Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ad Mominem

An interesting question came up when I was with friends the other day. We were demonstrating unfair arguments to use when fighting. Most people, at least the married ones, I guess, have heard the rule not to bring up old fights when you’re talking about a present conflict. But this is even more important. Don’t bring mothers into it.

As if in-law relations are not already touchy enough, and as though a wife does not already feel the contrast she makes to the mother of her husband, why go and use these sainted women as part of your argument? Example: Your mother is crazy! You’re just like her. Or the slightly better: Your mother is crazy; at least you aren’t as bad as her!

Can’t you just sense the bristling tempers when you provoke an opponent by insulting their mother? I have a sense of indignation and no one has even directed these comments at me or my mother.

There are – you’ll learn something here, I promise – Latin phrases describing invalid arguments and logical fallacies, commonly used in debate. Latin used to be used a lot more when the French were more popular (they introduced most of the Latin roots to English), and old books and the intelligentsia still boast the incomprehensible (literally) attribute of italicized foreign phrases and words that no one in the world uses any more. They may have presented important concepts concisely and memorably, but not memorable enough, since I do not know them.

One phrase still in use is ad hominem. This is, as I understand it, when you attack the person and not their argument. If I am speaking to a dunce and he is arguing that two plus two is four, I cannot point to him and criticize his intelligence to win the argument. Two plus two will still be four. Truth is not relative to the deliverer. Anyway, the official definition for ad hominem is: “asserting that an argument is wrong and/or the source is wrong to argue at all purely because of something discreditable/not-authoritative about the source or those sources cited by it rather than addressing the soundness of the argument itself.” Wikipedia says so. Now, you cannot fairly argue that simply because Wikipedia has an in-credible reputation, we must reject its definition. Nor can you say that I am ugly, and thus it is impossible for me to correctly communicate the definition.

The mother-attack reminded me of this fallacy, ad hominem, so I looked up at my friend, who is a genius, and, assuming he knew Latin, being a genius, asked him to alter the phrase to represent source attack mother variety. However, he is also a computer genius, and did the highly intelligent thing: Google. (You’ve no idea how entertained I am that all these urban-knowledge websites are occurring in this article!) Apparently, we are not the first to desire a name for this ridiculous habit of insulting mothers in an attempt to win an argument. Suggestions for the Latin fallacy are:

"ad mominem" codified at the (content advisory) Urban Dictionary.

"ad urmomum You might want to read this whole article.

I don’t know why we use italics for foreign phrases. Google reveals merely that it is conventional and thus stylistically correct, but nothing more. Latin and Italics, I am interested to note, both claim Italy as their home country.

This is mostly irrelevant, but came up as I followed my friend’s research. What are those P’s and Q’s we’re supposed to mind?

Didn’t you learn something?

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Window on My Life

I recently acquired two lap harps. So far I have gotten them relatively tuned, with the help of my more musical brother. One I tuned while driving home from work today. The only thing I can play, besides Hugh Hewitt's theme music, is that exciting sound effect in strange low-budget movies: dlu-n-h-n-hg! Like that.

My room is clean and my house is getting that way. Even my office got a taste of my motivation to clean today.

There are bright happy plants growing in my garden, but I don't think I sowed them. Except I don't know what the things I did plant are supposed to look like, so I'm catching onto Jesus' parable of the wheat and the tares. Except I know what wheat looks like. In fact, I hope to witness a bit of wheat harvest this year. Anyone know a farmer?

In the world of sports, I am rather discouraged at the shoving matches that purport to be basketball finals. I don't like the Lakers, and I don't like the Nuggets even though I live in Colorado. For as long as I can remember, my friends have joked that any of us are "so good we could play for the Nuggets." And now that isn't true, so I don't know what to say when watching amateur basketball antics. I don't know anything about the Cleveland and Orlando basketball teams except that the games have been close and the buzzer shot in over time tonight did not go in to win the game. Colorado Rockies continue to lose. I heard something about being second worst in the league.

