Thursday, May 27, 2010


My theory on labeling my blogposts is that labels should be broad rather than specific. This is partially for the benefit of my readers (hi honey!), so they don't have to negotiate an endless list of labels, and partially for my own benefit so I don't have to compose and keep track of such a list. Thus, I have labels for Religion and Science (but not for the Anthropic Principle or Big Bang Cosmology) and for Philosophy (but not for Epistemology or Philosophy of Mind). Occasionally I've found it necessary to be more specific. So from Culture and Ethics I made labels that dealt specifically with Homosexuality and Abortion; from Books I made a label for Quotes; etc. But I was having a difficult time with labels for particular people. I write enough about C. S. Lewis that I knew I should have a label for him from day one, but over time, I've realized that there are other people who I mention frequently enough that they warrant their own label as well.

Recently I experimented with splitting the labels listed on the sidebar into subject labels and people labels. Then I started going through my posts looking at the people (philosophers, mostly) who I've mentioned more than once. You can probably guess how that ended up. Just going over my posts for the last several months I had more people labels than subject labels, because people labels are inherently specific, and most of them only had one reference. So I scrapped the whole thing, just went back to "Labels", and included two new subjects: Philosophers and Theologians. In the future, if I focus on a particular thinker several times, I'll try to give them their own label.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


-- Top 10 greatest science fiction detective novels.

-- Top 10 Underrated Fantasy Stories Before 1937, that being the year The Hobbit was published. (I almost wrote, "the year The Hobbit came out", but thought that could be misinterpreted.)

-- Quantum teleportation achieved over ten miles of free space. "As we've explained before, "quantum teleportation" is quite different from how many people imagine teleportation to work. Rather than picking one thing up and placing it somewhere else, quantum teleportation involves entangling two things, like photons or ions, so their states are dependent on one another and each can be affected by the measurement of the other's state. When one of the items is sent a distance away, entanglement ensures that changing the state of one causes the other to change as well, allowing the teleportation of quantum information, if not matter." Eventually, it might be able to "span the distance between the surface of the earth and space." Kind of reminds me of Orson Scott Card's "philotics" from the first Ender series.

-- The Most Badass Alphabet Ever. Via Got Medieval.

-- Hubble catches planet being devoured by its star. It's only got about ten million years left. Tick, tick, tick ...

-- Here's an incredible essay about someone who stopped going to church years ago, and then found it again. Very inspiring.

-- Here's a website about philosopher Peter Wust, run by his granddaughter. He was a Christian existentialist in the first half of the 20th century, and being more of an analytic philosopher, I haven't read any of his stuff. She should put some of his books and essays online.

-- Here are some interesting political quotes. The fact that they're all from the political right is just an amazing coincidence. First, "A love of autocracy often lurks beneath the liberal veneer. There's this idea that the right answers are known and the people are just too deluded and distorted to see what they are and to vote for them."

-- Second, "Europeans are post-Christian in this sense, too: they have tried to "liberate" themselves from the curse of Adam by substituting borrowing for working, and from the curse of Eve by not having children. It was entirely foreseeable that neither of these efforts would end well."

-- Third, "Every murderous totalitarian government of the 20th century began with some insulated group of faux-intellectuals congratulating each other on how smart they are, and fantasizing about how, if they could just install a dictatorship-for-a-day, they could right all the wrongs in the world. It is the ultimate fantasy of the narcissist. And we’ve got whole generations of them, in control of our media and our government, all intent on “remaking America.”"

-- NASA to Test World’s Fastest Hypersonic ScramJet this Month, and hoping to break the several second barrier.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Social Justice

Tyson has a dynamite, must-read post on social justice in the Bible, and its applicability to us today. If you're a Christian on the political right, I encourage you to wrestle with it. It's easy to say that these issues should be dealt with by us as individuals rather than by our governments, but that could just as easily be used as an excuse to avoid doing the right thing. Tyson also links to this post on another blog which addresses similar issues. You might also want to read a couple of essays by Christian political philosopher J. Budziszewski, entitled The Problem With Liberalism and The Problem With Conservativism.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


There are occasions where something bad happens and the evil is palpable; it imposes itself on my psyche just as much as the physical world does when I feel pain. As such, I can't deny the existence of evil anymore than I can deny the existence of the physical world. I mean this not just as a rational claim, but that I'm literally incapable of disbelieving it. I may insulate myself in privacy and theoretically question whether evil or the physical world really exist, but it never gets beyond that theoretical level. For example, on 9/11 the evil was tangible.

But an event doesn't have to be horrific and huge in scope in order for me to recognize it as evil. Sometimes it can be something simple and otherwise inconsequential. Maybe just the utterance of two short words. Like those the student utters towards the end of this video. It gives me chills.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quote of the Day

A second suggestion, perhaps connected with the plea of inability to do otherwise, is given by the idea that the very practice of science presupposes rejection of the idea of miracle or special divine action in the world. "Science proceeds on the assumption that whatever events occur in the world can be accounted for in terms of other events that also belong within the world," says Macquarrie; perhaps he means to suggest that the very practice of science requires that one reject the idea (e.g.) of God's raising someone from the dead. Of course the argument form

If X were true, it would be inconvenient for science; therefore, X is false

is at best moderately compelling. We aren't just given that the Lord has arranged the universe for the comfort and convenience of the National Academy of Science. To think otherwise is to be like the drunk who insisted on looking for his lost car keys under the streetlight, on the grounds that the light was better there. (In fact it would go the drunk one better: it would be to insist that because the keys would be hard to find in the dark, they must be under the light.)

But why think in the first place that we would have to embrace this semideism in order to do science? Many contemporary physicists, for example, believe that Jesus was raised from the dead; this belief seems to do little damage to their physics. To be sure, that's physics; perhaps the problem would be (as Bultmann suggests) with medicine. Is the idea that one couldn't do medical research or prescribe medications if one thought that God has done miracles in the past and might even occasionally do some nowadays? To put the suggestion explicitly is to refute it; there isn't the faintest reason why I couldn't sensibly believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and also engage in medical research into, say, Usher's syndrome or multiple sclerosis, or into ways of staving off the ravages of coronary disease. What would be the problem? That it is always possible that God should do something different, thus spoiling my experiment? But that is possible: God is omnipotent. (Or do we have here a new antitheistic argument? If God exists, he could spoil my experiment; nothing can spoil my experiment; therefore....) No doubt if I thought God often or usually did things in an idiosyncratic way, so that there really aren't much by way discoverable regularities to be found, then perhaps I couldn't sensibly engage in scientific research; the latter presupposes a certain regularity, predictability, stability in the world. But that is an entirely different matter. What I must assume to do science, is only that ordinarily and for the most part these regularities hold. This reason, too, then, is monumentally insufficient as a reason for holding that we are somehow obliged to accept the principles underlying Troeltschian biblical scholarship.

Alvin Plantinga
Warranted Christian Belief

Saturday, May 1, 2010


For the last couple of months, I've had considerably less time to spend online, but have been trying to maintain my blogging schedule nonetheless. I fear I may have to cut back a little. We'll see how it goes. At any rate, here are several links I put aside to blog about, but then never got around to; hence, some are a couple of months old.

-- For years, a group of Zimbabweans have claimed to be a lost tribe of Israel. Now genetic testing has verified it.

-- When you prick a continent, does it not bleed?

-- The Age of Faith. "Globally, as Jenkins sees it, the existential threat to Islam comes not from the declining number of Europeans indoctrinated in the quasi-Marxist “Imagine” creed, but from the burgeoning millions of the Third World. Whether Muslims are impressed by the secular belief system captured so succinctly in John Lennon’s song is open to debate. But the attractions of Christianity to the populations of the Third World apparently is not. Whatever the appeal of Islam in London might be, it is less so in Africa."

-- J. B. S. Haldane criticized C. S. Lewis's space trilogy (described here), and you can read Haldane's critique online. To read Lewis's clever riposte, you will, unfortunately, have to see his collection entitled On Stories.

-- Christian aid workers deported from Morocco. Apparently for being Christian.

-- In this post on David Thompson's blog is the interesting claim that the standard slur of Jews -- that they are money-grubbers, involved in the banking industry and other forms of making money from other people's money, and related nonsense -- is actually an expression of anti-capitalism. Jews are hated because they are unjustly and incorrectly perceived as the personification (or perhaps ethnification) of capitalism. I call this claim "interesting" because anti-Semitism is usually ascribed to the political right, but this would ascribe it to the political left. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about this to justify having an opinion about it.

-- From the same blog comes this essay on the elitist mindset of the academy.

-- In space news, which I have not been able to keep abreast of, the US military launched an unmanned miniature space shuttle. And Japan is planning to launch a sail-powered craft beyond orbit.