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Friday, February 23, 2007

Can I Ever Know?

I seek but do not find that which plagues my mind
Night after night, book after book, I’ve searched it all and have nowhere to look
Most simply say, “close your eyes and walk by faith”,
but my mind won’t stop racing
my mind won’t stop racing

Can I ever know? Or is my search pointless?
Can I ever know? Are my efforts fruitless?
Is it a waste of time? I long for answers so hard to find.
My soul is weary, my soul is weary

Though it can cause tremendous pain, the ability to choose is a beautiful thing
His knowledge and our freedom combine? That understanding so hard to define
Most simply say, “close your eyes and walk by faith”,
but my heart won’t stop bleeding
my heart won’t stop bleeding

Can I ever know? Or is this search in vain?
Can I ever know? Will he stop the pain?
Is it a waste of time? I long for answers so hard to find
My soul is weary, my soul is weary

The final answers I may not discover, but light from dark I can discern
His truth is there to know, when I give of myself and begin to learn
I must respond and say, “use your mind and search for truth”,
And I know he’ll guide me
I know he’ll guide me

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Some miscellaneous updates

I don't have a terrible amount of time, but thought I would take a few minutes to give everyone some updates on past postings.
  1. I have previously posted about how difficult doing philosophy can be. Well, I believe that to be true more than ever. I am currently working on what will probably turn out to be the most difficult paper of my philosophical career. Who would've thought it'd take more time to write a 6-7 paper than other papers that were 15-20 pages? In sum, Kant is not a good writer and almost impossible to figure out.
  2. In regards to a post a couple weeks back about the ban of incandescent bulbs, I just thought it was interesting to note that there are a few countries that have taken the same step. Which countries? Cuba and Venezuela. Yes, that's right. Fidel Castro and his buddy Hugo Chavez have banned incandescent bulbs. While I don't think the California ban would be implemented the same way (government ordered teens went into people's homes and removed the bulbs themselves... I don't see a bunch of people ransacking SoCal homes to take out the incandescent bulbs), I do think our continuous progress toward socialism is a bad thing. I don't want to commit the genetic fallacy here, but it is interesting that our public policy is starting to look more and more like certain socialist countries. (Well, maybe it's not the genetic fallacy if we're talking about socialism. I can just argue against that outright.)
  3. My wife is an amazing person. Most of you already know that, but I just thought I'd take the time to say it myself for those that don't know. She has so much on her plate and yet continues to be supportive of me and my goals. I'm often impressed.

That's all for now, my paper is due on Friday and hope to give some more substantive updates once that's over.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why the Bible Doesn’t Matter (at least sometimes)

I’ve been listening to quite a bit of commentary following Tim Hardaway’s recent comments that he hates gay people. For those of you that haven’t heard, Hardaway was asked on a Miami area sports radio show what his thoughts were about having a teammate that is gay. He made some remarks that seemed a bit bigoted and when asked if he understood those were homophobic, bigoted remarks, he responded by saying “I hate gay people.” Much of the commentary I’ve heard on a local radio station has focused on how the Bible condemns homosexuality and even though the way Hardaway expressed his view is questionable, he is right in saying that homosexuality is wrong. Their basis for why homosexuality is wrong is that the Bible condemns it. Well, I want to argue that, in this situation, what the Bible has to say about homosexuality doesn’t matter.

First, it’s not at all clear that Hardaway based his comments on the Bible. In fact, I think it’s clear that his comments were not based on the Bible. So the biblical passages that refer to homosexuality don’t matter in this context because they were never appealed to in the first place.

Some may respond by saying that even if Hardaway didn’t appeal to the Bible in his comments, he could have made such an appeal. In fact, some have even said that he should have made an appeal to the relevant Biblical passages. This leads naturally to my second point. Even if Hardaway (or anyone for that matter) does have a case that the Bible condemns homosexuality he should not have appealed to that case. Why? Because what the Bible says about homosexuality is completely irrelevant when discussing the issue with people that don’t believe in the Bible. I understand that some may be bothered by this statement so let me explain a bit further.

When making a case for or against some issue, it is important to make that case with premises that all parties find agreeable. Please allow me to illustrate. Imagine you and a friend are playing in a field behind both your houses. You see a tree and decide to climb that tree. Tree climbing is a hobby you developed with your father and would now like to climb that tree. Your friend tells you, “Don’t climb that tree!” to which you ask “Why?” Now if your friend responds by saying “Well, my daddy said to not climb this tree, so you shouldn’t climb the tree” do you have any obligation to comply? Of course not. What reason do you have to comply with the commands given by an authority (her father) that you don’t recognize? Now if your instead friend replied by saying, “All the other children that have climbed this tree have fallen and hurt themselves very badly” then it might make sense to not climb that tree. Does the situation change if instead of a friend in the field with you it is a sibling and your sibling said “Don’t climb that tree because Dad said not to”? Yes that does change things and in a very important way. Why? Because now both people recognize the same person as a common authority.

So how does that apply to debating whether or not homosexuality is a good thing to practice? Well, if you say, “Don’t engage in homosexual activities because the Bible says it is a sin” but the person doesn’t believe in the Bible, then you are no different than the friend that expects you to obey her dad. Now if both parties agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and a guide to daily living, then it is perfectly acceptable to appeal to the Bible as your authority on the subject.

Does this mean that the Christian should remain silent about the potential or actual harms of homosexuality? Of course not. There are two things open for the Christian to do. One is to engage the other person about why he or she should accept the Bible as the standard for daily living. This would be like the friend in the example going on to say, “Well, my dad is a fireman and the last time someone got hurt climbing this tree all the firemen decided it was too dangerous for anyone to climb.” This would be an attempt to show why, in this case, you should accept the authority of her dad. The second thing you can do is make your case against homosexuality without referring to the Bible. Why do you think the Bible seems to prohibit homosexuality? (I use ‘seems’ because not everyone reading this will agree it does, but even those people would agree with what follows.) Well, certain behaviors prevent people from living the best life possible. That is true whether or not you believe in God or the Bible. If you show how those behaviors prevent the best life without appealing to the Bible, then whomever you are talking with cannot just say, “Well, I don’t believe in the Bible and so I have no reason to obey its commands.”

I do think such a case can be made. If you’re interested in some books that make a case against homosexuality (among other things) without appealing to Scripture, let me know. There are also some great books that will help you know why people should believe in the Bible’s trustworthiness and reliability. Those types of books may help you with your ability to convince those that don’t trust the Bible that they should.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Scholar's Prayer

Lord and Savior, true and kind, be the master of my mind;
Bless and guide and strengthen still all my powers
of thought and will. While I ply the scholar’s task,
Jesus be near; I ask; Help the memory,
clear the brain, knowledge still to seek and gain.

Bishop of Durham H.G.C. Moule

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sooner Sports

Well, I think the transition is finally over. Last week I found myself rooting for the OU Sooners over the OSU Cowboys in round two of this year's Bedlam series. Many of you know that I grew up an OSU fan and have always rooted for them to win. This was especially true in basketball because they were almost always pretty good (at least) in basketball. Football was always an up and down thing. They'd be good for a few years and then bad for a few. So I never got too attached to their football program, but still always rooted for them to be OU each year. Their basketball program, on the other hand, I was much more attached to.

About a year and half ago I started a Ph.D. program at OU and found myself rooting for them more and more. I decided that I had no real reason for rooting for OSU but had plenty of reasons to root for OU. Growing up I pretty much liked to annoy my older brother so I started pulling for OSU. It eventually stuck. Now that I'm getting paid by OU to get my doctoral degree and live a mile from campus, it's hard not to root for them. The first year was difficult to root for OU against OSU in football, but the national implications of the game made it a bit easier to do so. I couldn't bring myself to root against OSU in basketball though, but that all changed this year. I started watching the OU/OSU game and just found myself cheering when OU would hit a shot or make a defensive stand. It was amazing. I really don't know what happened. I guess it's just that Sooner Magic wearing of on me.

I know many of you Cowboy fans are greatly disappointed in me. Well, I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I didn't really intend to start rooting for the Sooners, it just started happening. Maybe this is an example showing that our beliefs are not under our direct voluntary control.

Go Sooners!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bye bye to the bulb?

Yesterday I ran across the article Might California ban the old bulb? on Yahoo! and am really ticked off about it. For those that aren't familiar with the story, let me briefly inform you. Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (Dem-CA) is attempting to ban traditional incandescent light bulbs in the state of California. Levine states that incandescent bulbs use more energy and produce less light than new florescent bulbs. The bill would prohibit the sell of incandescent bulbs by the year 2012.

Why does this bother me so much? Well, because I think it's just one more example of the growing influence of the government into not just our personal lives, but into the free market system itself. It may be true that incandescent bulbs are less efficient than florescent bulbs. It may be true that in the long run florescent bulbs cost less than incandescent bulbs. That does mean that the government has the right to tell consumers what they have to buy. Let me show you buy analogy what this amounts to.

No one will question the fact hat a Honda Civic gets better gas mileage than a Chevrolet Silverado. It costs less to operate and will probably outlast the Silverado. Over a span of 10 years, the Civic is better for the environment and costs less for the consumer. Does that mean the government should be able to tell consumers they can only buy Civics? Of course not, and no sane politician would make that claim (though I believe a few have come close to it). Why does a person have the right to choose to buy a Silverado? Because we have a free-market economy that lets people spend their money on products of their choosing. A Civic just won't do the job of a Silverado and many people just think that pickup trucks are more aesthetically pleasing than small sedans.

Back to the bulbs. Florescent bulbs simply don't do the job of incandescent ones in certain situations. Often times the light has a different 'feel' to it and some people genuinely don't like how florescent bulbs light certain areas. Some don't like the fact that it takes awhile for the bulb to 'heat up'. In our kitchen we have a florescent bulb over the sink and the first 5 minutes or so, everything looks yellow. Unless I'm doing dishes, I don't usually spend more than 5 minutes over the sink, and so, the whole time I'm there, everything looks yellow. I don't mind it, but mostly because I'm cheap and want to save money. That's my decision I get to make on my own. If it really bothered me, I want to be able to go buy an incandescent bulb and get 'true' light as soon as I flip the light switch. Some people just don't like the aesthetic of the spiral light and prefer an actual bulb. These are all good reasons why someone should be able to choose to continue buying incandescent bulbs. If they want to spend the extra money and replace bulbs more often, that's their choice.

Once the cost of purchasing florescent bulbs goes down, I'm sure more people will decide to buy them. We haven't replaced every bulb with florescent ones yet because it's pretty expensive to buy a bunch of florescent bulbs. True, once we do we shouldn't have to replace them again for 10 years or so, but that doesn't change the fact that we don't have the money to spend on replacing every bulb in our house. This leads to something I find quite interesting. At Assemblyman Levine's website, he states that electric companies give away florescent bulbs because it's cheaper for them to give them away than have their plants power incandescent bulbs. (If I lived in California I would probably take the electric company up on their offer.) I'm sure that those without a lot of money are really grateful for the chance to get these bulbs for free. But, does Levine really think that will continue once it's mandated that people buy florescent bulbs? What incentive would the electric companies have to give them away if they know as soon as the incandescent bulbs burn out, people will have to buy new florescent ones?

In sum, I think it's really dangerous for the government to continue making these types of inroads into the personal decisions of the American population. The free market depends on the power of people to choose where and on what they want to spend their money. If saving energy is so vital to the electric companies, let them decide how they want to convince people to switch over. If this law went into effect 3 or 4 years ago, I can guarantee that none of the electric companies would be giving away bulbs for free.