Sunday, September 17, 2006

Are all Values Subjective?

I got this response in the comments section of a blog that I commented on;
“But values are in the subjective realm. Any specific human brain is in only one person, therefore values are in only one person. Many are the philosophers and religious devotees who would have their own values mandated as objective. Personally, I think the attempt to do so is immoral.”

Am I being objectively immoral or only immoral in the sense of your own subjective value standards? If subjective, I hope you are not trying to "mandate" your subjective values onto me.

I agree that values have a subjective element but some values are also based in natural law which is written into us as humans. Your argument has as it’s premise that humans are so different that there is no commonality to base any objective value standards. If you are right then on what basis can you tell anyone that they are wrong? On what grounds would you tell the early American slave owners that they were wrong for not valuing African American’s as equals. Most you could really say was that subjectively you value Africans American’s as equal but the slave owners would not be objectively wrong for valuing them less. They would be right based on their own subjective values.

You also have the problem that in a society that only has subjective values to base standards on, the only thing that makes something socially right or wrong is power. Might makes right which is scary.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Address at the University of Regensburg

I made a response to the following quote:

“Value judgements are hard to argue with--is green a better colour than blue? Should we have justice or peace? Thus, we all seek to make our value preferences into facts, rather than opinions.” Link

What your are doing here is exactly was Pope Benedict was addressing in his controversial Address at the University of Regensburg. He said,

The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.
Not all values are subjective preferences. Some values are universally held and to deny them is to deny the best of what it is to be human. Take the value of courage, can you imagine a society were cowardice was held with more value than courage? The answer is not to try less, but like pope Benedict explained we need to broaden the use of reason to bring the important questions that religion and ethics ask out of the subjective realm.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Innocence Vs. Insight

Here is an interesting article on innocence versus insight.
Innocence seems to be a potentially attractive kind of ignorance. Apparently, in many social contexts ignorance can be a good thing, in part because helps to preserve idealism. Idealism is a simplified view of the world that supports optimism about the abilities or motives of oneself, one's associates, one's groups, and of related social processes.

It is interesting because it gives respect to innocence. Something teenagers and Hollywood usually don’t do. I don’t really like the examples used because they seem to be controversial and not altogether convincing. I think I could give better examples. For example, hearing gossip about someone you like. “So and so cheated with so and so” is not something that I really want to know when one of both or the so and so’s is someone I love.

Here’s another example, How The Lord Of The Rings should have ended:

Warning if you are a lord of the rings fan you probably want to pass on this one. I know I wish I never saw it.

My final example would be drugs. Having the insight of how meth feels could be a curse.

I have a feeling that innocence versus insight can be a false dichotomy. I think there is a third higher position where you can keep ones innocence and at the same time have insight when the insight conforms to God’s will. I can view the Church as the holy Kingdom of God but also understand that it has members that do evil things. People can have shortcoming but I can also see them with tremendous grace. I guess its seeing with the eyes of faith. Things that are complex and dispiriting become clear and consoling when viewed with the grace of God. This innocence is an essential Christian trait.
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

Luck of the Irish

The eagle-eyed worker was using a backhoe to dig up potting soil in central Ireland last week when he spotted the leather-bound book.

Experts called to the site were amazed to find an ancient Psalter Book of Psalms lying in the mud. The archaeologists won't say exactly where the book was found until they are finished investigating the site.

About 20 pages long and written in Latin, the book has been dated to between A.D. 800 and 1000.~NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
I wounder how it got there?

A Significant Problem in Apologetics

Cognitive science has long recognized the power of emotion over reason, and now political science is documenting it in the electoral sphere. In a study presented this year, scientists scanned the brains of staunch Democrats and Republicans. The volunteers first read a statement from George W. Bush or John Kerry, then a news account showing their candidate's deeds didn't live up to his words -- for example, cutting funding for children's hospitals after extolling their importance -- suggesting pandering or lying. The volunteers then considered the contradictions.

You'd think this would tap reasoning ability. But no. According to the brain scans, the reasoning regions of the brain stayed quiet; emotion circuits lit up like Vegas. The volunteers denied obvious contradictions from their candidate, but detected them easily in the other guy. Partisan beliefs are so hardened and so tied to emotion, they're extremely hard to change, concluded Drew Westen of Emory University who led the study. ~The Wall Street Journal

I think the above study sheds light on a significant problem in apologetics. A solution to this problem is the indirect approach. The aim of indirect apologetics is to avoid the emotional response that comes with a direct attack. It does this by rationally addressing a fallacy by a rout that is not at first obvious. I use this blog to try to come up with different ways to do this.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

String Theory

Whatever the new chic scientific model is, there is a tendency to try to force theology through that model. That is not what I am doing here. I just want to make the point that there is a good chance that there is more that we don’t know about the physical universe than what we do know. If this is true for the physical universe, how ignorant we must be of supernatural reality? This shows how essential Divine revelation is for us to grasp the transcendent. There is no way for science or philosophy to get us there. God has to come to use because we can’t get to him.

Here is an interesting site; Imagining the 10th Dimension Its a cool flash animation that gives some possible explanations for the different dimensions that string theory theorizes about.

String theory it is at this point philosophy since there is no sure experiment, to date, to test the theory. The explanations given in the animation for the different dimensions are probably false. The concept given in Imagining the 10th Dimension is not the mainstream understanding of string theory but it is still fun to think about. In many ways it reminds me of Star Trek with it’s alternative realities.

False Charity

131 To give way in matters of faith would be a false charity. It would be a diabolical, deceitful charity. We must be fortes in fide — strong, firm in faith, as Saint Peter demands.This is not fanaticism, but quite simply the practice of our faith. It does not entail disliking anyone. We can give way in all accidental matters, but in matters of faith we cannot give way. We cannot spare the oil from our lamps, otherwise when the Bridegroom comes he will find they have burned out. ~St Josemaria Escriva

Monday, September 11, 2006

St. Therese of Lisieux: Warrior Saint

(A picture of St. Therese of Lisieux dressed as St. Joan of Arc)

Some quotes;
“’I want to fight for Jesus…/To win for him souls without number/ I want to love Him more and more! (The words of St. Joan of Arc in one of Terese’s plays)
Lord God of armies, you said in your Gospel, ‘I came to bring not peace but a sword’. Arm me for the struggle. I yearn to fight for your glory, but I beg you, strengthen my courage… (A prayer by St. Therese of Lisieux inspired by a picture of Joan of Arc)
Soldier of Christ, lend me your weapons
On behalf of sinners, here below I want
To struggle, to suffer in the shadow of your palms
Protect me, come to support my arm.
For them, by unceasing warfare,
I want to take by violence the Kingdom of God
For the Lord brought on earth
Not peace, but the Sword and Fire!

St. Therese of Lisieux is an indirect warrior saint. She spent most of her adult life in a convent. But through here little way she battled the devil and has brought people to Christ. She continues to fight for love of Christ. St. Therese of Lisieux please pray for us.

The Relics of St. Therese of Lisieux

Sunday, September 10, 2006

53 Beads on a String

This was my first Catholic Rap CD and I still listen to it. The Apologist’s conversion story is very interesting. His father was Muslim and his mother was Baptist and he found his way into the Catholic Church. He is currently in Mexico bringing people to Christ and his Church. If you do nothing else you need to listen to this the song...53 beads on a string. Simply Awesome.

The apologist is a lay member of Miles Jesu . Here is a little bit about Miles Jesu.
Miles Jesu (Latin for "Soldier of Jesus") is a form of consecrated life in the Church for the laity, known as an Ecclesial Family of Consecrated Life, whose purpose is "to instill Catholic ideals and goals in the world to further the Kingdom of Christ, making Him the Center of all human life". The Holy Father himself is consistently promoting such forms of consecrated life as something especially inspired by the Holy Spirit for the needs of our times."

Apologist home page
Miles Jesu

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Leading Church Bodies, 2000

This is an interesting map that can have some apologetic applications. I disagree with the map it's use of the category of Christian. This should be non-denominational not Christian. If it was Christian then the majority of the map would be one color because Catholic, Baptists and many of the others are Christian. Click here for a closer view of the map.

What's the Stand?


Touching off a new wave of abortion in the United States Food and Drug Administration said Aug. 24 that people 18 and older may buy Plan B (the morning after) pills without a prescription from pharmacies.

Since the primary purposes of this pill is to cause an abortion shortly after conception has taken place, Catholic Bishops immediately responded saying, “We need to call it exactly what it is - it is truly a culture of death.”

Also, because the pills are a concentrated dose of the same drug found in many regular birth-control pills which have serious side affects, the Bishop declared that these pills will “endanger women’s health” and “pray for our nations today and especially for women who are once again being told in this subtle yet drastic way that their values is based upon their willingness to be objects of sexual pleasure despite the cost”.

However, here in Utah the reaction from religious leaders was much different. Because our email to Dale Bills (LDS Church spokeman) went unanswered, as we have often done we called the office of the LDS First Presidency directly and asked for the LDS official position on the Plan B pill.

Their secretary Brother Klofler told us that the LDS official position was “not against or for” the Plan B pill. This statement is consistent with the LDS position in The First Presidencies General Handbook of Instructions which says: “The church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion,” (Pg. 156).

We found this statement ironic because a woman we know recently had her temple recommend removed after confessing she had drank a single cup of coffee to stay awake while driving. Yet if this same woman had a by-the-book legal abortion no action would be taken. Or if she had used the Plan B pill which is also possibly harmful to her and deadly to her child the LDS church would tell her we’re not against or for it.

Did someone say something about swatting at gnats and swallowing camels?

William and Charmaine Sharp, Castle Dale Ut

This was in my local paper and I thought that it was well said. My dad tells me that William and Charmaine where Mormon and converted to the Catholic Chuch. They have ten children and they have brought them all into the Catholic Church. They are strong supporters of the pro-life movement and I have a lot of respect for them.

The Teenage Brain

Blakemore found that teenagers rely on the rear part of the mentalising network to make their decisions, an area of the brain called the superior temporal sulcus. In contrast, adults use the front part, called the prefrontal cortex.

The superior temporal sulcus is involved in processing very basic behavioural actions, whereas the prefrontal cortex is involved in more complex functions such as processing how decisions affect others. So the research implies that "teenagers are less able to understand the consequences of their actions", says Blakemore. ~Helen Thomson, Norwich, Why Adolescents put themselves first

The article interprets the implication of the finding as authorities should be more lenient on teenagers. My take is that we need to be more protective of teenagers until their brains are fully developed. What does this have to do with Apologetics? Well I guess it helps us better understand a group of people that we minister to.

The Joy Experiment

Joy by Peter Kreeft

Freud says that spiritual joy is a substitute for physical pleasure. People become saints out of sexual frustrations.

This is exactly the opposite of the truth. St. Thomas Aquinas says, "No man can live without joy. That is why one deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures." Sanctity is never a substitute for sex, but sex is often a substitute for sanctity.

The simplest, most unanswerable proof that Aquinas is right and Freud is wrong, is experience. It is not a matter of faith alone. It has been proved by experience by many, many people, many, many times. You can repeat the experiment and prove it to yourself. You can be absolutely certain that it is true, just as you can be certain that fire is hot and ice is cold.

Millions of people for thousands of years have tried the experiment, and not one of them has ever been cheated. All who seek, find—this is not just a promise about the next life, to be believed by faith, but a promise about this life, to be proved by experience, to be tested by experiment.

No one who ever said to God, "Thy will be done" and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy—not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this world at that very moment, here and now. ~Peter Kreeft, Joy

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Catholic Environmentalism

As followers of Christ, Catholic are called to work towards justice in all areas of life. This applies even to God’s creation. We are called to be just stewards of Gods gifts and this entails fighting against the exploiting of God’s creation. Admittedly there are greater injustices in the world, (i.e. abortion, genocide, and poverty) but we should be willing to fight wherever injustice is present.

Indirect Apologetic Application

Environmentalism can be common ground for Catholics and other groups in secular society. It can be a foundation where sin can be recognized as the cause of injustice. It is a situation where we must repent. It points to the propensity of modern man not to submit to reality but to try to exploit nature to fulfill narcissistic desires. C.S. Lewis said the following in regarding to modern culture;

There is something which unites magic and applied science [technology] while separating both from the `wisdom' of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men, and the solution is a technique. ~C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Secular Environmentalists and Catholics need to come together to seek the wisdom of how each individual can conform and submit to objective truth. Not through a techological quick fix through domination, but by the road of knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue which is just stewardship.

Some links of interest:
Christian Environmentalism
Catholic Conservation Center

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Akalyte Ultramontane

I got Akalyte's (a.k.a Mc Just) CD Ultramontane a couple of months ago and I love it. It is true that, "not a single heretic can step to it!" hehehe Its not for those who don't like base heavy rap but its 100% Catholic. It's perfect for workouts.

If you want to hear some of the music go here....Akalyte

Challenge Faulty Paradigms

Addressing faulty secular cultural assumptions is a productive indirect strategy that should be used before even talking about a specific doctrine. Paradigms we have will dictate the conclusions we reach. A lot of time can be wasted trying to make people see through faulty paradigms. Here is an example of what I am talking about.
It is my contention that the underlying epistemological presuppositions (i.e. how one habitually evaluates ideas, events and things) inherent in Protestantism have permeated our cultural milieu -- albeit in secularized form. This has happened so profoundly that when one starts exploring Christianity, bringing one's mental faculties to bear on arguments and beliefs, the underlying intellectual premises one is working from are already concordant with Protestantism.

What am I getting at? I am saying that every person intellectually approaches truth claims and ideas with his own habitual presuppositions. These assumptions form a kind of cognitive filter through which claims and ideas must initially pass. They help determine one's understanding and response to them. Many of these intellectual presuppositions come from one's cultural milieu. Constant exposure and habitual use of them makes their influence nearly imperceptible. Yet they have a profound influence on our judgments and understanding. Link
With one example...

3. Radical Individualism

Protestantism: Each individual is guided by the Holy Spirit in interpreting the (literal) meaning of the Bible. [semi-Subjectivism]

Secularism: Each individual is guided by his own values in interpreting what things --- like family, sex, religion, career --- (presently) mean to him. [Subjectivism] Link

Once the Paradigm is challenged, the next step is to see if the assumption is Biblical [if your talking with a Christian]. A radical individualistic world vew is very unbiblical. The Biblical analogy of Christians being sheep that follow would be one case in point. Instant Conversion of whole households when the one in charge was converted would be another.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Latin Catholic Mass 1941

Traditional Latin Mass filmed on Easter Sunday in 1941 at Our Lady of Sorrows church in Chicago. The film presents the ceremonies of the Missa Solemnis or Solemn High Mass in full detail with narration by then-Mgr. Fulton J. Sheen. Celebrated by Rev. J. R. Keane of the Order of Servites (hence the white habits and cowls), the ceremonies are accompanied by a full polyphonic choir, orchestra, and fifty Gregorian Chanters.

The attention to detail in the ceremonies is impressive. Notice, for example, how the servers and ministers always take great care to move in order. Notice too that the servers are all almost identical in height. The Ordinary of the Mass, composed by Rev. Edwin V. Hoover, while pleasant in places, is very much a reflection of its time. The Proper on the other hand is timeless and sung admirably by a healthy throng of Seminarians from Mundelein, Illinois.

Unfortunately due to size restrictions at Youtube around 20 mins have been cut from the original. However, I hope to upload a full version at Google soon or perhaps here when Youtube improves its director accounts. In addition to the cuts I have added new captions and edited the opening credits. The credits had deteriorated quite badly in the original. I retyped what I could see of them and faded them in at the beginning and at the end. Other than this the film remains largely unchanged.

Very cool!

"Remember your death"

On Jimmy Akin’s site it mentions “memento mori genre”which I found interesting. Memento mori means "Remember your death" in Latin. I think it’s something that can be good. It puts our lives in perspective and puts some urgency and weight into what we do with our time. With that thought I will send you off to 20 Things You Didn't Know About... Death. The thing that was disturbing to me was number 19, “More people commit suicide in New York City than are murdered.” There's something wrong with that.

The Mocking of Christ

The Mocking of Christ, Fra Angelico, 1440-41

We would however be missing the main point were we not to discern that the genius of Fra Angelico is deployed here in the service of on precise goal: what the artist seeks to show is not primarily the brutality of the tormentors, nor the disfigurement of the body of Christ at the time of his passion, but rather a vision of faith.

Fr. Angelico’s painting invites us to distinguish, beyond outward appearance, the presence of the Savior come to snatch humanity back from the dark night of cruelty and death, a night suggested by the black opaque zone above the background wall. It is an urgent call to us not to give in to despair before the horrors of the passion, but rather to fortify ourselves, through the intercession of Saint Mary and Saint Dominic, in our faith in a God of love more living than any death.

That was a quote from this month's Illustration in the Magnificat. It was written by Eliane Gondinet-Wallstein. The Magnificat is a monthly prayer book that follows the liturgy of the Catholic Church which my wife and I use.