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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Saturday, February 19

The Silent Majority

Lefties like to remind everyone that they are in the 48% of the country that didn't vote for Mr Bush. Those on the right point to the mandate that 51% of the vote in an election that saw record turnout gives them. What neither side likes pointing out is that 48% is a lie as was the 51%. The 48% was actually 29% of the qualified voters and that the 51% was really 31% because only 60% showed up. But telling people you won the election by 31 to 29 (out of 100) doesn't have the same ring. Perhaps only lost by 2% sounds better, but not when you only got 29%.

40% of the voters didn't like either candidate very much or didn't really feel it affected them one way or another. Now if anyone points at polling data showing demographical splits of the missing 40% and who they might be likely to vote for ... don't. They didn't vote. It wasn't because they couldn't. It was because they couldn't be bothered, didn't care, or didn't like either candidate. They are the majority, apathetic (pathetic?) though they may be.

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Link Roundup

  • Powerline has a good joke up. Heh.
  • RedHunter provides some historical parallels for the Iraqi war.
  • David Mobley has a good essay on faith. He also has some links to view.
  • The Hatemongers in their special way warn us about students proclivity to binge drink.

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Friday, February 18

Add to the Reading List

Bill Wallo reviews Elliot Currie’s The Road to Whatever. If you don't read the book, read the review. If you don't then go out and get the book ... well you probably aren't raising kids.

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Christian Moral Rights: Freedom of Religion

Keying off of Mr Herzog at Right2Left and my ongoing essay series on Christian ideas and government. The question arises, does the first moral right on my list, of a right to worship my God include a right to worship other Gods (or no God at all)? Do any of the others on that list speak to this as well?

To cut to the chase (that is presenting my conclusions first), I think that a Christian theory of moral rights and government does imply that other that Christians should not excluded from government by dint of their worship practice. Furthermore, those state constitutional provisions which Mr Herzog mentions are not evidence of sound Christian ethical theory or practice.

In my first analysis of this moral right, I pointed out that the reason I used the phrase my God in stating this right, is that right now Christianity itself is very much divided within itself. As a result, we cannot point to one doctrinal stance of set of principles (be it Calvinist, Arminian, or in-between) and say with assurance that we are right. Aside from doctrine, within Christianity still, there is an even more wide range of worship practice. As a result, seeing that I had transformed the Commandment to Worship, into a right to do so, it seems clear that exactly how I might worship that God is disputed. But how I should worship matters less when deciding moral rights, than the mere fact that I have a right to be free to do so. Therefore, in respect to civil representation of this moral right that I possess, it seems the best solution is to allow for freedom for all to worship their God in the fashion they see best. We are then left with the matter of the "atheists". Atheists, when given the right to worship as they wish, choose to deny that right and not worship at all. When given a right, is one free to give it up? I think, unless there is compelling reasons to think otherwise that you do.

Historically, since one of the parts of the business of religion the molding of an ethical framework, it has been thought in past ages that these atheists have no ethics. This was why people were highly suspicious of them in the past. Anthropologically sadly enough, I would argue that atheists have just as little ethical education as the rest of their neighbors, and as such there is no a priori reason for withholding their discourse from the public square, especially as a group.

Furthermore Scripture supports these ideas. Paul himself warns that we are to be open an loving towards unbelievers. Excluding them from our government strikes me as not exactly satisfying these criteria. We are to deal strongly with our brethren when they sin, stray, or fall prey to heresy, but never with those outside our faith. This is why the exclusion of atheists and other unbelievers strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do and why those state laws Mr Herzog points out are not just a bad secular idea, but bad Christian practice as well.

Oddly enough, in a long gone essay last year I pointed out that in discourse, it is better for Christian legislators to frame their arguments in purely secular terms in order to engage those on the "other side". Conversely the secular legislator might find more engagement by using Christian (scriptural) arguments to couch their rhetoric. Had Mr Herzog taken that tack, he might have gotten further and raised some eyebrows at the same time.

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Towards a Christian Theory of Government

This blog post is a linkfest/collection of my essays on this subject. I'm going to put a link to it on my sidebar and keep updating as I continue to add essays to this "project". The current list of scriptural-based moral rights is:
  1. A right to worship my God, or freedom of religion.
  2. A right to raise my family in a righteous manner
  3. A right not to be killed
  4. A right to property
  5. A right to a fair system of jurisprudence.
  6. A right to charity
  7. And sexual freedom is not a right.

  • An early essay on a related topic is here.
  • The post that started me off is here. In this I derive my methodology for extracting ethical rights from Scripture.
  • I continue with the project here, starting to come up with my list of moral rights.
  • Finally the list comes out here.
  • Continuing in that vein, here.
  • I consider that list of rights and how it might affect employer/employee relations here.
  • Reload ... I need to take stock and reset my direction on this as the previous post left showed setting more groundwork is needed.
  • A few differences noted between the set of rights I envision and those framed in the Declaration of Independence.
  • Added (2/21) again restating and clarifying the original purpose.
  • Freedom of Speech? In a word, yes.

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Visiting: The Wardrobe Door

Today's visiting takes us to The Wardrobe Door brought to us by Aaron. The motto for this blog is "Passing through the door of the mundane into a world full of adventure, fulfillment and hearing me rant." Recent posts which caught my eye include:

Lots of other good stuff to see. Check it out.

May God's Peace be with you Aaron.

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Thursday, February 17

Mistaken Intelligence

I want to go on record early to say that from what I understand the new "office of National Intelligence" (now headed by Mr Negroponte) is a mistake. Just like the UN, an beauracracy is being created with responsiblity but no power. When it fails to accomplish its goals (being mainly powerless) it will be a lightning rod for blame, but being basically powerless will be ineffectual at actually bringing about change.

With the UN, note the answer is only partially to cede sovereignity and real power to that body. For good reason, we would be chary of doing so. That merely points to the flaws in how we have designed and implemented the existing UN and not necessarily in the idea of an extra-national body desigined to provide greater security for its member nations.

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Christian Moral Rights: Defining some Differences

Given the previous post, I have a new set of "guidelines" to consider living by and to align how we view our neighbors and community. The task before me is to highlight the differences in a community set up along these guidelines as opposed the one Mr Madison and company designed. Again, I will repeat that this is a theoretical exercise and is not meant as a replacement for our current legal thinking or practice. But the secular crowd harps on the "dangers" of combining church and state. One might ask what sort of government would one considers that does combine these elements. I for one, have no ready answer.

It is clear that the repressive modern (Islamic) theocratic regimes used as examples are neither the only possible answers nor an optimum solution to these questions. Historically if one looks at for example Simon de Montefort, he was a very religious man, but also one of the strongest early supporters of freedoms in the post Magna Carta England. And finally, the government I am proposing doesn't necessarily combine church and state, but it is just based on moral axioms derived not from the philosophy of Mr Locke and Mr Jefferson but taken as best I could from Scripture.

At the conclusion of the last essay, the next task set before me was to begin and emphasize the differences between the US concepts of moral rights and those I have listed.

In both sets of rules, we have a right to Life. That right is stated directly as a right to life in the former, and a right not to be killed in mine. The right not be killed was arrived at as a "reflection" of the injunction against killing in the commandments. However inasmuch as the Right to Life and Pursuit of Happiness are used currently to prop up laws for social purposes, the less positive right not to be killed, would not support those ideas as well. From where I stand in the political arena, this would seem a good thing. I would think also that abortion and euthanasia would have be less likely to be legalized, because of the right not be killed has no mention of "quality" of life and "pursuit of happiness" is not a inherent right.

In a previous essay I was stumped a little by the meaning of righteous in my second rule (the right to raise my family in a righteous manner). But this is an easier question than defining righteousness precisely from scripture. The reason for that is the previous right (to worship my God) and the current disunity of the Christian community. There is no consensus among Christians in so many facets of faith and righteousness is no exception. What this means is that we don't need a precise definition, but a common (sense) denominator. But the right to raise your family (which was derived and tied to responsibility to family) does mean a constriction of liberties. For one's liberty this implies that unlike the current belief system which holds that a 18 year old is legally free of familial constraint. In "my" system of moral rights it would instead be the rare (unfortunate) person who is free from familial responsibility, for he must be bereft of family.

I foresee two arguments have been against laws supporting a stronger family bond. The first argument would look again at the patriarchal societies in the modern world and note that they are often repressive and not modernized. However, I'm not sure at this point that I see the connection between that condition and supporting and strengthening the rights and responsibilities owed to the clan and family by legislation. The second argument little related, it would speak against strengthening the familial bond with legal ties by noting the existence of "bad" family leaders. I think this is where the common sense notion of raising your family "rightly" comes into play. If it can be demonstrated that the family is disfunctional by right of an abusive family leader, perhaps that is where the social contract enters in, that is the community has the collective right to correct this, "deposing" the authority of that patriarch (or matriarch).

While the moral rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit have a very positive uplifting ring to them and my 7 do not with a more dour outlook on man and his nature. On the other hand, the US Constitution shares the negative outlook on human nature. Its success might be laid partially to the idea that man's nature does not naturally tend towards "good", that checks and balances are required to keep his selfish interests at bay. Totalitarian and repressive regimes will, I think, be less not more likely on taking a realistic view of human nature and our moral rights.

To be continued ...

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Is there a statute of limitations for murder?

Yahoo! News - Tutankhamun Murder Mystery Hangs on March Report: "A team of experts expects to announce in March whether the latest test results on the mummified body of Tutankhamun will provide evidence for the theory that the boy pharaoh was murdered."

One might suspect that a few millenia would suffice? Well, I didn't do it! :)
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A Local Solution to Social Security

Now I am no legal expert, and the following proposal will probably make that clear. It is my understanding that government and municipal employees do not have to contribute to SS because the government agency has it's own plan. One might wonder if a municipality (town or state) might choose to attract business to its area by providing a shelter from SS taxation.

One way in which to do this is that the employees might be leased to the companies from the municipality (for a small processing fee + wages). In return the employer and employee would be free of the SS burden. In that way, neither the employee nor employer have to shoulder that 15% tax. The municipality would then have to take "care" of retirement, but do they? I don't know anything about legal restrictions on municipal retirement plans. Do they allow any flexibility? Could this agency then turn around and tell its "employees" in this plan that they are either on their own or perhaps they must provide proof that they are dutifully taking of their retirement privately.

Just a thought.

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Visiting: Mentor Mark Memoirs

Today's visiting feature takes us to Mentor Mark Memoirs brought to us an anonymous blogger who goes by MMM. The motto for this blog is Running thoughts from what is referred to as a "very scary place" it's a "horrible thing to waste"...yes, I talking about my mind! Some recent essays which caught my eye include:
  • PAUL Mc or Apostle After the superbowl halftime performance, MMM asks why we put Sir Paul on the pedestal and we tend to neglect St Paul.
  • LIFE lessons from Phantom of the Opera From the phantom, MMM extracts this lesson,
    Simply put...You need to live LIFE in front of people for them to realize the emotion, story, passion and power of what GOD has done in your life.
  • CHILDlike VS CHILDish MMM reminds us that these two words of Paul's are somewhat confused these days.

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Wednesday, February 16

Christian Carnival

Is up and seeing double. It's here and here. For some reason, at the first (Sharing Spirit) we're getting one post every half hour.

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Cycling: Why I Race?

In a bike shop earlier I was asked, "Why do you race?". Having answered, I have a short ready made essay (by merely regurgitating my reply). Why do I put myself through the rigors of training, doing intervals, piling on base miles, and watching my diet and all that stuff? Well, pull up a chair, freshen your drink, set a spell and I'll tell you why at the age of 43 with a job, wife, and two kids ... yet I race bicycles.

While I didn't start racing after leaving school, the seeds were planted. In 1990, I left grad school and the academy for a new calling. I took up the craft of programming. Now programming computers had been my hobby. It quickly became clear that while one can't complain if one makes your hobby to be your job, you also need a new hobby. Casting about, I decided to fix up a bike I had and ride that for exercise and to take up woodworking. With these two new hobbies, I would be able to keep myself "out of trouble". So I built a few bookshelves and acquired a few power tools, and rode some. Then our office moved and so did I. I found there was a route in which I could commute to work by bike and started riding to work. I also discovered, if I kept my car at work it was far harder to sleep in and avoid riding in to work in slightly inclement weather. With regular commuting, I convinced my wife, that a better bike was "required", as I was using it for transportation, the budget for the bike should compare more favorably with a car (I was driving a Ford Festiva, not exactly a luxury auto). So I researched around, talked at the bike shop, and bought a "real" racing bike. Also needless to say, now almost 9 years later, the woodworking tools have been set aside (or sold).

Well, commuting for the next year and a half, I started to feel pretty fit. I noticed a flyer for a time trial series in the "local bike shop" and decided to do the "race of truth" (a 20k) and find out how I measured up. Well, I'm at least as competitive as the next guy and pushed myself hard and liked enough to do another. After two time trials, I signed up and went out to a road race held in a park (90 minutes away), just to try it. That race was about a 25 mile race (5 x 5 mile laps if memory serves). It was a slightly cold spring day and the road was a little damp from an early rain. About 60 guys lined up for the race I entered. I still have some brief memories of that race. The silence of the morning broken only by the whirring of 60 chains on gears and the occasional clicking of shifters. One the second lap, a breakaway started, and being ignorant of tactics I went to the front for a hard pull in the wind. As I gulped for air after that effort somebody said, "Good pull". I did recover and manage to stay with the pack for that lap. About 1/3 of the way into the last lap, I lost contact with the pack and finished alone and tired. But that race had been one of the most enervating things I had ever taken part in. I was hooked.

A of mine teammate says we, "Race to train and train to race". One trains on a bike to keep get fit, for the mental discipline, and for better health. That next race or the next season is a great motivator to keep at your training. Good training is required to do that next race. It's a vicious cycle. In another month or two, I'll be back out there, nervously joking before the gun with other masters racers in their 40's and 50's who just like me, spent their winter in a basement ... hooked by the siren call of the peloton.

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The Game of Go

Decades ago (to be more precise) the 70s, some high school friends and I would play war-games. The old fashioned hex-board strategy games (Avalon Hill) were popular in our crowd. Avalon Hill also sold a set of Go, the Chinese strategy game which was sold as the Eastern variant of Chess. Now I will freely admit that I have very little skill at strategy games and never got to play Go more than a few dozen times. But the little I did play, taught me a lesson that is well learned but easily forgotten.

Like chess, Go is a game of pure strategy (no chance) between two opponents. The game consists of dropping colored stones one per turn onto a board. The object is to build "safe" areas to avoid capture. The player with the most stones remaining on the board at the end wins. The key to winning is to identify a losing situation early, abandoning it to cut your losses and moving elsewhere. The lesson of identifying a losing situation and quietly moving on, might be better learned by our political (and business) celebrities. Peoples actions in recent history, e.g. Rathergate and Mr Howard's current actions come to mind. I'm sure we can all come up with many other examples. The point is that, perhaps we Americans should spend a little time playing Go.

Playing Go could form habits that could help our political discourse.

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The Pajama Clad Strike Again

Here. As Mr Reynolds might say, heh.

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Visiting: Church of the Acronym

Today we visit the blog entitled Church of the Acronym, brought to us by Norma. Some recent posts which caught my eye include:


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Tuesday, February 15

The Evils of Education

With the Kipling post I linked we had evidence of a classical education (gone awry?). Here's what damage a little math can do. :)

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Christian Moral Rights: Restatement and Setting Course

Ages ago, I worked out a list of moral rights (go here for a start on where I got these from). These rights I would take to be the fundamental rights, that we as Christians might take in place of a right to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". I want to stress that this project is both in its infancy and is quite theoretical. What I mean by infancy is that for example, in claiming to have a list of "god given" moral rights based on scripture, I don't know whether I've missed some, included some that shouldn't be on the list, or am barking up the wrong tree altogether. By saying it's a theoretical project, what started this off is considering that we always talk about separation of church and state as being a good thing. But when I asked myself what the Christian ideals of government were ... I was stumped. What I am trying to do is to try to understand what sorts of features a Christian theory of government might look like. The other implication of this being a theoretical project is that I in no means have dropped my full support for our US Constitution and government in favor of the ideas I'm exploring here.

The list as it stands is:
  1. A right to worship my God, or freedom of religion.
  2. A right to raise my family in a righteous manner
  3. A right not to be killed
  4. A right to property
  5. A right to a fair system of jurisprudence.
  6. A right to charity
  7. And sexual freedom is not a right.
The US Constitution as it stands is a document restricting of the rights of the government and setting up procedures for establishment of the three branches of government, legislative, executive, and judicial. The amendments to the Constitution establish some of the rights which are not to be given up to the government, although it is noted time and time again, that the federal government tends to whittle away at those as time passes, which trend is probably why Mr Jefferson expected revolution to follow every few generations to re-establish our liberties. But Mr Jefferson lived in an age when the military capabilities of a civilian militia was on a par with the federal (professional) military forces. That age has passed. I digress, but the point I'm trying to make is that the Constitution is not a good document from which explicitly describes our rights or from which we can interpret the moral rights which we believe we possess and their application.

What I think I need to do in the next essay is try to discover and discuss differences (and similarities) between this set of rights and the one we hold dear in this land. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are no longer our right. How might that change our outlook? How is Liberty constrained, if I have a right to a fair legal system? If I have a right to worship the God of my choice, to raise my family how does that impact laws concerning marriage and family? What does it mean to say I don't have a right to sexual freedom?

(I realize this is a bad place to stop, but its late (for me) and the bike is calling.)

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A Few Hours More

My eldest daughter informed us this morning that she had "something" tonight at 7pm at school. She is supposed to be there at 20 minutes prior to the performance. I don't exactly know what's going to occur, but it is somewhat customary for fathers to be a little clueless. In any case, I will not be toiling over essays until the show is over.
Update: It was called a musical, but was really a choral concert for the 4th graders ... it was short.

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Just Asking

One wonders how long it will take for Mr Bush and the American Imperialism to be blamed for the Lebanon/Syrian situation?

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Visiting: Through a Glass Darkly

For today's visiting feature, we come to Through a Glass Darkly, brought to us by David W Opderbeck. The motto for this blog is the quotation from which the title was drawn,
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known - 1 Cor 13:12
Some posts which caught my eye include:

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Monday, February 14

A Cute App

A cute java app here (bandwidth is required to load database).

(HT: The Brain Spur via Jim (of Decorabilia))
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The Employee/Employer Relationship and Christian Rights

In the past month or so, I've been pondering how a Christian formulation of government might seem. In doing so, I took from Scripture moral teaching, usually in the form of laws or responsibilities, and re-interpreted them as rights by assuming that I must have those moral rights required to either carry out those responsibilities and laws. Instead of a right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness I arrived at a different list. The question I wish to address in the following, is how following the guidelines of this different list might we wish to re-interpret our understanding of the employer/employee relationship in the light of the recent discussion, i.e., the employee's freedom (privacy) to smoke tobacco in the home and the employer's freedom to hire whom he pleases by criteria of his choice.

As a reminder, the moral rights we will be taking as fundamental are:
  1. A right to worship my God, or freedom of religion.
  2. A right to raise my family in a righteous manner
  3. A right not to be killed
  4. A right to property
  5. A right to a fair system of jurisprudence.
  6. A right to charity
  7. And sexual freedom is not a right.
Now at first glance, one might be confused. How do we elicit any guidance on this from these issues. However, all is not lost. Many employers are persons (or corporations which legally have the same standing). We can structure the employer/employee relationship in analogy to the familial relationship. This does indeed have some level of scriptural basis looking at Genesis, Abraham and Jacob for example.

However the stickler in the moral right in play for how an employer may treat with his employees, "to raise my family in a righteous manner" is of course the emphasized word, "righteous". Now I am not a theologian, and I haven't studied what this word might mean in any concise manner. I hope to in the future, but ... in the meantime, I don't think smoking has very much relevance to righteousness. On the other hand, read this essay. In general the thrust of my ponderings leads me to thinking that while the employer has less explicit restrictions on what he may ask of his employer he also has more responsibility towards him. But these thoughts are a little unformed as yet. I think I will have to work more on the foundational sense of the implications of my 7 little (God given) moral rights.

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Challenge: Atheism essay 4

The final section of Atheism (by George Smith) concerns "the harmful effects of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, upon morality and the attainment of man's happiness and well-being on earth". Now, I admit, I approached these chapters with a small amount of hope, after all it is in the field of ethics where I think the claims of Atheists so often fall short. But I was, alas, disappointed.

First of Mr Smith starts by claiming, This identification of ethics with religion has no basis in fact, and few theologians care to defend such a position explicitly. This statement on face value is just a little laughable. A very large part of religion is about ethics, Law, the Torah. Stating that moral teaching are not to be found in Christianity (or Judaism) in specific or religion in general is just plain wrong. One might ask, what rock he climbed out from under if he thinks religions are not in the "ethics business". I'll admit I bridled a little when he briefly poked at "Christian examples" of social ethics which he felt were disasters, e.g., the Inquisitions and mixing of church and state. He felt it not necessary to mention secular examples of social ethical disasters from the 20th century, e.g., the Cultural Revolution or the Khmer Rouge.

On Mr Smith's "rational" exposition of ethics, he starts off on the wrong footing. He recognizes that one of the failings of the ideas of "rational" ethics, is that they too are based on assumptions taken on faith. To avoid this, he tries to redefine values as "facts" just like protons and electrons are facts. He says:
Medicine, for instance, prescribes those actions that must be taken in order to preserve health. A doctor prescribes what 'ought' to be done, but this prescription, to be valid, must be based on objective knowledge, such as the facts of human nature discovered through chemistry, physiology, anatomy, and so forth. Architecture is another normative science; an architect learns what 'ought' to be done in the course of constructing a building; and, as with medicine, his ought-judgments must be based on facts.
Which is of course, not true. First in the book I just read previously in this little Challenge exercise (Dr Sacks Awakenings), Dr Sacks cries out that defining health is not a dry cut objective thing. Those dry factual medical journal articles too often ignore the human element. That he emotional life, the spiritual life if you will, of the patient is to be ignored at the patient's peril. Also, architecture is not fact and "science". While the engineering aspects of concrete and steel must be followed, it is an art. Mr Smith states, "an architect 'ought' to do X, if he wants his building to stand", but he has to dream if he wants it to be beautiful. The architect who doesn't want his work to be beautiful, should get a new job.

Mr Smith contends, perhaps rightly, that in meta-ethics lie the fundamental disagreements between an atheists ethics and a Christians. Christian ethics, and in fact Christianity in general depend on giving yourself up to something greater. In the realm of ethics, Mr Smith will bow to nothing, be it man or God. That he bows to authority in many other walks of life. Certainly he does trusts the authority of the engineers who designed and built is airplanes, cars, computers, and food processing plants. He takes those things on faith, and does not feel the need to re-derive and understand from first principles all facets of his life. Mr Smith resists to the end the idea that we can take guidance from authority and use our reason to understand it.

Mr Smith also objects to, but fails to understand, sin. He thinks sin is a circular tautology: one should not disobey god, because to do so is a sin. And what is sin? A sin is disobeying god. I wonder what he thinks of Darwin, "Evolution is driven by survival of the fittest. And who are the fittest? Those who survive?" My guess is that he balks at the first statement but not the second. Why? Probably context. But in the large part, Mr Smith is caught up in "First Covenant" concepts, that we are saved from the consequence of sin by our actions. He doesn't get past the Christian apologetics discussions of sin in which it shown that we all sin, to the punch line of salvation by God's grace though faith. This displays a general feature I've seen before in atheists descriptions of Christianity, that is, they object to features of Christianity that aren't canon. This of course makes it more difficult to refute as it is indeed difficult to refute a position you don't hold.

Interestingly enough, this section ends with a discussion of the historical Jesus. This brings us full circle, because the text I had put forward in this challenge was in fact a new investigation, historical and theological, of Jesus. For discussions, I defer to those texts, or on the web (here).

Update: The Challenge started here and my three essays on the first book are here, here, and here. The other three essays (of mine) are here, here, and here. Jim of Decorabilia wrote three essays on the Challenge of Jesus which can be found here, here, and here.

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Love, Marriage, and Valentine's Day

This is the day set aside (by our balladeers and Hallmark) for secular worship of Love. For the last century and a half Western society has decided that love should be the primary reason for marriage. This seems to be a good as a day as any to consider if this is as good a thing was we might suppose.

Has this made us (collectively) a happier more contented people? Are our marriages improved over the past centuries? Granted, the skyrocketing divorce rate of the last few decades may have an additionally wrinkle to throw in the mix. But that divorce rate in the first place is only possible in some measure because we assume that because the "light of love" has gone out of the relationship, it might as well be terminated.

Now, it is certain that the young unmarried people in our midst, will not think highly of "the alternative". Arranged marriages during the age of teenage rebellion (or the post collegiate years) will not go over well with one's conceptions of independence and familial responsibility (or lack thereof). But that is not the alternative I would propose. Instead, I would counsel not necessarily looking to your parents to select your spouse, but that instead don't consider "love" to be the primary reason to marry.

For further reading I highly recommend the commentary and primary source material on this subject collected by Leon and Amy Kass, Wing to Wing, and Oar to Oar. My (unfortunate?) children will, alas, have to read this text prior to joining in the dating scene.

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Visiting: Be Bold, Be Gentle

Today's Visiting feature takes us to Be Bold, Be Gentle brought to us by Glenn Brooke. With the motto:
Christian encouragement for men -- an evangelical perspective on current events, Scripture, and coming up the husband and father learning curve. Boldness without gentleness is tyranny; gentleness without boldness is not Christlike. Jesus was both tough and tender. You can reach Glenn Brooke at The XML feed for this blog is
Recent posts that caught my eye include:


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Sunday, February 13

A Joke

A physicist, a biologist, and a mathematician were observing an empty house. As they watched, two people entered the house. Shortly after, three people left the house.

The physicist said, "Aha! Our initial assumption was invalid."

The biologist said, "No, I believe they simple multiplied."

The mathematician said, "You know, if one more person enters that house it will be empty again."

(passed on by a co-worker).

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Saturday, February 12

For the Kipling Fans

Eugene Volokh points to this. The things you can do with a good liberal education, eh?

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Friday, February 11

Employers and Employees vs Liberty

My two preliminary post on whether not smoking (tobacco) in the home can be grounds for either termination or bear on a hiring decision has engendered varying comments. To my idea that employers should expect those employees to bear the higher costs of their own health insurance, opinions differed. Sue Bob (web site here) thinks that medical insurance should be contracted by individuals, not your employer.

Elizabeth Anderson (of Left2Right) has also thrown her thoughts into the ring. Ms Anderson warns that we are straying dangerously into contract feudalism (and away from the nanny/nerf state I guess). On the surface, I had supposed that this was a conflict between the employees "right to privacy" and the employers rights of liberty. On reflection, this isn't quite right.

What people claim is a right to privacy isn't. It is really is just another flavor of liberty. My right to privacy is one of the freedoms I might claim. So the question when posed that way becomes: How does an employees freedoms to do what he wishes at home compare with the freedom of an employer to hire whom he pleases?

Many on the left, have decided that as part of our social contract, an employers rights to decide whom to hire must be restricted. They still recall with vivid details "workers" rights being trampled in the 19th and early 20th century. On the other hand, look at the situation from the perspective of an employer. Think of yourself as that employer. Restrictions are being placed on whom he (you) can or cannot employ and the criteria used to select them. If the government placed restrictions on whom you might choose to call friend and associate with, this would be seen as an unfair intrusion. Friendship is seen as a personal commitment. Imagine rules regulating allowable percentages of your friends by racial (or sexual) identity or affiliation. Arguably an employer depends more on his employees than we do our friends. He depends on their integrity and honesty in their labor. Most of us do not depend (on a daily basis) on our friends, just enjoy their company. One might ask: Why cannot an employer use whatever criteria he chooses to select his employees just as you and I can use whatever criteria we choose to select those whom we call friend.

At the heart of this matter it seems there is also a question of scale. Ms Anderson and those like her view the labor market as small and restricted. I would take the opposite view, that the labor market is large and changing. That if one employer chooses to restrict his labor pool to non-smokers, it is his right. Smokers can choose to work elsewhere. If one restricts your applicant pool too much, competitive advantage will be lost thereby and the market will weed you out. If however, you view the labor market as small, an employer deciding to restrict his applicant pool causes those workers outside of that criteria little or no hope in finding work. In the example Ms Anderson cites, of medieval serfdom, the alternative labor markets for the serf were highly restricted, but times have changed since then.

Update: I would suggest that perhaps labor restriction laws which are in place be based not on the company size, but the size of the labor market in that industry or specialization. When a large pool of jobs and workers exists, choices by employers might more easily be varied. In more specialized jobs, I could see the rationale for arguments which restrict choices that don't bear on the technical requirements of the job.

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Visiting: Sounding the Trumpet

Today's visiting feature is Sounding the Trumpet, brought to us by three anonymous bloggers, "coyote", "raccoon", and "falcon". The motto is Cutting edge conservative commentary from Cornell University. Recent posts that caught my eye include: Peace.

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Thursday, February 10

Challenge: Atheism essay 3

Continuing the challenge, I turn now to the third section of George Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God (previous essays here and here). In this section, Mr Smith, in his mind having disposed of the Christian faith, turns to other "natural theistic" theories, although still mainly concerned with Christian theology, because there hasn't been a lot else in the last dozen or so centuries. Interestingly enough, some of his arguments are mirrored on blogs today (here and here).

One of the primary objections he has to a Creator, is deciding who created the Creator. Now Mr Smith almost certainly looks down his nose at the Angelic Doctor's predilection for counting how many angels can fit on a pin, but he falls into the same trap (that of being mesmerized by his logic). For no irrespective of arguments of how the creator was created, it still remains however, that given the wonder and beauty of the universe in all its facets, that rejecting the idea of an intentional Creator remains more of a leap than not. Furthermore, taking the famous turtles all the way down phrase to capture his idea of the "regression" of who created the creator, and who created the creators creator and so on. This can be dealt with. Take the stack of turtles, we call the stack the Creator. Certainly logicians such as Mr Smith have discovered infinite sets, but perhaps since that wouldn't help the argument this is ignored.

The final objection he comes to in this section concerns the design not as in Intelligent Design, but of the Universe. Mr Smith says for example
to admit the existence of order is to eliminate the need for a god. When the French astronomer Laplace was asked by Napoleon why he did not mention God in his writing, Laplace replied, "Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis." And neither does anyone else
In a world in which the theoretical physics community have been trying very hard for the last 35 years to avoid the fine tuning of a multiplicity of parameters required by the Standard Model, one might take Napoleon's reply as perhaps someone did some of that fine tuning. The modern Cosmologist's anthropic principle could be re-interpreted in a theistic context as well. That there might be a design and designer puts more (not less) urgency to the drive to understand how the universe works.

Update: The Challenge started here and my three essays on the first book are here, here, and here. The other three essays (of mine) are here, here, and here. Jim of Decorabilia wrote three essays on the Challenge of Jesus which can be found here, here, and here.

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Are We Americans Becoming anti-Science?

David Mobley (of A Physicist's Perspective) asks if we as a people are becoming more anti-science. The anti-science movement has been in the culture for some time. I'm going to splash some thoughts into the water, with the dreaded bullet points. Hopefully, something will come out of the fog and I'll try to draw a conclusion at the end.
  • Back in the 70's there was a strong anti-science movement in the schools, wherein schoolwork was disdained, and "geeks" were regarded with social scorn. Judging from popular culture, this hasn't changed.
  • In the 80's I went to a relatively elite school (U of Chicago) and was largely insulated from the "geeks are bad" meme. But, I did take a class on the ethics of science and technology and by the end of the quarter only two of us (the only science majors in the class) were still defending science. When pushed to the wall, I was left with the Risky Business defense, i.e., it was (or would be) my livelihood ... don't f**k with it. But at the very least, this corroborates the idea that the intellectual elites (in the humanities and social sciences) have reflexive distrust of technology.
  • Mr Mobley also points out that the Conservative movement is beginning to realize that there are indeed looming ethical implications that come with our advancement in the medical and biological disciplines especially now that we are getting some real advances therein. Many are considering applying the brakes and taking stock of where we want to go.
  • Whether or not, the depiction of science in popular culture has been resoundingly negative, there are exceptions. The film, Apollo 13 did quite well. This may be the exception that proves the rule. Fantasy has been beating out hard science fiction for a long time. The 21st century fiction has no Lucky Star, Kimball Kinnison, or even Dominic Flandry to win the hearts and imaginations of our youngsters. Have Harry Potter and Gandalf have taken their place?
  • On the other hand, Baxter's hard science fiction books are on the shelves, and others fill that same niche. But by the same token, I doubt Mr Baxter's books are greedily sought by teens today.

I think there is some truth to the statement that our commitment to science has been waning. This is not a new trend. Perhaps in a few hundred years, the next Gibbons will write the "Rise and Fall of the American Dream" and pin the blame on our cultural disenchantment with science, but I don't think so. Cultural trends are fickle. The same trends that are disapproving of science and engineering, 40 years ago were diametrically opposite. Our libraries have not burned. No Rubicon has been crossed. The reasons we swung away from the pursuit of science need to be understood and delineated before we give up hope that the future generations will not have the same drive as the Apollo generation.

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Light Posting

I'm going to be on the run (I think) for most of the day. I don't know if I'll have any net access or much time. I'm going to get my Atheism #3 essay out tonight and I'll try to get to one of the other loose threads.

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Visiting: Stones Cry Out

Today, in the visiting series I am taken to one of the more well known God blog sites of the 'sphere. Stones Cry Out, brought to us by Drew, James Jewell, Mark Sides, Matthew Stokes, and Rick Brady. Some recent posts of note include:

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What Might Be Fair

With respect to those "home-smokers", who wish to work at a company with a non-smoking policy. It seems to me that the fair solution would be the following:
  • Smoking is a health risk. Smokers do have higher health costs.
  • As such, since in our current system, the employer provided medical (and often some life) insurance, it seems fair that an employer desiring to hire from the pool of non-smoking workers should not be required to bear the burden of increased health insurance costs from this higher risk pool.
  • Therefore the "fair" solution might be for the worker to bear the higher costs himself.
  • In that way neither the larger pool of non-smoking workers nor the employer will be asked to shoulder the costs due to voluntary high risk behavior of a few.
What this doesn't discuss are the moral and ethical issues involved with privacy and liberty. Again, I will defer that to a later essay.

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Wednesday, February 9

Moral Rights of Employers and Employees

Talk radio locally was blathering on today about a Michigan court case in which an employer let go some employees on discovering that they smoke (tobacco), not on the job but at home. The NYTimes mentions the story as well. The Michigan ACLU is protesting the action in court, citing the workers private life. Several moral rights are in conflict here. It remains to be seen if the arguments which ensue will seriously consider fundamental ethics or just be used as a soapbox for right and left to holler past each other to drum up their respective supporters.

But, I'm not going to finish this thought tonight, unless the rest of this post crystallizes and keeps me from sleeping. It's not terribly late, but I'm scheduled for 2 hours (with 4-6, 6 minute "cruise" intervals) on the bike tonight and I've got to get started in order to get finished.

I will get back to this though. The ethical tensions between the rights of privacy and liberty seem like a juicy nut to chew on.

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Quick Hit

Mr Motl has good news on Nuclear Fusion (here).

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Christian Carnival is up

The protomonk has the Christian Carnival up (here)

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Ashes to Ashes

Today is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. A day we remind ourselves of our mortality. I recall still quite vividly an Ash Wednesday 10 years ago when our ritual of the imposition of ashes, struck a deep chord with me. The note it sounded was not perhaps the message intended, but I think it was a good note nonetheless.

On that Wednesday, my eldest daughter was just a few months old. She had been hospitalized a week after her birth with a blockage of her intestine, and spend 14 days in the hospital. Now, in church I brought her in my arms for the imposition of ashes. Our priest daubed ashes on her forehead intoning (something like), ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I felt a little of the response a mother grizzly bear displays when her cubs are threatened. That is to say, my paternal protective impulses were aroused at the idea of the tender life of this little child of mine, ... ending. In the subsequent 9 Ash Wednesday services, this feeling has never come back like it did at that moment, even though I looked for it.

Now the point of reminding us of our mortality is not to press home the message of our responsibilities and what we are called to give to our children. But overall I think it was a good lesson for that new father. It shows that while the lesson being taught is not always the lesson learned this isn't always a bad thing.

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Visiting: worship naked

For today's visiting feature, we come to worship naked, brought to us by an anonymous blogger. The motto for this blog is, "David danced before the Lord with all his might." 2 Sa. 6:14. Some recent posts of note include:Thanks and peace.

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Tuesday, February 8

Five Greatest Americans

Joe Carter over at Evangelical Outpost, notes that Discovery channel has a poll to pick the five greatest Americans. Go post your pick. I've picked five. Drop a comment, let me know who you picked. Click "more" for mine.
  1. George Washington
  2. John Adams
  3. Abraham Lincoln
  4. James Madison
  5. Edward Witten

It's hard to pick just five isn't it? I have to admit I did if fast, and may have missed someone. I will admit that my list has something of the "one of these things just doesn't belong" quality to it, eh?

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A Disingenuous Remark

Abortion proponents claim that the conservative anti-abortion crowd has no compassion for the "poor". It is unfair for the "rich" (or at least mostly middle class) conservatives to insisting that these poor babies be born into disadvantaged households without being able rely on abortion to ease their burdens.

It seems to me they would have to search far and wide for that poor person who in adulthood would hold their life would have been far better had they been aborted at 20 weeks. The idea that death is better than a hard life seems a little suspect, and I think that interviewing those people who have a hard life, would find few to none who would prefer never having lived.

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Visiting: Philosophical Poetry

For today's visiting series, we come to Philosophical Poetry brought to us by an anonymous host, but the URL is "" so I'll take a guess and call him (or her) Dan. This site is very different from most blogs I've seen in that all the entries are poems. Few notable entries include:
  • Snake Skin
    Wishing won’t change your skin,
    Still less what lives within;
    Undoubtably the instinct to begin
    Repenting without admitting sin:
    Too often this deceit alone will win
    The victim dim or doctrine thin.
  • Christening which is (of course) aptly named.
  • Approaching a Cemetary
  • Poetry Carnival lots of poems. Check it out.

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Reconsidering Mr Vellman's Arguments

Earlier today I took a rhetorical shot at Mr Vellman's essay on abortion, to which he points out that "I'm missing the thrust" of his argument. He asked me to re-read all his posts more carefully and take them as a whole, before passing judgment, not pick a (regrettable) phrase here and there to lampoon. Well, it's late, but I skimmed the previous posts and will make a less acerbic pass at his argument.

Mr Vellman's arc of argument travels something like this:
  • Liberals should loosen their grip on Roe v Wade because
    • It is a court fiat which could be overturned
    • Most abortions performed aren't the ones which are widely protested
    • Finally "there are legitimate moral reasons for restricting abortion after 18 weeks."
  • Furthermore the argument that the right to abortion is about a "right of privacy" held by the woman "does great damage to liberal's credibility" (Note: I'm withholding snarky remarks here with a certain amount of difficulty). :)
  • He then admits that his arguments will not find traction with those who hold against abortion on religious grounds, but secular objections to abortion are brushed aside by supporters who seem to view abortion in a "light minded" approach. Which I infer is basically that they don't take the issue seriously enough.
  • In the next essay, Mr Vellman informs us that the Conservatives ask when human life begins, liberals when the fetus becomes a person. (Note: human life begins at conception. The arguments ensues over whether that matters.)
  • As to the question of when a fetus becomes a person, he finds that your mental life defines you as a person.
  • However, based on his "similarity" arguments of today's essay, he doesn't even have to go there, because it can be found that shortly after the fetus stops looking indistinguishable from a chicken fetus, we shouldn't kill it. (Which is where I attacked earlier today pointing out that dehumanization is not a new tactic).
  • At this point in his argument, Mr Vellman has come far. He has entreated his fellows on the left, to retreat from third trimester abortions to 18 weeks (which he terms "quickening").
He mentions but discards arguments based on viability in vitro however not because viability is going to be ever retreating towards conception as medicine continues its march to a Brave New World (so to speak) and thus those arguments will get weaker as time goes on.

In my previous post, I had pointed out that the point isn't about when the fetus gets "personhood" or a "right to life", but that we should treat human life as special, sacred. A fetus doesn't have the mental life of an adult, but neither does a newborn. That's not the point. The point is that it will (God willing) become fully human. Therefore, from conception I believe we should regard it with special significance.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Vellman's point about avoiding "light-mindedness", but he doesn't take it far enough. This is why abortion should be illegal. Legality and morality are not the same. An act can be legal and immoral, and just as easily can be moral but illegal. I might argue that a father whose child has been harmed, if justice was not served, might find it moral to execute justice on his own. This is illegal. It may be moral. Similarly that a couple might decide that moral thing to do is to abort their child is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Just as the previous case, that does not necessitate society removing legal penalties for their actions. Those legal penalties will insure that one does not entertain those actions lightly. In a world in which there are dozens of ways to prevent pregnancy in the first place if even a tiny amount of responsibility is assumed before conception makes the case that "light mindedness" will be not avoided without the making abortion illegal.

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Monday, February 7

Challenge: Atheism essay 2

George Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God is the book I am reading as part of a challenge I made almost a month ago. My counterparts, are reading N.T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus and producing their respective commentary on that. Mr Smith, in his book, has divided his polemic against God into four parts, and as a result, I have chosen to write four essays. In the second section, Reason, Faith, and Revelation he discusses how reason is incompatible with faith and revelation.

Before I begin, I have three rhetorical questions for Mr Smith. First, he feels that reason is paramount. Faith has no part in his makeup. One might wonder then, how he arrives at any ethical decisions. Whence come his assumptions on which he basis his ethical framework. If he doesn't call it faith, he kids himself, for the distinction is merely semantics. Secondly, he extensively quotes theological sources. If he has in fact carefully read Augustine and Aquinas (not to speak of later theological writers) and not merely mined their writings for quotes, one might wonder that he can blandly say, that reason takes no part in theology. He certainly does not ascribe to the same postulates, but to say that reason is not employed in the practice of theology is not sustainable. Finally, this is part of the reason I chose the book by Mr Wright who uses modern historical methodology (reason) to investigate Jesus (and the resurrection), but his results are not the same as Mr Smith might expect.

Mr Smith starts this section of his book delineating the dividing line between faith and reason. He quotes, Ayn Rand as an Objectivist and Bertram Russell as a Logical Positivist delineating on the grounding in which reason finds its basis. He quotes Augustine in the City of God quoting:
Being led ... to prefer the Catholic doctrine, I felt that her proceeding was more unassuming and honest, in that she required to be believed things not demonstrated ...
I find it telling that he did not choose instead from the Confessions the following:
Your entire creation never ceases to praise you ... animals and physical matter find a voice through those who contemplate them
But I guess, Augustine calling the faithful to the pursuit of understanding nature is not on message, after all in an argument showing the division of faith and reason, the call of one of the faithful to express their faith by using reason to understand the creator's universe is not helpful (but certainly not unique to Augustine). Mr Smith also uses the example of Galileo to show how religion and science have long been at loggerheads (for a debunking of that particular historical myth see this). He also claims that in ancient times, men were more ready to believe the fantastic, like virgin birth and resurrection. Now, after the Enlightenment I will agree that we take as an article of faith that the miraculous cannot exist, but I don't think that the common man would find miracles very much more likely.

Mr Smith says faith cannot rescue us from the inadequacies of reason simply because reason is not inadequate. Logical Positivism is not a going concern in the ethical realm because it has been found inadequate. Now I'll admit, I'm running the tables just as he is. Mr Smith runs his arguments against what was attacked by the Enlightenment and I, for my part, drive my hammer against the inadequacies of reason. I'm not going to go head to head with each of his arguments, but he does show a tendency to cherry pick theologians and their arguments. I'll take one of his arguments for example. He picks out articles from the Old Testament and New which are interpreted to show that Jesus was the Messiah, fulfillment of the hope of Israel. That Jesus and his followers did find it reasonable that he was the fulfillment of the hope of Israel it seems not to enter in the discussion. That Paul, a Pharisee, could on meeting the resurrected Christ believe, matters not.

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How Not to Split Hairs

David Vellman over at Left2Right in a continuing attempt to codify and explain the left's ethical grounding and principles has brilliantly boxed himself into a corner vis a vis abortion. He writes:
Hursthouse argues that many of our moral intuitions about abortion are best understood as judgments, not about rights and duties, but rather about virtue and vice. In some cases, choosing or performing an abortion is cruel, callous, or frivolous. What makes abortion unethical in these cases, according to Hursthouse, is precisely that it is vicious -- that it manifests the vices of cruelty, callousness, or what Hursthouse calls "lightmindedness". In other cases, however, choosing or performing an abortion can be responsible, prudent, even selfless, and then what makes it ethical, according to Hursthouse, that it is virtuous.

... snip ...

Abortion can be far more vicious than selling organs or desecrating a corpse, since it involves killing. The ability to kill what looks just like a human baby is an ability that we cannot morally afford to have. Such killing can therefore be unethical, in my view, whether or not it kills a person endowed with a right to life.
So as long as it looks different it's ok to kill. Kind how people justified inhuman treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, or inter-racial slavery in other times. De-humanize the victim and you can do whatever you want. Now, in most venues, the left is very sensitive to this kind of argument, correcting our speech patterns to rid us of "incorrect" and "hateful" expression. But since, for whatever reason, abortion and the right to sacrifice children on an altar of convenience is one cause taken up by the left above all others, intellectual honesty must go by the wayside.

(Note: Meta-ethical considerations of virtue ethics in general is another question entirely, and will be deferred to a later time.)

While on this subject, another argument in vogue used to support abortion currently is to recount that 80% of conceptions fail to implant, therefore providing an example of "natural" abortion. Well, some people have heart attacks naturally. That doesn't make it ok, to inject family members or strangers with an overdose of adrenaline causing a heart attack artificially does it? Similarly, I fail to see how the failure of implantation has any bearing on the question of the ethics of abortion.

I will however agree that one can bypass "right to life" when considering the questio of abortion. The correct phrase is "sanctity of life". That is why we don't desecrate corpses (from his example) and why abortion is wrong.

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