To “like” or not to “like”?

It has been suggested that we add to this blog the ability to register “likes” and “dislikes,” thumbs up or thumbs down on comments, with tabulation of the responses.  Other blogs do this, and something like it is a fixture of Facebook.

The reasoning is that this would give “lurkers” the ability to participate by registering their responses to other people’s comments.  It would also add to the sense of community.  Then again, there is the BAD part of communities; namely, the exertion of a peer pressure that lends itself to conformity and group think.  We wouldn’t want that here.

What do you think?  Would this add another dimension to our conversations here?  Or would it be a detraction and a distraction?  Would it make for more and better discussion, or less?

How Quantum Physics refutes materialism

Physics professor Stephen M. Barr explains how quantum physics makes the world view of materialism–the assumption of most of today’s atheists–scientifically impossible.

Materialism is an atheistic philosophy that says that all of reality is reducible to matter and its interactions. It has gained ground because many people think that it’s supported by science. They think that physics has shown the material world to be a closed system of cause and effect, sealed off from the influence of any non-physical realities — if any there be. Since our minds and thoughts obviously do affect the physical world, it would follow that they are themselves merely physical phenomena. No room for a spiritual soul or free will: for materialists we are just “machines made of meat.”

Quantum mechanics, however, throws a monkey wrench into this simple mechanical view of things.  No less a figure than Eugene Wigner, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, claimed that materialism — at least with regard to the human mind — is not “logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.” And on the basis of quantum mechanics, Sir Rudolf Peierls, another great 20th-century physicist, said, “the premise that you can describe in terms of physics the whole function of a human being … including [his] knowledge, and [his] consciousness, is untenable. There is still something missing.”

Barr goes on to explain in a technical but pretty lucid manner why this is the case, going into the mathematics of probability and why the observer has an intrinsic impact on the system being observed.   I can’t summarize it.  Read it yourself.  Here is his conclusion:

If the mathematics of quantum mechanics is right (as most fundamental physicists believe), and if materialism is right, one is forced to accept the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics. And that is awfully heavy baggage for materialism to carry.

If, on the other hand, we accept the more traditional understanding of quantum mechanics that goes back to von Neumann, one is led by its logic (as Wigner and Peierls were) to the conclusion that not everything is just matter in motion, and that in particular there is something about the human mind that transcends matter and its laws. It then becomes possible to take seriously certain questions that materialism had ruled out of court: If the human mind transcends matter to some extent, could there not exist minds that transcend the physical universe altogether? And might there not even exist an ultimate Mind?

via Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? | Big Questions Online.

HT:  Anna Williams

Who best approaches the spirit of Bach?

Masaaki Suzuki is a distinguished harpsichordist, organist, Yale music professor, and conductor who founded and directs the Bach Collegium Japan.  He is also a devout Christian.  Many thanks to Paul McCain and the various people he credits for unearthing this quotation from the liner notes to the first album of Bach Collegium Japan.   He is responding to the question of how the Japanese can play Bach, whose music comes out of a very different culture.  He says that better than having the same culture is having the same religion:

“… [T]he God in whose service Bach laboured and the God I worship today are one and the same. In the sight of the God of Abraham, I believe that the two hundred years separating the time of Bach from my own day can be of little account. This conviction has brought the great composer very much closer to me. We are fellows in faith, and equally foreign in our parentage to the people of Israel, God’s people of Biblical times. Who can be said to approach more nearly the spirit of Bach: a European who does not attend church and carries his Christian cultural heritage mostly on the subconscious level, or an Asian who is active in his faith although the influence of Christianity on his national culture is small?”

via News Flash: J. S. Bach was a Christian – Why Suzuki Gets Bach | CyberBrethren – A Lutheran Blog.

Here is an interview with Suzuki and a sampling of his music:

The Gaffability Index

Ruth Marcus observes how our political discourse–or at least the media coverage of that discourse–has become little more than a tallying of gaffes and faux-gaffes:

The 2012 presidential campaign has become a festival of gaffe-hopping.

The candidates skitter along on the surface of politics, issuing vague pronouncements or taking predictable shots at each other. But these seem like increasingly brief interludes, mere campaign busywork as each side awaits and — abetted by an attention-deficit-disordered media — pounces on the opponents’ next gaffe.

Or supposed gaffe. The 2012 campaign has witnessed the full flowering of the faux gaffe, in which a candidate is skewered, generally out of context, for saying something that he clearly did not mean but that the other side finds immensely useful to misrepresent. . . .

It was almost 30 years ago that columnist Michael Kinsley wrote that “the ‘gaffe’ is now the principal dynamic mechanism of American politics.”

Prompted by a now-obscure Gary Hart gaffe (the candidate dissed New Jersey and proceeded to lose its primary), Kinsley wrote that “journalists record each new gaffe, weigh it on their Gaffability Index (‘major gaffe,’ ‘gaffe,’ ‘minor gaffe,’ ‘possible gaffe’ . . .), and move the players forward or backward on the game board accordingly.”

But the 2012 campaign, more than any I can recall, feels like all gaffe all the time. The curve for what counts as a gaffe has been dramatically lowered. Meanwhile, attention to the most minor of gaffes has been enhanced to deafening levels, drowning out, or at least taking the place of, other discussion. . . .

Should gaffes matter? Do they? Yes, but with reservations. Gaffes can expose candidates’ factual ignorance or intellectual shortcomings (see you later, Rick Perry and Herman Cain). Gaffes can reveal candidates’ characterological failures as well — a tendency to self-important puffery, undisciplined bloviating or politically convenient shape-shifting. Indeed, the more the gaffe, real or imagined, reinforces the preexisting image of the candidate, the greater damage it will inflict. Ask Dan Quayle about spelling “potatoe.”

So there is a legitimate place for gaffe coverage — in perspective. Take Romney’s not-so-excellent European vacation. His mildly derisive comment about preparations for the London Olympics was dumb, even if it fit the classic Kinsleyian definition of gaffe as a politician saying something truthful in public. . . .

So I’m not against gaffe coverage — I’m against covering only gaffes, which is where campaign reporting seems to be trending. I’m not against politicians’ seizing on opponents’ gaffes — I’m against politicians who believe, or act as if they believe, that this tactic can substitute for substantive campaign discussion.

There is a dangerous mismatch between the seriousness of the moment and this too-often-dominant form of political discourse. Americans like to think we choose presidents on the basis of who has the best vision for leading the country. We are at risk of electing the candidate least apt to make a clumsy remark.

via Ruth Marcus: A gaffe a day keeps substance away – The Washington Post.

 

Romney’s speech in Poland

To illustrate the point of the “gaffe” post, what did you learn from media coverage of Mitt Romney’s  trip to England, Poland, and Israel?  That he made people mad at him by questioning England’s Olympic preparedness and Palestinian culture?  Anything else?  Did you know he made a rather substantive speech in Poland outlining some of his key principles?  Whether you are for him or against him, I would think that would be worth at least some coverage.  Here is an example of more substantial reporting and analysis from columnist Kathleen Parker:

“Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility and international trade,” said Romney.

“When economists speak of Poland today, it is not to lament chronic problems but to describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government, and became the fastest-growing economy in all of Europe.”

Romney pointedly spoke of the “false promise of a government-dominated economy,” the importance of stimulating innovation, attracting investment, expanding trade and living within means. . . .

Romney also liberally sprinkled terms that correspond to two of the most important Catholic social justice principles: subsidiarity and solidarity.

Subsidiarity, in addition to being one of the features of federalism, also refers to the theological belief that nothing should be done by a larger, more complex organization that can be accomplished as well by a smaller, simpler organization. As developed by German theologian Oswald von Nell-Breuning, the principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of the human individual and emphasizes the importance of small institutions from the family to the church to labor unions.

Inasmuch as the welfare state is an instrument of centralized government, it is in conflict not only with personal freedom but also with Catholic teaching, as John Paul II noted in his 1991 encyclical “Centesimus Annus.” He wrote that the intervention of the state deprived society of its responsibility, which “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

All of this history and understanding were bound up in Romney’s few, carefully selected words — and Catholic voters surely heard them. They also would have heard “solidarity,” which resonates among America’s working-class Catholics who were inspired by Poland’s labor-led uprising in the 1980s. In what can only be viewed as a crowning achievement, Romney was endorsed by Poland’s former president and iconic labor leader, Lech Walesa. . . .

Romney’s message to voters by way of comments to our allies was that big government is the enemy of individual freedom, both economic and, clearly, religious. While the nation’s gaffe-seekers were enjoying a few moments of snark, Romney was articulating foundational principles with none other than the most prominent community organizer of them all.

via Kathleen Parker: In Poland, Romney addresses economic and religious freedom – The Washington Post.

Pride vs. Gratitude

When Gabby Douglas won the gold medal for individual women’s gymnastics, the first thing she did was shift the glory:

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” These are the first words 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas tweeted after she won the all around gold medal at the London Olympics yesterday. On the stadium floor, Douglas also told a reporter that ”the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

via Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, Gives Glory to God | Urban Faith.

It seems to me that this is not saying God made me win, as some athletes seem to, but a perfectly appropriate expression of faith at a moment of great personal joy that could easily be a celebration of one’s self.  That strikes me as a valuable spiritual discipline, the ability to do that.   When a person achieves something great–in sports, in a profession, in life–it is possible to respond with pride or one with gratitude.

HT:  Sarah Pulliam Bailey


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