Tuesday, December 30, 2003
The Privileged Planet by Guillermo Gonzalez & Jay Richards To be released in March, 2004. I heard a lecture by Gonzalez & Richards in June regarding their book and theory of the Privileged Planet. Essentially, they posit that we have a habitable planet and that habitability correlates with measurability - the same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provide us with the best overall setting for making scientific discoveries. What we see here are Intelligent Design proponents from the Discovery Institute taking the proposal a step further. If there is a Designer, what qualities should we expect to find, either in that Designer, in that Designer's designs or, in the world that Designer provides for us? The Christian Worldview not only allows for, but flourishes in scientific discovery. This is because we see God as Sovereign over Nature, not as a part of it. As such, wouldn't we expect God to provide us with the means to discover truths within His creation? Among the examples that Gonzalez & Richards will review are: Perfect solar eclipses, Plate tectonics, Galactic location, and Fine-tuned cosmos, just to name a few. Perfect solar eclipses? - the apparent size of the moon in the sky perfectly eclipses the sun during a total solar eclipse. This little feature has allowed us to measure the effects of general relativity, detect the chromosphere, and reveal stars as hot balls of gas. So, what's the big deal? The big deal is that there is no physical reason why the moon has to be just the right size to just cover the sun. Alone, it's a coincidence. With the list of other features provided it becomes evidence for the Designer.
If the Britney Spears - Madonna kiss this last year wasn't bad enough, now we read of a trend among high school girls - sharing open mouthed kisses. From the Sun-Sentinel, S. Florida teen girls discovering 'bisexual chic' trend: Debate rises over whether a kiss is just a kiss. ""Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" A group of teenagers is gathered at a party. Music's playing; smuggled booze is flowing. Two girls grin sheepishly at each other as a crowd goads them on. Finally, the teens relent, rewarding their audience with some mouth-on-mouth action. It's not an unusual scene, according to South Florida high school students, who say the newest trend for teen girls isn't wearing the latest designer jeans or driving a cool car, but declaring themselves to be bisexual. "Some do it for attention. Some do it because guys like it. And some do it just because they can. It's definitely a fad," says Stranahan High student Christy Shalley, president of the Fort Lauderdale school's Gay Straight Alliance." Now I could start denouncing the secular media and the secular record industry for their degenerative actions, but what do you really expect from them? They are, after all, non-Christian. Are we really surprised to see non-Christian acts coming from non-Christians? So, where does that leave us? Um, looking in the mirror? I wonder how many families from the church were watching or allowing their children to watch the awards show in which Spears and Madonna bussed? How many of these families watch Survivor? American Idol? Or any of the wretched sitcoms now permeating the airwaves? It ain't Gilligan's Island anymore folks.
When you read and / or hear reports on the upcoming Mars missions you almost immediately hear that scientists are searching for signs of life, past or present, on the Red Planet. Certainly aware of the horrid conditions that most of the rest of the solar system harbors for living organisms, many scientists are quick to point out that such extreme conditions are only detrimental to "life, as we know it." The implication being that there may be life forms out there in the cosmos that are built on systems so completely foreign to our understanding that we have no way of predicting what environments they may be found in. That's an interesting implication. It's also a conclusion based completely on science fiction. Think about it. Ask a proponent of "life as we don't know it" to give you an example of said life forms and they will probably respond that since we don't know about them how can we present any examples? Okay... let's try something a bit more easy on the brain for them - ask them, then, what they base their premise on that there may be "life, as we don't know it" out there? What do you want to bet that they don't produce results from peer reviewed science journals? About the closest they'll get to true science is a technical advisor on Star Trek: the Next Generation. My point is this: Science tells us that life, even in its simplest forms, is a very complex thing. The molecules needed to build the complex pathways of life have to be based on Carbon. Silicon and Boron exist in sufficient quantity to build molecular pathways, but they still won't do. Silicon cannot hold together the required complexity, and Boron is always superceded by Carbon. Life, as we know it, is Carbon-based. And that bit of knowledge goes a long ways to our understanding of the conditions necessary for life's existence, whether on the Earth or on Mars.
and batter number two is coming to the plate. Mars Rover Spirit is set to land on the Red Planet on Saturday, January 3rd. You can check in on the latest stats at this link. PBS plans on airing a special NOVA, Mars Dead or Alive, on Sunday, January 4th at 8pm with the last 2 1/2 minutes depending on the outcome of Saturday's landing. The episode will be rebroadcast again on Tuesday, January 6th, hopefully with additional footage from Spirit's cameras.
Wesley Smith has an op-ed article in the October 2003 issue of First Things. In, Waking from the Dead, he writes of how the courts and the medical profession have both allowed, even pushed, for the status of "person" to be removed from those individuals who happen to be un- or semi-conscious. Indeed, in his words, "Welcome to the surreal world of “personhood theory,” under which people diagnosed with permanent loss of consciousness or the ability to meaningfully think and communicate with the world are denigrated as “nonpersons.” Human nonpersons, in this way of thinking, are no longer deemed to be full and equal members of the human community. This means they have fewer rights and lesser value. (Other supposed human nonpersons include embryos, fetuses, newborn infants—sometimes referred to as “potential persons”—people with significant developmental disabilities, and people with Alzheimer’s disease.)" Smith shows us that the slippery slope logic behind such mentality inevidibly drives us towards a futile-care theory in which the quality of life for the patient is analyzed, by the medical care providers, to determine whether they feel the patient really has any real hope of meaningful existence. Further down the slope we come to the realization that letting non-person humans die without utilizing some of their functioning body parts is very wasteful indeed. Hence, we have now ended up with a harvester mentality, so that "several doctors writing for the “International Forum for Transplant Ethics” urged that the legal definition of death be changed to include permanent unconsciousness so that “it would be possible to take the life of a patient... by a lethal injection, and then remove the organs needed for transplantation, subject to the usual criteria for consent.” In other words, death would cease to be a matter of biology but would become a sociological construct. (It must be stressed at this point that these proposals have not yet been enacted.)" In cases in which a handicapped person is about to be starved to death, such as Terri Schiavo's, who ends up fighting for the patient? Typically it is the patient's blood relatives - their FAMILY. What social unit is under attack in our society today? The FAMILY. If we let the village take control of our families, who will win?
Monday, December 29, 2003
FOXNews.com - Israeli Police Warned of Possible Terror Attacks Israeli intelligence officials have alerted police about possible multiple terrorist attacks... descriptions of the threat have been deliberately vague to avoid leaks... it could come by air, sea or land... targets could include holy sites, schools or hospitals... the attacks would not necessarily either target or be limited to Israel. What was one of the complaints you heard on the evening news after the terror threat level was raised to Orange?... "it's not specific enough." This, I think, reflects an American expectation to have the details laid out, plain and clear. Reality strikes as it will though and things are rarely to cut and dried. Since 9/11 we have been expecting other large scale attempts to attack the United States. So far we have been lucky enough to avoid, thwart, or escape them. If the trend continues, will we see efforts by terrorists to downscale their attacks? Will we see the advent of suicide bombers, car bombs, and the like, here in the U.S.?
