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Sunday, March 28, 2010

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Bad Hair Day Model

Our New Year's Day movie was "Up In the Air", starring George Clooney. It was both entertaining and topical. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a top critics score of 91 percent, beating Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, and The Blind Side. Clooney was also an inspiration to me for my bad hair days, as we are both of that certain age between youth and decrepitude.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

An elegiac version from "Waterloo Bridge".

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine† ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.



Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Palin's Metaphor

Palin had claimed her phrase death panals was metaphoric and accurate.

"To me, while reading that section of the bill, it became so evident that there would be a panel of bureaucrats who would decide on levels of health care, decide on those who are worthy or not of receiving some government-controlled would therefore lead to harm for many individuals not able to receive the government care. That leads, of course, to death."~ Nov 17 interview with National Review

"The term I used to describe the panel making these decisions should not be taken literally," said Palin (same interview)."

Is it possible for a metaphor to be accurate?

A metaphor suggest that X is akin to Y. It doesn't mean that X is Y. For example, Shakespere, in saying that "all the world is a stage" does not mean that the physical world is a physical stage but rather there are qualities in a theatrical stage that transfer to our realm of existence. In that sense, the metaphor is accurate and illuminating.

The problem with Palin's self-described metaphor is that it is not accurate, in that it is an inflamatory projection of right-wing extremist paranoia. All hospitals use insurance utilization experts that define to the dollar and the day acceptable limits of resource expenditures for patients. The free-market model of health care presupposes rationing based on your ability or the insurance company's ability and willingness to pay the hospital for services rendered and also their fear of law suits. It is disingenuous and dishonest to accept the rationing and triaging that is a function of capitalism while demonizing rationing and triaging that is a function of socialized medicine.

John Stuart Mill, letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington (March, 1866)

I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.


Mariner of the Seas At Christmas

With two teenage boys, the Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas was the ideal Christmas vacation for us. They enjoyed rock climbing, ice skating, and their teenagers-only clubs, Fuel and The Living Room. There was plenty to do and the food was first rate. It is more adult-oriented than the Disney Magic with its casino and drinking venues. However, the smell of smoking rarely penetrated the more public areas. I also appreciated its well-stocked library.

I thought their food was equal to if not better than Disney. However, there is no availability of food on the swim decks and they charge for colas. I enjoyed the buffet on Windjammers and the more Asian food in Jade. We had wonderful dinner partners at our dinner table in Rhadsody in Blue.

Entertainment was inconsistent as compared to Disney. The singing and dancing was polished and the ice skaters were terrific. However, the comedy stylings sometimes fell short. The exception was Yakov Smirnoff, who was touched me in his love for the ideals of America. Later, we with 24 other couples took a seminar directed by Smirnoff "The DNA of Happily Ever Laughter". It was his effort to salvage from the wreckage of his own divorce how to build an enduring relationship. DNA stands for discovering how we are sometimes performers or audience, notice each other's needs ("Happiness is when our needs are met"), and agree on a way forward. It was a rare combination of both of insight and and humor.

Another special moment was when we danced on stage with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Coasters ("Yakyty Yak" , "Charlie Brown").

We enjoyed the European spa and I had "frangipani scalp treatment", that I had won in a raffle.

A much apprecated moment of pure sentiment is when we joined the staff and officers in singing Christmas carols on the Grand Promenade with an enormous Christmas tree in the background. That next morning in a nearby lounge, we opened our presents.

We had a tiny cabin on the second deck. It took some creativity to squeeze our luggage into that room, but we were able to do so.

Crowd control was generally efficient. This was true in getting on and off the ship, and in the use of a conveyer of tenders at Cabo San Lucas. Things got hectic at Windjammers in midday and we were were sometimes displaced to a later seating for the ice shows.

We enjoyed visting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallerta. Cabo is the most Americanized and touristy, and the people who live there are not embarrassed to hustle for our dollars. Mazatalan, a city of 400,000, is a combination of squalor and affluence. Our boys played at the El Cid resort. But my favorite Puerto Vallerta. We took a bus trip into the hills away from the beach to see a different side of Mexico and its people. The mountains and gorges were lush and verdant and the people who lived their were friendly. Strung over those gorges were fourteen ziplines. I and the boys enjoyed zipping hundreds of yards through the air from platform to platform.

On the 1,000 mile return trip, the ship headed into a stiff wind. However, I sensed little movement in the ship because of its size.

Upon leaving the ship, we found we left a pillow behind. Although we didn't have success in retrieving the pillow while we were at the terminal, we subsequently got a call from Royal Caribbean saying they had found the pillow and promising that they would mail it to us. When it comes to customer service, they did walk the walk.

All in all, I thought this was a wonderful vacation and I think the Mariner of the Seas is an excellent choice for other families.


Mariner of the Seas

The next few postings will be about our trip to the Mexican Riveria on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

Here is a review from Cruise Critic and general information about this ship.

Here are some pictures that someone else took on this ship.

Mariner of the Seas


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tenting Tonight

When I was a teenager, I used to collect old phonograph records from flea markets, garage sales, and antique stores in Bucks County, Pennslvania. Some of these were from the 1920s and 30s. They were fragile and sometimes etched on just one side. Here is one such record.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Politics Of Employment

Whern it comes to staying employed, this is not the time to be complacent or to rest on your laurels. Managers are no longer people-oriented. They are tough and exacting and are expected to make ruthless calls that effect large groups of people.

While it is impossible to shape decisions three levels above you, it is possible to position yourself so that you are perceived as a valuable employee. This is especially important for people in staff positions that don't have a direct impact on profits and people who are consultants.

My conclusions:

1. Discern the real organizational chart in distinction to the paper organizational chart. It is important to have face time with those who have real decision-making ability as to your long term viability as an employee. I do this by meeting bi-weekly with my managers. Recognize the power of the spoken word. Learn to control your behavior and shape the behavior of others by your behavior. Act the part.

2. Never let anyone else define you in a way that is at odds with what has really happened. Respond aggressively to wrong information about ypu. Protect your reputation with facts and truth.

3. Play to your strengths. Repair weaknesses.

4. Don't operate under the radar. This has the effect of making you stand out negatively.

5. Strive for Janus-like duality and flexibility. Work hard at what is in front of you but also plot your next move, try to see the big picture but also be detail oriented, be a technocrat but also be a generalist, work within your role but also across and outside your role. Don't allow yourself to be labeled. Cogs are expendable.

6. Survival is more a function of personaility and psychology rather than knowledge and hard work. Try to understand motivations and feelings of the main players.

7. Courtesy and integrity are power plays. Drain off grievances, admit mistakes, and give spiritual strength and affection to others when appropriate.

8. Information is reality. Perception is reality. Psychology is reality. The trick is to integrate information, perception, and psychology in such a way to protect your career.

9. Cover yourself. Document everything. Translate effort into metrics. Advertise or the sheriff will do it for you.

10. Get honest feedback on your performance. Make sure your performance is in alignment with managerial expectations and goals. Put in extra effort to make his happen.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Techno Chicken


Caesar's Bust Is On The Shelf

I don't feel so great myself.

Since Thanksgiving eve, I've been fighting acute viral nasopharyngitis, more commonly known as the common cold. My symptoms include coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion, pink eye, headaches, fatigue, and malaise. I don't have a fever (more associated with influenza) and my appetite is fine-- good news for this Thanksgiving holiday. Now into my fifth day, the only remaining symptoms is a sore throat, some coughing, and a croak. I treat these symptoms with rest, lozenges, and Robitussin.

Wikipedia: "The common cold is most often caused by infection with one of the 99 known serotypes of rhinovirus, a type of picornavirus. Around 30-50% of colds are caused by rhinoviruses. Other viruses causing colds are coronavirus (causing 10-15%, human parainfluenza viruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, adenoviruses, enteroviruses, or metapneumovirus."

A lack of sleep and vitamin D definciency is also causally related to colds.
The best way to avoid a cold is thorough and regular washing of the hands.

At our Thanksgiving eve service, a large man was positioned near the door to the church to shake the hands of everyone who comes in. It is hard to resist such a friendly greeting. However, there is no doubt that such person to person contact is a vector for the common cold. I would like to see etiquette develop so that we can express welcoming warmth to others without touching them.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost In Space

The best sci fi theme ever. I loved watching this show as a kid.


Friday, November 27, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

What I'm thankful for. My blessing list. 1. Family and friends. 2. Health. 3. Home. 4. Fun. 5. Awesome children who are on a good path. 6. Church. 7. USA. 8. Work. 9. Meow. 10 Nancy!!!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Winter Thoughts

It surely isn't easy to face up to the realities of aging and death. Speaking only for myself, my inclination is to do as the Johnsons did. In November 1979, I was distressed to learn that she was dying. Elsie wrote that "the prospect of death does not distress me, but the prospect of becoming a helpless invalid does. Therefore, should this rare cancer of mine speed up the inevitable a bit, I would think I'd be grateful. If you find this hard to accept, it may be because you don't have to face the alternatives." Two months later on January 4, 1980 Elsie died. At the memorial service for Aunt Elsie, Aunt Viola said "Ray seemed frail and worn. Ray took his relatives and us to a cafeteria after the service. After we got home, he got right into his pajamas and slept for several hours. His children don't expect that he'll live long without Elsie." Six months later after Elsie died to the day, Ray died. "I was with my father when he died of a heart attack after a weekend of reminiscing," writes his son Ray M. Johnson, Jr. "Death was instantaneous and appeared to be painless, at least for him." The Johnsons' love for others than went beyond their death when they left their estate to 22 different people and their bodies to science.

Having friends in medical school and knowing of the disrespect that students sometimes show to donated bodies, I tried to discourage my aunt from donating her body. She acknowledged the possibility, but insisted the good to future students outweighed the bad behavior of other students, cheerfully endorsing this essay from Author Unknown:

"At a certain moment, a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to
function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped. When
this happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by use
of a machine. And don't call this my 'deathbed'. Call it my 'bed of life,'
and let my body be taken from it to help other lead fuller lives.

"Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman. Give me heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain. Give my blood to the teenager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car so that he might live to see his grandchildren play. Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against the window. Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

"If you must bury anything, let it be my faults, my weaknesses, and all
prejudice against my fellow man. Give my soul to God. If by chance you
wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever."

My mother read a tribute I wrote for Aunt Elsie. "Over the years I've saved some of her letters," I wrote at the time. " 'This morning's mail brought the enclosed letter from Lillian about Uncle Otto's death in Ipswich ... another link broken in the family circle,' Aunt Elsie wrote me several years before her death. 'As we grow older, I think we accept death more-not only because it's inevitable but also because limitations to a life span become more acceptable. But that doesn't diminish the deep sadness and sense of loss when someone who has been a part of one's life for as long as one remembers anything at all-suddenly is no more.' Eased by a flood of happy memories-hiking through the Grand Tetons, boating down the Snake River, trying Japanese food-I feel the same sense of sadness." And now, two decades later, I see that Aunt Elsie's great gift to me was that life need not be a vale of tears, but a joyous smorgasbord of wonder and challenge and a striving for excellence and empathy as well as travel, theatre, books, cooking, museums, children, seminars, and music. With her great moral and common sense informed by a deep humanity and a supple and sensitive mind, Elsie Wik Johnson taught me as few others have.

When I was on the beach in Hawaii last spring, I gave Ben a teaspoon
of philosophical reality. I stamped my foot into the wet sand and
pointed that footprint to him as the surf washed over it. In a second,
the indentation was gone, as if it never existed in the first place.
That, I said, is our life on earth. It is but a vapor in the eternal
vastness of oblivion, a barely noticed flash on that endless ribbon of
time. As the preacher in Ecclesiastes said: "To every thing there is a
season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be
born, and a time to die." In the local cemetery, I came across a
ninety year old grave marker that had toppled over. As I turned it
upright, I wondered if anyone today even knows or cares that person
lived or died. And I realized that the day will come that no one will
know or care if I or anyone else for that matter lived or died. Man is
not the measure of all things as I'm reminded of Shelley's poem

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

While my faith takes me to a belief in the afterlife, it doesn't mean that our life here on earth is much more than a ripple from a pebble tossed into a boundless ocean, a twig swirling into oblivion. That said, our response cannot be cloud-dwelling morbidity as life is to be lived, and it is our awareness of death that gives life poignancy and urgency. We are always hearing time's winged chariot hurrying near, and it is this knowledge that brings us closer to what and whom we cherish. For me, this means spending less time with tele-marketers and tele-politicians and more time with my family and friends, and less time worrying
about stuff I can't do anything about and more time enjoying the stuff that makes up my life.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Darkside of Facebook

BROMONT, Quebec – A Canadian woman on long-term sick leave for depression says she lost her benefits because her insurance agent found photos of her on Facebook in which she appeared to be having fun.

Los Angeles, California (CNN) - The beating of 12-year-old boy by a group of classmates at a Southern California middle school may be linked to a Facebook posting encouraging kids to target redheads, authorities say.


"The Heart Has Its Reasons . . .

which reason knows nothing of."



The Ontological Argument For God's Existence

To be clear as to exactly what the ontological argument says, one very simple form goes as follows:

1. God is the greatest possible being.
2. It is possible that God exists.
3. If God does not exist, He would be inferior to a God which did exist.
4. If (1), (2), (3) then God exists.
5. Therefore, God exists.

It just happens that people have made this argument much more rigorous. For instance, Godel created a version of the ontological argument using modal logic that proceeds as follows: For those inclined to work through how this argument functions, it's available here:

I find the ontological argument unpersuasive once effort is made to understand it. The casting of the argument using model logic cannot whitewash its flaws.

Here is my breakdown.

1. God is the greatest possible being. To better understand the fallacy of this argument, let's start a parallel argument.

A. Pegasus is the greatest possible flying horse. The word possible is the operative predicate, indicating that there are none better horses, flying or otherwise.

2. It is possible that God exists.

B. It is possible that Pegasus exists.

On what basis should I concede that? It seems to me that the moment that you have a ground for a possibility that X exists, it must possibly exist.

3. If God does not exist, He would be inferior to a God which did exist.

C. If Pegasus did not exist, He would be inferior to a flying horse that did exist.

Now, I'm not expert in modal logic, but this seems gibberish, as an attempt is to prove existence in the using the negative subjuctive: "If X does not exist, therefore Y must exist." By assertion, we are creating the existence of flying horses.

4. If (1), (2), (3) then God exists.

D. If (A), (B), and (C), then Pegasus exists.

5. Therefore, God exists.

E. Therefore, Pegasus exists.

I don't think that follows.

A response from a reader:

Well, it is the consensus opinion that there are severe problems with the ontological argument. I should note that I do not believe in the ontological argument (in fact, I don't believe in God at all.) However, the reasons which you have cited are not the faults which are usually found with the ontological argument. In fact, if I understand your reasons correctly, then much of modern analytic metaphysics is unquestionably false. Given that this is a large body of serious academic work, it is worthwhile to at least try to understand some of the orthodox responses to your comments. I reserve neutrality as to my own position on this statements; I am merely pointing you to the accepted answers, not whether or not I personally accept them (though I do think they would be difficult to properly refute.)You seem to find fault with the modal notion of "possible" (which is sometimes also refered to as "contingency", though that has a slightly different meaning.)

You wrote:

2. It is possible that God exists.
B. It is possible that Pegasus exists.

On what basis should I concede that? It seems to me that the moment that you have a ground for a possibility that X exists, it must possibly exist. Strikes me as nonsensical.

In modern analytic metaphysics, X is said to possibly exist if we can form consistent propositions about it. Unless the notion of pegasus is somehow contradictory we must accept that it possibly exists precisely because, and only because, it is non-contradictory. We are not usually entitled to say that X has necessary existence only in virtue of its possible existence, and this is something that is strange about the ontological argument. Usually, philosophers find it sufficient to say that if they can imagine it, then it exists at some possible world (which is equivalent to saying that it is a non-contradictory notion.) In other words, if we can imagine it, then it is possible. Contradictory notions, meanwhile, are termed impossible. Modal logic gives us the ability to quantify over these varies different modes of existence - necessary, possible, and impossible. Therefore, modal logic is the formal tool that we need to express sentences containing various different modalities (i.e. modes of existence.)I should note that there are many things which are possible but do not exist in our world. I think it is non-controversial that Pegasus is an object of that kind (i.e. Pegasus is possible, but does not exist in our universe.) Of course, there are philosophers who believe in all kinds of things, so you can find philosophers who identify themselves as "modal realists". They believe that all possible worlds are real, whatever that might mean. This is different from the multiverse theory, though there are some who believe that these are the same thing. Most philosophers feel that these ideas are silly. I therefore will not spend more time on them.

What you wrote, while ultimately at odds with philosophical orthodoxy, is not entirely different from one of the standard refutations of the ontological argument. Personally, I like to formulate a parallel argument using the "ultimate taco":

1*. The Greatest Taco is the greatest possible taco.
2*. It is possible that the Greatest Taco exists.
3*. If the Greatest Taco does not exist, it would be inferior to a taco which did exist.
4*. If (1), (2), (3) then the Greatest Taco exists.
5*. Therefore, the Greatest Taco exists.

Now, the flaw here cannot be that the argument is invalid. After all, it is a simple modus ponens argument and its validity can be trivially shown. What we are concerned with is its soundness. I think it is non-controversial that the Greatest Taco does not exist. Therefore, we can conclude that the taco argument must make a mistake somewhere.

How is this different from the Pegasus argument? It's different because I did not attack the ontological argument on either the grounds that you cite (i.e. your problem with modality or your problem with negative subjunctives. You might be wondering why I did not give the orthodox response to your worry about negative subjunctives. I have to confess that I am not familiar with the formal fallacy that you are indicating if, in fact, such a fallacy exists.) Rather, this is simply a reductio argument showing that something must be wrong with arguments of this kind; the exact error is not specified.There is a problem with this counterargument (and so we begin the counter-counter-argument!) The first problem is that it does not tell us where the issue occurs in arguments of this kind. Maybe there is a Greatest Taco, greater than any other taco and perhaps Pegasus exists as well. We doubt that these two statements are true, but on what grounds do we come to believe them? Perhaps an evil demon is tricking us into believing that super tacos and flying horses don't exist. Egads -- we've been deceived our entire lives! But most people are willing to think that this response is probably false, at least on the basis of inductive evidence.The second problem with this counterargument is the possibility that Anselm meant something else, something more subtle. Examine premise (1*) of this argument and premise (1) of the ontological argument. These premises are slightly different:1*. The Greatest Taco is the greatest possible taco.1. God is the greatest possible being.In premise (1), what is a "being"? And, in particular, what exactly did Anselm mean? If he just meant object, thing, or entity, then this is very different from saying that God is the greatest possible "supernatural man with a beard". It's not that God is the greatest possible god; it's that, of all things/objects that could possibly exist, God is the greatest. So, pick out any object in the world and God will be greater than that object. Toasters? Yep, God is greater. Laptops? Yep, God is greater. Janet Reno? Yep, God is greater. Burger King? Still, God is greater. I think you get the picture.But this is not true of premise (1*). Here, we are told that the Greatest Taco is the greatest possible taco. Maybe toasters are superior to tacos for some reason. I don't why that would be true, but bare with me. The idea is that proposition (1*) only speaks about possible tacos and not the full set of possible objects. Thus, we should be able to identify objects, either possible or actually existent, which are superior to the Greatest Taco, if, in fact, no possible taco is the greatest possible object.Unless, that is, we change premise (1*) to read:1**. The Greatest Taco is the greatest possible thing.Now, we claim that premise (1) and premise (1**) are equivalent modulo the name of the greatest possible thing. One might think, on a variety of different grounds, that there can only be one greatest possible thing (i.e. "greatest possible thing" is a unique object.) If this uniqueness claim holds, then God is the Greatest Taco and the Greatest Taco is God. You might object here on the grounds that relating God to tacos is clearly absurd. But what this really shows is that any object, when it is given the status of "greatest possible thing", must have the properties of God. We can imagine a taco that is the most intelligent, the most beautiful, the most good, the most merciful, etc, possible. Such a taco doesn't really have the properties of taco-ness; it has the properties of Godness. We probably wouldn't call such an object a "taco" since it does not have the properties we expect tacos to have. Just the same, if (1**) is true, then God and the Greatest Taco are identical.In case you're sceptical about the uniqueness claims, one simple way to argue for the uniqueness of the greatest possible thing is just to state that a non-unique thing is always inferior to a unique thing. Therefore, the greatest possible thing must be unique in virtue of its being the greatest possible.Another problem that you might cite in the ontological argument is the vagueness of the term "greatest". In virtue of what is God said to be the greatest? He obviously isn't the greatest evil. He's also not the greatest womanizer or the greatest misogynist. On all of these qualities, God seems to be the polar opposite (at least in the conception of God that mainstream Abrahamaic religions profess.) Yet, if we just say that He is the greatest possible in all categories, we are left with deducing clearly false propositions like this. There do exist solutions to this vagueness problem in the literature; however, none of them are really satisfying to me.There is another problem, though it is much more technical. In the ontological argument, the property of existence is ascribed to God. Further, He is said to be the greatest possible at existing; i.e. a non-existent deity is inferior to an existent deity. However, this is at odds with how existence is normally understood in the philosophical and logic literatures. In the literature, the orthodox position is that existence is a quantifier. But if existence is a quantifier, then it is not something which can be ascribed to an object. -- i.e. there would be no such thing as an existence predicate. However, it is impossible to formulate the ontological argument without an existence predicate. I understand that this last counterargument is still controversial. I also understand that there exists the position that existence is a second order predicate. I do not know very much about this last position nor do I know how it relates to the ontological argument.

A description of the problem of having existence be a predicate (at least as formulated by Kant) is available here:

As for why the ontological argument cannot be formulated without having existence as a predicate, we have to turn back to examine what exactly it is that the argument says. Let's consider a modified form of the argument that I already gave:1. God is the greatest possible thing.2. It is possible that there exists an x such that x=God.3. If God does not exist, He would be inferior to a thing which did exist.4. If (1), (2), (3) then God exists.5. Therefore, God exists.However, premise (3) now has problems. First, I note that premise (3), as currently expressed, cannot possibly be coherent if existence is a quantifier since it was in that sentence as a predicate. Namely, proposition (3) is a sentence of the kind "x is p" (expressible in predicate logic as ). Now we look for a way to suitably alter (3) without changing it's meaning.Consider the sentence "If there does not exist x, such that x=God, then there exists some existent t such that God is inferior to t." We might formalize this as: inf where G is God, t is a thing which exists. and inf is a order relation such that if AinfB then A is inferior to B. But why would this proposition be true? Since we have existentially quantified over G, and not attributed some property to it, there is no property by the lights of which G is inferior to t. In other words, the relation tinfG returns false whenever A=G and B=t. But that's not at all the idea that we wished to express; we wished to express the idea that a non-existent God would be inferior to an existent God.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Russell's Sets

This graphic explication of the ideas of Bertrand Russell are getting good reviews.


This and That

A few quick takes on current events that strike my fancy. (What is my fancy? Probably that which is next to the cockles of my heart.)

Obama's falling
approval ratings probably relate the weakening job picture: "Joblessness rose in 29 U.S. states last month compared with 22 in September, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Michigan had the highest jobless rate at 15.1 percent, followed by Nevada at 13 percent and Rhode Island at 12.9 percent." A comparative shows that Obama's polling foots with Reagan's polling.

Palin is booed by her supporters. What is it about this women that is catnip for so many people? Her supporters will claim that she is an average American beset by media elitists whereas her detractors will claim that she is a serial liar and a shallow and shrill opportunist. My view is that she is consequential on the political scene, an unelectable but canny player who will make a difference, but will ultimately be toxic to national Republican ambitions.

notice another woman's smile, hair, cleavage, and skin. Hey, they got my number! I would also add voice.

So former Miss California Carrie Prejean has
eight porn tapes to explain away. Say, Carrie, you cannot have it both ways-- be a spokewomen for wholesome Christian values while continuing to lie. "In interviews last week, Prejean claimed she became 'really serious' about her Christianity when she was 18." Right.

Will those
CERN egg heads create a black hole that will suck all we know into oblvion? Stay tuned.

I'm not impressed by the
student protests at Berkeley. The forceable occupation of a student building violates the rights of other students, and there are better ways to seek for a redress of grievances. (I feel like I'm in a time warp back to 1968.)

"Let his days be few." Christianism at its worse.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Satanism: The Toothless Tiger

Of all the religions that are practiced today, the most pathetic must be Satanism. It seems to essentially be Ayn Rand light and in its social Darwinism sounds like the very flower of the Grand Old Party. No black masses, no human or animal sacrifices, not even a belief in the existence of their deity. It seems to be more about Oprah-like individual empowerment. People who appropriate symbols of strength are usually weak.

Here are some of their beliefs:

A response from a reader.

There are different forms of "satanism." - both as a philosophy and as "a practicing religion." ... mostly: it is a philosophy that "man is his own god" and "ought to act and live that way."

Then there is the insideous occultic philosophy of "Luciferianism." - namely, that Lucifer is actually the god of this world and is greater than Yahweh or any other god. According to this mindset: lucifer is 'a good guy' who just wants us all to "be free" to pretty much "do as we please" and NOT be shackled by MORAL RESTRAINTS of religion or GOD. - this group has LOTS of adherents, ... many of them in secret and occultic societies.


Wittgenstein's Truth

Truth is an abstract idea. Abstract ideas are generalized from particular cases. From particular cases we can generalize an abstract “family resemblance” from all of the cases.

To see how this works, let's look at another popular example of an abstract idea from Wittgenstein; games. To teach me what games are, you cannot simply hold up a photograph of two people playing chess and point to it. For, I could easily take a game to be just that, a photograph. Only after giving me enough examples of games, “this is a game, that's not a game”, can I heuristically abstract all these particular cases into a vague and generalized idea of what a game is....
This is the distinction between object language (things) and metalanguage (meanings). Similarly, when we pick out true statements, we don’t need an idea of truth. We are picking out a certain physical event. We are referring to the physical event in object language with the label “true statement” but this should be taken as shorthand, just as “lion” is shorthand for “big growling thing with sharp teeth”. We pick out true statements, not by first knowing what truth is but by noticing remarkable features about them that, taken together, have a family resemblance. Fortunately for us, the abstract idea of truth isn't as spread out as games. There are essentially two kinds of true statements. That is truth by definition and truth by correspondence with reality. For example, consider the following two true statements.

1. All bachelors are unmarried
.2. All copper wires are electrically conductive.

The first (1) is true by definition of what the words “all bachelors are unmarried” mean. The second (2) is true by corresponding with reality.
Some remarkable features of the first kind of true statement are that it’s obvious, trivial and redundant. Any true statement of this kind will implicitly contain one term inside of another. The term “bachelor” contains the term “unmarried”, for a bachelor is simply an unmarried man. The statement is therefore true by definition of what the words mean. We are pointing out the same thing twice and comparing it to itself, i.e. redundant. ...

So, what is truth? Truth is a correspondence relationship, either between the terms within a statement or between a statement and reality. The statement, “the cat is on the mat” is true because the cat is in fact, on the mat. The statement corresponds to reality. The statement, “all triangles have three sides” is true because the term "triangle" is defined as something with three sides. Having three sides is [i]how we point triangles out[/i], so of course they are going to have three sides. The terms correspond to each other making the statement true as well as redundant.

That's truth, in a nutshell (comparatively speaking).[/quote]

Wittgenstein has clearly influenced you and I also agree with your epistomology. A non-tautological proposition must have some kind of correspondence to the natural world. "A cat is on the mat" has truth value for both "cat" and "mat" whereas "A angel is in my living room" has meaning only in so far as there is a living room that is mine. "A ffblgg is on the xxrsrr", however, has no meaning and thus no truth possible content outside of my own imagination. The test of correspondence of subject and predicate to what is in the world that we can jointly apprehend is a low standard but a necessary one that eliminates even the need to ask unanswerable and undefinable metaphysical questions.

Is a process of verification still necessary to discerning whether there is really a correspondence between subject and predicate? What if it just "looks" like a cat? Also is this definition of truth not subject to languistic convention. Whose definition of cat are we using. If I say kitty, pussy, Felix, or el gato does the subject begin to shift. Would it be better to say cat like thing. But, that would only be a family resemblance. Not that particular cat. What about the mat? Is it a small rug, a cloth rectangle, a laying thing, a tiny two dimensional floor cover? How does subjective interpretation impact the truth statement. Is truth only objective?

You make a good case that truth is not only objective. However, we try to attach unreal symbols to something real, which we then call truth when it really might be my truth. There are many kinds of cats, as the Wikipedia disambuguation suggest. In the case of felix catus, the best we can do is to state that the entity on the mat corresponds to a form that we agree is a domestic cat. The entity "domestic cat" doesn't exist any more than the entity "5" exists. But just as there are five people, five stones, five cars, and so on, the set of all "5"s constitute what we agree is "5". The same is true with our feline. So long as it corresponds sufficiently to that which agree is a "cat", it must be a cat. However, that agreement whether it be by humans or machines still involves subjectivity-- a disonnect between the thing in itself and the thing as I, you, or a robot sees it.

Cats may refer to:

Cats (musical), an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats (film), a video version of the musical Geelong Cats, an Australian football league team Jacob Cats (1577–1660), Dutch poet Felis catus, the domestic cat Felidae, the taxonomic grouping of all cats Catalytic converter, A shortened term for

The acronym CATS may refer to:

CATS (software), electronic design automation software CATS (trading system),
Computer Assisted Trading System, an automated trading system developed by the Toronto Stock Exchange
CATS pipeline, a natural gas pipeline in North Sea
CATS, a character from the 1989 video game Zero Wing known for speaking the phrase "All your base are belong to us"
Canadian American Transportation Systems, a defunct Fast Ferry company serving Rochester, New York and Toronto, Ontario. Central Autónoma de Trabajadores Salvadoreños, a trade union in El Salvador Charlotte Area Transit System, the regional transit authority for metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina,
USA Chicago Area Transportation Study, the former metropolitan planning organization for the Chicago region
Citizens for an Alternative Tax System, a national tax reform public interest group in the United States
Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, the assessment process for K-12 schools in Kentucky,
USA Computer Active Technology Suspension, an automotive technology that controls the movement of the wheels
Credit Accumulation and Transfer
Scheme, a scheme used by many UK universities to evaluate modular degrees
Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland, an annual awards event in Scotland
C.A.T.S., fictional Home Office team from C.A.T.S. Eyes, a British television series aired between 1985 and 1987


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Science Project Ideas

This is funny. These kids are asking good questions.

"Will there be minorities in heaven?"
"Crystal meth: friend or foe?"


Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Breakup of Conservatism

It’s official: the conservative movement is splitting into two parties

That's not quite right. The GOP is shattered into more than two pieces.

1. The Oglaboogla wing. These are the anti-abortionists from the Bible belt who hate the ...

2. Liberterians. They want no government intrusion, including on the issue of abortion. They hate the ...

3. Wall Streeters. These are the Enron and hedge fund types who steal from their shareholders and ship jobs overseas. They hate ...

4. Main Street USA. Normal Americans who want to live their lives as best as they can. They hate the . . .

5. Neocons. They want to send the sons and daughters of Americans overseas to die. They hate the ...

6. Isolationists. They believe in Fortress America. They hate the ...

7. Mink coat set. They are the jet setting and opera going sophisticates who want to keep their trust funds intact. They hate the ...

8. Paleocons. The neo-nazi, skin head contingent, who hate ...

9. Everyone.

And so it goes.


The Heresy of Speaking in Tongues

"I am teaching what Jesus and Paul taught. What is it that you think I teach that does not agree with the Bible? You believe what you have been taught about the Bible as most Christians do instead of believing what the Bible says and obeying. Jesus tells us when we seek we will find: if you would obey: you would find what I am teaching about."

You have a distorted and incorrect view of what Jesus and Paul taught. I think Dr. Younce in post one hit the nail on the head.

"I have never spoken in tongues. After examining the Scriptures, I am sure that I never will, because they are not for today. Isn't it amazing? I have everything in Christ, and more, without speaking in tongues than those who claim tongues."

(Face To Face With Tongues
A Verse by Verse Examination and Exposition On the Subject of Tongues

By Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor)

To which you said: "But does this person have everything that Christ has taught? or is it just claimed because he has not understood and acted on the scriptures? When Jesus taught that when we believe: that the power to heal; the power to cast off devils the utterances are given to pray and worship with will follow us when we believe and he does not have this following: does he really have all that Christ has for us or has he been deceived, and just thinks he does because he is too proud: being a pastor, and does not want to pretend that he doesn't even have the baptism with the Holy Spirit that will give us this power because the One with the power in 'in us'?

Jesus taught in Mark 16 15-18: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. AND these signs will follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues: They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

So does this person 'really' have everything in Christ or has he been deceived by believing that what Jesus taught is a lie if he does not believe it?"

Here is a case where you are reading and teaching the Bible without understanding it. Is it really your contention that we should fondle rattle snakes or send people home from the hospice after the laying on of hands or drink Jonestown joy juice in His name or preach to all creatures including rabbits and dogs? Does any of this define what it means to be a Christian?

Let's be honest with each other. No one really knows what the phrase "new tongues" really means. If there is one thing that comes through in totality in the writings of Paul, and that is his commitment to logical exposition and to communication. There are no verses in the epistles that look like this: "Iglede biggle de booj blabety bigglety woo." And for good reason, and God has given us reason as well as faith to find the truth so that we can separate truth from falsehood rather than just blindly accepting whatever nonsense a preacher from a soapbox or pulpit may claim.

The Bible is a dangerous book, because in the wrong hands as interpreted by false prophets, it becomes a door way to cultish heresies, where people abandon their loved ones or people turn on the government with armed force. The Heavens Gate folks and the Branch Davidians defined themselves as devout Christians and read from the same Bible that you do, but the consequences were their deaths.

Finally, could it be that some of the writings of Paul and culturally and temporally bound, appropriate for the church of the Acts but not today? This is why I am skeptical about modern day miracles, especially as performed by televangelists. Our Lord performed miracles to validate His authority, but at the same time made it clear that he was bound by natural law. We see this in the rebuke to Satan when Satan asked Jesus to abrogate the law of gravity in the desert (Matthew 4, Luke 4). ("If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.") I cannot say dogmatically that there are no modern day miracles, and I admit I will be impressed if I saw an amputee sprout limbs. But what is it that these evangelists are really trying to do? They are essentially making the claim that they are the conduit of God's grace. Thus, if you trust them enought to send them "seed" money, in return they will intercede with God on your behalf to bring you health and wealth. The fallacy of this is that they falsely believe that they mediate between you and God, that usurping the role of Jesus as the only mediator between you and God. In their cynicism, lies, greed, and manipulation, these people are not Christians but Satanists.

"The serpent that we will be able to 'pick up' or have no danger of is satan in the scriptures that Luke 10 clearly shows us."

Ah, yes. You reveal yourself finally as a liberal cafeteria Christian. On one hand, you take literally "talking in tongues" as a sign that you are "in His kingdom" while at the same time claiming that the fondling of snakes is a metaphor for Satan. Friend, you cannot have it both ways-- using literalism to support your dogmatic interpretation of the Bibe and the using figuratism to support your dogmatic view of the Bible.

Here is a daring thought. Perhaps those verses in Mark are nothing more than an injunction to show extraordinary faith and not a command to start babbling gibberish if what very well might be Polish curse words.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cat Names

A list.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Children's Books Philosophy

The best philosophy comes from children's books. Here are some of my favorites. "Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get ther someday." (Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne). "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast" (Alice's Adventures in Wondereland, Lewis Carroll). "And he puzzled three hours till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! 'Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. 'Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means little bit more.'" (How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Dr. Seuss). "Ooooooooo! I absolutely love Christmas!" (Elolsie at Christmastime, Kay Thompson.) "After all, what is life anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that." (Charlotte's Web, E.B. White.) "All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only being the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." (The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis).


When the Old Man Died

An elegiac tune.


Happy Halloween!

We enjoyed "trunk and treat" at church on Saturday, where families decorated the backs of their vehicles with Halloween themes and there was a chili cookoff and lots of fun for the kids.

Ben carved the '2 Much Candy' pumpkin.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Problem of Pain

"I've been reading through your comments again as I work on my assignment. This time I am wondering if I can explore these comments with you as part of my ownexplorations.

"Having read your own email in response to mine, I will understand if you do not wish to comment or explore them. It would be exploring them as issues rather than specific to your mother's death though I guess any comment may reflect on that.

"While I have noted these comments from what you have written, they are not comments that are unique to what you have written. They are comments I have heard from others as well.

"I must have done something terribly wrong to be suffering this pain".

"I believe that was a comment of your mothers and I have a recollection that I heard her say that too. I am sorry now that I did not explore that with her.

"The other question is one that is implied and you yourself commented that the question is as old as Job: Why should the good (the nice) suffer?

A similar question is found in "Why should bad things happen to good people?"

You ask some big questions. While Nancy makes dinner, I'll try to pound out my thoughts for what they are worth.

(Some of the contents of this essay comes from interactions I have had with several people going back many years.)

As regards to mom, I heard her make that comment, but it of course needs to be contextualized in the pain and depression that she endured, so I don't give it any weight at all.

"Tell me about your God of love," an atheist wrote to me a few years ago, "forall that I see is 1 Samuel 15:3, 2 Samuel 24:15, 2 Samuel 6:6, and 1 Chronicles 21:14." Never let it be said that atheists haven't read the scriptures. Sometimes they have read it only too well. And I must admit thatI too I have trouble squaring God's command to "slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" with the One who said "Permit little children, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." That God would inflict pain or even allow pain has challenged man since the days of Job.

Grandma June provided one answer to Natalie Angier. "When I was eight yearsold, my family was in a terrible car accident, and my older brother almost died," she writes. "The next night, as I lay scared and sleepless on my paternal grandmother's living-room couch, she softly explained to me who was to blame. Not my father's Aunt Estelle, a dour, aging wild woman and devout Baptist, who, as usual, was driving recklessly fast. No, the reason Estelle's station wagon flipped over and Joe was thrown out the back window was this: my father had stopped going to church the previous year, and God was very, very angry."

A 16 year old had a question for an advice columnist: "When I was a little girl it was not so bad because I got used to the kids of the block makingfun of me, but now I would like to have boy friends like the other girls andgo out on Saturday nights, but no boy will take me because I was bornwithout a nose-although I'm a good dancer and have a nice shape and my father buys me pretty clothes. I sit and look at myself all day and cry. Ihave a big hole in the middle of my face that scares people-even myself-so I can't blame the boys for not wanting to take me out. My mother loves me,but she cries terribly when she looks at me. What did I do to deserve such a terribly bad fate? Even if I did some bad things, I didn't do any beforeI was a year old and I was born that way. I asked papa and he says he doesn't know, but that maybe I did something in the other world before I was born, or that maybe I was being punished for his sins. I don't believe that because he is a very nice man. Ought I commit suicide?"

The basic formulation for the problem is as follows: If God is good, He isnot God. If God is God, He is not good. If God is good, He would wish tomake his creatures happy. If God was all-powerful, He would be able to dowhat He wished. But His creatures are suffering. Thus, God lacks power or goodness or both. Either God doesn't exist or He is impotent or He is evil.

In The Brothers Karamazov, the greatest novel of the 19th century, Fyodor Dostoevsky puts into the mouth of the atheist Ivan the one irrefutable objection to a personal God, that the only possible religious answer is that human suffering will be justified by the divine harmony and the end of history. It's a hollow argument made by some theologians to explain the holocaust-that Hitler was God's punishment of European Jews for their secularization and Biblical prophecy was fulfilled when the state of Israel was born.

"Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have childrento do with it, tell me, please? It's beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their fathers' crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension. Some jester will say,perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn't grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old. Oh,Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: 'Thou art just,O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.' When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can't accept tha tharmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking atthe mother embracing the child's torturer, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' but I don't want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protectmyself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpected tears to 'dear,kind God'!"

The classic counter is that God made man not as robots but with free moral agency. God freely limited his own freedom and put no limit on ours. God thusly could not have created a moral universe without at the same time freeing man's spirit. If God had programmed all humans to be good, therewould be no evil but there would be no virtue as well. Evil exists because free will exists. Blind force, instinct, or the orchestrations of God do not compel us. This reply to suffering makes sense only if weassume that God is not in control of all that happens. If God controls plane crashes, terminal cancers, and atom bombs, then God must be responsible, just as I must be responsible if I allow my child dies after I let him to play in the traffic. If those actions are bad, then God must be fundamentally evil and also the author of evil. I cannot believe that. Rather, I believe that God created a contingent universe and delegated tohumanity the freedom to work through the vicissitudes of life-dealing withwar, disease, and poverty. By doing so, humanity develops morally, intellectually, and technologically. So this is another reason why I believe God's self-limiting sovereignty and that we determine our own destiny in the face of life, death, and God.

It is commonly said that God is omnipotent, having the power that admits of no bounds or limitations. The word itself doesn't exist in the Bible, which firstly makes the claim suspect. There are certainly many references to God the creator, that the winds and the sea obey Him, that Satan is bound by His will, and that "in Him we live and move and have our being." All of this is true. But it doesn't follow that God is all powerful in the sense that God intervenes in natural law. We see this is Jesus rebuke of Satan when when Satan tried to tempt him in the desert (Matthew 4). I also believe that God constrains Himself when it comes to consience and will. We say this with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Our Lord said "Not my will, but thine be done." I read that to mean there was nothing preordained about the choice that Jesus made.

My boys brought home their report cards yesterday with almost all As and a few Bs. They are the best answer I can think of to the problem of pain. Their intellect is to a great extent than perhaps I would want to admit mere chance--that mystery of DNA alchemy as well as the accident of birth that put them in community with great schools and teachers that mades them who they are are with their unique minds, temperaments, and appearances. The smallest chemical inbalance could have made both children profoundly retarded and barely sentient. Let us say that my children were disabled. Can we really say that the enabled children are blessed by God and the disabled are cursed by God? But what isn't luck are the chain of choices Ben and Zach will take in the future with the power and the potential to be a a physician or a porn site web master. And this, I believe, is where God comes in-- not in orchestrating the rain that falls or whether we like or don't like vanilla ice cream, but in inspiring and sustaining us to to live up to our full intellectual and emotional potential. I see the converse of this in what I call atheist infomercials, those annoying but strangely fascinating televangelist shows that purport to make you rich and healthy if only you will send in your contributions to a sliver-tongued man of the cloth. What is perhaps even more heritical are those who ascribe to God such soveriengnty that they decline to take commonsense medical precautions on behalf of their children, such as blood transfusions. Whatever these people may profess, they are by their actions the walking embodiment of evil. For by their actions, they are practical atheists in the worst sense, as they reject the existence of a God that can gave us doctors and medicine and our minds to make such decisions.

My view accords with the view of Harold Kushner, whose young son had progeria, the rapid aging disease. By the time his son had died at 14,the boy looked like an old man. "An aching sense of unfairness" ledKushner to write the best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to GoodPeople. Kushner argues that bad things didn't happen because God wants topunish us for our sins, test our strength, or teach us lessons. (In mymother's case, what possible lesson or opportunities for personal growthwould be imparted as she lay on her broken back starving to death?) Instead, Kushner sees randomness to the universe. Lottery winners are merely lucky-not blessed. And when bad things happen, we shouldn'tquestion ourselves or God and be angry because the world is imperfect andunfair. Insurance companies call earthquakes and hurricanes that kills hundreds of people "acts of God", but they use God's name in vain. These are acts of nature, not acts of God. Nature is morally blind. The act of God is the courage of us to continue in the face of disaster.

But I think this somewhat of a sterile argument that doesn't address the core issue of the suffering of the innocent. I think for example of thetwo million Jewish babies and children that were swallowed by the maw ofthe Nazi death camps, including kids of relatives of my wife. It makes me think that if there is a God, it's a God who is blind. That children must die so that we will be good strikes me as incomprehensible. Following the death of his young boy, Huxley replied to a letter from the Reverend Charles Kingley: "As I stood behind the coffin of my little son the otherday, with my mind bent on anything but disputation, the officiating minister read as part of his duty, the words "If the dead rise not, let useat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die." I cannot tell you how inexpressibly they shocked me. Paul had neither wife nor child, or he must have known that his alternative involved a blasphemy against all the best and noblest in human nature. I could have laughed with scorn. What! Because I am face to face with irreparable loss, because I have given back to source from whence it came, the cause of great happiness, stillretaining through all my life the blessings which have sprung and willspring from that cause, am I to renounce my manhood, and, howling, grovelin bestiality? Why the very apes know better, and if you shoot theiryoung, the poor brutes grieve their grief out and do not immediately seek distraction in the forge."

I have great sympathy for this reaction, and should I lose my wife or child,my grief would be as great, but I could not be persuaded that their lives hadbeen at no purpose leading us to chuck our ethics. I think of the Oxford don C.S. Lewis who aggressively promoted the classic Christian answer to evil and suffering in The Problem of Pain that I mentioned earlier. You may remember the movie "Shadowlands", played by Anthony Hopkins as Lewis, in which he had acrisis of faith when he watched his young bride die of cancer. At the end ofthe day, there are no satisfactory answers-only the consolation of faith in the One who also suffered-- and our friends. In one of the last scenes in"Shadowlands," we see the professor hugging his young step-son after his wife had just died-- both in tears.

Perhaps that is the only real answer in the face of the silence and distance of God. Faith is not all green pastures and still waters. The comforters in the Book of Job put forth their rational arguments, and at the end Job-without an explanation but with the existential experience of God-turns for questioning to wondering silence: "I will lay mine hand upon my mouth." In this fragment of time on this island in space,we are in this together and we must help each other out. Evil and sufferingis inextricably part of the human condition individually and institutionally, and if there is one thing we must believe in, it is that we can make a difference. To live is to suffer. To suffer is to find meaning. And, if there is purpose in life, there must be purpose in suffering and death. The Psalmist said that "My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." It did not say, "My tragedy comes from the Lord."

The bad that happens in our life has no meaning. But we can redeem it by giving it meaning.

"There seems to be a very thin line between a "tough love" God and a "not there / uninterested" God. How do you distinguish which God version correctly explains the human situation? Faith alone?"

I cannot say that I've nailed the question of theodicy. But it is my attempt to reconcile what may very well be irreconcilable-- the existence of an imminent God to the more deonstrable existence of nature bloody of tooth and claw.

You're certainly right about that thin line. Perhaps one way to analogize it is look at our relationship to Our Father in Heaven to our father on earth-- parents and their relationship to their children-- not when thir kids are able to harm themselves by playing in the street-- but as adults themselves-- making what we hope are sensible choices at the university but with us there only in spirit to guide them. Could it be that God expects that level of maturity from us, not to expect magic tricks, a hand on the back of the bicycle, or checks in the mail but to look within ourselves and to others to make the right decisions and take the right actions?


Sunday, October 25, 2009

H1N1: Shall We Get Innoculated?

1,000 Americans, including 100 children, have died because of the swine flu, according to news reports.

Obama Declares National Emergency

Like any parent, I want to do the right thing. But what is that? I've been innoculated for flu before and I have never been so sick.

In 1976, up to 50 people died because of reactions to innoculations for the swine flue "epidemic".

My grandfather died in the pandemic of 1918. Is this a replay?

If we get injected and then the flu mutates again, will that invalidate the original innoculation?

Is it better to forgo an injection completely?

I will be especially interested in hearing from medical professionals on this topic.

Here is some good advice.

It seems new to us. Well, in actuality it's got the same risk factors as every other innoculation, and it's been well tested. Most of the stuff against it turns out to be unfounded or by an agendicized, quack source.

I thought alot about it, and someone pointed out "risk vs Benefit". That's what I'm going to consider: Risk vs Benefit. Right now, it's better to get the shot than to leave yourself open for the flu.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Deliverance: A Mean Banjo


I Want These Cats


Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm In A Box

Today's Google Factoid: Results 1 - 10 of about 399,000,000 for i'm in a box. (0.20 seconds)


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quine's Empiricism

As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer . . . For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.

In his book from which you quote, Quine rejects the analytic (true by the meaning of the words) -synthetic (true by virtue of facts) distinction. The fact of a physical object is not subject to falsifiability while theories that contain those facts are. I think Quine is suggesting a cautious or humble approach to facts as the selection of those facts may be just as dubious as the theory that Thor controls thunder.


Spinoza's Monism

"Great spirit and monist, now considered atheist, Spinoza used the term God to refer to the total of Being and Nature which constitute the only one substance that exists."

There is a curious verse in the Bible that also seems to suggest monism.

Acts 7:28: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being."


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

California Dreaming

Except for the traffic and the politicians, California is wonderful.

Here some pictures of our Spring break trip to Southern California.

I wrote this to my father last week.

It is Friday night when I’m writing this letter. We just came from a late-evening trip to La Jolla, a seaside town near San Diego. We had an ice cream and then walked to the beach in the dark. The ocean breakers crashed against the cliffs sending up sprays of water and foam.

We left Sunday morning for California at about nine am. I drove for the first four hours and Nancy drove for the remaining three hours. It was interesting to see the whirring windmill farms. We arrived at the resort at about four and then drove to Oceanside, about twenty miles away, where we had a dinner at Ruby’s, a restaurant on the mile long pier.

The Lawrence Welk Resort is beautifully situated amid golf lawns and lakes and under hills studded by large boulders. Monday was misty, overcast, and chilly. We went for a timeshare presentation where we traded in our Scottsdale property for the Welk property. We felt this would give us more trading power for less money. That evening, we drove to Culver City near LA. On Tuesday, Nancy appeared on The Price is Right at CBS. The show will be shown on December 17th.

On Wednesday, I drove Zach to a charter school where he took his PSAT. It was a fairly grueling three hour test, but he thinks he did OK.

On Thursday, we drove 90 miles to Knottsberry Farm. Nancy enjoyed the Pony Express ride while I was thrilled by the Silver Bullet and its four corkscrew turns. We let the boys enjoy the rides while Nancy and I walked around Downtown Disney. Saturday we see a play “The Andrew Brothers.”

We hope you continue to be well and you remain in our fondest thoughts and prayers.


Band Kids Rock


The Best Cat Scratcher Ever

For more than a decade, we have watched out cat demolish our furniture. Good money has been spent on one solution after another. But we finally found something that delivers. Here is a cat scratcher from Petsmart that costs $20. It is made of corregated cardboard and included catnip. Kitty goes nuts over it.

(I'm not associated with Petsmart. I'm just passing along good information.)


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel Prize: Gilt By Association

Yes, Obama's Nobel prize is premature. But the committee was trying to make a statement of encouragement-- that multilateralism is to be preferred over unilaterialism and that the soft power of diplomatic and culutral influence must come before hard power of bullets and bombs. It was also a rebuke to neo-conservatism with its theory of preemptive war, nation buliding, and international crusades.


Chaparral v. Horizon v Streaker

My boy and I were watching the marching band play during the halftime. My other boy plays in the band, and it was impressive to see the chorographed marching and excellent playing. But the military precision was interrupted by a moment of anarchy when a streaker dashed across the field and into the darkness. A student next to me said about this moment of unsolicited entertainment: "Dude, that three dollars was totally worth it." The upshot is that the student was expelled.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rio's 2016 Olympics

One fact to remember before you book your flight to the games. Last year, there were 2,069 murders in Rio.


Jesus Holding the Constitution

Writing A Conservative Bible

Who knew that Marxists wrote the NIV? The Conservative Bible Project is an effort to re-write the Bible to reflect conservative political bias, sometimes by removing verses to which they object.

"The earliest, most authentic manuscripts lack this verse set forth at Luke 23:34:[7]

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible.



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