Monday, December 24, 2007

A Great Display of Logical Fallacies: Fallacious Claims by a Writer

Note: This is a reply to a Straits Times Forum letter. I am surprised this letter was even published by the Straits Times, and right before Christmas.

Dear Mr Menon,

I neither have the time nor feel it necessary for me to write a formal letter to the Straits Times to rebut your letter. Nevertheless, I deem it appropriate to furnish my readers with some entertainment for this Christmas by perusing the logical fallacies in your letter. For one who likes to point out the logical fallacies of others, allow me to return that favor.

Kindly note that I am not acquainted with Mr Roland Chia, the writer of the letter you are criticizing.

I will hereby reply you point by point.

1. “WHILE Mr Roland Chia certainly writes with conviction of the greatness of Christianity and the insignificance of the secular movement, 'Christianity's forgotten impact' (ST, Dec 15), I am surprised at some of the assertions he has dared to make in a national newspaper where these claims are open to public scrutiny.”

You are committing the fallacy of poisoning the well, Sir. Could it be that you are surprised simply because of your inadequate research and measly knowledge of the issue at hand?

2. “The first of these claims is that the declaration of human rights has some grounding in Christian teaching. Let us not forget that the Bible never specifically condemns the practice of slavery, but rather gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1).”

You have plagiarized your information from this website article (see 2nd paragraph), and almost word for word.

Unfortunately, you have revealed your prejudice with your skewed quotation of the original resource:

The original writer wrote, “The Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of slavery. It gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1), but does not outlaw the practice altogether. Many see this as the Bible condoning all forms of slavery. What many people fail to understand is that slavery in Biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world. The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was more of a social status. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their family. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their master.”

3. “Mr Chia then commits a classic fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, by insinuating that as individual freedoms flourished where Christian societies flourished, ideas of freedom have its basis in Christianity. This is obviously pure assertion and, if anything, the nature of dogmatism in the Christian faith advocates intolerance towards other faiths.”

You have committed the fallacy of equivocation in your failure to define the word "intolerance."

The allegation of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" is in itself a bare assertion. In the context of your article, you have not shown via research that secularism, and not Judeo-Christianity, is the contributing source to such "ideas of freedom."

If "intolerance" means "salvific nonacceptance" of other faiths, the same can be said of most other religions e.g. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism. Note that "salvation" has a different meaning within the context of other faiths i.e. in Buddhism, failure to follow the precepts of Buddha would mean interminable torment via reincarnation and karmic retribution.

The nature of dogmatism in Secularism - or perhaps more precisely, secular humanism - advocates intolerance towards the dogmatic teachings of Judeo-Christian faiths, and for that matter, any dogmatic religious faith. Aren't you, Sir, equally intolerant towards Christianity, and rabidly dogmatic concerning your own assertion that secularism is a better worldview?

4. “I suppose it is up to me to remind Mr Chia that the American Bill of Rights is far from a Christian doctrine and that the founding fathers were mostly deists, not Christians.”

But you cannot deny that the holy book they used was the Bible, dear Sir. Contrary to your statements, it seems that the thought-process of the Founding Fathers is strongly rooted in the concept of a Creator God who endowed His creation with “unalienable rights.”

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” - Patrick Henry

“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” - U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Jay

“Let us look forward to the time when we can take the flag of our country and nail it below the Cross, and there let it wave as it waved in the olden times, and let us gather around it an inscribed for our motto: "Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever," and exclaim, Christ first, our country next!” - Andrew Johnson

Perhaps I can refer you to this book by Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America.

We can be sure that the worldviews of the Atheist, Agnostic, and Secular Humanist have no place in the history of the American Founding Fathers.

5. “This includes the revolutionary Thomas Jefferson who wrote his own bible which refused to portray Jesus as the son of god, and excluded all supernatural elements from the text: An idea fundamental to Christianity. So was Jefferson borrowing from Christianity then? Maybe he was, but the fundamental point is, he is making a shift away from religion towards secularism; Away from mystical voodoo and dogma towards rationality and scientism.”

By equating "religion" with "mystical voodoo and dogma," you commit the classic fallacies of using loaded words and begging the question. Your allegations of mysticism and dogma have not been proven, and you therefore failed to fulfill the burden of proof.

The fundamental point is, "Thomas Jefferson believed that the ethical system of Jesus was the finest the world has ever seen." Curiously, the "shift" is away from secularism towards the teachings of Jesus Christ, if any.

Once again, allow me to recommended this book for your future research: The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson, by Charles B. Sanford

Your own words are perhaps the best rebuttal to your point here. If the founding fathers were mostly deists, aren't you telling us that their concept of God has probably influenced their thinking, and not Secularism per se?

6. “The next claim which Mr Chia tries to assert would be that the right to practise religious freedom is something inherently Christian because one Church father had said so in the 2nd century. Interesting claim indeed to make as the Church position, till today, asserts that all practices of other faiths are hell-bound.”

You have committed the fallacies of amphiboly and weak analogy, dear Sir. You have confounded matters of civil rights with doctrinal issues.

What has religious freedom to do with a particular religious organization's conception of eternal punishment? Will its doctrinal understanding of hell affect your civil liberty to practice a particular religion?

7. “I would love to understand just what thought process allows Father Tertullian to preach both freedom to religion and eternal damnation simultaneously.”

It is, I’m afraid, the same thought process that allows a secularist to preach freedom to man and the intolerance of Abrahamic religions simultaneously.

8. “By contrast, a religion far more embracing and far less intolerant would be Hinduism, which promises no such damnation to those who practice of other faiths. But even that is not universally true across Hinduism.”

If “that is not universally true across Hinduism,” why then did you write that Hinduism “promises no such damnation to those who practice of other faiths?”

Honestly, is this a fallacy of fake precision or the fallacy of prevarication? You tell me.

9. “The point is, only secularism offers holistic values on individual freedom to one and all without being contradictory. Christianity and most faiths have often enshrined the inequality of sexes, of races and of faiths in their teachings.”

Bare assertion ad infinitum ad nauseam. Your exposition please, Sir.

10. “There is certainly no issue with the marvelous education provided by Christian schools in Singapore. But one should look to the Bible belt in America, where Christian schools are threatening young impressionable minds with their imposition of creationism into the science curriculum.”

Firstly, you are poisoning the well again.

Secondly, you have committed the genetic fallacy. Is creationism false simply because of its alleged "Christian" origin? Furthermore, creationism is not exclusively Christian, as any monotheist, deist, or polytheist would agree.

11. “It is valuable that Christians may have started schools across the world. But it is more valuable that secular governments, like ours, maintain the integrity of these institutes, and keeps religion out of the science syllabus.”

Bare assertion ad infinitum ad nauseam; poisoning the well; argumentum ad hominem.

How is the integrity of these institutes maintained if we are oblivious to the scientific evidence against Neo-Darwinism?

How would the secularist continue to insist that he is tolerant of others if he cannot even tolerate Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic religions?

12. “Lastly, Mr Chia seems happy to 'prove' that many values present in the secular movement are also present in Christianity. However, he is seemingly misled in thinking that these values are unique to Christianity alone and did not predate Christianity. As any secularist would tell you, religion in (sic) the product of man, and any value which is present in any religion is the product of man's ingenuity.”

This is the classic fallacy of apriorism:

a) Why would a secularist be an authoritative source of information?

b) Certainly, religion is a product of man only if the existence of God is proven false. You have to define "religion" for us as well (fallacy of equivocation);

c) You have made the assumption of an absence of universal moral laws that transcend the physical or material world;

d) Likewise, you have made the assumption of metaphysical naturalism.

13. “Mr Chia's closing line is rather nonsensical in its claim that secularism is parasitic to religion. It is more important that one realises the difference between secularism and theist religions, than to harp on fallacious claims of any a Christian impact on secularism.”

Finally, it is more important that one realizes the difference between the logical fallacies of a Mr Vidyarishik Viyajadas Menon and factual information, than to harp on fallacious claims of any a secularist impact on society.

Yours truly,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Local Church in Beijing

It was a humbling experience to worship at a local church in Beijing, China. And I am not referring to the church building or furnishings. A church member, Ling, together with about 20 others were crammed into an old, tiny 500-square-foot apartment to pray and to praise the risen Lord. Folding stools and a small table were squeezed into this two-room flat to provide a makeshift place of worship for some local Christians.

The worshippers were mostly young adults. Some were former students of Peking University, and most were working individuals. This home church was not a registered, “state-monitored” church. In China, the only Christian churches the government recognizes are the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Churches, which the government established under a policy of "self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation" to eliminate influence from foreign countries. But many local congregations here believe that only Jesus should be the Head of the Church, not the Chinese government. As such, such gatherings are considered illegal, and run the risk of prosecution and arrest. Despite the prospect of being interrogated or even arrested, Ling's church leaders have decided not to register altogether.

What humbled me was not the condition of the place of worship. It was neither the poverty some of these brethren were going through, nor the persecution these Christians have to face from the Chinese government. As a Singaporean, I was humbled by the Chinese Church, and in fact, felt rather ashamed of the churches in Singapore for a simple reason: by and large the Singaporean Church can be likened to the church at Laodicea. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17).”

It is amazing what a little wealth can do to a Christian here in Singapore. It takes away his dependence upon God, and makes him worship his own human abilities and worldly possessions. Instead of making the Lord God his help and strength, his bank account and his career become the gods of his life. The curse of the Singaporean Church is her wealth and her economic stability. She has come to rely on, not God, but her wallet.

Those who came from Christian families will know what I am talking about here. Contrary to the persecution the Chinese Church encounters, second-generation Christians in Singapore have experienced the exact opposite within their homes and social circles. There is a pressure to conform to the beliefs of their parents. Sometimes, there might even be an impetus for one to be converted to the Christian religion.

The Chinese Christian from an unregistered house church who proclaims faith in Christ knows what he is up against: his government, his employers, and his family. To be arrested might mean years locked up in jail, and loosing one’s job. Worse, he might never see his wife for the next decade or so. The Singaporean Christian from the megachurch who proclaims faith in Christ knows what he is expecting from God: health, wealth, and acceptance from his Christian family and friends. He might even get a nice-looking girl from the same church (in fashionable dress and high heels, of course). This is especially true for those worshipping in churches that preach the prosperity gospel.

Despite governmental disapproval, these Chinese house churches are very influential. These Christians mince no words when it comes to preaching the gospel. Most certainly they are not ashamed of the gospel, for they are willing to preach the Word boldly to their colleagues, students, and friends, governmental persecution notwithstanding. They are very warm to visitors like myself, and they show great love and concern to each other as brethren-in-Christ. Like the Philadelphians who have “little strength,” what cannot be denied is that Christ has indeed set before them an open door, “and no man can shut it (Rev. 3:8).” The home churches are growing rapidly throughout China, and many Chinese have found Atheism and Neo-Darwinism an inconsistent and meaningless philosophy for life.

Furthermore, it is obvious that these house churches are not your regular thousand-membered church with grand pianos and a choir. These house churches are generally small, and some have yet to find themselves a pastor, let alone elders and deacons. Although certain orthodox Christians would not regard these house churches as true churches - due to the lack of ordained pastors and ruling elders - I believe the Lord has quite a different opinion when it comes to membership within the invisible, universal church. I have little doubt that these Chinese Christians are more avid Bible readers than most Singaporeans. I have also very little doubt that these Chinese Christians are more regular with their gospel preaching and outreach than the average orthodox, educated, intellectual Singaporean Christian.

If we have the opportunity to serve the brethren in China, I think it would be good for us to consider serving in one of these unregistered churches. Perhaps we can even bring back with us a little of their love, passion, and devotion to the Most High God. And to my beloved friends in China, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (Rev. 3:11).”

(PS: “Ling” is a fictional name. The name was changed to protect the identity of the person.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gay Logic Revisited: A Conversation with Nevin

Again, our dialogue continues …

The following post is a reply to Nevin’s recent lengthy comment. His comment rehashed arguments frequently presented by gay activists.

Nevin wrote: “Your argument previously was, if i may summarize, that since the argument for repeal was based upon private consensual acts that did not cause harm, then homosexuals should likewise argue for the repeal of incest and polygamy laws for consistency. Here you are putting up a straw man by stretching the argument to an absurd conclusion. One could similarly argue that the flip side of this argument is that ALL acts which cause harm should be prohibited. This would justify making alcohol, cigarettes or fast food illegal on the basis that they can cause harm.”

I did not furnish any straw man; in fact, your allegation of a straw man is in itself a straw man. Your argument (the premises of “gay logic”) is:

A: Private consensual sexual acts that do not cause harm should be decriminalized
B: Homosexual sodomy is a private consensual sexual act that does not cause harm

Therefore, homosexual sodomy should be decriminalized.

Assuming the veracity of the premises, this is a valid form of logic called modus ponens (based upon your own premises). Therefore, incest, polygamy, and polyandry all apply according to your major and minor premises (“gay logic”).

In your “flipside” example, you are committing a classic fallacy in basic logic called “denying the antecedent.” For instance, a similar example would be, “If you give a man a gun, he may kill someone. If he has no gun, then he will not kill anyone.” Obviously, even if he has no gun, it doesn’t mean that he will not kill anyone. In contrast, modus tollens is a valid form.

If you think the consequent is absurd, perhaps you should rethink your premises (i.e. gay logic). Do you know what is reductio ad absurdum in basic logic?

Nevin wrote: “It is possible to stretch a sound position by stretching it to absurd lengths. That does not however, undermine the value of the principle. And the general principle at criminal law that a person's liberty should not be restricted unless there is harm, or what John Stuart Mills would term the 'harm principle', remains a sound foundation of criminal law.”

If a position is sound, it will not succumb to reductio ad absurdum.

Mill’s (it’s Mill, not Mills) “harm principle” cannot be divorced from his utilitarianism or the “greatest happiness principle.” Based upon Mill’s concept of harm, your minor premise is already faulty. Is it really true that homosexual sodomy doesn’t cause harm – both tangible and intangible? HIV statistics in many countries are suggestive, but we do not even require such evidence for our purpose here.

Just look at the amount of “unhappiness” and societal rifts the LGBT activists have caused to innumerable nations worldwide (e.g. UK, US etc). Arguably, the LGBT agenda and it’s push for the decriminalization of homosexual sodomy in Singapore has already caused immeasurable harm and anguish, not mentioning the erosion of our social fabric. So according to Mill’s “harm” and “greatest happiness principle,” the LGBT agenda has failed on both counts. Happiness? Yes, but only for the minority of sexual paraphiliacs.

Nevin wrote: “If one were to use the morality argument against homosexuality, one could similarly argue that there is a need to support the criminalization of heterosexual sodomy (the old 377), abortion or adultery on the basis of morality. Again, these would be untenable in a modern age.”

Controversial issues such as abortion and adultery are truly separate issues, and are based upon other premises. In fact, society has always been divided on these issues, so there is no general consensus as such. Untenable? Why not?

Nevin wrote: “When i wrote of 'social norms' being not immutable, perhaps i was imprecise in my terminology. I would rephrase this as morality being not immutable. People's conception of what is wrong or right is not necessarily fixed. This would probably come across as a completely relativist position and you bring up the issue that "if each community is right according to their moral view, then there is no way to solve conflicts between communities and nations." And herein lies the role of the law to regulate the differing viewpoints in society.”

Here is a question for you to ponder on: Upon what basis of morality should the law be based upon? Even Mill’s principle of harm is an ethical and moral principle. So is Mill’s harm principle relatively correct, or is it absolutely correct?

All in all, you have not even begun to address the problems of moral relativism which were raised in my previous post.

Nevin wrote: “Insofar as we can both agree that the law should be slow to interfere in private acts of its citizens (in your case, you emphasize the fact that the law can sometimes intervene), the question here is what is the threshold that is set whereby the law can and should intrude into the private sphere. And here i submit that the opposition stems largely from disgust or unease at other people's private acts. Or it might stem from conservatively held convictions that such an act is unnatural. But beyond this psychological unease, there is no compelling reason to criminalize it. And here one must separate criminalization from promoting homosexuality. Just as society frowns on adultery or to a lesser extent smoking, it does not seek to make smokers or adulterers criminals.”

Wrong. The “opposition” had raised a very serious concern: the legislation of morality. The fundamental question in this debate is, “Should morality be legislated?” If so, what constitutes this “morality?”

Nevin wrote: “And from this relativistic starting point, this does not mean the law cannot proscribe anything. Here, John Rawls' conception of an "overlapping consensus" model can be applied. At risk of oversimplifying the model, the basic idea is that even among people with differences, there is an overlapping area of consensus. Murder would be an example of something which falls within this overlapping consensus and thus provide whereas 377A might not.”

In the area of homosexual sodomy, we have arrived at an “overlapping consensus” – using Rawls' concept of justice – and that is the retention of S377a as described by PM Lee. This retention is what the people of Singapore are happy with, while at the same time we are not actively prosecuting private consensual sodomy.

Just a note: I do not (necessarily) agree with Rawls or Mill on these areas. I am simply using your own position as a basis for discussion here.

Nevin wrote: “You also add that "we must ultimately seek that which is right (i.e. the truth, or the universal moral law, or the natural law, or that which is right in itself). Murder cannot be both right and wrong.". Taking a more relativist position, i would not agree that there is always a correct or right position. And for the example of when murder can be both right and wrong, i would refer you to the case of Re A (children) (conjoined twins: surgical separation). [2000] 4 All England Reports 985. I'm sure a google search will quickly acquaint you with the facts of the case, but to quickly summarise, this involved a pair of conjoined twins, and it was necessary to separate the twins so that the stronger twin "Jodie" would survive. Separation would however, kill the weaker twin. A case where murder could be both right and wrong.”

Nevin, you are obviously confused with the term “murder.” For example, does murder include the killing of another human during self-defense? Is murder therapeutic surgery with death as a probable consequence? Murder is loosely defined as the unlawful premeditated killing of another human being, and it is always wrong. So it is here where we part ways. Moral relativism is seriously flawed.

Nevin wrote: “The one point i do agree with you is the “is-ought” fallacy. As you say it so eloquently: "Just because something is the practice does not mean it ought to be. It is the case that people are cruel at times; they hate and kill. This in no way means that ought to be the case." But cruelty need not be physical. There is also the insidious blade of discrimination, of bias and of intolerance. Just because we criminalize people on the basis of their sexuality in no way means that ought to be the case.”

Just because the LGBT agenda aggressively demands the decriminalization of homosexual sodomy all over the world does not mean that ought to be the case. The ultimate instrument of societal cruelty, bias, and intolerance is the cruel, biased and intolerant LGBT agenda that seeks to destroy society’s moral and social fabric. It begins with the insidious demand for the decriminalization of immoral and perverse acts within a nation. As a gullible society capitulates to such demands, the LGBT agenda will continue to march forward in its rape of the nation’s conservative family values, education system, and freedom of speech. It will irrevocably institute the definitive instrument of cruelty, bias, and intolerance: hate crime laws and the obliteration of free speech against sodomy and homosexuality.

We do not want any part of your agenda in this nation, Nevin.

Friday, November 16, 2007

An Informal Reply to Nevin: Are Social Norms Always Right?

I thought it might be interesting to post a reply to Nevin’s latest comment to my last post.

nevin wrote, “You have misread my comment.”

No I did not.

nevin wrote, “Polygamy is illegal under the woman's charter and only legal under the Administration of the Muslim Law Act (for muslim men). This point was already stated in my original comment and is not a mistake of law. My facts are correct.”

No, your facts are incorrect according to the context of my post. My post concluded, “If they insist that the law must not interfere with personal sexual choices and activities, then the logical conclusion from such premises would be the repeal of laws criminalizing incest and polygamy.” So, in order for you gays to be consistent with your “gay logic” - logic is not used as a complimentary term here - you should not ONLY lobby for the repeal of s377a, but also for all other laws in Singapore that criminalize incest and polygamy for ALL Singaporeans.

nevin wrote, “I am not, contrary to your misrepresentation, arguing for polygamy.”

I never said that ... contrary to your misrepresentation. What I did say was, “In order for you gays to be consistent with your “gay logic” - logic is not used as a complimentary term here - you should not ONLY lobby for the repeal of s377a, but also for all other laws in Singapore that criminalize incest and polygamy for ALL Singaporeans.” I also said in my previous comment, “Delightfully, “gay logic” should allow Singaporeans to practice incest and polygamy based upon premises 1 and 2.” If you did not read my post carefully, do it now.

nevin wrote, “Although your point that polygamy was once commonplace but is now not acceptable is an implicit concession that social norms are not immutable.”

Once again, this is faulty reasoning on your part. What I wrote was, “Finally, polygamous marriages were common all over Asia. Monogamy marriages is a western concept, introduced in Singapore after 1965 and in China by the communist in l953.”

Is this another one of your red herrings? Social norms did change, and it is different in different cultures. Some tribes in Asia and Africa practiced headhunting. I’m glad that changed. Some cultures practiced incest. I’m glad that changed. But what has “social norms [being not] immutable” got to do with your “gay logic?” Again, in order for you gays to be consistent with your “gay logic” - logic is not used as a complimentary term here - you should not ONLY lobby for the repeal of s377a, but also for all other laws in Singapore that criminalize incest and polygamy for ALL Singaporeans.

Furthermore, what has “social norms” to do with what is right and wrong i.e. morality and ethics?

If you argue that “morals are mores,” that is, moral commands are considered community demands, this view would imply a cultural relativity of morality.

As I had written elsewhere before, this view of morality commits the “is-ought” fallacy (Hume). Just because something is the practice does not mean it ought to be. It is the case that people are cruel at times; they hate and kill. This in no way means that ought to be the case. Likewise, even if the entire community in a certain village has a preference for same-sex rectal intercourse, this does not mean that ought to be the case.

Secondly, if each community is right according to their moral view, then there is no way to solve conflicts between communities and nations. Whatever each one believes is right – even if it means the annihilation of each other – is right.

Thirdly, we must ultimately seek that which is right (i.e. the truth, or the universal moral law, or the natural law, or that which is right in itself). Murder cannot be both right and wrong. A tribe might consider the hunting of humans as fun, and the right thing to do. That is the moral “right” in that tribe. Singapore thinks that hunting humans for their heads is murder, which is wrong. If you claim that one group’s moral stand is right, and the other wrong, what moral standards are you subjecting yourself to?

nevin wrote, “Lastly, the comment about "gay logic" is itself illogical. Logic either makes sense or it does not, and the central issue here is that the state should be slow to intervene in private, consensual acts.”

I’m glad you realize this. The central issue here is that the state should be SLOW to intervene in private, consensual acts. But this does not mean that the state should NOT intervene in private, consensual acts.

So you do agree with me that the state SHOULD intervene in private, consensual acts like same-sex sodomy? Oh yes, the state should do it slowly e.g. moral police creeping up slowly behind you, and subsequently bringing you slowly up to the criminal court, and speaking to you slowly in court, and of course, bringing you slowly to jail. Is that slow enough for you?

The central issue here is that the state should be slow to intervene in private, consensual acts, but the state should nevertheless intervene in private, consensual acts like incest, homosexual sodomy and polygamy.

Finally, the term “gay logic” is not illogical. It is an oxymoron. This is because gay arguments are illogical. I’m glad you get that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

According to Homosexuals, we should also decriminalize incest and polygamy

Those who entreat the government to repeal S377a have reasoned their case based upon two premises: 1) private homosexual intercourse is performed between consensual adults and, 2) it causes no harm to society.

For example, Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong, in his recent parliamentary speech, argued that, “Private, consensual sexual acts between adult males does not impact on the safety and security of society. Furthermore, it is accepted that the criminal law addresses activities that harm others, but the Government seems to accept that 377A does not cause harm. So how can 377A possibly be linked to a legitimate purpose of the Penal Code? The answer is that it does not and it cannot."

Following such a rationale, it is perplexing why the gay movement in Singapore does not lobby for the decriminalization of adult incest and polygamy. It can similarly be argued that adult incestuous relationships and adult polygamous marriages are likewise based upon consensus. Furthermore, such relationships do not cause harm to others.

Some might retort that genetic defects are more likely in incestuous sexual unions, thus causing harm to the children of such relations. However, following the principles of the same-sex family model, incestuous couples may choose not to be biological parents. They can practise effective medical or surgical contraception, and may even decide to adopt children. Furthermore, if religious or moral considerations are to be abandoned, abortion is definitely a viable option for such incestuous couples.

To push the analogy further, consensual incestuous or polygamous unions can indeed be homosexual or heterosexual in nature. If we are to accept the premises offered to us by those who lobby for the repeal of S377a, why should there be any limitations as to the possible permutations to such relationships?

In conclusion, may I ask gay activists in Singapore the following question, “Consistent with your rationale for the repeal of S377a, is it not correct for us to say that, you would have no objections to the decriminalization of incest and polygamy in this nation?”

