Monday, January 31, 2005

Dobson in His Own Words

Remember all that hoo-ha about how Dr. Dobson hates SpongeBob SquarePants? Dobson has written a letter explaining what he said and what his position is. Of course, it's a lot more nuanced than what the MSM presented, and a lot more sensible.

Now maybe you don't agree with Dobson's views on marriage, family, and sexuality, but I think you should at least be eager to set the record straight on what he did and did not say.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Incomparable

I usually have something akin to a violent mental allergic reaction when someone says, "so, why does God allow good people to suffer?" A. The equivalent of mental muccus stuffs my synapses and all thought is over; B. My mind starts thinking through the experiences that have left me wondering this same thing, not remembering what my conclusion was each time, but ... can I give you a hug? (yeah, not really); C. Who are you? which was my reaction this evening.

My response was, 'I don't know' and that is because it seems to me the question does not probe the mystery quite nearly hard enough.

The first lesson I learned in thinking about this issue was from the book of Job and a wise professor. It is a hard question, but the question should only be asked (and really can only be asked) from within the Christian context. In other words, we are talking about the Christian God and his revelation of Himself and not an abstract Nice Divinity, which is really the context most everyone is asking this question from. ie., since God=Santa why isn't saying sorry to Jimmy and helping Mom clean my toys up on December 23rd enough to merit presents all year long?

This train of thought led me to the conclusion that much before "why" is asked (and I really think it is just inane and useless to ask "Why God" questions), "whom" must be dealt with. Who created the world that allows suffering? The Christian God. Who is this God? He is the Word. The Word who spoke the world into being. The God who called creation good (note: not nice or fair). The God who knew the suffering to come: His own and that of His children. The God who knew His own death to come. The God who sent Himself, the God who offered Himself to flesh, devil and death upon the cross. Here He Is.

Christ, I can't believe you would let this happen to me.

What would you have me do?

I'm so angry I could kill You.

You already have.

Why did God allow suffering? I have no idea. But surely He has paid the price.
Why did God allow suffering? I don't know, but Jesus.

There really is no proper answer to the question. At least, not the sort of answer that will fit on a flash card or a Bible tract; maybe more the sort of answer that fits on a painted piece of board with gold leaf to be kissed before it is pondered.

Tonight I answered my friend saying, "I don't know the answer, but if anyone had the right to ask that question it was Jesus Christ." And didn't He? Didn't he ask it with blood seeping from the very pores of his skin, in the dead of night, forgotten by his friends? And what was God's answer? An angel, and that only in Luke. Not the myraids of angels that Elisha revealed to his servant. No, God sent an angel to 'strengthen' him. An Angel to strengthen the Son for the task. Divine support, and perhaps we might say relief, but no relinquishing of the task, no lightening of the burden. The Christian God did not deal in half measures, nor did He deal in almighty omniscience, wiping away cosmological suffering by tipping the heavenly scales of abstract justice. No, he dealt in flesh and bone, the nature of man, the skin and hair and blood. Now we can ask 'why'. Why this? Why this pain?

I cannot understand the Father who would send his Son. I cannot understand the Son who would submit to his creation. I cannot understand the God who would willingly create a world that would die, and in dying kill Him.

But the God I serve did these things, and it is only with such a God that I can accept suffering in the world. Only before such a God will I bow. For before this Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God I can do nothing but worship. And for me that is the answer.


I am working on a paper on shame and sincerity in Plato's Gorgias. Thinking about what shame is reminded me of a quotation from C. S. Lewis's Great Divorce (ch. 8). For those who haven't read it, the setting of the story is a valley on the threshold of heaven where spirits from heaven attempt to persuade souls arriving from purgatory to leave behind their sins; there is no room at all for their sins in heaven. This quotation is from one heavenly spirit trying to persuade a soul from purgatory, who is ashamed to be seen in her ghostly condition, to step into "infinite happiness." The spirit replies:

An hour hence and you will not care. A day hence and you will laugh at it. Don’'t you remember on earth -- there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it -- if you will drink the cup to the bottom -- you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Republic 329c4-5

Even then it seemed to me that he had spoken well, and now it does not seem any worse.

[This should have gone with yesterday's batch.

Cephalus is still speaking here, giving his views on old age in response to Socrates's question about what old age is like. "He" refers to the poet, Sophocles.

I take it that "even then" (kai tote) implies that C. thought Sophocles was right even when he, C., was younger.

The last half of the sentence is elliptical, and I've added "it does . . . seem any" to fill out the meaning.]

Vox Blogoli 2.1: Rauch on Violence from the Right

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for organizing this symposium. Here is my contribution to the Vox Blogoli 2.1, my thoughts on Rauch’s comments, which I’ll quote, then comment on. My comments are critical, but I think Rauch has done well to continue this discussion.

“On balance it is probably healthier if religious conservatives are inside the political system than if they operate as insurgents and provocateurs on the outside. Better they should write anti-abortion planks into the Republican platform than bomb abortion clinics. The same is true of the left. The clashes over civil rights and Vietnam turned into street warfare partly because activists were locked out of their own party establishments and had to fight, literally, to be heard. When Michael Moore receives a hero’s welcome at the Democratic National Convention, we moderates grumble; but if the parties engage fierce activists while marginalizing tame centrists, that is probably better for the social peace than the other way around.” (Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2005)

Put aside the assumption that religious conservatives wouldn’t be caught dead (or allowed) to write antiabortion planks into the Democratic platform. Also put aside the assumption that the Vietnam War activists responsible for street warfare had either a right or a privilege to the resources of a party establishment.

Moving on to what I see as the heart of Rauch’s view, first, one notes the implicit characterization of religious conservatives as “insurgents” [shades of MSM coverage of Iraq, anyone?] and “provocateurs.” If we don’t let the religious conservatives into the political system, then they’ll become violent. (This line of thought goes back at least to Hobbes. More on that later.)

Rauch attempts to make a parallel between religious conservatives and the left in order to mask his characterization of religious conservatives as violent: If we don’t allow “activists” from “the left” into the political process, then they’ll become violent, too. Rauch essentially soothes the religious conservatives by implying that they’re not the only ones prone to violence if shunned. But it doesn’t seem that his examples do that.

To see why, consider what the average reader of The Atlantic thinks about this paragraph. It doesn’t seem to be a great stretch of imagination to think that they consider civil rights (obviously) and Vietnam (slightly less obviously) to be just causes of protest, whereas antiabortion laws are to them indefensible in principle. That is, the effect of Rauch’s characterization and examples is to make support for the violent left more feasible to his readers than support for the violent right.

But why not just talk about violent protests simpliciter? Why the need to identify violent protests as the expression of either religious conservatives or the left? I think Rauch, and others, feel the need to do so because -- here’s my second main point -- they judge political choices on one principle: Do they promote social peace? Or, negatively, do they minimize social violence? Given this principle, it’s prudent to find out who or what is responsible for violence in society and either tame them or put a boot in their face. So, if the religious conservatives are responsible for most of the violence, let’s tame them or, well, we’d rather not say it.

Rauch seems to be occupied with considerations of violence. Suppose you think antiabortion laws are unjust. Under what rubric is it better to conclude that it’s better to have people working to write them into law as insiders instead of working to undermine abortion as outsiders? The only one I can think of is one in which the paramount fear is a fear of violence, which in turn reduces to a fear of violent death. Is there a Hobbes scholar in the house? Seriously; it’s a real question, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that Rauch’s article opens with the words “Have fear, Americans.” (A joke, he says, with “a kernel of truth.”) The attitude of those who govern from the left and the attitude of the cultural image-shapers from the left seems to be motivated by the fear of violence. An obvious problem -- and not necessarily the toughest -- with this is what Rauch would have us do with a political decision that promotes social peace but is also unjust. A Hobbesian way would be to define the just as that which promotes social peace. If we want to know whether Rauch’s ideas are taking hold in the political realm, look for this redefinition in the future.

To get to the heart of the left’s understanding of the Christian culture in America in 2005, I think one needs to ask representatives of the left whether they think all religions are essentially the same. We can even focus the question: are all major religions essentially the same, where “major” means religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. (This is not an exclusive list, and of course there will be borderline cases. But let’s not pretend that Wicca is in the same league as Christianity.) Two answers present themselves: yes, no. If yes, then we’re back to Hobbes’s treatment of religion. Treat it nicely, but if it gets out of hand, use the boot. Here’s something that’s explicit in Hobbes, but hidden in Rauch’s claim: If we let the religious conservatives into the political process, they must check the religious part at the door to the senate chamber (or wherever). The reason is that religion is the result, really, of superstition. If it were something rational (or at least something not irrational), then the concerns of the left wouldn’t be so large. Rational people can have reasonable political dialogue, but what do you do with superstition? Well, if there are a lot of superstitious people, you try to placate them and minimize the violence.

(A heuristic question for persons of the left to consider: What are the salient differences, if any, between the social philosophy/theology of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the social philosophy/theology of evangelicals in America in 2005?)

Of course, if you answer no to the question, then you’re on a different path, one most people on the left don’t like to consider. You’ve got to make some value judgments about different religions. So it’s not likely that many persons of the left are going to take this position, which leaves us with the first: religion is superstition. This, I think, is what Rauch's position boils down to.

In closing, Rauch seems to be throwing aside a crucial (and sensible) political maxim: govern from the center, not the fringe. But if you govern from the center you will need to “lock out” the fringe. (In the old days -- what am I, 28? -- this was what the police did if they needed to.) If the primary motivation is fear of violence, then governing from the fringe will look appealing because it’s not likely that the center will become violent, or so goes the thinking motivated by fear of violence. But if the primary motivation of policy makers is not fear of violence, then a number of reasons for governing from the center present themselves. Discussing these reasons, however, will have to wait for another post.

UPDATE: I wrote this last night and then read Rauch's comments to Hewitt that are on Hewitt's blog. Much of my first main point seems to be obviated by Rauch's comments. I want to go read the whole article, which is now posted on Hewitt's site, but that will take some time today. Perhaps I'll have a rewrite tonight.

[If you came from Hugh’s symposium, please check out the rest of the blog that I run with Thorgerson, who seems to be MIA from the blog recently. (Could it be the German class at 8:00 M-F?) Anyway, our blog consists mostly of my serial translations of Plato’s Republic, but there’s a post on the Georgia evolution-is-a-theory-not-a-fact Sticker from a while back, among other things.]

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Slight

The Oscar nominations were announced today. I haven't seen any of the films nominated for best picture, but I have seen the best picture of the year, The Incredibles. The Incredibles was nominated for best animated feature film, which I'm sure it will win. But it is in the wrong category. Why am I a bit upset about the Academy's slighting of The Incredibles? In short, because it is an excellent movie. It has a great story; excellent acting (in this case a combination of wonderful voicing and animation); believable, likeable, characters; substantial comment on the human condition; and high humor. Unlike Shrek 2, The Incredibles does not rely on fart jokes for laughs, and lest you be tempted to laugh at my claim that it has substantial comment on the human condition, recall the scene where Dash -- the wonderboy with superspeed -- mutters that in a society where everybody is "special," nobody is. Consider also the lessons learned by Mr. Incredible -- real, honest lessons about life. But unlike other movies with real, honest lessons about life, this one does not need to make us sympathize with unvirtuous characters (see, e.g., Matchstick Men).

I've not seen Brad Bird's other movie, Iron Giant, but I think I'll try to see it soon. I've heard it's good.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Republic 329b4-c4

For if this were the cause, I too would have suffered the same things on account of old age, and so would all the others who have come to this age. But now presently I have met with others for whom it is not so, and in particular Sophocles; once I was near the poet when he was asked by someone: 'Sophocles, how do you hold up in sex? Are you still able to be with a woman?' 'Hush man!' he said. 'Gladly did I flee from this, just as if I were escaping from some raging and wild master.'

[The word I've translated "hush" is quite interesting. It means to speak good words, or not to blaspheme. The hymn "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" comes to mind.

I'll forgo another treatise on grammar (there isn't much of note in this passage) and moralize instead. Compare what Cephalus is saying with the view of sex expounded by the cultural elite in America today. Could one ever imagine Hugh Hefner saying these things? Instead of gladly fleeing from the wild and raging master, Hugh feeds it Viagra. What a dolt.]

Republic 329b3-4 (revised)

But these men, Socrates, seem to me to not blame the root cause.

[Thanks to a helpful e-mail from Michael Gilleland, I see now that the previous long post on this sentence was unnecessary. The chief mistake in my thinking was to overlook the fact that dokousin is third-person plural, not singular. Noticing that would have made the sentence different from the beginning. Once that's corrected, the rest of the sentence, except for the placement of not, falls easily into place. The trouble with not is that it modifies "the root cause" in Greek; I looked at what I think are all the relevant passages in Smyth, but I couldn't find any examples where a phrase intervenes between a negative particle and the word it modifies. This means that the end of the sentence reads literally ". . . seem to me to blame not the root cause," but that sounds awkward even to my ears.]

Friday, January 21, 2005

Republic 329b3-4

But it seems to me, Socrates, that these things are not the things to blame.

[Since this sentence is short, I had planned to translate it with the next one. But even the short sentences don't translate easily. Despite all the hoops of syntax that follow below, the meaning of the sentence seems to be pretty clear. Cephalus thinks that those who complain about old age are not singling out what is actually blameworthy.

Literally, the sentence reads as follows: "But it seems to me, Socrates, these not the blame to blame." The choices the translator must make are made clear by this literal rendition. One has to decide what the antecedent of "these" is, and one also has to decide how to make "not the blame to blame" intelligible. In particular, the ambiguity is the result of (1) the word houtoi, which I've translated "these things," and (2) the use of the infinitive aitiasthai, "to blame."

Let's look at the second problem first because I think it will make the first decision clearer. We have in the second part of the sentence a subordinate clause in which the infinitive occurs. Normally, one might expect the subject of the subordinate clause to be in the accusative (see Smyth, sec. 1975). In this sentence, the subject looks to be outoi, which is nominative. I think this -- with the lack of a relative pronoun -- indicates that the infinitive is supposed to remain in the infinitive mood. Thus, we need to include "to blame" somewhere in the translation.

(It could be that the subject of the infinitive is aition, "the blameworthy," which is in the accusative case. Then the clause might read "these men do not blame the blameworthy." The problem with this is that the negative particle precedes the noun aition not the infinitive (verb) aitiasthai. For this reason, I don't think that translation is as good as the one I've chosen.)

This leads us back to the first issue of finding the antecedent of outoi. We have two choices. We could translate it as "these men" or "these things." If we translate it "these men," then the sentence needs to read ". . . these men not the blame to blame," which doesn't make sense, and it isn't clear what we could add that would make it sensible. However, most translators choose to go this route, which counts for something against my decision. For example, Reeve says, "I don't think they blame the real cause."

But if we translate "these things," the we get ". . . these things not the blame to blame," and it seems acceptable (which is a judgment call) to add "are" in order to get "these things are not the blame to blame." Yet another judgment call is taking "the blame" substantivally to mean "the blamed (or blameworthy) things," and the result is that, in passable English, we get "these things are not the things to blame."

Two last notes. First, it could be the case that since Plato is writing dialogue for the character Cephalus, he's mimicking how a person might actually speak, in which case the spoken sentences may not have the perfect syntax we'd expect from prose. We often say things that would be difficult to decipher if written down but make good sense when spoken. Context is important in these cases.

Second, the usually more-literal-than-thou Bloom goes for the idiomatic in this sentence; his translation is "these men do not put their fingers on the cause."]

A Philosophical Question

"Can God microwave a burrito that is too hot for God to eat?" (Homer Simpson)


Thursday, January 20, 2005

New Issue of CRB

The latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books is out. Education wonks (and others) will be interested in the essay by Harvey C. Mansfield on liberal education. One of the best lines from his essay is near the end: "With better writing goes, like, better speaking."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Republic 329b1-3

Some also bewail the abuse of old people from relatives, and in this wise they repeat over and over all the evils for which they blame old age.

[This is Cephalus still speaking.

The semantics of this sentence is unclear, and there are difficulties in both halves, though those of the second half are greater.

In the first half, the trouble is that what I've translated "relatives" admits of at least four different conjugations or declensions. One can narrow it down to a participle in this context, and then it has to function substantivally. Literally it would be "the dwelling ones," i.e., the ones who dwell in the same house, i.e., their relatives.

The difficulties with the second half have mostly to do with translating epi toutoi de [toutoi ends in an omega with an iota subscript; de has a long a sound, as in day, as opposed to the other Gr. particle de]. I've translated this phrase as "in this wise." Epi would usually be translated as "on," "upon," "supported by," or something similar, but that doesn't make much sense here; so one has to go for a secondary meaning, and they are numerous. I chose my translation of epi (cf. LSJ, sv, B.I.1.i) by considering the effect of de, which is used to give greater exactness to the word it influences. Except for the archaic use of "wise," I think the translation is passable.

Bloom has a very clever way of translating the second half. His translation reads, "and in this key they sing a refrain about all the evils old age has caused them." It's clever because it plays on the semantic range of humneo, which means either to repeat over and over or to sing (this is the word from which we get the English hymn). He is able to use the English phrase "in this key" to capture the force of de with epi and tie it into the meaning of humneo. My only problem with this is that I don't think Cephalus is being that clever.]

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Republic 329a4-8

and, in truth, whenever we come together, most of us lament, longing for and recalling to memory the pleasures of youth -- sexual pleasures, drink, feasting, and all that goes with things of this sort -- and are discontented as though having been robbed of something great, they were then living well but now they are not even living.

[Part of the meaning of this passage turns on Thorgerson's least favorite particle, hos. I've translated it as "as though": ". . . and are discontented as though having been robbed . . ." This implies that they haven't really been robbed of anything; it's only as if they had been robbed. The particle could also have a more direct, causal meaning, something like "since" or "that": ". . . and are discontented since having been robbed . . ." My Greek isn't good enough to know if there's a contextual hint about the meaning of hos. So I copied what most of the translations I have did.

Another point of ambiguity is the last phrase: "they were then living well but now they are not even living." In the Greek, it's only "then (on the one hand) living well, now (on the other hand) not even living." One has to supply a verb, but in what person shall the verb be? First or third? C. is relating the views of "most" (pleistoi), and later he gives his own opinion; so I think one should put the verb in the third person even though the sentence begins with the first-person plural "us."

UPDATE: Thanks to Mike Gilleland for pointing out that I left out some words in this sentence. I've now included them.]

Friday, January 14, 2005

Plato on Television and its Effect

"And the incapable craftsman we mustn't permit to practice his craft among us, so that our guardians won't be reared on images of vice, as it were on bad grass, every day cropping and grazing on a great deal little by little from many places, and unawares put together some one big bad thing in their soul." (Republic 401b, trans. Bloom)

Republic 329a2-4

For often we who are nearly the same age, having come together, preserve the old saying;

[The old saying C. refers to seems to be "like is attracted to like." Shorey actually adds it to his translation, saying, "some of us . . . come together and verify the old saw of like to like."]

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Much ado about the Sticker

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled today that the Cobb County School Board's decision to place the evolution-is-a-theory-not-a-fact Sticker on high school biology texts violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Why does the Sticker violate the Establishment Clause? It's not because the Sticker explicitly invoked religious belief. (The Sticker stated the following: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.") It's because it implicitly advances a religious belief.

Here's the test Cooper used to reach his decision (quotations from his decision are in blue; I've deleted references within Cooper's decision to other cases):

To determine whether the Sticker at issue violates the Establishment Clause, Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit precedent direct the Court to apply the three-prong test articulated in Lemon v Kurtzman. Under the Lemon test, a government-sponsored message violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment if (1) it does not have a secular purpose, (2) its principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion, or (3) it creates an excessive entanglement of the government with religion. If the government-sponsored action or message fails to meet either of these three prongs, then the challenge under the Establishment Clause succeeds.

In other words, if the judge reasons that the "government-sponsored message" fails to have a secular purpose, it's out. If its principal effect advances or inhibits religion, it's out. If it excessively entangles the government with religion, it's out. What did Cooper find? According to him, the Sticker (as it's referred to in his decision; the capitalization makes it look like a Platonic entity: the Form of Sticker) passes the first test. It has a reasonable, secular purpose. He states:

after considering the additional arguments and evidence presented by the parties and evaluating the evidence in light of the applicable law, the Court remains convinced that the Sticker at issue serves at last two secular purposes. First, the Sticker fosters critical thinking by encouraging students to learn about evolution and to make their own assessment regarding its merit. Second, by presenting evolution in a manner that is not unnecessarily hostile, the Sticker reduces offense to students and parents whose beliefs may conflict with the teaching of evolution. For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that the Sticker satisfies the first prong of the Lemon analysis.

The problem is with the second part. Cooper reasoned that the Sticker's "principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion." In this case, he found that it advances religion. Here's why.

There is no evidence in this case that the School Board included the statement in the Sticker that "evolution is a theory, not a fact" to promote or advance religion. Indeed, the testimony of the School Board members and the documents in the record all indicate that the School Board relied on counsel to draft language for the sticker that would pass constitutional muster. Thus, the presence of this language does not change the Court's opinion that the Sticker survives the purpose prong of the Lemon analysis.

Still, the informed, reasonable [person (?)] would perceive the School Board to be aligning itself with proponents of religious theories of origin. The case law is clear that a governmental action or message that coincides with the beliefs of certain religions does not, without more, invalidate the action or message. However, in light of the sequence of events that led to the Sticker's adoption, the Sticker communicates to those who endorse evolution that they are political outsiders, while the Sticker communicates to the Christian fundamentalists and creationists who pushed for a disclaimer that they are political insiders.

So, even though the school board had a secular purpose, the Sticker is unconstitutional because it endorses a religious viewpoint, that is, it is the result of a process in which a number of citizens, who are religious, convinced the school board that it was in the best interests of the citizens of Cobb County to put the Sticker on the textbooks.

But it isn't as if Cooper ruled that any government-sponsored message that is introduced by a large, vocal group of religious people is automatically unconstitutional. Another part of his reasoning was that it is well-known in the U.S. that the teaching of evolution has historically been opposed by "Christian fundamentalists and creationists" (his terms). Given this historical context, the reasonable person will see that the Sticker, since it draws attention to the disputed nature of the theory of evolution, sides with the "Christian fundamentalists and creationists." In Cooper's words:

the Sticker here disavows the endorsement of evolution, a scientific theory, and contains an implicit religious message advanced by Christian fundamentalists and creationists, which is discernible after one considers the historical context of the statement that evolution is a theory and not a fact The informed, reasonable observer is deemed aware of this historical context

I think this is bad for two reasons.

The first is that it seems that religious groups should be concerned that any similar longstanding issue involving them will be decided against them a priori. In other words, if you're a member of a religious group, and you want the courts to decide in your favor on a decision involving a history of religious vs. nonreligious opposition, you're screwed. Why? Because, according to Cooper, if the courts were to side with you, they would endorse your religious beliefs. This, I think, is a grave outcome.

The second problem I see is that Cooper, and the plaintiffs, fail to distinguish between religious motivation and religious people. The assumption seems to be that if one is religious, and if one is opposed to evolution, then one is opposed to it on religious grounds. That is, one's motivation for opposing evolution must be religious. Cooper seems to be taking his cue from one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Plaintiff Kathy Chapman's "alarm bells went off" when she saw the Sticker in her child's textbook, and she immediately felt that the Sticker "came from a religious source" because, in her opinion, religious people are the only people who ever challenge evolution.

Cooper's inference is that since only religious people object to evolution, it must be that they reject it on religious grounds. Well, the first part of that claim might be false (I'm sure there is at least one nonreligious person who is critical of the theory of evolution), but let's focus on the inference from the first to the second part. Is it true that a religious person must object to evolution on religious grounds? No. One could be religious and object to the theory of evolution on nonreligious grounds. Cooper seems to recognize this, but he doesn't give it much weight. He states:

While the School Board may have considered the request of its constituents and adopted the Sticker for sincere, secular purposes, an informed, reasonable observer would understand the School Board to be endorsing the viewpoint of Christian fundamentalists and creationists that evolution is a problematic theory lacking an adequate foundation. Of course, the amicus brief filed by certain biologists and Georgia scientists indicates that there are some scientists who have questions regarding certain aspects of evolutionary theory, and the informed, reasonable observer would be aware of this also. On the whole, however, the Sticker would appear to advance the religious viewpoint of the Christian fundamentalists and creationists who were vocal during the textbook adoption process regarding their belief that evolution is a theory, not a fact, which students should critically consider.

Despite the amicus brief of "some scientists" who question "certain aspects" of evolutionary theory, Cooper thinks that "on the whole," the Sticker advances a religious viewpoint. Now "certain aspects" is vague, but shouldn't Cooper have paid more attention to it? If it's true that there are possible nonreligious motivations for criticizing evolutionary theory, it seems also possible that the Sticker does not necessarily advance a religious view. But then the only reason Cooper "knows" that the Sticker is religiously motivated is because of the outspokenness of its proponents.

This seems to lead to an odd result in a democracy: if the "Christian fundamentalists and creationists" hadn't been so vocal during the textbook adoption process, the Sticker might have had a better chance of passing the Lemon test. Next time, fundamentalists, don't be so vocal about your opinions. You might have a better chance. But even if there is a next time, it isn't clear that being less vocal about their opinions will help the fundamentalists. Cooper's rule seems to be based on the fact that the people pushing for the government-sponsored message are themselves fundamentalists, and that seems to be enough for him, given the historical context of the debate. Cooper concludes:

However, considering all facts and circumstances related to the Sticker and its adoption, the Court is convinced that the Sticker's primary effect surpasses accommodation and endorses religion. Thus, even though the Sticker may not explicitly advance a particular religious viewpoint and explicitly encourage maintenance of that viewpoint as did the disclaimer in Freiler, the Constitution requires that the government "pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion." The Sticker in this case, considered in context, communicates to the reasonable observer that the School Board has violated this mandate.

It seems impossible for the government to "pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion," and the Sticker seems to be a case of that impossibility. The court's "neutrality" functions in this case as a guise for inhibiting the religious viewpoint.

UPDATE: The Scrivner's Error has more on the legal aspects of the case; he also disagrees with me about whether the outcome is good or bad.

On Blogging

Not that this has not been said many times already in the last couple of months, and Hugh Hewitt has a new book which I'm sure says much the same thing in more detail, but I almost always enjoy reading Peggy Noonan, who has a good and concise statement on the changing of the guard in the Media. I think it is worth saying many times because we are at a real change: if the fallout will continue, what will next be widely exposed is the "liberal domination" of higher education (which of course many have already been trying to point out for a long time). While I hope the pendulum does not swing to the fully opposite side, what I think is most important is the exposure of the fact that Leftist thought, I believe, has long been propped up by the information filter of MSM. What will happen when that prop is removed? What will happen when the best and the brightest students at "top Universities" no longer tolerate their professors pontificating on politics in Greek class among others (as has been my experience at both UCLA and Berkeley)? I believe that history will reveal the modern democrat as a flash in the pan -- an interesting political phenomenon propped up by contingent factors such as a monopoly on education and the transmission of news information. But I get entirely ahead of myself. Time will tell: I am simply enjoying watching this play out.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Republic 329a1-2

"By Zeus," he said, "I will tell you indeed, Socrates, how it appears to me."

[Reminder: This is Cephalus speaking; he's referring to old age.

The first two words of this sentence are ego and soi; it's as if C. is eager to tell S. his report about old age. The ego is usually unnecessary in Greek and usually indicates emphasis, as I think it does here.

Further, C. swears by Zeus, which is the first instance of that name in the dialogue. S.'s question seems to have really touched off something in C.

(I've reached a new Stephanus page!)]

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Post-Vacation Re-entry

I intended to come back from vacation with some really delightful posts, but I was hit by jetlag like I didn't think was possible for people under 45. I have come to the conclusion that jetlag is really parent lag. Jetlag is nothing unless you are a person who has to go to bed at 8:47pm and arise at 5:31 am on a daily basis. For normal folk, you just drink some coffee, spend time out doors until you can justifiably go to bed. Maybe you wake up early the next day but by the day after its nothing. As a parent, however, you have no choice but to get up with your child at 2:30 in the morning so that they can crawl around until 8 am. THAT gives you jetlag. Despite never having had a profession besides being a student (ie., expert sleep deprivation), I have never in my life known such physical exhaustion.

Anyway, it took five days, but we're all normal now, and yesterday my brain began to function again. Huzzah! In the meantime I watched more movies than I think I've watched in the last two years combined. None of them were incredible, though The Man Who Would Be King with Sean Connery and Michael Caine (and Christopher Plummer) was definitely very good. Are there any contemporary actors who have the Sean Connery smirk? Pierce Brosnan tries. Owen Wilson has the smirk naturally but he plays the idiot too much. I don't watch enough movies for this conversation so I'll stop now.

We've been getting lots of rain, though not as much as Southern California. Two of my Southern Cal friends (John/Jon) have some nice things to say. This morning LR and I watched huge gusts of rain sweep across the mall parking lot outside our balcony, with thunder rolls in the background. I used to say I liked rain and "weather" in general. Now, I think I am more just stunned by it. Weather is something that is sublime and awe-inspiring rather than something to be liked or disliked, as though it is a new paperback. If my soul is feeling young I will go out and stomp through mud, feel my face smart from so many faerie pricks of rain and get cold down my neck, and if it feels old it will curl up in a comfy chair with cocoa. The point is that it deserves to be reflected on in some fashion, otherwise how do we know what to think feel or do when a tsunami hits?

In any case, that is exactly what I have been doing today. We came back from vacation with a list of inspiring activities to do around the Bay, only to find out that our car is still not reparied. A rain-induced power outage is further slowing the tedious process. We took a trip to the closest mall/theatre complex and saw meet the fockers. I think I essentially agree with Nathan J. In that while I dreaded walking in there, and didn't enjoy it that much, it has somehow been the subject material for several conversations today. Like a lot of contemporary comedies, I think more thought was put into the movie than most people give Hollywood credit for. I've decided that I don't want to be Fockerized, though.

Onwards and Upwards.

As a post-script, and speaking of movies, Master and Commander inspired me to buy a CD of Bach's Cello suites played by Mtislav Rostropovich a while ago. Besides things like "wee willy winkie," "little nutbrownhare" and "momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird", the first suite has been going through my head incessantly (which it is quite welcome to do, especially if it captures and violently kills the damned wee willy). The prelude was in the film, but it is all quite moving--well, I can' t ever describe classical pieces correctly so I won't try.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Marking Up Books

Bill Vallicella has a short post beginning with the question

"Have you noticed that the same people who are morally obtuse enough to underline and annotate library books tend to be the same people who are too intellectually obtuse to make good comments?"

A reader of his also has a follow-up in which he notes that

"There's another problem with these people: they annotate the book and then they return it, which not only annoys others, but also renders their droppings unavailable to serve their own future readings."

The whole exchange reminded me of a passage from C. S. Lewis:

"He [Milton] is writing epic poetry which is a species of narrative poetry, and neither the species nor the genus is very well understood at present. The misunderstanding of the genus (narrative poetry) I have learned from looking into used copies of our great narrative poems. In them you find often enough a number of not very remarkable lines underscored with pencil in the first two pages, and all the rest of the book virgin. It is easy to see what has happened. The unfortunate reader has set out expecting 'good lines' -- little ebullient patches of delight -- such as he is accustomed to find in lyrics, and has thought he was finding them in things that took his fancy for accidental reasons during the first five minutes; after that, finding that the poem cannot really be read in this way, he has given it up." (Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost [1942; London: Oxford, 1965], 1-2)

I myself have in many used bookstores double-checked Lewis's observation, and I don't think I've ever found a copy of a narrative poem marked up past the first chapter.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Republic 328e4-7

And in particular I would gladly learn of you how this appears to you, since you are already at the time of life that the poets say is "the threshold of old age": whether life is difficult, or how do you report it?

[Shorey has some footnotes on this sentence. Adam notes that what the poets say "occurs first in the Iliad (XXII 60, XXIV 487) to denote the natural limit of the life of man." Both of the instances Adam lists are poignant moments in the Iliad.

Grammatically, the tricky part of this sentence is at the end. In the Greek, it's not necessarily a question, though I suppose maybe it could be: the Greek originally lacked punctuation (so no question marks), but the word I've translated "how" (pos), is not an interrogative (it usually means "in any way," "at all," or "by any means"). Literally, it would be something like "whether life is difficult, or in [what] manner you report it."]

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Republic 328d6-e4

And yet Cephalus, I said, I do enjoy discussing with the very old; for it seems to me to be necessary to learn from them, just as we might ask someone advancing on a road, which we also will probably want to pass over, of what sort of road it is, whether rugged and difficult, or smooth and easy.

[One has to add "we might ask" or something similar to make sense of the sentence.]

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Republic 328d4-6

So do not do otherwise, but be knowledgeable with these young men and come hither to us as to your friends and very family.

[Translating this sentence is like disentangling your Christmas lights after you threw them in the box last year: it's not impossible to do, though it is difficult, and by the time you're done, some of the lights no longer work. It's possible to translate this sentence into passable English, but some aspect of the Greek is going to be left out. Mine leaves out the notion of resort in the verb phoita. It would have been strained to include it. Let me give some other translations (beginning with my least favorite and going on to better ones) before explaining mine.

Cornford: "So you must not disappoint me. Treat us like old friends, and come here often to have a talk with these young men." (This trans. Inexplicably moves the "old friends" before the "young men.")
Grube: "So be sure to come more often and talk to these youngsters, as you would to good friends and relations." (Ignores the first clause. Also uses the word "youngsters"; the youngsters in question are not children but young adult men.)
Griffith: "So do please spend some time with these young men. Do come here and visit us. Regard us as your friends -- as your family, even." (Takes three sentences to do what Plato does in one. Ignores the first clause, too.)
Lee: "So don't refuse me, but come and talk to the young men here and visit us as if we were old friends." (Omits "relatives" at the end.)
Reeve: "So do as I say: Stay with these young men now, but come regularly to see us, just as you would to friends or relatives."
Bloom: "Now do as I say: be with these young men, but come here regularly to us as to friends and your very own kin."
Shorey: "Don't refuse then, but be yourself a companion to these lads and make our house your resort and regard us as your very good friends and intimates."

Regarding the first clause, my translation is literal, but I don't think it's awkward, or at least awkward enough to require something else. In the second phrase, the awkwardness begins. The sticky wicket is sunisthi, the present imperative (2s) of sunoida, meaning "share in knowledge of" or "be cognizant of." This is what I'm translating as "be knowledgeable with." I'll let the reader judge whether this is better than the alternatives listed above. Most of them use a "talk" instead of a "know" verb, but I don't think "talk" is sufficient to convey the meaning of sunoida. But I admit that my translation is awkward. (I'm also wondering if there are any implications that knowing has connotations of "knowing" in the KJV, as in "Adam knew Eve.")

Reeve's translation also implies that S. will stay with the young men now and come back to see "us" (who? C. using the royal we?) later. The choice in the Greek is not clear. Can S. do both at once, or does he have to choose between being with the young men and being with C.? If so, why? Adam has some relevant comments. He seems to take the young men to be S.'s friends from Athens, and "us" as referring to C., P., and the other (foreigners?) living in the Piraeus. So the sense might be "S., associate with the young men of Athens, but come also to see us in the Piraeus."

I've added "your" before "friends." It seemed to make the sentence read better. Maybe it's unnecessary.

For the preceding sentences -- I know it's been a while -- see here and here.]

Monday, January 03, 2005

Now we've both been robbed

At least that is what it feels like to an armchair fan. Actually, I have been in a minimal-media vortex for two weeks, and so all the news I bothered to get about the bowl games last week were the scores at I'm now happy about that decision. So, to the Twins, Dodgers, Cal Football (my newest love), Vikings Football (a pre-emptive strike), and all the Burglar's hopeless obsessions: here's to next year!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Rose Bowl Woes

I don't understand why Carr didn't use a timeout to stop the clock as Texas got into position for a field goal. Did he think that it was a difficult kick to make? From my perspective, it seemed much more probable than not that the kick would be good. The distance of the field goal was not that great, and the kicker was a senior, not some wobbly underclassman. Carr's strategy left UM with no time after the kick.

Oh well, Michigan looks good at quarterback and running back in the next few years.

New Year's Resolutions

So, some of these are taken verbatim from last year.

1. Don't let the dishes pile up in the sink (or anywhere else).
2. Complete reading for classes ahead of time.
3. Write first drafts of all my major papers and solicit criticism on them.
4. Study Greek one hour a day.
5. Stock music collection with classical music.
6. Be friendlier.
7. Spend less time on the Internet.
8. Learn QuarkExpress.
9. Read all of Plato's works (in English).
10. Read The Man without Qualities.