The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
"...to ennoble freedom by showing it the path to virtue."
This website's primary focus is mounting a defense of conservative ideas in general and the Christian faith in particular.
(When liberals are running the show, a new voice is needed.)
It is common to hear evolutionists say that evolution is as certain as "anything in all of science". Interestingly, you never hear a physicist say that "gravity is as certain as evolution." (Denyse O'Leary, of www.uncommonescent.com)
While the younger generations take it as a given that relationships are complex these days, it occurs to some of us that there are many situations we never had to deal with. Consider the following column by Chas Newkey-Burden at the Telegraph. He is lamenting that the gay community has a misogyny problem, and begins to analyze what might be the matter. From Chas:
Blame Will & Grace if you like, but when they are interacting with women, some gay men seem to forget that they are men [!] and that there are lines that no chap should cross. A female friend who has several close gay friends and therefore encounters lots of gay men in their 20s and 30s tells me she endures "constant grabbing of my boobs or my bits in a way I wouldn't be cool with straight men doing", and that young gay men "talk endlessly about women's bodies in an incredibly possessive, judgemental or objectifying way".Chas tries to explain this by observing that there is a "presumed intimacy which emboldens some gay men to" do these things. This presumed intimacy supposedly comes from the fact that neither gay men nor women are traditional men, and are thus on the "same side". But that is not sufficient to enable gay men to touch (actually, sexually harass) women. In fact, why would gay men want to touch women, other than to partake of a privilege that straight men do not legitimately have? Therein lies the real reason: gay men still have some attraction to the female body, and figure that because they are gay, women will discount the touching as innocent and inconsequential. Hence they get away with it. But Chas may have a point when he goes on to observe,
It's hard to conclude that gay misogyny is powered by anything other than sexual envy. The knowledge that the fairer sex has a far greater pool of men to choose from makes some gays inherently resentful of women. The awareness that the hot guy on the tube, in the office, or on their television screen is statistically much more likely to fancy women seems to make some gays livid.Let me see if I have this straight (and please pardon the pun): Gay men and straight women are in competition for the remaining pool of men. So they're not really on the same side, but on opposite sides. Got it.
The real conclusion should be that gay men don't respect women, and think that our current environment of unrestricted sexuality empowers them to do and say anything. And it does--for who in our culture has any authority over the sexually non-traditional? The entire sexual revolution, which includes today's acceptance of homosexuality, was all about throwing off old social restrictions. Do Chas and his friends now think that gays need a few social norms or perhaps some common manners? That would go completely against the spirit of our age. In other words, good luck with that.
The first task of someone who wants to interpret should be to sincerely seek out the original meaning of the text. Those who do not like what a text says, or care about a text's original meaning, will be the first to skip this stage. In fact, this is a good litmus test for whether someone is being a sincere interpreter. (Of course the legal/political realm is rife with intentional misinterpretation, because typically someone is trying to get away with something.) The disengenuous interpreter will typically proceed directly to reading their own desires into a text, and quoting will be quite selective.
Beware those who readily do violence to any text.
It has been discovered that atheism has a suicide problem, in a blog here, and the research article here. [Before I say anything further, let me say this: if the reader is having thoughts of self-harm, please seek help. Regardless of your belief system, seek help. I do not want anyone to harm themself.] But we must consider what might cause the attempted suicide rate to be higher among atheists than among the religious. To the Christian, the answer is obvious, but the atheist has to work a little bit harder to explain this phenomenon. At first, the skeptical blogger above chalks it up to the "ignorance" of the religious equating to "bliss". He goes only slightly deeper when he observes, "It is the difference between being high on drugs [where he means religion] and being high on life [atheism]. Or in this case high on Jesus vs. high on the vast wonders of the universe."
That's it? The most the atheist has to look forward to is getting "high on life" or "high on the vast wonders of the universe"? If I were an atheist, then watching Cosmos or Nova and mulling over the vast wonders of the universe isn't going to do much for my day-to-day mood. It is hard to be high on life when you are constantly reminded that evolution has bred a world of selfish human beings--some incredibly evil, and all of it with no purpose. It is hard to maintain a high from pondering the vastness of things when you realize how insignificant you are in comparison. For the atheist, life will be short, and the amount of happiness that can be milked from it often diminishes with age.
Thankfully, Christianity is not ignorance, but has a strong foundation in reality. And it is a source of hope (not just a mere "high") that other belief systems clearly lack.
From here, we find that primitive tribes of the Amazon tended to fight a lot, with a lot of deaths resulting. The researcher, Robert Walker, was open enough to admit however, that Christianity had a positive influence on tribal societies, and resulted in drastic reductions in levels of deadly violence:
"In the tribal societies of the Amazon forest, violent conflict accounted for 30 percent of all deaths before contact with Europeans, according to a recent study by University of Missouri anthropologist Robert Walker." Thankfully, the researcher admits, "It takes a great deal of social training and institutional control to resist our instincts and solve disputes with words instead of weapons."
From the article, "After European contact, the dynamics of Amazonian tribal life changed dramatically. Although the spread of Christianity and imposition of national legal structures resulted in a great loss of cultural identity, it also reduced deadly raids. Today, such violence is rare."
Channing's Student's History of the United States (copyrighted in 1897) concludes with the following quote:
The chief causes of our prosperity in the past have been the frugality, energy, and personal independence of our people; the rapid development of invention; equality of all men in the eye of the law; free institutions and the breaking loose from the prejudices of European societies. These qualities, inherent in the races from which the American people has sprung, without the barriers to human activity which surrounded them in their old homes, have been combined in the United States with a good climate, splended soil, wonderful mineral resources, and free trade over an enormous extent of territory. These conditions have made the American people what it is; they are all still present in the inhabitants of the United States and in the country in which they dwell. Great as has been the progress of the American nation in the past, there is every reason to believe that its achievements in the arts of peace have but just begun.
Even though I was not around when those words were written, I sure miss those days. Back then, people were grateful for what they had, and there was a positive vision for the future.
A late-night talk show host made a joke that got me thinking. Commenting on the Vatican's summit to discuss the possibility of intelligent life on other planets, he said that their next task was "to figure out how to make them feel guilty."
Of course this appeals to the stereotype that religions use shame and guilt to keep people motivated and "in line". But those on the non-religious left are quite adept at exploiting guilt. Consider environmentalists, who would shame those who consume too much energy and resources, or political liberals, who would love for the rich (and the middle class) to feel guilty about being anything but poor. How about the "hate America first" crowd, that wants us all to feel guilty for slavery (even though our generation never practiced it), dropping nuclear bombs on Japan (done by a Democrat who is now deceased), and merely for being a powerful nation? The Democrat's favorite weapon, the politics of personal destruction, relies in part on shaming a conservative into resigning from office. And who could forget PETA and other animal rights' groups, who want us to feel bad about consuming all those tasty animals?
I'd say those on the left have a pretty good grasp of the use of guilt.
Interestingly, the argument for macroevolution from the existence of vestigial organs is circular. A vestigial organ is commonly defined as a structure which had a primary use in the evolutionary past, but no longer fully serves that purpose. The human tailbone (coccyx) is cited as an example. But under that definition, the existence of a vestigial organ cannot then be used as proof that macroevolution has taken place, because it presumes macroevolution in explaining its existence and former purpose in the first place!
To look at it another way, if we remain agnostic about macroevolution, then we need an explanation--not for "vestigial" organs, with the connotative baggage that word carries-- but for structures that resemble structures in other animals that have similar but diminished function. Is macroevolution the only explanation for such a phenomenon? Or is it possible that a designer might reuse structures from one creature to the next, with varying levels of functionality in each?
In fairness, macroevolution and the existence of vestigial organs are consistent with each other. However, using them to argue circularly is most unbecoming of evolutionists, who claim that they are the only ones reasoning correctly.
"Those who want to make their own choices in life must be willing to accept the consequences of those choices. Institutions in civilized societies depend upon people taking responsibility for their actions, keeping agreements and fulfilling obligations, regardless of whether or not they happen to like the consequences." -- Anonymous
Dating may be the worst way for two people to determine if they are suited to marry. The institution's whole focus is on discovering whether two people enjoy the same kinds of recreational activities, as if the rest of their lives will be spent going to movies, eating out, going on ski trips, and having parties. A far better measure of compatibility would be to determine whether the two individuals share the same beliefs and goals for their lives. If they do, then they are more likely to pull together when life grows hard, instead of splitting up. But imposing something other than dating on our youth would go against the dominant philosophy of our age, namely that children must be allowed to chart their own course and make all the mistakes they can as early in life as possible. Heaven forbid that we should interfere by sharing some wisdom that might save them a great deal of pain!
If, as Karl Marx asserted, religion is merely an opiate, then why did the Soviets--who studied how to best control people--not embrace it as a means of keeping their people happy? The fact is that dictators hate Christianity, particular Protestantism, because it teaches that there is an infinitely good God, who sees everything and judges all by the same standard. As it says in Col. 4:1, "Masters, provide your servants with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven." If all are judged by the same standard, then anyone can hold a leader accountable. This is intolerable to a dictator, who submits to no one.
Christianity as practiced by mere human beings is not guaranteed to prevent tyranny. It's just more effective than any of the alternatives.
Stupid bumper sticker: War is like late-term abortion.
Logical response: Abortion is like pre-natal capital punishment--without the due process.
In all their rage, the Hate America First crowd will never acknowledge the stark differences between the moral and civil climates of the US and Iraq. When the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light, the outrage inside the US forced the situation to be rectified. At least seven people have been convicted of crimes. Yet under Saddam, unrestrained torture was a run-of-the-mill occurrence, and the Iraqi people had no means (such as our press) of exposing or stopping it.
We are not morally or culturally perfect--just superior.
Conservatives vote in such a way as to benefit both themselves and liberals. Liberals vote in such a way as to benefit themselves while hurting conservatives--and the liberals take pleasure in it.
When economic hard times come, conservatives worry about how the people will make ends meet, while liberals worry about how the government will get by.
Does the Christian live a life of asceticism, and all for nothing at that? That is a typical atheists's view. But what of the atheist who has spent his life in suffering, or who cannot enjoy--perhaps due to physical handicap--all of the pleasures of an unfettered life (sex, money, etc.)? How does a fellow atheist comfort such a person?
The disconnect between postmodern art and reality may have a simpler explanation that I first realized. According to Francis Shaeffer, art in the 20th century ceased to depict lofty things, and began to create works barely distinguishable from the scribbles of a 6-year old. This was due to Western civilization's rejection of theism and the transcendant. When man's highest thoughts fall to the ground, his art is likewise stripped of any higher vision.
But perhaps part of the ugliness and mundanity of today's art can be explained by something simpler. With printing costs lower than ever, anyone in the twentieth century could own reasonable copies of real art. Once a genre became popular, everyone could possess it, and it instantly became ho-hum. Artists trying to make a living were forced to take ever greater measures to differentiate themselves. The proliferation art has made it a commodity, and its quality has suffered as a result.
Atheists claim that they worship nothing, but is that really the case? One merely has to attend a (secular) rock concert to see something indistinguishable from (mostly pagan) worship. The band members function as priests, and perform the duties thereof: blessing the crowd with music, preaching to the audience, leading them to dance, clap their hands and sing along. The performers receive the praise of the audience, and are pleased when aspiring musicians try to imitate them. High things are exalted (at least the highest things an earthbound worldview has available): sex, drugs, and the music itself. Altered states of consciousness are achieved. Lyrics are searched for their hidden meaning, just as sacred writings are studied. Commentary is compiled, and odes are written to the martyrs who died for the cause.
Looks like worship to me.
Scientists are quite proud of the fact that they favor simple explanations for things. They whip out Occam's Razor often, usually to apply it subjectively and selectively. But are the simplest explanations typically correct? Consider the following things, where our understanding began in simple terms, but has been forced to get more complex as time has progressed: physics (Newtonian physics, then relativistic, then quantum), the function of the human body (where 100 years ago, many organs were assumed to be vestigial), life itself (which biologists have been claiming they were less than a decade from duplicating in the laboratory--for the last 90 years), and astronomy (where the types of celestial objects known to exist has only grown over time).
Perhaps childishly simple laws do not in fact underlie reality. A simpler explanation (!) for the popularity of Occam's Razor might be that simple explanations are the first ones we are able to formulate.
Probably since the 1960's, but at least since the 1980's, men have been arguing the importance of discovering whether they are "sexually compatible" with the women they are dating. In fact, as long as one is male and the other female, sexual compatibility is assured. But what better pretension could a man (or boy) offer to gain permission to enjoy his girlfriend?
No ladies, to a man, "sexually compatible" just means that he's enjoying you. As long as you continue to assent to his desires for sex, you are being "compatible". What is truly sad is that so many women are fooled by the argument, mostly to their detriment. (In fact, one must wonder if the entire sexual revolution wasn't the sole idea of men, to increase their share of pleasure while decreasing their share of responsibility.)
A gradecard from a rural school in Andrew County, MO, from 1931 said the following
The first table is for the pupil's use in forming the essential traits of character and attitudes of mind that make for good citizenship. The stability of government and the future of democracy depend upon these." And inside the card (the "first table"), lists the following traits: "I. -- OBEDIENCE: 1, willingness to follow directions; 2, respect for law and order. II. -- DEPENDABLENESS: 1, honesty; 2, keeping of promises; 3, promptness; 4, loyalty; 5, willingness to cooperate; 6, self-control....IV. -- CLEANLINESS: 1, of person; 2, of clothes; 3, of behavior; 4, of speech...
These things were not mentioned in grade cards of the 70's, nor are they a significant part of today's expectations of school children. A dramatic shift in values in American society is undeniable.
From an anonymous July 1 post to a discussion group:
As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, we should take time to count the blessings the vast majority of us enjoy. At the same time, our on-going struggle with the radical elements of the Muslim culture should be a sharp reminder that not everyone in the world wants to share these blessings. Some just want power, including power over other people's lives. To get it, they are willing to destroy life, liberty and prosperity, even for their fellow countrymen.
The question of whether our freedom can endure is an important one, because there are no open frontiers left. Given our position in the world, if we lose our freedom, there will be no one to help us. We are, as Abraham Lincoln observed over a century ago, "the last best hope of earth."
Preserving liberty requires many things. Although we Americans cherish the right to disagree with each other, some common ground rules are needed if we are to get along. Unfortunately, even they are coming into question. "United We Stand" bumper stickers aside, we are a divided nation. Political and moral issues are challenging enough, but our greatest division is in the area of private beliefs--which actually make the most difference of all. Unlike a century or two ago, we disagree strongly over the very existence of God, and hence whether there is any authority higher than the government. But no nation can keep its government in check unless it accepts that there is one judge over all, and unless it holds a reasonably common moral standard by which leaders can be held to account. As our country's traditional faiths suffer decline, we forget that human nature abhors a spiritual vacuum--one that will be filled by more aggressive religions that will gladly occupy any house they find swept clean.
While history shows that all nations undergo cycles of growth and decline, a vigorous nation has a sense of purpose higher than itself. I can think of few missions nobler than that of sharing liberty with those who seek it. This works in our interest too, for as Lincoln also said, "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free." However, acting on such a vision means overcoming evil, which in turn requires sacrifice. Regrettably, our nation has little stomach for helping others when oppression has to be defeated. I hope this is not a reflection of a disinterest in freedom.
I recently heard of a libertarian making the following argument for legalizing prostitution: "If you can give it away for free, why can't you charge for it?" This superficial argument misses the point that some cannot give it away. Due to disease, others should not be giving it away or charging for it.
Guess what the following quote refers to:
"...[Research into] X has been severely hampered by a complete lack of funding. Indeed,...questions and alternatives cannot even now be freely discussed and examined. An open exchange of ideas is lacking in most mainstream conferences. Whereas Richard Feynman could say that "science is the culture of doubt", in X today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard X model. Those who doubt X fear that saying so will cost them their funding."
Are they disgruntled creationists? Bitter intelligent design advocates? Try cosmologists who disagree with the Big Bang theory. Evolution/origins is not the only area where closed-minded scientists can be found. (Quote from http://www.cosmologystatement.org/.)
The nation that cannot control its borders cannot control its future. The nation that doesn't care about its borders doesn't care about its future.
A lot of people are under the mistaken belief that whales and dolphins are as intelligent--if not more so--than humans. This myth comes mostly from environmentalists and researchers who want to play off of the mystery of creatures that can communicate, but that we cannot understand. (I'm sure it also helps get funding to keep the researchers employed.) But consider the limitations a marine mammal is under:
- They cannot control or manipulate their environment.
- They cannot make tools or instruments.
- They cannot record their knowledge in any permanent form for reliable transmission to fellow mammals.
- They cannot disect and study their own physiology.
Since the brain of a living creature cannot store information that it has never discovered or been exposed to, there is no reason to believe that marine mammals have any grasp of mathematics or science, including physics, chemistry, biology, or medicine. Their minds probably contain the intelligence to find meals, migrate, mate, and perhaps make some music for entertainment.
Researchers will eventually confirm that their thoughts are not nearly so rich as ours. A recent result was obtained by Suzuki (http://www.physorg.com/news11980.html), who found (assuming that we speak at a rate of 3 words per second), that human speech carries approximately 30 times as much information per second as a whale's song. Since we have not yet decoded the song of the whale, the figure for the whale is a maximum communication rate, not a minimum. And while we are decoding their songs, we can be pretty sure that they are not decoding our speech.
The fellow displaying the pithy bumper sticker, "Who would Jesus bomb?" has apparently never read the book of Revelation.
The person with the bumper sticker that reads, "War will not create peace and security," hasn't thought about the greater cost of surrendering to evil.
When it comes to criticizing intelligent design and preaching to evolution's choir, any argument will do. The latest evidence is the following article, which attempts to debunk ID by showing why it is not like SETI: http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_intelligentdesign_051201.html.
The author, in his exuberance to score another hit on ID, makes a very fundamental (and inexcusable) mistake. He contrasts the SETI investigator's search for a simple, unmodulated electromagnetic signal from outer space with ID's search for complexity, and claims that ID is therefore misguided. However, this is the wrong way to characterize the matter. What both ID and SETI are doing is looking for something that does not occur naturally. It just happens that artificiality in electromagnetic radiation would be different from artificiality in molecular structures. Natural radiation is broad-band, so narrow-band would indicate artificiality, while at the atomic level, regularity (a crystal, e.g.) is natural. Complex functional structures do not appear to be natural (in their origin). Fundamentally, the two searches are analogous. Only when incorrectly compared do they appear different.
(And is it really good that SETI folks have chosen to search for this one specific type of signal? If we did find the simple signal they seek, how convinced should we be that there is not some unidentified natural source of such signals that we are unaware of? Only complexity in a signal would conclusively prove ETI existed.)
Now that terrorists have lashed out at another Western nation, the culturally-myopic crowd has resumed blaming America. However, it is clear to most of us that such creative shifting of responsibility is unnecessary. Whether one is talking about terrorist bombings and hostage takings, or the mass murders and torture committed under Saddam Hussein, it is clear that their ways are at best barbaric. No one forces them to commit these kinds of acts. Furthermore, they have no noble vision for their own people and certainly not for the rest of the world, and nobody like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to articulate one.
No nation has a spotless record, but any society that considers itself more
civilized than a terrorist should act against terrorism. Mere words, whether
of condemnation or of appeasement, are worthless. (Remember all those U.N.
resolutions?) Conversely, what value must a nation place on itself if it does
not have the will or the principles to act?
Liberalism is now causing problems for unemployed German women. Like some places here, if you turn down all jobs, you can lose your unemployment benefits. Combine that with the fact that prostitution is legal in Germany--and that brothel owners search databases of the unemployed to find help. That's right: if you want to keep your benefits in Germany, you may have to become a sex worker. Oddly, there is no mention of women's rights in the article. (And one wonders if the analogous dilemma will soon challenge unemployed German men...)
During the 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry was fond of telling crowds that he was Catholic--but that his religious beliefs would not affect what he did in office. The separation of church and state was just too important a doctrine to violate.
He was obviously speaking pleasant words to his liberal base. Those on the political right knew that he was merely trying to woo liberal, atheist and Catholic voters with this ploy. But such a statement should have turned away the dedicated Catholic: While trying to get their support by claiming a religious bond, he was indirectly admitting that his Catholic beliefs were not his core beliefs. For Kerry, liberalism and political expediency trumped everything else, even his beliefs about the Almighty.
Two researchers, Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo, have published some results that are a must-read: link. Their results, perhaps the most thorough so far, demonstrate conclusively that the media does have a left-leaning bias. Their approach was to use think-tank citations by members of Congress, and compare them with citations of the same think tanks by members of the media.
Their findings, while relative--since "liberal" and "conservative" are themselves relative positions--do allow them to state such things as, "All of the news outlets except Fox News' Special Report received a score to the left of the average member of Congress. Moreover, by one of our measures all but three of these media outlets (Special Report, the Drudge Report, and ABC's World News Tonight) were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than to the median member of the House of Representatives."
One of their goals was to get away from two flaws that have plagued the discussion of media bias up to this time: Overly simplistic theories of cause and effect (e.g., "Media outlets are controlled by the business people, and they are all conservatives, so the news will also be slanted that way."), and anecdotal evidence ("Peter Jennings is from Canada, and they're all liberals up there!").
Naturally, liberals do not appreciate such thoroughness, and have attempted to argue that the results are unfounded. In defense of Groseclose and Milyo, I wish to refute several of the common accusations made against these results. It should be noted that most of the objections I found were made without any hard counter-evidence to back them.
Objection #1. Merely being found to be left of the center of Congress does not automatically imply that one is a "liberal".
Response. "Liberal" is a relative term, as is "conservative". This is why the results are to be taken in relative terms. (It is interesting to note that more and more people from the left half of the political spectrum are desperately seeking other names for themselves, such as "progressive" and "libertarian".) I see nothing wrong with labeling the two halves of the political spectrum with two different names, as long as the distinctions are clear, as they are in this case.
Objection #2. This study may merely show that the major media outlets are to the left of an extremely conservative House. Right-wing news outlets like Fox News are therefore right in step with House and are only centrist in relative terms.
Response. The House of Representatives was chosen as a baseline of comparison because they more than the Senate would be reflective of the electorate. In a thorough fashion, this demonstrates that the media is relatively left of the American people. Even if our nation were mostly conservative (which I do not accept--see the exit poll results of the 2000 Presidential election), the results of this study are still valid. Those making this argument give no data indicating that those being elected to the House are even more conservative than their constituents, nor do they give any explanation of how that could systematically happen.
Objection #3. Perhaps it is the case that politicians cite from think tanks with very little consideration for which reports are true and which are not. Journalists however, by the nature of their profession, are very careful and fact-check everything they report. Therefore, the reality that journalists cite a disproportionate number of liberal think tanks merely means that the liberal think tanks are more often correct.
Response. This argument makes a number of unproven assumptions: that politicians do not insist that their staffs fact-check information that they insert into their speeches and policy positions; that conservative think tanks are more often incorrect or just plain lying; that journalists never let their own personal biases interfere with their work. On the contrary, the results of this study agree completely with facts such as the way journalists themselves tend to vote: overwhelmingly for liberal candidates. But, even granting the above assumptions, the conclusions of Groseclose and Milyo are still unharmed. The study was not an attempt to measure the truthfulness of any of the evidence being used in public policy debates. It's point was to investigate the balance or imbalance of the evidence that the media chooses to present.
Objection #4. Perhaps conservative think tanks do a better job at PR and have more hooks into Congress. Liberal think tanks focus their attention on the press and ignore Congress. Therefore the media tends to appear biased to the left of Congress.
Response. The data from Groseclose and Milyo indicates that Republicans cite liberal think tanks more often (as a percentage of Republican citations) than liberals cite conservative think tanks (as a percentage of Democrat citations). This does not disprove the above objection, but it is also not what one would expect if the theory were in fact the case. Besides, the objection is presented without evidence to back it up.
Until a study showing the opposite is done, that is at least as thorough
as that of Groseclose and Milyo, I shall accept their conclusion.
In wagering, Pascal was wrong. He gave four cases:
- God does not exist, and one refuses Christianity and lives an earthly life of pleasure: After death, the pleasure is for nought but the person has gained all that could be gained.
- God does not exist, and one becomes a Christian, and does not enjoy as many "pleasures" of sin. After death, the lack of worldly pleasures does not matter. He has lost nothing in the long run.
- God does exist, and one refuses Christianity and lives an earthly life of pleasure: After death, eternal punishment.
- God does exist, and one becomes a Christian, and does not enjoy as many "pleasures" of sin: After death, eternal bliss.
In view of the possibility of eternity, the gambler is safer by choosing Christianity than not, Pascal argued. The atheist argues that God does not exist, and therefore the first option above is the best of the two attainable ones.
But this ignores the reality of the situation. Studies show that churchgoers (typically Christians) live longer, and have fewer health problems (both mental and physical). (See "Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability", Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, No. 1064, January 25, 1996, http://www.heritage.org/library/archives/backgrounder/bg_1064.pdf.) Therefore, Pascal was wrong, and his second option should have read: "- God does not exist, and a person becomes a Christian, and lives a longer, healthier, happier life." This changes the logical conclusion for the atheist.
When being critical of pornography, the first counter-argument put forth is usually, "Well, one man's pornography is another man's art!" Of course, the point is to elevate porn to the level of art by challenging anyone to contrast the two. It might be an effective argument if not for one problem: it is quite difficult to find visual material that truly straddles that fence in the real world.
One does not find Renoir's nudes in that shop just off downtown. The art from your local gallery simply does not appear in those magazines behind the counter at the convenience store. In fact, there is no overlap in the images contained in these two kinds of establishments. Furthermore, pornography and art have distinct lives: Porn is created by people who desire easy money by hooking people on neurological/biochemical reactions within their own bodies. It is mass-produced, distributed, retailed, purchased and consumed for the sexual arousal it produces in the end consumer. It is consumed largely in private. Everyone in the chain knows what they are part of.
Art is produced for aesthetic reasons and/or as speech. It is not produced, distributed, retailed, purchased or consumed in the same places, nor via the same channels as pornography. It can be enjoyed publicly, and is not addicting. (You may think that Mapplethorpe's photographs, or the "performance art" of Karen Finley would qualify as both porn and art. But here again, the "works" in question were produced as art and interpreted as art by their viewers. And besides being bad art, their content is hardly that which would cause excitement in very many.)
It is this start-to-finish difference and the near-complete lack of overlap that clearly separates art from pornography.
An insightful quote from this month's American Spectator ["The Living Hell of Bill Moyers", Tom Bethell, The American Spectator, March 2004]:
"...what people believe about God is more important than we usually imagine...Allah, as Muslims view him, is omnipotent, above logic and reason, unrestrained by natural law. He can decree at any moment that evil is good and that two and two make five. People are subject to his arbitrary and tryannical rule and can do little more than plead for mercy. Nations who worship such a God, it turns out, are themselves governable only by a tryannical ruler."
The history of Arab nations surely bears this out. It also makes one wonder what will become of our nation, as we reject the God of the Bible. It is from Him that we obtained the concepts of liberty, equality and the rule of law, although we necessarily implemented them imperfectly. Today, we are in the process of replacing those ideals with a postmodern, godless selfishness that cannot possibly produce a superior environment in which to live.
It is a trivial exercise to unmask liberalism. In the war on terror, their primary goal has been to see us withdraw all troops from overseas positions (except for those Bill Clinton got us into--where was his exit stragety for Bosnia?), and to appease the terrorist nations wherever possible. But if we need to "give peace a chance", why have liberals not gone to the nations of the Axis of Evil in droves, attempting to negotiate with them, conducting independent diplomacy, and floating candles down rivers? Why do they hate America's approach to the war on terror, yet their only response is to criticize America? Why are they unwilling to set any sort of example via independent action? I can think of several reasons:
What should we think of people whose underlying beliefs and emotions are like those above?
Scientists recently gave common sense a pat on the back, in reporting that disgust is a natural defense mechanism (link). They have "discovered" that the reaction of disgust at seeing something likely to be bacteria-laden serves to keep us healthier. The researchers report that,
"In the past, theorists have proposed that disgust is a response to 'otherness', something that is foreign to us, or else to things that are simply out of their socially acceptable context...[But now] the study confirms observations of other species, says Lance Workman, a psychologist at Cardiff University: 'All animals avoid or fear those things that carry disease, such as blood, faeces and vomit. Disgust is an evolutionary response to dangerous items.'"
Interestingly, they were quick to add the following:
"The survey did not address attitudes to disgust of a sexual nature."
I wonder if anyone will be brave and open-minded enough to ask whether homophobia
is therefore more innate than the alternatives...
The same-sex marriage issue should raise two significant questions in the thinking person's mind:
1. In an era of loosening morals, it is natural to wonder, "When will the loosening end?" Will other forms of marriage come back into fashion, like polygamy? What about things now at the fringe, like pedophilia or beyond? Today's fringe becomes the next generation's mainstream. (A quick search of the Internet will demonstrate how many people are interested in some of these things.) Will our society necessarily end up in a state that you would be happy with?
2. Is there one kind of union which is better for society? If so, why shouldn't
that form be esteemed above the rest? I have no evidence that non-traditional
forms of marriage provide the same cohesiveness and willingness to sacrifice
for the next generation as does the traditional form. It is this cohesiveness
and willingness to sacrifice self that make a society strong and stable. (No
society that forsakes its children can be considered strong, as a society
that cannot propagate itself has numbered its days.)
Fundamentalist Muslims cite a number of things they do not like about our nation. Although not often mentioned, the list is not limited to such things as our freedom and prosperity. They also hate us for our worldliness and decadence as exemplified by Hollywood and its movies and TV shows, which glorify sexual license, homosexuality, materialism and hedonism in general. Yet liberals consider themselves to be the protectors and defenders of many of these very things.
Isn't it interesting then, that on the one hand liberals do not want America to defend itself against terrorism by doing logical things to prevent it (such as striking at the enemy preemptively), and on the other, they champion things that make fundamentalist Muslims hate us all the more. One should ask how long America can remain safe and free when 30-60% of it's people are essentially twice suicidal.
If freedom was the default condition of man, i.e., that which simply happened when everything else had run its course, then the entire world should be free by now. The fact that most people are not free and that slavery still exists in the world, should demonstrate to the perceptive person that freedom is not the natural state of man. It is rather a state that has to be worked for, and once achieved, cared for and maintained. It as is though human "entropy" leads towards slavery and despotism; going the other way is an uphill battle.
To put it another way, only the truly wise seem to be able to establish freedom.
Yet any fool can help destroy it.
Evolutionists are fond of making the claim, "If creationists and Intelligent Design folks had their way, all scientific inquiry would stop!" A fallacious slippery slope argument, and also plain nonsense. Presumably they think that the human race would lose all its curiosity into such fields as mathematics, astronomy, physics, and so on. But isn't it interesting that evolutionists and cosmologists turn around and insist that we stop inquiring into the origins of life and the universe, telling us that we must accept some things as "brute facts"?
The December 2002/January 2003 issue of Natural History magazine, a pro-evolution (and anti-Christian) publication, contained a review of a book by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species. Their thesis is that symbiotic relationships between creatures are the primary means by which novel genetic material is created. In fact, they go so far as to say the following (initially quoting the reviewer):
But Margulis and Sagan have decided that biology can do away with random mutations, now that a much more powerful originator of evolutionary novelty is available in the form of symbiosis. They maintain that the accumulation of small genetic mutations is virtually always destructive and 'does not lead to new species or even to new organs or new tissues.' It is a half-truth whose lack of explicative power is compensated for only by the religious ferocity of its rhetoric'...
Sounds like what creationists and intelligent design folks have been saying for as long as they've been around.
I know: the standard evolutionist reponse when using something like this against them is, "Evolution is an undisputed fact; the only remaining disagreements are about the details." Yeah, right. The accumulation of small genetic mutations is virtually always destructive? I thought that was the force that created new genes. It never leads to new species or even to new organs? This is not a disagreement over details, this is the heart of the matter! And Lynn Margulis is no lightweight in the field of evolution.
It should be troubling to the reader that the explanatory framework of naturalistic evolution has persisted for so long in the absence of a universally agreed-upon mechanism of operation. At least in fields such as physics or chemistry, scientists eventually find some things that are not subsequently tosed out. Not so in evolution. From Darwin to Lamarck to Goldschmidt to Gould to Margulis to Wolfram, the fundamentals continue to shift.
(And don't you love the part about the "religious ferocity of its rhetoric?" What branch of true science needs to rely on that?)
Also from the same column in the December 2002/January 2003 issue of Natural History magazine, another review, this time of Darwin's Blind Spot: Evolution Beyond Natural Selection, by Frank Ryan. Quoting the reviewer:
He [Ryan] points out...that our earliest ancestors lived near the shores of oceans and lakes, and so lived in 'a diffuse exosymbiosis' with fish--which are rich in certain fatty acids that promote brain growth. Hence, he concludes, living in close association with fish caused the evolution of our large brains. Quite aside from the fact that I do not think killing and eating another species counts as symbiosis, the evolutionary rationale is naive. Even if our littoral forebears grew larger brains because of their diet, the advantage could not be genetically inherited, so it is hard to see how it could have affected human evolution. Such uncritical reasoning...weakens Ryan's overall thesis.
So this sort of bad reasoning gets published in a book, and it is up to the reviewer of the book to point out the flaws? Is this what passes for science in evolutionary circles?
Our homeland "information ministers" are themselves showing signs of rot from within. Eason Jordan's confession (http://scriptingnews.userland.com/stories/storyReader$1991) is only one example. His desire to maintain a Baghdad bureau is clearly linked to the loss of an unknown number of Iraqi lives. To placate the regime, he modified the news he reported, permanently damaging CNN's credibility. Had he pulled his bureau out of Iraq and exposed the regime for what it was, he might have preserved some Iraqi lives and hastened the end of an evil regime. But ratings were more important, and Iraqi propaganda being broadcast to the rest of the world through his cameras did not bother him.
Then there is Peter Collins, of ABC and then CNN: (link) "Having kept quiet for 14 years, a former ABC News correspondent has gone public...with allegations that network anchorman Peter Jennings manipulated news scripts during the 1980s in order to praise the Marxist-backed Sandinista government in Nicaragua." This is not merely the usual left-leaning bias of an individual reporter, this is the censoring of a reporter.
One should not leave out Jayson Blair of the NY Times, who fabricated news
for that no-longer-credible icon.
Let us hasten the decay of the liberal press. May I suggest ignoring it and finding other sources on the Web?
Those protesting the war are much quicker this time to insist that they "support the troops". Their experience with the first Gulf War apparently taught them that some things have changed since their Vietnam days, which originally defined who they were. Though "supporting the troops" was the first thing they uttered, was it sincere? What did they do to lend credence to this claim? Have they taken a job with a defense contractor? Sent a care package to a soldier? Voted for representatives who will vote to properly fund the military?
The phrase is merely rhetoric chosen so as to deflect criticism. Their "support" is only with their lips, to make the rest of their message as palatable as possible.
There is little doubt that marriage is less valued today than in recent decades. Such trends as living together, divorce, and alternatives to traditional marriage are on the rise. I question whether people are finding the greatest possible satisfaction in these new ways.
My decade of marriage to my one and only wife has been the most fulfilling experience of my life, outside of religious concerns. I see marriage as the building of a home. Not just any home, but my dream home. Stone by stone, my wife and I construct it with our own hands. It doesn't always go as planned, and being human, the workmanship is not always perfect. But as I labor at it, adding rooms over the years, I know that I want to remain here. It is comfortable and familiar.
What if someone were to begin construction, and before the foundation was finished, moved on? At each site, after obtaining the initial thrill of breaking ground and laying a few bricks, construction was abandoned in search of a better view, or prettier grounds. At the end of that person's life, not a single home has been completed. No place of comfort or familiarity has been built.
Some of you will not believe me, but lasting satisfaction through marriage can be attained. In contrast, the intense pleasure that people seek today is fleeting, since life's highs always have to be followed by corresponding lows. A steady day-by-day satisfaction is preferable. Besides, each of us needs a stable place in life, away from the uncertainties outside the home. Career and friends alone cannot provide this in a lasting way.
No marriage is rock solid outside of God; it is He who provides the cohesion.
Without the acknowledgement of a higher authority, two separate individuals
always have the potential to return to that state of individuality. God is
the necessary ingredient.
Rosalyn Carter once said that Ronald Reagan was popular because he, "made people feel comfortable with their prejudices." If that was so (and I don't think it was), then surely Bill Clinton made his followers comfortable with their false stereotypes, their moral relativism, and the act of adultery.
I am not aware that anyone has pointed out this gem of liberal hypocrisy: When liberals attempt to justify today's lack of standards, they employ moral relativism and argue that no one should "push their morality onto others." They insist that we should allow standards to evolve, rather than expecting them to be stable over time. But when they sit in judgement of the Founding Fathers (Washington, Jefferson, et al) for having owned slaves, they use the absolute standard that slavery is always wrong. If intellectual consistency were a concern of liberals, they would use the standards of the Fathers' day.
From a pamphlet published by an environmentalist political action committee, desirous of your after-tax dollars: "Save endangered species, like the whooping condor,..."
I think they meant the "Whooping Crane", and the "California Condor"--two separate species. Write them a check, quick! I'm sure they'll put the money to good use helping some species or other.
The February 2002 issue of Scientific American contains an excellent article on why television viewing really is addictive in the psychological sense (Scientific American, vol. 286, no. 2, p. 74). It is due to television's ability to excite the human "orienting reponse", which was designed to immediately draw our attention to motion in our field of vision. Television stimulates this reflex continuously.
Studies of television viewers indicate that they feel relaxed while watching, but after the TV goes off, the mild elation is replaced by feelings that are actually worse than if the TV had not been turned on. I recommend the article--instead of watching TV.
No nation is great if it cannot sustain itself from one generation to the next. One must question where the United States lies on the spectrum of sustainability. We will not survive as a free people merely because we desire that. Freedom and liberty require effort. The following things are required of a people that are to remain free:
- We must rely on some combination of God and ourselves, not on others. History clearly shows that excessive reliance on others will bring tyranny and exploitation by them. Reliance on government by too large a segment of our population would weaken us beyond repair.
- We must have a strong work ethic. This belief says that it is good to contribute one's labors to family and society. Anything less and we will not be as strong.
- We must have a reasonably common moral foundation on which to build interpersonal trust, which is required for internal peace and prosperity. (Until recently, an amalgam of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish morals ruled our nation. Their bases are sufficiently similar that they provided this common moral foundation effectively.) Without this foundation, a nation does not remain united, and therefore not strong. (Note that atheism will not suffice here, as it does not provide a sufficient foundation for the above.)
Today, some among us think us great because we are tolerant. We even tolerate those who plot to destroy us and our way of life, allowing them to live among us and share our prosperity and freedom. But tolerance to suicidal proportions is no sign of greatness.
Some hard-core evolutionists have made the bold claim that evolution (defined as life having arisen from non-living chemicals by purely naturalistic means) is known to be true with as much certainty as anything we know in all of science.
If that is so, then consider this: We know the details of many chemical reactions, including this basic one from high school chemistry: 2H2 + O2 -> 2(H2O). Therefore, to test the above claim, let the hard-core evolutionists produce the exact sequence of chemicals, starting with raw elements, which led to the first replicating molecule. In addition, let them show the evidence that proves this sequence was the actual sequence that occurred. Or let them drop their overreaching claim.
Someone recently commented to me on the insensitivity of a nation that would allow people to go homeless. He was obviously unaware that some people are homeless by choice.
Your first reaction may be that that is ridiculous. No one would choose to be without shelter! As hard as that is for you and I to understand, it does happen. I once met a gentleman, a former police officer-turned Salvation Army employee, who worked with the homeless every day. He shared the following with me: Some of the "homeless" had wives, children and yes, homes, just a few miles from where they slept. At any time, they could have walked to their houses and been welcomed in. But the responsibilities of life, taking care of a family and holding a job, were too much for them. They had forsaken those things in favor of complete dependency.
I realize that some of the homeless are mentally ill, and not homeless by
choice. But the rest (including drug addicts, who have also made a choice)
do have options of which they do not avail themselves.
A majority of people in this country have not known enemies willing to use lethal force and suicide to destroy them personally. This has allowed a dangerous measure of pacifism to arise. In the face of such enemies as we have today, pacifism is a self-defeating proposition. It is ironic that when pacifism becomes dominant, then those who favor it will perish, along with the idea itself and the liberty that allowed such laziness to arise.
In other words, in the presence of seemingly unbounded evil, pacifism is an unsustainable belief, as it cannot propagate itself indefinitely.
(Side note: I haven't heard anyone claim that human nature is fundamentally good since 9/10/2001.)
Hard-core evolutionists always make the claim that evolution must be taught because all of science is founded on the basic principles of evolution. Though patently ridiculous, this claim is never challenged.
I know of no one who denies that there is "change" in living things. Competition and change are fundamental to science, capitalism and progress, all of which I favor. However, "evolution" means much more than this to the hard-core: it is the belief that life originated from non-living chemicals and reached its present level of variety and sophistication by purely naturalistic processes. The following is not an exhaustive list of the branches of human knowledge (science) which do not depend on this particular belief, but it's a start:
Physical Sciences. Physics (sub-atomic particle physics, plasma physics, photographic science), chemistry (polymer chemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, crystallography, metallurgy), astronomy (solar, planetary, etc.)
Earth Sciences. Ocean climate studies, geography, meteorology, mining. (The use of index fossils in mining only indicates correlation, not causality.)
Life Sciences. Pharmacology. (I am aware that bacteria develop antibiotic-resistant strains, and that this represents differential survival of the bacteria. But this is not "evolution" as defined by the hard-core. This is merely small-scale change, if that.)
Human Studies. Archeology, history, psychiatry.
Engineering. Automotive, mechanical, structural, civil, nuclear, electrical, chemical, ceramic, aerodynamic, et al.
Computer science. (At the mention of this, the computer scientist will immediately think of genetic algorithms. I myself have used them. However, the fact that they work is insufficient to prove that life might have originated from non-living chemicals without outside intervention. For one thing, genetic algorithms do not spontaneously form within otherwise idle computers. There is no magic to them, as a human (dare I say, a "designer"?) has already encoded the characteristics that a good solution must possess into the algorithm. The algorithm merely conducts the search. The fact that they were inspired by someone observing nature also does not prove that life originated from non-living chemicals. It merely demonstrates that today's living world operates on some of those principles, at the scales we can observe.)
It is not necessary to believe in hard-core evolution to carry out research and contribute to the cumulative knowledge of mankind in dozens of areas. The only things that cannot survive without this belief system are atheism and secular humanism.
It is a well-entrenched misconception that bullies and the like are actually people with a low self-image. They supposedly seek to bolster that sagging image by pushing others down. This has never made sense, and has now been challenged. (See the article, "Violent Pride," Scientific American, April 2002.) Most evidence points to these people possessing an unusually elevated self-image. They act as if they own the world, and that is not far from what actually goes through their minds. Their condition may actually be closer to that of the narcissist than anything else. It is anything but a low self-image.
The immediate implication of this is not good for another liberal pet idea: self-esteem enhancement exercises for our troubled youth. These programs may be turning out youth that are more violent than ever by encouraging that which is actually the root of their problem. (Not surprising that a liberal idea might be wrong, and in a damaging way, huh?)