The Raving Theist

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August 28, 2006 | 15 Comments

Federal protection does not extend to small tributaries and wetlands near, but not directly abutting, navigable waters, the Supreme Court recently ruled. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, employed this bit of judicial bathos to criticize his dissenting brethren’s alleged misuse of legal precedent:

Justice Kennedy misreads SWANCC’s [Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. v. Army Corps of Engineers] “significant nexus” statement as mischaracterizing Riverside Bayview to adopt a case-by-case test of ecological significance; and then transfers that standard to a context that Riverside Bayview expressly declined to address (namely, wetlands nearby non-navigable tributaries); while all the time conceding that this standard does not apply in the context that Riverside Bayview did address (wetlands abutting navigable waterways). Truly, this is “turtles all the way down.”

Truly, indeed. No matter what side of the theological divide you’re on, I think you’ll agree that Bertrand Russell never intended his hard-shelled, reptilian refutation of the First Cause argument from Why I Am Not A Christian to be quoted in defense of a greedy, wetland-backfilling developer. And technically, it wasn’t — Russell never quite said it in the familiar form used by Scalia. Anyway, no matter who said it, it should have been saved for the next Pledge case.

Honorable Mention Award: I will declare as omniscient, on the main page of this blog, anyone who reads the decision and can explain clearly, in fifty words or less, what Scalia meant by the analogy.


15 Responses to “Non-Navigable”

  1. PhalseProphet
    August 29th, 2006 @ 1:33 am

    The analogy represents the Corps’ interpretation of the CWA to include any path water takes because it must drain into something, which then drains into something, which in turn drains into something until it drains into navigable waters of the United States, therefore, the Corps jurisdiction all the way down.

  2. Forrest Cavalier
    August 29th, 2006 @ 9:25 am

    That’s 50 words.

    RA will now come out of the closet about his new beliefs by proclaiming PhalseProphet is omniscient! Hoorah! The suspense was killing us.

    I can’t wait for the omnipotent challenge question. If PhalseProphet goes 2 for 2, there are going to be a lot of disproved non-believers around here.

  3. hagiograph
    August 29th, 2006 @ 9:31 am

    But in the end you GOTTA love the irony of super-religious Scalia resorting to something even remotely associated with Russell.


  4. Erik
    August 29th, 2006 @ 9:52 am

    Well, actually, Russell didn’t say it at all. The woman in the story said it in response to Russell’s query.

    I’m sure the idea that the world sits on the back of a turtle is just as ridiculous to Scalia as it was to Russell. Perhaps the real analogy Scalia is drawing here is Anthony Kennedy to the woman in the Russell story.

  5. Holopupenko
    August 29th, 2006 @ 11:35 am

         Try this on for typical atheist intellectual cowardliness (from a debate Russell had with Copleston):
         Copleston: Your general point, Lord Russell, is that it’s illegitimate even to ask the question of the cause of the world…
         Russell: Yes, that’s my position.
         Copleston: If it’s a question that for you has no meaning, it’s of course very difficult to discuss it, isn’t it?
         Russell: Yes, it is very difficult. What do you say—shall we pass on to some other issue?
    [Translated: Run away!]
         There you have it: the universe has no meaning and needs no explanation, and all such questions are meaningless… just because Bertrand Russell asserted it. And, per his own words, it cannot be questioned, challenged… even wondered about. Now, that is scientific… NOT!

  6. Erik
    August 29th, 2006 @ 12:04 pm

    OK, let’s discuss it, shall we? I understand your position on the cause of the universe is that some unknowable entity caused it through some unknowable means. In other words, you have absolutely no idea how it happened, if, indeed, it “happened” at all. You accuse Russell of being unable to say a word on it, but your position has nothing to say, either. At least Russell’s position has the benefit of not wasting any time.

  7. Thorngod
    August 29th, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

    Democritis answered it beautifully 2400 years ago. But while those brilliant Athenians were solving the riddles of existence, the mentally enslaved servants of Yahweh were living on a flat earth, under the downturned bowl of a fabulous heaven, and concocting reams of gibberish that would plague the western world for several thousand years.

