Doofus

Years ago my younger sister married Doofus. No, not his real name, but certainly what we all thought of him. The proof of who someone is, they say, is in the pudding … or when enough time has passed that one has a track record, or a history.

My sister and bil moved within one day’s drive of us this summer, so we packed up our three teenagers with mult-plug power adaptors and lots of snacks (remember, first rule of parenting: Sanity at all costs!) and headed north. My girls are terrible travelers, always have been, and after 10-11 hours with our special needs daughter trapped in a moving vehicle all day, we were all ready to break outa there!

They have three kids. The oldest begins his freshman year of college with a full Presidential Scholarship this year. The middle is on track for a basketball college scholarship. And the youngest reads like there’s no tomorrow. All three love love LOVE their dad. I mean, these kids LOVE their dad. He spends time with them, plays with them, teaches them how to do things. He’s their dad.

And of all of my siblings and myself, they are the only ones still married. And he’s the only dad who is still positively involved in his kids’ lives. And their three kids are the most grounded of all the cousins.

And my sister is happy.

He’s still a Doofus in many ways. Not one of us would have picked him for my sister. But you know what? He’s the best of all of us, and the best dad of the bunch. And their kids are amazing.

Moral of this True Story: Never underestimate Doofus.

The End.

Answering Snoop, Part 2

Well, Snoop/Deuce 9/Calvin Cordazer/person of many monikers, the time has arrived for my second installment.

In the first, I made the case that it is rational to accept that there is a Creator, and that it is also rational to conclude—based on comparisons in our advancements in science, engineering, and technology that reflect an intelligence that reflects on a smaller-scale the intelligence and power of that Creator—that humanity is made in the image of that Creator.

If one rationally concludes those two things, then the premise that the Creator is indeed the God of the Bible is quite a logical one.

Still, even if one accepts those premises, those alone does not equate to a Christian faith, as that is not exclusively an intellectual exercise: it is an experiential exercise that has a rational, intellectual basis reflected in what we know to be observably true in history, science and technology.

Having said all of that, anyone who knows Scripture well is going to understand that there are a mother lode of difficulties. Even as we look at the Scriptures and how the major characters—the foundational persons (from Adam to Noah), Patriarchs (Abraham to Joseph), deliverers (Moses and Joshua), judges,  Kings, prophets, and even the Disciples and Apostles—experienced God, we see several recurring truisms:

(1)   Because of sin, Man is fallen;

(2)   Because of sin, the earth is cursed;

(3)   Because of sin, this life is often very difficult, and some of us will experience more of this than others;

(4)   Because of sin, we all see through the glass darkly. That means that not only is our ability to understand God’s truths impaired, but also that our ability to make sense of our own condition and situation is similarly impaired.

(5)   There are no guarantees that the issues about which we care will be resolved on this side of eternity.

(6)   God is under no obligation to grant us answers on the terms we would wish.

(7)   God is under no obligation to exercise justice on the terms—or even the timetable—we want.

The issues you raised in your impressive rant are understandable, and–even in Scripture–the best of the best raised some of those matters.

In the book of Revelation, the martyred saints lamented, “How long, O Lord?” as they looked upon the advancement of evil. That is huge. Think about it: they had suffered for the faith; they saw others suffering for the faith; and yet they wondered aloud about God’s timetable for justice, even in their secure, eternal frame of reference.

When Job—given the chance—asked God why he had to suffer as he had suffered, he received not a straight answer, but a smackdown (which he humbly accepted).

In Acts 1, when the Disciples asked Jesus if he was going to restore the Kingdom, Jesus effectively told them, “That’s none of your business. You just do what I tell you to do!”

Jeremiah lamented, “Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” Here we get one of God’s finest prophets, and he’s asking hard questions. And the answer he received was not a guarantee of immediate justice. Such is never guaranteed to anyone in Scripture.

And yet in our microwave generation, we want the answers, and we want them yesterday!

When people asked Jesus hard questions, He often gave answers that frustrated both His friends and His enemies. His teachings were often difficult: even today, otherwise fine conservative scholars seek to mitigate the severity of some of those hard teachings.

