Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Belief Part 3 - Ending the Beginning

In Part 2 of this series I talked about Thomas Aquinas' "five proofs" for the existence of God. There are a couple of things to add before we go onto other arguments. In the last post, Einstein, Hubble, and Lemaître demolished Fre Hoyle's steady state model of the universe, but there are two other logical replies to the "uncaused cause" argument that are commonly given to avoid a universe with a beginning.


The multiverse hypothesis holds that the universe exists because all things that can exist exist, everything that can happen happens. This not only appears to get around the origin of the universe, but of any need for any sort of deity, belief, moral stricture, etc. Everything is random. There are a couple of problems with this, both logically and scientifically. First off, the logician might say "OK, why does everything happen, rather than nothing" which is really Thomas' "why is there something rather than nothing" question repackaged. You still have to posit and uncaused cause, only now it's for everything, not just the universe.

Secondly, if everything that can happen happens, why doesn't it happen in our universe? Why don't the laws of physics suddenly change? Why doesn't the laptop I'm writing on turn into a grapefruit? How can we ever believe in a scientific principle, when those principles can change at any given time?

"Oh, but Mike, they can't!" you reply. Why not? Show me, if everything that can happen happens, how you can ever posit that something can't happen in this universe. Perhaps this is the universe where gravity reverses every 13.7 billion years, which happens to be tomorrow? If you believe in an ordered universe, then you have to suppose that not everything that can happen happens, and if you're going to put some restrictions on it, occam's razor would suggest that rather than limiting it to only those universes you like, using a large number of restrictions, you might as well go the whole way and say there's only the one, and it's the one we're in and this is how it works.

Besides, evidentially we can only say there is one universe, despite attempts y some to wish that every bit of unexplained data "leaks" in from another universe. Once again occam's razor suggests an argument from evidence is stronger than one based on wishing.

Bouncing Universe

The second argument against the beginning of the universe is the "cyclical universe" or "bouncing universe" hypothesis. This is the one Stephen Hawkings resorts to in his latest book. In this we suppose that the universe either repeats itself forever, or changes each time (which is basically a serialized version of the multiverse). Either way, there are still two flaws with this hypothesis. First off, in the sense that this is a serialized multiverse, it is subject to all the counterarguments above. Secondly, the second law of thermodynamics makes it impossible. Like a ball that bounces a bit lower each time, our bouncing universe is subject to entropy and will run down.

In fact, what Hawking conveniently left out of his book were all the scientific arguments against the bouncing universe. One of these is the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem (BVG). In 2003 Borde Vilenkin and Guth came up with a proof that says that given the laws of physics, any universe or system of universes (whether they be bouncing or multiverses) where the universe has a Hubble expansion rate greater than 0, must have a beginning.

In fact, this proof is vastly applicable to just about any model universe or multiverse that could be produce our universe. Alexander Vilenkin put it this way in 2006:

We made no assumptions about the material content of the universe. We did not even assume that gravity is described by Einstein’s equations. So, if Einstein’s gravity requires some modification, our conclusion will still hold. The only assumption that we made was that the expansion rate of the universe never gets below some nonzero value, no matter how small. This assumption should certainly be satisfied in the inflating false vacuum. The conclusion is that past-eternal inflation without a beginning is impossible.

Kind of hard to hold to eliminate a "first cause" at this point, no?

I think this puts the last nail in the coffin for the arguments against Thomas' five proofs (or at least all the ones I know - do you know any others?). I realize that at this point all I have addressed is "does the universe have a creator". I have not shown that that creator is an "invisible friend in the sky" or even that the creator is an intelligence, only that a creator exists. It's going to take a long time to get to that.

In the meantime, I would like to highly recommend Robert Spitzer's book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. The physics section will give and awful lot to chew on, such as the above.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Belief Part 2: Doubting Thomas

This is the second post in a series on the existence of God. I've read and heard a lot from atheists of late, and frankly I have not found one who is willing to consider any possibility outside of their belief system (and of course, they deny that they ave a belief system when clearly they believe so strongly that God can't exist they will forgo logic and reason to keep that faith). My purpose in writing this series is to explore what we can know about God through reason, and if it is "unreasonable an unscientific" to believe in God, or, as I contend it is more unreasonable and unscientific to believe He doesn't exist.

Of course, no discussion of the existence of God is complete without referring to St. Thomas Aquinas' "five proofs". His "five proofs" are the basis of many arguments from theists and atheists alike. Thomas wrote these almost 800 years ago, and so you'd think there was nothing new to say, but modern science has added some new observations. Let's look at them.

First Mover - since objects at rest remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (e.g. Newton's laws), the observation that objects are in motion implies an outside force to set them in motion. One can appeal to forces like gravity and explosions for things to "move by themselves" but each requires potential energy to have been put in the system (e.g. for a star to form via gravity it must have been formed from particles which were already separate against gravitational forces).

Philosophically speaking the "movement" can be something other than physical. I've couched this in terms of physics because it is the easiest for me to discuss. I never personally found this argument to be compelling because it seems to me that if the universe were always in motion, that motion could be simply transferred, as one billiard ball will set another in motion, and the second can come back and hit the first. It wasn't until college physics that I learned that this position doesn't work. More on this after I discuss the other two.

First Cause - things cannot cause themselves. Therefore, all that exists must have been caused to exist by something. To posit that the universe caused itself presents the dilemma refuted by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time and Space, which he terms "turtles all the way down". Oddly, Hawking uses the argument that the universe caused itself in his latest book The Grand Design. I guess he only accepts logic when it supports his conclusions.

At first I found this argument unconvincing, because I had read books on quantum mechanics about how particles spontaneously came into existence in a vacuum. However, a vacuum isn't really nothing. As a physicist will tell you, there is space-time, and that is required for quantum laws to allow particles to come into existence. What makes space-time? According to Hawking gravity, a warping of space-time, creates space-time, which creates it. Beginning to sound like turtles?

The other argument I find used involves hypotheses like multiverses. I'll be covering these in a later post, but to whet your appetites, the scientific principle of Occam's Razor suggest that relying on something imagined to replace something you claim is imagined does not improve your position. Plus the multiverse is just another layer of "turtles". It does not address a first cause.

Contingency - all things in the observable universe are contingent on something else for their existence. Therefore the thing which brought them into existence existed without them. There must be something which exists outside of the universe.

Fr. Robert Barron, in his excellent PBS series "Catholicism" explains this in terms of a cloud on a Summer's day. The cloud exists because of the humidity, pressure and temperature of the air. Those conditions are caused by things like sunlight hitting the Earth, and the very composition of the atmosphere is influences by things like the respiration of plants. Those in turn depend on things like gravity, nuclear forces, evolution etc. Ultimately there comes a point where we get to the universe itself. To posit the universe is not contingent is not supported by any evidence, and in fact all evidence points to all things being contingent. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that there exists something outside the universe.

Of course, Fr. Barron is much more eloquent than I am. After all, he's a TV star. However, I think you get the point. And saying that the thing outside the universe is more universes (AKA the multiverse again) is falling back to the "turtle" argument.

The main thing about all three of these arguments is that they involve "the buck stops here". When people refer to these and say "turtles" they obviously haven't read or didn't understand these proofs. They are persuasive because to avoid them you have to postulate "turtles". You might ask "well, why can't the universe have gone on forever?" That was a position held by astronomer Fred Hoyle.

Fred Hoyle was a brilliant astronomer, cosmologist, and the man who coined the phrase "Big Bang" to disparage the theory proposed by Georges Lemaître. Monsignor Lemaître was a priest and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain, who proposed that the universe was expanding from a single point, which he called the "primeval atom". Hoyle supported a theory called "steady state" which claimed that the universe was eternal and constantly renewed itself.

