Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dog Fighting, Human Debasing

NFL Quarterback Michael Vick has been indicted for dog fighting. The whole notion is sickening and lamentable. The big business of American football (legalized, human violence) is bad enough, but at least the players chose this debauchery. (Sadly, millions chose to watch it as well.) But dogs have no choice. Humans incline them to rip each other apart for human sport. The dogs are kept in deplorable conditions. And people pay to watch it. May God deliver both the dogs and the human dogs who perpetuate it.

Dogs are God's creatures, our lesser brethren, but still sentient beings with sensation, emotion, and life. Dogs have saved people's lives. Humans debase themselves by inflicting wanton torture on these--and other--creatures. Rodeos can be nearly as cruel as dog fights. Bull fights and circuses inflict needless pain on creatures for human titillation as well. It is not right. Don't we have enough forms of entertainment in this culture--without this?

My solution: video game dog fighting! No canines get hurt, no one gets arrested, and we find but another way to live in a virtual world of wanton cruelty and digital titillation--but this time without the real blood, howls, and death. In fact, someone has probably beat me to the punch on this. They already have NFL video games, don't they?


MJ said...

As usual, I find your anti-football comments weak and out of place, as "violence" per se is not an evil value. But to the pertinent point...

I do not recall exactly which legal theorist (or academic commentator)(I'm tempted to think Blankstone or Cooke) is credited with saying that the oldest contract known among man is that with the canine. Ever since the hungry and shivering wolf entered the cave to trade his protection and companionship for food and shelter, a sacred bond bound by contract has existed. Similar to God's covenant of salvation, man holds a tilted duty to see that the contract is honored, since the dog is without equittable power of his contractor. To abuse this contract with our four-legged gift from God defies "normal" (ie, common to all) sin and approaches something much more base - certainly a higher level of depravity perhaps akin to amorality or abomination.

The law defines dogs and other domesticated beasts as chattel (ie, personal property), as it should. But moral instinct, natural law, and an appreciation for God's gift and this Contract demand that property be nutured with respect and responsibility second only to our positive treatment of fellow man.

MJ said...

That is an embarrassing typo. Blackstone.

MJ said...

Though it must be 5 years since last playing, the College video games are better than the NFL versions... :)

But the point of the satire duly noted.

MJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Gordon said...

Yes, the debauchery that is American football is certainly the utmost tragedy plaguing today's youth. Let's put sex, drugs, and rock and roll on the back burner and take up our cross and ban football. The stuff the kids are watching these days. I mean, the nerve of it. The hail mary, the draw play, and the most detestable of all, the lateral. Certainly sickening and lamentable. Shame, shame, shame.

Need I even ask what you think of my favorite sport, UFC?

Let's try and worry about stuff that matters.

Anonymous said...

Proverbs 12:10 - "the righteous man regardeth the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel"

This says it all!

Douglas Groothuis said...

Mr. Gordon:

That is the fallacy of the false dichotomy. I abhor the other things you mention as well and do what I can to oppose them. I occasionally speak out against football, but only infrequently. Indeed, I usually have better things to do.

But I take football to be a socially-sanctioned and troubling social evil, so I speak against it. That is an unpopular view in the US. So be it. I posted a rather long entry ont his about a year ago. I'm sure you won't want to read it, though; but, maybe you will...

Doug Groothuis

MJ said...

I am not sure that is worse than your own implied dichotomy.

I mean this post with sincere respect from a fellow thinker an brother in Christ...and for a friendly argument.

Violence is not per se evil. Violence is evil when there is a physically or derived from physical act coupled with an intention to cause unjustified affliction (obviously this is phrased to include verbal violence). We agree this is evil. The same "violence" (ie the physical act) is not only non-evil, but beautiful and justified when it proctects the innocent or fights a just casuse. I think we agree there as well. Violence also projects itself in a neutral manner when the physical force is used as a means to itself; ie, it lacks intention to cause unjustified pain or to defend (our first two examples). That leaves a neutral violence evil? I say no. It requires mens rea. Yes, that can occur on the football field, but the actions of a few morons cannot turn the whole argument to make football evil as a whole.

I played football, and certainly will encourage my future (Lord willing) sons to play as well. It is the exception, not the rule, to apply negative violence to the game. Neutral violence is the rule of the game...which is why the stiffest penalties are reserved for: facemasking, back blocks, clipping, unsportsmanlike conduct.

Baseball is the same, no doubt. It just looks cleaner. CDC data indicate more injuries (of the hospital sort, not bruises) per capita than football for American boys. I can also speak with an anecdote from the pitcher's mound. Any serious hurler will tell you one of the tricks of the mound is to "brush" someone off the plate. Violent?? Of course! How is an 85mph ball flying toward your head NOT violent. Negatively violent (ie, with intent), yes, if I intend to hit the batter and throw in a manner to insure such. Neutral (and allowable) if I intend merely to throw as closely as possible to "brush" and not "hit" (though the line be millimeters? Yes.

In order to be intellectually honest, you would need to revise your stance against football to clarify that you find the "neutral" view of violence as abhorrent in the same way that negative violence is evil (a defensible position). Or you would have to agree it falls in this middle category and is not per se evil; which means you are just left with a personal preference against football.

To implicitly relegate football with negative (immoral) violence when its intentions are neutral violence is itself a false dichotomy; no worse than Mr. Gordon's (though less crass).

So I draw the distinction: three manifestations of violence. The neutral intent, within the right arena (usually sports and recreation), is morally fine.

I do not recall your making this distinction in your original football post, so forgive me if you did.

I fear you will take the other position, but it is a very weak position to take.

But regarding the dogs, see my first post! :)

BJ the Tornado said...

"Who loves me will love my dog also."

Que me amat, amet et canem meum.

- St. Bernard, from the Sermo Primus

I agree with your commentary on the deplorable notion and sad reality of dog fighting.

But, I agree with mj that your comments on football are (as usual) egregiously hyperbolic and off-base.

(American football is "legalized, human violence"??? What?? The reason this is so particularly off-base is because there really is human violence done for entertainment that is de facto "legal" in many third-world nations because the authorities turn a blind eye. I'm speaking of the human slave trade and the number of slaves that are forced to fight and kill one another in gladitorial style -- yes, this still occurs today. So to make such a silly claim about football, a legitimate (if contact) sport, is all the more ridiculous).

Douglas Groothuis said...


There is a spectrum of violence. I do much more to help the enslaved Dalits of India than I do to abolish football. This is becuase the Dalit situation (250,000,000 enslaved because of Hindu caste) is far more serious.

However, football is violent and legal. Players are mamed for life. Injuries are very common. Players even try to injure each other. That gets into the American psyche and furthers a violent mentality.

So, there is no hyperbole. You simply like that kind of violence.

MJ said...

That is very close to ad hominem to bj.

Your thoughts and feelings are again misled. I come from the South, where football and baseball are second only to God (debatable then in some circles, but that's a different argument), and I do not know of anyone...ANYONE...who enjoys football to see people get hurt or be the result of violence. It is about the game, the strategy, team cameraderie and competition, yes, around a physical game involving contact.

Can you please just exhibit to me how neutral use of violence is wrong? Your attitude would correctly apply toward the wanton negative violence of the Colessuem, not the gridiron. It is fine not to like football on sensibility grounds; but it is altogether another to relate it as a confounder of violence of the negative and even deadly sort (to both humankind and canine) on a societal scale.

So far your arguments fail to meet the intensity of your displeasure of football; but I know you to be brilliant, so I want to know if there is a flaw in this reasoning.
Teach me, Professor, where these arguments lack. I'm serious.

All I know is that these arguments do not work in 1) statistics (confounding) or 2)law (evidence - character and propensity)...but I am less adept in philosophy.

James Gordon said...

I appreciate your concern for the greater tragedy of the Dalits in India. It is needed. However, I do not think your football argument would pass in a freshman level philosophy class. In the time I have read your blog, I have agree with almost everything you have had to say prior to this. I would enjoy reading your fuller treatment of football if you would provide the link.

I ask how then you would deal with nearly all board games that require some sort of deceit or wishing ill upon another? Is that not the same type of evil? It is consensual. When someone lands on your railroad in Monopoly do you rejoice in the fact that you are taking more money from them than you deserve to be paid?

I think MJ makes several good points in regards to violence in baseball alongside of football. However, I am not so sure about the "three types of violence" though, seeing that it could not hold up exegetically. For no other area would be in the same category (such as a positive manifestation of lying or stealing). Such an argument causes me some discomfort as it could be used to justify bombing the abortion clinic or revolting from a government, both of which would not be Biblically acceptable but would fall under MJ's definition of a justified violence against a deplorable evil.


Douglas Groothuis said...

See my essay from January 21, 2006
"Football, Baseball, and the Culture of Violence."

MJ said...


Note "Justified" positive violence. No where in Scripture or logic would bombing an abortion clinic be justified.

MJ said...

Dr. G -

I reread it again (yes, at least 3 times).

It does NOT answer the question I posed to you directly in this line of dialogue: how is violence that is neither negative (ie, with intent of evil) or positive (with intent to save) evil itself?

There are also many other secondary counter-arguments that can be made to your original essay, but I just think it is fruitless to go into them without some examnination of your presupposition re: violence.

I am starting to wonder if you ave something against me or the honest questions I pose to you on this blog and (in the past; I've since given up) email. I know you are busy, but if I had the time and money, I'd love to pay tuition at DS and learn for credit.

For the record (as I said a year ago in response to your essay), I played both sports extensively, and I agree wholehearedly with your approval of baseball over football. Indeed, a Divine game that I miss deeply...but violent therefore evil therefore societal menace?

James Gordon said...

Then where in Scripture are we given permision for justified violence? OT Israel seems to be the only example.

MJ said...

"Given permission?" The Bible does not speak directly/give permission for many things, so it would be a non sequiter to think that because permission is absent, then the act is not Biblically sanctioned.

Regardless, several non-wars of Israel uses of violence (from the Bible) come to mind:

-Death penalty for certain transgressions
-Jesus himself in wreaking havoc on maneychangers in the Temple
-Paul certifying the sword for the state (Rom. 13:1-6)

Reformers have long made a distinction between self-defense (rarely justified; "turn the other cheek") and defense of others (justified). I'll let take this one:

The real moral distinction between correct and incorrect violence in the Bible is different from secular views of violence however. In the secular world, justified violence tends to be based primarily upon self-defense. In the biblical worldview, justified violence is primarily about defense of others. One may sometimes be justified in defending oneself because of one’s value to others and the role in which you are reacting to others. If it was purely about saving one’s individual self when there was no appropriate role for you to play toward another, then martyrdom could actually be the appropriate thing. But when innocent lives such as those of women and children or those in the community are at stake, martyrdom in the face of aggression is not appropriate, but rather the defense of the community from aggression, injustice and oppression is appropriate. This was the basic belief of the Christian reformers such as Luther and Calvin. But this view began to be distorted during the 1600s when there was an increased emphasis on trying to make the theory of law and international relations appeal to an audience without direct reference to the Bible or to faith as the sole argument. Writers like Locke and Hobbs made self-defense more important and neglected the primacy of the defense of others. This had two negative effects. First, it emphasized selfishness in foreign policy and second, when combined with a misunderstanding of the Christian belief in willing martyrdom of the self, it made entire civilizations more suicidal. But this was not the direct result of Christianity, but rather the combination of Christianity with the skeptical secular theories of writers like Thomas Hobbs.

Lastly, and anecdotal, albeit helpful, would be an examination of our tort law regarding self defense and defense of others. One is justified in defending someone being attacked 1) after the action is imminent and 2) to the degree that the threat is neutralized. IN other words, one cnanot make a "defense" attack on a fear of an aggressor (it must be imminent) and you cannot add additional violence in a retributory manner - just neutralize the aggressor. This common law idea is based on England's common law, arguably rooted in Christian conviction.

James Gordon said...


I appreciate your examples. However, I find them defeating of your following comments. First, we are not under the obligations of OT Law anymore; rather we are under grace. But, even if we were under the Law, the death penalty is not a defense of others. It is a paying of retribution. Jesus' turning out the moneychangers was not self-defense but rather an example of justified anger in order to protect his the fame of his glory and the glory of his Father. Plus, I think you would be hardpressed to call that violence against a person. Finally, Romans 13:1-6 is another example of God's wrath being exercised on a wrongdoer. There is no self-defense involved. You say that "you cannot add additional violence in a retributory manner - just neutralize the aggressor," but these examples seem to prove otherwise. You say that you cannot add additional violence in a retributory manner but provide examples of violence being added in a retributory manner. I am not sure I follow the logic of that argument. Plus, you previously mentioned three manifestations of violence (positve, neutral, and negative), but now you are speaking of self-defense vs. the defense of others. Where does the neutral manifestation fit in to the categories of self-defense vs. the defense of others?

You also avoided addressing the exegetical integrity of the three manifestations of violence.

I apologize for my non sequitor. "Given permission" was not the best way to put it. I should have said, then where in Scripture do we see justified violence against another.

MJ said...

Self defense is the primary (but not exclusive) example of positive violence. The issue has been positive violence (violence being partially defined in my first post)- that is, using violence in a justified manner. Flipping over a table out of (righteuous) anger is a violent act. It is postive violence. Death is violent, even if it is the state conducting execution. It is nevertheless justified and therefore a "postive" use of violence.

THe neutral manifestation does not fit in defense of others; you are correct. As stated in a last post, I noted that neutral violence involves the use of violence outside of evil intent (negative violence) and justified violence (SUCH AS defense of others, etc..) and it is USUALLY and commonly found on the sports fields. Not sure where you find that I avoid the exegetical principle - this could not be more exegetical analysis of violence.

...without opening the corpus of Reformation Theology, the fact that we are saved from the Law by the sacrifice of Christ does not negate the relevance of the law. The law is still the reflection of God's justice...

YOu said:

"Jesus' turning out the moneychangers was not self-defense but rather an example of justified anger in order to protect his the fame of his glory and the glory of his Father. Plus, I think you would be hardpressed to call that violence against a person."

Remember my arguments are violence per se...not necessarily strking a person. Jesus's act was violent and it was directed at certain persons. IT was justified and the self defense argument was never introduced in that sense. My apologies for not making pains to separate the example from the premise. I wish I had more time to devote to this, but studies first for now. You can always email me.

David said...


I think the distinguishing factor that you're focusing on is whether the sport incites or encourages malicious acts of violence within the context of the game itself. In other words, does the sport tend to bring out the malevolent side of people?

Assuming that's true, then it seems that football certainly does this to some degree. While most football players would no doubt claim that they never intend to hurt anyone, the fact of the matter is that causing physical pain on the opponent is effective for achieving one's ends in the game: a wimpy linebacker who can't hit hard is less likely to cause a fumble.

Furthermore, there are many opportunities for participants who might otherwise be disinclined to maliciously hurt their opponent, to take cheap shots and attempt to seriously injure him. But of course, because physical contact is so intrinstic to the game, it is often difficult to determine when one acts on such motivation.

But I don't think this insight sufficiently establishes the point that football is an inappropriate sport. In most team sports, there are opportunities to lash out at one's opponent. Even in the divine sport of baseball one will find pitchers throwing at batters, runners plowing over catchers, and so on. And these are fairly common occurrences. Does this make baseball inappropriate as well?

MJ said...

Partial apology - I just saw your response to my request re: defects in presupp. apologetics. I will try to pick that up from CUB in Englewood tonite.