Another Walter Williams Classic

11/29/2006: Every American ought to read this latest column by Walter Williams.

The following statement says it all (emphasis mine):

The supreme tragedy that will lead to our undoing is that so far as personal economic self-interests are concerned, it is perfectly rational for every American to seek to live at the expense of another American. Why? Not doing so doesn’t mean he’ll pay lower federal taxes. All it means is that there will be more money for somebody else.

In other words, once Congress establishes that one person can live at the expense of another, it pays for everyone to try to do so. You say, “Williams, don’t you believe in helping your fellow man?” Yes, I do. I believe that reaching into one’s own pockets to help his fellow man is both laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another’s pockets to help his fellow man is despicable and worthy of condemnation.

Rutgers Researcher Fires Another Shot in Culture War

11/28/2006: In today’s Wall Street Journal, Mei Fong and Nicholas Zamiska report on the efforts of Rutgers University professor Wise Young to conduct clinical trials in China over the use of cells from aborted babies in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. This is further empirical demonstration of the culture of death that we will face in a completely secular society.

With the advent of abortion rights in the 1970s, many pro-lifers warned of the eventual use of aborted babies for the development of consumer products and medical treatments. They were dimissed as kooks.

The former came to pass many years ago, with the use of collagen from aborted babies in the development of cosmetic products. In China, Dr. Young is seeking to verify the efficacy of fetal cell treatments for paralysis (To date, that has not been scientifically established.)

While skeptics will dismiss the treatments as ineffective–I personally have my doubts, as they probably represent a further attempt to provide a “kinder, gentler” face on the destruction of children in utero–the larger issue is the killing of [presumably] unwanted children in order to cannibalize their remains for medical and scientific use.

(I say presumably because China has long been known for its forced abortion policy. Ergo, it is probable that Dr. Young is carrying out “research” using children whose murders were ordered by the Chinese government.)

If the “treatments” are successful, that raises another fork in the road: the specter of medical researchers and clinicians paying women to become pregnant and have early-term abortions for the purpose of harvesting the fetal cells.

If a young woman who is financially strapped needs money for college, a medical research firm could, for example, offer full-ride scholarships in return for, let’s say, two abortions per year for four years. Ditto for graduate students.

Going one step further: universities–under the guise of medical research, of course–could offer financial incentives to single mothers to get pregnant and have one or more abortions per year.

This would provide a steady stream of fetal cells for research and the production of treatments.

The only way none of this happens: the howling reproach from The Church.

My Selections for Cooperstown

11/27/2006: Here is the list of candidates for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Here are my picks:

(1) Bert Blyleven. He won plenty of games, and came up big when it counted: the 1979 World Series (with the Pittsburgh Pirates) and the 1987 World Series (for the Minnesota Twins). Surely a place that accommodates Don Sutton has a place for Blyleven.

(2) Steve Garvey. He–and Jim Rice–are the top stars from the 1970s and 1980s who are not yet in the Hall. While Garvey’s antics off the field are regrettable, he was a consistent 200-hit/.300 average player year-in and year-out for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He didn’t miss many games. He even delivered a World Series for LA.

(3) Goose Gossage. He was THE dominant closer of his time, and helped usher in the era of the dominant closer. His fastball was devastating, and–when the Yankees needed him–he delivered big-time.

(4) Tony Gwynn. He picked up where Rod Carew left off, and then some. 8 batting titles. .338 career batting average. 3,141 hits. Only 434 career strikeouts in 9,288 at-bats. Yup…he’s in.

(5) Jack Morris. Even though his ERA is high for a would-be Cooperstown resident, Morris was one of the finest clutch pitchers in baseball history, winning two World Series championships. He was also the winningest pitcher in the 1980s.

(6) Jim Rice. For nearly 15 years, he was one of the most-feared hitters in baseball. While he could not deliver a World Series, that had less to do with him and more to do with the curse of the Bambino, as Rice–with teammates Fred Lynn and Hall-of-Famers Carl Yazstrzemski and Carlton Fisk–played for the cursed Boston Red Sox. He was a great hitter, not to mention a perennial all-star. Baseball writers–out of spite–have long ostracized Rice on account of his shoddy treatment of the news media. Quite frankly, I find that unfair. He was one of the dominant players of his era, and is very deserving of a place in Cooperstown.

(7) Cal Ripken, Jr. Aside from breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games, Ripken was the finest shorstop of his era.

(8) Lee Smith. He deserves to be in. 478 saves, a 3.03 ERA, 1,251 strikeouts in 1,289 innings. 7-time all-star.

Here are those–of note–whom I consider undeserving this year:

(1) Mark McGwire. Without steroids, Mac would not have HOF-caliber stats. That, however, is not true regarding Barry Bonds, who had HOF numbers before he discovered BALCO. Bonds would get my vote, but not Mac.

(2) Albert Belle. He put up Jim Rice-caliber numbers, but that was during the Steroid Era. Rice, on the other hand, led the AL in games, at-bats, runs scored, hits, homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, total bases, extra-base hits, multi-hit games, and outfield assists during a ten-year 1975-1984 stretch.

(3) Tommy John. A fine player, but not HOF caliber.

(4) Dave Parker. He’s on the bubble. As a fan of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and owner of several Parker baseball cards, I’d love to see him voted in. He had solid stats, was a complete player, and has two World Series rings, but I’m not convinced that his stats are completely HOF-caliber. His cocaine usage also weighs against him.

(5) Orel Hershiser. A fine pitcher who will eventually get in. He was a stellar pitcher who came back from rotator cuff surgery to have a long, productive career. His stats are on the bubble, but with over 200 wins and an ERA under 3.50, he will get voted in by the veterans committee one day.

(6) Don Mattingly. Like Orel Hershiser, he’ll make it in eventually. In fact, the case for Mattingly is better than the case for Hershiser. His stats are good enough, and–even in his twilight–he put up good batting averages in spite of back problems. He finished his career batting .307 with more than 400 doubles, 200 homers, and 1,000 RBIs. He was also an outstanding fielder.

(6) Dale Murphy. A fine player who was great for the game, but with a career batting average of only .265–while having well under 500 homers–he’s not HOF material.

(7) Wally Joyner. Stats are not even in the ballpark for HOF consideration, not even for a first-baseman.

(8) Bret Saberhagen. Excellent pitcher, noted for his great performance in the 1985 World Series. But his overall stats are not HOF-caliber. While his ERA is good enough, having less than 200 wins doesn’t qualify.

(9) Andre Dawson. He’ll get in, but not this year.

The ones I want to see in the Hall, but will never get in:

(1) Thurman Munson, who was killed in a plane crash short of his tenth full season.

(2) Pete Rose. While his gambling activities are shameful, I believe his on-field performance merits a place in Cooperstown. He should also be permitted to attend all-star events and “Old Timer” games. On the other hand, he should not be allowed to manage, coach, or own a Major League Baseball team

Joe Carter: Abolish Slavery

11/28/2006: One of my very first posts on this blog was a mini-review of the Gary Haugen book Terrify No More, which describes the work of the International Justice Mission in busting a child prostitution ring in Cambodia. In it, Haugen brings a very disturbing point home: slavery–including sex slavery–is still alive and well in the world, as it has been for almost all of human history.

And–make no mistake–if its abolition is to become reality, The Church will be the crucial link, just as The Church played the pivotal role in the abolition of slavery in Britain and the United States.

Joe Carter–at the Evangelical Outpost–has a nice piece on the issue. While he lays out some things that need to happen internationally (at the socio-political level), his last paragraph is ever so important:

In the 18th and 19th centuries, British and American evangelicals were the leaders of the abolition movement. It’s time that modern-day evangelicals once again take our place in the struggle against slavery. In order to do that, however, we must become better informed, we must lobby our government to act, and we must raise up leaders who will become the Harriet Tubmans and William Wilberforces of the twenty-first century. We must take up the task of leading the next great abolition movement.

This brings up another point that I have made on this blog: those who wish to attack Christianity fail to understand that–but not for the Christian–there would have been no abolition of slavery in the United States or the British Empire.

That is also a key empirical rebuttal to those New Atheists who clamor for the eradication of “organized religion” in order to promote more compassion. As I pointed out yesterday, empirically, that simply would not happen.

The New Atheism, Religious Conservatism, and Charity

11/27/2006: In this increasingly heated struggle between the New Atheists (militant atheists and secularists) and religious conservatives (predominately conservative Catholics and Protestant Evangelicals), the New Atheists often advance one of two arguments:

  1. Religion is the root of all strife and conflict. If we would just eradicate religion, we would have an unprecedented era of peace and goodwill.
  2. Religion is useful in terms of its moral teachings, but in terms of theology they are little more than myth. Ergo, we can embrace the moral teachings while ignoring the “myth” elements that are so divisive.

Adherents of the first assertion are ignorant of the realities of human nature. Religion did not invent pride, greed, and lust; in fact, any religion that even comes close to the truth merely articulates those elements of human nature. In fact, it is empirical fact that the vast minority of wars have been fought over religion.

Furthermore, the record of the secularist in the goodwill department is not very promising. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks shows that religious conservatives are more likely than their secular counterparts to give to charity. (emphasis mine)

Nowhere is the divide in values more on display than in religion, the frontline in our so-called “culture war.” And the relationship between religion and charity is nothing short of extraordinary. The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey indicates that Americans who weekly attend a house of worship are 25 percentage points more likely to give than people who go to church rarely or never. These religious folks also give nearly four times more dollars per year than secularists, on average, and volunteer more than twice as frequently.

It is not the case that these enormous differences are due simply to religious people giving to their churches. Religious people are more charitable with all sorts of nonreligious causes as well. They are 10 percentage points likelier than secularists to give money to explicitly nonreligious charities like the United Way, and 25 points more likely to volunteer for secular groups such as the PTA. Churchgoers were far likelier in 2001 to give to 9/11-related causes. On average, people of faith give more than 50% more money each year to non-church social welfare organizations than secularists do.

So where is the proof that those promoting a secular agenda have a better solution? The empirical evidence suggests that secularists are in fact more greedy and less charitable than their religious counterparts. In fact, attempts at such secular, charitable societies–Communism comes to mind–have proven to be among the greatest human tragedies of all time. Stalin (13+million dead), Mao (40+million dead), and Pol Pot (a quarter of his population killed) have demonstrated the abject failure of secular socialism. Every implementation of Communism has been disastrous.

For all the failures of European “Christian” governments over the past two milennia, those failures are miniscule next to their secular counterparts in the form of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Castro.

Still, some secular critics will back off from those criticisms and say, “Now religion has its place in society, especially with respsect to ethics. But the theological teachings are just myths and superstitions.”

Unfortunately, in any religious framework–whether it be Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, or Christian–the moral/ethical imperatives are inseparable from their theological underpinnings. Take Judaism and Christianity for example. The commands to compassion are driven by the force of the fact that the God of the Bible is a God who is (a) omnipotent, (b) omniscient, (c) just and righteous, and (d) exacts punishment on those who lack compassion.

From a Christian standpoint, anyone who calls him or herself a believer–and refuses to take care of the needy in his or her own family–is worse than a non-believer.

Take away those propositions, and any “call to compassion” carries the weight of mere suggestion.

Aside from the theological implications of this debate between Christians and the “New Atheists”, there are very real cultural ramifications.

The secularists have shown empirically–in micro and macroeconomic terms–the failures of their ideas. Their telos is mass murder, economic devastation, and societies utterly lacking in basic compassion.

The alternative to their framework is the howling reproach the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who created all, acted redemptively in time and space, and Whose calls to selflessness and compassion reverberate to all generations.

The New Atheism

11/26/2006: This week, Southern Seminary President Al Mohler weighed in on “the new atheism”. Atheists in academia–or the formulation of public policy–are nothing new. Quite frankly, they have dominated the academy–and many key government agencies–for decades. The Humanist Manifesto goes back 73 years and its signers included education pioneer John Dewey. Philip Johnson–author of Darwin on Trial–has observed that while American scientists include many theistic evolutionists, the scientists in Europe (collectively) ditched Theism a long time ago. That sectors of atheists have been evangelizing their secular [non]gospel is also nothing new.

However, atheists are being taken far more seriously by a far larger percentage of people than ever before. Other than the challenge of Islam, militant atheism is perhaps the greatest cultural challenge to the Church today.

As a layperson, I’d say that there are a couple reasons for why atheism is becoming more popular:

(1) Materialism and Hedonism. Americans are extremely materialistic, and the rest of the world is no better. On one hand, even the poorest Americans have it better than the middle class in most countries. On the other hand, nothing we have is ever enough. Even the friends I know from church often have a “keep up with the Joneses” mentality. They have to have nicer houses. They have to have nicer cars. I have one friend who–any time his brother purchases a nice firearm–he has to go out and get the same thing.

I know a person who–when seeing a friend who had built a certain type of house–went out and built the same type of house. As a society, we’ve embraced the “whatever you have is the measure of who you are” mentality. Donald Trump has become the new God.

As a worst-case scenario: I once had a preacher who would always gravitate toward the people who had the big money in the church. He had a friend–Jack (not his real name)–who pastored a large church. Anything Jack had his church, his friend also had to have.

Anyone who doubts my assertions about hedonism need only remember four things: viagra, levitra, cialis, Jenna Jameson.

‘Nuff said.

(2) Nihilism. The rise in anti-religious skepticism–which has fomented a rejection of objective truth–has given legs to nihilism. Many people–raised in the Church–have rejected their upbringing in favor of popular culture and the hedonism that has become readily available. Materialism (the worship of posessions) has combined with hedonism (the worship of pleasure) to give rise to nihilism.

(3) Cynicism. That the Church has failed to be the beacon of light–in America in particular–has fomented a growing wave of cynicism regarding religion in general and Christianity in particular. Magachurch culture looks more like corporate America than The Church. Sadly, many churches have embraced megachurch business models growth plans, which could easily pass as MBA marketing projects. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the phenomenon in which preachers often download sermons of other preachers and use those sermons from the pulpit, in many cases verbatim.

Even a lifelong idealist like myself can barely avoid getting a bit cynical after seeing the morass that has become The Church in America.

What Mohler has failed to do, however, is lay out the cold, hard fact: The Church not only faces a serious challenge; it is also a challenge that the Church has had a hand in creating.

Unless The Church quits trying to be friends with the world–and returns to being a Godly contrast to the way the world operates–expect Atheism to make serious advancements.

However, as a Biblical realist, I know God does not stay silent forever. There will be another reformation.

I just want it to happen in my lifetime.

Cops Shoot 50 Rounds at Vehicle; Were They in the Right?

11/26/2006: In Louisville, Kentucky, a few years ago, Louisville police shot an “unarmed” man in his car. (This happened not far from the church at which I was a member at the time.) Because the man happened to be black, the reaction was quite predictable: civil rights groups cried foul, while others in the community backed the police officers.

The controversy subsided a bit in this case because the assailant who was shot had tried to run over the cops with his vehicle, and the police had acted in defense. After all, an automobile can be used as a deadly weapon, and a person is entitled to the basic right of self-defense. Advantage: Louisville Police.

This time, the NYPD could be in a similar predicament. Police fired 50 rounds into a vehicle that had–allegedly–hit an undercover police officer and rammed an unmarked police minivan.

At this point, I would want the answer to the following questions:

(1) Did the police officers identify themselves as such?

(2) Was there an effort to place the men under arrest?

(3) Did the officers shoot the men as they were trying to hit them with the vehicle, or did they shoot at the men from behind? (If they shot from behind, then it might not pass the smell test in a B.S. factory.)

Last month, an Indiana Pacers player Stephen Jackson was charged with criminal recklessness for firing a gun at a vehicle that had struck him, but was fleeing when he fired the weapon. By doing what he did, Jackson put the lives of other people in needless danger.

Given that one of the shooting victims in this case–Joseph Guzman–was in the front seat and was shot 11 times, it could be indicative of anything. If the police were not in danger of being struck (and they might not have been), then their shooting was probably needless. On the other hand, if the driver was aiming the car at the police officers, the shooting was very appropriate.

That the media reports stress that the occupants were “unarmed” is a moot point. The vehicle was a deadly weapon, in fact more lethal (and with more stopping power) than their 9mm handguns.