Sunday, December 31, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
In this piece, "Winter Games," from the Dec. 22 issue of the New Republic, Michelle Cottle describes the now-annual ritual of fights over Christmas displays as "Christmas' war on multiculturalism." Huh? A misprint? Anyway -- at the end of the day, it's a reasonable piece. Too bad she had to clutter it up with cheap shots ("nutters" and "Christmas crazies") about those who resent (what strikes me as) the bizarre insistence in some quarters on pretending that the reason we, in the West, have a big holiday in late December is not the birth of Jesus Christ. Still, I admit, her suggestion -- "unclench and have a cup of frigging eggnog" -- seems a good one.
Joseph Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong has apparently called on Pope Benedict XVI to excommunicate China's state-appointed bishops. Another reason to feel guilty, I suppose, about the recent influx into my house of low-priced, "made in China" toys.
Here is Thomas Hibbs (Baylor), writing about the possibilities for a collaboration between Mel Gibson ("Apocalypto") and M. Night Shyamalan ("Signs"). And, here is Rod Dreher, commenting on the former:
. . . I can't think of a film that is at once so violent and such a protest against violence. For me, the key moments of "Apocalypto" come atop that high altar, when the high priest is ripping the hearts out of and decapitating prisoners, while the bored royal family looks on. They've seen it all before. This is their "normal." Their ho-hum, anesthetized reaction to the unbelievable sadism they're inflicting on human beings is more shocking than any disembowelment. When I saw that, I thought about the concentration camp workers who went about their satanic jobs, then went home to their wife and kids and slept peacefully. And I thought about our ancestors who, not terribly long ago, enslaved Africans and treated them with similar barbarism, and yet were quite civilized. And I thought about how we today are even more civilized, yet we tolerate this -- and indeed quite a few Americans see this as a virtual sacrament. The Mayans in the "Apocalypto" grotesquely sacrificed innocent humans so that they could live as they wished to live; so do we, in our way. I came away from "Apocalypto" unsettled, convinced in an unfamiliar way that there is something deeply, deeply wrong with us humans. We are born to trouble and violence, and will to power.
Penn law prof Paul Robinson, Penn psychology prof Robert Kurzban, and Vanderbilt law/biology prof Owen Jones have posted their paper, The Origins of Shared Intuitions of Justice. Here is an excerpt from the abstract:
Contrary to the common wisdom among criminal law scholars, the empirical evidence reveals that people's intuitions of justice are often specific, nuanced, and widely shared. Indeed, with regard to the core harms and evils to which criminal law addresses itself - physical aggression, takings without consent, and deception in transactions - the shared intuitions are stunningly consistent, across cultures as well as demographics. It is puzzling that judgments of moral blameworthiness, which seem so complex and subjective, reflect such a remarkable consensus. What could explain this striking result?
The authors theorize that one explanation may be an evolved predisposition toward these shared intuitions of justice, arising from the advantages that they provided, including stability, predictability, and the facilitation of beneficial exchange - the cornerstones to cooperative action and its accompanying survival benefits. Recent studies in animal behavior and brain science are consistent with this hypothesis, suggesting that moral judgment-making not only has biological underpinnings, but also reflects the effects of evolutionary processes on the distinctly human mind. Similarly, the child development literature reveals predictable stages in the development of moral judgment within each individual, from infant through adult, that are universal across all demographics and cultures.
Or do the shared intuitions suggest a common author? Is this evidence of the law written on our hearts?
MoJ-er Steve Shiffrin will be honored in February at a gathering of legal luminaries including Nadine Strossen, Eugene Volokh, Robert Post, Martin Redish, Kathleen Sullivan, Erwin Chemerinsky, and Charles Fried. Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) is hosting a conference titled Commercial Speech: Past, Present & Future, A Tribute to Steven Shiffrin.
David Opderbeck wonders whether groups like the Family Research Council and the Becket Fund are overreaching in their doomsday portrayal of the recent federal court decision holding Prison Fellowship's Innerchange Initiative unconstitutional.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Clarke Cochran, who coordinates a Catholics and Politics group that has lunch every year at the APSA - among other things - sends a message to "those who are graduate students and faculty with graduate students
interested in Catholic social thought:
The Catholic University of America and the Society of Catholic Social
Scientists are sponsoring a Summer Catholic Social Thought Institute
-- May 21-25, 2007, at CUA.
3 graduate credits through Graduate Theological Foundation are
available. Tuition is $650.
Contact Mrs. Beth Matanzo at email@example.com or 740-284-5836."
Sunday, December 24, 2006
I blogged earlier about the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, and expressed regret that many of the Democrats who, by their voting, indicate a concern about the humane treatment of animals nevertheless voted against the Act. I also suggested that the Act "would seem . . . the kind of non-prohibitory, educational, conscience-raising measure that, it is often suggested by pro-lifers on the political left, pro-life people can and should support."
Over at Crescat Sententia, "Quaker" writes, in response:
I was reminded, reading this post, of the argument that the information which would be required is substantially false and misleading. Now, I haven't read up on the research in question, and it could be that this argument is false (though Prof. Garnett does not attempt to so demonstrate). Yet if that argument is not false, why is it inconsistent with pro-life principles to object to a requirement that doctors provide false information to their patients, even in the area of abortion? To put it slightly differently, it seems to me one could very well argue that bills that are merely tendentious ax-grinding unmoored from the best scientific understanding make it harder, rather than easier, to find common ground on the evils of legal abortions, etc. Which vote, then, is more consistent with being pro-life?
I agree entirely that doctors should not provide, and that law should not require doctors to provide, information to patients that is not true. And, it is entirely fair for Quaker to note that, in my post, I assumed that the required information was not false. [UPDATE: This assumption of mine is, I think, quite justified. See this response to the claim, to which Quaker linked, that unborn children don't feel pain.] I also embrace entirely the idea that the discussion (and regulation) of abortion should be informed, to a greater extent than it is now, by our "best scientific understanding[s]."