All posts by Phil W

Warning: Contains Hot Coffee

Lars dislike of coffee may have saved him from a painful disaster had he used an EspressoExpress. The coffee-making device is being recalled because “the heating element can ‘forcefully separate from its base during the brewing cycle.'” If the product was properly labeled with warning to the user, I don’t see the need for the recall. “Warning: May spew scalding liquid while brewing. If contact with skin, consult a physician. What remains in the carafe should be great espresso. Enjoy.”

Philosophy of Science: Evolution

Maxine of Petrona has a couple posts on evolution. The first points to several reviews of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion and other evolutionary items. The second post criticizes a librarian who appears to leap the logic to conclude that libraries are biased against intelligent design theories.

Author Marilynne Robinson also reviewed Dawkins’ book in the latest Harper’s. Mark Bertrand summarizes that review here:

In a nutshell, the problem with Dawkins is that he compares the very worst of religion with the very best of science. Nineteenth and early twentieth century race-based eugenics isn’t “real science,” in Dawkins view — in spite of its widespread acceptance by the scientific community worldwide, not just in Nazi Germany — but suicide bombings, the Inquisition, and the murder of abortion clinic doctors are real religion. Historically speaking, science hasn’t always made things better, just as religion hasn’t made them worse. But, as Robinson points out, Dawkins isn’t concerned too much with historical realities.

Perhaps Robinson makes the point on which I always stand with evolution (though I didn’t stand there firmly in our recent blog argument), that being the theory of evolution is only a philosphy of science, a way of viewing the evidence, not the only conclusion for clear-headed scientists.

Next in the Continuing Saga of Mr. Darcy

Do you remember that bit of news on publishers seeking out fan-fic writers and a particular trilogy based on Pride and Prejudice? Will Duquette has read the first in that trilogy, An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan. He says it isn’t all that bad. “Aidan’s Darcy is nevertheless an intriguing character, consistent with Austen’s Darcy.”

Speaking of fan-fic, November is National Novel Writing Month. I want to type out some fiction this month as well, not for a novel, but for sketches and stories. I may shove some of it to the blog so you have the “opportunity” to read or ignore it.

Bertrand on The Master’s Artist

J. Mark Bertrand describes what it means to write stories as a Christian, someone who belongs to Adonai:

The Master’s Artist isn’t a synonym for “an evangelical writer” . . . It bespeaks an effort to do one’s art graciously, with beauty and truth, to do it theologically, applying the ideas of scripture like so much sandpaper to the ideas of man. The evangelical artist might be content to argue one side against another, but the Master’s Artist argues against himself as well as his world, longing in some small way to be useful as an instrument of Christ’s comprehensive redemptive work.

Letters for Prayer Washed Up in Atlantic City

Here’s a bit of news which could get you thinking. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a man and his son retreived a bag from the water, filled with written prayers to the Lord. The AP reports:

Many of the letters were addressed to the Rev. Grady Cooper, though many more simply said “Altar.” According to the text of several of them, they were intended to be placed on a church’s altar and prayed over by the minister, the congregation or both.

A card in the bag identified Rev. Cooper as an associate pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Jersey City. The AP learned that he died two years ago, but was unable to learn anything more from the church or locate his family.

The letters represent the hard and silly things we pray for, those of us who know little about the God we claim to worship and those of us who know him intimately. It’s interesting news, but it feels voyeuristic to read the concerns of unknown people in an AP story.

Robin Hood Redux Again

The Grumpy Old Bookman reports, “The new BBC TV series Robin Hood is turning out to be a disappointment, I fear, but if you’re up for a Robin Hood novel then Andrew Fish has a brand-new one for you: Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow.” According to the book’s site, Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow “explores what happens when a Nottinghamshire schoolteacher travels back in time to seek out the truth behind the Robin Hood legend,” and learns that Robin Hood was a crook.

I don’t know what to think of the book, but I do feel good about the author’s sensibilities from his rundown of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: “The Kevin Costner version of the story was wrong on so many levels, from the use of a fifteenth century castle at Old Wardour, through to Costner’s complete failure at a British accent. Somehow, however, the film is still enjoyable, and Bryan Adams’ anthem sounds much better when you haven’t been subjected to it on the radio for weeks on end.”

Von Doehren: When I Became a Christian, I Stopped Writing

Relief Journal Assistant Editor Heather von Doehren on writing as a believer:

To be honest, once I became a Christian (which was just four years ago) I stopped writing—not because I stopped having things to write about, but because I didn’t know how to reconcile being a Christian and a writer. How does someone write about Christian topics without sounding cheesy or cliché? As an atheist, I perceived Christians as annoyingly perfect people (I know…naïve…), who existed in a world that just did not exist. Yet Christian writing almost always portrayed this same polished (censored?) angle on reality. I didn’t know how to write as a Christian because, upon this transformation, nothing was mystically easy, censored, or anything like 7th Heaven.

Once I became Christian, I felt as if all of my actions, words, and thoughts were being held to the highest of all high standards—and not just from other Christians. I didn’t feel like I could be honest about what I was struggling with; in the past, my poetry expressed my human flaws, and in becoming Christian I felt as if I had to censor all those flaws. And no one can write like that. Yes, carrying the label “Christian” means we should be more like Christ; however, just because we aim, doesn’t mean we always hit our target. In reality, Christians aren’t perfect people. But if you look at most Christian writing, you’d think we are.

This is an excerpt from an interview with Heather von Doehren and Relief’s Editor-in-Chief Kimberly Culbertson.

Relief Journal Short Story Contest

Finding the Profound in the Profoundly Ordinary” is the theme of a short story contest by Relief Journal and Faith in Fiction. From the announcement: “Andre Dubus writes of cooking an omelet and it becomes a holy moment. Marilynne Robinson takes the act of baptism and communion out of their churchly garb and gives them new resonance and depth. Inspired by examples like these, the “Daily Sacrament” short fiction contest will challenge you to explore the everyday in light of the eternal — or the sacred in the surroundings of the commonplace.”

Have you subscribed to Relief Journal? There are benefits to those who donate or subscribe before November 15.

The Staunch Atheist and Moral Clarity

Columnist Janie Cheaney has a short take on Sam Harris’ new book, Letter To a Christian Nation. She’s says it’s a short book from a “hard-boiled atheist of the kind C.S. Lewis lamented back in the ’40s.” He wants to eliminate faith from our minds. Interestingly enough, he complains in a recent column about radical Islam and the fact that those speaking with the “greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right.”

Sam, what basis does an atheist have for recommending moral judgements to others? Isn’t it just an appeal to individual reason that your way is the way for us all to get along better? That’s what Richard Dawkins seems to argue in his book, The Selfish Gene, but he states our biology works against this idea of everyone’s better good:

The genes are the master programmers, and they are programming for their lives. They are judged according to the success of their programs in copying with all the hazards that life throws at their survival machines, and the judge is the ruthless judge of the court of survival.

Whenever a system of communication evolves, there is always the danger that some will exploit the system for their own ends. Brought up as we have been on the ‘good of the species’ view of evolution, we naturally think first of liars and deceivers as belonging to different species: predators, prey, parasites, and so on. However, we must expect lies and deceit, and selfish exploitation of communication to arise whenever the interests of the genes of different individuals diverge. This will include individuals of the same species. As we shall see, we must even expect that children will deceive their parents, that husbands will cheat on wives, and that brother will lie to brother.

So he urges us to find morality outside of biology. Why?

Kerry’s Botched Joke

You may have heard that Senator John Kerry commented on education the other day and has since tried to explain that it was a botched joke. The would-be joke: “Education, if you make the most of it — you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart — you can do well. If you don’t you get stuck in Iraq.”

Yeah, I know what he meant. If you don’t make an effort to be smart, you get stuck blogging.

We Love the Lord. You Don’t.

I’ve been wanting to write one or two posts on political language or some of the talk I’ve read about current issues, but I’m a slow blogger as you can tell. This one will be quick, and then I’ll take my wife back to the midwife. (She feels good, btw, and her body is healing.)

On political talk in Tennessee, Harold Ford, Jr. (D) is campaigning against Bob Corker (R) for the U.S. Senate. Apparently, the Corker people were at a rally for Ford in Paris, Tennessee, where Congressman Ford said:

“My friend Lincoln Davis who chairs our campaign says there are, there’s one big difference between us and misfortunate Republicans when it comes to our faith: he said that Republicans fear the Lord; he said Democrats fear AND love the Lord (applause)…”

I suppose that’s public knowledge which could go without comment, but I want to note that I often pray for our leaders and candidates to fear the Lord no matter which party they are in.

Book Coverage in Newspapers

I just learned of this new ArtsJournal blog on books: BookDaddy. Jerome Weeks has been book columnist for The Dallas Morning News before starting this blog, and here he describes the state of book coverage at that paper, if not in newspapers generally. On increasing revenue for book coverage, he suggests:

If the [American Association of Publishers] wanted to do anything, it could try to convince advertisers that the readers of books pages may not be the young illiterates with poor impulse control that marketers currently want but neither are they the old and the dying, as conventional ad wisdom has it. They’re a well-off, often media-savvy and intellectually- and socially-involved audience. This is not some wildly unconventional, radical re-think: TV networks have come to respond to an older audience (the kids are all off in the clubs or on the computer) and has long positioned “geezer” ads for its news programming. Why not the arts pages?

Sounds good to me. I want to be concerned about newspaper coverage, but I don’t subscribe to any of them. I have picked up a few Friday Wall Street Journals because of Terry Teachout, and I look at the local Sunday paper at my parents house, but I don’t care to spend the money on a subscription I wouldn’t read. I do that with other things already. (Thanks to Books, Inc. for pointing out Mr. Weeks’ blog.)