A wall mentioned in the Bible's Book of Nehemiah and long sought by archaeologists apparently has been found, an Israeli archaeologist says.
A team of archaeologists discovered the wall in Jerusalem's ancient City of David during a rescue attempt on a tower that was in danger of collapse, said Eilat Mazar, head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research and educational institute, and leader of the dig.
Artifacts including pottery shards and arrowheads found under the tower suggested that both the tower and the nearby wall are from the 5th century B.C., the time of Nehemiah, Mazar said this week. Scholars previously thought the wall dated to the Hasmonean period from about 142 B.C. to 37 B.C.
The findings suggest that the structure was actually part of the same city wall the Bible says Nehemiah rebuilt, Mazar said. The Book of Nehemiah gives a detailed description of construction of the walls, destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.
"We were amazed," she said, noting that the discovery was made at a time when many scholars argued that the wall did not exist."
This bothers me for a number of reasons (you can watch video of the event here). And no, it's not because I'm a Hillary-hating fundie who froths at the mouth everytime I hear or see her. And no, I'm not against a church hosting such a conference. Indeed, I applaud Warren's efforts on this issue.
Here are the questions bothering me:
(1) I'm sure Pastor Warren has a heart of gold so I've got no questions whatsoever about his motives. But is Warren savvy enough not to be used as a political pawn? While I may not question Warren's motives, I extend no such courtesy to Clinton and for good reason. Is Hillary really interested in partnering with evangelical churches across America to address our social ills? If so, this would be evident in her actions prior to this conference. If such action is almost entirely absent from her past public record, is it more reasonable to think that an appearance at Warren's conference is nothing more than an attempt to woo evangelical voters? Now, I'm not opposed in principle to candidates making an appeal to constituents. I just think we need to wisely assess such appeals. And of course I'm not opposed to Christians being active, aggresively active, in the public square. Christians belong in politics. But such involvement also requires prudence so that one's efforts aren't merely used by politicians or a political party.
(2) Has the congregation at Saddleback been equipped to think biblically about the role of government? Do they understand the Church's role corporately, if there is one, and the role of each individual believer in politics? If not, aren't there serious liabilities for a pastor and his flock, to bring in a major presidential candidate to such a conference, especially given the timing? Church members who spoke to the media after Clinton's appearance seem to indicate so. One church member who, according to this article, is "a Republican considering voting for Clinton," said this: “She understands the magnitude of the problem and what it will take to address it. I was very impressed by her.” Another member was so impressed she had this to say of Clinton: "She is my new hero." Should Hillary be elevated to hero status merely because of her stance on this single issue of AIDS? Does the AIDS issue carry such magnitude that is trumps all other issues? Unfortunately, such comments seem to reveal an inability to take into accout all of the views an individual holds on various issues.
(3) Is AIDS a weighty enough issue that the church should focus on it to the exclusion of other important issues, such as abortion? And no, no, no -- I'm not saying that's what Warren or Saddleback do. What I'm pointing out is the recent trend amongst Evangelicals in general to focus on social issues like poverty and AIDS, while turning their backs on issues like abortion or same-sex marriage. Indeed, in some Evangelical circles they've moved beyond such divisive issues altogether. Now, I hope Saddleback has an active and thriving abortion ministry but I just don't know. I would love to see Warren put just as much effort into a national conference on abortion as well. With his public profile and influence, he could have a tremendous impact. And abortion seems to be the weightier issue by far. Consider the amount of lives lost to AIDS and to abortion. According to the Center for Disease Control about 17,000 AIDS-related deaths in the United States in 2005. Certainly 17,000 dead is very tragic. And I know Warren's plans extend beyond the U.S. to Africa. But take the U.S. abortion numbers and compare: by conservative estimates you've got more than one million abortions each year in the U.S. And you have almost 50 million abortions since 1973.
17,000 lives lost versus more than 1 million lives lost annually. You tell me which issue seems to be more weighty.
To be fair to Pastor Warren, he talks about the issue a bit more HERE and offers a quick response to his critics, albeit a very inadequate response. And again, I think that Warren's effort to address AIDS is noble. Indeed, I'm saddened to see things like this from the article: "According to a 2005 poll by the Christian research group Barna only 17 percent of evangelical Christians surveyed said they would be willing to help AIDS orphans." I want to see Christians out front on a host of social issues, including AIDS. However, I'm afraid there's a subtle movement away from some of the most important social issues the church needs to be addressing and an embrace of more popular and less divisive issues. I truly hope this kind of conference is not a part of that movement.
According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, only half of those surveyed in a recent Gallup poll "believed evolution is definitely or probably true." This baffles some evolutionists.
Their frustration is understandable given their perception of how foundational evolution is to many aspects of life: "Without a clear understanding of the principles and processes of evolution, our society would be unable to effectively produce food, treat infectious diseases, search for new ways to treat human genetic ailments or find new drugs."
The article cites selective breeding of crops, bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics, development of pharmaceutical drugs from plants, changing genetic makeup of cancer cells, and using fruit flies to study human genetic diseases as examples of how understanding evolution has helped our lives.
Sure, everyone believes those examples of "evolution." That’s microevolution. That’s not controversial.
Perhaps the reason so many Americans are unconvinced of evolution is because these examples hardly explain what needs to be explained - macroevolution. This is the process by which a single cell evolves into the myriad of living organisms that exist today without any intelligent intervention.
The careful observer thinks, How does the evolution of bacteria to resist antibiotics or the selective breeding of crops explain the macroevolutionary process?
It doesn’t. But that is precisely what needs to be explained. You can’t just offer examples of microevolution and expect people to buy into the whole macroevolutionary story. Sure, there might be other lines of evidence, but often the only examples offered are the non-controversial microevolution type.
Maybe many evolutionists don't recognize the distinction between micro and macroevolution. It would certainly explain why they seem so surprised that many Americans just aren’t buying the evolutionary (macroevolutionary) story.
I think this is an insightful and helpful analysis from the Special Report Panel of the new stem cell research that can create the equivalence of an embryonic stem cell with its pluropotency from a skin cell:
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: This is one of the great discoveries of the last half century. This is the holy grail of stem cell research, and the reason is that it is so elegant and simple.
And that's why the old technique, the one that has the arguments about the use and destruction of embryos, the one that has been held up because of that, it will become rapidly obsolete.
And the reason is under the old technique, it was very complicated. You had to get eggs out of a woman, which you had to induce her with hormones. You had to have a surgical procedure to remove eggs — not dangerous but complicated, expensive.
Then you have to remove the nucleus of that egg, take a stem cell, take a skin cell from someone, inject the nucleus. You grow a small embryo, you detach stem cells, and you grow it — very complicated.
Here, what you do is you take a skin cell, you inject four genes, and it becomes presto, by magic, an embryonic stem cell, which can become skin or bone or liver or brain, or anything. It's truly a miraculous discovery.
And the irony is that the research this research was undertaken, part of it is, and the researchers in Wisconsin who collaborated on this and who did an independent study, were funded by the Bush administration's National Institutes of Health.
Funding the research, because the president imposed an ethical constraint on embryonic stem cell research —
BRIT HUME: And then paid for these guys to go out and look for alternatives.
KRAUTHAMMER: Which ended up being not only more ethical, but more elegant, and simple, and reliable. And it's going to be the new wave, and the old issue will be abolished. That ethical debate will be a moot issue in a couple of years....
FRED BARNES: [Embryonic stem cell research] was morally objectionable to a lot of people, including myself. And if you can get around that and you don't have to do that, then I think you are ahead of the game.
President Bush was called "anti-science," remember that? He was called "anti-science" because he said let's try this other track.
Remember, he funded a number of lines of embryonic stem cells. He didn't want to expand the funding into the future, but it was more than anybody else had funded it. And now this comes along.
HUME: As a result of research that his government supported?
And, remember, Congress barred — was asked to fund research into this alternative embryonic stem cell research, and Congress voted it down.
The people who were doing this with embryonic stem cells are not going to want to give it up. There being funded for that. This is what they have been pursuing as scientists, and it is going to be hard for them to accept the fact that they've been leap-frogged here.
And, secondly, if you say that it's morally objectionable to kill these embryos, you're also saying abortion is morally objectionable.
HUME: You think that is at the root of this?
BARNES: I think that is at the root of this.
KRAUTHAMMER: It ended up as a surrogate debate about abortion. I was on the president's council of bioethics, and we felt as if we were simply re-treading in a different forum the abortion debate, which made it intractable. But the reason all of this, I think, is going to go away is because there are a thousand labs today that could start on this new technique because it's so simple. There aren't a lot that could do the old technique, which involves all those complicated steps.
So if you're a research lab, they will be jumping in now to try to reproduce this. And I think it will yield the results which will be really salutary.
Ramesh Ponnuru had the same thought (but actually dug out the past references to prove the point) I did about the Newsweek article about the new method of creating embryonic stem cells without killing embryos. The promises of miraculous cure with no mention of the problems in practice have been standard fare in the media. Now when an ethically acceptable alternative is presented, the caution flags go up. I think Fred Barnes in the post above is right. This new research isn't going to change the debate. There is too much money, too many careers, too many reputations invested in destructive ESCR.
Regulators have launched an investigation into allegations that the Canadian divisions of Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey and others have teamed up in a price-fixing scheme in the multibillion-dollar Canadian business of chocolate bars, company officials confirmed Wednesday.
Ah! The corruption to manipulate the most wonderful food in the world.
I was at a Tupperware years ago and the saleswoman asked each of us to write down our favorite food, and then our favorite beverage. She wanted to demonstrate to us how easy it would be to host our own party. So if you come to my Tupperware party, we're having chocolate and milk.
I'm irritable today so here are a couple of things I heard on the radio on the way to work that irritated me (not to mention some drivers on the 405 freeway).
Just as predictable as the Christmas tree lots and the Christmas lights on houses is the advent of the grousing about the commercialization of Christmas. Of course, there's truth to it. But the complaining I heard was that it "ruined" Christmas. Look, I think people should enjoy turkey dinner at home with their family on Thanksgiving instead of spending the day in line to save some money on the hottest gift. I'm judgmental that way. But whether it "ruins" Christmas is completely a choice since we all get to decide how we plan for and celebrate Christmas. Shop or don't shop. Give lots of gifts, a few gifts, or no gifts. There's no need to get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas so that it "ruins" Christmas. I admit, giving and getting gifts is a very fun part of the celebration. I like presents. I like thinking up the perfect gift for people. I like wrapping them and seeing how pretty the pile is under the tree. I like still being excited and seeing that my nieces are excited for the gifts on Christmas morning. Commercialism doesn't "ruin" Christmas unless you let it and lose the focus of the Person at the center of the celebration.
The second irritant is the repeated "argument" I've heard Mormons give objecting to claims they aren't Christian: "Of course we're Christans. Jesus Christ is in the name of our church." Really? You think that has some persuasive force? You think that refutes the substantive theological disputations that have gone on for 150 years? I understand the defensiveness because Mormons think they're Christians, but people can call themselves whatever they want. The name doesn't matter so much as what a church teaches and what the members believe. Jesus' name has been used for a lot of false theology and evil causes over 2000 years. It doesn't matter that Jesus Christ is in the name; what matters is who this Jesus is that is taught and, whatever you want to call yourselves, our Jesuses aren't the same in the details of what we believe. Let's get into those details and set aside the silly rebuff
The thing that struck me most about the Time magazine article "What Makes Us Moral" is the view of reality it expresses and how thoroughly science is taking over every field of inquiry. J.P. Moreland has made the point that in our society, the man in the white lab coat has authority. We listen to the expert, and the expert most respected is the scientist because naturalism is the default presupposition about reality. It's the natural result of evolution. Everything has a natural explanation. But it creeps beyond origins when it becomes the view of reality to explain everything. Science is now explaining morality - or attempting to. The presumption behind the Time article and the experiments it reports is that morality is yet another natural feature of humans that can be explained by science and tracked in the brain. There's nothing more to it.
I have no doubt that our brains are active in literally every aspect of our lives. We are embodied beings. The claim I deny is that only the brain is involved and that morality is the activity of our brains. Articles such as this one, and the research they report, make the consistent mistake that correlation or causation is identity. The activity of the brain is the thing trying to be explained. For that to be successful, first the correlation would have to be proved to be causation. And second, it would have to explain or reduce all the features of the thing being explained to that physical activity of the brain. That can't be done by science.
One inherent feature of morality is the prior incumbency it has, the moral force ahead of time. There is a prescriptive nature to moral laws that isn't the same as the descriptive nature of physical laws. We discover physical laws by observation. We know them by induction. We know they're laws after the fact, so to speak. We couldn't predict them apart from observation. And as consistent as they are, we don't know them to be universal because there is nothing incumbent in them by nature. We expect and predict them to be consistent, but they don't have to be.
Moral rules are quite different. We can know them and discover them prior to observation. Even when we learn a moral value from our parents, when we reflect on it we become aware of the prescriptive nature of it. We don't stumble upon them by observation; we know them in an intuitional way. And they are universal; we know morality always applies and won't be excepted. We can have more confidence in them than even physical laws. Now I'm talking about moral values here in the general, universal sense. We have many ways of applying these values in specific rules that may differ. But those rules are expressions of a general principle.
If morality is that activity in the brain, then it can be no different than a physical law. After all, it is only a physical fact. But that kind of explanation cannot capture features of morality we know intuitively. A physical story might be told to account for morality. The writer attempts such a story telling us that our tribal history accounts for why we are more concerned about people close to us than far away. But that's a story, not proof. It might be so. As Greg says, an alternate explanation is not a refutation.
The story concludes with a picture of the brain captioned "Where Decisions Are Made." It would be more accurate to say "Where the Brain Is Active When Decisions Are Made." Naturalism hasn't been successful as a grand explanation for everything. The man in the white lab coat isn't the ultimate authority. Philosophers and pastors and all kinds of experts still have valuable things to teach us that science can't begin to test and explain.