  8. Holopupenko
    August 29th, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

         You’re so slow on the pickup… must be the atheist antecedents blocking your ability to reason.
         Did you not understand the silliness of Russell’s claim? Yes, let’s do discuss it: his claim is there is NO explanation, i.e., there is nothing that caused the universe to be. Period. The universe is a brute fact… and, no one is permitted to question that unfounded, unscientific assertion. I.e., there is no reason or explanation for the universe, it is meaningless.
         All things being equal (which they’re not, but humor us all for a moment) and at face value, which of the claims sounds sillier (try to be honest): (1) there is NO cause for the universe, or (2) there IS a cause for the universe?
         Moreover, you put words in my mouth: I never said it was God, or Jeebus, or aliens, or some “unknowable entity”—YOU did. My only claim (which I make now) is that the universe must be caused. Try to deny it. Yes, you can—like Russell—avoid the question… which, as I say, is intellectual cowardice and dishonesty… all rolled up in the typical atheistic ball of blather. We can’t get to what or who or when or why “caused” God until you can swallow the fact that your senses don’t lie: the universe is out there, so there must be some cause—some explanation—for it existing.

         Yet again, you make unsubstantiated and downright ridiculous, unscientific claims. I remind you for the umpteenth time: inasmuch as you haven’t provided ANY evidence (meaning verifiable reference and had numbers) to support your earlier claim that religious faith is at the top of the killing fields—as opposed to the bloodbath known as OFFICIAL atheism during the 20th century—I also refuse to respond to your current balderdash claims animated by sheer hatred. Deal with it.

  9. Erik
    August 29th, 2006 @ 1:23 pm


    OK, I see. Your blog is one raving piece of Catholic numbness after another (oh, sorry — you’re Ukrainian, right? Maybe it’s one piece of Uniate numbness after another), but your position is that you have never said that God created the universe? What a bunch of utter complete BS you are about, H. Your position is exactly as I described — you want to say there is a cause, but you cannot even beging to say what it is or how it worked.

    But I’ll play along with your childish inanity for the moment. Please tell me why you say the universe was “caused”.

  10. Thorngod
    August 29th, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

    H, do you really not see the problem of a “cause” for the universe? You’ll need a cause for the cause–and another and another. The notion of a self-caused intelligence is absurd. It took several billion years to just to evolve yours, and you’re still unable to see beyond the end of your nose.

  11. Holopupenko
    August 29th, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

         The universe is there, isn’t it… or do you deny that as well? That’s why the universe was caused. Do you still deny it? Well, then, better to stand in silence before the irrational and let it hear only its own sad, shrill cries…
         Let’s say you even take the ultra-Idealist position and assert everything only exists in your own mind. Well, the question still doesn’t go away: you’re there, so an explanation—a cause for you being there—is needed.
         Ready to stop prevaricating and address the issues… and challening your own personal (seemingly unquestionable) assumptions? What do you so fear… that your worldview might possibly be mistaken?

  12. Holopupenko
    August 29th, 2006 @ 1:42 pm

         Like I said, substantiate your current and previous unscientific claims (the onus is on you), and I’ll be happy to put your foolish notions to rest. Apart from that, I try to refrain from entering into intellectual battles with the unarmed…
         I’m having fun… why aren’t you? You take yourself WAY too seriously. Chill out, dude.

  13. Erik
    August 29th, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

    There are causes of events, but no one has ever seen matter or energy created by something else. It is therefore illogical to conclude that there was a cause. And if you do posit a cause, then you must posit a cause for that cause, and it’s turtles all the way down.

    By the way, I see little need to proceed in this discussion. Your selective quoting of Russell and Copleston’s debate was lazy at best, deliberately deceiving at worst. By suggesting that they move on to another topic, Russell was bringing to a conclusion the first cause topic that the two had hashed out quite a bit already. This was because they were debating on the radio and had many other issues to discuss. Neither of them had avoided the topic at all. You’d know that, assuming you read the transcipt of the debate. Since you link to it from your blog, I assume you have read it, haven’t you? In other words, you’re either a lazy fuck or you’re a pathetic liar. You choose.

  14. Thorngod
    August 29th, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

    H, you are misapplying the term “scientific.” You are also having trouble conceptualizing. I leave you to your difficulties.

  15. Insolent1
    September 1st, 2006 @ 1:57 pm

    Holo: You assume there was a cause, that something created the universe. What ’caused’ that something to come into existence. Your christian beliefs: it (Abrahamic God) caused itself or it (Abrahamic God) always existed. So why couldn’t the Universe cause itself, or always exist? Is it even a valid question to ask what caused the universe if you cannot first observe evidence to suggest it had a cause, or that it didn’t always exist. No, but you assume it is, which is why Russell would be wasting his time after explaining his opinion, trying to explain what you simply refuse to believe for no good reason.

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