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Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and Jesus

Man, oh man, I hate this ad:

From a pure politics perspective, fair play is fair play: Republicans have spent a couple of generations using religion as a cudgel to portray Democrats and liberals as un-Christian and un-American, and it's a strategy they continue to pursue. Goose, gander, etc.

But liberals have mostly resented this line of attack, believing—rightly, I think—that it veers pretty closely to violating the spirit of the Constitution's "no religious test" for candidates for public office. Creating and running this ad means we've decided the principle isn't so important after all—if we can find a way to use religion as a cudgel from a position of strength, we'll do it!

And I can't help but think that weakens the foundation of our ability to defend the rights of religious minorities—Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, and so forth. Maybe it's fair play; I'm not at all sure it's wise.

UPDATE: And politically, it's not that smart either. If Democrats get into a pissing match with Republicans about who is most Christian, Democrats are mostly going to lose.

Comments

namefromthepast said…
Political ads are seldom principled because ads are merely trying to manipulate, in any way possible, the 15-25% of the voting public that haven't developed any political principles of their own. 75% either laugh or roll their eyes.

Looking for the "no religious test" of the Constitution.

I enjoy Rand but wonder why worry about morals if there is no God? What makes us keep our promises?-recognize this wasn't the topic but I'm ADH...hey look a cat!
Joel said…
The No Religious Test Clause of the United States Constitution is found in Article VI, paragraph 3, and states that:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

"Why worry about morals if there is no God?" Can of worms, name. Are you suggesting I should feel free to go out and rob and murder?
Kelly said…
I do believe that the constitution provides for us the freedom of, for and from religion, and any other philosophies which may arise, American, Russian or no. Having said that …


At issue here is the hypocrisy of the religious right who have long supported the Republican party and the RR's theological base which has successfully made their "moral" issues (i.e., abortion, homosexuality, prayer in public schools, et. al.) the issues of our public life. This was done consciously, deliberately, and intentionally starting in 1979 and is continuing today.

What is at stake is the soon to happen paradigm shift away from the social agenda established by FDR, JFK (with a lot of help from Lyndon with the Civil Rights act of 1964), Dr. King,and RFK, and other programs which are the overt expression of values taught by Jesus but are not lived out my most conservative "Christians" who prefer a modified "neo-Calvinism" that says if I am wealthy, I am righteous in God's eyes and therefore superior to those who are not. This a position which is not supported by scripture, but is in line with those espoused by Rand.

The values espoused by Ayn Rand are antithetical to those established by Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and else where in scripture.

So, at least from my perspective, this makes her the anti-Christ the right seems to think is on the left.
namefromthepast said…
Joel:I'm not suggesting anything personal-this is something that I am at issue with-I'm asking why feel compelled to do the right thing? Where does our sense of right and wrong come from if all we are is a mass of cells?

Kelly:I think the crux of your argument is the assumption that the social agenda established by the left is "the overt expression of values taught by Jesus" I respectfully disagree.

The "social agenda", if you will, of Jesus is personal and real. He didn't preach comprimise he taught forgiveness, understanding, and compassion but only with a change of heart.

Today's social agenda says "its all ok, it isn't your fault, here have some money, keep on doin' what your doin" and if it isn't saying that, it is certainly what is happening.

My response is not intended to defend all Christians because I don't know what is in their hearts. I suspect, much like you do, it isn't Christ but politics.

The way I read Rand she defends Capitalism, wealth creation and keeping the fruits of labor and creativity. How the person chooses to spend the wealth is up to the individual.

If the Christian gives to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's, how is that antithetical?
Joel said…
I don't want to get into a long back-and-forth about Rand, name, but my objection to her isn't that she wants to keep wealth in the hands of the individual--but that (from what I can tell) she mocks ANY effort to help less-fortunate folks, even if that decision is made independently by a private individual. Dropping a buck into a United Way envelope would earn her scorn. It's a hard, inhumane way of approaching the world, and I don't like it.

I don't suggest that's YOUR way of looking at the world, btw. I suspect you take what you think is good and leave what you think is bad from Rand. To me, though, I'm happy to leave her entirely.
KhabaLox said…
"Where does our sense of right and wrong come from if all we are is a mass of cells?"

Namefromthepast: Have you read The Selfish Gene by Dawkins? There is ample evidence for evolutionary reasons for altruism. And to the extent that we are herd creatures, altruism towards non-close relatives also helps survival and should be selected for.
namefromthepast said…
KhabaLox:My problem with Dawkins, as well as Pinker, is that if evolutionary psychology is true then genetic determinism is true as well. Genes are selected for by evolution and if we are not controlled by genes then not by evolution. No nature v nuture, no human freedom, etc.

Believing that the mind is the obvious result of evolution is simply not rational. At least in my mind.
KhabaLox said…
Genes are selected for by evolution and if we are not controlled by genes then not by evolution. No nature v nuture, no human freedom, etc.

I don't understand what you are saying. Are you saying that we are products of our environment (i.e. "nurture"), at least in part, and therefore genes and evolution can't play a role in behavior?

It makes sense to me that a gene could theoretically make an organism more or less willing to share resources with another organism. If this gene is present in a population, then it should proliferate to a certain extent given that it is likely to be shared by an organisms close relatives. Obviously this gene is also competing with a host of other genes, and so success is not assured, but the logic passes the smell test for me.

I think there is probably ample evidence showing that "nurture" plays a large roll in behavior. People can raise their children to be altruistic or not, to varying degrees. But given the evidence of altruism throughout the plant and animal kingdoms, it seems clear that genes and evolution also play a role. It seems reasonable to assert that among humans nurture plays a larger role in determining an individuals overall altruism, relative to other animals, and that certain animals (e.g. chimps, dolphins) are more subject to "nurture" rather than nature.

So, to answer your original question, I'd say our sense of right and wrong comes from a combination of genes that have been selected for over millennia and our social mores, which have been selected for over tens of thousands of years.

It's interesting to note that across all cultures we have generally the same sense of right and wrong. Where would that commonality come from, if not from evolution/genes?
KhabaLox said…
certain animals (e.g. chimps, dolphins) are more subject to "nurture" rather than nature.

...relative to other animals (e.g. slugs). If humans are 60/40 in favor of nurture, then chimps might be 40/60 and slugs 1/99. (Numbers are, of course, pulled out of my ass.)
KhabaLox said…
if evolutionary psychology is true then genetic determinism is true as well.

To address this more succinctly, genetic predisposition does not equal genetic determinism.

I'm genetically predisposed to heart disease, but if I were to eat healthily and exercise, I might never have a heart attack.

We are genetically predisposed to altruism, but we can still be assholes if we read enough Rand.
namefromthepast said…
KhabaLox:Thank you for an articulate and thoughtful response.

I have trouble with genes allowing for variable outcomes as you suggest "make an organism more or less willing to share resources" Genes encode proteins. A complex and finite response to information.

A person's tendencies to play nice-(moral code)-isn't explained sufficiently by science alone be it biological or socialogical.

I believe that there is a third variable involved which science hasn't, I suggest can't, measure.

Simple illustration.

A man in mortal danger and needs help, your desire to help(herd instict/nuture)your desire to stay out of danger(self preservation)and for some reason a third sense of what you "ought" to do that judges between these two instincts.

Generally we have instinctual inclinations to stimulus then the human mind alters our action sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.(good vs bad determined by the moral code)

Our instinctual options may come from "a combination of genes that have been selected for over millennia and our social mores, which have been selected for over tens of thousands of years." BUT

How we behave comes from an unspoken "moral law" pressing on us by a Creator, and that accounts for the general sense of right and wrong common across all cultures.

In matters of chimps etc, my observations tend to make me believe that their's is a learned response rather than moral code.

This is something that I'm in an admitted minority. I try to reflect and learn constantly and I've come from a scientific background(kicking and screaming) to this conclusion.

PS-I was an asshole long before I read Rand.
KhabaLox said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
KhabaLox said…
How we behave comes from an unspoken "moral law" pressing on us by a Creator, and that accounts for the general sense of right and wrong common across all cultures.

In matters of chimps etc, my observations tend to make me believe that their's is a learned response rather than moral code.


I'm not sure I understand the distinction between "learned response" and "unspoken moral code."

It's well established that animals of varying levels of intelligence, from chimps down to ants, exhibit altruistic behavior. Newer (and granted, less vetted) research indicates that even plants (INT of 1 in D&D ;) exhibit altruism. (Note: by altruism we - I and the scientists - mean "behavior which lessens an individual's own chance of survival and increases another individual's chance of survival.")

Now, I am an agnostic. I don't believe in God; I see God as a creation of man to explain the unknown or unknowable. To the extent that there is an unspoken moral code, I believe (based on the evidence I've seen and thinking about the idea logically) that this code is a result of evolutionary pressures. We (humans of all cultures and indeed all other species) behave "morally" (or altruistically) because it increases the chance for success of the genes responsible for that behavior.

You said:
I have trouble with genes allowing for variable outcomes as you suggest "make an organism more or less willing to share resources" Genes encode proteins. A complex and finite response to information.

As I understand it, any specific gene will produce a specific phenotype. But when that gene exists in an organism alongside another gene, then those phenotypes can be altered. So if there is a gene for red hair, it may be expressed differently in a person who also has a gene for blue eyes compared to a person who has a gene for brown eyes.

But I believe it is actually more complex than that. As you mentioned, genes encode proteins, and the embryonic process of development is governed by environment. I can have genes for strength, intelligence or height, but if my mother drinks and smokes (or takes thalydimide) during pregnancy, those genes may be expressed quite differently than they would otherwise.

Likewise, if I have a gene for altruistic behavior, it may be expressed differently depending on a host of factors. We certainly don't understand all the details yet.

Also, let me mention this on the subject of free will and predeterminism. The idea that behavior is (in part) genetic is not at odds with the notion of free will. The interactions between the molecules of DNA and the amino acids it encodes are governed by quantum mechanics, so it's quite possible, even likely, that two individuals with the same genetic make-up and environmental inputs can end up behaving quite differently (e.g. twins).

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