If a doubt is raised about a moral norm long accepted in any community, the presumption is not on the side of freedom from obligation. Rather it is on the side of tradition, since like a reasonable person, a reasonable community must accept what it is (which includes what it has been) and it will change only when it sees an adequate reason for change. Moreover, the presumption is on the side of the basic human goods, since when any one of them is at stake, the action which seems contrary to it is prima facie immoral. Thus for anyone who rightly recognizes the initiation of new human life to be a basic human good, the burden of proof in the present controversy will appear to fall on the defenders of contraception, just as for anyone who regards human life itself as a basic good, the burden of proof in the justification of warfare falls on those who seek to justify it.
Re “Stop Killing Coyotes” (Op-Ed, Aug. 11): Dan Flores asks why we target coyotes for elimination when they “pose no unique or overwhelming danger.”
In the Phoenix metro area, where I live, coyotes hunt in packs, scaling six-foot walls and preying on our innocent pets, which have a right to enjoy their owners’ yards and gardens. Over the years I have suffered four devastating attacks on my dogs by coyotes that entered my property despite every safeguard to keep them out.
Mr. Flores should look at pictures of what coyotes have done to babies left sleeping in their own gardens. Defending the spread of dangerous predators in cities is completely misguided. Arguments that coyotes have rights, too, ignore our right to protect our property.
Coyotes are as dangerous as the alligator that killed a child in Florida recently. Steps should be taken to protect human beings before coyotes.
Rational and a priori theology stands or falls with the ontological argument; and if that argument—or some substitute for it, alleged to express its intent—still seems self-evidently cogent to a philosopher here and there, its fallaciousness is self-evident to all the rest. Natural theology, on the other hand, sets out from facts and inductions; its premisses are as firmly established and as universally acknowledged as any of the stable generalisations of science. Here there is at least common ground, as distinct from private certitude, from which argumentation may proceed. Coercive demonstration being confessedly unattainable, it is to be inquired what kind of justification for reasonable belief natural theology can afford. And the first step is to set forth the facts and generalisations which collectively constitute our data or premisses.
The forcibleness of Nature's suggestion that she is the outcome of intelligent design lies not in particular cases of adaptedness in the world, nor even in the multiplicity of them. It is conceivable that every such instance may individually admit of explanation in terms of proximate causes or, in the first instance, of explanation other than in terms of cosmic or 'external' teleology. And if it also admits of teleological interpretation, that fact will not of itself constitute a rigorous certification of external design. The forcibleness of the world's appeal consists rather in the conspiration of innumerable causes to produce, by their united and reciprocal action, and to maintain, a general order of Nature. Narrower kinds of teleological argument, based on surveys of restricted spheres of fact, are much more precarious than that for which the name of 'the wider teleology' may be appropriated in that the comprehensive design-argument is the outcome of synopsis or conspection of the knowable world.
(F. R. Tennant, Philosophical Theology, vol. 2, The World, the Soul, and God [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930], 79)
Besides, the divine law is the measure or test of positive law and morality: or (changing the phrase) law and morality, in so far as they are what they ought to be, conform, or are not repugnant, to the law of God. Consequently, an all-important object of the science of ethics (or, borrowing the language of Bentham, 'the science of deontology') is to determine the nature of the index to the tacit commands of the Deity, or the nature of the signs or proofs through which those commands may be known.—I mean by 'the science of ethics' (or by 'the science of deontology'), the science of law and morality as they respectively ought to be: or (changing the phrase), the science of law and morality as they respectively must be if they conform to their measure or test. That department of the science of ethics, which is concerned especially with positive law as it ought to be, is styled the science of legislation: that department of the science of ethics, which is concerned especially with positive morality as it ought to be, has hardly gotten a name perfectly appropriate and distinctive.—Now, though the science of legislation (or of positive law as it ought to be) is not the science of jurisprudence (or of positive law as it is), still the sciences are connected by numerous and indissoluble ties. Since, then, the nature of the index to the tacit command of the Deity is an all-important object of the science of legislation, it is a fit and important object of the kindred science of jurisprudence.
Addendum: Here is Austin's taxonomy, pieced together from this and other sources (click to enlarge):
Divine law (some of which is revealed and some of which is unrevealed) is the "measure or test" of both law and morality. Note that in his great work An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was concerned only with law and morality as they ought to be. Austin's concern was law as it is. In modern terminology, Bentham was concerned with normative jurisprudence and normative ethics; Austin was concerned with analytic(al) jurisprudence. One more comment: Bentham almost certainly rejected Austin's theism. Both were, however, utilitarians. Austin viewed the Principle of Utility as an index of God's (unrevealed) will. As he put it:
Inasmuch as the goodness of God is boundless and impartial, he designs the greatest happiness of all his sentient creatures: he wills that the aggregate of their enjoyments shall find no nearer limit than that which is inevitably set to it by their finite and imperfect nature. From the probable effects of our actions on the greatest happiness of all, or from the tendencies of human actions to increase or diminish that aggregate, we may infer the laws which he has given, but has not expressed or revealed. (Province, 38)
Bentham would have used Ockham's Razor to slice God away, leaving only the Principle of Utility as the "measure or test" of law and morality.
American swimmer Ryan Lochte was just interviewed by Matt Lauer of NBC. Lochte says he "overexaggerated" when he said that he was robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro. Either (1) he doesn't know what "exaggerate" means or (2) he believes that some amount of exaggeration is acceptable and he simply overdid it. Don't get me started on the fake tears, the fake sniffling, the fake voice, the fake humility, and the pathetic attempt to save his reputation—er, earning potential.