A detailed discussion of what went on would take more than this post, but suffice it to say Einstein's general theory of relativity coupled with Edwin Hubble's observational evidence, put the final nail in the coffin of the steady state model. Hoyle later recanted his steady state claims, and even left atheism and became a theist because of science. I'll cover his story in more detail in a future post as well, because his change of heart was due to science, not revelation.

That someone can today insist that the universe always existed, or regenerates itself simply does not fit with observed scientific evidence or with established laws of physics. For instance, the second law of thermodynamics states that entropy never decreases. Any claim that the universe exists forever or regenerates has to assume a magical way that this and other laws of physics can be suspended. I see no reason to think that this sort of imaginary process is any more likely than God.

The last two proofs of Thomas are different.

Greatest Being - some things are greater than other things. Therefore, there must be a being of perfect greatness, from which all other things derive their greatness.

This argument is based on ancient Greek philosophy, but I find it unconvincing, since there is an assumption that such a perfect being exists as proof that one exists. One argument in favor is that existence is greater than non-existence, so if the greatest being did not exist, it would not be the greatest being (and therefore the greatest being must exist).

I don't hold with the assumption that if we can imagine a being it must exist. Ironically, that is an argument used by some atheists to support the "all possible timelines" model of explaining the universe. They assume that the reason the universe exists is because everything that can exist must exist. By that argument, of course, God must exist (unless He can't exist, which is something they will argue without evidence).

Intelligent Designer - purpose requires intent. Since there are things in the universe that work towards a purpose, they must have been an intelligence who directed them towards that purpose.

This is another argument I find weak, because it supposes that the universe has a purpose without offering evidence to that end. I believe there is evidence to that end, which I will explore in a future post, but without that evidence, it would seem to be a circular argument - it relies upon intelligence behind the universe to prove intelligence behind the universe.

Your mileage may vary. I know some find one proof more compelling than another. However, I have yet to see a refutation of the first three proofs that does not rely upon a logical or scientific contradiction, or just plain wishing. If you know of one, I would be more than happy to hear it.

There are dozens more proofs to be covered and lots of counterarguments to debunk, so this series is for now open ended. The next post will begin to cover a different class of proofs.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Does this make sense?

A number of months ago I began thinking about a series of posts on belief. I want to start from the beginning with "Is there a God?" and "What is God?" and see where it goes. I know that a lot f greater minds than I have already pondered and written on the subject, and so much of what I write will be my understanding of others' work.

But before I even get that far I'd like to spend a moment pondering whether it is even a useful question to ask about God. These days, so called "new atheists" deride the whole idea that we should (be allowed to) think about God. They dismiss the whole concept as useless.

I would maintain that there are several important reasons to be concerned about the existence of God.

Pascal's wager.

Blaise Pascal based his logic on probability theory, specifically expected value. Here's how it works.

Let's say I want to decide whether or not to play the NJ Lotto Pick 6 lottery. I can calculate the odds of winning, which are 49 choose 6. That's a mathematical shorthand which works out to one chance in 13,983,816 of winning (let's call it 14 million to make things simpler). But is that good or bad? It depends on the payout. As I write this, the jackpot is $2.7 million.

That means 1/14,000,000 of the time I win $2,700,000 and 13,999,999/14,000,000 of the time I lose $1. So the expected outcome is (2.7 - 14)/14 or $-0.81. In other words I can expect to lose 81 cents on each ticket by playing the lottery. Or, to look at it another way, if I bought all possible tickets I would spend $14 million but only make $2.7 million (meaning I would have lost $0.81 per ticket). I should not play.

If the jackpot were $27 million, however, my expected outcome would be (27-14)/14 or $0.93. In other words, I could expect to almost double my money (if I played enough times - obviously for a single ticket I either win or lose).

The principle is that a large enough payout makes it worthwhile to play, even if the odds of winning are small. Pascal applied this to theology. He claimed that if you don't know whether God exists, it is a good bet to behave as if He does. Pascal's reasoning is that if the probability that God exists is anything greater than zero (in other words unless you can absolutely prove He doesn't exist), the benefits of heaven vs. hell so far swamp the small price of living a moral life that it pays to live a moral life.

Now, this is not a perfect description of the problem. For one thing, the wager assumes that we are "justified by works alone" which is anathema to Christians (including Catholics). However, it does show why it makes sense to determine whether or not there is any probability of God's existence (and heaven and hell).

Abstract knowledge

It is in man's nature to know things, even if the knowledge is not immediately applicable to his situation. For instance, astronomers study the early universe not because it is useful for their lives per se, but because it is interesting, and who knows what may come out of this information in subsequent generations.

One of the things that amuses me is how many people will defend that Steven Hawking talks about the origin of the universe, but deride theologians doing the same thing. At least the theologians are using metaphysics to try to answer a metaphysical question. Hawking is using physics to try to explain metaphysics. The best he can possibly come up with using those tools is "turtles all the way down"*, which, ironically, is a phrase Hawking himself uses to ridicule Thomas Aquinas' unmoved mover. Apparently as brilliant as he may be in physics, Hawking does not even understand the basic concepts of metaphysics.

I'll be debunking Hawking in a future post, but my point is that even many atheists believe the question of God's existence is important (even if their methods of answering the question are flawed).

* BTW in his latest book Hawking does exactly that. He states that space-time is created by gravity. Gravity, of course, is a curvature of space-time.

Discovery of universal truth

Relativists will tell you that there are no universal truths (except, the truth that there are no truths). So, given that they have thus demonstrated that there is at least one universal truth, can we discover more? Is there an underlying meaning to it all? If not, there's certainly no reason to read blogs. If there is, then the question of interest is "what is truth?"

Understanding humanity

Most people throughout all of history have had a belief in God. Some scientists believe that the human brain is "hard-wired" for a belief in God. Given how much effect God has had on humanity, it makes sense to study the existence of God even as purely a phenomenon to understand how humans think.

It is interesting (in a sad way) to note how the secularists who claim that our lives should be ruled by sex because our brains are wired for it insist that religion should be abandoned because our brains are wired for it. If sex is useful, then so is theology.

Finding joy

Everybody wants to be happy. There are innumerable self-help books out there to help you to find happiness. Yet study after study has found that the most joyful, peace filled, contented people in the world are those who devote their lives to God. If knowing God is a path to happiness, then it becomes personally advantageous to find out.

I'm sure there are many other reasons, but these are a few I came up with for wanting to find out if there's a God even if I didn't already know what I know about Him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


More gaps in blogging, as real life intrudes on my online presence. However, now that everyone has said everything there is to say about the "occupy" movements, I thought I'd add my $0.02, since nobody else has said it. Or perhaps they have and I've been too busy to read it.

From what I've read the occupiers are "the 99% fed up with the greed and corruption of the 1%". It sounds reasonable. It sounds great! But what does that really mean?

When my oldest son took the SAT the essay question was along the lines of "is it possible to get ahead in life without acting immorally." He took the position "no, you can't" - not because he believes that (he claims) but because it is the more easily defensible position. Society paints the rich and successful as being evil, and certainly there are many examples to choose from.

But there are also counterexamples. Consider Bryan Bedford, CEO of Frontier Airlines and featured on "Undercover Boss". Consider all the philanthropy that exists that would not be possible had individuals not had the money to give.

I'm not trying to hold the rich up as paragons of virtue, but I think it is ignoring the plank in your own eye (Matthew 7:3-5) to imply that the not-as-rich-as-the-99% are blameless. Our country has always held the principle that anybody could be successful if they worked hard. It seems that the occupiers deny that principle. Their cynical, might-makes-right attitude I find no less corrupt than the unequal distribution of wealth they protest.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Everybody's got their Thanksgiving blog posts about how thankful they are. I'm here to tell you how unthankful I am. Last night I watched a wonderful movie, Amish Grace. It is based on the true story of an Amish community that was devastated by a mass murder, and of how they forgave their killer. I highly recommend this movie, and rate it 3 Kleenex.

There was a point in the movie where the father of one of the slain little girls explains something that struck me hard. He says "God gave us our little girl. he has every right to call her back." We're so busy today saying how thankful we are for our friends and families, but how many look deeply into the fact that every second of every life is a gift that surpasses our wildest expectations. How many of us hold onto that thankfulness though loss and tragedy, like the gentleman portrayed in the movie.

I know that I, for one, and a pretty unthankful fellow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bigot (Part 4)

This is the fourth, and I believe final installment of my series on the attempts to redefine marriage. In the original post, Bigot, I spoke about the lack of a reason to redefine marriage. There is no right being denied homosexuals, other than the "right" to force others to call them married. Whenever the subject is brought up by individuals, the conversation focuses on "why shouldn't two people who love each other be allowed to marry?" The answer, of course, is the nature of that love. Should parents be allowed to marry their children? Should currently married people be allowed to marry?

But this argument is divorced (pun intended) form the legal arguments for redefining marriage. For instance, Google, Microsoft and Starbucks, along with over 60 other businesses and firms, filed a brief to uphold a circuit court decision to strike down part of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law which defines marriage as between one man and one women). They claim that homosexuals are discriminated against by having to pay tax on money paid for benefits for their partner.

Now, that would truly be discrimination if those couples were married (e.g. if the definition of marriage were already changed). So the reasoning is circular. If we take the opposing stance, that the definition of marriage is not relevant to the claim of discrimination, the same claim of "discrimination" could be made of anyone who wants to pay for another person's benefits, whether they be a parent, friend, or a cohabiting heterosexual couple. Yet the brief seeks only a remedy for homosexuals. In other words, it in fact discriminate against the cases above.

But the main point is that legal arguments don't involve the "love" of homosexuals, but are all about one of two things; money or religious liberty. In the case of the brief mentioned above, the article itself notes "Essentially, the companies are asking the federal government to help them save money."

In Bigot Part 2, I discussed what marriage is, and why it is harmful to make it what it is not. Marriage is ordered towards strengthening families, and notwithstanding Disney movies which attempt to redefine a family as any group of individuals who work together towards a goal, family means children and their parents. Marriage is designed to give children a mother and a father, both of which have an important role.

Redefining homosexual relationships as marriage is harmful to the institution of marriage and to children. The reason is the redefinition of mother and father into a concept of "parent". Because two men or two women can't have a child by themselves, in each and every case of a homosexual couple "having" child, there is at least one (possibly 2) real biological parent who is separated from that child. So rather than being the institution that ensures a child has a right to both its parents, marriage becomes the means by which a child is separated from its parents. This also commoditizes children in that the in each case there would be a contract, and presumably money changing hands, so parentage becomes a financial transaction, not an act of love.

In Bigot Part 3, I discussed the negative effects of redefining marriage. Whether by intention or not, the redefinition of marriage does not and cannot allow for the religious rights of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and just about any other person of faith. All religions that have some claim on morality include sexual morality and that morality universally recognizes the principle that the purpose of sexuality is procreation.

We live in a society and despite claims that "what I do is none of your business" when "what I do" becomes a matter of law it affects everyone. Redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships is incompatible with moral teaching. When a force meets and object something has to give. In countries where marriage has been redefined we see an erosion of religious rights, followed by an erosion of civil rights of religious believers. At first, there are conscience clauses and exceptions for religious reasons. But those exceptions can't last, because the concepts involved are fundamentally incompatible.

In the UK, it started out by a denial that redefining marriage harmed children. This led to religious organizations that disagreed being denied the ability to run adoption services. This is the state of things in the US right now, in places like Illinois. In the UK things have progressed along their natural course to the point where the High Court has officially ruled that people of religious conviction cannot adopt or foster children if their religion claims that homosexual acts are sinful. As I speculated, the logical conclusion to this is either to outlaw the religion, or to outlaw contact with children for any such believers (including keeping their own children).

Nor is the OK the only place where this is happening; they are merely the first to take this step. In Germany, parents are being jailed for teaching their children Christian beliefs about homosexual acts. In Canada, there is a court case pending involving people who were fined or jailed for reading the Bible in a public place.

In fact, throughout most of the western world religious freedom is being taken away in the name of redefining marriage. This redefinition does not convey any rights to homosexuals, but deprives children of their rights to a mother and father, and deprives people of their rights to practice their faith. For all of these reasons I can definitively say that I am not a bigot. I think that name belongs more accurately to those who cannot let Christians live in peace, without forcing them to approve of sin.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bigot (Part 3)

This is the third in a series on the attempts to redefine marriage. In the first post, Bigot, I spoke about the rights that are supposedly being infringed by the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman for the benefit and education of children. I was unable to find any. People are free to live together, have sex, and accomplish all the benefits of marriage without the title regardless of gender. The only "rights" are made up ones (like the "right" to marry). In fact, redefining marriage infringes on the rights of children and on religious liberty.

In Bigot Part 2 I spoke about what what marriage is and isn't. The purpose of marriage is primarily to ensure that children have the benefit of two parents to raise them. Numerous studies have confirmed that physically, mentally, and spiritually it is a benefit to children and to society for them to be raised by their father and mother. Redefining marriage would make it into an institution that would separate children from their natural parents. It would also restrict the rights of traditional Jews, Christians and Muslims from being able to practice their religion freely, and marginalize them in society.

In this post I'd like to expand on that and speak about the consequences of redefining marriage. Since there are countries more "progressive" than America, where marriage has already been redefined, we have an excellent look at what is likely to happen here in a few years.

First off, let's look at what has happened in the name of "tolerance" close to home. Despite the claims that Catholics are haters and homosexual advocates are more tolerant, the reverse seems to be the case on looking at evidence. Let's consider California's proposition 8 debacle. Proposition 8 was a ballot initiative in California to explicitly define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Note that this was merely confirming federal law as specified by DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, which says that that "the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.").

Many groups supported Proposition 8, while homosexual advocacy groups opposed it. Christians and Mormons were the primary targets of many violent acts perpetrated in the name of tolerance. These include death threats against people who supported it, theft and vandalism of "Yes on 8" signs, beating of people (including an elderly couple) trying to put signs on their property, shooting out windows, slashing of tires, and spray painting the word "BIGOT" on cars, buildings and other property.

Proposition 8 passed, but the story doesn't end there. It was challenged legally, and the California Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality. However, the federal court stepped in and overturned it. The case is controversial (BTW this is a good example of subtle bias in Wikipedia, which makes no mention of this in its article on Proposition 8) in that the judge who overturned it, Vaughn Walker, is himself a homosexual in a long term relationship. An argument was made that the judge should have recused himself based on the fact that he had a personal interest in the outcome of the case. That argument was rejected by judge James Ware who based his decision on the argument that sexual orientation shouldn't disqualify someone from hearing a case. It remains a controversy because the issue was not the judge's sexual orientation, but the fact that he had a personal interest in the outcome of the case. Proposition 8 challenges are still going on, and it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be. The point may be moot if the federal government repeals DOMA, which it is in the process of doing, and then enacts legislation to reverse DOMA, which it is likely to do.

There are other examples anti-Christian and anti-family intolerance due to the marriage issue. In Illinois Catholic Charities was told it had to place children with same sex couples in order to be allowed to continue its adoption services. No matter that other adoption services would serve same sex couples, Catholics had to do it too, in violation of their religion. A Sangamon County judge has stopped the action for now, but it remains an issue.

Recently in Illinois, a Christian school was vandalized for holding a pro-family award ceremony. A New Jersey teacher is under attack for saying on Facebook that she believes homosexual acts are wrong. In Texas a student was suspended for saying he believed homosexual acts are wrong (the school eventually apologized). Paypal has suspended accounts and frozen assets of organizations and individuals who uphold traditional marriage. Apple has removed and banned software on its devices which supports marriage or offers alternatives to homosexual behavior. In Canada, sports anchor Damian Goddard was fired over a tweet supporting marriage. William Whatcott was fined $17,500 and ordered to stop speaking about homosexuality. The "Human Rights Tribunal" declared that reading the Bible (specifically the letters of St. Paul) was "hate speech". The issue is currently going through Canada's legal system. Various businesses, such as Bed and Breakfasts, photographers, and a Christian retreat center are being sued because of their religious beliefs. It is not enough to tolerate what other people do, you must approve and participate in their acts, even if it violates your own beliefs.

The result of redefining marriage is that not only must Christians place foster children with homosexual couples, but eventually will be unable to care for children themselves. This sounds absurd, but it is a natural consequence of this doublespeak version of tolerance. In 2008, a couple in the UK was denied a foster child because they were Christian. This ruling was upheld by the UK High Court, who later claimed that the ruling wasn't anti-religion because it dealt with beliefs about morality, not directly about God.

Let's get this straight, because it is important. As a direct result of defending the redefinition of marriage, the UK High Court has declared that the state is the arbiter of morality, and that religion has no place doing so. Christians are only free to participate in society if they reject the parts of the Gospel that do not conform to government defined morality.

The next step is obvious. If it is "harmful to children" for foster parents to be Christians, to the extent that children should not be placed in such a household, then the natural children of Christians are being "harmed" and should be "rescued" by taking them away. In fact, a more economical and natural solution is to have Christians sterilized so that they cannot harm children.

There are many more examples I could give about families being destroyed and religious rights being denied, but I think the UK foster parent case above makes the point succinctly. Just understand that it is not a mistake or a one-off - it is the goal and direct consequence of redefining marriage.

Next, see the last installment, Bigot, part 4.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

To Russia, with Love

In the spirit of welcoming the 7 billionth human being to our planet, here's an article about Russia: Vladimir Putin Receives Virgin Mary 'Fertility' Relic. It seems that under the Soviet Union's draconian abortion policies, the Russian people have achieved a fertility rate of 1.4. That means each generation is producing only 1.4 people to replace each couple, which is a loss of 1/3 of the population per generation. Russia is trying to counter the trend by making abortions past 12 weeks' gestation illegal, but it may be a case of too little too late.

Japan has an even bigger problem, with a fertility rate of 1.37, and a smaller population to begin with. The Japanese government has offered a bonus of 350,000 Yen (about $4600) for each baby born, offers paid "conjugal leave," and has invented, with typical Japanese ingenuity, a robot designed to encourage couples to have children.

The United States is also experiencing population loss, although immigration is making up the difference for now. Let's learn a lesson from Russia and love our kids.

Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Billion Served

This Halloween the world's population will reach 7 Billion, according to the UN FPA. Oh, and if the news sends you into a panic, calm down and watch the video below. As I calculated in my post CEASE Procreating there is plenty of room. With 7 billion people the calculation still holds, but the size of the backyard each family of 4 would get is 15" smaller.

According to projections, we only have 2 billion to go before the population decreases and the human race begins to die out, so let's roll out the welcome mat for precious gift from God, baby # 7,000,000,000!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sick of Neighbors

Sorry I haven't blogged in so long - life keeps getting in the way. Today I just got back form a scout camp out, and collapsed. So no time to write part 3 of the Bigot series. However, I wanted to write something and mass today provided it.

Today's homily was all about how Jesus said "Love thy neighbor" and how you can see God in your neighbor. We get this pretty much every week, but this week it rankled me a bit because that is not what the Gospel reading said. From Mt 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
How many times have you heard this to support "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Now go back and read it again, and answer me this question; "which commandment in the law is greatest?"

So how come no homilist ever talks about that? Jesus Himself said it was the most important law, more important than the second one. Why do we hold up the second law as if it were the first? Maybe I'm just getting too old and crotchety.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bigot (part 2)

In my previous post, Bigot, I spoke about the lack of evidence of any "rights" that are denied homosexual couples under current law, and therefore the lack of a reason to change the definition of marriage. In this post I intended to talk about reasons not to change the definition of marriage, but it occurs to me that I should first ask the question "why marriage?".

I was going to start with Merriam-Webster again, then discovered that they recently changed their definition from
mar·riage noun \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\
1 : the institution under which a man and a woman become legally united on a permanent basis
mar·riage noun \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\
1a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage
which is a poor definition for reasons that will become clear later in this post (not the least of which is that a dictionary is supposed to record the definition of a word as commonly used, not attempt to introduce new usage). So for now let's start with the Oxford dictionary, which has not changed its definition.
marriage :/ˈmarɪdʒ/ noun
1 the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife:
So, my question about this definition is "why?". Why does the law recognize this union? What interest does the state have in who I hang out with, or live with, or sleep with?

My pro-SSM friends will argue that it has to recognize this union for the purpose of property rights. However, I find this unconvincing. First off, the state recognizes shared property rights without a marriage. Secondly the state doesn't intrude in property rights for partnerships other than marriages. It is pretty clear from looking at the structure of family court that the state's interest in marriage is ensuring that children are cared for. And that's a noble goal. After all, children are human beings.

Children have rights, and one of those rights is the right to their father and mother. The father and mother, in turn, have the responsibility to care for and educate their child to produce a citizen. In recognizing marriage, the state recognizes an institution that is far older than itself, and in fact is the basis of society and government; the family.

In other words, marriage is an institution not for the "rights" of parents to have children if they want, but for the rights of children to have their own parents care for them. This is common sense. Clearly marriage is not necessary to get together and have children. But it is a commitment to stay together to raise those children.

The Catholic Church has always recognized this, and indeed every religion and government recognized this throughout all of history until the last century. I won't get into how and why this changed for some organizations because that would be another entire series of posts. But let's look at the Catholic perspective on marriage.

If you wish to be married in the Catholic Church you are required to post banns of marriage - that is, state your intent to marry publicly for a period of time. You must receive instructions on what marriage is. You must promise that you will have whatever children God gives you. You must promise to raise those children and educate them in the Catholic faith. These are requirements for marriage.

What about people who don't want to have children? They should not be married, and in fact cannot be married as Catholics. What about people who can't have children? They can be married. Isn't that a contradiction? No. Nobody can predict what will happen, we can only say what we want to happen and what we promise to do in that situation.

Why is the Catholic Church so hung up on sex? We're not. We're hung up on life. Marriage is about bringing life into the world, and the Catholic Church is one of the few organizations that not only talks the talk but walks the walk.

But what about same sex couples? Can't they have children and raise them and educate them? No, they can't. If you have read a biology book (or even if you haven't) you should realize it takes both sexes to produce a child. Hence no need for marriage, because they are not going to produce children with each other.

What about adoption? Adoption exists again not for the "rights" of adults to get children they want, but for the rights of children to get the parents they need. It is not a matter of "ownership" of a child, but of meeting the needs of children. If a child loses one or both parents for some reason (including abandonment), adoption gives that child the benefit of a mother and father (and usually brothers and sisters as well). Adoption by two people of the same sex does not give that child any benefit. Two "mommies" (or two "daddies") does not make a mother and father, regardless of what role playing goes on.

Of course, many pro-SSM people will disagree with this definition of marriage. To them I offer the following observation and question. First off, whether they like it or not, this is the definition of marriage by the Church today and by everyone since before recorded history. I did not invent this, and neither did the Church. Secondly, if marriage is something else, what is it that makes it distinct from any other thing (such as a contract, for instance)?

Next, see Bigot Part 3.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Race for the Kill

Yesterday my entire newspaper was pink. No, it wasn't licked by a yink. It was to notify people about breast cancer awareness month. Eliminating breast cancer is a noble goal, and one which I support. But it was also to encourage people to donate to one organization, which was mentioned over and over; the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer.

Sadly, Susan G. Komen donates between $600K to $1M each year to Planned Parenthood. According to their web site http://ww5.komen.org/Content.aspx?id=16162 the money is only used for breast cancer screening and mammograms, and no money funds abortions. However, there are two thing wrong with that.

First off, money is fungible, meaning if I give PP money to fund breast cancer screening, I am freeing up the money PP would have spent on that to subsidize abortion. Please follow the link above to my earlier post to read my thoughts on fungibility.

Secondly, Komen claims that PP is the only recourse women in certain areas have for getting mammograms, etc. The problem is PP doesn't offer mammograms, and refers women to their primary care physicians for those services. Live Action called every PP clinic in the country and asked to schedule a breast exam and mammogram, and in every case was told they don't do that and referred elsewhere.

So, where is this money really going? Why do we have "meta" fundraising organizations at all? Why can't cancer organizations keep themselves clean from controversy and just address cancer directly through their own programs instead of getting involved in organizations that are not primarily involved in cancer work?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On the first day

Wednesday began the fall 2011 40 Days for Life campaign. As I drove up to the clinic I go to every Wednesday, I saw a new face, Patti. She saw me walking up and greeted me with a big smile and a hug. There was almost a constant stream of cars beeping and waving and cheering us on. Despite the rain sprinkling on and off it was a fun day.

I held my sign, said my rosary and spoke to the other people there. But the best part of all was the lack of an abortionist. The clinic had been open for hours before I even got there, and by the time I left, the fourteen or so people inside were still waiting for someone to show up!

Now, it is often the case that the abortionist shows up late, making the women inside wait for hours (and we thank him for his contempt of his "patients"), but to miss more than half a day we took as a hopeful sign. I don't have any illusions that he has changed his mind about his "career", but I am hopeful that somehow he has a conscience and that our presence makes him uncomfortable.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Last week I was told I was a hateful bigot. That remark came from a friend, no less. What can motivate someone to say that about a person whom they otherwise like? Given the title of this article I bet you can imagine what the conversation was about that led to the accusation.

This accusation affected me deeply. The hateful part is easy to shrug off, because it is patently untrue. While I might not be a model Christian (by far), I can honestly say that I don't hate any group, or even any individual, even those that I feel have done me serious wrong. You may think that's a big feat, or you may think that I'm lying, but I assure you it is no big thing not to hate. I believe hating takes as much effort as loving, and if you aren't taught to hate ad don't practice it, it is no big deal to avoid it. That's not to say I love everybody, either. There are people I find distasteful, that I'd rather have nothing to do with. That is far from hate (actively seeking what's bad for the other person).

The title of "bigot" bothered me though. I don't think of myself as a bigot, but I suppose neither did Archie Bunker, or for that matter George Jefferson (for those who are not as ancient as I am, these are two notoriously prejudiced characters from the 1970s sitcoms "All in the Family" and its spinoff "The Jeffersons"). I decided it was time to reexamine my actions.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines bigot as follows:
big·ot noun \ˈbi-gət\
Definition of BIGOT
: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
and further defines intolerant as:
in·tol·er·ant adj \-rənt\
2 a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters
b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : bigoted
Well, I'm off the hook, because to be a bigot I'd have to treat people with hatred and intolerance, and I don't treat people with hatred. However, my friend equates intolerance and hate as being the same thing. Am I intolerant?

Obviously, the primary definition of intolerant is not what my friend was alluding to. If that were the case, and since she is unwilling to grant me freedom of expression of my religious views, the term bigot would apply to her, not to me. I don't think she intended to be a bigot by calling me one. So she must mean that I'm unwilling to grant social, political, or professional rights to homosexuals.

That's a serious accusation, but is it true? What rights are homosexuals denied that changing the definition of marriage would grant them? Are they being denied the right to life? No, last I looked nobody was killing them. Are they being denied their liberty? No, last I looked they weren't being put in prison. Are they being denied the right to participate in economic activities, own property, and enjoy the fruits of their labor? No. Right to bear arms? No. Right to Assemble? No. Right to free speech? No.

I continued down through the Bill of Rights and other aspects of law, and I can't find a single right which is not granted them. OK, let's talk about "rights" in a looser sense, and look at lifestyle choices. Are they forbidden from practicing sexual acts in privacy? No. Are they forbidden from living together as a couple? No.

So what rights do they claim they are being denied (other than being able to change the definition of institutions like marriage, and I dictating changes to society is not a "right" in any sense of the word)? The things that I have heard brought up in conversation are:

They can't get family health benefits from their employer for their partner. That's a fair point. Shouldn't I be able to purchase benefits for anyone I want? Oh wait! There's a thing called an insurance company, and I can pay them to purchase health insurance for anybody, not just my family. The problem is that insurance companies have made it expensive to do so. So, no right has been denied.

Still one can make the argument that if insurance companies are going to give a discount for a family policy, shouldn't that include all the people who live in my household whom I support? Suppose my elderly mother lives with me, or my aunt, or cousin who's our of work? Insurance companies now have ways to address some of these issues (like elder care and same sex partners). Here in NJ, same sex partners are by law treated equally with married couples for insurance purposes. I think if anything that should be expanded to include the other cases (e.g. anybody I support). If I'm willing to pay for it, there's a market.

So there's an argument that falls flat on its face, both as a reason to say they are being denied rights and as a reason to say I'm a bigot.

Reason number two is that same sex partners aren't treated as spouses when hospitals grant visiting privileges. Again fair point, but that's a hospital policy, not anything to do with the institution of marriage. I can understand that hospitals have to limit visitors for the patients' benefit and that without the patient's ability to designate who should visit they have to come up with a rule. On the other hand, a patient should have people who love and care for him able to visit. This is something that I think needs to be addressed by modifying hospital policies, not marriage.

Reason number three is adoption. Same sex couples need to be married to legally adopt children. Without getting into the moral issues of whether this is good, let me cut off the argument right here by saying that they can. This argument is false. While Catholic adoption agencies do not place children with same sex couples, there are other agencies that do. A simple web search comes up with sites like Adoption Open, which lists "gay friendly" adoption agencies.

When you go through the list of all the justifications for changing the institution of marriage, there is none that is an actual justification. The last resort argument that I have been given is that it makes them feel like their relationship isn't accepted by everyone. That's true in a way. Their relationship probably isn't accepted by everyone. But is that what marriage is about? Is it merely a title, a piece of paper, a popularity contest? I've been told by so many, and I believe it to be true as well, if your relationship is based only on a piece of paper, it's not worth the piece of paper it's written on.

I was going to talk about the other side, but this post is getting long so I'll continue this discussion in another post about reasons not to change marriage. I think I've debunked the reasons given for wanting to change it, though if you know of any reasonable arguments that aren't covered please comment below.

Next, see Bigot Part 2.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

St Michael

For obvious reasons I have always been partial to St. Michael the Archangel. Each night I pray
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

So I of course will be participating in Joe's big event. Won't you join us in the Novena to St. Michael the Archangel?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The price of everything

In Oscar Wilde's play Lady Windemere's Fan Lord Darlington describes a cynic as "a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Recently, our house was damaged by hurricane Irene, and we've been doing a lot of triage of the things we have accumulated over the years. This is not small task, as my wife and I are both pack rats. Still, there are things to get rid of. Some books that got wet, for instance, are easily replaceable. Other things, like family photos, I will spend time and money drying out and restoring. They may be worth less in terms of dollars, but could never be replaced. They are valuable.

Such is the irony of couples that abort children who may have a health problem. They know the price of the abortion, but not the value of the child they discard. "We can always have another one" is frequently heard, but can they replace that child?

There are 23 pairs of chromosomes in a human cell. One couple could have 70,368,744,177,664 (70 trillion) children without repeating the child they conceived. And that's just genetically. There will never be another point in their lives like this. That child is literally irreplaceable.

Even more than just physically, that child is a human being, made in the image of God (and its parents). When we decide to "throw out" a human being we are demonstrating that that a human life, even the life of our own child, is worth less to us than the car we repair, the dog we take to the vet, or even the flowers in our scrapbook.

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” Using Wilde's definition of a cynic, Mother Teresa was a great optimist.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A screw loose

WASHINGTON, DC - Whether you're building a deck on your house or buying a new refrigerator, be prepared for big changes in the way they are constructed. In an unprecedented move lawmakers today introduced legislation to eliminate the phillips-head screw from all products sold in the USA. Because of the unique design of the screw, when the screw head is viewed face-on it appears to form a cross. In fact, the likeness is so striking that many call the fastener a "cross-head" screw.

Some have never noticed the design that adorns almost all the screws used in modern appliances and electronic devices.

Others say the design clearly resembles a Christian cross.

The photo above, taken of an actual phillips-head screw, appears to have this characteristic.

A. C. Lu, Chairman of the board of the National Screw Design University, or Screw U., told The Washington Free Explorer during a telephone interview that the cross design was not part of the original plans, and that the design was to have been what could be described as a plus sign.

"As soon as we found out there were issues we got a copy of the plan design and talked to the designer about it, it was not the intent of the plan at all."

Lu added, "I appreciate the concern that was brought up and it does look that way and we need to be careful about that process of what we're doing. It's a legitimate concern, and it was not the intended design."

If the proposed law goes into effect, all mechanical designs in the US will have to change the alleged cross designs sometime in the spring at no cost to consumers, Lu said.

But some say, what's the big deal?

"As far as I'm concerned this country was brought about on Christian principles and I love that," said Mr. A. Bishop.

"This country's founding principles require separation of church and state," countered Mr. A. Theist. "This is an offensive product that must be removed from the market to protect our citizens."

[N.B. My inspiration for this was The TPS Elementary School cross indcident plus the 9-11 "cross" lawsuit, plus the Mohave desert cross lawsuit, plus the Mount Soledad cross lawsuit, plus Utah's American Atheists v. Duncan, plus too many others to list.]

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten years later

Pictured above is Frigate FFG 29 the USS Steven W. Groves. It is leaving New York harbor on a shakedown cruise of the Mk92 FCS. This picture was taken in the 1980s and hung in my parents' kitchen for years. It now hangs in my house. I remember looking at it soon after the 9-11 attacks ten years ago, and thinking of the brave Americans, both first responders and military, who have given and still give their lives to keep ours safe. Please join me in prayers for them on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy,
who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity
and the great commandment of love for one another.
Send down your blessings on these your servants,
who so generously devote themselves to helping others,
and protect them always as they work to protect us all.
Grant them courage when they are afraid,
wisdom when they must make quick decisions,
strength when they are weary,
and compassion in all their work.
When they are called to aid both friend and stranger,
let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
O Prince of peace, we humbly ask your protection for all our men and women in military service. Give them unflinching courage to defend with honor, dignity and devotion, the rights of all who are imperiled by injustice and evil. Be their rock, their shield, and their stronghold and let them draw their strength from you.

For you are God, for ever and ever. Amen

Monday, September 5, 2011

Good night Irene

OK, the "storm of the century" has passed (but hey, the century is young). Perhaps some bloggers have come out of the experience with witty life lessons learned that they can impart to all their many readers. I'm just tired. It's been a long and short week. I have no deep thoughts, just an account of where I've been for the past 168 hours or so.

Saturday we were supposed to drive to my sister's for my niece's daughter's first birthday party. However, we canceled the trip due to the impending storm. Now, it may be coincidence, but the last time we were panning to go out there, there was a blizzard. Our track record is not good.

Sunday I was supposed to lector, and we were supposed to cook Sunday dinner for a group of homeless people who were staying at our church for the week. Saturday evening we went to mass just in case, and it was a good thing, because the parish announced that all Sunday masses would be canceled and the homeless people were staying at the shelter they were at until Monday.

We always have non-perishable food in the house, even if it means living on tuna and chunky soup for days, and since we camp with out scout troop a lot we have plenty of flashlights and batteries on hand.

We had already stocked up on drinking water (one gallon/person/day, and we had twelve gallons, which is a three day supply for the four of us). Since we have a well, no power means no water. Period. Now, there are clear guidelines for how much drinking water to have on hand, but none about flushing. I was on my own. They say fill up a bathtub, but our bathtub drain leaks, and while it's OK for a 1/2 hour bath it will not hold water for days. I filled some five gallon pails and rubbermaid containers with about 45 gallons of flushing water, which I estimated was 15 flushes, or a four day supply if we each flushed once/day.

Of course all this was a lark, since we didn't really expect to lose power for that long. In fact, I have a generator, but we've only had to use it once, when we were without power for two days. Usually a power outage is a matter of a couple of hours, and we can ride that out. We were watching storm coverage on TV, and actually enjoying being in our cozy house while the wind whistled and the rain pelted outside.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of Iron Man danced in their heads. [Yes, we had stayed up and watched Iron Man as our family movie™.] And dear wife in her slippers and I went to creep, up to our room for a long summer's sleep. When out in the yard came a FLASH! and a BOOM! The lights were all gone and the night filled the room!

OK, enough poetry. The kitchen was filled with the smell of burning plastic insulation. We grabbed flashlights and went searching about the house for something that might be on fire. Yes, wisdom might say "get out" rather than "search about", but unless the house is actually aflame it's probably safer to be inside than outside in the hurricane. We shut off the main breaker, in case there was some short that might be causing the burning smell.

After we issued the "all clear" the kids had to immediately go to the bathroom, and while they remembered not to flush they washed their hands (amazing!), using the last of the pressurized house water. Nobody wanted to go to sleep, or even up ti their rooms. I took my flashlight up to find the first book I could lay my hands on that might be entertaining, and came down with "The Little World of Don Camillo".

For those who've never heard of him, Don Camillo is a fictional priest in Italy, who regularly has conversations with Christ, usually involving his nemesis, the mayor and head of the communist party, Peppone. Each short story has a lesson, about friendship and love and redemption. The stories are beautifully simple and entertaining. If you want to hear some of them, Fr. Z. has a series of podcasts in which he reads the stories.

After a few Don Camillo stories we all slept in the living room. Sunday was a bit of a disaster. Fortunately, the storm petered out early. I woke to light rain and strong gusty winds and looked out upon the lake that used to be my back yard. I walked out the garage into the stream that used to be my driveway and surveyed the place where wires used to go from my house to the pole. They were laying on the front yard. Not good. My next door neighbor had power and was frantically pumping water out of my basement. Their basement often floods. Ours never, but I went down to check anyway. Splash! An inch or so of water greeted my foot.

I started the generator, ran an extension cord down stairs and the rest of the day was a blur of shop-vacuuming water, carrying it up and out in buckets, and moving stuff that might be damaged by the water. That was a big task. There are nine book cases that all had to have bottom shelves emptied. Some of these are things that can't be replaced, like my complete set of Telescope Making Magazine, which has been out of print for many years, but is a gold mine for anyone in the hobby. The basement became a scene of chaos in the dark, punctuated by unusual commands like of "put the interferometer next to the tents, on top of the catechism" and "Don't let the cerium oxide get wet." Dinner was steaks on the grill - our goal was to eat the most expensive food before it went bad.

Monday very little got done. The power company visited us twice; once to verify that the wires on the front lawn were not "live" and once to cut up the tree that was blocking the road (and access to the power lines). Both crews assured us the power would be fixed "soon". On the phone they told us they would be there "as soon as possible". AT&T came and put up a new phone line to the house (yay). Verizon would not talk to us until we had commercial power restored. Water was still coming in the basement, so there was more vacuuming, but it wasn't as bad and didn't require continuous vacuuming like Sunday.

We had planned a nice Sunday meal for the people at church, and I had purchased $100 worth of rib roast. Rather than watch it rot in the fridge we went down to cook in the church kitchen (our oven is electric). I ran out and bought an extra 100 feet of hose and an adapter to connect our neighbor's garden hose to ours to run water into our house. This was important because we were already low on flushing water. It seems 3 gallons is not enough to effectively flush a toilet that has not been flushed all day.

We quickly discovered that the neighbor's untreated well water is incredibly rusty! The toilets looked like someone had bled into them, but at least they flushed! Of course the generator broke, which involved a trip to the hardware store and some tinkering.

Tuesday was more water vacuuming. We borrowed a carpet cleaner from a neighbor, which was much more effective than the shop vac, but still it was a losing battle. We lost the carpet. In the evening, the power company came with two trucks and said they were going to fix our power, but they had to turn off the power to do it. They drove off and did so, and the all the neighbors were annoyed. An hour later the neighbors' power came back on, and the trucks never came back.

Another neighbor suggested that maybe we needed to call an electrician. We did, on Wednesday, and found out that unlike what we had been told by the power company on the phone, and by their work crews, the power company does not fix the stuff "on the house" and it needs to be replaced and inspected before they will fix it. Thursday the electrician came and replaced the stuff, and also installed a switch so we could run more stuff off the generator. We had lights and a well pump again!

The basement was still wet, and smelled horrible. Coincidentally, the dehumidifier bucket didn't seem to be filling. More disassembly and tinkering, and it was determined that it could not be fixed. The local home center store was out of them.

Friday the inspector came. The garbage truck came and picked up the neighbor's carpet but not ours. The garbage company told us they don't pick that stuff up and it will cost $80 to have them do it. The neighbor told us they will pick up anything he puts out because he tips them well at Christmas, and sure enough they picked up our carpet when we put it with the his garbage.

We found a Home Depot that had a truckload of dehumidifiers, and even though I don't like to patronize them we had to buy one. Saturday evening the power company shows up with three trucks, and put the wires back up. The power cable now crosses the phone cable (and actually lifts up the phone cable, which makes me worry they will rub together and short something out some day), but we had power (yay). We called Verizon.

Sunday morning Verizon shows up just as we're going to 11 AM mass (where I am lectoring and my son is serving). We went while the rest of family stayed home and went to Sunday evening mass. At last we had cable and internet (yay).

My youngest said "when the tree fell I was in the middle of praying that nothing bad would happen to our family." "Nothing bad did happen," I replied, and I meant it. Despite the annoyances, nobody was hurt, and we actually became closer to each other and our neighbors as a result. I'm not saying I want to go through it again, but in retrospect we got what we needed, even if it wasn't what we wanted.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chalk one up...

What activity requires almost no money and minimal time commitment yet saves lives and impacts a whole school campus?


Students for Life of America is promoting National Pro-Life Chalk Day! Sounds kind of silly at first, but if you think about it, it is a good, non-confrontational way to raise awareness about pro-life issues. Follow the link and chalk it out (sorry).

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's another word for thesaurus?

Mark Twain once said "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

I was reading this post by Jeff Miller about the inherent conflicts of parents using IVF. Several interesting posts have been generated by the New York Times article on "half abortions." I know, there's a lot of links there, but they are all worth the read.

But since I've been reading "Dehumanizing the Vulnerable" I've noticed something. The culture of death is gradually dehumanizing unborn children (even more than they already have) by controlling the language we use to talk about them. Even staunch pro-lifers are bullied, by a desire to appear to be "accurate" and "factual" to pro-aborts, into using medical terms like:
  • Zygote noun \ˈzī-ˌgōt\ : a cell formed by the union of two gametes; broadly : the developing individual produced from such a cell
  • Embryo noun \ˈem-brē-ˌō\
    1. archaic : a vertebrate at any stage of development prior to birth or hatching
    2. : an animal in the early stages of growth and differentiation that are characterized by cleavage, the laying down of fundamental tissues, and the formation of primitive organs and organ systems; especially : the developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after conception
  • Fetus noun \ˈfē-təs\ : an unborn or unhatched vertebrate especially after attaining the basic structural plan of its kind; specifically : a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth
These are terms which, while scientifically accurate, server to obfuscate the humanity of the unborn. I propose we should start calling these people what they are - our children.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Minty Fresh

We took the kids to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia last week. If you have kids, this is not a good place to take them. The mint is pretty well automated, and there's pretty much nothing for them to see. There is a self-guided tour that takes you past many many many many coins behind glass with plagues under them. There is nothing interactive. Even the gift shop was boring, with cheesy giant rubber coins and key chains containing a "lucky" penny.

There were a number of special medals made to honor various public figures. They generally had a likeness of the person on the obverse side (a term I learned at the mint) and some quote or something about the person on the reverse side. One of the medals features Jackie Robinson and featured this quote by him
"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
Meaning no disrespect to Jackie Robinson or the designer of the medal, but that's about the worst quote I saw at the mint. While it sounds reasonable and even noble (who doesn't think it's worthwhile to touch other lives?), it's totally wrong.

You see, every life is important. Adolph Hitler had an impact on almost every life in the world in the last century. And yet the life of a child who dies in the womb (and thus only has impact on his parents) is equally important.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Fall 2011 40 Days for Life starts Sept 28

...but the work continues even today. A message from Frank, one of our local pro-life leaders and captain of our team from 40 Days for Life:
Saturday is always one of the busiest days at the Toms River abortion clinic.

This day, August 13, started off with several of the women entering the clinic accepting literature and speaking with the Sidewalk Counselors.

A mother and her two young daughters arrived. They stopped their vehicle in the street and spoke with a Sidewalk Counselor. The mother and one daughter were BOTH pregnant. The daughter was there to abort her baby, the mother was keeping hers and did not want the daughter to have an abortion.

They parked, got out of their vehicle, continued to dialogue and were joined by one Prayer Warrior. The daughter said that she and her Mother could not both have babies at this time. She decided that she would give up hers. They spoke about other options, local assistance and even adoption. The young girl was determined to have this procedure.

They said they were Catholic, they had Rosary beads hanging from the car mirror. They pregnant daughter was even wearing a Scapular around her neck. They prayed together and our Sidewalk Counselor got on his knees to pray that she would not do this to herself and her baby.

They said thank you but entered the clinic. Outside a group of Prayer Warriors were ready to begin the Rosary. They were told about the family that just entered the clinic, and prayed for all mothers, but specifically for this young girl who was inside the clinic. A prayer intention was clearly expressed that the Holy Spirit would touch this girls heart, give her the vision to see the alternatives to abortion, give her the strength to say YES to God and keep her baby.

About 30 minutes later, the abortionist arrived. Although women have found the courage to change their mind after his arrival, it was becoming less likely that this mother was coming out.

Prayers continued.

As women who had this horrible procedure done started to exit the clinic, hope was lost that our prayers would be answered.

The group praying outside the clinic started to disburse. Only a few were left when the pregnant mother of the young girl came out. She was smiling. Both her daughters followed her out. They went straight to the person they prayed with before going in and announced that they didn't have the abortion. She just couldn't do it. They knew we were praying outside, and they prayed inside, they talked, they discerned, they struggled; this young mother was waiting for the abortionist and in that time was touched by the HOLY SPIRIT and said NO TO ABORTION and YES TO GOD'S GIFT OF A NEW CHILD.

They were filled with joy (AND SO WERE WE !) They exchanged hugs, and took literature about local assistance.

They drove off, waving and smiling.


DO NOT LISTEN TO THE ENEMY WHO TELLS YOU THAT OUR PRAYERS AND PRESENCE DO NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE because it made a difference today. Our prayers were heard. "So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.'" John 11:41-42

DO NOT LISTEN TO THOSE WHO SAY WE SHOULD NOT REACH OUT TO THE MOTHERS ENTERING THE CLINIC, because reaching out this day opened a mother's heart to the power and love of God. "Rescue those who are being dragged to death, and from those tottering to execution withdraw not. " - Proverbs 24:11

DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED BY THE ENEMY'S NEGATIVE COMMENTS, but "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

DO NOT BE DISTRACTED BY THE ENEMY WHO PULLS YOU AWAY FROM PRAYER. "So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." James 4:7-8

THERE IS NO GREATER WORK TO BE DONE and THERE IS NO CHOICE BUT TO JOIN THIS SPIRITUAL BATTLE. “You must feel the full urgency of the task. Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life.” - Blessed Pope John Paul II

Please join us in this fall's 40 Days for Life. You could save a life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Rose

The Dred Scott decision in 1857 declared that blacks were not "sovereign people" and "are not included and were never intended to be included in the word 'citizen' in the Constitution." In 1936 the Reichsgericht (the German equivalent of the Supreme Court) said that Jews were "not persons in the legal sense". In March of 1938 Jewish congregations were officially deprived of legal protection by law. By 1942 Jews were referred to as "transport material" or "pieces" of "material". In 1973, Roe v. Wade declared that the word "person" does not include unborn humans, and huge numbers of unborn children lost any hope of legal protection of their lives. In 1974 patients at the Sunny Hill Convalescent Center were referred to as "work units". These changes in language and legal definitions played a large role in dehumanizing their subjects, and made it possible to mistreat and even kill them in large numbers.

These facts and more come from a disturbing scary book, "Dehumanizing the Vulnerable". Scary because of the dark side of human history exposed. Scary because it exposes how the meanings of words, and the words we use can kill. Disturbng because it relates to what's going on in U.S. Heath Care legislation.

The dictionary defines "contraception" as "the intentional prevention of conception by artificial or natural means." In fact the word's originated in 1886 from Latin contra (meaning against) + ending from conception. However, over the past few years modern medical dictionaries have altered the definition to "(birth control) prevents pregnancy by interfering with the normal process of ovulation, fertilization, and implantation."

Why has this been altered? Note that with the new definition, and abortifacient can be called a "contraceptive". What does that have to do with the new health care legislation? Because the administration that claims that no tax payer dollars are funding abortions is going to require taxpayer dollars be used to pay for contraceptives (which cause abortions). What's perhaps as bad, women who use these "contraceptives" will not even realize that they are undergoing abortions.

As reported in this news story:
"All women do use contraception at some point in their lives, and we think it should be available to them as a preventive health service," said Judy Waxman, vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women's Law Center.
I beg to differ. Not all women use contraception, and even if they did, why does this justify funding it 100%? Note that all people (men and women) require vitamins as a preventative health service, but the health care bill does not fund vitamins 100% (or at all). All people require exercise, but the health care bill does not fund gym memberships 100% (or at all).

So what then is the real justification? Profits for big pharma. Profits from the death of humans whose lives have been whittled away by words.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Earth's gravity pulls my rock down at 9.8 m/s2 but your rock may fall at a different rate. My 2 + 2 = 6. The North won the civil war, if you believe it. Rape is wrong, for me, but may be not for you. Who knows if the Holocaust happened? Nobody. Abortion is right for you if you think it is. Water is necessary for some people to live. The Earth goes around the sun in my neighborhood. A pound is 16 ounces when I buy goods, but when I sell them I use an 8 ounce pound to charge customers.

Why would anybody agree with any one of those statements? "Well, because one of those is true," you might reply, and I can guess which statement that would be. But why do you think it is true? In no area of human knowledge do we accept that the rules that govern the universe are subject to personal opinion. Why do you think the morality of an act is subject to your personal whim?

American society (and I suspect others) drill into our heads constantly that there is no such thing as right and wrong, that moral knowledge is not knowledge, that right and wrong are just opinions. Yet, they expect us to follow laws. Why? If rape is right for me, why can't I do it? You can't say because it is wrong, because there is no right or wrong, remember? Oh, because it hurts someone, you say? But so does abortion. And now we're back where we started.

People who claim that morality is relative really mean that only the things that they want might want license to do are relative, and other things are. They will find it OK to restrict what we eat, because eating poorly would cause health problems down the line, but encourage homosexual activity that will cause health problems down the line.

If someone said that the weight of a pound was different for different people in order to make more money selling you stuff you'd stop them pretty quickly. Why should you accept that someone can do something else that's objectively wrong? The classic objection is that different people have different ideas about what's right and wrong? That's true, but different people also have different ideas about where Colorado is on a US map. Their ideas are mistakes or ignorance, and are not accepted as truth. People who believe in moral relativism are the modern day equivalent of flat earthers.

So, who's idea of right and wrong is the "right" one? For that we have to accept morality as a real branch of knowledge based on postulates and logic, just like mathematics. It is a real branch of knowledge, and the moral order as defined by the Catholic Church is based on the natural law - the order of things in the universe. It is not some arbitrary thing that dropped from the sky. For instance. the moral law tells us that killing an innocent human being is wrong. That is a premise. Science tells us that an embryo (or fetus) is a human being. Abortion kills an embryo (or fetus). Therefore abortion is wrong.

To contradict the statement "abortion is wrong" you have to either argue that abortion doesn't kill (it does), a human embryo is not alive (it is), a human embryo belongs to another species (it doesn't), an embryo is not innocent (which implies evil intent) or that it is OK to kill innocent human beings. If you want to disagree with the premise that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings, then we can talk, but let's at least be honest and admit that the statement was properly reasoned from the premise and that the premise is a reasonable one.

Sorry if this post seems to ramble a bit - I've had a day of people arguing vociferously about morality being baseless, irrelevant and arbitrary, and so I'm taking it out on you, dear reader.