Saturday, October 29, 2011

Images Fill Up Our Working Memory Faster Than Words Do

This was an unexpected thing I learned at the "Wisdom and the Liberal Arts" conference today.

The session was about why it is hard for people (students especially) to concentrate on deep ideas when they spend much of their day looking at moving images on a screen. There were several elements to this argument, but this was the one that struck me the most.

I spend hours a day looking at a screen. However, when I spend those hours reading words, I can learn more and longer than when I spend those hours watching moving images.

I think I will build an exercise into my next class: go a day without watching any moving images, and see what it does to your concentration and the depth of your understanding of what you read.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Prophets Are Enemies of Happiness

This is what I realized listening to Walter Brueggemann at the "Wisdom and the Liberal Arts" conference. Brueggemann is a brilliant scholar of the church, and he gave, as usual, a fine prophet's indictment. At this university conference on wisdom he indicted the university for unfaithfulness by pursuing worldly wisdom. Once again, though, I found that Brueggemann leaves me cold, though I appreciate the excellence of his work.

Today I realized why. Prophets are enemies of happiness. They cannot be satisfied. If you solve the problem they are on about today, they have plenty more.

The problems that real prophets name are real problems. We should try to solve them. Prophets are necessary in the ecology of the church. But they cannot be the whole of the church. In fact, they cannot be the leading element of the church or of any institution.

As we try to make happy lives and happy societies, we have to be able to admit that we are happy sometimes. Nay, we have to proclaim that we are happy sometimes, and that we are happy about some things all the time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Without a telos, there is no understanding."

This was said by my friend Scott Moore, a Baylor philosopher, at the Baylor University conference on "Wisdom and the Liberal Arts."

I think this is exactly right. If we believe that existence has an end that draws it on, we can hope to understand what it all means. If there is no telos, though, I don't see how any science, scholarship, philosophy, any manner of knowing at all can understand why existence, exists.

A good down payment on wisdom on day one of the conference.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Honoring Diane Sollee

I believe in honoring prophets in their own time, so let me add to the praise of Diane Sollee for creating Smartmarriages and promoting marriage education. This article by Susan Heitler is not driven by any particular event or anniversary in the marriage movement, just an appreciation for Diane's work.

Which is as it should be.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moderate Islamic Party Leading in Tunisia Elections Will Keep Democracy, and Not Make an Islamic State

For those who worry that any election victory by an Islamic party spells the end of democracy, there is good news from Tunisia.  The first fruits of the Arab Spring - or what I think will turn out to be the North African Spring - show Ennahda, a moderate Islamic party, leading in early returns.  The BBC reports this crucial fact:

The party's leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, has pledged not to set up an Islamist state and to respect multi-party democracy.

Ennadha is in talks with secular parties as coalition partners.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Cheers for the Church that Gives Free Weddings to Cohabiting Parents

I think couples with children who want to marry "someday" should just do it.  I think "marry your baby daddy days" are a wonderful idea.

The Parkcrest Christian Church in Long Beach, CA offered to the several cohabiting parents in the congregation that the church would give them a free wedding.  Four couples took them up on it in a joint ceremony.

The advantage that Parkcrest had in promoting these marriages is that the couples were already part of the church.  If a couple are that far along - cohabiting, with children, attending church -  all they need is a little nudge.

I believe that church and state could work together on promoting "marriage now" for cohabiting parents.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Most Abortions Are By Moms Who Think the Next Kid Will Costs Too Much

More than 2/3rds of women who have abortions are already mothers.  The main reason they give for their abortion is that they want to give more to the children they already have.

Bryan Caplan points out in Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids that much of the huge effort and expense that middle-class parents think they have to put into each child is unnecessary.

This suggests to me that if middle-class parents could reduce their anxiety about what another child would cost them, we would significantly reduce the abortion rate.