet paper roll, put it up to the receiver and called into the show’s call-screener as “Jehovah,”from “Beyond.”

To my amazement, they put me through, and I heard the host cheerily utter the words, “Our next caller is Jehovah. Welcome to Cracker Barrel, Jehovah!” Echoing into my cardboard megaphone in my best Burning Bush voice, I told Madeline that I was the Lord God, and that I appreciated her testing the faith of the righteous with her blasphemy, and that despite the consensus among my archangel advisors in Heaven, I would not turn her into a pillar of salt.” Then the host said, “Thank you for your call, God!” and I was done. O’Hare was laughing.

The much-hyped debate over evolution between Bill Nye, a kids show performer with a legitimate science background, and Ken Ham, an extreme creationist whose views are ridiculous even by creationist standards, was just as foolish as the Cracker Barrel fiasco but far more harmful. Continue reading