Therefore, in order to be consistent with their reasoning and not to be perceived as being hypocritical, those asking for the repeal of S377a should openly state their positions on such moral issues. If they insist that the law must not interfere with personal sexual choices and activities, then the logical conclusion from such premises would be the repeal of laws criminalizing incest and polygamy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Singaporean Heartlanders and Their Attitude Towards Homosexuality

I first noticed this article on 4th Nov 2007 when someone in church mentioned it to me. Although I am drowning in my own assignments and deadlines, I felt there is a need to at least furnish a very brief rebuttal to Andy Ho's misleading and skewed article. As usual, Straits Times will not publish this letter, but here it is for those who are curious. Essentially, Andy Ho was attempting to push for his thesis that "heartlanders" in Singapore are accommodating towards homosexuals within their own families. I find this conclusion spurious and contrived at best.

Singaporean Heartlanders and their attitude towards Homosexuality

In “It's not a big deal for most Singaporeans,” (Straits Times Nov 3, 2007), Andy Ho suggested that “perhaps the practical way in which many heartlanders deal with homosexuality in the family” is a “don't ask, don't tell; don't reject but don't promote approach.” While it is true that the majority of heartlanders would not promote homosexuality within the family, it is quite dubious that they will not reject the notion of their own children having homosexual relations.

There must be a distinction made between the heartlanders’ acceptance of homosexuals within society and the acceptance of their own children’s homosexual relations within the home. Most Singaporeans would adopt a “live and let live” attitude towards homosexuals. But is it true that heartlanders in Singapore are not concerned with the possibility of their children leading a homosexual lifestyle? Further research ought to be done before jumping to such a conclusion.

The Straits Times article, “7 in 10 Frown on Homosexuality, NTU Survey Finds,” states that “68.6 per cent of respondents generally held negative attitudes” towards homosexuality. Such a survey should have included the heartlanders.

In his recent parliamentary speech (Why we should leave Section 377A alone: PM, Straits Times, Oct 24, 2007), PM Lee’s observation corroborates with the NTU survey. He said, “Singapore is basically a conservative society. The family is the basic building block of this society. It has been so and by policy, we have reinforced this, and we want to keep it so. ... And I think the vast majority of Singaporeans want to keep it this way, want to keep our society like this, and so does the Government.”

Even as far back as 2003, SM Goh Chok Tong had stated in his interview with Times magazine that, “The heartlanders are still conservative.”

Andy Ho also attributed the “don't ask, don't tell; don't reject but don't promote approach” to “non-cosmopolitan Chinese” that are “suffused with Taoist and Buddhist values.” I will, however, be surprised if my Taoist, Buddhist, or Confucianist friends would adopt this “don’t reject” approach to homosexuality within their own families.

The Taoist tradition stresses the relationship between yin and yang energies. These are two contrasting forces which maintain harmony through balance. Taoists believe that the balance of these two energies is best obtained through heterosexual relations. Homosexual relations are therefore usually discouraged.

The Confucian moral code, on the other hand, promotes an individual's responsibility to society. Confucians are often encouraged to get married and have children. This is perceived as their responsibility to their ancestors and their country.

Although I have yet to encounter a consensus on homosexuality from the Buddhist community, the Dalai Lama had stated his position in no uncertain terms. In an interview with the Vancouver Sun in 2004, the Dalai Lama was questioned about homosexuality to which he replied, "For a Buddhist, the same sex, that is sexual misconduct." In other words, homosexual acts are considered to be sexual misconduct according to Buddhism's five precepts. The Dalai Lama further elaborated that, "[homosexuals] use the mouth and the anus, this is sexual misconduct in Buddhism."

Therefore, with the absence of statistical evidence or relevant research in this area, it is premature to ascribe a specific view concerning homosexuality to the Singaporean heartlanders. One thing is for sure: colonialism alone cannot be blamed for the negative attitude towards homosexual relations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Note On Comments

I welcome comments on my blog. But since I have started posting on the issue of homosexuality in Singapore, I have received numerous crude, insulting, and inappropriate comments, some even with explicit sexual contents. These comments were even posted on irrelevant blog posts i.e. posts on evolution, the carnal Christian etc.

Unlike some of my friends who are bloggers, I do not have a list of rules for fellow netizens. I believe in basic civility, and if you are able to comment with the civility and rationality becoming of an average netizen, your comments will be left alone. I have, however, taken the liberty to delete a series of comments by some anti-s377a perpetrators. I do not waste my time replying to such comments; a person with a lack of civility cannot demand the required attention from me.

Due to the impressive volume of comments from homosexuals lobbying for the repeal of s377a, I have started to moderate the comments. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Giving Voice to the Religious

A recent article from a legal professor in the Straits Times buttressed my personal views on the S377a debate. I had argued that, even within a secular state, the views of the religious majority ought to be substantially audible, yet moderated and argued with a rationale which is accessible to secularists and of course, the government of Singapore.

Professor Tan’s prescription for the religious voice is as follows, “Laws made in conformity with public reason as expressed by the majority are legitimate. By extension, decisions made in conformity with public reason expressed by the majority are legitimately made. While Rawls' elaboration of his idea of public reason and other aspects of his theory are too problematic to be dealt with here, the basic idea of offering reasons in public debate that one thinks reasonable for others as free and equal citizens to accept is attractive. The religious may formulate arguments for public decision-making by reference to reasons accessible to all, rather than particular religious texts or commands of deities (unless their veracity is further supported and accessible to all).”

She continues, “Anecdotal evidence, online and in conversations, suggests, however, that it is sometimes the agnostic and the atheist who are not ready for the religious to offer such reasons, or even to listen to the religious. For example, as I, a rational human being, cannot, if I am authentic, deny my religious beliefs even while I engage in legal philosophy, a few persons have wondered if a religious agenda belies my philosophical arguments. ...

Understandably, the atheist or agnostic may be suspicious of reasons offered by the religious, and vice-versa. ...

Writing off opposition as 'religious objections' was just an easy way out for some, saving them 'the trouble of examining the rational arguments' and enabling them to 'evade the very pertinent questions raised, questions which have nothing to do with religion but which have a great deal to do with the welfare of our people' ...

With the understanding that the religious, as well as the atheist or agnostic, have a place in Singapore, every argument should be tested on its own merit, even if it is made by a religious person. This is to prevent a Catch-22 situation where if the religious made a religious argument not accessible to all, they would be silenced, and if they made a non-religious argument, they would be accused of a facade of rationality. ...

Surely for the future of our enlightened democracy, we would not want to exclude any of the 85 per cent of Singaporeans from public discourse.”

As the debate gathers momentum in Singapore - knowing that the LGBT activists would be advocating their “rights” with even greater fanaticism since the retention of S377a - I would advise my fellow pilgrims to take note of the following article by Tan Seow Hon, “Giving voice to the religious.”

Note: The excellent parliamentary speech by Prof Thio Li-Ann is available here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Please sign the petition to retain S377A

Singaporeans and Non-Singaporeans, I hereby urge all who care for this nation to sign this petition.

Please sign the petition here.

From the website:

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Singapore

Mr Lee Hsien Loong
Prime Minister
Prime Minister's Office
Orchard Road
Singapore 238823

Dear Mr Prime Minister,


As concerned citizens of Singapore, we support the government in wanting to retain S377A of the Penal Code for the good of our children, our families and all Singaporeans.

There are many reasons why the retention of S377A is so important:

S377A is a reflection of the sentiments of the majority of society. Most Singaporeans hold conservative family values and do not accept homosexuality as the norm. (see Singaporeans’ Attitudes toward Lesbians and Gay Men and their Tolerance of Media Portrayals of Homosexuality, by Benjamin H. Detenber, Mark Cenite, et. al., International Journal of Public Opinion Research) Repealing S377A is a vehicle to force homosexuality on a conservative population that is not ready for homosexuality.

Sexual preference is not about civil rights and has nothing to do with equality or tolerance. Repealing S377A would in fact be the first step towards mainstreaming the homosexual lifestyle, which has been shown elsewhere to lead to:

1. Calls to specify the minimum age for consensual homosexual sex;
2. A public education system that teaches acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle under the banner of "tolerance";
3. The redefinition of marriage to include (gay) civil unions and same-sex marriages, and to extend marriage and parenthood benefits to them;
4. Adoption by same-sex parents.

In short, repealing S377A could lead to the modification of core family values and the family unit as we know it.

The majority of Singaporeans want our children to grow up in a traditional environment that espouses healthy and wholesome traditional family values. We do not want the homosexual lifestyle to be promoted or celebrated.

We ask the Government to do what is right and retain S377A for the future of our children and our nation.

Yours faithfully,

The Majority

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Digression into Something Secular

I asked a question. Here is the answer. Thank you for your reply, Mr Ong Hui Guan (Secretariat of the National Longevity Insurance Committee).

Here is the unedited letter with references:

As I reflect upon the recent proposal of the compulsory annuity scheme, it becomes apparent that there might be a probable deficiency in its policy. Will a significant portion of octogenarians from the lower socioeconomic groups benefit from such a scheme?

I would like to point out in this letter that there is indeed good statistical evidence to support a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and life expectancy within developed countries. As such, the compulsory annuity scheme should take this fact into consideration.

We can begin by looking at epidemiological data from the United States. From the paper by Gopal K Singh and Mohammad Siahpush in the International Journal of Epidemiology (2006 35(4):969-979), entitled “Widening socioeconomic inequalities in US life expectancy, 1980–2000,” it is clear that the life expectancy of the less-deprived groups is notably higher than that of the more-deprived groups.

An abstract of this paper writes, “Those in less-deprived groups experienced a longer life expectancy at each age than their counterparts in more-deprived groups. In 1980–82, the overall life expectancy at birth was 2.8 years longer for the least-deprived group than for the most-deprived group (75.8 vs 73.0 years). By 1998–2000, the absolute difference in life expectancy at birth had increased to 4.5 years (79.2 vs 74.7 years). The inequality indices also showed a substantial widening of the deprivation gradient in life expectancy during the study period for both males and females.

Singh and Siahpush subsequently concluded that, “Between 1980 and 2000, those in higher socioeconomic groups experienced larger gains in life expectancy than those in more-deprived groups, contributing to the widening gap.” Thus, there is not only a greater life expectancy for those in the higher socioeconomic status, but the gap in life expectancy between the higher and lower socioeconomic groups is progressively widening.

Not surprisingly, we see a similar trend in the United Kingdom. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK-based government department responsible for collecting and publishing official statistics about the UK's society and economy. The ONS published a paper providing figures on trends in life expectancy by social class in England and Wales over the period of 1972 to 2001.

According to the data from ONS, life expectancy at birth for those from social class I has improved from 71.9 in year 1972 to 1976 to 79.4 in year 1997 to 2001. Comparatively, life expectancy at birth for those from social class V has also improved from 66.4 in year 1972 to 1976 to 71.0 in year 1997 to 2001. Nevertheless, it is evident that life expectancy at birth for those from a higher social class is significantly better than those from the lower social classes. There is likewise an increasing gap in life expectancy between the higher and lower social classes.

It is well-known amongst sociologists and epidemiologists that social class or socioeconomic status is a prominent life expectancy indicator, and is assessed through occupation, income, housing or educational level. Besides data from the United States and the UK, a 1999 study by Tapani Valkonen also showed strong correlation between socioeconomic status and life expectancy in Finland. (Kunst, Anton E. et al, “Occupational class and ischemic heart disease mortality in the United States and 11 European countries,” American Journal of Public Health 89 (1999): 47-53.)

As Kinsella and Velkoff conclude, “the weight of existing studies clearly supports a strong relationship between social and economic factors on the one hand and health and mortality outcomes on the other.” (Kevin Kinsella and Victoria A. Velkoff, “Life Expectancy and Changing Mortality,” An Aging World (2001): 46.)

Apart from life expectancy, it is interesting to note that socioeconomic status is an important determinant of disability among older Asians. The effect of socioeconomic characteristics is also strongest when predicting perceived health. In fact, sociologists have discovered that the perception of income adequacy proves to be the most important predictor of health. (Information acquired from the Department of Sociology and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.)

Although socioeconomic differences in adult life expectancy are growing in Western populations, more research is probably needed to confirm a similar trend in Singapore.

Closer to home, “The Old-Old in Singapore,” a paper published by Ang Seow Long and Edmond Lee from the Singapore Department of Statistics, might suggest a similar association between socioeconomic status and life expectancy in Singapore.

The old-old are defined as those aged 85 years and over. If the housing of an old-old Singaporean has any indication of his current socioeconomic status, then it is significant that in 1999, 43.5% of those who are considered old-old live in HDB 4 room or larger flats. In comparison, 29.1% of the old-old Singaporeans live in HDB 3 room flats, and the remaining 11% stay in HDB 1 and 2 room flats. In other words, a large proportion of those who survive till 85 years and beyond are not living in HDB 1 and 2 room flats. Close to half of them, in fact, lives in HDB 4 room or larger flats.

If it is indeed true that a majority of those who are old-old are from the higher socioeconomic groups in Singapore, then there might be a probable weakness in the compulsory annuity scheme. As this scheme works on the principle of risk pooling, CPF members who die early may not live to see the benefits of this scheme. In fact, their premiums may go towards paying the annuity pay-outs of other CPF members. It is also highly probable that CPF members who survive till 85 years and beyond are those from the higher socioeconomic groups.

In conclusion, we must ensure that those from the lower socioeconomic groups are not unduly burdened with the care of the old-old belonging to higher socioeconomic sectors. Only then can this annuity scheme be of greater aid to the old-old Singaporeans who are truly in need of such pay-outs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Plantinga’s Argument Against Naturalism 2

The Doubt Develops Part 1

Consistent with evolutionary biology, Churchland’s “principle chore” of the nervous systems “is to get the body parts [of the organism] where they should be in order that the organism may survive.” Survival, rather than the formation of true beliefs, is the chief aim of brain evolution. This includes the survival of the individual, species, gene, or genotype. Intuitively speaking, it is therefore highly unlikely that the production of true beliefs is a function of the nervous system.

If N represents metaphysical naturalism, E the human cognitive faculties that have arisen via evolution, and R the claim that our cognitive faculties are reliable, then the conditional probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable is given by:


In this thesis, we shall development the argument that P(R), given N&E, is low or less than 0.5.

Contrary to intuitive derivation, there are some philosophers such as W. V. O. Quine and Karl Popper who claim that P(R/N&E) is fairly high. However, as Plantinga had argued, we have to consider “four mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive possibilities.” This way, we can conclusively show the evolutionist that P(R/N&E) is indeed low.

1. Epiphenomenalism: Behavior is not caused by beliefs

The first possible relationship between beliefs (as conceived by the brain) and behavior is this: behavior is simply not caused by beliefs. According to epiphenomenalism, there is no causal relationship between beliefs and behavior. Beliefs, which are arguably some electrochemical phenomenon within the brain, are not biologically causational to the neurological activities which produce behavior.

It is notable that this particular view is popular amongst certain biologists and neurobiologists. For example, Time (December, 1992) reports that J. M. Smith, a renowned biologist, wrote “that he had never understood why organisms have feelings. After all, orthodox biologists believe that behavior, however complex, is governed entirely by biochemistry and that the attendant sensations - fear, pain, wonder, love - are just shadows cast by that biochemistry, not themselves vital to the organism's behavior . . . .”

If epiphenomenalism is correct, then evolution – which is concerned with survival of the organism – is not concerned with beliefs, which allegedly have nothing to do with the organism’s survival or survival-producing behavior. In other words, the production of beliefs is invisible to the forces of naturalistic evolution.

As an example, Harry is a hominid that exhibits the characteristics of epiphenomenal behavior. What he does has nothing to do with what he believes. He might believe that a tiger is a cute kitten that is fun to play with. Nevertheless, brain evolution has somehow selected a surviving species of hominids that reactively run away from tigers. Harry, despite his reflex running away from tigers, in fact believes that tigers are fun to play with. This lack of integration and interrelation between beliefs and behavior makes it highly unlikely that the cognitive faculties are reliable for producing true beliefs.

For this option, P(R/N&E) is inevitably low or less than 0.5.

2. Semantic Epiphenomenalism

The second option for us is that beliefs do have “causal efficacy with respect to behavior, but not by virtue of their content. Put in currently fashionable jargon, this would be the suggestion that beliefs are indeed causally efficacious, but by virtue of their syntax, not by virtue of their semantics. (Plantinga, Naturalism Defeated)” In other words, beliefs may have caused behavior in this option, but only by virtue of their electrochemical properties or syntax, and not via their content or semantics.

This view is popular amongst contemporary philosophers of the mind. If this view is true, then the behavior of Harry the hominid is caused by the neurobiological or electrochemical changes or properties of the brain, and not by the content of the belief itself. It subsequently follows that the semantic properties of the belief, be it truth or falsehood, are invisible to the forces of evolution. The conditional probability P(R/N&E) is once again low or less than 0.5 in this option.

As an example, suppose Harry has the belief that ferocious tigers are furry kittens that deserve to be cuddled. This belief has certain electrochemical properties and a certain pattern of neuronal firings that somehow lead to the flight of Harry from these allegedly furry kittens. Despite the inherently false semantic properties of his belief, the behavior is caused by the syntactic properties, which lead to Harry’s survival. Although Harry’s belief - by virtue of its electrochemical properties - has survival and therefore, selective advantage, the content of his belief has little significance or contribution to his survival instincts.

PS: To be continued. We shall continue with the other two options in the next post.

Monday, September 17, 2007


1) The following appeared in the Straits Times today (18th September 2007).

Male homosexual sex to remain a crime

"TOGETHER with marital rape, it was the most hotly debated issue when the proposed changes to the Penal Code were opened for a month of public consultation.

The public has spoken: Homosexual sex will remain a crime in Singapore.

The Government has decided to retain Section 377A of the Penal Code which makes it an offence for any male to 'commit an act of gross indecency' with another male, either in public or private.

Explaining the decision, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that public feedback on the issue had been 'emotional, divided and strongly expressed', with the majority calling for the section to be retained.

'MHA recognises that we are a generally conservative society and that we should let the situation evolve,' the ministry said in a statement.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Law and Home Affairs, said the status quo was arrived at after 'looking at the interests of the community as a whole'.

Ms Indranee Rajah, former chairman of the GPC for Law and Home Affairs, pointed out that MHA had indicated that it would not actively prosecute people under that section.

'But in recognition of the fact that there is still quite a strong majority uncomfortable with homosexuality, the section must stay,' said Ms Indranee.

Whatever the rationale, the status quo has disappointed advocates such as Nominated Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong who are in favour of decriminalising homosexual sex.

The move to retain homosexuality as a crime was a 'pity' and 'a lost opportunity', said Mr Siew.
'Keeping Section 377A shows up Singapore as being behind the rest of the world.'

He added that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's comments that homosexuals are 'mostly born that way' and that 'no public purpose is served in interfering in their private lives' had made him hope for homosexual sex to be struck off the Penal Code.

Pointing out that the last major review of the Penal Code occurred in 1984, Mr Siew said: 'Do we need to wait another 23 years for homosexual sex to be decriminalised?'"

Praise the Lord for this decision. Let us continue to pray that the leaders of our nation will make the right moral and ethical decisions.

2) With my thesis proposal datelines to meet, I will have to cut down on my blogging these couple of months. Nevertheless, I will try to finish my series on Plantinga’s arguments against evolutionism soonest possible. So please stay tune.

Friday, September 07, 2007

An Intermezzo: Reply To Yap Kim Hao

Note: Now that Straits Times Forum is publishing the anti-S377A letters with a vengeance, it is noted that pro-S377A letters are frequently rejected. My kakis in the same “pro-S377A faction” had also failed to publish their letters in the ST Forum. I guess there may be an agenda to influence public opinion prior to the disclosure of the final jurisdiction in parliament. Here is another serving of an unpublished letter to the ST.

Singapore ought to maintain social cohesion in its economic progress

I read with interest Dr Yap Kim Hao’s letter, We cannot afford to wait for conservative views to change before dropping laws against gays (ST Forum, Sep 4th 2007), and the Straits Times article, S'pore must stay connected globally to grow by Aaron Low (Straits Times, Aug 31st 2007).

Firstly, I would like to point out that Dr Yap’s letter begs the question, “How is economic progress hampered by the retention of S377A?”

Singapore has achieved its First World status and economic success using a pragmatist methodology, and not the Western, liberal approach. We as a nation have attracted multitudes of investments, not because of the appeal of Western liberal political philosophy, but rather because of “our clean and green and safe reputation.” (Excerpts of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s Interview with the International Herald Tribune). This reputation would definitely include social cohesiveness, which is paramount for economic predictability and stability.

Secondly, I have to disagree with Dr Yap’s position that the retention of S377A is the product of “a fishing-village mentality.” In fact, the insidious scapegoating of the conservative sector of society by calling them the ones that “impede the progress of the country,” is dangerously schismatic and divisive.

The solution to the homosexuality debate is not via the assignment of blame to the “conservative sector of our population,” but as the government has reiterated in their policies, no Singaporean should be left behind as the nation march forward in economic progress. This would also mean that we must be sensitive and emphatic with those who have yet to accept the social changes associated with globalization.

Therefore, in the homosexual issue, “the Government had to try to maintain a balance between the interests of both groups” through the adoption of “an ambiguous position by keeping a law banning homosexual sex on the books but not enforcing it, and not allowing gay parades.” (S'pore must stay connected globally to grow).

Furthermore, the conservative “heartlander” - using the terminology of our Minister Mentor in his interview - is not a minority group as Dr Yap has implied. Surely Dr Yap is not suggesting that Singapore is to ignore the value system of those who live in three- and four-room HDB flats.

As Minister Mentor has said, “We have a part Muslim population, another part conservative older Chinese and Indians. So, let's go slowly. It's a pragmatic approach to maintain social cohesion.” (Excerpts of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s Interview with the International Herald Tribune).

Dr Yap’s claim of a correlation between economic progress and the repeal of S377A is, therefore, tenuous at best. At worst, it may even create social rifts and divisions, and widen the gap between liberal and conservative Singaporeans.

In conclusion, S377A is not redundant. Its retention only reflects the wisdom and sensitivity of the government in the management of the homosexuality issue, so that Singapore will continue to progress economically as a socially cohesive nation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Plantinga’s Argument Against Naturalism part 1

The Problem Develops

Alvin Plantinga, in the last chapter of his book Warrant and Proper Function, provided us with a philosophical argument against naturalism - and by implication, evolutionism. His thesis is further developed and defended in his paper here. Although his arguments may appear convoluted at times, it is my objective in this brief article to furnish the reader with the gist of his thesis in the most simplistic way. It is hoped that the reader may find his arguments useful in the discussion of evolutionism with the average churchman and the un-churched alike.

Theists have sometimes resorted to rebutting the fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4). In other words, they have attempted to counter empirical evidence with allegedly contradicting empirical evidence. While such a method may be useful in certain scenarios, Science by default is always tentative in nature and thereby unable to furnish an indisputable conclusion or common consensus whereby all scientists would agree upon. Another method of approaching the evolutionist’s leviathan of naturalism is to attack its foundational premises using rational arguments or simple logic, which may prove useful in revealing inherent self-contradictions that the Neo-Darwinist may be reluctant to admit.

Evolution is built upon the presupposition of Naturalism, and this in turn could be fairly accurately defined as the theistic picture of biology minus God. Proponents of Naturalism include Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Bertrand Russell, and the renowned Charles Darwin. Plantinga’s rationale is to turn evolution’s premises of random mutation and natural selection upon itself.

The crux of the argument is an epistemic attempt at making nonsense out of the sense of the evolutionist’s faith in man’s reasoning capacities. Without an omnipotent Creator, the reliability of our cognitive faculties is difficult to ascertain. In fact, we must remain agnostic with regard to the reliability of our cognitive abilities. It is indeed meaningless to say that the brain, which is presumably the product of billions of years of random mutations and rearrangement of molecules, is reliable in giving us true beliefs.

The traditional theist believes that God is the premier knower. He has created human beings in his image, an important aspect of which involves His giving them what is needed to have knowledge – reliable cognitive faculties. The naturalist, on the other hand, has to contend that Chance must provide its biological product – Homo sapiens – with reliable cognitive faculties.

What then is the purpose of evolution? In his book The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins wrote, “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. (emphasis mine)”

In conjunction with Dawkins’ assertion of natural selection having no purpose at all, the implications of evolutionary biology indicate that the ultimate purpose of evolution is survival and reproduction, not production of true beliefs.

Patricia Churchland, concerning the functions of the nervous system, stated, “Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F's: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival [Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”

In other words, the very existence of the nervous system (and arguably, its accompanying cognitive faculties) indicates the success of resultant behaviors and actions in preserving the brain’s very own existence and continued evolution. But this also implies that the production of true beliefs is not the chief aim of evolution. The brain did not evolve to know truths. It evolved in relation to the organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. That is, brain evolution is concerned with the four F’s of Churchland - feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing.

Plantinga then underlined Darwin’s own doubts concerning evolutionism. “With me,” says Darwin, “the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

To phrase the problem in another way, “Given that Naturalism is true, would evolution produce reliable cognitive faculties in providing true beliefs?” Can the evolutionist rationally trust that his own cognitive function is reliable in providing him with true beliefs?

