by John Feakes -
The End of Morality? A Critique of the Materialistic Views Expressed in Discover Magazine (July-August, 2011)
The two strongest arguments for Christian Theism, seemingly impervious to refutation by materialists, are the arguments from the validity of consciousness and thought, and the argument from morality. The former argument centers on the fact that if everything is reducible to molecules in motion, then our very thoughts – which are simply the result of the meaningless flux of atoms in the human brain – would be called into question as reliable sources of information as well. This would serve to undermine the validity of all reasoning, including the reasoning of the atheist who claims that his brilliant mind has led him to the conclusion that God does not exist. Such a view makes the task of determining which thoughts are more or less “valid” than others impossible. Conversely, Christian Theism has no problem assessing the validity of competing thoughts. Recall that on this view, God has designed the human mind for the express purpose of apprehending truths external to itself. The rational thinking that follows from such apprehension is a reflection of the mind of God, the Rational Mind responsible for this grand universe in the first place. [Read more...]
by John Feakes -
by Tom Gilson -
Let’s Just Reduce Our Altruism, Morals & Love to Brain Waves
I opened up “The End of Morality,” Discover magazine’s latest article on ethics and the brain (July/August 2011), and I wondered, “Will this be any different from the others?” Articles on this topic seem to follow a consistent pattern: (1) Researchers can pinpoint physical events taking place in people’s brains when they make ethical decisions. (2) Thus, science is discovering, finally, what ethics is all about: it’s chemistry and electricity doing their chemical and electrical thing inside your skull. And that’s it.
It’s an approach many thinkers call reductionist. Reductionism in this context means that crucial aspects of human experience, like consciousness, love, ethical decisions, the ability to make choices (free will), and so on are best understood as biological processes, which in turn are best understood in terms of chemistry and physics. It’s a matter of bringing down—reducing—these things to the lowest level of physical explanation.
According to reductionism, in fact, the only real thing going on is what happens at the level of chemistry and physics. [Read more...]
by Peggy Noonan -
The great words of the year? “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
They are the last words of Steve Jobs, reported by his sister, the novelist Mona Simpson, who was at his bedside. In her eulogy, a version of which was published in the New York Times, she spoke of how he looked at his children “as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.” He’d said goodbye to her, told her of his sorrow that they wouldn’t be able to be old together, “that he was going to a better place.” In his final hours his breathing was deep, uneven, as if he were climbing.
“Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were: ‘OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.’” [Read more...]
by John Jalsevac -
Christmas isn’t quite what it used to be, is it? And I’m not referring the usual laundry list of grievances that makes us religious fundamentalist extremists (i.e. Christians) seriously ponder setting up a utopian commune on a deserted Mediterranean island: the war on Christmas, the kitschy music, the consumerist madness, the widespread ignorance about even the most basic facts behind the feast.
Forget about all that for now. All I mean is, if you’re old enough to be reading this, somehow Christmas has lost much of the effortless magic with which it was surrounded years ago…in your childhood.
You know what I mean. As a child, it seemed so easy to get swept up into the rich mystery of Christmas: the presents, the smells, the music, the lights glistening on the snow, the tinsel on the tree, the strange guests, the parties, the good food. All these things spoke to you, and without thinking about it you gave yourself into the power of their enchantment. [Read more...]
by Rev. Robert A. Sirico -
In a Christmas season filled with noble sentiments such as “peace on earth and goodwill to men,” the remembrance of the joys and sanctity of the family, and the deep human desire for tranquility of heart, how is it that this is arguably the period of deepest tension, family strife and exhaustion?
Although I don’t have hard data to prove it, from both personal and pastoral experience I can safely assert that from roughly the last week of November to the first week of January we experience more stress, arguments within families, and grief, than at any other time of the year.
Much of this is no doubt of our own doing: the expectations we have of ourselves to write every card and attend every party and prepare every dish possible. We go too soon from the joyful welcoming of the “meaning of the season’ into crushing obligations the meaning of which we find ourselves simply too tired to contemplate. [Read more...]
In the quest for divine truth, how do we know when we’ve found it? Are there markers along the way to guide us — a kind of spiritual GPS?
