May 2004 Archives

Vessel of Honour has responded to my comments against the textual tradition that served as the basis of the King James Version (in my review of Bible translations). This is my somewhat lengthy response to what I consider to be a long list of false impressions, misunderstandings, and bad responses to what I said.

Good and Bad Worship

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ireneQ shares her struggles with what I think is one of the deepest problems within my generation of Christians, the tendency to think of worship as an experience rather than an action or attitude, to link it with particular times when those experiences happen ("worship times") rather than to one's life and actions. It's refreshing to see someone recognizing it and struggling with it.


What kind of things do people say behind your back?

Scared

People tend to call you "scary" or "deadly".

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This one's actually true. A friend of mine knew someone who called me the scary philosophy T.A.


Which one is your strongest Multiple Intelligence?

Musical

Has superb ability in performing, composing, or analyzing music. Knows how to play more than just "Rock and Soul" on the piano. Has a good sense of what sounds right vs. what sounds stupid.

Personality Test Results

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This is a little surpising, not that it's strong but that it's my strongest. Whoever wrote the title of the test doesn't understand that the mulitiple intelligences are different kinds of intelligence. It's not as if each is a multiple intelligence. I can't figure out how the questions had much to do with the results. Only one question was about music. (found via Proverbial Wife)

Same God posts

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In a continuing effort to shorten my list in the sidebar despite constantly adding to them, I'm removing my two posts on the same God issue with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and linking just this one that refers to both of them.

The first was simply an argument that the one being called God in English is the same being that Muslims refer to with the name 'Allah', though they believe very different things about this one God, which makes all the difference. The second looked at some arguments in N.T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God about first-century Judaism and first-century Christianity and their relevance to this issue. Partly it helped clarify my position, and partly it helped me express my reasons for thinking this a little more clearly.

Update: This comments on this post about on freedom, rights, and 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance also has a discussion about the same issue that reflects a development of my thought on this issue. The basic idea is that I don't think there's one sense in which an expression might refer to God. An act of false worship may in one sense be worship of God but done so wrongly that it's immoral and worthless. The same act of false worship may in another sense not count as genuine worship of God and therefore count as worship of a false god. I think the former sense is primary and the latter secondary, as the terms in English are standardly used, and John 8:41-44 and II Kings 17 contain examples of the two senses in the Bible. The correct theory of reference-fixing for terms like 'God' and 'Allah' should explain why there are both senses, but it may still turn out that my view that the one of II Kings 17 is the primary one in English.

Update 2 (March 2008): The conversation picked up again in response to a debate between Rick Love and John Piper. In Muslims Worshiping God But Not Worshiping God, I present the argument in a different enough way that I thought it was worth linking to it here, and I respond to the objection that Muslims deny an essential property of God and thus must not refer to him when they use God-language.

Then in Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? I respond to a couple arguments from Timothy Tennent. He argues that it doesn't seem right to say that the God of Muhammad is the Father of Jesus, and I point out the real problem in that statement is that no Muslim or Christian should accept both labels for God, but that both could refer to God in the same way that mistaken descriptions of mere human beings can refer even if they get things badly wrong (e.g. the red-haired man across the room drinking champagne, when it's a bald woman in a wig cross-dressing and drinking wine out of a champagne glass).

Finally, in Islam and a Different Jesus, I respond to a more difficult set of arguments from Kevin Courter and Dale Tuggy. What about Paul's statement in II Corinthians that those who teach a false gospel are teaching a different Jesus? What about his statements in I Corinthians about demons lying behind idols? What if Muhammad actually received the Qur'an from a demon? This post offers a slightly modified view that can handle these objections, and it argues that, since you won't be able to modify the alternative view to handle the difficulties I've raised for that position, my view is the most reasonable way to handle the tensions within the scriptures that bear on this issue.

Update 3 (March 2011): Miroslav Volf has now released a book about this that seems worth reading. He sees to me to give a bad argument for the correct view, and then he goes on to apply the view in ways that strike me as possibly going way too far, but I'd have to see the details of what he has to say to be sure beyond that. I've recorded some thoughts on Volf here.

Sam's latest post (and the comments) got me thinking about the structural relations of race in relation to those of gender and sex. Sex is a biological category, and gender is social. Those with more liberal attitudes about these things tend to include most sex or gender differences in the category of gender, seeing as much as they can as illegitimately forced perceptions of male and female not required by biology. Sam was arguing for a conclusion on the other end of the spectrum, that there isn't anywhere near as much to gender as opposed to biological sex as many people seem to want. I gave some reasons in the comments not to take it so far. People of all political persuasions will want to see some inappropriate gender standards that aren't dictated by biology, and most people don't seem to have a problem even with some socially-determined gender differences. It's not as if most people who affirm the distinction think everything about gender is wrong.

Anyway, that's all in the comments. You can read it there if you want more. What's interesting to me about this right now is its bearing on questions about race. We can separate gender and sex without having to do conceptual analysis to see what our concept of gender refers to in the world or what our concept of sex refers to in the world. These terms have been defined by those who study this issue. The debate is over which elements of our more general sex/gender concepts fit into each category. In race, the debate is at an earlier location. We can't even agree on what criteria are used to determine racial categories. This is because we're trying to do conceptual analysis. We postulate a single concept of race and then try to figure out what that concept refers to in reality (if anything). That in itself will explain some of the differences here.

I've been reading through some commentaries on Isaiah for the Bible study on Isaiah 29 that I'm leading tonight, and I discovered something very interesting in John Oswalt's commentary, which is an excellent book overall, one of the two best commentaries on Isaiah of our time as far as I'm concerned (the other being Alec Motyer's).

Oswalt is an avowed Arminian. He thinks a significant degree of human choice involves a freedom that makes God's plan, in effect, holey and not just holy. God's sovereignty could but doesn't cover every human choice, particularly the ones we're morally responsible for. On the other hand, Reformed theology(sometimes identified with Calvinism, though perhaps it's more an association than an identity) takes God's sovereignty to cover every single event throughout history. God isn't morally responsible for all these events, but he does in some sense stand behind every event as sovereign over them. At the very least this would be because God could have prevented any event that he didn't want happening. Reformed thinkers tend to want to say something stronger than that, though, that God in some way causes every event.

As I was reading through Oswalt's comments on Isaiah 29, which deals in some ways with the issue of God's sovereignty over human rejection of God, I discovered a common misunderstanding of Reformed thought. I've found many Arminian theologians who really just don't understand Calvinism or Reformed thought, and I think this case is a good example of that.

