Saturday, November 29, 2008


Is The World Evil?

Three Hierarchies quotes Newman thus:

One literature may be better than another, but bad will be the best, when weighed in the balance of truth and morality. It cannot be otherwise; human nature is in all ages and all countries the same; and its literature, therefore, will ever and everywhere be one and the same also. Man's work will savour of man; in his elements and powers excellent and admirable, but prone to disorder and excess, to error and to sin. Such too will be his literature; it will have the beauty and the fierceness, the sweetness and the rankness, of the natural man, and, with all its richness and greatness, will necessarily offend the senses of those who, in the Apostle's words, are really "exercised to discern between good and evil."

Newman's hostile admiration to secular literature is perhaps in the same spirit as ascetism generally: if it feels good, don't do it. This has both Protestant and Roman Catholic versions. I suppose it's like the gnostic view that the body is bad. The other, correct, view is that God gave us the world to enjoy rather than as a damning distraction.

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Analog vs. Digital Controls

I thought I must have posted on this, but I can't find it using my search engine. I'll have to post more, but here are a few thoughts:

1. Notoriously, digital readouts for speedometers were tried and rejected. Old people liked them, not young people, because old people think slowly anyway.

2. Digital clocks are inferior.

3. Digital controls generally are inferior except when precise numbers are important and speed of response is not.

4. One place where a digital control would be useful is for the gas gauge. Somehow, a digital readout is *never* available for that.

5. Old analog radio controls were vastly superior to the modern digital ones-- even to pseudo-analog twist-dial ones.

6. Twist dials should have one complete turn take you from zero to the maximum level. For some reason, my Eclipse radio doesn't do that-- it takes many turns. You want to be able to instantly switch to the desired level.

7. Knobs should be used for pre-set stations on car radios. You need a control that sticks out and can be felt without having to take your eyes off the road.

8. Analog tuning is better than digital because it is much faster, and more accurate.

9. Important controls such as volume and tuning should be large, for finer control and easier finding, especially in cars.

10. Engineers are idiots not to notice these things I've been describing. Why? Probably because controls are an afterthought and because designers don't test devices as users. Also, because analog controls are lower-tech, single-use devices, and are hardware controls, not software ones. The modern ideal is to have no moving parts and to have one control that does everything via complicated nested menus.



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The World's Best Orchestras

Marginal Revolution, via Timesonline, via Gramophone magazine, has a top 20 list of world orchestras.

1 Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
2 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
3 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
4 London Symphony Orchestra
5 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
6 Bavarian Radio Symphony
7 Cleveland Orchestra
8 Los Angeles Philharmonic
9 Budapest Festival Orchestra
10 Dresden Staatskapelle
11 Boston Symphony Orchestra
12 New York Philharmonic
13 San Francisco Symphony
14 Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra
15 Russian National Orchestra
16 Leningrad Philharmonic
17 Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
18 Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
19 Saito Kinen Symphony Orchestra
20 Czech Philharmonic




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Full Spectrum Daylight Light Bulbs

In the past couple of years "daylight" light bulbs have started to be generally sold. These are bulbs which have less yellow light and thus are closer to daylight. The Solux company website persuasively and toughly claims that its competitors all do a bad job of replicating sunlight, as the diagram here shows. If they are being truthful, their own $8 bulb is far better, though it needs a two-prong, non-standard fixture. I wonder whether any normal-fixture bulbs are better than the Reveal brand?

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Friday, November 28, 2008


Divine Law versus Natural Law

The distinction between divine law and natural law is that natural law can be deduced by man by introspection and observation, but divine law is revealed only by direct communication from God. One question is whether divine law can ever contradict natural law. Or, perhaps a little different: Is a sin evil because God forbids it, or does God forbid it because it is evil?

In considering this question it is useless to think about sins that are forbidden by both natural and divine law, sins such as murder, theft, and adultery (in their traditional, uncontroversial, contexts). Rather, the question becomes important in situations such as the following: Is it okay to divorce a man for wife-beating? Did God really command the Israelites to slaughter Canaanite children? Is it just for people to be damned when they never had a chance to hear the Gospel?

As these examples indicate, the question bears heavily on the fundamentals of Christianity. If God forbids sins because they are evil, we are saying that we have a reason independent from God for thinking something is evil, and that reason trumps any reason we might derive from the Bible or systematic theology. Thus, if we believe that killing children is always wrong, so a good God could not command it, we must either reject God's goodness or reject the books of Genesis (Abraham and Isaac), Joshua (the Canaanites), and Kings (I think--- David and the Amalekites).

I think it's important to believe that sins are wrong because God forbids them, not the reverse. Here are some reasons:

1. Otherwise you must reject the reliability of the Bible. This is not just a rejection of inerrancy: you must reject substantial portions,and, implicitly, all of the Bible that refrains from condemning those portions.

2. Because we are all biased when it comes to our own actions, when we are deriving natural law we will tend to exclude our own misdeeds from being called sins.

3. Because we are all culturally biased, when we are deriving natural law we will tend to exclude misdeeds that our own culture allows from being called sins.

4. Otherwise we have in effect replaced God with a higher divinity, the source of natural law, in which case we should move directly to worship of that divinity.

Note that if you are willing to throw out Christianity altogether, these reasons disappear. Indeed, that is the response of some people. They acknowledge, correctly, that the Christian God's law conflicts with what we think is right and wrong in our culture, and they conclude, incorrectly, that He is not God. In effect, our culture is their god.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008


Slate's Exchange between Kmiec and Douhat on Abortion

Slate had an exchange between Douglas Kmiec and Ross Douhat that shows very well the approach of the feminized male to political thinking and discussion, the European social philosophy leftism of even conservative Roman Catholics, the gullible bandwagon-jumping of so many Christians, and, perhaps, the "emergent church" attitude.

To summarize: Professor Kmiec (a devout Catholic and a former high Reagan official, remarkably) argued that anti-abortion people should really vote for Barack Obama, because he would spend more on anti-poverty programs that would reduce abortion, appointing anti-Roe judges reduces the quality of the judiciary, and regulating abortion makes Republicans the party of hate, not love. Mr. Douhat responded by attacking these claims and calling Kmiec a fool and a shill for liberals. Kmiec responded by saying how cruel Douhat was, forgiving him, and offering to pray for him. Carlson responded by saying that Kmiec should act like a man, and Douhat was right anyway.

Here are excerpts. Kmiec II and Carlson are the most fun to read.

Kmiec I:

Republicans have been trying to sell themselves for so long on the basis of judicial appointments and the supposed "fifth vote" to overturn Roe, sometimes you wonder if they realize how selecting judges on that basis disserves the rule of law. ...

The Democrats had a brilliant strategy on abortion this year: Don't play the futile court speculation game. Instead, Obama's team promoted life in ways that don't depend upon a Supreme Court vacancy and cooperating nominee. Specifically, Obama had the Dems commit to promote life with enhanced social and economic assistance. This idea had traction—the Catholic vote literally switched from Republican to Democrat, going (in preliminary numbers) 55-45 for Obama nationwide, which is amazing given the amount of outright lies and falsehoods the GOP was purveying about the president-elect on this issue. (Not to mention the co-conspiring clergy the Republicans captured, who were literally preaching that voters would go to hell for voting for Barack.) The Republicans became the party of fear and damnation rather than solution or respect for life. As a consequence, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia are in the Democratic, not the Republican, column.

It's admittedly hard to untie the abortion knot, but here's a thought: Republicans could have moved a constitutional amendment that would presume life to begin at conception, while further providing that no government, federal or state, is competent to legislate on the question absent a supermajority. The effect? Taking the Supreme Court's "activist" thumb off the scale against life while at the same time avoiding the criminalization of a woman's freedom. This is not the ideal Catholic position, but it's closer, and the Catholic Church has less standing to complain about a grant of freedom that could then be fairly influenced by the moral instruction associated with a woman's religious choice....

Finally, beyond these somewhat wonkish ideas for policy innovation, Republicans ought to remember occasionally that they are—or at least were—the party of Lincoln, and ought to promote civil and human rights. That is better than dragging one's feet on reasonable ways to break up the systematic racism or gender stereotypes that still inhabit much of our culture.

