Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Sledgehammer Approach

"Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it."
Bertolt Brecht

This quote from Dr. Mardy Grothe's book, I Never Metaphore I Didn't Like got me to thinking about art in general and specifically the "art" that comes out of Hollywood.

It seems to me, genuine artists use small taps of the hammer, then sandpaper, to shape their final image. Think of the great writers you've read and I think you'll find their writings have a common characteristic: they attempt to shape one's thinking through small, gentle nudges. In this manner, some authors have fundamentally altered the way generations think.

Hollywood, on the other hand, seems to prefer to take a sledgehammer approach to force their opinions upon all who view their shows or movies. Used to be, Bogart would passionately embrace his leading lady, and then... nothing. A passionate embrace, that's all. Viewers were left to assume more happened than was shown, or nothing more happened. Or, Bogart would fire his gun and viewers would see a shadowy figure fall down, presumably dead. Perhaps Heston would carry a couple of stone tablets down a mountain. Even Hollywood used to have some art & occasionally supported the Bible. Today, we're treated to, well to graphic depictions of sexual encounters and exploding body parts, and evolutionary dogma assumed as fact. The sledgehammer approach. And what it does is smash down our defenses and open an generation to baseness as a way of life. And fundamentally alters our thinking, because, after all, who has time think when there's so much good stuff to watch.

So what's the answer? Enact laws to force Hollywood to clean up their act? We already have such laws that aren't being enforced. No, I think a better solution is to get rid of the television, as Donna & I did around 10 years ago. Go ahead, cut the cable, eliminate the desensitizing distractions, and spend some quality time with a good book, perhaps even The Good Book. Am I saying it's wrong to watch TV or movies? Absolutely not. Though some TV and movies are clearly immoral and ought to be avoided. Am I advocating taking a sledgehammer to your TV? Not really, though it may be a good idea to sell it if you're addicted to movies. Christians have the liberty to watch TV or movies of any sort, but we also have a Biblical mandate to carefully consider what we allow to influence our thinking.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Naturalism vs. Nihilism, part 3

I happened to notice that Tom Clark posted a response to my comment on his blog. It led to a second comment from me addressing some critical mistakes in his response. Rather than repost my entire comment here, please check his comment thread if you're interested in reading the whole exchange. Here's a snippet from my reply:

Your assertion that faith is "belief without evidence" is preposterous. Perhaps what you meant is "blind faith", but it is disingenuous to equate faith and blind faith. Faith is belief, and must be based upon evidence. To believe something for which you have no evidence, or in spite of the evidence, is folly. Furthermore, I would submit that the cited dinosaur hemoglobin example does, in fact, amount to a leap of blind faith on the part of the scientists in question.

It turns out, you are setting up a false dichotomy when you pit faith against empirical science. They are not comparable. Essentially, what you’re asserting is that science is the only way we can know truth. This is a patently false notion. We can determine truth through logical reasoning, examination of history, or first-hand testimony, to name but a few examples. What’s more, science can in no way address questions of a metaphysical nature, as they are outside the realm of physical science.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A good quote is like a finely cut diamond, incredibly compact yet endlessly fascinating.

Dr. Mardy Grothe has done it again. He has recently released a new book called I Never Metahpor I Didn't Like. As with his other three books, Dr. Mardy explores a specific niche of wordplay - in this case, analogies, metaphors, and similes - through poignant and pithy quotations taken from some of the world's greatest wordsmiths.

I first heard of Dr. Mardy around ten years ago when he released his first book, Never Let A Fool Kiss You, or a Kiss Fool You. I immediately fell in love with chiasmus as a rhetorical device and jumped into Dr. Mardy's competition with both feet. In our correspondence, I found Dr. Mardy to be warm, friendly, and receptive then, and I'm delighted to say he was just the same when I recently emailed him.

Though I haven't yet, I look forward to reading I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like. However, based on his past writings, I will commend it to adults with a love of language and wordplay. Adults, please consider carefully before allowing your children read it, however. As a secular writer, Dr. Mardy does not exclude quotes of a sensual and/or sexual nature; expect them to be mostly confined to the sex section (Chapter 10) with a few sprinkled throughout other categories.

Dr. Mardy, via A.Word.A.Day

Happy Birthday to the Love of My Life

My lovely wife turned 35 today. She's now a year older than me. Of course, next Friday we'll be the same age again. ;)

Reflecting on the last 12 years of marriage, I'm glad to see how the Lord has drawn us closer together and made our marriage stronger all along. We've experienced many ups and downs, but our relationship always comes out better for it.

Donna is a wonder. She manages our home, teaches our children, keeps us all well fed on healthy foods, sews many of her own clothes, & keeps us all on schedule. She laughs often, loves deeply & lives a life that's pleasing to God. She inspires others to greatness, plans great things for herself & supports those who need lifting up. I number myself among the many people she has touched who are better off for the contact.

Happy birthday, Donna. I love you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Does Naturalism Blind Scientists?

I heard a great poem today that made me stop & think. It's a story about six blind men who have quite different ideas about what an elephant is like, based on which part of it they were able to touch. I couldn't help but reflect how Naturalism causes scientists in the various fields of study to behave like the blind men, in regard to their postulates about where everything comes from. Geologists look at rock layers and say it takes millions of years to form them. Biologists tell us that over millions of years, evolution changes molecules into microbes, into monkeys, into men. Astronomers argue for millions of years for stars & planets to form. They're each looking at a small piece of God's creation and building an elephant that looks and functions quite different from they way God told us He did it. And the pity is, their blinders are self imposed; they reject out-of-hand, the creationist perspective by labeling it religion, and therefor not science. If they would allow themselves to consider the possibility that God meant what he said in the Bible, and explore their fields of study from a Biblical perspective, they'd be able to see the big picture and recognize the elephant for what it is.

Of course, many Christians are willing to uncritically accept any arguments that seem to support the Bible, and reject out-of-hand anything scientific that seems to contradict the it, without examination, too. The philosophy "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" may be a good starting point, but it does not meet Peter's requirement to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you (1 Pet 3:15)". We need to be able to offer sound, reasoned answers to those who are genuinely seeking.

So, without further ado...
The Blind Men and the Elephant
by John Godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan
   To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
   (Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
   Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
   And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
   At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
   Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
   Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
   To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
   Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
   And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
   Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
   Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
   And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
   Is mighty plain," quoth he;
" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
   Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
   Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
   Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
   Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
   About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
   That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
   Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
   Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
   Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
   And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,
   The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
   Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
   Not one of them has actually seen!

Naturalism and Nihilism, revisited

Tom Clark left a response to my quick post yesterday regarding the logical link between Naturalism and Nihilism, point me to his blog post with the same title from back in March. His is an attempt to rebuff the notion that Nihilism is the natural offspring of Atheism/Naturalism. He has a case, but the fact is that those who hold to Naturalism are being inconsistent in applying their faith (philosophy, if you prefer) by living their lives in a moral manner. I suppose a similar case could also be made that we Christians are inconsistent in applying our Christian morals when we sin. The noteworthy difference, of course, is that the Christian's attempt to consistently live in a moral manner is evidence of his faith.

I posted the following as a response to his article, but thought it would be useful to re-post here for posterity.

Tom, thanks for the link. I'm not going to attempt to address all of your assertions in the article, but I'll say that your summary idea that human morality can be easily explained as an evolved survival instinct suffers in the light of others' claims that humanity's war-like nature can be easily explained as an evolved survival instinct. So which is it, are humans moral because it promotes survival of the fittest, or is that why they're war-like? You can't have it both ways. The "hard-core atheists" were much more consistent in the application of their faith by acknowledging that it leads to nihilism.

In regards to whether or not athiesm/naturalism qualifies as a faith, let's look at the surprising discovery of red blood cells and still-flexible blood vessels in dinosaur fossils a few years ago. Why was this surprising? Because the hemoglobin in the red blood cells should have broken down within thousands of years, but it was found in bones claimeded to be millions of years old. But what was the scientists reaction to this discovery? Did they question the evolutionary dogma that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago? No, by a leap of blind faith, they assumed there must be some way to preserve hemoglobin for millions of years. These scientists demonstrated an amazing knack for ignoring the evidence against millions of years due to their creedal assertion that evolution requires those millions of years. And gives the lie to your claim that "Naturalists’ commitment to science in this regard isn’t a matter of faith, it’s based on experience – the widely shared experience that beliefs about the world based in science are generally more reliable than those that aren’t."

For more on the dinosaur red blood cells story, read this follow-up article that refutes claims that what was found was not actual hemoglobin and red blood cells.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Naturalism and Nihilism

I shared an interesting article (actually notes from a lecture by J.P. Moreland) from Stand To Reason, on the topic of Naturalism. Then noticed that today's Theological Word of the Day fit nicely with it since it describes Nihilism as the natural conclusion of a Atheist/Naturalist philosophy. You can check my shared items on the top right to see these articles.