Top 10 uncogitated posts of 2013, part I


Photo credit: Puzzler4879 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Hi cogitators!  Somehow it came upon me, now that we’re at the end of the year, to post a list of of the top 10 posts that did not make the cutting floor in 2013.  Since I have written a bit on each item, I will split the list into two posts, counting down to the most remarkable posts of the year.  I will supply the top five on the flip side of Christmas.  Without further ado.

10. Sam Harris’ s Free Will.  A Facebook conversation about the implications of a Libet-type neurological study prompted me to Sam Harris’ brief 2012 monograph Free Will.  He attempts to bury the concept by inviting us to imagine a hypothetically completed science.  That is, we are meant to indulge a  science of the gaps.

As for the root of cognition, Mr. Harris thinks free will libertarians are hopelessly lost in the blizzard that is the unending chain of causality.  He doesn’t consider that he is equally adrift as a determinist.  Neither does he engage much philosophy beyond Daniel Dennett.   Hardly a comprehensive take on the question.

I think Harris tries to be clever in his final pages with a “meta” discourse about what he is thinking and writing on the page as he is writing it.  But the worst offense is his reverse psychological claim that people who earn their income and wealth are not actually responsible for the acquisition, and are therefore not entitled to it.

I’ve mentioned Ayn Rand’s statist scientist character, Floyd Ferris before.  Dr. Ferris authors a book titled, Why do you think you think?  It’s fitting that his name rhymes with Harris.  If you want to see the utter inadequacy of this popular pseudo-yourself, the book is short enough to dispatch in a couple of hours.

9.  Steven Pinker’s scientism apologia.  Social scientist Steven Pinker sparked quite a conversation in August with his New Republic article extolling the virtues of scientism.  I think it caused some added hand wringing among the humanities community, even though it was purported to dispel such concerns.  Good thing scientism is a self-refuting theory of knowledge; that is, the scientific method is principally incapable of inducting itself into its own body of knowledge.

8.  Paul Ryan, Scott Walker ascend in GOP 2016 field.  After Paul Ryan and Patty Murray coauthored a politically viable if universally reviled compromise federal budget, Mr. Ryan’s 2016 presidential prospects shot up.  As I often learn first from Michael Medved, an Iowa poll put him far atop the GOP field.  Of course the usual disclaimer follows, that the next presidential election is very far away, and much can change by then.  Further, Ryan has signaled no clear intention to run.

Ryan’s boost, and recent attention on Scott Walker are welcome at a time when many commentators are still spewing a lot of hot air about how “mainstream” or “establishment” Republicans are not true conservatives, whatever that means.  Last I checked, winning elections so as to govern the country was still a part of the conservative platform.

7.  Presidential approval, Democrats’ 2014 chances tank. Nothing has been as remarkable in politics this year as the stark turn around in public opinion that occurred in October.  One day, there was that silly poll about how Congressional Republicans were as popular as toe fungus.  Then, the President and Congressional Democrats tanked on the Obamacare roll-out, and more significantly, the “if you like it, you can keep it” prevarication.  Clearly, government shut downs are not popular.  And neither is that disaster extraordinaire, Obamacare.

6. Millennials care less for culture war; culture war still cares for them.  Progressive evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans used her highly visible CNN Belief Blog to disown the culture wars on behalf of millennials.  If the writing at Relevant magazine bears any truth, the rhetorical volleys between millennials and their elders have been exchanged for quite some time.  I know that in the public sphere, the back and forth gets old, especially when each camp is just indulging its own echo chamber.

Hat tip to Dr. Craig for bringing his own frank critique of Evan’s piece to bear in his current events podcast.  I don’t think the culture warrior label is to be shunned.  Indeed, there’s a real war going on.  As Medved notes, it’s not cultural conservatives who are the instigators, but cultural progressives, who are continually extending newly invented rights, even into grade school bathrooms for crying out loud.

That rounds out the second tier of 2013’s counterfactual cogitations.  Now enjoy the holiday, with thanks and reverence for the God who subjected himself as an infant to humanity’s mercies so that in time he could extend to us the gift of his mercy.  Merry Christmas!

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About cogitating duck
I study Christian apologetics at Biola University and occasionally write on ethics, truth, science and politics.

5 Responses to Top 10 uncogitated posts of 2013, part I

  1. Love your comments on Ryan. Great post idea!

    • Thanks Mr. H! I didn’t link to it originally, but there was a dreadful editorial on Breitbart, ilustrated by sleeping or dead elephants, lying pancake flat as if felled. The headline had to do with the GOP’s loss of conservative trust over the Ryan-Murray agreement. Really, is continued gridlock better than moving to get things done? Their job is not to unfailingly posture and die on some hill. Let Ryan win more accolades by simply focusing on doing the right thing.

      • I’ve heard several similar comments. The reason Ryan-Murray passed so easily, supposedly, was because 1) People trusted Ryan and 2) Obama wasn’t involved.

        I think Ryan’s quite an asset – if he gets behind something, people trust him. Let’s hope that continues.

  2. jungleboy says:

    Thanks for Cogitating the previously Uncogitated. Number 6 jumped out at me, especially the way it contrasts with Number 7. Paul Ryan is being criticized for choosing carefully which battles to fight, rather than fighting for every ridgeline, like some conservatives. On the other hand, I can’t find anything in Rachel Mead Evans’ article that she would be willing to stand for. She wants no part in the culture wars and takes it farther: she seems to stand for nothing Christians have historically stood for, except for an annoyance with pandering, and a vague commitment to niceness, compassion, and Social Justice.
    If Evans could not stand for traditional Christian moral issues, I wish she would at least use her position to fight for the historic Gospel- of God born as a man, living a sinless life, and redeeming us from our sins through his vicarious death on the cross. This gospel is instead subsumed in a sort of vaguely moralistic Social Gospel. The message to care for the poor, to show compassion, and kindness to others, is a vitally important one. But if it is not intimately linked to the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness for sins leading to spiritual regeneration and eternal life; then it results in better material conditions on earth for people who will spend eternity separated from God. The fight for the Gospel is one worth having (with words, not guns). It is a struggle that our Nigerian, Chinese, and Egyptian brothers and sisters are presently dying for.

    P.S. Jonah Goldberg has a great article about aggressors in the culture wars at NRO: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/365498/birth-control-battle-jonah-goldberg . Why is it that Jewish writers like Medved and Goldberg seem to have a clearer understanding of Evangelical involvement in the culture wars than evangelicals themselves do?

    • Regarding Jewish conservatives, they have a valuable insight because Judaism is steeped in the impulse to remember the past, and to preserve tradition. Think of the ebenezers God commands to be erected after the Israelites cross the Jordan in Joshua. And in the modern era, Jews have had to work hard to preserve their sense of identity as persecuted minorities in Europe and elsewhere.

      Granted, most Jews are much more secular and liberal than Medeved, Dennis Prager, or anyone who writes for Commentary magazine. But in this sense they are like a remnant. And so are evangelicals who choose the Gospel over acceptance from the culture.

      I want to be careful on how I would characterize Evans. As a confessing Christian, she is committed to the common good, and to taking the Bible seriously. From college, I have a lot of progressive Christian friends that I wish to challenge on their core assumptions about oppression and opportunity.

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