Octavo Dia

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: The Theology of the Cross

Deutschlander, Daniel M. The Theology of the Cross: Reflections on His Cross and Ours. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 2009.

If you're ever struck by a desire to read this book, read the first couple of pages in each chapter. If you're fool enough to read the whole thing, you will receive an excellent tutorial in what it means to "belabor a point." His points are good, but there are only enough of them for a pamphlet. As a book, it suffers dreadfully.

However, there were two points of his that were particularly profound:

Page 15: "At the very heart of even the most noble unbelieving humanitarian is the yearning to carry out his own will for his own reasons. He does what he does because he wants to."
When I teach about good works, I put it in context of a college course. I explain, "If you turn in a paper for a class which you are not taking, will you still get credit?" This is a good explanation of why that works--they are doing it on their own account, under the Law, rather than on Christ's account, under the Gospel.

Page 25: "We certainly would not say of something merely human, which to our eyes appears perfect, that it was therefore easy because it seemed perfect.... How foolish then to assert that Christ's submission and his cross were easy because they were carried out perfectly and without sin."

I myself have questioned that, and I am glad that there is an answer. It is so easy to say, "Well of course Jesus lived a perfect life! He was, after all, God!" Like achieving the speed of light, perfection is infinitely difficult, so it does require all the strength of God.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kin selection, or natural selection?

I've written about the "gay gene" before, and its possible implications. However, this snippet of the blog Bering in Mind started the wheels turning again:

Modern technological methods helping gays to be parents aside, there are many ways that childless individuals can still be genetically successful, in some cases more so than simply being a biological parent, such as investing heavily in biological kin who share their genes. (In scientific parlance, this is known as kin selection or inclusive genetic fitness.)

I've heard of kin selection before. I wonder what other "many ways" he refers to (though not enough to bother looking them up.) Anyway, modern technology, while opening direct biological success, simultaneously closes kin selection as a means of genetic success.

The rise of the single-child family is the key trend. With a single child, two adults (perhaps six, if both parents were singletons themselves), are already focused on the success of a single individual. The law of diminishing returns should apply here. The ratio of adults to children is already so high--6:1 isn't much different from 7:1--that the impact should be marginal. In addition, if the number of children is stable at one, an increase in resources will not increase genetic success. One child is one child, no matter the resources.

If kin selection is no longer effective, natural selection will become the dominant force in determining genetic success.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why texting works

The theory posited in the above doesn't make sense to me. It may be a shortcut our brains take now that the printed word is readily available, but it shouldn't be universally true. Prior to the advent of printing, word spacing was irregularly used, if at all. There would be no indication in such a text which letter was the first or last letter of a word, yet people were still able to read.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Devaluing Your Paycheck

After reading some argumentation about the possibility of devaluing while in a currency union, I wondered just how far you can go. How small a political entity can realistically pursue an internal devaluation with a shared currency? Rather that start theorizing my way down, I started by theorizing my way up, with the smallest political entity--the individual.

When I started to consider how an individual could conduct an internal devaluation, I realized that credit cards have produced exactly the scenario I was contemplating. An individual with credit card debt has vastly reduced purchasing power--it may take $1.20 worth of income to purchase $1.00 worth of goods. Their "imports" are vastly more expensive than their "exports" (typically labor).

Ironically, though, because of the nature of credit, we are, on a micro-level, in exactly the same position that the United States is with China. Their labor is overvalued, but that position is maintained by providing credit, which maintains the trade environment at its current levels.

Therefore, the current deleveraging will flatten the real (not nominal) income distribution in the United States. As debts are paid down, the purchasing power of the lower class will rise, and the income (via interest) and goods available (due to increased competition) to the upper class will decrease without changing who received how much income. It's an odd way of doing things, but it'll do.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Charts: Worth a thousand words of dissembling

I have my nomination for misleading chart of the month. It was in the article "Staying Power: The U.S. Mission in Afghanistan Beyond 2011" by Michael O'Hanlon in the September/October issue of the Foreign Affairs Journal. (Vol. 89 No. 5) on page 74.

The gist of the article was that the NATO mission in Afghanistan would require elevated troop levels far beyond Obama's proposed draw down date. And the chart seems to support it:

See anything wrong with that chart? Something like, oh, the first half of the chart covers four years, but the second half covers only one year? That really supports the thesis of gradual progress, doesn't it? What if I adjusted the scale so the slope of the lines was accurate?


I really expect better of them. I know it's not an academic journal, but this is something I'd expect of USA Today.