May 2006 Archives

Welcome to the 124th Christian Carnival. If you don't know what the Christian Carnival is, see my plug for this week's carnival (and the links therein).

This week's carnival progresses through the scriptures, with each post assigned to a different book of the Bible. In some cases, the choice was obvious. In others it might be more of a stretch, or it may be one out of several possible choices. I didn't want to repeat any so as to use as many books as I could, which means some posts may not be with their most obvious pick. Some posts didn't have any obvious choice, so I tried to find the closest I could. With a few I just chose a book actually mentioned in the post, even if that book wasn't central. So on to our tour through the scriptures....

275,000th Visitor

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At 8:56:47 EST, while I was at Bible study delving into the beginning of Genesis 12, someone in Portland, Oregon using Comcast Cable arrived at my post on the Anchor Bible commentary series, after searching Google for the phrase anchor bible. This turns out to be visitor #275,000.

I'm trying to work out a taxonomy of the various views someone might hold regarding the nature of racial groups. One of the views, sometimes called racial realism, takes races to be natural kinds something like species in biology. On this view, their basis lies in biological facts completely independently of any historical origins of racial groups, social facts about how we treat each other, or lingustic facts about how we use racial language. I'm not interested for the moment in whether this view is true. I'm interested in various forms it might take.

One element of this sort of view that virtually all the scholars who work in this area ignore is that the natural kinds of race may not involve anything particularly insidious. This view could hold that racial groupings are based on skin color, bone structure, hair type, and virtually nothing else. As long as its proponents insist that such characteristics would be enough to constitute a natural kind, then it's a realist view. This isn't the most historically influential racial realist view. That view holds that certain intellectual, moral, and probably several other characteristics must follow from being part of a certain racial group. But it is a kind of racial realism.

What I've been puzzling through for the last two or three hours is what some people mean by calling this sort of view "racial essentialism". First off, I'm not sure if that term is supposed to apply to the milder kind of racial realism that most people who work in this area ignore. Second, I'm not sure what it means even if it's just supposed to apply to the more extreme view that was used for so long (and still is in some quarters) to legitimate white supremacism and other forms of racism.

A couple months ago, something I was reading referred in a footnote to an extended note by Joyce Baldwin in her Zechariah commentary on jealousy. Baldwin's discussion was excellent, as her work usually is, but one thing stood out. I'll quote the two relevant paragraphs and then comment further. Some of the formatting on her Hebrew transliterations isn't exact, but I've tried to do the best I could with the tools at my disposal.

The Hebrew word qin'a is translated in RSV by 'jealousy', 'zeal', and 'fury'. Its root is probably connected with an Arabic word meaning to become intensely red (or black) with dye, and so by derivation it draws attention to the colour produced in the face by deep emotion. The Greek zeloo, 'to be jealous', derived from zeo, 'to boil', also expresses deep feeling. From it the English words 'zeal' and 'jealousy' are both derived, so indicating that the emotion can be directed to good or bad ends. When it is self-regarding it results in intense hatred, but when it is concerned for others it becomes a power capable of accomplishing the most noble deeds.

It is significant that God is first spoken of as 'jealous' at the giving of the covenant code (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Dt 5:9), when the special relationship was established between the Lord and His people, Israel. Because they are His, they can belong to no-one else, hence the prohibition of idolatry and the sanctions against it in the third commandment; but these are followed by assurances of 'steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments' (Ex 20:6). God's jealousy is a measure of the intensity of His love towards those with whom He has entered in covenant. So great is His love that He cannot be indifferent if they spurn Him by disobedience or sheet carelessness. [Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, pp.101-102]

I have the honor of hosting the 124th Christian Carnival this week right here at Parableman. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

At Lane Keister's recommendation, I'm listing the information in my Forthcoming Commentaries post by book. The original post lists them by series. I intend to update both posts whenever I get new information.

Note: I update these list whenever I get new information about a forthcoming commentary, but I'm not so good at removing forthcoming commentaries when they are published. So don't think the presence of non-forthcoming (because published) commentaries mean it's as out-of-date as that might otherwise suggest. 

I wanted to link to Jesse Walker's column Right-Wing P.C. a while back but didn't get around to it until now [hat tip: Jonathan Adler]. This is a phenomenon that John McWhorter (among others) calls victimology. I've blogged about this several times before, most notably racial victimology, Christian victimology, heterosexual victimology, and even conservative victimology. It's pretty clear to me that this is a basic human default position when someone's real or perceived rights are violated, and virtually any group that identifies itself in a way that can admit to solidarity of some sort could demonstrate it.