In our modern pericope, I see the evils of genocide and mass murder (including abortion), human trafficking, fascism, racism, corruption in all levels of government, as well as general human suffering (disease, natural disaster, famine, mercurial employment prospects, etc.). I’ve had close friends who have died of cancer; my father–once a competitive marathoner–suffers from progressive muscular atrophy (which is similar to ALS) and will likely die from it. I personally suffer from chronic degenerative conditions that—in spite of my exercise and health regimen—significantly limit my physical abilities.

We will all walk through death’s door one day, and that walk will not be pretty for everyone. We could die peacefully in our sleep, or we could die torturous, painful deaths from disease, accident, or atrocity. But we will all die one day.

It is easy to look at those realities and wonder why God allows these things to happen.

I also look at the premise of God’s atonement for our sins, and the reality that, while that atonement is sufficient to cover everyone who has ever lived and will live, many—in fact most—will not receive that atonement, and will in fact wind up in eternal torment.

Does God will that, or does God permit that? Are certain people predestined for Hell, or do they simply opt-out of heaven by choice? And what about people who never hear the Gospel? Will they be damned to Hell? How does the reality of human suffering track with the Biblical presentation of a God who is loving and just and merciful?

The hyper-Calvinist will give you one set of answers; the hard Arminians will give you another set of answers. Neither box—Calvinist or Arminian—adequately reconciles the tension that exists. The Calvinist brings some very important observations to the table whereas the Arminian also brings some important observations to the table.

I would contend, however, that this tension in Scripture is a good thing. That the Scriptures do not fit into a particular box says volumes about the reality that we see through the glass darkly.

At the same time, while in the Scriptures we do not get a complete portrait of God, we do get what is necessary.

In other words, the model of God—provided in Scripture—does not have to conform to my hopes and aspirations for justice, mercy, peace, and love in order for me to receive Him.

That is because if I have concluded that the preponderance of evidence shows that the God of the Scriptures is indeed the Creator–and I have–then I am also forced to accept certain things that the Scriptures say even though those things can sometimes make for a set of really irritating ticks in my britches.

Still, the Scriptures do reveal a God who shows compassion, mercy, and grace just as He acts in justice. For that reason, I can reasonably conclude that, on judgment day, God will do the right thing, whatever that ends up being.

As for me, I am responsible for what I do with the truth that I have to face, and I cannot allow myself to get sidetracked by what I call “circle-jerk” issues that substitute tree for forest.

Now let’s go back to certain issues that you raised. Let’s assume—for this part of the discussion—that there is no God.

That being the case, your rant about infanticide, racial and gender segregation, murder, injustice, sexual repression, genocide, is nothing but petty histrionics at best and emotive masturbation at worst.

For one thing, if there is no God, then what is so wrong with genocide, murder, or infanticide? While you and I would agree that those are evil, you have no objective basis—as an Atheist—to conclude so.

After all, if I am a leader of sufficient vision and might, and if I have determined that it is within the better interests of the human race that certain sectors of humanity not be allowed to live, then why should we not kill them off for the greater good of humanity? After all, from a purely Darwinian standpoint, that course of action is totally permissible.

And if there is no God, then what is so wrong with sexual repression? While you and I would agree that sex is a good thing to be enjoyed with liberty—although I would contend that it is for a husband and wife, and not non-married folks, to enjoy—you have no objective basis to say that it is fundamentally wrong for a family to subject their girls to clitorectomies, especially given that some cultures—which we both would agree are off the rails—see that as integral to keeping families together, and promoting marital fidelity.

And if there is no God, then who are you to lecture anyone about justice? After all, if there is no God, then the definition of justice depends on which group has the most power. Is that not the essence of pure democracy?

And if there is no God, then who are you to lecture anyone about sexual and racial segregation? After all, (a) the premise of racial and gender equity is a Christian one (Galatians 3:28)–rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ–that does not otherwise have a historical basis, and (b) there is no empirical, scientific evidence that either the sexes or the races are equal in any shape, matter, or form.

It is, after all, scientific fact that some races are more intelligent than others. It is also historical fact that some races are more civilized and developed than others. It is also scientific fact that men are stronger than women. So to say that the sexes and races are equal has no basis in a purely secular framework.

In fact, it is only in light of a Creator–whose atonement reconciles God and Man–that such equality is anything more than a pipe dream.

Ultimately, if there is no God, then you have no leg to stand on, and you are just providing an empty rant.

OTOH, if there is a God, and if that God is indeed the God presented in Scripture–and, as I’ve shown, that case has strong merits–then we have an objective standard for love, justice, compassion, wisdom, and equity that provides hope that does not depend on the cares of this world, even as (a) some truths about both God and Man are not always easy or pleasant to accept, and (b) we can still expect to experience hardships on this side of eternity.

Answering Snoop, Part 1

Well, Calvin Cordazer Broadus, Jr/Snoop Dogg/Deuce Nine/etc…..I promised I’d get back to you. This will be my first installment.

What I find quite interesting is that you are arguing from an existentialist and nihilist playbook that in fact undercuts a significant part of your rant, particularly some of the human tragedies you mention. I will get to those in a future installment–perhaps the next one–though.

As I read your posting, it seems that you are trying to argue several points at the same time, and if I need to add any, please feel free to raise them:

(1) I used to believe in the God of the Bible with all my heart;
(2) Over time, I came to dislike the God of the Bible;
(3) I now do not believe in God at all.

In this installment, I will deal with #3: making the case for a Creator. My goal here is not to prove that there is a Creator, but rather to make the case that the conclusion of the existence of one is indeed rational, and that rationality is only bolstered via human advancements in science and engineering.

Others–such as Vox Day–have done a remarkable job making that case from the veracity of eyewitness testimony. Vox’s 2011 debate with Dominic Saltarelli was a classic: while Saltarelli’s effort was impressive, Vox scored a huge knockout in the first round with his emphasis on eyewitness testimony, and he even made a mathematical case for his position.

I’m not going to take that route, even though it is an excellent one.

Oh no. I’m going to take the route of science and engineering.

Unfortunately, for the Atheist, the case for a Creator is a very strong one. This is because–unlike the Israelites of Moses’ time–we have a greater understanding of science and intelligence, and, contrary to the musings of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris, that undercuts the case against God.

The “New Atheists” love to speak of their great reliance on science, dismissing religion in general–Christianity in particular–as “superstition”. As they do this, they display great ignorance of science, technology, the dynamics of intelligence, philosophy, and–yes–even theology.

My background is in engineering; my undergraduate degree is in aeronautical engineering. In my professional life, I have been designing IT systems for over 20 years. Those experiences have included plant-floor based automation, complex databases and data warehouses, single-user and client/server applications, as well as web-based applications that include e-commerce functionality.

Systems–particularly those that are event-driven–are with us to stay. That term–event-driven–is important: it is crucial to the understanding of feedback control systems.

Almost anyone with an engineering degree has had one or more courses in control system design. This is because almost every field of engineering involves designing feedback controls that regulate the behavior of systems, ensuring their stability against a variety of adverse inputs (step, ramp, sinusoidal, even impulses and random excitations). Examples of these include flight controls on aircraft (including autopilots), as well as robots and environmental controls that are common in both homes and offices ad industrial plants.

Such feedback control systems are very complex mathematically, requiring an understanding not only of calculus but of differential equations for design and analysis, and that is just for the “simple” problems. (The more advanced problems involve partial differential equations, and many of these systems require high-level tools for efficient design.)

Such systems don’t just happen on their own; they require a combination of intelligence and mechanical acuity–both dexterity and power–for both design and construction.

Now where am I going with this?

Every living thing–from a single-cell bacteria to human beings–has such feedback control systems: they are called homeostatic controls. These systems regulate various properties, ensuring that they remain within limits that are required for the survival of that organism.

Examples include the human body’s organ systems that regulate body temperature, blood sugar, and oxygen supply to various systems. These systems are very complex, involving organs with both structure and function, the production of enzymes that serve as catalysts for chemical reactions, biochemical pathways that often interface with each other with great precision, the production and regulation of chemical neurotransmitters, the integration of a central processor that (a) stores vast amounts of information, (b) generates signals that allow for both voluntary and involuntary functions, (c) responds to signals from other organs and systems, and even has the power to innovate.