British bishop N. T. Wright says there are such markers; he calls them “Echoes of a Voice.” He says, “I’m talking about voices that I believe virtually all human beings, in virtually all cultures, listen for and know, but are puzzled by.”
Wright shared his views at a New York City gathering called Socrates in the City — arranged by my friend and colleague Eric Metaxas, author of the amazing biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Metaxas put the Socrates in the City meetings together to help sophisticated New Yorkers think about the bigger questions of life. I’ve spoken there twice, and they’re great.
Referring to C. S. Lewis, Bishop Wright says the first “echo of a voice” has to do with an understanding of justice. Even the youngest child is aware of this — which is why, if you spend any time on a playground, you’ll hear cries of “That’s not fair!” [Read more...]
by Jason McNew -
Ron Paul, a physician, has earned himself the name “Dr. No” by refusing to vote for any bill which assumes powers other than those given in Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution. When one takes a sober look at our country today, it’s easy to see why Dr. Paul would behave this way.
Take note that there is no authority in the Constitution for the setting of interest rates (as the Federal Reserve does) — interference which led directly to the housing bubble (which Ron Paul predicted). Despite U.S. participation in several sizable wars, Congress has not bothered itself with actually declaring war since 1942 (on Romania). There is no authority to bail out banks, intervene in labor disputes, subsidize farming, regulate health insurance, or set educational policies. Every one of these unauthorized activities drives costs up (or drives prosperity down) and ultimately hurts average Americans. Americans are realizing that most of our social and economic ills can be traced to a failure to follow our own Constitution. Ron Paul has always been a strict, unapologetic Constitutionalist. How Ron Paul would govern as president can be envisioned by simply reading Article II of the Constitution (The Executive Branch.) [Read more...]
by Suzanne Fields -
Cultural forces are driving men away from traditional responsibilities
These are difficult and perilous times for boys. A distorted culture has robbed them of virtue against which to measure themselves. The good once associated with masculinity in a patriarchal society has been tossed out with the bad. This, alas, is the era of feminist ascendency.
Manhood is more easily mocked, satirized and derided, or exposed for its villainy, exploitation and criminality than held up as an ideal for boys to aspire to. We’ve always had rogues, rascals and villains, but until now, we’ve also had a base line, a common denominator, of what it means to be a man. Male-female cultural distinctions, once blurred, are disappearing. [Read more...]
by Fr. Athanasios Papagiannis -
John weighed seven pounds, seven ounces on the day he was born. His first days of life were highlighted by bouts of crying and long periods of sleeping. On the drive home from the hospital, a few days later, John’s mother glanced down, looked at her new baby, and for a moment she smiled.
Then she looked ahead.
“Honey,” she began, as she stared at her husband, “I know we decided to keep our careers so that we can be financially secure, but now I’m having second thoughts. I want to give our son the most attention we can. I want us to reconsider having me stay at home with him.”
Her husband shook his head in frustration. “We discussed this, remember?” he shot back. “We can’t afford to have one of us at home all the time. It doesn’t make sense.” For the next few minutes the proud new parents shared their thoughts and uneasiness of leaving their child in the care of someone other than his parents. Conversations like the one above are common among new parents. Every parent wants the best for their child, yet mapping out how to exactly deliver that parenting has become more and more difficult. [Read more...]
by Peg Luksik -
What, exactly, makes this nation “America”? It’s not economics. Economic conditions are always the result of a nation’s culture and policies, not the cause. We need to ask what created the culture and policies that made us the most prosperous nation in history.
The answer tells us what we, as a nation, believe. Our Founders began by saying, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”.
Our entire history flows from our belief in those self-evident truths. In modern language, the truths of America’s heritage are:
God exists and is the highest authority. The American Revolution can only be justified if there was an authority above the King – an authority whose standards the King was violating. A government can only be wrong if there is something higher to measure its actions against. [Read more...]
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” researchers Rob Willer, Ko Kuwabara and Michael Macy devised a set of ingenious experiments that showed how distressingly easy it is to make people go against what they believe to be true.
One of the experiments involved wine-tasting, in which participants evaluate both the wine and one another’s wine-tasting skills. The participants were given three samples of wine. In reality, all three samples were from the same bottle. One had even been tainted with vinegar!
Before they delivered their evaluation, they listened to other participants, who were plants, who praised the vinegar-laced wine as the best. Half of the participants went against their own taste buds and joined in praising the vinegary concoction.
Even more interesting is what happened next. Another participant, who was also a plant, told the truth about the wines. But when it came time for the participants to evaluate each other, some of them were permitted to do so confidentially, and the others had to do so publicly. [Read more...]
by Joseph Ashby -
Peeking through Occupy Wall Street’s cloudy drum sessions, group speeches, and celebrity visits are a few rays of reality’s sunlight. These glimmers of the real world show that even the campers of Zuccotti Park aren’t immune to Margaret Thatcher’s famous declaration that “the facts of life are conservative.”
Conservatism is the natural political outgrowth from the real life experience. Humans are naturally flawed, greedy, and untrustworthy. Conservatives recognize that fact and promote the market system and divided government in order to pit one greedy person against another.
Conversely, the left continually denies and fights against human nature (inevitably losing to it). For leftists, it’s always a matter of finding the right human to rule — the disinterested regulator, the consumer-protecting bureaucrat, the messianic president, etc. [Read more...]
by Archbishop José H. Gomez -
We are slowly losing our sense of religious liberty in America.
There is much evidence to suggest that our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right. As scholars like Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon and Michael Sandel have observed, our courts and government agencies increasingly treat the right to hold and express religious beliefs as only one of many private lifestyle options. And, they observe, this right is often “trumped” in the face of challenges from competing rights or interests deemed to be more important.
These are among the reasons the U.S. Catholic bishops recently established a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. My brother bishops and I are deeply concerned that believers’ liberties—and the Church’s freedom to carry out her mission—are threatened today, as they never have been before in our country’s history. [Read more...]
by Timothy Dalrymple -
Last night I had the occasion to share some thoughts on the theology of vocation. One of the greatest legacies of the Protestant Reformation, the doctrine of vocation has fallen on hard times. In the midst of economic crisis, in the midst of public pressures to private and compartmentalize our faith, and in the midst of a church-wide reexamination of the proper ways and means of cultural influence, the church must recover its theology of vocation. As I was preparing to offer my thoughts, I came across two passages I found inspiring. The first comes from Gene Edward Veith (from a special issue of the Journal of Markets and Morality), provost at Patrick Henry College (and a blogger). The emphases are mine:
Christians today urgently need to revive their commitment to whole-life discipleship. Millions of churchgoers are “Christians” for a few hours every week. Christianity is something they practice on Sunday morning rather than a way of life. The withering of discipleship is one of the gravest threats facing the church today.
One of the main causes of the problem is that churches and seminaries have disconnected discipleship from everyday life. Too often, pastors and professors talk about one’s “walk with God” and “stewardship” almost exclusively in terms of formally religious activities such as worship attendance, Bible study, evangelism, and giving. As important as these activities are for every Christian, they will never take up more than a tiny percentage of life for those who are not in full-time ministry. The largest portion of life—work in the home and in jobs—is excluded from the concepts of discipleship and stewardship. [Read more...]
by Fr. Joshua Makoul -
The world in which we live is an anxious one, rife with fear and doubt. Economic markets rise and fall, employment fluctuates, conflicts erupt in unexpected places, and each year seems to bring a threat of some new virus that threatens mankind. We are all continuously faced with events outside of our control. As time passes the future takes on greater uncertainty. Indeed, it is often our struggle with uncertainty that plagues our spiritual life and gives birth to fear and worry.
Our society today has seen a dramatic spike in what psychologists call anxiety disorders. Many who struggle with these conditions wrestle with trusting, with uncertainty, with not having control. Not all who struggle with fear and worry, however, have a “disorder,” for such struggle is universal and comes with living in the world. There are many secular treatments and potential remedies for anxiety. As Christians we have all these, and much more, at our disposal in our fight against fear and anxiety. To the challenge of not having control, we have the ultimate answer and solution: God is in control. Those who deny God’s existence or who do not turn to Him in their lives, deny themselves the greatest treatment for fear, anxiety, worry and doubt. Our God offers us something that the world cannot give us, and that is His peace. [Read more...]