Read This and Thank Me Later

In Life on August 4, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged:

Harvard Business School’s Clayton M. Christensen has written a piece entitled How Will You Measure Your Life? that ought to be required reading for every new graduate at every educational level.  The rest of us will benefit from reading it too.



Back in the Saddle Again

In Christianity & Atheism on July 30, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged:

After five states, four flights, a cruise (of sorts) to christen some friends’ new sailboat, some vacation, some lobbying, some fun, some family, a funeral and a long time being a long way from home, I’m back.  I have a lot of catching up to do, but wanted to comment quickly on this to re-open for business (from here):

“And as for the idea of the secular. Why can people not understand that the secular is not anti-religious? It is indifferent to religion or irreligion. It is the space in which religious and non-religious can gather to settle their problems and learn about the world without interfering biases from idiosyncrasies of belief.”

The secular needn’t be anti-religious, I agree.  Indeed, I want a secular government even though I don’t want a “naked” public square and have no axe to grind with the secular in general.  However, when so many of the leaders of what passes for secularism in this country are so loudly and clearly anti-religious and insistent upon the silly idea that religion and science are somehow “incompatible” and that much of what we hold dear “poisons everything” and ought to be eradicated, should we really be surprised by the confusion?  Moreover, is it reasonable to expect people routinely accused of being irrational, delusional and stupid to gather sweetly with their accusers to “settle their problems and learn about the world”?


Another False Claim

In Christianity & Atheism on July 7, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged: ,

Eric MacDonald, here

“The problem of evil and pain is, it seems to me, decisive. There is, doubtless, much that is beautiful about life, but I have not met one person who has sufferred greatly who has thought of life as unproblematically beautiful. And some evils are so horrendous that belief in a benevolent god becomes a moral impossibility.”

I know of no Christian who argues that life is unproblematically beautiful, so that’s a straw man.  With respect to the arrogant universal claim of “moral impossibility,” one need only offer up Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


So Much for Free Speech

In Christianity & Atheism, Freedom of Expression on July 7, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged: ,

Vandalized Charlotte Billboard

As reported by the Charlotte Observer and others, a billboard created by the Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics was recently vandalized.  The billboard, pictured above, quoted the original phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance — “One Nation Indivisible” — before “under God” was inserted after “one nation” in 1954.  The sign, which went up about a week ago, was controversial for its message and for its location along a road named for Billy Graham, the Charlotte-born evangelist who preached to hundreds of millions worldwide.  The Pledge was written in 1892 by a Baptist minister, but it included no religious language until “under God” was inserted by an act of Congress at the height of the Cold War.

The Institute for Creation Research put out a message affirming that the vandalism is wrong, but with insufficient conviction:

“While vandalism should not be condoned, these recent events shed light on what some Americans will do when they feel that their freedom of speech is threatened.”

Let’s be clear.  Absolutely no free speech rights are threatened by the billboard.  Indeed, the billboard is an obvious example of how speech rights work in a free society.  The Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics are free to put up the billboard.  Those who disagree with its message are free to speak against it or even to put up a countering billboard.  Simple.  The ICR should have sat this one out. 

Not to be outdone, World Net Daily published a commentary by Chrissy Satterfield that’s even worse, hard as that may be to believe.  Entitled My Kind of Vandals, the piece gives lip service to the idea that vandalism is wrong, but it’s clear that Satterfield has other ideas in her heart:  “Never would I encourage vandalism, but in this case I think I’ll let it slide.”  Indeed, Satterfield goes so far as to say that “[i]t’s nice to know that I am not alone in my beliefs and that some people are still willing to stand on the right side of truth.”  Last I checked, truth didn’t require vandalism.  She even makes this nonsensical claim:  “We will only take so much before we stand up against our oppressors.”

Let me say this as clearly as I can.  Speech isn’t oppression.  The answer to speech one doesn’t like is more speech.  It isn’t censorship.  It isn’t vandalism.  It isn’t threats.  Speaking the truth in love should always be good enough.  It was good enough for Jesus and should be good enough for the rest of us too.


More Hot Air

In Christianity & Atheism, Science & Religion on July 7, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged:

As so often happens, Jerry Coyne is full of hot air this morning.  In a post entitled What evidence would convince you that a god exists?, Coyne wonders what evidence might convince various non-believers that God exists.  That’s a reasonable and interesting question, and even more so since some in the comments essentially admit that since any such evidence could potentially be faked (by, say, sufficiently advanced technology), they can’t be so convinced.

But I was particularly struck by the specious claims Coyne makes along the way.  Let’s take a look.

“In contrast, the faithful do not (and cannot) specify what observations would disprove their beliefs—or the whole basis of their religion.”

Nonsense.  Good evidence that Jesus never existed would cause me to abandon my Christianity.  More generally, convincing evidence that we don’t have some measure of volitional freedom (as I think naturalism demands) would cause me to abandon my theism.  It’s amazing how cavalierly Coyne makes such obviously false claims.

“Religion is not a way of knowing because it doesn’t have a way of knowing that it is wrong. And without that, you don’t know if  you’re right.  This is why science makes progress in understanding the world while religion is still mired in medieval theology.”

More nonsense.  Most fundamentally, Coyne is stuck using the wrong measuring stick.  Matters of value are incapable of conclusive demonstration.  The claim — whether religiously based or not — that “torturing innocents is wrong” can’t be proven.  It must be argued for.  But unless Coyne is trying to jettison ethics, morals, and philosophy along with religion (is he?), his claim here is incoherent.  And if he is trying to jettison everything except science as a means of figuring out how to live, he’s just plain wrong.  I can’t prove with any degree of certainty that torturing innocents is wrong — I can’t establish that I’m right.  That fact doesn’t invalidate the effort or the attempt and doesn’t necessarily invalidate any conclusions I might draw.

In looking for comments, Coyne seems to seek out believers:

“If you’re one of the faithful reading this, feel free to post those observations that would convince you that God doesn‘t exist.”

I would have loved to have commented there, but Coyne hasn’t allowed me to post.  I have been advised of a number of people who are banned from Coyne’s site also.  Apparently, he doesn’t really want people to challenge his orthodoxy.


Why We Celebrate

In Independence Day on July 6, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise

I had a wonderful Independence Day.  I celebrated in a variety of traditional ways.  If you wonder how these traditions got started, you might recall John Adams and this letter to his beloved Abigail, which looked forward to future celebrations of American independence.

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

I went to church, watched a charming “small town” parade, enjoyed a baseball game (and, via modern technology, got to enjoy my son-in-law’s performance of the national anthem at a Washington National’s game), and saw and heard a terrific fireworks show.  I spent yesterday at the beach (and read a few comments here via BlackBerry).  I will get to them in due course.  For now, I trust you enjoyed “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.”


Quote Unquote

In Quote Unquote on July 5, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise

From Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

After a while he says, “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“No,” I say.

“Why not?”

“Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic.”

The way I say this makes John smile. “They contain no matter,” I continue, “and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds.”

The whiskey, the fatigue and the wind in the trees start mixing in my mind. “Of course,” I add, “the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you’re safe. That doesn’t leave you very much to believe in, but that’s scientific too.”