Monday, 28 July 2014

Monday quote

In a free society the state does not administer the affairs of men. It administers justice among men who conduct their own affairs.

Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), An inquiry into the principles of the Good Society, (1937).

Friday, 25 July 2014

Acting against our convictions

While there are arguments concerning the public and private funding of health, I would like to pick up on the more sinister aspects around recent court rulings that many on the right and some on the left have seen: concerning to corporations funding contraceptives. Note that some oppose contraceptives because they view artificial contraception as immoral, others do not oppose contraception in principle but believe that certain contraceptives destroy embryos and thus destroy human life.

Julian Sanchez who does not personally oppose contraception or contraceptive abortifacients notes that the ruling (not to fund contraception) is cost neutral for various reasons including that pregnancy cover is more expensive than providing free contraceptives. He shrewdly comments,
In light of this, the outraged reaction to the ruling ought to seem a bit puzzling. If what you are fundamentally concerned about is whether women have access to no-copay contraception, then there’s no obvious reason to invest such deep significance in the precise accounting details of the mechanism by which it is provided. You might even be heartened by a ruling that so centrally turns on the premise that accomodation for religious objectors is required when no women will lack such coverage who would have enjoyed it under a mandate.

The outrage does make sense, of course, if what one fundamentally cares about—or at least, additionally cares about—is the symbolic speech act embedded in the compulsion itself. In other words, if the purpose of the mandate is not merely to achieve a certain practical result, but to declare the qualms of believers with religious objections so utterly underserving [sic] of respect that they may be forced to act against their convictions regardless of whether this makes any real difference to the outcome. And something like that does indeed seem to be lurking just beneath—if not at—the surface of many reactions. The ruling seems to provoke anger, not because it will result in women having to pay more for birth control (as it won’t), but at least in part because it fails to send the appropriate cultural signal. Or, at any rate, because it allows religious employers to continue sending the wrong cultural signal—disapproval of certain forms of contraception—when sending that signal does not impede the achievement of the government’s ends in any way.
He states that opponents contraceptive coverage are undeserving of respect and therefore it is viewed as acceptable to force them to act against their convictions.

In my mind the 2 concepts are not logically associated. One can have no respect for an idea or a person without compelling behaviour. Lacking respect is frequently justified. But my lack of respect (if warranted) means that I can disregard a person's foolish claims, not that I can force him to adopt my preferences. You do not get to force people to act against their convictions because you do not respect them. You do not even get to do that if you are correct and they are mistaken. Making a man act against what he strongly believes is to coerce him into sin. It is making him do something that he believes will offend God. Regardless of whether he discerns the issue rightly or wrongly, to make him offend God is forcing him to blaspheme.

I suspect many people including Christians fail to recognise how diabolical—and I choose that word intentionally—forcing men to blaspheme is. Such a man does not care for the opinion of God for if he did he would not try and make another do something he thinks offends God. It is akin to idolatry, though of the very worst form that tries to make others idolaters as well.

Damon Linker classifies himself as liberal: seemingly in both the modern and classic sense. I am not so certain he fully apprehends the issue, but he gets aspects of it.
On a range of issues, liberals seem not only increasingly incapable of comprehending how or why someone would affirm a more traditional vision of the human good, but inclined to relegate dissenters to the category of moral monsters who deserve to be excommunicated from civilized life — and sometimes coerced into compliance by the government.
And why might this be? Linker suggests,
From the dawn of the modern age, religious thinkers have warned that, strictly speaking, secular politics is impossible — that without the transcendent foundation of Judeo-Christian monotheism to limit the political sphere, ostensibly secular citizens would begin to invest political ideas and ideologies with transcendent, theological meaning.

Put somewhat differently: Human beings will be religious one way or another. Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things. 
Thus secularism (presumably left or right) tends toward idolatry.

Blasphemers often claim their demands are reasonable. Just a little incense to Caesar and you can worship your God the rest of the year.

Requests to affirm Islam (a false God), or provide health (and cover the cost of murder), or just bake a cake (affirming the goodness of sodomy); are all considered by many as competing claims against God. As I have written previously, forcing men to blaspheme is amongst the most grievous of sins. Not only must we avoid such coercion, we must oppose our ideological allies when they support such measures.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Repentance and remorse

Roy Ingle wrote a post on repentance recently that I had been meaning to comment on. He writes,
a mere recognition of sin is not enough to qualify as biblical repentance
and he goes on to list several examples from the Bible: Pharaoh, Balaam, Achan, King Saul, Judas. (I am not certain I agree concerning Ahab.)

This is important because repentance is not just a sense of sorrow, as important as that may be. Repentance means to turn away; to cease sinning and start behaving righteously.

We don't just need worldly sorrow for our actions, we need to repent: we need to cease sinning and instead walk in obedience to God. For the stubborn man rebuked several times will suddenly be destroyed (Proverbs 29:1).

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Defining terms and assuming the argument

I have written on choice of terms in framing a debate previously. Here are 2 further examples.

Calvinists use the term "doctrines of grace" to refer to Calvinism. They may think that they are stronger on grace though I dispute this. Such nomenclature is unhelpful and clouds the argument. This is because although "doctrine of grace" has a specific meaning it sounds like a belief in grace as opposed to, say, works. Yet Christian theology generally is a theology of grace and not works, or at least claims to be. (Others have suggested that a better term may be "doctrines of irresistible grace").

An example from a position I hold may be helpful. I hold to Young Earth Creationism (YEC). This term is a little unwieldy (and 6000 years is hardly young). Young Earth Creationists (YECs) have suggested the term "biblical creationism". Now I happen to think YEC is more biblical than the alternatives but that is kind of beside the point. "Biblical creationism" is needlessly disparaging when trying to debate what the Bible teaches. Non YECs may claim that their position is variably biblical.

Use terms that are moderately accurate, and don't use terms that assume you argument: don't beg the question.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Monday quote

A huge part of intellectual honesty is meaning the same thing when you use a term twice.

Cameron Harwick

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Civilian casualties in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict

During a previous Israeli/ Palestinian conflict I wrote on civilian deaths in war. One cannot solely tally the number of deaths, one needs to consider intention.
Intention is important. One can argue whether or not an army deliberately targeting civilians is legitimate in war. The West generally condemns this action as morally wrong. While I am in general agreement with this, one could make an argument that it may be dependant on the choices "enemy" civilians make. But if we accept that intentional targeting of civilians is immoral then those who do so carry the guilt even if they are unsuccessful in their intent. That is, if they miss the target or strike the target but it has been evacuated such that no one is killed, the intent and attempt at civilian death is present. They should be thought of and treated similarly to any other group which accomplishes intentional civilian massacre. The lack of achievement of their goals does not remove their culpability.
Addressing civilian deaths in the current conflict,
Both [UN Secretary-General] Ban and the Obama administration took Israel to task for the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza.
This is misguided. This is a superficial approach looking at actual deaths and not intent.

Israel targets Hamas rockets thus minimising civilian death of its own population. It also uses various strategies to decrease Palestinian civilian casualties such as warning to stay out on an area, announcing targets ahead of time, using accurate targeting, agreeing to ceasefires for aid.

Hamas policy is to target civilian areas without warning thus attempting to maximise Israeli civilian death. It has also conducted military action in ways that are likely to increase Palestinian civilian casualties or encourage the use of human shields.

The greater number of Palestinian civilian casualties is due to more effective Israeli defence and their greater firepower. Israel is attempting to minimise civilian casualties on both sides and Hamas is attempting to increase civilian casualties on both sides. Ban and the Obama administration's complaints are directed toward the wrong side.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Chronology of the Flood

Genesis specifies several dates during the year of the Flood. Noah and his family entered the Ark in the 600th year of Noah's life: year 1656 Anno Mundi.

They entered on the 17th day of the second month and the waters prevailed 150 days until the 17th day of the 7th month; thus making 5 months equal to 150 days therefore each month 30 days in length*.

Here is the chronology of the Flood taken from Genesis 7–8.

Event Month Day Day count



Exclusive Inclusive
Enter the Ark 2 17 0 1
1 month 3 17 30 31
Rain ceases (inclusive) 3 26
40
Rain ceases (exclusive) 3 27 40
2 months 4 17 60 61
3 months 5 17 90 91
4 months 6 17 120 121
Ark rests 7 17 150 151
6 months 8 17 180 181
7 months 9 17 210 211
Mountains visible 10 1 224 225
8 months 10 17 240 241
Send raven 11 11 264 265
9 months 11 17 270 271
10 months 12 17 300 301
Waters dried up 1 1 314 315
11 months 1 17 330 331
12 months 2 17 360 361
Earth dry, leave Ark 2 27 370 371

It seems that the Bible more frequently uses inclusive reckoning, either way they spend 371 days inside the Ark. While I have known of this number for some years, I noticed it coincided with the duration of a solar year based on a 30-day month with an altered earth spin as per my previous calculations. This seems a little more than coincidental. If this were the case perhaps the Noadhic calendar was a lunar-solar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar and various other calendars.

A lunar-solar calendar aligns the months with the moon (new moon to new moon) and has a variable number a months to keep the seasons aligned. That is 12 months each year with an extra month approximately every 3 years (both antediluvian and postdiluvian solar years have a surplus of ~11 days over the lunar year).

The antediluvian lunar-solar calendar would have 12 30-day months for a 360-day year. The postdiluvian lunar-solar calendar has ~29.5-day months, thus alternating between 29- and 30-day months, but depending on when the new moon appears, for a 354-day year.


*This seems to be the most likely interpretation but the weather may have precluded accurate visualisation of the moon and 30-day months may have been used until adequate moon sighting allowed resetting of the calendar. The second option raises the question as to why not use alternating 29 and 30 day months until the calendar could be corrected.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Monday quote

The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.

Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924).

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The length of the antediluvian month and year

If the earth's spin increases then the days in a year increases. The year—as measured in a stable time metric, such as atomic-seconds—is unchanged because it is dependant on the distance from the sun, but the year as measured in days does change because the length of the day is dependant on the spin. The same can be said about the month.

If we define the year length to be y in unchanging units; the day to be da for the antediluvian day and dp for the postdiluvian day; na is number of days in an antediluvian year and np the number of days in a postdiluvian year; then

da × na = y = dp × np

da = dp × np/na

dp/da = na/np

Many ancient calendars use 360 days for a year. Perhaps these are stylised, especially as these calendars are postdiluvian; but what if they were based on memory of an antediluvian year of such a length? In such a case the length of an antediluvian day would have been

da = 24 hours × 365.25/360 = 24 hours 21 minutes.

We will define a month to be m in unchanging units and the number of days in an antediluvian month ka; then

da × ka = m = dp × kp

ka = kp × dp/da = kp × na/np

dp/da = ka/kp = na/np

If a (synodic) month is now 29.53 days (new moon to new moon)

dp = 24 hours, kp = 29.53 days

then the antediluvian month (assuming a 360-day year) was

ka = 29.5 days × 360/365.25 = 29.1 days

Now consider instead if the antediluvian month was 30 days in length

ka = 30 days, kp = 29.53 days

then the antediluvian day was

da = dp × kp/ka = 24 × 29.53/30 = 23 hours 38 minutes

and the antediluvian year was

na = np × ka/kp = 365 × 30/29.53 = 371 days

These calculations assume no change in distance from the earth to the sun or the moon.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Sinking mantle

Some years back Stripe recommended the video series by Calvary Chapel on earthquakes. 2 sermons about an hour each in 6 or 7 parts. Part 2 is more interesting. Kevin Lea defends Walt Brown's Hydroplate Theory.

The theory as it applies to the Flood is that the earth had significant water below the crust which was released through the crust along the midatlantic ridge (and around the earth) causing flooding and a contra-spherical depression which became the pacific basin. Importantly the model specifies that the continents moved over the mantle due to gravity until they struck opposition which led to upfaulting (mountains) and downfaulting (trenches). The model does not claim that some plates are subducting over or under other plates, though these regions represent real faults. Thus the Hydroplate Theory is distinct from Baumgardner's Catastrophic Plate Tectonic Model.

The relationship to earthquakes is the theory's claim that the inside of the earth consisted of a solid mantle but no core prior to the flood. As a result of stresses within the mantle, rock melts then rises or sinks depending on the surrounding pressure and resultant density. Lower pressure shallow mantle expands and decreases density when it melts therefore rises; high pressure deep mantle shrinks and increases density when it melts therefore sinks. The depth at which mantle changes from expanding to shrinking is called the transition zone. These changes in density and volume mean that other mantle surrounding it moves and the transmitted movement is felt as an earthquake. Rising melted mantle also surfaces in volcanic eruptions.

There is more detail than this; I have not read Brown's book, this is what I gleaned from the video.

Of interest is that because mantle melts and shrinks at certain depths, it must sink and cannot rise. So it will form a core. A liquid core with (the relatively) lower pressures and resolidifying to form a solid core with higher pressures. This results in an inner solid core and outer liquid core which can only grow as mantle continues to melt, shrink, and then sink to the core. Because it has shrunk (increased density) the volume of the earth must decrease. This seems to be the case concerning the mantle regardless of whether the hydroplate model is correct: every time mantle rock melts below the transition zone it sinks to the core never to rise again.

On hearing this my first thought was if the volume of the earth shrinks then its spin will increase (assuming no change in mass) due to conservation of angular momentum. The speaker subsequently discussed this same issue.

If there were significant changes at the time of the Flood this could alter the measured duration of the year and month. More on this to come.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Monday quote

For bad people to do good things—that takes religion [Christianity].

Dinesh D'Souza.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Infrastructure aid

The Campaign for Boring Development makes the case that development does not always make for exciting stories. In their words, It doesn't photograph well.

They have 5 principles in their manifesto,
  1. Development Does Not Photograph Well
  2. “Making the Lives of the Poor Better” is not the same thing as ”Fighting Poverty”
  3. Sustainable, but not sustained
  4. Development Bloat is the Imperialism of the 21st Century
  5. Why Income?
Item 2 is interesting in that they distinguish Humanitarian Aid and Development Aid. The former makes the life of the poor easier but does not grow their wealth (significantly), the latter leads to increased wealth. It seems that some aid is sold as development aid but is in fact humanitarian aid. They give the example of microfinance.
In Banerjee’s analysis, the problem is that the familiar narrative about the bottom billion as entrepreneurial but capital-starved just isn’t borne out by the evidence. Framing the poor as “natural entrepreneurs” obscures the much more mundane reality that, for the most part, very poor people in very poor countries use very small loans very much in the same way middle class people in rich countries use bank loans: to finance big ticket items that massively improve their lives but cost multiples of their monthly income.

If you earn the median U.S. worker’s income, you can’t shell out $20,000 in cash for a nice car next month. That’s six months’ income! It might take you 5 or 6 years to save up that much cash. But that doesn’t mean you have to walk to work every day for the next six years while you save up to buy a car. You get a loan and pay for it while you’re driving it it. Does that loan increase your income and transform your life chances? No. Does it massively improve your quality of life? You betcha.

If you’re in the bottom billion, you can’t shell out $200 in cash to finally fix the damn roof that’s been leaking on you for the last two years. That’s like six months’ income! It might take you 5 or 6 years to save up that much cash. But that doesn’t mean that you have to keep getting rained on for six years while you save up for your roof. You get a loan and pay for it while you’re using it. Does that loan increase your income and transform your life chances? No. Does it massively improve your quality of life? You betcha.
Source
They are not critical of helping the poor in their poverty, but they wish to distinguish this from lifting them out of poverty. Now any endeavour may have aspects of both, but development probably needs to be predominant for it to be called Development Aid.

The main reason to link to this story is that I find the topics they discuss anything but boring. Developing infrastructure such as water supply and roading is very important; possibly under-appreciated (at least roading), and
Road building is hard, dusty, unglamorous work. It photographs horribly. I mean, seriously, try hitting up donors with that image. It just doesn’t work.

Road Building, in other words, is the original Boring Development agenda: the
stuff development agencies used to do back in a halcyon age back before the bloat agenda hobbled pragmatic interventions proven to work.

While donors dither, African governments – who need little reminding how important roads are to development – are taking the lead. Africa is on a road-building frenzy to expand its existing, woefully inadequate primary road network tenfold by 2040.
New Zealand needs more roads and it is a high-income developed country; how much more does Africa.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Monday quote

I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They 'cash in'. It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science.

CS Lewis, "Willing Slaves of the Welfare State."

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The difference between the old and new covenant

Christianity sees itself as a continuation of what God was doing with the Jewish people. Christianity started due to Christ. Although it is seen this way, it did not start at the time of the incarnation or resurrection of Christ. We are the descendants of Abraham by faith. Christianity in a sense is at least as old as Abraham and therefore as old as Judaism. Further we see God's plan for a redeemer in Genesis 3 so the plan of Christianity dates from at least the Fall, and an argument can be made for the time of creation.

So how does the new covenant we have in Christ differ from the old covenant of Moses?

We live in the age of grace and not the age of the law, but this is not the difference. Paul states that the law was given to show the transgression. The Israelites were unable to keep it.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass (Romans 5:20)
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made (Galatians 3:19)
We live post resurrection but this is not the difference. We are saved thru the blood of Christ, but then so were the patriarchs. All men are saved thru Jesus, even those who lived before his death and resurrection. The blood of bulls and goats was unable to atone for sin (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus blood however can atone for any man:
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)
We live by faith but this is not the difference. Abraham was justified by faith and this before the Mosaic Law. Habakkuk tells us that the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith was the criteria for salvation even under the Mosaic Law. Of course since the time of Christ we are aware of who our salvation is thru.

The change is power. We have been given the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to follow God. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke of this during the age of Law.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:33)
And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. (Jeremiah 32:38-40)
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20; see also 36:26-27).
Hebrews confirms this
This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds (Hebrews 10:16).

The new covenant is marked in time by the death and resurrection of Jesus. And this event is imperative to our salvation: both before and after the incarnation. This is the central event of the Christian faith. But the change in covenant is not the age of grace, nor the fact that salvation is thru Jesus, nor the necessity of faith: these were and continue to be fundamental to salvation. The new covenant is a new heart, an ability to know and live these things by the power of God's Spirit whom he gives without limit (John 3:34).

Monday, 23 June 2014

Monday quote

We must look for the intentions of nature in things which retain their nature, and not in things which are corrupted.

Aristotle, Politics, 1.5.

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