Thursday, January 18, 2018

Great Thoughts: What People Believe

I read the following in an old commentary by Albert Barnes on the Book of Job (Job 22) and thought how helpful Barnes' comments could be to today's political discourse. Here it is, slightly edited:

How common it is to charge a man with holding an opinion that we infer - from something which he has advanced - he must hold, and then to proceed to argue as if he actually held that opinion.

The philosophy of this is plain. He advances a certain opinion. We infer at once that he can hold that only on certain grounds, or that if he holds that he must hold something else also. We can see that if we held that opinion, we should also, for the sake of consistency, be compelled to hold something which seems to follow from it, and we cannot see how this can be avoided, and we at once charge him with holding it. But the truth may be, that he has not seen that such consequences follow, or that he has some other way of accounting for the fact than we have; or that he may hold to the fact and yet deny wholly the consequences which legitimately follow from it. Now we have a right to show him by argument that his opinions, if he would follow them out, would lead to dangerous consequences, but we only have a right to charge him with holding an opinion that he professes to hold. He is not answerable for our inferences; and we have no right to charge them on him as being his real opinions.

Every man has a right to avow what he actually believes, and to be regarded as holding that, and that only.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thoughts on Luke 11:29-36

In this passage (Luke 11:29-36) I had always thought Jesus was making three points.

First, that his generation is wicked compared to the Ninevites because they responded to Jonah and repented, and compared to the Queen of Sheba because she sought Solomon’s wisdom, but they - his generation - had Jesus, far greater than Jonah or Solomon, yet did not repent.

Second, that no one lights a lamp and hides it, but puts it out where everyone can see it.

And third, that the eye is the lamp of the body and if our eye is good our whole body will be filled with light, and if our eye is bad we will be filled with darkness.

I used to think these were three separate parables, but now I believe it is all one thought, which is this:

First, that just as God made Jonah and Solomon lamps for their generations, so he made Jesus the far greater lamp for his generation. 

Second, that just as no one lights a lamp and hides it, so God publicly made Jesus a light for the world.

And third, if our “eye” is good (receptive to Jesus) then our entire inner being is illuminated. If our eye is bad (not open to Jesus) then our inner being will be dark. 

So, just as God made Jonah and Solomon lights for their generations, so He has made Jesus the far greater light for us, and He has done so publicly where everyone can see, and therefore if our eye is good (looking to Jesus) then our entire inner being will be illuminated. However, if our eye is bad (not looking to Jesus) then our inner being will be dark. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Gems and Other Interesting Blockchain Projects

I'm deviating a bit from my normal topics, but this is such an interesting topic - and perhaps even a world-changing topic - that I'm going to comment on it. Note: I haven't invested in any of these, but I'm considering it.

There has been a lot of interest in Bitcoin lately because of its astonishing price rise, but I think the most interesting thing is not Bitcoin itself, but the whole cryptocurrency environment it has spawned, which is exploding with a world-changing creativity that extends far beyond simple currency. See, which lists more than a thousand crypto coins.

The blockchain (at the heart of this environment) basically enables systems that can operate fairly regardless of how honest or dishonest the people hosting the systems are. So, for example, if you have an entire copy of the Bitcoin blockchain, containing all the Bitcoin ever created, and you try to cheat by modifying the chain, it won't do you a bit of good because the rest of the system, distributed around the world, simply won't approve your changes.

Some of these new crypto projects are no doubt frauds, or silly, or badly designed, but there is always that sort of thing in a period of rapid change and creativity. But there are also systems that are being designed that will enable all kinds of transactions for perhaps thousands of online systems, and that at far, far lower cost.

Some of the systems that interest me are the ones that make new online systems possible. These have particilarly caught my eye recently:

- Gems (, which seeks to immitate the Amazon Mechanical Turk system (online workers performing small tasks) but with extremely low overhead, thereby providing workers with larger paychecks and employers with lower labor costs.

- Verify (, which seeks to replicate the sort of reputation record you see on, for example,, but all handled using a distributed system. I think this sort of system is necessary for people to become comfortable buying and selling on a non-centralized, nobody-owns-it blockchain system.

- Chainlink ( Some blockchain systems need to connect with outside sources of information. So, for instance, a financial tool might want to regularly check stock prices. This system would let that happen.

- Copytrack (, a global decentralized copyright register for digital content. The blockchain is ideal for recording in a way that cannot be changed who owns what.

- BlockMason Credit Protocol ( A system for recording debts and credit. A basic but critical task for building complex financial systems based on the blockchain.

- Basic Attention Token ( is developing a system to improve the efficiency of digital advertising by creating a new token that can be exchanged between publishers, advertisers, and users.

There are probably dozens of other equally interesting projects (sorry if I missed a favorite), but I just haven't stumbled upon them yet.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Great Thoughts: The Outer Limits

“There is an outer limit to our investigations on all subjects, and we soon reach it. In life we are to act chiefly on facts; not on the reason why those facts exist. When we have ascertained or established a fact, our feet stand on a solid rock; and there we shall stand securely.”

- Albert Barnes on Colossians 2