Welcome to the nineteenth Christian Carnival. This is an exciting edition to be hosting, because 19 is the highest prime number lower than 20. That means this is the last Christian Carnival of the first 20 that will be numbered with a prime number. An era is ending! The prime numbers get much more rare from here on. There are eight primes in the first 20. We have to wait until 53 to get through another eight primes and then 89 for another eight beyond that, then 131, etc. So this is an important edition of the Christian Carnival.

Before going on to the Carnival. I'll warn you that many of the blogs in the Carnival are hosted by Blogger, which has had some serious server problems recently. They were better, but then they started acting up again, so I'm making it a little easier to get to Blogger posts by linking both main pages and individual posts and giving the name of each post (unless it's really obvious to find from the description) for every post on a Blogger blog. You can see my advice for getting around these problems if you encounter them. On to the Carnival...

Blogger Rots

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Why don't we say things rot anymore? Now they just suck, and somehow that's supposed to sound worse than saying they rot, but which is really worse? I'd rather suck than rot, because if you suck then at least you're doing something. If you rot, then you're either dead and wholly a material object (or else it wouldn't be you but your corpse that is rotting) or some sort of undead, and sucking is much better than either. So we should return to saying things rot if we really want them to sound bad.

Well, Blogger really seems to be rotting away these days. The wretched free site that you shouldn't expect anything from because you get what you pay for that seemed to have improved such a great deal in the last month or so has apparently gotten even worse. Blogger has been having some of the most ridiculous server problems I've ever seen them have (and that says a lot). The "www" before the address won't work. Permalinks seem not to be working consistently. Sometimes even a blog's main page won't load up the first time (which has been going on for months, but now it redirects you somewhere else, and you can't just hit reload, which was all it took before for it to work).

I got off Blogger as soon as I had the opportunity to do so without paying for something else, but I still have to read Blogger blogs because others haven't had that opportunity. I'm going through the Christian Carnival entries for tomorrow, and so many of them are Blogger blogs that it's going to be really annoying for people to go through this thing when it's done. For that reason, I've been exploring how to avoid some of these problems, since you can always expend some effort to read a post you're looking for if you can get to the main index of the blog you want and then scroll down. Even the Blogger permalink problems are less likely to occur if you're coming from the blog it's part of (though I'm not sure even that's guaranteed). The problem is that if the main page doesn't load, it redirects you. So you may have to type the name in manually. You'll probably want to copy it before you hit enter, so that when it doesn't load up the first time and redirects you, you can just paste it back in and hit enter again. With a little persistence, it usually works.

So much for the new Blogger, if this is the result!

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has an excellent post on the backlash against Hooters for having a Little Miss Hooters contest. Joe agrees that this needed a response, but he finds the response to be for entirely the wrong reasons. Those responding to the problem share the same bad assumptions of the people who created the contest to begin with.

How old should a person be before it becomes acceptable to treat them as an object? Where do we draw the line of demarcation between the age when you are treated as a human and the age it becomes acceptable to treat you as an object? Most people set the standard at eighteen, the magical age when a person can register to vote and buy lottery tickets. Other people, though, would choose to set the age lower. Much, much lower. Naturally, some of these people can be found at Hooters.

Joe goes on to explain why the assumption behind this criticism is just as bad as the people it's supposed to criticize. Why assume that there's an age of objectification at all? Surely it's worse to objectify someone who's only 5 than it is to objectify an adult, but does that mean it's ok or even not very bad to objectify an adult? The more serious moral wrong here is the objectifying of a person. It's just worse when the person objectified happens to be a child.

Smoking Pharisees

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Many Christians treat smoking as one of the worst sins, something you can assume someone isn't a Christian if you see them doing. Tim Challies has a good post showing why such an attitude is Pharisaical.

Now I think a good argument can be made that smoking is morally wrong, even without the Bible, though it would be based on controversial ethical views that aren't common to all the main ethical theories. A virtue- or character-based ethic will have the easiest time showing this, I think, though other principles might count. Still, the other sorts of things that come out immoral on these grounds wouldn't compare too well with the Pharisaical people who place smoking on such a pedestal of evils. One consideration against smoking, that it pollutes, counts similarly against failing to recycle or driving an SUV. Another, the annoyance factor, counts just as much against mowing your lawn at 9am in a university area or playing loud music after 10pm in a neighborhood with kids. Pursuing the character trait of taking care of your body means avoiding sloth and gluttony as much as smoking, and those aren't on the list of total evils of most of the people I have in mind (though I'd say the same thing about someone who is overweight, whose spiritual level I have seen people wonder about). The second-hand smoke issue is stronger, but that depends on the context of the smoking, which can be controlled, and this reason also counts against people who have cars that pollute so badly as to harm people's health. Would most of these things be on the list of sins the observance of which should create the impression that someone probably isn't a Christian? Then neither should smoking.

Thomas Sowell:

No one in World War II demanded that President Roosevelt present them with a timetable for the end of the war, much less for when our military occupation would end in Europe. Nor did anyone demand to know how much the war would cost in dollars and cents. But the maturity to think beyond the moment has apparently become far more scarce today than it was in the days of the greatest generation. Will future historians call us the childish generation? How much today's childishness will cost this country in the long run only the future will tell -- and it may tell in blood.

Link from Amanda Strassner.

Update: More from Sowell on the public's supposed right to know and a followup on the insanity of many of the accusations given that due process is taking place. One problem with blogs is that so many of the columnists I enjoy now get less time because I'm looking around at mere bloggers, so it's nice when people link to real columnists. Thanks to Baldilocks for linking these.

Blogger Links

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The boneheads at Blogger have gone and eliminated the "www" prefix at the beginning of all blogs stored on the Blogspot server. So if you've got any links to Blogger blogs, check to see if they have a "www" attached to the front. If they do, remove that, and they'll work again. Half the blogs linking to Uncle Sam's Cabin use the discontinued format, so if you're one of those, please fix it.

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted right here at Parablemania.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Then do the following:

A recent survey of Bible translations used by pastors in the U.S. of different denominations (linked, I believe, by Jollyblogger somewhere) gave me the idea for this post. I have little to say about the survey itself except that it was strange that they didn't include Presbyterians as a category and that they didn't single out the NET, RSV, or ESV.

What I'm mainly interested in doing here is giving people enough information to choose what English translations of the Bible are best for various purposes. I don't think there's one best translation, and which one you pick will be affected by a number of factors, including things about yourself and the circumstances in which you'll be using this particular Bible. First, though I want to report two real occurrences from my friend who worked in a religious bookstore. One woman asked about purchasing a Bible. He asked her what translation she wanted. Her response: "English!" This was not someone who spoke English as a second language, from whom such a response makes perfect sense. The second case is often told as a joke, but this really happened to my friend. Someone came into the store asking for a Bible. He asked what translation the person wanted, and he received in response, "The King James, you know, the one Jesus used." Well, I hope to do a better job of explaining Bible translations than those who failed these people.

