Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eusebius on Philo and the community of the Dead Sea.

"This much is certain. He lays special emphasis on their renunciation of property, saying that when they embark on the philosophic life they hand over their possessions to their relations, then, having renounced all worldly interest, they go outside the walls and make their homes on lonely farms and plantations well aware that association with men of different ideas is unprofitable and harmful. That, apparently, was the practice of the Christians of that time, who with eager and ardent faith disciplined themselves to emulate the prophetic way of life." - The History of the Church, 2.17.

There are a lot of pieces to explain here. Philo of Alexandria (20BC-50AD) was a Jewish rabbi who lived and wrote in Alexandria during the 1st century and he is quoted extensively by Eusebius (263-339AD) in his History Of The Church. Philo describes a group of ascetics which he calls the Therapeutae. Separately, a Roman geographer, Pliny the Elder (23AD-79AD), describes a group of ascetics living near the Dead Sea. With a few more hints from Josephus (37AD-100AD), and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the scholarly consensus was that this all referred to a pre-Christian Jewish sect that lived in the desert. There are, however, some who are disputing this recently. My quote from Eusebius is just one short paragraph of a long section of analysis and quotes from other writers.

Eusebius writes almost three centuries after the start of Christianity, but here he seems to confuse Philo's note on the Jewish community with an early Christian community. This does leave me wondering if some of the early Christian ascetics and monasticism might have been the result of misunderstandings regarding the interpretation of these other first century writers who may have seemed to be writing about Christianity, but were almost certainly writing about something else! That is just speculation, because there is still a lot of missing information.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Painted Lady and here.

The City of Alameda School Board decision regarding bullying.

This event escaped my attention, but the rumor mill eventually got back to California. The problem of bullying is universal, so that gays are verbally abused for their choices. First, I will note what the Bible teaches:

"When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and "sinners"?' On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.'" -Matthew 9:11-12

Our Christian teaching regarding those who are locked into immorality is that they are sick and in need of compassion and treatment, as a doctor cares for the sick. Needless to say, the doctor does not try to get the same disease. We also recognize that we too are locked into - or have been locked into - various moral sicknesses, perhaps different from the gays, but equally condemned and equally needing deliverance. We acknowledge a natural aversion to sin as it affects others, but suppress this for a better purpose of trying to help others overcome sin, because this is what Jesus does for us. There is no room for bullying in Christianity, but it is likewise impossible not to acknowledge sin.

So why won't Christians join in with the anti-bullying lessons?

The reason is that the secular depravity philosophers have a conflicting message regarding the reason not to bully: That homosexuality isn't abnormal and wrong, but an aversion to homosexuality is abnormal and wrong. The problem with this is that it attempts to suppress bullying by introducing two new errors into the thinking of the youth. The net effect is to both teach that there is nothing wrong with sexual immorality - of any kind - and any natural aversion to sexual immorality is itself wrong. Oh to be a doctor employed in the treatment of STDs! In the end, the lack of sexual restraint will just multiply bullying as people demand their desires to be fulfilled by someone else - with no regard for the consequences.

But not to worry too much, because the Bible said that this would happen. We are simply returning to the moral climate of both 1st century and 15th century Rome. Christianity overcame this before and we will overcome again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

California State Park Closing List ...

There is more on the Governator's proposed state park closing plan. A list of the proposed parks to be closed is here. Thankfully I got to see Henry Coe Park before the shutdown. Our East Bay Park system is independent, so hopefully I won't need to cross locked fences in order to steal pictures. A big concern for me is the Headlands Hundred event. Not that I want to actually run the full hundred miles, but they have a short, fifty mile event for the softies that looks good to me. It does, however, cross a lot of parks including Mount Tamalpais State Park which is on the closing list.

Update: State parks to remain open are listed here. Again, this is just a proposal at the moment.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

California Meltdown Watch: Shut the parks?

I suppose it is a bit churlish to worry about my access to trails being shut down when the same proposal includes a complete elimination of the state welfare system. Ignoring the $744 million of borrowing from the future, the Governator's proposal eliminates less than $3 billion of the $21 billion state deficit.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Orange Sulphur

Prop 8 - Response from the LGBT religions:

The civilized people of California can breath a sigh of relief and thank God for the ruling that the concept of marriage will not become the property of LGBT advocates - at least for the time being. The entire gay marriage debate, however, is due to the post-Christian denominations which seem to advocate salvation by depravity, or something to that effect. The United Church of Christ vents on the subject here, again claiming that this is an issue of civil rights, rather than protecting civilization from runaway licentiousness and promiscuity, along with the well know consequences. The Episcopals have a note here.

There are several other "Christian" theological bloggers who are unhappy that the constitution doesn't mandate government sponsored desecration of the sacred in the name of mockery, but I will leave the links out to minimize the eventual backlash.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Here is a panorama from a rather bleak point in Henry Coe Park called Willow Ridge. It is 7 miles outbound from the park headquarters. This will endure several months of no rain and hot temperatures, while willow trees need lots of water. The person who named this place was probably suffering from hallucinations on a hot summer day.

Now if only I could figure out how to get this panorama to display in full resolution!

Henry Coe Park,Willow Ridge
Henry Coe adventure pictures continued ... These are some of the wildflowers that caught my eye.

Butterfly Mariposa Lily (note: 'mariposa' is a Spanish word meaning 'butterfly', but we won't let that distract us) :

Yellow Mariposa Lily:

Wind Poppy:


And some hikers, starting out in the mid-afternoon heat as I was finishing up.

Gibbons: Nearing the end of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

From the time of the book of Acts to the battles with Attila, four centuries passed. The story of the fall of Rome included numerous Christian leaders from Antioch and Alexandria. There was Eusebius in Caesarea, John Chrysostom in Constantinople, Ambrose in Milan, and Augustine in Hippo. But what of Christian leaders in Rome? Early on it gets one mention when Clement of Rome - as an elder - writes his letter to Corinth shortly after the persecution under Nero. After this, it is largely a blank until Bishop Leo goes to talk with Attila. Jerome is mentioned who spent some time in Rome, but was born and lived elsewhere. Augustine likewise wrote his massive City of God without a mention of a Christian leader in Rome, while mentioning numerous ones from around Christendom. There is certainly much more reading to do, but with this information to go on, it seems to me that Rome was a most unlikely spot to become the center of a major Christian denomination.

There seem to be a few very similar species.
White Globe Lilly / Fairy Lantern

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Red Thistle?

There were a few of these that caught my attention. The common thistles around here are usually purple, so the red was a nice contrast.
Henry Coe Park Headquarters.

It was a good day for this adventure with all of the fog keeping things cool - at least until mid-morning when the fog went away. As you can see, the start point is the top of a mountain and the clouds are below. You can go a little higher, but it is mostly down from here.
This looks to be a Ruddy Duck, which I photographed at Mississippi Lake. This caught my attention because I have never seen one before. The feathers are mainly rust-red, and the beak is bright blue. There were several enjoying this lake.
To the east in Henry Coe there was an area of burnt-out chaparral. One of my trails disappeared and I did not want to back track. Instead, I pushed my way down a ridge, picking up a few cuts and bruises along the way. After this, I was looking a bit like a coal miner finishing up the remainder. Thankfully, God was looking after me.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The D.U.R.T. Dude warned that trail running in Henry Coe Park would cause atheists to talk to God, or something to that effect. I can now confirm that this is true.

This is one of the trails through an area called "The Narrows". You are picking your way over rocks, in and out of the water, and then working your way through tick infested grasses. I picked four ticks off when I got home.

I made about 20 miles of the original route - out to Mississippi Lake and back. The dirt roads to the east of the park have no shade, which is quite charming in the summer. Besides the distance, the ridge trails undulate with steep descents followed by steep climbs with hardly a break.

The final challenge of the park is that the main visitor center is near the top, so when you finally get near the end, tired and exhausted, there is a nasty 3.5 mile climb out. It is probably time to acknowledge the aging process and find some easier trails.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tomorrow's route plan for Henry Coe Park is here.
California is #5 for month of April.

Meaning we have the 5th highest unemployment rate in the US: 11%. I am a bit puzzled that California lost the largest number of jobs, 63,700, but the jobless rate went down slightly. California's defense industry probably won't like the bill "tightening defense procurement". Certainly procurement can always be made more sensible, but earlier reports were that the plan was to hire 20,000 bureaucrats to dispense red tape, which presumably makes things more efficient in at least one alternate reality. Now if only I could get some of that bailout money to keep me running on the trails ...
Something from Monterey Bay Aquarium - about two months ago.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Acmon Blue

This might also be a Lupine Blue, but I can't tell the difference.
Painted Lady

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A view of Mission Peak from Mount Allison

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"47 million year old fossil monkey" proves ...

Well, now let's see... If I accept the claims of the Ivory Tower folk that this is a 47 million year old fossil monkey, which might be slightly different from current monkeys, but still is recognizably a monkey, then we really don't have any evidence for evolution, do we? How many hundreds of millions of years would it take to evolve something recognizably different from a monkey? Perhaps a billion years of evolution would give us the difference between a monkey and a rat, and a trillion would give us the difference between a monkey and a dolphin? Who could conceive of the amount of time needed to get from a monkey to a squid? This is just one more piece of fossil evidence that evolution is impossible.
California meltdown watch: Today is the vote!

This is for the six propositions that try to fix California's budget mess by postponing the problems to the future. The Governator's current plan is to achieve $21.3 billion in savings by cutting $9 billion of spending, which leaves me wondering what the state of Austrian math education is relative to California math education. The San Francisco Chronicle has a quick note entitled, "Say a prayer for California". The author of the article attributes the current problems to "the forces of nihilism" - apparently referring to all those churlish people who don't want to pay more taxes when their job is about to be outsourced. We can be assured that the problem isn't with the "forces of narcissism" and the endless moral posturing of the neo-socialists.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The demographics of happiness.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gibbons regarding the estates of wealthy Romans.

"The estates of the Roman senators, which so far exceed the proportion of modern wealth, were not confined to the limits of Italy. Their possessions extended far beyond the Ionian and Aegean seas to the most distant provinces: the city of Nicopolis, which Augustus had founded as an eternal monument to the Actian victory, was the property of the devout Paula; and it is observed by Seneca, that the rivers which had ddivided hostile nations now flowed through the lands of private citizens. According to their temper and circumstances, the estates of the Romans were either cultivated by the labour of their slaves, or granted, for a certain and stipulated rent, to the industrioius farmer. The economical writers of antiquity strenuously recommend the former method wherever it may be practicable; but if the object should be removed by its distance or magnitude from the immediate eye of the master, they prefer the active care of an old hereditary tenant, attached to the soil and interested in the produce, to the mercenary administration of a negligent, perhaps an unfaithful, steward." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XXXI

This note stood out in my mind since there are several parables in the Bible comparing us as servants to God as the master. This extra context doesn't change the interpretation of the parables, but perhaps makes them seem a bit more real. Here is one of the parables that Jesus gives us that uses this imagery:

"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he beggen, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." - Matthew 18:23-35

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Do you know the way to San Jose? They've got a lot of space there'll be a place where I can stay ... " You can catch the song here.

This was from the summit of Rose Peak. San Jose is 3,800 feet lower and about 14 miles away - as the crow flies. Just below the summit is a spring where I ran into Catra and friends. They are all training for the Ohlone Wilderness 50k, which is the sort of event you go to if you think marathons are for wimps. Temperature at the lower elevations were up to 100F (38C).
Chinese Houses.


Sorry I couldn't get a better picture. It was crawling on my leg while I changed lenses for the closeup, but then I had a hard time getting my leg into the right position for a photo. Note to myself: Practice yoga more often so you can photograph ticks on your leg.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunc. They are Acorn Woodpeckers.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Solar Production Statistics.

This is from I have been interested in the growth of this industry and really would like to be a standalone, solar powered house, if it wasn't so expensive. What is fascinating is the way China is picking up the large majority of the growth, although China isn't subsidizing solar. The reason for China is that it has a lot of capital to invest, and the least environmental restrictions. I have noted elsewhere that solar cell usage probably doesn't result in any net savings of fossil fuels, but it is also interesting in that the environmental lobby is effectively causing a massive shift of wealth to China.
Sierra Dreaming.

My fitness is finally coming back after the knee operation so that I can get up and down the local mountains reasonably quickly. Now I am having hopes and visions of getting back to the high country.

This picture is from a trail run along Mammoth Crest at about 11,000 feet elevation looking north towards The Minarets. This was from September 2007.
California Meltdown Watch:

It looks like the California government is going to need to finally start doing some serious cutting - maybe. The deficit (for an unspecified period) is listed at $21.3 billion. Tied to this is a bunch of Obama bailout money that comes with strings attached. If you cut too much from education or Medi-Cal, then the Obama dollars are rescinded. There are also Obama rules specifying income levels for state workers who aren't even under the programs funded by the Obama dollars. Glad I am not a politician.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Are you a pastor wanting to visit England on holiday? Beware!

I am curious about the rationale for the changes. My suspicion is that the Brits aren't able to distinguish between Mother Teresa and al-Qaeda.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Update: Now I am really puzzled. The picture here showed up at home just fine, but at the coffee shop, it is blocked by Sonic Wall. Checking the rating, it is listed as "nudity". I guess most snakes are nude, but ...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pondering yokes ...

"If they were sometimes tempted by a sally of passion, or by the hopes of concealment, to indulge their favourite superstition, their humble repentance disarmed the severity of the Christian magistrate, and they seldom refused to atone for their rashness by submitting, with some secret reluctance, to the yoke of the Gospel." - Gibbons, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XXVIII.

This is a discussion of the effect of pagan sacrifices having been forbidden. The situation for the pagans wasn't so bad as I had been led to believe, because Gibbons continues with this:

"The Pagans were indulged in the most licentious freedom of speech and writing; the historical and philosophical remains of Eunapius, Zosimus, and the fanatic teachers of the school of Plato, betray the most furious animosity, and contain the sharpest invectives, against the sentiments and conduct of their victorious adversaries."

Gibbons developed much of his narrative for The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from pagan writers living after Christianity had triumphed, but who left their angry books for us to read. They were only forbidden to offer sacrifices to idols, but not compelled to embrace Christianty. Gibbons, however, uses the word "yoke" to refer to a sense of being slaves under Christianity.

Separately, I have pondered often regarding an old testament prophecy:

"Esau said to his father, 'Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!' Then Esau wept aloud. His father Isaac answered him, 'Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.'" - Genesis 27:38-40

The pattern of interpretation of these old testament stories is established in several New Testament books, and Hebrews gives us this:

"See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son." - Hebrews 12:16

The Muslims and Christians each consider themselves to be spiritual descendants of Abraham through Ishmael and Jacob respectively. Esau is given much less consideration, but I tend to equate Esau to the post-Christian mainline types. This is the older brother of the evangelicals who tossed away their inheritance to indulge an appetite. The prophecy of Isaac is that Esau would throw off his brothers yoke, which would mean that they would escape from the oppression of Christianity to, well, indulge their lusts and fight with their spiritual brothers, the Christians. This prophecy also explains why the fight for gay marriage began and is being fought in the post-Christian countries, with those fighting the hardest being seminary trained. There is the additional feature that the more rights that are obtained by the licentious, the greater the sense of being oppressed by a yoke, which I have seen some left-wing reporters discussing recently due to the volume of angry comments they get.

To finish up, we have what Jesus says about the yoke that is being thrown off:

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:29-30

The most oppressive yoke is to be controlled by your desires, but this isn't a popular notion these days.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chalcedon Checkerspot

Regarding mockery ...

"But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me." - Psalm 35:15-16

I grew up in a culture of mocking and learned the trade quite well. But should Christians mock and scoff? It does seem to me so inappropriate and awkward when I see a Christian do this. Another observation is that the Bible consistently correlates mocking and scoffing with ungodly behavior, but who of the mockers knows the history of mocking? My history books have asserted that Voltaire was a professional mocker, in a way, due to his plays. Mockery is usually a symptom of someone who views himself as having knowledge and cleverness of which his opponent is ignorant, so perhaps this is the cause for which mocking was given the label of "The Age of Reason" and "The Enlightenment"? But there is something more from the ancients:

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:7-9

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Gibbons regarding the promotion of Bishop Ambrose (385AD)

"At the age of thirty-four, and before he had received the sacrament of baptism, Ambrose, to his own surprise and to that of the world, was suddenly transformed from a governor to an archbishop."

Apparently if you are popular, then you are qualified for any office! Ambrose, however, seems to have handled himself well and would play a major role in Augustine's conversion and teachings.

"Wealth was the object of his contempt; he had renounced his private patrimony; and he sold, without hesitation, the consecrated plate for the redemption of captives." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XXII.

Gibbons discusses many others who fought for the high church offices for the vilest of reasons. Still, he has words of praise for the ones who clearly were exemplary Christians. But why does it seem that those who rose up through the ranks of the church aren't the exemplary ones?
Teminator T-800 Duck
Double Crested Cormorant
Usually the vultures are staying in one general part of the mountain, but yesterday they decided to keep me company and followed me up. It was really sweet of them.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Lark Sparrow

drought - noun

A condition of too much water, exceeding the capacity of reservoirs and river beds so that people are inconvenienced.

I learned this from reading the Sacramento Bee. After months of drought warnings and political dithering, we now are facing the consequences with parking lots inundated with, um, drought. Now I am wondering what the new meaning is for the word flood.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

This looks a bit like a sunflower. I am guessing it is Mule's Ear, but it does seem a bit out of place. This was spotted at about 1800' elevation, which is the right elevation range per the description, but this isn't the right location. It is the only flower of this type I have seen in all my hiking.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Common Ringlet

City of Oakland discussing laying off 140 police officers.

This looks to be almost 20% of the police force. The overall crime statistics for this city are here.

A few days ago Oakland's most famous resident, Jerry Brown, had his tires stolen in front of his house. Jerry Brown is California's attorney general making him the highest police officer in the state.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Gender neutral dormitories?

The article claims that some elite universities are now assigning college kids to dorm rooms randomly and with no regard to gender. Supposedly this is to make the university environment more friendly to gay and transgendered students. Oh, the wonders of science!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Gibbons regarding the reforms to education under Julian:

"A just and severe censure has been inflicted on the law which prohibited the Christians from teaching the arts of grammar and rhetoric. The motives alleged by the emperor to justify this partial and oppressive measure might command, during his life time, the silence of slaves and the applause of flatterers. Julian abuses the ambiguous meaning of a word which might be indifferently applied to the language and the religion of the Greeks: he contemptuously observes that the men who exalt the merit of implicit faith are unfit to claim or to enjoy the advantages of science; and he vainly contends that, if they refuse to adore the gods of Homer and Demosthenes, they ought to content themselves with expounding Luke and Matthew in the churches of the Galilaeans. In all cities of the Roman world the education of the youth was intrusted to masters of grammar and rhetoric, who were elected by the magistrates, maintained at the public expense, and distinguished by many lucrative and honorable privileges. The edict of Julian appears to have included the physicians, and professors of all the liberal arts; and the emperor, who reserved to himself the approbation of candidates, was authorised by the laws to corrupt, or to punish, the religious constancy of the most learned of the Christians." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - XXIII (363AD)

To simplify, Julian forbid Christians from being teachers, alleging a conflict between faith and science, and proceeded to replace them with those who believed in the gods of Homer! Why does that sound so much like today? For the gods of Homer, we can simply insert the mystical claims of evolution. Anyway, for those who want to know the origin of the mythical "war between faith and science", this is probably it. I am also warming up to Gibbons a bit and feeling some of my earlier comments regarding him were warranting an apology.

Another item of interest here is that this change is facilitated by the existence of a government funded education system. At this point of the history of Rome, however, education is on the decline, with the exception of sophistry. Flashing back 250 years, however, Pliny the Younger gives us this note regarding teacher salaries:

"To Cornelius Tacitus,

... I would promise the whole amount were I not afraid that someday my gift might be abused for someone's selfish purposes, as I see happen in many places where teacher's salaries are paid from public funds. There is only one remedy to meet this evil: if the appointment of teachers is left entirely to the parents, and they are conscientious about mkaing a wise choice through their obligation to contribute to the cost. People who may be careless about another person's money are sure to be careful about their own, and they will see that only a suitable recipient shall be found for my money if he is also to have their own.
" - The Letters of the Younger Pliny, IV.13

This should make it clear why the current religious war is also linked to the design of the government schools in the US. If parents are given the right to choose, science will win and evolution is headed for the dust bin.


I was reflecting on Julian's outline of a war on Christianity based on a specious conflict between faith and science, and also the full title of Gibbons book: A History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The man who popularized the notion of a war between faith and science for modern America is Andrew Dickson White, who wrote another large work with a fancy title, "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom". He was a historian by training, but also founded America's first secular university, Cornell. Was he simply reviving the formula of Julian to establish a new paganism? The argument of White's book can be digested to one sentence: "Evolution is true, because if you don't believe, then you are a Galileo persecuting, flat earth believing moron." This is a truly impressive philosophical achievement which lives with us to this day.
Carrying a camera does change how the trail is covered. Rather than rushing along, I am now scanning everywhere for something to take a picture of, wondering about angles and lighting. Perhaps it is good to slow down a bit and accept the fact of aging. All of the flowers, bugs and birds are suddenly a matter of interest in a way that they weren't before.

This flower seems to be an Applegate's Indian Paintbrush.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Gibbons regarding the first government sponsored social service programs:

"The Imperial pontiff inculcates, in the most persuasive language, the duties of benevolence and hospitality; exhorts his inferior clergy to recommend the universal practice of those virtues; promises to assist their indigence from the public treasury; and declares his resolution of establishing hospitals in every city, where the poor should be received without any invidious distinction of country or of religion. Julian beheld with envy the wise and humane regulations of the church; and he very frankly confesses his intention to deprive the Christians of the applause, as well as advantage, which they had acquired by the exclusive practice of charity and beneficence." - The Decline of the Roman Empire, XXIII.(361-363AD)

This is one of the most extraordinary statements I have run across in Gibbons. Julian didn't live long enough to see this carried out, but it represents an attitude that I have wondered isn't at the heart of much of the modern state run social services: If a secular government can be the sole provider of charity, then Christians can be deprived of the credit. The main problem with this motivation for secular charity is that it is about getting credit, whereas the Christian motivation was a concern for the poor themselves. On the other hand, we need to keep in mind what the pre-Christian Polybius wrote regarding the decay of Democracy and the consequences of this for wealth distribution of the Robin Hood sort. This is now changing as California can't fund the charity, education, law enforcement and various other activities it has committed to. Will Christians rise up to the challenge if government charity is cut?

Another thing that makes this statement stand out is that the histories of the time usually emphasize the bickering among the top level theologians, but this gives us little insight into the relationship of the individual Christian with the core commands of Christianity: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. The Christians of this era were putting charity into action at a level that gained the admiration of an empire, including the opponents of Christianity.
Gibbons regarding the Platonic System and the Logos.

"The celestial bodies, as they were informed by a divine spirit, might be considered as the objects the most worthy of religious worship. The Sun, whose genial influence pervades and sustains the universe, justly claimed the adoration of mankind, as the bright representation of the Logos, the lively, the rational, the beneficent image of the intellectual Father." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XIII

This is Gibbons writing about the writings of Julian, who was the last pagan Roman emperor and also trained in pagan religion and philosophy. At this point, paganism was no doubt influenced by Christianity, although perhaps in reactionary ways. What I am mainly interested in here is what I would call a battle for ownership of the Logos. The following two items I have highlighted before, but we will put the three together:

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." - John 8:12

Those are the words of Jesus. The book of John also calls Jesus the Logos - who became flesh.

"Nothing in biology (i.e. life) can be understood except in the light of evolution." - Dobzhansky.

The Dobzhanksky Principle is the basis for modern education and the general evolution creep into the entire curriculum of the government schools. Modernist will usually smile at the first two, while feeling the third is obvious. Unfortunately for the Dobzhanskyists, there is nothing in biology that hasn't been mastered by someone who doesn't believe evolution, and, well, nobody even knows what evolution is other than being simply a synonym for change. At least the Sun helps plants to grow.

Putting the three of these together, the parallel and competitive religious nature of the assertions should be clear.
Gibbons regarding the Platonic system of interpretation adapted by Julian:

"As the traditions of Pagan mythology were variously related, the sacred interpreters were at liberty to select the most convenient circumstances; and as they translated an arbitrary cipher, they could extract from any fable any sense which was adapted to their favorite system of religion and philosophy." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, XXIII.

This is Gibbons deduction from reading works by Julian and others, according to the footnote. I found it quite interesting, because this pattern is hardly restricted to Pagan philosophy and religion. Some Christian Bible interpreters have managed the same feat so that any passage of the Bible can be used to support any orthodox position that happens to be on their mind at the moment. Then there are the anti-Christian theologians who can take any text and negate the meaning, although this process is certainly much less random than the first set of Bible interpreters. But then there are the Darwinists, who when equipped with the phantom theory of Evolution, can explain any biological configuration. Is this simply a universal condition of the human mind?
Another Beauty

Friday, May 01, 2009

Temptation: The urge to go where you aren't supposed to go.

Hume's Fork.

This is something I learned about when following up on the various links of a posting by John Hobbins. He was posting regarding a book, The History of Philosophy - A Reader's Guide by Verene. This isn't a history, but rather a list of writings that have formed the history of philosophy. A few I have read, but my reading has been extremely inadequate. One thing I find interesting is that Darwin isn't on this list.

Hume's Fork was an item that John Hobbins listed. It basically states that all objects of human reason are either Matters of Fact (data) or Relations of Ideas (mathematical relations). This definition is new to me, but it has some interesting similarities to what I have considered - based on my experience - are the minimal requirements for something to become a candidate for a scientific theory: A scientific theory is a fixed mathematical relation (Relation of Ideas) which relates measurable quantities (Matters of Fact), thus, both sides of Hume's Fork are necessary. The reason this is necessary is that without those two criteria, it is impossible to program the computer to do engineering or scientific problem solving.

As I have harassed evolutionists many times, the theory of Darwin involves no fixed relations. Instead, each practitioner of evolution waves his hands like a Shaman. Nor does it involve measurable specific measurable quantities, but each Darwinista is talking about different quantities and different units. Facing this, they forever protest that someone used this or that scientific or mathematical relation. That may be true, but what of the "scientific theory of evolution"? A Shaman can use a scientific theory also, but does that lend scientific credibility to Shamanism? Sadly we will continue arguing over the merits of the "scientific theory of evolution", while not yet having shown that it even exists.