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Two Different Views on Future of Social Conservatism

Here are two very different views on the future of social conservatism.  George Weigel, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, believes that the two political parties represent the two cultural options mentioned by John Paul II:  “the culture of life” or “the culture of death.”  Weigel writes:

By the dawn’s early light on Nov. 5, two distinct Americas hove into view. The two Americas are not defined by conventional economic, ethnic or religious categories; it’s not rich America vs. poor America, black America vs. white America, or Catholic America vs. Protestant America.

No, what this year’s election cycle clarified decisively is that the great public fissure in these United States is between the culture of life and the culture of death. 

Weigel’s analysis trivializes John Paul II’s thinking.  The point John Paul II made by using these two phrases – “the culture of life” and “the culture of death” – is that there is something far larger at stake than just the morality of abortion.  Rather, the abortion controversy implicates a deeper question of what concept of the human person we should adopt as the foundation to our culture.  On the one hand is the concept of the human person as autonomous and free from all duties to other persons that are not entered into freely.  On the other hand is the concept of the human person which in its innermost essence is tied to other persons by both bonds of love and duties of care.  The first concept of the person leads to “the culture of death,” the later to “the culture of life.”  Understood in this way, there is more than a little of “the culture of death” in the Republican party and more than a little of “the culture of life” in the Democratic party.  Of course, the Democratic party’s good positions on economic justice do not excuse its support for abortion; but, neither does the Republican party’s opposition to abortion justify its indifference to the poor. 

The British philosopher John Haldane, argues that neither the Democrats or the Republicans (or any other political party for that matter) represents the culture of life and, moreover, it is dangerous to loose sight of this fact.  Haldane writes:

While it would be wrong to abandon the political parties, it would be equally mistaken to side with one of them. The fact is that elections will always be fought and decided on a range of issues and the balance will sometimes favour one side, then another. Social conservatives who look to politics should be seeking to work within both parties, and in the case of the Democrats, seeking to return them to a historical position that was once more in line with Christian moral values and Catholic social teaching than was that of the Republicans.

Iraq War was Humanitarian Disaster

Eric Posner wrote a post arguing that the Iraq War and Occupation has been a net gain for Iraq on several measures, including economic growth, improvements in economic and political freedom, and lives lost.  Tim Lambert responded here, collecting substantial evidence that Posner is wrong at least about the the war saving lives on net.  Posner responded here, essentially conceding the point.  (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan).

An additional point not made by Lambert is that the true test of whether the Iraq War and Occupation is a humanitarian success is not just whether there is a net gain in lives (or any other measure), but also whether the resources spent to achieve that net gain could have been spent in some other way resulting in an even greater net gain.  This is the idea of opportunity costs so beloved by economists.

Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz estimate the costs of the Iraq War and Occuptaion at $3 Trillion.  That is a lot of money which could have been spent in other ways.

The United States is a rich and strong country, but even rich and strong countries squander trillions of dollars at their peril. Think what a difference $3 trillion could make for so many of the United States’ — or the world’s — problems. We could have had a Marshall Plan to help desperately poor countries, winning the hearts and maybe the minds of Muslim nations now gripped by anti-Americanism. In a world with millions of illiterate children, we could have achieved literacy for all — for less than the price of a month’s combat in Iraq. We worry about China‘s growing influence in Africa, but the upfront cost of a month of fighting in Iraq would pay for more than doubling our annual current aid spending on Africa.

Closer to home, we could have funded countless schools to give children locked in the underclass a shot at decent lives. Or we could have tackled the massive problem of Social Security, which Bush began his second term hoping to address; for far, far less than the cost of the war, we could have ensured the solvency of Social Security for the next half a century or more.

A good example is malaria, which infects more than 515 million and kills between one and thee million people each year.  Yet, Jeffry Sachs estimates that malaria can be controlled for just $3 billion in aid per year, a tiny fraction of the estimated cost of the Iraq War and Occupation.