Parents, Schools Are Learning to Like Full-Day Kindergarten is an article by Cara Mia DiMassa of the L.A. Times. Again, we're being exposed to the concept that the earlier a child attends school, the better. Not only that, but now we're asked to send them to school for a full-day as opposed to only half-day. The reasons posited for such an approach are always beneficial... better for the at-risk child, better for social development, better for the stressed mom, better for the working mom, better for the school districts... why would anyone oppose such a policy? "When Maria Covarrubias talks about the benefits of full-day kindergarten, she speaks from experience. Three of her children attended half-day programs at Daniel Webster Elementary School in Pasadena. Now, her youngest, Matthew, is enrolled in a pilot full-day kindergarten class there. Gone are the harried lunch hours used for shuttling children from school to an afternoon baby-sitter. Matthew spends 6 1/2 hours in class each day, and his mother, an administrative assistant at a Monrovia CPA firm, marvels at not being a midday chauffeur and not spending $100 a week on child care. "I really enjoy it," she said. But more important, she has watched her son blossom academically, an unexpected result of the longer program, she said. "He goes a little further than I think the girls did," Covarrubias said. "He has the clearest handwriting. You just have to see it. I think because they write a lot more, that helps him. I think that's what it is."" (emphasis added) We see here an example of: The Given. The Given = mother will work and children will attend daycare. Maybe in Maria Covarrubias case she really does have to work in order to make ends meet. We see no mention of a husband or a second income. But the policy of full-day kindergarten is not strictly about serving the needs of low income families. "...Los Angeles school board member David Tokofsky... whose oldest daughter is enrolled in a half-day program at Eagle Rock Elementary School, said that full-day kindergarten appeals to both ends of the economic spectrum: families who have the means for private school but might be encouraged to enroll, and stay, in public schools; and working parents, who would be better able to take full-time jobs if their children were occupied all day long." Now, preparing at-risk children for elementary school education is certainly a good thing. If the child has poor language skills and no means to be taught at home then, by all means, get them off to a good, early start. But we need to be aware of ulterior motives that may be behind such "early education" policies. "Although six states, including New Mexico, offer districts a financial incentive for switching from half- to full-day kindergarten, California makes no such distinction. In fact, under California law, kindergarten attendance is not even mandatory. But because a major part of school funding is based on the number of students at a school on any given day, any boost in enrollment would increase the amount of money that a California district receives." Finally, be aware of the slippery slope mentality in that if they sell you on the idea of full-day kindergarten, then possibly mandatory kindergarten is next?... and then full-day preschool?... mandatory preschool?... full-day infant childcare? Why not? After all, aren't you interested in the best for your child? "Martha Trevino Powell, the principal of Aldama Elementary School in the L.A. district, said she hopes for such a switch. Many of the students who start kindergarten at her school, she said, have participated in full-day preschool programs, often through Head Start. "They are not the students of years back. They are so mature when we get them."" (emphasis added) Caveat emptor.
Per the L.A. Times, Iraqi Council Flexes Muscles: The U.S.-appointed body is increasingly defying the coalition and pushing its own vision of a free and self-governing Iraq. Described as no longer a passive instrument of U.S. civilian administrator Paul Bremer, the council is now found to be stating its opinion and demanding more responsibility in the re-building of Iraq. This is good. Annoying as it may be, whenever you train up a child into adulthood, there have to be times when that child takes on more responsibilities... all the better when the child requests / demands them. Yet, expect mistakes.
Saturday, December 27, 2003
from back in January of 2003, courtesy of Hugh Hewitt, Aliens Cause Global Warming. As with the other Crichton speech I read, there are things I like and things I don't. He takes on the concepts of SETI, Nuclear Winter, Second-hand Smoke, and Global Warming, arguing that, rather than being based on true science, they are based on marketing strategies designed to sell ideas - usually political. As he puts it, "This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold." Take, for instance, the Drake Equation that was created to estimate the number of alien civilizations that live in the universe. "N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL [where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves;..." Crichton correctly points out that certain variables in the equation are merely prejudiced guesses and will ultimately remain so (e.g., one variable was the number of alien civilizations that desire to contact us - who can rightly quantify that?). But Crichton missteps by implying that the entire equation is a guess and, as he states, meaningless. There are values in the equation that can be calculated and tested for (e.g., the number of stars capable of harboring a life support planet - all double-star systems are immediately thrown out of the mix since any planet orbiting such a system would have such an elliptical orbit that advanced life could not exist). If nothing else, the Rare Earth theory, which he refers to as a "so-called theory," is using a derivative of the Drake Equation to potentially throw water on the SETI claims that the universe is teeming with life. Crichton also misapplies the concept of faith. He states, "Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof." This may be his pet definition of faith, but it is not that of the Christian faith. Consider what Christian philosopher Ron Nash said in Faith & Reason, "I have little use for misguided Christians who regard philosophy or science... as somehow incompatible with Christian faith. I have little respect for uninformed Christians who think that reason and logic are threats to the Christian faith and who describe faith as some kind of irrational leap into a dark abyss." Perhaps Crichton's problem is that he truly believes that science has the ability to save humanity. He seems to believe this for rational and logical reasons. Let's take a look again at his words, "I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion." (emphasis added) Do you see the error? He demands evidentiary reason to prove SETI is science... the evidentiary reason is not there, therefore, SETI is not science. Case closed. Except for the problem of proving his claim that evidentiary reason is needed in the first place! In other words, Crichton lives by the rule that evidence must be provided for proof, yet where is the evidence that proves that rule? It's impossible to present because in doing so you would be using the very means you are attempting to prove. THEREFORE, Crichton, and all scientists, exercise a form of the very faith they want to avoid. Now, with those philosophical differences aside, the speech itself is excellent. Crichton does a fine job of exposing sensationalistic mumbo-jumbo disguised as science. Keep it in your back pocket the next time you hear someone like Al Gore claim that the polar ice caps will melt away within 50 years.
What is it? The Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. Say what? The radiation left over from the Big Bang, if the theory is true, should still permeate the entire cosmos. It should be a certain temperature, and it should have specific irregularities. This finely tuned measurement of the CMB allowed astronomers to narrow the age of the universe down to 13.7 billion years. It also allowed them to determine that the first stars were able to form only 200 million years after the bang. Finally, it provided them with additional confirmation of the amount of regular vs. dark matter in the universe. An interesting sidenote to this image... it shows the universe at approximately 300,000 years in age - the time when light was first able to separate from darkness.
go fight in a place like Iraq, you have no right to send our sons and daughters over there to be killed." So said a friend of mine who, obviously, does not agree with the approach the Bush administration has taken in Iraq. Although his concern has a sincere foundation, I suspect that he has made a mistake in logical application. He has attached a potential lack of bravado in pursuing a course of action (e.g., taking out Saddam) with the measure of morality in that course of action. First and foremost, he needs to understand that the reasons for our taking action in Iraq have nothing to do with whether one is personally willing to take that action. I believe a convincing argument can be made that we justifiably entered Iraq as part of our war on terror - in other words - for the protection of the United States. Now, one may certainly disagree with this assessment, but that is another issue entirely. Do you see the bait and switch they attempt? Simply because you or I may be unwilling to place our lives on the line does not mandate that the cause itself is unjust... it just means that we are potentially hypocritical (and cowardly).
Friday, December 26, 2003
I would usually pass up drivel like this, but this time I couldn't resist. Michael Jackson has given an interview to CBS 60 Minutes because, as one CBS exec. put it, "it's a big story." Anyway, in the interview Michael is heartbroken over the way the police searched his Neverland Ranch... so much so that he feels he's been violated in some way (now I know there's some irony there, but I can't quite put my finger on it). Of the ranch, he tells Ed Bradley, "I won't live there ever again. It's a house now. It's not a home anymore. I'll only visit." Michael... we feel your pain.
It's beginning to look a lot like the Beagle landed incognito. The Mars lander, from Europe, supposedly landed on the Red Planet on Christmas day, but all efforts to make contact with it have failed. With each passing hour, hopes are starting to fade that contact will be made with the probe. We should not be surprised. Of all the missions to Mars over the last 40 years over two-thirds have failed for one reason or another. Why? The answer that sells books is that aliens are preventing us from researching Mars. The answer that makes sense is that space travel is incredibly difficult and dangerous. Think of that when you hear proposals for manned missions to Mars. We aren't talking about flying solo across the Atlantic nor are we even talking about landing on the Moon. Although immensely less glamorous, robotic flights to planets within our solar system are much more cost efficient than manned space flights. Ideas of "The Final Frontier" aside, we need to face up to reality, and not the fictional dreams of Star Trek.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
The question EVERY homeschooler hears. I've usually responded, tongue in cheek, that for every strange homeschooled child you find, I'll find at least ten more in the local public school. Thanks to a study by the Home School Legal Defense Association and the National Home Education Research Institute, we now have data based on a survey of over 7,300 adults who were homeschooled (of which, over 5,000 had been home educated at least seven years). In Homeschooling Grows Up, we find that a higher percentage of homeschooled educated children go on to post high school education than the general population (see figure below). Note that almost half of the respondents were still full-time students and had not yet received their degree. In terms of civic involvement, homeschooled educated children also outranked the general population (see figure below). Note that this trend refutes a common criticism from within the Church that those who are homeschooling have retreated or that they are ignoring the needs of the unsaved within the public school system. Rather, this data should indicate that the types of citizens produced by homeschooling are solid Christians who understand the importance of taking their Christian influence into the civic arena. It is certainly refreshing to see such solid data coming in on the benefits of homeschooling. In the future we should hope to see surveys based on even larger samplings.
That is a statement homeschoolers often hear after they've mentioned to a friend or stranger that they homeschool their children. My cousin also heard it after she told an acquaintance that she sent her children to a church-based private school. I've found it to be mildly amusing for two reasons: 1) the fact that those making the statement have made an unwarranted generalization and, 2) the usual inconsistency with the assertion that their kids are not 'sheltered.' In all honesty, I cannot fault someone for making a generalized statement about homeschooling if they have not been around homeschoolers. Their idea of what homeschooling is, and what homeschooled children will look and act like is, more than likely, based on negative stereotypes. Yet their assertion that they intend to not shelter their kids is typically inconsistent. The reason for this is that, by nature of being a parent, they are sheltering their kids. If they have any sense of parental responsibilities they will agree that the expectations they have from their 5 year old will differ from those they have from their 17 year old. The issues I discuss with my 8 year old now will not be exactly like those I discuss with her when she is 16. If we are doing our jobs as parents, then we are preparing our children to become adults. Suffice it to say that, if someone truly believed that they should not shelter their kids, then they would have no issue with enrolling their children in the local public school that has the highest rate of violence... after all, you said you weren't sheltering your kids, right?
Actually, I love to hear Christmas songs. I know that some people quickly get annoyed with them, but I always thought that those were the types that loathed movies like It's a Wonderful Life. You know the types, typically they are movie critics that carry a twisted and warped handle on things virtuous. Breakpoint had an article on the current movie Bad Santa in which they ran some quotes from a couple of movie critics: from Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune... “the foulest holiday movie I’ve ever seen—and the funniest,” he recommends it “for those . . . who tire of Christmas cheer being rammed down their throats;” from Mary Brennan of the Seattle Times... “a profane, wildly politically incorrect and sometimes shockingly funny holiday comedy . . . [and] a welcome antidote to all that precious, wholesome holiday cheer.” I won't pretend to understand what drives people such as these to praise foul and profane renditions of the Christmas season... other than their lack of a relationship with Jesus. This brings us to today's Breakpoint, Hackneyed Holiday Tunes: Are They ‘Psychological Terrorism?’, in which we find out that labor unions in Austria were up in arms because of the constant and repetitive playing of Christmas carols in stores where their members worked. Equating it with 'psychological terrorism' they claimed it that by the end of the day it made their members aggressive. Now I like Christmas carols. But I suppose that too much of a good thing might tend to get a bit annoying. Yet I find it humorous that people complain about having to hear Christmas carols over and over and over again. Check in with these people from January thru November and you'll probably find them listening to the constant repetition of a top hits radio station. These are probably some of the same people who listen to the solitary tune that rap-music (a contradiction in terms, by the way) has given us. And they tire of the rich library of Christmas carols?
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
“I feel exactly as you do about the horrid commercial racket they have made out of Christmas. I send no cards and give no presents except to children.” Who wrote this and when was it written? It sounds like something right off the web doesn’t it? Yet it was written by C. S. Lewis in November of 1953. Christians can just as easily get caught up in the frenzy of the Christmas Season. How many of you are stressed during this time of Advent? Indeed, what with its shopping, multiple parties, decorations, pageants, etc., etc., etc., it’s a wonder we even look forward to this time of year. Sadly, many of us don’t look forward to it. It doesn’t have to be that way. In years past, Advent was a time to eagerly reflect on the approaching celebration of Christ’s birth in much the same way that Israel did in her long anticipation of the coming of their Messiah. Instead of celebrating throughout the Christmas Season, Christians would actually refrain from celebrations, in much the same manner as that of Lent, in order to better understand the longing that Israel must have experienced. Christmas day would then bring with it greater significance through the joyous celebrations that would occur. The Bondage of Corruption by Keith Patman The world, upon its axis whirling, groans. The flitting sparrow flinches, flails, and falls. An aching hollow howls within the bones Of bird and beast and man; the death-curse palls Once-glad creation. Stung with sorrow, pain, We toil and struggle under leaden skies And wail like Israel in Pharaoh’s reign, “How long, O Lord, will you ignore our cries?” God’s Holy Spirit bears the troubled prayer Aloft, with a more deeply uttered groan Than ever echoed in earth’s bitter air, And lets the burden fall before the throne. God answers. From a starlit hillside crèche A pain-cry rings as cold air bites new flesh. Israel waited hundreds of years for the Messiah’s appearance. The Church has been waiting over two thousand years for His reappearance and the fulfillment of all things. God certainly works at His beckoning and is constrained by no earthly time schedule. Yet, even if the waiting appears to extend beyond our expectations, we need to understand that God does not waste time. Now I mean that the heir, as long as he is a minor, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. But he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. So also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basic forces of the world. But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God. – Galatians 4:1-7 (NET) (emphasis translator’s notes - “the fullness of time”, an idiom for the totality of a period of time, with the implication of proper completion) Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild? Have you ever noticed how truly non-threatening it is to have a nativity scene displayed in public? Granted, there are those who oppose such displays, but I would argue that such people oppose the displays due to their religious aspects and not because of any inherent revulsions they may have with the display itself. Would we see such non-threatening aspects to a realistic portrayal of Christ’s crucifixion? We may find out this February upon the release of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. Regardless, if we simply remember Christ’s birth, haven’t we shortchanged the Gospel? Am I recommending we celebrate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection at Christmastime as well? Hardly. But I am recommending that we take in the full measure of Christ’s identity in our appreciation of His Incarnation. It’s easy to get caught up in the innocence of Christmas celebrations all the while ignoring God’s purpose… God’s plan for humanity. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” “God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together. – Genesis 22:6-8 (NET) (emphasis added) God will provide the lamb. The promise of Christ. Did God provide the lamb to Abraham? Abraham looked up and saw behind him a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. So he went over and got the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord provides.” It is said to this day, “In the mountain of the Lord provision will be made.” – Genesis 22:13-14 (NET) (emphasis added) Notice that God provided a ram, not a lamb, for Abraham. Significant? The translators evidently thought so. On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one about whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’ I did not recognize him, but I came baptizing with water so that he could be revealed to Israel.” – John 1:29-31 (NET) (emphasis translator’s notes - Gen 22:8 is an important passage in the background of the title Lamb of God as applied to Jesus. In Jewish thought this was held to be a supremely important sacrifice. G. Vermès stated: “For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice, and especially the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering, was a memorial of the Akedah with its effects of deliverance, forgiveness of sin and messianic salvation”) Where was the Lamb of God placed upon His birth? In a manger. In Greek, a stall… where lambs were typically placed. Lambs that, no doubt, would have eventually been slaughtered in temple sacrifice. Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:8-12 (NET) Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. Important, to be sure. But that isn’t the Jesus who was flogged and nailed to a cross. Nor is it the Jesus we find in Revelation. Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16 (NET)
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
The PETA campaign addressed below is also handled by the Evangelical Outpost. It's interesting to note how PETA is attempting to convince Christians that, per their Christian beliefs, they should not eat meat. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Biblical Worldview sees God's creation. The folks at PETA, quite simply, are looking at the Christian religion through Naturalistic eyes. In the March 2002 issue of Touchstone Magazine, Christopher Killheffer presents a novel approach to the practice of eating meat - specifically, how Christians should approach this matter. In Our Food from God: Factory Farms & the Culture of Death, he brings up issues such as: Do we, as Christians, view animals merely as commodities to be utilized purely for our own gain, or do we view them as God's creations, given to us to manage wisely? Do we, as Christians, ignore animal suffering (or pain), or do we take steps to deal with their slaughter in a humane manner? Do we really need to eat meat every day, or should we follow a more prudent approach (indeed, Killheffer reminds us that Christ himself probably didn't eat meat but once a week). Do we, as Christians, partake of animal flesh raised in agri-business environments, or do we partake of the more expensive free-range stock? Do we, as Christians, tear into a 16+ oz. steak, or do we limit our intake to 6 - 8 oz.? To be sure, Killheffer is not advocating extremism such as that found in PETA. Yet he does sound a wake-up call for Christians, especially Christians in the West, to take a long, hard, Biblical look at how they should view the eating of meat.
"Isn't there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!" shouted Charlie Brown in the 1965 television classic. How interesting... all this time I thought he was just a cartoon character and he turns out to be a prophet. What is also interesting is how the special came to be. In How A Charlie Brown Christmas Came to Pass: The unlikely beginnings of a holiday classic, Holly Hartman details how Charles Schulz and Lee Mendelson met together and developed the storyline for the eventual classic. Though technically flawed, I still consider this to be the best of all the Charlie Brown / Peanuts specials. Hartman writes: The basics of the cartoon were laid out within a few hours. It would include ice-skating; a pageant (Mendelson and Schulz had both flubbed parts in school shows); a mix of Christmas carols and Guaraldi's contemporary jazz; and the message that Christmas is really about the joyful miracle of Jesus's birth. Schulz wanted A Charlie Brown Christmas to have the religious meaning that was central to his own experience of Christmas. And though the special was made in California, Schulz wanted it to include snowy scenes that recalled his native Midwest. Even Schulz admitted that he was probably the only person who could have gotten A Charlie Brown Christmas made. Television executives hated it from the start. It was criticized as being too religious—Linus quotes straight from the King James Bible (Luke 2:8-14). It was criticized for featuring contemporary jazz, an offbeat choice for a cartoon. It was criticized for not having a laugh track. It was criticized for using the voices of real children (except for Snoopy, who was voiced by animator Melendez). (emphasis added) I'm still amazed that, in this day of inclusivism, A Charlie Brown Christmas is still run on Network TV. At the very least I would expect the PC police to censor Linus' speech... at most I would expect them to forbid airing the special at all. Yes, Charlie Brown. There are people, besides Linus, who know what Christmas is all about. God willing, they will continue to let the world know. Add A Charlie Brown Christmas to your video library... right there next to It's a Wonderful Life.
A reader of World Magazine's Blog wrote in on the topic Where Does It End?, which dealt with the continued de-Christmasing - or rather - the de-CHRISTIANing - of Christmas. Evidently, he had written an e-mail to Google noting that they failed to celebrate the Christmas season with religious symbols. Here is Google's response: Thank you for your note about our holiday logo [which ignores Christmas]. At Google, we do not celebrate religious holidays in our homepage doodles. Our logos generally focus on national holidays (U.S. Independence Day, Bastille Day, Thanksgiving) or on commonly observed holidays without a concrete religious linkage (Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Groundhog Day, Mother's Day, Chinese New Year, and Shichi-go-san). Some of these holidays may have roots in religious beliefs but have become essentially secular celebrations. Please feel free to view our doodle archive page at http://www.google.com/holidaylogos.html to see a history of our logos. In the past year, Google has not offered logos with strong religious associations. This is mostly a matter of practicality and fairness, as celebrating one such occasion would lead to the obvious and irrefutable expectation that we should celebrate all such holidays. Thus, instead of celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Ramadan in December, we observed the season with animals exchanging gifts. We hope that this communicated a feeling of joyousness to all our users, regardless of their specific beliefs. We are committed to celebrating the diversity of our users worldwide and appreciate any suggestions of holidays that we may be able to celebrate in the future. Regards, The Google Team (emphasis added) Simple Minds. The idea of inclusivism, especially that espoused by The Google Team, is certainly refutable. If, as they claim, one can not recognize the Christian celebration without giving recognition to all religious celebrations, then why mention a celebration at all? ...because it has become "secularized?" It behooves us to ask them the question, "By who's authority are you claiming that we must recognize all faiths, or none at all?" Yet perhaps, because we may be dealing with simple minds, a simpler form of logic is in order. Why not agree, in principle, with their psuedo-reasoning? Consider the following excerpt from Richard John Neuhas in First Things, October 2001, titled One Nation Under Many Gods: "But, of course, numbers do matter, and the number of Americans who are not Christians or Jews is very much less than 10 percent, which would mean close to thirty million people. If we allow the generous estimate of four million Muslims, there are probably less than 10 million Americans whose religion is other than Christian or Jewish. That is less than 5 percent of the population. Apart from a significant number of non-Christian Asian Americans (Japanese-Americans, for instance), these minorities are socially marginal; moreover, apart from some Muslims, the non-Christian sector of the population is not inclined to make a public issue of their religious difference. A minaret on a cityâ€™s skyline is not to be equated with an imprint on its culture." (emphasis added) If The Google Team, and others who preach inclusivism, follow their own logic, then why not dole out recognition of religious holidays based on the percentage of the population who are identified with said religions? Why let the overwhelming minority rule? Wouldn't that be the most practical and fairest approach? Don't hold your breath though. It won't happen. Why? Because, at its core, the issue has nothing to do with inclusivism.
Sorry. The first 6 letters got censored... or so it seems. Touchstone has a post titled, No Christmas this Year, and includes a portion of a letter to the editor written by one of its subscribers, John Hawthorne. "The question that begs to be asked is, "why is there this fear of Christmas?" American society and our media will broadcast almost anything from pornography to evil murders to stories of the sad and often depraved lives of our modern celebrities." Also listed are links to other articles, on the same subject, by: Grinchlist, John Leo, and Richard Lowry. Once again, we face the PC crowd and their show of intolerance towards a Christian celebration. But should we be surprised? Hardly. Demand justice? Hmmm... how about using their own reasoning to our benefit? Could we ask them to please be true to their convictions and, if they truly are inclusive, then allow our celebration to be displayed, mentioned, or portrayed as well? Possibility? I have my doubts... but it's worth a try. In the meantime, certainly wish your non-Christian friends a very Merry Christmas. Finally, check World Magazine's blog De-Christmasing a Culture.
Monday, December 22, 2003
Thanks to Sophorist for bringing this tasty morsel of information to our attention. It seems that PETA has placed a billboard in Springfield with the Virgin Mary holding, not baby Jesus, but a chicken, with the byline - "Go Vegetarian - it's an Immaculate Conception." Just another incident of permitted hate speech against Christianity. Following the Tolerance post below we see a case where a Third-Grader's Candy Cane Gift Bags Spark Controversy. It seems that a third grader's attempt at telling the story of the candy cane was deemed out of bounds because it constituted "dissemination" and that was a big no-no. Gee, all this time I thought it was Freedom OF Religion, not Freedom FROM Religion. By the way, PETA does not stand for People who Eat Tasty Animals.
During Advent we seem to see a lot of incidents of government intrusion on private life by refusing to allow displays of Nativities on Public Property. Yet in the Central California coastal town of Morro Bay, a Salinian Indian celebration of the Winter Solstice was allowed on Public Property per, Spiritual ritual welcomes new season: Tribe granted permit to ascend local landmark. Note that the property in question is a geological feature known as, Morro Rock, a volcanic plug that is, evidently, held sacred by the Salinian Indians. Note also that access to, and on top of, Morro Rock is forbidden to the public. A special permit from the California State Park system was required for the Indians to perform their pagan ritual. As stated in the article, ""Morro Rock has had religious significance for the Salinan Indians for eons," said Shirley Macagni, a Morro Bay resident and member of the Salinan tribal council. According to Salinan beliefs, the creator brought people out of a mountain." Now, what do you think are the chances that a group of Christians would be allowed a special permit to, say, temporarily erect a lighted Cross on top of Morro Rock on Christmas Eve?
My wife and I were just up on the Central Coast two weekends ago... in Cambria no less! A 6.5 magnitude earthquake is a shaker - as evidenced by the building collapse in Paso Robles. Goodbye to the clock tower building. Just last October we were in that downtown park area watching their annual Pioneer Day parade. We've frequented the now destroyed House of Bread bakery a few times in the past. Luckily, there are several other franchises in operation. Unhappily, the families of the two confirmed victims will have marred Christmas memories for years to come.
today, regarding Dean Dongs and the Libera elite's complete misunderstanding of the War on Terror. Here's a quote from Hugh, "There are tens of millions of people who want tens of millions of Americans dead. Their motivations may vary, and their ability to carry out their intentions are sometimes quite limited, though unfortunately quite capable in some segments of their numbers. There is no choice but to kill the competent among them first, and there are no international organizations that will do the job for us, and it is folly to trust such organizations to act in our place. The war will be along one, with many battles and casualties, but it cannot be lost except through loss of will. Time is of the essence. The obvious targets are not the only targets, and all the rallies on the Mall in the world won't make the threat go away."
Just finished reading Brian Greene's book, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest of the Ultimate Theory. From the back cover, "Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter—from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas—is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy." It was an excellent book. Incredibly complex concepts are extremely well explained through the use of multiple type illustrations. One needn't be an engineer or scientist to appreciate this work. What is exciting to see, when reading about the theoretical work being done by astronomers and physicists, is how very fine tuned the universe is. Fine tuning... extremely fine tuning is a hallmark of Design. Here's an example, "Through Guth's discovery, the standard cosmological model was revamped into the inflationary cosmological model. In this framework, the standard cosmological model is modified during a tiny window of time - around 10^-36 to 10^-34 seconds after the Big Bang - in which the universe expanded by a colossal factor of at least 10^30." There is a window of time, lasting only 10^-2 seconds, in which the universe has to expand at a different than normal rate in order for all the matter to be spread properly (this is my paraphrase). Another exciting aspect is the fact that every time these scientists think that they are closing in on a Theory of Everything (not necessarily an Ultimate Theory), they discover another field to explore. As one physicist put it in the PBS series of the same name, "we thought we were opening the door into a room and then found ourselves in front of an apartment building." "Although we are technologically bound to the earth and its immediate neighbors in the solar system, through the power of thought and experiment we have probed the far reaches of both inner and outer space... once revealed, these explanatory gems have opened vistas on a world we thought we knew, but whose splendor we had not even come close to imagining." "The heavens declare God’s glory; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon." - Psalm 19:1-4 (NET) As Christians, we can smile in blessed assurance at the work of these scientists, knowing, as we wait in eager anticipation, that these discoveries continue to wordlessly declare the glory of God.
Wait a minute! All those reports of Saddam giving up without a fight are false. It seems he was yanked out of his gopher hole in a mood. Was he swinging his fists? No. Was he emptying his pistol? No. Looks like he came out... spitting. Still unofficial, but Time reports that Saddam spat on one of the U.S. Soldiers who flushed him from his pit, to which the soldier promptly cold-cocked Saddam. Update: The Marine Reservist in our office, who was on the front lines in Baghdad, tells me of an incident in which an irate Iraqi spat on him. Rather than slugging the Iraqi he simply leveled his sidearm at him... the spitor got the message and promptly went about his business.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
The HMO we belong to sends out a quarterly newsletter with various articles and information regarding health issues and the like. An article in the latest one caught my attention, not for its topic, per se, but for the manner in which the topic was addressed. Focus on Chlamydia was the title and, if you’re aware of the disease, you’ll know that this is a women’s health issue. Chlamydia is an STD that, as the article states, is “epidemic in young people.” It is said that most women with chlamydia are unaware that they have it because there are no symptoms. The article specifically targeted sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 26. Left untreated, the article states, “serious conditions” could arise, including: chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or ectopic pregnancy. What’s the first line of defense, as proposed by the article? Use condoms. Got that? A women’s STD, with no symptoms, that has the potential to leave the woman infertile, is best avoided by using condoms. Wouldn’t you think that maybe, just maybe, they might do a bit more to warn sexually active teenage girls of the “epidemic” risk they are taking that very well might leave them infertile? Wouldn’t you think it would make a bit more sense to ask these girls if they really think it is worth the risk to engage in premarital sex? Wouldn’t you think that they would tell them that the best way to avoid this epidemic is to exercise abstinence? Guess not.
Peace. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. - Phillipians 4:4-7 (NET) Slow down. You choose to be busy, or not to be, during the season of Advent. It's difficult, to be sure... but it is possible. We light the fourth candle of Advent today. Maybe we'll take our kids for a walk around the neighborhood to see the Christmas decorations and note, especially, the nativity scenes we see. Tonight we'll have a special meal, sing carols, have dessert and hot chocolate. We'll probably close with a reading from Luke and some personal reflections (such as they can be for an 8 and 3 year old). "This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” - Luke 2:12-14 (NET) O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
What significance does December 25th have? Why was it chosen as the date to celebrate Christmas? The usual answer is that the early Church wished to celebrate Christ's birthday and co-opted a pagan celebration on or about the time of the Winter Solstice. It is thought that it followed the already celebrated Roman holiday of the birth of the unconquered sun and the Iranian celebration of the birth of Mithras. Seeing that there was already a celebration going on at the time, the early Church fathers were thought to have decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new ritual. The Western Church is said to have first officially celebrated Christmas on December 25th in the year 336. The Eastern Church continued to hold on to January 6 (Epiphany) as the date of Christ's birth and baptism. Eventually, most of the Eastern churches decided to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25th and his baptism on January 6th. In the West, January 6th is celebrated as "Kings Day," or the date of the arrival of the Magi. Further complicating things was the move to the Gregorian calendar in the sixteenth century. Enter an article in the December issue of Touchstone Magazine by William Tighe titled, Calculating Christmas. Tighe is an Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College. In the article he posits that, instead of Christianity co-opting a pagan celebration and date, "Rather, the pagan festival of the "Birth of the Unconquered Son" instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the "pagan origins of Christmas" is a myth without historical substance." He details that the idea of Christianity using a pagan ritual can be traced to two scholars, one Protestant, and one Catholic. Both, according to Tighe, had their motives for proposing the idea that there were pagan celebrations in late December prior to Christianity. Tighe claims that the Protestant was attempting to show how Catholicism degenerated from true Christianity, while the Catholic was attempting to show how Catholicism used pagan rituals without paganizing the gospel. True, there was a Roman festival with regards to the sun, but occurred in the month of August. By the second century, it was rarely practiced and the eastern cult of Mithranism, although practiced, did not have festivals during any solstices or equinoxes. It appears that the Roman emperor Aurelian (circa 270), who was hostile to Christianity, established a celebration of the "Birth of the Unconquered Sun" in an attempt to unify the crumbling empire. That it fell on an already celebrated Christian period was all the better. Note that this occurs before the official recognition by the Church of Christmas, but there is evidence that the early Church was actively involved in attempting to calculate the date of Christ's birth well before they began to celebrate it. Here Tighe reveals an interesting bit of data, "The evidence indicates, in fact, that the attribution of the date of December 25th was a by-product of attempts to determine when to celebrate his death and resurrection." (emphasis added) There seems to be a contradiction or, rather, a paradox between the Synoptic Gospels and that of John as to when Jesus was crucified. The Synoptics seem to place it on Passover Day while John places it on Passover Eve. The early Church followed John's leading and believed that Christ's death took place on 14 Nisan. Tighe informs us that, if Christ was crucified on Passover Eve, it could have only occurred in A.D. 30 or 33 since those are the only two years that Passover Eve fell on a Friday (7 April 30 or 3 April 33). At this point we are introduced to the complications inherent to using different calendars (e.g., Jewish lunar calendar vs. a solar calendar, Greek calendar vs. Roman calendar, etc.). Evidently, the Eastern Christians chose April 6th as the date of Christ's death while the Western Church chose March 25th. Tighe then fills us in on a practice, nowhere supported in the Bible, that permeated Judaism at the time of Christ - that prophets died on the same dates as their birth or conception. If a pregnancy is nine months, then add nine months to March 25th and you have... December 25th Add it to April 6th and you have January 6th. Tighe essentially closes with, "Thus, December 25th as the date of the Christ's birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine's time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ's birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ's death." Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Hardly. But it is interesting to understand the history of some of the customs we seem to take for granted. Jehovah's Witnesses are sticklers for avoiding calendar celebrations because of pagan origins. Years ago, a JW friend of mine would always remind me that December 25th wasn't the actual date that Christ was born. I tried to convince her that it wasn't really important to me if that was the actual date or not... but that the object of my celebration was what was important. I don't think she ever got it (don't ever underestimate the power of suggestion that cults carry). Regardless, just remember the words of a theologian in A.D. 320 who said, "We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it."
Crosswalk.com has a Blog site (left sidebar link to follow) and an interesting post just showed up titled, Anti-Christmas Bias and the Political Correctness Police. Al Mohler fills us in on several incidents in which the Christmas season is being secularized into a Winter Festival. He concludes, "Cultural opposition to Christmas is but one representation of a fundamental shift in American society. This shift has not occurred on its own. A secular elite, fueled by hostility to historic Christianity, now insists that America surrender Christmas as a public celebration. We have reached a truly remarkable moment when wishing someone "Merry Christmas" constitutes a bold act of Christian witness."
Friday, December 19, 2003
I've posted a pic of myself on the left sidebar. That was 25 years ago folks. I posted it for two reasons: 1) To show that I was once young (albeit slightly deranged) and, 2) To ensure that if anyone runs in to me on a street corner today... they'll have no way of recognizing me. What is truly amazing, as I now ponder this photo, is that I actually went around in public looking like that!
If you're ever passing through California's Central Coast, and you need a cup o' Joe, stop by the Koffee Klatsch. It's not Starbucks (thankfully) and it's certainly not an eclectic joint full of wanna-be beatniks, but they've been serving coffee for over 20 years. Tip: if you can't stop by, then order some coffee beans from them. Here are my top picks (for this week), 1) German - powerful! 2) Mexican Pluma Altura - a mellow, morning blend 3) Klatsch House Blend - another breakfast coffee 4) Costa Rica Tarrazu - rich and full bodied 5) Vienna Dark Roast Decaf - you'll swear it isn't decaf!
Actually, the Beagle 2 probe from Europe is supposed to land, on Mars, on Christmas day. "The mission is the first to try to determine if there is life on Mars since the United States sent the Viking I landing craft to Mars’ surface in 1976. “It’s not looking for little green men, but it is looking for matter that might provide evidence of life. It is looking for clues,”" The first since 1976? What about the Mars Rover mission back in 1997? Mars is really a lousy place to look for life or, rather, signs of extinct life. As more data is amassed it is becoming quite evident that it did not have conditions favorable for origin of life scenarios. So... why send probes there looking for it? There are only two high-potential location candidates for life in our Solar System, apart from Earth. Mars, and a moon circling Saturn named Europa. Why? Mars is considered an approximation of Earth, at least in its early stages - which, again, is now being challenged. Europa has frozen water and potentially has liquid water underneath thick layers of ice. The reason for the flurry of activity surrounding Mars now - the U.S. has two probes scheduled to land in January - is that it is very close to Earth. Remember the news this summer about Mars' closest approach to Earth in thousands of years? Keep in mind over the next few weeks, and beyond, that there are scientists who are predicting that evidence of life will be found on Mars - but that it will be life that originated on Earth. The reason for this is that early in the Solar System's history there was a period of massive meteor impacts on the inner planets. There were impacts large enough to send debris back into space. Microbial life forms, or their remains, could have been on this debris and, eventually, some of this debris would find its way to Mars - entering its atmosphere as a meteor. Hugh Ross, at Reasons to Believe, has done a good job of letting his former Cal Tech colleagues know about the possibility of actually finding remains of Earth life on Mars. The good news is that they're listening to him.
James Dobson's December 2003 letter from Focus on the Family highlights Frank Capra's classic, It's A Wonderful Life. As Dobson states, "the film is noteworthy in its depiction of a time when life was simpler, and when matters of faith, friendship and family were paramount." I blogged on it on Dec. 9th. Please re-read my blog and Dobson's letter (in which an interview with Jimmy Stewart is included). And then go out and buy a copy for your video library.
Piggybacking off the previous post, in the November issue of Touchstone Magazine, there is an article by John Granger titled, The Alchemist’s Tale: Harry Potter & the Alchemical Tradition in English Literature. In it, Granger proposes that J. K. Rowling employs the English tradition of the use of alchemical symbolism. That's interesting in its own right, but what caught my eye was one paragraph in which Granger describes the process with which Rowling may have structured her initial novel. Note that in my previous post I was debating whether technology has significantly improved our productivity, or whether it has merely changed our methodologies. Here's what Granger writes, "Rowling has said in several interviews that her books’ inspirations are drawn from the compost in her mind of all the books she has read. She did not say, however, that her inspiration went without careful sifting and plotting (some seven years before the first book was written). Her characters, plots, themes, and imagery were not items that she picked from the top of her imaginative pile without discernment." I continue to argue that technology has had only localized impacts on productivity. As for Rowling's works, these impacts would be along the lines of: speed of printing, ability to revise quickly, indexing, etc. These are all important, of course; but I suspect the detail structure of the work, the meat, if you will, was done much prior to her flipping the "on" switch to her computer.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
The Evangelical Outpost posted a blog Tuesday titled, The Poets of the Economy. Per Joe, "I've made a list of the five individuals and the five organizations that I think have had the greatest impact on the economy since World War II." Microsoft was listed at Numero Uno with the byline, "created software that increased office productivity." I posted a comment on his page where I noted that increased office productivity may be more of a myth than a reality. It seems to be a given that since we have PCs and software such as MS Office that we are, somehow, more productive. Now, to be sure, one can easily point out specific instances of where a particular software has dramatically increased output productivity. For example, on a refinery expansion project I worked on a couple of years ago I was able to formulate a methodology in which I could package a 300 - 400 page monthly report in one working day. To do this I utilized software such as Adobe Pagemaker and Acrobat. To produce the same report twenty years ago would have taken a week, easy. But you see, here we have the fundamental errors when doing our comparisons. Twenty years ago I would not have produced the same report - precisely because it would have taken a week to prepare. Technology has allowed me to output immensely more data in much quicker fashion. But is the increased data that much more beneficial? I would argue that it isn't. Okay, you might say, so the increase in the amount of data isn't beneficial... but the quality of the data has got to be better! I seriously doubt it. You see, the dilemma we have found ourselves in is that because we can produce so much data so quickly, we take less time to structure it and show less concern with its initial validity. After all, we can revise it so quickly, right? Think of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien writing their novels. The use of a word processing software would have certainly made it possible for them to type out the works faster... but would the works have been any better? Would the works have actually gotten out that much sooner? Again, I seriously doubt it. The reason, again, harkens to methodology. Writers of that era had to work within the parameters of the technology of the time. They did not have the luxury of quick revisions, data restore, automatic footnoting, etc., etc., etc. When they decided to put pen to paper they, by means of the methodology, already had a good idea of what they wanted to say. So, although it may appear at a detailed level that technology has increased our productivity, at the higher and broader level it may actually not be the case. This blindness to the productivity at the higher levels is very similar to how Evolutionists misapply detailed examples of genetic change and then extrapolate the changes to the species level. In the lab, a molecular biologist may isolate a particular gene sequence and observe either a mutation or a sequence shift. This data is then applied to a higher or more complex level of sequences with the reasoning that if enough time were allowed, then most assuredly the change would occur. In other words, they've ignored the overall picture in favor of what the detail seems to be telling them (there are other problems with the evolutionary philosophy, but we'll hit that another day). In the office where I work the engineering departments have rows of CAD machines where there once stood drafting tables. Input and output from CAD machines is amazingly fast. Drawings can be input by tablet much faster than with the old drafting pencil. Duplicate drawings can be made instantaneously. Templates as well. Revisions are a snap. Yet, if you were to look at how long it takes to get a series of drawings, such as needed for a typical project, out the door - it is about the same amount of time now as twenty years ago, when they were still produced on the drafting boards. The end-product is no better either, with some arguing that it is, in fact, worse. Yet, computer technology can increase productivity - but at specific levels of detail. Another project I was on utilized a series of PCs linked together to run an iteration of calculations to find the most optimum method for power generation. The engineers could have done the work themselves... but it would have taken tens of times much longer. Here's the kicker though - negating that particular benefit, the overall project was the same length it would have been before! I've rambled too long though... gotta go check my e-mail. ;^)
Chirac Proposes Ban on Head Scarves: France must reaffirm its secularism, president says. Law would limit religious garb in schools, per the L.A. Times. PARIS — President Jacques Chirac proposed a law Wednesday to ban Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps and large crucifixes in public schools, stepping into a divisive cultural conflict by reaffirming the secularism at the core of the French national identity. You gotta hand it to the French. They are cutting edge when it comes to addressing issues of prime concern. This act is being done to supposedly affirm the separation of "religion and state," promote tolerance, women's rights, and national values. Note how secularists think here - the idea of the separation of religion and state (it's not church and state anymore) permits the government to ban religious garb from schools - ostensibly because the schools are government run. Promoting tolerance? Where's the reasoning there? Do they think that simply because a person is not dressed in a certain manner that no one will be able to recognize their religious persuasion? I doubt it. They'll find that just taking away someone's clothes is not sufficient - they'll have to limit other religious activities they deem to be obstructing national values. It's said that Europe is not only post-Christian but purely secular. Could acts like these be considered the logical outcome of such a worldview? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Ethics, compared the basis for the worldviews of the founding fathers for both the French and the American Revolutions. Here's an excerpt, "The American democracy is not founded upon the emancipated man but, quite on the contrary, upon the kingdom of God and the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God. It is indeed significant when, in contrast to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, American historians can say that the federal constitution was written by men who were conscious of original sin and of the wickedness of the human heart."
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Per the Washington Post, Iraqis Shocked, Shamed by Hussein's Sullied Image: Theories Abound Over Why 'Saddam the Lion' Failed to Resist Capture by U.S. Soldiers . BAGHDAD, Dec. 17 -- Karim Abu Yasser was schooled in front of heroic portraits of Saddam Hussein that hung in every classroom... he was nurtured on tales of Saddam the Lion, and he accepted the official image of the Iraqi president as a stalwart commander with nerves of steel. So when he learned that Hussein had emerged meekly from his burrow last weekend and surrendered to U.S. forces without firing a shot, Abu Yasser said he was aghast. "We feel he either should have fought, or if he was surrounded and there was no other way, committed suicide. That's what we were expecting," he said. "When he didn't, it wasn't a surprise for us. It was a shock." Herein is the reality of terrorism that escapes so many in the world. Why won't those supposed leaders, who command others to die for their fanaticism, at least fight for the same cause themselves? Saddam the Lion hides like a gopher in a hole. Notice that only after the World ensured that he's being treated properly is he acting like a tough guy with his interrogators. How many Hamas leaders volunteer for suicide missions? Al-Qaeda? True commanders lead their men into battle.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Per MSNBC regarding a series of latest attacks by Iraqi terrorists, "On Monday, guerrilla scouts in Samarra released a flock of pigeons as a U.S. patrol approached, apparently as a signal for an ambush, a military statement said. Two gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on U.S. vehicles and then took cover among children leaving school." (empahsis added) Read that again: took cover among children leaving school. These weren't even foreign children. They were children from their own country. I know it's fiction, and science fiction to boot, but there was a scene from the Star Trek: Next Generation TV series a few years back that always impressed me. In this particular episode, Picard captures a few Klingon rebels and is transporting them back to their home planet. As the Klingons are being escorted through the ship a couple of children accidentally run in front of them, getting caught between the Klingons and the crew. Ryker (from the crew) is frantic and immediately radios Picard that they have a hostage situation. The Klingons, looking perplexed, make no effort to hold the children against their will. As the children run back to Ryker, the lead Klingon simply says, "Hostages are for cowards." I would be interested in hearing from the U.S. soldiers involved in the above referenced attack. I've got to believe that their seeing the enemy act in that manner only serves to further solidify their resolve to do their job of eradicating that enemy. I've also got to believe that any sane Iraqis who may have witnessed that event, and events similar, will be willing to do whatever they can to ensure that their traitor countrymen are eradicated.
While I'm in a griping mood I'll throw out another one. I noticed a while back someone in our Sunday morning church service chugging bottled water. What's up with that? Granted, it's not a big deal, but we were in a church service, not at the ballpark. Has our culture lost even the most basic concept of respectful behavior while we worship God?
A friend at work was telling me how he has gotten into attending church on the web. It seems he is a part of Saddleback Community Church (of Rick Warren fame) and they have a live web-link to their Sunday services. He says that he's a part of a small group, works with the High School group, etc., and is getting to the point where he either doesn't feel like going to the actual church service, or is just too tired to go. What's up with that? Now I can understand shut-ins watching a web-link vs. physically attending. Shut-ins, by the way, are typically those people who either through sickness or immobility are unable to physically attend a church service. I can also understand a one-off where someone, who is sick with the flu, stays at home to watch the service. But simply staying at home because you happen to be too tired or uninspired to attend is just plain lazy. It goes beyond laziness though. Worship, as modeled in the Bible, is a corporate activity. True, it certainly includes personal times, but the actions of the apostles as well as the events outlined in the Epistles portray a community of believers worshipping together. It should not be surprising that this corporate activity helps strengthen and build the individuals within the community of believers unlike any individual act of worship could. As a corollary to the main point, if anyone feels they are too burned-out to attend the Sunday worship service then perhaps they are spending too much time at church. What? Too much time? Yes, too much time in too many activities. Our culture sends signals that we must constantly be on the move if we are to be effective. While there is certainly some truth to that, the flip side is where someone is so involved that they are of little effective good. Better to concentrate your talents in a few endeavors... and really make an impact; than to stretch yourself thin, only to find your impact meaningless.
In an L.A. Times Op-Ed, Democratic Candidates Find Themselves Caught in a Hole of Their Own, Max Boot delivers a clear description of the quandary that the Democrats find themselves in now that Saddam has been caught and the economy is picking up... what can they criticize? When tangibles are not on your side, all you can attack are the intangibles. Watch for criticisms about the war effort in general, or what-ifs about how we could have carried out the campaign. Look for statements that we aren't any safer now than 9/11... but without any hard evidence. Working in a rhetorical manner is a pretty bad, if nonexistent, offense. But Republicans cannot let their guards down. In our post-modern, conspiracy theory, Hollywood, X-Files mentality, you'll see a lot of people buying into the rhetoric. Expect it.
Howard Dean continues his borderline maniacal stance regarding the Iraq war ("Dean Doesn't Bend in His Opposition to War in Iraq" - L.A. Times). "Howard Dean on Monday stood by his criticism of the war with Iraq, hailing the capture of Saddam Hussein but saying that his seizure had failed to make America safer and that the invasion of the former dictator's country was launched "in the wrong way at the wrong time."" This guy needs some time to re-organize his thoughts. I hear there's some rental property in Iraq Howard. It's just a rat-hole... though, from what I gather, it's dirt cheap.
Monday, December 15, 2003
This from the Washington Post, "When the deposed Iraqi leader was pulled by U.S. troops from a dank hole adjacent to the farmhouse Saturday, he told them in English: "My name is Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate."" (emphasis added) Before you write it off as just proof of insanity you need to understand that the Middle Eastern mindset is overwhelmingly different from that of the West. I spent some time in Saudi Arabia twenty years ago. The culture there, and way of thinking is completely foreign to those of us here in the U.S. Exxagerations expressed in declarations or descriptions are commonplace. Logic is applied only when favorable. Muslim / non-Muslim concerns are paramount. Note I am not painting a broad-based picture of all Arabs, Muslims, or Middle Easterners... this is just a cultural reality - the West is different. Understanding this helps one to see how suicide bombers make their choices... how puny attacks on U.S. forces continue... and why someone in Saddam's position, after being pulled out of a hole in the ground, would make the statement he made.
They're what Thinatra thung. Well they used to be. Before I wrote this I was thinking, "Do I really have to write about this?" After you read it, you'll probably be saying pretty much the same thing. My wife told me about an incident at a church sponsored dinner a few months ago. It seems a friend of ours was at a dinner, given in honor of the many volunteers that give their time at the church teaching, ministering, etc. She was there with her husband. The dinner was at the church in a facility room for special events. Okay, so far, so good. Helping serve the guests were kids from the church youth group. Imagine the astonishment to our friend upon seeing one particular female teenager dressed in a pair of those trendy low cut jeans, with the complimentary skimpy top that left a significant gap of skin showing between its lower end and the jeans' upper end. Now imagine the shock when she saw this girl turn around, revealing her thong underwear sticking out from the back end of her rear extremeties! Where was the youth pastor? Why wasn't this child told to go home and not come back unless she was properly dressed? Why do we let this happen?... because it's the style? Maybe I'm jumping the gun... yet if I don't speak up now then I guess the next event at church will feature the next logical step in this fashion statement - this girl's butt cleavage hanging out from her jeans. Homeschoolers are sometimes accused of unrealistically sheltering their children from the realities of the world. Now I ask you: If I can't expect to find decency engaged in at my local church, then why should I expect any of it at the local school?
There have been some interesting discussions on World Magazine's blog site with regards to President Bush's actions as a Christian vs. those as a President. Some Evangelicals are a bit more than miffed that President Bush would even consider sharing a worship service with those outside the Christian faith, much less his statement a few weeks ago about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. In a Washington Post article, For 14 Long Hours, Keeping the Secret, by Mike Allen and Bradley Graham, the account of what transpired up to and including the announcement of Saddam Hussein's capture is detailed. In it, we read, "The administration was so conscious of how the news would play in the Arab world that Bush canceled plans to attend St. John's Church, an Episcopal congregation in Washington, yesterday morning because he did not want that to be the setting for his first public appearance after the capture." This will, undoubtedly, upset many Evangelicals. They will see it as compromise. They will say that Bush is allying himself with non-Christians. They are wrong. Besides being a Christian, he is the President of the United States... a secular job in a secular government.
Hugh Ross is an astronomer / physicist / minister who founded Reasons to Believe, a Christian apologetic organization that strives to integrate the record of Nature with the words of the Bible. The Assemblies of God is a Pentecostal denomination with a weekly publication titled, The Pentecostal Evangel. In the November 30th issue they featured an article by Hugh on Evolution, as well as a short interview with him titled, Our Wonderful Creator. It's a good synopsis of the reasons why Christians should take note of the latest scientific findings and how they dovetail in with the Christian faith. Hugh is in a tough position sometimes... he'll take heat from some Christians who find the "Day Age" interpretation of Genesis 1, which Hugh supports, to be heretical. Then he'll turn around and take the heat from certain members of the Intelligent Design crowd who feel that his willingness to name the God of the Bible as the Intelligent Designer is too exclusivistic. Lastly, the Evolutionists will criticize him for his Creationist viewpoints. What is encouraging to see, though, is his perseverance and steadfast determination to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks to the Assemblies of God for running these two features. It's refreshing to see them show indirect support for another brother in Christ.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
of California. Great trip. A weekend getaway for myself and Mrs. Lopez. Had dinner on Friday night, in front of the fireplace at The Brambles Dinner House, in Cambria. Excellent meal. I had the top sirloin, medium, complete with clam chowder, rice pilaf, and topped off with a Guinness Extra Stout. The Guinness was too bitter for my taste though... a hefe weizen would've been better. But nothing can beat that tender, oakwood broiled steak. Believe me, each morsel was delicately savored. After dinner, a romantic boardwalk stroll along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific, and then a cup of coffee in the warm coziness of our room with the rhythm of the surf, crashing along the shore, in the background. Happy Anniversary Mrs. Lopez!
Joy. There's a lot of joy going on in Iraq today, but the Joy of Advent is of a different sort. Read James 5:7-11, So be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s return. Think of how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the ground and is patient for it until it receives the early and late rains. You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near. Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge stands before the gates! As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name. Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. We bought our Christmas Tree this evening. My kids had a wonderful time decorating it. By the time we finished it was too late to light the third candle of the Advent wreath, so we'll do that on Monday evening. Here's a poem by Keith Patman, Another Mystery I Pose It is mystery enough, This pulsing starlight blazing. Grazing pine tops, Glazing virgin snows. And yet another mystery I pose: What pulse is this that beats Beneath a virgin's pulse? What light from east of earth's end Blazes in this bestial close?
Amazing, isn't it?... how real-life plays out in such unexpected ways. How many people would have imagined that Saddam would be found, looking like a homeless man, hiding inside a hole in the ground - and that he would give up without a fight? A script written with that plot would have immediately found its way to the circular file. But those are the cards we were dealt, and now we have to play with them. The news can do nothing but help President Bush. To be sure, there will be those that will point to Saddam's insistence that there are no WMD as "proof" that the war on Iraq was unjustified. Time will tell.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Christ at Work posted a blog a while back titled, The ideal life is a balanced life. In it, he says, "I'm told. In our post-modern world, there are several demands, often competing, for our time, attention, and both physical and emotional resources. We must discipline ourselves, they say, to share ourselves equitably among all the requests. Don't spend too much time at the office. Leave work at work, so your family time is quality time. But make be available for church and community. And of course take time for yourself to rest and re-charge – otherwise, burn-out is inevitable." He then further discusses the Western concept of a balanced life and how it squares with the Biblical concept of a Christian life. It got me to thinking about how I approach my work life and its relationship to my whole life. Now, I'm basically a 9 to 5 type person (although I do get in to the office around 6:30 in order to beat the traffic). Essentially, I'm at work for just a few fundamental reasons... namely, to keep a roof over my head, have clothes to wear, and food to eat. In other words, I don't especially love my work. Now don't get me wrong - I certainly appreciate the fact that I can work in a heated / air conditioned office vs. out in the muck and mire that many jobs entail. And I most certainly appreciate the fact that I even have a job. My point is that it's something I could walk away from at closing time today... and never come back to. And that's not a good thing. Yet, be that as it may, that is the situation I find myself in. I suspect that, as far as this predicament goes, I am not alone. However, all whining aside, I still have the power to control my attitude towards work and, especially, those around me. I still have the power to spend time in pursuits that are enriching and important to me. I still have the power to develop a relationship with my family that will last far beyond any relationship at work. I still have the power to impact the world regardless of whether I'm at work or not. Some closing points are in order: One, even though I am not enamored with my occupation I strive to do the best job I can. I do this for a variety of reasons, the most important being that it is the right thing to do and it is my best interests (with regards to stability and financial reward). Two, I am constantly looking to improve my job efficiency. One of the qualities that I bring to the table at work is the ability to get a product out quickly and correctly... that counts for a lot in the long run. I'm currently reading, The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene. It's about physicists efforts to develop a unification between the theories of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, through the use of String Theory. In the book, Greene describes how most physicists, while brainstorming their ideas, work late into the night as well as on weekends. He describes one particular physicist, though, that rarely works past 5pm and never shows up on the weekends. The reason? As stated by Greene, "He gets away with this because he is both sharp and efficient. Going into high gear for him merely amounts to notching up his efficiency level to even greater heights." Efficiency counts. Three, I am constantly open to learning new things, whether they be new work procedures, new tools (i.e., technology), or new responsibilities. Keep in mind though, that experience is one of the most valuable tools you have. The old adage still rings true, "Just because you've always done it this way doesn't mean it's the best way to do it; Just because it's a new way to do it doesn't mean it's better." Of course there are other aspects to consider about your occupation, whether you relish it or not, but keeping these guidelines clear seems to make the path straighter. Lastly, I strive to develop my spiritual formation in line with the Biblical Worldview. It's a very tall order and I won't be perfect at it until I shed the mortal coil. In the meantime...