Friday, April 30, 2010

Why Canada Doesn't Deserve to be Taken Seriously

"The acting postmistress, Jeanne Barr, said the only people who ever came in to buy stamps in French were undercover agents from the linguistic division of Canada Post. “They always do the same thing. They want two stamps,” she told the Ottawa Citizen."

Undercover agents from the linguistic division of Canada Post -- or, the UAFTLDOCP, as they like to be called. I would translate this into French for you, but I'm not sufficiently bilingual (although I can order a mean Oeuf McMuffin).

While Quebec enforces it's French-only laws, the rest of Canada is stuck with enforcing official bilingualism. And unilingual English speaking Canadians are out of government jobs. Our appeasing instincts know no bounds. What will we do when militant Islam comes knocking?

Et c'est ainsi que la Balle rebondit.

Climate Change Has Been Good to Me

Part two.

"TAXPAYERS will fork out $90 million a year to keep more than 400 public servants employed within the federal Climate Change Department - despite most now having nothing to do until 2013."

One of the comments: "To be employed and not have anything to do is not enjoyable. I should know as I have been a public servant for twenty years."

h/t Mark Steyn.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Game Day

It's game seven at the Arena, and the Ball Bounces has a ticket 20 rows up!

How, you ask, does my usual game day go?

Thank you for asking.

After a nutritious breakfast, I will load up on spaghetti -- carbs, etc. I may have a COSTCO hot-dog around 4 pm, or just finish off left-over fajitas from Julio's. I'll be sensibly wearing long pants and a toque as I head to the rink in 90 degree temperatures. Game time is 6 pm. I'll leave around 4:30 to make the trek across town -- Phoenix is one spread-out city, dude!

Right now, I'm psyching myself up, getting mentally prepared for the contest, stretching exercises, etc. May take a swim in the pool to loosen up.

Hockey in the desert!

I'll be hoping mightily that the Coyotes win, and, more than that, that they score a power-play goal so that the Ball Bounces scores a free Oggi's pizza sticks.

And that's the way the game-day Ball bounces.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bank Charges While in the US

RBC charges me $5 when I withdraw cash from a US bank machine. Five dollars!

I've found a bit of a way around it. We shop COSTCO. At COSTCO, you pay with your debit card. RBC now charges $1 for using your debit card, a "CROSS BORDER DR FEE".

As you pay at COSTCO, you are asked if you want "cash back". From now on, I do!

That way, I've got a less-expensive way of replenishing my US cash. Subject, of course, to the depletion of my Canadian chequing account.

And that's the way the cheque, er, Ball bounces.

Any other strategies out there?

Vive Le Quebec Libre

"Let's be frank: Many people in the rest of the country perceive Quebecers as a bunch of spoiled children who are never satisfied and always ask for more," he said.

Yes to that. If the despised "rest of Canada" didn't prop Quebec up with endless subsidies and transfers of wealth from the Anglos, it would collapse like a torn tent in an Alberta Chinook.

"This perception has some basis in reality."

This is where the politician gets himself into trouble.

Read more:

Words I Never Use in a Sentence: Interlocutor

I came across "interlocutor" twice in an article this morning.

"Someone who takes part in a conversation, often formally or officially. The performer in a minstrel show who is placed midway."

Still not sure why I need this word, or what I would do with it. Not quite a "moderator". And seemingly something different than just a guy talking to another guy. Maybe a "dialogue partner", but it seems to have a "man-in-the-middle" etymology.

If there's a practicing interlocutor out there, please enlighten me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day/Dearth Day -- Going Out on a Limb

As a newby eco-believer, here are my dire predictions:

1. We will use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade. The Earth will get by for another 18 months using recycled tubes of George Castanza's Brylcreem.

2. I predict the destruction of 70% of the natural world in 30 years, mass extinction of species, the collapse of human society in many countries (resulting in wars, rumors of war, and YouTube videos of wars-in-progress), and Coca-Cola will introduce a new beverage during this time-frame.

3. Within 30 years, more than half the world will be afflicted by water shortages, with 95% of people in the Middle East with severe problems, including a resurgence of "ring-around-the-collar", ... 25% of all species of mammals and 10% of birds will be extinct. OK, make that 9%, I had a rounding-error.

4. The world will run out of gold by 2081, mercury by 2085, tin by 2087, zinc by 2090, petroleum by 2092 (if prediction 1 fails to come to pass), copper, lead, and gas by 2093, and Sweet-And-Low by 2094.

One more.

5. Global warming will turn into global swarming (of insects), which will morph into Goebble-warnings of the extinction of races and the survival of the eco-fittest.

Now, a concrete action plan:

Global warming's gonna be worse than all the pending Islamist terrorist attacks we've been fighting. So, let's get with the program. We dismantle all the annoying security measures at airports and set them up instead on city streets. All citizens should be inspected, poked, prodded, wanded, patted, told to remove their shoes and display the soles of their feet (as I was last week) daily in the name of saving the planet from AGW global warming. If your carbon footprint is bigger than a size six, you in trouble.

Don't even think of drinking your water from that plastic bottle -- you destroying the planet!

And that's the way the eco-terror-action-thriller-totalitarian-leaning Ball bounces.

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Great Courses Taught By Great Professors -- On Sale

Areas covered include: Science and Mathematics, Art and Music, Literature and English Language, History, Philosophy, Religion, and Economics.

For about the price of a book, you can have a professor with you in your car or laptop (CD), or, for the cost of a night out, in your living-room (DVD).

In Canada/US, special offers are to new customers, good until April 22nd, 2010, available here.

I'm stocking up on courses related to Philosophy and Science. Got a professor in my living room!

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors

College Crunch has published a list of the The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors.

They range in disciplines from science to computing to English to theology.

Makes an interesting read.

Who's missing?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Robert Hall Is Tired

Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran and he is tired.

I remember once I was tired. I had flown up to Vancouver, taught a seminar, and was now flying back to wherever I was in the States, to get up the next morning and teach another seminar. I was sitting back in coach, it was the evening of the day I had gotten up early to check out of the hotel, teach the class, dash to the airport, clear security and US immigration, and make my flight so I could get a Rent A Car, drive to the next hotel, check in, and get some sleep before getting up early to begin the next class the next day in the next city. I was so tired.

I opened the paper to an article by John Ralston Paul, Canadian intellectual, who was musing about the need to consolidate all the various welfare subsidies that Canadians are entitled to into a "guaranteed annual income". I was tired, and the thought swept over me "oh, I could stop working!".

I. Could. Stop. Working.

And that, my friends, is the problem with socialism. It eats away at personal responsibility and self-sufficiency; it gives people an easy way out that people are too ready to take. And, to the extent that it erodes self-sufficiency, it also erodes feelings of self-worth. It is, in short, de-moralizing.

I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink
No,no,no. -- John Lennon

Guaranteed annual income?

No. No. No.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Darwinian Fact of the Day: Why you are bald and your wife is no longer furry

"Art and hairlessness co-evolved because they fed off each other. The girl whose skin was least hairy could paint it, tattoo it, decorate it and clothe it more adventurously than could her furry sisters. So she got more and better men. And in consequence her children - even the males, though to a lesser degree - lost their hair too. We had become the naked ape."

I read this twice and still couldn't figure out if this was satire or serious darwinian thinking.

Satire, or "science" -- what do you think?

Once you've voted, go here for the sorry answer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Spring. Roll Up the Rim has come and gone (and I'm a Big Winner -- won a coffee!!!), Ignatieff has once again poked his head up, read the polls, and declared, "six more weeks of Stephen Harper", and a young Canadian man's fancy turns to... "the most difficult, punishing, draining, exhilarating chase in sports."

We're talkin':

a) the Tour de France?

b) the Iron Man Triathalon?

c) the World Series?

d) The Stanley Cup Playoffs -- you know, "penalty-killing", "sudden-death", playing on a broken leg, would trade three Blue Jays World Series wins for one Toronto Maple Leafs championship, that sort of thing

Read more:

Let the games begin!

A Coroner, Arson Investigator, Archeologist, SETI Scientist, Intelligent Design Researcher and a Darwinist Walk into a Bar...

Which of the following do not belong in this list:

Arson Investigator
SETI Scientist
Intelligent Design Researcher


Why Christians/theists are open-minded when it comes to science research, and darwinists/materialists are not.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Easy-Bake Oven Melt-Down

Ed Begley Jr. has a meltdown. I can't quite figure out if he's for easy-bake ovens or against them; whether they will save the planet or destroy it.

"You cannot destroy the comets!... er, the comments!..., er, the comitz, er, the commons, that's it, you cannot destroy the commons!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Climate Change Has Been Good to Me

"officials will meet at least three more times before a final meeting of ministers in Cancun, Mexico at the end of the year where it is hoped the world will finally reach an agreement on the best way to stop catastrophic warming....."Copenhagen was the last get-out-of-jail-free card and we cannot afford another failure in Cancun," he said."

Copenhagen, Bonn, three more meetings, then a final last-chance-to-save-the-planet wing-ding in Cancun later this year.

"Climate change has been good to me!"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Nadir/Apex of Scottish Culture Reached Today

The nadir of scottish culture was reached today.

Update: one reader apparently thinks it's not the Nadir, it's the Apex. I'm updating the title of the post accordingly. The Ball Bounces is nothing if not responsive to the views of its readers.

Daily Climate Fix is In

One of these lines represents the actual raw temperature data for Pennsylvania. The other line, the "adjusted" data. I'll let astute readers figure out which is the raw, or "real" data, and which is the adjusted, or "scientific" data.

Hint#1: Western Pennsylvania -- "It's cold out there, wood-chuck chuckers".

