Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bird of prey...

Check out this shot my wife took this morning. We have a screened in patio (known as a "sunroom" in most of the U.S.) and about 7:30 this morning our girls heard a loud noise in there. Our 4 year old then informed my wife that "there's a big bird in the playroom!" A hawk had crashed through one of the screen panels and was sitting in the patio. While our 9 year old looked up which kind of hawk it was, my wife attempted to snap a few pics. The Coopers Hawk (according to my 9 year old) was a juvenile and, as expected, got quite agitated whenever any of the three got near it. It was evidently having a difficult time finding its way back out of the patio. Animal Control said to wait a while and see if it would fly out on its own which, after the sun broke through the clouds, it did. Needless to say, it was an event that gave spark to a writing assignment for the afternoon session of school.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Are you... partisan?

Hugh Hewitt writes about a Newsweek article in which an insult is levied at bloggers in that they are accused of being "fiercly partisan." Hugh writes,
In this charge Levy joins folks like Andrew Sullivan and Peter Beinart who have been tossing the term "partisan" around like a rotten egg for many months. Time for some clarity: Partisanship is the bedrock of the American republic and has been since at least Jefferson's presidency.
Excellent point, and very timely considering my previous post on President Jimmy Carter's accusations that a fair election is not possible in Florida primarily because of highly partisan and biased officials. Hewitt's remarks are also timely in that I am currently reading Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, which recounts the events up to, and including, the voyage of Lewis and Clark. Ambrose details the fiercly partisan politics entrenched in American politics during Jefferson's term. He describes the conflicts between the Federalists and the Republicans in terms that make events of today seem tame in comparison. What 21st century citizens of the United States need to understand is that the founding fathers weren't attempting to draft a system of government that would avoid partisan politics. No, they understood very well that man's inherent depravity rendered such a system virtually impossible to achieve. Yet, rather than attempting to avoid such a system, they counted on it. The machinery of a separation of power can only function properly when it is fueled by a struggle for power. The founding fathers knew this not only in theory, but also in practice. Consider what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book Ethics,
The American democracy is not founded upon the emancipated man but, quite on the contrary, upon the kingdom of God and the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God. It is indeed significant when, in contrast to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, American historians can say that the federal constitution was written by men who were conscious of original sin and of the wickedness of the human heart.
Are you partisan? I certainly hope so.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Is Jimmy Carter highly partisan?...

Check Carter: No Fair Election Possible in Florida, per FoxNews. Are we seeing a potential set-up for a 2000 Gore vs. Bush scenario in Florida? Some excerpts:
Former President Jimmy Carter (search) says that despite changes designed to eliminate voting problems in Florida — where the disputed 2000 presidential election was decided by only a few hundred votes — conditions for a fair election in that state still don't exist. "The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely," Carter wrote in an opinion piece published Monday in the Washington Post. ...Carter, citing the experience of his Carter Center in monitoring international elections, said "some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida." Most significant, he said, were requirements that a nonpartisan electoral commission or official organize and conduct the electoral process and that voting procedures be uniform for all citizens. He said Florida's top election official in 2000, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, was "highly partisan" and that Harris' successor, Glenda Hood, has shown "the same strong bias". He said Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, had done little to "correct these departures from principles of fair and equal treatment." "With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida," Carter said. - emphasis added
Let's see, our country has traversed over 200 years of elections without even the hint of resorting to the use of basic international requirements. What's next Jimmy?, using international standards to adjust our governmental structure with regards to the struggle for power? Maybe we should see what the rest of the world thinks about 6 year terms for Senators? Or whether two senators per state is really and truly fair? While we're at it, we could round up all those highly partisan officials (read: Republican) in order to prevent them from mucking things up. After all, there's nothing suspicious about a Democrat, with the same strong bias, claiming that the election process in Floirda is unfair only five weeks before the election... is there? Update: Check Memo to Jimmy Carter, at Asymmetrical Information. She begins,
Mr Carter, if you are going to rhetorically lump the US in with tinpot dictatorships that stage elections, there are a few things you might want to consider, so that the effect redounds to the greater glory of yourself and your party, rather than alienating the unwashed masses who will be voting in this sham election.
Hat tip: Instapundit

Friday, September 24, 2004

Can Religion tell us anything important? (part 4)...

In this series I’ve attempted to contrast the way science looks at the world, via the worldview of Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism (M/PN), with how Christianity looks at the world. By, the world, I am referring to ultimate reality – that which comprises our total existence. The premise of my argument has been that M/PN is not able to sufficiently address the issues of ultimate reality to the same degree that Christianity does. From the book, Faith and Reason, by Ron Nash, I listed some of the major elements of a worldview. These elements include: Theology, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics and Anthropology. How well a worldview addresses questions within these disciplines helps to illustrate how well the worldview describes reality. In the previous post on this series I briefly addressed how the aspect of Theology is addressed by M/PN and Christianity. I’d like to address the other worldview elements in this posting. (note – the italicized definitions indicates text from Nash that I’ve paraphrased) Metaphysics - A worldview also includes beliefs about ultimate reality, a subject often discussed under the label of metaphysics. Is there purpose in the universe? What is the ultimate nature of the universe? Is the universe a self-enclosed system in the sense that everything that happens is caused by other events within the system, or can a supernatural reality act causally within nature? The Christian Worldview posits that there is purpose in the universe and that such purpose is based on the major premise that God exists. Interestingly enough, simply asking whether there is purpose, or not, seems to imply that purpose exists. C. S. Lewis said something along the lines of, would a fish, that had spent its whole life in the water, know it was wet? Christianity also argues that the universe is not a self-enclosed system, that God created, and is in control of, the universe, and that God can act from within and outside of the universe. This line of thinking has major implications with regards to whether the universe had a beginning or not. If our purpose is to worship God, then whether God exists or not certainly has implications to how the Christian Worldview addresses metaphysics. M/PN posits that the universe is a self-enclosed system with no intervention from so-called supernatural activity. One problem for this worldview is, given a self-enclosed system, how is it possible for it to have a beginning? A bigger problem for M/PN, though, is that of purpose in the universe. Again, given a self-enclosed system, how is it that an abstract reality, such as a sense of purpose, is generated? Does this sense of purpose really exist? If not, then why do we experience a longing for it? If yes, then how do natural acts result in the abstract? While some naturalists will claim to find purpose and meaning in the natural world itself, they evade the real question of how such an abstract reality could in theory be produced by said natural world. Denying the existence of God, in the M/PN Worldview, also has logical implications with regards to any so-called purpose mere human animals might have. Epistemology - A theory of knowledge. Is knowledge about the world possible? Can we trust our senses? Is truth relative, or must truth be the same for all rational beings? Is the scientific method the only method of knowledge? Is knowledge about God possible? How? The Christian Worldview posits that knowledge of the world is possible but, with the constraint of an assumption. Augustine said that before you can know anything you must believe something. How we come to believe anything is a concept well worth addressing. Many Christian thinkers posit that our cognitive faculties have built in them a capacity to believe, whether it is the belief that one had breakfast this morning or the belief that God exists. Consider the act of having breakfast this morning. In reflecting upon this event I do not decide to believe that it occurred, I simply believe that it happened. If one were to not believe he had breakfast, when in fact he had, we would conclude that his cognitive faculties were impaired to a certain extent. The Christian Worldview argues that sin has impaired our cognitive faculties with regards to belief in God. Yet, although impaired, we still have been input with the belief that God exists. In this sense Paul can state in Romans, with regards to knowledge about God, that no one is without excuse. The First Commandment, as J. Budziszewski tells us in What We Can’t Not Know, presumes that all humans know of God’s existence (and the worship He deserves – but that relies on another concept we can’t not know; that of obligation). It is this Reformed epistemology that Alvin Plantinga used to argue that belief in God is a properly basic belief, without the need of evidentialist support. Although certainly not a “proof” for God, it falls along the same lines as the properly basic belief that other minds exist, despite the fact that said belief is not provable. The worldview of M/PN claims that the scientific method is the best and most reliable method of gaining knowledge about the world. Yet the premise of this claim has no empirical data with which to establish it as true. Claims that the method has historically shown itself to be reliable are self-referential. This is by no means a fatal flaw, but it behooves the naturalist to at least admit that the major cornerstone of his epistemological method must be taken on faith. Once again, though, the major problem for M/PN lies in how poorly it addresses the abstract. Whether or not truth is relative is a question that M/PN cannot convincingly answer. Since the naturalist posits that truth is derived from the natural world (i.e., it is not transcendent), then we have the assertion that truth is relative. Yet what is the answer to the question, “Is the assertion that truth is relative a true assertion?” If one answers “yes,” then truth is not relative. Yet if one answers “no,” what point would there be in further discussion regarding a false assertion? Ethics - Most people are more aware of the ethical component of their worldview than of their metaphysical and epistemological beliefs. It is more than simply making moral judgments though. Ethics is more concerned with the question of why that action is wrong. Are there moral laws that govern human conduct? What are they? Are these moral laws the same for all human beings? Are moral laws discovered (in a way more or less similar to the way we discover that "seven times seven equals forty-nine"), or are they constructed by human beings (in a way more or less similar to what we call human mores)? The Christian Worldview posits that absolute morality exists. Critics will sometimes argue that morality has changed over time but, typically, these arguments are actually about societal rules rather than absolute principles. For instance, while the punishment for murder may vary within history, the act of murder is still known to be wrong. Arguing for absolute moral law supposes that there is an absolute moral lawgiver. It would make no sense to appeal to a standard of morality that was simply a construct of another person. For a standard to be binding upon all humans at all times the standard itself must be distinct from humanity. Where did this standard, if it exists, come from? Within the framework of the Christian Worldview we can now begin to see the weaving together of the theological, metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical elements. If moral laws are discovered, then we should expect them to be true in the same sense that 7 x 7 = 49 is true. M/PN posits that ethics is relative. Natural selection has produced the morality we happen to see today. It was different in the past. It will be different in the future. Taken to its logical conclusion, this worldview results in a world in which nothing is wrong, and everything is right, or vice versa. Anarchy should be the logical result. Yet cacophonic moral principles within various cultures is not what history has shown us… Why? Anthropology - the nature of human beings. Are human beings free, or are they merely pawns of deterministic forces? Are human beings only bodies or material beings? Does physical death end the existence of the human person? The Christian Worldview posits that human beings are free will beings comprised of both body and soul, and that some form of this existence continues beyond mere physical death. Human distinctiveness is due to being imparted with the Image of God and indicates a separate nature than that of the animal kingdom. Expressions of this image are found in such actions as spirit worship, contemplation of death, artistic expression, creativity, etc. Much of the basis for the Christian Worldview in this area stems from the understanding of how an idea relates to a mind. Essentially, an idea is part of an abstract reality that only comes from a mind. If an idea is understood to have always existed, then it must have come from an eternal mind. This concept, when combined with that of the essence of a soul, bolsters the argument that human beings are more than just material beings. (additional ref. The Word of God and The Mind of Man by Ron Nash) One of the most difficult questions for the Christian Worldview to answer in this discipline is: If God is in control, then how can humans truly have free will? M/PN is forced to conclude that humans are not truly free, but merely pawns of deterministic forces that shape the entirety of our existence. Since humans are considered material beings only, any notions of the abstract are mere illusions. Indeed, when we die… we die, and that’s it. It is interesting to note that, while there are many naturalists who logically conclude the meaninglessness of it all, there continues to be many that insist on finding meaning to their existence while acknowledging that humans are exclusively material beings. As can be seen from this series, the abstract realities that all humans know exist equate to a stake through the heart of Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism. to be concluded in part 5...