The snippets of information I have heard about the nomination to the Supreme Court have me concerned. She's young. I don't understand what makes her qualified. Since when does it become a point in your favor that you were not raised well? (I am not sure anyone was saying she wasn't, but I did hear this mentioned lately, and decided to raise the question: poverty, divorced parents, an indifferent education are a lot better for Cinderella than world leaders.) Speaking of being raised well, what is up with the government deciding that it knows more about a child's welfare and healthcare than its parents? And even if it did know better, who is going to pay for this mandated treatment? And what if the treatment actually makes the boy worse? What if something else would work better? It isn't as though an adult with legal custody of a dependent were depriving the sick person of food and water, as was done with the complicity of the Florida courts several years ago.

Complicity is a word that makes me think of Ann Coulter, who is harsh, but oh so witty. And she is a real political conservative. Why do we let people call themselves liberal - a happy, generous title and moderate (as though most are not intolerant whiners) while we get called conservative, a misnomer if I ever heard one. If we're supposed to be conserving something, we are certainly failing.

Words make me happy. I have lately acquired the following list:

Aver – to positively declare
See very, veritas, etc.

Asseverate – to declare earnestly or solemnly
See severe

Triumvirate – a government of three officers or magistrates functioning jointly; a coalition of three magistrates or rulers for joint administration; any association of three in office or authority

extirpate – to pluck up by the stem, pull out the roots, completely exterminate

fungible – something that is exchangeable or substitutable

embarrass – to cause confusion or shame
polemic - apologetics focused more on offense (attacking another position or belief) than defense
trow - to know, trust, or believe

serial comma - (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction (nearly always and or or; sometimes nor) that precedes the last item in a list of three or more items.

I am still trying to sort out whether trothplighting refers to engagement or marriage. I am particularly interested in the use Tolkien made of the word in Return of the King. For much of my life I thought it synonymous with marriage vows. Then I heard that it was the official betrothal ceremony (in the old days weddings were apparently three step processes). And just the other night, in between episodes of Monster Quest on the history channel, I heard "plight my troth" in wedding vows on a movie.

A few weeks ago I picked up a Rich Mullins album at the thrift store, and have been delighting to rouse myself with his songs, including The Color Green, which has this line: "the wrens have returned, and they're nesting..." I have been curious about wrens for a long time, and ptarmigans, partridges, grouse, and pheasants. My other favorite birds are chickadees, eagles, and definitely at the top of the list: Mourning Doves.

Look what I made:

And I simply cannot call it quits before 1 AM. Silly me.

To God be all glory.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Review of The Chronology of the Old Testament

Chronology of the Old Testament, by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, is a history of the ancient world relying primarily on the most complete, detailed, consistent, and verifiable text known to man, the record of the Hebrew peoples as found in their Scriptures. Beginning with a commitment to the sufficiency and perfect reliability of the Old Testament, the chonologer establishes a timeline of history comparable to Ussher’s famous work.

The first section establishes periods of history whose lengths are defined by specific verses in the Old Testament, including the genealogies leading up to the flood, and from the flood to Abraham; the duration of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt; the period of the Judges; and then the dates of the kings of Judah and Israel. This last comprises the majority of the work, as Dr. Jones treats the various accounts of the kings’ ascensions, reigns, ages, and associations with each other particularly as found in the books of Kings and Chronicles. He refutes the compromise position of Dr. Thiele, whose dates for that era have been considered standard in conservative evangelical study.

To close the principal manuscript, a study is done of the kings of Assyria, Babylon, and Media-Persia particularly as they compare to the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9, predicting the exact year at which Messiah was to be expected. I was especially interested in the identification of the kings Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes (of Ezra-Nehemiah).

Though necessarily long, The Chronology of the Old Testament is one of the smoothest narratives of history that I have ever read. Showing care, comprehensive understanding, and a desire to communicate to an audience ranging from the novice to the studied skeptic, each technique of chronology and every theory of dates and history is presented in a way that is easy to understand and, from the perspective of this novice, unquestionable. Along the way like an enthusiastic tour guide the author revealed the little discoveries he had made, unsuspecting, and the significance we miss when we do not appreciate the precise chronology and its implications. For example, we learn that Jonathan son of Saul was actually decades older than David, yet they were dear friends.

Dr. Jones is honest about the limitations of his science, confident in His God (who preserved the record for us), and firm in his stand against giving historical precedence to the Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, or Greek histories since, even from a secular viewpoint, they are less complete, immediate, obvious, and consistent than the Hebrew Bible. They are acknowledged, however, as useful tools in corroborating the testimony of the Scripture and of placing the internal timeline of the Bible into its place in our modern calendar system. Some space is given to discrediting the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament proceeding from Alexandria and containing multiple errors and contradictions. Also discussed are worldviews, and the King James translation of the Bible into English. The author is avidly loyal to this translation, and occasionally vehement in his criticism of those whose opinion differs.

A CD-ROM is included with the book containing most of the charts and timelines discussed (the rest of the charts are alongside the narrative).

The Chronology of the Old Testament is an impressive, helpful book that I would even consider employing as a history book for homeschool children. I enjoyed the book, learned things, and was corrected in some points which I had believed. (One point that comes to mind is the arrival of the magi to visit Jesus. Formerly I had been convinced that they arrived months or even years after Jesus’ birth, while the family was residing in Bethlehem. However, the account of Jesus’ presentation at the temple in Luke precludes this possibility.) The detailed harmony of the various Old Testament books was brought forth in a broad way I had never before envisioned. My only concerns are these: the strength of his personal criticisms in some places for weakness in understanding or imagination (resulting, I grant, in slighting the authority and accuracy of the Bible); and the incomplete understanding that remains about the events and timeline of Esther. Without reservation, however, I would recommend this book.

Chronology of the Old Testament

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

About Time

This is an exercising post. I want you to stand up and try the following:
Look at your clock.
Jump. You probably moved up and down.
Slide left. Slide back to the right.
Slide forward. Slide backward.
Stand still.
Step left. Step right. You probably moved both up-and-down and left, up-and-down and right.
Look at the clock. How much time has passed?

Refer back to your exercises to help you answer the following questions.
Can you move in one dimension?
Can you move in two dimensions?
Can you move in three dimensions?
Can you do any of those without moving through time?

In science today, there are four accepted dimensions. We tend to call these space-time. There are three spatial dimensions (sideways, forward, vertical), and one dimension for time. These four dimensions are connected, sometimes in mysterious ways allowing for the concepts of wormholes and time travel. More practically, these connections are used in Einstein’s famous Special Theory of Relativity and General Theory of Relativity, which are applied all over physics today with some very helpful results.

I don’t know if this is Einstein’s own illustration, or some textbook writer’s, but the principle belongs to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity: Time is relative. This is proven, supposedly, by the fact that if you were to throw a clock at the speed of light (something no one has done), the hands would shorten, and thus they would travel the dial at a different speed. Since we use a clock to measure time, obviously time is relative to the speed at which one is traveling. That is what a physics book once taught me. What nonsense! The measurement of time does not equal time. Time is not contained in the length of the hands on a clock; it is described by them. So while I’m not arguing necessarily that time is not relative, I am saying that the reasons we think it is are less than persuasive.

In the very least, we ought not classify time in the exact category as the spatial dimensions, because, as shown, we can move in any one of those dimensions without moving in another one. We can also move in two or even three of those dimensions, but the choice is ours. Human experience has not produced a circumstance in which anything has moved in a spatial dimension without moving in time. In fact, we cannot even fail to move spatially and keep ourselves still in the “dimension” of time. Hypothetically we could stand still in time, moving outside of time or existing without time. But there is no observational evidence of this phenomenon.

So I remain a little skeptical of the description of our universe as four-dimensional (let alone boasting more dimensions, as some theoretical physicists like to suggest). How tied is our matter and energy reality to time? What is time? Is it linear? Does perception define time? What is the meaning of action, thought, or existence outside of time? Can time really accelerate? Can it change direction? Some physicists are suggesting, based on observations, that space is actually stretching. Can time stretch?

To God be all glory.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

L Vocabulary

Recently I was thinking of several words that remind me of each other, if for no other reason than that they begin with L and are long words. Those account for the first three members of this list. The latter reflect extra interesting or important expressions I ran across during my composition.

litigious - inclined to dispute or disagree, argue; desiring to make something the subject of a lawsuit

liturgical - of or pertaining to: a form of public worship, ritual; a collection of formularies for public worship; a particular arrangement of services; a particular form or type of the Eucaristic service.

lethargic - being drowsy and dull, listless and unenergetic, or indifferent and lazy; apathetic or sluggish inactivity.

lackadaisical - without interest, vigor, or determination; listless; lethargic; lazy or indolent

literal - in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical

lambent - running or moving lightly over a surface; dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject, brilliantly playful; softly bright or radiant

latent - present but not visible, apparent, or actualized; existing as potential

Thanks to for supplying the definitions.

To God be all glory.

Personal Identification

No one is checking.

People are careless.

Take signatures:

With scan technology, forgery is fairly simple.

But people don’t need scan technology.

Banks aren’t checking signatures on checks.

Those contracts you sign to pay things? You can declare bankruptcy and back out.
Marriage contract? No fault divorce.
Those credit cards that are supposed to be signed? Who looks at the back, let alone checks ID cards?
Income tax returns can now be efiled, and you esign them. Or someone else claiming to be you does.

A bank, which isn’t going to check for the validity of the signature anyway (as my bank informed me in a notice on my recent statement), requires that a check be endorsed by the payee. A husband signs for his wife all the time. So do her parents and teenage children. If a transaction is ever challenged in court, who is to say what her signature is, and which is a fraud? How different can a forgery be from the variety of family versions of her signature?

Here is a scenario. A large debit comes in on her monthly bank statement. She calls the bank and says that she did not authorize that payment. Do you have your credit card with you? Yes. Have you lost any checks? I haven’t, but my husband has a checkbook, and I send my kids with checks sometimes for things like doctor’s copays. Are you careful when you do business online? Yeah. I don’t give my password out or anything.

So the bank isn’t really sure whether her identity has been stolen, or her bank account number. Neither is she. Does the bank just put the money back into her account and send the bill to insurance? How would criminals get caught? What if the woman is lying, and just wants a free hot tub or laptop or vacation?

Maybe they call the business and look at the credit card receipt. The signature is her name, and maybe it is a little different from standard, but no one’s signature is the same, and this woman’s tends to show more variation than most. Maybe she’s on anti-depressants, and her signature is firmer early in the day. Or she is tired when she shops in the middle of the night. Maybe those electronic penpad signature machines at Walmart and grocery stores distort the signature a bit. Or maybe she has her family sign for her all the time. The whole thing is her word against theirs that she didn’t sign that receipt. And is she really going to vouch for everyone who had access to her credit card, that they didn’t sign for her?

For the sake of efficiency (if not for fraud), people are abdicating the power to create their own identification. It is like standardizing the locks on houses to where anyone can buy a key to anyone’s house. In the example of keys, we have private companies that create and issue unique access keys to homes. A car company actually standardizes, and has a variety of keys and locks that they apply to their cars (my key opens one of my best friend’s cars made by the same company). Personal identification is a growing private industry. There are some identity protection companies, and companies that sell you a “key fob” which randomly generates passwords and sends that message to you and to your website or computer or other secured digital device in the information technology realm. We have the iris scan and thumbprint locks that are some of the best options for security – but again, in a digital world, how hard could it be to hack the system? In the old days people used signets or seals as identification, but those can be forged. A signature was something recreated each time, not scientifically standardized, but theoretically an identifier solely in your possession. As we move away from signatures, we give businesses more market to sell us identification. Or worse, we give governments more incentive to enforce a government-issued identification. When even your identity is controlled by the government, watch out!

To God be all glory.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Federal Reserve and the End of Capital

The Federal Reserve is a collection of banks that loan money to the Federal Government. Don’t be confused by the use of federal in both terms. One is private, and the latter is public, run and (at least hypothetically) regulated by the US Constitution as ratified by the states.

If the government wants capital, they call up the Federal Reserve, who prints out “federal reserve notes” that we call dollars. They’re legally backed as usable on any transactions in the United States, but they have no other intrinsic value. They are good towards commerce and payment of debts, but their value is not fixed, and the more that are printed, the less value each “note” has. The Federal Reserve is not taking money from one place and loaning it to the government like you or I would have to do in order to loan money. They are inventing it out of thin air.

And here is the interesting thing. The Federal Reserve charges interest on the money they print for the government. A loan has been made, that could be called up. To repay this loan, we would have to give back the dollars plus interest. Do you see a problem here? To repay a loan with interest, we have to give the Federal Reserve more dollars than we got from them, and they’re the only source of dollars. Even if there were another source of dollars, those dollars would be a note on some other group, even the government, backed by nothing. It’s all Monopoly money that people use to control each other. Kind of strange. This isn’t even a case of the power of the richest. They own nothing of value, but wield all sorts of authority.

I don’t like it. A partial list of banks that make up the Federal Reserve (many of which are foreign) is available. On that list is my bank, Chase Manhattan. This leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I don’t want to help the criminals that propagate the Federal Reserve. On the other hand, it is virtually impossible that my bank will go under. When you can print your own money and are in on the biggest racket in history, you’re in pretty good shape. This is worse than Batman, let me tell you. The only way that my bank would be threatened is if other members of the Federal Reserve were to turn on them, and I believe that will not happen until there are no other banks. For there to be no other banks, there would have to be no more capital.

This is my best bet for boycotting the Federal Reserve: set myself up in a situation where I can be self-sufficient or barter whatever I need, living entirely without capital. (Even this is impossible because the government charges property taxes payable only in the form of Federal Reserve Notes – the government is compounding their own problem. Why? As long as the game is still going, the government also wields power using the Monopoly money. Just like the idea of debt in the first place, or economic stimulus packages, or bailouts, or bankrupting social security – the government does not think about long-term consequences. Their value is not liberty and justice, but control.)

But there is another way of eliminating capital. We could go to a digital currency system. Belonging to a bank (probably only one central bank) would be mandatory in a legal sense, and almost in a practical sense. Accessing the account would require a password or a physical scan (fingerprint, iris) or a digital key (like they use in hotels, or in your remote access car key). And anyone who has studied any kind of end times prophecies has heard of the “mark of the beast” on hands or foreheads used for buying or selling. Can’t you imagine a world leader who decides to throw off the yoke of the banking industry and replace them?

To God be all glory.

Created Equal

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

“…one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I have frequently heard those on the political left (those leaning towards a big government, socialism, and Marxism) accusing their counterparts on the right (limited government, constitutional rule, free market proponents) of the social and political sins of discrimination and injustice. That is to say that they, with Karl Marx, acknowledge a difference of situation between men and seek someone and some idea to blame. If all men are created equal, why do we have a government that allows so many men to have less than other men? Why are there people living below the poverty rate and millionaires within mere miles of each other, all under the same government? Shouldn’t we observe equality?

On the other hand, people like me who identify themselves as conservatives and capitalists consider equality and justice to be a matter of opportunity and consequences. One of the most vivid examples of ancient history that I still remember to this day is Hammurabi’s code. In a public place he wrote all the laws of the country on a pillar, and those laws applied to everyone, small and great. Each man knew what to expect from his government. That is the nature of a constitutional republic such as ours; it is bound by laws, and most judgment is not retroactive. Justice, you’ll remember, is depicted as blind scales: the same to everyone.

Why then is there inequality, if everyone has the same chance and the same consequences? The answer is that each man begins equal, but not every man makes the most of those opportunities. Not every man even has the same goals. For example, liberal Americans may believe that the equal thing would be to send everyone to college. But I don’t want to go to college; I want to go to the library. My goal is not a doctorate, while one of my best friends is eager to have “Dr.” behind her name. Likewise, I do not care to be a millionaire. Rather, I wish to be a friend. That I spend more of my time on relationships than on commerce should be no concern of my government, though it will leave an inequality of assets between myself and Bill Gates.

Some people, in exercising their liberty, make choices that preclude them from future choices. The choice to do drugs means you can’t be hired by the postal service until you are clean. Too many speeding tickets will relieve you of the choice to drive. Entering into a contract to buy something prevents you from spending that money on something else. Created equal means you have the right to do your best and to experience the consequences of your actions.

So I contend that it is the Left which denies that beloved proposition that all men are created equal. If men are left to equal opportunities, yet there remains a disparity between them and the above explanations are denied, the only option left is to say that the men were not created equal; that it is rather the responsibility of the government, to make them equal.

Whomever the liberal government proposes to specially help, they are admitting that they believe these groups to have been created (or born) unequal, requiring special assistance from the stronger and smarter and wealthier classes. Who then discriminates? And who is on the side of justice for all?

To God be all glory.