Monday, September 20, 2010

Not funny and low class...

is no way to go through life, son.

Coyne the poet :
But sometimes even God falls down
And makes a poor pathetic clown:
Yes, poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make Behe.


Coyne is one of those people who, every time he tries to make a joke--it just ends up making you cringe. If you want a witty new atheist, it's Hitchens, PZ, or nobody. On average they're a dire, humorless lot. You'd think they were Calvinists for crying out loud.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remember when Uncommon Descent was worth visiting?

Ah—sweet nostalgia—a post on Uncommon Descent that harkens back to the good old days when Dembski would post Harold Camping-like prophetic utterings about the precise moment the ToE would die a thousand painful deaths. Or the "Brites" would provide hideous, amateurish, and sometimes grotesque photoshop caricatures. Or the famous Judge Jones Flash video with gastrointestinal sound effects. Sigh.  I could go on and on, but eventually the weight of nostalgia becomes overwhelming.

I don’t visit UD much anymore—it has become more or less irrelevant and, even worse,  boring. The site really misses the pugnacious DaveScot—without whom UD is not only devoid of scientific value, but it also lacks entertainment value—and I mean that as a genuine compliment to DaveScot. His often outrageous  posts and comments and internecine warfare  made UD one of my daily must stops—even long after I was banned.

But now—we have this gem of post by someone named GilDodgen (what is it with UD and conjoined bylines?) who who has a theory as to why his UD posts generate many comments:
My thesis is that people like me, a former materialist atheist, who have been influenced by logic, reason, and evidence (i.e., the ID movement) represent the greatest threat to the reigning nihilistic and anti-intellectual Darwinian orthodoxy.
Yes, I can see that. I can imagine Richard Dawkins experiencing bladder control problems just thinking about the threat named GilDodgen . 
Can you say "Street Theater?"

If we traded him for future considerations, I don't think we'll get much

I suppose that at least it's nice when the nut isn't an evangelical Protestant. Well, okay,  he once was a Protestant. But we shipped him off to he moved over to Rome. And make no mistake about it, Robert Sungenis is as nutty as a fruitcake.

He has organized the First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism. That's right--not Young Earth Creationism, but geocentrism.

Don't worry about the weather--after all there is no Coriolis force.

I'm so glad I missed the Battle of Armageddon

According to Left-Behinders, the armies of the antichrist, no doubt knowing their ultimate fate (I mean, geez, everyone has read LeHaye and Jenkins) will nevertheless oblige prophecy and rage a final, spectacularly anticlimactic battle with a forgone result, the so-called Battle Of Armageddon.

Sorry. It ain’t gonna happen. Because it already did happen.

Armageddon is mentioned but once in the New Testament, in Rev 16:16:
Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Rev 16:16)
In his fine book Last Days Madness Gary DeMar1 quotes a famous Left-Behind guru, the late John Walvoord, former President of Left Behind University, The Dallas Theological Seminary:
The prophets have described [The Battle of Armageddon] as the final suicide battle of a desperate world struggle centered in the Middle East.
I’m not sure what prophets he is referring to—but they are indeed prophets if from the vague Rev. 16:16: Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon they were able to discern the specifics of World War III.

DeMar offers an alternative for explanation of the Battle of Armageddon: It is the “Waterloo” for ancient Israel. I think he is correct. Of course, who can be sure about anything when it comes to Revelation?—but it smells right—especially in light of the book’s first verse:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. (Rev 1:1)
Whatever the Battle of Armageddon is—the first verse of Revelation tells us that it is in the past, not the future.

In a nutshell, DeMar’s argument is that the Battle of Armageddon refers to the complete and devastating Roman response to the Jewish rebellion, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, the desecration and conflagration of Temple, and the permanent end Jewish ceremonial worship.

John’s vision, according to DeMar, is a warning to Israel: you are about to meet your Waterloo.

Armageddon refers to a city, Megiddo. According to DeMar this city was ingrained in the collective minds of the Jews as a place where incurring God’s wrath was the price paid for Jewish disobedience:

While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Neco faced him and killed him at Megiddo. (2 Kings 23:29)
God told Josiah not to war with Egypt. Josiah disobeyed. DeMar quotes David Chilton concerning the consequences beyond the king's death:
Following Josiah's death, Judah's downward spiral into apostasy, destruction, and bondage was swift and irrevocable (2 Chronicles 36). The Jews mourned for Josiah's death, even down through the time of Ezra (see 2 Chronicles 35:25), and the prophet Zechariah uses this as an image of Israel's mourning for the Messiah.2

So the Battle of Armageddon is a stark warning that, at the time of John’s vision, bad times were a-coming, they were and coming soon. And indeed they did. Israel’s Waterloo was far more devastating than England’s Napoleon's—it was nothing less than a holocaust. More than a million Jews were killed. Hundreds of thousands were taken into Roman bondage. And the Jewish system of worship was destroyed, never to be restored again.

1 Yes that Gary DeMar, ardent proponent of the non-bliblical, loony-tunes position of Christian Reconstructionism/Theonomy. It just goes to show that even nuts can recognize nuttiness. It especially grieves me that this particular brand of yahoos (the Presbyterian intellectual theonomists) tend to be postmillennialists and partial-preterists—both both perfectly reasonable eschatological views. Sigh.

2 David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: an Exposition on the Book of Revelation, Dominion Press, 1987, 411-412.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mr. Frick, meet Mr. Frack

Jerry Coyne has a post entitled: Obama is an Athiest

P.Z. Myers has a post entitled: Obama is not an Atheist

These American assets are two of our nation's über-rationalists!  How can their vaunted philosophical naturalism bring each to conclude the exact opposite of the other? The mind reels! Does this not mean that at least one is being irrational? May it never be!

I also find it amusing that some atheists (like Coyne) will say that President Obama is a bald-faced liar--i.e., that Obama's claim of Christianity is total B.S.--while at the same time some atheist heads will explode if a conservative Christian does the same thing--questions Obama's Christian bona fides.

These people really need to introduce Mr. Right Hand to Mr. Left Hand.

For what it is worth I agree with PZ. The President appears to be a rather garden-variety liberal Christian.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

This ain't your daddy's CNU

We're Number Three!

The ranking for average SAT scores for incoming (2010) freshmen at Virginia's public universities is:

1) William and Mary
2) University of Virginia
3) Christopher Newport University (~1200)

Some bragging and some caveats are reported in this article from our student newspaper, the Captain's Log.

This puts us ahead (on this one measure) of two much better-known universities: Virginia Tech and James Madison.

To be honest, the data show a sizable gap between the flagship UVa (maybe high 1200's? I can't remember) and CNU. Then CNU, Va Tech, JMU and maybe Mary Washington are grouped tightly around the 1200 mark--so it was really a crap shoot how that ordering came out.

Nevertheless, the fact that we are in this grouping is quite remarkable. Over the last ten years (only) our average SAT scores have increased by 240 points. I don't know if any other university has seen such an improvement--if so, there can't be many. This, along with $500M capital improvement plan, are some of the reasons U.S.News has named us a "school to watch." We believe we are on the cusp of being in their tier-2 of national liberal arts universities. Again, this would have been unthinkable not many years ago.

Good job CNU!

CNU's I.M. Pei designed Ferguson Center for the Arts

Two Things I found amusing today (so far):

1) A student asking me: "I overslept for class--did I miss anything important?" Tom Wayman has the answer:

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours.

    Everything. I gave an exam worth
    40 percent of the grade for this term
    and assigned some reading due today
    on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
    worth 50 percent.

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning.
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose.

    Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
    a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
    or other heavenly being appeared
    and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
    to attain divine wisdom in this life and
    the hereafter.
    This is the last time the class will meet
    before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
    on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

    Everything. Contained in this classroom
    is a microcosm of human experience
    assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
    This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
    gathered but it was one place.

    And you weren’t here

2) The crowd at Jerry Coyne's blog debating whether determinism negates moral responsibility. The idea that free will is an illusion is the Gordian knot for the philosophical naturalism gang O' nattering nabobs of negativism. Watch them as they try to connect the unconnectable: that we should choose to hold people morally culpable for their choices even though they had no choice (nor do we) because free will is an illusion.

This is a "get the popcorn ready" moment on Coynes's blog. There are already some beautiful insights, such as:

As for moral responsibility, it remains intact under determinism, but our responsibility practices might become more effective and compassionate if we gave up the myth of libertarian freedom,

and the succinct, dogmatic assertion:

Determinism != Fatalism

Jerry's kids sure do know how to bedazzle.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Thoughts from 1 Timothy

I’ve been discussing elsewhere the fascinating passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy:

8Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Tim 1:8-11)
This is juicy stuff. It talks about law—which is always fun. It mentions homosexual sex—the word actually used is ἀρσενοκοίτης, (sodomite) which always inflames rhetorical passions. And it condemns slave traders—there the word is ἀνδραποδιστής, which is enslaver or man-stealer.

First we deal with the law. Wasn’t the law abolished? I think it was—I think the New Testament in whole makes this clear. And I think two passages in particular make it explicit:
14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Eph 2:14-16)
For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. (Heb 7:12)
But what does it mean that the law was abolished? It means that the laws that governed religious and civil life for an ancient nation under the old covenant were abolished along with that nation. They did not carry over into the new “nation” which is the entire world (Jews and Gentiles) and without borders—we are aliens and pilgrims in whatever country we find ourselves. However this does not mean what was sin is no longer sin—blasphemy is still blasphemy—but the demanded civil penalty of stoning is gone. We no longer live in a theocracy. And of course the laws—what is sin—have been upgraded. It is not merely actions that Jesus condemns, but thoughts.

Those who claim to live by the Ten Commandments as their moral code are Christian sissies. Their code is inadequate. The Ten Commandments are trivial when compared with Jesus’ teaching that lust = adultery and hate = murder.

In fact, I think it is fair to say the whole notion of sin changed following the cross. The bracelets capture the old view: What would Jesus Do? The new view is Not just WWJD, but WWJT (Think)?

The passage then describes ways in which we might trespass and here we have the politically incorrect and dreaded mention of sodomy. There is no way to avoid it—it is right there. Right along with a list that contains something for everyone. Not a homosexual?—well do you ever lie? Never? Well Paul still gets you with the whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine which would include those pesky just-as-bad thought sins Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount.

So is sodomy a sin? Yes, it inescapably so designated. Should we send homosexuals to reorientation camps to train them to be straight? No. Besides the fact that they don’t work, that is not how sin is supposed to be dealt with. If we sent every man who lusted (remember, just as bad as one of the biggies, adultery!) to camp—well you can form the mental image.

Finally it is worth mentioning that the passage condemns enslavers, or slave traders, or men-stealers. It is easy to deduce an implicit New Testament teaching against the practice of slavery—but often it is useful to remember this one explicit condemnation.