Thursday, April 30, 2009

I keep looking for signs of artificial intelligence out there. Denny's finally seems to have found it.

The Perfect Body.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

California's Unhappy Cows.

The mental anguish was written all over Rita's face, so I decided to spend a few minutes to see if I could be any encouragement:

"Are you unhappy?", I asked.
"Who couldn't be unhappy in these uncertain days?", she replied.
"Ah, you must be reflecting on all the layoffs happening ... Applied Materials is right over there and they are doing so poorly ..."
"No", Rita replied, "it is something far worse than layoffs. Don't you know that the California Happy Cow contest now admits foreign cows? You don't even need to be a California resident anymore. What is the world coming to? Doesn't American Idol require participants to be American? If a Scot tried to join the contest, wouldn't we all rise up in protest and indignation?"

I tried to explain to her about multi-culturalism and political correctness, while her eyes started tearing up. Rita then continued,
"But that's not the worst of it. They won't even let us join the contest now unless we sign a pledge affirming our support for gay marriage. Do I look like a gay San Francisco cow? This is the East Bay. Cows are neither gay nor married. How are we supposed to support this in good conscience?"
At this point there was little for me to do but join with her in mourning and lament about the direction California is taking. Rita thanked me for spending some time with her, and I headed on up the mountain.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Birds of a feather flock together ...

Polybius (203-120BC) on the fall of Democracy.

This is his longer version:

"The truth is that whenever anybody who has observed the hatred and jealousy which are felt by the citizens for tyrants can summon up the courage to speak or act against the authorities, he finds the whole mass of the people ready to support him. But after they have either killed or banished the oligarchs, that people do not venture to set up a king again, for they are still in terror of the injustices committed by previous monarchs, nor do they dare to entrust the government to a limited class, since they still have before their eyes the evidence of their recent mistake in doing so. At this point the only hope which remains unspoiled lies with themselves, and it is in this direction that they then turn: they convert the state into a democracy instead of an oligarchy and themselves assume the superintendence and charge of affairs. Then so long as any people survive who endured the evils of oligarchical rule, they can regard their present form of government as a blessing and treasure the privileges of equality and freedom of speech. But as soon as a new generation has succeeded and the democracy falls into the hands of the grandchildren of its founders, they have become by this time so accustomed to equality and freedom of speech that they cease to value them and seek to raise themselves above their fellow-citizens, and it is noticeable that the people most liable to this temptation are the rich. So when they begin to hanker after office, and find that they cannot achieve it through their own efforts or on their merits, they begin to seduce and corrupt the people in every possible way, and thus ruin their estates. The result is that through their senseless craving for prominence they stimulate among the masses both an appetite for bribes and the habit of receiving them, and then the rule of democracy is transformed into government by violence and strongarm methods. By this time the people have become accustomed to feed at the expense of others, and their prospects of winning a livelihood depend upon the property of their neighbours; then as soon as they find a leader who is sufficiently ambitious and daring, but is excluded from the honours of office because of his poverty, they will introduce a regime based on violence. After this they unite their forces, and proceed to massacre, banish and despoil their opponents, and finally degenerate into a state of bestiality, after which they once more find a master and a despot." - The Rise of the Roman Empire, VI.9

Monday, April 27, 2009

Polybius (203-120BC), regarding the natural end to Democracy.

"Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy, and when the populace rises in anger to avenge the injustices committed by its rulers, democracy is born; then in due course, out of the licence and lawlessness which are generated by this type of regime, mob rule comes into being and completes the cycle." - The Rise of the Roman Empire, VI.4

This little note has been brought back to my attention by the recent glorification of licence in Iowa, along with the government encouraged lawlessness in Contra Costa County that Delirious highlighted. The good news is that when Democracy collapses, civil government will be restored - according to Polybius - with a Monarchy!
A Busy Bumblebee.
Another llama in Sunol Park.

Obama: 3% of GDP for R&D.

The 2007 spending on R&D was 2.66%. From the curves, it looks like this is one of those goals that might have been obtained if the government did nothing, but it isn't in the nature of governments to do nothing, so we might not obtain it!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We are at the peak of wildflower season now. It is difficult to capture the billions of flowers with a camera, but I will give it a try.
A hiker on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail.

I met up with him yesterday when taking pictures. He was friendly and lamented about being "out of shape". I translated that into "I am going to leave you in the dust going up this mountain", the mountain being Rose Peak which is the hardest climb in the Bay Area. My interpretation of his lament proved correct, as he was the fastest hiker I have seen. Only the trail runners are faster. Here is a picture of him, but I am a long way off using the telephoto.

Being extremely gifted in terms of ego, I had to treat this like an informal race, but using my favorite cow paths instead of the main trail (the cow paths cut off a lot of distance) while stopping here and there to enjoy the scenery and take pictures of the abundant wildflowers. This brought me to the top of the mountain just before he arrived and we got to chat a few more minutes. He told me that he saw a mountain lion on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. It was a great encouragement to know that there was some hope of catching a shot of one of these little kitties with my camera. Gotta keep hiking ...
Obama Administration Discovers Doctor Shortage!

I have blogged about this many times in the past, but it has probably been more than a year. Before continuing, it should be recalled that there was a noisy media condemnation of Jeb Bush a few years back when he coerced the University of Florida into adding some medical schools.

My ultra-cynical line of reasoning was that the American progressives wanted socialized medicine by whatever means possible. To achieve this, it was necessary to engineer the failure of the much superior capitalist medical system. A multi-pronged approach was then deliberately followed to achieve failure of the capitalist system, based on runaway litigation, minute regulation, and artificial constraints on doctors and nurses. This strategy has worked exactly according to plan, while the media has faithfully followed by condemning capitalism for the socialist contrived failure. Jeb Bush was a typical example of someone naively trying to do what was right, only to condemned by the howling rage of the intellectual elite.

Now that the conversion to socialized medicine is inevitable, we must worry about how to make the socialist system seem to work. Litigation and regulation madness can theoretically be dealt with by a stroke of the pen. Nurses can be trained in a few years. The big problem is that it takes many years and tremendous expense to train doctors, while the number of voting elderly needing increased medical attention is growing rapidly, and this has been forecast many decades ago.

The article begins with "Obama administration officials, alarmed at doctor shortages ...". Just as Jeb was condemned for doing what was obviously necessary, the next step is for the same media to praise the Obama administration for attempting the exact same thing. In this case, the Obama administration does at least deserve credit for doing what is obviously right regarding the doctor shortage, even if it is difficult to imagine a condemnation sufficient for the intellectual elites and media.

But since I promised to end on a hopeful note:

"The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him." - Exodus 15:2

This was sung just after a time that was truly oppressive, which we are not currently experiencing.
Loon festival cancelled? Yikes! Are we becoming an endangered species???

The San Francisco Chronicle gives the details.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

An oversize dog in Sunol Park.

Blogging about hope?

I am sure anyone who has read my blog is either falling off the chair or wondering about the network connection after seeing this heading. Certainly I feel America has put a gun to its head and pulled the trigger - that being what hope, change and leadership have been reduced to in the era of Post-Reason. I am foremost a contrarian, and there is little point dwelling on the present catastrophe, so I will need to try looking forward positively and constructively. Here is my verse:

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." - Psalm 31:24

Now I feel better. Scold me if I depart too much from this new theme!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gibbons regarding logos.

For those new to this topic, logos is Greek for word, but logos took on a greater meaning in Greek philosophy, extending to knowledge, philosophy, and the reason for which the universe exists and derives its motions.

"The genius of Plato, informed by his own meditation or by the traditional knowledge of the priests of Egypt, had ventured to explore the mysterious nature of the Deity.

...

The vain hope of extricating himself from these difficulties, which must ever oppress the feeble powers of the human mind, might induce Plato to consider the divine nature under the threefold modification - of the first cause, the reason, of Logos, and the soul of spirit of the universe. His poetical imagination sometimes fixed and animated these metaphysical abstractions; the three archical or original principles were represented in the Platonic system as three Gods, united with each other by a mysterious and ineffable generation; and the Logos was particularly considered under the more accessible character of the Son of an Eternal Father, and the Creator and Governor of the world. Such appear to have been the secret doctrines which were cautioiusly whispered in the gardens of the Academy; and which, according to the more recent disciples of Plato, could not be perfectly understood till after an assiduous study of thirty years." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire XXI.

Basically Gibbons is asserting that the Christian notion of the trinity was invented by Plato, transmitted secretly from one generation of philosophers to another, and then resurfaced in Egypt as Christianity. This really hangs on just a thread, that the Bible uses logos, the Jewish teacher Philo in Alexandria also used logos, and Greek philosophy uses logos. Gibbons footnote reference to support this assertion is three scholars, who he asserts disagree on many things, but agree on this source for the trinity, therefore, they must be right! We don't find this in Cicero's survey, On The Nature Of The Gods, nor in Augustine's much later survey of Greek philosophy.

The problem with this is that logos is never a being in Greek philosophy, nor in Philo's Jewish philosophy. "The logos became flesh and dwelt among us" of the Bible (John 1:14) is a radical deviation. John is not trying to hide anything, but rather asserting the supremecy of Jesus over philosophy and creation itself. This is an assertion that simply cannot be tolerated by atheists academics, hence, the effort to try spinning the trinity into a cheap knockoff. Since I have seen this assertion made against Christianity before, my main interest here is the year that Gibbons released this book - 1776. Young people today are constantly fed a notion that atheism is something that just appeared a few years ago due to modern science. They aren't told that atheism was already triumphant in academia before Darwin was born.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Regarding charity ...

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matthew 6:1-4

It is a common cliche that conservative Christians are more hard hearted and stingy than liberal ones. The above verses might, however, throw a bit of light on things.

When I went back and read about the Quakers, I was quite impressed with their charity, but after reading a long while, I began to sense that they really don't accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Or at least, they never talk about it. Instead, they are talking about their charity. Many modern liberal sects seem to be working out of an atheist framework: Jesus is a good idea, a metaphor and an ideal, while Christianity is a psychological phenomenon. In this case, does it make sense to do your charity in secret, when you believe there is no true "Father" who will see in secret and provide a future reward? Why not make a big scene in public and at least get some recognition in this life?

If I remember right, one of the letters of Pliny the Younger discussed the dilemma of leading citizens making an example of proper charity, without trying to draw attention to themselves. This left me wondering if Pliny had gotten some Christian influences through his teachers, even if this wasn't acknowledged. Pliny did write this:

"Other smart characters rob one person to give to another, hoping their rapacity will bring them a reputation for generous giving." - The Letters of the Younger Pliny, IX.30

The accusations against the liberal Christians is that the vast majority of their charity is of this rapacious sort - giving what belongs to someone else and then publicly seeking glory for the act. To compound the error, liberals then proceed to heap insults onto the conservatives they robbed, knowing that the conservatives are both religiously obligated to be charitable beyond what the liberals have taken, and religiously precluded from advertising their own charity.

That is probably an over simplification of things, given that human nature is much more complex. So do I give any charity? I'm not saying.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Vlad!

Yes, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was born on April 22, 1870. The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 - the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birthday. This could, of course, just be a coincidence and the Earth Day article notes that Francis of Assisi was also born on April 22nd. It does seem to me that the values of Earth Day are much more in line with Lenin's than Francis of Assisi - government control of everything.

That being said, I love nature and enjoy seeing it preserved. I don't trust Big Brother to protect it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Borrowed from Targuman ...

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Charismatic Otter Prays.

What is a "Category Error"?

I have seen this a few times while poking around on the theo-blogs. At first, I presumed it was some philosophical concept that someone spun on the fly to give the illusion of winning an argument, but after two or three times, I realized that this must actually be something that is formally taught and it would be worthwhile to do some investigation.

The link above gives an idea of the motivation, but not the consequences. The simple example given of a category error is a statement like, "Most bananas are atheists". Of course bananas don't have beliefs - at least that I know of - so the category of 'atheists' cannot be assigned to 'bananas', and we have a 'category error'. The author of the concept seems to have been focusing on a foundational concept of western philosophy - the notion of the distinct soul and body - which is shared by pagans, philosophers, Christians, Jews, and many more groups. Equipped with "category error" rhetoric, 3,000 years of philosophy can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. What are the ramifications of introducing this?

First, we should consider that all allegorical reasoning is dismissed with this method, although it has been extensively used throughout the literature of western civilization. I do wonder if the 2005 changes to the SAT test which removed analogies was related to this. How do we evaluate poetry if we get hung up on category errors? Then there are religious statements like, "behold, the Lamb of God" referring to Jesus. Talk about category errors! The question I have is whether or not those who dismiss arguments as "category errors" should themselves be dismissed as Vulcan noobs. That too, however, is a category error.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Discrimination & Justice.

"Women often charged more than men for individual health insurance." - San Jose Mercury News.

This is today's news in the relentless war to achieve justice by eliminating discrimination, so you can be certain that this will go into America's justice system - the courts - and be litigated. This does, however, leave me wondering whether or not this is really about justice, or if justice hasn't been simply redefined - per our modern word play - without having the psychological or constitutional significance modified to bring it in line with the new meaning.

In the old meaning of justice, there was usually a crime or allegation. Justice was all about identifying the specific event and making a correction. The Bible gives us strict commands in how we should judge these things:

"Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit. ... Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits." - Exodus 23:2-3,6

So we are to be fair in judging, and not consider whether the person is rich or poor, popular or unpopular. This is what justice originally was about.

In the newspeak of discrimination theory, this is completely inverted. Discrimination theory automatically identifies an injustice when there are rich and poor, and the arguments made - such as the one highlighted - are basically populist. There could be a hundred valid reasons for insurers having come to the conclusion that it is 7% more costly to insure single women than single men, but this is irrelevant to the discussion. In fact, I feel that any private company should be free to charge more for one person than another if they like, that being the nature of economic freedom.
Something for Marf. It arrived in the spam, so I don't know the source.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Since I am hoping to get a new lens, someone sent me this as a suggestion. Looks good, but they didn't send any of the technical stats. I also must figure out how to strap it to my pack for trail running. Gotta get that ultimate picture ...

Friday, April 17, 2009

California Unemployment jumps to 11.2%. We are back to number 3 among the states, behind Michigan and Oregon.

In separate California news, the Multicultural Police are now criminalizing private sector language discrimination. Fortunately most Silicon Valley firms outsource their support services to foreign countries. Otherwise, we might find ourselves calling support numbers in the US and getting a ¡Hola! from someone who can't speak English, but was legally required to be hired. Ironically, one of the politicians pushing this is a second generation Chinese who felt her father had been given a hard time when she was young. Certainly I feel patience with those who can't communicate in our language is a virtue, having been treated well in foreign countries, but virtue isn't created by legalism. Many of those second generation Chinese are going to see their jobs exported to China as we throw our freedoms away in favor of a police state.

Correction: California is #4 on unemployment after Michigan (12.6%), Oregon (12.1%), and South Carolina (11.4%).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sniff ... forgot to replace the memory card in the camera.

There were some vultures feeding on a carcass who let me get within about 5 meters where I could have gotten a very good shot. Instead, I will use this photo from Saturday's bike ride.
Silicon Valley loosing high paying tech jobs ...

Yes, I know a few who have gotten their layoff notices. There are still no signs of a let up in the march to socialism, unionism, regulationism, litigationism and government sponsored social chaos. Government spending might bring us out of the downward spiral, but it does seem to me that we are selling our children into tax slavery in order to accomplish this.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Grrrrr ... Those Stupid Christians ....

I just received this chain e-mail for the second time:

" ?REFUSE ?NEW $ COINS This ?simple action will make a strong statement. Please ?help do this...refuse to accept these when they are handed to you. I ?received one from the Post Office as change and I asked for a dollar bill ?instead. The lady just smiled and said 'way to go' so she had read this ?e-mail. Please help out...our world is in enough trouble without this ?too!!!!! U.S. Government ?to Release New Dollar Coins You ?guessed it 'IN ?GOD WE TRUST' ?ISGONE!!! ?If ?ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS ?IT!!!! DO NOT ?ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COINS AS CHANGE Together ?we can force them out of circulation. Please ?send to everyone on your mail list!!! 'In ?God we Trust' "

"In God We Trust", as you can see, is on the side of this 2007 dollar coin which is unexpected to Americans and difficult to see without my bifocals. When I got this chain e-mail the first time, I pulled a dollar coin out of my pocket and took the above photo. But this is just the beginning of the problems with this silly e-mail. If you can read "In God We Trust", then you can also see the image of a god which is a bit fuzzy in the photo. Which god is it? Is this the god that we are trusting in? If you have a coin, flip it over and you will see the image of John Adams. (Correction: There are different presidents on the coins, and I just happened to have a John Adams one.) According to the Infallible Wiki, John Adams was a Unitarian, which certainly isn't a Christian sect. Is their god the same as ours? Next, consider that the US is well known to be a Republic, patterned loosely on the model of Rome during the pagan classical era. They used to make gods out of traits like valor, virtue, honor and the like, which is the reason for the image of the god that is on the US $1 coin. One Roman who had a few Christians tortured and executed wrote this to his wife's grandfather:

"It remains for me to pray that the gods will continue to grant you this generous spirit and as many years as possible in which to employ it, ..." - The Letters of The Younger Pliny, V.11

In my experience, even the polytheistic pagans can - and do - affirm "In God We Trust" and the attitudes are scattered throughout pagan literature.

Finally, what should Christians living in foreign countries do? Some of those coins have pagan deities on them. Do we refuse to accept Japanese currency when living in Japan because "In God We Trust" isn't on the coin? Could the church of Antioch have given a gift to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30) without using coins with images of pagan deities? Christians, grow up!
Media demands evidence of Bo's eligibility and qualifications to serve in White House as first dog.

Show us the birth certificate!
Too many wonderful blogs to catch up on ... I am wondering what the rules are regarding how much time we should spend generating posts for our own blog, while neglecting to peruse, ponder and pontificate (the famous three p's) on the various other blogs out there.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Early in the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance." - John 20:1

I am looking forward to celebrating the resurrection today.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Canadians and Mayhem.

I was on the bicycle trail today innocently riding my bike when this Canadian hissed at me. Yes, that is right - he hissed at me. My upbringing requires me to be at peace with everyone, so I decided to stop and see if I could reconcile. The Canadian then had a tantrum and took to the air. What could be going through his mind?

But then I looked around and saw a giant 747 landing into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and suddenly everything was clear. This wasn't some random location, but rather an observation post where planes landing and taking off from SFO could clearly be seen. The Canadian wasn't feeding in the grass when I first saw him, but was instead standing on the bike trail which is a high point that facilitated a better view of the activities of the airport.

Suddenly everything came into focus: The airplanes "accidently" going into flocks of geese. Why was no one able to put the pieces together to see what was really happening. Clearly it was all part of some sinister plot organized by the Canadians who had deceived us. Next time I see him, I will try to apprehend him and waterboard him to find out who is really behind the plot and what their true objectives are.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A truly special gift. Thanks Delirious!

The pirate standoff near Somalia has me thinking about ransoms, and the wisdom of the ancients ...

"No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him -
The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough -
that he should live on forever and not see decay.
For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish
and leave their wealth to others.
...

But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself." - Psalms 49:7-10,15

And so Sons of Korah who wrote this song were looking forward to a future in which they would be ransomed from the grave to return to God. Centuries after this was written, Jesus says:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." - Mark 10:45

Today is Good Friday, where we commemorate this great ransom payment that was made on our behalf.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gibbons regarding the legal profession circa 330AD.

"The noble art, which had once been preserved as the sacred inheritance of the patricians, was fallen into the hands of freedmen and plebeians, who, with cunning rather than with skill, exercised a sordid and pernicious trade. Some of them procured admittance into families for the purpose of fomenting differences, of encouraging suits, and of preparing a harvest of gain for themselves or their brethren. Others, recluse in their chambers, maintained the gravity of legal professors, by furnishing a rich client with subtleties to confound the plainest truth, and with arguments to colour the most unjustifiable pretensions. The splendid and popular class was composed of the advocates, who filled the Forum with the sound of their turgid and loquacioius rhetoric. Careless of fame and of justice, they are described for the most part as ignorant and rapacious guides, who conducted their clients through a maze of expense, of delay, and of disappointment; from whence, after a tedious series of years, they were at length dismissed, when their patience and fortune were almost exhausted." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XVII

Good thing this never happens today. I would love to read the references that Gibbons got this from.

Update ...

I pondered this more overnight. Yes, I have seen some of my friends lose their savings as predatory lawyers exploited a dispute. Silicon Valley is rumored to spend as much on lawyers as R&D due to the endless fighting. Certainly it is a terrible thing, but maybe there is a silver lining? The lawsuits undoubtedly played a role in the collapse of the Roman Empire, but not in the collapse of the church.
The World and the Prophets: Chapter 1 - How Will It be When None More Saith 'I Saw'?

This chapter begins with a good contrast between Greek Philosophy and Christian prophecy as occurred during the initial spread of Christianity. Justin Martyr was one who tried to live this contrast out. Then there is a reminder of the Biblical comments about how prophets were never welcome when they were alive, but were honored long after they were dead.

It would be good if Hugh Nibley were around for more dialog, but that isn't they way things are. For me, there seems to be something missing: Philosophy was a minority sport even among the Greeks, while prophecy and revelation were also quite familiar to them. The Guide to Greece by Pausanius from the 2nd century gives an idea of the extent of monuments to revelation, while a reading of the "secular" historians, whether Greek or Roman, also feature slightly different paradigms of prophecy along with omens.

As for today, well, I am not sure. The fact is that no one has ever approached me with a message they claimed was from God to them, but for me. Thus, I have never been compelled to make a decision as to whether or not I am standing in the presence of a prophet. The closest I got was when I was sitting in a coffee shop at a random location once - frustrated and trying to debug something. A lady who I know had never seen me (I had been living in Japan and just returned) glanced at me, spoke to me something encouraging, and told me something about my character that I already knew. Was she a prophet? I don't know, but it did seem to me that the Holy Spirit was with her. What she gave me was exactly what I needed at that moment - a sense that God was looking after me and things would be OK. Are there prophets today? I have heard this affirmed by some missionaries and charismatics, as well as the Mormons. What should I make of all this? I don't know, but so far haven't been compelled to commit one way or another.
Hogwarts cafeteria. The original is here in California now. It was sold to a rich American when finances were tight during WWII.
Purpose Driven Waffling: Rick Warren tries to disassociate himself from Prop. 8.

You can see the Larry King interview here.

This does remind me that there was a man named John who criticized an immoral marriage. He ended up losing his head for speaking the truth. Rick may lose his head, but it appears that he doesn't want to risk that this might happen because he stuck to Biblical principals.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

BYU Publication: The World and the Prophets by Hugh W. Nibley

Since I like to read and comment on various things, and Delirious has pointed me to this publication, I will give it a read to see what I can learn. The Foreword is the first item that will be commented on:

"It is thus abundantly clear that the whole philosophical theological enterprise, however well intended, is incompatible with the existence of continuing revelation. For that reason there can never be a theology, a systematic theology as such, in the true Church, and thus we should be overwhelmingly grateful for our living prophets." - R. Douglas Phillips

The notion of a systematic theology is mentioned which certainly doesn't come from the Bible. Theology is something Christians have bickered over for millenia with no sign of a conclusion, so one is compelled to ask a simple question like, "Why didn't God just give us the correct systematic theology in the first place?". The answer seems to me that the process of searching and pondering the scriptures is more important to our spiritual growth than having the precise understanding. To this we must add a question about whether or not mankind can even hope to gain a true understanding of God. There is one more aspect that the systematic theologies of history invariably seemed to be formulated in response to a philosophical dilemma or heresy, so we try to come up with an explanation that precludes heresy. Unfortunately, there is always a loose end or ambiguity of language that opens up the possibility of a new heresy - seemingly precluding any hope of a final systematic theology. We should also note that during the classical era, philosophy was a hobby that was only affordable for the wealthy educated aristocrats.

A final possibility is that different people, cultures and eras approach the Bible with entirely different ways of evaluating truth. God being God, he put together a Bible which addresses all peoples in all cultures and all eras. In the end, however, I feel that the entire exercise misses the point: Christianity is a relationship with Jesus, not a list of philosophical propositions. Thus, we see a conversation between Jesus and a thief while dying on the cross:

"Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom'. Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'" - Matthew 23:42-43

The thief didn't have a systematic theology. He had a relationship with the savior. The conclusion for both Phillips and myself is this: philosophical systems of Christian theology aren't sacred. Phillips seems to suggest that the reason that there isn't a systematic theology given in the Bible is because more revelation was intended. My main concern is a right relationship with God through Jesus, so I am anxious to read on.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Gibbons regarding the construction of Constantinople:

"A multitude of labourers and artificers urged the conclusion of the work with incessant toil; but the impatience of Constantine soon discovered that, in the decline of the arts, the skill as well as numbers of his architects bore a very unequal proportion to the greatness of his designs." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XVII

A few pages later, Gibbons mentions the "Dark Ages", so it is clear that the idea was already coined in 1776. Earlier Gibbons states that the Christians only amounted to between 1/20th and 1/10th of the population of Rome and Antioch, and speculates that this might be a good measure for the Roman Empire as a whole.

The emperor who established Christianity, however, is already struggling from a lack of artisans and technical skills. The description continues to tell how ancient artwork from all over Rome and Greece was pillaged to create monuments for Constantine's new capital, since there weren't artisans to make new works. To make the new city prosperous, food from Egypt was diverted to Constantinople, while taxes were placed on Rome for the first time in 500 years.

I still have a task of locating the origin of the term "Dark Ages", but it should be clear that whatever the reason for the loss of technical skills was that afflicted the Roman Empire, it happened long before Christians were sufficiently numerous to have been the cause.
"To Rosianus Geminus:

Our friend Macrinus has had a terrible blow; he has lost his wife, one who would have been exemplary even in former times, after they had lived together for thirty-nine years without a quarrel or misunderstanding. She always treated her husband with the greatest respect, while deserving the highest regard herself, and she seemed to have assembled in herself the virtues of every stage of life in the highest degree. Macrinus has indeed the great consolation of having possessed such a treasure so long, though it is this which makes his loss so hard to bear; for our enjoyment of pleasure increases the pain of deprivatiton. So I shall continue to be anxious about him, for I love him dearly, until he can permit himself some distraction and allow his wound to heal; nothing can do this but acceptance of the inevitable, lapse of time, and surfeit of grief." - The Letters Of The Younger Pliny, VIII.5.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

False Choice Doctrine.

Italy's opposition politician, Dario Franceschini, provided this during the protests in Italy via Breitbart.

"It is a falsehood ... to say that since the crisis is global the solutions can only be at an international level," he told reporters. "The crisis must be faced with concrete measures taken by national governments".

On the surface, I agree with him, although the falsehood/false choice assertion he is making is the notion that Zimbabwe style economics can be embraced without incurring Zimbabwe style results. I sincerely doubt that he has any intention of reducing the burden of government and regulation on the Italian economy.

This reminds me of some of Obama's rhetoric:

"But I also know that we need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy. That is a false choice that will not serve our people or any people."

The reason for the current economic meltdown is that government decided that there would be no harm done if they dictated to the banks that they must provide loans to those who couldn't repay them. A government mandated credit bubble grew over a decade, and then popped. Rather than learning the lessons of history, however, False Choice Doctrine simply asserts that when faced with the exact same set of mutually exclusive decisions, we can still choose both.

Thucydides wrote in ancient Greece regarding the need to study history so that we can learn and not repeat the mistakes. False Choice Doctrine teaches that we can repeat the mistakes without suffering the consequences.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Something arcane: Classical era polygamy by the Persian Kings.

Gibbons is relating the story of the defeat of the Persian king Narses by Diocletian's forces:

"The principal loss of Narses was of a much more affecting nature. Several of his wives, his sisters, and children, who had attended the army, were made captives in the defeat. But though the character of Galerius had in general very little affinity with that of Alexander, he imitated, after his victory, the amiable behavior of the Macedonian towards the family of Darius. The wives and children of Narses were protected from violence and rapine, conveyed to a place of safety, and treated with every mark of respect and tenderness, that was due from a generous enemy to their age, their sex, and their royal dignity." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XIII.

There is very little written that survives to this day regarding these early Persian kings and their family. A few years back I posted a note regarding scholarly objections to the Biblical book of Esther and a subtle attack published by George Rawlinson. What the quote by Gibbons shows is that the Persian kings were polygamists with multiple wives, which is consistent with the book of Esther, although the incident described during the reign of Diocletian is removed in time from Esther by seven centuries.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Gibbons regarding the regress of philosophy and reason with the rise of Christianity.

"The philosopher, who considered the system of polytheism as a composition of human fraud and error, could disguise a smile of contempt under the mask of devotion, without apprehending that either the mockery or the compliance would expose him to the resentment of any invisible, or, as he conceived them, imaginary powers." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XV.

Gibbons is trying to explain why Christianity overcame Paganism, and claims that it was easier for philosophers to be closet atheists under Christianity than Paganism. Hmmm. Perhaps he has some experience in this matter? On the same page, Gibbons includes this footnote:

"Augustin is a memorable instance of this gradual progress from reason to faith."

This links to a comment regarding gnostics, but Augustine was actually very knowledgeable regarding philosophy and some have labeled him the only true Latin philosopher. We should also recall my last quote from Gibbons which implies that the decline in reason was due to the philosophers. My concern is consistency, but the first quote implies that philosophers were more free to reason under Christianity, while the second that Christianity caused the end of reason.

In our post-modern era, consistency is considered a vice, so Gibbons use of conflicting generalizations would probably be considered a virtue. Being old-school, I view this more as a symptom of sloppiness or deceit, and Gibbons, who released this book in the year 1776, definitely is in the old-school category. Before I condemn too much, however, I have seen the same kind of inconsistency from church leaders in conservative churches - trying to get their way from one day to the next by whatever persuasion works at the moment. Principles are created and deemed sacred one day, and then tossed the next when inconvenient. Business managers and politicians make a science of this stuff. Perhaps mankind simply is not a good candidate for producing an authority on reason?
The supreme court of Iowa establishes Depravityism as the official state religion.

If something is morally depraved, then the state must honor and glorify it.
Sierra Snow Pack @ 82% of normal.

I really should get up to check it out. A lot of new environmental regulations mean that this isn't nearly enough. The federal stimulus program really should have included a few nuclear powered desalination plants to provide water to southern and central California cities. The desalination of 1 gallon of water requires about 2kwh of electricity. A 2gigawatt power plant could theoretically desalinate 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) per hour, providing roughly the amount of water for a million people.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Gibbons regarding the start of the "Dark Ages" ...

This quote is from the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian (~282AD).

"He caused a diligent inquiry to be made ' for all the ancient books which treated of the admirable art of making gold and silver, and without pity committed them to the flames; ..." - Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XIII.

And so one set of books were destroyed. There is more:

"The declining age of learning and of mankind is marked, however, by the rise and rapid progress of the new Platonists. The school of Alexandria silenced those of Athens; and the ancient sects enrolled themselves under the banners of the more fashionable teachers, who recommended their system by the novelty of their method and the austerity of their manners. Several of theses masters - Ammonius, Plotinus, Amelius, and Porphyry - were men of profound through and intense appication; but, by mistaking the true object of philosophy, their labours contributed much less to improve than to corrupt the human understanding. The knowledge that is suited to our situation and power, the whole compass of moral, natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by the new Platonists; whilst they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, ..." - Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XIII.

This is fun. There was a loss of learning in parts of the classical world, but this was compensated by a gain in learning in northern Europe. What makes Gibbons remarks here interesting is that it attributes the loss of learning to an age of persecution of Christians, and specifically to the keepers of philosophy, who were busy trying both to establish their credibility and firing off polemics against Christianity. This isn't what I was taught in school.
San Francisco: Newsom vs. The Nation Of Islam.

This involves an Islamic school on government property and various accusations between the two parties. In the US, government entities have a long history of renting facilities to various groups of all kinds, probably including drug dealers. For non-sectarian groups that are non-profit, even free use of facilities has been common. This hasn't been controversial, until the Boy Scouts were targeted recently for requiring members to acknowledge the existence of at least one spiritual entity (the Flying Spaghetti Monster?) and not allowing homosexuals. The most famous of these incidents was across the bay from San Francisco where the city of Berkeley booted out the notorious Sea Scouts. On the other hand, the Sea Scouts might simply have been evicted for tying up dock space better used by drug smugglers.

Anyway, according to the above linked article, The Nation of Islam leased a building from the city of San Francisco and were upset about dust stirred up by city construction work. Somehow I suspect that their membership does not include many refugees from Darfur. The minister of this group is delightfully named Christopher Muhammed and has been bugging San Francisco's mayor, Guy Newsom. City lawyers have cleverly fired back by demanding The Nation Of Islam to actually pay rent on the property, which they had knowingly not been collecting for the last N years. It is this last assertion which really caught my attention. A rent was formally negotiated and apparently a matter of public record, as it should be to prove that public officials aren't abusing the trust of the voters. If the news article is correct, the agreement was knowingly ignored by both parties, so that the city officials were in effect providing free facilities to one of the most sectarian of religious organizations. This would have continued indefinitely, provided minister Muhammed had been more supportive of the mayor ... Of course the news article may be entirely false and misleading, so I will keep my eyes peeled to see if any more news on this subject surfaces.