Monday, January 31, 2005

Rusty Nails, 1/31/05...

Did I mention that I've launched a photo-blog by the name of Imago Articulus? ########## Joe Carter is looking for a career change and is considering writing; but he may have overlooked the complex (irreducibly?) field of plumbing... in today's Outtakes he clues us in to a parable* written by atheist scientist P. Z. Myers in which Myers uses a story of broken faucet "to illustrate the absurdity of intelligent design arguments." Must've been taken from the Roto-Rooterology department. * parables from the science department? What's next... apocryphal writings? ########## Dave, over at Welcome to the Planet, has a post titled, old dudes in the self-check out stands and emerging worship. Dave likes going through self-checkout registers and, in a perverse sort of way, he enjoys watching old dudes get frustrated when they attempt to perform a self-checkout. Where it gets messy, though, is when the old dudes attempt to prevent the new styles from emerging. How about that for a segue into the atlernative worship styles of the "emerging church"? While Dave's tastes in styles of worship may diverge from the more traditional, he'll make sure that doctrine does not suffer. ########## Speaking of worship styles, check S. M. Hutchens response to earlier commentaries he made on the aspect of attractive worship. ########## Speaking of self-checkout registers and attractive worship, check Mark Roberts series on Happiness, especially his post If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands. ########## Speaking of self-checkout registers and old dudes being frustrated with new technology, check Surprise: Parents more Web-savvy: New Nielsen study says teens bored quickly, frustrated easily online, per CNN.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Imago Articulus is launched...

I've enjoyed photo-blogging so much that I just launched a new blog titled Imago Articulus. Currently it has about a dozen or so images that were previously posted here at New Covenant. I've lowered the blog thumbnails to 320 px but bumped up the full images to 1024 px. Stop by every so often, or link up to my XML.

Rusty Nails, 1/29/05...

A salute to the brave and courageous voters in Iraq, by DarkSyde, in To Those About to Vote: We Salute You. ########## Smart Christian is organizing a gathering of Christian bloggers at The Christian Blogosphere Convention (GodBlogCon). Tenative place and date: Mesa, Az., 10/2005, with Hugh Hewitt as keynote speaker. Stop by Smart Christian to express your interest and suggestions. ########## Inspired by the idea of a Christian blogger convention, Stacy Harp, at Media Soul, would like to organize a southern California blogger get-together. Check for contact info at So Cal Bloggers Meet Up. ########## In the category of: Be careful what you wish for... Critics of ID contend that the ranks of ID proponents are mostly filled with non-scientists or scientists with little to no academic stature in their respective fields. The perpetual cry from neo-Darwinists is that ID produces no testable theories, that there are no reputable scientists within its ranks, or that it produces no peer-reviewed studies. In The Branding of a Heretic, from the Wall Street Journal, we read of one Richard Sternberg, a "research associate at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington." Sternberg, who holds two Ph.D.s in biology, was also the managing editor of the scientific journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Sternberg's future in research is in jeopardy though. The reason? He approved for publication an article by Stephen Meyer titled, The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories. Meyer posits ID. The backlash against Sternberg has been severe enough for him to state, "I'm spending my time trying to figure out how to salvage a scientific career." The neo-Darwinist's bluff has been called. They've asked for what they thought could not be produced. Now they're left with either admitting (supposedly asked for) peer-reviewed articles, or doing a "soft shoe" around the issues at hand. If their edifice is so strong and true, then why do they continually resort to strong-arm tactics to suppress critical inquiry? HT: Mere Comments Note: Joe Carter also reports on this incident.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Evangelical Capitalism (part 2): Sensual worship...

