Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sloppy Theology

The National Association of Evangelicals and Compassion International have the following in their statement of faith.
"We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God."

Really?!?! Do they really believe that? If so, I would be surprised. I've yet to meet an evangelical pastor who would deny that Jesus is the infallible, authoritative Word of God, Incarnate. To limit the infallible, authoritative Word of God to just the Bible is idolatry, Bibleolatry, if you will.

As I see it, much of this sloppiness stems from a deviation from the way creeds have been formulated for most of Christian history. For most of Christian history, creeds were viewed as minimalist statements, with negatives and words like "only" practically nonexistent. One prominent exception to this rule would be in referring to Jesus as the "only" Son of God in the Nicene and Apostles Creeds, which unlike the above statement is a quote from Scripture itself.

The Evangelical Theological Society does a much better job, stating in their "doctrinal basis" that "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs."

What I wonder, though, is how such a prominent association of evangelicals can get away with such sloppy theological statements regarding such an obvious and important point. Taken literally, their statement is heretical. Isn't anybody in these groups paying attention?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe on Lamb Castration, PETA, and American Labor

Here's a video I came across that I found fascinating. It made me realize how out of touch I am (and perhaps most of us are) with... well, aspects of reality, I guess -- what we expect to be true and what really is -- and finding joy in life and satisfaction in work.

It's long at about 21min but you can probably judge whether it interests you by the first several minutes. At once I greatly envy all the stories Mike must have, and yet... I have to draw the line somewhere in terms of new experiences, and I think it is here. :) Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Truthtelling Regarding Funding for Abortion in Health Care Reform Bills

Lies, demagoguery and distortion, misinformation. These charges wouldn’t be so bad if Obama wasn’t lying himself in calling others liars, at least according the Annenberg Foundation’s Fact Check website.

“…we take no stand on whether all abortions should or should not be covered. As for the House bill as it stands now, it’s a matter of fact that it would allow both a "public plan" and newly subsidized private plans to cover all abortions.”

Honestly, I liked the ideas Obama presented at first and thought if he could have just been honest about the facts of the bills presented, then his speech would have been much more effective. Especially disconcerting is Obama saying his door is only open to those who are honest about the facts… while calling people who are honest according to third party sources liars. He sounds as bad to me as the scaremongers on the side when he stoops so low… of course, nobody at PBS could catch that misinformation because they are pretty much just a bunch of misinformed liberals who don't expose themselves to enough conservative commentators or even nonpartisan fact checkers to spot a lie. As the PBS commentator just stated to her national audience, “If the goal if this speech was just to clear up misperceptions, he at least succeeded in that.” Well, for some things yes. When it comes to public funding of abortion, hogwash, to put it nicely.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes I think we're such a dumb species, we don't deserve to survive on this planet."
Ellen Silbergeld, PhD (or was it necessary to add that last bit)

Ironically, I agree with the first phrase often-times, and think she's probably onto something with the research on drug-resistent bacteria. It's the "we don't deserve to survive on this planet" bit that makes me shake my head at the arrogance of some professors.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Adoption and HIV

I found this interview about adopting kids with HIV fascinating.

Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Friday, July 03, 2009

How Children Learn Manners

This article has some interesting food for thought.

I remember hearing, quite some time ago, that the best way to teach children to allow others to go first is not by forcing them to let everyone else go first all the time, but by seeing others model the "after you" attitude. I think of our family gatherings . . . The youngest children are almost always served first, followed by the oldest people in the gathering (i.e. grandma).

It seems that as the children grow older, they naturally gravitate from being the one stepped aside for, to stepping aside for others. Sometimes, though, they do get some reminders or encouragement.

The thought about it not being polite to tell others what to say has me thinking. I do think that, as parents, it is our job to coach our children and instruct them. But I do also think that kids naturally tend to reflect the tones and attitudes that are used toward them, and this is definitely something worth being aware of.

Right now we're dealing with the issue of our kids correcting others or telling them what to do a lot. I realized last night that when one of my kids is rude and judgemental toward someone, my responding in a rude and judgemental tone is not exactly helpful. So, I've been working on my response to this.

If I respond by saying something like, "[Child's first and middle name], that is NOT the way you talk to someone! How rude!" then I'm really modeling exactly the type of behavior I am trying to correct--harsh, rude and shaming.

Instead, I'm trying to come up with an approach that is instructive while modeling the respectful, polite tones that I want them to learn--something like, "Oops, that didn't come across very politely. Can you think of a kinder way to say that?" And then helping them with some ideas to rephrase it.

I'm also realizing that I need to teach my children not to interrupt and to listen politely when someone else is talking not just by instructing them in those skills. I also need to make a concerted effort to give them my full attention and listen politely without interrupting when they are talking.

What do you all think, and how do/would you approach these kinds of issues?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Conservative is to Liberal what Republican is to Democrat... or is it?

I remember those word association questions on the SAT, and if the test designers had put the above question in the test, I would have certainly gotten it incorrect, according to Gallup.

I've always associated conservatism with the Republicans and liberalism with the Democrats, so I've found this poll by Gallup to be quite counterintuitive. At a time when the Republican party seems to be trying to find it's voice, has gotten it's arse kicked in a few recent elections and when various pundits are writing it off, people who self identify as conservatives match the highest recorded level going back to 1992.

For me, the only part that makes sense is that the number of self-identified liberals has gone up 4 percentage points since the low in 1992... but that's still only half the number of self-identified conservatives and not much more than the rise in the number of people self-identifying as conservatives in just the last year. Do liberals just prefer to call themselves moderates because of some stigma attached to the word "liberal?" Has the Democratic party become the "big tent" that all the folks in the middle want to flock to? Has the Republican party lost it's bearings so that conservatives no longer feel welcome? Is the idea of conservative so broad in the vernacular, that it offers relatively little in predictability of people's political ideology? Off the top of my head, those seem like obvious potential reasons, but I'm sure there are more and I have no idea which reasons are the primary drivers in this phenomenon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Ambiguity Regarding Notre Dame's Pro-Life Position

The WSJ had a great article about Notre Dame's perception problem among faithful Catholics.

"In the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, there is a wonderful photograph of Father Ted Hesburgh -- then Notre Dame president -- linking hands with Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1964 civil-rights rally at Chicago's Soldier Field. Today, nearly four decades and 50 million abortions after Roe v. Wade, there is no photograph of similar prominence of any Notre Dame president taking a lead at any of the annual marches for life.

Father Jenkins is right: That's not ambiguity. That's a statement."

So, when ND decided to ignore the US Bishops, and become their own little magisterium, is it little wonder that 35% of the bishops grew some balls and said enough is enough?

Most of you probably don't care about this, but I went to a sister school of Notre Dame, run by the Holy Cross order. It was with surprise that I eventually found myself drawn to the Catholic Church, because my experience among relatives and priests/religious at my university had been entirely dissatisfying. It was obvious that many, if not most, weren't faithful to the faith they claimed to have, and would even admit it in more candid moments. I figured that if this was the devotion Catholicism inspired, then it must be a bunch of BS. However, I was still grateful for the solid engineering education I received. I went to college and was able, through generous financial aid, to graduate without any loans. I fully expected to be a regular donor when I graduated, in order to help other young men and women. However, when I became Catholic and realized how unfaithful some Catholic universities are to the Church they claim to represent, I couldn't bring myself to donate. It would be easier for me to donate to a public university than my alma mater. At least most public universities are faithful to their secular mission. The tragedy of Judas' betrayal was his espoused friendship.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Worthwhile Social Science

The fascinating arch of narrative. A longitudinal study that looks at 268 men who entered Harvard in the late 1930's. Perhaps Harvard men tend to be more unpredictable because of the expanded opportunities in life that they have relative to the average Joe, but that's one thing that struck me most about the study. Another is the sometimes tragic complexity of human existence and relationships. It's a long read, but if you do get to it, I hope you will post your own observations/comments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Government Enforced Helicopter Parenting? Throw Me in the Slammer Now

Ever wonder why we have so many obese kids in the good old US of A? How about this. A mom gets fed up with her daughters arguing and decides to teach them a lesson by dropping them off 3 miles from home to think about their behavior on the walk home, and hopefully work things out between the two of them.

Her reward? A child endangerment charge and a court order barring her from seeing her daughters. It's not like this family lives in Harlem or the Bronx. They live in a 2 million dollar house in Scarsdale, NY. Their mother, the epitome of irresponsibility, is a partner at a law firm. If the family was poor and actually lived in a dangerous part of town like Harlem or the Bronx one might be able to make the child endangerment argument. However, there's a good chance walking would already have been an everyday part of her kid's lives, since cars and parent shuttles aren't nearly as ubiquitous outside the burbs. She made her kids walk a whopping 3 miles, for crying out loud. That is a one hour brisk walk or an hour and a half slow walk. I was doing that with my younger siblings when I was 12. Have kids suddenly lost their ability to engage in bipedal locomotion If so, maybe the Planet of the Apes wasn't so science fictiony after all. Backwards evolution really does occur, and is even encouraged by the US government. The thing is, kids all over the world walk 3 miles every friggen day, especially in barbarian, backwards countries like France and the Netherlands. My coworker had to walk 2 miles to get to the bus stop, so maybe somebody should sit down and talk with some public school officials about how they are endangering kids lives by making them walk so much. Getting back to the subject of the story, the woman's daughters weren't hurt. In fact, I bet it was statistically safer for them to be on the streets of Scarsdale 3 miles from home than in an inner city public school. Are we going to start throwing parents in jail for sending their kids to our dysfunctional and incredibly dangerous inner city public schools?

My opinion. The cops and judge who pushed it to this level and have prohibited these children from seeing their mother ought to be thrown in the slammer with some pervs so they can think about what child endangerment really looks like. Because if it looks like this, then you might as well throw my parents, my coworkers parents, and me in jail (not to mention 90% of parents outside the US), because letting your kids wander three miles from home is common among responsible parents, especially in previous generations and outside of car obsessed America.

In fact, I'll up the ante. Here is my message to the NM Children, Youth and Families Department. There's no way on God's green earth that I'm gonna keep my kids on a leash that short, so go ahead and just get it over with. Charge me with child endangerment and take my parental rights away now before it's too late... fatso. The well-being of my children is at stake... chunky monkey. Act now before before my poor, endangered children grow up as fit, yet mal-adjusted morons... and your stock in McDonald's plummets.

You almost can't make this stuff up.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Friend of the Emperor

Friend of the Emperor? Guilty as charged.


PS: Not that it's exactly hopping around here, but I'll be taking a break from blogging this Lent (and longer if my wife has anything to do with it). Have a happy Easter y'all.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Melted Cheese on Chinese Food...

To understand the title, you've got to watch this.

It's funny... as Jon Stewart normally is. It's also the first time I have seen Jon Stewart apologetic about his biting satire (and I expect his cringing apologies were genuine). But that's not the main reason why I'm posting it here.

I want to be clear that I'm not posting it here because I think it is any reflection on Obama. I don't think it tells us anything one way or the other about our new president.

I post it here because it so fittingly encapsulates my opinion about political speechifying. It's why I hate the campaigns so much. It's why I didn't watch the inauguration. It's why I generally skip State of the Union addresses. It's all canned, processed, filtered, and generalized. No troublesome specifics or details of implementation ever get in the way. Where any specific action is mentioned, you can be sure that within a week it will have been modified, lessened, softened, or scrapped altogether. It's all a show, and a tediously predictable one.

In my office, one of my bosses canceled a meeting on the morning of the inauguration so he could focus on watching the event. Some people set up a TV in one of the conference rooms, and stood around watching. My other boss had the speech playing on his radio as he worked (he at least was getting something done). This was a major event to a great many people... and frankly, I still can't figure out why.

Was it because Obama is the first African-American President? I can see that that's historically significant, but it doesn't make the inauguration ceremony itself more gripping for me. (I can see how people who grew up in the midst of the fight for civil rights, whichever side they were on, would find much more symbolic significance in the event, but none of my coworkers fit that description.)

Was it because people expected to hear something new and different? If so, then they haven't been paying attention to the campaigns for the last year. Obama speaks a great deal about change (and in reading the transcript of his speech, he must have used that word 100 times!), but his actual policies aren't particularly novel. He'll spend money to help the economy, the same approach we've been taking now for over a year. He'll surge our troops into Afghanistan instead of Iraq, which may be a wise move, but isn't quite cataclysmic policy change. He supports civil unions for homosexuals, which is pretty much the middle-of-the-road position that everyone is taking these days. He will aggressively support abortion rights, which has been pretty much the position of every prominent Democratic politician as long as I can remember. Were people expecting to hear something new or different in his speech?

Or is it just that people enjoy hearing him give speeches? Is he that popular? That inspiring? Are his speeches that moving? I don't find them so, but that doesn't mean that others can't.

I'm not sure what it was, but I skipped the speech... and even as I skipped it, I could have told you almost exactly what was in it. And I could have told you that it would sound shockingly similar to every big political speech we've heard recently, from either side of the political aisle. And, it appears, I would have been right.

At least Jon Stewart provided me some nice humor out of the occasion. :)


Monday, January 12, 2009

More Demographic Trivia

I was reading an article the other day in which an self-titled "mother" of the Pill, Carl Djerassi, bemoaned the demographic crisis gripping Europe (and his home country of Austria in particular). One particular sentence stood out to me. Cardinal Schonborn of Austria said, commenting on Dr. Djerassi's statements, ""Somebody above suspicion like Carl Djerassi ... is saying that each family has to produce three children to maintain population levels, but we're far away from that," he said."

Now, my first reaction when reading a statement like that is bullshit. The average woman needs to have ~2.1 children (assuming typical infant mortality, etc.) for a population to achieve zero growth/decline in the long run. However, Mr. Schonborn didn't relate the population stability to the typical statistic. He referenced it to the the number of children within given families. That's really an entirely different statistic, with a whole host of subtle factors affecting it.

1) The marriage rate
2) The rate of illegitimate births
3) Sex ratios
on top of the usual factors
4) average age of first childbirth
5) mean pregnancy intervals
6) infant mortality
7) mortality rate of child bearing aged women
8) I'm sure there are more that I'm missing...

All of these factors mean that the average woman who ends up having children, needs to have even more than 2.1 in order for the population to remain stable. However, what is the number? Could it possibly reach even 2.5 (for which one might forgive Mr. Schonborn for rounding up to three)? Personally, I'm skeptical, but I suppose it's not outside the realm of possibility, especially in developed countries where more and more women choose not to have any kids whatsoever, leaving a large tail on the bell curve. Actually, come to think of it, it would probably be more like an F- distribution than a Gaussian distribution, but I digress.

If anybody knows what this number should be, I'd appreciate them passing it along. I couldn't find it, and I find the question intrigueing: how many children does the average woman who has any children need to have to maintain stable population levels.

Getting to the crux of Dr. Djerassi's concern, Austria has been below replacement level fertility since the early 1970's (Table A.15), and is currently experiencing a net reproduction rate of 0.66. That number astounds me. It basically means the potential (barring immigration) for a society to replenish its population falls by 1/3 in each generation. One third decrease in population per generation if the rate remains unchanged... Incredible. It basically spells the death-nell for the nanny state in Austria, barring some radical changes to birth or immigration rates. Luckily for Austria (and the US), it takes decades for fallen birthrates to trash the economy and have a significant effect on the ability of the government to provide benefits for the retired. Unfortunately, it's a much harder nut to crack. Once a significant proportion of the young realize that they can live the high life without kids, marketing companies get in there do their best to perpetuate/grow that lucrative market. It's tough to convince the next generation that what they really need to do is sacrifice and have more kids to pay for the retirement benefits of past generations that lived it up, when there are marketing companies working night and day to convey exactly the opposite message.


Update: This article says that nearly 20% of women aged 40-44 are childless in the US. I ran across another article that put the childless rate of all German women at 30% (40% for college grads). Given that our birthrate is light years ahead of Austria's, there might be something to Schonborn's statement. I found this article about Austria in particular, detailing the changing birthrate levels and distributions, but honestly, it's too detailed and I'm too tired to understand it.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Anti-Science Bias in the Media

I wish that I had written this.