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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label Chesterton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chesterton. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

That Google Memo and the Glory of Motherhood

Saying that men and women are different is now a very dangerous thing. Notice I didn't say anything about one being inferior or another being better. Just calling out the fact that males and females as broad groups have differences in motivations, desires, and place different values aspects of life is something that can now get you fired, even though these findings are agreed upon by a consensus of scientists who study such issues.

Google employee James Damore wrote that now-famous (infamous?) Google Memo (read it here), asking some poignant questions of the company's diversity push. Damore did his homework and did not stereotype. He didn't say that women were biologically incapable of doing tech jobs, as is being repeated ad nauseam in the press. He simply talked about trends and interest differences between men and women. In fact, he explicitly wrote :
I'm not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are "just." I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there' s significant overlap between men and women, so you can't say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.1
Damore cited his sources, too.  Scholar David P. Schmitt confirms there is scholarly evidence for Damore's claims and then observes:
Culturally universal sex differences in personal values and certain cognitive abilities are a bit larger in size (see here), and sex differences in occupational interests are quite large. It seems likely these culturally universal and biologically-linked sex differences play some role in the gendered hiring patterns of Google employees. For instance, in 2013, 18% of bachelor's degrees in computing were earned by women, and about 20% of Google technological jobs are currently held by women. Whatever affirmative action procedures Google is using appear to be working pretty well (at least at the tech job level).2
So 18% of women choose to graduate with a degree in computer science and Google' s hiring rate for jobs that would require this type of degree is 20% female. Why is this controversial?

The Unmentioned Assumption: Women without Powerful Careers are Losers

One has to wonder why there's such a virulent backlash against this memo. I think part of it is simply because many women hear that they are being repressed given the vast majority of tech jobs being held by men and they believe there is some kind of systemic sexism going on. However, they themselves may not personally want to become a computer programmer, they just don't like the way the numbers look.

The Guardian ran an interesting article where one woman was talking to her friend about the pressures placed upon women in today's drive for equality. The friend argued that since all the women now go to work, the country has seen a fairer distribution of jobs than before, but women aren't happier for it. She claimed that women who aspire to have children actually got the short end of the stick because the pressure to not be a stay-at-home mom was great.  The author reflected on this and concluded:
I avoided parenthood for the best part of 40 years, having been led to believe it would feel like a stultifying trap compared to the excitement of wage-earning work. Turns out, at the last minute before the door closed, to be more fulfilling than anything I have ever done!3
That's the unspoken piece in this whole debate. Maybe there are a lot of women who are like the author above, who think  that a successful career is the key defining metric for a woman and then become shockingly surprised to find out how natural and fulfilling it is to nurture and mold the very lives, values,  and sensibilities of the next generation can be.

When women argue about their value coming from their careers, they are really using a man's yardstick. Why should we assume that this is the best way to measure success? I think G.K. Chesterton summed the controversy up best. He wrote:
When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.4


1. Damore, James. "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber." Letter. July 2017. Google Diversity Memo. N.p., July 2017. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
2. Schmitt, David P. "On That Google Memo About Sex Differences." Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 07 Aug. 2017. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
3. Mitchell, Victoria Coren. "Women Can Still Have It All. Can't They?" The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2017. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.
4. Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. What's Wrong with the World? London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1910. Print. 132-133

Monday, April 04, 2016

Culture Has Created a Selfish Kind of Rebel (video)

Modern society has emphasized the individual to an extreme. A person of previous generations aspired to become a certain type of individual, one who placed others before self and understood the culture wasn't there to cater to their personal desires. However, all that changed over the last sixty years as young people began to embrace the "me-first" philosophy that has taken over.

 In this clip, Lenny takes a look at the shift in values modern culture has undergone and he cites the prescient wisdom of G.K. Chesterton, who saw the shift coming within the intellectual elite, which helped propel the cult of the individual.

Image courtesy Paško Tomić and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Culture Has Created A Selfish Kind Of Rebel

It's no secret that Western societies is pulling away from their Christian roots. How did modern culture get to this point and what does it mean? In this short clip, Lenny reviews how the culture shifted as we became more successful and how authors like G.K. Chesterton predicted the meaninglessness that would result.

Image courtesy Dave Winer and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Contradiction of Preaching Morality as Cultural

One of the runaway concepts plaguing society today is the denial of moral duties and values as objective external things. Most people assume morality is fluid and right and wrong are nothing in themselves except a reflection of the likes or dislikes of a certain people at a certain point in time. Thus, while some cultures would have regarded homosexual acts wrong in their day, they were simply voicing their dislike for it while in our own time acceptance has made the act wrong no longer.

Usually people who explain away moral precepts in this manner are trying to accomplish two things: they seek to lift the restrictions that traditional moral values demands of them while demonstrating that we live in a more enlightened age, not beholden to rules that were crafted in a less progressive time. Their message is that it isn't good to stay locked in the backwards thinking of the past.

But this is exactly where their problem lies. If their view of morality as merely the outward voicing of likes or dislikes a specific culture holds is true, it destroys not only the wrongness of what we wish weren't wrong; it destroys the very idea that we must progress to a new way of thinking about morality at all.

G. K. Chesterton noted the trend well in his book Orthodoxy. He observed:
We often hear it said, for instance, "What is right in one age is wrong in another." This is quite reasonable, if it means that there is a fixed aim, and that certain methods attain at certain times and not at other times. If women, say, desire to be elegant, it may be that they are improved at one time by growing fatter and at another time by growing thinner. But you cannot say that they are improved by ceasing to wish to be elegant and beginning to wish to be oblong. If the standard changes, how can there be improvement, which implies a standard? Nietzsche started a nonsensical idea that men had once sought as good what we now call evil; if it were so, we could not talk of surpassing or even falling short of them. How can you overtake Jones if you walk in the other direction? You cannot discuss whether one people has succeeded more in being miserable than another succeeded in being happy. It would be like discussing whether Milton was more puritanical than a pig is fat.1
Chesterton is right here. The idea of assuming right and wrong change with preferences means that right and wrong don't really exist at all. One society can never be better than another, only different. That means the person who wishes to fight for the civil rights of an oppressed group isn't right in taking on that crusade, he or she isn't advancing the society in so doing, because there is no place to advance. He is only moving it sideways.

The concept of better or worse can only make sense when an outside frame of reference is used. By relativizing moral values to societal preferences, the fame of reference no longer exists. Therefore the very goal of the moral relativist is undercut, demonstrating their "new way of thinking" is simply confusion.


1. Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print. 63.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How Modern Desire for Virtue Corrupts Virtue

One of the conceits of our society is the assumption culture has become more caring and compassionate than was the case in previous eras. Those who advocate for a secular viewpoint of live and let live believe that it is the restrictions Christianity imposed upon actions that caused people to be less kind and caring and our more detached approach is better.

While I understand that many people really believe promoting things like same-sex marriages and single-mother IVF are being more kind and compassionate, the reality is such actions have serious consequences to the institution of marriage, to children, and to society as a whole. In his classic book Orthodoxy, G.K Chesterton nails the dilemma, writing:
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive.1
The recent Pew Survey shows this exact trend. Young people think they can be virtuous independent of a holistic belief system. This is one place we need to begin in our apologetic to a new generation.


1. Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. New York: Image, 1959. Print. 26.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why Postmoderns are The Most Dangerous People

G.K. Chesterton had an amazing way of putting his finger on the state of modern society. Even in his fictional novel The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare he succinctly exposes the dangers of those in our society who seek to redefine traditional values. Pointing to the individuals who try to justify the tearing down of the traditional understanding of morality, truth, and meaning in the name of progress or changing with the times, (Chesterton calls these deconstructionists the "modern philosophers"), he notes that such people are the biggest threat to a lawful and civilized world:
We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them. They accept the essential ideal of man; they merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human life; they merely wish to attain a greater fullness of human life in themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as much as other people's … The common criminal is a bad man, but at least he is, as it were, a conditional good man. He says that if only a certain obstacle be removed—say a wealthy uncle—he is then prepared to accept the universe and to praise God. He is a reformer, but not an anarchist. He wishes to cleanse the edifice, but not to destroy it. But the evil philosopher is not trying to alter things, but to annihilate them.1
Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. Reproduced in The Essential Gilbert K. Chesterton. Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2007. N. pag. Print.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Does the authoritative teaching of Christianity stifle reason?

Although G.K. Chesterton wrote Orthodoxy over 100 years ago, it continues to provide prescient, applicable wisdom for us today. At the beginning of chapter three in that book, a chapter entitled "The Suicide of Thought," Chesterton notes how the sages of our modern age trade on poor assumptions.

Concerning the rejection of religious authority, he writes:
Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin.

That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, "Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?" The young sceptic says, "I have a right to think for myself." But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, "I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all."
Chesterton here asserts that faith is not the enemy of reason, but that reason relies upon faith for its relationship to reality. While skeptics and atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris continue to shout that they have claimed the high ground of reason, Chesterton ably shows how those claims crumble, and he does so nearly a century before the New Atheists even made them!

The fact that the man or woman who holds to faith in Christ can truly be considered reasonable is made even more clearly with the release of the book True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheists. I was fortunate enough to have contributed to this volume and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for ways to demonstrate how Christianity is intellectually as well as spiritually satisfying.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

1908 Writer Describes 21st Century with Amazing Accuracy!

Phillip Yancey relays the story that when someone asked famous English theologian G.K. Chesterton what one book he would desire to have with him if stranded on a desert island, Chesterton matter-of-factly replied, "Why A Practical Guide to Shipbuilding," of course!1

That answer demonstrated well how Chesterton could capture the most obvious as well as the most salient points that he wished to examine. A towering intellect in the early twentieth century, his book Orthodoxy comments on many of the distinctions between culture and faith properly understood.

One of the most often quoted passages is Chesterton's examination of the contradictory messages being fostered by modern culture. Although this passage was written over 100 years ago, it’s startling to see the topics and aspects of each he captures perfectly. Chesterton writes:
For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.2
Here Chesterton examines how the modern society corrupts the ideas of equal rights for women, sexual purity versus promiscuity, inherent value of human life, the sanctity of the marriage covenant, the worth of national pride, and evolution versus man bearing the image of God. In all, Chesterton presents a very prescient view of modern culture.

If you haven’t yet read Orthodoxy, I encourage you to do so. Best of all, you can grab the e-book for free, since the copyright has expired and the work is in the public domain.  Just grab a version from this link.


1 Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy. (New York: Image Books | Doubleday, 2001).From the introduction.

2 Ibid.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Protecting the Value of Life

My newly born granddaughter is over at the house this week and this morning I awoke to the sounds of the hungry girl crying. I loved the sound. It isn't that I would like to see her upset; at three weeks, crying is really the only way she can communicate. To me, the sound of a newborn's cry is a confirmation of life. It's an echo of her first cries in the delivery room and when it fills my house I take a certain kind of joy in knowing that our family will continue, that life has been passed on. It's how things should be.

Photo courtesy Gianni1wiki
As loving parents, my son wants only the best for his daughter. He cares about responding when she cries. He wants to make sure she's getting the best nutrition and the proper rest. He performs diaper changes so she won't get a rash. As she grows, her needs and the proper responses to them will change, but the motivation is the same: he wants to provide the best environment for her flourish. However, we as a society are corroding some of the necessary conditions for human flourishing and it worries me.

In its constant pull away from its Christian moorings, today's culture is blind to the damage it causes to all human life. The continuing horrors being disclosed from abortionist Kermit Gosnell's murder trial, the aftermath of the Boston terrorism attacks, and the general elevation of the individual's desire for pleasure over the best interests of the community are all symptoms that a culture that once held to a moral framework informed by Christian values has turned its face from that foundation and now seeks something else.

 This becomes all the more evident when we compare some of the hot button issues of today with their counterparts in pre-Christian societies. Ancient Rome was the pinnacle of technology and living in its day. It had successfully conquered the world. Its citizens then enjoyed an unparalleled era of Pax Romana—200 years of peace. However, in this time of comfort and leisure the Romans didn't think twice about its degradation of human life. Parents of babies who were considered less than desirable were killed, offered as sacrifices, or left out by the Tiber to die of exposure. Historian Alvin J. Schmidt reports, "So common was infanticide that Polybius (205? – 118 B.C.) blamed the population decline of ancient Greece on it (Histories 6)."1 Schmidt also tells of how the Romans practiced abortion for the sake of wealth and convenience2 and encouraged suicide as a more noble way to die than through natural causes.

Of course the Roman trivializing of life is nowhere more evident than in the Roman Gladiatorial games. Using human beings as sport because they were slaves or held religious views that were considered improper to the state is something we would consider barbaric today. But such actions were a natural conclusion to a worldview that places the individual's happiness above the life of another. Most people don't realize it was because of the act of one brave Christian martyr that the Gladiatorial games ceased within five years of his stand.

I write all this because it is too easy to see how we are falling back into a trap of trivializing life. Abortion today is framed as a political issue, but no one bothers to remember why Christianity sought to eliminate it. Kermit Gosnell shows how debased one can become when his worldview objectifies the beginning of human life as a product or choice to be had or not. The terrorists in Boston cared not one whit for the value of their victims' lives. They wanted their own position to be heard no matter the cost.

In our modern age, we've forgotten that the Christian principles that shaped our society also transformed it from a more barbarous one. We're once again in an age of relative peace and luxury, and there are those who think the old ways can be discarded simply because they are old or they get in the way of personal expression. They need to realize that tit may be because of those old ways that we have the true peace that they so cherish. It's easier to stay secure when one has strong walls built around him to keep out the things that will cause harm.  G.K. Chesterton put it well when he said only a fool would tear down a fence before he knows why it was put there to begin with.

We're tearing down the walls of the Christian worldview and I fear a few savage beasts have already slipped in. This is why I do apologetics. It's not for my sake, but for the sake of my granddaughter and the society in which she will live. As a precious human being born into this world, she deserves nothing less.


1 Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World.
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004). 49.

2 Ibid. 56.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

G.K. Chesterton on Materialist Beliefs

"For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel. 
"The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts."
Taken from Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy (New York: Image Books | Doubleday, 2001) .18-19.
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