Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Matt 24 [& Ezekiel 38] watch, 47: The Chavez-Iran Axis and the Caribbean basin Anti-US "Alliance"

On Monday, I was astonished to hear on the traditional BBC morning news, that Mr Chavez of Venezuela -- a former Lieutenant Colonel who led a failed coup attempt in 1992 then won an election in 1998 and has recently sought to hold the presidency in perpetuity -- has taken occasion of the launch of his Bolivarian "alternative" to the US' Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative, to announce an anti-US "MILITARY Alliance."

A "military" alliance that - per announcement -- is intended to include our sister Caribbean island, Dominica.

So far, of course, Dominica has been silent.

Doubtless, policy makers and advisers there are desperately trying to figure out what to do and say without losing privileges under the PetroCaribe oil- for- debt- for- generations- to- come deal, and the proposed Venezuela-funded oil refinery that was so proudly announced just a few weeks ago as a triumph of the Roosevelt administration.

Have we so soon forgotten Solomon's grim warning?
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower [is] servant to the lender. [Pro 22:7; also cf. Matthew Henry's telling comment, here.]
And thus, our agenda-driven rhetorical, ideological and policy chickens have come home to roost.

For decades, it has been fashionable in intellectual, policy and media circles to discuss the real and imagined sins of the USA and other Western powers on a very one-sided way, without any balancing assessment of and appreciation for the blessings and benefits such powers (flawed as they inevitably will be, for they are led by men who are finite, fallible and fallen too, just like we are) have brought to the world and to us.

So, we have utterly distorted the context in which too many people in our region -- including those in high office -- think about issues, situations and policy challenges.

For instance, on any objective assessment, it has been plain for decades that the Castro regime is a tyrannical, oppressive and abusive Communist dictatorship. That's no surprise: it is merely par for the course with that by and large now abandoned destructive utopian experiment in militantly atheistical, socialist political messianism. (After well over 100 millions of the murdered around the world in about seventy years, one would have thought that this much should be obvious.)

But, Mr Castro has been an "anti-imperialist" voice, so we have turned a blind eye to his tyranny, and have consistently failed to give even mild constructive criticism in the name of being the descendants of those only liberated from oppression with great pain and cost.

Thus, we acquired very bad habits of biased thought and judgement.

So, when Mr Chavez came along as a "friend" of Mr Castro [whom he is bailing out of the economically ruinous consequences of communism, to the tune of 96,000 free or nearly free barrels of oil per year; in exchange for sending Cuban doctors to Venezuela], we uncritically embraced him.

Have we forgotten or not noticed Mr Chavez's track record and repeatedly manifested tendencies and proclivities?
1 --> Only a few weeks ago, he narrowly lost a referendum that would have allowed him to stand for "re-election" endlessly (in a situation where he is able to manipulate the terms of elections so that they would easily become more and more unfree and unfair).

2 --> Similarly, the referendum was intended to have given Mr Chavez direct control of the Central Bank, would have given him control of the economy, and would have consolidated a system by which local councils answerable to the President's Office would have been given great power in ruling the communities.

3 --> Of this last, Leopoldo Lopez, Mayor of Chacao district warned:

Communal councils have to register themselves with the president's office. But if they're not absolutely loyal to the government, they won't get registered. And if they're not registered, there's no access to government funds.

You need to promote plurality, tolerance and diversity. Without this, there is no democracy . . . .

"Political power is being concentrated in the president's hands. Community organisations that don't think like the president cannot succeed."
4 --> In addition, even after having lost the referendum on some terms, the BBC sums up that: ". . . Chavez still has almost complete control of the national assembly, has been granted the so-called "enabling law" for the next year, which allows him to pass legislation without recourse to parliament, and his current term runs until 2013."

5 --> That term "enabling law" is chilling, for those familiar with what Adolf Hitler did in the aftermath of the infamous Reichstag fire of 1933, when he rushed through an enabling act that allowed him to make law by decree, i.e gave him absolute power subject only to occasional rubber-stamping renewals of the power by a tame Reichstag, appropriately by then meeting in an opera house.

6 --> Nor is this the fallacy of guilt by dubious association with that notorious dictator. We should first note that "Nazism" is short for National Socialism; and Hitler's party, the NSDAP, was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party." Contrary to popular opinion and many media and pundit claims, Nazism was an ideology of the LEFT, not the right.

7 --> That is, Nazism and its sister ideology Fascism, were variations of the socialist theme in the context of the key idea that times were so critical and enemies of the people so nefarious and threatening, that only rule by a messianic strong man could suffice to save the nation in the crisis, and would do so by in part taking over the commanding heights of the economy and otherwise taking control of the other major institutions in the society; industrial cartels, schools, media, arts, education etc. [BTW, this means that "fascism" is often a lot closer at hand than many of us realise . . .]

8 --> Worse, Mr Chavez has sought to form an axis with Iran, and as was noted in a report excerpted in a recent post in this blog, has allowed Iran's Revolutionary Guards Foreign Legion, Hezbollah, to set up bases of operation in Venezuela.

9 --> In that light, when we also see for instance the setting up of a base at Monkey Point, Nicaragua in collaboration with Iran, we should be very concerned about the emerging Caribbean theatre of operations in the ongoing global conflict. The global conflict that we are ever so reluctant to accept is the slow-burning World War IV.

10 --> World War III, better known as the Cold war, has shown that in a nuclear age, global conflicts burn slowly, play out through proxy wars and terrorism, always threatening to tip over the nuclear threshold. Thus, the chilling relevance of persistent issues and concerns over impending Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or terrorist groups to deliver them.

11 --> Such missiles -- sited in Venezuela, Nicaragua or Aves/Bird Island off Dominica, etc -- would threaten the whole region and would easily trigger a re-run of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. That crisis came within 12 hours of exploding into tactical then strategic nuclear exchanges, because there was -- unbeknownst to the Americans -- an undetected Russian brigade of tactical nuke missiles in Cuba; which would have been certainly fired off if the invasion had gone in on schedule. [Thankfully, Khrushchev blinked and "called" Kennedy on the now famous "hotline" to back down hours before the US fleet launched the invasion. (Apparently it was a teletype machine, not the melodramatic red telephone that movies have usually shown.)]

12 --> Ominously, Chavez also evidently shows antiSemitic tendencies towards Venezuela's Jewish population (who descend in the main from people who fled Hitler's impending slaughter in Europe before World War II). For instance, as Mona Charen recently writes:
On December 1, 2007, two dozen heavily armed police staged a raid on a Jewish community center in Caracas where hundreds were celebrating a wedding. The police, the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI, claimed to be seeking weapons and evidence of "subversive activity."

They found no weapons. As for subversive activity, well, in a proto-authoritarian state like Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, subversion is a very elastic concept. The mildest skepticism about Chavez's regime might easily qualify.

This bit of harassment theater was only the latest in a series of worrying moves by the Chavez government against its Jewish citizens. The same community center had been raided in 2004, in the morning hours when children were being bussed to school. The regime — which boasts of cozy friendships with Ahmadinejad's Iran and Castro's Cuba — has also engaged in steady anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda. A little more than a year ago, Chavez declared in a Christmas Eve speech that "the world has wealth for all, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, have taken over all the wealth of the world" . . . .

Publications by the government's ministry of culture have featured titles like "The Jewish Question" with cover art showing a Star of David superimposed over a swastika. Jews were accused of complicity in the murder of a prosecutor. An article in a leading newspaper, El Diario de Caracas, asked whether it would become necessary "to expel [the Jews] from the country."

Most recently, as the Forward has reported, Chavez has used the government-run television channel to engage in "lengthy rants about the presence of Mossad agents allegedly in the country working to unseat the Chavez regime with the support of the United States and opposition forces in Venezuela." The program's host interrupted to ask about the loyalty of Jews to Venezuela.

At the start of Chavez's rule, the Jewish community in Venezuela numbered about 30,000. Solid statistics are hard to come by but most estimates now put the number at between 8,000 and 15,000 today. About 50 percent of Venezuela's Jewish community had fled to the country to escape the Nazis during World War II.

Grim reading, but reading that we need to take time with, then soberly reflect on.

Let's connect some dots, in light of Ezekiel 38, and the war of Gog of Magog:
EZEKIEL 38:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him 3 and say: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army--your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. 5 Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, 6 also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops--the many nations with you.

EZE 38:7 " `Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. 8 After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety. 9 You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.

EZE 38:10 " `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. 11 You will say, "I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people--all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. 12 I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land" . . . . 16 You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

Sounds familiar?

We may want to debate just who and what Gog and Magog are, but the target is not in doubt, nor is the number one ally of Gog: Iran, with many nations joining in, in an overwhelming invasion of Israel, an Israel resettled in the land after many years of desolation. And, as we trace an axis from the Caribbean to Venezuela to Iran and onward to Moscow thence also China, we should take grim warning and refuse to be a party to the stage-setting or preparations for any such "evil scheme."

I dare to say so; in the name of the plain, explicit prophetic counsels of our loving but just Lord and Saviour, The Lord of Hosts; i.e., of armies.

For, this is the prophetic fate of those who attack what our Lord calls "my people Israel," in these latter days:
EZEKIEL 38:18 This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. 19 In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD . . . 22 I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.'
So, even as we look at regional developments, let us soberly reflect on their wider implications and the underlying spiritual issues.

And, let us determine that we shall never touch the apple of God's eye in hate, but rather that we shall always pray for and bless God's people Israel; even in those cases where as the prophets of old, we must point out her sins and call for repentance and reformation. END

Friday, January 25, 2008

Matt 24 Watch, 46: Of Minds, brains, us -- and God

As I occasionally report in this blog, I frequently visit other blogs; in recent months, especially Uncommon Descent -- a blog which discusses the question of the scientific inference to design, which is of interest to all who are concerned on state of science as an institution today, as well as in the interaction of science, philosophy, education, the Christian faith and public policy.

So, over the past fortnight or so, I have been having a fairly intense two-thread exchange on minds and brains here and (in a derivative thread) here. [An associated exchange on epistemology, the philosophical analysis of knowledge, here, is also relevant.]

A good first stop-off to look at how this issue is deeply revealing on the way the de-Christianising, hyper-/ ultra-/ post- modernist tidal wave from the North works from its bases in academia, education and the media outwards -- and thus of how it is increasingly impacting our region -- starts from what I have now taken to terming "Materialism-leaning 'prof' Wiki" [that is, the well-known but, sadly, far too often secularist- and materialism- biased Internet Encyclopedia] and how it discusses the rise of Cognitivism in Psychology:

. . . Cognitivism became the dominant force in psychology in the late-20th century, replacing behaviorism as the most popular paradigm for understanding mental function. Cognitive psychology is not a wholesale refutation of behaviorism, but rather an expansion that accepts that mental states exist. This was due to the increasing criticism towards the end of the 1950s of behaviorist models. One of the most notable criticisms was Chomsky’s argument that language could not be acquired purely through conditioning, and must be at least partly explained by the existence of internal mental states.

The main issues that interest cognitive psychologists are the inner mechanisms of human thought and the processes of knowing. Cognitive psychologists have attempted to throw light on the alleged mental structures that stand in a causal relationship to our physical actions . . .

Let's stop the press and look at that again: Cognitivism's major distinction from behaviourism is that "it accepts that mental states exist, " and it seeks to throw light on the alleged mental structures that stand in a causal relationship to our physical actions.

Excuse me, but who was it that was doing the thinking and arguing in favour of a major, decades-long scientific movement that sought to deny that mental states exist, again -- robots in human flesh, driven by their inner computers was it?

Of course not.

It was men and women like you and me; men and women such as B F Skinner, who not only had mental states but relied on them to even argue that mental states do not exist.
Q: Whence such a plainly self-refuting absurdity?

ANS: The dominance of evolutionary materialist thought in the C20, which led many to think that anything that hinted that there may be something to the world beyond matter, energy, space, time and the four or so known physical forces -- strong and weak nuclear, gravitation, electromagnetism -- must be suspect.
An even more telling instance is from Sir Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA:
The Astonishing Hypothesis is that "You," your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

Free Will is, in many ways, a somewhat old-fashioned subject. Most people take it for granted, since they feel that usually they are free to act as they please. While lawyers and theologians may have to confront it, philosophers, by and large, have ceased to take much interest in the topic. And it is almost never referred to by psychologists and neuroscientists. A few physicists and other scientists who worry about quantum indeterminacy sometimes wonder whether the uncertainty principle lies at the bottom of Free Will.

... Free Will is located in or near the anterior cingulate sulcus. ... Other areas in the front of the brain may also be involved. What is needed is more experiments on animals, ... [Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, NY, 1993, pp. 3, 265, 268.]
No wonder, Intelligent Design thinker Philip Johnson observed that to be consistent, Crick should be willing to preface each of his writings: “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” He then aptly noted by way of devastating understatement, “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [Reason in the Balance, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1995), p. 64.].

Thus, too the relevance of the following comments in the 2002 JTS/CGST Public Ethics Lecture:
Arguably, then, Evolutionary Materialism is a philosophical position that easily falls into self-referential inconsistencies. So, whatever a Dingwall or a Spong, or even a Crick may think or say, the resulting logical confusion shreds Naturalism’s bold assertion that it is scientifically established “knowledge.” Further, its specifically scientific claims are also open to serious challenge, and so, for instance, the [Intelligent Design-supporting think-tank] Discovery Institute posts [circa 2002] in its Web Site[31]:
Materialistic thinking dominated Western culture during the 20th century in large part because of the authority of science. The Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks, therefore, to challenge materialism on specifically scientific grounds.[32] Yet Center Fellows do more than critique theories that have materialistic implications. They have also pioneered alternative scientific theories and research methods that recognize the reality of design and the need for intelligent agency to explain it. This new research program — called "design theory" — is based upon recent developments in the information sciences and many new evidences of design. Design theory promises to revitalize many long-stagnant disciplines by recognizing mind, as well as matter, as a causal influence in the world. It also promises, by implication, to promote a more holistic view of reality and humanity, thus helping to reverse some of materialism's destructive cultural consequences.

Going yet further, as Francis Schaeffer often warned, “ideas have consequences.” So, there is an even more pressing, concern. For, “every man does what is right in his own eyes” -- as (for example) we saw Mr Dingwall advocating above -- is the classic recipe for social chaos and anarchy. Such chaos opens the gate for tyrants to gain power by promising to restore or maintain order and prosperity. However, tyrannical “cures” are almost always worse than the disease.[33]
Thus, we come to the Caribbean’s stark choice: repentance, mutual reconciliation and reformation under God; or, ever-increasing social chaos and violence as men dismiss and forget God’s rightful place in their lives and communities, leading to bloody revolution and/or tyranny. For, as hard experience has repeatedly shown, godliness is the only proven way for nations to sustainably enjoy both liberty and order[34].
Of course, this underscores the relevance of the issues we are addressing; but such general remarks are a bit afield of the point for pulling up some significant observations from the two main blog threads at UD.

For, in these blog threads we can find an interesting way to use the rise of computer technology to bring out some significant ways in which minds and machines differ.

For instance, in the Deep Blue thread, original poster BarryA, notes:
computers . . . are just very powerful calculators, but they do not “think” in any meaningful sense. By this I mean that computer hardware is nothing but an electro-mechanical device for operating computer software. Computer software in turn is nothing but a series of “if then” propositions. These “if then” propositions may be massively complex, but software never rises above an utterly determined “if then” level . . . . Even if an element of randomness is introduced into the system [e.g. access a random number and use it to drive the program forward in an unpredictable way], however, the way in which the computer will employ that random element is determined.

Now the $64,000 question is this: Is the human brain merely an organic computer that in principle operates the same way as my PC?” In other words, does the Turing Machine also describe the human brain ? If the brain is just an organic computer, even though human behavior may at some level be unpredictable, it is nevertheless determined, and free will does not exist. If, on the other hand, it is not, if there is a “mind” that is separate from though connected to, the brain, then free will does exist.

He then identifies Qualia -- in effect the "I-ness," personal, subjective component of an experience -- as an excample of how man and machine differ qualitatively:

Consider a computer equiped with a light gathering device and a spectrograph. When light of wavelength X enters the light gathering device, the spectrograph gives a reading that the light is red. When this happens the computer is programmed to activate a printer that prints a piece of paper with the following statement on it “I am seeing red.”

I place the computer on my back porch just before sunset, and in a little while the printer is activated and prints a piece of paper that says “I am seeing red.”

Now I go outside and watch the same sunset. The reds in the sunset I associate with warmth, by which I mean my subjective reaction to the redness of the reds in the sunset is “warmth.”

1. Did the computer “see” red? Obviously yes.

2. Did I “see” red. Obviously yes.

3. Did I have a subjective experiences of the redness of red, i.e., did I experience a qualia? Obviously yes.

4. Did the computer have a subjective experience of the redness of red, i.e., did it experience a qualia? Obviously no.

Conclusion: The computer registered “red” when red light was present. My brain registered “red” when red light was present. Therefore, the computer and my brain are alike in this respect. However, and here’s the important thing, the computer’s experience of the sunset can be reduced to the functions of its light gathering device and hardware/software. But my experience of the sunset cannot be reduced to the functions of my eye and brain. Therefore, I conclude I have a mind which cannot be reduced to the electro-chemical reactions that occur in my brain.

In short, he is pointing to the key error being made by Sir Francis Crick above: confusing the input-output and control processing operations with the real locus of active intelligence; the mind. In turn, that set me to thinking on how minds and brains are organised, which ended up in the following sequence of arguments, as I reflected on a model for robot systems by engineer Derek Smith of Wales. That led me -- pardon a few techie details if you are not comfortable with them -- to observe:

As I look at the responses, once the “brain as i/o [input-output] control processor” version of the Derek Smith cybernetics model of autonomous, self-directing . . . intelligent servo-control systems [cf his Fig 2 - a servo system is one that controls position, speed or acceleration to a set path; robots are examples] was put on the table as a way to look at the issue, several things have jumped out at me:

I: DESIGNER’S ITCH: I – as often happens — have a major case of “designer’s itch” as I see the way that the DS model correlates very fruitfully with what I know from many of relevant fields in control — and as far away as athletic visualisation for peak performance, muscular memory and even education on the the classic taxonomy of goals for the psychomotor domain — tremendous possibilities . . . .

II: FROM CONCEPTUAL MODEL TO DESIGN: I can see how . . . to feed in detailed architectures and dynamics as well as modelling to actually design, BUILD and test one of R Daneel’s early ancestors . . . .

III: SCI-TECH STARTERS, NOT STOPPERS: In short, the DS-type model is a science and technology starter not a science stopper! That is, including the ID challenge version – [a] can we actually BUILD a self-conscious, AI based robot using the Intelligent Director-i/o processor model? [We can only try . . . i.e here we can go do some real-word experiments – though let us note that we ourselves can arguably be seen as examples of the DS class of sophisticated servo systems.] Or, [b] if not, can we at least build an autonomous one that will exhibit environmentally effective, goal directed behaviour, cost-effectively? And if so, [c] where will that take technology — and science — and phil — too?

IV: MODELS AND REALITIES (PRESENT AND PROSPECTIVE): Thence, too, the point that a model world is potentially empirically descriptive and can be sufficiently predictive to become the basis for real-world creative action, once a system architecture is logically and dynamically valid, and compatible with known or foreseeable materials and sub-system technologies. In short, the classical sci-tech agenda is: describe, explain, predict control — or at least, influence.

V: DESCRIBE- EXPLAIN- PREDICT- CONTROL: The DS model passes this test with flying colours: (i) it describes the planning-executing functions of a certain class of known autonomous entities [us humans individually and as Ac 27 summarises, in the community of people having to deal with a potentially hostile environment using socio-technological systems and governance mechanisms . . . H’mm: a democratically governed collective Intelligent Director as systems architecture – debate the options and try the best on balance across votes . . .?], and (ii) it is potentially fruitful of innovating future tech and associated science.

That leads to emerging phil considerations . . .

VI: MINDS, BRAINS, AND INFORMATION INTERFACES: In that context, it is obvious that the key interface between mind [as intelligent director] and brain [as i/o control processor] is INFORMATION. [a] Once an efferent copy is there on the hardware, it can then drive the algorithms for effecting and for path-differential monitoring, feedback and adaptations to contingencies. In turn, [b] such an efference copy/predictive model is based on learning and generalisation from experience – suggesting [c] neural network type architectures for at least a part of the more sophisticated levels, and also that [d] the i/o processor, across time, provides key sensor data that helps construct a world-model to guide the Director.

VII: PHIL/WORLDBVIEW IMPLICATIONS: The Derek Smith Intelligent Director-I/O Processor-Servosystems cybernetics model is of course compatible with a materially expressed director, but also points a way to what we think we experience: thoughts that are self-willed and act into the cause-effect chains of the material world but are independently intelligent — not determined/ driven and wholly reducible to/ “explained” without residue by some blend of chance and necessity acting across aeons from hydrogen to humans. In short, it is independent of the ontological debate over monism/dualism, once the role of information is acknowledged. We cvan use the information-level expression of this to get on with very interesting sci-tech stuff. But also, it plainly puts the dualistic view that there is a sufficiently self-determining, actively creative and intelligent mind that interacts with the body back on the table as a seriously “discuss-able” – and remember that we don’t need to commit tot he reality of an idea to discuss it fruitfully on a modelling what-if basis and to embed such in prospective technologies — conceptual-analytical option in a sci-rtech society. That potency, of course, is why it excited the sort of dismissive remarks, strawman attacks and seen above.

So, can we look at how we can develop interesting intelligent design oriented sci-tech, while we seriously look also at the worldview-level issues?

In short, the mind can usefully be viewed as interacting with the brain through exchanging information that creatively guides the brain-body system to act along intended paths, and to feed back to the mind whether or not there is an unexpected deviation.

Then, the mind acting as intelligent director, can intervene.

So we have a conceptually coherent model in which we can see and value the brain and what it does without confusing brain and mind.

THEN, we can listen to the voice of our inner experience of being intelligent persons who use our minds to think, decide and act. And, once we do so, we see that this points to the significance of the difference between what minds do and what programmed processors do, e.g qualia, argument and persuasion etc.

So we now have good reason to hold that the mind is not to be confused with the brain and/or its physical components.

Then, too, as we look to a key signpost of minds at work: organised complexity that manifests itself in sophisticated, active, functionally specified, complex information [FSCI, a subset of the Complex Specified Information often discussed by design theorists], we see that the logical conclusion is that such organised complexity and its associated functionally specified complex information reliably point to mind.

That brings to bear DNA and the nanotechnology of cell based life as pointing to an intelligent designer. It points to the sort of body plan level biodiversity we see in living forms and the fossil record -- however interpreted -- as also pointing to an intelligent designer. Then when we lift our eyes to the heavens and we see the fine-tuned organised complexity of the observed cosmos as a whole we see again that this too points to an intelligent agent as its author.

And, who is that author?

William Lane Craig has put this well:

We can summarize our argument as follows:

1. Whatever exists has a reason for its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external ground.

2. Whatever begins to exist is not necessary in its existence.

3. If the [observed] universe has an external ground of its existence, then there exists a Personal Creator of the universe, who, sans the universe, is timeless, spaceless, beginningless, changeless, necessary, uncaused, and enormously powerful.

[NOTE: For, impersonal but deterministic causes will produce a result as soon as they are present, e.g. as soon as heat, fuel and oxidiser are jointly present, a fire bursts into being. That is, it takes an agent cause to act in a structured fashion at a particular beginning-point. See (4) below on the idea of sub-universes popping up at random in an underlying infinite, eternal universe as a whole.]

4. The [observed] universe began to exist.

[NOTE: To deny this, one in effect must propose a speculative, eternally existing wider universe as a whole; in which sub-universes (such as our own) pop up more or less at random. This, of course is not at all what we have actually observed. Such a resort thus brings out the underlying speculative -- and after-the-fact -- metaphysics embedded in such "multiverse" proposals. In light of (3) just above, it also requires that points in the wider universe throw up expanding sub-universes at random. But, when this is wedded to the infinite proposed age, as Craig points out, it leads to the issue that every point in that wider universe as a whole should have birthed a sub-universe in infinite time. Thus, we should see multiple expansions in our zone of space, not just the observed number: one. Similarly,the idea of sub-universes randomly budding off from earlier expansions still implies a beginning, and the resort to imaginary time is a mathematical device, one that collapses back into requiring a beginning as soon as we get back to real time and space. In turn, there is an even more specific speculation: multiple, independent, non-interacting (and presumably undetectable) space-time domains -- but, how could we know of such, relative to empirical tests? It also leads to the issue Leslie raised: this local, observed domain exhibits the characteristics of the lone fly on the wall suddenly hit by a bullet. And so on, as an ad hoc patchwork slowly but surely emerges out of the evolutionary materialist system. In short, the better approach to explanation is to take the one observed, finely tuned universe and its evident beginning seriously.]

From (2) and (4) it follows that

5. Therefore, the [observed] universe is not necessary in its existence.

From (1) and (5) it follows further that

6. Therefore, the [observed] universe has an external ground of its existence.

From (3) and (6) it we can conclude that

7. Therefore, there exists a Personal Creator of the universe, who, sans the universe, is timeless, spaceless, beginningless, changeless, necessary, uncaused, and enormously powerful.

And this, as Thomas Aquinas laconically remarked,{67} is what everybody means by God.
In short, much is at stake in the materialist denial of and/or attempted reduction of mind to matter in motion. END

Monday, January 14, 2008

Matt 24 watch, 45: Reflections on an "invisible" world war and its implications for the Caribbean . . .

This morning, on BBC, the report was on how China blamed the recent sad violence in Kenya on "Democracy." (While it was going on, the typical story-line was that it was about tribalism affecting the politics.)

Imagine my shock, therefore, when I saw this report by outstanding British reporter Melanie Phillips, which first observes:

While I was away, reading about the appalling atrocities in Kenya in which churches were torched and dozens of Christians burned to death, I wondered whether any mainstream media would get the point. They didn’t. As far as I could see, the violence was universally ascribed to ‘tribal conflict’. But this isn’t the first time churches in Kenya have been torched, as you can read here (date unknown):
On 13 June, Muslims rioting over the arrest of one of their clerics torched five churches in Bura, Tana River district, not far from Mombasa in Kenya… As impunity equals permission, this is a serious issue of national significance at a time when Muslim tensions are rising to boiling point.
or here from 2001:
Anglican Archbishop David Gitari and an interfaith team confronted rioting Muslim youths armed with swords and clubs on December 1 in Nairobi, Kenya. In response to this attempt to quell Kenya's worst outbreak of violence between Christians and Muslims, the rioters pelted the archbishop and his team with rocks. Moderate Muslim leaders plucked Gitari from the mob and rushed him to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for head injuries. ‘I survived only because Muslim leaders formed a human shield around me and in the process got more injured than myself,’ Gitari later said in local media reports.
Or here from 2003:
Muslim leaders in Kenya are threatening armed conflict if the new Kenyan constitution does not enshrine Islamic courts (known in Kenya as Kadhi courts).
For years, Kenya has been subjected to creeping Islamisation and jihadi violence by elements within the country’s ten per cent Muslims against the Christian majority. Yet unaccountably there was no mention of this key fact in the media coverage of the post-election violence. Well, fancy!

Ms Phillips then went on to note, devastatingly:

In the Christian Post, this article, (which was picked up by Stephen Pollard) written before the disputed election which led to the violence, put events in a rather more accurate context. Raila Odinga, it said, who was then the current presidential frontrunner, had promised to implement strict Islamic Sharia law if he received the Muslim vote and was elected president. Odinga had signed a secret memorandum of understanding with Sheikh Abdullahi Abdi, chairman of the National Leaders Forum, in which Odinga had allegedly stated his intention, if elected, to
‘within six months, rewrite the Constitution of Kenya to recognize Sharia as the only true law sanctioned by the Holy Quran for Muslim declared regions’.
The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya released a statement in which church leaders said Odinga
‘comes across as a presumptive Muslim president bent on forcing Islamic law, religion and culture down the throats of the Kenyan people in total disregard of the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of worship and equal protection of the law for all Kenyans’ . . . .
Subsequently Joshua Hammer wrote a piece in the New York Times which, without going so far as to join up all the dots (please, this is the NYT!), nevertheless provided a hint of the same, ahem, context. Writing about sitting Kenyan MP Joseph Lekuton, he described his challenger, Godana Harugura, as
… a convert to fundamentalist Islam
who had reportedly raised money from Muslims along Kenya’s volatile border with Somalia by promising to
‘reclaim’ the region for Islam — and by attacking Lekuton for inviting Christian development groups into the area…Indeed, in the view of some of Lekuton’s supporters the election was shaping up to be a proxy confrontation between the West and Islam — a clash of civilizations in the Kenyan bush…
A sizable, largely poor Muslim population concentrated along the coast — and proximity to the volatile states in the Horn of Africa, including Somalia and Sudan — have made Kenya especially vulnerable, in the views of counterterrorism experts, to the call for jihad. Since the early 1990s, the mosques of Mombasa and other towns have resonated with militant Islamic rhetoric. Radical imams have preached violence against Westerners, attacked the Kenyan government as the lackey of the United States and Israel and called for the implementation of Shariah. Members of the Qaeda cells that blew up the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998, were recruited in mosques near the Indian Ocean beaches where hundreds of thousands of Western tourists flock each year.
Apart from that, I have found plenty of worthy hand-wringing in the mainstream media about tribal violence between equally bloodthirsty Kenyan sectarian groups, but diddly squat about the Kenyan jihad and the remorseless creation of Africastan.

A light bulb immediately went off in my head: It's the invisible World War IV again, stupid!

Then, on the weekend, I had occasion to dip into a book I borrowed from the local public library; Sean Hannity's Deliver Us from Evil, in which he cites the son of Ayatollah Khomeni, from 1991:

"After the fall of Marxism, Islam replaced it . . . and as long as Islam exists, U.S. hostility exists, and as long as U.S. hostility exists, the struggle exists." [p. 118, cited from Reynolds, David. One World Divisible: A Global History since 1945 (New York, Norton, 2000), p. 595.]

Notice: not a world war against the global Islamic community, nor a war by that community against the rest of the world, but a war by the militant IslamiSTS, their terrorist organisations, and the states they control starting with Iran against the world, to implement in our century the longstanding Islamist vision of a world under subjugation to Allah, his law, his prophet and his warriors.

So, as Bishop David Gitari observed, the first and most numerous victims of that war are moderate Muslims who do not agree with the terroristic interpretations or strategies of the militant IslamISTS. But, these moderate Muslims -- for instance Ms Benazir Bhutto who was recently murdered by suicide attackers, to block her election in Pakistan -- are only the first targets, as the Islamists seek to create bases form which they can project aggressive power onto the world stage.

To extend a saying used by the Islamists to explain their agenda:

FRIDAY first, then Saturday and then Sunday.

[That is, moderate Muslims are their first targets, followed by Jews, and then Christians. The last includes all those influenced by the Judaeo-Christian based culture known currently as Western Civilisation -- and, until recent years, as Christendom. Of course, if the West's leading power, the USA, is forced to submit to Islamist rule, then the World would be at the Islamists' feet, grovelling for mercy -- a mercy that, on the long track-record of Islmist terrorism and oppression, would simply not be forthcoming.]

In turn, this shows the centrality of the longstanding Arab-Israeli dispute that so often dominates our headlines, but nowadays is ever so prone to misinterpretation through the -- frankly dishonest -- narrative. Namely, the often told but utterly false and easily exposed (but too often naively accepted) propagandistic claim of an aggressor, alien colonialist Jewish movement that has in 1948 then again in 1967 aggressively stolen the land of peaceful Palestinian Arabs resident there from time immemorial and now imposes a wicked Apartheid to prevent liberation through uprising.


  • Jews, Kurds, Samaritans, Assyrian Christians and Chaldeans [among other peoples] have just as valid a historic claim to their Middle Eastern roots, nationalism and homelands as do Arabians and Arabised/Islamised peoples. (And that is before we get into the spiritual issues in Ezekiel 35 - 39!)

  • In particular, this validity of Jewish nationalism was recognised in the Feisal-Weizmann side agreement to the Versailles treaty of 1919, which side agreement envisioned a mutually supportive development of their common Middle Eastern homeland by the Arab and Jewish nations.

  • Had this simply been followed through on, the Middle East would doubtless now be among the most prosperous and peaceful regions in the world, and Britain would be reaping all theglobal fruits of being the sponsor of the process!

  • Instead, we had decades of violence in the name of Islam -- but, doubtless, in the teeth of the higher values and virtues praised and mandated for moral conduct in the Muslim Scriptures.

  • This was joined by unfortunately proverbial British perfidy, and a cycle of violence led to a situation where the 1947 UN attempt at peaceful partition failed. Instead, on the very day of its birth Israel was attacked by five organised Arab armies, and barely survived; but fought back at bitter price and succeeded beyond the expectations of the whole world.

  • In 1967, of course, the massively rearmed Arabs, flush with Soviet-supplied weapons, returned tot he attack, throwing a ring of Iron around Israel and threatening to destroy it. A pre-emptive strike, operation Moked, tuned the tables and Israel captured the land that had been used as pbases for aggression and terrorism. It offered to return these lands in exchange for genuine peace, only to be rebuffed at Khartoum.

  • And the cycle continued to today, where every time a land for peace deal is on teh table, it has been sabotaged by the Arab side, often by terrorists operating in the name of Islam. [Of course ever since the infamous, Nazi-allied Mufti of Jerusalem, moderate Arabs have usually kept silent for fear of their lives.]

Why rehash a by now very familiar counter to the dominant media narrative?

Because, in light of the ongoing invisible world war, it cuts a lot closer to home than we think. For instance, observe again the force of say Dr Sultana Afroz's ill-justified Islamist reconstruction of Jamaica's -- and the wider Caribbean's religious and cultural, historical past:

Jamaica . . . has a rising Islamic influence, especially through the claims[21] that the Spanish settlement from 1494 on was predominantly Moorish, and that “Moor”: (1) implies Islamic – true, and (2) includes Black African (misleading[22]).
It is then inferred that the majority of Jamaicans are descended from Islamic Moors, who were brought here as slaves by the Spanish or the British, so that: “[c]ontemporaneous to the autonomous Muslim Maroon ummah, hundreds of thousands of Mu’minun (the Believers of the Islamic faith) of African descent worked as slaves on the plantations in Jamaica.”[23] Specifically, the Maroons are viewed as resisting the British invaders of 1655 by jihad, as Saladin resisted and finally defeated Richard the Lion Heart and the other Crusaders in the Middle East. Slave revolts, similarly, are reinterpreted by Dr. Afroz as jihads, especially the 1831/2 “Baptist War” rebellion:
Jihad became the religious and political ideology of these crypto-Muslims, who became members of the various denominational nonconformist churches since being sprinkled with the water by the rectors of the parishes.[24] Despite the experience of the most cruel servitude and the likelihood of a swift and ruthless suppression of the rebellion, the spiritually inspired Mu’minun collectively responded to the call for an island-wide jihad in 1832. Commonly known as the Baptist Rebellion, the Jihad of 1832 wrought havoc of irreparable dimension to the plantation system and hastened the Emancipation Act of 1833. [Afroz, p. 227. NB: This claim is most improbable .]
Thus, it is concluded by Islamic advocates that the Caribbean’s ancestral and cultural roots are largely Islamic. Islam, then, seeks cultural legitimacy in the Caribbean as being linked to our predominantly African identity, which is specifically tied to an emphasis on jihad as military struggle. On this basis, Caribbean peoples are in effect invited to turn away from both secularism and the Christian religion of our oppressors, and “return” to Islam.

So, as the case of Trevor William Forest/El Faisal shows, the same pattern of Islamist rhetoric and destabilising, violent and destructive agendas advanced against Israel, Spain, India -- and now Kenya, also holds for us in our region; should the Islamists gain the power to carry out their wishes in our region. That means we need to recognise and respond to dangerous trends, before it is too late to respond save at terrible price.

Given its ties to Iran,and the situation where Hizbollah now openly operates within its borders, this immediately ties into the implications of worrying trends in the behaviour of our regional neighbour, Venezuela,and Nicaragua under the new Ortega regime.

For instance, we may see in a recent Todd Bensman report from Monkey Point, Nicaragua, that:

The second military helicopter in as many days hovered over the jungle and then landed to a most unwelcome reception from several dozen angry Rama Indian and Creole villagers.
Rupert Allen Clear Duncan, a leader of some 400 Creole who live along the shoreline, confronted the foreigners dressed in suits and military uniforms that day in March and demanded to know the purpose of their aerial trespasses.
"This is our land; we have always lived here, and you don't have our permission to be here," Duncan spat, when refused the courtesy of an explanation.
Not until Duncan threatened to have his machete-waving followers damage the aircraft did they learn that some of the men were from the Islamic Republic of Iran and had come promising to establish a Central American foothold in the middle of their territory.
As part of a new partnership with Nicaragua's Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, Iran and its Venezuelan allies plan to help finance a $350 million deep-water port at Monkey Point on the wild Caribbean shore, and then plow a connecting "dry canal" corridor of pipelines, rails and highways across the country to the populous Pacific Ocean. Iran recently established an embassy in Nicaragua's capital.
In feeling threatened by Iran's ambitions, the people of Monkey Point have powerful company. The Iranians' arrival in Nicaragua comes as the Bush administration and some European allies hold the threat of war over Iran to force an end to its uranium enrichment program and alleged help to anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq.
What worries state department officials, former national security officials and counterterrorism researchers is that, if attacked, Iran could stage strikes on American or allied interests from Nicaragua, deploying the Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard operatives already in Latin America. Bellicose threats by Iran's clerical leadership to hit American interests worldwide if attacked, by design or not, heighten the anxiety.
"The bottom line is if there is a confrontation with Iran, and Iran gets bombed, I have absolutely no doubt that Iran is going to lash out globally," said John R. Schindler, a veteran former counterintelligence officer and analyst for the National Security Agency.
"The Iranians have that ability, particularly from South America. Hezbollah has fronts all over Latin America. That is not new. But it's certainly something we're starting to care about now."
American policymakers already had been fretting in recent years over Tehran's successful forging of diplomatic relations, direct air routes and embassy swaps with populist South American governments that abhor the U.S., such as President Hugo Chávez's Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. But Iran's latest move places it just a few porous borders from Texas, where illegal Nicaraguan laborers routinely travel . . .

So, slowly but surely, a Caribbean theatre of operations for the ongoing under-reported World War emerges from the confusing mists of news and not-news. Just as, during the last global conflict, the Cold War, the Caribbean saw more than its fair share of military operations. indeed, the Cold War was in 1962, within 12 hours of balzing out in nuclear fury, as the Americans confronted the Soviet Union over nuclear missiles and nuclear-caable Il 28 bombers in Cuba.

In an underlying and probably related geostrategic development, the world is moving to biofuels, which makes stable countries with a lot of sunshine and educated workforces very strategically vital for the emerging C21 "Green Gold." Namely, Algal fuels and their kin.

As Wikipedia summarises:

With the higher prices of oil, there is much interest in algaculture (farming algae) to harvest for making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels . . . .
Currently most research into efficient algal-oil production is being done in the private sector, but if predictions from small scale production experiments bear out then using algae to produce biodiesel may be the only viable method by which to produce enough automotive fuel to replace current world gasoline usage.[4]
Microalgae have much faster growth-rates than terrestrial crops. The per unit area yield of oil from algae is estimated to be from between 5,000 to 20,000 gallons per acre, per year (4.6 to 18.4 l/m^2 per year); this is 7 to 30 times greater than the next best crop, Chinese tallow (699 gallons).[5]

In short, we are not only located in the soft strategic underbelly of the United States -- the principal Islamist global target, but also: over the next decade or so as the technical and production efficiency kinks are probably worked out, we are most likely going to again be immensely valuable places for growing green gold.

The last time that happened, in the C18, we were the most fought-over region in the world.

Will we learn from History, or will we be simply doomed to repeat it? END

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Study Skills 2: A mid-point between loose-leaf paper file folders and bound exercise books

One of the markers of being at "big school" when I first went to high school at the turn of the 1970's, was that at last one could use a "folder."

That privilege and marker of "growing up" was tied to the wearing of long pants as a part of the uniform.

Nowadays, though, primary schoolers wear long pants, and high schoolers -- at least where I am now based -- are now by and large not permitted to use file folders for fear that they will lose the loose-leaf papers in their notes or assignments.

Never mind, that in my younger days, that simply was not an issue! (A cross-check with Mrs Kairosfocus shows that it was not a problem for her or her classmates either; and at the same school in question. Maybe, generations have changed, for the worse on this point.)

[Indeed, I still have my sixth form notes, over in Jamaica; my undergraduate notes, I actually had hard-bound as books (after what they cost my family to get they were worth at least that much!). My notes as a postgrad student are still in folders; my MBA course notes are next to me as I write this. In the end, after keeping my notes prepared for courses I delivered as a lecturer in manila folders, I have now returned to storing them in cheap, flexible plastic file folders. I do note that some of my course notes were evidently stolen while I was a lecturer -- along with several valuable textbooks and magazines -- open offices have disadvantages. I particularly miss my "vanished" mechatronics notes and my instrumentation systems notes, in case someone out there has a late attack of conscience . . . ]

Now, as a parent, I am confronting the issue personally and I am seeing the major disadvantages of using hard-bound notebooks, especially when one is a sometimes forgetful teenager.

That brings us to the brainwave: hard-bound notebooks and loose-leaf file folders are ends of a spectrum, not just either-or.
I will explain (and build up to the work-in-progress "solution" I now offer for those interested in an alternative to both . . .):
  • We commonly bind items in manila files by using the good old fashioned two-hole mechanical slide fastener.
  • The mechanical wire or plastic comb-style binder is a classic -- and it looks really good too, especially if you have a nice cover. [It gives a really nice "finished" look to consultancy reports and the like.] But, it is expensive and fairly inflexible.
  • There are all sorts of simple fasteners for three-hole punched paper that can be similarly used, but again they are expensive.
  • Sometimes, those plastic slip covers and those plastic pinch-binders sold as report covers are nice for short reports. But, again, they are impractical for something as changing from day to day as notes or ordinary homework assignments. The stiff-ish price per binder out here in the Caribbean also adds up.
  • Toggle-ended treasury tags, similarly, can bind fresh pages into a manila file and it takes a very deliberate effort to remove them. (And, the light bulb goes off!)
  • Recently, to take control of the reams of downloads and my own documents I have printed off, I have taken to using three hole punches and laces [yes, shoe-laces]. To provide a cover, I have cut of cornflake boxes and used the natural fold-over to punch matching holes. Then, lace though the inner folds front and back and tie the lace. The result is nice for that rough, "recycled" look! (And, a second light bulb goes off!)
Obviously , none of these is a really good solution to the for-school, half-exercise book, half-file folder problem.

But, let's reconfigure . . .
1] First, we have the at-home, fat file folder to serve as the permanent home for notes. [This can even be a cluster of said cornflakes box-files, one each per school year.]

2] That way a light -- and weight is an important issue in these days of overly-bulging book-bags -- file folder can be taken to school, in the one- and- a - half- inch [1 -1/2" ring class that is the smallest really useful size. [I would prefer a similarly sized D-ring binder, which is superior on holding capacity and presentation, but they are rare and relatively expensive.]

3] The key trick is to create small "semi-exercise books" -- one per subject -- that neatly fit into these light file folders.

4] Manila file jackets, 8-1/2" x 11" size, are cheap. So are treasury tags, which come in a handy short size as well as the usual long one which is more familiar. So, this is the base of the experiment -- warning: a work in progress (but too promising not to share).

5] First, cut down the jackets to fit the 11" high or so that is standard for 3-ring binders. Easily done with guillotine or scissors.

6] Lay aside a couple of sacrificial jackets, they will become the frames for the semi-exercise books,and this is the easiest way to get the nice stiff card required.

7] Along the factory fold, slice or cut the required jackets into two halves, and punch the required three holes. This last is best done by using a standard office three-hole punch, but notice you can only do one or two at most at a time unless you have a special high-capacity punch. [You may want to punch then slice or slice then punch; the choice is yours.]

8] It woulds be workable to fill in the pairs of manilas with paper and string them together with short treasury tags, but that is not quite as effective as the next step.

9] Often, manilas have marked folds pre-creased, which serve as a handy way to fold in to hold large sheafs of paper. Take one of the sliced off pre-punched manila sides and use it as a template: in mine, the three holes came in the middle of the three visible ~ 1/4" stripes. Thus we have a handy gauge.

10] Slide the template up over one of the sacrificial jackets, and mark off the three-stripe point at both ends of the sacrificial jacket. Slide in one stripe further, and mark again. Go in three more stripes, and mark the third time. With a long ruler, you can now easily mark the points to fold and to cut. Cut off the "binder."

11] The same ruler is a handy tool to use for folding, so that you get a nice, flat bottomed steep-sided, crisply folded "U." [This should easily hold several dozen pages: 3 mm x 0.1 mm/sheet = 30 sheets, or 60 pages; 1/4" ~ 6 mm, or space for 120 pages. Use a "double-width U" etc, if you need more. Really, you shouldn't! Indeed, if you are going to use up to say 20 sheets per section, you can get away with simply cutting down the manila folders to 11", then punching the holes and filling with paper then threading with treasury tags. (You can even make neat, tied off U-loops of yarn or even string that you pass through the holes then over the ends, so it can tighten on itself when you pull the cut-off ends. Simply pull tight and make an overhand knot so the loop will not spontaneously slide open.) ]

12] Take the template sheet, and slide it up on the U, on one of the flat sides. Align it so that it goes just to the end, where the fold-over is. Mark the three holes with a pencil, on each side. A single-hole punch can then take them out. (I tried to use the three-hole punch to do this, but it gave trouble with alignment.)

13] Align the holes with the U on the outside. This gives a "neat" binding, and white glue -- a nice thin layer that "grabs" only please -- will soon hold the jacket together.

14] Fill with paper, number the pages, and pass through three treasury tags. The semi-exercise book, semipermanently bound subfile is complete -- apart from labelling and pasting in an indexing side-tag if you want, using any stiff card you care to; e.g. another sacrificial manila or stiff "bristol-board" or "cartridge paper."

15] Assemble the file-folder. You will see that the sub-folders will slide onto the metal rings with a little care -- i.e it is just hard enough to discourage casual taking apart.
So, we now have a semi-flexible binder for class notes, etc. [And of course maybe some enterprising printers and schools may want to get into the act . . .]

For the next step, the real trick is management and accountability.

Every week or month or term etc as appropriate, hold a notes review session [NB: teachers, I used to grade student notes . . .], where the page-numbered notes are checked against the teacher's scheme of work, then they are transferred from the flexible folders to the permanent one.

(Implication: teachers should circulate week-by week breakdowns of topics, readings and intended assignments, term by term, for both students and their parents. This, I believe is feasible, and it would greatly help in supervising the work of students. At a school management level, it would also help in co-ordinating the overall curriculum so that scoping and sequencing of concepts, activities, exercises and assignments will more and more be balanced across the overall programme of study. But that is going into curriculum reform . . . let's get back to our little project.)

When this is done, the notes can be supplemented, through creating appendices. [Internet downloads are great for that. So are summaries made from textbook sections or reference book sections as research notes.] The notes can also be organised, and indexed as necessary -- you can even make a table of contents and create a title page. (The "permanent" file kept at home can then have a super-summary and index, based on the individual summaries.)

One of my own favourite tricks was to prepare a "general notes/introduction and summary" lead section -- let's call it an executive summary, or better yet an "introsummary" --that holds an overview and excerpted key points for pre-exam review.

A few neat tricks raise their hands at the back of the class and suggest themselves for this section:
  • It is probably a lost cause in the Caribbean to shift most note-taking to the psychologically more effective points-style format, the effectiveness of which this little sub-section illustrates. [Hint: guess why multimedia slide shows are structured to guide the preparer to use bullet points . . .]
  • It is probably even more of a lost cause to try to get students to prepare a review column for their main notes. But such introductions and summaries fit right in with that -- and they are great review exercises in themselves.
  • So, for the pages of such summaries, rule a special wide margin about 1/4 of the way across the page from the left margin [to hold key words (and associated page number references) to the main notes and text- or reference- books].
  • Write key words and such references there, just opposite the points-form notes taken in the "main notes column," the other 3/4 of the introsummary pages.
  • When doing pre-exam review, use a card to cover over the main introsummary notes column, and try to recall the substance of the information from the introsummary and the main notes pages as you come to each keyword in turn.
  • Then, check and correct yourself until the information "sticks." [This is of course a form of the now classic, highly effective SQ3R study technique. Also cf. my own overall basic study skills briefing here (a slide show is available on request, and/or a one page per slide PDF file of the show).]
As a matter of fact, this sort of system looks like it would be useful for managing project records, and for setting up neatly indexed presentations and briefing files for participating in panels and debates, too.

[H'mm: organised, summarised, indexed and backed up with instantly cross-referenced key references. Now, let's get into that Boardroom full of swirling sharks . . . toting neatly concealed shark-killing bang sticks. ( I recall a TV ad that ran something like that . . .)]

I would also beg to suggest that this format would also nicely cover major assignments, too, i.e. the notorious SBAs. And ordinary homework assignments can always be slipped into the file folder, neatly stapled together. Then they get put into the home folder on having been marked, reviewed, and corrected.

(Of course, it won't hurt to cross-check such assignments against the recorded set assignments in the student's homework notebook! I was a student, teacher and lecturer too -- I know all about the classic, "I forgot to do the assignment" trick or genuine problem. So did good old Fathers Ruddy, Raftery, Ryan, Riel et al. from Boston. Homework Notebooks were mandatory at my old high school.)

I think we have a useful school-work management system here.

Okay, what do you think: fellow- students, -parents, and -teachers? END

UPDATES, Jan 12:
it's actually ~ 1/4" per stripe (I should have measured . . .). For up to about 20 sheets, you can get away without having to insert a widening U- base. Tied off yarn or string loops can substitute for treasury tags.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Apology -- I have been busy

I have been very busy since the turn of the new year.

I hope to get back to active posting "soon."

Indeed, I had hoped to do so this morning, but pressing events elsewhere intervened.

The morrow, maybe, DV . . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

1 Chron 12:32 report, 52: Reflecting on the fulness of the gospel as we cross the threshold of the new year

An electronic correspondent, Bro X over in Barbados, shared with me a very welcome New Year gift: a Christianity Today reflection on evangelism in a relativistic and "tolerantly" intolerant, logically (and morally) incoherent post-modern age; an age which too often despises the core Gospel message of the Christian faith as a rudely or oppressively "imposed" opinion and "theocratic," potentially violently tyrannical or terroristic agenda.

This is not only relevant to those of us who live and work and serve our gracious and loving God in the ever more secularised (and even re-paganised -- I have had recent internet exchanges with a self-described pagan calling herself Plato's Plaything . . .) , Romans 1 North, but increasingly also here in the Caribbean. So, yet again, sorry: we postpone looking at the Middle East situation and its links to the Caribbean for a day or so, DV.

[BTW, it seems to me that -- judging by how she tips over before the BANG (and the terrorist at eh left rear of the car who apparently points a gun at her), the late Ms Bhutto may well have been hit by a bullet before the suicide bomb blast; based on the video the indefatigable Charles Johnson of LGF (a great friend of Israel!) has clipped here.]

On the linked article: nice, as is usual for CT.

I loved these two key slices of the cake, as they explicitly have in them all but one of the key ingredients (and hint at that one!) :

Probably the most common objection to evangelism today is, "Isn't it wrong to impose our beliefs on others?"

Some people don't practice evangelism because they feel they are imposing on others. And the way evangelism is often done, I can understand the confusion! But when you understand what the Bible presents as evangelism, it's really not a matter of imposing your beliefs.

It's important to understand that the message you are sharing is not merely an opinion but a fact. [Cf. here, 1 Cor 15:1 - 11.] That's why sharing the gospel can't be called an imposition, any more than a pilot can impose his belief on all his passengers that the runway is here and not there.

Additionally, the truths of the gospel are not yours, in the sense that they uniquely pertain to you or your perspective or experience, or in the sense that you came up with them. When you evangelize, you are not merely saying, "This is how I like to think of God," or "This is how I see it." You're presenting the Christian gospel. You didn't invent it, and you have no authority to alter it . . . .

The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don't fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don't faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn't converting people; it's telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.

Dead right on target (so far as it goes . . .)!

The key balancing ingredient: truthing it in love under Lordship, towards fulness.

It is true that, per se, testimony, socio-cultural and mercy engagement, apologetics etc are not the core redemptive message of the gospel. But, once we see the gospel as the heralding of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God into the here and now, and the call -- through the event that establishes redemption -- to repentance, renewal, revival and reformation as Christ fills and utterly transforms all things with his grace, glory and blessing. Thus also, the onward implication that evangelism in the narrow sense is an integral part of a call to discipleship, to evangelisation in effect. [Cf my own discussion in the context of the College Campus, here.]

But then, that gap is a characteristic challenge facing today's evangelicals. As, we are now by and large a subculture isolated and to one extent or another alienated from the predominant trends in our dying civilisation -- even here in the Caribbean.

To see that in action, just pop on your friendly local cable TV and channel surf a bit, to observe the evolutionary-materialism driven, secularised and/or neopagan or apostate, post-/ ultra-modern worldviews and agendas of an increasingly decadent, morally and intellectually en-darkened, dying Western Civilisation.

Then, reread a few local newspapers, reading between the lines to see the worldviews and associated agendas at work.

That brings us right back to the force of what I have come to view more and more as the operational form of the church's mandate, as ever so aptly put by Paul in his circular letter that we know as the Epistle to the Ephesians:

EPH 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ . . . . 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ . . . . 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory . . . .

18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for
the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way . . . .

Eph 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do . . . .

Eph 3:17 . . . I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God . . . .

( . . . EPH 4: 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of
the fullness of Christ.

EPH 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

EPH 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that
you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

EPH 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

A tall order indeed!

But, that is the mandate of the church under our risen Lord, and through the power of his grace in the gospel, through also the ever -living Word of God, and as anointed by his Spirit, we can fulfill it!

And, that brings us back to our ever so relevant challenge as we go forward into this new year that promises to be ever so full of opportunities under God:

Why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END