American Fetal Talk

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According to this study (thanks to McConchie for the link), Americans commonly talk to their fetal children, while people in other countries tend not to do so. This really surprises me, given that Americans also tend to put in the strongest showing for killing their fetal children for reasons of convenience. (That's even illegal in Norway, for instance. Relaxed attitudes toward the permissibility of abortion are common in Europe, but the number of abortions for incredibly selfish reasons is much, much lower.) The researcher quoted in the article even sees this as evidence that people "start to think of their unborn children as persons who are part of their family". Are these two Americas, along the political lines evidences in the political maps and book-buying maps that I've linked before but won't bother to try to find again? Or are these products of the same communities and values? I have a hard time believing it's the second option, but I can't think this sort of thing runs along political lines either, which makes me hesitatnt to accept the first. So I'm baffled. Are we just contradictory in this?

I never thought John Kerry had much to say about the gay marriage issue. It's pretty clear now that when he does try to say something about it he has no idea what he's talking about. Here's what he said (the whole thing is here for context, not that it helps):

I believe that the president of the United States should not use the Constitution of the United States for election purposes during an election year. It's a document that we haven't touched, certainly with respect to the Bill of Rights, for years, and I don't think it should be used for the purpose of driving a political wedge through America. I think it's wrong.

Now, that said, I personally have taken the position I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's my position. And I think that's the way you respect -- (applause) -- that's the way you respect both traditional values, but you can allow civil unions, which protects the rights of people in America not to be discriminated against. And I think you can balance that. And I think it's appropriate to. But I do think that it ought to be left to the states. There's no showing whatsoever yet that the states don't have the ability to be able to manage this one-by-one individually, and we have always, throughout history, left the issue of marriage to the states. That's what I think we should do. I think the president should not be meddling with the Constitution of the United States for his political objective.

Digitus, Finger & Co. gives the following argument (with premises number and steps made more explicit and step 5 added for rigor):

1. Girls = Time x Money (premise)
2. Time = Money (premise)
3. Girls = Money x Money or, Money2 (1, 2 identity substitution)
4. Money = √evil (premise)
5. Money2= evil (4, squaring both sides of an identity yields a identity)
6. Girls = evil (3, 5 transititivity of identity)

�2004 Neil Uchitel

I think my argument for God's being outside time was at least as good:

The End of PBS

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PBS has relatively little going for it these days, but the last major good it was doing had to do with educational programming. Sesame Street has slid a bit in terms of some features, though it's improved in others. Our kids love it, and they've made the features that were most successful over the years more prominent. I think Playhouse Disney tends to be a little better. The Wiggles is probably the best kids' show on TV (though it pales compared to Veggie Tales).

Well, PBS has gone and ruined whatever they had left. They've added voiceovers to all their educational programming, apparently for the sake of vision-impaired children. I have no problem with adding features that people can turn on if they like and if they have the proper equipment. This is what's done with closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. Most people don't want those subtitles appearing on the screen. It's just incredibly annoying and hides some of the artistry of what's being done visually on the screen. Well, the same should be true of voiceovers to describe auditorily what's going on visually. What PBS has been doing this past week detracts so much from the audio of the work that it completely ruins it.

Despite not being able to move around much without vertigo and still not recovering on my sleep, I've finally gotten through the whole Carnival while also getting through most of my preparation for tonight's Bible study on Isaiah 28. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to do any of the original content blog posts I wanted to do, though. Besides my obligatory mention of my post on God's will and naturalism and Sam's on women being silent in the churches, I want especially to recommend Rebecca's discussion of some things to learn from Paul's prayers, in particular the one at the beginning of Philippians.

Also, La Shawn reminds us of some particularly Christian convictions we should apply to the violence going on in the world right now, along with some good reasons to resist the popular view that Jesus commanded pacifism in the Sermon on the Mount. There are a number of other posts worth thinking about and interacting with.

Another item that's Christian Carnival-worthy that wasn't in this week's Carnival but is worth my mentioning now (for one reason because it continues a discussion that's been partly on this blog) is Jollyblogger's lengthy analysis of charismatic issues as a followup on the Blogdom of God conversation about God's will. I was expecting to have to write a long response, but it turns out there's very little we disagree on, even though he considers himself a cessationist and I consider myself a non-cessationist.

The eighteenth Christian Carnival is at Back of the Envelope. I've been having a hard time concentrating enough all day to be able to read enough sentences at a time to get through it very quickly. I still haven't recovered from being up all night spilling my guts (literally) two nights ago. At least I can write in complete sentences. So I'll have to get around to highlighting entries later on.

Since I can't really write anything coherent, here's part III of at least IV of some stuff you have no need to know but I'm telling you anyway.

No Subject

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Very, very sick. Up all night throwing up, interspersed with very bad diarrhea. Still have no idea what caused it with one but only one other member of the household sick. Felt much better after each purge and able to move around more easily now with just a headache and some uncomfortability in the midsection. Wasn't feeling up to blogging much today but a little better now. Not putting any subjects in these sentences, though they all have the same understood subject. Not counting subordinate clauses.

In case you've been under a rock, today is the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that forced integration (not that the ten years it took to enforce the decision counts very much toward seeing it as forced). I don't really have anything to say about this. I was hoping to have something by now, but I simply don't. I did find a number of interesting discussions at other places, most of them from the beginning of the month.

Avery at Stereo Describes My Scenario discusses some of the external barriers Brown removed (though at a high cost, and he doesn't think integration for its own sake is even a good). Crispus gives some more specifics on the good that was accomplished but laments some of those internal barriers. Stuart Buck at The Buck Stops Here argues more carefully what that cost was. If he's right, Brown v. Board was directly responsible for destroying some good schools -- black schools -- and indirectly responsible for some of the degree of badness in inner city schools today. However, he also points out that internal barriers have taken their place. La Shawn Barber argues that, however good the effects, the decision was unconstitutional. Eugene Volokh has a series of three posts discussing those very constitutional issues in more detail.

When I first moved to Ektopos, I emailed Adrian Warnock a few times to change the link in the Blogdom of God, to no avail. Finally I mentioned my frustration in a post. He responded by saying that I need to blog about anything to get his attention, because his spam filter ate my emails. So I'm blogging again to get his attention, since my email yielded no response.

The links for this blog have changed, including the RSS feed, which is why the aggregator hasn't been including any of my posts. I've got the details in an earlier post.

