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Healthcare/Welfare and the Great Mistakes of the 20th Century

From F.A Hayek The Road to Serfdom Chapter 2:

To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives — the craving for freedom — socialism began increasingly to make use of the promise of a “new freedom.” The coming of socialism was to be the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. It was to bring “economic freedom,” without which the political freedom already gained was “not worth having.” Only socialism was capable of effecting the consummation of the age-long struggle for freedom, in which the attainment of political freedom was but the first step.

The subtle change in meaning to which the word “freedom” was subjected in order that this argument should sound plausible is important. To the great apostles of political freedom the word had meant freedom from coercion, freedom from the arbitrary power of other men, release from the ties which left the individual no choice but obedience to the orders of a superior to whom he was attached. The new freedom promised, however, was to be the freedom from necessity, release from the compulsion of circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us, although for some very much more than for others. Before man could be truly free, the “despotism of physical want” had to be broken, the “restraints of the economic system” relaxed.

Hmm. There is not just a little similarity with these arguments and the arguments posed for healthcare. Democrats argue that healthcare is not socialism. Pedantically speaking that may be correct. But that is, in part, just a technicality. There are parallels here.

Leaders of the Evangelical Generation: John M. Perkins. Community organizer


[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

John Perkins. Community organizer. b. 1930

John Perkins is a bridge from struggles of the civil rights movement to calls for evangelicals to “let justice roll down” to the poor and oppressed. A careful activist, Perkins inspires a new generation of Christians involved in social justice as chairman of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He says he seeks to “fill the vacuum of moral, spiritual, and economic leadership that is so prevalent in poor communities by inspiring people to develop themselves and their community through the gospel.”

When John Perkins meets with colleagues on boards and planning groups, he doesn’t seem angry, but cheerful, even grateful. He listens more than he speaks, but when he speaks, he does so with conviction. Perkins is an outspoken but gentle speaking man whose words and actions have thundered and shaken the evangelical establishment and complacency about the needs of many parts of the community that are being left behind.

A sharecropper’s son who grew up in New Hebron, Mississippi, in terrible poverty, he fled the Deep South to California at age 17, after his older brother’s murder at the hands of a town marshal. He vowed never to return.

But after his Christian conversion in 1960 he returned to Mendenhall, Mississippi, where he and his strong wife Vera Mae, founded Voice of Calvary Ministries to evangelize and work in community development. There, VOC started a church, health center, leadership development program, thrift store, low-income housing development, and a training center. Perkins also started development projects in the neighboring towns of Canton, New Hebron and Edwards.

Other the years, he never backed down from injustice, and his support and leadership in civil rights demonstrations resulted in repeated harassment, beatings and imprisonment (he was arrested and jailed during a protest as recently as 2005).

In 1982, the Perkins family returned to California and lived in the city of Pasadena, where John and Vera Mae founded Harambee Christian Family Center in northwest Pasadena, a neighborhood that had one of the highest daytime crime rates in California. Harambee is yet standing, running numerous programs–including after school tutoring, Good News Bible Clubs, an award-winning technology center, summer day camp, youth internship programs, and a college scholarship program.

In 1983, while yet in California, Perkins and his wife, along with a few friends and other major supporters, established the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development to support their mission of advancing the principles of Christian community development and racial reconciliation throughout the world.

Perkins is the author of nine books, including A Quiet Revolution, Let Justice Roll Down, With Justice For All, Beyond Charity, He’s My Brother, Resurrecting Hope, and A Time to Heal, and has written numerous chapters in others.

His strategy has always included not only community action, but also infiltration of the largely white evangelical governing structures. He has served on the Board of Directors of World Vision, Prison Fellowship, National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Spring Arbor College, and fifteen other boards.

A Few Great Speeches: Colson, Bush, Washington, Others

I love soaring, poetic speeches, and I particularly appreciate beautifully written short speeches that inspire. I blogged on inspiring short speeches in November 2004

I’m thinking today of great speeches I’ve witnessed in person.

The Enduring Revolution

First, a speech by Charles Colson on September 2, 1993 after he was awarded the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which he donated to the ministry of Prison Fellowship. Now defunct Moody magazine described (Nov. 8, 1993) the setting:

“Prison Fellowship chairman Charles Colson faced a situation that mirrors what the church as a whole faces. People of several faiths, many of whom were attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions, gathered at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago to hear an address on religious liberty. What do evangelicals have to say in a pluralistic setting? How do we talk about the cultural role of religion with those who worship other gods? As the winner of the 1993 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Mr. Colson had earned the right to stand on the platform. The speech, titled The Enduring Revolution, is what he said when he got there.


An excerpt:

We stand at a pivotal moment in history, when nations around the world are looking westward. In the past five years, the balance of world power shifted dramatically. Suddenly, remarkably, almost inexplicably, one of history’s most sustained assaults on freedom
collapsed before our eyes.

The world was changed, not through the militant dialectic of communism, but through the power of unarmed truth. It found revolution in the highest hopes of common men. Love of liberty steeled under the weight of tyranny; the path of the future was charted in prison cells.

This revolution’s symbolic moment was May Day 1990. Protesters followed the tanks, missiles, and troops rumbling across Red Square. One, a bearded Orthodox monk, darted under the reviewing stand where Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders stood. He thrust a huge crucifix into the air, shouting above the crowd, “Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!”

Gorbachev turned and walked off the platform.

Across a continent the signal went. In defiant hope a spell was broken. The lies of decades were exposed. Fear and terror fled. And millions awoke as from a long nightmare.

Their waking dream is a world revolution. Almost overnight the western model of economic, political, and social liberty has captured the imagination of reformers and given hope to the oppressed. We saw it at Tiananmen Square, where a replica of the Statue of Liberty, an icon of western freedom, became a symbol of Chinese hope. We saw it in Czechoslovakia when a worker stood before a desolate factory and read to a crowd, with tears in his eyes, the American Declaration of Independence.

This is one of history’s defining moments. The faults of the West are evident — but equally evident are the extraordinary gifts it has to offer the world. The gift of markets that increase living standards and choices. The gift of political institutions where power flows from the consent of the governed, not the barrel of a gun. The gift of social beliefs that encourage tolerance and individual autonomy.

Free markets. Free governments. Free minds.

Read the full speech, especially the masterful description of the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse.

A personal note: Jonathan Aitken related in his biography Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed, how I—as Colson’s executive assistant—employed some harmless yet somewhat Colsonian means to fill the Rockefeller Chapel for Chuck’s speech.

The Second Inaugural

The second speech on today’s list is George W. Bush’s 2nd Inaugural Address. My wife and I were on the Capitol lawn, close enough to be part of the event and see the participants, but honestly not close enough to see facial expressions, except on the big screen.

It was, I believe, every bit as masterful and soaring as Kennedy’s famous inaugural. Once people are done hating Bush, his second inaugural will be listed as one of the greatest presidential inaugurals in American history:


We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now” – they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

Notice how Bush tapped Lincoln’s second inaugural for some language.

(Other than the fact that I heard both of these speeches in person, what do these two speeches have in common? This answer to this question is at the end of the post.)


There’s been a lot of talk about the strength of John Edwards’ Two Americas speech (regardless of what you think of encouraging class warfare) But notice how he tapped what many see as one of the finest political speeches of our era, Mario Cuomo’s Two Cities speech at the 1984 Democratic convention.


Ten days ago, President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, even worried, about themselves, their families, and their futures. The President said that he didn’t understand that fear. He said, “Why, this country is a shining city on a hill.” And the President is right. In many ways we are a shining city on a hill.
But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city’s splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there’s another city; there’s another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages, and most young people can’t afford one; where students can’t afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.
In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can’t find it. Even worse: There are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn’t show. There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without a job or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don’t see, in the places that you don’t visit in your shining city.

In fact, Mr. President, this is a nation — Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a “Tale of Two Cities” than it is just a “Shining City on a Hill.”

The Most Important Forgotten Words of George Washington

The first George W. saved a young nation with the power of his words and his presence prior to the signing of the peace treaty of 1783. Restless American troops, unhappy with Congress, were scheming a military coup. Washington heard the rumors and surprised a room full of gathered officers, striding to the front of the room and speaking to them. The speech was evidently unremarkable, but what happened next was not:

Following his address Washington studied the faces of his audience. He could see that they were still confused, uncertain, not quite appreciating or comprehending what he had tried to impart in his speech. With a sigh, he removed from his pocket a letter and announced it was from a member of Congress, and that he now wished to read it to them. He produced the letter, gazed upon it, manipulated it without speaking. What was wrong, some of the men wondered. Why did he delay? Washington now reached into a pocket and brought out a pair of new reading glasses. Only those nearest to him knew he lately required them, and he had never worn them in public. Then he spoke: “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” This simple act and statement by their venerated commander, coupled with remembrances of battles and privations shared together with him, and their sense of shame at their present approach to the threshold of treason, was more effective than the most eloquent oratory. As he read the letter to their unlistening ears, many were in tears from the recollections and emotions which flooded their memories. As Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, put it in his journal, ” There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye.”

