Posts Tagged ‘First Things’

Nigel Biggar’s In Defence of War

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

On the recommendation of George Weigel’s First Things review I took Nigel Biggar’s book In Defence of War out of the library.

Prof. Biggar’s ethical method appears to have a gaping hole, and that is his rather glib dismissal of jus post bellum considerations as such, since he maintains that post bellum considerations are already implicit under the ad bellum requirement of “right intention.”

Translated into less technical speech, Prof. Biggar discounts considerations about what happens after a war, such as the moral obligation to rebuild the war-torn society, based upon the convenient assumption that those who have the right intention to go to war already include in their decision-making such intentions as rebuilding the society after the war.

For someone who begins his book by inveighing against wishful thinking, Biggar displays, in such arbitrary bracketing and assumptions a caricature of ivory tower lack of realism. In this particular instance of the dismissal of post bellum as a separate category, Biggar’s decision-maker dwells within the old Rational Man paradigm, which trumps history on the weight of his a priori assumptions and good intentions. Prof. Biggar’s weakness as a thinker is his very strength — he’s brilliant at bracketing.

Prof. Biggar’s assumptions weaken his argument because governments often do not fulfill their promises or carry through on their stated intentions. Their priorities change. Post bellum commitments are rarely kept, thus greatly affecting the sixth criteria of just war, “prospect of success.” A military victory can still lead to an historic cataclysm of epic proportions if an incompetent victor “loses the peace” after the war. It is all too convenient to stop the moral time-clock and make the just war determination at the point hostilities end, but before recovery.

Many governments are indeed incompetent, and cannot deliver on their commitments. This question should shout out: Can an incompetent government that cannot realize its intentions and commitments to “win the peace” even make a just war, despite the prospect of military victory?

The historic reality of incompetent government–which cannot be wished away–justifies the inclusion of jus post bellum considerations as a separate category in just war theory. Despite post bellum being implicit in “right intention” (I agree with Prof. Biggar on this technical point), for the “prospect of success” to be met, a government must be competent both in war (in bello) and in peace (post bellum). Inclusion of the post bellum category forces consideration of the question of competence. But Prof. Biggar blithely waves away post bellum considerations in his first pages. The rest of his arguments, despite his brilliance and scholarship, therefore fall short. Tellingly, there is no reference to the Marshall Plan in Prof. Biggar’s index. His arguments would have more suasion if he reported visiting as many historic wartime recovery sites as he reported visiting historic battlefields.

Modern wars are won and lost after hostilities end at the post bellum stage. Rebuilding society and “winning the peace” have everything to do with the “prospect of success.” Post bellum considerations cannot be bracketed, assumed, or waved away.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


An Important Review of Misleading Statistics on Homosexuality

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

There are few more contentious topics than statistics on same-sex behavior.

When popular truisms are questioned by professional scientists, as were Alfred C. Kinsey‘s statistics by the American Statistical Association in 1954, the response from the popular media is often dead silence. The general public is still not aware of the devastating debunking of Kinsey’s numbers by some of the world’s best statisticians:

“Critics are justified in their objections that many of the most interesting and provocative statements in the [Kinsey 1948] book are not based on the data presented therein, and it is not made clear to the reader on what evidence the statements are based. Further, the conclusions drawn from data presented in the book are often stated by KPM [Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin] in much too bold and confident a manner. Taken cumulatively, these objections amount to saying that much of the writing in the book falls below the level of good scientific writing.”

Cochran, William Gemmell, W. O. Jenkins, Frederick Mosteller, and John Wilder Tukey. 1954. Statistical problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. American Statistical Association, National Research Council (U.S.). Committee for Research in Problems of Sex – Psychology

Now Wheaton College provost Stanton L. Jones has published a comprehensive review and correction of misleading same-sex statistics. An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the February 2012 First Things. But here is the extended version, with references, from the Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE).

In his CACE article, Prof. Jones addresses what he calls “false beliefs about homosexuality”:

    “Being gay is just as healthy, both in terms of mental health and physical health, as being straight;
    sexual orientation, just like race, is a biologically determined given to which environmental variables such as family and culture contribute nothing and to which individuals make no voluntary contribution;
    sexual orientation cannot be changed, and thus the attempt to change is intrinsically harmful;
    homosexual relationships are equivalent to heterosexual marriage in all important characteristics; and
    identity is properly and legitimately constituted around sexual orientation.”

“Sexual Orientation and Reason: On the Implications of False Beliefs about Homosexuality,” by Stanton L. Jones, Center for Applied Christian Ethics, accessed 1/21/12

I thank Prof. Stanton L. Jones for his important and reasoned contribution to a topic too often ruled by mythology and propaganda.

Please see my earlier critique of Kinsey for further background on this question.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved