Pleaded vs. Pled: can’t we all just get along?

Paul_Preaching_On_Mars_Hill
“In 1 Cor. 1:10, we see that Paul pleaded… pled… pleaded… OK, this sermon isn’t going any further until we get this sorted out…”

Matthew 5:9 tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” In that spirit, knowing how much contention is out there on this vitally important topic, let me point those of you who need guidance–nay, a peace that will finally be provided to your warring souls–to this article: “Pleaded vs. Pled” from Daily Writing Tips.

I’m not the cleanest or clearest of writers here on my blog, in terms of grammar, etc. I try, but my haste often gets the better of me. But, that’s part of what’s nice about a blog. It’s a bit informal and a nice way to keep writing gears lubed without worrying too much that the writing is not “up to snuff” for major publication. Still, I do try to write as cleanly and clearly as I can.

And I am the sort of fellow who enjoys an occasional, impassioned discussion about the subtleties of syntax, the wonders of word choice, the glories of grammar, or the peculiarities of punctuation. I suppose I’ve demonstrated that in previous posts, such as the two (really? two?) on whether to put one or two spaces between sentences: “I repent! No more two-spacing! (See!)” and “One or two spaces after a period? The controversy continues…” (Actually, as I search through my old posts I can’t believe I have never addressed the pedigree of “they” as a valid third-person singular pronoun, which is something I just knew I had blogged about. Expect a brief post on the matter in the future… And what? I haven’t written about the Oxford Comma? Just what have I been wasting my time on with this blog, anyway?!?)

In that last “two spaces” post, I mentioned the Daily Writing Tips website, which I enjoy reading each day. Technically, I read its e-mailed newsletter, and today’s newsletter featured the debate between those who use “pleaded” as the past tense of “plead” and those who use “pled.” Like the “Two/One Spaces” controversy, passions apparently run high. I thought the article was a nice, thorough covering of the matter (and one which points out why being so judgmental on such a thing is, at best, over the top).

So if you plead today, but you wonder if yesterday you pleaded or pled, check it out. If you really don’t care, then ignore this post and kick back, relax, and enjoy a good magazine.

Happy Pi Day! (Teach the controversy…)

pi tau eHappy Pi Day! Indeed, today is 3/14 — a day we set aside across the globe to remember that beautiful number π = 3.14159265…, the ratio of every circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Yet, it isn’t a day without its controversies. [Imagine music turning ominous…]

As I have mentioned before, there is a very good argument out there that pi (π) should not be the famous “circle constant” and that, rather, the ratio that should garner praise and attention is the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its radius, not its diameter. Since the radius is half the length of the diameter, the ratio would be twice as large (2π = 6.283185307…) and has been quasi-officially dubbed tau (τ).

I find the argument hard to resist. Read about it yourself on the tauday.com or in the Tau Manifesto. Personally, one of the most winning arguments is the effect on circle-related equations. For instance, the formula for the area of a circle changes from…

A = π ²

to…

A = ½ τ r ²

Now this may not seem like much of an improvement (not to mention it would ruin a lot of “pie are round not square” jokes). But, when you consider how well it matches the form of many other standard equations in nature (e.g., Kinetic Energy: E = ½ v ²; Rotational Kinetic Energy: E = ½ I ω ²; Position of a body falling from rest: x(t) = ½ t ²; Work done stretching a spring: W = ½ x ²; et al.). [My apologies if the spacing in any of these equations looks odd on your computer (line breaks in the middle, etc.). Not adding spaces crammed everything together too much and I didn’t want to take the time to jump into Latex for the formatting.]

I don’t necessarily like what changing from π to τ does to the universe’s most beautiful equation (explained here), but I admit that I am warming up to it as time goes on. (Sometimes, you just have to let go, you know?)

And, I find it irritating that the number e doesn’t get near the publicity that π does, as I am a much bigger fan of e than π. At the same time, begrudging one number’s success and attention just because another is more neglected than it should be seems a violation of 1 Cor. 12:26. 🙂

So, if Pi Day has you in the mood to peruse some blog posts of the mathematical variety, feel free and explore those below. And enjoy the rest of the day!

Here are some links on some math-related questions:

“Any thoughts on fractals, the Bible, and the mind of God and stuff?” Well, I’m glad you asked! Here’s a host of links, some with more material than others. (I’m too lazy to look and see which ones are worth reading and which ones are worth ignoring. 🙂 ):

“Any videos on the pi/tau controversy I could watch?” Indeed! I present the always delightful Vi Hart not the topic…

Actually, a YouTube search would net you several such videos. But, as always, caveat navita stans.

Regardless of how you celebrate it (or don’t), have a great Pi Day!

 

Image of Earth from NASA's Terra satellite

News Reporting Fail: The National Science Foundation Survey

The National Science Foundation has published the results of a survey it conducts from time to time as an “assessment” of Americans’ scientific knowledge. However, some of the sloppy reporting of the results confuses belief with knowledge.

For instance, ABC News online article completely twists the results. In one paragraph, they report:

“Only 39 percent answered correctly with ‘true’ when asked if ‘The universe began with a huge explosion,’ while only 48 percent knew that ‘Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,’ according to the statement.”

The statement that “only 48 percent knew that” human beings have developed from other animals grabbed my attention. It implies ignorance of a fact, when the statistic probably says no such thing.

The lazy ABC News article can’t take all the blame, as they are “reporting” on a press release about the survey which makes the same mistake:

“For example, only 74 percent of those queried knew that the Earth revolved around the sun, while fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings developed from earlier species of animals.”

For people dedicated to science, they are woefully ignorant at interpreting the results of what should be a simple survey. If they can get such a no-brainer wrong, how can they be trusted with interpreting more complicated results?

I say all of this because, if the survey is conducted in the same manner it apparently was back in 2004, what it did was ask if the following statement was true or false: “Human beings as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” Stating “False” on this statement is apparently being interpreted by many to imply that they are not familiar with popular theories of evolution–as if it is a given that anyone taught the “fact” of human “evolution” would agree with that statement.

However, there are many, well-educated, scientifically literate individuals who are very familiar with the neo-Darwinian synthesis of evolution theory who simply disagree that the statement is true. The survey did not measure ignorance about a fact. It measured doubt about an assertion.

Some reporting did get it right. For instance, the Independent Business Times wrote more accurately:

“The questionnaire also found that less than half (48%) of Americans believe that human beings evolved from an earlier species, while 39% said they believe that the universe began with a huge explosion.”

Also, United Press International reported:

“On two controversial questions, whether the universe began with a large explosion and whether humans are descended from other species, fewer than half in the United States said those are true.”

Actually, kudos to the UPI for the next statement, which–unlike the lazy ABC News “effort”–reflects some actual work performed to help their readers understand the facts they were trying to present (you know, reporting). For instance, the quote above was followed by this:

“The Atlantic said those percentages go up by a significant amount when the questions are rephrased to ask if the big-bang theory and evolution are scientifically accepted.”

Get that? Those surveyed understood that evolution is widely accepted in the scientific community, they simply don’t feel the matter has been proven to them sufficiently. The question measured belief, not knowledge.

(An aside: Some of you out there may think that the only conceivable way one would fail to conclude that humans evolved into their current form from other decidedly non-human species would be if the non-believer is scientifically ignorant, so the interpretations of the results are correct in all these reports. You are free to conclude that. You are also free to tape a rolled up newspaper to your head and declare yourself a unicorn. But don’t confuse the things you are free to declare with reality. Dawkins’ “ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked” comment reveals more about Dawkins’ arrogance and boorishness than it does about those who reasonably doubt the standard evolutionary dogma. Moving on…)

Actually, the UPI did much better. Rather than allow their small news item to be yet another “Americans sure are stupid, amiright?” article, it goes further:

“Generally, U.S. residents showed a knowledge of science comparable to those of other countries with high levels of education, including Japan, the European Union and South Korea, the NSF said. In fact, they did better than EU residents on the question about whether Earth moves around the sun.”

So, more people in the European Union stated they believed that the sun goes around the earth than Americans, and the Americans apparently did not do significantly better or worse than Japan, South Korea, or the EU.

Consequently, the article is almost “dog bites man” news–that is, not really news at all.

But that really isn’t true. There really is a story. The fact that one-quarter of the people surveyed didn’t seem to understand that the earth moves around the sun instead of vice versa is really spooky–let alone that apparently our international brothers and sisters faired about the same. (Of course, given the move by some European leaders to make the EU the center of all life in Europe, it is perhaps not surprising that they thought the EU at the center of the solar system, itself.) (Yes, that is supposed to be a funny political joke.) (Yes, I am aware that it isn’t that funny.)

But it is a shame that there wasn’t more real reporting and that what reporting there was–the UPI report being a notable exception–was so lazy and poorly done. Then again, the survey is more likely than not simply a public means for the National Science Foundation to feel important about itself, so, for them, perhaps it is “mission accomplished.”

[UPDATE: A little more from the articles… The IBT article stated, “Almost 90% of respondents said they believe that the benefits of science outweigh any dangers…” You have got to be kidding me. I don’t know which is worse, the confusion of the response or the inanity of the question. Maybe some context can make more sense of this point. Are the alternatives simply “science” versus “no science”? If so, then it’s a little like saying, “The benefits of food outweigh the benefits of no food.” But if the statement is meant to say something significant, then a blanket consideration is not possible unless the practice of science, by itself, is a virtue, which would make the need to evaluate some research from an ethical perspective meaningless. But tell me that some of the experiments done on children during the Holocaust were all OK because it was in the name of “science.” I’m pro-science, but goofy statements like that reflect a lack of sophistication that the science community–like the NSF which presses this dumb survey–normally accuse others of. It highlights the effort as more propaganda than anything. And, for the record, I have a hard time calling the Big Bang an “explosion” and I’ve heard a number of scientists say that they don’t like calling the Big Bang an “explosion.” When space-time, itself, is expanding, “explosion” just doesn’t really cut the mustard. So, yes, I find that question irritating, too.]

Sweden’s brats

I get some flack from time to time here on the Internet because I am not opposed to corporal punishment of children by their parents when done in a loving and appropriate manner.

(Aside: Yes, I know… Some of you who will come across this post believe that “loving, appropriate corporal punishment” is one big oxymoron, and my own reflections and observations on my own upbringing are a lie my heart whispers to me. Got it. Also, some of you who will come across this like to say “hitting children” instead of “spanking” because you think equivocation is a great way to win arguments without actually making your case. Got it. Thanks for playing.)

It’s a topic that I visit from time to time. Some related posts that come to mind (rather, that pop out of a textual search on my blog) would be…

It came to mind, this morning, when I read this Wall Street Journal piece: “Is Sweden Raising a Generation of Brats?” (article may be behind a pay wall or require registration, I am not sure).

In 1979 Sweden became the first country to make spanking children completely illegal on a national scale. Consequently, the current state of its “social experiment” is of interest to many–and, as I will try to make sure I mention, erroneous conclusions will surely be drawn by both sides of the issue (or by all three/four/five/etc. sides of the issue–in case I missed anyone). So what is going on with Sweden’s children?

Well, apparently if you ask Dr. David Eberhard, they are being turned into undisciplined tyrants who are increasingly running their families and the country. That seems to be the thrust of his book How Children Took Power, published last year.

Dr. Eberhard is a Swedish psychologist and father of six, and his book is apparently splitting the sentiment of Swedes down the middle. And, to be clear, he isn’t necessarily saying that spanking should be allowed again in Sweden; rather, he is arguing that the child-centric policy of the country is ruining children, families, and their society. As the WSJ reports:

“Dr. Eberhard says Sweden’s child-centric model has ‘gone too far’ and his book suggests the over-sensitivity to children and a reluctance to discipline has bred a nation of ouppfostrade, which loosely translates to ‘badly raised children.’ ‘All this kowtowing to the kids actually causes kids and society more harm than good,’ Dr. Eberhard said in an interview. He suggests the trend could contribute to higher anxiety levels or depression at a later stage in life for these children.”

He admits that his book is not based on particular scientific studies but, rather, on his own observations:

“Core to Dr. Eberhard’s argument is his observation of an increase in anxiety disorders and self-harming problems as Swedish children get older and find themselves ‘poorly equipped to deal with adult life,’ he says. Dr. Eberhard is head of the psychiatric ward at Danderyds Sjukhus, a hospital north of Stockholm.”

Again, to be clear, he says, “I’m not advocating going back to slapping (sic) kids,” lest anyone say I am trying to imply he does. Rather, he ties what he sees into a much larger modern, cultural package that has enthroned children at their own expense.

However, do I believe that the move Sweden made to ban loving, appropriate spanking under any circumstances is a symptom of the attitude that has caused the mess that Swedes are beginning to see? Yes, I do.

Could the good doctor be wrong? Certainly. One teacher outside of Stockholm is quoted by the WSJ as saying, “The kids of today, who are the children of parents who did not experience much discipline themselves, become very obstinate and self-centered,” but, you know, maybe she’s wrong, too. Some who point to what seems to be a deteriorating childhood culture in Sweden will want to fix on the ban on spanking as “the” cause, while others who believe permissiveness is a virtue and that restraints on childhood wants and passions in violations of their rights as, what Sweden calls, “competent individuals” (in contradiction to Proverbs’ statement that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”) will look for what silver linings they can point to, instead, and proclaim victory.

For me, it isn’t just one thing (extreme anti-spanking fanaticism), but one thing (extreme anti-spanking fanaticism) can serve as a telling symptom indicating the possible presence of much larger and more destructive issues (anti-children worldviews masquerading as pro-children worldviews).

The ramifications of some choices can take a lot of time to show themselves. Child-rearing philosophies? Sometimes multiple generations. And, whether they will be happy with the results in the end or not, multiple generations of Swedish citizens are apparently serving as the world’s lab rats concerning a minimal-discipline philosophy. Barely two generations in, the real results–the full results–are yet to be seen.

However, it should get our attention that in a nation which we have often identified as one of the ten tribes of Israel, possibly Naphthali, some are seeing a trend that is reminiscent of the prophecy of Isaiah 3:12, “As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.” Regardless, another prophecy of Israel comes to mind, where God says of those who abandon His laws and way of life, “Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb” (Deut 28:18, ESV). When a nation completely abandons God as a guiding light and trusts in its own wisdom apart from Him (Prov. 3:7), its children are going to suffer.

After the Bill Nye / Ken Ham Debate – Your Comments?

Well, it was quite a debate! For those who didn’t see the Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate live, it is apparently going to be archived at debatelive.org for a while, so you can still see it.

If you saw it, what are your thoughts? I have some definite opinions, but I’d like to hear from other folks first. I enjoyed a good conversation with Mr. Tyler Wayne from my Cincy congregation who called me immediately after, and I think he made some good points. What are your thoughts? Feel free and leave them below, but be nice and respectful! No need to be uncivil.

I will try to write some of my own thoughts in a later post, perhaps tomorrow, after I’ve heard from you guys. Y’all hear from me all the time. 🙂 What do you have to say?

[And, by the way: I hate to push my “God and the u-bit” post too far down on the list already. Please feel free to visit it, as well, and leave a comment if you like. Apparently, it’s Science Day!]

[Update: While it is still archived, you should be able to view it here, embedded below. If you do, please feel free to leave your comments and observations below. Again, I will try to write my own thoughts later, but I want to hear from you, first! And for those who haven’t been there, you might check out my review of the Creation Museum from our visit about three years back. — WGS]

Finding God in Geometry Class

There's a reason I named my first car "Euclid" (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced "Oiler", it seemed a confusing option...)
There’s a reason I named my first car Euclid (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced “Oiler”, it seemed a potentially confusing option as a name for a car…)

This post deserves to be much longer and deeper than it will be, but I’m still going to post it while I have this brief opportunity.

Plato once said, “Geometry aims at the eternal.” For me, this statement was very true as a 9th grade geometry student in high school, except that it is missing a capitalization: “Geometry aims at the Eternal.”

That was an important year for me. While the years leading up to it and those immediately following it were certainly important as well, including the manner in which they complemented my 9th grade year, but that particular year saw my introduction to high school geometry. I had been a good math student, though not the self-starter I should have been, I believe. (Bad memory from 7th or 8th grade there–can’t remember which.) And I enjoyed math to a certain extent, I think. I remember in Algebra I class in Middle School finishing my work early and being allowed by the teacher to peruse some of the books on her shelf. The books were beyond me, to be sure, but the symbols I discovered there fascinated me and introduced me to the concept of mathematics as a language. I think it was the moment that I moved into a real interest in the subject, though not to the extent this would be true later.

But it was the next year–in Geometry class with Mrs. Paula Russell–that things really changed. I’m not sure if it is still as prominent today (this was before “Informal Geometry” had really caught on), but proofs were still a HUGE part of high school geometry work: assuming postulates, proving theorems, etc.

Seeing a mathematics based on clearly defined assumptions, using those to prove theorems–more complicated and less obvious statements–and then building on those theorems to prove other theorems, etc. was something transformative for me. Though mathematical points, lines, and planes were abstractions and not truly real world objects, it felt as if I were in a completely new universe with new objects to play with and examine. Yet, it wasn’t that it was a new universe that was somehow unrelated to our own. Quite the contrary: It seemed a deeper universe–something more fundamental, on which our own universe was built. A bright, glorious, beautiful place, where the pillars of reality might be seen and touched and felt in some magical way.

I had always been a “science kid” as far back as I can remember, and the idea that we live in a universe that could be mathematically described was not new. But the fact that this is an extraordinary reality about the world had not struck me, perhaps because I didn’t yet see mathematics unshackled from its applications. I don’t know. But I saw it unshackled in Geometry class. For the first time, I saw a truth such as this one I quoted from Clifford A. Pickover on Twitter yesterday:

I felt, perhaps for the first time, that I was sitting at God’s desk and looking at instruments unique to His own work. There seemed something eternal about it, as if those of us in class were simply exploring a place that, for all intents and purposes, had always existed in a way that the physical world around us simply hasn’t. A infinite place that was both workspace and playground. And there was something glorious about it.

These words and descriptions certainly didn’t come to mind back then, but the sentiment was there. And it came at an important time for me, in which my religious sentiments were undergoing a transformation, as well, and I do believe that this class played an active role in that transformation. That such ethereal objects as points, lines, and planes–postulates and theorems and proofs–could be made so very nearly tangible to me, added a tangible sense to God and His realm and thoughts to me, as well. The order in His Creation became so much more real to me that year. Well, that’s not quite right. Rather, my awareness of the reality of order seemed to change in nature a bit. I had known it was there (my science books had always emphasized that), but the fact of its presence became a startling thing–something wondrous and mysterious and not to be taken for granted.

To take things up to a melodramatic level (and I will take them back down in a moment), it reminds me of Job’s statement in chapter 42. It was not that before his trials Job did not know God–I dare say that even then he likely knew God more fully than virtually anyone reading this blog post could claim. Yet, through the trials and God’s lesson at the end of them, he makes the remarkable statement:

“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (v.3 & v.5)

Geometry class certainly did not propel me to such an understanding as Job surely had! Wow, would that be a pretentious claim. 🙂 But, it did have that sort of clarifying and enriching effect on me. The God I knew after that class was richer in detail, fuller in substance, larger in scope, and more different in kind. It’s not a coincidence to me that my 9th grade year was the year God seemed to accelerate His calling in me. It has always been a benchmark year in my life.

These thoughts have been on my mind recently, as I’ve been examining my relationship with numbers — moving from seeing them in a platonic “numbers are real” sort of sense to something else — and, thus, with mathematics, too.

And it highlights the role good teachers play, especially in mathematics. I was blessed with Mrs. Russell. In the hands of a lesser teacher, perhaps I would have been distracted by various “school dynamics” and not been free to really discover what an amazing subject I was studying. I guess I can’t know for certain, but regardless — having Mrs. Russell as my teacher was a very good thing, and I will always be grateful.

Beyond that, I think I will just say that you never know what God may use in your life to help you see Him more fully. For me, He showed up in my Geometry class, and my life has been different ever since.

Alberta considering draconian, anti-family “tolerance” law

I just read an alert in the weekly update I receive from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) that described a chilling law the Canadian province of Alberta is looking to pass.

Here’s a summary from the HSLDA which includes what appears to be a quote from the bill:

The legislative proposal known as Bill 2 in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta would explicitly require that all instructional materials “reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.” The bill further requires not only public schools, but also private schools and homeschools to comply with these requirements (§ 1 “interpretation of school”).

The alert also includes this quote from Alberta Minister of Education, Thomas Lukaszuk:

“Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences.”

…and this quote from his assistant director for communications, Donna McColl:

“Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences… You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life; you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction.”

Please understand: I’m not one to jump at conspiracy theories, and I hear my share. I’m not one who believes all the governmental “Straw Man” arguments, 501(c)(3) lunacy, etc. But these comments should be chilling to anyone who cherishes their ability to act on God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:6-7,

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

English: self authored by chen siyuan. release...
Teaching your kids that certain behaviors are sin? The Alberta Legislature might have something to say about that... (Image via Wikipedia)

Actually, these comments are both disturbing and revealing in a number of ways. For instance, it seems to make a magical distinction between “family life” and education and instruction–the exact opposite of what Deuteronomy 6 says, which describes instruction as interwoven with family life, teaching as you sit, walk by the way, lie down, rise up. Those who think that “family life” and “educational life” are two completely distinct things have fallen for a lie meant to weaken the family. (Not that they invented the lie or purpose to do wrong in their heart. It is from the father of lies, and those who believe it often think they are doing people a service.)

Also, it forces families schooling their children at home to be hypocrites. For instance, if Alberta decides that tolerance for homosexuality should be taught and the parents believe that it is a sin, the parents are somehow supposed to teach “affirm in their family life” that the the choice to engage in homosexual practices is to be avoided as displeasing to God and not to be respected as an allowable choice on the one hand while simultaneously actively teaching that homosexual lifestyles are to be respected and upheld as just as good as proper sexual relations within marriage.

(It would be nice if Alberta allowed that a family could teach that truly respecting a person doesn’t mean one has to tolerate the presence of sin in their lives but that, quite the contrary, truly loving a person means being willing to warn them about the dangers of that sin in their lives and describing that sin for what it truly is: something noxious to their Creator. If someone in Alberta could help me see that this is what they mean by “respect,” I’d be much obliged.)

Of course, the comments are also irrational and misleading. After all, “disrespect for differences” is all over the place in both law and common society and is widely approved. Those who differ from the rest of us on how ownership should be understood are arrested when they steal. Those who differ on what constitutes “consent” in sexual matters are still arrested when they break applicable laws. How are those differences “respected”? It is a matter of what differences the government gives you the right to disrespect, of course–part of the ungodly idea that government determines right and wrong instead of God. The words “right and wrong” may be removed from the discussion, but they are implicitly present all the time in such legislation. As better men than me have noted, proclamations of government and legislature are inherently moral in spirit and tone and it is folly to pretend otherwise. This is often all the more blatant in laws dealing with education.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

As English literary giant Samuel Johnson once noted, “The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things–the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and genuine to the bad and counterfeit.” Alberta’s proposed bill seeks to rob from parents the right to teach their own children how to distinguish the good from the bad and how to prefer the good and genuine to the bad and counterfeit. And worse still, it seeks to force parents to be the instruments of the state in indoctrinating their own children in the government’s ideas about what is good and bad–forcing the parents to be agents in teaching their children to believe things they do not themselves believe. How satanic.

More could be said, but I don’t have much more time–and it’s probably best that way, as my ire would probably keep me going for a while. As I have said many a time here on my blog, I am not political in the sense that I do not participate in the political life of any country (e.g., I do not vote, do not endorse political candidates, do not seek to affect legislation) — nor does anyone who shares my faith. I believe that Christ has called me out of that. But sighing and crying over the state of things is another matter (cf. Ezekiel 9:4), as is crying aloud about them (Isaiah 58:1) and looking forward to being empowered with Christ at His return to make a real, lasting difference (2 Cor. 10:4-6, Rev. 20:4, 6).

Unless HSLDA has done the worst job humanly possible in describing Alberta’s Bill 2, it truly does represent a horrendous moral attack on the integrity of the family, homeschooling or not, and for the sake of those families living in our wonderful neighbor to the north who are striving to teach their children godly morals that go against the grain of government-approved values, I pray that the bill fails. And I pray, too, that politicians in our own country don’t get any ideas.

Leibniz’s argument for God’s existence

250th day of death of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibni...
Image of Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz on a stamp (Image via Wikipedia)

My sermon last Sabbath was about what the Bible teaches about the purpose of man (we have a great booklet on that: Your Ultimate Destiny), and in it I spoke a bit against the abuse of logic and philosophy. But that does not mean I’m anti-logic or anti-philosophy in general. Actually, I’m very pro-logic, and even pro-philosophy as it’s most simply defined (courtesy of Dictionary.com: “the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct”). I’m currently working on a Tomorrow’s World telecast tentatively titled “Why Believe in God?” (offering The Real God: Proofs and Promises) and the logic behind concluding that there is a God is very much on my mind these days.

Recently I’ve enjoyed some podcasts from William Lane Craig’s website ReasonableFaith.org, and I think his book On Guard is pretty good. Being a debater and popularizer of philosophy, Craig has crafted his book with a focus on the practical side of logical argumentation, with some convenient charts explaining his arguments’ flow and illustrating how some objections are handled. For someone new to logical argumentation, the book is a good starter I think, and I might add it to my kiddos’ reading list (at least the older boys). While Dr. Craig and I would passionately disagree on a number of items concerning biblical doctrine, I appreciate the thinking he’s done on matters of proving the truth of God’s existence, the nature of time and knowledge, and defending the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On the matter of arguing that God exists, I appreciate that he includes in his books an argument from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz — not because the argument is special to me or anything like that. Rather, being the former Calculus teacher that I am, Leibniz is one of my old heroes and it’s nice to see his work on something even more important than Calculus (believe it or not) given some credit. (The crucial, uncredited role that Leibniz played in bringing about the end times Beast Power of Revelation is something I enjoy explaining on occasion–with tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course–and I may add that tale here to the blog one day.)

Here’s the essence (as I understand and summarize it) of Lane’s presentation of Leibniz’s argument for the existence of God, for your viewing pleasure…

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

The premises 1 & 3 lead to the conclusion 4, and 4 combined with premise 2 leads to the conclusion 5.

It’s a valid argument, in the sense that it is structurally solid and its conclusion would follow from its premises, but is it a sound argument–that is, is it also true?  Clearly, that depends on the truth of its premises.  No one would question premise 3–if they would, you could simply call it a day and take them out for some non-existent coffee. Consequently, the truth of the conclusion boils down to whether or not premises 1 and 2 are true.

The obvious objection one could bring up (and Craig mentions this) is that if one says that everything that exists has an explanation and if you are claiming God exists, then God, too, must have an explanation. (If you already thought of that, treat yourself to a cookie!)

However, this glosses over a subtlety in Leibniz’s argument that goes unstated in the formulation above–namely, that there are things that exist due to external causes and things that exist of necessity. God is not “caused” by anything–by nature, He exists necessarily.  This leads Craig to refine his statement of Leibniz’s argument making these claims explicit:

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

This narrows possible disagreements to arguing against premise 1–say, by claiming, say, that nothing can exist necessarily (essentially assuming God does not exist from the start), disagreeing that everything has an explanation of its existence (specifically, disagreeing that universe has an explanation for its existence)–or arguing against premise 2–say, by claiming that the universe exists necessarily.

Again, I’m fond of Leibniz (and look forward to meeting him one day), and it was nice to see him featured in this way. I prefer Dr. Craig’s Kalam argument, which I might mention in another post sometime, but here I thought I would give Leibniz some props. After the whole Newton/Calculus affair, it’s nice to give him some credit where he’s earned it. 🙂

Majors with zero percent unemployment for graduates (including a favorite)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so posting has been infrequent (my apologies). But this one jumped out at me in the news for personal reasons, so I thought I would pass it along.

As a former actuary, I like to mention when I hear about actuaries or the actuarial profession in the news. (Searching this blog for “actuar” — cutting it short so as to capture “actuary”, “actuarial”, etc. — produces a number of hits, some relevant, but some not.)  Today the actuarial profession had a very pleasant mention, indeed.

There has been a great deal of discussion out there as to whether or not college educations are worth their cost these days. Many go into hock up to their eyeballs for a degree only to find that they are unable to make a living after they graduate. This is due, I think, to a number of factors — the current economy, yes, but also changes in both the content and quality of university education, increases in how much it costs to gain that education, and a mindset that has made college an end in and of itself. Yes, the Second Law of Success is “Education or Preparation” but the direction of that education or preparation is determined by the First Law of Success, which is to “Set the Right Goal.” Many jump into college without having done the first step of setting a goal, which — had they done so — might have altered their collegiate decisions and, possibly, suggested other alternatives.

But all of that is neither here nor there (he says, realizing he has allowed himself to become distracted). The article on Yahoo!’s “The Lookout” news blog that I came across today (actually published yesterday) lists the “10 college majors with the lowest unemployment rates.”  And there, at the very top, was “Actuarial Science” with an unemployment rate for recent graduates of “0%.” There might be some other stories buried in that list — feel free to check it out and comment below, if so. But the one that warmed my heart was the #1 major listed, good ol’ actuarial.

