A Fool and Her Money Are Soon Parted

Nov 302007

As much as I know about the rise of religion in America, the idea that tithing is a subject of public discussion in a well-respected national newspaper still floors me:

God Is So Reasonable, Only Asking For 10%
November 28, 2007; Page A21

We encourage tithing at our church, not as a legalism, but as a means of grace. Indeed, not just tithing, but what our pastor terms “hilarious generosity,” to the church, to the poor, to worthy God-centered causes (“The Backlash Against Tithing,” Weekend Journal, Nov. 23). Why? First, God is worthy of our best. Giving is an act of worship that, at its best, reflects a genuine response to God’s many gifts to us, including the gift of his Son. Perhaps the proper question to ask isn’t “how much of my income do I need to give to God?” but “of all God has entrusted to me, how much can I justify spending on myself?” Second, the needs are great. It doesn’t take much analysis to notice that small shifts in our own consumption can make a huge difference in the lives of many who are in need. Finally, giving, with tithing as a discipline, helps us unhook from the grasp of our materialistic culture. Give until it hurts? No, give until it helps! God’s grace, our gratitude, generous giving: a recipe for a life of great freedom and joy.

Margaret L. McKinley
Narberth Presbyterian Church

Despite those stellar arguments, I must wonder: Why does an omnipotent God need my money? Is he somehow lacking in resources?

(Via Kelly McNulty Bartle on FRODO)

Wine Tasting

Nov 292007

Paul and I went to yet another delicious wine dinner at Il Fornaio about two weeks ago. While I didn’t particularly like any of the five wines served with each course, I particularly enjoyed the pairing of the wines with the food. Perhaps I’ve developing something of a palate. (I only really like Riesling and Guwerztraminer, I must admit.)

Apparently, however, the palates of wine experts aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be:

In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn’t stop the experts from describing the “red” wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its “jamminess,” while another enjoyed its “crushed red fruit.” Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.

The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was “agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded,” while the vin du table was “weak, short, light, flat and faulty”. Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.

That’s … um … not impressive.

ARI’s Growing Impact

Nov 282007

Yaron Brook, President and Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, sent out this heartening bit of news today. I’m reposting it with permission:

Dear ARI Contributor:

I have outstanding news that I wanted to make you aware of as soon as possible.

As you may already know, Tom Bowden’s op-ed, “Deep-Six the Law of the Sea,” appeared in the November 20 edition of “The Wall Street Journal.”

The impact of that op-ed has been extremly encouraging. Both Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Sen. John Kyl of Arizona have referenced Tom’s article; see, for example:


This is a major milestone for the Institute–with not only our views making the editorial pages of one of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers, but for that editorial being cited approvingly by two prominent U.S. Senators.

I believe that this is clear evidence of the extraordinary potential that we now have to make an impact on policy issues.

Who would have thought, five or ten years ago, that something like this would have been possible?

Our ability to continue to produce articles such as Tom Bowden’s–and to get them published in the nation’s leading newspapers, where they come to the attention of key policymakers–is directly related to the support we receive from donors such as you.

Likewise, your continued backing of our media and advocacy efforts is vital to our success; so I hope you will consider a special contribution to ARI to allow us to keep this momentum going; you can do so online at:


Thank you again for your support of our efforts!


Yaron Brook
President and Executive Director
The Ayn Rand Institute



Nov 282007

Objectivists understand that honesty is the refusal to fake reality and that dishonesty puts one at war with reality.

However, if you lie to your boss and tell him that you can’t come to work because of a “family emergency” but are really going to a Halloween party, it’s probably not a good idea to post a picture of yourself in an embarrassing costume on Facebook.com where everyone in the world (including your boss) can see it:

Who Has The Oil?

Nov 272007

This map shows the countries of the world, with the area in proportion to their known oil reserves. (Click on the map to enlarge it.)

(Via BBspot.)


Nov 262007

Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is probably the most prominent political advocate of Christian environmentalism today. He’ll be joined by more people in short order, however — particularly as younger Christian fundamentalists raised on the environmentalist propaganda taught in schools rise to power and influence.

Huckabee is interviewed on environmental and energy issues in Salon: Huckabee: God wants us to fight global warming. Here’s the introduction:

“The first thing I will do as president is send Congress my comprehensive plan for energy independence,” [Huckabee] proclaims on his Web site. “We will achieve energy independence by the end of my second term.” The goal may sound admirable, but even if it’s achievable — and many experts doubt that it is — Huckabee’s plan for getting there is light on specifics. Rather than spell out what steps he would take, he talks of creating a market environment that encourages innovation, and he praises just about every energy source you can think of — nuclear, “clean coal,” wind, solar, hydrogen, biomass, biodiesel, corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other untapped domestic areas, and, yes, conservation too.

A conservative Republican and devout Christian, Huckabee believes he has a biblical responsibility to protect God’s planet from climate change, even though he’s not convinced that climate change is largely human-caused. But mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions make him squeamish.

Here’s the only philosophic exchange in the ensuing interview:

What makes you the strongest Republican candidate on the issues of energy and the environment?

For one thing, I’m one of the few people who’s actually talked about the fact that as Republicans we have done a lousy job of presenting the case for conservation. We ought to be the leaders, but unfortunately we’ve been the last people speaking out on conservation.

Not only as a Republican, but as a Christian it’s important to me to say to my fellow believers, “Look, if anybody ought to be leading on this issue, it ought to be us.” We can’t justify destroying a planet that doesn’t belong to us, and if we believe that God did create this world for our pleasure and wants us to enjoy it, then all the more reason that we should take care of it.

Christian “stewardship” environmentalism seems particularly dangerous to me. The reason isn’t just that Republicans are adopting bad Democratic policies. They’ve done that so often, including on environmentalism, that another instance hardly newsworthy.

My major concern lies in the philosophic differences between Christian environmentalism and leftist environmentalism. Leftist environmentalism is nihilistic in its essence: it’s hatred and destruction of humanity for its own sake. While its intellectual leaders are often genuine nihilists, its mass appeal largely depends on the wish of preserving nature for ultimately human ends. That’s misguided in various ways, but it’s not wholly philosophically corrupt.

In contrast, Christan environmentalism is not based on nihilistic hatred of humanity. Instead, it envisions humans as the exalted steward of God’s creation. That difference could give it tremendous staying power and mass appeal, even in its most pure form. That’s because it appeals to positive values, however mangled by supernaturalism. In the classification scheme of Leonard Peikoff’s DIM Hypothesis, Christian environmentalism seems to be a form of “Misintegration” rather than “Disintegration.” That’s a significant shift.

Of course, that difference won’t make this new form environmentalism kindler or gentler in practice. Whether of a supernatural or nihilistic variety, environmentalism will require the sacrifice of actual human values and human lives.

That doesn’t bode well for those of us who value human life.

Procrastination Flow Chart

Nov 252007

Now that the holiday is nearly over, I recommend studying this Procrastination Flow Chart to make sure that you do as little work as possible on Monday.

To make it fully accurate for myself, I’d need loops for “discuss plans for the day with the dog,” “rub deliciously fluffy kitty belly,” and “blog about funny procrastination flow chart” though.

Humans Are Destroying the Entire Universe

Nov 242007

A pair of American physicists claim that human astronomical activity may have shortened the lifetime of the entire universe. This is based on a combination of arguments from quantum theory (e.g., Schrodinger’s cat) and cosmology (dark energy). Here are some excerpts from the article:

Mankind ‘shortening the universe’s life’

…The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

… [T]he cosmologists claim that astronomers may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, a mysterious anti gravity force which is thought to be speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.

The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end.

… “The intriguing question is this,” Prof Krauss told the Telegraph. “If we attempt to apply quantum mechanics to the universe as a whole, and if our present state is unstable, then what sets the clock that governs decay? Once we determine our current state by observations, have we reset the clock? If so, as incredible as it may seem, our detection of dark energy may have reduced the life expectancy of our universe.”

Prof Krauss says that the measurement of the light from supernovae in 1998, which provided evidence of dark energy, may have reset the decay of the void to zero – back to a point when the likelihood of its surviving was falling rapidly. “In short, we may have snatched away the possibility of long-term survival for our universe and made it more likely it will decay,” says Prof Krauss.

If this is the logical conclusion of integrating the current Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics with contemporary cosmology, then physicists really need to re-examine the philosophical foundations of their science.

As yet, there have been no calls from radical environmentalists for humans to stop all scientific activity in order to save the entire universe.

But it may not be too long before some people propose in all seriousness what Richard Watts suggested as a joke, namely that “we should sacrifice for the pristine vacuum of empty space”…

Update: Richard Watts notes, “I did mean that as sarcasm toward the environmentalists. But I didn’t mean it as my suggestion for a course of action, not even jokingly.”

Time Lapse Lambeau

Nov 232007

Time Lapse Lambeau:

Using time-lapse photography, Journal Sentinel photographer Tom Lynn offers a day in the life of a game at Lambeau Field. Tom began by stationing a Canon EOS Mark II digital camera, mounted with a 16mm lens, atop the southwest corner of the stadium, encapsulating the entire bowl of the stadium with the field at its core. Powered by an external battery pack, the camera automatically fired every 20 seconds, shooting from 9:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., capturing the stadium as it filled with fans, as the game unfolded, and as the stadium emptied. The entire process captured 1,194 total images, which have been compressed into this two-minute video.

Turkey Urban Legend

Nov 222007

In honor of Thanksgiving, here is a classic urban legend about turkey preparation. (The original version takes place at Christmas, but it is equally well suited for Thanksgiving):

Last year, my mom went to my sister’s house for the traditional holiday feast. Knowing how gullible my sister is, my mom decided to play a trick.

She told my sister that she needed something from the store and asked if my sister wouldn’t mind going out to get it.

When my sister left the house, my mom took the turkey out of the oven, removed the stuffing, stuffed a Cornish hen, and inserted it into the turkey, then re-stuffed the turkey.

She then placed the bird(s) back into the oven.

When it was time for dinner, my sister pulled the turkey out of the oven and proceeded to remove the stuffing. When her serving spoon hit something, she reached in and pulled out the little bird.

With a look of total shock on her face, my mother exclaimed, “Barbara, you’ve cooked a pregnant bird!”

At the reality of this horrifying news, my sister started to cry hysterically. It took the entire family almost two hours to convince her that turkeys lay eggs!

Home | Live Webcast | Archives | Blog | Question Queue | Connect | Support Us | About Us
Copyright 2012 Diana Hsieh | Email | Twitter | Facebook | Blog
Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha