Grey Thoughts
Pedophilia Party in Amsterdam
I was going to cover a new Pedophilia Party in Amsterdam, but Verum Serum have already done a great job (and I have a philosophy exam in less than 5 hours).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this group is cribbing [pun intended] from the gay rights playbook. The first step is to raise the issue publically and remove the stigma of taboo and criminality. And in that regard, the new party already has the right enemies.
Read the whole thing. And beware the slippery slopes we are on.
The Tangled Mess of Utilitarianism
Peter Singer, Chair of Philosophy at Princeton University, is a famous utilitarianist who has advocated infanticide. For those who don't know Utilitarianism is the moral theory that claims that a moral act is one which maximises the total pleasure and well-being of a society and minimises the total pain and harm. Or put another way, the moral standing of an action is based entirely on the consequences of that action and not due to any duty, rights or motive.

Mirko Bagaric,a Professor of Law and Head of the School of Law at Deakin University has an article on online opinion today talking about morality, and he seems to be coming from a utilitarian stance. In referring to the recent happenings at Mt Everest where a group of climbings didn't come to the aid of another climber who later died Mirko laments
Ignoring the cries of others – it wouldn’t happen if we had regard to the common good.
Mirko later goes on to complain about our rights based culture
The problem with rights is that they limit our moral horizons to ourselves - the moral compass is suspended in an inward direction. But buried only slightly beneath such an approach are the inescapable realities that as people we live in communities; communities are merely the sum of a number of other individuals; and the actions of one person (exercising his or her rights) can have a (negative) effect on the interests of others....The most dispiriting aspect of the rights wave is that it has swept from our psyche the most important concept that is central to our well-being: the common good, measured in terms of net human flourishing.
Mirko's problem is that clearly a rights based culture has led to people who are more selfish and are more focused on their own utility, and not the utility of the whole, that Mirko calls the common good.

But here is the rub. Mirko's entire article (read the whole thing) is geared towards getting us to act in a certain way that he feels is 'moral'. In his utilitarian views, that is the common good, or happiness of the group. Setting aside the notion how why this is a 'good' end (utilitarian views try to leverage off agreement), just think about the implications of what he is trying to say.
He is saying that we 'should' act in a certain way. The problem with trying to say what we 'should' do however, is that it seems to be advocating that we have a duty to act in that way. But if acts are meant to be moral based solely on their consequences, then we can't have a duty to do anything. In fact, it is impossible to call utilitarian ethics an ethical system at all, because in order to use moral language, you are implicitly assuming that we have a duty to be moral. It is a nonsensical statement.

This comes out in Mirko's essay. For instance
It’s easy to invent rights claims because rights are intellectual nonsense. No one has yet been able to provide tenable answers to questions such as: Where do rights come from? How can we distinguish real from fanciful rights? This allows people to make up rights as they “go along”.
Mirko of course then goes on to define his own 'rights'
If you want to know what interests we have, the answer is simple. It is a matter of biology and sociology, not misguided social and legal engineering. To attain any degree of flourishing we need the right to life, physical integrity, liberty, food, shelter, property and access to good health care and education.
Yep. Mirko says that people can make up 'rights' as they go along and then does exactly the same thing himself. Of course, if we are acting for the common good, then these 'rights' do not necessarily have to exist. It may be the case that the common good involves torturing a captured terrorist for information or sacrificing a single person to save 5000. It seems Mirko himself has advocated that torture may be 'moral'. So much for the right to life, libery, and physical integrity.

His final conclusion is just as nonsensical
The right not to care about others needs to be replaced by an obligation to assist others in serious trouble, when assistance would immensely help them at minimal inconvenience or little danger to ourselves.
Mirko can't even talk about morality without trying to give people obligations (i.e. duties).

You may agree with a lot of what Mirko says. I know I do. I believe we should stop to help people in need. I believe we should have a right to life and liberty. I believe society has become too self focused and inconsiderate of others. The problem is, utilitarian ethics are not a sound foundation for any of these beliefs. When you tell someone that everyone acts for their own happiness (which is a descriptive statement - an observation) and so we should act to maximise everyone's happiness (which is a prescriptive statement - an obligation), those who want to be rational ask 'why' should we do that. The utilitarian has no good answer.
Immigration, Logic and Terrorism
With all the recent discussion of immigration and multiculturalism in both Australia and America, it never ceases to amaze me with the lack of logic on the extreme left. It seems that many would like to have completely open borders where we affirm everyone's culture as equal. But is this really that logical?

