Monday, 31 December 2012


Getting Mad 

Maria Bartiromo skewers a Senate hack over the looming fiscal cliff. She gets an ovation from traders on the floor. If this frustration is being shared outside of the Wall Street bunkers, maybe "we shall see the people rise". Hat Tip: Patterico

Already Forgotten, If Ever Seen

Turning the Blind Eye

As we close out 2012, we wish to do so marking the great suffering of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The persecution of Christians has proceeded apace in the past twelve months, but such is not the stuff of polite dinner conversations.  Civitas has produced a global report, entitled Christianophobia on the state of opposition to Christianity, which, at present, is primarily occurring  in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Edward Malnick, writing in The Telegraph, summarises the findings of the Civitas report.
  • Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.
  • Politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Letter from NZ to America (On Fiscal Cliffs)

Clearing Up the Mess

Our friends in the United States, facing the fiscal cliff, may find this bulletin board helpful in clarifying the issues.  Let's hope the nation turns out to be "shovel ready". 

Hat Tip: Whaleoil

Poisonous Green Shoots

The Egyptian Spring Unveiled

Constitutions of nation states serve as the highest, or entrenched law of the land.  The constitution cannot be discarded or changed by an act of Parliament or Congress.  Rather, the legislative and executive and judicial branches of government are bound by the precepts and governing arrangements laid out in a constitution.

In order to function effectively as a limit to state power and a protector of the civil rights of subjects, the governing powers and the law courts need to submit themselves to the constitution.  The ultimate defender and enforcer of sanctions upon those who violate a constitution is "we the people".  It is for this reason that the recently adopted Egyptian constitution will be an abject failure.  In the plebiscite held to adopt the constitution, 60 percent approved it, but only 30 percent voted which implies that the brand new Egyptian constitution enjoys not more than 18 percent national support.

The Egyptian constitution, then, is an irrelevance.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Advance Australia Fair

Richie McCaw vs Australia

It's the day of the final Australian test match and Richie McCaw goes
into the All Blacks changing room to find all his teammates looking

"What's up?" he asks.

"Well, we're having trouble getting motivated for this game Richie. We
know it's important but we've just beaten Argentina and South Africa
in consecutive weeks and, let's be honest, it's only Australia. We
simply can't be bothered."

Richie looks at them and says: "Oh well, the way they've been playing
recently, I reckon I can beat these Aussies by myself.  You guys go
down to the pub and forget about rugby."

So Richie goes out to play the Wallabies by himself while the rest of
the All Black team head off for drinks.

Long Time Coming

A Reasonable Judge

There has been a succession of judges in New Zealand who seem to have the view that holding a judicial power to bail constitutes a duty to bail.  This infantile mistake has undermined the judiciary.  It has also led to innocent people being assailed by violent men and women who were out on bail awaiting trial for previous arrests.  In some cases this had led to tragic and completely preventable deaths. 

In the Auckland District Court we now have a judge who appears to see through the judicial confusion on this point.  Justice Russell Callander has decided that people arrested for violent offences should not be granted bail.  It has been a long time coming, but we are grateful nonetheless. 

This, as reported in the NZ Herald:

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Go Overboard

Go Overboard Celebrating Christmas

A godliness that won't delight in fudge and eggnog is no godliness at all.
Go Overboard Celebrating Christmas
God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything
God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything
Douglas Wilson
Canon Press
November 20, 2012
154 pp., $16.00


Socrates once famously said that the unexamined life is not worth living. In a similar vein, the unexamined holiday is not worth celebrating. Whenever we do anything on autopilot, it is not surprising that at some point we forget where we are going, or what we were supposed to be doing. And when we are just cruising in a mindless tradition, it is a short time before sin takes over.
And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. (Is. 25:6–8)
As the prophet Isaiah prophesies the coming of the new covenant, he does so with the image of a glorious feast. The feast is prepared by the Lord of hosts Himself (v. 6). What kind of feast is it? He prepares a feast of fat things, he prepares a feast of aged wines, of meat full of marrow fat, and then some more aged wines.

Protecting One's Own

Guild Socialism, Teacher Unions, and Compromised Professionalism

In the "debate" over the introduction of Partnership (Charter) Schools in New Zealand the teacher unions have been kicking up bobsy-die (as our grandmother's would have had it).  They have been banging on about the terrible dangers that await children being taught by unregistered teachers.  Yes, imagine what horrors await our children. 

Long experience has taught the Western world that guilds and unions exist primarily for the interests of their members in a "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine" manner.  One way this is done is to restrict membership in the guild or union, so that competition is reduced.  Another way is to exclude anyone but a union member being able to hang out a shingle and trade.  So it is with the registration of teachers.  The unions want to keep unregistered teachers out of the profession and keep their own members in it.  The teacher unions want an enforced monopoly when it comes to their profession. 

How does that work out?  The Teachers' Council is the regulatory body overseeing the registration of teachers.  Once registered you virtually have to be stark raving bonkers and a fluent gibberish speaker to lose one's registration.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Letter from the US (About Denver's Radiation)

The Panic Over Fukushima 

Japan's nuclear accident was a great human tragedy, but its long-term health effects have been exaggerated—and the virtues of nuclear power remain. 

By Richard Muller
Wall Street Journal
August 18, 2012

Bloomberg News
Radiation screening in Koriyama, Japan, on March 31, 2011.

Denver has particularly high natural radioactivity. It comes primarily from radioactive radon gas, emitted from tiny concentrations of uranium found in local granite. If you live there, you get, on average, an extra dose of .3 rem of radiation per year (on top of the .62 rem that the average American absorbs annually from various sources). A rem is the unit of measure used to gauge radiation damage to human tissue.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends evacuation of a locality whenever the excess radiation dose exceeds .1 rem per year. But that's one-third of what I call the "Denver dose." Applied strictly, the ICRP standard would seem to require the immediate evacuation of Denver.
Physicist Richard Muller discusses the panic over the Fukushima accident and the need to put nuclear risks in perspective with WSJ Weekend Review editor Gary Rosen.

It is worth noting that, despite its high radiation levels, Denver generally has a lower cancer rate than the rest of the United States. Some scientists interpret this as evidence that low levels of radiation induce cancer resistance; I think it is more likely that lifestyle differences account for the disparity.
Now consider the most famous victim of the March 2011 tsunami in Japan: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Two workers at the reactor were killed by the tsunami, which is believed to have been 50 feet high at the site.

But over the following weeks and months, the fear grew that the ultimate victims of this damaged nuke would number in the thousands or tens of thousands. The "hot spots" in Japan that frightened many people showed radiation at the level of .1 rem, a number quite small compared with the average excess dose that people happily live with in Denver.

What explains the disparity? Why this enormous difference in what is considered an acceptable level of exposure to radiation?

The Cultivated Man

Learning from Paul not Plotinus

The great theologian, Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) once wrote:
Culture in the broadest sense is the purpose for which God created man after His image . . . [which] includes not only the most ancient callings of . . . hunting and fishing, agriculture and stock raising, but also trade and commerce and science and art.
We are accustomed to think of culture as that which is distinct from science, and which refers to music, literature and fine art.   The Biblical framework is much, much broader when it comes to culture.  From the dictionaries, it appears that the word "culture" first came into English in the mid-15th century from Old French, from Latin cultūra  a cultivating, from colere  to till.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

In the World, But Not Of It


Where Every Foreign Country Is Fatherland and Every Fatherland Is Foreign

Justin Taylor
November 27, 2012

From the unknown author of The Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter 5, written perhaps between 117 and 225 AD, capturing the paradoxical nature of Christian identity and practice:
For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom.

For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life.

This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the thought and reflection of ingenious people, nor do they promote any human doctrine, as some do.

But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.

They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners.

Nothing Will Ever Be the Same . . .

O Holy Night

A Christmas Carol which has become very popular in recent decades is "O Holy Night".  The music was originally written by Adolphe Adam in 1847 as a setting to the French poem "Minuit, chrétiens" (Midnight, Christians) by Placide Cappeau (1808–1877).

An English translation of the original poem runs thus:

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Glory of the Incarnation


Every sabbath, and every Christmas season in particular, songs ring out around the world.  A King was born, the divine being, taking on human nature, human flesh.  The world would never be the same.  Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs, not of angry men, but of humble, pure joy?  We do.  We hear them singing both modern hymns of praise and ancient ones. 
What gives them their power?  They tell us that there is a great love that has intervened in history, making itself known in terms that are startlingly, and inexhaustible, palpable to us as human beings.  They are tales of love, lovingly enacted once, and afterward cherished and retold--by the grace of God, certainly, because they are, after all, the narrative of an obscure life in a minor province.  Caesar Augustus was also said to be divine, and there aren't any songs about him. [Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012), p. 127.]

The Real Deal

This Day Is Born to You . . . 

Today is Christmas Eve when all around the world Christians will recall, re-celebrate, and rejoice in the birth of the Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord.  We celebrate this event not just as a mere memorial.  We celebrate it because it begins what continues to this day, and ever shall be.  We celebrate the arrival into this world of the One who is now its Lord and King. 

When Christians celebrate in this way  they are making a political statement of course, or more precisely, they are celebrating an event which has profound and everlasting implications for all powers and authorities upon this earth in 2012 and beyond.  For to the Christ has been given all power and authority in the heavens and upon the earth.  All who do not worship Him and serve Him and and obey Him are rebels and will be so judged at the end of days. 

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that during His days upon earth there were plenty of such rebels and abusers of the power they had been given.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Wonder and Great Joy

The World Would Never Be The Same

Standards of Proof

Compensating David Bain

Children are frequently entertained by "find the mistake" type puzzles.  We have found a howler of the genre for you to puzzle over.  It occurs in the ruminations of one Sir Bob Jones--an opinion writer in the NZ Herald.  We quote the article below.  See if you can find the childish mistake.  (We should note in Sir Bob's defence that he has been known to sit in his office of an evening conversing with many a glass of high quality shiraz, so maybe he wrote this piece whilst under the influence.) 

Firstly, Sir Bob informs us, his dear readers, that he is a man of astute and careful judgment when it comes to New Zealand politics and politicians. 
Age and experience have a moderating effect and teach one never to rush to judgment on issues without the full facts.  It's certainly the case with me, which may surprise readers. But analysis of my columns will show that while I may use colourful or comic comment if a strong view is expressed, it's invariably supported by the facts.

My life-long interest in politics dates back to the 1949 election and the shock as a small boy of seeing tears in my father's eyes following the defeat of the Labour government. I recall every subsequent election and have known nearly all of our prime ministers, commented in hundreds of articles and books on our politics and participated in the process.
So, Sir Bob is in firm possession of the "full facts".  From his peculiarly endowed perspective he unleashes a harsh and extreme criticism as follows:

Friday, 21 December 2012

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Right This Very Minute 

Theology - N.T. Wrights and Wrongs
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, 06 December 2012

Allow me to take just a brief moment to respond to some of the arguments presented here by Brad Littlejohn, in response to my recent interactions with N.T. Wright on the question of women's ordination.
Brad has a three basic problems with my take on the N.T. Wright business with women bishops.

First, he is concerned that conservatives not dismiss the liberals with "the very same sort of arrogance and incomprehension" that (he acknowledges) they treat us with. Now I quite agree that we ought not to act like they do, and so I don't. But it is not arrogance to take Wright to task for exegesis that he feels sheepish about, and which he introduced to us with a very British self-deprecating cough. As those who follow this blog know, I have honored Wright (and a bunch of his work) plenty in this space. But on this issue he has beclowned himself, and we are not fooling anybody by declining to say so.

The Lord of Heaven and Earth

The Days of our Service

The Bible makes clear that when Christ ascended, all power and authority was given to Him in the heavens and the earth.  When Christ sat down at the right hand of God, He sat down upon the Throne of heaven not to rest, but to rule over all things. 

On earth there are two kinds of human beings: those who know that Christ rules everything, and those who refuse to know it.  Those who don't acknowledge nor believe that Christ is their Lord nevertheless remain subject to His command and do His bidding--as Unbelievers--even whilst they remain ignorant of His dominion over them. 

Oscar Cullmann puts it this way:

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Hypocritical Atheists--Is There Any Other Kind?

Why Do So Few Atheists Take Their Faith Seriously? 

Justin Taylor
Dec 14, 2102

Last night at the Iron Works Church there was a moderated debate between Augustine and Bertrand Russell—more more accurately, Carl Trueman representing Augustine’s worldview of Christian orthodoxy vs.  Chad Trainer (chairman of the board of the Bertrand Russell Society) representing Russell’s agnostic/atheistic worldview. . . .

During the audience Q&A, a homeschooling mom asked how she could find satisfaction though she struggles with depression.  Trainer/Russell responded that the lady was doing valuable work, and that in 20 years she might well be satisfied with what she has accomplished.

But on the Reformation21 blog today, Trueman asks, “what basis had the man who said the following to claim that this mother was doing anything worthwhile at all?”
That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.
Trueman writes:
Double Standards?

Dr Russell Wills
Children's Commissioner

Dear Sir

We understand from media reports that Family Court judge, Dale Clarkson has referred to you a case of extreme dereliction of duty by the government agency, Child Youth and Family ("CYF").  According to said media reports, CYF left vulnerable four children with known abusive parents for nigh on ten years.  
A judge has slammed the reckless actions of Child, Youth and Family workers who allowed four children to stay with their violent, abusive parents for more than nine years.  Social workers failed to respond to 20 warnings that the children were being abused and neglected by their father, a convicted child rapist, and their mother, who left them alone in a South Auckland car park.
The judge particularly turned her attention to the prima facie dereliction by CYF in this case:

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Letter from the UK (About a Jig Being Up)

Man-made global warming: even the IPCC admits the jig is up 

James Delingpole
The Telegraph

Breaking news from the US – h/t Watts Up With That? – where a leaked draft of the IPCC's latest report AR5 admits what some of us have suspected for a very long time: that the case for man-made global warming is looking weaker by the day and that the sun plays a much more significant role in "climate change" than the scientific "consensus" has previously been prepared to concede.
Here's the killer admission:
Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.
As the leaker explains, this is a game-changer:

Revolution by Stealth

Divisive Politics; Destructive Outcomes

In a recent hearing at the High Court the attempt by the Maori Council and Tainui to get a court judgment that Maori have de facto proprietary rights over water by virtue of being Maori was rejected.  No doubt Maori will pursue the case to the Supreme Court.  The way the case played was interesting. 

Justice Young found (amongst other things) that the Government (which the Maori Council was seeking a judgment against) had been acting according to the law of the land.  Here is a key part of the judgment:

No review of Parliament by the Courts is permitted in law. This is effectively what the claimants have asked this Court to do in these proceedings.
That particular statement goes to the heart of a matter which has been festering in New Zealand for years.  Maori have told themselves, and persuaded many others, they they have authority and mana which is equal to that of Parliament.  This is the implicit consequence of claiming that Maori, as signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi, are Treaty Partners or co-Regents with the Crown. 

There are two kinds of treaties.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Letter From America (About the Great Market Crash of 2012)

So, how's your green energy stock doing?

A fool and his money are easily parted.  Overreaching, arrogant scientists, bureaucrats, legislators, and media are more foolish than most. So they are more easily parted with money than most.  Which is poetic justice, apart from one great problem.  The money they so easily parted with was actually ours and our children's.  They has squandered, wasted, speculated upon, and gambled with our money, and recklessly borrowed our children's for their rash speculations.  

The great investment crash of 2012 was not the housing market, nor the derivatives market, nor Wall Street speculators--it was green energy.  The market has crashed by ninety percent!

This from the Washington Post.

Growing Up--Or Not

"Youth Culture" is an Oxymoron

For my generation, peer anxiety was experienced only physically.  If a group were gathered in the hallway, on the playground, or on the bus ride home, we did not wish to be excluded from it.  But adolescents today are wired to one another "twenty-four seven" as they say.  Adolescents today can be excluded (or feel they are excluded, which is as bad) not only from physical gatherings, but also from electronic gatherings  They can be left out of IM, text messages, MYSpace, Facebook, cell calls, YouTube videos, and so forth.  They never really leave their adolescent friends or adolescent gossip to meet adults; they are imprisoned in an electronic society of adolescents, condemned and consigned to the social equivalent of Lord of the Flies.  As Mark Bauerlein puts it [in his book, The Dumbest Generation]:
Instead of opening young American minds to the stores of civilization and science and politics, technology has contracted their horizon to themselves, to the social scene around them.  Young people have never been so intensely mindful of and present to one another, so enabled in adolescent contact.  Teen images and songs, hot gossip and games, and youth-to-youth communications no longer limited by time or speace wrap them up in a generational cocoon reaching all the way into their bedrooms.
Biblically, the goal of youth is to leave it as rapidly as possible.  The goal of the young , biblically, is to be mature.  "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways."  (I Corinthians 13: 11)  Biblical wisdom literature encourages the young to respect and emulate their seniors, not rebel against them.

My generation tragically rejected such wisdom, and appears incapable of perceiving or repenting of its own unbiblical paedocentrism.  We think, perhaps sincerely (though dull-wittedly), that we are "concerned for youth", when we are actually concerned to preserve the cultural abnormality of youth culture . . . . and erroneously believe that we cannot minister to the one without embracing, condoning, or promoting the other.

. . . . To "reach" the young by propagating youth culture would be analogous to Jesus' "reaching" the rich young man by giving him money.  Money was part of that particular sinner's problem, part of the reason he needed to be reached.  Extended adolescence is part of what our youth need to be delivered from. [T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2010), pp. 160-162.]

Monday, 17 December 2012

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

And Slew the Little Childer 

Liturgy and Worship - Church Year
Written by Douglas Wilson
Saturday, 15 December 2012

Whenever you have to deal with something like the Connecticut shooting, something that simply crushes the heart, it is important to think carefully before speaking or writing. This is not the time to be debating gun control, drone attacks in the Middle East, and it is certainly not the time to be drawing ham-fisted comparisons to the abortion carnage. The reason for this is that the parents who are broken over this were parents who had chosen life, not parents who hadn’t. This does not mean that abortion is irrelevant to this tragedy, for it certainly is not, but we want to make sure we locate it as a clear point of gospel relevance.

Otherwise we just come off as opportunists who are just looking for a chance to haul the topic of conversation over to a particular hobby horse. But in the aftermath of something sick like this, we need to reconnect with the permanent things. If we don’t point to transcendental realities in a time like this—gospel truths—then we might as well sign a peace treaty with the darkness now.

I have often said that nativity sets should include a set of Herod’s soldiers—that is as much a part of the Christmas story as the shepherds, or the star, or the wise men.

Pop Contemporaneity

A Prisoner in a Dark Place

There have been plenty of warnings about the dangers of ignorance of one's heritage and history.  George Santayana's aphorism is notorious ("those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it").  In our recent experience tyrants have arisen deliberately attempting to remake the past exert greater control over a compliant population in the present (think Soviet and Eastern European Bloc communism).  We see it before our eyes as Islamic fundamentalists attempt to obliterate the cultural heritage of former civilisations in order to exert more extreme and complete control over their subject peoples.

The Scriptures are replete with injunctions, exhortations, and warnings not only not to forget the past, but also to reckon with it, and live in terms of it.  In the past, God's people see revealed His faithfulness to them; they also see the outcome when a generation arises which forgets what has gone before and what He and our forbears have respectively done.  It is our duty to observe, learn, and act appropriately.

Unfortunately and dangerously there are many modern Christian confessions which glory in a studied ignorance of the past.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Getting the Perspective Right

Like a Blind Man Trying to Understand Color 

Justin Taylor|
December 7, 2012

Herman Bavinck once wrote that “If God were to speak to us in a divine language, not a creature would understand him.” We could say that it’s like a blind man trying to understand color—as illustrated in the video below:

HT: 22 Words
But thanks be to God that he has graciously condescended to speak to us, in a sense, from the ground up, using what we can see, touch, hear, and feel to explain eternal and invisible things. Bavinck continues:
But what spells out his grace is the fact that from the moment of creation God stoops down to his creatures, speaking and appearing to them in human fashion. This is why all the names by which God calls himself and allows us to call him are derived from earthly and human relations. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: God and Creation [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006], 100)
And yet this doesn’t mean that everything revealed is fully comprehensible. So the next time you’re tempted to think that certain things in God’s Word can’t be true or are irrational because they can’t be fully explained, just remember that perhaps it is like a blind man trying to understand color.

It's All About Love, Part II

Big Fat Red Herrings

In the "debate" between TV breakfast host Rawdon Christie and Bob McCoskrie (together with the sniggering court jester) the issues of human rights and discrimination loomed large.  The whole piece was set up by some homosexuals asserting that they were "in love" and that not to permit them to "marry" was discriminatory. 

Christie then turned on McCoskrie and demanded that he concede that by arguing against the right of such people to "marry" he was propagating active discrimination against homosexuals.  This is an accusation which McCoskrie failed to handle well.  It is a nettle which he should have grasped with both hands.  More importantly he should have insisted that his opponents grasp it as well.

You can watch the TVNZ Breakfast clip here: 

Firstly, he should have pointed out that Louisa Wall's Bill, which permits homosexual "marriage and which is now before the Parliament of New Zealand, is a thoroughly discriminatory document.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Our Little Piggy Hearts 

Money, Love, Desire - The Good of Affluence
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, 05 December 2012

As we are now in the midst of farcical fiscal cliff negotiations, with the Republicans being lame and the Democrats being eeeevil, I thought I should handle this as a teachable moment. We should take these teachable moments whenever they arise, for there will be fewer and fewer of them as the clouds of economic lunacy settle in.

The president insists on raising the tax rates on the richest among us, saying that they can afford to "pay a little more." This is objectionable, on the surface, in two ways. Let me just mention those briefly, and then move on to a third place where it is doing real damage.

It's All About Love, Part I

Conceding the Field of Battle

Bob McCoskrie of FamilyFirst NZ recently appeared on TVNZ's breakfast show (along with a sniggering court jester) to discuss the homosexual "marriage" controversy  with showhost Rawdon Christie.  You can watch the clip here, if you wish. 

Now FamilyFirst does stirling work and we in no way wish to undermine McCoskrie.  However, we do need to talk about arguments and tactics and how to debate in a world dominated by touchy-feely-human-righty type thingies.  McCoskrie conceded at the outset that when it comes to homosexuals it is "all about love".

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Vanity of Vanities

Scientists Call Foul on Ban Ki Moon

The United Nations has always been a sorry affair.  Its every failing is reflexively exploited as another argument for the UN to have more power and influence and control over peoples of the world.  Its vast removal from those it would govern necessarily means that the UN will always be a club for elites who profess to know what is good for us better than we ourselves do. It is a sorry, yet dangerous, institution.

Ban Ki Moon, the current Secretary General, is an ardent provocateur for the global government overreach required to deal with the global problem of man-caused global warming.  He would never have gotten the job had he not been.  This problem is just too big for nation states to deal with, don't you know.  Therefore the expansion of powers by the UN is essential.  Global warming is, thus,  an ideal pretext for the aspirations of the internationalists.

Ban Ki Moon, consequently, continues to mouth hasty generalizations and platitudes about climate change that have little congruence with truth and fact. Bigger things are at stake. Now, according to the Financial Post, 125 scientists from around the world have called his bluff:

Deadly Fun

For Your Ears Only, Mein Fuehrer 

Disinformation has been a deep art of warfare for time immemorial.  The old aphorism, "the first thing to die in war is the truth" has a general application, but using fiction as a weapon against the enemy is in a different class entirely. 

It is difficult to overestimate the crucial contribution misinformation made to the defeat of Hitler and the Axis Powers.  It turns out that the British contribution was influenced by a novelist who wrote spy stories.  It was a case of life imitating art.  Dennis Wheatley was a spy thriller writer whose main character, Gregory Sallust was in deadly action against the Nazis.  Wheatley was quick to market, writing stories set in events just four months prior to publication, in some cases.

Then Churchill hired him as part of the Deception Team.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Fundamental Dishonesty

Having One's Cake and Eating It Like a Famished Mongol

We appreciate the work of Mark Steyn in constantly putting before us the sheer size of the US fiscal deficit.  If ever there was a case of people turning a wilful blind eye, this is it.  Steyn refuses to allow us to ignore the quantum of the deficit and the doom it represents--or the fundamental dishonesty that surrounds the political debate.

Kindly Note the Impending Bankruptcy

The Perils of Pauline
Mark Steyn
National Review Online

Last year, our plucky heroine, the wholesome apple-cheeked American republic, was trapped in an express elevator hurtling out of control toward the debt ceiling. Would she crash into it? Or would she make some miraculous escape?

Yes! At the very last minute of her white-knuckle thrill ride to her rendezvous with destiny, she was rescued by Congress’s decision to set up . . . a Super Committee!

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, form a committee. Those who really can’t, form a Super Committee — and then put John Kerry on it for good measure. The bipartisan Super Committee of Super Friends was supposed to find $1.2 trillion dollars of deficit reduction by last Thanksgiving, or plucky little America would wind up trussed like a turkey and carved up by “automatic sequestration.

Protesting Too Much

Weakness of Idols on Display

Auckland has seen another violent protest by the same old faces.  This time it is protesting against free trade agreements.  The NZ Police took the brunt of the assault.  This from the NZ Herald
Police have condemned "violent" protesters who attacked two police officers and set fire to cardboard boxes as they tried to force their way into free trade negotiations.  A handful of police and SkyCity security staff were overwhelmed by more than 150 protesters, forcing the on-the-ground commander to call in reinforcements from around Auckland.

