Monday, January 18, 2010

In Case You Missed Them: Top 2009 posts from Vital Remnants

Going back over 2009 (before it gets away from us), our diverse panel of judges (consisting solely of myself) determines the best posts on this blog over the course of the year. So here they are--"to cavil or applaud," so to speak:

Is the denial of Intelligent Design Unscientific? (1/3/09)
In which we point out another logical problem for the Darwinists:
This has been said before in different ways, but, put very simply, if you say that the assertion that the universe as a whole or any particular part of it are intelligently designed is by necessity a non-scientific assertion, then have you not also committed yourself to saying that the opposite assertion--that the world or the things in it are not intelligently designed--is equally non-scientific?

Where Francis Shaeffer goes wrong: Is the belief in natural theology the beginning of the end of Western culture? (1/15/09)
In which I point out a fundamental flaw in the thinking of an evangelical icon:
Most protestants know very little about St. Thomas Aquinas. But there is one thing they do know (or think they do) about him: Thomas believed that the will was fallen but that the intellect was not: that in the wake of the Fall the will was corrupt, but that the intellect remained perfect. I have heard this over and over again. And when I inquire about where they got this idea, they tell all tell me the same thing: from Francis Schaeffer, one of the most influential protestant thinkers of the 20th century.

...The chief trouble with this assertion, for which Schaeffer gives no documentation, is that it is completely the opposite of what Thomas actually said.

The Very Imperfect Storm: Ruminations after being without power and water during the ice storm of 2009 (1/31/09)
In which I recount the trials and tribulations of enduring a natural disaster:
One of the first people I have seen since clearing our road and driveway was my barber, a man who lives on my street, and was therefore also without power. His shop, as I noticed driving by this morning, was open, so I stopped in.

As he was cutting my hair, we got into a discussion about whether homeowner's insurance would cover damaged trees. He said that it was his understanding that "acts of God" were not covered. I said that, that being the case, it would not be good if your insurance company was run by Calvinists, since they believe everything was a direct act of God, and would therefore not have to pay on any claim. I suggested that, from the consumer's standpoint, the best insurance company would be one run by Arminians. He responded by insisting that, actually, it would be better to be insured by an insurance company run by atheists, since they didn't believe in acts of God at all.

The discussion, of course, was singular evidence that there are psychological effects from being isolated for more than a few days. But at least we discovered a useful purpose for Richard Dawkins.

The Evolution of the Gaps: What's wrong with the "God of the Gaps" argument against theism (2/7/09)
In which we observe that the "God of the Gaps" argument against theism ignores a simple truth that completely undermines it:
The assumption is that there is a fixed number of questions about the natural world, some of which have been answered and some of which have not, so that every question that is answered reduces the number of unanswered questions by the same amount, leaving the body of unanswered questions reduced by one, and leaving the need for the God hypothesis reduced by 1 divided by the number of unanswered questions.

Now this is obviously absurd, since science (as opposed to "Science") does not operate in a world in which there is a fixed number of questions. As science proceeds in its path of discovery, it discovers new questions which it never would have thought to ask before. Because of this there are some who would argue that the number of unanswered scientific questions is not diminishing at all: that, in fact, because of the rate of the appearance of new questions compared to number of questions having obtained answers, the number of unanswered questions is actually increasing all the time ...

Why James Hitchcock is Wrong: A Defense of G. K. Chesterton (3/15/09)
Another person 9in this case a great Catholic thinker) writing about G. K. Chesterton who has not apparently read him very well:
Is it my imagination, or are standards of criticism deteriorating at an unprecented rate? It is one thing to criticize something you know, but another to criticize something you don't know. Inside Catholic has reprinted a 1997 article by the normally sensible James Hitchcock on Hillaire Belloc, C. S. Lewis, and G. K. Chesterton in which he offers a more than dim assessment.

Unfortunately, it becomes clear upon reading the piece that Hitchcock does not adequately understand the writers he takes to task.

Sex Education Follies (3/24/09)
In we observe, once again the dangers of placing control of sex education programs in the hands of people who can't tell the difference between boys and girls:
I've said it before: if schools do the same thing for sex that they've done for reading and writing, then the survival of the race may be in serious jeopardy. New evidence that that may very well be the case is a new article in Time Magazine, in which the sheer silliness of the whole sex education regime is shown in lights.

