All posts filed under: Features

Traditionalists and Activists are Both Wrong About Sex and Gender

Note: I had almost completed writing this essay when I became aware of President Donald Trump’s action to bar transgender individuals from serving in the United States military. This is blatant discrimination against the transgender community. As Sen. John McCain wrote following Trump’s announcement, “Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.” Wading into the turbulent rapids of the politics of sex, gender, and gender identity requires a life vest. Inevitably, one is bound to upset one or another political current, be it transgender rights or support for traditional gender roles. If I cannot hope to achieve a rapprochement between the two sides, I can …

Immigration, Justice, and Prosperity

Some people argue that even if poverty in some places is mainly the result of poor institutions rather than exploitation, more prosperous nations owe it to less wealthy nations to open their borders. On this view, restrictive immigration policies among rich countries are unjust because they prevent relatively poor people from moving away from bad institutions and toward good ones. To some extent, this is true. Consider Michael Huemer’s case of “Starvin Marvin.”1 Suppose Marvin is starving, and is trying to reach a marketplace in order to access the food he needs to survive. If he could get there, someone would willingly sell him food that he values more than the cash in his pocket. Since immigration restrictions sometimes prevent these kinds of mutually beneficial gains – gains that may spell life or death for some – these restrictions seem to be unjust. Huemer recognizes that a thought experiment like this doesn’t settle the issue, but concludes that “unless there is some crucial disanalogy that I have overlooked…immigration restrictions are seriously wrong.”2 There are, in …

Richard Dawkins Celebrated by Activists and Ex-Muslims at London Conference for Free Expression

When ex-Muslim Bonya Ahmed reached out her hand to accept an award in London on Sunday, it was missing her thumb. Islamists hacked it off in Bangladesh, 2015. She had thrown her arms in front of her husband Avijit Roy to shield him from machetes as a mob cut the life out of him for criticising Islam. The attack happened in a crowded public street but the people – including police – stood by and did nothing. The ceremony that recognised this brave woman had to be held in a secret location because London is no longer safe for ex-Muslims, atheists or even secular Muslim believers who dare to say that Islam should not be implemented as a system of laws. Let that sink in: these people had to gather in an undisclosed location.. Not in Bangladesh, but in Britain. The room was filled with free thinkers from around the world: Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan, Iran, Tunisia, France, Poland, Turkey. They came from everywhere to attend the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression. Many …

Some Countries Are Much Richer Than Others. Is That Unjust?

Look at the GDP per capita across different countries and you will see staggering differences. The U.S, Denmark and Singapore all have (nominal) per capita GDPs of between US$50,000 and US$60,000 per annum. On the other hand, Ethiopia, Chad, Nepal, Tajikistan, and Niger all fall below $1,000 per annum. The average resident of Denmark produces more than 50 times as much per year, measured in terms of nominal exchange rates, than the average resident of Ethiopia! When we look around the world and observe the massive wealth disparities between citizens in rich and poor countries, many of us are apt to conclude that the differences must have arisen because of colonialism, imperial warfare, or theft of raw materials like gold or oil. Of course, all of these things have happened at various points in time, and they can arguably explain some variation in the standard of living. Colonialism can be especially destructive of institutions that support peace and commerce. But a recent article by the philosopher Dan Moller casts doubt on the view that injustices …

Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity Part 2: True Believers, Fence Sitters, and Group Conformity

Over a month has passed since the Evergreen State fiasco drew national attention, and since then it appears that the college has only chosen to double down on the insanity. According to one report, in the wake of Professor Bret Weinstein’s appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox, many of his colleagues demanded his resignation for putting their community “at risk.” I will spare all the details, as they can be found all over the internet, but for a quick overview, feel free to go ahead and go over to part 1 for a recap. Instead, this essay attempts to answer one of the biggest questions that emerged from the previous article—namely how could it be possible that so many people, large cohorts of students, and indeed entire academic disciplines be so bamboozled into believing much of postmodernist rhetoric, including that science is a symbol of the patriarchy (you’ve got to click on the link, the title is “Science: A masculine disorder?”) and the concept of health is merely another tool of Western colonial oppression? …

“Kill All Normies” Online Culture Wars and the Rise of the Alt-Right—A Review

A Review of Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt- Right, by Angela Nagle. Zero Books, $9.99 (Kindle edition).   An Irish literary critic and academic as well as a “dirtbag leftist” with bylines in Jacobin, The Baffler, and Current Affairs, Angela Nagle documents here the background and breakthroughs of the online politics which helped shape the 2016 election. It is an important topic and a fascinating one, and Nagle demonstrates the requisite impartiality: her conclusions do end up fitting her new-old-left politics nicely (as demonstrated by approving book-jacket quotes from Connor Kilpatrick of Jacobin and Amber A’Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House and Current Affairs), but they’ve garnered approval across the political spectrum, from Nagle’s neck of the woods all the way to the stodgy Never-Trumpism of the National Review. Unfortunately, one gets the impression that Nagle and Zero were both quite aware of how urgently this analysis was needed; the product seems rushed, even unfinished. Kill All Normies is merely a good start in need of deeper research, …

Leftist Hypocrisy about Islam: Setting the Stage for Violence

Imagine: a major, highly trafficked West-Coast American web site publishes a lengthy, glowing account of how an educated, successful professional woman converts to fundamentalist Christianity, despite the objections of her family, to say nothing of the faith’s foundational texts, which reek of misogyny and homophobia, condone slavery, and preach an End Times worldview antithetical to the approach we so urgently need to adopt to safeguard the future of life on our fragile planet. Your reaction?  Your first thoughts might well be, how has this happened? What motivated the writer?  Is there some ulterior explanation?  Has, say, the editor-in-chief gone on drugs?  “Found Jesus?”  Or just lost his or her mind?  The progress we as a society have made in recent decades—in women’s rights and in gay rights, for starters—largely stems from our overcoming religion-based prejudices. Liberal folks take that as a given. Wait, no, not all liberal folks!  Some of them are inclined to make a de facto condescending, hypocritical, insidious exception to the Left’s established line of thinking about faith—but only when it concerns …