The fundamental problem with religion is that it is by definition impervious to reason, and hence there can be no hope of reasonable reconciliation of religious disputes. The best we can accomplish is for people to agree to disagree. The best way of achieving that is the First Law of Social Harmony: no one should attempt to impose their religious views on others without their consent. A corollary to the First Law is that government, which is empowered to to use violence to enforce the law, should not attempt to impose any religious views on anyone. This is the essence of the First Amendment, which until this week made the United States a vibrant, diverse, and religiously peaceful nation. A violent sectarian struggle of the sort that happens regularly, maybe continuously, in the Middle East would have been unthinkable here.
The other problem with religion is that it is, again by definition, wholly unconstrained by reality. Want to believe that Mohammed was carried up to heaven by a winged horse? Or that humans speak different languages because God was afraid that we would build a tower tall enough to reach heaven? No problem. No problem, that is, until you decide to no longer adhere to the First Law. Then it becomes a problem, to wit, that most religious views are, in point of material fact, false. Sometimes this doesn't matter. If you want to believe that there's an invisible pink unicorn watching over you that is probably not going to pose an existential threat to civilization. But believing that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, with all that implies, might.
The Supreme Court has been gutting the First Law of Social Harmony for a while now. They began when they decided to impose a religious view (or at least a false one) on the people of the United States without their consent, namely, that corporations are people. Corporations are plainly not people, they are groups of people. Moreover, they are groups of people organized in a particular way for a particular purpose, namely, in a hierarchical, occasionally feudal, but almost always non-democratic way for the purpose of engaging in commerce. Corporations are a human invention, a technology, that we built for the purpose of organizing our activities to achieve a purpose. They are not a part of the natural order of things, and they are plainly not persons.
The Court elaborated on this fiction this week when it decided that corporate non-persons can have religious beliefs which are protected by the First Amendment. But, of course, in point of fact a corporation cannot have a religious belief because a corporation is not a person. No corporation ever attended a church. No corporation has ever been baptized. No corporation has ever received God's grace. Corporations do not go to the rainbow bridge when they go out of business.
The Court's hypocrisy is plainly laid out in its own rhetoric: corporate personhood for the purposes of religious protection extends only to closely held corporations. In this constraint the Court tacitly acknowledges the manifest absurdity of corporations having religious views. If the group of actual human persons running the corporation is small enough to have identifiable religious views, then that group of people may, under cover of the fiction of corporate personhood, impose their religious beliefs on their employees. But, of course, that train only runs one way.
As is so often the case, it is hard to tell which is more disturbing: that certain wealthy individuals are being granted the power to impose their beliefs on others, or that this is being done in the name of religious freedom.
There is no sport in finding logical contradictions in religious views, but it really bothers me when religious leaders can't even get their own theology right. I stumbled across this article written by Rabbi Daniel Brenner, arguing against the Hobby Lobby decision. But the reasoning is such a mess:
Jewish ethics on contraceptive use are rooted in our earliest religious texts. If you can think back to your earliest childhood encounters with the Book of Genesis, you might recall the first divine command -- Genesis 9:1 -- "be fruitful and multiply!" The rabbinic sages of the fifth and sixth century looked closely at that passage and raised a compelling question, "Was the Holy One speaking only with the 'sons of Noah' or with women and men?" The conclusion of the great rabbis? Only men are commanded to be fruitful and multiply. Later rabbis clarified that being "fruitful" meant that men are obligated to have a male and a female child. The command to have a son and a daughter is a moment of indirect gender equity in a narrative that is often focused on gender difference and strict gender codes based on dress, religious duties, legal witnessing, and a host of other categories.
The rabbis of the Talmud concluded that men were commanded to have children, so any man who engages in a sexual act with a woman and uses a type of birth control that prevents him from fulfilling this command is, according to the ancient rabbis, going against divine law. (Some contemporary rabbis have allowed and encouraged condom use to prevent disease -- but this is a relatively modern position.) The classic example from the Torah is the story of Onan -- who spills his seed on the floor rather than impregnate his wife. Medieval rabbis explained that his act was an act of vanity -- he was obsessed with his wife's thin body and thought that pregnancy would ruin her. Their comments prove that even 1,500 years ago rabbis were worried about the objectification of women by men.
Since women are not, according to the rabbis, commanded to have children, then birth control, in some cases, is permitted by divine law.Here's what the Bible has to say about it:
Ge1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Ge1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.I don't see anything in there about the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" being directed specifically at men. And here's what the Bible says about Onan:
Ge38:7 And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
Ge38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
Ge38:9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
Ge38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
Again, not a word about "his wife's thin body." To the contrary, the reason Onan doesn't want to impregnate his wife is because she is not his wife, she is his brother's wife! The reason Onan needs to impregnate her is because his brother, Er, was killed by God and it is now his duty to impregnate her.
Again, none of this is problematic if it stays between a man and his god. But when you give business owners the power to impose this kind of insanity on everyone it's a big, big problem.
As Jefferson eloquently stated, the people of the United States hold for themselves certain unalienable rights. As "unalienable" rights, they cannot be separated from an individual - that is, sold or transferred. The "power relationship" between the government and the person does not matter - for example, a public university cannot enact a restrictive "speech code" because the students are "customer" of the government. The students' right to free speech in unalienable and the government cannot infringe on it.
Similarly, one does not has his rights reduced or restricted when joining a group, acquiring a government license, driving a car, flying in a airplane, or being shot to the moon.
The free exercise of religion is the first right protected by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..." It does not matter if religion is "true" or "false" - it is protected.
So it is entirely logical and reasonable that when religious individuals form a group, they do not lose their religious rights. Congress is prohibited from defining what religion is, what religious ministry is, or any other expression of religion. It matters not one whit that the religious people form a corporation, or are engaged in commerce - their rights are unalienable and Congress is prohibited from infringing on those rights. "Closely held" is key here, as the religious beliefs can be homogeneous and understood for small groups; large public corporations can have thousands of shareholders and it would be obsurd for such a large group to be considered as holding similar religious beliefs. A closely held corporation - 5 people - it is possible and reasonable (as opposed to "absurd"). The United States has a long tradition of large groups of religious people providing services to the public - this they consider their ministry and religious duty. Examples are the Catholic Church providing education and health care services, and the Salvation Army helping the lost and least of society.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) administrative rule requiring employers to pay for contraception clearly fails to be the least restrictive way for the government to further its "interest" as required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Note that the rule was not written into the law by Congress - it is a bureaucratic creation from HHS. There are less restrictive ways for the federal government to further it's interest - for example, the federal government could pay for contraception (one of many possibilities). The family behind Hobby Lobby only objected to 5 drugs - drugs that terminate a fertilized human egg. They had no, and have no, objection to other forms of birth control and provide them in their medical plan.
Is it a "burden on religion" to force these 5 people to pay for what their deeply held religious beliefs consider a moral evil? Certainly you believe it would be? Your counter-claim here is that Hobby Lobby is not a "person"; I have argued that there are 5 people with homogeneous religious beliefs that formed Hobby Lobby, and that their rights cannot be reduced, altered, infringed, or separated from them simply because they, as a group, formed a corporation and are engaged in commerce - "unalienable rights."
Finally, your last sentence exhibits the "reasoning is such a mess" that you decry in your postscript. One, what does wealth have to do with religious freedom? Two, family behind Hobby Lobby has never sought to impose its religious beliefs on its employees. Indeed, any woman working at Hobby Lobby is free to buy and use any of the 5 drugs objected to by Hobby Lobby. This returns the situation to where it was in the dark ages of . . . 2011.
> when religious individuals form a group, they do not lose their religious rights
That depends on what kind of group they are forming. If they are forming a church, then yes, of course they don't give up their religious rights. But when they are forming a *corporation* for the purpose of *commerce* they *do* give up their religious rights, or at least they should, otherwise any privately held corporation would be free to ignore any law they chose to simply by declaring that law to be counter to their religious beliefs. A corporation is NOT an "establishment of religion" protected by the first amendment, and requiring you to obey ALL the laws when you are engaged in COMMERCE does NOT violate your right to free exercise. Pray all you want to whatever deity you choose on your own time, but when you open up shop you should be required to obey ALL the laws, not just the one you think your god approves of.
You're missing the concept of unalienable rights - and the specific protection in the first amendment - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."
Here are some things that prohibits:
1) Defining what is or is not a ministry of the church - violates establishment and free exercise clauses
2) Restricting religious rights when engaged in commerce. You 1) selling a pack of gum, or 2) buying a pack of gum; or other commerce. Religious rights are unalienable.
3) Restrict religious rights when dealing with the government - as a contractor, student, taxpayer, employee, obtaining a sales tax license, a bank charter, or a corporate charter.
Note that your understanding of "Establishment of Religion" is wrong - it prohibits Congress from establishing a state religion.
Ministries are often setup as corporations today - as this is the one of the most popular, and legally sound, methods of running a large organization. As you have stated, a "corporation as a person" is a legal fiction (this is convenient for many legal matters) - but there are real people in that corporation. The Supreme Court held that those real people do not lose their religious freedom simply because they formed a (closely-held) corporation (in this case, 5 family members).
Indeed, the case was about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed in 1993 (unanimous in the House, 3 dissents in the Senate, signed by Bill Clinton) in response to public outrage over two court decisions that infringed on the religious rights of Native Americans. This law states that a religiously neutral law can interfere just as much as one intended to interfere with religion - thus, the "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability." The law provides an exception if 2 conditions are met: 1) the burden must be necessary for the "furtherance of a compelling government interest", and 2) the rule must be the least restrictive way in which to further the government interest. The administrative rule under the ACA clearly failed the 2nd test.
Now, the government does infringe on religious rights with some laws of general applicability. The prohibition of polygamy, for example. No right is absolute. Your doomsday scenario of a privately held corporation being able to ignore any law due to religious objection has not been experienced in the 21 years that the RFRA has been in place.
There are additional cases at the appellate level - objecting to the HHS "accommodation" for non-profit corporations requiring that health plans provide birth control. Here, the HHS is attempting to force the Catholic Church to provide birth control. The "accommodation" is that the Catholic Church doesn't have to pay for it directly - no, but their insurance company would be required to pay for it. This is a bogus shell game (or 3 card monte if your prefer). It sounds like you would support the Catholic Church in their objection to this.
The Catholic Church is *clearly* a religious organization. Hobby Lobby is not. Hobby Lobby is a for-profit corporation, and hence necessarily secular. The fact that it is *owned* by people who happen to be religious does not make Hobby Lobby -- a separate legal entity -- religious. It's as simple as that. Requiring Hobby Lobby to pay for contraception that its *owners* object to on religious grounds does not burden its *owners'* free exercise of religion. If complying with the legal requirements of owning a corporation contradicts the owner's religious beliefs they are free to divest themselves of that corporation and invest in some other asset class that does not involve having employees.
This is the crux of my objection: it is not that I don't believe in free exercise. I do. It is that the Court completely ignored the fact that the company's employees (who are actual human beings by the way) have free exercise rights too, and that one of those rights is to not subscribe to the religious beliefs of the owners of the company they happen to work for. There are only two possibilities: either the religious beliefs of the owners of a corporation trump those of the employees, or objecting to contraception is a valid religious belief protected by the RFRA while not objecting to contraception is not. Either way it's a disaster. Either corporate owners get to impose their beliefs on employees, or the government is now necessarily in the business of deciding what is and is not a valid religious belief. Should a corporation owned by Quakers be exempt from paying taxes that fund the military? Should a corporation owned by Objectivists be exempt from all taxes and regulation?
It's a horrible freakin' mess.
So you see no problem in giving merchants a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefit of operating as corporations. Fortunately, Congress wrote the RFRA's text to provide broad protection for religious liberty and did not intend to put merchants to such a choice. It employs the familiar legal fiction of including corporations as "persons," but the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporations, including shareholders, officers, and employees.Protecting free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans to own and control them. Any suggestion that seeking to make a profit makes a corporation incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money is contrary to modern corporate law - States authorize corporations to pursue any lawful purpose or business, including pursuit of profit in conformity with the owner's religious principles.
Being a for-profit corporation does not make it "necessarily secular." The corporate structure, we agree, has real people behind it. What if my business was printing and selling Bibles? That is not a religious corporation? Also, every Catholic parish in the U.S. is organized as a corporation. There are "moral equity" investment funds organized to invest in companies that please the morals of the fund investors (look up the "Ave Maria" mutual funds).
However, to address the crux of your objection: the rights of employees. Here is your error. The free-exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment apply only to government action. They do not constrain private action. So if you don't like what the Dixie Chicks said on stage, you don't have to buy their albums. Employment is a private arrangement - an exchange of labor for wages. The government is not a party here (unless, of course, the employer is the government). Top executives will sign employment contracts - a voluntary agreement by both parties. Lower level employees are free to join or not, with protections by employment law - it is still a voluntary agreement by both the business and the employee. So the employees have no "religious rights" with respect to the business, except for those provided by employment law (which prohibit discrimination based on ...). So employers don't get to "force their religious beliefs" on their employees - it is a voluntary association.
As for the government decided what is and is not a valid religious belief, you can never get away from judges having to "judge." The RFRA also provides exceptions for "compelling government interests" that are "done with the least restrictive means." The RFRA has been law for 20 years. It doesn't appear to be the cause of society collapsing.
> Employment is a private arrangement
Heh, you wish. Have you ever hired someone? There are myriad government regulations that you have to comply with, not least of which is the requirement that you not discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs. You are not allowed, for example, to preferentially hire someone because they are white EVEN IF your religion teaches that black people are the spawn of satan (and this is not a hypothetical example: that was official doctrine in the Mormon church until the 1970s). You are not allowed to discriminate against atheists even if your business is selling Bibles.
> So you see no problem in giving merchants a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefit of operating as corporations.
Religious liberty cannot be absolute. If it were, there would be carnage. There are major religions that teach, for example, that homosexuality should be a capital crime. I hope I we can agree that allowing people to freely practice that belief would be a bad idea. So there are times when the requirements of civil society need to trump even widely and sincerely held religious beliefs.
The only way to insure that the requirements of civil society intrude minimally onto everyone's religious freedom is to require EVERYONE to check their religion at the door when they come together to engage in the activities that make up a civil society (with the obvious exception, of course, of activities that are overtly religious, like going to church, but not selling hobby supplies).
The problem with Hobby Lobby is not that it is deferential to *religion*, it is that it is deferential to *owners*. It resolves the inherent conflicts of religious freedom by saying that the religious interests of owners trump the religious (and health!) interests of employees. The intent of the RFRA was to prevent the government from putting native Americans in jail for using Peyote in religious ceremonies, not to give capital even more power over labor than it already has.
What, precisely, do you mean by "religion"? I'm reminded of sociologist Peter L. Berger in Facing Up to Modernity:
"Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.)"
I'm a little nonplussed about what you think socialism has to do with anything. But in the context of this blog post "religion" means any idea that someone chooses to believe in without evidence.
Oh, and as long as I'm bringing up evidence, here is evidence that the owners of Hobby Lobby don't actually believe what they claim to believe:
Not that this matters. The only requirement for you to be able to impose your belief-du-jour on others is that you're the owner. Consistency is not a prerequisite.
Hmmm, you seem to be ignoring the bootstrapping problem with that epistemology: it cannot even be gotten off the ground, for evidence would be required to trust that the senses are reliable, before any sense-data were acquired. One way to think of this is: which Bayesian universal prior probability did you use and why, and what are the procedures for modifying it?
I'm one for discussions like the above; please ignore me if you aren't. I just thought you might like examining foundations to see if they're really truly solid, like you did with your QM work (I found you via your Google Tech Talk).
As to Hobby Lobby not believing what they claim, that's not really a big surprise. I've found that claimed belief system tends to have very little impact on whether someone actually believes what he/she claims to believe. There is so much hypocrisy, so much two-facedness out there these days.
> evidence would be required to trust that the senses are reliable
I don't recall making any claims about evidence being reliable, I was jut giving (per your request) a working definition for the word "religion" for the purposes of this discussion. This post is not really about religion, it's about politics.
Nonetheless, it's a fair question, so here's my answer:
I'm not sure that blog post addresses my point; I was talking about sense-perception being reliable, not evidence. Let me lay the two claims together from previous comments:
Ron: "religion" means any idea that someone chooses to believe in without evidence.
Luke: evidence would be required to trust that the senses are reliable, before any sense-data were acquired.
You must trust your senses (believe that they deliver evidence and not noise/deception) in order for them to provide 'evidence'. And yet, if you need evidence in order to trust (believe) them, you can never get off the ground!
> You must trust your senses (believe that they deliver evidence and not noise/deception) in order for them to provide 'evidence'.
You are very badly mistaken. I *don't* trust my senses. I *observe* that my senses produce a stream of information, and then I observe that this stream of information can be *explained* in a parsimonious way that I (tentatively) accept as the truth.
The propositions that the information provided by my senses is simply noise or the result of deception are theories that are easily dispensed with. The theory that my senses generate nothing but noise makes trivially falsifiable predictions (for example, that it is not possible for me to be engaging in this conversation). The theory that the information produced by my senses is the result of deception can't be falsified but it can be eliminated by Occam's razor: who is the deceiver? What is their motive? By what means are they producing this deception?
Employment regulations are a tangent to your core issue. Employment is 1) voluntary, and 2) between the employer and employee. The employee can't claim "religious rights" against the private employer, as the Constitution restrains government action, not private action.
