Thursday, June 5, 2008

Best Animated Films

Moviefone lists the top 25 animated movies of all time. I'm surprised at what was left off the list, but the raters evidently considered not just the quality of animation but the quality of the story, the characters, and the popularity of the movie. Still, I think Prince of Egypt and Ants should have made the cut and Ratatouille and Finding Nemo should have been ranked higher.

Anyway, check it out if you're a movie fan.


Pot Heads

This confirms what a lot of high school teachers have long suspected:

Long-term Cannabis (Marijuana)Users May Have Structural Brain Abnormalities

The hippocampus, thought to regulate emotion and memory, and the amygdala, involved with fear and aggression, tended to be smaller in cannabis users than in controls (volume was reduced by an average of 12 percent in the hippocampus and 7.1 percent in the amygdala). Cannabis use also was associated with sub-threshold symptoms of psychotic disorders. "Although cannabis users performed significantly worse than controls on verbal learning, this did not correlate with regional brain volumes in either group," the authors write.

No kidding.


Let's Drill

This article was passed along by my friend Richard Francis. There's been talk of the potential of this field for a long time, but now it appears that we're going to go after it, that is unless Congress throws up a roadblock:

America is sitting on top of a super massive 200 billion barrel oil field that could potentially make America energy independent and until now has largely gone unnoticed. Thanks to new technology, the Bakken Formation in North Dakota could boost America's Oil reserves by an incredible 10 times, giving western economies the trump card against OPEC's short squeeze on oil supply and making Iranian and Venezuelan threats of disrupted supply irrelevant.

In the next 30 days the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) will release a new report giving an accurate resource assessment of the Bakken Oil Formation that covers North Dakota and portions of South Dakota and Montana. With new horizontal drilling technology it is believed that from 175 to 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil are held in this 200,000 square mile reserve that was initially discovered in 1951. The USGS did an initial study back in 1999 that estimated 400 billion recoverable barrels were present, but with prices bottoming out at $10 a barrel back then the report was dismissed since it would have cost $20-$40 a barrel to extract it.

It was not until 2007, when EOG Resources of Texas started a frenzy when they drilled a single well in Parshal N.D. that is expected to yield 700,000 barrels of oil, that real excitement and money started to flow in North Dakota. Marathon Oil is investing $1.5 billion and drilling 300 new wells in what is expected to be one of the greatest booms in oil discovery since oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938.

The US imported about 14 million barrels of oil per day in 2007, which means US consumers sent about $340 billion dollars over seas building palaces in Dubai and propping up unfriendly regimes around the world. If 200 billion barrels of oil at $90 a barrel are recovered in the high plains the added wealth to the US economy would be $18 trillion dollars which would go a long way toward stabilizing the US trade deficit and could cut the cost of oil in half in the long run.

It's nice to know it's there. It'd be nicer to know that the Democrats will let us have it.



A couple of days ago I discussed an argument by Michael Martin which he calls TANG (Transcendental Argument for the Non-existence of God). It's an argument against the existence of God based on logic, science, and morality. In that last post we talked about whether his claim that logic and science precluded God actually works. In this post I want to take the last of the three elements of TANG and see how a theist might respond to it.

Martin writes:

Consider morality. The type of Christian morality assumed by TAG (Transcendental Argument for the existence of God)is some version of the Divine Command Theory, the view that moral obligation is dependent on the will of God. But such a view is incompatible with objective morality. On the one hand, on this view what is moral is a function of the arbitrary will of God; for instance, if God wills that cruelty for its own sake is good, then it is. On the other hand, determining the will of God is impossible since there are different alleged sources of this will (The Bible, the Koran, The Book of Mormon, etc) and different interpretations of what these sources say; moreover; there is no rational way to reconcile these differences. Thus, the existence of an objective morality presupposes the falsehood of the Christian world view assumed by TAG.

One reply to this is that morality is not merely a function of God's will nor is it independent of God, rather it's a consequence of God's essential nature. Just as logic is part of the essential nature of God, so too is goodness. Thus, just as all the energy on earth ultimately derives from the sun and would not exist were it not for the sun's existence, whatever goodness there is in the world derives from God and would not exist were there no God. Goodness, and derivatively, morality, are objectively real but only because they are grounded in the being of God. Without God it's very hard to see how there could be any moral good or bad, right or wrong.

Even if it were true that we can't know what God's will is it doesn't follow that morality is independent of God. We grope, perhaps, to find the good, but if there were no God there'd be no good to find. Nevertheless, as J. Budziszewski argues in his books Written on the Heart and What We Can't Not Know God has impressed upon us the basics of morality much as we have been given a facility for learning language. We may disagree about the details, but everyone knows deep inside that kindness is better than cruelty, and that fairness is better than unfairness. Yet why should we think this if we are just a mass of atoms?

The fact that there are disagreements about what God's will is means nothing. People disagree on how the world came to be. It doesn't follow from that that there is no true explanation for the provenience of the world.

Thus, contrary to Martin's assertion, the existence of an objective morality presupposes the existence of a transcendent ground for moral good and evil. It presupposes a God.