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#81 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 23 October 2006 - 05:27 PM


Pointing to a tape will do as a rebuttal, nor will it satisfy the implied agreement with charges of immorality and not understanding Objectivism.

I am sorry if you or anyone else took it that I was implying that you were immoral or that you or anyone else on this list does not understand Objectivism.

Well Glenn, I'm glad to hear that your stated agreement did not include at least that part of Peikoff's words. But, regarding the broader issue, I do hope you will give some thought to the alternate arguments, in this thread and others where this issue has been addressed.
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#82 Carl_Svanberg

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Posted 23 October 2006 - 07:47 PM

I do not take claims of immorality and rationalism lightly...


Stephen Speicher, "Paul's here", and anyone else who might care. I just want to make it perfectly clear that I do not agree with what Peikoff says about Objectivists who consider to vote Republican. I don't think you're rationalistic. I don't think it's a sign of not understanding Objectivism. I think that this nothing else than a argument from intimidation, and I think it's a shame that Peikoff uses it. (Although it's no excuse, I can understand if he feels frustrated with the situation.) Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my response to Burgess Laughlin, but I don't think that Objectivists who consider to vote Republican are guilty of any evasions, immorality or rationalism, etc.

#83 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 23 October 2006 - 10:30 PM

Stephen Speicher, "Paul's here", and anyone else who might care. I just want to make it perfectly clear that I do not agree with what Peikoff says about Objectivists who consider to vote Republican. I don't think you're rationalistic. I don't think it's a sign of not understanding Objectivism. I think that this nothing else than a argument from intimidation, and I think it's a shame that Peikoff uses it. (Although it's no excuse, I can understand if he feels frustrated with the situation.) Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my response to Burgess Laughlin, but I don't think that Objectivists who consider to vote Republican are guilty of any evasions, immorality or rationalism, etc.

Thanks for the clarification, Carl. But I'm not sure I understand, considering what you said in this post:

... is it really possible to make a honest mistake in this issue, after one has conscientiously studied the facts in the matter? I don't think so.

Isn't that a very direct claim of dishonesty? Doesn't that statement leave no room for honest disagreement among Objectivists on the issues of this election, and unless we agree with you and Peikoff we are dishonest?
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#84 Betsy Speicher

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 12:03 AM

In 3rd grade (1972), a public school, one of my teachers read a portion of the Bible every school day. Hair raising stuff actually. She was rather old, and I suspect that such under-the-radar religious teaching is now much rarer in the public schools.

When I was a girl in the Philadelphia public schools in the 1950's, reading at least 10 verses from the Bible every day was legally required!
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#85 Duane

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 12:11 AM

When I was a girl in the Philadelphia public schools in the 1950's, reading at least 10 verses from the Bible every day was legally required!

I am curious to know why you think this has changed.

#86 Betsy Speicher

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 12:13 AM

The real solution to two evils is construct a rational alternative to both and get behind that.

Hear! Hear!

If all of the energy and effort taken to encourage people to vote for one evil or the other were instead directed at voting in ONE single Objectivist into Congress - ANYWHERE - the philosophic impact and lessons learned would be gigantically more productive.

So would getting a popular Objectivist talk show host -- or even an ObSymp.

Or a syndicated Objectivist columnist like Rob Tracinski.

Or Cox and Forkum cartoons into your newspapers.

Or Objectivist commentators in the newspapers and on TV like the ARI Media Department is doing.

Or a bunch of well-written, persuasive letters to the editor published.

Or a best-selling book on a political topic by an Objectivist.

Or an Objectivist having his big fat say on the Candidate Selection Committee of his local party organization.

Or ....
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#87 Betsy Speicher

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 12:29 AM

When I was a girl in the Philadelphia public schools in the 1950's, reading at least 10 verses from the Bible every day was legally required!

I am curious to know why you think this has changed.

People like Madelyn Murray (atheist, Marxist, explicit Kantian) and the ACLU brought suit and the U.S. Supreme Court declared the laws mandating Bible reading and prayers unconstitutional.
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#88 PhilO

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 02:33 AM

So would getting a popular Objectivist talk show host -- or even an ObSymp.
[....]

:) Ok, that too!
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#89 Burgess Laughlin

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 01:11 PM

Today, October 24, I cast my ballot. (Oregon has vote by mail for everyone and in all elections.) I am glad it is behind me. I want to thank everyone for participating in this discussion. It has helped me a lot.

Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

I have reconsidered this statement with closer attention. Given this "given," I can understand the conclusion. However, I don't accept the "given." For example, even if the western Left itself is now enfeebled, its new, partial ally, the Islamo-fascist movement, is not enfeebled. So, the choice available to me is not as Dr. Peikoff has presented it. It is not a given.

In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

I did indeed vote for a Democratic congressman today, the first time in my life I have done so. I reject the disastrous and semi-treasonous "stay the course" Republican alternative. On the short-term, the Democrats in Congress may stop the hemorraging in our "compassionate war" in Iraq. In the next election I have the option of voting against Democrats if they have gained power but failed to exercise it properly -- or worse, if they, in actual practice, turn out to be fully treasonous. I can then say, "We've tried your approach, based on your promises. Your course, too, is wrong."

In other, local races, I voted for the Republican candidate or I voted not at all, depending on the candidates themselves and the circumstances. One example is the Republican gubernatorial candidiate. I voted for him because he has credibly promised to hold the line on taxes -- and is reportedly pro-choice on abortion.

If voting for some Republicans or not voting in certain races shows me to be rationalistic or ignorant of Objectivism, then so be it. But if that charge deserves to be considered further, I would like to see an argument based on evidence applying to me.

Again, thank you for all the comments, even the ones I have disagreed with. In particular, I want to thank Carl for raising this topic for discussion. I have gained from the process.
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#90 Guest_ElizabethLee_*

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 02:05 PM

the latest issue of Wired magazine has, right on the cover, what appears to be an open full bore assault on religion

What is that, Phil? I don’t see it at their web, and I’d love to read it..

#91 bradw2k

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 05:58 PM

Some hold (and I am not one of them) that American Christians are a potential threat, but as Peikoff has always argued with regard to abortion, the potential is not the actual. Islamicists are an actual threat.

A threat is, by definition, a potential danger. And I think it is anyone's guess which is more likely in the coming decades: that an American woman will be denied an abortion by Christians, or that she will be killed by Muslims. More immediately, a current ballot measure in my state would require teenage girls to have parental permission to obtain an abortion. As Oregon becomes more and more "red," I expect measures like this to pass in the near future, if not this election. It doesn't take a perfect theocracy to ruin your life, a little religion applied at just the right spot in the system will do.

I also question the premise that the Republicans are a more effective defense, in either the short- or long-term, against the Islamic totalitarians than would be the Democrats (which is to say: not much). I wonder if this is the fundamental issue over which Objectivists disagree at election time. My view is that thousands of Americans have been killed fighting the current administration's altruistic, Islam-supporting wars. And yet victory with this strategy, inspired in part by our Command-in-Chief's communion with God, is inconceivable.

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#92 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 06:53 PM

A threat is, by definition, a potential danger. And I think it is anyone's guess which is more likely in the coming decades: that an American woman will be denied an abortion by Christians, or that she will be killed by Muslims.

Well, if it is "anyone's guess," which would you choose for your loved one: being denied an abortion, or being killed? I fully realize that neither of us would like either choice, but since our political decisions could possiblly make one or the other of the two more imminently probable, it is worthwhile to have a hierarchy of potential dangers. (And, of course, it is also important to assess the likelihood of our decisions affecting either outcome.)

More immediately, a current ballot measure in my state would require teenage girls to have parental permission to obtain an abortion. As Oregon becomes more and more "red," I expect measures like this to pass in the near future, if not this election. It doesn't take a perfect theocracy to ruin your life, a little religion applied at just the right spot in the system will do.

