Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hours of Work

Here are the approximate hours I spent on each class this semester:

History of Economic Thought: 99 hours
Senior Paper: 43 hours
Comparative Politics: 30 hours
American Politics: 16 hours
Writing for Teachers: 16 hours
U.S. History 12 hours
-I was the TA for this course.
Epistemology: 12 hours
-note: I audited this course.
Exceptional Children: 9 hours
Ethics Bowl: 3 hours
-note: I forgot to record most of my times I worked on this class.
Senior Seminar: 3 hours

Notice that these are approximate times since I sometimes would forget to record my times. Also, these do not count the time in class.

Merry Christmas, Go BUTLER!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wikileaks and Anonymity

I just finished watching a four part series on about wikileaks. I find the topic fascinating on multiple levels. Most definitely one cannot look at the issue in terms of black and white. Wikileaks is not pure evil or pure goodness. My post will be in two parts: an insight into the nature of wikileaks and a short ethical analysis of the ethics.

The Nature of Wikileaks
Wikileaks' foundation has two columns. First, free access to information. This is obvious if anyone who reads about them in the news. Second, it is based on guaranteed anonymity. It is interesting that they want freedom of information but not all information. They want the names of those who leak information to remain unknown. This is to protect those who leak information since what they're doing is breaking the law, and releasing their names would discourage future leaks.

So, Wikileaks is not in favor of releasing ALL information freely to the public. They have to agree that some information must remain secret.

Lastly, information is power because it is knowledge. They believe that knowledge is power. This is a philosophically very important point since this means that information is not neutral. It has value.

The Ethics
As I said before, this is not a black and white issue. I don't think that the activities of wikileaks are ethically coherent. As stated in the documentary, they believe that it is okay to risk the lives of people by exposing information to the world for the sake of keeping public officials accountable. Yet, they believe that the lives of those who leak information should be protected, not exposed to the world, for the sake that they continue to do so.

Why is it that those who break the law and act in secrecy are kept safe while others suffer? For the greater good? What greater good? There are two possible answers:
1. That information be freely given to the world.
2. That public officials are held accountable for their actions.
I find these two answers to be poor.

First, on what authority does wikileaks give that they can keep the identity of those who leak information confidential while exposing the work of public officials? If they are in favor of freedom of information, shouldn't these individuals identities revealed?

Second, in the documentary wikileaks has expressed moral outrage at the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq in the way civilians were treated. Yet, where is the moral outrage of wikileaks jeopardizing people's lives by leaking classified documents? Sure, public officials are embarrassed and its causing diplomatic strain, but who's going to keep wikileaks accountable for their actions? If someone dies because of wikileaks that puts blood on wikileaks hands for their actions.

I do not believe that wikileaks has the moral high ground. They are just as responsible as public officials for their actions. Yet, what they are doing is revealing who people really are? They are giving us the truth. I find that to be good even though its hard to accept the truth many times.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Movement for Assange

If you haven't heard, there have been a series of cyber attacks on various websites of companies and governments who have acted against Assange, the head of wikileaks. These attacks haven't caused great harm, as of now, but it is interesting. I have a couple observations:

1. What about these two women?
I am concerned about these women, regarding their accusation of Assange for rape. We need to be careful here because if you demonize and put down women who accuse someone for rape, you risk silencing women who have been raped. (The reason being, those who have actually been rape won't want to speak up because they don't want to be put in a similar position.) Hence, we should be very careful in how we deal with this accusation. I don't mean to say they're right or wrong. I'm just saying be careful how we perceive their accusations and work to find the truth as to what really happened.

2. We're all in This
When I first heard about the cyber attacks my mind went immediately went the Roman Catholic - Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland where many innocent people were murdered. The cyber attacks caused problems for these companies (Paypal and Mastercard) customers. Is it just to hurt these customers, making them collateral damage? Though there is a big difference between causing inconvenience and murder, the principle behind to the two is the same, that in order to achieve a "greater" end, people can be sacrificed. (Kant's categorical imperative is helpful in this ethical situation.)

3. There Needs to be Reason (Ironic that I just mentioned Kant?)
When the United States and other governments decide how they are going to deal with Assange, there needs to be rational thought and action in response to these governments. What happens to Assange will greatly influence the internet and great blessing we have, freedom of speech, (this includes freedom of the press.) but just as important will be people's response. How people respond to this decision will greatly determine how the public responds to government action. Let's look to movements like the Civil Rights Movement and not the Russian revolution. (No offense to the Russians or anything.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

-short post- Are you Bored?

I have an activity for you. Go to the library at a college somewhere. Walk through all the sections. First, count how many people are asleep. Second, watch many peer up at the slightest sound, like e caged animals right, dying for anything to distract them from the terrible reality they are in. Lastly, if you're a regular attendee to that library, notice how much quieter it is then usual.

Monday, December 6, 2010

God, Dead Week and Finals

It is Dead Week at Taylor. I used to think this term meant that you die because of all the assignments that are due. Thankfully, I have not been put beneath six feet deep of assignments this year, only four. My finals week should be harder but again, not the hardest I have had to endure. The irony of this week is that the term "Dead Week" is supposed to mean that students don't have any events going on so they have time to study for finals. I thought that was a joke but apparently it holds truth.

In my mind, one phenomenon that I enjoy during this week is all the wishful thinking that occurs. I have so many thoughts like "if only I worked harder." One particular odd thought I have is that I wish I worked hard on projects so I could say that I am more busy. Taylor and me suffers from the illusion that business equals cool.

Many cool people Taylor are busy this week. For example, my roommate has six papers due this week. And that's not counting finals. I'm "busy" myself, but not that busy. If I was, you wouldn't be reading this but instead watching me run around like chicken with no head.

Finals will be stressful, they always are. My finals for most of my classes will determine how good my grades will be, but I don't have a large quantity of work. The phenomenon in my head is that I want to be busy so I can be cool.

The problem with this is that when I become busy, my God is left out of the picture. It's only in those crisis moments that I honestly pray to him. Sure, I do my Bible Study, "pray" and go to church. Yet, I don't live with Him.

A great example of this problem I have is when I was walking from class to a dinner-meeting at work tonight. While walking I reviewed memory verses. It was Galatians 6:9-10. "And let us not grow weary in doing good works, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good works toward all people, especially of those who are of the household of faith." (not a direct translation.) Funny thing was that later that evening I had a chance to do a good work, and guess what, I didn't do it. I was too busy.

The problem with being busy is that it takes away the awareness of the supernatural world in which our actions recorded. We will reap a good reward if we do not lose heart. When I become busy, I lose heart.

To be busy is to lose sight of what's really important and focus solely on the tasks at hand. You forget the supernatural. In sense, you become a materialist. So, I have work to do and things have to get done, but I'm not busy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

David Dark, Confusing but Honest

Last night David Dark spoke before Taylor students. He's written the book "The Sacred of Questioning Everything." It was mostly a conversation in which he essentially dialogued with students on whatever they felt like. He dealt with some issues of knowledge and certainty, doubt and a story about Uncle Bill.

I appreciated Dark's honesty, humility and curiosity. I was able to hear him talk with other students at the Honors Lodge afterwards. At one point, a student asked a question which he attempted a reply. (Noting that he wasn't quite sure how to answer.) Immediately after he asked the student to offer his opinion. This is the first time I remember seeing a speaker at a Taylor event ask a student to share his/her opinion and then listen.

I struggled with Dark's lack of clarity. Perhaps it was because of the format, but when a speaker lacks clarity and leans toward quoting famous thinkers and giving snippets of profound thought, I tend to become cautious of the content of what they're saying. The reason being, I don't know what is their content. Certainly a lot of random things Dark said were really important, but on the other hand they were only random and small. He didn't carry them to a conclusion or attempt to clarify the ideas he was trying to get across.

[His answers to some of my questions were interesting. His understanding of knowledge as being of action, essentially you know something if it carries into your action was an interesting discussion. I'm not sure what he meant when he said Western theology is mostly a "construction."]

I think Dark did a good job of creating a feeling of depth and insightfulness. I think that depth and insightfulness was lacking. I haven't read his books, and certainly I admire his character. His perspective is unique and challenging, if you can figure out what it is.

Monday, November 15, 2010

There is no Quick Fix to Education in America

I just finished writing a review on reading and literacy in the classroom in the journal "The History Teacher." The author, Paul Otto bravely calls for getting rid of textbooks in the classroom. I generally agree with some of what he says, but am a bit apprehensive of suddenly getting rid of textbooks.

Alfred Marshall was a 20th century economists who was able to synthesis the marginalist revolution of the mid 1800s and the classical school of economics. His life motto was "natura non facit saltum," Nature does not make leaps. The point is, in order to bring about good lasting change that contributes to the betterment of society, one can't change things quickly.

Paul Otto asks for a sweeping change. (Getting rid of textbooks.) No Child Left Behind was also a sweeping change. A movie coming out about education reform is called "Waiting for Superman." Sounds like people are waiting for someone to come along and change everything. [I'm not sure what the movie is specifically about except that it shows three kids experience in public education.]

This is not possible with education for three reasons.

1. Education is run by states. There are fifty states. So unless you want to work at the federal level, influencing the whole education system is quite hard.

2. The more the federal government gets involved in education, the worse it will get. (My third points explains why.)

3. The core of education is the relation between the teacher and parent working together to help the students learn. Ultimately, it's up to the student to learn, but the closest ones to the student are the teacher and parent, and if they are able to work together then the education system will produce better students. Having the federal government involved in this process naturally inhibits this three-way relationship because it has proved itself incapable of understanding the unique needs of people. It tries to create a one-size fits all. There is no one-size fits all. How you do education in Kansas City will be different then doing education in New York City. How you teach a student with autism is different then a "normal learner," and you normal learners need to be taught differently from each other.

The core of my post: the education system can be "fixed" (Or begin to produce well educated students.) by teachers and parents working together with the student in a system which fosters a positive relationship between the three.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Announcement + A Response

Taylor University Ethics Bowl team, which I am proud to be a part of, has received first place at the regional competition located at Marion University in Indianapolis. This was out of twenty teams including, Depaul, University of Michigan, Butler University and IU. It was pretty cool to win. We're going to nationals which are March 3rd.

A Response
On another note, Alyssa Guebert proposed a dilemma to my last post. She explained how someone spilled something on the floor of the classroom. The blow dryers don't seem to be helpful in this case. Here is my response.

1. the elementary classroom in Reade does have paper towels. Alyssa's response to this proposition was that this accident occurred in another building. So I have come up with another suggestion.

2. Take a large number of pipes and link them together throughout the building leading up to the blow dryer machine and turn it on. The pipes should direct the spot which is in need of clean. Since this may not be feasible in some cases, I have provided a last ditch option.

3. Lick up the mess with your tongue. (Though I don't advise this last one since it is unsanitary.) In the least though, time will take care of the problem.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to Dry your Hands

Yes, this is a post that hopefully will help your forget that I failed to correctly predict the election.

Recently, Taylor University has changed how people dry their hands in the public restrooms throughout campus. Previously, we were provided with machines which contained paper towels. We would press a lever and paper would pop out. We'd tear it away from the ream, and dry our hands. This is no longer so.

Taylor University has installed machines that blow hot/warm/cold air. When I first used these machines I noticed a couple problems. First, it takes longer to dry your hands. Second, your hands become rather dry because the water is often blown directly into your skin and when it dries out, your hands are left that rough scratchy sensation. Lastly, it is no longer possible to dry your face when you splash water on your face.

Because of these problems, I have developed certain methods of drying your hands and using these blow dry machines in the most efficient and practical way.

The Time Problem
I have found that there is a method which greatly saves on time. After your wash your hands, shake them virgorously, but let your wrists and fingers relax so you get kind of a snap while your hands shake. Then, while keeping your wrists limp and fingers pointed down, put your hands under the machine. Direct the air flow directly on the highest point on the backside of one hand. Go down all the way to where your fingers begin. Then get the sides and proceed to do the other hand. Switch back and get ready to hit the fingers. (Your fingers should be pointed down the whole time.) Begin by hitting the lower part of the fingers and work your way to the tips. You should notice that the water is not being blown into your skin, nor dried out, but rather being pushed toward your finger tips where they simply drop off. With a little practice, you can get your hands dried as fast as your would with a towel.

The Dry Hands Problem
The key to this drying your hands method is to direct the air to push the water down your hand, toward your finger tip and not into the skin. That is why you keep your fingers pointed down and wrists always limp. Though this doesn't stop your hands from becoming dry, it does help reduce the problem.

Drying your Face Problem
This has a story behind it. I was working late in the library, and was starting to feel sleepy so I went to the bathroom and splashed my face with water. I forgot we no longer had towels and so when I turned to dry my face, I realized, while dripping with water, that I couldn't dry my face. So I stuck my face underneath the blow dry machine and felt like I was sticking my head out a car window at 60 mph.

Though it worked, I have discovered a more efficient way to drying your face with a blow dry machine. Simply cup your hands together like you're going to drink water from you hands, hold it up to the machine and direct the air to bounce off your hands and into your face.

So now you know how to deal with some of the issues involved with blow drying your hands and can deal with them more efficiently.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Prediction

The Republicans will regain the house and the senate. Wish I had time to give my analysis, but I'll let the voters prove me right. Look forward to some more blog posts in the near future, I have been sick, but because I'm feeling much better, more posts will be coming up soon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Empowering Men

In another blog post, I discussed the question, "why are men passive?" In one section of the post, I made the following statement,
If you want to insult a guy, don't listen to him, acknowledge what he says or respect one of his requests.
In this post I will develop the former statement.

Are Men Naturally Leaders?
The answer to this question is no. The reason being, a natural leader develops this characteristic from his personal character, not his/her gender. So, the previous statement is not saying that it is important to acknowledge all men as leaders.

Do Men Need Power?
The answer to this question is yes. The concept of "power" is very complicated, and I do not have room to dive into a developed definition. I intend use the world "power" to signify authority and respect. Men naturally desire for others to look to them as authorities and in a respectful manner.

One with authority, is one who's perspective or opinion has value, enough value that one should listen to what they have to say. To do so respectfully means to listen carefully and to do so without attempting to offend or harm.

How is this Different from Leadership?
In leadership, one has authority and, sometimes, respect. Yet, one can have authority and respect yet not be a leader. One who leads is one who commands/leads a group to a specific destination. Leadership is also a deeper concept like power and I don't have room to dive into a better definition.

What does this have to do with Empowering Men?
At the beginning of this post I stated that men naturally desire power. I believe that in order to help men fulfill their potential in life and not be passive, you must empower them. This means giving them authority and respect.

How one does this will be a post for another time. Please post your thoughts, do you agree, disagree? Is this clear or muddled?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jesus Doesn't Solve Everything

When I got back on campus this fall, I was catching up with some of my former floor-mates. One of them had spent some time in a country that was full of ethnic/religious conflict. I asked him if he thought there was solution to the problem. His response was. "I don't know, they just need Jesus, you know." I was taken back by the naivety of his comment, but surprised myself in thinking that his statement is not true. Having Jesus does not solve ethnic or religious conflict.

At the time this thought hadn't grown. It wasn't until yesterday in a discussion regarding Islamic tensions in the UK that my thought formed. One of the students in the class discussion argued that if people became Christians, many of the tensions in the UK would be lessened. I then began to realize that I believe this is contrary to the teaching of Jesus.

Some of what Jesus Said
Jesus never states that if you follow him, everything will be okay here on earth. Nor does he say that he has come to solve political and religious turmoil. Instead, he goes to even say the opposite. Matthew 10:34, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Jesus was not intending that we bring a sword and cause conflict. He calls us to be peacemakers, but we should not be looking to Christ to solve all our problems.

We are to solve our problems. (To clarify, I don't mean that we need to save ourselves. This is the work of Christ and His Spirit in our lives.) Why else did the Christ leave us with the command, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

Health and Wealth Gospel Critique
Another concern I have with saying that having Jesus will solve problems in society is that it is a version of the "health and wealth gospel." The argument goes, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior then things will go well. You will be healthy and wealthy. When something goes wrong it's because you've sinned and need to repent. This same argument is being applied when people say that "they just need Jesus to resolve this conflict." No, that is not true.

Jesus did not say that if you follow him everything will go well. Look at what he tells Peter in John 21. Jesus tells Peter that he is going to go where he doesn't want to go. Jesus is predicting the kind of death Peter will suffer.

Critique from History
Lastly, this argument is historically problematic. There have been many Christians, "Bible believing Christians" who have helped stir up conflict or started conflict. (Look at the Great Awakening and trace the history of all the different protestant denominations.) In some cases, the conflict has been between Christians. (Ireland, 30 years war, the Crusades just to name a few.) It's clear from history that having Jesus in your heart does not mean political problems or solved.

I have found myself attempting to sweep aside the "dark-side" of Christian history. I want my history to be a good history, full of exciting successes and great examples of how to be a good Christian. Sadly, this is not true. Christianity has a tough and rough history. the visible church has committed genocide (both Protest and Roman Catholic. I don't know about the Orthodox church.), been racist and has not expressed the love of Jesus. And this is a part of my history as a Christian.

This is not to say that being a Christian doesn't help resolve conflict. One can point out many examples of individuals and groups who have protested genocide and actively reached out to oppressed people. (Civil Rights movement was started by Christians and Martin Luther King jr. was a pastor.) It's vital to remember both the good and bad in our history.

Lastly, being a Christian provides a point of reference which people can agree upon, but it's not the whole answer to resolving political, ethnic or religious conflicts. For instance, the teachings of Jesus Christ have been helpful (I would argue vital.) in the process of reconciliation in Rwanda. Certainly being a Christian can help, but simply saying "all they need is Jesus" is not sufficient and contrary to what Jesus commanded us. Christ looks to us as servants of his kingdom to resolve conflicts. We can't just say, let Jesus do it because he empowered us to do His work.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Burning the Quran vs. Building a Mosque in Downtown Manhatten

Picture this: angry Muslims in the Middle East burning Americans flags. Angry Americans protesting in the streets of downtown NYC.

In reflecting on the past couple of weeks regarding the mosque controversy and Koran burning controversy, I find it interesting that both sides are angry enough to burn each others sacred stuff. Think of: guy burns the Koran in NYC. Muslims burning the American Flag.

There is a major difference between the American flag and the Koran. The former is only a couple hundred years in the making and has gone many changes. The latter is really old, is a religious text and some people are willing to kill others to protect it.

Yet, note the causal chain. A group of Muslims are trying to do something that happens offends many Americans (and they're acting in their Constitutional right.) An American is now offending ALL Muslims (and he's acting in his Constitutional right.) This has resulted in more Muslims offending Americans by burning our flag. When and where does it end?

I think that these three causally connected events have helped hurt the Western/Muslim relation. I also believe that it is going to get worse.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A 2nd Look at NYC Mosque

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post on the building of a mosque in NYC, a couple of blocks near ground zero. I argued that the government has no constitutional standing to prohibiting such a building. I also argued that the argument for prohibiting the construction of the mosque because it presents a security risk fails. In this post I will argue that it is unethical for the Muslims to choose to build their mosque in NYC.

Principle of Non-maleficence

This principle states that we ought to act in ways that do not bring needless harm to individuals and society. There is an argument that building a mosque in downtown NYC brings unnecessary harm.

First, it is not necessary that they build a mosque in that location. Out of kindness towards others, they could instead build just the student center. Furthermore, they bought the building post-9/11. This revokes the claim that they need to build there since it would be very expensive to buy somewhere else.

Second, people don't just dis-like having a mosque being built in NYC, it really bothers them. Thousands have taken to the street in protest and many claim offense since it is near ground zero, sacred ground. The harm occurs in building a religious building near a sacred site that was tragically created by people of that same religion. It is the same as the Japanese attempting to build a museum for WWII soldiers next to the Pearl Harbor Memorial or building a German cultural center next to a Holocaust site. Hence, people are upset.

Argument from Virtue
By moving the mosque to a different location the builders would be acting virtuously. Specifically they would be respectful. Exemplifying these virtues would do much to help the relationship between Islam and the United States.
-This is not to say the U.S. exemplifies these virtues.

The builders would be respectful by not building the mosque. It would express an understanding of people's views, a consideration of how they feel and in an attempt to express their concern for what has happened in this country. (I think that this last point is very important. If the Islam does not reach out to the United States in love and forgiveness then there will never be reconciliation.)

I believe that it is unethical for the Muslims to build a mosque in downtown NYC. They would be exemplifying the virtue of respect by not building and the principle of non-maleficence is my argument.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love and Hate, Thomas Aquinas

I have been reading "Summa of the Summa," edited and annotated by Peter Kreeft. It is a very good read. I'll be posting a book review on it when I finish. Presently, I would like to focus on a very small portion of this work.
"Augustine says that all emotions are caused by love. Therefore hatred also, since it is an emotion of the soul, is caused by love... Nothing is hated, save through being contrary to a suitable thing which is loved. And hence it is that every hatred is caused by love." (pg 445)
When I read this statement, I about fell out of my chair. (I have fallen out of my chair from reading such good stuff written by Thomas.) I had never thought of this before, that the existence of hatred stems from love. It made me think a possible reason Satan fell from his status of an angel of God. He began to love himself. Once Satan began to love himself, consequentially he began to hate God. So the first hater became a hater because he was a lover.

Thomas defined love as Aristotle did (no surprise there.), "to love is to wish good to someone." I won't dwell on this definition. One point of clarification, Thomas intended "someone" to be able to mean oneself or anyone else.

The essence of Thomas' point is that love is a cause of hate. When we hate something or someone it naturally follows "what are we then loving?" For instance, I hate it when people talk or make unnecessary noises in the library. What causes this hate is my love for a quiet place where I can work in peace.

In application, one can see how this can help us discover what we really love. When you find yourself hating something or someone, it is good to begin exploring back to find what it is that is causing this hate, what exactly are you loving that is contrary to this hated object. By looking at what we hate, we're able to search back to find out what fuels our passion which love "preserves and perfects." (pg 443)

Friday, August 6, 2010

What is the Issue of Building a Mosque in NYC

Plenty many say. Now, it is important to realize that if Muslims wanted to build a mosque in Indianapolis, San Francisco or Kansas City there wouldn't be a problem. They have the right to build a religious institution on private property. No one with any sense of the constitution would argue against that.

The Issue
So the issue with NYC is different. It's not the fact that they want to build a religious institution rather it is where they want to build it and what religion this building will represent. It will represent the religion that several well-educated men died for when they murdered thousands of people on 9/11. People don't want a mosque to be build near the site of the Twin Towers because they believe that it will be defamation to that site. So they want the government to prohibit it.

Now, if the government prohibits building this mosque, they will be breaking the constitution so they can't prohibit the building of a mosque based on its religion. Anyone who argues that the government should prohibit a mosque being built in NYC needs to rethink their argument. The government simply cannot do that. Mayor Michael Bloomberg sums it up nicely:
“The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution."
Another Argument
A better argument I have heard for denying the right to build a mosque in NYC is that it creates a national security issue. Yet, I don't know what the basis for this is. The closest piece of evidence I can find in the 10 minutes of research I have committed to this project is that the leader of the project to build the mosque is Feisal Abdul Rauf. He is a moderate Muslim who is attempting to bridge peace between the West and Islam. Yet, he doesn't thing HAMAS is a terrorist group. He condemned 9/11. Yet, he said that the United States had this "crime" coming to her since we have done a poor job in our relation with the Islamic world.

This doesn't make Feisal Abdul Rauf a terrorist. Rather, he views HAMAS differently then the U.S. government and sees that the crime of 9/11 is a consequence of our behavior with Islam. This does not mean he is a terrorist or has connections with terrorists.

Besides lacking evidence, this argument also lacks coherency. How will building a mosque be a threat in NYC? That doesn't make very much sense to me. Why would a terrorist organization use a mosque as a base of operation when any building will do? Furthermore, using a mosque only puts them in a more prominent position, the opposite of what you want to do when you're attempting to avoid detection.

Lastly, the United States has had poor relationships with Islam. Will allowing the building of the mosque improve relationships? Possibly, but not allowing it to be built will certainly hurt it.

The United State government cannot prohibit the building of a mosque in downtown Manhatten because it would be breaching the constitution. Arguing that building a mosque would present a national security risk lacks evidence to support its claim and lacks coherency.

Movie Review, Inception (Spoiler Alert!)

Christopher Nolan introduces another mind-altering yet action-filled movie. I was pleasantly surprised by the philosophical depth to the movie though I was disappointed with the lack of plot and character development.

Two Criticisms
First there were many parts of the plot that were rather thin. For instance, the reason the team was attempting to plant an idea into the subject's mind was to destroy a highly competitive company. Okay, what type of company were they attempting to break up, could we get a couple more details besides the fact that it was a really good company? Second, Leonardo DiCaprio's character was well developed, and he did a great job yet this was especially noticeably when the other characters lacked development. Ellen Page's character, Ariadne, was especially noticeable. She was a student of Cobb's father in Paris. She's really smart, is wise but we don't know much else.

The Philosophy of Inception
That being said, let's go on to the more interesting parts of the film. I was left pondering a very important concept. It is an epistemic issue dealing with metaphysics. The movie argued that there is an ultimate reality. (metaphysical belief) The problem that it presented was how do we know if we are in reality. (epistemic issue) The characters used "tokens" as reference points to tell them when they were in reality or not. The key: reference points. This made me think of the famous statement by the French Existentialist Jean-Paul Satre “No finite point has meaning without an infinite reference point."

I don't want to pull any theistic interpreation into Inception because I can't find any evidence that Nolan intended to argue that because there is ultimate reality God must exist, but what I found interesting was: 1. There is an ultimate reality (there is "absolute" truth, truth that is the same no matter which way you look at it and you can't change it.). 2. We are cognitively capable of knowing ultimate reality. In Inception, knowledge came through the tokens, (reference points) which would communicate to the knower (a finite point) whether he was in a dream or reality.

Personal Note
I also enjoyed Nolan's point on letting go and coming to the conclusion that our dreams are not as good as reality. This is found in only one scene of the movie, but it is the climax and focal point of Codd's development. Here, he acknowledges that his wife has died and is ready to move on. Furthermore, he realizes that continuing to imagine her existence is not as good as who she really was. You can dream of someone but it is not as good as actually being with them. Essentially, reality trumps dreams.

Finally, the last scene of the movie shows Cobb seeing his children again. Just before he does, he checks his token (a spinning top that never stops spinning unless it is in reality.) but before the top stops spinning, he sees the faces of his children and runs to them with joy. The camera focuses on the spinning top and the curtain closes before the viewer can tell if its going to stop or not. Great ending: when you are in reality and in relationship with others, your reference point is no longer a material thing (a finite object) but other people.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Psalm 15, Calvin's Thought

In a week from today, I will be giving the Psalm explanation at church over Psalm 15. I have been reading through Calvin's commentary on the Psalm. In verses 1 and 2, David says "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart" Calvin makes an interesting point on the last phrase of this verse "who speaks the truth from his heart."

David doesn't say "who speaks the truth in his heart" rather David expresses the harmony between our speech and heart, that the two are intricately connected. As tree branches stem from the roots so do our speech stem from our hearts. Furthermore, the one who may live on God's holy hill is the one who speaks the truth from "the hidden affection or feeling within." God's people don't utter the truth. It flows from their hearts as a natural fruit.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Poop on Shoe

I took the dogs out this afternoon so that they could do their duty. While they were trotting around in the muggy weather, I noticed a leaf on the patio. This leaf had imprinted on it a small piece of dog feeces. On the pancake shape smelly stuff there was an word pressed in by someone's shoe.

My immediate thought was "poor guy who got poop on his shoe." As I looked closer I noticed that the poop word actually spelled "Chaco" on it and in a moment I realized a shoe had not stepped on this piece of poop but a sandal. I know only one person with Chacos who regularly walks through the yard and on the patio. "Oh well," I thought, "it is not the last or the first time my room has smelled like poop." My pity turned to indifference, and I called the dogs back into the house. I'm working my school again, work before smells I always say. Maybe I should check my sandels...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Irrational Protest

In Oakland, Cal. riots occurred because of a jury's decision to not convict an officer of murder for killing an unarmed African American. The officer claimed that he accidentally pulled his gun instead of his taser, shooting the man. The jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter. (Basically saying that his "mistake" was so bad that it counts as a crime.)

In response, many rioted in Oakland, breaking the law themselves, as a protest to the jury's decision. I find this irrational on a couple of levels.

First, a jury, a group of citizens and the rioters equals, gave the sentence. There were groups who peacefully protested this decision yet I'm not sure why they would want to protest what a jury decided because that jury, I assume, was made up of people of them.

Second, those who rioted acted in the name of the victim. They broke the law as a way of protesting against one who they believe broke the law. If they are in favor of the law being handed out, why go break what you're trying to uphold?

Lastly, what good is going to come of this? I don't know many riots that have resulted in better governments, better societies or a happy people. I know approximately 50 people were arrested. They're probably not very happy.

Though it may appear from our view that the officer should be convicted of murder, we need to be careful to weigh our opinions carefully. A carefully weighed opinion means you spend careful time looking at the matter (perhaps six hours like the jury did), and when you come to a conclusion, don't act in a way that warrants arrest. (Like that officer.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"How was ECHO?

"ECHO was great," has been my general response to that question. The work was hard and co-leading 16 students for two weeks was no easy task, especially if they enjoy arguing. ( I mentioned it a couple times, and they tried to argue about it...) I learned a lot about leadership, agriculture and myself.

I also learned that it is important to not get eight blisters on the first day of work.

Helping lead 16 students for two weeks was different from any other ministry work that I've done. I did have two week kampers as a Kamp Counselor, but working for two weeks with students was different. At Kamp, we had a good time. At ECHO, we didn't always have a good time. I learned a lot about leading a group when you're under a lot of pressure. By far it was fun group to be with. I enjoyed hanging out with everyone, even if I did get kicked in the face with a soccer ball when I sleeping. I'm surprised no one pulled the plug on my air mattress on the last night. I noticed at the end of the trip that relationships (good relationships!) had started between people in the groups. You know that a friendship is formed when you stay in contact with each other over long distances. I sensed that with this group. I'm looking forward to seeing a bunch of them at Covfamikoi and then at the International Conference. (I also see a couple of them at church each week.)

This was my third time at ECHO. One way I changed from my last two trips was that I paid closer attention to what ECHO is doing. I also paid attention to names of plants and how agriculture works. I loved planting Lablab seeds, partially because I saw them begin to sprout while I was there. (I have pictures!) I now have a vendetta against bamboo even though everyone seems to like it. I don't, 50 lb. tubs full of bamboo is not fun to carry. It's heavy and more scratchy then corn leaves!

Whenever we're put under stressful situations, we learn a little bit more about ourselves. Near the end of the trip I started to notice that I didn't work as hard when I was alone or without someone "important." (One of the ECHO stafff, an intern or Mr. Hanson and Mr. Stuart.) I am a performance driven person, the more people who are watching me, the better I usually perform. I started to apply a part of theology that I'm reading in Aquinas right now: that God is everywhere and in everything. Because he is everywhere, he can see all that I do. It is deceptive for me to believe that I am ever truly alone.

Now you know a little bit about my trip to ECHO. I'm glad I went, it was a great experience, the students were a lot of fun and it was great to work with Mr. Hanson and Mr. Stuart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Point of Tragedy

Last night, just before the Lakers won an NBA championship, give Kobe a high five and ignore Artest, I finished a tragedy. It is called "Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara. Angels was written as a historical novel about the three day battle of Gettysburg. Incredibly easy to read but very insightful about honor, death and tragedy. According to my Apple dictionary (Which is the New Oxford Dictionary), a tragedy is "a play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, esp. one concerning the downfall of the main character."

In Angels, it is a tragedy that the South failed in that last charge, losing so many men. (All of Pickett's thirteen officers were either wounded or killed.) It's a tragedy that literally, thousands of men marched to their death but what makes a tragedy is not just the fact that there is a unhappy ending. (So many men died and the battle was lost.) One gleans a gem of truth from the terrible ending. You learn about the true nature of the characters involved, a small window into who they actually are. (The men died moving forward, with bravery.)

In 2004, the Pacer's hope of an NBA championship were dashed, completely, by Ron Artest, who now has a ring. Indianapolis still does not have a NBA championship. Reggie Miller retired without a ring on his finger. A former teammate now wearing one is partially the cause. Such a tragedy that the man who ruined a city's and great player's chance of winning a NBA title.

The question now, what gem of truth will be revealed about the character of Indianapolis and Reggie Miller? How do we end this tragedy?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Review: The Courage to Teach

I apologize for not updating my blog as routinely as I should. My goal has been to update it once a week yet this summer I have not developed an efficient daily routine.

I am reviewing Parker J. Palmer's book, "The Courage to Teach." Palmer's intention is to write about the inner life of the teacher. He sticks mainly with theory, using stories to make his ideas become concrete.

Palmer's thesis is an open reaction to the direction the teaching profession has headed. Like many professions, teaching has become "disconnected," and "we are distanced by a grading system that separates teachers from students, by departments that fragment fields of knowledge, by competition that makes students and teacher alike wary of their peers, and by a bureaucracy that puts faculty and administration at odds." Palmer's thesis is that good teachers need to rid themselves of this "anatomy of fear" and become connected with their selves, have a true identity and authentic self.

He explains how this plays out in the teachers "inner life," in the teacher's relation to the student and in the community of education.

This review will be offering two positive comments and two criticisms.

Teach from your Identity
Palmer states that teachers are in a unique position because they stand in the intersection of public life and private life. Good teachers reveal part of their personal identity yet the content they teach is of the public world. In revealing their personal identity, good teachers will teach from who they are. Essentially, Palmer claims that it doesn't matter what technique you use as long as you are teaching from our personal identity. (personal identity: "an evolving nexus where all the forces that constitute my life converge in the mystery of self: my genetic makeup.")

I personally find that it's hard for me to go into a classroom and think, "Okay, I'm going to use this technique at this point and then switch over to this strategy and then use that method." I also find it hard to place myself in any pedagogical "camp." I just teach. Before reading Palmer, I was intellectually beating myself up for not being able to say, "this technique is better then that technique or this is the best method for me to use." My instincts tell me to pull as much as I can from all methods, unless a logical or practical contradiction is created. That's the type of teacher I am. I like a lot of different stuff, all stuck in there in my own pattern. This is who I am as a teacher, and when Palmer said that ultimately it is more important to teach from your personal identity then using a certain technique, I found it comforting. I don't need to place myself in a certain pedagogy camp. If I like something and it fits my need, I'll use it. If it does not, I won't use it.

"The Student from Hell"
This is from the title of a section in the book. I really appreciated this section because of two points:
1. "The way we diagnose our students' condition will determine the kind of remedy we offer."
Hence, you need to get to know your students, a really important idea for teachers to apply practically.
2. Find a voice for your students.
I find this harder then the former to put into practice because I like to talk a lot, but it ties in the previous point because in order to help the students find ways to express who they are, what they're thinking and feeling, we need to first get to know them.

Two Criticisms
My first criticism is a broad one. Palmer intentionally avoids giving "tips" or "techniques" and is solely focused on theory. I believe that an idea must have a causal impact on what we do in our lives. When teachers teach, they are doing something. I struggled to conceive of Palmer's ideas in causal way that applied to teaching. Many times he became vague, diving into philosophy, and did not show the impact of his thinking on the classroom. Hence, it seemed there were sections that I was wasting time on because I couldn't see how this applied to how I teach in the classroom. One instance is his critique of "objectivism." Not only was it vague and extremely broad, too broad in my opinion, I struggled to who he was talking about. It would have been very helpful to me if he had applied more of his theory to practice.

One could respond that he used a number of stories. This partially answers my criticism. I greatly appreciated these stories, but if only there were more!

My second criticism is a philosophical one. Palmer argues that "realty is communal." I was confused as to what he was meaning by this. Did he mean truth is discovered/known through community or truth is made through the community. The former is an epistemic statement and the latter is an ontological one. I agree with the former, but have qualms with the latter. I was confused as to what exactly Palm was saying. I would have appreciated more philosophical rigor on this section.

One may say, Dr. Palmer is an educator, not a philosopher. My response: It doesn't matter. He is speaking on very important philosophical issues that have major consequences in how we act and in society at large. In dealing with these matters, clarity is vital.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this book, it was helpful for me as an educator and has expanded my understanding of what it means to be a teacher. I certainly will remember some of the concepts explained and attempt to apply them to the classroom.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It is Summer

Being productive during the summer has always been a struggle for me. It's warm out, I'm at home, there appears to be endless hours and days and one can always do something other then what needs to be done. Yet, I have planned out some projects, am taking some classes and have a life to live.

First, I am taking eight hours of classes, (regional geography and microeconomics) and working on my senior paper. All them have one due date, the day I get back to school in late August.

Second, I am reading The Summa of the Summa. This repetitive title designates the great work written by Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica or Summary of Theology. Thank goodness I am reading only a summary of that summary. That means I'm only reading one volume instead of a couple dozen.

Third, I have my own reading projects of about 25 books categorized as following: history, philosophy, devotional literature, novels and education. (Reviews of some will be following.)

Fourth, I am training for three triathlons: The first is in June, second in August and the last in September. See previous post for racing goals.

Lastly, but not least, I am working as a pastoral intern at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church, my church. I'm helping out with the high school group, helping lead a missions trip, being a counselor at Covfamikoi and doing what Pastor Johnston needs me to do.

Now, am I going to be able to accomplish all my goals this summer, probably not, but I know that by setting up goals, it gives me more motivation to get things done that otherwise I would have not even had tried. It is better to set your mind to something, fail and reap the benefits of trying then to not ever try in the first place.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Chaz Bono, how does the Church Respond

Chaz Bono recently has completed a sex change. Now he is recognized by the United States government as a man. Known previously as Chasity, Chaz's parents are singers, apparently famous but I don't know who they are. (then again, I don't follow contemporary music very much.)

How does the church respond to someone who changes their gender? The cornerstone of the church is Christ, a man and God who befriended and publicly associated with prostitutes, tax collectors and gentles. (Otherwise known as the "unpopular" or rejected group of people.) It is safe to say that Jesus would never had rejected someone who had a sex change.

Rebellion and the Church
One who is in rebellion against God is not in personal relation with God. They do not have salvation. [That is not to say that if one rejects God, God similarly responds.] The church can legitimately put someone who shows evidences of rebellion against God under church discipline. Is getting a sex change a sign of rebellion against God?

Why Get a Sex Change?

There are many reasons for getting a sex change:
1. Don't feel comfortable with your gender.
2. Physiologically you are caught in the opposite gender of who you really are.
-This reason assumes many things about sexuality, identity, views of of the soul.
3. You want to be different.
There could be many others, and it is probably much more complicated then the reasons I have given. Bottom line: if one has a sex change out of rebellion against God then it gives warrant for the church to put that individual under church discipline. [note: if I started to drink alcohol out of rebellion against God this gives the church warrant to put me under church discipline. Having a sex change does not automatically qualify as a sin, just like drinking alcohol. ]

What is Church Discipline
I do not mean shunning an individual or kicking them out of the church when I use the term "church discipline." I mean it in a larger context: from an elder or pastor coming alongside someone and exhorting them on their behavior to a friend confronting his brother/sister in Christ.
There is formal church discipline informal church discipline. Formal discipline is the church acting as an official body responding to someone's actions and privately/publicly disciplining them. Informal discipline would be an elder or pastor coming alongside someone and exhorting them on their behavior.

So how does the Church Respond
Certain things will not change if a person has a sex change even if they are or are not a member of the church.
1. The Church does not condemn
2. The Church comes alongside and loves as Christ loves.
3. The church protects itself from intruders, people not of the faith.
4. The Church helps its members by exhorting one another.

So what does the church do?
I don't have an answer to this question. I think that it there needs to be carefully thought through Here are my thoughts: 1. You don't want to reject someone who has become repentant of their sin. 2. You don't want to allow a unrepentant (person in rebellion) person to be a part of your community. 3. The church needs to be careful not to condemn people who undergo sex changes. What do I mean by this? I mean, the church needs to treat these people as who they are, human beings. They have gone through a unique and rare process, that doesn't disqualify them from being the same beings as you and me.

Bottom Line
In the situation where a person who undergoes a sex change wants to become a part of the church, the churches response should be one of love and shouldn't treat that individual any differently then anyone else.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Pathway Between the Seas - a review

David McCullough wrote Pathway Between the Seas (PBS) which is about the building of the Panama Canal, one of the greatest building achievements in world history.

I just finished this book on Sunday but had started in February. It is a very long book, around 600 pages, but I enjoyed it. McCullough does a great job of funneling many details and descriptions into many different themes, based on a single thread.

Why it is a such a good book
I most enjoyed the characters in PBS. McCullough does a great job of tying in many different biographies and placing them in the context of the building process. One of my favorite parts was the U.S. political battle as to where the canal was going to be built and how Panama became an independent nation.

How a 600 page book can be a quick read
PBS is a very long book filled with a lot of detailed information and it is easy to get lost in all of it. I'm not sure if this is a weakness of the book. McCullough does a great job of controlling the amount of information given to the reader, but the nature of the topic causes it to lean toward too much information. I found it best to pay attention to the main characters and do my best to remember their names. (Even if they weren't easy to remember.) Also, I tried to hold onto the main theme of each chapter, which was not too hard to do because the writer is a master at creating narratives.

Who should Read it
If you enjoy history and are comfortable weeding through a lot of details while holding on to a main theme, I would suggest that this would be a good summer read. The length of the book is challenging, but it is definitely worth reading.

What I learned
One general idea I gleaned from this book was that large movements are often controlled and determined by individual leaders. The failure of the French was caused by the naivete and ignorance of the French leaders. The success of the Americans was caused by the tenacity, organization skill and discipline of individual leaders. It surprised me that even such a large project as the Panama Canal (Its scale is massive, absolutely incredible. The locks that were built are so big that they would be part of the sky line in New York City. Only the Empire State Building and a couple other skyscrapers would be larger.) would be greatly determined by individuals. It helped me realize why one's individual actions can have momentous consequences for other people around us.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why are Taylor Men Passive?

The other day I stated on my facebook a question, "Why are Taylor men passive?" Two people who were not from Taylor commented. (My lovely sister Sarah Pulliam Bailey and not so lovely looking Eddie Burris) Thank you to both of them for commenting and I hope they continue to dialogue with each other on this issue.

The reason I asked this question was because Taylor men are quite passive. The most recent evidence is regarding the number of males who applied for Lighthouse trips next year. For those of you not familiar with Taylor or Lighthouse, Lighthouse is a campus organization that sends out students on short-term mission trips for J-term every year. Approximately 25% of the applicants were males.

Men are a minority on campups so there should be less male applicants then female applicants simply because there are less men on campus but why is it so low?

Eddie Burris blames the feminist movement, Sarah disagrees. I'll let them debate that point.

I think that there are deeper reasons for this serious problem. I strongly believe that it comes down to two issues: gender relations and identity.

First, gender relations.
Men on campus don't see themselves as authorities or examples to women. Some think this is linked with how women see themselves and men, but ultimately, it comes down to how men see their relation with people. Guys don't want to be leaders and those who are leaders are often hurt by people's rejection of their authority. If you want to insult a guy, don't listen to him, acknowledge what he says or respect one of his requests. This doesn't obeying a every guys wish, but boy it is extremely insulting when you ignore a guy who is in a leadership position. (This is not to say that this excuses men. God calls men act like Christ [and women]. Christ took insult all the time, but did not quit or become passive. Men have no excuse!)

Second, identity.
A man's identity is a really big deal, a really, really, really big deal. If a man loses his identity (generally) or does not have one, he will more likely be passive and counter-productive. Furthermore, if he doesn't have a strong identity or a stable identity the same result will occur, passivity. (Generally speaking of course.) Especially with young men, there needs to be a battle for us to fight, and it has to be one which we think we can win! (So don't suggest to a guy that he defeat world poverty.) Fighting a battle can be a major part of a guy's identity. I do not mean by "a battle" literally fighting or picking up a big cause. I mean holding to something that is seen as important and worth sacrificing for. More importantly, most of the time, a male's identity is more then likely trapped in an addiction. Specifically, a lot of men are addicted to pornography and sexual sin. There are more and more studies coming out on the addictive nature of pornography. There are other substances that are addictive in nature to men, but I want to specifically point out pornography because it is becoming more of an issue for the church.

So that is what I think about that. I would be especially interested in hearing people's comments and observation about this problem. By the way, I can't go on lighthouse because I have school.

passing note: people often point out video games are the problem, I think that they are a consequence of the problem, not the problem itself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Antony Flew, 1923-2010

One of the major philosophers of the 20th century has died. Antony Flew was an English philosopher who defended atheism until 2004 when he publicly claimed to be a theist. Sadly, he was minimalist and as far as we know, never acknowledged anything more then an Aristotelian God.

It should be pointed out that Flew did much more work then just atheism in philosophy. He was a leading scholar on David Hume, major critic of John Rawls in political philosophy and did work in philosophy of education. This is only some of what he did work in.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Responses to Criticism against berkeleyan/Edwardsian Idealism

In my last post I gave my argument for why I am an Idealist. Specifically, to be is to be perceived. The ontological status of the physical world is based upon one's perception of it. In my last post, I answered an objection regarding relativity of idealism, whether physical reality is simply relative to one's perception.

The Problem of Pantheism
The first problem that I want to work with is the problem of pantheism. On facebook, Ryan Mullins brought this problem up:
The physical world is made up of God's thoughts. God's thoughts and actions are equivocal. God's actions are a part of his being. So, the physical world is a part of God's being.
The problem is that neither Berekeley nor Edwards would want to be pantheists. Neither do I. There are a couple of responses an idealist can give. First, is God a simple substance? Second, just because God thinks something, that does not mean it is an thought of God in this particular world. (Abraham inquiring God to consider a change in his plan.) I think God is powerful enough to be able to think of something while not it being revealed to us.

Problem of relations of minds
This is a serious problem for the idealist. It goes like this:
We are God's thoughts, we are ideas of God, our mind's are, but our minds also create ideas and perceive God's ideas. What is the relation between God's mind and our's?
This problem is very serious because the existence of our minds is based upon God's thoughts. I don't know the answer to this question. It's a major problem, but I don't see how it gives reason to say that idealism is false.

3. the boxed God problem
This is a very serious problem for the idealist. It took me a long time to work through this problem:
The idealist is coming to his position based off of problem for the naive and representational realists. God, how the idealist believes he exists, his ontology, is based off other understanding of the world. His beliefs about God do not stem from who God reveals himself, rather they result from responding to how he understands.
I will expand on this in my next post. Note: There is a lot here that needs to be developed. Sorry the Butler game is more important!

Halftime is over, Go Butler!!!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why I am a Berkelian/Edwardsian Idealist

During my spring semester, freshmen year, I was sitting in my history of philosophy II course, listening to Dr. Jim Spiegel discuss John Locke's theory of perception: We experience the world in terms of primary qualities and secondary qualities. Primary qualities would include bulk, figure, texture, and motion. Secondary qualities would include colors, smells, tastes etc. All qualities are experienced by humans who derive ideas from them, simple and complex ideas.

A question about how humans experience the world should naturally come up about the world itself. There needs to be something underlying these qualities, upholding them. Locke called this underlying thing a "material substratum." It is non-experiential and non-observable. Locke postulates that it exists because there needs to be something underlying all these qualities. They can't just sit out there without anything upholding them. How else can they have regularity and unity?

Locke's Doctrine was heavily critiqued by a bishop, an Irish bishop, named George Berkeley. (note: Berkeley was a man of the church, Locke was not and in fact was unorthodox. Theologians should take special not of that point! Irish people should take note that Berkeley is Irish.) Berkeley attacks Locke (And representationalist realism) on two key points. First, why do we need to postulate that there is a material substratum? Locke's make-up of the world (ontology) includes: minds, ideas and substratum. Berkeley argued that there is no need for a mysterious material substratum because its purpose is fulfilled by God. He upholds the universe by his thoughts. Unity and continuity in the physical world can be explained by saying that they are God's thoughts and their existence stems from him as ideas. Second, Berkeley attacked Locke by saying that you don't even know anything about this material substratum. If everything is known by experience, how do you know this thing exists? You can't in Locke's system.

So, according to Berkeley, the reality is made up of minds and ideas. There are two types of minds, finite and infinite minds. There are two types of ideas: real ideas and imaginary ideas. Humans are finite minds. God is an infinite mind. A real idea would be an idea that is contained in the mind of God and an imaginary idea would be an idea that we make up in our heads (imagine sci-fi horrifying monster.) Real ideas are public, imaginary ideas are private. A real idea would be the black phone right next to my computer screen. These ideas stem from God.

That's not too bad, esoteric and irrelevant to our regular lives, but wait. The repercussions of this is "esse est percipi," (To be, is to be perceived.). What? In order to exist, you must be perceived. That's odd. That means if a tree fell in the woods and no one perceived it hitting the ground, there would be no sound of it falling and in fact, there would be no tree. The reason, though, that we find trees laying on the ground with the appearance that they have fallen from their standing position is not just because you or some other finite mind perceived them. Rather it is because God perceived them, as an infinite mind, they did fall and with a noise.

In order for ideas to exist they must be contained in a mind. Ideas are mind-dependent. The physical world is made up of ideas and so the physical world is mind-dependent. It may appear that an idealist is a relativist (claiming their are no absolute truths) because all ideas are mind-dependent. That's not true. (Get it? hehe) For one, the idealist is making a universal claim about reality in actuality. For another, the only thing that is different for the idealist as opposed to the representative realist, is that the world is made up of all ideas. It does not say that all ideas are relative to the observer. It says the world is made up of ideas and is mind-dependent. My experience of reading this experience is similar to yours. The reason being, we are observing the same ideas which are God's ideas. (the black color against the white screen, the squiggly lines, the meaning derived.)

In my next post I will offer some more detailed objections to Bereklian idealism.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Prodigal God, Book Review

Recently I finished the book "The Prodigal God" written by Tim Keller. Keller is a pastor at Redeemer in New York City. He has written one other book, "The Reason for God"It is also a very good book.

"The Prodigal God" was written by Keller after hearing his seminary professor give a sermon/lecture on the parable of the prodigal son years ago. It is a short book, and one could read it in a night or two. Keller analyzes the parable from three different perspectives. First, the lost and repentant younger son, second, the proud elder brother and lastly, the loving father. I'm not going to go into detail about the contents of the book because I don't have it in front of me right now. I will say that Keller turned my understanding of this parable upside down. He says that most people will see this as a story of a father forgiving his son for rejecting him. (I would be one of those people before reading this short book.) Keller claims there is more to what Jesus was saying then meets the eye.

Jesus was telling this parable while discussing/arguing with the pharisees about various issues. It is among a couple of other parables. The context Jesus gives this parable and his audience deepens the meaning its meaning two-fold. First, Jesus is using it to reprimand the Pharisees for being "elder brothers." They are not willing to go into their father's house to celebrate the return of their lost younger brothers. Second, look how deeply the younger brother has offended the father and the father's response to this offense.

My general feeling about the book: if you haven't read it, read it! It's short and easy. It deepend my understanding of this parable and helped me better understand myself in relation to fellow Christians. This parable has special power for evangelicals today. We are often the elder brother in this story who aren't willing to step in the house of God with those who have spit in our father's face. We won't worship with them. Why not? Keller gives a poignant and very critical answer that we need to hear.

So read it if you have not already. It's worth two-three hours of your time.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Teaching to the Present and the Future

Tonight, for my Classroom Management Course, I interviewed a student teacher from Taylor. One of things we talked about was making the content relevant for the student. She is Math Education, and I am Social Studies Education so two very different subject matters. Both are very important for students in today's world. One thing that she noted about history was that one of her students told her history became interesting once he realized how much it effected the decisions that we make today and how helpful it is to predicting the future.

One the key importance about the discipline of history is that it helps us make decisions about the past. Yet, how can this be put into the classroom?

One way is to teach about the past and point out how it is effecting the present. This can be hard. "Who cares about what is going on Iraq today, much less 3000 years ago," says the naive student. Students, and people in general, don't care about what is outside of their immediate environment and does not bring about pleasure. According to Aristotle, failures at living the good life. Kierkegaard called this the "aesthetic life style." One who lives like this wants to be entertained and lives chiefly for pleasure. Their focus: the immediate environment around them.

How do you pull an aesthete out of his/her egotistical life? You take his immediate surroundings and make it bigger. You work with them to realize that we are a global society, what goes on in Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Kenya and where ever is important to their lives.

For instance, all students should be caring a lot about what is going on in Iraq right now. 1. We have American soldiers there. 2. Most the oil reserves are in the Middle East. Specifically, Iraq has 112 billion barrels. You want to drive home after school? Start paying attention and learn where the fuel you burn comes from and what that place is about. (By the way, the link to PBS is very interesting. Worth looking through.)

Another way to help students realize how important history is, is to relate to their personal life. I think biographies are extremely important here. The testimonies of Christians has been extremely helpful for my life, and I believe that if historical figures (good and bad) are taught in detail in the classroom, students will begin to realize the importance of history. [Just a thought: imagine being in a U.S. History course where it's all taught from the perspective of a specific individual in time. So what was the American Revolution like to Andrew Jackson and what it was like for a German Hessen. How could would that be!]

So there are two ways that I have come up to help students realize that history is important for their lives.

One last thought: be exited about your topic. I love history and if students see that in me, hopefully some of it rubs off. (This was one other thing that I got from my interview.)

"You have to know the past to understand the present."
Carl Sagan

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Problem of Personal Identity - Why it Matters (with a note on Descartes)

In Philosophy of Mind, there is a problem called "the problem of personal identity." How is it that "I" am the same person through time though every seven years, my body is made up of completely different matter? Descartes (and probably all/most of dualists) says that personal identity is found in the unchanging non-extended, indestructible mind/soul/spirit. This thinking thing is ontologically (ontology has to do with being of the nature of a thing) distinct from body and are radically different substances.

The problem with Descartes attempt to solve the problem of identity is "the interaction problem." How does the body and mind interact with each other if they are causally distinct. Other philosophers have given numerous answers from answering yes, no and maybe to trying to redefine the problem and/or becoming monists (the belief that human beings are composed of only one substance. Hegel, Berkeley, Leibniz, Spinoza, Dawkins, Hitchens, Nagel are some monists.) A second problem for Descartes is that it makes personal identity irrelevent to the body. This can be understood as a sub-problem of the interaction problem. If the mind and body are distinct from each other, isn't personal identity then irrelevent for the body? What is the connection? Hence: the interaction problem.

Why does this matter? 1. Descartes brought about David Hume who brought Kant and Hegel who brought about Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Marx who brought communism, socialism, existentialism and a bunch of other fun things that cause problems and solve problems. 2. I am being tested over this is about 2 hours. 3. It shows how finite we are. Whatever answer we give, it automatically restricts us to a certain view which seems to inevitably brings about problems.

In conclusion, do you agree with the picture?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Environment and Athletics

For the last two weeks the Taylor Cycling Club has been training in the basement of Samuel Morris Hall (my dorm). We ride between 30-40 minutes per session, three times a week. For those of you who have never rode on a bike trainer, during the winter months, when snow is on the ground and its really cold (-32), most bikers will not ride or they use what is called "a trainer." (some do cross training or other ways of staying in shape. Some are crazy and ride year around...)

