August 2013 Archives
August 6, 2013
Questions for the Ages
This post and the comments are meant to be light-hearted (for once). A friend posted on Facebook a poster of N.T. Wright with the caption, "I don't always read the Bible, but when I do, I read it with 1st century eyes and 21st century questions." To be quite honest, I'm not sure what the point was of the poster. Is this supposed to be a good thing? (I think so.) But what about the, "I don't always read the Bible" part? Isn't that supposed to be a bad thing? (Especially for a bishop.)
But never mind all that. The inspiration came after that, when a commentator asked, "What would a 1st century question be?"
It's sometimes fun to take things like that with absolute literalness, and my answer was that a 1st century question would be, "Do Gentile Christians have to be circumcised?" Then I got on a short roll:
August 7, 2013
Thank you for your patience while I've worked through the most recent spat of errors that have plagued W4. Tonight I believe I have squashed the major bug that kept popping up when load to our shared hosting server was high.
And as a side note, the 'Recent Comments' page, which had gone blank a while ago, should be fully functional now. The RSS subscription feed is still in dire need of some repair and will have to wait for another day.
August 10, 2013
Anarcho-tyranny and the police here and abroad
We've all, unfortunately, seen stories like this one, about the police tasing a disabled man to get him off a bus after he refused to sit down, or this one about Ethan Saylor, with Down Syndrome, who was asphyxiated to death by police gone wild at the movie theater in a dispute over a $12 ticket, or this recent one about an elderly man killed by police with bean-bag shot rounds after he refused to go to the hospital for treatment his nursing home staff wanted him to have. (Hey, wait, I thought everyone had a right to refuse treatment? Never mind.) Then there's this one about the perfectly innocent college girls in a car terrified out of their lives and eventually put in jail for a night over a bottled water purchase and a police mistake. (The police thought the bottled water was beer.)
There are many more such stories out there about police using excessive force, behaving in a wildly militarized fashion, terrorizing perfectly innocent people, and so forth.
August 16, 2013
Scientism isn't science
As I so often do when coming up dry on blog post ideas, today I'm going to ride on Wesley J. Smith's coat tails. He has an excellent post here in response to Steven Pinker (yes, that Steven Pinker, the one who supports infanticide) on scientism. Some quotations from Smith:
Humans have always looked out for their own welfare and negotiated codes of conduct. But why should we care about the thriving of humans or sentient beings? What, in “science” tells us that is important? The Judeo/Christian worldview tells us to love our neighbor. I suspect Pinker would agree, but one is left to question why. It’s merely an assertion.
Based on science, what is wrong with slavery? It’s just the powerful prevailing over and forcing their way on the less powerful–a common feature of the natural world.
Of course, science isn’t the enemy Nobody said it is. (In fact the title gets perilously close to “the anti-science canard.”) Indeed, it’s a wonderful tool, as Pinker illustrates abundantly throughout the article (along with a helping of straw men). It can inform–but absolutely not replace–philosophy, ethics, values, and yes, religion in crafting a humane and beneficent society.
The naturalists' increasingly strident attempts to tell us that there is one and only one rational worldview, that it is theirs, that it is dropped down graciously to us from the god Science, that it gives us all the ethics and morality we could ever need, and that all dissent from this worldview should be silenced as irrational hate or even as mental illness have an air of desperation about them. Too many people know that the emperor has no clothes.
The question then is--what next? All non-naturalist or even all explicitly religious worldviews are not created equal. Christians need to be ready with our own clear and positive account. What is man? Why is man here? How shall we then live? And we need to be ready with evidence for that account. When the dystopian world given to us by scientism leaves man unfulfilled, we need to be ready with the true answers.
August 17, 2013
The derangement of incentives
Turns out this childrearing stuff ain't cheap:
The annual report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released yesterday, reveals that a middle-income family with a baby born last year can look forward to spending about $241,080 ($301,970 when adjusted for predicted inflation) to raise the little one over the next 17 years. That's a 2.6 percent increase from 2011, higher than the broader inflation rate. The study, which does not include payments for college, puts yearly spending on each child for a two-parent middle-income family at $12,600 to $14,700 in 2012.
Jonathan Last, in his What to Expect When No One's Expecting added in the opportunity costs of lost wages and promotions (for mothers who leave the workforce to raise children) and came up with a number over three times larger.
But remember, if you ever earn enough to save some capital to defray these costs, absolute justice demands that you cough up a big chunk of it to the government, to be distributed by (always perfectly virtuous) bureaucrats to other people; especially to the pension funds enjoyed by other people upon their retirement.
It's enough to make you wonder whether it even makes sense to work for a living at all.
August 22, 2013
Fragment on sports journalism
This is impressive journalism. (Some bad language.) It tells a story vividly. Its characters, mainly the chief one, are portrayed ably. Some quotations ring with summary boldness, abbreviations in taut phrasing of the wider pictures shown to us, both in word and in photography. The web design is likewise superlative.
In short, this is the sort of article that restores the reputation of sports journalism. Well, that and this sort of article. The normal run of sports journalism, I fear, debases itself more often than not. It crowns banality and idle conjecture, on matters of immediate reporting, with tendentious sanctimony on matters of wider social and political importance. TV, radio and internet all contribute to the problem. Descriptions of actual baseball games, or final rounds of golf tournaments, reach far too easily for cliché and catchphrase; while predictions of future seasons, playoff matchups, player careers, etc., substitute vapid bluster for careful historical comparison. Nor should it fail to be noted that even the worst political columnist can rarely get away with the kind of unsupportable assertion, premise-smuggling, and insularity that all too frequently characterizes a sports journalist’s assays into social commentary.
The best day-to-day work in this business is actually produced by blogger-style upstarts without legacy institutions backing them. Here’s another example, on the same topic as I linked above: the extraordinary hitting ability of Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.
But all that fun stuff aside, there will always be room for long-form storytelling, where memorable people and memorable events are sketched proficiently, like this article, “The Losses of Dan Gable.”
August 23, 2013
Biola does the right thing
Kudos to Biola. (For background on this post, see here and here.) The President of the university has apologized to Diana Jimenez for "missteps" in the university's responses to Diana and for "actions on our part that were perceived to be heavy-handed and retaliatory."
Kudos also to Scott Klusendorf and others who have been working to resolve this situation for the last several weeks.
Life Training Institute reports that Diana's letters of recommendation were released several weeks ago. At that time, as I noted in the comments here, a rather odd and ambiguous announcement was made by Biola. That announcement could have been taken to mean that for all we could tell Diana's letters had never been held up in the first place and that she had made up or misrepresented the letters incident. (That was why I did not report that announcement as a resolution of the incident at the time but merely commented on it in the comments section of another post.)
This most recent apology does not leave that unfortunate impression, though it does not mention the letters explicitly. So this apology is a much better resolution.
August 26, 2013
Bad news Monday
Well, friends, I wish there were better news this Monday, but there isn't. I'm going to try to minimize the pain by keeping these notes relatively short. As usual, I'm always interested in reader comments on the direction the legal cases are likely to go or on legal technicalities. One can occasionally take hope from such things or, if not, at least distract oneself from just how bad things are by chewing over them. Some of these items you've doubtless seen elsewhere.
News item 1: In the Elane Huguenin case, the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that under NM anti-discrimination laws, photographers must take pictures of homosexual commitment ceremonies, treating them as weddings.
Please note: NM does not recognize homosexual "marriage," yet apparently photographers do have to recognize homosexual "marriage" and treat purely private commitment ceremonies as equivalent to weddings, otherwise they are committing "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." If that makes sense to you, I can tell you that it makes no sense to me.
Even being a member of a "protected class" doesn't usually mean that you can force a photographer to celebrate just anything. If they'd wanted the photographer to take pictures of butchering a pig, presumably the fact that they are members of a "protected class" wouldn't mean that they could force a vegetarian photographer to comply. So why a private ceremony which isn't acknowledged to be a wedding under NM law? Beats me. I suppose it's supposed to be because that private ceremony was celebrating their status as lesbians. But it still doesn't seem to follow. Religious groups are protected from "discrimination on the basis of religion" under non-discrimination laws, but it doesn't follow that a photographer can be forced to help celebrate just any religious ceremony. For example, what if some religious group were (let's say legally) slaughtering a pig as part of a religious ceremony. Would the vegetarian photographer have to photograph the ceremony on pain of having "discriminated on the basis of religion"? What if some religious people were engaging in a sexual orgy and said that was part of their religion? Would the photographer have to take pornographic shots in order not to discriminate against their religion?
So it seems quite illogical to claim that the photographer had to take pictures of a lesbian commitment ceremony just because the lesbians happen to consider this commitment ceremony to be an important expression of their sexual orientation.
However, let's face it: That's what non-discrimination ordinances are ultimately about when applied to homosexuality--forcing people to endorse it. I guess this is just an admission of that.
Here's a question: My state of Michigan has a constitutional amendment forbidding the government from recognizing anything other than one-man-one-woman marriage as a marriage or marriage-like union for any purpose whatsoever. (Yes, this also means that the state cannot enact a civil unions law.) Would something that unequivocal in the state constitution block an interpretation of non-discrimination laws that forces people in the wedding business (wedding coordinators, bakers, photographers, etc.) to participate in homosexual ceremonies? One would like to think so.
"The post is remarkably ungenerous. It drips with contempt." -- *UPDATE BELOW*
The title of this post is from a comment that David Blakenhorn left over at a short post on the First Things website. The post concerns the recent about-face that Jody Bottum has publicly proclaimed on the subject of so-called same-sex "marriage" (he's now for it). But as Mathew Franck so ably explained in his post, if you take the time to read through Bottum's essay*, all you come away with is the notion that Bottum is intellectually incoherent.