Sunday, November 29, 2009

Over Seas by G.A. Compton

The wise men look no more toward the star;
The shepherds, all, are blinded in its light;
The herald-song is silenced by the jar
Of sudden death's triumphant scream. The blight
That will dwarf little children yet unborn,
Drops from the skies and lurks beneath the seas,
While venomed hate, this very Christmas morn,
Cankers the heart of nations, like disease.

A mockery in churches now is sung
Of Him, who taught the ways of peace, good will;
Rachel, again, is made to mourn her young
By Herods, who deny Him, as they kill--

Foul stench of war in smokes that reek and blur--
His gifts today--His frankincense and myrrh!

--December 25, 1941

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Promo spot for Look Magazine

I have posted this before, but it still cracks me up. If you're not familiar with Look,
it's one of those social weeklies that has photographs of people in different hot spots all over town.

And Derek was never asked to make commercials for local publications ever again. Directed by Derek Doublin. Written by Steven Stark. Starring Damon Boelte and Derek's cat Bob. Susan Ebert made the prop!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Revelation by G.A. Compton

When I think of that wide expanse of Night,
And all my mind urged by my soul and heart
Peers at its opaque walls with finite sight,
And sees but doubt step forth with poisoned dart;
When I ask if death's shoals do border on
that ageless, graspless thing, Oblivion,
Or is the Lethe-sloping shore to dawn,
Soft as the touch that lulled Endymion-
Then the immortal love, my dear, that you
Have brought, lifts me above my mortal ken,
('Tho reason, with all logic, may not view
The scene confounding tongue and agile pen;)
And I look down at doubt from far above
And know there is a God, and God is Love.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thoughts on the Supernatural

If there is a supernatural element to our universe (or beyond), how could we possibly know it?

1. I often use the term “intangible naturalism” as it could refer to something wholly natural that is beyond our current ability to understand - whether because of a lack of knowledge or because our brains are not made to understand it. An example would be electricity. Now it is considered a product of the natural universe, but perhaps sparks and electric currents were examples of “intangible naturalism” 1,000 years ago. Anything “supernatural” or “intangibly natural” at this current point in time are indistinguishable. Perhaps we will discover how the “intangibly natural” fits into the chain of cause and effect in the future. Perhaps we will not. Where would one decide to call something currently not understood supernatural? The transition from “intangibly natural” to “supernatural” is not one that we are equipped to make.

2. The only difference between natural and allegedly supernatural elements of existence is predictability. Once again, think of electricity. It is natural since it predictably acts certain ways given certain causal elements. But think about what it does. Things move without being pushed, visual sparks shoot out of our hands when we touch, lightning splits the sky - this is the stuff of fairy tales. Except that we can predict it.

3. Anything supernatural that acted predictably would not be supernatural! It would be natural. Another way to think about this besides predictability is connectedness. Everything natural is affected by other natural elements and affects other natural elements. It’s all a dance of cause and effect played out in motion through time. Supernatural elements are disconnected from this. If they were not, they would be natural. Evidence is based on the connections of cause and effect, so we cannot use any natural evidence to support supernatural conclusions. The supernatural will not obey our attempts to observe it or else it would be natural, therefore there is no way to prove whether supernatural elements exist or do not exist.

4. It makes no sense to complain about a lack of proof for the supernatural. However it also makes no sense to put forth specific supernatural explanations for anything as that would require many wholly arbitrary presuppositions about the supernatural. For instance if we say that “God cured my sickness”, then why not say “God created the memory in me and others that I was sick, but I never really was.” Why is the first more plausible than the second? If it’s because of less supernatural involvement then, as I’ve argued elsewhere, why not assume there is no supernatural involvement? Also, if we are describing supernatural in terms of quantity, where do we get those ideas of quantity? We get them from the natural world which the supernatural does not have to resemble in any way. Which is easier for God - to cure a cold or to create 1,000 new universes? So to argue a supernatural explanation, whether God or anything else, is to place many assumptions on to that supernatural hypothesis.

5. But once again, to say there is no such thing as the supernatural because of a lack of evidence is also problematic. Reliable evidence would make it natural!

Conclusion - there could be supernatural elements of our existence, but we can never know it. It would lie outside the realm of evidence, so we cannot complain of a lack of evidence for it. However, to put forth specific ideas about supernatural explanations, and to insist they are right, makes even less sense.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The World Isn't Fair by Randy Newman

His voice, snark and harmonic complexity keep his audience a bit smaller than the audiences of others, but he is one of the best writers of popular song alive today - or dead today!

"When Karl Marx was a boy
he took a hard look around
He saw people were starving all over the place
while others were painting the town
The public spirited boy
became a public spirited man
So he worked very hard and he read everything
until he came up with a plan

There'll be no exploitation
of the worker or his kin
No discrimination 'cause of the color of your
No more private property
It would not be allowed
No one could rise too high
No one could sink too low
or go under completely like some we all know

If Marx were living today
he'd be rolling around in his grave
And if I had him here in my mansion on the hill
I'd tell him a story t'would give his old heart
a chill

It's something that happened to me
I'd say, Karl I recently stumbled
into a new family
with two little children in school
where all little children should be
I went to the orientation
All the young mommies were there
Karl, you never have seen such a glorious sight
as these beautiful women arrayed for the night
just like countesses, empresses, movie stars and
And they'd come there with men much like me
Froggish men, unpleasant to see
Were you to kiss one, Karl
Nary a prince would there be

Oh Karl the world isn't fair
It isn't and never will be
They tried out your plan
It brought misery instead
If you'd seen how they worked it
you'd be glad you were dead
just like I'm glad I'm living in the land of the
where the rich just get richer
and the poor you don't ever have to see
It would depress us, Karl
Because we care
that the world still isn't fair"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Debates part two

This is an interesting debate between Cambridge professor Arif Ahmed and Liberty University professor Gary Habermas. They are debating the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.

I find Ahmed's opening statement to be one of the finest examples I have heard on why it is logically problematic to argue for the supernatural with evidence (which is by nature naturalistic). Habermas is a super nice guy. I know from listening to other debates that he is quite smart and knows his Bible quite well, however Ahmed's opening statement leaves him with little ground to stand on. He must allude back to more general theistic arguments, trying to defend the idea of the existence of an "evidence-granting" God by referencing near-death experiences. Habermas is more accustomed to arguing for the historical, physical nature of the resurrection by making claims like "75% of scholars believe in the empty tomb", etc. Ahmed's points make that difficult to defend as reason enough for believing that "a body can pass through solid rock" (as the resurrected Jesus reportedly does in the book of John).

Both men are nice and respectful of each other, and the whole debate is quite interesting, even if the rug is pulled out from under Habermas right at the beginning. Perhaps there are decent points to be made for the possibility of the "supernatural" (or at least "natural beyond our ability to comprehend") - but presenting naturalistic evidence, which is connected causally to all things, to "prove" a supernatural intervention, which is not necessarily connected to anything, is tough business. All one can do is to show a gap in our current understanding and then speculate a solution. Ahmed's three points in his opening show why depositing a supernatural solution into a naturalistic hole does not work well.

I also like Ahmed's introduction of himself as NOT a "devout atheist." He admits that he might quite like to believe certain aspects related to the idea of religion, (particularly his survival of his own death in some way!), but he simply sees no good reason for it. Fair enough.

Of course, one might point out that it is very difficult to disprove the supernatural as well. Cue people to start referencing the tooth fairy, unicorns, etc. but I'm not talking about specifics. I just mean the possibility of some force or entity that does not need to play by the rules of naturalism somewhere in existence. If a supernatural force altered the "matrix" five seconds ago and changed our memories, we wouldn't know it. Of course, even if this DID happen, there is still not necessarily any good reason to believe it. So the best advice is a sense of faith - a recognition of human limitation followed by a positive attitude of trust towards the unknown - and a reliance on reason to deal with what we can understand - "understand" being a word with a very open-ended definition I think.....

Anyhoo - good opening statement by Arif Ahmed!

Here it

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hoop Dreams

Have you seen the documentary Hoop Dreams? It follows two aspiring basketball players from their middle school days through college. It is one of the most engaging films you will ever see.

I rented it about 10 years ago. It was late and I needed to get up early the next morning to teach a few cello lessons. I made the mistake of popping in the movie, thinking that I would only watch a few minutes until I was sleepy. Three hours later, I finally turned in.

The next morning I was very tired (but inspired!).

In his most recent blog, Roger Ebert calls Hoop Dreams "the great American documentary."

Here is the original Siskel and Ebert review.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just Another Ten Percenter.......

Most people know that my "theology" is liberal. Very liberal. I have noticed that oftentimes, these days, the more conservative a church's service, the more liberal the theology. A strict liturgy goes along with an open-minded, metaphorical interpretation of Scripture. More literal-minded churches have contemporary praise bands, skateboarding and televised services played on big screens at different franchises/campuses.

Obviously, I am over-generalizing. There are many conservative, traditional services and many liberal, contemporary services out there - but please accept the "Tithe Rap" as, in the words of my friend Adrian Brown, "one more reason to stick with traditional worship."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Recent Little Dragon Interactions


“Hey, LD, what’s going on?”

“Not too much.”

“Are there any new songs you want to work on?”

“Yeah, this one!” (starts to strum “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”)

“Oh wow, what made you think of that?”

“I got to see Willie Nelson play live over the weekend.”

“No way! Did he play around here?”

“Yeah, he did. I got to meet him too.”

“Are you serious? That is seriously cool. Where did he play?”

“At my Grandpa’s birthday party.”

(dumbfounded silence)

“At first he said no, he doesn’t play private parties. But then he changed his mind. It was awesome. He is a nice guy.”

Wow. I suppose everyone has a price - even iconic American singer/songwriters.


LD : “Do you ever watch the show Glee?”

“No, I haven’t seen it.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty good. They mostly do old grandma music from the late 70‘s/early 80’s, but it’s awesome.”

OLD GRANDMA MUSIC from the late 70’s/early 80’s? Huh?