Douhat 1:

The trouble with seeking common ground on abortion is that the legal regime enacted by Roe and reaffirmed in Casey permits only the most minimal regulation of the practice, which means that any plausible "compromise" that leaves Roe in place will offer almost nothing to pro-lifers. Even the modest restrictions that prevail in many European countries (and that, not coincidentally, coincide with lower abortion rates) are out of the question under the current legal dispensation. This, in turn, explains why the national debate inevitably revolves around the composition of the Supreme Court and the either/or question of whether a president will appoint justices likely to chip away the Roe-Casey regime or justices likely to uphold it. ... my mind any pro-choice American who sincerely seeks a national consensus on the subject of abortion should support overturning Roe and returning the issue to the democratic process—a position that I would have liked to see the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani experiment with, for instance, in his quest to become the GOP nominee. But I certainly understand why pro-choicers don't see things quite that way.

What I don't understand at all is Kmiec's position, which seems to be that the contemporary Democratic Party, and particularly the candidacy of Barack Obama, offered nearly as much to pro-lifers as the Republican Party does. I am sure that Kmiec is weary of being called a fool by opponents of abortion for his tireless pro-Obama advocacy during this election cycle, but if so, then the thing for him to do is to cease acting like the sort of person for whom the term "useful idiot" was coined, rather than persisting in his folly. ...

...what he calls "outright lies and falsehoods" about Obama's views were, in fact, more or less the truth: The Democratic nominee ran on a record that can only be described as "very, very pro-choice," and his stated positions on abortion would involve rolling back nearly all the modest—but also modestly effective—restrictions that pro-lifers have placed upon the practice and/or appointing judges who would do the same. There may have been reasons for anti-abortion Americans to vote for Barack Obama in spite of his position that abortion should be essentially unregulated and funded by taxpayer dollars. But Kmiec's suggestion that Obama took the Democrats in anything like a pro-life direction on the issue doesn't pass the laugh test. (And nor, I might add, does his bizarre argument that because the goal of placing a fifth anti-Roe justice on the court is somehow unrealistic, the pro-life movement should pursue a far more implausible constitutional amendment instead.)...

I can't begin to fathom why the GOP should consider taking any advice whatsoever from a "pro-lifer" who has spent the past year serving as an increasingly embarrassing shill for the opposition party's objectively pro-abortion nominee.

Kmiec 2:

I am stunned by the coarseness of your writing, Ross. While we have not met, so little of what you have written is in any way respectful or acknowledges that you are addressing not some abstraction but a fellow human that I can only pray that if any of your family or closest friends come into contact with this commentary that they reach out to you in the most gentle and understanding way, without precondition, to calm an anger that is harmful to the soul.

Genuine love and affection do not reside on the Internet, so I cannot extend it to you, but in my heart, I forgive your great unkindness. I do hope you can free yourself from its enslavement. Realize that your meaning is bound up in the occasions in your life to be of service. Ross, once you allow yourself to see your dependence upon others, and their need for you, I am certain you will appreciate the cruelty of what you have written.... One could sense that anger in the mobs riled by Mrs. Palin's tirades about Obama being in a conspiracy of some sort with Bill Ayers. It was frightening to see on tape, and it is even uglier to see it rear its head here.

Ross, you are not ordinary in God's eyes; nor are the women facing abortion as a tragic answer to a dismal, impoverished, and near-hopeless existence. Ross, you and she are brother and sister made in God's image and are expected to be of help to one another. That is a lesson for the Republicans.

If it be useful idiocy to save even one child from death by lifting up the economic or social prospects of the mother, I accept the title as an honor among men. It is pro-life. If it is hypocritical not to want to treat as criminal the woman abandoned by the selfishness of an abusive spouse, I embrace the hypocrisy. It, too, is pro-life. ... the reminder from Benedict XVI, St. Paul admonished Christians to be reconciled with their brothers before receiving Holy Communion; and Pope Benedict echoes his words: "Each time you come to the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist, may your souls open to forgiveness and fraternal reconciliation, ready to accept the excuses of those who have hurt you and ready, in your turn, to forgive."

Carlson (in full):

Hey, Doug. Toughen up. Seriously. I've read suicide notes that were less passive-aggressive than this. Let's review what actually happened: You argued that Obama is not a pro-choice extremist. Ross disagreed. Rather than respond with a counterpoint, you got hysterical, dismissing Ross as a hater, even fretting about the future of his soul.

Come on. Get some perspective. And for God's sake, stop whining. For a moment there, you reminded me of the McCain campaign, bitching about "sexism" when people started to ask tough questions of Sarah Palin. Republicans didn't used to talk this way. Let's stop the trend now, starting with you.

I understand it must have hurt when Ross accused you of shilling for Obama. On the other hand, he's right. You did shill for Obama. That's not Ross' fault. Don't blame him.

But if you are going to blame him, do it directly, like a man, without all the encounter-group talk and Pope quotes. People often attack the religious right, sometimes with justification. But as you just reminded us, there is nothing in the world more annoying than the religious left.

Douhat II:

Douglas, Tucker, Jim, Kathleen, and Christine,

I don't want to hijack this entire discussion, so let me just say that I appreciate Douglas Kmiec's prayers and leave it at that.

I do, however, want to second Tucker's earlier point about the importance of finding candidates who can actually communicate. Going back to Bush the elder,...

November 24. There's been speculation as to why Prof. Kmiec would make such a weak case for Obama. Could it be that he's so serious about ending abortion that he's hoping Obama will appoint him to the Supreme Court, so he himself can be the "Fifth Vote" and reverse Roe?

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Updating the Weblog

An idea. Any time I use the search engine to find an old weblog post, I should repost that entry. Looking it up is a sign that it is worth remembering, and perhaps worth improving.



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Does the Bible Esteem Happiness?

That's a good question my wife asked me. Answering it will involve a bit of word study, since it seems that Hebrew's asher (ק ר א) and Greek's makarios (&mu &alpha &kappa &alpha &rho &omicron &sigma) (sp?), which the King James Version translate as "happy" mean it in the sense "blessed", so "joy" or "delight" might be the word to focus on. See, too, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Hooker. I wonder what Calvin and Luther have to say? I should also let Professor Kimball know what I find, since he gave an econ seminar last week on happiness as one of multiple goals.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008


The BFC "Support the troops" resolution of 2003

Here is reprinted a 2003 weblog entry, plus some new BFC material I found.

Chancellor Brehm was helpful when the Bloomington Faculty Council passed a resolution on the War in Iraq last spring. Let me recount that, a good practice when annoyed by someone. I suggested a "support the troops" resolution to BFC President Eno, who gave me the good advice that he didn't think it would have much chance of getting through with a strong enough vote to make it worthwhile. I asked him for an example of someone who he thought would probably be opposed, and he suggested Professor Marsh. She took my idea seriously, and rewrote my draft completely, but in a way that satisfied both of us:

As in any democracy, a wide diversity of opinion exists among the faculty of Indiana University, Bloomington, concerning the War in Iraq. However, we wish warmly to extend our sympathy and support to those men and women whose lives are caught up in this conflict:

First, the members of the IUB community -- students, staff, and alumni -- currently serving in Iraq. We commend their devotion to duty, grieve for their losses and those of their families, applaud their attempts to limit injury to innocent Iraqi civilians, and wish them a safe return to their country.

Second, our thoughts go out to those thousands of innocents in Iraq -- men, women, and (above all) children -- whose lives, homes, and families have been lost in or damaged by this war. We hope humanitarian aid may be speedily and generously delivered for their assistance, and wish all luck to those members of the extended IU community who are involved in that effort.

Third, we think also of the Arab and Iraqi students on this campus and on campuses across America, and of Arab- and Iraqi-American citizens of all kinds, for whom the conditions and precautions of war have created distress. We hope that our country will maintain its tradition of tolerance and respect for all.

I told Chancellor Brehm that we'd like to introduce the resolution if there was time at the end of the meeting, but that if it looked like it would get bogged down in discussion, we wouldn't pursue it. Since this was the last meeting of the year, with a heavy agenda, and this resolution was a last-minute idea, she could quite fairly have killed it simply by not giving it any time. But as it turned out, there was five minutes free at the end of the meeting, and the resolution's wording was acceptable to pretty much everybody (I think maybe there were some helpful minor changes, but everybody was in a cooperative spirit).

The lessons?

  1. Even liberal professors who opposed the war were willing to say nice things about American troops.

  2. It's possible for a local organization to write a sensible resolution that touches on foreign policy. Note that we kept everything tied in to Indiana University, the idea being that such a resolution was appropriate because the war was having a significant effect on some members of the University. We weren't trying to make foreign policy with the resolution.

  3. It's possible for people with drastically different political viewpoints to work constructively together. I am very conservative; Professor Marsh is, I gather, much to my left, as Chancellor Brehm and most of the BFC probably is, but we came up with a worthwhile resolution anyway--one that was not even just a compromise, but that very different people could sincerely support in all its parts.

Reading it again, the resolution looks even better than it did at the time, since it turns out that our soldiers are spending more time helping civilians than they did fighting the enemy.


Here's what the April 15, 2003 Minutes say:

(Professor Eric Rasmusen)

BREHM: Now, Eric, that leaves you 10 minutes.

RASMUSEN: Okay, well that’s all I asked for. This is something that either we do quickly or we don’t do at all. And either is fine I guess. I was thinking it would be nice to have some kind of resolution on the Iraq situation. Not one on policy, which isn’t our business and could take a lot longer than 10 minutes but something in support of the IU people who are involved. And I’m passing around now a resolution to that effect and I’ll read it in a minute. I wasn’t going to bring it up at all if we didn’t have much time. If there’s a lot of opposition we’ll just table it and not consider it. It’s meant to be non controversial and if there’s a lot of changes to wording people want we’ll also have to just ditch it.

But, I’ve mentioned this to Bob Eno and he said if this is controversial it will take too much time. And I said, who’s somebody who’s likely to be very opposed to the war? And he said, and you might not like this, Joss Marsh. Sorry Joss. So I went to her and said is there any kind of language you would support and she came up with basically this resolution and I’ve made a couple more changes. So we’ve got two votes for it. If we find that ten people don’t like it and need more discussion, then we’ll just wait until the next war. But I’ll read to you what we have now. This is meant to be something very IU oriented, so we would like to have as many names of individual people over there as possible and I’ve talked with the Registrar’s Office, they found from the Department of Education that they have permission, they do have permission to tell us which students are over there, but they wanted to have the lawyers look over the resolution first. So, where there’s XXX, YYY would be for whatever names of people we could get. Also we would put in whatever staff members we can get. The University doesn’t really know, doesn’t keep track of that very well. I’ll read this. Shall I read it out loud? Probably the best thing to do.

“As in any democracy, a wide diversity of opinions exists among the faculty of Indiana University Bloomington concerning the war in Iraq. However we wish warmly to extend our sympathy and support to those men and women whose lives are caught up in this conflict. First, the members of the IUB community, students, staff and alumni currently serving in Iraq. We know this group includes—and we’re going to insert names—as well as the others. We commend their devotion to duty, grieve for their losses, for their families, applaud their attempts to limit injury to innocent Iraqi civilians and wish them a safe return to their countries.

Second, our thoughts go out to those thousands of innocent in Iraq, men, women and above all children who’s lives, homes, and families have been lost in or damaged by this war. We hope humanitarian aid may be speedily and generously delivered for their assistance and wish all luck to those members of the extended IU community who are involved in that effort.

Third, we think also of the Arab and Iraqi students on this campus and on campuses across America and Arab and Iraqi citizens of all kinds for whom the conditions and precautions of war have created distress. We hope that after hostilities cease our country will maintain its tradition of tolerance and respect for all.”

BREHM: Yes, Deidre?

LYNCH: I really appreciate the spirit of this but I’m very worried by the language of after “hostilities seize, we’ll maintain this tradition of tolerance and respect for all,” meaning that we won’t maintain it while hostilities are ongoing? Do you need the “after hostilities” why not just “that we hope that our country will maintain its tradition of tolerance and respect for all”.

RASMUSEN: That very good. Friendly amendment that I accept.

BREHM: Would someone like to move?

CARR: So moved.



BREHM: We have, it’s been moved and seconded. All of those in favor of the statement with the friendly amendment? Yes, Moira?

SMITH: Not a friendly amendment, just an editorial thing in the third paragraph, the third line where it says grieve for their losses and for their families, I think we need to say, “grief for their losses and those of their families.”

BREHM: Okay, all those in favor please signify by raising your hand.

BOBAY: I got 34.

BREHM: All those opposed [none]. Abstentions [3]? The motion passes. Not hearing any objections, I’m about to adjourn us for this year. However, we’re not really adjourned because you are all invited to my house and I hope I’ll see you very shortly. So we are sort of adjourned. Thank you very much.

I don't know, by the way, if the names ever did get filled in,a nd whether the resolution was publicized for quietly put away to hide, which is a standard way of getting rid of something one doesn't like.



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Some Old Posts from My 2003 Weblog Controversy

This is a collection of some old weblog posts related to the 2003 controversy. It isn’t complete, I think, and doesn’t even have the most interesting parts, which I think I did blog about the next year. Someday I’ve got to organize my old posts.

I'll add a link to the September 16, 2003 Bloomington Faculty Council minutes, which include the attack on me by Chancellor Brehm.


Professor Volokh posts the good question of why Christians object to homosexuals as schoolteachers when they do not object to Hindus, even though idolatry is the greater sin. This isn’t too hard to answer, though. Some points:

  1. Many Christians do object to Hindus as schoolteachers, in the same way as they object to atheists, Mormons, and so forth as teachers. That is why there are Roman Catholic and evangelical private schools.

  2. Volokh tries to link this to limitation of government privileges. But this is not a matter of privilege. If homosexuality is to be legal, I have never heard anybody suggest that homosexuals should not be corporate directors, lawyers, or CEO’s. But certain jobs, not necessarily prestigious or well-paid ones, are moral exemplars. These include teachers, pastors, and elected officials.
  3. A second reason not to hire homosexuals as teachers is that it puts the fox into the chickencoop. Male homosexuals, at least, like boys and are generally promiscuous. They should not be given the opportunity to satisfy their desires. Somewhat related is a reason not to hire a homosexual as a doctor even though you would hire him as a lawyer: you don’t mind if your lawyer has a venereal disease such as HIV or hepatitis, but you do mind if your doctor is in a class of people among whom such diseases are common.

  4. On this last point, note that state laws, though differing, often give more publicity to child molesting criminal records than to records of crimes such as murder which have longer prison terms. This is not because child molesting is more immoral, though it might be, but because it is important that child molesters not be hired into certain jobs.
  5. It is an interesting question in general of what kind of moral character a schoolteacher should be have. I think it does matter. Before I hired someone who had been a tax cheat, an adulterer, a robber, a drug user, or a stripper I would want to ask questions, and I would not want to hire someone who was currently in those categories.

    That, in fact, raises a good question for someone who says he does not care about a teacher’s moral character. If you are interviewing someone for a job as a teacher, and the person admits that he earns a lot from burglary and intends to keep doing it, but has evidence to assure you that he will not get caught, would you hire him anyway?

That’s enough on that particular point. I’ll go to a related point below, though, and cite Thomas Aquinas.

September 2 2003: 3. HOMOSEXUAL TEACHERS.

Eugene Volokh has a new post on the homosexuals-and-Hindus as schoolteachers issue. This is focussed just on the argument that homosexuals are risky as teachers because they are more likely to molest their students (as opposed to the moral examplar argument, or the parental preference argument). Professor Volokh says,

This allegation that male homosexuals are unusually likely to engage in sex crimes against children is a pretty serious charge, and it seems to me that such serious charges ought to be supported by some serious evidence (and not just by anecdotes), especially if they are to be made the basis of government decisions that may hurt the completely law-abiding. Prof. Rasmusen unfortunately didn’t cite any such evidence — can anyone point me to it? Again, I’m asking for specific pointers to specific evidence, and not just news stories about a few incidents of molestation, or general assumptions about what “everyone knows.”

I might note that Professor Volokh is a polite person, and asked me in an email if I had any evidence before he wrote his post, and I didn’t have any. (In fact, a post by Iain Murray that he later linked to says that there is no really good statistical evidence either way. If I come across any, I’ll post on it.) Why do I believe it, then? I actually think that it’s in the category of “what everyone knows”, a category useful as a starting point for discussions if everybody really does believe it (see the Intro to Nozick’s Philosophical Investigations for a nice angle on that idea). But if someone doesn’t believe it, then we do have to go on to reasons why we believe that male homosexuals are more likely than male heterosexuals to molest children.

Let’s start with a similar question: why do I think a man is more likely than a woman to sexually molest a child (someone under the age of 18)? It’s not because of scientific studies. Rather, it’s through what I’ve learned through life from various sources, including personal experience, newspapers, and literature, about how women and men behave. The belief I hold is strong enough that I’d base behavior on it: I would take it into account, for example, in hiring a nanny for my children.

A large part of my belief relies on the idea that men are more tempted by children than women are. Women are attracted to older men, and are also less aggressive and more faithful to their spouses, if they have them (There is numerical evidence on these points, by the way, but it didn’t take a 20th century sociologist to make the discoveries.)

How about homosexual males (I don’t have much idea about lesbians.) I think they are attracted to people under age 18 more than heterosexual males are I seem to remember Robert Heinlein saying that age at which a woman’s beauty peaks is 22. Of course, the later Heinlein was odd about sex, but 22 sounds reasonable. Men are attracted to a young but physically mature woman. But what is the ideal for homosexual men? For some it is certainly the mature, broad- shouldered, hairy 25-year-old. But my impression is that the 16-year-old beardless boy would attract more votes. And the 16- year-old beardless boy is not so different from an 8-year-old beardless boy as the 16- year-old girl is from the 8-year-old girl, so we should expect homosexuals to be far more tempted by 8- year-olds than heterosexuals are. I could check this by looking up a large enough sample of pornography—but I’d rather not. It is noteworthy that in ancient Greece, pederasty was actually the common form of homosexuality. The kind of sodomy they accepted was exactly the kind we still make illegal; the kind they would have thought strange (two middle-aged men) is the kind we have made legal. It is also noteworthy that there exists a North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) (which, oddly enough, has on its front page, “The War in Iraq is Still Wrong!”) Is there any equivalent demand by heterosexuals for legal access to girls?

This is not statistical evidence, and perhaps not serious evidence, but public policy cannot be based on statistical evidence alone. See my August 25 post on post on William James’s “The Will to Believe.” Often—perhaps most often— we have to make policy without having a scientific consensus (at least, not one backed up by numbers). We have to either let homosexuals be teachers or not. If the numbers are inconclusive, we can’t just say, “We’ll postpone the decision till more studies are done.” In the meantime, we are either hiring homosexual teachers or not, so we have made a decision.

An example I had a discussion with John Donahue about is right-to-carry gun laws. Professor Donahue is part of a statistical literature (of whom John Lott is the best- known author) that tries to measure whether such laws increase crime, decrease crime, or leave it the same. Although I like both Johns, and although they come to opposite conclusions from the same data (a fact of much recent controversy), I disagree with both of them. I’m skeptical that the data really is good enough to allow for a conclusive result. It is very hard to statistically measure the magnitude of the effect on robbery rates even of things like the number of young men and the length of prison terms that we are sure have an influence in a certain direction. Crime is hard to measure, there are lags to the effect of the variables, and there are a lot of things that affect crime simultaneously, some of which we can’t measure at all (”strength of consciences”). It ’s worth doing the research– I’ve worked on crime data myself in trying to look at < href= " ma.pdf"> stigma– but the numbers are not necessarily the best thing upon which to base policy. Rather, we use our theories and qualitative impressions. And this is one of James’s “forced decisions”— we either have to allow people to carry concealed weapons or not.

Similarly, we must decide whether to allow homosexuals to be priests, scout leaders, and schoolteachers without good regression studies of whether they are more likely than heterosexuals to go after the youngsters under their care. But enough on that subject for now.


I briefly moved this web-log to Geocities because some people at Indiana University disapprove of the views expressed in it. Officially, at least, that has now been worked out. I’ll comment at length in a day or two, after I finish some work on the game theory book I’m teaching from. For now, the Indiana Daily Student and Bloomington Herald-Times and, not as fully, the Indianapolis Star

stories have some straight reporting on the controversy. Commentary is available at the Volokh Conspiracy and Crooked Timber.

I would like to comment on one distortion I heard on talk radio yesterday from the various people condemning me: that there is no evidence of the ill effects of homosexuality. What I said in my web-log was that I did not have such evidence at hand, and rather than hurry out and research it, I’d wait till I happened to see it float by. Thus, I said, “I have no evidence that homosexuals are child molesters more often than normal people” in the same way as I would also say, “I have no evidence that men are child molesters more often than women” (as I did say in the web-log) or “I have no evidence that smoking causes cancer” or “I have no evidence that the earth is more than 5000 years old.” Just because I don’t have it at hand doesn’t mean the evidence isn’t there. And even if exhaustive search doesn’t find any evidence that claim X is true, it might at the same time be true that the exhaustive search did not find any evidence that claim X was *not* true. See my August 25 post on philosopher William James’s observations on this. As Aristotle says in Book I of the Ethics:

… it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.

Hard evidence is just hard to come by on some topics, and sexuality is one of them.


Here is what happened.

For some months, I have kept a web-log, with few readers, as a sort of commonplace book. The Volokh Conspiracy raised the interesting question of why people object to homosexuals as schoolteachers, but not Hindus, since idolatry is a greater sin than sodomy. I replied with some arguments distinguishing Hindus from homosexuals, and The Volokh Conspiracy linked to my reply and answered it. My guess is that someone at IU read the Volokh Conspiracy, followed to my web-log, and complained to friends at IU, who circulated the news of my web-log by email.

Soon the Dean’s Office at my business school was getting lots of complaints about my web-log. The Dean asked me to meet him late on a Thursday afternoon to talk about it. We talked, and I offered to move my web-log off the IU computers, and to keep fairly tight-lipped, until the Dean had time to reflect and to check with the University about whether my web-log was in violation of IU policy. He checked, learned that my web-log did not violate IU policy, and called me back the next day to say that I could move my web-log back, which I did.

The student newspaper got hold of the story, and that (I imagine) alerted the local newspaper, the Associated Press, and a local radio talk show. The blogworld also learned about it. The University didn’t actually shut me down, so the story isn’t as big as it might have been. I haven’t heard of any IU faculty members saying publicly I should be shut down (the student newspaper story “Faculty react to Web log decision” doesn’t actually quote any faculty, just staff). If I remember correctly (it’s hard because of the volume) I haven’t gotten any emails from faculty members saying so (except perhaps one person whose signature said “PhD” but not “Professor”). There are many people calling for me to be shut down, but they are students or staff members. The IU Vice President for Student Development and Diversity wrote a student newspaper op- ed, “A teachable moment for us all,” that made the good point that controversies like these are important to teach students the value of free discussion and so forth.

What can we learn from this?

  1. There are lots of people around who don’t believe in freedom of speech, and, in fact, don’t seem to even understand why it might be valuable. They see things in terms of power.
  2. It is a good idea to give administrators some breathing space. When hit with a lot of people complaining, they need some time to think. (This feeling should be familiar to those of us who grade midterms.) I could have refused to voluntarily move my web- log the first day, gone to the Web, and caused a big stink. But that would have hurt my university, and would, in fact, have created a false impression. IU *did* do the right thing, the process didn’t even take very long, and it didn’t take any pressure from me or outsiders. On the other hand, if IU had decided, after due deliberation, to shut me down, I would still have the opportunity to argue my case before them and complain to the world.

    In light of this, I think I made a mistake last spring when the Indiana Association of Scholars, of which I am a director, issued a press release criticizing a memo the dean of the law school had issued in the Dillon stolen flyers incident. Her memo was not the right response to the situation, but she was brand-new in the position of dean, she issued the memo in a hurry, and only a student, not faculty members, had told her directly that it was the wrong response. That is important because students, being young, are usually not good at explaining such things. One of us should have talked with her first, and we should have issued our press release only if she didn’t remedy the situation. But the IAS is a young organization, it was the busy end of the semester, and so we rushed things.

  3. It’s important to be willing to put up with disapproval. The biggest obstacle to conservatives voicing their opinions is not losing their jobs, death threats, or pistol whippings: it’s just the natural human distaste for doing something that other people dislike. This is quite interesting: why should I care if Mr. X thinks I am evil if I think Mr. X is wrong on that and everything else? Yet I do, to some extent. This has to be resisted. Here, again, it’s useful to have teaching experience. Any large required undergraduate or MBA course in economics is going to have a few students who think the professor is unjust and capricious in his grading. Denial of special requests will also produce sour feelings, as I remember from the semester when my final exam was scheduled by the university for the last day of exam week. When I turned down the requests of students to take the exam at a special early time, the students didn’t complain to me, but I got two long phone calls from irate parents. A mother said I had no heart and called me names in Yiddish. A father informed me that he was a lawyer, that it would be really expensive to change his child’s airplane tickets, and, after failing to goad me into saying something he could use against me in talking to my chairman or dean, said that I was clearly such a cold person that at least he didn’t have to fear that I would retaliate against his daughter. So as a professor I’m used to unreasonable abuse.
  4. A lot of people don’t understand the idea of a web-log. They confuse web- logs with research papers. No– a web-log can (but need not be) more reliable than a newspaper, because it can have multiple cites and can have corrections more easiliy, but by their nature, web-logs are not going to be as reliable as scholarly articles. They don’t get multiple drafts, they are not presented at seminars for criticism, referees don’t suggest improvements, and they aren’t screened by journal editors. Think of a web-log as being more like an intelligent conversation taking place in a good library.
  5. There are lots of people around whose idea of a convincing argument is “I’m offended,” and whose idea of witty repartee is “You’re stupid!”. This is something scholars tend to forget, except when grading certain kinds of student essays.

&Psi. SCIENCE AND OPINION. I’m slowly working my way through my emails. (Intermittent outages of my home internet connection are no help.) I’ve gotten several of the following sort:

  1. Person X says he is deeply offended by my saying that homosexuals are more likely to be child molesters.

  2. Person X also says that he thinks I should have presented some evidence before I said such a thing. (Sometimes this is said to be what a good scholar and scientist would do.)

  3. Person X does not mention any evidence himself.

Since there are several such emails, there are probably more readers like them out there, and I thought I’d post the basic contradiction in position 1-2-3 here in the web-log. It is this:

If Person X has no evidence on the subject himself, why is he deeply offended? Part 2 of his email says that a person should refrain from having an opinion until he has evidence, and so should certainly refrain from having a strong opinion. So by his own criteria, Person X has no right to have an opinion on the subject.

As I explained in detail in earlier web-log postings, I think Part 2 is wrong, so what I’m doing here is just exposing an internal inconsistency of Person X. If anybody wants to use just Part 1 and Part 3, they’re not inconsistent. Or, if they have just Part 1 and Part 2, and do give me some evidence, then they’re not inconsistent either (they’re still wrong on Part 2, but they’re not internally inconsistent) .

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&Omega. Homosexuality and Pedophilia Evidence. I thank E.R. (not myself!), E.N., M.M., and J.O, for the following links on child molestation and homosexuality, which take various positions on the issue. (If you don’t mind having your full name mentioned, just let me know and I’ll update this.) I haven’t really looked at them yet, but I will one of these days, and will try to summarize them then. For now, though, readers might like to look at them directly. I also list the old Iain Murray post that responded to my initial exchange with Professor Volokh.

  1. Iain Murray, “Elusive Statistics,”
  2. “Health and Homosexuality”
  4. Department of Health and Human Services website for the Administration for Children and Families
  5. “Child Sexual Abuse: The Facts”
  6. “Prevalence of Sexual Prejudice” and “Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation”

  7. Timothy Dailey, “Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse”
  8. Leslie Carbone on Boy Scouts & Catholic Church on National Review Online
  9. “Gay Mental Health”
  10. Paul Cameron, “Child Molestation and Homosexuality”

Note that all the items in this list are directed to the narrow question of child molestation. None of them applies to the bigger issues, which I think are the really important ones, of (a) whether homosexuality is immoral, and (b) whether it is bad to have immoral people as teachers because they are bad role models. If the child molestation issue were the only one, I think we’d see a lot of people who would prefer female homosexual teachers to male heterosexual ones, which I doubt is the case. But the molestation issue is still an interesting and relevant one.

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September 16-17, 2003. &Psi. THE CHANCELLOR AND MY WEB-LOG: NEWS.

&Psi. THE CHANCELLOR AND MY WEB-LOG. Well, things are heating up again. I’m a member of the Bloomington Faculty Council, the IU-Bloomington faculty senate, and we met at 3:30 today for the first time this semester. I wondered whether any of the faculty would mention my web-log. None did– except the Chancellor, Sharon Brehm. She chairs the BFC, and she addressed the web-log controversy right at the start of the meeting. I wasn’t prepared, I’m afraid, since it wasn’t on the agenda. Here’s the Chancellor’s statement. To be fair, I want to quote it in full.

I was first notified about the existence of Professor Rasmusen’s website at 4:44 pm on Thursday, September 4. The 12 days that followed have certainly been extremely difficult ones for our campus. I’d like to share with you today my perspective on this matter.

First, as I have done in every previous statement I have made about this issue, I want to emphasize that I deplore many of the statements posted on the website.

For example, Professor Rasmusen asserts that “homosexuals” (gender unspecified) should not be hired in jobs that function as “moral exemplars,” such as “teachers, pastors, and elected officials.” He also states, as a “second reason not to hire homosexuals as teachers,” that “male homosexuals, at least, like boys and are generally promiscuous.” Professor Rasmusen acknowledges that he has no evidence to support his conclusions, which are, instead, drawn from “the category of `what everyone knows.’”

This is deeply offensive, hurtful, and very harmful stereotyping, in which characteristics of individuals are applied to a large group of people who members, like all people, differ from one another on the exceedingly large number of characteristics that make up a human being. Logically, it is the same as drawing the conclusion that all men are six feet tall.

Such stereotyping is completely at odds with Indiana University’s commitment to inclusion and its respect for diversity as clearly stated in its equal opportunity/affirmative action policy: “Indiana University prohibits discrimination based on arbitrary considerations of such characteristics as age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.”

Nevertheless, Professor Rasmusen’s speech is clearly protected by the first amendment: Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…

His speech is also protected by the IU Policy on Academic Freedom: In public utterances the teacher and librarian shall be free of institutional control…

And the IT Policy Office statement about personal Web pages is as follows:

This personal home page service is designed to provide Indiana University faculty, staff, and students with an opportunity to present themselves and their personal interests and opinions, as well as to learn and exercise web development techniques and accomplish class assignments in various disciplines. Indiana University does NOT review the content of personal web pages maintained by individuals using this service except in response to a complaint that the pages contain material that violates the law or University policy. The University accepts no responsibility for the content of personal home pages.

Free expression of ideas is a central value within the academy. Some materials displayed on pages in this service may be objectionable or offensive to some visitors, but that does not necessarily mean that the material is illegal or that it violates Indiana University policy. Absent a violation of law or University policy, the University will not take action with respect to material on a personal home page.

Individuals using this service are expected to observe all applicable laws and University policies, and present themselves in a manner consistent with the high ethical standards of the institution.

The postings on this website have created the difficult challenge of affirming the right to speak, even when we deplore the speech itself. As hard as this is, it is the only way to maintain our liberty. It’s easy to defend freedom of speech when we agree with or don’t care about the speech itself. Only when the speech offends us, do we realize the strength and courage of those who wrote the first amendment and all those after them who have affirmed and upheld it.

In exercising my freedom to speak against Professor Rasmusen’s statements, I also provide the opportunity for others to agree or disagree with my views.

There is, however, another more general issue that President Daleke [President of the Bloomington Faculty Council–ER] and I have discussed at some length. We agree that it would be useful to ask the UFC [University Faculty Council–ER] to review the current policies, practices, guidelines, costs, and benefits of “Mypage,” the UITS service for personal Web pages. It seems to us that, as a community of scholars and students, it is crucial to think through the role of these personal web pages in our communal and intellectual life.

I’d like to close with a quote that I found while working on this statement for this meeting: But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty 1859

After the Chancellor’s statement, I raised my hand right away, but all I did was ask if the statement was available on the Web. She said no, but that she’d give me a copy after the meeting, which she did. Nobody else commented, except to ask if the webpage policy ought to be considered by the *Bloomington* Faculty Council rather than the *University* Faculty Council (for all 8 campuses). Good reasons were mentioned, but not what is perhaps the best one: that if it went through the BFC it would go through the Technology committee, of which a certain Eric Rasmusen is a member.

The meeting continued for an hour more, and after a short break we broke up into committees. We on the Tech committee had a very productive hour figuring out what topics we might address this year (e.g., spam, music downloads, central computer administrators making policy without the faculty input they used to request). The reporter for the local newspaper asked me for my response to the Chancellor’s statement, but since he had a 6:30 deadline, I don’t know what he will use from my few comments at 4:30 and my hurried email at 6:15 after I got home and before my 6:30 engagement.

Chancellor Brehm ought not, I think, to have blindsided me like that. She knows me a little, but not well enough to predict that I wouldn’t respond angrily, which would have been unpleasant and would have so distracted everyone that we wouldn’t have paid attention to the more mundate topics of the rest of the meeting. Strategic planning, merging Informatics with Computer Science, and transfer credit policy can’t compete very well with attacks on faculty members. Also, it’s a good idea to try to coordinate statements on controversial subjects. If she’d shown me the statement a few hours in advance, I would have told her what I thought was weak in it then, instead of putting in my web-log of the world to see, as I do below. That way, she could have taken out the weak parts, and I’d be saved the effort of writing this up.

September 17 update. The local paper, the Herald-Times, didn’t get my written comments in time, but they did print the address of this web-log, which was nice since anyone interested can thereby get my response in detail. That article is “Brehm condemns professor’s opinions/IU chancellor addresses Bloomington Faculty Council”. The article in the student newspaper is “Faculty asked to review Web policies/ Brehm addresses business professor’s controversial site”.