What this illustrates is the wisdom of the standard account of Just War Theory, which treats war, even defensive war, as a last resort.  In the run-up to the Iraq War Pope John Paul II said “War is not always inevitable.  It is always a defeat for humanity.”  He was right.  If nothing else, war is a terribly wasteful and inefficient way to provide humanitarian assistance.  It results in deaths and other forms of destruction which have to be subtracted from whatever improvements are secured.

Slate on FOCA

Good piece by Melinda Henneberger in Slate on FOCA.  She urges Obama and the democats in Congress to scuttle FOCA:

At the very moment when Obama and his party have won the trust of so many Catholics who favor at least some limits on abortion, I hope he does not prove them wrong. I hope he does not make a fool out of that nice Doug Kmiec, who led the pro-life charge on his behalf. I hope he does not spit on the rest of us—though I don’t take him for the spitting sort—on his way in the door. I hope that his appointment of Ellen Moran, formerly of EMILY’s List, as his communications director is followed by the appointment of some equally good Democrats who hold pro-life views. By supporting and signing the current version of FOCA, Obama would reignite the culture war he so deftly sidestepped throughout this campaign. This is a fight he just doesn’t need at a moment when there is no shortage of other crises to manage.

Of course, she also notes the conventional wisdom that Obama and the Democrats in Congress were never really that serious about FOCA anyway:

People on both sides of the abortion argument have told me that despite a clear pro-choice majority in Congress, it’s not clear the Democrats have the votes to pass this particular bill. It hasn’t been put forward in a serious way—with any real chance of passing—in 15 years, and many members have never cast a vote on it. Some of the newly elected Democrats are pro-life—backed by their party for seats that would otherwise have gone to pro-life Republicans—and others are in the center on the abortion issue, meaning that they favor keeping it legal but with some limits. There are also serious questions about whether FOCA as currently drafted exceeds congressional authority. But when Obama was campaigning on FOCA, he didn’t say anything about wanting to change it.

That said – I think Henneberger would agree with this – it is important for Catholics to start mobilizing against FOCA to be certain that it is defeated.

Newman on Card Check

Nathan Newman has a postover on TPMCafe on Card Check, a change in the labor laws supported by unions to make it easier to unionize.  Newman is always worth reading, especially on labor issues.

I’d add the following re the coercion issue.  The central fact about labor law is that the employer has enormous power over employees by virtue of being the employer.  The employer has the power to fire union supporters, reassign them to less desirable work or shifts, impose onerous rules or production standards on them, etc.  The employer also owns the property, so they control the place where the campaign is conducted.  As part of this control they can invite non-employee anti-union consultants onto the property to campaign against the union while excluding non-employee union organizers; impose anti-solicitation rules that prevent employees who support the union from discussing the reasons to be for the union except during breaks and in non-work areas, even as the employer orders supervisors to campaign against the union even during work time.  The employer can even require employees to attend anti-union meetings where the employer makes the case against unionization (so-called “captive audience meetings”).  These acts are all unquestionably coercive. 

The union, by contrast, does not have the power to do any of these things.  There simply is no union-employee relationship that is the counterpart to the employer-employee relationship that the union can abuse to coerce employees to support the union.  So what is the coercion that people are concerned about with card check?  Believe it or not, peer pressure.  Opponents of card check are concerned that some people may be “coerced” into signing a union authorization card by peer pressure from their co-workers.  I’m not sure peer pressure is coercive at all, but people who think that employers ought to be allowed to conduct captive audience meetings and the like are poorly positioned to claim that mere peer pressure represents some sort of intolerable coercion.

Online Petition

An Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama

November 14, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama,

As American Catholics, we, the undersigned, would like to reiterate the congratulations given to you by Pope Benedict XVI. We will be praying for you as you undertake the office of President of the United States.

