Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"That's Fronk-en-shteen"

My wife and I went on a theatre-hike on Saturday at the Morton Arboretum. What is a theater-hike you ask? The best explanation is found on the Theater-Hike website:

During a theatre-hike the audience walks to different outdoor locations for each scene of a play. Theatre-Hikes has walked up to two miles during performances, sometimes less, sometimes more. Audience members sit on the ground, sit in chairs they have brought, stand and lean against trees while watching a Theatre-Hikes performance.

We had a wonderful time seeing Frankenstein. They were predicting rain, so it was overcast for the whole play which added to the overall ambience. It drizzled a bit during the final scene which was perfect. I am one of the few people that have never seen or read the original story and while this was an adaptation that did not exactly follow the original, I found the story riveting. My exposure to the Frankenstein story has been limited to Young Frankenstein. By the way, Mel Brooks is a genius.

If you get a chance, check out one of the walking plays at the Morton Arboretum. So far we have also seen Moby Dick and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. They are going to be performing The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which was written by Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, this winter and we are making plans on going.

I have included a few pictures from the hike, some are blurry because of the low light. I have one from each scene and you can notice the different backgrounds for each scene.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Andy Warhol the Philosopher

Andy Warhol once said, "It's the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it."

Does Hollywood reflect society or does society reflect Hollywood? Here are a couple of articles that are very interesting in this regards. They are both a little bit older, but they are still very relevant.

Entertainment Media - does it lead or follow society? from ChristianAnswers.net makes an excellent point. Dr. Michael Suman, coordinator of The Center for Communications Policy at the University of California at Los Angeles makes an excellent point that it is more than just what we see in the media:
The media in Japan is more violent that it is in the United States. But notice the factor such as the structure of the family. In the United States, 30% of children are born out of wedlock. Among African Americans the figure is up to 70%. Compare that with Japan where the figure is about 1%. Teenage pregnancy rates are directly related to that. In the United States, the teenage pregnancy rates are 16 times what they are in Japan. And if you look at Japanese society, the rates of violent crime are much lower than they are in the United States. Murder rates and rates of rape are 1/10th to 1/20th of what they are in the United States. Just blaming film and television for all these problems is much too simplistic if we look at other cultures.

The article goes on to point out that it is not just what children see on TV that is important. What is also important is a stable family support unit that discusses and sets the standard as to what is appropriate to be watched.

According to Does TV Really Reflect Culture? on the Catholic Exchange website society says it does not care for what Hollywood shows.
Despite Hollywood's argument that television merely reflects the lives of most Americans, all evidence points to a different reality: most Americans are sick of all the sex on TV.

One survey, for example, found that 77% of respondents said there was too much sexual content on television, while another poll revealed that 71% of people thought that the more explicit portrayal of sex and nudity on television encouraged immorality.

Yet, despite the consistently high opposition to so much sexual content on television, networks are showing sex more often, not less. According to a study released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, between 1997 and 2002 the percentage of shows with sexual content rose from 56% to 64%, and the percentage of shows depicting or strongly implying sexual intercourse doubled.

While people may say they are sick of what is shown, it's my opinion that society and Hollywood are walking hand in hand. Hollywood is always pushing the limits and society is right there encouraging and allowing them to do so. Hollywood would not be going down this path if people were not supporting it all with their money and time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

If I Only Had a Brain

Scarecrow: “I haven't got a brain... only straw.”
Dorothy: “How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?”
Scarecrow: “I don't know... But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking... don't they?”
Dorothy: “Yes, I guess you're right.”

How appropriate. I find that to be all too true all too often. We all engage our mouths before we engage our brain at some point. I was listening to a Christian Apologetics talk show and a caller tried to make the point that all the early settlers that came to America did so in order to establish a Christian nation. The host of the show, John Snyder, who is both a Christian and a history expert, disagreed with the caller. John pointed out that many of the colonies were settled by people trying to make money. The caller replied with, “I disagree.” The caller never offered any support for his beliefs and John did a good job of naming settlements, New York for example, that were for profit rather than for Jesus.

The worst thing that someone can do is to make assertions with no support for their statements. Even if your assertion is correct and you do not offer support, someone that offers a contrary view with some support will make your argument seem weak and wrong. With some research and hard work Christians can offer a much more compelling and clear view that will win not just the hearts of people but their minds as well. Winning the mind is far more important than winning the heart. Feelings can change relatively easy, but a solid truth based decision will last. It’s the difference between building on sand and on solid rock.

We can’t be scarecrows without a brain; we need to use all of our God given abilities.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Da Bears

Its football season and the Chicago Bears are one of the top teams in the NFL this year. How sweet it is. I was spoiled as a Bears fan in the 80s. They had great teams and even won Super Bowl XX. The 85 Bears went 15-1 in the regular season and 3-0 in the post season. They won their post season games by a combined score of 90-10. Calling the Bears “dominating” that year does not even begin to describe their rule over the NFL that year.

Mike Ditka was their coach from the 1983 season through the 1992 season. He made the playoffs 7 out of 10 times, won 6 out of 12 playoff games. They were a very good team for most of those years. From the 1993 season through the 2004 season the Bears have not been so good. They made the playoffs only 2 out of 12 times and lost more games than they won under Ditka. They went from being a perennial powerhouse to a perennial outhouse.

But wait…last year they made the playoffs and had one of the best defenses in the league. This year through 4 games the defense is even better and they have a strong offense as well. They just spanked last years NFC champion and have made football watching in Chicago a joy again.

I hope this continues to be a fun season.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Moral Foundations and Slippery Slopes

A mass grave in Germany was found with the remains of victims of Hitler’s Action T4 euthanasia plan. The philosophical ideas and support for the plan, Lebensunwertes Leben (Life unworthy of life), was base upon the book Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwerten Lebens (Release for Annihilation of Life Unworthy of Life) written by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche in 1920. The program was primarily carried out by Hitler’s personal physician Karl Brandt who was convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and membership in the SS. At his trial Brandt acknowledged recommending the use of carbon monoxide as a means of euthanizing and called it a “major advance in medical history.” Action T4 initially sterilized those deemed mentally, physically or socially unacceptable or undesirable to society. It then moved on to the killing of children that suffered from mental or physical diseases or disabilities. Finally the program killed any children or adults that were unwanted by society. Over 400,000 people were forcibly sterilized and over 200,000 people were killed because of the T4 program. The T4 program lead to the Final Solution in both ideology and technology. Read the Wikipedia articles on Action T4, Nazi Eugenics and the Final Solution. They are quite disturbing.

The morality of the Nazi party is a classic example of the problems with relativistic morality. It is used quite often to stress the importance not of morality in and of itself but of the basis for morality. The Nazi party based their morality upon what was determined to be best for society. A large factor in the decision to kill the mentally and physically disabled patients in hospitals was to free up the hospital space and staff for the soldiers wounded in the war that the Nazis had started.

Today we are seeing a similar plan being put into action in a way that is much more palatable to the general public. It is more palatable because most people will not make the connection. One of the new areas that genetic research is taking us is genetic engineering. There are a couple of processes that are noteworthy: Prenatal Diagnosis, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, and genetic engineering to create Designer Babies.

Prenatal Diagnosis (PD) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) are very similar. PD is a way to screen a baby prior to the birth. PGD screens the embryo before in vitro fertilization. They allow the early diagnosis for many genetic and other conditions that may be undesirable to the parents. Creating a Designer Baby uses the technology for PD and PGD to allow the customization of the genetic makeup of a baby. While all of the technology necessary is not yet available it is currently being developed. The website for the Center for the Study of Technology and Society lists the following reasons for wanting to do this screening and customization.

Screening embryos for high risk diseases.
Screening embryos for unknown diseases.
Selecting the sex of a baby.
Picking an embryo for its specific traits.
Genetic manipulation for therapeutic reasons.
Genetic manipulation for cosmetic reasons.

The first three reasons are being done with current technology and the last three are not yet possible. Today science is allowing society to determine which life is worthy and is unworthy of life. Sound familiar?

All these, and other related technologies, do have benefits for human life and health. I am not advocating the stopping of genetic research. The more we know about genetic diseases the better prepared we are to cure those diseases. But we do need to be careful as to how we use the knowledge that we have. We cannot follow down the path of Karl Brandt; he thought that because he figured out a relatively painless way to kill people that he was making medical progress. Curing a disease is not the same as preventing people with those diseases from living.

For more info on PGD click here and here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Can Atheists Be Moral?

I was listening to the Apologetics.com Radio Show podcast with John Snyder this morning with guest “Bob the Atheist.” John had him on because Bob had claimed that the Atheist point of view was skewed on the show and he wanted to set the record straight. One of the items that Bob brought up is the idea of morals. He felt that Christians think that Atheists are either amoral or immoral but he feels that Atheists can be just as moral as anyone else. I must say that he is right, to a point.

Being a Christian or an Atheist does not define or describe the general moral condition. There are many Christians that act immorally and many Atheists that act morally. And the opposite condition exists as well. Merely being a Christian does not make one a better person, in fact a Christian is still someone that is going to make mistakes and do wrong.

The issue is from where morals originate. The host, John Snyder, pointed out that morality does not come from the Bible, but from God. This is why Atheists inherently know the difference between right and wrong. From the Christian world view, all people have the Law of God written upon their heart and this accounts for the morality of people whether or not they are Christians. From the Atheists world view, morals evolved as a set of rules that society has determined will best allow society to flourish.

Bob tried to make the case that it does not matter where morals originate from and all that matters is that one follows the morality of society. But he is wrong, the source of the morality really does matter.

Your source of morality ultimately determines your morality. There is a big problem with basing your morality upon natural selection, which is the foundation for the Atheists morality. Here is an excerpt from one of my previous posts:

If there are no moral absolutes that transcend nature then morality is completely defined from within natural means. So morality is solely based on what society has decided is right and wrong. These decisions can either be random, because we like it, or enlightened, it gives us the best chance for survival. Let’s take the case of Hitler and his murder of the Jews. What the atheist argues is that Hitler was wrong because we as humans, as a whole, have decided that murdering innocent people is evil and Hitler was acting outside what we have decided to be wrong and therefore we as humans needed to stop him.

We as humans decided that what Hitler was doing was wrong. Do you see a problem with this? I do.

What if we humans had decided that what Hitler was doing was not wrong? The Allies, one society, decided that Hitler was wrong and the Axis, another society, decided that he was right. What if the Axis had won WWII? Would that mean that what Hitler was doing was wrong if the Allies won the war but what he was doing was right if the Axis had won the war? I think that most people, if they look deep inside themselves and are truly honest, would say that Hitler was wrong even if no one ever decided that he was wrong and needed to be stopped.

The source of our morality ultimately determines how we act when it comes to the weakest of our world. I think that a fair number of Atheists know that it is absolutely wrong to murder and kill innocent people. They know this, not because they are amoral or immoral beings by nature, but because they are beings with the Law of God written upon their heart.