Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another Flew Shot

“Schroeder first referred to an experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts. A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys. After one month of hammering away at it (as well as using it as a bathroom!), the monkeys produced fifty typed pages—but not a single word. Schroeder noted that this was the case even though the shortest word in the English language is one letter (a or I). A is a word only if there is a space on either side of it. If we take it that the keyboard has thirty characters (the twenty-six letters and other symbols), then the likelihood of getting a one-letter word is 30 times 30 times 30, which is 27,000. The likelihood of a getting a one-letter word is one chance out of 27,000.

“Schroeder then applied the probabilities to the sonnet analogy. ‘What’s the chance of getting a Shakespearean sonnet?’ he asked. He continued: ‘All the sonnets are the same length. They’re by definition fourteen lines long. I picked the one I knew the opening line for, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I counted the number of letters; there are 488 letters in that sonnet. What’s the likelihood of hammering away and getting 488 letters in the exact sequence as in “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”? What you end up with is 26 multiplied by itself 488 times – or 26 to the 488th power. Or, in other words, in base 10, 10 to the 690th.

“Now the number of particles in the universe – not grains of sand, I’m talking about protons, electrons, and neutrons – is 10 to the 80th. Ten to the 80th is 1 with 80 zeros after it. Ten to the 690th is 1 with 690 zeros after it. There are not enough particles in the universe to write down the trials; you’d be off by a factor of 10 to the 600th. If you took the entire universe and converted it to computer chips – forget the monkeys – each one weighing a millionth of a gram and had each computer chip able to spin out 488 trials at, say, a million times a second; if you turn the entire universe into these microcomputer chips and these chips were spinning a million times a second [producing] random letters, the number of trials you would get since the beginning of time would be 10 to the 90th trials. It would be off again by a factor of 10 to the 600th. You will never get a sonnet by chance. The universe would have to be 10 to the 600th times larger. Yet the world just thinks the monkeys can do it every time.’

“After hearing Schroeder’s presentation, I told him that he had very satisfactorily and decisively established that the ‘monkey theorem’ was a load of rubbish, and that it was particularly good to do it with just a sonnet; the theorem is sometimes proposed using the works of Shakespeare or a single play, such as Hamlet. If the theorem won’t work for a single sonnet, then of course it’s simply absurd to suggest that the more elaborate feat of the origin of life could have been achieved by chance.”

- Anthony Flew,
There is A God – How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind

Monday, April 27, 2009

Materialistic Mystics

Sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.

- Malcolm Muggeridge

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Makes a Classic?


"How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?" - Walter Neff, Double Indemnity

He could have known this and a lot more if his father had read him the Proverbs ... and if he talked to him about them ... and maybe watched movies about them too.

That was an immortal line from Double Indemnity, #38 on the AFI's list of the top 100 films of all time. But what makes a film a classic? Isn't a black and white job like this too boring and outdated to cut it in the age of computer-generated mid-air nuclear UFO collisions?

I say, no. Here's are 3 brief reasons:

1. It still kept me interested, even riveted - The fact that since its release in 1944, probably hundreds of thousands of movies have been made, and I’ve seen probably a few thousand of them in my life … yet, not only did it keep my interest until the last minute, I was genuinely shocked and surprised by the twists of the plot at least 5 times. That is a quality movie – one that doesn’t fall back on glitzy computer-generated special effects to keep my interest. It’s a quality movie, with a quality plot, directed in a masterful and discrete way that still seems fresh and interesting 65 years [and how many hundred thousand more movies] later.

2. It's artistic touches and pioneering innovations- The movie started with the beginning of the last scene then tracked backward until the final scene resumed for the conclusion. Now, I realize that 3 years before, Citizen Kane began in a similar way, but this one seemed to take that idea and improved upon it. The information we were given in the first 60 seconds provided the critical questions that carried our interest through the rest of the movie … he worked in insurance, he was desperate, everything had fallen apart in his plan, he had been shot, he was confessing to his friend, he had been seduced and probably betrayed … we take this kind of intro for granted today, but I think it was probably much more experimental in ’44 … and they pulled it off without a hitch in a way that seems flawless to me today.

3.The moral - the bad guys don’t get away; they get what was coming to them. Though this film is thought to be the first real example of dark film noir, it incarnates the 6th and 7th chapters of the Proverbs wonderfully, warning against the temptress. The downward spiral of the man is complex but clear and the characters are believable, not flat.

Cons: This is a dark film about the fall of a man who gives in to temptation and sin. There is no happy ending and there is no other character to model redemption. Because of this, the focus of the movie is on the schemes of this man, and you may at times actually find yourself rooting for him. If that is the case, snap yourself out of it. If you can't, don't watch the film.
And of course, there are a ton of solid-gold one-liners:

Do I laugh now, or wait 'til it gets funny?

Walter: You'll be here too?
Phyllis: I guess so, I usually am.
Walter: Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
Phyllis: I wonder if I know what you mean.
Walter: I wonder if you wonder.

His name was Jackson. Probably still is.

"Margie"! I bet she drinks from the bottle.

… they got to ride all the way to the end of the line and it's a one-way trip and the last stop is the cemetery. Murder's never perfect. Always comes apart sooner or later, and when two people are involved it's usually sooner.

This movie is a true classic, and I give it four out of five stars.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

International Talk Like Shakespeare Day

William Shakespeare is being honored on the 445th anniversary of his birth.

Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, Illinois, has declared Thursday as "Talk Like Shakespeare Day" to celebrate the 445th birthday of the man many consider the greatest playwright in the English language. Unleash thy inner bard.

In a proclamation issued last week, Daley encouraged city residents to "screw their courage to the sticking place and celebrate Shakespeare by vocal acclamation of his words."

There's no reason why the rest of the country cannot play along, peppering our conversation with -- as the mayor suggested -- phrases such as "prithee" and "fie!" or, if you're at work, "pass yonder stapler."

It isn't as difficult as it sounds. After all, Shakespeare single-handedly contributed more than 1,700 words and phrases to the English language -- everything from "foul play" to "monumental".

One Web site offers 10 quick pointers on how to talk like Bill. A sampling:
Don't waste time saying "it." Just use the letter "t" ('tis, 'twill, I'll do't).
To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with "methinks," "mayhaps," "in sooth" or "wherefore."
When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
Finally, if you're inclined to yell at the driver who cuts you off as you head to work, why settle for "idiot," when "thou rank white-livered canker-blossom" is so much more satisfying.
For more ammunition, you can consult the random Random Shakespearean Insult Generator. "Thou vain fly-bitten moldwarp!" and "Thou gorbellied clapper-clawed scurvy-knave!" are just a sample of the offerings.

From Saeed Ahmed, CNN

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wittenberg Beer [Luther's Secret Weapon]

Martin Luther once said: 'While I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer the gospel runs its course and overthrows empires.' Now that is truly the finest and most comforting thing I have ever heard said about beer.

-Robert Reymond, The God-centered Preacher

Luther also said: “I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip [Melanchthon] and [Nicholas] Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.

For an interesting article on the beers of the Reformation, click here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

God's glory and my ipod

Here is an excerpt from a prayer posted by Doug Wilson yesterday:

Father, as we read these words of confession from the prophet Isaiah, we recognize that he spoke of a people who had once known You, but who had fallen away. We confess that this is true of our nation, and many other nations in the West besides. We ask You to restore us as peoples, and we ask in particular that You forgive us in such a way as to restore our ability to sing. Restore us in song, we pray.

We know, Father, that if we in the Church regard iniquity in our own midst, or in our own hearts, this prayer will be ineffectual. Father, we confess that in the Church we have consistently amused ourselves with our music instead of seeking in the first place to worship You. Restore our priorities, and restore music to the Church so that we might bring it to the world. Father, we confess that far too many of Your children listen to a steady diet of foul and corrupt music, and try to excuse it under the cloak of Christian liberty. Forgive us for this abuse of liberty, we pray.

To read the first installment of his exhortation on music, click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Firm Foundation

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

John Rippon,
excerpt from 'How Firm a Foundation',

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The First Prayer of Congress

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!
Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.
Reverend Jacob Duché
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia,
PennsylvaniaSeptember 7, 1774, 9 o’clock a.m.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Through a Telescope Darkly

“The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.”

-Arno Penzias, winner of the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the cosmic background radiation that corroborated the Big Bang

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

An OVERWHELMING Vision of God in His Majesty

So What is Calvinism, Dr Warfield?

Lutheranism, the product of a poignant sense of sin, born from the throes of a guilt-burdened soul which can not be stilled until it finds peace in God's decree of justification, is apt to rest in this peace; while Calvinism, the product of an overwhelming vision of God, born from the reflection in the heart of man of the majesty of a God who will not give His glory to another, can not pause until it places the scheme of salvation itself in relation to a complete world-view, in which it becomes subsidiary to the glory of the Lord God Almighty.

Calvinism asks with Lutheranism, indeed, that most poignant of all questions, What shall I do to be saved? and answers it as Lutheranism answers it. But the great question which presses upon it is, How shall God be glorified? It is the contemplation of God and zeal for His honor which in it draws out the emotions and absorbs endeavor; and the end of human as of all other existence, of salvation as of all other attainment, is to it the glory of the Lord of all. Full justice is done in it to the scheme of redemption and the experience of salvation, because full justice is done in it to religion itself which underlies these elements of it. It begins, it centers, it ends with the vision of God in His glory: and it sets itself before all things to render to God His rights in every sphere of life-activity.

THE WORKS OF B. B. WARFIELD, Volume V, page 358

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reformed©, Inc.

Recently Time Magazine ranked the 10 most influential ideas in the world today. Amazingly, Calvinism was #3. For my parents' generation, that would've been unthinkable. But by God's grace, reformation theology has made such a resurgence that everyone is talking.

Before we break out the Genevan champagne, a word of caution. If our numbers are significant enough to attract the notice of Time Magazine, they have most certainly already attracted the attention of industry sharks eager to make inroads with this new and growing segment of Christian consumers.

This may explain why much of contemporary evangelicalism is driven by the need for constant turn-over [change is the basis of commerce]. Books, Bible translations, songs for church and home, pastoral methods/ministry techniques – we’re told that these are constantly becoming obsolete - that’s why you need this Crossway product or that Pastor’s Conference.

It's been said that the American genius is not production, it’s sales; not meeting needs, but creating them. For the first time, Reformed Christians are specifically being targeting by marketers. As this happens, it's good to be reminded/warned that:

1. There are no secrets to living the super Christian life. The means of grace are all God has given and all we need. They are glorious - not boring - but were intended to save, not sell. There is no microwave spirituality - as the constant commands to persevere imply.

2. It's more important to fear God than be hip. He promises to be near the broken and contrite-hearted ... not the trendy, Euro-chic christianettes.

3. The old paths are ... well ... old. It's hard to put a glossy cover on the collected works of Jonathan Edwards. It's harder still to imagine Knox or Dabney coloring their beards to earn some relevance points w/ the youngsters. Old saints are wise. Young ones aren't. It is difficult for people in our culture to 'search after wisdom like a hidden treasure' when we are driven by the same impulses that have made Botox a billion dollar product.

4. We are a very superficial generation. God looks on the heart; we ... not so much. This isn't good when Christ warned that the wolves in our midst will never look like wolves when viewed superficially.

5. Change is not all its cracked up to be. Motion does not mean movement; activity does not equal progress. After all the hype and emotion, money has changed hands, but people may often be no more forgiven or holy than they were before all the hooplah.

Please don't think me too much of a curmudgeon - I think these things need saying, negative though they be. Having said them, with this news we once more have an occassion to worship our God and praise Him for His kindness. He is not abandoning us, though we deserve it [and worse]. He delights in mercy. This article is a small encouragement. Let's smile and continue on - spend and be spent for the cause of His glory, Kingdom, and people.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why Big Government Isn't

An excess
of law
the rule
of law.

- Laurence H. Tribe on

[even a broken watch is right twice a day]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Still Learning To Talk Good

Daddy, I just have one little, itsy-witsy, teeny, big problem: Mommy's not here, and that's my sadness.

-Gideon [3], explaining why he couldn't go to bed while my wife was out grocery shopping.

Lab Rat Worship

It looks as if [our clergymen] believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain - many give up churchgoing altogether - merely endure.

Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it.

Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And ... it “works” best - when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice… The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshiping... A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste.

There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks."

- C S Lewis, Letters to Malcolm [Chiefly on Prayer]

Sunday, April 5, 2009

O ye of little holiness ...

Of all sights in the Church of Christ, I know none more painful to my own eyes than a Christian contented and satisfied with a little grace, a little repentance, a little faith, a little knowledge, a little charity, and a little holiness. I do beseech and entreat every believing soul that reads this not to be that kind of man ... Let us aim at eminent holiness.

-J C Ryle, Holiness

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Red Giants, white dwarfs, and Black Holes

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.
-Richard Feynman

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Scientists have discovered 'brain spots' that are unique to believers in God. They are calling these 'God spots' and theorizing that this brain activity accounts for the belief in God that some people possess.

I want to know when they’re going to find the brain spots that make people believe in and look for brain spots. After that, maybe they can identify ’science spots’ -

If every human experience or pursuit can be explained as the result of cerebral chemisty … then, as C S Lewis said, even the finest bit of scientific reasoning comes to us in the same way as the thought a man has because a bit of bone is pressing on his cortex.