>Religious liberty cannot be absolute.
This is a non-sequitor and a straw-man. Who has advocated that? The RFRA, again, requires that government burdens on religion must be necessary for a furthering of compelling government interests, and be done in the least restrictive way. That is not "absolute" - that is "balance." Indeed, applying the ruling to only "closely held" corporations is balance.
>The only way...
>...is to require EVERYONE to check their religion at the door... (...obvious exception, ... activities that are overtly religious ...)
You're treading on religious freedom if you require the door-check. Some religions require participation in public life - say, Christianity, which has the Great Commission to go forth and spread the Good News to all nations. Plus requirements to feed the poor, care for the sick, and visit prisoners. In addition, they find religious meaning in small acts - and through *work*. So just how are you going to judge what is "overtly religious"? Religion is about how to live - in public and private.
>The problem with Hobby Lobby is ... it is that it is deferential to *owners*.. . . that the religious interests of owners trump the religious (and health!) interests of employees.. . .
The employees religious - and health - interests were, and are not, infringed one bit. They can still ingest drugs that terminate a fertilized human egg. Hobby Lobby was never trying to impose their religious beliefs on employees. The Hobby Lobby suit was about preventing the federal government from imposing a religious belief on the owners - and coercing the owners to participate in a moral evil. The government has alternative ways on achieving its goals without requiring that from the owners of Hobby Lobby.
>...here is evidence that the owners of Hobby Lobby don't actually believe what they claim to believe:
Come on, Ron, that's just lame and you know it. It's the dubious political tactic of finding out that your political opponent owns an S&P 500 index fund, then running ads touting that your opponent "invests in ". In addition, though, in this case, Mother Jones is wrong - the Hobby Lobby 401(k) plan is not owned or controlled by Hobby Lobby. The 401(k) is a trust, setup for the benefit of the employees. The assets of the 401(k) are owned by the members of the 401(k), not Hobby Lobby.
> Employment regulations are a tangent to your core issue
The core issue is whether employers (but not employees) get to opt out of laws on the basis of their relgious beliefs. The test law that Hobby Lobby has been allowed to opt out of is an employment regulation. If employers can opt out of one employment regulation in the name of religious freedom they should be able to opt out of other employment regulations in the name of religious freedom. If you think that's a tangent then you have completely missed the point.
> Some religions require participation in public life
The work place, as you yourself have been so quick to point out, is not public.
> >Religious liberty cannot be absolute.
> This is a non-sequitor and a straw-man. Who has advocated that?
You did, when you wrote, "So you see no problem in giving merchants a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefit of operating as corporations." This is not a difficult choice unless you think religious freedom should be absolute.
> The employees religious - and health - interests were, and are not, infringed one bit.
Of course they were. They now have to pay out of their own pockets for something to which they would otherwise be entitled by law.
> that's just lame and you know it
I know nothing of the sort. HL claims that they cannot in good conscience aid or abet in any way the procurement of birth control because the all-powerful all-knowing Creator of the Universe has forbidden it (never mind that this is NOT supported by what the Bible actually says, but we'll let that slide) even to the point where they can't pay an insurance premium that might enable someone else to do it so that there are TWO levels of indirection between them and the supposedly evil deed, and yet they invest in companies that produce these products. That is in fact strong evidence that HL's "sincerely held beliefs" are not as sincere as they claim. The only other possibility is that they are negligent morons for not keeping tabs on their investment portfolio.
The fact (I don't know that it's a fact, I'll just take your word for it) that HL's 401k is run by a trust is a red herring. If it's run by a trust then it is that way because HL set it up that way. They aren't required to operate their 401k as a trust. And, BTW, they could easily have put a prohibition against investing in birth control into the trust documents, but they obviously didn't. Why? Well, I have no way of knowing what is really in their heart of hearts, but all the data is consistent with the theory that what they really care about is not birth control but rather money and patriarchy. Not that this matters: thanks to the supreme court, HL is free to impose its beliefs about money and patriarchy on its employees in the name of religion. This is exactly the problem: employers can now impose ANY belief they choose on their employees if they can invent a religious pretext for it.
>> Employment regulations are a tangent to your core issue
>The core issue is whether employers (but not employees) get to opt out of laws on the basis of their relgious beliefs.
Indeed, that could have been clearer. From the thread, though, I was following the verb form of "employment" (i.e., hiring) and not the noun form (i.e., that state of being employed).
>> Some religions require participation in public life
>The work place, as you yourself have been so quick to point out, is not public.
Yeah, so keep the government out of it! I will assume you're conceding the "check your religion at the door" argument.
>> This is a non-sequitor and a straw-man. Who has advocated that?
>You did, when you wrote, "So you see no problem in giving merchants a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial >protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefit of operating as corporations." This is not a difficult choice unless you >think religious freedom should be absolute.
The court case at hand concerns the RFRA - which provides a balanced approach to this question: the government can restrict religious freedom, even in generally applicable rules, only if it furthers a compelling government interest AND is done in the least restrictive way possible. In this case, the government has other, less restrictive means, for furthering the "compelling government interest". Why not use one of those?
Since you do not see religious liberty vs. benefit of forming a corporation as a difficult choice, I presume you have no moral objection to government agents putting a gun to the head of the HL owners and forcing them to participate in the murder of a baby. This would seem to violate your First Law of Social Harmony - by forcing the HL owners to commit a moral evil. Why put them in that position when you don't have to?
But wait! You have an alternative - the HL owners could decide not to form a corporation! Or perhaps, engage in interstate commerce! You have to justify why they don't get to when everyone else does, of course. It's going down the path of,"Persons of Religion X are not allowed for form corporations," and "Persons of Religion X are not allowed to own property," and "In litigation, Persons of Religion X will always loose to any other person."
> The employees religious - and health - interests were, and are not, infringed one bit.
>Of course they were. They now have to pay out of their own pockets for something to which they would otherwise be entitled by law.
Are these employees members of the "Church of Free Stuff"? [one of America's fastest growing religions?] 1) They have no religious rights that they can claim against a private entity, and 2) getting free stuff is not a religious right!
Hobby Lobby is also not open on Sundays. Is that infringing on the employee's religious rights? Should government men with guns come by, break the locks, and force the stores to open?
>> that's just lame and you know it
>I know nothing of the sort.
Doubling down on lameness! Didn't expect that.
>They aren't required to operate their 401k as a trust.
Yes, they are: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/401kplans.html
Also, think of it from the employee's perspective: would you work there if the 401(k) wasn't in a trust?
>And, BTW, they could easily have put a prohibition against investing in birth control into the trust documents,
No, they couldn't. The trustee(s) have a fiduriciary responsibilities, one of which is "Acting solely in the interest of the participants and their beneficiaries."
But go ahead, keep beating up HL for obeying the law!
>data is consistent with the theory that what they really care about is not birth control but rather money and patriarchy.. . . This is exactly the problem: employers can now impose ANY belief they choose on their employees if they can invent a religious pretext for it.
Against your theory are:
1) they were betting their business on winning the Supreme Court case--given that they were exposing themselves to a $1.3 million a day fine (that's reasonable, right - a $1.3 million a day fine?). And lawyers aren't cheap.
2) The founder, David Green, is Pentecostal (with many in his family Assemblies of God pastors) - a religion with a long-held anti-abortion belief.
3) Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays
1 & 3 - the owners of HL could have made more money by not challenging the contraceptive mandate of the ACA.
2 - the owners of HL have authentic, long-held beliefs and are not simply putting on a pretext.
The "patriarchy" is apparently missing, probably playing with the invisible pink unicorn.
> so keep the government out of it
That ship sailed a very long time ago. Americans are generally ignorant of history, but they do know that when employers are left to their own devices bad things happen, so they're generally reluctant to jettison e.g. anti-discrimination and safety regulations. And I tend to agree with them.
> forcing the HL owners to commit a moral evil
Where in the Bible does it say that paying an insurance premium is a moral evil? To the contrary, Jesus specifically says to render unto Caesar.
Imagine that my religion teaches that having babies is a moral evil because of overpopulation. Should I be able to fire women who get pregnant and refuse to have abortions? How would that be any different?
> >They aren't required to operate their 401k as a trust.
> Yes, they are: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/401kplans.html
You're right, I was not aware of this.
But it doesn't matter. This is still exactly the same situation as the one that was actually litigated. The law requires the company to take action (pay an insurance premium, set up a trust) that INDIRECTLY results in OTHER PEOPLE being able to make moral choices that the OWNERS of the company disagree with. The fact that HL chose to challenge Obamacare and not the requirement to set up their 401k as a trust (indeed, they have never said a word about this AFAICT) still makes them hypocrites.
And this is exactly the problem: it is fairly easy to come up with an plausible-sounding argument that almost any law conflicts with some religious belief or other. Since there is no requirement that religious views be logical or consistent, this is essentially carte blanche for companies to ignore any law the owners don't like.
@Ron: The idea that parsimony is an indicator of truth doesn't seem to be something you picked up from the evidence. Or rather, you couldn't have had that idea before you first gathered evidence, according to you. It seems to be an a priori idea, not an evidence-based idea.
@Ron: With respect to the employment issue, it seems to me that you're implying that religious beliefs cannot in any way impact how an employer treats its employees. You speak of avoiding "carte blanche", but what you really seem to think is that it should be "carte noire". Is this the case?
Actually there is overwhelming evidence that Occam's razor works. The number of data points available to us is finite. There are an infinite number of theories that are consistent with any finite number of data points. It just turns out that theories with low Kolmogorov complexity consistently have greater predictive power than theories with high complexity (c.f. Newtonian vs Ptolemaic cosmology).
> religious beliefs cannot in any way impact how an employer treats its employees
No, of course not. There's nothing wrong with, for example, HL closing its stores on Sundays. What I don't like is a *corporation* getting an exemption from an otherwise valid law in the name of that *corporation's* (supposed) religious freedom. The idea that a corporation can have a religion is just stupid. And the idea that requiring a corporation to follow the law infringes on the religious freedom of that corporation's owners is wrong. Living in a civil society requires you to do all kinds of things that are arguably against the tenets of one holy text or another. For example, you are not allowed to execute homosexuals no matter how deeply you believe that Leviticus 20:13 is the Word of God. You are not allowed to execute apostates, or throw stones at the cars of people who drive on the Sabbath. There are places in the world where people do all these things, but the United States is not one of them. (Yet.)
>Where in the Bible does it say that paying an insurance premium is a moral evil? To the contrary, Jesus specifically says to render unto Caesar.. . .
>The law requires the company to take action (pay an insurance premium, set up a trust) that INDIRECTLY results in OTHER PEOPLE being able to make moral choices that the OWNERS of the company disagree with.
Hobby Lobby has a self-insured company health plan.
Now, sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake, but you've written a similar thing about 3 times now:
>Either corporate owners get to impose their beliefs on employees, or the government is now necessarily in the business of deciding what is and is not a valid religious belief.. . .
>It's a horrible freakin' mess.
>This is exactly the problem: employers can now impose ANY belief they choose on their employees if they can invent a religious pretext for it.
>And this is exactly the problem: it is fairly easy to come up with an plausible-sounding argument that almost any law conflicts with some religious belief or other. Since there is no requirement that religious views be logical or consistent, this is essentially carte blanche for companies to ignore any law the owners don't like.
So can this be simplified to the following:
P --> Q
Q is an undesirable consequence
So don't do P
In this case:
Deciding for Hobby Lobby [P] results in [-->] thousands of new lawsuits, each seeking exemption from some federal law, due to numerous and varied religious beliefs [Q].
Since having thousands of new lawsuits and potential exemptions to federal law based on religious belief is a horrible freaking mess, don't decide in favor of Hobby Lobby. [Q is undesirable consequence, so don't do P]
Does that fairly sum up your reasoning?
