1. God Is Not Dead Yet — How current philosophers argue for his existence.
2. William F. Vallicella on God in the Declaration of Independence
By my count, there are four references to God in the Declaration of Independence.
In the initial paragraph, we find the phrase “…Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God….” The phrase ‘Nature’s God’ rules out pantheism: God is distinct from Nature. In the second paragraph, there is the phrase, “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights….” Combining these two references, we may infer that the God being referred to is not merely a deistic initiator of the temporally first segment of the physical universe, but a being involved in the creation of the human race. For if God endowed human beings with rights, this endowment had to occur at the time of the creation of human beings, which of course occurred later than the beginning of the physical universe. In traditional jargon, God is a creator continuans rather than a mere creator originans. He is not a mere cosmic starter-upper, but a being who is continuously involved in maintaining the universe in existence.
So if by ‘deism’ is meant the doctrine that God is a mere metaphysical cause of the universe’s beginning to exist who is thereafter uninvolved in its continuing to exist, then the God of the Declaration is non-deistic.
…[T]he success of Prozac hasn’t simply transformed the treatment of depression: it has also transformed the science of depression. For decades, researchers struggled to identify the underlying cause of depression, and patients were forced to endure a series of ineffective treatments. But then came Prozac. Like many other antidepressants, Prozac increases the brain’s supply of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. The drug’s effectiveness inspired an elegant theory, known as the chemical hypothesis: Sadness is simply a lack of chemical happiness. The little blue pills cheer us up because they give the brain what it has been missing.
There’s only one problem with this theory of depression: it’s almost certainly wrong, or at the very least woefully incomplete. Experiments have since shown that lowering people’s serotonin levels does not make them depressed, nor does it does not make them depressed, nor does it worsen their symptoms if they are already depressed.
6. Quote of the Week: “Here’s a fundamental irony: At about the time that the first empirical evidence is accumulating to support the Christian doctrine of dominion — that God has granted to the human race a delegated but effective authority over the planet, as evidenced by our impact on not just local but global environments — you see Christians shrinking back from the doctrine.” — Rusty Pritchard, ‘Dominion’ means dominion
The wine aisle in your grocery store is probably organized this way. Yes, I know there is a California section and an Import section and even a jug/box wine spot, but look within each wine display and you’ll see the clear price stratification effect. The wines you have come to buy are probably on the shelf just below your natural eye level, so that you cannot help but see those special occasion wines just above them (and the higher priced wines above them on the top shelf). Cheaper wines are down below, near the floor, so that you have to stoop down to choose them.
The physical act of taking the wine from the shelf mirrors the psychological choice you make — reach up for better (more expensive) wines, stoop down for the cheaper products. The principle will be the same in upscale supermarkets and discount stores but the choices (what price wine will be at the bottom, middle and top) will differ as you might expect.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)
In China, this sort of free-form adoption of English is helped along by a shortage of native English-speaking teachers, who are hard to keep happy in rural areas for long stretches of time. An estimated 300 million Chinese — roughly equivalent to the total US population — read and write English but don’t get enough quality spoken practice. The likely consequence of all this? In the future, more and more spoken English will sound increasingly like Chinese.
11. Chart of the Week
more graph humor and song chart memes
12. Lift Magic allows anyone curious about cosmetic surgery, but too frightened to go under the knife, to see an improved version of themselves at the click of a mouse. Lift Magic offers a virtual makeover for prospective plastic surgery patients, so they can see how they might look after eye-bag removal, a nose job or a face-lift. (HT: The Presurfer)
World population is projected to reach 7 billion only 4 years from now. The world added its 6 billionth resident in 1999. Today, the population is approximately 6.7 billion. World population growth is slowing down – it took about 12 years for the world population to rise from 5 billion to 6 billion while the increase from 6 to 7 billion is a 13 year time span
14. Francis Beckwith asks “Are You Prochoice When it Comes to Drilling in ANWR?
Here’s how you find out: if someone tells you that there are embryonic stem cells buried at ANWR, would you drill? If you answer “yes,” your inner liberal should have no problem if the embryos were replaced by oil.
15. Dorothy Sayers on the doctrine of hell:
There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the “cruel and abominable mediaeval doctrine of hell,” or “the childish and grotesque mediaeval imagery of physical fire and worms.” …
But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of hell is not “mediaeval”: it is Christ’s. It is not a device of “mediaeval priestcraft” for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from “mediaeval superstition,” but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it…. It confronts us in the oldest and least “edited” of the gospels: it is explicit in many of the most familiar parables and implicit in many more: it bulks far larger in the teaching than one realizes, until one reads the Evangelists through instead of picking out the most comfortable texts: one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ. (A Matter of Eternity, 86)
(HT: One Eternal Day)
17. Timewaster of the Week: Last Egg Standing
Members of the country’s armed police unit practised on the Segway models that have been re-named ‘Anti-Terror Assault Vehicles’ in the eastern province of Shandong. (HT: The Presurfer)
19. Christopher Hitchens and Waterboarding (Part I) — After Christopher Hitchens wrote a Slate article suggesting that waterboarding wasn’t really torture, readers suggested that he try it himself.
The “official lie” about waterboarding, Hitchens says, is that it “simulates the feeling of drowning”. In fact, “you are drowning – or rather, being drowned”.
He rehearses the intellectual arguments, both for (“It’s nothing compared to what they do to us”) and against (“It opens a door that can’t be closed”). But the Hitch’s thoroughly empirical conclusion is simple. As Vanity Fair’s title puts it: “Believe me, it’s torture.”
(HT: Boing Boing)
20. Christopher Hitchens and Waterboarding (Part II) – Phillip Carter on “Stupid Is As Hitchens Does”
Honestly, I thought we learned in grade school to be a little smarter than this – that it wasn’t necessary to stick a metal fork in the electrical socket to know there was electricity there. Unfortunately, for some people personal experience trumps all other forms of learning, and they must learn at the school of hard knocks. Or, in this case, the school of hard torture.
(HT: Andrew Sullivan)
22. From Conan O’Briens’s commencement address for Harvard’s Class of 2000:
I’ve dwelled on my failures today because, as graduates of Harvard, your biggest liability is your need to succeed. Your need to always find yourself on the sweet side of the bell curve.
Because success is a lot like a bright, white tuxedo. You feel terrific when you get it, but then you’re desperately afraid of getting it dirty, of spoiling it in any way.
I left the cocoon of Harvard, I left the cocoon of Saturday Night Live, I left the cocoon of The Simpsons. And each time it was bruising and tumultuous. And yet, every failure was freeing, and today I’m as nostalgic for the bad as I am for the good.
So, that’s what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over.
24. Alan Jacobs on biblical literalism:
[M]any gays and lesbians decry the “literalism” of “Christianists” who cite Biblical sources to condemn homosexuality — but that’s nonsense. After all, it’s not like there’s a possible symbolic meaning for statements like “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination” or “the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another [and] committed shameless acts with [other] men.”
Conservative Christians do indeed take those statements literally, but then, so does everyone else, because there’s not another way to take them. The real question is wholly different: whether those passages are to be granted authority, whether people should defer to them and see them as worthy of obedience. That’s the real disagreement here: whether what the Bible says — always assuming that it has been rightly understood — on these matters is binding upon us. It has nothing at all to do with “literalism.”
25. LOLCat of the Week
more cat pictures
26. Totlol is a brand new community-moderated video website designed to be enjoyed by those between the ages of 6 months and 6 years.
28. Archaeologists find silos and administration center from early Egyptian city— A University of Chicago expedition at Tell Edfu in southern Egypt has unearthed a large administration building and silos that provide fresh clues about the emergence of urban life. The discovery provides new information about a little understood aspect of ancient Egypt — the development of cities in a culture that is largely famous for its monumental architecture.
29. Einstein was right, McGill astrophysicists say — Researchers at McGill University’s Department of Physics – along with colleagues from several countries – have confirmed a long-held prediction of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, via observations of a binary-pulsar star system. Their results will be published July 3 in the journal Science.
30. ‘Mind’s eye’ influences visual perception — Letting your imagination run away with you may actually influence how you see the world. New research from Vanderbilt University has found that mental imagery–what we see with the “mind’s eye”–directly impacts our visual perception.
31. Looking for the Fountain of Youth? Cut your calories, research suggests — Want to slow the signs of aging and live longer? New Saint Louis University research suggests cutting back on calories could be a promising strategy. Calorie restriction has long been shown to slow the aging process in rats and mice. While scientists do not know how calorie restriction affects the aging process in rodents, one popular hypothesis is that it slows aging by decreasing a thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3), which then slows metabolism and tissue aging. A new study in the June 2008 issue of Rejuvenation Research, found that calorie restriction – cutting approximately 300 to 500 calories per day – had a similar biological effect in humans and, therefore, may slow the aging process.
32. Prevalence of religious congregations affects mortality rates — LSU associate professor of sociology Troy C. Blanchard recently found that a community’s religious environment – that is, the type of religious congregations within a locale – affects mortality rates, often in a positive manner. These results were published in the June issue of Social Forces, a leading journal in the field of sociology.
33. Inside the Space Station