What Would It Take for Christians to View the World Like This?

Instead of character, the virtues recommended by the Founders, God’s law, or deviations from it, what about war, American workers, and U.S. involvement in the Middle East?

Like a certain percentage of his voters, I had supported Trump in great part because he challenged the Bush, Cheneyite Republican conventional foreign policy wisdom. Trump wasn’t an active Iraq war opponent, and his social milieu in New York was hawkish, but he was clearly lukewarm when prompted by Howard Stern in 2002 to tout the pending invasion of Iraq. In a 2008 interview with Wolf Blitzer, he wondered why Nancy Pelosi hadn’t sought to impeach George W. Bush for lying the country into war with Iraq. He began calling the Iraq war a big fat mistake, most notably in a debate before the 2016 South Carolina primary, perhaps the nation’s most hawkish state. He won that primary, and later the nomination, establishing that pro-war views were no longer necessarily majoritarian in the GOP. His messaging was mixed, ambiguous, perhaps intentionally, perhaps instinctively.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get along with Russia?” he said, a sentiment I shared. He seemed implicitly to acknowledge that the bipartisan policy of trying to expand NATO up to the Russia’s borders and fomenting pro-Western coups in Russia’s neighbors was perilous and self-defeating. But he came across as tough and hawkish too. He praised tough generals and said he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” But since ISIS was a genuine enemy, then actively recruiting and training terrorists to kill civilians inside Western countries, hawkishness seemed altogether appropriate. A certain Jacksonian bluster about killing America’s enemies seemed an appropriate way to steer the Republican foreign policy away from neoconservatism and back towards realism….

There was an argument during the last campaign, expressed most notably by Michael Brendan Dougherty, that the worst possible thing for those who wanted a different kind of American conservatism—an end to stupid wars in the Mideast, a more controlled immigration flow, an industrial policy that valued something other than cheap goods and “free trade”—might be a victory for Donald Trump, who campaigned for all of these things. Whether he believed in them or not, Trump recognized that this is what many voters wanted, that this was an open political lane to run in, an untapped yearning. I think, to an extent, he did believe in them, but had no idea, no real plan how to bring them about.

Faced with unrelenting hostility from the Democrats, the media and the permanent class of Beltway bureaucrats which began before he took office, and no real base in the organized Republican Party, he floundered. No wall was built. No immigration legislation was passed. No grand and necessary Rockefellian infrastructure initiatives were initiated. He has hired to key positions Beltway types who had nothing but contempt for him, and they have led him down well worn paths. One of those paths leads to a major war with Iran, an obsessively pursued project of the neoconservatives since long before 9/11.

Of course, to think like this means not taking your cues from the Bible or God’s law (directly anyway). It means thinking less like the way you think a person who believes in Jesus should think than using your academic training, professional experience, insights from experts (who are usually not using w-w). In other words, explicit Christian thinking may be a road block to what’s best for the nation and the world politically and economically. But it does seem to let you think you are doing what Jesus would do when in fact by God’s providence Jesus is using non-Christian policy experts and wicked rulers to get things done.

34 thoughts on “What Would It Take for Christians to View the World Like This?

  1. And take not of Ben Sasse’ reaction and don’t be fooled again. When it’s time to vote or even support leviAthan, don’t waste your time. It may be the most Christian thing to do at this point. That’s how rigged our system is …

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  2. … or take ‘note’, lol..

    Trump is mob, Roy Cohn and big politics. There’s no moral high ground to found, there or anywhere else in the political world. It’s all one big insult to our intelligence.

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  3. If you wanna see how rigged things really are this is the website to see. There only blind spot is they think trump is pliable for good. And they think messing with Iran is bad when this is all leftovers from messes we created in the first place. Trump is a distraction, Cruz would be a tad better, maybe, but we are still working for Israel, Saudis and the one world mission while Julian Assange continues to rot in prison.

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  4. @aj
    There is no “Christain” to do in the political realm any more than there is a Christain way to deal with a plumbing problem.

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  5. sdb, true and what motivates these men in power? Not much I can rally behind. At least the plumber knows his plumbers oath and is effective in completing his task, at least if he wants to maintain his business. This a whole other club… and you and I ain’t in it.

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  6. @aj

    What I see is that things have gotten much, much better globally. Extreme poverty has dropped from about half of the world to 10% since 1980. Life expectancy is up, child mortality is down. People follow the news cycle like they follow the stock market. There are ups and downs from day to day, but on every measure the trajectory is up…thank you (classical/neo) liberalism. Along with well being crime and war has plummeted while freedom has increased (over half live in democracies and 80% who don’t are in China). Our political leaders are doing something right. There will be wars and rumors of war until history ends. In the meantime God is on his throne directing the will of our leaders (whether they acknowledge it or not).

    Of course wealth and prosperity brings its own set of challenges. People don’t always use their freedom well…from vax deniers to parents who take their kids to drag queen reading hours. But God is still on his throne. Just as obesity has replaced hunger as the main challenge for the poor, the prosperity we enjoy challenges our faith. The problem we face with not passing out faith on to our children is not the fault of radical feminists, pomo philosophers, or greedy politicians…it is the weakness of the visible church (in the west). We worship as we please, pick which commandments count, and treat church like a business and political PAC. Maybe if we focused on word and sacrament, left the cares of the world to the world, and instilled in our kids the importance of worshipping our eternal king the way he prescribed, the church in the west would be far healthier.

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  7. What you say about the church is true.

    As for everything else there is this (but I agree let God’s will be done): https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/
    17 Goals for People, for Planet
    The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. The 17 Goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals.

    Today, progress is being made in many places, but, overall, action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. 2020 needs to usher in a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Goals by 2030.

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  8. It all sounds so nice, despite the perverse and dehumanizing efforts it takes to get there. The ends justify the means…

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  9. What I see is that things have gotten much, much better globally. Extreme poverty has dropped from about half of the world to 10% since 1980. Life expectancy is up, child mortality is down. People follow the news cycle like they follow the stock market. There are ups and downs from day to day, but on every measure the trajectory is up…thank you (classical/neo) liberalism. Along with well being crime and war has plummeted while freedom has increased (over half live in democracies and 80% who don’t are in China). Our political leaders are doing something right.

    Steven Pinker, is that you? Do you ever wonder if there are other causes for these improvements than, “Classical liberalism?” Off the top of my head, I can think of several other than classical liberalism. You’re making Locke’s ideas out to be some sort of Cargo Cult.

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  10. Pinker isn’t the only one citing this data. I’m taking classical liberalism here as shorthand for the political, social, and intellectual developments that spawned the industrial revolution and concomitant scientific advances that have made life much better for the overwhelming majority of humanity. Empiricism, freer trade, respect for private ownership, the concept of rights, realization of economic growth, etc… deserve the credit for the overall improvement in humanity’s lot over the past 200 yrs. Indeed, since the 1980’s and the broad adoption of Neo-liberal economic principles, we have seen an acceleration of improvement in deaths due to hunger, infant mortality, spread of disease, overall poverty, literacy rates, crime rates, and war. I haven’t seen a convincing refutation of the data on the improvement in human welfare – whether it is socialists who want to reject neoliberalism for oppressing the poor or conservatives who think that liberalism has failed. Both require selective reading of the evidence to dismiss the real gains we have observed in order to argue for demise and to adopt their ideological priors they believe will immanentize the eschaton. This is a fools errand that would make life worse for humanity if their arguments were ever broadly adopted and prescriptions implemented. It’s true that these gains do nothing for the eternal benefit of humanity, but wiping them out isn’t going to help either.

    As far as being a “Cargo Cult”, what is the more advanced ideology bringing in the advanced goods that the more primitive liberalism is trying to replace?

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  11. By the way, here is Feynmann’s commencement address where he introduces the idea of “Cargo Cult Science”. I’m not sure if this is where the term originated or not, but it gives a great a summary of what a Cargo Cult actually is.

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  12. SDB,

    The question is whether classical liberalism can survive once there is no broadly Protestant social order left. I’m not optimistic.

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  13. This is a squeeze from both sides. The churches are becoming pagan social clubs and our county’s is helping usher in global utopia. The not so secret conspiracies are coming to fruition in real time.

    How the Enemies of God Use the Church to Destroy Christianity

    https://www.gospeldefenceleague.org/index.php/articles/27-how-the-enemies-of-god-use-the-church-to-destroy-christianity

    What’s Wrong With the USMCA?
    https://www.thenewamerican.com/print-magazine/item/30541-what-s-wrong-with-the-usmca

    Trump is on board, he’s a good tweeter though

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  14. @ SDB: of the factors potentially responsible for societal improvement, how would you rank these in efficacy, and why?

    (1) Technology
    (2) Improved governance
    (3) Improved nutrition
    (4) Improved moral understanding
    (5) More efficient weaponry (military, police, civilian)
    (6) Improved economic theory
    (7) other

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  15. Jeff,
    I would lump a few of those things together:
    Technology, political system, economic system, and culture. I don’t think one of these is more important than the other rather I see them as mutually reinforcing. Technology makes life a lot better – hungry, healthy people are more likely to be more or less satisfied with their life. Economic systems efficiently allocate goods and motivate innovations is necessary for technological innovation. Political systems that create an environment where people are safe, have a voice, and whose rights are protected create the environment where such economic systems can flourish. A culture that respects the rights of others, encourages broad participation in society, and respects the rule of law is necessary to buttress these other conditions. I don’t think the culture has to be specifically protestant – Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Sweden have cultures that work to support the environment for a high standard of living. I don’t see a positive alternative to a neoliberal economic system or classically liberal political for driving the metrics on well being. What do you think?

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  16. I’m taking classical liberalism here as shorthand for the political, social, and intellectual developments that spawned the industrial revolution and concomitant scientific advances that have made life much better for the overwhelming majority of humanity.

    I’m not sure it is fair or accurate to give classical liberalism credit for the industrial revolution and scientific advances. You seem to be engaging in post hoc reasoning.

    Empiricism, freer trade, respect for private ownership, the concept of rights, realization of economic growth, etc… deserve the credit for the overall improvement in humanity’s lot over the past 200 yrs.

    Interesting how you’re binning the data here. Classical liberalism was invented arguably in the 16th and 17th centuries, but you’re looking at only the 19th and 20th century.

    Indeed, since the 1980’s and the broad adoption of Neo-liberal economic principles, we have seen an acceleration of improvement in deaths due to hunger, infant mortality, spread of disease, overall poverty, literacy rates, crime rates, and war.

    You’ve binned a lot of things together here. You engage in a lot of shoe-horning of data. The improvements in infant mortality, the reduction of disease, and reduction of death rate are due to sanitation, vaccines, and antibiotics in that order. At least, this is what doctors believe. The increase in life expectancy began at the start of the 20th century. The global mean life expectancy didn’t start taking off until 1900. It wasn’t due to neo-liberal economic policies at all and the benefits were felt in illiberal dictatorships like Iran and Communist China. Martin Van Creveld and Bill Lind have theories on why Great Power war has ceased, at least temporarily. You are well outside your expertise on that topic. I looked up global death rates due to war since 1400 and, if anything, they seem to be getting more volatile. A trend line would show the rate going slightly up and to the right. Great power war has definitely declined though. I’ll post a link below.

    Both require selective reading of the evidence to dismiss the real gains we have observed in order to argue for demise and to adopt their ideological priors they believe will immanentize the eschaton. This is a fools errand that would make life worse for humanity if their arguments were ever broadly adopted and prescriptions implemented. It’s true that these gains do nothing for the eternal benefit of humanity, but wiping them out isn’t going to help either.

    I’m not sure who or what you’re arguing with here.

    I am using the term “Cargo Cult” the same way Feynman does on page 11. Speaking of Feynman, why have there been no physicists like him since the 1970s? Why do physicists go into software or banking nowadays? What do you make of many who say scientific progress is slowing way down, and the bulk of it was in the 19th century?

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  17. Here’s Max Roser’s article on death rate due to war. Battle death rates are certainly going down but the overall death rate due to conflict is not. The advances in emergency medicine have been pretty amazing, but these advances were made as a result of treating combat casualties.
    The nation-state system definitely resulted in improvements, but it’s highly contingent on certain cultural factors and it’s collapsing pretty rapidly.

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  18. @ SDB: I’m not at all a sociologist, so these are slightly better than random musings.

    (1) Technology and engineering are the large drivers in improvement in quality of life since forever ago. Those gains have largely come through war, so that’s not an unalloyed good. Nevertheless: Sumerian writing, Roman roads, Arabic trigonometry, medieval windmills, 18th century machines, 19th century engines, 20th century pharmaceuticals, and current-day computing devices have all reduced pressure to simply survive.

    And that allows people to feel a little less desperate, a little less pressure to look solely to their own interests.

    (1A) But, technology is a force multiplier. In the hands of terrorists or bad state actors, nuclear weapons could create untold misery and completely wipe out quality of life improvements over the last 500 years. Like, literally wipe out. Likewise, metadata promises to allow states to set up Oceania-like surveillance systems (see: China’s Social Credit system; Automated Number-Plate Recognition in the USA). Amazon and Uber employees are hyper-managed to the point of exhaustion.

    (1B) And reduced pressure to survive has been accompanied by increased population, so that mankind has diminished or exterminated almost all land species since ancient times. So much for being stewards…

    So is it the best of times or the worst of times?

    (2) It might or might not be the case that governance and economic systems have improved. America, the grand experiment in republican democracy, is a teenager. Will it survive to maturity, or must it continue to depend on expansion in order to avoid decline?

    (2A) Further, many ostensibly liberal governments — the EU, Congress in the USA — have been gamed to favor incumbency. Will that trend reverse, or will we go the way of Russia: One man, one vote, one time?

    I guess I’m seeing your points, but I’m less sanguine about quality of life on planet Earth. I’m struck by the Potemkin-like quality of so many of our institutions: A military that can afford F-35s but not a full crew on existing ships, cities that can afford a football stadium but not pensions. Colleges that can afford diversity officers but suck down $40k / yr / student and still can’t afford to pay adjuncts a living wage. Suburbia that spends $29B per year on lawns, when simply letting meadows grow would be better all round.

    I think there’s a reason that despair is on the rise, and I suspect the reason is that we’ve hit the point where keeping up the good life is unbearable. We might have hit the point of Red Queen exhaustion.

    Alternatives? More local control, for sure.

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  19. Who needs God’s law when you have a (national) Confession for the elders to subscribe to? Local control of what the Confession means involves historical control of the seminaries who train those in the presbyteries.

    Sometimes the original intent, sometimes not so much. Just so we keep saying the words “descended into hell” and “immortal soul”.

    Steve Wedgeworth–“James Jordan was bold enough to state his disagreements with the Canons of Dort and Westminster Confession of Faith, but many other FV men attempted to subscribe to the bare terms of the Confession while redefining its meaning. They frequently differed with the “original intent of the authors,” though it should be stated that OPC and PCA practice does not require this so much as it requires agreeing with the intent of the receiving body, which is to say the presbytery. With that rather flexible notion of animus imponentis, some FV men may have had room to make their case. If their presbyteries vindicated them, as several did, then perhaps they were “in accordance” enough. Politically speaking, this is how many of their cases were resolved. Not even Peter Leithart was found to be out of accord with the system of doctrine taught by the Westminster Standards. Still, it is hard to
    say that the FV were dedicated to carrying out a confessional tradition. Usually they already had their conclusions and hoped to find a way for those conclusions to “fit” within confessional boundaries.”

    https://calvinistinternational.com/2020/01/13/the-federal-vision-a-systematic-critique/

    Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice (188) Luther’s ‘two kingdom’ theory is the least credible section of Luther’s theology. It is an attempt to keep to some idea of human distributive justice, even while the grace of God is given ultimate pride of place It conveys the impression of a rationalization. It has the feel of bowing of the knee, for some sort of short-term or utilitarian gain, to the powers that be. It reads like a compromise.”