"Police staff moved in to prevent escalation and two officers were separated, attacked and kicked numerous times. Fire appliances were called to the scene to help," police said in a statement. "Two arrests were made. One of these arrests was a female that stomped on a constables head."
The usual suspects attended: John Minto (perpetual, serial, promiscuous protestor), Jane Kelsey (lecturer, Auckland University), Cathy Casey (Auckland City Councillor), Catherine Delahunty (Green MP) along with the mob.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Overreach of Stupid Science, Part VI

The Persistence of Philosophy

[Part VI of  The Folly of Scientism by  Austin L. Hughes
Originally published in The New Atlantis ]

The positivist tradition in philosophy gave scientism a strong impetus by denying validity to any area of human knowledge outside of natural science. More recent advocates of scientism have taken the ironic but logical next step of denying any useful role for philosophy whatsoever, even the subservient philosophy of the positivist sort. But the last laugh, it seems, remains with the philosophers — for the advocates of scientism reveal conceptual confusions that are obvious upon philosophical reflection. Rather than rendering philosophy obsolete, scientism is setting the stage for its much-needed revival.

Advocates of scientism today claim the sole mantle of rationality, frequently equating science with reason itself.

Integrating into the Void

Marriage Progressively Meaningless and Empty

One of the unintended, but real consequences of the acceptance of homosexual "marriage" is that the state will end up so inflating the concept of marriage that it will eventually become meaningless (at least in official parlance and practice).

Here is an example of the inflation to which we refer:  The Guardian reports that a homosexual marriage campaigner is arguing that heterosexuals are going to be face discrimination  in the UK--but not for reasons that you might expect:

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Overreach of Stupid Science, Part V

The Eclipse of Ethics

[Part V of  The Folly of Scientism by  Austin L. Hughes
Originally published in The New Atlantis ]

Perhaps no area of philosophy has seen a greater effort at appropriation by advocates of scientism than ethics. Many of them tend toward a position of moral relativism. According to this position, science deals with the objective and the factual, whereas statements of ethics merely represent people’s subjective feelings; there can be no universal right or wrong. Not surprisingly, there are philosophers who have codified this opinion. The positivist tradition made much of a “fact-value distinction,” in which science was said to deal with facts, leaving fields like ethics (and aesthetics) to deal with the more nebulous and utterly disparate world of values. In his influential book Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (1977), the philosopher J. L. Mackie went even further, arguing that ethics is fundamentally based on a false theory about reality.

Evolutionary biology has often been seen as highly relevant to ethics, beginning in the nineteenth century. Social Darwinism — at least as it came to be explained and understood by later generations — was an ideology that justified laissez-faire capitalism with reference to the natural “struggle for existence.” In the writings of authors such as Herbert Spencer, the accumulation of wealth with little regard for those less fortunate was justified as “nature’s way.” Of course, the “struggle” involved in natural selection is not a struggle to accumulate a stock portfolio but a struggle to reproduce — and ironically, Social Darwinism arose at the very time that the affluent classes of Western nations were beginning to limit their reproduction (the so-called “demographic transition”) with the result that the economic struggle and the Darwinian struggle were at cross-purposes.

Partly in response to this contradiction, the eugenics movement arose, with its battle cry, “The unfit are reproducing like rabbits; we must do something to stop them!”

Waste of Time, Money, and Space

 Round and Round the Doha

One of the things we have always appreciated about Greenpeace is their measured language.  It's a rare thing to encounter eco-warriors (or warriors of any sort, for that matter) speaking in reasoned tones.  Greenpeace have never been guilty of hyperbole, of exaggeration, or anything remotely approaching distortion.  Yet Greenpeace always manages to tell it like it is.  Here are a few classic examples of its mature style and responsible panache:

"Exxon hates your children"
"This is about human survival"
"An Open Letter to Barack Obama: We Are Running Out of Time"
 "Politicians need to cut the crap and cut the carbon!"
"Typhoon hits Philippines, will this be another warning for politicians"

All the above were tweets from Kumi Naidoo, who is self-styled as:  "Activist. Humanist. Speaking truth to power. Greenpeace International Executive Director."

 So how is the great carbon proliferation in Doha going?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Overreach of Stupid Science, Part IV

The Eclipse of Epistemology

[Part IV of  The Folly of Scientism by  Austin L. Hughes
Originally published in The New Atlantis ]

Hawking and Mlodinow, in the chapter of their book called “The Theory of Everything,” quote Albert Einstein: “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” In response, Hawking and Mlodinow offer this crashing banality: “The universe is comprehensible because it is governed by scientific laws; that is to say, its behavior can be modeled.” Later, the authors invite us to give ourselves a collective pat on the back: “The fact that we human beings — who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature — have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is a great triumph.”

Great triumph or no, none of this addresses Einstein’s paradox, because no explanation is offered as to why our universe is “governed by scientific laws.”  Moreover, even if we can be confident that our universe has unchanging physical laws — which many of the new speculative cosmologies call into question — how is it that we “mere collections of particles” are able to discern those laws? How can we be confident that we will continue to discern them better, until we understand them fully?

A common response to these questions invokes what has become the catch-all explanatory tool of advocates of scientism: evolution.

Feminists and the Flatter Pyramid

 Divided Loyalties

We have recently seen a minor brouhaha over the participation of women in the workplace: more specifically, the participation of women in leadership roles in commerce and business.  The NZ Stock Exchange is deeply concerned to the point where it is going to require listed companies to disclose the number of women in senior management roles and their salary differential with males, and the number of women who serve on the respective Boards of Directors.

Yada, yada, yada.  We predict nothing much will change, but the constant will be a bout of collective handwringing every twelve months or so, coupled with a bit of a media beat-up.  The feminist meme is also unchanged: women are victims of discrimination in the workplace; leadership of companies is controlled by a sexist old-boys'-network; women are repressed due to systematic pay discrimination and they lose interest in their careers.  It's wrong.  It's evil.  It's unjust. 

New Zealand is not alone.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Overreach of Stupid Science, Part III

The Eclipse of Metaphysics

[Part III of  The Folly of Scientism by  Austin L. Hughes
Originally published in The New Atlantis ]

There are at least three areas of inquiry traditionally in the purview of philosophy that now are often claimed to be best — or only — studied scientifically: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Let us discuss each in turn.

Physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow open their 2010 book The Grand Design by asking:
What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? ... Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.
Though physicists might once have been dismissive of metaphysics as mere speculation, they would also have characterized such questions as inherently speculative and so beyond their own realm of expertise. The claims of Hawking and Mlodinow, and many other writers, thus represent a striking departure from the traditional view.

Comeback Kid

Geography Becomes Cool

Confession is good for the soul, we are told.  So first up we need to confess that throughout our schooling years, geography was always a bit of a mystery.  Tacked on to the subject of history as part of "social studies", geography was always a strange subject, hard to nail down.

It appeared to have no cohesive unifying principles, reflected by the following universal dinner party experience: when you ask someone next to you, "What do you do for a job," and he or she replies, "Oh, I am a geographer," you nod sagely but really have no idea what they do.  Admit it.  We have all experienced this.  Actually, come to think of it, we have never met anyone who professes to be a geographer, which says a great deal. 

But we may need to rethink our prejudices.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Overreach of Stupid Science, Part II

The Abdication of the Philosophers

[Part II of  The Folly of Scientism by  Austin L. Hughes
Originally published in The New Atlantis ]

If philosophy is regarded as a legitimate and necessary discipline, then one might think that a certain degree of philosophical training would be very useful to a scientist. Scientists ought to be able to recognize how often philosophical issues arise in their work — that is, issues that cannot be resolved by arguments that make recourse solely to inference and empirical observation. In most cases, these issues arise because practising scientists, like all people, are prone to philosophical errors.

To take an obvious example, scientists can be prone to errors of elementary logic, and these can often go undetected by the peer review process and have a major impact on the literature — for instance, confusing correlation and causation, or confusing implication with a biconditional. Philosophy can provide a way of understanding and correcting such errors. It addresses a largely distinct set of questions that natural science alone cannot answer, but that must be answered for natural science to be properly conducted.

These questions include how we define and understand science itself.

Salem Lives On

Modern Witch Trials

We have discussed previously the rash of unsafe prosecution and conviction of adults accused of child molestation--falsely and completely unjustly, as it later turns out.  In New Zealand we had our own horror trial in Christchurch (the Christchurch Civic Creche case) where adult caregivers were accused (and one convicted) of the most bizarre and horrendous crimes against children on the basis of child testimony.  It was all a crock.  (For the expose tour d'force, see Lynley Hood's, A City Possessed: The Christchurch Civic Creche Case.  Publisher: Longacre Press, 2001.  Reviews of the book can be found, here.)

Yet at the time, and to this day, parents and others involved swear black and blue that the children were telling the truth (despite some of those children publicly recanting their testimony as they grew older).  This phenomenon was not isolated, but similar cases occurred in the United States, the UK, and in Europe.  Researchers have compared the hysteria to that on display in the witch trials of Salem in the seventeenth century.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Overreach of Stupid Science, Part I

The Folly of Scientism 

When I decided on a scientific career, one of the things that appealed to me about science was the modesty of its practitioners. The typical scientist seemed to be a person who knew one small corner of the natural world and knew it very well, better than most other human beings living and better even than most who had ever lived. But outside of their circumscribed areas of expertise, scientists would hesitate to express an authoritative opinion. This attitude was attractive precisely because it stood in sharp contrast to the arrogance of the philosophers of the positivist tradition, who claimed for science and its practitioners a broad authority with which many practising scientists themselves were uncomfortable.

The temptation to overreach, however, seems increasingly indulged today in discussions about science. Both in the work of professional philosophers and in popular writings by natural scientists, it is frequently claimed that natural science does or soon will constitute the entire domain of truth.

Media Controls

It's OK When The Good Guys Want It

One would have thought that folk would be viscerally reactive to any proposal to extend state power and control.  After all New Zealand participated in two World Wars ostensibly to defend against state tyrannies of various kinds.  We have witnessed in our recent past the death of approximately one hundred million people throughout the twentieth century as a result of state power, oppression, and vicious persecution of citizens and people the State did not like.

Yet the West remains remarkably sanguine about the powers of the State.  The reasons for this myopia are probably facile.  "We won the wars, so states becoming bloody and tyrannical applies to those who were defeated, not our government.  We and our government are the good guys."  Or, "our government would never become tyrannical: we are a democracy."  Or, "Western governments are devoted to protecting the rights of the poor and underprivileged; they are antipathetic to those tyrants that killed millions." 

Meanwhile whilst sleeping peacefully in our beds, the powers of Western government have grown exponentially: we respond by nodding peacefully in our slumbers.  But every now and again a litmus issue arises and we see just how tenuous our freedoms have become.

Modern Secular Capitalism

A Diet of Darwinian Dogs

All human actions are grounded in ethics, one way or the other.  There is no such thing as an amoral act or deed.  Christianity declares to the world the doctrine of the ubiquity of ethics.  This is a message that does not sit well with Unbelief.  Ever since the Fall men have been trying to wriggle out of being pinned to the wall and having to account by spiting out all the butt ends of their days and ways. 

One stratagem has been to claim vast realms of amorality where ethics and morality are deemed not to apply. But the Word of God is unequivocal: all things lie bare and exposed before the eyes of Him with Whom we have to deal (Hebrews 4:13).  What is done in the darkness will be proclaimed in the light.  Unbelief recoils at these truths.  It would assert that there are enormous swathes of human action which are so unimportant that they are sub-ethical.  It would claim, on  the other hand, that some things are so vast and big that "ordinary" ethics do not apply.  And when it comes to oneself, Unbelief asserts a host of mitigating circumstances and rationalisations to explain away any wrong doing, whilst deflecting blame on to others, or to circumstances. 

The dismal science of macro-economics is one example of a "big area" deemed too important to be subject to ethics.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Letter from the US (About Child Murder in the UK)

State Infanticide in Britain

We are all too familiar with the murder of helpless babies within the womb.  Now it is being extended.  New born babies are being murdered in the UK--all "legally" of course, under the loving embrace of the National Health Service. One UK doctor has become a whistleblower.

This report is republished from The Blaze:

UK Doctor’s Horrifying Admission Reveals How Sick & Disabled Babies Are Put on ‘Death Pathways’, Deprived of Food & Fluid for 10 Days 

Sick children and even disabled newborn babies, are reportedly being discharged from NHS hospitals in England only to die  slowly at home or in hospices in an unfathomable manner. The innocent children are being put on controversial “death pathways,” once only thought to have involved elderly and terminally ill adult patients.

Soft Racism From the Top

 Whanau Ora's Legacy Is Taking Shape

An opinion piece critical of a flagship Maori Party policy, Whanau Ora has appeared in Stuff.  More specifically, Andrea Vance has taken the responsible minister, Tariana Turia to task over her handling of the policy. 

A core concept of Whanau Ora is commendable.  It bulk-grants tax payer money to Maori social groups and organizations and devolves to them the responsibility to spend it appropriately, whilst holding them responsible for outcomes and performance.  Decentralization, making decisions closer to the coal face, is much more preferable to centrally controlled decisions made by (inevitably) incompetent bureaucrats more interested in ticking boxes and ensuring forms are filled out correctly than in actual outcomes.  In almost all instances decentralisation and devolvement of authority and responsibility is preferable.  But to be successful it is often more costly requiring a highly disciplined process of checks and balances.  The quid pro quo is that usually decision making in a properly managed decentralised model is of a much higher quality and order. 

But. . . .

Monday, 3 December 2012

An Idol of the Academic Tribe

Why Darwinist Materialism Is Wrong

Alvin Plantinga
November 16, 2012
Reprinted from The New Republic
A review of: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False

Restlessly Driven

Why Object?

The longer the debate goes on about whether a "carve out" clause is needed in the homosexual "marriage" bill presently before a Select Committee of the NZ Parliament, the more we become convinced it is essential.  "We thinks they (who don't want an exception clause) doth protest too much."  The more homosexual marriage protagonists protest, the more it becomes apparent that that religious people will inevitably be deemed in breach of the Human Rights Act if they refuse to participate or have anything to do with the solemnisation of homosexual "marriage". 

Moreover, the issues are broader than marriage solemnization by a Christian marriage celebrant.  What about church buildings?  Plenty of non-Christian couples seek to hire church buildings for their wedding.  Would churches be deemed to be in violation of the Human Rights Act if they decided not to allow homosexuals to use their building for their "ceremony" even if they had their own state-certified celebrant?  (This has already become an issue in Canada.)

Bob McCoskrie – National Director, Family First NZ has written an opinion piece on the matter in response to Louisa Wall's objections to a carve-out clause:

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Letter From China

 When Humour is Forbidden Strange Things Happen

We are all aware that The Onion plays it straight--at least as far as its face is concerned.  It recently awarded the new Korean Dictator the appellation "Sexist Man Alive".  Read the spread here.

The kicker is at the end of the article, where we read: "UPDATE: For more coverage on The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades."

True.  The People's Daily, which can never play it straight, illustrates how a steady diet of propaganda will eventually tie the bowels up in knots.  It assumed The Onion was playing right back down the wicket and decided to produce a stunning cover drive to the boundary.   It produced its own extensive spread of Kim Jong-Un cultish adoration, with not a funny bone in sight.

The Coming of the Kingdom

Building Civilization

Human societies can tear themselves apart.  Or they can cohere and build themselves into a civilisation.  What makes the difference?  The overwhelming consensus amongst the Commentariat is technological prowess, material gadgets, and wealth make a people civilised.  Thus, nations and societies are measured and ranked in terms of GDP and living standards.  Such things may be the fruit of a civilised community but they are not its foundation.

Nor are material goods and technological skills the things which enable people to cohere into a voluntary community.  You cannot build a civilisation upon smart phones.  This may seem puzzling until one recalls that smart phones can be used to detonate explosive devices on the roadside.  As poet, Paul Simon put it: