And now for something even more disgusting than eating ice cream in public!

A blog by Joe Carter, called Evangelical Outpost" (via Glenn Reynolds -- whose views Mr. Carter characterizes as "radical libertarian") has taken issue with the criticism Leon Kass's ice cream quote has received in the blogosphere.

While Mr. Carter has as much right to his opinion as anyone else (including Kass), he seems to have a feeling that religion is implicated, and I want to address that.

First of all, let's not forget that Kass wrote what he wrote. I didn't, nor did any of the people commenting on it. To insinuate that it is playing dirty pool to quote what the man said strikes me as too extravagant a position to require a serious response.

On to "religion" (or what passes for it)....

Whether or not a view is religious in origin has nothing to do with its validity, and still less to do with whether other people should agree with it. Religion is personal, and if one does or does not do something for religious reasons that is not an argument for or against anyone else doing it.

In Kass's case, though, no argument was made by the doctor against ice cream from a religious perspective. But as Glenn Reynolds observes, even if he had done so, it would change nothing except possibly make him appear more ridiculous in light of his powerful position as head of a government commission (and his stated championing of the "yuck/disgust factor").

What I want to know is why a religious motivation should render an opinion or an action any more immune from criticism than the lack thereof. Do Islamic terrorists, because of their allegedly "religious" motivations become less blameworthy than Marxist terrorists? I see no reason why. Yet I see more and more people attempting to hide behind religion as if it immunizes them not only from all criticism, but from having to defend the logic of their positions.

What ticks me off about Kass is that, regardless of whether he's motivated by religion or philosophy, he wants his views made into laws enforced by the power of the state. To my mind, this heightens the duty to disagree or criticize him. Because if I don't, and his laws are imposed on me, the disagreement will morph into something quite different from a mere difference of opinion. The "opinion" that people should go to jail becomes a present threat once that opinion becomes the law of the land.

Not that I worry about criminalization of ice cream, mind you. But state power shaped by crazy opinions can lead to crazy laws.

(I am reminded of the criminalization of water not long ago....)

Did I just mention "water"? This renewed interest in ice cream etiquette has reminded me that I am long overdue for Part II of Dr. Kass's star profile.


All who are disgusted by Astrology are hereby warned to stop reading now, or forever hold your disgust, your instinctive revulsion, or whatever you might call your feelings of outrage.

In a post last week I began with Dr. Kass's Sun/Moon combination, "The Dilettante." I promised to continue with the other major planets, so here they are.


Most people have heard about Mars and Venus as the male and female planets, which they are. I like to use Debbi Kempton-Smith's traditional (although compassionately humorous) treatise, Secrets from a Stargazer's Notebook (Bantam Books, New York, 1982.), and the following are her observations. The following material is offered along with my standard disclaimer (see my previous post), and is based on the assumption that Dr. Kass was born on February 12, 1929.

Mars is known as the male planet, and Ms. Kempton-Smith calls it "How You Drive People Crazy", and here's a partial excerpt explaining why:

Mars likes war. Mars makes enthusiasm too, but it'll settle for trouble. Mars is your energy, what you put your energy into, your drive and your courage. Mars stands for lust and drive and passion. Mars burns for things. If someone has Mars on your Venus, they'll burn for you.

The sign Mars shows what kind of special sparkle you have. Think of a peacock showing off in a courtship. Some Mars signs strut more successfully than others.

Things that make you angry are Mars things.

Dr. Kass's Mars is in Sagittarius, and, on a point of personal privilege, I should state here that my Mars is also in Sagittarius, so anyone who thinks I am being mean to Dr. Kass here should bear in mind that the following can also be used against me!

Mr. and Mrs. Leave It To Beaver, that's you! You've got that clean-cut twinkle in your eye, and you're kind and funny. You like to pretend you're an animal in bed. You are. You joke a bit much at romantic moments, but your honey thinks you're adorable, a philosopher. Travel excites you. You turn people on with generosity, bonhomie, and natural love of the underdog. You are nothing if not charitable. You'll turn people on with a rousting debate, but your most successful sexual asset is that laugh. Your laugh burbles up from a place somewhere deep inside of you, and your laugh is the sound of pure joy. You will har-dee-har-har anyone to the casbah, and you always have a good laugh when you leave a loved one. You like having the last laugh, too.

And when the going gets tough, the tough get going. It's not that your leaving upsets people, it's how you leave. So intent are you on the new goal and the Wide Horizon that you blind yourself to the unholy mess you leave behind and the long-term effects of your actions on other people. You don't want responsibility and force others to be responsible for you. At your worst, your worm' s-eye view allows you to laugh at other folks' serious attempts at maturity. You love animals. It's the people who detest you when you act like a schmuck.

OK, so much for Kass's Mars. (And so much for me!)

We now come to the planet Venus -- described by Ms. Kempton-Smith as the planet of "Sleazy Sex and Eternal Love." Dr. Kass's Venus is in Capricorn:


The connoisseur. Think of them as Englishmen or women in love -- they still think sex is frightfully naughty. Men in pinstripes and women in black stockings and garter belts feature in their guilty fantasies. Ask anyone riding on the London underground, if you dare.

There are two kinds of lovers for them: the saucy lower-class chambermaid or rough and ready gamekeeper, or the sort of specimen you take home to meet Daddy. If you've got both qualifications, they'll fall deeply in love with you. Don't ever show affection in public, and don't keep your hands off them in private. The men like long-legged ladies, oval faces, and lots of black clothing, and the women like their men with a six-inch bank account -- or the prospect of same.

You can look like Bizarro if you've got money, power, or fame, so don't sweat the small stuff. Venus in Capricorn folks do have one odd kink, however. They are fascinated with bone structure. Your body is the way they like to study architecture, whereas the folks with Venus in Sagittarius just don't give a hang about your body as long as you like to boogie-woogie. Venus in Capricoms are attracted to moody loners, and you can never be too rich or too skinny. Remember Cassius' lean and hungry look.

Forget keeping them around unless you can be useful to them, especially in their work. Show them how you fix a doorknob, type, or Make Yourself Useful. Weirdly, they are more often exploited themselves because they feel inadequate about their own worth. So they may try to "buy" you in some way. The men may actually tell you to go away and come back when they've made their mark in the world; they’ll live in barren conditions, though, telling you that's their way of keeping the gold-diggers away. They trust only the friends who stick with them in hard times. They get good at making money. Both sexes believe that the best partners won't be theirs unless they "earn" the partner's devotion. This pound-wise, penny-foolish attitude on their part wrecks many budding romances. People don't like to think of love in the same breath as worldly affairs. Venus in Capricorn people need two things only: a kick in the pants for being too worrisome and mercenary, and lots and lots of kisses along the spine. These weird, frosty people are lusty beyond belief. NEVER grab them in front of business or social acquaintances unless they want you to, as a status symbol. They will let you know, by post.

The planet Saturn is described as "What's Stopping You From Getting There?":

Saturn is the symbol of all living things that scare the living daylights out of you. Astrologers call it The Great Teacher, but they're jiving if they fail to inform you of the pain that comes with the lessons. Most of this pain comes from ignorance. Saturn shows what got distorted in youth. It shows the things we never got or what we got too much of. Worse still, if someone offers those things we want most now, we don't know what to do with the goodies. Psychologists and astrologers are constantly astonished at how human beings push away the very things that could make us feel secure. We're afraid to want the things of our Saturn, so we pretend we can do without them. We do do without them, but at a cost to our willingness to gently work on facing our fears.

There's more, but Saturn is called the "DON'T CROSS THAT LINE" planet.

And now, with compassion and understanding, readers may venture across Dr. Kass's "line."


"The definition of cowardice is to see what is right and not do it."

So many comedians are born with Saturn here. I guess they're afraid people will laugh at them anyway, and Saturn, always practical, might as well get paid for it. These are very serious folks, but they try their damnedest to hide the fact.

In childhood they weren't allowed a normal, healthy, show-off ego. The parents said, "Don't be selfish—share." Parents played with your presents before you got them, and it was rare that you ever got the luxury of pure. new "vibes" on anything.

People with this Saturn are afraid of the things Aries is afraid of—that you won't like them. They want to come first in your life. but they're afraid to ask or act like they have the right. You can win them forever by treating them as Number One. They burn to be leaders—inwardly they yearn to be Superman. They're terrified to show how much they want it. They have terrible guilt complexes about their egos: often this is the position of the over sheltered but neglected child. Parents force them to be grown-up too fast.

No wonder so many of these folks stay single, or even become priests to breathe the heady air of self-hood, which their parents taught them was obscene. The loner image is a sham—they're greedily desperate to prove their independence . . . to themselves. They're afraid they can't do it all themselves.

No one ever taught them how to build up their charisma, how to dress right, how to please themselves first. Past lifetimes, if you buy them, have given them quiet courage, wisdom beyond their years, and the memory of having been pushed around a lot by other people. They remember being pushed out of the spotlight. being passed over, and they're not going to let that happen this time. It is sheer hell getting them to let go of power—as bosses they're awful at delegating authority. Or they get so bossy they forget what leadership really is. Then they see everybody as a threat to their own seat.

They are anxious about their bodies or looks in some way. They've been crippled or limited in their movements in the past, and they're touchy about it.

Once there were two friends. One was known as a maverick, and the other friend was known as a "yes-man." He had Saturn in this position. One night the maverick stood up before their club and mentioned the corruption that was creeping in; the group had been acting cruelly and breaking rules. The maverick pushed for some reforms, while Martin, his friend, let the group tear the maverick to pieces. Privately he supported his friend's cause, but he was unable to act with the wild, jazzy, you're-terrific-even-if-you're-a-madman courage. No one had ever taught him how.

If they avoid the two extremes of "yessing" people to death or monopolizing the whole show, they're doing A-OK.

Nudge them. but don't push them. Praise their appearance lavishly. Note their wise courage. Let them lead whenever possible. They were starved of the chance as children. Cheer them up—they get depressed. Gently show them that if they allow you to work in your own way you are freeing them of details so they can be leaders. Emphasize their uniqueness—they've worked hard for it.

The sweetest qualities of this position are wit, depth, dependability. chivalry, humility, wisdom, and the ultimate realization that one does not have to lake oneself seriously, but one must treat oneself seriously and with respect.

My sincerest apologies to all who are disgusted by Astrology (which, I suspect includes at least as many atheistic and secular libertarians as it does people with religious objections).

So much for another labor of love.

(As the saying goes, "No good deed goes unpunished....")

posted by Eric on 03.23.04 at 09:41 PM


Re: Leon Kass, bioethicist and cultural warrior

Chris Mooney writes in his article Irrationalist in Chief:

“It's important to note that the objection is not that Kass has religious views, but that he thinks it's fine to base his arguments on them when making policy recommendations for a pluralistic society...In Leon Kass, bioethics has put forward a minority figure who comes down on the side of sermons--a sixteenth-century sensibility to guide us through twenty-first-century conundrums...At bottom, Kass's appointment raises the question of whether we can expect a national bioethics debate or a national bioethics sermon.”

To get a feel for this Mr. Kass fellow:

In Toward a More Natural Science, Leon Kass condemns as selfish and immoral our modern way of life whose “practices and beliefs...insist on our independence and autonomy, [as we] live more and more wholly for the here and now, subjugating everything we can to the exercise of our wills, with little respect for the nature and meaning of bodily life.”

Now suppose - just suppose - that the “nature and meaning of bodily life” IS to “live more and more wholly for the here and now” and that by “insist[ing] on our independence and autonomy” we fulfill that nature and meaning, thereby adding to the rich tapestry of human existence and endeavor. Just suppose.

Steve Harper   ·  March 25, 2004 3:58 PM

Sorry I didn't comment on this before. Too wrapped up in my own writing (not on the blog, though) and spectrumology. What you wrote here, and linked to, excruciatingly interesting, as always.

One of the commenters (Steve the Irrational Legalist) at that Evangelical blog gave us a Jack T. Chick-style screed on how Christianity since the Council of Nicea has been engulfed in the Pagan worship of Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz. An irreconcilable theological controversy thus arises from all this: Is Jack T. Chick a Son of the Devil for denying the Lesbian Birth of the Christ? or is Fr. de Bay (following the holy dogmas of Dawn and Norma) Devilish for preaching it in their Cathedral? Dawn also says Jack T. Chick is a Communist.

I see no connection whatsoever, either logically or psychologically, between independence and autonomy on the one hand and an emphasis on the here and now on the other. I, exercising and fiercely defending my independence and autonomy, tend to focus on the long ago and far away. I'm an IN(T/F)P in the Myers-Briggs typology. In another thread in a site delineating yet another interesting political/ideological spectrum (the Vosem Chart), one commenter didn't like the whole subject of spectrumology (as I call it) and compared it to the Myers-Briggs typology and to astrology, which he didn't care for. That, plus your writings here on the subject, make me like astrology more. I must note that my brother, an INTJ (like Ayn Rand, who he never read), seems to find astrology rather disgusting. He hasn't yet used that word, but I get the sense, now that I think of it, that that is his feeling. Most fascinating it all is....

...but, in the here and now, I have to go to the store.

Could that be RobotSlave's post on Kuro5hin, by any chance? I still remembered that. He said that the political spectrum (at least in multidimensional forms), along with Myers-Briggs and the enneagram, belonged in the same category as Japanese blood types. Sheesh! He said it was because it was recursive -- you describe yourself as an extrovert therefore you are by definition an E (and vice versa) but there are ways of creating empirical (as opposed to analytical) tests for some of these things. See E. Alan Meece's work on astrology if you want an example. (The guy got introduced to astrology by accurately predicting what his own star chart would be!)

Josh Gardner   ·  March 29, 2004 3:32 PM

April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Search the Site


Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link


Recent Entries


Site Credits