Thursday, January 31, 2008

Big Brother Will Soon Be Watching

This story raises some alarms about an emerging technology that most people probably know nothing about, but people who have access to it will know pretty much everything about you there is to know:

Here's a vision of the not-so-distant future: Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items - and, by extension, consumers - wherever they go, from a distance.

A seamless, global network of electronic "sniffers" will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads, "live spam," may be beamed at them.

In "Smart Homes," sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits, monitor medicine cabinets - all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants' private lives.

Science fiction?

In truth, much of the radio frequency identification technology that enables objects and people to be tagged and tracked wirelessly already exists - and new and potentially intrusive uses of it are being patented, perfected and deployed.

Read the rest of the story at the link. Thanks to Justin for passing it along.


Giving Away Your Money

This will toast your muffins: Under the current structure of the stimulus package many illegal immigrants will receive a tax rebate. What a country.


Reagan Nostalgia

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard urges conservatives to get a grip:

Conservative editorialists, radio hosts, and bloggers are unhappy. They don't like the Republican presidential field, and many of them have been heaping opprobrium on the various GOP candidates with astonishing vigor.

For example: John McCain--with a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 82.3--is allegedly in no way a conservative. And, though the most favorably viewed of all the candidates right now, both among Republicans and the electorate as a whole, he would allegedly destroy the Republican party if nominated.

Or take Mike Huckabee. He was a well-regarded and successful governor of Arkansas, reelected twice, the second time with 40 percent of the black vote. He's come from an asterisk to second in the national GOP polls with no money and no establishment support. Yet he is supposedly a buffoon and political na�f. He's been staunchly pro-life and pro-gun and is consistently supported by the most conservative primary voters--but he is, we're told, no conservative either.

Or Mitt Romney. He's a man of considerable accomplishments, respected by many who have worked with and for him in various endeavors. He took conservative positions on social issues as governor of Massachusetts, and parlayed a one-term governorship of a blue state into a first-tier position in the Republican race. But he, too, we're told, is deserving of no respect. And though he's embraced conservative policies and seems likely to be steadfast in pursuing them--he's no conservative either.

One could go on. And it's true the Republican candidates are not unproblematic. But they are so far performing more credibly than much of the conservative commentariat. Beyond the normal human frailties that affect all of us, including undoubtedly the commentators at this journal, there is one error that is distorting much conservative discussion of the presidential race. It's Reagan nostalgia.

Read the rest at the link to see what Kristol is talking about. I don't know how many of our readers listen to Sean Hannity, but if there's anyone who suffers from the syndrome Kristol writes about it's Hannity. Hannity worships Reagan and seems to have forgotten that the Gipper's tenure was not as glorious and unblemished as he imagines. Indeed, two hundred of our Marines were murdered in Lebanon and Reagan responded by having us slink ignominiously out of the country. He also put Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, a move that set the pro-life movement back by a generation.

Make no mistake. I think Reagan was a historic president, but conservatives like Hannity do make a mistake, in my opinion, when they idealize his presidency and make that ideal the standard by which any candidate is to be measured.

Thanks to Jason for the link.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards Withdraws

Democrat John Edwards announces his withdrawal from the presidential race in the Hurricane Katrina stricken Ninth Ward of New Orleans, La., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008. Edwards' wife Elizabeth and son Jack applaud. So do we.

Maybe Democratic voters who voted for Hillary or Obama better start looking for a lawyer.


Brave New World

Denyse O'Leary ruined my evening the other night with three predictions she offers at Uncommon Descent. O'Leary looks for the following to happen sometime in the not-to-distant future:

1. Academic institutions will force students to sign statements saying that they renounce the idea that the universe could be intelligently designed. So students from most normal human traditions will be forced to sign a statement saying that their tradition is actually lies, garbage, and drivel. Even though the evidence of the fine tuning of the universe actually supports their traditions' most basic elements. And if they appeal to the judiciary, the judgebots will demand that they sign, if they want an education.

2. Many religion profs, divinity profs, chaplains, alleged Christians in science, etc., will urge the students to sign the statement, because - whether they know it or not - they are totally in the materialist camp. They hope that they can get a salary while they sell out their tradition. It is unclear why these profbots and revbots should not be booted, given that the evidence from science actually supports, rather than undermines, traditional beliefs about the basic nature of the universe. But lots of people get a salary to pretend otherwise, and they will go on doing so.

3. Social workers will come out from under the floorboards from every direction to urge the young people to be "nice" and sign.

I don't know what she bases these depressing prognostications upon other than the historically demonstrable tendency of left-wing materialists to impose a tyrannical and mindless conformity on as many people as possible whenever it is within their power to do so. I hope she's wrong, yet her predictions have about them a certain troubling plausibility. God help us.


The Evolution of the Surge

Fred Barnes has written a fine piece in The Weekly Standard that takes us behind the scenes of the decision to implement the surge in Iraq. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the war and the history behind the major change in strategy responsible for the current status of that conflict.

President Bush comes out of this narrative looking for all the world like one of the most wise and courageous men ever to hold the office of the Presidency. Almost everyone in the military, the state department, the media and the congress opposed him yet he and a few of his advisors believed we had to win and that the surge was the best, maybe the only, way to accomplish that.

We haven't won yet. There still remain serious systemic problems in Iraq, but Bush's resolute implementation of the strategy called "The Surge" has convinced all but the most dour doubters that a historic victory is at least within our grasp.

Read Barnes' account. It's worth the time.


Kicking the Addiction

C. MacLeod Fuller comes to the rescue of those ensnared by the lotus eaters (See The Odyssey) on the Isle of Liberalism and offers those mired in the Slough of liberal Despond (See Pilgrim's Progress) a 13 step program of escape.

If you feel helpless to break your own self-destructive addiction to liberal ideas then Fuller's essay is just what you need. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of the Union

For those who missed it, Ben Johnson at Front Page Mag offers an overview of last night's State of the Union Address. As I listened on radio it seemed that it wasn't the most soaring speech the President ever gave, but it was very substantive and politically adroit. Johnson agrees.


Guide for the Perplexed

Are you puzzled by some gnawing philosophical conundrum? If so, you may wish to seek relief for your curiosity at Ask A Philosopher. Asking a philosopher a question about a difficult issue may, of course, be a frustrating exercise for the inquirer since philosophers frequently don't give you the answer to your question but prefer instead to help you sort through the various options. Even so, give it a try.

HT: Evangelical Outpost.


Monday, January 28, 2008

A Time For Grace

Madison Trammel at Christianity Today wonders what should be done about ESPN's Dana Jacobson. If you aren't familiar with Jacobson's recent transgressions go here for the full story. The short of it is that in a drunken rant in which she was vulgarly denigrating the University of Notre Dame, the "Touchdown Jesus," and Jesus Himself she delivered herself of the unladylike sentiment, "F---k Jesus."

This has caused predictable outrage among Christians everywhere, though certainly not of the sort that would have ensued had she substituted Mohammed for Jesus. Many are calling for ESPN to fire her and indeed they fired Rush Limbaugh for much less, and other sports journalists have been given their pink slips by other networks for much more innocuous statements. But I agree with Trammel. The potty-tongued Ms Jacobson obviously needs to have her mouth washed out with soap, but I don't think demanding that she be fired is the best way for Christians to handle this. Trammel says:

Personally, I can't see that firing Jacobson accomplishes much, besides showing that Christians can flex their muscles and get people fired just as well as any other group. "Bless those who persecute you," Paul writes in Romans 12:14, "bless and do not curse." As followers of Christ, we'd be better served by an ESPN-arranged meeting between Jacobson and a group of local pastors. She could apologize in person-something she's already done in a prepared statement-and they could explain, with grace and understanding, why they accept her apology in the name of the one she denigrated.

I think that the circumstances do indeed call for a display of grace, should she ask for it, which would show the world that Christians are compassionate and forgiving people. Let's leave the fatwas to the Muslims. Who knows but that such an act of love and reconciliation would touch Ms Jacobson and perhaps nudge her into the Kingdom. It'd sure illustrate better than any argument ever could the stark difference between Christianity and Islam.

Dana Jacobson


Rooting For Obama

Barack Obama won big in South Carolina on Saturday, and this will be seen as good news by Republicans who should be cheering for an Obama win in the Democratic nominating process. The reason is that if Hillary wins the nomination she may decide, or have it decided for her, to ask Obama to run as VP. A Hillary/Obama ticket would be almost irresistible to an electorate eager to parade their willingness to vote for a woman and/or a black man regardless of what they stand for. To put both on the same ticket would make the Democrats very difficult to beat in November.

If Obama wins the nomination, however, it's unlikely that Hillary would be willing to serve as his Vice President. The nature of the office would be deemed beneath her station, and she would likely choose to remain in the Senate. If so, the Democratic offering would be weaker with Obama at the head than with him as the running mate.


Saturday, January 26, 2008


Ramirez puts the media fixation on actor Heath Ledger's death into perspective:

Sometimes it seems that in order to work for a cable news network one has to pass a superficiality test. The more shallow the applicant the higher he or she scores on the test, and the higher one scores the brighter one's media future.


McCain's Open Borders Guy

Senator McCain has yet again thumbed his nose at Republican voters. It is remarkable that he manages to get any votes at all in GOP primaries, at least from people concerned about illegal immigration.

This time he has appointed as his "Hispanic Outreach Director" a man by the name of Dr. Juan Hernandez who is an staunch open borders activist. Hernandez has gone on record as claiming that "We must not only have a free flow of goods and services, but also start working for a free flow of people."

It seems to me that conservative Republicans who are voting for McCain in the primaries know only about his steadfast support for the war in Iraq and perhaps his pro-life credentials but little about the rest of his record. His stand on the war and for unborn children make him, of course, a far better choice than any of the Democratic candidates, all of whom favor retreat from Iraq and partial-birth abortion. But all of the viable Republican candidates have the same views on the war and on life, so why are Republicans voting for the most liberal of the pack?


A Brief History of ID

James Kushiner offers a brief and useful history of the Intelligent Design movement. His essay is the forward to a series of articles appearing in Salvo magazine and serves as an excellent primer for anyone interested in understanding where ID came from and who some of the key players are.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Panic on the Right

Peggy Noonan, in a Wall Street Journal Online essay, seems to lament the fratricide taking place among pundits in the Republican Party:

As for the Republicans, their slow civil war continues. The primary race itself is winnowing down and clarifying: It is John McCain versus Mitt Romney, period. At the same time the conservative journalistic world is convulsed by recrimination and attack. They're throwing each other out of the party. Republicans have become very good at that. David Brooks damns Rush Limbaugh who knocks Bill Kristol who anathematizes whoever is to be anathematized this week. This Web site opposes that magazine.

Into the midst of this circular firing squad Noonan lobs a hand grenade:

On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"

This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.

It is certainly the case that the party has found itself being whip-sawed by a White House that appoints excellent judges to the Supreme Court and then buckles almost completely on illegal immigration. Even so, for Noonan to say that Bush has destroyed the GOP because of the Iraq war is quite a stretch unless she expects us to believe that because Bush doesn't have the support of The New York Times and Congressional Democrats that he has therefore destroyed the party.

What in fact has hurt the Republican party more than anything was their failure to do anything to reform Congress when they had the majority and the disgraceful moral conduct of some GOP Congressmen. If Republicans are going to act like Democrats then, voters figure, why vote for the substitute when you can have the real thing?

As for for what Limbaugh said it is indeed hard to credit. Neither McCain nor Huckabee is any more liberal than any other Republican presidential candidate since Goldwater, save Ronald Reagan. It may be that neither of them would win in November, but why either of them should be more of a disaster for the party than Richard Nixon, Bob Dole, or Bush '41 is not clear to me.

Both Noonan and Rush need to step back and get a little deeper perspective. They also need to remember that even if none of the remaining GOP candidates is ideologically pure they are still orders of magnitude better than the Clintons.

Thanks to Jason for the Noonan article.


Autumn's Onset

I commented to several friends last Fall that I thought autumn came late this year. It seemed that in my part of the country (south-central Pennsylvania) the peak Fall foliage display was about three weeks later than it was a decade ago. I wasn't sure why this should be since I had always thought that the onset of the pigment change was related to conditions like temperature and day length which surely weren't significantly different than they were ten years ago. Nor did I see anything written about autumn's tardiness anywhere, but I was pretty certain I wasn't imagining it. So, when I came upon this story at Science Daily it naturally piqued my interest:

Do those fall colors seem to show up later and later-if at all? Scientists say we can blame increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for prolonging the growing season of the trees. And that may actually be good news for forestry industries.

Writing in the current issue of the journal Global Change Biology, Michigan Technological University Professor David F. Karnosky and colleagues from two continents present evidence that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere act directly to delay the usual autumn spectacle of changing colors and falling leaves in northern hardwood forests.

"Basically, this is a good-news story for our region's forests," said Karnosky. "It suggests that they will become a bit more productive due to the extra carbon being taken up in the autumn, along with the increased photosynthesis throughout the growing season."

They found that the forests on both continents stayed greener longer as CO2 levels rose, independent of temperature changes....There has been plenty of evidence gathered previously to show that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing tree growth to begin earlier in the spring, but until now, most scientists believed that other factors, such as temperature and length of day, were the primary elements influencing autumnal senescence.

This raises some fascinating questions. How sensitive are these plants to CO2 changes? How much of a change in CO2 concentration is necessary to trigger such a profound difference in the timing of senescence? If CO2 increases just a little bit more will deciduous trees hold their leaves all year round? What are the ecological and economic implications of all this?

If anyone knows the answers to any of these questions, let me know.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Should You Buy a Hybrid?

If you're thinking of making your next car a hybrid there are some things you need to ask yourself. One is whether your primary motive is to do your part to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse emissions or whether it is to save money. This article explains why a hybrid is probably not going to save you much money.

Update: The link in this post has been corrected.


Why McCain Won't Be President

The Democrats in their debate the other night were all talking about which of them could beat John McCain in November. Evidently, they believe McCain is going to be the GOP nominee. If they're right, it's looking more and more like any of the Democrats would beat him. The reason is that no candidate in the Republican party is likely to generate less enthusiasm among the activist members of the party than is McCain. The grassroots Republicans are largely conservative and, with the exception of two or three of his positions, McCain is not. He's a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and he's going to have a hard time inspiring the foot soldiers to get out and encourage their friends and neighbors to vote for him.

Indeed, a lot of conservatives are talking about not even showing up at the polls if McCain is the candidate. Whether they will or they won't sit it out, a successful campaign requires a high level of excitement and enthusiasm. Bush '41 didn't have it in 1992, nor did Bob Dole have it in 1996, and John McCain won't have it in 2008. It looks a lot like, if McCain is the GOP standard bearer, all a Democrat will have to do to become president is win the nomination of his or her party.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shameless Critics

It is depressing to have to go through this again at this late date, especially since we've been over this ground so often in the past, but the President's critics leave us no alternative. The AP has reported that an allegedly independent study has found that the administration made a total of 935 separate statements in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq which were subsequently found to be either untrue or unconfirmable. The left has taken this as proof that George Bush lied us into war and have worked themselves into a swivet over what they see as the Bush administration's impeachable mendacity.

Here's Keith Olbermann and Air America's Rachel Maddow, for instance, talking tonight about the story. Their presentation of this report is breathtakingly fatuous.

First of all, the report is not done by non-partisan, independent actors. One of the organizations involved is funded by George Soros who is a rabidly anti-Bush partisan and a major left-wing moneybags. The AP's failure to mention this in their story is itself a breach of professional responsibility. That neither Olbermann nor Maddow mention it is either an indication that they didn't do their homework or that they were deliberately trying to hide this from their viewers.

Secondly, and most important, Olbermann and Maddow keep referring to the claims made by the administration, including the President, as lies, yet the AP report doesn't use this word and nothing in the story warrants such a judgment.

It is astonishing that this distinction still has to be made, but apparently it needs to be explained for those who, like Mr. Olbermann, have a limited ability to understand simple definitions: An error is not a lie. A lie involves a deliberate attempt to deceive. The liar knows that what he is saying is not true. Nothing in the AP story establishes that anyone knew that what they were asserting about Iraq's threat to the rest of the world, their possession of WMD, their support for al Qaeda, and so on, was in any way false.

On the contrary, the intelligence services of the whole world thought they were true, everyone in the Clinton administration and the Democratic leadership thought they were true, Saddam was behaving as if they were true, Iraqi defectors were telling us they were true. Yet when it turns out that some of the claims appear to have been wrong, Mr. Olbermann, whose own relationship with the truth is somewhat checkered, eagerly concludes that George Bush and his minions are liars and calls for impeachment.

Anyone who believes that George Bush was the only one who was telling us at the time that Saddam was a real threat and that he lied us into war in Iraq needs to watch this video. It'll be an eye-opener (HT: A Blog For All):

Some people truly are shameless. If one is going to call someone else a liar he has the responsibility of demonstrating that the person in question knew that what he was saying was false. To accuse someone of lying without making that demonstration is a reprehensible slander and the person who does it has disgraced himself.


More on the Objectification of Women

A lot of people have weighed in on last Saturday's post titled The Objectification of Women. Check the Feedback Page for an example from a student that is probably representative of the majority of replies.


Nine Predictions

Critics of Intelligent Design often allege that ID isn't science because it doesn't lend itself to testable predictions. Denyse O'Leary thinks otherwise and offers nine predictions for consideration at her blog The Post-Darwinist.

For example, she predicts that:

No good theory will be found for a random origin of life, though there will be plenty of huffing and puffing in favour of bad ideas. All theories that exclude purpose and design fail because they leave out the key driver - the purpose that life should come into existence.

Positive prediction: We will learn more about the real nature of our universe and our place in it, and how best we can explore it when we accept the fact that it didn't "just happen."

You can read the rest at the link.


America For Sale

The United States appears on track to soon become a nation owned largely by foreign investors. Peter Goodman and Louise Story explain why in the New York Times.


Cell Phones and Sleep

Do you have trouble getting to sleep and staying there? Do you use your cell phone before going to sleep? If so, then you'll be interested in a study that shows a direct correlation between the two and which provides strong evidence that cell phone radiation affects deep sleep. According to an article in The Independent (The link to The Independent article no longer works but the article can be found here).

The findings are especially alarming for children and teenagers, most of whom - surveys suggest - use their phones late at night and who especially need sleep. Their failure to get enough can lead to mood and personality changes, ADHD-like symptoms, depression, lack of concentration and poor academic performance.

Read the entire article at the link.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

March For Life

Thousands of people marched in Washington today on behalf of the right of unborn children to live their lives. I know this because I get my news from the internet. I saw almost nothing about it in the MSM, including FOX, but maybe I just missed it. Even so, look at this picture:

If those were people marching for abortion rights, or if they were marching for civil rights, or gay marriage, or for open borders, or against the war in Iraq their march would have been wall to wall headline news. Today, however, all the news shows evidently decided to give their attention to the really important development - the death of an actor from Brokeback Mountain.

Of course, they did this because not only is that the sort of thing which is of great moment to the people who write and report the news, but also because the last thing they want to do is show the nation and the world that there are thousands of people willing to come to Washington to protest Roe v. Wade. The media and their liberal allies in Congress want people to think that if they're pro-life, they're about the only people in the country who are.

So, I'm going to give the March For Life folks a little unsolicited advice for next year: Get Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears to march with you. It'll guarantee media coverage.


Good News Is No News

Chuck Asay takes note of the sudden and almost complete lack of interest among Democrats and the media in talking about the war in Iraq:

Just last summer it was all we were hearing about. Today, despite all the news there is to report on the progress that's being made there (see here, for example), there's virtually nothing being reported. Like one of the guys in the cartoon says, it makes you wonder who the media were rooting for.


The Case Against Hillary

When Christopher Hitchens is wrong (as he frequently is in his book God is Not Great) he's very wrong, but when he's right he's often a must-read. So it is with his essay at Slate titled The Case Against Hillary Clinton. Even so, as strong as is the case that Hitchens makes against voting for another Clinton presidency, it should be borne in mind that it is only a fraction of the total brief against her. Hitchens, constrained by space perhaps, makes no mention of the FBI files scandal, the Rose Law Firm files scandal, the shameful travel office firings, the cattle futures scandal, her volcanic temper and a host of other peccadillos, prevarications, and possible felonies for which anyone else but a Clinton would have long ago been cast by the media into political outer darkness.

Instead Mrs. Clinton has been elevated to the office of Senator by the most important state in the union and now finds herself with as good a shot as anybody to become the most powerful individual in the world.

Read Hitchens' essay and weep that such a person may be, by this time next year, the President of the United States.


Monday, January 21, 2008

I Have a Dream

Former President Clinton was all ears at Harlem's Covenant Avenue Baptist Church's Martin Luther King day observance:


Re: The Objectification of Women

Last Saturday we did a piece titled The Objectification of Women. A young student shared her thoughts on this post with us, and I thought I'd share her letter with our readers:

I deeply appreciated this article. I have often wished that I grew up in the 1950's or earlier because the respect and dignity of romance back then was so beautiful. It is absolutely true that the intimacy and excitement of sexual arousal is dwindling as we surround ourselves with images of photo-shopped models and barely-there bikinis.

For both men and women, there are very saddening results. Men are deceived by the images they see and build up inaccurate ideas of a female body. Hence, when all they want is to be aroused by the wife that they cherish, they find themselves disappointed. On the other hand, women feel ugly in comparison to the images their spouses see. They compare their healthy bodies to the anorexic ones displayed in movies and become depressed, anxious, and miserable.

Even worse, many women have come to accept their role as a sexual object and settle for that kind of attention instead of the respect they deserve from men. Men, try as they may to remain faithful to their beloved, cannot escape the sexually stimulating media all around them. The cycle of sexual deterioration is vicious. One can only hope that modesty and chastity will find their way back "into style."


Liberal Fascism

Jonah Goldberg has a new book out which is creating quite a stir. It's titled Liberal Fascism and it apparently makes the case that what we today call progressivism has more in common with 20th century fascism than it does with classical liberalism.

Jonah appeared recently on Hannity and Colmes, and if you watch the interview (below) you can't help but note the irony of the progressive Alan Colmes denying Goldberg's thesis about the fascist tendencies of progressives while, like a good fascist, refusing to allow Goldberg to be heard. Pretty funny.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about Jonah's book after I've read it.

HT: Hot Air


Another Deranged Hater

Speaking of liberal fascism, an anti-war lawyer by the name of Jay Grodner was sentenced the other day for having keyed the car (!) of a Marine on the eve of the young man's deployment. You'd think it would be some malicious kid that would do something like this, and, in a way, you'd be right. Here's the guy's picture, though:

He's 55 years old, he owns a law firm and he's so twisted that he damages cars that have military license plates. He's an adult, to be sure, but only in terms of his age.

The account of the man's vandalism, which amounted to $2400 in damages, is here.

The judge in the sentencing hearing apparently blasted Grodner. He should be disbarred. See Michelle's site for details of the sentencing.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Who Do You Like?

This website allows you to match your opinions on a series of issues with the candidate who most closely agrees with your views. The questions don't allow for nuance, but it's nevertheless an interesting guide.

One caveat: When you click on the button to see which candidate matches your responses it may show you the candidate who is least compatible with you. If so, just scroll to the top of the page. I was shocked when I clicked on the button and Chris Dodd's picture came up, but then I scrolled to the top and there was ..... Fred Thompson. Unfortunately, Mr. Thompson will probably no longer be a candidate after his disappointing showing on Saturday in South Carolina.

Thanks to Scott S. for the link.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Thought For A Sunday

Taken from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law.

Every exhortation in Scripture to be wise and reasonable, satisfying only such wants as God would have satisfied; every exhortation to be spiritual and heavenly, pressing after a glorious change of our nature; every exhortation to love our neighbour as ourselves, to love all mankind as God has loved them, is a command to be strictly religious in the use of our money. For none of these tempers can be complied with, unless we be wise and reasonable, spiritual and heavenly, exercising a brotherly love, a god-like charity, in the use of all our fortune. These tempers, and this use of our worldly goods, is so much the doctrine of all the New Testament, that you cannot read a chapter without being taught something of it. I shall only produce one remarkable passage of Scripture, which is sufficient to justify all that I have said concerning this religious use of all our fortune.

"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as as hepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked,and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me . . . Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: Iwas a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." [Matt. xxv. 31-64]

I have quoted this passage at length, because if one looks at the way of the world, one would hardly think that Christians had ever read this part of Scripture. For what is there in the lives of Christians, that looks as if their salvation depended upon these good works? And yet the necessity of them is here asserted in the highest manner, and pressed upon us by a lively description of the glory and terrors of the day of judgment.

Some people, even of those who may be reckoned virtuous Christians, look upon this text only as a general recommendation of occasional works of charity; whereas it shows the necessity not only of occasional charities now and then,but the necessity of such an entire charitable life, as is a continual exercise of all such works of charity, as we are able to perform.

You own, that you have no title to salvation, if you have neglected these good works; because such persons as have neglected them are, at the last day, to be placed on the left hand, and banished with a "Depart, ye cursed." There is,therefore, no salvation but in the performance of these good works. Who is it,therefore, that may be said to have performed these good works? Is it he that has some time assisted a prisoner, or relieved the poor or sick? This would beas absurd as to say, that he had performed the duties of devotion, who had sometime said his prayers. Is it, therefore, he that has several times done these works of charity? This can no more be said, than he can be said to be the truly just man, who had done acts of justice several times. What is the rule,therefore, or measure of performing these good works? How shall a man trust that he performs them as he ought?

Now the rule is very plain and easy, and such as is common to every other virtue, or good temper, as well as to charity. Who is the humble, or meek, or devout, or just, or faithful man? Is it he that has several times done acts of humility, meekness, devotion, justice, or fidelity? No; but it is he that lives in the habitual exercise of these virtues. In like manner, he only can be said to have performed these works of charity, who lives in the habitual exercise of them to the utmost of his power. He only has performed the duty of Divine love,who loves God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. And he only has performed the duty of these good works, who has done them with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. For there is no other measure of our doing good, than our power of doing it.


The Objectification of Women

Byron passes along a good piece by Bob Herbert about what seems to be an epidemic of mistreatment of women in our culture. Herbert is right, of course, that there is terrible violence being perpetrated against women in the United States, but the question I wonder about is why. Why do more men than in previous generations seem to hold women in such low esteem?

In my opinion, the problem goes back to the 1960s and the moral revolution that took place in this country concerning our attitudes toward sex and violence.

During the '60s and '70s pornography was mainstreamed and with the advent of the internet it became easily accessible to adolescents. Two generations of young men have thus been raised on ubiquitous pornographic images. This has had several affects, I believe. First, it has desensitized men to sexual stimuli. A hundred years ago a glimpse of a woman's lower leg was stimulating. It no longer is because now there's much more to be seen anywhere one looks than just a shapely calf.

Consequently, men require stronger and stronger stimuli in order to achieve the same level of arousal as someone who is not exposed to the constant barrage of sexual images as are young men today. Because of this need for ever more erotic stimuli many men want their women to be like the women they view in movies, magazines, and online - they want their women to be sexually voracious playthings, and that desire often has a dehumanizing effect on women. A lot of women simply don't feel comfortable in that role and that incompatibility can create tension in their relationships. The man feels cheated, the woman feels cheapened and trouble results.

At the same time that pornography exploded, sex was disconnected from marriage and commitment. Many women were perfectly willing to live with men and give them all the benefits of marriage without demanding of them any kind of permanent commitment. This suited many men just fine. When men could have sex without having to bond themselves to a woman, women were more likely to be objectified and used by men who reasoned that there was no sense in buying a cow as long as the milk was free. People who give us what we want may be popular as long as the benefits keep coming, but they are not respected. Respect is feigned as long as the benefit is imminent but when the benefit no longer seems all that novel or exciting the lack of respect results in the woman being treated accordingly.

Men are naturally promiscuous, they have to be taught to value hearth and family, and our entire culture has conspired in the last forty years to minimize and deride that lesson. So, when today's man, unfettered by a profound commitment to a particular woman and children, gets too accustomed to that woman she'll eventually begin to bore him and his eye will start searching elsewhere for another potential source of sexual excitement.

Along with the decline of traditional sexual morality was the emergence of a radical feminism that castigated the old Victorian habits of gentlemanly behavior. It became quaint for a man to give a woman his seat on a bus or to open a door for her. Men who had been raised to put women on a pedestal - to care for them, provide for them, and nurture them - were told they were no longer necessary for a woman's happiness. In Gloria Steinem's famous phrase "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

The more vocal feminists also made it clear that women no longer appreciated being treated differently than men. Thus our entertainment culture began depicting women in movies as just as raunchy, coarse, and proficient at killing and mayhem as men, and the idea of a woman being an object of special respect and courtesy because she needed male protection and care became risible. This, too, dehumanized women by eroding the esteem in which their sex had formerly been held among men.

As with sex so with violence. The inclination to violence in the male population follows a Bell curve distribution. At some point along the tail there is a line on the other side of which lies the part of the curve which represents men who are violent. Most men sublimate and control their natural inclination to violence, but when they are exposed to it over and over as young men, when they amuse themselves with violent movies and video games, when they immerse themselves in violent imagery and themes, they become desensitized to it and tolerant of it. When they're no longer horrified by violence the population of males undergoes a shift toward that line, spilling many more men onto the other side than would have been there otherwise.

This affects women as much as men, if not more, because women are often the victims of that violence. As men become more inclined to violence, as they lose respect for women, as our culture portrays women as sexually insatiable playthings, women become increasingly the victims of male lust, anger and aggression.

It would be well for any young woman who is beginning to get serious about a young man to find out how much of his time he spends on violent movies and computer games and what he thinks about pornography. She'll learn a lot of very valuable information about him by so doing.


How We See 'Em

A couple more primaries come up this weekend, South Carolina and Nevada, and they turn our thoughts to consideration of who we would vote for were we voting today. If we had to rank the top tier candidates in order of our assessment of their suitability to serve as President of the United States, our ranking would look like this:

  1. Fred Thompson
  2. Mitt Romney
  3. Mike Huckabee
  4. Rudy Giuliani
  5. John McCain
  6. Barack Obama
  7. Hillary Clinton
  8. John Edwards

Of course, events may conspire to cause us to reconsider the order tomorrow, but as of now that's how we see 'em.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer Is Dead

Bobby Fischer, the first American chess world champion, has died in Iceland at the age of 64. For those who remember the 1960s and 70s, Fischer's battles with the Soviet masters, and his manifold eccentricities, are legendary. Younger readers can find out a little more about Bobby Fischer here.


The Fred Astaire of Politics

"So far, Obama is the Fred Astaire of politics - graceful and elegant, with a surface so pleasing to the eye that it seems mistaken, even greedy, to demand depth. No one, however, would have given Astaire control of nuclear weapons, so attention must be paid to Obama's political as well as aesthetic qualities."

George Will in Jewish World Review.

Thanks to Byron for the link.


Buying Other People's Houses

Michelle Malkin argues that the very worst solution to the sub-prime mortgage crisis is for government to take money from responsible people who try hard to live within their means, and who do without a lot of what others indulge themselves with, and then give that money to irresponsible borrowers who had no business buying houses that they couldn't afford.

Michelle is right. At some point people have to be held accountable for their actions. They can't make foolish decisions and then expect everyone else to pay for them. Politicians, including those in the White House, who are trying to find a way to make the rest of us pay for other peoples' homes have to be told that we're just not going to do it.

If individuals, churches or other private charities wish to help people who are overextended hold onto their homes, that's fine, but it should be a voluntary choice. No one should be coerced by government to subsidize the purchase of someone else's house, especially when some of those houses cost two and three times as much as the average taxpayer's own home.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mind/Body Problem

Michael Engor points out that there are two types of problems related to human consciousness, these are what David Chalmers calls the easy problems and the hard problem. The easy problems are not called that because they are easily solved but rather because we can see how they may yield to future scientific research:

The easy problems are the sort treated routinely by neuroscientists. These are problems such as 'what is the neuroanatomical correlate of arousal?' or 'which neurotransmitters are associated with depression?' Of course, these questions are not easy in a scientific sense, but they are tractable by the methods of science, which are, for the most part, methodologically materialistic.

The hard problem is much different. There seems to be no way of solving it. It appears to be intractable:

The hard problem is this: why are we subjects, and not just objects? Why do we have subjective experiences? Descriptions of neurophysiology are all third-person - neurons do this, serotonin does that. Yet consciousness is experienced in the first person - 'I,' not 'it.' How is the 'third person' matter in our brains related to our actual first person experiences? The easy problems of consciousness relate to objective phenomena - neurotransmitters and action potentials. The hard problem of consciousness is qualitatively different - it's the problem of subjectivity. As Chalmers explains, the hard problem "persists even when the performance of all the relevant functions [e.g. neurochemistry] is explained."

In other words, we have certain subjective experiences which, if we are simply material beings, seem to be inexplicable. How, for example, does matter produce any of the following: self-awareness, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, disappointment, regret, resentment, a wish, a hope, a desire, a doubt, a belief, an intention? How does matter, a series of chemical reactions in the brain, result in understanding, frustration or boredom?

Engor points out that dualistic views are not without their problems:

Indeed, dualism has plenty of problems of its own, and dualists are honest about the problems. For example, how do the mind and brain actually interact?

This is indeed a puzzling question but it should not stop anyone from believing that they somehow do. After all, materialists believe that matter can warp space but I daresay no one knows how it does it. Nor does anyone know how gravity exerts its pull on objects or how similarly charged particles repel each other. The fact that we don't know how mind and matter can interact is no reason not to think that they do.


Santorum's Revenge

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum unloads on John McCain explaining why Senator McCain is not a candidate that conservatives should support. Santorum is a credible voice among conservatives and his criticism of McCain's obstructionism in the Senate could be (should be) harmful to the senator's chances for the GOP nomination.


Mike Nifong and the Golden Rule

I wonder how the disbarred erstwhile North Carolina prosecutor Mike Nifong is feeling now about abusing his power to try to destroy the lives of others evidently for the purpose of advancing his own political career. His life seems to be lying in tatters, which is exactly what he would have done to the lives of the Duke lacrosse players if he could have:

Former Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong has filed for bankruptcy, listing a debt of $180.3 million, according to documents filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Durham.

The filing comes on the same day the former Duke lacrosse prosecutor and others involved in the case were to submit responses to a federal lawsuit by the three men he sought to prosecute.

Nifong lists David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, as well as three other members of Duke University's 2006 men's lacrosse team who filed a separate federal lawsuit - as unsecured creditors, each owed $30 million.

More than 30 other lacrosse players from that team are also listed as creditors, each owed $1; the North Carolina State Bar, owed $8,397.71 for costs related to his disbarment; and nearly 70 other people involved in or associated in some way the nearly yearlong investigation of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping claims by an exotic dancer.

Nifong values his assets, including his house, car and personal belongings, at $243,898.

There are rare occasions when, if we don't treat others the way we would want to be treated, we get treated the way we have treated others.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sermon on the Mount (Muslim Version)

It's an unfortunate failing of the the American media that they do such a poor job of calling to the attention of the American public exactly what goes on in mosques throughout the Middle East and probably here in our own country. The Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI) is on the job, however, doing what the Western media lack the kidney for, and bringing us without comment events like this Friday sermon by a Palestinian sheik. Watch as the sheik lays out for the mosque full of men and boys the Muslim goal of universal Islam and note how attentively they listen to every word as his hatred washes over them.

Of course, I might be a little hasty here in judging the sheik's sermon. Maybe he's really just preaching the sermon on the mount and talking about the need for love and forgiveness, and the captions are somehow a devious Zionist trick, like the Roberto Benigni character Guido in Life is Beautiful interpreting the concentration camp officer's instructions to the prisoners. Maybe. Or maybe the sheik is really what he seems to be - a hate-filled psychopath.

Watch the video. It'll be profitable for those unaware of, or doubtful of, the future the Islamists have in mind for our children.


The Real Hillary

Sally Bedell Smith's new book The Clintons at the White House is being excerpted by The Daily Mail. The first installment gives disturbing, though not new, insight into the personality and paranoia of Hillary Clinton. It's amazing that someone with this sort of temperament is being given an almost free pass into the White House by the media.

The excerpt is ugly but it's fascinating. If it were about anyone else it would just be gossip, but it reveals the character of a woman who may well be the next president of the United States. Everyone should read it so they know who and what they're voting for or against in November.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bush of Arabia

Keith Olberman the other evening observed approvingly that the Europeans don't much care who is elected to be our next president as long as whoever it is tacitly repudiates George Bush and makes a clean break with the last eight years.

Madeline Albright recently sniffed that George Bush is probably the worst president in our history (She said this before going on, humorously enough, to imply that Bush is not concerned about the interests of other nations and that if everyone in the world were poor and ignorant we wouldn't have the problems we do).

Daniel Schorr of NPR observed the other day that George Bush has little to show for his visit to the Middle East. (Schorr pronounced the trip a failure even before Bush had returned home!).

None of these critics has apparently consulted those who actually live in the Middle East before offering their opinions of Bush's impact upon that region. For a completely different take on the significance of George Bush and his presidency one should read this essay by Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal.

Ajami claims that Bush is the most consequential president the Middle East has ever seen. There is no doubt that he means this in a positive sense nor can there be any doubt that he's correct. No president has ever done more good for more people in the Middle East and gotten less gratitude and credit for it than has George Bush. Among other things there are 50 million people living in freedom today in Afghanistan and Iraq who suffered in terror and misery under horrific tyrannies just a few years ago.

Of course, many Europeans, and apparently Keith Olberman, as well couldn't care less about that achievement, and Madeline Albright can point to no accomplishment during her tenure as Secretary of State that is even remotely comparable. As for Schorr, anyone who thinks that the results of a state visit to the Middle East must be instantly apparent in order to be real is simply not to be taken seriously.

Thanks to Byron for the link to the Ajami article.


Education Pays

Here's data from 2006 which makes it starkly clear that education pays off both in terms of higher income and lower unemployment. The average unemployment rate in 2006 was around 4.8%. The following is a list of 2006 unemployment rates for people of various levels of education. The dollar figure is their median weekly earnings for that year:

  • Professional degree (1.1%) $1,474
  • Doctoral degree (1.4%) $1,441
  • Master's degree (1.7%) $1,140
  • Bachelor's degree (2.3%) $962
  • Associate degree (3.0%) $721
  • Some college, no degree (3.9%) $674
  • High-school graduate (4.3%) $595
  • Less than a high school diploma (6.8%) $419

It's pretty clear that, on average, the more schooling you get the better you'll do. People like Bill Gates who amassed fortunes with very little formal education are, of course, the exception. A high school student counting on being a Bill Gates is like a high schooler counting on making it in the NBA. You're a lot better off getting all the education you can get.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

The <i>Edge</i> Question for 2008

Edge is a website that often asks very bright people very interesting questions. Recently they invited 165 intellectuals to write about this question: What Have You Changed Your Mind About. Many of the answers are a bit abstruse, but many are also fascinating. For example, psychologist Martin Seligman, whose reply happens to be the first on their list, says this:

If my math had been better, I would have become an astronomer rather than a psychologist. I was after the very greatest questions and finding life elsewhere in the universe seemed the greatest of them all. Understanding thinking, emotion, and mental health was second best - science for weaker minds like mine. Carl Sagan and I were close colleagues in the late 1960's when we both taught at Cornell. I devoured his thrilling book with I.I. Shklovskii (Intelligent Life in the Universe, 1966) in one twenty-four hour sitting, and I came away convinced that intelligent life was commonplace across our galaxy.

The book, as most readers know, estimates a handful of parameters necessary to intelligent life, such as the probability that an advanced technical civilization will in short order destroy itself and the number of "sol-like" stars in the galaxy. Their conclusion is that there are between 10,000 and two million advanced technical civilizations hereabouts. Some of my happiest memories are of discussing all this with Carl, our colleagues, and our students into the wee hours of many a chill Ithaca night. And this made the universe a less chilly place as well. What consolation! That homo sapiens might really partake of something larger, that there really might be numerous civilizations out there populated by more intelligent beings than we are, wiser because they had outlived the dangers of premature self-destruction. What's more we might contact them and learn from them.

A fledging program of listening for intelligent radio signals from out there was starting up. Homo sapiens was just taking its first balky steps off the planet; we exuberantly watched the moon landing together at the faculty club. We worked on the question of how we would respond if humans actually heard an intelligent signal. What would our first "words" be? We worked on what would be inscribed on the almost immortal Voyager plaque that would leave our solar system just about now - allowing the sentient beings who cadged it epochs hence to surmise who we were, where we were, when we were, and what we were (Should the man and woman be holding hands? No, they might think we were one conjoined organism.)

SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and its forerunners are almost forty years old. They scan the heavens for intelligent radio signals, with three million participants using their home computers to analyze the input. The result has been zilch. There are plenty of excuses for zilch, however, and lots of reason to hope: only a small fraction of the sky has been scanned and larger more efficient arrays are coming on line. Maybe really advanced civilizations don't use communication techniques that produce waves we can pick up.

Maybe intelligent life is so unimaginably different from us that we are looking in all the wrong "places." Maybe really intelligent life forms hide their presence. So I changed my mind. I now take the null hypothesis very seriously: that Sagan and Shklovskii were wrong: that the number of advanced technical civilizations in our galaxy is exactly one, that the number of advanced technical civilizations in the universe is exactly one. What is the implication of the possibility, mounting a bit every day, that we are alone in the universe? It reverses the millennial progression from a geocentric to a heliocentric to a Milky Way centered universe, back to, of all things, a geocentric universe. We are the solitary point of light in a darkness without end. It means that we are precious, infinitely so. It means that nuclear or environmental cataclysm is an infinitely worse fate than we thought.

Thinking about Seligman's new thinking on the matter of ETI I'm reminded of an excellent book written by Peter Ward and David Brownlee titled Rare Earth. Ward and Brownlee make it pretty clear that the earth is as close to unique as we have reason to believe and that the conditions necessary for intelligent life might well exist nowhere else in the universe. Anyone who still harbors the Star Wars notion that the uiniverse is probably full of intelligent aliens ought to read Rare Earth.

It is also interesting that Seligman now thinks we live in a geocentric universe. This is an idea that sophisticated people have scoffed at for a hundred years but which now seems to be more likely to be correct in at least one important way than ever before. I talk about why this is here.

You can read the other 164 responses at the link.


Pander Bear

After having previously assured voters that on the day she takes office oil prices will drop (as will the stock market, probably) Senator Clinton is now delivering assurances in Nevada that, among other things, she is completely convinced that children are our future:

Stroking the 4-year-old girl's head, Clinton said, "I feel so strongly that if we don't take care of our children, we don't take care of our future."

She also has it on good authority that we're heading into a recession:

"I think we're slipping toward a recession," she said. "A couple of people that I met on the street, they work in construction. They tell me it's slowed down."

Well, that clinches it for me.

Not yet done showering profundities upon the adoring crowd the "smartest woman in the world" pandered to her Latino admirers with a great analogy about the lending crisis:

Clinton said unscrupulous lending leads to bad mortgages, which lead to foreclosures, which lead to people with nowhere to go and vacant neighborhoods that can go rapidly downhill. "We treat these problems as if one is guacamole and one is chips, when ... they both go together," she said.

What foods would she have slipped into her comparison, we wonder, had she been speaking to a black audience? Fried chicken and watermelon?

Finally, in a climactic bit of drama she declared all women "legal":

A man shouted through an opening in the wall that his wife was illegal. "No woman is illegal," Clinton said, to cheers.

Goodness, what does that mean? Does it follow that female immigrants in this country without documentation can now get driver's licenses but males similarly situated cannot?

I guess it doesn't matter what it means; The crowd cheered, and for panderers that's what it's all about.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Observations From Iraq

Michael Yon, an independent war correspondent in Iraq, makes a couple of interesting and important points:

I've done many missions in 2005 and 2007, in many places in Iraq, along with the Iraqi Army: please believe me when I say that, on the whole, the Iraqi Army is remarkably better in 2007 and far more effective than it was in 2005. By 2007, the Iraqis were doing most of the fighting. And . . . this is very important . . . they see our Army and Marines as serious allies, and in many cases as friends. Please let the potential implications of that sink in.

We now have a large number of American and British officers who can pick up a phone from Washington or London and call an Iraqi officer that he knows well-an Iraqi he has fought along side of-and talk. Same with untold numbers of Sheiks and government officials, most of whom do not deserve the caricatural disdain they get most often from pundits who have never set foot in Iraq. British and American forces have a personal relationship with Iraqi leaders of many stripes. The long-term intangible implications of the betrayal of that trust through the precipitous withdrawal of our troops could be enormous, because they would be the certain first casualties of renewed violence, and selling out the Iraqis who are making an honest-go would make the Bay of Pigs sell-out seem inconsequential. The United States and Great Britain would hang their heads in shame for a century.

Alternately, in an equation in which the outcome is a stable Iraq for which they (Iraqi Police and Army officials) are stewards, the potential benefits are equally enormous. Because if Iraq were to settle down, and then a decade passes and we look back and even our most severe critics cannot deny that Iraq is a better place, a generation of Iraq's most important leaders would have deep personal bonds with their counterparts in America and Great Britain. This could actually happen.


Throughout most of 2007, as I've watched General Petraeus' strategy being implemented, I have observed the impact his change in strategy was having on our soldiers, on Iraqi security forces, and most importantly, on Iraqi people including some who were formerly our avowed enemies. I have seen how our own military morphed into something much more agile, and I came to see how American commanders tended to be the most trusted voices in Iraq for many Iraqis.

To be sure, the "Anbar Awakening" and other signs of progress were underway before the massive strategy overhaul occurred, and nobody can track and trace all the factors involved in this fantastically complex war, but one thing was certain: the momentum was shifting in favor of a stable Iraq for the first time. The institutional knowledge reservoir was becoming vast, and success was touted and shared. It may have been true that Americans knew very little about Iraq before the invasion, but it was for certain that American commanders had now developed an intimate understanding of the goings-on. It can be said with confidence that as a group, no non-Iraqis know more about Iraq than the US military.

You can read his entire dispatch at the link.


The Amazing Monarch

Scientists are beginning to unravel the mystery of how Monarch butterflies manage to navigate thousands of miles across Canada and the U.S. to pine groves in Mexico where they winter. It really is an astonishing feat, made more so by the fact that none of the butterflies which make the trip had ever made it before.

It turns out that these insects have a tiny molecular clock in their brains that works in tandem with molecular light sensors that allows them to use the sun as a kind of compass. The sun's position is constantly changing, of course, which is where the clock comes in. As it cycles through a series of chemical reactions it causes the light sensors to adjust for the changing position of the sun so that the butterflies don't get lost.

This marvelous mechanism is, Darwinians assure us, a product of nothing more than random mutation and natural selection (RM&NS), and no one should doubt the ability of blind, purposeless forces and processes to produce it. If you're skeptical that such prodigies are possible by mere chance you can consult the decision of Judge John Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover for reassurance.

Now, if they could only explain how RM&NS actually created that clock/compass mechanism in the butterfly's brain in the first place, that would really be something. And while they're at it maybe they can tell us how the Monarch caterpillar completely dissociates into a mush during its pupal stage and then reassembles the pulp into an adult Monarch in the process of metamorphosis. I know I'm supposed to have faith that this is just one of those things that natural selection can accomplish without any intelligent input from a Creator, but even though I squeeze my eyes tight shut and try real hard to believe, I just can't get myself to do it. Maybe I need a therapy session with Judge Jones.


Friday, January 11, 2008

McCain's Baggage

Despite winning the New Hampshire primary, John McCain is still not popular among Republicans. Ramirez illustrates why:

A lot of conservatives will vote for him if he's the nominee, but very few will be enthusiastic about it.

Who will benefit most among the Republicans if any of the top five decide they can't continue? Which of the remaining candidates will their supporters gravitate toward? It isn't at all clear at this point.

On the Democrat side I would think that Hillary wants Edwards to stay in the race as long as possible because when he gets out, which seems inevitable, his supporters will likely swing to Obama. I don't know that Mrs. Clinton's candidacy, much less her ego, can withstand that.

The next three weeks will tell, probably.


Huckabee's Tax Plan, etc.

One reason why Mike Huckabee is popular among Republicans is that he's commited to what's called the Fair Tax. The Fair Tax would eliminate both the IRS and the income tax and replace the income tax with a 23% sales tax. Not everyone thinks its a great idea to tax consumption rather than income, but a lot of people do. Steven Landsberg at goes so far as to call it brilliant.

For a few minutes last week I thought Huckabee had locked up the GOP nomination. The Washington Times had published a story claiming that Huckabee had said that were he to be president he would push for a constitutional amendment that would eliminate citizenship grants to children born in the U.S. to parents who were here illegally. These "anchor babies" are entitled to all the benefits and services of any other citizen and once they become adults they can sponsor their families to come here legally, a process referred to as chain migration.

There is an injustice in entering the country illegally and then having a child here who, because he/she is an automatic citizen, qualifies for welfare benefits to be paid for by the American taxpayer.

It was thought that Huckabee had promised to try to end this travesty, but the story turned out to be false. Maybe Fred Thompson will pick it up. Whoever does, in the unlikely event that anyone does, will endear himself to conservative voters throughout the country.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cage's 4'33''

I don't know which is more ridiculous, dozens of musicians sitting on stage for four and a half minutes doing absolutely nothing or an audience that probably paid $50 a ticket to watch them do nothing applauding them for doing it. Maybe I just don't appreciate good music.

Thanks to Matt for sending along the link.


Post-Modern Politics

The charismatic Barack Obama, a good archetype of the post-modern candidate whose appeal has everything to do with personal style and charm and almost nothing to do with his ideas about governance, which many who are seduced by him seem to know nothing about, has done the country a service by stripping away the aura of invincibility surrounding the Clintons. In just two weeks Hillary has gone from being thought an inevitable victor to a candidate fighting for her political life.

Republicans should not rejoice, however, even if Hillary's candidacy expires. The fact is she would probably be easier for the Republican nominee to defeat in November and will almost certainly have very short coattails even if she does win. Moreover, she will probably be a better president than Obama who is much further to the left than is Hillary and certainly much more reckless in terms of his foreign policy.

Even so, if Hillary is elected president it will mean that Bill Clinton and his henchmen will be reinstalled in the White House and may even wind up being the de facto president. What this country surely doesn't need is four, or eight, more years of the sort of corruption, scandal, tawdry, amoral behavior from the first couple that we saw in the 90s.

The best outcome would be that neither Clinton nor Obama make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in November.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ron Paul in Hot Water

Not that it matters much, but it looks like Ron Paul has done himself in. The New Republic has unearthed ten years worth of newsletters put out under Paul's name in which sentiments are expressed which, if not exactly racist, are certainly not flattering to blacks (or gays). However one chooses to characterize these opinions, Paul evidently feels guilty enough about them to try to disavow them:

The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts....When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.

Be that as it may, John Podhoretz thinks Paul's protestations pretty much irrelevant:

Ah, so the Ron Paul Political Report featured articles expressing views a man named Ron Paul found abhorrent, did it? This is reminiscent of the hilarious denunciation by Charles Barkley of his own ghostwritten autobiography. The only difference is that Charles Barkley was a basketball player at the time, while Ron Paul is a sitting member of Congress and a candidate for president of the United States. If he did know about what was published under his name and he's lying about it now, he's a blackguard as well as a disgusting public figure. If he didn't know, he's a pathetic buffoon who sold his own name to racists and intellectual thugs. Not sure which is better.

Despite his ability to raise money, Ron Paul has been pretty much a marginal figure in this primary season. After the TNR revelations he'll probably decide that he doesn't want to have to answer questions about these 15 year-old newsletters everywhere he goes and just drop out of the race.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Modernity

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written a fine review of a new book (Suicide of Reason) by Lee Harris on the threat to civilization posed by radical Islam. Both Harris and Ali say many things worth reading, including this graph by Ali in response to Harris' pessimism about the prospect of Muslims moderating their extremism:

I was not born in the West. I was raised with the code of Islam, and from birth I was indoctrinated into a tribal mind-set. Yet I have changed, I have adopted the values of the Enlightenment, and as a result I have to live with the rejection of my native clan as well as the Islamic tribe. Why have I done so? Because in a tribal society, life is cruel and terrible. And I am not alone. Muslims have been migrating to the West in droves for decades now. They are in search of a better life. Yet their tribal and cultural constraints have traveled with them. And the multiculturalism and moral relativism that reign in the West have accommodated this.

Unfortunately, she also misfires at least once in her essay. She condemns the moral relativism that cripples Western thought and impedes intellectuals from condemning radical Islam, while at the same praising the Enlightenment which produced modernity. What she seems to miss is that the relativism she deprecates is a logical consequence of the modernity she extols. When modernity banished transcendent morality and subjectivized ethics modern man was left with few places to which he could turn other than to relativism.

Ali, who is an atheist, also blames religion for being an enemy of reason, but this, too, is a misunderstanding of the role religion, at least the Christian religion, has played in the rise of reason in the West. She writes:

Harris is correct, I believe, that many Western leaders are terribly confused about the Islamic world. They are woefully uninformed and often unwilling to confront the tribal nature of Islam. The problem, however, is not too much reason but too little. Harris also fails to address the enemies of reason within the West: religion and the Romantic movement. It is out of rejection of religion that the Enlightenment emerged; Romanticism was a revolt against reason. Both the Romantic movement and organized religion have contributed a great deal to the arts and to the spirituality of the Western mind, but they share a hostility to modernity.

No doubt they do, but that's not a bad thing, necessarily. There's lots about modernity toward which one should be hostile. It was, after all, the exercise of reason in the 19th century that gave us Marx and ultimately Stalin. It was the exercise of reason in the modern era that gave us the eugenics movement in the late 19th century which led eventually to the Nazis' Final Solution. The Cambodian Killing Fields came to us courtesy of people instituting the perfectly "reasonable" principles of Plato's Republic. Modernity has had, morally speaking, its ups and downs and has certainly been something less than an unalloyed boon to human civilization.

The problem is that modernity (or the Enlightenment)unhitched reason from its roots in Christian belief. An untethered reason was thus free to run in any direction unchecked by any transcendent moral norms and this led to evils just as horrific as the irrationalities that plague Ali's native religion. Reason is a wonderful blessing, like oxygen, but an atmosphere of pure oxygen, undiluted by other gases, would be hellish. Reason, likewise, needs to be compounded with the moral guidance provided by Christian theism or else, like pure oxygen, it is incendiary and toxic to human existence.



One cannot listen to the current candidates for president from either party talk for three minutes without hearing them mention the need for "change" at least a half dozen times. Every time I hear the word I'm reminded of a post we did about a year ago that went something like this:

  • The stock market, despite its current dip, has been hovering near all-time highs and America's 401K's are back.
  • Unemployment is at 25 year lows.
  • Taxes are at 20 year lows.
  • Federal tax revenues are at all-time highs.
  • The Federal deficit is trending down.
  • Inflation is in check, hovering at 20 year lows.

Bear in mind that all of the above occurred in the face of the 1999 tech crash, the epidemic of corporate scandals throughout the 90's, and the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on NYC which collectively sucked 24 trillion dollars and 7.8 million jobs out of the US economy even before G. W. Bush had time to unpack his suitcases in the White House. It has also occured despite the recent spike in oil prices and the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

  • Not a single terrorist attack has struck U.S. soil since 9/11/01.
  • Osama bin Laden is living in a cave, unable to surface for more than a few hours at a time, while most of al Qaeda's leadership is either dead or in custody and cooperating with U.S. intelligence services.
  • Several major terrorist attacks have been thwarted in the last couple of years by US and British intelligence agencies, including a planned attack involving 10 Jumbo Jets being exploded in mid-air over major U.S. cities in order to celebrate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
  • Iraq appears to be on the road to peace and stability. Afghanistan has been liberated from the Taliban. Some of the luster of Islamo-fascism has faded among Muslims around the world.
  • Several nations have decided to forego the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Others are cracking down on the movements of terrorists within their borders.
  • Illegal border crossings into the U.S. have dropped sharply in the past year and continue to drop.
  • The Supreme Court has seen the addition of two outstanding jurists to the bench in the last couple of years.

What on the above list do the "agents of change" currently running for the presidency propose to undo or alter? What, exactly, do they think should be different?

The use of the word "change" as a political slogan is both puerile and an insult to the intelligence of every thoughtful voter. Change is not an intrinsic good and to make it a political mantra displays a regrettable shallowness of mind on the part of the candidate. What we as voters need to be told is, what specific changes the candidate has in mind and how, precisely, he or she intends to bring them about.

The first candidate who announces that he (only a Republican might do this) is not really all that enthusiastic about "change" but is instead pretty sanguine about the general direction the country is moving and doesn't so much want to change that direction but maybe just tweak it a little bit will certainly get my consideration as a voter. He will have demonstrated a seriousness that hasn't been otherwise much in evidence so far in this campaign.

Meanwhile, Ramirez offers us his two cents about change:


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ignoring Kyoto

In a recent column Mark Steyn laid out some interesting, and perhaps surprising, numbers regarding greenhouse emissions:

From 1997 when the Kyoto treaty was signed until 2004 greenhouse emissions worldwide increased 18%. Countries which signed the treaty increased their emissions 21%. Emissions from non-signers increased 10%. Emissions from the U.S. increased 6.6%.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Well, one seems to be that Kyoto would do little to nothing to curtail the continuing pollution of our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. The countries which signed it appear to be the most egregious flaunters of it. Second, those nations and individuals which castigate us for our refusal to sign on to Kyoto need to redirect their attention elsewhere. Otherwise, their outrage over the damage being done to our environment looks more like simple old-fashioned anti-Americanism than it does a genuine concern for global environmental degradation.


How's Your Diet?

Do you eat a lot of fatty food? Are you concerned about the effect this has on your arteries? If so, you should read this.

The article is based on the work of Israeli researchers who discovered that consuming polyphenols (natural compounds in red wine, fruits, and vegetables) simultaneously with high-fat foods may reduce health risks associated with these foods.

Pass the wine and french fries.


The High Cost of Cheap Tomatoes

Those who wish to grant amnesty to illegal aliens and to keep the flow of immigrants coming often argue that they constitute cheap labor needed by American businesses to keep the cost of their products affordable to consumers. So, it might be helpful to see what those products are really costing the American taxpayer:

  • $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year.
  • $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.
  • $2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.
  • $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary education for children here illegally.
  • $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.
  • $3 Million Dollars a day is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens. Thirty percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.
  • $90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for welfare and social services by the American taxpayers.
  • $200 Billion Dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused by illegal aliens.
  • Illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's two and a half times that of white, legal immigrants.
  • During the year of 2005 there were 4 to 10 million illegal aliens that crossed our Southern Border, including as many as 19,500 from terrorist countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroine and marijuana, crossed into the U.S. through the porous southern border.
  • The National Policy Institute estimated that the total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion, or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period.
  • In 2006 illegal aliens sent $45 billion in remittances to their countries of origin.
  • It has been estimated that there are currently in the United States some 240,000 illegal immigrants who are sex offenders and who have committed nearly one million sex crimes.

The total cost to the nation of illegal immigration is several hundred billion dollars a year which is quite a price to pay for cheap labor. It's not clear exactly how Americans benefit from this.

Indeed, the situation is actually more dire and depressing than the above facts suggest. Go here to read why.


Monday, January 7, 2008

The Conservative Conundrum

Mike Huckabee's win in Iowa has thrown GOP conservatives into a tizzy. Huckabee is not a genuine conservative, they allege. He's really a liberal Democrat on economic issues, and he's squishy on illegal immigration. He lacks foreign policy experience (This charge is a bit laughable. No president since 1950 except Dwight Eisenhower and the elder George Bush had any foreign policy experience.).

The problem is that there's no one among the top four Republicans who is reliably conservative. They all have their good points and their bad.

Mitt Romney, who claims now to be pro-life and opposed to any erosion of traditional marriage, was in favor of both abortion on demand and gay marriage back in the '90s. Romney comes across as a Rockefeller Republican, a rich, dull, elitist, yuppie who just doesn't relate to the average Republican voter.

John McCain has been steadfast in the war on terror, his advocacy of free markets, and in his opposition to abortion, but has been guilty of several betrayals of Republicans in the last eight years. His authorship of McCain-Feingold is going to cling to him like a bad smell as will his past open borders positions and his opposition to Bush's tax cuts. He also has anger-management problems that may plague him.

Rudy Giuliani has a terrible record on illegal immigration and is liberal on almost every social issue. He's as far out of the GOP mainstream as anyone can get and still be a viable candidate. Nevertheless, he's seen as stalwart against crime and terrorism and that's not nothing.

Mike Huckabee talks a conservative line but he, too, has appeared lax on illegal immigration and has been too willing, in the minds of some, to raise taxes. His desire to separate himself from the Bush administration on the war doesn't sit well with a lot of people, me included. Nevertheless, no one doubts his commitment to ending the current abortion regime and his strong affirmation of the traditional family.

The problem for conservative voters is that the most authentic conservative candidates are Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter. They are both good men, but it will take a miracle to boost Fred into contention for the nomination, and it doesn't seem as if even a miracle could get Hunter there.


Just Shut Up And Go Away

A new 70 page book titled Science, Evolution and Creationism published by the National Academy of Sciences claims that "attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist," and offers statements from several eminent biologists and members of the clergy to support the view. The article linked to in the previous sentence says this:

The panel of authors reports that evidence for the theory of evolution is overwhelming and growing. It cites findings from DNA research, fossil discoveries and the observations scientists have made about emerging diseases, like SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The book also denounces the arguments for a form of creationism called intelligent design, calling them devoid of evidence, "disproven" or "simply false."

The writers must be joking. The main tenet of ID is that natural physical processes are inadequate to account for the fine-tuning of the cosmos and the high levels of specified complexity found among living things. These phenomena, IDers assert, point to an underlying intelligence or mind, which is also what most theistic religions hold to be true. To call this assertion false is to imply that the universe and life are completely explicable in terms of physical mechanisms and that any resort to intelligence or purpose or intentional agency is wrong. This is, however, the same as charging that the fundamental religious belief of millions of people is simply mistaken. It's as hard to understand as it is humorous to reflect upon how the authors can claim that attempts to pit science against religion are unnecessary and then turn right around and allege that the basis of all theistic religions is false.

Perhaps what the authors of this book really intend to say is that of course there's no need for controversy between science and religion as long as religious people just admit they're wrong, shut up and go away.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Thought For A Sunday

Taken from The Power of the Spirit or A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law.

Self is the root, the tree, and the branches of all the evils of our fallen state. We are without God, because we are in the life of self. Self-love, self-esteem, and self-seeking, are the very essence, and life of pride; and the devil the first father of pride, is never absent from them, nor without power in them. To die to these essential properties of self, is to make the devil depart from us. But as soon as we would have self-abilities have a share in our good works, the satanic spirit of pride is in union with us, and we are working for the maintenance of self-love, self-esteem, and self-seeking.

All the vices of fallen angels and men have their birth and power in the pride of self, or I may better say, in the atheism and idolatry of self; for self is both atheist and idolator. It is atheist, because it has rejected God; it is an idolator, because it is its own idol. On the other hand, all the virtues of the heavenly life are the virtues of humility. Not a joy, or glory, or praise in heaven, but is what it is through humility. It is humility alone that makes the unpassable gulf between heaven and hell. No angels in heaven, but because humility is in all their breath; no devils in hell, but because the fire of pride is their whole fire of life.

What is then, or in what lies the great struggle for eternal life? It all lies in the strife between PRIDE and HUMILITY: all other things, be they what they will, are but as under workmen; pride and humility are the two master powers, the two kingdoms of strife for the eternal possession of man.

And here it is to be observed, that every son of Adam is in the service of pride and self, be he doing what he will, till a humility that comes solely from heaven has been his redeemer. Till then, all that he doth will be only done by the right hand, that the left hand may know it. And he that thinks it possible for the natural man to get a better humility than this from his own right reason (as it is often miscalled) refined by education, shows himself quite ignorant of this one most plain and capital truth of the gospel, namely, that there never was, nor ever will be, but one humility in the whole world, and that is the one humility of Christ, which never any man, since the fall of Adam, had the least degree of but from Christ. Humility is one, in the same sense and truth, as Christ is one, the mediator is one, redemption is one. There are not two Lambs of God that take away the sins of the world. But if there was any humility besides that of Christ, there would be something else besides him that could take away the sins of the world. "All that came before me," says Christ, "were thieves and robbers": we are used to confine this to persons; but the same is as true of every virtue, whether it has the name of humility, charity, piety, or anything else; if it comes before Christ, however good it may pretend to be, it is but a cheat, a thief, and a robber, under the name of godly virtue. And the reason is, because pride and self have the all of man, till man has his all from Christ. He therefore only fights the good fight, whose strife is, that the self-idolatrous nature which he hath from Adam may be brought to death, by the supernatural humility of Christ brought to life in him.

The enemies to man's rising out of the fall of Adam, through the Spirit and power of Christ, are many. But the one great dragon-enemy, called anti-Christ, is SELF-EXALTATION. This is his birth, his pomp, his power, and his throne; when self-exaltation ceases, the last enemy is destroyed, and all that came from the pride and death of Adam is swallowed up in victory.

There has been much sharp looking out, to see where and what anti-Christ is, or by what marks he may be known. Some say he has been in the Christian world almost ever since the gospel times, nay, that he was even then beginning to appear and show himself. Others say he came in with this, or that pope; others that he is not yet come, but near at hand. Others will have it, that he has been here, and there, but driven from one place to another by several new risen Protestant sects.

But to know with certainty, where and what anti-Christ is, and who is with him, and who against him, you need only read this short description which Christ gives of himself." (1) I can do nothing of myself. (2) I came not to do my own will. (3) I seek not my own glory. (4) I am meek and lowly of heart." Now if this is Christ, then self-ability or self-exaltation, being the highest and fullest contrariety to all this, must be alone the one great anti-Christ, that opposes and withstands the whole nature and Spirit of Christ.

What therefore has everyone so much to fear, to renounce and abhor, as every inward sensibility of self-exaltation, and every outward work that proceeds from it. But now, at what things shall a man look, to see that working of self which raises pride to its strongest life, and most of all hinders the birth of the humble Jesus in his soul? Shall he call the pomps and vanities of the world the highest works of self-adoration? Shall he look at the fops and beaux, and painted ladies, to see the pride that has the most of anti-Christ in it? No, by no means. These are indeed marks, shameful enough, of the vain, foolish heart of man, but yet, comparatively speaking, they are but the skin-deep follies of that pride which the fall of man has begotten and brought forth in him. Would you see the deepest root, and iron-strength of pride and self-adoration, you must enter into the dark chamber of man's fiery soul, where the light of God (which alone gives humility and meek submission to all created spirits) being extinguished by the death which Adam died, satan, or which is the same thing self-exaltation became the strong man that kept possession of the house, till a stronger than he should come upon him. In this secret source of an eternal fiery soul, glorying in the astral light of this world, a swelling kingdom of pomps and vanities is set up in the heart of man, of which, all outward pomps and vanities are but its childish transitory playthings. The inward strong man of pride, the diabolical self, has his higher works within; he dwells in the strength of the heart, and has every power and faculty of the soul offering continual incense to him. His memory, his will, his understanding, his imagination, are always at work for him, and for no one else. His memory is the faithful repository of all the fine things that self has ever done; and lest anything of them should be lost or forgotten, she is continually setting them before his eyes. His will, though it has all the world before it, yet goes after nothing, but as self sends it. His understanding is ever upon the stretch for new projects to enlarge the dominions of self; and if this fails, imagination comes in, as the last and truest support of self, she makes him a king and mighty lord of castles in the air.

This is that full-born natural self, that must be pulled out of the heart, and totally denied, or there can be no disciple of Christ; which is only saying this plain truth, that the apostate self-idolatrous nature of the old man must be put off, or there can be no new creature in Christ.

Now what is it in the human soul that most of all hinders the death of this old man? What is it that above all other things strengthens and exalts the life of self, and makes it the master and governor of all the powers of the heart and soul? It is the fancied riches of parts, the glitter of genius, the flights of imagination, the glory of learning, and the self-conceited strength of natural reason: these are the strongholds of fallen nature, the master-builders of pride's temple in the heart of man, and which, as so many priests, keep up the daily worship of idol-self. And here let it be well, and well observed, that all these magnified talents of the natural man are started up through his miserable fall from the life of God in his soul. Wit, genius, learning, and natural reason, would never have had any more a name among men, than blindness, ignorance, and sickness, had man continued, as at first, an holy image of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything then that dwelt in him, or came from him, would have only said so much of God, and nothing of himself, have manifested nothing to him but the heavenly powers of the triune life of God dwelling in him. He would have had no more sense or consciousness of his own wit, or natural reason, or any power of goodness in all that he was, and did, than of his own creating power, at beholding the created heavens and earth. It is his dreadful fall from the life of God in his soul, that has furnished him with the substantial riches of his bestial appetites and lusts. And when the lusts of the flesh have spent out their life, when the dark thick body of earthly flesh and blood shall be forced to let the soul go loose, all these bright talents will end with that system of fleshly lusts, in which they begun; and that of man which remains will have nothing of its own, nothing that can say, I do this, or I do that; but all that it has or does, will be either the glory of God manifested in it, or the power of hell in full possession of it. The time of man's playing with parts, wit, and abilities, and of fancying himself to be something great and considerable in the intellectual world, may be much shorter, but can be no longer, than he can eat and drink with the animals of this world. When the time comes, that fine buildings, rich settlements, acquired honors, and rabbi, rabbi, must take their leave of him, all the stately structures, which genius, learning, and flights of imagination, have painted inwardly on his brain and outwardly on paper, must bear full witness to Solomon's vanity of vanities.

Let then the high accomplished scholar reflect, that he comes by his wit, and parts, and acute abilities, just as the serpent came by his subtlety; let him reflect, that he might as well dream of acquiring angelic purity to his animal nature by multiplying new invented delights for his earthly passions and tempers, as of raising his soul into divine knowledge through the well exercised powers of his natural reason and imagination.

The finest intellectual power, and that which has the best help in it towards bringing man again into the region of divine light, is that poor despised thing called simplicity. This is that which stops the workings of the fallen life of nature, and leaves room for God to work again in the soul, according to the good pleasure of his holy will. It stands in such a waiting posture before God, and in such readiness for the divine birth, as the plants of the earth wait for the inflowing riches of the light and air. But the self-assuming workings of man's natural powers shut him up in himself, closely barred up against the inflowing riches of the light and Spirit of God.

Yet so it is, in this fallen state of the gospel church, that with these proud endowments of fallen nature, the classic scholar, full fraught with pagan light and skill, comes forth to play the critic and orator with the simplicity of salvation mysteries; mysteries which mean nothing else but the inward work of the triune God in the soul of man, nor any other work there, but the raising up of a dead Adam into a living Christ of God.

However, to make way for parts, criticism, and language-learning, to have the full management of salvation doctrines, the well-read scholar gives out, that the ancient way of knowing the things of God, taught and practiced by fishermen-apostles, is obsolete. They indeed wanted to have divine knowledge from the immediate continual operation of the Holy Spirit, but this state was only for a time, till genius, and learning entered into the pale of the church. Behold, if ever, "the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place!" For as soon as the doctrine is set up, that man's natural parts and acquired learning have full right and power to sit in the divinity chair, and to guide men into that truth which was once the only office and power of the Holy Spirit, as soon as this is done, and so far as it is received, it may with the greatest truth be said, that the kingdom of God is entirely shut up, and only a kingdom of scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites, can come instead of it. For by this doctrine the whole nature and power of gospel religion is much more denied, than by setting up the infallibility of the pope; for though his claim to infallibility is false, yet he claims it from and under the Holy Spirit; but the Protestant scholar has his divinity knowledge, his power in the kingdom of truth, from himself, his own logic, and learned reason. Christ has nowhere instituted an infallible pope; and it is full as certain, that he has nowhere spoke one single word, or given the least power to logic, learning, or the natural powers of man, in his kingdom. He has never said to them, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven"; never said to them, "go ye and teach all nations," no more than he has ever said to wolves, "go ye, and feed my sheep." Christ indeed said of himself, according to the flesh, it is expedient for you that I go away. But where has he said of himself according to the spirit, "It is also expedient for you that I go away, that your own natural abilities and learned reason may have the guidance of you into all truth?" This is nowhere said, unless logic can prove it from these words, "Without me ye can do nothing," and, "Lo, I am with you to the end of the world."

The first and main doctrine of Christ and his apostles was, to tell the Jews, "that the kingdom of God was at hand," or was come to them. Proof enough surely, that their church was not that kingdom of God, though by God's appointment, and under laws of his own commanding. But why not, when it was thus set up by God? It was because it had human and worldly things in it, consisted of carnal ordinances, and had only types, and figures, and shadows of a kingdom of God that was to come. Of this kingdom, Christ says, "My kingdom is not of this world"; and as a proof of it, he adds, "if it was of this world, then would my servants fight for me"; which was saying, that it was so different in kind, and so superior in nature to this world, that no sort of worldly power could either help, or hinder it. But of this world, into which the kingdom of God was come, the holy one of God says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good comfort, I have overcome the world." Now how was it that Christ's victory was their victory? It was, because he was in them, and they in him, "Because I live, ye shall live also; in that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you."