Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving Tumbledown

Several years ago, John and I started a turkey day tradition. Thanksgiving dinner invariably degenerates into orgy of chow, so we figured we'd balance it with a savaged pre dinner hike. Tumbledown Mountain is accessible, steep, and offers great views, so it was the natural choice. This year, John is in Peru, but Barry and I carried on in his honor. We were joined by my cousin Mark, Elissa, Julie, Jenny, and Wayne--a very convivial group. We followed our trademark route, an unused trail blocked by a rockslide. Mark introduced us to a more technical style of belaying. Barry and Wayne provided common sense. We played on the partly frozen summit pond and pondered the view. The return journey was marred by Mark and Jenny's constant efforts to tempt the more abstemious members with snacks. They were creative, but we held out for the feast.
After dinner, Mark and I inaugurated a new tradition, a post dinner swim in the ocean, followed by a soak in the hot tub.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What I was trying to say in the last post...

Life is like an LSAT problem—tricky, complex, and never enough time to figure it out. We survive by making assumptions and taking risks. We assume that the primary ingredient in our breakfast cereal is wheat, not arsenic; we assume that smiles are not death threats, and we (sometimes wrongly) assume that the other cars will stop at red lights, and go at green ones. Society moves too fast to require strict proof. It hasn’t always been this way.
Aquinas explained life by “proving” God’s existence in painful detail, but he never managed to account for the unmoved mover. Descartes famous “I think, therefore I am” proved some level of human rationality, but suddenly weakened in its explanation of God. Kierkegaard made a blind leap of faith away from logic and towards an unknown and unknowable God, but his ethereal explanation was notably detached from the verifiable observations which grounded Aquinas and Descartes. Jefferson left philosophical perambulations to continentals, and adopted a world view that fit the world he viewed. He assumed rationality, made careful note of the world around him, and plugged in various explanations until he found one that fit.
In our post Jeffersonian world, we seldom bother to make fully informed choices. We assume, observe, and act—unless of course, we’re talking about God. Suddenly, every warrant is subject to strict scrutiny. Full explanation is required, and Christianity is held to a standard that Aquinas could not have surmounted. Given enough time and energy, it’s possible to figure out what’s in those Cheerios, and green or red, it’s always smart to look both ways. But as Kierkegaard would argue, God isn’t susceptible to this type of proof. Jefferson’s deistic beliefs seem quaint in light of current science, but that doesn’t mean his methods were flawed.
Like an LSAT problem, life is a high stakes game. Pascal’s Wager shows that the odds favor a belief in God. Why don’t we leave complete proof to Aquinas, apply Occam’s Razor, and look for a God that would explain our world?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Solving for God

"Plugging in the numbers" is one of the best ways to solve complex algebra problems and logic games. This morning, while solving some Evidence problems, I wondered if it might be a good way to solve for God.
Assume God's existance, then evaluate the corollaries. Assume Atheism, then evaluate the corollaries. Compare the corollaries. Occam's Razer is one place to start. The second law of thermodynamics is another.
Thomas Jefferson and a host of likeminded deists followed this logic to a belief in a distant higher power, but this is as foolish as settling for a workable plugged in number without solving the rest of the problem. IF God existance is a simpler and better explaination for life (observable sociology) then Atheism, the next step is to plug in different values for God's character and reapply Occam's Razer. Which God explains life in the clearest terms?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Inspirational distraction

Relationships take time and money. I’m desperately short of both, but, as this photo demonstrates, my time with Petra has been, is, and will continue to be, the best investment I’ve ever made. Unlike most girls, Petra is smarter than me:-)--and more stubborn. I win most of our verbal skirmishes, but somehow we usually end up doing what she wants—which often talismanically translates into what I want. Maybe it all comes back to the photo—I end up following her lead because I’m trying to keep her in view:-)...

Candle Making

Candles bring warmth and light. I burn them all the time. Usually, I'm left with a pool of unburned wax. As the following photos indicate, I consolidated these fragments into a small glass jar, suspended a strip of sacrificed tee shirt from the top, and put the whole rube goldburg in the oven. Half an hour later, I took it out, let it cool, then lit it up. My candle burned like a torch—for the first five minutes, than went out. My homegrown wick had tipped over due to vibrations from my imaginary jump rope routine. A couple of matches later, the flame was rekindled. It’s been burning steadily ever since—between breaks for my classes.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bank robbers and unborn children

Fortunately, my trip to Norway meant that I missed the abortion section of my Constitutional law class. Unfortunately, I've had to review the material as I prepare for the exam.
My disagreement with Roe and Casey's guarantee of a limited fundamental right to abortion has been grounded in the Pentateuch, not legal precendent. The Bible is my rule of life, but it doesn't carry much weight in the classroom. I have been challenged to support my beliefs with current law and logic.
The Supreme Court has refused to say when life begins, so it's dodged the conflict between the right to privacy and the right to life, but it's current jurisprudence (in the abortion context) favors the former. Oddly enough, Tort law has been expanding, and now recognizes a limited duty of care towards unborn children.
Torts law is based on the duty of care. Basically, everyone has a duty to exercise reasonable good sense in all their actions. Banks can lock and bar their doors, and even put up electrified barbed wire fences (if they post obvious warning signs), but can't set up hidden traps that kill bank robbers the moment they step into the safe. Butchers keep dogs from getting into their shops and gobbling the meat, but can't let them in, cut off their heads, and add them to the salable goods.
Tort law applies a higher standard of care in fiduciary relationships involving disproportionate power, information, or bargaining power, such as Dr. Patient, Attorney Client, and day care child.
If Banks have a duty of care towards bank robbers, and butchers have a duty of care toward marauding dogs, why don't mom's and dad's have a duty of care towards their unborn children?
If Attorney's are supposed to be extra careful with their legally helpless clients, why shouldn't mom's and dad's have to be extra careful with their unborn kids?
Abortion proponents often use cases of rape, incest, or likely death of the mother to justify current law, but this extremism has scant legal foundation. Willfully killing another person is murder or wrongful death--unless you are acting in self defense. Grabbing a stranger, pounding their chest, and going lip to lip is assault and battery--unless they aren't breathing and you are doing CPR. Civil and criminal law impose no duties or requirements in these areas, leaving them solely to the conscience of the individual. Abortions should be illegal, with appropriate exceptions for personal morality.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

beyond donkey and elephant

It's election day. What is America voting for? In 1950, Republicans were the people's party. They stood for civil rights and big Federal Government. LBJ railroaded a role reversal and tried to create "Great Society". Republicans gave lip service to small government, but when they elected B moviestar Ronald, they created national debt instead. Promises and policy seldom match. Clinton was a model Republican President. dubya has expanded the Federal Government beyond LBJ's wildest dreams. Politicians want more power--regardless of party principles. Voters want safe and peaceful lives--regardless of the party in power. No wonder they are confused. This race isn't about parties, it's about people. Who does America trust?

Friday, November 03, 2006

kind in laws

Once again, I am humbled and blessed by my future in laws kindness and generosity. My washcloth week was an adventure, but it's nice to be getting back to the brush and paste.