C.S. Lewis On Scientific Experiments On Prayer

Years ago, during the Myspace era, there was a study done on the empirical effects of prayer on sick people. The results showed that prayer made no difference in the health of the patient*. I thought the experiment silly since, as God is a person who decides things (not quite like humans do, but I imagine it’s similar) and not a vending machine, answers to prayers are not “input + process = output.” There’s no way of scientifically knowing if a prayer “worked” because there’s nothing to measure; it could’ve worked out the way God intended all along. Bodily death was not originally part of God’s plan but it’s the state of affairs we’re stuck with now—He has already worked it into the equation.

C.S. Lewis addressed the same issue in “The Efficacy of Prayer” from The World’s Last Night (full text here).

Thus in some measure the same doubt that hangs about the causal efficacy of our prayers to God hangs also about our prayers to man. Whatever we get we might have been going to get anyway. But only, as I say, in some measure. Our friend, boss, and wife may tell us that they acted because we asked; and we may know them so well as to feel sure, first that they are saying what they believe to be true, and secondly that they understand their own motives well enough to be right. But notice that when this happens our assurance has not been gained by the methods of science. We do not try the control experiment of refusing the raise or breaking off the engagement and then making our request again under fresh conditions. Our assurance is quite different in kind from scientific knowledge. It is born out of our personal relation to the other parties; not from knowing things about them but from knowing them.

Our assurance if we reach an assurance that God always hears and sometimes grants our prayers, and that apparent grantings are not merely fortuitous, can only come in the same sort of way. There can be no question of tabulating successes and failures and trying to decide whether the successes are too numerous to be accounted for by chance. Those who best know a man best know whether, when he did what they asked, he did it because they asked. I think those who best know God will best know whether He sent me to the barber’s shop because the barber prayed.

* The study was fundamentally flawed, at least as far as Christian doctrine is concerned. In some contexts it might be apropos for church elders to “lay hands” and pray for the sick. Granted, that isn’t the only way but the experiment would have been more comprehensive if that was a considered variable.

Governments Are Leprosy, Speeding Drivers Are Acne

Some blunt thoughts from Christopher Cantwell’s post, “Top 10 Reasons Libertarians Aren’t Nice To You” (emphasis his):

6. All those “what ifs” you’re so concerned about, they’re called choices.

….

You have become so used to the State being the arbiter of all things, that you seem to panic at every uncertainty. The funny part about this is, the State hasn’t provided you with any certainty at all. There’s absolute chaos in the world, governments have murdered over 260 million of their own citizens in the last century, not including war, and you’re still freaking out about speed limits.

Indeed. The concept of the state has consistently been an abysmal failure as a method of organizing people. How people believe another version of this failure, or getting the right people to administer it, or passing one more useless law, will work this time, this place after hundreds and hundreds of failures, is a baffling phenomenon.

Worrying that people will drive too fast if there’s no government is like having a panic attack about the zit on your nose while your leprotic extremities are being gnawed down to the bone by rats.

Justification for Divinely-Directed Genocide

I was debating doing a post on this in the past, but it popped up on theChristian Libertarians group on Facebook: how does the God-commanded genocide of the Canaanites in Joshua 6:20-21 square if you’re a libertarian and Christian?

The first commenter offered a good start with 5 options:

1. They deserved it. The Canaanites were horrible child-sacrificers, and God gave them years to repent before wiping them out.

2. God has the right to do whatever he wants. This is known as divine command theory. In other words, there is a giant exception in all moral absolutes: God, as author of life, has the right to take it.

3. God was like that then, but Jesus is the pattern for us now (the traditional Anabaptist or dispensationalist position).

4. God is a god of holy and righteous anger. This view boldly faces down the depiction and says that this is what God has always been like and is still today.

5. God is actually not like that and did not actually order these genocides. Rather, the authors of the Biblical books used God to justify their own violence. This response requires dropping inerrancy and this is the option I take.

I disregard #5 completely. There’s no basis, save for someone’s own personal feelings on the matter, to discard one divine command as opposed to another.

Though I don’t care too much about offering materialist reasons for God’s commands or self-directed actions, here was my two cents:

What about this:

God owns everything, so he reserves the moral right to evict or use force to defend His property from agents He deems trespassers.