Josh's World: Anti-Semites under the bed (4/27/09)
Another post in which I have to correct the always logically wayward Josh Rosenau:
I wonder what [Josh] Rosenau would have said if [Pat] Buchanan had been endorsed and had actually worked on projects with a man who called Judaism a "gutter religion" and Jews themselves "bloodsuckers." And I wonder what he would say if Buchanan had attended a church for over 20 years where the priest was a supporter of this man and who had a penchant for anti-Israeli rhetoric from the pulpit.

Josh Rosenau, meet Barack Obama.

Check out also: Josh Rosenau lays a logical egg (5/1/09)

Coyne's Confusion: How a prominent scientific atheist can't agree with himself about metaphysical naturalism (7/6/09)
In which we have to correct more misapprehensions about reality from biologist Jerry Coyne: Advocates of Intelligent Design and others who practice skepticism toward the pomposities of much of modern Darwinism can be forgiven a little amusement when they see their detractors engaged in an internal squabble that highlights the philosophical absurdities of the scientistic rationalism that pervades much of modern Darwinism.

Cothran's Fork: Why there can be no scientific objection to religious miracles (07/07/09)
Trying once again to introduce a Darwinist to the ins and outs of logic:

In yesterday's post on Jerry Coyne and the New Atheist argument that science and religion are incompatible, I pointed out that there can only be two objections to religious miracle claims: either a philosophical objection or a historical objection, and given this, that there can be no scientific objection to the miraculous. I made the argument in response to the claim of some scientists that we know, based on our scientific knowledge, that miracles can't happen.

My Life With the Kentuckians: Is Dennis Cheek fit enough to survive the vetting process for education commissioner? (7/10/09)
In which we respond to Richard Day, a KY education commentator on whether someone who practices critical thinking skills on the evolution issue should serve as state education commissioner:

According to several news sources, Dennis Cheek, one of the candidates for the Kentucky Commissioner of Education, a man who is an experienced science and social studies teacher and school administrator, the director of the Office of High School Reform, Research, and Adult Education in Rhode Island, and who possesses two PhDs, once wrote a paper that questioned the evidence for whether human beings evolved from apes.

... Richard Day, a dominant male in the education community and the one who dug up the old creationist paper, displayed openly aggressive behavior at his blog "Kentucky School News and Commentary" in response to the revelation about what he considers Cheek's checkered past.

Empiricists behaving irrationally: Show me the laws of nature (7/11/09)
Why does Coyne (and Lyceros, author of the post at the Reason Lyceum) reject the Virgin Birth? Because he has seen many births and none of them are parthonogenic. Why does he reject the Resurrection? Because he has seen many deaths and none of them have been followed by the person coming back to life. In other words, he bases his view on the impossibility of an event by the fact that he has seen many other events similar to them that have not involved related miraculous events.

I'm trying to think how this kind of reasoning be received at, say, a trial.

The Tortured Logic of the New Atheism (8/8/09)
Dueling atheists:

The atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once told the story of a cave in the East in which, for many years after the death of Buddha, visitors could still see his shadow:
God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be cast.— And we—we still must vanquish even his shadow!
Nietzsche was wrong about the death of God, but he was realistic about what the rejection of God implied, and he despised those who rejected God but refused to accept the logical implications of that unbelief.

The Pitinos: The Complete Eighth Season (08/13/09)
In which we somewhat fancifully recount the escapades of Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville's wayward basketball coach:

Episode I:
Rick consolidates his position as basketball coach by winning lots of games
Episode II: Rick is the object of an extortion attempt by a woman
Episode III: Rick decides that $10 million is too much to pay for the woman's silence, although this particular woman's silence would be beneficial to everyone, including herself.
Episode IV: ...

You might also try Lee Todd and James Ramsey: the hollow men who run our universities.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Reality: Edward Feser's The Last Superstition (8/17/09)
A review of Edward Feser's great popular defense of Aristotelian thinking:

Professionally speaking, [Edward] Feser is small potatoes compared with [John] Whitehead, and given his explicit Aristotelian inclinations, he must necessarily occupy that outer darkness prepared by the academic establishment for Aristotle and his angels. But those of us who paint our faces and wander the outskirts of the intellectual world waiting for the Return of Reason can still take heart from a book like this.

