Friday, July 28, 2006

Ah, Slashdot, The Modern Mars Hill

I recently started a rather interesting, totally off-topic, subthread in the comments of a Slashdot story. It's still developing, and there's more, but here is one branch of the discussion. Please feel welcome to check out the whole thing.

burndive: Sorry, but I feel the compulsion to pick apart your sig.

Human being (n.): A genetically human, genetically distinct, functioning organism.

So since clones aren't genetically distinct, they only constitute a single being? What about identical twins? What about conjoined twins?

"Functioning" could be interpreted to mean absolutely anything. Does it exclude a fetus who is dependent on its mother? What if it's still breast feeding? What if it still lives in its parents' basement? What about humans that aren't "functioning" properly, are they no longer beings?

If I spliced a pig gene into someone's DNA, they're not a "human being"?

Honestly, it's pointless to try to "define" personhood in any way that does not directly involve God.

Shadowin: Honestly, it's pointless to try to "define" personhood in any way that does not directly involve God.

Care to back up that assertion?

burndive: Certainly, though I thought it was obvious.

I interpreted the sig to which I was responding to be an argument against abortion as follows:
(1) A human being can be defined as "A genetically human, genetically distinct, functioning organism."
(2) A fetus is human (assuming we're concerned with the abortion of human offspring)
(3) A fetus is genetically distinct from its mother
(4) A fetus, if it is alive, is a functioning organism
(5) From 1, 2, 3 & 4: A fetus, as a human being, is in the same class as every other human being, i.e., "person".

The problem with this argument is that it is totally useless, and will not modify our treatment of fetuses unless we also believe that:
(0) Humans are distinct from all other forms of life.

Notice that for this argument to work the value of human life must be intrinsic, that is, it must not rest on a set of criteria based on intelligence, capability, complexity or beauty, since a fetus has none of these things above other animals. Also, "potential" is meaninless without reference to God. If humans evolved from other creatures without God's input, then there is no real difference between Albert Einstien's fetus and a microbe, because they have the same potential, it's just that one of them happens to be closer at the moment. Besides, potential for what? For those other things that we "happen" to value.

The only thing that can possibly make human beings of an *intrinsically* (not emergently) different quality is that if simply by being human they posess something that all other forms of life do not, and never can posess without it being added to them externally. Enter God.

Please be reminded: this discussion is not at all about his existence or character. It is about the usefulness of the classification of "human beings" as an intrinsically higher order than the rest of the animals. God is the only entity that could make this so. If he does not exist, or if he did not do this, then there is no difference between aborting a fetus and swatting a fly. If he did do this, then the former is murder because it is doing damage to the image of God.

Does that serve to calrify?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Shallowbrook Pictures - Highlights

Here are some pictures from Shallowbrook and Altoona. They're all still available on my server from the previous post, but this gives me a chance to pick some out and comment.

One of the most articulate almost-four-year-olds that I have ever known. I really enjoy children who can carry on a conversation and you don't have to talk down to them, but they're still a kid, and therefore fascinated by everything in the universe.

Troy and Michael. Troy decided to pick up a stick and hit things... including Michael. Fun was had by all.

Jen and Paige

Katie and Caitlin

Drew and Bethany

Caleb. OOC.

Seth, visually disavowing responsibility for whatever mayhem happens to be going on at the moment.

Liz and her pearly-whites

Jeffrey getting his due comeuppence. They who have cloggable ears should not hit with water noodles. Ye be warned.

Tim floating

Max. Smiling. With teeth. Contain your enthusiasm, ladies.

Lisa, Amy, and Bonnie. Our eternal thanks for spoiling us rotten with home-cooked meals all week.

Stephainie. I haven't ever read Les-Mis. Apparently it's good, but is it good enough to justify the thickness? Good books can be thick (see LOTR trilogy) if they're good enough.

A frog that Seth caught. Ah, memories...

Sid and Tom.

Troy scarfing a banana.

Mateo and Gerald

Sleep deprivation: Colleen, Bethany, Jenny

Those eyes: they're so... PIERCING!!!! They can see into my soul!
(My apologies, Abby. Blue is definitely one of your colors.)

Davy. Thanks for the shirt.

Tim and Kim

Seth and Tim looking pleasant

Steve and Vernon

Me Sid lecturing on the book of Hebrews.

Seth Al trying to fit boxes into the boxes that they contain, or something.

Tom's idea of a joke. You had to be there.

The ladies...

...being dignified and lady-like, as always

Caleb. Ait't he cute?

Jeremy and Ally

Al. This shot just seems to typify him somehow. It's as if he's continually amused by his circumstances (in this case, the fact that he's standing on a chair), even though he knows very well how he got there.

Bonnie and Abby

Hannah and Elyse. High five!

Jeremy and Caleb

Liz and Seth

Jeremy and Michelle Caleb

Paige *shudder*

Tim. He is so cool.

Gordie! Props to him for driving 12 hours each way for Altoona

Gerald. He was supposed to pick me up in Des Moines. Too bad I never landed there and had no way to contact him. He's a trooper.





Abby, Paige, Bethany, Joanna

The old people: Dave, Bryce (obscured), Clifford, April, Pat, Sarah, Rodger, Darrell, Marg, Rob

Caleb and Me

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Counting the Cost

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? ~Luke 14:28
I'm backing out of the purchase of the land I was buying. There were just several things that weren't coming through in time, and after carefully considering what all the little things were likely going to cost I decided it wasn't worth it to go forward.

I really hate to back out of the deal, but that's what escrow is for. I'm losing my earnest money, plus the money I paid to the Water and Sewer District to do the availability study. I might still build a house, but if I do, I think it will be on a smaller scale. One of the things I didn't like about this was that it was going to tie up most of my money for an extended period of time.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Shallowbrook and Altoona

Perhaps I'll flesh this post out a little bit later on, but I posted a bunch of pictures and audio from my trip, and I wanted to make it available.

There are so many photos, it's insane.

Altoona Conference:

Shallowbrook photos:

Update: Well, it wasn't Comcast that slowed the connection down, it was my roommate. He set the QoS on the router to label packets originating from my Linux box as "bulk" in stead of "standard." This basically tells the routers and gateways along the way across the Internet that it's okay to drop those packets, because they're not important. Our other computers are set as "premium," which is a higher priority, so when there's contention on our router, the other computers win. That was annoying, and it didn't accomplish what he wanted to accomplish, which was to give his computer a higher priority than the server, because that was already the case.

Anyway, I fixed it, but that doesn't stop a billion people trying to access the pictures at once from slowing down our connection and getting him mad again.

Let me know how things are working.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Peoria has free WiFi too. But Minneapolis doesn't. Minneapolis sucks.

I'm waiting here in a cafe for Jeremy and Michelle to arrive, and then later Drew. Darrell is going to pick us all up together.

I'm guessing my luggage will arrive safe and sound in Des Moines at 1:30 or so this afternoon. Too bad I won't be in Des Moines for another week. I knew this was going to happen, I even spoke to the lady behind the counter in Minneapolis, but she assured me that bags are better routed than people at airports. I think it was too late by then anyway, my luggage had already missed the flight from Las Vegas.

I should get my luggage at some point tomorrow afternoon.

Poor Gerald. He was supposed to pick me up in Des Moines at 5:30 this morning, and I didn't have his number, and I couldn't get on the Internet to look it up.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Travel "Arrangements"

I use the term loosely.

I booked a flight from Seattle to Las Vegas to Des Moines. This was good.

Except that the Northwest cancelled the Des Moines flight, so when I got to Las Vegas, I found out that in stead of waiting until 12:30AM, I had to wait until 6:55 at which point I would fly to Minneapolis, and then connect to Des Moines.

I spoke with the airline, and they said that because I purcased the ticket online (from Orbitz), there was nothing they could do, except reschedule my flight, but there was no flight to get me to Des Moines any faster. So I asked them about getting me a hotel voucher, and Orbitz pointed at Northwest, and Northwest pointed at Orbitz. Apparently I had been "notified" of this change in an e-mail entitled, "Prepare For Your Trip - Des Moines 7/7/06" which I had assumed to be simply a reminder, since there was no mention of a change: it was merely reflected in the "Ticket Information" section of the e-mail. In any case, what was I supposed to do? Get another flight within two days?

The solution to this particular conundrum lies in the fact that I am in fact not headed to Des Moines at all, at least not until next weekend. Really, I need to get to Bradford, Illinios, and there are other airports with connecting flights to them that would cut travel time off my trip: Peoria and Moline. Once the Lord brought this new approach to my attention, I had only to chose between the two. I could get to Moline earlier, but it would be easier to get a ride from Peoria, since there are likely others using that airport and we're not supposed to get to Shallowbrook Farm until the afternoon, so Peoria it was.

I still won't sleep in a bed tonight, but I wasn't going to anyway, and this will actually cut time off my trip to Bradford.

I know, I know--I'm passing up the perfect opportunity to spend nine hours "doing" Vegas and getting married to a hooker by Elvis.

The airport here in Vegas has free WiFi, you just have to give them an e-mail address to log in as a guest. I hate it when they try to charge exorbant amounts of money for access, simply because they can, especially at airports where people have paid to be, and might need to log in to check travel arrangements and confirmations.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Independence Day 2006

God bless America.

Here's some photos from a hike in Newcastle that took us near some coal mining ruins.

Nothing says Independence Day like blowing up a little piece of your country.

Here's some photos (and some video) of fireworks. God bless the soverign native peoples of Washington state, and Jeffrey & Cody for once again spending exorbant amounts of money on fireworks.

Here's last year's fireworks. (Mostly videos--large files, and lots of them!)

Please be nice to my poor server sitting behind a cable modem (and anyone else who might be interested in accessing it). Its upload bandwidth isn't all that great.