How I Stay Informed

Blogger.com has done a great service for us by making blogging pretty easy. Almost "Blogging For Dummies" (yes, the book has been written: http://www.amazon.com/Blogging-Dummies-Computer-Tech/dp/0471770841/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-8271523-2379241?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1175356720&sr=8-1). One feature I thought interesting was "favorite movies" and "favorite music." It's good to get a read on the blogger by seeing their interests and pop-culture preferences, and then have that context to evaluate the posting.

I thought I'd share my favorite magazines and periodicals.

Newsmagazine: "The Economist" - when I can afford it. When I first heard of it, I thought it was a egg-headed periodical dedicated to the arcane world of economics. While the magazine (they call themselves a "newspaper" - must be a Brit thing) does cover economics, it is a general news mag. The things I like about The Economist are several:
  1. The perspective is broader than the typical "Time," "Newsweek," or "U.S. News & World Report." The Economist writes for people that aren't in the United States. As shallow as that is about me, I appreciate difference in perspective.
  2. The articles are uniformly very well written. There is a craftsmanship to journalism and my take is that they do that well.
  3. The editorial perspective: while socially liberal (not my cup of tea), they are economically conservative. At the same time they raz on Libertarians, they actually espouse what Libertarians want to be when they grow up. I get a refreshing dose of economic policy common sense that is both intelectually rigourous and humanely thoughtful. The Economist is a reliable source of world news.

Christian Development: I enjoy "Leadership" magazine. It speaks to my heart and mind about the stakes and blessings of Christian ministry. It is a rare priveledge to be able to serve Followers of Jesus in what we call "ministry." This magazine helps me appreciate that priveledge more. I resonate with the editorial heart of "Leadership," as well as its grounded pragmatism and innovation. I'm always challenged by every issue in my own heart, skills, and vision for ministry.

Cultural Engagement: I subscribe to an audio magazine, "Mars Hill Audio Journal." Once every two months, I get a CD of six to eight interviews with intellectual leaders speaking on Christianity's engagement with culture. Ken Meyers, formerly with National Public Radio, interviews authors on a variety of topics such as marketing to adolescents, C.S. Lewis, architecture, the Tolkien film trilogy, Muslim engagement with the non-Muslim world, poetry and literature, the nature of beauty in art, politics, et al. Meyers is a remarkable interviewer: well researched, engaged with his interviewees, and quite a mind himself.

As to pop-culture, I really enjoy the Relevant podcast: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/podcast.php . Christian perspective, very funny, and - well - I like it.

For general news, I usually get the headlines off of my Yahoo portal page. If the treatment isn't complete, then I can go deeper. Personally, I have taken a "short-term news fast:" I stay away from daily newspapers, T.V. news, and most local news. I find that several of my friends (who are news junkies) are the best source of keeping me informed with what's important: they act as my filters. In this "daily news fast," I find that my understanding of news events is more "trend" focused and helps me integrate the atomized events that are brought to my attention.


Evolution, Information, and Politics

Here's a sample of what seems to be a typical Evolutionist blog... http://healthvsmedicine.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_archive.html (starting with the August 3rd posting)
The person here fills their site with a variety of interesting scientific information. Yet, and here's the key thing, not much of that information actually speaks to the issue at hand. What is the issue at hand? Are all of those stupid, willfully ignorant, Bible-thumping, homophobic, %#@&! CHRISTIANS correct when they assert that "God created?"

First, please observe that these blogs don't direct their venom at anyone else but Christians: Jews whose scriptures teach a Divine Creator do not get any attention. Muslims, who teach a Divine Creator, never get a word. No; note well that in the U.S. and Europe it is the Christians who get the hate mail. Talk about ethnocentricity!

Please also notice the unspoken assertion in these comments. The real premise is this: evolution explains life so therefore God isn’t needed. This begs the question: why is it important to not need God? Why is it important to make an assertion that God needs not to exist? What is it in the minds of these folks that drives them to conclude that even the idea of God is bad? It certainly isn’t because the concept of God is intellectually repugnant – the history of great thinkers throughout all of our civilization (as well as others) show that the concept of God is vital to a rigorous intellectual life. So what's the deal?

Second, note that a lengthy, detailed, and coherent discussion of the science of cellular biology does not advance a whit the proposition that Darwinian evolution is true. Such information is useful, helpful, and good to know. But such information, as a tool, is as inappropriate to apply to the issue of "creation vs. evolution" as is the use of a pneumatic jack-hammer to the task of interpreting Shakespeare. It's not "Apples and Oranges," it's "Apples and Laws covering the settlement of bank drafts" - almost completely unrelated!

Let me restate: the 'evolutionary' evidence often purports to prove much more than it actually does. The question is, if I understand it properly, "What happened?" That - right there - is an historic query, not a scientific one. Here's where the typical "Evolutionist" gets off the tracks. The issue of what happened is one of history and must use historical processes to determine what actually was the truth of the matter at a certain place and time. The process of history actually makes use of legal reasoning rather than scientific reasoning. Why is scientific reasoning the inappropriate process? Because science, rightly understood, is the process of observation, hypothesis, and repeatable phenomena to prove the hypothesis. Even then, a right understanding of science always makes such conclusions tentative and speaks in terms of probability (Noam Chomsky states that, in fact, there's no such thing as scientific "proofs"). In any case, history is not amenable to the scientific method, if for no other reason, because there is no place for a repeatable experiment.
Do you want to prove that Julius Caesar wrote “The Gallic Wars?” You can’t perform an experiment on that because Caesar’s putative creation of a specific work is a one-time occurrence – it can’t be repeated.
When you are rightly doing science (as opposed to the quasi-religion of “scientism”), you are limited to repeatable phenomena. When you are doing history, you are generally restricted to one time occurrences.
Certainly, you can use science to bolster a historical hypothesis. And you can use history to add weight to a scientific hypothesis. But, and here’s the crux, you can’t use science alone to “prove” a historical event.
So what historical event are we talking about? The evolution or creation of homo sapiens.

Here’s what we are unable to do: we can not create humans as the theists claim that God did.

There’s the old joke: One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost." God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well. How about this? Let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!" But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam." The scientist said, "Sure; no problem." and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!" (http://members.tripod.com/~TechBabe/dirt.html)

Here’s the even more damaging thing: scientists can not even create life. We aren’t even talking about critters, or even cells. Even the "building blocks" of life itself is beyond the grasp of human technology, engineering, and science. Not only that, but there is no real good theory of how life arose in the first place. Darwin’s “spontaneous generation” of life turned out to be an embarrassing dead-end.
The “prebiotic soup” (simple amino acids created in a laboratory flask) theory of life emergence are even more embarassing. Those were the experiments based on the work of Oparin and Haldane and then Urey and Miller and turned out to be one of the most notorious frauds of science. They had no proof that earth’s early atmosphere contained ammonia, methane, and hydrogen (the basis of the “successful experiment”), but there is considerable research to show that the earth’s early atmosphere contained great amounts of water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen – remarkably inert chemicals. When the infamous “flask of life” was created in the laboratory from ammonia, methane, hydrogen, and a sparkplug (for which there is no evidence those conditions ever existed) – those conditions were stacked in advance to get the results desired: a single type of a VERY simple amino acid.
Further, amino acids (note: there are many!) are just the first step in constructing a functioning cell. Getting all the parts of a simple cell together and working is, well, chemically and physically no easy thing and something scientists still can not do, nor do they have a good theory to explain how this happened.

Then, of course, you have the evolutionary problem of DNA.

Evolutionists invoke DNA as evidence for the validity of Darwinian evolution. That is a terrible mistake. Evolutionists should run far away from DNA - far and fast. Why? Historically, in the 'unlocking' of the understanding of DNA, it was not evolutionary biology that helped us get a grip on the function of DNA, it was the application of Information Theory. When it became clear that DNA wasn't just a chemical catalyst, but actual information that directed the progress of cellular function, then its function became clear. We understand DNA in that way to this day.

Here's the rub: DNA is information (I don't know anyone who seriously denies that). However, if that is true, then information has to imply an "Informer." While 'design' does not necessarily imply a "Designer," information clearly requires an intelligence.
Where did the intelligence come from?
I'm a theist so, for me, the answer is obvious. Your mileage may vary.

This discussion is good stuff: how do we make sense of the world we find ourselves in? It is these observations, questions like these, and the hypothesis they create, which is the core of the scientific method. By the way, these specific intellectual issues are part of the "Intelligent Design" discussion.

But Intelligent Design has, irrationally, become politicized. A legitimate inquiry of science and philosophic thought has suddenly been spun as "code words for religion." Because one of the implications of Intelligent Design might be the concept of personal creator, suddenly we are told that we must stop such inquiry (become scientific Amish) because we tread "dangerously" close to the ground of religion. First, why is thoughtful inquiry "dangerous?" Second, why must we all be forced to commit intellectual suicide by not allowing these matters to be discussed, explored, maybe even rejected (on their merits!)? Third, why have we allowed politics to spin these matters into ones of "dangerous religion?"

What do you think?


A Loss Experienced

I have some unhappy news – a dear friend of the family and former boyfriend of Irene’s was found dead last Sunday at his home. Geoff Prozora was much loved and a wonderful guy. He was bright, talented, and a deep lover of Jesus. A few months back he’d began to show symptoms of depressive mental illness. At that time he and Irene broke up – with the hope that when Geoff got better they could be a couple again. That was not to be. I really liked Geoff a lot. He and I would play together in the worship band. I could go on and on about Geoff, but you get the idea.

I would count it a favor if you could pray for this situation. Please remember Geoff’s parents and sister – the pain in their lives is unimaginable now. Please pray for Irene as she is going through a hellacious time. Please also pray for Geoff’s best friend, Chase, who has loyally stayed with Geoff through the sudden agony that became Geoff’s live over the last few months. Remember Kevin, our youth pastor, for whom Geoff was ‘his guy.’

As I have been experiencing my own grief and observing the grief of others, a few things have occurred to me.

First, grief varies by individual. One of the hard things to deal with in a loss of this sort is expectations. Not everyone is built to engage in rich emotional expression. Some people are mullers – they will take time to process their loss. When they roll things around enough in their hearts, they will come to a helpful conclusion. Some people are contagious – even though the loss wasn’t very personal or close, they empathetically feel the loss of others and find they respond as if the loss was their own. Some people are analytical – they attempt to find meaning even when there is none. When no meaning is found, then they can give themselves permission to feel. Some people are expressive – they weep, groan, shake their fists, and use up a lot of Kleenex. They have a rich emotional life and feel free to express it. Other people are doers – they need activity. As they are distracted by tasks surrounding the loss, they can take small, bite-sized portions of their own grief and process it in ‘manageable’ ways.

The point is that when good-intentioned people put out expectations that having the “meltdown” is the only legitimate greif response then they deny the uniqueness of people. Grief counselors encourage “healthy” mourning by only encouraging the ‘meltdown model.’ So, again, a mourner not only feels loss, but now may feel guilt that they aren’t mourning in a “healthy” way.

Second, Christians are frequently drawn to make theological statements during a time of loss – statements that are meant to be helpful but frequently are out of synch with the needs of mourners. I noted that even within minutes of hearing of Geoff’s death, people were reactively struggling with the theology of the situation. And that is appropriate. However, some were taking the opportunity to press their particular theological theory. When I heard that, it was irritating to me. My consolation was that in such a time, nobody retained those comments.

Third, we can occasionally forget about the peripheral mourners. There were other kids who are and have been struggling with even greater issues than the death of Geoff. When Geoff died, it was a reminder of their own pain. But because Geoff was a rather charismatic guy, the response to his passing was very public. Nobody seemed to think of the secondary effects on already wounded people.

I’m still sorting out what I am seeing and hearing. I am an ‘analytic’ and this helps me with my own sense of loss. But I’ve come to these initial conclusions:

  • Death is pretty crappy. It is good to remember that death is still the enemy
  • It is not unspiritual, immature, faithless, or less godly to feel pain at the loss of a loved one or friend
  • Death, in itself, is a reminder that "It is not supposed to be this way!"
  • As much as we can try to ‘handle’ or ‘manage’ our grief ‘process,’ we should not be surprised when that breaks down: we can’t expect this kind of thing to be ‘managable’

P.S.: (20070331) I've received lots of comments on this post off-line and have been very encouraged by them. Recently, I ran across this article on what NOT to say to someone in grief: http://www.pastors.com/rwmt/default.asp?id=302&artid=10355&expand=1