Friday, August 24, 2007

The retention of S377A helps preserve the nation’s moral framework

Note: The arguments in my previous post had been repackaged and sold as another letter to ST Forum. Nevertheless, ST would not publish it. I wonder why. Here's the letter. I will switch topic and discuss evolutionism in my next installments. For an update on my blogging details see here.

I am disturbed by certain arguments presented in Jason Wee Kheng Hoe's letter to the Straits Times Forum, "Section 377A should be repealed - reputation in legal and multinational community at stake" (ST Forum August 16, 2007).

At the outset, he alleged that "many arguments favoring retention of Section 377A appear to be religious dogma masquerading as universal truism." While there is an embarrassing lack of any validation for his statement, assigning the "religious dogma" label to the opinions of some Singaporeans by virtue of their similarity to certain religious affirmations commits the fallacy of guilt by association.

In addition, he has unfairly excluded “universal truism” from all religions by default. Contrary to his assertion, universal truths are embodied in centuries of religious wisdom.

Mr Wee also seemed to have overlooked the basic fact that all adult Singaporeans, including racial and religious groups, do possess equal rights to freedom of speech. The State does not discriminate against any race or religion, and allows all reasoned arguments to be presented in the homosexuality debate.

Within a multi-religious society, the viewpoints espoused by the various religious groups should be adequately addressed, and not relegated to the fringe of society. When deriving a public consensus for the homosexuality debate, the failure to engage these religious groups effectively discriminates against a large population of Singaporeans, who understandably have their respective religious affiliations.

Surely Mr Wee will not deny anyone the freedom to express their perspectives within this multiracial and multi-religious country.

Concerning Section 377A, how the Singapore’s Law Society arrived at the conclusion that “those arguing for its retention were a minority” remains a mystery. Was there a nation wide poll to decide upon this issue? Was he referring to a “minority” of Singaporeans or to a “minority” of homosexuals?

While I agree with him that the socio-political fabric of Singapore is "grounded on acceptance and tolerance," he failed to specify the relevance of his statement. As Singaporeans are taught the national pledge since childhood, we do know what exactly we should be tolerant of. Regardless of race, language or religion, all Singaporeans are entitled to equal rights in the eyes of the law. This, however, does not mean that the law is obliged to tolerate everything.

Besides, there is no need to “blame God” for the alleged “genetic aberration.” Even amongst scientists, it is highly controversial and debatable whether homosexuality has a viable genetic etiology. Some homosexuals have even turned to a heterosexual lifestyle.

Furthermore, there are scientific papers suggesting that pedophilia and aggression have certain genetic basis. This, however, in no way justify acts of aggression or sexual intercourse with children. No sane Singaporean would lobby for the decriminalization of pedophilia-related crimes based upon genetic evidence. Similarly, the country cannot legally endorse all sorts of sexual paraphilias based upon genetic data alone.

The crux of this debate is actually a moral issue: is homosexuality acceptable according to the moral value system of Singaporeans?

Mr Wee claimed that “keeping section 377A and not enforcing it is an unnecessary burden.” I beg to differ.

Firstly, as Assistant Professor Yvonne Lee has previously stated, “If S377A is repealed, homosexual sex is legitimised, transformed from a crime into an 'alternative lifestyle' (Decriminalising homosexual acts would be an error, Straits Times May 4, 2007).” This provides the necessary legal and political momentum for gay lobbyists to push their agenda further. The retention of S377A assures the public that any possible social division secondary to controversial issues, such as the redefinition of marriage, will not become a reality.

Secondly, I question Mr Wee’s reasoning that the “retention of unprosecuted offences on the statute book runs the risk of bringing the law into disrepute.”

For example, Rule 28 of the Road Traffic Rules prohibits cycling on footways. The Road Traffic Act and Road Traffic Rules also prohibit pedestrians from crossing the pedestrian crossings when the lights are red. Although offenders of some of these rules are in reality seldom prosecuted, the rules are nevertheless indispensable for road safety reasons. If it is true that the “retention of unprosecuted offences” results in running the “risk of bringing the law into disrepute,” should Mr Wee also consider lobbying for the repeal of a myriad of other rules that are less frequently enforced?

While I agree with Mr Wee that Singapore’s “reputation in the legal and multinational community is important,” I believe he had missed the main point. Singapore’s status and success today are mainly attributable to effective leadership. Building upon strong family ties and a conservative moral framework, Singapore has gained the reputation of being a safe and trustworthy haven for investors and their families. Singaporeans and foreigners alike can trust the government for both their children’s academic and moral education.

I feel blessed to be a Singaporean, not simply because of the various economic and academic excellences that we have achieved as a nation, but also because of a number of intangibles that we possess as an integrated society. One such intangible entity is the country’s conservative, and yet delicate, moral framework.

The renowned philosopher, Sir Karl Raimund Popper, in his “Liberal Principles” advised his readers that the moral framework of a society is its most important safeguard. He wrote, “Among the traditions we must count as the most important is what we may call the ‘moral framework’ (corresponding to the institutional ‘legal framework’) of a society. This incorporates the society’s traditional sense of justice or fairness, or the degree of moral sensitivity it has reached. This moral framework serves as the basis, which makes it possible to reach a fair or equitable compromise between conflicting interests where this is necessary.”

Concluding his statement, he warned, “Nothing is more dangerous than the destruction of this traditional framework. (Its destruction was consciously aimed at by Nazism.) In the end its destruction will lead to cynicism and nihilism, i.e. to the disregard and the dissolution of all human values.”

Contrary to being an “albatross on Singapore’s neck,” S377A currently serves to preserve the delicate moral fabric of Singapore’s society. The repealing of S377A will change the law's moral perception of homosexuality, while its retention reflects the moral value system of Singaporeans at large.

Finally, the retention of S377A will also offer Singaporeans the confidence that the law will continue to protect society from an insidious, albeit gradual, degeneration of its moral framework. And this moral fabric is arguably one of the essential factors for the nation’s continued success.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Golden Rule of Reciprocity, Genetics, and the Homosexuality Debate

The following is an unpublished letter to the Straits Times, with minor changes for blog publication, of course.

People Like Us (PLU) should not use arguments like these

An ongoing debate in the Straits Times Forum concerns homosexuality and Section 377a of the Penal Code. In my perusal of the letters in the online forum, I have read various interesting arguments presented by those in favor of repealing S377a. Amongst the myriad of rationales put forth, I would like to point out two recurring arguments that gay rights activists should avoid using because of inherent fallacies.

Argumentum ad misericordiam ad nauseam – Gays must bear the burden of proof for genetic evidence

Firstly, by using an appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam), some writers have alleged that S377a is a repressive piece of legislation that discriminates against the private, consensual sexual activities between homosexuals. Their claim is that S377a criminalizes an individual for something that he could not help.

According to these writers, some men are purportedly born homosexuals. But by rephrasing their argument in the form of a deductive syllogism, it becomes apparent where the logical fallacy is.

Major Premise: All genetically determined conditions are amoral
Minor Premise: Homosexuality is a genetically determined condition
Conclusion: Therefore homosexuality is amoral

By implication, if homosexuality is genetically determined, one cannot choose whether he is born a homosexual or not. It then follows that homosexual activities are not matters of moral consideration, but matters of sexual orientation.

Such a conclusion cannot be valid because the minor premise of their syllogism cannot be established factually. Concerning the genetic basis of homosexuality, it is a well-known fact within the scientific community that empirical evidence is equivocal and inconclusive at best. It is therefore reasonable that gay rights activists should cease using medical genetics as a basis for their agenda.

Furthermore, as the pro-homosexual movement is pressing the government to change the status quo by repealing S377a, the onus is therefore on the gay rights lobbyists to provide conclusive, scientific evidence that homosexuality is indeed a genetic condition beyond reasonable doubt.

The Golden Rule of Reciprocity cannot apply

Another commonly encountered rationale from those who oppose the status quo is the Golden Rule of Reciprocity. Simply stated, this moral rule proclaims, “Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you (Confucius’ Analects 15:23).” Christianity’s version of this rule is found in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

These pro-homosexual writers are essentially saying, “Be legally fair. Leave the homosexuals alone. They are having consensual intercourse in private, and are causing no harm to others. Likewise, heterosexuals are having consensual intercourse in private, and are causing no harm to others. Please do not criminalize private, consensual homosexual activities just as we do not want private, consensual heterosexual activities to be criminalized.”

Primarily, this line of reasoning begs the question of whether homosexual and heterosexual intercourse should both be classified under the same moral category. In other words, are both types of sexual intercourse morally acceptable according to Singapore’s moral framework?

I also submit to you that the Golden Rule is hereby misapplied. Rules, by their very nature, are meant to be applied to several cases. However, any rule is also bound to have a range of applications, and cases falling outside that range are not covered by the rule.

To avoid committing the logical fallacy of making a sweeping generalization (a Dicto simpliciter), the Golden Rule of Reciprocity must be cautiously applied to the homosexuality debate with certain qualifications and contextual considerations.

The first qualification is this: that which we desire that men would do to us must be morally acceptable. For instance, we cannot apply the Golden Rule to a suicidal teenage girl in the scenario where she is actively seeking death or suicide. Suicide is not morally acceptable. Since she desires to be killed, she may consider the killing of someone else as being morally correct according to the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” By reductio ad absurdum, it is clear that the Golden Rule cannot be applied indiscriminately.

What about the statement by Confucius, “Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you?” In order for the application of the Golden Rule to be viable, we must also examine the presupposition of that application. As an example, the taking of a life by the state executioner and a murderer may theoretically be performed under similar conditions and in the same manner, that is, by hanging. However, the murderer cannot point to the Golden Rule of Reciprocity and demand, “It is only fair for the law to leave me alone. Just as the taking of a life by the state executioner is not criminal, my taking of a life should not be criminalized as well. Why do you criminalize my act of taking a life? Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you.” The fallacy of the murderer’s argument is this: he has assumed a priori that the taking of another’s life is amoral, be it performed by the state executioner or by other citizens of Singapore. But the truth is, the executioner’s action is ordered by the state, while the murderer’s action is that of murder which is inherently immoral.

Likewise, gay rights activists have assumed a priori that homosexuality is morally correct.

The introduction of the rule of reciprocity into the homosexuality debate is ultimately a red herring. The rule detracts from the main question at hand, which has not been resolved, “Is homosexuality morally correct, or is it morally unacceptable?” To ignore the moral value system of Singaporeans is to ignore the country’s mores.

Philosopher Sir Karl Raimund Popper, in his “Liberal Principles,” warned that the moral framework of a society is its most important safeguard. He wrote, “Among the traditions we must count as the most important is what we may call the ‘moral framework’ (corresponding to the institutional ‘legal framework’) of a society. This incorporates the society’s traditional sense of justice or fairness, or the degree of moral sensitivity it has reached. This moral framework serves as the basis, which makes it possible to reach a fair or equitable compromise between conflicting interests where this is necessary. It is, of course, itself not unchangeable, but it changes comparatively slowly. Nothing is more dangerous than the destruction of this traditional framework. (Its destruction was consciously aimed at by Nazism.) In the end its destruction will lead to cynicism and nihilism, i.e. to the disregard and the dissolution of all human values.”

I conclude that the retention of S377a will rightly reflect the moral value system of Singapore’s essentially conservative society. It will also offer Singaporeans the confidence that the law will continue to protect their society from a gradual, albeit insidious, degeneration of its moral framework.

Note: There are Christians who may be uncomfortable with my previous proposal that the government should give due respect to the moral value system of Singaporeans. I have perceived that Singapore is generally conservative compared to many European nations. To my critics (now I understand why we have to fight the battle from both sides), do allow me to ask you a question, “In view of the secular government, what would you propose that we do? Tell the government to follow the Ten Commandments?” More importantly, “What have you or your church done to promote a godly agenda within Singapore’s society?” Silence is no longer golden.

I have also addressed the problem

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Homosexuality Debate, Majoritarianism, and the Moral Argument

It seems that the Straits Times Forum is progressively discouraging any contributions that relate to the homosexuality debate in Singapore. I have not seen any such letters for the past one week. But in the last 6 months, there were at least a dozen of such letters weekly; of course, most were from the homosexual minority.

Since renowned Singaporean gay activist Au Wai Pang of (and friends) had made some bizarre, and sometimes amusing, arguments in favor of sodomy and homosexuality in response to my brief letter, I felt it appropriate to write a concise response to at least two arguments being perpetrated in cyberspace in my next two posts.

Christians can always furnish them with a sound rebuttal using Scriptures. But in a secular debate, we Christians have to contend with one hand tied behind our backs. Why so? A secular debate, especially with the gay rights activists in Singapore, demands that we "do not use religion." But this de facto exclusion of religions does not include the exclusion of atheism, agnosticism, and secular humanism, all of which are religions in their own right.

So, pro-gay lobbyists have in effect established their humanistic presuppositions even before we can argue what those presuppositions should be. For example, can they prove that there is no God (i.e. epistemology)? Surely not! They, however, demand that we must leave God out of the equation in this allegedly secular, amoral debate.

To be sure, they are seeking political momentum in their quest to repeal S377a. Apart from the perennial chant, "Bring them out unto us, that we may know them (Gen. 19:5)," the gay rights activists want the law and the church to accept same-sex marriages and same-sex family units as legally, politically, socially, and perhaps, morally viable practices.

The Moral Argument and Majoritarianism

And here is a question to those who criticized my proposal that the majority consensus should determine what constitutes morality within a secular milieu, "How else would you determine morality?"

Those acquainted with the philosophy of religion would realize that to concede to a moral argument, you are basically acquiescing to the ‘moral proof’ for the existence of God. And the homosexuality debate cannot escape a moral argument. The allegation that S377a is legally unfair and discriminating is in fact a moral argument from pro-homosexual lobbyists. How would you contend that something is unfair unless you have a moral standard or rule by which you can measure your statement with? Without an objective moral standard, nothing is either fair or unfair. Everything is relative, and what is unfair for you may be absolutely fair for us. So please do not impose your sense of unfairness upon us just as you demand that we do not impose our "moral standards" upon you. The truth is, gay activists in Singapore are aggressively attempting to impose their sense of unfairness upon the general population’s sense of unfairness.

Is this not fair then?

Pro-homosexual activists, if you were to contend for subjectivity in the realm of morality, you are again shooting yourself in the foot. Advocates of Social Darwinism and secular humanism are strong supporters of relativistic moral values. But even these advocates are absolutely certain that their moral code is absolutely correct. Is not that absolutism? Besides, these advocates would never argue for morality based upon a minority consensus.

Now here is the main point: gays in Singapore cannot claim that S377a is "not fair." Nevertheless, I have heard a multitude of moans and groans, "But it is unfair for us! You must practice the Golden Rule of Reciprocity."

Let us be clear about a few points. Gays claim that what is morally wrong for the majority may not be morally wrong for the minority of homosexuals. And this is called moral relativism. Moral standards are relative, so they say. All right. For the sake of argument, let us accept this point and call it point A.

Gays also claim that S377a is "unfair." Again, let us be charitable and accept that point as well. We call this point B.

But my point to you is this: you cannot accept both points A and B. You can either accept point A or B. Not both. Again, I hear a multitude of disagreement, "Why not, you bigoted Christian homophobic extremist?"

Have patience, my fiends. Allow me to explain the simple logic behind my point that your points cannot be viable points in any sensible arguments. Point B claims that S377a is not fair. My question for gays out there, "Is this absolutely or relatively unfair?" For your point to even make any sense you have to say, "It is absolutely unfair." So, to rephrase your statement, "S377a is unfair for homosexuals, and it is unquestionably, absolutely, and intolerably unfair."

Now, let me come to point A. Since you had claimed, and even emphasized, that moral standards are relative, how could you turn around, betray your faith in moral relativism, and claim that anything is unfair?

To make a statement stating that anything is unfair is to make a moral argument and a moral statement stating that something is indeed unfair according to a moral standard, which has to be absolute in nature. If the moral standard that you abide by is indeed relative and fluid in nature, then there is nothing that you can put a finger on and say, "This is unfair!"

Is not that a fair statement?

For those who have concerns regarding majoritarianism within a democratic society, I would recommend David Beetham’s Democracy and Human Rights (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1999), 18-26. As this is a complex political question regarding the validity of democracy, equality, and the power of voting, I will leave it to Beetham to answer your questions.

As Beetham had aptly concluded, "we do not have to accept a stark contrast between majoritarian and consensual procedures, neither do we have to accept direct and representative democracy as mutually exclusive antitheses. Not only does a representative assembly, to be accountable and responsive, depends upon an active and alert citizen body, and on a variety of forms of direct participation in the associations of civil society; it is also possible, as the Swiss and other experience shows, to give political authority to a representative assembly while leaving an ultimate power of decision on legislation in the hands of the citizens themselves. (p. 25)"

I will publish an unpublished letter to Straits Times Forum in my next post, which will answer the question of, "What about the Golden Rule of Reciprocity?"