Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Faux Science

I hadn’t planned to post today but a scare headline on Drudge prompted me to follow up. The tactics of the “global warming” crowd just get more outrageous by the day. In an article from the Independent, a British tabloid normally known for coverage of two headed calves and Michael Jackson antics, comes the breathless news of clear water at the North Pole.

In a piece liberally laced with “ifs,” “coulds,” “mays,” and “mights,” we learn of the threatening possibility of clear, ice free water at the North Pole. It is all reminiscent of a recent post about the icebreaker “Kapitan Khlebnikov” sailing the Northwest Passage and becoming stuck in the ice for days.

The article asserts this condition is rare. It is not! On March 17, 1959, the Skate (SSN-578) a US Navy submarine surfaced at 90º North latitude and established the first event of a long series replicated by subs from the US and other countries. That occurred 49 years ago! Since it is a well known fact that ice depth at that locality is governed more by local weather than global climate change, opportunities do arise for surfacing. During that event, the Skate did have to break through 2’ of ice and did no harm to the vessel.

In an additional interesting quote we have the President of the Royal Society, London. "It will without doubt have come to your Lordship's knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated. (This) affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations." President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817

Please take note of the date which was 191 years ago. For the entire piece, we invite you to go there yourself. If you are old enough to remember milk delivery, you may recall that in the depths of winter we were careful to retrieve the bottles from the front porch before they swelled and burst the cap. It demonstrates the capacity of a freezing substance occupying a greater volume. When the ice melts, the water loses volume just like the milk in the bottle. This is also demonstrated by the well known fact that floating icebergs have 90% of their volume below the water’s surface. This indicates both their buoyancy and how close they are to replicating the specific gravity of unfrozen water. For a simpler example, just put an ice cube in a glass of water. You can now appreciate the fallacy of increasing oceanic levels as the result of melting ice. This is a factor in “lead” (open water) development in Arctic climes. The swelling of the ice forms pressure ridges which often result in cracks and the water seeps (flows?) over. This is normal physics and carries absolutely no indication of a man made cause.

If your livelihood depends on multi billion dollar grants (annual federal budget $4 billion) to establish a false premise to further a political agenda then faux science comes easily. This is the case with many involved in Algore-ism. It is time to remind you that NOAA has difficulty predicting either a pleasurable or stormy outcome for your upcoming picnic or golf outing. However, they do expect you to buy into their cataclysmic predictions for the earth’s future, while they themselves refuse to acknowledge events of fifty years past.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Critical Thinking III

Interestingly, a regular reader, for whom I have considerable respect, has faulted me for the following sentence in Critical Thinking posted on June 24 in the comments section. “It implies the need to cast the known aside to establish the new law of the universe and enter into a new age. “ He suggested my choice of the words, “known” and “new” invalidated the premise of the piece. We find “known” defined as “generally recognized.” The first definition of the word "new" declares, ”having existed or having been made but a short time,” and, is followed by two additional suggestions: recent, modern.

The argument against criticism-ism is not an assault on everything new. Most scientific and inventive genius has been a result of using “known” postulates to establish improvement in our modern life. On rare occasions (nuclear weapons) devices have called upon breakthrough technology in development. Computers, although thoroughly modern, require proven mathematics and established physical principles to exist. The success of the moon landing was not a result of arguing with gravity but overcoming it. I’m certain in each case, the developers engaged in some intense discussion on how best to thwart the obstacles to the enlargement of their dreams. I do doubt that these serious men of science tolerated much nonsense in contentious discussion which was not directed to the completion of the project but offered for the sole sake of “critical thinking.”

The comment suggested that biggest problem with critical thinking was that so few engaged in it. I suppose if you dismiss the entire education establishment, their collective student bodies, that half of religious bodies who are of the “feel good” bent, more than half of those interested in politics and the practitioners themselves, ninety percent of America’s fastest growing occupational segment, social workers, one might mistakenly come to that conclusion. Rodin’s famous sculpture is the image the critical thinker would love to imagine as defining him. To ponder, weigh, inveigh, contemplate, consider and imagine are not what is implied by critical thinking. It is an insidious process designed to confuse, obfuscate, divert and generally cloud great truths. Its favorite victim is faith.

Faith, plainly stated, as witnessed in God Almighty, is in my mind, another way of saying truth. He is! He lives! His presence is not open to debate. God is the easiest target for the critical thinker. Without personal faith and experience with the Almighty, He then represents an unseen force to the non-believer. It is only when the door to Him is opened and his Spirit is allowed to imbue the sinner at his own invitation that His reality is apparent. For those of us who have felt His hand directly in our lives and felt His healing power, it as much a fact as the beauty of our companion or the smiles of our children. This knowledge of God is also accompanied by a contrite heart when we act to displease Him.

Those who have not had the will or the opportunity to know and understand their Creator unfortunately can fall victim to critical thinking and seek to destroy Him, of whom they have little or no knowledge. Our duty as Christians is not to disparage those who lack that knowledge but rather bring them to a full rich knowledge of the Lord as He has directed. For some, their light shines so brightly that that is their witness. For others, (present company not excepted) the pain of sin and subsequent redemption through repentance is the viable lesson. To carp, complain, and nit pick the scriptures for self elevation is not the best path to the heavenly throne. Better to seize “the rod of iron” and hold on for dear life.

The old can serve, as pointed out above, as the avenue to progress. I’m not sure what the allusion to the Muslims was about but I do have an observation. Any culture which manages to maintain Stone Age traditions, subjugation of women, polygamy, beheading, and the failure to insist on benign leadership warrants little notice aside from contempt. Given their truthfulness in dealing with other peoples they are indeed representative of the subject of these essays.

Inherent in the final comment is the suggestion of a “flat earth” mentality on my part. This constitutes argumentum ad hominem and may be persuasive in a circle of critical thinkers and certainly used to excess. As Mom used to say, “I’m just…just…so disappointed in you.”

Critical thinking, as in use today, is a destructive force hiding behind a benign nom de plume. Personally, I would prefer serious thinking, especially where faith is concerned. Celebrate the constructive, elevating words which are so readily available in our scriptures. Read them carefully and completely and let God do the rest.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Critical Thinking II

Those men listed at the close of the last post all espoused the questioning of truth, or custom, if you prefer, and share the progressive (liberal, socialist,?) notions which thrive on the disruption of fact. They all seem willing to substitute man’s current thoughts and desires for those truths which have been painfully established over long periods of time. Theirs is a “me, now” posture which chooses to ignore history and experience to the exclusion of the success it has brought. By encouraging the subsequent confusion which constant argumentation brings, they feel enabled to furnish alternatives of their own design. In his autobiography, published in 1873, Mill projected the cycle.

“I looked forward, through the present age of loud disputes but generally weak convictions to a future … (in which) conviction as to what is right and wrong, useful and pernicious (will be) deeply engraven on the feeling by early education and general unanimity of sentiment, and so firmly grounded in reason and in the true exigencies of life, that they shall not, like all former and present creeds, religious, ethical, and political, require to be thrown off and replaced by others.”

It is reasonable to believe he defined the “true exigencies of life” by the Mill standard. All else was then subject to question. The huge signal is in the line, “engraven on the feeling by early education.” This concept has been eagerly seized upon to emphasize the importance of control in the education of the children, that their personal “truths” may be propagated and accepted in the future. Since we are connecting the dots, consider the attitude of progressives toward home schooling, public school vouchers, private schools and any other educational efforts which do not center on the state. Ten Commandments in the classroom; perish the thought! A Christmas program in December at school with carols of the season and possibly a reenactment of that holy night is absolutely out of the question. It has even become increasingly more difficult to release students on Good Friday for individual worship services.

I am reminded of commencement exercises at my high school in 1950. Part of the occasion was my presentation of a song chosen by my music teacher that was politically incorrect in so many ways. I performed the “Glory Road,” part of a series of ten Negro tone poems, which was a celebration—in dialect—of huge figures in the Old Testament. It remains in my memory today of “Moses, and Aaron, and Methusalum (sic), who banged and they hollered and they beat the drum.” I especially recall the line at the peak of this frenzied presentation after the “Lord came callin’ all his faithful flock,” which declared “and I cried massah Jesus, here I is, heays me.” That breech of contemporary etiquette would today reach the front page of the New York Times—above the fold.

Nietzsche, far more celebrated post mortem than during life, attempted in his ongoing work, an inversion of reality by proclaiming “art” as truth. He took that which is fantasy and interpretation and argued it was the bedrock of veracity. Ever eager for shock to cement his theories, he came up with an everlasting sound byte, “God is dead.” Not as eternal as Him whom he disparaged but an effective insult nonetheless. During the sixties and seventies it was used as an authority for all manner of hedonistic behavior.

As we closely examine his life, we see a man tortured by unknown demons. In the late nineteenth century mental health care was in its discovery phase. For whatever reasons, Nietzsche was plagued by depression and succumbed to virtual insanity for the last ten years of his too short life, 53 years.. My conviction is that his greatest contribution to mankind was his role as patient for the educational development of the mental health professionals who attended him. His failure to ever understand that which ennobles life and his celebration of that which degrades it may have contributed to his early demise. Having renounced his citizenship, he spent his final decade shuttling in out of various clinics in search of peace. He found it, however temporarily.

In later day proponents of critical thinking we find a definite change in the modus operandi. Richard Rorty (1931-2007) in advancing a school of self styled pragmatism fully utilized an easy manner and a disarmingly clever style to cover his radical critical thinking. Although, in the end, his cheerful outlook could not hide a nihilistic message. In Rorty’s “liberal utopia” it was not possible for truth to be independent of each person’s individual thoughts. His ideal existed in a world of phantasmagoria unencumbered by reality and fact.

Kant’s motto for the enlightenment was sapere aude, “dare to know.” Roger Kimbal suggests it should be, “Dare to believe that there is nothing to know.” This denies all history, tradition and, not least, faith in an almighty eternal God. It places pleasure and pain on an equal footing. Finally it places “self” in the role of the Supreme Being. In our current milieu this reminds me most of children whose progress to adulthood is measured by their growing awareness of selflessness as a virtue. Lacking experience, the accumulation of life’s truths, their primary occupation is learning and gaining those realities which serve successful adults so well. This curriculum is best obtained in the home, taught by loving parents, under the supervision of a kind and loving God.

No PhD is required.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Critical Thinking

Does that title sound good or what? What exactly is it about that phrase that evokes memories of mornings after? Not the pleasant glow of memory but the wretched results of overdoing it. The reason for that reaction is clear. It is always accompanied by a disputation of acknowledged truth. It implies the need to cast the known aside to establish the new law of the universe and enter into a new age.

It is the clarion call to disputation, rancor, and just plain orneriness to upset the placid believers and sound the alarm; “question everything.” As a skeptic—no, they are not the same—I firmly believe in the practice of establishing the validity of every truth, person, and law. This is why my office is cluttered with books on religion, law, politics, science, history, current issues and reference. I firmly believe in reinforcing my knowledge with the opinions and qualified research of persons I trust. It would be impossible for any lone man to acquire the individual experience and knowledge required to enjoy the conceit of ignoring others who have devoted themselves to the effort. As I look back on my modest education I realize the most important thing I learned was how to expand on what the instructors taught..

Otto von Bismark provided us with an astute observation when he noted, “We must never look into the origins of laws or sausages.” Nominally, they are both the products of men. Both can seem delicious from outward appearances and have a sensory appeal but both suffer from critical thinking. The temptation for men to arrive at conclusions within their own frames of reference and personal desires regardless of offerings of evidence is far too strong. Adherents of “critical thinking” make little or no allowance for faith. Emanuel Kant in "The Critique of Reason" abridged the reach of reason to accommodate a measure of faith.. Once he made the claim, he went on to ignore faith completely.

For the atheistic hedonist it becomes a convenience to occlude behavior with pleas of avoiding ancient truths which frown on such actions. If there is no God, there is no worrisome and bothersome conscience. Lacking conscience, sin is not available as a definition. One cannot be separated from that which does not exist. No God: no separation, no sin; it’s all tied up in a neat little bow. Except of course, it really isn’t. If no allowance is made for the unquantifiable then we are all suddenly free to substitute our own versions of truth and bring the man/God separation to its inevitable conclusion.

We are rapidly turning critical thinking into the ideology of “criticism-ism.” If there is no truth then every thing is debatable. The result of every one assuming an adversary posture in intellectual life has become a “directionless quibble.” The philosopher David Stone supplied the idea and he is right. But, it is not just intellectual life which suffers. When we abandon the truths which have been established over centuries we all forfeit the simplicity which allows avoidance of useless conflict. I carry in the palm of my left hand the lingering evidence of an absolute truth. Babies should not put the hand, palm down on a freshly opened oven door. The scar will easily hold a lima bean and is a constant reminder; it is not open to debate.

The participants in formal debate often draw their position from a hat. They then present the case for whatever side of the argument they have drawn. Hence the victor is determined by the quality and presentation of argument which is judged to prevail. The truth is shoved aside to accommodate the style, organization and delivery. Skillful mocking of reality is rewarded. Thus, it is not an exercise for those seeking to uncover the truth in our lives but rather it becomes extemporaneous theater with little meaning.

In the wooly world of academia—a prime bastion of critical thinking—the denizens have accomplished some of the most outstanding examples. Roger Kimball in observations of these phenomena references a thirty thousand word brief (?) by a professor of inquiry and philosophy entitled, “Ocularcentrism, Phenocentrism, and the Counter Enlightenment Problematic; Clarifying Contested Terrain in our Schools of Education” and published by an in-house paper at Indiana University. For better understanding, I grabbed Mr. Webster’s book and translated as best I could to isolate the subject of the paper. Before the semi-colon it is roughly, “Trusting your Eyes, Blowing Gas, and Critical Thinking.” “Contested Terrain” no doubt refers to the proposition that 1 + 2 = 5! Check it out for yourself and perhaps you can, through critical thinking, come up with a better result. If you have a sadomasochistic bent I will happily furnish a reference to the entire piece—all thirty thousand words.

This is reminiscent of a verse from a song which was a hit on the blue grass circuit in the sixties. Actually it was “top of the charts” in the 19th century and sung to a lively tune in two chords:

“Putting on the Style"

Young man just from college makes a big display;
With a great big jawbreak which he can hardly say.
It can’t be found in Webster’s and won’t be for a while,
But everybody knows he’s on putting on the style.


Putting on the agony, putting on the style
That’s what all the young folks are doing all the while.
And as I look around me, I’m very apt to smile,
To see so many people, putting on the style.”

Freed from the constraints of parenting, youngsters in our colleges are especially susceptible to the influence of “critical thinking.” With their new found freedom they can then challenge the most rock solid verities and attempt to make their mark by attacking the status quo. With encouragement from the former students of John Stuart Mill, all things cease to be venerable or sacred. The only ones who are exempt from criticism-ism are the founders of the movement; Kant, Dewey, Nietzsche, Lionel Trilling, Marx, Comte and, of course, Mill. No one with a background in reality need apply.

We shall continue this discussion tomorrow.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Morning Rant 43

As many are aware, I am, with this latest gas crunch, only able to attend my congregation of choice every other Sunday. On the off Sundays, I worship with a local Baptist church which has an outstanding pastor. Not only is he a powerful witness of Jesus Christ but he is also an excellent speaker. Dismiss the thought of TV evangelists but hold onto the one that preaches on sin; and he’s “agin’ it.”

He touched on a recollection this morning about a fellow pastor who was dealing with repentance. Appropriate to the make up of his congregation, the preacher declared from the pulpit, “If you is what you was, you aint!” Priceless! That, my friends, is sound byte gospel in its finest hour. Amen brother!

Confidence in Congress

The Gallup Poll has released the results of its annual poll of citizens on their confidence in the country’s institutions. I am proud to announce far and away their greatest confidence is in the United States Military. A whopping 71% approved to a greater or lesser degree on confidence in their military. These are folks who can’t agree on whether the sun is shining. Had I been polled, I would have heartily agreed. You may follow the link and see where your favorite (?) institution ranked.

HMO's and other health care organizations duked it out with the Congress of the United States and they lost for the honor of being the least respected of all US institutions. The Congress came in at 12% with the health care outfits a close 13%. Think about it; 71-12! If it were a football game we would have turned it off before the half.

Since we are the boss of this outfit, we must share part of the blame. Yes, you and I elected these people to represent us. Even the much maligned George Bush has an approval rating 2 ½ times that of congress (28%.) Later this week I am preparing a post on the criminality of our current national legislators and comparisons to other historic periods. They are in no matter to be assumed to be all criminals. They all seem to hold an absolute disconnect from the people, however.

If you read the entire article you will find that Americans generally are losing confidence overall in their institutions. Aside from the military, small business and the police not one scored above 50%. The churches and religion have been going steadily downhill for nearly two decades. There are two factors at work here which are worth considering.

It is possible that Americans are becoming more self-reliant in the face of institutional inefficiency. If you are in full do-it-yourself mode through necessity or increased affluence, the need for these institutions becomes less. We used to joke in the gun store that you should call the police in an emergency and then call in an order for a pizza so you have something to eat while you wait.

The other factor is the public is becoming aware that institutions are so top heavy they have few personnel to actually “do” anything to assist you in life. Administrative pay scales have soared at the expense of having some guy to fill the pot holes in your street or to competently teach your kids. Compare the time you spend filling out the papers, waiting, and taking tests to the few minutes you spend actually talking face to face with a doctor. Don’t forget to press “1” for English.

Urban/Suburban Crime, One City's Solution

Unintended consequences are often the result of well intentioned but poorly thought through plans to help the impoverished. The link to The Atlantic will provide an insightful and thorough analysis of the results on one such plan.

Hanna Rosin provides the whole story of the unfolding tragedy of urban planners with an ill-conceived plan to alleviate poverty and offer advanced opportunity to the underprivileged. The essence is the result of moving crime at government expense to a new location. You have to read this one to believe it. The scary thing is the possibility of re-occurrence in cites similar to Memphis in the 500k to million population range. On the list of probables is Kansas City.

Here we have a revisit to planning which is too good to be true. The thought was wonderful but the mechanics failed in the understanding of cultural reality. Neighborhoods don’t create crime, criminals do. The most telling line is the observation that at least when the crime was confined to the projects, the police at least knew the address. Read it and be horrified.

Donnybrook on the Discussion Board

For those of you who read the discussion board on the Center Place website, this will come as no news. Some people on the board read the scriptures, understand the words and others don’t. It does not mean they are bad people, only that they are not thorough in their reading of God’s words. As is often pointed out on this site; words have meaning. The fact they don’t fit one's ingrained interpretation does not change the meaning.

Some people throw scripture bytes around like flaming darts. When faced with the words as written they retreat to either inspired thought or plead that English was not the original language. Not only do we have inspired scripture to counteract these contingencies we have the opportunity to ask our Creator of the truth of the issue. I doubt than any book has been subjected to more scholarly scrutiny than the Bible. For centuries, men have devoted their lives to forwarding the most reliable interpretation of the words as possible. If the word of God is insufficient to make your point, I don’t pretend to able to advise you.

It does seem to me that this senseless quibbling over the use of individual words takes time from the real mission we have to share the gospel. Give it a rest and bring someone to a previously unknown Christ.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon