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July 06, 2009

Stop the Tweets!

Twitter A few weeks ago I blogged about the perils of Twitter. Nice to know that there are at least 18 possible arguments against microblogging from moral philosophy.

Take a look and have a laugh. 

July 02, 2009

Daily roundup

A Rabbi on the ’Paradox’ of Evangelicals

At the New York Times, in a symposium on The Most Annoying & Pathetic Governor Ever, and just under our own Chuck Colson's contribution, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach opines thusly:

The paradox of American evangelicals is that they are Christian on the one hand and political conservatives on the other with utterly opposing views of redemption. Christians believe that no one is blameless and all must therefore ride the coattails of a perfect being into heaven. But conservatives espouse the gospel of personal accountability. The state cannot save them. Man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow and not by welfare alone.

Is he right? I don’t think so.

This notion that those of us who are both evangelical Christians and political conservatives have incompatible views on redemption is to misunderstand redemption. Or so it seems to me. 

Redemption relates to our standing with God, and is the foundation of the discussion about Salvation. If Governor Sanford is indeed a believer, then nothing he has done in this affair—no matter how destructive and stupid—affects his relationship with God. He is saved once and for all. He is redeemed.

Continue reading "A Rabbi on the ’Paradox’ of Evangelicals" »

Sanford and sons

0624_sanford_460x276 Following up on Stephen's post, as the resident South Carolinian on the Point, I’ve been trying to find the right words since news of our governor’s deplorable behavior became public last week. Everyone knows by now that Mark Sanford is carrying on an adulterous affair with a woman in Argentina, that he sneaked away over Father’s Day weekend like he was part of some cloak-and-dagger spy drama, and that he resurfaced, tearful but resolute on keeping his seat in the State House, willing to spill the sordid details of his story to any reporter who will listen.

Asked about whether he will resign as governor, Sanford pointed to the Biblical example of King David, who engaged in an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. When Bathsheba wound up pregnant, David conspired to cover it all up, eventually murdering Bathsheba’s husband.

What the governor remembers about King David’s story from his Sunday school days is that David continued to rule as king and that, in spite of his failures, God restored David.

The governor seems to have missed or forgotten two key elements to David’s story. First, David was repentant. After Nathan the prophet confronted David through a parable, David wrote, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51: 3, 4, 10 ESV).

The governor has done a lot of confessing over the last week, some of it probably best left between him and God and his wife instead of broadcast for all the world to hear. But what is noticeably absent from his speech since last Tuesday is repentance. The governor says he wants his four sons to see redemption played out in his life, but Paul told the Corinthian church that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Cor 7:10 NIV). Governor Sanford seems sorry only that he got caught, that he put his staff in an awkward situation, and that he can’t be with his mistress.

Continue reading "Sanford and sons" »

Please tell me this is not true

Jackson children THIS is why we need to more strictly regulate the whole industry of sperm donors, egg donors, surrogate mothers, whom eggs and babies are given (sold) to, etc. Evidently, one surrogate mother had no idea that the child she was carrying (biologically hers? or somebody else's?) would ultimately be absorbed into Michael Jackson's freak show. Shouldn't she have? Plus, Jackson never filed the paperwork necessary to legally adopt the children?

So--somebody just handed three innocent children over to someone who'd been charged (more than once) with child molestation? Please tell me this isn't true. No, don't bother, because I won't believe you.

(Image © Splash News)

July 01, 2009

Going Deeper with ’My Sister’s Keeper’

MSK I haven't yet had the chance to see My Sister's Keeper, the new movie based on the bestselling book by Jodi Picoult, but I understand that it is an important film in the ongoing discussion of bioethics.

The film deals with the real issue known as "savior sibling." In the U.S. today it is legal to select an embryo so that it will be most compatible genetically to a sibling who may need medical attention. The first documented case in the U.S. was with Adam Nash in 2000.

Of course, there are not only ethical issues involved with using a child as a donor, but also the ethical issues involved in what happens to the many embryos who are not "selected." We euphemistically dodge those. We'll be featuring a great article on the subject in the next few days from Jennifer Lahl, the Director of the Center of Bioethics. In the meantime, I was reading a fascinating interview with author Jodi Picoult about how she came up with the storyline for the book. Here's what she has to say:

I came about the idea for this novel through the back door of a previous one, Second Glance. While researching eugenics for that book, I learned that the American Eugenics Society -- the one whose funding dried up in the 1930s when the Nazis began to explore racial [hygiene] too -- used to be housed in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. Guess who occupies the same space, today? The Human Genome Project… which many consider "today's eugenics". This was just too much of a coincidence for me, and I started to consider the way this massive, cutting edge science we're on the brink of exploding into was similar… and different from… the eugenics programs and sterilization laws in America in the 1930s. Once again, you've got science that is only as ethical as the people who are researching and implementing it -- and once again, in the wake of such intense scientific advancement, what's falling by the wayside are the emotions involved in the case by case scenarios. I heard about a couple in America that successfully conceived a sibling that was a bone marrow match for his older sister, a girl suffering from a rare form of leukemia. His cord blood cells were given to the sister, who is still (several years later) in remission. But I started to wonder… what if she ever, sadly, goes out of remission? Will the boy feel responsible? Will he wonder if the only reason he was born was because his sister was sick? When I started to look more deeply at the family dynamics and how stem cell research might cause an impact, I came up with the story of the Fitzgeralds.

You can read the rest of the interview here. A trailer for the film is below the jump.

Continue reading "Going Deeper with ’My Sister’s Keeper’" »

June 30, 2009

Jack Black, Nietzschean

Jack Black The star of Year One is into that whole "superman vs. the slave mentality" thing. I hope to goodness someone clues him in.

(Image © Columbia Pictures)

June 29, 2009

’Helllllllp me! Hellllllp me!’

300px-CharlesHerbert2 I couldn't help but think, after reading a recent BreakPoint commentary, of another famous fly in American history. You science fiction/horror film buffs know what fly I mean: This one.

For those not familiar with The Fly (spoiler alert), it's about a scientist named Andre who is attempting to perfect a teleportation machine. Convinced that it will work, after experiments teleporting the family cat and a rodent, he decides to teleport himself. Unbeknownst to Andre, a common house fly flies into the cabin. The horrifying result: Both Andre and the fly became hybrids. The scientist has the fly's head, arm/claw, and leg, while the fly has a human head (although, bizarrely, both the scientist and the fly appear to have at least a portion of the scientist's brains).

In the end, the scientist asks his wife to help him commit suicide, which she does. But  what about the hybrid fly? The scientist's brother, Francois, and Inspector Charas, who is investigating Andre's death, are out in the garden. As Wikipedia puts it, they "hear a tiny voice coming from a nearby spider's web. They make the dreadful discovery of a tiny creature with Andre's emaciated head and arm with the body of a fly, screaming 'Help me! Help me!' as it is about to be devoured by a large spider. The inspector, horrified by the sight, mercifully crushes the prey and the predator with a stone, putting the fly out of its misery."

Francois (played by Vincent Price) tells the inspector that he is as guilty of murder as Andre's wife, who helped Andre commit suicide. Both of them killed a human being.

The same argument cannot be made for Obama's fly, who was....just a fly, destined to die within 20-30 days, anyway. Absolutely no moral equivalence with humans. I'm glad Obama killed it--flies carry germs.

(Image © 20th Century Fox)

June 25, 2009

Daily roundup

We Are a Pragmatic People

Unfortunately, some school officials believe children ought to receive monetary rewards as an incentive for academic performance. Sure, maybe this would be fine if education were primarily for future economic gain. Instead of pursuing education as a means of further good, this practice makes education a purely pragmatic step toward the next step...whatever that may be.

Pragmatism hardly leads to the type of virtue that true education should develop.

June 24, 2009

Daily roundup

June 23, 2009

Today Victims of Prison Rape Receive Hope

Prison bars When Marilyn Shirley dares to remember, she can still smell the prison guard who assaulted her. While locked behind bars for a non-violent drug offense, this mother and grandmother was brutally raped by one of the prison staff. Her horror only intensified when the man spat into her ear, “Who are you going to tell? Do you think people will believe you, a no-good criminal, or me, an upstanding prison guard?”

Marilyn’s story is shared by over 60,000 prisoners. Men and women who were raped by prison officials or other inmates. Men and women whose bodies and minds are forever scarred by the most horrific and degrading attacks.

Today, however, these victims are hearing a message of hope. After years of interviews and study, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission is releasing its report and standards to the public. The report will shine light on the sexual attacks that occur throughout our prisons and jails, and the standards will hold prisons accountable to prevent, detect, and report rape.

Prison rape is not a joke. It’s the worst kind of assault against God’s image bearers. It’s time for the court of public opinion to call our prisons to account and say “no more.” The Commission’s work gives us a powerful tool to do this.

Justice Fellowship director Pat Nolan is a member of the Commission and has worked incredibly hard to make the report and standards a reality.He is in Washington, D.C., today to participate in press conferences announcing the study’s release.To get updates throughout the day, visit Justice Fellowship’s Twitter Page.

To read the full report, visit the website of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Also, visit Justice Fellowship’s Prison Rape Issue page.

June 22, 2009

Daily roundup

June 19, 2009

Imelda Marcos: From the World’s Greediest to Penniless?

(Adapted from my blog The Living Rice.)

The news clip below, from a local Filipino newscast, shows Imelda Marcos weeping because, according to her, she is poor and out of funds. She says that her only source of income is her late husband’s life pension and she’s asking the Philippine government for pity. 

It’s interesting to see how the widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who gained worldwide notoriety in the '80s through her lavish lifestyle and 3000 pairs of shoes (Newsweek listed her in 2009 as one of the "Greediest People of All Time") has turned around, pleading with the country she and her husband once robbed of wealth. Ironically, the begging ex-first lady, as you can see in the video, is more glammed up than the rest of us. It reminded me of what Jesus said: where our treasure is, there our hearts and thoughts will be also (Matthew 6:21). Makes one ponder, if I were to lose all my money and material possessions today, how would I respond?


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

June 18, 2009

Tweet Tweet

Twitter Technology updates at lightning speed and gains eager users in droves. New advances seem like the next best thing, but are they really? Mere newness fails to imply "better."

Such is the deal with Twitter. Until recently, I never thought I would Twitter...or is it "tweet"? Now I do, and I like it...to an extent. When used as a tool to deliver important information, the site is a top-notch tool. But what are we doing to ourselves with the constant use of technology and a rarely-ceasing barrage of updates?

Part of being human is interaction with other...um...human beings, not merely with text on a screen sent from a friend far away (or in the adjacent cubicle) who sent the text from another machine. Maybe our pace is too fast.

Rather than pausing to consider what we are taking in, we are pressured to rush rather than reflect. Can we really function this quickly, or have we simply conditioned ourselves to believe this pace is necessary?

I am not advocating doing away with social networking sites. They have their benefits and have potential to spawn great thought and debate. But before we jump in with both feet, maybe we should consider the pace of our lives and how much information is really necessary. Maybe we should pause to reflect about a practice that touches so many people and consumes so much of our daily lives. 

Yes, pause.

(Image © Twitter)

June 17, 2009

Daily roundup

June 16, 2009

All Obama, all the time

Ao The blogosphere is a-Twitter (sorry) with the news that ABC News will be going all-out to publicize President Obama's health-care plan next week. Unprecedented level of access and information-sharing, or ethical violation? What do you say?

(Image courtesy of the Drudge Report; H/T Caffeinated Thoughts)

Marxist (Harpo, not Karl) Managers

Harpo Mike Metzger over at the Clapham Institute has written an article about how business managers fail to use moral language at work -- even if they are "acting for moral reasons." Because they fear it will hurt their career, "they perform as moral mutes instead" (hence the Harpo Marx reference).

Metzger cites several studies that confirm this problem, including one survery of 13 top business schools that showed a "B-school education not only fails to improve the moral character of students, it actually weakens it." 

Another study reveals how the problem springs from the modern educational system that dismantles the moral order that America was once based upon: "Students are taught a definition of reality that makes an absolute distinction between facts and values. Facts are the province of science and business while values are the province of religion. Facts are propositions; values are preferences. Fact language includes economics. Values language includes ethics. Students graduate with an unshakable faith that using moral language even remotely hinting at faith has no place in the workplace."

One result of this mindset is "our current economic crisis" caused by managers who could not see beyond their "own narrow ambitions" -- as evidenced by the scandals and economic meltdowns at Enron, Worldcom, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, etc.

Metzker sees one glimmer of hope: 20% of 2009 graduates from the Harvard Business School have voluntarily signed "the M.B.A. Oath" in which they pledge to "serve the greater good" and to "act responsibly, ethically, and refrain from advancing their own narrow ambitions at the expense of others." 

However, my reaction was one of dismay since only 20% were willing to sign the pledge. Seems to me that such a step should be required for all college graduates, regardless of their major. Restoring the sense of what we ought to do -- based on Judeo-Christian ethics -- is critical if we want to turn America back from her current self-destructive path.

(Image courtesy of IMDb and MPTV)

May the Force be with him

StarWarsIV I don't know why I, a longtime resident of the D.C. area, never heard about Sen. Tom Coburn's "famous Star Wars-themed STD presentation [to Capitol Hill interns] in 2005," but I feel gypped.

At any rate, I hope the Senate Ethics Committee can get this dispute regarding these lectures (over pizza!?) resolved pretty soon. Coburn knows his stuff, and the information he has to share just might save lives.

(Image © Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century-Fox)

Redeeming fiction

My Sisters Keeper Mary DeMuth has a really good article in the current issue of BreakPoint WorldView Magazine on how fiction can bolster our faith, make us think about eternal truths, and generally be in step with a Christian approach to life. Mary just happens to be one of those rare individuals who can successfully write both fiction and nonfiction. I have a copy of her novel Daisy Chain on my reading pile right now and can't wait to get to it. 

I thought about this topic of fiction's impact last night as I finished up a Jodi Picoult novel, Perfect Match. The story involves a parent who kills the man she believes has molested her young son. Picoult manages to walk the reader through the process of thinking about whether something could be morally just and legally wrong at the same time without coming off as preachy and while resisting the temptation to spoon feed the answers. She does this by using a lot of first person narrative and showing her characters wrestling with their decisions.

I picked up Perfect Match because my library didn't have Picoult's book My Sister's Keeper, which is hitting the big screen later this month. My Sister's Keeper tells the story of a girl who was genetically engineered to donate any number of possible things (platelets, bone marrow, a kidney) to her older sister who is battling cancer. It looks like a tear-jerker of a movie, but it also looks like the kind of story that will find moviegoers leaving the theater to find a good restaurant where they can sit and talk for hours about ethics and family and love.

And that, to me, seems to suggest another reason why fiction is important. Imagine debating the topic of medical ethics with your neighbor or co-worker or friend who rejects the notion of a just and good God. Now, imagine how that conversation might be different after reading a book like My Sister's Keeper in your neighborhood book club, or watching the movie with a group of friends.

(Image © Simon and Schuster)

June 15, 2009

Round up the usual suspects

Liberal columnist and talk-show host Bonnie Erbe suggests that we "round up" purveyors of hate speech before they cause violence:

Not only have we had three hate crime murders within the last two weeks ([Stephen] Johns, as noted above, Dr. George Tiller a week ago last Sunday, and Pvt. William Andrew Long by an American-born Muslim convert outside a recruiting station just before that.)

Now we have this quote from the so-called Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who used to be President Obama's pastor. Hate comes from among all peoples and all religions. He said this about his lack of communication with Barack Obama since he's been elected president, according to the AP:

"Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office," Wright told the Daily Press of Newport News following a Tuesday night sermon at the 95th annual Hampton University Ministers' Conference.

It's not enough to prosecute these murders as murders. They are hate-motivated crimes and each of these men had been under some sort of police surveillance prior to their actions. Isn't it time we started rounding up promoters of hate before they kill?

I've been as sickened and disturbed as anyone by the incidents Erbe describes, as you all know, but I wonder if she's thought this through. "Round them up" and then do . . . what? Put them in jail for thoughtcrime? I thought that sort of thing went against everything that the left held dear. (If you'd told me back during the presidential campaign, when we were all being told to pay no attention to the man behind the pulpit, that a prominent liberal journalist would soon advocate his arrest, I'd have done a spit-take all over my keyboard.)

We need to take steps against the encouragement of violence in our society; there's no question about that. But the steps Erbe advocates would lead us in a very dangerous direction.

June 09, 2009

Daily roundup

June 08, 2009

Daily roundup

Some Devilish Thoughts on Stem Cells

You will recall my mention of a menacing piece of correspondence from Down Under—way Under, which recently came to my attention. What follows is another dispatch that has surfaced, bearing the scrawlings of that hellish mystagogue . . .

Dear Swillpit,

Your latest report on the American front contained an item that is sure to be a watershed for our cause: the government funding of embryo destruction. It seems their decision makers really believe that it’s all in the interest of noble medical goals. Give rein to their folly. Later, we will have an eternity enjoying their shock at how they were played like a hand of rummy.

The quotes in the press clippings you included were particularly stirring. Statements like, we will be guided by “scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” and our decisions need to be “based on the recommendations of experts and scientists outside of politics and religion,” indicate that the guardrails we have been tugging on for centuries are at last, everywhere, crumbling.

Thanks to the efforts of field agents who have been patiently conditioning them with wileful whisperings, I feel that our long-fought outcome is within grasp.

In the not too distant past, the question before them was, “What should be done to improve their lot?” Now, by our incremental influences, they only think in terms of what can be done without regard to whether it should be done. Step by step, we have ushered them along a path which, just a few decades ago, they would have shuddered to look upon, but now course down in full stride! ...

Continue reading here.

June 04, 2009

Daily roundup

June 03, 2009

Daily roundup

Christian Worldview Conversations Can Be Found Almost Anywhere

Drag poster Now I make no recommendation of the new horror movie Drag Me To Hell, owing to its gory violence, dabbling in the occult, and premarital sex references. However, I can say that it was better acted than most films in this genre, with the ability to laugh at itself, while still keeping a few jump-in-your-seat surprises in store throughout.

But what I was most struck by is how it would provide for some teenagers watching the film a springboard into the topic of moral consequences for one's actions.

In the film, Christine (played admirably by Alison Lohman) is a likable young loan officer with a nice, smart boyfriend, Clay (Justin Long). Christine's troubles begin when she is told by her boss that it's her choice as to whether to give a poor old gypsy lady a third extension on her mortgage payment.  

Christine's heart tells her to grant the old lady's request. However, her ambition for the coveted job of assistant bank manager gains the upper hand. Wanting to show her boss that she can make the "tough decisions" necessary for that promotion, she turns the old lady down. Worse, she accidentally humiliates the octogenarian on her way out of the bank, prompting the old lady to curse her.

Continue reading "Christian Worldview Conversations Can Be Found Almost Anywhere" »

Another Feather in Our Cap: Adult Stem Cell Success

Stem cells contact lens While President Obama is busy promising taxpayer money to further embryonic stem cell research, here's another success story about adult stem cell therapy, which causes no harm no foul to tiny human beings. What's really interesting about this story is the secondary benefits of the procedure: 1. It was not expensive; and 2. The trauma of corneal surgery was eliminated.

(Image © Reuters)

How quickly can Sotomayor backpedal?

Rt_sotomayor_leahy_090602_mn Ultimately and completely, Sonia Sotomayor's explanation for her now infamous "wise Latina" remarks are a little hard to believe. Or was she simply implying that a white male judge, ultimately and completely, wouldn't follow the law? I'm confused.

(Image © Jonathan Ernst for Reuters)

May 29, 2009

Daily roundup

May 28, 2009

Daily roundup

May 27, 2009

Daily roundup

May 18, 2009

Obama, Notre Dame, and the tide of history

Obama Notre Dame An interesting feature of President Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame yesterday (transcript here, video here):

The president spoke of the need "to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity -- diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief . . . [to] find a way to live together as one human family." On some subjects, he spoke as though this need to cooperate -- to find "common ground," as he said elsewhere in the speech -- were the highest goal:

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.

But on other subjects, he spoke as if the highest goal were for right to win and wrong to be defeated:

After all, I stand here today, as President and as an African American, on the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Now, Brown was of course the first major step in dismantling the "separate but equal" doctrine, but it would take a number of years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children. There were freedom rides and lunch counters and Billy clubs, and there was also a Civil Rights Commission appointed by President Eisenhower. It was the 12 resolutions recommended by this commission that would ultimately become law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under which category does abortion fall? In the president's mind, it appeared to fall under the first: "When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. . . . That's when we begin to say, 'Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.'" This isn't how he spoke about the freedom rides and the lunch counters and the Billy clubs.

Considering that, at this moment, the tide of popular opinion -- perhaps even the tide of history -- appears to be shifting against Obama and his view of abortion, he may want to rethink that position.

(Image © Nancy Stone for the Chicago Tribune)

May 15, 2009

Macabre Eroticism in the Guise of Education: A Symptom of Decay

Gunthervonhagens_wideweb__470x306,0 (Note: This post contains sexual themes, and the first link below contains explicit pictures and descriptions.)

In the name of artistic and scientific freedom, Gunther von Hagens is filleting human dignity to the bone. His newest "Body Worlds" exhibit shows plastinated human bodies in the throes of sexual intercourse. Necrophilia, once deemed sick and a punishable offense, now seems to be more acceptable.  

Despite not believing in original sin, in his book Heart of Man, Eric Fromm clearly formulates the problem of erotic fascination and lust toward dead bodies: "It is the one answer to life which is in complete opposition to life; it is the most morbid and the most dangerous among the orientations to life of which man is capable. It is true perversion: while being alive, not life but death is loved; not growth but destruction."

In the West, there is an increasingly unhealthy fascination with death, as well as devils and the occult. These obsessions have one thing in common--they deny the life-sustaining love of God. Life without God produces an "earth-sickness of saddening and maddening proportions," writes David Naugle in his book Reordered Love, Reordered Lives.

"Earth-sickness" is plainly evident in our cultural artifacts. After watching a fair amount of television of late, I  am seeing a horrifying trend emerge. Scenes once reserved for R-rated or X-Rated films, are now rated PG and the whole family gather to watch them.

Continue reading "Macabre Eroticism in the Guise of Education: A Symptom of Decay" »

May 14, 2009

Anyone Watching ’Castle’?

Castle As much as I like Nathan Fillion (sigh, I still miss Firefly), I have not had a chance to watch his new show, Castle. However, according to this reviewer, I'm missing a great show. 

Have any of our Pointificators checked out Castle? If so, is it worth what I'm going to have to pay iTunes to catch up?

(Image © ABC)

May 12, 2009

Abdicating the throne

Prom Being elected Prom King and Queen takes charisma and popularity. One Kansas City high school got a little more out of their prom court. Instead of basking in the glory of their teen moment, the Prom King and Queen at Blue Springs High School took off their crowns and presented them to two classmates with special needs. 

It's nice to see some royals acting with nobility for a change.

(Image courtesy of NBC)

May 11, 2009

Farewell to a friend

U.S. News & World Report has excerpts from Chuck's eulogy for Jack Kemp.

Update: A video of Chuck's eulogy is now available on the main BreakPoint site.

May 08, 2009

Daily roundup

April 29, 2009

Europe Syndrome

What's happening? Call it the Europe syndrome. Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase "a life well-lived" did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

~ Charles Murray, The 2009 Irving Kristol Lecture, March 12, 2009

Author and political scientist Charles Murray recently delivered the address at the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner. His talk was entitled "The Happiness of the People" and is posted on AEI's website.

Murray's lecture is a great worldview read. What he calls the "Europe Syndrome" is a way of thinking ... in other words, a worldview. Though Murray admires Europe in some ways, he unpacks some of the core beliefs of the modern worldview that has shaped Western Europe -- a worldview that is spreading like the swine flu among many of America's elites and current leaders. Murray describes a core belief of this worldview in the following way.

Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

Government's job, therefore, is to minimize unpleasantness so that we can while away the intervening time between our activation and deactivation. European-style social democracies are quite successful toward this end. This line of thinking also explains current European trends such as below-replacement birthrates, increased leisure time, fewer hours spent working, and lots of beautiful but empty cathedrals and churches.

Continue reading "Europe Syndrome" »

April 27, 2009

Daily roundup

April 24, 2009

20, 50, 120: How Many Siblings Do You Have?

Basketofbabies2 In the sixteenth century, members of the Hapsburg dynasty suffered deformities and severe and deadly health problems which were preventable. Trying to hoard the throne, members of the Hapsburg clan had intermarried. These incestuous relationships caused genetic malformations. 

One would reason that in our enlightened era of medical advances, we would not be confronted with the same problems which plagued the incestuous Hapsburg dynasty, but I wouldn’t be so sure. 

Fertility clinics are impregnating an excessive number of women with sperm from a single donor. Wendy Kramer used artificial insemination and brought to term a bouncing baby boy. She was curious to see if her child, Ryan, had any half-brothers or sisters. What Ms. Kramer found out horrified her—Ryan has at least 120 siblings.

So be careful who you fall in love with, because you the person you are with just might be a half-sibling. Ryan’s biological father, by far, is not the only one who has an inordinate number of descendants. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but yearly estimates are staggering. Elizabeth Marquardt from the Institute of American Values says there are anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 children conceived via sperm donation. A portentous vision of the near future looms, in which applications for marriage certificates (that is, if marriage as an institution isn’t redefined into extinction) will include a line for the donor’s number.

Continue reading "20, 50, 120: How Many Siblings Do You Have?" »

April 23, 2009

What the HECK?

Baby shaking At some level, I understand why some people like to play violent shoot-'em-up video games. Even though I usually don't like it, I get it. But WHAT was supposed to be the point of this?

(Image © Sikalosoft/Apple, which should be darned well ashamed of themselves)

April 21, 2009

School Girl Told to Choose: Country or Parents

(Adapted from my original post at The Living Rice).

This story from CNN caught my attention. A Filipino family is making news in Japan because of immigration matters that left a 13-year-old girl separated from her parents.

The parents of Noriko Calderon have been deported back to the Philippines for entering and working in Japan illegally. Noriko was asked to choose between her parents and the country she considers her home. Part of me feels bad that this has to end this way. This could be very traumatizing for a 13 year old. However, part of me also feels that somehow, justice has been served for the parents who have broken serious immigration laws in Japan. They should have known that their actions and disobedience to the law have consequences. I somehow know how they feel because a few years back my family faced a similar tight spot with my wife’s U.S. immigration status. It was a tough decision, but we decided abiding by immigration laws is God's best for our family, rather than violating them.

In the U.S., there may be as many as 20 million illegal immigrants today, and many families may be in the same ethical dilemma and threatened with separation. Is there a balance between showing compassion to “aliens and strangers in our midst” and upholding the rule of law in immigration? If you were to propose a solution, what would it be?

The nature of the choice

Trig Palin I wondered when something like this was coming. Didn't take long.

I respect Palin's decision not to "make it all go away." She describes her doubts about whether she had the fortitude and patience to cope with a child with Down syndrome, and, with the force of a mother's fierce love, the special blessing that Trig has brought to her life. She speaks as someone who is confident that she made the correct choice.

For her. In fact, the overwhelming majority of couples choose to terminate pregnancies when prenatal testing shows severe abnormalities. In cases of Down syndrome, the abortion rate is as high as 90 percent. 

For the crowd listening to her at last week's dinner, Palin's disclosure served the comfortable role of moral reinforcement: She wavered in her faith, was tempted to sin, regained her strength and emerged better for it. 

As for those us less certain that we know, or are equipped to instruct others, when life begins and when it is permissible to terminate a pregnancy, Palin's speech offered a different lesson: Abortion is a personal issue and a personal choice. The government has no business taking that difficult decision away from those who must live with the consequences.

Alas for Ruth Marcus, the Post unwittingly undermined her argument by running the picture above with her article. When the choice is between a living, breathing, beautiful baby and, well, a pile of bloody little body parts, it becomes more difficult to view both choices as morally equivalent.

Continue reading "The nature of the choice" »

April 15, 2009

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April 14, 2009

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Youthful perspective

AIG

Maybe we should send Congress back to fourth grade.

(Image courtesy of AIG)

April 13, 2009

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April 09, 2009

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Posting will be light tomorrow because of Good Friday. Have a blessed Easter weekend!

April 08, 2009

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