Conservatives have at least in their official views regularly decried this sort of thing from the left, but I think it's been present on the right all along. Consider the standard argument against affirmative action on the ground that it discriminates against whites. How many white people who put forth this argument with outrage have really been harmed by affirmative action or are even aware of anyone who has seriously been harmed by it? (That's not to say that there aren't constitutional discrimination issues that you can raise independent of the issue of harm, but see here for my worries about such arguments.) Conservatives have mastered the art of victimhood for the sake of enjoyment without much direction toward progress and sometimes from a false sense of real victimhood to begin with. Are people who think gay sex is immoral really victims because their kids' schools treat the children of gay parents as having a family? So conservative victimology isn't new, but what Walker's column adds is a P.C. element, and I think several of his examples are dead on. I encourage you to read them for yourself.

One thing I think Walker doesn't get quite clear is the nature of the distinction between what might be called victimhood and victimology. Victimology isn't mere complaining about victimhood, because that can be legitimate if the concern is real and if there's some point to complaining, i.e. it's aimed at progress. On the other hand, victimology requires two elements: (1) playing up false victimhood or exaggerating real victimhood beyond its level of seriousness and (2) doing it for the sake of feeling better than others because you can call them names for oppressing you rather than to seek real progress. But this is a human psychological phenomenon, and that makes it more complex. Often there's a legitimate cry of victimhood tainted with victimology. In a fallen world, people are messed up, and we usually don't have fully pure motives for most things. Why shouldn't we expect the same here?

Marc Driscoll has a post, Death by Ministry, which purports to point out some of the problems with burnout on the part of pastors. He gives some interesting and alarming statistics:

The following statistics were presented by Pastor Darrin Patrick from research he has gathered from such organizations as Barna and Focus on the Family.


Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors' Wives

Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

His post has three parts, the first of which is these statistics, the second of which is "Some signs", and the third is "Some solutions". While I think most of his solutions are good, I am not sure I entirely agree with attributing all of these statistics and signs to burnout (or even with saying that they are sometimes due to burnout). But before I write any more on it, I wanted to solicit your comments. What do you think?

The 123rd Christian Carnival is at Wittenberg Gate, after two previous attempts on other blogs (actually, the Musings on Music one is now working again too).

A couple links

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Reformation21 has a short series dealing with some people's responses to Paul's teaching in 1 Tim. 2:12, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." The initial post is here, followed by a list of claims (by Wayne Grudem) that some people make about why this passage does not apply to the church today, and then finally some responses to these claims.

On an unrelated note, here's an interesting article about potential Hamas plans to fly planes into Israeli skyscrapers. I hope it's not true or Israel can stop it.

Something most white people would never pick up on without help is that it's sometimes insulting to compliment black people. In particular, it's insulting to say something nice about someone who is black that you wouldn't say about someone who is white. Such a compliment assumes that it's surprising that this would be true of someone who is black. A good example is the common practice among media types to speak of certain black people as articulate (see Mixed Media Watch for an example). How often do you hear white people being called articulate? I don't think it's all that common. Pay attention, and you'll discover that it's a good deal more common with black people, especially young black men. I've never heard a young white politician being called articulate, except I think in the case of one who happened to be a teenager, where there might be less expectation for such a thing. But Barack Obama, J.C. Watts, and Harold Ford, Jr. get it all the time. You don't generally hear it of professors of linguistics, unless it's John McWhorter. You won't hear about economics professors being articulate, except when it's Thomas Sowell.

Now I'm loath to call this racism without explaining more carefully how I'm using that word. Such a statement would be received as nonsense by most white people, because most white people (indeed, most English speakers) use the word 'racism' to refer to a deliberately negative attitude, and that's not what's going on here. This is why academics who specialize in race matters have come up with terms to describe this sort of thing to distinguish it from the more standard and obvious cases of racists. This is unintentional racism. It involves racist structures in society. It involves residual effects on the attitudes and actions of well-meaning non-blacks. But I think this is a case of that sort of racism, at least generally. See MW's comment in the Mixed Media Watch post for good reasons to think this is often a kind of racism even when you don't think it is.

This is something I've been aware of since reading John McWhorter's Losing the Race. As I said, it's not the sort of thing that most white people would notice otherwise, even ones who are more sensitized to these general sorts of issues. I paid attention to when I heard the word after I read McWhorter's discussion of the issue. What few occurrences I encountered did seem to fit the mold. But then a few weeks ago I heard someone call Ann Coulter articulate. Does this refute the claim that calling young black men articulate stems from some kind of racism?

Adrian Warnock points out an interesting "pop quiz" on marriage. I have to admit, some of the answers are pretty surprising, if true. That is, if it's right, things aren't anywhere near as bad as I thought they were (although still pretty bad). Too bad it doesn't have links to all of the relevant evidence. I'm sure it would if it were a blog.

how to kill a fetus so you dont need a n abortion
That must be like "how to cheat on your wife so you don't need to commit adultery" or "how to swallow liquids so you don't have to drink".

What would Don Marquis say about rape?
I suspect he'd probably say that it's thoroughly immoral. Now if what you're really wondering is what he'd say about abortion after a rape, I think his view clearly implies that abortion is just as wrong in cases of rape as it is in other cases. He says abortion is wrong because it robs a fetus of a future like ours, and that's true completely independently of whether a fetus is a person. It's also true regardless of what causes the existence of the fetus, so it should apply in rape cases as much as in any others. But of course that's not what you asked.

kill a fetus without an abortion
Why would anyone want a pregnancy to continue if the fetus is dead?

does marrying someone make you a citizen?
No. You don't automatically become a citizen even even if you marry a citizen. Marrying someone in general sure isn't going to do it.

does the word its have an apostophe?
not the way you wrote it

where is homosexuality located in the world?
Well, if Plato is right then it's not in the world but in the abstract realm of the Forms. If Aristotle is right, then it's in gay people. If Ockham is right, then it doesn't exist at all.

I can't count the number of times I've heard that Pascal quote about there being a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts. A friend once asked me where Pascal said it, and I said I didn't know. I'd never really spent any time reading Pascal. He assured that it was somewhere in the Pensees, but he wanted to know exactly where. I couldn't really help him. The problem is that no one could help him. Pascal never said any such thing. Douglas Groothuis provides a quote that does say something in the remote ballpark:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [Pascal, Pensees #425]

Whenever anyone gives you a quote without providing a reference, assume the quote has been misattributed. If the reference includes a book but nothing more specific, always assume the quote has been misattributed before spreading on what might be completely false. People who can't cite page numbers (or section locations for older works) probably shouldn't be trusted. It's likely that, as in this case, the reality is much better than the legend. What Pascal really said is much more eloquent than what the urban legend says he said.

The 123rd Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at ChristWeb update: moved to Musings on Music and Wittenberg Gate. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Sometimes it's really boring how people find my blog, but here are some more interesting ways people have gotten here of late:

subjectivism vs emotivism (which is closer to the truth?)
Emotivism is one variety of subjectivism. This is like wondering if something is a dog or an animal (or if something is closer to a dog or an animal).

Berkeley's view of idealism
I tend to think he rather liked it.

rick warren says he's not a christian to larry king
My first thought was, "Yeah, right, you wish." Then it occurred to me how sad it is that people actually want Warren not to be a Christian. For the record, Rick Warren did say the words "He's not a Christian," but he was speaking in the third person about someone else who really isn't a Christian.

Doesn't it depend on who it's with? Even if you think it's wrong to engage in oral sex with your spouse, you couldn't think it's adultery.

current event that happen on february 18,1988
Does 18 years ago really count as current?

statistics on natural disasters being a sign of the end of times
What statistics would those be? How often natural disasters have led to the end of times?

Clement Ng left the following comment, and I wanted to leave a space for people with more knowledge of the subject than I have to respond:

Jeremy, I've been following a "Sola Scriptura" debate at Bill Vallicella's blog ( and earlier posts at Edward Feser of Right Reason and some commentator by the name of Spur are duking it out. I'm looking for the work of any evangelical and Protestant epistemologists who have written defenses of Sola Scriptura. I didn't study philosophy of religion and theology at grad school, so my knowledge of any literature in this area is thin.

Most of the defenses of Sola Scriptura I come accross are authored by theologians and lay apologists, usually of the Reformed variety (like Some of this stuff is good, some of it is not. The reinnaisance in Roman Catholic apologetics over the last twenty years has ushered in a wave of former evangelicals swimming accross the Tiber (or converting to Orthodoxy) and unless evangelical theologians and philosophers mount better defenses of key doctrines on their side (sola scriptura, sola fide, invisible unity, non-hierarchical authority,
informal apostolicity, Reformed/Zwinglian views of the sacraments) the wave will continue to grow.

I'm not anti-Catholic (I presently attend an Anglo-Catholic parish) mind you. I just find it dissapointing that evangelicals aren't keeping in shape when it comes to inter-Christian apologetics. I tell you, whenever I visit Pontifications ( I find some top-rate Catholic or Orthodox apologist wiping the floor with some under-prepared Baptist or Reformed type. If evangelicals have a hard time defending Sola Scriptura, non-hiearchical authority, and other distinctives (and I think they do), then perhaps they need to brush up on their analytical and exegetical skills. Anyway, I'm interested in hearing your literature recommendations.

This isn't an area I've spent a lot of time on, but there is the Carnival of the Reformation on this theme. I highlighted the posts I thought were best here. I did respond to several standard arguments against Sola Scriptura here. I also have to say that I love this infinite regress argument in one Spur comment on one of those Maverick Philosopher posts:

If the statements of revelation are not self-interpreting, then what about the statements of the authoritative interpreter of revelation? The teachings of the Pope, or the teaching Magisterium, are no more self-interpreting than those of the Biblical writers. Do we then need another Pope to interpret the words of the first one?

Anyone who can provide more help should feel free to leave a comment.

Some comments on books

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There are many good books to read, and my pastor manages to read them way faster than I can keep up with his recommendations, so someone I know says that buying the books my pastor recommends is a good retirement investment. Anyway, this is just a quick post to give a couple of these recommendations, and then mention a couple of other things that I'm reading and hope to write reviews of soon.

One that my pastor recommends that I'm ordering right now is Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ (this is the third volume in a series). Another one that I read a while back that he recommended and I really enjoyed (which I should write a review of, if I didn't already) is John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

Two that I'm currently reading or starting on for the Discerning Reader (formerly Diet of Bookworms) are Mark Dever's The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept, and John Frame's upcoming Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. While I haven't started the Frame book, I'm enjoying the Dever book. It's a lot more like something you might be interested in sitting down and reading than a survey like Hendriksen's Survey of the Bible, which is more suitable for intense study or a class. Of course, that has its disadvantages, as well -- stuff tends to stick with you better if you study it in great detail like you would if you follow through the Hendriksen book, while the Dever book is based on sermons and includes a lot less detail.

Anyway, I'll write reviews on these when I finish them. I just wanted to mention them, and see if others have any comments on them.

The 122nd Christian Carnival is at Pursuing Holiness.

In my last post, I argued that complementarians are not subordinationists in the sense of the heresy of subordinationism. There's one related charge that I wanted to save for its own post. One prominent egalitarian who makes this argument is Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. This gets us more into the human gender roles issue than the previous post, which focused mostly on the Trinitarian issues. [Update: I believe I linked to the wrong essay. I think it's this one. I'll leave the other one in, because it's a signficant discussion by her on the general issue, but this is the one I quote from below.]

Groothuis' argument concedes that there's a difference between being and function. She says that something can be functionally subordinate temporarily and not be subordinate in being. What she doesn't allow is that something can be functionally subordinate for its entire existence without thereby being subordinate in being. She thus distinguishes between functional subordination and female subordination, saying that functional subordination would be fine if that were really what complementarians held, but she thinks the complementarian view, which she calls female subordination, goes beyond functional subordination while claiming to be just functional subordination.

In female subordination, the criterion for who is subordinate to whom has nothing to do with expediency or the abilities of individuals to perform particular functions. Rather, it is determined entirely on the basis of an innate, unchangeable aspect of a woman's being, namely, her female sexuality. Her inferior status follows solely from her essential nature as a woman. Regardless of how traditionalists try to explain the situation, the idea that women are equal in their being, yet unequal by virtue of their being, simply makes no sense. If you cannot help but be what you are, and if inferiority in function follows necessarily and exclusively from what you are, then you are inferior in your essential being.

Two Three blogs I read have been dealing with issues related to complementarianism and egalitarianism about gender roles. Jollyblogger has four posts: Oppression of Women???, More on the Oppression of Women, Women's Roles in the Church and the Gospel, and Bruce Ware on the Women Issue. Ilona has a number of posts at Intellectuelle as well, A Woman's Place, A Woman's Place,continued, Do We Change Or Do They Change?, A Woman's Place, In The Church, Are We Serious About This?, and The Trinity: How Important Is That Idea To You? It seemed a good time to bring out a post I've been sitting on for a while (though most of that material will be appearing in subsequent posts, since this one deals with one crucial preliminary issue). Update: This is what I get for getting behind on Rebecca Writes. She's got Functional Subordination Discussion and Functional Subordination Again. I need to read these when I'm more coherent. Perhaps I'll say something about them in or before my next post, which is already pretty much written but may need to be adjusted.

The Jollyblogger and Rebecca Writes posts above reflect a complementarian position. Ilona's posts seem to me to seeking some middle ground between complementarianism and egalitarianism, sometimes endorsing complementarian theses and sometimes endorsing egalitarian claims. Complementarians hold that divinely assigned differences in gender roles reflect differences in roles among the members of the Trinity. Ilona's last post in the list above presents an argument that egalitarians often give against complementarianism. Egalitarians see no such role differences in scripture for human men and women (which I have to say Ilona disagrees with, judging by her first few posts) and then accuse complementarians of reflecting the heresy of subordinationism in order to generate the parallel (which Ilona does seem to me to be endorsing). Subordinationism is the view that the three persons of the Trinity are not equal. I think this charge either (1) is completely out of step with the history of Trinitarian thought, or (2) simply misunderstands complementarianism.

Visited States

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My grades for two classes are due today, so I've been kind of lying low for a bit. I've still got five papers to grade, and then I'll need to go hand in the sheets personally. Syracuse University is still living in the 90s with respect to grade reporting. Grades for my third class are due Friday, but I submit those online. So I welcome the opportunity to post something that takes very little time.

I've done the Visited States thing before, but it got lost in one of the moves this blog has undergone, so I'm using Matthew's posting of his as an occasion to do it again. It's nice to see that, even though he's hopelessly outdistanced me in terms of numbers, I've been to six of the twelve states he's never been to.

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

My Visited Countries post from way back is still up, but its map has long stopped loading up properly, so I've used this new site to update it with a working map.

So, I just got an e-mail a few minutes ago that Skype is now allowing free "SkypeOut" calls anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, which means you can now use Skype to call any regular telephone in that region (or mobile phone) for free. I've used Skype before, but I was curious how well it worked (and never wanted to pay for the service in the past), so I just gave it a shot, and it works pretty well. The person on the other end heard a bit of an echo, and the quality wasn't quite as good as a telephone call for me, but it was better than I expected. I'll probably use it again in the future for long distance calls sometimes.

On a related note, though, I have both a Mac and a PC, and I've had occasion to compare the video capabilities of Skype (which aren't available on Mac yet) with that of iChat (on the Mac). The quality with iChat seems a lot better. Does anyone know what's going on behind the scenes? My guess is that Skype isn't using the full bandwidth it could, while iChat seems to be using a lot more bandwidth, but I'm not sure. Regardless, I am delighted with iChat and keep using it to have video meetings with folks at work and elsewhere, while Skype's video is a bit more of a pain to watch. While it's still better than no video, I'd hesitate to use it for a meeting.

I find it remarkable that after decades of predictions that video telephony was just around the corner, now it has finally arrived -- but it's over the Internet, and with relatively little hoopla. We had some relatives on the other coast get Skype so we could call and show them live video of us with our new baby, and they had no idea that such a thing was even possible until they saw it.

The 122nd Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Pursuing Holiness. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

The 121st Christian Carnival is at Something Epic.

Laurence Thomas has a thoughtful post on one particular assumption in the mindset often associated with what sometimes is called political correctness [note: the post might not load up; if not, then just click in the URL line at the top of your browser and hit the Enter key manually to reload]. This assumption underlies the claim that men have no right to comment on abortion and that white people can have no insight into racial issues. Now I understand the view that people who experience something will have special insight into that experience that others will not have. There are things men just don't understand about what it's like to be a woman, and thus there are insights into womanhood that men will not appreciate as well as women can. There are things about being gay in mainstream American culture that a straight person will not understand. Even though I'm married to a black woman, I will never quite understand what it's like to grow up black in the U.S. That's something that black people can know in a way that I never could. Philosophers call this being epistemically privileged. (For non-philosophers, 'epistemic' just means relating to knowledge.) I have no problem with the thesis that those who have certain experiences are epistemically privileged in exactly the sort of way that this general mindset says is true of people who are gay, Asian American, female, etc.

Now what Laurence questions is not this thesis itself but its use in certain political contexts. For instance, some act as if only women can comment on abortion because men don't have access to what women alone can know from their unique experience. It would then be immoral for white people to comment on racial issues because of their not having experienced any form of racism against them. Laurence particularly wonders why it's mostly experiences of suffering that give this special kind of insight, when it seems that suffering can just as easily blind someone to the truth. For example, people who are seriously abused as children sometimes end up thinking they are worthless people who are to blame for their abuser's actions. He also suggests that political correctness is often just an attempt to get people to cower through accusations of racism, misogyny, heterosexism, or some other crime of thought, and its result is to perpetuate a lack of trust on both sides of the accusation. I think he's pretty much right on his diagnosis of many cases of political correctness (which isn't to say that it's right about all charges of racism, just the p.c. ones).

But there are a few other things going on that I'd like to reflect on for a little bit. Some of this derives from my comment on his post, and some of it is further thought on the issue.

Outlawing Sex

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Eugene Volokh discusses some problematic sexual assault policies at Gettysburg College and Antioch College regarding what counts as consensual sex. The most striking element to me comes toward the end of the post. It looks to me as if Antioch College's sexual assault policy leads to a fascinating infinite regress. Apparently you need explicit verbal agreement to count as consent. Yet they also prohibit non-consensual sexual communication. That means you can't even ask someone verbally if they want to have sex unless they first consent to your question. So you need to ask them if you can ask them a question about sex, but before that you need to ask them if you can ask them if you can ask them a question about sex, and before that you need to ask them if you can ask them if you can ask them if you can ask them a question about sex. That means you could never even get going with asking the question, which means consensual sex is impossible, and thus sex is in effect outlawed. Antioch College is the new Bob Jones University.

Scientists have proposed a procedure that will prevent dust of certain shapes from emitting light, thus producing something like a Star Trek cloaking device. They haven't actually done it yet, but they've shown mathematically that this is theoretically possible. [Hat tip: TrekToday News]


"happened to" "holy observer"
Someone asks a question to a search engine and gets my site, and I actually know the answer even though I don't think it's anywhere on my site. Hmm. Well, the answer is simple. They got busy. They started this site as college students who had enough time to do it, and when they graduated and got real jobs it became increasingly difficult to do. They haven't been doing it anymore since the superbowl edition last year that they couldn't get put online in time, and it would have been stupid to publish it after that.

Libertarianism would have a government ban satanic practices consenting adults of sound mind in private
Um ... I think you missed a 'not', 'unless' or some other negation marker.

what happens when circumstantial evidence is circumstantial
I hope nothing special. What would worry me is if the circumstantial evidence weren't circumstantial.

does someone commit suicide every 30 seconds?
Imagine being able to commit suicide every thirty seconds. I supposed cats could maintain that rate for four and a half minutes, but they only have nine lives. I suspect everyone else is going to have trouble sustaining that rate even for the first 30-second cycle.

what is a white liberal
Um ... someone who is, perhaps, both white and liberal? I'm not sure how more obvious you can get. Or is this supposed to be a joke, and I'm supposed to give the answer. Wait, I know the punchline ... a honky donkey!

It's now going to be called the Human Rights Abusers' Council [hat tip: Say Anything]. It was one thing to do stupid things like this during a period when the U.N. wasn't trying to patch up its public image after several corruption scandals. Now that they're supposed to be trying to overcome that sort of thing, what do they do? They put together a new Human Rights Council and put Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia on it.

So who would put some of the worst human rights violators on a council about human rights, and what would possess them to do such a thing? I wonder if this is a hint:

Cuba, for its part, hailed its election to the Human Rights Council as a "resounding victory" for the communist regime and a "defeat" for the United States.

Would someone really be so petty as to put human rights violators on the Human Rights Council just to stick it to the U.S.? I sure hope not, but I really can't think of any halfway decent motivation. Short of attributing to them pure evil (e.g. thinking they approve of what these countries do on human rights issues), I think the most charitable thing to do is to explain it by an extremely indecent motivation that isn't quite as bad: heartlessly tolerating evil rather than going all out and approving of it as good. It's still pretty bad, but in lieu of a more charitable explanation I have to consider this.

ScienceDaily reported a few days ago on an interesting story (actually, a journal article in the April PLOS Biology) about how bats track insects they want to catch in a way that is very different from that of humans and some other animals. Essentially, humans, fish, dogs, and others use a strategy the article calls "constant bearing" to follow things -- basically, they just head straight for their target. Bats, on the other hand, actually take into account the target's velocity and direction and flies partially parallel to the target. In other words, bats work out in advance where they think their targets will be, and head there, rather than directly towards the target, which saves time.

This is pretty interesting. Even further, the article points out that this is a strategy similar to that developed by engineers for guided missiles.

But here's the part I find the most interesting:

This study also demonstrates, for the first time, that bats work out ahead of time how they will catch an insect. Evolutionary pressure to catch flying insects as fast as possible, the researchers speculate, may have pushed the bat to adopt this technique to catch a meal on the go as quickly as possible. Their paper appears in the May issue of PLoS Biology.

There is no mention of evolution in the journal article, so I assume ScienceDaily must have talked to the researchers. But the article also points this out:

The pursuit strategy is different from that reported in earlier studies of target pursuit in humans and other animals.

Now, my gripe is this:

So, I have been absent from the blog for a very long time. I haven't looked back at the archives, but my best guess is that the last time I posted was in November or so. I do intend to start posting again, so I figured I should briefly reintroduce myself for those who have started reading since the last time I posted. Plus, I have some news.

First, the reintroduction. I'm a postdoctoral researcher in the hard sciences at a major U.S. research university. Additionally, I'm a Christian, with a generally Reformed perspective on theology, for those who know what that means. So, my interests include science, theology, issues relating to intelligent design, current events, and so on.

Next, the news: I'm delighted to say that my wife and I just had our first baby, a daughter, several weeks ago. We saw God's answer to prayer many times throughout the pregnancy and the delivery and in the last several weeks, and we are very thankful.

Fox News Spammers

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I like Fox News in terms of their news and on-air programming. I don't think most of the criticism they take is fair (though some is). But one thing I don't like is spammers, and someone who works for the parent company of Fox News has been spamming my blog comments to try to game the Google system to improve the ranking of the Fox News website. They regularly submit comments to my blog under fake names (the latest was Jim Hendrix, but it's usually just a first name, like Lenny or Valerie, and occasionally it's just a set of initials, like hwh). These comments link to news reports on the Fox News site. The text is usually something tangentially related to something I might blog about, but it's always far enough in content from the post that it seems out of place. Most of them have had to do with illegal immigration. The text of the comment usually masks itself as a blog commenter, sometimes sounding upset at something going on and linking to the Fox News source, sometimes just indicating a news story that might be of interest and linking to it. Whoever this is knows something of what they're doing, because they're starting to craft their keywords of the linked text toward search terms that they want Fox News to be ranked more highly with respect to. It's also someone who doesn't quite know enough, because MT now has the capability of tagging comments so that Google doesn't care about them, and I'm pretty sure that's enabled on this blog. That means these efforts are completely effectless, even for the short time the comments are on my blog before I notice them and junk them.

I've checked the IP address from these commenters several times, and they're definitely coming from two computers at Newscorp, the parent company of Fox News, so there's no getting around this. Fox News, or at least their parent company, is spamming me. Perhaps it's just a rogue employee or two, since it's only two IP addresses that have done this (well, three, but one might have been unrelated, since it was from some other network, though it also could have been the same employee at home). This doesn't happen very often. I believe it started in March, so maybe the average frequency is a little less than once a week. It pales in comparison to the average spammer's output, but it's still annoying, and all such comments will get junked. The IP addresses in question are and for anyone who cares.

The 121st Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Something Epic. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

The 120th Christian Carnival is up at Daddypundit.

The 29th Philosophers' Carnival is at Daylight Atheism.

I've got one more post coming out of the conversation at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

One common complaint I hear about design arguments that involve laws at the outset of the universe being designed is that they simultaneously make two things true. Design arguments generally take some surprising fact in nature, and then they appeal to a designer to explain why the surprising fact makes more sense than it would otherwise. The fine-tuning argument, for instance, takes the extremely small range of cosmological constants that would allow rational life as a reason for thinking there must have been a designer who intended rational life to be possibile and formed the laws accordingly.

The objection then comes in. The anti-ID move is to say that there's a contradiction between two things. (1) The natural laws are such that the origin of rational life is unlikely (otherwise there would be no reason to appeal to a designer). (2) The natural laws are such that the origin of rational life is highly likely (otherwise there designer hypothesis has done no work, and we're right back where we started).

This argument is a classic equivocation. It says something that is true when you use your terms in one sense, and then it considers something else alongside it that is true if you use your terms in a different sense. When it puts them together, it gets a false conclusion because it doesn't account for the fact that these two things are not true in the same sense and thus can't combine in this way. A classic example of equivocation is saying (1) you put your money in the bank and (2) that the flooding in the river is overflowing all the banks, concluding (3) you better take your money out of the bank for fear that it will get waterlogged. It isn't the financial institutions that are being covered with water, and that's where your money is.

Several hawkish bloggers have embraced the chickenhawk image. Why, you may ask? Because red-tailed hawks, AKA chickenhawks, are pretty vicious predators that eat chickens, rats, and mice. I had to defend my chickens from one when I was in high school. It wasn't a pretty sight. It would have been tough to deal with if it hadn't injured a wing on the barbs at the top of the fence on its way in. It succeeded in killing two hens and turning a third into a skinhead for the rest of her life before we got out there and let the dogs into the fence to chase it out. It didn't get to eat any, at least, but it did get away from the dogs once it was free of the fence that it couldn't fly over with its wing injury.

The first thing that occurred to me when I first heard the term 'chickenhawk' as a pejorative political term (whose first use, by the way, seems to have been long before the war on terrorism in 1986) is that only a sheltered city slicker who doesn't know what a chickenhawk is really like could come up with such an ignorant mismatch. They must have thought it was funny to speak of those who are hawkish on the war on terrorism as if they're really chickens, since chickens often represent cowardice. But choosing one of chickens' most vicious predators doesn't have quite the same effect as calling someone a chicken. It's hard to find a good analogy, but it involves two mistakes. One mistake is analogus to calling someone a sloth-killing jaguar because they're lazy. The other is analogous to using the butterfly as an image of ugliness on the ground that flies are ugly, and the word 'fly' is part of the word 'butterfly'. It sounds pretty stupid in those cases, but somehow when both errors are combined people will find it more plausible, since the two mistakes mask each other.

It never occurred to me to start a movement embracing the chickenhawk as a symbol of hawkishness, but I guess it's fitting given how much more sense it makes to use a vicious predator as a positive symbol of effectiveness in battle.

Henry Cate asked me to make an announcement about a new blog carnival, the Carnival of Homeschooling. Since we don't homeschool, I'm not likely to participate in this, but I thought it was a good thing to promote. See here for more.

Jollyblogger responds to some fairly common but ultimately unconvincing arguments for absolute egalitarianism (as opposed to complementarianism) about men and women.

Rep. M. Holmes of the Kansas House offered the following speech last week to honor Kerry Livgren of the band Kansas:

I'd like to introduce a remarkable individual to the House this morning. You may not recognize his name, but you will recognize some of the songs he's written.

Kerry Livgren graduated from Topeka West High School in 1967. He started playing in rock and roll bands and song writing while still in school. His songs are not the typical "feel good'' rock and roll, but are laced with thought provoking lyrics. Kerry was on a spiritual journey and all his lyrics reflected that. Words such as "If I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know'' and "All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see'' were typical of his hit songs.

Kerry's spiritual journey culminated in 1979 with his conversion to Christianity. His songs continued to be thought provoking, but took on a new dimension.

Not only were the lyrics of Kerry's songs unique, but the musical style was also unique. It was obvious that Kerry was as inspired by classical music as he was by rock and roll. I've often thought that if Bach or Beethoven were writing music in modern times, they would be in the same genre of music as Kerry Livgren.

Kerry's song writing career spans five decades, and he's played in numerous bands. The band he's best known for is a band named "Kansas." During the 70's and 80's, "Kansas" sold over 14 million records as the result of Livgren's song writing.

The band has produced eight gold albums, two triple platinum albums and one platinum live album. ``Kansas'' appeared on the Billboard charts for over 200 weeks throughout the 70's and 80's and played to sold out arenas and stadiums throughout North America, Europe and Japan. In fact, "Carry on Wayward Son'' was the second most played track on classic rock radio in 1995 and went to number one in 1997.

Chris Tessone has a nice post examining and evaluating the content of the Gospel of Judas. He isn't just pointing out where this book differs from orthodox Christian belief. He focuses in on several ethical issues where the Gospel of Judas is clearly inferior to the canonical gospels. His conclusion: like other gnostic writings, it's misogynistic, anti-body, exclusionary, and arrogant, not to mention anti-semitic. In some ways it's much worse than the more moderately gnostic Gospel of Thomas (though that one does have Jesus telling women that they should seek to become men). I asked some pointed questions of some top bibliobloggers to this kind of analysis, and no one probed to this level, so I was glad to see this.

list of famous actors with one drop black blood
Assuming the premises of the search to begin with, why would anyone think there is such a list? Almost anyone who might fit the description almost certainly doesn't know it, and those who do might either not want it known (for whatever reason, decent or not) or not care enough about it to make a big deal about it.

arguments for playing god
Usually people willing to use this expression think of playing God as a bad thing. People who realize that it's usually a bad argument don't tolerate the use of the expression. I've never before heard of anyone using the expression and yet defending it as a good thing.

is beyonce's mother mixed with the white race
Yes, but she might be even more mixed with the black race. So is it worse to assume that she's black but mixed with white or that she's mixed but black? There seems to something bad about both, even if there's truth to both.

biblical meaning of the word ethics
Now you've got me wondering about these vacuous cases. Is the biblical meaning of the word 'ethics' the same meaning as the biblical meaning of the word 'computer'? If its meaning is the empty set, then I think the answer is yes. I'm not sure what a biblical meaning of a term not in the Bible could be other than the empty set, so I'm sticking with this unless I see a better argument.

is a person in a coma a non-Sentient being
Technically, I think the answer is yes if the words mean what they traditionally mean. A coma is a state that doesn't involve sensory input at all, as far as medical science is concerned (though there is anecdotal evidence to the contrary). Sentience is the property of being able to sense the world. There does seem to be an incompatibility between those two things. Of course, science fiction has for years gotten the meaning of'sentience' drastically wrong by using it as if it means some level of intelligence that human beings have that other sensing creatures on this planet don't have, so in popular-speak it's become a synonym for the kind of being like us, which someone in a coma certainly is.

Illegal aliens do jobs Americans don't want to do, so some people want to perpetuate that relationship. Some have even used this as an argument that we shouldn't bother to enforce our own laws. Others have simply said that we should change the laws. Sam asks how that isn't just legitimating a subservient class. See also Dory's similar argument.

Now I do think a guest worker program (which would be changing the laws rather than simply not enforcing them) can accomodate this concern by ensuring that these now-legal workers would have ensured working conditions the same way everyone else does. But what it would also need to involve, out of fairness to immigrants who followed the law, is that we wouldn't be providing better conditions for those who broke the law to enter this country than we do to those who did it legally, including the drawn-out process of citizenship. But I do think a guest worker program can meet this concern. The question is really which of the proposals do that. I haven't had the time to look at any of the proposals, so I really have no idea. But those who don't advocate changing the laws but simply don't want to enforce them really do seem to me to be failing the people they're trying to help, because it will just perpetuate the terrible working conditions everyone on the left is complaining about.

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