19 April, 2017

Personal Moral Opinions are Red Herring Arguments

Has anyone ever had the following discussion before? A Christian asserts that "if God does not declare something to be wrong then it isn't wrong" only for an atheist to assert that the existence of an all-powerful deity isn't necessary to think that thing to be evil. How? If God is not the source of all morality, then who is? Is it the mere opinion of the atheist himself? Is it government? Is it culture? None of these make any sense when examined closely.

When someone makes this assertion — namely, the assertion that someone can believe that an evil thing is evil without needing God to tell them — then they are changing the subject. The original subject was the existence of good and evil generally. The subject that the atheist changed it to was his or her personal beliefs about morality. Any change in the subject, no matter how subtle, in attempt to justify one's position is called the red herring fallacy. Oh, wait, is it just evil for you but may be good for someone else? Then why are you judging it?

There is a simple way to refute the assertion that all morality is opinion and belief. Simply ask the question "Is that morality a mere opinion or belief?" It's a moral claim, is it not? Then how can that morality be absolute without contradicting the very standard that it is supposed to convey? Moral relativism is a self-refuting idea. It, like truth denial ("is that true?"), denial of the existence of absolutes generally ("is that an absolute?"), and knowledge denial ("do you know that you cannot know anything?"), is a violation of the law of noncontradiction and, thus, false on its own merits.

Appeals to law to determine morality don't fare much better than the above. If government were the source of morality, then every conflict would just be one government's moral opinion against another's. Would the Nuremberg Trials have had any valid basis to them if this were the case? No, and in fact the people making the arguments at the Nuremberg Trials had to admit this in order to give the guilty parties any sense of conviction. When it comes to morality, societal relativism — appeals to society as the source of all morality; society depends on government to keep it from collapsing — is a bad basis.

Cultural relativism — the idea that morality is a cultural construct — is just like the above. Those atrocities committed by ISIS — are they evil? I certainly believe that they are, and so do most atheists that I have debated. Unlike an atheist, however, I know where to properly ground that belief. Islamic culture is a culture, that much is known, and the rationale that ISIS uses is cultural rationale. In order to declare beheading to be wrong, one must go beyond cultural relativism as well in order to judge it as such, because cultural relativism definitely doesn't give an atheist grounds to tell a Muslim that beheading is wrong.

So, moral relativism — fail; societal relativism — fail; cultural relativism — fail. Relativism in general is always inherently self-contradictory, yet the only possible explanation for morality if there is no God is some flavor of relativism. Either relativism is true or God exists. Relativism is self-refuting and therefore false; thus, the only option is that God must exist.

10 April, 2017

Dear President Trump: Reagan Doctrine, Not Neocon Hawkery

On Friday, April 6, 2017 — 100 years to the day after racist Democrat and Klanophile President Woodrow Wilson signed a congressional declaration of war that formally entered the United States into World War I — President Donald Trump, acting on emotions stirred in him by a heinous Sarin gas attack on a Syrian civilian target, bombarded the Shayrat Air Force Base with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. In order to make sense of this, one must ask four very important questions: What is Sarin? Why would Assad use it on his own people? What could Assad have done differently? What subsequent actions could Trump take that will not piss people off in that volatile region?

Being a nerve agent, Sarin acts by causing tetany: it's an acetylcholesterase inhibitor. It causes a buildup of acetylcholine so rapid that the victim immediately loses control of all of his or her muscles, which uncontrollably tense up, ultimately leading to seizures and eventually death by suffocation as a result of inability to control the diapharagm. There are other acetylcholesterase inhibitors that are much less deadly — caffeine and tetrahydrocannabinol, for example — but the reason why those aren't toxic is because they are metabolized much more quickly and don't bioaccumulate (what should be noted about caffeine, however, is that insects don't have the ability that we do to break it down; thus, it makes a great insecticide). Substances like Sarin, Soman, and VX are not only very biochemically stable in the human body, but can also inhibit large numbers of acetylcholesterase molecules at the same time, which makes them very dangerous.

Why would Assad want to use such a gruesome substance on Idlib Governorate? Because Idlib Governorate is ruled by Tahrir al-Sham, formerly al-Nusra Front, which is basically the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate. TaS isn't as bad as ISIS by any means — ever since Bin Laden's death, al-Qaeda has become a much more moderate organization, which after all is why ISIS decided to break away from it: the more radical al-Qaeda members wanted to stay radical and were shunned by al-Qaeda as a result — but it is still a very dangerous jihadi organization regardless. It is this organization that allegedly had a massive cell in Idlib with plans to carry out an attack on the Syrian government. The Russian explanation — that Assad dropped a conventional bomb directly onto a chemical storehouse — would make sense if it were not for one thing: Sarin's decomposition point. In addition to being toxic, Sarin is also flammable — containing mostly phosphorus and hydrocarbons, it can be ignited relatively easily, especially by a conventional bomb, and the combustion products of Sarin are harmless.

Using a chemical strike instead of a conventional strike on this terror cell, however, was the mistake that Assad made. Chemical weapons, unlike conventional weapons, kill not only their targets, they spread to areas far removed from their targets. Cause an explosion and destroy a terror cell, and, sure, said explosion would cause damage and kill those in the terror cell, but the death and destruction would be limited to that cell. Gas that terror cell with something like Sarin, and that gas is going to spread. Wherever it spreads, poison gas kills, and winds can easily spread Sarin from an intended target to an area packed with innocent civilians, resulting in widespread collateral death. Had Assad decided to just drop a conventional explosive (or incendiary) bomb on al-Nusra, we wouldn't have this problem.

Trump's reaction, although it was seen as an overreaction by some, was not without justification. The entire airfield from which the chemical weapons were allegedly launched was utterly destroyed. Notice, however, that his reaction involved missiles, not boots on the ground — Bush's reaction to Saddam Hussein Sarin-gassing Kurdish rebels was to employ ground troops, whereas Trump basically did to Assad what Reagan did to Gaddafi in 1981. The number of casualties was very low compared to the number caused by Assad's chemical attack, and it was only intended to hit that one base. Had that strike been intended to remove Assad from power, it would have been directed at Damascus, but that was not the case. It was direct at Shayrat and only Shayrat.

Only time will tell what this leads to. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's remarks today, Monday, April 10, 2017 about ISIS, not Assad, being Public Enemy #1 are indeed encouraging, however, and to say that the attack infuriated some of Trump's supporters is indeed a valid assertion. Regime change, however, is NOT a good idea either, because Assad is the only thing standing between ISIS and churches. If there is anyone who needs direct support, it's this: After ISIS is defeated ― and again, ISIS must go before we even think about what to do with the lesser evil, who is still evil regardless ― we need a spillover of the Iraqi Christian Babylon Brigades into Syria. We need to encourage Maronites in Lebanon to start a similar militia, then tell the Christian organizations to unite, surround Damascus, and, finally, put a new dictator from a Christian minority into absolute power. Because Vladimir Putin has been practicing Russian Orthodox since the 1990s, the odds of him agreeing to this solution are indeed high. In the short term, however, between Assad, ISIS, al-Nusra, and the jihadi-corrupted FSA, Assad is clearly the lesser of the four evils.