My friend -- let's call him "Stan" -- is evidently a Darwinist. The topic has never come up in our long discussions, so I necessarily infer it from ancillary evidence, notably the fact that he has drunk the Darwinist kool-aid belief in the progressive improvement of all things. In particular, he claims that there is less persecution in this country now than fifty years ago.
I disagreed: I believe some forms of persecution (including perhaps those against his particular cultural demographic) may have diminished, but others (my demographic) have increased. He then launched into a long convoluted argument to prove his case against mine. I have no idea what he said at the time -- recall from last year (see "Cowardly Face-to-Face" and other postings) that I do not think in real time -- and I guess he perceived that he was not getting through, because the same discussion came up again some time later. This time I understood enough (the next day, after I figured it out) to perceive that I was not accepting all his premises, that we were arguing from different categories, and said so.
I often say "He who writes the dictionary wins the debate." For example, Darwinists do that by defining "evolution = change," then after you agree to that definition and admit that change is pretty much everywhere, they quietly switch back to the more common definition "evolution = descent from a common ancestor," and Bam! They got you. But there's no debate at all if the parties cannot agree on the dictionary. Descent from a common ancestor is a different category from mere change, and no reasonable dictionary equates them.
I think the prevailing category discrepancy between Stan and me is epistemological. I like to pin what I "know" on inferential reasoning from objective (testable) data, basically, Is it TRUE? Perhaps Stan wouldn't say so, but he seems to prefer what might be called the PollyAnna method: repeat some pleasant or desirable idea often enough and it becomes "true" to the hearers, irrespective of the facts. When I was in high school the label they put on such thinking was "The Big Lie," but I have not heard that phrase since then, probably because it got replaced with "moral relativity" (each person defines their own "truth"). I never actually met a moral relativist who would let me define as my truth that "$20 = $5 + $5" when making change for him -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. I suspect that the thing that most terrifies the left-wing bigots about the latest election results is that they believe the right-wing bigots are moral relativists like themselves, and that they are now about to suffer the same persecution they have imposed on the other half of the country during their own reign of terror. Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself again.
Stan openly admits to a change in categories over the last 50 years in the general area of what constitutes "speech" in interpreting the First Amendment. "Fifty years ago," he said, "there was only one kind of speech. Now [there are two categories], political speech and economic speech." Political speech is protected by the Constitution, but economic speech is not. I can see where we do not want to permit vendors to lie about their products to a public without the resources to disprove those lies,* but the trouble is, once you start redefining the words of the Constitution according to prevailing (modern) social ideas, you have abandonned the Rule of Law that constituted the Great American Experiment in 1776 and 1789, and reverted to the Machiavellian rule by whim, whoever is in power gets to make whatever rules they want. That's what terrifies the losers in the recent election. They were in power (and got to make the rules), now they are not. They should be terrified -- except conservatives prefer to conserve the Rule of Law that the Founders had in mind 240 years ago, which protects both sides. Categories have consequences. Moral of the story: Don't make rules you don't want to live under after you leave power, otherwise known as the Golden Rule (GR).
Classic Christianity teaches the GR as central
to our faith, and it's good for everybody, even and especially if you are
not a believing and practicing Christian yourself. That's the big difference
between us Christians (and perhaps observant Jews) on the one side, and
atheists and Muslims and Hindus and everybody else on the other. Stan likes
to believe he practices the GR, but only as
a personal preference, where it does no good to the public at all. Because
it contradicts the basic teachings of atheism, we cannot even depend on
Stan himself to follow it rigorously, although I suspect that like most
atheists, his morals lie deeper than his logic (see "Atheism
Another category discrepancy, and one Stan shows no awareness of, is the targets of discrimination. Fifty years ago (Stan's choice of date) we knew that there was discrimination in this country over skin color, which is something you are born with and cannot be changed. Stan and I agree. Now he wants to add to that list discrimination based on sexual preference, which is a behavioral thing no longer (as far as I know) claimed to be genetic. Of course not: Darwinist natural selection would select it out! It's a different category. People are not robots, they can choose their behavior, so any analogy between racial discrimination in the previous century and behavioral discrimination today falls on its face. Stan even understands that, because he allows and encourages other kinds of behavioral discrimination, for example in his own activities. The GR strikes again.
Which brings us back to that first category discrepancy between Stan and me, which is epistemological. He wants to focus on history and the changing cultural values as evidence for the supremacy of personal definitions of "truth," where I (ahem) prefer to base my epistemology on facts and truth. In this country he can believe any silly thing he wants -- and act on those beliefs (within limits) -- and I have the corresponding right to believe only in facts that stand up to verification. Because the ruling elite of this country sides with Stan, they not only can, but must persecute dissenters like me. The Truth is always an embarrassment to The Big Lie.
Rev: 2016 December 31
PS, Eighteen months after I posted this essay, the Supreme Court Of The US handed down a decision involving free speech. Although they admitted to a category of speech they called "commercial speech," the majority made it clear that laws are only permitted to "require professionals to disclose factual, noncontroversial information in their commercial speech," and they made no provision at all for any other class of speech thus unprotected (see my essay "Free Speech" for a longer analysis of this decision). Perhaps Stan was thinking "commercial speech," when he said "economic speech," but he certainly did not have in mind the court's limitation to requirements of "factual, noncontroversial information" to which even this year's dissent gave lip service. -- 18 Sep 7
* The proper way to make a distinction between speech or printed material intended to persuade people to act in a way they might otherwise not want to (as is the goal of Truth-in-Labelling) on the one hand, and speech protected by the First Amendment on the other, is by a suitable amendment to the Constitution. Of course any such amendment might run into trouble with political speech, because everybody knows that politicians themselves get elected by lying to the American people. Police and prosecuting attorneys also catch crooks (and not a few innocent people) by lying during interrogations and in court. I suspect it is not possible to forbid the one and allow the other. Hmm, such an amendment might not be a bad idea. We'd still need to resolve discrepancies like Obama's "Not one dime" promise, and whatever Trump does with the goofy things he promised.
When you get down to it, all speech is political, and all speech is financial, at one time or another. There is no clear boundary between them. Some people go into politics to ensure their own financial future, so his political speeches are financial speech, by any definition you care to contrive. Every business Trump ran went bankrupt, so that could arguably be part of his motivation. Maybe the USA will go bankrupt under his leadership, but most of the cause for it is leaving office next month; Trump only inherited the catastrophe. Somebody recently told me his other bankruptcies were the same situation, but I didn't bother to verify it. If you open a business to sell printed material (newspapers, or photographs, or T-shirts, or wedding cakes) the Constitution protects the freedom of some of that (the newspapers), but not others? Get real.
Anyway, because of the huge overlap between political and financial
speech, you cannot forbid one without infringing on the other. It
can't be done, apart from some whimsical person saying (for any reason,
or no reason at all, like jury nullification), "Yep, nope, nope, yep..."
Any such law is effectively meaningless, whose only purpose is to justify
the cruel power of those in power.