Friday, July 30, 2004

Johnson and Galileo...

Check Phillip Johnson's The Galileo Syndrome, in the March 2004 issue of Touchstone. He takes a slightly different spin on the oft-spoken of, and oft-misspoken of, story of Galileo and the Church. Some excerpts:
...Galileo, writing for the public in Italian rather than solely for the scholars in Latin, employed his immense prestige and rhetorical skill to teach that a rotating and revolving earth was not merely a fiction adopted for its convenience in scientific work, but was truly the way things really are, regardless of what the Church thought about the matter. By crossing that line, Galileo directly challenged the Church’s authority during a critical phase of the Counter-Reformation, and the Church understandably had objections, both scientific and theological. ...The aspect of the Intelligent Design movement that most irks the mandarins of science is that we do not limit ourselves to submitting papers to peer-reviewed scientific journals, accepting the inevitable judgment of the reviewers that the papers should not be published. The bishops and Jesuit scholars of Galileo’s time thought it was unfair and unprofessional for Galileo to appeal over their heads to the public, and the mandarins of science today are equally determined to confine thoughts that endanger their authority to professional circles they control. The cast of characters has changed, and the penalties are milder, but the drama is basically the same.

Welcome to the digital age...

Classics in the making...


In A Triple with Three Men On, Eric Alterman states, regarding Kerry's DNC speech:
This was, I swear I’m not exaggerating, the most important speech any American politician has given in perhaps half a century.
Not exaggerating? Okay, how about overstatement?, embellishment?, or laying it on so thick that it covers even Michael Moore? Check these comments from Powerline?
9:31 -- Kerry's stuff about when he'll send troops may sound good to the inattentive, but (as Rocket Man says) it's baffling if you try to follow it. As near as I can tell, we'll fight only if we have no other choice (this would have ruled out every military action since World War II) and only if our allies are on board, but our allies won't have a veto. 9:35 -- Kerry has tried to thread the needle. He's signaled to his base that he rejects the notion of hitting the enemy before it hits us, but he's tried to sound at least as tough as President Bush. He's the fighting pacifist, or something. Even if this works tonight, it's not likely to work for long. When voters learn about all the weapons systems Kerry's opposed and how he's been unable to take a steady position on Iraq, those who remember this speech will feel they were deceived. The acceptance speech is billed as the candidate's opportunity to introduce himself to the country. People expect the introduction to be honest. If you don't believe me, ask Michael Dukakis. 9:51 -- Kerry says that he welcomes people of faith. What an extraordinary thing to have to say.

Two tactics...

Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt. From Kerry's speech:
I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military. (emphasis added)
It should be noted that while both Bush and Kerry's tactics will result in the loss of life for foreigners, Kerry's tactic virtually insures that there will be American civilian deaths. "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty!"

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Public school sports vs. Homeschool academics...

In Held Back to Get Ahead, from the L. A. Times (free registration required), we read about an apparently growing trend in which parents hold their children back a year in order to better position them for athletics. Consider the following: 
By eighth grade, Perry Webster had little doubt about his talent as a basketball player, but he also knew that when he reached high school, he might have to ride the bench for a while. It's something many young athletes go through, waiting to grow bigger and stronger. Webster took a different route.   With his parents' blessing, he chose to repeat his final year of middle school, staying behind as his friends moved on. This tactic, he hoped, might eventually "help me with getting a scholarship for basketball, which might help me with the rest of my life." …at Los Alisos Intermediate School in Mission Viejo, where Webster spent an extra year, Principal Jerry Ray sees a growing problem. "In my first 10 years, we probably had only one or two cases," Ray said. "In the last several years, there have been at least that many per year." Some school districts frown upon the practice, forcing parents to home-school or move their child to another district if they want to repeat. Ray's district gives parents the final say. The administrator worries about plucking children out of the educational cycle, taking them away from their peers where they might feel like "fish out of water." "Until Perry [Webster] came along, I'd never seen a success story, and I'm not even sure whether I'd call him a success story yet," Ray said. "Basically, you're giving up a year of a child's life on a bet that it will work out."
  Yeah… unless a nasty little thing like a sport’s injury gets in the way. From a father who had his three children repeat kindergarten:
"I never saw the negative," he said. "Even in third grade, my kids were a little older, a little bigger, a little more mature. Maybe at that point they become the ball monitor because of it. We thought it was important for our kids to be leaders instead of followers."
  Even if it means giving them an unfair advantage, huh? I’ll grant that his kids were a little older and bigger, but simply because they’re sitting in a class of kids a year younger doesn’t make them more mature. I guess it’s never occurred to him that leaders can’t be leaders unless there’s someone around to follow. Finally, from Webster’s father:
"We wanted him to have a chance to be 18 years old his [entire] senior year because he is an athlete," Del Webster said. "We thought physically that would be the fairest and best way to go."
  That must mean that sports trumps academics. Of course, couch the issue as that of “fairness” and you’ve got a slam-dunk argument (pun intended). My personal situation was entirely different. I started kindergarten at a private school at 4 years of age. Throughout my schooldays I was always the youngest kid in the class. There were times I despised that fact (e.g., like… during puberty), yet there was one specific moment that I adored it – the day I graduated from High School at age 17. Now I’ll agree that keeping a kid back or moving them ahead is not for everyone, but what does it say about the priorities of some parents when they’re motivating factor for holding their children back in school is how well they’ll do in sports? Consider that the age / grade issue within the Homeschool movement is whether the child should graduate at an earlier age than his peers? The issue of academics typically holds a higher priority than that of sports. As far as maturity, what would one expect of a younger child possibly enrolled in AP level classes, with older classmates, at the local junior college? Contrast that with a 4th grade-age kid stuck in a class full of 3rd grade-age classmates. Who will influence whom? We, as parents, need to be reminded that we also teach our children by our actions and priorities.

Moral imperatives...

This whole morality thread that has played out here, at Dispatches, at Wheat & Chaff, and (at least partially) at The Evangelical Outpost, is really quite fascinating. It’s fascinating in the sense of how moral relativists attempt to respond to the very basic, and very simple claim that any assertion they make that an action is Right – as in, “vs. Wrong” – is tantamount to an appeal to some higher standard. Responses range from the use of a non sequitir (14th comment down), to evasion by means of hypothetical scenarios designed to show some sort of moral disconnect, to simple laughter. Inherent in all these so-called responses is the implied admission that there is some standard of Right and Wrong, that humans can’t not know. If it were not so, there would be no point in their putting forth an argument that their position is correct.  What can we learn from this discourse? Well, the most obvious lesson is that we can get a pretty good understanding of the loops that moral relativists get caught in when attempting to justify their position. Yet a more subtle aspect is that we see a clear manifestation of a rejection of God. Note the way in which most of the arguments against the claim of a higher standard of morality tend to veer off toward the so-called fiendishness of God. That the former topic must be addressed before the latter topic can be discussed is lost on the secularist. The reasons for this rejection are, most likely, very diverse and could very well be hidden behind the arguments put forth against God’s authority. Regardless, though, it merely emphasizes my point that acknowledging the authority of God is the first step in acknowledging the obligation owed to Him. In the March 2004 issue of Touchstone, James Hitchcock writes a small piece titled Intolerable Dogma. An excerpt:
Of the Ten Commandments, the one most under radical attack for some time has not been the Commandment against adultery, as appears obvious, but the First Commandment, which for most Christians is not even an issue. In the end, orthodox Christianity is feared and disliked because it is monotheistic. It affirms, along with Judaism and Islam, that there is only one God. In that sense, it is an inherently intolerant religion, and those who want Christianity to be endlessly “inclusive” forget that it is radically exclusive at its very foundation. Just a polytheism can tolerate any religion except monotheism, so relativism can tolerate everything except dogmatism.
  Liking it, or not, doesn’t enter into the equation.

Say it isn't so!...

SEC probes Krispy Kreme: Doughnut merchant discloses informal investigation into its reacquisitions, accounting; stock slumps    

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Lessons in homeschooling...

Jay Matthews, from the Washington Post, had an article on June 29th titled, Getting Schooled on Home-Schooling. He closes by asking his readers involved in homeschooling to send him their thoughts, pro and con. On July 27th, in Correcting Misconceptions about Homeschooling, Matthews published some of his findings. He writes:
Much of what I thought about home schooling was wrong. The conventional wisdom about this rapidly growing dimension of American education is too simple, too stereotyped and too stale. For instance, the Home School Legal Defense Association, despite its energetic lawyers and many admirers, is not the leader of home schooling in this country. There is no leader, and no reigning ideology. There are instead at least a million American children -- the real figure is probably twice that number -- whose families want them to learn at home for many reasons, often having little to do with religion or politics.
He relates the story of a die-hard liberal who reluctantly decided to homeschool:
" the time my son was in the fifth grade and thoroughly miserable, I was willing to do anything -- even if it meant having to bite my tongue and join up with the wing-nuts who I thought dominated the home-schooling scene," she said. She met some home-schoolers who were not Republicans. She took her entire family, even her mother, to a home-schooling conference organized by the Virginia Home Education Association. And on the first day of her uncertain new life as a home-schooling mom, her son walked into her home office with a stack of books under his arm. "Hey Mom," he said. "These are all the books that I've been wanting to read but never had a chance. Can I read them now?" He read for 11 hours that day and 10 hours the next. She decided this might not be so bad after all.
Matthews is not afraid to highlight potential pitfalls of the movement as he also states:
The formerly home-schooled students who wrote me were often similarly enthusiastic, but they had no qualms about discussing the downside of their experience. Justin Morton, who home-schooled in Portland, Ore., from second to eighth grade, said the worst part was the boredom: "When you're home-schooled, you are stuck in your house with your parents and siblings all day every day, and it gets incredibly dull. My best friend was the mailman."
All in all, a surprisingly fair treatment of the pros and cons of the homeschooling alternative.

Mere morality...

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote:

Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: 'How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?' -- 'That's my seat, I was there first' -- 'Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm' -- 'Why should you shove in first?' -- 'Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine' -- 'Come on, you promised.' People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man's behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: 'To hell with your standard.' Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are...

This is something to keep in mind whenever a moral relativist attempts to argue morality with you. Also, check Joe Carter's post titled, The Devil’s Chaplain: The Intellectual Incompetence of Richard Dawkins, for an excellent look at how difficult it is for Richard Dawkins stay within the logical boundaries of his chosen worldview.

The other Ron Reagan...

Check Robert P. George's, Snake Oil: Ron Reagan's dishonest presentation, at NRO. George states:
Ron Reagan's speech Tuesday night at the Democratic convention was breathtakingly irresponsible. For example, despite the fact that no one knows whether embryonic stem cells will ever be effective in curing Parkinson's disease or any other grave affliction, Ron Reagan virtually promised Parkinson's sufferers that embryonic stem cells will provide a cure for them in ten years or so. "Sound like magic?," he said. Welcome to the future of medicine." But Ron Reagan has no idea — no one does — whether this is the future of medicine. He is engaged in a campaign of outrageous hype to persuade suffering people that a mere change of administrations in Washington will lead to cures for "a wide range of debilitating illnesses: Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lymphoma, spinal cord injuries, and much more." Sound like snake oil? Welcome to the present of politics.
The People's Party continues to sink into an abyss filled with promises of utopian redemption for the oppressed peoples of America. Hat tip:

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

200+ days...

Mars Rover Spirit recently passed 200 solar days on Mars. Not bad for an expected mission length of 90 days.

Frank words...

Check a couple of articles from Frank Beckwith on the topic of abortion. In Choice Words: A Critique of the New Pro-Life Rhetoric, from the Jan / Feb 2004 issue of Touchstone magazine,  he critiques a new pro-life strategy that attempts to argue for the pro-life position by framing the issue in terms of the best interests of the mother-to-be. He states:
I will argue that this new rhetorical strategy, or NRS, is flawed in at least three ways: (1) its supporters over-confidently interpret the public’s “moral” condemnation of abortion as consistent with objective morality and a pro-life view of the fetus; (2) it rests on a questionable interpretation of social science data; and (3) it may nurture and sustain the moral presuppositions that allow for abortion.
In What Would Reagan Do?: A consistent ethic on life, at NRO, he takes a look at the book Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, published by Reagan in 1984, and applies the principles Reagan followed to the current stem-cell debate. Frank states:
As Reagan understood, if one's value is conditioned on certain accidental properties, then the human equality affirmed by the Declaration and advanced by Lincoln — the philosophical foundation of our constitutional regime — is a fiction. In that case there is no principled basis for rejecting the notion that human rights ought to be distributed to individuals on the basis of native intellectual abilities or other value-giving properties, such as rationality or self-awareness. One can only reject this notion by affirming that human beings are intrinsically valuable because they possess a particular nature from the moment they come into existence. That is to say, what a human being is, and not what he does, makes her a subject of rights. But this would mean that, like slavery, the nation ought to discard the right to abortion, for it is as inconsistent with our fundamental principles as was slavery.
Also check an interesting blog post from Frank titled, Yahoo/Planned Parenthood T-Shirt Offer - No Joke. The following apparel was up for sale by Yahoo / Planned Parenthood, but has apparently been withdrawn.

Monday, July 26, 2004

On a fiendish God...

In my On better morality… post I addressed the self-defeating aspects with regards to the secularist argument that morality can evolve. My point was that, by positing a comparison between various moral applications, the secularist has essentially acknowledged that some higher standard exists (with which to compare differing “moralities”). Along those lines, C. S. Lewis wrote, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” Now the subject of the particular post I was drawing attention to, by Ed over at Dispatches, had to do with the apparent ruthlessness of the God of the Bible (e.g., Numbers 31 in which God commanded that the Midianite men and sexually active women be slaughtered, and their children taken captive). DarkSyde thought I was not only avoiding, but running away from, the topic of Ed’s post, as the following excerpt of his comment suggests: 
I did notice Rusty that you retreated from addressing the gist of the post which is that the God of the Old Testatment is a monstrous, bloodthirsty, creature with morals that make Pol Pot look like a girl scout. It's always amusing to see fundamentalists try to apologize for their genocidal invisible sky wizard. So by all means if you share that view, outline why you think it's OK to worship this fiend.
  There are several avenues of response available to the questions posed by Ed and Dark (very good questions, by the way). For one, I could discuss how the instances of God commanding the Israelites to slaughter their enemies varied in application. In other words, the commands were situation specific and had to do, among other things, with God’s judgment regarding the level of depravity of the particular people in question. With regards to the Numbers 31 incident, one must first look at Numbers 25:1-3 to see the type of depravity that Israel had fallen into:
When Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to commit sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab. These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods; then the people ate and bowed down to their gods. When Israel joined themselves to Baal-peor, the anger of the Lord flared up against Israel. (all NET)
  By joining themselves to Baal-peor, Israel sinned against God. The initial judgment levied by God was against Israel in which a plague wipes out 24,000 Israelites (Numbers 25:9). In Numbers 31:1-2 we read: 

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Exact vengeance for the Israelites on the Midianites—after that you will be gathered to your people.” 

The level of judgment is tied to the level of depravity that occurred (i.e., Israel’s sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab). The nation of Israel could not exist in union with both God and the Midianites. That certain nations had degenerated to a state of debauchery which included child sacrifice is a point that some critics seem to conveniently ignore. God’s commanded judgments are always situation specific, and it’s interesting to note that there are instances of even more extensive destruction than that recorded in Numbers 31 (e.g., Joshua 6:21, in which everything in Jericho is destroyed; Genesis 19:24-25, in which Sodom & Gomorrah are completely destroyed; and Noah’s Flood, in which only Noah and his family survive). In Genesis 15:12-16, four hundred years before Israel entered the Promised Land, we read:

When the sun went down, Abram fell sound asleep. Then great terror overwhelmed him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.”

This is telling us that God is not only cognizant of our current and future actions, but is also exact in His execution of judgment. We need to also understand that God has a plan He is working out with which to bring blessing to all the peoples of the Earth. Yet, because the plan is administered within the realms of free will, we will see its intersection with the effects of sin. Gleason Archer, in The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, states:

In every case the baneful infection of degenerate idolatry and moral depravity had to be removed before Israel could safely settle down in these regions and set up a monotheistic, law-governed commonwealth as a testimony for the one true God.

...These incorrigible degenerates of the Canaanite civilization were a sinister threat to the spiritual survival of Abraham's race. The failure to carry through completely the policy of extermination of the heathen in the Land of Promise later led to the moral and religious downfall of the Twelve Tribes in the days of the Judges.

 I could also go into how the rules of the Mosaic Covenant (the Law) should be understood. They were never meant to be a comprehensive listing of rules but, rather, a means through which Israel could experience the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant while living here in this life (ref. Deuteronomy 30:11-20). Building on that idea I could also show how the promised Davidic Covenant superceded the Abrahamic Covenant with its administration being accomplished not through the Mosaic Covenant, but through the New Covenant. A related issue is the fact that the Holy Spirit had not been sent upon the world until after Jesus’ Ascension. One of the consequences of this is the New Testament writings that state that Christians battle not within the earthly realms, but within the spiritual (ref. Ephesians 6:10-12). In other words, the types of depravity that Israel so easily fell into are not accessible within our current New Covenant. Paradoxically, although the God of the Old Testament is typically viewed as wrathful, it is only in the New Testament that we hear of the perils of eternal punishment. Yet regardless of the multiple theological responses that are applied, the point of my original post should be addressed. Dark finishes his comment regarding God by asking why I “think it's OK to worship this fiend?” Inherent in that question is the fact that Dark has made a judgment call on what he considers to be fiendish morality. Again I would ask, just where do you get this idea that the God of the Bible is a fiend? What standard are you using to make that determination? If there is no absolute morality, then the word fiend immediately loses any meaning whatsoever – or it has whatever meaning one may wish to grant it. Building off of the C. S. Lewis quote above: How can you make the statement that someone or some deity is depraved (crooked) unless you have some idea of what is good (straight)? You only have two options: 1) that the idea of straight is purely natural or, 2) that the idea of straight is supernatural. Unfortunately, for the naturalist, option # 1 is self-defeating, for natural events are neither good nor bad – they simply are. C. S. Lewis also said,

If the whole universe has not meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

Yet look at the consequences of option # 2. If the idea of straight (i.e., morality) is supernatural, then it comes from a mind that is supernatural (there’s that little notion of ideas coming only from minds). Now if that mind is supernatural, and if it is powerful enough to mandate moral law, how should we respond to it? Do we choose to follow or not? Do we acknowledge where we stand? Hence the closing statement of my original post: we had better well understand that we aren’t in charge. The question of just of who is in charge is very critical, for both Dark and Ed have taken the God of the Bible to task for allegedly not acting with, what they have deemed to be, moral character. Yet my argument has been that before we can make any judgment call with regards to a being’s moral actions, we must first determine if the moral standards we are using are valid, as well as understand where these moral standards came from. In What We Can’t Not Know, J. Budzsiszewski states, regarding the First Commandment:

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.

Inherent in this argument is that God is Sovereign over His created order. If He is Sovereign, then He sets the rules. This line of thinking leaves no room for the self-defeating logic of moral relativism, much less the substance-deprived wasteland of deism. The God of the Bible has been revealed not only as a wrathful God, but as a God who forgives. Both of these characteristics are due to the essence of His being. In The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel quotes Norman Geisler as stating:

God created life and he has the right to take it. If you can create life, then you can have the right to take it. But if you can’t create it, you don’t have the right.


People assume that what’s wrong for us is wrong for God. However, it’s wrong for me to take your life, because I didn’t make it and I don’t own it. …Well, God is sovereign over all of life and he has the right to take it if he wishes.

Those are difficult words to read. Not to drive the point too deep, but this is the whole gist of my argument – that in order to understand true morality, we need to understand who God is; that in order to even begin to understand why God’s judgments have been so harsh in the past, we need to acknowledge His authority. To accept the notion that God has the authority to do as He wishes with His creation involves not only admitting that He is in control, but that He is worthy of worship. Yet the act of acknowledging that God is in control – and, therefore, that we are not – is a willful act of submission. That one may not like the act of submitting is separate from whether or not one understands the obligation of submitting. Consider the following, by C. S. Lewis, describing his conversion to Christianity:

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. …Who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape?

The first step in understanding God’s actions is to understand God’s authority – the reasons why He can act the way He does, as well as what our response should be. Whether we like it or not is, in reality, irrelevant.

Additional references: The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel     Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason Archer What We Can’t Not Know, J. Budziszewski    Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis   Also check Matt Powell’s posts, Judging God and, The Morality of the Bible, at Wheat & Chaff.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Comments? We don't need no stinkin' comments...

In attempting to get my blog layout straightened out I decided to use a new template. Unfortunately the HTML is structured differently with this new layout and I have to research just where to put the code for the comments. They're still out in cyberspace (hopefully)... just not on my blog. Update: the Haloscan comments should be up and running now.

Another case of our superior morality...

Please check Imago Dei for some very insightful posts. In What is happening?, he relates an article by Michelle Malkin regarding, as Michelle puts it,
a cosmopolitan woman who recounts her decision to undergo "selective pregnancy reduction." Let me translate that for normal people who reject the euphemisms of the pro-death camp. The privileged woman finds out she is carrying triplets. The thought of having to move from Manhattan's East Village to a suburb, where "I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise," fills her with dread. So she undergoes "selective pregnancy reduction"--killing two of her eight-week-old unborn children...
Imgao Dei also has chilling photographs such as this:
Yeah... you know that thing inside of you is a human being.  

Voters, voters, we need voters...

Per the L.A. Times (registration required), S.F. Voters to Decide if Noncitizens Can Vote Ballot measure would affect only school board elections. A legal challenge is expected. 
Testing state law for the second time this year, San Francisco city leaders approved a controversial ballot proposal Tuesday that could allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections. The proposal, the first in the state but not the nation, would permit any adult with a child in public school — parent, guardian or caretaker — to vote regardless of citizenship status. ..."Every time you're on the cutting edge of any issue you're going to have legal issues," said Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, a Green Party member who introduced the proposal. "This body has taken a strong position on things like gay marriage, domestic partnership…. I don't think this is any different." ...David Chiu, an early proponent of the ballot proposal, said that at least one in three students in San Francisco's public schools has an immigrant parent. Chiu, co-founder of the public relations firm Grassroots Enterprise, said his organization had pushed for voting rights in part because long waits to become citizens had left immigrant parents disenfranchised when their children were in school.
Isn't it amusing to see how people rationalize stupid ideas? Regardless of whether an issue may be completely looney, if you label it as cutting edge, then you've somehow legitimized it. And what's up with the idea that long waits to become citizens justifies letting non-citizens vote? Just imagine how many beauracratic processes we could circumvent if we applied that type of reasoning across the board.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

On better morality...

It can be interesting to read secularist comments with regards to what they consider to be the relativistic nature of morality. It’s interesting because, try as they might, they can never get away from affirming the ultimate nature of morality. Take Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars and his post The WorldNutDaily on Morality.  In the aforementioned post he takes WorldNetDaily’s Mychal Massie to task for his article titled Morality Doesn’t Evolve.   To illustrate why he thinks that morality does evolve Ed uses a couple of examples from the Bible that have to do with slavery and war. After quoting Leviticus 25:44-46; Exodus 21:20-21; 1 Timothy 6:1-5; and Ephesians 6:5-6, Ed states, “Clearly, our morality today is far advanced from biblical morality in regard to slavery.” With regards to war he quotes Numbers 31:14-18, and then states, “Under modern laws of war, this is the absolute height of savagery.”   The seriousness of this topic is revealed as he conlcudes by stating:
By the way, this issue is probably the single biggest thing that led me to leave Christianity so many years ago. I realized that if someone today said that God had told them many of the things that the authors of the bible attributed to God, we would quite literally consider them insane. If a Hitler or Stalin claimed that God told them that it was okay to kill everyone in a neighboring country except the virgin women, to be taken as the spoils of war, we would consider that to be the very essence of insanity and savagery. Yet when Moses makes that same claim, no one blinks at it. Well, I blinked. I do not for a moment believe that God would command anyone to do something so clearly barbaric, not today, not yesterday and not ever. And no one, not even the staunchest fundamentalist, would disagree with me if it happened today. But they won't apply the same standards to biblical events and figures. At any rate, it should be clear to all but the most blinded that in regard to these two issues, slavery and war, our modern moral standards are entirely opposed, and infinitely superior, to biblical moral standards.
  It is not my intent to address the theological questions that Ed raises in this post. There are certainly other bloggers more capable of addressing how the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants relate to the Davidic and New Covenants (e.g., Mark Roberts, Jollyblogger, and Wheat & Chaff); as well as resources addressing the differences between culturally specific legal guidelines and universally applicable commandments (e.g., What We Can’t Not Know).   What I’d like to address is the thought that Ed expresses in his last sentence: “…our modern moral standards are entirely opposed, and infinitely superior, to biblical moral standards.” In fact, he prefaces his quotes from the Bible with the same thought, “Not only has our morality "evolved" since biblical days, it has evolved for the better.” Did you catch it? – it has evolved for the better.   For anyone to claim that one form of morality is better than another presupposes some separate standard with which to compare the two. Regardless of whether a secularist wants to admit it, he is, in effect, appealing to a higher standard that all "forms" of morality must answer to.   This leaves the atheistic naturalist in a sticky predicament, for if nature is all there is, and morality has any authority at all, then where did it come from? The logical conclusion is that morality is, in reality, an illusion – some sort of sick joke that humanity has fallen for. For a mere naturalist (i.e., not necessarily an atheist), the issue is partly resolved through deism. Yet even the deist is left wondering how (and if) an impersonal deity interacts with human morality. A non-interacting deity might as well be a non-existent deity; and the implications of an interacting, authoritative deity seem to be self-defeating for the concept of deism itself.   If morality is relative and can change over time, then who’s to say that one version is better than another? Yet, if we can understand that one application of morality is not only better than another, but that certain moral principles apply to all people at all times, we had better well understand that we aren’t in charge.   Postscript: For another look at how morality seems to be “evolving,” check Joe Carter’s post The Negation of Love: Abortion and the “Culture of Me,” in which he highlights how twisted views of morality have resulted in pre-abortion women writing “love” letters to their soon-to-be-killed unborn children. One chilling example is,
For my little angel: Although I say goodbye to you today, you will always be in my mind, heart, and soul. Please understand that this wasn’t your time because you are better off in the hands of God than mine at this moment. My own creation, you are and forever will be beautiful and pure. I smile when I think of you, even if I cry. You have given me reason to be strong and wise and responsible. You will always be my baby. I will see you in heaven, sweetheart. I LOVE YOU! Always and unconditionally, Your Mommy.
  Please read the comments section at Joe’s post as well for insight into how our 21st century culture attempts to rationalize such letters.   Also, check the Touchstone article Her Mother's Glory, by Robert Hart, in which he discusses the connection between his giving his adopted daughter away at her wedding and a victim of rape, left pregnant by the rapist.

Monday, July 19, 2004

But it makes the point...

In church yesterday, our interim pastor used a story as an illustration for the closing of his sermon. Now this is a typical tactic for just about any public speaker - highlight your point(s) by using a story that the audience can relate to. But I got a bit uneasy when, after he started the story, I realized I had heard a different version of it years ago.   Here's the story (attributed to a Randy Walker): 

In 1967 while taking a class in photography at the University of Cincinnati, I became acquainted with a young man named Charles Murray who also was a student at the school and training for the summer Olympics of 1968 as a high diver. Charles was very patient with me as I would speak to him for hours about Jesus Christ and how He had saved me. Charles was not raised in a home that attended any kind of church, so all that I had to tell him was a fascination to him. He even began to ask questions about forgiveness of sin.

Finally the day came that I put a question to him. I asked if he realized his own need of a redeemer and if he was ready to trust Christ as his own Saviour. I saw his countenance fall and the guilt in his face. But his reply was a strong "no."

In the days that followed he was quiet and often I felt that he was avoiding me, until I got a phone call and it was Charles. He wanted to know where to look in the New Testament for some verses that I had given him about salvation. I gave him the reference to several passages and asked if I could meet with him. He declined my offer and thanked me for the scripture. I could tell that he was greatly troubled, but I did not know where he was or how to help him.

Because he was training for the Olympic games, Charles had special privileges at the University pool facilities. Some time between 10:30 and 11:00 that evening he decided to go swim and practice a few dives. It was a clear night in October and the moon was big and bright. The University pool was housed under a ceiling of glass panes so the moon shone bright across the top of the wall in the pool area. Charles climbed to the highest platform to take his first dive. At that moment the Spirit of God began to convict him of his sins. All the scripture he had read, all the occasions of witnessing to him about Christ flooded his mind. He stood on the platform backwards to make his dive, spread his arms to gather his balance, looked up to the wall and saw his own shadow caused by the light of the moon. It was the shape of a cross. He could bear the burden of his sin no longer. His heart broke and he sat down on the platform and asked God to forgive him and save him. He trusted Jesus Christ twenty some feet in the air.

Suddenly, the lights in the pool area came on. The attendant had come in to check the pool. As Charles looked down from his platform he saw an empty pool which had been drained for repairs. He had almost plummeted to his death, but the cross had stopped him from disaster.

I remember hearing the same story as a youth, except the main player (the hapless diver) was a rich executive who had returned home early from a business trip. He decides to dive into his pool and experiences the same fate as the aforementioned Chuck Murray.   According to the Urban Legends Reference Page, the University of Cincinnati had two Charles Murray's enrolled in the 1960s, but neither of them were at the school in 1967 and neither of them were divers. Also from Urban Legends,

You have to wonder about a university that would grant one of their top athletes -- a guy who's in training for the Olympics -- special pool privileges, then close their pool for repairs and drain it, without even notifying him about their plans. have to wonder about a diver who walks around a pool, climbs up a ladder to a diving platform, and stands overlooking the pool in a building "under a ceiling of glass panes" on a night when "the moon was big and bright" yet didn't once notice the absence of light reflecting from where the water should have been. And you really have to wonder about an experienced diver who plunges into a darkened pool from a high-dive platform without having first checked the water to ensure that there are no objects (such as people) in his landing area.

You've also got to wonder why a diver of Olympic stature isn't concerned about noting the surface of the water - remember that little stream of water that is constantly sprayed onto the surface, creating ripples, in order to give the diver a point of reference?   Now I'm not faulting our interim pastor... he most surely received the story thinking it to be true. Yet a little bit of research can help verify accounts and / or claims that, on the surface, seem a bit too contrived.   Still, what concerns me is just how many people in the congregation, if told about the story's lack of authenticity, would care? Would they be more concerned with whether the story helps make the point the pastor is delivering, or would they think that the story's veracity is more important?   Would people accept the story, simply because it made them feel better?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Are the pics working?...

I'm having trouble confirming whether or not my 1978 / 2004 pics, as well as the two pics from my recent vacation, are showing up properly on the blog.   If they aren't showing up, can someone explain why?   Thanks.    

The weekly "Who Cares?" award...

It's barely been a day since the announcement that Shaq is leaving the Lakers and I am thoroughly sick of the story.

Chainsaws are for wimps...

I take off on vacation and come home to find out I've been awarded the Golden Axe by my friends over at The Rough Woodsman. Among their many kind words are:
New Covenant is brimming over with lucid in-depth writings churned out by its tireless author, Rusty Lopez, who displays abundant polemical patience in debating Origins with evolutionists who have sold their souls to Philosophic Naturalism.
Thanks guys! Make The Rough Woodsman a regular stop... especially if you've got an axe to grind.

I'm back in the saddle again...

Well I thought I had posted an entry back on July 2nd that stated I'd be away for a couple of weeks... was it there (then)? Anyway, I just got back from a 3,700+ mile roadtrip through the Southwest and into the Lone Star State. Highlights of the trip include numerous samplings of New Mexican cuisine, stopping at Cracker Barrel three times, and indulging in my cousin Edward's superb Texas BBQ (brisket and sausage). Here are a couple of shots from the trip... Just outside the Church Street Cafe in Old Town Albuquerque. Meal for the evening was "old style" chile relleno (stuffed with pork) with green chile on the side. The San Felipe church in Old Town Albuquerque.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Out of pocket...

I'll be away from the pc until mid-July. Have a great Independence Day!

DarkSyde debate (part 2)...

[Rusty] the Cambrian Explosion, [DarkSyde] DS~There's plenty of reason why we see more metazoan fossil remnants in certain Cambrian Strata. Not the least of which is that there is one, and only one, fairly large Cambrian strata holding huge numbers of fossils so exquisitely preserved that we even get soft tissue. The Burgess Shale. There are several smaller areas in less rich biomes from around the same time, but nothing like the Burgess. It helps to actually have the proper sediments, exposed, of the time period in question. It also helps to have critters with hard endoskeletons and hard shells. There was also apparently a large and severe series of Glaciations that occurred just prior to the Cambrian which would have limited the habitable areas of the Earth-remember all life was at this time almost exclusively underwater and dependent ultimately on cyano-bacteria. That glaciation seems to have ended right before the Cambrian Explosion. And when I say extreme, I mean perhaps all the way to the equator. There is more and more evidence for this scenario called "The Snow Ball Earth Theory", and it's quite fascinating...the mechanism for reversing the glaciation is ingenious and I leave it to the interested reader to learn what it was. Hint: It's something the BushCo admin wants to deny exists. The "explosion" took place over about 10-20 million, and that's just that we know of! Twenty-million years takes you from tiny mouse sized mammals to Hyeno-dons and Indricotheriums. Some of the largest animals who ever live. It takes you from small birds to 600 pound Androgorlinis Terror birds. It's about the same or more than the length of time it took for whales to evolve from artiodactyls. We now have many many fossils of Precambrian critters. That period preceding the Cambrian is called the Edicarian (Or Vendian for you diehards) and we have a smattering of fossil creatures, fossil burrows, sponges, from well before the Cambrian, etc. We also have an enormous number of cyno-bacteria communities preceding the Cambrian by BILLIONS of years. We have chemical signatures for widespread life going back 4 billion years. We would not expect to find jellyfish, simple annelids, or other gelatinous creatures, very often if ever. They wouldn't have much chance of fossilizing even under ideal conditions. Nevertheless the exact series of events which may have produced a large radiation of novel lifeforms just before the Cambrian has not been resolved and remains an exciting and fruitful field of investigation. Saying we have no clue what the heck happened, throwing your arms in the air and claming it must have been magic, is very much an argument from ignorance.
Saying we have no clue what the heck happened, throwing your arms in the air and claming it must have been magic, is very much an argument from ignorance. I agree. But that’s not what I’ve done. I’ve written a bit on the Cambrian Explosion here, and anyone who wishes to study it will find out that the more we learn about the event, the more we realize how profound it was. Further research has shown that the explosion of body plans occurred in less than five million years. Note that the evolutionary paradigm posits that further research will show that the “explosion” actually took longer than what the evidence currently says. Yet continued research into both large Cambrian strata locations (i.e., Canada and China) demonstrates that the opposite is true. I am aware of the Snowball Earth theory and agree that it is a fascinating read (ref. Rare Earth by Brownlee & Ward). I also agree that the methods involved are ingenious which, by the way, is an adjective modifying a process of a mind. I’m not quite sure why Dark raises the issue of the glacial period just prior to the Cambrian. The evidence at this time certainly points to the Cambrian Explosion occurring as soon as optimally possible. From the viewpoint I present, it fits in with the notion of a purposeful plan. Please check my posts on how the presence of a plan indicates design at these posts: post1, post2, post3, post4. That there is evidence of life forms prior to the Cambrian Explosion is not the issue of concern with regards to the event. What is the issue are the variety of complex body plans that appear in a geologic instant. By Dark’s own description, the types of life forms we see prior to the explosion are immensely different from those that appear during the explosion. The question continues to be, how did the diversity and complexity appear so suddenly? I agree with Dark that the event continues to be enigmatic, and I also agree that it is an exciting field for further study… let’s see where the data from continued research will point us. For further reference: The Cambrian Explosion Biology's Big Bang (PDF), by Stephen C. Meyer, Marcus Ross, Paul Nelson and Paul Chien
[Rusty] molecular motors, [DarkSyde] DS~If you saw a real electron micrograph of a eu-bacterial flagella, it would not look like the nice little symmetrical gizmo Dembski uses in his presentation! It would look like a collage of weird blobs. But in anycase, so what? Don't stop with bacteria, we Humans have not only molecular 'motors' (our muscle tissue for example), we have molecular cameras, molecular 'combat' troops, molecular microphones and molecular speakers. . Life is made of molecules. The exact details of how and why those various structures evolved is something we're likely to never know in absolute full detail. We can see what the selective advantage would be in most cases, in a few cases we have extant creatures showing what appear to be earlier, or perhaps rudimentary, forms of those structures. And we have fossil showing some of the larger types of structure which appear to be in the process of being co=opted for a secondary use. But we'll probably never know the precise series in each generation that selected for the precursors of those structures on a molecular, or the precise change in the base pairs which produced them, ever. It would be like saying that if you can't trace the exact footsteps of the Romans who cut down the tree and what kind of ax they used, and the exact tools carpenters who fashioned the cross used, and the exact each step that Jesus walked carrying that cross, then none of it ever happened, it's all conjecture and myth.
The issue isn’t whether an actual bacterial flagella looks like the clean animations we see presented to us. It also doesn’t matter whether the graphics are presented by an ID proponent like Bill Dembski or within a secular Biochemistry textbook like this. What matters is whether the structural makeup of the flagellum is analogous to a rotary motor. Not only is it analogous, it is a direct analog! The parts are given their various names, mimicking human artifact counterparts, precisely because of their corresponding function. Check my post On Plans, templates, and similarities… for additional comments. Unfortunately, appealing to possible co-opting in conjunction with forever lost intermediate forms is hardly a slam-dunk apologetic for evolution. Once the molecular structures are unpacked from the use of evolutionary lensing and unwarranted extrapolations, we’re left with irreducibly complex structures. In his review of Bill Dembski’s book No Free Lunch, H. Allen Orr overconfidently claims that the so-called irreducibly complex structures Michael Behe writes about are accessible through Darwinian evolution. Bill Dembski has written a devastating response to Orr’s review which can be found here. The exact details of how and why those various structures evolved is something we're likely to never know in absolute full detail. C’mon Dark, that sounds like an argument from ignorance or, at least, circular reasoning (e.g., “well, we know they evolved… we just don’t know how.”).
[Rusty] convergent evolution, [DarkSyde] DS~I'll need an example, here but I can broadly say that similar parameters of a biome might produce similar superficial form and furthermore than NS would predict it. One would expect this if natural selection has any say about the matter. You expect that creatures who fly would have something like wings which catches air. The classic example being ichthyosaurs, sharks, penguins, and cetaceans. They torpedo shaped, and I wonder why that would possibly be ? Even octopi assume a smooth streamlined profile when trying to haul ass. You wouldn't expect a free swimming sea creature to resemble an open parachute if the idea was to move quickly!
I don’t have time to go into the topic of convergent evolution at present. Suffice it to say that there is not a consensus among evolutionists on this topic. The late Stephen J. Gould is oft-quoted as stating that if one were to rewind the tape of history on planet earth, and let events play out again, that we’d end up with a much different world than the one we have. Also, it should be noted that there are examples of convergent evolution in which dissimilar environmental parameters were involved, as well as examples of similar environmental parameters with differing morphological structures. One can read up on it at this link. Notice the evolutionary lensing that is occurring here. We hear statements to the effect of, “notice how well adapted evolution has made the shark.” When queried as to how we know that evolution did it, the response is along the lines of, “well they’re here, aren’t they?” Don’t you see the circular reasoning here, let alone how the design explanation is willfully ignored?
[Rusty] speciation rates, etc.). [DarkSyde] Not sure what you mean here. We've observed speciation both in the lab and in the wild. So it goes without saying we know it can happen. We also have many examples of related taxa which can produce fully interfertile offspring, infertile offspring, and in some case where there is normally no offspring but occasionally a hybrid can be produced. See ZONKEY . Evolution/diversifiation explains this. It explains why brown bear and polar bears can still reproduce with each other. It explains why tigers and lions can reproduce but only very rarely produce fertile ligers or tigons. It explains why burros and zebras can reproduce. How does IDC explain it?
I’ve stated above that speciation has not been observed. We'll just have to leave it that we disagree on this. What I am referring to by speciation rates is that the average rate of speciation, as indicated by the fossil record, falls woefully short of what we currently observe. Add to that the fact that species will go extinct, regardless of human intervention, and the question arises as to just where are all these new species that we should be seeing?
[Rusty] This is not an argument from ignorance. [DarkSyde] It most certainly is, with a bit of denial and misinformation used to spice it up. It's classic DI or Hugh Ross material.
No comment.
[Rusty] It is precisely because of how much we've learned that we know how intractable the problems are. [DarkSyde] Intractable means to me 'can never be solved.' But in your usage, solved to what degree? We can resolve that birds evolved from reptiles or that humans evolved from earlier primates in a number of independent ways. We can't yet, and we may never, resolve on a step by step, individual generation to individual generation why some of it happened. Does Intelligent design and manufacture lay contingent on evolution being false? Or is perhaps your personal religious convictions that rely on evolution being invalid, and IDC could simply be a method of creation used by the Creator just as He used stellar-nucelosynthesis? What is the Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design? Is it compatible with evolutionary biology? What evidence would you accept for evolution, or against antievolution?
There once was a time when chemists thought they could turn lead into gold. They don’t think that way anymore. I doubt any chemist could get funding for a renewed attempt at alchemy. Note that it isn’t because of ignorance that we know we can’t turn lead into gold, but because of knowledge. Some evolutionists like to paint ID proponents as enemies of science with no inclination for continued research. But let’s take a look at what Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards have to say in their recent book, The Privileged Planet:
We live in a universe with laws and initial conditions finely tuned for the existence of complex life. Although narrowly constrained, they do not inevitably give rise to such life. They are necessary but not nearly sufficient for it. In extremely rare pockets of that universe, conditions are congenial to the existence of beings who can observe the starry heavens above and ponder the meaning of their existence. In at least one of these places, despite struggle and adversity, some came to believe that the world around them was a rational, orderly universe, accessible not only to rational thought but also to careful investigation. Centuries of study, amplified by technological tools and innovation, have given rise to an unparalleled knowledge of the world around us. The combination of those preliminary discoveries now gives rise to another: The same rare conditions that have sustained our existence also make possible a stunning array of discoveries about the universe. There is a purposeful value in this. Because of it, and only because of it, can our aspirations for scientific knowledge and discovery be satisfied. Careful investigation, study, and observation of the natural world ultimately succeed. With enough persistence, the natural world discloses itself to us in ways that we do not, and sometimes cannot, anticipate. Once perceived, the thought creeps up quietly but insistently: The universe, whatever else it is, is designed for discovery. What better mandate could there be for the scientific pursuit of truth? Scientific discovery enjoys a sort of cosmic prestige, but a prestige apparent only to those open to the possibility that the cosmos exists for a purpose. (emphasis in original)
Whether or not my personal religious convictions apply here is not the issue. Everyone has personal convictions. Any implication that those people with religious convictions are incapable of objectively analyzing empirical data is not only without merit, but it is itself a personal conviction. The question comparing naturalistic evolution with that of stellar formation and whether or not God uses both is a good one. Although the answer delves into the merits and logical implications of methodological naturalism, with which I’ve addressed here, we should also understand the differences between the two. Stellar formation is not dependent on natural selection. Given the same set of parameters, we should see the same results. Granted, the more complex the situation (e.g., the formation of an Earth-like planet within a solar system like our own), the more complex the parameters. But the processes involved are essentially dependent on the laws of physics. With naturalistic evolution the situation is essentially dependent on chance. That is, given the same set of parameters, the outcome cannot be ascertained beforehand because the outcome is not pre-programmed into the physics. The kicker is we are told that the complex, information-rich structures that make up life’s diversity arose through purely chance means; as opposed to the natural means in which stars form. Now one of the reasons why I do not consider the option that it is God who is using naturalistic evolution is because the theory allows, and sometimes demands, that it can circumvent mindful design through chance and determinism. In other words, it attempts to explain away the need for God. You leave me with a series of good questions Dark. I don’t have the time to hit them now, but I hope to get to them as the Summer progresses. Enjoy.

A legend dies...

Film legend Marlon Brando dies at age 80, per MSNBC.
Marlon Brando, who revolutionized American acting with his Method performances in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront” and went on to create the iconic character of Don Vito Corleone in “The Godfather,” has died. He was 80. ...His image was a studio’s nightmare. Millions of words were written about his weight, his many romances and three marriages, his tireless — and, for some, tiresome — support of the American Indian and other causes,... ...Brando’s private life turned tragic years later with his son’s conviction for killing the boyfriend of his half sister, Cheyenne Brando, in 1990. Five years later, Cheyenne committed suicide, still depressed over the killing. ...The actor followed with “Last Tango in Paris.” One of his greatest performances was overshadowed by an uproar over the erotic nature of the Bernardo Bertolucci film. ...He married actress Anna Kashfi in 1957, believing her to be East Indian. She was revealed to be Irish, and they separated a year later. In 1960 he married a Mexican actress, Movita, who had appeared in the first “Mutiny on the Bounty.” They were divorced after he met Tarita. All three wives were pregnant when he married them. He had nine children.
Per CNN,
Brando reportedly wound up millions of dollars in debt defending Christian, and the star subsisted during his final years almost entirely on small residuals from his films, Social Security benefits and a pension from the Screen Actors Guild.
Such a sad existence, yet, we're to believe it is the stuff legends are made from.

Bill: round 2...

Bill Cosby has more harsh words for black community, per CNN.
Bill Cosby went off on another tirade against the black community Thursday, telling a room full of activists that black children are running around not knowing how to read or write and "going nowhere." He also had harsh words for struggling black men, telling them: "Stop beating up your women because you can't find a job." Cosby made headlines in May when he upbraided some poor blacks for their grammar and accused them of squandering opportunities the civil rights movement gave them. He shot back Thursday, saying his detractors were trying in vain to hide the black community's "dirty laundry." "Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other n------ as they're walking up and down the street," Cosby said during an appearance at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition & Citizenship Education Fund's annual conference. "They think they're hip," the entertainer said. "They can't read; they can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere."
Yes, Bill! How refreshing to see someone of his stature take a stand for common sense. Here is a man who has gotten to where he is through intensely hard work. He remembers what it was like before the Civil Rights Act. He's ashamed of the lack of drive he witnesses today. But I doubt that he is surprised. Handouts upon handouts upon handouts have not delivered our ghettos out of poverty. Greed and laziness wreak havoc on morale and vision. Self-centered victim mentalities trample underfoot the virtue of responsibility. Perpetual drunkeness prevents rational enlightenment. The problem is... the same issues affect our culture at large.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

DarkSyde debate (part 1)...

In my posts regarding naturalistic evolution I’ve had the pleasure of having comments from a person who goes by the web name of DarkSyde (hereafter referred to as Dark). During a recent volley tied to my post Naturally Necessary, Dark decided to respond via e-mail since the free Haloscan comment provider I use limits comments to 1,000 characters. I will post Dark’s entire e-mail in two parts, and reply to each section accordingly. For those new to the series it might help to review some of my recent posts on this topic: Naturally necessary…, The obvious nature of evolution…, On the one hand…, and The world goes round and round… On to Dark’s e-mail:
[Rusty] Then, as DarkSyde alludes to, why not rely on a naturalistic explanation for speciation events? [DarkSyde] Well, for starters we've seen speciation happen, and we've seen drunk drivers pass out behind the wheel and flip over. We've never seen species created by superanatural means, and we've never seen a poltergeist wrest control of the wheel of a car and force it off the road for some unfathomable reason. That's why we lean towards naturalistic explanation in both cases.
I would argue that we’ve never seen speciation happen. One should note, however, that the definition of “species” can be tricky, and that is probably where Dark and I would disagree. Not knowing what Dark is referring to I will venture to point out that varieties within a species should not qualify: e.g., one bird species that, over time, migrates its habitat location from one end of the globe to the other, with the resulting species unable to breed with the original species; or bacterial resistance to antibiotics. In each case we see that the source is the same type of animal as the final (i.e., birds are still birds, and bacteria are still bacteria). With regards to a supernatural explanation for an event (in this case, speciation), we must be careful not to exclude an explanation simply because we’ve never witnessed it. The core of the issue isn’t whether we’ve witnessed the event ever occurring by supernatural means, but whether the supernatural is an admissible potential explanation for the event. Certainly it is admissible. Any explanation is admissible... whether it is the proper explanation is a different story. Before we can ascertain whether an event was supernaturally caused we need to first analyze whether the event was intelligently caused. Upon observing that the words “John loves Mary” are written in the sand, we reasonably conclude that the words appeared through intelligent action. There is a miniscule chance that the interaction of the waves on the seashore is what caused the words to appear, but the most reasonable explanation is intelligent causation. Note, however, that even if the words were written by John, he was constrained to act within the laws of physics, i.e., within nature. Although a supernatural explanation is allowed as a potential explanation, the natural, intelligently caused explanation appears sufficient. Now consider an event in which human intervention is unlikely or, perhaps, impossible. The options for explanation are: 1) purely natural causation due to determinism and chance or, 2) intelligent causation. The determining factors here should be similar to those in our “John loves Mary” example – the probability of a highly specific event occurring by chance vs. by intelligent causation. If it can be shown that the probability of an event occurring through purely natural means is unreasonable, then the intelligent causation option should be explored. If no intelligent beings exist with the power to accomplish the task, then is it not unreasonable to conclude that a being exists with the power to do so? This is not simply an argument from ignorance, for one of the primary reasons that we conclude supernatural activity is our ever increasing level of knowledge of the event in question. This increased knowledge reinforces our determination of the unlikelihood of an event occurring through purely natural means. There are some adherents to methodological naturalism who declare that the supernatural must be excluded from contention (when analyzing natural phenomenon). Yet their own paradigm forbids them from justifying their exclusion of the supernatural. By definition, they are limited to analyzing events through empirical means. If supernatural events have the property of passing through empirical filters, then the naturalist has no way of analyzing the supernatural event. But the naturalist is further constrained from declaring that supernatural events cannot occur, because he has no empirical tests to show that this is the case! What to do? There are at least four options: 1) Assume that the supernatural does not occur, 2) Posit that the supernatural may occur, but since we have no way to detect it, we must exclude it from contention, 3) Posit that the supernatural does occur, but since we have no way to detect it, we must exclude it from contention, or 4) Posit that the supernatural does occur and that we have the means to rationally conclude it has occurred. One may protest that a supernatural being may choose to cause an event within the natural realm, and then proceed to cover-up all natural evidence pointing towards the supernatural act. Of course this is certainly a possibility. I, however, am not positing just any supernatural being, but the God of the Bible. Based on the characteristics we believe God to have, it does not follow that He would act in a supernatural manner, and then cover-up His tracks in an attempt to deceive us. In other words, I am positing that if God acts in a supernatural manner to cause certain natural events with which we have the ability to analyze, then He will have left us with the means by which to determine that the events were supernaturally caused. This leads us, actually, to the core of my recent posts regarding what I will now refer to as “evolutionary lensing.” Evolutionary Lensing occurs when one imposes the evolutionary paradigm on the empirical data, instead of letting the data point wherever it might.
[Rusty] Simply because it is not the best fit for the data. Now I'm certain that most, if not all, evolutionists would disagree with that statement. [DarkSyde] LOL...Yes, they would disagree until they were purple in the face and in need of CPR and a defib unit. You brought up data...The best fit for what data? We can certainly cherry pick data which supports IDC, or YEC, or even flat earthism for that matter. That's a good part of what IDCist spend their time doing by the way is cherry picking and dismissing data, quotemining, and distorting legit science. The classic routine portrays, or flat out contrive a problem as intractable for evolutionary biology, and then declares IDC the winner by default. That argument takes two primary scientific forms. 1 Simply ignore evidence we do have such as transitionals or genetic base pair comparisons as being tentative, misinterpreted, or down right fraudulent, and then say "SOooooo, where are all the transitional fossils Darwinist predicted?" Then ignoring request for what data would be acceptable and responding instead with something like 'but you can't prover it's a transitional'. The second simply makes stuff up, the classic strawman. Nebraska Man, or Java Man, or for YEC'ers, the Lunar Dust 'problem', and then goes from there along the same vein. (Re: Lunar Dust, I realize you're not a Young Earther Rusty and I intended no guilt by association with that remark) That's precisely why I ask, ahead of time, what kind of evidence the IDC'ist will accept. I do so in large part because I don't want my opponent to be able to rig his answer down the road by dismissing the evidence ad 'not convincing'. It's also a fallacious argument. E.G.: It's like saying if you prove the Shroud of Turin is a clever fake, or that the prettified hand of John the Baptist is a fake, then Christendom is all invalid. Another tact has been to attack the scientific methodology as being hopelessly, erroneously, and fatally exclusive of supernatural possibilities. It's a highfalutin philosophical argument which I have neither the inclination or patience to pursue. I suggest John Wilkins or Brian Lieter if you wish to discuss this in depth.
This issue hits the nail on the head with regards to why evolutionists appear baffled as to why anyone would consider Intelligent Design. The many laughing evolutionists, purple in the face, and in need of paramedics, are under the assumption that data equates to proof. Yet data is simply just that… data. Notice that I stated the evolutionary conclusion is not the best fit for the data… not cherry-picked data but data – all the data, past, present, and future (that’s a scientific prediction, by the way). We must tie back to Evolutionary Lensing in order to fully appreciate this problem. Many times an evolutionist will respond to a creationist with a boat-load of data, assuming that the data is fully supportive of the evolutionary paradigm. If the creationist balks, or chooses not to respond, it is seen as a win by default for the evolutionist. Yet my whole point has been that the evolutionist is guilty of reading his theory into the data. To illustrate my point let’s look at Tim Berra and Berra’s Blunder. Briefly, Berra is 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)
This is a classic example of Evolutionary Lensing. Berra has explicitly stated that the similar structures we find in the fossil record are analogous to intelligently designed human artifacts. The problem is that the corvettes did not evolve through Darwinian descent with modification – they were designed. So my response to the oxygen deprived, purple faced, evolutionists is to catch your breath and apply a bit more objectivity to your data. A footnote to the problem of Evolutionary Lensing would be the phenomenon of unwarranted extrapolation. We see this occur time and time again in evolutionary analysis. Data is first interpreted through Evolutionary Lensing, and then unwarranted extrapolations are made. I took H. Allen Orr to task for this in my analysis of his review of William Dembski’s book No Free Lunch. That the beaks of finches vary in size because of varying amounts of yearly rainfall is taken to mean that the birds can eventually evolve into other species. That bacteria display resistance to antibiotics is taken to mean that simple, single-celled life evolved into the diversity of life we see today. That chimps and humans share a genetic similarity is taken to mean that they both have a common ancestor. There are two problems with these types of analyses: 1) the means by which the change is posited (i.e., descent with modification) has not been shown to actually produce the changes needed and, 2) the correlation of the data to the design scenario is completely ignored. While there certainly are creationists (and evolutionists) who have cherry-picked and / or fudged their data, that really isn’t the issue. Take a book like Evolution: a Theory in Crisis, by Michael Denton. His analysis could hardly be considered cherry-picking. Or take the stance of Reasons to Believe. Anyone who closely follows their efforts will notice that they are open to reviewing all the data and they have, on occasion, admitted when they have overstepped their interpretation of the data with regards to its support of the design scenario.
[Rusty] Yet it doesn't take too much digging to find out that there are some very real issues within the naturalistic paradigm that currently have no satisfactory answers (e.g., the origin of life,) [DarkSyde] DS~There are unknowns in all of science. One could accurately say that the ultimate nature of gravity is intractable, yet objects still fall. In abio, there's plenty of competing scenarios. But you're essentially correct that we have no overarching theory for abiogenesis which does for the formation of life what evolution does for diversification/speciation of life since then. It's my view that we never will fully know. It's also a nasty, physical science which necessitates lots of chemistry knowledge and has nothing in the way of grandiose mechanisms readily comprehendible to the average guy such as you and I. We don't know the details. That's ignorance in my book. Those events may have been supernatural or natural, but they likely left no discernible record either way as far as we know.
I would refer readers to the book Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off, by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana. While the issue of descent with modification is rightfully excluded from the issue of life’s origin, the implications of intelligent causation are not. The book does an excellent job of explaining how increased knowledge, over the past 50+ years, has strengthened the claim that intelligent causation is responsible for life’s origin. Such an analysis spells doom for the naturalistic scenario, for if we find that the Divine foot has come in the door from day 1 of life here on Earth, then what's to stop Him from acting since then? (to be continued)