In Evangelical Capitalism: how the “bottom-line” determines our action, I criticized the Western concept that, essentially, a church’s success is inherently tied to its size. In this post I would like to expand on that notion and address how we tend to view the “popularity” factor in terms of both worship and evangelizing. Specifically, how does our approach to music in the worship service reflect our attitudes towards both believers and non-believers? Oh, what dangerous ground I tread. While a quick perusal of the radio dial will reveal a variety of musical styles being broadcast over the airwaves, it should not come as a surprise that certain forms of music (or variations thereof) are more popular than others. While there are many people who enjoy classical music, one would expect that a Mozart festival would draw fewer people than a festival of the latest hip-hop artists (so-called). I’m not declaring whether this is right or wrong, although I certainly have an opinion, but merely stating that this is the current state of our culture in the West. The reasons for such a phenomenon are, to be sure, quite diverse. But I think that if one were to unpack the phenomenon they would see that the driving factor of this popularity contest is grounded in the experiential. Hip-hop outdistances classical music because the population at-large (at least, the population willing to spend money on the genre) likes it better than other forms of music. Now I’m certainly not criticizing the fact the people like one form of music over another, I’m simply illustrating that such liking is rooted in how the music makes one feel. Does this relate to the church? In Please Me, O Lord, a May 2004 article for Touchstone Magazine, S. M. Hutchens writes about witnessing a young, Christian woman sing a solo in a church worship service in, as interpreted by him, a very seductive manner. He writes,
A handsome young woman, attractively dressed, stood before the congregation with an eight-inch microphone, the head of which she held gently to her lips while she writhed and cooed a song in which she, with closed eyes and beckoning gestures, begged Jesus, as she worked her way toward its climax, to come fill her emptiness. The crowd liked it.
The effect of music can be quite dramatic. Try turning the sound down on some of your favorite movie scenes to see how the visual effect is diminished. Now I’m not stating that modern popular music is alone in its capability for inciting the sensual. I’m well aware that certain classical compositions are linked with such phenomenon. Rather, I am stating that if one desired to set a certain mood, then music can be a very effective tool to use. Consider the use of music in our worship service. Why are certain songs used at the beginning of a service vs. at the end? Why does it seem necessary to have background music, usually played by the church pianist, while the pastor makes a final emotive appeal? Why is this background music used at all during some prayers? Are the songs chosen primarily for their musical style or for the words they contain? If for the words they contain, then why? For the theological truths they convey or for the emotions they stir? Or both? Is this simply a cultural and generational issue? Am I simply whining because I’m stuck in the mud of my cultural view of music and, as such, am ignorant to the reality of how such popular expressions of worship truly touch other members of our society? I don’t think so. Hutchens states,
The young woman displaying herself before the faithful with her sexualized—and hence secularized—religion is not simply an example of unfortunate excess, but, I believe, a symbol of a whole tradition gone awry, caught now in the glaring intensification of what it was in its beginning, and what wiser heads, in those beginnings, often warned it against. It is a tradition in which religious affection is the measure of faith, where preaching is paramount not because it teaches but because it “blesses the heart,” where the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not the center of the gathering of Christians on the Lord’s Day, but rather is minimized in favor of replenishment of emotional capital, where the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed are not customarily repeated, not because they are not believed, but because they, being “rote,” like written-out prayers, contain not a minim of the spontaneity alleged to characterize true worship. (emphasis added)
I would argue that we tend to mimic the popular genres of music in our worship styles not only because we like them, but also because we are all too aware of the impact of ignoring such genres – namely, a loss of congregants attending worship service. Our over-emphasis on the experiential aspect of Christianity, combined with the self-centered notion of “feeling blessed,” has led many Christians to conclude that such emotionally power-packed services are valid expressions of worship to God. While I am not claiming that such services are necessarily invalid expressions, I wonder what basis we could have to consider that our obligation to give glory to God is somehow linked to the level of emotional satisfaction we receive. The issue extends, though, beyond appealing to the believers in our midst. Keeping in line with the evangelical capitalism theme, we also find that the popularity argument is used as justification for why we must maintain such dynamic forms of worship. Given that the typical non-believer is wary of showing up to church, so it is argued, we must strive to make their experience as comfortable, pleasant, and exciting as possible. Otherwise we run the risk of scaring them off or, at the very least, boring them to the point where they want nothing to do with Christianity. I understand the motivation for such evangelical marketing, as couched within the tenets of evangelical capitalism, but I wonder how sound such motivations are theologically. S. M. Hutchens has a recent post at Mere Comments titled, Attractive Worship, in which he relates an experience he and his wife had while attending a worship service at the church of his youth. He states,
We didn’t like it, not one little bit. It’s not simply that it impressed us as orgiastic—for that there might be some justification—but as shallow, stupid, irreverent, and ugly. Responsive to popular taste? No question about it, just as any entertainment enterprise must be to remain in business. This was the religious equivalent of AM radio. (emphasis added)
I suspect it’s been a while since Hutchens has listened to AM radio, but the point is clear that he considered the music in the service to be primarily directed at satisfying popular tastes. But, you may ask, if such a service appeals to non-believers, what better reason could we have to utilize such a powerful tool? Evangelical Capitalism 101. Hutchens answers this criticism albeit with a slight twist. He explains that having church with a bottom-line mentality will necessarily marginalize certain sectors of society. He states,
What of the people who likewise need Christ, but are horrified and embarrassed by the loud, crude, simplistic, and juvenile performances they meet at churches like this, and who, if Christ is to be met at them, will never meet him there, and are thus placed in danger of going to hell in the same handbasket that has just been used to transport heavenwards those graced with arrested development? This is to say that the service-of-worship-as-attraction-evangelism knife cuts both ways—there is always a backstroke of repulsion dysangelism. To note that those who are sent scampering off by the liturgical ordeals they must face in such churches are only a minority, like people who favor classical music, is no argument in its favor. To endorse attraction evangelism is in fact an attempt to justify such programs theologically by asserting that they attract far more sinners than they repel, which is no justification at all.
Perhaps in focusing so closely on what appeals to both the believer and the non-believer we have missed the point of worship itself. Please understand that this concern has nothing to do with whether a “traditional” form of worship is better than a contemporary form or whether one should show up for church wearing a tie rather than a baseball cap. To see this issue at such a superficial level is to miss the point entirely. Consider that the two greatest commandments, per Jesus himself, were to love the Lord God and to love our neighbor. Before we can love our neighbor we must love God. And before we can love God we must understand that we are obligated to love Him. J. Budziszewski considers such an understanding to be something we can’t not know. However, even though we are inherently aware of such an obligation, I think we can misunderstand the implications of such an obligation. Do we approach worship with a Biblical understanding of who God is, and what He is owed? For an alternative viewpoint on Hutchens' Please Me, O Lord article, read Bill Wallo’s, A Love Song for a Savior, at Walloworld. Update: In the Sidesspot post, Why We're Here, Mark Sides states,
Happiness, or more accurately joy, is our response to God--not the duty he owes us. We owe Him worship, love and fealty. God owes us nothing. He gives us lots, but he owes us nothing. He's the alpha and omega. We're the created things.
HT: Walloworld

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Rusty Nails, 1/26/05...

Ilona, at True Grit, wrote a post titled, Assorted Thoughts, she asks, If a Homosexual came into your church, do you really think that person would be satisfied with tolerance? (emphasis in original). I asked her a few questions in her comments section and she has replied with, Agape. ########## Jeff, at Dawn Treader, comments on a post at Evangelical Outpost with, Carter On The Claims of Atheism. He illustrates how it isn't rational that rationality could arise in a world of chance and determinism. ########## Check Peter Kreeft's website for downloadable audio files. ########## Reason's to Believe scholar, Fazale Rana, will be speaking at U.C. Davis on February 1st. Two lectures are planned: Evolution: a Theory in Crisis (apologies to Michael Denton), and The Creator's Signature: Design in the Cell's Chemistry. Both sessions will include Q&A afterwards. ########## Krista, at Theology Mom, shares some insights on the parable of sheeps and goats in, The Least of These Brothers of Mine.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Johnny is 3 years old, goes to preschool, and…

he loves it! Did you get that line in one of your Christmas Newsletters last month? Every Christmas season we receive an assortment of holiday greetings which give a rundown of the particular events in the sender’s family over the previous year. And every Christmas season my wife and I chuckle as we read of at least one child like Johnny (not the child’s real name). We chuckle because we almost always find the addendum "and he loves it!" tagged onto the end of the sentence. Why do parents choose to add those four words? Why not simply state, "Johnny is 3 years old and goes to preschool"? Could it be that Johnny doesn’t want to go to preschool? Could it be that he really doesn’t like it? Or maybe he truly does love going to preschool. But, even so, why do they feel the need to bring attention to the fact that Johnny loves preschool? Could it be, dare I say it… guilt? Now, I am well aware that there are some families who, by virtue of their economic situation, are forced to send their toddlers to preschool. I doubt, however, that most of those families have space in their budget to send out Christmas Newsletters with 5x7 glossy pictures of the family. The first four or five years of a child’s life are immensely formative. In a "traditional" father / mother / child environment (i.e., a family) the child will bond with the mother in ways that the father will never experience. This happens not only because the mother is with the child for longer periods of time, but also because of the inherently different physiological makeup of women. In such a setting the child is typically sent off to public school at about age five or six. Thus, the child’s formative years are spent mainly under the influence of the mother. Until now. In Pressured into preschool (registration required), Michelle Quinn, from the San Jose Mercury-News, writes,
Susan Nell had planned to keep her son, Jimmy, home with her at least until he was 4. But panic struck when Jimmy was still a baby. The word at the playground was that preschool could make all the difference for kids, socially and academically. Other parents were madly researching preschools and signing up to reserve spaces two to three years in advance, fearing that choice schools would be filled if they waited. Nell began signing up, too. ``I don't want to say I was keeping up with the Joneses,'' she said. ``But I didn't want him to fall behind.''
For $11,425 a school year, a 3-year-old can attend Stratford School five days a week, including after-school care until 6 p.m. The Stratford School, with campuses in San Jose, Los Gatos and Sunnyvale, focuses on academics as well as socialization. Amid the playing, teachers devote a portion of the day to activities such as counting and saying the alphabet. ``My belief is that children are capable of learning a lot at an early age,'' said Joe Wagner, Stratford's founder and president. ``But I think socialization is equally as important.''… …When she began her preschool search for her daughter, Susanne Millar kept track of 20 preschools on a spreadsheet with categories such as Teaching Philosophy, Adult/Child Ratio, Teacher Turnover Rate, Diapers/No Diapers and Music Programs. Preschool, Millar said, ``is becoming, at least from a socialization perspective, a requirement.'' Her daughter, Samantha, 3, attends Alphabet Soup in Cupertino twice a week.
One can’t help but wonder how different Samantha’s socialization skills would be had her mother ignored working on her spreadsheet and, instead, spent that time with her daughter. One also can’t help but wonder why educators and parents think that the socialization skills of a three year-old should be shaped by other three year-olds. If lessons in socialization are that important, why didn’t the mother consider the Adult/Child Ratio at her own home? Misguided choices by the affluent, however, are not the only issue at hand. Enter a television commercial from First5 California, an advocacy group that is spearheading the notion of universal (albeit voluntary) preschool in California. In the commercial we see two police officers cruising in their squad car. One of the officers says, while motioning to the back, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep kids out of this back seat?” The other officer chimes in, “There’s already a program which does just that!” She (yes, it’s a female officer that ultimately gives the punch-line) then rhetorically asks, “So, what is this great crime prevention program?” And, with a look of motherly reassurance, she simply says, “It’s called… preschool.” We’re then informed that studies have shown that children who attend preschool are, among other things, less likely to end up in jail as an adult. Well sure, I can see where a kid from an impoverished family would stand a better chance in a healthy, safe environment as opposed to being locked up at home waiting for mommy to get home from work. But the push by preschool proponents is that all children benefit from attending preschool. It is purported that children who attend preschool do better academically and are better adjusted socially as adults. So, while preschool proponents claim that it is “grossly unfair” that preschool is available only to the rich and, consequently, that we should have state funded programs available for the needy, we are also shown that there are logical reasons why we should embrace preschool for children of all socio-economic levels. While proponents of universal preschool stress that their concept is strictly voluntary, their media rhetoric says otherwise. After all, if attending preschool is beneficial for all children, why limit it to the needy? Why not make it available for all California toddlers? Indeed, the California legislation faced a bill in 2004 which, while heralded as providing voluntary universal preschool, also proposed that kindergarten be mandatory. The initial text of the bill AB 56 stated,
(1) Existing law, commonly referred to as the Compulsory Education Law, subjects pupils between the ages of 6 and 18 to compulsory full-time education. This bill would, instead, subject pupils between the ages of 5 and 18 to compulsory full-time education, and would make conforming changes, including, but not limited to, changes relating to kindergarten services and the full day of instruction. By expanding the Compulsory Education Law, and by changing related crimes, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program. (emphasis added)
It was opposed by the Home School Legal Defense Association and eventually amended to exclude the mandatory kindergarten provision. A four year-old could just about see where such legislation would lead – once mandatory kindergarten is firmly entrenched, along with universal preschool, how could anyone object to the obvious societal benefits of having mandatory universal preschool? One doesn’t have to dig very far to find that First5 California promotes healthy care for children starting at birth. How long before the healthy care availability for infants becomes mandatory government run infant care? Opening a Christmas card in the near future might reveal something along the lines of: Johnny is in infant care… and he loves it! Additional reference: Mandatory Preschool in California?

Rusty Nails, 1/24/05...

Krista gives us some insights into the difficulties inherent in being a theologian who is also a female, over at Theology Mom. ########## Bill Wallo critiques my critique of a comment he made (got all that?) regarding the evangelical ghetto concept in Of Ghettos, Traffic, and Links. ########## Report: Global warming approaching critical point, per CNN.
Global warming is approaching the critical point of no return, after which widespread drought, crop failure and rising sea-levels would be irreversible, an international climate change task force warned Monday.
ouch! Yet, further on we read,
The independent report, by the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain, the Center for American Progress in the United States and The Australia Institute, is timed to coincide with Blair's commitment to advance international climate change policy during Britain's G-8 presidency. (emphasis added)
########## Democrats charged in Election Day tire-slashing in Wisconsin, per CNN. I'm sure Jimmy Carter's Election Police will be right on top of this one...

Friday, January 21, 2005

"New Year's Eve bloom" - southern California © 2004 R.L.

"Springtime" - near Los Olivos, Ca © 1993 R.L.

Rusty Nails, 1/21/05...

Joe Carter has suggested that evangelical blogs band together in order to escape from the evangelical ghetto and, in the process, become a force that won’t be easily ignored. Razors Kiss suggests that our efforts are utter drivel, if all we do is stay huddled in our stupid ghetto, and don’t engage the REST of the blogosphere as Christians (a possible false dichotomy hidden in there, I think). Bill Wallo wholeheartedly agrees. I believe that the issue is extremely complex and, in my opinion, does not reduce to being remedied by merely removing oneself from a purported ghetto. However, for those wishing to venture “out” of the “ghetto” in which we supposedly live, please look into submitting posts to the Carnival of the Godless. Will the results be meaningful (i.e., influential) discussion, or snide bickering? HT: DarkSyde at Unscrewing the Inscrutable ########## Speaking of venturing out of the “ghetto,” Ed Brayton, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, seems to think that because President Bush is now not pushing for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, that he has somehow taken conservative Christians for a ride. Has the fact that constitutional amendments are extremely costly and time consuming evaded Ed’s notice? If one can achieve a similar goal, without the expense involved in amending the constitution, wouldn’t one be better suited to go that route? Sure, it could be argued that the cost involved now is the same as before the election, but the political climate may not be the same. It’s been said that politics can sometimes be a pretty political enterprise. One way to test the accusation, though, is to simply wait and see how Bush / Republican Party address what Christian conservatives consider their core-values. If you really want to do some "ghetto blasting," you should post a response to Ed's post. Never one to be at a loss for words, he'll surely respond. HT: DarkSyde ########## An aspect of the liberal agenda that I must be missing something on, though, is their inconsistency with regards to just what they think Bush / Republican Party is up to. For instance, in closing his post regarding Bush / Republican Party stringing along Christian conservatives, Ed (from the link above) implies that Bush / Republican Party employ the use of fear to play on the emotions of Christian conservatives (you know them – those bigoted haters of everything liberal). But wait a minute, Bush / Republican Party is toying with the Christian Right simply to get votes? I thought Bush / Republican Party was supposed to be establishing a virtual Theocracy (what with his / their alliance with Christian conservatives)? So, if Bush / Republican Party is leading the charge to turn the government of the good ‘ole U. S. of A. into a Christian “Taliban,” why would he / they snub his / their most important constituency by “reversing” his / their position on a gay marriage ban? It must be because the Christian Right is comprised of uneducated, stupid people, who are easy to herd… but who are in control. (sidenote: Bill Wallo has a link to, America 2014, an underground novel which uses a storyline having Bush, in 2014, as a virtual dictator of God’s United States) ########## This is truly sick. HT: What Attitude Problem? Update: Wizbang reports that this is a viral hoax from an ad agency that claims it got out "accidentally." Yeah, like I said previously, controversy is the mother's milk of sales. HT: Michelle Malkin ########## Student sues to end summer homework,
A student whose vacation plans were spoiled has sued to end summer homework in Wisconsin, claiming it creates an unfair workload and unnecessary stress.
An adolescent Twixter, to be sure.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Rusty Nails, 1/20/05...

"The sky is falling!" Or, it's just getting warmer... as in, globally warmer. Check Sean's post, Crichton responds to his eco-critics, over at Everything I Know is Wrong. He includes a link to an interview done with Michael Crichton which touches on the politically based criticism Crichton has been receiving because of his latest book, State of Fear. One on-line reviewer at wrote,
The author's comments in the section following the story are reprehensible! Equating well intentioned environmentalists, even if they might be scientifically unproven, with greedy developers because the end result is the same is about as inane and dangerous a philosophy that I have ever heard.
Also check a post I wrote last year about a speech Crichton gave on global warming. ********** Greg, over at What Attitude Problem?, links us to a hilarious conversation at a Taco Bell in which the validity of a $2 bill is debated.
Me: "I'm just trying to buy a burrito and pay for it with this $2 bill."... Guard: "Mike, what's wrong with this bill?" Manager: "It's fake." Guard: "It doesn't look fake to me." Manager: "But it's a two-dollar bill." Guard: "Yeah?" Manager: "Well, there's no such thing, is there?"
Those Susan B. Anthony "tokens" must be next. ********** Off the Top has a review of a soulful rendition of Handel's Messiah, and in the process reminds us of how distinctive we are as humans (made in the Image of God). ********** From the Em-Church perspective, Dave, over at Welcome to the Planet, posted recently regarding our false concept of safety, especially with regards to just who provides our ultimate safety (i.e., us or God?). In Kindergarten registration in Mayberry and safety, he says,
I may be wrong, but I think that camping out overnight in your Lexus SUV watching DVD's in your headrests so you can register your kid in school is just setting up the next generation to embrace and live into your sickness. What is needed is to rip back the facade of this life and shine the light of the Gospel into the darkness that exists in white upper middle class suburbia.
********** Ilona, at True Grit, clues us in to how unlikely it is that a Twixter will come from a large family. (note: unlike a Wabbit, a Twixter has nothing to do with Elmer Fudd) She references a commmentary from Kay Arthur, at GOPUSA, titled It's a matter of parenting: the Twixters. As far as I can tell, Twixters are those children-adults between the ages of 18 and 29, who have put off the responsibilities of entering adulthood. Arthur states,
Encouraging responsibility, independence, civility, ambition and a strong sense of values is critical. Young people today seem to be more interested in where the next party is rather than where the next paycheck is coming from.
Ilona takes Arthur to task, not so much for her conclusions, but for presenting the task of parenting as mere methodology.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Evangelical Capitalism: How the “bottom-line” determines our action…

Matt Powell, over at Wheat & Chaff, has an insightful post titled, This Earth. In it, he describes how our earthly standards of success may sometimes, if not always, be invalid when assessing so-called blessings from God. He tells of a conversation with a member from a local Calvary Chapel who says,
God has really blessed us. We started with 75 people and now we have about 4000.
Matt quotes from Ecclesiastes and then says,
Only by casting my eyes out farther than the temporal horizon which is visible to me can I have any hope of seeing purpose in this life. It is only in God's eternal plan for my life that things can make any ultimate sense. Because whatever happens in this life, we all go to the same grave, where all our works are forgotten by this cursed and mad world.
I’ve thought about this same issue for some time. What is it about seeing a church overflowing with congregants that causes us to consider it blessed? Are we justified in concluding that a church which is losing members is not being blessed by God? Do we measure the success of a church by tabulating how many souls have “given their lives to Christ” each Sunday? The entrepreneur is interested in keeping the numbers at the bottom-line in the black. Profits equal success. Have we let capitalism so shape our worldview that it has also shaped our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus? Critics may raise the point that the early church, as found in the Book of Acts, experienced tremendous growth under the blessing of God. In my opinion, though, such comparisons fall flat. While we see examples of growth in Acts we also see that the dispersion of Christianity was mainly due to persecution. Being a Christian in the first century was costly. We see nothing of that sort in the 21st century West. Yet, somehow, we feel justified in considering ourselves blessed. We think that if we’re growing, then we must be in the black, and if we’re in the black, then we must be in “God’s Will” and… blessed. In A Stunted Ecclesiology?, an article for Touchstone Magazine, J. I. Packer posits that the modern evangelical mindset, as found in the West, has wavered from the Biblical teaching in which the church is declared to be the fullness of Christ, the beloved bride for whom he laid down his life. He lists, as the primary factor in this departure, “evangelical salvation-centeredness.” He writes,
No one should fault evangelicals for their loving attention to the task of unpacking the gospel message that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Nothing is more important than that the gospel is fully grasped, and exploring it and emphasizing it is a thoroughly churchly activity. But it has led to a habit of man-centered theologizing, which sets needy human beings at center stage, as it were, brings in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit just for their saving roles, and fails to cast anchor in doxology, as Paul’s expositions of the gospel lead him to do (see Rom. 11:33–36; 16:25–27; Eph. 3:20–21; 1 Tim. 6:13–16; cf. Rev. 5:9–14). Too often we evangelicals relegate the truth of the Trinity to the lumber-room of the mind, to be put on display only when deniers of it appear, rather than being made the frame and focus of all adoration. The church then comes to be thought of as an organization for spiritual life support rather than as an organism of perpetual praise; doxology is subordinated to ministry, rather than ministry embodying and expressing doxology; and church life is thought out and set forth in terms of furthering people’s salvation rather than of worshiping and glorifying God. The antithesis is improper and false, to be sure, but the man-centered mindset is real, and is one facet of a stunted churchliness.
Mother Teresa once said, “I do not pray for success. I ask for faithfulness.” Matt closes his post with,
Only the context of eternity can teach me the truth of what happens on earth. Trying to understand the events of this world without an eternal perspective is like using a tape measure with no numbers on it. You might know which dash the end of the board falls on, but you don't know what the dash means, or how it relates to anything else. When we measure the world without the eternal perspective, all we're left with is the judgments of man, and so we think a church with 4000 people in it is more blessed than the one with 75.
Let us pray to be faithful.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Rusty Nails, 1/18/05...

Update: Joe Carter tells us that these daily postings might just be catching on. Check Jollyblogger's Jolly Digest. Mere Comments has a post titled, Churchless Christians?, in which we find that the
Barna Research Group reports that in the United States about 10 million self-proclaimed, born-again Christians have not been to church in the last six months…
About a third of Americans are unchurched, according to Barna’s national data. Approximately 23 million of those—35 percent of the unchurched—claim they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives today.
With all the seeker-sensitive churches out there, one wonders if they're simply targeting these churchless Christians? Matt Powell takes on our friend DarkSyde in Playing it both ways, over at Wheat & Chaff. ------------ From, Rice, Boxer spar in confirmation hearing,
California Sen. Barbara Boxer questioned Rice aggressively before the panel broke for lunch, suggesting that Rice's loyalty to Bush and her mission to defend the war in Iraq "overwhelmed your respect for the truth."
Truth, Barbara? How about facing up to the truth of partial-birth abortion? Readers may want to refer back to a post I titled Boxer's babbles to get a flavor for her respect for the truth. An excerpt from the congressional record,
Mr. SANTORUM. What we are talking about here with partial birth, as the Senator from California knows, is the baby is in the process of being born—— Mrs. BOXER. In the process of being born. This is why this conversation makes no sense, because to me it is obvious when a baby is born; to you it isn’t obvious. Mr. SANTORUM. Maybe you can make it obvious to me. What you are suggesting is if the baby’s foot is still inside of the mother, that baby can then still be killed. Mrs. BOXER. I am not suggesting that. Mr. SANTORUM. I am asking. Mrs. BOXER. I am absolutely not suggesting that. You asked me a question, in essence, when the baby is born. Mr. SANTORUM. I am asking you again. Can you answer that? Mrs. BOXER. I will answer the question when the baby is born. The baby is born when the baby is outside the mother’s body. The baby is born. Mr. SANTORUM. I am not going to put words in your mouth—— Mrs. BOXER. I hope not. Mr. SANTORUM. But, again, what you are suggesting is if the baby’s toe is inside the mother, you can, in fact, kill that baby. Mrs. BOXER. Absolutely not. Mr. SANTORUM. OK. So if the baby’s toe is in, you can’t kill the baby. How about if the baby’s foot is in? Mrs. BOXER. You are the one who is making these statements. Mr. SANTORUM. We are trying to draw a line here. Mrs. BOXER. I am not answering these questions.
They say that controversy is the mother's milk of sales. Consider the ludicrous actions of Fox in pixellating a cartooned rear end to avoid potential FCC fines. Self-censorship? Nah... more like self-promotion. Atheist Appeals to Supreme Court Over Inauguration Prayer.
In an emergency filing, Michael Newdow argued that a prayer at Thursday's ceremony would violate the Constitution by forcing him to accept unwanted religious beliefs.
Michael Newdow really does have too much time on his hands. Krispy Kreme axes CEO, shares jump. Buy a dozen to celebrate.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Rusty Nails, 1/17/05...

A friend of mine, currently living in the United Arab Emirates, told me of seeing Christmas decorations (including nativity scenes!) throughout Dubai this past Christmas season. In Carols usher in Christmas spirit, from Gulf News Online, we read,
Thousands of people attended events to mark the last Sunday before the Christian celebration. The Reverend Canon Stephen Wright, Chaplain of Christ Church in Jebel Ali, said even more were set to go to the many services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which falls on Saturday.
About 300 people, including Britons, Americans, Indians, Russians, Greeks and Arabs, converged on Christ Church for an evening service on Sunday.
Contrast with Grinch Wars, from Mere Comments,
In Kansas, The Wichita Eagle ran a correction for a notice that mistakenly referred to the Community Tree at the Winterfest celebration as a "Christmas Tree." And the mayor of Somerville, Mass., apologized after a news release mistakenly referred to the Dec. 21 City Holiday Party as a "Christmas Party."
Farenheit 137. That's the spread between the low (-54 F) in Embarrass, Minn., and the high (83 F) in Los Angeles, Ca. Needless to say, I came to work in a short-sleeved shirt today. For a brutally honest look at Martin Luther King, read Richard Neuhaus' Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., at First Things.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Pismo dunes, © 2004, R.L.

Eucalyptus at Pismo Beach, © 2004, R.L.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Vox Apologia - Apologetics as experience...

Phil, at Every Thought Captive, is co-sponsoring a Vox Apologia with Razors Kiss. Their first question is, What does apologetics mean to today's church? We are emotional creatures... us humans. Whether it be the experience, the high, or the rush, we find ourselves genuflecting to the notion that the validity of our existence should be determined by the level of passion we experience. The Church is not entirely unaffected by such seductive thinking. However, Christianity is not a religion based simply on emotion. Contrary to how Christianity is typically pitched in the West, it is not grounded in the experience. Agape love, a core principle of the Christian religion, is initiated not by feeling, but by choice. This in no way negates the existence, or the importance, of the emotional aspect of Christianity. As I stated, we are emotional creatures... but we are also rational creatures. God has chosen to interact with humans through very rational means. Despite the fact that Jesus related to humans at an emotional level, we must not forget that he also taught them at a rational level. Furthermore, the very act of reading God's Word, that of the written text, can only be accomplished through rational activity. Fides et Ratio. A comprehensive understanding of the Christian faith reveals that the faith described in the scriptures is not a blind faith, but a faith supported by reason. If we are to truly understand just what it means to follow Christ, then we must see that following Him entails loving Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. In other words, Faith and Reason.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Rusty Nails, 1/14/05...

John Mark Reynolds writes an interesting piece on ID inpsired by the recent court decision in Georgia to prevent a public school from placing "anti-evolution" stickers on its textbooks. The sticker, which stated,
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
has caused quite a stir in the "anti-anti-evolution" arena. Read it again to get a better understanding of why places like The Panda's Thumb were so vociferously opposed to it. Perhaps a revised sticker should be placed on the books saying,
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a fact, not a theory, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with a closed mind, studied carelessly and accepted on blind faith.
Reynolds conlcudes his post with,
I have views that many would find wrong-headed. I state those views in this forum and try to argue for them more carefully in my class and in my professional work. However, these views may be wrong. The wonder of America is that you get to read them. Don't trust anyone who wants to take ideas away from adults or censor them in schools without very, very powerful reasons. (I would not expose young children to the evil rantings of Hitler, for example. But such censorship should only be done with care. Surely, the notion that evolution may not be true is not this dangerous? Surely even the notion that God may have acted in space and time in ways that we can detect is not like this?) Freedom of thought is one of the greatest gifts God has given man. We must not let judges take it from us.
Per Robert George's, The Clash of Orthodoxies, p. 284, "the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life." - Ted Kennedy, prior to Roe v. Wade. Get the scoop on the recent meeting of evangelicals with Mormons from Greg Koukl's Stand to Reason radio show with his interview of Dr. Craig Hazen (free registration required).

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Rusty Nails, 1/13/05...

Joe Carter has his Outtakes, so I've decided to do my Rusty Nails. After stepping on these, maybe you'll be left with a blog infection. Check out Bonnie's blog, Off the Top. She's started reviewing C. S. Lewis' book, The Abolition of Man. Her first two installments are, Men without Chests, and All values derive from the Tao. If she's seen the recent PBS broadcast of The Question of God, it would be interesting to see her intertwine her review of Abolition with her thoughts about the series. After the devastating crash of his blog site a few months ago, Bill Wallo is up and running. Stop by and check his post, Intellectual Morons, or just stop by to see a beautiful pic of the Hagia Sophia (is that you in the photo, Bill?). In just a few hours the Huygens probe, from the Cassini-Huygens mission, is scheduled to descend into the atmosphere of Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Wow! Imagine an anti-science guy like me excited about such news. Per the L.A. Times, Threat of new slides halts La Conchita search. I've driven by that "hamlet" many times and, yes, it's just like it looks in the photos... a little sliver of land caught between a steep mountain and the ocean. As the residents cope with the devastation one finds that many of the displaced are planning to rebuild, and many of the others planning to stay. From the article,
As searchers continued to probe the rubble, residents debated whether to return. Julio Varele, 53, said he and his wife, Annelle Beebe, would. Even though he lost a close friend, Tony Alvis, in the mudslide, Varele said he couldn't fathom living anyplace else. "We've had the most incredible time with our friends in the house. There's the warmth, the atmosphere, with food and good times," he said. "People love to come to visit. How can you put a price on that?" After the 1995 slide, Varele said, he thought about the dangers "all the time." "It was sort of our choice to live there. It's not that we're dumb. It's just that it's a wonderful place," he said. Bill Matthews, 34, who lives about 200 feet away from the base of the slide, said he planned to stay "as long as the rent is [as high] as it is in Santa Barbara."
Well, there you have it, some people consider the act of choosing to return to live in a place where two devastating landslides have occurred in the past 10 years to not be "dumb" simply because "it's a wonderful place." What is it about our species that causes us to place such a high emphasis on the abstract? Survival? Not in this case. Our friend DarkSyde will be live blogging the progress of the Huygens probe descent onto Titan. Check out the nice Cassini-Huygens wallpaper via JPL's website. A burger and fries on the way to soccer practice? Maybe your family meals should emphasize a bit more of the family aspect. So says the article, Meals together promote better health for girls, from the Assemblies of God News Service.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Americanism: a Virtual Symposium...