Hoping the Woodstock reminiscing will now just f-f-fade away (8/24/09)
Sick of hearing about the 4oth anniversary of Woodstock, we finally lose it:

Woodstock was a 3-day long gathering of slightly overgrown, spoiled adolescents who were members of the first g-g-generation of Americans to be excessively coddled by their parents, given too much money and comfort, and who, in what was undoubtedly one of their many attempts to escape responsibility, ran away from home for three days and then tried to justify their self indulgence by spouting platitudes about peace and love that were as sanctimonious as they were lacking in any real meaning.

Why the Bible should be taught as literature in public schools (9/7/09)
Another appeal to those we used to think were passing on Western culture not to abandon it:

The question of whether public schools should teach the Bible as literature has come up again, this time as a result of a piece of legislation in the Texas legislature that proposes to do just that. Some people seem to think that there are two sides to this issue: secularists who don't want the Bible taught in any way because it would violate the separation between church and state, and religious people who want the Bible taught in schools because they think it's true.

That would be a dramatic oversimplification of the situation. You could just as well point out that there are secularists who, whatever they think of the Bible, agree that there is an educational value attached to Biblical literacy that is essential to understanding, for example, much of Western literature. And there could certainly be a case made by a religious believer that he doesn't want the teaching of the Bible placed into the hands of an unbelieving public school teacher.

Roman Polanski is a god, and other observations about whether artists should be expected to act like the rest of us (10/2/09)
Even Vladimir Nabokov couldn't have thought this up:

One wonders about the judgment of the critics of Roman Polanski, the famous cinematic auteur (I would say "movie director," but that would fail to capture the ambiance of the artistic genius of the man). They seem to think that he is somehow subject to the rules by which the rest of us--we mere mortals--must abide.

They forget that Roman Polanski is an artist.

Now this simple truth is being completely ignored by Polanski's critics, who fail to make a distinction between those of here on earth, and those, like Polanski, who inhabit the empyrean heights. He is guilty of raping a 13 year-old girl they say. But what is 'rape'? What is 'guilty'? What is 'a 13 year-old girl'?

Bellydancing Toward Gomorrah (10/5/09)
The grim professors at University of Kentucky try to tell their students about the birds and the bees:

This week is "Sex Week" at the university. Why does the university need a "Sex Week"? According to the Lexington Herald-Leader's Ryan Alessi (a reporter who, we should probably point out, is not serving in an embedded role on this story), the main aim of organizers is "sexual literacy." That's right. Today's college students apparently don't know enough about sex. If you didn't get that memo, don't worry, neither did we.

Governor Grinch Gets Global Grilling (11/9/09)
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear gives the Keystone Kops another lesson on how to do it:

Apparently, the Governor really thought this act would be appreciated. So he put his hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the bluegrass. It started in low, then it started to grow...

Problem was it was sound of over 25,000 people on the "Save the Christmas Tree" Facebook page wanting their Christmas tree back. In fact, the thing blew up into a major public relations headache for state Grinch officials.

The Banning of Academic Rigor: Anti-censorship groups now calling enforcement of curriculum standards "censorship" (11/30/09)
Another incident wherein we learn just how lacking in seriousness some people are about education:

In Montgomery County, Kentucky, several parents whose children are in an accelerated college preparatory class questioned several books a teacher had planned on using in the class because they don't adequately contribute to accelerated college preparation. The parents apparently had the crazy idea that putting their kids in an advanced college prep course meant that they would be reading academically challenging books instead of literary fluff.

... Now I haven't read these books, and, being an English instructor and a fairly well-read person, I've never, with one exception, even heard of them either. If they're on a list of great books somewhere, I've never encountered it. Maybe they're appropriate for a course on Early 21st Century Lightweight Pop Fiction for Bored Teenagers, but a college prep course? C'mon.

Also check out Do you have to have read a book to say anything about it at all? More on the Montgomery County "censorship" case (12/1/09), Barbarians at the Gate: A response to Chris Crutcher on the Montgomery County curriculum case (12/2/09), and What the Cultural Philistines Don't Know Can Hurt Them--and Us: Why some people disparage classic books (12/3/09).

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