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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Necrophilia

In his book Breaking the Thread of Life, Robert Barry reminds us the slightest difficulty or insult is sufficient to provoke those without a good understanding of God into suicide. As history shows and modern psychology confirms, suicide is contagious. When one person commits suicide, hordes of others typically follow.
Consider the Romantics, for instance. Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) claimed that he dreamed of suicide and he and his friends “lived in a strange world, I assure you; we swung between madness and suicide; some of them killed themselves… another sterangled himself with his tie, several died of debauchery in order to escape boredom; it was beautiful.”
A young Frenchman of the period pushed his pregnant wife into the Seine and watched her drown. At his trial, the man defended himself by saying that this was an age of suicide.
Today, many would agree. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. But sometimes death needs help.
Dr. Verhagen of University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands has participated in the intentional killing of four infants. He has watched one child die and was there moments later for the three others. All had severe forms of spina bifida.
"The child goes to sleep," he said. "It stops breathing… I mean, it's difficult to give the right emotion there, but it's beautiful in a way…"
"Abortion, it's beautiful,” said Chris Rock, the comedian who hosted this year’s Oscars, “it's beautiful abortion is legal. I love going to an abortion rally to pick up women, cause you know they are f------,"
"I will tell you that as it appears to me, Mrs. Schiavo's death is not imminent by any means," George Felos told the Associated Press Saturday. "She is calm; she's peaceful, she is resting comfortably… Frankly when I saw her ... she looked beautiful. In all the years I've seen Mrs. Schiavo, I've never seen such a look of peace and beauty upon her," said Felos.
One explanation for Felos' comments is suggested in the attorney's own 2002 book, Litigation As Spiritual Practice. Felos, a longtime volunteer hospice worker, discovered killing as a spiritual experience:
    "As I continued to stay beside Mrs. Browning at her nursing home bed, I felt my mind relax and my weight sink into the ground. I began to feel light-headed as I became more reposed. Although feeling like I could drift into sleep, I also experienced a sense of heightened awareness. As Mrs. Browning lay motionless before my gaze, I suddenly heard a loud, deep moan and scream and wondered if the nursing home personnel heard it and would respond to the unfortunate resident. In the next moment, as this cry of pain and torment continued, I realized it was Mrs. Browning.
    I felt the mid-section of my body open and noticed a strange quality to the light in the room. I sensed her soul in agony. As she screamed I heard her say, in confusion, 'Why am I still here … why am I here?' My soul touched hers and in some way I communicated that she was still locked in her body. I promised I would do everything in my power to gain the release her soul cried for. With that the screaming immediately stopped. I felt like I was back in my head again, the room resumed its normal appearance, and Mrs. Browning, as she had throughout this experience, lay silent.
    I knew without a doubt what had transpired was real and dispelled the thought as intellect’s attempt to assert its own version of reality."
In the twelfth century, the Catholic Church fought the incredibly pernicious Cathar, or Albigensian, heresy. For Cathars, the world, the flesh, all of it is pure evil, a hellish existence from which we can only be released through death. Cathars saw procreative sex as evil because the ensoulment of the body trapped the divine spark of the human person in the hell of the material world. It had one sacrament, the consolamentum, which was immediately followed by the endura, ritual suicide by starvation.
The heresy became so popular in southern France that entire geographical regions were depopulating through decreased family size and ritual suicide. It was so pernicious that the Cahtolic Church had to create the Inquisition, the Crusades and St. Dominic's new order of priests to stop the spread of the suicidal sect. Even so, it continued to have adherents through the 1400's.

The power of the Catholic Church to intervene in the culture is largely gone. Secular government will have to deal with today’s Cathars. Sadly, there is no evidence we really understand what we are up against.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Marshalling Evidence

Here’s a trivia question. Did you know the Supreme Court’s review of a law’s constitutionality is itself a violation of the Constitution? Judicial review is the power of a court to review a law or the actions of a public official and declare that law or act unconstitutional. Nowhere does the Constitution give such a power to the Supreme Court or any other court, nor has any law ever done so. This puts a whole new spin on many of the court rulings made in the last fifty years, especially those concerning subjects like contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and marriage.

The assertion above, of course, poses an interesting question. If the courts don’t have this power, why do they act as if they do? Gather round, friends. The history is instructive.

In 1800, outgoing President John Adams decided he would stack the courts with Federalists before he was forced to hand the presidency over to the newly-elected Thomas Jefferson. In the last days of his presidency, Adams and the Congress created 58 new judgeships. The outgoing secretary of state, John Marshall, signed the commissions the night before Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration, but Marshall neglected to deliver them. As soon as he was sworn in, Jefferson directed John Madison, his new secretary of state, not to deliver 17 of them. William Marbury, one of the men Adams had named to office, sued.

This is where it gets interesting. One of those 58 judgeships had gone to John Marshall, the same man who had been Adam’s secretary of state and who had sealed Marbury’s commission. That’s right. Former secretary of state John Marshall had, with the help of Congress and the outgoing President Adam’s, created himself Chief Justice of the Supreme Court under his political opponent, Thomas Jefferson, just hours before Jefferson took office. Like today’s liberal Democrats, the Federalists had lost the elections but had retired into the fortress of the courts in order to continue their political battle.

John Marshall, the model for Florida’s Judge Greer, not only failed to recuse himself from Madison v. Marbury (1803) due to his howling conflict of interest, he managed to attack his political opponent, Thomas Jefferson, and grant himself new powers without leaving an opening for Jefferson to retaliate. While judicially asinine, the ruling was politically brilliant.

Marshall ruled that Marbury had indeed been wronged, thereby tarring President Jefferson as having illegally violated Marbury’s civil rights. Then, he went on to rule section 13 of the Judiciary Act unconstitutional, thus granting himself the power of judicial review. But he ended by denying that the Supreme Court had the power to compel Jefferson to give Marbury the commission, thus giving Jefferson very little grounds to attack the decision.

The utter absurdity of judicial review was so obvious that the Supreme Court wouldn’t attempt to invalidate another Congressional law for over a half century. In Dred Scott versus Sanford (1857), the Supreme Court’s second foray into ripping apart the Constitution, Chief Justice Taney, another Judge Greer prototype, ruled that no Negro could ever become a citizen of the United States because Negroes were beings of an inferior order. He further declared that the Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery in some new territories, was unconstitutional and that Dred Scott could be put back into chains.

Of course, as Abraham Lincoln pointed out in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, if Taney was right and Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in new territories, there was little reason to think any state had the power to prohibit slavery at all. This was, of course, Taney’s position. He wanted slavery extended to every state in the Union so he just Marshalled the evidence.

Since then, of course, judicial review has Marshalled all manner of emanations and penumbras concerning all kinds of things that merely mortal men cannot find in the Constitution. Whether it be enslaving blacks, killing unborn children, requiring homosexual marriage, legalizing pornography, or a host of equally savory legalities, it matters not what you voted for, the courts will strike it down to get what they want. This is the history of judicial review.

Today, the courts are Marshalling their power to take it all one step further. Now they have built legal precedent for authorizing the starvation and dehydration of people they don’t like. With judges like this in office, no living will can protect you. It matters not what a piece of paper says concerning your desire not to be dehydrated or starved to death. It matters not what you say, what the law says, what the Congress says, what anyone but the judges say. You will die if it pleases them that you do.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Affadavit

AFFIDAVIT

STATE OF FLORIDA

COUNTY OF PINELLAS

BEFORE ME the undersigned authority personally appeared CARLA SAUER IYER, R.N., who being first duly sworn, deposes and says:

1. My name is Carla Sauer Iyer. I am over the age of eighteen and make this statement of my own personal knowledge.

2. I am a registered nurse in the State of Florida, having been licensed continuously in Florida from 1997 to the present. Prior to that I was a Licensed Practical Nurse for about four years.

3. I was employed at Palm Garden of Largo Convalescent Center in Largo, Florida from April of 1995 to July 1996, while Terri Schiavo was a patient there.

4. It was clear to me at Palm Gardens that all decisions regarding Terri Schiavo were made by Michael Schiavo, with no allowance made for any discussion, debate or normal professional judgment. My initial training there consisted solely of the instruction "Do what Michael Schiavo tells you or you will be terminated." This struck me as extremely odd.

5. I was very disturbed by the decision making protocol, as no allowance whatsoever was made for professional responsibility. The atmosphere throughout the facility was dominated by Mr. Schiavo's intimidation. Everyone there, with the exception of several people who seemed to be close to Michael, was intimidated by him. Michael Schiavo always had an overbearing attitude, yelling numerous times such things as "This is my order and you're going to follow it." He is very large and uses menacing body language, such as standing too close to you, getting right in your face and practically shouting.

6. To the best of my recollection, rehabilitation had been ordered for Terri, but I never saw any being done or had any reason at all to believe that there was ever any rehab of Terri done at Palm Gardens while I was there. I became concerned because nothing was being done for Terri at all, no antibiotics, no tests, no range of motion therapy, no stimulation, no nothing. Michael said again and again that Terri should NOT get any rehab, that there should be no range of motion whatsoever, or anything else. I and a CNA named Roxy would give Terri range of motion anyway. One time I put a wash cloth in Terri's hand to keep her fingers from curling together, and Michael saw it and made me take it out, saying that was therapy.

7. Terri's medical condition was systematically distorted and misrepresented. When I worked with her, she was alert and oriented. Terri spoke on a regular basis while in my presence, saying such things as "mommy," and "help me." "Help me" was, in fact, one of her most frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds of times. Terri would try to say the word "pain" when she was in discomfort, but it came out more like "pay." She didn't say the "n" sound very well. During her menses she would indicate her discomfort by saying "pay" and moving her arms toward her lower abdominal area. Other ways that she would indicate that she was in pain included pursing her lips, grimacing, thrashing in bed, curling her toes or moving her legs around. She would let you know when she had a bowel movement by flipping up the covers and pulling on her diaper.

8. When I came into her room and said "Hi, Terri", she would always recognize my voice and her name, and would turn her head all the way toward me, saying "Haaaiiiii" sort of, as she did. I recognized this as a "hi", which is very close to what it sounded like, the whole sound being only a second or two long. When I told her humorous stories about my life or something I read in the paper, Terri would chuckle, sometimes more a giggle or laugh. She would move her whole body, upper and lower. Her legs would sometimes be off the bed, and need to be repositioned. I made numerous entries into the nursing notes in her chart, stating verbatim what she said and her various behaviors, but by my next on-duty shift, the notes would be deleted from her chart. Every time I made a positive entry about any responsiveness of Terri's, someone would remove it after my shift ended. Michael always demanded to see her chart as soon as he arrived, and would take it in her room with him. I documented Terri's rehab potential well, writing whole pages about Terri's responsiveness, but they would always be deleted by the next time I saw her chart. The reason I wrote so much was that everybody else seemed to be afraid to make positive entries for fear of their jobs, but I felt very strongly that a nurses job was to accurately record everything we see and hear that bears on a patients condition and their family. I upheld the Nurses Practice Act, and if it cost me my job, I was willing to accept that.

9. Throughout my time at Palm Gardens, Michael Schiavo was focused on Terri's death. Michael would say "When is she going to die?," "Has she died yet?" and "When is that bitch gonna die?" These statements were common knowledge at Palm Gardens, as he would make them casually in passing, without regard even for who he was talking to, as long as it was a staff member. Other statements which I recall him making include "Can't you do anything to accelerate her death - won't she ever die?" When she wouldn't die, Michael would be furious. Michael was also adamant that the family should not be given information. He made numerous statements such as "Make sure the parents aren't contacted." I recorded Michael's statements word for word in Terri's chart, but these entries were also deleted after the end of my shift. Standing orders were that the family wasn't to be contacted, in fact, there was a large sign in the front of her chart that said under no circumstances was her family to be called, call Michael immediately, but I would call them, anyway, because I thought they should know about their daughter.

10. Any time Terri would be sick, like with a UTI or fluid buildup in her lungs, colds, pneumonia, Michael would be visibly excited, thrilled even, hoping that she would die. He would call me, as I was the nurse supervisor on the floor, and ask for every little detail about her temperature, blood pressure, etc., and would call back frequently asking if she was dead yet. He would blurt out "I'm going to be rich!," and would talk about all the things he would buy when Terri died, which included a new car, a new boat, and going to Europe, among other things.

11. When Michael visited Terri, he always came alone and always had the door closed and locked while he was with Terri. He would typically be there about twenty minutes or so. When he left Terri would would be trembling, crying hysterically, and would be very pale and have cold sweats. It looked to me like Terri was having a hypoglycemic reaction, so I'd check her blood sugar. The glucometer reading would be so low it was below the range where it would register an actual number reading. I would put dextrose in Terri's mouth to counteract it. This happened about five times on my shift as I recall. Normally Terri's blood sugar levels were very stable due to the uniformity of her diet through tube feeding. It is my belief that Michael injected Terri with Regular insulin, which is very fast acting.

12. The longer I was employed at Palm Gardens the more concerned I became about patient care, both relating to Terri Schiavo, for the reasons I've said, and other patients, too. There was an LPN named Carolyn Adams, known as "Andy" Adams who was a particular concern. An unusual number of patients seemed to die on her shift, but she was completely unconcerned, making statements such as "They are old - let them die." I couldn't believe her attitude or the fact that it didn't seem to attract any attention. She made many comments about Terri being a waste of money, that she should die. She said it was costing Michael a lot of money to keep her alive, and that he complained about it constantly (I heard him complain about it all the time, too.) Both Michael and Adams said that she would be worth more to him if she were dead. I ultimately called the police relative to this situation, and was terminated the next day. Other reasons were cited, but I was convinced it was because of my "rocking the boat."

13. Ms. Adams was one of the people who did not seem to be intimidated by Michael. In fact, they seemed to be very close, and Adams would do whatever Michael told her. Michael sometimes called Adams at night and spoke at length. I was not able to hear the content of these phone calls, but I knew it was him talking to her because she would tell me afterward and relay orders from him.

14. While at Palm Gardens, I became fearful for my personal safety. This was due to Michael's constant intimidation, including his menacing body language, vocal tone and mannerisms.

15. I have contacted the Schindler family because I just couldn't stand by and let Terri die without the truth being known.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Your Lying Eyes

As I noted in an essay some weeks ago, people who support evolution have a wondrously strange habit of using language that is diametrically opposed to their meaning. Now, we see this same tendency coming to the fore again, only this time the consequences are somewhat more immediate.
The problem revolves around the meaning of the phrase “vegetative state.” According to the National Institutes of Health, “a persistent vegetative state (commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as "brain-death") sometimes follows a coma. Individuals in such a state have lost their thinking abilities and awareness of their surroundings, but retain non-cognitive function and normal sleep patterns…. Spontaneous movements may occur, and the eyes may open in response to external stimuli. They may even occasionally grimace, cry, or laugh. Although individuals in a persistent vegetative state may appear somewhat normal, they do not speak and they are unable to respond to commands.”
Note that the NIH definition does not say the individual is dead. It merely describes an inability to communicate. This distinction appears to be lost on many. Instead, today’s commentators on the situation want to have it both ways. They want to insist that Terry Schiavo is both alive and dead, sometimes insisting on both in the same sentence.
Take, for instance, Ronald Bailey, Reason’s science correspondent: “So is Terri Schiavo still alive? The odds are way against it. It's time that her long-suffering parents and the grandstanding politicians let her go in peace.”
Or Michael Schiavo himself: "Terri died 15 years ago. It's time for her to be with the Lord like she wanted to be."
Now these statements, and all the statements like it, are absurd. Simply put, there are only two possibilities here: either Theresa Schiavo is a person or she is not there at all - her body is a rather unusual corpse. Despite what biological evolutionists might say to the contrary, there is nothing in between. Either the entity under discussion is a person or not.
Death is the separation of human soul from human body. When the soul leaves the body, the person is no longer in the body. The soul is the organizing principle of the body. When the soul leaves the body, the body decays back into the dust from which it was made. That is death - the divorce of soul and body, the divorce of two entities that were meant to be indissolubly joined. Divorce is a concept that Michael Schiavo and his supporters don't seem to understand very well.
If Terri Schiavo is no longer there, then it matters little what happens to her body. She’s already gone. Her body could be slapped around, burned, kicked like a football, what difference would it make to Terri? She isn't there. If Terri isn't there, Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers are both arguing over a corpse and have been for the last several years. You can’t torture a corpse. You can’t rouse the peacefulness of a corpse. Corpses don’t suffer. Whether her parents get her corpse back or Michael incinerates her corpse today while it still moves, laughs, grimaces, makes no difference at all.
If, on the other hand, her soul has not left her body, then Michael Schiavo is trying to murder Terri and the courts are going along with it.

There is no gray in this matter.
So, why do so many of those who support the removal of the feeding tube insist on using language that both denies and implies that Terri is “there”? For the same reason the evolutionists intentionally use distorting language. They want us to empathize with what it would be like to be in Terri’s state. But that isn’t possible.
If we were in Terri’s state, according to their own testimony, we wouldn’t be aware of it because we wouldn’t be in our bodies at all. We would either be somewhere else (assuming God exists), or we simply wouldn’t be (assuming He doesn’t). This whole argument is not just an attempt to deny Terri's personhood, it is actually much more subtle than that. It is an attempt to pretend that personhood is subject to evolution, that there are various grades, states, levels of personhood.
The assertion is interesting in one respect. The only individuals who have ever raised such an argument have been totalitarians.
Stalin believed there were kulaks and peasants. Kulaks exploited peasants. Kulaks were blood-sucking parasites (his phrasing) and had to be destroyed. Hitler, of course, believed in exactly this distinction, this caste system, even this phrasing, in reference to the groups he disliked as well. Hinduism accepts this kind of gradation among its people, insisting that ninety-five percent of the population exists in order to serve as slaves to the Brahmin caste of the enlightened five percent. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was built on a caste system of Alphas, Betas, Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons, each level less human than the one above it.
The concept is absolutely ludicrous and completely at odds with the facts of Judeo-Christian truth. It is also in perfect harmony with the mindset created by modern science. Ever since the French Revolution, many proponents of science have explicitly attempted to destroy Christianity, the mother who gave science birth. Unfortunately, by attempting to supplant the system of thought that made science possible, scientists have been forced to adopt language that is self-refuting.
Science cannot determine intention, it can never be more than neutral on the subject. However, it also cannot conceive of the universe as purposeless nor is it able to create a purposeless language to describe it.
This is not surprising. Language embodies purpose. We communicate for reasons, not for randomness. It is not possible to describe the universe as lacking in purpose precisely because the use of language presupposes the existence of purpose. Because we are unable to describe a universe without a purpose, and because science cannot determine intention, we know there is an aspect of human knowledge which science cannot plumb. This fact enrages the humanistic rationalists no end. It means science is incomplete. It means God must exist.
We are told that the responses Terry Schiavo makes to her surroundings are random, not directed, that she cannot communicate. Many people have gone to great lengths to insist on this point over and over again for the last several years. Notice that this kind of insistence is rarely necessary when we view a corpse. By the very fact that these movements have to be interpreted again and again, by the very fact that we need to be constantly reminded that what we see is not real, we are reminded of the story of the adulterous man caught in the act by his wife. “Who are you going to believe, honey?" said the man as he looked up from his harlot, "Me, or your lying eyes?”
This debate has been an interesting intellectual exercise, in the sense that watching a man manipulate the placement of a pea beneath several small shells is an interesting intellectual exercise. But, as with the shell game, the point of the current debate is to take something by trickery that cannot be taken in justice. The question is a good one. Who are you going to believe?

Monday, March 14, 2005

End of the Road

What do Judge Moore, Sandra Cano and Norma Jean McCorvey have in common with Terry Schiavo? Each has become a principle actor in the legal test for how far the law can lie.

Private Lies Smash the Law

When Norma Jean McCorvey, the Roe in Roe v. Wade, approached lawyers in order to get an abortion, she lied about how her child had been conceived, asserting she had been gang-raped. Stoned or drunk during most of the proceedings, she never actually got the abortion. She gave her child up for adoption instead. But, when she discovered that her case had gone all the way to the Supreme Court and had resulted in legal abortion in all fifty states, she twice attempted suicide. She was disgusted by how far her lie had been taken. She did not want her name, even in a pseudonym, to be associated with that kind of mass slaughter.

Sandra Cano, the Doe in Doe v. Bolton, had an even worse experience. She wasn’t the one who lied: her lawyers were. All she wanted was a divorce from her husband and custody of her children. Her lawyers forged documents in order to mislead the courts into accepting a case on abortion. They carried this lie all the way to the Supreme Court, duping everyone along the way. The Supreme Court ruling was based on a complete fabrication, but no one knew it except the lawyers who had invented the lie.

Nothing Smashes the Law

Ironically in the summer of 2003, the same summer that both Cano and McCorvey returned to the courts seeking overturn their own Supreme Court victories, another legal controversy erupted. The case of Judge Moore and the placement of the Ten Commandments in his own courthouse eventually resulted in his removal from the bench.

Now, keep this in mind: the legal principle that ostensibly evicted Judge Moore is found nowhere in the law at all. While the Constitution says the federal government may not make a law concerning religion, it does not anywhere say that Church and state must be separate or separated, nor does any other law make such a statement. The celebrated “wall of separation” is simply a personal opinion expressed by Thomas Jefferson in a private letter. It exists nowhere else. Thus, it does not even carry the interpretative weight of the Federalist Papers, the public discussion of Constitutional principles carried on by the Founding Fathers in the newspapers of the day. Judge Moore was removed from his position precisely because he did not disobey any known US law.

Public Lies Smash the Law

Now, watch the progression. Norma Jean McCorvey knowingly lied to her lawyers. Sandra Cano didn’t lie to her lawyers, rather her lawyers lied to both her and the courts. In Judge Moore’s case, it was no longer lawyers who were lying – now it was the judges. Other courts publicly lied about the content of the law itself. But in Terry Schiavo’s case, we have reached the end of the road. Now, the court isn’t even bothering to lie about the law. Now, the law simply isn’t relevant.

It does not matter what the law says concerning minimum standards for Terry’s care. It does not matter what the truth is. Indeed, in Terry’s case, everyone who tells the truth is forbidden to testify. When they do testify, their testimony is thrown out. The law is no longer admissible in court. The truth is no longer admissible in court. There is a reason for this.

Deicide is Suicide

In his book Breaking the Thread of Life, the eminent moral theologian Robert Barry, O.P., demonstrated that pagan societies have always had enormous difficulty respecting human life. Pagans would commit suicide at the slightest provocation, whether to escape shame, pain and suffering, or to promote certain kinds of community values. From the Greek habit of keeping stores of poison available for popular use to the Japanese practice of hari kari, where ever personal suicide was accepted, assisted suicide and socially required suicide always co-existed. The widow had to be strangled, burned alive or buried alive with her husband’s corpse, for if she refused to die, she would be offending the community understanding of marriage. Wives would certainly suffer without their husband, and suffering was evil, so it were best the wives were put out of their misery immediately, even if they were not yet miserable.

This attitude, taken to its logical extreme, permitted human death for any reason or for no reason at all. As Rev. Barry points out, Russian roulette is ancient. In Thrace, a group of boys would hang a noose on a tree with a stone beneath it and draw lots. Whoever drew the short lot picked up a scythe, put his head in the noose and allowed the stone to be kicked out from underneath. He had to cut the rope with the scythe or die, as his friends watched in amusement at his frantic writhings, walking away merrily no matter what the outcome. Human life existed to be enjoyed, and if you did not enjoy your life, others would enjoy your life, and its ending, at your expense. Human life was nothing special.

The influence of Christian thought radically changed this idea. Where Christianity reigned, suicide disappeared. Prior to the Incarnation, it was not uncommon to find entire towns commit suicide on the approach of an armed enemy or in response to the ravages of pestilence and famine. After the Incarnation, a new idea became embedded in western society – suffering might actually be ennobling. It might actually contribute to the honor of the individual, it might have worth. The value of individual life infinitely elevated.

Post-Christian society has not only returned to the pagan notion of human life as valueless, it has actually degraded it more thoroughly. Pre-Christian pagans at least insisted the woman be a widow before she was thrown screaming into the fire. Post-Christian pagans aren’t so punctilious about details. So the husband is alive, so what? All the more reason the wife should die. Instead of throwing the wife alive onto the funeral pyre, just throw her alive into any old fire. The thirst of dehydration lasts enormously longer than the kicks of the hanging man with his blunt scythe, and pagans can take that much more morbid enjoyment in the process as we cluck sympathetically about the sad situation.

As we remove the requirement that God be the basis for the legal system, we remove the requirement that truth be the basis for legal action. At this point, it would not matter if Terry miraculously gained the power of speech tomorrow. The principals plotting her death have become so enamored of their power that even her own spoken testimony would arguably be inadmissible before the court. They need only a doctor who would assert that her plea for life was just an artifact, a spasm of diaphragm muscles that really could not be held to mean anything, regardless of the words they seemed to form. As has already been demonstrated, one can find a doctor who will testify to anything given the right motivation.

Terry is being killed in order to establish a principle: God is dead. Whereas the pre-Christian pagans sought to establish law in harmony with divine principles, but could not do so because they did not fully know God, the post-Christian pagans actively seeks to divorce divine principles from the law because they have learned of God’s existence and they reject Him. As everyone knows, it is easier to destroy than it is to create. Destruction takes no imagination, no power, it takes merely determined blindness, an adamant refusal to accept the reality of anything except one’s own will. We see in this struggle three men – a lawyer, a husband and a judge – attempt to decree the death of a bride. We know God, the Lawgiver, the Bridegroom, the Judge, desires life for this bride. If Terry dies, it is because three human men will what three divine Persons do not.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Florida's Fast Food

“Thank you for coming to Burger Biggie’s. May I take your order?”

“Yes, I would like a Biggie Bun, large fries, and a water, please.”

“Water?”

“Yes, a water please.”

“Alright, hold on just a minute. Doctor!!”

“Doctor?”

“Yes, doctor. As you know, water is a medical treatment. I’m not a doctor and I can’t prescribe that for you. We need to get our doctor out here to assess you and determine if this is appropriate treatment.”

“But, I…”

“Hmmm, what’s all this? I was in the middle of filling an inside straight when you… oh.…. wait… we have another one, don’t we? Open your mouth please.”

“Look, I just wanted to get a meal.”

“Orderlies, hold this man down.”

“Wait, I … wahh, mmfff…mmfff”

“Ah, I see the patient has a sore throat. Has he had trouble swallowing?”

“Well, it’s just a cold, and I…”

“I can’t understand a thing this man is saying.”

“Well if your orderly would keep his towel out of my mouth…”

“I’m sorry, this man needs rehabilitation before he can safely be given a dangerous medical treatment like a Biggie Bun, fries or water. Where is his guardian?”

“My what?”

“You see? He can’t communicate effectively. Bill, you were taking his order. Has he been like this since he came in?”

“Well, he’s certainly disoriented. Seemed shocked when I called for you. He didn’t seem to realize he’s in Florida now. And when he drove up, I couldn’t really understand him through the speaker in the drive-through.”

“Did he swerve around a lot as he drove?”

“Well, doctor, you can see how far he is from the curb.”

“Exactly. Hmmm… well, this is just what I thought. My diagnosis is he’s in a persistent vegetative state. People like him really shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Bill, have you checked his wallet?”

“Let me look – hold him down tight, men… Well, it seems like he’s got several credit cards and about fifty dollars cash.”

“We’ll need a judge to verify that his assets should be transferred to us, but that won’t take long. Judge Drear is in the back office with a pair of aces. Did this man mention anything else?”

“I heard him say ‘it’s all done’, but his enunciation was so bad, it sounded like ‘Biggie Bun’”

“Clearly he wanted to die then.”

“Yes, I would say so.”

“Alright, tie him up and throw him in the back with the others.”

“Hey, doc, can I have the Visa this time? That last guy’s Mastercard was nearly maxed out.”

“Alright, Bill, but I get the cash. I think I can take Judge Drear on this hand.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Return of Child Labor

In 1909 a factory inspector did an informal survey of 500 working children in 20 factories. She found that 412 of them would rather work in the terrible conditions of the factories than return to school.

— Helen Todd, "Why Children Work," McClure’s Magazine, April 1913

In one experiment in Milwaukee, for example, 8,000 youth...were asked if they would return full-time to school if they were paid about the same wages as they earned at work; only 16 said they would.

— David Tyack, Managers of Virtue (1982)

In an agrarian society, children are producers from almost the time they can walk. They work the farm side-by-side with their parents, thereby both putting food on the table and learning adult methods of thought and speech. Children in such a society are expected to pull their own weight and help provide for the family. In such a setting, the example of adult habits and interactions, specifically the habits of their parents, are constantly before them. Children in an agrarian society are socialized by adults. Prior to about 1820, essentially the whole world was agrarian except for England, which had only just begun industrialization. The agrarian model was how children had always been raised.

This expectation that children should be treated like adults because they had spent the first decade of their life working side-by-side with adults was so common as to merit no discussion at all. Precisely because they were treated as adults, children were expected to master adult subjects. Consider:

  • At the age of nine, Samuel Johnson was, according to his own testimony, reading and enjoying Hamlet.
  • At the age of ten, David Farragut, the U.S. Navy’s first admiral, was commissioned midshipman on the warship Essex while Benjamin Franklin was helping his father in the chandler business.
  • At the age of eleven, the fatherless George Washington started school. Though judged an absolutely ordinary intellect by everyone who knew him, he was already as literate as today’s college graduates before he crossed the threshold.
  • At the age of twelve, John Paul Jones began working at sea as a cabin boy, while twelve-year old Farragut – with two more years of experience at sea under his belt – was already in command of a prize ship captured during a fierce battle in which he actively participated. At this age, Thomas Edison, judged feebleminded by the school, was working on a train, and had started his own newspaper using cast-off type from a printer. Before his thirteenth birthday, his newspaper had five hundred subscribers. Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin was apprenticed to his brother, James, the printer. He was also reading Bunyan, Burton, Mather, Defoe, Plutarch, and works of “polemic divinity” or what we would today call Christian apologetics. Andrew Carnegie was a bobbin boy in a textile factory, and a delivery boy a year later. Abraham Cowley was taking infinite delight in Spenser’s epic poem, The Fairy Queene. In colonial Mexico, young girls were able to marry by age twelve.
  • By thirteen or fourteen, Southern women in colonial America could marry.
  • At the age of fifteen, Farragut was hunting pirates in the Mediterranean.
  • Between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, many young men and women in America were getting married. Compare this to ancient Rome, where a fourteen-year old was given his sword and shield and could legally take a wife.
  • At the age of seventeen, George Washington was Virginia’s surveyor general.
  • At the age of nineteen, Lafayette was a major general in the French army and a member of George Washington’s general staff.
  • At the age of twenty, Alexander Hamilton was leading the retreat from New York. By this age, roughly half of the colonial population was married. At the age of twenty-one, Aaron Burr and Light Horse Harry Lee were leading troops into battle.

One might argue that since adult life expectancy was only about forty-five to fifty years, children in pre-industrial society had to grow up fast. Indeed, this is true. But given that children had grown up this way throughout the entirety of human history, save for the last one hundred years, it might be more accurate to say that industrialization forces children to grow up slowly.

Prior to the advent of “professional” education, agrarian America had an essentially one hundred percent literacy rate, as Alexis de Tocqueville witnessed. The adult was prized for his sound judgement, not his technical skills. Samuel Pepys, president of the Royal Society, the most prestigious intellectual body in Europe, and Secretary of the Admiralty, only learned how to multiply and divide after he assumed the latter office. As the British knew, skill at math is pleasant but not a prerequisite for sound judgement.

Washington, Franklin, Edison, Carnegie, Farragut – their childhoods were not exceptions to the rule. Their lives are examples of the rule that had existed for all of human history. They were doing neither more nor less than any other boy their age had ever done. By the age of twelve, boys were expected to be doing adult work in every aspect of their lives: reading, writing, working – it was all the same. There was no such thing as adolescence because these gentlemen and their colleagues had, by the age of twelve, already entered into manhood. They did this through apprenticeships.

Today, biologists tell us that brain development in adolescents is enormously more complex than we first imagined. Due to the adolescent surge of hormones, the teenage brain is subject to fundamental structural changes that affect how teens think and behave. Their brain is changing.

In an agrarian society, teens living through this extremely malleable period are already in an apprenticeship. They live in the midst of adult supervision and guidance. They perform concrete tasks with concrete rewards. The shopkeeper or farmer to whom they are apprenticed models adult standards in his daily life for the impressionable adolescent, and continues to require of his charge high standards of behavior and a high work ethic.

The young man whose pubescent brain begins to undergo enormous change already has a solid foundation of prior adult work experience and habit. He also has a mentor to emulate. These steady him as his biology catches up with his lived experience. The ever-present adult mentors keep the young man in line and on track while his hands continue the work they have always done and his brain becomes accustomed to seeing the world through the newly-formed eyes of an adult. The apprenticeship system both contained and trained young men as they learned to become what they already were – men.

At first, when agrarian society began to move towards industrialization, the agrarian model of apprenticing youth attempted to follow. Children who had worked in the shop and the fields now began to work in the mines and the factories. But experience soon demonstrated problems with this solution. While the farm had many dangers for an unwary child, the mine and the factory had more. Besides, factory work required obedient workers, a caste system in which the men on the floor obeyed a foreman without question. Yankee farmers abhorred caste systems. They had to be broken to obey the new culture.

In order to break a man, you must break his family. In order to break the family, the members must first be physically separated from one another. Agitation for child labor laws began. Children had to be removed from the workplace for their own safety. These laws required the complete segregation of adults and youth, with the youth being thrown entirely out of work. To answer the problem of newly idled youth, compulsory mass schools were created. Between 1870 and 1920, America followed the European example as every state in the Union passed compulsory schooling laws. Industrialization had already begun to tear at the agrarian model of youth education, but with the advent of mass schooling, the last traces of the agrarian system were wiped out.

Now young men were no longer under the personal tutelage of adult mentors, rather, they were grouped en masse with dozens of other young men going through exactly the same unsettling changes they themselves experienced. Whereas the number of adults to apprentices in a trade shop would generally be roughly comparable, or might in certain situations even provide more than one adult per apprentice, this was most certainly untrue of the school. As a result, the culture young people lived in was no longer controlled by the biologically stable adults, it was controlled by biologically unstable young people. This is the mass school environment.

Worse, the young man in the mass school environment no longer had a fixed concrete purpose in his work. It is often noted that young people are not good at abstractions. The agrarian society remedied that by making sure the apprentice dealt in concrete things; concrete work recompensed with cash payment for the adult work done, payment that fed the family. The twelve-year old knew his worth because the family needed his income. Indeed, in an agrarian society, women and children often generated about half of a family’s income.

In the new mass school system, not only was the income the youth formerly generated now lost, the young man was forced to abstract his formerly concrete life during precisely the time he was least able to manage it. What he was doing in school today would pay off at some nebulous, unknown future date, according to persons unnamed. The young man did not know he was useful. Instead he knew he was not useful, and he would not be useful for at least some unspecified period of time. This culture plays to weakness, not strength. It tears the heart out of a young man.

Now, let us note two things. First, the system of compulsory mass schooling is but a century old. It has not worked at all well for at least half its history, and it is proving incapable of reform. Second, America is now a post-industrial society. The economy has over five times more information and service jobs than it does manufacturing and construction jobs. The workplace is no longer dangerous.

Taken together, these two facts indicate a change should be considered. The child labor laws of the late 1800’s ostensibly protected the youth from the ravages of the factory. But the economic landscape has changed; the rationale no longer applies. The workplace no longer represents a life-threatening danger. Likewise, commentators regularly point out that today’s adolescents feel adrift, left out, purposeless. We can say many things about twelve-year olds like Carnegie, Franklin, and Farragut, but we cannot say they were purposeless.

We have millenia of data to demonstrate that the agrarian model of apprenticeship transforms children into stable adults. An information society can implement that model today. At this point, America has literally no reason not to return to the agrarian model of child-rearing. Mass schooling doesn’t work and has never been successfully reformed. The child labor laws are anachronistic. Why do we retain either?

This essay constitutes part of the forth-coming book, Deception: Catholic Education in America. It is scheduled for release in August, 2005 from Bridegroom Press.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

An Evolving Discussion

The recent column on the way evolution takes over theological language created quite a furor. Not since I pointed out the problems with Islamic sharia have I seen such heated replies. The objections were interesting, if only because they so completely missed the point.

Objection 1: How dare you attack the fact of evolution! You are just a creationist religious nut!
Reply: As I pointed out, I find both creationism and evolutionism very silly and highly amusing. While evolution can certainly affect the size of a finch’s beak, there is little evidence it does anything beyond that. No one has seen a macro-sized creature evolve from one species into another in the lab, no matter how many years they’ve worked at it. Even today, fruit flies are still fruit flies and have never become anything else. No scientists has observed evolution create new species, only variations within a species. Although it may well be correct, it has not yet been proven, it is not a fact. Sorry, but the scientific method requires the alleged change to be observed. It hasn’t been. It has just been hypothesized.

Saying this does not make me a creationist. I am not. Scripture is entirely about man’s relationship to God, thus it says nothing about dinosaurs. Creationists can't use Scripture to explain the presence of large, reptilian bones in the ground, and they should stop trying. Similarly, evolutionists, can't use science to explain the existence of human persons, since “person” is a theological term.
The argument between Luther and Voltaire was absurd from its beginning, and the creationism versus evolutionism argument is just a variation on the theme. It doesn’t matter who wins an argument when both sides are wrong.

Objection 2: Your supposed etymology of the word “person” is wrong. It is not a Christian or a theological term, it was used before Christianity ever took it over.

Reply: The modern English word person arose when modern English did, in about the16th century, in the middle of a Christian millennium. If you are talking about derivation, the word person is derived from (take your pick of theories here): (a) the Etruscan term phersu, meaning the image of a masked dancer, (b) the Greek prosopon, meaning the mask an actor wears or (c) the Latin persona meaning the role a stage actor took. Which is correct hardly matters. In each instance, the term refers to the part (role) played or the mask worn, not the substance of the actor. Even Roman law usage follows this understanding.

Put another way, using the word person in reference to the substance of a person, instead of just the mask, role or act a person put on, is decidedly Christian. The idea that the person is a substance is due entirely to Christian theology, and this theological understanding was held wherever Christianity dominated human culture from the second century to the time of Descartes, Locke and Hume at least. That is, the theological meaning of person encompassed Europe and good chunks of Asia for over a millenia. It entirely drove out the pagan notion.

Objection 3: Not true! The legal definition of “person” is not theological.

Reply: Well, it isn’t now. The English system of law always recognized only human beings as persons. Corporations were at best “artificial persons,” i.e., corporations had no divinely ordained rights because they had no relationship with the divine. They were purely human inventions. Most of America’s Founding Fathers hated corporations, because they had such enormous control in pre-Revolutionary America. But, with the rise of industrialization, railroad lawyers finally managed to accomplish in American courts what the evolutionists are now trying to accomplish in American culture.

Due to the facts of history, American courts consistently refused to award corporations personhood. As Thom Hartmann demonstrates in his book, Unequal Protection: the Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights (Rodale Books, 2002), the railroads got around this by paying off a court reporter. The reporter deliberately lied in his summary of the 1886 Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. the Southern Pacific Railroad. Though that decision said nothing about corporate personhood, the court reporter wrote a summary of the opinion which said in part, ““The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment…which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Harvard graduate and court reporter Davis (who had close ties with railroad industry) knew full well that lawyers often depend more on case summaries than the case law itself. Based on a pre-trail comment by the judge, that summary accomplished the job. It was good enough. Judges and lawyers used the summary to argue that corporations were real persons, pretending this was settled case law. No public discussion or decision needed to be made. It is an interesting coincidence that this “personhood by judicial fiat” entered the law at the same time Darwinian (that is, evolutionary) eugenics was all the rage in Europe and America.

Objection 4: You can’t know the evolutionists actually intend to take over the meaning of theological words.

Reply: Only two possibilities obtain – evolutionists are incredibly lazy and stupid or they are intentional liars. Consider the discussion of evolution in the “Intro to Evolutionary Biology” FAQ at www.talk.origins.org. for example, a website that has won three science awards. The essay begins by putting words like “higher” and “lower” in parentheses, to make clear to the reader that these words are not correct when used in reference to evolution. So far, so good.

But, within a few paragraphs, the quote marks suddenly disappear. The author begins describing bats as selfish and altruistic without any quote marks to indicate his mis-use of the words. He realizes he has to explain himself, so he writes the following amazing statement:
“The words selfish and altruistic have connotations in everyday use that biologists do not intend. Selfish simply means behaving in such a way that one's own inclusive fitness is maximized; altruistic means behaving in such a way that another's fitness is increased at the expense of ones' own. Use of the words selfish and altruistic is not meant to imply that organisms consciously understand their motives.”
Let’s count the errors. First, it isn’t the connotations that are the trouble, it is the denotations – that is, the definitions – that hobble the biologist, as any dictionary will show. But, to keep you from going to the dictionary, he quickly provides his own new definitions. And, to further quiet your questioning mind, he ends with a disclaimer saying the words he is using are completely inappropriate.

Now, if you do not intend people to think organisms have consciousness, why intentionally use words that explicitly say they do? Aren’t there enough words in the English language, the largest language in the world, to do the job you want? Are evolutionists incapable of understanding how antonyms work? Can’t they figure out how to open a thesaurus (hint: put the shovel away, it isn’t a dinosaur). And, remember, he intentionally used antonyms to his real meaning but didn’t put them in quotes – he just used them straight out, as if they really applied. If instructors with these habits aren’t lazy idiots, then they are clearly intentional liars. Choose whichever conclusion you find more charitable.

Objection 5: Nonsense! Your entire argument is that use of a metaphor (anthropomorphism) negates an entire argument.

Reply: Read a little more closely. Note what the evolutionist on talk.origins did. He did not just use the metaphor and stop there (which might have been defensible, although that is arguable). Rather, he used the metaphor, remarked that the metaphor was the opposite of his intended meaning, and then he redefined the words he used in the metaphor so it wasn’t a metaphor anymore.

By redefining the words to strip out all references to purpose, references which were integral to the original meaning of the word, he isn’t using a metaphor. We think it’s a metaphor because we can’t get the original definitions out of our heads, but it isn’t. He redefined the words. Why do that, unless you intend your hearers to make this error? Why do that, unless you want to make an absurd theory palatable by dressing it up in what is now, through the new fact of the redefinition, nothing but a false connotation?

As the Marines say, “Once is bad luck, twice is coincidence, but three times? That’s enemy action.” Supporters of evolution have been doing this for decades. This is double plus un-good.

Objective 6: But biologists do not deny the existence of individual organisms (including humans), nor do they deny the existence of perception, emotions, language, the mental concept "table," or any other part of human experience!

Reply: And therein lies the inconsistency. If the component parts of the universe have no purpose associated with them, then how can purpose suddenly appear in the universe? If I said I knew my biological parents were blood type O, but I knew I was AB, a biologist would shake his head. Type O is recessive – it is the absence of certain proteins on the blood cell. Type AB is the presence of those proteins. You can’t get presence from absence. Two type O’s can only beget a type O.

What is true for the expression of genes is also true for the expression of purpose. Biologists cannot deny in DNA what they admit in the person who embodies it.

Ultimately, the theory of evolution has a problem, a problem it cannot overcome. It doesn’t make sense. It describes a world without purpose, and no one – not even the evolutionists – can consistently envision such a world. A world without purpose is so alien to human thought that even those who claim to espouse the idea find themselves returning again and again to words that speak of purpose in order to explain it. Though they hate doing it, though they try mightily to avoid it, they can’t help it. There is nowhere else to go.

Even redefining words in order to strip them of purpose does not entirely do the trick. Like the little red quark that keeps blinking in our mind’s eye long after we have told ourselves that a quark’s “color” is a figure of speech, a calculating device and nothing more, so the words evolutionists attempt to redefine – words like selfish and altruistic, higher and lower, good and bad - keep whispering into our ear. “Purpose,” they whisper, “It all has purpose.”