Finishing, Washington carefully and deliberately folded the letter, took off his glasses, and exited briskly from the hall. Immediately, Knox and others faithful to Washington offered resolutions affirming their appreciation for their commander in chief, and pledging their patriotism and loyalty to the Congress, deploring and regretting those threats and actions which had been uttered and suggested. What support Gates and his group may have enjoyed at the outset of the meeting now completely disintegrated, and the Newburgh conspiracy collapsed.

American Rhetoric has its ranking of the Top 100 American speeches

Answer to the earlier question about Colson’s Templeton Address and Bush’s Second Inaugural: Both speeches were drafted by speechwriter Michael Gerson, who began his career as a writer for Colson immediately following his graduation from Wheaton College, and went on to write for the president. Any question about who wrote much of the tremendous, spiritually rich prose for Bush will be put to rest if you read The Enduring Revolution.

On a non-religious Christmas

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a piece on the slant of the White House’ Christmas decor. From the Times,

But Washington is a city that likes its traditions, and Ms. Rogers has raised a few eyebrows by trying to bend them. When former social secretaries gave a luncheon to welcome Ms. Rogers earlier this year, one participant said, she surprised them by suggesting the Obamas were planning a “non-religious Christmas” — hardly a surprising idea for an administration making a special effort to reach out to other faiths.

A “non-religious Christmas”? Wouldn’t that be like having a Red Sox celebration in the middle of New York City? Hmmm. From FreeDictionary.com, we have, for the word “Christmas”,

1. A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus.
2. December 25, the day on which this feast is celebrated.
3. Christmastide.
[Middle English Cristemas, from Old English Cristes mæsse, Christ’s festival : Christ; see Christ + mæsse, festival; see Mass.]

Christian? Birth of Jesus? Christ? Mass? Certainly seems to be a whole lotta religion going on there.

Well, it seems that Desiree Rogers wasn’t kidding as, per Breitbart, none other than Chairman Mao made it onto a White House Christmas Holiday Tree (as an ornament). And, to top it off (the story, not the tree), the Obama family will not be attending church this Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Change… you can believe in.

Homeschool journals and the reliability of the Gospels

As part of our homeschooling endeavors, my wife and I will have our children keep journals while we are on road trip vacations. Besides being a method to keep them busy, the exercise also helps them learn about the various places we visit, as well as to hone their writing skills. Typically, we’ll have them keep a daily journal, encouraging them to be verbose and expressive as they relate the details of our trip.

On a recent trip, however, I asked them to take their journal writing in a slightly different direction. Instead of having them write from a perspective which relied heavily on feelings (i.e., expressing their thoughts and opinions about what we were doing), I instructed them to give an essentially historical and factual account of what transpired on the trip. They didn’t have to try and include everything that had happened each day, but only that which they considered most important or most unusual. As an added bonus to this alternative approach, my wife and I also kept trip journals.

After the trip, the journals were polished off and printed. I then had each family member read the entire set of journals. Once that task was completed, we all gathered for a group discussion. As expected, the journals were written in a chronological manner (e.g., Sep. 21, Sep. 22, Sep. 23). And, as expected, while the journals contained many of the same trip events, they were not equally comprehensive in their coverage of the trip. Descriptions varied, numerical values were sometimes rounded, specific events were ignored, etc. Due to the type of experiment I was conducting, I purposely varied the style of my journal from that of chronological to topical. I also crafted my account to include rounding, and exclude extraneous information of events that none of the other family members were a part of.

During our discussion I brought up these various differences in each of the journals. I asked what the differences might indicate (e.g., error, difference of opinion, omission). I asked if any of the differences indicated a direct contradiction or whether the differences were simply paradoxical. Essentially, I took our children through the process of harmonizing the four accounts of our trip. This was possible because the harmonization was being done on events they were eyewitness to, and the analysis was being made on data they had a direct part in producing.

Lastly, I then asked if they were aware of any other examples, of multiple accounts of the same events, having a different appearance in the forms we had just discussed. Our oldest quickly answered with, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,” and our youngest even piped in with the statement that Mark does not include any mention of Jesus’ birth. This, of course, was the point of my exercise: To show our children, brought up in the midst of a 21st century Western culture which prides itself in recording data comprehensively, that historical narratives can (and do) vary, and that such variances are not, in and of themselves, indicative of contradictions or errors.

I think that an exercise, such as this, is important for our children (and for some adults) to understand. During our discussion, I told our children that there are critics of Christianity, and the Bible, who will attempt to convince believers that there are irreconcilable contradictions within the text of the Bible. As this exercise hopefully demonstrated, we have the means to intelligently respond to the critics.

A Personal Bible: because you’re worth it

In our self-absorbed, narcissistic culture, filled with people desperate to find meaning to their lives, is it no surprise we’ve generated the Personal Promise Bible? (HT: STR)

Have you ever inserted your name as you read the Bible to make it more personal? Now you can experience the reality of God’s love and promises in a way you never thought possible. In the Personal Promise Bible, you will read your first name personalized in over 5,000 places throughout the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs, over 7,000 places throughout the complete Old and New Testaments.

Indeed, with a tagline of “as unique as you are”, such a product only reinforces the notion that the Bible was written directly to us individually. This, I think, is an issue that has crept up in the evangelical church in America. In Bible studies, class discussions, and sermons alike, do any of these phrases sound familiar: “To me, this verse means…”, “What does this verse mean, to you?…”, “My special verse is…”, or “God gave me this verse…”? It’s this “the Bible was written to me” idea which causes so many Christians to literally steal away the intended meaning of scripture. Consider the classic “my special verse” of Jeremiah 29:11,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The main problem with this unique-as-you-are Bible is that most of the Bible was not written directly to us! This certainly does not mean we cannot gleam truths, insights, applications and personal significance from the words in God’s Word, but it does mean we should approach the written Word in a manner consistent with how we approach any written form of communication. We must understand the historical foundation of Israel and the early Church which, as with any foundation, precedes us and on which we stand. We must understand that the ultimate author of the Bible (God) has an intent (plan) He is communicating to all people and working out through His church. And we need to realize that the individual authors of the Bible, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in specific literary genres, to specific audiences, with specific intentions.

If we fail to understand these basic premises, and choose to personalize essentially the entire Bible, we’ll end up with an anti-Word. Consider Jeremiah 29:11 in this unique-as-you-are context: “For I know the plans I have for Rusty,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper Rusty and not to harm Rusty, plans to give Rusty hope and a future.” How many times have you heard Christians take this verse in essentially that personal-for-me context? Yet, are they ready to do the same with the preceding verse? “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to Rusty and fulfill my gracious promise to bring Rusty back to this place.”

It’s interesting to note, when I’ve pointed out Jeremiah 29:10 to people who want to claim Jeremiah 29:11, the mental gymnastics that take place to suddenly turn the meaning of verse 10 into an allegory or metaphor or something completely apart from the personal promise they are so convinced is contained in verse 11.

Could it be that one reason we’ve drifted into a post-Christian culture is because we completely misunderstand our place in God’s Plan through an ill-educated approach to reading His Word?

Of the Cross and Culture

Much discussion has been had by Christians today (and in past ages I’d imagine) of the role of the Christian should take in the public square, especially in a modern multicultural democracy. People speak derisively of a Christian ghetto and/or the consequences of withdrawal. Others promote activism, marches and other ways of

For myself, I would offer another tack, that our ventures in the public square be dominated by some of the cardinal virtues from early Christianity: humility and charity and love.

A hermit advised, “If someone speaks to you about a controversy, do not argue with him. If what he says makes sense, say, ‘Yes,’ If his comments are misguided, say, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’ If you refuse to dispute with his ideas, your mind will be at peace.”

We can carry that into our public life and projections. I’d further that with the observation that others bad opinion of us, is good our our souls, it fosters native humility at the very least.

So, if you are told you hate gays because you oppose gay marriage, do not defend your pride and your honor, with rebuttals on loving the sin and hating the sinner or anything such as that. Just offer  “I don’t know anything about that” or go further and just humbly assent … and continue volunteering for hospice and other medical care.

If you are told, because you don’t support various tax policies or the current healthcare shambles that you hate the poor, don’t explain your view or defend yourself. Just offer, “I don’t know anything about that” and keep giving freely of your time and money for the homeless and those in need.

If you are told, that because you adhere to a pro-life position, you hate women, don’t counter with argument of person and the life of the fetus. Just offer, “I don’t know anything about that” and keep working with PASS and the like.

If the law asks you to act against your conscience, fill the jails with psalter and song. What do you fear, you who have the words of eternal life? Do you think you need to strike out with political power and organization to defend Christ? If His armies were of the world, they would have mobilized before Pilate to defend him.

In all cases where a person with which you are interacting is convinced your beliefs are hateful or harmful, rhetorical defences will not convince the other that you are right or righteous, but that you are clever enough to rationalize those harmful beliefs. Hitler killed millions, convinced he was doing it for the good of Germany. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and the other communist leaders killed their millions seeking to reshape society to what they felt would be a better world. With these examples still ringing in the air, one cannot use dialectical methods to convince the other your cause is just. You can’t convince a person with polemic. Rhetoric and the pen might be mightier than the sword, but a carpenter born in a stable and a dozen fishermen from the back-country didn’t change the world on account of rhetoric nor by their particular actions. The charity, their love, and their humility did.

Each of us, made in the image of God, has the flame of His Spirit burning within us. It is the Christian calling in community to foster and help that flame to grow in our neighbor. When confronted with secular culture, more specifically with a person or persons with whom you disagree over point or principle the question should not be how do I persuade that person I am righteous. The only question at hand is how do I nurture their flame?

Don’t argue, but do vote your conscience. Don’t talk, but do act. Teach your children to love and fear the Lord with your love and example. And when acting do so always with the humility and the love that comes from Christ.

Most Influential Evangelicals?

I’m working on a project that explores what I’m calling “the evangelical generation” from 1976 through the present.  As part of the research, I’m considering the question: “Who have been the 35-40 most influential evangelicals of our generation?”


Who would you list, and why?

Of Mind and Machine

About a week ago, I wrote a post continuing the development of a model of creativity and intelligence, although at this model might be seen as a tad overstated). In that post, I outlined an ansatze for the semiotic scaffold that the human noetic machinery manages, bridging the gap between mechanism (network and pathway) all the way to meaning and intent. (the rest below the fold) Read the rest of this entry

A Break for the Political … Some Thoughts on Thought

Recently I had a brief conversation with an office mate about some discussion on this blog regarding the noetic and the real. Transcendental and irrational numbers, such as Pi and ideas of continuity, are argued to have a different connection with the real than flying pink unicorns. My interlocutor (and, I should add, good friend) suggested that Wigner, in a rather well known essay, put his finger on one criteria we use sift the noetic universe for those objects there that have more or less connection to reality. That is to say, because of the unreasonable success of mathematics this gives rise to the (not unreasonable intuition) that mathematical ideas are more real or alternatively the more mathematically connected an idea is that it therefore has a larger “real” connection.

Long ago, I had some conversations on free will (see this and this here and finally this). One of the issues regarding will, creativity, and genius is that the human if it is to be regarded as only a meat machine somehow constructs a semiotic (or semantic) scaffold and develops real noetic content in its internal states and thereby in its actions. A clock or even a computer does not in its internal machinations and actions manage to do this. A clock’s and a computer’s meanings are only derived through the agency of a being which has constructed this scaffold, that is the internal states of a clock do not render time unless it is viewed by a creature (like us) who has constructed the semiotic scaffold and does and can attach meaning to physical states.

In the above linked essays, which were admittedly in the form of explorations and not complete or even coherent ideas, the notion that one view of the human creative engine might be viewed as a aesthetic expert system linked/driven to/by a symbolic noise generator for a description of how it works. This engine itself is recursively driven, that is the problems it works on are posed by itself and indeed the programming and improvement of that same expert system is driven by its past results and working.

I’m going to modify that picture slightly and add an additional ansatz and see how that works. The symbolic noise might be viewed as a glimpse into the wilder universe, the one much less reasonable than the ordered one we inhabit, namely the noetic world. This leads me to the ansatz … that the noetic universe is real, just as real as the concrete material world a separate space with its own logic, laws, and evolution. Ideas, a thoughts, a symbols all can be just viewed as individual points (or events?) existing and defining a noetic universe. It is real, but it is a separate space. What we regard as “real” vs “imaginary” or more real vs more imaginary are just metrics for measuring movement or location in the noetic universe. In this view, the wild soup of noetic noise which drives our creative process is a window looking out at the welter and waste of the roiling noetic landscape.

In the material universe, life is a funny anti-entropic cluster of stuff. What would the analogue to life be in the noetic universe? Dawkins meme might be a microorganism in this realm. But microorganisms are not the only living things in our material world. More complex and more evolved, some (like us) are even intelligent. If a Dawkin’s meme is a micro-organism in the noetic universe, what then would one call a thinking self-aware creature in that space? A demon or angel perhaps? And why would we expect that the windows to the other universe is one way?

I should add as a final note, a hat tip to Larry at Rust Belt Philosophy for helping trigger me to try to crystallize into essay form some half-formed ideas that have been batting around my noggin recently … which gave rise to the above essay.

A Monastic’s Advice for the Laity

In the discussion which followed last night’s post on the New Monastics, I offered relay the advice St. John Climacus had in the first step of the Ladder for the laity:

Some people living carelessly in the world put a question to me: “How can we who are married and living amid public cares aspire to the monastic life?”

I answered, “Do whatever good you may. Speak evil of no one. Rob no one. Despise no one and carry not hate. Do not separate yourself from church assemblies. Show compassion to the needy. Do not be a scandal to anyone. Stay away from the bed of another, and be satisfied with what your own wives can provide you. If you do all of this, you will not be far from the kingdom of heaven.”

In class, Fr. Elijah offered that general Orthodox belief that for everyone, not just the unmarried, celibacy is ultimately where we end up. For the married couple, celibacy and the celibate calling arises as one gets older.

A Change of Pace: My Day

Well, it’s been a long day, as I noted Sunday night and I thought I’d do something different tonight … and talk about my day and what I’m doing down here in Florida. I’m not going to mention the name of my customer for obvious reasons. Two co-workers and I flew down Sunday night to install two in-motion printers on a shipping/manifesting system, each of which should be able to process 15-20 cartons per minute. It was the middle of last week when we decided the work required would be impossible to complete in two weeks for just two people, so we added a third. I’m the software guy (developer, maintainer, installer, documentation and all the rest) on the job plus the project manager. The other fellows are responsible for the electrical and mechanical installation. When the wiring is completed and the I/O checks out (both digital and serial hardware is tested and verified) one of the installation guys will head out. My nominal schedule has that for tomorrow night. We look to be on schedule for that … but it’s going to be close. So … for the last two day’s I’ve mostly been doing whatever I can to help out the install. Schlepping boxes, pulling cable, climbing ladders, crimping cables. Tomorrow I’ll be verifying I/O as the field wiring is landed in our panels.

So far it’s been a happy project. The overall project manager for the installation is a friendly guy and things seem to be going well. The schedule has slipped some but his customer must not be giving him what-for on that account (and it very well was their fault). The other subs have been pleasant too. While the facility is warm it is somewhat air-conditioned so we don’t have to deal with the Florida heat and humidity all day. We do in fact marvel at the contrast between the Chicago and Florida summer (and flora and fauna). The systems we’re installing are on a high mezzanine with a steel grate on the floor. As that is the case, we’ve been instructed where possible to pass wiring under the floor. So I’ve been up ladders and scissor lifts a lot in the past two days.

My feet are very sore, pads and tendons both. After spending a day on my feet (or two) working on steel or concrete floors I always end up in awe of people who work on their feet for a living. As this week progresses I’m going to be on my seat pounding the keyboard more and more … which will be a welcome relief.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been about lately.

Bringing Solzhenitsyn in to the American Torture Debate

Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty has started reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Achipelago. If it his purpose would likely be better served by reading The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Mr Solzhenitsyn had a number of polemical points he was making in his three volume of the Achipelago . The purpose of the detailed descriptions of NKVD atrocities was in part to establish scope and then to tie historical threads inescapably connecting those atrocities to the figure of Lenin (still revered in parts of Western Academia and the left) with Stalin whom normally gets the brunt of the blame. Post-Stalin Communist and Soviet apologists attempted to fix the blame for the terror on Stalin and exonerate his predecessors including and primarily Lenin. Solzhenitsyn demonstrated clearly that this was a flawed understanding. Yet, another major theme in these books is one of optimism, of the unquenchable human spirit and the value and perhaps the necessity of the Christian faith in the face of such suffering. It is this last theme that Mr Kuznicki will not find as useful. Mr Solzhenitsyn found the problems of East and West rooted in atheism and “the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness” … a theme not often found to get a good reception at Positive Liberty.

Solzehnitsyn, born in 1918, was raised and trained in mathematics and he tought for some time. He was a loyal and unquestioning Soviet and fought (and was decorated) in WWII as an artilleryman. He was then caught in Stalin’s web and sent to various work camps, i.e., the gulag. It was there he became Christian (for an excellent example of the epitome of that, this book Father
is very inspiring). Somewhat like Edith Stein of whom I’ve written before, it was the example of Christians in response to hardship and loss of life that inspired a person to the faith in the modern world.

I offer this in the light of 9/11, note that this was an address to the AFL-CIO and was given in 1975, which I quote from here. I thought the mention of the towers intruiguing.

“Is it possible or impossible to transmit the experience of those who have suffered to those who have yet to suffer?  Can one part of humanity learn from the bitter experience of another or can it not?  Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of danger?… The proud skyscrapers stand on, point to the sky and say: it will never happen here.  This will never come to us.  It’s not possible here…  Humanity acts in such a way is if it didn’t understand what Communism is, and doesn’t want to understand, is not capable of understanding… The essence of Communism is quite beyond the limits of human understanding.  Its hard to believe that people could actually plan such things and carry them out…
“Communism has infected the whole world with the belief in the relativity of good and evil…  Among enlightened people it is considered rather awkward to use seriously such words as ‘good’ and ‘evil.’  Communism has managed to instill in all of us that these concepts are old-fashioned concepts and laughable.  But if we are to be deprived of the concepts of good and evil, what will be left?  Nothing but the manipulation of one another. We will decline to the status of animals.
“That which is against Communism is for humanity.  To reject this inhuman Communist ideology is simply to be a human being…  It’s a protest of our souls against those who tell us to forget the concepts of good a evil…
“I understand that you love freedom, but in our crowded world you have to pay a tax for freedom.  You cannot love freedom just for yourself and quietly agree to a situation where the majority of humanity over the greater part of the globe is being subjected to violence and oppression.
“Yet when one travels in your country and sees your free and independent life, all the dangers which I talked about today indeed seem imaginary.  I’ve come a talked to people, and I see this is so.  In your wide open spaces even I get a little infected.  The dangers seem a little imaginary.  On this continent it is hard to believe all the things that are happening in the world.  But gentlemen, this carefree life cannot continue in your country or in ours.  The fates of our two countries are going to be extremely difficult, and it is better to prepare for this beforehand…
“Two processes are occurring in the world today.  One is a process of spiritual liberation in the USSR and the other Communist countries.  The second is the assistance being extended by the West to the Communist rulers, a process of concessions, of détente, of yielding whole countries.

I will add, I think Mr Kuznicki’s program of trying to establish a consequential argument against torture to be flawed in principle as well as in fact. Evidence that the previous Administration was ineffective at getting information from torture is not a good argument. In the early years in Iraq a lot of what we tried to do was ineffective and badly done. A person making consequential argument against Mr Kuznicki has just to reply that “they did it badly” and that Mr Obama’s boys will “do it right.”

Again the better argument is that, torture is wrong. We don’t do it because it is un-American and unethical. We understand that there may be real costs in setting this aside. We have to say that we accept those costs. America is fond of the free lunch. Alas, in the real world, there is no free lunch.

One final note, a politicial thesis of Solzhentisyn has been argued by Mahoney that it is not out of touch with modern Libertarian or Conservative thought:

Mahoney locates a crucial element of Solzhenitsyn’s political teaching in his analysis of Peter Stolypin,
the Prime Minister of Russia from 1906–11. Solzhenitsyn’s appreciation of Stolypin has been largely unknown because it appears in the second
edition of August 1914: The Red Wheel I (1989), which few have read. What Solzhenitsyn claims in the Stolypin chapters is that a
moderate alternative to Tsarist autocracy existed in Russia in the early twentieth century—namely, a peaceful evolution toward a
European–style constitutional monarchy under the enlightened statesmanship of Prime Minister Stolypin.

The main features of Stolypin’s plan were the preservation of the Romanov dynasty and Orthodox Church, combined with
economic and political reforms—reforms that would have given land to peasants and established local self–governing councils. Tragically,
Stolypin was assassinated by terrorists who feared the success of his plan (which Solzhenitsyn estimates could have created an independent
peasantry in twenty years and prevented Communist revolution). Mahoney’s analysis shows Solzhenitsyn to be a Burkean–style admirer of
constitutional monarchy that gradually evolves toward ordered liberty while preserving his nation’s distinctive traditions.

It is in part from this that my personal ideas of the coming collapse of freedom in this country and the need for localization, the “local self-governing councils” in early 20th century Russia, are required to be started and fostered here or we too will lose our liberty. It can happen here.

Things Heard: e61v4

  1. Breast nazis exposed, err, in a manner of speaking.
  2. Faith and science … and a Russian Saint.
  3. Advice on selecting what to read.
  4. Looking for a book on anger and forgiveness and the Christian life. My suggestion was The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World.
  5. A problem with the de-baptism thing. Including of course … why?
  6. Petraeus on Pakistan. More on that front here.
  7. Heh, the bike and April 1.
  8. A “not funny” April 1 joke.
  9. Verse.
  10. Temptation and Lent.
  11. On living the Christian life.
  12. Parents. Not perfect (well, duh).
  13. A notable ex-Baptist swims the Tiber.
  14. Will he do it?
  15. A paper on materialism and mathematics (HT: Mr Reppert).
  16. Gaffe. So, is he being stupid or intentionally insulting?

Free Will and the Universe: Part 2 (the Theorem)

As I mentioned Friday, I’m going to begin a short discussion about this paper on some consequences of special relativity and quantum mechanics on our view of determinism and the Universe. The authors, John H. Conway and Simon Kochen, establish three “axioms” (and a “paradox”) and from these statements establish consequences which have wide ranging implications. All of these measurements and the following discussion regard the behavior of a spin 1 massive particle. Spin 1 massive particles can have three possible measured values of quantum mechanical spin, namely -1, 0, or 1. Part 1 in which the axioms (and the Kochen-Specker paradox) are discussed can be found here.

In this installment of my discussions of this (which will have at least one and perhaps two more parts) I will examine the theorem which is at the heart of this paper. Blog neighbor Jim Anderson, noting my “homework assignment” finds the third paragraph daunting. The statement of the (strong) Free Will theorem is:

The Free Will Theorem. The axioms SPIN, TWIN and MIN imply that the response of a spin 1 particle to a triple experiment is free—that is to say, is not a function of properties of that part of the universe that is earlier than this response with respect to any given inertial frame.

Conway and Kochen prove this theorem by contradiction, that is they assume the theorem is not true and show that leads to a problem, in this case the the contradiction comes in the form of the Kochen-Specker paradox.

The basic form of the proof is to take two TWIN particles subjected to the SPIN measurement and begins to follow the consequences that these particles are “not free”. What is meant by free? This takes a particular meaning. If this measurement is free it means that the result of this measurement is not the consequence (a function of) of anything which has occurred earlier in any reference frame.

So, the authors express this measurement in terms of a collection of parameters denoted as alpha. In brief, the method employed in the proof is to pare down that unconstrained parameters sets (axis or other prior settings) via group arithmetic and MIN (one of the axioms from yesterday) to be able to finally express the measurement as a function which is recognizable as the same function which by the Kocken-Specker paradox cannot exist. Then, since the function cannot exist then the prior constraints on the particles measurement cannot exist either.

The paragraph quoted by Mr Anderson as less than transparent to the worlds most competent reader are placed there largely, I think, are included to these results to bear on a more recent proposal (called GWR and rGWR in the paper) which attempt remove by stochastic arguments the “measurement/collapse” of quantum wave functions which is philosophically speaking, uhm, difficult. I have not read any of the rGWR papers or any discussions of them so I will leave that for another time.

Mr Anderson (and his commenter) remark that this paper perhaps goes too far, offering

From what I can tell, it’s an attempt to demonstrate free will by noting that at least one property of elementary particles is nondeterministic. This still doesn’t prove the philosophical idea of free will, however. It appears only to impute it to an object, with a lot of anthropomorphizing to make it all work.

I don’t think that’s the case at all, however. The notions of free will which they think this offering lacks “intentionality, “responibility” and so on are not being discussed here. In any discussions of free will and compatabilism see for example wiki or the Stanford Encyclopedia, there is indeed a lot of discussions over whether determinism and free will are can co-exist. Yet, the universe in which we live is not deterministic. So the compatibility problem shifts. It is not a question of whether free will and determinism can exist but how free will arises in a fundamentally non-deterministic universe. The usage of the term “free will” for the theorem is to point that the freedom of the elementary particle to choose it’s “101” (squared) spin statistics result is equivalent and indistinguishable from the experimenters free will to determine the axis by which the measurement will be taken. No the axis of measurement (and the particles choice of 101,011, or 110) is not a moral choice obviously. But glancing through the compatiblism articles cited above, little space is seemingly granted to the considering consequences of a non-determinstic universe … or if incompatiblisim may be possible, i.e., “or that free will is true, therefore determinism is not” … and since determinism is not might free will be a possiblity?

The point is much discussion within the philosophical community grounds itself on the notions of whether or not determinism is true, i.e., whether the universe is really or is really not deterministic. Physics insists that there is an answer to that part of the question. The universe is not deterministic. So however you argue about free will that part of the argument should be settled.

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