I wrote an essay titled “Radical Decentralization and Freedom” in 2010 at the request of a Washington Times editor for their “Communities” blog. That essay (or some part of it) was posted for a time at www.washingtontimes.com/communities or some previous incarnation of this blog, but in any case the essay is no longer to be found anywhere on the Washington Times website. I therefore reprinted it here at this blog on November 11, 2015, thinking I was finally in a position to make good on its main promise to develop a totally decentralized, completely anonymous, secure cryptocurrency. Formulating such a currency had to await still another year, but that is now finally done at www.thebestschools.org/peerless-money. To give context for this cryptocurrency, I’ve included this essay, “Radical Decentralization and Freedom,” at the end of the technical paper that explicates this cryptocurrency. You can therefore find “Radical Decentralization and Freedom” by clicking here and scrolling to the epilogue.
Two weeks ago, Sean McDowell interviewed me about the current state of intelligent design as an intellectual project and cultural movement. He and I had written a popular-audience book on ID about a decade ago.
As someone no longer active in the field but still to some extent watching from the sidelines, I gave my impressions in the interview about the successes and failures of the ID movement.
The reaction to that interview was understandably mixed (I was trying to be provocative), but it got me thinking that I really am retired from ID. I no longer work in the area. Moreover, the camaraderie I once experienced with colleagues and friends in the movement has largely dwindled.
I’m not talking about any falling out. It’s simply that my life and interests have moved on. It’s as though ID was a season of my life and that season has passed. Earlier this month (September 10, 2016) I therefore resigned my formal associations with the ID community, including my Discovery Institute fellowship of 20 years.
The one association I’m keeping is with Bob Marks’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab, but I see the work of that lab as more general than intelligent design, focusing on information-theoretic methods that apply widely and which I intend to apply in other contexts, especially to the theory of money and finance.
I had the opportunity at the end of this month (May 2016) to update an interview I did four years ago at TheBestSchools.org:
In the updated interview, I elaborated on my concerns over fundamentalism. Below are the relevant two questions and answers:
Disillusion with Fundamentalism
TBS: In a debate with Christopher Hitchens in 2010, you cite Boethius in saying that goodness is a problem for the atheist in the same way that evil is a problem for the theist. We would like to hear more about both sides of this interesting observation. First, the problem of evil, which is a main topic of your book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (B&H Academic, 2009). For the sake of our readers: The “problem of evil” is the apparent incompatibility of evil with the omnipotence and goodness of God. In a nutshell, could you tell us about your personal take on this perennial problem?
WD: My basic line on the problem of evil is the very traditional Christian view that God allows evil temporarily because of the greater good that ultimately results from having allowed it. My entire prepared remarks in the debate with Hitchens are available online. I encourage readers of this interview to look at it. The entire debate is also available here:
What I was dealing with in The End of Christianity is a more narrow problem, namely, how to account for evil within a Christian framework given a reading of Genesis that allows the earth and universe to be billions, rather than merely thousands, of years old. I’m an old-earth creationist, so I accept that the earth and universe are billions of years old. Young-earth creationism, which is the more traditional view, holds that the earth is only thousands of years old.
The reason this divergence between young-earth and old-earth creationists is relevant to the problem of evil is that Christians have traditionally believed that both moral and natural evil are a consequence of the fall of humanity. But natural evil, such as animals killing and parasitizing each other, would predate the arrival of humans on the scene if the earth is old and animal life preceded them. So, how could their suffering be a consequence of human sin and the Fall? My solution is to argue that the Fall had retroactive effects in history (much as the salvation of Christ on the Cross acts not only forward in time to save people now, but also backward in time to save the Old Testament saints).
The book is a piece of speculative theology, and I’m not convinced of all of its details. It’s been interesting, however, to see the reaction in some Christian circles, especially the fundamentalist ones. Ken Ham went ballistic on it, going around the country denouncing me as a heretic, and encouraging people to write to my theological employers to see to it that I get fired for the views I take in it.
At one point in the book, I examine what evolution would look like within the framework I lay out. Now, I’m not an evolutionist. I don’t hold to universal common ancestry. I believe in a real Adam and Eve (i.e., an original human pair) specially created by God apart from primate ancestors. Friends used to joke that my conservativism, both politically and theologically, put me to the right of Attila the Hun. And yet, for merely running the logic of how a retroactive view of the Fall would look from the vantage of Darwinian theory (which I don’t accept), I received email after email calling me a compromiser and someone who has sold out the faith (the emails are really quite remarkable).
There’s a mentality I see prevalent in conservative Christian circles that one can never be quite conservative enough. This got me thinking about fundamentalism and the bane it is. It’s one thing to hold views passionately. It’s another to hold one particular view so dogmatically that all others may not even be discussed, or their logical consequences considered. This worries me about the future of evangelicalism. [Read more…] about Disillusion with Fundamentalism
I usually like to start the workday with reading the lectionary, which includes readings from the Psalter, the Old Testament or Apocrypha, the New Testament (non-Gospels), and the Gospels. Additionally, on some days, there is a brief account of a saint who is celebrated that day along with a prayer remembering that saint (sometimes more than one saint is commemorated on a given day).
The other day, Edward Demby and Henry Delany were commemorated. Here was the prayer that was offered at their inspiration:
Loving God, we offer thanks for the ministries of Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, bishops of thy Church who, though limited by segregation, served faithfully to thy honor and glory. Assist us, we pray, to break through the limitations of our own time, that we may minister in obedience to Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I like the phrase “limitations of our own time.” The phrase does not excuse the faults of our time, or of any time for that matter. Indeed, the two men commemorated here can rightly be said to have transcended the limitations of their time. [Read more…] about The Limitations of Our Time
I have a special-needs son and often have to watch him outside, as when we go for a walk together or drive around in my pickup (he loves to go for car rides). As a result, I’m often listening to books from Audible on my iPhone when I’m with my son.
These books can be quite interesting, so I sometimes discuss them with friends and colleagues. When I’m in the middle of listening to such a book, I often tell the person I’m speaking with that I’m “reading” such-and-such a book. But am I really reading it? Would it be more accurate to say the I’m listening to the book on my iPhone?
Accuracy is fine as far as it goes, but I’m no fan of scrupulous accuracy. So I don’t feel any compunction when I tell people I’m reading a book when I’m listening to it being read. That said, the distinction between going through a book by listening to it versus actually running one’s eyes over the text and extracting the information from it that way is interesting and one I’d like to explore in this article briefly. [Read more…] about Is Listening the Same as Reading?
A week or so ago Robert De Niro was still supporting the showing of Vaxxed at the Tribeca Film Festival. Then last weekend he pulled the plug.
De Niro and his wife Grace have a son with autism. So do I. By unhappy coincidence, our son John’s cogitive capacities collapsed after a round of vaccinations when he was two.
“Vaccines are safe and effective.” That’s the mantra we continuously hear from Big Pharma as well as the same skeptics who over the years have been implacable foes of ID.
I’m not sure the precise role that vaccines played in my son John’s problems. He has a twin who received the same vaccines, but was unaffected. So if vaccines played a causal role in John’s autism, there must have been other predisposing factors.
My own sense is that vaccines pulled the trigger in our son John’s case. At the very least, I would thus have liked to see Tribeca allow Vaxxed to be shown and its content to be freely discussed.
But the pro-vaccine forces see it as a moral mission to suppress discussion of this topic. Andrew Wakefield, the director of Vaxxed, we are repeatedly told has been thoroughly discredited (discredited by interests incentivized to see him discredited).
I feel for Robert De Niro. He wanted to see Vaxxed get a hearing. But the pressure he faced for withdrawing the film must have been enormous. I saw a similar move a decade ago when the ID film The Privileged Planet was to be shown at the Smithsonian. The uproar against it was enormous.
I have not seen Vaxxed, but I look forward to seeing it. Click here for the film’s website.
Del Bigtree, the film’s producer, had an interesting interview, which was made before the film was nixed by Tribeca: