Monthly Archives: March 2015

Divergent—Insurgent

We watched the movie the new Divergent last night. My purpose here is not to critique the movie as much as to look at the underlining story or philosophy.
It seems like there is always a story or movie out there about someone or some group engineering a utopia. These started way back with the ancient Greek philosophers and have continued on to today. There are some clear underlying ideas here. One is that there is an understanding that the world is a messed up place. It seems that everyone believes in their soul that the world is not the way it should be and there should be some way to fix it or to just start all over again. So we have all of these ideas as to what is needed to create the perfect society. In the more recent movies like Hunger Games and Divergent there is another theme. It is that all of these attempts at a perfect society fail. In some cases flaws in the system set it up for failure from the very beginning. In other cases that new society begins well but then deteriorates in some unforeseen way. Eventually it spirals out of control.
In the case of Hunger Games and Divergent the system is horrendously flawed and a unique individual rises to a position where they can change things. But the change in these cases means bringing down the corrupt system. The unrecognized problem is that this does not solve the problem. All it does is to clear the land and set the stage for a new attempt to create a new utopia based on a new set of ideas. But the basic ingredients in the recipe have not changed. The fly in the ointment is us—human beings.
It seems that no matter how good the idea or the structure; corrupt humans, corrupt the system. No matter what hero arises to fix the system, given time, it will still fall apart again.
This is quite a dilemma. We recognize that the world is not what it should be. We try repeatedly to fix the system, but no matter what we do, we fail. On closer analysis we see that we are the problem. Our savior cannot be just another human; He must be more.
Jesus seems to be the answer. He is human and can live and function in our world. He can relate with us and to us. But He is so much more; He is God and is not limited by our fragilities and our bent toward self-destruction. He does not just deliver us from a corrupt system and propose a new one. His goal is not just to deliver us but to transform us. Jesus offers us the ability to replace our sinful nature with His righteous nature. There is even more. He will eventually recreate the heavens and the earth and restore them to the perfect state that we all imagine they should be.
That is the solution we are looking for.

The March of Progress – Illustrating the Philosophy of Evolution

We are all familiar with the illustration of the evolution of man. We have seen it a thousand times. It starts with some small monkey like creature and works through a number of stages all the way up to modern man. Now you will see all kinds of comical renditions of it including a man in a business suit with a briefcase or a man hunched over a computer. The original was painted by an illustrator named Rudolph Franz Zallinger. The picture was titled “The March of Progress” and was produced for a Time Life publication in 1965.
The picture and its title tell a story that is much greater than the story of evolution. It reveals something that underpins all of science—Philosophy. That’s right, all science is built on philosophy. I know that, today that sounds hieratical but at the beginning of the scientific revolution it was a common understanding. Philosophy was considered the king of the sciences.
Sir Isaac Newton did his research based on a philosophical understanding that there was a creator God and this God was a God of logic, order reason and laws. Based on this understanding Newton developed a number of Natural Laws. As his research progressed his findings continued to reinforce his philosophical underpinnings.
Evolution is no different. It can be plainly seen in the illustration “The March of Progress”. The philosophy that underpins evolutionary theory is one of progress. It sees the world as continually progressing. It is especially true in biology where the “survival of the fittest” virtually guarantees that all life progresses.
There is another aspect to this philosophy that is also shown in the illustration. With most chart formats time runs left to right and progress runs bottom to top. The height of man should not be any indication of progress or superiority of modern man. Obviously a monkey that is small, lightweight, agile, and can hang from his tail is much better suited to the jungle than modern man. But the illustration helps to recreate a familiar chart curve that rises and progresses over time. The illustration reinforces the philosophical belief that we, modern men, are the most advanced and most important animals in all of nature.
The final aspect of the illustration is the march. Normally you would make an illustration like this by lining up the animals facing the illustrator, like a jailhouse line-up. That is not what is done here because it does not reinforce the philosophical understanding. The philosophy is not just that man is progressing but he is progressing through his own efforts. It is man that is stepping out and moving forward.
I really have to commend Rudolph Zallinger; he did an absolutely brilliant job of using Evolution to illustrate the philosophy of humanism. This is not the only evolution chart used to promote humanism. Nearly every evolution illustration does the same thing, but “The March of Progress” is arguably the best.
Next time you read an article or see an illustration, realize that everyone has a world view, a philosophic base that will affect their work and their reporting. Remember that philosophy and science do together, they always have and always will. Don’t make the mistake of viewing the science and missing the philosophical underpinnings.

Minimum Wage

Every so often Congress and the public begin a debate about raising the Federal Minimum Wage. The arguments in favor of it are based on two ideas. First is the statement, ‘No one can survive on minimum wage”. The second is that there is a great discrepancy between the lowest paid workers and the highest paid workers. Raising the minimum wage is viewed as a way of forcing profits to be shared with the lowest paid employees.
Are these ideas correct and will raising the minimum wage solve them?
First is it true that no one can survive on minimum wage. I would have to say that statement is true. The Federal Minimum Wage is ????. I can’t imagine anyone living or supporting a family on that income, but is that the intent of the minimum wage? Is it intended to be a livable wage or is it intended to be an entry level wage or a supplementary wage?
My youngest son is seeking his first job. He does not need a wage on which he can live independently. He only needs to pay for his schooling, transportation, eating out occasionally and some money for personal purchases and entertainment. That covers a lot of things but there are also a lot of things not covered. It would be nice for him to make even more money but it is not necessary. There is a place for an entry level wage that is not a livable wage.
There is another related question, “What is a livable wage?” I live in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The cost of living here is fairly high but it is not even close to the cost of living in New York City or San Francisco. On the other hand the cost of living in rural Mississippi is fairly low. It is pretty easy to see that a single Federal Minimum Wage cannot be a livable wage for all peoples across all of America. States and Cities corrected for this by establishing their own minimum wages. If various States and Cities need to set their own minimum wages then what is the purpose for a Federal Minimum Wage? I guess it sets a minimum below which no state can go but it has little if any affect on establishing a comprehensive livable wage. A livable wage must be set by each locality.
The second argument for raising the Federal Minimum Wage is a more equitable distribution of wealth. Is this a real problem? I think it is. There is a big problem with greed in America and it seems to be getting worse. People are not rewarded for their work in proportion to their labor, but will raising the minimum wage correct this? I think it will, at least temporarily. The problem is that when the lowest paid workers get a raise it is not long before those directly above them demand the same level of increase. This wave of increases will continue up the ladder until everyone has obtained an increase. But how will the companies pay for the increases? That’s right they will raise the prices for their goods and services. What happens when all of the companies across the nation raise wages and prices? Well we call that inflation.
The end result is that the cost of living has gone up; minimum wage is no longer a livable wage and the talk of raising the minimum wage begins all over again.
This sounds like we are back to square one but there are winners and losers when we have inflation. The winners are a few people who have borrowed large sums of money and been able to profit through the careful use of that money. They got the benefit and will pay back the loan with deflated dollars. The banks will lose on the deal, but the banks make projections for this and adjust their interest rates accordingly. The real losers are retired people who are living off of their savings. They did not get a raise when minimum wage went up. All they received was rising prices that eats up their savings.
Who else loses? There are a few companies that sell goods and services that are very labor intensive but do not have a high profit margin and cannot raise their prices. An example of this would be some recycling companies. The process is labor intensive. The profit is low. In some cases it is almost as cheap to by new paper as it is recycled paper. The new paper is a much more automated process and is not greatly affected by the change in minimum wage. A raise in the minimum wage could drive the recycling company out of business, and waste paper would end up in the landfills because it is not cost effective to recycle. This is just one example but it is a good one. In my area much of the recycling is done by people living below the minimum wage. They are living on the streets and making a living by picking through trash cans. There are many industries that would fall into this category. These industries quietly fold up and go away or they move to another country where wages are lower.
So who profits from raising minimum wage? The politicians do. The politicians are perceived by young workers and the working poor as caring about their plight. They effectively buy votes using other people’s money. They create a perception that the government is the place to turn to have your problems solved. Their power, authority and control grows.
There is another way in which the Government wins. By driving up wages they drive taxpayers into higher tax brackets. The Government gets to collect more taxes. Then they have more money to payout, further increasing people’s dependence on them.
In conclusion, obtaining a livable wage for a greater number of Americans is a worthy goal, as is a more equitable distribution of wealth, but raising the Federal Minimum Wage will do little or nothing to accomplish these goals.