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April 07, 2009

Daily roundup

From Whence Morality?

From days of old, mankind has wrestled with the question of ethics. In ancient Israel, after 50 years of Babylonian captivity had all but erased God’s providence and law from memory, the Jewish community wondered aloud, “How now shall we live?”

The very question presupposes a standard and a purpose. Even the early Greeks, influenced by Plato and Aristotle, believed in a purpose-driven ethic—a universal ideal of “goodness” that could be known and to which all men should strive.

...A while back, I discussed this very issue with a fellow named Bob in an online exchange. Bob is a rising star in the Brights’ movement—a network of free thinkers who embrace a worldview “free of supernatural and mystical elements.” Notable luminaries in the movement include the likes of Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett.

Our dialog began after Bob read an article I wrote expressing cynicism about the moral “wholesomeness”—a term the Brights fondly use to describe their worldview—of philosophical naturalism. Continue reading here.

The right to a conscience

As you may have heard, President Obama is planning to get rid of the Bush administration's regulations protecting the conscience rights of health care workers. HHS is accepting comments from the public about this proposal. The deadline is April 9, so if you want to make your opinion heard, make sure you do it as soon as possible. You can go directly here, or send your comments through Family Research Council using some or all of their suggested language.

April 03, 2009

What would Jesus walk on?

Ecopalm_247 The green movement has hit the second greenest Christian celebration, Palm Sunday, when fronds of green palm branches are waved by children and adults in church services only a few months after all the Christmas (or Chrismon) trees were taken down. This year, in a move that might make the Sleeths happy, a number of churches have gone free-trade with their palm fronds. Spending a few more dollars, they are buying palm fronds through a university project that promises sustainable farming and fair wages.

Gina's post on the Sleeths' book has generated a lot of discussion about the green movement and how (or if) it should intersect with our faith. What do you all think? Is the idea of free trade palms one you'd like to see in your church?

(Image courtesy of UMCOR/Lutheran World Relief)

And the winner is . . .

Today's Captain Louis Renault Award goes to the President of the United States, for the following:

Obama has said, "I think it's important to engage your critics ... because not only will you occasionally change their mind but, more importantly, sometimes they will change your mind," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs recounted to The Post's Lois Romano in an interview Wednesday. 

But while the online question portion of the White House town hall was open to any member of the public with an Internet connection, the five fully identified questioners called on randomly by the president in the East Room were anything but a diverse lot. They included: a member of the pro-Obama Service Employees International Union, a member of the Democratic National Committee who campaigned for Obama among Hispanics during the primary; a former Democratic candidate for Virginia state delegate who endorsed Obama last fall in an op-ed in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star; and a Virginia businessman who was a donor to Obama's campaign in 2008.

April 02, 2009

Daily roundup

’Is USA heading for a "post-Christian" culture?’

Jonathan Edwards The above is the title of an article in USA Today discussing Albert Mohler's column "The Eclipse of Christian Memory."

Mohler is concerned by the decline of Christianity in New England. Though "Christianity once formed the worldview of New England," today it has become the new hotbed for legalizing same-sex marriages. Secularism seems to be taking over this entire area of the country.

Mohler concludes by stating that "we need a new generation of Christians who, like Jonathan Edwards, will bring the Gospel anew to New England."

USA Today asks, "Do you think moving toward a post-Christian culture is a bad or good direction?"

Looking at the condition of the country today with the Madoff scandal, banking crisis, real estate mortgage meltdown, and other scandals, I can't see how anyone can say that moving away from Christianity and its beliefs is a good thing. 

What do you think?

(Image courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery)

Unhappy about your abortion?

Well, quit whining and get real, says Bonnie Erbe

Feeding and raising children is expensive. Tuition may be free at public schools but there are still books, transportation, food, clothes, medical care and activities that add up -- way up. One may assume this family of five is struggling just to maintain its basics: housing and food. Add one more child and those costs rise as income drops. It's no tragedy: it's a good decision. The decision benefits society in two ways. It allows the couple to focus more time, energy and resources on their three children, giving each child a better life and a better chance of growing up to become a contributor to society. It also reduces the chance the family will have to rely on scarce public resources to raise their children. 

Abortion was not viewed as a tragic event in the early days after the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on a national scale. A tough decision: you bet. An unpleasant process: that, too. But it was not something women whined about publicly on the scale many seem to now. Nor was it covered by the media or promoted by pro-choice politicians in "woe is me" terms.

(H/T The Corner)

April 01, 2009

Daily roundup

March 31, 2009

Daily roundup

March 30, 2009

Immunized against Idiocy

Check out this delightful refutation from the Clapham Institute of a new, and ridiculous, claim being made in a recent IBM ad -- that "math is the only language all human beings share."

March 27, 2009

Breaking: George Tiller acquitted

Abortionist George Tiller has been found not guilty on nineteen counts of performing illegal late-term abortions. LifeNews has details.

March 26, 2009

Daily roundup

March 23, 2009

They were expendable

Knowing The following contains extensive spoilers about the recent films Watchmen and Knowing, so I'm going to put almost the entire post under the jump. Proceed at your own risk!

Continue reading "They were expendable" »

March 19, 2009

Daily roundup

Not in my womb

Eggs This is where the Brave New World has brought us: You can abort a child who's not even your own.

(Image courtesy of Slate)

Who’s outraged now?

There is something decidedly disingenuous about proclaiming yourself outraged at the bonuses given to AIG employees when your own political campaign took contributions from the corporation even after the first bailout. If certain Washingtonians (see ABC's partial list here) don't cough up that money, I suggest they stay mum about the whole AIG debacle or we may have to add them to the Captain Louis Renault Award nomination list.

March 18, 2009

Daily roundup

March 17, 2009

Daily roundup

’Unwind’ and the imagination

Unwind As I was looking at one of my favorite book blogs recently, my eye was caught by this review of Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

Generations from now, after the Heartland War, life is protected from the moment of conception until age thirteen.  Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, the parents or guardians of the now-teenaged child have the option to "unwind" -- to retroactively abort -- him or her.  If the parents choose to do so, the teen is sent to a harvesting facility where their body is taken apart and reused. . . .

Unwind was outstanding.  Really freaking outstanding.

I was impressed by, well, everything.  It deals with abortion without ever ever ever feeling preachy -- I didn't once feel that Neal Shusterman revealed his opinion on the issue.  It was action-packed and exciting (I read the last few chapters with my heart in my throat) yet that there was so much to think about -- the characters have conversations about the soul, whether it exists and where it is, and about when life begins.  There are things that can be interpreted in different ways -- some people will attribute those events to science whereas some may attribute the same events to something less tangible. 

The three major characters have distinct personalities, and the character development (especially of the two boys) is very well done and the secondary characters never blend together or into the background.  The unwinding scene is as stomach-turning as anything I've ever read by Stephen King, but without being graphic or gory.  While exploring different visions of our future world, I look for a couple of things beyond the future-stuff:  to see enough of the familiar to make it still seem like our world and to see how our language and stories have evolved.  In Unwind, I found both.

Continue reading "’Unwind’ and the imagination" »

The United States of Me

Remember the classic elementary school short story about "The Man Without a Country?" Well, this guy took things a step further, claiming that he is his own country. I have a feeling the traffic court judge isn't going to accept that argument.

As my brother, who sent me the link, pointed out, this is what happens when we believe truth is relative.

March 11, 2009

Recession Means Schizophrenic Crime Trends

You're either safer than you've ever been ... or in more danger than ever.

A recent headline in the Las Vegas Review Journal: "Official says recession puts dent in crime."

Nevada's corrections director is claiming that the recession deserves a pat on the back for a recent slump in the state's crime rates. Apparently, financial crises make people stay home more, reducing the number of potential victims on the streets. Add to that the number of unemployed parents who now cast a keener watchful eye on their trouble-making youth. Nevada is so convinced that crime is on the "down and down" that they're reevaluating their prison plans.

Over in Idaho, the opposite seems to be true, as claimed by this Fox News report: "'Recession Crime' Increasing in Idaho." Here, shoplifting is on the rise as money troubles make more fingers sticky.

It's probably much too early to predict which trend will become the norm, if either. Richard Rosenfeld, a sociologist at University of Missouri-St. Louis, said that there can be a year-long lag between economic change and crime rates.

So, Idaho criminals + peace-loving Nevadans - one-year lag time = correlation between economy and crime rates?

How about this formula instead: fear + crime + unpredictability = human nature.

March 10, 2009

Daily roundup

Dogma must direct science

Stem-cell-9 As we discussed yesterday, in the name of removing ideological pressure from science and technology policy decisions, the President has lifted the ban on federal funding of research on stem cells derived from human embryos. But Obama's ambitions are futile. By ignoring the concerns of those who oppose this line of research, Obama is just showing he abides by a different set of moral principles -- pragmatism and progress -- not that he has freed science from all principles. 

The goals of science and the methods used to achieve those goals will always be driven and directed by values. A utilitarian view of human life will naturally lead to one set of practices while belief in the sanctity of life will result in another. And, if we claim to despise such atrocities as the Nazis' scientific experimentation on people they considered sub-human, we had best pay careful attention to which dogma we cherish.

(Image © University of Wisconsin)

March 09, 2009

Why do you open the other door, then?

StemCell-030909-2 Obama today:

"We will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society."

Agreed.

But when the only difference (see page 4 here) between cloning human embryos for research and cloning human embryos for reproduction is that the living embryo in the latter scenario actually gets to stay alive--well, any comfort Obama's promise gives me is utterly reversed.

(Image © RTTNews)

More on embryonic stem cells

Yesterday, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, debated Dr. Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, over what Charmaine calls "the research of the past." Take a look.

March 04, 2009

Daily roundup

Surely left and right can agree on THIS item....

Baby_girls_face-spl-1 I can't help but hope that this BBC news item will make both left and right readers of The Point recoil in horror. Let's hope so. Of course, we could hear the old strains of logic from freedom lovers on the right who say the law should leave people alone, or an extension of the lefty reasoning that what a woman does with her own body is entirely her own business.

I'm still banking that all but the tattered fringe on either side will go for recoiling. After all, this is technology that Hitler and Himmler might have found appealing. What do you think?

(WORLD has more here.)

(Image courtesy of the BBC)

March 03, 2009

Daily roundup

February 27, 2009

Daily roundup

Of chimps and men

Chimp Even though a certain segment of the population happily spent eight years comparing President Bush to a chimp, making such human/monkey comparisons suddenly has become a very naughty thing to do. As you may have heard, the New York Post recently published a cartoon that drew parallels between the economic stimulus plan and the chimp who went on a rampage and mauled a woman. Although the cartoon chimp showed no signs of being a direct representation of President Obama, this cartoon was taken by many as a racial insult. (There's an interesting conversation about this going on at Ed Gilbreath's Reconciliation Blog.) The scandal prompted a breathtaking display of obtuseness on the part of cartoonist Ted Rall -- who blogs at the Smirking Chimp blog (named "in dishonor of [Bush]") and who perpetrated this little gem of racism -- who declared himself a moral authority in these matters.

Of course the comparing of racial minorities to animals has a long and shameful history. (Thanks, Mr. Darwin!) That's why many made the leap that they made in viewing the cartoon, even though I sincerely doubt that any such meaning was intended.

But I think this controversy should get us thinking in broader terms about the way we talk about our fellow human beings, black or white. And along those lines, here’s a question to ponder: In recent years, as we're often reminded, we’ve found out that we and chimps have 99 percent of our DNA "identical in regions that we both share," as Regis wrote. So why are we still propagating negative stereotypes about our simian cousins? (The Washington Post has now apologized for running a chimp cartoon that had no racial implications at all!) Why aren’t we embracing them instead? Are we going to get all high and mighty over 1 measly percent?

Or is it possible that it really does make a difference after all?

February 25, 2009

Busted!

Temp_gavin In these days of officials committing ethical violations left and right, you gotta love a headline that reads, "[San Francisco's] Mayor Caught with Bottled Water!"

Lileks handles the non-story nicely:

This sums up with exquisite precision the people we elect to guide our institutions: 

Fix on something small and symbolic, and demonize it;

Propose a response that does little to address the fundamental problem;

Forbid the thing to others;

Reserve its use for yourself;

Adopt a penitent tone when caught which underscores the hypocrisy and makes you look like a dweeb for apologizing for something which, while petty, you have infused with moral failings. 

(Image © Newsom for California)

February 24, 2009

Daily roundup

Charles Dickens, unsung Nostradamus

Mrmerdle While Gina has been reviving Dickens mania over at her blog, I've been plowing through 830+ pages of Little Dorrit. Having finished only the night before last (instead of watching the self-adulation of the Oscars), I, like Gina, am now anxiously awaiting the PBS airing of the new production of this tome.

Dickens could have been writing about our own current events in the final chapters of Little Dorrit. See if these words, written of his fictional character Mr. Merdle (a man who inspired the confidence and investments of others, investments that were sure to pay off, until of course they didn't), don't remind you of a certain Mr. Madoff or Mr. Stanford:

Numbers of men in every profession and trade would be blighted by his insolvency; old people who had been in easy circumstances all their lives would have no place of repentance for their trust in him but the workhouse; legions of women and children would have their whole future desolated by the hand of this mighty scoundrel. Every partaker of his magnificent feasts would be seen to have been a sharer in the plunder of innumerable homes; every servile worshipper of riches who had helped to set him on his pedestal, would have done better to worship the Devil point-blank...For, by that time it was known that the late Mr. Merdle...was simply the greatest Forger and the greatest Thief that ever cheated the gallows.

(Image © BBC One)

February 20, 2009

Shoddy Science Used to Convict

Crimelab A report published by the National Academy of Sciences this week is devastating to the current practices of forensic science that are routinely used to convict across the United States.

It turns out that these methods, including fingerprinting, bite mark identification, and ballistics, are not reliable; practitioners testifying in court have little scientific basis for claiming they are accurate. These "experts" have essentially bootstrapped their hunches into accepted testimony by mutually agreeing that their methods work. And on the basis of their testimony, thousands of people have been convicted and some executed.

In addition, some police labs have had to be closed because they were not even running the tests but merely reporting the results that would help convict the person the police had chosen as the perpetrator. These scandals in crime labs involve hundreds of tainted cases handled by police agencies in Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia, and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At least 10 wrongly convicted men have been exonerated as a result of those laboratory investigations, and the cases of hundreds of other people convicted with the help of those facilities are under review.

For more on wrongful convictions, see Justice Fellowship’s Protecting the Innocent Resource Page.

(Image © Gothamist)

February 18, 2009

Surrounded!

Unite1 Glenn Beck recently joined the Fox News network and has a show at 5:00 pm Eastern time. Last week he began something new that he calls We Surround Them.

He is trying to counter the idea that conservatism and conservative ideas are not part of the American discussion. In fact, he is of the opinion that the majority of Americans have conservative values, and we need to let our voices be heard.

As you can see at the link, Beck focuses on principles involving faith, patriotism, honesty, and justice, and values including hope, thrift, charity, humility, courage, and personal responsibility.

I'm not sure what this is leading to, but I sense that maybe something positive is happening here. What do you think?

(Image © Fox News Channel)

February 16, 2009

Daily roundup

February 13, 2009

Devilish thoughts on abortion

Pitchfork It has been nearly 70 years since C. S. Lewis made public a mysterious correspondence that became known as The Screwtape Letters. The “letters” contained advice, instructions, and warnings from a senior demon to a junior demon about the handling of an earthling in his “care.”

As disclosed in the last of the letters, Wormwood, the pupil, failed his commission. He has never been heard from again. It has been noted that his disappearance had some connection with a ravenous meal Screwtape, the tutor, enjoyed sometime shortly thereafter.

Recently, new correspondence has come to light that bears eerie similarity. With moist palms and brow, I share it with you now...

February 11, 2009

Daily roundup

February 10, 2009

Our Deep-Rooted Need

Here's a good follow-up to my earlier piece "Off with His Head." Philosopher Roger Scruton warns us that unless we add "heart" to our civilization, the West will cease to be.  

Scruton says that Western civilization will fail because mere "citizenship is not enough" to sustain a culture. Prior generations slowly stopped transmitting the West's rich cultural heritage to succeeding generations. But it takes more than mere citizenship to keep a civilization alive. We have a "deep-rooted human need for social membership" -- and something else.   

February 09, 2009

Daily roundup

February 05, 2009

Daily roundup

February 04, 2009

Daily roundup

February 03, 2009

Daily roundup

Basic English

I get that emotions are running high over the octuplets story. If the rumors about the family's circumstances and the number of embryos implanted are true -- which we don't know yet, as many stories that I've seen appear to be based on cocktail party gossip from the neighbor's cousin's cat's roommate -- both the mother and the doctors acted irresponsibly and unethically.

Nonetheless, I could really, really, REALLY do without hearing the babies called a "litter." The term has been scattered freely about many of the sites and message boards I visit -- especially those sites and boards dominated by those of the "tolerant" liberal persuasion.

It's basic English, people: Dogs have litters. Humans do not have litters. Are we all clear? Good. These babies have enough strikes against them right now. They don't need their human dignity stripped away on top of everything else.

February 02, 2009

Daily roundup

January 27, 2009

Daily roundup