Saturday, July 30, 2011

He was against it before he was for it

Gary North comments (Obama vs. Obama) on a speech that then Senator Obama gave on the floor of the Senate in the 2006 in which he expressed his opposition to raising the debt ceiling.
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.
Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is "trillion" with a "T." That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion. 
Obama then was better than Obama now.

Economic Facts and Fallacies

I have just finished Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies. Like everything he writes it is well worth reading. In it he dispels the most common assumptions of the Left about how an economy works. He excels at showing how government policies affect economic activity by creating incentives or disincentives for particular behaviors, frequently making the point that policies must be evaluated in terms of their actual results, not their intentions. He provides many examples of laws passed with the intention of helping minorities, the poor, and women, that in their actual results do far more harm than good.

The chapters include:
(1) The Power of Fallacies
(2) Urban Facts and Fallacies
(3) Male-Female Facts and Fallacies
(4) Academic Facts and Fallacies
(5) Income Facts and Fallacies
(6) Racial Facts and Fallacies
(7) Third World Facts and Fallacies
(8) Parting Thoughts
Someone has said that Sowell is a national treasure. I agree. I only wish more people in Washington would read him. In fact, no one should open his mouth to speak on the subjects of race, politics, or economics without first reading him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What atom told you so?

          Professor A. T. Heist peered over the top of his glasses and across the desk with a disconcerting look at Christian, whom until very recently he regarded as his star pupil…despite his name.
          “Look,” he said, barely controlling his anger, “I called you into my office to try to reason with you. You’re a bright kid. You’ve got a promising future. Your interaction in the class has made the semester interesting, not only for the other students but for me as well. But this is simply unacceptable.”
          “I still don’t understand why.”
          The professor slumped back in his chair, the exasperation obvious.
          “All right, one more time,” he said at last. “And I’ll try to make it just as plain and clear as I can.”
          He leaned forward and glared at Christian through narrowed eyes, pausing for dramatic effect. And then in the most authoritative tone he could muster, he said, “You can’t do this!”
          He emphasized the “can’t” by pounding the desk with his fist. Receiving the brunt of the blow was Christian’s term paper, which looked as if it had a lost a fight with a red pen.
          “Yes, you have already said so, Dr. Heist. But again I have to ask, why? It’s one thing to tell me I can’t; it’s another thing to explain why.”
          “Because it’s wrong, that’s why. You can’t copy someone else’s work and claim it as your own. That’s plagiarism.”
          “I’m aware of what it’s called, Doctor. But why is it wrong?”
          The professor slumped back into his chair again and looked at Christian doubtfully. “Do you really expect me to believe you don’t understand why it’s wrong?”
          “Look, Doctor, I have enjoyed your class and I’ve learned a great deal. I have to admit that when I was first told I had to take a philosophy course I was a bit uneasy. Philosophy had always seemed so abstract, but you really made the subject come alive for me, and so far it’s been my favorite class. It’s revolutionized my thinking.”
          The professor did his best to suppress a satisfied smile. He enjoyed the role he played as the enlightener of the young. He saw himself as a sort of secular savior, leading his students out of the darkness of the unexamined life. He had always felt a special pity for students from religious homes, whose poor benighted parents had passed on to their children the superstitions of the premodern world.
          He found Christian to be a particularly interesting student. He had had many other religious students before, but none quite like Christian. Christian participated in class discussions far more often, and far more thoughtfully. He was surprisingly confident in his convictions. The professor could tell from the beginning he was going to be a tough nut to crack. But Christian was too bright not to be convinced by a cogent argument, and the professor was sure that with a little patience he would eventually come around.
          Nor was he disappointed. Throughout the semester Christian showed he clearly understood the materialist philosophy. Much better than the other students, even those who had embraced it. Indeed, he wondered at times if Christian understood it better than he did himself. On several occasions, in class discussions and writing assignments, Christian fleshed out the implications of the philosophy more fully than he had done himself.
          Yet for all this Christian stubbornly persisted in his religious beliefs. That’s why the professor was so pleased when he read Christian’s term paper. The nut appeared to have finally cracked. Christian seemed to write as one who had embraced the materialist philosophy.
          It wasn’t until a day or so after he read the paper that the professor began to feel uneasy. There was something vaguely familiar about it. He hadn’t noticed it at first. But it came to him over the weekend. A line he had read somewhere before. A familiar phrase here. An expression there. He re-read the paper. His suspicions were heightened. He did an internet search to make sure. There it was. Christian had copied word for word the substance of a fairly well-known essay from a philosophical journal, added his own introduction and conclusion, and turned it in as his own work.
          The professor was disappointed and angry…
          “Have you not taught us, Doctor, that matter is all there is—no god, no soul, no spirit—just matter and energy?”
          “Yes, of course, that’s the essence of materialism. But let’s not stray from our point.”
          “I see it as very much related to our point.”
          “We’re talking about your conduct, Christian—your plagiarism—not a fine point of metaphysics.”
          “But conduct and metaphysics are related, aren’t they. You made the point several times in class. That’s why I’m having trouble understanding why you are so upset with me.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “You spent a good deal of time showing us that matter is all there is. It’s the ultimate reality. Nothing above or beyond it.”
          “Yes, yes, this is all very elementary.”
          “And matter does not prescribe any norms for human behavior, nor can it. Right? It has no will. Matter just is. And you can’t move from is to ought. Isn’t this what you’ve taught us, or have I missed something along the way?”
          “No you’re correct. Matter itself gives us no moral imperative, no standards for behavior. And I think I see where you’re going with this.”
          “Right. All semester you’ve taught us that there are no fixed moral standards—that everything is relative and depends upon the situation. Well, I just applied what you taught us about situational ethics to the term paper situation. That’s why it’s so puzzling that you’re so angry with me and tell me that plagiarism is wrong.”
          “Don’t play games with me Christian. It’s wrong and you know it’s wrong.”
          “What atom told you so, sir?”
          “Look, don’t be smart with me, Christian. If you were the one who had done the original research and had written the essay, you wouldn’t want someone to plagiarize your work—to steal your intellectual property.”
          “Are you applying the Golden Rule? That’s an odd thing for someone like you to do.”
          “The Golden Rule is not unique to the teaching of Jesus, Christian. Other religious leaders have taught the same thing, even non-religious thinkers, like Kant, who said, ‘Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.’ So the Golden Rule, as you call it, is not a bad ethic to live by, even for a materialist.”
          “But are you saying it’s a norm which everyone ought to live by, or that it’s just a personal preference of yours that people would live by it?”
          “I’m saying the world would be a lot better place if everyone lived by it.”
          “And is making the world a better place something we ought to do?” asked Christian.
          “Of course it is!”
          “What atom told you so, sir?”
          “It’s just a given.”
          “Given by what? Or by Whom?”
          The professor stroked his beard and looked Christian over carefully, musing. He was doing it again. Christian was pushing the implications of the philosophy further than the professor had ever thought to do before. And by the twinkle in his eye, he concluded Christian had cleverly planned the whole thing.
          The professor was right about one thing. Christian was not like any student he ever had before.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A really bright guy gets it wrong

Stephen Hawking, regarded as one of the world's leading physicists, has become more and more vocal about his atheism the closer he gets to the time when he will have to stand before his Maker to give an account of himself.

In The Grand Design, a book published last year, he stated that it was "not necessary to invoke get the universe going." Right...because we all know that something can come from nothing. Happens all the time.

Recently, in an interview published in The Guardian, he said, "There is no heaven or afterlife...; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." 

And how, exactly, does he know there is no heaven or afterlife? Is he speaking as a scientist? Then tell me, what experiments has this man of science performed in order to substantiate his claim? And have these experiments been repeated by others in order to verify the results? 

What's that you say? No experiments have been performed? And why is that, exactly? Oh, I see, it's because by the very nature of the case the claim is unverifiable by means of the scientific method. The soul is not a material object. Neither is heaven. They are not subject to empirical investigation.

On what basis then does he make so bold a claim? On the basis of his faith. He simply believes the natural world is all there is. And  if you grant the premise you must necessarily grant the conclusion. 

The physical world is all there is.
The soul is not a part of the physical world.
Therefore, the soul does not exist.
The logic is tight. If the premises are true, the conclusion is true. He and I agree on the second premise. It's the first premise where we differ. He says that the physical world [the cosmos] is a self-contained unit. It explains itself. I say it can't possibly explain itself.

Politics versus reality

A must read article by Thomas Sowell...
It is hard to understand politics if you are hung up on reality. Politicians leave reality to others. What matters in politics is what you can get the voters to believe, whether it bears any resemblance to reality or not.

Not only among politicians, but also among much of the media, and even among some of the public, the quest is not for truth about reality but for talking points that fit a vision or advance an agenda. Some seem to see it as a personal contest about who is best at fencing with words.
Read more here.

Quote de jour

"The way Social Security was set up was so financially shaky that anyone who set up a similar retirement scheme in the private sector could be sent to federal prison for fraud.

But you can't send a whole Congress to prison, however much they may deserve it." (Thomas Sowell)

You can read the whole column here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The end of the law?

What does Paul mean when he says in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”?

Let me first tell you what it does not mean. It does not mean that we do not have to keep the commandments. There is this silly notion about that the grace of God frees us from the obligation to obey him. Not so. If anything, grace increases our obligation to obey.

Paul says in his letter to Titus that the grace of God teaches us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Tit. 2:11-12).

In First Corinthians he says, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19).

In Hebrews we read that Christ has become the “source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9).

So when Paul says that Christ is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” he is not saying that the law itself has come to an end and therefore we no longer need to obey God’s commandments. Rather, he is countering a common misunderstanding the Jews had concerning the law. In the two previous verses he said,
I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God [that is, the righteousness that comes from God as a gift through Christ], and seeking to establish their own [righteousness], they did not submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:2-3).
Paul is referring to the view of so many Jews at the time—and the view that he himself held before he came to know Christ—that it was possible to establish one’s own righteousness before God by a strict fulfillment of the law’s commands, especially in those things that set the Jews apart from other people, like the kosher and purity laws as they were explained and applied by the traditions of the elders. The law was viewed as a kind of ladder of merit by which one could climb into the favor of God.

This is what is behind a prayer in the Siddur, or Jewish prayer book.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who did not make me a gentile.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who did not make me a slave.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who did not make me a woman.
The rationale behind this prayer is that there are more commandments that apply to free men than to slaves, and more that apply to male slaves than to women. And if there are more commandmentss to obey, then there is a greater share of righteousness to be had by free men than by either slaves or women.

But Paul says, “No, no, no! That’s not how it works at all. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The word “end” in this passage is not to be taken in the sense of termination—as if the law is no more—but in the sense of goal. It’s the Greek word telos, from which we get the word teleology, which in philosophy is the study of purpose or design or in Aristotelian terms of final cause.

People will sometimes say, “I am working toward that end,” meaning, “I’m working toward that goal” or “for that purpose.”

So Paul says that Christ is the “end” of the law for righteousness. He means that Christ, and the righteousness to be had in him and through him, is the goal of the law. In other words, whatever one may have hoped to have achieved in the way of righteousness by the law is instead achieved in Christ.

In his letter to the Philippians Paul said, I would rather be found in Christ, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9).

This is a righteousness that is freely available to everyone, and in equal measure. It is not the case that a free male may achieve a greater share of righteousness than a male slave, and a male slave more than a woman. It’s this thinking that led Paul to say in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

It is true that more commandments apply to men than to women; and more to free men than to slaves. But righteousness is not reckoned by the number of commandments one fulfills, but by whether or not one is joined to Christ by faith. Jews and Gentiles, men and women, free men and slaves may all have an equal share in the righteousness of Christ because he is the end or goal of the law for righteousness. When you have him you have everything you need in the way of righteousness.

I wish to stress that this doesn’t mean that obedience to God’s commandments is unnecessary. We are to obey his commandments. How could it be otherwise? And besides, obedience is the natural and inevitable result of faith. If you believe God, then when he says do this or that, you will do it. If he says don’t do this or that, you won’t do it. It’s absurd to say that you believe in God when you don’t obey him.