Monday, June 28, 2004

Those Imperialists...

U.S. returns sovereignty to Iraq: Surprise ceremony comes two days early, per CNN.
Members of Iraq's interim government took an oath of office Monday just hours after the United States returned the nation's sovereignty, two days ahead of schedule.
Such an odd methodology for the imperialists of the United States to employ in their quest for free oil, as they dominate the world through their imposition of decadent, Western democracy.

Friday, June 25, 2004

News tidbits...

How is it that a journalist can get within aiming distance of insurgents? Sources: Cheney curses senator over Halliburton criticism Now that's really surprising... Moore defends 'Fahrenheit': Filmmaker presses points in CNN interview
(CNN) -- The Bush administration "made a half-hearted effort" in pursuing Osama bin Laden immediately after the September 11 attacks, and devoted resources to invading Iraq instead, Michael Moore said in an interview, defending points he's made in his new film, "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Let's see, 9/11 happened on... 9/11/2001, and we invaded Iraq in early 2003 only after pursuing OBL and taking care of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yeah Michael, a very objective, if not half-hearted, assessment. Lewinsky: Clinton lied about relationship You're kidding?!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Naturally necessary...

Updated content of this post on 6/24 p.m. In the comments section of my post The obvious nature of evolution, I've been discussing with DarkSyde my misgivings with how evolutionists presuppose their theory on the data. In one of his responses he stated,
Here's a good example Rusty. You're a cop and you get called to the scene of a car wreck. A single car is upsidedown off the road, the driver is dead. He tests at .25 for blood alcohol... Do you assume the driver lost control for an 'unknown' reason or do you assume he was drunk? Do you view the accident through the biased lens of naturalistic explanations? Isn't that an unsupported assumption? Why would you dismiss supernatural influences? Would you be willing to explain to a judge, jury, and insurance company, that there may have been a supernatural event which caused this wreck and since no one 'saw' the wreck, no one can be 'certain' that drinking played a role, so it could have just as plausibly have been demons? Why is 'naturalistic' assumption not an issue for you in accident investigation or weather forecasting, but it is in evolution?
First off, I think we should clarify how events may occur in the natural realm simply given the laws of physics. In their book The Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards write,
This unstated presupposition against design is apparent in the definition often given to the notion of "contingency." Properly speaking, a contingency is simply something that happens but doesn't have to happen. Philosophers, therefore, contrast contingent events and necessary events, the latter being events that for some or another reason have to happen. Most scientists see an event as "necessary" if it determined by the laws of physics. In either the philosophical or the scientific setting, an event can be contingent because it is the result of chance or because it is the result of a free choice. Contingency is the arena of both freedom and accident. The naturalist collapses all contingencies in the natural world into the category of "chance." But it's not the only option, it's just the only option the naturalist is willing to consider. A good way to foreground the disguised presupposition is to avoid the word "contingency." Instead, we should split contingency into its two possible forms, and so speak of chance, design, and necessity.
Thus when analyzing the example of the dead drunk driver, such as DarkSyde referenced above, we aren't simply looking for a natural cause vs. a supernatural cause. We must further unpack the natural causation into the categories of chance, design, and necessity. Note that an event may also be a combination of the aforementioned categories (e.g., design and chance, as in a hit-man's errant bullet striking an innocent bystander). Therefore, an event could fall within the laws of physics without being necessary. If I'm understanding DarkSyde's question properly, what he refers to as a naturalistic explanation would actually fall into the chance and design category. It is unlikely that any investigator on the accident scene would posit that the event was caused by necessity; that is, would they conclude that the laws of physics mandate that all drivers with a .25 blood alcohol level will end up dead next to their upside down car? This leaves us with chance and / or design as the cause. Is there a chance that a sober driver may end up as our drunk friend? Sure, but the chances increase dramatically when one chooses to drink oneself silly. Hence it is a reasonable conclusion to posit that our dead friend designed his way to his current state by drinking too much, getting into a car, and letting the laws of probability take over. Could this have been a mob hit simply made to look like a drunk driving accident? Yes, but once again the naturalistic / necessity explanation is thrown out in favor of the design option. Why is the supernatural not invoked in this instance? The reason why the supernatural is not invoked is because the evidence points to the drunk driver as the cause of the accident. It is the best fit for the data. Then, as DarkSyde alludes to, why not rely on a naturalistic explanation for speciation events? 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. 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, the Cambrian Explosion, molecular motors, convergent evolution, speciation rates, etc.). Note that this is not an argument from ignorance - it is precisely because of how much we've learned that we know how intractable the problems are. Therefore, I am positing that the chance / necessity combination is insufficient to explain the empirical data. Not only is it insufficient, but it ignores an alternative explanation that is more than compatible with the data - that of Intelligent Design. There are, of course, many other reasons why I posit the God of the Bible as the Intelligent Designer. In time, I'll post them on this site.

And if you believe that...

On Larry King Live, Ron Reagan expressed surprise that people considered some of the comments in his eulogy at his father's funeral to be a slam on President Bush. Yeah, right. Here's the excerpt:
KING: You said, dad was also a deeply unabashedly religious man, but he never made the mistake of wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. Were you referring to the president? REAGAN: You know, it's interesting. KING: Everyone thought that. REAGAN: I know. I wasn't watching TV much after I delivered the eulogy for a few days. But after a couple of days I started getting calls from people saying, boy you really stirred something up, didn't you? I thought, well, what? Well, you know, the stuff you said about Bush. I said, I didn't say anything about Bush, why would I mention George W. Bush in my father's eulogy? No, no, no, no, the stuff about the religion. I thought, ha, funny, you then everybody thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I heard -- everybody thought I was talking about George -- but people connected with George W. Bush thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I began to think, maybe I was, I just didn't know it. KING: Do you think he wears his religion on his sleeve? He certainly refers to it more than your father ever did. REAGAN: Well, you know, there was that answer he gave to the question about, did you talk to your father about going into Iraq? No, I talked to a higher father, you know, the almighty. When you hear somebody justifying a war by citing the almighty, God, I get a little worried, frankly. The other guys do that a lot. Osama bin Laden's always talking about Allah, what Allah wants, that he's on his side. I think that's uncomfortable. KING: Do you have thoughts on the war? REAGAN: Sure, I have thoughts on the war. KING: And what do you think? REAGAN: And I think we lied our way into the war. KING: You think it's a mistake? REAGAN: Absolutely, a terrible mistake. Terrible foreign policy error. We didn't have to do it. It was optional. And we were lied to. The American public was lied to about WMD, the connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, which is virtually nonexistent except for fleeting contacts. But they're still trying to pull that one off now, Cheney and all are out there flogging that. KING: Can I gather from that, that you will not support this president? REAGAN: No, I won't. KING: Will you support his opponent? REAGAN: I will vote for whoever the viable candidate is who can defeat George W. Bush, yes. (emphasis added)
Okay Ron, from now on we'll just make sure to note that when you're talking, you might be saying something... you just won't know it.

Overreaction?...

Beating by LAPD Officer Airs on TV: The case is seen as a test for Bratton as parallels are drawn to the Rodney King incident of 1991, per the LA Times.
The televised beating of a suspected car thief Wednesday by a flashlight-wielding Los Angeles Police Department officer was described by a top department official as "Rodney King-esque," drawing comparisons with the 1991 beating of an African American man by LAPD officers that led to catastrophic riots a year later. Television news crews in helicopters recorded the early morning car chase that ended in Compton shortly before 6 a.m. when about half a dozen LAPD officers ran after an African American man who bolted from a stolen Toyota Camry.
Okay, so you steal a car (allegedly), lead police on a 30 minute car chase, ditch the car and make a run for it... and you think that maybe the cops chasing you won't be a little ticked? Yes I know that the excessive use of force is unwarranted, and there should certainly be an investigation into the actions of the police officers in this case, but to compare a ten second beating with that of Rodney King's is ludicrous.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The obvious nature of evolution...

My recent evolution-related posts The world goes round and round, and On the one hand highlighted how evolutionary dogma can sometimes drive scientists to make certain assumptions regarding the data they are analyzing. A recent example can be found at the Panda's Thumb in a post titled, Thalassocnus on The Loom, in which we read of an aquatic sloth that adapted to an aquatic lifestyle over the course of several million years. The post links to a more detailed explanation at corante.com in a post titled, Taking the Plunge. Carl Zimmer writes about the myriad of so-called transitional fossils we now have for whales or whale-like animals. He states,
All these discoveries have apparently made whales unsuitable for creationist rhetoric. Yes, you can still find some pseudo-attacks on the fossils, but you have to look hard. The more visible creationists, the ones who testify at school board meetings and write op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, don't bring up whales these days. The animals apparently no longer serve the cause. It's hard to distract people from evidence when it can kick them in the face. Whales, moreover, were not the only mammals that moved into the water. Seals, sea lions, manatees, and other lineages evolved into swimmers as well, and paleontologists are also filling in their fossil record. It's fascinating to compare their invasions, to see how they converged on some of the same strategies for living in the water, and how they wound up with unique adaptations...
Notice how the reason we know that seals, sea lions, manatees, etc., all evolved into swimmers is simply because we find fossils that the evolutionist takes to be transitional. Of course, how the transition took place is glossed over (as you'll see). Never mind that large mammals, such as whales, are extremely sensitive to environmental changes and that the chance of species extinction are probably higher than species evolution. Never mind that although whales and seals are both mammals, they have very different morphological qualities - like how they breathe, for one example. Never mind that the changes proposed to go from a land-based mammal to a saltwater-based whale have to occur in an incredibly short amount of time - incredibly short, that is, for chance evolution. Zimmer continues,
In 1995 Christian de Muizon of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and his colleagues announced the discovery of sloth fossils in Peru dating back somewhere between three and seven million years. The rocks in which they found the bones had formed in the sea; the same rocks have yielded other ocean-going creatures including fish, sea lions, and weird dolphins with walrus-like tusks. The sloths, de Muizon concluded, were aquatic as well. Terrestrial sloths have much longer lower leg bones than upper ones, but the Peruvian sloths had reversed proportions. Manatees and otters also have reversed legs, which suggests that the sloths' limbs were adapted for powerful swimming strokes. The front of their skull was manatee-like as well: its jaws extended out well beyond its front teeth, with a rich supply of blood vessels. Like manatees, de Muizon argued, the sloths had powerful muscular snouts they used to root out sea grass. (emphasis added)
He goes on to detail evolutionary adaptations that supposedly show how the sloths transitioned from land to sea. This is all so obvious isn't it? Yet notice how the theory drives the conclusion:
De Muizon's group have yet to sort out all the differences throughout the entire skeletons of all five species. We'll have to wait for those papers. But there's enough in print now to raise some interesting questions. In whales, seals, and manatees alike, their arms and hands became flippers--stubby, webbed, fin-like limbs. Thalassocnus still had big, long-clawed fingers on its hands. De Muizon proposes that they would have enabled the sloths to hold onto rocks to stay submerged as they fed on sea grass. Manatees don't need to do this because their bones are especially dense; the sloths had not yet acquired this adaptation. It seems that Thalassocnus only traveled part of the way down the road to a marine life before they became extinct. Why they became extinct (as opposed to manatees, for example), is also intriguing. Did something happen 1.5 million to 3 years ago that ruined their home? Perhaps the coastal waters off Peru became too cold. If the sloths had spread further along the coast, they might not have been so vulnerable. Other mammals moved into the water at very restricted sites as well. For their first few million years or so, whales could only be found off the coast of Pakistan. If some Indian volcano had blanketed the neighborhood in ash, we might never have known what a whale looks like. (emphasis added)
That the sloth fossils are transitional is assumed. Therefore, any anamolies in the data is viewed only through an evolutionary lens. Long-clawed fingers, as opposed to arms that turned into flippers, must have a Darwinian explanation. They obviously had not yet acquired that adaptation. Therefore, they only traveled part way down the evolutionary road before time ran out for them. How they traveled down that road is a question that, well... it's obvious, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Cause and effect...

