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December 2008

November 2008

Was Jesus intolerant?

If we were to apply the postmodern definition of “tolerance” (never say anyone is wrong) to Jesus, one would have to conclude that Jesus was one of the most intolerant people to walk the face of this earth.  Our postmodern friends tell us that you must not say anyone’s religion is wrong.  Yet in his conversation with the Samaritan woman Jesus plainly told her, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).  The tolerance brigade insists that we are all on different paths to the same goal or God, yet Jesus said, “… whoever does not believe [in him] stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).  As nice as – it  doesn’t matter what you believe just as long as you are sincere in your belief – may sound; there is a slight problem.  We live in the “real” world where the law of non-contradiction applies; not Disneyland.  As Aristotle put it, “opposite assertions are not true at the same time.”  Perhaps we are all wrong, but please, spare us the patronizing nonsense that we are all on different roads to Rome.

Minimum wage, maximum fatuity?

The Business Authority (Monday, November 17, 2008) carried a story titled, Minimum Wage Hike May Bring Job Losses.  The article stated, “Employers faced with a possible 35 percent increase in the minimum wage may be forced to cut jobs or even close down operations, given the current and impending economic situation.”  Some argue that the minimum wage itself is a simplistic solution to a more complex problem and ultimately ends up hurting those it seeks to help.  Businesses affected would no doubt raise their prices as a result of a higher wages bill, and consumers (including the same said minimum wage earners) will end up paying more for goods and services.  The marketplace always reacts to certain public policies and this possible increase would be no different. 

From a political standpoint it is always nice to be seen as fighting for the “poor man” as Thomas Sowell points out, “Economists may point to studies done in countries around the world, showing that higher minimum wage rates usually mean higher unemployment rates among lower skilled and less experienced workers.  That’s their problem.  A politician’s problem is how to look like he is for “the poor” and against those who are “exploiting” them. The facts are irrelevant to maintaining that political image.”  In another article Sowell makes a similar point, “Minimum wage laws have the same effects in Europe as they have had in other places around the world. They price many low-skilled and inexperienced workers out of a job.”

On the other hand, a friend in Ontario Canada, pointed out that there was similar concern when the minimum wage there was raised to $8.75 an hour after being at $6.85 for eight years.  However the Ontario government coupled the increase with tax cuts for small businesses.  If our proposed increase files, will it be packaged with similar measures to help alleviate the pain of paying extra wages?  Maybe legislators should follow Gerald Zandstra’s advice and, “think long and hard before they lead with their hearts and ignore what their heads ought to be telling them.”

Are the gospel texts reliable?

Every once in awhile you will hear that the Gospels are simply mythical accounts and that the disciples “put words in Jesus’ mouth” to prop up their agenda and so forth.  However, Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses makes a compelling case that the Gospels records accurately depict the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth.  You can also check the following resource for more information on this subject.

Our brains on tech

Nicholas Carr’s article, Is Google Making Us Stupid? generated two interesting replies in the Letters to the Editor section of The Atlantic, October 2008.  Writer Julie Lake told the story of helping her daughter, who is in 8th grade, with a 1 page assignment on a historical figure.  They were forced into a brick and mortar library after their internet connection went down.  It was only then that Lake realized that her daughter (an A student), “did not know how to read or even skim a nonfiction book to distill key facts.”  This observation caused Lake to worry about what “we are giving up with all this speed and efficiency.”  In another letter, Gary Small (Director, UCLA Memory and Aging Research Center) noted that “instead of the traditional generation gap, we are witnessing the beginning of a brain gap that separates digital natives born into 24/7 technology, and digital immigrants, who came to computers and other digital technology as adults.”

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that simply having access to more information at greater speeds is not making us more informed or intelligent.  As Alexander Solzhenitsyn has pointed out (albeit in a slightly different context), “people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one … A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.” 

I wonder if our educators can tell us if the overall level of comprehension, writing and reading has gone up, down or remained relatively constant since the increased use of search engine technology as a research tool.  If Lake’s experience with her daughter is any indication of a wider trend, a nation of “Googlers” (coupled with impatience for offline methods)  might not be such a good thing in the long run.  A friend in the US recently informed me that his boss taught a class at an architecture school and some of her students were using text lingo (IMO, for “in my opinion”) in their academic papers.  Imagine that.