Archived Posts May 2005 - Page 3 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Antimatter warp drives: “A long way off.”

LiveScience brings us their top 10 “ways to run the 21st century,” a review of possibilities for energy sources in the new millennium. Of the top 3, only nuclear power is currently feasible as a large-scale source of energy. Fuel cells are of huge interest right now, of course. But LiveScience’s love for sci-fi is evident in their #1 choice: antimatter.

“The problem with antimatter is that there is very little of it in the universe.”
Well, that’s one problem, for sure. But can we fix that?

“It can be produced in laboratories, but currently only in very tiny amounts, and at prohibitively high costs.”
Doesn’t sound promising.

“And even if the problem of production could be solved, there is still the knotty question of how to store something that has a tendency to annihilate itself on contact with ordinary matter, and also how to harness that energy once created.”
I can see how that would be problematic.

“NASA funds research into creating antimatter drives that could one day take humanity to the stars, but dreams of antimatter-powered starships as seen on Star Trek are still a long way off, all experts agree.”
So why again is this the #1 choice for your top 10 list?

I have only yet read an excerpt of Ron Sider’s new book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), but much of what he says concerning the church in America strikes me as true. This interview in the Dallas Morning News (free subscription required) gives some insights into Sider’s views. Whereas Jim Wallis gets most of the religious progressive press, Ron Sider strikes me as much more thoughtful, much more theologically acute, and much more intellectually nuanced.

In one sense, he has an honest scholarly curiousity and is willing to learn and change his views when appropriate. Sider’s most famous book is Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. In the 20th anniversary edition of the book, Sider makes many changes to his original thesis, and adds some economic sense to his prophetic rebuke. For example, in the revised edition, Sider positively cites the use of micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations.

Now whether or not I would agree with where Sider comes out, I think he’s authentically investigating the responsible life of faith. In the interview, Sider states that evangelicals “should have a more sophisticated view of politics. There’s no question God’s on the side of the poor, but that doesn’t tell you whether it’s a good thing to raise the minimum wage. You need to do a whole lot more homework first.”

In any case, Sider is at his strongest when focusing his critique at the church. In the interview, Sider says, “Evangelicals used to be almost twice as high as mainline churches, but they are fairly close today to the mainline denominations. In the richest nation in history, only nine percent of evangelicals tithe (meaning they give away 10 percent of their annual income).” In Scandal, Sider identifies the church in America with the church in Laodicea from Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV):

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

An excerpt:

The history of forming associations dedicated to serving others is as old as America, itself. From abolition societies and suffrage movements to immigrant aid groups and prison reform ministries, America’s social entrepreneurs have often been far ahead of our government in identifying and meeting the needs of our fellow countrymen. Because they are closer to the people they serve, our faith-based and community organizations deliver better results than government. And they have a human touch: When a person in need knocks on the door of a faith-based or community organization, he or she is welcomed as a brother or a sister.

No one understood this better than another 19th century visitor to America whose name is well known to Calvin College: Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was a Dutchman who would be elected his nation’s prime minister, and he knew all about the importance of associations because he founded so many of them — including two newspapers, a political party, and a university. Kuyper contrasted the humanizing influence of independent social institutions with the “mechanical character of government.” And in a famous speech right here in Grand Rapids, he urged Dutch immigrants to resist the temptation to retreat behind their own walls — he told them to go out into their adopted America and make a true difference as true Christian citizens.

–George W. Bush
2005 Commencement Address at Calvin College
Grand Rapids, MI
May 21, 2005

The Acton Institute lost a dear friend with the passing last week of Sr. Connie Driscoll, president of the Chicago-based St. Martin de Porres House of Hope, and a frequent lecturer at the Towards a Free and Virtuous Society conferences. Columnist Carol Marin of the Chicago Sun-Times described Sr. Connie as "the most unlikely nun I have ever seen: a black eye-patch-wearing, cigarillo smoking, Scotch-drinking sister. Though she had lost her left eye to a stroke, her good eye was glinty blue and fiercely focused on a mission that would guide the rest of her life and, along the way, rescue the lives of thousands of others."

Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, offered these words:

Sr. Connie, known and loved by an entire generation of Acton Institute seminar alumni, followed in a long line of disciples of Christ from the Good Samaritan in the first century, the nuns who invented hospitals in the Middle Ages, William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) in the 19th century and Mother Francis Cabrini and Mother Teresa in our own age: fearless in serving the vulnerable, trusting in God to provide for the needs, and selfless in their dedication. No one will suggest Connie Driscoll’s canonization – but she is, in many ways, already canonized in the hearts of those she served and who loved her. Her entrepreneurial spirit was a healing inspiration to those who knew her, and I count it an honor to have been her friend.

I pray the ancient prayer for her repose:

“May the Angels lead you into Paradise; may the Martyrs receive you at your coming, and take you to Jerusalem the holy city. May the choirs of the Angels receive you, and may you, with the once poor Lazarus, have rest everlasting.”

Blog author: mvandermaas
Monday, May 23, 2005

A repeat of this famous image on Mars? Not likely if NASA’s in charge.

I was born on the seventh anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk, which may or may not have something to do with my lifelong love of aviation. I have fond memories from my childhood of sitting in front of the television completely captivated by network news coverage of the launch of the Space Shuttle. Now, I’m not even certain that the 24-hour cable networks cover launches anymore. Sadly, for a shuttle mission to make front-page news these days, it has to end in tragedy. How times have changed.

But in a very central way, times have not changed. Do you find it odd that nearly 25 years after the first launch of the Shuttle, we are now awaiting the tentative return to space of that same, 1970’s era vehicle? Is it not strange that 36 years after setting foot on the surface of the moon, NASA is now satisfied with making occasional hops into low earth orbit in what amounts to a glorified pickup truck?

From First Things, June/July 2005, No. 154, p. 69

The Public Square: A Survey of Religion and Public Life
• Rome Diary, etc., Richard John Neuhaus

• Of the thousands of books that deserve a review, relatively few get reviewed here or elsewhere. Sometimes we plan a review but, for one reason or another, it doesn’t pan out. Happily, that can be partially remedied by borrowing, as I here borrow from Daniel J. Mahoney’s excellent review of Samuel Gregg’s On Ordered Liberty: A Treatise on the Free Society. Writing in the Journal of Markets & Morality, Mahoney notes: “On Ordered Liberty exposes the radical limitations of utilitarian thinking and shows that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the philosophy of academic liberalism. It also provides a much-needed alternative to libertarian dogmatism in all its forms. It shows that there is nothing authentically liberal about an approach that fails to distinguish between better and worse preferences and that refuses to acknowledge any rationally discernable distinction between the noble and the base. In truth, Gregg’s real target is not utilitarianism, as he declares, but rather the ‘contractualism’ that is at the heart of post-Hobbesian political thought. Social contract theorizing denies the naturalness of the political community and affirms that those authoritative institutions (family, church, and other intermediate institutions) that civilize and socialize human beings lack legitimacy because they limit the free choices of autonomous human beings. Defenders of the free society must finally choose between the contractualist and conventionalist denial of the Good and a more truthful and salutary concept of human freedom. They must choose between an older liberalism that freely acknowledged the dependence of modern freedom on premodem moral capital and a liberty that refuses to bow even before the requirements of Truth. It is to Samuel Gregg’s great credit that his book so thoughtfully clarifies this inescapable battle for the heart and soul of liberalism.”

From First Things, June/July 2005, No. 154, p. 68

The Public Square: A Survey of Religion and Public Life
• Rome Diary, etc., Richard John Neuhaus

• “Civic friendship.” What a beautiful idea, but in our rancorous political climate some might be excused for thinking it is a pipe dream. In an instructive little book published by the Acton Institute, Trial by Fury, by law professor (and FIRST THINGS contributor) Ronald Rychlak, applies the idea of civic friendship to tort reform. Here is how a tort system that encourages
accepting responsibility in the context of community relations ought to work: “Those who have been harmed know that the legal system will guarantee that they are compensated, and those who have committed the harm know that society ultimately will not let them avoid responsibility. Above all those without genuine claims will know that neither will the legal system permit their compensation nor will society condone their immorality. This knowledge encourages potential litigants to resolve disputes justly and privately. The perceived superiority of courtroom justice over personal interaction (civic friendship) is neither part of Christian social thought, nor historically corroborated, and it is very harmful to the community and to justice itself. As the tort law system evolved over the past several decades, however, it has moved away from practices that promote community relations. Courts lowered barriers to litigation, dismantled immunities, lessened causation requirements, and increased monetary awards. These developments have transformed the legal landscape and the message that the tort system carries.” Rychlak thinks tort reform is on the way and proposes some directions: “Effective tort reform, therefore, must return the system to one based on fault and causation, that holds responsible those who caused the damage, makes the injured whole, and does not impose upon the innocent. This will require careful examination of the current incentives that exist to the filing of lawsuits, especially class action lawsuits. Among the first matters to be considered would be the restoration of some form of immunities to entities that are today held responsible for actions that are outside of their scope of responsibilities. At the very least, the concept of awarding punitive damages against charities and governmental agencies must be revisited. Judges and juries also need to have more structured guidance regarding punitive damages in all cases. A loser pays system for attorney fees would also go a long way toward easing the fear currently felt by so many individuals and entities in the society.” Civic friendship. An idea that is not only beautiful but, if we have the will and the wit for it, maybe possible.