Blog author: dwbosch
posted by on Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What a perfectly optimistic way to begin the new year, via Hampton Univeristy Professor Cuker in Dailypress.com:

Jesus shared the earth with no more than 400 million other souls, Thomas Jefferson with about 1 billion contemporaries, and at projected population growth rates, our children will live with 9 billion others by mid-century. Such rapid population growth can not go on endlessly. Humans, like all other species, can only populate up to the carrying capacity of the environment. Carrying capacity is set by availability of resources (food, water, places to live) and sometimes by the build-up of toxic metabolic wastes. However, as populations approach their carrying capacity, growth often slows as a consequence of increased mortality and lower birth rates due to disease, competition and malnutrition. And for humans we can add the scourge of wars fought for controlling limited resources.

Our children will live in a much better world if human population growth is checked by the rational decision to reduce family size, rather than by famine, epidemics and war. [snip]

When contemplating ways to reduce your carbon footprint, be sure to include contraception on the list along with fluorescent light bulbs and a hybrid car.

Support candidates for public office who embrace family planning and the environment. Regulate the number of your own children. To leave a better world for those you create, vote wisely, conserve and love thoughtfully.

Lots of interesting comments below the article. My two cents:

$0.01 = Those advocating population control are never the first to volunteer to leave the planet.

$0.01 = Since 2004, US per-capita growth is neutral (2.0 kids). All our growth, as in much of the industrialized world, is by immigration. US population is a small fraction of world population growth.

Oh, and "Love thoughtfully" in the same commentary as a plea for population control? That’s just fascinating. At least he admits there was a Jesus.

[Don's other habitat is evangelicalecologist.com]

The University Bookman, a publication of the Russell Kirk Center, reviews Dr. Samuel Gregg’s The Commercial Society: Foundations and Challenges in a Global Age in its Fall 2007 issue. Actually, the Bookman reviewed it twice.

Reviewer Robert Heineman, a professor of political science at Alfred University in New York, described the book as an “exceptionally well written volume” that should be read by anyone concerned about human freedom and progress.

Heineman has this to say about Gregg’s discussion of democracy in the book:

As he so aptly notes, in a democracy, a majority is considered authoritative; whereas, this is definitely not the case in commercial enterprises. Moreover, in democratic politics, the ability to exercise self-restraint is far more difficult than it is in the business world. Interests are continually importuning their representatives for more largesse or other benefits, usually at the expense of commercial enterprises. The trend, then, is inherently toward bigger, more restrictive government, perhaps even arbitrary government. As Gregg shows, Wilhelm Roepke argued persuasively that the expanded welfare state contains disincentives for the kind of behavior—self-discipline, hard work, saving—that is important to commercial activity.

Thomas E. Woods Jr., author of The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, had this to say about The Commercial Society:

Thankfully for Gregg he has no plans to run for political office, for his chapter on democracy would surely be waved menacingly before the public at every opportunity. As with the rest of his arguments he has much more to say than we can properly analyze here, but he follows F. A. Hayek, who once noted that “unlimited democracy is bound to become egalitarian.” “Democracy,” Gregg writes, “tends to encourage a fixation with creating total equality because it requires everyone to relate to each other through the medium of democratic equality and encourages us first to ignore and then to dislike and seek to reduce all the differences that tend to contradict this equality, particularly wealth disparities.” (H. L. Mencken was more biting: government, he said, is “a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.”)

Gregg, director of research at Acton, also contributed an article to the current issue of the Bookman. In “Tocqueville as Économiste,” Gregg looks at a new work by French scholars Jean-Louis Benoît and Éric Keslassy who have collected some of the economic writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, the great commentator on American democracy. In the review, he writes:

Tocqueville’s writings about how to address poverty quickly reveal him to be no radical libertarian. The state, he always believed, had responsibilities in this area. At the same time, Tocqueville was deeply conscious of the limited effectiveness of state action in this area, not to mention the unintended consequences of many interventionist policies about which economists are skilled at reminding those who see state action as the universal elixir to all social problems.

The Commercial Society is available for online purchase from the Acton Institute Book Shoppe.

The Journal of Markets & Morality is one of eight journals that has been selected for indexing in the seminally important ATLA Religion Database in 2007. The American Theological Library Association (ATLA) is a professional association of theological libraries and librarians, with almost 300 institutional and 600 individual members.

From the ATLA’s website: “The ATLA Religion Database (ATLA RDB) currently indexes more than 500 journal titles and approximately 250 polygraphs each year, and considers new titles for evaluation based on member, publisher, and scholar recommendations.”

The Journal of Markets & Morality is one of only 20 journals that have been added to the database since 2002. In that time the database has gone through some major remodeling, including the discontinuation of the indexing of a number of journals.

The fact that our journal is one of the select few that has been added to this important resource during this process of increased competition speaks to the unique interdisciplinary focus of the journal and the high quality with which it is pursued. Of course a great deal of the credit goes to the founding editor of the journal, Dr. Stephen Grabill.

The journal “promotes intellectual exploration of the relationship between economics and morality from both social science and theological perspectives. It seeks to bring together theologians, philosophers, economists, and other scholars for dialogue concerning the morality of the marketplace.”

We’ll be launching a small advertising campaign to highlight this achievement. If you are a student or a faculty member at an institution of higher learning, please take the time to recommend that your library subscribe to our journal. If you are in interested layperson or independent scholar, please consider subscribing yourself.

The newly released Charlie Wilson’s War is a film based on a book that chronicles the semi-secret war that led Afghan freedom fighters to defeat the Soviet military during the 1980s. Tom Hanks plays former Democratic Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, who is also known as “Good Time Charlie” for his womanizing, drinking, and recreational drug use. The viewer is led to believe Congressman Wilson is not serious about his elected position until he takes up the cause of the Afghan people, who suffered immensely under Soviet aggression. Other starring roles are Julia Roberts as Christian “right wing” financier Joanne Herring, and the late CIA officer Gust Avrakatos, played by actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The dialog between the main characters is intense and entertaining.

First of all this film is not for children. Wilson suffers from a severe bout of immorality, which is graphically depicted. However, the film does teach several important moral and foreign policy lessons. In the 1980s the United States did transition from a policy of containment of the Soviet Union to a more aggressive policy which called for greater engagement, including everything from harassment to actually formulating a policy to reverse Soviet expansion, putting it on the retreat.

While this film does not lack entertainment value, one of the drawbacks is the depiction of the Afghan struggle. America’s support is quickly glossed over, with no background information or deep treatment of the subject ever provided. In addition, some conservative officials in the Reagan administration have criticized the film. Bill Gertz at the Washington Times added:

The movie also erred by showing Mr. Wilson and his CIA collaborator, Gust Avrakotos, as enthusiastic backers of supplying advanced U.S. Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan rebels. Fred Ikle, the undersecretary of defense in the Reagan administration, said the CIA initially fought against sending Stingers, while Mr. Wilson was lukewarm on the matter. Both later supported the plan once rebels began downing Soviet gunships with them.

Additionally, some conservatives felt the film’s intent is an attempt at revisionist history by cutting out Ronald Reagan entirely and key members of his cabinet who enthusiastically supported the Afghan Rebels. In fact, Reagan’s epic war against communism can be traced back to his days as a labor leader in Hollywood.

There is certainly enough material in the film to make conservatives wince. Apparently the movie was supposed to be much worse, but Wilson had to step in and demand changes in much of Aaron Sorkin’s script. In the film, Christians are slyly depicted as hypocrites. Additionally, the film needed to be more triumphant at the end. The movie also reinforces the myth that support for the Afghan freedom fighters led to the rise of Osama bin-Laden and his cohorts, who supposedly were armed by the United States.

There are positives however. While it is inaccurate to portray Wilson and his CIA partner as lone mavericks against Soviet aggression, it is right in making a hero out of a committed anti-communist. It also depicts the evil of the Soviet military that specifically wounded Afghani kids, targeting them intentionally. The film also depicts the importance of standing up to and countering communist aggression, and that there was a strong moral component to funding the freedom fighters. Perhaps the greatest lesson of the film is how bipartisanship support was needed to combat America’s enemies, a fact which seems to be lost on Washington today.

Acton Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media Jay Richards joined the Fox and Friends crew on Fox News Channel this morning to kick off this presidential election year with some analysis of the role of religion in the Republican presidential primary. For those of you who missed it, here’s the clip:

I guess I’ll do the honors for first post of the year once again

Availability cascade:

An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation by which an expressed perception triggers a chain reaction that gives the perception increasing plausibility through its rising availability in public discourse. The driving mechanism involves a combination of informational and reputational motives: Individuals endorse the perception partly by learning from the apparent beliefs of others and partly by distorting their public responses in the interest of maintaining social acceptance. Availability entrepreneurs-activists who manipulate the content of public discourse-strive to trigger availability cascades likely to advance their agendas.

John Tierney notes that while 2008 may just be underway, we’re smack dab in the middle of a global warming cascade:

Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.

Global warming has an impact on both polar regions, but they’re also strongly influenced by regional weather patterns and ocean currents. Two studies by NASA and university scientists last year concluded that much of the recent melting of Arctic sea ice was related to a cyclical change in ocean currents and winds, but those studies got relatively little attention — and were certainly no match for the images of struggling polar bears so popular with availability entrepreneurs.

Roger A. Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, recently noted the very different reception received last year by two conflicting papers on the link between hurricanes and global warming. He counted 79 news articles about a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and only 3 news articles about one in a far more prestigious journal, Nature.

Guess which paper jibed with the theory — and image of Katrina — presented by Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”?

It was, of course, the paper in the more obscure journal, which suggested that global warming is creating more hurricanes. The paper in Nature concluded that global warming has a minimal effect on hurricanes. It was published in December — by coincidence, the same week that Mr. Gore received his Nobel Peace Prize.

Via Newsbusters, where surprise is expressed over the fact that such an article would appear in the New York Times. It’s really no surprise, though; Tierney is one of the few columnists who will occasionally pierce the veil of left-wing opinion that dominates the Times.

In the Wall Street Journal’s Americas column, Rev. Robert A. Sirico examines the shift in thinking about liberation theology among Catholic Church leaders in Latin America. Excerpt:

Catholic Church bishops, priests and other Church leaders in Latin America were once a reliable ally of the left, owing to the influence of “liberation theology,” which tries to link the Gospel to the socialist cause. Today the Church is coming to recognize the link between socialism and the loss of freedom, and a shift in thinking is taking place.

In a region that is more than 90% Catholic, this change might have enormous implications. A Church that emphasizes liberty could play a role in Latin America similar to that which it played in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, as a counterweight in defense of freedom during a time of rising despotism.

For proof of the change I refer to, consider a recent statement from the Catholic Bishops of Venezuela: It blasted the political agenda of President Hugo Chávez for its assault on liberty under the guise of helping the poor. It is morally unacceptable, the statement said, and will drive the country backward in terms of respect for human rights.

The Bishops’ statement from Caracas was not the first challenge the Church issued to Mr. Chávez. The late Cardinal Rosalio Castillo once laid out the Church’s view of Bolivarian socialism. The government, he explained, though elected democratically was morphing into dictatorship. He worried about the results of this process. “All powers are in the hands of one person who exercises them in an arbitrary and despotic way, not for the purposes of bringing about the greater common good of the nation, but rather for a twisted and archaic political project: that of implanting in Venezuela a disastrous regime like the one Fidel Castro has imposed on Cuba . . .”

Continue reading Rev. Sirico’s article “Liberty Theology” (registration required for the Journal’s online version).

Rev. Robert A. Sirico is interviewed by James Freeman, assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, about markets and morality and about the Acton Institute’s Call of the Entrepreneur documentary.


Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Thursday, December 27, 2007

For my money, some of the most interesting titles in recent years in the field of Christian scholarship have come from IVP Academic (an imprint of InterVarsity Press). The latest catalog features an announcement of Thomas Oden’s How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind, as well as an interview with the author, which prompted a couple reflections. (The interview is available for pdf download here, Fall 2007)

I remember my first teaching assignment, a survey course in American history. We were covering slavery and related issues and the topic of Christianity and race came up. I made what I thought was a fairly obvious historical point about Christianity: identifying it with white Europeans is shortsighted considering that for several centuries Christianity was dominated by Africans, Palestinians, and Middle Easterners. The students, Ivy Leaguers all, looked at me in amazement, as though they were unaware of the fact. That memory returned as I read about Oden’s book, whose thesis is, in the author’s words,

Christianity has a much longer history than its Western European expressions. Africa has played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture from its infancy, a role that has never been adequately studied or acknowledged, either in the Global North or South.

Oden also makes a point that lay behind my reaction to a trio of books that I reviewed for the forthcoming Journal of Markets & Morality (issue 10:2, to print any day): “…Euro-American intellectuals have transmitted [modern Western theological ideas] to Africa where they have been camouflaged as if to assume that these prejudices were themselves genuinely African.” The thought of Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and Marcuse, he observes, has influenced writing in and about Africa far more than the thought of Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, and Augustine, though it is self-evident which set of ideas is more genuinely “African” in any historical/geographical sense of the term. In my review, I display some unease about the appropriation of heterodox theology by African priests studying in Europe and the United States.

In the same IVP catalog:

The Legacy of John Paul II: An Evangelical Assessment

The Decline of African American Theology by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Just Business: Christian Ethics for the Marketplace by Alexander Hill

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In this week’s Acton Commentary I examine “The Truth about Tithing.”

“Whatever benefits we claim to receive from tithing, whether spiritual, emotional, or financial, these are not to be the reason that we give. We give out of obedience to God’s word,” I write.

Here’s a link to a Marketplace Money report from last Friday that was the proximate occasion for the piece, “Tithing can be a good investment.” It’s a pretty disgustingly caricatured picture of tithing we get from the Marketplace report.

One more bit of evidence that the press just doesn’t “get” religion.