Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
September 1, 2015
~I should probably call this the “technology edition.”
~Facebook and other social media allow one to inhabit a world totally apart from one’s spouse. If the latter is not on Facebook, then there’s a whole other world of people and things that are unknown to him or her – more so than in times past pre-social media days. There’s something troubling, or at least strange, about that.
~In doing research for a paper on technology, I read that the Unabomber injured a woman by the name of Janet Smith. Ironically, I have a colleague who shares that name.
~Ben Branstetter’s article, “Stephen Hawking is right—the AI arms race is already here” (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/stephen-hawking-is-right%e2%80%94the-ai-arms-race-is-already-here/ar-AAdFRxT?ocid=U305DHP) is informative. Artificial intelligence, when coupled with robotics, automation, and unmanned vehicles (e.g., drones), will change (and already is changing) the face of warfare. While physically distancing humans from the ravages of war, AI may also place them closer to the moral effects of automated battle.
~To be precise: It is not crack cocaine that destroyed your neighborhood, it is people using crack; it is not “crime” that destroyed your neighborhood, it is criminals (see http://www.freep.com/story/news/columnists/john-carlisle/2015/08/01/detroit-chaldean-town-last-days/30993903/).
~I wish that Catholic broadcaster Michael Voris would stop playing a version of Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor on his own program The Vortex on Church Militant TV (see http://www.churchmilitant.com/video/archive/the-vortex).
~Going to confession is much like going to the dentist: you get plaque removed, just not from your teeth but from your soul.
~Count me in the camp of those who argue (and have argued in the past) that the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos of Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal body parts show them to be evil beyond measure, but that the means by which these were had involved an immoral means – i.e., lying (see http://www.nationalreview.com/article/421808/planned-parenthood-body-parts-daleiden where the group’s leader David Daleiden seems to re-describe what the CMP did in terms of its desired outcome). I was heartened to see that the esteemed J. Budziszewski shares the same view (http://undergroundthomist.org/lying-for-life and http://www.undergroundthomist.org/lying-for-life-continued), as does Robert P. George. For a different perspective, however, see my friend the theologian and pro-life activist Monica Migliorino Miller’s “Were Planned Parenthood Videos Produced Unethically?” (http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/were-planned-parenthood-videos-produced-unethically). Miller makes what I think is the best case that can be made for saying that the means did not constitute lying.
~The relationship between nature and technology and the question of play have greatly changed, just in the fast few decades (e.g., see this article and video: http://www.mercatornet.com/demography/view/how-play-is-changing-across-generations/16611). Where children once went out to play, they now stay indoors and engage themselves with technological gadgets instead of traditional toys (e.g., Legos). As with all technology (and it isn’t just technology that has sent children inside), we need to ask: What implications does this have, in this case, for child development in all its dimensions?
~In discussions of technology, we often hear the concept of technological determinism. But the only “determinism” we should speak of is how man must be determined to use technology wisely and in accord with sound moral principles and norms.
~I may need to file this under the category of a Zen kōan: Human error is often the result of technological failure.
~I often wonder what Beatles’ song didn’t get written because they broke up so relatively early in their career.
~Teacher-student relations have greatly changed due to technology – both inside and outside the classroom. For example, simply the ability to email a professor has made him or her easily accessible to the student at all times (Of course, the prof. still has to respond!).
~I have noticed how often not just liberal authors, but conservative ones as well, use the term “medieval” in a negative way (e.g., see Kevin D. Williamson: (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/422414/chris-cuomo-medievalist-human-conception?target=author&tid=903320 and Victor Davis Hanson: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/422643/obama-failed-foreign-policy and http://www.nationalreview.com/article/331398/are-we-becoming-medieval-victor-davis-hanson). These usually insightful and historically-informed authors – VDH, e.g., is a classicist and military historian – are simply wrong about the Middle Ages, as a reading of French historian Régine Pernoud’s, Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths (Ignatius Press, 2000; originally pub. 1977), would show.
~Drone technology is raising all kinds of issues, not only with respect to military uses, but civilian uses as well, e.g., the issue of privacy rights (see http://dailysignal.com/2015/08/11/should-you-be-able-to-shoot-down-a-drone-spying-on-your-backyard-one-dad-was-arrested/?utm_source=heritagefoundation&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=morningbell&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRohua%2FMZKXonjHpfsX56uouW6%2B2lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ATMZgNq%2BTFAwTG5toziV8R7jHKM1t0sEQWBHm). We’ve gone from military-use drones over the skies in the Middle East to personal-use drones over the skies in the U.S. – seemingly overnight. But it’s not only privacy that’s at stake, so is the safety of commercial airline travel.
~For fans of country music (And I like some of it), Mark Judge has news for you: country music is dead (see http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/22/the-decline-of-country-music/).
~For someone who is supposed to be informed about modern biology – a bioethicist; and in this case the ubiquitous bioethicist Arthur Caplan – he is actually quite misinformed (see http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/422406/arthur-caplan-vs-marco-rubio-abortion-ramesh-ponnuru). Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that his pro-abortion ideology has gotten in the way of his critical faculties as he examined Florida Senator and presidential-candidate Marco Rubio’s position on when human life begins/abortion. But after reading National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru’s critique of Caplan, my only response was: he took this bioethicist to school on the question of when life begins (See also Mollie Hemingway’s piece criticizing reporters for The Washington Post: http://thefederalist.com/2014/05/19/the-washington-post-is-super-confused-about-where-babies-come-from/#.Vcn08sO4PAQ.twitter).
~The retired Bishop of Corpus Christi, René Henry Gracida (1923—), gave a powerful talk this summer indicting the moral theory known as proportionalism (see the video here: http://abyssum.org/2015/08/09/proportionalism-as-a-cultural-virus-infecting-almost-every-sector-of-our-society/), which St. John Paul II condemned in his 1993 encyclical on the Christian moral life, Veritatis splendor. It’s worth watching even if it’s marred by several errors.
~The black libertarian economist Walter Williams (1936—) is a national treasure. He is, like his friend the black economist Thomas Sowell (1930—), both bold and brilliant. It’s too bad he’s not more widely known than say, the vile race-baiting Al Sharpton. He is one of those rare authors you find yourself agreeing with more often than not, but some of whose underlying philosophical premises you disagree with. For example, like a good libertarian, even if a conservative one, Williams believes that we own ourselves (See the video where he is discussing his fine new book, American Contempt for Liberty, June 25, 2015, http://www.c-span.org/video/?326747-1/book-discussion-american-contempt-liberty). In fact, on this anthropology, he claims, rests the truth of many of the “Thou Shalt Nots” of the 10 Commandments. So then, according to Williams, murder, theft, and rape are wrong because they are actions that violate “private property.” But this property rights anthropology, I must say, while it may lead to some sound and simple moral conclusions, is quite inadequate. By nature, the human person is a social being. That is, he or she is naturally oriented to fellowship with others. Put another way, the person is both naturally inclined and called to communion with his fellow man in society. But William’s “self-ownership” libertarianism sees the person in atomistic fashion, such that society, rather than being something natural to the person and his or her flourishing, is perceived merely as a necessary evil. That’s pretty thin gruel for morality.
~A proposed OH law outlawing Down syndrome abortions (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/ohio-bill-would-ban-abortion-if-down-syndrome-is-reason/ar-BBm0ywJ?ocid=U305DHP) would seem like a no-brainer to anyone not blinded by pro-abortion ideology. Unfortunately, that amounts to a significant number of people.
~The line between teaching and administration in our schools grows thinner and thinner as government gets bigger and bigger and their education mandates get more and more oppressive.
~So Vice-President Joe Biden thinks that the essence of our faith is all about Catholic social teaching. Here’s what he said: “Pope Francis has breathed new life into what I believe is the central mission of our faith: Catholic social doctrine.” (http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/pope-francis-visit/pope-francis-has-become-a-moral-rudder-for-the-world-vice-president-joe-biden-says-1.10778331). I guess that’s more important than preaching the Gospel.
~There’s a story about a transgender judge (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/for-transgender-judge-an-early-and-transformative-journey/ar-BBmfpmd?ocid=U305DHP). So, does this mean that defendants get the best of justice from the perspective of both sexes?
~I watched a Twisted program recently that featured a serial killer who would also dismember his victims (eight in all). He said he knew right from wrong, but that it would get “fuzzy” and then he would simply ignore the prohibition against murder. In his universe, he claimed to be God. Chilling.