If you consider God as the ultimate landowner then this makes plenty of sense, though it’s not quite as strong since we don’t know in what manner He dealt with the Canaanites to begin with. He may have given them “every chance” or no warning at all. Given what we know of God in the Old Testament, the former is “in character” but the latter is not impossible.

I like #1, personally. God can do whatever He damn well pleases. He owes us nothing. If anyone has a problem with this, what exactly do you plan on doing about it?

Let me put it another way, if any skeptics are reading this. Let’s pretend the God of the Old Testament exists as described. What reason would God obligate Himself, as a being (the only being, in fact) that can “account for all things,” towards any other moral agent? And as a being that can in fact account for all things, would someone with such limited capacity be able to apprehend His reasoning?

It follows logically that the obligation is non-existent as a matter of necessity. He could or could not obligate according to His discretion. And if He chose to reveal His reasoning for not obligating Himself, we would not be able to comprehend it.

Acknowledging this can be labelled as “having a healthy relationship with ultimate reality as someone considers it,” or some such. That comes with the package of believing in the God of the Bible, and that package includes things that aren’t very pleasant to material-oriented minds. I can’t figure any other way around this.

Final Fantasy 6 Final Battle and Ending

I’m posting this video because I’ve just finished a playthrough of this game. I had played it on the original SNES system twenty years ago and could “sense” how good of a game it was. Since it was pre-Internet days I was pretty much he only person I knew who really got into RPGs. It was only until later I knew how really popular it was.

Seeing the ending again reminded me of how a little uncertain the resolution was. Terra was more or less the main protag—the kids she cared for and Duane and Katarin’s baby are shown but it’s not clear that those are things that tied her human side to the world after all the espers disappeared. Unless, in fact, it really wasn’t that specifically but just the general sense of having friendship and finally being part of the world and not an Empire-controlled slave.

How To Fix A Macbook Inverter Cable, Sort Of

I’ve had the problem with my 2007 Macbook described here in the video, to the point where the screen didn’t light up at all. The customer service guy at the Apple store said I probably needed a new LCD lamp when in fact it’s just the inverter cable. The stores don’t carry the parts for such an old model (understandably), but powerbookmedic.com had everything I needed.

I took it apart as per the video, exposing the inverter cable, and the screen lights up fine now. If I hinge the screen it goes off but I’m able to tinker around with the cable to make it normal. I didn’t actually have to replace the cable at all.

Seems to be a common problem with older model Apple laptops. I’d follow the steps in the video if you see it happening to you. It might save you some repair or replacement money.

Why Borrowers Pay Mortgage Insurance

The first search result for “why do borrowers pay pmi” on DuckDuckGo (fifth on Google) is this helpful page, which explains in as basic English as possible, why borrowers pay personal mortgage insurance and not the lender.

The reason I searched for this is because 1) I have a mortgage, 2) I pay for PMI, and 3) I wondered why I was paying for something that benefits someone else. It is basically to skirt the results of laws that were passed to fix a previous law to fix a previous law, an so forth. It’s shocking—utterly shocking—to me that a nonsensical situation is the end result of a paper trail of bureaucratic decrees.

It is all unnecessary.

If lenders paid for mortgage insurance, they would decide when to terminate it, based on whether or not they felt the insurance was still needed. Some lenders would probably reward borrowers after terminating the insurance. Borrowers could choose between two-tier rate plans and single-rate plans. The rules would be set in the market rather than by government.

It’s all unnecessary, yes, and vastly more confusing than if lenders and borrowers were only involved in the transaction, and not a third party that has no vested interest.

Funerals in America are Expensive and Weird

From an old old article in The Atlantic: “The Undertaker’s Racket“:

Cemetery salesmen are also prone to confuse fact with fiction to their own advantage in discussing the law. Cemeteries derive a substantial income from the sale of vaults. The vault, a cement enclosure for the casket, is not only a money-maker; it facilitates upkeep of the cemetery by preventing the eventual subsidence of the grave as the casket disintegrates. In response to my inquiry, a cemetery salesman (identified on his card as a “memorial counsellor”) called at my house to sell me what he was pleased to call a “pre-need memorial estate”—in other words, a grave. After he had quoted the prices of the various graves, the salesman explained that a minimum of $120 must be added for a vault, which, he said, is “required by law.” Why is it required by law? To prevent the ground from caving in. But suppose I should be buried in one of those eternal caskets made of solid bronze? Those things are not as solid as they look; you’d be surprised how soon they fall apart. Are you sure it is required by law? I’ve been in this business fifteen years, I should know. Then would you be willing to sign this! I had been writing on a sheet of paper, “California State Law requires a vault for ground burial.”) The memorial counsellor swept up his colored photographs of memorial estates, backed out the door, and fled down the street.

Keep in mind this article is from 1963, so you’d have to multiply any dollar amounts you read there by around 7 to get accurate metrics.

Mitford mentions the interesting idea that the industry, particularly the actual funeral service, is designed to remove most indicators of death possible. This was not the case in past times.

Here’s another, much more recent article, focusing more on the practice of embalming.

Up until the Civil War, losing friends and family members was more frequent but no less painful than today. The main difference was that we cared for our dead at home. We bathed them, dressed them and placed them in the coldest room of the house — also known as the parlor — so that relatives and friends could pay their respects before burial. The Civil War interrupted this cycle. The dead didn’t always come home. “After the funeral journey of Abraham Lincoln’s embalmed body from Washington D.C. to Springfield, (embalming) slowly gained legitimacy,” Laderman writes. “Lincoln’s body served as son to those who lost children to anonymous graves.” Yet, at the beginning of the 20th century, embalming was still a procedure regarded with skepticism and repulsion by many. Embalming “had been employed in medical schools usually in secret to preserve cadavers for instruction in the middle of the 19th century,” writes Laderman.

It reads okay up until the end, where it takes a bizarre editorial bent. Everyone needs to be an damned activist these days.

Invasion of the Moral Busybodies

I don’t know much about Cody but I found him engaging, though I didn’t listen to any of the other parts of his presentation yet. Take note of the social contract as the “big other” theory he brings up. It’s a tool of what C.S. Lewis called “moral busybodies“—bureaucrats, activists, and other state-as-religion believers use to encourage (browbeat) citizens to a collective national goal above all other goals.

Ed posted similar thoughts here recently. Being a disruptive force in itself isn’t terrible, but only in the proper context, though I’d think most of the situation is read incorrectly and you’re just acting up for a response. If you’ve ever been “offended” (and said as such) by words on a screen, or use the phrases “advocate for” or “bring awareness to,” or employing “trigger warnings” (the latest craze), you might be a moral busybody. These words are the engine bells that inform us down the tracks that the moral busybody train is barreling down, aiming to butt up against the activist’s version of “sin,” which in reality things that are categorized as bad thoughts—racism, sexism, bigotry, “hate.” The language manipulation of 1984 comes to mind here.

Sure, one could present a case that holding to any of those is a destabilizing force but it reality, bad beliefs affect the believer only and maybe a few close associates. They don’t incur a “social cost” inasmuch as it the phrase implies. People just basically want to control other people, and doing so toward a perceived good—the “big other” mentioned—can give the moral busybody a goal. Modifying others’ conscious mental though life is not as verboten as modifying others’ behaviors. We see former as an infringement on material liberties but the latter as accomplishing an Enlightenment duty. That’s all fine if that’s what gets your jimmies in a rustle, but things have consequences, always. There’s an inevitable blowback to mass social conditioning schemes once the subjects awaken to the experiment.

EDIT :: Part 2 of Cody’s presentation is here.

EDIT 2 :: Another coincidence…Captain Capitalism recently published a post on key words of moral busybodies, though they are for a specific context.

American Government is a Failed Enlightenment Experiment

Watch from 11:27 – 15:26. My takeaway is that 1) Enlightenment philosophical ideals aren’t as great as we dress them up to be, and 2) an abstraction (in this case, the state) with people as its primary engine cannot be trusted with the exclusive use of force. Bear in mind that Molyneux is very much an Enlightenment-based philosophizer, too.

To be sure, “failed” is very subjective here—if you are a fan of large, expensive, obtrusive, destructive governments, then American government is a magnificent success.