Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Photo-blogging at Christmas...

A few shots from our recent trip to northern New Mexico... "A dusting of snow" "Early morning contrast" "Snow detail" "Fence glow" "Aspen glow" "Sunrise, Boxing Day" "Sunrise detail, Boxing Day" "Tritone contrast" - all ©2004 R.L.

Home from the Holidays...

The Lopez clan returned yesterday from spending Christmas in northern New Mexico. A wonderful time was had by all as we enjoyed celebrating our Savior's birth. In the meantime there was the devastating news of the tsunami in south Asia. Our earthly existence is truly fragile. Its commencement is not of our doing, and we have no way of preventing its end. If there is a Giver of Life, all-knowing, and all-powerful, what should our attitude be towards Him? Donate to the tsunami relief effort via World Vision.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Merry Christmas...

Poetry from the Ark Music CD Centerpoint Another Mystery I Pose, by Keith Patman
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?

Digitizing Memories...

This Advent Season has been a bit more hectic around the Lopez household as we eagerly prepare to spend Christmas with family. One particular project of mine, that has increased my stress level, has been that of compiling our old family home movies into DVD format. After having our 8mm and Super 8mm film movies digitized earlier this year I set about to leisurely edit, enhance, and render them onto DVD. I had planned to have them done well before Christmas. A few weeks ago, however, with Christmas fast approaching, I found myself riding on top of a rapidly cresting wave (with a savage and rocky shore in sight). Even with the impending deadline I was able to complete the project and re-live many wonderful childhood memories as well. The digitized memories are now found on MiniDV tape and DVD disk, easily accessible and reproducible for all our family. Gotta love those shades...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

On our "Call to Worship": Do baggy shorts and flipflops enhance our peaceful, easy feeling?

Back in March, 2004, I wrote a post titled, On Worship, based on a message by R. C. Sproul in which he discussed how our worship to God should be characterized by sacredness and respect. His message was titled, Surely God is in this place and might still be found at his site. One of his criticisms, and one of mine, was how our current Christian culture seems to have lost the concept of respect for God due, in part, to our misunderstanding of the character of God. Sproul said,
Nothing reveals more clearly what your church believes about the character of God, than how you worship. You can take your confessions, your doctrinal statements, your programs, and roll ‘em up and throw ‘em in the garbage can because they don’t mean anything, in terms of what really is being expressed about the character of God, as in your worship. Our problem in not an architectural problem, it’s not even a musical problem, …the problem is people are coming to church and have no sense of the presence of God. In fact the basic sense of the American person in our day is a profound sense of the absence of God.
I questioned that our lack of respect is sometimes evident through, but not limited to, how we dress when we go to worship. My critics immediately charged me with being legalistic and claimed that what matters, to God, is not how we are dressed when we approach Him, but what the attitude of our heart is. Now, while it’s true that just about any custom or liturgy could get to be so routine as to make it ineffective, I believe the core of my criticism is valid. I have not stated that one is unable to properly worship unless dressed in fine, expensive clothing of any particular style. I have also not stated that the attitude of our heart in preparation for, and during worship, is irrelevant. Rather, I have maintained that our spiritual attitude is not unaffected by the physicality of the manner in which we present ourselves before God. We exist in the reality of the universe created by God, and that reality entails the material and the abstract, the physical and the spiritual. Yet, given the way some Evangelicals approach the act of worship, it seems that we sometimes place more emphasis on the abstract, spiritual side of reality than is warranted. What could possibly drive the line of thinking that what matters most to God is not the physical nature of our reality, but the spiritual? Could it be driven by the fact that Jesus spokeout more against sins of thought than sins of action? Or is it due to the fact that the Bible states that while we see only the outward man, God sees inside the heart? Or could it be simply due to the fact that our culture elevates personal rights and, accordingly, personal feelings to that of supreme importance? Well, for whatever reason, the spiritual aspect of our being seems to be regarded not only as authoritative over our physical being, but it is sometimes considered to actually be free from the effects of the Fall. In Greg Koukl’s Decision Making and the Will of God series, one of the criticisms he receives is that our decision making process should not be based on our reasoning skills but, rather, based on our spiritual connectivity with God. In other words, we can’t trust our own reasoning, so the argument goes, but we can trust our spiritual direction from God. Likewise, when I discuss how we, as Christians, should exercise some effort to actually study the Bible in order to understand the meaning of the words and intentions of the author, some critics respond that such a practice stifles the leading of the Spirit. Again, the argument presented by critics is that the process of spiritual formation through God’s Word is best dealt with through God’s supernatural action, and that any attempt by us to rely on our own reasoning is inherently corrupt. There is, it is alleged, a dichotomy, however subtle, between the spiritual and the physical. This line of thinking, I believe, fails to embrace the fullness of God. It works from a false premise and ignores the very Christian idea that, while we are not of the World, we remain in it. I would argue that there is no dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical and that, in fact, there is Biblical evidence that the physical reality of our existence is just as important to our theology as the spiritual reality is. In another message by Sproul, the title of which I cannot recall, he examined the aspect of our five senses and how they might relate to God’s revealed Word. For example, Sproul raised the question as to whether it made any difference that God chose wine and bread to be used for the holy sacraments. We understand that they are symbolic in nature, and that the symbolism is abstract; but does the color, smell, and taste of wine guide the symbolism in any way? Does the texture, structure, smell, and taste of the bread aid in our understanding of the intended meaning of the sacrament? Consider how God described the burnt sacrifices of the Old Testament as releasing a pleasing aroma to his nostrils (e.g., Exodus 29:18). Ponder the implications of finding the proper sacrificial lamb as well as the meaning behind the color, smell, and texture of its blood. Of what value would our intimate appreciation of the smell of expensive perfume be as we ponder the equally existential aspect of feet that are encrusted with dried mud made from sweat and dust? Is our abstract understanding of the sacrament of water baptism amplified through the physical experience of being engulfed in water? Is there such a thing as a “physical” aspect with regards to our attitude of worship? If so, does scripture give us a template on how such an aspect of our attitude of worship should be shaped? A cursory reading of scripture would seem to reveal a reverence for the “call to worship” that we, in the 21st century West, seem to have missed. Does our culture’s reliance on the importance of presenting a pure “spiritual” attitude of the heart reflect sincere piety, or does it reflect a misguided and, possibly, self-centered worldview? When Christians think that they can casually approach God, because God “accepts them as they are,” I think that they have seriously misunderstood who they are, who God is, and how important the physical reality of this existence truly is. The Gnostics considered the physical to be evil thereby elevating the spiritual to that of supreme importance. While a casual attitude with regards to our call to worship does not, in and of itself, deem the physical to be evil, it does tend towards elevating to sole importance the spiritual aspect of our relationship with God. Indeed, we are not Gnostics. We live in a reality encompassing both the physical and the spiritual. As such, we should be about understanding the full measure of our responsibilities towards worshipping God.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Additional thoughts on human obligation and natural law...

From Robert P. George's book, The Clash of Orthodoxies,
Two weeks before Justice Thurgood Marshall resigned from the Supreme Court, I sat in my office in Princeton chatting with then-Judge Clarence Thomas who was in town to address a judicial eductation seminar. I was, at the time, putting together the volume of essays that appeared under the title Natural Law Theory, and our discussion turned to the questions of natural law and civil rights. However much Judge Thomas's confirmation hearings left the public confused about his ideas of natural law and natural rights, he made his position on the issue crystal clear to me: "Those who deny natural law," he said, "cannot get me out of slavery." Of course, Justice Thomas was not suggesting that contemporary historicists or conventionalists - "those who deny natural law" - believe in slavery, and he well knows that some nineteenth-century believers in natural law argued for a natural right to own slaves. His point was that the moral relativism that informs historicist and conventionalist accounts of rights precludes the proponents of such accounts from offering a rational moral argument against slavery. All they can say is that once upon a time in this country white people had the legal right to own black people, and now black people (and, indeed, all people) have the legal right not to be enslaved. For the latter proposition they can cite the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Their historicism and conventionalism preclude them, however, from saying that the Thirteenth Amendment embodies or gives legal force to a moral or natural right not to be enslaved. Under their account, no one would have had objective moral reasons (though some could have had economic or other instrumental or nonmoral reasons) to support the abolition of slavery. Of course, people may have believed (and acted upon their belief) in a natural right not to be enslaved, which provided a moral reason for them to support abolition, but this subjective belief, under the historicist and conventionalist account, lacked a rational ground. That is to say, it was in no sense rationally superior to the belief of other people that no such right existed or, indeed, that they had a right to own slaves. It also follows that neither history nor convention could provide an adequate rational defense against the return in the future of some form of slavery. (emphasis in original)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Theistic Evolution and Naturalism’s “Big Tent”…