    It’s not neutral, it’s a second master.

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  20. Lot’s to think about… thanks.

    Speaking of Feynman, why have there been no physicists like him since the 1970s? Why do physicists go into software or banking nowadays? What do you make of many who say scientific progress is slowing way down, and the bulk of it was in the 19th century?

    Feynman was a uniquely charismatic character, but I’m not sure his contributions to physics have remained unmatched. I think part of the issue is that Physics has gotten huge in terms of the number of people in the field, and it has divided into many subdisciplines that don’t talk all that much. The other issue (related) is that Feynman was particularly well known outside of physics for his work with undergrads and popularizations (not so unlike Hawking). Is the work by Loeb, Thorne, Weinberg, Higgs, etc… of lower quality? I don’t think so.

    As far as progress goes, I’m not sure it has really slowed so much as changed direction – nanophysics, biophysics, and astrophysics have exploded since ~1990. My own field is astrophysics, and the progress has been remarkable. For example, we now know have precisions cosmological measurements of the universe (thanks to COBE and WMAP), understand neutrino oscillations, know that disks form around young stars and why, know the frequency of planets around other stars (indeed that they exist!), the distribution of the dark matter, the age of the universe, the cosmological constant, and the detection of gravitational waves. These were things that were either entirely unknown or the matter of significant uncertainty back in the 80’s. Now with LSST, DESI, the 30m class telescopes, JWST, ALMA, and increase in sensitivity of the GW detectors, we are poised to make remarkable advances in our understanding of the origin of solar systems, characterization of extrasolar planets, origin of lanthanide elements, equation of state of dark energy, and perhaps the composition of dark matter. This is a remarkable time in terms of progress in understanding of astrophysics.

    I think it is fair to point out that advances in string theory, particle physics, and condensed matter have slowed – largely because the unexplored parameter space is very technically difficult to reach now.

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  21. My own field is astrophysics, and the progress has been remarkable. For example, we now know have precisions cosmological measurements of the universe (thanks to COBE and WMAP), understand neutrino oscillations, know that disks form around young stars and why, know the frequency of planets around other stars (indeed that they exist!), the distribution of the dark matter, the age of the universe, the cosmological constant, and the detection of gravitational waves. These were things that were either entirely unknown or the matter of significant uncertainty back in the 80’s. Now with LSST, DESI, the 30m class telescopes, JWST, ALMA, and increase in sensitivity of the GW detectors, we are poised to make remarkable advances in our understanding of the origin of solar systems, characterization of extrasolar planets, origin of lanthanide elements, equation of state of dark energy, and perhaps the composition of dark matter. This is a remarkable time in terms of progress in understanding of astrophysics.

    I can believe this since measurements are highly dependent on receiver sensitivity and gain which seems to be improving pretty steadily. In the optical or quasi-optical realm, this depends on the improvements in grinding lenses, better light to voltage transducers (detectors and filters), and better receiver noise figure and gain. then you have the improvements in ADC bandwidths and signal processing that (ultimately) result in processing gain. All of this is downstream of improvements in electronics, mechanical engineering, machining, and traceability. Measurement science has definitely improved in the past century and continues to. I don’t know if the gains are exponential at this point. Still, even in electronics, nothing has happened that’s as big of a gain as the invention of semiconductors or CMOS. All that ended in the 70s.

    Reading guys like Scott Locklin and my own experience does not make me optimistic about other fields of physics or science. We could chalk this up to the “glass half empty/glass half full” difference if you like. Most of stuff peddled in the popular press nowadays is just plain woo (AI, fusion, hypersonic flight etc).

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  22. Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice (188) Luther’s ‘two kingdom’ theory is the least credible section of Luther’s theology. It is an attempt to keep to some idea of human distributive justice, even while the grace of God is given ultimate pride of place It conveys the impression of a rationalization. It has the feel of bowing of the knee, for some sort of short-term or utilitarian gain, to the powers that be. It reads like a compromise.”
    It’s not neutral, it’s a second master.

    According to Tuininga, Luther was hammering all this out and changed his mind later in life. Melanchthon become more of an authority than Luther. This happens, you know – changing your mind as you get older. Calvin broke with the earlier Reformers with his formulation of ‘two kingdom theory.’ Calvin wanted the government out of the business of the church, not the other way around. I’m not through Tuininga’s book yet. I don’t think it’s fair to fault these guys when they were working things out under difficult conditions during a sea change in history.

    I also need to read “A Secular Faith.” I’m happy to see it’s on Kindle. It’s expensive, but I’ve cost Darryl all this money by sucking up bandwidth so I’m happy to pay.

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  23. dgh–As long as mother kirk is the mediator of justification, as for what is not religious but only political, you should not take your cues from the Bible or God’s law. You should use your academic training, professional experience, and insights from neutral experts. The idea of Jesus as already king down here may be a road block to what’s best for THE NATION AND THE WORLD politically and economically. By God’s providence Jesus is using non-Christian policy experts and wicked rulers to get things done.

    I Peter 2: 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, in order to proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness
    into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people
    I Peter 2: 17 Fear God. Honor the King Slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel…
    21 For you were called to this,
    because Christ also suffered for you,
    leaving you an example,
    so that you should follow in His steps.
    23 when He was reviled,
    He did not revile in return;
    when He was suffering,
    He did not threaten
    but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

    early Luther —“Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God”.

    Kill the peasants, not for the magistrates, but for the sake of the gospel, because the peasants are legalists.

    early Luther—“if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, the pope would rather that St. Peter’s should go to ashes, than that the church should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep”

    early Luther– “To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy

    Philip Cary—”Augustine does not distinguish between an event of justification and a process of justification . For Augustine justification, so far as he discusses it at all, is not a particular event but the activity of God
    throughout our lives.

    Jonathan Rainbow—”Augustine the anti-Donatist spoke of salvation as a work of God mediated through the institution of the church and its sacraments. The predestinarianism of Wycliff and Hus was rightly perceived by the church as a dire threat to its institutionality. The Roman Catholic claim to have Augustine on their side stung the Reformers, but Rome was correct.” (The Will of God and The Cross: A Study of John Calvin’s Doctrine of Limited Redemption)

    Steve Wilkins– The Church is not merely a means to salvation, a stepping-stone to a more ultimate goal. Rather, the Church herself is the historic manifestation of God’s salvation (WCF 25.1,2). When someone is united to the Church by baptism, he is incorporated into Christ and into His body. He becomes bone of Christ’s bone and flesh of His flesh. He becomes a member of “the house, family, and kingdom of God” (WCF 25.2)

    https://calvinistinternational.com/2020/01/08/the-federal-vision-two-understandings-of-salvation-held-together-by-one-name/

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  24. I had a mentor over 40 years ago who expoused “thinking Christianly”. I confess I often have done otherwise. Sooner or later, the Spirit convicts me, I examine myself, and I get back on the right track, as it were. In the mean time, I depend upon the fabric of faithfulness of my fellow believers, and others, to get me through difficult times.

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  25. “Reading guys like Scott Locklin and my own experience does not make me optimistic about other fields of physics or science.”
    So I poked around Locklin’s blog. I wasn’t very impressed. If his point is that popularizers overhype results, then sure I agree. But AI a farce? Quantum computing intrinsically impossible? Nanotech producing nothing? This is way overstating things. There is no doubt that there are what seem like promising directions of inquiry that don’t pan out. It happens (think thermoelectrics). I predict that by 2030, we will have moved passed quantum supremacy to quantum superiority. I’ve seen enough in advances in topological materials to convince me that we will have computers that can solve interesting problems that classical computers cannot. I’m not sure if we will ever have general purpose quantum computers, but that doesn’t mean that there will not be useful ones. I also predict that self-driving cars will be mainstream by 2030…perhaps not level-5, but certainly level-3. Tesla’s technology will be a standard feature in cars by the end of the decade. If we don’t get to fully autonomous cars by the end of the next decade, I predict that the roadblocks will be related to liability rather than technology. Within 15yrs ITER will achieve Q=5. Whether or not that means that fusion energy will be a commercially viable energy source at some point is a different question, but there are a lot of interesting scientific questions being addressed in the meantime. Plasma physics generally, and heliophysics in particular is making huge strides.

    “We could chalk this up to the “glass half empty/glass half full” difference if you like.”
    Yep. It wouldn’t be a very interesting conversation if we knew the answers already. We can check back on this blog in 15yrs and see who was right I suppose. As they say, time will tell.

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  26. So I poked around Locklin’s blog. I wasn’t very impressed. If his point is that popularizers overhype results, then sure I agree. But AI a farce? Quantum computing intrinsically impossible? Nanotech producing nothing? This is way overstating things.

    No it isn’t. I’ve been reading about all these things for 30 years and he’s absolutely right. You can dig up Scientific American articles from the early ’90s on all these topics and they’ve jogged in place with 10 year marketing cycles to scare-up more billions to waste on them. Q-bits are particularly laughable: they need to be sucked-down to a vacuum and cooled to near-zero Kelvin to work. Then the bit states are changed with RF. The infrastructure around a single instance of a Q-bit is huge. A big scientist at our company did a presentation on them and though they were little more than an opportunity to sell equipment to quantum computing researchers. They’re another dead-end, like Tokamaks. Even if they’re theoretically possible, they’re a long, long way from being products.

    I also predict that self-driving cars will be mainstream by 2030…perhaps not level-5, but certainly level-3. Tesla’s technology will be a standard feature in cars by the end of the decade.

    No, it won’t. Neither Tesla’s self-driving safety record, nor Google’s are converging on the safety record of human drivers. Pieknewski’s blog covers this. Tesla was trying to do the whole thing with a camera, so they’re not even using the right sensors They can’t even keep their factories from breaking out into fires or amputating limbs of line workers, much less automate driving. I’m fairly close to this industry. Radar engineers have been working on statistical detection problems since SHannon invented information theory and tracking problems since before Kalman. Ground-based and airborne radar detection, targeting, and guidance are much-simpler problems than driving, which is a “wicked” learning problem. It ain’t chess. For a good discussion of A”I”, read David Epstein’s book “Range.” Automotive radar will definitely make driving safer with human oversight. That’s a simple “range rate” tracking problem.

    Plasma physics generally, and heliophysics in particular is making huge strides.

    Interesting. Tell me moar.

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  27. “Q-bits are particularly laughable: they need to be sucked-down to a vacuum and cooled to near-zero Kelvin to work. Then the bit states are changed with RF. The infrastructure around a single instance of a Q-bit is huge.”
    Hasn’t Google used 53 of them together? I agree though that this approach is unlikely to bear fruit. Topological materials are far more interesting. Given that the state of the art “supercomputer” in 1960 filled a room and cost about $90M in today’s money, I’m not so sure that needing a dilution fridge is such a barrier. Of course, these aren’t going to be in cell phones any time soon (if ever), but systems that can do useful calculations that classical computers cannot will likely be realized by the end of the decade. General purpose quantum computers may or may not ever be realized, and barring some major materials breakthrough will never be portable.

    “Automotive radar will definitely make driving safer with human oversight. That’s a simple “range rate” tracking problem.”
    So you don’t think the current capabilities of Tesla’s will be standard in cars by the end of the decade? I find that very surprising given that things like radar enabled cruise control, auto braking, and lane change correction are already run of the mill. Maybe I’m mixed up one what the levels mean. I thought level-5 was fully autonomous (what google is working on, and I agree is a very far way off), while level-3 was what Tesla was doing now (requiring human oversight – what I think will be a standard feature in cars by the end of the decade).

    Regarding heliophysics, the big gains have come from improvements in PIC simulations.

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  28. So you don’t think the current capabilities of Tesla’s will be standard in cars by the end of the decade? I find that very surprising given that things like radar enabled cruise control, auto braking, and lane change correction are already run of the mill.

    The Germans have had this for awhile my friend. Bosch and Mercedes have had 24 GHz radars for a long time. You can keep your foot on the gas, take your hands off the wheel, and accelerate into a traffic jam on the Autobahn and the car will stop you using the older technology. Most of what you described are relative measurements: lane change correction keeps you from ramming into the car in the next lane. Auto-braking keeps you from ramming into the guy in front of you, radar enabled-cruise control disengages the throttle and engages the brakes when you fail to but doesn’t steer. Almost all of this stuff relates to breaking and warning the driver to steer. Tesla hasn’t invented any of this. They’re also trying to do the forward looking stuff with camera which is the wrong way to do it. The TEsla camera gets easily confused when it’s asked to take over steering. I had to forward Pieknewski’s data to my friend on the Highway Patrol who oversees accident investigations so that he can separate the hype from the reality. Tesla owners are Darwin award winners with the way they trust their automated driving. I saw some dingbat driving to work the other day with her laptop open on the dash while she allowed her Tesla to “drive” past schoolchildren walking to school.

    Hasn’t Google used 53 of them together?

    Likely, Google passed-along a marketing update from their R&D group in China which is heavily in-bed with the Chinese government, because the ChiComs made an identical press release. These marketing updates are notoriously false. 13 years ago, Google was marketing the Bloom Box everywhere. That seems to have gone somewhere, but not anywhere near as far as they said. It was also an acquisition. The Google Glass was a flop. Their radar gesture library went nowhere. They’re not good at much but search. They’re advertisers. Never forget that. Also never forget that most marketing is lying. It’s not supposed to be, but it is.

    Take a look at MIT’s Q-bit experiment and tell me that will ever become a product. Basic research is far, far different from productization.

    Tell me more about topological materials.

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  29. “but doesn’t steer.”
    My wife’s car steers if you drift in a lane unless you override it. I don’t particularly care for the feature, so I turn it off when I drive the car. So is your claim that level-3 won’t be standard by 2030 or just that we won’t have fully autonomous cars by then? I was only claiming that level-3 will be standard.

    Google published their peer-reviewed result in Nature. You can get a link to a free version of the paper through this abstract to supplementary information posted on the arxiv. Whether it pans out or not, it is far more than a marketing update.

    You can find more about topological quantum computing from this recent review: arxiv.org/abs/1802.06176
    If you want a more popular description, see here: medium.com/swlh/topological-quantum-computing-5b7bdc93d93f

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  30. sdb,

    Thanks for the link to the Medium article. It looks like they have a way around the decoherence which required cooling them/vacuuming them.

    Regarding autonomous driving, the definitions of autonomy levels are pretty fuzzy though admittedly I didn’t go over to the SAE to read them – I just read their marketing summaries. I think it’ll stay at about a 2 forever. Trying to go beyond that will result in lawsuits when people start dying in crashes and the survivors blame manufacturers. Manufacturers will oversell the level of autonomy in PR campaigns while using massive disclaimers about the actual capability in their sales contracts. This will allow them to continue the PR campaigns while avoiding liability. Tesla is already doing this because Musk is the modern equivalent of PT Barnum. Autonomous driving software needs massive amounts of testing and you can only identify 50% of bugs in testing. The other 50% are found by the customer. This is just reality for any complicated piece of software. The consequences for bugs are much higher for autonomous driving. Sorry to be a Debby Downer.
    blog.piekniewski.info/2019/11/18/late2019-the-wizards-of-oz/

    Pretty interesting press release from Google. Scot Aranson seems excited about it:
    http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4372
    But the important discussion is this:
    http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4450
    Personally, I’m outraged that all the Nature paper authors were overwhelmingly male.

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