Wishing you much good will, we hope we will be able to work with you, your administration, and our fellow citizens to move beyond the gridlock which has often harmed our great nation in recent years. Too often, partisan politics has hampered our response to disaster and misfortune. As a result of this, many Americans have become resentful, blaming others for what happens instead of realizing our own responsibilities. We face serious problems as a people, and if we hope to overcome the crises we face in today’s world, we should make a serious effort to set aside the bitterness in our hearts, to listen to one another, and to work with one another

One of the praiseworthy elements of your campaign has been the call to end such partisanship. You have stated a desire to engage others in dialogue. With you, we believe that real achievement comes not through the defamation of one’s opponents, nor by amassing power and using it merely as a tool for one’s own individual will. We also believe dialogue is essential. We too wish to appeal to the better nature of the nation. We want to encourage people to work together for the common good. Such action can and will engender trust. It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America. We hope this theme of your campaign is realized in the years ahead.

One of the critical issues which currently divides our nation is abortion. As you have said, no one is for abortion, and you would agree to limit late-term abortions as long as any bill which comes your way allows for exceptions to those limits, such as when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. You have also said you would like to work on those social issues which cause women to feel as if they have a need for an abortion, so as to reduce the actual number of abortions being performed in the United States.

Indeed, you said in your third presidential debate, “But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’”

As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.

There is much we can do together. There is much that we can do to help women who find themselves in difficult situations so they will not see abortion as their only option. There is much which we can do to help eliminate those unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion.

One of your campaign promises is of grave concern to many pro-life citizens. On January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when speaking of the current right of women in America to have abortions, you said, “And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions. We believe FOCA does more than allow for choice. It may force the choice of a woman upon others, and make them morally complicit in such choice. One concern is that it would force doctors and hospitals which would otherwise choose not to perform abortions to do so, even if it went against their sacred beliefs. Such a law would undermine choice, and might begin the process by which abortion is enforced as a preferred option, instead of being one possible choice for a doctor to practice.

It is because of such concern we write. We urge you to engage us, and to dialogue with us, and to do so before you consider signing this legislation. Let us reason together and search out the implications of FOCA. Let us carefully review it and search for contradictions of those positions which we hold in common.
If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change. This might well be the first step toward resolving an issue which tears at the fabric of our churches, our political process, our families, our very society, and that causes so much hardship and heartache in pregnant women.

Likewise, you have also recently stated you might over-ride some of President G.W. Bush’s executive orders. This is also a concern to us. We believe doing so without having a dialogue with the American people would undermine the political environment you would like to establish. Among those issues which concern us are those which would use taxpayer money to support actions we find to be morally questionable, such as embryonic stem cell research, or to fund international organizations that would counsel women to have an abortion (this would make abortion to be more than a mere choice, but an encouraged activity).

Consider, sir, your general promise to the American people and set aside particular promises to a part of your constituency. This would indicate that you plan to reject politics as usual. This would indeed be a change we need.

Sincerely,

Deal W. Hudson
Christopher Blosser
Marjorie Campbell
Mark J. Coughlan
Rev. James A. Nowack
Craig D. Baker
Susan DeBoisblanc
Megan Stout
Joshua D. Brumfield
Ashley M. Brumfield
Michael J. Iafrate
Natalie Navarro
Matthew Talbot
Paul Mitchell
Todd Flowerday
Henry C Karlson III
Darren Belajac
Adam P Verslype
Josiah Neeley
Michael J. Deem
Katerina M. Deem
Natalie Mixa
Henry Newman
Anthony M. Annett
Mickey Jackson
Veronica Greenwell
Thomas Greenwell PhD
Robert C. Koerpel
Nate Wildermuth

New, Online Signatures:
Steve Dillard
Toby Danna
William Eunice
Mark Shea
Fr. Phil Bloom

GodSpy on Future of Pro-Life Movement

Great articleby Angelo Matera, the editor of GodSpyin New York.  In the article, which is entitled “What Now?  Will New Voters Refashion the Democratic Party?”, Matera argues that the pro-life movement ought to open up a “second front” in the battle over abortion inside Democratic party.    

Matera makes a number of good points that I think should be amplified upon.  First, Matera argues that large numbers of voters who cast their ballots for Obamaand the Democrats hold conservative views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and other matters.  Many pro-lifers would like to solve this problem by pleading with and/or threatening these pro-life Democrats in order to move them over to the Republican party.  The battles in the Catholic Church – over communion for pro-choice politicians, voter guides that only mention abortion and other so-called “non-negotiable” issues, and whether there are ever proportionate reasons to vote for a pro-abortion candidate – reflect this strategy.  Matera suggests that there is another strategy to deal with the reality that many pro-life voters vote Democrat:  organize a pro-life wing of the Democrat party.  It may not be realistic to think that pro-life Democrats can win the party over to life, but it is realistic to think that they might cause the Democrats to moderate their position on abortion and could provide the votes necessary to make progress on pro-life legislation.    

Second, Matera argues that winning the fight over abortion involves more than just mobilizing the existing pro-life base; it requires converting the educated elites by winning the intellectual argument.  I know from personal experience that the average liberal democrat has never once paid any serious attention to the pro-life argument.  Your typical liberal thinks that all pro-lifers are woman hating, religious reactionaries, and so pays them and their arguments no heed whatsoever.  In order to get them to take the arguments seriously you have to first demolish the stereotype.  The people best able to do that are pro-life liberals; people who cannot be accused of being against equality for women because they are on record supporting the feminist movement in every context other than abortion, who support separation of church and state and who are comfortable making a rational, secular argument for their position.  The creation of a pro-life wing of the Democratic party would give a platform for pro-life liberals and shatter the stereotype that all pro-lifers are all reactionary conservatives.   

There are couple of parts to Matera’s argument that I didn’t like.  He points out that the leadership of the Democrats is more socially liberal than the average Democratic voter.  He includes some smack talk about how the reason for the leadership’s social liberalism is that they have been bought off by the money from social liberal interest groups.  A better explanation is that the social liberalism of the leadership of the Democratic party is a function of who they are:  their ranks are drawn from the educated class where social liberalism does not even require an argument.  Pro-life Democrats will have a hard time convincing the leadership of their party to take them seriously if they fling around this sort of accusation.  

Also, Matera it seems would like the effort to extend beyond abortion and same-sex marriage.  But I’m not sure this makes sense.  There really isn’t a Catholic position on economic policy, or health care, or immigration reform, or whatever.  I’m not sure how adding “Catholic” to a proposal for universal health care adds anything to it; nor is it clear how a Catholic health care plan would differ from a plan anyone else might support. 

 

What Now?

Will New Voters Refashion the Democratic Party?

BY ANGELO MATERA

The radical pro-abortion candidate won the presidential election with the support of 55% of Catholics, despite an urgent last-minute pro-life appeal by a significant number of bishops.

Yet, for faithful Catholics, there’s a silver lining to Obama’s victory.

In California, the same voting blocs that swept Obama into office — blacks and Latinos — also voted solidly in favor of Proposition 8, the successful ballot initiative that banned homosexual “marriage.” (See related front-page story.)

What does this mean? It confirms that Obama won despite — not because of — his social liberalism (Remember, “It’s the economy, stupid?”) and that there’s a large, untapped constituency of social conservatives within the Democratic Party just waiting to be organized on life and family issues and the full range of Catholic social teaching.

The “one-party” pro-life political strategy of the past 35 years (since the Roe v. Wade decision) that has identified the pro-life cause with the Republican Party and its increasingly secular, pro-war political ideology must be abandoned.

What’s needed is a new pro-life politics for the future that would explicitly open up a “second front” in the abortion battle within the Democratic Party.

I could go further and argue that the Democratic Party, with its stated emphasis on “we” over “me” (with the glaring exception of issues of personal morality) is the natural home for many pro-life, pro-family voters, just as it was during FDR’s New Deal, a program that was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church.

But you don’t have to accept that argument to agree that a two-party strategy makes political sense for the pro-life movement, if only so pro-life Catholics of either political stripe can have a home of their own.

Let’s face it. A one-party strategy hasn’t worked. It leaves the pro-life movement in the political wilderness when Republicans are out of favor, as they were this year due to the backlash against the Iraq War and the financial crisis, and as they were in 1992 and 1996 during Bill Clinton’s reign.

It’s also unjust. Democratic-leaning Catholics shouldn’t be forced to choose between their pro-life and social justice convictions every four years. The one-party strategy leaves a good chunk of faithful Catholics without an outlet for expressing their faith fully in the public square.

What I’m proposing is organizing a movement within the Democratic Party that is genuinely pro-life and pro-family, that appeals to Catholics, other Christians and all people of good will, on the basis of our common, natural reason, in support of a consistent ethic of life, the dignity of the human person and the common good.

Its ideas would be drawn from Catholic moral and social teaching on issues such as abortion, marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, euthanasia, as well as policies concerning the economy, the environment, foreign relations and more.

Building a movement within the Democratic Party that is genuinely informed by Catholic principles might seem far-fetched. It certainly goes beyond the more limited approach of worthwhile groups such as Democrats for Life and far beyond the questionable methods of liberal activist groups such as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. But the political research indicates that there is a constituency for these ideas.

In the case of Proposition 8, 70% of blacks and 53% of Latinos voted in favor of banning homosexual “marriage” — substantially better than other groups.

More important, survey results from the 2004 Democratic Convention showed that the attitudes and values of the Democratic Party leadership are much more liberal than the party’s rank and file on social issues such as abortion, sex education and freedom of religion.

In other words, the Democratic leadership is out of touch with their followers.

As Mark Stricherz has shown in his book Why the Democratic Party Is Blue, changes in the party’s nominating rules in 1972 have ensured that party leaders would be drawn from the more affluent, elitist — and liberal — sectors of society and be unreflective of the party’s grassroots, which value traditional values and economic security. (The other part of the story is how the Democratic Party has failed to protect the working and middle classes against a rapacious financial class. But that’s another story.)

Of course, when you talk about power in our society, it usually leads to money, which is the real reason that pro-abortion, pro-homosexual “marriage” forces hold sway over the Democrats.

The so-called “Limousine Liberal” set that arose during the radical ’60s and has dominated ever since — Hollywood celebrities, homosexual activists, upper-middle class feminists and pro-abortion ideologues, even culturally liberal hedge fund executives — control the party through their contributions. That’s the main reason traditional values have been expunged from the party.

There have been many organizations that have arisen over the years within each party to promote specific points of view. One successful example was the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a group devoted to promoting more fiscally conservative policies within that party. In the ’90s, the DLC claimed Bill Clinton as a standard-bearer.

Similarly, one or more groups devoted to identifying, training, developing, and running candidates in both parties who are devoted to the full range of Catholic social teaching should be launched, with funding adequate to the task. It would take another article to describe the nuts and bolts of such a group. But the operational models exist; all it would take is the will and the money to make it happen.

But there is even more at stake: While in the short run it makes sense to exploit the gap between the more tradition-minded minority and ethnic grassroots of the Democratic Party, and the more affluent, educated and liberal elites, in the long run, it will be necessary to convert the elites, as well.

Obama won large majorities of young and highly educated voters. These two voting blocs represent the future, and to reach them, the Church’s long-term project, the New Evangelization, must find a way to make clear the underlying ethical principles that undergird Catholic moral teachings, and communicate them in ways that will appeal to people who are liberal, who are most concerned — at least on the surface — about human dignity.

Right now the Catholic “culture of life” strategy has been to ally with Bible Christians, who have a visceral and simple attraction to life and family issues.

They are an important ally in the culture war.

But their approach is limited, often relying on harsh language about eternal damnation that fails to distinguish the sinner from the sin. They aren’t good at articulating the ethical reasoning behind the moral law, which is based on love and human dignity.

Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body is one example of how the Church has developed new insights that go far beyond “dos” and “don’ts” to reveal the beauty and dignity of marriage. This is missing from most current debates.

As Pope Benedict XVI has said, the Church must do a much better job bridging the gap between faith and culture.

Until that’s done, the most educated and creative sectors of society will look to secular idealists like Barack Obama to lead them to earthly salvation. The populace is dissatisfied, and they are yearning for a new public philosophy. The country has clearly responded to Barack Obama’s call for all citizens to work for the common good, in a spirit of hope and unity.

There is something universal (small-c “catholic”) about his approach, his manner of speaking and reasoning. Obama never vents and always appeals to our better natures.

With the collapse of every secular ideology in the 20thcentury — especially communism — and now with the crisis in free-market capitalism in the 21st century, there is a vacuum, and Obamais filling it. But his progressive humanitarianism is flawed; it lacks a vertical dimension. Without a transcendent anchor, the contradictions of Obama’s secular vision, especially the failure to respect life from conception to natural death, and its failure to fully respect the human person, will cause it to collapse.

At that point, we can only guess what new secular ideology will arise to take its place.

All the more reason for the Church to redouble its efforts to reach those groups that will determine the future of our culture. In the short run, that means figuring out how to make a place for itself in the Democratic Party.

Dreher On Same-Sex Marriage

Here is an important post by Rod Dreher on the same-sex marriage issue.  In it Dreher argues that social conservatives have lost the fight over same-sex marriage and suggests that we retreat to a more defensible position:  religious freedom.  If we are destined by demography and by the defective philosophical anthropology underlying contemporary culture to loose the fight over same-sex marriage, then perhaps we should stop worrying so much about legalizing same-sex marriage start thinking about how to minimize the damage when it comes while keeping open the possibility of moral renewal at some later point in time.  Dreher is skeptical however that proponents of same-sex marriage will be willing to compromise:

I think a sufficient number of social conservatives could be convinced to yield on gay marriage if we could be assured that our religious institutions would be left alone. This could be accomplished, I think — lawyers, correct me if I’m wrong — if gay marriage were granted statutorily, instead of ordered by a court as part of civil rights jurisprudence. But as I indicate in the column, I don’t think gay activists want any part of that — they want full equality in every sense of the word. And I believe, along with Marc D. Stern and Eugene Volokh that having secured marriage rights in civil rights jurisprudence, gay activists will not be content to leave churches, synagogues and mosques alone, but will press hard to punish them for adhering to traditional religious teaching about homosexuality.  

NY TIMES on EFCA

The top legislative priority of the labor movement is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would make it easier for employees to unionize.  Obama campaigned in support of EFCA.  The NY Times has an article on the coming fight.  Business has declared its opposition:

But corporate America has already declared war on labor’s push for new legislation that would help unions organize.

“This will be Armageddon,” said Randel Johnson, vice president for labor policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce.

However, there might be some room for compromise:

Chamber officials voiced confidence that they have the backing in the Senate to block the bill, a move that might cause business and labor to negotiate a version with compromises. Among the compromises floated would be keeping the secret ballot vote, but holding the vote just a few days after the union requests an election. Other ideas are to give union organizers access to workplace sites and to limit employers’ ability to campaign against the union.

It makes sense for the labor movement to consider compromise if the votes are not there to pass EFCA in the Senate.  The labor movement has been trying to enact labor law reform since the 1970s to no avail.  Obama’s victory is the best and may be the last opportunity for reform.

Future of Pro-Life Movement

There is an useful post on the First Things blog by Father John Jay Hughes on the future of the pro-life movement after the election of Barack Obama.  He urges the pro-life movement to support modest restrictions on abortion where politically feasible, but   

the task before pro-life people now is to concentrate on the only task that will bring success in the fight for life: changing hearts and minds.

Without a broad social consensus behind them – a consensus which is clearly lacking in the U.S. at the present moment – pro-life laws will be largely ineffective, as was the case with prohibition:

Americans went down that road in the 1919 with Prohibition, the constitutional amendment that criminalized the buying and selling of alcoholic drinks. Intended to end the distribution of strong drink, it merely transferred the trade to a new class of criminals, called bootleggers. Born in 1928, I can still remember my father’s friends saying to him in jest a year and more after Prohibition’s repeal in 1933: “Dudley, this is awfully good whisky. Who’s your bootlegger?” Laws that are mocked and widely disregarded with impunity by respectable people harm society by weakening respect for law in general.

He refers to a speech given by the former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee making the same point:

In a notable pre-election speech in St. Louis, former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee spoke about three legal innovations which he had witnessed in his adult lifetime: limitations on smoking, requirement of access to public places for the handicapped, and requirement of seat belts for drivers and passengers of automobiles. In each case, Huckabee pointed out, people were first persuaded that the proposed change was beneficial. Then, laws were enacted to mandate the change.

From this Father Hughes concludes that with the election of Barack Obama the battle over changing the laws to prohibit abortion is lost for now.  Accordingly, Catholics must focus on changing minds rather than laws:

For too long we have been demanding the passage of laws which, though happily supported by a growing number of our fellow citizens, still fall short of the acceptance needed to make them effective. Considering our president-elect is, as Princeton professor Robert P. George demonstrated brilliantly in his October 14 article for Public Discourse, not merely pro-choice but militantly pro-abortion, we need to shift the battle from the legal front and concentrate on changing hearts and minds. 

The Multiverse

Discover magazine has an article on the theory of the multiverse.  The multiverse hypothesis holds that our universe is only one of a possibly infinite number of miniverses each of which is governed by a different set of scientific laws.  

The multiverse hypothesis was developed in response to the so-called “fine tuning” of the universe for life.  Scientists have noted that the scientific laws governing our universe appear to be “fine tuned” so that it is possible for life to exist.  If the scientific laws were changed even a little bit then life would not be possible.

But everything here, right down to the photons lighting the scene after an eight-minute jaunt from the sun, bears witness to an extraordinary fact about the universe: Its basic properties are uncannily suited for life. Tweak the laws of physics in just about any way and—in this universe, anyway—life as we know it would not exist.

Consider just two possible changes. Atoms consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons. If those protons were just 0.2 percent more massive than they actually are, they would be unstable and would decay into simpler particles. Atoms wouldn’t exist; neither would we. If gravity were slightly more powerful, the consequences would be nearly as grave. A beefed-up gravitational force would compress stars more tightly, making them smaller, hotter, and denser. Rather than surviving for billions of years, stars would burn through their fuel in a few million years, sputtering out long before life had a chance to evolve. There are many such examples of the universe’s life-friendly properties—so many, in fact, that physicists can’t dismiss them all as mere accidents.

“We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.

The “fine tuning” of the scientific laws governing our universe has encouraged some Christian philosophers to create an updated version of the teleological argument.  They argue that the “fine tuning” of the universe requires a rational explanation, and that the best such explanation is that the universe was created by God and designed by Him to permit the existence of life.

The multiverse hypothesis is designed to cut the ground out from under this new teleological argument.  It does so by suggesting that all possible universes governed by all possible sets of scientific laws exist, so it is not surprising that one such universe exists – ours – whose scientific laws are “fine tuned” for life. 

Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multi verse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.    

The multiverse hypothesis is just a hypothesis.  There is no evidence to support the existence of a multiverse.  Moreover, it is not clear whether the multiverse hypothesis even if true would succeed in explaining away the “fine tuning” of the universe.  I said above that the multiverse hypothesis holds that that all possible universes governed by all possible sets of scientific laws exist.  But that was not exactly right.  Rather, the multiverse hypothesis holds that a multiverse exists and that out universe is only one of many small miniverses that exists within this larger multiverseverse.  As such, the creation of the miniverses and the specification of the different scientific laws which govern them is itself governed by a sort of scientific law.  It is possible that the “fine tuning” problem will simply re-emerge at a higher level.  In any case, the multiverse hypothesis is just that, an untested hypothesis.

It would be a good idea for all Christians to become more familiar with the “fine tuning” of scientific laws for the existence of life.  It provides a much better basis upon which to support a teleological argument than do the usual arguments from the complexity of life forms.  In the argument from “fine tuning,” Christians are supported by current scientific theories and fact, whereas basing a teleological argument on the basis of the complexity of life forms requires Christians to dispute the truth of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.