Watch this first.

Then watch this.


Why Unity Matters on Super Tuesday

Okay, it's Chad.

Here's how I'm going to vote.

Admittedly, I'm going to sound like I'm asking people to hold hands and sing like flower people. But I believe in the leadership style that has the ability to bring people together. If people disagree, there should be a significant effort from a President to change minds in hopes of bringing unity. To clarify, though it seems popular to disagree and make fun of President Bush across the board, I have not disagreed with everthing he has done. However, where I believe he has gone wrong is that he has appeared to dismiss people who don't see it his way. We see this as he seems to continually ram budget proposals down the throat of the Congress asking for billions for a war that he has not adequately convinced people we should be fighting. If he believes we should be fighting the war, part of his job is to convince his country. I don't think he's tried.

In 8 years, I hope that Mitt, John, Hillary or Barak will not be as isolated and politically impotent as President Bush is currently. I think at least three of these will try to convince others effectively, but in reality, I think only one candidate is poised to do it best. And I'm voting for that one.

A Personal Viewpoint on the Elections

Hey guys...it's Curtis.
I'm scared to tell you who I plan to vote for in the election. I'm afraid that some of you will think I have just jumped on a bandwagon that most young adult men have found themselves on, without really engaging the tough questions. By now you can likely guess who I favor. I get excited about Obama because I sense in him a powerful charismatic spirit and a vision for the future that gets me excited about being an American.There is something inside me that longs to witness something historic. Perhaps that's why I was torn between rooting on the Patriots and the Giants. Regardless of what happened, upset or perfect season, it would be a historic game. Yes, I'll admit it's not just about his political stances, I want America to be something different.

I grew up following in the political footsteps of my parents, who are Republican. They weren't dogmatic and they held pretty sophisticated political beliefs, which I certainly respect, but the upcoming election felt like a change of tide for me personally. I sensed that the Democrats values were closer to the vision of God's world that I've come to hold. Now I must admit, I got a thrill telling my parents I was likely going to vote for a Democrat, just to shake them up. But as the election has come closer, I catch myself feeling like I'm betraying someone or something that I have sworn loyalty to. I've realized that, for me, voting was about more than just deciding who would lead our country in the right direction; voting was about my identity.

I encourage you to take this election time as an opportunity to shake up your identity. Question your motives for why you want to vote for a particular candidate. Discover what draws you away from certain candidates. Of course, fear will creep up at the slightest hint that you would change your political stance. It would mean that part of your identity will be forced to change. It will mean admitting that you were wrong in the past. But exploring these fears and hopes will help you learn about yourself and help you make the best decision.


Non-over-spiritualized, completely non-Jesus-y reasons to love music…

The following are 7 reasons I could think of off the top of my head, why music is pretty much universally loved. As we think about music at Illuminate, we've got to see and be convinced that music can be powerful whether it is in the service of God or not. We didn't want to jump straight into the "Why 'Humble Thyself" is a great song...but only if it starts in D minor and moves intensely into E minor for emotional effect" conversation. Music is powerful outside of religion. Here are my reasons why.

What did I miss? Am I right? Where am I overstating?

1) Hook – This is where the music just sounds right. This could also be called the "Mmmm Bop effect." This happens when you find your unable to get a song out of your head because the chorus is so catchy. If this is done right...if a "hook" is used well, you've got an objectively good song on your hands.

2) Musical Acumen - Just talented, difficult music. This was me listening to Dave Matthew's drummer in college. He's just better than everybody else! That music is good because that music is complex and difficult to play.

3) Sentimentality – This is when music just puts you back “there.” Music has an "Oprah-Spirituality" way of sort of transporting you to another time and another place.

4) Lyrics – When the meaning of words just stand alone...so full of meaning. Sometimes the lyrics alone can carry a whole song into the light. Separate Bob Dylan from his lyrics and you just have a bad vocal and mediocre vocals. But wait,....Bob Dylan is amazing. Why's that?

5) Musicians personality – (How else can you explain In Sync?). Sometimes I can't distinguish between my love for U2 and my love for Bono.

6) Word-Picture – When I try to decipher the meaning of a song that seems to be trying to throw me off the path, I usually try to pay attention to the visual imagery of a song and usually it comes more into focus. Good pictures usually mean good songs.

7) The Perfect Storm – If a song has achieved uber-fame, it has probably combined several of the above-listed categories. All the important songs I know have most or all of these categories. I've listed some below.

Chad Miller’s Celebrity Play List
(My point below, is that ALL the songs listed are good songs. I'm being systematic about why I think so. Some are good because of the hook or the lyrics or the musical acumen. Some are good for all of the above. Here's the list of songs we listened to as examples of each on Sunday. Enjoy.)

A/C D/C – Back in Black (Hook)

Cardigans – Lovefool (Hook)

Aerosmith – Walk this Way (Hook)

Augustana – Boston (Hook)

A/C D/C – You Shook Me All Night Long (Hook)

Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion (Hook)

U2 – Mysterious Ways (Hook)

Beatles – I Want To Hold Your Hand (Hook)

James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend (Sentimentality)

Guns n’ Roses – Welcome To The Jungle (Sentimentality)
Thomas Newman – American Beauty – Arose (Sentimentality)

Journey – Don’t Stop Believing (Sentimentality)

Beatles – Yesterday (#1 single of all time) (Sentimentality)

(Lyrics)Led Zeppelin – Good Times Bad Times (Musical Acumen)S

Sigur Ros – Svefn-G-Englar (Sentimentality)

Elton John – Tiny Dancer (Sentimentality)

Lynyrd Skynard - Free Bird (Music/Sentimentality)

Bob Dylan – Forever Young (Lyrics)

David Wilcox – Show the Way (Lyrics)

Damien Rice – Cannonball (Word Picture)
Coldplay – Swallowed by the Sea (Word Picture)

U2 – One Step Closer to Knowing (Word Picture)

Nada Surf – Inside of Love (Word Picture)

David Wilcox – How Did You Find Me Here (Word Picture)

Coldplay – A Message (Word Picture)

U2 – Grace (Word Picture)

Coldplay – Till Kingdom Come (Perfect Storm)

Coldplay – Fix You (Perfect Storm)

Beatles – All You Need is Love (Perfect Storm)

John Lennon – Imagine (Perfect Storm)

U2 – With or Without You (Perfect Storm)

U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For (Perfect Storm)

U2 – Walk On (Perfect Storm)


Reasonable Faith, Week 4, Dr. David Hunt

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. (Psalms 19:1)
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. (Romans 1:19-20)
Let us consider now whether all this is accidental, or whether the whole world is so constituted that it could not hold together without the guiding spirit of divine providence. If the works of nature are more perfect than the works of art then, as art achieves nothing without a conscious purpose, nature itself cannot be thought to be devoid of such a purpose. . . . When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence . . . ? (Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods)
A Classic Statement of the Argument, from William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802)
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there.
Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone; why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive—what we could not discover in the stone—that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.
After further discussion of the watch, Paley concludes as follows:
the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker—that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who completely comprehended its construction and designed its use.
Paley then imagines someone objecting that he has never seen a watch made, that the watch before us is not very accurate, that we can’t figure out the purpose of some of its parts, etc. Paley points out that none of these objections would overturn the conclusion that the watch must have had an intelligent maker. The most interesting objection, which he treats at length, is the following:
Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch should after some time discover that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movement another watch like itself—the thing is conceivable; that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts—a mold, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, files, and other tools—evidently and separately calculated for this purpose; let us inquire what effect ought such a discovery to have upon his former conclusion.
The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. . . .
The Key Concept
‘Teleological’ comes from telos, Greek for end, goal, purpose.
A teleological object (or teleological system) is anything whose parts are structured, arranged, and oriented toward some end, goal, or purpose.
The stone against which Paley “pitched his foot” is not a teleological object (it isn’t intrinsically organized around some end or purpose, though it can certainly be assigned a purpose: weapon, paperweight, etc.). But Paley’s watch is a teleological object.
More Examples
A pencil or chair. Though relatively simple, such things satisfy the definition above.
A camera or automobile. Complex teleological objects like these often have parts that are themselves teleological objects, e.g., the camera’s lens or the automobile’s carburetor.
A daffodil or cat. The “natural world” also contains teleological objects, many of them with teleological objects as parts, e.g., the daffodil’s stamen or the cat’s eye. If a camera counts as a teleological object, then surely an eye is a teleological object as well.
What about the Earth, our solar system, or the whole universe? This is more controversial.
A Simple Version of the Argument
1. Every teleological object whose origin is known is in fact the product of intelligent design.
2. Fluffy the cat is a teleological object.
3. Therefore, probably, Fluffy is the product of intelligent design.
This intelligent designer is certainly non-human, endowed with superhuman intelligence and power, and self-existent (if Fluffy’s designer is itself a teleological object produced by an intelligent designer, we must eventually reach an intelligent designer who is not produced by a prior intelligent designer, and this intelligent designer’s existence will be self-explained).
Sounds an awful lot like God.
The “Wrong Properties” Objection
1. Every teleological object whose origin is known is in fact the product of someone with a nose.
2. Fluffy the cat is a teleological object.
3. Probably, Fluffy is the product of someone with a nose.
Reply: Being intelligent, unlike having a nose, helps explain how a teleological object came to be.
The “Skewed Sample” Objection
Teleological objects come in two varieties: artificial and natural. But all the teleological objects whose origins are known are artificial. Why think that artificial teleological objects are representative of all teleological objects? Isn’t it fallacious to suppose that what is true of artificial teleological objects—that they are the products of intelligent design—will also be true of natural teleological objects?
Compare: polling only Beverly Hills 90210 voters to find out likely results of a state-wide election.
Skewed samples needn’t jeopardize an argument—scientists use them all the time.
Compare: studying only rhesus monkeys to find out likely effects of new drug on human beings.
This is legitimate when the similarities (e.g., humans and monkeys have circulatory, digestive, and other systems in common) are relevant to what is being studied (e.g., carcinogenic effects), and the dissimilarities (e.g., monkeys are thickly covered with fur, humans aren’t) are irrelevant. The Teleological Argument is like the monkey case, not like the Beverly Hills 90210 case.
The “Alternative Explanation” Objection (a.k.a. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution)
Charles Darwin attended the same school as William Paley: Christ College, Cambridge. Paley’s Natural Theology was required reading for his B.A. exams, and Darwin wrote that it “gave me as much delight as did Euclid.” Nevertheless, Darwin famously went on to propose and argue for a theory of “natural selection” which puts forth an alternative explanation, not involving an intelligent designer, for the very same facts that fuel the Teleological Argument. The consensus of the scientific community today is that this alternative explanation, in its broadest outlines, has been overwhelmingly confirmed by the evidence.
The difference this makes:
The Teleological Argument as an “argument to the best explanation.” God used to be the only (and hence by default the best) remotely plausible explanation for the teleological features of the world. Now there’s a competing explanation.
Richard Dawkins: “although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” (The Blind Watchmaker)
Response #1: the alternative explanation is false
This could well be—the scientific community is fallible, and sometimes goes spectacularly wrong. But Christians only look foolish, confirming the worst prejudices about us as arrogant know-nothings, when the non-scientists among us lecture the scientific community about how badly it has done its job.
Two ways Response #1 can be pursued:
1. By critics within the scientific community (e.g., Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box)
2. By non-scientists who are skilled at identifying metaphysical assumptions underlying evolutionary arguments (e.g., Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial)
My view: It’s best to leave this debate to the scientific community. Science has built-in self-correcting mechanisms—if wrong about evolution, science will eventually come to this conclusion on its own.
Accept that this might take a long time: entrenched ways of thinking impede scientific advance, but eventually the old system can no longer be maintained.
Example: the seven heavenly bodies. Note this “conservative” reaction to Galileo from some of his own colleagues:
There are seven windows given to animals in the domicile of the head. . . . From this and many other similarities in nature, such as the seven metals, etc., which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather that the number of planets is necessarily seven. Moreover these [alleged] satellites of Jupiter are invisible to the naked eye, and therefore can exercise no influence on the earth, and therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist. Besides, [from the earliest times, men] have adopted the division of the week into seven days, and have named them after the seven planets. Now, if we increase the number of the planets, this whole and beautiful system falls to the ground.
Some of Galileo’s colleagues even refused to look through his telescope. But who won?
Response #2: revise the argument to finesse evolution
Another approach is to leave the scientific debate to the scientific community and revise the Teleological Argument to focus on other features of the world for which evolution arguably does not provide a competing hypothesis. Many such successors to the classic Teleological Argument have been proposed. I’ll conclude with just one of these, as formulated by the philosopher Richard Taylor. A similar argument may also be found in C.S. Lewis’s Miracles, and a sophisticated defense of the argument has been offered by Alvin Plantinga. Taylor begins with an illustration:
Suppose that you are riding in a railway coach and glancing from the window at one of the stops, you see numerous white stones scattered about on a small hillside near the train in a pattern resembling these letters: THE BRITISH RAILWAYS WELCOMES YOU TO WALES. Now you could scarcely doubt that these stones do not just accidentally happen to exhibit that pattern. You would, in fact, feel quite certain that they were purposefully arranged that way to convey an intelligible message. At the same time, however, you could not prove, just from a consideration of their arrangement alone, that they were arranged by a purposeful being. It is possible—at least logically so—that there was no guiding hand at all in back of this pattern, that it is simply the result of the operations of inanimate nature. It is possible that the stones, one by one, rolled down the hill and, over the course of centuries, finally ended up in that interesting arrangement, or that they came in some other accidental way to be so related to one another. For surely the mere fact that something has an interesting or striking shape or pattern and thus seems purposefully arranged is no proof that it is. There might always be some other explanation. . . . Our own bodies and their organs seem purposeful not only in their individual structures but in their relationships to one another, and yet there are well-known theories, resting on such nonpurposeful concepts as chance variation, natural selection, and so on, that are able, at least in the opinion of many learned people, to explain these structures without introducing any ideas of purpose and design at all.
Here, however, is the important point it is easy to overlook; namely, that if, upon seeing from the train window a group of stones arranged as described, you were to conclude that you were entering Wales, and if your sole reason for thinking this . . . was that the stones were so arranged, then you could not, consistently with that, suppose that the arrangement of the stones was accidental. You would, in fact, be presupposing that they were arranged that way by an intelligent and purposeful being or beings for the purpose of conveying a certain message having nothing to do with the stones themselves.
Our own organs of sense, to say nothing of our brains and nervous systems, are things of the most amazing and bewildering complexity and delicacy. No matter how far and minutely psychologists and physiologists press their studies of these organs, they seem hardly any closer to a real understanding of them, and how they enable us to perceive the world around us.
So also, it is now suggested, it would be irrational for one to say both that his sensory and cognitive faculties had a natural, nonpurposeful origin and also that they reveal some truth with respect to something other than themselves, something that is not merely inferred from them. If their origin can be entirely accounted for in terms of chance variations, natural selection, and so on, without supposing that they somehow embody and express the purposes of some creative being, then the most we can say of them is that they exist, that they are complex and wondrous in their construction, and are perhaps in other respects interesting and remarkable. We cannot say that they are, entirely by themselves, reliable guides to any truth whatever, save only what can be inferred from their own structure and arrangement. If, on the other hand, we do assume that they are guides to some truths having nothing to do with themselves, then it is difficult to see how we can, consistently with that supposition, believe them to have arisen by accident, or by the ordinary workings of purposeless forces, even over ages of time.


Achievement and Dignity Go Hand-In-Hand: Two Reasons Why I Now Care About the Barry Bonds Debacle

Baseball is about 85% commercialism/circus/greed (which is crazy because I've always thought of myself as 85% cynic....huh). And out of that 85%, Barry Bonds is responsible for about 90% of the fiasco (give or take a few points one way or the other – it’s not exactly a science). He personifies what is wrong with Major League Baseball (And I really know this is how I must feel because, and this may be my ego, this is such a popular opinion that I've fought agreeing with it for along time).

Trust me on this one. Do not try to hug Barry Bonds. I’m just saying because in some of his pictures, he almost looks huggable. Just trust me.

The days of the kids looking through the knot-holes are over. I feel like I’ve known that for awhile. So I’ve not cared about Barry Bonds. I figured that steroids only made you stronger. I didn’t see how they could help you connect a round bat with a round ball that has been hurled and spun by a highly trained professional who is paid to make it that much more difficult to hit. As if it wasn’t already hard enough, I’d murmur back to the TV. As if steroids can unfairly aide this unique skill of Barry’s.

Unfair amounts of power aside, Barry Bonds can consistently connect the round bat with the round ball. Go ahead…do a Matrix/stop-action movie clip in your head of a ball making contact with a bat. There is not much surface area. The game seems like a fluke. When I think about it this way, how can anybody do anything but foul?

But Barry can hit the ball solidly. And he can do it consistently. That is why he’s less than a season away from breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time Home Run record (755 lifetime).

And I’ve not cared. I've figured that steroids can help you look like a blowfish, but they can’t help you maximize the thin surface area shared by balls and bats. That’s just a gift, and Barry’s got it. Stop whining.

But today, reading the paper, I decided (maybe forcibly compelled) to cast my ballot. I wish it was someone else. Not Barry Bonds. He has cheated. It matters. He is a jerk. That matters too. And though I still cynically know that the kids aren’t looking through the knot-holes out in right field, it makes me really wish they were.

I’ve got two reasons that pushed me to express my remorse over Barry’s rise to the top of a very significant list in baseball history.

No, steroids do not help increase the surface area of the contact point of a ball and a bat. But in taking steroids, Barry recovers quicker (and I owe Mike L. Morgensen for this insight). His muscles don’t ache. They repair themselves overnight. He is available to play more games per season, giving him more opportunities to break the record. As he gets older, (Barry is 42) the days off in-between games should increase. The days off increased for Willie Mays (660 lifetime), Babe Ruth (714 lifetime), and Hank Aaron. Barry has recently tied Babe Ruth’s total, and is now 21 shy of Hank Aaron (again an astonishing 755 lifetime). If all things were equal, then my hat would be off to Barry. But since he’s been on the sauce, he’s given himself approximately twice as many chances per season to accelerate to the top of the list. In this way, it is clear that steroids are illegal for the same reason that it is illegal to bat fourth, seventh, and ninth in the batting line-up. But in taking steroids, this is essentially the advantage he’s given himself.

He will beat Aaron’s record because he will have had more opportunities to do it. Barry’s record will primarily reflect the athleticism of the men he is passing up. I can’t dismiss his achievement, but I am unwilling to think of him in the same light as these other men.

(I'd be open to being wrong if somebody could produce "comparative number of games played" stats. My assumption about Barry is that he is playing more because of roids. If it's the other kind of "roids," he may well have actually played much fewer games then those other guys. And if so, with a much greater handicap. If he hasn't played more games, I'd consider the wrong-ness of my point. I just don't have the energy to find those stats. If someone (MLM) would want to contribute these stats to the conversation (MLM) please feel free (MLM). Just anybody. Nobody in particular. (MLM))

I realize that, if sued by Barry, I’d go to court with reason #1 instead of reason #2. But I’ve not been sued, and reason #2 has street credibility. Just ask the fans.

L.A. Times, front page, Friday, April 6th. Staff Writer John M. Glionna shows why Barry will be remembered as a record-holding jerk. The world wants to assign dignity to somebody who does something great. But Barry has clearly given all of his away.

On page A19 of the Times, Glionna writes the following story about Barry’s interaction with former Pirates team photographer, Pete Diana, then goes on to give an account from author Jeff Pearlman:

In 2002, two Pirates grounds-keepers died in a car crash on opening day. Both left their children without health insurance, Diana says.
All season, he asked visiting all-stars such as Sammy Sosa and Randy Johnson to sign mementos for auction to help the families. Everyone agreed –except for Bonds, a former Pirate.
Players warned Diana not to approach the peevish Bonds. “But I figured he knew both men when he played here,” he said. “But when I asked for his help, he cursed at me. I tell you, that guy’s going straight to hell.”
In his biography “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero,” author Jeff Pearlman describes how the 12-year-old nephew of Pirates pitcher Danny Darwin once handed Bonds a baseball card to sign. Bonds ripped it in half.
“In the most basic sense, he’s not a nice person,” Pearlman said of Bonds who refused to be interviewed for the book. “He can be charming, but it doesn’t happen often. He’s the most despised athlete in America. In his defense, he’s almost socially retarded. He doesn’t know how to deal with people on a human level. It’s the way he was raised.”

While I do acknowledge that he may have been raised poorly, and do feel bad if he was, I hate to see Barry play the victim. Apparently so does the world. Pearlman does call him “despised.”

Barry is just like the rest of us in a sense. He made a mistake. He wanted to extend his shelf-life so he did like a lot of guys did. I’ve followed the “everybody’s doing it” justification. But because he’s been caught, he’s become the stubborn child who won’t admit it. He’s dug himself a hole and we can all tell that he’ll never surrender. In my view, (but maybe not in views that matter) a lot would be restored if he would admit that he cheated a little, but it got away from him. That it gave him too many opportunities to highlight his natural abilities.

But he can’t be bothered to sign a bat and donate it to families of dead grounds-keepers. He doesn’t sign the 12-year-old’s baseball card, he rips it in half. He gets heckled, but that’s the game. Culture is condemning Barry-the-Cheat even with the sliding scale it uses to assign value. Intuition wins. He could easily make a case that he’s not obligated to sign every card, but he can’t justify ripping them in half. The world knows (intuition is telling us) that Barry Bonds has lost his dignity. And like cake without sugar, achievement is diminished without dignity (if not completely ruined).

I suppose you can have your dignity without high achievement, but I don’t think you can have it the other way around. Isolated, Barry will have his reward in full: a record without his dignity…which, when you think about it, is no reward at all.


I.O.U. Incarnate

When I die, (which I hope is a tad before 106 years old) I want someone to put a cool quote that I've said in my lifetime under my picture in the obituary. They did it for Anita Bogan.

"Whatever community you live in, you owe it something, it owes you nothing."

Nevermind the fact that her community was Bakersfield, it's still a pretty great quote.