Dozens Killed in Attacks Near Chechnya, per FoxNews.
Many Chechen fighters trained and fought with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Russia says many Arabs and other foreigners fight side-by-side with the Chechen rebels. The Chechen militants also are said to receive support from Al Qaeda and have strong contacts with the Wahhabi Muslim sect of Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Al Qaeda chief Usama bin Laden. The deeply fundamental beliefs of Wahhabism are believed to be bin Laden's spiritual foundation.
South Korea: Hostage killed, per CNN. Why are so many people under the impression that if we acquiese to the demands of terrorists, we will be left alone? A series of bombings in Spain, just prior to national elections, seems to result in Spain pulling its troops out of Iraq. Cause, and effect. Yet where is the sympathy that's extended towards Russia for staying out of, and voicing opposition to, the war in Iraq? What happened to the phenomenon of cause and effect? Of course, it's still there. The terrorists, far from being completely illogical, understand how the West reacts to their version of cause and effect. If you don't leave, we'll murder the innocent! It's because of your past deeds that we murder the innocent! With fanatics, there can be no appeasement. It is incredible, given the history of heinous acts committed by terrorists, that so many people in the West continue to believe that these cowards will play fair. And yet, the peace protests continue...

Monday, June 21, 2004

Kerry-isms...

Per CNN, Kerry: Bush puts ideology ahead of research.
Democrat John Kerry, touting the endorsement of 48 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, has criticized President Bush for relying on ideology rather than fact in the pursuit of science and repeated his pledge to overturn the ban on federal funding of research on new stem cell lines. ...Kerry said Bush's anti-science initiatives included limiting stem cell research; removing information about the global warming threat from a 2003 Environmental Protection Agency report; ordering changes to a report that described damage that would be caused by oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and deleting information about condoms from government Web sites.
Okay, let's toss ideology out the door or, at least, put it way behind research. Remember the fictional character Ian Malcolm, from the movie Jurassic Park, and his analysis of unfettered scientific advancement?
Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. (emphasis added)
If that's a bit too abstract, then how about going directly to the source? Author Michael Crichton and a Q&A from his website.
How much longer will the human race survive?... I have no idea. I repeat to everyone who will listen that nobody can predict the future - including me. That's why I set so many of my books in the near past. But, of course, nobody listens to such an outlandish idea. Everybody thinks that the future can be predicted if we could only know enough...
Michael Fumento has more than a few things to say about Global Warming at his site. I wonder if Kerry has been to Alaska and asked the residents there what they think about drilling in ANWR. (hint: I've worked there and have a pretty good idea of what they think) Have his scientific advisors informed him of the dire predictions that were made regarding the Alaskan Oil Pipeline back in the 1970s? Have they further informed him that the predictions were baseless? Horrors! Condom information is off of government websites and stem cell research is being stifled. Notice what's happening here? All things regarding Nature are revered and downright worshipped, while issues regarding the intrinsic qualities of Humanity are trampled. Update: Joe Carter has a similar post titled, Trust the Scientists?

On the one hand...

Check Thomas Buchanan's EVOLUTION OF HOMO CANADIANUS, on Mere Comments. He has a good summary of how scientists sometimes let their theories drive their data, thereby ignoring alternative explanations.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Politics...

Kerry advisers tell hopeful to 'keep cool' on religion, per the Washington Times.
Sen. John Kerry's advisers are telling the presidential candidate to steer clear of talking about religion after running afoul of several Catholic bishops and after the campaign's new director of religious outreach was criticized this week for espousing left-wing causes. The Rev. Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest who served in Congress during the 1970s, says he has advised the campaign to clamp down on religious rhetoric and "keep cool on the Communion thing" after four Catholic bishops either barred Mr. Kerry by name from taking Communion in their dioceses or said pro-choice Catholics should be denied the sacrament. "The mood now is to shut up about it," said Father Drinan, who teaches at Georgetown University Law Center. He said the Communion debate "is a nonissue" in the Kerry campaign and simply a tool of the Republican Party. (emphasis added)
The real problem here is that the Kerry campaign (and liberals in general?) are under the notion that the issue of religion is a campaign tool.
"Every time something with religious language got sent up the flagpole, it got sent back down, stripped of religious language," a Kerry campaign source said of Miss Vanderslice's ideas on overcoming Mr. Kerry's secular image. The campaign source also said former Clinton aides Paul Begala, John Podesta and Mike McCurry have tutored campaign operatives on more aggressively using religion to appeal to voters. "Why the campaign is not listening to any of them, I don't know," the source said. "Conservatives are about 20 years ahead of us on this stuff."
They really don't get it do they? In their quest to achieve freedom from religion they are at a loss to understand why people actually take them at their word. Kerry privatizes his religion by stating his comfort in holding to views that are in direct opposition to church teachings. Fine. But why doesn't his campaign understand that he's made his bed? Now, when it's time to sleep in it, his campaign is surprised that people actually see an inconsistency in claiming to hold to one worldview while sitting on a pew, and to another for the rest of the time. Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt

Which way will he go?...

9/11 panel sees no link between Iraq, al-Qaida, per MSNBC.
The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported Wednesday that Osama bin Laden met with a top Iraqi official in 1994 but found “no credible evidence” of a link between Iraq and al-Qaida in attacks against the United States.
Putin: Russia warned U.S. of Iraq terror, Leader says intelligence did not change Moscow's opposition to war, per CNN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country warned the United States several times that Saddam Hussein's regime was planning terror attacks on the United States and its overseas interests.
One can't help but wonder what the evidence was, that Putin had, which he found to be credible. Why didn't the 9/11 commission, if they had access to the same evidence, find it to be credible? The 9/11 panel stated they found "no credible evidence," and that meetings between al-Qaida and Iraq “do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship.” (emphasis added) Are we looking at a judgment call here?

Lileks on 9/11 commission...

From Lileks,
I’m quite surprised: the evening news is playing 9/11 footage. Fox local is covering the commission’s latest release, and – get this – we were unprepared on 9/11. What’s more, we now know how “unprepared the military was to deal with the hijackings.” Yes, because we all know that the job of the military is to deal with hijacked airplanes. Let us imagine that the jets were scrambled, and they shot down all four planes before they reached their targets, and splashed two other commercial airliners for the wrong reason. We’d be talking about the reelection chances for President Cheney.
Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Anti-emerging emerger...

One of my concerns regarding the Emerging Church movement has been an apparent lack of regard for doctrinal principles as well as a relativistic approach towards theological issues. My only friend from the Emerging Church movement, Dave over at Welcome to the Planet, has a reassuring post titled, Emerging Church or Emerging False Teachers?, in which he tackles the same issues. Dave writes,
Every spring a bunch of emerging church leaders put on a conference in conjunction with Youth Specialties, to teach and talk about the emerging church. ...I did not attend the EC04 this year for various reasons, but I have been following this years conventions in San Diego through Desertpastor and recently through pomomusings Both bloggers did a great job of portraying the conventions... As I was reading Cleve's experience, there was something that was said at the most recent EC that made me say "back the truck up" Cleave was sharing his notes from a church planting course taught by doug pagitt and tim keel. When giving a definition that the emerging church is not just an asthetic change, Cleave writes: "But it is clear that this is NOT all that emergent is. Emergent is very much a rethinking of not only church, but theology…the message. The message doesn’t in fact stay the same. And…THAT is what is scary. THAT is what causes people in the seminars (and not just the ones wearing the NPC nametags) to squirm in their seats. When Doug talked about how the doctrine of the Trinity may not necessarily be needed in today’s 21st century, people squirmed" At what point are people going to cry "foul" on something like that? Maybe he was saying it to be reactionary, which makes him irresponsible at best. If pagitt believes that the doctrine of the Trinity isn't needed in today's 21st century, then what other doctrines are not needed? Do I get to pick and choose what I like and dislike? What fits and what doesn't fit?...
I've turned off a lot of PoMos with the opinions I've shared in some of my past posts. While they probably won't listen to me anymore, I'm confident that the Emerging Church still has many people like Dave to help keep them in line.

Fill 'er up...

Per FoxNews, Winnebago Profit Nearly Doubles as Consumers Snap Up RVs.
Winnebago Industries Inc. quarterly earnings nearly doubled on brisk sales of its recreational vehicles as consumers shrugged off high fuel prices, the company said Thursday, sending its shares up more than 13 percent.
Yet over at ABCNews we see an article titled, High Gas Prices Tarnish SUV's Appeal: Sales Dropping for Large Models This Year.
Reports of falling sales for the behemoths of the road — those Excursions, Suburbans, and Yukons that regularly take up two parking spots at the mall and incur the wrath of the Honda Civic drivers who trail in their wake — have fueled speculation that Americans may finally be shifting away from the biggest-is-best mentality that has long been their car-buying mantra.
Economic analysis can be so confusing. Maybe Joe Carter is right (re: The New, New, News: How the News Makes Us Dumb).

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Conflict of interest?...

In Kerry: Bush's Vatican appeal 'inappropriate', per CNN, John Kerry states,
President Bush was out of line to ask the Vatican to get U.S. bishops more involved in promoting his conservative social agenda
It seems that Kerry would like to have his cake and eat it too. He further stated,
...we have a separation of church and state in the United States. There are many things that are of concern and taught by the church with respect to war, with respect to the environment, with respect to poor people, our responsibilities to each other, and I am very comfortable with where I am with respect to those. But I am not a spokesperson for the church, and the church is not a spokesperson for the United States of America.
So, he's comfortable that his stance on, say, abortion is completely contrary to where the church stands? What difference does it make that he's comfortable? If he is in direct opposition to the teachings of the church, regarding abortion, then what is the basis for his arrogant statement that he is not a spokesperson for the church and that the church is not a spokesperson for the United States of America? The killing of innocent unborn human life, Mr. Kerry, is not a political issue... it is a moral one.

The world goes round and round...

Over at the Panda’s Thumb there is a recent post by P. Z. Myers titled, Pre-Cambrian coelomate! One point I should make here is that it is refreshing to see that the post is not simply another diatribe against maniacal creationists. Here’s an excerpt (beginning with a quote from a Science article):
Ten phosphatized specimens of a small (<180 ┬Ám) animal displaying clear bilaterian features have been recovered from the Doushantuo Formation, China, 40 to 55 million years before the Cambrian. Seen in sections, this animal (Vernanimalcula guizhouena gen. et sp. nov.) had paired coeloms extending the length of the gut; paired external pits that could be sense organs; bilateral, anterior-posterior organization; a ventrally directed anterior mouth with thick walled pharynx; and a triploblastic structure. The structural complexity is that of an adult rather than larval form. These fossils provide the first evidence confirming the phylogenetic inference that Bilateria arose well before the Cambrian.
This is exciting news, not because it revolutionizes our understanding of evolutionary history, but precisely because it is nothing surprising at all—we expect, from molecular/phylogenetic evidence, that complex animal life arose long before the Cambrian 'explosion', and what these fossils represent is a satisfying confirmation of that expectation (and they neatly fit predictions about bilaterian evolution that Erwin and Davidson made in 2002). It is actually expected, though, that bilaterian coelomates are even older than the 570 million years of the Doushantuo Formation; the last common ancestor of protostomes (arthropods and others) and deuterostomes (vertebrates and others) is estimated to have lived somewhere between 600 and 1200 million years ago.
This is a cross-section of the coelomate. Continuing the thread over at Pharyngula, Myers writes,
The important point is that this animal possesses the rudiments of morphological characters that are going to erupt into a wide range of diverse specializations in the Cambrian, and it has them roughly 50 million years before the Cambrian 'explosion'. The phyletic innovations we have first seen so clearly in the Cambrian did not come out of nowhere, but have a solid evolutionary foundation in simpler animals.
For those who don’t know what the Cambrian Explosion was, here is a brief explanation. About 540 million years ago, in a span of time only a few million years wide (with some estimates at 2-3 million years), between approximately 45% and 85% of the body plans we see in the animal world today, appeared. Between 19 and 35 phyla were introduced. What is enigmatic about this event is that there is no known reason as to why it should have occurred the way it did. Why should simple life suddenly burst forth (evolve?) into scores of complex phyla in so short a duration? Now, a few million years is a long time if you’re waiting for a table at a local restaurant, but in terms of morphological change, it is but a tick of the clock. Some creationists, such as Hugh Ross, argue that the empirical evidence supports the idea that God has a grand plan in which humans are the ultimate goal. Given the laws of physics, instituted by God, it takes billions of years to prepare a suitable environment for our solar system and, consequently, it takes millions of years to prepare a suitable environment on Earth for complex, advanced life. That such an explosion of diversity takes place at such an opportune time in Earth’s history is a hallmark of a purposeful plan. Consider the comments of Dr. Paul Chien, chairman and professor of biology at the University of San Francisco, in an interview he had with Reasons to Believe:
RTB – So, are you saying that the Cambrian explosion shows evolution “going the wrong way?” Chien – Yes. In fact, one of the most respected scientists in the West, James Valentine at the University of California-Berkeley, is writing a book on this by the title of Origin of Animal Phyla, instead of The Origin of Species. I think when the book is finished it will greatly help people understand what’s going on. Creation is going on. - “Exploding” with Life!, Facts for Faith, Quarter 2, 2000 (emphasis added)
This brings us to how evolutionists tend to view the Cambrian Explosion event. One mistake you will typically see is that of circular reasoning. The very fact of finding older, fossilized life forms that are simpler than those found at the time of the Cambrian Explosion is sometimes seen as “money in the bank” for evolution. This is one reason why a ruckus is raised whenever fossils are found that pre-date the Cambrian Explosion. Notice the inherent evolutionary assumptions, with regards to pre-Cambrian fossils, in the following excerpt from Donald Brownlee and Peter Ward’s book, Rare Earth:
The answer to this seeming conundrum is that the animals were indeed present, but they were so small as to be essentially invisible to the fossil record. A recent and spectacular discovery of microscopic fossil animal embryos seems to confirm this view. Using newly developed techniques of searching for tiny (but complex) animals in minerals called phosphates, paleontologist Andy Knoll and his colleagues have uncovered a suite of tiny but beautifully preserved fossils interpreted to be the embryos of 570-million-year-old triploblasts – animals with three body layers, like most of those found today. These fossils tell us that the ancestors of the modern phyla were indeed present at least 50 million years before we find any conventional fossil record of them. The combination of genetic information and new discoveries from the fossil record now give us a robust view of the rise of animals: They did not exist 1 billion years ago, and perhaps not 750 million years ago. Animals are indeed very late arrivals on the stage of life on Earth. Thanks to these new discoveries and interpretations, the question of “when” has been answered to most people’s satisfaction: The emergence of animals was a two-stage event. The initial stage seems to have occurred less (and perhaps much less) than the billion years ago proposed by Wray and his colleagues. But even recalibrated, the Wray group’s finding has given us yet another tantalizing insight into the potential incidence of animal life in the Universe. The Wray work confirms that there were indeed two “explosions.” The first was the actual differentiation of the various body plans; the second was the differentiation and evolution, in these various phyla, of species large and abundant enough to enter the fossil record. This leads us to ask a crucial question: Even if the evolve, do animals necessarily, or inherently, go on to diversify, enlarge, and survive? Does the second flowering of animal life – the Cambrian Explosion event so long known to geologists – inevitably follow the first diversification, or is it yet another threshold of possibility that may be (but is not necessarily) attained? (emphasis in original)
Since they already accept naturalistic evolutionary transformation as a given, they see finding fossils prior to 540 million years ago as evidence in favor of the evolutionary paradigm. Of course simply finding fossils does not tell us that those particular ancient creatures actually evolved into the diversity of complex phyla we find at the Cambrian event. To be fair to Brownlee and Ward, I doubt that they are thinking in such a limited manner. If pressed, they would probably state that earlier fossils should exhibit morphological characteristics that would appear as predecessors to the more complex Cambrian fossils. Additionally, they might say that one should expect to find earlier fossil forms that are molecularly related to later forms. Enter the recent find where evidence is shown of pre-Cambrian coelomates. Yes! Here is additional evidence required to substantiate the evolutionary paradigm! But is it really? Again we see a bit too much eagerness on the part of the evolutionist. To repeat, finding a simpler form of an animal that existed prior to an advanced form of an animal does not tell us that the one evolved into the other. At most it tells us that one existed prior to the other. From Brownlee and Ward,
Whether the Cambrian event included the diversification of body plans or consisted simply of the first evolution, by these various body plans, of skeletons and large size is a moot point. Something stimulated the evolution of many large animals with skeletons in a brief period of geological time. (emphasis in original)
Notice how the question of whether evolution was capable of performing the event is ignored. Something stimulated the event… we must simply assume that it was evolution. From The Cambrian Explosion Biology's Big Bang, by Stephen C. Meyer, Marcus Ross, Paul Nelson and Paul Chien,
…even on the most optimistic interpretation of these remains, Precambrian strata account for no more than four animal body plans (including some of largely unknown characteristics). Thus, neither the peculiar Ediacaran fauna nor the Precambrian fossil record taken as a whole establishes the existence of the wide variety of transitional intermediates that neo-Darwinism and punctuated equilibrium require. The Cambrian explosion attests to the first appearance of organisms representing at least nineteen phyla. Yet, Vendian organisms represent ancestral forms for, at most, four Cambrian phyla (granting ancestral status to a worm phylum and Kimberella as a mollusk). This leaves between 80 and 90 percent of the Cambrian phyla with no ancestors in the Precambrian rocks. Further, even if one grants that representatives of four phyla existed in the Precambrian, it does not follow that these forms were actually transitional intermediates. Some were, or may have been, representatives of known Cambrian phyla such as sponges (phylum Porifera), thus demonstrating not a gradual transformation but instead only the earlier appearance of a previously known phyla.
Evolutionists will sometimes respond to this line of reasoning by asking something along the lines of, “well then why does it look like evolution?” Unfortunately, a question such as that assumes that the mechanism of evolution is in place and operational. This is tantamount to committing Berra’s Blunder, in which the theory is being forced onto the data, as opposed to letting the data support the theory. Since the evolutionary mechanism is assumed to be operational, the fossil evidence is interpreted as supporting the mechanism. Also, note how the discussion will typically move into the subjective, for the words that need to be added to the previous question are “to me” (i.e., Why does it look like evolution [to me]?). Along those lines, one could justifiably ask, “Why does it look like Design [to me]?” Venturing even further into the realm of subjectivity the evolutionist may ask, “Why would a mythical designer do such and such (as opposed to so and so)?” Yet even they should understand that, apart from completely knowing the intentions of a designer, one cannot completely know the reasons why a designer acted as he did. Again, they stumble over the Blunder. However, the objective arguments about supposed ancestors to the Cambrian fossils ignore the critical characteristic regarding the Cambrian Explosion’s eruption of diversity – that of time. In their paradigm there simply isn’t enough of it. Recall that the Cambrian Explosion evidence indicates that a diversity of complex phyla burst onto the scene in a matter of only a few million years. Life forms that were large and advanced entered the scene within fully functional ecosystems. The best that an evolutionist can offer is to acknowledge that the explosion occurred, and that the diversity recorded in the fossil record really did appear in a brief geologic instant (ref. Brownlee and Ward’s quote above). That such high speed activity runs completely contrary to the paradigm is conveniently ignored or, in a classic example of circular reasoning, it is sometimes posited that such an event must be part of the evolutionary process itself! I guess since evolution is considered to be fact, and since the simpler fossils predate the Cambrian fossils, then it only follows that the simpler life forms evolved into the Cambrian life forms? The most that an evolutionist can hope for is that fossil evidence will eventually be uncovered that will not only refute the current Cambrian evidence, but that will conclusively demonstrate how simple, teeny-weeny creatures such as the one shown above transformed so quickly into the complex, large life forms shown below. It’s difficult to see past a notion that is entrenched within your paradigm. In The Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards describe the lack of acceptance with which the astronomical community gave to the idea of a finite age for the universe, despite the findings of astronomers such as Edwin Hubble:
Like Einstein, most astronomers of the early twentieth century, including the young Hubble, believed in a static and eternal universe. Even after Einstein conceded his error in the late 1920s, many scientists would not accept the implications of an expanding universe – namely, that it came into existence sometime in the finite past. …For example, consider the account C. F. von Weizacker gives of a discussion he had with the physical chemist Walther Nernst in 1938:
He said, the view that there might be an age of the universe was not science. At first I did not understand him. He explained that the infinite duration of time was a basic element of all scientific thought, and to deny this would mean to betray the very foundations of science. I was quite surprised by this idea and I ventured the objection that it was scientific to form hypotheses according to the hints given by experience, and that the idea of an age of the universe was such a hypothesis. He retorted that we could not form a scientific hypothesis which contradicted the very foundations of science. He was just angry, and thus the discussion, which was continued in his private library, could not lead to any result.
Old habits die hard. At the core of the debate, though, is the notion that the evolutionary paradigm is based on the scientific method and uses methodological naturalism as its mode of operation with which to discover the truth about the natural realm. Yet how committed are adherents of naturalism to discovering the truth? I’ll discuss that in an upcoming post… Additional resources: Hominid Jewelry? (RealPlayer) – Creation Update webcast, Reasons to Believe, April 27, 2004 The Cambrian Explosion Biology's Big Bang (PDF), by Stephen C. Meyer, Marcus Ross, Paul Nelson and Paul Chien

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Images...

What an honor it was to be an American this past week...

Friday, June 11, 2004

Separation of what?...

From CNN: Ronald Reagan's casket rests in Washington National Cathedral during the state funeral Friday. (emphasis added) From MSNBC:
And so the service unfolded: Danforth officiating, O’Connor reading, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan performing “Ave Maria,” and the chosen eulogists paying tribute. The Reagans specified an interfaith service, as well, inviting participants from Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and other religions. (emphasis added)
From FoxNews:
The cathedral's great bells rang as Reagan's casket arrived in the rain. A rousing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" followed the eulogies. (emphasis added)
Here are some of the lyrics from the Battle Hymn of the Republic:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored, He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword His truth is marching on.
Cross-referencing with the Holy Bible we find:
From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” - Revelation 19:15-16 (NET)
While the ACLU wastes other people's valuable time and money with asinine lawsuits such as the removal of a tiny cross from the county seal of Los Angeles, they are strangely silent while the government conducts a state funeral in a religious cathedral. It continues to amaze me how the liberals in the ACLU fail to understand the difference between the words "of" and "from." Is it so difficult to see the distinction between: Freedom of religion and, Freedom from religion?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Liberals, take note...

A former president, out of office for over 15 years and out of the public's eye for 10 years, draws over 200,000 to pass by his coffin. The public outpouring of emotion and support has surprised many, including the Reagan family. Why should it? This was a president who held on strongly to a set of core beliefs that formed the foundation of leadership. This was a president that was married for over 50 years to the same woman who, by the way, has stood by her man through both the good times and the bad. Critics have complained that he was simplistic, naive, and inept, but the Cold War was won through his vision. Did he usher in an era of world peace? No, that's left for divine intervention. Despite his failings, despite the fact that he couldn't fix everything, and despite the power he wielded, he always managed to display the most important quality - his humanity. A strong leader will know the importance of connecting with the people, while making difficult, and sometimes unpopular, decisions. A strong leader will get the job done, knowing that the people understand the concept of progress. Consider Hugh Hewitt's analysis,
Reagan, like Bush, used the term evil during his presidency. Bush, like Reagan, was hammered by the sophisticates for doing so. Both were mocked for their lack of subtlety, for their hopeless naivete. Except that the American people like victory. The knew that the Soviet Union was indeed an "evil empire," and that Saddam's Iraq, Iran and North Korea were an "axis of evil." They wanted the wall torn down, and they want a new Iraq to be a genuine democracy, not a strongman who tilts the U.S. way. They want a president who believes that the country he leads is uniquely good and great. That's why the memorials to Reagan will have an impact far deeper than Democratic spinners are admitting. In the midst of difficult times, the legacy of Ronald Reagan reminds America that America can and has won difficult battles in the past against powerful adversaries, but only when its leadership was committed to winning.
Indeed. Liberals, take note, what do the people want to see?

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A Picture is worth...

In Baby imaging centers under attack, over at World Magazine's blog, we read about the popularity of Imaging Centers that can give future parents vivid photos and DVDs of their unborn child. Evidently these imaging centers are under some heat from the FDA due to the fact that these "medical procedures" are being performed by people who are not doctors. At least that's their cover story. Why the fuss? Why the sudden concern over what the woman wants to do with her body? Could it have something to do with the effect of an image? A picture is worth a thousand words. The cliche slips off our tongues so easily that we sometimes forget how powerful it truly is. A notion, a false notion like that espoused by the so-called pro-choice movement, takes hold only after many years and many words of argument. Although such baseless ideas can be successfully debunked with logical pro-life arguments, the power of common-sense and raw emotion can never be ignored. The achilles heel of the pro-abortion movement has always been the humanity of the unborn child. Yet the scientific technology that has given them easy access to so-called safe abortions is asking for further payment. They didn't read the fine print in their contract with technology. God, the Author of the universe, will not be mocked. I believe it was Gloria Steinem who once said,
If men got pregnant, they'd make abortion a sacrament.
Yet the pro-life response, regarding the unborn, has been,
If his mother’s womb had a window, you could watch your spiritually adopted baby squint, swallow, and move his tongue.
I don't know what the current status is regarding the scientific possibility of men getting pregnant. But as for a window on the womb...

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Career & Family...

Mark Roberts has an insightful post regarding George Tenet’s resignation, titled The Resignation of George Tenet as a Moral Mirror. Mark essentially ignores the cynical comments from pundits that explore the real reason that Tenet resigned and focuses, instead, upon the possibility that Tenet actually resigned for the reasons he himself gave. Consider this quote of Tenet from Mark’s site,
This is the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. And while Washington and the media will put many different faces on the decision—it was a personal decision—and had only one basis in fact—the well being of my wonderful family. Nothing more and nothing less.
Mark goes on to state,
Moreover, in all of my listening and reading, so far I’ve heard no one praise Tenet for deciding that being a good dad is his highest priority in life. So let me break ranks by saying that I deeply appreciate George Tenet’s stated reason for resigning. And as I read what he told his CIA colleagues about his son, I can fully empathize what he’s saying. He sounds to me like a man who realizes that his time with his son is running out, and that being a good dad matters more than anything else. Most politicians and pundits can’t relate to this because they put their careers first and their families second (or third, or fourth, or lower). These priorities are so deeply ingrained that they simply become a given. Thus when George Tenet claims to put fatherhood first, it’s as if he’s speaking Aramaic without subtitles. Most people just don’t get it.
This is a sad statement about our culture. How did our children lose their worth? How did they, despite the fact that we see parent’s doting over their children with annual birthday parties complete with rented bounce-houses, clowns, and face-painting; despite the fact that weeknights are many times filled with sports league practices and weekends filled with sports league tournaments; and despite the fact that they swim in a wealth of toys that you and I only dreamed of? In my opinion, the outward manifestation of the supposed attention that our culture lavishes on its children falls woefully short of its true potential. The reason for this is that, in our PDA-based culture, the activities we have scheduled for our children become simply that – another appointment to meet in our hectic, daily schedule. We head for soccer practice thinking that we’re showing our children how important they are when, in reality, we’re showing them that they are no more important than the 2:00 p.m. meeting at work we’ve got scheduled for the next day. Now I’m certainly aware that many children have a passion for, as an example, sports. I’m not advocating that we stop their participation in youth sports programs. What I am suggesting is much more subtle – that we, as parents, understand how best to impart upon our children their worth not only as human beings, but as our own flesh and blood. This cannot be achieved in an environment that puts their well being at or below a parent’s career. In our me-centered culture the message a career-oriented parent sends to his children is that his own individual goals are supreme over any other responsibilities he may have in his life. For some, that this thinking is ludicrous is obvious; for others, it takes time to understand. I recently rented the 20th anniversary edition of the movie Close Encounters (of the Third Kind). I had seen it when first released, back in the late 1970s, but I was interested in seeing additional interviews done with Steven Spielberg and various cast members. One thing that struck me when I first saw the movie was how, at the end, the main character, played by Richard Dreyfuss, leaves his wife and two kids behind in order to travel with the aliens that have made contact with Earth. Although I was still in college and not married, I found that to be an incredibly selfish act. Interestingly enough, Steven Spielberg commented that that particular scene in the movie now stands out as indicative of how young he was at the time. At the time he also did not have a family and so, by his reasoning, he didn’t understand how utterly self-centered such an act was. He said that now that he does have a family he would never consider having the main character just up and leave, as he had 20+ years earlier. Time, and a family, helped Spielberg to grow up. Yet I shouldn’t be too hard on him for I’ve noticed a change in attitude in my own perspective since my wife and I had kids. Prior to kids I had never really given much thought to the issue of whether my wife would still work after having children. I figured that since both spouses, in most other couples we knew, worked, then we would be no different. It wasn’t until our first child came that I saw the intense bond that was formed between her and my wife. Although this bond begins prior to childbirth, it seems to intensify between the ages of 1 and 3. For a mother to willingly relinquish the bond between her and her child during the child’s formative years is tantamount to abandonment. Now I’m not talking about those mothers who must work in order to help their husbands bring food to the table, and I’m certainly not talking about those single mothers forced into the workforce in order to survive. I’m talking about those mothers that have bought into the false notion that they can have a career and care for their children, without sacrificing one or the other. So now we come to the husband. Although he doesn’t develop a bond with the child in the same manner as the woman, his influence is felt nonetheless. George Tenet claims that his son was in the 2nd grade when he took office and now, nine years later, he would like to spend some time with him. Why does it have to come to that? Why does George Tenet have to resign in order to spend time with his now teenage son? Do you know what? No matter what George Tenet has in the bank, no matter what plans he now has for his son, there is no way he can recover those nine years of neglect (if, indeed, he considers them years of neglect). That time is lost. At what point in the workday is it time to go home to the family? Is it really worth staying late at work during the week and coming in on weekends if it means relegating your family to the level of an appointment in your day planner?

Friday, June 04, 2004

L.A. County caves in...

Hugh Hewitt reports that Los Angeles County has caved in to the strong-arm tactics of the ACLU, and will remove the teeny-weeny cross that has sat on its seal for fifty years. Check his post for an excerpt of his interview with county supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Yvonne Burke. Ed over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars actually agrees that the ACLU went overboard on this one, but he considers the reaction from the demagogues of the religious right to be just as overboard. I have to disagree with him there, and for the simple reason that the lawyers at the ACLU are showing their true colors here. They're gunning for the big boys on a matter that everyone and their uncle knows is beyond trivial. If they're willing to pull such a bold move, specifically directed at Christianity, then don't for a minute think that I'll trust them with the time of day. As Hugh, Ed, and others have noted, there are other religious connotations on the County's seal. Hugh Hewitt had a pagan caller call in to his radio show and complain that the County and the ACLU have shown disdain for his religion by leaving the goddess Pomona on the seal. How about the cow so prominently displayed on the seal? The Egyptians worshipped Hathor, who would take the form of a cow. Fish were also worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, so let's remove the tuna from the County's seal. Let's also not forget any astrological reference the stars on the seal may have. In fact, since the word Angeles means "angels," why don't we just junk the entire seal altogether? How about it Zev? In it's place you can use something along the lines of the following for the Official Seal of the County of Los Angeles, California

PETA vs. Petco

Well, PETA is at it again. PETA, by the way, does not stand for People who Eat Tasty Animals but, rather, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Now that's a rather interesting title isn't it? People... for the ethical treatment of... animals. The distinction between humans and animals is implicit in their name; just what is that distinction based on? In PETA to Petco: Stop selling animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals brings shareholder proposal to chain's annual meeting, PETA protesters showed up at the annual shareholder's meeting to demand that Petco stop selling animals in its stores.
About eight PETA protestors outside the San Diego-based company's annual meeting carried signs that read: "Petco starves baby animals," "Petco throws sick animals in freezers" and "Petco: Where animals die."
Cross reference with Al Mohler's post titled, Judicial Activism at its Worst--A Big Win for Abortionists. Here's an excerpt,
Congress also came under Judge Hamilton's censure. She ruled that Congress' determination that the partial-birth abortion procedure is not medically necessary "is not reasonable and is not based on substantial evidence." Judge Hamilton placed herself above the authority of Congress, rejected congressional testimony, and accepted instead the claims of pro-abortion groups that this procedure would at times be necessary for a woman's health. This flies in the face of official statements of the American Medical Association to the contrary. Why would Judge Hamilton find that a partial-birth abortion would, at times, be important for a woman's health? The judge ruled that "since the fetus undergoes less disarticulation, the risk of leaving fetal parts in the uterus is diminished, and the procedure is likely to take less time." Less time? Should we really be convinced that the procedure is made necessary by the fact that other methods pose a greater risk of "leaving fetal parts in the uterus?" Another revealing dimension of Judge Hamilton's ruling is found in her acceptance of the twisted terminology of the Culture of Death. Throughout her written ruling, Judge Hamilton referred to the dismemberment of the fetus as "disarticulation." This bizarre term is clearly preferred by those who perform abortions, because it is far less likely to be understood by those outside the abortion industry. To speak of a fetus being "disarticulated" is to refer to the procedure whereby it is surgically dismembered in the womb. The use of this tortured vocabulary is evidence of the moral bankruptcy of abortion rights worldview. When the dismemberment of a human baby is reduced to a dishonest term like "disarticulation," moral coherence is lost and the sanctity of human life is effectively denied. This is precisely the kind of euphemistic moral vocabulary used by the Nazi Third Reich and its murderous physicians, but it is now the vocabulary establishing both fact and judgment in a U.S. Federal Court decision.
What can be said of a society in which headlines of a pet store protest line up next to those of a judge overturning a ban on partial-birth abortion?

A Modest Proposal...

Touchstone Magazine has a post titled, Sexy Librarians, in which we hear the story of an 11 year-old girl who, after getting frustrated at the lack of modest clothing available at Nordstrom, wrote a letter of complaint to the company's executives. She wrote,
"I see all of these girls who walk around with pants that show their belly button and underwear," she wrote. "Your clerks suggest that there is only one look. If that is true, then girls are supposed to walk around half naked."
Good for her. The article also listed a couple of websites where one can already acquire modest clothing. You can find them at ModestApparelUSA.com and ModestByDesign.com

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Update on the ACLU vs. the County of Los Angeles...

James Lileks has a bit to say about the ACLU bringing suit against the County of Los Angeles because the County Seal has a cross on it. He writes,
Who worries about these things? Who, in 2004, can look at world where some madmen want to shove a crescent down our throats and decide that the most important thing they’re going to do is take the crosses off the city seal? ...What compels these people? How small are their lives that they worry about this?
Indeed. Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt

Back in Iraq...

A friend of mine stopped by the office yesterday to say goodbye as he prepares to head off for Iraq next week. He was a colleague at work and was also a Marine Reservist. In early 2002 he was called up to active duty and in 2003 he was sent to Iraq. His unit was the only reserve unit that took part in front line combat in the liberation of Baghdad. He returned visibly shaken by the realities of combat, but with complete assurance in the fact that he was keeping the war on foreign soil. As with many combat veterans, he has stories to tell that contradict the slant one finds on mainline news outlets. In February of this year he was called, again, to active duty and will leave early next week for Iraq. Although he leaves two small sons behind he understands the seriousness of the situation our country is in. He warned me, several months ago, that coordinated efforts will begin to try and undermine the new Iraqi government and the elections in the U.S. This should be obvious to even the casual observer, but it seems that the general feeling amongst civilians is that we're losing control of the situation in Iraq. After talking with my buddy I can only say this - As for the Marines, they're getting ready for action. Remember my friend Lt. Col. Clark in your prayers.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

That's not my will...

The issue of our free will vs. God's omnipotence seems to trip up a lot of people. How can we claim to have free will when God is in control of the whole universe? Ed over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars takes a different swipe at the issue by pondering just how a Christian's prayer can convince God to change another person's supposedly free will decision. This is a topic I've also been thinking about, albeit from a different angle - how do our prayers intersect with free will decisions? I think that we first need to understand just what prayer is and what it is not. Prayer is not simply some verbalization of a wish list to our supernatural provider in the sky. Prayer is communion with God. What was the model prayer taught by Jesus?
“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. Matthew 6:5-15 (NET) (emphasis added)
Isn't it interesting that Jesus stated that God knows what we need rather than what we want? Note that the Lord's Prayer begins by honoring God and focusing our attention on His will. The only tangible request on our behalf is that we be provided with enough sustenance for each day. The entire prayer is not about what requsts we supplicate to the Father but is about how we can achieve spiritual formation through a mature attitude. Although something like the Prayer of Jabez might be what we want, I think that the Lord's Prayer is what we need. How about Jesus' own example of prayer and free will as He modeled in the Garden of Gethsemane?
Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He went away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.” Luke 22:39-42 (emphasis added)
Here we see further indication that the issue of prayer and free will is not a situation in which we are human robots, simply playing out the script that God has written, nor are we beings with the freedom to confound God; rather, there is a combination of free will along with God's sovreign hand. Jesus instructs His disciples to pray that they will have the strength to make a free will decision to not fall into temptation - the opportunity is there for deliverance, yet they still have the ability to choose. Also, He himself acknowledges that His desires of the moment are contrary to the will of God the Father - He is secure in His understanding that, despite His free will desires, God's will is sovreign. This hearkens back to the topic of decision making and the will of God. In making decisions, as Christians, we should be cognizant of God's Moral Will in conjunction with wisdom and personal desires. Yet we need to remember that God's Sovreign Will encompasses the entirety of our existence. We are His creatures, in His creation.