Friday, April 30, 2004

Who's in charge?...

We are in the process of remodeling portions of our house. As such, I have been spending a lot of time at either Lowe's or Home Depot. There was an interesting incident during a recent trip to Home Depot that got me to thinking. I was in the plumbing section, standing amidst a virtual forest of faucets on display. While pondering the vast amount of choices before my eyes I noticed a little girl, about two, walk by. Her mother was about fifteen feet behind her and, as she walked by, said to her daughter,
"Tuscany. Will you please hold my hand so I don't get lost?"
Eager to take a break from rationalizing the amount of money I was to spend on faucets, I turned to take a closer look at this woman. She appeared, from a cursory scan, to be relatively intelligent and certainly in control of her mental faculties. I must admit that I immediately became perplexed. For I not only found it difficult to believe that this lady could get lost in Home Depot, but I was mystified at the way her polite requests were so rudely ignored by her master. By this time the daughter had cleared our aisle and was rounding the corner into the next one. The mother, once again, vainly repeated her appeal for assistance from her daughter. For all I know, she's still wandering around that Home Depot waiting for her daughter to acquiese.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The electoral college of American Idol...

Elton John: 'American Idol' Is Racist
Singing legend Elton John this week joined the chorus of voices decrying “American Idol” as racist. John criticized the talent show’s voting process, carried out not by the trio of on-air judges but by the American viewing public. “The three people I was really impressed with — and they just happened to be black, young female singers — all seem to be landing in the bottom three,” the British singer said Tuesday during a promotional appearance for his concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. …“They have great voices. The fact that they’re constantly in the bottom three — and I don’t want to set myself up here — but I find it incredibly racist.” The racism controversy first erupted last Wednesday when Jennifer Hudson, who scored super-high marks with the judges, was ousted from the competition. Hudson is African-American. She and two other female black singers all got the lowest number of phoned-in votes. “I don’t know what it was based on, but it wasn’t talent,” Hudson told Fox News. “Because if it was, all three of us wouldn’t have been in the bottom three. Maybe one, but not all three.” Her booting-off prompted host Ryan Seacrest to remind viewers that the program wasn’t a popularity contest — it was about finding a gifted singer. The “Idol” winner gets a record deal.
If the latest results of the voting process on American Idol indicate that the viewing public is racist, then what are we to make of the crowds of adoring fans that flock to support the innocent-until-proven-guilty Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant? The real issue here is that the likes of Ryan Seacrest and Co. actually consider the voting process used by American Idol to be - valid. We live in an age where who gets to stay and who gets booted can be decided, by the American viewing public, through instantaneous telephone voting. Well… America decided, and the “professionals” didn’t quite like the way it turned out, did they? Kind of puts the American Music Awards in a different light now doesn’t it? Be careful what you wish for.

Left leaning and lost...

In case you haven't seen this mentioned on another blog already, check out the article, Pat Tillman: Dumb jock, baby killer?, by Ben Shapiro regarding some not so flattering comments the Left has been spewing out in reference to Pat Tillman. Here's an excerpt:
What would you call Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal football player killed in Afghanistan? A hero? An inspiring example of American military men and women? A model of principled strength? How about a "dumb jock"? A "baby killer"? A "dumb-a--"? A victim of "brainwashing"? If you were a regular reader of, odds are that you'd put him in the latter group. You'd think that Pat Tillman was a boob, a complete dimwit at best -- you might even believe that Pat Tillman was an evil person and deserved what he got.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Why bother?...

Kerry Takes Communion Despite Cardinal's Comment.
BOSTON — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry received communion from a Catholic priest Saturday, one day after a top Vatican cardinal said politicians who support abortion rights should be denied the Eucharist.
What was the point of that? Oh yeah, I forgot - "While I'm personally opposed to..." - you know, the separation of logic and state, etc., etc., etc.


I’m really out of touch with the latest fashions. Call it old age or whatever, but I don’t quite have the time to be concerned with such trivialities anymore (implication: I once did concern myself with such trivialities). Anyway, what’s up with guys having a shaved head and sunglasses sitting above the eyes? While some may think it’s the latest trend, I think it’s a cover for an upcoming alien invasion.

Run that by me again Maxine?...

Maxine Waters, councilwoman for the city of Los Angeles, had this to say during the recent march for so-called abortion rights:
I have to march because my mother could not have an abortion.
Dense does not even begin to describe this. Hat tip to:

What do Christians believe?...

Update: revised 1st paragraph per X's comment below... In recent discussions regarding Theistic Evolution I argue that it is logically inconsistent to believe in both Christianity and Theistic Evolution. I've had some people tell me that I am in error due to the fact that there are Christians around who claim to believe in both Christianity and Theistic Evolution. I think there is something a bit twisted with that reasoning in that it tends to beg the question. That is, just because one claims to hold to both beliefs does not necessarily dictate that such a claim is logically coherent. Consider Albert Mohler's recent article, The Alliance of Baptists Affirms Same-Sex Marriage.
Supporters of same-sex marriage have been aided in their quest to normalize homosexuality by a constellation of liberal religious groups--including some of the historic Christian denominations. These groups now serve as theological enablers for the homosexual movement's rejection of Christian morality. ...The Alliance directed its most critical words at Christian denominations that oppose same-sex marriage. "As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God." ...The Alliance's original covenant began with a call for its members to claim "the freedom of the individual, led by God's Spirit within the family of faith, to read and interpret the Scriptures, relying on the historical understanding by the church and on the best methods of modern biblical study." That wording was carefully crafted to allow the group and its members to deny the authority and truthfulness of difficult biblical texts dealing with issues like sexuality, while claiming to be "led by God's Spirit" and relying on historical interpretation and the "best methods" of modern biblical scholarship.
What would happen if we were to apply the same type of logic that supporters of TE use in this situation?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Fallout from the Pro-Abortion Protest...

Check Joe Carter's thoughts on the recent pro-abortion rally held in Washington, D.C.

The Word of God...

I've just gotten into Leland Ryken's The Word of God in English, and it appears that it will be a good read. Ryken approaches the topic not as a translator but as a literary critic. His intent is to inform us as to the need for integrity within the presentation of the words of the Bible. Such a presentation, he posits, must remain faithful to the intent of the author. He states,
The Bible is a written book and as such shares certain qualities with other books. This is not to deny that the Bible is unique, having been inspired by God in a way that other books are not. In format, though, the Bible is an anthology of diverse literary writings, similar to other anthologies. The writers of the Bible themselves signal their awareness of literary genres (types of writings) by referring with technical precision to such forms as chronicle, psalm, song, proverb, parable, apocalypse, and many others. In keeping with the nature of the Bible itself, therefore, there is much that we can learn about how to handle the Bible in translation by paying attention to how we treat literary texts beyond the Bible. If anything, our reverence for the biblical text should be higher than the respect we accord to Shakespeare and Hawthorne. ...Translation of course introduces an element of variability into the situation, so that we can debate whether this or that English word best captures the meaning of the original. But there remains a decisive difference between essentially literal translations that attempt to convey the exact meaning of the original words and other translations that do not feel obliged to reproduce the precise wording of the original. (emphasis in original)

Monday, April 26, 2004

On the Abortion Rights march...

Check for Latrell's post, Addendum to Reid's "March" post:
My personal vote for the "classiest" placard at the March for Women's Lives was one that appeared on a sign brandished by washed-up actress Cybil Shepherd. It read:
"Too bad John Ashcroft's mother didn't believe in abortion"
Talk about the politics of personal destruction. Seeing as Ashcroft was born well before Roe v Wade, had his mother been inclined to have had an abortion, she probably would have used one of those coat hangers like those that many of the marchers were carrying yesterday (and in a proverbial "back-alley"). According to the abortion rights movement, using a coat hanger was not exactly a safe procedure, but I guess the health of John Ashcroft's mother doesn't really concern them that much.
What if Janet Reno held to the same point of view as John Ashcroft? Substituting her name in place of his on Shepherd's placard would be consistent with Shepherd's view of abortion... but it would run completely against the so-called "March for Women's Lives."

Sunday, April 25, 2004

When 2 + 2 = 5...

Check Dembski’s Explanatory Filter Delivers a False Positive at the Panda's Thumb. Matt Young criticizes Bill Dembski's explanatory filter methodology for determining intelligent design:
Dembski’s vaunted explanatory filter is no more than a flow chart designed to distinguish events of low probability. If the probability of an event is low enough and if Dembski can discern a pattern, then he concludes that the event must have been the product of design. Dembski admits that the explanatory filter may produce a false negative (fail to infer design where design exists) but claims it will never produce a false positive (infer design where none exists). In this article, I will give a real example wherein the explanatory filter could have yielded a false positive. According to an article in Science [Quinn Eastman, “Crib Death Exoneration Could Usher in New Gene Tests,” Science, 20 June 2003, p. 1858], a British woman lost three babies to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or crib death) within four years. The Crown Prosecution Service applied the explanatory filter as follows: One death is tragic; two deaths are suspicious; three deaths are murder. The woman was prosecuted. According to the BBC, the rate of SIDS in England and Wales is less than 0.5 death per 1000 live births. In effect, prosecutors reasoned that the probability of three SIDS deaths was 0.00053, or approximately 10-10. They concluded that this probability was so small that a design inference was warranted, and the woman was charged. What the prosecutors did not know or ignored was that SIDS may be a genetic disease that runs in families. Indeed, the woman’s grandmother testified that three of her children died of unexplained causes before the ages of 6 weeks (in the 1940’s, before SIDS was recognized).
I posted a comment questioning the relevance of using an event with a probability calculated at 10^-10 as indicative of the failure of Dembski's explanatory filter. Dembski stated, in Intelligent Design,
...The French mathematician Emile Borel proposed 10^-50 as a universal probability bound below which chance could definitely be precluded - that is, any specified event as improbable as this could not be attributed to chance. ...In The Design Inference I justify a more stringent universal probability bound of 10^-150 based on the number of elementary particles in the observable universe, the duration of the observable universe until its heat death and the Planck time.
It would appear that an event with a probability of 10^-10 being falsely attributed to design falls outside the boundary of 10^-150 proposed by Dembski. Simply put, 10^-10 ≠ 10^-150. One response claimed that the probability could be met as such:
If, for example, the genetic disease makes it 100% likely that any child born from that mother will die, whereas the overall incidence of the disease is not 5 per thousand but 1 per million, and the mother had 25 babies which all died, then that meets the probability level of Dembski’s filter.
The only problem with that explanation is that the mother didn't have 25 babies (to her overwhelming joy), so the example is conjecture. Another comment was:
The 1e-150 number is Dembski’s “universal probability bound”. Probabilities smaller than this do not require justification of a “local small probability” bound.
This was a bit confusing since there was no reference I found in Dembski's book differentiating between a universal and local small boundary. The good news is that Dembski's work is being tested against data from current research.

New Links...

I've had on the Evangelical link list for a few weeks. I now see that they have New Covenant listed in their own links section... I'm honored. Also, Jollyblogger has linked to this site as well. The following C. S. Lewis quote graces his blog: Grace substitutes a full, childlike, and delighted acceptance of our Need, a joy in total dependence. We become "jolly beggars." Give his site a visit.

He must've been in the front row...

What's up with this list of every date that Jimmy Carter attended church while he was POTUS?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"Lord?" or "Homeboy?"...

Is Jesus your Lord? Or is Jesus your homeboy? Or do you think he’s, somehow, both? In various rants I have discussed that the casual attitude Evangelicals tend to show towards the creator of the universe is indicative of our general lack of understanding of His being. Criticisms to my complaints are typically along the lines that I am simply not appreciating the different cultural mores (e.g., hip-hop, or post-modern) present in our world. These criticisms continue despite the fact that I have noted that this lack of reverence seems to show up in virtually all Evangelical circles. As point of fact, though, I have never criticized the sincerity of hip-hop’sters or PoMos with regards to their love for Christ… I’ve just been highlighting particular instances where they lack discretion with their casual attitude. The following comment from Rev. Mike's site kind of sums up the response that I (and Joe @ Evangelical Outpost, and Rev. Mike) usually get on this topic: "I'm not into casual worship but I'm into come-as-you-are worship. There's nothing I can wear that impresses God. I come realizing I have nothing to offer except that I'm clinging to the one who makes me righteous. That's anything but casual. The minute I think a tie or a dress makes someone a better worshipper, I've missed the point." Sigh. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find out how people, who actually knew Jesus while he was here on earth, viewed their relationship with him? Wait a minute! We can! Why not just reference instances in the Bible where people actually interacted with Jesus? For starters, let's take a cursory look at the person who wouldn't have necessarily been considered one of Jesus’ close friends, but would have conversed with him nonetheless. For example:
And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” – Matthew 8:2 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. – Matthew 8:5-8 Then an expert in the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” – Matthew 8:19 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” – Matthew 8:21 As he was saying these things, a ruler came, bowed low before him, and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and she will live.” – Matthew 9:18 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, shouting, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he went into the house, the blind men came to him. Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” – Matthew 9:27-28 A Canaanite woman from that area came and cried out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is horribly demon-possessed!” But he did not answer her a word. Then his disciples came and begged him, “Send her away, because she keeps on crying out after us.” So he answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and bowed down before him and said, “Lord, help me!” “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” he said. “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” – Matthew 15:22-27 When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly, for he often falls into the fire and into the water. – Matthew 17:14-15
Notice any particular pattern going on here? How about those people that we would consider to be among Jesus' closest friends? How did they address him?:
As he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And a great storm developed on the sea so that the waves began to swamp the boat. But he was asleep. So they came and woke him up saying, “Lord, save us! We are about to die!” But he said to them, “Why are you cowardly, you people of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it was dead calm. And the men were amazed and said, “What sort of person is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!” – Matthew 8:23-27 Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.” So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:28-33 When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:13-16 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.’ – John 1:29-30 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” – John 14:5 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.” – John 14:8 “Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” – John 14:22 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). – John 20:16 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her. – John 20:18 When it was already very early morning, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?” They replied, “No.” He told them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they threw the net, and were not able to pull it in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” – John 21:4-7 Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” – John 21:15-17
Now this is by no means an exhaustive search. But the pattern shown should be quite apparent. Like it or not, those that were with Jesus during his ministry here on earth understood the fact that, despite His being human, He was Lord, Teacher, Christ (Messiah), and Son of God. There is no evidence that they ever uttered a cultural equivalent of “homeboy” when addressing or referencing Him.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

On Plans, templates, and similarities…

Over at The Panda’s Thumb we see a post that highlights a study done on limb loss in vertebrates. John Lynch states,
An interesting article in this week's edition of Nature suggests that at least in some fish, alterations in a single gene bring about evolutionary change in the form of limb (fin) loss.
Two follow-up posts on TPT, each by P. Z. Myers, can be found here and here. In the first follow-up P. Z. states,
Some of the complicating features of developmental genetics are pleiotropy and multigenic effects: that is, that the genes required to build an organism are all tangled together in an intricate web, with multiple genes required to properly assemble each character (that's the multigenic part), and each gene having multiple effects on multiple characters (that's pleiotropy). One might think of the organism as a house of cards, each card supporting all of the cards above it, so that tinkering with any one piece leads to catastrophic collapse. This isn't the case, of course. While developing systems are all elaborately interlocked, they also exhibit modularity and surprisingly robust flexibility.
In the second follow-up P. Z. states, with regards to the idea that the modularity and robust flexibility of a system could be used as evidence of design:
Quite the contrary, I see evidence of mechanisms that permit integrated evolution of organisms, with no designer required.
He provides more detail, via his own blog Pharyngula with, Development. Evolution. Genes. Fish. What's not to like?. In it we see the following image: Essentially, what we're hearing is that the integrated complexity found within the genetic structure of these species achieved its integrated complexity through blind chance because... well... they're here aren't they? Isn't it amazing how nature has solved the problem of spitting out either limbs or fins? - all with the flip of a switch! Yet imagine the power of templates. Imagine the efficiency in using a plan that allows for minor alterations that garner major changes. Imagine a set of instructions, a code - if you will, that allows one to step through a financial accounting program and, depending on the desired outcome, run a report of actual cost expenditures by region vs. running a report of revenue by project. Shucks, I don't have to imagine it at all - I ran a set of those reports today on a piece of software designed by semi-intelligent people. On the morphological side, consider the skeletal and muscular structure of the human arm and hand. Now note a robotic arm and hand that mimics the same functional capabilities as its human counterpart. As the website for the Shadow Robot Company states, "The human hand has twenty-four powered movements. Shadow have implemented every single one, with all the power and range of movement, that the human hand has... The muscles in the upper arm and torso are analogous to the human's." Have the robotic designers used the basic structural and morphological elements of a human arm and hand as a guide for their design criteria? How about a steam rotary engine? Let’s look at the schematics for such a device. If we cross reference now with electrical rotors we find the following from Penntex: a rotor, and a stator. Cross referencing with pump rotors we find, at Seepex pumps: a universal joint Common sense tells us that there are similarities in these various human designs because they are all working off the same basic template (i.e., rotary motor design). Variances within the details are due to varying specific parameters with regards to design criteria as well as to function, materials, power supply, etc. Now compare the human artifacts with a flagellar motor per the NCBI and ARN websites: , How interesting that the components of the flagellum precisely match up with the designed components of rotary motors. Additionally, note that the work in robotics, as well as the development of the rotary motors, did not occur through blind, random chance, but through intentional, rationalistic thought processes – i.e., through design.

Another angle on Jesus being 'hip'...

Check Touchstone Magazine's blog post titled, Jesus is Cool:
Another article from the Tucson Citizen you may find of some minor interest (I found it while looking for the link to the article Phillip Johnson recommended in the next item): Jesus is Cool. It includes the quote, given by a young Episcopal priest:
Richards wears a "Jesus surfs without a board" shirt from Urban Outfitters, where you can also find a Jesus action figure. "If Jesus is so reverent that we can't laugh about him, then Jesus isn't in our everyday lives," says Richards, 28.
One can just imagine the Apostles, whose successors an Episcopal minister claims to be, wearing such t-shirts around Jerusalem in the weeks after the Resurrection. One can imagine Perpetua and Felicity ordering one to wear in the arena. One can see crowds of Sudanese Christians standing before army firing squads in such t-shirts. One can . . . oh never mind. One cannot imagine the young Mr. Richards wearing a similar t-shirt with a comic message about Martin Luther King or any feminist whatsoever, no matter how obscure. —David Mills
What is it about our culture that causes us to consider the creator of the universe just another one of the gang? UPDATE: Joe @ Evangelical Outpost links to my post, among others, as he gives his excellent take on this issue. Note his response to my question above:
Good question. The cause, in my opinion, can be traced back to American Protestantism, particularly in the popular strands of evangelicalism. As a religious movement we have almost completely abandoned the concept of a transcendent creator in favor of a God who is our “best friend.” I remember as a young Baptist how we would gloss over the commands to “fear God” in favor of singing hymns about “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”... The idea of Jesus as our “friend” is deeply rooted in our particular religious culture. Our lack of reverence expresses itself in everything from our worship to our evangelism. How many times, for instance, have we seen an earnest Christian approach someone (including us) and ask, “Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”
So true. Unfortunately, we all too often hear responses such as one left on his site,
I both understand and believe that Christ is our Master, King, Savior, and Lord, but he is also our friend. The Bible even declares that. There were many times when Jesus called His disciples both servants and friends also. And even in the passage that reads, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Like anything, this all has to be taken into context. However, it becomes clear in much of scripture that God makes it clear to us the humanity of Jesus... I work with teenagers both Christian and non-Christian... It seems to me the problem here is not the shirts... Some of the young people in the youth group I lead, wear them too. And for them it is a true expression of them. Jesus is their homeboy. He has completely transformed their lives and they'll serve Him forever. It's a cultural expression. There is a cultural aspect about this I think people miss. The hip-hop generation can't be viewed through literal glasses. Everything is a metaphor.
I think we need to distinguish between adjusting the delivery of Christianity with regards to a particular culture vs. adjusting Christianity because of a particular culture. It may very well be that the hip-hop generation views everything as a metaphor... but Christ on the Cross is not a metaphor. It is part of the reality that forms the basis for Christianity. We need to make sure we understand the reality of who Christ is. As for Jesus being our best friend or whether we know him as our personal Saviour, it might be enlightening to check the book of Acts. Greg Koukl, from Stand to Reason, has an article titled, Preaching God's Love in Acts?, in which he outlines every instance of evangelism in the book of Acts. Thirteen accounts are listed. Koukl's conclusion?
The love of God is never mentioned a single time in the entire book of Acts.
Rather, the emphasis of the messages given had to do with "forgiveness of sin by Jesus the Messiah," or "Jesus the prophesied Messiah crucified and resurrected," or "the nature of God, and the reality of judgment."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

$Þǻm αהּd †hε dε†эc†iδή δf Mæהּ|ήg…

Can e-mail spam help us understand the inherent difference between deterministic decision making and rationalistic decision making? Typically, the contents of a spam’s subject field will give us an indication of the message contained in the actual e-mail. Consider these examples of spam subject lines that may grace our in-boxes:
“save munny!” “àdv=exclusive_äpplying-löans~with-cäsh out ón your home now” “V!@gra.Val|i|um.” “Save upto 1800 bukz on your favourive so0ftwarez.”
The push to sell a drug that rhymes with “niagra” seems to be relentless. In an attempt to stop this invasion of spam we may tell our e-mail system to filter out all messages that contain the word (per our rhyming example) “niagra.” But the spammers try to outwit us by sending a message in which they replace “niagra” with “n!@gra” in the subject field. Our e-mail filter program cannot ascertain that the intended meaning of “ni@gra” is equivalent to that of “niagra.” We may respond by telling our anti-spam filter to stop all e-mail that contains “n??gra,” “*gra,” and “niag*,” in which our use of the wildcard “?” and “*” characters attempts to circumvent the variant spellings of “niagra.” But, once again, the spammers can easily respond with “ni ag ra,” “n.i.a.g.r.a,” or “nye-ag-rah.” In virtually every case, we are able to ascertain the intended meaning of the spammer’s message, whereas the software, operating purely by the determinism of the simple instructions we have given it, will not. This becomes even more interesting when one looks at some of the more complex methods that anti-spam software programs use to filter out spam e-mail. Companies such as BrightMail enlist the use of sophisticated algorithms in their attempt to achieve a 99.9999% accuracy rating in filtering spam. Let’s step back for a moment and look at the process that is going on here: attempts are made by spammers to design e-mail messages in such a way as to allow them to pass through a filter, which has been designed by an anti-spammer in such a way as to block said e-mail messages. Note the manner in which BrightMail describes the process:
“Maintaining high effectiveness rates over time is challenging because spammers are constantly motivated to evade filters. Spammers… continually change their tactics, and time their attacks strategically within narrow dissemination windows. Their sophisticated tools create new spamming techniques, such as the randomization of headers and bodies. For these reasons, many solutions work well for the first few months but then their performance starts to deteriorate. In order to be consistently effective over the long run, an anti-spam solution must be responsive to these changes in attacks and methodologies.” “BrightSig™ technology is the cornerstone of Brightmail’s signature technology. When messages flow into the BLOC, they are compressed using proprietary algorithms into a unique “signature,” which is added to the database of known spam. Using this signature, BrightSig groups and matches seemingly random messages that originated from a single attack. Effective grouping allows Brightmail to create tight, targeted rules without having to write numerous such rules against a single attack. By distilling a complex and evolving attack to its DNA, more spam can be deflected with a single rule. As spammers adapted to BrightSig filtering, Brightmail introduced the next generation signature technology, BrightSig2. BrightSig2 has specific defenses against HTML-based spam, combating randomization and HTML noise (comments, constants, bad tags) that spammers insert to evade filters.”
At first glance, phrases such as evolving, adapting, randomization and, attack to its DNA, make it appear as if the spam / anti-spam process is a good analog to Darwinian Evolution. Yet note that what is going on here is hardly natural selection occurring across random variations. Both sides, the spammers and the anti-spammers, are designing their systems to address specific types of attacks. But I veer off on a tangent… Let’s consider one of the ways in which spamming technology attempts to circumvent anti-spam filters and how it relies on the rationalistic processes found in the human mind. Were you able to recognize meaning of the title of this blog post? Only 8 of the 27 characters used are valid. How about the following line? ΛΛε דh١ήﻶς |† ∟!ќε ǻ ώæ$ε£ Although none of the characters used are valid, you can probably figure out the message. A criticism may immediately be raised regarding the fact that the invalid characters look like the very letters they are impersonating. And, someone may ask, what about the fact that we already have a good idea of the gamut of topics that spammers are likely to push on us? Aren’t we, as we decipher the message, just accepting the data that corresponds with a known word and rejecting the data that doesn’t? Well, yes, we are (and in a manner not unlike that of reading someone else’s handwriting). But that simply reiterates the point that in determining the meaning of the altered words, we are processing the information we see, correlating it with a possible existing meaning, and then coming to a rationalistic conclusion regarding its intended meaning. Note how this is qualitatively different from trying to break, say, a cryptographer’s code. With an encrypted code, such as in wartime, the intent of the sender is to insure that no one but the recipient understands the message. Such a code is typically structured with a set of deterministically based rules that only the sender and recipient are privy to. The message is coded with the intent that, if it were to be received by anyone other than the intended recipient, its meaning would not be readily apparent. In the world of spamming, the opposite is true. The message is coded in such a manner as to (hopefully) pass through a deterministic filter, and yet still be understood by a casual recipient. Such a code does not necessarily have to follow a set of deterministically based rules but, rather, relies on the mind’s ability to interpret the coded data with regards to form, context, phonetics, etc. For the spammer, the letter “a” can be designated by any one of the following characters: “@,” “ǻ,” or “α.” Through the interpretive process, within the context of the passage, the mind is able to conclude that any one of these characters actually designates an “a.” A software program, on the other hand, is forced to rely strictly on the direction given from the algorithms within its written code. One rub is that even though “@,” “ǻ,” and “α” are all interpreted to mean “a,” they each have their own unique meaning (separate from the letter “a”). Another rub is that “ή.i.αgrα”, for example, is the incorrect spelling of “niagra.” Even though we know what the spammer meant, the actual word used is wrong – and we know that it is wrong. Okay, so all we’ve done is show that humans can understand the meaning of an e-mail subject line that may slip through a software filter. It doesn’t prove anything since we already know that e-mail is generated by intelligent design (for the most part). But is that all we’ve done? Consider the argument that a specific meaning is unrecognizable to a deterministically based analysis program unless the program is instructed, through its code, to recognize the meaning as such. The program makes its choices strictly on the results of its deterministic algorithms. With the human mind, that is not the case. The very qualities of the spam subject line that cause it to slip through the deterministic filter are what allow us to understand the intended meaning of the message! In fact, check the process that BrightMail uses to maintain an accuracy rate of 99.9999% that spam e-mail doesn’t make it into your mailbox:
“What is your accuracy rate? 99.9999% How do you maintain this rate? Automated safeguards are built into the technology. For example, rules are tested against a legitimate mail database Manual safeguards protect against overaggressive rules Support for false positive submissions from Brightmail’s user community—300 million strong— inform Brightmail as soon as possible Human review of every false positive received”
דhα†’$ r¦ﻍh†, hựmǻהּ rεv|εώ.

Defining your gender...

In School's No-Bias Wording Gets OK, we read about a school district in southern California that had come close to losing state funding because a majority of board members opposed the wording of the state's anti-discrimination policy. We read:
The three, who form a majority on the Westminster board, have cited their Christian beliefs in insisting that the district not adopt word-for-word a state policy that allows students and staff members to define their own gender... California Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced Monday that the modified policy the board adopted last week technically complies with state law that protects gays, as well as transsexuals and others who do not conform to traditional gender roles... For months, she and fellow trustees Helena Rutkowski and Blossie Marquez-Woodcock rejected the wording of the state law that allows students and teachers to define their own gender when making a discrimination complaint.
Where does it stop? If we, as individuals, have the ability to define our own gender, then why not define our own race? How about redefining our species? Maybe our phyla? Better yet, how about redefining who we are? Cross reference the concern expressed over these board members with the L.A. Times article, As Hate-Crime Concerns Rise, So Does the Threat of Hoaxes.

Oh Please!...

Duke University cuts out 8 a.m. classes
Duke University is eliminating 8 a.m. classes and trying to come up with other ways help its sleep-deprived students, who too often are struggling to survive on a mix of caffeine, adrenaline and ambition. The school is also considering new orientation programs this fall that would help freshmen understand the importance of sleep.
How about this alternative? If they don't show up for class... they fail.

On April 20th...

Friday, April 16, 2004

Art and God...

Dave at Welcome to the Planet has a post titled, artists, scientists, theologians oh my, in which he addresses the aspect of art and the Christian faith. It all started with a post he did on The Passion, in which he contrasted getting caught up in all the media / marketing hype with just appreciating the film as a work of art. He concluded by exhorting people to simply take the movie for what it is - art. In his latest post he refers back to his original post by stating:
I made the statement that Christians don't know what to do with art. In my comments, I made the statement that good art takes us places, forces us to see a different reality. That is exposes us and moves us.
He then quotes a comment that I made to his original post:
“Rusty then responded with:” Maybe this thing with art has a lot to do with personality types. I look at a painting like the Last Supper and take in the use of color, the structure DaVinci chose, the symmetry or lack thereof, placement of persons, expressions, use of light, etc. Yes, I lean heavily on the objective side, but I do experience the subjective. I think, however, that the artist's intent is primarily objective and, therefore, public, whereas any subjective experience will be purely private.
From his current post he writes:
It is obvious that people approach art very differently. People also approach God very differently. Is there a correlation between the two? Let me explain my thought process here. There are those who look at art from a strictly compositional standpoint. Color, symmetry, structure, perspective, etc... are all that's considered. There is no allowing the art to move, to challenge, to expose. There is no entering into the art. I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, it just seems to be the way it is. Art gets reduced to technical proficiency and "I like it" or "I don't like it" There are also those who look at God in somewhat the same way. Theology becomes an exercise in solving the paradoxes of faith. God becomes an almost scientifc endeavor. It all becomes an intellectual persuit. There doesn't seem to be room to enter into the mysterry of God. It is easier to try to "understand" and explain God than it is to allow room for the unknown and mystery. I think that it is important to state that I really believe that there is danger in either extreme. I think that it is important to understand art composition, and it is important to understand what we can of God. I also think it is important to allow art to move us. I think it is also important to be able to enter into the mystery of God.
One person left a comment at his site that stated:
Of course art is subjective, that's one of the greatest things about it. No one can truly answer the question "what is GOOD art?" because it will be different for everybody...and it should. But art is not just about composition, color, perspective, etc. I can't even imagine thinking about it in just those terms. You're right, art evokes something in our souls. I believe that people are drawn and moved by different works of art because somehow they recognize in that painting, or piece of music, or sculpture... whatever, something of themselves. It's like their soul says - "yes, I have had a similar experience! I recognize that!" I know that's what happens to me at least. I can be moved to tears by art...and I know lots of people can. That in itself says to me...yeah it's a whole lot more than just a picture on the wall. I liken in to a great violinist. There are thousands of people who can play the violin with great, maybe even close to perfect technical skill! But they aren't all famous. What singles out the one that is called great. It's their soul that they pour into the music, the feeling. You can feel their emotion when they play, and your own emotions recognize that. Without the soul, without the feeling, it is simply a piece of music played correctly. It is like that with all true artists, no matter what their medium is. And God...well he is the ultimate Artist! And we are all reflections of Him. I honestly believe that we all are's just that some people have never explored that side to themselves.
I appreciate Dave’s comment that there is danger in either extreme – that of approaching God as a mere intellectual pursuit vs. approaching God from a purely experiential point of view. If that is what he is means, then I agree with him wholeheartedly. Yet my concern has to do with the apparent argument from the person who left a comment at his site. Maybe I'm a little trigger-happy, but the combination of subjectivity with an experientially motivated view of God always sends up a red flag for me. We have so liberally applied subjectivity to Art, that it seems to have become our culture's mantra. If there are any standards with which to measure a piece of art’s worth, they are simply left to the beholder – indeed – note the cliché “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But is such relativistic thought healthy? Consider a crucifix sitting in a jar of urine. Is that art? The artist and some of his followers certainly thought so. I don’t (and I doubt that Dave and the person who left a comment on his post would either). Well, you may say, "we’re not talking about someone else’s response but how the art affects each one of us personally. Besides, art will be different for everybody depending on how each person experiences it." Is great art, therefore, validated by how each person’s soul is moved by the experience? So what? What does it matter if art is subjective? It matters because the worldview pushing the idea of subjectivity applies that same experiential verification to matters of God. If God is the ultimate artist then why not view the world in a manner which seeks experiential verification? Now I’m not stating that anyone who is moved by art is guilty of a relativistic view of God. Even though I view art in a mechanistic way I still appreciate the way in which it affects me emotionally (believe it or not). I’m just saying that we need to understand that the physical, rational, and logical world is just as much a part of God’s created realm as the emotional. Whether or not one accepts the fact that a great painting is the product of an artist’s intense thought regarding composition, perspective, light theory, pigment analysis, etc., is beside the point. The painting is, first and foremost, the physical manifestation of the artist’s intentions – any subjective experience we may derive from the painting is, for the most part, private. Note the distinction here – that which the artist has intended to convey is public (i.e., sharable between all who view the painting), while that which moves an individual is private (i.e., specific to the individual). The correlation with God is apparent (or it should be). In His Word, God has revealed Himself to us. Through the form of literature He has conveyed His intentions to us. The words have meaning in and of themselves, but they also have the intended meaning the Holy Spirit wished to deliver.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. - John 1:1 (NET)
Those words have a public meaning, regardless of whether they give any individual a subjective experience.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Scientists are people too...

What picture comes to your mind when you hear the word 'scientist'? A nerdy looking introvert with horn rimmed glasses sitting over in a laboratory corner simply content to be left alone to do his research? If so, then get a grip, because scientists are people too. For confirmation, just take a peek every so often at The Panda's Thumb. As you peruse, you may want to ponder what drives their obsession with dumping on Intelligent Design and Creationism, as in the posts Dumping on Dembski II, Compare Dembski and Coulomb, or Answers in Nemesis. For a visual representation, consider the following alteration to a creationist organization's cartoon: and cross-reference it with the Understanding Evolution website which states,
The misconception that one has to choose between science and religion is divisive. Most Christian and Jewish religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.
and the Teacher's Guide for the PBS series Evolution which states,
...Understand that “intelligent design” and “creation science” arguments ultimately are religious explanations that rely on supernatural causes and thus are outside of science. Become familiar with some of the “creation science” arguments such as “intelligent design” using the lens of science, but don’t introduce this examination into your classroom because introducing religion into a science classroom is inappropriate.
It appears that among evolutionists Christian belief is, at best, tolerated and, at worst, considered equivalent to excrement.

Basis for Morality...

In A Jury of One's Godless Peers, from the March issue of First Things, Robert T. Miller writes on how the juror selection may be reflecting a secular attitude with regards to morality or, at least, the ability to judge. He begins,
Reading First Things may disqualify you from sitting on a jury, at least if a lawyer decides that such reading shows that you are too involved in the practice of your religion. Just ask the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Miller briefly describes the juror selection process as well as what is known as a Baston hearing in which "a proceeding in which, after a lawyer has peremptorily challenged a juror, the other side to the litigation, if it suspects that the strike was based on race or sex, may contest the challenge and force the opposing counsel to explain a basis for the challenge unrelated to race and sex." He then states:
Which brings us to a lawyer striking jurors on the basis of their religious practices. In a recent federal case in New Jersey, United States v. De Jesus, the defense counsel demanded a Batson hearing after the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to strike two black jurors. The prosecutor then explained that he struck the jurors, not on the basis of their race, but because of their “heightened religious involvement.” One of the jurors had said that he participated in civic activities at his church, read the Christian Book Dispatcher, taught Sunday school, and sang in the church choir; the other juror had stated that he was an officer and trustee of his church and that he read the Bible and related literature. The prosecutor concluded that these jurors would have difficulty sitting in judgment on another human being and so would be reluctant to convict. ...the judge accepted the prosecutor’s explanation, and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed, holding that, while challenges based on mere affiliation with a particular religious denomination may violate the Constitution, challenges based on a juror’s “heightened religious involvement” do not. Quoting the trial judge, the Court of Appeals said that it is rational for a prosecutor to challenge a juror who reveals “a rather consuming propensity to experience the world through a prism of religious beliefs.” You may thus be struck from a jury not for being a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim, but only for being a rather devout Christian, Jew, or Muslim.
This type of secular thinking is ironic when one considers that Christians are often accused of forcing their beliefs on others. Yet when the rubber hits the road, the secularist reveals the very hypocrisy that he accuses the Christian of - that of forcing his view of religion onto the Christian. We shouldn't be surprised at the conclusions of the trial judge mentioned above, for he is coming to the logical conclusions of viewing the world through a prism of naturalisitc beliefs, as compared to - and as contrasted with - those who have a "propensity to experience the world through a prism of religious beliefs." This is a clear example of the effects of a worldview that sees naturalism as providing a complete explanation for physical reality. That they allow for subjective religious beliefs about whatever becomes a meaningless concession; a worthless addendum, important only to those superstitous enough to ignore reality.

How we treat Church...

Piggybacking off of my posts On Worship and On the Presence of God, Greg Koukl had a bit to say on his radio show of April 4th. He noticed how the concept of dressing for Church in our "Sunday best" has fallen by the wayside. Some of his comments:
But I've been troubled by these changes over the years and the fact that now nobody seems to care what they wear to church. I guess for me it depends on which church I'm going to but I tend to try to dress up a little bit... There doesn't seem to be hardly any sense of gravity anymore when people go to church. This is evidenced by the clothing they wear, by their attitude (sometimes) in church, by the kind of worship that we have... and I understand that there's a need to make religion meaningful, and the personal basis... and certain things get in the way, and there's a sense that religioius forms sometimes block out personal relationship. I'm certainly aware of that, I just think that isn't the problem anymore. ...people thought of church as a special event - and it wasn't just to dress up for other people - there was a certain kind of solemnity about it.
Unfortunately, when people hear talk like this, or read my posts on the subject, they tend to conclude that we are positing some type of legalism (just check some of the comments at Rev. Mike's post on this issue). But Greg, myself, Rev. Mike, and R. C. Sproul are not advocating legalism. In pointing out the fact that, to use one example, the dress code in the church today is so casual as to reflect a lack of respect to God, we are simply pointing out that which we deem to be the evidence of a problem. It isn't that the dress code is so wrong... it's that the sense of God's presence - the understanding of His being - is lacking.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

From the halls of higher education...

Sorority women told to lie to give blood, per CNN.
COLUMBIA, Missouri (AP) -- The national office of a sorority whose members were urged to lie about their health to boost turnout in a competitive campus blood drive apologized Tuesday.
Check out the verbatim quotes from sophomore Christie Key, the chapter's blood donation coordinator,
"I dont (sic) care if you got a tattoo last week LIE. I dont (sic) care if you have a cold. Suck it up. We all do. LIE. Recent peircings (sic)? LIE." She added: "Even if youre (sic) going to use the Do Not Use My Blood sticker, GIVE ANYWAY."
It's nice to know what her priorities are, not to mention how discreetly she instructs her sisters to LIE. I've got my own message for her: "Ms. Key, Dont you no what a contrackshun is? Dont you study any thing in colledge? Even if youre going to LIE you should at leest look intelligent."

Carter's Christianity...

The American Prospect has an interview that Ayelish McGarvey had with former President Jimmy Carter titled, Carter's Crusade: Jimmy Carter explains how the Christian right isn't Christian at all. Consider some of the following quotes by President Carter:
There is an element of fundamentalism involved, which involves the belief on the part of a human being that [his or her] own concept of God is the proper one. And since [he or she has] the proper concept of God, [he or she is] particularly blessed and singled out for special consideration above and beyond those who disagree with [him or her]. Secondly, anyone who does disagree with [him or her], since [he or she is] harnessed to God in a unique way, then, by definition, must be wrong. And the second step is if you are in disagreement with [his or her] concept of the way to worship, even among the Christian community, is that you are inferior to [him or her]. And then the ultimate progression of that is that you’re not only different and wrong and inferior but in some ways you are subhuman. So there’s a loss of concern even for the death of those who disagree. And this takes fundamentalism to the extreme. This is an element of the fundamentalist cause in this country. If you are a wealthy white man, then you are naturally inclined to think that the poor are inferior and don’t deserve your first consideration. If you are a wealthy white man, then you also take on the proposition that women are inherently inferior. This builds up a sense of prejudice and alienation that permeates the Christian right during these days. --- I have always been against abortion; it’s not possible for me in my own concept of Christ to believe that Jesus would favor abortion. But at the same time, I have supported the Supreme Court ruling of our country as the law of the land. And the present arrangement, whereby a woman is authorized to have an abortion in the first trimester of the pregnancy, or when the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest -- these are the things that moderates who have beliefs like mine can accept as the present circumstances in our country. The liberality of abortion is anointed by the laws of our country, including the ultimate ruling of the Supreme Court.
Gee. All this time I wasn't aware that, as a conservative Christian, I was viewing other humans, created in God's Image, as subhuman. And what's with the confused information regarding abortion? The first trimester? The rape or incest argument? Over 1 million a year Jimmy... is that why you bow down to the Supreme Court's anointing? Cross reference with a post by Crosswalk's Al Mohler titled, Jimmy Carter, 'Freestyle' Evangelicals, and the Future, in which "freestyle" equates to "liberal."

Monday, April 12, 2004

Constitutional Conflicts...

In previous posts I’ve discussed / debated the issue of de-constructionism and how it applies to interpreting the Constitution. Part of my argument is that authors have intentions when they write a document and that any interpretation of that document must be grounded on just what those intentions were. But what about a document with multiple authors? How can we come up with an original intent if the multiple authors of a single document have varying attitudes with regards to a particular topic within the document? Taken a step further, how do we reconcile varying actions, with regards to politically charged issues, between some of our own founding fathers? For example, how did Thomas Jefferson and John Adams view the relationship between the Church and the State, and how it related to the first sixteen words of the First Amendment? In the March 2004 issue of First Things, John Witte, Jr., has an article titled, Publick Religion: Adams v. Jefferson, in which he compares the differing viewpoints on religion and government between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. He begins:
The civic catechisms of our day still celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s experiment in religious liberty. To end a millennium of repressive religious establishments, we are taught, Jefferson sought liberty in the twin formulas of privatizing religion and secularizing politics. Religion must be “a concern purely between our God and our consciences,” he wrote. Politics must be conducted with “a wall of separation between church and state.” “Publick Religion” is a threat to private religion, and must thus be discouraged. “Political ministry” is a menace to political integrity and must thus be outlawed.
While about Adams, he writes:
Moreover, the maintenance of religious plurality was essential for the protection of civil society and civil liberties. “Checks and balances, Jefferson,” Adams later wrote to his friend at Monticello, “are our only Security, for the progress of Mind, as well as the Security of Body. Every Species of Christians would persecute Deists, as either Sect would persecute another, if it had unchecked and unbalanced Power. Nay, the Deists would persecute Christians, and Atheists would persecute Deists, with as unrelenting Cruelty, as any Christians would persecute them or one another. Know thyself, Human nature!”
Of the two, Witte states:
For Jefferson, to establish one public religion was to threaten all private religions. To encourage religious uniformity was to jeopardize religious sincerity. To limit religious exercise was to stymie religious development. To enlist the church’s ministry was to impugn the state’s integrity. Religion was thus best left to the private sphere and sanctuary; church and state were best left separated from each other. Adams agreed that too little religious freedom was a recipe for hypocrisy and impiety. But too much religious freedom, he argued, was an invitation to depravity and license. Too firm a religious establishment would certainly breed coercion and corruption. But too lax a religious establishment would convert private prejudices into constitutional prerogatives. Somewhere between these extremes a society must strike its balance.
It's interesting to read Witte's article with the understanding that although two of our founding fathers had similar concerns with regards to the interaction between the Church and the State, they each addressed those concerns with different methodologies.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Role of Government?...

The HSLDA Court Report for March / April has a cover story titled, Battleground New Jersey: Homeschoolers fight the "child abuse" link. The article recounts the events in New Jersey with regards to the alleged starvation of four adopted children in a state-approved foster home. Visits by social workers to the home, because it was enrolled in the foster parent program, had not revealed any problems. Instead of investigating the efficiency of New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), legislators instead chose to effectively turn the blame on the practice of homeschooling. N. J. Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg introduced a bill that would have imposed new regulations on homeschoolers. Homeschoolers througout the state responded in force with a clear message to the legislature that the failure of the DYFS was not the fault of homeschooling and that the answer was not to increase regulations on homeschoolers. Despite the response, Assemblywoman Weinberg attempted to sneak the bill in during the final few days of the New Jersey legislature's session. Over 200 homeschoolers showed up at the state house on the last day of the session to ensure that their voice was heard. It was, and the bill did not pass. Undeterred, Assemblywoman Weinberg has reintroduced the bill for the 2004 session. Why this little rant on Weinberg? Consider what she said in an interview televised on February 12, 2004:
Parents don't own their children and we in society have certain responsibilities just to make sure all our kids are safe—and that's all this is about.
So there you have it parents - straight from the horse's mouth. If we, as parents, don't own our children then who does? The State? Society? A village? If our culture wants to redefine marriage to mean something it has never meant, then why not apply the same logic to the definition of what being a parent means? or being a child? or even who truly owns our children?

Spread the Homeschool Message at your local Library...

Want to help inform those interested in learning more about homeschooling? The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has an Adopt-a-Library package which you can donate to your local library. For $35, tax deductible donation, you will receive "an attractive poster and display box with 150 You can homeschool! brochures, along with five homeschooling classics sure to encourage the faint of heart."

On the Doppler Effect and Church...

I saw an interesting display of the Doppler Effect in church service today. Well... I guess I should say that I saw and heard an interesting display of the Doppler Effect. We have a group of ladies that perform in a hand bell chorus every so often. Today we heard two songs and before the second song the choir director alerted us to look and hear for the innovative way in which the bells were used. At one point in the song several of the ladies rang their bells and then, as the bells were still vibrating, they quickly moved the bells backward and then just as quickly moved them forward. The resulting tonal shift was, indeed, very innovative and pleasant.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Resurrection...

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ there would be no Christian religion. It is a physical event that, if proved to have never occurred, would falsify Christianity. This is a point that many Christians don't seem to realize... the basis for our religion lies on a supernatural event that intersected with the natural realm in a manner that is open to historical investigation. J. P. Moreland, in Scaling the Secular City, outlines three broad areas of evidence for the resurrection: 1) the empty tomb, 2) the resurrection appearances, and 3) four key features of the early church.
Now after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were shaken and became like dead men because they were so afraid of him. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you!” So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, “Greetings!” They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there.” - Matthew 28:1-10 (NET)
With regards to the empty tomb Moreland explains that there is no evidence that Jesus' tomb served as a site of religious worship and veneration. This is unusual in that at least fifty sites of prophets or other holy persons served this purpose at the time Jesus was in Palestine. Moreland also points out that the resurrection accounts use specifically named women as witnesses - first witnesses at that. This is highly unusual in that a woman's testimony was considered worthless at that time. Why would a writer making up the story of Jesus' resurrection choose to make certain women appear more brave than Jesus' own disciples? For the resurrection appearances Moreland highlights the fact that Jesus appeared to many individuals, sometimes to just one person while once to a group of five hundred, over a specific period of time. All accounts agree that Jesus had a physical body that also had spirit attributes; although he was able to eat with his followers, he was also able to appear and disappear from their midst. The features of his appearances do not coincide with the Jewish thought on resurrection at the time. The resurrection the Jews understood was to be one at the end of the age. That his followers may have been experiencing a vision was also problematic in that visions were understood to occur to individuals and not to groups. Lastly Moreland reviews the four key features of the early Church with regards to the transformation of the disciples, the change in key social structures in Judaism, the sacraments of the early Church, and the existence of the Church itself. The disciples, described as a scared lot after the Gethsemane incident, suddenly became courageous followers of Christ - even to the point of martyrdom. Consider that the early Church was first made up of Jews. Note that they not only left the practices of sacrificing animals for atonement, of keeping the law, of keeping the Sabbath, and of viewing God in a non-trinitarian manner, but they almost immediately took up the practices of observing the Eucharist and water baptism. Finally, what explanation can we posit for the fact that the early Church survived at all? From the beginning it was exclusivistic and remains so to this day.

Friday, April 09, 2004

On Good Friday...

So the soldiers led him into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called together the whole cohort. They put a purple cloak on him and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on him. They began to salute him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Then they knelt down and paid homage to him. When they had finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. - Mark 15:16-20 (NET) But to Adam he said, “Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground thanks to you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat the grain of the field. - Genesis 3:17-18 (NET) Now when it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. Around three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah!” Then someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down!” But Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last. - Mark 15:33-37 (NET) My God, my God, why do you reject me? I groan in prayer, but help seems far away. My God, I cry out during the day, but you do not answer, and during the night my prayers do not let up. You are sovereign; you sit as king over the worshiping community of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted in you and you rescued them. To you they cried out, and they were saved; in you they trusted and they were not disappointed. But I feel like a worm, not a man; people insult me and despise me. All who see me taunt me; they mock me and shake their heads. They say, “Commit yourself to the Lord! Let the Lord rescue him! Let the Lord deliver him, for he delights in him.” Yes, you are the one who pulled me from the womb, and made me feel secure on my mother’s breasts. I have been dependent on you since birth; from the time I came out of my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not remain far away from me, for trouble is near and I have no one to help me. Many bulls surround me; powerful bulls of Bashan hem me in. They get ready to devour me like a roaring lion that rips its prey. My strength drains away like water; all my bones are dislocated; my courage is like wax; it melts away inside me. The roof of my mouth is as dry as a piece of pottery; my tongue sticks to my gums. You are making me descend into the grave. Yes, wild dogs surround me— a gang of evil men crowd around me; like a lion they pin my hands and feet to the ground. I can count all my bones; my enemies are gloating over me in triumph. They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments. But you, O Lord, do not remain far away! You are my source of strength! Hurry and help me! Deliver me from the sword! Save my life from the paws of the wild dogs! Rescue me from the mouth of the lion, and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered me! I will declare your name to my countrymen! In the middle of the assembly I will praise you! You loyal followers of the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, worship him! All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of him! For he did not despise or shun the humble condition of the oppressed; he did not ignore him; when he cried out to him, he responded. You are the reason I offer praise in the great assembly; I will fulfill my promises before the Lord’s loyal followers. Let the oppressed eat and be filled! Let those who seek his help praise the Lord! May you experience lasting encouragement! Let all the people of the earth acknowledge the Lord and turn to him! Let all the nations worship you! For the Lord is king and rules over the nations. All of the robust people of the earth will join the celebration and worship; all those who are descending into the grave will bow before him, including those who cannot preserve their lives. A whole generation will serve him; they will tell the next generation about the sovereign Lord. They will come and tell about his saving deeds; they will tell a future generation what he has accomplished. - Psalm 22 (NET)

Thursday, April 08, 2004

John Mark Reynolds on ID...

Check John Mark Reynolds blog and also his article, Getting God a Pass: Orthodox Theology and Intelligent Design. An excerpt:
The liturgy allows even the pagan to see the beauty of God and his Word. The icon allows even the non-Christian a window to heaven. The story is told that Russia was converted when the combination of physical and spiritual beauty overwhelmed their ambassadors in the Great Church of the Holy Wisdom. Even the pagan, as Saint John, points out can see the Word when he puts on human flesh. Our reaction to his Light may be to try to snuff it out or it may be to worship in his Glory, but it can be seen. Theistic naturalism destroys this image. It makes nature a closed book. While still maintaining that it was created by God, the theistic naturalist holds that a pagan can look at it without seeing his glory. The man of science can handle creation without seeing that it is a creation. In fact, the theistic naturalist would have the Christian adopt rules for science that would prevent such a thing.


Per CNN, Coalition forces suffer deadly days: New guerrilla tactics now include kidnapping civilians. From a Marine commander:
"We're facing an enemy that's unafraid to fight from behind women and children, from occupied apartment buildings, from protected sites,"a Marine officer said in Fallujah during a television report. "To characterize their resistance as anything but kind of cowardly would be to give them more credit than they deserve," he said.
Do these tactics reflect the actions of a people oppressed by an imperialistic U. S. government? Check Citizen Smash.

Would you please let Mr. Kerry speak...

The best thing that can happen for election 2004 is to keep on letting John Kerry speak. Consider this interview with NPR's Bob Edwards:
Edwards: "President Bush says Sadr's defiance can't stand. What should the U.S. do?" Kerry: "Well, ahh, huh, it's interesting to hear that, when they shut the newspaper that belongs to a legitimate voice in Iraq, and, well, let me change the term legitimate --when they shut a newspaper that belongs to a voice, because he has clearly taken on a far more radical tone in recent days, and aligned himself with both Hamas and Hezbollah, which is a sort of terrorist alignment, so it creates its own set of needs in order to deal with the possible future spread of terrorism. But at the same time, if its unaccompanied by a broader set of moves to try and broaden our own base in Iraq, um, I just think it asks for great difficulties."
Yeah. Hamas and Hezbollah are sort of terrorists. Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt.

The need for a testable supernatural model...

In Origins of Life, by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana, they describe the dilemma facing origin of life researchers in their quest to find a naturalistic pathway for life's origins. They also describe how criticisms by Christians of the naturalistic method is not sufficient, in and of itself, to convince scientists to abandon their model. Regarding the argument that design is detectable they write:
Philosopher Stephen C. Meyer points out that science frequently engages in this type of investigation. Science routinely deals with phenomena that are not directly observable, such as forces, fields, and sub-atomic particles. Scientists infer the properties and monitor the effects of unobservables indirectly by examining observable macroscopic phenomena and effects directly with their senses. Science also possesses the capacity to investigate intelligent causes. Archaeologists study artifacts produced by human intelligence. Anthropologists study the bipedal primate fossil record to discriminate between stones intelligently shaped into tools and those formed by the forces of nature. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is a search for signatures in the cosmos that reflect the existence of aliens living in another star system. Crick and Orgel's directed panspermia appeals to intelligent activity to explain life's first appearance on Earth - an idea they demonstrate to be testable. By extension, life's appearance on Earth by a supernatural, extra-universal Intelligence should also be detectable and testable. Prohibiting an appeal to the supernatural places a false restriction on science's capability. By limiting available scientific explanations to material explanations alone, naturalists hinder science's capacity to discover truth. The goal is no longer to discover the most plausible explanation but rather to identify a more or less naturalistic explanation. If a Creator exists and has intervened in the natural realm, His activity (in principle) should be detectable by inference from what a researcher can verify directly with his or her senses. Science, in that way, can probe the supernatural. Still, if Christians wish to define science as allowing for supernatural explanations, then they bear the burden of showing how this approach can form a reputable scientific program - one that leads to scientific advance through testing and predictions.

Then why does it LOOK like Evo?...

In debating evolution vs. creation I’ve heard the argument that the fossil record MUST look the way it does in order for evolution to be true. That is, certain types of species must appear before others (e.g., reptiles before mammals, theropod dinosaurs before birds, etc.). A criticism is then levied against creationism that no matter what the fossil record looks like, the evidence can always be claimed to support the model. In essence, they are stating that creation is non-falsifiable. What I’d like to get into in this post, though, is not how creation is falsifiable. I’d rather investigate to what degree it really helps evolutionary theory that the fossil record looks the way it does. To do this I’ll use an example from an evolutionist by the name of Tim Berra. He’s a biologist who wrote a book titled, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism. One of the examples he used in showing how the fossil record gives us evidence for evolutionary change is none other than the Chevrolet Corvette or, rather, a series of Corvette models spanning multiple years. In Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Berra stated,
“If you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious. This is what paleoanthropologists do with fossils, and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people.” (emphasis in original)
Okay, let’s run with that in the fictional world of Berraland. Imagine there’s an evolutionist out there by the name of Chuck Darlose. Chuck is a bit of a strange creature in that he is completely unaware that Corvettes are machines designed and built by humans. Whether it was through some genetic mix-up or simply because he listened to Barry Manilow songs as a baby, he simply has no clue as to the origin of the Chevrolet Corvette. In fact, he’s spent a large amount of his research time and money digging up old Corvettes and arranging them in what he believes is their proper evolutionary sequence. This sequence, of course, was not only determined by the apparent age of the Corvette in question, but also by noting how overwhelmingly obvious it was that the Corvette exhibited descent with modification. Although his analysis is by no means complete, due in part to the lack of soft body parts, he has reached a point where he publishes his findings. Almost immediately after his publication he is contacted by engineers from Chevrolet urgently requesting a meeting. After introductions are completed he is led into a separate meeting room and he is shocked to see the engineers unveil detailed specifications and drawings of each Corvette that he had presented in his paper. Pounding his fist on the table, he shouts, “You’ve stolen my research material!” “No,” the engineers calmly respond, “you’ve been digging up previous versions of our automobile.” “Say what?” “Every one of these Corvettes was designed by our engineers.” After a few moments of dumbfounded silence Chuck, finally realizing his error, responds, “Well, why did you make it look like they evolved?” The engineers simply smile and reply, “We didn’t make it look like they evolved… Your initial premises and subsequent interpretations of the data were flawed; not to mention your methodolgy.” Notice that to question why a supposed designer would make a set of artifacts appear to follow a certain process (e.g., evolution) assumes at least two things: 1) that the designer, in fact, intended to make his design appear to follow a certain process and, 2) that the certain process is capable of explaining the origin of the artifacts.

Origins of Life...

I've just received the new book by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana titled, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off (see sidebar). While the origin of life is not a Darwinian issue I would like to list off the comparisons that Ross and Rana list for the competing models:
Naturalistic Predictions Given the number of possible scenarios under consideration by the scientific community and the complex relationships among these models, developing a consistent set of predictions from them hardly seems possible. The challenge is heightened by the fact that predictions are often closely tied to a model's details. Nevertheless, from the shared features of these evolutionary theories come nine general predictions: 1. Chemical pathways produced life's building blocks. 2. Chemical pathways yielded complex biomolecules. 3. The chemical pathways that yielded life's building blocks and complex molecular constituents operated in early Earth's conditions. 4. Sufficiently placid chemical and physical conditions existed on early Earth for long periods of time. 5. Geochemical evidence for a prebiotic soup exists in Earth's oldest rocks. 6. Life appeared gradually on Earth over a long period of time. 7. The origin of life occurred only once on Earth. 8. Earth's first life was simple. 9. Life in its most minimal form is demonstrably simple. The RTB (Reasons to Believe) Model's Predictions: 1. Life appeared early in Earth's history, while the planet was still in its primordial state. 2. Life originated in and persisted through the hostile conditions of early Earth. 3. Life originated abruptly. 4. Earth's first life displays complexity. 5. Life is complex in its minimal form. 6. Life's chemistry displays hallmark characteristics of design. 7. First life was qualitatively different from life that came into existence on creation days three, five, and six. 8. A purpose can be postulated for life's early appearance on Earth.
From first glance, it looks to be a very interesting read.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Darwin anyone?...

I've been getting a lot of traffic from The Panda's Thumb the past few days and most of you jumping over from that site are probably interested in what I've said about evolution. Since I don't have a "categories" section I've decided to summarize my past posts (through March) on this and related issues:
Cosmology The Elegant Universe, continued... A Plug for another Hugh... The Elegant Universe... Upcoming in 2004... Misc Horse Evolution... The First Church of Environmentalism... Another Crichton Speech... Life, "as we know it"... Intelligent Design rundown... First Contact... Evolution as a Thinker... Excel and Evolution... Cross-Calibration... One Man's Ceiling... Examples of earliest Human Art?... Testable Creation A Scientifically Testable Creation Model... A bit more regarding Testable Creation... Testable Creation continues... Arguments from Analogy... On Debating Creation... A Test for Testability... Is it Junk or isn't it?... Just-so Stories Evolutionary "Just-so" Stories, part 1 of n... Evolutionary "Just-so" Stories, part 2 of n... Evolutionary Just-so Stories (part 3 of n)... Naturalism Rationality and Belief in God... Comments by J. Budziszewski... Decent Darwinism... Evolutionary Decency... That is not logical... On Methodological Naturalism... Meaninglessness... Disgust... On Chimps and Equality... Be careful what you read... Critique of H. Allen Orr's review of Bill Dembski's No Free Lunch Evo (part 1)... Evo (part 2)... How Planning Exhibits Design Evidence I didn't Plan it that way... What are your intentions?... Attributes of the Designer... A Scheduling Nightmare...