September 28, 2007


I don’t own a TV. This is more a statement of my own lack of self control then it is a defiance of culture. If there is a television in front of me and I am anyway remotely bored, I will watch it. So because of this I found myself over at Raghu’s apartment last night in order to watch The Office and hang out. It seems that all the networks are coming out with new shows at the moment because the commercial breaks were peppered with premiers that I must see. I must add that with all the crap being processed out there, I am in no way regretting my decision not to own a TV. But with the temptation to be gluttonous out of the way, I will catch The Office and Lost. Probably on the internet.

So to close, here are a few quotes from Dwight from The Office:

“Whenever I’m about to do something, I think “would an idiot do that?” and if they would, I do not do that thing.”

“I am fast. To give you a reference point I am somewhere between a snake and a mongoose…and a panther.”

“No. Don't call me a hero. Do you know who the real heroes are? The guys who wake up every morning and go in their normal jobs and get a distress call from the commissioner and take off their glasses and change into capes and fly around fighting crime. Those are the real heroes.”

September 25, 2007


If you were a cartoon watching child in the 90’s, you probably had more then your fair share of environmental propaganda (mixed in with all the “Just Say No” anti-drug stuff). My personal favorite was Captain Planet who saved the world from evil polluting super villains. This, along with a kid who was absolutely nuts about animals, probably drove my parents insane on many occasions. Especially my dad, whose job at the time was a government trapper. I remember asking him why he had to kill animals when in my mind they were the innocent bystanders of invasive humans.

When I got a little older I eventually embraced my redneck roots and have been hunting many times with my father. I learned the gravity of killing, and had a very good example in my dad of a proper hunter. We killed for meat not for trophy, cleaning the animal ourselves, and this really impressed upon me a respect of the cycle of life and death.

I have found myself turning back to my tree hugging tendencies in the past few years, and feeling like I am coming to it with a much more mature attitude. In my humble opinion, the conservative right has completely butchered the Christian position on the environment; a large part in reaction to the left’s extreme view on it. Liberals would have us completely cut off from nature, stating that the natural state of the world is humanless. But conservatives would have nature destroyed for the sake of our progress, negligence, or apathy. Neither has a balance view.

Our relationship to the Earth is one of stewardship; God gave us the job of looking after it in Genesis. The picture of a steward is one who greatly trusted by the king is given the power to rule the kingdom until the king returns. This job should rank up there on our list, for it was the very first job given to man. Ideally this would encompass two things.

1. We should be a gathering and passing on intelligence about the natural cycles of the world. This shows us the importance of science and the importance of education; passing on a knowledge base to the next generation. It also shows the importance of being closely acquainted with nature; whether that be hunting, camping, hiking, gardening, getting outside, etc.

2. We should be interacting with our environment in a positive way as to develop a symbiotic relationship with nature. This can only be done when the first is properly executed. In contrast to the humanless nature, humans should pursue a very active role in the natural world. We should be making an earth that benefits both people and the environment.

This is all ideal of course; man has had a dysfunctional relationship with the natural world since we left the garden. As a whole we tear things up for our selfish benefit. But I don’t think that the church should forget what we are striving for.

September 20, 2007

Try to Take Over the World!

We got two additions to our family yesterday. Penelope and Amelia were once two humble lab mice who were rescued from death by snake by my wife. While I initially though the snake option was better, they are pretty darn entertaining (except when they get a bit too excited and pee on you).

I have been getting a treehouse itch lately and while tromping through a patch of urban wilderness yesterday discovered several large trees worthy of such an undertaking. Laura says that I have to build her some shelves first though.

September 18, 2007

Determinism Conclusion

I went through all that trouble for two reasons.

First, to point out that this debate isn’t regulated to the realm of Seminary students. Einstein has probably had more influence on me being a Calvinist then Calvin. Theology is important, but I believe it on the same level as Science and Philosophy, that they all belong under the authority of Scripture.

Second, to show that within all fields of human study where you find them running into Determinism you find them running into paradox. I don’t hide behind the banner of things that are unknowable very often because it is a slippery slope; but I do hold that there are very specific thing to which human do not have the capacity to understand or reconcile with logic. This happens to be one of them. Unless you are comfortable holding a paradox in your mind, you will fall to one side or the other, between man’s perspective and God’s perspective. But believe me that I will not fault you for trying to disprove me on this.

Finally I can move on to other things like the fact that Prince Caspian has put out a movie poster:

September 14, 2007

Determinism (Part 4)


When considering God, determinism in some form or fashion will be present. From the pantheists need of Fate to the theists need for a first cause, any higher presence with power greater than ours can supersede our will. I am going to specifically look at the Christian view of determinism because it is what influences me the most and it is the particular “religion” that I know the most about.

For Christians, God is the creator of all that exists (physical matter, time, humans) and because of this He is Omnipotent, meaning all powerful. He is also continually active within His creation, in contrast to the Deist god who was creator but then takes a passive role in his creation. He is the author of all that is good and at the very least uses that which is evil to work for His good. He became a man, and entered into time to redeem mankind with His sacrifice.

This redemption was necessary because despite the initial creation being perfect, man had fell and brought creation into a fallen state. The Fall begins to raise very important deterministic questions. If God is in complete control of His creation, how is it that He allowed evil to be a part of it? One view is that the Fall was part of the original plan and that all evil is used to the eventual good and glory of God. Most Christians will place the Fall as Adam’s choice to disobey God, resulting in the fallen world. The position of man’s will in relation to God’s plan begins to bear very important consequences.

From the protestant viewpoint there are two major factions that are represented by the follows of John Calvin and those of Jacobus Arminius. Calvinism emphasizes the complete sovereignty of God over His creation. Specifically in the area of man’s salvation, this view would claim that man is born in a state of total depravity, meaning that no matter how righteous we are, we will still reject God and choose self. Salvation in any man is the work of God alone, and by His calling and grace man is redeemed. Ultimate glory is God’s because he rescues man when man can do nothing for himself. The Arminian position emphasizes human free will, and the choice of following God. Their position is that God gave a portion of will to each man that he might choose to honor God with his life or deny him with it. The glory to God is in the love of willing followers.

Ultimately, all Christians believe in a powerful God who maintains His power in the world. There is a peace in knowing that there is something acting against the chaos of the universe. Equally as ecumenical is the rejection of fatalism; that despite how much God really requires an individual to carry out His purposes, the Christian is always called to a life of serving God. Furthermore, all Christians believe God places value on individual human life, that from the human point of view concepts of social Darwinism are a wrong and twisted application of determinism.

Obviously Christianity has had much to say on the subject, so I can’t fully express every point of view throughout history, the best I can do is an overview. Plus, I need to finish this so I can move on. I will post my conclusions tomorrow and be done.

September 13, 2007

Determinism (Part 3)


What difference does determinism make, how does it effect the way we perceive ourselves?

We start by trying to understand several factors that shape us as individuals. Psychology puts forth several, the most popular being the nature vs nurture debate. Both are deterministic scenarios, nature claiming that our genetics shapes our personality, motivations, outlook, and choices. Nurture claiming our environment (parents, climate, society, income, etc.) directs us. The response to both of these positions is one of individual will and decision to choose to squander or to make the most of one’s position in life.

Choice (whether we like it or not) is a big part of determinism on a human scale for it drives much of our current understanding of responsibility and motivation. If a murderer had no choice, if he killed because of a long string of prior events inevitably led to his crime, how can society hold him to justice for a crime that was in the works from the beginning of creation? An even bigger obstacle is apathy or fatalism in which determinism kills any motivation in an individual. Why do anything if your personal actions matter not?

On the other hand, if all of the power of the future lay in the choices of individuals, we arrive in a very chaotic world. When one man has the power to start a nuclear war with a choice, the future becomes a frightening and a very uncertain place. Also in this category lies the theory of multiple universes. It states that for every choice (whether it be an electrons divergent path or your decision to go buy a donut on your way to work) there is a different universe. Therefore every universe is determined, set in stone, but every choice gets made. This is the logic behind movies such as Back to the Future, which shift between universes through time. It is one of those fishy theories that can never be proved or disproved.

Choice, responsibility, and our own will seem minute details when studying the heavens but it is difficult to operate in our would at any other scale than the human one. Shifting from a universal perspective to a human perspective is important in understanding how we function. But just because we operate in the cause and effect, past present future time doesn't mean the larger functions of the universe don't effect how we are to live. Next, the ethics of determinsm through the lens of theology. God vs humanity! Look forward to it!

September 12, 2007

Determinism (Part 2)


The material sciences will begin to give a hard definition to determinism through tangible applications. Newtonian physics set the stage (though the original idea is at least as old as the Greek Atomists) for science to take its turn at bringing order to the chaos. It starts with individual objects that are on the move, and predicts their future movements based on universal laws, like billiard balls on a pool table. If a player is precise enough (knows enough about his situation) then he can accurately understand where the balls will end up in the future. Any unpredictability arises from lack of knowledge not from inherent chaos.

The "billiard ball" hypothesis argues that once the stage of the universe has been set the rest of history follows inevitably from a series of cause and effect events. Ultimately there is order though it is hidden behind the great complexity of the universe. If it were actually possible to have complete knowledge of physical matter and all of the laws governing that matter at any one time, then it would be theoretically possible to compute the time and place of every event that will ever occur. The Deists would exalt causality, stating that everything is a result of the cause in front of it and attributing the first cause, the primary mover, as God.

Einstein would further the model of the deterministic universe by identifying time as a dimension with much of the same properties as space. This meant that my perception of a past, present, and future is an illusion. Time is a block, to be warped by gravity and speed to be sure, but a physical presence that assured that the future was as set in stone as the past. Think of it like a movie, the individual frames contain no motion, but when viewed in sequence the illusion of motion appears. This is a similar view that many Christians will make of time, especially Augustine, stating that God is outside the flow of time as its creator.

Quantum mechanics was the first major rival to both Newton and Einstein. When looking at the behavior extreme small scale particles, scientists started to discover a lack of predictability when applying traditional physics. As the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states, at atomic scales the paths of objects can only be predicted in a probabilistic way. In other words, chance governs the underlying foundation of our world. It is still a deterministic model, but one with a lot more uncertainty built in then in previous theories.

Science puts some meat on the bones of philosophy, offering a variety of theories grounded in experimentation and observation. Unfortunately it is still offers a remote view; there is nothing about neutrinos that will affect our behavior as an individual.

Determinism (Part 1)


I start with philosophy not because it contains the most inherent truth but that it puts forth the groundwork in which I can start to expand into other more detailed areas. Philosophy from the beginning was plagued with a number of hard questions concerning how man was to relate to God, time, and his motivations as an individual. Even before western philosophy proper materialized, man was considering his place in this world. Fate was one of the earliest concepts of Determinism, in which the world was a chaotic place and the universe was dependent on the moods of fallible gods.

Philosophy would change that (and then change its mind); at least it would come in and give alternatives to a chaotic existence. Starting with Parmenides and Heraclitus, two of the earliest western thinkers to argue this subject, man began to ponder the essential nature of reality. Parmenides argued that change is an illusion, there is really no such thing as motion; while Heraclitus argued that change is the essential state of reality. Heraclitus took his view from the ever moving fire and water, that by observation life needed constant change. Parmenides argument would stem from logic, an internal observation, that rejected change as an illusion; a thought that would pop up as late as Einstein. The world’s ability to change will prove to be a reoccurring theme.

Plato introduced the universal and the particular, stating that the universal (the form) will determine the infinite individuals. He bridged the gap between the earlier philosophers by asserting that the universal doesn’t change while the particular does. This is a fantastic leap, for the gap between the two is a canyon that haunts philosophy (in all its forms) and it is this gap in which we find occurring between God and man. The universal/particular distinction is the backbone for understanding determinism in the contextual light of the changing world.

September 11, 2007

Determinism (Intro)

The following series of posts will be over the comparison of Determinism vs Indeterminism throughout a variety of subjects. It is mainly a self study to get my thoughts organized on the subject but anyone is more than welcome to discuss or critique the issues. If this type of philosophical ranting is not your cup of tea, I’ll be back to posting updates on life very soon.
In the meantime, here is a drawing of Queequeg, the native harpooner from Moby Dick:

September 10, 2007

Madeleine L'engle

"If I have something that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children." – from Circle of Quiet

She died last Thursday at the age of 88. She has been very influential in Laura’s life thus influential in mine. We were discussing that she was one of the last of our list of great contemporary writers that was still living and had hopes of trying to meet her at some point. We shall just have to wait for heaven; maybe we’ll get Lewis, Tolkien, MacDonald, and her together and have a good discussion.

Click here for a good summary of her life.

September 9, 2007

Under the Mercy

I just finished the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. The book is autobiographical and deals with the relationship between the author and his wife. During the ten years or so that the story takes place they convert to Christianity. What makes this a remarkable read is their extraordinary outlook on life, and their own love, and how it moved and shaped their life. Their conversion wasn't a feel good moment in the back of a church. It was shaped while they were still pagans and was brought about by having intelligent Christian friends and surprisingly letters to C.S. Lewis. Vanauken happened to be attending Oxford when he was considering converting and after reading several of Lewis's books wrote to him one night asking his opinion. Lewis wrote back and started what ended up being a life long friendship between the two. All of their correspondence in contained within the book.

Here is an excerpt from the book (it was Vanauken's last day in England):

"On that last day I met C.S. Lewis at the Eastgate for lunch. We talked, I recall, about death or, rather, awakening after death. Whatever it would be like, we thought, our response to it would be 'Why of course! Of course it's like this. How else could it have possibly been.' We both chuckled at that. I said it would be a sort of coming home, and he agreed. Lewis said he hoped Davy and i would be coming back to England soon, for we mustn't get out of touch. 'At all events,' he said with a cheerful grin, 'we'll certainly meet again, here -or there.' Then it was time to go, and we drained our mugs. When we emerged on to the busy street with the traffic streaming past, we shook hands, and he said: 'I shan't say goodbye. Well meet again.' Then he plunged into traffic. I stood there watching him. When he reached the pavement on the other side, he turned round as though he knew somehow that I would still be standing there in the front of the Eastgate. Then he raised his voice in a great roar that easily overcame the noise of the cars and the buses. Heads turned and at least one car swerved. 'Besides,' he bellowed with a great grin, 'Christians NEVER say goodbye!'"

Oh and a random picture from this weekend's adventures:

September 6, 2007

Class is in Session

It feels very odd to not be starting school (for the first time in 19 years) especially when I am surrounded by people at the University of Dallas, who are in the flurry of beginning their semester. I admit I am a little envious of Laura who started school yesterday but I am content to vicariously suck off of her academic world like a lamprey.

A run down of the classes she is taking:

Literary Traditions 4: General Lit class in which she will read Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick, Go Down Moses, and Mansfield Park (I am going to attempt to read both Dostoyevsky and Melville along side her)

Animal Behavior: Her Biology class

Spanish Literature: A Spanish class that focuses on, you guess it, Spanish literature

Junior Poet: Her most intense class, in which she picks a poet and reads all of their poems, biographies, 5 larger critisims, muliple shorter critisms, write a critical paper, and then is required to sit in front of a panel at the end of the semester while they drill her on whatever they feel like about the poet. Oh and this is just a side project, she will also write other papers and take tests over poetry in general. She picked W.H. Auden, and despite his 900 pages of poetry I think she is really enjoying him so far.

And finally, Tolkien: That’s right, a whole class on Tolkien. This is where I am envious. Required reading is Lord of the Rings (along with some other random books he wrote). She “had” to buy the Atlas of Middle Earth, but got it used at the bookstore.

September 4, 2007

Miyazaki San

Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese filmmaker who directs and writes animated movies with the company Studio Ghibli. His films are usually filled with wonder and a sense of frustration with the complexities of the real world. If you need a break from Hollywood or just wish to go see a really good story, I strongly recommend renting one of his movies.

Possible reasons you have not picked up one of his movies yet:

Japanese Anime is poor quality animation when compared to Disney
You are probably thinking of Pokemon. Please don’t. These films are some of the most beautiful films ever to be drawn. You do have to get used to the style in which the face are done but take it from an artist, they are masterpieces. (try Spirited Away for some beautiful animation)

Animated movies are for kids
I know that in America Disney has dominated the animation market with kid movies but not so in Japan. Animated movies in Japan are sometimes for both the young and the old, sometimes for just adults. (don’t show your kids Princess Mononoke, try My Neighbor Totoro instead)

I don’t like to read subtitles
You won’t have to. Fortunately Disney and Pixar have done some excellent English language version of all of these movies. You will recognize a lot of the voice credits in the later movies from Clair Danes to Billy Bob Thornton to Billy Crystal.

Anime seems like it is only for dorks
True, Anime is watched by some really dorky people but Miyazaki’s films are some of the coolest, most entertaining movies out there. (try Princess Mononoke for an action packed adventure)

Anime is too weird for me
Also true, they will seem a little weird. This is because they are produced in an entirely non western culture. You probably need your American bubble broken anyway. This is a positive exposure to Japanese culture that is not entirely un-relatable, trust me in that you will identify with more than you find odd. (try Howl’s Moving Castel for less culturally weird, try Spirited Away for more culturally weird)