Friday, September 21, 2007

9 Tishri 5768: ‘Erev Yom Kippur/International Banana Festival/World Gratitude Day/Miniature Golf Day/Elephant Appreciation Day

Greetings.

Health advisory: Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Those who will be fasting, please make sure to get plenty of fluids before Sundown to avoid problems later. Self-endangerment is neither the point of the day nor desirable.

Worthy cause of the day: “Statement: I will fight back”. Please sign and tell your Congresspeople that condemning anyone’s legal and moral exercise of free speech is unacceptable and downright un-American. Even if you do not agree with the message of MoveOn.org, please support their right to say things that Congress does not like.

Divine misconception of the day: “Teacher fights to take gun to class”.  First of all, I am not going to condemn anyone innocent for wanting to defend themselves against real threats.  I am also going to lay aside the issue of whether it is a good idea for a teacher to be armed;  that should be decided by doing research into the effectiveness of arming people on deterring crime and into the safety of bearing arms for the arms bearers and the people around them.  What I am going to deal with is the notion of their being a right to bear arms, which took an interesting twist in the article:
"The right to protect yourself is natural, God-given and should not be taken away," said Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, which is paying for the teacher's legal bills.
The mistake herein is two-fold.  1) There is no such thing as a natural right.  2) Just because one is permitted to defend oneself does not automatically imply permission to carry a gun.

1) Natural rights, if memory serves me correctly, are the product of the Deism movement, which was flourishing at the time of the American Revolution.  Deism is the belief that God created the Universe and has not interfered with it ever since.  This rules out Divine revelation as a possibility (or at least an easy possibility) as a source of knowing what God wants—the source for a moral system in many religions—and so the notion of “natural rights” was created as a substitute.  The problem with this is that natural rights are a pure fiction, since they are not anchored in Divine revelation, making it anything but clear that they are the will of God, and they cannot be derived from physics and mathematics, which are morally neutral. 

2) There is an unstated assumption that a handgun is the only possible way for the teacher to defend herself and her children from her ex-husband.  Why other weapons (spray, a taser, a baseball bat, a sword, etc.) or other methods of self-defense (e.g., karate) cannot be used is not discussed.  Perhaps there is a non-gun alternative that would satisfy both the teacher and the Medford school district.  (I recommend an aluminum baseball bat.  It is not normally classified as a weapon, and it is a bad idea to attack someone holding one unless one is wearing plate armor.)

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry and Jessica are responsible for:Today’s weird thing is the parody religion The Church of Spock of Latter-Day Science Officers. Live long and prosper, have an easy fast, and share the weirdness.

Aaron
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