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The title reflects not what I will do in this space, but rather what the esteemed hosts of this blog must do in light of Dan inviting me to guest blog. I admire the dedication to free speech and frank discussion, but I fully expect my stint will make Dan and Morgan question the wisdom of that policy.

Cynical as I am, I cannot help but think there is an ulterior motive to allowing my words an audience, and it might be this: In the cinematic masterpiece Trading Places, two wealthy individuals bet on whether a homeless man could be turned into a successful businessman. Similarly, my writing here is nothing but an experiment to see if a moderately intelligent and possibly unhinged man can contribute anything of value to a thoughtful blog simply by placing him in the company of others. The movie represented a perverse social experiment, and so too is the notion of my words being seen beyond the confines of the audience my ideas generate on their own. That usually consists of my childhood stuffed animals and GI Joes. (Whether the adjective “childhood” modifies only stuffed animals or is compound and thus meant to also modify GI Joes is a question I do not wish to answer.)

That my contributions to this blog will amount to nothing but debasement is proven by the terrible attempt at humor in this post’s title and a reference to Trading Places in my very first post. I apologize for singlehandedly lowering the level of discourse, but in light of Tim’s post, I urge you to judge my work with an eye towards what I am capable of performing. Those who know me well will confirm that the mere act of typing coherent thoughts is a victory. Whether I will reach that modest level of achievement remains to be seen. I hope I do not disappoint; my GI Joes are quite tired of my arguments by now.

In all seriousness, I appreciate the opportunity to contribute. I have been neglecting my leisure reading in general and I have intended to resume blogging for some time now. Hopefully I will be inspired to resume both my light-hearted blog as well as my “mature” one.

-Cory Schuster

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When will you be in Cinci this season? When will you be in Athens? I’m cobbling together a Midwest Odyssey, and I want to see you. Let me know.

Best of luck on exams. Not that you need it.

 –Morgan Hubbard

PITTSBURGH, PA–

December 5, 2006

The robust and spirited debate over the “God Problem” (or at least one end of it) will be set aside, as Dan continues to prepare for his first round of law school exams.

———————————————————————————

In other news (and perhaps not without bearing on our debate) Man has once again lost to machine. Damn computers, so good at chess, they are!

I’ll be ready to weigh in later this month…

Daniel Corbett

…that I have a certified genius for a girlfriend. Congratulations to Ala, who this morning managed to be both beautiful and accepted into medical school at Northwestern!

–Morgan Hubbard 

…for aptly saying what ought to be said. His comment is under the “leaps of faith” post, and it’s worth reading. Correct me, Matt, if I frak this up, but I think the gist is that there’s a fundamental difference between the leap of faith required to accept the existence of any sort of non-Einsteinian metaphorical deity and the “leap of faith” required to defeat solipsism and accept the existence of the natural world. Maybe it’s too simplistic, but I don’t think solipsism actually wields much power over us, because our corporeal bodies serve at all times and in all places as direct interfaces with something…we call it a physical world, I guess, for lack of any better explanation. Try accepting solipsism’s premise…now, hold your finger over a candle. Not much consolation, is it? We are constantly confronted with proof of the universe’s existence and adherence to certain rules, and I think Occam’s Razor dictates that we rule out Matrix-y explanations.

But the principle goes even further, to the realm of morality: watching children beat another child, reading about the Khmer Rouge, visiting the Holocaust Museum–these things elicit actual feelings of moral outrage that are close to universal. These feelings are hard to quantify, but only psychopaths lack them. They’re ubiquitous, they’re obvious, and we have words for them. It would take a leap of faith not to accept the existence of the material world, just as it would take a leap of faith to deny that some kind of morality is hardwired into us. It does take a real leap of faith, however, to digest the idea of a deity, much less one who’s as peculiar (and meddlesome!) as Christianity’s.

Finally, I’m confused about your statement that “Science has gotten better, in large part, because morality and religion have started to keep their distance. Why should it be any different with religion?” What in the world would it mean for religion to “get better?” Science has a rigid and transparent system to keep it in line and keep it productive. Theology has…what? Church hierarchies? Prayer groups? A long lineage? Taking Christianity as an example, it’s easy to see that accepting the faith’s central tenet of man’s fallibility and inability to truly know God seems to doom it to stagnation. If the best, most progressive, most up-to-date advice Christianity can give me is “accept the mystery,” well, I’m not satisfied.

Dan, after your response, I’d like to take this in another direction. Our species’ history is, if nothing else, the history of hubris. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the realm of religion, where all sorts of natural features are portrayed as somehow bound to the destiny of Man (Christianity goes so far as to say that the entire frakking world was created just for us). But the more we learn about the physical universe, the more we see the opposite is true. Natural disasters are one good example. Earthquakes aren’t retribution from God or the gods for some slight, they’re just tectonic shifts. So what is it that makes us think we’re special enough to have been put here by a being who cares about us? Doesn’t that seem a little outlandish?

(And without stacking the deck, I’ll wager now that it is precisely our hubris that convinces us we’re more than we really are, and that makes religion plausible to so many people…)

Thanks, Matt, for contributing. Matt’s blog is http://ficke.blogspot.com/

–Morgan Hubbard 

Family members make all sorts of promises to each other. Some of them are quite realistic and others quite outlandish. So when an uncle gets up at a family gathering, toasting his young nephew, and offering him $5,000 if he refrains from “drinking, smoking, cursing, and gambling” for the next five years, is a contract made?

Today in my contracts class, we discussed an interesting case, Hamer v. Sidway, in which this scenario is played out. The court eventually rules that the uncle’s promise (which was backed up in writing later on) did indeed constitute a contract. The uncle had contended that the boy had already received a benefit in abstaining from the previously discussed vices, and he owed nothing else to to boy. But this was not enough for the court. The court’s rationale was simple: the uncle’s lofty remarks were not the indication of a mere gift (which can be backed out of practically on a whim) because the nephew had to give up certain actions, otherwise legal, in return for the money.

But what if the uncle had promised the money on the condition that the boy refrain from illegal acts? (For fun, let’s just say the nephew was a regular heroin user.) The uncle’s remarks, according to the court would not form a contract. Is this fair to the boy? Was the ruling fair to the uncle? Thoughts?

Daniel Corbett

Tomorrow my sister and I are driving to IndianaMichiganOhio for a week of blitzkrieg family reunions. Blogging will be commensurately more sparse, though I’m looking forward to addressing the questions you just posed, Dan.

Better yet, let’s meet up next weekend, say, in Cincinnati, for beer and talk. Good? Good. See you then, friend.

– Morgan Hubbard

Having received a thorough ear-boxing from Dan, I've decided that the blog is, after all, a good way to stay engaged, civically and intellectually. In that spirit, I've finally posted my paper on the "race analogy" and homosexuality in the U.S. armed forces. Look to the left…it's under the "pages" section. 

Dan, some questions you might ask yourself as you're reading (and then pose to me soon after): In what ways are the two groups in question–blacks and homosexuals–actually different in the eyes of the military? Was there a grain of insight in Colin Powell's assertion that one group's unifying feature was behavioral (homosexuals) while the other's was merely phenotypical? Am I right to find Don't Ask Don't Tell insulting in the way it reduces individuals to balls of prejudices? 

Hit me! 

–Morgan Hubbard 

      While I am enjoying my graduation present– a meandering journey through Ireland. Will return with whiskey.

Daniel Corbett

From McSweeney’s

UTOPIAN ENDINGS FOR REALITY SHOWS

BY KATE HAHN

The Apprentice

Fired intern says, “Great, I wanted to leave anyway. Your capitalist mindset is a futile path to happiness,” then slips into a Che Guevara T-shirt. The other contestants mumble that it sounds good to them, and leave the boardroom en masse. Tired of the tyranny of their possessions, they abandon their wheelie suitcases, take the stairs to the lobby, run past the taxis, and go into the streets, where they use sales tactics to organize an anti-greed protest march. This culminates in thousands of people encircling Trump Tower, which is then turned into a free university.

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