Hint#2: "____ the ______".

Western science has become Animal Farm (or do I mean 1984?).

Source: Hockey Schtick via ClimateDepot.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

In Defense Of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History -- A Book Review

In Defense Of Miracles is a skillfully designed and edited book featuring evangelical scholars arguing for the possibility and actuality of miracles. It is like a college course in miracles. Edited by Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas it is an excellent starting point for research in miracles for the following reasons:

* multiple authors, each with their own POV, writing style, and bibliographic sources

* it addresses the skepticism and hyper-skepticism of the academy

* it is skillfully laid-out

Sometimes multiple-author works are a hodge-podge, eclectic, and uneven. Not this one!

Here's how it is organized:

Part One -- the Case AGAINST Miracles - Hume/Flew

Part Two -- the Possibility of Miracles - defining, modern mind, history and miracles, recognizing a miracle

Part Three -- a Theistic Context for Miracles -- conceptual systems, science, miracles, agency theory, and the "God of the Gaps" ("Our God, who art in the gaps...")

Part Four -- Christian Miracles--Case Studies -- miracles in the world religions, fulfilled prophecy as a miracle, the incarnation, the empty tomb, the resurrection

Conclusion: Has God Acted in History "In our view, the case for miracles is strong and needs to become better known outside the academy...".

To which I might add, and inside the academy!

(One area it does not attempt to cover is miracles throughout the history of the Church, or in the modern day. Dr. Craig Keener has a book coming out in the next 24 months that addresses modern miracle claims.)

For multiple authorship, logical organization, and content, I give this book five stars -- highest commendation.

Dr. Stephen Meyer: Signature in the Cell

Do you know in what sense DNA functions as an Enigma Machine, and did you that Stephen Meyer used Darwin's own method of doing historical science to reach his conclusion of intelligent design?

This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute. Square brackets indicate my comments.

Francisco Ayala [Meyer’s Moriarity -- or is the situation reversed?!] talks of: “the functional design of organisms...” Darwin’s greatest accomplishment... Natural selection provides us with a Designer Substitute.

19th cc. biologists affirmed design because of adaptation of species -- breeding woolier sheep -- can be done -- choose wooliest male/female -- Darwin’s greatest insight -- nature can do the same thing -- survival of the wooliest! -- nature mimicking mind

Question: Is adaptation the only appearance of design? If not, has natural selection explained all the others?

Neo-darwinism = natural selection plus mutation

I’m conceding Darwinian scenario this morning (for sake of argument). The fundamental remaining question -- origin of first life -- is there evidence of design in the origin of life? Is there an explanation for it?

T.H. Huxley -- the cell is a simple homogenous globule of plasm, called “protoplasm” -- a mere gob of goo. [Evolution is the the history of from goo to you.]
1890s -- proteins large molecules
1950s -- Watson and Crick -- structure and function of DNA molecule (1953)
Crick -- the sequence hypothesis -- arrangement of chemicals which are functioning as letters -- results in molecular biological revolution -- information encoded in digital form

If animo acids line up “properly”, we call them proteins. Proteins are enzymes, they process information. A short protein -- a sequence of 150, intricate, 300. Animo acids must be in the “right” sequence -- how do they know what sequence they need to be in?

The DNA Enigma:
Not the structure of DNA molecule
Not where biological information resides
Not what the information does
The enigma is: where does the information in the DNA molecule come from?

“The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent” Function requires information

* *

Complexity vs. Specified Complexity

I = -log, p (Claude Shannon - information theory) Information complexity is correlated to carrying capacity. We are not talking about this. By information I mean, following Crick, specification of sequence, a precise determination of sequence

Specified = Improbable.

Charles B. Thaxton The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories by Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, Roger L. Olsen, and Dean H. Kenyon (Paperback - 1992). Concerning chemical evolution -- all leading theories are inadequate

Dawkins -- the machine code of the genes is computer-like

Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology
Jacques Monod. natural laws = necessity. Could the DNA enigma be explained by this?

Time is the hero of the plot [given enough time the improbable becomes probable, nay even inevitable]. But the chance hypothesis is now rejected; chance alone will not get the job done.

Bike lock -- four dials, each with 10 possibilities 10*10*10*10 = 10 trillion possibilities.

Not chance alone. Chance + Necessity. Complexity necessitates that natural selection was operating before life arose [before the survival criteria makes any sense]

Pre-biotic natural selection.

Natural selection presupposed self-replication, but self-replication depends on the pre-existence of functional proteins.
Vital Dust: The Origin And Evolution Of Life On Earth by Christian De Duve (Paperback - Dec. 22, 1995). Theories of pre-biotic natural selection fail. Become a contradiction in terms.

Self-organization - pure necessity. Natural laws -- on its face, sensible. Crystal of salt - self-organizing. 1960s hypothesis - information along spine of DNA molecules subject to law-like forces of attraction -- this was discredited as well.

Metallic board -- attracts letters to metal [Dr. Meyer illustrated], however, can you explain the order, the sequence of the letters by the forces of attraction? No.

Bottom line: The information content of DNA cannot be explained by the forces of physics or chemistry -- suggesting an extrinsic source

* *

Could the design hypothesis be made into a rigorous scientific argument?

Darwin pioneered the scientific method of investigating events in the remote past -- inference to the best explanation in the face of multiple, competing explanations.

Charles Lyell -- the best explanation proposes a cause uniquely able to explain the effect in question by reference to causes now in operation. [Note: argument from sufficient cause]

Well, what produces digital code? information? Information theorist, Henry Quastler asserts, “the creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Bill Gates states that DNA functions as a computer program, just vastly more complex than anything humans have managed to achieve. When information is tracked back to its source, you always come to a mind.

Dr. Meyer formed the case for intelligent design using Darwin’s own method, derived from Lyell.

Darwin’s main contribution is this historical scientific method.

Stephen Meyer is the author of Signature of the Cell.

Dr. Michael Behe: Darwin's Black Box

Michael Behe is the bad boy of the scientific community, maybe worse -- perhaps he's the dracula, or even the antiDar! For he has taken on the darwinian community and challenged the consensus science. And, despite withering criticism, he isn't backing down.

This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute. Square brackets indicate my comments.

Speaker introduction: Most refutations of Dr. Behe's argument amount to refutation of straw men arguments coupled with hand-waving. His premise is that intelligent design is at the foundation of life [surely something all Christians would agree with?].

Dr. Behe:

Go here for Dr. Behe's NYT one-page op-ed piece "Design For Living".

Five points we will cover:

1. Design is not mystical. It is deduced from the physical structure of a system.
2. Everyone agrees aspects of biology appear designed.
3. There are structural obstacles to darwinian evolution.
4. Grand darwinian claims rest on undisciplined imagination.
5. Bottom line: 2010 strong physical evidence for design, little for darwinian evolution.

One: We infer design wherever we see parts arranged to perform a function. Recognizing design is not a religious conclusion. The strength of the design inference is quantitative -- two rocks in a row vs. 200 - Old Man of the mountain (a natural phenomenon) vs. Mt. Rushmore.

Two: Dawkins - admits the "appearance of having been designed for a purpose" -- the appearance of design is overwhelming. But this is dismissed as maya - the illusion of design.

Three: Darwin's challenge - "if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly be formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down".

Behe: "Let's take Darwin at his word". [Note: I think this is the Achilles' heel of Behe's approach (not his science). All darwinists need to do to counter Behe is present speculative "could haves", while utterly failing to show that the "could haves" were either a) actual, or b), even remotely likely. As long as it is not "impossible", darwinism stands]

Behe coined the phrase "irreducible complexity", and uses the mouse-trap as an illustration in everyday life, and the bacterial flagellum in biology. "This is a real molecular machine -- not [merely] 'like a machine'."

Cell - cells are viewed by molecular biologists as complex macromolecular machines.

All machines are designed.

Four: Oxford University Press, The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life. Franklin M. Harold. p. 205

Franklin Harold wrote: "We should reject as a matter of principle the substitution of Intelligent Design for the dialog of chance and necessity," and he cites my book, "but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations."

Science follows the evidence wherever it leads -- unless it leads to God.

Five: Inductive (In-duck-tive) argument. (If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...). This is the kind of logic normally used in the sciences.

A conclusion of intelligent design is rationally justified.

* * *

Darwinism is a multi-part theory -- parts may be right, others wrong:
* Common descent -- "interesting, but trivial"
* Natural selection -- "interesting, but trivial -- who can doubt that stronger overcome weaker?
* Random mutation - critical claim -- accidents caused by nobody

Malaria parasite -- single-celled parasite -- infects red blood cells, multiplies - 20 becomes 400 becomes 8000 etc. Little draculas -- human genome shaped by battle with malaria -- much darwinian evolution proceeds by breaking old genes.

The much-maligned, thoroughly likeable Dr. Behe is author of The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.

Next up: Stephen Meyer.

Saintly ‘science’: When doctors and doubters are called upon to prove miracles

Canada's National Post has an article on the R.C. practice of miracle validation.

"Yet there is a rigour to both the language and the entire process used by the Catholic Church in the business of proving miracles...."

"A cadre of bishops, priests, canon lawyers and even the pope himself is involved in the process, which requires a miracle be “identified,” “investigated” and ultimately “confirmed.”

"During the last millennium, saint-making went from what Catholic scholar Lawrence Cunningham has called “fantastic folktales … appended with imagination” to the “bureaucratization of sanctity.”

Healing: A Doctor In Search of a Miracle by William A. Nolen M.D. (1974)

Nolen, an M.D., explores healings outside of regular western medicine and concludes that he can find not a single example of organic healing, i.e., healing in which a visible external difference is made in the patient, e.g., the disappearance of a tumor or a cancer, or the healing of a withered leg.

Christians will have no problem with his exposé of Philippine psychic-healers. Depending on their position on such matters, they may be disappointed to learn that his (admittedly incomplete) investigation of Kathryn Kuhlman's ministry resulted in a conclusion that no organic healings could be confirmed despite (evidently sincere) claims to the contrary. As in other research I have done, there seems to be a sizable gap between the sweeping claims made and the on-the-ground reality.

His book is cited favorably by atheist skeptics and Christian cessationists, i.e., those who believe that apostolic-grade healings have ceased.

From a miracles-investigation point of view (POV), this book is valuable for:

* his methodology for investigation, e.g., letters, phone calls, soliciting permission to speak to a patient's doctor, direct on-the-ground investigation, etc.

* its categories of medical conditions, e.g., functional - "ailments caused by the malfunction of an organ or system under the control of the autonomic nervous system"; hysterical, e.g., mind-induced; and organic - such as a broken bone, cleft palate, cancer, or gall stones. According to Nolen, the first two categories respond well to the suggestive nature and nurture of faith-healing, the third does not.

Another set of categories he uses is: self-limited, e.g., a cold, which goes away of itself anyway; cyclical, i.e., diseases which ebb and flow in their intensity and symptoms, and, once again, psychosomatic or hysterical.

* his observation that medical doctors are in a better position to evaluate miracle testimonies than laypersons. For example, being able to breath deeply on stage is NOT evidence that lung cancer has been cured!

* his findings in exposing fraudulent miracle workers and the deficiencies of an evangelical ministry such as that of Kathryn Kuhlman.

Kathryn Kuhlman remains an important figure today because she is looked up to and used as a model by many modern-day miracle ministries. Notably, Bennie Hinn, John Arnott, and Bill Prankard.

Skeptics love this book because of its hard conclusion: modern-day miracles don't happen, and, when it appears they do, it is because they are "soft" miracles based on the power of suggestion rather than (necessarily) a supernatural act of God.

A question for miracle investigators is this: Is it true, as Dr. Nolen asserts, that there is no medically-credible evidence for an organic-grade evangelical miracle? Can his assertion be refuted?

Interestingly, Dr. Nolen, a nominal Roman Catholic, does not mention Roman Catholic miracle claims in his book. He essentially dismisses them without even mentioning them!

The intersection between faith and science is an interesting one. As are the intersections between the natural and the supernatural, and the material and the spiritual.

Dr. Scott Oliphint: The Role of Worldviews in Apologetic Dialogue

This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute. Square brackets indicate my comments.

Whatever apologetic you hold should be based on Scripture. Romans 1 - I am not ashamed of the gospel - it is the power of God unto salvation. God gives up those who suppress his knowledge to a debased mind. Romans depicts man at his worst and God at his best.

Romans 1:19-20 [the touchstone verse of presuppositional apologists] men "suppress the truth" - what truth? God's eternal power and divine nature - "all the divine perfections" - the invisibles become visible via the "things made".

General revelation - God revealing himself via things made. Huge epistemological implications - the way we know anything is because God has given it to us - huge apologetical implications

According to Romans 1:19-20, God's perfections are plain to us, are clearly perceived. Not plain to us because of our "right thinking", but because God has shown it to us - God making himself clearly known.

What is the image of God in man since the Fall?

God is present with every human being and every human being is in a relationship with God -- either in Adam/wrath or Christ/grace.

Jonathan Edwards - part of the reality of hell is being in the presence of God whom you have rejected - in the presence of his wrath

Calvin - sensus divinitatus

"All people know God" - not in propositional knowledge, but in covenantal knowledge [cf. Plantinga - belief in God is basic?]. Not a capacity for knowing God, but content -- all of us have it. Innate vs. Implanted/Acquired - we have both, from God.

What about Mars Hill? The problem is not enough evidence -- the evidence is both externally abundant and internally innate. But, we hold that down -- like holding a beach ball under water. Romans - did not honor, did not give thanks, became futile, foolish, darkened. Thinking oneself wise, became fools.

Philosophy - well-articulated unbelief based on the presupposition that "I can figure this out on my own" 4,000 years of philosophy have resulted in no consensus on metaphysics. Dr. Oliphint took a graduate course in philosophy on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit - the Absolute. Kept waiting for "the answer"; last day of class, the professor says "I don't know, and I don't think Hegel knew".

Francis Shaeffer said Hegel was one of the most influential philosophers.

Back to Romans -- the judgment for sin is often... more sin. We are all worshippers, and we all serve someone or something [cf. Bob Dylan You Gotta Serve Somebody]. The fallen worship the creature rather than the creator. Life is fundamentally religious - you will always worship someone or thing.

Sin takes you on a ride you never wanted to go on.

[Q. Elsewhere, Paul speaks of ignorance - God has overlooked, now demands repentance; Acts 17 Mars Hill - unknown God]

Our condition in Adam is utterly self-deceived.

Cornelius Van Til [the father of presuppositionalist apologetics] "The whole of created reality... scientists confront Christian theism at every turn"

Q. Young Earth Creationism (YEC) vs. Old Earth Creationism (OEC). There's not a single YEC on the panel. Westminster is now "ashamed" of young earth creationism!

A. God has spoken, and what he has said is true. But, what has he said?

Biblical revelation vs. autonomy of reason.

Dr. Oliphint is the author of Reasons (for Faith): Philosophy in the Service of Theology.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

25 Dead in West Virginia Coal Mine Disaster

Twenty-five dead in West Virginia -- that's 21 more than four dead in O-Hi-O (and one fewer song). How many of the 25 dead were women? And what are the feminists doing about the ongoing gender imbalance and patriarchal oppression in the coal mines, where men get to do all the work, take all the risks, and lay down their lives for their loved ones -- women and children alike?

Just wondering. Maybe, just maybe, this whole male patriarchal oppression thing has been overstated, and there's more love involved in all of this than feminists realize or are willing to admit.

May God bless coal miners and their families everywhere. And may we all appreciate the role coal has made in making our lives easier, better, and more comfortable.

I thank God for coal, and for coal miners.

In my family, I had a grand-father who was a railway conductor, and an uncle, my favorite uncle, Uncle George, who was a railway engineer. Coal gave way to diesel. My uncle George's notion of a toast was to raise a glass and say, "CN!". I think it was in jest, but who knows what he was thinking.

Life is precious.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dr. John C. (Jack) Collins: Understanding the Days of Creation (with Vern Poythress and Jay Richards)

This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute.

C.S. Lewis, Preface to Paradise Lost: "the first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is--what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used".

Moses wrote what he did with the people of Israel in mind.

1. Where does the passage begin and end?

Genesis 2:4 - "these are the generations...". Chapter 1:1 - 2:3 is set off as first passage, set apart from the rest of Genesis as a kind of preface. Makes it OK to have a different style than the rest. The style, feel is different than "ordinary narrative". It is "exalted prose", highly stylized, structured.

Chapter 2 fills in details of Day Six.

2. How did the author structure the passage?

God is going through his "work week". God begins each of his work days by saying something, expressing a wish which is then fulfilled. God's initial act of creation takes place sometime before Gen. 1:3 (the first day).

Moses focuses on 2:27 because he wants to stress its importance; all the rest of the narrative serves it -- God made man in his image, therefore, the six days are the days God set up the (already-existing) earth for man to dwell on.

The "kind" of Genesis should not be equated with species. Nomadic shepherds cf. Matthew 13 - wheat and tares. Genesis is not teaching these nomadic shepherds how things work -- they knew how to breed more sheep -- but rather why they work.

Evening and then morning -- in that culture, you worked during the day, then rested at night, so God's activity is presented in the pattern of the Israelite work week. Cf. Exodus 31:17 - God rested and was refreshed. Passage is presenting God's creation by analogy -- it is like a human work week, but also different.

The 7th day has no refrain because it has no end -- see John 5:17 and Hebrews 4:3-11. Conclusion from this is that the seventh day is no ordinary day.

Genesis 2:4-7 ESV eratz -- do we translate "earth", or "land"? (Both Dr. Poythress and Dr. Collins were involved in the creation of the ESV.) Gen. 2:4-7 is a fuller and more detailed description of 1:27.

19th century theologian Herman Bavinck: “The creation days are the workdays of God. By a labor, resumed and renewed six times, he prepared the whole earth….” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol.1 , p. 500).

Not the first six days of the universe or even the earth.

The Sabbath commandment follows God's pattern.

Father --> father
King --> king
Light --> light
Creator/Worker --> Israelite worker
Good --> good

The matter in the universe
a) does not create itself
b) does not order itself.

Someone/something imposed organization, limits, design to the components of the universe.

Maker of heaven and earth:
* Israel's universal calling
* This is God's world
* Celebrate God's fashioning of the world as an impressive achievement
* Israel is going to live in the promised land
* As farmers

Haydn's Creation Oratorio

Leit Motif of this conference - what we mean by our words - Genesis is historical -- but this word does not necessitate bland prose, must make allowances for poetical language

Summary. God made all things:
* from nothing
* by the word of his power
* in six days
* all very good
* bears his imprint
* right kind of place for us

Vern Poythress: Genesis is a verbal communication from God; science is human reflection -- they are not equal.

Genesis 1 is a psalm of praise? See also Psalm 148, Col. 1:15-17; Col 1:18-20.

Jay Richards:

Days --
1. Literal days -- Mars has a day; Venus has a day - there are types of literal days
2. Analogy - God's work week; our work week -- not ours, God's
3. Early Christians - God took Adam's rib - most thought 24 hour days (but this is not the same as saying they were "young earth Creationists"!
4. Clocks are a relatively late invention and innovation. Before clocks, a day was not thought of as a 24-hour, 86,400 second period -- it was a period of activity, work, followed by rest -- in all human cultures.


Q. Jesus said, "in the beginning, he created them male and female".
A. Beginning of their existence, not beginning of the universe, beginning of human life and the created order created and ordered for human life

To say something is a pattern does not mean that it is identical in every detail.

Witnesses are to be weighed, not counted.

Our modern preoccupation with technical measurement vs. pattern of six work days followed by a rest day. Many cultures (prior to clocks) work on the basis of social time, human rhythms.

Gerald Schroeder - employs relativity - different time frames for time.

Q. Do you believe that Adam and Eve existed and were first human beings?
A. Yes.

Q. Biologos website. Genesis is the genre of mythology cf. Ancient Near East mythology.
A. Mythology is a very specific genre. The text does not look that way at all.

The questions to ask are:

a) What was the author trying to achieve? and
b) What did the intended audience, the hearers, hear and understand?

Q. I used to be a YEC (young-earth creationist). Problem I still have is, what about death before the Fall, and the picture of redemption via animal sacrifice?

A. Most serious question. Bill Dembski - The End of Christianity - death retroactively applied based on God's foreknowledge? Genesis 2:17 "shall surely die" -- addressed to the man -- context is human (not animal) experience -- spiritual death which also leads to physical death?

Is animal death in the ordinary course viewed as evil in the Bible? Don't think so -- "lions get their food from God". New heaven and new earth -- even better than the original very good creation

Q. Baker. Case for Old Earth.
A. firmament, expanse -- thought of as hard and firm because of way translated into Greek - term used instead of sky - reflects "high prose" of Genesis 1 - cf. greater and lesser lights instead of sun and moon -- sky, sun, moon, were all terms available to the Hebrews.

Dr. Jack Collins is the author of Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, And Theological Commentary.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Ice Floes Fight Back!

Ice is making a Big Comeback in the Arctic.

What happened?

“This is weather,” said Mr. Serreze. “Don't conflate this with climate.”


"It's called freaky Arctic weather."


When the ice is melting, it's climate; when it's growing, it's weather.

He is Risen, Hallelujah!

Easter is about the One who entered history, lived the exemplary life, died on behalf of those who struggle, those who are weak, those who miss the mark, those who fall short of God's glory -- all of us --, and then rose again on the third day.

Christ's resurrection marks the Father's vindication of his message and his Person. It marks the ultimate defeat of evil -- it's just a matter of time, and, because heaven's Finest stooped down and smashed open the door into heaven, the way to heaven has been opened to all of us, unworthy as we are, who believe.

When Christ was resurrected, he did not appear to those who mocked him, those who opposed him, those who crucified him. He didn't appear to them to show off, to rub his resurrection and lordship in their faces. They were left, empty and bereft, in the misplaced certainties of their smug arrogance. He consigned them to the unbelief they had chosen.

Rather, he showed himself to those whom he chose -- his disciples, male and female, those who had placed their hope in him, a hope which had been dashed to bits by the crucifixion.

Within a few weeks they would be preaching the resurrection, right in Jerusalem, where his crucifixion took place, among people who were familiar with the events that had transpired, and where his empty tomb could be examined. Within a few years, one of his chief opponents, Saul of Tarsus, would become his most earnest follower. Within a decade or two, the Lord's brother James, who did not believe in Jesus during Jesus' earthly life, would be the leader of the church at Jerusalem. Within four centuries, this faith would conquer the Empire which had crucified its Leader.

What turned James from a doubter to a believer in Jesus? What turned the Apostle Paul from a persecutor to a worshipper? What turned the disciples from a disheartened, cowering bunch of defeated and washed-up followers into fearless, empowered witnesses? And what made the apostles willing to a man to suffer death rather than deny Christ?

The Resurrection. Count on it.

The defeat and despair of Good Friday gave way to the victory and rejoicing of Easter. At Easter, things started looking up, started getting better. Hope dawned. And it is a hope which will never be extinguished. Things started looking up at Easter, and they've never stopped looking up, despite the vicissitudes of life and history.

Count your blessings this Easter.

And may the risen Lord, the One who will surely come again in like manner as he left us, be with you.

That's the way the Ball bounces.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Dr. Vern Poythress: Redeeming Science: Biology, Physics, and Mathematics

Why should nature be rational, and submit to rational analysis?

These are notes from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute. I apologize for their fragmented nature.

Psalm 114:10 - springs gush forth - the day-to-day workings of nature are attributed to God.

Top-down approach - Christ as centre of Creation - Col. 1:16 - for by him all things were created, and Col. 1:17 - in him all things hold together, i.e., Christ is the foundation as well as the agent.

Divine Archetype

God the Father --> the Son (reflecting/homology) - Hebrews 1:3 - the exact image

God --> Adam (Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule..."

cf. Genesis 5:3 "When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth."

Adam --> Seth in Adam's image, but different

John 1:1-2 - allusion to Genesis

The Spirit - sustains animal and human life - "breath of life" Genesis 7:22 - humans, animals breathe, plants breathe, cells breathe oxygen for metabolism

What is the meaning of God's presence? Creator-creature distinction.
* Absolutely transcendent God
* Distinct actions
* God is present controlling and judging

vs. Materialism - everything is reducible to matter and energy, no God -- no distinct orders; no real consciousness or purpose - then, why and how is awareness - illusion? Epiphenomenon? Generated from mere complexity? "Emergent"?

Problem: nothing comes from nothing.

* Purpose.

Purpose of the Father - Son as executor of purpose
Human plans, purposes - how come? Materialism - universe has no plan or purpose
Animals - seeking, responding - have things in them reminiscent of human purpose, e.g., go after food
Plants - living, growing
Cells - have purpose - "you can hardly read a page of biology without encountering the language of purpose -- even though they deny purpose"
Cells are "molecular machines" - a machine can only be evaluated if you understand its purposes-- designed to do something -- either working, idle, broken, impaired

* Control. Closely related to purpose.

Omnipotence of the Father - Son is executor - Spirit as energizer

An adequate explanation of reality must include: matter, energy, purpose and information

Old Testament theophanies foreshadow the incarnation, e.g., the three layers in Ezekiel chapter 1 - 1) cloud, 2) cherubim 3) human figure, surrounded by fire, e.g., God's judgment

God's glory is copied. King vs. human copy-king. Light vs. nature's copy-light.

Matthew 1:23 Emmanuel - God with us.


Note the beauty, elegance of mathematical equations, e.g., F=ma (Force= Mass * Acceleration).

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences by Eugene Wigner: "it is not at all natural that "laws of nature" exist, much less that man is able to discover them"

Why should nature be rational, and submit to rational analysis?

Dr. Poythress is the author of Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dr. John West: Darwinian Materialism and Its Effects on Culture and the Church

This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute.

Ideas have consequences. Darwin posited that man is nothing more than the result of a universal common ancestor and the blind, impersonal, material process of natural selection acting on random variations.

Natural selection is a Designer Substitute -- mimics the actions of intelligence in design. Darwinism thus makes materialism plausible, gives it scientific cover.

Darwin's Descent of Man - moral rules are determined by reproductive success; any practice can be justified; any time conditions for survival change, so can/do moral rules. Courage/cowardice, maternal care/infanticide, kindness/cruelty; monogomy/rape -- all can be viewed as morally good or evil depending on the [amoral] criteria of reproductive success. Darwinism leads to Relativism -- when conditions change, moral rules change.

Honest thinking atheists/materialists admit this! Michael Ruse and E. O. Wilson say morals are "merely an adaptation" -- morality is an illusion fobbed off on us by evolution.

Nothing sacrosanct about monogamous marriage. Alfred Kinsey - trained as a darwinian evolutionary zoologist at Harvard - sexual ethics reduced to "normal mammalian behavior"

Darwinism undermines human uniqueness and value - "no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental facilities".

At the same time, Darwin posited significant differences between races; with natural selection, we should expect races to be unequal. Ernst Haeckel (of bogus embryo drawings fame) also drew evolutionary diagrams of human races.

This view of racial inequality, which flows naturally from darwinism, extends all the way to 2007 when James Watson (of DNA fame) asserted that blacks are biologically inferior to whites, which he attributed to human evolution.

Darwin, himself a compassionate man, went on to note that the weak and inferior among humans are a drag on society and should be eliminated -- "savages" eliminate the weak, the "civilized" do not. He speculated this must be highly injurious to the race of man: "if he is to advance still higher he must remain subject to severe struggle".

Which brings us to Mein Kamf and eugenics.

"Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution" -- Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, N.A.S. -- this was the "consensus view" of science -- one might say, the "science was settled" [in which case Al Gore, if he had lived in this day, might have been trading in Eugenics credits].

Who challenged "the science"? Mainly Roman Catholics, and some American evangelicals.

The fake Ernst Haeckel embryo diagrams were in most science textbooks through 2003-2004. Stressing embryonic recapitulation, they had "scientific" implications for abortion -- you are "killing a fish". Miscarriage evolved to show only the fit survive. This acidic view is still with us today. Alexander Sanger - Beyond Choice - abortion is a moral good. Peter Sanger, Princeton - a newborn baby has a value less than a pig, dog, or chimpanzee.

In Darwin's time, many Christians opted for guided, theistic evolution, e.g., Presbyterian Asa Gray. But, how do you get a guided process from a random, undirected process? If it's guided, it is no longer darwinian.

Dr. West gives us ample reasons why a rational person would hope that darwinism is false and Christian theism true.

Dr. John West is author of Darwin Day in America.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"