Silence is not evidence of approval

July 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

In Catholic circles, I seem to find this argument or cognates of it everywhere:

“Lots of good people are arguing that X.  X pertains to a really important issue, and the Pope hasn’t condemned X.  Surely X would have been condemned by the Church if it were wrong, because it is so important.   So the fact that the Church hasn’t condemned X supports the argument that X.”

Elizabeth Anscombe has pointed out that “The argument from the silence of the Holy See has itself been condemned by the Holy See”.  (Warning: evil PDF format).  Some people might not want to take Anscombe’s word for it though.

Anscombe’s citation from Denzinger on this is number 1127. It is from a list of “Various Errors on Moral Matters,” condemned in a decree of Sept 24, 1665 by Pope Alexander VII. In my version of Denzinger it is on page 321, and reads in English translation as follows (this is a condemned proposition):

“If a book be published by a younger or modern person, its opinion should be considered as probable, since it has not been rejected by the Holy See as improbable.”

I don’t know what word in what language in the 1665 manuscript was translated as “book”, but I think it would be reasonable to assume that it refers to published opinion.   So the fact that there is lots of published opinion (blog posts, op eds, or general bloviating anywhere) that X and the Holy See has not condemned X, does not provide evidence for the truth of X.

Taking the silence of the Holy See as evidence of approval isn’t just a fallacy.  It is a heresy.

Global Warming and the Hiroshima Bombing

July 27, 2012 § 39 Comments

I find it more than a little ironic that the sort of people who quite rightly ridicule the ridiculous attempts to model complex reality in the form of anthropocentric “climate change” are often the very same people who are so utterly confident of their own little models of possible alternate realities during World War II.  Everyone seems to find himself in the epistemic position of tinpot omniscient god over the epistemic domain of his own counterfactual “war game”, whether it is predicting the outcomes of an Allied blockade of Japan or rising sea levels overtaking California.

There is a reason why as Catholics we are to develop the virtues, habits of doing the right thing here and now, of avoiding concretely evil acts and doing concretely good acts, rather than fooling ourselves into thinking we can know and control all of the consequences.  As Veritatis Splendour puts it:

[E]veryone recognizes the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of evaluating all the good and evil consequences and effects — defined as pre-moral — of one’s own acts: an exhaustive rational calculation is not possible. How then can one go about establishing proportions which depend on a measuring, the criteria of which remain obscure? How could an absolute obligation be justified on the basis of such debatable calculations?

I think the Pope is far too optimistic with that initial “Everyone”.

(Note: prompted by discussions here, here, and here.)

Waterboarding Series Archive

July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve tidied up the broken links in my waterboarding series.  This was a first priority, because many folks contributed to it and some wanted to continue to use it as a reference.    If you notice any problems let me know.

Archive is up

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Several folks have asked me to put up an archive from my old blog. I deleted the Blogger account because of a change in the terms of service along with the requirement that I either “upgrade” or lose control of the blog.  I didn’t have time to do a lot of due diligence, so I just deleted the blog at the time.  All of the old posts and comments are here, although unfortunately some of the links inside the posts are broken.  I’ll try to fix some of the obvious ones.

Where Am I?

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