May 03 2009

Faith only in uncertainty

Category: philosophy,science,theology,Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 4:48 pm

In this skeptical world, it seems everyone wants evidence of everything. Fortunately, there are two central facts that intrude:

1) Almost nothing really important can be proved in the way skeptics demand.  They can’t even prove that they exist, that there is such a thing as “thought,” or “personality,” or “identity,” or “love,” or even “memory.”  Radical skepticism allows only for electro-chemical states in the brain that don’t mean anything in particular except to other electro-chemical states in other brains…  if there are really other electro-chemical states.  What’s really funny is their touching faith that the universe can be apprehended by “logic” (who revealed THAT to them?), and that the universe somehow developed, all on it’s own, minor extrusions with electro-chemical brain states capable of acting as disinterested observers and evaluators of fact.  How did THAT work, again?

2)  Even radical skeptics believe that there is some level of evidence that a person should be willing to accept for the facts of history, human psychology, cultural development, scientific knowability of the universe, ethical presuppositions for humans, etc.  Without some willingness to accept different kinds of evidence for different kinds of propositions and assertions about the nature of reality, there is no hope of considering both science and history to be sources of “knowledge.”   And a corollary: nearly every kind of really important information or concept is “inferential,” meaning we can’t know everything about it, and we only know it because of a confluence of evidence that points to it, but doesn’t (and can’t) directly prove it in the deductive way that simple mathematical propositions can sometimes be proved (actually, less often than many people think –  ask a math geek to explain “decidability” to you sometime).

If a person is willing to accept the notion that we all make decisions based on incomplete information, that the most important decisions of our lives are based not on deductive calculation but on inferential response to incomplete evidence (what career to pursue, who to marry, who to trust, how to raise our kids, what matters more than what, what’s right and what’s wrong), then the grounds for radical skepticism are removed, about God, about a Creator who IS Intelligence and so made a Creation that includes the possibility (inevitability?) of it, and who might make provision for His creatures to know something about Him and His plans for them (special and general revelation).  If radical skepticism is no longer a rational response (and it isn’t to anything that really matters), then we’re left with sifting evidence, considering what we know and don’t know (or can‘t know), and casting our net very wide for many different kinds of information, to see if, taken together, they point to anything, if there is anything we can infer.

This is the point where just a tiny amount of faith is enough, enough to take that first step.  What is that first step?  Believing that there may be something to find, so that you don’t stop looking.  From that tiny opening, God works, in tiny steps, piece by piece, helping you build your faith a mite at a time, so that as you grow in faith and understanding (and make no mistake, genuine progress in either causes the other to grow), you find more and more ways that seemingly tiny bits of life and information fit together, and all reveal the glory of God.

There are, of course, secular zealots who hate the very idea of God. But the tide of history, contrary to their opinions, is against them, and the greatest minds of history have disagreed with them. What we need now is an infusion of courage in believers, so that they will not only stand their ground, but advance, the only rational response to the complexity of being a human being in this created order:

When that great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England, was on trial for his life for daring to defy Henry VIII, one of his prosecutors asked him if it did not worry him that he was standing out against all the bishops of England.He replied: ‘My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.’

Now, I think of that exchange and of his bravery in proclaiming his faith. Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery more than ever.

Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.

As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.

Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.

The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story.

It takes faith to overcome doubt, do the right thing, and live the right way, but not blind faith.

The only blind faith on offer is the type it takes to believe in materialist atheism, which is not scientific in the slightest, since it takes a most unscientific position about where science came from.


May 03 2009

Putting a smiley face on carbon taxes

As most of us know, half the battle is controlling the terms of the debate. And sometimes, it seems, if you want to sell something that few are buying, you need to consult a thesaurus.

Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. “We know why it’s lowest,” said Mr. Perkowitz, a marketer of outdoor clothing and home furnishings before he started ecoAmerica, whose activities are financed by corporations, foundations and individuals. “When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.”

The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language. “Energy efficiency” makes people think of shivering in the dark. Instead, it is more effective to speak of “saving money for a more prosperous future.” In fact, the group’s surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term “the environment” and talk about “the air we breathe, the water our children drink.”

“Another key finding: remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology,” said the e-mail account of the group’s study.

Are Americans really this stupid?

Well, yes.  They elected Obama hoping for unspecified change.  Any old direction will do, it would seem.  They bought Clinton’s “contributions” for taxes, radical feminism’s “pro-choice” for anti-unborn child and pro-abortion, “gun control” for “guns for criminals only”, and “hate speech” for telling the truth, or at least exercising your First Amendment right to speak your mind.

One of the best ways to lie is just to pretend not to hear anyone who’s telling the truth, and keep right on as if they never spoke.  That’s exactly what’s happening in our national conversation, as the Left rules all the media but talk radio, and is gunning for that, too.  So “global warming” has morphed into “climate change” and “carbon taxes” is going to be “anti-pollution fees”, and so on.

In the meantime, if you had to bet, the smart money is that the earth is cooling, overall.  And the smarter money knows that even if it isn’t, the change is very gradual, probably has little to do with human activity, and it isn’t even clear that it will be a bad thing.

And by the way:  there were polar bears around when the earth was so warm that Greenland was verdant farm land, with nary a glacier in sight.  (That’s why it’s called GREENLAND.)   Somehow, the bears survived.

I suspect they will again.


May 03 2009

California Dreamin’

Category: economy,governmentharmonicminer @ 8:38 am

Speaking of California’s budget crisis, which was created purely by state overspending, HUGE increases in spending that far outstripped population growth since 1990, George Will tells it like it is. (more at the link)

If voters pass 1A’s hypothetical restraint on government spending, their reward will be two extra years (another $16 billion) of actual income, sales and vehicle tax increases. The increases were supposed to be for just two years. Voters are being warned that if they reject the propositions, there might have to be $14 billion in spending cuts. (Note the $15 billion number four paragraphs above.) Even teachers might be laid off. California teachers — the nation’s highest paid, with salaries about 25 percent above the national average — are emblematic of the grip government employees unions have on the state, where 57 percent of government workers are unionized (the national average is 37 percent).

Flinching from serious budget cutting, and from confronting public employees unions, some Californians focus on process questions. They devise candidate-selection rules designed to diminish the role of parties, thereby supposedly making more likely the election of “moderates” amenable to even more tax increases.

But what actually ails California is centrist evasions. The state’s crisis has been caused by “moderation,” understood as splitting the difference between extreme liberalism and hyperliberalism, a “reasonableness” that merely moderates the speed at which the ever-expanding public sector suffocates the private sector.

California has become liberalism’s laboratory, in which the case for fiscal conservatism is being confirmed. The state is a slow learner and hence will remain a drag on the nation’s economy. But it will be a net benefit to the nation if the federal government and other state governments profit from California’s negative example, which Californians can make more vividly instructive by voting down the propositions on May 19.

Obama, judging from his budgetary ambitions and spending plans, has looked at California’s current condition and pronounced it desirable.  If you want to know what the whole USA could be like soon, come to California. Please. We need your income to tax.

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