Rebel Moon!

It is science:

Since man first touched the moon and brought pieces of it back to Earth, scientists have thought that the lunar surface was bone dry. But new observations from three different spacecraft have put this notion to rest with what has been called “unambiguous evidence” of water across the surface of the moon…. Finding water on the moon would be a boon to possible future lunar bases, acting as a potential source of drinking water and fuel.

The novel had many flaws, but it’s still lightweight fun. My favorite scene is Aboard Assault Shuttle LST(N)-14, 7 November 2069, 06:00 GMT. The OC and I would write a much better book were we to do it again, but nevertheless, it has its moments.

Speaking of books, I just learned that Summa Elvetica is now available on Kindle, in case you’ve got one. My fiction writing would appear to have improved a bit in the twelve years that separate the two novels, as the latest review gives SE five stars: “There have been a few fantasy authors who have “role reversed” fantasy races (Orcs as protagonists, Dragons having just cause against humans) which I always enjoy, but I haven’t read an author yet who elevates the intrinsic meaning of the races in this manner. Not even close. Aside from an unfortunate naming convention, the work is unburdened, brisk and deep. But I guess if LOTR could survive the Saruman/Sauron “confusion”, Summa Elvetica will have no problem rising in standing over the years. Especially if Beale follows it up with more tales of spiritual controversy in the realm of “true” medieval fantasy. A riveting tale, well-told and driven by, and to, greatness.”

I’m delighted, of course, to discover that some readers regard the book so highly, and very much appreciate the time that they have taken to post reviews on Amazon. However, I would also like to point out that the naming convention to which I think the reviewer is referring, however unfortunate, is not of my invention. The confusing similarity between the two major characters’ names merely reflects the fact that one owns the other. Roman slaves were often named in the possessive form of their owner, for example, Caesaris belonged to Caesar.

Women don’t lie about rape

And scientists don’t lie about science:

The head of research at one of the world’s leading scientific institutions, in Switzerland, has resigned after it emerged that data about hydrocarbon structures had been tampered with…. The science world is no stranger to scandal – in 2002, a committee from Bell Labs in the USA found Jan Hendrik Schön, one of the rising stars of physics, guilty of 16 charges of misconduct after he manipulated and misrepresented data in his research on microelectronics and superconductivity. It emerged that none of the most significant physical results of his experiments had been witnessed by any of his co-authors or colleagues.

Prof Victor Ninov from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California claimed in 1999 to have discovered chemical element 118, before he was fired amid allegations his data was faked.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, the scientific frauds that have been discovered and admitted to are almost surely dwarfed by the number that have successfully eluded the “rigorous” process of peer review. And it tends to indicate that attempting to construct an objective moral standard for Man based on science would not merely fail, but prove downright disastrous.

Mailvox: falsification

R wonders what would qualify:

I’d very much appreciate it if you would elaborate on what you would consider a falsification of Christianity.

There are numerous possibilities, including:

1) The discovery of Jesus Christ’s body.
2) An intact Temple in Jerusalem.
3) The end of war or poverty.
4) The elimination of the Christian Church.
5) Immortality science.
6) A demonstrated ability to avoid Biblical sin.
7) The destruction of the Jewish people.

These are all material things, easily and objectively observable. It is incorrect to claim that religion is magically beyond scientific observation. God may be, but it’s readily apparent that most religions, including Christianity, are not.

You can’t kick us out, we already left

Republicans argue over who should be kicked out of the party first, Glenn Beck or Ron Paul?

We need to focus on Paul before we can get to Beck. What makes Paul a crackpot who we should cast out from Conservatism? Sure, he’s got some economic crackpot ideas about the Gold Standard and the Federal Reserve. But are those banishment worthy? No. They’re intellectual junk food, not intellectual poison. I don’t like them but I’m not going to say someone shouldn’t be allowed to be part of the movement because they advocate them. Paul gets cast out because of his insane foreign policy views. He’s an absolute isolationist who wants us to cut off our support and alliance with Israel. His foreign policy is all but in line with the anti-war Left. John Podhoretz fisked this issue of Paul as an anti-Semite for Commentary back in 2007 and isolated several reasons why people could regard Paul as an enemy of the Jews. (Though Podhoretz himself disagreed with the overall assessment.) So that’s the central problem with Paul.

Good, boot them both out, as I would like to see them establish a genuine alternative to the bi-factional ruling party, an isolationist, hard money, Constitution-respecting, sovereignty-defending American Freedom Party that combines the best of the Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party. Look at the modern Republican media “conservative”. Their primary concerns are: 1) defending the Federal Reserve monopoly, 2) protecting Wall Street from the consequences of its actions, 3) maintaining Empire abroad, 4) Israel uber alles. There’s no rational reason for any actual American conservative, let alone a libertarian, to give these “conservative” views any consideration whatsoever. It’s increasingly obvious that the label “conservative” has been hijacked in a manner similar to the way that “liberal” was captured decades ago.

The Other McCain has the links, just in case you’re interested in the Beck-Levin catfight. I couldn’t care less about it, since none of them, Beck included, appear to be sentient enough to have recognized the only relevant point. Ron Paul happens to be entirely correct, and no matter how highly these “conservatives” think of the Federal Reserve system, Wall Street’s perverted parody of capitalism, and the Pax Americana, all three are going to collapse sooner than any of them dream possible. Israel, on the other hand, should be all right, but the sooner the Israelis stop relying on American Jews and Christian Zionists to funnel US taxpayer money to them, the better off they’ll be. Welfare didn’t help the inner city and it’s not helping Israel either.

Other than Ron Paul, I have no use for the lot of them or their mad dominance-humpery. I don’t watch television or listen to the radio anyhow. As for the two-party system that concerns them so deeply, well, I’m with Demosthenes:

“You used, men of Athens, to pay taxes by Boards: today you conduct your politics by Boards. On either side there is an orator as leader, and a general under him; and for the Three Hundred, there are those who come to shout. The rest of you distribute yourselves between the two parties, some on either side. This system you must give up: you must even now become your own masters….”

I am pleased to be able to say that I have never cast a vote for either a Republican or a Democrat for president. When I look at the choices I have been presented by the two parties over the course of my voting eligibility, George Bush, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Al Gore, John Kerry, John McCain, and Barack Obama, there is not a single candidate I regret not voting for.

VPFL Week 2

76 Mounds View Meerkats (2-0)
54 Burns Redbeards (0-2)

64 Valders Valkyries (2-0)
53 Masonville Marauders (0-2)

82 Judean Front (2-0)
62 Winston Reverends (0-2)

68 Bane Silvers (2-0)
58 Black Mouth Curs (1-1)

78 Alamo City Spartans (1-1)
42 Greenfield Grizzlies (0-2)

The Meerkats’ season is off to a most excellent start, beginning as it has with wins over Nate and the White Buffalo. I’m a little concerned about my starting RBs, though, as both Portis and Forte are underperforming to a shocking degree. I’d like Sproles a lot better if Tomlinson wasn’t due to come back soon. Harvin, on the other hand, has been a pleasant, if not entirely unexpected, surprise. And with three good quarterbacks on the roster, I should be able to trade for a more effective RB in a week or two.

Letter to Common Sense Atheism I

Dear Luke,

First, I must congratulate you on your tactics. Your approach is not only civil, but clever. The technique of granting your interlocutor the benefit of some initial assumptions can be an extremely effective one, particularly if you are confident of your ability to handle the arguments that follow naturally from them. Since you are an ex-Christian, I would expect you to be at least somewhat familiar with most of the standard arguments and I completely agree that it would not serve either of our purposes to waste time fencing over the usual terrain. However, I don’t think there’s any need for you to to grant me any assumptions, at least not in order to answer the questions you’ve posed.

Before I begin answering those three questions, however, I have a minor one for you. I understand why many atheists wish to discuss religion with me. I have written a book on the subject, after all. What I do not understand is why so many of them wish to discuss religion with me without first reading the relevant book. It would seem to me that reading the book and then asking questions would be the rational way to go about the process, so perhaps you could enlighten me as to why that is often not the case. I know you’ve read at least part of The Irrational Atheist, but had you completed it, you would know that some of your assumptions about certain Christian beliefs don’t apply to me.

For example, in answer to your second question, I am not a Young Earth Creationist. I don’t know how old the Earth or the race of Man is, nor, I contend, does anyone else. I have never been impressed with Bishop Ussher’s reasoning or his chronology. I even did some similar calculations when I was seven or eight and concluded at the time that even if one took the Biblical account seriously, there appeared to be a considerable amount of missing information that rendered the chronology incomplete. On a tangential note, given that evolution assiduously avoids addressing the question of origins, there is no intrinsic conflict between the concept of a Divine Creation followed by an evolutionary mechanism utilized in order to the produce the variety of species we observe today.

Not that I subscribe to that idea, however. To complete my answer to that second question, I am a skeptic who is highly dubious about the theory of evolution by natural selection for three reasons. First, I see it as a dynamic and oftentimes tautological theory of little material value to science. This may change in the future, of course, but since it has been around for 150 years without producing much in the way of practical utility or reliable information, and has even hampered the development of more useful biological science, I see little sign of that changing anytime soon. Second, the predictive models evolutionary theory produces are reliably incorrect and fall well short of the standard set by the hard sciences. In fact, they seldom even rise to the much lower standard of the social sciences. Third, the theory of evolution by natural selection does not rest on a scientific foundation, but a logical one; it is no more inherently scientific than the Summa Theologica. Since our discourse is not intended to be about evolution, but religion proper, I will not go into further detail on the subject in this dialogue except to say that all three of those statements can be verified in substantial detail by anyone who wishes to investigate the matter. So, with that tangent out of the way, I will return to the primary topic and your first question.

Why am I a Christian? Because I believe in evil. I believe in objective, material, tangible evil that insensibly envelops every single one of us sooner or later. I believe in the fallen nature of Man, and I am aware that there is no shortage of evidence, scientific, testimonial, documentary, and archeological, to demonstrate that no individual is perfect or even perfectible by the moral standards described in the Bible. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of freeing Man from the grip of that evil. God may not be falsifiable, but Christianity definitely is, and it has never been falsified. The only philosophical problem of evil that could ever trouble the rational Christian is its absence; to the extent that evil can be said to exist, it proves not only the validity of Christianity but its necessity as well. The fact that we live in a world of pain, suffering, injustice, and cruelty is not evidence of God’s nonexistence or maleficence, it is exactly the worldview that is described in the Bible. In my own experience and observations, I find that worldview to be far more accurate than any other, including the shiny science fiction utopianism of the secular humanists.

I don’t concern myself much, if at all, with the conventional extra-Biblical dogma that you describe and in which many Christians believe. I am dubious about the concept of the Trinity as it is usually described, do not await an eschatological Rapture, have no problem admitting that the moral commandments of God are arbitrary, and readily agree that the distinction between the eternally saved from the eternally damned appears to be more than a little unfair from the human perspective. On the other hand, I know that evil exists. I have seen it, I have experienced it, I have committed it, and I have loved it. I also know the transforming power that Jesus Christ can exercise to free an individual from evils both large and small because I have seen it in the lives of others and I have felt it in my own life. Now, ever since St. Augustine wrote his Confessions, it has been customary for Christians to exaggerate their sinful pasts; Augustine was hardly the Caligula that he portrayed himself to be. I find dramatic personal histories to be tiresome in the extreme, so I won’t say more except to note that as an agnostic, I enjoyed a sufficient amount of the hedonistic best that the world has to offer across a broad range of interesting and pleasurable experiences, only to learn that none of it was ever enough. It may amuse you to learn that one girl who knew me only before I was a Christian happened to learn about The Irrational Atheist and wrote to me to express her shock: “The fact that you wrote this book proves there is a God.”

And one with a sense of humor, no less. Now, there’s no reason this would mean anything to you or anyone else who was not acquainted with me before. But it meant something to that woman, just as an observable transformation in one of my close friend’s lives made a distinct impression on me.

I certainly do not deny the experiences or revelations of those who subscribe to other religions. I merely question the specific interpretation ascribed to them by those who lived through or received them. After all, the Bible informs us that there are other gods and that those gods are capable of providing such things at their discretion. Among other things, I studied East Asia at university and have spent a fair amount of time reading the sacred texts of various religions, including a few fairly obscure ones. I have yet to encounter one expressing a religious perspective that can be legitimately confused with the Christian one, nor, in my opinion, do any of these alternative perspectives describe the observable material world as I have experienced it as well as the Christian one does. I think it is astonishing that an ancient Middle Eastern text is frequently a better guide to predicting human behavior than the very best models that the social sciences have produced despite having an advantage of two thousand more years of human experience upon which to draw.

I suspect that unless you can understand why the first book in C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy is called Out of the Silent Planet, unless you fully grasp the implications of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, you cannot possibly understand much about Christianity or the degree of difference between it and other religions. Fortunately for many Christians, intellectual understanding isn’t the metric upon which salvation is based. The Biblical God claims to know everything about the human heart and He would appear to recognize that thinking isn’t for everyone.

In answer to your third question, I will simply note that if a different being had created the world, then a different morality would obviously apply. For more on this, consider reading the second appendix in The Irrational Atheist entitled “Two Dialogues”. I believe logic dictates that the Creator alone has the right to set the standards for His Creation. His game, His rules. In keeping with that principle, God always has the absolute right to do as He sees fit, which just so happens to be precisely the answer He gave to Job and company. The answer to Euthyphro’s so-called dilemma is that the good is good because it is commanded by God, since there is no objective, supra-divine standard of Good by which His commands may be judged. Finally, to demonstrate the flaw in the logic of your example of the artificial baby, I shall merely cite the old joke. First, make your own dirt. Then go ahead and do as thou wilt.

I hope these answers have given you some perspective on why I am a Christian. In the interest of keeping this letter to a reasonable length, I think I should give you the opportunity to ask whatever additional questions have occurred to you before we turn the tables around and address your beliefs.

With regards,

PS: I would be deeply remiss if I did not take the opportunity to commend you for the eminently sensible conclusions you have expressed regarding the validity of the New Atheists’ arguments.

NB: This was written in response to 1st Letter to Vox Day.

Creative self-destruction

Just in case you thought we’d reached the outer limits of economic madness already, the FDIC announces that it wants to insure bank deposits by borrowing money from banks:

Senior regulators say they are seriously considering a plan to have the nation’s healthy banks lend billions of dollars to rescue the insurance fund that protects bank depositors. That would enable the fund, which is rapidly running out of money because of a wave of bank failures, to continue to rescue the sickest banks. The plan, strongly supported by bankers and their lobbyists, would be a major reversal of fortune.

They’ve already got permission to borrow $500 billion from the Treasury, but they’d rather borrow it from the banks that they’re insuring even though the reason they need the money in the first place is because so many of those banks are failing. How does this make any sense at all?

There are two factors involved. First, a few of the big banks have the money thanks to the boatloads of cash they received from the Fed and the Treasury. A lot of that is parked in excess reserves at the Fed because the banks don’t want to loan to anyone. This would let them loan money to the FDIC knowing that the $500 billion credit line can be used to guarantee repayment. So, the zombie banks propped up by the federal government will profit from failure of the banks that weren’t deemed too big to fail. Best of all, should prevent the FDIC from demanding further assessments from them; instead of paying money to the FDIC for deposit insurance, the FDIC will be paying them with taxpayer-backed dollars.

No wonder banksters and their lobbyists “strongly support” this insane idea. It’s just another governmment-abetted transfer of wealth to them.

Fed to Treasury: “F— off!”

How long will it be before everyone realizes that neither Congress nor the President is in charge?

The Federal Reserve Board has rejected a request by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for a public review of the central bank’s structure and governance, three people familiar with the matter said. The Obama administration proposed on June 17 a financial- regulatory overhaul including a “comprehensive review” of the Fed’s “ability to accomplish its existing and proposed functions” and the role of its regional banks. The Fed was to lead the study and enlist the Treasury and “a wide range of external experts.”

“The Fed was created by Congress and it is not part of the executive branch.” That sounds like a plausible excuse, except for the fact that the Fed has replied to Congress in precisely the same manner.

Feminism made women less happy

And I doubt they’re too pleased that it has helped make men happier either:

When women stepped into male- dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.

“Choice is inherently stressful,” Buckingham said in an interview. “And women are being driven to distraction.”

It’s not that hard to figure out. Men have been freed from the expectation of marriage and supporting families, while increasing numbers of women now have to support themselves while being juggled by a series of guys who wait until Sportscenter is over to decide between picking up the phone to make a booty call or firing up World of Warcraft.

In fact, if a man doesn’t care about seeing his kids after a psychotic ex-wife blows up the family and begins her doomed search for a nonexistent happiness – and there’s usually little he can do about it anyhow- there are really no social pressures on him anymore. He can play video games all weekend, charge a call girl online, wear a dress, dance in public to the Pet Shop Boys, attempt to download all the porn off the Internet, or take home a different girl from the bar every night, and no one is going to say boo to him. Feminism isn’t responsible for all those things, of course, but you couldn’t openly do any of them back in the 1960s without expecting to hear a lot of negative feedback. Whether you’re a bad boy or a virtuous and upstanding gentleman, it’s all good these days. Men have more options now and few of them are unpleasant.

With the exception of their wives and daughters, men no longer have to give a flying rat’s posterior about anything the women around them do, think, or say, (which may have always been true, of course, but they used to have to be polite and pretend). No one of either sex expects them to anymore. Meanwhile, women are fretting over twenty times as many things as their grandmothers ever did, and because women hate making decisions, their increase in options feels like an oppressive burden.

I’ve always said that men won the Sexual Revolution. Reading Dowd’s column, I’m not sure what is funnier. Is it the fact that feminism has made women less happy or the fact that so many women will still cling to the “gains” that are making them miserable?

I told you he wasn’t that smart

The Obama administration is certainly living up to its comedic potential – Obama’s ignorance and illogic even manages to stun Paul Krugman:

I was startled last week when Mr. Obama, in an interview with Bloomberg News, questioned the case for limiting financial-sector pay: “Why is it,” he asked, “that we’re going to cap executive compensation for Wall Street bankers but not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs or N.F.L. football players?”

That’s an astonishing remark — and not just because the National Football League does, in fact, have pay caps. Tech firms don’t crash the whole world’s operating system when they go bankrupt; quarterbacks who make too many risky passes don’t have to be rescued with hundred-billion-dollar bailouts. Banking is a special case — and the president is surely smart enough to know that.

Surely? I wouldn’t bet on it, given the growing amount of evidence to the contrary. And the special case of banking is irrelevant anyhow. The reason why we’re going to cap banking compensation and not the compensation of entrepeneurs and NFL players is that entrepeneurs and NFL players actually create value. They’re not being kept out of insolvency by forced contributions from the American taxpayer. No industry that receives hundreds of billions of taxpayer money should be permitted to pay more than the average American income in salary to its executives, much less the $18 billion in bonuses that was paid out in 2008.

And if those limits mean that banksters will stop banksting as they occasionally threaten, that’s great! The truth is America’s banksters don’t deserve a cap in their compensation so much as they merit a cap in their fat collective asses.

This comment from a Calculated Risk reader made me laugh: “That is truly one heartbreaking statement of staggering stupidity straight out of the mouth of the man who has finished shattering any hope I had that we could steer this ship back on course. I will and must admit, that I was totally taken in, hook line and sinker by this fraud. Im quite disappointed in myself, although my only other option would have been to not vote at all.”

Well, better late than never. He is far from the only disenchanted Obama voter. I assume we can soon look forward to Obama attempting to demonstrate that he’s a big NFL fan… with about the same success he had with his bowling.