As most everyone knows by now, Pamela Geller, the head of an organization called American Freedom Defense Initiative, isn’t fond of traditional Islam. In fact, she regards those who promote sharia, or Islamic law, as a mortal threat to America and to liberal values generally. Many Muslims do in fact interpret sharia as justifying the use of deadly force against those who dare to depict that Prophet. In response, she recently sponsored a “draw Muhammad contest” in Garland, Texas, which resulted in the timely death of two terrorists who attempted a Charlie Hebdo style massacre (welcome to Texas).
As a result on staging this event, Geller has been accused of a wide variety of things: hate speech, bigotry, provocation, incitement, the “abuse” of free speech, and so forth. The nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker’s comments are representative. In an opinion piece titled “Pamela Geller’s Abuse of Free Speech,” she describes the contest as “provocative” and “incendiary,” and then writes:
And Geller’s contribution to these [First Amendment] protections and our unwavering dedication to its preservation is, exactly, what? A taunt. Shouldn’t one at least aspire to some originality? It’s been done. And each time, the result is the same. You haul out a picture of Muhammad; “they” haul out a fatwa. Cat puts out cheese; mouse gets eaten. What does one expect?
As argued below, whatever one thinks of Geller’s underlying thesis, not only was she completely within her rights to stage her “contest,” but her tactics are unobjectionable, if not laudable. Continue Reading »
Guest post by Danny Frederick
The traditional problem of free will arose out of theology. God was supposed to know everything, in which case He would have perfect foreknowledge. But if God knows beforehand what we are going to do, how can we be free either to do it or not?
In the Enlightenment, the problem arose out of science, specifically, the success of Newton’s theory. For here was a clear and (relatively) simple theory of the world, expressed in precise mathematical formulae, which made predictions about the motions of every kind of matter, whether large or small, whether on earth or in the heavens, whether solid or fluid; and the predictions were borne out by experimental testing. Furthermore some of the predictions were very surprising and counterintuitive, so people expected them to fail; yet they also survived testing. The theory was even used to predict the existence, size and orbit of a planet in the solar system which no one had previously known about; and when telescopes were pointed in the relevant portion of the night sky, there it was! Neptune was discovered. People could not believe that this theory could be false. It was generally accepted as firmly established truth. The success of Newton’s theory marked the transition from the open-minded and critical Renaissance to the dogmatic Enlightenment. Continue Reading »