> Hobby Lobby has a self-insured company health plan.
So? Does the law require them to self-insure? Does the Supreme Court ruling apply only to self-insured companies?
> Does that fairly sum up your reasoning?
No. Not even close.
My position is (and I don't know how I could make this any clearer) that a corporation, as a point of material and neurobiological fact, cannot have religious beliefs. A corporation's *owners* can, but the corporation itself cannot. And I believe that a corporation should not be granted an exemption from the law because of the religious beliefs of the corporation's owners.
Now, it is *also* true that this decision (I predict) will have very bad consequences. But that is just the reason people should *care*. It is not the reason the decision was a bad decision (it was a bad decision because it was based on a false premise). Riley v. California will very likely lead to some bad outcomes but it was nonetheless decided correctly.
>> Hobby Lobby has a self-insured company health plan.
>So? Does the law require them to self-insure? Does the Supreme Court ruling apply only to self-insured companies?
So . . . your claim, informed by Mother Jones magazine, of hypocracy by the owners is false.
>My position is (and I don't know how I could make this any clearer) that a corporation, as a point of material and neurobiological fact, cannot have religious beliefs. A corporation's *owners* can, but the corporation itself cannot. And I believe that a corporation should not be granted an exemption from the law because of the religious beliefs of the corporation's owners.
A) So what forms of business organization could have religious beliefs?
1. Sole Proprietor
2. Personal Corporation (P.C.)
4. Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)
5. S Corporation
6. C Corporation
B) Does your answer to A changed based on whether the organization is non-profit or for-profit?
@Publicus, you might find F.A. Hayek's Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason helpful in understanding @Ron's position. Specifically, he appears to be arguing for a kind of rationalism, whereby the individual can have private conceptions about "what really matters", and the State can have conceptions about "what really matters", but the intermediate structure—the company—cannot. The company is but a member of the State, when it comes to "what really matters". Hayek:
"While the theory of individualism has thus a definite contribution to make to the technique of constructing a suitable legal framework and of improving the institutions which have grown up spontaneously, its emphasis, of course, is on the fact that the part of our social order which can or ought to be made a conscious product of human reason is only a small part of all the forces of society. In other words, that the state, the embodiment of deliberately organised and consciously directed power, ought to be only a small part of the much richer organism which we call ‘society’, and that the former ought to provide merely a framework within which free (and therefore not ‘consciously directed’) collaboration of men has the maximum of scope.
This entails certain corollaries on which true individualism once more stands in sharp opposition to the false individualism of the rationalistic type. The first is that the deliberately organised state on the one side, and the individual on the other, far from being regarded as the only realities, while all the intermediate formations and associations are to be deliberately suppressed, as was the aim of the French Revolution, the non-compulsory conventions of social intercourse are considered as essential factors in preserving the orderly working of human society. The second is that the individual, in participating in the social processes, must be ready and willing to adjust himself to changes and to submit to conventions which are not the result of intelligent design, whose justification in the particular instance may not be recognisable, and which to him will often appear unintelligible and irrational." (66)
@Publicus, The First Principles article Mediating Structures may also be helpful. Sociologist Peter Berger uses this term in Facing Up to Modernity:
"Liberalism is, above all, a faith in rationality. [...] It is precisely the mediating structures that stand in the way of this "geometry." They are "irrational" (that is, based on emotion and value, not on functional utility), concrete, highly particularistic, and ipso facto resistant to the rationales of either market or government." (135–136)
The idea here is that if you give mediating structures too much power, they might threaten the State. Individuals alone aren't very good at threatening the State; they have to get together and cooperate in order to do that. So as long as we create an environment where they are essentially disallowed from doing that in any way that would actually work (we can let them flail their arms about—indeed, we would want to make a route for that to make them feel like they're accomplishing something), all is well in the 'geometric' plan.
@Ron is correct that allowing mediating structures to have power can result in bad things. But having sharp knives can also result in bad things. As is always the case, it is character that matters. Any attempt to solve lack of character with anything other than increase in character will merely lead to totalitarianism, because if people won't exert proper self-control, control will have to be imposed from outside. You may like James Davison Hunter's The Death of Character.
> So . . . your claim, informed by Mother Jones magazine, of hypocracy by the owners is false.
Huh??? How do you figure that?
> what forms of business organization could have religious beliefs?
I suppose a sole proprietorship might because there is no legal distinction between the business and its (single human) owner in that case. But the others are (AFAIK) legally distinct from their owners and so cannot have religious beliefs of their own. (I've actually never heard of a "personal corporation". Do you mean a "personal service corporation"?)
You tell me: how could a corporation that is legally distinct from its owners have religious beliefs of its own independent of its owners?
@Ron, you are avoiding the bootstrapping issue by starting after you have "overwhelming evidence", instead of before. I want to know how the whole process is initiated. You are right about the Kolmogorov complexity issue, especially the "It just turns out that"; we are not guaranteed that e.g. higher order terms weakly affect phenomena, instead of dominating them. That gravity is a 1/r^2 law is critical, else we would have to care about so much nonlocality that we might not ever have been able to do any substantial science. But this thing you've observed about lower Kolmogorov complexity being better is an idea; how did you get it, before there was any evidence?
As to the religious belief thing: can corporations have cultures, just not religions?
> So . . . your claim, informed by Mother Jones magazine, of hypocracy by the owners is false.
Huh??? How do you figure that?
Claim 1: Hobby Lobby is an investor in drug makers that make the drugs they object to
Truth 1: The HL employee 401(k) plan is a separate trust, and is neither owned or controlled by Hobby Lobby.
Claim 2: Hobbly Lobby pays an insurance premium, which only indirectly enables others to make moral choices.
Truth 2: HL is self-insured, so it does not pay insurance premiums. It pays an insurance company a fee to administer the health plan, but all costs are paid by HL. There is not risk pooling, or comingling of funds - the cost of employee medical care comes directly from HL's income.
Some of your other hypotheticals can be dispensed with this clarification. Hobby Lobby does not seek to control the moral choices of others. So the employee 401(k) trust can invest in whatever. Hobby Lobby objected to being forced to participate in the immoral actions of others. In this case, HL objected to being one of the efficient causes of the termination of a fertalized human egg. HL have never sought to stop employees from doing that.
>(I've actually never heard of a "personal corporation". Do you mean a "personal service corporation"?)
Yes; notation may vary by State. Where I live, you see a lot of dentists with signs, ", P.C."
>I suppose a sole proprietorship might because there is no legal distinction between the business and its (single human) owner in that case. But the others are (AFAIK) legally distinct from their owners and so cannot have religious beliefs of their own.
Sole proprietorships - say, a flower shop - can and do have non-related employees. Does that change anything?
What is the essence of business organization that eliminates religious rights? If we have a group of 5 people with a common, agreed upon, religious faith, they do not lose their religious rights if we paint them purple. Or if they go to a hockey game together.
Say these 5 people get together and decide they want to start a business that is consonant with their religious faith. They hire a lawyer and draw up legal agreements to form an S corporation. They get a corporate charter and other required licenses from their State. They rent an office. They buy office supplies. They hire a receptionist. They make thir first sale to a customer. They establish 401(k) and health benefit plans. At what point in this process did these 5 people forfeit their religious rights?
@Luke: thank you for the links. I had anticipated the debate going down a consequentialism vs. deontological path, but that appears to be a bad prediction. Your framework I think will be more productive and illuminating - the relationship of the indidvidual and the state. Do the structures created by the state require conforming to the state to use them, or are the structures just a skeleton and individuals keep their separate identity while using them. The difference between a melting pot and a salad. We shall see. I think there could also be something in there about abstraction vs. reality - are abstractions "real," or are people real, and abstractions are just a tool that people use.
Ron, I forgot to post something on the limits of rationality and moral decision making.
Have you ever taken the Moral Sense Test, which is part of a Harvard research project? If not, I think you'll find it interesting.
Specifically, in one case, they provide you with two situations in which the body count is the same, but most people think that the moral action in each situation is different. Not logical, or rational, but that's the way it is. Dan Ariely (behavioral economist) has also published some interesing research on irrationality in human decision making.
Luke Publius, sorry for the long delay in responding. I'm on the road, and in fact I still don't have time to give your comments the considered responses they deserve. Will try to get to it later tonight. For now just wanted to say that it's on my todo list, and also to say that I appreciate all the feedback. I can't help but wonder, though, why you two are putting so much effort into this discussion. If you don't mind my asking, why is this so important to you?
No worries on my end; this is long-term knowledge gathering for me. As to why this is important, I find these issues important and take advantage of every opportunity to enhance my grasp of them. Since I'm not a scholar and don't have any friends with lots of time to discuss this stuff, I do a lot of it online, wherever I find the opportunity! I also find that the adversarial format is most conducive to rigorous analysis. Should you wish to curtail the discussion at any point, no worries. I have incredible stamina for this stuff; some people would rather do other things and I can't really blame them. If and when I have kids, it's probably death to the large fraction of my online commenting. Better get it all out now!
> I want to know how the whole process is initiated
Which process? Science? Life? The universe?
The scientific process starts with a hypothesis, an attempt to explain the known data. Then you test the hypothesis by using it to make a prediction. You then do an experiment to see if the prediction holds. If it doesn't, then you go back to the drawing board and generate another hypothesis.
Occam's razor is an empirical observation, not a fundamental rule of science. It just turns out that the explanations that are most successful at explaining the observed data and making accurate predictions are very compact and parsimonious.
If that doesn't answer your question then I suggest you read David Deutsch's "The Fabric of Reality", particularly Chapter 7.
> can corporations have cultures
> just not religions?
Corporations cannot have religious *beliefs*. Whether or not a corporation can have a *religion* is a different (and rather ambiguous) question.
@Ron - Why is this important?
I think similar to Luke, I expect to learn something. If you can find people who can do more than repeat slogans from bumper stickers, there is an opportunity to learn.
My passion in life has always been to transfer knowledge into my brain (Philomath, Opsimath). My interests are wide ranging - I'm interested in just about everything (except sports - although, oddly, I've taken a recent interest in hockey). So I'm an aspiring polymath. Another model is that of Multipotentialite - of which I woudl be the "scanner" subtype - although as the Wikipedia page says, this may be a neologism that some people are trying to promote. I work hard at it too - I just graduated with another college degree - the 3rd in 30 years. Of course, eventually I'll be worm food - but hey, I enjoyed it while it lasted.
Since about high school, I have always enjoyed literature and movies that have a theme of "duty." In the past year, with the 3rd college degree wrapping up, I was able to study this more - which quickly leads one to the work of Immanueal Kant. Then you find out there are two main schools of ethical though - consequentialism and deontology - which hey, can explain a lot of the political conflict in the United States, and the statements of politicians (even though most of them have no idea what ethical model they're operating under). So recently I've been interested in learning about philosophy - which moves me away from science and mathematics, which would be where my strengths are. Other recent things I've been interested in are: learning Manderin, x64-86 assembly language, building an x86 router, text mining, radio circuits, and vacuum tubes.
So how did I find Ron Garret? Your Google tech talk on QM, of course. Which I found gratifying, as I've long thought that the Copenhagen understanding of quantum entanglement could lead to faster than light communication - simply by switching the entanglement apparatus on and off. I would be interested, if you have time, if you could post something on your thoughts of pilot wave theory. This has been in the news recently, with reports of a replication of the quantum double-slit experiment interference pattern with classical mechanics. That leads you to the de Broglie-Bohm theory. I think you will find this presentation on the origin of the Copehagen interpretation vs. de Broglie very interesting - it is by Prof. Mike Towler, one of the few people in the world who teaches a course on pilot wave theory.
@Ron - you present the "idealized" scientific method: hypothesis - test - revision. This often confuses high school students, who think of the hypothesis as a "guess" (the bane of high school science fairs - "I think tilting the cannon at 45 degrees will result in a longer range than at 30 degrees" - well, duh). [Not to say you are confused - see below] The ugly truth is that the history of science is rife with people defending a certain orthodoxy, until it becomes untentable due to contradictions in observations, then a revolution in thought occurs that ushers in a new orthodoxy. We remember the names of the revolutionaries - Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, Einstein, etc. There are also certain fields of science where you cannot run experiments - archeology, for exmaple, which seems to be more about telling a good story than developing testable hypothesis. Still others are more about collecting and organizating information - entomology; E.O. Wilson is an expert on all the species of ants in the world. You don't generate a lot of testable hypothesis about ants - you mainly want to discover all you can know about ants.
I think your definition of hypothesis, "an attempt to explain the known data," is a good one. One, it recognizes that you know something before you start the process (it is not the high school science fair guessing game). It also brings in an alternate view of science - that science is about building models of the real world. Here I will quote the late George Box who wrote, "All models are wrong. Some models are useful." A great example here, of course, is Newtonian mechanics, which are "wrong," but are still widely used - as they are "useful" and lot easier to apply than relativity. The key is often to know which model to apply in which circumstance. Parsimony comes into play right away here - as we (humans) prefer simple models to more complex ones; this is balanced by a statement, attributed to Einstein, that models "Should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
Now I'm not sure which area of thought Luke is drilling down into. Is it nihilism (how do you know you can trust your senses and that you're not really just a head floating in a jar), or rationalism vs. empiricism. Or perhaps innate knowledge vs. intuition/deduction, which brings up questions like, "how do you know the laws of logic are valid just because they are intuitively obvious?" My old thermodynamics textbook, for example, presents the "0th Law of Thermodynamics," which is basically an assumption that, "If A=B, and B=C, then A=C". All logical systems will have some postulates at their core.
> I think your definition of hypothesis, "an attempt to explain the known data," is a good one.
Thanks, though it's not "my" definition, it's Karl Popper's.
> I would be interested, if you have time, if you could post something on your thoughts of pilot wave theory.
Whew, that would take a while! (Just browsing that presentation you pointed me to just cost me half an hour!) But I will say this: There is no getting around the fact that there is a fundamental disconnect between the classical and quantum worlds. That disconnect is best summed by pointing out that the classical world can be described mathematically using real numbers while to accurately describe the quantum world mathematically requires complex numbers. You can try to sweep the complex numbers under the rug in various ways, but you cannot get rid of them and retain an accurate description of reality.
My personal philosophical take on this is that all of the difficulty arises from our inability to let go of the intuition that what we directly perceive is "fundamental reality". This is ironic because we ourselves construct "higher-level" realities all the time. To take an example that is relevant to the current discussion, corporations are "real" things in some sense, but they have a different "ontological status" than human beings do. Human beings are made of atoms. Corporations aren't. Corporations are made of memes. They exist only because we humans have decided that they do, and that decision becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Corporations "emerge" from physical reality once physical reality reaches a particular state. But the "physics" of corporations is different from the physics of the classical reality form which they emerge. Corporations don't have mass, for example. (And despite being legally "persons", they cannot have religious beliefs ;-)
Classical physical reality "emerges" from a "lower-level" reality in much the same way. You get "real-number" physics from "complex-number" physics by "focusing your attention" on certain degrees of freedom and ignoring others (the mathematical manifestation of this is the "trace" operator). The resulting "emergent behavior" is real-number physics. We ourselves are made of this emergent real-number physics. And actually, even that is not strictly correct. Our *bodies* are made of emergent real-number physics, but we (which is to say, the things engaged in this conversation) are not really bodies, but rather (almost certainly classical) computational processes that just happen to reside in human brains. Those computational processes also have a different "ontological status" from the bodies in which they reside because computational processes are not made of atoms, they are made of (partial) *states* of atoms, just as our atoms are made of (partial) states of the quantum wave function. Personally, I don't have any problem accepting the proposition that there are valid ontological statuses both above and below me. But it makes some people queasy.
@publius: Just in case you missed it, I responded to your other points in a separate post:
But perhaps pilot wave theory could truncate "quantum weirdness" to just "quantum."
Then, if you want to us an analogy, you first have to show the two things being compared are analogous. Human behavior to quantum mechanics is a bit of a stretch!
> You are very badly mistaken. I *don't* trust my senses. I *observe* that my senses produce a stream of information, and then I observe that this stream of information can be *explained* in a parsimonious way that I (tentatively) accept as the truth.
> It just turns out that theories with low Kolmogorov complexity consistently have greater predictive power than theories with high complexity (c.f. Newtonian vs Ptolemaic cosmology).
This has been eating away at me for a while. Are you attempting to connect low Kolmogorov complexity to ontology, are you perhaps an instrumentalist, or is neither of these a good way to describe how you think of things?
From reading Michael Friedman's Dynamics of Reason, it seems that while the mathematics of a given model do get subsumed by that of the next (e.g. F = ma → GR), the natural language explanation can change drastically—Friedman specifically uses the term "constitutive principle". Here, it seems that mathematics = phenomenology, which by Kant we know is not necessarily the ontology. I forget if I've linked you to The Computational Theory of the Laws of Nature; it's really neat, and bears on this topic.
> are you perhaps an instrumentalist
No. I am a Popperian epistemologist with a Deutsch accent :-)
> while the mathematics of a given model do get subsumed by that of the next... the natural language explanation can change drastically
That makes no sense. It sounds like, "While the math can change, the natural language can change [too]." Which is true, but that's an awfully awkward way of phrasing it, which makes me think you really meant something else (though I have no idea what that something else could possibly be).
(A lot of your comments are incoherent in this way, which is one of the reasons it sometimes takes me a long time to respond to you, because I have to try to suss out what you really meant to say.)
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