Daily Archives: December 18, 2010

Notable and Quotable (II)

Polluted air makes us suffocate, polluted water and food make us sick, but polluted words deliver us over to the worst of all fates””to be imprisoned inexorably in fantasy. An iron curtain falls between us and reality. There is hope that the polluted air and water and food may sometimes be purified, but once words are polluted they are lost forever, old lexicons are their cemeteries, and turning over the pages is like visiting their graves.

–Malcolm Muggeridge Time and Eternity: Uncollected Writings 1933-1983 (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2010)

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Books, England / UK, History, Religion & Culture

John Stott on the 'New Theology'

The evangelical quarrel with the modern fashion of radical theology, which boasts of a ‘new reformation’, a ‘new theology’, a ‘new morality’, even a ‘new Christianity’ is precisely this that, alas, it is what it claims to be! It is ‘new’. It is not a legitimate reinterpretation of old first-century Christianity, for from this it deviates at many vital points. It is an invention of the twentieth century.

Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1970), p. 41.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Other Churches, Theology

Albert Mohler–So, Why Is Incest Wrong?

There are certain arguments pressed upon us that previous generations would never believe could be asked. One of these is thrust upon us by events in New York City, where a well-known Ivy League professor has been arrested for the crime of incest. What makes the question urgent is not so much the arrest, but the controversy surrounding it.

David Epstein is a professor of political science at Columbia University, where his wife also teaches. He previously taught on the faculties of Harvard and Stanford. Last week, he was arraigned before a judge in Manhattan, charged with a single count of felony incest. According to authorities, Professor Epstein was for several years involved in a sexual relationship with his adult daughter, now age 24.

Though the story was ignored by much of the mainstream media, it quickly found its way into the cultural conversation. William Saletan of Slate.com, who remains one of today’s most relevant writers working on the issues of bioethics and human nature, jumped on the story with a very interesting essay that openly asked the question many others were more quietly asking: “If homosexuality is OK, why is incest wrong?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Theology

(NY Review of Books) Zadie Smith on Facebook and being human at the beginning of the 21st Century

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.

With Facebook, [Mark] Zuckerberg seems to be trying to create something like a Noosphere, an Internet with one mind, a uniform environment in which it genuinely doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you make “choices” (which means, finally, purchases). If the aim is to be liked by more and more people, whatever is unusual about a person gets flattened out. One nation under a format. To ourselves, we are special people, documented in wonderful photos, and it also happens that we sometimes buy things. This latter fact is an incidental matter, to us. However, the advertising money that will rain down on Facebook””if and when Zuckerberg succeeds in encouraging 500 million people to take their Facebook identities onto the Internet at large””this money thinks of us the other way around. To the advertisers, we are our capacity to buy, attached to a few personal, irrelevant photos.
Is it possible that we have begun to think of ourselves that way? It seemed significant to me that on the way to the movie theater, while doing a small mental calculation (how old I was when at Harvard; how old I am now), I had a Person 1.0 panic attack. Soon I will be forty, then fifty, then soon after dead; I broke out in a Zuckerberg sweat, my heart went crazy, I had to stop and lean against a trashcan. Can you have that feeling, on Facebook? I’ve noticed””and been ashamed of noticing””that when a teenager is murdered, at least in Britain, her Facebook wall will often fill with messages that seem to not quite comprehend the gravity of what has occurred. You know the type of thing: Sorry babes! Missin’ you!!! Hopin’ u iz with the Angles. I remember the jokes we used to have LOL! PEACE XXXXX

When I read something like that, I have a little argument with myself: “It’s only poor education. They feel the same way as anyone would, they just don’t have the language to express it.” But another part of me has a darker, more frightening thought. Do they genuinely believe, because the girl’s wall is still up, that she is still, in some sense, alive? What’s the difference, after all, if all your contact was virtual?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Movies & Television, Psychology

(Lehrer News Hour) Report: Teen Drug Use Up, Binge Drinking Down

A new report out today from the National Institute of Drug Abuse shows teenage drug use is up, especially among eighth-graders, the primary culprits: marijuana, ecstasy, and prescription drugs. Teenagers are also now less likely to believe that marijuana use is dangerous.

At the same time, previously reported declines in cigarette smoking have stalled. There was some good news. The rate of binge drinking, consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row, is down.

Here to discuss the findings is Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Alcohol/Drinking, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Psychology, Teens / Youth

Beneath the Dead Sea, Scientists Are Drilling for Natural History

Five miles out, nearly to the center of the Dead Sea, an international team of scientists has been drilling beneath the seabed to extract a record of climate change and earthquake history stretching back half a million years.

The preliminary evidence and clues found halfway through the 40-day project are more than the team could have hoped for. The scientists did not expect to pull up a wood fragment that was roughly 400,000 years old. Nor did they expect to come across a layer of gravel from a mere 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. That finding would seem to indicate that what is now the middle of the Dead Sea ”” which is really a big salt lake ”” was once a shore, and that the water level had managed to recover naturally.

“We knew the lake went through high levels and lower levels,” said Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham, a leading Dead Sea expert and the driving force behind the project, “but we did not know it got so low.” Professor Ben-Avraham, a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and chief of the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University, had been pushing for such a drilling operation for 10 years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, History, Israel, Middle East, Science & Technology

TechCrunch–Google To Expand And Market Movie Streaming Service In 2011

Google is expanding its feature film streaming service, says a source who’s been briefed on the product. The service will likely be an expansion of the current movie rental/streaming test launched by Google earlier this year. Announcements should be made in early 2011, says our source, and will be heavily marketed.

Ex-Netflix executive Robert Kyncl, who was hired by Google earlier this year, is negotiating studio deals, says our source. The service will initially focus on top tier films and to focus marketing efforts there, including pairing with Google TV. A deeper library will be added over time. Existing rental titles are certainly not new release top tier films.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Movies & Television, Science & Technology

Ethics Debate Over Early Test for Incurable Alzheimer's

…the new diagnostic tests are leading to a moral dilemma. Since there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s, is it a good thing to tell people, years earlier, that they have this progressive degenerative brain disease or have a good chance of getting it?

“I am grappling with that issue,” Dr. [Michael] Rafii said. “I give them the diagnosis ”” we are getting pretty good at diagnosis now. But it’s challenging because what do we do then?”

It is a quandary that is emblematic of major changes in the practice of medicine, affecting not just Alzheimer’s patients. Modern medicine has produced new diagnostic tools, from scanners to genetic tests, that can find diseases or predict disease risk decades before people would notice any symptoms.

At the same time, many of those diseases have no effective treatments. Does it help to know you are likely to get a disease if there is nothing you can do?

“This is the price we pay” for the new knowledge, said Dr. Jonathan D. Moreno, a professor of medical ethics and the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Theology

CEN–Police investigate CSI moderator for fraud

The Karnataka High Court has directed the Bangalore Police to complete the corruption and fraud investigation of the Moderator of the Church of South India (CSI) and present their findings to the court.

On Dec 9, Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar asked the police to complete their investigations “as soon as possible, but not later than the outer limit of two months” into allegations that the Bishop in Central Karnataka, the Rt. Rev. Suputhrappa Vasanthakumar, his wife Nirmala, daughter Aparna, and his personal secretary Patricia Job stole church funds.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, India, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Notable and Quotable (I)

If someone told me to write a book on morality, it would have a hundred pages and ninety-nine of them would be blank. On the last page I would write, “I recognize only one duty and that is to love.” And as far as everything else is concerned, I say no.

–Albert Camus, Notebooks

Posted in Uncategorized

Todd Jones on Living in Hope

C.S. Lewis thought of hope as “one of the theological virtues.This means a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do” We are meant to be hopeful, because God is the great source of our hope. “For in this hope we are saved,” writes Paul to the Romans. “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have,we wait for it patiently” I would invite you this day to “hope for what you do not yet have.” To hope, you remember, is to anticipate the possibility of the good things God holds in store for us. Maybe you remember hearing Andy Dufresne’s unforgettable words in his note sent to his dear friend, Red, in the 1994 film classic, The Shawshank Redemption: “Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

To live in hope is to be a person inspired by the Psalmist, who cried out to God “out of the depths”:“I wait for the Lord,my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope;my soul waits for the Lord,more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption.”And remember ever and always the promise of Paul to the Philippians:“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.”That is the best reason of all for us to hope!

–The Rev. Todd Jones is Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee

Posted in Eschatology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

BBC's Radio Four Today Programme–The morality of 'legal tax evasion'

Herewith the blurb:

The group UK Uncut is calling for another day of action tomorrow to highlight what it claims is tax dodging by well known British businesses.
UK Uncut spokesman Murray Williams and Steve Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs examine the morality of tax.

Listen to it all (a little over 6 minutes).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Taxes, Theology

An Interesting Website to Explore–The Virtual Religion Index

Check it out.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Religion & Culture

A New ”˜blogging bishop’ for the Diocese of Bradford

A ‘Blogging bishop’ who is a University of Bradford graduate has been announced today as the next Bishop of Bradford. The Rt Revd Nick Baines (53), who is currently Bishop of Croydon, will be the 10th Bishop of Bradford, following the retirement of the Rt Revd David James last July.

Nick Baines is renowned for his media expertise – he is an experienced broadcaster and writer and he blogs and tweets almost daily. He has been Bishop of Croydon (an area bishop in the Diocese of Southwark) since May 2003. He makes use of his experience working with other faith leaders in London following the 9/11 attacks in representing the Archbishop of Canterbury at various international interfaith initiatives.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

(BBC) A Woman who cannot feel fear may help in treating PTSD

A woman who cannot feel afraid because of a missing structure in her brain could help scientists discover treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Research published in Current Biology showed the woman felt no fear in a variety of scary situations.

These included exposure to snakes and spiders, horror films and a “haunted house”.

The woman feels other emotions but said as an adult, she had never felt afraid.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Psychology