Saturday, January 30, 2016

Are invertebrates living organisms?

This is a sequel to my earlier post:

One argument I've run across to prove that invertebrates aren't "alive" in the Biblical sense is Lev 17:11 (cf. Gen 9:4; Deut 12:23), which says the "life of the flesh is in the blood." Since invertebrates don't have hemoglobin, they aren't living creatures in the Biblical sense. But there are several problems with this line of argument:

i) To say life is linked to blood is not to say life can't be linked to something other than blood. It's an affirmation, not a denial. It's perfectly consistent with other things on which life is dependent. Indeed, creationists hardly think blood is a sufficient condition for biological life.

There's no reason to think the statement involves an intended contrast between hemoglobin and hemolymph. The context concerns sacrificial land animals (or human murder victims). It's not meant to be a universal principle.

Take a statement like "life depends on water." That doesn't mean life only depends on water. It doesn't stand in contrast to "life depends on oxygen," or "life depends on sunshine."

Likewise, it's dubious to think the Pentateuch is using "blood" in the technical sense of hemoglobin, as if the concept depends on how modern medicine defines the composition of blood. That's terribly anachronistic.

ii) This interpretation would restrict Gen 1:20-21 to the creation of aquatic vertebrates, leaving the creation of aquatic invertebrates unaccounted for. But surely this passage is meant to be an inclusive statement about the creation of organisms for whom water is their natural element. Gen 1 subdivides creation according to their native habitat: air, land, water. And young-earth-creationists, of all people, should wish to affirm that Gen 1 was meant to cover, in broad categories, the creation of natural kinds on planet earth. To omit aquatic invertebrates would be a massive lacuna.

iii) What is the function of blood? It's a vital fluid. That's why blood loss can result in death.

But for invertebrates, hemolymph is functionally equivalent to hemoglobin. Both are vital fluids, without which the respective organisms will expire. Just as life is in the hemoglobin for vertebrates, life is in the hemolymph for (some) invertebrates.

Vote For Cruz In Iowa

Judging by this evening's Des Moines Register numbers, I suggest that people vote for Cruz in Iowa unless new information comes along to change the picture significantly. Rubio should be the nominee, for reasons I've explained elsewhere, but giving Trump a loss in Iowa is more important than giving Rubio a better third-place finish. And I don't know how voting for Carson, Paul, Christie, etc. could be justified by their supporters. They ought to support Cruz as well.

But if you read the article I linked in my first sentence above, you'll see that Trump has a lot of problems. Half of his supporters haven't participated in the caucuses before. And there's a consensus that Trump doesn't have much of an operation in place for getting people out to vote, whereas Cruz seems to have the best operation. I still expect Cruz to win Iowa, but a Trump victory is too much of a threat for any of you in Iowa to vote for anybody other than Cruz.

By the way, Gallup recently published an article about how Trump has the worst favorability numbers in Gallup's nearly quarter-century history of tracking favorability numbers for presidential candidates.

The Trump conundrum

Trump suffers from a credibility conundrum: he's believable when he needs to be unbelievable, and unbelievable when he needs to be believable. When, on rare occasion, he actually says something reasonable, that's opportunistic and insincere. Conversely: when, in the overwhelming number of cases, he says something appalling, that's utterly sincere. That is the real Trump. 

Fired for pro-life beliefs

"ORTL President Fired from Day Job over Pro-Life Beliefs"

How I pick candidates

In this post I will outline my back criteria for picking or assessing political candidates.

1. The Buckley Rule 

This is variously paraphrased, but the basic idea is to choose the most conservative electable candidate. So there's a balance between ideology and electability.

2. Electability

i) Some Christians become very agitated if you mention electability as a criterion. But why vote? If you don't think electability is relevant, why vote at all? What's the difference between voting for an unelectable candidate and not voting for him? The outcome is the same.

Why participate in the political process? To me, it's to influence the outcome. To change the status quo. To make a difference. That's the objective. 

What do you wish to accomplish when you vote for a candidate? Do you wish to accomplish anything? If you knowingly vote for an unelectable candidate, then what did you acheive? What's the point of voting for someone who can't win? As a practical matter, how is that different than not voting? 

Why bet on a race horse when you know he can't make it to the finish line?

ii) For this reason, electability is my first consideration. Ideology is not my first consideration. I start by asking which candidates are electable, not which candidates are conservative. 

It's not that ideology is unimportant, but it's unimportant at this stage of the analysis. If they make the first cut, then I consider ideology. If they don't make the first cut, then ideology is moot, since they can't win. If they can't win, they can't turn their wonderful ideas into law and policy. These are just inert, otiose ideas. 

I don't begin with a comparative ideological analysis of the candidates. That's premature. That's a waste of time. 

If one candidate is ideologically superior, but unelectable, then his ideological superiority is beside the point. The invidious contrast is irrelevant. 

Conversely, there's no point at this stage in the process of detailing the flaws of each candidate. If a particular candidate is the most conservative electable candidate, then there's no point listing his flaws, because if he's the best viable candidate, then that's what you're stuck with. 

iii) Electability is a best guess. A prediction. Based on probabilities. We may be mistaken, but we can only go with the best information we have at any given time. 

iv) Electability can be a matter of degree. When I say "unelectable" that's shorthand. I don't mean that candidate can't possibly win. 

Here's a common tradeoff: candidate A is more conservative, but less electable; candidate B is less conservative, but more electable. So that becomes a question of risk assessment. How much do you have to lose by losing with A? How much do you have to gain or lose by winning with B?

v) Some Christians get angry about these calculations. However, I didn't create the situation. I didn't create the options. I play the hand I was dealt. (Although there are extreme cases where I'd leave the  table–to continue the metaphor).

3. Ideology

i) Having narrowed the contestants to a set of electable candidates, then I generally opt for the most conservative remaining candidate. That's where comparative ideological analysis comes into play.

ii) In addition, ideological considerations come back into play if he's elected. That's when voters should oppose those aspects of his policy initiatives that are unacceptable. 

But that's after the primaries. After the nomination. After the election.

Someone might complain that if you wait that long, it's too late. But that's the best we can do. And we still have ways to influence or block his policies. For instance, if he wants to run for reelection, he will avoid alienating the base. Likewise, Congress can act as a check on the President. 

4. Competence

Over and above the Buckley rule is competence. For instance, is the candidate a coalition builder? Does he have the social skills to form an effective working relationship with Congress? If he can't partner with Congress, he will be unable to get his great ideas enacted into law. That will severely limit the good he can do, even if he's a solid conservative ideologue. 

5. Flip-flops

i) Most candidates, including conservative ideologues, backpedal on one or more issues to get elected. There are different ways to assess that:

ii) What's the scope of their flexibility? What's the spread? Does it fall within a conservative range, from far right to center right, or is it from liberal to conservative, or vice versa? Is their flexibility still within a conservative spectrum? 

iii) Even conviction politicians have priorities. Some issues are more important to them than others. They might flip-flop on an issue they don't really care about in the first place. The issue is their core identity. Likewise, how responsive are they to the base? 

iv) It also depends on the instrinsic significance of the issue.

nephesh chayyah

According to young-earth creationism, there was no animal death before the fall. No predation or carnivory. In order to deny prelapsarian animal mortality, YECs restrict the definition of nephesh chayyah to vertebrates rather than invertebrates. 

In addition, they distinguish between aquatic and terrestrial species, based on the flood account. That was designed to destroy "all flesh," and only terrestrial animals were taken abroad the ark. But there are problems with this argument:

i) To my knowledge, no Hebraist would define nephesh chayyah as a synonym for vertebrate. That invests nephesh chayyah with a more specialized meaning that the term can bear.

ii) It would be arbitrary to posit that terrestrial vertebrates are nephesh chayyah ("living creature," animal), but aquatic vertebrates are not. For instance, it wold be arbitrary to posit that land snakes are nephesh chayyah, but sea snakes are not.

iii) If you deny that invertebrates are nephesh chayyah, then that would be consistent with invertebrate predation and carnivory. 

iv) The classification results in hairsplitting distinctions, where a frog or lamprey is a living creature or animal but an octopus, colossal squid, giant squid, or giant centipede (Scolopendra) is not. What's the principled distinction?

For instance, an octopus is a very impressive piece of bioengineering. Is it less advanced, less sophisticated, than a lamprey or frog?

v) In evolutionary theory, as I understand it, the basic distinction is that invertebrates are more primitive than vertebrates. 

But isn't there are more obvious reason for the distinction? Isn't the distinction between vertebrates and invertebrates related to gravity? Because water supports body weight, there's less need for aquatic species to have a backbone. There are, of course, aquatic vertebrates, but my point is that their natural element allows for design plans that would be infeasible for land animals. 

To take another example, due to their small size and light weight, insects don't need a backbone. By the same token, I don't think an ant the size of a horse would be feasible. 

Likewise, it's not coincidental that the largest animals are aquatic animals (e.g. whales). It's not coincidental that the largest snakes are aquatic snakes (Anaconda). 

It's not that vertebrates are more advanced than invertebrates. Rather, their respective natural element places an upper limit on size and structure.

vi) There are, of course, bony fish and marine mammals. However, an octopus can go places a vertebrate cannot. Likewise, the exoskeleton of a crab enables it to function both in and out of water. So vertebrate and invertebrate designs have respective advantages and disadvantages. 

vii) Finally, there's the principle of plenitude. God rings the changes on different possibilities and combinations. Different design strategies. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

On Trump

How Trump manipulates language

Also: "How Donald Trump's language works for him"

Trump on immigration

Immigration was Trump's signature issue. Here's his real position:

Trump's greatest hits

Donald Trump: draft dodger

In fairness, a number of tough-taking public officials have been draft dodgers. And that's a bipartisan phenomenon.

Which Republican can beat Hillary?

White women
College-educated whites
Seniors (age 65+)
Suburban women


Our corrupt grand jury system

Yet another example of how the grand jury system is a political weapon:


Victor Reppert kindly plugged my "Skywriting" post over at his blog, which generated some feedback. I'm reposting my comments here:

steve said...
i) The question of why God intervenes in some situations rather than others is a separate issue from the question of whether a particular event is naturally explicable.

ii) I'd add that if God intervenes, that will have a ripple effect, and if God refrains from intervention, that will have a ripple effect, so there can certainly be a reason why God intervenes in some situations, but not more often.

Consider time-travel stories where someone goes back into the past to change the future in order to avert some catastrophe. But his intervention has other consequences. It may prevent one evil, but cause other evils (down the line). It may prevent other goods which are contingent on the catastrophe.

steve said...
i) Whether you personally think skywriting would be miraculous is beside the point. The post was about a class of atheists who say a miracle like that would convince them that God exists. I'm running with a premise that they themselves supply.

ii) Your counterexample about the Gita is a diversionary tactic. That changes the subject. The question at issue was whether the example that some atheists give of a convincing miracle (skywriting) is consistent with their customary definition of a miracle (i.e. "violation of natural laws").

iii) I'd also add that the issue wasn't a particular religion, but the existence of a God.

steve said...
Cal Metzger said...

"What would Christians here accept as evidence that Odin exists and is the one supreme god?"

i) That has precisely nothing to do with the topic of my post. So either Cal fails to grasp the issue or he is changing the subject because he can't cope with the actual question at issue.

ii) Let's recap:

In my experience, many atheists don't think an event would qualify as a miracle unless it breaks a natural law. They may tweak the definition a bit, but that's their basic operating framework.

Conversely, it's become an atheist trope to say skywriting would be a convincing miracle. Not all atheists say that, but some prominent atheists use that example.

To the extent that atheists use a Humean definition of miracles, if some of them also use skywriting as an example of a convincing miracle, then their example contradicts their definition. I've described how skywriting can be consistent with the laws of physics.

Skywriting is an example of a coincidence miracle. That's an alternative to Hume's definition. A coincidence miracle involves an opportune convergence of causally independent chains of events.

What makes it miraculous is not that it contravenes a law of nature, but that it's not something nature would do on its own. A coincidence miracle is too discriminating. It requires personal agency. Intelligent manipulation of the circumstances to yield that outcome.

iii) I'm not saying that I think these are mutually exclusive definitions. I think they are complementary. But from the viewpoint of an atheist, if an atheist defines a miracle as a violation of natural laws, and if, conversely, he says skywriting would be a convincing miracle, then he's riding two different horses.

iv) An atheist could relieve the tension by broadening his definition of miracles to include coincidence miracles. However, he pays a price for a more expansive definition. For that greatly deepens the potential pool of miracles, as well as the potential evidence for said miracles. Hence, the atheist now has more kinds of miracles to disprove. For instance, many miraculous answers to prayer would be classified as coincidence miracles.

v) Atheists use skywriting as a throwaway concession. They don't think that will ever happen, so they don't think admitting that will cost them anything. It allows them to pay lip-service to rationality and evidence without having to grant an actual miracle. Or so they suppose.

But although skywriting is hypothetical, it belongs to the class of coincidence miracles, and that is not hypothetical. There are ever so many miracles that fit that category. So this becomes a dilemma for atheists.

That's the argument. Odin is a decoy. We could chase down that rabbit trail, but that should not be allowed to distract from the actual topic of the post.

steve said...
That's Cal's modus operandi. Because he refuses to study, much less engage, actual evidence for actual miracles–despite the fact that I, for one, have directed him to some excellent resources–he diverts attention away from his manifest failure and intellectual frivolity by "asking questions" about unicorns or Odin.

Moreover, my post is not about the credibility of miracles or evidence for miracles, but about a simple point of consistency. Mind you, resolving the inconsistency has problematic consequences for the atheists in view.

Cal is free to make a speech in front of the mirror. In the meantime, the real issue remains.

steve said...
It's amusing to see Cal writhe and twist to change the subject. Keep in mind that this is not how I, as a Christian, framed the issue. Rather, this is how atheists framed the issue. Skywriting is an atheist trope. I'm just responding to atheists on their own grounds. It's hardly "caviling" for me to hold them to the implications of their chosen example.

Atheists want to seem reasonable. They want to be able to say that their beliefs are based on evidence, and subject to factual correction. So they use the skywriting example because that's a safe example. It's an artificial example. They have no fear that it will ever happen. Their bluff won't be called.

However, using that example unwittingly backs them into a corner. By using the skywriting example, they concede that it would be irrational for them to disbelieve in God if confronted with a miracle of that kind.

Problem is, that's a particular kind of miracle: a coincidence miracle. And even though the skywriting example is artificial, there are many reported miracles of the same kind. That forces them to admit it would be irrational for them to disbelieve God's existence in the face of coincidence miracles. But in that event they must explain away countless coincidence miracles.

Incidentally, a problem with Cal's Odin example is his tendentious comparison between Odin and Yahweh. He posits an analogy, then demands that we disprove the analogy. But the onus is on him to show that Odin and Yahweh are the same kind of being. He hasn't provided any supporting argument for his parallel. It's not incumbent on me to disprove an unproven contention.

Cal has a habit of taking intellectual shortcuts.

steve said...
Atheists like Cal have stock objections to Christianity which they dutifully cribbed from leaders of the New Atheist movement. They didn't originate these objections. They don't think for themselves. They can't think on their feet.

When a Christian presents an argument for which they have no prepared answers, they try to change the subject as fast as they can. Because Cal's deck of cue cards has no prepared answer for the question at issue, he's at a loss to respond. So his solution is to threadjack the post by changing the subject.

steve said...
I've given Cal multiple opportunities to engage the actual topic of the post. Now that he's demonstrated his inability to disprove my point, we might briefly dispatch his attempted comparison between Yahweh and Odin. There are two considerations:

1. Sources of information

i) According to Scripture, Jesus is Yahweh Incarnate. In the NT, we have a set of 1C documents about a figure who appeared in the 1C. Contemporaneous reports.

Traditionally, these documents are ascribed to people who knew Jesus or people who knew people who knew Jesus. Either firsthand accounts or accounts based on firsthand informants.

The traditional attributions have been defended in scholarly articles, commentaries, monographs, and NT introductions. Likewise, there are various lines of internal and external evidence for the historicity of these documents.

These accounts describe Jesus as God Incarnate, performing miracles.

In addition, reported miracles aren't confined to the Gospels. There's credible evidence for Christian miracles throughout church history, right up to the present. Likewise, answered prayers in the name of Jesus.

We also have corroboration from some church fathers. Either early church fathers or somewhat later fathers with an antiquarian interest who made a point of gathering information from early sources.

In addition, there are messianic types and prophecies that foreshadow or predict the advent of a person just like Jesus.

ii) By contrast, what evidence is there that legends about Odin were written by anyone who actually encountered Odin? Is the genre even ostensibly historical?

What are the dates of the sources in relation to the first reports?

What evidence is there that Odin answers prayer? What evidence is there for continued miracles in the name of Odin?

2. Nature of the deity

i) According to Scripture, Yahweh/Jesus is the preexistent Creator of the world. According to the OT, Yahweh is essentially incorporeal.

ii) According to Nordic/Teutonic mythology, Odin is a physical, humanoid "god". A mortal being. Finite in knowledge and power. He didn't create the world. He is the son of Bor and Bestla. He has two brothers. He has affairs with human women, female giants, &c.

So the concept of Odin isn't comparable to the concept of Yahweh. Odin is a different kind of being than Yahweh. What theistic proofs would even apply to a being like Odin?

"Odin's a person, he's immortal, he has supernatural powers, he is the most powerful supernatural being, etc. If you can't see how Odin could be analogous (which doesn't mean "identical") to Yahweh then I don't know what else to say."

i) Odin is not immortal. 

ii) Moreover, even if he were immortal, it wouldn't be in the same sense that Yahweh is immortal. Physical immortality is hardly equivalent to the timeless eternality of an incorporeal being.   

iii) And what makes him a "supernatural" being in the worldview of Nordic/Teutonic mythology? 

"steve's response talked brought up the standard apologist talking points but didn't answer my hypothetical question about miracles and Odin -- steve's response basically says "Yawheh is different than Odin in these ways." Um, I know they're not identical -- why should that prohibit responding to my hypothetical?" 

Either Cal is intellectually dishonest or intellectually challenged: 

i) Yahweh and Odin are categorically different kinds of beings. Therefore, Cal's attempted analogy is vitiated by fundamental disanalogies.

ii) I also pointed out the difference in sources. Cal ignores that.

iii) I further pointed out evidence for Yahweh's existence that's wholly absent in the case of Odin.

Cal is either unable or unwilling to argue in good faith. 

iv) And keep in mind that his question had nothing to do with the actual topic of the post. 

steve said...

BTW, consider the irrationality of Cal's agenda, which he belatedly fessed up to:

"My purpose in commenting here is to point out those instances where I see hypocrisy, inconsistency, and sanctimony…"

i) This exposes his utter inability to know what's important. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that some Christians are hypocritical or sanctimonious.

Notice the misguided focus on Christians rather than Christianity. Whether or not some Christians are hypocritical, sanctimonious, &c. has absolutely no bearing on the truth-claims of Christianity. It has no bearing on whether God called Abraham, or delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage; no bearing on whether God became Incarnate in the person of Jesus, performed miracles, died to make atonement, and rose from the dead; no bearing on what happens to us after we die.

Instead, Cal has cast himself in the role of moral policeman, to see if he can catch any Christians sneaking 16 items through the 15 item or less express check stand.

ii) Moreover, his fixation is ridiculous on secular grounds. If atheism is true, then humans are just another temporary animal species in natural history. We will become extinct, just like every other species. When we die, it's as if we never existed.

So, from that standpoint, who cares whether some hominids are sanctimonious and hypocritical. Does the graveyard care? Does the universe care?

The Basics of New Testament Textual Criticism

Get 'em while they're hot: The Basics of New Testament Textual Criticism.

"An Evangelical Voter's Guide"

Arminian NT scholar Ben Witherington recently posted "An Evangelical Voter's Guide". 

I'm going to comment on his criteria. Before assessing the specifics, a basic problem is that he acts as though voting is like a dating service or mail order catalogue (or designer babies) where you list your preferences and then pick the person or item that matches your preferences. But in real life, we can only choose from the available options. 

1) if the candidate regularly lies or deliberately exaggerates just to get attention and for rhetorical effect, then he or she should not be supported by anyone who pledges allegiance to Christ who is the Truth, and does not put up with prevaricators. There’s already too much truth decay in our country.

Given how he frames the issue, I agree. But that's a rather slanted way to cast the issue. For instance, there are situations in which an official might rightly lie to protect national security. Indeed, he might have a duty to lie in that situation. 

2) if the candidate is totally inconsistent in his or her life ethic, that person should not be supported. By this I mean they should be totally pro life…opposing not only abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is truly threatened, but also opposing capital punishment except in extreme cases ( e.g serial killers, mass murdering terrorists etc.

i) For starters, Ben needs to level with the reader. He's a pacifist. 

ii) His definition of "totally prolife" is morally confused. He disregards the fundamental distinction between taking innocent life and punishing murderers. 

and absolutely opposing war as a go to solution to solve our problems. It should be a very last resort, as violence only begets violence. 

i) Why should war be a last resort rather than a best resort? If you make war a last resort, you may end up with a far bloodier conflict, because you gave the enemy so much lead-time to prepare. Had you engaged the enemy sooner, the war might end sooner, with less carnage, because the enemy was ill-equipped at that stage to persevere. To delay war until all other options are exhausted can give the enemy a chance to stall for time. War will still be inevitable, but it will now be far more destructive because you were reluctant to intervene when it was advantageous for you rather than the enemy.

ii) The "violence only begets violence" trope is such a brainless claim. Evidently, Ben didn't pause to consider all the obvious counterexamples. Take a sniper in the clock tower who's gunning down pedestrians. One well-placed bullet by a police sharpshooter and the violence ends.  

The same life ethic should lead to strong opposition to the proliferation of guns, especially military hard wear capable of being used for rapid killing of many persons. No one needs an ak 47 for hunting or personal protection. 

What if you're a rancher in a border state where your property is overrun by well-armed narco traffickers? And that's not hypothetical. 

Being pro life also means stricter background checks not merely on immigrants entering the country, but also on those wanting to buy guns in the country. More guns in civilian hands will not make us any safer. On the contrary it will lead to more atrocities and accidental deaths. 

i) Guns are both offensive and defensive weapons. So you have an inevitable tradeoff. 

ii) Ben sidesteps the question of whether people have a right to self-defense. 

Stricter gun control in Australia and in Scotland reduced gun violence in those countries.

That's disputable:

It would help here as well. Ask your local police chief if you doubt it. 

i) So the police can be trusted with guns, but private citizens cannot? To begin with, the police have a vested interest in touting their crime-fighting success. And since they keep records, they can cook the books. That isn't hypothetical. For instance:

So, no, you can't just take their word for it. 

ii) Likewise, you have examples of rampant police corruption. For instance: 

And that's not an isolated incident, unfortunately. 

It is the height of insanity to suggest that as more and more people are mentally disturbed in our land, we need more guns regularly available.

Okay, but what does that mean? Consider how many Americans take prescription antidepressants. Is that "mentally disturbed"? Do background checks mean giving the gov't access to your medical records? 

3) no candidate who whips up xenophobia or plays on people’s fears of foreigners and others who are not like them should be supported. 

i) Of course, if you put it that way, I agree. In part, he's probably alluding to people like Donal Trump and Ann Coulter. I doubt Trump and Coulter are actually racist–although Trump is surely elitist. Rather, I think they are amoral opportunists who tap into and exploit racist and xenophobic sentiments. In a way, that's worse than racism. At least a racist is sincere, whereas Trump and Coulter know better.

I recall reading that George Wallace, during his first campaign, ran as a moderate on race relations–and lost. Next time around, he ran as a hardline segregationist–and won.

If so, he wasn't a deep-dyed racist. It was just pragmatic. Yet that's just as evil in a different way–maybe even more so. 

ii) However, I suspect Ben is insinuating that anyone who's opposed to illegal immigration or Muslim immigration is a xenophobe or bigot. So that's a tendentious synonym or code language for immigration policies he frowns on. If that's what he means, I disagree.

What part of love your neighbor and love your enemy don’t you understand? 

i) So he's suggesting that we shouldn't have a screening process to filter out unmistakable enemies of the USA? 

ii) Loving your neighbor involves protecting your neighbor from harm. What part of that don't you understand, Ben? 

For instance, should immigration policy knowingly admit immigrants with culturally pathological social mores? And, yes, I'm alluding to Muslims. Consider the imported rape culture in Europe. That's not alarmism. That's a fact. An ugly fact. 

Christians in any case should make decisions not on the basis of anger or fear but on the basis of faith.

i) To begin with, isn't his position on gun control driven by anger and fear? "More guns in civilian hands will not make us any safer. On the contrary it will lead to more atrocities and accidental deaths."

Why is it faithful for him to view access to guns as a threat, but faithless to regard unrestricted immigration as a threat? 

ii) Does he think we should repeal health and safety regulations? Repeal building codes? Disdain medical checkups? Defund the CDC? Ignore weather alerts about hurricanes and tsunamis? After all, Christians shouldn't make decisions on the basis of "fear". Taking precautions is "fearful". Safety measures are "faithless". 

4) no candidate should be supported who is the opposite in character of what Christ calls for….namely humble, courteous, kind, gentle, forgiving, even loving, self sacrificial, not an ego maniac or blowhard promoting him or herself. You get the picture.

If that's an allusion to Trump, I agree. But Ben is operating with a pacifist definition of Christian character. By that criterion, we shouldn't support a candidate like Eisenhower. 

5). No candidate should be supported that ignores or promotes the abuse of the poor, in favor of enhancing the riches of the richest 2% of all Americans. No more tax breaks for the rich, for Agrabusiness, for major companies who hide their assets in off shore banks, for companies that pollute our air, foul our streams, blow up our mountains, and basically destroy the health of their employees.
7) no candidate should be supported who supports a business model that continually ships blue collar jobs overseas just for the sake of more profits for the rich. We have lost major industries like the making of textiles and furniture all because of our lust for cheap goods. We need to repent of all that, and be willing to pay for American made products that keep Americans working.

i) The whole notion of "tax breaks" for business is upside down. In general, businesses are producers, not consumers. They provide goods and services, as well as jobs. It's not as though gov't is giving businesses anything, or that corporations are taking anything. To the contrary, gov't is a consumer rather than producer. And it's monopolistic. 

ii) I think it would be good to produce more stuff domestically. But you can't expect other countries to buy your goods if you boycott their goods. Import/export is a two-way street. 

iii) Yes, corporations hide their assets. Why not? Aren't corporate taxes just a disguised sales tax? Imagine how much cheaper goods and services would be without corporate taxes. 

iv) He whines about outsourcing and corporate tax evasion, yet outsourcing is caused by uncompetitive corporate tax rates. 

v) You can't have energy consumers without energy producers. Ben isn't living in a shack without electricity. Ben doesn't ride a horse to work. 

6) no candidate should be supported who refuses to work with others with whom they disagree in order to work out compromises. Politics is the art of compromise, not my way or the highway approaches. This is what has produced gridlock in Washington.

Gridlock is far better that destructive bipartisan legislation. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Elect a megalomaniac

I'm going to post a series of quotes by Donald Trump. If Trump truly believes half the things he says about himself and others, he's a delusional megalomaniac. 

All of these except for the last two come from this article:

The final two quotes come from this article: 


There may be no other apartment in the world like it.

I show [my] apartment to very few people. Presidents. Kings.

Probably the most beautiful yacht ever built.

Don't let the brevity of these passages prevent you from savoring the profundity of the advice you are about to receive.

Let's say I was worth $10. People would say, 'Who the [expletive] are you?' You understand? They know my statement. Fortune. My book, The Art of the Deal, based on my fortune. If I didn't make a fortune, who the [expletive] is going to buy The Art of the Deal? That's why they watched The Apprentice, because of my great success.

Even though I refused to pay a ridiculous price for the Buffalo Bills, I would have produced a winner. Now that won't happen.

I would build a wall like nobody can build a wall.

I like to think of Chicago as something that I got built, that is a great monument. It's a great building. It's the second-tallest building in Chicago, and I always say it was better for the people of Chicago than it was for Donald Trump. I got it built. It wasn't financially good for me but it was something that I'm very proud of.

If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?

I demanded that they [Bill & Hillary Clinton] be there — they had no choice and that's what's wrong with our country.

With very successful people, we sort of have our own ideas. A lot of people hire consultants. Well, if the consultant's so smart, why aren't they rich? 

Sorry folks, but Donald Trump is far richer and much better looking than dopey @mcuban!

I've won many club championships and I was always the best athlete. But I've won many a club championship. It's something that people don't know unless they are with me and have played with me.

Let people work hard and one day aspire to play golf.

The reason my hair looks so neat all the time is because I don't have to deal with the elements. I live in the building where I work. I take an elevator from my bedroom to my office. The rest of the time, I'm either in my stretch limousine, my private jet, my helicopter, or my private club in Palm Beach Florida [...] If I happen to be outside, I'm probably on one of my golf courses, where I protect my hair from overexposure by wearing a golf hat." (Washington Post)

As everybody knows, but the haters and losers refuse to acknowledge, I do not wear a 'wig.' 

Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault.

Part of the beauty of me is that I'm very rich.

I'm a bit of a P. T. Barnum. I make stars out of everyone.

I'm really rich.

I am a nice person. People that know me like me. Does my family like me? I think so.

@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man — he made a good decision. 

Angelina Jolie is sort of amazing because everyone thinks she's like this great beauty. And I'm not saying she's an unattractive woman, but she's not beauty, by any stretch of the imagination.

I really understand beauty. And I will tell you, she's not — I do own Miss Universe. I do own Miss USA. I mean I own a lot of different things. I do understand beauty, and she's not.

[On whether Kim Kardashian's butt is too big]:

Well, absolutely. It's record-setting. In the old days, they'd say she has a bad body.”

While I can't honestly say I need an 80-foot living room, I get a kick out of having one.

My marriage, it seemed, was the only area of my life in which I was willing to accept something less than perfection.

Romney — I have a Gucci store that's worth more than Romney.

Robert [Pattison] I'm getting a lot of heat for saying you should dump Kristen [Stewart] — but I'm right. If you saw the Miss Universe girls, you would reconsider.

If someone screws you, screw them back.

All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected.

Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, 'Can you believe what I am getting?

That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.

If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.

Beautiful, famous, successful, married -- I've had them all, secretly, the world's biggest names.

The Miracles of Jesus

An interview with Vern Poythress about his new book The Miracles of Jesus (pdf).

Should miracles be characterized as "violations of the laws of nature"?

A better tack, I think, is to ask whether in fact miracles should be characterized as "violations of the laws of nature," as Newtonian mechanists assumed...An examination of the chief competing schools of thought concerning the notion of a natural law in fact reveals that on each theory the concept of a violation of a natural law is incoherent and that miracles need not be so defined. Broadly speaking, there are three main views of natural law today: the regularity theory, the nomic necessity theory, and the causal dispositions theory.15

According to the regularity theory, the "laws" of nature are not really laws at all, but just descriptions of the way things happen in the world. They describe the regularities which we observe in nature. Now since on such a theory a natural law is just a generalized description of whatever occurs in nature, it follows that no event which occurs can violate such a law. Instead, it just becomes part of the description. The law cannot be violated, because it just describes in a certain generalized form everything that does happen in nature.

According to the nomic necessity theory, natural laws are not merely descriptive, but tell us what can and cannot happen in the natural world. They allow us to make certain contrary-to-fact conditional judgments, such as "If the density of the universe were sufficiently high, it would have re-contracted long ago," which a purely descriptivist theory would not permit. Again, however, since natural laws are taken to be universal inductive generalizations, a violation of a natural law is no more possible on this theory than on the regularity theory. So long as natural laws are universal generalizations based on experience, they must take account of anything that happens and so would be revised should an event occur which the law did not permit.

Of course, in practice proponents of such theories do not treat natural laws so rigidly. Rather, natural laws are assumed to have implicit in them the assumption "all things being equal." That is to say, the law states what is the case under the assumption that no other natural factors are interfering. When a scientific anomaly occurs, it is usually assumed that some unknown natural factors are interfering, so that the law is neither violated nor revised. But suppose the law fails to describe or predict accurately because some supernatural factors are interfering? Clearly the implicit assumption of such laws is that no supernatural factors as well as no natural factors are interfering. Thus, if the law proves inaccurate in a particular case because God is acting, the law is neither violated nor revised. If God brings about some event which a law of nature fails to predict or describe, such an event cannot be characterized as a violation of a law of nature, since the law is valid only under the tacit assumption that no supernatural factors come into play in addition to the natural factors.

On such theories, then, if miracles are to be distinguished from both God's ordinary and special providential acts, then miracles ought to be defined as naturally impossible events, that is to say, events which cannot be produced by the natural causes operative at a certain time and place. Whether an event is a miracle is thus relative to a time and place. Given the natural causes operative at a certain time and place, for example, rain may be naturally inevitable or necessary, but on another occasion, rain may be naturally impossible. Of course, some events, say, the resurrection, may be absolutely miraculous in that they are at every time and place beyond the productive capacity of natural causes.

According to the causal dispositions theory, things in the world have different natures or essences, which include their causal dispositions to affect other things in certain ways, and natural laws are metaphysically necessary truths about what causal dispositions are possessed by various natural kinds of things. For example, "Salt has a disposition to dissolve in water" would state a natural law. If, due to God's action, some salt failed to dissolve in water, the natural law is not violated, because it is still true that salt has such a disposition. As a result of things' causal dispositions, certain deterministic natural propensities exist in nature, and when such a propensity is not impeded (by God or some other free agent), then we can speak of a natural necessity. On this theory, an event which is naturally necessary must and does actually occur, since the natural propensity will automatically issue in the event if it is not impeded. By the same token, a naturally impossible event cannot and does not actually occur. Hence, a miracle cannot be characterized on this theory as a naturally impossible event. Rather, a miracle is an event which results from causal interference with a natural propensity which is so strong that only a supernatural agent could impede it. The concept of miracle is essentially the same as under the previous two theories, namely, God's acting to cause an event in the sequence of natural events in the absence of any secondary cause of that event, but one just cannot call a miracle "naturally impossible" as those terms are defined in this theory; perhaps we could adopt instead the nomenclature "physically impossible" to characterize miracles.

15 For discussion see Stephen S. Bilinskyj, "God, Nature, and the Concept of Miracle" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1982); Alfred J. Freddoso, "The Necessity of Nature," Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1986): 215–42.

Craig, W. L. (2008). Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (3rd edition). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, pp 261-263.

Evangelical endorsements of Trump

We have two somewhat notable endorsements of Donald Trump by two evangelical "leaders": Jerry Falwell Jr. and SBC megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress. 

Falwell Jr. is a celebutante. Celebrity kids, like Lisa Marie Presley and Brody Jenner. No one would give Junior the time of day were it not for the last name. For all his limitations, his dad was a man of some accomplishments. By contrast, his son represents ascribed status rather than achieved status. 

In a way, the informal endorsement by Jeffress is worse.  The Trump candidacy has the effect of sifting and sorting the good apples from the rotten apples. People like Palin, Jeffress, and Falwell Jr. tarnish their own reputation by endorsing Trump. 

George Soros and Russell Moore

Evidently, Russell Moore, President of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is a tool of George Soros:

Russell Moore? He’s one of the leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a Soros front group pushing for Obama’s immigration agenda.

The Evangelical Immigration Table is led by and composed of the following member organizations:
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) (
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest non-Catholic denomination in the United States with more than 16 million members. The ERLC exists to assist the churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other Southern Baptist entities.  The ERLC has offices in Nashville, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.  Upon the retirement of longtime ERLC President Dr. Richard Land, the ERLC has been led since June 2013 by Dr. Russell Moore.

For further documentation:

Coincidence miracles

There have always been, though, a significant number of theists who do not believe an observable event need be of a type that cannot be explained naturally to be considered miraculous. Take, for instance, the classic story by R. F. Holland. A child riding his toy motorcar strays onto an unguarded railway crossing near his house whereupon a wheel of his car gets stuck down the side of one of the rails. At that exact moment, an express train is approaching with the signals in its favour. Also a curve in the track will make it impossible for the driver to stop his train in time to avoid any obstruction he might encounter on the crossing. Moreover, the child is so engrossed in freeing his wheel that he hears neither the train whistle nor his mother, who has just come out of the house and is trying to get his attention. The child appears to be doomed. But just before the train rounds the curve, the brakes are applied and it comes to rest a few feet from the child. The mother thanks God for the miracle although she learns in due course that there was not necessarily anything supernatural about the manner in which the brakes came to be applied. The driver had fainted, for a reason that had nothing to do with the presence of the child on the line, and the brakes were applied automatically as his hand ceased to exert pressure on the control lever.21

The event sequence described in this situation includes no component for which a natural explanation is not available. Boys sometimes play on train tracks, drivers sometimes faint, and the brakes of trains have been constructed to become operative when a driver's hand releases the control lever. But another explanation presents itself in this case: that God directly intervened to cause the driver to faint at the precise moment. And as the theists in question see it, if God did directly intervene in this instance, the event can be considered a miracle, even though a totally natural explanation would also be available.

In short, to generalize, there are a number of theists who do not want to limit the range of the term 'miracle' to only those direct acts of God for which no natural explanation can presently be offered. They want to expand the definition to cover events in relation to which God can be viewed as having directly manipulated the natural order, regardless of anyone's ability to construct plausible alternate natural causal scenarios. To do so, as David Corner points out, allows us to continue to conceive of the miraculous as something 'contrary to our event that elicits wonder, though the object of our wonder seems not so much to be how [an event comes to be] as the simple fact that [it occurs] when it did'.22

It is important to emphasize here that those who allow for, or favour, this 'coincidence' definition of miracle are not thereby saying that any miraculous event can, itself, be considered fully explainable naturally and thus a mere coincidence. That is, while these theists are granting that nature itself could have brought about an event of this type, they are not thereby saying that nature itself did in fact produce fully the event in question. They agree with Corner that a miracle can never be 'a mere coincidence no matter how extraordinary or significant. (If you miss a plane and the plane crashes, that is not a miracle unless God intervened in the natural course of events causing you to miss the flight.)' As an event token, 'an observed occurrence cannot be considered a miracle, no matter how remarkable, unless the “coincidence” itself is caused by divine intervention (i.e. [is] not really a coincidence at all)'.23

However, it is in relation to this conception of the miraculous that some have wanted to introduce a different understanding of the nature of the intentional divine activity involved. As just noted, all who affirm the concept of a 'coincidence' miracle agree that while nature left to itself can produce events of the type in question, the specific miraculous event in question would not, itself, have occurred if God had not interrupted the way things would have happened naturally by purposely manipulating the natural order. Furthermore, most in this camp assume God's interventive activity occurs at the time of the miraculous occurrence. For instance, most who considered the preservation of the boy's life in Holland's train scenario the result of intentional divine intervention would be assuming that God brought it about that the driver fainted at the time the train rounds the bend. And most who believed God brought it about that someone misses a fatal flight would be assuming that God did so at the time the person was attempting to reach the airport or board the plane.

However, as philosophers such as Robert Adams have pointed out, there is another way to think of God's activity in this context. We can, Adams tells us, conceive of God creating 'the world in such a way that it was physically predetermined from the beginning' that nature would act in the appropriate way 'at precisely the time at which God foresaw' it would be needed.24 For example, we can conceive of God creating the world in such a way that a specific individual driving a train would faint at a specific time in order to save the life of a young boy. And we can conceive of God creating the world in such a way that a specific tyre on a specific car would go flat at the exact time required to ensure that the person driving the car would miss a fatal flight.

This perspective is also evident in the thinking of those rabbis mentioned in the Talmud who argued that to maintain that the walls of Jericho came down at the precise time needed to ensure an Israelite victory was the result of divine intervention does not necessitate believing that God intervened in the natural order at the time this event occurred. It can be assumed instead that God determined when setting up the natural order that an earthquake would bring down the walls 'naturally' at the exact time this needed to occur.25

In all these cases, to restate the general point, God is still viewed as directly intervening in the sense that God purposely manipulates the natural order to bring about some event that would not have occurred without this intentional divine activity. However, God is not viewed as directly intervening in the sense that God directly manipulates a natural order already in place. It is held, rather, that the intentional divine activity takes place when God was planning how the natural order would operate and not at the time this predetermined natural activity occurred.26

21 R. F. Holland, 'The Miraculous', American Philosophical Quarterly 2 (1965), 43–51 (43).

22 David Corner, 'Coincidence Miracles' in 'Miracles', Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, his emphasis.

23 Michael Levine, 'Introduction', in 'Miracles', Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.p. [cited 10 June 2008]. Online:

24 Robert Merrihew Adams, 'Miracles, Laws and Natural Causation (II)', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary volume (1992), 207–24 (209).

25 Midrash Genesis Rabbah 5.45; Midrash Exodus Rabbah 21.6; and Pirqe Avoth (Sayings of the Fathers) 5.6. See also Stephen Howard, 'Miracles', in Liberal Judaism, n.p. [cited 15 June 2008]. Online: This type of divine 'preplanning' will, of course, be acceptable only to those who believe that God decreed all before creation or that God possesses middle knowledge (knows beforehand what will actually happen in each conceivable situation).

26 For theological determinists such as Calvin and Luther, this distinction in a very real sense collapses since, given this model of divine sovereignty, God has in every case decreed both the event and the means necessary to ensure that it comes about. Thus, Thomas Aquinas can say, for instance, that 'we pray not in order to change the divine disposition but for the sake of acquiring by petitionary prayer what God has disposed to be achieved by prayer'. See Summa Contra Gentiles 2a–2ae, q. 83, a.2.4.

Twelftree, G. (ed.). (2011). The Cambridge Companion to Miracles, pp 28-30.

What could God do about evil?

Atheist Keith Parsons did a long post on the problem of evil:

This included some lengthy comments as well. I'm of two minds about responding to this post. I don't like to repeat myself. But I'll make a few brief observations:

i) One concerns the starting point. The argument from evil typically begins with a definition of God supplied by philosophical theology. The "God" in question is a philosophical construct. Here's a standard example:

  1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
  2. If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
  3. If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.
  4. If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
  5. Evil exists.
  6. If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn’t have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn’t know when evil exists, or doesn’t have the desire to eliminate all evil.
  7. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

And here is Parsons' version:

P: A perfectly good, omnipotent, and omniscient being will actualize an evil e only if (a) the actualization of e is a logically necessary condition for the prevention (the non-actualization) of an even worse evil e*; in other words, necessarily, e* is actualized if e is not. Or (b) the actualization of e is a logically necessary condition for the actualization of a redeeming good g; in other words, necessarily, if e is not actualized, then redeeming good g is not. 

ii) This begins by defining God by a set of attributes. (At least, the minimal attributes need to frame an argument from evil.) But suppose, instead of commencing with a philosophical abstraction, we took Yahweh as our starting point. Several things follow:

a) In Scripture, Yahweh isn't merely defined by his attributes, but by his actions. What is meant by the attributes is elucidated by his deeds. You don't begin by consulting a Hebrew lexicon to define justice, mercy, might &c. Rather, you study God in action. Yahweh's behavior in the historical narratives of Scripture explicate his attributes. 

b) Bible history is a catalogue of evil. Moral and natural evils. I doubt there's any basic kind of evil outside the Bible that you can't find described in Bible history.

c) In Scripture, Yahweh and evil coexist. In Scripture, Yahweh's existence is consistent with evil's existence. 

It would be a peculiar argument to claim the existence of evil is incompatible with Yahweh's existence when Scripture constantly depicts God and evil coexisting. 

If you take a concrete example of God, like Yahweh, then it's unclear how the argument from evil ever gets off the ground. The Biblical concept of God is consonant with the existence of evil. 

Even if an atheist regards Biblical narrative as fictional, that doesn't change the fact that the Scriptural idea of God is compatible with the occurrence of moral and natural evil. With examples of evil of the same kind that atheists cite to typify the argument from evil. 

iii) At the risk of repeating myself, time-travel stories illustrate the fact that if you change the past to improve the future, your action prevents one set of evils at the cost of producing another set of evils–as well as eliminating another set of goods. Indeed, Parsons concedes that very principle:

It is the case that evils and goods are connected in intricate ways so that some goods, indeed, some of the most important ones can only arise in the face of evils, and eliminating those evils would also cost us the related goods. 

Given the staggeringly complex effects of changing variables, where even altering a minor variable may snowball over time, I don't see how an atheist is in any position to say a selective improvement here or there would result in a net benefit. 

iv) Parsons cites the parable of Roland Puccetti about an absentee landlord who allows the apartment complex to fall into disrepair. But some tenants rise to his defense: For aught we know, he may have good reason for letting this sorry state of affairs transpire. 

Sure, it's always possible that there's a reasonable explanation, but that's not a justification to suspend judgment indefinitely. 

But that's misleading. This isn't simply an appeal to ignorance. There are many concrete examples where preventing one evil prevents some attendant good or goods, as well as causing a different evil or evils down the line. So it's not just speculation. 

For instance, we evaluate the past from the viewpoint of the present. There are cases in which an evil which seemed to be irredeemable to someone living in the past, at the time it occurred, can now be seen to be beneficial in retrospect. So there's ample precedent for taking that long-range view into account. 

v) And that's not an appeal to global skeptical theism, but local skeptical theism. It's not sheer skepticism, but, to the contrary, skepticism that builds on knowledge: examples of apparently gratuitous evil which, with the benefit of hindsight, can be seen to be purposeful. To say that divine providence is inscrutable is not to say that it's thoroughly opaque. Rather, it can be shot through with many examples of redeemed evils, second-order goods. 

vi) Furthermore, Parsons is addressing the problem of evil in isolation to evidence for God's existence. So it's not just a question of logical consistency, where, for all we know, a Deity could have a reason for not preventing it–and, for all we know, no such Deity exists. We're not balancing two antithetical propositions in abstract equilibrium. Put that way, it may seem like special pleading to hypothesize an ultimate rationale–in the absence of any evidence. Rather, the scales are heavily tipped in favor of God's existence. 

vii) Parsons atomizes good and evil as though every individual evil must be offset by an individual good, in one-to-one correspondence. But there's no reason to think that's what makes an evil gratuitous. It's not a matching quiz, but a chain of events. Does a particular evil contribute to a second order good? 

This deflates his objection to the soul-making theodicy. It's quite true that for some people, suffering is "soul-destroying" rather than "soul-building." Yet that's only a defect in the theodicy if you imagine that everyone is supposed to be purified by suffering. But what if some justly suffer for the sake of others? 

viii) In the prequel post, Parsons said:

Would any decent and sane person who could have thwarted the 9/11 attacks not have done so? The simple and highly intuitive point is that some evils are so heinous and bring about so much suffering, that any decent person would have prevented them.

a) The question is deceptively simple. Normally, a good person should thwart a humanitarian disaster. 

b) But that depends in part on whether we view the event as past or future. Suppose I was born in the 21C. Let's bracket time-travel antinomies. Suppose I can go back in time and prevent WWI by thwarting the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. But if I do so, I will preempt my mother's birth–and, of course, my own birth!

By preventing WWI, I save many lives, but by the same token, I erase many lives. All the men and women to be born as a result of that catastrophe–including my own. 

And that's not the same thing as sacrificing my life to save others. Rather, this is sacrificing my existence to save others. That's far more radical. I will never come into being!

But even if I were that altruistic, it doesn't follow that I'd prevent WWI at the expense of my own mother. I'm not prepared to do that.

Conversely, suppose you were the time-traveler. Suppose you could prevent a disaster that would kill your mother (after you were born), but at the expense of killing my mother. If you must choose whose mother to save, you will save your mother rather than mine. And I'd do the same thing in reverse. 

We can dilate in the abstract about saving lives, but that ignores the element of personal attachment. When it comes to saving strangers, it may make no difference, but people are connected to other people in complex ways. It's not a game of checkers, with identical pieces. Even if people look alike on the outside, there are hidden affinities between some people. 

Now, we might say God has a more impartial perspective. But in that case, the analogy breaks down. If, moreover, God doesn't have the same emotional investment in the lives of any particular individual, then saving every life might not be his priority.