Friday, June 27, 2008

With the 4th of July weekend up ahead and a nice long summer for lovers of books on the beach (or books on ipod as you jog), I've decided on a weekly basis to beat the drums for my one contribution to the beach reading genre.

Think about adding it to your list. I'm up to almost a thousand active listeners on podiobooks if you'd rather listen.

Since it's Friday and the looming end of the work week naturally brings on thoughts of what beverages I'd like to concoct when I get home, have I mentioned that Richard John Neuhaus is my kind of priest?

Note the cigar in addition to the cordial.

Anthony Lane dismembers Angelina Collagen's Jolie's new movie, Wanted.

Is it me, or is she starting to resemble those mannequins that famed Italian horror film director Mario Bava put to such good use in his classics, Black Sunday and Black Sabbath?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Curt Schilling on Dan Shaughnessy's ongoing problems with telling the truth.
It’s not the first time he’s lied or misrepresented something, and knowing him it surely won’t be the last. The Red Sox did know that I was telling WEEI about the surgery and it was discussed with them the night before it happened. There was no desire on either side to call a press conference or something like it, but rather Theo and Tito would take questions off this morning announcement. Everyone knew, no one that needed to be informed was left out. It appears that CHB feels he’s in the “need to know” camp, when he in fact isn’t, and never has been.
Jump ahead to the 13:00 minute mark.
One of my favorite New Testament scholars, N.T. Wright, on the Colbert Report:

Hat tip: Ben Witherington.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Steve Matheson speaks up for us 'spineless appeasers':
1. I embrace evolutionary explanations because they have explanatory power. For the same reason, I embrace naturalistic explanations for the development of the human brain, and for the causation of cancer, and for the formation of the Grand Canyon. All of these explanations involve mechanisms that are referred to as "random." In fact, randomness and chance are interesting topics for Christians of all kinds and in nearly every aspect of scientific inquiry (if not all of life). In my view, to focus on these issues exclusively in the context of biological evolution is a huge mistake. If I thought the ID movement were really about wrestling with the notions of chance, providence and design in the analysis of God's world, I'd be happy to join the conversation. It's not, and I'm not.

2. I'm astonished by the casual claim that "Darwinian evolution" is "out of God's control" because of the role of "chance." Leaving aside some pretty clear statements about chance and God's providence in Scripture, I find the statement to be either a tautology ("Darwinian evolution is out of God's control because Darwin/Dawkins said it was") or a pronouncement regarding God's sovereignty that is anathema to me as a Christian (and especially as a Reformed Christian). In grumpier moods, or after reading some of the more obnoxious comments on this blog, I would suggest that such talk approaches blasphemy, but in any case I would not count myself among Christians who talk that way about God's world and his work. It's one thing to say you don't buy the Darwinian explanation, or to say that you're confused about the working of God's purposes in the midst of seemingly random events; it's another to declare that there are processes that God can't "control."

3. Regarding design, I don't have any desire at all to "ban the notion of design from science." In fact, I'm quite comfortable discussing design and wondering about the ways it can come about. I find most of the ID movement's claims about "complexity" and whatnot to be unconvincing (and Behe's work in TEoE is disastrously flawed), but I don't think the question is either silly or inherently unscientific. (Perhaps this means I'm not the kind of "TE" you have in mind.) On questions of design, my main difference with your movement is probably summarized aptly as follows: I think design is the question, and you think it's the answer. But this means I'm just not that interested in your movement's goals.

4. Unlike many on this blog, I don't harbor hatred for atheists, not even "unsavory" atheists, and I actively seek opportunities to interact with skeptics. I have many friends and very close collaborators who are atheists, and I just joined a collaborative blog that seeks to create constructive conversations among believers and skeptics, on scientific topics. Even if we agreed on everything else, your movement (or at least the corner of the movement represented by this blog) would be something I would carefully avoid, not only because I despise the culture-war rhetoric, but because the people you hate are many of the people I love.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One of the nice things when your kids get to reading age is finding out whether all those old books you held on to for years are of any value.

One of the first books I loved when I was in the first and second grades was the How and Why Wonder Book of Dinosaurs. Note the cost: $.69. That was in 1970 or 1971. The nuns had the H&W series at school and I bummed enough change from my parents to buy a set at the East Milton '5 & 10' store. (In those days there really were a lot of things you could get for five and ten cents.)

So it's gratifying to find that my 7-year-old not only likes to read from this every night, she prefers it to the more current books from the Children's section of Borders and Barnes & Noble. Given how much we've learned about dinosaurs since 1970, the book is still a delightful overview for kids (and doesn't talk down to them).

In short, my book-hoarding years are paying off.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Adam Kirsch looks at the 'subtleties' of Pat Buchanan's historical scholarship:
Mr. Buchanan's total reliance on the work of historians — there is no sign in this book that has opened a scholarly journal or delved into an archive — makes it a bit rich for him to claim that he is out to overturn some historians' consensus or conspiracy. "Historians today," he writes, "see in Hitler's actions [during the 1930s] a series of preconceived and brilliant moves on the chessboard of Europe, reflecting the grand strategy of an evil genius unfolding step by step ... This is mythology." The only mythology here is the existence of such naive "historians," none of whom Mr. Buchanan actually names. In fact, almost all of Mr. Buchanan's contentions have long pedigrees. When he writes that the Treaty of "Versailles had created not only an unjust but unsustainable peace," he is echoing what John Maynard Keynes wrote in the very year of the treaty, and what is now as close to a commonplace as history can show.
Well, this is an eye opener!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I agree with Andrew Sullivan. If Obama wins, he should keep this guy.

When the generals decided not to buy vehicles designed to deflect roadside bombs - since they might not be useful in future conflicts - Gates overruled them. In the view of this SecDef, protecting our troops now is more important than fantasies about tomorrow.

That said, Gates respects his generals just as he values the privates. He just won't tolerate substandard performers. His motto could well be "Never imperious, always curious."

In other words, he's the anti-Rumsfeld. As SecDef, Donald Rumsfeld surrounded himself with yes-men. Gates seeks out the best men.

Rumsfeld assumed he knew everything. Gates understands that learning never stops.

The Rumsfeld Pentagon ran a propaganda organization that amounted to a self-licking ice-cream cone. Gates disdains self-promotion.

When the going got tough, Rummy sent his underlings out to take the hits. When Gates makes tough decisions, he stands in the line of fire himself - as he did last week in front of those Air Force audiences.

While the Rumsfeld Pentagon was subservient to the defense industry, from Boeing to Blackwater (to say nothing of Halliburton and the like), Gates insists on giving our troops - and taxpayers - the best value for our defense dollars. (The contractors hope to wait him out.)

Rumsfeld was a bully. Gates is a warrior.

Few Americans will miss the Bush administration. But the men and women in uniform will miss Bob Gates. He's the model of what a public servant should be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Phil Plait gives an excellent summary of some seriously spooky quantum experiments on the international space station.
Book Notes
Out last month, and I happened to stumble on it at Borders: Herbert McCabe's On Aquinas. McCabe died in 2001, and by all accounts was one of the most interesting modern interpreters of the man from Aquino. He was a Dominican, teaching at Fordham, and never published any books. His lectures survived, though, and this little collection is magnificent. If you've never read anything by or about Aquinas, this is the best introduction.

Here's just a small sample from his chapter on how Aquinas treats deliberative reasoning. He's quite chatty, by the way (almost breezy), in that typical English style:
One reason why I am deeply suspicious of the market economy, allegedly based on absolute freedom of choice, is that it seems to have no way of distinguishing between decisive choice and whim, and no analyis at all of adult human action. As I see it, adult decision is in important respects sacred; whim is not. [p. 93]
True. One cannot help wondering just how many business models out there are in fact counting on whim, and how much damage that can cause a community.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Steve Matheson has an excellent two-part essay at 'An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution' concerning the teaching of biology at Calvin College. Part one is here. And the follow up was just posted.

Not to be left out, Scott Carson has a good post on evolutionary theory as it relates (or rather doesn't) to Catholic theology.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Fouad Ajami on Iraq:
Need we recall that the abolition of slavery had not been an "original" war aim, and that the Emancipation Proclamation was, by Lincoln's own admission, a product of circumstances? A war for the Union had become a victory for abolitionism.
From the latest New Yorker:
Anthony Lane rips Sex and the City.

James Woods on 'new' atheism: God doesn't exist (oh, and by the way, He sucks).