Stream: Brussels Attack And The Ironies Of Muslim Assimilation

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Today’s post is at the Stream: The Brussels Attack And The Ironies Of Muslim Assimilation.

Ironies abound in the latest terrorist attack. Consider this propaganda video in which the organization Visit Brussels on 18 January assures the world that Belgium is a terrific place to visit. As part of a PR campaign, conspicuous phones were set up around the world in which world strangers might call Belgian strangers. At just before the one minute mark is heard this conversation from a distant caller to a Brussels resident.

“Is it safe for this moment?”

“Of course it’s safe, it’s very safe.”

Stick around, because at about 1:10m is heard this from another distant stranger:

“I read in—on—the Internet that it’s dangerous to visit your city.”

“Well actually it’s the media that’s made a whole fuss about it, but nothing is happening.”

The press says that, but they also say that the attacks are “caused” by (a) Islamaphobia, and (b) Muslims failing to assimilate to Western secular culture. On these points, celebrated writer Max Boot burst out of the gate, and even before the blood began to congeal on the pavement, tweeted, “Problem in EU is failure to assimilate Muslim immigrants. US has done better job, but Trump attacks alienate Muslims & threaten security.”…

Because, believe it or not, money, nihilism, and the abandonment of human nature aren’t the ultimate goals of many people. Religious people are immune to the virus. Secularists don’t comprehend this because they never fully accept religious people believe what they’re saying, perhaps because—another irony—secularists never truly believe anything (hence nihilism). Can you imagine the consternation of the frustrated terrorist after an attack? “I said I hated them, but they didn’t believe me! What more evidence do they want?!”…

See the pulse-pounding rest there.

Bonus! The Editors at Stream wisely cut out the final two paragraphs on global warming, a subject which I have ostensibly given up for Lent. But for you, dear readers, a sneak peek.

It’s also worth noting that global-warming-of-doom, since it hasn’t yet arrived (it’ll be here any day now), could not have been responsible for these attacks. President Obama, though, as was pointed out the day before the Brussels attack says he’s “more worried about climate change than ISIS”.

I believe him. I mean, I don’t believe global warming is any kind of threat, or indeed even a minor concern, but I fully believe Mr Obama does not see ISIS as a threat. Well, some people are unable to learn. and it would be cruel to hold his impediment against him given he’s on his way out.

Gender Ideology Harms Children, Is Child Abuse Say Pediatricians

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The American College of Pediatricians, that stalwart organization, says Gender Ideology Harms Children and is child abuse. And so say we, too.

Here is their statement, along with [my notes in brackets like this]. All bold typeface etc. are original. I’ve left off the footnote indicators that point to various articles; see the original page for these.

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The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts — not ideology — determine reality.

  1. Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of health — not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs do not constitute a third sex.

    [The question becomes why, since human nature is self-evident why so many seek to deny it—and why they usually deny it in a frenzied state.]

  2. No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one. No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward. People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.

    [Too, the age at which children recognize their sex is quite early.]

  3. A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V). The psychodynamic and social learning theories of GD/GID have never been disproved.

    [You have to admire that “at best” in the opening sentence. Also key is the truth that an objective psychological problem exists.]

  4. Puberty is not a disease and puberty-blocking hormones can be dangerous. Reversible or not, puberty-blocking hormones induce a state of disease — the absence of puberty — and inhibit growth and fertility in a previously biologically healthy child.

    [This is not the only instance where “doctors” are asked to harm the health of their patients. Abortion, euthanasia, and some surgeries. This ties to the first point of abandoning human nature.]

  5. According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.
  6. Children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence. Cross-sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke and cancer.

    [Again, “doctors” purposely harm their patients. What are we becoming?]

  7. Rates of suicide are twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT — affirming countries. What compassionate and reasonable person would condemn young children to this fate knowing that after puberty as many as 88% of girls and 98% of boys will eventually accept reality and achieve a state of mental and physical health?

    [Answer: the same kind of person who would hack away at the healthy flesh of a patient in a necessarily vain attempt to turn a patient into something that patient cannot be.]

  8. Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.

    [Say it with me: child abuse. It’s easy. Child abuse. Child abuse. Child abuse. Child abuse. Child abuse. Child abuse. Child abuse.]

The Ethics Of Precrime

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This is Part II of our discussion of predicting individual crime. See Part I.

The moral question is this: should an authority take action against you if an algorithm spits out a sufficiently high probability that you will commit a crime or otherwise heinous or immoral act? If the answer is yes, then good algorithms must be sought. If not, then formal algorithms should be eschewed.

There are two considerations: the accuracy of the algorithm and the actions taken against you. Accuracy has two dimensions, predicting truly you will sin (to use a shorthand term) and guessing truly you won’t; inaccuracy is the opposite of these. Preventative actions run the gamut from verbal admonition to fines to incarceration to whacking.

We all already agree that preventative actions in the face of presin or precrime are good. Consider a mother learning her daughter will vote for Hillary. The mother uses an informal algorithm, which takes as input some of her daughter’s past behavior and importantly uses her daughter’s own promise of the daughter’s future behavior. Using these data the mother forms a judgement of the (non-numerical) likelihood of her daughter’s act. Then the mother forbids her daughter from acting using emotional force.

If you don’t like the voting example, substitute taking drugs, seeing an iffy boy, skipping homework and on and on. Parents know their offspring well and parental judgments are usually, but certainly not always, correct about what their children will do, especially when the children say they are going to commit some act.

Likewise, parents also usually correctly know when their kids are not going commit some act. There is a sharp asymmetry here. What acts are the children not going to commit? These are infinite, and no parent can start the day listing all the various acts her child might not commit. Acts must thus be brought into focus somehow. They must be made official, trackable, as it were, perhaps because of the child’s past behavior. This is why false negatives, if and when they are discovered, are shocking to parents, because the act was not in the parents’ thoughts. “I never even thought she’d do that!”

Family situations have high accuracy and have preventative actions tailored to the enormity of the act. Grounding a child or verbally warning her are small things, and these situations are kept within the family; they are not made official. Yet parents err, and children know it. The daughter above might have only been trying to get her mother’s goat by promising to vote badly, but the child still ends up (say) grounded. The daughter will resent this mistaken restriction of her liberty. But the daughter is likely to forgive her mother because she knows her mother has her best interests at heart; and it is true, the mother does have her daughter’s and the family’s best interests in mind.

Everything in these examples extrapolates to governmental algorithms and governmental preventative actions in the face of precrime.

A ravenous cannibal was imprisoned for his past crimes. He has sworn that when free he will kill and eat again, just as he has done every other time he was at liberty. Yet his sentence ends midnight tomorrow. Do we, i.e. society, free him or should we restrict him? Here the magnitude of the future crime and the certainty we have in its occurrence outweighs the potential error we might make in setting the man free and (say) he turns into a vegetarian.

This is not an unusual situation, and indeed we have many programs to restrict the liberty of previously convicted criminals because in part it is recognized these people are likely recidivists. We have criminals report to parole officers, or insist they register on lists or at the sheriff’s office, or we say they must regularly see counselors, or we don’t let them hold certain jobs, and so forth. This is (in part) because of precrime, yet where the future acts are left somewhat vague. We do this not so much because we have the criminals’ best interests at heart, but because we are concerned to protect ourselves. Significantly, some portion of these restrictions are seen as punishment for past crimes.

There will be many false positives in these programs, i.e. at least some criminals whose behavior is restricted will not commit new crimes. Yet we accept these errors, and the accompanying costs of these errors, because it is recognized that without the restrictions greater costs to society will be realized—and because of the continuing punishment angle False negatives will be somewhat rarer, but if and when they are discovered there will be no shock because the list of infractions is in the collective mind.

The accuracy of the algorithms used in restriction previously convicted criminals is high. But what of algorithms applied to screening ordinary citizens? Consider this recent news story:

…China wants to fight crimes before they happen. They want to know they’ll happen before they’re planned—before the criminal even knows he’s going to be part of them. Bloomberg Business reported that the Communist Party “has directed one of the country’s largest state-run defense contractors, China Electronics Technology Group, to develop software to collate data on jobs, hobbies, consumption habits, and other behavior of ordinary citizens to predict terrorist acts before they occur.”

The Chinese government wants to know about everything: every text a person sends, every extra stop they make on the way home. It’s designed for dissidents, but it means that they’ll know every time a smoker buys a pack of cigarettes, how much gas a car owner uses, what time the new mom goes to bed, and what’s in the bachelor’s refrigerator.

There is (Orewellian) data, there is a definition of the criminal act, albeit one unfamiliar to Western minds (to the Chinese government terrorism is very broad), there is an official algorithm which ties all these together. What’s missing is a direct statement of the restrictions imposed given the algorithm spits out a high likelihood of a citizen’s committing a terrorist act. Given that this is China, these restrictions are likely to be harsh and intrusive.

Suppose first the algorithm reaches or exceeds the accuracy of parents judging their natural children; suppose even the algorithm is flawless. Now I say “flawless”, but saying it does not make the statement completely believable, because we have heard claims of certainty many times and (most of us) have formed the judgement that it is an advertising word. “Flawless” in advertising means “somewhat but far from certain.” Here I mean utter certainty. So suppose God Himself tells us whether any person will commit a crime. Should we restrict?

God Himself knows whether any person will commit an evil act, yet God, except in miraculous circumstance, does not stop individuals. We do stop them (if we can), however, as shown above; we agree that restrictions in the face of some precrimes or presins are good. This theological asymmetry begs an answer, but as I don’t know what it is and exploring it would take us too far afield, let’s stick with human actions.

If the algorithm truly is perfect, then restrictions are good. What the restrictions are is another question. Consider a verbal warning. The precriminal, in much the same way a mother might lecture her daughter, could be shown the algorithm’s output; he’d be told of its inerrancy and informed of the punishment that awaits him were he to commit the eventual crime. There is little to object to in this, except that the precriminal becomes a perpetual official “person of interest”. Even if the perfect algorithm predicts the person will never commit another crime, officialdom would give in to the temptation to treat this citizen differently.

Again, this happens even if all acknowledge the algorithm’s inerrancy, because humans are weak. In any case, tacit in this example is that the algorithm does not take as input the precriminal’s knowledge of the algorithm’s prediction; or, rather, it assumes the crime might not be committed were the precriminal to be made aware of the precrime. The opposite may be true. Jesus used an inerrant algorithm to predict Peter would deny him thrice before the cock crowed. Peter was made aware of his presin. “I will never disown you,” he said when made aware. Yet he still committed the sin. We’re back to theology because this is a perfect example of an inerrant prediction tied with a verbal warning; this warning was the only restriction placed on Peter’s behavior.

We might call this an unconditional prediction. The event was foreordained; it was going to happen no matter what; it was predestined. The warning thus served no purpose in changing history’s course with regard to this sin; and it did not modify the behavior Peter (with respect to the presin) before the sin. But, oh my, did it have an effect afterwards. Point is, in this rarest of circumstance no action, even physical restraint, taken by any authority (even the largest!) can stop the crime or sin. Indeed, it would be foolish to try to stop it. Verbal admonitions are it, then, and only for the purpose of teaching the precriminal or presinner a lesson afterwards. This is the proof that in the face of a perfect unconditional algorithm, the only action worth taking is advisory.

A perfect conditional algorithm, which allows the chance the crime won’t be committed were the precriminal made known of the algorithm’s prediction (a prediction which, I emphasize, is not known to the algorithm itself so that no logical paradox arises), it seems that actions tailored to the enormity of the crime and its prevention would be allowable. If no action were taken, because the algorithm is perfect, we know with utter certainty the crime will be committed. But what power would be used to stop it? We cannot commit an evil to stop another; the ends cannot justify the means. Surely a verbal warming isn’t evil, but is physical restraint? Incarceration? Monetary fine? Something worse? Something beyond a warning appears punishing because, after all, the warning might work. Who’s best interest is at heart? Actions taken at the scene of the precrime are warranted, say officials place a guard around the item that would have been stolen, etc.

Let’s now return to realism, to the land of not just imperfect algorithms, but lousy ones, which are the norm. Predicting individual human behavior in the absence of the kind of data (say) a parent might have has proven to be extraordinarily error prone. There is no good reason to believe the Chinese (or us) will have hit upon marvelous insight into behavior that improves accuracy markedly. (See this discussion of algorithm accuracy.) The actions taken to prevent crime in the face of poor predictions thus must be further tempered. Anything beyond a warning would be difficult to justify; and even warnings might be too much. Why?

Even imperfect algorithms will have some successes. Suppose, as is likely in China’s case, physical restraint is used to stop precriminals. Some who would truly have committed a crime will thus be barred from evil acts and so the crime rate will decrease. This decrease will be touted as a good. Yet the decrease will happen so long as the algorithm has at least one true prediction and regardless of the numbers of its false positives. The algorithm has to only remove one true precriminal from the street for the crime rate to decrease, even though that same algorithm might falsely advise detaining any number of innocent people, and even though the algorithm misses any number of true to-be criminals.

The harm flawed algorithms do, because the innocent are (effectively) kept at ransom and also perhaps made perpetual “persons of interest”, is substantial. Preventative actions beyond warnings or wariness on the part of officials can’t be justified, and even warnings are problematic because of the temptation to misuse the algorithm as a judge. Protective actions at the target, however, are fine. Stationing an extra visible squad of cops around a target, for instance. These kinds of actions are only indirectly restrictive.

There is no difference here and between screenings for spies, drugs, breast or prostate cancer, or anything else where large numbers of individuals are fed into an algorithm and formal actions by authorities are taken. Much depends on the accuracy of the predictions, but in many of these cases, the accuracy is poor or worse, meaning the actions taken often cannot be justified. We’re nowhere near an accuracy great enough to act on precrime—for (new) crimes such as murder, rape, theft, terrorism and the like. I say “near” which implies we can cut the distance through vigorous effort. I doubt that possibility strongly.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is All Mighty

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Some fleshing out today—St Thomas was nothing but not thorough! I think by this time we’re persuaded, at least conditionally, that God is almighty. Next week is juicier material: proving God does not have to act.

Chapter 22 That God can do all things (alternate translation)

[1] HENCE it is clear that the divine power is not determined to one particular effect…

[3] Again. Every perfect power extends to all those things to which its per se and proper effect can extend: thus the art of building, if perfect, extends to whatever can have the nature of a house. Now God’s power is the per se cause of being, and being is its proper effect, as stated above. Therefore it extends to all that is not incompatible with the notion of being: for if His power were confined to one effect alone, it would be the cause of a being, not as such, but as this particular being. Now the opposite of being, which is non-being, is incompatible with the notion of being. Wherefore God can do all things but those which include the notion of non-being: and such are those that imply a contradiction. It follows, therefore, that God can do whatever does not imply a contradiction.

[4] Again. Every agent acts in so far as it is actual. Wherefore the mode of an agent’s power in acting follows its mode of actuality: for man begets man, and fire begets fire. Now God is perfect act, possessing in Himself the perfections of all things, as was proved above. Therefore His active power is perfect, and extends to all things whatsoever that are not incompatible with the notion of actuality. But these are only those which imply a contradiction. Therefore God can do all except these things.

Notes Even God can’t make an apple which doesn’t exist.

[5] Moreover. To every passive potentiality there corresponds an active potentiality: since potentiality is for the sake of act, as matter for the sake of form. Now a being in potentiality cannot come to be in act save by the power of something in act. Wherefore potentiality would be without purpose were there no active power of an agent that could reduce it to act: and yet nothing in the things of nature is void of purpose.

Thus we find that all things that are in the potentiality of matter in things subject to generation and corruption, can be reduced to act by the active power which is in the heavenly body which is the first active force in nature. Now just as the heavenly body is the first agent in regard to lower bodies, so God is the first agent in respect of all created being. Wherefore God can do by His active power all whatsoever is in the potentiality of created being. And all that is not incompatible with created being is in the potentiality of created being, just as whatever destroys not human nature is in the potentiality of human nature. Therefore God can do all things.

Note In short, since God is pure actuality, God can actualize any potential.

[6] Further. That some particular effect is not subject to the power of some particular agent, may be due to three things. First, because it has no affinity or likeness to the agent: for every agent produces its like in some way. Hence the power in human seed cannot produce a brute animal or a plant, and yet it can produce a man who surpasses the things mentioned.

Secondly, on account of the excellence of the effect, which surpasses the capacity of the active power: thus the active power of a body cannot produce a separate substance. Thirdly, because the effect requires a particular matter on which the agent cannot act: thus a carpenter cannot make a saw, because his art does not enable him to act on iron of which a saw is made.

Now in none of these ways can any effect be withheld from the divine power. For neither on account of unlikeness in the effect can anything be impossible to Him: since every thing, in so far as it has being, is like Him, as we have proved above:–nor again on account of the excellence of the effect: since it has been proved that God is above all beings in goodness and perfection:–nor again on account of a defect in matter, since He is the cause of matter, which cannot be caused except by creation. Moreover in acting He needs no matter: since He brings a thing into being without anything pre-existent. Wherefore lack of matter cannot hinder His action from producing its effect.

Note Biology was not out of the realm of study!

[7] It remains therefore that God’s power is not confined to any particular effect, but is able to do simply all things: and this means that He is almighty.

Note This completes the proof that God is all powerful, which is to say, almighty. Since all of creation was caused by God, is dependent on Him for its continued existence (in every moment), God can do anything.