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What Makes a Person Special?

Kid in wheelchair

A while back my kids were watching the Nick Jr. cartoon Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, and I happened to see something that has troubled me ever since.

Kai-Lan is a little girl with a friend named Rintoo, and in this particular episode Rintoo isn’t feeling special. Kai-Lan and her other friends seem to have an instinctive feeling that Rintoo must be special somehow, and spend most of the episode trying to figure out why that is. After some searching, they finally figure it out. At the climax of the show, Kai-Lan announces with a little song that she has found the source of Rintoo’s specialness! I suppose it was too much to hope that she’d quote directly from the Catechism, since it’s kind of hard to rhyme “man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life” with “it was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.” But I was surprised and distressed at what she came up with: he’s fast. That’s what makes him special. And she went on to tell her young viewers that the next time they’re not feeling special, they should remember what they’re really good at, and know that that’s what makes them special.

Anyone else find that disturbing?

As I watched the little characters dance around and celebrate the various skills that supposedly made each one of them special, I was guessing that this wasn’t going to be the episode where Kai-Lan’s slow, mentally ill, physically disabled friend was introduced, because then things would get really awkward.

Though I don’t attribute any malevolent intent to the show’s writers, I think the sentiments expressed in this episode belie one of the disturbing logical results of a completely secular worldview. It’s an interesting look at what happens when we take part of the natural law that’s written on our hearts—in this case, the fact that every human is special—and try to explain it without God. Kai-Lan and her friends know on some level that Rintoo is definitely special; and yet they are products of a secular culture which teaches that every truth must be provable by the scientific method in order to be accepted.

There are two main definitions for special: one is “regarded with particular esteem or affection” and the other is “superior in comparison to others of the same kind.” The first is a better definition for describing the inherent specialness of each person, since each of us is regarded with particular esteem and affection by our Creator. But you can’t get there by looking at the material world alone. In order to confine specialness to the realm of the observable and the provable, you must go with the later, twisted understanding, which leaves you with a malleable definition of what it is to be special. In Rintoo’s case, what if the setting of the episode were moved to the U.S. Track and Field Team’s practice arena, where he wouldn’t seem fast at all? Or what if he became disabled and could no longer get around quickly? For that matter, what if all of humanity got together and agreed that being fast was not a good trait? Would Rintoo still be special?

Chances are, he has other things he’s good at. But what if he didn’t? What if he were the dumbest, ugliest, most rejected, immobile person in the world with not a single thing to offer his fellow man? Then would he be special?

Without God, the closest we can get to explaining the truth of each individual’s specialness is to say that he or she possesses certain exceptional skills or qualities that are currently valued by other human beings, or to perhaps note the fact that each person is different by virtue of his or her unique DNA. But neither of those statements articulate the full truth—and somewhere, deep down inside, we all know it. The problem is this: the reason every single one of us is inherently special—even the most flawed, the most unproductive, and the most decrepit among us—is because we are special to Someone. It’s because we are loved and valued by God himself.

When people agree on this, even if it is based on vaguely theistic concepts of God rather than passionate Christian devotion, it acts as a societal safety valve. We at least agree that it is not up to us to determine what makes another person special, or whether or not he’s special at all. Each person’s value comes from Something outside of and higher than people’s opinions, a Force untouchable by human caprice. When we lose this concept and start thinking that we can value other people based on demonstrable evidence, the safety valve is gone.

That’s what scares me about this line of thinking. Right now, the dark implications of this worldview are easy to ignore; here in the Western world, we live in a time of unprecedented stability, peace, and abundance that makes it relatively easy for us all to get along. There are only a few types of people whose specialness we have motive to disregard (the severely disabled and the unborn, mainly). But that probably won’t last forever. If any elements of society were to be destabilized, we faced widespread resource shortage, or any other situation came up that caused an epidemic of fear and tension, there would be a lot more pressure to disregard the value of other people’s lives. If we continue to see our fellow human beings as special based on arbitrary, flexible definitions that are ultimately rooted in human judgment of evidence, the devaluation of human life will spread to even more segments of society. And one day it could be you or someone you love who is no longer considered special.
 
 
Originally posted at National Catholic Register. Used with permission.
(Image credit: DvidsHub)

Jennifer Fulwiler

Written by

Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She's a contributor to the books The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011) and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion (Servant, 2011), and is writing a book based on her personal blog. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their six young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. Follow Jennifer on her blog, ConversionDiary.com, or on Twitter at @conversiondiary.

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  • I do not understand what this "special" aspect is that Ms Fulwiler believes we are endowed with only from God. "specialness" seems to me to be a term more used to do with uniqueness or distinction.

    What she seems more to be on about is the value of humans. Secular humanism, the most popular worldview among atheists, I would argue, values human life above all else. Theism does not necessarily, rather human life within the discretion of God's whims.

    • Alypius

      Theism does not necessarily, rather human life within the discretion of God's whims.

      That's a pretty broad brush, no?

      Other "theisms" may believe differently but the one subscribed to by the OP's author - Catholicism - is pretty unambiguous on there being nothing arbitrary about God's love for all of humankind. Ms. Fulweiler's quote from the Catechism says it best: "man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake" (emphasis mine). The claim is pretty clear that God's love for everyone is constant and not subject to any whims.
      You're right though - "special" doesn't quite capture what she's talking about. It is more about the "value" or "dignity" of humankind.

      • If God's love for humankind is not arbitrary, then it has to be based on some objective value that humans have that is logically prior to God's love (otherwise, God's love of humankind would be arbitrary). Therefore human value is not grounded in God's love and must be otherwise grounded. The ground of human dignity is not necessarily a dividing issue for theists and atheists.

        • Alypius

          then it has to be based on some objective value that humans have that is logically prior to God's love

          Yes and no.
          Definitely true in the sense that it is the characteristics of "free will" and "rationality" that humans possess that need to be there for us to receive that love.
          But no in the sense that (and the Catholic Church draws heavily on the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical tradition here) God is A) Existence Itself, and B) simple (meaning not made up of parts. His Existence is His Love is His Rationality, etc.) So in that sense everything we have as humans and all of our characteristics are ultimately derived on God's nature anyway. He "shares" them with us. So in that sense God's love is still logically prior.

          • It seems then that the amount of love God chooses to show us is arbitrary. Our worth is also arbitrary. This also seems amply reflected in Aquinas's views on reprobation and predilection. For Aquinas, God simply loves some people less, and, as far as I can tell, for no good reason.

            If God's love is what determines our value, then what determines God's love? Why does God love some people more than others, or for that matter, some things more than others?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          "The ground of human dignity is not necessarily a dividing issue for theists and atheists."

          What do you mean by this?

          • Many theists think that human worth is intrinsic, and can be rationally defended without direct reference to God. God may have been necessary for human dignity because God is necessary for the existence of humanity, but God does not provide the basis for human dignity. Atheists would agree that God does not provide the basis for human dignity. In that, atheists and some theists are not divided.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God creates human nature (instantiated in concrete persons) with its own intrinsic dignity, how is God not necessary for human dignity?

            Do you mean we don't have to think about why humans have dignity to recognize that they do? We just see that they do?

          • I mean that God could not decide tomorrow that humans have no dignity. He doesn't have that freedom. Human dignity does not require God's approval, not in that sense.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So you mean that God is not arbitrary and is constant and does not contradict his own nature.

          • More than that, but maybe it's best to get at it with a question. Do you think God could have made killing children a morally praiseworthy act? Do you think he would have been capable of making that so?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think God can make killing innocent children morally good. That would make morality arbitrary not intrinsic.

          • Great! We agree. But if God can't make killing children good, he can't make killing children bad either, right?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can't agree we agree. ;) I think there is something wrong with what you are trying to get me to agree to.

            > "God may have been necessary for human dignity because God is necessary
            for the existence of humanity, but God does not provide the basis for
            human dignity."

            There is something stinky about that fish (unless it is an anchovy and is supposed to smell like that).

            I can agree with: "God does not provide the basis for human dignity simply by decreeing human's have dignity."

            I can agree with: "God is necessary fro the existence of humanity."

            I can agree with: "God is necessary for human dignity."

          • Sorry. I'm not trying to trick you. I thought we were on the same page, but maybe not (but still, maybe so :D) Let me ask you another question. Could God have created us humans exactly as we are but given us a different amount of worth from the start? Could God make worthless people?

            My position (what I suspect we agree on):

            If God made the universe, it seems reasonable (based on our current level of ignorance) that God could have made a universe without electrons. But God cannot make 1+1=3. One electron plus one electron is two electrons, regardless of whether God would have made electrons. Math isn't grounded in God. I don't think morality is, either. Killing humans for fun is wrong, regardless of whether God would have made humans. God had a choice about whether to make humans in the first place, but no choice about whether killing us for fun is right or wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Maybe the problem for me is that the things we agree on as impossible for God can be seen as something extrinsic to God or intrinsic to his nature.

            I resist saying that the value of a person or the truth of mathematics are due to realities separate from God. I am comfortable with saying that both flow directly from the nature of God.

          • Do you think God can determine his own nature?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The best answer I can make to that question is I dunno.

          • That's fair. In that case, we don't really agree on this issue. But, many other theists would agree. So this is something many theists and atheists would agree on. I suspect that the dividing line on whether God determines morality has a lot more to do with someone's metaethics (how they put their ethics together) and less to do with that person's theology.

      • I did not say God's love for humans is arbitrary, rather our very existence, whether we live or die, is his choice.

        In secular humanism, the highest value is human life. It would seem that there is a higher value in theism. But I could be wrong.

    • Steven Dillon

      I was surprised that she didn't consider the better suggestions by secularists/non-theists as to what grounds man's value: his rational nature, his ability to 'choose', his power to increase beauty/the good, etc.

      • Loreen Lee

        But Steven, your three categories are just those recognized not only by Kant, i.e. will-goodness, pure reason or the intellect, and judgment or the power to increase beauty, etc. These ironically are also the absolute characteristics which define the Trinity: omniscience, omnibenevolence, and omnipotence.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that if everyone is special, especially special in the same way, then no one is special. I think it is fairly clear what Jennifer Fulwiler is trying to get at—a concept like human dignity or some such thing—but it does not seem to me that "specialness" is the right word for it. I think what the tv show must have been going for was specialness in the sense of uniqueness. I don't think it is such a bad idea to think that in every group or society, each person has a unique role to play. Of course when the kids grow up, they will find out that some people are just jerks and we'd all be better off without them (for example, Bernie Madoff). But you don't want to teach that to kids! :-)

  • Mr. Rogers did it better than Ni Hao Kai Lan. You're special because you're you and there is no one like you. It's we adults who will question further with endless "whys", but kids get this natural law...naturally. I have three small children. I once took a Mr. Rogers DVD from the library and they were surprising fascinated by it. He spoke slowly and directly to them without different images being flashed in their face every instant. If you have small kids, try it some time.

    • I didn't see the cartoon Jennifer mentioned, but at least the way she described it, it sounds like there's a positive lesson. The characters didn't know at first how someone could be special in a something-to-be-proud-about sense, but they took it for granted that he had something to be proud about and they went looking to figure out what it was. The takeaway is apparently that everyone has something they can be proud about, and that if you don't see it it's just because you haven't looked hard enough yet. That's a pretty good thing to teach people. In fact it's a significantly stronger kind of dignity than the Goddidit kind Jennifer appealed to, because it's quite easy to believe someone has Goddidit dignity and yet think that person has no unusual qualities or achievements worth taking pride in.

      Jennifer asks:

      What if he were the dumbest, ugliest, most rejected, immobile person in
      the world with not a single thing to offer his fellow man?

      The cartoon says to look harder, Jennifer, especially when that "specialness" isn't immediately apparent! :) Of course I won't pretend to know the answer for every case, but a common answer is that even people with the most flawed bodies and brains may have someone whom they love and something to protect, and the opportunity to do that, even in a small way, gives many of us something to be well proud of.

  • Michael Murray

    And one day it could be you or someone you love who is no longer considered special.

    Which is exactly why we should value others humanity. Even the evil and nasty one's which we would much rather do without. Not because of human judgement of specialness but because of the political consequences of not doing so.

  • What @davidnickol:disqus said. Everyone has dignity. Some people are more special than others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E9pKU_N15A

    Philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Alan Gewirth make compelling arguments that human dignity does not require God. Dignity (infinite worth) requires agency. There's also a more pragmatic argument from Gene Roddenberry that I (a Star Trek nerd) admire. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC). All human life and well-being should be preserved, because they are different, and contribute to greater genetic diversity. This genetic diversity increases the chances of humanity surviving an extinction-level event.

    Finally, I am happier when I treat all others with dignity. So even if the agency arguments and the IDIC arguments fail, and human worth is just a subjective quantity, assigning that quantity an infinite value increases my own happiness, and that's justification enough.

    • Paul - But if dignity requires agency, not everyone has dignity, because not everyone is capable of making decisions for themselves (the unborn, infants, the infirmed, the mentally ill, persons with disabilities, etc.).

      Linking dignity to survival fares little better for these groups, and history has born this out. Plans for an extinction level event notwithstanding (which would probably leave little chance of survival anyway), societies that have embraced survival as the rule of life have sought to weed out "inferior" human beings who are a drain on the species' money, time, and energy - precisely because they are weak and lack the strength to survive.

      The last argument is problematic too. It may make you happier to assign these groups "infinite value" from a distance, but it seems clear that parents of disabled children, sons and daughters of the sick and dying, etc. are often far from happy - and once utilitarianism is embraced and happiness is the measure of man, the question then is how to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people in all kinds of difficult situations. Those on the fringes, once again, are in danger of losing their special dignity as individuals.

      In all three of these cases, it seems to me, the ascribing of dignity to every individual person seems, ipso facto, impossible.

      • As I would understand it, agency is the ability to make decisions, not to carry them out. It's also a capability, and not the constant use of that capability. It is difficult to tell who actually has agency and who doesn't. It's possible that a brain dead patient actually does not have even the capability to make decisions, but how would we know?

        Peter Kreeft gave a nice argument for this. Imagine you see an old coat in the road. There's possibly a person under the coat. You can easily avoid hitting the coat. Do you hit the coat or avoid it? Kreeft argues (convincingly, in my opinion), that even if there's no person in the coat, hitting the coat is wrong, because you don't know that there's no person.

        I honestly have no idea whether monkeys, unborn children, infants, have agency. But I think it's best to act as though they do, because the consequences are preferable.

        Plans for an extinction level event notwithstanding (which would probably leave little chance of survival anyway), societies that have embraced survival as the rule of life have sought to weed out "inferior" human beings who are a drain on the species' money, time, and energy - precisely because they are weak and lack the strength to survive.

        And that would be an irrational decision on their part, because they reduce the genetic variability of the human species, and therefore reduce its ability to adapt to new and unexpected situations. This is a mistake in reasoning, and so it's not even an objection to IDIC.

        The last argument is problematic too. It may make you happier to assign these groups "infinite value" from a distance, but it seems clear that parents of disabled children, sons and daughters of the sick and dying, etc. are often far from happy - and once utilitarianism is embraced and happiness is the measure of man, the question then is how to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people in all kinds of difficult situations. Those on the fringes, once again, are in danger of losing their special dignity as individuals.

        It increases my happiness to apply infinite worth to individuals. Once I do so, I can no longer act as a utilitarian, because moral calculus, like any calculus, needs to at the end of the day compare finite values, and there are no finite values for it to deal with.

        • Well, not to split hairs even finer, but do you mean the (present) ability to make decisions, or the (future/in principle) potential ability to make decisions? Having the ability to make decisions and not acting on it in any given moment (say, if I take a power nap later today), and lacking that ability indefinitely or even permanently (say, a terminal, comatose patient) seem to be two very different things. Would you say that the latter lacks agency and therefore dignity, but the former doesn't? Where do you draw the line between ability and inability to act?

          As for erring on the side of caution in all cases - everything is metaphysics, as they say. (Or is it all politics?) If you are a behaviorist or functionalist when it comes to the human being, I don't see why you'd have to wonder about whether a creature has agency - agency will be readily visible in how a creature behaves and functions. (If you are an identity theory materialist, agency looks more and more like an illusion to begin with - so that's a non-starter!) So no wonder that, without blinking an eye, Peter Singer can say a four month old infant is not a person in the same way the unborn are not people - because they are not rational agents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCNz95E-3Wg

          I also find Kreeft's line of thinking compelling - and for everyone's reference, it does occur in the context of a pro-life argument. But it seems to necessitate, at the very least, some kind of dualism. The question there is not whether, but when, we gain or lose this transcendent non-material dignity that every human being naturally has. Under utilitarianism or materialism, the very possibility of this transcendent dignity seems to be in question.

          • Well, not to split hairs even finer, but do you mean the (present) ability to make decisions, or the (future/in principle) potential ability to make decisions?

            If, in a possible world in which I have faculties similar to my present faculties, I act as a moral agent, then I am a moral agent in this actual world. There is a possible world in which I was awake at 1 am last night, so even though I was asleep last night and not making any decisions, I had the capability for agency, and so retain my rights.

            What about the comotose patient? I don't know. Maybe he could make decisions under some circumstances. Experts are undecided about whether people in comas can understand what is said to them, or whether they dream. If they dream, maybe they make decisions within their dreams. Some people who have been in comas claim memories where they try to talk and act with other people but their body will not respond. In that case, they are not only capable of agency, but they are in fact making moral decisions. It is just that they cannot carry out what they decide upon (like if you were tied to a chair, but more extreme).

            I'm unfamiliar with the words "functionalist" and "behaviorist" in this context, and I don't think I ever applied them to my own position. Maybe you can explain what they are and I can tell you whether I think they apply to my ethics, and how?

            In any case, I might note that when I whisper moral questions to friends when they are asleep, they don't answer. It would be a mistake to conclude that therefore all people who sleep cease to be moral agents and lose their rights until they wake.

            I do wonder very much about whether monkeys and unborn children have agency. That's why I'm pro-life and against scientific testing on primates. The answer is not clear to me, and I don't know why any labels will make the answer more clear. What behavior would definitively show the lack of agency in borderline cases?

            Since I'm not a materialist or a utilitarian, I'll leave your last comment open for response from others.

          • Thanks Paul. I'm just rambling, so no need to define those terms any further since they don't apply to your position.

            Regarding your position though, I guess I'm still confused about agency. It seems like in many cases you don't know if a creature has agency - but aren't there some cases where it's clear that a creature does (say, in Jennifer's)? So I guess my question would be, what is the line between not knowing if a creature has agency and knowing? For that matter, is there a line between not knowing if a creature has agency and knowing that a creature does not have agency? I ask because if you're tying individual dignity to agency, the criteria for these evaluations could have huge implications for particular human beings.

          • Generally, if I ask "do you know right from wrong?" and the response is "yes" (or even "no") then I can be confident that the respondent is a moral agent.

            Inanimate objects are not moral agents. Rocks, stars, electrons, chess pieces. Fictional characters, numbers, also not moral agents.

            There are many more definite cases than borderline cases.

          • Loreen Lee

            I liked the description Peter Singer gave but not the conclusion. How to you logically justify the fact that corporations are granted 'personhood' status, but the unborn is not.

      • David Nickol

        If you believe that “man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life,”what are we to say about dogs, or dolphins, or other non-human "higher" animals? If we were to be visited by an obviously intelligent alien—say, E.T. from the movie—would the appropriate conclusion be that he (if E.T. was a he!) had no dignity?

        It seems to me the quote from the Catechism implies that humans have no intrinsic worth but have dignity only because "God says so." It does not seem to me that one need necessarily attribute any kind of "dignity" to dogs, or dolphins, or Vulcans, or Denobulans. One would have to find out "God's opinion" of them.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Dignity means worth. Everything that exists has some level of worth because it has some level of being.

          In the context of the dignity of the human being, we mean that human beings are persons. ET is a "person", so in the context of the story he has dignity equal to Eliot, which is why it is so important to help him and why Eliot is right to love him and weep over his corpse before he is resurrected.

          • Loreen Lee

            There are incredible contrasts coming to light in the modern world. Euthanasia for instance is proposed on the argument that it will allow a 'person' to die in dignity. The assumption here, is that the pain, etc. would be synonymous with a loss of same. Yet another philosophy, addresses the 'challenge' that how a person accepts and overcomes even the greatest of hardship, humiliation, physical or psychological pain, etc. is the measure of 'dignity'. What is the common basis of this distinction? Is 'dignity' an internal or external characteristic? Is this not the point of the article, that human worth can be measures externally, and characteristics named as 'special', or they can refer to an 'intrinsic' value, which the word 'uniqueness' I believe would be the preferred term. Now we are left with the problematic of distinguishing between the external and the internal!!!!!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Proponents of homicide and suicide must dress up their acts as best they can, so they call it death with dignity.

            Further, they are not "allowing" the death to take place; they are making it happen. Another abuse of language.

          • Loreen Lee

            I am being somewhat 'rhetorical' in my question/answers on this post, for precisely that reason. There is a big distinction to be made between the ideas and the living it out, or as the aboriginal saying goes: walking the talk. That's my difficulty in coming to terms with living in two worlds, the natural and the spiritual, as defined particularly with respect to Catholicism. It is very difficult, and sometimes an unfair imposition to, in contrast to my understanding of what it means to 'bear one's cross', being in a position of the subjugation 'persons' are placed under, even as per an example of another comment on this post, a philosophical mandate by even Thomas Aquinas. I do not find this particularly surprising, as it is quite common for people to assume prerogatives and appropriate 'God-given' or assumed' characteristics to themselves. As for instance, in the saying 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely'. If we really examined our conscience, we might find examples of it even within ourselves. The recognition of this limitation of intellect, etc. within Kant is thus one of the things I admire about him. (If that could be a positive interpretation of what it might mean to naturalize the 'intellect') But there are 'problems' even here. We are unique in that we are limited creatures, perhaps, who have been granted or can believe that we have the capacity for 'free will'. (A metaphysical term).
            But is it not the 'crux' that the exercise of the same is very difficult, and the understanding as to it's significance, as it is 'metaphysical', is difficult as well. Perhaps it is even the recognition of this, and even the fact that it can alternatively be posited intellectually, as an idea, without belief even in it's efficacy or possibility, that we can be regarded as truly 'unique' as a species. (Would this not include the 'unborn'???!!!) .Anyway, it' is one of the reasons I 'believe' in the Aristotelean distinction between potency and actuality. We may be 'unique' in that even our psychological traumas, and the awareness of our mistakes, when we are aware of them, makes us accept the reality that we are in need of 'salvation', no matter what language is used to express this 'idea'. .

            Thus, I have 'reason' to believe that ideas, (like Aquinas' angels, and the mathematicians ideas of 'functional numbers) and what is recognized even by the Buddhists: that ideas are 'real'. This of course, gives validity to even Platonism, and perhaps even a growing comprehension of what is 'meant' by the 'idea' of God. But if we are talking about 'abuses of language', I read a book once written on the premise that no word has been more abused or misunderstood than that of 'God'.. Just 'sayin''!!

          • Michael Murray

            Further, they are not "allowing" the death to take place; they are making it happen. Another abuse of language.

            Does anyone really pretend that the phrase "allow someone to die in dignity" means that they should be left alone to die in dignity. The allow refers to the law allowing them to be killed.

            Given that we can keep anyone alive for a very long time these days I increasingly can't see the moral difference between intervening to kill someone and withdrawing treatment. I can however see a heck of a lot of problems from a practical point of view in allowing and controlling euthanasia so I'm not as keen on it as I think I am supposed to be given my general political proclivities.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think we would agree that no one should be "left alone" to die. That person should be surrounded by his or her loved ones and given the most effective palliative treatments possible.

          • Michael Murray

            My use of "left alone" wasn't meant to indicate they were without human company. You can remove the word "alone" from the sentence if you like.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I understood you, MM!

          • Michael Murray

            What about the two examples I just posted in reply to Loren

            https://strangenotions.com/what-makes-a-person-special/#comment-1310548635

            when palliative care may relieve pain but doesn't relieve suffering? What, for that matter, about cases were palliative care doesn't relieve the pain?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I cannot agree to either legalized suicide or legalized manslaughter and I think either would be very bad public policy.

          • Loreen Lee

            A distinction can be made between 'life support' which is a medical prolongation of life when under 'natural' conditions the life would reach an expected conclusion, and euthanasia for conditions that do not meet this criteria. As the Catholic church allows natural means I understand in the case of birth control, I would think it would be consistent that they would make the same distinction with respect to the death 'process'.

          • Michael Murray

            Euthanasia for instance is proposed on the argument that it will allow a 'person' to die in dignity. The assumption here, is that the pain, etc. would be synonymous with a loss of same. The assumption here, is that the pain, etc. would be synonymous with a loss of same.

            You've missed rather a lot in your "etc" in terms of unpleasant deaths. There are lots of things beyond pain that can happen when dying: faecal and urinary incontinence, inability to do anything for yourself, loss of speech, hearing and sight for example. Some people regard these as loss of dignity. Are they not allowed to do so ?

          • Loreen Lee

            OK. We can make this personal. They say that death is a slow process that can begin earlier than the death bed as with the syndromes of fecal and urinary incontinence, irritable bowel syndrome being one of the difficulties to live through/with the advent of old age.. In these examples, there are occasions when it can be a 'necessity' to retain a little 'self control' and dignity in the face of accidents. (Just to contrast the options of life over death, and the resulting definitions or contexts in which dignity is referred to in my comment). Maybe there are just some things that it is better to 'live through'!!!!

          • Michael Murray

            I was not thinking so much of people who are growing old with standard, unpleasant, old age symptoms that are "difficult to live with" but people dying of severe diseases that kill slowly or render you severely incapacitated but don't kill you. That's why I said "inability to do anything for yourself, loss of speech, hearing and sight".

            Here are two examples:

            http://choiceindying.com/category/elizabeth/

            http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/12/locked-in-tony-nicklinson-right-to-die

          • Loreen Lee

            First of all may I grant you the truth, that living a life with dignity can be a terrifying challenge. That is why I made the comment that humans are 'unique' in their consciousness that there is need for salvation, both physical and psychological. Even when we are in a situation where we don't know what to do, an answer can be salvatory.
            As I understand Catholicism, yes, there certainly is a dogmatic, meaning a belief in the infallibility of the principle that the preservation of life, both physical and spiritual, is parmount. To this is added the interpretation of Natural Law which granted does not always recognize what could be called 'anomalies', such as transgendered sexuality, etc. etc. Consistent with this, certainly, are circumstances in which the possibility of discontinuing life arises as an alternative to the bearing of what might seem to be an acceptance of 'unnecessary' suffering.
            The Church as I understand it, gives the example of Christ's suffering as being redemptive, and it is I believe this paradigm that is followed in cases between physical death and life. Just as we are 'redeemed' psychologically by becoming more aware, in a Buddhist sense of our limitations, and 'evolving' into a more comprehensive personality with more 'detachment' with respect6 to our grievances, towards others, for instance, so too the bearing of physical sufferings, can be viewed in both a negative and positive way.
            There are people handicapped from birth with such conditions as Downs syndrome, and mental health issues are also a factor which creates suffering that may not be comprehensible to another person. In all of these cases, sigma is often associated with such conditions, which creates further suffering for those who experience such conditions. In all of these situations, may I suggest, it may be the inability of persons to accept the realities that suffering is indeed almost 'inherent' in life circumstances, that drives people to end their lives, be it suicide or the desire for 'euthanasia'.
            May I suggest that dignity can be regarded as 'intrinsically' related to how we perceive and live these challenges; that dignity can be regarded as the consciousness of the possibility of growth within a process that recognizes not only the possibility of physical cure but a metaphysical interpretation of 'salvation'.. In this sense, we can be said to have the capacity for dignity to the extent that we are capable of faith, hope, and charity., not only in situations where we might feel that suicide would end for us a terrible ordeal, but in relation to those that are experiencing pain, both physical and mental that we may not take the time to 'understand', and have sympathy towards.
            Perhaps if there was more of the latter, there would be less of the despair that would certainly be a factor in a person's desire to end one's physical life.

          • Loreen Lee

            My response outlined the Catholic position, primarily in reference to your first link on the subject. Since then I have investigated further, and believe you may be referring to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease,
            There is a news article on the web at the moment describing a young gentleman's attempt to change the law regarding euthanasia, as a result of having this debilitating condition. I understand that a life expectancy of five years from onset is the norm. I was surprised to find, however, that Steven Hawking has been affected by this condition for fifty years. If he had succumbed to the possibility of ending his life, he would not have produced all of the cosmological and other scientific works that he has.

          • Michael Murray

            If he had succumbed to the possibility of ending his life, he would not have produced all of the cosmological and other scientific works that he has.

            Indeed. Stephen Hawking of course is a very rare genius. But I wouldn't deprive him of the right to end his life just so we can enjoy his insights.

            There are other debilitating ways of dying besides this. Even extreme stroke can leave you stuck inside your body unable to communicate.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks for getting back to me, Michael. The case of Tony Morrison, your second link, demonstrates the effect of stroke. Indeed one paragraph suggests that under natural conditions his life would have come to a natural end. This can be for me a case of principle versus practice, and I suspect that I could, like very many of us, wish under such circumstances to be allowed the option of ending such pain and misery. I have heard it expressed that animals whose lives are terminated because of illness, are being treated more 'humanely', than humans. May we never be in such a situation. As with the jurisdiction on the issue of abortion, it would be very helpful if people could recognize the distinctions between legal and moral principles..

          • David Nickol

            Dignity means worth. Everything that exists has some level of worth because it has some level of being.

            I am not sure how to square that with

            “man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life”

            or

            “it was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.”

            I can think of not compelling reason why those above two statements should apply to E.T. They seem to be about human persons only. I would say that in the history of religious and/or ethical thought, there has been a trend to have an "expanding circle" (as Peter Singer expresses it), but certainly in the Old Testament the moral commands were not universal ones. "You shall not kill" was "you shall not kill a member of your own tribe," and "you shall not covet your neighbor's goods" applied to your neighbor, not members of other tribes.

            It might make a certain sense for Christianity to require all "person-like entities" to be treated as if they had dignity, but I see nothing in the essence of Catholicism that demands this. Catholicism is very much about man—the human race—and is inextricably bound up with the human race because God became man. "Man" is the pinnacle of creation. I think Star Trek, especially in its earlier life, was a great deal about how human beings continue to be the "pinnacle of creation," with an implied superiority of Kirk over Spock because of the former's "intuition." I don't think Christianity leaves much room in the universe for a being superior to humans, or even equal. Earth is still the center of creation in Christian thinking.

  • David Nickol

    While I don't doubt Jennifer Fulwiler has the best of intentions, there is something disturbing to me about her approach. She concludes as follows:

    If we continue to see our fellow human beings as special based on
    arbitrary, flexible definitions that are ultimately rooted in human judgment of evidence, the devaluation of human life will spread to even more segments of society. And one day it could be you or someone you love who is no longer considered special.

    What she is ignoring is that for most of the history of Christianity, it was only white Christian men who were "special." And of course ultimately what she is saying is that a person is special because God says so. Jews weren't "special" in the eyes of Christians for almost 2000 years. Native Americans weren't "special" to the Europeans who wanted land and riches from the "New World." Go back and read the Old Testament and see how "special" slaves were.

    Maybe there is a God and maybe there isn't. But even if there is (which most of the time is what I believe) it strikes me as dangerous and lazy to base things on "God says so" because God really doesn't say anything. Popes and bishops say things, ayatollahs and imams say things, rabbis say things, and so on, and so on. And more often than not, what they say causes things to work out well for the wealthy and powerful of the particular group they belong to.

    I suppose it was too much to hope that she’d quote directly from the Catechism, since it’s kind of hard to rhyme “man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life” with “it was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.”

    Why should anyone believe this, any more than they should believe, along with the Westboro Baptist Church, that "God hates fags," or along with Thomas Aquinas that "the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own"? Why should anyone not believe that if a prominent ayatollah issues a fatwa against a blasphemous writer, the writer ought to be killed on sight?

    It seems to me that even if one is certain that the Christian God really exists, "God said so" is the ultimate non-answer to any question.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      What she is ignoring is that for most of the history of Christianity, it was only white Christian men who were "special."

      That is a strange statement from one who is so well read. Christianity has always been from the beginning until now for every human being. It was never for "white men" alone. Just to quote Paul:

      [I]n Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through
      faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on
      Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor
      free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ
      Jesus. (Gal 3:26-28)

      • David Nickol

        I stand by my original statement.

        If in Christ there is no male and female, why can't there be women priests? If there was neither Jew nor Greek, why did Thomas Aquinas say, "The Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own"? From the Catholic Encyclopedia only a century ago:

        The negro has a religious nature. His docile, cheerful, and emotional disposition is much influenced by his immediate environment, whether those surroundings be good or evil. Catholic faith and discipline are known to have a wholesome effect on the race. Observing men and judges of courts have remarked on the law-abiding spirit existing in Catholic coloured communities. Some elements of the white man's civilization do not always tend to elevate the morality of the negro. The negro is naturally gregarious, and the dissipations and conditions of city life in many instances corrupt the native simplicity of the younger generation to the sorrow of their more conservative elders.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          1. I think you know why women cannot be priests in the Catholic Church.

          2. Did you read the entire TA quote in context or did you find it somewhere taken out of context?

          3. What is the quote from the CE from the last century supposed to accomplish?

          • David Nickol

            1. I think you know why women cannot be priests in the Catholic Church.

            I think I can tell you the argument—which is basically that Jesus picked only men to be "priests" (even though there were no priests during the lifetime of Jesus). But I find it difficult why anyone should consider that a compelling argument, and I don't even know how it can be put forward with a straight face in the light of St. Paul's quote.

            2. Did you read the entire TA quote in context or did you find it somewhere taken out of context?

            I believe that at some earlier point I has read the whole letter, but I have just read it through again, and I don't believe I have quoted it at all out of context. And I had either forgotten about this or not read it:

            Finally you ask whether it is good that Jews throughout your province are compelled to wear a sign distinguishing them from Christians. The reply to this is plain: that, according to a statute of the general Council, Jews of each sex in all Christian provinces, and all the time, should be distinguished from other people by some clothing. This is also mandated to them by their own law, namely that they make for themselves fringes on the four corners of their cloaks, through which they are distinguished from others.

            3. What is the quote from the CE from the last century supposed to accomplish?

            It is to show that the attitude of the Church (or at least people who give a very good idea of what the Church holds, such as compilers of a Catholic encyclopedia), have been, and no doubt will always continue to be, subject to ideas that under other (or later) circumstances can be seen to be shot through with contemporary limitations and prejudices rather than being pure, timeless expressions of "God's opinions." Contemporary Catholic thought developed over a period of two-thousand years, and many Catholics seem to be under the illusion that if you traveled in a time machine back to the time of the apostles, you could, say, ask a priest to hear your confession and then go to Sunday Mass.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There were not priests at the time of Christ?

            There were Jewish priests from the time of Moses and there were Christian priests from the evening of the Last Supper.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I don't mean to interject, but I find your comment to be incredible. There is no indication within the New Testament that any of the twelve disciples understood themselves to belong to a ministerial priesthood or that they believed themselves to have been ordained to that ministerial priesthood by Christ on Holy Thursday.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Arthur, You are very welcome to interject.

            Here is a pretty standard defense of the notion that the apostles were ministerial priests and appointed others to this office as well:

            http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/where-in-the-new-testament-are-priests-mentioned

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Actually, nothing in that article provides any evidence for your assertion that the twelve were ordained to the ministerial priesthood at the Last Supper.

          • Susan

            There were Jewish priests from the time of Moses

            According to historians, when was the time of Moses?

            What exactly should we accept as factual about "the time of Moses"?

          • Michael Murray

            There is some reliable historical video footage available

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TAtRCJIqnk

          • Susan

            'A deaf man could hear you."

            Snurfle.

            I'm a sucker for New York Jewish schtick. And Mel is one of the masters.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is a fair question. I should have said, there were certainly Jewish priests at the time of Christ. Those priests traced their origin back to the origin given in the Pentateuch.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven--Confession.
            The breaking of the break on the Lord's Day--Sunday Mass

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Is it your view that what Catholics today regard as the Sacrament of Penance was practiced in the 1st century? What evidence do you have in support of this claim?

            I agree with you that a kind of proto-Mass emerged early on in the Jesus movement.

          • “In church confess your sins, and do not come to your prayer with a guilt conscience. Such is the Way of Life...On the Lord's own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure."
            Didache 4:14,14:1 (A.D. ~90 )

            "… Thine high priest, that he may minister blamelessly by night and day, that he may unceasingly behold and appropriate Thy countenance and offer to Thee the gifts of Thy holy Church. And that by the high priestly Spirit he may have authority to forgive sins..."
            St. Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition (A.D. 215)

            "In addition to these there is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious: the remission of sins through penance... when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord."
            Origen, Homilies on Leviticus (A.D. 248)

            “I have recently heard that some have unlawfully presumed to act contrary to a rule of Apostolic origin... All that is necessary, however, is for the sinner to manifest his conscience in a secret confession to the priests alone…It is sufficient, therefore, to have first offered one’s confession to God, and then also to the priest, who acts as an intercessor for the transgressions of the penitents”
            Pope St Leo the Great, Magna indignation (A.D. 459)

          • Arthur Jeffries

            See my response to Kevin above.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. That is my view. The form of the Sacrament we commonly practice today (private confession with private penance) is generally attributed to the Irish monks of the 7th century. In the first centuries we know the practice was public confession and public penance.

          • Kevin,
            Please read St. Leo the Great below. The observation about the 7th century Irish monks is an historical mistake in the current catechism which I expect they will correct at some point. While public penance and confession existed in the early church. So did auricular confession.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Surely, neither in the New Testament, 1 Clement, or the Didache is any reference made to Christians confessing their sins (in public or private) to a priest or bishop followed by penance and absolution.

            While some method of confession appears to have occurred within the primitive church community, it cannot be easily identified with what later developed as the Sacrament of Penance. The later rite was a product in part of the development of the episcopacy and ministerial priesthood.

          • David Nickol

            The later rite was a product in part of the development of the episcopacy and ministerial priesthood.

            There seems to be a view of Catholicism, which Catholics interested in apologetics seem often to be drawn to, that goes something like this: Jesus was omniscient. Everything he said and did was with the intention of creating the Catholic Church as we know it today. So when Jesus said, "You are Peter . . . ," he was envisioning the papacy as we know it today. When he said, "Whose sins you shall forgive . . . ," he was inventing the sacrament of confession as we know it today. Of course, he did not say to the apostles, "You should have people come to you privately and confess their sins—perhaps through a screen in a little booth or some such setting—and after you hear their sins you will grant absolution on condition that they perform some kind of penance, like reciting a certain number of times some prayers they have previously memorized." If asked, Jesus presumably could have said, "This is how confession will work in the 21st century, but I can describe various preliminary forms of it from now in the 1st century over the next 2000 years that the Church in the 21st century can, in retrospect, identify as the sacrament of Penance at any point from the Apostles onward. There is now, and will always be, a sacrament of Penance, originated by me." And Jesus at the Last Supper would have though, omnisciently, I am instituting the Eucharist here, and I am ordaining the Twelve as the first priests, and bishops, too. It is going to take some time for my plans to unfold, so after the Last Supper, if you asked one of my Apostles if he was a priest, he would no doubt be bewildered, but after things sorted themselves out over several decades of pondering what I said, it will be agreed that I created the offices of priest and bishop at the Last Supper." Jesus would have known that there would be seven and only seven sacraments, because he instituted them, but he also presumably would have known that it might take a thousand years before that was all figured out (as with, say the sacrament of matrimony). But he would also know that Catholics in later ages could confidently point (with 20-20 hindsight) to proof that he instituted the sacrament of matrimony during his lifetime, and that it was one of the seven sacraments even before sacramental theology was worked out and a sacrament was clearly defined.

            This is very much not the view I find in my most trusted reference on such matters, a book called Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church, by Joseph Martos. To make a crude analogy, Doors to the Sacred approaches the development of the Church more like evolution, while the view that I described above sees the Church developing like an organism beginning with a zygote. In the first view, you can trace things backwards and see their origins and how they evolved. In the second view, the Church as an organism develops from a "genetic code," and everything that happens is more or less predetermined and was, in theory at least, predictable from the earliest Church.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You could have quoted this to put Thomas' statement in context:

            First Response

            First therefore, Your Excellency inquired whether it is allowable for you at some time and in what way to make an
            exaction upon the Jews.

            To which question (proposed in this unqualified way) it can be answered that although, as the laws say, the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own - with, nonetheless, this restraint observed that the necessary subsidies of life in no way be taken from them, because it still is necessary that we "walk honestly even in the presence of those who are outsiders (I Thes. 4:11)," "lest the name of the Lord be blasphemed (I Tim. 6:1)," and the Apostle admonishes the faithful by his example that (I Cor. 10:32-33), "they be without offense in the presence of the Jews and the Gentiles and in the Church of God" - this seems to be what should be observed, that, as the laws have determined, the services coerced from them do not demand things that they had not been accustomed to do in times gone by, because those things that are unexpected more often rattle souls.

            Now, following the judgment of this sort of restraint, you can in accordance with the customs of your predecessors make an exaction upon the Jews, only if, however, nothing else stands in the way. For it seems that, as far as I was able to conjecture from those things which you subsequently asked, your doubt mostly concerned this, that the Jews of your land seem to have nothing except what they acquired through the depravity of usury. And, hence, consequently you ask whether it is not licit to require something from them, and to whom the things thus required are to be restored.

            On this matter therefore, it seems the response should be this, since the Jews may not licitly keep those things which they have extorted from others through usury, the consequence is also that if you receive these things from them neither may you licitly keep them, unless perhaps they be things that the Jews had extorted from you or from your ancestors hitherto. If, however, they have things which they extorted from others, these things, once demanded from them, you should restore to those to whom the Jews were bound to restore them. Thus, if certain persons are discovered from whom the Jews extorted usury, it should be restored to them. Otherwise, these usurious monies should be set aside for pious uses according to the council of the diocesan bishop and of other upright men, or even for the common utility of your land if a necessity looms and usefulness calls for it; nor even would it be illicit if you should require such usurious money from the Jews anew, preserving the custom of your predecessors, with this intention that the monies be expended for pious purposes.

            You made the claim that Thomas said, "The Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own."

            This was not a judgment that Thomas was making. He was referring to what the laws already said and he gave advice to one of the civil authorities on how to apply that law in a reasonable and humane way.

          • David Nickol

            You made the claim that Thomas said, "The Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own."

            This was not a judgment that Thomas was making.

            I disagree. The quote is as follows:

            . . . . it can be answered that although, as the laws say, the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own

            If Aquinas had said, "The laws say . . . " and given an opinion, you might claim he was interpreting, but not endorsing, the laws. However, he says, "as the laws say."

            If I say, "Einstein said that God doesn't play dice," I am quoting Einsteain." If I say, "As Einstein said, 'God doesn't play dice,'" I am using Einstein's words to express my own opinion. It is cler that it was Aquinas's own belief that "the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude." It is certainly better that his position was "humane" and coolly rational than that he respond, "Take everything they have and let them starve." But by today's standards, Aquinas was an anti-Semite and the Catholic Church was anti-Semitic.

          • Ben Posin

            I don't know why women cannot be priests in the Catholic church, beyond seemingly meaning free statements like "only men can act in the person of Christ." Went round and round in circles with someone on this website. It really does seem to boil down to sexism/tradition.

          • [---
            I don't know why women cannot be priests in the Catholic church, beyond seemingly meaning free statements like "only men can act in the person of Christ."
            ---]
            Contrary to your reading, most people understand perfectly well that gender is not meaning free.

          • Ben Posin

            "Contrary to your reading, most people understand perfectly well that gender is not meaning free."

            This would seem to be the appropriate moment for you to explain the relevant difference between men and women that makes women incapable of being priests. Lacking such an explanation, what am I to think besides tradition/sexism?

          • [---
            This would seem to be the appropriate moment for you to explain the relevant difference between men and women that makes women incapable of being priests.
            ---]

            It's the same difference that permits me to say that women cannot be fathers, and men cannot be mothers. Its has nothing to do with sexism, suppression or power, but rather nature.

          • Ben Posin

            "It's the same difference that permits me to say that women cannot be fathers, and men cannot be mothers. Its has nothing to do with sexism, suppression or power, but rather nature."

            No, that's not actually an answer. Priests are celibate. They neither impregnate others as part of their job, or bear children. Even if priests were not celibate, why would it matter if a priest did the insemination or the child-bearing?

            If that's all you have, tradition/sexism it is.

          • [---
            No, that's not actually an answer.
            ---]
            Actually, it is an answer. Your argument is as silly as saying women should be allowed to be fathers. And men should be allowed to be mothers. All those who disagree are sexist.

          • David Nickol

            If the requirement to be a priest is the ability to be a father, then I am not quite sure why roosters cannot be priests. You really haven't actually made an argument of your own. The ability to father a child, or conceive a child in the womb and bring it to term, is a purely physical capability that all mammals (and many other categories of animals) possess.

            You have not made an argument as to what the physical capability to impregnate a woman has to do with the office of priest. If there is something symbolic (which I assume there must be), you haven't said what it is.

            It is very difficult to think of anything to fill in the blanks here: You can be a father, so you can be a ________, but you can't be a ________. You can be a mother, so you can be a _______, but you can't be a __________. It seems to me that if you don't fill in those blanks with some reasonable answers, the fact that a man can be a father and not a mother, and the fact that a woman can be a mother but not a father, is no significance to anything besides being a mother or a father.

          • [---
            If the requirement to be a priest is the [biological] ability to be a father
            ---]

            I never said that either. You have a habit of creating straw men to beat up on. My only claim has always been that a priest must be male. Being male is not reducible to fertility or the sexual act.

          • Ben Posin

            Irenaeus seems to now be saying that it's the ROLE of being a father, not physically being the father, that's important; that there's a particular aspect of parenting that can only be accomplished by someone of the male gender, and that it is this capability that must be drawn on by a priest. Thus a woman cannot be a "spiritual father."

            And he wonders why this is seen as a sexist viewpoint/policy.

          • [---
            Ben said:
            Irenaeus seems to NOW be saying....
            ---]
            I have been very consistent in claiming that a priest must be male. It has been your preoccupation with strawmen and the reproductive system that is going off on tangents.

            [---
            Ben said:
            ... seems to now be saying that it's the ROLE of being a father, not physically being the father, that's important;
            ---]
            More strawmen. I have not said role was important or not important. I am talking about ontological realities. To repeat an example; saying women cannot be fathers is not a statement about importance, or sexual acts, or fertility. It's a statement about reality accessible to anyone reading it.

          • Ben Posin

            I don't understand why you're making us play guessing games, rather than just explaining what it is you do mean.

            As best I can figure out now, you're saying your talk of fathers and mothers is about definitions; that by definition only a man can be a father and a woman can be a mother. By extension, I guess you're saying that by definition only a man can be a priest. Is that finally it? Because that's, well, a bit silly. We could take any position in society and decide to say only men can fulfill it, and call that part of the definition. But if there's no actual reason women couldn't fulfill that role as well, appealing to our definition doesn't make us less discriminatory, sexist, or wrongheaded.

          • [---
            We could take any position in society and decide to say only men can fulfill it, and call that part of the definition.
            ---]
            I have already demonstrated that you can't do that arbitrarily with examples that I have given repeatedly. Neither can you do it with the OT(Aaronic/Levitical/Mechizeldek) or NT priesthood. They cannot be seperated from their patriarchal nature which was established by God. A priest is ontologically a father, and Michah says as much when he connects the two "Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest". The same God which determined only men could be Levitical priests, or Aaronic priests was the same God who chose male apostles/priests in continuity with the Law he perfected.

          • Ben Posin

            I don't find your use of the word "ontologically" impressive or persuasive, or in this context functionally different from "by definition." I'm also unclear about what examples you have given that have any relevance; mother and father certainly don't. They are just gendered terms for parent, like priest and priestess would be if you let women in. But hey, with Disqus anything is possible, so let me know if I missed some.

            If you want to say that God has ruled that a priest must be male, that that's his law, fine. Call it a rule, call it a mystery, call it "ontological," call it anything you want. But you've done nothing to support the idea that there's any reason, beyond God's fiat, that a woman couldn't fulfill the role of a priest. So we're left with God as being the one who is sexist--and you too, I suppose, to the extent that you think what God is doing makes sense, as opposed to just accepting his authority to make this determination.

          • Ben Posin

            Irenaeus,

            I think we're pretty much done here. All you've done is refer to the biological differences between men and women's reproductive systems, without even trying to explain how this could be relevant to being a priest. I hate to break it to you, but that's what sexism is, pretty much by definition: taking a difference between men and women in one area and using it to justify discrimination in an unrelated area. Yes, you, Irenaeus, are sexist, at least on this issue.

          • [---
            All you've done is refer to the biological differences between men and women's reproductive systems
            ---]
            Ben, you seem to be preoccupied with reproductive systems, because I did not refer to them at all. If you haven't figured it out by now, Catholics believe in a spiritual reality that can make a person a father without the sexual act.

          • Ben Posin

            If you don't want to be misunderstood, be a little less coy with your explanations. David Nickol seems to have been on the same page as me, so I feel ok with where my head's at.

            Giving you the benefit of the doubt and filling in gaps you seem unwilling to do yourself, you seem to want to draw a distinction between "father" and "mother" in the role a parent plays, and then want to argue that the role a priest has to play is more like that of a father than a mother. I'm not sure how big a step up that actually is from just saying that male body parts are necessary to be a priest.

            If you want to make this argument, you need to explain what it is male parents provide for their children that female parents are incapable of providing, and then show what part of being a priest this supposed difference is related to. Priests are exclusively "spiritual fathers" (to the extent that's actually a fair descriptive term) only because the church doesn't let women act as priests; if they did, I'd think we'd consider priests to be "spiritual parents," and I don't see how Catholics would lose thereby.

            So go ahead and try to make that argument (or whatever other secret argument you're waiting for me to guess), or sexism/tradition it is.

          • David Nickol

            Could the (true) statement that women cannot be fathers and men cannot be mothers be used to justify prohibiting women from becoming president of the United States, or a professor of mathematics, or a surgeon, or a commercial airplane pilot?

            I don't see how being a father can be a requirement for being a priest, when we specifically require that priests not become fathers. As I said elsewhere, it seems to me (although I do not understand it) that the Church feels a certain dwindling number of roles are reserved for "father types." But exactly what the traits of a "father type" are (aside from male genitals) I have little idea.

            It seems to me that there is "being a father" (impregnating a fertile woman who conceives and gives birth) and there is "being a father" (providing for and raising a child). I think a great many men who are capable of being a father in the first sense are far less well equipped than women to "be a father" in the second sense.

          • [---
            I don't see how being a father can be a requirement for being a priest, when we specifically require that priests not become fathers
            ---]
            I never said they had to be fathers. Nor was that my intent. Yet they are all fathers, and we call them that too.

            Being a father need not require the sexual act. But it does require the proper gender. i.e. Roman Catholic priests, beget children in Christ as the ordinary minister of baptism. They are our spiritual fathers.

          • David Nickol

            But it does require the proper gender. i.e. Roman Catholic priests, beget children in Christ as the ordinary minister of baptism.

            But women can baptize, at least in case of emergency. If a Christian man and woman are present when an unbaptized person is in danger of death and wishes to be baptized, is there a rule that the Christian man must be the one to baptize? Is a woman who baptizes someone in an emergency violating some kind of gender role?

            By the way, it occurs to me that Jesus speaks of baptism as being "born again," not "conceived again." If women give birth in the first place, I don't see why they would not be the logical ones to oversee "rebirth." I have never heard of baptism being compared to conception—only birth.

          • [---
            But women can baptize, at least in case of emergency.
            ---]

            Thats a great point. But they still would not become a spiritual "Father".

          • David Nickol

            1. I think you know why women cannot be priests in the Catholic Church.

            Let me just add that if I were in an old-fashioned debating club where you don't know which side of the question you are arguing for (or against) until it is assigned to you at the beginning of the debate, there are a great many question in which I feel I could do a very good job of arguing the Catholic side of the question, either because I at least partially believe it or because, while I don't agree with it, I do understand the Catholic position well enough so that I feel I could hold my own (including, perhaps, answering objections to the Catholic position that I had never heard before, but extrapolating from what I already knew of Catholic thought).

            However, in an old-fashioned debate, if I were assigned to defend the proposition "only men can be priest," I would be almost totally at a loss. I think I could do a pretty good job of arguing contraception was immoral, or gay people were obliged to remain celibate, but I really don't think I could make a half-convincing case that women cannot be priests. The best I could do, I think, was say the pope says so, and the pope has the authority to say so. The arguments as I understand them are so thin that I don't think I could explain them or elaborate on them.

          • [---
            but I really don't think I could make a half-convincing case that women cannot be priests.
            ---]
            Perhaps you know how to argue for it then? I haven't seen any good arguments for it that don't start from the premise that gender is meaningless.

          • Ben Posin

            Well, yes, pretty much: I'm aware of no requirement in a priest's job that calls for a priest to be male. I'm unaware of any genderwide difference between men and women that make women unfit to be priests. Yet you and the Catholic Church would prohibit women as an entire gender from holding positions of authority in the Catholic Church (or an important type or class of position, if you prefer). That's pretty much the definition of discrimination. What about this view is confusing to you?

            What's confusing to me is that you seem to believe it obvious that there is a relevant difference between men and women, but have refused in several posts on the subject to say what it is.

          • David Nickol

            Perhaps you now how to argue for it then? I haven't seen any good
            arguments for it that don't start from the premise that gender is
            meaningless.

            I would not argue that gender is "meaningless," and in fact I have been arguing consistently in the past few days that it is foolish to ignore biological facts (evolution, etc.) in discussing male-female relationships. But the argument, as I understand it, is not that "qualified women" cannot give homilies equal to those of men, or hear confession and give pastoral guidance as well as men, or that, indeed, there is any "job requirement" of the priesthood that "qualified women" could not handle. If I were to attempt to make a stab at explaining what I think to be the Church's reasoning, it would be along the lines that the Church seems to feel that women are "mother types" and men are "father types," and although there is an ever-dwindling list of roles reserved for "father types," the priesthood is one of them. In times past only "father types" were appropriate as legislators, voters, presidents, CEOs of large companies, commercial pilots, surgeons, and so on. But now it seems to me that almost the only role reserved for "father types" is the priesthood. I have quoted the old online Catholic encyclopedia article Woman enough in the past so I feel I don't need to do it again. (Well, just one: "The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university.") I suspect that some of the Church's pronouncements on women today will seem just as quaint in a hundred years as those of a hundred years ago do today.

          • Michael Murray

            Perhaps you know how to argue for it then? I chaven't seen any good arguments for it that don't start from the premise that gender is meaningless.

            Surely the argument is given above in a quote Kevin gave

            [I]n Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26-28)

          • [---
            Surely the argument is given above in a quote Kevin gave
            ---]
            That is about baptism not the priesthood/holy orders.

          • Michael Murray

            Is it ? It seems to me to be talking about being "sons of God, through faith", "all one in Christ Jesus". It might be the result of baptism but the outcome seems to be equality.

        • [---
          If in Christ there is no male and female, why can't there be women priests?
          ---]

          For the same reason Jesus chose 12 male apostles to stand in place of the 12 patriarchs for the tribes of a new Israel with a new covenant. While a person may be baptised in Christ male or female, that does not mean they can licitly and validly act in the person of Christ. This is the example that Christ set. This is the example the apostles set. And this is the example the disciples of the apostles set.

  • Loreen Lee

    I do read the scripture daily, on New Advent. That is enough for me to assimilate at one time. The reason I mention this, is that several weeks ago I remember reading a text in which Jesus said something to the effect, (I can't quote, nor give you the scripture reference) that only God the Father could be your father., with reference to ecclesiastical authority. I was a little surprised that he said this, and since I can't direct you to the source I probably should learn to be more silent, especially when it seems to contradict what he says in other passages as when the apostles are given power to withhold or forgive sins. What are we to regard them as, if not 'spiritual fathers'? In Islam, I understand, communication is direct with Allah, and the Imman is not a mediator. But mediation is such a vital part of Christianity. Anyway, the passage gave me this idea of a priority of direct communion with God, when I read it. Just 'sayin'!

  • Tom Rafferty

    "--- products of a secular culture which teaches that every truth must be provable by the scientific method in order to be accepted."

    Just what is wrong with this statement? Every person reading this comment conducts his or her life according to evidence, with some of you treating religious claims as an exception to this rule.

    • Tim Dacey

      Re: "Just what is wrong with this statement?"

      Because that view is defeated on its own terms. That is to say, the view that "every truth must be provable by the scientific method in order to be accepted" is itself not provable by the scientific method.

      • Tom Rafferty

        Ah, presuppositional apologetics. Look it us if you don't understand.

        The results of scientific methods (to include our mundate use of such in our daily lives) "proves" the truth of the statement. What other method of determining the truth is better? Faith? If so, please justify that YOUR faith beliefs are more worthy of acceptance than the tens of thousands of other faith beliefs. Please note: use of any circular reasoning is not an answer to the question. Thanks.

        • "The results of scientific methods (to include our mundate use of such in our daily lives) "proves" the truth of the statement. What other method of determining the truth is better?"

          Thanks for the comment, Tom. I'm not sure you understood Tim's challenge.

          You haven't explained how the scientific method can validate the objective truth of the claim that "every truth must be provable by the scientific method in order to be accepted." You've just argued that for many other questions the scientific method has proven successful. Do you see how the latter point is irrelevant to the first question?

          Just because I figured out a consistently delicious way to make pancakes doesn't mean that method would apply equally well to waffles.

          PS. This has nothing to do with presuppositional apologetics, as you proposed.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Brandon, you are obfuscating the issue. The issue of validating the scientific method is in the results. There is nothing better than such to determine reality, no matter the subject. If you disagree with this statement, please present a better method for determining reality. Oh, and please do not continue to use philosophical statements. Philosophy has a purpose, but it is not a way to knowledge, as there is no way to justify its opinions. If there were, philosophers would be in just as much agreement on a subject as scientists.

            I assume you are a Catholic. please simply justify to me (a former devout, educated Catholic) why your faith is true. Thanks.

          • Tim Dacey

            Tom: You really can't be serious when you say: "Philosophy has a purpose, but it is not a way to knowledge, as there is no way to justify its opinions" right?

            Also, I want to recommend a book for you...

            http://www.amazon.com/Theory-Reality-Introduction-Philosophy-Foundations/dp/0226300633

            I think you will find it helpful to study not just 'science' but the philosophical foundations of 'science'. You will quickly realize, that science is not separate from philosophy but part of it, which will make you far more appreciative of science than ever before.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Tim, I am very serious. What knowledge has philosophy produced? Answer that question and I will continue this dialogue. Thanks.

          • Tim Dacey

            You might find an answer to that question in the countless philosophical texts that have been written...

            I should also be clear; there has been a lot of bad philosophy done, especially in the past century. Maybe this is why your attitude is negative towards philosophy(?) I don't find much promise in the various so called 'Continental' tradition (e.g., existentialism; deconstructionism; post-modernism; etc.).

            I'm not sure how relevant the following video is but I think it will serve my purpose of showing you (and others like you) the important relationship that philosophy and science have. ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86NIrHGMAxk

          • Tom Rafferty

            "You might find an answer to that question in the countless philosophical texts that have been written..."

            See, that is exactly the problem with philosophy. There are several philosophical opinions about reality without agreement. How does one factor out the philosophical opinion that is most apt to be correct, or at least bring us to the best understanding of reality?

            I never said philosophy is useless, It is reflective of humanities primitive efforts to understand reality and still does play a role in formulating the methods of science.

            Natural philosophy gave birth to science and the game changed for the better in enabling humanity to best understand our reality. You, and others who have responded to my comments since I found this site a few weeks ago, continue to avoid my simple, direct questions. Again, I will attempt to get a concise answer to a direct question: With the wide variety of philosophical and theological opinions, how do philosophers and theologians JUSTIFY their views? I will not respond to any further comments on this post until someone clearly and directly answers THAT question. Thanks.

          • Alypius

            I've read through your interesting critique here and it seems to me that the bar you have set in your mind for knowledge to be "justified" is a certain degree of repeatability and consensus. Is that correct? If that's what you are looking for, it's true that the discipline of philosophy does not currently provide that. There is repeatability in the use of the method: deductive reasoning, but not consensus because a different set of axiomatic assumptions when applied to logic produce a different set of results.

            Ought we therefore abandon it? Not necessarily. Science, as you note, provides reams of useful information about the world. But we can only assert that that data that form its "results" is reflective of reality if we make certain key assumptions (whether spoken or unspoken):
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_science#Axiomatic_assumptions
            None of those assumptions is proveable using the scientific method. And in fact, if even one of them is false, then by logical extension every single piece of scientific data we have is illusory. So science cannot logically avoid the same problem in justifying its data that philosophy has (even if scientists can still keep using the scientific method regardless of whether they have personally thought through the philosophical foundation of their discipline).

            With the wide variety of philosophical and theological opinions, how do philosophers and theologians JUSTIFY their views?

            This is really two questions. Without touching the theological basis for faith, and with the caveat noted above that the current state of the philosophical discipline is not one of consensus, here is a brief outline of how philosophy in the vein of "Direct Realism" (the one whose pedigree would go back to Aristotle and which was in a weak sense "adopted" by the Catholic Church because of the influence of Thomas Aquinas) might "justify" its claim to knowledge.
            First, it accepts a couple of basic axiomatic assumptions:
            1) Reality exists and is intelligible. This is not to say that it is not sometimes difficult to understand reality; it is only to say that reality is not fundamentally incoherent.
            2) Through our senses, our intellect is placed in touch with reality. Again this doesn't mean that everything is perfect or easy (our senses can sometimes fool us!), just that our access to know reality comes through our senses.

            By "accepting" them, what I mean is this: it realizes that
            A) they can not be deductively "proven". They are fundamental in the sense of having to be assumed. Also
            B) if either premise would be false, then it strikes a logical blow to our claim that we can know anything at all.
            Part of the reason philosophy as a discipline has been all over the map is because since about the 16th century philosophers have been seriously attempting to question (in whole or in part) these key assumptions.

            Then, using those assumptions, it examines questions about reality and uses the tools of deductive reasoning to come to conclusions. Note that those two assumptions are more or less the same as a couple of the assumptions underlying the scientific method. What's different between the two is the sorts of questions that each discipline examines. Science, by necessity, must only examine those questions which are empirically verifiable. Philosophy examines questions that are not empirically observable, but which are no less analyzable rationally. The "justification" for every single one of its conclusions comes from Logic itself.

            This was a bit more long-winded than I intended. I hope I addressed your question and didn't just add to your frustration with the responses you've gotten here! :-)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And the problem with philosophy's logical conclusions is that logic itself is occasionally suspect: it appears to be a generalized set of rules based on our particular "scale" of observation; someone existing on a quantum level would develop a different set of logical axioms. Hence the virtue of science's insistence on empirical verification.

          • Alypius

            someone existing on a quantum level would develop a different set of logical axioms

            Well that is one possible interpretation of quantum data, but there are others that fit the bill just as well. Among other things, quantum mechanics seems at first blush like it might contradict the principle of non-contradiction, but dig a little deeper and you find that it isn't so.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Give details. I'm not aware of any simplistic reductions of quantum theory.

          • Alypius

            Late response here, but here's an example of the kind of argument I'm talking about:
            http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2010/03/an-empirical-refutation-of-the-law-of-noncontradiction.html

            In a broader sense, and this is definitely not my area of expertise, but I know there've been some discussions around the question "is logic empirical?" (the title, in fact of a paper by Putnam). And, as always in philosophy, opinions vary greatly. *sigh*. If you want to slog through some of it (cure for insomnia perhaps?) I'll refer you here:
            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-quantlog/
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_logic

            In any event, we should probably wait 'til the scientists settle the ManyWorlds/Copenhagen dispute before getting too excited about the philosophical implications. :-)

          • Michael Murray

            I'm a little confused by that blog post. It seems just an assertion that something couldn't have happened. Sort of like shutting ones eyes and refusing to look through Galileo's telescope.

            The original experiment is discussed here

            http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100317/full/news.2010.130.html

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's how I read it too.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Alypius, thanks for the lengthy attempt to answer my simple question. No, I am really not trying to be sarcastic. However, it is just so frustrating to ask, as a former Catholic who gave up the faith due to lack of evidence for a god, let alone the Christian version of such, why should I re-consider my choice to become an atheist? I am an athelst, but am open to being persuaded that there is good evidence in support of another worldview. Please have a crack at it. Why are you a Catholic and why should one consider it? Thanks.

          • Tom Rafferty

            My Facebook friend, Edward Tarte, a former Catholic priest, sums up my thoughts quite well.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIsYwAKfxyI

          • Alypius

            Good, Tom - I'm grateful I didn't annoy you!
            First, a clarification: "Why am I a Catholic" and "Why do I believe God exists" are two separate questions. You asked the first one, but I think from your questioning you are probably more interested in the second (correct me if I'm wrong!), so that's the one I'll answer. I've never been an atheist, but I did do a stint as a "trial agnostic" for awhile. Not that that means my faith hang-ups were anything like yours. I've no doubt our cognitive pathways are different!

            A key thing, I think, is in what gets to count as "evidence" in the first place. I don't know what kinds of evidence you considered, but a lot of people go looking for God expecting to find some incontrovertible sign of his existence (as if the God-hypothesis was empirically demonstrable), and when they don't find one, they logically do what you did: reject the hypothesis. But attempts to find God among the cause&effect structure of the physical world are mistaken from the get-go (which is why the God-of-the-gaps arguments that some make, such as "science can't explain abiogenesis, therefore God must have 'intervened' in the creation of life" are completely doomed). God does not exist in the exceptions to the rules; if he/she/it exists it's in the rules themselves.

            Given the empirical observations we make about the world, the curious thing is that there are regularities there. Strictly speaking, the inductive method which is the basis of scientific experimentation cannot say for sure whether there are "laws" or "rules" operative or not. All it can say is "the data looked similar during experiment A, B & C, and the prediction that was subsequently made for experiment D turned out correct". Yet given the premise that reality is intelligible, we humans have the chutzpah (I'm being facetious here; I think its perfectly reasonable) to describe all the objects/attributes we know to exist and all of the properties of the cause & effect interactions among them (often using mathematical precision), as if there were rules governing them. (And not just rules like human rules, which are mere convention and can be broken, as long as you don't get caught. These rules actually take hold no matter what!)

            It is further true that, as scientific knowledge progresses, in the midst of the inevitable paradigm shifts (e.g. Newtonian physics to general relativity) what is generally not questioned is the fundamental intelligibility of reality; science progresses by assuming that there is a more fundamental set of rules that is operative and the quest is on to discover them, whatever they may be and however bizarre they may seem.

            The fact of "Existence" itself is something that science has to take for granted. For all its work defining the types of objects that exist and the causal relations/rules among them it cannot interrogate the "fact" of existence. Science delineates the laws and rules and equations it has observed - but what "breathes life" into them and makes them so? When we say that "X exists" (whether "X" is a quark, a tree, or a whole universe within the multiverse) are we not saying that there is something fundamental - Existence - that is shared with object X in the manner appropriate for that type of object and gives it the power to behave as that type of object?

            When looked at in this way, "Existence exists" is a logically necessary condition for the truth of the statement "X exists". And therefore anything that exists then becomes "evidence" for Existence. With all the gads of stuff we know to exist in the observable world, we thus have tons of evidence at our disposal and can say pretty definitively (using our friend Deductive Logic) that Existence exists.

            So, what does this have to do with God? Well, everything. Obviously it hasn't shown anything like "Jesus Christ is Lord" or "the Pope has the charism of infallibility" or any of that religious mumbo-jumbo. But it does show that there is some unseen Power that is necessarily there behind whatever else we can know empirically. Call it God, call it Existence, call it whatever you want, there's Something There.

            I have studied enough philosophy to know that through history many objections have been levied against this sort of rationale. But I haven't found any of them persuasive - for among other reasons, they all seem to begin at some level by questioning one of the two fundamental axioms I listed in my post above.

            All the best to you on your journey, Tom. You seem to be a genuine seeker. Be careful, though, with the way terms are defined - your friend Mr. Tarte defines "faith" in a way that is actually foreign to Catholicism. Given his definition, it's correct to reject faith.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It seems a huge leap to go from "existence exists" to "some sort of power" breathing life. How you bridge that gap?

          • Tom Rafferty

            Alypius, thank you very much for the respectful and thorough response to my question. Let me address, as best I can, some of your comment.

            First of all, the Christian god is claimed to be an interventionist god, therefore, there should be evidence of such a god's existence. In light of such, it is reasonable to use scientific methods to investigate the claim that there is an interventionist god. There is no evidence of an entity breaking the known laws of nature, thus, I am not able to accept the claim.

            Why are "-- attempts to find God among the cause&effect structure of the physical world are mistaken from the get-go --- ?" After all, god supposedly "created" all there is.

            You said, "---there is some unseen Power that is necessarily there behind whatever else we
            can know empirically. Call it God, call it Existence, call it whatever you want, there's Something There." Agreed. However putting the "god" label on it (with all the "omnis") adds nothing to knowledge. If that is not "God of the Gaps", then I don't understand the phrase.

            What is wrong with Edward's definition of faith? It is simply "belief without evidence." How do you define it?

            Science-based thinking is using the same criteria to determine reality no matter the subject. Why should I not use scientific methods to address theological claims? It is only being consistent with how I decide reality in every
            other aspect of my life.

            In summary, science-based thinking is not certain but conclusions are provisional based on probability. I am
            an agnostic atheist ------ uncertain about the question of a god but see insufficient evidence to warrant acceptance of the claim that there IS an interventionist god. If our reality is as put forth by Christianity, what would a reality look like without such a god? I see a reality that shows no signs of an entity that is all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful. I would be glad to change my mind with sufficient evidence.

          • Alypius

            Hi Tom,
            Sorry for the delay - work/family prevents me from getting much "screen time".

            I see yesterday's SN article had Dr. Michael Ruse make a comment casually dismissing the philosophical idea of "necessary existence", which is the very idea that I was attempting to explain to you. That irony is not lost on me. :-)

            Ok, a few responses to points you raised:

            the Christian god is claimed to be an interventionist god, therefore, there should be evidence of such a god's existence...
            There is no evidence of an entity breaking the known laws of nature, thus, I am not able to accept the claim.

            Depends upon what is meant by an "interventionist" god. Why does God have to break the laws of nature in order to be seen? I think many religious people have this sense that God sort of "wound up" the universe and then set it on its course, and then sort of "tinkers" with it here & there (from the outside) to make darn sure it goes the way he intended & doesn't go off course. But this, I think, is fundamentally mistaken. There is a distinction - and it comes through very clearly in the writings of Thomas Aquinas - between "primary" causality and "secondary" causality. In other words, all of the objects we know to exist in the world - trees, birds, water molecules, electrons, quasars, etc. have a "nature". They behave the way they do because of the kind of object they are (and science is what helps us to better understand all of this behavior). And this nature gives them a real, actual ability to interact in the physical world. So they are a true "cause" in that sense. But even this causality is, by necessity, "derived" and thus secondary. Why is it "derived"? Because nothing has the power to "not be" the kind of thing it is - that is set in the structure of Existence which, again, is the Source that everything gets to participate in. God is thus "inside" - not outside - of the created world.

            Why are "-- attempts to find God among the cause&effect structure of the physical world are mistaken from the get-go --- ?" After all, god supposedly "created" all there is.

            When I used the phrase "cause&effect" I was specifically trying to distinguish the kind of causality we might characterise as "interaction" (i.e. billiard ball A hits ball B which hits ball C, etc) from other kinds of "causality". Measuring interactions - whether they be between objects at the same scale (e.g. between predators & prey) or between layers of scale (e.g. the way electrons, protons & neutrons combine to form different kinds of atoms) is the domain of the empirical sciences. But there are other senses of "causality" that, if they exist, lie outside what can in principle be determined empirically (this, by the way, is why it's not a "God-of-the-gaps" analysis). And one of those is that sort of primary causality of Existence I mentioned above. So on this view, if God exists and is working in the world, the main way he does it is through the very workings of the secondary causes themselves. And so the primary way that we would see it (using our reason alone and not relying on faith) is not through direct perception, but by abstracting and understanding what must lie behind and in the things we directly perceive. This is why absolutely everything in existence is "evidence" for God, and I said that God was to be found in the rules, not in the "exceptions" to the rules.

            So given your comment on an "interventionist" God, you're probably thinking "what about all that miracle stuff? None of this philosophical speculation squares with the Catholic faith I knew." Which I'm sure is quite true. If you're like me you had one of those stereotypical Catholic moms always praying the rosary for healing miracles and superstitiously praying to St. Anthony anytime she lost something. But leaving aside the fact that the great unwashed masses of the faithful tend to get a bit more worked up about that stuff than the Catholic church itself does, the Christian claim does rest, at a logical level, upon the claim of a few key "miracles" that had to have concretely occurred in history: the most significant being the resurrection of Christ. A couple points on this:
            1) Can we a priori rule out the possibility of miracles? The biggest evidence against miracles is that all available the scientific data seems to confirm all the "regularity" which we suppose existence to consist of. (Plus the fact that gads upon gads of "miracles" are very easily explainable using natural mechanisms.) You correctly note that science doesn't give 100% certainty. While giving statistical weight to predictions, science cannot go one step further and claim that reality will always behave according to established scientific laws - that "regularity" is, again, what science has to take for granted. So while I myself am generally quite skeptical toward individual "miracle" claims (drives my mom nuts!) it seems to me that to say that miracles are categorically not possible is a step beyond what science can ever say.
            2) How do we define "miracle" in the first place? Most people - Christians and atheists alike - probably have a definition something like "miracle = a violation of the laws of nature" (David Hume famously used the strong word transgression.) But the interesting thing to me, in studying Thomas Aquinas, is that that was not his definition, and even today I don't think that's the operative definition of the Catholic Church. While Aquinas allowed for the possibility that God may work outside the normal way of "secondary causes", his definition was more subtle and allowed for God's activity within the system of natural causes to still constitute the "miraculous" so long as it was unexpected and in response to a particular need someone experienced. There's a lot of nuance here that would take awhile to unpack, but I am only bringing it up because I think it's important to be extra careful what expectation one brings to the table in looking for God. Maybe he/she/it is there but is not "interventionist" in quite the way we tend to expect.

            Reading your well-thought-out comments, Tom, it strikes me that your fundamental issue is with epistemology itself: Knowledge, how we obtain it, and how we can be certain when we actually have it. So, a few comments on "knowledge" in general:
            You asked "Why should I not use scientific methods to address theological claims?" and further suggested that placing the "god" label on Existence added nothing further to knowledge. Here's where I think its important to distinguish between different ways of obtaining knowledge, and the sorts of questions each way can, in principle, even address.
            -Empirical observation, as I noted above, can answer questions about the parts of material objects and the way we observe them to interact.
            -Reason can use logic to abstract further insights from empirical observation. Things like the Necessary Existence we mentioned before. These are things that empirical observation has to either take for granted or else goes beyond, in some way, what the empirical tools have the power to investigate.
            -Faith can analyze and either accept or reject further "theological" claims about reality that would not be otherwise interrogable by empirical observation or reason alone. Things like the existence of heaven, the fact that God personally loves me, etc.

            I think it's a complete mistake to cross categories and expect various questions, which may be pertinent to one mode of knowledge, to be able to be answered or addressed by another. Often I hear things like, "we have just as much scientific evidence for a loving God as we do for Santa" with the theological claim thus being dismissed. The difference, of course, is that Santa is the sort of thing that would be empirically detectible if he existed (don't tell my kids!), whereas God's love, as I've already suggested, is not in principle detectable using empirical methods. This goes both ways, by the way. When fundamentalists expect the Bible to be read literally they are making the same mistake. Already 1500 years ago St. Augustine was more or less telling people not to read Genesis as a science textbook.

            Now, a clarification on "faith": in no way is reason is set aside. You asked what was wrong with Edward Tarte's definition of faith? He defined as belief "without evidence" which is what I think is mistaken. It's not that there's no evidence; it's a different kind of evidence: testimony. Instead, faith is the rational acceptance of knowledge on the basis of testimony of someone I deem credible. From his clip, I think Edward is far too hard on testimony as a source of knowledge. As a practical matter, 99% of what any of us know we know based on faith. The only reason I know there was an earthquake in Chile yesterday is because I heard it on the news and I trust the media when reporting on physical disasters, and I accept it based on that. Now it could be objected that a) the media could be wrong, and b) were I to want to, I could consult the seismic chart of the USGS or else fly down to Chile and see the damage for myself and I wouldn't have to take it on "faith". Both of these are undoubtedly true. If given the choice, and if I really want to know something, I will go with the best option available to obtain that knowledge.

            But what of those sorts of questions that are not in principle accessible to empirical observation or reason alone? That is the real question, and is essentially the situation which each of us faces in life. We don't have the choice to determine theological questions empirically. If God exists, he is not directly accessible to scientific investigation. In basic form, his presence is perhaps able to be deduced by reason alone, but if he exists, much more detail about him would in principle only be knowable on the basis of the word of someone who claims to Know something about him (i.e. Jesus Christ). This is not the way I would have made creation (and if the Christian claim is correct its not how God made it either, pre-original sin); but it is the world in which we find ourselves.

            With regard to "certainty", you are absolutely correct to place empirical science at the top of the pile in producing certainty with the questions it asks. You're in good company, too - even Thomas Aquinas said that, in subjectively seeking knowledge, "seeing is surer than hearing". But when "seeing" is not possible, each of us is in a situation where, personally, we have to make a decision about whether to be agnostic about the evidence presented under each mode of knowledge. I noticed, and appreciated, the fact that you recognize that even science doesn't give certainty. It just gives a higher degree of confidence. But in spite of that you were still comfortable using the word "knowledge" with it. Thus you are willing to not be agnostic about something you acknowledge to be not completely certain. Probably the only real difference between you & me is our willingness to be open to the evidence that presents itself under other not-certain modes of obtaining knowledge.

            In my case, I have decided to not limit myself to empirical knowledge and to do my best to accept what I can also come to know through the tools of reason and faith, knowing full well that 1) others may use those same tools to come to other conclusions that I find erroneous and 2) subjectively they don't provide "certainty" either and so I might well be wrong. But the simple fact is, despite the risks involved, I think it's a mistake to completely close ourselves off from the kind of knowledge that can we can obtain that way. If we were to truly limit ourselves to only what can be demonstrated empirically, we would end up living out a pretty impoverished life, would we not? Most of the "best things" in life (Love, Virtue, Beauty) seem to lie beyond the empirical (assuming they exist! and are not just a figment of our imagination or a subjective feeling).

            I am convinced that the doctrines of Christianity, when properly understood, do not conflict with what can be known empirically or through reason, and in fact give our lives purpose of the highest kind. Are there logical challenges (i.e. the problem of evil) that have to be thought through, patiently, in accepting the faith? Absolutely. But there are answers to these that are not only intellectually satisfying but provide (I think) even deeper insight into reality.

            Well, this response just got a lot longer than I expected, but, Tom, I felt your honest inquiry deserved an honest response. Regardless of whether you find any of this compelling or even plausible, I hope it at least gives you some food for thought. All the best!

          • Tom Rafferty

            Thanks, Alypius. I think you have laid your reasons for your beliefs out fairly well. No criticism intended, but I like to cut to the chase, so here goes.

            You seem to believe there are "other ways of knowing" outside of scientific methods (please note that I take a broad definition of such ---- virtually all we do in our everyday lives involves such). No matter how to cloak it, faith IS belief without evidence. You have faith in Christianity. I have trust in the results of the scientific understanding of reality because there is a long record of it working. How would you express to me that YOUR faith is more in keeping with reality than science or the tens of thousands of other Christian denominations, let alone the tens of thousands of other religions? See, the problem with all religions is they have no method of testing whether their beliefs are valid.

            John Loftus just posted on why the Christian apologist's claim that support for Methodological Naturalism is circular is wrong. I will stop here, for now. Peace:

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2014/04/does-methodological naturalism.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FypxUn+%28Debunking+Christianity%29

          • Tom Rafferty

            Don't know what is up with this comment process. The link I just posted didn't "take", so try this one.

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2014/04/does-methodological-naturalism.html#more

          • Alypius

            Interesting article, Tom. I have to say I cringed at several of his statements which seemed to me to be a caricature of religion (or at least of the Catholic approach to faith). The only thing I really wish to emphasize, though, is this: science cannot ask metaphysical questions. As Laurence Krauss says, when science asks "why?" it's really asking "how?" (i.e. cause & effect). There is a barrier there that cannot be crossed. The actual "Why" questions belong to philosophy (and theology, assuming of course that its valid). It's not that we're trying to impede the progress of science, we just want to use the right tools for the right situation!

            The big mistake that I think he makes is in placing religious and philosophical explanations ("God did it") against scientific explanations ("mechanism A,B & C did it"). While it's true that many religious people and traditions do and have done that, that is not the approach the Catholic faith and that comes through very clearly in the writings of Aquinas and many others in that tradition. When we say "God did it" we primarily mean God is the source of the power behind mechanism A,B & C. God is not "outside" tinkering, he is "inside" giving the power from within. That's what I attempted to explain above with the primary/secondary cause thing, but I fear I perhaps was unsuccessful.

          • Tom Rafferty

            I am well aware of Krauss' differentiation of why and how. I am also well aware of Catholic doctrine. Check out my background here: http://ratioprimoris.blogspot.com/2010/05/introduction.html

            You said, " When we say 'God did it' we primarily mean God is the source of the
            power behind mechanism A,B & C. God is not 'outside' tinkering, he
            is "inside" giving the power from within." How do you know this? How is it different than me saying the laws of the universe are doing it? Again, you continue to make philosophical/theological claims without evidence. I am satisfied with "I don't know" if there is no evidence for something. Your position is untestable and unfalsifiable. I could say the pink panther in my garage is behind our reality and I would have as much evidence as you do for your god. You have a blind spot that I am trying to get you to see.

            Some final thoughts from Lawrence Krauss:

            "Formal logic alone doesn’t prove anything. It often leads to false
            conclusions about the real universe. If we relied on formal logic we
            would not have science. We need to let the universe tell us how it
            behaves."

            “If we wish to draw philosophical conclusions about our own existence,
            our significance, and the significance of the universe itself, our
            conclusions should be based on empirical knowledge. A truly open mind
            means forcing our imaginations to conform to the evidence of reality,
            and not vice versa, whether or not we like the implications.”

            “Metaphysical speculation is independent of the physical validity of the
            Big Bang itself and is irrelevant to our understanding of it.”

            “I should point out, nevertheless, that even though incomplete data can
            lead to a false picture, this is far different from the (false) picture
            obtained by those who choose to ignore empirical data to invent a
            picture of reality (young earthers, for example), or those who instead
            require the existence of something for which there is no observable
            evidence whatsoever (like divine intelligence) to reconcile their view
            of creation with their a priori prejudices, or worse still, those who
            cling to fairly tales about nature that presume the answers before
            questions can even be asked.”

            Peace, Alypius.

          • Alypius

            Again, you continue to make philosophical/theological claims without evidence.

            Nope. I gave philosophical evidence that, according to reason alone, there must be Something there. (I could give specific theological evidence too, but have trying to mostly avoid it in this dialogue, preferring to show, philosophically, why it's not unreasonable to at least consider faith as a mode of knowledge.) The problem is that your standard for evidence rules faith out a priori, and you appear to be somewhat distrustful of philosophy - or at least certain general outlooks in philosophy that include a lot of metaphysics - as well.

            Your position is untestable and unfalsifiable.

            My position is empirically untestable, yes. It is not, however, unfalsifiable. Descartes, Hume, and Kant, among others, wielded a much larger weapon against my worldview than anything empirical science has in its arsenal. They were, ahem, wrong, but at least their tools were applicable to the task. :-)

            Your "terms defined" page on your site contained an interesting riff on Aristotle, concluding with the statement "Here, science can discover in a few minutes what eons of rationalist thinking could not." I think this is a misunderstanding of the distinction between Aristotle's Physics and Metaphysics. In any event, it is symptomatic of the broader clash of different views of Reality held by you & me (& the Catholic Church). You think that I have a "blind spot". I, however, think that your view contains a big category mistake.

            In any event, this has been fun to discuss. May our paths cross again someday.

          • Tom Rafferty

            "philosophical evidence" and "theological evidence"???

            Oxymorons both.

            Perhaps when you understand what science and evidence is we can interact again.

            Have a good evening.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then what do you mean when you say "why"?

          • Alypius

            Questions of essence and purpose.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Purpose is exam unable. What do you mean by essence? And how is that a "why" question?

          • Alypius

            Purpose is exam unable

            Well, through metaphysics it is.

            What do you mean by essence? And how is that a "why" question?

            Essence is the identity of something. That, by virtue of which it is what it is. It is a "why" question because it is dependent upon Existence.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm sorry, my spell-checker caught my post. I meant to say that purpose is amenable to scientific analysis: metaphysics strikes as the worst possible way to approach purpose.
            And in sorry, I'm still not clear what you mean by essence.

          • Alypius

            I meant to say that purpose is amenable to scientific analysis

            ??? really? Unless we are defining "purpose" differently, I am speaking of teleology, which as I understand it has been methodologically eliminated from scientific analysis.

            Essence is what something is. The concept that is concretely instantiated in its existence. Although that probably won't be much clearer. :-)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If teleology has been eliminated then I know a lot of archaeologist who need to find another line of work. :-)

            And what your describing sounds like description. A thing is what it is.

          • Alypius

            If teleology has been eliminated then I know a lot of archaeologist who need to find another line of work. :-)

            Tell that to my biologist friend! He keeps insisting that teleology is a figment of my imagination. :-)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Of course it's not a product of imagination. But that doesn't mean it's universal. Some things are created; some aren't. What's unsupportable - philosophically as well as scientifically is seeing teleology where it's not warranted.

          • Michael Murray

            Essence is what something is. The concept that is concretely instantiated in its existence.

            This is backwards though. We see things and we abstract concepts. There isn't a collection of concepts waiting to beinstantiated.

          • Ben Posin

            The "intelligibility" argument seems to have gained wider acceptance among theists lately, at least those who hang out in this part of the internet. It's always struck me as a little odd though. Do we have any reason to think that there's some alternative way the universe could have been...absent a God, would we expect there to be an unintelligible reality? What would that look like?

            I think I've mentioned this once before on this site, but I also find it funny that "miracles," supposed breaks in the intelligibility of reality, are typically put forth as supporting God's existence. So...do both an intelligible world and an unintelligible world support God's existence?

          • "I think I've mentioned this once before on this site, but I also find it funny that "miracles," supposed breaks in the intelligibility of reality, are typically put forth as supporting God's existence."

            I'm not sure you understand what most philosophers mean by the word "intelligible," as this sentence doesn't make sense given the mainstream definition. There is no logical contradiction between an intellgible world and miracles.

            When you say "intelligible" or "intelligibility", what do you mean?

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon:
            Maybe I don't understand what most philosophers mean by "intelligible." Defining terms is a good thing. Maybe I should have started by asking what Alypius meant. He wrote:

            "1) Reality exists and is intelligible. This is not to say that it is not sometimes difficult to understand reality; it is only to say that reality is not fundamentally incoherent."

            So as being used by Alypius, reality being intelligible seems to be related to it being fundamentally coherent and understandable. Reading further in his posts, the apparent success of inductive reasoning and scientists' ability to depend on and discover regular physical laws appears to be a sign of intelligibility as well. He states that the curious thing about our universe is "that there are regularities there."

            That seems to be what Alypius is talking about, anyway. He can chime in if I'm misrepresenting him.
            And given that sense of intelligibility, yes, I think miracles are by definition unintelligble, breaks in the understandable, predictable, coherent fabric of the universe. A universe with miracles can't be described as truly intelligible, as at some level everything is up for grabs should the miracle-worker choose to intervene.
            But hey, I see you feel differently, so maybe explain your thinking a bit?

          • "I think miracles are by definition unintelligble, breaks in the understandable, predictable, coherent fabric of the universe....But hey, I see you feel differently, so maybe explain your thinking a bit?"

            Thanks for the explanation, Ben! I appreciate your response.

            But again, I'm detecting a different definition of intelligibility than what most philosophers mean. To describe something as "intelligible" is not, necessarily, to say it is predictable or fully understandable. It just means it is capable of being understood or apprehended. Since miracles are both capable of being understood and apprehended--even if, in many cases, that capability is not actualized--that means they are intelligible. Therefore, there is no logical contradiction between miracles and an intelligible world.

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon,

            Your definition of "intelligible" is confusing me, maybe you could provide a little more explanation? You write
            "It just means it is capable of being understood or apprehended." But I'm confused about what you think it means to understand or apprehend something, particularly when you say that miracles are capable of being understood.

            Let's compare a miracle with a magic trick. When a magician seems to cut a woman in half, I can describe what I see happening, AND I have reason to believe that there is also an understandable (though disguised) explanation for what's I'm seeing happen--or think I'm seeing. Before I know how the trick is done, I'd hardly say I understood what I'd seen, though my personal ignorance doesn't render what has happened unintelligble,

            I could describe a miracle, indeed, the bible describes many, but if I were to see Jesus today walking on water, raising the dead, or multiplying loaves and fishes, I would never say that I understood what was happening, and I don't think I or anyone else could ever understand what happened, the mechanism or means behind the surface appearance. Do you think there's any potential vocabulary or explanation in the physics sense to explain these miracles?

            I think the way you're using intelligble diminishes the claim of the intelligibility argument to such a degree that I'm not sure why it would be worth discussing.

          • "But I'm confused about what you think it means to understand or apprehend something, particularly when you say that miracles are capable of being understood."

            Sure! I simply mean that, at least on Catholicism, miracles may be unpredictable and supernatural but we Catholics can understand why miracles happen and where they come from. God performs miracles because he has good reason to interrupt the natural laws of the world.

            In fact, the very act of identifying a miracle as a miracle is in part to apprehend the miraculous act.

          • Ben Posin

            I appreciate the clarification. I think we're both being pretty clear at this point about what we mean, we just have a fundamental disagreement over what we consider to be intelligible, and what constitutes being capable fo understanding something. To me, stating that interruptions of the natural world come from God, who does so when he has good reason to, does not render these interruptions intelligible or understandable.

            If there are miracles, it seems to me that we are left with a world where natural laws and coherent rules may be violated at any moment, that we have no possible way to predict when such a violation may occur, and that while one may believe God acts with "good reason," God also works in mysterious ways and we have no reason to think we'll ever be able to understand the true purpose of any such interruption. Miracles reduce the "intelligibility" of the world.

            Of course, as I originally said, I don't think the "intelligibility" of the world is actually a reason to believe in God, or for that miracles actually occur, so we may be in counting angels on pinheads territory.

          • Guest

            Re: "I will not respond to any further comments on this post until someone clearly and directly answers THAT question."

            Thank you.

          • Tim Dacey

            Tom:

            You are making (immensely) general (fallacious) critiques, and asking vague questions; e.g., "With the wide variety of philosophical and theological opinions, how do philosophers and theologians JUSTIFY their views?" This question assumes that all philosophers *agree* on a theory of justification. I can think of several (e.g., an evidentialist who believes p by appealing to probability vs. a reliabilist who believes p by appealing to properly working cognitive faculities, which in turn may require an appeal to cognitive science). The fact that there is disagreement among philosophers does not make philosophy superfluous no more than disagreement among scientists makes science superfluous.

            Feel free to stick to your statement that "[you] will not respond to any further comments on this post until someone clearly and directly answers THAT question." I can only hope that your disingenuous of view philosophy (and science for that matter) changes to a more sophisticated one.

          • Tom Rafferty

            You, Tim, have make my case. Good day.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I think he is. Philosophy is no longer what it was; it no longer is a useful tool for determining truth. Nietzsche saw through that.

          • Alypius

            Pardon my intrusion here, but "Philosophy... is no longer a useful tool for determining truth" is itself a truth-claim that would fall under the category of philosophy, is it not?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No. It wouldn't. It's not a philosophical position. Philosophy as a discipline used to cover a much broader spectrum of ideas, including what we would call science. It noon get does. Is epistemogy still useful? Sure. Does it produce any new knowledge about the universe? Nope.

          • Alypius

            To be frank, your

            Philosophy... is no longer a useful tool for determining truth

            and your

            Is epistemology still useful? Sure.

            statements seem to be contradictory.

            I'm not sure how you are defining "philosophy" here but skepticism about the value of philosophical inquiry is totally an epistemological viewpoint, and thus is philosophy.

            You seem to have studied enough philosophy though that I'm probably not telling you anything new, but insofar as philosophy tended to cover more ground in the past, that is historically correct. Nietsche was just the logical culmination of the project of abandoning metaphysics that was begun by Descartes & others (Bacon, Hume, Kant, etc). That project was a bullet to the head of their discipline.

            There are many though who argue today that this was a Big Mistake and that metaphysics is not only a valid but necessary tool for understanding reality. If they are right then there is plenty knowledge that philosophy gives us.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I should clarify. Science and philosophy have diverged - ever since science became recognized as a separate discipline (a vague process occurring over a couple of hundred years. With regard to "truth" I was speaking of facts about the universe and how it works. Epistemology is useful for helping us think clearly and structurally.

            Personally, I'm not convinced that metaphysics remains necessary - and as Nietzsche indirectly pointed out, we have no good way to determine whether a given conclusion is true.

            It's rather like theology: lots of lovely logic built on sand.

          • Alypius

            I don't disagree one bit that science and philosophy have diverged. And that fact all by itself is just fine, so long as its just a reflection of specialization. What I deplore is the rejection of metaphysics - my epistemology sees it as not only valid but necessary in making sense of the world. Without it all knowledge - including science - is rendered unknowable or even incoherent.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I suspect the point being raised is that metaphysics produces no new information about the universe, though it helps us understand how we think.

          • Tom Rafferty

            Also, click on this link and tell me Presuppositional Apologetics is not what Tim above is using.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Presuppositionalism

          • Tom Rafferty

            What is happening to my comments? Are they being moderated? Deleted? I just made two comments above.

  • I really liked this article. Working with the special needs population is a passion of mine. I especially liked the conclusion:

    "But that probably won’t last forever. If any elements of society were to be destabilized, we faced widespread resource shortage, or any other situation came up that caused an epidemic of fear and tension, there would be a lot more pressure to disregard the value of other people’s lives. If we continue to see our fellow human beings as special based on arbitrary, flexible definitions that are ultimately rooted in human judgment of evidence, the devaluation of human life will spread to even more segments of society."

    This is very important to think about especially considering the latest reports on the devastation that global warming is going to have. It's much easier to be kind and respectful with others when you have all of your basic necessities. When some of those necessities start to disappear, the likelihood that people will treat others with kindness and respect starts to diminish.

    It does appear to me that there is an underlying prejudice among many that the lives of the special needs population are of less worth than those within the "typical" population. For example, while one might argue that the significantly high rates of abortion for the down syndrome population is due to expenses—it's not cheap to have a down's child—those rates cannot be due solely to just expenses. Some people just don't want to deal with down's kids. In other words, they are less valued members of our society.

    When societal pressures increase, the least valued members of society are often the ones who suffer the most. That is why it is so important for me to hold onto the teachings of the Catholic faith to help me see the dignity of all human beings, regardless of their physical, mental, or spiritual condition.

    As Jennifer noted from the Catechism:
    “man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life” with “it was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.”