Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Christian Barbell Strategy

I talked about Nassim Nicholas Taleb a couple of posts back and gave his analogy of the turkey. Another idea that I like a lot from Taleb is his barbell strategy. Here is a quote by Taleb that givs this strategy.

…the good investment strategy is to put 90% of your money in the safest possible government securities and the remaining 10% in a large number of high-risk ventures. This insulates you from bad black swans and exposes you to the possibility of good ones. Your smallest investment could go “convex” – explode – and make you rich.

This is very different from Aristotle ideal of the golden mean. The golden mean says that the best position between two extremes is the middle. The problem that I have with the golden mean is that Christ's life really doesn't fit this model. Jesus' life wasn't always moderate. Sometimes Jesus was incredibly radical. I think Taleb's barbell strategy looks more like how Christ lived his life.

In the majority (90%) of life's situations it's really a good idea to be hyper-conservative. If you live your life 100% conservatively you miss out on a lot of things that makes life worth living. Always playing it safe is just not fun. So there should be that 10% of life were you are ruthlessly risky to expose yourself to what Taleb would call the black swan and what I would call from a Christian prospective the Holy Spirit. You really don't want to go more than 10% because most attempts at innovation (mutation in evolution) fail.

If you take the golden mean when dealing with our society your are going to take on too much risk. Your going to take on too much crap and when things blow up your going to end up a turkey.

An Essentially Christian Plotline

There is a young man, different from other young men. Ancient prophecies foretell his coming, and he performs miraculous feats. Eventually, confronted by his enemies, he must sacrifice his own life—an act that saves mankind from calamity—but in a mystery as great as that of his origin, he is reborn, to preside in glory over a world redeemed. Tell this story to one of the world’s 2 billion Christians, and he’ll recognize it instantly. Tell it to a science-fiction and fantasy fan, and he’ll ask why you’re making minor alterations to the plot of The Matrix or Superman Returns. For reasons that have as much to do with global politics as with our cultural moment, some of this generation’s most successful sci-fi and fantasy movie franchises follow an essentially Christian plotline. Benjamin A. Plotinsky

I would disagree in that I do not think the reason is substantially political or cultural. I believe the reason is that truth is inherently interesting even if it's only true on an allegorical level.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Proper Ends (Goals)

How not to be a Turkey? (context)

Our society puts a high value on making and achieving goals. It's something that I like about American culture. The challenge of setting, striving for, and accomplishing a worthy goal is exhilarating. Lets do an experiment to see if you have the focus to accomplish the task given by this clip.

Goals have a dark side. Goals can mislead if they are not properly ordered. To speak like St. Thomas Aquinas, our ends need to be the good that we are truly seeking. The risk is overly focusing on things that will not really obtain what we are looking for. Like being too preoccupied to see the gorilla, there is a risk of striving for non-essential things that will fail to lead to where we truly want to go. Ultimately making you end up a turkey. So to end with a quote from Christ...

Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:31-34)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock attended a strict Jesuit school from age eleven to almost fourteen. He later recalled that the school placed particular emphasis on fear, realism, and reason as key traits of religion. Whatever Hitchcock may have said about the role of religion in his life and work, that education remained a lifelong influence. As McGilligan writes: “The fear, the realism mixed with fancy, the reasoning power and discipline of ordered thinking—these were the cornerstones of his art” (McGilligan 24). Not only that, but they helped shape his view of the world.

The mind behind Alfred Hitchcock’s body of work is preoccupied, even obsessed, with questions of goodness and evil, innocence and guilt. Screenwriter Arthur Laurents, who worked with Hitchcock on the 1948 film Rope, observed that it was “obvious to anyone worked with him that he had a strong sense of sin” (quoted by David Sterritt in the essay “The Destruction that Wasteth at Noonday: Hitchcock’s Atheology”). Rope itself is an excellent example of this, with its tale of two young men who are inspired to commit murder by their former housemaster’s Nietzschean philosophies about superior beings and their right to act as they please. Gina R. Dalfonzo

The article where I got this quote is a good read. Go check it out

Don't be the Turkey

When I started this blog, I was interested in what I called indirect apologetics. I got this idea through a book named, Strategy that looked at what made successful campaigns in war. The best strategy was to be unpredictable or to attack where it was least expected. Direct attacks were very costly and didn't tend to work. I tried to apply this idea towards bringing people to Christ.

It is time for a change in course due to the situation that Christians find themselves.

Instead of thinking exclusively on how to bring people into the truth of Christ. I am going to now focus more on keeping fidelity to Christ. I am going to try to tinker and take risks to do this.

Secular culture has been extremely effective with using indirect tactics against Christians. So the question that I am going to keep in mind is the following; How do you protect against the constant barrage of indirect attacks by the media and secular society so that you do not end up being a turkey.

I have been influenced by the book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb entitled The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. In Taleb's book he used an annalogy of the turkey. The turkey's every day experience confirms the belief that the owner cares for his best interest. Every day the owner feeds and gives waters to the turkey. This keeps going until the turkey reaches a maximum level of trust for his owner but then comes the chopping block.

What I want to do is to look for ways as a Christian, immersed in a powerful secular society, to not be the turkey.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Vs. Old Humanists

Here is an interesting quote,

The British Humanist Association is currently running a campaign against religious faith. It has bought advertising space on our city buses, which now patrol the streets declaring that "There probably is no God; so stop worrying and enjoy life." My parents would have been appalled at such a declaration. From a true premise, they would have said, it derives a false and pernicious conclusion. Had they wished to announce their beliefs—and it was part of their humanism to think that you don't announce your beliefs but live them—they would have expressed them thus: "There probably is no God; so start worrying, and remember that self-discipline is up to you." The British Humanist Association sees nothing wrong with the reference to enjoyment; it seems to have no consciousness of what is clearly announced between the lines of the text, namely that there are no ideals higher than pleasure. Its publications imply that there is only one thing that stands between man and his happiness, and that is the belief in God. Take that belief away, and we can run out into the garden of permissions, picking the fruit that we wrongly thought to have been forbidden. The humanists I knew as a young man would have reacted with disgust at this hedonistic message, and at a philosophy that aims to dispense with God without also aiming to replace Him. Roger Scruton

The old school humanists always had a problem. They didn't have a tangible answer to why make sacrifices when things get hard. Because of this they didn't have staying power. The old school humanists were depending on a residual Christian morality that the next generation is not going have. The humanist movement will always eventually drift to be hedonists.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Great Depression Cooking with Clara

I love these videos. I think it really shows what makes a life well lived.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Homosexuality, Experience & Tradition by Eve Tushnet

I found this very enlightening...

Experience & Tradition

by Eve Tushnet

One of the frightening aspects of loving somebody is the way that love can seem to offer unique access not only to pleasure but to truth. Love of another person-not only romantic love, but familial love and deep friendship as well-promises or threatens to reshape us completely. It can become the lens through which we see the world.

When I came out as a lesbian, provoked in part by a puppyish crush, I felt as though I had found the key that unlocked the secrets of the world. The only experience that has ever given me a greater rush of self-understanding was my conversion to Catholicism. The two experiences felt weirdly similar: both were frightening and illuminating, separating me to a certain extent from friends and family, yet both were prompted by love.

The rest can be found here...

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is the Pope obviously wrong on condoms?

My comments on a post.

It is hard to calculate the consequences of condoms because human behavior is complex. If you only look at the issue through an abstract level then I can see how the Pope's statements can seem like "obvious nonsense". A barrier of latex between someone and infected body fluid is going lower the risk of getting HIV. But if you look at all the complex variables, then it's not so clear if passing out thousands of condoms really lowers HIV in the long term. Condoms being readily available is going to have an element of risk compensation. People are going to act more risky because they feel more safe while using condoms. Does the protective benefit of condoms offset the risky behavior? I really don't know and there is no scientific data provided on this blog that would make this question "obvious".

The other variable that I think the Pope was trying to get at and which the author of this post was trying to separate from the popes comments is the question of whether people are actually going to consistently use condoms. This is the real issue.

The truth is that asking people to use condoms every time they have sex is like asking a fat person to have salad for every meal. It just not going to happen. Sure people will do it a couple times but in the long run using condoms get old. Using condoms is just not that fulfilling. So to sum up, condoms increase risky behavior but over the long term the average person is not going to use condoms consistently. This leads me to believe that what the Pope is saying has a lot of truth to it. And it's not because the Pope says that condoms are wrong, but because using condoms suck.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The stuff of life

Quote of the day:

A man who is holding down a menial job and thereby supporting a wife and children is doing something authentically important with his life. He should take deep satisfaction from that, and be praised by his community for doing so. Think of all the phrases we used to have for it: “He is a man who pulls his own weight.” “He’s a good provider.” If that same man lives under a system that says that the children of the woman he sleeps with will be taken care of whether or not he contributes, then that status goes away. I am not describing some theoretical outcome. I am describing American neighborhoods where, once, working at a menial job to provide for his family made a man proud and gave him status in his community, and where now it doesn’t. I could give a half dozen other examples. Taking the trouble out of the stuff of life strips people—already has stripped people—of major ways in which human beings look back on their lives and say, “I made a difference.”
By Charles Murray

Monday, March 16, 2009

Some thought for Christians

Some thought for Christians.

If you are not able to see why homosexuality is wrong, it does not necessarily follow that, because of this, homosexuality is therefore not a sin. It reminds me of the scientists who believed that, because they could not see anything in breast milk that was essentially different from baby formula, that therefore it was equal. Mothers in third world countries were given formula and encouraged to stop breastfeeding. When the formula ran out mothers were not able to feed their babies due to their breast milk drying up. Formula fed babies were more likely to die from diarrhea because they were not protected by the antibodies that is in mother's breast milk. Some studies have even shown that babies who have been formula fed have a higher incidence of lower IQ's. All these problems and more have occurred because these scientist's were not able to see all of the unintended consequences. There has to be the realization that reality is extremely complex, and there are a lot of things that we just don't know that we don't know.

Our society is very good at science, but this strength comes with the weakness and illusion that we know more than we really do. Science does not have anything to say about morality. Science tells us about the physical world, but it has nothing to tell us about what we ought to do. Philosophy alone does not have access to the data to gain the objective perspective on who we really are and what our end is. As Christians we have been given the data that gives the answers to know who we are and what we ought to do morally. Our data is Divine Revelation. The fact that evil acts sometimes looks like good is more reason to hold firm to the faith that was given to us by Christ.

Christians who are faithful to Divine revelation are going to be marginalized by secularists and tagged as a "hate group". It's already happening. And it's not because we "hate" those with same sex attraction but because we will not agree that homosexual acts lead society to good ends. We need to trust Christ and the deposit of faith that He gave us.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Secular Songs for Lent

Dave Matthews Let You Down Cover

Linkin Park - What I've Done

Friday, March 13, 2009

Persistent Vegetative State

This video is about a person named Kate who was in a persistent vegetative state. Kate is now able to express some of her experiences. For me, it brings back memories of Terri Schiavo and how her parents could see in her some level of consciousness. Maybe that wasn't so outlandish after all.