Joe Carter has an enlightening post titled, Voltaire’s Bastards: Why “Neo-Creationists” are the Heirs of the Enlightenment, which raises some very interesting points with regards to the irrationality of the naturalistic claim that reason arose through purely naturalistic means. Joe concludes with,
Perhaps the atheists are right in claiming that the only difference between Newton’s brain and mule’s dung is the arrangement of molecules that release the mystical properties capable of producing reason. They may very well be right on that point. But their ideas are not based on reason. And they are certainly not children of the Enlightenment. To claim otherwise is nonsense; the nonsense of rogues.
Interestingly enough, in the comments section, DarkSyde continues his claim that, essentially, critics of the evolutionary paradigm are antiscience. One paragraph he wrote is particularly striking:
Many antiscience advocates also complain about something they call 'naturalism'. They think that science excludes supernatural possibilities or initial causes. Science does not exclude such a possibility and I'm sorry if we give the impression that it does. In fact there's a supernatural explanation called "Theistic Evolution" which is 100% fully backed by science. Theistic Evolution, or TE, is the idea that God used Evolution the same way He used Chemistry or Physics to work His Will.
I’m intrigued by Dark’s statement that TE is “100% fully backed by science.” Is he stating that science is capable of detecting supernatural action? I doubt it. What he probably means is that the TE scientist believes that God used the processes naturalists have proposed to achieve His goals. An important feature of TE is that while they believe in God’s supernatural action, they also believe that we are incapable of empirically verifying such action. So, the claim that TE is 100% fully backed by science could be misconstrued to mean that all of science and, therefore, all scientists, back the TE model. This is certainly not the case. Perhaps a better rendition of the phrase “100% fully backed by science” would be, “as long as Theistic Evolutionists do not attempt to empirically verify supernatural activity, they are free to believe that God acts behind the scenes.” As I’ve stated before*, belief in such a god is relegated to the realm of subjective opinion. A god whose actions can only be subjectively perceived reduces to an unnecessary god. Indeed, take a look at a recent post on The Panda’s Thumb in which we meet a new contributor – a Theistic Evolutionist. The post, Opening Shot, has currently drawn over 100 comments. What is interesting is to note the questions of at least two of those leaving comments. Mark asked,
Can you kindly explain why you, an obviously rational person who is capable of viewing the Genesis story from the standpoint of its logic and consistency, nevertheless keep faith in a personal God despite the complete lack of evidence, besides a sentimental adherence to your sweet childhood emotions?
And Greg has asked,
If PT introduced a new contributor as an astrologist, or a tarot reader, or even as a Scientologist, I think a lot of readers would wonder if the editors were joking. Why do some irrational beliefs — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. — deserve more respect than fortune telling or homeopathy?
These are honest and valid questions, yet Mark received a mild rebuke from one of the site administrators that the question was not in line with the intent of the PT (see the comment immediately following Mark’s). Do you see what’s happening here? Theistic Evolution is 100% fully backed by science as long as we understand that the Theistic in Theistic Evolution is viewed as subjective, personal opinion. As such, it has no place in a science discussion regarding empirical and verifiable phenomenon. While I disagree with their worldview, I must at least give credit to the likes of Mark and Greg for taking the logical implication of Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism to its conclusion. * reference an earlier commentary I wrote about Theistic Evolution.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Giving to those in need...

Our church has been blessed to have an Old Testament scholar teaching a morning adult Sunday School class for the past few months. Today he related the fact that no other book in the Bible shows more concern for the poor, the disadvantaged, and the powerless, as does Leviticus. One of the purposes of the Law was to insure the powerless are provided for. The responsibility of helping those in need was not given to the government, but to us... As Christmas approaches, you might want to consider making a donation to an organization that cares for the disadvantaged. The Sheepfold is a center in southern California that ministers to battered women and their children. Their Mission statement:
The Sheepfold’s mission is twofold. First, to shelter and provide daily care to ease the pain of battered women and children who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets, in their cars or in a park. Secondly, to restore their sense of self-worth, help them find employment and establish them in an apartment of their own. The Sheepfold provides battered and homeless women and their children with food and lodging in a clean and loving home atmosphere. During their stay, residents are ministered to through daily, non-denominational Bible studies. We assist and encourage them to establish goals, improve life skills, and to obtain employment as they seek a "new beginning”. We maintain a peaceful home environment through the supervision of our resident managers. All services and daily necessities are provided free of charge.
I've added a link to the sidebar with which you can link directly to their donation webpage to either donate online, or obtain a mailing address to mail in your donation. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Do the practical thing: Contrasting worldviews against current events...

To build off of my previous post, let's contrast how the Christian Worldview approaches current events with how the "There is no should" Worldview does. The Christian Worldview states that there exists a transcendent morality which humans are obliged to follow. The "There is no should" Worldview states that - there is no should - and that actions are merely performed on the basis of practicality. Per FoxNews: Emotions High at Peterson Sentencing Trial
Laci Peterson's mother took the stand Tuesday in the sentencing phase of Scott Peterson's murder trial, screaming at her former son-in-law that divorce was always an option over taking her daughter's life. A very emotional Sharon Rocha brought members of the jury panel and those in the courtroom to tears with her heart-wrenching testimony, much of which she addressed directly to Peterson. Peterson, 32, was convicted Nov. 12 of killing her daughter, Laci, and the couple's unborn son.
Should Peterson have murdered his wife and unborn son? The Christian Worldview says no; the "There is no should" Worldview says that he merely acted out of practical motives and, therefore, the act was no different than, say, tieing his shoes. Also from FoxNews: Netherlands Hospital Permits Euthanasia for Terminal Newborns
A hospital in the Netherlands — the first nation to permit euthanasia — recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives. The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives — a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents.
The Christian Worldview posits that humans are made in God’s Image and, as such, should not be murdered. Should medical professionals intentionally kill patients they deem to not have a sufficient quality of life? Should these medical professionals propose such actions as standard policy after already performing them? The Christian Worldview answers with a "no," while the “There is no should” Worldview sees the acts as either meaningless, or practically good for society. From CNN (link): Report: Video Game Argument Leads To Fatal Drive-By
A 7-year-old girl reportedly died on the way to the hospital from a gunshot wound she suffered in a drive-by shooting on Monday night. Sources told Local 4 that the shooting may have been the result of an argument the child's mother had with a man outside the family's home at Glenfield Street on Detroit's east side last week.
Should someone intentionally discharge a firearm towards a home, knowing full well that innocent life could be taken, simply because they were angry? The Christian Worldview answers “no” because such action is morally wrong. The “There is no should” Worldview answers that all our behaviors are the same and that humans are not obliged to act in any manner whatsoever… they just act. Therefore, the person who killed the 7 year old girl was simply doing what he does; it just so happened that he committed murder while practically expressing his anger. Which worldview would you rather follow? Which worldview should you?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Do the right thing; Or… should we?

In recent discussions regarding the existence of transcendent morality I have brought up the issue of “ought,” or “should,” and how it relates to the choices made by humans. Paul, one of my gracious critics, has presented an argument which, while I consider to be logically flawed, is interesting nonetheless. If I understand his argument correctly, he is essentially stating that my discussion of the “oughtness” of an action is irrelevant. For example, in my post critiquing the National Geographic article Was Darwin Wrong?, I conclude by examining the current research being performed to find a cure for TB. My argument is that if nature is all there is, and that our existence is merely the result of determinism and chance, then there is no reason why we should expend effort on helping other, albeit weaker, humans. My closing question was:
Has he [the author of the article] not considered why we humans should even care whether a weaker member of the species dies off?
Paul responded with, There is no should. Note that besides not answering my question, such a statement attempts to explain away “should” with… should (i.e., the contextual meaning of the statement “There is no should” is no different than, “One should understand that there is no should.”). Upon my questioning why one should believe that “there is no should,” Paul answered with,
You believe it, or you don't believe it. There's still no should.
Perhaps I don’t fully understand such a statement, for I find it to be nothing more than an irrational, baseless assertion (not unlike stating “There is a Santa Claus.”). It appears to attempt to link up the act of belief in the oughtness of helping other humans with, say, the act of belief in the law of gravity. However, choosing to believe or not believe in the law of gravity has no bearing on its existence. Similarly, whether I choose to believe or not believe that I should help others does not tell me if “should” exists. In an attempt to take the “there is no should” thinking forward to its logical conclusion I proposed that I call Paul’s “bluff” and posit that instead of advocating the helping of TB patients, I would advocate that we forcibly enlist them into scientific research programs. After all, so the reasoning would go, if there is no should, then what reason could there be to oppose such an action? Paul responded with,
Please feel free to call the bluff. Perform the experiments, get put in prison or put to death. That's your choice.
I think the error in this reply is that he still considers “choice” to be an integral part of whether or not “should” exists. It does not. I’ve never questioned whether he, I, or anyone else has a choice in the matter. What should be quite evident from the answers he gives is that his worldview is powerless in determining whether the actions of Hitler were wrong and those of Mother Theresa were right. According to the "there is no should" line of reasoning, there is no reason why we should value Mother Theresa over Adolf Hitler, or vice versa. I want to be very clear on this point – To advocate that there is no “should” - in the sense of “should” we help another human in need? - logically mandates that there is no difference between that of helping the needy and that of cannibalizing them. Can there be no greater banner with which to promote Naturalism? Further ref: Evolution Can't Explain Morality and Did Morals Evolve? - by Greg Koukl

Monday, November 29, 2004

Rev. Mike lands back on Earth...

Back in January I wrote several posts criticizing the Emergent Church movement for linking up with some of the tenets of Post Modernism (see Emergent Church, How 'bout some Em-pathy?, What is Po-Mo?, and Those PoFolks at PoMo). Rev. Mike appeared to be sympathetic with the movement (although I was never truly convinced he was PoMo, as the only photo I've seen of him shows him with neither a tatoo, earring, or cigar). Well he's since "turned from the dark side," as his insightful post, Postmodernity is Bunk, attests to.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

“Joy equals us – Toys ‘R’ Us”…

As a boy, C. S. Lewis encountered a fleeting feeling he eventually defined as Joy. From the PBS series, The Question of God:
Lewis: Once in those very early days my brother Warren brought into the nursery a box, which he had covered with moss and garnished with twigs and flowers. That was the first beauty I ever knew. It made me aware of nature — as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant. Everything seems like a dream, anything seems possible, and all sorts of ideas float through your mind. It was something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure, something, as they would now say, in another dimension. It was a sensation of desire. But before I knew what I desired, the desire was gone ... the world turned commonplace again. Narrator: Throughout his life, Lewis would often remember the feeling aroused in him by the toy garden. He named that feeling Joy.
From his autobiography, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life,
...The great error is to mistake this mere sediment or track or by-product for the activities themselves. That is how men may come to believe that thought is only unspoken words, or the appreciation of poetry only a collection of mental pictures, when these in reality are what the thought of the appreciation, when interrupted, leave behind — like the swell at sea, working after the wind has dropped. Not, of course, that these activities, before we stopped them by introspection, were unconscious. We do not love, fear, or think without knowing it. Instead of the twofold division into Conscious and Unconscious, the Enjoyed, and the Contemplated. This discovery flashed a new light back on my whole life. I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say "This is it," had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. All that such watching and waiting ever could find would be either an image (Asgard, the Western Garden, or what not) or a quiver in the diaphragm. I should never have to bother again about these images or sensations. I knew now that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy — not the wave but the wave's imprint on the sand. The inherent dialectic of desire itself had in a way already shown me this; for all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, "It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?" So far, so good. But it is at the next step that awe overtakes me. There was no doubt that Joy was a desire (and, in so far as it was also simultaneously a good, it was also a kind of love). But a desire is turned not to itself but to its object. Not only that, but it owes all its character to its object. Erotic love is not like desire for food, nay, a love for one woman differs from a love for another woman in the very same way and the very same degree as the two women differ from one another. Even our desire for one wine differs in tone from our desire for another. Our intellectual desire (curiosity) to know the true answer to a question is quite different from our desire to find that one answer, rather than another, is true. The form of the desired is in the desire. It is the object which makes the desire harsh or sweet, coarse or choice, "high" or "low." It is the object that makes the desire itself desirable or hateful. I perceived (and this was a wonder of wonders) that just as I had been wrong in supposing that I really desired the Garden of the Hesperides, so also I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all. In a way, I had proved this by elimination. I had tried everything in my own mind and body; as it were, asking myself, "Is it this you want? Is it this?" Last of all I had asked if Joy itself was what I wanted; and labeling it "aesthetic experience," had pretended I could answer Yes. But that answer too had broken down. Inexorably Joy proclaimed, "You want — I myself am your want of — something other, outside, not you nor any state of you." I did not yet ask, Who is the desired? Only What is it? But this brought me already into the region of awe, for I thus understood that in deepest solitude there is a road right out of the self, a commerce with something which, by refusing to identify itself with any object of the senses, or anything whereof we have biological or social need, or anything imagined, or any state of our own minds, proclaims itself sheerly objective. Far more objective than bodies, for it is not, like them, clothed in our senses; the naked Other, imageless (though our imagination salutes it with a hundred images), unknown, undefined, desired.
Enter the Christmas 2004 season and the materialistic onslaught of... Toys 'R' Us. I saw their most recent commercial on TV last night. A description, from Brandweek:
As sentimental music swells to a crescendo, we get closeup shots of small fry enjoying trains, planes, dolls, drums, cars, Woody from Toy Story and other goodies. A voiceover relates: "What is joy? Joy is an uncontrollable expression that forms in an instant and lasts a lifetime. Toys bring joy." More music. More shots of kids. More voiceover: "Just as we hold toys, toys hold us. There's a perfect toy for every kid and a perfect kid for every toy. Every wonderful, glorious toy. Because toys equal joy and joy equals us—Toys 'R' Us." (emphasis added)
The rumbling you hear in Oxfordshire, England, at The Kilns, is the sound of Lewis turning over in his grave. Note: This topic is also covered at Beck.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Nice Guy syndrome: Why do we choose to relate to God?…

Does it matter whether or not God is fair? I recently heard a preacher make a statement along the lines of, “I wouldn’t want to serve a God who was unjust.” The fact that he found God to be just was, evidently, but one of the reasons that caused him to put his faith in God. Conversely, when discussing the concept of relative morality, I have had critics take issue with what they consider to be God’s unjust or evil nature – the implication being that such a God is unworthy of their allegiance. But when it comes to acknowledging who God is, does it really matter what His disposition is? Do we see any Biblical examples of people choosing to follow God solely, or primarily, because they consider Him just? Or do we see examples of people acknowledging that God is the Creator of all there is and that, as such, there is an inherent obligation owed to Him? I would argue that it is the latter. J. Budzsizewski seems to argue as much in his book, What We Can’t Not Know, when he discusses the basis of the first five of the Ten Commandments (i.e., the First Tablet). He writes,
The point of the First Commandment is that the one true God, and only the one true God, is to be worshipped as God. To hold that this biblical injunction belongs equally to the natural law is to hold that although not everyone believes the Bible as the word of God, everyone does know that there is one true God and that he owes Him sole worship. If this is true, then those who say they don't know of any such God are fooling themselves, and biblical revelation merely "blows their cover." The Commandment presupposes more than just the knowledge that God is real. It presupposes that we also understand that benefit incurs obligation, supreme benefit incurs supreme obligation, and we are indebted to God for benefits beyond all others. This in turn presupposes that we know the principle, "Give to each what is due to him," what we owe God being loyalty, worship, and obedience. To deny Him is the deepest form of treason - much more serious than the ordinary sort.
It is unfortunate that our 21st century Western culture has allowed the church to turn the act of choosing allegiance to God into a decision based on whether or not we think Him to be nice. While the aspect of God’s Love (e.g., Jesus’ discourse in John 14 – 16) should not be overlooked, we must also not lose sight of His true identity – and the fullness it entails. When the thirsty Jill Pole, in C. S. Lewis’ book, The Silver Chair, encountered Aslan the Lion, he stood between her and the cool water she so desperately wanted. He tells her to come and drink. Upon asking if he would promise not to harm her, he replied that he would make no such promise. Upon asking if he would eat her, he cryptically responds that he has swallowed up boys, girls, men, women, and whole cities. That is who He is. Indeed, C. S. Lewis understood well the relationship between God and Man. In describing his turning from an atheist to a theist, he wrote:
In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed; that night a most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. (emphasis added)
For further reference, check my post, On a fiendish God.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Do you live near San Antonio, Texas?...

Per Frank Beckwith at, Parkhills Baptist Church is hosting an apologetics conference this weekend, Nov. 18 - 20, titled "To Everyone an Answer." The speaker lineup includes, but is not limited to: Frank Beckwith Greg Koukl Craig Hazen William Lane Craig J. P. Moreland Lee Strobel Doug Geivett Jay Richards Ben Witherington Gary Habermas Norm Geisler The icing on the cake is that the conference registration is only $45!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A hike in the Alps...

"The Schreckhorn" - near Grindelwald, Switzerland (using Fuji Velvia) ©1993 RL

Was Darwin Wrong?...

That’s the title of an article from the November 2004 issue of National Geographic, and it appears not only on the cover, but on the title page of the article itself. Whether intended to be provocative or merely teasing I do not know, but when one turns the page he is presented with an emphatic, one word sentence “NO.” (the font of which is so large that it takes up fully one-third of the page). The next sentence is, The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming. This post is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the article but, instead, a synopsis of the biased manner in which the evolutionary community addresses data. You may want to refer back to a post I wrote in July titled, DarkSyde debate (part 1), in which I discuss the concept of Evolutionary Lensing and the practice of unwarranted extrapolation. I’ve coined the term Evolutionary Lensing to describe the act of viewing a phenomenon through evolutionary spectacles. In other words, the evolutionist is already committed to the fact of evolution when observing the data his research provides. In the article, after linking evolution to Einstein’s relativity theory, as well as the notion that the Earth orbits around the sun, continental drift, and the structure of atoms, we read,
Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact.
Besides clouding the judgment of the scientist, “accept[ing] it as fact” provides easy access to the next step of error – that of the unwarranted extrapolation. It should come as no surprise, then, that data which is viewed through the evolutionary paradigm is so readily attributed to the workings of evolution. Indeed, the extrapolated conclusion is, The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming. But let’s take a look at some of the visual evidence presented in the article and see if we can also identify the instances of Evolutionary Lensing and unwarranted extrapolations. The Jacobin pigeon. From the article,
Domestic breeding of fancy pigeons like the Jacobin… was [Darwin’s] analogy for selection in the wild.
Consider that domestic breeding is an phenomenon guided by intelligent action. Why should an activity guided by the intentions of a mind be used as an analogy for a supposedly mindless and purposeless activity of nature? We’re shown an image of a naked mole rat (links to a Macromedia presentation). The text states,
The naked mole rat shows that mammals can evolve, like social insects, to include specialized workers and queens.
If by the phrase, that mammals can evolve, they simply mean “change,” then they have a point. Change within a species is easily observed. But consider that, despite its “evolution,” the naked mole rat is still a mole rat. That it can eventually develop entirely new structures, such as fins instead of legs, is left to the realm of unwarranted extrapolation. A rendering of a flying fish is displayed, and we read,
Although the fish’s wings are rudimentary compared to a bird’s, [Darwin] realized that they derive from the same evolutionary process: They enable the fish to soar to escape predators. (emphasis added)
Note the connection being made here, for it is resplendent within the evolutionary paradigm. Similar structures connote either a similar derivative process or common ancestry, or both. The Madagascan sphinx moth, with its 11 inch long proboscis, is displayed as an example of “coevolution” with that of the Madagascar orchid Angraecum sesquipedale which has an 11 inch long nectar receptacle. From the article,
Such mutual adaptation – moth to the flower, the flower to the moth – is called coevolution.
Such “mutual adaptation,” a phrase inherently biased, could also be called a pre-designed system. Under the heading of Survival and Adaptation: Natural Selection, we read,
Insectivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap occupy nutrient-poor soils, where competition is less severe, and survive by supplementing their diet with captured insects.
Are we to infer that because the Venus flytrap occupies nutrient-poor soils that it survived only because it evolved the ability to eat insects? A skeleton of an orangutan is shown, along with a detail of the bone structure of its hand and that of a human hand. The text,
Similarities of anatomy imply common origins. The orangutan has long arms, but its paired forearm bones resemble the radius and ulna in a human. The orangutan hand is so similar to ours that it might fit in a first-baseman’s mitt. (emphasis added)
Turning the page we see a skeleton of an extinct whalelike creature called Dorudon and read,
Dating back 40 million years, it had a detached pelvis near the end of its tail and useless little legs. Like the human hand, an early whale’s front foot retains a five-fingered bone structure; a vestigial rear foot has lost several toe bones, but its very existence testifies to the whale’s descent from a four-legged ancestor. Illuminating by spotty, the fossil record is like a film of evolution from which 999 of every 1,000 frames have been lost on the cutting-room floor. Still, Gingerich and others have found dozens of intermediate forms – missing links that are no longer missing. (emphasis added)
Intermediate or transitional? Do we gloss over the speed with which a supposedly wolf-like creature evolved into a whale simply because we have fossil evidence of whalelike creatures? Do similarities of structure imply common origin or do they imply common design templates? Look for examples of common templates in the world of intelligently designed objects – they’re all around you. A photo of six dead finches. Notable for the diversified sizes and shapes of their beaks, these finches are presented as evidence for evolution because,
…isolation – plus time, plus adaptation to local conditions – leads to the origin of species. It seemed more logical than assuming they had been created and placed in the Galapagos individually.
Yet a logical analysis of the finches reveals that the changes found insure that they remain finches. Convergent Evolution – we see photos of a Jamaican twig anole, a Puerto Rican twig anole, and the Hispaniolan twig anole. All share a similarity in structure, yet DNA analysis reveals that they are not genetically related to each other. Conclusion? -
…such adaptations have evolved independently on the separate islands. …The lesson: Although variations occur randomly, similar ecological circumstances sometimes yield uncannily similar adaptations.
Evolutionary lensing demands that we only consider evolution as the creator of the phenomenon. Unwarranted extrapolation results in the conclusion, or “lesson,” that uncannily similar adaptations are the product of evolution. In other words: 1) evolution is fact, 2) we see a particular phenomenon, 3) explanation? – Evolution. Finally, we see a photograph of a TB-infected patient, and the heading, Medical Research: How Evolution Touches You. The text,
Bacteria and viruses evolve too. Infectious agents such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, adapt quickly and acquire genetic resistance to drugs.
Rather than point out the blatant Evolutionary Lensing and unwarranted extrapolation in this set of "evidence," I will leave it for the reader to discern. The final sentences of the article succinctly reveal the overarching conclusion we must logically draw from Darwin’s theory.
Peter Kibisov, a former convict in Russia, carries two enduring remnants from his prison time: a Crucifixion tattoo and drug-resistant TB. He hopes God will help him, but evolution-based science is what guides the search for an earthly cure. (emphasis added)
At worst, God is dead; at the very least, he's unnecessary. How interesting it is that the author thinks the research for an earthly TB cure is driven by evolution-based science. Has he not considered why we humans should even care whether a weaker member of the species dies off? UPDATE: The Discovery Institute's Jonathan Wells has a review (of the National Geographic article) titled, National Geographic Ignores The Flaws in Darwin's Theory Also, check Phil Steiger's post, National Geographic and Evolution vs. Intelligent Design, at Every Thought Captive; and thanks to Greg Wallace's link at What Attitude Problem? UPDATE II: Another link / review at Everything I Know Is Wrong, and thanks to Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments blog for the link.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

That silly superstition called Love...

Check out Jonah Goldberg's The Sore-Loser Party. An excerpt:
Love, in fact, is just as silly and superstitious a concept as God (and for those who believe God is Love, this too is a distinction without a difference). Chesterton's observation that the purely rational man will not marry is just as correct today, because science has done far more damage to the ideal of love than it has done to the notion of an awesome God beyond our ken. Genes, hormones, instincts, evolution: These are the cause for the effect of love in the purely rational man's textbook. But Maher would get few applause lines from his audience of sophisticated yokels if he mocked love as a silly superstition. This is, in part, because the crowd he plays to likes the idea of love while it dislikes the idea of God; and in part because these people feel love, so they think it exists. But such is the extent of their solipsism and narcissism that they not only reject the existence of God but go so far as to mock those who do not, simply because they don't feel Him themselves. And, alas, in elite America, feelings are the only recognized foundation of metaphysics.
Hat tip: Rev. Mike

Monday, November 08, 2004

Jupiter Occultation...

From Earth & Sky,
Today’s chart shows the moon poised above Jupiter in Tuesday morning’s sky, preparing to blot it from view. It’ll be a lovely sky scene -- not to be missed -- for all of us in the U.S.
Tuesday, November 9, 2004 Looking East Before Dawn

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Flores Man update...

Reasons to Believe has broadcast a report on the recent story of the Flores Man discovery. You can access their Creation Update webpage here, and the specific broadcast here. It's a very good summary of the discovery, as well as some of the extrapolations made by the scientific community. They also discuss how it is similar, and not similar, to Homo erectus, including some of the reasons why the scientific community uses evolutionary thinking to drive the conclusion that Flores Man is related to erectus.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Nov. 3rd...

Per CNN article, Regret, no remorse in Kerry's call for unity,
...the junior Massachusetts senator made repeated references to unifying a divided nation that produced only a two percentage point difference in the popular vote for the two presidential candidates. It started when he disclosed the contents of his conversation with the president. "... I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory, " Kerry said. "We had a good conversation, and we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need -- the desperate need for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing."
Kerry could have contested the results... it must have been incredibly tempting. But he chose to graciously concede. Thank you, Senator John F. Kerry.

Monday, November 01, 2004


"River Reflection" - Tiekel River, AK ©1994 RL

Friday, October 29, 2004

Flores Man and the Imago Dei - Evolutionary desperation...

The evolutionary world has been going gaga recently over a new fossil find. From Nature we read,
It sounds too incredible to be true, but this is not a hoax. A species of tiny human has been discovered, which lived on the remote Indonesian island of Flores just 18,000 years ago. Researchers have so far unearthed remains from eight individuals who were just one metre tall, with grapefruit-sized skulls. These astonishing little people, nicknamed 'hobbits', made tools, hunted tiny elephants and lived at the same time as modern humans who were colonizing the area.
Why all the fuss? Well, the unique distinctiveness of modern humans, while blatantly evident, is virtually impossible to explain in evolutionary terms. Combine that distinctiveness with the relatively recent appearance of modern humans - what is sometimes referred to as the Mind's Big Bang - and what you end up with is evidence for the Biblical account of mankind's origin. So finding an evolutionary relative, contemporary with modern humans, is cause for naturalistic celebration. One should note that when the folks at Nature say a species of tiny human, they aren't referring to a bunch of jockeys itching to ride the Triple Crown. Evolutionists will sometimes use the term "human" to refer to bipedal primates as far back as Australopithecus, or at least as far back as Homo ergaster. Rendering of Homo floresiensis from National Geographic. Flores So-Called Man, according to the article, is considered to be an offshoot of Homo erectus. If you'll note, in the following diagram, that Homo floresiensis is at the tail end of a sliver spiking upwards from Homo erectus. No mention is made that, at present, there is no fossil evidence connecting the two. Despite the overwhelming evidence of modern human uniqueness, evolutionists continue their quest for any shred of evidence that indicates humanity is not so special afterall. Henry Gee, in a Nature column titled, Flores, God and Cryptozoology, concludes with,
Until now. If it turns out that the diversity of human beings was always high, remained high until very recently and might not be entirely extinguished, we are entitled to question the security of some of our deepest beliefs. Will the real image of God please stand up? (emphasis added)
The evolutionary biologists are drooling over the apparent fact* that Homo floresiensis had "tools" 18,000 years ago, yet they seem to ignore the fact that Homo sapiens explored art some 30,000 years ago. What is it about that Homo sapiens species that causes it to be so concerned with the abstract? Further reference: The Leap to Two Feet RTB Response to: Up From The Apes * the National Geographic article states, The skeleton was found in the same sediment deposits on Flores that have also been found to contain stone tools. There was no indication that the tools were found with the Homo floresiensis fossils.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The hypocrisy of absolute morality?...

In criticizing atheism I have used the argument that the atheist who adheres to some form of morality, albeit relative morality, is not being logically consistent with the implications of the idea of a world without God. Essentially, I have stated that if an atheist truly believes that there is no God, then everything that exists must have come about through strictly natural processes. If that which is real is only that which is empirically verifiable, then abstract concepts, such as one’s love for their child, or an understanding of meaning to the universe, are merely illusions. While an atheist may point to empirical evidence as so-called proof of love for their child, they have no way of demonstrating that the abstract concept of love itself truly exists. Yet you’d be hard pressed to find an atheist who does not truly love his child. Hence, I argue that such a dichotomy illustrates a fatal flaw within the naturalistic atheist worldview. However, there have been comments on this blog by individuals who argue that it is the concept of absolute morality, particularly that of Christianity, which reeks of hypocrisy. Their argument, as best I understand it, posits that for a Christian to claim they are aware of absolute morality is no different than a relativist claiming that morality is relative – each is making their own truth claim so… who’s to be believed? Furthermore, they claim that since certain actions by the Christian God have varied over time, with regards to His administering violations of His moral law, then regardless of whatever else His moral law is – it is most certainly relative. To properly respond to this argument one must understand the difference between the concept of absolute morality and the application, or enforcement, of moral laws. When the Christian claims that absolute morality exists he is not claiming that it has been specially revealed to him and him alone. The Christian believes that the innate knowledge of right and wrong resides within every human being, and that such an innate knowledge is due to the fact that God has created human beings in His Image. The knowledge that right and wrong exists implies that there is a morality which we must all adhere to. While it is true that all cultures have had varying applications of moral laws, it is also true that they have all inherently understood the concept of right and wrong. Every culture's response to the knowledge of right and wrong, regardless of how incorrect such a response is, indicates the existence of this transcendent and abstract concept. This is not a minor point, for it has implications with how we address the second part of the criticism levied against Christians. The second part of the criticism has to do with the enforcement of Biblical moral laws and is usually tied to some Old Testament law, the violation of which results in the death of an individual or group of individuals. For example, since God required homosexuals to be stoned to death in the past, why do Christians ignore this command today? The answer, so it is surmised, is because the so-called absolute morality presented in the Old Testament is, in fact, relative. Again, the error here has to do with how the general concept of absolute morality is confused with that of a specific application of punishment. Note that, in the example given, the sin highlighted has always been considered sin by God. Homosexuality is a sin in both the Old and New Testaments. In this specific example the issue isn’t how we treat the homosexual sin but that we understand that homosexuality is a sin. Do you see the difference here? Regardless of how the sin is dealt with, it is still sin. Critics will counter with the apparent fact that other cultures in time have had moral laws that varied greatly from that of the Judeo-Christian ethic. For example, we find instances of child sacrifice, wife swapping, bestiality, etc., throughout history. That various cultures have had varying morals, however, is of no use in addressing the fact that these same cultures have had an inherent knowledge of right and wrong. Consider the adventures of Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery as they traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific and back. It is interesting to note the variety of customs they ran across among the many Indian tribes with whom they made contact. The Indian men of one tribe, for example, offered their wives to sleep with the Americans in the hopes, that through their own future sexual relations, they would receive some of the power the Americans possessed. That we would consider such actions wrong, even though those particular Indians did not, is inconsequential to the argument that both the Americans and the Indians understood the concept of right and wrong. This concept transcends the specific applications that both the Corps of Discovery and the Indians may have attempted to follow. There are implications from the argument that the idea of right and wrong transcends human history. Where does an idea originate, if not from a mind? If an idea is transcendent, then does that not imply that it has come from a mind that is transcendent? If so, we have moved from acknowledging that the concept of right and wrong exists, to admitting that it is transcendent, and because the idea is transcendent, it originated from a transcendent mind. But… which mind? The Christian argues that the God of the Bible is the mind which has provided us with the knowledge of right and wrong. The Christian also posits that God has been working through human history and has provided us with a written record through which we can better understand His plan. Contained within this written record are clarifications to the inherent knowledge we all possess – aspects that J. Budziszewski writes about in his book What We Can’t Not Know. Two points should be noted here: 1) because God is the Author of absolute morality, violations of His moral law are transgressions against God and, 2) specific enforcement of God’s moral law is separate from the moral law itself. If God is the Author of the His moral law, then He has the authority to decide how to address a violation of that law. This should not be surprising for we see the same principle all the time in our own legal system. A criminal is found guilty of breaking the law and then is handed a sentence. Regardless of the severity of the sentence, the fact remains that the criminal broke the law. In other words, the criminal did something wrong. Although Timothy McVeigh was executed, and Charles Manson still sits in a prison cell, they were both found guilty of murder. The question of why God may have used multiple means of addressing violations to His law at specific times in history is certainly a valid question, but that He acted in more than one manner does not, in and of itself, indicate that the concept of absolute morality has been violated. If time permits in the future, I'd like to address the following related questions: How do we determine which laws are known to all and which must be taught? Why should we not follow certain Old Testament laws (such as the one indicating that homosexuals must be stoned to death)? For further information, please reference J. Budziszewski’s books: Written on the Heart The Revenge of Conscience What We Can’t Not Know as well as Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Central California Coast...

Just returned from a Field Trip / Campout, with our Home School group, up to California's Central Coast region. A great, if not exhausting time, was had by all. "The Cove" - Montana de Oro, CA ©2004 RL

Sunday, October 17, 2004

367 days of blogging…

One year ago today, on October 17, 2003, I posted my first blog entry. I started this blog because of Hugh Hewitt’s book, In, But Not Of. Hugh argues that the Christian who wishes to be in a position to influence secular society must strive for such a position. Blogging was but one of a variety of methods, which Hugh described, through which one could attain such positions of influence. While I agree that blogging is a powerful tool, I suspect that the reality of Hugh’s world is quite different from that of my own. For instance, I have yet to hear Hugh reference whether or not he has any children. He has indicated that he is aware of the responsibilities involved in raising children but if, in fact, he has not had his own children, then I seriously doubt whether he truly understands the enormity of the task; especially when parents are deeply committed to their children’s upbringing. I do not fault him for this, because to do so would be tantamount to comparing the lives of two childless professionals with that of a professional husband, his stay-at-home wife, and their two home schooled children. Within the parameters of such a comparison, then, it should come as no surprise that the professional husband and wife are able to devote more of their time to the task of influencing secular society. I suppose the major difference, therefore, is that my wife and I have decided that influencing our children takes priority over influencing secular society. Time. There are only 24 hours of it in every day. I am a professional, but I am not involved in either the legal or journalistic professions. A serious day at work for me does not mean that I’ve been able to check the writings of the 30+ bloggers on my blogroll (and their links), much less stay on top of the latest media headlines across the globe. What about, you may ask, the idiom that positions of influence only go to those who seek them? I’m well aware of the proverbial wisdom behind such an edict, however, what about the wisdom inherent in such activities as: having dinner with my family (yeah – my family), spending time with my wife (yep – I’m married, y’know?), paying my bills, mowing the lawn, painting the fence, teaching an occasional Bible Study, running a Home School group meeting, home schooling my daughters, or… something as mundane as playing with my daughters (now there’s a novel concept!)? Blogging? That’s right! I’ve also got to find the time to write posts on my blog, answer comments to my posts, read the blogs on my blogroll, read the links the blogs on my blogroll send me to, write the occasional comment on someone else’s blog, answer the comments to my comments on someone else’s blog, etc., etc., etc. I do all this, or so I’m told, in order to participate in the noble task of influencing secular society. Well, like I said, I’m convinced that influencing my children takes priority over influencing secular society. How about doing both? Okay, maybe I’m just a bit slower than the average blogger in getting my thoughts down on paper (virtual paper – that is). Maybe I can’t rely on my memory but actually have to look up facts in order to accurately write about them. Maybe I need to take a speed reading course. Maybe I sleep too much or spend too much time in the garden. Maybe I just don’t have my priorities straight. Priorities? Let me tell you a story about priorities. ---- In January of 2003 the situation at my place of employment was dire (not that it’s entirely a bed of roses at present). There was the very real possibility that I would be laid off. An opportunity came up for a short term assignment (about 4 months in duration) at a remote location in northern Alberta, Canada. I would have been away from my family for only 3 – 4 weeks at a time and would have gotten to visit them on periodic home leaves of about 4 days in length. From a strictly pragmatic point of view it seemed logical to accept the assignment. After all, I would keep management happy in that I was willing to travel for the company, and I would keep my job – always a good thing if you need to eat. But from the moment I heard about the opportunity I did not consider it to be a wise move. My family is here at home and I have no business leaving them for extended periods of time. Although the situation at work was dire, it was not a situation where the only means of work was away from my family. What’s more, this was certainly not a situation in which I was in the military, knowing full well that tours of duty, away from your family, are a necessity. No, in this situation I had a great deal of control regarding my destiny. Against my better judgment I chose to go on the assignment. I had not been at the project site more than two days when I realized that I had not only made the wrong choice, but had set a bad precedent as well. Being on such an assignment, as a single person, is not a problem… as a husband, it’s rough, but doable… as a husband and father, it is horrendous. [Note: remember this whenever you meet up with military personnel who have been on tours of duty away from their wives and children.] As the situation began to tear me apart, I made the decision that I was not going to let outside factors (i.e., the company I work for) determine how I was going to raise my family. And so… I decided to come home. Keep in mind that in backing out of the assignment (that I had previously agreed to) I was coming home to unemployment. I knew this, but had concluded that unemployment with my family was better than employment away from my family. As it turned out, the company I work for found a few other projects for me to work on, and I remain employed there to this day. Interestingly enough, the stance I took, for the reasons I did, had an impact on several of my co-workers. One of them, who has been with the company for 35 years (and three marriages), told me how impressed he was with what I had done. I suppose that the priorities of my day to day life, in that particular experience, exerted an influence on secular society. Since that experience I tend to view the topic of family vs. career in a slightly different light. I’ve written about it at least a couple of times on this blog (check here, and here). ---- So, how does this all relate to the one year anniversary of my blog? Well, while the year has been fun, I find that to maintain a blog, at a level of influence advocated by Hugh Hewitt, is unattainable for me (at this time). The finite amount of time I have each day would be better utilized in devotion to God and my family. So I will be cutting back tremendously on the level of attention this blog gets. I’m not leaving the blogosphere completely (much to the chagrin of at least a few bloggers out there); I’m just becoming more of a “casual visitor.” Despite the fact that my future posts will be much less frequent they will, hopefully, be much more thought out. Although this is by no means a final farewell, I do want to thank all those who have encouraged me over the past 12 months. I have definitely learned a lot. Until the next post…

Saturday, October 16, 2004


"Golden Poppy Hillside" - SR 14, California © 1995 RL

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hugh Hewitt’s Virtual Symposium # 3

This week’s question from Hugh:
How deep a hole have John Kerry, Mary Beth Cahill and the Edwards dug for themselves? How lasting the damage? John Kerry's refusal to apologize for abusing Mary Cheney's privacy, his campaign manager's blunt declaration that Ms. Cheney is "fair game," and Elizabeth Edwards' accusation that Lynne Cheney is ashamed of her daughter have sparked bipartisan outrage.
Kerry’s blunder, and his refusal to apologize for it, gives yet another clear indication of the true character of this man. That John Edwards foreshadowed his remarks, and that Cahill provided us with an epilogue (not to mention comments by John Edwards' wife), give us clear indication that such remarks were not impromptu. This has all the markings of being a carefully designed attack. One of the great lies perpetrated on the American people in recent times is that of the Democratic Party being the savior of the masses… the great liberator of the downtrodden, hungry, sick, and oppressed in our society. If there is a liberator, then there must be an oppressor. Hence, the Republican Party is continually castigated as the Great Evil, the liberation from which can only come about through the Democratic Party. The Great Evil cares nothing for the oppressed, whether it be their economic status, healthcare, access to abortion providers, or civil rights. The Great Evil is fueled by hatred, fundamentalism, bigotry, and intolerance. Or so we’re told. Within such a structure of belief, one of the most sensible attacks on the leaders of the Great Evil would be to point out how hypocritical they are. Should we be surprised, then, that the likes of Kerry, Cahill, and Edwards mount an offensive attempting to pull back the curtain on the so-called hypocrisy of the Vice President and his wife? Should we really be surprised that the extremists of the Left see no problem with considering children of their opponents “fair game”? If there is still hope, it is that America may finally be able to clearly see that the current leaders, of a historically reputable political party, have debased themselves and their constituents. They will see that the same party which professes tolerance, yet drags an opponent’s lesbian daughter into the limelight, is the same party which claims to be concerned for the safety of Americans, yet views terrorism as simply a potential nuisance.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Pragmatic Nihilism: How a naturalistic worldview renders our existence supreme…

Our friend Ed Brayton, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, has taken Matt Powell and myself to task for posts we recently published related to the death of Christopher Reeve and ESCR. Ed states,
Both Rusty at New Covenant and Matt at Wheat and Chaff have posted in the last couple days to bash Christopher Reeve for promoting embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. They say that he is selfish and self-serving for promoting "death" to improve his own position.
This is a bit amusing considering that my post, Mere Comments on Christopher Reeve, was simply a direct copy of a post by Patrick Reardon over at Touchstone Magazine’s blog, Mere Comments. I clarified this point with Ed but instead of correcting his original post he compounded his error by adding a postscript in which he states,
PZ Myers has also been writing about this subject the last couple days, and as a developmental biologist lends some scientific details to the discussion. In this post, he discusses why ESC is important and why it may also be important to combine the research on adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells to unlock how they work; in this post, he looks at some other right wing nutballs who are tearing down Christopher Reeve far beyond what Rusty and Matt attempt. One of them even wonders if he arranged his death on purpose to become a martyr and help John Kerry get elected. Where do these idiots come from?
Now, while I would love to take credit for the wise words penned by Patrick Reardon, they remain his words. Clarifications aside, I believe that the gist of Ed’s post highlights an inherent flaw in the worldview of naturalism. Ed argues that ESCR is, in reality, pro-life. He states,
The choice for ESC research is not between "destroying life" and not destroying life. The choice is between using the enormous store of frozen zygotes that will otherwise be tossed out for promising scientific research that can help millions of people over the next few decades, or simply tossing them out. That's the only choice we face.
Note how, in his postscript, he links to posts by P. Z. Myers in which Myers argues for the validity of ESCR and how, in his opinion, opponents of ESCR are idiots. In his post, To people who hate humanity, Myers states,
When you tell me you think an embryo is the same as my kids, you cheapen the worth of my children. They are much, much more than that small thoughtless blob. You reduce the value of family to mindless chemistry and metabolism.
Why do both Myers and Ed hold such strong beliefs on this issue? Myers is an avowed atheist, while Ed lives next door in the world of deism. Both follow some form of naturalism. Now, consider for a moment that naturalism posits that nature is all there is. If that is true, then when we die… we die – no heavenly existence, no beautiful afterlife, just nothing. So, if there’s nothing after this life, then how this life plays out in the here and now becomes our ultimate concern. The nihilist will tell you that since the universe has no ultimate meaning, it’s better to live your life to your best advantage – regardless of any adverse impact on society. There’s a bit of a problem with that line of thinking though, and both Myers and Ed know what it is – there is meaning in their lives. Whether it be through a spouse, child, mother, or friend, they are well acquainted with the existence of the abstract reality of love. I would argue that they are also well aware of how living their lives as nihilists, at the expense of those they love, would be inherently wrong. Interesting, isn’t it, how the idea of a common understanding of right and wrong always seems to show up? Think about it. What drives the intense emotion found in the words of Ed and Myers? They believe that this life, here and now, is all there is... or all they think they can be sure of. If you choose not to admit to the total hopelessness of such a position, then all you are left with is the task, pointless as it may be, of making this life as meaningful as you can. The atheist Michael Shermer illustrated the hopeless position of his worldview quite nicely on the recent PBS broadcast, The Question of God. He stated,
I don't believe there's an afterlife at all — this is all there is. For example, when my mother was dying, she had these brain tumors. They kept taking them out, they kept coming back. And this went on and on for 10 years. You know, I felt from the moment this started happening, that since I'll never see her again and she's not going anywhere and neither am I, this is it — every single moment I could have with her, everything I could say to her that was loving, all that just to me was incredibly enhanced by the fact that there is nothing else.
You see? This life becomes so important that, eventually, Pragmatic Nihilism becomes our god. If, for the sake of someone like this, we state that this is not a human being... then how far removed are we from stating that this is not a human being? The ultimate reality of our existence manifests itself in many ways, not the least of which is love. Such a reality continues to be the deadly poison afflicting Naturalism. Although there are many people who have strongly steeped themselves in Naturalism’s brew, the poison remains in their bloodstream.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Faith-based Elections...

While I would be the first to admit that the majority of the members in our church congregation are conservative in their political persuasion, our pastors have never used the pulpit to campaign for a particular candidate for political office. What the congregation is told is to get out... and vote. Simple as that. Now, certainly, much of the motivation for such a tactic has to do with IRS regulations regarding non-profit organizations. So it is quite interesting to read Kerry Campaigns in Church over at PowerLine. Here are some images of a recent stop, by John "But..." Kerry, at a Baptist Church in Miami. As Hindrocket at PowerLine states,
It's time to level the playing field, and either abandon the principle that churches can't endorse candidates, or apply the current rules equally to both sides.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Mere Comments on Christopher Reeve...

With regards to recent comments on my post I "respect" your belief, the post, CHRISTOPHER REEVE, in pace requiescat, by Patrick Reardon at Mere Comments is worthy of presenting in full:
This morning, when I learned of his passing away, I prayed the De Profundis for Christopher Reeve, claimed at last by that Final Enemy, the eschatos echthros (1 Corinthians 15:26) that all of us must, in due course, confront one way or another. Mr. Reeve had been on my mind more than usual over the past few days. In the presidential debate last Friday night, Senator Kerry appealed to "my friend Chris Reeve" by way of arguing his own case for the governmental support of human embryonic stell stem research. Reeve's name came up again the following evening when Cal Thomas spoke of both him and Michael J. Fox, who has also recently contributed his own support for Senator Kerry, likewise seeking governmental support for human embryonic stem cell research. Cal Thomas asked what I think is the question most prejudicial to the efforts of these two men in this respect: What makes the life of Christopher Reeve or Michael J. Fox more important than other human lives? What is there so special about these two actors that renders their existence, even their well-being, of greater worth than the lives of the embryos that they want to be created and exploited on their behalf? What justifies the killing of very small and helpless human beings so that the tissue of their flesh can be used to improve the lot of men like Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox? Indeed, if a society can be persuaded to place so diminished a value on helpless human lives, why should such a society care one whit for the reduced existence of Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox? Why should they receive a preference that the Florida Supreme Court recently denied to Terri Schiavo? Putting it plainly, wherein is the life of Terri Schiavo found wanting except that she somehow failed to be a movie star? These are the questions on my mind today, as I consider the passing away of Christopher Reeve. His nefarious political activism causes me to think of him very differently from those who recall him chiefly as an actor and movie director, or even as a man of great courage and dedication. Christopher Reeve's desperate, Promethean striving for renewed strength during the final decade of his life, when his relentless brain remained as the only fully functioning organ of his wasted body, resembled nothing so much as the supreme trial of an Ubermensch far superior to the rest of men. He became a very strange and ironic embodiment of the Superman part for which he is most readily recalled. Perhaps, the title of his best known book sums it up, Still Me. My prayer for Christopher Reeve today is sincere: "Despise not, O Lord, the work of Thy hands." —Patrick Reardon

FOUND!: that "non-partisan" individual...

I posted a while back on the ignorance inherent in the idea that in order for an election to be "fair" it must be run by "non-partisans." I also, tongue-in-cheek, posited a possible conversation one might have in their quest to find these elusive non-partisans. Apparently, the search is not so futile after all. A co-worker was in the exercise gym the other day, after one of the debates, and the TV monitor was set to CNN. Evidently John McCain was on camera, giving his take on the issues at hand. My friend tells me that another member of the gym was working out next to him and, after nodding towards the TV, asked, "So... who's this guy?" Whoo-boy! An American adult who doesn't recognize John McCain? Now, at best I'd label this person as ignorant, and at worst - stupid. But maybe, just maybe, he's the type of non-partisan that Jimmy Carter's Election Police are looking for.

We've got the "need and greed for oil"...

Per FoxNews, Heinz Kerry: John Would Avoid War,
The wife of presidential candidate John Kerry told a receptive audience in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas that Kerry would seek out all other options before going to war. "John will never send a boy or girl in a uniform anywhere in the world because of our need and greed for oil," Teresa Heinz Kerry (search) told about 1,200 supporters at the McAllen Civic Center. - (emphasis added)
With only 3 weeks left until election day I am flabbergasted that anyone still subscribes to the absurd Blood for Oil notion regarding the invasion of Iraq. The icing on the cake is that the latest comments from "Ta-Ray-Zuh" Kerry. I drove by my favorite gas station this morning Teresa, and the price for unleaded was $2.29 a gallon. Now, remember, we're only 3 weeks from electing either John "But..." Kerry or George "Big Oil" Bush... kind of makes you wonder about this "need and greed for oil" malarkey, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bryce Canyon...

"Navajo Loop Trail - Looking Up" - Bryce Canyon, UT © 1994 RL

Friday, October 08, 2004

I "respect" your belief...

Are beliefs no more than feelings that can change with one's disposition? Is our morality simply a byproduct of said feelings? If so, then does respect for someone elses feelings or beliefs really matter? Consider a rapist who might express to his soon to be victim, "I really respect your belief that rape is wrong, but..." During the debate tonight there was a question from one Elizabeth Long to John Kerry:
LONG: Senator Kerry, thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical cord stem cells. However, no one has been cured by using embryonic stem cells. Wouldn't it be wide to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo? KERRY: You know, Elizabeth, I really respect your -- the feeling that's in your question. I understand it. I know the morality that's prompting that question, and I respect it enormously. But... - (emphasis added)
Then another question for Kerry from Sarah Degenhart:
DEGENHART: Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion, what would you say to that person? KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now. First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today. But... - (emphasis added)
John "But..." Kerry

Hugh Hewitt Symposium # 2...

Hugh Hewitt second Virtual Symposium asks the following question:
"What do Kerry's answers to today's press inquiries tell us about Kerry's worldview and character?"
Here’s an excerpt from the exchange:
Q. "If you are elected, given Paul Bremer's remarks, and deteriorating conditions as you have judged them, would you be prepared to commit more troops." A. "I will do what the generals believe we need to do without having any chilling effect, as the president put in place by firing General Shinseki, and I'll have to wait until January 20th. I don't know what I am going to find on January 20th, the way the president is going. If the president just does more of the same every day, and it continues to deteriorate, I may be handed Lebanon, figuratively speaking. Now, I just don't know. I can't tell you. What I'll tell you is, I have a plan. I have laid out my plan to America, and I know that my plan has a better chance of working. And in the next days I am going to say more about exactly how we are going to do what has been available to this Administration that it has chosen not to do. But I will make certain that our troops are protected. I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, and I will make sure that we are successful, and I know exactly what I am going to do and how to do it."
That excerpt should be heralded across the nation as quintessential Kerry-speak. What does he say, really? If the generals believe we need to commit more troops, then Kerry will do so? What about his commitment to get our troops out of Iraq? How could he justify sending in more troops, given his stance that the war in Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time? It becomes moot, though, when he then states, ”Now, I just don’t know. I can’t tell you,” and then proceeds to tell us that he has a plan! Not only does he have a plan but he’s already “laid out” his plan to America. But, presumably for those of us who may have missed it, he’s going to take the next few days to say more about this plan, the one he didn’t know about, but which he has and has already laid out to America. Apparently this plan, the known one – not the unknown one, has the capability to insure that our troops are protected, that the terrorists are hunted down and killed, and that we will be successful. A Kerry quote from tonight's debate sums it up: I could do a better job. My plan does a better job. And that's why I'll be a better commander in chief. Another excerpt:
Q. Duelfer also said that Saddam fully intended to resume his weapons of mass destruction program because he felt that the sanctions were just going to fritter away. A. But we wouldn't let them just fritter away. That's the point. Folks! If You've got a guy who's dangerous, you've got a guy you suspect is going to do something, you don't lift the sanctions, that's the fruits of good diplomacy.
Good diplomacy? What? Isn’t diplomacy considered the art of dealing tactfully with other people? How could sanctions of any kind be considered tactful? Sanctions are penalties imposed to enforce compliance – hardly tactful. Kerry’s remarks exhibit a lack of understanding of Middle Eastern culture. I spent about 4 months in Saudi Arabia back in 1983 and, even though it wasn’t much time, it was enough to educate me in the cultural aspects of the Arabian world. Simply put, economic sanctions are the product of a Western mindset and they will work only when one adheres to a Western way of thinking. The mindset derived by Middle Eastern culture simply does not view sanctions in the same manner as the West. Upon entering Saudi Arabia in 1983 I had several veterans of life there explain it to me: Suppose you are minding your own business driving your car through a city in Saudi Arabia. Another car, being driven by a Saudi national, runs a red light and plows into you. Guess what? In the Saudi’s eyes you are at fault! The reasoning is quite simple – being a foreigner, you don’t belong in Saudi. If you don’t belong there, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. Therefore, since the accident wouldn’t have happened if you had stayed where you belong, the accident is your fault. Kerry’s ignorance goes far beyond such a simple cultural gaffe though. He’s actually advocating the use of diplomacy for a tyrant. How far removed is that from the absurd notion of diplomacy with a terrorist?

New Mexico clouds...

"Clouds over Northern New Mexico" - Chama, NM ©2004 RL

Origins - where are you from?...

PBS broadcast a 4 hour NOVA series last week titled Origins. It was very well done. From the website:
Has the universe always existed? How did it become a place that could harbor life? What was the birth of our planet like? Are we alone, or are there alien worlds waiting to be discovered? NOVA presents some startling new answers in "Origins," a groundbreaking four-part NOVA miniseries hosted by dynamic astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson leads viewers on a cosmic journey to the beginning of time and into the distant reaches of the universe, searching for life's first stirrings and its traces on other worlds.
Although it comes from a naturalisitc point of view, it turns out to be an excellent polemic for the existence of a Creator. Whether discussing the aspect of the creation of the Moon or how the timing of the late heavy bombardment relates to the appearance of life, the series is loaded with cutting edge science. Before you view the NOVA feature, though, you might want to watch the Reasons to Believe Journey Towards Creation DVD, read Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off, and listen to the October 5th broadcast of RTB's Creation Update.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

“Partisan” officials run U.S. elections! Oh, the humanity!...

A CNN web article titled, U.S. gets election advice from outsiders, reveals the rampant ignorance with regards to the issue of how being partisan relates to American politics. Consider this excerpt,
David MacDonald, a Canadian member of a team organized by the San Francisco human rights group Global Exchange, said observers were shocked to find that partisan officials run U.S. elections. Requiring election officers to be nonpartisan "is as close as you can get in democratic or electoral terms to a universal norm," MacDonald said after visiting Missouri, where Secretary of State Matt Blunt, a Republican, is the chief electoral officer and a candidate for governor. "There are some very serious problems that need to be addressed." – (emphasis added)
This is absurd. Let’s ignore the issue of whether David MacDonald has any business telling the U.S. how to run its elections and focus, instead, on the issue of being nonpartisan. What does that mean? Someone who doesn’t care whether John Kerry, George Bush, or Howard Stern is elected President of the United States? Are we supposed to search for individuals with no bias, who have no preference regarding the direction elected representatives take our various governmental entities? Wouldn't such persons be described as narcissistically apathetic? Suppose we were to go hit the streets and try to find a nonpartisan person? How would we know one when we met one? Would our conversation with this person go something like this?:
”Excuse me buddy? Are you going to vote for Bush?” NO! “Are you voting for Kerry then?” NO! “Are you voting for someone else?” NO! “What political party do you belong to?” I don’t! “Don't you have any political beliefs?” No! I don’t want to be bothered! “Why?” Because… I don’t care!
Yeah, that’s just the type of person I’d want to run an election.

Bush is a Kerry operative…

The release of the inspector’s report concluding that Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of WMD prior to the U.S. invasion has led to some strong allegations against the Bush administration. Senator Jay Rockefeller stated,
"Despite the efforts to focus on Saddam's desires and intentions, the bottom line is Iraq did not have either weapon stockpiles or active production capabilities at the time of the war,"
Senator Jane Harman stated,
"The Duelfer report is yet another example that there really are two Americas... There's the one that exists in the Bush fantasy world, and then there's the real America. In the Bush fantasy world, they still claim that Iraq was an imminent threat with weapons of mass destruction."
The line of thinking seems to be that, prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bush knew that Saddam did not have stockpiles of WMD. Despite that knowledge Bush, so the story goes, told the American people otherwise (i.e., he lied). But if Bush knew that Saddam didn’t have the WMD, then he must have also known that we wouldn’t find any WMD. After all, how can you find something that, not only isn’t there, but that you know isn’t there? Okay, if Bush knew there were no stockpiles of WMDs in Iraq, and he knew that none would be found, then he knew that eventually such information would be made public. How could such information possibly help his reelection? His only recourse would be to squelch or delay the release of the inspector’s report until after the election. Yet he didn't do that, and the release of this report couldn’t have come at a worse time for him. The only reasonable explanation is that Bush is, in reality, a Kerry operative.