Someone on one of the music lists I'm on sent some bits from English translations of French and German Reviews of Proto-Kaw's new album Before Became After. Some of these are great.

Secret Agent Man

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Since I'm going to be working on the questions for the Blogdom of God interview soon, I decided to go read the two interviews that I hadn't read yet. One of them was of Secret Agent Man's Dossier. This hasn't been true of any of the other interviews I've read so far, but I found a number of items worth drawing attention to.

From Nick Queen:

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted at Back of the Envelope.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Then do the following:

Hope for the Future

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Here's a quote from a paper a black student wrote for me:

In fact most of the minority protestors have no idea what it is to be a child of "the ghetto," for example Rev. Al Sharpton. He stands in front of the camera in his designer suit preaches about how "the man" is holding the African American community down, then gets in his limo and comfortably rides back to his pent-house apartment.

There's hope for the next generation.

I've met Joel Rosenberg a couple times. He used to write for World Magazine before he wrote a bestselling novel, and World posted a comment from him yesterday on their blog. Before he wrote for them, he was a student at Syracuse University, where I'm currently working on my Ph.D. I've met him a couple times due to my involvement with a Christian organization that he was involved with when he was a student here, and we have some common friends because of that.

He responds to this statement by Nick Berg's father:

My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this.

Joel says:

I grieve and pray for this man and his family. No one should have to suffer what they are suffering now.... But Mr. Berg's outrage at the Bush administration is both misguided and offensive. Nick Berg didn't die because President Bush sent military forces into Iraq. President Bush sent military forces into Iraq because innocent people like Nick Berg were dying every day. And many more would have died if Saddam Hussein had been allowed to continue his reign of terror unchecked.

Myers-Briggs Stuff

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I frequently get people visiting my site when searching for personality type information on Google. It might be good to have some actual content on that now and then instead of just the link in the sidebar to Keirsey's book that I'm reading.

Here's a good collection of Myers Briggs links.

Bloginality keeps track of how many people of each Myers Briggs type have taken the test on their site. As of this writing, there are some real disparities:

'Thee' and 'Thou'

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A couple weeks ago Volokh blogged about 'thee' and 'thou'. One thing he mentioned that I've known for a little while but seems so contrary to popular opinion is that 'thee' and 'thou' were the informal and more personal versions of the second person pronoun, and 'ye' and 'you' were reserved for more formal situations. The informal 'thee' and 'thou' eventually became archaic, and their association with old-fashionedness, which also somehow got associated with formality, led to the dominant myth that 'thee' and 'thou' are more formal.

Should people use these terms when praying? Should people prefer a Bible translation that uses them with respect to God? I've encountered a number of people who prefer them and some who insist on it. I've also encountered probably a much greater number who have preferred 'you', many of them insisting on it. The issues become quite complicated, simply because most people don't understand the history of their own language enough to know why these words were chosen in older translations (and the archaic on this matter NASB) when referring to God.

Here are three more items you don't have any reason to have to know about me. I have two more installments planned (written, in fact, though I need to find some links for some of them). If anyone thinks this sort of thing is worth continuing or if you have any specific questions, let me know, and I'll see what I can do. At some point self-disclosure becomes non-existent with me if I'm left to my own initiative, so if I'm going to be like some bloggers and share interesting bits of information about myself occasionally I may need prodding. Maybe no one who reads this blog cares, but if you do then go ahead and encourage it in particular ways by feeding me questions to respond to.

I'm supposed to be responding questions for the Blogdom of God blogger interview I'm doing for Army of One, so I should get to that before I do too much more of this.

This is excellent. I found links to it this morning on both InstaPundit and Josh Claybourn within minutes of each other, so I'm giving credit to both.

Update (June 2006): That page has been dead for quite a while, but I found a new location for it.

Grades Are In

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Well, the last set of grades has been turned in. This is the first time I've assigned regular papers instead of dialogues, and it's the highest plagiarism rate I've seen in a couple years, one moderate case and three very serious cases. It's also the most people I've ever failed in a semester (seven).

Normal blogging with what I consider more serious and reflective content will resume shortly. I've got lots of posts planned that I just haven't been able to get to. I'll try to space them out so it's not overkill, and that way I might even have some typed posts that I can put off for when I don't have time to write.


The only book which doesn't take place in Narnia at all, per se, you're the story of a voyage to find the end of the world and hopefully the Seven Lost Lords (remember Rhoop!). You contain some of the most unique people and places and beautiful descriptions of the whole series.

Find out which Chronicles of Narnia book you are.

from Proverbial Wife.

The officials in my country are afraid of President Bush, so they don't persecute Christians as much. Under Clinton it was very bad for us. Many of us were arrested, put in jail, and some were killed. With Clinton, it was very bad. But under President Bush, it has been so much better, so we are praying for him.

This is from a pastor in Uzbekistan, an officially Muslim country that I happen to have been to. It's reported by Admiral Quixote's Roundtable in a post intended for this week's Christian Carnival that didn't make it to the Carnival's host.

What this quote illustrates is that after having been free from Soviet control for a time, the formerly oppressed became the oppressors of all who would threaten the notion that to be Uzbek is to be Muslim (even though many Uzbeks are hardly religious). Evangelical Christians who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and offer it to all are thus severely persecuted in that land, simply for considering Muslims as possible audiences for their message.

Here is an element of the Bush presidency that I hadn't considered, but it fits with what I understand about how the government officials there operate. They welcomed Americans until they realized how many were Christians who were unafraid to talk about their faith. Then they began to crack down rather quickly once it became clear that they could get away with it without opposition from the American government. I was there around the time this crackdown started. They were deporting foreign Christians at first on the grounds of illegal missionary work, and when the U.S. government said nothing they began to do harsher things, eventually raiding people's apartments, imprisoning church leaders, and much worse things that I'm not willing to talk about in a public forum. The current administration has come down harder on that sort of thing, so this pastor's reaction is understandable. This may not be a sufficient reason for voting for Bush, but it's something Christians who are having trouble deciding should consider.

Worship Wars

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From this week's Christian Carnival:

Bill Wallow gives a very balanced perspective on the rift developing over how kinds of music and other trivial issues people debate about with worship. I'd probably say stronger things against the side he didn't focus as much on, but he was specifically challenging only one side here and just giving caveats about the criticisms he gives in the other direction. It's worth reading in toto, even if it's a big totus. If you factor in Jollyblogger's comment as a minor corrective, I think I agree with pretty much everything. I would probably have commented myself had I not already seen him doing so.

Bad Da Vinci Code!

