Tuesday, December 29, 2009

An Army of Dumb

I do my best to avoid being demeaning toward individuals. As someone has said, we should be tolerant of people, but intolerant of bad ideas. So it is with great sincerity that I want to be clear about the purpose of this post -- it is the utter stupidity of the ideas I want to address here that is important. The fact that there are specific, well-known, and influential leaders of the U.S. Army that have been articulating these ideas, though relevant, is not the point. It is the ideas themselves that sicken me.

I also want to be clear about my obvious respect for the U.S. military and those who serve in it. This topic hits very close to home for me as a former Marine, the son of a retired Marine, and as part of a family of current and former career members of the U.S. Army. I mean no disrespect toward the men and women who currently serve our country, especially since two of my sons are included in that group. But when the leadership of that military becomes so obviously idiotic; when they begin to promote ideas that will serve to put those who serve beneath them in mortal danger, I am compelled to weigh in, no matter whose feelings might get hurt.

A little over a year ago, while talking with a well-placed source at a noted institution of higher learning, I asked him about absentee voter registration for the upcoming 2008 General Election. He answered, "Many of us don't believe we should vote ... as members of the profession of arms, we feel that it is inconsistent with our commitment to attempt to choose our Commander-in-Chief."

Where on earth had he come up with such an idea? Cal-Berkeley? Columbia University? Yale? Harvard? Wellesley? None of the above ...

This is an idea he received from individuals in positions of leadership at the number one college in America (Forbes, 2009) and one of the finest (if not the finest) leadership training institutions on the planet: The United States Military Academy at West Point.

He continued, " ... there's actually a large sized portion of the officer corps that feels the same way ... [We] can't choose whether or not to follow [the Commander-in-Chief's] orders once he's in office so it kind of defeats the idea of 'selfless service' to attempt to have any voice in that decision ... If we signed up to do whatever he said, no matter what, then trying to effect that lessens the value of what we swore to do."

Let me say that the heart of this guy's motivation is undeniably honorable. It amazes me that he would be compelled to think so selflessly about the oath he took to serve this nation. But the reasoning he has been given by the leadership at West Point is seriously flawed.

A citizen's right to vote is one of the core principles on which this nation was founded. Ironically, it is a right for which those who serve so honorably in the military, risk their lives to defend. How could any "leader" worth his salt ever be compelled to promote the idea that those who defend that right should not be able to exercise it?

These have taken an oath to defend the Constitution which grants them that right. And yes, they are sworn to follow the orders of their Commander-in-Chief. That they will always do. But it seems to me that simple logic entails that if they vote for a candidate who loses the election, the fact that they subsequently submit to the President for whom they did not vote, is an even more honorable demonstration of their loyalty.

This is especially relevant when those two aspects of the oath come in conflict. For instance, suppose one candidate for President is an avowed Marxist whose policies would, by definition, undermine the Constitution of the United States. The serviceman's oath is foremost to defend that Constitution, yet the philosophy being promoted would not allow him to vote against a candidate whose policies would undermine that Constitution and thereby violate that oath. This is lunacy.

This is nothing more than politically correctness (PC) run amok -- an idea that aims to negate the political influence of the very people who would suffer most by its imposition. At the time, what bothered me most about it was that this PC view was "prevalent" among the West Point leadership -- that some hideously high percentage of our military leadership has bought into this philosophical position and begun to pass it on to the next generation of leaders. When I heard this, I contacted a civilian leader at West Point who assured me that "it could not be true" but that she would bring it up with the Dean in an upcoming meeting she was having with him. She promised to share his response. But after repeated efforts to elicit that response, nothing has been forthcoming. The leadership simply ignores the question.

The support for this kind of PC in the military is sickening -- and frightening -- to me. And it just got worse.

After the senseless murder of 13 unarmed servicemen and women at Fort Hood last month; after it was learned that the spineless shooter screamed "Allahu akbar" ("Allah is Great") before beginning his rampage; after it was learned that this Islamist fanatic was in "contact with a man of known Islamist views, whose mosque he had once attended, whose sermons were eloquently bloodthirsty and for whom the shedding of blood was religious duty;"* after all that and more, the Army's Chief of Staff, General George Casey, weighed in on the matter.

"What happened at Fort Hood is a tragedy, and I believe it would be a greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty here."

Let those words sink in. They were spoken by the highest ranking General in the United States Army and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the most powerful nation on Earth. Make no mistake, his motivation is to divert the religious nature of this horrendous act away from its source and pretend it does not exist -- all for the sake of avoiding any hint of "intolerance" toward those who hold, and act on, equally murderous ideas. This general believes that some abstract, PC notion of "diversity" holds a higher value than the lives of the young men and women who were murdered at Fort Hood..

Talk about PC run amok. Apparently, West Point just represents the tip of the military leadership iceberg.

If the acceptance of dumb ideas were the end of it, it would simply be laughable. But it's not. These ideas have infiltrated the minds and philosophies of those who are training and leading our sons and daughters in combat. The stakes there are higher and the implications more critical than the outcome of the vacuous Washington D.C. posturing in which they are engaged. They are the blood and treasure of our nation and our families. The leaders who push these PC doctrines are more worried about the political ramifications for their own careers than they are about the lives that are wasted as a result of a misguided adherence to them.

No wonder they don't want our kids to vote.

* Theodore Dalrymple, National Review, December 7, 2009, p. 18

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Clashing Worldviews

A good friend of mine posed a couple of questions that I think are worthy of careful consideration for anyone who recognizes what seems to be our descent into a post-Christian culture and society. I offer the questions and my attempt at answering them below. These are things that may become more important than any of us care to believe in the not-too-distant future ...

If your worldview does not have a self-protection mechanism, and other worldviews have belief systems and/or views of superiority and conquest, your worldview will eventually be overtaken by the other. Do you agree with that statement?

I guess it depends what you mean by a "self-protection mechanism." I think correspondence to reality (the definition of Truth) is on the side of the Christian worldview. For that reason, the Truth is a defense mechanism that supports the Christian worldview intellectually. When the Truth is on your side it has a way of eventually vanquishing all challenges. Our victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War is evidence of that. Communism is a hollow system based on an improper anthropology. Its philosophical understanding of human nature is just wrong -- and the system collapsed under the weight of this central lie.

But if you mean a pragmatic, physical mechanism, Christianity also has a "Just War Doctrine," that includes:
Just cause
Comparative justice
Legitimate authority
Right intention
Probability of success
Last resort
It was first defined by Augustine and has been refined since but I would consider that a means of self-protection. It is an ethically sound doctrine that, one cannot help notice, is violated almost completely by the unethical, indefensible actions of the Islamic terrorists who are the latest threat to peaceful coexistence. We just need to have some leaders with actual Christian convictions to understand it and carry it out. Lately, I'm not optimistic on either of those counts.

Does that statement apply to Christianity and Islam? Does that statement apply to Western Culture and Islam?

Yes to both. The difference (as you seem to infer by asking this as two different questions) is that Western Culture used to be almost indistinguishable from Christianity. Not so anymore. This is not to say that America is or was a God-ordained nation meant to carry out His will on Earth. But the foundations of America were based in a solid Christian ethic even if it was (and still is) sometimes corrupted by the human beings who implement it.

Christianity does provide a means of defense and the power (intellectually and physically) to turn back Islamic aggression. But Western Culture -- infected with postmodern human autonomy, consumerism and relativism -- is showing signs that it does not, in my humble opinion, have the conviction to do so. Instead of critiquing that culture from a Biblical point of view, we seem more likely to continue to accomodate the culture into the church. We are already seeing the effects of that wrong-headed practice.

If we don't change that I think we are looking at the further decline of America as an honorable and trustworthy representative of the Christian worldview. All you have to do is look across the Atlantic to see where an abandonment of Christianity in culture will eventually lead. Unfortunately, absent some serious changes, we seem to be headed in the same direction.

This trend is discouraging but not hopeless. What it should do, however, is force serious believers to fortify their intellectual positions in defense of the Christian worldview. Not only so, but force them (us) to consider that those convictions may lead beyond preaching to the choir in our Sunday School classrooms. The ramifications of our convictions may be leading us toward peaceful defiance of the expectations of a god-denying society. It is a sad state of affairs, but I believe that projects like The Manhattan Declaration are just the beginning of a call to see who really holds the convictions I'm talking about here.

More on The Manhattan Declaration to come, but the link on the left side of this page will take you to see for yourself what it is all about.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Christmas! (p.s. I Am Not A Pagan)

Many Christians these days make a scene about boycotting Christmas. That's their choice but I'd like to humbly offer a rebuttal to the notion that all the Christmas symbols (trees, mistletoe, Santa Claus, gift-giving) and, most notably, the date we use for Christmas are nothing but an acceptance of paganism with which no "real" Christian should agree. I don't accept that. Here's why ...

First, what's wrong with stealing stuff from the pagans? Before I go any further with this, please hear me out. I know that probably sounds flippant but I don't mean it that way at all. Not to mention, I don't accept it. But here's the thing -- if we co-opt some formerly pagan practices and use them to celebrate our holiday, I don't see a problem with that. The pagan connections have long since disappeared. I, and my family, have never even considered their pagan roots (if indeed they even have any). They have always, and will always, be Christian images, symbols and practices to us. We associate them with the incarnation of Christ and celebrate that fact in our home. We've never considered otherwise. So please don't accuse me of capitulating to paganism. That's not what I do.

Besides, in keeping with the often-invoked Great Commission, and with Paul's exhortation to "be all things to all men," I don't see a problem with using those pagan symbols to attract pagans, then redefining them in Christian ways. In this way, the pagans are redirected from their journey down the wrong path and onto the path to the real Truth. That is exactly the kind of thing the Apostle Paul did. I think that's a good thing.

Second -- and this applies mainly to the date we use to celebrate Christmas -- who says it has pagan roots?! Many people claim that Christianity uses December 25th as the date because we have caved to the Sun worshippers who give spiritual significance to the Winter Solstice. Not so. For starters, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st. But that's just the beginning.

Additionally, there are very distinct Christian-based reasons for selecting December 25th as the date of Christ's birth. For an excellent analysis of those reasons, please read William J. Tighe's, Calculating Christmas. It is a fascinating article that chronicles the origin of the date. I offer a brief summary here:

  • There was a common belief called the Integral Age of the great Jewish prophets that claimed they were born, or conceived, on the same day they died.
  • "Modern scholars agree that the death of Christ could have taken place only in A.D. 30 or 33, as those two are the only years of that time when the eve of Passover could have fallen on a Friday, the possibilities being either 7 April 30 or 3 April 33."
  • By the time of Tertullian the Western church had concluded that he died on Friday, 25 March 29. In keeping with the Integral Age theory, Christ's conception would be the same date -- putting his birth 9 months later -- on December 25
  • The Eastern Church, for a different set of reasons (and with a different set of calendars), concluded that Good Friday was actually April 6. Using parallel reasoning, the Eastern church began celebrating Christ's birth on January 6th -- and still do today.

As shown above, calendar differences necessitate that these dates are probably not correct. But that is not the point. The point is that the date for Christ's birth was not adopted from pagan sources. It was the early church's best effort to get it right. It was a carefully calculated, conscientious decision, based on Jewish tradition that led to the dates we use today.

So I won't accept the pagan accusations or the scorn of those who try to put them on me. My family will celebrate Christmas on December 25th like we always do. We do so because we accept the historicity of the incarnation and the reality of the salvation it brings us all. We hope you'll do the same.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Star Power

I don't know about you, but ever since I was a kid, I have always looked a little skeptically at some aspects of the Christmas story we are all familiar with. In particular, I have always wondered how it was that a star could just pop into the sky and lead the "wise men" to find the baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. It always seemed a little suspicious to me. Now, I know God can work miraculously and do anything He wants to do but come on, the star seemed to be a bit much. Surely the story of the Star had all the qualities of a man-made fairy tale.

Not anymore.

For anyone who has any interest in the interconnectedness of history, science and Biblical truth, I highly recommend you check out a booklet and DVD presentation that makes a fascinating case for the reality of the Star of Bethlehem.

The The Star of Bethlehem (produced by Frederick A. Larson) is an amazing piece of work that is built on the following premise:
" ... the Bible [makes] a surprising number of references to signs in the heavens. Both Old and New Testaments assume that what happens up there matters. If we are interested in following the counsel of the Bible, we must hold a distinction in mind. Astrology assumes that stars are causes of earthly events. The Bible assumes that they can be messages about earthly events. It may be useful to think of this as a thermometer distinction. A thermometer can tell you if it's hot or cold, but it can't make you hot or cold. There is a big difference between a sign and an active agent. This is the difference between "astrology" and what the Bible holds forth."
Larson proceeds to go into breathtaking detail about the facts of history, combined with the technological capability we have to reproduce the place of objects on any date in history, to show that the Star of Bethlehem need not be thought of as a fairy tale anymore. In fact, Larson connects astronomy, not just to the Star of Bethlehem, but to the Cross of Calvary.

I won't spoil it here but I highly recommend this as a way for your family to approach the Christmas season with an inspiring look at another reason to hold confidence not only in the words of the Bible, but in the reality and Truth of the Christian view of the world.

You can check out a synopsis of the production at the link above and you can order it here.

Enjoy ...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who's Really Afraid of Science Now?

My last post was about our supposedly "science-minded" president and the emptiness of the claim that he acts as a Spock-like, emotionless, apolitical creature when he approaches the scientific considerations of the various issues that come before him. But I don't want to pick on the president. He is far from alone.

We who believe that science is just one -- not the only -- method of discovering true things about our world, are constantly pounded for trying to connect science and faith and/or religion to our understanding of things. This is not allowed, "they" say.

I submit that it is actually impossible not to do so. And I find it hugely ironic that those who are most vehement in their denunciation of both non-scientific answers to anything, and the related transgression of honoring a link between physics and metaphysics (no matter how limited) -- that those are the most inclined to ignore the science when it does not fit their pre-conceived narrative about the way the world has to be.

Though I have absolutely no idea about his stance on faith or religion, I would love for all of us to subscribe to the view of the Nobel Laureate Physicist, Richard Feynman, one of history's most prolific scientists. Dr. Feynman gave the following description of scientific conduct when he spoke at the commencement exercises for the Caltech Class of 1974:
"There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in 'cargo cult science' ... it's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty -- a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid -- not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and thing you though of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked ... Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them ... If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it."
Isn't that a quaint idea?

I wonder if the "scientists" at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit ever considered such a thing when they were deleting the Inconvenient Data or manipulating the data they did report?

I wonder if the politicians who deny knowing when life begins would ever commit to the hour (or so) it would take to read some passages from any of many embryology textbooks about that exact subject before they vote to allow the killing of innocent human beings?

I wonder if those who hype or blatantly falsify reports on the latest version of the "missing link" ever consider the ramifications of their actions, any alternate explanation for the evidence they give, or -- GASP! -- the possibility that they might be wrong?

I wonder if those who vilify the very idea of Intelligent Design ever go to sleep at night wondering why they continue to insist that the agent-less process they demand as an explanation for complex-specified-information in biological systems is something they would never accept as an explanation anywhere else but in nature?

I wonder if the Big Bang cosmologists who prattle on about the infinite "many worlds" hypothesis or a universe that "sprang from nothing without cause," ever stop to consider that the "theory" (pick one) they promote so vociferously amounts to indefensible speculation -- just like they assign (unfairly) to theistic believers?

Unfortunately, the world we live in cares more about political victory than scientific integrity. Those scientists who don't toe the acceptable party line are ridiculed, chastised, and even fired for simply doing what Richard Feynman saw as an objective, honest approach to science. This tendency is sad to see, sometimes costly to allow, and always damaging to our common human pursuit of the Truth.

Those of us who see this universe as God's creation should have no fear of science. Science is simply the way we discover and explore our Maker's work. It is one way that He speaks to us. It is nature's book (see: Psalm 19, Romans 1). We have no reason to distort it or hide what it says because, if our worldview is correct, our study of the world will never harm it. It is the anti-theistic denier who has motive to distort or misreport the scientific evidence before him because, ultimately, that evidence is an acid that destroys his view of the world.

The irony here is thick. It is not those who subscribe to theism who "hate" science. It is those who subscribe to scientism -- the worshippers of science it self -- who fear it most.

The human proclivity to fear our God is universal.

[I owe the Feynman quote to Peter Pearson of Aptos, CA, a letter writer to the Wall Street Journal on 12/3/2009, p. A22]

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Science Bluff

Fox News reports that President Obama is a bit of a science buff who "shows a fascination with science, an all-too deliberate decision-making demeanor, [and a unique] adherence to logic" in his approach to the issues of the day. Even the ultimate stone-faced logician, Mr. Spock, has weighed in on the subject:
"I guess it's somewhat unusual for a politician to be so precise, logical, in his thought process," actor Leonard Nimoy, who has portrayed Spock for more than 40 years, told The Associated Press in an e-mail interview. "The comparison to Spock is, in my opinion, a compliment to him and to the character."
This "Spock-like" trait of the President's is portrayed as setting him apart from his predecessors (most notably the mindless cowboy who immediately preceded him) even though it is causing "him political problems in real world Washington. Critics see him as too technocratic, too deliberative, too lacking in emotion." Those critics apparently do not appreciate the beauty in Mr. Obama's cerebral approach to the complicated issues he is tackling with the undeniable precision of the scientific method.

Interesting ... unless you happen to notice some other prominent news stories that meet at the intersection of politics and science. One of them was in the news on the same day as the story proclaiming our science buff President's Spock-like character -- it's been dubbed "Climate-gate."

USA Today columnist Jonah Goldberg has done an excellent job of outlining the travesty of the so-called "Climate-gate" controversy. You can read it here, but to summarize: Thousands of leaked emails reveal a deliberate attempt by scientists of the Climatic Research Unit to cover over, hide, obfuscate, and otherwise deny that there is any legitimate data that goes against the global warming crisis we have all been bludgeoned with over the last several years. In these emails, "scientists" discuss ways to deliberately manipulate data or impugn the motives and character of anyone who disagrees with them. Their goal is to present a unified front and trash the reputation of other scientists whose data analysis, by virtue of its simple failure to toe the party line, qualifies them as "deniers." The leaked emails leave no doubt about the political goals of these shameless manipulators.

So, in the wake of these "Climate-gate" revelations, and ahead of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the president has offered his "Spock-like" analysis of the situation. CNS News reports that:
"As President Barack Obama prepares to travel to a global climate summit next week in Copenhagen, the White House is dismissing the “climategate” controversy that has arisen over the leak of email communications between top climate-change scientists that some skeptics say cast doubt on the legitimacy of the science behind the theory that human activity is causing global warming ... because most people don’t dispute global warming."
In other words, the president believes that we arrive at scientific truths by achieving consensus, even if we do so by ignoring and/or lying about a perfectly legitimate interpretation of data that completely undermines the foundation of that consensus.

Very scientific.

As a side note: history shows that, prior to Copernicus, the scientific "consensus" was with Ptolemy's geocentric universe. Likewise, the consensus of small children is that Santa Claus will descend through their chimneys in 23 days.

Along those lines, I distinctly remember the president's response to a question posed him by Rick Warren at Saddleback Church during the run-up to the 2008 election. When asked, on August 16, 2008, to state when he considered that a baby gets human rights, he responded:
“Well, uh, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or, uh, a scientific perspective, uh, answering that question with specificity, uh, you know, is, is, uh, above my pay grade.”
For starters, the context of this conversation was a discussion of the president's views on abortion that directly involves the question of when life actually begins. This is not a "theological" question about ensoulment or any of the other convenient dodges used by abortion rights advocates. It is a purely scientific question and it is this: When is it that a unique, independent, whole, human being comes into existence?

The answer to this question can be found in any scientific textbook on embryology -- and the answer is: at conception. I offer several examples of this point here but there are many more where those came from. It is not that hard to answer -- at least it shouldn't be for one who thinks with "Spock-like" scientific clarity. So, the "scientific perspective" to which the scientifically-minded Mr. Obama refers is really very obvious to those who care to acknowledge it.

To be clear, Mr. Obama did not claim the mantle of scientific expertise for himself. Others have done that for him. But he has not downplayed it either. To perpetuate the notion that our president approaches every issue with the detached and unbiased demeanor of a "science buff" is absurd on its face. If anything, his approach is that of a science bluff.

When seen with respect to the importance of the issues for which he completely ignores the scientific evidence, this tendency is not just silly -- it is dangerous and destructive.