If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
~ Anatole France (via Anderson Layman’s blog)
Category Archives: Various and Sundry
Funny how the same words can be spoken with opposite meaning depending on intent. For example, an exasperated father can throw his hands up and say, “what more can I do?” as in, “he’s just so stubborn and will never learn. I want to ring his little neck! What more can I do?” Or this could be a silent and sincere plea to the Lord for help as in, “Father, I have no more strength. My patience is expired. What can I do now to ensure that my son feels my love for him and Thine. What more can I do?” The former perspective is self gratifying with an answer implied: nothing! The latter acknowledges ignorance and hungers for enlightenment.
Try reading the questions below and see if you don’t feel the difference by simply switching perspectives. Regardless of the answer, when humbly asked, these questions could rend the Heavens and call down inspiration from God or otherwise terminate any possibility of enlightenment:
What more can I do?
What’s so great about Isaiah? or
What can I learn from Isaiah that I can’t learn elsewhere in the scriptures?
Why should I study the Book of Mormon?
Isn’t the Bible sufficient?
Why would we need living prophets?
Isn’t the Holy Ghost enough?
Maybe the answer really is “nothing” or “we don’t” or “it is.” But there’s only one way to ask where the answer isn’t predetermined.
Archeology is a funny science. It is inherently non-testable, the evidence is always changing and hypotheses are constantly revised. When rummaging through the rubble of the Ancients we should also remember that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Yet archeology is covetously defended by many and used by some to “prove” the non-existence of God. (We partially addressed that here.) But the best we can really hope for with Archeology is to believe a theory that is consistent with the data. The problem is choosing a consistent theory; there are almost always more than one. And this is true in many aspects of our lives.
We can all approach the same experience and draw very different conclusions. A man struggling to get by pays an honest tithe and gets two job offers the following week. He shouts praises to the Most High while his friend calls him petty and condescendingly recites, “post hoc ergo propter hoc.” The thing is, it’s all in the past. It is no longer a testable hypothesis for either party. Yet both will feel satisfied, the one with reverence and the other with pride.
Religious or not we believe the explanation that is consistent with the data and our bias. Our confidence in our own rightness is fortified. The problem is, once we’ve accepted a set of premises that regulate our bias, the conclusions that follow rest upon something that cannot be proven. So let’s at least be honest enough to admit the possibility that another theory is consistent with the data even though it aggravates our own bias.
…but not for the reason you’re probably hoping. Personally, I feel Frederic Bastiat was erudite in explaining the virtues of liberty and laws that maximize human dignity. But he is wrong, or at least incomplete in his reasons for such strong opposition to it. He wrote in The Law:
[W]hat is the political struggle that we witness? It is the instinctive struggle of all people toward liberty…. It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted, especially in France. This is greatly due to a fatal desire — learned from the teachings of antiquity — that our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy.
Bastiat is only half right. He is correct in assessing mankind’s lust for power and desire to rule but is overly optimistic about the universality of the desire to be free. He ignores the complicity of the citizenry in the establishment of authoritarian forms of government. Didn’t ancient Israel cry unto the Lord for the establishment of a king despite the litany of warnings from the prophet Samuel? And why did they do it? To be like other nations and for someone else (other than the Lord) to fight their battles. They were willing to pay the heavy price for that privilege.
Philanthropic Tyranny, meet your willing citizens.
There is a more striking example that is uniquely Mormon, as far as I know. We believe in a pre-earth life as spirit children of God. Prior to the creation of the world, Heavenly Father presented a plan for us to progress, to be tested and according to our diligence and faith exalted. Lucifer proposed a counter offer whereby none would be lost, all for the low low price of forgoing Free Will. A full third of the hosts of Heaven followed Lucifer and were cast out.
So even in the presence of God there is something within each of us that is tempted to sell our liberty for a mess of pottage. No wonder this is the great political struggle.