Joe Carter is running a virtual symposium over at Evangelical Outpost, asking for submissions regarding an article in Commentary written by David Gelernter. In Americanism – and Its Enemies, Gelernter defines Americanism as
the set of beliefs that are thought to constitute America’s essence and to set it apart; the beliefs that make Americans positive that their nation is superior to all others— morally superior, closer to God.
and then presents his thesis
that Puritanism did not merely inspire or influence Americanism; it turned into Americanism. Puritanism and Americanism are not just parallel or related developments; they are two stages of a single phenomenon.
Gelernter concludes by linking the roots of anti-Americanism to the same hatred found towards Christianity,
Anti-Americans are still fascinated and enraged by Americans’ bizarre tendency to believe in God. In the months before the Iraq war in spring 2003, a Norwegian demonstrator waved a placard reading, “Will Bush Go to Hell?” An expatriate American wrote recently (for the FrontPage website) of being instructed by Londoners that “the United States is one giant fundamentalist Christian nation peopled by raging Bible-thumpers on every street”; that America is “running wild with religious extremism that threatens the world far more than bin Laden.”
I am intrigued by Gelernter’s thesis and conclusions. While I agree that Americanism, as he defines it, exists, I am less inclined to link its genesis strictly to Puritanism. Regardless, what should be evident, from even a cursory analysis of American history, is the fact that America’s genesis is so firmly rooted within the Judeo-Christian ethic. Whether or not this ethic manifested itself in sincere Christian belief is not the point; that the ethic was the basis for a particular worldview is. Indeed, this point is entirely missed by many critics of the idea that America traces its roots back to Judeo-Christian origins. In a favorite quote of mine we see, however, that the point was not missed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his book Ethics, he compares the foundation of the French Revolution, which was based on an inherently naturalistic view of man, with the foundation of the American Revolution. He said,
The American democracy is not founded upon the emancipated man but, quite on the contrary, upon the kingdom of God and the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God. It is indeed significant when, in contrast to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, American historians can say that the federal constitution was written by men who were conscious of original sin and of the wickedness of the human heart.
With this understanding in mind, one can see that the question at hand is not Were the founding fathers believers? but, Did the founding fathers understand who they were and who God was? Thus, when analyzing the motives and intentions of someone like Thomas Jefferson, we are not so much concerned as to his belief in the doctrine of the Trinity as we are with his belief that we have been granted inalienable rights by a Creator. Regardless of the theological stance of our founding fathers, we need to understand that they chose to let the Judeo-Christian ethic shape their Enlightenment Worldview. I would argue that such a worldview was, in reality, a “religiously” Enlightened ethic whose structural integrity came from that which we can'’t not know. Once we understand that many of America’s founding fathers, while born out of the Enlightenment, chose to hold a worldview ethic shaped by a Judeo-Christian understanding of reality, we can more easily understand why their views contrasted with those individuals of the same era who chose to reject the same Judeo-Christian ethic. Additionally, by understanding the roots of Americanism, we can better appreciate instances of those individuals who have expressed a fuller understanding of those roots. That Lincoln’s second inaugural speech is enriched with Biblical references, and that Wilson, Truman, and Reagan were so familiar with the Bible are but a few examples which validate the claim that Americanism derives itself, at least partly, from Puritanism. Understanding the basis for Americanism also helps us understand what drives the fervor of anti-Americanism as well. A “secularly” Enlightened culture is one which sees the conclusions of religious conviction as unnecessary at best and wicked at worst. Much like a mirage in the desert, an imaginary chasm - a false dichotomy, is presented as looming before us, pitting reason against faith, the physical against the spiritual, and the natural against the supernatural. That which we cannot empirically verify with our senses is deemed subjective – and personal; while that which is empirically verifiable is declared objectively true. Although I believe that the evangelical community shares in some of the responsibility for the construction of this false dichotomy, its tenets are sometimes preached with no greater fundamental rage than as is found from within the ranks of diehard naturalists. The very thought that the Judeo-Christian ethic could have some – any – objective influence on society at large infuriates the secularly Enlightened individual. It is at this point we must address probably the most intriguing characteristic of the Judeo-Christian ethic as expressed in its fullest form – that of its “worldview” application. Ron Nash, in his book Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith, states,
Christianity is simply not a religion that tells human beings how they may be forgiven. It is a total world- and life view. Christians need to recognize that their faith has important things to say about the whole of human life. Once Christians can understand in a systematic way how the options to Christianity are also world-views, they will be in a better position to rationally justify their choice of Christianity.
While secular culture views the religious experience as simply one of many optional aspects of the life of “self,” the Biblical Worldview sees the many aspects of an individual’s life as being driven by and encompassed within the will of God. Understanding that God has a Plan and that our purpose is subject to Him means that we also understand that we have obligations to Him. The consequences of such an understanding of God cannot be manifested through purely private and subjective means. The free exercise of Christianity or, I would submit, any significant aspect of its ethic, must involve outward action. The underpinnings of Christian virtue entail social justice juxtaposed with the gospel. While Christ commanded us to make disciples he also informed us that, after loving God, the entire Law hinged upon loving our neighbor. That some Christians have perverted the manner in which the Biblical Worldview should be lived out does not negate the fact that the Biblical Worldview exists. We happen to be living at a time and place in which Christians can influence change on the culture at large through democratic means. Yet the United States is not governed by a theocracy, as that of Israel in the Old Testament. And while Christians should shape their lives to conform to the Biblical Worldview, those individuals who are merely influenced by such a worldview are under no such obligation. To what extent, therefore, should we expect the influence of Christianity to be felt on a democratically run culture? Americanism, if it truly exists as Gelernter defines it, may well be a historically unique experience. We, as Christians in America, have not only the power to influence change, we can do so with an immense amount of personal freedom. The first Christians were not so lucky. Yet the change they influenced on society has yet to be matched. Is the power we wield, from the freedom we enjoy, meant for us to horde or to share? If we are now harvesting the fruits from that which the Puritans helped to establish, then what should we make of this unique responsibility?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Caption requested...

Keep it clean.

Once saved, always saved?...

Check out David Wayne's concluding post on the five points of Calvinism titled, P - Perseverance of the Saints. Excellent stuff.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Natural destruction and the Will of God…

The events in south Asia have dredged up discussions in the blogosphere regarding whether or not such natural disasters are linked to God’s judgment. Questions such as: Was God punishing those people?, Why would God do this to them?, What purpose could God have had in this act?, What did I do to offend God?, etc., all presuppose that God was directly orchestrating the death and destruction. Tangentially, if one argues that God was not directly involved in the catastrophe, that is, if the events were simply due to natural action, the critical question then asked is, Well, then why did He allow it to happen? You see, so the argument goes, if God knew that the destruction was about to occur, albeit through natural means, and allowed it to occur anyway, then He is just as guilty as if He had caused the destruction in the first place. So if God is truly omniscient and omnipotent, then He is ultimately responsible for whatever happens. This brings us back to the gist of the questions at hand… What is God’s purpose in allowing natural destruction to occur? Is the answer, We don’t know, too difficult for the Christian to utter? I believe the Bible indicates that God is the creator of the entire natural realm and is Sovereign over it. As such, nothing occurs that is not within His control, nor under His authority. However, unless specifically revealed, His Sovereign Will remains unknown to us. While we may certainly ask the question, What is God’s purpose in allowing natural destruction to occur?, the Biblical answer is, to put it crudely, None of your business! That such an answer may not sit well with a non-Christian (and, possibly, many Christians) is irrelevant. Note: as a point of clarification, this post is not intended to address how Christians should deal with the very real emotions of suffering and grief that such natural destruction brings. I'm simply addressing how I think we should approach the issue of God's Will.

How Pothole Naturalism fails the road-test…

Critics of Intelligent Design sometimes misunderstand the claims its proponents make. Take, for example, the concept of Specified Complexity. It’s really a pretty basic concept which simply links specificity with complexity, hence, the term specified complexity (yeah, I know, this is heavy). Intelligent causation is inferred when sufficient specificity is found in combination with sufficient complexity. The morning paper you may receive has both specificity and complexity. The particular patterns of ink on the paper are complex. The patterns correspond to words (i.e., information), which provide the specificity. A paper in which several bottles of ink have spilled may exhibit a complex pattern, but there is no discernable specificity to the pattern. Therefore, while the phenomenon is complex it is not specifically complex and it cannot, in and of itself, point towards intelligent causation – regardless of whether the spilled ink was intelligently caused. Conversely, consider a paper in which the typesetter slept on the keyboard, thus unintentionally producing something akin to:
kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
While it exhibits some specificity (i.e., the letter “k”), it also shows precious little complexity. Therefore it too does not qualify as being specifically complex and, as such, cannot be directly attributed to intelligent causation. So, we are looking for phenomenon that exhibit both high complexity and high specificity. Such phenomenon, if they exist, should be considered reliable indicators for the existence of intelligent action. This point seems to be missed in Ed Brayton’s parody of the ID movement when he writes, regarding the causation of the recent tsunami,
Those scientists who have lost faith in the revealed orthodoxy recognize what the seismological naturalists will not tell you: that the processes are so incredibly complex that it is virtually impossible for them to take place purely by random chance. Such complexity can only come about through the action of an intelligent cause.
Again, the key point to understand here is that complexity or specificity alone are unreliable indicators of intelligent action; it is only when the two are linked, and in sufficient measure, that we get a good indication that intelligent action has occurred. SETI researchers understand this point as evidenced in the fictional account from Carl Sagan’s movie, Contact. A transmission received from outer space is attributed to intelligent, and extraterrestrial, origin because the transmission exhibited both specificity (i.e., it contained prime numbers) and complexity (i.e., it contained a sufficient quantity of sequential prime numbers). It is doubtful that Sagan would have written an account of SETI researchers jumping for joy had they received only the first three prime numbers and the reason is simple – such a “message” would not have been sufficiently complex to infer design. Another misunderstood ID claim (which Ed touches on) is that of how probability is used as evidence for intelligent action. The argument from ID essentially states that if functioning systems are found to be both highly fine tuned and highly unlikely to occur through random chance then it is logical to infer that such systems were purposely caused. DarkSyde wrote a critique of Hugh Ross recently and said, of Ross’ approach,
The primary criticism of this approach is that it is untestable. If atoms were not possible, if heavier elements were not cooked up inside of stars via stellar nucleosynthesis, and if life did not exist on Earth, then life critically dependent on all those events and materials would not be here to observe that life is capable of existing under all those aforementioned conditions; ourselves included. To falsify the proposal "The Universe/Earth was designed for life/chemicals/atoms because life/chemicals/atoms can exists in the universe and on Earth" we would have to, among other things, find life/atoms, etc., existing where it was physically impossible for them to exist. This is, needless to say, unlikely to be observed! And if it was observed it would probably be the best evidence for miracle or IDC I can think of making the proposition tautological in the context of Ross and Intelligent Design. This fine tuning approach where various properties of matter, energy, and environment, are measured and found to be consistent with objects existing within those boundaries has been called by one reviewer I know the equivalent of shooting wildly into the side of a barn and then drawing bulls eyes around the holes. Ed Brayton summed it up as [paraphrasing] "Wow! Look at these potholes on my street, they're perfectly designed for the water inside to fit! What are the odds?"
Once again, the problem is that Dark (and Ed) are isolating one function of a particular concept. It’s not that some event or system is improbable; it’s that some event or system is improbable and specified. Consider a typical critique of this concept which refers to poker hands. You are dealt a hand of cards. What is the probability that you would get exactly the hand you were dealt? Yet, despite its improbability, you were dealt that hand! Therefore, so the argument goes, highly improbable events occur quite regularly. Hence, all we can infer from any improbability factor is that we were incredibly lucky. Do you see where the functional specificity is missing? The ID position does not seek out mere improbability but is quite selective of just which improbability it chooses to analyze. For example, it’s not what’s the probability of being dealt any hand in poker?, but, what’s the probability of being dealt a royal flush? We’re looking for events that are improbable and specifically complex. Potholes in the road are useless in this endeavor; the existence of the road itself is not. Bull’s eyes drawn around arrows in the side of a barn are useless in this endeavor; an arrow through an apple on one’s head is not. That someone happens to win the lottery is useless in this endeavor; that someone wins the lottery repeatedly is not. A planetary system forming is useless in this endeavor; a planetary system forming that provides an environment suitable for advanced life is not. Lastly, considering the example of habitable environments, one must not fall for the argument that many critics of ID use when they say, in effect, “Wow! We’ve found life where life exists! How improbable was that?” The error here is related to the ones above in that the critics have misunderstood just what is being analyzed. Would any of these critics support a research program designed to search for advanced life on the surface of the Sun? I doubt it. I would surmise that they would not support such a research program precisely because they understand that there are certain environmental parameters for the existence of advanced life. While advanced life does survive on the surface of the Earth, it will not survive on the surface of the Sun. Somewhere between the environmental parameters of the Earth and the Sun advanced life ceases to survive. It is not, therefore, out of line to analyze various advanced life suitable environments with regards to how they formed, and how they are sustained, and to then make inferences based on the probability of such environments arising strictly by chance. That we wouldn’t be here to observe life, unless the universe was the way it was, is not the issue. We are here. We do observe. And what we observe continues to tell us that, left to the natural course of events, it is highly unlikely that advanced life could form strictly by chance. It is so unlikely that, when combined with the fine tuning characteristics we also observe, we logically infer that we are here because someone must have monkeyed with the system. It would seem that the potholes have been filled in. Further ref: Rare Earth The Privileged Planet The Elegant Universe Origins of Life Nature's Destiny

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Program Note: Welcome to Mars...

Mars Rover Spirit has been operating on Mars for one year. That's 4 times the expected duration! NOVA has a program airing tonight titled, Welcome to Mars. From the website:
"Welcome to Mars" will follow the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity from the second they crash-land on the planet to many months into their ongoing mission. Davis has been covering the story from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as it unfolds and will provide a unique, behind-the-scenes take on this voyage of discovery, whose primary goal is to find evidence that liquid water once existed on Mars.
Other essentials: JPL's Mars Rover web site Reasons to Believe

Monday, January 03, 2005

What should we have done?...

DarkSyde has written a lengthy post over at Unscrewing the Inscrutable titled A Midwinter Night’s Mare (there must be a joke I’m missing here, but why isn’t it titled A Midwinter’s Nightmare?). Dark, essentially, describes how we have greedily devoured the world’s petrochemical reserves to a point in which all probable outcomes are bleak, to say the least. Due to our misguided management of the earth’s natural resources, we have positioned ourselves for impending wars, pestilence, and famine. And, according Dark, this is not a good thing. The question he cannot address, within a natural evolutionary framework, is… Why is it not a good thing? Indeed, to be consistent within the Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism worldview, one must conclude that there is no should. Dark wonders what future generations of humans will think of our greedy ways. Will they condemn us or will they learn from our mistakes, and forgive us? Yet, given the there is no should parameter established by M/PN, Dark’s concern is just as valid as those of the fellow who sucks the earth dry of oil and, with regards to future generations, simply shrugs his shoulders and says, “screw ‘em!” I’m not quite sure why, but this blog is listed as one of the architects of the nightmare, and is linked to at the end of Dark’s post.