Oh, and with my aerospace background, I could give you an earful about flight controls and aerodynamics of birds and insects, comparing them with man-made aircraft. Aerodynamic efficiency, accurate navigation systems, variable camber wings, variable geometry wings, stability AND controllability in flight; no need for runways for takeoff and landing. Yes, birds are quite the flying machines. Ditto for insects. The kicker: birds don’t need pilots or mechanics, and they can even reproduce themselves.

Here’s the catch: feedback control systems carry a signature of human-like intelligence. In other words, they do not reflect bird intelligence, or feline intelligence, or canine intelligence, or beaver intelligence. We know these things because we know what the signatures of intelligence in other animals would look like. That is because we have biologists who spend their entire careers studying particular animals.

Fact: No other animal has designed a feedback control system.

And yet every organism has that common hallmark in both structure and function: feedback control systems. In many cases, thousands of them.

What this tells me:

(a) One can rationally conclude that there is a very powerful, intelligent Creator that is far superior in both power and intelligence to any human or aggregation of humans.

(b) That Creator has made humans with intelligence and power that reflects–on a smaller scale–the very image of that Creator.

You are more than welcome to propose a competing model.

But here’s the thing: the whole premise that Man is made in the image of God is not something I made up, and yet the very signature of human advancements in technology–from solid state electronics to nanotechnology–only makes that case stronger and not weaker.

Do with that what you will.

Grow Up, Hugo

Vox Day has tagged Hugo Schwyzer as a gamma: “a female-oriented mind in a male body”. The only thing I’d add to that is he’s a runaway hedonist who refuses to come to terms with his responsibilities. Last week, he reportedly attempted suicide, although I tend to think he’s just trying to get people to feel sorry for him.

I know someone who attempted suicide in the manner that he supposedly did. She was in no position to talk to anyone for MONTHS. For Hugo to be lucid enough to give interviews–a mere couple DAYS after this “attempt” tells me this whole thing is BS.

He was visiting his mother in the Monterey area, where he grew up, when it happened about 10 p.m., he said. He was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, the professor said:

“I took an entire bottle of Klonapin,” he said. That’s a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety drug.

Schwyzer said he’s physically OK but reiterated how the social media fallout from a sexting relationship with a sometime porn star and multiple affairs with women made his marriage “over” and sunk him into a deep depression.

Hugo, the issue isn’t your affairs or your obsession with porn or your attempted murder-suicide 15 years ago or even your most recent “sexting” scandal. You’ve lived the life of a runaway hedonist; your pre-marital life was one of hedonism; heck, your academic career was a celebration of hedonism with a quasi-feminist veneer.

Did you think marriage would allow you to just turn that switch off?

Did you think that by embracing a covenant that is rooted in God’s natural law–even as you thumbed your nose at all things Christian–you were going to continue to have your cake and eat it too?

I don’t celebrate your demise; in fact, I shake my head at you. Rather than take ownership of your baggage, it seems that you’ve spent your entire academic life trying to deny the hurt you’ve caused, and self-atone for what you know are serious moral wrongs.

The sooner you accept responsibility for your actions–yes, that means man up–the sooner you’ll find your sanity.

But the longer you scoff at the very Cross that can save you, the more you keep digging your own grave.

As a libertarian, I’m all for you deciding what you want to do with your life. Choose wisely.

Hugo Schwyzer Implodes

I’ve hammered the feminist-sympathizing Hugo Schwyzer from these pages before. In fact, when he debated Neely Steinberg–a feminist recovering from the hookup culture–I even supported Steinberg, who, in spite of her feminism, was starting to see the light.

Now, Hugo (WARNING: Sexual content in the included link!) appears to be getting his comeuppance. (HT: Vox Day)

As for my thoughts on the guy, I have nothing but contempt. Many are hitting him for his hypocrisy, but I think that is one of his lighter faults. Jimmy Swaggart was a hypocrite; at the same time, he was more akin to the plumber who was good at his work, even if he didn’t always take care of his own sinks and toilets.

No, to compare him with Jimmy Swaggart would be an insult to Swaggart. Schwyzer is far worse than a hypocrite. He used his position as a gender studies professor–whose audience included young women–to prey on young women. (He slept with a fair number of his students over the years.)

Worse yet, he attempted to commit murder and suicide (after sexually taking advantage of someone who had been brutally victimized), then–after failing–minimized the his actions. I promise I’m not making this crap up.