The "Popular Vote" fallacy: How misunderstands history...

The rumbling in the East is the collective sound of our founding fathers turning over in their graves. is a website promoting a vote-swapping scheme to get Kerry elected this November. The scheme is couched in language that supports concepts such as progressive third-party candidates and the popular vote. From their website:
You can make your vote for president count by joining the national VotePair campaign and using your vote to elect Kerry-Edwards while supporting the role of progressive third-party candidates. As we learned in 2000, a few hundred votes in the right states can make all the difference in the world--and the whole world is watching now. In vote-pairing, swing-state progressives whose first instinct might have been to vote for Nader or Cobb are paired with Democrats (and others whose first choice for President is Kerry) in 'safe' states where either Bush or Kerry has a decisive lead. Paired voters can communicate with each other and decide to vote strategically: swing-state participants for Kerry and safe-state participants for Nader or Cobb. As a result, the paired voters' support for progressive third parties is recorded in the popular vote and their preference for Kerry over Bush finds voice in the Electoral College.
Is this practice constitutional? Wasn't the idea that having the United States of America necessitated having a system such as the Electoral College to insure that each individual State would cast their decision in electing the President? Also, check the FAQ section for some examples of doublespeak and clues to the motivation behind the Votepair organization:
What are the goals of 1. We believe that strong, progressive third parties are critical to our nation's future and that citizens have the right to vote strategically. seeks to give progressive voters more options by enabling us to defeat George Bush in 2004, support third parties, and build a progressive majority. 2. Through vote pairing, we seek to facilitate communication between voters. By engaging with each other to vote strategically, voters are asserting control over presidential elections--putting it back in the hands of citizens, where it belongs. 3. We seek to draw attention to the flaws in our current Electoral College system and support electoral reforms such as Instant Runoff Voting. Does also facilitate alliances between Republican, Libertarian, and Constitution Party supporters? facilitates strategic voting for supporters of David Cobb, Ralph Nader, and John Kerry. But we support the right of individuals from any party to engage in strategic voting. Does the existence of represent the future of the electoral process, or simply the exploitation of a loophole in the process? The Electoral College and winner-take-all voting are flaws exploited by the major parties. We see vote pairing as helping to restore real democracy within this flawed system. We hope that in the future, the electoral system will reflect the spirit of democracy to a greater degree by providing space for third parties and reflecting the popular vote. What's wrong with the Electoral College system? The first problem is that the loser in the popular vote can win in the Electoral College, as in 2000. Second, the winner-take-all method of distributing electoral votes in the Electoral College means that the votes of those who do not support the winning candidate are effectively discarded at the state level. Third, in the Electoral College system, individual citizens have no right to vote for electors. Fourth, small-state voters are over-represented. Fifth, the electoral college gives campaigns little incentive to pay attention to issues that are critical to safe state voters and residents of safe states have much less incentive to vote.
If the Electoral College is so flawed, then why not use the system to correct it? Unless, possibly, you have interests that are better served outside the system?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Homeschool Terrorists: fictionally absurd?...

As reported by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in, Homeschoolers Portrayed as "Terrorists," we see how a Muskegon (Michigan) County Emergency Services terrorism drill used, as part of its scenario, a radical (and fictional) homeschool group known as Wackos Against Schools and Education. According to the scenario, the WASE believe that everyone should be homeschooled. From the Muskegon Chronicle:
Daniel Stout, chief deputy for emergency services with the Muskegon County Sheriff's Department, said he never meant to offend anyone. "That's just what I decided to use," he said of the name choice for Tuesday's drill. "It may have been a poor choice, but that's what was used ... I'm the one who wrote the scenario." Planning for the event began last year, he said, and no one indicated that the name would offend anyone until a few weeks ago. Stout said he decided not to change the name. He said it will not be used again. Last year, a similar terrorism exercise at Muskegon's Heritage Landing was called "Wackos Against Relaxation and Recreation," he said. Fictitious group names often are made up for anti-terrorist drills. Stout referred to a May 2002 exercise in Manistee County where the domestic terrorist group was called ELF, which stood for Ethical Liberation for Fish.
The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District did issue an apology that can be found at HSLDA's website. Although those involved in this fiasco have apologized for their gross ignorance, homeschoolers should take notice of how this incident exposes an underlying attitude towards homeschoolers in general. Given that the previous terrorism drills used ridiculously absurd, and fictitious, group names such as Wackos Against Relaxation and Recreation, or Ethical Liberation for Fish, are we to then conclude that those in charge also consider homeschoolers to be just as ridiculous?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


"Wetland Sunset" - Morro Bay, CA ©1993 RL

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Evangelical Outpost on Swaggart...

Check Joe Carter's post, Thou Shalt Not Look At Me That Way: Jimmy Swaggart and Violence Against Homosexuals, for an insightful look at the un-Christian comments made by Jimmy Swaggart.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Just your average Joe: a scenario in moral relativism…

In the comments section of Can Religion Tell Us Anything Important? (part 2), I’ve been attempting to clarify the moral relativist position of one commenter by the name of Paul. After several gyrations, I think I was able to define his particular position (see this comment). In so doing, I began wondering what implications, if any, would result if we were take the moral relativist’s position to its logical end. So, let’s look at a moral relativism scenario as applied to just three Average Joes. Premise: The law of the land is decided by the majority. In this context, morality is defined as whatever the majority decides. The majority of the populace has decided each Joe must behead his respective 2nd born daughter. Regardless of whatever reason may be given for such a decision, the point here is that the decision is the result of a majority opinion. Results: Joe(1): Despite what the majority wants, Joe(1) chooses to disobey the majority. The reason why Joe(1) disobeys is that he finds the act objectionable. Joe(1) believes the reason why he finds the act objectionable is not because the act is an absolute moral wrong, but due to influences from his family, society, experiences growing up, genetic makeup, etc. Joe(1) believes that, while he believes the act to be objectionable, if he had grown up in a different environment he might just as well believe the act to be permissible. Joe(2): Despite what the majority wants, Joe(2) chooses to disobey the majority. The reason why Joe(2) disobeys is that he believes the act to be objectionable. Joe(2) believes the reason why he finds the act objectionable is simply because the act is an absolute moral wrong, regardless of the influences from his family, society, experiences growing up, genetic makeup, etc. Since Joe(2) believes the act to be an absolute moral wrong, he also believes that is wrong for everyone at all times. Joe(3): Despite what the majority wants, Joe(3) chooses to disobey the majority. The reason why Joe(3) disobeys is that he believes the act to be objectionable. However, Joe(3) believes that the act, in and of itself, is enjoyable, so he sets out to commit the act on the 2nd born daughters of other men. Joe(3) believes the reason why he finds the act enjoyable is not because the act is an absolute moral right, but because of the influences from his family, society, experiences growing up, genetic makeup, etc. Joe(3) could be considered a sort of alter ego of Joe(1) in that he also believes a variety of external influences have determined how he views reality. In other words, the external influences have determined how he determines what is right and wrong. Discussion: Q: In the land of moral relativism, which Joe is morally right? A: They all are; along with the individual morality beliefs of Joe(4)…Joe(n). Q: In the land of moral relativism, which Joe could rightfully be restrained? A: None of them; since restraining the actions of one over the other implies that the one who is restrained ought to act in a manner that the other mandates. I would argue that hidden within the original premise is the belief that the opinion of the majority should apply to all. Yet such a belief folds in on itself. While a society may decide that murder is legal, it cannot determine murder to be moral. Consider the argument for moral relativism which supposes that on a particular Monday society considers murder to be illegal and morally wrong. On the next day, Tuesday, society votes to define murder as legal and morally right. If we truly live in a morally relative environment, then certain questions should immediately be asked. Questions such as:
How could we truly live in a morally relative environment? Why should society be able to determine what is morally right? Why should it matter that the majority have decided to use the majority process? By what standard is it determined that the majority process seems to work best? If morality is relative, then why are some members of society prevented from practicing their morality? Doesn’t the notion of the common good imply ought for the whole of society? Where does this ought come from? If the ought is relative, then ought I ignore it? If not, then ought I follow it? If not, then where am I left, as an individual, in a society of many?
Why does a moral relativist even bother to debate the issue of morality with anyone?

New Comments enabled...

I'm attempting to enable Blogger's commenting system. If it works I'll try and capture some the recent discussion and paste it on the new system.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Even if they’re fake, it wouldn’t matter…

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the forged documents that Dan Rather broadcast on 60 Minutes we see David Van Os, lawyer for retired National Guard officer Bill Burkett, commenting,
“If, hypothetically, Bill Burkett or anyone else, any other individual, had prepared or had typed on a word processor as some of the journalists are presuming, without much evidence, if someone in the year 2004 had prepared on a word processor replicas of documents that they believed had existed in 1972 or 1973 - which Bill Burkett has absolutely not done - what difference would it make?” - emphasis added
I guess that’s supposed to mean that the accusations against Bush are true so it doesn’t matter that we’ve cooked up documents to prove it. Now I’m certainly not siding with CBS, but there is a point of truth in Mr. Van Os’ statement. Whether or not the documents shown were forged does not, in and of itself, tell us whether the accusations against Bush are false. Regardless of the motives of those accusing Bush and regardless of whether their accusations are supported with falsehoods, the issue of the veracity of the accusations remains separate. This is important because too many times we tend to jump to, or avoid, conclusions based simply on the motives we perceive our opposition to have. Biased motives are seen as some sort of indicator that the conclusions of the person are incorrect. Yet this is not so. Simply because an evolutionist may be motivated by a naturalistic bias does not tell me whether or not the concept of evolution is itself correct. Conversely, simply because a proponent of ID may be motivated by religious concerns does not tell me whether or not the concept of ID is correct. The effects of this line of thinking are far reaching. For instance, although cultural environments certainly influence our behavior, there is an inherent flaw in the argument that Christianity is only a relative truth in that a person who grows up in a Christian culture is simply following the norm of the culture. Given an Islamic culture, it is argued, the same person would most likely be Islamic. Hence religion is relative. The problem with that line of thinking is that even if it were true that people chose Christianity due to their cultural upbringing, that tells me nothing about whether the actual truth claims of Christianity are true. Whether Christianity is true or false is independent of how I think or feel about it.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

This is disgusting...

Next thing you know, some wingnut will question their patriotism, over at Power Line.

The evolution of peer review...

Check Albert Mohler's post, Panicked Evolutionists: The Stephen Meyer Controversy, for his analysis of the recent hoopla regarding the Discovery Institute's Stephen Meyer being published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. One of the battle cries amongst evolutionists is that proponents of Intelligent Design have not published work in peer reviewed journals. Yet, as Mohler states,
Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, told The Scientist that Dr. Meyer's article came to her attention when members of the Biological Society of Washington contacted her office. "Many members of the society were stunned about the article," she told The Scientist, and she described the article as "recycled material quite common in the intelligent design community." Dr. Scott, a well known and ardent defender of evolutionary theory, called Dr. Meyer's article "substandard science" and argued that the article should never have been published in any scientific journal.
It would appear that the bluff has been called and the evolutionists have laid their cards on the table.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Can Religion tell us anything important? (part 3)...

In part 2 of, Can Religion tell us anything important?, I argued that the notion of relative morality falls woefully short of explaining why acts of evil are indeed acts of evil (much less whether they are evil). So why do some people continue to hold to the proposition that morality is relative? I suspect it has something to do with how they view reality – i.e., their Worldview. Those who hold one particular worldview may find it extremely difficult to understand the arguments put forth by those who hold to another, competing worldview. How could this be so? In Ron Nash’ book, Faith and Reason, he outlines the concept of a worldview and how it relates to one’s personal philosophy. Nash describes the sum total of our knowledge experience as our noetic structure. Noetic is a term from the Greek verb noeo, which means “to understand” or “to think.” According to Nash, noetic structures have at least 4 identifiable features: 1. A person's noetic structure is the sum total of everything that person believes. A complete inventory of any person's noetic structure would include all the propositions that person believes (whether true or false). Such beliefs may differ greatly in significance or importance, and people may disagree about whether particular propositions are true or false. 2. A noetic structure is also characterized by the way its beliefs are related. Some beliefs are completely unrelated, while others are related logically. Sometimes the basis of a relationship may be more psychological than logical. Beliefs can also be broken down into basic and non-basic beliefs. 3. Another feature of a noetic structure includes the differing degrees of certainty, firmness, and conviction with which people hold their beliefs. 4. The beliefs that constitute any noetic structure will differ with regard to the kind of influence or control they have over the rest of the beliefs in that structure. Picturing a noetic structure as a building, the foundation is made up of basic beliefs that will count in a way not true of non-basic beliefs. One of Nash' basic unproven beliefs is that other people have minds. This belief controls the way in which he relates to other people. If he were to abandon this basic belief, it would have consequences on many other elements of his noetic structure. Our worldview is a smaller set of related beliefs that are found within our noetic structure. Nash’ definition of worldview is:
...a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality.
In this context one can see that Christianity is not simply a set of theological beliefs but, rather, a conceptual system by which we view all of reality. One can also see that a conceptual system such as Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism (M/PN) is also a worldview… a competing worldview. Nash states,
Because so many elements of a worldview are philosophical in nature, Christians need to become more conscious of the importance of philosophy. Though philosophy and religion often use different language and often arrive at different conclusions, they deal with the same questions, which include questions about what exists (metaphysics), how humans should live (ethics), and how human beings know (epistemology). Philosophy matters. It matters because the Christian worldview has an intrinsic connection to philosophy and the world of ideas. It matters because philosophy is related in a critically important way to life, culture, and religion. And it matters because the systems opposing Christianity use philosophical methods and arguments.
Nash lists five major elements of a worldview. They are: 1) Theology, 2) Metaphysics, 3) Epistemology, 4) Ethics, and 5) Anthropology:
Theology - A worldview will always include either a theology or an atheology. In fact, the most important element of any worldview is what it says or does not say about God. Metaphysics - A worldview also includes beliefs about ultimate reality, a subject often discussed under the label of metaphysics. Is there purpose in the universe? What is the ultimate nature of the universe? Is the universe a self-enclosed system in the sense that everything that happens is caused by other events within the system, or can a supernatural reality act causally within nature? Epistemology - A theory of knowledge. Is knowledge about the world possible? Can we trust our senses? Is truth relative, or must truth be the same for all rational beings? Is the scientific method the only method of knowledge? Is knowledge about God possible? How? Ethics - Most people are more aware of the ethical component of their worldview than of their metaphysical and epistemological beliefs. It is more than simply making moral judgments though. Ethics is more concerned with the question of why that action is wrong. Are there moral laws that govern human conduct? What are they? Are these moral laws the same for all human beings? Are moral laws discovered (in a way more or less similar to the way we discover that "seven times seven equals forty-nine"), or are they constructed by human beings (in a way more or less similar to what we call human mores)? Anthropology - the nature of human beings. Are human beings free, or are they merely pawns of deterministic forces? Are HUMAN BEINGS ONLY BODIES OR MATERIAL BEINGS? Does physical death end the existence of the human person?
A test for any worldview is to see how well it addresses the concerns and questions posed by each of these elements. With regards to theology, Christianity posits that there is only one true God who has revealed himself to mankind in both a general and special manner. The special revelation (i.e., the Bible) indicates that God has generally revealed Himself in the natural world – the natural world which He created, and over which He is Sovereign. If this is true then, as J. Budziszewski says in What We Can’t Not Know, those who claim to not know of the existence of God are only fooling themselves. Yet even if the Christian can provide convincing evidence for the existence of God, probably the most difficult question for Christianity remains: Why is there evil in the world? M/PN posits that God does not exist or, at least, that we have no way of knowing whether God exists. Regardless, we end up living in a world in which the existence of God becomes a non-issue. An interesting point to consider here is that the M/PN worldview has no way of demonstrating, within the confines of its self-declared methodology, that God does not exist. One of the most difficult questions for the atheological system to address is: Why should we even recognize evil as evil? To be continued… ref: Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith, by Ron Nash.

Terrorists have feelings too...

From NO BIAS AT THE TRIBUNE, NOT EVEN FOR REALITY:, at Touchstone's Mere Comments site, we read about the Chicago Tribune's distorted view of journalistic common sense. From the Tribune:
One other facet of the Russian hostage story also provoked considerable reader response: It was the Tribune’s use of the words “militant” or “rebel,” but not “terrorist,” to refer to the hostage-takers in news stories. “How can you . . . describe these folks as anything but ‘terrorists’?” asked Jim Ihlenfeld of Aurora, in one of the more temperate such messages. Our eschewal of the word “terrorist” was in keeping with a stylebook policy adopted several years ago, a policy that is in keeping with the journalistic purpose of the news pages: to provide as complete, thorough and unbiased an account as possible of the important news of the day. No intellectually honest person can deny that “terrorist” is a word freighted with negative judgment and bias. So we sought terms that carried no such judgment.
Why do I even bother attempting to point out the idiocy, as well as the fatal implications of, moral relativism when its adherents do such a better job on their own?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Birth order and personality…

I just finished Kevin Leman’s The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are. Leman is a psychologist who has also written Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours and What a Difference a Daddy Makes. It was an interesting read and, as usual, Leman has some very timely and practical ideas to share. He starts off the book by listing three sets of personality traits, asking the reader to pick which set they relate to the best. The sets are:
a) perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, list maker, well organized, critical, serious, scholarly. b) Mediator, fewest pictures in the family photo album, avoids conflict, independent, extreme loyalty to the peer group, many friends, a maverick. c) Manipulative, charming, blames others, shows off, people person, good salesperson, precocious, engaging.
As a general rule, firstborn children fall into category (a), middle born into (b), and last born (baby of the family) into category (c). Leman is clear to indicate that this process of analyzing a person’s personality, based on their birth order, is also influenced by external factors such as age separation between siblings (e.g., a second child, born 5 or more years after the first born, may take on the characteristics of a first born), gender variations between the last born and his / her older siblings (i.e., a last born boy with all older sisters may have different characteristics than a last born boy with all older brothers), etc. He spends time explaining the characteristics of the various birth order categories, indicating the strengths and weaknesses of each. Midway through the book he then addresses how birth order characteristics affect marriages (e.g., how two first borns can end up fighting). Lastly, he finishes off the book by discussing how birth order characteristics should influence parenting skills. For all the psycho-analysis, though, Leman’s closing paragraph pretty much sums up one of the best ways to genuinely affect your children’s lives for the better:
I believe the time we really look big in a child’s eyes is when we go to them to apologize for our mistakes, not theirs. I believe the words no parent can do without are I was wrong. Will you forgive me? - (emphasis in original)

Monday, September 13, 2004

Subjective Truth...

Check The DaVinci Code and Historical Inquiry over at Imago Dei for an insightful look at the issue of objective vs. subjective truth.

The Question of God...

PBS will be airing a two-part series titled, The Question of God, beginning Wednesday, September 15th. From the website:
The Question of God, a four-hour series on PBS, explores in accessible and dramatic style issues that preoccupy all thinking people today: What is happiness? How do we find meaning and purpose in our lives? How do we reconcile conflicting claims of love and sexuality? How do we cope with the problem of suffering and the inevitability of death? Based on a popular Harvard course taught by Dr. Armand Nicholi, author of The Question of God, the series illustrates the lives and insights of Sigmund Freud, a life-long critic of religious belief, and C.S. Lewis, a celebrated Oxford don, literary critic, and perhaps this century's most influential and popular proponent of faith based on reason.
From C.S. Lewis:
"If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other there would be no sense in preferring civilized morality to savage morality or Christian morality to Nazi morality."
From Freud:
"It would be an undoubted advantage if we were to leave God out altogether and admit the purely human origins of all the precepts and regulations of civilization."
For a teaser, check this transcript, from the program, regarding a discussion on Moral Law.

Privileged Planet premiere...

For those in southern California, Illustramedia will be premiering their video, The Privileged Planet, on September 18th. The video is based on the book, by the same name, written by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards. The event is free.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Santa Ynez Valley, CA ©1995 RL Monument Valley, AZ ©1998 RL

Possible Extrasolar Planet Pic...

Photo may be first of extrasolar planet, per CNN:
A group of European-led astronomers has made a photograph of what appears to be a planet orbiting another star. If so, it would be the first confirmed picture of a world beyond our solar system. ...The new picture shows a dim, red point of light that Dumas and his colleagues think is a young, giant planet similar to Jupiter. It orbits a failed star known as a brown dwarf, a very dim type of star -- its core does not support nuclear fusion -- that astronomers have for years hoped would make for good planet hunting. The brown dwarf, catalogued as 2M1207, is 42 times less massive than the sun, or some 25 times heftier than Jupiter. ...The possible planet is about five times as massive as Jupiter, the observations show. An analysis of its emissions found it contains water, which suggests its mass is in the range of planets rather than stars, the researchers announced today.

Friday, September 10, 2004

New Blog...

Check out Off the Top, a new blog written by Bonnie, a homeschooling mom.

Jeremy Pierce on ID...

Check Jeremy Pierce's very thoughtful post, Intelligent Design, over at Parableman.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Well I guess it's final. New Seal, Sans Cross, Offers Other Changes, per the L.A. Times (free registration required), is the result of the ACLUnatics threatening a lawsuit on the County of Los Angeles for its county seal containing a small cross (pssst... now no one go and tell the ACLUnatics that Los Angeles means the angels, okay?). Here's a comparison of the old and the new (politically correct) improved version. From the article,
The miniature gold cross that once adorned the Los Angeles County seal has been erased. So have the oil derricks and the bountiful goddess Pomona, all scrubbed off by county leaders who voted to redesign the emblem after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue over the use of a cross in a government seal. ...A Spanish galleon, a couple of engineering tools, a tuna and a dairy cow named Pearlette all made the cut, but — look closely, now — the new seal's right side depicts a cross-free San Gabriel Mission. And in the seal's center, Pomona, goddess of fruit trees, has been deposed in favor of a barefoot Native American woman carrying a bowl, meant to represent the area's early inhabitants.
It kind of makes you wonder what the seal will look like in another fifty years. Hat tip:

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Can Religion tell us anything important? (part 2)...

In part 1 of, Can Religion tell us anything important?, I described how a materialistic view of the world is incapable of accounting for the origin of abstract realities, such as morality. Tautologies result when one attempts to rationalize the existence of morality within the confines of personal taste. For instance, if a relativist were to posit that his definition of right and wrong is simply the result of a combination of physical events, such as culture, education, electrical impulses in the brain, etc., and that the next fellow’s definition of right and wrong is also the result of a combination of physical events (albeit different events), then he’s at a loss to give any compelling reason why his morality should trump the other fellow’s. That could be disheartening, especially if the most noble act in the other fellow’s system of morality was that of killing and dismembering the relativist. What argument could he use to try and prevent the other fellow from going through with such an act of violence? If he claims that killing and dismembering another human being is against the law, the other guy could respond that his morality doesn’t recognize the law. If he claims that such an act is opposed by the majority of the populace, the other guy could respond with “so what?”. If he claims that such an act intrudes on his love of life, the other guy could respond that his morality tells him that such an act will actually free the relativist from the confines of this corrupt, physical world, while also uplifting him spiritually. When you get right down to it, in a world of relativistic thought, there isn’t anything he can say to prevent this person from committing such an act. What’s more, the very act of attempting to dissuade the murderer illustrates that the relativist considers one form of morality to be better than another and, in so doing, the relativist steps over his own relativistic line in the sand. In everyday discussion this foul occurs whenever the relativist announces that the opinion of the majority overrules the morality of the individual. Once he has stepped over the line the relativist has betrayed his initial assertion that morality is relative – he has appealed to some standard that the other fellow must adhere to, whether by choice or by force. The tautology is complete. As J. Budziszewski tells us in, What We Can’t Not Know, the proposition that all meaning is relative is self-defeating, for if the proposition all meaning is relative was true, then the proposition itself would be relative. If the proposition is relative, then it carries no weight. Unfortunately, in the past week we have been witness not to a potential scenario of right vs. wrong, but to a real-life example. A question I like to propose to the purveyors of relative morality has to do with the individual who tortures and kills infants simply for the pleasure. I propose that such an act is wrong, it has always been wrong, and it will always be wrong. For those lost in the quagmire of relativity, though, while they themselves consider the act to be wrong (usually), they find that they cannot commit to declaring that the act is absolutely wrong. After all, they say, how can one be sure? Terrorists kidnap, torture, and murder children in Belsan, Russia. Putin said that the hostage-takers had begun to shoot children out of boredom. The believer in transcendent morality understands that people can’t not know that such acts are evil. Meanwhile, the relativist is left thanking his lucky stars that the majority of the populace, for now, are still of the opinion that such acts are wrong. How well do these opposing worldviews address the realities of the world which we view? UPDATE: Check the post, Dostoevsky and the Demonic, over at, for an insightful commentary on the terror in Russia. be continued

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Mountainscape - Alaska...

"Alpine Glow" - Thompson Pass, AK ©1994 RL "Chugach Peaks" - Thompson Pass, AK ©1994 RL

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Lileks on Zell...

Whoo boy!, check out what Lileks has to say about Zell's speech.
The angriest man at the convention turns out to be a Democrat: who'd have thunk. He's brutal. He’s hammering Kerry like a blacksmith; if Kerry was a horseshoe he’d be thinner than aluminum foil. Zell doesn’t gesture, either, which makes him look like someone in handcuffs making a final defiant speech before sentencing.
He also reveals what should be obvious regarding Halliburton,
Yes, yes, I know. Halliburton. But if you wanted to make money rebuilding a country's infrastructure, wouldn't it be easier to drop sanctions in exchange for lucractive contracts fulfilled with the help of the existing regime?
Exactly. What's more, the nonsensical Blood for Oil argument falls flat on its face when one looks only a few hundred miles away at Qatar. There are natural gas reserves sitting there that will last at least for the next 25 years. The nice thing about it is... Qatar has no military to protect it. So why waste time, money, and lives in Iraq when we could slide right in and take over Qatar? Unless, of course, the Blood for Oil argument is nonsense. "I'm reporting for duty... Mr. President."

Moore is part of the vast right wing conspiracy...

The news is out - Michael Moore is, in reality, a Republican operative. Per Ideoblog,
The Republicans are (rightly in my view) playing up 9/11. But there's a hitch in their story: So are the Dems. In other words, who is the bad guy here? Answer: it's that shaggy guy up there gesturing from the gallery. While the Democratic Party is trying so hard to be reasonable, to appeal to the American center, the Republicans have hired somebody to pose as the archetype of the evil Democrat they can run against. The Democrats can't denounce him because that would alienate their "base." To make the plan even more devilish, the Republicans don't have to pay Moore -- he gets his cut in tickets to "9/11." You've got to hand it to Karl Rove for dreaming this whole thing up.
Hat tip: Professor Bainbridge

Wed. night RNC...

Check Professor Bainbridge's comments on the speeches from Wednesday night's RNC at Zell, Zell II, and It's good to hate the French.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Frozen accidents...

Back in May I wrote a post titled Ultra-conservative DNA in which we see certain DNA sequences that supposedly evolved to a certain state (and, more importantly, function) and then stopped - or, froze - in place. Per the August 3rd edition of Reasons to Believe's webcast Creation Update we hear of a study titled Why nature chose A, C, G and U/T: An error-coding perspective of nucleotide alphabet composition. From the study's abstract,
The question of whether the size and make-up of the natural nucleotide alphabet is a consequence of selection pressure, or simply a frozen accident, is one of the fundamental questions of biology. Nucleotide replication is essentially an information transmission phenomenon, and so it seems reasonable to explore the issue from the perspective of theoretical computer science, and of error-coding theory in particular. In this analysis it is shown that the essential recognition features of nucleotides may be naturally expressed as 4-digit binary numbers, capturing the hydrogen acceptor/donor patterns (3-bits) and the purine/pyrimidine feature (1-bit). Optimal alphabets consist of nucleotides in which the purine/pyrimidine feature is related to the acceptor/donor pattern as a parity bit. Numerically interpreted, such alphabets correspond to parity check codes, simple but effective error-resistant structures. The natural alphabet appears to be an adaptation of one of two optimal solutions, constrained to its present size and composition by a combination of chemical and coding-theory factors. (emphasis added)
Given that the evolutionary paradigm posits natural selection as a blind and unguided process, it is no wonder that potential plateaus in the process are defined as frozen accidents. It's also interesting that the process being addressed, that of parity check codes, is that of intelligent action. Hardly an accident. If nucleotide replication is essentially information transfer, and if theoretical computer science and error-coding theory allow us to analyze the parity check codes contained within the nucleotide alphabets, what could be driving the conclusion that the entire process was driven by determinism and chance? From the Christian's perspective, God created mankind in His image. One of the many implications of such a doctrine is that God has endowed mankind with creative ability inasmuch as God expresses His creative ability. The pre-existence of information, alphabets, parity check codes, and the like, should not be surprising in that one would expect the God of the Bible to express His creative ability in forms that mankind could not only recognize, but have the ability to develop as well.

Atheists and TGIF...

Why do atheists get all bent out of shape when other people express some sort of gratitude to God? Take the atheistic blog which posted the following:
Thank god? Who? For what? Sometimes, I feel like I must have come from a different planet. I just can’t understand these Hu-mans, and what they do is occasionally incomprehensible and creepy. Take, for example, this collection of God-thanking from the Olympics, all gathered together in one place. All of these people, taking unreason and invisible super-beings for granted, and giving them credit for relatively minor physical efforts…none of it makes sense.
For added insight on how such God-thanking unnerves the typical atheist, just read the comments section at the end of the post. Now I'll be the first to admit that there are theological implications with regards to whether God favored one athlete over another or, for that matter, whether God even cares who won a particular race. But, being atheists, why should they care about theological issues? Indeed, as a theist, I was not bothered with an athlete thanking God, regardless of whether they were thanking God for winning gold, or for just getting the chance to participate - despite the outcome. I was not bothered if an athlete chose to thank Buddha, Allah, the Force, the mountains, his coach, mother, father, brother, sister, or 3rd grade science teacher. However, I would have been surprised had an atheist athlete thanked the unguided deterministic laws of physics which, in combination with chance, not only allowed him to win, but provided him with an abstract sense of pride, purpose, and accomplishment. I would have also been surprised to hear him further state that such an abstract state is ultimately meaningless, and would disappear with him in his grave. Of course, that would mean he would have to be a consistent atheist.