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July 29, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Open Evidence Project 2014

Debate camp evidence is starting to be uploaded at the NDCA’s Open Evidence Project 2014. Very important note….MANY of the following are placeholders…..the presence of a name is not sufficient to suggest the camp is available at this time.

Dartmouth DDI
Dartmouth DDIx
George Mason
Hoya-Spartan Scholars
Kansas (JDI)
Michigan (7-Week)
Michigan (Classic)
Michigan (MNDI)
Michigan State (SDI)
Missouri State (MSDI)
MoneyGram Foundation
North Texas
Sun Country (SCDI)
University of Texas (UTNIF)
Wake Forest

Here is the URL for the 2014 Open Evidence Project. Remember to book mark it. Also reember to return soon, as many of the camps will likely be updated over the coming weeks.

July 26, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Crimes Against Humanities: A Critique of Scientism in the New Republic

The question of the place of science in knowledge, and in society, and in life, is not a scientific question. Science confers no special authority, it confers no authority at all, for the attempt to answer a nonscientific question. It is not for science to say whether science belongs in morality and politics and art. Those are philosophical matters, and science is not philosophy, even if philosophy has since its beginnings been receptive to science. Nor does science confer any license to extend its categories and its methods beyond its own realms, whose contours are of course a matter of debate.

The credibility of physicists and biologists and economists on the subject of the meaning of life—what used to be called the ultimate verities, secularly or religiously constructed—cannot be owed to their work in physics and biology and economics, however distinguished it is.

The translation of nonscientific discourse into scientific discourse is the central objective of scientism. It is also the source of its intellectual perfunctoriness. Imagine a scientific explanation of a painting—a breakdown of Chardin’s cherries into the pigments that comprise them, and a chemical analysis of how their admixtures produce the subtle and plangent tonalities for which they are celebrated. Such an analysis will explain everything except what most needs explaining: the quality of beauty that is the reason for our contemplation of the painting. Nor can the new “vision science” that Pinker champions give a satisfactory account of aesthetic charisma. The inadequacy of a scientistic explanation does not mean that beauty is therefore a “mystery” or anything similarly occult. It means only that other explanations must be sought, in formal and iconographical and emotional and philosophical terms.


Read more articles on scientism from Compassion in Politics

July 26, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Why teach english? Why study english? by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker

So: Why should English majors exist? Well, there really are no whys to such things, anymore than there are to why we wear clothes or paint good pictures or live in more than hovels and huts or send flowers to our beloved on their birthday. No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible. When a man makes a few billion dollars, he still starts looking around for a museum to build a gallery for or a newspaper to buy. No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn’t talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization.

Even if we read books and talk about them for four years, and then do something else more obviously remunerative, it won’t be time wasted. We need the humanities not because they will produce shrewder entrepreneurs or kinder C.E.O.s but because, as that first professor said, they help us enjoy life more and endure it better. The reason we need the humanities is because we’re human. That’s enough.


July 25, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Letter about Faith, Power, and Science

I think this is interesting. So to that extent, thank you. Seismic shifts in preaching have occured between the 1980s and the 1990s. The later were more grace filled and far less emphasis on hell [I'm talking about a mention]. I think the 2000’s up till now have seen a similar decline. I can’t remember the last time I heard the word hell in church–and certainly not unpacked in its full rhetorical epicness of Revelation. Consistent with my previous statement I haven’t heard much of Relevation either.

If Jesus is who he says he was–I’m not entirely sure the biopower would matter. Have you seen Contagion? Its about the spread of disease across the US (and presumably the world). Similarly, I feel Christianity convincingly makes the case that we live in a fallen world–that the disease if you will of humans in temptation and sin–and the results of that disease aren’t particularly positive.

Have centralized institutions in the Catholic church abused their power and governed with fear? Probably–Yes. (at least that seems to be the Bishops presumed argument, as I assume thats the faith tradition he has the most experience with) I don’t think you would find that characteristic of churches in middle class modern America (or even outside it).

I’m glad at the end of the video he seems to have a more positive, more hopeful tone. I don’t think what he describes

Ankur we choose what we worship. We worship God or we worship the idols of the physical and the material. So, the idea of control isn’t exactly a helpful one. Control takes place on both sides. For some reason I just want to give my allegiance to the Lord of the Universe rather than Lexus, Louie Vitton, or Lockhead Martin (or any brand for that matter).

Family and deep relationships are just 100x more important.

We Americans have a love of raging against the machine–to fight injustice and in appropriate power grabs. I’m not sure how overgeneralizing about the power of the church is helpful (in the institutional abuse sense).

And institutions themselves are not without challenges. But the only ethics–the only ethics founded on overturning everything that power is fundamentally about is the faith of the man from Galilee. No other faith-leader took servant leadership so seriously–none washed the feet (metaphorically or literally).

Also, I think to fully think about this issue you have to know the Bible’s stance–particularly the New Testament–on these issues:


Scientists talk about the importance of experiments–but its kind of difficult to talk about spirituality as an experience without actually experiencing it. Sure, each line of faith has some fun quirks and traditions that to outsiders might be strange to the outside viewer (but so do most communities and families). But genuine and heart-felt examination requires something different: it requires getting to know people who take the Sermon on the Mouth seriously–who take it as marching orders for the way they live their daily lives.

Breathe that in….and ruminate on it…

July 25, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Compare and Contrast Biblical Ethics versus Kantian Ethics

The following is from a question on the Q & A site Quora. I’ve included dividers ( ———————– ) to separate my responses to other people on the question thread.

Both aim to be more fully in line with what it means to be human. Both strive for what is fundamentally human.

1. Kantian ethics tends to be rule based. The Biblical ethic is more relational and process based.
2. Kantian ethics tends to be perfectionism based. The Biblical ethic is more grace and forgiveness based.
3. Kantian ethics could be seen as individualistic. Biblical ethics transcends the individual.
4. Kantian ethics could be seen as analytical. Biblical ethics see life as directional, but messy.

* This may be a simplification. I don’t have much formal education in theology or philosophy. I’m just reasonably well read and attend church with some regularity.

RE: Their similarity or difference in regard to Utilitarian ends

When Paul writes letters from prison its quite clear the ethic is independent of utilitarian results.

Also, spiritual rewards are in one sense beyond the hedonic calculous (whether that be from Jeremy Bentham or John Stuart Mill). Certainly, Christians can and do take joy in these activities.

A Kantian isn’t excluded, though from taking joy. Neither is the Christian.

You raise an interesting point–but it seems you may gloss over others (for instance above or in my answer proper). I think, though, you do a disservice to call the Bible or Paul a utilitarian in the traditional sense.

Its happiness and pleasure along the lines of the Aristotealian notion of ethics and happiness.

There are a number of scholars who make the point that the Bible’s embrace of the other transcends calculative thought. Not the least of which I explained above that the spiritual nature of the reward–not strictly a fleshly one.

Also, the grounding of the New Testament in terms of a relational ethics counter-poses or contrasts with a utilitarian one. Certainly, there are utilitarian benefits which flow from virtue and love, friendship, and relationship. But there is intrinsic value in those–which is encouraged by the NT.

Also, this article points out a distinction between act-centered ethics versus agent-centered ones. Virtue ethics and the New Testament . (see note below) At a minimum, the Bible may fuse the two. The author points out how the New Testament is more agent centric (virtue) versus (act)–and a character and relationship with God which manifests in being other directed. Also, ethics itself isn’t determined by utilitarian calculations (ie you converted 10 people), but how your character, virtue, humility, and reverence for God and His principles..

I think that such a long-term goal wouldn’t sustain–unless he individuals found real Truth, meaning, connection, and value. Certainly you might have a small minority (2 to 3%) persist, but there is something more 1) complex 2) transcendent there.

* The article appears to need you to arrive via Google versus the page itself to access it. (“Aristotle and New Testament”). At least its a semi-permeable registration-wall.

Its an intrinsic value consideration or virtue ethics one. Also, its applying those principles even when applying them might risk or create bad consequences.

I think most people following a virtue ethics framework or the Christian framework….perhaps begin by basing their beliefs on some sort of utilitarian notion….but ideally grow in faith as time goes on–so that its integrated into their character.

Most people don’t think of our Constitutional frameworks reliance on a natural rights as a utilitarian one. And if there is some reliance on utilitarian notions–its certainly one of degrees (i.e. a continuum).

Also a utility of principle and virtue is fundamentally different than a utility of happiness. Unless you have a very integrated and complex definition of happiness which I don’t think was developed by John Stuart Mill.

At least as far as the Bible is concerned….I’m not sure if it speaks to weighing between competing virtues. I think God is happy if we choose one of the virtuous options (i.e. we land on the ethical when we land on the virtuous). Our accounting and calculation are somewhat beside the point.

I can’t conclusively say if he’s happier with the chain-of-events (which in many cases we may or may not have been able to forsee)–as long as we are connected to the Word and His principles. For instance, as long as our “heart” and striving is in it.

As a side point, I’m not sure an ethical system lives or falls by how it handles your two counter-examples–particularly the sadist. I think all ethical systems by definition can’t deal with the sadist–particularly when it relates to causing harm to others–but also pain, harm, and risk to self.

July 25, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Ways for Presenters to Create Greater Audience Engagement

1. Questions
2. Imagine/Vision
3. Problem-solving activity
4. Fill in the gaps (very selective)
5. Reflection/Self-reflection
6. Hand out activity
7. Quiz/Trivia
8. Group Game
9. Pair Share
10. Mini-projects, Mini-presentations
11. Icebreaker
12. Call to action at the end

July 24, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Social Impact Assessment for Missions and Non-profits

These resources are primarily used to assess the effectiveness of non-profits. My theory is that they also have application in the missions, church growth, and Christian non-profits context.

Social Impact Concepts
Strategic Co-funding. A means, not an ends.

Resources for Social Impact
Social Impact Assessment/SROI (link)

Collected Resources (link)

Social Impact Resources (link)


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