Atlas Shrugged: The Code of Competence

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VOne thing about Atlas Shrugged that's very handy for a review like this is that there's never any ambiguity about which characters embody the author's views. Her characters are all black-and-white, either fully consistent capitalists who are always right or fully consistent looters who are always wrong. That means that when Francisco, or Dagny, or Hank Rearden makes some bold proclamation, we can be certain that Ayn Rand is speaking through them.And we … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Boycotting States

To celebrate the Supreme Court's DOMA decision, Dan Savage wrote a poignant column, "I Can Die Now", about how his husband and son are now protected in a way they wouldn't have been before if he were to die in some unlikely accident:My country wanted to make sure that if I died, Terry wouldn't just have to endure the pain of losing his husband, and D.J. wouldn't just have to endure the pain of losing a parent. No, there would be bonus pain for my family. Because we weren't married in the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Corporate Philanthropy

Atlas Shrugged, p.46-47I've got one more point to make about Hank Rearden, and then we'll move on to the next scene. Hank's brother, Philip, asks him to donate money to a charity he's working for, an group called "Friends of Global Progress":Rearden had never been able to keep track of the many organizations to which Philip belonged, nor to get a clear idea of their activities. He had heard Philip talking vaguely about this one for the last six months. It seemed to be devoted to some … [Read more...]

My Thoughts on the Civility Pledge

My Patheos colleague Dan Fincke has proposed a civility pledge for people engaged in public discussion.I think his motivations are good, and most of the pledge is fine. I completely agree with his points about using specific charges rather than abusive epithets, about recognizing that members of marginalized groups may have experiences which I lack, and about refraining from slurs based on ethnicity, gender or sexuality. I also particularly like his point about the difference between safe … [Read more...]

On Tolerating Intolerance

Zinnia Jones at Freethought Blogs had a great post last week exposing Matt Moore, an evangelical and so-called "ex-gay" who loudly boasted that Jesus had cured him of homosexuality. It turns out the cure wasn't exactly complete, since Moore had an active profile on the gay hookup site Grindr.When confronted with the evidence of his hypocrisy, Moore admitted the account was his, claiming that he had been "disobedient" and that Jesus had already forgiven him for it (a clear example of … [Read more...]

Forward Thinking: Teenagers and Sex

Two of my new colleagues at Patheos, Libby Anne and Dan Fincke, have recently launched Forward Thinking: A Values Development Project, a collaborative discussion in the spirit of the old blog carnivals. This week's conversational prompt is, "What would you tell teenagers about sex?"Now, I'm not encouraging teenagers to have sex, because (1) no one should be pushed to have sex before they, themselves, have decided that they're physically and emotionally ready; and (2) it doesn't really matter … [Read more...]

Why I’m Not a Gun Owner

Last month, Sam Harris wrote a controversial essay arguing for private gun ownership:It is true that my work as a writer has added to my security concerns somewhat, but my involvement with guns goes back decades. I have always wanted to be able to protect myself and my family, and I have never had any illusions about how quickly the police can respond when called. I have expressed my views on self-defense elsewhere. Suffice it to say, if a person enters your home for the purpose of harming … [Read more...]

The Ethic of Reciprocity

My recent post "Building Justice" talked about how human beings have to work together if we want to build a just world to live in. I want to say some more about that, not least because this week, everyone on the U.S. East Coast had a vivid demonstration of what we're up against. New York City, where I live, was among the worst hit by Hurricane Sandy. On Monday night, Twitter had one apocalyptic image after another: lower Manhattan eerily darkened, a Con Ed transformer exploding on 14th Street, … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Privacy

This week's all-consuming internet drama was sparked by the journalist Adrien Chen of Gawker, who published a piece exposing the real identity of "Violentacrez", one of the most infamous trolls of Reddit. Violentacrez, real name Michael Brutsch, was notorious as the moderator of a forum called "creepshots" which consisted of sexualized photos of women taken in public without their knowledge or consent. (He also created the Reddit forum "jailbait", which similarly consisted of sexualized photos … [Read more...]

On The Morality Of: Treating Psychopaths

Earlier this week I caught a post on Lindsay Beyerstein's blog Duly Noted, highlighting a horrifying NYT story wrestling with the question of whether children can be psychopaths, and if so, whether they're doomed to grow up into adult psychopaths or whether there's any intervention that can be effective. "Psychopath" isn't a general term for an unpleasant person, but a term with a specific psychological meaning. Psychopaths score highly on indexes of what's called callous-unemotional behavior … [Read more...]