Category : Anthropology

(Globe and Mail) A new generation of prenatal testing raises ethical questions

For about $800, an American lab would analyze the fetal DNA circulating in Ms. Owens’s blood and tell her as early as 10 weeks into her pregnancy if she was carrying a baby with the chromosomal anomalies that cause Down syndrome and a few other, less common, conditions.

“Once I found out about this test,” Ms. Owens said, “I refused to wait until I was in my second trimester. I had to know right away.”

The desire of women like Ms. Owens to know as much as possible about their pregnancies as early as possible is behind a quiet revolution in prenatal screening in Canada and other developed countries.

A new generation of simple blood tests is allowing would-be parents to learn about the sex and potential genetic anomalies of their babies in the first trimester, a stage of the pregnancy when it’s relatively easy to get an abortion in Canada.

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Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(Independent) Definition of marriage has now ‘evolved’ to include same-sex couples, EU court says

The European Union must compel EU countries that have not yet legalised same-sex marriage to recognise gay weddings held in other nations, a landmark legal statement from the EU’s highest court has recommended.

The European Court of Justice’s advocate general said in an official legal opinion on Thursday morning that there had been “evolution” in the societies of EU countries, and that the idea that “the term marriage means a union between two persons of the opposite sex can no longer be followed”.

If the advocate general’s recommendation is followed by the ECJ, EU citizens will be allowed to bring in their same-sex spouses from non-EU countries to live with them in any EU member states under free movement rules – a right some countries only recognise for opposite-sex marriages.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Guardian) Jonathan Freedland–Eugenics: the skeleton that rattles loudest in the left’s closet

Does the past matter? When confronted by facts that are uncomfortable, but which relate to people long dead, should we put them aside and, to use a phrase very much of our time, move on? And there’s a separate, but related, question: how should we treat the otherwise admirable thought or writings of people when we discover that those same people also held views we find repugnant?

Those questions are triggered in part by the early responses to Pantheon, my new novel published this week under the pseudonym Sam Bourne. The book is a thriller, set in the Oxford and Yale of 1940, but it rests on several true stories. Among those is one of the grisliest skeletons in the cupboard of the British intellectual elite, a skeleton that rattles especially loudly inside the closet of the left.

It is eugenics, the belief that society’s fate rested on its ability to breed more of the strong and fewer of the weak. So-called positive eugenics meant encouraging those of greater intellectual ability and “moral worth” to have more children, while negative eugenics sought to urge, or even force, those deemed inferior to reproduce less often or not at all. The aim was to increase the overall quality of the national herd, multiplying the thoroughbreds and weeding out the runts.

Such talk repels us now, but in the prewar era it was the common sense of the age. Most alarming, many of its leading advocates were found among the luminaries of the Fabian and socialist left, men and women revered to this day.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology

(Telegraph) University College London launches ‘eugenics’ probe after it emerges academic held controversial conference for three years on campus

A senior academic is being investigated by University College London after he was found to have hosted an annual conference in which speakers debated ideas on eugenics and intelligence.

Since 2015, Dr James Thompson has overseen the London Conference on Intelligence, which has seen a researcher who has previously advocated child rape online speak on campus on three occasions.

The university was last night attempting to establish how the honorary lecturer was able to host the event without informing senior officials, who were unaware of which speakers would be attending.

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Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Barna) The Trends Shaping a Post-Truth Era

The term “post-truth” is now often used to describe the current political climate in the United States, in which reality is relative and even the facts are open to interpretation. In the feature story of the new, 2018 edition of Barna Trends—an annual collection summarizing a year’s worth of Barna’s major research studies and including analysis, interviews and infographics—the Barna team and other trusted experts identify cultural and spiritual reasons the world is no longer in agreement about anything….

Barna Trends 2018 begins with an overview of the dwindling public confidence in institutions—especially, and very notably in 2017, the media. However, three in 10 U.S. adults (31%) say the primary source of the “fake news” problem most often lies in reader error—“misinterpretation or exaggeration of actual news on social media”—not factual mistakes in reporting itself. And it would seem there are plenty of chances for these social media mistakes: When asked what kind of news media people are most likely to share, social media posts tie with traditional reporter-written articles as the top response (25% each). Though a plurality (36%) says they verify reports by comparing to multiple sources, the tendency to share social media posts as news points to a preference for more salacious, opinion-forward headlines and reporting. At the least, it allows opportunity to perpetuate it; a plurality (38%) never corrects misinformation they see on social media.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sociology, Theology

(WSJ) Silicon Valley Reconsiders the iPhone Era It Created

A tussle this week between prominent investors and Apple Inc. over iPhone use by young people comes amid a nascent re-evaluation of the smartphone’s social consequences within the industry that spawned it.

The smartphone has fueled much of Silicon Valley’s soaring profits over the past decade, enriching companies in sectors from social media to games to payments. But over the past year or so, a number of prominent industry figures have voiced concerns about the downsides of the technology’s ubiquity.

