Thursday, February 22, 2007

Private Sector Charity Trumps Government Aid

In modern political and social thought, the role of governmental assistance in various areas of life has grown. A large segment of the population in modern industrial and post-industrial nations expects, and views as proper, the taxpayers to fund efforts in education, health care, anti-poverty efforts, the arts, and other projects.

Such governmental intervention has proven, however, to be both weak and counter-productive.

Weak, inasmuch as private-sector efforts are both better-funded and more effective. When the government sends hundreds of millions to help Tsunami victims in southern Asia, charities send billions more than any world government could hope to send. When the government offers a few beds for the homeless in downtown Ann Arbor, private organizations offer dozens more.

What do these agencies all have in common, these agencies who offer help which is so much more effective than any government program? They receive no taxpayer funds. They are supported entirely by freewill donations from private citizens.

Many, but not all, of these agencies are "faith-based" - mainly churches. Ironically, American churches sent billions of dollars to the Tsunami victims, who were mainly Muslim and Hindu: because one principle of the Christian faith is to help all human beings, not simply those who share your faith. By contrast, the wealthy Muslim nations of Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, sent almost no assistance to Tsunami victims, even though they are members of the same Islamic faith.

Are there numbers to back up these claims? Americans give more money to charities, per capita, than any other country. Americans give over $300 billion annually to registered charitable organizations - and billions more to other charities. That's over $1,000 per person. Consider that many people under the age of 18 are not able to give large sums: that means that the average wage-earner is giving even larger sums.

In addition, Americans donate millions of hour of labor to charities: Ann Arbor's homeless program relies of hundreds of hours of volunteer work each week.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Boyle's Ideal Gas Law and Newton's Gravity

Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton's best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to view the universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."

His scientific fame notwithstanding, Newton's study of the Bible was among his greatest passions. He devoted more time to the study of the Scriptures, Alchemy, and the Christian faith than to science, and said, "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily." Newton himself wrote several books about the Bible, based on his knowledge of Hebrew grammar. Newton also placed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at 3 April, AD 33, which is now the accepted traditional date. His ability to calculate this date so accurately was due to careful cross-referencing between events in Roman history, events in the New Testament, and careful astronomical observations. Despite his focus on theology and alchemy, Newton tested and investigated these ideas with the scientific method, observing, hypothesising, and testing his theories. To Newton, his scientific and religious experiments were one and the same, observing and understanding how the world functioned.

Newton may have rejected the church's version doctrine of the Trinity. His studies of Hebrew texts may have led him to a different understanding of the nature of God's personalities.

In his own lifetime, Newton wrote more on religion than he did on natural science. He believed in a rationally immanent world. Thus, the ordered and dynamically informed universe could be understood, and must be understood, by an active reason, but this universe, to be perfect and ordained, had to be regular.

Newton and Robert Boyle’s mechanical philosophy was promoted by rationalist pamphleteers, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox preachers as well as dissident preachers. Thus, the clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way to combat the emotional and metaphysical superlatives of atheism, and, at the same time, to demonstrate the possibility of a "natural religion." The idea of a "natural religion" is a religion which can be understood inductively from experience, a religion which is reasoned deductively from general principles of human knowledge. A "natural religion" is usually contrasted with a "revealed religion", which is based upon the careful study of a text. Newton seems to have engaged in both types of religion, and his books had the effect in England of encouraging both types, even though they sometimes competed with each other.

Boyle, who worked to ensure that the Bible would be accurately translated into different Asian languages by competent linguistic scientists, developed a mechanical conception of the universe, most famously with his "ideal gas" law. Newton gave Boyle’s ideas their completion through mathematical proofs and, perhaps more important, was very successful in popularizing them. Newton refashioned the universe into a world crafted by a God that designs along rational and universal principles. These principles were available for all people to discover, allowed man to pursue his own aims fruitfully, and to improve, but not perfect, himself with his own rational powers.

Newton saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. The laws of physics are the God's thoughts, which He imposes on the world. In the Resurrection, Newton saw an absolutely "unique event" - a phrase which carries special importance in physics, because most events are not unique, being in principle reproducible by the re-application of the laws which produced them the first time.

The law of gravity became Sir Isaac Newton's best-known discovery. Newton warned against using it to view the universe as a mere machine, like a great clock.

Though he is better known for his love of science, the Bible was Sir Isaac Newton's greatest passion. He devoted more time to the study of Scripture than to science; he wrote more books about religion than about math or physics.

Newton’s conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world. Thus there is a social and political aspect to Newton's thought, but he did not write much about it.

Both Newton and Robert Boyle wrote substantial books about their faith, and worked to ensure that Bibles were distributed among the poor. Boyle's "ideal gas law" was for him a symbol of the perfect organization of the universe, which he said could only arise from a logical intelligent design.

Which Cultures Wage War Against Women?

Leading Demographer Warns UN About Global War on Girls - (NEW YORK — AP) At the UN this week, renowned scholar Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) warned delegates of the growing global gender imbalance due to prenatal sex selection. Calling the trend a “Global War Against Baby Girls”, Eberstadt delivered extensive statistics on the rise of “son preference” in every part of the world.

Refuting the assumptions that preference for baby boys is a localized cultural phenomenon or due solely to coercive population programs, Eberstadt’s research reveals that imbalance is due to several factors: an existing preference for sons, a decrease in overall fertility, and the exponential increase in the use of technology which facilitates sex selection in the prenatal stages. He also emphasized that a rise in education levels does not slow the problem and in some cases is associated with a stronger tendency to choose boys.

According to Eberstadt, natural birth rates are about 105 males for every 100 females born. Some regions of the world are experiencing upwards of 115 boys born for every 100 girls, some are as high at 150 boys born for every 100 girls. He warned delegates that this could just be the beginning and that the world is “moving to the realm of science fiction” as the ratio of baby boys to baby girls was already at levels “beyond nature.” Citing a recent study, Eberstadt said that even now there are 20 million “missing” baby girls in Asia alone, that sex-selection has permanently skewed the demographic balance of China and is in the process of skewing the demographic balance of India. He also showed the way that the trend has crept into Eastern Europe and Latin America, and that almost every African state is showing signs of vulnerability to the phenomenon.

Since 1994, the UN has recognized that “son preference” is discriminatory to women and girls and the Beijing Platform for Action lists female infanticide and prenatal sex selection as incidences of violence against women.

The recent Violence Against Children (VAC) study released earlier this year made no mention of the problem of sex-selection whereby parents are forced or coerced to choose one or two children and almost inevitably choose boys. The 139-page in-depth Violence Against Women (VAW) study also released this year only referred to prenatal sex selection three times.

A delegate at the lecture said, “This is astonishing. The research clearly shows that this is a growing problem all over the world. It is our job as delegates to seek solutions.”

Experts say solutions will be hard to come by. Eberstadt pointed out that when South Korea made sex selection illegal, the practice skyrocketed. Experts also point out that a rising imbalance of boys to girls will lead to trafficking in women and could contribute to an increasing national security concerns.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Culture and Creativity

Whether you call it "Western Culture" or "European Civilization" or simply the "Judeo-Christian Tradition", including much of North America and places like Australia, this stream of history has been an incredibly creative one.

According to the second Arab Human Development Report, which was written in 2003 for the United Nations Development Program by a group of courageous Arab social scientists, between 1980 and 1999, Arab countries produced 171 international patents. South Korea alone during that same period registered 16,328 patents. Hewlett-Packard registers, on average, eleven new patents a day. The average number of scientists and engineers working in research and development in the Arab countries is 371 per million people, while the world average, including countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, is 979, the report said. This helps to explain why although massive amounts of foreign technology are imported to the Arab regions, very little of it is internalized or supplanted by Arab innovations. Between 1995 and 1996, as many as 25 percent of the university graduates produced in the Arab world immigrated to some Western country. There are just 18 computers per 1,000 people in the Arab region today, compared with the global average of 78.3 per 1,000, and only 1.6 percent of the Arab population has Internet access. While Arabs represent almost five percent of the world's population, the report said, they produce only one percent of the books published. Of the 88 million unemployed males between fifteen and twenty-four worldwide, almost 26 percent are in the Middle East and North Africa, according to an International Labor Organization study (Associated Press, December 26, 2004).

This trend continues despite the fact that the Arab nations are wealthier than not only the average nation, but also wealthier than even the average developed nation. In fact, Arab wealth allows them to enjoy the fruit of Western technology: in Dubai, what will soon be the world's tallest building is being built - with engineers and architects from Europe and America, who quickly discovered that local builders were not up to the task.

The excess of wealth in the Arab nations is used to enjoy Western technology, but not to help or advance human needs: when the Tsunami struck a number of Islamic nations, disaster relief and humanitarian aid came largely from Europe and America, with only a trickle from the Arab world.

In contrast with the West, Arabic culture seems to have shut down its creative capabilities.


The term "dhimmi" refers to a non-Muslim person in a country which has been occupied by Islamic armies. This word, and the concept for which it stands, shaped history in southeastern Europe for several centuries.

Muslim armies steamrolled over North Africa, the Middle East, and Spain for five centuries after the death of Muhammed in 632 A.D.; magnificent basilicas and monasteries in Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia were left in smoking ruins by Muslims from the eighth to the tenth centuries.

Spain was pillaged and devastated many times: Zamora in 981, Barcelona in 987, Santiago de Compostela in 997. In 1000, Castile was ravaged, its Christian and Jewish populations either killed, or enslaved and then deported. This was the fate of the dhimmi.