Friday, December 31, 2004

Infinite Monkeys: Hugh's Blog Book

Infinite Monkeys tells why Hugh's Blog Book is so important:

"I think many Americans believe blogs are a hot trend, but a temporary one, like CB radios. And, yes, for many bloggers the thrill of BlogSpot wears off quicker than you can say 'Breaker One-Nine, good buddy.' However, Hugh understands that there is something much deeper and more powerful going on here, and rightly compares it to Gutenberg and the Reformation. The way we communicate is fundamentally being changed, and while the New York Times, CBS and the political process are closest to the epicenter, the shaking will soon be felt in pop culture, religion, the arts and other unexpected corners of the world.
Hugh's book is a great survey: it moves briskly for those familiar with blogs, but wisely Hugh puts some of the meat in the middle where a casual reader looking in an airport bookstore will be drawn in (and this is the perfect book for reading on a flight, although the reader will be itching to get back to his computer to check out some of the blogs, especially the ones listed at the bottom of page XII). He clearly lays out the history of blogs, then goes further into the longer term implications. It really is essential reading."

Thursday, December 30, 2004

In Iraq, a clear-cut bin Laden-Zarqawi alliance |

In Iraq, a clear-cut bin Laden-Zarqawi alliance | "But now, the US and its allies face a grave and growing threat: an alliance of mutual interests and convenience between the group that carried out the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the one that has contributed so much to Iraq's chaos.
'There were certainly some differences between bin Laden and Zarqawi,'' says Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies. 'But these differences were minor compared to the biggest things they have in common - their desire to hit at the US.'"

And I'm sure this alliance started after the U.S. attacked Iraq. After all, both parties were in love with the U.S. before the impudent President Bush "rushed to war". Isn't it odd that the left can clearly see a "vast right wing conspiracy" but Islamofacists are all independent operators.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami Disaster Relief Part 2

If you would like a trusted means of giving to alleve the suffering of those devastated by the Tsunami in Asia you can give to CCC's Tidal Wave Relief Fund by clicking here.

Blogging on Blogging

Hugh Hewitt has a new book that helps quantify what the blog is going on around here. Instapundit thinks it pretty good and I suspect it is though I haven't yet read it.

The following quote illustrates the power of the internet with respect to niche markets and niche tastes. Blogs are just the niche markets of opinion media and the tail is apparently very long.

Wired 12.10: The Long Tail: "To get a sense of our true taste, unfiltered by the economics of scarcity, look at Rhapsody, a subscription-based streaming music service (owned by RealNetworks) that currently offers more than 735,000 tracks.
Chart Rhapsody's monthly statistics and you get a 'power law' demand curve that looks much like any record store's, with huge appeal for the top tracks, tailing off quickly for less popular ones. But a really interesting thing happens once you dig below the top 40,000 tracks, which is about the amount of the fluid inventory (the albums carried that will eventually be sold) of the average real-world record store. Here, the Wal-Marts of the world go to zero - either they don't carry any more CDs, or the few potential local takers for such fringy fare never find it or never even enter the store.
The Rhapsody demand, however, keeps going. Not only is every one of Rhapsody's top 100,000 tracks streamed at least once each month, the same is true for its top 200,000, top 300,000, and top 400,000. As fast as Rhapsody adds tracks to its library, those songs find an audience, even if it's just a few people a month, somewhere in the country.

This is the Long Tail.

You can find everything out there on the Long Tail. There's the back catalog, older albums still fondly remembered by longtime fans or rediscovered by new ones. There are live tracks, B-sides, remixes, even (gasp) covers. There are niches by the thousands, genre within genre within genre: Imagine an entire Tower Records devoted to '80s hair bands or ambient dub. There are foreign bands, once priced out of reach in the Import aisle, and obscure bands on even more obscure labels, many of which don't have the distribution clout to get into Tower at all."

Truly this is a new Reformation. I wonder what the implications of the long tail will be in the realm of religion. It seems likely that this kind of media reformation will be very challenging to oppressive regimes like Radical Islamist and the Communist Chinese. On the other hand for Christiam Culture which has already undergone a famous reformation, there seems to be a move back to unity and authority. Christian Blogs will be interesting to me because of the tension between this move back to authority and the inherenent democracy of the blogosphere.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami Disaster Relief has a one-click donation process set up to give to Red Cross relief efforts if you would like to quickly aid victims of the recent Tsunami.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Fathers and Sons at Christmas

Sand in the Gears reminds us of what Christmas is all about (or maybe just for boys):

"Target? Target! Their logo is a bloody bulls-eye, for crying out loud. Surely they would have cowboy guns, yes? Don't believe the hype.

And so it was with every destination. Time dragged on and the roads began to fill with grim-faced shoppers. In desperation I wheeled into the local mall. There was one place left, one final hope for a man intent on arming his children, in fine American fashion, for Christmas. The hobby shop.

I was greeted by a gruff bearded man. He could smell the panic on me, like a grizzled sergeant can smell it on a soldier in his first battle. "Something I can do for you, son?"

"Yes. Please. Please, for the love of all that remains good about America, tell me that you carry toy cowboy guns. Just a couple of cowboy guns is all I'm asking for. Toys R Us doesn't have them, Wal-Mart doesn't have them . . ." My voice trailed off.

He sized me up, perhaps to see if I was one of those pansy do-gooder Public Citizen types just looking to make trouble. Fortunately I hadn't shaved, and I was wearing flannel. "C'mon," he said with a gleam in his eye, "we just got in a shipment."

They just got in a shipment.

He led me to the back, where he had assembled -- and I am not making this up -- gun racks to hold all the toy armaments. If Santa ever needed to assemble a commando strike force, this could be his armory."

If you love what boyhood used to be, you'll love reading the whole thing. Merry Christmas to all, especially little boys and their Dads.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Bigotry on Campus

The Chronicle: Career Network: 12/15/2004: "After class, I asked one of the students for his read on what had happened. How could the response be so heated but the question left unengaged? He replied: 'You know how it is. Students don't want to disagree with their professors. Most of the students around here are pretty conservative, but they get the strong sense that their professors are liberal. And on issues like these, they're afraid to disagree.' They had made assumptions about how I would think and were reluctant to contradict me.
A couple of days later, during the Republican National Convention, I ate lunch with several colleagues. The discussion turned, inevitably, to politics. The anti-Republican tenor at the table remained unbroken, but reached its zenith with this vehement comment from one colleague, 'I'm not even going to watch [the convention]. I can't stand it.'
I could no longer blame the students for shying away from hot-button issues like Iraq: For them, the academy does not foster thoughtful discussion of thorny issues, but harbors the potential at any time to unleash the visceral reactions of their superiors to what students think are their own reasoned political positions. For students, the risk of speaking up is much the same as it is for me: They risk losing the respect of professors and perhaps endangering their long-term aspirations. "

Just another example.

More from a converted Atheist...

Biola > Page 1 : Biola News & Communications: "During a couple telephone discussions shortly after their last dialogue, Flew explained to Habermas that he was considering becoming a theist. While Flew did not change his position at that time, he concluded that certain philosophical and scientific considerations were causing him to do some serious rethinking. He characterized his position as that of atheism standing in tension with several huge question marks. "

This is a compelling interview between flew and a long time philosphical opponent. It's riveting. It's the equivalent of Steve Jobs suddenly becoming CEO of Microsoft. Or something like that.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

America's One Party State "Bias in universities is hard to correct because it is usually not overt: it has to do with prejudice about which topics are worth studying and what values are worth holding. Stephen Balch, the president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, argues that university faculties suffer from the same political problems as the "small republics" described in Federalist 10: a motivated majority within the faculty finds it easy to monopolies decision-making and squeeze out minorities."

It is interesting and ironic that conservatives would learn the meaning of institutional bigotry by being on the wrong end of it. For many years I've observed that liberals make too much of Institutional Racism and conservatives make too little of it. Perhaps turnabout is fair play.

Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / A left-wing monopoly on campuses / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / A left-wing monopoly on campuses: "'If this were a survey of students reporting widespread sexual harassment,' says ACTA's president, Anne Neal, 'there would be an uproar.' That is because universities take sexual harassment seriously. Intellectual harassment, on the other hand -- like the one-party conformity it flows from -- they ignore. Until that changes, the scandal of the campuses will only grow worse."

I'm so glad that this kind of thing keeps getting attention.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Leading Atheist Philosopher Concludes God's Real

Follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Leading Atheist Philosopher Concludes God's Real.

NEW YORK — A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism (search) for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God — more or less — based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew (search) has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson (search), whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club (search), a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"

The video draws from a New York discussion last May organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese's Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Flew; Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of Scotland's University of St. Andrews.

The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.

The letter commended arguments in Schroeder's "The Hidden Face of God" and "The Wonder of the World" by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.

This week, Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his "God and Philosophy," scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Books.

Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."

God is Alive... in Philosophy Departments!

I believe that this could signal the rebirth of the University as the center of the Judeo-Christian tradition (I'll explain more at the end). Consider the following information sent to me by my wizened friend Steve Hays:

is the only professional philosophy journal devoted exclusively to criticisms of
theism and defenses or developments of


the experience of its founding editor:

experience editing Philo was bittersweet. Philo was born out of
discussions between myself and Timothy J. Madigan, Executive Director of the
Society of Humanist Philosophers. I was concerned that recent work in the
philosophy of religion had been dominated by theists, with few replies and
critiques by atheist or humanist philosophers. Worse, a very conservative
strain of apologetic, heretofore relegated to the periphery of academic
discussion, had begun to enter the mainstream. I was, and am, convinced
that the vast majority of professional philosophers are nontheists who endorse
secular aims and values, yet, while theist philosophers energetically pursued
their agenda, the secular voice was mute.

Philo was
founded to provide the forum for the best and most sophisticated expression of
atheist and humanist philosophy, while still being open to the publication of
articles by theists. With much trepidation, I agreed to edit Philo, a job
for which I had no experience. While I have been proud to serve as the
founding editor, I have been disappointed by the response of the philosophical
community. For any journal to thrive, it must have a generous number of
high-quality submissions from top scholars. While I feel that the pieces
we did publish were generally very good, we often had to make issues slimmer
than I would have liked because we had too few top-notch submissions. I do
sincerely hope that humanist philosophers will support Philo by submitting some
of their best work and not leave the field to an increasingly strident and
aggressive religious


us follow this up with the admission of his editorial successor.

LATE 1960s

By the second half of the twentieth century,
universities and colleges had been become in the main secularized. The standard
(if not exceptionless) position in each field, from physics to psychology,
assumed or involved arguments for a naturalist world-view; departments of
theology or religion aimed to understand the meaning and origins of religious
writings, not to develop arguments against naturalism. Analytic philosophers (in
the mainstream of analytic
philosophy) treated theism as an antirealist or
non-cognitivist world-view, requiring the reality, not of a deity, but merely of
emotive expressions or certain “forms of life” (of course there were a few
exceptions, e.g., Ewing, Ross, Hartshorne, etc., but I am discussing the
mainstream view).

This is not to say that none of the
scholars in the various academic fields were realist theists in their “private
lives”; but realist theists, for the most part, excluded their theism from their
publications and teaching, in large part because theism (at least in its realist
variety) was mainly considered to have such a low epistemic status that it did
not meet the standards of an “academically respectable” position to hold. The
secularization of mainstream academia began to quickly unravel upon the
publication of Plantinga’s influential book on realist theism, God and Other
Minds, in 1967. It became apparent to the philosophical profession that this
book displayed that realist theists were not outmatched by naturalists in terms
of the most valued standards of analytic philosophy: conceptual precision, rigor
of argumentation, technical erudition, and an in-depth defense of an original
world-view. This book, followed seven years later by Plantinga’s even more
impressive book, The Nature of Necessity, made it manifest that a realist theist
was writing at the highest qualitative level of analytic philosophy, on the same
playing field as Carnap, Russell, Moore, Grünbaum, and other naturalists.
Realist theists, whom hitherto had segregated their academic lives from their
private lives, increasingly came to believe (and came to be increasingly
accepted or respected for believing) that arguing for realist theism in
scholarly publications could no longer be justifiably regarded as engaging in an
“academically unrespectable” scholarly pursuit.

passively watched as realist versions of theism, most influenced by Plantinga’s
writings, began to sweep through the philosophical community, until today
perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most
being orthodox Christians. Although many theists do not work in the area of the
philosophy of religion, so many of them do work in this area that there are now
over five philosophy journals devoted to theism or the philosophy of religion,
such as Faith and Philosophy, Religious Studies, International Journal of the
Philosophy of Religion, Sophia, Philosophia Christi, etc.
Christi began in the late 1990s and already is overflowing with submissions from
leading philosophers. Can you imagine a sizeable portion of the articles in
contemporary physics journals suddenly presenting arguments that space and time
are God’s sensorium (Newton’s view) or biology journals becoming filled with
theories defending élan vital or a guiding intelligence? Of course, some
professors in these other, non-philosophical, fields are theists; for example, a
recent study indicated that seven percent of the top scientists are theists.1
However, theists in other fields tend to compartmentalize their theistic beliefs
from their scholarly work; they rarely assume and never argue for theism in
their scholarly work. If they did, they would be committing academic suicide or,
more exactly, their articles would quickly be rejected, requiring them to write
secular articles if they wanted to be published. If a scientist did argue for
theism in professional academic journals, such as Michael Behe in biology, the
arguments are not published in scholarly journals in his field (e.g., biology),
but in philosophy journals (e.g., Philosophy of Science and Philo, in Behe’s
case). But in philosophy, it became, almost overnight, “academically
respectable” to argue for theism, making philosophy a favored field of entry for
the most intelligent and talented theists entering academia today. A count would
show that in Oxford University Press’ 2000–2001 catalogue, there are 96 recently
published books on the philosophy of religion (94 advancing theism and 2
presenting “both sides”). By contrast, there are 28 books in this catalogue on
the philosophy of language, 23 on epistemology (including religious
epistemology, such as Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief), 14 on
metaphysics, 61 books on the philosophy of mind, and 51 books on the philosophy
of science.

And how have naturalist philosophers reacted to what
some committed naturalists might consider as “the embarrassment” of belonging to
the only academic field that has allowed itself to lose the secularization it
once had? Some naturalists wish to leave the field, considering themselves as no
longer doing “philosophy of mind,” for example, but instead “cognitive
science.” But the great majority of naturalist philosophers react by
publicly ignoring the increasing desecularizing of philosophy (while privately
disparaging theism, without really knowing anything about contemporary analytic
philosophy of religion) and proceeding to work in their own area of
specialization as if theism, the view of approximately one-quarter or one-third
of their field, did not exist. (The numbers “one-quarter” and “one-third” are
not the result of any poll, but rather are the exceptionless, educated guesses
of every atheist and theist philosophy professor I have asked [the answers
varied between “one-quarter” and “one-third”]). Quickly, naturalists found
themselves a mere bare majority, with many of the leading thinkers in the
various disciplines of philosophy, ranging from philosophy of science (e.g., Van
Fraassen) to epistemology (e.g., Moser), being theists. The predicament of
naturalist philosophers is not just due to the influx of talented theists, but
is due to the lack of counter-activity of naturalist philosophers themselves.
God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now
alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.

Remember, this evaluation was penned by an atheist. What encourages me most about these developments is that philosophy is at the root of the academic enterprise. One can be a professor without being a biologist, but one cannot be a human being without having a philosophy. If the most rigorous philosophical inquiry leads to belief in God, then I expect that in 50 years the academic world will reject the fad of secularism and return to it's roots in theology as the queen of the sciences.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Long Time No Blog

I don't know whether it's fatigue after the election or just too many appointments and kids activities but the blog has been silent for too long. I've had many many things I wanted to blog about but just haven't. I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things now though.

Interesting Stuff