viernes, 31 de octubre de 2014

Apple CEO: What got my attention was that Tim Cook believes in a creator god.

95 Theses

Yesterday, as a friend noted, we learned how the media would cover the outbreak of nuclear war. It could not, on its websites or newscasts cover the outbreak of nuclear war more thoroughly than it covered Apple CEO Tim Cook’s announcement that he is gay.

Tim Cook is an Auburn grad. I try not to hold that against him. I think he is a terrific CEO for a company I dearly love. What got my attention in his announcement was not that he was gay. I already knew that. What got my attention was that Tim Cook believes in a creator god.

In an age when many in the technology community, tech press, and media in general shun anyone who believes in a god of creation, that was pretty big news.

It comes a day before October 31st. We all celebrate it as Halloween, but 497 years ago on this day Martin Luther set off the Protestant Reformation. This coming Sunday many Protestant churches will celebrate his bold act.

On October 31, 1517, Luther, having penned the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” or the “95 Theses,” nailed them to the door of Wittenberg Castle church. This was not an act of defiance. It was how academics and theologians of the day began debate on matters.
A mighty fortress is our God,a bulwark never failing;our helper he amid the floodof mortal ills prevaling.For still our ancient foedoth seek to work us woe;his craft and power are great,and armed with cruel hate,on earth is not his equal.

It is worth noting in light of Tim Cook’s announcement yesterday and today being the anniversary of the start of the Reformation that there is a growing, organized movement in this country to shut down any debate on religion. Science has become a god and we are all supposed to be accidents.

But Tim Cook does not believe he is an accidental swerve in the collision of particles in a vast universe. He believes he was created by a god. We can argue about his view of that god and the theology around his statement, but Cook knows he is no accident. He is made in the image of the living God.


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The most important monetary lesson that central banks refuse to learn...

When Money Dies: 
Germany and Paper Money After 1910

The story of the destruction of the German mark during the hyper-inflation of Weimar Germany from 1919 to its horrific peak in November 1923 is usually dismissed as a bizarre anomaly in the economic history of the twentieth century. But no episode better illustrates the dire consequences of unsound money or makes a more devastating, real-life case against fiat-currency: where there is no restraint, monetary death will follow.

"It matters little that the causes of the Weimar inflation are in many ways unrepeatable; that political conditions are different, or that it is almost inconceivable that financial chaos would ever again be allowed to develop so far," wrote British historian and MP Adam Fergusson in his 1975 classic, When Money Dies. "The question to be asked — the danger to be recognized — is how inflation, however caused, affects a nation."

The US Federal Reserve of 2014 is not the Reichsbank of 1914. Yet today's policy mindset is dangerously reminiscent of the attitudes that helped to excacerbate the economic downfall of inter-war Germany. These include: the unrestrained financing of budget deficits under war and post-war conditions; the unaccountable creation of the money supply by a central bank; the creation of undisciplined credit linked to this expansion of the money supply; the aggressive inflating of asset values; the discounting of short-term treasury bills and notes in practically unlimited amounts; rapid currency depreciation, and a ratio of federal debt to GDP over 100 percent.

Prior to World War I, the German mark, the British shilling, the French franc, and the Italian lira were all valued around the same — about four each to the dollar. By the end of 1923, the rate for the mark was one trillion to a dollar — one million-millionth of its former self. In mid-1922, a loaf of bread cost 428 million marks, while the entire equity capitalization of Daimler Corporation bought the equivalent of 327 of their cars. In November 1923, that which before the war could have purchased, in theory, 500 billion eggs could, that infamous month, procure but one egg.

Former Prime Minister Henry Lloyd George, writing in 1932, remarked that words like "catastrophe," "ruin," and "devastation" were not enough to describe the situation, given the common usage into which such words had fallen. Looting, vandalism, theft, the rise in prostitution, famine, disease, the consumption of dogs; people robbed of their clothes on the street — all were routine events of the "bourgeois" social quotidien. The constant threat of civil war loomed, as did neighboring Bolshevism. Bavaria had to declare martial law.


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jueves, 30 de octubre de 2014

China's rapid ascent is the result of the expanding role of the market and the rise of private businesses.

Private enterprise, not state control, 
is driving China’s rise

by Nicholas R. Lardy, Peterson Institute for International Economics

Private companies now account for two-thirds of employment in China, and the growth in output of private businesses since 2008 has averaged 18%, twice the pace of expansion of state businesses. Nicolas Lardy at the Peterson Institute for International Economics robustly challenges the prevailing view that the state continues to drive the rise of China and calls for more enterprise 
in the services sector.

There is no shortage of critics who confidently attribute China's rise to state intervention in the economy. But the ranks of policymakers and commentators decrying Beijing's brand of state capitalism are wrong—and, worse, they risk provoking short-sighted and counterproductive responses.

The reality is that China's rapid ascent is the result of the expanding role of the market and the rise of private businesses. Such companies now account for more than two-thirds of output, up from nothing when reform began in 1978, in an economy that has expanded 25 times in real terms. They account for almost all jobs growth in the same period and are leading contributors to export growth.
The reality is that China's rapid ascent is the result of the expanding role of the market and the rise of private businesses.

State companies' shrinking role has been particularly rapid in manufacturing, which opened up to private businesses in the 1980s. State enterprises' share of output in the sector is a fifth compared with four-fifths in 1978. Conventional wisdom says state industrial companies have enjoyed a resurgence since the onset of the global financial crisis. In fact, the growth in output of private businesses since 2008 has averaged 18 percent, twice the pace of expansion of state businesses.

Underlying the poor performance of state industrial companies is low productivity. Most investment is financed with retained earnings—so private industrial companies, with a return on assets more than twice that of state companies, can expand faster. This is reinforced by the increasingly commercial conduct of mostly state-owned banks.

China's industrial policy is perhaps exemplified best by the state-owned assets supervision and administration commission, created in 2003 to oversee the largest state-owned nonfinancial enterprises. Critics say it favors state companies to try to strengthen national champions. But this has failed: The return on assets of Sasac's companies has plummeted since 2007 and is now below half their cost of capital.

The disparity is evident even in the steel industry, identified by Sasac as one in which Beijing was to maintain relatively strong control. This seemed an easy task in the mid-2000s, when state companies produced half of all steel output and their efficiency matched that of private companies. But when annual growth in output fell to an average of 9 percent after 2006, compared with its average pace of more than 20 percent earlier in the decade, state companies' returns fell sharply. By 2012 they were in the red, and their share of production had fallen below a third. In contrast, the return on assets of private steel companies rose after 2006, reaching a peak of more than 10 percent in 2011 before declining slightly. With private steel companies investing more than twice as much as their state counterparts, their rising output share will continue.



Policy Brief 14-21: Is China's Property Market Heading toward Collapse? August 2014

Policy Brief 13-16: Preserving the Open Global Economic System: A Strategic Blueprint for China and the United States June 2013

Working Paper 12-19: The Renminbi Bloc Is Here: Asia Down, Rest of the World to Go?October 2012
Revised August 2013

Policy Brief 12-7: Projecting China's Current Account Surplus April 2012

Book: Sustaining China's Economic Growth after the Global Financial Crisis January 2012

Book: Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance September 2011

Op-ed: For a Serious Impact, Tax Chinese Assets in the United States October 13, 2011

Op-ed: Taxing China's Assets: How to Increase US Employment Without Launching a Trade War April 25, 2011

Op-ed: Why the World Needs Three Global Currencies February 15, 2011

Policy Brief 10-26: Currency Wars? November 2010

Testimony: Correcting the Chinese Exchange Rate September 15, 2010

Policy Brief 10-20: Renminbi Undervaluation, China’s Surplus, and the US Trade DeficitAugust 2010

Book: China's Strategy to Secure Natural Resources: Risks, Dangers, and Opportunities July 2010

Testimony: China's Exchange Rate Policy and Trade Imbalances April 22, 2010

Policy Brief 10-7: The Sustainability of China's Recovery from the Global Recession March 2010

Testimony: Correcting the Chinese Exchange Rate: An Action Plan March 24, 2010

Paper: Submission to the USTR in Support of a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement January 25, 2010

Paper: China Energy: A Guide for the Perplexed May 2007

Book: US-China Trade Disputes: Rising Tide, Rising Stakes August 2006

Working Paper 11-14: Renminbi Rules: The Conditional Imminence of the Reserve Currency Transition September 2011

Testimony: A Muscular Multilateralism to Engage China on Trade September 21, 2011

Peterson Perspective: Legislation to Sanction China: Will It Work? October 7, 2011

If we want to find the truth we have to resist the temptation of simply picking a side.

An intellectual journey: 
dodging the culture wars, 
thinking for myself

The so-called “godfather of neo-conservatism” Irving Kristol once defined a neo-conservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” But in my experience that is only the first step towards intellectual honesty.

In my youth I embraced all the basic dogmata of a modern liberal culture, without realising there was an alternative. The forces of media, peer consensus, and mainstream education informed me with a naïve understanding across a plethora of issues from the bioethical to the political.

Convictions about American hegemony, environmental destruction, the inherent exploitation and greed of capitalism, the backwardness of religious and traditional morality, the inertia of the masses, and above all the need for change coloured my view of the world.

The real dogmata in this context are the attitudes behind the beliefs. After hearing about the courageous rebel who fights against the forces of mindless tradition a hundred times, you learn that tradition is always wrong and the rebel is always right. After hearing a thousand critiques of the rich and powerful, you internalise the message that the rich and powerful are intrinsically corrupt.

In my mind a conservative was someone who clung to an unjust order out of ignorance, prejudice or a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. By contrast, a liberal was someone who challenged corrupt and staid authority, discovered new possibilities, and fought against injustice. It was a very simple narrative of good versus evil, informed by a combination of culturally influential ideologies and pervasive propaganda.

At university I learned a great deal without ever being challenged in these “liberal” presuppositions. I became depressed at the state of the world: a world dominated by an economic superpower whose prosperity was built on exploitation of the global poor. Socialism may have failed, but I could sympathise with the intent. Everywhere I looked I saw wealth built at the expense of the poor, power wielded at the expense of the weak, and the great mass of my compatriots filled with a complacent ignorance in the face of our own complicity in this global inequality. The only limit on my disdain for American imperialism was my recognition that the problem was not peculiar to the United States, but to hegemony in general.

  • But what if wealth were not evil? ....
  • Avoiding the culture warrior approach .... 
  • Thinking about the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal ....
  • Seeking truth rather than victory ....


- See more at:

Mikhail Khodorkovsky - 1968-2014

For Your and Our Freedom. 1968-2014

October 22, 2014

Russian entrepreneur Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks not about his own decade-long imprisonment in Vladimir Putin’s jails, but about other political prisoners in Russia today—specifically, the case of the men and women imprisoned for peacefully protesting fraudulent elections in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow in May 2012. 

He honors the more than two dozen Russian people—some political activists, but most concerned citizens—who were selected for persecution after the protest in what Khodorkovsky condemns as a show trial. 

Khodorkovsky talks about the ordinary lives of some of these prisoners and urges the audience to spread the stories of these individuals, so that they and the values for which they stand—freedom and democracy—will not be forgotten.

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Comment se former pour agir en vue du bien commun ?

Sérieuse formation doctrinale

Comment se former pour agir en vue du bien commun ?

Ichtus propose des formations inspirées des méthodes proposées par Jean Ousset:

Considérons aujourd’hui l’efficacité de « la formation doctrinale[1] par enchaînement logique de vérités mises à leur vraie place et selon une progression qu’on pourrait presque dire linéaire.

Soit qu’on parte des notions les plus élémentaires du savoir humain :notion d’ « être » et notion de « vérité ». Dont les développements s’enchainent comme en s’élevant.

Soit qu’on parte de Dieu, et que ce sommet, de sa lumière, le regard descende, selon l’ordre de la Création.

Avouons-le, c’est sous cet aspect d’une extrême et magnifique rigueur intellectuelle qu’au temps de notre jeunesse la doctrine de l’Eglise nous a le plus enthousiasmés. De saint Justin martyr à saint Augustin, de saint Augustin à saint Thomas, de saint Thomas à Grégoire XVI, Pie IX, Léon XIII, Pie X, Pie XI, Pie XII, quelle éblouissante continuité dans la poursuite autant que dans la toujours plus précise révélation du vrai. Oui ! tout l’essentiel était bien là, s’offrant à nous, dans l’harmonieuse unité d’une gradation parfaite. Exorcisme foudroyant qui nous lessiva, comme dans un éclair, de tout ce que nous avions pu ingurgiter déjà de la mélasse idéologico-démagogique des penseurs accrédités de l’univers contemporain. C’était enfin la lumière ! Et point seulement la lumière d’un péremptoire démonstration vrai ! Mais la lumière plus fascinante encore de l’harmonieuse beauté d’un vrai, non seulement démontré, mais justifié dans la splendeur de sa double finalité divine autant qu’humaine ! Oui, ce fut bien, et cela reste encore (par cela restera toujours... au moins pour ceux qui accepteront d’ouvrir leurs yeux, leur esprit et leur cœur au spectacle de ces merveilles)... ; oui, ce fut alors la passion qu’on nous avait prédite, pour la magnificence decet enchaînement de vérités « mises à leur place céleste » ; et qui « développent au regard un ordre harmonieux si satisfaisant pour l’esprit que le rêve de l’homme est, sans conteste de pouvoir s’en composer l’exacte et entière synthèse ».

Non que nous ayons eu la candeur d’imaginer que cette seule formule pouvait suffire.

La seule connaissance des choses par le caractère abstrait de leurs notions universelles (dûment expliquées, classées, hiérarchisées) ou, plus simplement dit,la connaissance des choses par la doctrine, par la métaphysique des choses, fait, certes, gagner beaucoup de temps. Et, pour peu qu’on la sache bien étudiée et méditée, elle peut être le roc d’une inébranlable certitude. Surtout quand ses propositions sont garanties par le Magistère Infaillible. Mais... (car il y a un « mais »)…, ce type de connaissance, dans la mesure où, par sa simplicité, peut satisfaire plus dogmatiquement l’esprit, risque de conduire un peu trop à une observation moindre du concret. Favorisant ainsi un « essentialisme », un « a priorisme » qui tendra à dénoncer comme trahison, la moindre condescendance charitable, la moindre exigence diplomatique, la moindre prudence dans l’affirmation. Tout cela parce qu’au degré où l’on croit plus vertueux, sinon plus saint, de se tenir, les habiletés d’une action qui se veut efficace (comme c’est le devoir strict de toute action...) apparaissent suspectes, voire dangereuses ! D’où ce fait que l’exclusivité d’une pareille méthode, loin de façonner des hommes d’action ou de gouvernement, risque de fabriquer un peu trop de simples « bons-manieurs-de-concepts ». Pour lesquels les clivages ne pourront être qu’abrupts, les oppositions insolubles. Alors que la vie est tout autre. Car si l’erreur et le péché sont, comme tels, à condamner sans concession... ; pour l’égaré et le pécheur, c’est autre chose ! Et quand serait-il de nous, … si Dieu, au lieu de nous traiter en tant que « pécheurs » nous traitait en tant que « péchés ».

Car, enfin, même au seul plan d’une sérieuse formation doctrinale, celle que nous venons d’évoquer est loin d’être suffisante ; et aussi complète qu’on le croit ! Même au regard de l’orthodoxie chrétienne. Laquelle, en effet, dépasse (ô combien !) l’étroite piste linéaire d’un enchaînement logique, pour véridique qu’il soit.

Comme l’a dit Shakespeare :
il y a et il y aura toujours plus de choses au ciel et sur la terre que dans le plus beau système de philosophie.

Ce qui n’incite pas à faire fi de ce genre de systématisation. Ce qui rappelle l’insuffisance d’en rester là.

Et combien fragile risque d’être une formation, même doctrinale, si elle n’est fondée que sur une systématisation de concepts logiquement sélectionnés ; et que soit oublié, sinon tenu au second plan ce que peuvent seules nous apprendre l’histoire de l’Eglise et la vie des saints.

Combien, en effet, se font une idée toute spéculative (et par là même : superficielle) du christianisme, qui accompliraient d’immenses progrès dans les voies du Seigneur s’ils prenaient soin de méditer, un peu plus et un peu mieux, l’histoire, si mystérieuse parfois, des cheminements tragiques ou pitoyables par lesquels Dieu se plaît à conduire son Eglise et à guider ses préférés.

Il faut être bien ignorant, ou bien aveugle, pour ne pas savoir distinguer, en chaque domaine, et cette part d’indispensable vérité (bien sûr) que la foi et la raison systématisent... ; mais aussi ces autres leçons, non moins précieuses, des principales motivations du comportement humain ; quelles qu’aient été, ou que soient, les époques ou les latitudes !

Formation plus complète, donc, et d’autant plus nécessaire que, depuis le triomphe de la philosophie dite « moderne » le divorce n’a pas cessé de s’aggraver entre ce qu’on a appelé la « raison pure » et la « raison pratique ».Au point que, pour beaucoup, il existe désormais comme deux univers, aux vérités spécifiques, sinon contradictoires.

D’une part, l’univers des vérités doctrinales, propres à satisfaire le goût de notre intelligence pour la logique formelle et l’absolu.

Et d’autre part, l’univers de ce qui se passe en fait, de ce qui évolue autour de nous : univers dont les exigences et les maximes n’auraient presque rien de commun avec l’ordre des vérités précédentes.

D’où la nécessité d’une formation doctrinale qui, non seulement ne puisse prêter le flanc à ce danger, mais qui par l’harmonie de ses composantes soit un démenti permanent d’une pareille dichotomie.

Ce qui explique et justifie qu’au seul chapitre (1er point) de la plus « sérieuse formation doctrinale » que nous nous proposons de donner désormais, deux nouvelles formules soient encore à présenter... dont, nous parlerons la prochaine fois ».

A suivre …la semaine prochaine…

[1] Permanences n° 171, juillet 1980, p. 19, 20, 29 et 30.

Le 12 octobre 2014 à Paris: colloque 2014 "Agir en catholiques dans la société"

Paris, 12 octobre - colloque 
"Catholiques en action"

L'équipe de Liberté politique vous invite à participer avec elle au colloque 2014 "Agir en catholiques dans la société" pour réfléchir au sens et aux moyens pratiques de notre action :Quelle action concrète dans ses domaines de responsabilité ? Comment agir dans le champ social, culturel et politique ?

Le 12 octobre 2014 à Paris - 9h à 18h30.

INSCRIVEZ-VOUS ! et invitez vos amis

Conférences, tables rondes, Ateliers avec plus de 70 responsables et animateurs d'initiatives sociales, culturelles et politiques au service du bien commun.

Chaque séance (conférence ou tables rondes), sera suivie d'ateliers pour échanger en petits groupes directement avec les intervenants, partager les expériences, valoriser ou construire un projet, bâtir un programme d'action.


9h - Messe, présidée par Mgr Ravel, évêque aux armées

10h30 - « Faut-il défendre ses convictions ? » par François-Xavier Bellamy, normalien et agrégé de philosophie, professeur et maire-adjoint de Versailles
« Comment agir pour le bien commun ? » par Bruno de Saint Chamas, président d'Ichtus

12h30 - Déjeuner dans les locaux de Saint-Jean de Passy.

14h-16h - Tables rondes et ateliers
- Métiers et responsabilités ; Politique, culture et responsabilités ; Vie en société, éthique et responsabilité
- Préparer les élections de 2017 : comment s'engager ?. Avec l'équipe de Liberté Politique

Avec la participation notamment de Jean-Marie Andrès, président des AFC ; François Billot de Lochner, président de la Fondation de Service Politique ; Arnaud Boutheon, fondateur de Sens Commun ; Clotilde Brossolet, fondatrice de Gavroches ; Nicole Buron, rédacteur en chef de Permanences ; Pierre Deschamps, ancien président des EDC, vice-président de la chambre de commerce de Paris ; Lionel Devic, président de la Fondation pour l'Ecole ; Alberic Dumont, fondateur LMPT ; Pierre-Yves Gomez, professeur et créateur des parcours Zachée ; Henri Hude, philosophe ; Alexandre de Lamarzelle, entrepreneur ; Jean-Marie-Le Méné, Président de la Fondation Lejeune ; Xavier Lemoine, maire de Montfermeille ; Eric Mestrallet, entrepreneur, président d'Espérance Banlieue ; Inès Pélissié, auteur ; Esther Pivet, Vigigender ; Guillaume de Prémare , ancien président de LMPT ; Ludovine de la Rochère, présidente de LMPT ; Axel et Alix Rokvam, fondateurs des Veilleurs ; Sophie Roubertie, Ichtus ; Philippe de Saint Germain, fondateur de Liberté politique...

16h30 - 18h30 - Comment agir dans la durée ?
- Histoire et enracinement, par Louis Manaranche, normalien et agrégé d'histoire, président de Fonder Demain
- Le « Puy du Fou », un exemple d'action culturelle en France et à l'international, par Philippe de Villiers, ancien ministre, auteur et créateur du Puy du Fou.

♦ La bande annonce du colloque (vidéo)

♦ Contact :

♦ Renseignements et inscription :

Lieu : Notre-Dame de Grâce de Passy
Date : 12/10/2014
Adresse :
10 rue de l'Annonciation Paris XVIe
Horaires : De 09:00 h à 18:30 h
Type d'entrée : Entrée payante

Pour s'inscrire :

The traditional pillars of religion that support a view of God as transcendent Creator remain unshaken...

by William Carroll

The traditional pillars of religion that support a view of God as transcendent Creator remain unshaken by the discoveries of modern science.

In a culture that sees science as the pinnacle of human knowledge, there continues to be lively discussion about the place of religious belief. Some believers think that their faith is threatened by science. Evolutionary biology, for example, appears to offer all-encompassing explanations of the origin and nature of living things. Thus, some believers who feel their world under assault argue that evolution is only a theory and at least equal time ought to be given, especially in education, to alternative accounts of life, including those based on biblical texts. On the other side, there are many who see religion, historically and essentially, as a barrier to an enlightened view of nature and human nature. Such people enter public discourse to show the incompatibility between evolution and religion.

In this vein, a recent New York Times article argues that the “pillars of religion” are challenged by evolutionary biology. David Barash, an evolutionary biologist and psychologist at the University of Washington, describes a disclaimer he gives at the beginning of his animal behavior class. The fundamental point he seeks to make, since many in his class harbor some form of religious belief, is that his students “need to know why science and religion cannot be reconciled.”

It is often easy to conclude that there are only two possible positions in this debate. We hear two extremes: either diminish or reject the conclusions of evolution in the defense of religion, or diminish or reject religion in defense of science. Religious participants in this type of debate often appeal to a sacred text (the Bible or the Qu’ran) as a kind of counterweight to the authority of science. Those who take the opposite extreme frame their analysis in terms of a historical narrative that sees modern science as having emerged by fighting against the forces of biblical literalism and ecclesiastical obstructionism. Historians, philosophers, and theologians know better than to describe the relationship between science and religion in the stark terms of warfare. Nevertheless, the image of fundamental conflict persists.

Are Facts and Values at War?

There are, of course, several other ways to examine the relationship between evolution and religion. Barash mentions, only to reject, a famous attempt to offer a “third way,” found in the work of the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Gould coined the abbreviation “NOMA,” or “non-overlapping magisteria,” to describe his view that science and religion are two completely separate realms of discourse that, when properly followed, do not lead to any conflict. In Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, Gould wrote:

NOMA is a simple, humane, rational, and altogether conventional argument for mutual respect, based on non-overlapping subject matter, between two components of wisdom in a full human life: our drive to understand the factual character of life (the magisterium of science), and our need to define meaning in our lives and a moral basis for our actions (the magisterium of religion).

In other words, science is concerned with the domain of facts; religion with the domain of meaning and value. This is a distinction still embraced in many circles. It has a seductive appeal in that it seems to honor different realms of wisdom by keeping them isolated from one another.

But Gould offers too simplistic a distinction between a world of fact and a world of value. Barash notes that the two magisteria are more overlapping than Gould thought. According to Barash, “as evolutionary science has progressed, the available space for religious faith has narrowed.” Perhaps more to the point, religion does make factual claims about nature, and science is not a value-free enterprise. Biology, philosophy, and theology do share some common objects (e.g., human nature), but each proceeds using different premises and methods.

Does evolutionary biology, for example, really tell us that there is no human soul? Or does it only tell us that there is no empirical warrant for affirming the soul’s existence? It would be a further judgment, and a philosophical judgment at that, to limit the real to what is empirically observable.

The Argument from Complex Design

Barash argues that evolutionary science “has demolished two previously potent pillars of religious faith.” These are: (1) an argument from the complexity of nature to the need for a supernatural creator and (2) what he calls the “illusion of centrality,” that human beings are qualitatively different from other animals. He does not seem to recognize that, however potent these pillars have been for some believers, the first is not a feature of the traditional understanding of God as Creator, and the second involves a suspect philosophical judgment that science must reject any special status for human beings.

As Barash points out, William Paley’s nineteenth-century argument from complex design to a supernatural designer fails under the weight of Darwinian evolution. Barash writes:

Since Darwin . . . we have come to understand that an entirely natural and undirected process, namely random variation plus natural selection, contains all that is needed to generate extraordinary levels of non-randomness. Living things are indeed wonderfully complex, but altogether within the range of a statistically powerful, entirely mechanical phenomenon.

Leaving aside the philosophical problems concerning what we mean by randomness and complexity, and whatever a statistically powerful mechanical phenomenon might be, the key word in this paragraph is “all.” Does evolutionary biology, or do the natural sciences taken together, provide an exhaustive account of the changing world of complex organisms? It may well be that the natural sciences only concern themselves with those features of reality subject to empirical observation. Yet to conclude that there is nothing more that needs to be explained, nothing more that needs to enter into a full picture of the world, is to make a philosophical claim, not a claim itself based on empirical observation.

Furthermore, Paley’s argument from design is a poor representative of traditional Christian approaches from nature to the Creator, even if that argument was and is accepted in some religious circles. Paley’s view, just like Barash’s criticism, suffers from the mistake of thinking of God as a kind of master craftsman. Both locate God’s causality and causes in nature on the same level, with God’s simply being more powerful. For Barash, God’s causal power is diminished, and ultimately eliminated, as the natural sciences explain more and more about the world.

  • Confusions about Causality ...
  • The Distinctiveness of Human Beings ...
  • The Problem of Evil ...

What relevance does Christianity have in our societal system: determining what the soul of the world consists of

The Soul of the System

In his review of Hunter Baker’s latest book, The System Has a Soul, Doug Wilson picks up on the allusion in the title. And in his introduction to For The Life of the World, Stephen Grabill makes explicit use of this metaphor for the relationship between Christians and society as found in the patristic Letter to Diognetus:
To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world.
At the time of this letter, in the second century A.D., the contrast of this vision with dominant paradigms would have been sharp. Varieties of philosophical and religious reflection derived from Plato affirmed a “world soul” that animated the cosmos. Later Neoplatonism, including the doctrine of the world soul, would subsequently be taken up more or less critically by a number of Christian thinkers, but the juxtaposition between such views and the affirmation of human beings, specifically adherents of the Christian religion, as the “soul” of the world could hardly have been mistaken in the times of the early church.

The context of the Letter to Diognetus is echoed in the work of another patristic figure, Tertullian of Carthage, who in his apologetic wrote of Christians:
We sojourn with you in the world, abjuring neither forum, nor shambles, nor bath, nor booth, nor workshop, nor inn, nor weekly market, nor any other places of commerce. We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you; and in like manner we unite with you in your traffickings—even in the various arts we make public property of our works for your benefit.
On this account, Christians are present throughout society, extended to each member no matter how removed, just as the soul animates the entire body.

This image of Christians as the soul of the world, as an animating presence spread throughout society, corresponds in many ways with the biblical images of salt and light, found particularly in the Gospel accounts of the Sermon on the Mount. ThusJesus tells his followers, for instance,
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16 NIV).