Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fair Enough?

Ernie pointed out that I have not offered a definition of justice. He correctly inverted a statement I made about injustice ("justice only holds people accountable for what they could have reasonably known"), though I would hesitate to call that a definition of justice, but rather a description of it. Merriam-Webster defines "just" as "acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good", "being what is merited" and "legally correct", among others. "Fair", on the other hand, is "marked by impartiality and honesty; free from self-interest, prejudice or favoritism", "conforming with the established rules", "consonant with merit or importance" (again, among others).

Ernie did not come right out and say whether he believes God is just, only that God is not fair. I suspect that his operant definition of "fair" is closest to the first one above, the one related to impartiality, which I infer from his quoting "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." But to say that God can be just without being fair seems to me a bit like making a distinction with no difference. Fairness and justice are not so easily separated. Take, for instance, these few verses:

Leviticus 19:15

You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.

Colossians 4:1

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.

We can see that justice and fairness go hand-in-hand. We can also see God (supposedly) setting a standard for us to follow that includes fairness. Is this a case of "Do as I say, not as I do"? I am afraid I will not accept a simple assertion that God can be just without also being fair; I need some justification for that.

(Ernie said "... this highlights the crucial distinction between 'justice' and 'fairness' ..." but I fail to understand exactly what it was that highlighted the distinction and what the distinction Ernie sees.)

With regard to choice, I agree that if there is no choice, there can be no justice. I do wonder sometimes if we truly do have choice or a will, or if we just act like we do. I strongly suspect that we do not have complete freedom of choice, and that would seem to place limits on justice. But Ernie's alignment with C.S. Lewis on the issue of hell would seem to indicate that hell is not a just punishment imposed by God, but rather a mere consequence of our choices.

It has been a long time since I read The Great Divorce or anything else that addresses this concept of hell in any detail. (I did finish reading The Chronicles of Narnia to the kids in the past year, and there are hints of this same idea at the end of The Last Battle, both with regard to the dwarfs as well as the Calormene soldier.) While it has some attractive features, it seems a bit of an ad hoc answer. Is there biblical support for this view? What property of reality enforces these consequences, if not God? How does an atoning sacrifice save people from this fate? On what basis should we even believe that there is any kind of an afterlife anyway? (Sorry, there goes the epistemological question again.)

Maybe there is some kind of afterlife. Maybe there are eternal consequences to our actions. Maybe neither life nor God is fair. Maybe God is evil, maybe he is not. There are so many possibilities, and I fail to see how anyone can guarantee the choices they make will have the consequences they want (assuming of course that choices and wants are even real). I can only do what seems best to me. That brings us back to epistemology and Ernie's statement that "character, not facts, drive belief". But that will have to wait until next time, which will likely be early next week since I will be gone for the weekend.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Patience, Grasshopper

Just a quick note: I am back from vacation, and I have been reading Ernie's most recent post in our discussion and some of the other pages Ernie referenced. I have also been fighting with the plumbing in our laundry area and getting really frustrated with our computer (or actually, with Norton Internet Security, which I think is about to get the boot). I also just had to finish the book I started reading while on vacation. So, I will be putting together a response for Ernie once I clear up my backlog of other stuff.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hell and Justice, Redux

I have time for just a few brief comments tonight. First, as our family is traveling for the next week, I may not have opportunities to post much here. Second, I wanted to answer, briefly, Ernie's questions from his most recent post.

Ernie asks:

I have one (hopefully) simple question for Alan. Do you believe:

a. the natural world is similarly unfair, in that it also impose irreversible consequences on people despite imperfect information; or

b. the natural world is fair, because the relevant information is in fact discoverable

In other words, is this primarily:

a. an ethical argument about the absence of justice; or

b. an epistemological argument about the absence of information?

I would agree that there are irreversible natural consequences for our actions. We certainly have imperfect information, and sometimes we must make decisions based on that information, and those decisions have (sometimes irreversible) consequences. But to say that nature imposes consequences is a bit too anthropomorphic for me. Consequences happen, but they are not imposed. I do not ascribe a personality or will to nature, and neither are natural consequences eternal in character, so to call the natural world "similarly unfair" to a god that imposes eternal punishment is not quite right.

Regarding answer (b) to the first question, I guess I would say that the natural world is not fair, and that not all information is discoverable, but there is not necessarily a logical or causal connection between those two. That is, the source of natural unfairness is not primarily in lack of information.

With regard to the second formulation of the question, I am not entirely sure how to categorize this argument. It is an ethical argument about the absence of justice that rests on an epistemological argument about absence of information. And it is not that I demand that "reality" must be just; in fact, I think it is often unjust. Rather, I think injustice is incompatible with the supposed character of God. I suppose another approximation of the argument would be:

a. God is unjust if he imposes eternal punishment for the actions/beliefs of limited people operating on limited information in limited time. God is also unjust if he imposes punishment for someone's innate nature.

b. People are limited, and have limited information and limited time

c. God is just.

d. God imposes eternal punishment on people for their innate (sinful) nature and/or their actions/beliefs.

These four statements are together contradictory. I think (b) is obviously true. For me, (a) follows almost directly from how I define the word "just". That leaves either (c) or (d) to be false, so either way, Christianity is wrong about something. If (c) is false, we may very well be in trouble. Maybe God is evil and he tortures people for fun. If so, I have no intention of worshipping or following such a god. The final alternative is that (d) is false. This relates directly to some of the questions for which I am awaiting answers.

I do not know if you would consider that an ethical argument or an epistemological one, or something else. Does my elaboration help clarify my approach?

Beyond this argument, I have other reasons for distrusting the Bible and much of what orthodox Christianity holds to be true. But this argument, in the context of a number of other things going on at the time, was an important factor in my decision to abandon Christianity, and I have not yet found a satisfactory resolution offered for this problem. (I have found a number of unsatisfactory ones. We may get to those sometime.) So I am curious about how Ernie will answer.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bringing Back the Draft

I think Ernie has done a wonderful job of helping us make progress toward a common understanding. One of my secondary reasons for blogging is to work on my writing skills, which I honestly have not practiced as much as I should. Ernie's "brickman" device is, I think, a useful tool for this kind of situation, and he has used it cleverly by writing a letter from "me" to himself. And while not a perfect representation of my position, he has gotten very close, and written it well. Now I get my turn to practice, and hopefully help move things along still further.

(I ended up making more edits to this than I originally expected. I started out trying to mark my changes to make them obvious, but in the end, this "draft" diverged from Ernie's draft too much for that to work. You may still want to compare the two versions.)

Draft 2, 11/16/2005

Dear Ernie,

While I appreciate your sincere efforts to explain your viewpoint, I fear you are making things needlessly complex and missing the essential points. In particular, I don't think you've really confronted the core issues underlying my objections to Christianity. As far as I can tell, every strain of fundamentalist, evangelical, or orthodox Christianity makes the same hard claim: each individual must accept Jesus Christ in order to get to heaven. Do you believe that is true, or don't you? If you don't, then I would argue you really don't have anything in common with traditional Christianity, and this whole discussion is moot.

Conversely, and more importantly, do you also believe that everyone who does not choose to accept Christ is going to hell for eternity? Or, is there no eternal existence of any kind for non-believers? Or, are there other ways to heaven? Again, traditional Christianity is clear on the answer to these questions.

This brings me to the crux of my argument. I believe that it is fundamentally unjust to punish someone eternally for choices he makes based on uncertain, incomplete and seemingly contradictory or incoherent information, while being subject to imperfect rationality, having only a finite amount of time and while lacking any methodology, process or other means to overcome these limitations. With regard to believing that Jesus is God and the means of salvation, I claim that:

a. it is not manifestly obvious that this is true

b. nature does not provide complete and certain evidence that this is true

c. while the Bible purports to provide the needed information, it is not itself manifestly true nor proven by nature, and evidence both within and outside the Bible makes its claims to authoritative truth suspect and therefore uncertain

d. men are not perfectly rational

e. men have a limited amount of time available to them prior to death

Four of these are clear: (a), (b), (d) and (e). Some people would dispute all or parts of (c), but you indicated that you only find the Bible to be "generally useful in an illustrative way." So, if you accept all of the minor premises I listed, but yet not my conclusion, then you must either dispute my major premise (that God cannot justly condemn someone to hell for eternity given his stated limitations) or else the structure of my argument.

This is not yet a perfectly formed argument. It assumes, for instance, that we are concerned whether God is acting justly or not. If God is capricious or evil or in any case not just, this line of reasoning fails (but we have bigger problems than that). Again, I do not think we would be discussing Christianity any more in that case. I can think of a few other possibilities that I would likewise consider to be out of scope, but you may disagree. For that matter, we have not yet established that you believe that people are sent to hell at all.

I hope you can see why I might want to address this argument before wrangling over epistemology, because this might help us to set a standard against which an epistemological system might be measured. If you agree with my argument, any epistemology that does not provide certainty is insufficient. If you disagree with my argument, then I would much rather discuss that than have a discussion about epistemology that may prove irrelevent.

Yours truly,

Friday, November 11, 2005

No Hell? He'll Know!

I promised to respond to Ernie's epistemology post.

While Ernie wrote about epistemology in response to this post, he did not address or even mention what I described as "my most important problem with Christianity": eternal damnation for disbelievers. Trying to agree on what we can and cannot know is fine as far as it goes, but I am concerned about getting mired down in philosophical hair-splitting and that we will lose sight of this simple yet powerful issue.

So I would really like to hear Ernie's point of view here. Does he believe in hell? Does God send people to hell, and if so, based on what criteria? Is eternal torture ever justifiable? If so, how?

Is rational disbelief in God possible, even if rational belief is also possible?

I apologize for the title. Pretend that it was a valiant attempt at wordplay involving damnation, epistemology, and (near) homophones.

Physical Plant

(That was an inside joke: Ernie was always fond of puns, and he wrote a skit for IVCF where the characters were different kinds of vegetation. Guess which one I was?)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Deaf and Dumb

Somehow I missed Ernie's last post until today.

For tonight, I am going to leave the epistemology part alone; that will have to wait for a night where I have more time. Instead, I want to address Ernie's closing question: "by what moral standard do you judge Christianity?" He could just as easily asked by what moral standard we can judge any action. There are a few ways I would like to examine the question.

While reading a book about ancient Mesopotamia, I came across this quote, written roughly 4000 years ago by an anonymous scribe:

Mankind is deaf and knows nothing. What knowledge has anyone at all? He knows not whether he has done a good or a bad deed.
Morality is tied into both the intent and effect of our actions. If I intend good (according to my definition of "good") and good results (according to the definition of "good" held by those affected by my action), then my action was moral. If I intend evil and evil results, again according to the definitions of those involved, then my action was immoral. But those are the easy cases. What if I intend good and evil results, according to my definitions? What if I intend "my" good, but it is "your" evil? When the actor and those affected do not agree on what is good and what is bad, I am not sure how to speak sensibly about morality.

If I had to pick a standard, the Golden Rule would come pretty close: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or perhaps, as Confucius wrote: do not do to others what you would not want done to you. This captures the intent and effect criteria fairly concisely.

Richard Carrier, whom I referenced earlier, has written an essay titled What an Atheist Ought to Stand For. The section titled "The Ethics of Ethics" covers this topic better than I can. (The whole essay is well worth reading.)

I also want to mention a book I recently read that beautifully illustrates the problem of differing standards. The book is Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. It is one of several sequels to his most famous book Ender's Game, which he wrote specifically to lead into Speaker for the Dead, and the message he has to share is very much in line with what we are talking about here.

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)

The main character of both of these books is Ender Wiggins, who starts in the first book as a child genius, recruited by the military to lead Earth's forces against the "buggers", an alien race that had previously attacked and nearly defeated Earth. In the first book, Ender leads Earth's forces to victory and the complete extermination of the buggers, but Ender was deceived into doing this; in fact, he did not know what he was truly doing. (Was Ender acting morally?) Ender is overcome with guilt at his unwitting role in the deaths of so many, and eventually becomes the first "Speaker for the Dead", a title he gives himself to describe his role in trying to explain things from the buggers' point of view, for they were not really so terrible after all, just terribly different, and when they realized too late that humans were not mere animals, they themselves grieved for what they had done to man, and could not blame men for counter-attacking, even to the point of extermination.

In the second book, titled Speaker for the Dead, another alien race, the "piggies", has been discovered. The piggies are still rather primitive, and over the course of many years, some of the piggies and then several of the human scientists studying them are found tortured to death by the piggies. Men generally write this off to their primitive nature, but in the end, Ender uncovers the true explanation: that for the piggies, the torture was a necessary step to the next phase of their own existence, and it was in fact a great honor among them. In the cases where the humans were tortured and killed, the humans had volunteered to be thus treated, in order that one of the piggies that they loved would not be, not understanding that this was considered an honor among the piggies. So the men acted according to the noblest moral standard in their own eyes, but in the piggies' eyes, the men acted selfishly, and it was the piggies that acted most nobly by allowing the men that they loved to receive the honor. Who was right? Who acted morally? I think they both did. And yet pain and suffering resulted.

It's late. That will have to be all for tonight. I will try to get back to the epistemological bits this weekend.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Truth and Consequences

Ernie's response to my last post is here.

I think, perhaps, we need to back up a bit. As I thought about how to respond to Ernie's answers to his summaries of my questions, I had this persistent feeling that, while Ernie has made a good faith effort to respond as best he knew how, we are lacking some kind of "meta-agreement". I do not know quite how to explain that, except to say that I feel like I need to back up and speak more generally, rather than respond point-by-point.

The single most important problem I have with Christianity is this: so long as eternal damnation is the claimed consequence for disbelief, Christianity (or God) would be unjust to impose such consequences so long as rational grounds for disbelief exist. The burden of proof, then, is very much on the side of Christians. I may be wrong in what I believe, but if you do not agree with me, I do not claim there will be eternal, personal consequences to you. (There will be natural consequences to you while you live, as well as consequences to others, in the normal ways that one person can affect others.)

One of my biggest questions, then, is, what is at stake here? Ernie has talked about Christianity being "the most effective value-creating, community-forming, character-developing, reality-changing humility-enforcing ideological movement in the history of humankind". He has not (in these couple of posts) said anything about eternal consequences, either good or bad. Statements like the one I just quoted are about as close to describing any consequences as he has come. That may be due simply to the structure of his argument, but I guess I need to know what we are talking about. Are we simply discussing a religion that (in Ernie's view) has been the most successful at bringing about social good? (I dispute that, by the way.) If so, my responses to Ernie will be much different than if there are eternal consequences in play.

For example, when I read

The statements I made are those I believe *I* can demonstrate are "relatively true" using readily-available objective evidence -- at least given enough time and effort, and appropriate interpretation.
these thoughts went through my head: I already expressed surprise at how little Ernie claimed as empirically knowable, and this further description of them does nothing to strengthen those statements. In fact, the standard Ernie is asking us to apply ("relatively true"), while stronger than "possibly true", is far short of "almost certainly true". And these statements are intended to be framework that "enables other types of knowledge -gathering [which] expands the sphere of useful information." I guess I don't see a framework that is only "relatively true" as being sufficient for supporting other knowledge-gathering activities, at least if the knowledge so gathered is held to be any more than "possibly true", and where the farther we get from the foundation, the less certain the knowledge becomes.

I mentioned earlier that I dispute Christianity's position as being such a superlative influence on humankind. This bears further examination. First, it seems to me that most of the descriptors that Ernie applied (like "value-creating") are intrinsically subjective measures, so I do not understand how such statements can be empirically supported, contrary to Ernie's belief that "any reasonable set of empirical criteria ... would bear out my claim." (Ernie follows that by admitting that it was a subjective assessment. I have been using "empirical" more or less as a synonym for "objective", so I wonder if Ernie means something a different. Ernie?)

The second difficulty here is in attribution. In my experience, Christians want to claim the good done by Christians while disowning the evil done by Christians. You may claim that those who did evil were not "true" Christians, or were not acting as Christians should, but as soon as you build that distinction into the definition, using the amount of good done by Christianity to support its value or truthfulness seems a bit shaky. To compare Christianity with other ideologies, you would at the very least need to offer the same distinction to them. Personally, I do not find an approach based on social good very compelling.

Ernie did end with three statements he thought I might agree to, based on empirical grounds. They were:
  • there was a historic figure named Jesus
  • he made claims regarding his divinity that were unusually strong for Judaic culture
  • his presence launched the worldwide Christian movement that claims descent from him
  • Of these, the first seems likely to me. There are people who dispute that Jesus actually existed, but I do not have any good reason to believe that. The only quibble I have with the third statement is with the word "launched": while his presence was a generally necessary condition, I think you could make the case that Paul especially and the other apostles were critical in "launching" Christianity. But I do not dispute that there is a "worldwide Christian movement that claims descent from him".

    The second statement is the most questionable of the three. I mentioned in a previous post that some people question whether Jesus actually made the claims of divinity attributed to him. In addition, I am not sure that his claims were "unusually strong" for Judaic culture. There were other people who made similar claims, from centuries before Jesus until much later. If I recall correctly, a Jew from the 16th century accumulated quite a following, claiming to be the messiah. I would also recommend this essay by Richard Carrier, in which he briefly reviews a number of other people that were at least in the same class as Jesus, in terms of claims of divinity, miracle-working, and so on. Not all of them were Jews, but some were, and some collected substantial followings before violent ends at the hands of Roman troops. (Richard Carrier has written quite a bit that I think would make good reading: you can find an index of his writing here).

    Does that help explain where I am coming from?

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    A Response to Ernie's Post Modern Faith in Jesus

    Ernie pointed us to his recent post here. He was some thought-provoking things to say, and you will want to take a look at it before continuing here.

    First, Ernie is pretty accurate in saying that I am rejecting a fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity on empirical grounds, that what I used to believe has (in my view) been proven false. I do recognize that I cannot on those grounds rule out every possible version of God, and I do recognize that there are alternative sets of beliefs, still based at least roughly on the Bible and still called Christian by their adherents, that are less susceptible to those disproofs. I alluded to that here, about half way down, when I stated that disproving conservative, fundamentalist Christianity was easier due to its stronger claims.

    Second, I will admit to being a little surprised at how little Ernie is claiming as empirically knowable. It raises the question in my mind how much difference there is between what he lists there and what (or how much) he believes is true beyond that. This does not have anything to do with the testability of what he has proposed; I am simply curious because what he stated represents a much more liberal position than I expected from him. Similarly, I think Ernie does well to point out the pitfalls that accompany ascribing omnipotence and omniscience to God. And as with other statements of liberal Christianity, once we have stripped it down so far, I wonder if there is enough left to be worth believing, as opposed simply to studying.

    But the main point, I guess, was to look at a set of propositions that Ernie believes can be supported emperically:

    a. There is a God -- that is, a source of information, power, and will external to the physical universe

    b. That this God has revealed Himself in numerous ways to numerous people (not necessarily just Judeo-Christians), providing insights, leadership, and occasionally miracles beyond those accessible to mortal men

    c. That communities which respond to these revelations by 'worship' (submission) live healthier, happier, and holier lives that those who denigrate or deny such revelations -- in proportion to the character of the God they worship

    d. That the revelation of truth contained in the person and actions of Jesus Christ is vastly superior to anything claimed by any individual before or since; and that to create a Jesus myth would require wisdom equal to (or greater) than that ascribed to Jesus himself

    e. That Jesus himself, whatever may have been added by legend, explicitly characterized himself as a representative of the above-mentioned external God

    f. That *someone* and *something* -very unusual- happened in the first century AD that gave birth to the Christian movement, in a way that allows enormous diversity yet amazing continuity across both space and time.
    I have some of questions and concerns about these as potentially falsifiable statements.

    With regard to (a), this seems to imply a non-physical reality to which we are (somehow) connected. Do we have any empirical evidence that such a non-physical reality exists? What tests can we perform that could prove that it does not exist? If we have no possibility of disproving its existence, then we cannot know it to be true in even the scientific sense (which is a tentative kind of knowledge anyway). Also, how can we show that there is only one god? Why not more than one?

    Similarly, for (b), I do not understand how we are going to establish that the god proposed in (a) has revealed himself in numerous ways to numerous people. How can we distinguish insights and leadership from this God from purely natural insights and leadership? The subject of miracles is a bit bigger. I will have to come back to that.

    In (c) we have some possibilities. For instance, many kinds of health can be measured more or less objectively. Happiness is a bit more subjective, and I think we will have trouble establishing a measure of that for communities throughout history. As for "holier", I am a bit worried on this one, because I think you could say that anybody that was not holy was not responding to the revelations, so that it is a bit circular.

    I have another criticism of (c). People's beliefs can and usually do affect their lives, even when the belief itself is false. So when you say that "communities that respond to these revelations" have certain characteristics, you need to recognize and account for the effects of the beliefs. I would not find it particularly surprising if communities that generally hold to various religious beliefs would treat each other better or worse according to what they believe. I am concerned about how much we can infer about the truth of their beliefs on that basis.

    (I suppose some people might say that if the beliefs produce social good, maybe we shouldn't worry so much about whether what they believe is true. Unfortunately, religion has also been the vehicle for a tremendous amount of evil in the world, even when the religion supposedly advocates better things. Also, beliefs only produce those good effects when they are actually believed. I, at least, cannot pretend to believe simply in order to get the benefits of belief, such as they are. Finally, I think it very likely that there are better results possible based on things that are true, when that can be known.)

    In (d), Ernie refers to the "revelation of truth contained in the person and actions of Jesus Christ" and claims that this revelation is superior to anything claimed before or since by anyone else. I am unsure whether Ernie intends this to be superiority in quality (so that the revelation most closely matches some ultimate truth) or superiority in quantity (there were more true things revealed through Jesus than anybody else) or superiority in importance (there were more important true things revealed through Jesus), or perhaps something else entirely. For any of the possibilities I have listed, I wonder how we will determine this superiority without knowing "the truth" that is to be the standard for measurement.

    With regard to (e), I do not expect to much controversy about whether Jesus characterized himself as some kind of representative of God. I know there are many people who would argue that divinity was not something that he claimed for himself. (Note that we do not have anything written by Jesus himself. We have only words that others claim were said by Jesus. I do not want to get into all of that here, but just wanted to point out why people might argue that Jesus did not claim divinity for himself even though it might seem that way from the gospels.) I would note that many other people have characterized themselves as various kinds of representatives of God, and some of them were not very nice people. So I do not really understand how this proposition gets us anywhere.

    Finally (and I apologize for the length of all of this, but Ernie started it :-), in (f) we are looking at the emergence of Christianity itself, something that was "very unusual". Some unusual things do happen. Many do not. We cannot place too much emphasis on the one unusual event that did happen. I could just as easily characterize the birth and growth of Mormonism as very unusual. The implication seems to be (but maybe I am misunderstanding Ernie's point) that the emergence of Christianity was so unusual that one could not reasonably explain it without appealing to a supernatural cause. But I do not find anything that unusual about it. Many religions have "lived" and "died", some bigger, some smaller, some lasting longer, some less so.

    (I confess I do not understand what Ernie meant when he said "in a way that allows enormous diversity yet amazing continuity across both time and space". Can you help me out on that one, Ernie?)

    Overall, I wonder if I am missing Ernie's point a bit, because I do not see most of his propositions as very testable, and the others have (to me) questionable significance. I also dispute Ernie's statement that
    ... each of these propositions is more consistent with the available evidence than its contradiction, i.e. at least "relatively true.", and that they all support each other. In other words, if you can at least believe either "f" or "a", you ought to be able to infer the rest without difficulty.
    I especially fail to see that there is a logical chain of inference in either direction, let alone both directions. To me, saying that you can infer the rest from either (a) or (f) means that once you have established the truth of one of those, that the other must necessarily be true. Put another way, (a) would be a sufficient cause for (b), and (b) would be sufficient for (c), and so on. The way it looks to me, (a) is necessary but not sufficient for (b), (b) is necessary but not sufficient for (c), and (b) is also necessary but not sufficient for (d). (d), (e) and (f) and perhaps others seem to be leading to some other as-yet unstated conclusion.

    What am I missing or misunderstanding?

    An Editorial Aside

    Just a quick note: I was talking to my wife about what I have written so far, and she said my writing sounded sarcastic. I think that was occasionally true. I just edited the posts I already made to remove the most offensive parts. There are some things left that could be improved, but that would take more time than I have right now. I apologize for that, and I'll try to keep that tone from creeping in in the future.

    I also fixed some typos.