September 17 evening update. The Herald-Times article, “Brehm condemns professor’s opinions/IU chancellor addresses Bloomington Faculty Council”, did make one mistake (or maybe I mis-spoke– the reporter and I had a rather rushed conversation). It says,

Rasmusen said later Tuesday that Brehm’s position that it’s acceptable for homosexuals to be teachers, pastors and elected officials is outside the mainstream. “It is fine if that’s her position, but she should realize it is a controversial one,” he said.

I do not think Brehm’s position is outside the mainstream, especially in Bloomington, where it may even be the most common position. It is nonetheless a controversial one. This is the same kind of issue as gun control or abortion, where an opinion on either side is going to be controversial. It would be noteworthy if a university chancellor took a public stand on any of the three issues of whether homosexuals should be schoolteachers (or pastors), whether abortion should be legal, and whether people should be allowed to own handguns.

September 16-17, 2003. &Chi. THE CHANCELLOR AND MY WEB-LOG: ANALYSIS.

&Chi. THE CHANCELLOR AND MY WEB-LOG: ANALYSIS. How *do* I respond? I enjoyed working last spring with Chancellor Brehm on the Faculty Council’s Iraq resolution, and expect to work well with her again. But…

(1) She said

Professor Rasmusen acknowledges that he has no evidence to support his conclusions, which are, instead, drawn from “the category of `what everyone knows.’”

This is misleading. She didn’t cite any evidence either, for what is apparently her strongly held belief that homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest children. It seems that she, like me, thinks she has enough general background knowledge to assert an opinion on the subject. That is fine, but she shouldn’t criticize me for doing the same. As I’ve said before in this web-log, I’ll come back to the subject one of these days, when the pressure lets up and I have time to do it well. Will she? My opinion was in the casual setting of a web-log; hers was a formal statement read as she chaired a meeting. I have no staff to do research for me (though thank you readers on both sides of the issue for your contributions); she does have a staff. So shall we see her evidence soon?

(2) Chancellor Brehm said that my claim that “male homosexuals, at least, like boys and are generally promiscuous ” was

deeply offensive, hurtful, and very harmful stereotyping, in which characteristics of individuals are applied to a large group of people who members, like all people, differ from one another on the exceedingly large number of characteristics that make up a human being. Logically, it is the same as drawing the conclusion that all men are six feet tall.

Possibly it is deeply offensive and hurtful, but is that relevant, if my claim is true? A better criticism would be that my claim was false, though such a claim needs something to back it up.

Is my claim logically the same as claiming that all men are six feet tall? No. Rather, it is logically the same as claiming that men are taller than women. Such a claim is a generalization, and most generalizations are false for some members of the set being described. Some men are shorter than some women, but that does not detract from the usefulness of the generalization. Without generalizations of this kind not just science but the language of our daily life would be crippled.

Consider, for example, the Chancellor’s statement later in the meeting that one of her priorities in this budget-strapped year is to spend extra money on programming and financial aid to induce more minority students to come to IU. Isn’t that a generalization about those students? Can’t we get some of them without extra money? We can, but in general she is correct that we will have to take money away from something else to do it. (And that may be problematic: note the IU non- discrimination policy she quoted in her web-log statement.)

(4) Chancellor Brehm deplored my statement that homosexuals should not be hired for jobs that function as moral exemplars, such as teachers, pastors, and elected officials. Her stance is more interesting than it first appears. It seems to say that she strongly believes that it is fine for homosexuals to be teachers, pastors, and elected officials.

She can, of course, state that as her personal opinion, just as I can, and she can even use her position as Chancellor as a “bully pulpit” from which to state it. Some might say that a Chancellor should stick to bland statements, but I disagree. I do think that a Chancellor ought to serve as one of the state’s leaders and should not refrain from voicing strong political opinions. I wonder, though, if she realizes that this particular opinion is controversial. Saying that it is deplorable for someone to argue that homosexuals should not be teachers, pastors, or elected officials goes well beyond saying that homosexuality should be tolerated, or even that the university should extend marital benefits to them. Rather, it is saying that there is nothing immoral about homosexuality and that anyone who believes otherwise is deeply wrong. Many would disagree with her opinion on this, and with the absolute confidence with which she holds that moral belief. I suppose, now that I think about it, that I might say it is deplorable that so many people believe sodomy is moral, but would hesitate more than she seems to have done. A lot of people I respect do believe that sodomy is moral, so even though I think they’re wrong, I’m reluctant to condemn them any more than I condemn people who voted for Al Gore for President.

Indiana University as a university, of course, has no official position on the subject. The Bloomington Faculty Council has never passed a resolution saying that it is okay for pastors and teachers to be homosexuals, nor is this in any administrative polices that I know of. We do have the non- discrimination policy quoted by Chancellor Brehm, but that only implies it is okay for university professors, counsellors, janitors, etc. to be homosexual, not people in jobs outside of the university.


I’m tired of people saying, for rhetorical effect, that Professor Rasmusen has no evidence to support his claim that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children. You’ll find detailed discussion in earlier posts on why I made the claim. For now, though, it might make some people happy to see something that Professor Steven Willing at our well- regarded medical school cc’d me on from a couple of emails to Chancellor Brehm this morning:

“Of 170 pedophiles, 60 [40%] were homosexual, 45 [26%] were bisexual, 34% heterosexual.” [With a population prevalence of 2.8%, this indicates that homosexuals are 14 times more likely to be pedophiles]. Bogaert AF. Bezeau S. Kuban M. Blanchard R. Pedophilia, sexual orientation, and birth order. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 106(2):331-5, 1997 May

“Heterosexual child molestations cases outnumber homosexual by eleven to one, but heterosexual males outnumber homosexual by 36 to 1. Although most cases of molestation are by heterosexuals due to their greater numbers, a homosexual male is over three times more likely to molest a child.” Freund K. Watson RJ. The proportions of heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles among sex offenders against children: an exploratory study. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 18(1):34-43, 1992 Spring.

Dr. Willing, of course, has looked at a lot more than just those two articles. He says,

Every published investigation, except perhaps one (the deeply flawed study in Pediatrics 1994) show a much higher representation of homosexuals and bisexuals among convicted child molesters than their percentage of the general population. Even homosexual advocates know this. They therefore rely on semantic chicanery to redefine all offenders as “not really” homosexual.

Is this conclusive? No. I think it’s correct, but I haven’t looked directly at either article or at the material other people have sent me, so I don’t know whether the studies were well done or not. On a topic like this one, it isn’t enough for someone to say, “My position is correct, because Professor X at Bigname University says so and I can quote from two published articles.” First, numerical studies of the subject are tricky enough to do that you need to see how the articles came to their conclusions. Second, a lot of junk gets published, and someone outside the field doesn’t know which journals are really good. Third, there is a lot of dishonesty out there, so it is riskier to accept supposedly scientific claims about homosexuality than about how to price call options or what the rate of GNP growth in the 1920’s really was. So even though the evidence above supports my position, I shouldn’t close my mind on the subject and won’t.

A name=”september20″> September 20, 2003. &Omega.


From Toronto, writing between sessions of the American Law and Economics Association conference, I see that Mr. Bauder, the IU Coordinator, made a point of telling our student newspaper that the point of yesterday’s rally at the business school induction ceremony wasn’t to go after Eric Rasmusen. Good! I’m thankful, and so will not mention the affair any further here.

October 30, 2003. ר Chancellor Brehm Resigns.

Chancellor Brehm, who so publicly deplored this web-log a month ago, has resigned as Chancellor, effective December 31, not for an outside job, but just remaining in some kind of advisory position as described in the press release. Rumor has it that the Trustees decided this last spring, and that the previous chancellor, Professor Gros-Louis, will replace her. The former Law School Dean, Professor Aman, is another contender. We’ll see.

November 3, 2003. ת Weblog Controversy–Chronicle of Higher Education.

My web-log has made it to the front page of the November 7 Chronicle of Higher Education. I’m glad the photos turned out okay.



To view the post on a separate page, click: at (the permalink). Links to this post


Novak Wisdom

From an interview with Robert Novak (via Advance Indiana) comes a lot of interesting things. This is important to history.

The most interesting Republicans right now are a few young House members. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is the best of them. Also Jeff Flake of Arizona and Jeb Hensarling of Texas. They are known in the House as right-wingers. I would describe them as reformers. They think there's been too much corruption and waste. They are supply-siders. They are very upset with earmarks and very, very upset with the passive leadership we have today....

Q: You've had some unparalleled sources. How does one go about cultivating them?

A: What I'm going to say may come as a shock, because I'm not a terribly likable person, but you gotta get a source to like you. There's very little that I or any other journalist can really do for a politician. A favorable column is not all that much, so there's not much payback. It's gotta be "I want to help Novak because I like him." That may sound naive, but it's true.

Senator Pat Moynihan was one of my great sources. I don't believe he said, "Boy, if Novak writes this column, I'm going to really be in much better shape." He thought I was an interesting guy and had interesting ideas, and he liked to talk about things with me. ...

I was just a Midwestern country boy when I came here. Rowly (Evans) was an elite Philadelphian. I didn't realize how much a lunch was part of the whole source/reporter equation. Rowly learned that from Joseph and Stewart Alsop. If Rowly didn't have a meal with a source, it was a bad day. Quite often he would have two sources for the same meal, usually breakfast....

Q: In your memoir, you describe an early meeting in the Oval Office with Reagan in which he quoted a couple of obscure 19th-century British free-trade advocates and some little-known modern Austrian economists. How underrated intellectually do you think Reagan was?

A: He was extremely underrated, particularly by the press. The press was very derisive. They were derisive of Eisenhower, too -- they thought he was just another Army officer -- but the attacks on Reagan were harsher. He was portrayed as stupid, uneducated, out of his element. I think he was very well educated and understood a lot of things. He was also very flexible in his policies -- too flexible for my taste.

Q: How do you feel about Dick Cheney?

A: I think he's the most forceful, effective vice president in history.

I like some of the things he's done. I think he was instrumental in getting the tax cuts through, which I approve of. I'm at odds with his aggressive military policy, but he's put a new dimension on the vice presidency that I don't think will be continued and maybe shouldn't be continued. ...

I think Dean Rusk, for example, was totally the president's man. Colin Powell leaned heavily the other way, maybe too much, trying to protect the Foreign Service....

Q: Who do you think were the best legislators?

A: Legislators are funny. One of the best-equipped legislators was Wilbur Mills, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He really knew trade, taxes -- he really knew the field. He was very smart and came across as a shrewd bargainer. But he never got anything done.

A more recent chair of the Ways and Means committee was Bill Thomas, who was considered by his colleagues to be the smartest guy in town. I think Bill considered himself the smartest guy in the world. But he was very meager in terms of accomplishments. It's hard to get things passed.

If you go by accomplishments, the best was Lyndon Johnson. There's not even a close second in terms of getting bills passed. The reason: He was a trader, and he never took no for an answer. He could bargain into the night. ...

Q: What about Newt Gingrich?

A: I thought he was a failure as speaker and a great success as a political manager in getting a Republican majority in the House....

Q: What's the most helpful thing someone can say to a person who's gravely ill?

A: There's not much you can say. A lot of people say: "You're a tough guy and a fighter. You're gonna beat this." Well, I don't know if I will beat it. Being tough and a fighter have nothing to do with it. I guess the most helpful thing they can say, if they're a man or woman of faith, is to tell me they're praying for me.

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Homosexuality Legislation in Indiana in 2007

Advance Indiana has useful posts on the 2007 same-sex marriage legislation in Indiana.



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Creationism and Creeds

Three Hierarchies has been discussing how one Lutheran bishop has elevated six-day creationism as an indisputable part of Lutheran doctrine. This kind of thing is one of my pet peeves with evangelicals. Let's put aside for argument the question of whether God created the Earth in six days some 5000 years ago, and concentrate on the importance of this doctrinal point. Is it really on the same level of importance as the bodily resurrection,transubstantiation, salvation by faith alone, and suchlike? No. In fact, the topic was of no more than minor interest before 1880 or so. People did think about it-- Augustine famously considered six-day creationism absurd-- but it was a matter of explaining a particular Bible passage.

The main defense for insisting on creationism is that it is a good indicator of a person's views on more important topics. That is indeed a good general argument. One of the "Five Fundamentals" was the Virgin Birth. That is doctrine trivial in itself, but it is a good indicator of whether a person believes in miracles, prophecy, and Scripture. Creationism serves as an indicator of inerrancy, but it is not a good one. A person can believe the Bible is inerrant without believing in six-day creation, by simply treating Genesis 1 as a metaphor, a reasonable thing to do given its style and context. A person can also believe in six-day creation without believing the Bible is reliable, by believing that Genesis is reliable but nothing outside the Torah (an Orthodox Jew, for example, would reject the New Testament).

A second defense would be that belief in creationism is a good indicator of a person's willingness to buck the conventional wisdom. It shows you are willing to believe something that seems ridiculous to modern intellectuals. That is a good willingness to have, but this is not ground well chosen for exercising it. For one thing, belief in the bodily resurrection does about as well in showing that you are willing to contradict secularists, and that is a far more central doctrine. For another, creationism is highly culture-bound, unlike most other doctrines. As I said before, anybody before 1880 would wonder why it was so prominent, whereas the bodily resurrection has always been a point of contention between believers and unbelievers. For another, the particular method of creation has no implications for actual behavior, so it is picking a fight on a purely intellectual ground, without convicting anyone of sin. A better issue, though equally non-central and particular to our culture, would be the sinfulness of homosexuality. That doctrine is undisputably biblical, and much more offensive to modern unbelievers. If Christians are going to look unreasonable, let us do it on issues that really get other people riled up because they actually matter.



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The Lesson of the 2008 Election

I haven't seen any pundit talk about the main lesson of the 2008 election: run a candidate that the voters like. A simple lesson, isn't it? Think about what happened. The Republican favorites were Giuliani, Romney, and McCain. None of them were sound conservatives. Giuliani was an out-and-out liberal, and an adulterer. Romney was an out-and-out liberal who promised that he'd reformed and was really conservative, and he was a Mormon. Being a Mormon is not like being a Moslem or an Orthodox Jew--- Mormons have some truly weird beliefs and require rigid obedience to the hierarchy. McCain was an inconsistent conservative, and a repentant adulterer. Worst, though, was that he had never been loyal to the Republican Party, preferring the praise of the media and the support of independents, and he clearly disliked social conservatives. If some real Republican had run, he would have won the nomination, Republicans would have been at least mildly enthusiastic and turned out in November, and he would have won. If even Sarah Palin, unknown governor of Alaska, had done that she would be our President-Elect. Thompson didn't run, though and Brownback dropped out early. Huckabee, a smart man, did run, and did very well, but it turned out that he was not conservative on economics and perhaps on foreign issues, and he criticized our conservative President too freely. Indeed, Huckabee seems to have been an old 1920s Democrat on everything but race.

How about the Democrats? A similar story, but with a happier ending for them. Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming favorite, and she was trying to be moderate to get ready for the general election. The conventional wisdom was that she'd lose in November anyway. Thus, the Democratic leaders were unhappy. Also, she's unethical, like her husband, without having his likeability, and reminds people of the embarassing Clinton years. But almost everybody was too chicken to run against her. Barack Obama was not. Being Not-Clinton, he won, strongly helped by being a true leftwinger and being black. With the Party's left on his side, and the black and other party leaders secretly relieved he was running, he was able to replace Hillary.

Thus, in the general election the Democrats had acquired a candidate they liked and the Republicans had not. Democrats turned out to vote, and Republicans did not. Obama won.

It's too bad I was at Oxford last year. I could have run for President. If I'd had 2 million dollars I could have gotten the nomination maybe. More seriously, if I'd energetically worked to get some other unknown with brains, good inside connections, and no track record of professorial eccentricity to run, I could have gotten him nominated. David Mackintosh, Joshua Davidson, Mark Baker, David Snyder, David Frum, or Steve Calabresi would have done nicely. It's interesting that I have a harder time of thinking of anyone I didn't meet via college.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008


The Value of Human Life in Pennsylvania

It seems economist Rafael Robb has gotten 5 to 10 years in prison for killing his wife. He gave a talk here a couple of years ago, and did seem a tough guy-- is he the one who was an Israeli paratrooper? In any case, I expect he will be a model prisoner and be out after 5 years. As an economist, I can see then that the value put on a human life by the Pennsylvania state government is a 5-year prison term.

He admitted he "just lost it" during an argument that erupted at the couple's Upper Merion Township home in December 2006. Ellen Robb had been planning to end their 16-year marriage, and her husband feared he would see less of their daughter and possibly suffer financially if they divorced.

