Monday, April 28, 2008

Civility In Decline

Cranmer, on April 28, 2008 has an excerpt of an article by England's chief Rabbi at this link:

The article, which appeared in the Telegraph, shows that problems in the UK and the USA are not that different. One of the major problems is a loss of civility and a loss of respect for life. Trinity had a discussion of these same problems as they appear in politics at our Feb. 2008 God and Governing; a Conference on Ethics, Virtue, and Statesmanship.

My favorite excerpts from the article:

"The liberal revolution of the Sixties, which separated morality from law, is leading us, says Sacks, to "a new form of barbarism". The view that "it's legal, so I can do it" is destroying the fabric of social harmony. Manners are disappearing, along with courtesy and shame.

. . .

The family courts, he said, are witnessing "a never-ending carnival of human misery". So, too, are hospitals and clinics, as the number of abortions in Britain continues to rise. When young hoodlums are prepared to hack someone to death in broad daylight, I suppose we should not be surprised that their teenage girlfriends switch off unborn life without remorse. I spoke to a leading female academic who said "more education" was needed to ease the problem. She was, I'm afraid, making excuses for many who are comfortable with abortion as a form of contraception.

. . .

While Court of Appeal judges fret over the human rights of terrorist suspects, blocking their extradition in case they don't get a fair trial, British law is happy to approve the extermination of unwanted foetuses at 24 weeks.

. . .

When our legal system loses its moral compass, it is only to be expected that on the mean streets of Britain many impressionable children will do the same."

Naturally we need people to return to God. But we also need a change in behavior and education as a result. So long as legal education and practice separate morality and law as completely as they now do, and so long as Christians in general separate good conduct from their expectations about how to live, we will keep coming back to where are now. It is true that we are saved by grace, not works - but we need to live in gratitude to God - not in licence. It is true that human laws cannot require all good or condemn all sin, but government and education must stop legally encouraging gross evil and immorality.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Movie Review: Expelled

On Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege of seeing the new documentary motion picture Expelled featuring Ben Stein and a host of scientists. Expelled deals not so much with the technicalities of the debate over intelligent design, but rather with the issue of academic freedom within the scientific community. Expelled traces the firing and persecution of scientists and journalists over mere mentions of intelligent design. It then goes deeper to examine why intelligent design excites such fervor among many scientists and why freedom of speech about intelligent design is an important issue.

The film is highly artistic and uses clips from old documentary and newsreel footage as well as a few older major motion pictures in order to present iconic images that make us think, draw our thoughts in certain directions, and makes emotional impressions upon the viewer. The images used by this motion picture will be considered controversial. But I must say that their use is high art. Most controversial will be the argument showing the connection between hard-line Darwinian evolution and the eugenics movement, Planned Parenthood and Nazi Germany. Also controversial is the image of the Berlin Wall illustrating the walling off of intelligent design from the world of accepted scientific education, research, and publishing. The disturbing images do make the film unsuitable for small children.

The film only briefly goes into some of the technicalities behind intelligent design. It only uses animation to illustrate the complexities of the living cell. But the arguments made by the film will be understandable at a popular level and are sophisticated enough not to be boring. Both sides have their say as Stein interviews scientists opposed to intelligent design and intelligent design advocates. Clearly the documentary has an agenda, but it is an agenda that is presented to us in a reasonable fashion and with attention given to opposing positions. The film is masterfully edited. The editing is clearly a work of cinematic art. But the points made by the documentary film are legitimate. I strongly encourage people to see Expelled and to consider its message.

Darwinian evolution explains development within species, but is an entirely inadequate explanation for the original origin of life and for the rapid development of multiple existing species. Darwinian evolution cannot explain the so-called Cambrian Explosion, and does not adequately explain the origin of living cells. Now that we know enough about the complexity of the individual cell we know how difficult it would be for a cell to “evolve” one process at a time. In all of our experience and experimentation life does not come from non-life. Dead materials and chemicals do not result in life. Intelligent design posits that the most logical explanation for the vast amount of information in living cells. It is perhaps the only coherent explanation for the origin of life in a dead universe.

Scientists often claim that intelligent design has no place in science because it is not a materialistic process verifiable by purely materialistic assumptions and experiments. But Darwinian evolution as the origin to life is likewise not verifiable by experiment. Science can determine what can be duplicated, but it cannot determine what actually happened. We can say that based on current appearances certain things are possible (yet experiments fail to show life from non-life is possible), but we cannot say what actually occurred with any great certainty. Random material processes have not succeeded in providing a coherent explanation for the origin of life or for the origin of original living cells. Closed-mindedness toward the questions and hypotheses offered by intelligent design shows a closed-mindedness to truth rather than a reasoned commitment to reason.

Scientific opposition to intelligent design is predicated upon the idea that science is a discipline with clear boundaries. Law in the past two centuries has also attempted to make a similar claim. Just as science now claims that it should be free of metaphysics, philosophy, religion, and history, law has also claimed that it should be free of ethics, religion, and philosophy. But such freedom from other disciplines tends to result in error, distortion, and wrong doing rather than in knowledge, freedom, and truth. The reason is simple. The real world holds no such boundaries. Truth is a seamless web in which everything that is true is inter-related with everything else. Attempts at rending this seamless web are often based on worldviews that actually deny the reality of religion, ethics or morality. But then that isn’t searching for truth, that’s making a presuppositional conclusion and seeking to ignore anything contrary to the conclusion. Truth is best sought holistically rather than in a way that excludes any evidence outside certain boundaries and limitations. This doesn’t mean that we should consider things that are absurd or nonsensical or irrational or wrong. It merely means that we should consider everything that is genuinely true and logical. We should look at all of the evidence.

I once heard philosopher Frank Beckwith compare science to a detective story. We’ve all seen those detective shows on television and in the movies where the bad detective assumes that every death is a suicide and refuses to consider any evidence that might lead to a consideration of murder—particularly if the doors and windows to the room where the death occurred were locked. When we are watching a movie or television program, we always know instinctively that this foolish detective is likely to be wrong and that there is some way in which a murder actually occurred. In some ways, scientists opposed to intelligent design are like the detective with a one-track mind for suicide—they want to insist that the windows and doors were not only locked, but that they must stay locked to prevent any free moral agents from outside coming in and tampering with the evidence available in the room. The problem is that reality is not so neatly contained.

Science can focus on being science. But it needs to be open to connecting with and recognizing all truth. Disciplinary strengths and limitations should never become a reason for ignoring reality.

You would be wise to see the movie expelled and to consider the message it presents.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gun Owners Not Angry After All

At the link is an opinion article at the Wall Street Journal on the attitudes of gun owners verses non-gun owners. Apparently Obama's perception of gun owners in not accurate.

Hat tip to Rantburg.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hearing Steve Forbes

Recently I was blessed to attend the installation of the new president of Westmont College, Dr. Gayle Beebe. At the installation and at the breakfast preceding the installation, we heard an address from Steve Forbes, the famous publisher and presidential candidate. Forbes’ addresses were excellent. His ability as a speaker and his insight into global affairs and economics has only continued to improve over time. Hearing the speech made me wish that John McCain would choose Steve Forbes for his vice presidential candidate. Forbes is one of the few figures who might please both pro-life evangelical conservatives and Wall Street at the same time. He is also innovative, brilliant, and willing to tell it like he sees it rather than seeking to be popular at all times.

Forbes said a variety of very worthwhile things. He restated what I am always saying on this blog about free market economics: that God designed the world in such a way that we get ahead best not through greed but rather through seeking to effectively meet the real needs of others. Forbes was also aware of the role that western skeptical philosophy, such as the writings of Nietzsche and Heidegger, has played in the rise of Islamo-Fascism. And Forbes had been prophetic in his earlier presidential race in opposing the use of food grains such as corn to fuel automobiles. As he pointed out in the speech, this is resulting in a spike in world food prices and threatens food shortages. Food should be for eating rather than for fueling vehicles. He also emphasized what he saw as a need for stable monetary values as opposed to the roller coaster free float that is currently occurring with the dollar. All in all, it was a very interesting set of addresses and very much appreciated.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Not Again! California Assembly to Consider Spanking Ban

I have just seen an e-mail from CRI here in California which states:

"Assemblywoman Sally Lieber has introduced a bill that will effectively ban spanking
in California. Identical to last year's highly publicized AB 755, this new AB 2943
will make it a crime to spank a child."

I discussed last year's bill at:

Don't people like Ms. Lieber ever get tiered of trying to take away fundamental rights? Do they ever question their desire to ignore human nature and change exchange the proper order for unworkable Utopian schemes? Don't they have any fear that they are not wiser than the best parents of the last five thousand years? I know the answer is no. I just wonder sometimes. We need to be tireless too in defending the rights of parents to properly and reasonably discipline children of appropriate age. But until higher education, and especially legal education are re-framed in this country so that our schools do not keep producing endless copies of people who think (or don't think?) like Ms. Lieber, it is going to be a very long struggle.

Update: Happy news! The bill has been defeated. Many thanks to our legislators and those who called them.

Discussion of Abortion and Politics

At the link is a great discussion on the same information about Obama and the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act I linked to earlier:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Strive for Reality

Today's Cranmer ( post included this wonderful Plato quote:

"' [T]he true lover of knowledge naturally strives for reality, and will not rest content with each set of particulars which opinion takes for reality, but soars with undimmed and unwearied passion till he grasps the nature of each thing as it is, with the mental faculty fitted to do so, that is, with the faculty which is akin to reality, and which approaches and unites with it, and begets intelligence and truth as children..' (The Republic, Book VI)."

Indeed. So we strive on, seeking, prayerfully, with God's help, to see things as they really are.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sanctity of Life Speech

Here is a Speech I gave at Rolling Hills Covenant Church's Sanctity of Human Life Event some time ago. At YouTube there is a play list of all five ten minute segments at: