Saturday, February 26

Ok I've Moved.

For new essays from me, go here
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What I'm Up To

I promised two posts on abortion, and haven't delivered, the first is partially complete. But I haven't been idle. Last night I signed up for an account on a web hosting service and have installed (and purchased Movable Type). I'm setting it up, and starting to work on moving there. I'll be migrating there when I have that site set up (at least well enough). I should be done by the end of the weekend.

Please be patient. Thank you. If you want to watch me fumbling around, it's at (of course).

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Friday, February 25

Out to Dinner .... but

My next to essays are going to be on abortion. The first will by my position on it the second how my "Christian Moral Rights" project speaks to this issue. Comment away!

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An Observation on ID and Common Descent

Now I've admitted in the past that I am a uninformed outsider when it comes to discussions between the ID (Intelligent Design) supporters and those who follow "Darwin" and common descent. Jim (of Decorabilia) points to a a paper 29+ Evidences for MacroEvolution by Douglass Theobald which at the outset seem to indicate to me that two groups are talking past each other.

Mr Theobald points out that
However, whether microevolutionary theories are sufficient to account for macroevolutionary adaptations is a question that is left open.
ID so far as I understand admits the existence of common descent and MacroEvolution. It just doubts that the random genetic drift, i.e., microevolution can produce the effects seen. If as Mr Theobald claims is correct, that Common Descent is a theory that leaves out how macroevolution occurs then there is not real common place for argument. ID casts doubt on how macroevolution occurs not that it does occur.

To make an analogy from Physics, ID might be seen more as criticism of a particular quantum theory of gravity whereas Common Descent is Newton's description of gravitation effects on falling bodies. To say the two "theories" are at odds would be a little strange.

Those who wish to criticize ID need to produce their own testable theories of how MacroEvolution occurs. Defenses of Common Descent and Darwin miss the point.

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Visiting: lawreligionculturereview

Today's visiting feature takes us to lawreligionculturereview which is authored by Richard J Radcliffe. The motto for this blog is Exploring the intersections of law, theology and ethics. Recent posts which caught my eye include:
  • Book Reviews, Part IV (Showtime). Mr Radcliffe reviews Tod Bolsinger's book Showtime. Mr Radcliffe draws our attention to the two main points of the book, and ends with mild criticism pointing out that while accessible it is somewhat "breezy and basic".
  • Movie Review: "Constantine". Mr Radcliffe provides a synopsis of the plot and ends with
    With respect to its permeating religiosity, I think most Christians will find it generally positive. In fact, there are intelligent distinctions drawn between saving belief and mere knowledge. In addition, the movie discusses whether salvation may be earned. As a constant theme, "Constantine" commits to a plane of existence that is not merely material.
    and a final grade of A-.

Peace, Richard.

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Thursday, February 24

Victorian Technological Aesthetics

About a year ago, an acquaintance introduced me to using fountain pens. Fountain pens are not a high tech invention, but are very often finely crafted mechanical marvels. Just not from the 20th (or 21st) century. In the age of the iPod, PDAs, and cell-phone/cameras I find they still have an (increased) attraction.

If you can keep track of and not lose your pen, you can refill and re-use a fountain pen indefinitely. Non-disposability has its own appeal. Writing with it connects you with the whole pre-ballpoint era, back to the founding fathers (and before) with their quill pens. A good fountain pen has finely engraved metal, is machined to fine tolerances, and writes smoothly and well. I still find it amazing for instance, that the groove cut in the nib is cut with a stone cutting wheel. Now granted some people, collectors, take the whole thing to a different arena (financially as well) which interests me little. I like the feel and the idea of using the pens, nothing more. A good well maintained bicycle has some of the same appeal. It is a simple machine, but made to work well, with fine tolerances. What my liking for both indicates about me, I don't know, but there it is.

But, I really do need to work on making my handwriting more legible.

For more on fountain pens, I found this site useful.

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In the distant past ... (December) ... I proposed that our educational system was on the wrong track. In those essays, I proposed a sweeping set of reforms for our K-12 educational industry. One of the changes proposed, was my "four pillars" of education, which are all we really need to work on in those years (besides a small "core" of skills we all need to master to survive). Those skills were
  • Reasoning
  • Memorization
  • Perseverance
  • Diligence
An article in this weeks Science News provides support for my hypothesis.

The article was entitles Asian Kid's IQ Lift. In this article it is observed that by dint of memorizing Chinese pictorial symbols in order to learn their language, the Chinese children benefit from a 5 point average increase in their measured IQ.

I'm going to have to redouble my efforts to get my children to practice memorizing stuff.

On a off-topic note, Science News is a very good little periodical. I've gotten it for years. I started back when I was in graduate school in Physics. At that time, I noticed that the physics articles that came out were by and large cutting edge (within a week or so of the journals). I assume that this is the case in all the other fields of science that they cover. Since it is virtually impossible to keep up to date in all of science, it is much easier to read the articles in Science News. It is written at a high school level and is very good about including references to the Journal articles from which it draws its information, so you can easily dig deeper if you so choose.

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Roiling the Waters

Somehow anything said about evolution rubs some peoples fur the wrong way. At any rate, I thought this essay by Shannon Love worth reading.

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Visiting: .... in the outer ...

Today our we visit, the outer..., brought to us by an anonymous blogger. The motto for this blog is: ...i thought i was "in"...but it was "the outer"... so there i stand... Recent posts which caught my attention include:
  • What is the read purpose of prayer? Spurred on by Jeremy Pierce's essay on prayer we are asked to wonder about the purpose of our prayers
  • Is Blogging and Addiction Hmm, I wonder how Mrs Pseudo-Polymath might answer that question?
  • Of blessings and curses our host has recently been laid off, he recounts the story (thus far) on this in a series of posts.

Peace, and good luck with finding a job!

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Wednesday, February 23

The Beginning and the End

In considering ethical teachings from the Old and New Testament, do considerations of Creation and Eschatology enter? However while reading Jim's response (here) to my admittedly shallow musings about evil, it occurred to me that my initial thoughts on this (that the beginnings and endings do not have direct bearing on ethics) might be wrong.

Jim provides a quick little syllogism showing that this world is better than the "next". Then he challenges us to find the hole in his logic with, "Proceed to tear it apart, y'all". Now my first thoughts about what was wrong didn't get to the heart of the matter. That is, first I intended (and almost posted as a comment) to point out that the "next world", is actually this world. That is to say, based on the Creed (We believe in the resurrection of the body) or from Paul that what we await is the bodily resurrection here on earth. What we might expect isn't a life in the hereafter somewhere in a disembodied Hollywood heaven. However, given this that doesn't escape the logic of the syllogism. Because presumably while life still here on earth will still be plagued with natural disasters, they also would presumably not affect us in the same way ... back to nerfdom. So Jim's argument still stands, the hereafter being spiritual (or Hollywood style heaven) or on earth with (new and improved) eternal bodies.

Later seemed to me now that the key to the unwinding of the syllogism of course is, contained in the syllogism itself. Our life will be "full of God's presence". This is in a large part what we await (and lack now). That difference between the "nerf" world and now will loom large. Surely our motivations in our life will be just a tad re-oriented when endowed (fulfilled) with the presence of the Creator.

This in turn leads to the natural question, well, why didn't that omnipotent and benevolent God do that the first time? Why didn't he create us and our world to be just like that, i.e., full of God's presence. This in turn takes us to Adam and the fall (leaving God's presence through disobedience), then to Abram and the promise, then to Jesus and the 2nd Convenant (full circle).

My point is that beginnings and endings may have a lot more implications regarding one's ethics than I had originally suspected. While for now, I'm not going to change my course, I will have to keep in mind that these issues may not be mere Angelology. In defense of the Angelologists out there, I will also point out when you have your ducks in a row regarding your ethics, then you are free to exercise the implications of your theology with issues not directly related to "How then shall I live?" (that is to say ethics). But since I haven't got good answers to the first (easy?) question(s), I'm not given to spending much effort on the others.

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Matthew Yglesias (of the eponymous blog) has a short post on "intimate partner murder" in which he decides:
The data seems to suggest that there is, in fact, a silver lining to the "decline of marriage" and a dark side to its promotion.
Uhm, one wonders if Mr Yglesias has ever heard of children? Perhaps he has met one once or twice? Put on the way back machine and he might even recall being in that state himself. If he manages to do such a thing, he might recall that domestic violence is not the only consequence of marriage.

(That's all for this post)
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Mutual Annihilation

Today I noticed that Ann Althouse and I have mutually exclusive dietary habits.
Althouse: "I'm always using the Atkins diet. I love it for precisely the reason stated in the post: it's excitingly transgressive!"
My cycling/(slightly) high cholesterol diet emphasizes carbohydrates very much so over exclusion of fats and protein. I've joked in the past that this diet is the anti-Atkins diet.

Question is: if an anti-Atkins dieter and an Atkins dieter dine together, what happens?
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Christian Carnival is up

The Carnival is posted at Wallo World. I recently was alerted to Mr Wallo's excellent blog by Jollyblogger a few weeks ago. I've become a regular reader (which should serve as a reminder to update my links sidebar). Anyhow, go check it out and read some of his other essays while your there.

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Visiting: The Regulator

For today's visiting feature, we go to The Regulator brought to us by J A Greer. The motto is an explanation of the title.
Who were the frontier regulators? In Colonial South Carolina, the Regulator movement was an organized effort by backcountry settlers to restore law and order in the 1760's. In a digital world, this blog is attempting to bring some order to a little corner of the world. Come along for the ride...
Recent essays which caught my eye include:


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Tuesday, February 22

Christian Moral Rights: Freedoms of Speech and of the Press

See this for a summary of this series of essays thus far. In this essay, I intend to concentrate more on the differences between "Life, Liberty and ..." and my more wordy 7 moral rights derived from scripture. One of the key differences is that in that list there is no specific right to "liberty". If freedom is not a right, how might it be constrained? Do the specific rights I've listed guarantee the freedoms we cherish? For this essay I will consider our freedom of speech and of the press.

Freedom of the press was seen as one of the mainstays insuring that our liberties are not lost. Arguably, with today's big corporate media culture, our freedom is not being protected, but their corporate culture. However, into that vacuum, perhaps bloggers are taking (will take?) up the slack, performing the role that pamphleteers performed in late 18th century America. At any rate, these freedoms are protected precisely because they are seen to be one of the bulwarks against the slide into autocratic rule.

Thus there are good practical reasons for support of freedom of the press, are there any moral rights on my list that might support political (or religious) pamphleteering? Well I think the right to charity goes far to support this. As Descartes (I think) said, "Common sense is the only thing fairly distributed, for each man thinks he has his fair share." Following this, it would be charitable of us to share our wisdom with our neighbor. Since charity is my right, disseminating my "most excellent" (HT: Bill and Ted) opinion should be protected.

Freedom of speech, as separate from freedom of speech? What is that? If it is just the media, then the above arguments fit just as well. If not, I beg my gentle readers to point out the distinction, because right now I don't see it. I will consider this a little tonight, and may update this later, but for now ... I'll let it stand with our freedom of speech being distinguished from freedom of the press merely be medium.

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Where's the Dialog

I've been searching for the Social Security "dialog" and coming up empty. On the few "Left" leaning sites I visit regularly I've only seen defenses of Social Security describing how "it isn't broken" and which go deeply into economic forecasting for the future. What I haven't seen is any defense of it on principle. That is to say, explaining
  • Why the government should be in the retirement business in the first place?
  • What part of my social contract does retirement fall under?
  • Why, if it is a "safety net",there isn't means testing?
If any of you have seen essays addressing these issues, could you drop a URL in a comment. (That's all)
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Visiting: The Happy Husband

Today's visiting feature takes us to The Happy Husband brought to us by Curt Hendley. The motto of this blog, is celebrating marriage in a hostile world. Recent posts which caught my eye include:
  • Marriage villains at the blog party in response to a challenge by some of Mr Hendley's blog neighbors, he is naming the top five villains. In keeping with the theme of his blog, they are the top five opponents of marriage. The sponsor of the No-Fault divorce, gets top billing.
  • Marriage links for the week a roundup on marriage (and Valentines Day) links for the week.
  • Love stories Some links, and a short relating of Mr Hendley's faith journey and how he met his wife.

Peace be with you, Curt.

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Monday, February 21

Christian Moral Rights: A Statement of Purpose

Recently in a comment attached to an essay in this series (an exchange between myself and Mr Moderate I think the urgency behind this project is underscored.

I had written:
I am not trying to create a pseudo-theocracy (for the umpteenth time). My project is different. I have derived a "different" set of moral rights (from a different source). Having done so, I am wondering what sort of government and society might be formed by those rights.
He responded
I know you stated that you are not trying to craft a theocratic state in this country. What sort of government do you think will come out at the end of this exercise though? Whether you want it or not, I believe that religious right politicians are already walking down the path that you are going down, and the end result is a pseudo-theocracy. History has full of examples of this. While I don't think you are doing this for such a malicious purpose, reading it really stirs up the worries I have about your religious right politically active Christian brothers and sisters.

I don't know where I'll end up in my musing on these issues. But, granting Mr Moderate's fears, if I (and others like me) don't work though exercises like this, we won't have more reasonable alternatives to offer in place of an autocratic theocracy. Can a democratic (or republican) government be established on principles with a basis in Christian moral rights? I believe the answer to be in the affirmative.

If I gave a secular political theorist my list of rights (and told him to refer to Scripture only as a last resort when in doubt about what I meant by those rights) and then asked him to form a theory of government based both on those and on his historical understanding of the best theories of government he might find from history ... where would he end up. That is more the description of how I am trying to proceed with my task.

It is true, that because Christians (and other religiously based cultures) more naturally accept the idea of a higher authority (outside of the self) that there is the reasonable expectation that a authoritarian government might be more easily accepted. However while this acceptance of higher authority is true, it does not follow that an autocratic government is required.

I agree history is full of examples of religious fervor inspiring results which are uninspiring. At the same time, there are figures like Simon de Montfort whose religion and principles inspired exactly the kind of motivations in government that those like Mr Moderate would support, and that was in the dreaded Middle (dare I say "Dark") Ages. For further reading about Simon de Montfort I would recommend this.

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On The Lighter Side

It just struck me that judging by many of the essays I've read earlier, those of my Gentle readers with a philosophical bent would very much enjoy a book I read a few years back (if they haven't already read it). I enjoyed it enough that I inflicted it on several co-workers who also enjoyed it immensely. The book I refer to is ... (drum roll) ... Sewer, Gas and Electric : The Public Works Trilogy by Matt Ruff.

This book is a perversion of the original sense of trilogy. Most people view a trilogy as a story set in three books. This is (at least) three stories smashed together. One of those stories is a delightful parody of Ayn Rand. In fact, besides having a zany cast of characters drawn from the Fountainhead, we have Ayn Rand herself (or at least an AI simulacrum of her) as a character in her own parody. As they say, "I laughed out loud."

This book might even work as a mini-series on TV done in the style of "Blake 7" or "Dr Who".

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Dodging Denial

Dodging association and repudiating questionable statements made by allies seems to be the rage these days. From moderate Muslims not distancing themselves vehemently from their extremest brethren, Democratic congressmen not distancing themselves from the leftist "moonbat" conspiracy theories, to GOP leaders not repudiating extremists in their own camp. Why all the dodging? Especially by the Democratic and GOP?

Now it may be that those politicians are fearful of losing their support base. But to me seems a little spurious. It's not like a GOP politician is going to lose any support by distancing himself from say the foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Gay crowd. Let's face it, who might those individuals ally themselves with instead, the Left? Similarly, for the left, for Democratic leaders to repudiate the Bush=Hitler or America=Evil crowd, what would be the cost. Do you expect the MoveOn crowd, being spurned by a Democrat, to turn to the GOP for shelter.

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Visiting: A Ticking Time Blog

Today's visiting feature takes us to a ticking time blog, brought to us by (perhaps) Byron Harvey. A description of our author in the sidebar informs us that his title refers to "ticking people off, one blog at at a time". Recent posts which caught my eye include:
  • Just a Post Before I Go… Byron has gone on vacation, guest bloggers are filling in. His last post asks us,
    Here’s my question: how utterly bad, how meaningless, how banal must your life have become, for the marital status between two inconsequential people to interest you to the point of purchasing a magazine to read about it?
    As the Instapunudit says, "Indeed".
  • Lying about Lying about Social Security? fisking a discussion about Social Security.

I'm going to leave this blog in my list, to return to when the "master" is not on vacation, but in the meantime, Peace.

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Sunday, February 20

On Evil: A First Essay

I'm going to start a series on this topic. I am prompted by the series of essays I did for the Challenge series, there both by questions I posed about the existence of diseases like Parkinsons (Awakenings) and direct (befuddled) reasonings of Mr Smith in Atheism. Also, in the wake of the Boxer Day Tsunami, I had written an abortive post on that topic and want to correct that lapse. Alas, what I haven't done as yet, is go to the three "primary" sources for this essay which I have chosen, Aquinas On Evil, CS Lewis The Problem of Pain, and the book of Job from the Old Testament. I did have one thought this afternoon, which I'd like to share.

Human Evil and natural disasters exist in this world. Atheists have cited this as proof of either the lack of omnipotence or benevolence of God. That to me seems naive. If God acceded to the naive request of these Atheists, what we wonder would ensue? Voila, we'd be transported to teletubbyland, a nerf/smurf world lacking danger (an perhaps wonder and mystery) and moral choice. Is this one might wonder, truly what the Atheist requires God provide in order that God be proven to be benevolent and omnipotent. Given that, our atheist would be praying (?!) quickly for release from that padded cell. You'd think God would see that just as clearly. It seems to me disingenuous for the atheist to complain so heartily about the injustice, evil, and danger of the world when if it was removed he would complain just the same.

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