In order to ride on a trainer, you attach the back wheel of you bike to the trainer, hop on and start pedaling, only you're not going anywhere. It gets boring quickly because there is no changing scenery, no sun, no wind and no one to ride with. When I ride by myself on the trainer, going beyond thirty minutes is quite difficult. Even when I do intervals, it gets boring very quickly. Movies and music can be only help so much.

Enter, fellow riders. The environment that other riders create on the trainer is helpful because it builds motivation. First, other riders act as a reference point as to how hard you're working. If you're not sweating and they are, you know you're not working hard enough or if your pedal stroke is slower or faster then other riders, you know that you're either working too hard or too easy. (This is hard to guage because some people have faster pedal strokes or are in a different gear.) Second, their is the emotional encouragement. Giving high-fives and seeing other people in pain or knowing that they see your pain, can be a good motivator. Lastly, It's more fun to watch a movie with friends, and its even more fun watching a movie while riding your bike with friends.

On that note, I want it to get warm, sunny so we can get off these trainers.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sex Education

Two studies recently came out with contradictory evidence regarding abstinence education. The first is from Guttmacher Institute, a think tank connected with Planned Parenthood. It says that in the last two years, there has been a slight rise (3%) in teenage pregnancy. This is in the age group of 15-19. Two things I would like to point out about this study. First, they found that pregancies in teenage girls at 18-19 were considerably higher then other age groups. What caused the 3% increase may have been this group. I find that interesting since this the time period that girls leave high school, end their education and enter "the real world." The second thing to point out is that though the Guttmacher Institute is connected with Planned Parenthood, I don't think that one can throw the study on the wayside because of potential bias. They have done research in the past which has given support for abstinence education. e.g. They reported the 41% drop in teenage pregnancy that occurred between 1990 and 2005.

The second study that recently came out from University of Pennsylvania of Medicine found that abstinence education models are more effective than their comprehensive sexual education counterparts. What are these models? (I found a good article answering this question earlier but lost the link.) This was an interesting study because it dealt with solely African Americans (6th-7th graders) and that after two years of participating in abstinence educational programs, only 1/3 of the students reported having sexual intercourse while 1/2 in the programs where "safe sex" was promoted reported having safe sex. The conclusion of the study is that "While the abstinence intervention program did not eliminate sexual activity completely, the study did demonstrate that such a program can successfully reduce the number of adolescents having sex."

Here are two contradictory studies. What does this mean for the debate over what type of sex education students should receive? One thing is for sure, it does not mean that abstinence education is proven to be inadequate to reduce sexual activity. Also, it does not mean that abstinence education is the cure-all.

I personally believe that there are deeper moral and cultural issues going on in the debate over how sex education should be taught. People bring their personal experiences into the debate, Also, one's view of sexuality is going to play into the debate, whether their are universal morals, how much of culture defines what is good as opposed to universal morals and other bunch presuppositional beliefs that we all bring to the table.

I have one question: what is the end goal of sex education? Is it to make sure students do not get pregnant, do not have sex or educate them about sex? Once this question is answered, I think it will bring clarity to this debate though it could create more tension.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How I Got Hurt, and two Ironies

Some may have seen my facebook status yesterday and now you see a picture. The story is this:
I was biking to the Dining Commons yesterday morning before work. I was rode there because I was trying to save time. It had snowed. There was ice on the sidewalk. I almost made it though. I got to the stop sign which is next to the Dining Commons. In order to cross, you need to make two small turns. On the second turn, I leaned in and suddenly I found myself on the ground.
Because of years of experience on the bike, and crashing on bikes, I was able to crash without the bike landing on me, it flew in front of me. Because my left hand was otherwise occupied, my right knee, right hand and chin took most of the blow. I'm glad I didn't have my whole weight on one spot. (Like my wrist, knee or chin.) So the impact dissipated throughout my body. I had a small gash on my hand. My knee was cut, and I had a scrape on my chin, which isn't noticeable because of facial hair.

I laid there for a bit, wondering if anyone saw me. No one was around.
I thought I heard voices, maybe the angels were arguing over who failed to protect me, or arguing who succeeding protecting me. I sat up, made sure nothing was broken and walked my bike to the Dining Commons. I got a first aid kit, fixed my hand and went to work, I didn't get breakfast because of the accident. My boss suggested that I should go to the Health Center when they opened (She threatened to call my hall director... though it wasn't a threat, I think it was more of a motherly warning.) So after work I went to the Health Center. They checked me out and cleaned out my cuts, which was really painful because the nurse had to dig into my skin to get sand and rocks out. I would have just left them, in my experience that stuff tend to come out eventually. (I am no medical expert and they said it could lead to an infection. If it was me, in the least they could have used a knife instead a cue tip to get it out though!) I didn't feel very good for a while, after I got some food, and took a nap, I felt much better. I'm still not back to 100% though. It probably will take about a week to fully recover.

The Two Ironies, including my Triathlon Goals for the Year
First, you may be wondering why my left hand was otherwise occupied when I fell. I was holding my coffee. Yes, I was riding my bike while drinking coffee. I won't do it again, at least I will try not to. The irony is that though I did not save my head, knee and hand, I did save the coffee. It was set nicely on the pavement, the top popped off but the majority of the drink was saved. I drank the rest at work.

Second, one of my goals for this year is to avoid being injured. I have struggled with with overuse injuries and avoidable accidents. Hopefully this is the only injury of the year, after my back and knees get better of course.
My other goal for the year is to get my sprint triathlon time below 1 hr. My best time is 1:06.29, and I believe I can get my speed up so that I can drop the necessary six minutes. This will also drop the quantity of hours and miles I will be doing. I think many of my injuries have been related to overuse and trying to do too much too early. So I do not plan on doing any longer triathlons this year, which is a bit frustrating, but I rather shoot lower this year and not get hurt then risk getting hurt and getting far ahead.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What is the State of the Union? A Small Analysis

Last night, the first black president of the United States gave his State of the Union address. Just recently the Republicans had gained filibuster power in the senate with the election of Scott Brown. So, he called for unity, implying that using filibuster power would shut down the government, which is what the republicans may do and is not a very good thing. (Having the government running smoothly is usually seen as good.)

Obama also called for more programs, reforms and hope. He also said that the government will stop spending beginning of January of 2011. I am currently unclear about what he meant, being non-politically educated. Does he mean not expanding expending or cut all spending, except for the spending he identified, namely spending on nationally security, medicare and medicaid and social security? My Dad said it was the former. It was a 70 minute long speech, his longest one yet. I zoned out a couple times and this was one of those points.

Obama did a good job of keeping up his momentum and was interesting, I got bored, but that is because it was me. I certainly felt comforted and assured everything is going to be okay. He was confident, firm and all those good things. This is unique in his administration. This past year it has been very cold, analytical and not very willing to give Americans a hug.

I would like to point out two specific points on new legislation and one point on legislation he didn't talk about. First, he talked about removing the "do-not-ask-do-not-tell" policy. He wants people who are attracted to the same gender to be allowed to be in the military and be open about it. That's going to stir up a lot of controversy. It's definitely NOT going to bring unity. Second, he wants to make tax breaks and spend less. I like that... How is going to pay for these programs then? Where is the money going to come from? Lastly, he didn't talk about the abortion issue. Smart move, why bring that up when the status quo is in your favor?

In conclusion, I am worried about how he wants to pay for all these great programs. They really do sound nice, they appear to be able to fix a lot of problems. In reality though, they will be warped into something different after they've been through congress. Also, you want to cut government spending at the same time, that's what Bush did. (Oh I need to add this: did you notice how he did not name the Bush administration, but alluded to it. I thought it was well done because he was making a point about a mistake of the past administration that he is having to deal with.)

So I hope nothing too bad happens in the next three years. Now, what will the Republicans do with their filibuster power? Will they stop the government and not be unified. Obama, with his glares and smirks toward them, certainly wasn't encouraging...