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McLean's Article on the Campaign to Create an International Law Norm Banning "Defamation of Religion":

Canada's MacLean's magazine has an excellent article on the United Nations campaign to create a new international law norm banning "defamation of religion."

Last year, Eugene Volokh and I criticized this movement in a series of posts. As I first pointed out in this post, the campaign - which is spearheaded by authoritarian Muslim states seeking to curtail criticism of Islam - exemplifies the dangerous influence of repressive regimes over the content of international law. John McGinnis and I have analyzed this problem in detail a series of articles (see here and here). John and I do not believe that all new international law norms are as dangerous as this one. But we do suggest that the influence of nondemocratic states over the content of these norms should lead us to be wary about allowing them to override the domestic law of liberal democracies.

An interesting aspect of the McLean's article are the comments by Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In the past, Arbour was supportive of efforts to censor speech she perceived as insulting to religions, including the famous Danish Mohammed cartoons. She claimed that publication of the cartoons might violate international law banning "hate speech" and further argued that international law requires states to criminalize "xenophobic" and other prejudicial speech (see pg. 1220 of this article for cites). In the MacLean's article however, Arbour is quoted as denouncing the Muslim states' campaign to censor speech that supposedly "defames" Islam at the UN Human Rights Council:

Louise Arbour, the former Canadian Supreme Court justice who served as the UN human rights commissioner, accused the countries of imposing "taboos" over the [UN Human Rights] council. "It is very concerning in a council which should be . . . the guardian of freedom of expression, to see constraints or taboos, or subjects that become taboo for discussion," she said at a news conference. She also noted that the treatment of homosexuals, who are prosecuted as criminals in a number of Islamic countries and others, is "fundamental" to the debate on sexual discrimination around the world. "It is difficult for me to accept that a council that is the guardian of legality prevents the presentation of serious analysis or discussion on questions of the evolution of the concept of non-discrimination," Arbour said.

Ironically, Arbour herself advocated imposing "constraints" and "taboos" to criminalize speech that she considered to be excessively hostile to particular religions or ethnic groups. Her current dissatisfaction with the Muslim states' efforts to take her principles farther than she intended is an excellent illustration of Eugene's point that censorship regimes tend to break out of the initial seemingly reasonable limits that their supporters might have wanted to impose.

As Eugene noted, this is particularly true of a broad, amorphous norm such as a ban on "defamation of religion." Given the broad scope of religious ethics, almost any political or ideological statement might be seen as offensive to the values of one religious group or another. To some theologically conservative Muslims and Christians, advocacy of gay equality is just as offensive to their religious sensibilities as a negative portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed was to those who sought to suppress the Danish cartoons. And claims that Muslim nations mistreat homosexuals might be viewed as no less "defamatory" of traditional Islam than the Mohammed cartoons. Arbour's desire to permit the former while censoring the latter is unlikely to cut any ice with the would-be censors. The right place to block this particular slippery slope is at the very top of the hill.

MarkField (mail):
Entirely OT, but Solzhenitsyn has died.

I agree with you on the post.
8.3.2008 9:15pm
Nathan_M (mail):
Why do you say Arbour supported efforts to censor the Danish Mohammed cartoons? The article you linked to quotes her saying "I would like to emphasise that I deplore any statement or act showing a lack of respect towards other people's religion." That Arbour "deplore[d]" the cartoons is hardly evidence she supported censorship of them.

I've googled for a bit, and I can't find any statements where Arbour supports censorship of the cartoons. I did find a lot of breathless outrage over a letter she sent to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, but I couldn't find the text of that letter, but in the quotes I could find she doesn't seem to be supporting censorship.
8.3.2008 9:20pm
Big Bill (mail):
Ilya: "To some theologically conservative Muslims and Christians, advocacy of gay equality is just as offensive to their religious sensibilities ..."

And to "theologically conservative Jews" such as Haredi and other ultra-Orthodox, Ilya. You know that. Why single out the goyim?

Leviticus 18:22 and 21:13 were Jewish law before they were passed down as law to Judaism's "daughter religions" (as the Reform call Muslims and Christians).
8.3.2008 9:24pm
Ilya Somin:
Why do you say Arbour supported efforts to censor the Danish Mohammed cartoons? The article you linked to quotes her saying "I would like to emphasise that I deplore any statement or act showing a lack of respect towards other people's religion." That Arbour "deplore[d]" the cartoons is hardly evidence she supported censorship of them.

See the quotes by Arbour on pg. 1220 of this article (which is also linked in the original post).
8.3.2008 9:26pm
common sense (www):
There are so many different world views around today that almost anything is bound to upset someone. Then, we either have to make a value judgment about that person (do we really care about protecting the feelings of someone who executes homosexuals) or we have to restrain our speech criticizing them. It is much better to let everyone talk regardless of whom it might insult. Nothing else is sustainable in the long run.
8.3.2008 9:27pm
Nathan_M (mail):

See the quotes by Arbour on pg. 1220 of this article (which is also linked in the original post).

Am I missing something? I don't see any quotes from Arbour in your article, and the cite in your article links to a news report quoting Arbour saying that she "regret[s] any statement or act that could express a lack of respect for the religion of others."

The claim in your article that Arbour said the cartoons "may violate international laws against 'hate speech'" is more troubling, but it doesn't seem fair to Arbour to judge her position from an unsourced paraphrase of her views in a law review article.
8.3.2008 9:48pm
Ummm:
Uhh.... shouldn't we encourage criticizing all irrational beliefs, including religion???

These damn Muslims....
8.3.2008 9:53pm
Ilya Somin:
Am I missing something? I don't see any quotes from Arbour in your article, and the cite in your article links to a news report quoting Arbour saying that she "regret[s] any statement or act that could express a lack of respect for the religion of others."

The claim in your article that Arbour said the cartoons "may violate international laws against 'hate speech'" is more troubling, but it doesn't seem fair to Arbour to judge her position from an unsourced paraphrase of her views in a law review article.


Actually, my article cites an article quoting Arbour, and also a 2005 speech in which he said that "xenophobic" and prejudicial speech should be criminalized as violating international law. It also cites an article noting that Arbour initiated a UN investigation of the cartoons. That is far from "unsourced."
8.3.2008 10:04pm
Ilya Somin:
Ilya: "To some theologically conservative Muslims and Christians, advocacy of gay equality is just as offensive to their religious sensibilities ..."

And to "theologically conservative Jews" such as Haredi and other ultra-Orthodox, Ilya. You know that. Why single out the goyim?


Lots of traditional religions oppose gay equality. I couldn't possibly list them all in this sentence. So I chose the two that have been most active and most influential on this issue (which are also the two most widespread religions in the world). Nothing I said excuses other, smaller and less influential, religious groups that take similar positions - ultra-Orthodox Jews included.
8.3.2008 10:09pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Well if the theocrats of all religions ban together and convince their democratic and non-democratic leaderships to buy into it, then it is possible that a new rule of international could emerge. Of course, that would mean all the secularists in those same states would be seriously repressed to counter that effort. I am looking for the pigs flying if this happens.

The important thing is that oppressive states can make an effort to change the contours of international law. Clearly we expect that from non-democratic autocratic states. But, for the past seven years, it has been pretty obvious that the state with the so-called least democratic deficit, the United States has been working overtime to change international law so that we think that waterboarding is not torture and we think lots of other things that are pretty horrendous are not violations of international or domestic law.

Ilya and John maybe slip by this by the "on the whole" type language in their writings, but I would like to hear a little twinkle of a sound about what the US has tried to get away with on torture.

Best,
Bem
8.3.2008 10:39pm
Nathan_M (mail):


Actually, my article cites an article quoting Arbour, and also a 2005 speech in which he [sic] said that "xenophobic" and prejudicial speech should be criminalized as violating international law. It also cites an article noting that Arbour initiated a UN investigation of the cartoons. That is far from "unsourced."

Sorry, I didn't mean to say everything is unsourced. Just the statement that Arbour claimed that Denmark may have violated international law by permitting the publication of the cartoons.

Arbour doesn't have the strongest record on free speech from her Canadian Supreme Court days, but I don't think it's fair to say she supported censorship of the Danish cartoons when you don't cite any statements from her saying any such thing.
8.3.2008 10:41pm
Ilya Somin:
Sorry, I didn't mean to say everything is unsourced. Just the statement that Arbour claimed that Denmark may have violated international law by permitting the publication of the cartoons.

The sources I cited note that Arbour called for a UN investigation of the cartoon episode and Denmark's allowing of the publication of them. There would be no point to such an investigation if not for the possibility that international law was violated.
8.3.2008 11:17pm
Extraneus (mail):
We are not at the very top of the hill, unfortunately, but somewhere on the other side and sliding. Your references to the Mohammad cartoons suppport that, but even in their absence it would still be true.
8.3.2008 11:18pm
Ilya Somin:
Well if the theocrats of all religions ban together and convince their democratic and non-democratic leaderships to buy into it, then it is possible that a new rule of international could emerge. Of course, that would mean all the secularists in those same states would be seriously repressed to counter that effort. I am looking for the pigs flying if this happens.

This assumes that new norms of international law only emerge through near-universal consensus. That is simply not true, as John McGinnis and I have extensively documented in the linked articles. It is certainly not true according to enthusiasts for a broad scope of international law.

The important thing is that oppressive states can make an effort to change the contours of international law. Clearly we expect that from non-democratic autocratic states. But, for the past seven years, it has been pretty obvious that the state with the so-called least democratic deficit, the United States has been working overtime to change international law so that we think that waterboarding is not torture and we think lots of other things that are pretty horrendous are not violations of international or domestic law.

McGinnis and I have both criticized the Bush Administration's excessive claims of executive power in other writings - as you would have known simply by reading what I said in previous VC posts on the matter (e.g. here), or this article by John. That doesn't change the fact that the domestic law of liberal democratic states - including the US - is generally better than international law on most human rights issues. Torturing a small number of captured terrorists, even if unjustified, is not an offense comparable to the large-scale repression undertaken by authoritarian states.
8.3.2008 11:25pm
BladeDoc (mail):
How many times does something like this have to happen to eliminate the "fallacy" descriptor of the "slippery slope fallacy"? I'd settle for "phenomenon" or "syndrome" (sloppy, that last) but the correct adjective would seem to be something like "certainty" or "inevitability".
8.3.2008 11:29pm
Scote (mail):
I've never quite understood how a law against "Defamation of Religion" is supposed to work in a pluralistic society with mutually exclusive religions. One relgion's doctrine is another's defamation, not to mention non-theistic points of view. Such a law is fundamentally unworkable.
8.3.2008 11:56pm
Dave N (mail):
MarkField and I are in agreement. The clock is definitely stopped for one of us.
8.4.2008 12:20am
Paul Milligan (mail):
This is not a case of 'slippery slope', it is a case of 'running off the top of the cliff in one powerful leap'.

If this bugus muslim-run 'human rights council' is allowed to perpetrate this atrocity on the world, it would become illegal to say things like 'I don't think it's right that you have your hand cut off for stealing', or 'I don't think it's right that you should be stoned to death for adultery', or to in fact say ANYTHING in opposition or protest of ANY ruling of Shari'a law ( Islamic law, aka islam ).

By implicit definition, if you do not say you oppose something, then you either accept it, or approve of it. Which are functionally the same.

This 'international norm of law' would prohibit the above statements, and force the world to in effect say 'Islamic law is OK, we accept it'. You CAN NOT decry Shari'a law without inherently decrying Islam itself, they are one and the same. The Koran / Shari'a / Islam are as immutably bound as Judaism and the Torah, or Christianity and the Bible. They can not be separated.

The next step, obviously, is that then no rational argument could be made against imposing it WORLDWIDE. After all, you just got done implicitly saying you accept it, right ? And if you now say you object to it - BLASPHEMY ! AGAINST INTERNATIONAL LAW !!!!!

Yet another reason the UN needs to be thrown out of the USA, and relocated to someplace more suitable, like Sudan, and we need to withdraw all funding from it.
8.4.2008 12:21am
Anonymous #2:
I haven't seen anybody mention it explicitly in this thread, so I will: laws granting the privilege to not be offended are, by design, rules of subjective measure -- that is, can be nothing other than selectively enforced -- and are used for the express purpose of gaining or granting power (which, in the case of modern nihilistic liberalism, means anyone who isn't "white" or considered "the establishment").

In Western countries, there is a strong movement to equate "tolerance" with "acceptance", when in reality the two are orthogonal. Thus discrimination laws are created to turn criticism (the very lubrication that allows informed democracies to exist) into intolerance into discrimination, which is a form of "injustice" against the target and the nature of the target, regardless of the content of the original criticism. In essence, it's a tool to create class (or caste or "race" or geographic or whatever) warfare out of nothing.
8.4.2008 12:36am
Elliot123 (mail):
Oce again I'll call for Publc Ridicule Day. On this day we all mock and disparage religion, races, ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation, handicapped, illegal immigrants, political parties, liberalism, conservatism, and nationally syndicated columnists. I think it's the best response to this kind of nonsense and the puffed-up clowns who push for it.

Alternatively, we could have special days dedicated to mocking a single group, like Catholics, Muslims, or news anchors.
8.4.2008 1:13am
BruceM (mail) (www):
It's impossible to defame religion, because no matter how horrible the things you say about it may be, they are true. And truth is always a defense to defamation. And most statements about religion ("Christianity is stupid") are statements of opinion anyway, not statements of fact. Opinion cannot form the basis for a claim of defamation.

But nothing deserves more ridicule, mockery and to the extent it may logically be possible, defamation, than religion.
8.4.2008 1:33am
Anonymous #844:
BruceM, maybe you haven't been paying attention to the "Human Rights Commissions" in Canada.
8.4.2008 1:52am
BruceM (mail) (www):
I have not. What, have they punished people for defaming religion? I'm not saying stupid government's won't or have not done that. I'm just saying, as a matter of both law and fact, that one cannot defame religion. Any false statement about religion will not be defamatory. "Islam is a peaceful religion" is false but not defamatory. "Christianity fosters kindness" is false but not defamatory. "Scientology is not about making money" is false but not defamatory.
8.4.2008 2:28am
Scote (mail):

Any false statement about religion will not be defamatory.


Not true. "Christians eat babies" is false and defamatory. "The Catholic church has tortured people to death." is true and defamatory.
8.4.2008 2:50am
BruceM (mail) (www):
"The Catholic church has tortured people to death." is true and defamatory.

If it's true then it's per se non-defamatory. The Catholic church has tortured people to death. That can be yelled from the rooftops and there's now way it's defamatory. It's absolutely, 100%, undeniably, unquestionably true. It's called the Inquisition. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation (slander, libel, and the like).

As for Christians eating babies, I'm sure some of them do. Baby what, humans? Veal?
8.4.2008 3:30am
BruceM (mail) (www):
"now way" = "no way" (typo)
8.4.2008 3:31am
Scote (mail):

If it's true then it's per se non-defamatory.


Wrong. If it's true it may not be actionable defamation, but it is still defamation.
8.4.2008 3:56am
Scote (mail):
(Truth hasn't always been a defense of defamation.)
8.4.2008 4:09am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Are you talking about causes of action like "false light invasion of privacy"? That is a distinct cause of action from libel or slander (defamation). The very definition of defamation, from my little Webster's Pocket Legal Dictionary (2d Edition) sitting here in front of me is:

DEFAMATION: "The communication to a third person of a falsehood that is injurious to the reputation of a living person, or of a corporation or other organization." (emphasis added)

So yeah, it has to be false. Materially false. And it has to be a statement of fact, not an opinion. I think what these people are trying to do is make it illegal to speak any negative opinion about a religion, and just call it "defamation." But it's not.

Religion deserves to be scorned.
8.4.2008 4:28am
theobromophile (www):
BruceM - I take it that you do not consider atheism to be a type of religion.

When the priest/sexual abuse scandal broke several years ago in Boston, the Catholic Church was all but swimming in criticism - of its handling of priests who had been causing problems for decades, for its mandates that priests be celibate, and for its prohibitions on homosexuality. Oddly, those are reactions that the U.N. would likely not disagree with.

I'm a bit sketchy on the details, but wasn't there a kerfuffle, related to religion, in Europe a few centuries back? Some gents got it in their heads to criticise the Catholic Church? Spawned a religious revolution that created a means for a greater expression of faith?
8.4.2008 4:30am
Nathan_M (mail):

The sources I cited note that Arbour called for a UN investigation of the cartoon episode and Denmark's allowing of the publication of them. There would be no point to such an investigation if not for the possibility that international law was violated.

Didn't a group of states file a complaint with the U.N.H.C.R.? And then Arbour ordered an investigation in response to their complaint?

Even if Arbour thought this complaint was completely without merit she might have ordered the investigation to try to calm the situation, and to try to prevent violence. Given the anger at the time that would seem reasonable for a person filling a quasi-diplomatic role. Or maybe she had a policy of investigating all complaints brought to her by governments.

Or maybe she does think that Denmark's respect for free speech puts it in violation of international law. (It would seem every western country is in violation of international law if that is the case, since I can't think of anywhere that banned the cartoons.) I don't think it's fair to so confidently ascribe such an extreme view to Ms. Arbour without better evidence, though.
8.4.2008 4:57am
donaldk2 (mail):
You have to laugh lest you cry. Are you aware of what the Muslims say about Jews? Is it suggested that they be subject to criminal prosecution? By whom????????????? By Arbour and what army?

America should declare its non-recognition of any form of international law, other than commercial.
8.4.2008 4:59am
Eli Rabett (www):
The latest PZ Meyers Crackergate episode should be substituted above for the Danish cartoonfest complete with death threats and all.
8.4.2008 5:38am
Smokey:
Scote:
I've never quite understood how a law against "Defamation of Religion" is supposed to work in a pluralistic society with mutually exclusive religions. One relgion's doctrine is another's defamation, not to mention non-theistic points of view. Such a law is fundamentally unworkable.
Great point.

Let's forget the "defamation" angle. That's just going to be used as a "gotcha." [You know where, and by whom.]

How about this novel concept, instead: "Freedom of religion." Everywhere.

Or wouldn't that set well with the "Islam must be always be coddled, but Judaism is naturally presumed guilty" UN?
8.4.2008 7:50am
Mike S.:
Considering what religions have to say about each other, the whole idea is farcical. I am pretty sure the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches each considers what the other says about it defamatory. Ditto what Islam has to say about Christianity and Judaism. Or what any of the monotheistic religions says about Paganism. I suspect that many other religions have equally unpleasant things to say about the religions they were created to displace.
8.4.2008 8:09am
NHDr (mail):
How would this proposed law impact making a TV series illustrating promoting and popularizing "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?"
8.4.2008 8:31am
BruceM (mail) (www):
BruceM - I take it that you do not consider atheism to be a type of religion.

Correct, by definition it is the lack of a religion. But some people distinguish two types of atheism (hard and soft), where some atheists do not believe in god(s) for lack of evidence, but would concede there is simply no way to know, while other atheists affirmatively state that god(s) do not exist and they are just as sure about it as a Christian is sure of the divinity of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Even so, not believing in something is not in itself a belief when it's the other people who are the ones who created the thing in which to believe, or not.

If I believe in 2 inch tall, four-armed masturbation trolls that climb into my bed at night, rub my penis with their four hands as they sprinkle erection-dust on my cock, and cause me to have wet dreams, and you do say you don't believe in such a thing, then you have not gone and created your own belief system vis a vis nocturnal emissions. You've just decided not to accept mine. Religion works the same way, except little four-armed masturabation trolls are much more likely, and far less ridiculous than Islam, Christianity, Judiasm, Scientology, etc.

America should declare its non-recognition of any form of international law, other than commercial.

There should be no such thing as international law other than treaties (nothing more than contracts) negotiated and entered into between countries. To say any law is above the US Constitution violates the Supremacy Clause, as well as the very idea of national sovereignty.
8.4.2008 9:04am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

Truth is an absolute defense to defamation (slander, libel, and the like).


But truth is not a defense to violating someone's human rights - a travesty that the Canadians have provided merely the latest example of.


But some people distinguish two types of atheism (hard and soft), where some atheists do not believe in god(s) for lack of evidence, but would concede there is simply no way to know, while other atheists affirmatively state that god(s) do not exist and they are just as sure about it as a Christian is sure of the divinity of Christ and the Virgin Mary.


I think perhaps the distinction you are looking for is between atheism and agnosticism, not "hard" and "soft" atheism. So when the other commenter said "atheism", by definition he meant what you are calling "hard atheism" - which does indeed resemble religion in many ways, especially the body counts of its most infamous enforcers.
8.4.2008 9:19am
Benjamin Davis (mail):

Torturing a small number of captured terrorists, even if unjustified, is not an offense comparable to the large-scale repression undertaken by authoritarian states.


I will take this quote from the John McGinnis peace you cite.


Of course, the scandals at Abu Ghrab and the more general lack of success in Iraq could not have been predicted.


I will add to this the review yesterday from the New York Time Book Review of Jane Mayer's the Dark Side available here

And finally the analysis of Yoo-Bybee of mid- 2002 recently released that all the torture was ok if done in good faith.

Abu Ghraib type situations were predicted by Alberto Mora as the Navy General Counsel in the December 2002 - January 2003 period when he objected to the aggressive techniques Rumsfeld was approving.

Chaos in Iraq was predicted by the State Department before the war and their reports were ignored.

And torture (I am glad you recognize that now that it is torture after all the euphemism used the past seven years) was not of just a few "bad guys" and it was not done by a "few bad apples".

You recognize that non-democratic states can be barbaric and I agree with you. But please do not rush to the defense of the United States on this stuff by trying to minimize what it did. What is coming out is saying it is a great deal bigger.

I will agree with you that domestic law is better than international law except when it is not and vice-versa.

This brings me to another thought - aren't there authoritarian forces within a democracy just like the one's running non-democratic states?

Is being at the helm of the state structure or is just the power of the authoritarian force within the state structure the key variable? Or something else?

Best,
Ben
8.4.2008 10:00am
FantasiaWHT:

I think perhaps the distinction you are looking for is between atheism and agnosticism, not "hard" and "soft" atheism. So when the other commenter said "atheism", by definition he meant what you are calling "hard atheism" - which does indeed resemble religion in many ways, especially the body counts of its most infamous enforcers.


Yes. Atheism is just as much a spiritual belief system as any religion. It is an affirmative belief, absent of any proof, that there is no God. Agnosticism is an absence of a spiritual belief system (although it is a belief system in and of itself).
8.4.2008 10:01am
vassil petrov (mail):
Louise Arbour .... the former Canadian Supreme Court justice

Poor Canada.
8.4.2008 10:28am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Ryan: See Weak vs Strong atheism. There's a little bit of a difference between "I don't know if there is or is not a god" (agnostic), "I do not believe in god" (soft atheist), and "I believe there is no god" (hard atheist). Subtle, and most religious people are too dumb to grasp such distinctions, especially when it inures to their benefit to classify atheism as its own religion (the rare collective ad hominem attack - that is, "both of our positions are asinine").

Atheism is just as much a spiritual belief system as any religion.

No, it's expressly not. Atheists do not believe in spirits of any kind. Abesnce of religion is not its own religion. There are no atheist prayers. There are no atheist traditions. Atheists don't do ceremonies for "ancestors." Atheists do not pray. Atheists do not have a "book" they believe was written by a god, gods, spirits, or any other supernatural force. Atheists do not believe in supernatural forces controlling, affecting, or interfering with our lives, the world, or the universe. But the key distinction is religion is based on faith, while atheism is not. It does not take faith to say "I do not believe in X based on the evidence or lack thereof."
8.4.2008 10:41am
Thingumbob Esq. (mail) (www):
I don't believe that anyone has mentioned that the Commonwealth of Canada, as well as all other members of Great Britain's commonwealth members, has an official secrets act on the books whereby subjects can be held by the government interminably without public charges. So the UN and the Hague's powers are actually moderate by comparison!
8.4.2008 11:21am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
BruceM says:
«“The Catholic church has tortured people to death.” is true and defamatory.»

If it’s true then it’s per se non-defamatory. The Catholic church has tortured people to death. That can be yelled from the rooftops and there's now way it’s defamatory. It’s absolutely, 100%, undeniably, unquestionably true. It's called the Inquisition.


No, except as a specific instance, it’s not the Inquisition per se, but rather Roman law procedure* — which had always (for at least the previous millennium) provided for putting witnesses to “the Question” in order to determine the facts of a case — which specified procedures the Inquisition, as well as Canon (Church) Law more generally, faithfully followed.

(*As opposed to other legal systems of the medieval era, which did things like have people fight to the death, or throw folk into ponds or stack weights on their chest until suffocation to determine guilt or innocence. Should that indubitable fact be shouted to the stars nowadays — whilst we beat our chests over how barbarous our ancestors were — as well?)
8.4.2008 11:27am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Is it just me, or has the general quality of commenters here fallen lately?
8.4.2008 12:24pm
Happyshooter:
Her current dissatisfaction with the Muslim states' efforts to take her principles farther than she intended is an excellent illustration of Eugene's point that censorship regimes tend to break out of the initial seemingly reasonable limits that their supporters might have wanted to impose.

Or...she liked being all pro-muslim when she was just shutting up those christers.

Then she found out that her muslim friends were picking on gays, and decided she likes gays more.
8.4.2008 12:34pm
Scote (mail):
@BruceM,

"Defamation" is now often used as a legal shorthand for "false **and** defamatory." If you go back in English law you'll find that prosecuting someone for defamation didn't originally require that the statement be false, merely defamatory.


defame |diˈfām|
verb [ trans. ]
damage the good reputation of (someone);


People loose sight of the difference between defamation and actionable defamation the same way the do "discrimination" and, say, "illegal racial discrimination."

Don't get me wrong, though, I'm completely against silly defamation laws for religion. The fact that "defamation" is such a broad term should be all the **more** frightening in terms of such a law, especially given that the law would necessarily have to presume the truth of religious claims or omit the "truth" defense against claims of "false and defamitory" statements.
8.4.2008 1:10pm
Hoosier:
"Is it just me, or has the general quality of commenters here fallen lately?"

Yep. But the QUANTITY makes up for that. Right?
8.4.2008 1:28pm
Johnny44 (mail):
One must remember that defamation of religion from the perspective of the OIC is not falsehood about religion.
In Islamic legal doctrine the notion of slander covers truthful but harmful speech about another person.
http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/022053.php#comments
There is no commandment in Islam for telling the truth but only a dualism dependent on the religious target. So saying that Mohammed was a pedophile is strictly true and easily proven by Islamic source texts, but nontheless slander when said by an infidel to undermine Islam.
http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/022053.php#comments
On the other hhand, arguing that the legal marriage age should not be fixed because the prophet is the perfect example for all time is the obligation of every Muslim to do what is halal.
So truth and falsity are entirely different notions in Islam and Christianity.
8.4.2008 1:45pm
dz alexander (mail):
"Scote (mail):
I've never quite understood how a law against "Defamation of Religion" is supposed to work in a pluralistic society with mutually exclusive religions. One relgion's doctrine is another's defamation, not to mention non-theistic points of view. Such a law is fundamentally unworkable."

The British [finally] appear to agree with you —
Church accepts end of Blasphemy law
8.4.2008 1:51pm
Samwise:
"'It’s absolutely, 100%, undeniably, unquestionably true. It's called the Inquisition.'"

"No, except as a specific instance, it’s not the Inquisition per se, but rather Roman law procedure* — which had always (for at least the previous millennium) provided for putting witnesses to “the Question” in order to determine the facts of a case — which specified procedures the Inquisition, as well as Canon (Church) Law more generally, faithfully followed."

It seems you are either trying to claim that the Holy Office is not the Cathlic Church (which is absurd) or you are saying that the Cathloic Church had no control over its tortue (sorry, procedure). The Cathlic Church clearly rejected much of the culture and religion of Rome. It even changed the very language from classical Latin to something else. If you are correct, it had the power to reject this torturing to death too, but it did not.
8.4.2008 2:31pm
Tomwarren:
"The sources I cited note that Arbour called for a UN investigation of the cartoon episode and Denmark's allowing of the publication of them. There would be no point to such an investigation if not for the possibility that international law was violated."

I agree with the commenter who criticized this reasoning. From a prosecutorial standpoint calling for an investigation is not the same as endorsing the complaint. If such an invetigation occured and the paper and Denmark were exonerated, that would establish international law, contraru to the pro-Blaspamy lobby.
8.4.2008 2:56pm
Nathan_M (mail):

I don't believe that anyone has mentioned that the Commonwealth of Canada, as well as all other members of Great Britain's commonwealth members, has an official secrets act on the books whereby subjects can be held by the government interminably without public charges.

The Canadian Official Secrets Act was replaced in 1981 by the . This Act does not permit people to be held for any period without charge. It creates some criminal offences, but the procedure for arresting and trying people for those offences is the same as for any other crime.

Canada used to have the War Measures Act which was used to arrest people in the FLQ Hostage Crisis of 1970. This Act was repealed and replaced with the Emergencies Act in 1988. The Emergencies Act does not give the government the power to arrest or detain people without charges, or secretly.

After 9/11 the Canadian government passed the Anti-Terrorism Act which allowed for the preventative arrest of terrorism suspects, but those portions of the Act has expired in 2007, and parliament voted against renewing them.
8.4.2008 3:10pm
theobromophile (www):
I think perhaps the distinction you are looking for is between atheism and agnosticism, not "hard" and "soft" atheism. So when the other commenter said "atheism", by definition he meant what you are calling "hard atheism" - which does indeed resemble religion in many ways, especially the body counts of its most infamous enforcers.

Ryan - agree, and yes, I was distinguishing between atheism and agnosticism. The only part I do not agree with is the "he" part - I'm a girl. :)

PatHMV - I concur.
8.4.2008 3:10pm
Nathan_M (mail):
Opps, my HTML tags messed up. The Official Secrets Act was replaced with the Security of Information Act.
8.4.2008 3:11pm
A.W. (mail):
Tomwarren,

Pro-blashemy lobby?

We are almost all in that lobby. Virtually every faith--or lack there of--is a blasphemy to someone else. Do you believe that Jesus was the son of God? That is blasphemy to the jews. But if you don't, that is blasphemy to the Christians. Ditto on the status of Mohammed, Bhudda, and on and on it goes.

Further, just about every religion has an effect on the law. Sharia is an obvious example, but Christian values have been expressed in our law (such as in the equal protection clause). Chinese government has sometimes followed the way of the Tao, and the Tibetans hunger for their theocrat the Dali Lama (sp?). To say we are limited in our speech about religion is to say we are limited in our ability to address how religion shapes our government and thus threatens democracy itself.

But then, the movement is not coming from Democracies, is it?

Freedom of thought is not the right to be shielded from the unpleasant ideas of others. It is, with very few and rare exceptions (i.e. yelling fire in a theater), a free for all, where my ideas--be them religiously based or otherwise--does battle with your ideas and the best ideas win. Sometimes that confrontation can be ugly and rude, and offensive--in ways that are tied to faith, and ways that are not--but it is necessary. The trade off in trying to avoid offense is the destruction of our sacred freedom.

Btw, I find it interesting that all of this catches on now. Where were you anti-blashemy types when they were making the virgin mary with elephant dung and soaking a crucifix in urine? The fact this is only coming up now is a confession that you are scared of radical islam in a way that you were never before scared of any breed of christianity. Its funny how quickly so-called liberals give up their supposedly cherished values in the face of a little fear.

I have long puzzled over why conservatives take the threat of islamofascism more seriously. After all, it would seem that liberals had more to lose than conservatives if they establish a global caliphate. Then one day i came to a revelation. Conservatives may agree with the islamofascists on more topics, but where they disagree, they are more steadfast in their disagreement. The islamofascists won't take as much from conservatives if they win, but what they threaten, the conservatives consider to be non-negotiable. By comparison, to the liberals there is no such thing, apparently. This entire concept is exhibit A on that subject.
8.4.2008 3:17pm
FantasiaWHT:
Just read a Wisconsin case this morning talking about true, but defamatory, statements. Funny.

BruceM, none of the things you listed are required of a belief system, they are signs of an ORGANIZED group of believers (religion). Atheism is a belief in something that is not provable (that there is no God). It has to be taken on some kind of faith. I add the word "spiritual" to it because it is a belief system ABOUT something spiritual - that there is no greater spirit.
8.4.2008 3:45pm
Tomwarren:
"Pro-blasphemy lobby?"

I don't know if you'll want to say "never mind" after this but pro-blaphemy lobby, to me, means people who want to criminalize blasphemy. As in, 'lets all have an intenational blasphmey staute."

Thus, if Denmark is exonerated in a proposed investigation of its actions, saying it did nothing to offend international law, international law would be established that there is no blasphemy law, and those who are pro-blasphemy as a concept in international law would be thwarted.

In the pro-blasphemy view, blasphemy is by definition a public wrong. So those opposed to a blasphemy staute are, in my view, anti-blasphemy.
8.4.2008 3:46pm
Scote (mail):
Atheism is a belief in something that is not provable (that there is no God). It has to be taken on some kind of faith. I add the word "spiritual" to it because it is a belief system ABOUT something spiritual - that there is no greater spirit.


Not true. The views of atheists are widely varied, but scientific atheists don't claim their is no possibility that god or gods could exist, only no proof and no reason to believe that they do. They do not believe in the God of Abraham any more than they believe in Zeus or Leprechauns. That's not faith, it is a standard of proof. There is no doctrine, no spirituality inherent in atheism. It is not a positive believe in something unprovable. It is not faith. It is not what you claim it is.

Ironically, all Christians are atheists. They demand proof that other gods exist and ignore all the possible gods on that basis--with one exception, their own religion, which they hold to an entirely separate standard which does not require proof. That is that difference
8.4.2008 3:58pm
The River Temoc (mail):
I should point out that even if this norm were to become ingrained in public international law, the United States would likely be a "persistent objector" and therefore not bound by it.
8.4.2008 4:04pm
theobromophile (www):
Ironically, all Christians are atheists. They demand proof that other gods exist and ignore all the possible gods on that basis--with one exception, their own religion, which they hold to an entirely separate standard which does not require proof. That is that difference.

Many of the Christians that I know believe that there is ample proof of the life, works, miracles, and divinity of Christ. They cite archaeological sources, fulfillment of preexisting prophecies, the lack of time for the development of a mythology, and the like.

I'm the wrong person to begin to explain it, as I simply do not know enough about it. Just throwing that out there, though.
8.4.2008 4:13pm
Tomwarren:
The views of atheists are widely varied, but scientific atheists don't claim their is no possibility that god or gods could exist, only no proof and no reason to believe that they do. . . . That's not faith, it is a standard of proof. There is no doctrine, no spirituality inherent in atheism.

I agree that it is not helpful or honest to confuse faith in God with faith in human reason by claiming, they are both just religions, or both spiritual, that is reductionist in the extreme, but surely science has doctrine. And it is because of that docterine that you can state there is no proof of God, and there is not likely to be.
8.4.2008 4:13pm
Scote (mail):

I agree that it is not helpful or honest to confuse faith in God with faith in human reason by claiming, they are both just religions, or both spiritual, that is reductionist in the extreme, but surely science has doctrine. And it is because of that docterine that you can state there is no proof of God, and there is not likely to be.


Not at all. Atheism predates, and exists independent of, science.
8.4.2008 5:11pm
davod (mail):
"Truth is an absolute defense to defamation (slander, libel, and the like)." Not in the UK.
8.4.2008 5:19pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Agnostics can be theists or atheists. Agnosticism is about the ability to know whether or not god exists, not about whether he actually does exist or whether to believe or not believe that he exists.

Unlike atheism, agnosticism is a specific belief. It is the belief that neither god's existence nor his non-existence (whichever is in fact the case) can be proven. An agnostic can choose to believe in a god even though he believes its existence cannot be proven. An agnostic can also refuse to believe in god because such existence cannot be proven.

In fact, most agnostics are theists. The believe in god, in the absence of proof, by means of what they refer to as 'faith'. Perhaps you've heard of it.
8.4.2008 5:25pm
A.W. (mail):
Tom

I think you are just plain confused on the english language. your post one pro and anti-blasphemy makes absolutely no sense. i mean linguistically. i'm not criticizing your ideas, i am criticizing your inability to understand the words you type.

Ditto with your misundersanding of the word atheism. If you allow for the possibility of God but profess not to know either way, you are not an athiest; you are an agnostic.
8.4.2008 5:31pm
Tomwarren:
"Not at all. Atheism predates, and exists independent of, science."

That was pithy and really stupid: Scientific atheism didn't and dosn't, which is what your previous comment was about.
8.4.2008 5:34pm
Tomwarren:
AW: I think your just plain confused, as you readily admit. I didn't talk about about atheism admiting the possibility of God, where I wasn't quoting an earlier author.
8.4.2008 5:41pm
Scote (mail):

That was pithy and really stupid: Scientific atheism didn't and dosn't, which is what your previous comment was about.


Touchy, touchy. Theists are constantly trying to claim that lack of belief in their particular god is a form of religion, or spiritual belief. Such is not the case absent something more than merely a lack of belief. One need not be a scientist to say there is no proof for god, though science can demonstrate useful standards and methodologies for what could constitute proof. So, my "pithy" statement stands, your desire to dismiss it out of hand notwithstanding.
8.4.2008 6:11pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

The views of atheists are widely varied, but scientific atheists don't claim their is no possibility that god or gods could exist, only no proof and no reason to believe that they do. They do not believe in the God of Abraham any more than they believe in Zeus or Leprechauns. That's not faith, it is a standard of proof. There is no doctrine, no spirituality inherent in atheism. It is not a positive believe in something unprovable. It is not faith. It is not what you claim it is.


I agree that there is no positive proof of these Gods or any personal God, but strongly disagree with the "there is no good reason to believe that any 'God' exists."

Ultimately given the known universe has a beginning makes it just as rational to believe in a prime mover that exists outside of time/space/matter/energy than an uncaused universe. No one knows what happened before the big bang. I.e., there is a gap. But to fill the "gap" in with atheism (the universe always existed and must have been expanding/contracting ad infinitum) is simply to appeal to "the atheism of the gaps."

I can't claim originality of that phrase. Dinesh D'Souza as far as I known coined it. After that horrible book of his The Enemy At Home, I almost hate to appeal to him as an authority. But when I hear something that makes sense, I won't reject it simply because the source has been full of it on other occasions.
8.4.2008 6:12pm
Scote (mail):

Ultimately given the known universe has a beginning makes it just as rational to believe in a prime mover that exists outside of time/space/matter/energy than an uncaused universe. No one knows what happened before the big bang.


Proposing a god doesn't solve the problem of first cause, it just makes it infinitely regressive. It is a "solution" that merely makes more unnecessary assumptions.
8.4.2008 6:26pm
Tomwarren:
So, my "pithy" statement stands, your desire to dismiss it out of hand notwithstanding.

Dismiss it out of hand? I responded to it and noted that it was non-responsive.
8.4.2008 6:31pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
A prime mover isn't infinitely regressive. The prime mover is uncaused, the first cause.
8.4.2008 6:37pm
Scote (mail):
Stands on redirect.
8.4.2008 6:38pm
Scote (mail):

A prime mover isn't infinitely regressive. The prime mover is uncaused, the first cause.


You are "solving" one problem by regressing it rather than by solving it.

If you can accept that god needs no cause then neither does the universe. If the universe needs a cause then so does god. You have no rational reason why a god should be exempted from needing a cause but the universe cannot. It is just an unfounded assertion where you try and create a circular "definition" to prove your point. I could just as easily claim to define "the Universe" as that which "is uncaused, the first cause."
8.4.2008 6:42pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
"If you can accept that god needs no cause then neither does the universe. If the universe needs a cause then so does god."

This is a non-sequitur

"You have no rational reason why a god should be exempted from needing a cause but the universe cannot."

The rational reason is the same rules don't apply to the prime mover (I'm not even calling such "God" because that term is too loaded). If you exist outside of time/space/matter/energy, then you don't need a cause.

And yes, I understand you can posit the universe as an uncaused first cause. I'm simply pointing out the prime mover theory is every bit as plausible.
8.4.2008 6:46pm
Scote (mail):

If you exist outside of time/space/matter/energy, then you don't need a cause.


You are claiming to know the unknowable, the first and only sign needed to dismiss your argument as nonsense.
8.4.2008 6:53pm
Hoosier:
"If you can accept that god needs no cause then neither does the universe. If the universe needs a cause then so does god. You have no rational reason why a god should be exempted from needing a cause but the universe cannot."

Well . . . in terms of epistemology, Scote has a point. The always-existing-universe is no less possible than the Thomostic Unmoved Mover. The former also allows Occam's Razor to fuction.

The PROBELM is that those who reject religion in favor of "reason" can't have it that way. Rationalism doesn't allow physical results to be uncaused.

It's a quandry. There is no answer.

Welcome to the Human Condition.
8.4.2008 6:53pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
"You are claiming to know the unknowable, the first and only sign needed to dismiss your argument as nonsense."

Which is exactly what YOU DO when you appeal to the atheism of the gaps. Your argument is thus, equally nonsensical.
8.4.2008 6:57pm
Scote (mail):

The PROBELM is that those who reject religion in favor of "reason" can't have it that way. Rationalism doesn't allow physical results to be uncaused.


Not really a "problem," per se. Causes don't have to be the result conscience agents, so causality does not necessitate god any more than gaps in our full understanding of the universe necessitate god, let alone any specific god, let alone a specific religions doctrine of that god.
8.4.2008 7:00pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
And I should further note that Scote is reading things into my words that aren't there.

"Rowe: If you exist outside of time/space/matter/energy, then you don't need a cause.

"Scote: You are claiming to know the unknowable, the first and only sign needed to dismiss your argument as nonsense."

I didn't claim to KNOW anything. Notice my use of the word "if." Rather I'm talking about what's plausible. And noting the notion of a prime mover [something I don't know exists] is every bit as plausible as atheism [something I also don't know exists].

The problem is you are the one claiming atheism as knowledge. And that is claiming too much.
8.4.2008 7:01pm
Scote (mail):

Which is exactly what YOU DO when you appeal to the atheism of the gaps. Your argument is thus, equally nonsensical.


If you think that you really don't understand the burden of proof or epistemology.
8.4.2008 7:01pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
And again -- back to plausibility. The idea of regress does nothing to dispel the notion of a mover that caused the universe in the big bang; though it would make the mover not a "prime" agent. Think about experiments with AI. It's plausible that humans will create AI with consciousness, or create life. Think about millions or billions of years of scientific achievement. It's plausible that the creator, via the Big Bang is itself a created entity.

Ben Franklin believed in this at one point in his adult life (that the Providence he worshipped was the God of our solar system and was being created by a more powerful less personal and knowable God; therefore Franklin would worship the more "personal" God) as do, I think, the Mormons (who probably got the idea from Franklin).
8.4.2008 7:06pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

If you think that you really don't understand the burden of proof or epistemology.


That's your way of "stacking the deck" in your favor to try to claim atheism as knowledge.
8.4.2008 7:07pm
Yankee_Mark:
I still find great irony in Muslim organizations decrying defamation of religion and find their supporting such an ideal to be hollow. Traditionally ours has been a society tolerant of ideas and criticism of ideas while much of the Muslim world lacks this. But for me the heart of the matter still boils down to this...

A Sheikh flush with oil money is perfectly free to build a Mosque in Rome, or Washington DC, or Salt Lake City, but would Ross Perot (or I were I rich) be as free to build a Lutheran Church in Ryadh or Mecca? Nope, in fact Perot and I are not even allowed into the City of Mecca.

Do ya suppose that practicing Christians might be 'defamed' (or worse) for any attempt or desire to outwardly display their faith in Muslim lands? I can handle tolerance though it can be overdone ... but if it is an ideal one purports to advance, it had to cut both ways! One-way tolerance is no tolerance at all!
8.4.2008 8:52pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I haven't kept up much with International Law since I got my LL.M. from Temple University in it '01 (JD, '99). But it seems to me that contrary to speaking of a an international norm that posits a right of religion not to be defamed, we should be positing an international norm of Free Exercise of religion, that guarantees the right to build Christian or Buddhist or Unitarian-Universalist Churches in the Muslim world. There is a rich tradition of "natural law/natural rights" that is foundational to America from which to draw. And indeed such natural law forms the basis -- at least in heritage -- of "customary" international law that is supposedly binding everywhere.
8.4.2008 9:12pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Samwise writes:
"No, except as a specific instance, it’s not the Inquisition per se, but rather Roman law procedure* — which had always (for at least the previous millennium) provided for putting witnesses to “the Question” in order to determine the facts of a case — which specified procedures the Inquisition, as well as Canon (Church) Law more generally, faithfully followed."

It seems you are either trying to claim that the Holy Office is not the Cathlic Church (which is absurd) or you are saying that the Cathloic Church had no control over its tortue (sorry, procedure). The Cathlic Church clearly rejected much of the culture and religion of Rome. It even changed the very language from classical Latin to something else. If you are correct, it had the power to reject this torturing to death too, but it did not.


You're anachronistically mixing together things that occurred at very different times. When (Justinianian) Roman Law was revived in the West, during the latter half of the 11th century, it was vastly superior to traditional legal systems of the Middle Ages (as I alluded to in my comment, which you snipped). Especially due to its recognition of the monarch (emperor)'s supreme authority, Roman Law, once (re)introduced, was quickly snapped by all the western monarchies — 'cepting England.

The latter kingdom was an exception in this regard (as historian Norman Cantor has pointed out) due to the fact that the Anglo-Norman state was considerably more advanced chronology-wise in its construction of a centralized medieval state than its European neighbors, and when the need arose during the early part of the 11th century, the Justinian code and attorneys trained in it (via the new medieval universities) were not yet available north of the Alps, and at the crucial moment Henry II institutionalized the English Common Law instead.

In any event, once revived, given its enormous prestige and obvious advancement compared with its competition, neither secular governments nor the Church were interested in seriously tampering with the Roman Law, but rather adopted it wholesale, while streamlining and systematizing it. “Tortue” as you call it, was “constitutional” under Roman Law, with few at the time (certainly not principal jurists, whether canonical or secular) looking at it askance.

Sputtering that folks could too have surgically excised the “tortue” demon had they only had a 21th century outlook like us oh-so sophisticated moderns is pure and simple (and simplistic) anachronism.
8.4.2008 9:28pm
Joshua:
I should point out that even if this norm were to become ingrained in public international law, the United States would likely be a "persistent objector" and therefore not bound by it.

On the other hand, the U.S. would be unlikely to elicit much sympathy from other nations who do follow the norm in the event of another major Islamist terror attack on our soil, especially if the Islamists specifically claim U.S. persistent objection to the norm as their motive for the attack. And we certainly wouldn't be able to drum up much of a "coalition of the willing" for a military response to such an attack - who else would be willing?

Actually, it occurs to me that the implied threat of violent jihad against the West is the elephant in the room vis-a-vis this anti-blasphemy movement. Would this movement be taken anywhere near as seriously in the West as it has been, if not for the unstated and slight, but non-zero and therefore non-dismissable possibility of a Western city someday disappearing in a mushroom cloud for our refusal to go along?
8.4.2008 9:33pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Erratum: Duh! 1100’s = 12th century. I do know that principle — most days.
8.4.2008 9:37pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Jon Rowe: Atheists do not deny a "first cause" or "prime mover". They deny god. That theists claim that being the "first cause" or "prime mover" is one of god's properties does not make the two concepts equivalent.

I deny the existence of invisible dogs. You present a proof for the existence of dogs. Fine, I still deny the existence of invisible dogs.

A purely natural "first cause" would not be a god. I believe that most likely the universe had a "first state" because I find an infinite regress of states incomprehensible. This first state was gone as soon as the second state came around, and must have been uncaused (or it would not be the first state).

I may be wrong in this belief, of course. The truth may actually be something even weirder than I can imagine.
8.5.2008 12:03am
Fat Man (mail):
I hope you liberals can now see the gaping hole in the whole idea of international law. Once the Muslims have squelched free speech about them, the next up will be the Chinese and the Russians who will demand that international law ban communications that could cause internal unrest in their countries. The fiery pit of hell opens before you, think a moment before you progress.
8.5.2008 3:24am
Sam H (mail):
"I hope you liberals can now see the gaping hole in the whole idea of international law. Once the Muslims have squelched free speech about them, the next up will be the Chinese and the Russians who will demand that international law ban communications that could cause internal unrest in their countries. The fiery pit of hell opens before you, think a moment before you progress."

The liberals I know would be quite pleased with that state of affairs. Just look at the various university speech codes, hate crimes and other laws/rules trying to prevent speech/thoughts they don't approve of.
8.5.2008 8:05am
Hoosier:
David Schwartz:
"I deny the existence of invisible dogs. You present a proof for the existence of dogs. Fine, I still deny the existence of invisible dogs. "

You can deny the existence of invisible dogs.

But

o n l y

ONCE!

Dum-DUM!:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBJtea6w4KU


"A purely natural "first cause" would not be a god. I believe that most likely the universe had a "first state" because I find an infinite regress of states incomprehensible. This first state was gone as soon as the second state came around, and must have been uncaused "

So, kinda like: "YOU may choose to believe in invisible gnomes. But *I* only believe in the visible ones that no one has seen."

Hmm.
8.5.2008 9:15am
A.W. (mail):
Joshua

> On the other hand, the U.S. would be unlikely to elicit much sympathy from other nations who do follow the norm in the event of another major Islamist terror attack on our soil, especially if the Islamists specifically claim U.S. persistent objection to the norm as their motive for the attack. And we certainly wouldn't be able to drum up much of a "coalition of the willing" for a military response to such an attack - who else would be willing?

Give me a break. No one asked to an anti-Blasphemy law back when they were urinating on the cross. This isn’t about being nice to Muslims; it is about surrender to terrorism.

So if the rest of the world has already surrendered in some silly belief that if they feed the crocodile they will be last on the menu, we won’t be able to expect much help from them anyway. Then again, it’s not like they are much of a help in any case since most countries that have any values in common with us don’t think they have to be troubled with national defense.

The ugly reality is, we are on our own in this, with the possible exception of Britain and Australia.

Sam H.

Nah, see you miss the point. When they say international law, global test and the like they mean France. They always wonder WWTFD: What would the French do?
8.5.2008 10:18am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I'm not sure what affect such norms would have in otherwise democratic countries even if they are adopted.

The Canucks are such wimps that their speech sanctions are largely meaningless. Fines don't work against the judgment proof. Communications is a little hard to control these days. Even the Chinks can't do a very good job and they're commie totalitarians.

Sure Islam does a fair control job by beheading dissidents but unless the Euroweenies and the Canucks restore the death penalty, I don't see that they can do much about our speech.

Brussels Journal is still publishing. Europeans continue to listen to US hate radio over the nets so that continent's attempt to control its media has been defeated.

If you can burn the Paris suburbs w/o much in the way of punishment, you can certainly defame a few ragheads followers of the Religion of Peace with impunity.
8.5.2008 1:35pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Re truth and defamation:

As far as I can tell, in all U.S jurisdictions, falsehood is a prima facie element of a plaintiff's claim of the tort of defamation (and if not, courts construe tort law to require this, so as not to conflict with the First Amendment). In the UK, truth is an absolute affirmative defense, but the key difference is that the defendant in the UK has the burden of proving that his statement is true. Someone can correct me on this point if I am wrong, but in the UK I don't believe it is theoretically possible for a court to assess damages for a true statement that injures a reputation, just that it's hard for the defendant to win because of the presumption of falsehood.

There are other causes of action that in some jurisdictions allow damages for the disclosure of true information, but these are disfavored and fall under tort claims of invasion of privacy.
8.5.2008 3:03pm
David Schwartz (mail):
"A purely natural "first cause" would not be a god. I believe that most likely the universe had a "first state" because I find an infinite regress of states incomprehensible. This first state was gone as soon as the second state came around, and must have been uncaused "

So, kinda like: "YOU may choose to believe in invisible gnomes. But *I* only believe in the visible ones that no one has seen."


You can always respond to an atheist by finding something he does believe in and calling it god. For example, you can define god as "the highest power that exists". In any person's set of beliefs, there must be some highest thing in which he believes. Now everyone's a theist by a rhetorical flourish.

I am unwilling to consider a purely natural first state (that is replaced by the second and subsequent states) a "god". I think it's a pretty absurd claim that any such first state is necessarily god. (It's not all-powerful, it's not timeless, it's not holy, it didn't create anything -- in fact, it has none of the usual god attributes.)

In any event, my belief in a first state is pretty tenuous anyway. I consider it the most likely of the "creation" scenarios that I can imagine, but fully accept that the actual creation may be something I cannot currently imagine. Unlike "god of the gaps" theists, I know that you can't create knowledge from only its lack.
8.5.2008 5:42pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"If you can accept that god needs no cause then neither does the universe. If the universe needs a cause then so does god."

This is a non-sequitur

"You have no rational reason why a god should be exempted from needing a cause but the universe cannot."

The rational reason is the same rules don't apply to the prime mover (I'm not even calling such "God" because that term is too loaded). If you exist outside of time/space/matter/energy, then you don't need a cause.

And yes, I understand you can posit the universe as an uncaused first cause. I'm simply pointing out the prime mover theory is every bit as plausible."

Hoosier pointed out Occam's razor (incidentally, the prime mover was Aristotle's idea before it was Thomistic [though Aquinas was an Aristotelian of sorts]). It is true that to avoid an infinite regress there must be a stopping point of a) an uncaused universe or b) a causing agent that created the universe. But since they equally explain the available evidence, why posit an extraneous entity? The answer to that question is where one either moves from scientific explanation into theology or stays scientific.
8.5.2008 6:42pm
Scote (mail):

The rational reason is the same rules don't apply to the prime mover (I'm not even calling such "God" because that term is too loaded). If you exist outside of time/space/matter/energy, then you don't need a cause.

So you baldly assert. Prove it. Ah, you can't. Then don't say it as if it were fact.
8.5.2008 8:13pm
David Schwartz (mail):
The rational reason is the same rules don't apply to the prime mover (I'm not even calling such "God" because that term is too loaded). If you exist outside of time/space/matter/energy, then you don't need a cause.


This is tantamount to rejecting reason wholesale. If you do that, you don't need any proof or argument. Just state your conclusion and be done with it.

The fundamental problem with your creation argument is that it doesn't do what it promises to do. We want to understand how the universe was created. You say "god did it". Fine, but how? No answer.

If people in 5000 BC wanted to understand gravity, which answer would be better:

1) We don't understand gravity or how it operates.

2) God pulls everything down, in a way we will never understand.

The second "explanation" adds nothing to the first, except that it gives up any hope of ever understanding how gravity actually works.
8.6.2008 8:04am
Roundhead (mail) (www):
someone has noted this, no doubt already, but: Maclean's.

MACLEAN'S - not McLean's, Mclen's, MacLean's...
8.6.2008 10:30am
Hoosier:
Thales:

Hoosier pointed out Occam's razor (incidentally, the prime mover was Aristotle's idea before it was Thomistic [though Aquinas was an Aristotelian of sorts]).

You cannot cite Aristotle. You are a Pre-Socratic. You have never even heard of him.

I call shenanigans!
8.6.2008 11:03am
Hoosier:
If people in 5000 BC wanted to understand gravity, which answer would be better:

You haven't defined "better."

In the sinse that you sem to mean--given your example--Newton's explanation was no "better." He said that the force of universal gravitation did it. But he had no idea how.

Not hat Newton was wrong. But his explanation was, again, not "better," if the issue is "understanding how gravity actually works."

Just a plea for careful use of language in debates like this one.
8.6.2008 11:08am
Thales (mail) (www):
Rats, someone called shenanigans. My career as a VC commenter is over.
8.6.2008 2:57pm
David Schwartz (mail):
In the sinse that you sem to mean--given your example--Newton's explanation was no "better." He said that the force of universal gravitation did it. But he had no idea how.


Newton's explanation wasn't one of the two choices. The two choices were:

1) We don't understand gravity or how it operates.

2) God pulls everything down, in a way we will never understand.

I asked which of these is better.

It seems you are responding to some argument other than the one that I am making.
8.6.2008 8:23pm
Hoosier:
David--Nope.

You said "better." What did you mean by "better"?
8.6.2008 10:08pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Hoosier: Superior. Preferable. More logical. More defensible. More rational. More sensible. It's really not complicated.

If you think you have found some devastating critique of my argument, you're going to have to share it. Subtly hinting and winking just isn't doing it for me.
8.6.2008 11:59pm
Hoosier:
"Subtly hinting and winking just isn't doing it for me."

What if I offer to buy you a drink?
8.7.2008 1:27am
David Schwartz (mail):
Deal.
8.7.2008 4:09am