Actually, I did not major in Actuarial Science. I majored in pure (theoretical) mathematics, and after earning a bachelors I began teaching high school mathematics, which was my goal on entering. (I was counseled to major in applied mathematics, instead, since I was going to be teaching high school, but I loved the theoretical, “prove it, prove it, prove it” stuff too much not to major in it. Nothing against application, which I’ve come to appreciate very much — the two majors being two sides of the same coin — but my heart still lies on the pure mathematics side of that divide.) As stressful as it could be at times — and watching kids run full throttle down a path of self-destruction can be stressful — I enjoyed being a math teacher very much, especially as I got to teach (among other wonderful subjects) Calculus, a passionate and poetic subject if ever there were one. But when Boy #1 arrived, I found I needed to find another job that would allow us to keep to our plans of having my Beautiful Wife work (even harder) at home, so I became an actuary.

I was sad to leave teaching, to be sure, but I found I loved being an actuary. Yes, I lived in a Dilbert-like cubicle, and, yes, I spent much of my time working on spreadsheets, and, yes, the exams were some of the most excruciating experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and, yes, it was geeky work. But I loved it. And for those with good, strong mathematical skills who would like to be able to use them in a career that simultaneously offers so much more than mathematics, I highly recommend looking into it. (You can start here: BeAnActuary.org.)

Though I’m a minister now, the experience I had as an actuary still benefits me. And it is nice to see it in the news, even if the news is not a surprise. 🙂

But if you are considering your goals and facing college-related decisions and being an actuary isn’t your cup of tea, check out the rest of the list. The key seems to be highly skilled labor over positions that could be filled easily. Though, again, if anyone notices anything else newsworthy in the list, by all means comment below and let us know.

Co-ed dorms, binge drinking, and the culture of “hooking up”

Catholic University of America, in Washington D.C.
"Alright, boys on one side, girls on the other..." (Image via Wikipedia)

This was a great article today in the Wall Street Journal — both encouraging and sad at the same time: “Why We’re Going Back to Single-Sex Dorms” (behind a paywall, I’m afraid) by president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Mr. John Garvey.

In it, he notes that studies show that the percentage of college students who engage in binge drinking and “hooking up” (what horrible lingo; for those who don’t know, think “engaging in impersonal, meaningless sexual activity”) is worse among those who live in co-ed housing than in single-sex dorms.  For instance (from the article):

I know it’s countercultural [that is, the idea of going back to single-sex dorms]. More than 90% of college housing is now co-ed. But Christopher Kaczor at Loyola Marymount points to a surprising number of studies showing that students in co-ed dorms (41.5%) report weekly binge drinking more than twice as often as students in single-sex housing (17.6%). Similarly, students in co-ed housing are more likely (55.7%) than students in single-sex dorms (36.8%) to have had a sexual partner in the last year—and more than twice as likely to have had three or more.

The idea that going back to single-sex dorms is now “countercultural” caused me to do a double-take.  How weird our culture has become.

As Garvey points out in his column, the point about increased sexual activity by students in co-ed dorms may be no surprise, but the increase in binge drinking is.  The thought he mentions that some may have that the presence of ladies in the housing might have caused the men there to be a bit more civilized just isn’t true.  In fact, the girls apparently seem eager to prove that they can “keep up.”

I am reminded here of an article I read earlier this year (can’t find the link) that showed a relationship between college students and sexual behavior — when there were more women than men, there was more fornication, when there were fewer women than men, there was less fornication.  The explanation was that with an abundance of available women, the pressure was on them to compete for the affection of the men, leading to purposefully loosened sexual barriers.  However, when there were fewer women, the men had to compete more for the attention of the ladies and, thus, reigned themselves in properly.  Perhaps there is something similar at play here in the co-ed vs. single-sex dorm comparison.  Regardless, whatever forces are at play are clearly destructive to good character.

Parents shouldn’t take these things lightly when their children are making those decisions about college.  “Well, our Johnny is a good young man, and he’ll do fine in a co-ed dorm.”  As Paul tells us, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits'” (1 Cor. 15:33).  To pretend Johnny won’t be affected by the environment surrounding him — just like assuming you aren’t affected by your environment — is a losing game.  As I mentioned above, it seems odd to me that single-sex dorms are now countercultural, it shouldn’t be surprising.  Standing for godly morals and virtues is, in general, becoming countercultural.  But stand, we should.