Any organisation or group is founded around some common values. It is inescapable. Whether it is your local church, a sports club, rotary or even your place of employment. A business only hires those who suits it's goals. A club only brings in members who agree with it's charter. A church allows membership to those who agree with it's doctrine. Why? Because the group has a purpose and values that need to be the same as those who want to be a part of it. If a footy club lets people who hate football to join and then ultimately control policy of the club, the club itself will no longer be a football club, but a club fixed around completely different values.

Yet somehow, some people have gotten the idea that we should allow anyone and everyone who wants to come into our country to do so. I'm not saying that we should exclude people on the basis of their race or gender. What I am saying is that we should exclude people on the basis of their beliefs, values and purpose. Australia does not need more people who hate democracy, who want to enforce their different beliefs on us or complain about being taught our beliefs. It just won't work as a society unless we at least have a common foundation of values and purpose. It is kind of like trying to have 5 different chefs all trying to cook a different meal in the same pot.

What is currently happening in Australia is that we have removed the white Australia policy (which is a good thing), removing a bad criteria for immigration, and yet have not replaced it with a wiser criteria. We have instead allowed people with vastly different values and purposes in. Even then, we hear the cries from the left about detention centers for illegal immigrants. As if it is wrong to not only have no immigration policy for who can get in, but we should be allowing anyone to come in without any control of the manner in which they come.

It could be better though. Even without a change in immigration policy. But it is worse than just the immigration policy. Our welfare policy is enabling immigrants to not have to move towards our Australian values and instead allow them to live with those values that are opposed to Australia. It nowhere becomes clearer than with Terrorism. The 22 people charged with terrorist activities in Australia, along with their families, have received over 1 million dollars a year in welfare payments. The article mentions that one of the guys being held hasn't had a job in 10 years. But it is worse still, as these people have been arrested, their spouses are receiving EXTRA benefits. Where is the logic in this?

We allow them to come to our country and stay, even though they hate democracy. We pay them money, allowing them not to work. We even give them money to raise large families who also grow up hating democracy. All we are really doing is buying our won destruction, on a handy payment plan of yearly tax payer installments.
Anonymity and the Net
Little Green Footballs has a post about how someone sent a nasty threat to them. It seems the sender is learning that the notion of anonymity on the net is not all it has cracked up to be.

Of course, notice how those who claim to be 'tolerant' so often seem to be the first to try and use violence and threats to silence their opposition.
X-Men Last Stand (Spoilers)
I didn't really enjoy the latest X-Men film. Whilst it was well made for an action flick and there was plenty of excitement, I just can't overlook the many downers in the film.


Some of the major issues I had were:

Ultimately, I was dissapointed. I prefer to not see the heroes die, and if they do, pointless, low grade deaths are much worse. This is what happens when you change your director to Brett Ratner.
How to Destroy Society
Step 1) The Sexual Revolution - Throw off those old Christian morals about sex being just for marriage

Step 2) Watch society spiral into massive problems such as Out of wedlock birth rates which have risen continually from 5.3 percent in 1960 to 35.7% in 2004

Step 3) Propose solutions to out of wedlock birth such as abortion and birth control

Step 4) Watch society spiral into massive problems such as increased child abuse, falling reproductive levels (below replacement) and higher rates of STD's

Step 5) Blame Christianity for societies ills and repeat steps 1 through 4

Did I miss anything?
Tim Blair on A Roll
Tim Blair has a great couple of posts in the last day or so. (Great because they appeal to my sense of humour - irony and sarcasm)

Firstly, he covers leftist moonbat Cindy Sheehan's recent visit. Read the whole thing, but a quick selection
The Mother Downunder 2006 Tour opens in Sydney:

A prominent American anti-war campaigner is urging Australians to take to the streets in protest against the Iraq war.

Local anti-war protesters slap foreheads and yelp: “Why didn’t we think of that?”

She says Prime Minister John Howard had no mandate to involve Australia in the war, which began in 2003.

Apart from being re-elected in 2004.

Blair also covers singer turned politician Peter Garrett's position on having a nuclear debate
Peter Garrett last year called for a debate over nuclear power; then he changed his mind; then, last month, he again called for a debate:

"I think we should have a debate about nuclear policy, including our uranium policy,” he said. “My position’s always been the same.”

This week, Garrett’s wish was granted. The Prime Minister has promised a nuke debate. Garrett’s response:

Prime Minister John Howard is creating a false nuclear debate to deflect attention from a lack of action on climate change, Labor frontbencher Peter Garrett says …

"The prime minister’s creating one his great false debates, flying kites, making mischief, and covering up for the fact that he’s done absolutely zip on climate change - nothing in the budget for it,” Mr Garrett told ABC radio.
Priceless. Is Peter Garrett Australia's answer to John Kerry? Only more so? He was for debate before he was against it before he was for it before he was against it?
Abortion and Contraception
There seems to be a push by the pro-abortionists to link the pro-life position to an anti-contraception position. Jill Stanek seems to think we need to address the issue
Pro-aborts have honed in on this and are using the contraceptive issue as a wedge to separate the public from pro-lifers and pro-lifers from each other, since abortion is no longer the wedge issue it once was with anyone....Pro-aborts are right. Contraception is next issue after abortion. And pro-lifers must work it through.
and Serge has identified the out of context quote mining done over at the New York Times (Unheard of I know!).

Whilst it is good to see other Protestants thinking about the contraception issue, I think it is a bad strategy for prolifers to link the two issues so strongly. It is biting off more than we can chew so to speak. Essentially the argument from the abortionists is just a slippery slope argument (which they always complain about prolifers using). It is not even a valid slippery slope for two reasons
1) The abortion issue is about whether the unborn is a human life, the contraception issue is prior to the unborns existence.
2) There are many non-abortificant contraceptive methods (To counter Jill's concerns).

Prolifers should keep out of the contraceptive argument. They are seperate issues and it just isn't a good strategy to deal with both at the same time (even if they were linked). Just as the homosexual lobby didn't deal with homosexual marriage until many other ideas had been foisted upon society.
Opinion on Abortion
Apparently, the "Spiritual Activism Conference" (SAC) is an attempt by lefties to get in touch with the religious in America (Spiritual Progressive's they call themselves). This line from the washington times caught my eye...
The list did not include liberals who oppose abortion, such as Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff, the group Democrats for Life and Pennsylvania Senate candidate Bob Casey Jr. The covenant takes no position on abortion, except that it should not be criminalized.
That certainly sounds like a position to me. I guess they just want to define the 'neutral' position as their own.
QLD RE Teaching changes dropped
The State government has backed down over new Religious Education (RE) Teaching rules for QLD state schools. A massive response as well as the claimed concerns that it would open the door for fringe groups like witchcraft and scientology to teach in schools are the stated reason for the back down. Thankfully the multiculturalist moonbats haven't gotten too much control to push through such irrational nonsense. Of course, as the article says they will keep trying.
Humanist Society of Queensland president Zelda Bailey yesterday said she was "bitterly disappointed" over the decision but hopeful the Government would reconsider.

"If we live in a democracy, non-religious people should have the same rights as religious people," she said.

"It's discriminatory not to include non-religious people."
Okay non-religious people should be allowed to teach their 'non-religous' beliefs in religious education?

Those wacky Secular Humanists...always trying to have it both ways....They claim they are religious for 60 odd years, then realising their strategy of seperation of church and state will backfire, try to claim they are non-religious. Now it seems they want to be considered as religious again.
Da Vinci Code Roundup
Da Vinci Code will be in the news for the next 5 days, but here a few interesting bits and pieces to read.

Bill Muehlenberg has a good article on Online Opinion about why Da Vinci Code should be responded to.
But there are at least three reasons why one might be concerned:

1. With over 40 million copies of the book sold into 44 different languages, it is having a huge impact. And the film will expose even more people to its spurious claims.
2. Although a novel, Dan Brown clearly states in it - and on his website - that it is accurate, based on fact and solid research.
3. The subject matter of the book is vitally important. Indeed, it concerns someone who is arguably the most important person in human history: Jesus Christ.
Details of people who are taking the book seriously as possibly true are everywhere.

Stephen Bainbridge decides that Dan Brown and others have managed to get rich saying a really foolish thing. After dismantling several of the books main arguments (Kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, Stephen goes on to quote CS Lewis
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

Even US News gets in on bashing the Da Vinci Code's accuracy (I guess it is so easy, everyone can join in the fun!).
Historical facts. What the church finds so potentially damaging in The Da Vinci Code is precisely the impression it leaves that the historical background woven into the fictional story is true. Some of the supposed historical facts contradict central tenets of the Christian faith, such as the divinity of Jesus and the authority and authenticity of Scripture. At one point, Brown has a leading character in the book say, "Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false."
US News then does a great job of dismantling the claims of the book.

Ultimately, the weekend will prove an interesting test to see how many people see the movie, enjoy it and more importantly, use the movie as a point of discussion.
Da Vinci Code Panned
It seems many of the critics hated the Da Vinci Code movie. Some of the choice comments.
The film that has incensed Christian groups around the world is ‘dull', nothing more than ‘spiritual tripe', and certainly ‘no masterpiece'
It was as dull as anything. It was like a long, tedious history lecture in dusty churches by lunatics
the Dan Brown best-seller was described variously as "grim", "unwieldy" and "plodding", though one reviewer bucked the trend and said "You'll Louvre It!"
Associated Press critic Christy Lemire found the movie "cursory and rushed. ... As sturdy and versatile an actor as Hanks can be, he can't work miracles when he's got nothing to work with."
Laughter rippled through the theater near the end of the film at the Cannes press screening Tuesday night when Hanks' character, symbologist Robert Langdon, reveals a key secret to co-star Audrey Tautou with ponderous melodrama...."It's not a good sign when your film's big revelatory moment is greeted with laughter," wrote Stephen Schaefer, a film writer for The Boston Herald.
Ouch. But of course, when did the general population ever agree with film critics. Of course, we can expect at least 5 oscar nominations for it.
Poverty In America
I have lost track of the number of times I have heard people claiming how much poverty exists in the good ol U.S. of A. The numbers vary from 10% to 25%, but my response is generally the same. "By what standard of poverty are you referring to?" The notion that the U.S., one of the most successful countries in the world has between 20 and 50 million people living in poverty seems, well, stupid, absurd, ludicrous. It always has seemed that way to me. Considering my previous knowledge of how the UN defines poverty in a socialistic manner as lack of equality of income, I decided to research on 'Poverty in America" and this is what I found.

Firstly, Heritage (A conservative group) has a report on the topic. They note that "the Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty in the United States declaring that there were nearly 35 million poor persons living in this country in 2002". So for a start the figure is more like 12%, even without looking at the definition of poverty.

What is clear, is that there is much confusion and misinformation on the topic. From the above report the people polled seem to have little idea of how to scrape by on less, and so felt that the poverty line was too low, yet according to the "Poverty Pulse" poll taken by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in 2002 asked the general public the question: "How would you describe being poor in the U.S.?" The overwhelming majority of responses focused on homelessness, hunger or not being able to eat properly, and not being able to meet basic needs.

So what is the definition of poverty being used by the Census Bureau? It isn't the simple socialistic model of relative income as originally suspected, instead it is a hodge-podge of costs such as food and rent which is used to calculate the poverty line. This method, first proposed by Mollie Orschansky in the sixties created a baseline pre-tax income poverty line and this value has been updated every 12 months by the census bureau to take into consideration inflation.

Some people such as John Cassidy however, are pushing for the U.S. to adopt the socialistic, relative income definition of the UN. In doing so, John points to the problem of 'social exclusion' in poverty, which is an interesting way of saying that poverty in the U.S. is not with starving, malnourished people, but instead with social status. Very much a socialistic type argument which later in the piece John makes clear saying "If incomes were distributed more equally, fewer families would earn less than half the median income. Therefore, the way to reduce relative poverty is to reduce income inequality—perhaps by increasing the minimum wage and raising taxes on the rich." Interestingly, John also points out many of the problems of the current poverty level calculation. He comments
In 1995, a panel of experts assembled by the National Academy of Science concluded that the Census Bureau measure “no longer provides an accurate picture of the differences in the extent of economic poverty among population groups or geographic areas of the country, nor an accurate picture of trends over time.”
John also mentions the problems of using nation-wide averages and pre-tax income
To begin with, the poverty thresholds are based on pre-tax income, which means that they don’t take into account tax payments and income from anti-poverty programs, such as food stamps, housing subsidies, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Medicaid, which cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year. In addition, families’ financial burdens have changed considerably since Orshansky conducted her research. In the late fifties, most mothers didn’t have jobs outside the home, and they cooked their families’ meals. Now that most mothers work full time and pay people to help them take care of their kids, child care and commuting consume more of a typical family budget.

Another problem is that the poverty thresholds are set at the same level all across the country. Last year, the pre-tax-income cutoff for a couple with two children was $19,806. This might be enough to support a family of four in rural Arkansas or Tennessee, but not in San Francisco, Boston, or New York, where the real-estate boom has created a shortage of affordable housing.
Notice John overstates his case, as using averages and pre-tax income would imply that those living in the cheapest areas (such as rural Arkansas) would be doing reasonably well (as opposed to 'might be enough' at the national poverty line.

So what does the current poverty level really mean in America? Well according to the Heritage report it means that

In terms of having enough to eat however, those in poverty seems to be getting by pretty well.
While the poor are generally well-nourished, some poor families do experience hunger, meaning a temporary discomfort due to food shortages. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 13 percent of poor families and 2.6 percent of poor children experience hunger at some point during the year. In most cases, their hunger is short-term. Eighty-nine percent of the poor report their families have "enough" food to eat, while only 2 percent say they "often" do not have enough to eat.
Of course, if we note that in the 35 million Americans under the poverty line, there are about 12 million children, then we get around 300,000 children who experience hunger at 'some point during the year'. Compare this to the UN's widely inaccurate claim that "12 million children in America suffer from poverty. 9 million American children go hungry each day." (Emphasis added) and you can see why people are sceptical of UN claims.

Ultimately, 'poverty' in America is mostly an fairly misleading term which should be revisited in order to more accurately allow the country to identify those in real need. As the heritage report concludes
The living conditions of persons defined as poor by the government bear little resemblance to notions of "poverty" held by the general public. If poverty is defined as lacking adequate nutritious food for one's family, a reasonably warm and dry apartment to live in, or a car with which to get to work when one is needed, then there are relatively few poor persons remaining in the United States. Real material hardship does occur, but it is limited in scope and severity.

The typical American defined as "poor" by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.

But the living conditions of the average poor person should not be taken to mean that all poor Americans live without hardship. There is a wide range of living conditions among the poor. Roughly a third of poor households do face material hardships such as overcrowding, intermittent food shortages, or difficulty obtaining medical care. However, even these households would be judged to have high living standards in comparison to most other people in the world.

Perhaps the best news is that the United States can readily reduce its remaining poverty, especially among children. The main causes of child poverty in the United States are low levels of parental work and high numbers of single-parent families. By increasing work and marriage, our nation can virtually eliminate remaining child poverty.
I'll try to remember this next time someone tells me how bad the poverty is in America.
An Anti-Bible Ambush?
A lot of newpapers carried the story on the weekend that Bibles have been removed from bedsides in hospitals in Queensland and Victoria. Note that several hospitals have confirmed the bans. I wonder if this is just a coincidence of reporting or if some concerted effort has been used that 2 states have suddenly decided to remove the bibles. The stated reasons are
1) It may offend some people
2) They could carry germs and so have to be cleaned

Obviously, having a bible in a drawer next to your bed that you don't have to open is considered too offensive by some. Multiculturalism is out of control and it seems our Labor controlled state governments are all too keen to bow down and worship at it's altar.

Of course, the wise Queensland government of Peter Beatie has resorted to out and out falsehoods
Deputy Premier Anna Bligh said media reports that the Princess Alexandra and Royal Brisbane and Women's hospitals had stopped Bibles being left by patients' bedsides were wrong.

The culture war rolls on.
Mentally Ill Troops Being Forced into Combat
That was the headline I saw from a Daily Kos post. Of course my first thought, sorry I couldn't help it, was that they are making enlisted democrats go into combat.

On a more serious note, being 'mentally ill' is a fairly subjective, ill-defined concept as all of us struggle with feeling down occasionally. Much of it has to be reported by the person involved and there are few objective markers for deciding just when a person is not meant to go to work or into combat. It's a hard thing to pin down. Ultimately, this is just another liberal effort to attack the republicans.
Adaptive Explanations
Abednego over at Parableman highlights an article about bat hunting behaviour
bats track insects they want to catch in a way that is very different from that of humans and some other animals. Essentially, humans, fish, dogs, and others use a strategy the article calls "constant bearing" to follow things -- basically, they just head straight for their target. Bats, on the other hand, actually take into account the target's velocity and direction and flies partially parallel to the target. In other words, bats work out in advance where they think their targets will be, and head there, rather than directly towards the target, which saves time.
Abednego finds the evolutionary explanation is not much of an explanation.
Evolution is invoked as an explanation of why bats fly this way -- they need to catch their prey as quickly as possible. Does that mean that humans and other animals don't need to catch their prey as quickly as possible? It really seems like a useless remark to me.
Essentially what Abednego has stumbled upon is that evolution is useless for predicting things. This is why there are many researchers who don't think the theory of evolution is important for their research. Just as in this article it was not whether the bat evolved or not, but instead how they hunted that was the issue.

Jeremy Pierce also comments
It's an explanation of how the trait would survive if it could occur, without actually saying anything about what brought it about in the first place. I think that does count as a sort of explanation, but I think you're right that they're misstating what the explanation is, and they're misstating how much it's actually explaining.
This is what is known as a Just-so story. It isn't a scientific explanation, as much as an untestable ad hoc explanation. You can modify the situation all you want, and they just adapt their explanation to suit it.
Mount St Helens Causing Pain
To old agers that is...And why? Because it is a recent volcanic eruption it allows scientists to actually test where their 'dating methods' and their assumptions about how long rock takes to form.

When geologist Steve Austin (No, not the six million dollar man) dated a recent lava dome with radioisotope dating, he showed that the method was unreliable with a rock of known age. It was out by 5 or 6 orders of magnitutde. Mt St Helens isn't the only case either. Why should we trust the method with rocks we don't know the age of?

Amusingly, in Dalrymple’s book Potassium-Argon Dating: Principles, Techniques, and Applications to Geochronology, Dalyrmple claims on page 194 (end of chapter 10) that the youngest rocks that can be dated are rocks which are at least 1,000 years old. Obviously he feels the only way Potassium-Argon dating can be reliable is when it is untestable.

In other Mount St Helen's fun, check out this rock slab picture. Before reading below, think of how old such a rock would be dated. It seems they been having a rock growth spurt, as it is only 5 months old. If we didn't have it happening in front of us, it would probably be considered quite old. As Creation Safari's says
Someone should date that rock with radiometric methods and find out how many millions of years old it is. Since there are no fossils in it, it must be Precambrian.
The Dawntreader and Young Earth
I occasionally check out Jeff's posts over at The Dawntreader as he often has some pretty good stuff. One of his latest posts is talking about a 'Thousands Not Billions' conference that the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) is holding. Read the whole post, but I thought I would highlight a few of his and his commentators points as they are worth reviewing.
Given that 44 percent of Americans, according to a recent CBS poll, believe that the earth was created 10,000 years ago
Actually the poll says that 44 percent believe that the Earth was created within the last 10,000 years. A subtle difference that several commentators start asking questions about.
I separate the age of the earth question from the evolution question. They are not the same question.
Indeed they are not the same question. Answers in Genesis (AIG) and ICR (and myself) would say that the current 'scientific' theories for the age of the earth and evolution depend on the same presuppositions and so it seems silly to argue against one and not the other. Of course, if you remove the billions of years, evolution becomes a clearer impossibility than it already is.
I strongly believe that Christians can agree to disagree on the age of the earth and should show liberty toward other Christians who hold different views on this particular question (and believe me, there are many different views).
I agree completely. That doesn't mean we can't disagree publicly about it, but any debate should be civil and gracious.
Should I go and live blog this conference?
I think anyone who is interesting in hearing all sides of the argument should go. I hope this means Jeff with go. The ICR team did some interesting science in this, including some impressively confirmed predictions, so it is definitely worth checking out.

Now onto the comments. The first comment by dopderbeck is one I have heard many times, and Jeff seems to agree with it, so I will post both of their comments together.
dopderbeck: Oh man, this is such a can of worms. IMHO, you shouldn't give AIG any publicity at all. They're not just wrong Biblically, theologically, and scientifically, they're also divisive in their actions and attitudes. I'm personally deeply pained by all the division and misunderstanding this question has caused.
Jeff: AiG is divisive. I agree that they have flawed theology -- linking the atonement of Christ to solar creation days, for example. And yes, I have received more vicious attacks from Christians than I have from non-Christians on this issue.
I just love the 'AIG is divisive' comment. What they are really saying is that "AIG disagree's with my position and tells me I am wrong all the time. Really, they should stop being divisive and instead agree with my position". As a side point, AIG links solar days to atonement by the exegesis of death occuring from the fall. (So billions of years of creatures dying is not compatible and Christ came to repair the effects of the fall). AIG do not say that you cannot be a christian or saved if you believe in long age beliefs.

Jeff has complained above that AIG has 'flawed theology' but his own theology hinges on a very poor understanding of the Hebrew word for day 'Yom'
In Biblical Hebrew, the word for day can literally mean a long but definite period of time -- like it sometimes means in English (e.g. "back in my day"). There is no rule that one long period of time needs to match another.
'Yom' can indeed mean a long period of time, yet the context of genesis 1 makes it very clear that it is refering to a 24 hour period in that chapter.

Jeff also makes some claims about the first couple of Genesis chronologies
I don't hold to Ussher's chronology of Sept 30, 4004 B.C. as the creation date because it has been proven to have flawed assumptions (like a contiguous geneology). So the 6,000 is out -- even for strident YEC'ers.

The 10,000 is in the ball park, however, for YEC'ers and day agers like myself. The Hebrew geneologies were not direct linkages like our modern day geneologies. There may be one or many generations between those names we see.
It is curious that Jeff refers to the 'proven' flawed assumption of a contiguous geneology, yet only says that there 'may be one or many generations between those names'. How is it proven? (I have dealt with this claim about the geneologies before) Obviously, 'proven' is too strong a word.

Taq weighs in a point about how ICR are charging $20 for this conference and Jeff seems to think he makes a valid point
Why a $16/$20 conference? Sounds like money to me. If you have scientific knowledge, why would you not immediately publish it widely online? I bet they have vids for sale too. And at the end of the vid, an appeal for more money, maybe for an edu-program. Tell me when I can see the scientific evidence that is supposed to convince the world, and in these dire times, when time is short. When Joe Atheist doesn't have to shell out $20 to watch a series of carefully designed lectures, and has the data to look at himself, (and myself for that matter...) Then I may change my tune. Until then I remind myself that John 3:16 doesn't say how old you must believe the earth to be in order to be saved. Interesting, but nothing I will latch onto, unless, as I say, the information becomes available gratis, for the purpose of spreading truth, not just making a buck.
Sooo, all those bibles that people sell for money, every single peer reviewed scientific journal, every time anyone charges anything they are obviously not about 'truth'. What an utter load of crap. Experiments, organisations, conferences and publications all cost money to run. Lots of money. I assume people like Taq would prefer organisations like ICR to simply go broke and not be able to do any research at all. It would be easier for all the secular scientists to publish their version of the 'truth' for free on-line because they get big grants from the government and universities, yet they don't. It is obvious that people like Taq are more interested in being a free loader than in looking for the truth.

I'll finish with one of Jeff's later comments
My take on my obnoxious YEC brothers and sisters is that they are passionate about defending God's word. I like that about them. I wish we all were as passionate. Now, are they uncharitable and divisive in attacking Christians? Absolutely. It drives me nuts. I have been fighting this particular battle for 15 years now.

I view the efforts of the YECers like Paul viewed the rival preachers in Philippians 1

The YEC'ers are persuasive to many people -- despite being misguided, and despite have bad attitudes and motives sometimes. Many YEC'ers are out there leading people to Christ -- even if their view of the age of the earth is wrong as far as I can tell.
But like you said, we dare not become what we hate! If you truly believe that Christians need to get "beyond all that", then you need to put it into practice and get beyond getting irritated by YEC'ers who major in the minors and are dogmatic about it. (btw, I am preaching to myself too ... not just you)
And YEC'ers would think the same of you too Jeff. Especially when you call them obnoxious and impinge their motives are you not also being divisive and attacking Christians? Aren't you also being dogmatic about it? If you think the innerancy of scripture is a minor issue (seeing as how you reinterpret the clear contextual meaning of day in genesis 1 in order to match it to materialistic science and any non-christian worth his salt can see this reintepretation - eigesis, not exegesis), then perhaps you should do a bit more digging before you point out specs in other peoples eyes. Keep digging Jeff, as I will. God bless.
Star Wars Original Out on DVD
Okay....I am excited... I have held off buying the New Hope trilogy on dvd because the original edition was much better and Lucas only wanted his 'special' edition on DVD. Apparently the lure of money has gotten too much for George and so now we have the original out on dvd!!! The new dvd will have both editions on them (Hopefully they will be smart enough to let you mix and match the scenes...that would be really great!).
I'm with John from Verum Serum...a Star Wars DVD night is definitely going to happen.

(Hat Tip: Verum Serum - Thanks Guys!)
The Rise of Gnostic Heresy
With the Da Vinci Code coming out in cinemas very soon, and National Geographic peddling its pathetically biased Gospel of Judas coverage, it seems like there is a full scale movement to try and turn people to a modified form of gnosticism (modified by goddess worship paganism). Tim Challies has a great review of a recent book by Bart Erham, a scholar who has been pushing this view for the last few decades. His recently released book is aimed at the popular level and is titled titled 'Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why". The most salient point Tim makes is
Throughout the book, I was continually struck by one nagging thought. If we cannot know with any certitude what parts of the Bible are original, how can we know which parts were changed? If we have no confidence in the original text, how can we have confidence that a particular passage has been tampered with? Ehrman's thesis seems to hinge on the belief that we can know which passages were changed, even while we have no confidence in the original text. This is, quite simply, untenable.
Yep. Bart's confidence doesn't come from reason, but from his commitment to his pet theory as it will bring him fame.
Prolife news
Now that I am back after a weeks holidays where I managed to get stranded on a tropical island, it is interesting to see signs of desperation on the pro-abortion side of things. Planned Parenthood and its shill, the Guttmacher Institute. It seems they have to resort to obviously dodgey statistical shennanigans in order to try and scare people into being pro-abortion.
PRI [The Population Research Institute] says the study “uses the common statistical chicanery of grossly exaggerating the number of abortions taking place in the United States before Roe. ‘In the 1950s and 1960s, it is estimated that 200,000 to 1.2 million women each year had illegal abortions in the United States, many of which were under unsafe conditions,’ it says. ‘According to another estimate, which extrapolated data from North Carolina, 699,000 illegal abortions occurred nationwide in 1955 and 829,000 illegal procedures were performed in 1967.’

However, Ramesh Ponnuru is quoted by PRI as responding, “The upper end of that estimate isn't remotely plausible. The number of reported abortions in 1974, when Roe had made them all legal, was 899,000. The number in 1975 was 1 million. Are we really supposed to believe that the number of abortions fell when abortion became legal? (And then immediately started to climb for a decade and a half?)”
Perhaps they want to return to the glory days where they could make up all sorts of statistics about the number of deaths from illegal abortions and were not called on it immediately. Ramesh has his full reply at the National Review and The Fact has comments. From the National Review Article
The institute's take on abortion's effect on women's health is also open to question. Look at the graph on page 13 of the report. The title of the graph reads "Deaths from abortion declined dramatically after legalization." (They're referring to maternal deaths.) But the graph itself shows that those deaths were dropping fast before any state had legalized abortion. And if the graph had started in the 1940s, it would have been even clearer that antibiotics, not liberal abortion laws, caused that decline in death rates.
Yep. These guys at the AGI are pathetic.

In other abortion news, Amnesty International (UK) has approved pushing abortion as a human right. Joe Carter, on the other hand, is confident abortion will become a non-issue like slavery, as we are moving towards criminalising it again.
A century from now Americans will consider it absurd and ridiculous to think that the Constitution guarantees the right to abortion, much less embryo-destruction, euthanasia, and infanticide. Until that time comes, though, Ponnuru’s tightly argued, imminently persuasive book will remain essential reading for anyone concerned with the politics of bioethics.

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