I have no religion, but I would support such a measure as you describe. A parent is the legal guardian of the child, the custodian of the child's rights until the child is old enough to assume full responsibility on her own. As such the parent is responsible for all financial and educational concerns, as well as having responsibility for the child's physical well-being. We do not allow a child to sign a financial contract without parental consent, so how can we allow an operation on the child's body without parental consent? We do not allow a doctor to remove even a wart from a child without permission from the parent, so why should some doctor decide to operate on a child when the responsibility for that decision lies with the parent?

I also question the premise that the Republicans are a more effective defense, in either the short- or long-term, against the Islamic totalitarians than would be the Democrats (which is to say: not much). I wonder if this is the fundamental issue over which Objectivists disagree at election time.

Perhaps, but that issue has been discussed, and re-discussed many times here on THE FORUM, long before this impending election. Clearly Objectivists do disagee about this -- so much for the charges of Objectivists marching in lockstep! -- but, contrary to Peikoff's assertions, honest disageement on this issue is indeed possible among actual Objectivists.
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#93 Ed from OC

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 12:06 AM

Well, if it is "anyone's guess," which would you choose for your loved one: being denied an abortion, or being killed? I fully realize that neither of us would like either choice, but since our political decisions could possiblly make one or the other of the two more imminently probable, it is worthwhile to have a hierarchy of potential dangers. (And, of course, it is also important to assess the likelihood of our decisions affecting either outcome.)

This is an illuminating way to look at the issue: consider both the potential cost if they succeed as well as their chances.

Ultimately both the religious right and the Islamic terrorists want theocracy, but certainly the latter are more consistent, explicit and vocal in their pursuit of that goal. Today's Christians are (mostly) a stage or two or three removed from being explicit advocates of theocracy; they are more aptly described as the precursors to such, as they are laying the groundwork. In that respect, the Muslims are the bigger threat.

Which is more likely, though: (1) an Islamic takeover of the US? (2) A Christian theocracy? (3) a signficant attack on the US, orders of magnitude worse than 9/11? (4) The surrender of our freedoms in the name of defending ourselves against the Muslims? I think the latter.

At worst, in the near term as an immediate threat, the terrorists could decimate a few cities with WMDs, and while that is plenty bad, it isn't something applied across the nation as a whole, as new laws such as the Patriot Act are, or the nationalization of airport security. While it is certainly better to have new bureaucracies like Homeland Security than to see NYC attacked again, the likelihood of the former is far greater than that of the latter.

In other words, the chances of dying from a terrorist attack are very small in the US today -- you're more likely to die in an auto accident -- yet the chances of new legislation are much higher.

I'd compare the possible cases this way:
(1) very little chance in the near future, but the worst situation.
(2) likewise very little chance, but in the long run, if nothing stops the spread of religion, then the odds increase, and would be just as bad as (1)
(3) unless we fight a real war, I'd say inevitable. The Khan network out of Pakistan, Iran, Syria, North Korea, China, Russia... the possible sources of WMDs are there, and none of these folks can be trusted.
(4) reasonably likely, especially as this war remains unfought. While it may not be a theocracy, it would be a secular dictatorship.

Taking into account both the potential cost and the odds, I consider (3) to be the biggest danger, followed by (4), then (2). This has been, and will be, my deciding factor for upcoming elections.

#94 Jack Wakeland

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 01:30 AM

The statement quoted is, essentially, a re-working of what Peikoff said in 2004. I think he was wrong then, and I think he is wrong now. The implication of immorality, and the claim that anyone "does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world" if you do not have the same judgment as he on this election issue, if you do not vote Democratic in the coming election, is simply outrageous. I find such hyperbole, whether intentional or not, to be an embarrassment for the same man who wrote OPAR.

We have discussed this supposed impending theocracy several times before on THE FORUM. Here is one relevant commentary by me from this post.
Abortion was illegal in the United States for more than 100 years, and we did not have a theocracy. In the 19th century abolitionist writings were censored in the South, and we did not have a theocracy. "Immoral" movies were censored in early 1900s, and we did not have a theocracy. The Post Office censored "obscene" literature and art in 1873, and it took 60 years before James Joyce's Ulysses was permitted into our country, but we still did not have a theocracy. Censorship of "obscene" literature and material continued right up through the 1960s, and Ayn Rand spoke out against that censorship, but we did not have a theocracy. Laws enforcing the Sabbath started in the 1700s, prohibiting business to operate on the holy day of Sunday, and we still did not have a theocracy. These "Blue" laws enforcing religious moral standards continued for two centuries, and even today there are sections of the country where most businesses are forbidden to operate on Sunday. And we still do not have a theocracy.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "theocracy" as:
Please stop bandying about "theocracy" as a scare word when all you really mean is the same sort of non-objective laws that have plagued the United States, in one form or another, throughout its history. If abortion is banned and Intelligent Design is taught alongside evolution in public schools, that would indeed be horrid. But abortion already was banned for 100 years, and evolution had been forbidden to schools, but those horrid events did not define a theocracy. We are light years away from God as the "king or immediate ruler," and equally far from having the bible replace our statutes. There is no "priestly order" preparing to sit in place of our constitutional Republic. Censorship and religious infringement on rights has been much, much worse in the past, and worse than the concerns that the doomsday theocracy crowd lament and wring their hands about now.

Peikoff's own words were right, at least when he said that every century since the Renaissance religion has been declining, and the decline still continues. Let's stop the fretting about a fantasy theocracy in the United States, and help the religious decline by killing the Islamo-fascists instead.
And, if anyone is curious, the Peikoff words I referred to were given in an earlier post, and I repeat them here. The quote is from a 1998 show, The McCuistion Program, "Ayn Rand & Objectivism: Is Atlas Shrugging?"
The 8 years since Peikoff made this statement about religion disappearing, are just a little blip in the long-range perspective, which is primarily a matter of the influence of proper ideas. A little blip does not a theocracy make, certainly not in a country with the tradition and sense of life of Americans.

Thank you, Stephen, for so quickly standing up to Dr. Peikoff's attempt to bully.

In the mid 1980s I took the first two of Dr. Peikoff's taped lecture courses on the Philosophy of Objectivism. I was 25 years old at the time and I had just started recovering myself from a four-year-period of radical rationalism.

The first course helped me to greatly expand the scope of cross-disciplinary connections I made within the body of Objectivism (between particular principles in Epistemology and Politics and between particular principles in Man's Metaphysical Nature and Ethics, etc.). The second course took rationalism on--head on--and helped me become a better inductive thinker in every area of my life. Dr. Peikoff helped me and a lot of other young Objectivist men save themselves from the insanity of rationalism.

Despite his extraordinary accomplishments as a teacher of clear thinking, Dr. Peikoff's political recommendations are unfathomable.

Vote Democrat?

The Democrats won't prevent America's drift towards stalemate with Islamo-fascism. They're one of the most important causes of it. Given the opportunity, top Democracts would lead America straight into a stalemate--complete with Paris Peace Talks between Iran and Syria, the U.S. and Europe, and the new governments of Iran and Afghanistan--peace talks that would prove to North Korea that they can sell Iran the bomb and get away with it.

(The effort to create an unbreakable stalemate is already underway in the Iraq Study Group. This blue-ribbon, bi-partisan commission is reportedly favoring regional peace talks with Iran and Syria over how to resolve the instability of post-Saddam Iraq.)

Is Christian theocracy is the issue that should decide the election? No. Islamic theocracy is the issue that should decide the election.

We're at war. In the context of living in a country and in a civilization that is in the midst of a shooting war with Islamo-fascism, am I to consider some other issue more important than the war? If there were such an issue, I'd need to be persuaded of it at some length.

I can find no basis for Dr. Peikoff's latest political recommendation in the facts of the political situation of the world. Given the same facts, I come to exactly the opposite conclusion Dr. Peikoff does:

I would recommend to you--I would urge you--to vote for all Republican congressional candidates--any Republican congressional candidate--in order to keep the national legislature's committee chairmanships and the nation's legislative agenda out of the hands of our enemy's useful idiots: the current leadership of the Democratic Party.

On Dr. Peikoff's side of the argument, One of ARI's recent newsletters made clear their concern about the potential for a bad trend to soon develop in the universities.

In the wake of destruction left behind by the post-Kantian nihilists, university philosophy departments have begun to reach out to anyone with a semi-systematic point of view, asking them to come and man the lecturns and fill the academic journals. The existing "intellectuals" had become intellectuals in name only. Nothing was being taught and nothing was being published. Philosophy departments were afraid they'd have to close their doors (indeed, some did).

As a result of this sea change, we now see dozens of young Objectivist intellectuals being taken in by America's universities. But the universities are also taking large numbers--far larger numbers--of religiously-influenced or religiously-programmed intellectuals.

This means that God will be back in the universities. This is, in part, a return to an older philosophical era in which the intellectual core of the culture was more corrupted by Christian faith that it is today.

Will this lead to theocracy?

Is bringing back this form of sub-philosophical or semi-philosophical irrationality really worse than the blatant and philosophically-committed irrationality that has ruled the humanities for 25 years--and still rules many parts of it today?

And is the university the only venue for cultural change? Are there other avenues? What is going on in those streets?

Given ARI's purpose, they do not address these questions. They stop with stating their very real concerns about the re-introduction of Christianity into the universities.

But what about the cultural stuff that's going on outside university humanities departments?

The hard sciences--the core achievement of human culture since the 18th Century--have seen an extraordinary and exponential growth of knowledge. The exponential growth continues. Many areas of the hard sciences have seen a virtually unobstructed application of rational methodology for many, many decades.

Stephen, I made note of your comments in this thread about the exponential material progress in technology and business. You say this is proof of life. Yes. It is! I must congratulate you on insisting that this kind of achievement implies much about the rationality of a culture. Increasing rates of growth implies an improved epistemological methodology in every relevant area.

In addition, this material growth gives us all the "leisure time" required to think about ideas and the means to communicate our thoughts. What are intellectuals, except people who think of new ideas and promulgate them. Look at this forum. Aren't we all becoming bloggers? Isn't that a step towards us all becoming intellectuals?

There is ample evidence that the extraordinary material improvements have come from extraordinary improvements in the methods of thinking and acting in business. These aren't "merely" improvements in productivity. They're improvements in moral standards. Productivity is a virtue that requires all the others.

From the 1950s to the present, America's New Testament has often been the businessman's self-improvement book. There isn't a supervisor or manager in America who hasn't either read them or been influenced by the behavior of all those around them who have.

It is rational to be concerned about religion moving back into the universities and back to the forefront of the conservative movement. It is an evil trend. But one cannot conclude that these changes will dominate all of the other things going on the culture and that we, therefore, will descend directly towards theocracy. One cannot claim it without further proof.

Are we philosophically determined to go from a society in which a standard topic of conversation is how to find and then to better enjoy sex and intimacy with a romantic partner...to a society in which a standard topic of conversation is whether or not to stone a woman for fornication, shamelessly flirting with men, or showing a little too much leg?

#95 PhilO

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 02:00 AM

Is Christian theocracy is the issue that should decide the election? No. Islamic theocracy is the issue that should decide the election.

We're at war. In the context of living in a country and in a civilization that is in the midst of a shooting war with Islamo-fascism, am I to consider some other issue more important than the war? If there were such an issue, I'd need to be persuaded of it at some length.

Yes, exactly, on both points.
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#96 PhilO

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 02:09 AM

This means that God will be back in the universities. This is, in part, a return to an older philosophical era in which the intellectual core of the culture was more corrupted by Christian faith that it is today.

Will this lead to theocracy?

What instantly comes to mind is the result of Thomas Aquinas trying to use logic to prove God - except that now, there are Objectivists with Objectivism to provide the kind of logical arguments - for reality, implicitly against "God" - that Aquinas could only dream about. The mere introduction of logic into such debates led to the Renaissance. This was bad? (rhetorical question)

If the future of the universities has come down to Christian theologians vs. Objectivists, with mindless nihilists fallen by the wayside, I think that half of the war is won.

I would also note that as a purely practical issue, voting out the Republicans would logically do nothing to reverse a trend to incorporate theists into the university philosophy departments, if that is happening for the reasons that Jack gives (at least, as far as I can see a connection.)
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#97 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 03:31 AM

Ultimately both the religious right and the Islamic terrorists want theocracy, but certainly the latter are more consistent, explicit and vocal in their pursuit of that goal.

I won't argue about the jihadists, but I don't think it is proper to say that "the religious right ... want theocracy." A theocracy is something much more than just having a shopping list of regulations and laws to be inacted within a "democratic" process. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "theocracy" as:

A form of government in which God (or a deity) is recognized as the king or immediate ruler, and his laws are taken as the statute-book of the kingdom, these laws being usually administered by a priestly order as his ministers and agents; hence (loosely) a system of government by a sacerdotal order, claiming a divine commission.

The religious right in America would like to define marriage as being solely between a man and woman, ban abortion, permit saying a prayer in public schools for those who want to, curtail pornography and drugs, etc. These and others represent a religious wish list, all of which have previously been enacted in our country in one form or another. As horrible as some of these are, as horrible as all of them would be, this would be a far cry from theocracy. There is no priestly order set to redefine the structure of our government and replace our executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

As I have outlined in other posts, we have had banning across the board, outlawing of abortion, and a host of other pathetic religious political stupidities throughout the history of country, but the structure of the United States withstood these isolated infringements. Did you know that in 1874 Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution stated "No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court?"
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#98 Ed from OC

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 04:34 AM

I won't argue about the jihadists, but I don't think it is proper to say that "the religious right ... want theocracy." A theocracy is something much more than just having a shopping list of regulations and laws to be inacted within a "democratic" process.

That's why I qualified my statement with ultimately. Today's Christians do not predominantly want a theocracy, but the logical conclusion of basing laws on religion is theocracy. That's why I agree with you that we are not in any near-term danger of establishing a Christian theocracy in America.

#99 bradw2k

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 05:30 AM

[W]hich would you choose for your loved one: being denied an abortion, or being killed? I fully realize that neither of us would like either choice...

The point is that Christian politics does pose a terrible threat to the lives of some individuals.

I don't think weighing exactly those two examples clarifies the issue. The threat from Christian politics in our lifetimes is not nothing more than women being denied abortion, just as the Islamic totalitarians can and do damage our lives in a myriad of ways, even if they never get to murder us.

I agree that it is important, when voting, to consider what effect Republicans versus Democrats may have on either threat -- so, again, it goes back, in part, to whether one considers the foreign policy of one or the other to be significantly better.

We do not allow a child to sign a financial contract without parental consent, so how can we allow an operation on the child's body without parental consent?

It is also relevant to ask if a 17-year-old girl can be expected to make a responsible judgment about her body and the rest of her life, about not wanting to become a parent yet, even when her parents disagree. It is the young woman who may pay for the rest of her life if she is forced to go full term, not her parents. I think consideration of such facts is more important than is maintaining consistency with the necessarily arbitrary standard of full legal independence at 18 years of age.

Regards,
Brad Williams

#100 Stephen Speicher

Stephen Speicher

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 05:31 AM

Anybody want to guess who said the following?

I want to stress at this point that the above is [my] recommendation for November, not Ayn Rand's or Objectivism's. A philosophy is a view of the universe; it does not back candidates. There can be legitimate differences among people of the same philosophy in regard to political tactics and strategy. So please think the issues over and judge for yourself. I have merely told you how (and why) I propose to vote in November--if I can.


Yes, that was Leonard Peikoff fourteen years ago!

("Some Notes About Tomorrow," Part 2, The Intellectual Activist, September 1992.)

I wonder what facts of reality have changed between then and now, in that there is no longer any room for honest disagreement in this current election between moral Objectivists who non-rationalistically do actually understand the philosophy? :)
Stephen
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