I wonder if Professor Robb has gained financially, overall? He has lost 5 years of salary completely, plus a hard-to-estimate reduction in future salary. He will lose his tenure at Penn, but he can get a job somewhere else-- he's a good economist, and he can keep publishing while in prison-- indeed, he will have more time for research, and he's a theorist, so lack of RA's, computers, etc. won't hamper him. He has gained alimony he would have had to pay-- say, 20% of income for a 30-year period. He has also gained his half of the household assets-- perhaps 6 times his annual income.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A Community College Political Correctness Story

From a VC comment:

Since we are telling college stories.

I started school at a community college and transfered to a four year. While at the CC, I did a paper on the different types of rape. At the time, womyns groups were pushing different types from actual unwanted sexual contact to my favorite--a woman is in the area of a man and without saying or doing anything he thinks of her as a sexual being without consent (psychic rape).

I did a paper for criminal justice class I was proud of, breaking the subject down into five types, and got an A. I buffed it up and turned it in for english comp, too. I got an E, and in front of witnesses the professor accused men like me of being the reason women get raped.

I appealed, and the dean stated the paper was of poor quality. Other profs suggested requesting a formal hearing in front of the college president with the class called as witnesses, I did make a request and the dean excused me from the rest of the class and gave me an A.

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Eric Holder and the Clinton Pardons

VC has a good post on this. I commented thus:

Right before the part of the report that the blog post quotes, the report makes some relevant points: 1. Holder admits that what he did was wrong, and just says he made a mistake in not letting the career attorneys even comment on the pardon petition, 2. It is dubious whether holder really did this by mistake, and 3. At the time, Holder was trying to get support in getting a job with the hoped-for Gore administration from Quinn, Rich's attorney. And of course granting a pardon to a thief like Rich is not the same kind of public-policy decision as whether to support a particular Texas redistricting plan; it's hard for anyone of any political philosophy to defend.

Here's what the report says:

The final question then is whether Holder's failure to obtain the Rich petition and involve the Justice Department in the pardon process was the result of incompetence or a deliberate decision to assist Jack Quinn. At the Committee's hearing, Holder suggested that it was the result of poor judgment, initially not recognizing the seriousness of the Rich case, and then, by the time that he recognized that the pardon was being considered, being distracted by other matters.\646\

However, it is difficult to believe that Holder's judgment would be so monumentally poor that he could not understand how he was being manipulated by Jack Quinn. Rather, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that Eric Holder was deliberately assisting Quinn with the Rich petition, and deliberately cut the rest of the Justice Department out of the process to help Quinn obtain the pardon for Marc Rich. This conclusion is supported by the following e-mail, which was sent by Quinn to Kitty Behan, ...


Subject: eric

spoke to him last evening. he says go straight to wh. also says timing is good. we shd get in soon. will elab when we speak.\647\


.... Assuming the ``eric'' referenced is Eric Holder, this e-mail contradicts the heart of Holder's defense. Holder claims that he was not focused on the Rich pardon until late in the process... It also suggests that Holder had reason to know that the request was remarkable, as he suggested to Quinn that he circumvent the Justice Department....

The final question is why Eric Holder would do such a thing. As discussed below, Holder had been asking Quinn for his help in being appointed Attorney General in a Gore Administration....


\648\ In evaluating Holder's motivations, one should keep in mind that the only reason Jack Quinn was hired by Marc Rich was because of Eric Holder's initial recommendation to Gershon Kekst. Holder's suggestion to Kekst that he hire a lawyer like Quinn, who could come to him and solve the problem, was a self-fulfilling prophecy.



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Why Did McCain Lose?

Of course, the obvious reasons McCain lost are that (a) the economy went into recession in the summer, (b) the Credit Crunch occurred, (c) Obama spent about twice as much (the figures are surprisingly hard to find for general election spending), (d) big media favors Obama. But it is still interesting to discuss what else mattered. There have been some people saying that McCain's problem was that he was too conservative on social issues. Just to state that is to sound ridiculous. McCain famously dislikes religious conservatives and, in fact, the only social issue I can think of on which he is conservative is abortion, which he downplayed during the campaign. He did choose Palin as his VP candidate, as a gesture towards conservatives in the party, but his staff then spent considerable effort undercutting her.

What McCain did was to run as a hawk on foreign policy--- not as a conservative, but as hawk, please note-- and as I'm not sure what on economic policy. He supported the Bush tax cuts, but Obama also postured as a tax cutter, so the difference between them was not clear to the ordinary voter. McCain emphasized free trade, but he did not run as a free marketeer generally. He criticized speculators and oil companies, and in general sounded more populist than conservative except for a tendency to talk about small businesses instead of workers. And he was very quiet about social issues.

What would have happened if he had resolutely attacked homosexuality? Look at what happened with the state ballot measures. Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage won with 56% of the vote. (McCain won Arizona at just 54%.) Florida's won with 62%. (McCain got just 49% of the vote there.) California's won with 52%. (McCain got just 37% of the vote there.) Arkansas' ban on same-sex adoption won with 57%. (McCain did get 59% there.) If homosexuality had been the focus issue, it seems McCain could have become President-- if he was willing to take the conservative position rather than follow the country clubs.

People talk about the need for the Republicans to attract more blacks and hispanics. Exit polls say that in California a massive 70% of blacks voted for the ban on gay marriage. Here's the obvious issue to steal away Democrat voters. The flat tax just isn't going to do it.



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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Killing People for Their Kidneys

The Weekly Standard has an article on the evidence for prisoners being killed for their kidneys in China. It is a temperate and believable article. It seems that healthy prisoners are given medical exams that seem to attend only to the health of particular organs. That's the end of it for some prisoners; others disappear. Presumably they match the tissue types of the people who have ordered transplants.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008


Poker Scores

Money is not all that good as a motivator in social poker games, because either it matters, which can create unpleasantness, or it doesn't, in which case one might as well skip it. Thus, I am just announcing scores from tonight:

MW 395
CA 283
GH 280
ER 250
BD 102
TS 80
DD 47
MA 6



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Saturday, November 15, 2008


Card Party Nameplates

Here is an MS-WORD document that makes card party nameplates that one can cut out and fold over.



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Preacher Jailed for Speaking Against a Judge

Via Instapundit and Talk Left we learn that a preacher in Michigan had his probation turned into prison because he said that the sentencing judge could be punished by God with curses, fever and "extreme burning" unless he changed his ways. He's appealed, and I hope will win.

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Textbooks versus Packets

I'm planning my courses for next semester. Textbooks cost a lot. Viscusi, Vernon and Harrington's regulation text costs $88, which is typical. Are they worth it? Yes, probably. The cost of me, the professor, and the time cost of the students is much higher, and a good text is valuable. But there is one big problem. Students don't keep their texts. They resell them. This loses them one of the most important parts of their education. If they realized this, they wouldn't sell them, even at the current high prices, but they don't. It might nonetheless be important. If I assign them a packet of readings instead, will they keep the packet? If they do, maybe that is enough of a teaching improvement that I should do it.

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GM and the Unions

Professor Bainbridge has a big comment discussion going about the amazingly high wages the UAW union has extracted from the automakers it is bankrupting. What is really going on is that the workers own the firm. They are the residual claimants, and the company is run for their benefit. A residual claimant has a risky claim, though, and in a bad year he will earn less. The workers have avoided this so far by letting the capital of the company run down. Now they are at the point where they must take a temporary wage cut, unless they can use their political clout.

Or so I hypothesize. This would make a good paper. Some facts are easily checkable. Has GM been investing less than the value of true depreciation? Has it been able to sell new stock? If it were freed of the unusually high pension obligations and wages, would it be in sound financial shape?

November 16: Here is one of the many good comments from the Bainbridge post (his readers seem to be far smarter than those of other blogs!):

I'm sorry, but if you try to make a point like this, and don't back it up
with an outside source supporting your assertion, you only leave yourself
open to people (like me) who will show you an outside source that proves
you wrong.

JD Power 3 Year Vehicle Dependability Study

Problems per 100 Vehicles, by Brand, for the first 3 years of ownership,
for cars sold in 2005, surveyed in 2008.

(I'm only going to list the non-luxury brand names, since in the luxury
brands, Lexus/Toyota has been winning this thing for the past 15 years)

Mercury - 151
Toyota - 159
Buick - 163
Honda - 177
Ford - 204
Industry Average - 206
Nissan - 224
Pontiac - 225
GMC - 225
Chrysler - 229
Dodge - 230
Chevrolet - 239
Scion - 243
Saturn - 250
Jeep - 253

A little statistical analysis:

The average Ford has 1/3 more problems than the average Toyota.

The average GMC, Chrysler, Dodge, and Chevrolet has 50% more problems than
the average Toyota.

The average Saturn and Jeep has 2/3 more problems than the average Toyota.

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