Monday, August 17, 2009

Cal Thomas on Killing Grandma

Never happy to leave the intellectual low ground to others, Cal Thomas wades in on the issue of killing grandma, and in typical fashion, completely misrepresents those he is criticizing. Few are more consistent in demolishing straw while dodging the actual arguments presented:

The debate -- OK, the shouting match -- we are having over "health care reform" is about many things, including cost, who gets help and who does not and who, or what, gets to make that determination. Underlying it all is a larger question: Is human life something special? Is it to be valued more highly than, say, plants and pets?

Really? Someone in the health care debate is questioning whether we should value human life more than plants and pets? Someone is doing this in the mainstream, not just on the fringe of PETA and the proportional phone booth their followers could meet in? Why then doesn't Cal Thomas name these people and quote them? Simple. As usual, Cal is making shit up. The "larger question" that our limited supply of health care foists upon us is not "are humans more valuable than plants and pets?", but rather "are some humans more valuable than others?".

When someone is in a "persistent vegetative state" do we mean to say that person is equal in value to a carrot?

A person in a persistent vegetative state is not a person in any way that we use the term, in the same way that a blastocyst is not a person. As evidenced by the many references to the subject in our popular culture of movies and books (ie Freaky Friday, and many many Star Trek episodes), when we think of a person, we do not think of a body, or of DNA. We think of a consciousness, a mind. If we didn't, the notion of noncorporeal possession would be nonsense.

Are we now assigning worth to human life, or does it arrive with its own predetermined value, irrespective of race, class, IQ or disability?

We assign it in our personal lives through our own personal values, and collectively through our government and other public entities' actions. Anything that applies to some people but not others makes a value judgement on the value of human life, whether it is the rules to qualify for medicare, or the rules that limit medical procedures in free-market insurance policies, or the scale of monetary refunds for particular body parts in most workers compensation insurance. Thomas again misses the fundamental question, which is not whether to assign value, but on what values we should do so.

The bottom line is not the bottom line. It is something far more profound. Our decisions regarding who will get help and who won't are more than about bean-counting bureaucrats deciding if your drugs or operation will cost more than you are contributing to the U.S. Treasury.

No shit Sherlock, welcome to the debate. The rest of us started here. But wait, Cal's not finished demonstrating he has no idea what he is talking about:

The secular left claims we are evolutionary accidents who managed to crawl out of the slime and by "natural selection" stand erect and over millions of years outsmart our ancestors, the apes. If that is your belief, then you probably think health care should be rationed. Why spend lots of money to improve -- or save -- the life of someone who evolved from slime and has no special significance other than the "accident" of becoming human? Policies flow from such a philosophy, though the average secularist probably wouldn't put it in such stark terms. Stark, or not, isn't this the inevitable progression of seeing humanity as maybe complex, but nothing special?

No Cal, it isn't, and the reason the average secularist doesn't put it that way is because that isn't what we think. Statements like this are what put the nail in the coffin of any argument defending the intellectual integrity of people like Thomas. He has made such straw man arguments in the past, and no doubt will do so again, despite being corrected over and over and over again by the very people he supposedly knows so well. One can only say "no, that's not what I believe" so many times before one is left with no logical option except to conclude that the person speaking is making shit up. Cal and his ilk are the king of MSU.

Secular morality concerns itself with what humans are, not how we came to be what we are. This is the point Cal cannot get through his thick skull. We wish to save other humans because we empathize with them, or care about them because they are friends and family. We share a common life experience. This should be obvious, but listening to Thomas talk, one would think that learning about evolution (which is supported by far more than just the secular left) causes a complete loss of emotional and psychological attachment to other people. It's the exact same mistake that people like Thomas make when the wonder why atheists don't go on murderous rampages when they realize there is no god to punish them. The notion that we simply lack the impulse to do so eludes them. They also ignore the fact, independent of our views on our ultimate origins, that there are real world consequences to our actions, and that we have decided biases towards some of the results (say, keeping my sister alive) and not others (letting her die).

The opposing view sees human beings as unique creations. Even Thomas Jefferson, identified by historians as a Deist who doubted the existence of a personal God, understood that if certain rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) do not come from a source beyond the reach of the state, then the state could take those rights away.

I seriously doubt Jefferson actually said such a thing (providing a quote gets in the way of Thomas' MSU), since it is so obviously false. Thomas speaks as if the power of the state immediately evaporates when divine support is acknowledged. Look around our world Cal, especially at the Muslim countries that you fear so, and how easily they acknowledge a divine source of their morality, and yet remove those rights we hold so dear.

Those who believe that God made us and also makes the rules about our existence and our behavior will have a completely different understanding of life's value and our approach to affirming it until natural death.

Perhaps. Unfortunately, you also have completely different understandings of life's value from each other. The fantasy world in Thomas' head, where all the religious folk live in peaceful harmony due to their common understanding that God made us, stands in stark contrast to the reality that is religious violence around the globe.

It is between these two distinctly different worldview goal posts that the battle is taking place. Few from the "endowed rights" side are saying that a 100-year-old with an inoperable brain tumor should be given extraordinary and expensive care to keep the heart pumping, even after brain waves have gone flat. But there is a big difference between "letting go" and "snuffing out."

Indeed, there is Cal. Everyone seems to already understand that except you, since no one on the "subjective rights" side of the argument is talking about snuffing anyone out. Of course, the fact that your worldview has those snuffed out ending up in a better place, would never encourage such a thing, right?

The unnatural progression for many on the secular left is to see such a person as a "burden." In an age when we think we should be free of burdens -- a notion that contributes to our superficiality and makes us morally obtuse -- getting rid of granny might seem perfectly rational, even defensible. But by doing so, we assume an even greater burden: the role of God in deciding who gets to live and who must die. Anyone who has seen the film "Bruce Almighty" senses how difficult it is to play God.

[yawn] Equivocation anyone? The "secular left" doesn't invent the financial burden the infirmed elderly (or the deformed infants) represent, nor does it invent the reality that our desires exceed our resources. Reality does that. The notion that it is "playing god" to acknowledge this and attempt to optimize our efforts better than insurance companies do now is childish at best and blinkered at worst. Playing god would mean magically fixing the problem through divine fiat. That the decisions we limited beings must make can be difficult doesn't make them go away.

And no one thinks we should be free of burdens, and reducing them makes us neither superficial nor obtuse. Thomas is just babbling here. If Thomas thinks giving up our modern burden-reducing conveniences like cars and vaccinations, computers and washing machines would make for better people, he's more than free to get a group together and see how that goes.

We are now witnessing some of the consequences of attempting to ban people with a God perspective from the public square.

More made-up bullshit. The vast majority of people in the public square have a god perspective. However, most of them understand that when making public policy for believers of all contradictory stripes, as well as nonbelievers, demanding that this or that speculation as to what the gods would want should be the law of the land makes for irreconcilable conflict. Faith does not lend itself to analysis and compromise. Reasoning from a common understanding of observable reality works much better. The Founders understood this. Why doesn't Thomas?

If there are no rules and no one to whom one might appeal when those rules are violated, we are on our own to set whatever rules we wish and to change them in a moment in response to opinion polls. Any appeals to a higher authority stop at the Supreme Court.

Yes Cal, and maybe you haven't noticed that the Supreme Court is an appointed body not subject to opinion polls, and how well that system has served us over these many decades. The day the gods show up to set us right for all to see, I'll be right there to listen. Until then, such talk of appealing to them is so much fantasy jibber jabber. Thomas sounds like he's sitting next to Linus in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

The explosive town-hall meetings are indications that Americans are trusting government less and less.

No they aren't. Does the phrase "self-selected sample" mean anything to you Thomas? By your reasoning, the vast number of people at UFO conventions indicates that aliens are visiting us. All the tantrums being thrown at these townhalls indicate is how much attention a few disgruntled people living in an echo chamber of woe-and-doom propaganda can generate by following politicians around and being very loud. We are not fooled.

So where should we go? The answer is in your wallet or purse. It's on the money. Right now it is little more than a slogan, but what if it became true: in God We Trust.

Ah yes, we should trust the gods, like Iran does. That would make for peace and harmony, because after all, it has a long history of doing so. Talk about obtuse. Thy name is Cal Thomas.


Troublesome Frog said...

Each human is a unique and special little snowflake. Only the free market should decide whether they live or die.

Luke said...

Cal's column today is a bunch of MSU about the british NHS, followed by 3 non-sequitur paragraphs about ... wait for it ... Nazi eugenics! 1933 Sterilization act??? WTF?! This guy has completely lost it. Why do newspapers buy this loony's column?

ScienceAvenger said...

Just go read the comments on his article there, or at townhall. There are loonies out there that eat this shit up.