Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

Martin Davie–An Anglican understanding of inclusion

It looks as though the Church of England now has a new buzz word. In the past few years the buzz word has been ‘good disagreement’ but now it appears to be ‘radical inclusion.’ In his speech at the conclusion of the debate in General Synod on the House of Bishops report on Marriage and Sexual Relationships after the Shared Conversations the Archbishop of Canterbury talked about the need for ‘a radical new Christian inclusion.’ The same phrase was then used by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their letter issued in response to the debate.

One of the problems with the term ‘good disagreement’ was that its meaning was never formally defined and so it was difficult to be sure what it actually meant. In a similar fashion the Archbishops have not given a clear definition of ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’ either, but in their letter they appear to link it to a way forward for the Church of England that is ‘about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.’

There are three problems with this view of the meaning of radical inclusion. First, it mentions the creation of human beings in the image of God, but passes over the fact that human beings are also fallen. Secondly, it talks about our belonging to Christ, but is silent about what this belonging involves. Thirdly, by linking both under the rubric of our ‘common humanity,’ it suggests that all human beings without exception are not only created by God, but also belong to Christ (which is not true).

In the remainder of this blog I shall set out an alternative Anglican account of inclusion that avoids these problems, drawing on the teaching of the Thirty Nine Articles and other authorised Anglican sources, as well as the work of Martin Luther.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(MIT Tech. Review) The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI–No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do

…The car didn’t follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it.

Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it’s also a bit unsettling, since it isn’t completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle’s sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you’d expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected—crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can’t ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did.

The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car’s underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries.

But this won’t happen—or shouldn’t happen—unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur—and it’s inevitable they will.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Christian Post) Student Sues School District for Allowing Girl to Undress in Boys’ Locker Room

A lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania’s Eastern District…[in late mid-May] against the Boyertown Area School District by a student referred to by the pseudonym “Joel Doe” on the grounds that the district intentionally violated his right to bodily privacy.

The lawsuit explains that Doe was changing in the gym locker room last October before his physical education class when he saw a female student wearing a bra also in the locker room. The school district’s policy allows for the transgender student, who recently began the process of transitioning from female to male, to access locker rooms and bathrooms consistent with the student’s chosen gender identity.

“This policy needlessly subjects Doe to the risk that his partially unclothed body will be exposed to the opposite sex and that he will be exposed to a partially clothed person of the opposite-sex, as actually occurred when the policy was first implemented,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that the school district “secretly authorized a student of the opposite sex to have unrestricted access to enter and use boys’ private facilities” without informing other students and parents.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality

(CT) Dorcas Chneg-Tozun: Why Corruption Is an Urgent Justice Issue

In the case of the 126 apartments that collapsed in Nairobi, the owner did not have an occupancy permit for the building. It had been built quickly and, according to neighbors, “shoddily.” The public outcry that followed the collapse led Kenyan authorities to audit multi-level buildings around the city; a total of 258 were identified as structurally at risk, the vast majority of them in poor neighborhoods.

Even in the secure, high-income neighborhood where my family lived, the apartment building that was being built across the street had been condemned by local authorities for being unsafe. Each time a condemnation was painted onto the building site in red paint, it was covered up the next day while construction continued.

Corruption like this compromises public safety, erodes the law, and provides impunity for immoral, destructive acts. It keeps accountability at bay, providing cover for evil of all kinds. As written in Proverbs 4:19, “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”

Corruption also keeps the poor as poor and the powerless as powerless.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization

(LICC) The Benefits of the Unseen

Bastiat’s ‘unseen’ identifies the valuable things that don’t happen at all because of an unwise policy – like the jobs that never get created because of a wasteful expenditure, or the things that never get made because the material resources are being consumed elsewhere, or the sale that never happens because of a regulation.

St. Paul had something to say about a Christian rendering of the ‘seen’ and ‘unseen’ too. He insists we don’t fix ourselves on the temporary ‘seen’ things, but instead fix ourselves on the ‘unseen’ things – promising us that the unseen destination is where we’ll enjoy eternal glory.

Perhaps the equivalent to Bastiat’s political observation is that when it comes to knowing Christ there is an awful lot going on in the ‘seen’ realm of the world that easily distracts us from the more valuable qualities of the ‘unseen’ realm.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ABC Aus.) Stanley Hauerwas–The Only Road to Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nonviolence

Of all the silly claims sometimes made by atheists these days, surely one of the silliest is that Christianity was in no way determinative of the politics of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Just take Christopher Hitchens’s claim that, on account of King’s commitment to nonviolence, in “no real as opposed to nominal sense … was he a Christian.” Wherever King got his understanding of nonviolence from, argues Hitchens, it simply could not have been from Christianity because Christianity is inherently violent.

The best response that I can give to such claims is turn to that wonderfully candid account of the diverse influences that shaped King’s understanding of nonviolence in his Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and then demonstrate how his Christianity gave these influences in peculiarly Christ-like form.

King reports as a college student he was moved when he read Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience. Thoreau convinced him that anyone who passively accepts evil, even oppressed people who cooperate with an evil system, are as implicated with evil as those who perpetrate it. Accordingly, if we are to be true to our conscience and true to God, a righteous man has no alternative but to refuse to cooperate with an evil system.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

A Truly Terrifying Piece from the [London] Times about Putin Critic Bill Browder-The West can’t imagine how evil they are in the Kremlin regime

The extraordinary story of Mr Browder’s transformation from hard-nosed capitalist to human rights campaigner, based on his 2015 book Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s Number 1 Enemy is being turned into a film. “There are a couple of things that are so crazy in the story that the Hollywood screenwriter says, ‘No one will believe it. They will just think it’s not true’,” he says. Yet the plot is still unfolding. “The book doesn’t scratch the surface — it finishes in 2012 and crazy stuff has happened since then: assassinations and cover-ups and western enablers.”

The grandson of Earl Browder, the former leader of the American Communist Party, he became a capitalist as an “act of rebellion” and spent more than a decade living as a businessman in Moscow, running Russia’s most successful investment fund. He was deported in 2006 after he started to expose corruption, and was blacklisted by the Russian government as a “threat to national security”. Since then he has been convicted in absentia on what he calls trumped-up charges and sentenced to nine years in jail.

The death in 2009 of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who had uncovered details of a $230 million tax fraud, made him only more determined to get to the truth. “They arrested him, tortured him viciously for 358 days and they killed him at the age of 37,” he says. “To this day it’s a burden I carry on my shoulders that a young man died in my service to protect me. It’s my duty to get justice for him and make sure that the people who killed him don’t get away with it.”

Others who have worked with Mr Browder to expose the links between the Russian mafia and the Kremlin have also mysteriously died or been injured. Only last week Nikolai Gorokhov, a Russian lawyer who is representing the Magnitsky family, fell from the fourth floor of an apartment building near Moscow in suspicious circumstances. “He had come across dramatic and important evidence of collusion and corruption and cover up of the murder by the Russian law enforcement authorities,” Mr Browder says. “He was going to go to court the day after he plunged four storeys. I believe that he was pushed off the balcony.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia

(Globe+Mail) Michael Devillaer: Pot legalization: Canada doesn’t need another profit-seeking drug industry

First, the research is clear that the great majority of current drug-related harm and economic costs arise not from the misuse of illegal drugs but from legal, regulated drugs: tobacco and alcohol. The extent of harm and costs is enormous, and continues year after year.

The epidemic of opioid deaths that has been sweeping across North America had its genesis in the conduct of the legal pharmaceutical drug industry.

Second, we have a history of pan-industry failure to balance revenue interests with the protection of public health. Industries protect their revenue by disregarding existing regulations and opposing the introduction of new evidence-based reforms. They also have a history of breaking the law to maximize revenues.

Third, government has been reluctant to adopt evidence-based regulatory reforms, and the effectiveness of existing regulations is often compromised by permissive enforcement. Rarely-assessed penalties are typically insufficient to discourage recidivism. In sum, drug industry regulation is not simply less than perfect, it is seriously less than adequate, and contributes to the perennial high levels of harm from drug products.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

More on Silicon Valley Transhumanism–‘Your animal life is over. Machine life has begun.’

Here’s what happens. You are lying on an operating table, fully conscious, but rendered otherwise insensible, otherwise incapable of movement. A humanoid machine appears at your side, bowing to its task with ceremonial formality. With a brisk sequence of motions, the machine removes a large panel of bone from the rear of your cranium, before carefully laying its fingers, fine and delicate as a spider’s legs, on the viscid surface of your brain. You may be experiencing some misgivings about the procedure at this point. Put them aside, if you can.

You’re in pretty deep with this thing; there’s no backing out now. With their high-resolution microscopic receptors, the machine fingers scan the chemical structure of your brain, transferring the data to a powerful computer on the other side of the operating table. They are sinking further into your cerebral matter now, these fingers, scanning deeper and deeper layers of neurons, building a three-dimensional map of their endlessly complex interrelations, all the while creating code to model this activity in the computer’s hardware. As the work proceeds, another mechanical appendage – less delicate, less careful – removes the scanned material to a biological waste container for later disposal. This is material you will no longer be needing.

At some point, you become aware that you are no longer present in your body. You observe – with sadness, or horror, or detached curiosity – the diminishing spasms of that body on the operating table, the last useless convulsions of a discontinued meat.

The animal life is over now. The machine life has begun.

Read it all from the Guardian.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Wired) Silicon Valley Would Rather Cure Death Than Make Life Worth Living

Silicon Valley sells the world the idea that it wants to make things better. It exists, the rhetoric goes, not just to make products but to make progress. If that’s the case, it’s focusing on the wrong things.

“It’s distressing sometimes to see the amount of effort—not just human effort but also the rhetoric—to develop stuff that turns out to be apps or toys for rich people,” says SUNY Polytechnic Institute historian Andrew Russell, an outspoken critic of the cult of innovation . “Saying ‘We’re innovating and that is by default making a world a better place,’ and then patting yourself on the back and getting in your Tesla and driving to your seaside ranch is missing the point.”

The harm here isn’t just that Silicon Valley is trying to solve the wrong problem, which wastes brainpower and resources. The focus on innovating away death sets a cultural tone that directs attention from answers that might actually help, like infrastructure or education. Russell says kids deciding what they want to be when they grow up aspire to become like the titans in Silicon Valley—risking that they’ll grow up wanting to solve the wrong problems.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Carol Birch–Reject the cruelty of a me-first age that renders lonely people invisible

A staple of self-help dogma is that to protect ourselves from negativity we should give up our more needy friends. Surround yourself with positive people, we are told. Back off from the emotional drains, the sad saps; they really must not be allowed to bring you down. And so those most in need of a friend are abandoned.

Jo Cox, the MP murdered last year, initiated a cross-party campaign to tackle the problem of loneliness. Now her family and some MPs are taking this forward. Research for the Jo Cox Commission published last week shows that almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely. Quite apart from the huge strain this puts on the health service (chronic loneliness is as bad for the health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day), the weight of untold sadness is enormous. As well as highlighting how the government’s massive underfunding of social care causes older people’s isolation, the campaign encourages people to get involved with “befriending” services: to knock on a door, pick up a phone, join the forgotten army of volunteers and good neighbours.

This is badly needed. It’s important, however, not to underestimate the scale of the problem. “Happy to chat” badges will not work for an unreachable demographic: the painfully shy, the stiff, the awkward, the unprepossessing, the unhappy young. Loneliness is common among students, the ones who don’t click with anyone during freshers’ week and thereafter walk alone. They are the naturally introverted, uprooted, changing, alienated. People sleepwalk into loneliness on social media, deluded into thinking the size of their following means they’re connected.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(WSJ) Case Thorp–A Seminary Snubs a Presbyterian Pastor

Today’s identity theology merely replaces northern European, male, cisgendered theology with another set of adjectives seeking to exercise power over others in the name of justice. But this is a false justice, because it lacks the divine righteousness that gives meaning to all lesser forms of justice. Call it retribution theology, a form of tribalism at its worst.

Christians need a theology that prophetically denounces sexism, homophobia and racism—in the past and in the present—without the divisiveness inherent to identity theology. This sort of inclusive theology is central to Mr. Keller’s preaching and ministry, which is done in one of the most diverse places in the world, New York City. Theologians like Mr. Keller focus on God, scripture, loving others, and missionary work. They’re not very concerned about their own navels.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” Martin Luther King said in 1964. Is Mr. Keller not our brother? I am sad that my alma mater chose to undermine King’s vision and succumb to the demands of identity theology. When Mr. Keller stands before the seminary community next month, he will not deliver an acceptance lecture for the Kuyper Prize. Instead, he’ll demonstrate grace and magnanimity, for Mr. Keller’s unity with his detractors will truly be in Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality

South Carolina lawmakers considering allowing teens to get protection orders tied to dating violence

Lawmakers are considering allowing teenagers as young as 16 to get court orders of protection — without parental consent — when they are victims of domestic violence.

A proposed bill would also require teen-dating violence education in public schools and would increase penalties for those convicted of associated crimes.

Students from Ridge View High School in Columbia recently testified before a Statehouse panel supporting legislation that better defines teen dating violence.

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, State Government, Teens / Youth, Violence

More young men are dropping out of job market to spend time in an alternate reality..the beginning of something big?

David Mullings was always a self-starter. Born in Jamaica, he moved to Florida to go to university, and founded his first company – a digital media firm that helped Caribbean content find a wider audience – before finishing business school at the University of Miami. In 2011 he opened a private-equity firm with his brother. In 2013 the two made their first big deal, acquiring an 80% stake in a Tampa-based producer of mobile apps. A year later it blew up in their faces, sinking their firm and their hopes.

Mullings struggled to recover from the blow. The odd consulting gig provided a distraction and some income. Yet depression set in as he found himself asking whether he had anything useful to contribute to the wider world.

Then Destiny called.

Read it all from the 1843 magazine.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Science & Technology, Young Adults

Time Magazine Cover Story–Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’: The Changing Meaning of Gender and Sexuality


When it comes to the array of lesser-known identities young people are embracing, the big question is whether this is just kids experimenting or whether it reflects true variance that has long existed but went unexpressed in past generations. The answer may be both.

In the GLAAD survey, conducted by Harris Poll, more than three-quarters of the roughly 2,000 respondents said it feels like “more people than ever” have “nontraditional” sexual orientations and gender identities. But older Americans were more likely than younger people to say they were uncomfortable with those who “do not conform to traditional ideas about gender” and that LGBTQ people who “blend in” deserve more respect.

Kyle Scotten, a 21-year-old from Texas who identifies as a gay man, says he did not come out until he went to college in part because attitudes were different even a few years ago. “I remember hearing the word gay being thrown around a lot when I was kid,” he says, “and it wasn’t really used as an endearing term.” Like many of his peers, Scotten has come to see sexuality as a spectrum: “I totally believe there are a 100, 200 shades in the middle.” And he tends to have an open mind even when he doesn’t understand the nuances his peers are talking about when it comes to their gender. “It makes sense to them, in their own head,” he says, “and that’s enough.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Sexuality