Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Science, Faith, and Trumping

There is a little thought-provoker of an article over at Christianity Today today.  (No, I’m not shuddering.)  A mom is talking about helping her older children think through questions about the Christian faith and science.  It is generally good, though things you have probably heard before.  The article concludes with:

We need kids who are unafraid to ask the sorts of tough and exciting theological, philosophical, and scientific questions you can only ask when you know that, however this world came to be, God did it.

Even this is a good point except that it doesn’t come to terms with this:  is the Christian faith truly compatible with any and every idea that comes out of the domain of science?

Here is a related question, one that I often ask:  when science and Christianity come into apparent conflict, are we for some reason compelled to amend our view of Christianity rather than our view of this particular conclusion from science?

I’m not thinking of any question in particular here.  I am not convinced that the Christian faith requires a very young earth, for example.  But I think we “need kids” who are not immediately ready to amend their theological views just because (another example) of something neo-Darwinists happen to think.  I am willing to consider anything that might have a bearing on my theological views.  But I can see no reason to adjust the Christian faith just because of the latest thought from the field of science.

I think there is an idea behind this tendency that reads something like this:  science is just reason looking at data, but Christianity is filled with prejudices and presuppositions.  Therefore, in case of conflict, science always trumps the Christian faith.

Of course, the ‘just because we want to believe it’ element is often over-played in Christianity.  And beyond that, the ‘science has no prejudices or presuppositions’ idea is beyond ridiculous.  I don’t want to end the science/faith dialogue, of course.  But it is only helpful when we conduct it on reasonable, and carefully examined, terms.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Politics Can’t Avoid Religion

There is a recent New Yorker article titled “Of Babies and Beans:  Paul Ryan on Abortion.”  The author, Adam Gopnik, is agitated over something said by Paul Ryan at the recent vice-presidential ‘debate’ (I still can’t bring myself to say that those things are really debates).  Here is what shocked Adam Gopnik:

Paul Ryan did not say, as John Kennedy had said before him, that faith was faith and public service, public service, each to be honored and kept separate from the other. No, he said instead “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.” That’s a shocking answer—a mullah’s answer, what those scary Iranian “Ayatollahs” he kept referring to when talking about Iran would say as well. Ryan was rejecting secularism itself, casually insisting, as the Roman Catholic Andrew Sullivan put it, that “the usual necessary distinction between politics and religion, between state and church, cannot and should not exist.”

Pause to note something significant in the sub-quote above from Andrew Sullivan:  the assumption that “politics and religion” is parallel to “state and church.”  State and church are institutions.  Politics and religion are (here at least) concepts.  The mere fact that we see wisdom in separating two institutions does not require that we agree that these two concepts can be separated.  Keep that in mind as we proceed.

Gopnik is especially disturbed with one place Ryan took this:  his opposition to abortion.  As Gopnik went on to say:

Ryan talked facilely of what “science” says in this case. But what real science has to tell us, of course, very different; it says that life has no neat on and off, that while life may in some sense begin at conception, the moment when the formed consciousness that distinguishes human life from bean life arises is a very different question, not reducible to a dogma or a simple claim. A bean isn’t a baby; a baby was once a bean, and between those two truths it is, or ought to be, every woman for herself.

Albert Mohler wrote a response to Gopnik.  I often like what Mohler has to say about such things.  Mohler emphasized Gopnik’s insistence that an early-stage baby is nothing more than a bean, and where such a view inevitably leads us.  But it was interesting that Mohler did not mention what is really a key point is this, and many related, debates.

Gopnik naively assumes that his assumptions and conclusions in this case are not religious.  By ‘religious’ here I obviously don’t necessarily mean ‘Christian’ (or any other religion in that sense).  What I do mean by ‘religious’ is something like this:  necessarily involving assumptions that cannot be directly empirically tested.

Secularists do this constantly, and they should just as frequently be called on it.  Science itself involves this kind of religious assumption.  Such assumptions, and the conclusions to which they lead, are not necessarily extra-rational.  But they are, in an important sense, religious.  The conclusion that there is no God, that there is a God but we can’t be too sure we know much about God, and all sorts of views like this, are religious.  Secularism itself is a religious idea in this important sense.

And very much so also is Gopnik’s idea that “consciousness distinguishes human life.”  This is an utterly religious idea, and Gopnik should know it, but seems oblivious to the obvious here.  When Gopnik brings this idea into his political views, he is guilty of exactly the same thing he condemns in Ryan.

I don’t begrudge Gopnik his religious ideas, nor do I think he can avoid bringing them into this kind of debate.  But he, like many secularists, need to realize that it is not a matter of mixing politics and religion – that is unavoidable.  The only real question is:  which religious ideas will you bring to your politics?

We get bad politics not because we rely on religious ideas to form our political ideas, but because we use the wrong religious ideas to form our political ideas.  Those dreaded ‘mullahs’ do not have horrible governments because they are religious.  They have horrible governments because they have wrong religious ideas.

This conclusion is exactly what a Gopnik-style secularist is desperately seeking to avoid.  But such avoidance is impossible – utterly impossible.  Religious views are everywhere, including every conceivable political position.  Everyone has them; no one can avoid them.  We need to make the Gopniks of the world face up to that.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

‘Just Do It’ Faith

Michael S. Horton, professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California, said Christians appear to be creating future "nones" by failing to adequately pass the faith on to successive generations.

"We are about a generation away from a worshiping community that is rather small in terms of those who know what they believe, why they believe, and practice their faith with some real conviction," he said.

[from a Christianity Today article found here]

Kent comments:

In my now significant number of years teaching people the Christian faith, I have to agree with this assessment.  It has been coming for a long time now.  My analysis is that lack of knowing what we believe and why we believe it is a significant contributing cause of the lack of practicing the Christian faith with real conviction.

The article focuses on a recent Pew poll that showed Protestants losing majority status in the U.S.  As the article points out, most of this has come from the “mainline” Protestant denominational churches.  Given my analysis, this is not surprising.  For many years most mainline Protestant churches have been moving in the direction of deemphasizing what they believe and why.  Instead, they have focused on promoting a somewhat distorted version of “doing good” that is often defined by current cultural fads.

So it is no wonder that people eventually tire of doing that kind of so-called ‘good’ – there is no real reason to motivate anyone to do it.  But even among more conservative groups, including the now-popular no-brand ‘community’ style churches, I get the impression that the emphasis has now fallen on the “just do it” approach.  People in our culture generally have no patience with whats and whys – they just want to do it.  We are a culture of people who want to try to play the game without ever understand, or even reading. the rules.  You can sometimes do that to a point, but the game will fall apart in the end.

I am sometimes shocked at the ignorance of the Christian faith I find in those who claim the Christian faith.  Some of these people are very sincere.  Sincerity has some force, but I think that, in the end sincerity alone is dead.  It is no wonder that ‘we’ have been failing to pass our faith on to successive generations:  ‘we’ don’t really understand our faith.  It is very difficult to pass along something you don’t understand.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Syllabus for the Kingdom of God

I recently received this from a fellow campus minister:

We're kicking off a long a wholesome gander at Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which is what folks calls Matthew chapters 5-7. Here's my thesis: Matthew 5:1-17 is like Jesus' syllabus for the rest of his teaching. So join us at Starbucks tomorrow (Friday) at noon, and let's figure out the syllabus for the Kingdom of God.

It is not uncommon to find this sort of thing, so we often think nothing of it.  What could be better than studying the Sermon on the Mount?  There is, of course, nothing at all wrong with studying the Sermon on the Mount.  It is, after all, part of the corpus of scripture which is the God-revealed content of that “faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

And yet, I fear that something like this might reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of scripture.  A syllabus should contain the main points of a course of study.  If this is the case, the Sermon on the Mount cannot be a syllabus of the Kingdom of God.  It is important ethical teaching for the Kingdom of God.  But it cannot be a syllabus for the Kingdom of God because it is limited and incomplete.

If the topics found in the Sermon on the Mount were the extent of the gospel, think of how very different the Kingdom of God would be.  The Sermon on the Mount does not mention sacrifice for sin.  It does not mention the Holy Spirit.  It does not mention many things that make the Kingdom of God the very distinctive kingdom that it is.  A kingdom of God limited to the topics introduced in the Sermon on the Mount would be a moralistic kingdom in which redemption went unexplained and even unmentioned.

And that is not the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it sounds a lot like the kingdom of 20th century Liberal Christendom.

I would never claim on my own that the teaching of Jesus found in the gospels is incomplete.  But I don’t have to be all that bold to make the claim, because Jesus said it was so.  Jesus made it very clear that during His very limited time among us, He did not tell us everything He wanted us to know about the Kingdom of God, as He made clear in John 16:12-13. He had much more to say, and He would say it through the Apostles.

If there is a syllabus for the kingdom of God in scripture, it is more likely something like the Book of Romans (though it is perhaps more of a textbook for the kingdom that a syllabus), where the Apostle restates much of what is found in the Sermon on the Mount, but adds some of the very important “much more to say to you” that Jesus promises in John 16.

Perhaps the note I received was just a bit of an attempt at hip marketing for a Bible study.  But if it was meant seriously, it was seriously wrong.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Capital Gains Taxes and Other Boring Things

Thomas Sowell explains something important that I think many do not understand in “Capital Gains Taxes.”  This is not a review of the article.  It is rather short, and relatively easy to understand.  In it, Sowell explains why lower income tax rates for capital gains is a fair policy.  It is not just a fair policy.  It is a policy that makes us all wealthier.

This is, unfortunately, an example of an idea that is important, but which most people will not take the time to understand.  And in not understanding it, they will often damage their own interests in the candidates for whom they will vote and the policies those candidates will promote.

It is akin to discussions of corporate tax rates, which are relatively very high in the United States.  Because people will not take the time to understand the matter, it becomes easy for the demagogue to cry, “Those rich corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes!”  There is, of course, much more to the story.  Corporations attempt to make money for shareholders.  When shareholders receive it, they are taxed on it as income also.  So a good case can be made for not taxing corporations at all.  The shareholders will pay the tax when – and if – a profit is made.

There are a lot of things like this that people won’t bother to understand.  We are much like the Ray Barone character of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  In one episode he has begun to handle the family checkbook and bill-paying.  He screws it up, of course.  When his friend tries to explain how to do it, all Ray gets is the word “accrued” (an in “accrued interest”).  The rest of it bores him, and he refuses to listen or learn.  As a result, his electricity is shut off.  He should have paid more attention.

I was once relaxing with a fine Christian gentleman who had been a hard-core union man before he retired.  As we chatted he launched into the evils of corporations making money.  I asked him, “What does your union pension fund invest in?”  The answer:  “Stocks and bonds.”  There was a pause.  Then he said, somewhat thoughtfully, “I suppose I really want corporations to make money, don’t I?”

And even beyond that, do you realize where we would be if there were no investors in companies?  We would be poor – and that is probably an understatement.  Most of us would not even be here to be poor.  Invested money buys the tools that make all the material things we like possible.  So it makes sense, and is in everyone’s interest, to encourage investment via tax policy.

In a better world, taxes would be so low no one would notice them because government would be so small most people would seldom notice them.  But even in our big-government “taxed enough already” world, let’s not be so stupid as to promote tax policies that will make us all poorer.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Convinced by Mr. Obama’s Website: Now I Can Vote in Good Conscience

It’s almost October and thus time for me to decide for whom I will vote for President this year.  This is always difficult for me.  While I could just forget about it, I would take that as a dereliction of my duty.  The moral standards I profess and attempt to uphold are grounded in the Christian faith as expressed in the historic Christian scripture, the Bible.

Without going into all the details here, those standards require, in the political realm, a maximization of human liberty that is consistent with such liberty for all.  This is what causes difficulty for me:  liberty maximization, even proposals for such, are hard to come by these days.

Also, in my state (actually, commonwealth, in my case) my only significant choices are Democrat or Republican.  I would probably vote for a pro-life Libertarian, were one on the ballot here, but that is not the case this time around.  (Even that can be problematic, because many Libertarians do not recognize liberty for people from the moment they are conceived.  But that’s another story.)

Here is where I was on all this until today:  nothing done or advocated by Barack Obama so far is a move toward greater liberty.  On the other hand, Mitt Romney struck me as a typical ‘middle’ Republican who would probably not move the country off its current anti-liberty status quo.

So today I studied the candidates’ web sites, and I was convinced to vote for one of the two major candidates.  But I was a little surprised how that came about.

I first visited Romney’s website.  I saw some (not all, but some) decent ideas that would tend toward liberty.  But I must say that I was not convinced by what the Romney site told me.

Then I explored the official Obama website.  What I found on the official Obama website convinced me to vote for Romney.

What convinced me to vote for Romney were some things that I found under “Get the FACTS” and then “Issues.”  Here Obama’s site lists what he says on various topics, followed by what the Obama team has selected that they claim Romney has said on the same matter.  Their Romney material is in red, which makes it stand out.

Reading through all the issues, what the Obama website attributed to Romney convinced me to vote for Romney.  I am giving the Obama people some benefit of the doubt in assuming that they have not distorted Romney by taking him out of context.  But the red-colored Romney material on the Obama website is about 90% what my ethical standards call for in the way of government policy on various issues.

If I were the Romney campaign, I would run on this material.  I am not naïve enough to think Romney will actually do all this.  But if he acts on even a fourth of it, the country will be a better place.

Mr. Obama, I am convinced by your website to vote for Mitt Romney.  (I am not being silly or tongue-in-cheek here at all.  If you love liberty and are having trouble deciding for whom to vote, go read the red Romney material on the Obama website.  If you are not convinced, you either don’t understand liberty, or you don’t love it.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Cosmic Predisposition

This entry is a brief comment on a review of this book:

[Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly Wrong • By Thomas Nagel • Oxford University Press, 2012 • x + 130 pages] 

A review article, which brought it to my attention, is found here:

Moral Realism vs. Evolutionary Biology?

Mises Daily: Thursday, September 20, 2012 by David Gordon

If have read much philosophy you have come across the name Thomas Nagel.  I haven’t read the book, but I am somewhat familiar with Nagel’s work  Nagel is known for rejecting moral relativism during times when it was almost unquestioned in academic philosophical circles.  (I will never forget, just from the mental impact of the title, Nagel’s essay, “What is it like to be a bat?” which we once read in a philosophy of mind course.  It’s an amusing title, but it is Nagel at work opposing reductionism in another area.)

While Nagel doesn’t exactly think there is a moral reality ‘out there’ which is the proper basis of our moral judgments, he does think that moral reasons can’t be reduced (thus, ‘reductionism’) to something else.  Examples of ‘something else’ would be things like personal preference, social traditions, and the like.

Nagel thinks all, or at least most, versions of moral realism would be incompatible with Darwinism.  The usual approach is that since Darwinism must be true, moral realism must be false.  Nagel turns that around.  He contends that since many important considerations point to the truth of moral realism, we need to re-think our acceptance of Darwinism.

At this point I am right there with Nagel, so to speak.  So which way should we go given that Darwinism is under question?  As the reviewer puts it, “One alternative to the Darwinian view Nagel finds untrue to the moral facts is theism, but to this he is temperamentally averse. He prefers what he calls a teleological view.”

I wish I had a copy of the book to see what Nagel says about being “temperamentally adverse” to theism.  Whatever that means, here is Nagel’s current conclusion about all this as quoted in the book review:

But even though natural selection partly determines the details of the forms of life and consciousness that exist, and the relations among them, the existence of the genetic material and the possible forms it makes available for selection have to be explained in some other way. The teleological hypothesis is that these things may be determined not merely by value-free chemistry and physics but also by something else, namely a cosmic predisposition to the formation of life, consciousness, and the value that is inseparable from them. (p. 123)

So Nagel is temperamentally adverse to theism, and is then left with “a cosmic predisposition to the formation of life, consciousness, and the value that is inseparable from them.”

I’m sure Thomas Nagel is a much sharper philosophical cookie than am I, but it seems to me that, whatever he sees as the problems with theism, there are at least as many problems with a “cosmic predisposition.”  One starts to ask questions like, “What accounts for this cosmic predisposition?”  My best guess is that Nagel would say, “It’s just there.”

Nagel seems to be typical of the modern mind.  The rejection of theism is a temperamental adversity.  That seems to me another way of saying, “I’m just not comfortable with it; I just don’t like it.”  I’m sure many of us theists could come up with some good guesses as to why modern people just don’t like theism – three or four of which preachers might turn into sermons.

But this whole thing I found interesting enough to stop make these observations.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Same Old Show–Different Names

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney is shown saying in a video posted online by the magazine. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax," Romney said.
Romney said in the video that his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." – Mitt Romney [link]
Kent comments:
Obama repulses me, but I am not a big fan of Mitt.  In that, I fear that I am like many considering the upcoming election.  People just won’t vote in significant numbers for third parties.  So hear we are.
But finally Mitt says something that catches my attention in a positive way.  If you don’t think there is a vast contingent of people who just want their stuff from the state, you are not being honest with yourself.  And in the vein of honesty, Republicans do not usually seriously challenge those with the “government should give me” mentality either.
The only problem with Mitt’s statement is that it’s only part of the story.  It’s not just the lower-income people who want their stuff from the government. Large corporations want it, unions want it, lobbying groups want it, well-to-do people want it.
But here a rather mainstream Republican finally at least says something accurate about this situation.  And what does he do?  Well, of course, he apologizes:
“It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question. And I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that," Romney said. "Of course I want to help all Americans. All Americans have a bright and prosperous future.”
Hey, Mitt – how about just reinforcing this something really good you said?  You are right - it is not the appropriate role of the government to “help all Americans.”  It is the appropriate role of government, fiscally speaking, to leave all Americans undisturbed so they can help themselves, if they care to do so.  And at this point, many do not.  And if they don’t, they don’t.  It’s called freedom.
Mitt Romney – what a weenie.  And we are back to our usual choices for President:  a leftist, collectivist, statist Democrat, or maybe-less-but-still-somewhat-statist weenie Republican.  Oh my!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Illegitimate Comments on ‘Legitimate Rape’

More on “legitimate rape” and the Akin campaign.

In commenting on this, John Stonestreet over at Breakpoint said:

Look, I quickly join my voice with the legions of others that despite our intentions, we should never use this phrase “legitimate rape” again. No rape is legitimate; all rape is devastating, evil, and dehumanizing. I also join with others in condemning the profoundly unscientific idea that a woman’s body prevents pregnancy in cases of rape.

Since Breakpoint is a Christian-oriented group, it seems fair enough to remind them that the Bible makes a distinction between legitimate rape, and other kinds of sexual encounters.  Deut. 22:23-27 seems to be making the very point that there are encounters that are legitimate rape, and others that are not.  So Akin’s distinction between real (legitimate) rape and other sexual encounters is not just common sense, it is Biblical.

Again, while Akin was factually mistaken about the results of rape, that doesn’t change the fact that the stupid media frenzy over the phrase “legitimate rape” was the kind of idiocy that we have come to expect from many media outlets.  It is also the kind of idiocy that writers at Breakpoint should be condemning, not repeating with approval.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Illogic of AP ‘News’

I’m not all that interested in political parties and their conventions.  But I have always been intrigued by logic,or the lack of it, in reporting on matters political.  In perusing the Yahoo! news headlines today, I saw this:

Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech - 43 minutes ago

Laying out the first plans for his party's presidential ticket, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan took some factual shortcuts Wednesday night when he attacked President Barack Obama's po...

I was eager to see just what factual inaccuracies were in Ryan’s speech.  So off to the full article I went.  When I arrived there I found some interesting things.  First, Paul Ryan has cute kids.  Of course, that alone does not a good vice-President make!

Even more interesting was the “factual shortcuts” that CAL WOODWARD and JACK GILLUM of the Associated Press offered me.

Ryan’s first supposed factual error:  Obamacare takes billions from Medicare.  If this is an error, what is the truth, according to Woodward and Gillum?  “Ryan's claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction.”

The problem is, this supposed counter-fact is not in conflict with what Ryan claimed.  If I say, “Bill cut that tree down” you have not shown my statement false by claiming, “But you wanted it cut down, too!”  Are Woodward and Gillum stupid, or do they think their readers are stupid?  I can’t think of another option!

Will the next Ryan ‘falsehood’ be better?  Here it is:  “The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal.”  What do Woodward and Gillum offer as the truth that proves this false?  Here we go again:  “Ryan himself asked for stimulus funds shortly after Congress approved the $800 billion plan.”

While that might make Ryan a hypocrite, it doesn’t make his claim false.  Again, do Woodward and Gillum think their readers are idiots?  Or are they?

Here’s the article’s final ‘what Ryan said versus the facts’ in full:

RYAN: Obama "created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."

THE FACTS: It's true that Obama hasn't heeded his commission's recommendations, but Ryan's not the best one to complain. He was a member of the commission and voted against its final report.

Did Woodward and Gillum fail logic class?  Never take a course in that subject?  Do they even know what logic is?  What?  Notice how, in this case, the authors even state what they seem to be getting at all along:  “Ryan's not the best one to complain.”  Again, who makes the complaint has no relevance to the factualness or truth of the complaint.

I suppose that, if the Devil said, “Sin is a bad thing” Woodward and Gillum would ‘counter’ with the ‘fact’ that the Devil is all about sin.  Logic would rightly say, “So what?”  Apparently, logic has little to do with political “news writers.”

As an old professor character in a C.S. Lewis novel once said, “Don’t they teach these children logic any more?”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

‘Painful’ Truth?

There is a very good article posted at the Christian Standard on “Scripture and Homosexual Practice.”  What is not so good is the editor’s very defensive and ‘apologizing’ introduction to this article.

It seems to be standard practice today:  if you are going to say anything negative about homosexuality, you must qualify, qualify, and qualify it some more.  I suppose there are those who are just nasty about the topic, and perhaps that has been more the standard practice in the past.  But today, with culture screaming “homosexuality is good” and the church generally afraid to answer those screams with anything more than a whisper (when you even get that), the time for qualifying and apologizing is long past.

The title of the editor’s introduction is “Painful Truth with Overwhelming Love.”  It makes me wonder:  why is the truth about homosexuality any more painful than the truth about adultery, theft, or murder?  Is it because our culture has made a pet project of promoting homosexuality just now?  (I suppose that, in our culture, adultery, theft, and murder were given the moral green light in many circumstances decades ago.)

The editor urges us to be sensitive to those with homosexual feelings, and careful to distinguish between ‘homosexual practice’ and ‘homosexuality.’  While I understand this distinction, I wonder why we are not so careful to make it in other areas.

Why not distinguish between ‘the desire to murder’ and ‘the practice of murder.’  There is an important distinction here, but it doesn’t prove there is no moral problem with ‘the desire to murder.’

What about ‘an attraction to consuming human flesh’ versus ‘the actual practice of cannibalism’?  What should the Christian attitude be with those who find themselves attracted to the idea of eating human flesh?  Isn’t that, in itself, a bit of a problem?  Should we make a point of assuring people who want to eat human flesh that they don’t really have a problem unless that actually partake?  [OK, I’ve never known anyone who fits this category.  It’s just an illustration!]

How should Christians respond to bestiality?  Should we tiptoe around the feelings of those who desire sexual contact with animals just as long as they don’t indulge those desires?  (Side note:  how long will it be before a lobby to allow human/animal ‘marriages’ is in the news?)

Picture a time and a culture when cannibalism becomes popular, gains a sub-culture to lobby for it, and the church needs to respond.  (And it’s probably not as far away as you think.)  Will we carefully apologize for even the most gentle criticism of cannibalism in both thought and deed, or will we just condemn it?

Monday, August 27, 2012

You’ve Got to Be Kidding

As the vibrations from the band fade away, the stage fog recedes, and the theater lighting dims, you saunter across the stage, place your Bible on the high-top table and settle into the matching chair. You take a moment to peer out at the thousands who are ready to hear you preach a motivational message perfectly timed to not a second more than 20 minutes ...

... or so goes the dream for many of today's church leaders.

Kent comments:

Which is exactly what is wrong with many churches today.  Far too often, instead of designing church meetings for Biblical purposes, congregations have designed church meetings to fit some model derived from a pop culture fads that are nothing less than laughable.

I realize that the author of the piece quoted above was caricaturizing, but there is enough truth behind the caricature for the point to stand.  If you are not aware of this, you have not been to most churches in the last twenty years or so.

It is impossible to take seriously a church that gathers as a rock concert leading up to a Bible-based pep-talk.  But this is the only model most people have today.  And that is why many of us find it difficult to take the church of today seriously.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Idiocy of Political “Debate”

Akin releases new campaign ad asking for ‘forgiveness’

Facing a fury of calls from his own party to drop out of the Missouri Senate race—and a 5 p.m. (CT) deadline to do so—embattled Republican Rep. Todd Akin released a new campaign ad early Tuesday apologizing for his comments about "legitimate rape" and asking for forgiveness.

Kent comments:

I haven’t followed this story closely.  It just kept forcing its way into the periphery of my attention enough to make me think about how utterly screwed up political debate is, and almost always has been, in our county.

We ‘shop’ among politicians in the same, pathetic way most shop for products.  We don’t pull out our calculators, compare real prices, and then make a rational decision based on true costs.  Instead, we are suckers for marketing gimmicks.  And we deserve just what we get, because we insist on indulging our stupidity.

Have you ever noticed that, at times, the “advertised special” does not yield the lowest cost-per-unit on a product?  I see it at grocery stores regularly.  The buy-one-get-one-free (which has a big, colorful price tag proclaiming that is it a “special”) is more expensive per unit than the larger-sized, ‘regular’ priced of the same brand sitting right there on the shelf beside the ‘special.’  Or, sometimes absent a ‘special’, two five pound bags of sugar are less expensive per unit than a ten pound bag.  Who knows why?  But it must ‘work’ on most people most of the time.

All this to say that we are such dupes for even worse than this in the world of political campaigns.  I know almost nothing about Todd Akin or even what he was talking about when he used the phrase “legitimate rape.”  But even out there on the periphery of my attention, I knew what he was talking about, and it is neither insulting to any rational person, nor insensitive.

It is likely that not every situation which someone later describes as ‘rape’ is accurately defined by that term.  This is what the whole ‘date rape’ debate was about.  If a woman is unsure, yet excited and not really resistant, in a sexual encounter which she later regrets, is that ‘rape’?  Some think that is not “legitimate” rape.  We all know about that debate, and we all know what feminists think about that debate.

There is also the conjecture (and I am not at this moment taking the time to research it, so I don’t know if it is a fact) that the trauma of forcible rape (and not what is described in the preceding paragraph) makes conception much less likely.

It is possible that Todd Akin was factually wrong about this.  But it was very easy to understand what he was talking about, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t talk about it if it is relevant to some policy issue under consideration.  Instead, even members of Akin’s own party are calling on him to withdraw from the race.  And all because the phrase “legitimate rape” appeared in a sentence he uttered.  “See, this guy thinks rape is legitimate!” cry the political marketing departments.  They must think most people have scrambled eggs for brains, and, unfortunately, perhaps they are right.

So we can’t talk about such things in the moronic context of political debate, or so it appears.  It seems to have one of those big red and yellow tags on it, and we are not supposed to compare it to anything else on the shelf.  So, in politics as at the grocery store, we deserve just what we get, because we insist on indulging our stupidity.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Taxes, taxes, and taxes . . .

There is an interesting little discussion going on over a link I recently posted on Facebook.  You can find it here.  Those commenting are wrapped up in a discussion of how best to collect taxes.  That is an interesting, and useful, discussion – and this is not a rebuke to anyone commenting there so far.

But the real problem is not HOW taxes are collected, but HOW MUCH is collected in taxes.  I am not (yet-ha!) an anarchist, so I think there are (a very few) things governments need to do.  But we must remember that the more money that goes to governments, the more governments will do.  Governments ALWAYS expand at least to (and almost always beyond, by borrowing) the money they can collect.

I cringe when I hear conservatives (of which I am not exactly one in some senses of the word) tout the advantages of a particular tax plan because it will, among other things, bring in more revenue for the government.  If you are interested in individual liberty of the political variety, you should not wish more revenue for any government.

More revenue is an invitation for a government to do more.  But the more a government does, the less liberty those under its heal will enjoy.  One good way to increase individual liberty is to partially starve governments.  They should not be starved to death, because there are a few things they need to do.  But they should be on such a lean diet that they do not have the resources to infringe on liberty.

There are, no doubt, more equitable ways to collect taxes than income taxes.  But if the scope of governments were reduced to essential functions, no one would care how taxes were collected because they would be so low no one would notice.  At those rates, what we would notice is a dramatic increase in liberty – and it is a very valuable commodity indeed.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Jesus and Guns

A Christian, to my best understanding, is one who follows the teachings of Christ and being a child of God. Whenever I hear Christians in support of fewer gun laws and in favor of guns, I think to myself, would Jesus, if alive today, carry and own a gun? The answer to me seems to be an obvious no.

So opens an opinion piece that you can find here.  It is expresses what seems to be a common mistake made by many Christians.  It assumes that Jesus is a very straight-forward model for the behavior of Christians.  While it is true that, as far as we know, Jesus never carried a weapon of any kind, that alone does not prove that Christians never should.  In fact, the writer seems to ignore Luke 22:36 where Jesus commands the buying of a sword for those who do not have one.  In context, this is no ‘proof-text’ for buying a gun.  But Jesus does say this.

Christians are not called upon to do everything Jesus did.  We, in fact, cannot, because Jesus was unique in both His being and the work He was to do on our behalf.  Jesus never drove a car (let’s say, a chariot or a wagon, as far as we know) but that doesn’t prove we shouldn’t, even though cars can be very dangerous, and can be used as weapons.

There is also a certain kind of shallowness in the talk about “Christians in support of fewer gun laws and in favor of guns.”  One might be in favor of fewer gun laws and still not in favor of guns.  My best guess – and it is just a guess – is that some Amish might take just such a position.  And, of course, some gun laws might lead to more guns.  Concealed carry and open carry laws probably encourage the ownership and use of guns.  Not all “gun laws” are “gun control” laws.

The writer seems also to assume owning guns necessarily implies using guns to kill people.  This reveals an ignorance of all sorts of gun owners who focus on target (such as skeet) shooting, and gun owners who focus on hunting.

I suppose I am nit-picking a bit with some of these points, so let’s get to the main point.  Is there anything in the Christian ethic that forbids the use of weapons in defense of the innocent?  To say ‘yes’ to this is to confuse the role of the church and the role of the state in God’s economy.  The writer goes on to claim:

Besides all that, and the fact that, if you believe in God who controls all, what situation would you be in that a gun could solve the problem, but God couldn't?

This seems to reflect the rather naïve view that God’s control of situation will never involve means that include human action.  Why couldn’t your Christian neighbor who owns a gun and uses it to disable an intruder bent on the murder of you and your family be God’s answer to your prayer for safety?  Do you really think God would prefer that your children be raped and strangled by an evildoer rather than your Christian neighbor shoot the evildoer before he can commit those evil deeds?

While there could be times when a Christian might rightfully forego personal self defense, the kind of ‘personal pacifism at any price’ idea is not taught explicitly or even implicitly by the historic Christian faith.  In fact, if you think Christians are called upon to defend ‘widows and orphans’ (that is, the defenseless) there could be times when such a defense will need to be physical, and will require the use of weapons.  Thus, it is at least ethically conceivable that our friends such as Smith, Wesson, Strum, Ruger, Mossberg (and others) might be useful tools in the pursuit of our Christian duty in some circumstances.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Honest Darwinians

Here is an intriguing video in which two Darwinians (Richard Dawkins "Darwinian medicine" advocate Dr. Randolph Nesse) talk about natural selection, the human body, and its implications for medical practice.  It is about nine minutes long but worth listening to completion.  I was put on to it by the Discovery Institute.

Repeatedly, Nesse talks about the “design” of the human body.  Dawkins stops him on more than one occasion to remind everyone that this “design” is only apparent.  Nesse agrees, of course, but even comments more than once that, in spite of the fact that he is using the word “design” in a special sense, it always seems like the best word to describe his view of the human body.

There is an utterly fascinating book by Cornelius Hunter titled Darwin’s Proof where this point is explored in detail.  Hunter shows that Darwin and modern Darwinians begin with a theological view about how God should have made things, and then conclude from the fact that God did not make things the way they think He should have that God cannot be responsible for things as they are – especially in regard to living things.

To confirm Hunter’s thesis, when Nesse qualifies his use of the word “design” he stops to explain that, although the body seems designed, it is very poorly designed. No intelligent being, he claims, would design a body that way our bodies are designed.  Ergo, we cannot be designed.  The whole thing is completely captivating.

Near the end of the video, Nesse gives and illustration he likes to use in regard to how selection works in organisms.  He says it is analogous to the way we empty the change from our pocket at the end of the day into a jar.  Everyday, all sorts of coins go in.  But when we take out the coins we want in the morning, we tend to take the silver coins because they are worth more.  So what goes in is random, but via selection, what comes out is not.

It doesn’t seem to occur to the good Doctor that his illustration of selection presupposes the presence of an intelligent selector.  Those poor Darwinians!  But, in the end, they are honest.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Deceptive, to say the least

"The folks in Congress and on the campaign trail who oppose this plan warn that it would somehow hurt small businesses and job creators," Obama said in his weekly address. "They’re completely ignoring the facts."

"Under my plan, 97 percent of small business owners would avoid getting hit with any income tax hike whatsoever.  In fact, I’ve cut taxes for small businesses eighteen times since I’ve been president.  And just this week, I ordered a series of new steps to help our small businesses grow and hire," Obama said.

"The only place we disagree is whether we keep giving tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans.  Republicans in Washington want more of those tax cuts.  With the deficit we have, I don’t think we can afford them," the president said.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0712/78502.html#ixzz20dPCzvCd

I know it is an election year, and that politicians will say almost anything (delete “almost”) if they think it will get them elected.  But one has to wonder if the President gets his economic ideas from the Cracker Jack box.  I am nothing more than a (very) amateur economist, but even I can see some problems here.  Since it is very difficult to believe these arise from stupidity, I am forced to conclude that they come, rather, from duplicity.

First, consider the phrase “giving tax cuts.”  This is terminology that is surely designed to mislead people.  We have a certain tax rate right now.  The question is whether or not to keep it the same, or allow it to go higher.  The phrase “giving tax cuts” is surely intended to make people think that someone wants the current rates to go lower.  Unfortunately for the economy, few if any are proposing that.

Second, if Obama really wants growth and hiring, he would especially want to avoid increasing the taxes of that horrible “wealthiest 2% of Americans.”  People – no matter where they happen to fall in the wealth category – when they are allowed to keep their earnings, almost always do two things with those earnings.  They either spend them, or invest them.  (I suppose a few people hide cash in the mattress, but I think we can ignore them for our purposes.)

If people spend their earnings, they are buying things, which is good for people who sell things.  Why does it so upset the Obamaniacs so much to think that rich people spend money?  Isn’t that good for those with whom they spend it?

If people save their earnings, those savings are typically used to buy “capital goods” or things used to make the things we want to consume.  Most of those despised ‘fat cats’ who are filthy rich have riches invested in something or other.  And that something will be the stuff someone uses to make the stuff we want to consume.  Unless, that is, governments like Obama tax away those earnings.  Then, the stuff people want is not as easily made, and not made as much, giving us the kind of sputtering economy we have just now.

This is simply the way things work, economically speaking.  It simply does not matter what anyone, including a President, thinks or says about it.  It’s a sure as water running downhill.  Since statists know this, and persist in policies that must make us poorer, it is difficult to believe that they want us anything other than poorer.

And that is not a wildly improbable idea, because collectivists clearly want people to be dependent upon government.

One final point.  The President says that he doesn’t “think we can afford” what he calls “tax cuts” (which, remember, is really keeping tax rates constant).  Real tax cuts do not cost anyone anything.  What they do is limit the scope of government.  Again, this is something statists do not want.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Immigration Issue and Christians

To my email inbox this week came a newsletter from the Christian Standard.  The articles are all about Christianity and the immigration issue.  As is typical, the editor claims no position on the matter.  He says:

What is Christian Standard’s position on immigration? As a rule we don’t make pronouncements on political or legal issues, and that’s not our purpose here. As more than one writer this week and next says, the issues are complicated and the solutions are not easy.

But surely every reader can agree on this position: Let’s show love, Christian love, to immigrants. If we must ask about their status, let that not be the first question. We may be the best or only way for the immigrants around us to experience the peace and purpose we have discovered in our Lord. That’s Christian Standard’s position on immigration.

But despite the claim to take no position on the matter, a quick reading of the articles offered shows only one that offers something of a ‘con’, or at a cautionary, position.  The rest are more or less (mostly much more) ‘pro.’  And, in fact, the editorial quoted above at one point says, “We fear that too many Christians have come quickly to their conclusions without considering counter views from others who also love God.”  The over-all effect of the articles in the newsletter is something like this – you xenophobic hayseeds of the middle-American Christian church need to change your stubborn, uninformed minds on this matter of immigration.  I think that impression was clearly intended.

This might shock those of you who know me, but I have some sympathy for broader immigration laws.  I think many people come to this country for the freedoms they do not enjoy at home, and I admire all people who seek freedom.  In fact, I would like to exchange some of the freedom-loving immigrants I have met for many of the native statists who plague our country.  (I would be most pleased, for example, to exchange Barack Obama for some freedom-loving Iranian.  And perhaps Mr. Obama would be more at home in a nation that is already totalitarian, and doesn’t need his help getting there.)

But there are a couple of interesting omissions from this collection of articles from the Christian Standard.

First, as has been said many times by many people (and any idiot should be able to figure it out), liberal immigration policy and a massive welfare state are a recipe for disaster.  Only one article even mentions this, and even that one mentions if very briefly, and not nearly forcefully enough.  This doesn’t mean that all immigrants come here for the freebies, of which we offer an over-abundance.  But immigrants, when they arrive, will become legally entitled to many of our handouts, even if that is not their motive for coming.  Even now those here illegally can and do partake of the dole.  Many Christians, being the fluffy-headed dopes that they are, don’t even bother to consider this.  They see our massive welfare state as simply the way things ought to be.  (One of the authors of these articles is affiliated with a group dedicated to expanding the welfare state.  Another cites a leftist ‘Christian’ group that openly advocates socialism.)

That is problem number one.  There is also a problem number two.

Current immigration law is part of our overly-big, intrusive national governmental structure.  Is it a mess?  Of course, just like all the rest of it.  Our hodgepodge of statist laws and policies is irrational, and often unjust.  But immigration law is only a small part of that mess.  And it is interesting how ambivalent the Christian attitude toward law can be.

For example, one of the authors quotes with approval a sermon in which the minister said,“You may say to me, ‘what about illegal do you not understand?’ I say to you, ‘what about love your neighbor do you not understand?’”  What I would like to know is:  where can we find this same attitude toward other aspects of our massive regulatory, confiscatory state?  Where is the same kind of compassion toward those who do not want to comply with tax laws?  Where is this kind of concern for those who do not want to comply with onerous business regulations?  There are dozens more questions like those we could offer, but you get the idea.

There is a kind of political, and even moral, hypocrisy in those who urgently want to reform our massive regulatory state, but only the part of it that deals with their pet agenda.  There are many laws propagated by our government that are horribly unjust and need to be changed.  Calling on Christians to address just one small part of that nasty package is not just inconsistent.  Such changes would probably just make a bad situation even worse.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ever Onward and Upward!

from “Lights, Camera, Crazy!” by Michael M. Rosen

According to Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and the foremost national expert on college tuition, the fees at his alma mater, Northwestern University, consumed 15 percent of the annual median family income in 1958. By 2003, tuition at Northwestern chewed up a gaudy 53 percent of median family income. Other schools exhibit similar explosions.

By 2003, tuition at Northwestern chewed up a gaudy 53 percent of median family income. Other schools exhibit similar explosions.

Much of this obscene acceleration in prices can be laid at the feet of the federal government, which, in a vicious cycle, subsidizes loans, makes direct grants, and offers loan forgiveness, all of which in turn spur higher education institutions to hike tuition further, which in turn necessitates further government aid.

Kent comments:

If you have been around American higher education, you are painfully aware of this.  It has contributing causes other than government money.

I have one son who works at a university that has tried to “have it all” in the last several years.  What it has is a faltering budget, and skyrocketing tuition.  I have another son who teaches at a college that is very focused – on offering good classes, imagine that!  They do not try to do it all.  As a result, it is very affordable.

Many, perhaps most, colleges and universities today do not make serious attempts to focus their mission, or to economize in reaching their goals.  But why should they, when they can more easily complain about their level of government funding, wait for the inevitable direct and indirect (through government loans and grants to students) and constantly raise tuition.

The lack of focus and lack of serious attempts to do more with less can continue to happen because governments continue to pour money into higher education.  Who can be opposed to “more money for education”?

But only the economically blind can fail to see how this does, and must, always work.  Some purportedly desirable activity gets a shot of cash from government.  What is the inevitable result?  The price of that activity will go up, since more money is now “chasing” (by being dedicated to) that activity.

Then, when the price goes up, there are renewed cries about the price increases for that activity.  Politicians are motivated to dedicate even more money to that activity.  As a result, the price of that activity increases even more, as do the cries of “it’s too expensive!”  And thus the cycle continues.

It is true of higher education, as it is always true of everything to which governments dedicate funds.  We could do a similar analysis of “health care.”  We could do a similar analysis of almost everything, since government subsidize almost everything today.

The question is:  how do we escape these vicious cycles?

It would take a remarkable amount of social-political will-power.  Quite frankly, I don’t think we have it.  I hope I am wrong, but it is difficult to come up with any plausible scenario in which I am.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Of Electric Cars and Environmentalists

The general idea of an electric car seems good to me.  There are all kinds of advantages.  An electric motor is a very simple device, in theory, compared to a gasoline internal combustion engine.  The problem with the whole electric car push today is that it is being engineered by the state, for political, almost quasi-religious (environmentalism) purposes.

This summary of a Wall Street Journal article points up some of the problems connected to electric cars.  Some are practical.  Batteries are still far too expensive, and will not hold sufficient charge for significant trips.  But the main problem is that electric cars need electricity, and environmentalists don’t want us to generate more electricity, at least by any means that we now have to do so.

One electric car now being produced and highly touted is really a hybrid, and such a car still needs gasoline and an internal combustion engine.  At this point, electric cars are not much more than a political toy of politicians seeks to court the favor of environmentalists.

For the time being, if you want to be able to keep driving, you probably need to run over enough environmentalists that the rest stop their incessant, irrational squawking about cars.

But God doesn’t permit us to run over environmentalists.  Perhaps near misses could have the same effect, and stay within the boundaries of morality.  If not, perhaps a whole new approach is in order.  We could attach environmentalists to those little carts used as taxis in some countries, and let them pull us around to places we want to go.  Surely environmentalists would be willing.  In return, we could feed our cart-pulling environmentalists plenty of locally-grown, organic food.

Everyone would be happy!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is There Something Under the Bed?

From the comic strip “Non Sequitur” for 5-29-12:

Scene:  little girl and her talking stuffed pony are in bed.

Little Girl to Pony:  “What makes you think there is a monster under the bed?”

Pony:  “I thought I heard something . . .”

Pony continues:  “. . .so there just might be something down there, which means it could be a monster, so to be on the safe side, we should assume there is something under the bed that wants to eat us.”

Kent comments:

As I read this I thought, “I’ve heard something like this before.”  Yes, it is the reasoning (at least in public) of the “climate change” alarmists.  The phrase “global warming” doesn’t play all that well in some contexts, so now it is “climate change.”  The only thing that has changed, however, is the name.

Whatever they wish to call it, this is the reasoning pattern of the climate change people.  While it is funny in a comic strip, it is not so funny when the climate change people use it, because they add another step.  After they reach the “climate change is going to eat us” conclusion, they go on to reason (and I use that term loosely), “So therefore we need a large, intrusive, liberty-killing, interventionist government to regulate everything we do.”

I would much rather crawl under the bed and take my chances with the monster.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I enjoy a daily email from Oxford University Press called ‘Usage Tip of the Day.’  (Find it here if you are interested.)  It is a publication of selections from Garner’s Modern American Usage.  It is interesting little tidbits about, as you might guess, American English.  I try to keep up.

Sometimes you learn interesting things from this little newsletter that go beyond the correct use of American English.  Today, for example, we came to uses and phrases connected to the work ‘right.’  This brought us to ‘right-to-lifer.’  Here is the entry:

right-to-lifer (= an opponent of abortion rights) is journalists' jargon -- and is often used as a pejorative. E.g.: "The cast of characters includes . . . Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, a strident right-to-lifer who took the questionable step of asking the court to reconsider Roe." "The Battle over Abortion," Newsweek, 1 May 1989, at 28.

Rather revealing, isn’t it?  It is ‘journalists jargon’ that is used as a bad name for (and notice carefully) an opponent of abortion rights.

So, it appears, that a significant group of journalists assume that there is a ‘right to abortion.’  I was aware of that, of course.  But it was interesting to see it so plainly stated in this kind of publication.

Taking a little jab at such ‘journalists’ I propose some parallel phrases:

right-to-ownershiper (= an opponent of the right to steal)

right-to-selfer (= an opponent of the right to rape)

Finally, here is one journalists should take up:

right-to-freedom-of-speecher (= an opponent of the right to censor journalists)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Evaluating GOP Candidates for Kentucky's Fourth Congressional District

I am taking some time today to do something I consider very important: evaluate the candidates for the U. S. House seat for the fourth district in Kentucky.  As you might guess, this is where I live.  While I am not really a Republican in spirit, I am registered as one and am thus entitled to vote in the upcoming May primary in Kentucky.

I am not going to take the time to visit rallies for each of these candidates in an attempt to find out who they are and what they stand for.  In our digital twenty-first century, that should not be necessary.  I have simply located the respective campaign website for each candidate, and done my evaluations based on the information I found there.  I try to be a rational voter.  What follows is my evaluation of the candidates based on today’s research.  (It is subject to change if new information or reasoning comes to my attention.)

The good news is that, from what I have seen, none of these candidates is horrible.  In fact, in a very general way I would say that they are all above average.  We are blessed with decent people running for office around here, something I greatly appreciate about this area.

But at this point, I have a preliminary ranking.  So I am going to list the candidates in my current (April 25, 2012) order of increasing preference (so it is not good to be first on this list!) along with a link to each candidate’s website.  I also have a few comments on each candidate.

Seventh Place, Marc Carey - Marc touts his Republican credentials, but when I come to his “issues” section he tells me nothing.  He promises to say something in the future.  Marc, the future is now.  The election is next month.  We need specifics on where you stand, and we need them yesterday.

If you post some specifics, and they are good ones, you might move up my list.  And by the way, it’s very nice that you have been active in the Republican Party.  But there are plenty of people with horrible ideas who have been active in the Republican Party.

Sixth Place, Brian D. Oerther - Brian has given me a bare bones outline of his positions.  But it is so brief that I am unable to do a significant evaluation.  Most of what I see looks very good, as far as it goes.  But I need more detail if you want any hope of getting my vote.

For example, under “Reform Government” you say you want to “Cut Government Programs.”  Nice, but which ones do you want to cut.  Are you willing to cut some of the things that many people clamor for?  You don’t even mention the abortion issue, and that is very important to many people around here.  Tell us more and we might change our minds.

Fifth Place, Walt Schumm - Walt’s platform is not unattractive.  But it is also very limited - not as limited as the preceding two, but limited.  And even in what is presented, I find some ambiguous items, and even a somewhat troubling one.

You say you want to “promote a consolidated and viable national energy policy.”  What would that include, exactly?  Why do we even need an “energy policy”?  Why not let people buy what energy they want and likewise allow producers to produce it?  You need at least some more explanation.

On the troubling side, you also say that you want to “Balance interests of environmental groups and businesses.”  This makes it appear that you do not understand that “environmental groups” have been given special legal standing to file lawsuits to promote their own flawed ideas.  The interests of environmental groups do not need to be “balanced” with anything.  Such groups should have no special standing.

I do like your mentions of the Constitution.  I especially like your point of “asserting that only Congress has the right to declare war.”  You are not a bad candidate.  We just need more clarity from you.  It is not so much who you are as what you think and propose that interests me.

Fourth Place, Alecia Webb-Edgington - From what I can see at her website, if Alecia is nominated, I could vote for her with some enthusiasm.  She touts her endorsements by other Republicans, and while that is fine, it does not impress me.  Again candidates, I don’t care who likes you.  I care about what policies and idea you like.

Alecia, you have some solid ideas, and obviously you have much experience in state government.  But sometimes experience in government in a candidate worries me a bit.  Rand Paul is a good example of a guy with no office-holding experience who jumped right into the Senate of the United States and is doing a great job if you see defending individual liberty as the job of your Senator - and I do.

One specific part of your “the issues” section that disturbed me a bit was your statement under “Energy” as follows: “I will work to enact an all-of-the-above energy policy to increase America’s energy supply.”  If by “all-of-the-above” you are including things like wind and solar, you don’t really understand our energy problems.  What we need is a government hands-off energy non-policy.

Third Place, Gary Moore - These top three spots were very close in my mind - almost tied, in fact.  But not quite tied.  Gary has many good proposals that show a good understanding of what government should, and just importantly, should not, do; of what government can, and cannot, do.  Gary, this statement on your “Issues” page under “Job Creation” catapulted you to my top tier of candidates: “The Government does not create jobs - the private sector does.”  Well said.

Your Right-to-Life endorsement attracts me to your campaign, as do many of your positions.  You are obviously a guy who understands individual liberty.

Second Place, Thomas Massie - Thomas, you and the next guy are nearly tied for first.  Your statement on the issues tells me that, if you are nominated, I will be able to vote for you with a very high degree of enthusiasm.  It is clear that you understand what is wrong now, and what could be done to fix it.  Your ideas on education are especially good.

(Note to the Massie website builders: get rid of those “read more” links on the “Issues” page.  There is never that much more, and they just become very annoying.  Just extend the page a little.  But I didn’t take off any points for that!)

One thing that makes Massie a first-rate candidate is his clear assumption, revealed throughout his statements, that government has definite limits.  He is clearly a smart guy, with two degrees from MIT!  (I would almost hate to trap such a smart fellow in Congress!)

Thomas, know that in my mind you were only barely edged out of first place by . . .

First Place, Tom Wurtz - Tom Wurtz has a plethora of direct policy proposals that he explains in well-written detail.  And they are good, liberty-enhancing ideas from which we would all benefit.  You don’t have to guess what Wurtz thinks - its all there for you to read.  And it is in a very attractive format, for that matter.

Not only does Wurtz have an in-depth platform, he has additional entries on all sorts of relevant political topics that help me understand not just what he thinks, but how and why he thinks it.  This is what I need to understand a candidate.  I can believe he wrote all this stuff himself because he has written several books.  I saw nothing that I didn’t like - and with me, that is quite something!

Tom, as far as basic idea content is concerned, you were about tied with the second and perhaps even the third place guys.  But in reading much on your very attractive website, I picked up something repeatedly that made me put you in first place.  You not only understand individual liberty and its blessings, but you demonstrate a certain “butt-kicking” attitude toward promoting our liberty.  It is going to take that kind of attitude to save our country.

And while this might be a bit superficial, your picture looks like the old-enough-to-know-the-score but still young-enough-to-pull-it-off kind of guy called for in these troubled times.  So you get first place, and my vote in the coming primary, unless I get some new information between now and then.

Truth Deficit

Here is an interesting story about a young father who was prompted by the anguish of the loss of a child to “try out” twelve different religions, one per month, during 2011.  During his youth he had been a Baptist of some stripe.  During this time his wife remained a Christian, which led – as they report and you might expect – to some family tension.

What is most interesting is the perspective of this young couple on the whole experience.

According to the wife, the husband’s exploration of other religions cause him to be “more patient. There was more of a sense of peace about him.”  According to the story, after the experiment, the husband “still meditates daily using various prayer books, and he attends Mass occasionally at a Catholic church.”

The husband (Andrew) kept a blog about the whole experience.

It is amusing that anyone would think that a religion could really be “tried out” in the space of a month.  I suppose that is our culture of the short-term (and even instantaneous) at work.

But there is something even more telling in this project.  Scanning everything I could find about this, I noticed something very significant that was glaringly absent from Andrew’s blog (I sampled it), the stories, and so forth.  There is no mention of truth in the whole thing.  Andrew took religions for a one month test drive.  He reports various experiences and attitudes he gained from those test drives.  But there is no mention, not even a hint that I could find, that he ever considered the truth of these various religions.

All religions make claims, at least implicit claims, about the nature of God, of human beings, and of reality.  Did Andrew never wonder whether or not these various claims are true?  That is, do they describe reality accurately?

There are many deficits in the world today, but of these, the greatest is the deficit of truth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Constitution Does Not Dicate Motives!

Michael Medved: Constitution clearly states no religious tests in politics

The ugliest byproduct of this year's protracted struggle for the Republican presidential nomination involves the unwelcome return of the discredited, dangerous old idea of imposing religious tests on candidates for public office.

Before Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign, exit polls from his landslide victory in the Louisiana primary showed a stunning 73 percent of Republican voters insisted it "matters that a candidate shares my religious beliefs" -- expressing the conviction that it's appropriate to judge a prospective president based on his theological orientation. Only 12 percent took the position that it matters "not at all" if a candidate's religious outlook differed from their own.

There's an obvious irony to this situation: Many of those same social conservatives who claim to revere the plain text of the Constitution seem determined to ignore its prohibition on religious tests for federal office.

Article VI, Clause 3 unambiguously states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." This sweeping language, adopted at the original Constitutional Convention two years before the First Amendment's famous prohibition on "establishment of religion," left so little doubt as to its meaning that not even the most imaginative jurists or politicians have attempted to interpret it away.

Professor Gerald Bradley of Notre Dame Law School flatly declares that "no federal official has ever been subjected to a formal religious test for holding office."

Of course, some fervent social conservatives will protest that the evaluation of legally qualified candidates based on their theological perspectives hardly amounts to a "religious test" officially banning aspirants from the ballot or public positions.

But most of the Founders objected even to informal religious tests and demonstrated a consistent willingness to confer positions of responsibility on those who did not share their religious beliefs.

Kent comments:

I have seen this attempt before, and I expect (unfortunately) to see it again.  It is the claim that some people’s unwillingness to vote for a Mormon somehow violates the Constitution.  Medved can prattle on all he wants that “Many of those same social conservatives who claim to revere the plain text of the Constitution seem determined to ignore its prohibition on religious tests for federal office.”  It remains the case that an individual decision to vote in a certain way based on the religious views of the candidate does NOT – not in any way, not even a tensie wensie little bit – violate the Constitution.

Even if, as Medved claims “most of the Founders objected even to informal religious tests” it remains the case that the objections of Founders do not form part of the Constitution, except to the extent that they put them into the Constitution.  I have searched the Constitution high and low, including all the Amendments, and NOTHING there even hints at any requirement on why a voter decides to vote in a certain way.

It’s just not there.  And would we really want it to be?  Imagine the situation if reasons and motives within individual voters were part of the Constitution!

We can debate until the next election and beyond the merits of Mormons as candidates.  Let’s face it, Mormons believe some very strange and weird things IF they actually know and believe all the things taught by the leadership of their group.  Do those weird things have any impact on political policy positions?  That is a very good question, one many Christians are going to have to answer this year as they go to the polls.

Are theological views isolatable from political views?  I tend to think they are not.  Does a willingness to believe weird and strange religious things call into question one’s general good judgment?  That one is worth thinking about – I have no ready answer, but it is a question worth some consideration.

However individuals decide those and many related questions, it is well past time for Medved and his kin to shut up on the ridiculous claim that individual use of religious criteria to evaluate candidates is somehow un-Constitutional.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Earth Day Nut Jobs

[The following is from the Media Research Center.  It is both amusing, and alarming.  Many prominent environmentalists, along with their media flunkies, are insane, as this will show.]

Earth Day Special: The Media's Top 25 Worst Environmental Quotes

This Sunday marks the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day and for 25 of those years the MRC has documented the liberal media’s role in advancing the left’s green agenda. From fretting about overpopulation to scaring viewers about global warming, for over 25 years the media have championed the capitalism-killing agenda of the modern environmentalist movement.

So sacrosanct the liberal media believes its mission to be, that they haven’t even bothered to hide their bias. CNN’s environmental editor Barbara Pyle, as quoted in the July 1990 issue of American Spectator, actually bragged: “I do have an axe to grind...I want to be the little subversive person in television.” Time magazine’s science editor Charles Alexander, at a September 16, 1989 global warming conference, confessed: “I would freely admit on this issue we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy.”

That advocacy has been on full display as reporters and anchors have gone overboard in scaring their audience about the perils of our effect on the Earth, from overpopulation to global warming. In its January 2, 1989 “Planet of the Year” Time magazine’s editors warned: “Unless the growth in the world population is slowed, it will be impossible to make serious progression on any environmental issue.” Two years later, in an ad for its “Lost Tribes, Lost Knowledge” issue that appeared in the April 27, 1992 Sports Illustrated, Time magazine again warned: “Nature has a cure for everything, except the spread of Western civilization.”

Perhaps the media’s most popular scare tactic has been the specter of global warming. CNN’s Don Harrison, on the August 1, 1989 primetime special Climate in Crisis, hyped: “Global warming could mean economic upheaval. It could bring suffering. It could bring starvation.” Narrator Roy Scheider, in a ten-part PBS documentary aired in 1990 starkly intoned: “The environmental revolution has made us understand where we humans are taking the Earth: Towards a world poisoned by pollution.”

The forecasts coming from the media have been apocalyptic. Reporter Mark Phillips, on the January 16, 1990 CBS Evening News predicted that if nothing was done, global warming “would turn much of the planet into a desert.” On the January 11, 1990 Today show, it wasn’t arid land to be feared, but rather too much water as ecologist Paul Ehrlich predicted: “The Supreme Court would be flooded. You could tie your boat to the Washington Monument.”
Sixteen years later the Today show was still in the outlandish prediction business, as on the May 24, 2006 Today show, then co-anchor Katie Couric prompted former Vice President Al Gore, “What do you see happening in 15 to 20 years or even 50 years if nothing changes?...Even Manhattan would be in deep water?” Gore responded: “Yes, in fact the World Trade Center Memorial site would be underwater.”

Of course being a lead spokesman for the global warming hysteria movement meant Gore was elevated to almost deific status by the liberal media. Former Time reporter Margaret Carlson, on the October 13, 2007 Bloomberg TV’s Political Capital, deemed him a “prophet.” However, if any critic dared to express skepticism they were trashed. In his magazine’s special Earth Day, 2000 issue Time’s Michael Lemonick dismissed: “Only a handful of the most doctrinaire die-hards still dispute the idea that human activity is heating up the planet.” The cover of the August 13, 2007 Newsweek denounced the “well-funded naysayers who still reject the overwhelming evidence of climate change. Inside the denial machine.” NBC’s Anne Thompson, on the August 16, 2007 Nightly News, mocked: “Deniers are confusing the issue and delaying solutions...The scientific debate is no longer over society’s role in global warming. It is now a matter of degrees.” CNN’s Miles O’Brien, on the October 12, 2007 Newsroom, went as far as to cast global warming skeptics as “dead enders.”

When e-mails surfaced, during the ClimateGate scandal, that showed science was being perverted to advance a hoax, the liberal media leapt to the movement’s defense. ABC’s Clayton Sandell, on the December 6, 2009 World News, assured viewers “the science is solid, according to a vast majority of researchers.” NBC’s Anne Thompson, on the December 7, 2009 Nightly News huffed: “It doesn’t matter what’s in those e-mails - the Earth is changing.” Wyatt Andrews, on the December 9, 2009 CBS Evening News, scoffed: “ClimateGate is a sideshow.”

The same disgust the media exhibited against those bringing reason to the ClimateGate debate was also brought against conservatives attempting to scale back overly-burdensome regulations. When the GOP controlled Congress attempted to do just that in 1995, the late Peter Jennings, called it “the most frontal assault on the environment in 25 years.” NBC’s Roger O’Neil, in a July 28, 1995 Nightly News story on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, feared: “if the plants and animals can’t survive, what future is there for the human species?” On the August 5, 1995 edition of CNN’s Capital Gang, Time’s Margaret Carlson complained: “This is deregulation madness! We’re gonna have dirty water, dirty air.”

The following collection of 25 quotes represents the worst of the media’s environmental pandering culled from the MRC’s archive:

# 25. Billions of Lives At Risk

“Will Billions Die from Global Warming?”
— ABC’s on-screen graphic from the January 31, 2007 Good Morning America.

# 24. Who Needs Tanks, When You’ve Got the EPA?

“And yet, Congresswoman Schneider, in 1989, fiscal 1989 as we say in America, the Environmental Protection Agency got $5.1 billion dollars and the Defense Department got $290 billion dollars. What’s that tell us about our priorities?”
— ABC anchor Peter Jennings on the September 12, 1989 Capital to Capital special “The Environment: Crisis In the Global Village.”

# 23. $6 a Gallon Gas Will Save the Earth!

“You’re also looking at a [global warming] solution here in Europe: smaller vehicles, more energy efficient, many which use diesel fuel which is more efficient. And the price of gas here is $6 a gallon to discourage guzzling. A lot of big ideas and innovations coming out of Europe.”
— ABC’s Chris Cuomo reporting from Paris for Earth Day, April 20, 2007 Good Morning America.

# 22. If We All Died Would the Earth Even ‘Miss Us?’

  Co-host Matt Lauer: “The book is called The World Without Us, and it asks the question what would happen to planet Earth if human beings were to suddenly disappear....And really it’s all about trying to figure out how long it would take nature to reclaim what we’ve created.”
  Co-host Meredith Vieira: “The mess.”
  Lauer: “How long it would take nature to fix the mess we’ve made?...Would the Earth miss us at all? How long would it take for it to fix the problems we created?”
— NBC’s Today, September 4, 2007.

# 21. Someone Get the Statue of Liberty a Life Preserver Before She Floats Away!

  Tom Brokaw: “About 10 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by ice, most of that in the polar regions. But if enough of that ice melts, the seas will rise dramatically and the results will be calamitous....If this worst-case scenario should occur, in the coming centuries New York could be abandoned, its famous landmarks lost to the sea.”
  Dr. James Hansen, Goddard Institute for Space Studies: “Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami -- they would all be under water.”
— From Brokaw’s two-hour Discovery Channel special, Global Warming: What You Need to Know, excerpt shown on the July 15, 2006 NBC Nightly News.

# 20. Earth to George W. Bush: You Make Me Sick!

“No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth....Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us....Something has gone grievously wrong. That something is global warming....It’s undeniable that the White House’s environmental record — from the abandonment of Kyoto to the President’s [George W. Bush] broken campaign pledge to control carbon output to the relaxation of emission standards — has been dismal.”
— Time’s Jeffrey Kluger in the magazine’s April 3, 2006 global warming cover story: “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.”

# 19. Big Oil Caused Hurricane Katrina

“The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming....Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue....As the pace of climate change accelerates, many researchers fear we have already entered a period of irreversible runaway climate change.”
— Former Washington Post and Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan in an August 30, 2005 Boston Globe op-ed.

# 18. When You Fill Up Your Tank, You’re ‘Fighting Science’

“ExxonMobil - I think this is a real group of bad guys, considering that they have funded all the anti-global-warming propaganda out there in the world. And Bush is just not going to go against guys like that. They are bad, bad guys, because of what they are doing in fighting the science of global warming.”
— New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in an interview published in Rolling Stone, October 17, 2002.

# 17. Put Down That Hairspray Can or Else We’ll All Be Riding Camels to Work!

“If nothing is done to reverse ozone damage, scientists predict hundreds of millions of skin cancer cases in the U.S. alone, not to mention increased global warming that would turn much of the planet into a desert.”
— Reporter Mark Phillips on the January 16, 1990 CBS Evening News.

# 16. ‘Radical’ Republicans Could Kill Off Snail Darters, Owls, Even You!

“The noises coming from [Rep. Sonny] Bono and many of his fellow Republican signers of House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s ‘Contract with America’ signal a radical shift in Congress’s attitude toward environmental issues -- a shift that may bode ill for the health of snail darters, spotted owls, and even the human species.”
— Time reporter Dick Thompson in a February 27, 1995 story headlined “Congressional Chain-Saw Massacre: If Speaker Newt Gingrich gets his way, the laws protecting air, water and wildlife may be endangered.”

# 15. GOP’s Full ‘Frontal Assault’ on the Environment

“Next week on ABC’s World News Tonight, a series of reports about our environment which will tell you precisely what the new [Republican] Congress has in mind: the most frontal assault on the environment in 25 years. Is this what the country wants?”
— Peter Jennings in an ABC promo during the July 9, 1995 This Week with David Brinkley.

# 14. Earth Would Be Okay It Weren’t for Us Pesky Humans

“Ultimately, no problem may be more threatening to the Earth’s environment than the proliferation of the human species.”
— Anastasia Toufexis, “Overpopulation: Too Many Mouths,” article in Time’s special “Planet of the Year” edition, January 2, 1989.

# 13. Ronald Reagan = Earth Day Buzzkill

“The missteps, poor efforts and setbacks brought on by the Reagan years have made this a more sober Earth Day. The task seems larger now.”
— Today co-host Bryant Gumbel, April 20, 1990.

# 12. Heed the Words of the ‘Prophet’ Al Gore

“You know, Bob, you’d still be holding your breath and kicking your feet if what had happened to Al Gore in Florida had happened to you. He rose above a great injustice....He became a prophet on an issue that is crucially important to the world.”
— Ex-Time reporter Margaret Carlson to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak on Bloomberg TV’s Political Capital, October 13, 2007.

# 11. Climate Change a Greater Threat Than USSR’s Nukes

“Despite the danger that climate change poses, the resources currently devoted to studying this problem -- and combating it -- are inconsequential compared with the trillions spent during the Cold War. Twenty years from now, we may wonder how we could have miscalculated which threat represented the greater peril.”
— Time contributor Eugene Linden, September 4, 2000.

# 10. Ted Koppel to Global Warming Skeptics: The Earth is Round!

  Karen Kerrigan, Small Business Survival Committee: “To say that the science is conclusive...is actually bunk.”
  Host Ted Koppel: “I was just going to make the observation that there are still some people who believe in the Flat Earth Society, too, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.”
—  Exchange on the December 9, 1997 Nightline.

# 9. Call in the Climate Cops!

“Put an international tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases....Find a way to put the brakes on the world’s spiraling population, which will otherwise double by the year 2050....Give the United Nations broad powers to create an environmental police force for the planet.”
— Time list of “What They Should Do But Won’t” at the United Nations “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, June 1, 1992.

# 8. Matt Lauer: Let’s Face It, There’s ‘Too Many of Us’

“Today, life on Earth is disappearing faster than the days when dinosaurs breathed their last, but for a very different reason....Us homo sapiens are turning out to be as destructive a force as any asteroid. Earth’s intricate web of ecosystems thrived for millions of years as natural paradises, until we came along, paved paradise, and put up a parking lot. Our assault on nature is killing off the very things we depend on for our own lives....The stark reality is that there are simply too many of us, and we consume way too much, especially here at home....It will take a massive global effort to make things right, but the solutions are not a secret: control population, recycle, reduce consumption, develop green technologies.”
— NBC’s Matt Lauer hosting Countdown to Doomsday, a two-hour June 14, 2006 Sci-Fi Channel special.  

# 7. New York City: Iceberg Capital of the World

  Bryant Gumbel: “At the risk of starting an argument, are you a believer in global warming?”
  Mark McEwen: “Absolutely.”
  Jane Clayson: “Of course.”
  Julie Chen: “Yeah.”
  Gumbel: “So am I....And you wonder what it’s gonna take. I mean, is it gonna take some kind of a real catastrophe? I mean, does an iceberg have to come floating down the Hudson before somebody stands up and goes, ‘Oh, yeah’?”
— Exchange during CBS Early Show’s co-op time at 7:25 am on April 18, 2001.

# 6. Meredith Vieira Freaks Out: ‘Are We All Gonna Die?’

“So I’m running in the park on Saturday, in shorts, thinking this [warm weather] is great, but are we all gonna die? You know? I can’t, I can’t figure this out.”
— Co-host Meredith Vieira talking about global warming on NBC’s Today, January 8, 2007.

# 5. One Day ‘You Could Tie Your Boat to the Washington Monument’

“There is an even greater threat that scientists can only speculate about. As global temperatures rise, they may cause the massive West Antarctic ice sheet to slip more rapidly. Then we’ll be facing a sea-level rise not of one to three feet in a century, but of 10 or 20 feet in a much shorter time. The Supreme Court would be flooded. You could tie your boat to the Washington Monument. Storm surges would make the Capitol unusable. For Today, Paul Ehrlich in Washington, DC, on the future shoreline of Chesapeake Bay.”
— Ecologist Paul Ehrlich reporting for the January 11, 1990 Today show.

# 4. PBS Hires the Guy from ‘Jaws’ to Scare You About Global Warming

  Actor Roy Scheider: “Earth Day appealed to every one.”
  Children singing: “Oil drops are falling on their heads/And that surely means that soon they will all be dead.”...
  Scheider: “The environmental revolution has made us understand where we humans are taking the Earth. Towards a world poisoned by pollution. Towards an atmosphere disrupted by greenhouse warming and losing its protective layer of ozone. Towards rivers, oceans and beaches made unusable by sewage and toxic waste. Towards unmanageable piles of garbage filled with the squandered resources of the planet. Towards a population of 10 billion in 60 years, twice as many as today. With the prospect of feeding those billions from farmland eroded toward the breaking point. It will be a world in which wild things have no room to live. A world in which forests have disappeared. Only the environmental revolution can save the planet from this fate.”
— Actor Roy Scheider narrating ten-part PBS series Race to Save the Planet aired from October 7 to 11, 1990.

# 3. Too Bad Obama Cut NASA’s Budget

“Could global warming one day force us into space to live?”
— ABC’s Sam Champion teasing an upcoming segment on Good Morning America, February 8, 2008.

# 2. Ted Turner: We’re All Going to Be Eating Each Other!

“Not doing it [fighting global warming] will be catastrophic. We’ll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years, and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals. Civilization will have broken down.”
— CNN founder Ted Turner on PBS’s Charlie Rose, April 1, 2008.

# 1. Save the Earth, Stop Breathing!

“It’s a morbid observation, but if everyone on earth just stopped breathing for an hour, the greenhouse effect would no longer be a problem.”
— Newsweek Senior Writer Jerry Adler, December 31, 1990 issue.