Sunday, February 27, 2005

You belong at the Zoo...

My family and I went to the San Diego Zoo this past Saturday. I've placed a few photos over at Imago Articulus.

Liturgical High Fives...

Years ago I went with my cousin to a Christian concert held at a Catholic church. Prior to the actual concert the parish priest came out and spoke a bit. As he concluded his talk he explained the meaning of the sign of the cross gesture that Catholics do. He invited those who wished, regardless of whether or not they were Catholic, to follow him as he led the audience in the sign of the cross. I felt uneasy about following his lead and opted out of performing the gesture. During our worship service today, one of the associate pastors, in an apparent attempt to get the congregation to connect with one another, asked everyone to turn and give someone close by a "high five." Stadium liturgy at its best. As the high fives resounded throughout the church, I suddenly found myself yearning for the reverence found when one acknowledges the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Friday, February 25, 2005

How Wal-Mart conquered the world...

First Hugh Hewitt is amazed that anyone would oppose the opening of a Wal-Mart superstore. Then the Professor chimes in explaining why he thinks such an event is not so good for the community. And we have Joe Carter writing quite a bit about why he considers Wal-Mart a company worthy of admiration. Back in November of 2003 I threw down a few comments with regards to how Wal-Mart achieves its low prices, per an article from the L.A. Times.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Rusty Nails, 2/24/05...

When Public becomes Private: from and Stay Free! Daily,
Christo's publisher claims a vast new degree of copyright and trademark protection. They claim they will prosecute anyone who sells their own original photos of The Gates; who makes and sells a drawing of The Gates or who even uses the words, The Gates, without their permission....They also claim to have an agreement with the media that media sources may only use news photos of the gates for the period the installation is up. That after that the media will only be allowed to use "official" photos of The Gates.
Well, if true, why don't a group of NY state photo-bloggers organize a meet-up in Central Park to shoot photos of... trees, the sky, leaves, sidewalks, etc., that just happen to have THE GATES in the background? ########## Trackers kill Tiger in Ventura County, per the L.A. Times. A 125 pound mountain lion is deadly; this tiger was 425 pounds.
But animal rights activists said death was too high a penalty for an animal that had not harmed anyone since its tracks were discovered Feb. 8 on the grounds of a nursery in the nearby Santa Rosa Valley. "With all this time to track it and all these options they could draw on, you have to ask the question, was it really necessary to kill the tiger?" said Madeline Bernstein, president of the Los Angeles branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Is anyone surprised by the reaction of the SPCA? ########## Joe Carter gives us a dose of reality with regards to the Gonzo s_icide of Hunter Thompson in his Outtakes 2.23.05. He says,
Thompson’s meticulously composed drug addled rants are, like the author himself, self-contradictory and ultimately self-defeating.
So, was he talented because he was p_ychotic, or was he p_ychotic because he was talented? Or, is this just another example of the Hemingway Syndrome? ########## Bill Wallo hosts the latest installment of the Christian Carnival. ########## Listen to an interview of Simon Conway Morris, by Reasons to Believe.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Church, and the United States...

An interesting article from David Mills, over at Touchstone Magazine, titled Reorganizing Religion: Why the Church Bureaucracies Have to Go. While it deals mainly with how church structure can develop into a detrimental aspect of the body of the church as a whole, he concludes with an interesting juxtaposition of how the church in Africa appears to be growing, quite well thank you, without the same bureaucratic anchors we seem to find in the West. Mills says,
The test of the reform is evangelism: whether the bureaucratic or the personal styles of ministry will reach the world most effectively. The extraordinary growth of the churches in Africa and Asia, where bureaucracies are small and bishops and their priests are usually evangelists as well as pastors, suggests the superiority of the personal to the bureaucratic. When their churches are growing so rapidly, even as they are persecuted for their faith, the West might wisely defer to their wisdom. It can’t claim to have had great success doing things its way. The Western churches might see the beginning of a revival if their bishops filed all the reports and resolutions, dissolved all but the essential committees, and canceled the legislative meetings, and went out into the streets of their sees with a bishop from Africa to tell people about Jesus.

Monday, February 21, 2005


From KABC TV in Los Angeles,
Parents were warned Friday not to leave their children unattended outdoors amid word a large exotic cat - possibly an African lion - was believed to be roaming an area near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. (emphasis added)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Something's fishy here...

In the responses to Serge’s post, Pharyngeal Phantasies?, over at Imago Dei, we see continued examples of how neo-Darwinists approach the idea of common descent in a circular fashion. If you recall, Serge raised the question, “if the structures of the human face evolved from gills in a fish, why are CN V and VII, derivatives of the first and second pharyngeal arches, not present in fish gills?” Serge was immediately taken to task for not only having too simplistic an understanding of the processes at hand, but for mistaking that we should expect evolution to operate in such a manner as to produce a one for one correlation between organisms which supposedly shared a common ancestor. Yet the arguments presented illustrate that the neo-Darwinists already assume that the evolutionary process has answered the question. Consider this scenario one dissenter presented:
The actual model is rather more like this: (a) start with a jawless fish with no jaws but lots of gill arches (b) the first few gill arches evolve into jaws (c) much later, this now-jawed lineage splits into teleost fish (most modern "fish") on the one hand, and tetrapods+lungfish and relatives on the other.
Keep in mind that the reason this is how the process is thought to have occurred is because of similarities in structure combined with a supposed functional advantage. This is how the process works – data is viewed through evolutionary spectacles and then unwarranted extrapolations are made. The key, for the neo-Darwinist, is not whether or not a process can be shown that produces common descent, but whether or not similarity in structure can be found. Thus, the gist of criticism such as Serge’s (and mine) is tossed aside under the pretense of nonsensical. One commenter to P.Z. Myers website even commented that my arguments never tell how anything occurred and, interestingly enough, that he found my arguments regarding “posts on how the bible doesn’t have moral relativism” to be “particuarlly [sic] funny” (one wonders what such an addendum has to do with cranial nerves - especially if all the neo-Darwinist is interested in are scientific explanations?). The problem with the reasoning going on by the neo-Darwinists is that they ignore the aspect of intentions – designer’s intentions. Should we assume that a lack of one for one correspondence between cranial nerves and pharyngeal arches is indicative of evolutionary processes, or should we assume that such a lack of correspondence indicates design? Consider the processes involved in engineering and construction projects. Although there are a variety of types of projects (e.g., refinery, power plant, highway, telecommunications) they typically involve using similar processes with which to achieve project completion. However, there are times when a particular phase of a project does not start even though it is physically possible to do so. In many government projects such an occurrence is usually due to the fact that the phase is not only dependent on its physical predecessor, but on legislated monetary funding as well. Government projects have the idiosyncrasy of having additional pathways, through which activities must flow, in order to achieve project completion. That such red tape stricken processes may be inefficient is beside the point, for what must be understood is that despite it appearing that a designer would not have chosen such a pathway, it is an intelligently designed pathway nonetheless. Another example would be that of a software system designed to produce monthly data for a company with regards to the status of a particular project’s financial status. Suppose that we find out that the same type of monthly data for two different projects is produced by different software code pathways. What gives? Would we be justified in concluding, because the two different pathways produced similar type of data, that the pathways were not intelligently designed? Certainly not. And not simply because we happen to know that the software was intelligently designed. The error in such a conclusion is due to the fact that the outside observer is simply not aware of why the different pathways were used. It just so happens that the type of contract the project was brokered under will determine the manner in which the financial data is calculated. This key factor indicates why two dissimilar pathways are used to achieve similar outcomes. Without understanding the full parameters of the process, as well as the intentions of the designers, claims that the system was not designed are unwarranted. That similar structures can be purposely designed to produce various functions, and that various structures can be purposely designed to produce similar functions, indicates that the designer's intentions must be considered when analyzing how functional systems came to be. And intentions can only come about through a mind. --- For further reference, check several posts I wrote regarding how planning and scheduling relates to the concept of intelligent design. I didn't Plan it that way... What are your intentions?... Attributes of the Designer... A Scheduling Nightmare... ---- Update: check Unintelligent Design, at the NYT, for another example of unwarranted assumptions. HT: World

Friday, February 18, 2005

Rusty Nails, 2/18/05...

OMF Serge at Imago Dei links to my post below, Naturally Designed, in a post titled, Pharyngeal Phantasies?. Besides providing us with a link to view the muscles in a cadaver, he asks an interesting question regarding how cranial nerves in humans and fish are related, or not. I've thought the issue similar to why, if the idea of common descent is valid, do similar genes express differently in various species, and different genes express similarly? ########## On something I forgot to mention a while back: The Professor may know oodles about corporate law, but to posit that The Who is the greatest rock 'n roll band ever (over The Beatles?) can only mean he's been doing a bit too much wine tasting. ########## Stop by What Attitude Problem? for you daily Day by Day update.

Friday in the Word...

But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing — to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. - 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NET)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Monday, February 14, 2005

Weekend photo project at Imago Articulus...

Check 19 new images from my weekend photo project over at Imago Articulus.

Naturally Designed: how human design intersects with that of nature…

ID proponents sometimes compare the features of a system that is known to be designed by humans with those of a biological system supposedly “designed” by nature. The comparison is then used as evidence for the claim that if the biological system exhibits similar attributes of the human system, then a logical inference is that the biological system was intelligently designed. Neo-Darwinists cry foul by stating that since we know the human systems are designed we cannot reasonably attribute their existence to chance. Besides, they will also counter, the human systems proposed as analogies also have many dissimilarities with the biological systems. But is that really the case? Consider this latest news headline, as well as a couple of posts I previously published. Per, Genetic barcodes will ID world's species,
A team of international scientists launched an ambitious project on Thursday to genetically identify, or provide a barcode for, every plant and animal species on the planet. By taking a snippet of DNA from all the known species on Earth and linking them to photographs, descriptions and scientific information, the researchers plan to build the largest database of its kind.
From, the history of the barcode,
The idea for the barcode was developed by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. In 1948 they were graduate students at Drexel University. They developed the idea after hearing the president of a food sales company wishing to be able to automate the checkout process. One of their first ideas was to use Morse code printed out and extended verticaly, producing narrow and wide bars. Later, they switched to using a "bulls-eye" type barcode.
Let’s see, coding is applied to identifying items in a database. It’s quite interesting that a randomly generated, purposeless entity such as DNA could be utilized in such a manner. ---------- And then there’s… Frozen Accidents (from September 1, 2004) Back in May I wrote a post titled Ultra-conservative DNA in which we see certain DNA sequences that supposedly evolved to a certain state (and, more importantly, function) and then stopped - or, froze - in place. Per the August 3rd edition of Reasons to Believe's webcast Creation Update we hear of a study titled Why nature chose A, C, G and U/T: An error-coding perspective of nucleotide alphabet composition. From the study's abstract,
The question of whether the size and make-up of the natural nucleotide alphabet is a consequence of selection pressure, or simply a frozen accident, is one of the fundamental questions of biology. Nucleotide replication is essentially an information transmission phenomenon, and so it seems reasonable to explore the issue from the perspective of theoretical computer science, and of error-coding theory in particular. In this analysis it is shown that the essential recognition features of nucleotides may be naturally expressed as 4-digit binary numbers, capturing the hydrogen acceptor/donor patterns (3-bits) and the purine/pyrimidine feature (1-bit). Optimal alphabets consist of nucleotides in which the purine/pyrimidine feature is related to the acceptor/donor pattern as a parity bit. Numerically interpreted, such alphabets correspond to parity check codes, simple but effective error-resistant structures. The natural alphabet appears to be an adaptation of one of two optimal solutions, constrained to its present size and composition by a combination of chemical and coding-theory factors. (emphasis added)
Given that the evolutionary paradigm posits natural selection as a blind and unguided process, it is no wonder that potential plateaus in the process are defined as frozen accidents. It's also interesting that the process being addressed, that of parity check codes, is that of intelligent action. Hardly an accident. If nucleotide replication is essentially information transfer, and if theoretical computer science and error-coding theory allow us to analyze the parity check codes contained within the nucleotide alphabets, what could be driving the conclusion that the entire process was driven by determinism and chance? From the Christian's perspective, God created mankind in His image. One of the many implications of such a doctrine is that God has endowed mankind with creative ability inasmuch as God expresses His creative ability. The pre-existence of information, alphabets, parity check codes, and the like, should not be surprising in that one would expect the God of the Bible to express His creative ability in forms that mankind could not only recognize, but have the ability to develop as well. ---------- As well as… On plans, templates, and similarities (from April 21, 2004) Over at The Panda’s Thumb we see a post that highlights a study done on limb loss in vertebrates. John Lynch states,
An interesting article in this week's edition of Nature suggests that at least in some fish, alterations in a single gene bring about evolutionary change in the form of limb (fin) loss.
Two follow-up posts on TPT, each by P. Z. Myers, can be found here and here. In the first follow-up P. Z. states,
Some of the complicating features of developmental genetics are pleiotropy and multigenic effects: that is, that the genes required to build an organism are all tangled together in an intricate web, with multiple genes required to properly assemble each character (that's the multigenic part), and each gene having multiple effects on multiple characters (that's pleiotropy). One might think of the organism as a house of cards, each card supporting all of the cards above it, so that tinkering with any one piece leads to catastrophic collapse. This isn't the case, of course. While developing systems are all elaborately interlocked, they also exhibit modularity and surprisingly robust flexibility.
In the second follow-up P. Z. states, with regards to the idea that the modularity and robust flexibility of a system could be used as evidence of design:
Quite the contrary, I see evidence of mechanisms that permit integrated evolution of organisms, with no designer required.
He provides more detail, via his own blog Pharyngula with, Development. Evolution. Genes. Fish. What's not to like?. In it we see the following image: Essentially, what we're hearing is that the integrated complexity found within the genetic structure of these species achieved its integrated complexity through blind chance because... well... they're here aren't they? Isn't it amazing how nature has solved the problem of spitting out either limbs or fins? - all with the flip of a switch! Yet imagine the power of templates. Imagine the efficiency in using a plan that allows for minor alterations that garner major changes. Imagine a set of instructions, a code - if you will, that allows one to step through a financial accounting program and, depending on the desired outcome, run a report of actual cost expenditures by region vs. running a report of revenue by project. Shucks, I don't have to imagine it at all - I ran a set of those reports today on a piece of software designed by semi-intelligent people. On the morphological side, consider the skeletal and muscular structure of the human arm and hand. Now note a robotic arm and hand that mimics the same functional capabilities as its human counterpart. As the website for the Shadow Robot Company states, "The human hand has twenty-four powered movements. Shadow have implemented every single one, with all the power and range of movement, that the human hand has... The muscles in the upper arm and torso are analogous to the human's." Have the robotic designers used the basic structural and morphological elements of a human arm and hand as a guide for their design criteria? How about a steam rotary engine? Let’s look at the schematics for such a device. If we cross reference now with electrical rotors we find the following from Penntex: a rotor, and a stator. Cross referencing with pump rotors we find, at Seepex pumps: a universal joint Common sense tells us that there are similarities in these various human designs because they are all working off the same basic template (i.e., rotary motor design). Variances within the details are due to varying specific parameters with regards to design criteria as well as to function, materials, power supply, etc. Now compare the human artifacts with a flagellar motor per the NCBI and ARN websites: , How interesting that the components of the flagellum precisely match up with the designed components of rotary motors. Additionally, note that the work in robotics, as well as the development of the rotary motors, did not occur through blind, random chance, but through intentional, rationalistic thought processes – i.e., through design.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Our sole purpose as Christians…

In our adult Sunday School class we are discussing Gordon Fee’s book, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth. Our discussion as late, though, has been hijacked towards that of cultural and / or generational differences in how we “do” church. We’ve got a lot of “feelers” at our church right now and, while they have very good intentions, they seem to elevate the emotional aspect of Christianity to the point where rational analysis is deemed unnecessary, at best, and a hindrance, at worst. I think that part of the problem is that the average Christian in our church simply doesn’t understand what the Church is truly about. In discussing the role of Christians in evangelism, for instance, one person stated that evangelism was our “sole purpose” as a Church. I would imagine that the basis for such a statement is Jesus’ Great Commission command (Matthew 28:19). A careful reading of the scripture containing the Great Commission, though, reveals that Christians were not to evangelize but to make disciples. While the latter includes the former, the former does not necessarily include the latter. One must wonder why the command to baptize, also found in the Great Commission, does not seem to be revered as highly as that of the misinterpreted command to evangelize. Jesus’ command to partake in the communion table (Luke 22:19-20) also does not seem to be as highly regarded as our “sole purpose” of evangelism. And, while I’m at it, what are we to make of Jesus’ explicit statements regarding the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40)? (i.e., Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.) Do we have a “sole purpose” as a Church? As individual Christians? If so, where does the act of worship fit in? Do we worship God because of who He is and what He is owed?
As he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!” - Luke 19:36-40 NET
Or do we co-opt our worship in order to tap into a feel-good experience that ultimately advertises to the non-Christian exactly what he or she can get from Jesus?

GoDaddy's Superbowl ad, censorship, & Bonhoeffer...

Joe Carter reported that the owner of, Bob Parsons, is also the founder of Parsons Church Software. GoDaddy's Superbowl ad, in which a buxom female is shown before a Senate hearing on censorship, has (intentionally) generated quite a stir for its apparent raciness as well as its lack of ingenuity. Interestingly enough, the NFL and Fox pulled the ad from airing a second time during the game. Joe references an interview that Randy Townley had with Craig Rairdin, who actually wrote the original code for Quick Verse, the software that Parsons bought and marketed. Rairdin seems to think that the controversy regarding the GoDaddy spot is much ado about nothing. In fact, he thinks that the real issue is that the second spot was pulled, or - censored. He stated,
"I saw an article at that intimated some kind of hypocrisy in the airing of the GoDaddy Super Bowl ad, but it didn't really make its point very well. In fact, it indicated that Parsons didn't allow the ad agency to take the ad in the direction of lampooning 'religious fundamentalists' but instead they piloried network censors -- a good move on their part since it was the NFL and Fox who ended up censoring the parody on censorship, not religious groups."
Also from the interview,
Rairdin doesn't believe the commercial is racy, gratuitous, or anything other than great parody. "People have a hard time comprehending parody," Rairdin says "It's too sophisticated. They focus on the means and not on the end. They can't get past the real objects that are standing in for the parodied objects. That's why they object to a broken strap but miss the frightening implications of Fox's action in pulling GoDaddy's second ad -- the very subject being parodied by the ad." He raises an interesting point that I believe has been missed in all this discussion. But I don't believe the ad lacks raciness. In fact, Parson's comment to the ad-agency executive Paul Capelli seemed quite disturbing to many people "I would love to have a beautiful woman with a nice ample chest with my company name across her shirt." ..."GoDaddy hoped to take advantage of this lack of [parody] sophistication on the part of some viewers, who saw it as only a 'T&A' show. But then, Shakespeare played to the cheap seats as well as the cushioned ones. A penny's a penny." He continues "I really think more attention should be paid to the NFL and Fox. Their hypocrisy in pulling the second GoDaddy ad is offensively blatant. Ironically, the Simpson's commercial they played in its place featured Homer taking off his shirt, putting it between his legs, and imitating a male stripper -- all the while revealing that his pants didn't quite come high enough to cover his posterior. Again, more skin on Fox's 'family friendly' Simpsons ad than on the 'racy' GoDaddy ad." ...In response to criticism from other Christians concerning his connections with QuickVerse, Parsons said "To this day I consider myself a Christian, but I am not a fundamentalist Christian. I am also not a member of the religious right. I am not opposed in anyway to these groups. I am just not part of them. My beliefs today are exactly what they were back when I owned Parsons Technology. I'm still the same guy."
So the real villians here are the fundamentalist Christians and the religious right, clueless to the concept of parody; and especially the NFL and Fox, for their hypocrisy and blatant acts of censorship. In the 1930s, a Lutheran pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave a radio address in which he exhorted the youth of the Germany to question the idea of having a Fuhrer. While he was able to continue his address, the Nazi government cut the radio transmission, replacing it with dinner music. Now that's censorship. Apparently, the likes of Rairdin and Parsons have a hard time comprehending real censorship. It's too sophisticated for them. That's why they can't get past those dollar signs in front of their eyes. That's why they object to any policing of their self-serving actions while missing the real issue of their pandering to the base aspects of secular culture.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Kudos to Ed…

Ed Brayton, from Dispatches from the Culture Wars and The Panda’s Thumb, is to be commended for his quick and decisive denunciation of a commenter on TPT recently. The comment appeared to make fun of Intelligent Design proponent Phillip Johnson at the expense of physical limitations brought on by Johnson's stroke. Ed responded with,
You know, sometimes I wonder why we haven’t just banned you from leaving comments here. More often than not, you offer nothing but vitriol and insults and are an embarrassment to our side, but this one is unnecessarily vicious even for you. The completely pointless reference to Phil Johnson and a “drool cup” is just totally uncalled for, and especially repulsive given the fact that he recently suffered another stroke. We can argue forcefully against the arguments of our opponents without demeaning and dehumanizing them. Consider this your first, last and only warning. Keep up this sort of nastiness and you will no longer be commenting here.
Bravo, Ed. The commenter later claimed he was unaware that Johnson had a stroke. Inspired by Ed’s integrity, I offer him an apology, carte blanche, for a post I wrote last year in which I maligned two acquaintances of his, Eugenie Scott and Ken Miller. I was attempting to make a point regarding how theistic evolution doesn’t square with naturalistic evolution and it is clear that my choice of just how to illustrate this was a poor one. I insulted Ed, and maligned his friends, and that was wrong. Ed, I'm sorry, and I apologize.

Rusty Nails, 2/9/05...

Lawyer: Woman accuses Cosby of 'inappropriate touching' and Cosby lawyer denies fondling allegations. If I was thinking conspiracy, I might think these allegations are in retaliation for Bill's recent, and outspoken, stance with regards to the African-American community as found in the article The outspoken Bill Cosby: Comedian challenges African-American community.
Cosby's ire is focused at the African-American community: its rates of juvenile delinquency, its parenting, the coarse language of its youth. You can do better, he exhorts his audiences. Don't let yourself be victims, and especially don't let the poorest in the community let themselves be victims.
########## If I were to lead police on a car chase at 4 a.m., lose control of my car, then back my car into a police patrol car, would they have sufficient reason to shoot me? You're first inclination should be to get more facts than what I've presented you with. What caused the chase? Was I alone? Where were the officers when I backed into the patrol car? Was it known whether I had a weapon? Being the middle of the night, how well lit was the area in which the shooting occurred? How about these two additional questions: What if I was black? And, what if I was 13 years old? A 13 year old black boy was gunned down by the LAPD a couple of days ago after leading them on a car chase which ended as I described above. In the ensuing outcry over why the police felt the need to "murder" a 13 year old black boy, it is somewhat disheartening to see that very few people, if any, seem concerned about the reason why a 13 year old black boy was driving a car at 4 a.m. While certainly not a crime worthy of death, is it plausible to immediately attribute it to police targeting a person because of his race? ########### Off the Top has some updated photos in her gallery. ########## Checkout a fine post by OMFSerge, at Imago Dei, titled The Myth of Moral Neutrality: Parental Consent Part 3.
Having a child have the "right" to receive prescription contraceptives affirms their sexual choices by someone in authority. Instead of feeling that they are engaging in an action that their parents believe is dangerous and immoral, the actions of their doctor implies that they are being responsible and merely making an (adult) choice. As opposed to their parents, who just don't understand them and impose moral rules on their behavior, the doctor affirms their choices without moral comment and enables their more "adult-like" behavior. Do we really believe this has no effect on the child's behavior, and their decision to engage in sexual activity?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Highway construction, torrential rain, and design…

I live about 25 miles from my place of employment. Part of my commute takes me through a foothill canyon which is undergoing new highway construction. The existing two lane road, which runs from north to south, is being converted into a divided four lane highway (two lanes in each direction). The new route follows a path adjacent to the existing roadway, crossing it only once at a point close to its northern boundary. South of this intersection the existing route is to the east of the new route, and north of the intersection it is to the west. The construction has been going on for about two years now. For the first year and a half construction on the new highway had virtually no physical impact on the traffic flow of the existing roadway. About 6 months ago, a section of the new roadway between the southern boundary and the intersection to the north, was opened to the public. This connection consisted of a “transfer of flow” for traffic and, to facilitate its safe occurrence, happened during the middle of the night. It involved closing the existing route for approximately 8 hours, during which traffic was re-routed onto a detour around the entire stretch of road. Also, as the new highway was connected to the existing roadway, the section of existing roadway that was being replaced was closed off from public access. The next morning, however, instead of finding a new section of divided four lane highway to drive on, motorists were greeted only with a new section of two lane highway. This is because the section of new highway connected to the existing roadway during the night was the southbound side only (i.e., the western two lanes) of the divided four lane highway. The reason for this is really quite simple. The new highway is not being constructed over the existing highway but will be adjacent to and separate from it. The existing road will not be left as is, but will be demolished and hauled away, with the landscape returned to its natural state (keep in mind that this is California and environmental concerns are offensively stringent). Construction vehicles need to access the old road in order to demolish and remove it. Additionally, the northern section of the new roadway must now be constructed. In this southern section of the project, the most efficient access to the old road and the northern section is by way of the northbound side of the new route. Therefore, the most efficient means with which to complete the overall project entails temporarily reserving the northbound lanes of the southern section of the new highway. I’m not privy to the construction plans for this project but, given what has been done so far, I would imagine that when the northern section of the new highway opens there will still be a section of that new highway left closed to the public (in order for the final demolition to occur on the old roadway). Once the entire section of the old roadway is demolished and the environmental issues satisfied, then I would expect a final transfer of traffic flow to occur which will establish the highway as it is currently planned, that is, as a divided four lane highway. It’s interesting to see how a complex enterprise such as this is undertaken. The existing roadway is a functioning system which allows for traffic flow between the entrance to, and exit from, the foothill canyon. The construction processes used to construct a new roadway involve a myriad of interrelated actions which, if not done in proper sequence, will either result in a failed system, or in a system demonstrably much more inefficient than currently exists. Some events in the process are entirely dependent on the occurrence of preceding events. For example, large drainage pipe (8’+ in diameter) cannot be set until it is delivered, and it cannot be delivered until it is shipped, and it cannot be shipped until it is manufactured and purchased. What’s more, the pipe cannot be set unless the site is excavated and the base prepared. Also, proper equipment and personnel are needed if the pipe installation is to be successful – it would do no good for the pipe to arrive with no equipment available to install it. So the proper type and right quantity of equipment must be provided, either by lease or by purchase, and within the proper timeframe. The new highway, upon final completion, will be a functioning system allowing for increased traffic with less risk of closure due to accidents (remember that the newer highway is divided). However, until the day the last construction vehicle leaves the site, the interim versions of the highway are not necessarily more efficient than the old roadway. So, unless one knew in advance what the ultimate goal of the construction was, the multitude of steps taken to reach the final opening would not only be meaningless, they would be considered detrimental to the survivability of the entire system. Do you see where this goes? If the system doesn’t continue to function (i.e., traffic flow), then the system fails. Yet it is only through complex intelligent action that one can direct the system to adapt to change without having it fail altogether. We readily understand that the events occurring in highway construction are both planned and goal oriented. What would we expect to occur on this particular portion of my commute, however, if we were to leave the administration of this highway construction to that of purposeless and random processes? I suppose we would expect system failure. Even so, one might argue that, given enough highway systems, changing at a fast enough rate, over enough time, it is logically possible for a two lane system to evolve into a divided four lane highway purely by chance (provided, of course, that the changes occurred in small enough steps and that the changes were of the sort that the system’s survivability was maintained). So I guess the question for the ultimate skeptic is, do we have enough systems, changing at the required rate, over enough time? But, simply getting numerous complex processes to work in concert with each other isn’t the only problem that random chance faces. I work in planning and scheduling, and do you know what one discovers when working in that discipline (for even a short amount of time)? No matter how hard you try, you cannot reliably predict the future. Yep. I know it’s surprising to find that out, but it just doesn’t happen. Despite all your efforts at planning, the future is chock full of unforeseen events. Even when you think you’ve planned for them specifically they seem to sneak in where you least expect it. Take rain - yeah - let me tell you about rain. We recently experienced some heavy rains in southern California. We had some storms that dropped anywhere from 3 to 15 inches of rain. Some parts of the country are used to getting amounts like that in short periods of time… we aren’t. Despite the best efforts of the construction planners on the highway project, the highway flooded. The flooding closed the highway for several days. The “system” failed. In the middle of “transition,” an intelligently guided transition at that, it was still vulnerable. The newer system, with its higher elevation and proper drainage channels, would have been much more likely to “survive” this particular unforeseen event. If an intelligently guided system can so easily succumb to an unforeseen natural event, what reason is there to expect a system guided by blind chance to survive? Despite the fact that the highway construction scenario I described includes a goal, we must not lose sight of the fact that the evolutionary scenario, the one in which we are asked to believe produced the diversity of life we see today, declares that there is no explicit goal in change (except for, as I’ve argued elsewhere, the implicit goal of survival). What this means is that we must take away all instances of planning from our highway construction scenario if we are to attempt to mimic the evolutionary pattern. The hopeful monster that beat the odds, and resulted in a new four lane divided highway adjacent to where once stood a two lane road, must have done so in such a manner that the system not only remained viable, but whose function improved, throughout the entire process. In attempting to imagine such a system we see the operators of earth movers, backhoes, scrapers, skip loaders, dump trucks, bulldozers, water trucks, delivery trucks, cranes, pavers, and concrete trucks all moving chaotically to and fro, operating their equipment at will. We see construction workers installing drainage channels, laying electrical lines, painting roadways, erecting signposts and light standards regardless of whether the site was properly prepared. In the ensuing chaos, even over a multitude of similar canyon projects, system failure would be rampant. Any form of “holding stations” or “mini-processes,” which allow partial completion or function to be reserved is not allowed, for in a truly random sequence there can be no anticipated system goal and any imaginary sequences must provide function for the moment at hand. While the construction of the new highway by such a method is logically possible it is, for all intents and purposes, practically impossible. Yet, we are asked to believe that biological systems, which dwarf the highway project in terms of integrated and irreducible complexity, were produced in such a manner.

Evangelical Capitalism (part 3): Butter or no butter?...

This morning, as I prepared breakfast and got ready for work, I had the local news on. I'll leave it on mainly to get the latest weather forecast and traffic reports. The "regular" reporting was interrupted this morning, though, as some breaking news came in. The screen switched from a view of the news studio to an aerial shot of a car being pursued by local law enforcement on a freeway in the desert east of Los Angeles. After a brief description of what was going on we were then informed that the person in the car was wanted for... expired plates and not wearing a seat belt. Mighty Stupid Media at it again. But, you've got to wonder, if it didn't sell, then it wouldn't survive - would it? Cut to a post by Hugh Hewitt in which he tells us of a church he visited in D.C. that, apparently, has a sister church that meets in a movie theater. Hugh says,
As with every other institution out there, Christian churches have to adapt quickly to a new culture or decline just as quickly as audience share has for old newspapers and the big networks.
The church's website says,
We serve refreshments before each of our services. We have the typical continental fare--bagels, donuts, muffins, juice, and coffee. Feel free to bring food and drinks into the auditorium.
At an adult Sunday School class, a few weeks ago, we were discussing how a lack of respect for the call to worship seems to pervade our society. One lady commented that the atmosphere prior to worship evoked that of anticipating a movie rather than entering into God's house. She sarcastically asked, "What's next? Popcorn before the show?" I guess it is. At what point do we consider catering to society's wants tantamount to acquiesing to their demands? Are we really interested in cultural relevance? Or are we more concerned with being hip? I believe a society which over-emphasizes comfort is a society which is decadently self-indulgent. It used to be we spoke the Truth in love... now, however, it's couched in an easy chair.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Lincoln exposed...

No, not as gay, but as a closet... Intelligent Design theorist! In his A House Divided speech, Lincoln addressed the controversy that arose after the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed through Congress. Lincoln argued that the Act, allowing citizens in new territories to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery, violated the Missouri Compromise, which essentially kept slavery withing the confines of the Southern states. In making his case, he refers to the actions of "Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James" (Senator Stephen Douglas, former President Franklin Pierce, Chief Justice Roger Taney, and President James Buchanan) and whether their actions were planned or not. As you read the excerpt, consider the idea of using specified complexity to indicate intelligent design.
And why the hasty after indorsements of the decision by the President and others? We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen - Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance - and we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few - not omitting even scaffolding - or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece in - in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck. (emphasis in original)

Rusty Nails, 2/5/05...

The local grocery store had baby back ribs on sale for $2.97 / lb. this weekend. I seasoned them last night, wrapped them up, and placed them in the fridge. This morning I put them in the oven at 200 F for about 5 hours and then on the wood pit bbq for about 1 1/2 hours (using peach wood for flavor). Awesome dinner today! ########## A Rough Woodsman switches to impulse power! Okay, Star Trek: Enterprise has been cancelled, but why does Sciolist have to gloat? At least Jeremy Pierce has some kind words for ST: Enterprise at Enterprise Canceled; although why he thinks DS9 was any good is beyond me. ########## Greg, at What Attitude Problem, links us to a great editorial cartoon illustrating how liberals tend to view the current state of Social Security. ########## The GodBlogCon has grown so big that it might not happen due to logistic problems! Hopefully Biola University will come to the rescue and host the conference (that would suit me just fine since Biola is only about 25 miles away).

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Every picture tells a story...

Inspired by a comment Dave left on my Imago Articulus launch post, I've added comments to the photographs shown on my new photo-blog Imago Articulus. Sometimes I'll explain what I was feeling at the time, and sometimes I'll just state what was happening. But maybe it will give the viewer a glimpse into the story behind the picture.

