Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Natural Born Rock Bomber

Rock Bomber = The name my 3 year old young nephew used when identifying Barack Obama. I liked the ring it had to it, like a bad old AC/DC song, so I think I'll be calling him the Rock Bomber from now on.

Onto the topic. In the context of some comments on another blog I read, I asked this question about a particular potential scenario in this election.

* Obama gets elected.
* Some kind of incontrovertible evidence that he was born elsewhere - a country other than the U.S. - comes out.
* What happens now? Does he get removed? By who? Who replaces him? I assume there's not a re-vote is there?

I was directed by a commenter on the thread to an essay written by a Constitutional Attorney and professor who holds four degrees from Harvard: A.B. (Harvard College), A.M. and Ph.D. (Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), and J.D. (Harvard Law School) , OBAMA MUST STAND UP NOW OR STEP DOWN. I highly recommend giving it a read. Here are some of the most interesting parts, taken from the list of consequences if this scenario actually occurred:

First, if Obama is not “a natural born Citizen” or has renounced such citizenship, he is simply not eligible for “the Office of President” (Article II, Section 1, Clause 4). That being so, he cannot be “elected” by the voters, by the Electoral College, or by the House of Representatives (see Amendment XII). For neither the voters, nor the Electors, nor Members of the House can change the constitutional requirement, even by unanimous vote inter sese (see Article V). If, nonetheless, the voters, the Electors, or the Members of the House purport to “elect” Obama, he will be nothing but an usurper, because the Constitution defines him as such. And he can never become anything else, because an usurper cannot gain legitimacy if even all of the country aid, abets, accedes to, or acquiesces in his usurpation.

Fourth, if he turns out to be nothing but an usurper acting in the guise of “the President,” Obama will not constitutionally be the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States” (see Article II, Section 2, Clause 1). Therefore, he will be entitled to no obedience whatsoever from anyone in those forces. Indeed, for officers or men to follow any of his purported “orders” will constitute a serious breach of military discipline—and in extreme circumstances perhaps even “war crimes.” In addition, no one in any civilian agency in the Executive Branch of the General Government will be required to put into effect any of Obama’s purported “proclamations,” “executive orders,” or “directives.”

Sixth, and perhaps most importantly, Congress can pass no law while an usurper pretends to occupy “the Office of President.” The Constitution provides that “[e]very Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States” (Article I, Section 7, Clause 2). Not to an usurper posturing as “the President of the United States,” but to the true and rightful President. If no such true and rightful President occupies the White House, no “Bill” will or can, “before it become a Law, be presented to [him].” If no “Bill” is so presented, no “Bill” will or can become a “Law.” And any purported “Law” that the usurper “approve[s]” and “sign[s],” or that Congress passes over the usurper’s “Objections,” will be a nullity. Thus, if Obama deceitfully “enters office” as an usurper, Congress will be rendered effectively impotent for as long as it acquiesces in his pretenses as “President.”

Seventh, if Obama does become an usurper posturing as “the President,” Congress cannot even impeach him because, not being the actual President, he cannot be “removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (see Article II, Section 4). In that case, some other public officials would have to arrest him—with physical force, if he would not go along quietly—in order to prevent him from continuing his imposture. Obviously, this could possibly lead to armed conflicts within the General Government itself, or among the States and the people.

Eighth, even if something approaching civil war did not eventuate from Obama’s hypothetical usurpation, if the Establishment allowed Obama to pretend to be “the President,” and the people acquiesced in that charade, just about everything that was done during his faux “tenure in office” by anyone connected with the Executive Branch of the General Government, and quite a bit done by the Legislative Branch and perhaps the Judicial Branch as well, would be arguably illegitimate and subject to being overturned when a constitutional President was finally installed in office. The potential for chaos, both domestically and internationally, arising out of this systemic uncertainty is breathtaking.

If nothing else I'd recommend reading the entire list of potential consequences, 1-8. Interesting stuff. That would be high comedy - albeit potentially disastrous - indeed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Illusion of Choice Plan

In light of the current presidential campaign and the outspoken desires of both candidates, I thought of a way to get both men running on the same page when it comes to healthcare. First, some context to build my Illusion of Choice Plan upon.

"I think health care should be a right for every American."

"As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes -- at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those -- be able to make those payments and stay in their homes."

So, here's the plan. Instead of being responsible and either securing health insurance or paying your medical bills, people should just take out mortgages and pay their medical bills with the mortgage money. Then, folks can just not pay their medical mortgage and the government can buy them up. All is well, everyone - both Obama and McCain - is happy. The government can rosily and magically pay off everyone's obligations. And by pay off, I of course mean take from someone and give to someone else, since the government is not a producer of anything and is impotent in and of itself when it comes to being able to forgive debt and/or pay off anything.

So, The Illusion of Choice Plan is an option, or you can do what's best for individuals and individual liberty - you know, that whole concept that made this country so unique and good in the first place - and vote for Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. Other acceptable votes would be for Alan Keyes of the Independent Party, Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party or you could write in Ron Paul.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The bailout passed - and it sucks

This post isn't going to contain any particularly insightful information that you couldn't get somewhere else. I just wanted to be another voice out there on the internets expressing my frustration and dismay that this kind of crazy, criminal, evil theft is possible.

Here's the list of those who were explicitly acting in an wrong manner or were too cowardly to do the right thing. Those from both parties who did the right thing are also listed. Props to the folks from Kansas (my home state).


Thursday, August 14, 2008

To Serve and Protect - and Protect

A two part post based on a few things of interest to me that I saw on the local news recently.

Part 1: To Serve and Protect

This story about the Denver cops completely losing control and beating the tar out of some guy in front of Coors Field on opening day was more than a bit bothersome, particularly because of their attitude and what they had to say when onlookers instinctively tried to come to the aid of the man getting beaten. I like to think I'm pretty even keel when it comes to my thoughts and views about policemen. I appreciate the difficulty of the work they are required to do and respect the ones who are good at it but crap like this is just appalling and unacceptable. Seriously, imagine what kind of time any normal civilian would be looking at if he assaulted someone like these cops did. I'm going to make an effort to follow this story a bit. I'll be very disgusted if some kind of serious penalty is not dealt out to the cops involved. Anyone have any thoughts about what a fair punishment is for the cops involved in this incident?

Part 2: and Protect

On the same newscast that the 'cops beating the hell out of a guy' story ran, they were talking about how the Secret Service will be posting snipers on multiple (unnamed) buildings downtown and around the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field as a measure in the effort to protect Obama when he's in Denver. I found a story in the Post about this where it says they requested an additional $9.5 million in order to cover unexpected costs of protecting both presidential candidates. My question here is, why does the Secret Service protect people who are are not yet presidents (or ex-presidents)? What I'm really getting at is, why are tax payers responsible for the protection of someone they have not elected (yet)? Is there some constitutional amendment or law or court ruling that exists that gives the powers that be some warrant for simply throwing money (to the tune of $9.5 million) at situations like this? Or are the people holding the purse strings just arbitrarily assuming the power and authority to spend money in this manner?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Go Ahead and Kill Him

"If you don't come with me, bad things are going to happen."

Bengtsson drove her in her mother's car to the motel, where he took her into a room, locked the door behind them and barricaded it with chairs, police said. Then he gave her two options: She could kill him or have sex with him, police said. She refused and he raped her, documents said.

So, obviously - the best option here is to teach your child that no matter what, she needs to NOT go with the dude and instead scream, alerting mom and dad so they can do their thing. It is not her fault if he hurts someone in the family because of what she did, nor is it her responsibility to protect everyone - it is her parents.

That being said, I'd like to be sure I instill the will and ability in my daughter to go ahead and kill the guy, guilt free, if he puts that offer on the table.

People are evil.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reasonable Faith

I just finished reading the book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics written by William Lane Craig. It's not a particularly new work, the original copyright date was 1984 - it's been revised and updated a few times since then. Since my atheist friends put a few intellectual stones in my shoe regarding my faith some time ago, I've been navigating my way around the world of Christian Apologetics. I've read a good bit, and have a lot more reading to do. I stumbled upon Craig both by word of mouth from some other friends and had read about him and his organization (named Reasonable Faith as well) at numerous places online. The word is that this guy is supposed to be one of the heavy hitters in the world of Christian Apologetics and this book is his landmark work.

One thing I can say about him is that if you're the kind (like me) who can be a bit turned off by the 'pop debates' that have been out there between Christians and Atheists (I'm thinking in the vein of D'Souza vs. Hitchens here) and are looking for a bit more respectful interaction, deeper subject matter, and less mud slinging, I'd suggest reading or listening to debates Craig has had with numerous atheists. IMHO, he and his opponents are usually on a higher playing field the pop debaters I've seen. Unsurprisingly, this book was the same in this sense.

I've talked to people (both Christian and atheist) who are turned off by authors like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. I've read some stuff Strobel has written and haven't read anything by McDowell. I would guess that the people I've talked to are turned off by this type of author and style of writing because of its lowest common denominator approach. Put simply, books by these types of apologists are usually written for the layman. Because of this, many arguments being put forth are simply not as sophisticated as they are in other circles and shortcuts are often taken for the author to get where he's going. To be clear, I think these types of books and authors have their place and are not worthless. But, if you're craving is for something more in depth where arguments on both sides are developed more thoroughly and with more academic rigor, they are probably not for you.

So, Reasonable Faith... what kind of apologetic work is this? It's the other kind. The kind where the academic depth, rigor and thoroughness leads to the book not being the best kind for reading late at night when you're tired. This is usually when I read the most, late at night, after the kids are in bed, and because of the nature of this work, I found myself having to reread sections many times, just because the text requires such focus and attention.

The book was very good, although like I said it is the kind of thing that I wasn't able to just read casually right before bed when I was already very tired. After reading a book like this, I can honestly not understand the accusation I've heard leveled at Christians many a time that they are irrational for even thinking Christianity could possibly be true as if they have no good reason at all to think it was. It is fair to disagree with some of Craig's (and other Christian's) conclusions, but it is simply not fair to assert that Christians have no epistemic integrity at all when it comes to them thinking Christianity as true.

There were a few issues raised by skeptics on this blog (or in one case, on the blog of one of the commenters here) that are specifically addressed in Reasonable Faith. I'll list those that came to mind here.


An assertion that an "infinite regression doesn't need an end" (or in other words, an actual infinity is possible).
You say god doesn't need a cause, well I reply infinite regression doesn't need an end(as in the universe was created by a big bang, and that was created by another big bang, etc-NO God neccesssary).

The impossibility of this assertion is demonstrated in Chapter 3: The Existence of God.


A question regarding claims Jesus made about himself.
What if Jesus actually said I [like] ham [while sitting in] the Sun [and the eating] of cod and someone just accidentally thought He said, "I am the son of God."

Chapter 6 of this book, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, renders this view unreasonable. Chapter 7, The Self Understanding of Jesus provides more support to show that the view is incorrect.


This question is sufficiently addressed in the 8th chapter, The Resurrection of Jesus. I say 'sufficiently' because the specific question is not addressed. Specifically, the author argues for why to believe the resurrection of Christ actually occurred. This line of reasoning often finds itself engrossed the context of why Christ's contemporaries, the founders of the Christian Church believed it to be true. The short answer to the question is that Christ was resurrected from the dead. The chapter goes into the details of why we ought to think this actually happened.


A chapter I personally found to be quite interesting was the 2nd chapter, The Absurdity of Life Without God. More than anything I would say I was drawn in by the title of it. I'd never considered the notion of applying the word 'absurd' as a description of life if God did not exist. This is available freely as a pdf here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Christians playing chess

An atheist commenter on how the New Atheists are playing chess and Christians are playing checkers.

You see here's how it works. A Christian will say that they will debate the issue using nothing more than reason and logic. With lots of confidence they'll step into the circle.

There is a back and forth but eventually they end up retreating to the land of no logic where certain things don't need to be explained and gullibility is a virtue. Often times they don't get there until they embarrass themselves. The analogy "it's like playing chess with someone who thinks you're playing checkers is a good one."

It makes you wonder why they just don't stay in the land of faith and leave it at that.

I'm sure there are more than these out there, but here are a few resources from some Christians who seem to be quite comfortable and good at taking the likes of Dawkins in his own lofty 'chess playing' venue.

I've blogged on it before, but I'll mention it again. Vox Day, in his book The Irrational Atheist, handily squashes the central argument Dawkins makes in The God Delusion.

Greg Koukl, of the organization Stand to Reason, does a fine job in exploiting the impotence of Dawkins' argument as well.

From the article...

Even if we grant (4) [Dawkins' premise - "The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. The appearance of design is an illusion."] – a highly controversial point, given the amount of contrary evidence – Dawkins only succeeds in showing that the design argument fails. It’s entirely possible that other arguments succeed. Since there is nothing in Richard Dawkins’s line of reasoning that contributes to his conclusion, the central argument of his book is irrational.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chinese family FYI

You will be allowed to replace your child.

Those families [with a child that was killed in the earthquakes] can obtain a certificate to have another child, the Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee in the capital of hard-hit Sichuan province said.

How gracious, they're granting new certificates.

The announcement says that if a child born illegally was killed in the quake, the parents will no longer have to pay fines for that child — but the previously paid fines won't be refunded.

If the couple's legally born child is killed and the couple is left with an illegally born child under the age of 18, that child can be registered as the legal child — an important move that gives the child previously denied rights including free nine years of compulsory education.

What a turd bowl of a place to live.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Surrounded by Crazy People and Terrified

I haven't blogged in a long time and read a few different posts from blogs I subscribe to that struck a chord with me, so I'm getting off the blogging schneid by making one of those posts that don't have a whole lot of substance themselves and only refer to someone else's blog.

VD had a post recently named 'Intellectual maturation' that I found quite enjoyable to read. Let me first make the disclaimer to my atheist friends that read this blog that I'm actually not trying to explicitly push your buttons and piss you off. The short of it is, I liked what Rachel had to say, and I liked what VD had to say about what Rachel had to say (ooph, that makes this post a very shameless and insipid 3rd generation of pointing out what someone else said). If anyone bothers to read VD's and Rachel's posts, it'll be obvious and unsurprising why a Christian would like it... we all like being identified as not stupid and having people agree with us don't we? By the way, the title of this post is what it is because of what Rachel's post has to say.

A snippet from Rachel...

The truth is that I am not exactly seeking salvation or God or anything like that, and frankly if I were, I would not talk about it with virtual strangers at this stage of the game. At this moment, my biggest aim is simply trying to relieve myself of the terrifying feeling I’ve had for years that I live in a society full of and run by people who believe a theology I don’t believe in, and that therefore I am surrounded by crazy people. It’s a bit of cognitive dissonance that I simply couldn’t take anymore.

Is my dad a crazy person? Are 90% of the people who read my blog crazy people? Are most of my friends crazy people? If I think Christianity is crazy, then the only answer to those questions is YES. But it just never added up.

Another post I read recently, 'Atheism and Child Murder' on Dinesh D'Souza's blog made me aware of a prominent atheist I didn't know much at all about, Peter Singer. I'm going to presume that D'Souza wasn't flat out lying or constructing inaccurate and shocking misconstructions and strawmen of some of Singer's arguments and thoughts. I thought I'd post a few of them (Singer's words) here. After getting past the initial shock of what he's saying and trying to ponder it sans the emotion, it falls into the same category as assertions like "The only truth is there are no truths." In other words, it's simply bizarre and annoying that such arguments even need to be addressed... and yet they do.

On how mothers should be permitted to kill their offspring until the age of 28 days:
"My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of twenty-eight days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others."

On why abortion is less morally significant than killing a rat:
"Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or dislike, than a fetus at ten or even thirty-two weeks gestation."

On why pigs, chickens and fish have more rights to life than unborn humans:
"The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy, while if we make the comparison with a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of consciousness."

On why infants aren't normal human beings with rights to life and liberty:
"Characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness...make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ethanol, ADM & the Hoover Institution

I've enjoyed reading columns written by Walter Williams for a few years now. He recently wrote one entitled Big Corn and Ethanol Hoax that I read.

Here are some of the factual highlights from the article. I have not gone to the lengths of checking the facts to see if they're correct or not, I'm just making the point that these are factual claims, not opinions, in order to distinguish them from some more material I will cite later in the post. If anyone who reads this can find issues with the accuracy of his factual claims, I'd love to hear about them.

  • Ethanol contains water that distillation cannot remove. As such, it can cause major damage to automobile engines not specifically designed to burn ethanol.
  • The water content of ethanol also risks pipeline corrosion and thus must be shipped by truck, rail car or barge. These shipping methods are far more expensive than pipelines.
  • Ethanol is 20 to 30 percent less efficient than gasoline, making it more expensive per highway mile.
  • It takes 450 pounds of corn to produce the ethanol to fill one SUV tank. That's enough corn to feed one person for a year.
  • It takes more than one gallon of fossil fuel -- oil and natural gas -- to produce one gallon of ethanol.
  • Ethanol is so costly that it wouldn't make it in a free market. That's why Congress has enacted major ethanol subsidies, about $1.05 to $1.38 a gallon, which is no less than a tax on consumers.
  • Ethanol production has driven up the prices of corn-fed livestock, such as beef, chicken and dairy products, and products made from corn, such as cereals. As a result of higher demand for corn, other grain prices, such as soybean and wheat, have risen dramatically.

Interesting and grim information about ethanol. He goes on to point out that:

The top leader in the ethanol hoax is Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the country's largest producer of ethanol. Ethanol producers and the farm lobby have pressured farm state congressmen into believing that it would be political suicide if they didn't support subsidized ethanol production. That's the stick. Campaign contributions play the role of the carrot.

Now, a portion of this claim is factual in that I assume a person could find the campaign contribution records to show how much and to whom ADM has contributed. The portion of this claim that isn't factually obvious (but still seems reasonable to me) is the interpretation of the motives behind ADM's giving.

Going on... I also enjoy reading columns by Thomas Sowell and Dinesh D'Souza. While reading stuff these two have written, I've noticed several times in passing their bio's always mention that they're both fellows or members of the Hoover Institution. I'd heard of the Hoover Institution enough times, but never knew exactly what it was, so I visited the wikipedia article for it linked to in the previous sentence to find out what it was.

Here's the ironic thing. When reading the wikipedia article, I notice that the Archer Daniels Midland Foundation is on its partial list of recent donors. I find that ironic, and a bit odd because Williams accuses ADM as being the top leader in the ethanol hoax. Being the top leader in this type of scheme does not seem to mesh with the kind of laissez faire economic ideas espoused by folks like Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution.

It is true that Williams, not Sowell, identified ADM as the top leader in this hoax... but it's not a stretch to assume that Sowell, a senior fellow at the HI, would feel the same way about the ethanol situation as Williams does. A person doesn't have to read columns written by those two for very long to find out that they share very similar opinions and philosophies when it comes to economics. Additionally, there's this quote from the wikipedia entry identifying Williams and Sowell as friends.

Since being a graduate student at UCLA, he has been a friend of economist, historian and columnist Thomas Sowell. Correspondence between Sowell and Williams appears in the 2007 by "A Man of Letters" by Sowell.

I just feel like I'm missing something. Why would ADM contribute dollars to an institution that espouses economic ideas and principles that fly directly in the face of the kind of behavior Williams castigates ADM for in his recent article?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Everything That Had a Beginning...

The Cosmological Argument for the existence of God is an odd one to me in that it seems so simple. Some of the evidence behind it is not necessarily all that simple (specifically, the scientific evidence that shows the universe had a beginning and is not an eternally existing thing), but the argument itself and its premises couldn't be simpler. (I'll make the disclaimer if it's not obvious that none of this is my original thoughts... I'd have to give Frank Turek credit for boiling it down to such a communicable level.)

I've tried to imagine for a while what a Devout Atheist would have to say about it, and honestly, for the life of me, I'm actually not quite sure. So, I'd like to ask some of the DA's reading this to tell me what I'm missing.

* Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning.
* Therefore the universe had a cause.

Obviously, everyone knows what a Christian is going to say this cause is.

Let me usurp what I think will probably be the first kind of response by posing it myself.

DA: Well, then who caused (or created) the first cause (or God)?

me: nobody

My answer of 'nobody' explained...

Since something exists (I assume we can agree on this), something must've always existed. For instance, you can't create yourself and you have to exist prior to creating anything. So, using particularly nebulous language, there must me something eternal out there.

That something eternal can be only one of two possible things:

Either the universe itself has always existed...
Or something outside the universe has always existed.

You'll notice this either/or brings us back to the second premise of the argument. I'm assuming we're in agreement about this premise that states the universe had a beginning since modern cosmology and physics has done a splendid job of showing us just that. So, since we know that the universe is not an eternally existing thing in and of itself, it would seem that it must be true that something outside the universe has always existed.

Given that the Book us Christians put so much stock in explicitly defines God as something that did not come to be, something unmade, something eternal that did not have a beginning (which means He didn't need a cause), it would seem like the Christian idea of God fits quite well with what the above logic (combined with the evidence provided by modern cosmology and physics regarding the non-eternalness of our universe) makes apparent.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Is It Rational to Believe in God?

A brief, but precise article addressing the rationality of believing in God. It provides a solid and distilled foundation that makes what atheists and Christians are arguing about nearly as clear as it can be.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Some of Britain's citizens do not relate to her legal system

I've seen this in two separate places now - and am as annoyed as both of the other parties are that someone, particularly a 'Christian leader', would make such a patently idiotic (not to mention completely wrong and immoral) bunch of statements - so I figured I'd mention it here.

Christian leadership - first place I saw it
Multiple Choice Legal Systems? - second place I saw it

So, if sharia law applies to Muslims if they so choose, would a Muslim man responsible for the rape of a non-Muslim woman get to choose to be examined under the lens of sharia law or the standing law of the British land?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day

I ran across this fairly new title because I'm subscribed to the atheismsucks blog. I read the preface... and wow... the guy (a computer game designer, interestingly enough) makes some pretty bold remarks, attention grabbing enough that I think I'll stop at Borders and get it on the way home. The blog provides a link to a free downloadable copy, but I'm not a fan of reading books on pdf, I prefer the real thing. Here's a few of them from the preface... purpose in writing this book is not to defend God, or even to argue for the truth of my particular religious faith. Instead, I intend to defend those who are now being misled into doubting their faith or are fooled into feeling more secure in their lack of faith on the basis of the fraudulent, error-filled writings of these three men. I do not make this triple charge of fraudulence lightly, nor is my doing so a fearful response to their churlish disregard for what to me and millions of other individuals is the central element of human existence.

There is simply no more fitting description of the cerebral snake oil that Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens are selling to the unwary reader—and the media—under the false label of science and reason. I am confident that no one, not even the most purely rational, uber-skeptical agnostic or card-carrying ACLU atheist, will take serious exception to my charge by the time they finish this book.

It took me some time to decide what this book should be titled. Part of the challenge was due to the fact that it addresses the philosophical and ideological arguments of three very different men. If the book were to solely address Sam Harris, I should likely have entitled it The Incompetent Atheist. In the case of Christopher Hitchens, I could have reasonably named it The Irrelevant Atheist. And given the way in which the eminent Richard Dawkins has apparently decided to abandon empirical evidence, the scientific method, and Reason herself in embracing a quasi-medieval philosophical ontology, The Ironic Atheist would surely have been most fitting.

In the end, I settled upon The Irrational Atheist for the following reason. This book is a direct challenge to the idea that atheism is the proper philosophical standard for human reason, that being an atheist is an inherently rational perspective, and that attempting to build a civilized society without religion is a rational object.

This is not a theological work. The text contains no arguments for the existence of God and the supernatural, nor is it concerned with evolution, creationism, the age of Earth, or intelligent design. It contains no arguments from Scripture; in attacking the arguments, assertions, and conclusions of the New Atheists, my only weapons are the purely secular ones of reason, logic, and historically documented, independently verifiable fact. This is not a book about God, it is about those who seek to replace Him.

At first glance, it may seem crazy that a computer game designer, one whose only significant intellectual accomplishment of note is to have once convinced Michelle Malkin to skip an opportunity to promote herself, should dare to dispute an Oxford don, a respected university professor, a famous French philosopher, a highly regarded journalist, and an ecstasy-using dropout who is still working toward a graduate degree at forty . . . okay, perhaps that last one makes sense. As Gag Halfrunt is reliably reported to have said of the immortal Zaphod Beeblebrox, I’m just zis guy, ya know?

That's got to be the most challenging and abrasive intro I've seen in these types of books. We'll see how it turns out.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Breaking the Golden Rule - Book Recommendation

I say I'm breaking the Golden Rule here because I generally have no use for someone suggesting a book to me when the book they're suggesting obviously flies in the face of my faith. Well, since Demian has set the precedent for this, I'm using him as my excuse for recommending a book.

I recently read "What's So Great About Christianity" by Dinesh D'Souza. I thought it was great. He lays bare every argument you have heard made by the devout atheists. Actually, I don't know about that, I said that mostly because I wanted to mock Demian as he said something like it in his post. I do think it's a well written book that at the least will challenge atheists, agnostics, apatheists and the like and give them a new angle to look at some things from.

To go a step further then Demian did in mocking himself for annoyingly suggesting a book, which I've already done... I'll counter my suggestion by giving the atheist crowd one not to bother with, this way I'm not the guy who suggests every book he reads to someone else.... "Reasons of the Heart" by William Edgar. This book is alright, parts of it are edifying for people of faith... nothing I'd suggest to any of you in the atheist crowd though.

A brief review from one of your own... Michael Shermer says...

As an unbeliever, I passionately disagree with Dinesh D’Souza on some of his positions. But he is a first-rate scholar whom I feel absolutely compelled to read. His thorough research and elegant prose have elevated him into the top ranks of those who champion liberty and individual responsibility. Now he adds Christianity to his formula for the good society, and although non-Christians and non-theists may disagree with some of his arguments, we ignore him at our peril. D’Souza’s book takes the debate to a new level. Read it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pascal’s Wager and The Point of Contact

Pascal’s Wager is a fairly well known concept set forth by the French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662). In Dinesh D’Souza’s [recently released] book “What’s So Great About Christianity”, Pascal’s Wager is defined and addressed in a very succinct, effective and clear manner. In the spirit of using something like this from somewhere else instead of trying to reproduce my own commentary (a reproduction which probably wouldn’t be as good anyway), I’ll provide D’Souza’s treatment of the Wager.

From the chapter named “A Skeptic’s Wager: Pascal and the Reasonableness of Faith”, D’Souza says (the particularly bold assertion he makes is that [paraphrasing] ‘no rational person would refuse to have faith in God’):

Pascal argues that in life we have to gamble. Let’s say you are offered a new job that may take your career to new heights. It looks extremely promising, but of course there are risks. There is no way in advance to know how things will turn out. You have to decide whether to go for it. Or you are in love with a woman. You have been dating for a while, yet you cannot be certain what marriage to her for the next several decades is going to be like. You proceed on the basis of what you know, but what you know is, by the nature of the matter, inadequate. Yet you have to make a decision. You cannot keep saying, “I will remain agnostic until I know for sure.” If you wait too long, she will marry someone else, or both of you will be dead.

In the same way, Pascal argues that in making our decision about God, we will never understand everything in advance. No amount of rational investigation can produce definitive answers, as what comes after death remains unknown. Therefore we have to examine the options and make our wager. But what are the alternatives, and how should we weight the odds? Pascal argues that we have two basic choices, and either way we must consider the risk of being wrong.

If we have faith in God and it turns out that God does not exist, we face a downside risk: metaphysical error. But if we reject God during our lives, and it turns out God does exist, there is much more serious risk: eternal separation from God. Based on these two possible outcomes, Pascal declares that it is much less risky to have faith in God. In the face of an uncertain outcome, no rational person would refuse to give up something that is finite if there is a possibility of gaining an infinite prize. In fact, under these conditions it is unreasonable not to believe. Pascal writes, “Let us weigh up the gain and loss involved in calling heads that God exists. If you win, you win everything. If you lose, you lose nothing. Do not hesitate, then: wager that he does exist.”

The ingenuity of Pascal’s argument is that it emphasizes the practical necessity of making a choice. This necessity is imposed by death. There comes a day when there are no tomorrows, and then we all have to cast our votes for or against the proposition on the ballot.

I don’t see how any person could read the previous excerpt and not get some strong feeling out of it - Christians one of comfort and vindication… atheists one of disgust, anger and potentially discomfort.

Now… on to the complimentary topic, The Point of Contact. What am I talking about here? Again, unsurprisingly, this is something I’ve gotten from another source. In the book “Reasons of the Heart – Recovering Christian Persuasion” the author William Edgar put this name and a solid description to this concept. In doing so, he’s tied in a portion of the book of Romans that has always been particularly interesting to me. So, using his words, what are we talking about here? We’re talking about “…an ancient preoccupation in apologetics, matching the message to the audience or making a ‘point of contact’.”

What does Edgar assert that The Point of Contact is? Again, I’ll let him describe by quoting from Chapter 5 – A Rich Palette:

Over the centuries people have debated about where that point of contact is. Is it because people are reasonable and so we can communicate when we properly use reason? From Pascal’s phrase, reasons of the heart, we realize that unaided, unqualified reason is not enough; people are more than rational machines. Besides, our rationality is tainted by our motives, sin and self-interest.

If the point of contact does not lie in unaided reason, where is it? Simply put, the Bible sees it in the knowledge everyone already possesses of God’s reality. According to Romans 1:19-21 all people know God, being surrounded by his revelation. Whether or not they fully acknowledge him or process the information correctly, every person is aware of God just by virtue of being human.

… This point is no doubt controversial. The Bible states it baldy without any explanation, yet the knowledge of God is not readily apparent in many unbelievers – because of a complicating factor. Though it is perfectly true that human beings have God’s revelation, it does not follow that they process it correctly. Again, according to Romans 1, though we know God, we refuse to acknowledge him or give him thanks. What Paul literally says is that we suppress the truth, “holding” it in unrighteousness. The Greek word means something like “put into prison.” That is, in refusing to be thankful to the Creator, we put the truth behind bars.

Thus in effect, Paul says that in various ways and through various expressions, all people are somehow hiding from the God they really know. We live in a kind of contradiction, a paradox: On the one hand, everyone has a religious impulse, whether overtly religious or not. Yet on the other hand, somewhere that impulse has gone wrong.

I would feel remiss at this point if I did not mention one other point the author makes. He contends that we not only fail in our apologetics if we stop at the unmasking of unbelief, but that we are being unbiblical and cruel because we are leaving people in a hopeless position. He addresses this notion by providing a positive follow up to this ‘unmasking’, something he calls ‘Coming Home’. I’ll not give any more detail about this, as this begins to skew from the original subject and intent of the post, but like I said, I felt like I would be quoting the author out of context in a way that he would not approve of if I didn’t at least mention the ‘Coming Home’ concept.

Okay then, back to the original intent of the post, which is that I see quite a complementary relationship between Pascal’s Wager and The Point of Contact. Pascal’s Wager, especially as summarized by D’Souza, seems convincing enough to me to warrant a person at least bring some humility and genuine desire to the table in terms of seeking God. But then, when you combine the Wager with the The Point of Contact, or that is to say when you combine the Wager with the bold and [likely] offensive commentary the Creator God provides about the nature of the beings He created, this begins to feel to me like it would be quite a prickly and bothersome tandem for an unbeliever.

To be clear, I’m not asserting that any of this is enough for an unbeliever to take in and then simply flip some internal switch which then allows them to be a believer. But, as I said before, it seems like more than enough to bring some humility and a genuine desire to seek God to the table.

A better way to describe this than “prickly and bothersome” can be found by going back to a piece of the aforementioned scripture (verse 20 of Romans 1 - ESV): “So they are without excuse.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2008