Archived Posts June 2005 - Page 7 of 8 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, June 8, 2005

The Roundtable on Religion & Social Policy interviewed Acton’s Karen Woods, director of the Center for Effective Compassion (CEC) this week. Woods spoke about the work of the CEC, including the Samaritan Award, and also gave her perspective on the federal Faith-Based and Community Initiative.

She says in part,

With welfare reform in ’96, and certainly the waivers that preceded that in certain states, there was a change in the way that we looked at social services. Suddenly, work was valued, not just in the sense of an economic value, but a personal value. You’re not viewed by the system as saying, “Well, we have to help you because you can’t help yourself,” but saying, “Guess what? There are a lot of things you could do for yourself and let’s focus on that.”

We’ve got all these people in the system — three and four generations of people who’ve been on entitlement systems that don’t know how to work. The parallel issue with that is that you have three or four generations of people who do not know how to help — and many of them sitting in church pews and in religious congregations across the United States.

Because, for three and four generations, the first line of defense was called social services, as opposed to saying, “I watched my mother help the next door neighbor when she had problems and when she was ill or couldn’t take care of her kids (or) I watched my dad help a man in our church who’d lost his job, and helped him with his job skills and get another job.” That used to be an assumed role of Christian charity.

Blog author: abradley
posted by on Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Google recently surpassed Time Warner as the world’s top media stock. Google provides services to about 19 million users per day. People go to Google to find things, participate in discussions via online forums, to check and send email, driving directions, and a host of other services. That is a lot of information about a lot of people…where does it all go?

Apparently, Google keeps it all! What is the cost of this data collection? How much of our own privacy are we willing to give up for "better services"? Amid reports of identity theft and lost personal data, important questions like these arise.

The "World Wide Web" is only about 16 years old (according to the W3C) and should still be considered in its infancy. A lot has changed in those 16 years in terms of capability, usage, and the general worldview developed by the people who use the Internet. In terms of a human life, a 16 year-old is considered the epitome of identity crisis and immaturity.

Nevertheless, the Internet has become a force that shapes us, rather than an entity that we control. How willing we are to open our entire lives to what most of us consider an empty void? We tend to assume that anything about us is lost in a massive haystack of information, not traceable to us. We also forget that with the 16 years of development in the Internet, every needle with our name on it within that massive haystack has a string attached and is found quite easily.

With the upcoming boom of RFID tags, national identification cards, biotechnology, DNA profiling and analysis technology, rampant virus and identity theft techniques, and, most importantly, changing social structure and community development, our own identity should be closely guarded. We need to think a little harder about how much of our lives we should give to the Internet, and about how much we should take from the Internet. The Internet is a tool, and we need to use it in that regard, not as the only source of entertainment, social interaction, and enjoyment in life.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Power corrupts…and upsets babies.

Just in case anyone missed (or didn’t miss) my posting last week, I was on vacation following the birth of my first child, a son, on May 30 (Memorial Day).

Owen Flynn Ballor
9 lbs., 2 oz.
20.5 inches
5/30/05 10:10 pm

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Making poverty history?

Much has been written in recent weeks about Live 8, a series of concerts that will take place on July 6 in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia. The name refers not only to the original Live Aid concerts that took place in 1985, but is also a reference to the G8 meetings that will be taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland at the same time as the concerts. G8 organizers are planning for massive protests which have been urged on by concert organizer Sir Bob Geldof, who has called for one million people to show up in Edinburgh to call for increases in aid and trade reform for Africa.

Geldof’s goals are threefold: “By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.”

Yesterday, Geldof participated in a conference call with a number of bloggers spanning the political spectrum, all of whom came away impressed with his knowledge of and passion for the issue of African poverty. Most interesting to those of us concerned with free markets is the fact that Geldof is placing a heavy emphasis on trade as a potential solution to Africa’s problems.

As I noted in an earlier post, there is good reason to be skeptical of claims that increased government-to-government aid is the cure for what ails Africa, and Live 8, like many other well-intentioned efforts, suffers from too much emphasis on that same old "solution" that hasn’t worked in the past. But in the sense that Live 8 introduces a free-trade element into an advocacy mix that has, in the past, been totally leftist in outlook, it may be an event worth monitoring.

More blog reaction at Captain’s Quarters and The Indepundit.
(more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, June 7, 2005

In the latest issue of the New York Times Magazine, the article “Monkey Business,” by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt examines economist Keith Chen’s research with capuchin monkeys and money.

Here’s another case of science, in this case economics, being used to “prove” the continuity between (and therefore equivalency of) humans and animals. The implicit message is that we are really not all that different from our fellow creatures, nor that special. This seems almost absurd, but it’s true.

For example, the article concludes:

But these facts remain: When taught to use money, a group of capuchin monkeys responded quite rationally to simple incentives; responded irrationally to risky gambles; failed to save; stole when they could; used money for food and, on occasion, sex. In other words, they behaved a good bit like the creature that most of Chen’s more traditional colleagues study: Homo sapiens.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Have the authors of the article forgotten who taught whom how to use money? Did the capuchin monkey teach Dr. Chen to use money? Or was it the other way around?

Perhaps this research shows in part the natural intelligence of some created creatures. It might also show human ingenuity…we are such good teachers that we can even make monkeys use money. The research probably does a little bit of both.

What it does not do, however, is show that humans and monkeys are really just the same. Here’s some more evidence that this is the motivation for many scientists. David P. Barash, a psychologist at the University of Washington, favors the creation of genetic chimeras because it will “wake up Homo sapiens to its glorious connection to the rest of life, whatever rubs our species-wide nose in the simple, yet sublime universal password proclaimed in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’: ‘We be of one blood, thee and I.’”

Barash attacks what he terms “religious fundamentalism” in the form of intelligent design. This fundamentalism “draws the line at the emergence of human beings from other ‘lower’ life forms. It is a line that exists only in the minds of those who proclaim that the human species, unlike all others, possesses a spark of the divine and must have been specially created by god. It is a thin and, indeed, indefensible line, but one that generates a consequential conclusion: that we stand outside nature.”

Barash believes that proof of material continuity with animals will prove that humans are not special or different, and that anyone who believes otherwise is a “fundamentalist.” Of course, the special creation of human beings in the image of God is not a tenet of Christian fundamentalism, but rather a hallmark of traditional orthodox and biblical Christianity. Barash further sets up a straw man, as if any orthodox or traditional Christian would deny the material continuity between humans and the rest of creation.

This material continuity is attested to numerous times in Scripture. For example, in the book of Genesis, God creates Adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), and part of the curse following the Fall into sin is physical death, “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19 NIV).

This underscores the doctrine of the Incarnation and its massive importance in Christian theology, in which the second person of the Trinity, the Word, “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 3:14 NIV).

To acknowledge the material continuity between humans and the rest of creation does nothing to deny the special place of human beings in creation. To assert that there is a non-material component to the human person, the soul or spirit, does not mean that “we stand outside nature,” or that we deny the physical and material makeup of the human person. Indeed, Christian anthropology embraces a comprehensive view of the human person, body and soul.

Scientists can continue to “prove” that human beings share materiality with the rest of creation, and even that some other creatures possess shards of intelligence. Here science will get no disagreement from Christianity.

But the leap from relation or a measure of continuity to equivalency is one that simply cannot be made. As my uncle once scoffed, “A monkey takes a stick, shoves it in a hole to get some ants, and all of sudden it’s a tool-maker.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, June 7, 2005
‘God Makes No Mistakes’

You may not know it, but Loretta Lynn is a pretty good theologian. She’s so good, in fact, that some contemporary theologians, open theists like Clark Pinnock, for example, could take some lessons in orthodoxy.

The lyrics to a song off her most recent record, Van Lear Rose, that illustrates her high view of God. Here are the words to “God Makes No Mistakes”:

Why, I’ve heard people say
Why is this tree bent
Why they don’t have God enough to know
That’s the way that it was meant
why is this little baby born
all twisted and out of shape
We’re not to question what he does
God makes no mistakes

Why I’ve heard people say
Why is my child blind
Why is that old drunk still livin
When a daddy like mine is dyin
our blessed father gives us life
has the power to take it away
There’s no reason for what he does
God makes no mistakes

Why I’ve heard people say
God cannot be alive
And all the things people say
Has to be a lie
When they’re down and out
And they need a hand
And their very souls at stake
If they’ll call on him and just believe
God makes no mistakes

Remind you of anything from the Bible? How about Job chapter 42:1-6 and its surrounding context (NIV):

Then Job replied to the LORD:

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Colson speaks at Calvin Seminary’s Spring Banquet.

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, spoke at Calvin Theological Seminary’s Spring Banquet, endorsing the school’s Dutch neo-Calvinist heritage. “Calvin Theological Seminary is an underappreciated asset in the evangelical world. There’s nothing the evangelical world needs more than a bracing dose of Kuyperian theology,” he said.

The speech also marked the announcement of the establishment of the Charles W. Colson Presidential Chair at the seminary. Thanks to a major gift from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the chair will fund the costs of the president’s position and office till 2015.

The Calvin Seminary press page has many resources, including an audio broadcast of Colson’s speech, pictures, and related articles.

Colson’s keynote address at the 1998 Abraham Kuyper/Leo XIII conference at Calvin College is available, along with the other papers presented at the conference, in the Spring 2002 issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, “How Now Shall We Live?”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, June 6, 2005

The AP passes along this story about the use of blogs by corporations and executives. Some of the good advice includes:

“Don’t go toward fake blogs. Don’t launch character blogs. Use a blog for what it’s for, transparency,” said Steve Rubel, vice president of client services at CooperKatz & Co., a New York PR firm.

He and other PR professionals can rattle off blogs gone wrong — usually “fake blogs” that stir up the ire of bloggers by hiding the fact that they are really ad campaigns, such as one McDonald’s posted in advance of a Super Bowl campaign about a Lincoln-shaped french fry.

Blogs that smack of press releases won’t do the job, Rubel said. He tells clients to see what’s out there about their company or industry, then decide whether they want to engage bloggers or even start their own blogs.

The story lists some corporate blogs, including Boeing and Sun Microsystems. I personally have found the Google blog to be very informative and useful. Google uses its blog to keep interested parties abreast of new and upcoming software programs and advances.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, June 6, 2005

Edward Southerland wonders, “Does the job description for school administrators require that you leave your common sense at home when you go to work?”

One of the reasons he asks the question:

In Tennessee, the student giving the valedictory speech started with a joke. “You have given us the minimum required attention span to master any station at any McDonald’s anywhere.” The next line was “Of course, I’m only kidding. Eagleville is a fine institution of higher learning with a superb facility and staff.” Nobody heard the next line. Before the speaker got to it, the principal had cut off the microphone and booted him off the stage. Now they won’t give him his diploma.

In the meantime the student has been given his diploma, but this is just one of the many curious tales contained in Southerland’s column.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, June 6, 2005

In this month’s issue of Esquire, Ken Kurson extols the virtues of Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s third largest pharmaceutical company. “A Drugmaker reborn” (subscription required) essentially describes why Kurson thinks Sanofi is a great investment, but between his praises of the company sits this tidbit:

And yet controlling costs is one of the things I like best about Sanofi. It’s why I believe in its strategy of growth through acquisition. And it’s why I think the merger with Aventis will be so effective.

There’s a small but chronically overperforming mutual-fund company called Mairs and Power. Based in Minnesota, it invests a disproportionate amount of its money in companies headquartered in its home state, like 3M. I once asked its founder how he maintained his excellent returns, especially when he was so overweighted in companies whose profits were dragged down by Minnesota’s high taxes. He explained that their high taxes were the exact reason he liked those companies: They had learned how to be lean enough to compete with their lower-taxed competitors, and that discipline carried over into every area of their business.

Sanofi has shown the same character, one of the unexpected benefits of socialism. By staring down France’s cuckoo labor situation and America’s tendency to sue everyone and spend itself silly on marketing, Sanofi has learned how to run a tight ship.

Kurson is essentially saying that companies that learn to thrive in situations adverse to economic success run more efficiently and compete better than companies that don’t face such difficulties. If necessity is the mother of invention, maybe efficiency is the key to economic survival.