Friday, October 29, 2004

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The hypocrisy of absolute morality?...

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

Monday, October 25, 2004

Central California Coast...

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

Sunday, October 17, 2004

367 days of blogging…

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

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Wildflowers...

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

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hugh Hewitt’s Virtual Symposium # 3

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

Thursday, October 14, 2004

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Faith-based Elections...

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

Monday, October 11, 2004

Mere Comments on Christopher Reeve...

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bryce Canyon...

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

Friday, October 08, 2004

I "respect" your belief...

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

Hugh Hewitt Symposium # 2...

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

New Mexico clouds...

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

Origins - where are you from?...

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

Thursday, October 07, 2004

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

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

Bush is a Kerry operative…

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

Naturalism, flu vaccines, and the survival of the fittest...

Per FoxNews, Parents Mull Flu-Shot Options,
The news that British regulators have shut down a major flu-shot supplier carries particular concern in Colorado, which was the epicenter of last year's flu season with 12,885 reported cases and the deaths of 12 children. With 46 million doses now unavailable, the government says the 54 million flu shots left from a rival firm should be reserved for youngsters ages 6-23 months, people 65 or older, anyone living with babies younger than 6 months and others in high-risk groups.
How intriguing. The unmovable foundation of the Naturalistic Worldview is that, namely, nature is all there is. Couched within this worldview is the Darwinistic methodology which extols the concept of survival of the fittest as the driving force which maintains the survival of the species. Such a survival depends on natural selection weeding out the weak, feeble, and ill-equipped members of the species. Within the naturalistic framework such action is not seen as wrong – it just is. Yet now we see a species that puts forth a special effort to counteract the process of natural selection. Betraying the underlying principle of survival of the fittest, we have humans advocating delivering potentially life saving flu vaccines not to the healthiest individuals in society, but to the weakest. Why? Virtually any argument put forth to justify the altruism inherent in saving the weak will ultimately rely on a commonly understood moral judgment. Any argument put forth will reduce down to concluding that one course of action is better than another. Exactly.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The bigger picture: WMD and Saddam...

Per CNN, Official: No WMD stockpiles in Iraq, Saddam still a threat, head of the Iraq Survey Group says. From the article,
Contradicting the main argument for a war that has cost more than 1,000 American lives, the top U.S. arms inspector reported Wednesday that he found no evidence that Iraq produced any weapons of mass destruction after 1991. He also concluded that Saddam Hussein's weapons capability weakened during a dozen years of U.N. sanctions before the U.S. invasion last year.
From FoxNews, Report: No Iraq WMD Production After '91,
The chief U.S. arms inspector in Iraq has found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction production by Saddam Hussein's regime after 1991. But the final report by Charles Duelfer concluded that, although the weapons stockpiles were destroyed, Saddam’s government was looking to begin a WMD program again.
Was this known in 1991? No. When did the U.S. invade Iraq? March, 2003. When did Baghdad fall? April, 2003. It is now October, 2004. If it took the chief U.S. arms inspector a year and a half after the post-Saddam reign to determine that no evidence of WMD production exists, then how long would it have taken UN inspectors stuck in the quagmire of an Iraq run by Saddam? Indeed, one wonders if UN inspectors would have ever gotten the chance to come to a conclusion and issue a report of their findings. Of course... that's now a moot point.

Monday, October 04, 2004

A Vision from the Lord...

What did your kid do this summer? Recently, in church, we had a presentation on what had occurred at their annual Kid's Camp. Besides stories about the typical frolicking with nature, there was a serious story of one youngster who was, evidently, the epitomy of rebellion. He was a non-Christian and a last minute addition to the camp roster. Despite the best efforts of the camp counselors, they seemed to just not be getting through to this rebellious kid. To conclude the story a ten year old kid from church was asked to speak. The ten year old promptly announced that, while at camp, he had "had a vision" regarding the non-Christian kid. In his vision he saw an individual that was badly injured and in need of assistance, to which he loving provided. He admitted that, at that time, he was unsure of what the vision was about. As he recounted the story he told how other counselors, when told of his experience, concluded that the injured individual he was seeing was this other non-Christian, rebellious kid. The meaning was now obvious... he was there to help this other kid! The kids were returning home from camp on Friday. To the delight of the congregation the youth pastor described how this ten year old, and others, huddled in prayer around the kid in need on Thursday night. The night ended with the rebellious kid making a decision to follow Christ. Now, while I'm certainly in no position to dispute the sincerity of those involved, I was a bit concerned by the almost flippant manner in which a vision from the Lord was addressed. I looked up "vision" and "dream" in the NIV and found these references (NT only): Matthew 1:20; 2:12, 13, 22; Luke 1:22; Acts 9:10, 12; 10:3, 17, 19; 11:5; 16:9, 10; 18:9; 26:19; and 2 Corinthians 12:1. In virtually every case of a vision occurring, the one who delivered the message, whether it be the Spirit or an angel, insures that the meaning is clear and precise. The recipient is not left wondering what the vision could possibly mean. An apparent exception to this is Acts 10:17 in which Peter momentarily wonders what the vision of unclean animals is about. But a reading of the full account shows that he was immediately presented (supernaturally) with the answer. God is certainly capable of speaking to us through visions. But the Biblical evidence shows that when He does, He is clear and precise as to the meaning of the vision. We are not to go about discovering what it is that God has mystically told us.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Hugh Hewitt Symposium...

Hugh Hewitt has posed some questions for a Virtual Symposium regarding comments made by John Kerry at Thursday night’s debate. Hugh states,
John Kerry's passionate denunciation of the research into nuclear bunker busters was one of four major mistakes on his part in Thursday's debate, the others being his “global test” remark, his proposal to sell nuclear reactor fuel to Iran, and his demonstration of a very limited grasp of the nature of the terror network. I have begun researching the bunker-buster question because I sense Kerry's outrage at the very idea of America developing and possessing such weapons was both authentic on his part and potentially disturbing to millions of voters who instinctively understand that the armory of America is different from the armory of every other country in the world, that our nation can be trusted with all sorts of weaponry that the world cannot be trusted with, and that our electorate will not reward a candidate who, as Kerry did on Thursday night, proclaims our weapons program to be part of the proliferation problem. But I could be wrong about that. The nuclear freeze think of the 1980s, in which Kerry fully participated, was never close to a majority movement, but perhaps times have changed and the electorate does not want unquestioned military superiority and new capabilities. Perhaps “bunker buster nukes” are this decade's “neutron bomb.” My symposium questions: Did Kerry blunder in denouncing nuclear bunker busters? If so, why? If so, how great the damage to his candidacy?
I agree with Hugh in that Kerry’s outrage at the idea of America developing new nuclear weapons is sincere. From a strictly pragmatic point of view, I think that Kerry is wrong and that the majority of Americans can see beyond the na├»ve assumptions that lie behind his conclusions. At the core of those assumptions, I believe, is a worldview which relies on the belief that morality is ultimately relative. Listen carefully to the arguments posited supporting the view that Kerry espoused: “We have no right to tell others how to live.” “If it’s wrong for other countries to possess such weapons, then it’s wrong for us as well.” “We’re being hypocrites if we invade countries, remove their WMDs, yet not only retain ours but develop new ones.” Inherent in these arguments is the notion of moral relativism. While it appears, on the surface, that the argument is actually one of moral absolutism (i.e., “what’s right for them is right for us”), it really isn’t, and it can be demonstrated as such by simply “taking the roof off” the argument. The argument appears to rely on the idea that the development and ownership of nuclear weapons is inherently wrong. Why would this be the case? I believe that there are essentially only two reasons: 1) An owner of nuclear weapons could use them to destroy innocent human life. 2) While simply owning nuclear weapons poses no direct threat on human life, it could incite an enemy to commit acts of aggression if he feels threatened by such ownership. Reason # 1 could apply to any type of weaponry, but the sheer destructive power of nuclear weapons renders it a valid concern. However, the concern is not necessarily the destructive power of the nuclear weapon, but the misuse of the weapon by the owner. So the real issue is whether the owner of the nuclear weapon is deemed responsible enough for such ownership. Consider the fact that I, as an average citizen of the United States, cannot drive around in an M1 Abrams tank. However there are other citizens (and non-citizens) doing so. They are known as military personnel. Why should they be allowed to operate such a weapon while I am not? The reason is simple: They are allowed to do so because they have been deemed responsible for the duty of protecting the interests of the United States. The issue of the ownership of nuclear weaponry is essentially no different. Yes, there is the chance that those entrusted with the privilege of operating such weapons will abuse that privilege, but such abuse is understood to be a violation of the moral code. We understand it to be a violation not because the United States military had no right to own such weapons, but because certain individuals abused that right. If we are to follow Kerry’s argument to its conclusion, then we would have to declare that just as an average citizen, or a criminal, should not be allowed to operate an M1 Abrams tank, so should the United States military not be allowed to. This is, of course, absurd – or so it should be to any thinking person. Reason # 2 is a bit trickier. Of course the thought behind it hearkens back to the Cold War era and concepts such as Mutually Assured Destruction or Doomsday Devices. The foundational idea of those concepts is very simple – two opposing forces develop and maintain equal measures of destructive power. Whatever weaponry you develop, I develop in like manner – tit for tat. Note, though, the requirements for this process to be effective: The need for at least two sovereign powers who, while disagreeing ideologically, operate with enough logical sense to understand the imminent threat the other poses. Within these requirements is the understanding by both powers that each are willing to negotiate terms of co-existence. Yet, even while both powers are shaking their right hands in agreement, their left hands are cautiously resting on a sidearm. Remember the Eagle on the back of the dollar bill that holds both an olive branch and a bunch of arrows? An interesting sidenote to this policy is that… it worked. The situation with the War on Terror is entirely different. Arguments against the United States developing and maintaining nuclear weaponry collapse when one throws into the mix rogue countries and / or terrorist networks. Such entities do not wish to engage life in co-existence with the United States or her allies. To argue that we should strive for such co-existence legitimizes terrorist networks such as Al-Qaeda. We should not be about co-existing with terrorists – we should be about squashing them from the face of the earth. Some questions that should be asked of Kerry are:
On what grounds do you consider the United States government not responsible enough to develop and maintain nuclear weaponry? Please elaborate Senator, what moral obligation does the United States violate when it engages in the development of nuclear weaponry? Considering that Osama bin Laden may be living deep within a cave in a remote section of Afghanistan, what is it about a nuclear bunker buster that you oppose? Would you rather send in American troops to search for bin Laden? Given that you do not consider the United States government responsible enough to develop and maintain nuclear weaponry, do you also not consider it responsible enough to engage in pre-emptive actions designed to prevent attacks on American soil?

Friday, October 01, 2004

It’s a Global World…

(sung to the tune of It’s a Small World) It’s a world of nations a world of cheer It’s a world of dreams but not one of fear We’ve got to be like all the rest just to pass that global test It’s a global world after all There is just one globe Can’t we all get along? How could a smile mean wimp... to Kim Jong? Let’s not sit on the bench But have a summit with the French! It’s a global world after all It’s a global world after all It’s a global world after all It’s a global world after all It’s a global, global world

Can Religion tell us anything important? (part 5, conclusion)...

In parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, I have argued that the naturalistic worldview of reality, that of Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism, is incapable of accounting for the existence and meaning of the abstract. Its dismal attempt at reconciling the inherent knowledge humans have of the existence of moral right and wrong within the mechanics of its worldview give clear indication as to the limits of its general explanatory power. It fares little better in answering, as it were, even the most basic questions of life. Questions such as: Is there absolute truth? Does the Universe have meaning? Or, Is knowledge about anything possible? On the other hand Religion and, in particular, Christianity does a much better job of addressing the complex realities of our existence. I believe that the tapestry of Christian thought weaves through the topics of theology, metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, and anthropology in a manner that results in a coherent and consummate interpretation of our reality. It is in this sense that Christianity can, and does, tell us something important. It not only addresses and answers the most basic questions of life, but does so with robustness and authority. While we may not like the answers we get, we are beholden to acknowledge the authority with which they are given. Herein lies the gist of the problem which triggered my starting this series – that of how an individual could deny the existence of absolute morality. Such a stance hinges on one’s worldview which, when all is said and done, depends on whether one acknowledges God as God.