Thursday, December 30, 2004

Learning How to Read

I'm officially excited. Very soon I will begin reading Mortimer Adler's classic How to Read a Book. A number of people I respect have said that it was very useful and/or influential for them. I'm looking forward to it because my current reading habits leave something to be desired. I retain things fairly well but not because I work at it or have a good method. It's just always been a minor talent of mine.

I tend to read in what I consider to be an American consumerist kind of way. I read like someone in a hurry eats a Big Mac. In other words, I cram as much into as little space as possible. Obviously this does not maximize my ability to understand the content of the book. Hopefully How to Read a Book will help me learn a method that can slow me down and read in a way that is conducive to mastering the material.

Now excuse me while I finish the last 50 pages of Scientific Creationism...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Huntington Apologetics Team

Hey, I just wanted to make a quick post about the new blog I'm participating in. It's called the Huntington Apologetics Team (the HAT) and we are going to post answers to some basic apologetic questions and current issues in Christianity. We'll probably start slow, but I hope everyone will stop by.

The HAT is the official apologetics team of Living Hope Bible Church in Huntington, WV. We want to do our part in restoring a vibrant life of the mind to God's Church. Check it out!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Sports, War and ESPN Radio

During the noon hour yesterday I was driving about town, on a dual mission to pick up some medicine for my wife and lull my older son to sleep in the SUV. As is sometimes the case, I was listening to ESPN radio. Around that time of day Colin Cowherd is on. Usually Cowherd isn't funny enough for me to give an extended listen, but I suppose I was feeling "sports-talky" because I didn't change the station or pop in a CD.

Cowherd was having an argument with his listeners over the nature of pro atheletes. In his opinion pro atheletes are entertainers and so if we hold them to a different standard of behavior than we hold actors or rock stars we are being hypocritical. I agree that pro atheletes are nothing more than entertainers, but the topic got me thinking: why do we hold pro atheletes to the aforementioned different standard? My conclusion has to do with the different "traditions" actors, rock stars, and atheletes fall into.

Actors and rock stars fall into an artistic tradition. In this tradition pushing the envelope is a part of the package. Rock and roll especially was weaned on rebellion. Acting has been a haven for the odd and/or immoral for centuries. We expect actors and rock stars to follow in this tradition. For many this is one of the main factors for becoming an actor/rock star.

On the other hand, sports fall into a militaristic tradition. Think about it: How many war metaphors are used in describing athletic achievement? Atheletes are considered heroes in the vein of ancient warriors. Warfare now is far removed from us in America (thankfully) and even when we see broadcasts of battles all we see are rolling tanks, flying planes and firing rockets. We never see and rarely hear of the heroics of warriors in battle. Additionally, war is thankfully more rare than it was in the ancient past. It also relies less on the physical abilities of individual combatants. In order to replace these combatants in the popular mind, we choose our atheletes. I suppose it's because the physical "battle" that sports entail.

We hold Kobe Bryant to a higher standard because deep down we want him to be Hector, running out in defense of Troy. Brett Favre with his 200 straight starts under center is the invincible Achilles (if his career ends with an ankle injury don't blame me). Culturally we seem to need these heroes, and we need them to be legendary.

Am I arguing that we should look to atheletes to be examples for our children? Not necessarily. We should evaluate atheletes the same way we would examine any other potential hero. We would probably be better off if we could just get past the need to hero-worship others, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Every culture needs myth, and the world of sport is one of our most fertile and accessible gardens.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Confused Kind of Christian

Somebody told me there was a revolution on in Christianity. Being that I'm a product of that famous revolution that happened 'round about 1776 I decided to see if this new revolution was worth joining. I managed to get my hands on a copy of Brian D. McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian, which is apparently the first in a series of books that advocates a shift from 'Modern Christianity' to 'Postmodern Christianity' (this shift is the aforementioned revolution). I read the book relatively slowly, taking notes and trying to see what McLaren had in mind. After reading ANKoC I must say that his vision is not exactly clear (I've been told he is more clear in his subsequent books). I'll explain as we go on.

The book opens with a frustrated pastor who befriends a high school science teacher named 'Neo.' Neo is the postmodern Christian hero of the book, and he introduces the pastor to new way of ministering. Supposedly the Modern Era epistemology that includes pigeon-holing, dissecting God in the name of theology, and reading the Bible as an answer key in the back of text book is out of touch with where the culture is going and if we are going to continue to minister we need to take the postmodern turn.

I find it interesting that almost all of the problems McLaren pointed out I have pointed out to others in the past (and McLaren would certainly put me in the modernist camp). I agree that we do pigeon-hole things and try to make difficult things too black and white. I agree that in the pursuit of theology we often lose emotional connection with God (though I wonder what McLaren would say about me, since my most intense emotional experiences in recent years have come in my theology classes). Again, I agree that the Bible is not to be read as a cheap and easy answer book. What I never heard McLaren state is a compelling reason to go postmodern. The closest thing I read was that this is where our culture was heading, which reminds me less of the early church and more of those who kowtowed to the logical positivists in the early 20th Century. I suspect that postmodernism is going to meet a fate similar to that of logical positivism. Neither are tenable.

McLaren also has the tendency to waver back and forth between epistemologies, grabbing Modern concepts whenever it suits him. His idea of theology involves asking questions like "if God is like this, what would the universe be like?" Funny, it seems to me that many of my 'modern' compatriots are asking this question and that others have been asking it for centuries! This very question is the sort of question that gave rise to science! It seems that McLaren comes perilously close to 'dissecting God' who supposedly can't be studied (p. 161).

As I read I kept waiting for a 'postmodern bombshell' that could readily identify where McLaren was coming from, but I never got it. I never read phrases like "reality is a construct of our language" although he did come close on page 162 when he was talking about his 'dream seminary.' "We'd help students construct their own models of reality..." he said, but added "...their model isn't reality." But McLaren, through Neo, never says if he believes we can get at reality at all.

There were some good things in the book, such as Neo's recommendation that the Church become more involved in the community and that people should stop 'head-hunting' in evangelism. I particularly liked the comment about how viewing someone as a project takes the friendship out of 'friendship evangelism'. We can adapt culturally to those who have a postmodern bent, but embracing it would be just as much a mistake as fully embracing modernism. It's maddening that McLaren seems so happy to dive head first into this new epistemology while criticizing those who dove headfirst into the last one.

The sad fact of the matter is that postmodernism as a philosophy is a dying paradigm. It will certainly have its adherents for the next half-century or so, but ultimately it will not survive because God has built rationality into us. Finding truth is far too important to humans, even postmodern ones like Neo.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Does God Care What Shirt You Wear?

The following is a short book report written for my Pastoral Theology class.

Every day Christians from all over the world wonder, “What is God’s will for my life?” The pursuit for the will of God can be maddening at times, and downright depressing at others. This is why many Christian leaders have undertaken the task of clearly laying out the way to understand God’s leading. Gary Friesen’s Decision Making and the Will of God is just such a book, but, like a good novel, it has a twist.
In the beginning of the book Friesen uses a character, Pastor Bill Thompson, to present what he calls the ‘traditional view’ of discovering God’s will. According to Friesen the so-called traditional view presents to us God’s threefold will: the sovereign will, the moral will, and the individual will. The sovereign will includes everything that God has unilaterally decreed to come to pass. God’s moral will is presented in the Bible. “Moral will” means everything that is accordance with God’s character. For instance, it is God’s moral will that we read His word, but He does not override our wills to make us do so. The individual will of God is God’s specific will for each individual. Again, He does not force every individual into his perfect will (that would make it His sovereign will).
Finding God’s individual will is what frustrates many Christians. Through Pastor Thompson, Friesen explains how to find said individual will via the traditional view. There are supposedly seven signs that lead the Christian to God’s individual will. First is the Bible, then an inner witness, personal desires, circumstances, mature counsel, common sense, and special guidance. Special guidance, however, was more for men like the Apostles and Prophets. We don’t hear from God in the same way today.
The traditional view has the advantage of “feeling right” to a great many Christians today, but Friesen holds that the traditional view is hopelessly flawed. This is the ‘twist’ of Decision Making and the Will of God. For him the traditional view is a non-starter. He demonstrates that the scriptural evidence marshaled in its support is usually interpreted wrongly.
Another major problem, according to Friesen, is that there is no such thing as an ‘individual will’ for every Christian. Rather, there is much room for freedom within God’s moral will. This means that all those Christians who hold the traditional view are basically chasing rainbows that will only move further and further away as they grasp at them. This is indeed a frustrating state.
Friesen goes on to demonstrate the untrustworthy nature of the guideposts used to find God’s individual will. Many people play fast and loose with Biblical texts as they apply them to their own situations without consideration for what the author originally meant. The internal witness is easily twisted to fit with one’s own desires regardless of God’s will. Circumstances, mature counsel and common sense are given so many qualifications they are rendered nearly useless in decision-making. Another key criticism is the abandonment of the traditional view in the little decisions of every day life. According to Friesen if proponents of the traditional view want to be consistent they should seek God’s will for what shirt they should wear that day.
On Friesen’s view (the ‘wisdom view’) all God wants us to do is to make decisions that fit within the framework of His moral will. Not only does this relieve a great deal of stress, but it also provides great motivation for Bible study. How can we know the moral will of God if we have not read the book in which He reveals that will? Our task as Christians is to make sure we are making the most wise, godly decision as is possible.
Tradition is a powerful thing. Humans often resist giving up tradition because it has the sense of propriety and rightness, since our parents and grandparents believed it. That is why it is so remarkable when someone can come along and fully dismantle a tradition, which is what Friesen has done in my opinion.
Friesen first removes the scriptural foundation for the traditional view and then provides a strong base for the wisdom view. A close reading of Scripture reveals that the “still small voice” heard by Elijah was still an audible voice, not some ambiguous inner prompting. There is nowhere in Scripture that such a prompting can be shown to exist.
I am now fully convinced that the traditional view of God’s individual will for our lives is a false paradigm. Instead we are to live by the precepts outlined in Scripture. I fear that many Christians, in trying to comply with the traditional view, have put themselves in the bondage of superstition. Though we may not ever be rich, or we may suffer from some terrible disease we can be sure that if we follow the moral principles He has given, God will take good care of us.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Top 10 Melancholy Songs of ALL TIME!!!

I've been mulling this post over for a few days. I'm a big fan of melancholy music, and in the spirit of all of the countdown shows that have permeated the airwaves lately I thought I'd compile a list of the top ten melancholy songs of all time. Of course, by all time I mean this century and the last, and mostly the second half of the last, and by top ten I mean my favorites. I haven't settled on a definitive list yet and am soliciting contributions from my fellow melancholics. Here are my candidates so far in no particular order.

1. Walk Away Renee- The Left Banke
2. Everybody's Talkin'- Harry Nilsson
3. Adia- Sarah McClachlan
4. Twilight- Elliot Smith
5. What'll I Do?- Written by Irving Berlin
6. Oh Girl- Chi-Lites
7. Linger- The Cranberries
8. And now the pick everyone's sure to hate, You Were Meant for Me- Jewel

As you can see the list is far from complete, and who knows which of these will make the final top 10? Post some suggestions and we'll see what we come up with. I've already had suggested: Silent Lucidity by Queensryche, Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapin Carpenter Montgomery and Gentry, Candle In the Wind (1987 Live Version - Not the Butchered Princess Di rewrite), Look Away - Chicago.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Instapundit, Abortion and Duty to Rescue

Instapundit made an interesting post yesterday regarding abortion. He was responding to Jonah Goldberg's observations about the treatment of Abortion on TV (in dramas and sitcoms, not news shows). The basic idea of Goldberg's piece was that the characters who consider abortions never have them and then their babies are suddenly transformed by the power of that choice into full-fledged human beings from the lumps of cells they once were. This is where Instapundit comes in.

Using the 'duty to rescue' scenario as a guide, he comes up with a formula as to how he can support abortion rights and still advocate punishment for mothers who take drugs or drink while pregnant. He sums up his idea thusly: "decide not to have the abortion, and assume the duty to avoid dangerous behavior." Legally, one thing that has been pointed out to me is that the parent/child relationship imposes a new set of duties on the parties. I have a duty to rescue my son if he is drowning, so the analogy to the 'duty to rescue' scenario is flawed.

Another interesting question has to do with the legal status of the fetus itself. If at the time of the action by the mother (let's say she uses crack) the fetus does not have legal status as a person how can she be held responsible for harm done to that fetus at any point? She can be punished for using illegal drugs, but how can the law punish her for harming a person that was not even a person (legally) at the time of the act? I'm no expert, but I think the law regarding the personhood of the fetus is a bit of a mixed bag. Some laws favor personhood, some laws (i.e. abortion laws) reject it. Perhaps the pro-life community should put more of a focus on this aspect of the abortion debate.

Explaining my Absence

It's been a long time since I posted and fewer people have been coming for visits so I thought I'd explain myself. Election day was doubly good for me with the George W. Bush victory and the birth of my second son, Leo. He was 10 lbs. 4 Oz. and 21 1/2 inches long. Both mother and baby are doing quite well. I'm really surprised at how quickly my wife has rebounded. It's a real blessing. Anyway, after a few weeks off I'm back and I hope to start blogging a bit more. I should have one coming on some interesting things Instapundit says on the topic of abortion.

By the way, I've also been working on a novel for National Novel writing month, aka Nanowrimo. Once it's finished, it's guaranteed to be an Oprah Winfrey book of the month. I'll make millions I tell you! MILLIONS!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Elliot Smith: A Year Has Passed

It's been just over a year since one of the best songwriters I've ever encountered died. On October 21, 2003 Elliot Smith died of two stab wounds to the chest. I've never heard whether the death was finally ruled a suicide or a murder. Elliot was one of those tragic characters we see every so often in the world, and I suppose that's why he captivates me (and many others) so much. He had so much talent, but he was so fragile. His earliest songs were simple, often just Elliot and his guitar, but they had such emotional depth it is impossible for me to listen to them and be unmoved.

I am saddened not only by Elliot's death, but by the fact that I didn't become a real fan of his until after his passing. Just recently I was in Borders with my wife, bragging on Elliot's music when I noticed a book with him on the cover. I showed it to my wife and began reading the dust jacket. I was more than dismayed to see that Elliot had died the previous year. WHY do so many of the most brilliant people die so young? Is it the price they pay?

I am well aware of the tendency of people to romanticize the fallen, and I know that I'm doing that in Elliot's case. But it somehow seems appropriate because his situation was so tragic. Just when he was coming out of his drug-addled lifestyle, just as what was to be his last project was taking shape, he is cut down. I think the aforementioned CD, From a Basement On the Hill, will win even more fans. I listened to the preview on and I think the CD is one the most creative, touching pieces of music I've heard in a long time.

Elliot, I'm sorry I never got the chance to fully appreciate you while you were with us. You are missed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Jacques Derrida Dies

I orignally had a post here joking about Derrida's passing, but after reading this post by John Depoe I had a change of heart. The state of one's soul is no laughing matter.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Pro-Lifers for Kerry!?!?

I was talking to my wife last night when she dropped a bombshell on me: three people whose judgment I (at least partially) trusted are voting for John Kerry. These three people are conservative folks, and I think they are pro-life as well.

I don't get angry easily, but I when my wife told me the news I was furious. How could a pro-lifer vote for John Kerry? He has acknowldeged that he will do nothing to stem the tide of abortion in America. To him opposition is a religious matter that should not have an effect on public policy. To me (and to most pro-lifers) it is murder. Abortion is the single most important moral issue in America today. How can these people give their vote to someone who is not on their side regarding abortion?

I haven't spoken with them, but there are a few answers I predict they might give. Remember, these arguments assume the people in question are pro-lifers.

1) They like Kerry's economic policy better. To put it bluntly, this makes me sick. Since when did it become acceptable to place our bank accounts over the lives of the innocent? I would vote for a pro-life communist (if there ever was such an animal) before I would vote for a pro-abortion capitalist.

2) Bush is equally guilty of killing innocents when soldiers die in Iraq. This is dead wrong. Whenever someone signs up for the military it must be with the understanding that we could go to war at any time, whether said war is just or unjust. This doesn't justify soldiers dying in an unjust war, but those who enlist must know coming in that the possibility exists. In abortion the child has no choice in or knowldege of its own fate, therefore abortion is the worse of the two and must take precedence.

3) Bush is equally guilty of killing innocents when children die as casualties of his war. This is a modified version of the previous argument. I begin by pointing out that many terrorists have used children as shields in their campaigns, such as the Chechen rebels. Beyond that, it is a sad fact that children do die as casualties of war. However, there is a difference between children accidentally dying in missile strikes and the intentional killing of a child by an abortionist. Neither are good; the latter is far worse.

4) Kerry is better on other moral issues. First, I'd be curious as to what moral issue Kerry is better on, but I'll let that slide. Second, I'd ask if any of these moral issues have to do with the murder of innocent human beings. If not (perhaps they deal instead with the quality of life), then they must take a back seat.

I'm sure there are other answers these people will give me, or perhaps they will just try to avoid the topic. It doesn't matter, because they'll probably get an ear full from me if the topic comes up anyway. Pardon me, I have to go scream at the top of my lungs.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Why Should I Watch the Debates?

I suppose it's the duty of every conscientious blogger to comment on last night's Presidential debate. In light of that, here's my commentary: I didn't watch it. Nor will I watch the other debates. I know folks who are always watching debates and speeches on television as though the President (or John Kerry or whomever) is going to say something new. Why should we expect that? If you give the news a passing glance or here a candidate speak once you'll already know their 'talking points.' Why put yourself through it again?

The only thing, I think, that changes voters' opinions about candidates is how they personally come across. If Kerry comes across as arrogant or smarmy he loses points. If Bush comes across as stupid he loses points. I don't remember who said it, but it's a good quote: "In politics today the make-up man is more important than the speech writer." I already know who I'm voting for and why. No sound bite or make-up man is going to change my mind.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Marshall Beats Miami (OH)

I've been out for a while, but I wanted to get the ball rolling again with a post celebrating Marshall University's victory over the Miami University Redhawks. The final score was 33-25, but I think that Marshall turned in a more dominant performance than that. The Redhawks had a good game plan early, which allowed them to turn in a decent rushing performance, especially in the first half. The Marshall defense, however, tightened up. Marshall's D-linemen were in Miami's backfield all night. Jonathan Goddard (DE) harrassed Miami's QB Josh Betts to the tune of 4 sacks, 2 fumbles and a couple of QB pressures for interceptions.

Marshall's offense looked a little better, but I'm wondering if we'll ever hit on all cylinders. We should get back RB Ahmad Bradshaw next week, so that will be a big help. He's a true freshman and he is going to be a lot of fun to watch for the next few years. I'll post more on weightier subjects soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

How to Name a Bar

A bar called 'Banana Joe's Island Party' recently opened in my hometown. My reaction was: whatever. I'm not a bar kind of guy. The interesting part is this: Next door another bar opens. This one's called 'Pineapple Tom's Peninsula Bash'. My brother and I thought that was pretty humorous so we decided that we would name our own (fictitious) bar on that model, and I thought it might be fun if everyone who visits this blog would contribute a bar name on the fruit/person's name/geographical phenomenon/festive event model. Ours was: "Cumquat Moishe's Isthmus Cotillion." Now everyone must participate or else I'll feel ridiculous.

Belated Thanks

Some thanks are in order, I think, for all those who have added me to their blogrolls. So, without further ado, thanks to: Fides Quaerens Intellectum, White Poet Warlord, Yankee from Mississippi, Maverick Philosopher and Siris.

Thanks also to those who have linked any of my posts to their sites, like Philosophy Et Cetera, Under the Sun and several of those who added me to their blogroll. You guys are great!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

On the Death Cab Bandwagon

I first heard of Death Cab for Cutie a year or two ago, but I never bothered to check them out. I guess it was because I didn't want to seem like a bandwagon jumper. Anyway, fast forward to this past weekend. I laid my hands on Transatlanticism at our local Borders and have been thoroughly impressed. Great CD. I'm a bit of a songwriter myself (emphasis on 'a bit') and I must say I found myself wishing I could write lyrics like Ben Gibbard. By that I don't mean to give short shrift to the music itself. Also very very good. So to all you Death Cab For Cutie afficianados out there: I'm a new convert. Make room on the bandwagon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Noetic Glue: Dead in the Water?

My previous post dealt with the concept of 'noetic glue.' An interesting comment on the topic was written by Andy, and he linked a slightly longer version of the comment to his blog, Under The Sun. At first his criticsims seemed to severely undercut my theory, but as I reflected on it I was not quite so ready to pronounce noetic glue dead. His first criticism was that the concept of noetic glue begs the question. "Is noetic glue rational?" he asks. "If so, then emotions-as-noetic-glue are redundant. If not, then emotions-as-noetic-glue are wrong."

At the risk of sounding like a moron, I'm not certain I follow his objection. Is he saying that if it is rational to believe in noetic glue then noetic glue keeps that belief in place and that is question begging? I think it is evident that this is false because noetic glue and the idea of noetic glue are two different things. Noetic glue can hold a belief in noetic glue or a concept of noetic glue in place without resorting to question begging. Since that seems evident, I doubt that was the true nature of his objection. Or if it was, perhaps he has some counter to the argument I just stated. The last thing I want to do is be uncharitable with my characterizations of someone else's idea.

What else could he mean? I'm not certain, so I'm going to depend on Andy here to expand on his objection.

Regardless, Andy goes on to say that he believes that noetic glue is not rational. He then says, "if a question is close enough then one should vacillate, or (usually better) suspend judgment." Lets deal with vacillating first. I don't think it's ever better to vacillate, but I also don't think I was clear about what I had in mind when I first mentioned it. I did not mean someone who might lean one way and then the other for a while but never settles on a position because they think the arguments on both sides are good. I was referring to the kind of person who is 'fully convinced' of one position until a rhetorician who holds the other comes along and then he switches because of smooth talk. Then the person could switch back to the first position whenever presented with a slick (not necessarily rational) argument. I don't think anyone believes that this is good.

As far as suspending judgment goes, I think noetic glue can be a good mechanism for just that purpose. There are times when arguments seem to weigh heavily in favor of the position one is against ('seem to' being the operative words). It is in this sort of circumstance that our emotions can actually keep us from being swept away to a false position. To remain tethered by emotions, however, is wrong. We have certainly surrendered rationality if we do that.

Johnny Dee also had some good comments. I think he is right to say that saying that these concepts are the glue is probably extreme. He then suggests that truth itself should probably fill that role, but it's the very point when the truth of a proposition is in doubt that noetic glue would be showing its effects the most. I'll have to do further research on the intellectual virtues (any book recommendations will be gladly received).

Most of what I've posted has come from the 'thinking out loud' mode. I had toyed with this idea for a long time, but never written anything or put it up for a challenge, so thanks to everyone who has contributed to the discussion. I hope it continues. You never know, we may be on the ground floor of discovering something exciting!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Emotion and Knowing

I started this blog with an eye toward writing on philosophy and theology. So far I've done little of that, so I'll start trying to remedy that now.

I've often wondered what is the proper role of emotion in our noetic structure? (I'm sure that this has been treated extensively, but I'm just going to be flying blind here. Maybe someone else could point me to some resources on the topic) If we approach this question from a theistic perspective, or more specifically, a Christian theistic perspective, we have to recognize that we have emotions for a reason. When trying to settle on a single reason we find a variety of options. For instance, it could be that we have emotions simply because God has something akin to them and He wants us to mirror Himself. Or perhaps we have them so we can better relate to other people. Something most of us recognize, however, is that emotions often compel us to act against the dictates of reason. Assuming that God wants us to be reasonable, why must emotions be involved at all? Why not have two distinct modes, one in which we relate to people, and one in which we reason? It seems to me that there must be some positive interplay between emotion and reason.

My theory is that emotion can act as a sort of 'noetic glue.' Very often in listening to debates on topics, I'll find the side I disagree with has a persuasive argument; the kind which only further study and thought can counter. If I have no answer to an argument should I immediately abandon my position? I don't think anyone would advocate that. In fact, I think most people would lose respect for someone who was constantly vacillating between two positions just because they heard a somewhat persuasive new argument. In my experience, what often keeps me from going back and forth is that sense of 'wrongness' that some ideas have. This is noetic glue.

When ideas become entrenched in our thoughts they are not just placed in by reason, but also by emotion. It is difficult and often disturbing to surrender propositions central to your worldview. This is because of the effect emotions can have on our systems of thought. Not only that, but in the right 'dosage' the effect is good. This may seem strange at first because emotions so often cloud rational discussion, but I think as we reflect on it more it becomes clear. It is emotion that gives us that sense that we need to hang on to our beliefs.

It is certainly true, however, that the glue can get too thick. We've all seen those who will do anything to maintain a foolish belief of some sort because they have so much tied up in it. For instance, there are those within the Christian world who maintain that the King James is the only translation that God has ordained, and that all others are evil. There are [b]no[/b] arguments that can be mustered to support this idea, but it persists. Why? Because in there minds these men are the guardians of the truth and the truth must be defended at all costs. The only problem is that their beloved truth is blatantly false. They can't maintain it through reason, so they do it through emotional rhetoric, peppered with enough pseudo-scholarship to ease their consciences. This is noetic glue run amok. It holds fast what should never have been held in the first place.

I hope I've communicated clearly, here. I think emotion plays a vital role in noetic structure as the glue that keeps beliefs in place, even when the shadow of doubt has been cast upon them. When beliefs prove to be false, obviously the glue should 'dissolve' and we should discard the belief, but that doesn't delegitimize the role of emotion in knowing.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Watch Out for Snow Patrol!!

A friend recently turned me on to a great band called Snow Patrol. I bought their CD 'Final Straw' a couple of days ago and I've been listening to it constantly since then. There are some great tracks on there, and I think this band is going to make some noise in the US (they're from Ireland). Check out their website here. I'm going to rate the tracks on a five star system: no stars=nausea inducing; 1 star=skip it and get to the good tracks; 2 stars=not painful, but not that fun either; 3 stars=enjoyable; 4 stars=very good songs; 5 stars=songs that move me.

How to Be Dead: ***1/2
Wow: ***
Gleaming Auction: ***1/2
Whatever's Left: ***
Spitting Games: *****
Chocolate: *****
Run: ****
Grazed Knees: ***
Ways & Means: **
Tiny Little Fractures: ***
Somewhere a Clock is Ticking: ***
Same: *****

As you can see, the CD is worth buying. If you're a fan of a lot of the music coming from the British Isles these days, I highly recommend it.

More On Democracy and Aristocracy

Olen (White Poet Warlord), has posted some more of his thoughts on what I wrote about democracy and aristocracy (read them here), and it's about time for me to take a look at what he had to say.

I actually like much of what he had to say. The only things I have to add would be some clarifications of how I see things. Olen believes that democracy is the 'best alternative' and that it still has an aristocracy, although they are not permanent. I really wasn't concerned with what would be best, just with what is. However, if we are talking about what is best, if democracy is contrary to human nature, as I think it might be, then can we truly say it is best? Perhaps a benevolent, moral aristocracy would be best. I'm just 'thinking out loud' here.

One more thing: Olen talks about a group of people 'decid[ing] upon its initial aristocracy.' In my view it's much more organic. People may set up some form of government or they may just live in community with no clear cut government. Either way, government tend toward aristocracy.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Commenting on Maverick Philospher

I just found out from Johnny Dee (from Fides Quaerens Intellectum) that Bill Vallicella (Maverick Philospher)does welcome comments. He doesn't care for spammers or personal attacks (and who can blame hime?) so he disabled the 'comment' function on his blog. He instead subscribes to a service that tells him when other sites have linked him. I don't want to misrepresent him on my blog, so I wanted to let anyone who reads this know.

Read Mallard Fillmore

Mallard Fillmore is pretty funny today.
  • Ain't it the truth!
  • Wednesday, September 15, 2004

    The Maverick on 'One Man, One Vote'

    I've been alerted to an interesting post on the subject of democracy here:
  • Maverick Philosopher

  • While your there check out his entry regarding Kierkegaard and the chamber pot. Great stuff. I'm curious as to why he doesn't address an 'issues test' (as I advocate below) at all in his essay. I haven't read much on his site, but he doesn't seem the type to overlook obvious choices. He apparently doesn't invite commentary (or at least I couldn't find a link) so I can't ask him. That's life, I guess.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2004

    An Eerie Coincidence, or Evidence of Conspiracy?

    Obviously the government is trying to use this comic to discredit my ideas... :P

    The Warlord Weighs In

    In my last post I said something about making people take a test before could vote. I don't think it will ever happen and I'm not inclined to kick into activist mode so it will get done. Now my good friend Olen (aka the White Poet Warlord) has posted a response to the idea and the practicality of 'the test' and to my ramblings on democracy here. He makes some very good points. For instance, he says "Governmental rule is always frustrating, regardless of form or philosophy, formality or informality." He's right on this point, I think. There are always going to be problems. I disagree, though, that people want self-determination. They may think they do for a little while, but for most people it's too much work. The most efficient way to keep everyone satisfied is to give them the illusion of self-determination.

    Olen also raises this question: "But what about other folks that...are not that interested in all the issues...?" I don't think it's necessary to be interested in all of the issues. All we need, as I see it, is to have a couple of issues that are the most meaningful to us and to know them fairly well. For me the issues might be something like abortion and marriage. For others economics would be most important. He later asks about those who "don't have the time or means to educate themselves to a level that I or others might be more comfortable with." I suppose an educational apparatus would have to be set up.

    Also, as Olen suggests, 'the test' would probably not pass Constitutional muster (but that's what amendments are for, right?). He hits on the most severe problem, in my opinion, when he talks about the mess that would be involved in developing, proctoring and scoring the test. The opportunities for corruption are numerous. It's enough to make you want to just climb back into bed, but I guess I'm just going to have to go on grumbling.

    One last response to Olen: "The form of the test may be as problematic as actually developing the governmental apparatus to implement the test." I agree, but developing the Constitution was also problematic. The difficulty of the task doesn't mean that it shouldn't be undertaken.

    I look forward to the rest of Olen's respons to "Democracy and Human Nature". To me, the meat of the post is the part about aristocracy and what humans want from a government. I'm eager to see what anyone has to say about that.

    Monday, September 13, 2004

    Democracy and Human Nature

    I admit it. I'm frustrated with democracy. My frustration stems from those who pay no attention to the issues in elections, but rather they vote for their party or whomever some authority figure tells them to vote for (this is particularly true with unions). I'm assuming that many people have felt this frustration.

    Someone might say, "Josh, your frustration is with voters, not democracy." To which I respond, "The very problem with democracy is that these voters are necessary for it." Now I'm treading on dangerous ground. Do I mean to suggest that certain people shouldn't be allowed to vote? YES. I think that anyone who wants to vote should be forced to take a test on the issues. If they cannot support their beliefs with reasonable premises they fail. The test should not be slanted toward one ideology or the other (perhaps both parties could contribute questions), nor should it be full of specialized terms (which may be easier said than done), but it should allow the voter to demonstrate his or her grasp of a couple of issues they feel are important. As long as someone has a rational reason why they want to vote a certain way I have no problem.

    When I shared this idea someone asked me, "Isn't that elitist?" I said, "Probably." I don't care because as I see it, people throw the term 'elitist' around as a sophisticated form of name calling. It isn't necessarily a bad thing. For instance, a medical elitist might maintain that only trained physicians should treat patients. That sounds reasonable doesn't it? Now do you want someone who doesn't care enough to educate themselves making political decisions that affect your future? I'd wager that you don't.

    Even if you're now convinced that 'the test' should be put in place, you might say, "What's to stop the DNC or the RNC from giving people short answers to memorize to get around the test?" Good point. That's one of the problem with politics. There's always a loophole. It's human nature to seek the path of least resistance. That leads to the second part of my essay.

    Politics is the long process of the aristocracy reasserting itself. Say it like a mantra and let it sink in. Human beings are, by and large, the types of creatures that want an elite group to rule over them. Humans only "yearn to breath free" in certain specialized circumstances (such as a life lived under heavy oppression). Other than that, people want to be told what to do. If people are allowed to self-govern they will eventually set up their own artificial aristocracies (or perhaps theocracies). By 'aristocracy' I mean 'government by the citizens deemed best qualified to lead' (definition from Perhaps they will let scientists rule their lives, perhaps theologians, perhaps rhetoricians. Most likely, subgroups in the countries will choose different aristocrats to follow.

    So what does all this mean? It means that democracy is a doomed experiment. Democracy is contrary to human nature, so it will ultimately fail as most other political systems have. People say they want to rule their own destinies, but they really don't want to put in the time it takes to do so.

    One question remains: Who is your aristocrat?

    On football, Garden State and the Shins

    There are actually a couple of things I want to talk about today. I'm sure everyone was upset that I posted nothing over the weekend. The reason was that I was out of town watching a great college football match up. I was at the Marshall vs. Ohio State game on Saturday. My team (Marshall) came out on the short end of the stick, but wow, what a game it was. My advice to everyone who plays Ohio State this year: If you're leading by 3 or less don't let Mike Nugent (OSU's kicker) on your side of the 50. He kicked a 55 yarder for the win, and that thing had the distance to be good from 65. I was disappointed, but MU played a heckuva game and the OSU fans were genial. Overall, it was a good experience.

    The other thing I wanted to talk about was the movie Garden State, which I saw with my wife on Friday. Coming into it I was hoping to add it to my list of favorite movies because it struck me as the kind of movie I would like (not to mention 'the Natalie Portman factor,' which automatically adds one star to the review...). I was a little disappointed. It's not that I disliked the movie, it's just that I had such high hopes. I can't put my finger on what was wrong with it; it just lacked something. A friend of mine complained that most of the characters were quirky for the sake of being quirky, but that didn't really bother me. I guess it just never got over the hump. I guess one of the better things about the movie is that it has piqued my interest in The Shins. I've only heard a few songs so far, but I like what I've heard. I'll keep everyone posted.

    Friday, September 10, 2004

    Post 2: The POTUS Comes to Town

    Yes, that's right. George W. Bush himself came to good ol' Huntington, WV today. As you know from my previous message, I'm a conservative so I was going to vote for President Bush anyway, but I was struck by his charisma today. I'd always thought the President was likeable, but I didn't realize that he had such a good presence in person. I may have been affected by a very rah-rah partisan crowd, but I thoroughly enjoyed Bush's speech. Don't worry, though, I made sure to keep my head so I could analyze what he said at least a little.

    I must say I'm a fan of some of the 'compassionate conservative' policies the President has pursued. I think it has become trendy register Republican but call yourself 'libertarian,' and frankly I think that's a shame. Too many of the libertarians I know are either isolationists or they don't care about the problems we face in our culture. For instance, many libertarians do not want to restrict abortion or gay marriage through government action. Personally, I think that's a mistake. This whole 'live and let live' mentality is naive. Humans are communal beings, and what one does will necessarily affect those close to him/her. From there it moves on like ripples in a pond.

    I know what you're thinking. 'Nice slippery slope argument, Josh!' Maybe it is a slippery slope argument, but I think negative consequences will certainly follow if both abortion (and other related things, like ESCR) gay marriage are legal. Leaving things as they are is tantamount to government approval, and that sews dangerous seeds. I fear the fruit we reap will be terrible. I'm comfortable using the 'slippery slope' in this instance.

    Phew. Only two posts and already I've gone off on a tangent. I'll cut this one off before it gets too terribly long. Thanks for reading.

    First Post!

    Welcome to the Lazy Logician. My name's Josh, and I hope to offer some helpful and perhaps thought provoking things through this blog. I welcome criticism (just keep it nice 'cause I'm really sensitive). I also hope to be funny somewhere along the way, so keep an eye out for that!

    There's one thing I want to get out of the way: I'm conservative and I'm a Christian. I say that so everyone can know what my perspective is from the beginning. I'll wait while half of you leave...seriously, I look forward to some good comments and exchanges with people on any number of topics. Enjoy!