Matt Powell does ID…

Matt has written a post titled, IDC vs. Darwinism, and The Man Jesus, in which he looks at what he considers to be the root cause of the problems involved in all those evolution / creation debates. Essentially, the cause he unpacks is similar to the one I posit – that of the identity of God (although Matt clarifies it as being that of the Man Jesus). This is a complex topic. It involves a myriad of disciplines, each shooting sub-topics off in different directions. Matt says he believes in a Young Earth. While we both believe in the Christian view of the Man Jesus, I would disagree with Matt on the age of the universe. Implications from those two viewpoints will affect any discussions we have with persons who, while they believe the universe is billions of years old, do not believe that Jesus is who the Bible claims he is. Matt thinks that this very real difference in core beliefs will prevent a fruitful discussion of the facts. He observes that, while
we talk about this particular molecule or that protein or the other fossil, and so forth, and the IDC vs. evolution argument tries to pretend that they can come to some common understanding of what those facts are and what they mean.
I believe that it is certainly within our capabilities to discuss what is observable (i.e., what is physically tangible) in our existence. Where we and the naturalist start to diverge is when we both make conclusions from our observations. The Christian believes in the supernatural. Some naturalists will claim to not not believe in the supernatural, which means that they are not unequivocally excluding the possibility of the supernatural, they just need sufficient evidence to commit to such a belief. Whether such a claim is sincere or not is irrelevant because the mere adherence to the need for evidence betrays the very objectivity the naturalist claims. In other words, by what evidence can they justify the claim that the process of using evidence provides them with a reliable measure of the workings of our universe? There can be no evidence presented which does not use the very process that is being questioned – unless the process is accepted on faith. Hence, I attempt to show the naturalist that concluding the possibility of the supernatural is prohibited only when the method is so narrowly defined as to prejudicially exclude it. Matt continues,
...because there is one fact that they will never agree on, and that is the question of whether Jesus is the Lord of the universe, or not. And as I said, that fact changes everything. --- There is no way to neutrally examine the facts on the table and come to a common conclusion, because there is that one other fact that will not, indeed cannot be agreed on by both sides, and that one fact fundamentally alters the interpretation of every other fact. The naturalists may believe that acknowledging this fact is a retreat, but it isn't. It's recognizing that if we pretend that facts are neutral, then we've already handed the debate to the naturalist, because this is the cornerstone of his philosophy.
It is here where I attempt to call the naturalist’s bluff, so to speak, by reminding them of their inability to escape the abstract. While many naturalists attempt to frame the debate with the walls of determinism and chance – that of pure naturalism – they will inevitably sneak the abstract into the mix. Don’t think so? Just peruse their posts and comments. You’ll find a plethora of examples of their expressing moral outrage, ethics, concepts of justice, love, hate, friendship, and so on. The Christian Worldview answers such phenomenon as such: Despite their rejection of the Christian worldview, they remain human beings, made in the Image of God. As such, they cannot escape the realities of being so created. And, as such, we see how their ultimate rejection of who God is, and what He is owed, does not relieve them of the consequences of living in both a concrete and abstract world. Matt is correct in declaring that the evolution / creation debate is not simply about data, but falters on the stumbling block of Jesus. And that's one reason Christians should always keep the debate going.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Rusty Nails, 2/2/05…

From Bush' speech tonight,
Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.
Heh. ########## Do you know what this is a picture of? It’s a 6 ½ week old fetus… well, it’s a 6 ½ week, plus 16 months, old fetus. The fetus, strangely enough, has a mother who has named her (yes, the fetus’ gender can be identified) Elora. Per the NY Times, Church Groups Turn to Sonogram to Turn Women From Abortions, Elora’s mother Andrea called on the Bowie Crofton Pregnancy Center and Medical Clinic to seek out an abortion 16 months ago. She was told that the clinic did not perform abortions but that she could come in for an ultrasound. She did. Andrea says, “When I had the sonogram and heard the heartbeat - and for me a heartbeat symbolizes life - after that there was no way I could do it.” Interestingly enough, representatives from Planned Parenthood have something to say about clinics such as the Bowie Crofton Pregnancy Center and Medical Clinic. From the article,
"Generally, their treatment of women who come in is coercive," said Susanne Martinez, vice president of public policy at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "From the time they walk in to these centers, they are inundated with information that is propaganda and that has one goal in mind. And that is to have women continue with their pregnancies." (emphasis added)
Imagine that - the audacity of wanting women to continue with their pregnancies. Pro-Choice philosophy at its finest. HT: Laura Ingraham ########## Bill Wallo has additional thoughts on the aspect of sensual worship in his post More Love. He also plugs my photo-blog Imago Articulus here. ########## More on the topic of neo-Darwinism hijacking design arguments: Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. - Richard Dawkins; Ward & Brownlee discussing, in Rare Earth, the complexity difference between building a toyboat and an ocean liner (as compared to life); using nails, bolts, and screws to mimic how species are classified through a cladogram ( Cladistics is a way of sorting organisms based on characteristics that were derived from a common ancestor.); etc., etc., etc. ########## Recently, we and others have identified two human endogenous retroviruses that entered the primate lineage 25–40 million years ago and that encode highly fusogenic retroviral envelope proteins (syncytin-1 and -2), possibly involved in the formation of the placenta syncytiotrophoblast layer generated by trophoblast cell fusion at the materno–fetal interface. (emphasis added) Huh? Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs) are considered by neo-Darwinists to be strong evidence for common descent. Their “junk” status, as well as a commonality between related species (e.g., chimps and humans), renders the argument that chimps and humans once shared a common ancestor. However, there are some creationists arguing that the so-called junk-DNA sequences are not so junky after all. Scholars at Reasons to Believe posit that junk-DNA sequences really do have function, and continued research is proving them right. The study referenced above notes that there were two human ERVs that entered into the primate lineage at the same time and currently perform the same function. The abstract concludes with,
Together, these data strongly argue for a critical role of syncytin-A and -B in murine syncytiotrophoblast formation, thus unraveling a rather unique situation where two pairs of endogenous retroviruses, independently acquired by the primate and rodent lineages, would have been positively selected for a convergent physiological role. (emphasis added)
The neo-Darwinist is currently left with explaining away how two ERVs evolved independently, within the placental arena, to produce the same function (not junk) that we see today. This is known as convergent evolution and the neo-Darwinist typically responds to it not by trying to explain it, but by simply stating, “Wow! What a coincidence!” Listen to a report at RTB (about 30 minutes into the show)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Southern California Bloggers Meet-Up...

Stacy over at Media Soul is organizing a Meet-Up for southern California bloggers. At present, these are the stats: Date: Saturday, March 12th Time: 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Place: Dave & Busters, at The Block, in Orange. If you're interested in attending, please contact Stacy at