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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Fallacy of Fairness part IV

The other day on the Fallacy of Fairness part III thread, commenter "Ginx" basically asked Why are we sacrificing some portion of our finest children for the sake of the middle? I thought it was on today's installment but it was actually back when we were on "part II" of this series that Sowell addressed this question in his typically succinct manner...

"Those with that vision do not want to even discuss evidence that students from different groups spend different amounts of time on homework and different amounts of time on social activities. To admit that inputs affect outputs, whether in education, in the economy or in other areas, would be to undermine the vision and agenda of the left, and deprive those who believe in that vision of a moral melodrama, starring themselves as defenders of the oppressed and crusaders against the forces of evil.

Redistribution of material resources has a very poor track record when it comes to actually helping those who are lagging, whether in education, in the economy or elsewhere. What they need are the attitudes, priorities and behavior which produce the outcomes desired.

But changing anyone's attitudes, priorities and behavior is a lot harder than taking a stance as defenders of the oppressed and crusaders against the forces of evil."

Yes indeed, who could argue that "changing behavior is alot harder than taking a stance as a defender of the oppressed and a crusader against the forces of evil"? It would appear that administrators are taking the easy way out and ignoring certain realities. Sowell had another series awhile back entitled "Heroes and Villains" in which he described how often times, those on the left need to manufacture villains and paint themselves as the heroes in order to pass whatever social agenda happens to be the flavor of the day. Rationality is the first victim of such scenarios as politicians who have neither produced anything in thier entire lives, nor have ever had to meet a payroll appeal to emotion and suddenly know what's best and "fair" for all while economists are left to "puzzle" over how they arrive at their conclusions.

Moving on, a commenter by the name of Marcus had a couple of, shall we say, "interesting'' quotations about different groups of people and how there are varying achievment levels between them. One such quote from Marcus was..Some races won't catch up. They are just not able. My reply to him was something I had learned from Sowell awhile back. I replied (quoting an article) "Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune editorial writer, opened the media door to this educational truth when he wrote, ‘About 8 percent of Harvard University undergraduates were black. One-half to two-thirds of them were either West Indian or African Immigrants." This would seem to indicate a correlation between the nuclear family and discipline from a father figure who is all to often absent among African-American households which happen to skew disproportionately single-parent (read: mother only). I would be interested in any other theories as to why this statistic is as it is.

Another item I'm sure Marcus had not taken into consideration is the fact that when intelligence tests were administered on new recruits during the First World War, black soldiers from certain areas on the country consistently outscored whites. In a very informative study by Jennifer D. Keene, we read....

"...test results in which literate black draftees from a few northern states outscored white draftees from several southern states. Blacks draftees from New York, for instance, scored higher than white draftees from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, while black draftees from Illinois could add Alabama and Kentucky to that list. Black conscripts from Ohio received even higher scores, bettering white draftees from all the previously mentioned states as well as Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee (Yerkes, 1921, 690-
91, tables 205, 206)"

So as we can see, one's skin color really isnt a factor. What are some possible explanations? Sowell proposes an idea that seems unique, if for no other reason, it isnt really discussed much amongst members of the media or politicians because it can take away from them their "Hero" status. We read....

"It is also a hard fact of history that some races had far more advanced technological, economic and other achievements than others at particular times and places. But those who were ahead in some centuries were often behind in other centuries-- the Chinese and the Europeans having changed positions dramatically after Europe eventually caught up with China and then surpassed it within recent centuries. But there was no evidence of any dramatic changes in genetics among either the Chinese or the Europeans.

While striking changes in the relative positions of different races at different periods of history undermine genetic explanations, the fact that there has been no period when their achievements have been the same undermines today's presumption that different economic or other outcomes are due to discrimination.

Whatever the innate capacity of any race, class or other group, what pays off in the real world are developed capabilities, and these have never been the same-- or even close to being the same-- for individuals or groups."

You see? Things change over time and the group that was once "top banana" in one generation will someday be playing catch-up several generations later. What goes around comes around and I doubt that anything is ever going to change that, despite what politicians might attempt to socially engineer or dream of doing. The wheel of history continues to turn. Who can tell what the status will be in a generation from now?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is There a Doctor in the House? The Impact of Christianity in the Formation of Hospitals as We Know Them

In continuing our series on the book What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? and examining the impact of Jesus Christ on Western civilization, the next item I wanted to examine is the influence of Christianity in the area of hospitals and how they came about. Dr D. James Kennedy and Dr Jerry Newcombe write in Chapter 10 of their book that....

"Prior to the influence of Christ , we find that in some cultures there were a few scattered, rudimentary places where the sick were brought. This includes military hospitals for roman soldiers, and in ancient Greece, temples of Asculapius, where supersition abounded and where patients were taken advantage of by unscrupoulous priests.
Life was cruel prior to the influence of Jesus Christ. So caing for the nonuseful sick was not a priority. For example, Plautus, a Roman philosopher of the egoistic school said "A man is a wolf to a man whom he does not know."

The chapter goes on to point out that the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD instructed "every cathedral city in Christiandom" to "start a hospital". The historian George Grant stated that Saint Basil of Caesaria in the 4th century establish what could be described as the first "non-ambulatory hospital" that is, a medical center that had beds for it's patients. Also mentioned is "A wealthy Christian woman, Fabiola, , a disciple of St Jerome, is credited with having built the first hospital in the western world, in Rome, circa AD 400."
"The oldest hospital still functioning in the world today is the hotel Dieu (God) in Paris, established by st Landry around AD 600. It was a medical establishment then as well. I. Donald Snook, author of Hospitals: What They Are and how They Work wrote "Even by current standards, this early French hospital could truly be called a medical centre, since it embraced many of the varied activities necassary to care for the sick."
"The oldest hospital in the New World still in existance today is the Jesus of Nazereth hospital in Mexico City, established by Cortez in 1524. "

Compare the work of Christians in the field of health with that of atheists. "During the French Revolution there was a revolt against the Church-the hospital system essentially broke down. As many as one-third of France's hospitals ceased operating." In fact, according to author Colin Jones (The Charitable Imperative: Hospitals and Nursing in Ancient Regime and Revolutionary France), during that anti-clerical regime that "private charity seemed to dry up altogether".

Let me conclude by saying it was through the work of two dedicated Christians that many lives were saved as the work of hospitals was transformed. First was the father of modern bacteriology Louis Pastuer and the second was Joseph Lister who pioneered antiseptic surgery. were it not for these two dedicated Christians, who knows how many more lives would have been lost?

Monday, February 22, 2010

What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? The Standing of Women in Society

Tracy C. of the blog Abundant Living was kind enough to invite me to guest blog over at her site. The next installment from the landmark classic by Kennedy and Newcombe is on the differences before and after Christ's first coming on the status of women in society. I would be pleased to discuss the matter here or over on Tracy's blog. Here's a link to her blog if you would like to read the latest installment in this ongoing series over there.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Fallacy of Fairness part III

In continuing the discussion of the fallacy off "fairness", the third installment on this issue brings up the following.

"whether any human being has ever had the omniscience to determine and undo the many differences among people born into different families and cultures-- with different priorities, attitudes and behavior-- is a very big question. And to concentrate the vast amount of power needed to carry out that sweeping agenda is a dangerous gamble, whose actual consequences have too often been written on the pages of history in blood.

There is no question that the accident of birth is a huge factor in the fate of people. What is a very serious question is how much anyone can do about that without creating other, and often worse, problems. Providing free public education, scholarships to colleges and other opportunities for achievement are fine as far as they go, but there should be no illusion that they can undo all the differences in priorities, attitudes and efforts among different individuals and groups.

Trying to change whole cultures and subcultures in which different individuals are raised would be a staggering task. But the ideology of multiculturalism, which pronounces all cultures to be equally valid, puts that task off limits. This paints people into whatever corner the accident of birth has put them.

Under these severe constraints, all that is left is to blame others when the outcomes are different for different individuals and groups. Apparently those who are lagging are to continue to think and act as they have in the past-- and yet somehow have better outcomes in the future. And, if they don't get the same outcomes as others, then according to this way of seeing the world, it is society's fault!"

What I took from the above was Sowell's quote where he states that the ideology of multiculturalism pronounces all cultures to be equally valid. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some people from certain cultures do need a bit more help to catch up with others in an educational setting. It's fine to help others when we can. We shouldnt however, "dumb down" the playing field to hold back those who are high achievers. Society is ultimately the big loser in such schemes after the kids themselves whose intellectual growth is slowed by the advancement of a well meaning but completely misguided, multicultural fairytale that fairness can be imposed at will.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Fallacy of Fairness part II

In continuing his tradition of great articles, economist Thomas Sowell elaborates more on the whiney, liberal mentality that screams b-b-b-but, it's not Fair! and seperates the emotion that the left has in such abundance and substitutes it for common sense. Here is the link to the entire article. Here is what I thought were it's key components.

"In keeping with the rhetoric of the prevailing ideology, our education professor refers to "privileged" parents and "privileged" children who want to "forestall any progress toward equity." In the language of the politically correct, achievement is equated with privilege. Such verbal sleight of hand evades the question whether individuals' own priorities and efforts affect outcomes, whether in education or in other endeavors. No need to look at empirical evidence when a clever phrase can take that whole question off the table.

This verbal sleight of hand is not confined to education. A study of incomes of various groups in Toronto concluded that Canadians of Japanese ancestry were the most "privileged" group in that city. That is, people of Japanese ancestry there had higher incomes than members of other minorities and higher than that of the white majority in Toronto.

What makes the "privileged" label a particularly bad joke in this case is a history of blatant discrimination against the Japanese in Canada in years past, including a longer internment during World War II than that of Japanese Americans. But, to some on the left, the very concept of achievement must be banished by all means necessary, regardless of the facts."

I don't know about you but I cringe everytime I hear a bureaucrat or politician utter the word "equity" as much as I would if they used the word "blood", "soil" or volk. There is no such thing as fairness in this plane of existance, no mater how much those on the left would wish that acheiving it meant only caring enough and supporting the right causes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

'A New Hope' for Angola inmates

A new film was recently screened at Angola, a Louisiana State Penetentiary entitled A New Hope. Over 800 prisoners were able to watch it. It chronicles The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary which opened an extension center there in 1996 to provide an education and theological training to the inmates. The results speak for themselves.

"Since the NOBTS extension center opened in 1996, 147 former and current inmates have embraced a calling to the ministry and earned bachelor of arts in Christian ministry degrees. Currently, 120 inmates are enrolled, extension center director John Robson said.

The Bible college, as the Angola extension center also is called, has changed the prison's atmosphere. In 1995, Angola reported 1,016 violent incidents, including assaults, murders, suicides and escapes. In 2008, there were only 376 incidences of violence, mostly inmate-on-inmate assaults without weapons, according to prison records.

Angola's current population includes 70 NOBTS graduates. They lead congregations at the six interfaith chapels on the prison grounds, assist chaplains in ministry and, in a new program, serve as missionaries for three-month stints at other correctional facilities in the state. Currently, 28 incarcerated graduates are ministering in seven state correctional centers and the State Police Barracks, according to Angola communications officer Gary Young. "The Bible college here is a miracle story," said Robert Toney, a NAMB-endorsed chaplain who has served at Angola the past 10 years. "It has brought tremendous hope to the prison population. Inmates can graduate with a B.A. degree in religion, a legitimate degree. They can go to LSU or anywhere they want to go and build on that degree."

I think it's a wonderful thing what the Southern Baptists are doing in Angola and elsewhere. There are plans to expand the project to to other states as well. A considerable amount of inmates arent going anywhere, anytime real soon and they might as well help further the Kingdom while they are there if they feel the calling.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The abortion clinic and other novel ideas of Adolf Hitler

In keeping with the theme that 76% of all Planned Parenthood clinics are located in minority neighborhoods, today's article points out another billboard campaign similar to the one in Atlanta cited in yesterday's entry, this time, in Poland. The above billboard traslates to "Abortion for Polish women introduced by Hitler on March 9, 1943". And it's true. The article is well footnoted and contains the following items...
  • Until 1932, abortion was banned in Poland without exceptions. In that year a new Penal Code legalized abortion strictly when there were medical reasons and, for the first time in Europe, when the pregnancy resulted from a criminal act. Except during the German occupation during the Second World War, this law was in effect from 1932 to 1956.
  • (Hitler) he was the first major Western leader to allow abortion even for reasons of the stress of the mother – thus making it legal in nearly every circumstance. His idea was to limit the growth of populations (lessen them, actually) in the Eastern territories where he wanted the German empire to expand – while increasing pregnancies and births to "Aryan" couples.
Hitler introduced the novel concept of free-standing abortion mills in a 1942 policy statement..

"In view of the large families of the Slav native population, it could only suit us if girls and women there had as many abortions as possible. We are not interested in seeing the non-German population multiply. ...
We must use every means to instill in the population the idea that it is harmful to have several children, the expenses that they cause and the dangerous effect on woman's health. ...
It will be necessary to open special institutions for abortions and doctors must be able to help out there in case there is any question of this being a breach of their professional ethics."

None of this does any good for the pro-aborts as the writhe in pain from the direct comparisons to Adolf Hitler. They are still in denial that Planned Parenthood's Birth Control Review publication once carried and article by Ernst Rudin, Hitler's director of sterilization, and the speech Margaret Sanger gave at a KKK rally in Silver Lake, New Jersey. I hardly expect them to become suddenly open minded now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Georgia Billboards Link Race, Abortion

I believe it was Ginx who I mentioned to the other day over at Mike L's Christian Cognition blog concerning the disproportionate number (76%) of Planned Parenthood clinics that are located in minority neighborhoods. Fresh on the heels of that discussion comes this article for CBS News which relays the following...

"The message on dozens of billboards across Atlanta is provocative: Black children are an "endangered species."

The eyebrow-raising ads featuring a young black child are an effort by the anti-abortion movement to use race to rally support within the black community. The reaction from black leaders has been mixed, but the "Too Many Aborted" campaign, which so far is unique to only Georgia, is drawing support from other anti-abortion groups across the country.

"It's ingenious," said the Rev. Johnny Hunter, national director of the Life Education and Resource Network, a North Carolina-based anti-abortion group aimed at African-Americans that operates in 27 states. "This campaign is in your face, and nobody can ignore it."

The billboards went up last week in Atlanta and urge black women to "get outraged." The effort is sponsored by Georgia Right to Life, which also is pushing legislation that aims to ban abortions based on race.

Black women accounted for the majority of abortions in Georgia in 2006, even though blacks make up just a third of the state's population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, black women were more than three times as likely to get an abortion in 2006 compared with white women, according to the CDC."

The article goes on to describe how the first black POTUS is "out of step" with the black community on this issue. Given that Obama once supported a form of of infanticide, it would appear that he is out of step with a wide variety of people on the subject. To understand the plight of the black community in the wake of this self-induced genocide that is occuring is paramount to helping alleve the problem of all of the unintneded pregnancies. This link contins 10 success stories of different abstinence programs. I would rather give these a try on a wider basis than simply handing out condoms to kids with the implication that it's all OK and hope that they actually use them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Iran's Birthday Bash

Fresh on the heels of a story from the UK to scrap the teaching of history from before the year 1700 comes an article from Ralph Peters which demonstrates the ignorance of people in learning the lessons from 2oth century history.

"Yesterday, the Islamist dictatorship in Tehran celebrated its 31st birthday with nuclear candles, crushing Iranian dreams of freedom and Western hopes of appeasement. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his scientists have already enriched uranium to the crucial 20 percent hurdle, threatening to go all the way to nuke capability. In the streets, thugs smashed scattered freedom rallies -- clubbing, gassing and firing on demonstrators -- while hundreds of thousands of organized regime supporters rallied in Tehran's main square. And the world turned away. Except China: Beijing gave a silent cheer.

What happens next? Having threatened "consequences" yet again in his State of the Union message, President Obama will play at picayune sanctions, achieving nothing. He won't even take a convincing rhetorical stand in support of the freedom marchers. Europe will do even less. Russia will flash us some thigh, only to cover up again and return to embracing Iran. But what's coming up in Iran will really test us."

The parallels between the policy of appeasement from the late 1930's and today's diplomats are unmistakeable. The world allows a situation to fester in which a madman is allowed to arm himself with all manner of weaponry and in the meantime the world fiddles away, hoping that it will all work out in the end. The attitude of Europe is especially disappointing to me being that they are probably #3 on the list of areas to be threatened by this thuggish regime after Israel and the US.

But think about it. Who does Ahmadinejad and his cohorts have to worry about? The pant-suited brigade of overpaid CPA's and attorneys masquerading as the US State Department? China? Russia? France? Puh-leeze. Nobody wants to stand up to this menace due to a Chamberlain-esque attitude toward an unhealthy desire of "peace in our time" at almost any cost. If anyone would like to offer their thoughts about what a reasonable course of action should look like in response to this menace, I would be pleased to read about your ideas here. In the meantime, the words of Dennis Pranger come to mind..

"For example, another popular liberal bumper sticker proclaims, "War Is not the Answer." It, too, is completely meaningless. If the question is, "What is the square root of 8?" war is not the answer. But if the question is "How do you stop genocidal regimes?" war probably is the answer."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Unless We All Matter

In yesterday's article by Wesley J. Smith, the topic of bioethics is discussed. Smith goes on to cite a recent statement from bioethicist Alasdair Cochrane of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights in the United Kingdom. Cochrane starts off well enough but here is where he goes off the track a little to say the least....

"If all human beings possess dignity–this extraordinary moral worth–we need some explanation of what it is about the species Homo sapiens that makes them so deserving. When we start looking at particular characteristics that might ground dignity – language-use, moral action, sociality, sentience, self-consciousness, and so on – we soon see that none of these qualities are in fact possessed by each and every human. We are therefore left wondering why all human beings actually do possess dignity."

One would have hoped that arguments in favor of eugenics had gone away a long time ago but people seldom pay attention to history. While I don't know what's inside Mr Cochrane's heart, I would say that the seminal beginnings of discussions about how some life is more worthy than others start with the examination of such matters brought up by Cochrane. We as human beings are different from beasts and Christianity teaches the preciousness of human life. Christian organizations lobby for the sanctity of life both at the beginning and end of the spectrum. Smith concludes his article with the following....

"Cochrane admits that Christian religion and its concept of the soul could justify human exceptionalism. But like most among the intelligentsia, he finds no place for faith in the discussion because Christian views are "controversial." And it is true: When pagan Rome permitted unwanted babies to be exposed on hills, it was Christians who controversially gathered them up and lovingly raised them as their own. Today, Christians—just as controversially—continue to follow their Lord's admonition to love one's neighbor as one's self, for example, by standing in the breach to protect the unborn from abortion and being used in scientific experiments, and the aged, and cognitively disabled from euthanasia and denial of food and fluids."

Smith hits the nail on the head. It was as true in ancient Rome as it is today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bowden tells church he's ready for heaven

I came across this human interest story this morning and I thought I would put it up. I wasnt the biggest fan of Bobby Bowden while he was the coach of the Florida State Seminoles football program, but after today's article, I'm now a fan of his, even though he recently retired. Here are some excerpts from the cited article...

"Former Florida State University head coach Bobby Bowden unashamedly professed his faith in Jesus Christ to nearly 10,000 people attending morning services at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., on Super Bowl Sunday.

Bowden, whose 377 Division I wins rank second all-time, gave the Tampa-area Idlewild congregation the same advice he gave his assistant coaches at FSU upon his retirement after the Gator Bowl in January: Never be afraid to speak out for Christ.

As a young boy, Bowden walked forward during an invitation and joined the church. But it wasn't until he held his first assistant coaching position at his alma mater, Howard University (now Samford University), that he understood salvation is by God's grace alone. Bowden remembered a ministry student at the school explaining to him that heaven is a place for sinners who have been saved. Before then, Bowden mistakenly thought good people went to heaven and bad people went to hell.

With an intense but friendly look, Bowden said he finally understood all those years ago that individuals are saved by grace, through faith and trust in Christ alone. He said he realized what Jesus meant in Matthew 9:12 when He said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

"Darn right, I'm a sinner! I haven't shot anybody lately. I haven't stolen anything lately. But you think things you shouldn't think and you say things you shouldn't say," Bowden said.Citing Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7, Bowden said God created everyone with a purpose, and their job on earth is to find that purpose and live it out."

Bowden points something out here that is a common misconception among those who arent well-versed in Scripture. That there is this belief out there that goes something like "If I'm just good enough, or I try hard enough to be good, then if there's a Heaven, maybe I'll qualify to get in". Salvation is a free gift in which you place your faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and you don't EVER have to worry if your doing enough of the right thing. In the link I provided yesterday, you can read for yourself God's plan of salvation so that you can know Him and enjoy a relationship with him in this life as well as the next. One last quote from the above article.....

"Bowden recounted a story about Ronald Reagan a preacher friend once told him. Reagan, then-governor of California and a presidential candidate, invited a group of ministers from all over the country to meet with him in Washington, D.C., in hopes of earning their support.

Bowden's friend, the late D. James Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, had the opportunity to ask Reagan how he would answer if he died that day and God asked him why he deserved to be in heaven.

Reagan reportedly answered that he did not deserve to go to heaven, but that he would be admitted entrance to heaven on the basis of John 3:16 and his own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Bowden said a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the answer to the question of why anyone will get to heaven. "That's the answer to the exam. When we stand before the pearly gates, I done gave you the answer," Bowden said.

I just thought it was kind of interesting. One of the people whose writings we've been discussing recently, Dr D. James Kennedy, although he entered the Church Triumphant nearly three years ago is still in the news today and probably will be for some time to come.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Fallacy of 'Fairness'

Today's insightful article from economist Thomas Sowell raises some interesting points concerning the concept of fairness...

"If there is ever a contest to pick which word has done the most damage to people's thinking, and to actions to carry out that thinking, my nomination would be the word "fair." It is a word thrown around by far more people than have ever bothered to even try to define it.

This mushy vagueness may be a big handicap in logic, but it is a big advantage in politics. All sorts of people, with very different notions about what is or is not fair, can be mobilized behind this nice-sounding word, in utter disregard of the fact that they mean very different things when they use it.

Some years ago, for example, there was a big outcry that various mental tests used for college admissions or for employment were biased and "unfair" to many individuals or groups. Fortunately, there was one voice of sanity – David Riesman, I believe – who said: "The tests are not unfair. LIFE is unfair and the tests measure the results."

If by "fair" you mean everyone having the same odds for achieving success, then life has never been anywhere close to being fair, anywhere or at any time. If you stop and think about it (however old-fashioned that may seem), it is hard even to conceive of how life could possibly be fair in that sense.

Even within the same family, among children born to the same parents and raised under the same roof, the first-borns on average have higher IQs than their brothers and sisters, and usually achieve more in life. "

Politicians do like to throw the word around quite a bit. The so-called "fair tax", the Orwellian named "fairness doctrine". There's no shortage of politicians willing to rally others to their pet causes in the name of fairness. The article also contains these nuggets of truth.

"Just the fact that the lay of the land is different in different parts of Europe meant that it was easier for the Roman legions to invade Western Europe. This meant that Western Europeans had the advantages of the most advanced civilization in Europe at that time. Moreover, because Roman letters were used in Western Europe, the languages of that region had written versions centuries before the Slavic languages of Eastern Europe did.

The difference between literacy and illiteracy is a huge difference, and it remained huge for centuries. Was it the Slavs' fault that the Romans did not want to climb over so many mountains to get to them?

To those living in Western Europe in the days of the Roman Empire, the idea of being conquered, and many slaughtered, by the Romans probably had no great appeal. But their descendants would benefit from their bad luck. And that doesn't seem fair, either."

No, it wasnt their fault. It's interesting to note that those who often cry loudest about fairness are often the one's who will benefit most from the distribution of said "fairness" in whatever form they define it to be. Even to the point where they receive much more than disadvantaged others.

The atheist often times rejects belief in God precisely because he or she perceives the world to be quite unfair and a good and powerful God, (if He exists) would not allow that to happen. This attacks a strawgod and ignores fundamental lessons learned in Sunday School at the grade school level. That through the sin of one man, death entered the human race and it's been all downhill from there. Fortunately for us, through His Grace and wisdom, He provided a way out of misery and fear. He sent his only beloved Son to take our rightful place and to provide assurance that we can know Him and enjoy His presnse in this life and the world to come. If you are interested, just click here to begin a 2 minute presentation to begin examining the path to deliverence from all manner of woes that this world has on offer. No, I do not have a perfect life. Nowhere near. Yet I feel confident in knowing that an all powerful God exists and that He loves us. Nothing is more important than that. And nobody can take that away from me.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

An Evening with Dr David Berlinski

The stars fell on South Florida in another way this past weekend in addition to all of the out of town visitors descending on the area for the Super Bowl. First Alliance Church Church was the venue Saturday night for an open and frank discussion on Intelligent Design and some of the failings of Darwinian theory. First to speak was Dr Tom Woodward. Woodward is the author of Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design and Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design, (review). Dr Woodward gave an informative powerpoint demonstration that had me taking copious notes as he spoke. Especially interesting from his discussion were the photos he had from one of the major medical schools in the Ukraine. Dr Woodward had one of the more popular ID/origin of life DVDs made with subtitles in Russian. The students were listening with rapt attention when the documentary suddenly ended. A confrontation ensued involving a bit of shouting between the faculty and med students. When the movie was stopped by the school's staff after 20 minutes, numerous students loudly protested and demanded to be shown the rest of the presentation. Only after professors assured them that they would show them the rest of the movie the next day did the students grudgingly accept. Apparently, the theory of Intelligent Design is little known in that country.

Next up was Dr David Berlinski. Dr Berlinski was, shall we say, highly critical of the arguments put forward by the so-called "New Atheists", naming Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, and in particular Daniel Dennett whose writings he described as rather "terse" and "unreadable" and chided Richard Dawkins for hardly dedicating any time in his books to countering the arguments put forward by such intellectual heavyweights as Thomas Aquinas when he would be much better served in doing so. Vox Day mentioned much the same in his book The Irrational Atheist using the illustration of Dawkins merely waving "a dead chicken over the keyboard" in his acutely underpowered rebuttal of numerous points raised by Aquinas. Berlinski stated that when he compared the likes of the "New Atheists" with someone from the previous generation like Bertram Russell, he found the arguments raised by the "New Athiests" to be inferior. Additionally, he felt that the New Atheists seem more convinced of their position that God does not exist and they generally less likely to leave open the possibility that they could be incorrect. One of the few "new" things about the current crop of atheists according to Berlinski is a greater emphasis on "science" and "reason" as if these two words fell almost exclusively into the intellectual domain that they inhabit.

On the day before the lecture I emailed another blogger whose opinion I highly respect. I asked him, that if he had the chance to ask Dr Berlinski a question, what would it be? I knew that the lecture would be a sort of informal affair and I assumed there would be a Question and Answer period afterward. He promptly emailed back his question...Ask him what he thinks of Richard Dawkins's Ultimate 747 argument against the existence of God...

I was slightly suprised. I had assumed that this blogger would try to tap Berlinski's experience in molecular biology and and would propose a question more along the lines of the accuracy of predictive models put forward by evolutionary biologists when compared to the harder sciences. But I was intrigued by his question, drawing upon Berlinski's background in philosophy and I assurred him I would ask his question if the opportunity presented itself, and it did.

Having just mentioned the "New Atheists" just before the Q & A period I thought it would segue neatly into the proposed question. I was the first audience member called upon and I began...
"Speaking of the "New Atheists" Dr Berlinski, there is a particular argument put forward by Richard Dawkins, his 'Ultimate 747' argument. Have you had a chance to examine it and if so, what do you think of it?" Momentary silence followed as Woodward and Berlinski exchanged glances with one another. I'm not sure if Berlinski understood the context of the question being framed in reference to Dawkins's Ultimate 747 argument because he then began to mention the 747 argument that was previously posited by Fred Hoyle. He then asked me if the particular argument I mentioned from Dawkins argues against the existance of God and I said "yes". I think he now understood me. I won't get into the amount of derision Berlinski showed for the philosophical shortcomings of Richard Dawkins, but his reply went back to the aforementioned Thomas Aquinas, stating that Dawkins appears to be ignorant of something that theologians have been aware of for centuries. That there is more than one way to look at "beginning", "end" and "eternity". I nodded and thanked him for his answer. Perhaps Mr Berlinski thought I was more well-read in Aquinas than I am and perhaps took for granted that I fully understood his reply. I made a mental note to look into the matter further when I got home. Using such key words and a common search engine I quickly located this paper from Forham University which raises the following concepts in relation to the writings of Thomas Aquinas..

"The question still arises whether the world could have always existed, and to explain the truth of this matter, we should first distinguish where we agree with our opponents from where we disagree with them. If someone holds that something besides God could have always existed, in the sense that there could be something always existing and yet not made by God, then we differ with him: such an abominable error is contrary not only to the faith but also to the teachings of the philosophers, who confess and prove that everything that in any way exists cannot exist unless it be caused by him who supremely and most truly has existence. However, someone may hold that there has always existed something that, nevertheless, had been wholly caused by God, and thus we ought to determine whether this position is tenable."

This of course is just the beginning of the scholarly paper cited and it goes into much greater depth should anyone be interested into exploring the matter further. I know that I will. I think that it's interesting that an agnostic has caused me to examine my faith in a more constructive and meaningful manner. In speaking with Dr Berlinski briefly outside after the lecture, I got the impression that the argument put forward by Dawkins falls more along the lines of the anecdotal and that the subject he wishes to discuss is a quite a bit more in-depth than his Ultimate 747 argument seeks to address.

Friday, February 5, 2010

One Found Under the Cabbage Leaf

In continuing our discussion of the impact of Jesus Christ upon Western Civilization, the next item I wanted to bring up is that of the unpleasent matter of infanticide. In the book I cited earlier from Dr. D. James Kennedy and Dr. Jerry Newcombe entitled What if Jesus had Never Been Born?, we read on page 10 how cheap life truly was for children before the time of Christ.

"It was a dangerous thing for a baby to be conceived in classical Rome or Greece, just as it is becoming dangerous once more under the influence of the modern pagan. In those days abortion was rampant. abandonment was comonplace: It was common for infirm babies or unwanted little ones to be taken out into the forest or the mountainside, to be consumed by wild animals or to starve or to be picked up by rather strange people who crept around at night, and would use them for whatever perverted purposes they had in mind. Parents abandoned virtually all deformed babies. Many parents abandoned babies if they were poor. They often abandoned female babies because women were considered inferior."

Does anyone really doubt these things? Especially telling for me is the last part concerning how female babies were abandoned so much. With the increase of sex selective abortions, we are seeing a return of this practice not only in China, but in Vietnam where it is reported that "Vietnam's sex ratio at birth (SRB) has been rising steadily for the past few years, from the "average" 105 boys to 100 girls in 1999 to 110:100 in 2006. This year it topped at an average of 112:100." In China it is even higher, about 120:100. Of course this isnt isolated to the East as Sweden allows sex selective abortons as well.
Citing George Grant in his book Third Time Around, Kennedy and Newcombe describe how "valueless life was in ancient Rome...

"According to the centuries old tradition of paterfamilias, the birth of a Roman was not a biological fact. Infants were received into the world only as the family willed. A Roman did not have a child; he took a child. Immediately after birthing, if the family decided not to raise the child-literally, lifting him above the earth-he was simply abandoned. There were special high places or walls where the newborn was taken and exposed to die"

Two items that Kennedy and Newcombe cite as helping to form the Christian outlook on children and the preciousness of life are when Jesus gathered little children unto Himself saying, "Let the little children come unto Me and do not forbid them" (Matthew 19:14). which gave emphasis on the love we are to show for them as Christ Himself gave to them. Another example was when "Jesus said that God was our Father, not only did this radically alter the attitudes of fathers toward children, but fatherhood in this life assumed a completely new form as well." Kennedy and Newcombe go on to cite Sherwood Wirt, one time editor of Billy Graham's Decision magazine who stated in his book, The Social Conscience of the Evangelical..

"Many permanent legal reforms were set in motion by Emporer Constantine (280?-337) and Justinian (483-565) that can be laid to the influence of Christianity. Licentious and cruel sports were checked; new legislationwas ordered to protect the slave, the prisoner, the mutilated man, the outcast woman. Children were granted important legal rights. Infant exposure was abolished. Women were raised from a status of degradation to that of legal protection. Hospitals and orphanages were createdto take care of foundlings. Personal fueds and private wars were put under restraint....Branding of slaves was halted"

Can you honestly say the last time that you heard the word "foundling"? Even secular sources as the one I cite in the preceding link give Christians credit for starting the use of the word. Apparently it doesnt happen that much anymore but to acknowledge as such one must give credit to Christianity because it's highly unlikely that such a change of social consciousness occurred due to any pre-existing Roman or Greek mythology.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Even Darwin knew..

About once a month, I have the opportunity to sit in on Adult Sunday School taught by Dr. Jerry Newcombe. Being an author or co-author of close to 20 books, all of his research pays off by having a large reservoir of knowledge that he can tap into to present a truly interesting Sunday School class. Yesterday, Dr. Newcombe presented this statement that I'm sure would interest even the most militant of atheists that sometimes frequent this site. It was new to me anyway...

"What did Darwin mean when he said, "A man about to be shipwrecked on some unknown coast will devoutly pray that the lesson of the missionary will have reached that far"? He meant that where the Gospel has not gone civilization has not gone, and such a shipwrecked man would likely find himself in the soup tureen of a tribe of husky cannibals.... What Jesus Christ always has been He is today, the transformer of the world's life, the reconstructor of human society, the animator of human progress, the one Master moulder of the world's civilization. And by this I know that He is Divine." W.E. Biedersolf

Interesting, isnt it? Even if he could advance a theory in which he believed that origin of life questions could be ultimately answered by purely materialistic causes, he still regarded Christianity as the force for good that that it has been throughout world history. In reference to the above reference to "husky cannibals" I am reminded of a passage from the landmark classic from Dr. D. James Kennedy and Dr Newcombe entitled What if Jesus had Never Been Born? "Ted Baher and Dr. Bonnie Harvey wrote a critique of the movie Alive!, which dealt in part with cannibalism, for Ted Baher's Movie Guide: A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment. Here is what they said about cannibalism...

"Historically, before the advent of Christianity, cannibalism was widespread. The flesh pots outside the walls of ancient cities were repositories of the bodies of the dead, cooked for the ingestion of the poorest of the poor. Throughout the ages, beyond the boundaries of the spread of the Gospel, people ate each other in the cruel delusion that they would thereby triumph over their enemies and incorporate the strengths of their enemies into themselves. Thus, the Aztecs consumed tens of thousands in their perverted quest for power. However, wherever the Gospel was preached, cannibalism was abolished as men were born again to see with news eyes the sanctity of life" (page 24)

It's telling that the standard used by many (but not all) skeptics to judge Christianity and the Bible comes from a standard set by Christian civilization before them and not some sort of organic atheism or the Enlightenment. All to often, this fact becomes lost in the posturing and rhetoric of hyper-criticism of those who are enjoying the fruits of a civilization that would not exist had the Gospel of Jesus Christ not gone out to first lead the way.