Jeremy Pierce: July 2004 Archives

What do you do when road signs lead to flat-out contradictions? Is there a way to know which one trumps the other? I've encountered the following situation more than once. When you have a two-lane (on each side) road, with a turning lane and one lane continuing, there's always the issue of whether you need to stop before turning right from the turning lane. If there's a stop sign, then you must stop of course. If there's a single light for the straight lane and none for the turning lane, then you need not stop. If there's a yield sign, you need not stop. If there are two lights, one for each lane, and the turning light has a red/green arrow, then you go by the light. If there are two lights and the turning light just matches the other one, then you have to stop before you turn right if it's red. What if there's a yield sign and a double light, and you come up to the light when it's red? The double light clearly indicates that one of the lights is for the turning light, and when it's red you have to stop before turning right. But then there's the yield sign. Doesn't that mean you don't have to stop if you're turning unless there's someone coming? The import of this is that you have a legal obligation to do something but that there's also a law telling you that you don't have that exact legal obligation. Right?

The biggest mistake of the Democratic Convention earlier this week was to allow Al Sharpton to speak. Everyone was expecting a smaller bounce than normal for Kerry after the convention, but the polls I've seen suggest that he's actually still losing ground after the convention, just at a slower rate of losing ground than he had been before it. Al Sharpton is one of the reasons, I'm sure. They were trying hard to have a well-scripted, well-timed convention, masquerading as conservatives, toning down the rhetoric against Bush so as to look positive with all sorts of veiled venom whose depth of negativity the average viewer won't detect. Most of the speakers were performing admirably. See my comments on Clinton's speech to see how masterful he was at pretending he was being positive and uniting while making all sorts of false and unfair claims. He has amazing skills at the kind of rhetoric philosophy courses teach people to see through. It's brilliant psychologically, though to someone like me it just gives the appearance of stupidity for lack of a real argument.

Well, Sharpton didn't hide anything. He still had bad rhetoric in lieu of any arguments, but it was exactly that -- bad rhetoric. He's not fooling anyone. Even those who don't know of his history of bigotry can see that the guy is a divider, an angry hater who gives a very different image from what Kerry is trying to fashion for himself with this convention. All the liberal commentators on MSNBC (Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, etc.) were pointing this out. There are some aspects of his speech that are so evil in the disguise he puts on them that not everyone would notice, but it only took viewing a couple minutes of the 24 he spent (though he was allotted only 6) for me to think the Democratic leadership were regretting allowing him on. Here's his speech.

Drugs for Blacks

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There's a new drug for African-American heart patients (found at Volokh). There's something right about this, and there's something a little dangerous. The drug had been tested and abandoned in the 80s due to little success among most people. At some point someone figured out that it had a better effect among black people, and studies to confirm this showed good results. What's most likely going on is that a genetic trait common among Americans of recent African descent (one suggestion has to do with nitric acid levels) allows this drug to be more successful with this particular kind of heart condition, just as some other kinds of medication are less successful in the same population. It doesn't seem related to the genes for pigmentation. Skin color may be a good guide to seeing whether someone has the relevant trait for the drug, but enough race mixing has gone on in the history of this country, and enough immigration of people who look enough like Americans of African descent but who are genetically very dissimilar, that prescribing such medicines according to racial identification is a very bad idea.

Jeff Doolittle hosted the 97th COTV this week. It contains my post about Colin Powell's being not black enough for some people and how that undermines one of the primary motivations for affirmative action.

I don't mention this post at goobage on dumb things John Kerry has said so much to make fun of Kerry but to show that most of the things Bush gets made fun of for are extremely common for anyone doing a lot of public speaking. It doesn't show lack of intelligence. It shows humanity. Some people are a little better at avoiding such things, but the facts in this case are that preconceived opinions lead people to focus on Bush (and Quayle before him) and ignore how much others do the same thing.

I don't know anything about the election this post at Spot On is about, but the story of black voters being handed Democratic ballots and being told that they really should be voting on Democratic ballots once they return it and ask for a Republican ballot is pretty sick. Racism takes some odd forms. Not quite as bad, but pretty silly, is Politcal Correctness Watch's story of a woman who was told she was discriminatory for including "hard-working" in a job description.

And now for the most shocking of all: QandO has done some digging into the 9/11 Commission to see that they've disproved a number of claims by Bush's opponents. The connections between al Qaeda and Saddam were much stronger than mere communication, according to statements by Richard Clarke. Iraq and al Qaeda made repeated overtures to each other regarding Iraq serving as Bin Laden's new home if it became clear that the Taliban couldn't protect him. It turned out that such an agreement never solidifed, but that's quite a connection. Going after Iraq was something General Franks, Paul Wolfowitz, and Tony Blair all pursued before Bush was willing to consider it a priority. Bush even himself dismissed the possible connection between Iraq and 9/11 that some within the administration were pushing.

One Hand Clapping has one of the best summaries of the reasons for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein that I've seen in a long time. There's so much that too many people seem to have forgotten, and almost every sentence in the post is a fairly agreed-upon fact by those who pay attention to details and don't just spout off unsupported one-liners that contradict the truth. There are still philosophical debates about what you should conclude about the right response to some of this, but any decent attack on the reasons for invading Iraq must admit most of what this post says. I'd even forgotten some of this stuff myself. It seems to me that the reasons have become even more clear over time, with new discoveries supporting Bush's decision rather than undermining it as many people are claiming. If you don't agree, at least make sure your reasons have what he says in mind. As I repeatedly tell my students, no argument is as good as it can be unless it shows an awareness of what the opposing side has to say, and most arguments against the war are shockingly unaware of much of what this post reminds us of. Here are some of the more important points:

The 28th Christian Carnival is up at Fringe. As of this writing, I can't get it to load any individual pages. If that's still true when you check, go to his main page and scroll down. The Carnival is still there.

It features my Organized Religion and the Church.

Doc Rampage reflects on some encounters he's had with people on the street asking for money, unsure what the proper Christian response should be. The last encounter he describes is worth reading just to see what lengths someone will go to get the actual cash in his hand rather than getting something paid for.

My Domestic Church has some excellent thoughts on the selfishness of youth and the wisdom of middle age. Some of this wisdom didn't come from aging but from the responsibility of having children, but the point is the same.

Exultate Justi has an excellent explanation of the sort of political theory I would endorse, a libertarianism of sorts limited by a realization that some forms of morality really do need to be enforced and mollified that Christians values are a perfectly good starting place for wanting to encourage and protect against certain behaviors or attitudes. He concludes with a good explanation of why "you can't legislate morality" is a fairly stupid claim but also what true claim people mean to be expressing when they say such things.

Messy Christian shows that having a ministry is simply choosing to serve people. She gives some excellent examples to help us avoid the trap of thinking we don't have a ministry simply because no one has put us in an official ministry position.

Digitus, Finger & Co. will be hosting next week's Carnival #XXIX.

Are you Addicted to the Internet?

52% (41% - 60%)
You seem to have a healthy balance in your life when it comes to the internet and life away from the computer. You know enough to do what you want online without looking like an idiot (most of the time). You even have your own Yahoo club or online journal! But you enjoy seeing your friends and going out to enjoy life away from your computer.

The Are you Addicted to the Internet? Quiz at Quiz Me!

From Rebbeca Writes

Saddam's Stroke

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I haven't seen much on this yet, but they did interrupt the DNC coverage once to mention that Saddam Hussein's lawyers have said that he has had a stroke. They're not sure if he'll live long enough to stand trial. This is pure speculation, but I have to wonder if this is legit or some tool for manipulating things related to the trial. I also can't help but wondering if such an injury could possibly be self-inflicted. I don't know how you could give yourself a stroke, if that's what happened, but doesn't Saddam seem to be the sort of guy to commit suicide to avoid standing trial? It wouldn't surprise me.

Speculation aside, I'm not sure what the right response to this should be. Should I feel sad? Should I be glad? Should I hope and pray that he does stand trial if I want justice will be served in the end? I could delight that God will see justice done after his death, but I can't help but wonder if the most important Christian response is to pray for Saddam's salvation before his life ends. That's something that I hesitate to think most Christians will do upon hearing this, thinking of course that he doesn't deserve it. Well, who does? No one is beyond the gospel, and when sin abounds grace abounds as well. I don't expect someone who considers America (and the Christianity he associates with it) to be the great Satan to consider Christ, but early Christians didn't expect the guy standing around with the stoners of Stephen to be the greatest Christian missionary of all time.

Open Theism criticisms

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Rebecca Writes is doing a series on God's attributes. In the process, she's had a couple good posts on how open theists have to be fairly revisionary on God's attributes. The first looks at God's omniscience, simplicity, freedom, and independence. The second one covers God's infinity.

I've recently revived an old post on this in case anyone wants to see more on open theism.

Open Theism

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This is an old entry from December 2003, but the main body of it was originally on my old website, and I had just linked to it. Since I'm about to refer to it in my next entry, I decided it would be good to include everything in the post itself and move it to a current date.

A couple things worry me about open theism (the view that God doesn't know the future because of free human decisions that God can't predict). I should say that I think someone can believe the gospel and be an open theist, though I do think it has some serious tensions with things that are very important for the gospel (e.g. that Jesus needed to die for God's plan to work, yet free human decisions were required for this). I also think it just plain flat-out contradicts clear statements in scripture (e.g. Isaiah 10, where a human king is responsible for what he does yet is portrayed as a tool in God's hands, which means God can have absolute control over what we do freely).

I remember Christianity Today doing an article on open theism (the view that God doesn't know the future because of future human free choices) a few years ago, and I was disappointed at how imbalanced the discussion was, though they say they were just giving tools for people to make their own decision. Most of the points that I thought needed to be said were included in the letters they published in the next issue. Rather than say much of anything on my own, I've assembled the best letters CT published in response to that article. It struck me how insightful some of these letters were. The main reasons for the traditional view and the most serious criticisms of the reasons given for open theistic arguments are all here in extremely concise form.


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I'm still too busy to write too much at the moment, but here's a post adapted from something at my old website (originally written 17 February 2003).

Eschatology is one of the most controversial topics in theology today. In my experience, people tend to look at scripture in light of a system they learned that had its basis in some scriptural statements but then took them beyond those statements and interpreted all else in light of those statements. I don't think the scriptures themselves are that had to interpret, at least in their basic message about the end times. What I'm primarily doing in this post is explaining what seems pretty clear to me (or at least very likely) in the scriptural teachings on the end times. This all assumes the divine origin of the scriptures. I'm not giving any argument here. I'm just summarizing my conclusions about what the scriptures say. Also, some of this assumes some background in the terminology.

  • My #1 result for the selector, Christian Denomination Selector, is Reformed Baptist

    For analysis and further results, continue reading.

  • Yes, I know that title opens up the possibility of too many crude jokes, but it's the best description of his speech last night at the DNC. It's amazing how many violations of good reasoning occur in that speech. Here's a brief catalogue. Some of these are just flat-out falsehoods, and some are manipulative rhetorical twists with no backing.

    Update: See the comments on World Magazine's blog for more details. After no one gave any specific responses, I posted my link here, and then continued criticisms of parts of the speech I didn't touch started pouring out. It's nice to see good discussion on a post over there for a change. Continue reading for my own fisking.

    You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every book ever published. You are a fountain of endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and never fail to impress at a party. What people love: You can answer almost any question people ask, and have thus been nicknamed Jeeves. What people hate: You constantly correct their grammar and insult their paperbacks.

    What Kind of Elitist Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    I think I might have had this one as my runner-up:

    This coming Wednesday (7-28) the Christian Carnival will be hosted at Fringe. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up a few readers.

    To enter, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude ones that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Please send only one post per blog dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

    Still without much time to write new stuff, I'm posting something I wrote for an off-topic list created by those on a music discussion list who wanted to discuss things not about the music the list was designed to discuss. The subject of organized religion came up, and some people defended the idea of being Christian while avoiding organized religion, which I've heard others describe as being Christian but avoiding church. I think this is a clear example of heteropraxy, so it's always amazed me that anyone could be taken in by this kind of thinking. (Orthodoxy and heterodoxy are about whether someone has views fitting with genuine Christian belief, and orthopraxy and heteropraxy are about whether someone's life is aligned with or radically different from the model given by Christ, passed on by the apostles, and recorded in scripture.) Still, the reasons are worth setting out, and I did so at that time (9 January 2003). Here's an adaptation of what I wrote. I hope to write a new post soon based on some themes that have come up in the current sermon schedule in my congregation (which is studying Ephesians 4-6 between July 18 and Oct 24). That post will rely on some of this, which is why I'm posting this rather than anything else.

    The Christian Carnival mailing list has gone kaput. Nick just realized it. If you were on it and haven't received his message about the new list, you're probably not someone he remembered as being on it. He has no records of who was on it. So if you want back in (or in for the first time), go here to subscribe.

    I just got around to reading President Bush's speech to the National Urban League. It's very good. I don't think there's any question which candidate should appeal more to black voters, as long as they're willing to put aside long-standing prejudices against the Republican party. Bush knows how to speak the language of the ordinary person, something Kerry can't even succeed at doing when he puts on his actor's hat and tries. It's no surprise that some of this involves speaking the language of the ordinary black American. The things Bush choose to emphasize in this speech are the things so many ordinary Americans, including those who are black, value very much. They're the very things black voters have been convinced for a couple generations that Republicans don't value at all.

    This time there's no way you can charge Bush with just saying it when speaking at this sort of gathering, because most of his speech was a defense of actual policies he's enacted or tried to enact unsuccessfully. It's not just a defense, but it's a good defense. He knows how to make this argument well. I don't agree with every single point, and it may be (for all I know) that on some points I'd be more inclined to agree with Kerry, but John Kerry doesn't hold a candle to him on these issues.

    Howard Fineman is on MSNBC right now saying that the Democratic Convention is aiming at undecided Democrats and Republicans. If so, they're being extremely stupid about choosing their speakers. Let's compare their lineup compared with the Republicans'.

    Bill Clinton avoided the left of his party to draw in moderate voters. He had conservative Democrat Zell Miller and other speakers from what we now call red states. He stayed away from people who seem more liberal, e.g. Ted Kennedy, especially like those seen as weak on national security, e.g. Jimmy Carter. Al Gore even left Clinton behind because he has exactly the same features as George W. Bush. About half the country absolutely hates the guy. Well, look at the differences this time around.

    Urgent Hoax Warning!

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    Someone I know and trust fairly well through the Kerry Livgren and Kansas internet circles (I think we even got married the same day or maybe a week apart or something) sent this:

    I hate those hoax warnings, but this one is important! Send this warning to EVERYONE on your E=mail list immediately. If someone comes to your front door saying they are conducting a survey and asks you to take your clothes off, DO NOT DO IT!!! This is a scam; they only want to see you naked. I wish I'd gotten this warning yesterday. I feel so stupid and cheap now ........

    Bush's strategy

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    InstaPundit links to some educated and intuitively plausible (to me, anyway) speculation about Bush's strategy for beating Kerry at U.S.S. Clueless. He also links to another that came later and says little, though not nothing) new that isn't in the other post. You can find it at the InstaPundit post if you want to read it.

    I have far too many things to do to write much today, so I'm following Jollyblogger's example and posting a review I wrote for Amazon almost four years ago of Sexual Orientation and Human Rights, by Laurence Thomas and Michael Levin.

    [Help! I can't get the MTAmazon code to work. It's the same code that works fine in the sidebar. Any ideas?]

    In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that Laurence Thomas is a faculty member in my own department at Syracuse University. I worked as a teaching assistant for him for five semesters, four of them as the TA Coordinator (there were six TAs for this class of 400+ students), and he's someone I expect would always be happy to write a letter of recommendation for me. We used this book in the class I TAed for him, and I was his editor for the portion he wrote. I do admit being influenced by his thinking in a number of ways, and I'm pleased to say that there are a couple places where he had to change some of his positions or arguments in the book due to my comments (though not enough, as the review shows). On to the review:

    One thing I've been covering in my ethics course this summer is whether it's possible for there to be black anti-white racism and black anti-black racism (I say yes to both). I've been suspicious of a common attitude toward Colin Powell and Condi Rice fits both categories, namely that they're not really black due to their being conservative, serving in a Republican administration, being part of "the man", etc. I've written on this subject here, here, and here. What just occurred to me yesterday is that the main argument for the line of thinking that I'm suspicious of seems quite at odds with one of the main arguments for affirmative action.

    The 27th Christian Carnival is up at Mr. Standfast. We're still strongly competing with the COTV, with one fewer this time around. Sadly, I can say that I could have made it a tie by not submitting my entry to the COTV this week. Well, at least my post with w1re's questions and Sam's on unity in the church prevented it from being three short.

    The Smallest Minority expresses a point that I've found pro-choice people resistant to admit (and a professor of mine has had a paper arguing this rejected without possibility of resubmission from journal after journal, listing grounds related to minor points not central to the main issue). The point of his paper, which comes up in this post, is that even on the best pro-choice principles, once we reach certain technology the abortion question will be moot, since the pro-choice argument doesn't give anyone the right to the death of the fetus. The Smallest Minority goes a bit further. It's not just that this will happen. We should long for it to happen.

    Presumably this is what John Kerry means when he says he believes abortion is wrong but a right. Pro-lifers are making a huge mistake when they say this is an inconsistent position. It's not. The problem with John Kerry and others who have said this sort of thing (Bill Clinton comes to mind) is that they've given us no reason to believe they really mean it. After all, what have they done to help make abortion rare? They've both opposed Congress's most recent attempts to make it rarer by limiting one completely unnecessary and even more violent than usual procedure. They don't actually say they want to make it rare, probably because it gets them off the hook for not doing anything to say you want to keep it rare but not change anything, but how can you keep something the way it isn't?

    As for safe, I'm not sure how you can even think of an operation that always results in death as safe, but I won't pursue that one.

    The 96th Carnival of the Vanities is up at soundfury. Five hours ago, I'd already gotten 12 hits from it, which is more than I've ever gotten from COTV in the past. No one has left a comment or (that I know of) linked, so perhaps they didn't expect such an in-depth post from such a short description that it analyzes a definition of racism. In the Olympics theme, it is labeled cross-country, though!

    I enjoyed this post at INCITE about libertarianism, laws like the Patriot Act, and when it's ok to disobey the law.

    Also, QandO has a great post on socialized medicine.

    Update: Somehow the link to the carnival itself got removed, along with part of the sentence it was in, before this got post. It's fixed now. I forgot to link to my own post too, and that's now there. One post I referenced turns out not to have been in the carnival. Blogger's typical problem with not directing you to the right entry but hanging out at the top of the page led to this misunderstanding. Since it was the post I did write about that I wanted to highlight and not the one that had been submitted for the carnival, I'm removing it and putting it in its own entry.

    Nader's Tax Reform

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    I'd never vote for Ralph Nader. The reason I know so little about him is because I've heard enough complete nonsense from him that I haven't thought it worth the time to pursue finding out any more. Stuart Buck has an excerpt from a Pat Buchanan interview with Nader that reveals a conservative streak in the man -- tax policy.

    Two items of note:

    1. The highest rate of taxation was 70% in the 1970s, and Reagan brought it down to 28%. Clinton took it up to 39.6%, and Bush lowered it slightly to 35%. John Kerry wants to raise it again, though I don't know how far. I'd be interested to know if anyone has a figure. Interestingly, Joe Lieberman was claiming that Bush had it lower than Reagan and was saying it needed to be raised back to the Regan levels, but this data doesn't fit with that. Does anyone have more information on some more nuanced meaning behind Lieberman's statements? He doesn't seem like the completely ignorant type. Anyway, guess what Nader thinks the limit of taxation for the highest group should be? He thinks Bush set it at the right level. On this issue, Kerry is more liberal than Nader. Fancy that!

    2. Nader's huge difference with both Bush and Kerry is fairly radical. He wants to raise the threshold for exemption from taxes to a level significantly higher than the current one. How high? $100.000. He's more conservative than Bush on this one! This seems to me to go way too far, at least all at once, since we really need to wean the government off taxes if we're going to lower them such a huge amount, but I give him credit for an adventuresome tax policy that's in the right direction, even if it's way too far in the right direction.

    A new commentary series is starting, focusing on Pentecostal contributions to biblical studies. Judging by the writeup, one of the primary motivations for this series is to increase diversity among biblical commentators. The publisher is known for seeing diversity as a goal. Another series they're working on has to do with feminist perspectives in biblical studies. Pentecostal perspectives aren't frequent among biblical commentators. Gordon Fee is well known as one of the best commentators of the late 20th century. Wayne Grudem is well-known among evangelicals, though he's a Reformed Vineyard charismatic and has some differences with mainstream Pentecostalism (as does Fee). Also, the writeup mentions that 71% of Pentecostals are non-white, so if you assume that the biblical scholars among Pentecostalism are likely also to be non-white, then you get more diversity ethnically (though I suspect the assumption is quite false). There is something to seeing this as increasing the diversity of perspectives of biblical commentaries, anyway.

    One thing about this just seems completely counterproductive. If the goal is diversity of perspectives, why have a series devoted to one perspective? It's a perspective not well represented in other series, so it increases the overall diversity of commentaries, but it places them all in one series. This could divert some of the better commentators who will write in this series from working with the main series out there, assuming there are any good enough to get such work (which I just don't know, since I haven't seen a list of the contributors to this series). Broadman and Holman did something similar with their New American Commentary series, some of the volumes of which are excellent, but it's mostly a Baptist series, and others don't give it the attention it deserves that they might give to some of the volumes if they'd been in other, more mainstream, series. In that case, though, part of the motivation had been simply to get some more recent conservative commentaries on some books that don't have recent conservative commentaries, and I'm glad for that. There's much less of a need for that, so I don't think this series has any such role to fill. Altogether, I'm not sure if this is a good idea, since it at least seems partially counterproductive to do this in the name of diversity.

    Stargate Atlantis, the spinoff of my favorite currently-running TV series,
    Stargate SG-1, made its debut last Friday. Check out the review at Back of the Envelope for more details. I'm excited about two hours of Stargate every Friday night. The new show looks really good so far and will easily be one of my favorite three shows (depending on how Enterprise does with the change of show-runner in the fall; it's been #2 on my list this season).

    Also, be sure to update your blogroll if you have a link to Donald's blog, because it's moved.

    Jollyblogger's got one more post in his series on Christians and politics. A lot of it collects things he's already said, most of which I've agreed with. I see one completely new element in today's post that I see as both right and important. He assumes those who say that the United States was founded as a Christian nation are right. I've disputed this, but suppose they're correct for the sake of argument. He then compares our situation today (or at least the one the people he's dealing with say we have today) with the closest situation historically. This was a nation expressly set out to seek God and follow God's ways. Those who oppose God's ways have in effect taken over or are at least trying to. What situation resembles that? Ancient Rome conquered God's people and made them subservient, requiring things of them at times that went against what God said but usually just encouraging behavior that goes contrary to God's law.

    Today I began my unit on racism in the summer course I'm teaching. One of the readings I'm using is Naomi Zack's Thinking About Race. I was looking through the section that defines various types of racism, and I noticed some pretty suspect analysis in a couple places. She stretches the definition of racism to include things that just don't seem to me to fall under that category at all, particularly with institutional racism. She also fails to allow something to count as racism when it seems obvious to me that it should (and with this kind it's not clear if it should count as institutional racism, though it is structural racism of a sort). So her account of institutional racism may well be both too strong and too weak, interestingly.

    A friend (who comments here under the name w1re) sent me the following questions, and I haven't had the chance to respond. I have some thoughts on the matter, but I thought it would be nice to see what others have to say before I chime in.

    1) It has been said that God's actions correspond to His moral excellence, or His "holiness", and that He does nothing that is out of His character. It is also said that His actions, for example the act of atonement on the cross, can embody seemingly contrary ideas such as mercy and justice. Would you say that His actions are ALWAYS manifestations of ALL His character?

    2) A strange idea occured to me the other day as I thought about the role of hell at the End of Time. As you know, after Adam and Eve sinned, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and sent an angel with sword of flames to guard the tree of life. He did not allow them to continue in His full presence, but neither did He condemn them to hell (yet). It can be said that that act was an act of both justice (because they sinned and the sin demanded justice be served) and grace/mercy (He clothed them and promised that the woman's Seed will one day crush Satan's head). Would you say that hell would one day serve as an act of "mercy" (if only by that one means that a sinner being fully exposed to the presence of God is more intolerable than being exposed to the total absence of God)? The reason is that, since these sinners have demonstrated that they are utterly depraved and incapable of eternal fellowship with God, and have resolved to be consciously hostile towards God, then it would be better not to expose them to eternal joy (because to them it would be intolerable).

    Christian Conservative

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    I'm not talking about the religious right. Christian Conservative is a blog I've really just discovered. I think I looked at his site when it first joined the Blogdom of God a while back, and I probably made a mental note to look back in on it occasionally to see if I liked it. I generally like a good track record before I'll plug something.

    This time I'm making an exception. So many of the last few posts are so interesting that I've added it to my blogroll. I expected a site primarily about politics, but it seemed mostly about theology and the Christian life, with some political reflection, often more general analysis looking at biblical themes. Here are some of the posts that drew my interest:

    This coming Wednesday, July 21, is the next Christian Carnival, and it will be hosted by Mr. Standfast. 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:


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    Or should we call it Ketchupgate? Found at CaribPundit.

    To continue my ongoing effort to keep my favorite posts menu short, I'm collecting my posts that I probably wouldn't have had the motivation to write if it were not for Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ that I never got around to seeing.

    King of Fools pointed out a while ago (I'd saved a link to it and just noticed that I hadn't gotten around to posting about it) that people scared of test result discrepancies have prevented black children from taking IQ tests in California. Removing a test that's remarkably good at predicting certain kinds of success in life on the grounds that it doesn't lead to equal scores for every group defeats the purpose of trying to identify what factors lead to those kinds of success in life, which is the only way to identify whatever leads to the lower test scores among black students and therefore the only way to progress toward solving any problems that lead to that test score gap (and the only way to see if any particular attempts to deal with problems are working).

    Even aside from that, I'm not sure how this policy can still be maintained given California's rejection of race-based preferences as discrimination, unless that was just a rejection of one specific kind of race-based preferences in the form of affirmative action in college and university admissions.

    As I was doing a my top 15 of Parableman, I grew interested in comparing some statistical data that the list led me to wonder about.

    My first thought was that there was a notable lack of comments on many of my favorite posts. Some of the top 15 have a good number of comments, given that the average for the blog is just over 2. [There have been 500 entries and 1022 comments. The top 15 list has one with 17, one with 14, two with 7, one with 4, two with 3, four with 1, and three with 0.] The highest here are in the top 15 commented entries of the blog's history, and the average (over 4) is higher than the average for the blog (just over 2), but the majority of the posts in the top 15 are toward the lower end. I wonder why the entries I consider my best are the ones that have fewer comments.

    Here are the highest-commented entries:

    Parableman's Top 15

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    This is my 500th entry, and as I said a few days ago I decided to do a top ten list of my favorite entries, but I can't limit it to just ten, so I'm going with fifteen. I only got one response in my request for recommendations, with quite a few items recommended, and I don't know if it's better to weight that heavily or just take it as one person's preferences, but I do happen to agree that all of those are among my best, so I've included them all.

    I've decided not to rank them, because it's hard enough settling on the fifteen posts I like the most. Ordering them would be much more difficult, so they're in chronological order. I'll do some analysis in another post.

    1. Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? (20 January, 14 comments)
    2. A Deeper Notion of Marriage (23 January, 3 comments)
    3. Intellectuals and grasping the mercies of God (15 February, 1 comment)
    4. Racial Narratives (20 February, no comments)
    5. Matthew's use of scripture (21 February, no comments)
    6. Victimology (26 February, 4 comments)
    7. My Amazing Wife (27 February, 1 comment)
    8. Separatism (11 March, 1 comment)
    9. Is There Potentiality in God? (17 March, no comments)
    10. Limited Atonement (19 March, 7 comments)
    11. All Creation Groans (23 March, 1 comment)
    12. Presuppositional Apologetics (3 April, 7 comments)
    13. Does the Bible Count as Evidence for Christianity? (24 April, 3 comments)
    14. Review of Bible Translations (22 May, 14 comments)
    15. What Should Christians Think of July 4? (3 July, 17 comments)

    Joe Carter gives the real story of Galileo. Compare that to the textbooks. The morals of the story are quite interesting. Back of the Envelope has dealt with this before but not with as much detail.

    Here's an argument I just simply don't understand. Bill Cosby has become vocal of late in calling to the carpet those of his fellow black Americans who have participated in the self-destructive behavior that has popularized a form of separatism from education and hard work among a segment of African American culture, contributing toward the perpetuation of disproportional poverty among African Americans. Some have criticized him, but to their creidt Jesse Jackson and Kwesi Mfume have been willing to tolerate this message, even though it's at odds with their continuing emphasis on eternal victimhood. Mfume distinguishes between Bill Cosby's statements and those who have been saying such things for years. Why?

    Bill Cosby has legitimacy, that's the one difference... He has legitimacy in the larger black community. [Cosby's] been, there, done that. He has legitimacy that the super-ultra white conservative doesn't. So when he says something, you listen differently. That's opposed to Rush Limbaugh, who has no legitimacy whatsoever in the black community - none, although he thinks he does.

    New info on WMD

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    Now this is a little out of character. I discovered an unexpected source declaring more strongly than anything I've seen in a while that Saddam Hussein did have WMD and ongoing programs for producing more. The source? The United Nations. I kid you not. Thanks to One Hand Clapping for finding this.

    I guess it's not really that strange, since this is what both Hans Blix and Richard Clarke have been saying all along, but the either uncareful or deliberately negligent media headlines stating that there were never any WMD (which the Senate seems to have joined) has started to drown out the reality, so it's worth having it affirmed again.

    The Christian Carnival is at From the Anchor Hold this week. It's growing by leaps and bounds. We even outgrew the Carnival of the Vanities this week by a couple entries. Next week it will be at Mr. Standfast, so stay tuned for details. Patriot Paradox now has a schedule up for the next few weeks of hosts. I'm doing the week right after the last one on that list, August 18. I don't think it's a good idea to do it while I'm teaching, so that might be the last one for me until December or January unless I change my mind on that (or unless there's a good week when I'll have Wednesday off that isn't Thanksgiving, which I think does happen with the Mass of the Holy Spirit -- the benefits of teaching at a Catholic school).

    My post on evangelicals and politics is part of it, along with a number of other posts on similar matters, including a roundup of some of the best at Digitus, Finger & Co. Given that Karen Marie was hosting, it shouldn't surprise long-time Carnival readers that a number of others from the Catholic blogging community showed up, including The Curt Jester, who is themed his blog on a Jesuit monk whose life he greatly respects, combining prayer with punditry, in this case giving some excellent reflections along the same lines as posts in Neil's aforementioned roundup. The Society of Jesuits pays my salary, so I have to be nice to them people who base their blogs' themes on them, but it's a good post independent of my own prejudices.

    The 95th Carnival of the Vanities is up at d-42. It's themed according to Rush albums, sort of. It's an interesting idea, but I was having trouble seeing the connections between the songs and the posts. Maybe I just don't know Rush well enough. I never could get into them, mostly because there wasn't really enough room for the kind of layering the complexity of their music required when you only have three musicians who try to do only what they can duplicate live. Progressive rock needs at least five people to do it right, unless Bill Bruford is involved or at least two people are doubling up on parts. If you don't have a non-standard rock instrument (e.g. saxophone, violin, flute, tuba, Irish pipes, chicken clucks), then you're already behind.

    Two caveats:

    First, the host thought La Shawn Barber was a he. This shows some serious ignorance of the naming conventions within African American culture. The 'La' prefix is almost always for a girl's name and can be followed by any otherwise male name (though Shawn can, but isn't usually, female). What's worse is that he didn't even match up his misimpression with her picture. What's worse than that is that he linked to the comments and not the post. Here's the real link for those who want to see the post itself.

    Second, the host thinks Freewill is one of Rush's best songs. That's like thinking I Can't Dance is one of Genesis' best songs. It's like thinking Mr. Roboto is one of Styx's best songs. I'm unable to transcribe the sound I want written here.

    It's got my post about colorblindness along with a post on a blog I've never heard of before, Strat Speaks Out, talking about something I have talked about before here, the idea that black people who decide to excel in school for its own sake are viewed as not black enough by their peers. They're called Oreos. After all, school is a white thing, so anyone taking delight in the subject matter learned in school must not really be black.

    Another blog I haven't seen before, Spot On, has a thoughtful defense of abstinence in sex education and a probing analysis of those who harp on abstinence advocates, noting its success in Uganda. This isn't a social conservative saying all this, either.

    Wilson and Bush

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    I haven't said anything (in a post at least) about the revelation that Joseph Wilson was lying when he said Bush's 16 words weren't based on Wilson's own report. I said something about it in a comment. One thing still doesn't make sense, though, and the only response I've been able to get at some of the locations where this has been discussed is that Bush was playing around as in a poker game, knowing the truth would come out. Does that fit with what he said and did? I don't know.

    I forgot to put this up earlier, probably because I knew about it much earlier. Tomorrow is the next Christian Carnival, and it will be hosted at From the Anchor Hold. 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, you 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. Secondly please send only one post dated
    since the last Christian Carnival (7-7 or after). Then, do the following:

    With the amount of sleep I've been getting and the amount of work I should be doing in real life, I'm not really in condition to write much of substance, at least nothing extended. There are lots of things I would write about if circumstances were otherwise. I can plug Jollyblogger, though, flaggng some good stuff he's been writing tirelessly, perhaps even passing off some of my own thoughts as his in the process. (Hint: you have to read his posts if you want to see how much of this is an extension and not just a regurgitation of what he's been saying.)

    He just keeps pounding out the posts on politics and Christianity. His last two posts are particularly noteworthy. First he argues against the dominant political motif Christians seem to want to use, seeing Christians as at war with the culture surrounding us. Christianity does involve a war, but it's not against flesh and blood. Those Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson see as the enemies are often just the victims of the enemy and would better be seen as the objects of Christian love. We don't judge, avoid, or go to war against unbelievers. We represent God to them as ambassadors, engaging with the world but with the goal of being the fragrance of Christ.

    Best of Me Symphony

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    One of the lesser-known blog carnivals is the Best of Me Symphony. The specialty of this one is best posts of a blog. To be a best post, a post needs to stand the test of time, so all submissions must be at least two months old. The quality of submissions is much higher than most carnivals, and this week's looks to have some great stuff, judging by the descriptions. I submitted my Freedom not to Pledge, partly because I thought it was one of my better posts from a prior age, partly because the discussion in the comments was so engaging.

    Parableman's Top Ten?

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    Baldilocks is approaching her 500th post and is planning a top ten list of her posts. I'm also approaching 500. This is my 489th post.

    I don't have a list of my favorite ten posts, as she does. I do have a list of posts in my side column that would be my best candidates. Some of them have been diverted to posts listing more than one in the interest of saving room in that list (and unfortunately the link rot from moving hasn't all been fixed in some of those meta-posts, but the titles are there, and the search engine on this site will find the ones I haven't yet fixed). Being moved to such a meta-post and out of the main list doesn't indicate that those posts are less deserving. They're just more easily grouped.

    Does anyone have any favorite posts that should be in this list? Maybe it's vain to ask, but if I'm following Baldilocks into vanity it's at least good company.

    I've been thinking about the various proposals for an FMA, and I've hit on one I'd support, one not proposed by anyone so far. If they were to amend the Constitution to prevent state judges and justices from requiring gay marriage simply because of language in a state constitution that wasn't intended to allow gay marriage but can be re-read in some postmodernist reader response theory as meaning that. I'm not sure how such an amendment would read, but it would have to require legislation to allow gay marriage. As I've opposed the FMA, people's responsed have indicated that somehow they haven't gotten clear that I disagree with what Massachussetts has done. Unelected leaders have sidestepped the legislative process, just as the Supreme Court did with the Texas sodomy law last summer.

    There may be some state constitutions that require gay marriage, and California is one that people have argued does, simply because it's discrimination against men to deny them a right that we give women (to marry men) and vice versa. So this wouldn't be some ad hoc amendment designed to forbid whatever state constitutions say as irrelevant, no matter what it is. It should be the kind to prevent what MA has done, since there's no statement there, to my knowledge, that really bears on the issue. None of the arguments I've seen can justify what the state's highest court has done. That's the sort of thing the federal government can and should take a stand against. I'm not sure an amendment would be the best way to accomplish this, but I can't think of a better way. The FMA as proposed is not going to succeed. We already know how the votes are going to go. It's against the states rights that most of the people supporting it insist on in other areas, thus showing an element of hypocrisy unless they can give an argument why it's different in this case. Even those who insist on resisting gay marriage as much as possible will face these two objections, and the kind of amendment I'm suggesting will get around that. Someone who thinks the FMA as stated is wrong to begin with, as I'm at least inclined to think, should be even more excited to place the focus on where it really should be.

    When a Howard Dean rally got out of hand, Dean quickly stepped up to say that he didn't approve of everything that had gone on there. He didn't say which parts he didn't approve of, but I assume he thought it obvious. Vulgar, lewd comments about President Bush were part of it. As angry as Dean became known for being, he didn't stoop to endorsing Saturday Night Live humor about the President of the United States. (Well, I suppose I can only be sure that Dean had the decency to realize he needed to pretend he had this kind of moral high ground. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume he was sincere.) I don't mean SNL political humor, just to be clear. President Bush actually thought Will Ferrell's caricature of him was really funny, probably because he knew it fit with exactly the picture the rest of the media were painting of him and didn't mind anyone underestimating him. I'm talking about everything else SNL does nowadays. Any mention of anything sexual is supposed to be funny, and if they repeat it often enough the whole audience laughs. If they repeat the skit often enough, the viewers at home will even think it's funny. Apply that kind of method to someone's desire to lower the President of the United States to the lowest position possible. That's what Dean condemned at his own fundraiser. It's also what Whoopi Goldberg did this week at a Kerry/Edwards rally. What was their response? They thought it was a wonderful rally that expressed the values of America, because Kerry and Edwards (of course) express the values of America. I think they're right. These are the values of Americans all over, at least those in junior high.

    Focus on the Family has stepped in it this time. They've long flirted with the confusion of Christian faith and conservative politics, and now they've gone way too far. Jollyblogger argues why their attacks on Michael Moore have nothing to do with their explicit mission. This is what happens when you confuse Christianity with a political agenda. You end up with an unbiblical alliance with worldly weapons to fight a battle that Christians shouldn't be fighting anyway. Julie Neidlinger has further thoughts. Finally, Jonathan Ichikawa and the string of comments his post received show how those who aren't already sympathetic to Focus on the Family will view such a thing.

    I suppose this is a good occasion to look at the National Association of Evangelicals' statement about politics. The San Francisco Gate had a great article on this. Christianity Today's blog gives more details (scroll down about a page for this story). View From the Pew highlights different elements. Here are the main claims made:

    Avery at Stereo Describes My Scenario has an excellent post on colorblindness. One question he raises is whether it's good, or even possible, to treat people as if they have no race. He quotes someone he knew who once told him that he didn't really think of him as black. To whatever degree it's impossible to treat people as raceless, it's also illegitimate simply because it's deceptive. I'm with Avery on that. I have one additional concern with this colorblindness thing, but it's a little more complicated than just thinking colorblindness is wrong. It's occurred to me that there are two different ways of being colorblind, one normal and natural and the other viewed as good by the classical liberal framework (of which both conservatives and liberals in the U.S. are part) but which actually can involve real residual racism and certainly negative attitudes toward the people you're being colorblind about.

    Proverbial Wife has a followup here to her post on the anti-gaymarriage amendment, with a thought-provoking point about why Christians don't and shouldn't have problems tolerating nonbelievers getting married to begin with. What does that have to do with the FMA? Read the post.

    Jonathan Bennett has launched a new site containing his translations of early modern philosophy texts. I've used some of these translations, and they're excellent. Some of them are real translations from texts originally written in French, German, and Latin (e.g. Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant). For these, Bennett's translations are merely additional ones to those already on the market, though he does gear his translations toward the undergraduate reader. Some of them are from texts originally written in English (e.g. Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume). These are the ones I'm most excited about. What Bennett has done is update the texts to modern English without modifying the content. The arguments and even most of the turns of phrase are unchanged, but it's just plain easier to read. Since most of my students have faced their biggest obstacles toward understanding this material in the actual reading of the text, this goes a long way toward promoting greater understanding of this material and greater motivation to read it to begin with. I've used some of these texts in introductory classes, and it's so much more helpful than using the standard editions.

    Heroism and Ethics

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    Jonathan Ichikawa has a nice post at Fake Barn Country with a strong discussion thread about great power, great responsibility, and the ethics of heroism inspired by Spiderman 2.

    A New Low

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    In the endless quest for more linkage, I submitted my women's bicycles post to the Bonfire of the Vanities, and somehow the host thought it was bad enough to get in.

    I've got some good contentful posts planned, but I just haven't had both the time and energy at the same time to do much with one kid who has been sick over a week now, another in his first week of school ever (I've had to bring him and pick him up along with bureaucracy and trying to be aware of what they're doing with him and how they intend to help his high needs), and my first week of an intense five-week summer class (though it helps that I've taught it before). I hope to get something more in depth written in as the week goes on.

    Messy Christian is this week's Christian Carnival host. It's even bigger this week at 27 entries (actually 30, because three people violated one of the basic ground rules of the Christian Carnival, and as far as I know all blog carnivals, by submitting two entries from the same blog), and unsurprisingly I have a few more posts to recommend than I sometimes do.

    My 4th of July post is there., but so is Belief Seeking Understanding's important counterbalance to some of what I say.

    Rebecca Writes has a good introduction to the Reformed view called monergistic regeneration, which roughly speaking says that God doesn't work in cooperation with us in initiating the process of salvation (though I feel compelled to add that it would be both misleading and morally wrong to say as the common straw man of Calvinism has it that we and our choices aren't involved in that process, since they pretty much are that process).

    Mark Roberts is working on a series on worship. His first post is here, and the Christian Carnival entry is here.

    I've been saving up a post on this, and I may still do it, but View from the Pew can give you a sense of the National Association of Evangelicals' letter on politics. It may surprise you.

    More vs. Moore

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    Army of One has found the most in-depth review of F 9/11 so far, another one that's not 100% friendly to Bush, but it's far more devastating to Moore than anything else I've seen.

    Baldilocks found a personality quiz that doesn't go way out of its way to defend every quirk of personality but is perfectly willing to insult you.

    Problems for Kerry

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    Pardon My English gives a good deal of analysis for why John Kerry hasn't pulled ahead even with greater violence in Iraq being such a focal point on the news and the success, exaggerated as it's been, of Fahrenheit 9/11. I can't agree with everything in the post, but it's worth thinking about. Some of these issues may be real problems for the Kerry campaign. I hadn't even thought about a number of them before. This was before Edwards entered the picture, so some of it may be mitigated by the energy from that and the upcoming convention.

    I talk about Myers-Briggs personality stuff too often given that I hardly ever explain it. Well, Marla has a great post at Proverbial Wife explaining the typings and why the test is of value.

    It might be worth considering this post from Totem to Temple as if it's a piggyback on my 4th of July post. The argument is that a marriage amendment mistakes the mission of the church, but I think it's even worse. It confuses the relationship between Christianity and the secular government. The post doesn't go quite as far as this, but it's far enough for me to extend the argument a little bit. Seeking to mend the religious backsliding in the United States by this sort of method is idolatry. It's trying to get the government to cover over a moral problem by redefining it through political change rather dealing with the spiritual issues first. It seeks a government policy to "protect" a divinely instituted covenant relationship from those who have a better understanding of how the English language works (e.g. if you can have a marriage of minds, then you can have a marriage of two males, regardless of what you think of the morality of such a marriage). That's on the same level as deciding to have a government policy to prevent people from using the word 'Bible' to describe things that aren't the Christian holy scriptures (e.g. a TV show Bible, a Microsoft Windows NT Bible, or something like a Gardener's Bible). My Bible study group has been working through Isaiah 28-39 this summer, and this seems strikingly like when King Hezekiah's advisors recommended seeking Egypt's protection against Assyria during the time of Isaiah. If we seek a secular government, whether one's own or someone else's, as the solution to any spiritual problem, it's idolatry. Some trust in horses, and some trust in chariots...

    Update: More on this at Proverbial Wife

    Edwards Lied

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    I want to remind everyone that John Edwards said repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that he wouldn't accept the nomination for Vice-President if John Kerry offered it to him. I bet he and Kerry are going to continue this campaign as one against Bush on the issue of honesty. If so, Edwards is a hypocrite.

    According to this site, he can't claim that he's reluctantly taking the job, since he's been pursuing it quite actively. Some might respond by saying that he wasn't interested in the job while he was running for president, and now that he knows he won't win the nomination he's just changed his mind. This won't do, though, because he was still saying he wouldn't do it during the last dregs of his campaign, when it was clear to everyone that Kerry would win the nomination and Edwards' presence seemed to be only to show Kerry that he was the best VP pick. That's true dishonesty if his actions are demonstrating something absolutely contrary to his words. Then again, his trial lawyer background might have been good preparation for this side of politics.

    Update: More on this at Evangelical Outpost, including more claims of dishonesty.

    Christian Carnival XXV Plug


    The 25th Christian Carnival will be hosted at Messy Christian for the first time this coming Wednesday.

    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:

    Email MC at: messychristian2 at yahoo. com. sg or use this handy-dandy form.

    Provide the following:

    Title of your Blog
    URL of your Blog
    Title of your post
    URL linking to that post
    Description of the Post

    Cut off date is Tuesday by 6 PM EST.

    If you are reading this and are not a part of the Christian Carnival mailing list please go here and join up:

    *If you wish to host the Carnival in coming weeks email Nick at

    Richard Chappell found a personality test I've never seen before. It seems to be much more precise than the Myers Briggs test, with five categories and then sub-categories under them. I'm including my results alongside descriptions of each category, with some evaluation. These descriptions are in the public domain, but Dr. John A. Johnson has asked for acknowledgement for having written them.

    Comment Problem


    Several people have had problems submitting comments. MTAmazon, the plugin that allows my blog to download the pictures of books automatically from the Amazon site, has been causing problems, and the blog won't rebuild properly during those problems. Sometimes it's led to error messages when submitting comments. If this happens, don't resumbit your comment, because then I'll just have to go in and delete one of them. This problem doesn't prevent submission of information. It prevents the site from rebuilding to show that the information is there. Most of the trouble has been coming from the games, and I've removed those Amazon links now, so I hope it won't be as frequent anymore.

    The people on Fox and Friends this morning are amazed that John Kerry believes life begins at conception, and they're wondering how he can believe that and then say that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Many of my students have had the same strange notion that pro-choice people shouldn't believe the scientifically obvious truth that life begins at conception. The main issue has absolutely nothing to do with when life begins. For many people it has to do with when personhood begins (though philosophers have given good reasons to think even that doesn't decide the issue either way, since it's sometimes ok to kill a person, and it's sometimes wrong to kill something that's not a person).

    What bothers me about Kerry's stance on abortion isn't some supposed inconsistency between believing life begins at conception and allowing abortion. The problem is that he says he thinks abortion should be rare, and then he does nothing to discourage it and everything to encourage it. That's good reason to think he doesn't really believe very strongly that it should be rare.

    Update: Someone from the Washington Post is on now, saying that Kerry has set himself up for some moral dilemma with his recent comments on abortion. He stated it again in terms of life beginning at conception, so apparently he doesn't know any biology either. Tehy're now giving some more information on the quote, and he hasn't just said that life begins at conception, which isn't exactly an informative point as to anyone's views. He actually said he opposes abortion. So maybe he does have a moral dilemma to deal with, and he's just a moral wimp, believing something to be gravely wrong but being absolutely unwilling to do anything to oppose it. That dilemma has nothing to do with when life begins, though.

    Update 2: More context: Kerry sees his opposition to abortion as a purely religious matter that he can't force on others. This doesn't change my previous evaluation that this is the position of a moral wimp. It does raise my eyebrow a bit, though, because it reveals two things. First, he doesn't think there are any good arguments for abortion and takes it as an article of faith. He uses that term. Many people who have a more liberal view on this issue believe this to be true of all pro-life people, and it's completely false. I wonder if this is evidence that he doesn't really believe it and is giving what a Democrat might think a Republican believes to try to get more conservative votes. The other possibility is that this is just his way of saying that there isn't any truth of the matter, but he has a feeling about it. It's a bad way of saying that, and it's offensive to people who really have convictions about it, but it's one way of reconciling his claim that he has convictions about it with the obvious evidence that he doesn't.

    Second, as I just suggested, this is incredibly offensive to people with deeply seated beliefs that coincide with their religious beliefs but also are held because or real arguments and even careful reasoning. It belittles them, and it ignores how many of our laws really do come from religious viewpoints, even if there are also secular arguments for most of them. Abortion, for many people who happen to have religious beliefs on the matter, is not a religious issue. It's a moral issue. Those who say you can't legislate morality are simply ignorant of how the legal system works. Most laws legislate morality.

    July 4th Sermon

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    One Hand Clapping has posted his sermon from this morning, getting into a number of themes from my post yesterday but also going in very different directions. I haven't looked at it carefully, but it looks good. Perhaps when I read it through tomorrow I'll have some thoughts on it.

    Independence Day is tomorrow in the United States, and it's good timing for some thoughts I've been having lately. As my congregation has worked through the beginning of I Samuel and the founding of the Israelite monarchy in our sermons, I've had the occasion to reflect on the nature of government. I think there are two principles, which you might think of as being in tension (but not contradiction) with each other, that have a bearing on how we should think about our government today and how we should think about the 4th of July.

    Posts at Jollyblogger and Beyond the Rim... also express in different ways the tension I'll develop here and how we need balanced between both principles without allowing either to remove the other.

    Digitus, Finger & Co. has a nice post explaining why abstinence-only sex education (or lack thereof!) is a very bad idea, even if excluding the abstinence-only message is also a bad idea. I knew there were extremists out there who think it's morally wrong to teach facts about birth control or how the human reproductive system works, but I thought abstinence education was simply showing why abstinence is the only way to be sure to avoid pregnancy and STDs (barring rape). I didn't realize that there are whole programs developed just make that claim and don't bother to teach the rest of the relevant issues. That's at least as bad as failing to mention that abstinence is the only 100% safe method and failing to talk about the magical thinking of the inverse lottery fallacy (instead of "I know how irrational it is to play the lottery, but I might win, and isn't that enough" it's "I know it's possible I might lose at the sex lottery, but that won't happen"). How can you support your claim that abstinence is the best method when you don't teach the facts about the others to back it up?

    Fact-Checking Moore

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    Since people have been crying out for a review of someone who has seen the film who critiques it, here it is. Judging by the comparison between Moore and Bush, I think it's safe to say that the reviewer isn't a huge fan of the president. Still, the review is virtually nothing but correctives on the basic facts.

    The one that shocked me was Moore's continuance of the falsehood that Gore would have won if the recount had continued. Different standards for recounting would have yielded different results, but a recount using the more likely recount standards would have yielded Bush as the winner. I hadn't heard this one trotted out in a while except in slogans about election-stealing. People presenting facts have pretty much acknowledged this one. Moore isn't among them, apparently.

    To philosophers who read this blog and haven't checked out OrangePhilosophy lately: I've posted something new there on vagueness. It's a way to avoid problems with higher-order vagueness. It isn't exactly for the non-specialist, so I didn't bother cross-posting it here as I usually like to do when I post at OrangePhilosophy or Prosblogion. Since no comments have appeared yet, I figured I'd give it a mention.

    Even if the reviews of Moore are unfair in their bias (see post below and comments for more on that), there's a completely separate issue of balance that has come to the fore in the time since Moore's film has been released. That's how the media have been reported it. Rabe Ramblings debunks the claims that compare Fahrenheit 9/11 with The Passion of the Christ and exaggerate its success. CNN, MSNBC, and USA Today are the only media outlets he mentions, but I've been hearing similar things all over the place. I'm not sure how this started, but here are the only ways the box office sales of this film stand out.

    1) It's doing extremely well for a documentary, though not first place as is claimed.
    2) It's set a few records for particular theaters but not for box office sales as a whole.

    Otherwise, it's pretty lackluster. On opening weekend, it didn't even outsell the 1999 live-action remake of Inspector Gadget. Jackass is as much a documentary as Fahrenheit 9/11. and that did better on opening weekend.

    Messy Christian links to another review of Fahrenheit 9/11 that's being hailed as balanced, though I'm not sure simply saying both good and bad things about it is enough for it to count as balanced.

    A number of his conclusions result from falsehoods, e.g. that we haven't found any WMD in Iraq, that the only reason to continue to fight now would be if we'd found WMD in Iraq, that Saddam is the only bad guy in Iraq, that Iraq needed to be involved in 9/11 for there to be a connection between Saddam's administration and al Qaeda, that big business profits from the war have any relevance to whether it's the right thing to do, that big business is even profiting from the war (Halliburton isn't, for instance), that troops are dying for no reason simply because he doesn't agree with the reason.

    It's true that Hitchens didn't say anything positive about the film, but saying positive things at the expense of the truth isn't balance.


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    Here's some more stuff I've decided not to have longer posts on.

    At Writing to Understand, Kris gives some reasons not to be so harsh with Fahrenheit 9/11. There really is something to be learned from it, even if you have to know a lot about the issues to be able to evaluate which bits are something to be learned and which are complete fabrications.

    I knew video games were good for something.

    Also from McConchie, a debunking of numerous claims about fetal stem cells. Destroying embryos doesn't seem to be worth it even if you ignore the fact that you're killing a human being.

    Mark Liberman of Language Log has more on Bush's supposed disfluencies. This time an extremely respected linguist, George Lakoff, says Bush proved himself to be an excellent debater when running for governor. He describes him as eloquent, quick on his feet, and able to get out complicated sentences smoothly and without hesitation. Liberman considers a few theories as to why he seems to have become less that way during the 2000 presidential race and during his presidency. Interesting stuff.



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