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Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is not just bad in content, as biblical scholar and theologian Craig Blomberg shows here, but it's badly written as well, according to linguist Geoff Pullum. Of course, Blomberg, who recognizes its awful content, found it a good read, so something else must count as a good-making feature of a novel, even if its content and style are both bad.

Update: Now I don't know what to think. My brother Rick knows good literature if anyone does, and he says the following:

Font Issues

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For some reason my font size on this blog all of a sudden got much bigger this morning after I changed something that should be irrelevant. It looks really annoying. I can change my browser's default font viewing size to make it smaller, but that doesn't look like the way it used to look. Has anyone else noticed this? Does anyone have a clue what might be causing it? My stylesheet hasn't changed, and nothing in the template that I've changed should have anything to do with this.

Downtimes and Fixes

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Well, the blog was down for some time today. It's back up. Some of the internal links are now dead due to the transferral. I assume links to http://parablemania.ektopos.com will continue to work in the future, but the new location is http://mt.ektopos.com/parablemania. What won't work anymore are internal links in the form of the first link, including http://parablemania.ektopos.com/mt, and some of the post numbers have even changed, so you can't just substitute. If you find any broken links, let me know. I am trying to change them all. I'm that picky.

Update: In case you're here from this week's Christian Carnival, go to this entry. The entry I submitted has now left the building (or at least the screen), so you can't get to it by scrolling down as the instructions said. I'll have a post on the Carnival once I've read it all. I've been grading all day and just barely made my first grading deadline. The other one is Friday at noon.

Update 2: I've fixed the wrong link that I had in this post.

The XML link has also changed. It's now http://mt.ektopos.com/parablemania/index.rdf.

I'm gradually updating the internal links. Everything in May and in the sidebar should be correct. It will take some time to work backward.

The Blogdom of God discussion on God's will continues at New Covenant, Jollyblogger, and Adrian Warnock's blog.

It occurred to me that one of my reasons for taking the view I've endorsed, which seems to have been at least closely approximated by Jollyblogger and some of the others in the discussion, has to do with my opposition to naturalistic influence on Christian thought. There are two ways this can happen.

This post at Baldilocks gave me the idea to share a few things about myself that might be considered curiosities. Perhaps you could think of them as things about me that you might not otherwise have known. I typed up a bunch of these but will probably post them in shorter sets, since they're not brief sentences like Juliette's.

Baldilocks says President Bush has the right to fire Donald Rumsfeld for not communicating how bad the offenses were earlier. In any job it's bad to withhold important information, and if you're in charge of the Pentagon it's even more serious. So this is the sort of thing that someone could easily be fired for. I wasn't sure Rumsfeld even knew how serious these charges were, though. Am I wrong about that?

She then goes on to say that, even if it's the sort of thing that could get someone fired, there's still no reason to insist that he must be fired for it. One issue is what many people have continued to emphasize, that Rumsfeld has done a very good job in general as Secretary of Defense. If he'd lied or somehow otherwise been part of a coverup, that would be reason to insist that he resign or be fired, but there's no evidence of such a thing. Everything that needs to happen to solve the problems seems to be happening. She argues that his resignation would accomplish nothing more and would harm the war effort.

I've always wondered why old people are always depicted with southern accents. On a Farscape episode when John Crichton was made to age unnaturally, somehow he acquired not just gray hair and wrinkles but a southern accent. On a Stargate episode the same thing happened to Jack O'Neill. How does age make you acquire an accent from a region in which you perhaps have never even lived?

John McWhorter gives an explanation for this in a post at Language Log. Back when TV role stereotypes were developing, there had been mass migration from rural to urban locales, and older people tended to have more rural manners of speaking, including stronger southern accents in some cases. Somehow the more rural ways of speaking got associated with age. He points out that this makes no sense given today's demographics, but it makes even less sense given a science fiction character's unnatural aging. Why should your accent change if your cells prematurely start to degenerate?

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted at Spare Change.

If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Then do the following:

New blog?

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Brian Weatherson complains that philosophy group blogs are geographically located (or at least institutionally based) rather than by subject, so I'm tossing around the idea of starting a philosophy of religion group blog. Any ideas for a name? I'm also interested in people who would be good bloggers for it who would be interested in doing it.

While I'm at on business matters, I should mention that the physical location of this blog will be moving. Apparently it's not in the United States at the moment, but it will be soon. There may be trouble with the site during the next week, so that's the reason if you have any problems.

Dirt Baths

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McConchie on Bioethics writes:

Remember the doctor that recommended that you eat your snot? Well now two epidemiologists are claiming that the more kids bathe in dirt, the less likely they are to eczema. Under their theory, humans have learned to live with certain bacteria over the past few million years and actually now need them. Without the bacteria to keep them occupied, the body's two types of immune system cells attack the body for want of an opponent. The researchers believe that this helps point out that moderhygienene may actually promote allergic diseases.

Actually, the study seemed to me to be saying that if you have cats, multiple kids, or a farm then you're less likely to have eczema, asthma, or other allergic reactions, but the conclusion Daniel draws isn't too much of a stretch from that. So bring on the dirt baths. I assume dirt eating is part of this.

I've never been a fan of Senator Joseph Biden, but I think this should make even those who like him cringe. He said that Bush should "demand the resignations for whoever is involved in this policy, and that includes Lord God Almighty himself. It includes anybody involved." I can read this in a few ways, none of them reflecting very well on his character.

What the Pork?

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This search led someone to my site. Keep in mind that the person has to click on the link for me to know about it. Here is the search string:

The mark is seen very importantly at present

Here is the summary statement of my site that resulted, which the person proceeded to click on:

..'ve seen it... land is ...you bring The mark of Cain ..., but Mark
is always worth... me at carnivalhost...(more importantly) the small
... strayed very ... your very ... ever seen in...is present at conception

I should point out that I was the fourth item in the list, and not one of them appears to have anything to do with whatever the pork the person was looking for. I can't fathom what led the person to think my site should have anything to do with the interests of anyone at all based on such a summary.

Mark Steen has a great post at the new OrangePhilosophy on how to catch plagiarists. I've used most of these methods (and found cases like most of those he gives), and they usually are good signs worthy at least of a Google search. Some of the cases I know about would be really funny if I didn't know that someone really thought they could pass off what they handed in as their own work.

The most obvious one was when someone handed in a paper that was pretty mediocre throughout but then had a paragraph from Kant's Critique of Pure Reason at the very end (and Kant wasn't course material). There's no style more distinctive than Kant (except perhaps Aquinas or Spinoza), and you have to be pretty stupid to think whoever is grading your paper could think today's undergrads could write something as obtuse and technical as Kant (well, the obtuse happens all the time, but not in the way Kant is obtuse).

I had someone personally give me a normal-seeming paper most of the way through, but there was one paragraph right in the middle that sounded like it was written by a graduate student in neuroscience. Those are probably the worst cases I've seen, but there are many others that were fairly obvious once you understand the kinds of things Mark discusses.

Jollyblogger collects the links to most of the God's will posts in the Christian blogosphere of late. There are more than I'd realized, though he did miss at least one. Unfortunately, I don't have the link for the other one I know about anymore. It was from someone who was offering an Arminian account in challenge to the Reformed accounts of most of us, but I didn't think it was very fair to Reformed thought, and I expressed my concerns in the comments. I checked back a bit later and hadn't seen any response, but then I later lost the link. If anyone knows which blog this was on, feel free to post the link in the comments (or perhaps at Jollyblogger instead to make his post more complete).

Back of the Envelope continues the discussion about evangelicalism and its boundaries, raising questions about whether evaneglicals must hold to inerrancy. He's now interacted a good deal with some of my comments, and it's turned more into a conversation. I wasn't exactly wanting to recommend this post when I first read it, as my lengthy comments will show, but what it's turned into now is definitely worth digesting.

TAR Moves

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Brian Weatherson's blog Thoughts arguments and rants has moved to a new location. For those who don't know, Brian was a faculty member in my department before moving to Brown, and now he's moving to Cornell. Brown has been hosting his blog while he's been under their employment. His is without a doubt the definitive blog in philosophydom.

Of course, tar doesn't move very quickly, so how am I supposed to watch its moves?

More on the "Bush is unintelligent" myth from The Buck Stops Here.

It has been much remarked that President Bush often stumbles over his words in public speaking. It has nearly as often been suggested that this is a sign of low intelligence.

This second suggestion can be made only by someone who confuses intelligence with the ability to spout BS. We've all seen politicians who have the latter gift.

President Bush just isn't one of them. Stuart goes on:

Indeed, people who think that intelligence manifests itself only in the ability to BS are themselves displaying low intelligence.

He's criticizing the stupid view that lack of intelligence is the only explanation for lack of the ability to BS. Then he says that lack of intelligence is the only explanation for someone holding such a stupid view. It sounds remarkably similar, doesn't it? So I wouldn't go so far as to say that all those who hold the "Bush is unintelligent" myth on the grounds of his lack of ability to BS are stupid. They're simply acting as if they have low intelligence. They may have the intelligence and just fail to use it. Of course, that's probably worse, because people who aren't intelligent can't help it.

One of the things that I think Rumsfeld did perfectly was handle the question of a possible resignation. In particular, one senator asked him, in essence, if he would step down if his presence was a hindrance regarding Iraq. And he simply answered "Yes".

That spoke volumes about him valuing getting the job done more than valuing being right.

And I hope he means it because it may come to it (though I sincerely hope not).

At first glance, the call for resignation is absurd. Rumsfeld almost certainly knew nothing about what was happening at Abu Ghraib, and, as he rightly points out, he should not be expected to know the details of all 3,000 odd current court martial investigations. He has plausable denaibility in spades. Some would call on the principle of "The buck stops here", here being in this case Rumsfeld. That would be true if the we lost the Iraq war, or if the entire Iraq reconstruction effort fails. But not for the administration of a prison, or even for the administration of all the prisons. That buck stops somewhere lower on the chain of command. (Where? I have no idea--any ideas?)

So why might a resignation be necessary? Because he is responsible for the entire Iraq reconstruction, and if it fails horribly, the buck stops with him. He must therefore do whatever it takes to ensure that the Iraq reconstruction goes well, regardless of his actual complicity in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. So he might be forced to step down if the people if Iraq end up identifying him (no matter how falsely) with the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

I agree with Jeremy that "It's becoming increasingly clear that there had been some sort of investigation already going on, and they just didn't want anything public until they'd completed that investigation."

My question now to CBS is if they knew that these photos were part of an ongoing investigation. And here is a further question about journalistic ethics in general: If you happen to discover (through legitimate means) an atrocity, are you ethically bound in any way to not report on it if it turns out that there is an ongoing investigation into that investigation? Part of me wants to say yes to help preserve due process. But a biger part of me wants to say no, or else there could be precious little reporting done. No accidents could be reported on in the news unless no one cares to investige them or until the matter has been fully resolved. (So much for getting traffic reports--by the time any accident that causes traffic is investigated, the traffic is long over. And forget about warning a community that a serial killer is on the loose--the first murders are still being investigated.) And a truly corrupt executive branch could essentially repeal freedom of press by opening investigations into everything and then not pursue any of them.

So. Not sure what to make of the ethics of the release of the pictures...

However, the fact that there was an ongoing investigation explains a lot of what was confusing me before. Without knowing that, it seemed like various people knew that there were abuses going on, but that noone was doing anything about it--it looked like it was being covered up. The ongoing investigation explains that something was indeed being done.

I'm still in the thick of things with grading, though the urgency factor is drastically lower now that classes are over and the first grading deadline is not until Wednesday. Still, I'm putting off the posts on my growing list of things to blog about more seriously (affirmative action, intermarriage and divorce in Ezra 9-10, Leibniz and necessitarianism, President Bush and religion, and a contextualist view of racial classification, not to mention the other possibilities I've been pondering without being sure I have anything to say about). So let's get that lasso out again to get rid of some of the more minor things on my blogging list that won't get full entries. Some of this is old stuff that I just didn't have the time to put together what I really wanted to say.

Google is Skynet.

Watcher of Weasels makes short work of the absurd chicken-hawk stuff.

A Zogby poll shows the majority of Americans to be pro-life. That surprises me in the northeast, where it's almost heresy to think a fetus is a person or that a fetus might have moral rights for any other reason. Still, I've heard many people in the pro-life movement claiming exactly what this poll indicates. What really surprised me was the higher numbers having to do with fairly early restrictions on abortion even when it's seen as ok at very early stages. Thanks to Logicus bLogicus for the link.

Canada has just passed two laws that make me wonder about their capacity to realize the consequences of these laws. I think the contradiction charge is legitimate in this case.

Electric Venom has some good, harsh comments about a sick new adoption reality show.

Bill at Walloword encounters the Internet Genie. This one's good.

Finally, Volokh defends witch hunts, based on reasons that he admits will raise interesting questions about the Mutant Registration Act and other comic book "evils".

On the Supreme Court issue, even moderates should prefer Bush to Kerry. So says Doc Ock, anyway. History shows that Republicans have more recently tended to appoint hardcore conservatives (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas), true moderates (O'Connor, Kennedy), and hardcore liberals (Souter, Stevens) to the Court, while President Clinton was able to get exactly the hardcore liberals he wanted (Ginsburg, Breyer) through on the first try. So Bush is likely, if history is any guide, to lead to a more balanced court than Kerry would, assuming any justices die or retire during the next presidential term. Given that it's already a left-leaning group, the call for balance leads to erring on the conservative side anyway.

I'd prefer myself to see Stevens replaced by someone like Scalia, and then I'd be happy, whereas balance would be something like replacing Stevens with someone like Kennedy. So I can't say balance is what I really want, but I see balance as better than what we now have or what would happen if Kerry got to appoint anyone.

It's becoming increasingly clear that there had been some sort of investigation already going on, and they just didn't want anything public until they'd completed that investigation. This is as things should be and were before the media circus days that have destroyed the process of justice in many ways. Someone inappropriately released the information about this while this investigation hadn't been completed. I'm much more sympathetic to people who want to do things in an orderly and reasonable process, getting things right before saying anything about it than I am to those who want to emphasize parts of a story that we know something about while not investigating the rest. You can call me secretive if you want (which I'm sure you'll do of the Bush Administration), but I'll just call you rash and foolish right back. There are plenty of questions to ask, and they're asking them in the right place now. I'm not willing to say anything about how anyone has handled this until that's all in. Everything I've heard is as consistent with exemplary behavior by both Bush and Rumsfeld as it is with what their detractors are saying.

I do want to say that one thing Rumsfeld said impressed me greatly. I didn't get his exact words, but when he apologized for the actions of the U.S. military under his command, he said "we", referring to the United States. He's got a deeper understanding of communal responsibility than most Americans do. We did this. He understands that. Many people think so individualistically that they resist any notion of one person deserving shame for the actions of others who belong to the same group they proudly belong to after events like 9-11 lead to surges of patriotism. If we band together as Americans then, we band together as Americans when Americans do egregious things. Moral solidarity is a two-way street. Those who see an us-and-them between themselves and the Bush Administration while criticizing Bush for what individuals he's not immediately morally responsible for have done want to have it both ways. They want individualism when they separate themselves from the atrocities, but they want communitarianism to blame others. I think something of each general attitude is correct, but we can't go inconsistently adopting one or the other based on which people we want to criticize and which people we want to distance ourselves from.

Update: Sam has more on the pictures.

Update 2: Swamphopper at The Rough Woodsman has a bitingly sarcastic reductio ad absurdum of the Rumseld Resign argument.

Here's a surrogate mother case that doesn't raise all the usual ethical questions (not even those raised by other family members such as a sister as a surrogate mother).

I wonder if we can get the right further connections her to make someone his own grandpa.

From One Hand Clapping, who also comments on the woman who married herself (on which see my comments).

Well, OrangePhilosophy has a new home. I'm not quite sure where all the moves are, though.

If anyone knows how to solve the problem of text going off the page, let me know. I searched both Google and the MT forum, and I couldn't find anything about it.

Rebecca Writes offers us more on the "two wills of God" issue. She clears up why it's so easy for people to wonder about God's will and not be satisfied when they're told to do what they know God has revealed about his will. They're talking about two different things. People want to know God's sovereign will, and all God has revealed to us is his moral will (at least on the basic things about our individual lives involved in our decision-making). The problem is that God specifically hasn't revealed his sovereign will, and our desire to know that goes beyond what he wants us to know. He wants us to make our decisions based on his moral will. We may complain that his moral will doesn't tell us everything we need to know to have one absolutely right decision and everything else absolutely wrong. I don't actually think that's true. I think it just takes a lot of work to figure out which option will best serve God in the ways he's already told us we need to be thinking about serving him. He wants us to do that hard kind of thinking, basing our decisions on principles he has revealed clearly in scripture. All we need to know to do this is already revealed, and we just have to pursue better understanding of those truths, as Becky's earlier post points out.

While I'm at it, see her post on Romans 13 and submission to the government. It would be interesting to see that post turn up in the Carnival of the Cats, but it may not be the sort of thing they're looking for.

Fundagelical?

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Back of the Envelope has posted one of the best discussions of evangelicalism and fundamentalism I've ever read. It's good enough to get an InstaPundit link.
We've now seen the advent of this new term 'fundagelical'. Of course, I've never actually seen the term used, but I've seen it mentioned many times now. The rise of such a silly term makes this worth reading.

Update: Warren at View from the Pew comments: "I think Donald's definition of evangelical is probably a little bit wider than mine, and his definition of fundamentalist might be a little narrower, but he hits the nail firmly on the head. I guess it's the Southern Baptist thing -- we must think a little alike."

I've been wanting to host the Christian Carnival for about three months now, but I'd made a commitment not to do it during the semester while teaching an 8:30 am class, which gives no time for assembling the posts the night before due to prep work or the morning of due to teaching, so I've been putting if off. Well, the semester proper is over (though I've still got grading to do), and here we are.

Our party this week's Carnival has thirteen dwarves entries, including my own, and following the advice of Gandalf I've decided to pull rank as this week's heir to the title King Under the Mountain host. I've sought out a burglar Hobbit fourteenth entry to increase the size of our expedition the Carnival past such an unlucky unpopular number.

I was going to have my initial post at Parablemania be a nice little levelheaded piece about "seeking a healthy balance". But then I read the news for the first time in about a week (I've had finals and the stomach flu), heard about Abu Ghraib, and my blood got boiling. I have something to say and it needs to be said now, so so much for my nice levelheaded first post. (I guess that tells you something about me as a blogger, for what it's worth.)

tacitus via Matthew Yglesias.

Tacitus suggests, among other things, that the US Army disband the 372nd Military Police Company, as punishment for the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib. Matthew Yglesias thinks that the suggestion is a good one.

I think that it is a good start, but doesn't go far enough.

Punctuation

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Anyone interested in improving your writing should read this piece by Paul Robinson on punctuation. He makes several very insightful arguments about why punctuation use, misuse, overuse, and underuse have more significance than just following rules. They affect readability and understandability. He gives specific examples to illustrate. I don't agree with every sentence, but the one I disagree with isn't that significant, at least compared with the other points he makes. Thanks to Rebecca for the link.

The Holy Observer

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A member of my congregation started something like a Christian version of The Onion called The Holy Observer. I just discovered it yesterday.

Here's a bit from the disclaimer:

If you are offended by any of the content on The Holy Observer, there is probably some good reason why you shouldn't be. If you can't figure out what the reason is, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're not smart enough to understand why you shouldn't be offended, but it probably does.

One older piece that I found enjoyable: Christian Capitalization! Those who wrote the Greek manuscripts without any capitalization are in big trouble, though I guess the ones who wrote the ones that capitalizaed every letter are in pretty good shape.

Patriarchy.org

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It's not what you would expect. A pastor who has experienced serious divisiveness in his church (not to mention observing much more online) has devoted a website to offer some sanity in opposition to the nastiness of the growing legalism in American Christianity about such gospel-centric issues as how your children are schooled, whether it's ok to participate in a Sunday school program that segregates students based on age, whether a wife should be allowed to work outside the home and daughters allowed to go to college, what sorts of college majors are allowable for Christians, and various other issues your answer to which will determine whether you're "in error".

An example: There is no natural kind of those who homeschool their kids. In fact, there's a sharp natural division between those who prayerfully consider the options and decide that homeschooling is the best option for them at the time and in their circumstances and those we shall call Homers.

There's not much up so far, but it looks to be a good site.

In my continuing slavery to the Man in order to propogate more widespread readership and in the all-consuming goal of progressing upward in the Ecosystem, I've submitted another post to the Carnival of the Bush Bloggers, this time the one on the two lizard candidates and the Constitution Party. Is it subversive to submit a post to something like this that undermines the sense of purity about the Republican Party that many of these bloggers have while at the same time saying it's our best option?

A Foreign Affair

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I received this from the mailing list of the Society of Christian Philosophers.

"A Foreign Affair", written by Calvin Philosophy Major, Geert Heetebrij, is opening this weekend in LA, NY (I think), Phoenix and Grand Rapids. A Foreign Affair is a well-written, well-acted, well-filmed, well-just about everything you'd want in a movie. This is the clever story of two bumpkins traveling to St. Petersburg on a "romance tour" to find a Slavic beauty to be their wife (i.e., cook and housekeeper). David Arquette wonderfully plays a selfish oaf whose quest for a wife degenerates into a quest for romance blurred with lust. Tim Blake Nelson is business-like and rational in his search--romance, love and lust are far from his mind. Emily Mortimer is radiant as a reporter disgusted by these so-called romance tours. The film is both story and character driven. Each of the main characters discovers his or her true self. Without revealing the surprising ending(s), the movie is a deep and profound allegory of love. Although not explicitly Christian, it embraces Christian values. Geert has mortgaged his future on this movie. Go and see the movie and take all of your friends. Intelligent Christian filmmaking could use the support.

We're on to the sixteenth Christian Carnival this week, and it's being hosted right here. Get your entries in.

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted
at Parablemania. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get
read, and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your
favorite post from the past week.

New study on gender

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A new study gives an explanation for why women don't succeed as well as men in getting top positions in competitive situtions. Some postulate that it's mere sexism and that men aren't as willing to consider women for such jobs as they are to consider men. Some of that may well go on. However, there's one factor that should at least be part of the story. Women don't do as well in competitive situations as they might do without competition. This study shows an increase in men's performance when competition sets in. No such increase occurs with women. Competitive situations therefore produce a gender gap, from the mere fact that it's a competitive situation. The gender gap is even wider when women have to compete against men than when women and men are segregated by sex.

(I should say that this may also be relevant to wage differences as well as to who gets what jobs to begin with. Wages are often determined by competitive factors.)

We too often conclude that an inequality of outcome is due to an inequality of treatment. It isn't necessarily that way. Those who then read every action related to that situation as unequal treatment are going to create more problems while not solving whatever real problems are there.

Thanks to Fringe for the link.

Political roundup

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I still have little time to write much. I'll probably be able to contribute something of more significance tomorrow. Until then, here are some links to some important political goings-on during my time of not blogging much that I've collected in the hopes of blogging about some of them. Unfortunately I've not got the time and have still got lots of other ones that I hope I will blog about soon.

Bob Woodward, I assume unintentionally, makes the "Bush lied" crowd look very, very bad. Thanks to Le Sabot Post-Moderne for the link.

Rumsfeld's Iraq plan has come forth. Apparently many of the bad moves have been from Colin Powell's resistance to some great ideas. Who would have expected that? Certainly not anyone who listens to the common wisdom about Rumsfeld as the warmonger who wanted a unilateral U.S. takeover of the entire Middle East or from those suggesting Powell is a figurehead whose program for foreign policy has been virtually ignored in favor of Rumsfeld's. This puts the lie to all that.

The Niger uranium thing? More details now appear. I think this makes Bush look better than most critics were allowing, even though it's not absolutely pretty. The country really was Niger, and the person who met with the Iraqi official (a pretty high one) really did come away thinking it was about a uranium deal. The question is whether he had enough evidence to think that and whether the intelligence community should have probed more into his reasons for thinking that. (In all likelihood, that was what it was about.) If you listen to the "Bush lied" crowd, however, you'd get the impression that no one in Niger talked to anyone with any influence in the Iraqi government about anything at all, and the British simply made it up to make their case stronger.

Patriot Paradox compares the "worst president ever" with a large number of other presidents who did similar things. [For the record, I think FDR was the worst president ever, but I'm not about to defend that here.]

I enjoyed this fairly thorough treatment of Republicans and racism at Back of the Envelope. I believe someone made the argument this historian is responding to at Crooked Timber in the near past, but I'm not going to go try to find the post now. I remember thinking that I didn't have the resources to respond to it but that it wasn't a very historically sensitive argument.

I guess I'll end with a Thomas Sowell quote I stumbled across (well, I found it in a list of Thomas Sowell quotes I was reading through):

Those who pose as the biggest champions of the poor are almost invariably the biggest opponents of means tests. They want bigger government and the poor are just a means to that end. Whether the issue is housing, medical care or innumerable other things, the argument will be made that the poor are unable to get some benefit that the government ought to provide for them. But the minute you accept that, the switch takes place and suddenly we are no longer talking about some benefit confined to the poor but about "universal health care" or "affordable housing" as a "right" for everyone.

I would hesitate to conclude that they want big government and just assume that most of them don't realize that they tend to make bad policies to achieve their ends simply because they believe things are much simpler than they really are. I would also add one further example: affirmative action based on race rather than income (which California now does, I believe, instead of the now-illegal racial version). I'll have more to say on that when I finish the promised affirmative action post that's been stalled for a couple weeks due to piles of grading and multiple missed deadlines to return papers, which just made it worse.

Hyleninja moves

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Mark Steen, StuffOntologist, has resumed his blogging distraction at a new location with Typepad, the one blogging tool available that rivals Movable Type. I didn't really expect the hiatus to last, but I expected it to be longer than this, and I didn't expect such a glorious return. Check out the Steve Irwin parody with the investigation of Australian utilitarians. He's got all the mannerisms down.

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