They include Apple executives who helped create the iPhone and now express misgivings about how smartphones monopolize attention, as well as early investors and executives in Facebook Inc. who worry about social media’s tendency to consume ever more user time, in part by pushing controversial content.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) Robert Imbelli–On being Truly Dogmatic

So Chesterton’s “journalist,” whatever his protestations, strikes me as a dogmatist of this sort. He is, if I may risk trespassing on Chesterton’s domain, dogmatically anti-dogmatic.

However, were he (or, increasingly, she) to respond to G.K.’s invitation “to ask what the dogmas are,” what might one offer? Here I find Henri de Lubac presents an intriguing suggestion. De Lubac writes:

One could no more separate the revealed truths from the very Person of the Redeemer, than one could conceive a true and complete idea of the transcendent newness of Christianity if one did not recognize that, in this Person of Christ, such as the Apostles already show him to us, … the reality of charity and the truth of dogma are indissolubly united. Charity constitutes the reality of this dogma, as this dogma itself constitutes the truth of this charity.

Am I being overly simplistic in finding here the affirmation that the “dogma” is “the very Person of the redeemer” in whom truth and charity form, indeed, a seamless garment? And that both the root and the fruit of the Christian life manifest a distinctive Christo-logic that the “revealed truths” necessarily articulate, but never exhaust?

The root, then, is the Paschal Mystery of the Lord, and the fruit and flower are the transformed lives of Christians.

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Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

(AJ) Canadian Anglican ex-priest receives 22-month conditional sentence for theft

Noah Njegovan, a former priest in the diocese of Brandon, who pleaded guilty in December to stealing more than $190,000 from the diocese, was handed down a 22-month conditional sentence Tuesday morning, January 9, by Justice John Menzies of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Brandon, Man.

Under the terms of his sentence, Njegovan will be confined to his home for 12 months—only allowed to leave the house for work, medical emergencies and four hours each Saturday to obtain necessities—and under a curfew of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the remaining 10 months of his sentence. He will have a criminal record for theft over $5,000.

“This is commonly known as ‘house arrest,’ with very strict curfew and supervision conditions,” said Diocese of Brandon Bishop William G. Cliff in a letter to his diocese January 9. “Mr. Njegovan will be able to go to work and will have four hours per week for necessary maintenance. Otherwise, he must remain at his home and at any time, be able to prove to police that he is there. Should the police check on him and he is not there, he will finish the rest of his sentence in a provincial institution.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Time) Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump Promote the Same Populist Theology

Oprah Winfrey’s public image could not be more different from Donald Trump’s.

While the longtime talk show host is famous for getting her guests to open up emotionally, Trump’s signature move on The Apprentice was firing contestants, who often left the boardroom crying.

But beneath their vastly different images, Winfrey and Trump share the same populist theology. Both preach a gospel of American prosperity, the popular cultural movement that helped put Trump in the White House in 2016.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Movies & Television, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Telegraph) More than 1,000 churchgoers complain of spiritual abuse

[Some] Church-goers at mainstream churches have said they are being “spiritually abused” by leaders.

Research showed that more than 1,000 British Christians said they had experienced the abuse, which usually involves members invoking God’s will or religious texts in order to punish or control and coerce a worshipper.

Two thirds of respondents to the survey carried out by Dr Lisa Oakley of the National Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work at Bournemouth University said they had experienced spiritual abuse in the past.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(BBC) Abingdon vicar guilty of ‘spiritually abusing’ boy

A Church of England vicar has been convicted by a tribunal of spiritually abusing a teenage boy.

The Reverend Timothy Davis moved in with the boy’s family in 2013 and held two-hour private prayer sessions in the boy’s bedroom, the panel heard.

Mr Davis, of Christ Church, Abingdon, also tried to end the boy’s relationship with his girlfriend, describing her as a “bad seed”.

The Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal said it would fix a penalty in due course.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Teens / Youth, Theology

(PR FactTank) Most dads say they spend too little time with their children; about a quarter live apart from them

U.S. fathers today are spending more time caring for their children than they did a half-century ago. Still, most (63%) say they spend too little time with their kids and a much smaller share (36%) say they spend the right amount of time with them, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in August and September 2017.

Moms, by comparison, still do more of the child care and are more likely than dads to say they are satisfied with the amount of time they spend with their kids. About half (53%) say this, while only 35% say they spend too little time with their children, according to the survey.

Fathers without a bachelor’s degree are particularly likely to say they spend too little time with their kids. About seven-in-ten dads with some college or less education (69%) say this is the case, compared with half of dads with at least a bachelor’s degree.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Men, Psychology, Theology

(Guardian) Alex Hern–Video games are unlocking child gambling. This has to be reined in

In a tale of gambling addiction posted to Reddit shortly before Christmas, the numbers were as shocking as they were unsurprising. First the anonymous addict frittered away $200 (£149), in November 2016. Then $700 more, later that month. Then $300, $400, $1,500 … eventually, by December 2017, a credit card debt of $16,000, too large to be kept a secret any longer. It’s a painful narrative, one that’s not softened through repeated telling.

What might be more surprising is the particular type of gambling under discussion. This man hadn’t lost his money betting on football, or feeding notes into a fixed-odds betting terminal. He had been playing the mobile video game Final Fantasy: Brave Exodus (FFBE), a free-to-play game for android and iOS based on the Final Fantasy series.

It’s one of a number of games which use a similar system to reel in, and profit from, players. Unlockables – be they new characters in FFBE, new players in the Fifa football sims, weapon upgrades in the new Star Wars game Battlefront II, or car parts in racing game Need For Speed – aren’t available for direct sale. Instead players buy, with real money or in-game currency, a random item or set of items, in what are termed “loot boxes”. Players have no guarantee of what they’ll get, and no way to guide the game into giving them something they need or want.

The system is a sort of weaponised behavioural psychology, perfectly pitched to exploit all the cognitive weaknesses that make people so susceptible to addiction and compulsion.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, England / UK, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling

Flannery O’Connor on the idea of the Need for Redemption being Squashed

My own feeling is that writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eyes for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable. In some cases, these writers may be unconsciously infected with the Manichaean spirit of the times and suffer the much-discussed disjunction between sensibility and belief, but I think that more often the reason for this attention to the perverse is the difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of their audience. Redemption is meaningless unless there is case for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock, to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969) pp. 33-34 [my emphasis]

Posted in Anthropology, Christmas, Church History, Poetry & Literature

(First Things) Kyle Harper: The 1st Sexual Revolution–How Christianity transformed the ancient world

It is easy enough, and not entirely misleading, to say that Paul’s thought was compressed by the heavy weight of the apocalyptic atmosphere. He wanted his churches to live devotedly toward the coming age, during the small slice of time remaining. But that never led ancient Christians to doubt the larger significance of Paul’s austere counsels. After all, as the time between Christ’s ascension and return lengthened, the entire orthodox tradition in early Christianity chose not to write off Paul’s rigorism as a distortion of his apocalyptic lens; quite the opposite, it tended to accentuate the more extreme and anti-erotic possibilities latent in his thought. The possibility of full-blown Encratism stalked much of early Christian history. (Auden’s “Roman Wall Blues” is about right: “Piso’s a Christian, he worships a fish; / There’d be no kissing if he had his wish.”) In the second century, Clement of Alexandria held fast to the view that within marriage, only sex solely for the purpose of procreation was permissible. Not until the Jovinianist controversy was extinguished in the late fourth century, and Augustine’s tour de force “Of the Good of Marriage” was written, did it become completely clear within Christianity that marriage could be a genuine good and not merely some kind of lesser evil.

Over this same span of centuries, the Church gradually worked out another revolutionary implication of Paul’s message: Sexual morality would require moral agency for all persons, even those whose bodies were beyond the field of vision for ancient thinkers. In today’s terms, Christian sexual morality was inclusive. To be sure, Paul hardly announced the legal emancipation of the unfree. But already (so I have argued, though not all agree) Paul’s ban on porneia restricted one of the slave-owner’s most ordinary prerogatives: sexual access to his slaves. We can trace a dawning awareness in the early Church, unlike anything in pagan antiquity, of the sexual integrity of all persons. By the fifth century, Christian emperors were actually taking proactive (if still, by our standards, limited) measures to protect the bodily integrity of vulnerable women. The heightened place of sexuality in the overarching structure of morality, the respect for the human dignity of all persons, and the insistence on the value of the transcendent and sacred over the secular and the civic—these all went hand in hand in the growth of Christian culture.

Paul’s prohibition on fornication, his highly qualified acceptance of the practical necessity of marriage, and the liberatory movement of Christian individualism form a coherent ethic: For the early Christians, sexual morality was woven inseparably into their whole effort to live rightly in the world. Sex, by its essence, is entangled in the most fundamental questions about the nature of the self and its relation to God. Once launched, the revolution was not easily contained, and when the early Christians tore sexual morality away from the familiar outlines provided by the civic background, the repercussions were not confined to one discrete section of the moral code. Sex came to occupy a place in the foreground of moral instruction in a way that it simply never had in Judaism, or even the most stringent pagan philosophies. The conspicuous austerity of the early Christians caught the eye of early observers, including the Greek doctor Galen. In the competitive marketplace of Roman imperial religion, the way in which Paul loaded questions of sexual morality with dramatic salvific significance gave the moral teaching of this small but vocal movement a particular flavor. The proclamation of the gospel and this strange, spiritualized rigorism were inseparable.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture