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Really Recommended Posts 9/26/14- Jesus Seminar, atheists and kids, and creationism!

postFirst, I gotta brag: I have a son! He was born 9/17 and he’s just the cutest darling ever. Yay! I’ve been greatly blessed.

Now, I have still put together some awesome posts for your persual, dear readers! Here we have a nice variety of topics from the need to realize the dangers of a hardened heart to the Jesus seminar to talking about atheism with kids (I’m sure this last one won’t be controversial). Check them out and let me know what you thought!

Chemostratigraphy: silent objector to ‘Flood Geology’- Young Earth Creationists often argue that the Noachian Flood is to be seen as the explanation for the layers of sediment we find all over the planet. Can this claim stand up to scrutiny?

Who Were the Jesus Seminar? Should anyone have taken them seriously?- Christians have long faced challenges thrown at the historical faith by historical critics like those in the Jesus Seminar. But should the Jesus Seminar really be (or have been) taken seriously? Check out this post which addresses some issues related to this group.

14 Ways for Christian Parents to Teach Kids about Atheism- How might we as Christians approach the topic of atheism when speaking with children? Natasha Crain provides some much-needed insights into this area. I think this is a must-read even for those who are not parents so that we can think about how to interact in age-appropriate ways.

The Dangers of a Hardened Heart- The heardening of one’s heart presents a number of dangers for both a life of faith and a life without faith. Eric Chabot addresses these dangers in this thought-provoking post.

Is Your View Falsifiable?-  Luke Nix points out a number of helpful ideas regarding whether one’s view is falsifiable. Does this matter? Read the post for many insights related to falsifiability and the Christian life.

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Really Recommended Posts 8/29/14- Eschatology, Creationism, Morality, and more!

postThere is a lot of good reading to be found in this round of Really Recommended Posts. Be sure to leave comments on those you enjoyed and let me know what you thought here! The topics include eschatology, creationism, morality, Star Trek, and more!

Hitchens’ Challenge: Name one moral act that a religious person can do that an atheist cannot- Jason Wisdom takes on Christopher Hitchens’ challenge to name a moral act that is exclusive to a religious person. He challenges the core assumptions behind the argument, along with the notion of what it means to be “moral.” This is a great read.

Coexist? – A Pox On Both Bumper Stickers-This post is about more than you may think, so be sure to read it. Philosopher David Marshall takes on the “bumper sticker” mentality of both the “Coexist” bumper sticker and its negation.

Exceptional Dinosaur Tracksite in Denali National Park Reveals Herd of Hadrosaurs- Who doesn’t love to read about dinosaurs and creationism? Put your hand down, you, you’re lying! Check out this post which talks about how a rather awesome find of dinosaur tracks presents a challenge for a young earth paradigm.

What does the Bible say about “End Times”? Three Historic Perspectives- Eschatology is something of a side interest for me, and I found this post by J. Warner Wallace to be a pretty solid summary of a few major positions Christians hold regarding end times.

Some Tips on Research- The title pretty much says it all. These are some handy things to keep in mind while doing research.

Make It So- Parody of “Let it Go”- It’s no secret that I love Star Trek. I’ve discussed it on this site with theological/apologetic questions, and I’ve also had an ongoing series of reviews of TNG on my  “alternate interests” site. Here, there is a parody of the song “Let it Go” based on Star Trek: First Contact. I thought it’d be a fun way to round out this week’s posts.

“The Measure of a Man” – Star Trek: The Next Generation and Personhood

measure-manStar Trek: The Next Generation is my favorite television series. I’ve been rewatching it recently with my wife and I got to the episode called “The Measure of a Man” (check out my plot recap and review here). This episode brings up some issues I felt were pretty relevant for discussing here. We will explore only two major aspects of this episode: personhood and self-sacrifice. There will be SPOILERS for the episode in what follows.

Personhood

The episode centered around the question of whether Data could be property. Properly speaking, it seems the episode was centered around whether Data was to be considered a “person” in the legally relevant sense. The arguments brought up regarding this question were interesting, particularly for those of us interested in philosophy of mind.

Data’s conversation with Maddox, the scientist who wishes to disassemble him in order to build more of him, centers around phenomenal consciousness. Data argues that although he has no doubt Maddox could preserve the content of his memories by simply downloading the, erm, data from his brain, he thinks there is something more to these thoughts and memories than simple facts. There is a “feel” to thoughts which have a kind of aboutness that is ultimately beyond the facts and into the realm of experience.

Frankly, this is a stunningly complex argument to make for a television show. It reflects a kind of appeal to phenomenology: the content of thoughts and the “aboutness” or taste of them. Some philosophers of mind (and I would agree with them) argue that there is a real notion of this phenomenal aspect of thought which goes beyond the simple facts. Indeed, this very aspect of thoughts and feelings–the ability to have an “about” aspect to them–is the very criterion for consciousness which some philosophers appeal to. In context of the episode, if Data really has this “aboutness,” I would say it is indisputable that he would be a person (not to say that consciousness is required for personhood, but surely a self-aware, conscious being would by necessity a person be).

Ultimately, the episode climaxes in an argument over what is it that determines someone as human or a person, and Maddox summarizes the standard definitions well by appealing to self-awareness and consciousness–though again this is disputable: surely I am a person even when unconscious!–and the arguments center around this question. These are interesting and necessary questions and I think they get at the depth of the philosophical debate surrounding this issue.

Self-Sacrifice

Interestingly, this episode also clearly focuses on the concept of “self-sacrifice.” William Riker does not want to prosecute the case against Data, but he is forced to in order to save his friend. In one epic scene, he ends up flipping Data’s power switch off and as Data collapses he says “the strings are cut” referring to Pinocchio. The final scene shows Data finding Riker staring out into space, clearly pensive over his actions and hurt over his own seeming attack on his friend. Data, however, states that although Riker knew his actions would “wound” him, Riker still prosecuted the case because he knew the alternative would be, for Data, at least akin to if not literally death. Thus, Data says, Riker “saved me.”

This kind of self-sacrifice is found exactly at the heart of the Christian message. Christ was wounded for our transactions, and, as Riker does here, Jesus came knowing that such wounding would happen. These wounds were borne for our sake.

Conclusion

“The Measure of a Man” is one of those rare episodes of a serial TV show which forces viewers to take a step back and think–really think–on a topic. Whether you agree with the conclusions of the episode or not, it must be admitted it raises a number of interesting topics to explore. What do you think of this episode? What additional themes did you pick up in it? How do your favorite shows resonate with your worldview?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Star Trek: TNG Season 2, “The Measure of a Man” and “The Dauphin”- Check out my ongoing recaps and reviews of Star Trek: TNG episodes at my “other interests” site, Eclectic Theist. Here, I review this episode and the following one. More recaps may be viewed here or by searching on that site.

The photo in this episode was a screenshot capture of the episode. I claim no rights to it and use it under fair use.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

What can you do to learn more? Some Tips for Scholarship

Bibbia_con_rosaA new year has come and it is time to get motivated to make some good habits. I have often run into people who ask me how I read so much or how to explore these topics more deeply.  Let me be clear: I don’t think I’m really anything special. There are plenty of others out there who are doing more things better than I. But, hey, I have an MA degree in Apologetics. I can consider myself qualified to give tips for scholarship, right? I’ve credited them to others if I picked them up from others (and noted that I forgot where I forgot).

Reading

Set a realistic reading goal for yourself, but make it realistic and shoot for the lowest end of what you think is possible. My philosophy professor from my undergraduate studies and good friend, Stephen Parrish, told me about his goal: 2 pages a night from several different books before bed. Does that sound doable to you? I should hope so. Think about it this way (I’m not trying to be crude here): do you spend any time in the restroom? Are you just sitting there? I bet you could read two pages instead of twiddling your thumbs.

The best part about setting a realistic reading goal at the low end of what you think is possible is that you will often do way more than your goal. If you say “I have time to read two pages right now” to yourself, you’ll often get away with 5 pages or even a chapter. Find those 5-10 minute portions in the day (at breakfast over a bowl of cereal is another possibility) and fill them with reading.

Also, be aware of your own enjoyment and interests related to what you’re reading. Don’t just continue reading a book because you started it. If you’re halfway through and feeling as though it’s a huge bore for you and you’re not getting anything out of it–then stop reading the book. Be sure to engage in the highly valuable process of skimming–simply reading one or two sentences per paragraph/page to get to the main points. In particular, this is helpful for those books you really want to get through but are having the problem of boredom. Don’t feel obligated to read everything from every book. If it’s not valuable to you, then stop. I admit I’m a huge offender for this: I do often force myself through books I’m not enjoying. Remind me to stop! You and I don’t have time for that!

Note-Taking for Reading

Let me emphasize the extreme value and importance of taking notes on your reading. Yes, it will slow you down. However, these notes will become invaluable going forward. Tim McGrew was one who really stressed to me the importance of reading notes. He suggested keeping a running file which had all your notes in it on your computer. That way, it is searchable and you can easily find where that quote was you were interested in as you’re doing your own writing. I would suggest keeping a separate file for each book you read, and then one running document with all the book notes together (just copy and paste each book’s entire notes into this document when you finish).

The way I take notes is simply by typing the page number and my very brief summary of what was written. I really need to emphasize this: these notes are absolutely invaluable. Although it will take you longer to read books, if you take notes you will remember the books a lot better and you also will have all your own thoughts on what was most important from the book at your fingertips. Do this. If anyone is interested, leave a comment and I’ll copy and paste a selection sample of my own notes into the comments below.

Listening

Listen to things related to your area of interest. There are almost certainly podcasts on the topics in which you are interested. Look them up. Listen to them while you’re washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or doing the laundry. You’ll be surprised by how interesting these can be, and you’ll also learn and retain quite a bit. Plus, you can listen to them multiple times to get the core ideas down.

Don’t limit your listening to podcasts. Audiobooks are a great way to supplement your reading if you’re afraid you really don’t have a lot of time. Text-to-voice is a great feature on Kindle (and probably other e-readers, though I am not familiar with them) that will read you books out loud in an electronic voice. It’s not the most exciting way to listen to books, but it will help you dive in and you’ll learn a bunch. Another avenue to explore is listening to debates. Look up debates on topics your interested in, or find your favorite scholar and see if they have done any debates. It’s a great way to learn how to engage. Finally, look for lectures available for free. Very often, you’ll be able to find lectures on topics your interested in just by using Google to search for them. Again, this will supplement the materials you’re reading and expand your knowledge of the areas in which you are interested.

I can’t emphasize how important I have found the practice of listening to lectures/debates/audiobooks/podcasts. I listen to them while I’m brushing my teeth, working out, doing dishes/laundry, etc. The amount of material you can consume in those times you might normally not be listening to anything is astounding. Use that time!

Engagement

If you’re going to engage in apologetics (or, really, any other field), you should try to get a feel for the trends and interest of those who are working in the same area. Try reading a blog article or two each week related to your interests. Don’t make this take away from your reading goal for books above. Think about it this way: do you spend a lot of time reading pointless junk from Facebook? (I’ll confess right now: I really do.) Why not use that time to read a couple blog posts you’re interested instead.

While we’re on the topic of blogs, don’t forget to comment on others’ blogs. Not only will this draw them to reciprocate, but it will also help you practice writing in a way which engages you with the topics in which you’re interested.

Try writing a blog yourself. It will bring along people who agree and disagree and give you a feel for how to handle such discussions.

Utilize Facebook and other social media to engage with scholars in the field. Find groups which discuss your areas of interest and join them. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn if you just look for a little bit.

Avoid Wasting Time

Look, I already admitted I’m a big offender from wasting time on Facebook, but let’s just promise each other we’re going to try to stop that. I’m not saying you need to ignore friends and family. But if you do what I do, you spend a lot of time just scrolling through your feed looking at things that really don’t interest you because it’s mindless and vaguely entertaining. Sound familiar? Why not use that time to read a blog post, listen to a lecture, or send a message to someone else whose opinion you value about a topic you’re interested in? I bet you and I can get a lot more done if we do that.

Whatever your time-waster is, try to cut down on it. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. Let me be clear on that. I find my best way to take a break is to play some video games or read some science fiction and just zone out for a bit. Don’t give up on the things you love for the sake of scholarship. But if you find you’re really just wasting time for the sake of wasting time; cut it out! You have better things to do, and so do I!

Do What You Enjoy!

Be sure to remember you don’t need to have your nose to the grindstone 100% of the time. Make time for the things you enjoy, whether that is reading science fiction novels or watching your favorite TV show. Keep some “you time” for enjoying things outside of scholarship so that you don’t burn yourself out.

Stay Focused on the Goal

What are you working towards? Keep that in mind as you structure your reading, listening, and other studying. It’s fine to read outside that area, but you should always try to remain focused primarily upon your goal.

It is also incredibly important not to become entirely engrossed in studying. As Christians, we need to keep our “eye on the prize” and pursue our worship of and relationship with our Lord and Savior. Make time to read Scripture. Have it be a daily routine: a time to worship through commitment to Christ.

How about you?

What are some of your tips? Do you do any of the things mentioned above? Drop a comment and let me know what you do to increase your knowledge.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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