Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Global Cooling

I have been a skeptic of the whole global warming thing. Not so much a skeptic of whether the earth is getting warming. There seems to be a bit of evidence that things warmed up a tad during the 90's.

Rather, my skepticism concerns the causes (I doubt it's principally man-made), and the alleged disastrous results if the earth's temperature should rise a few degrees.

Al Gore, of course, has had no such doubts on either point. He is so convinced, that he is encouraging young people to engage in civil disobedience in the cause of global warming.

But is the earth really getting warmer?
Scientists involved in NASA's Ulysses project reported that the intensity of the sun's solar wind was at its lowest point since the beginning of the space age — one more indication that the sun, the biggest source of energy affecting the Earth, is getting quiet. The weaker solar wind appears to be due to changes in the sun's magnetic field, but the cause is unknown. Sunspots, which normally fluctuate in 11-year cycles, are at a virtual standstill. In August, the sun created no visible spots. The last time that happened: June 1913. The results of the Ulysses spacecraft's mission, according to Jet Propulsion Laboratory project scientist Ed Smith, show that "we are in a period of minimal activity that has stretched on longer than anyone anticipated." The consequences for Earth are enormous. The lack of increased activity could signal the start of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event that occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century. It leads to extended periods of severe cooling such as what happened during the Little Ice Age. It may already be happening. The four major agencies tracking Earth's temperature, including NASA's Goddard Institute, report that the Earth cooled 0.7 degree Celsius in 2007, the fastest decline in the age of instrumentation, putting us back to where the Earth was in 1930. (See Investor's Business Daily).
If things should ever begin moving in the other direction it will probably be due to all the hot air coming from Al Gore.

More Good Sense from Ron Paul

Check out Ron Paul's perspective on the president's proposed bailout on Youtube before and after yesterday's vote.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Current Financial Crisis

The only major party presidential candidate who understands both the problem and the solution to our current economic crisis is Ron Paul. Either that or he's the only one with guts enough to talk about it. You can find Paul's analysis of the situation here.

For a really good introduction to economics in general, read Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy. In fact, read anything and everything you can get your hands on by Sowell. In my opinion, he's one of the most insightful thinkers of our day. You can read his weekly column here.

Another fine introduction to economics is Henry Hazlitt's, Economics in One Lesson. It's become a classic.

Murray Rothbard's What Has the Government Done to Our Money is good at explaining how monetary policy affects the value of the dollar, especially the effect of removing the dollar off the gold standard.

For a distinctively Christian approach to these subjects, try R. C. Sproul Jr.'s Biblical Economics, and Gary North's Honest Money and Salvation Through Inflation.

Our current economic situation really is dire. Unfortunately, as Ron Paul says, just like the proposals of FDR during the Great Depression, the various popular prescriptions to address today's crisis (including President Bush's bail out plan) are only going to make matters worse...far worse, like a doctor prescribing a Super-sized Double Quarter-pounder meal to treat a patient with high-cholesterol.

The problem is systemic. That is, it's not just an isolated problem here or there. The problem goes to the very core, and affects every aspect of our economic system: unbacked fiat money; fractional reserve banking; expansion of credit; artificially low interest rates; lowering of lending standards; government-backed home mortgages; and a host of other ways the Federal Reserve manipulates the market; etc.

The president's bail-out plan is just more of the same.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another PC Myth Exploded

All cultures are equal, right? And we shouldn’t judge cultures that differ from us? This is what we are constantly told by the relativistic forces of multiculturalism. All cultures are equal. We who live in the West shouldn't think that our once Christian culture was any better than any other.

Bernal Diaz might wish to disagree. In his telling the story of the conquest of Mexico, he frequently refers to the widespread practice of human sacrifice and cannibalism among the Indians in all the places they traveled, and makes no apology for taking measures to put a stop to it. Each paragraph below refers to a different place in their travels. And this is just a small sampling of passages that could be cited.

Juan de Grijalva with many of us soldiers landed to inspect this island, for we saw smoke rising from it. We found two stone buildings of good workmanship, each with a flight of steps leading up to a kind of altar, and on those altars were evil-looking idols, which were their gods. Here we found five Indians who had been sacrificed to them on that very night. Their chests had been struck open and their arms and thighs cut off, and the walls of the building were covered with blood. All this amazed us greatly, and we called this island the Isla de Sacrificios.

That day they had sacrificed two boys, cutting open their chests and offering their blood and hearts to that accursed idol.

When Alvarado came to these villages he found that they had been deserted on that very day, and he saw in the cues [temples] the bodies of men and boys who had been sacrificed, the walls and altars all splashed with blood, and the victims’ hearts laid out before the idols. He also found the stones on which the sacrifices had been made, and the flint with which their breasts had been opened to tear out their hearts. Alvarado told us that most of the bodies were without arms and legs, and that some Indians had told him that these had been carried off to be eaten. Our soldiers were greatly shocked at such cruelty.

I remember that in the square where some of their cues [temples] stood were many piles of human skills, so neatly arranged that we could count them, and I reckoned them at more than a hundred thousand. I repeat that there were more than a hundred thousand. And in another part of the square there were more piles made up of innumerable thigh-bones. There was also a large number of skulls and bones strong between wooden posts… We saw more of such things in every town as we penetrated further inland.

I must now tell how in this town of Tlascala we found wooden cages made of lattice-work in which men and women were imprisoned and fed until they were fat enough to be sacrificed and eaten. We broke open and destroyed these prisons, and set free the Indians who were in them. But the poor creatures did not dare to run away. However, they kept close to us and so escaped with their lives. From now on, whenever we entered a town our captain’s [Cortes] first order was to break down the cages and release the prisoners, for these prison cages existed throughout the country.
There is no doubt that the Spanish colonization and conquest of the New World was not without problems of its own. But surely even the most devoted secularist has to admit that the triumph of Christian civilization over Aztec paganism was a vast improvement. I think the poor people released from their cages before they could have their still beating heart ripped from their chests would think so.

Friday, September 19, 2008

All God's Creatures Have Fun 2

A dancing sea lion...whod'a thunk? Check it out here.

A Curious Prophecy

One of the really interesting things that Diaz mentions (several times) about the Spanish conquest of Mexico was the fact that all the Indian tribes held to a belief in a prophecy passed down to them from their ancestors that men with beards would come across the sea from the direction of the sunrise and rule over them. Where did this prophecy come from? Had there been a prior and long-forgotten contact with Europeans that served as the basis for this “prophecy”? Was it a legitimate prophecy, in that God really did speak through one of the pagan Indian prophets, as he did similarly through the pagan Balaam (Num. 22-24)? Or was it a faked prophecy of one of the pagan priests that God was pleased to use for his own purposes? Curious. Really curious.

PC Myth Exploded

In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been reading The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz, who marched with Cortes in the conquest of the Aztec Empire. It’s amazing just how different a first hand account of it is from the politically correct version that we generally hear today. According to the politically correct version, the Spanish were after gold, pure and simple. And they would let nothing stand in their way of acquiring it, not even the rights and lives of the Indians. The Spanish conquest was one of rape, pillage, plunder, and slavery--and all in the name of God and for the sake of gold.

Were there brutal, unscrupulous conquistadors, whose motives were lust and greed? No doubt there were. But to characterize the whole process of exploration, colonization, and conquest as if this is all it was, or even what it principally was, is clearly false. Worse, it's a slander of many good men.

Bernal Diaz came to the New World in 1514, settling for a time in Tierra Firme (present day Panama), where Balboa had discovered the South Sea (the Pacific Ocean), and then moving to Cuba where there was a larger, more established Spanish colony.

In February of 1517 (Martin Luther would post his Ninety Five Theses, inaugurating the Protestant Reformation, later that same year), a group of about 110 Spanish settlers organized an expedition to sail east to discover new lands. This was the first of three expeditions Diaz would make. They fitted out two ships but needed a third. The governor of Cuba, Diego Velasquez offered a ship to be purchased on credit if they would explore new lands and “fight the natives, whom we could ten sell to him for slaves and thus pay for the ship.” And then Diaz says, “Realizing the wickedness of the Governor’s demand, we answered that it would be against the laws of God and the king for us to turn free men into slaves.” The governor then proposed other terms, which the explorers accepted.

This episode shows that not all the Spanish settlers acted honorably and with good motives (i.e., Velasquez). But others were very conscientious Christians, including Diaz, who throughout the book constantly expresses his faith in Jesus Christ and his desire to serve him and bring the gospel to the Indians.

Bernal Diaz and the Conquest of New Spain

One of the surest ways to turn students off when it comes to having them learn history is to have them read a history textbook. Textbooks all generally suffer from the same fatal flaw. They are written by committee. Hardly anything is more likely to guarantee a student’s boredom. A dry listing of names and dates. A detached recounting of events. An unappealing telling of the story.

This is why in my history classes we don’t rely much on textbooks, and the ones we do use are not written by committee.

What I like to use—not only because it’s far more accurate, but also because it’s far more interesting—are original sources. So, since this year we are studying the Age of Exploration to the present, one of the works we are reading is Bernal Diaz’ The Conquest of New Spain. Diaz was one of the soldiers who fought under Hernando Cortes in the conquest of Mexico. He wrote a fascinating first hand, eye-witness account that is an absolute pleasure to read. Historians generally regard it as being the most accurate account we have of the conquest of Mexico.

By reading Diaz, my students and I are marching with Cortes in his campaigns against the Aztec Indians, experiencing his trials and triumphs with him, feeling Diaz' fear before battle and his exultation of victory afterward. We are coming to understand the mind of a Christian warrior in one of the epic battles of history in the triumph of Christianity over a particularly brutal form of paganism. And along the way many of the politically correct myths so commonly believed today about this episode of western history are being shattered.

In future posts, I’ll include some quotes and commentary from the book, which I hope you will enjoy. Even more, I hope you will buy the book and read it for yourself. You can purchase it here.

I'm Baaack!

For good or ill...I'm back online and ready to blog!