An opening note: Yes, I know that in the book, the Doctor was Frankenstein, and the Monster was to be “a new Adam.” In popular culture, Frankenstein’s Monster became shortened to Frankenstein, and sometimes to Frank. I’m going with “Frankenstein” or just “the monster” from here on out.
The basic story is well worn from use– brilliant scientist tries to create a perfect creature and things go badly. It’s been used in every variation from the original human corpses to clones to robots to vampires. (one of the Blade movies) I could make an argument that the Island of Doctor Moreau is a Frankenstein variation, as is the legend of the Golem and thus the Wizard’s Apprentice. A fairly new movie has the monster fighting demons in modern times, or something. Frankenstein even harassed multiple comedy teams in old movies!
The story-line of “make a better person and/or create a new life artificially and horrible things happen” is so well established that it would be easier to try to list all the examples of times it goes right in movies or others stories, and the iconic caricature of The Monster is recognizable even when he’s bright pink and apparently steam powered.
And yet, somehow, there’s something in the way people are that drives us to the same goal as Doctor Frankenstein; we want to make life, because when we make it we’ll do a better job. We manufacture humans in a lab, test, select and implant some portion rather routinely; at the other end of the spectrum, the Anglicans and Catholics in the United Kingdom actually joined together to protest plans to manufacture cloned humans in animal eggs. (Animal Human Hybrids.) In a modern echo of the original story, we use the genetic material in a human egg, put it in another egg, and then fertilize the resulting cell. This makes the “three parent children” you may have heard about.
Focusing on the human-animal combinations, I’ll just quote the Daily Mail:
This legalised the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilised by a human sperm; ‘cybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos.
If you’re not familiar with the process, cloning is done by taking an egg, removing the nucleus and inserting a cell, then tricking it into growing. When it does start to grow, it’s the same as an embryo formed in the traditional manner. Almost all of the resulting organism’s DNA comes from the nucleus, but things like mitochondrial DNA come from the egg’s shell. This means that a human cloned in a cow’s egg and not killed for research, if they managed to reach adulthood, would most likely look and act like a naturally formed human. They would probably have health issues, since there are mitochondrial genetic diseases, but being ill health is hardly restricted to clones. God makes the soul.
This is a really long work-up to saying, as best we can tell, a human clone formed in a cow’s egg would be just as human as a child from IVF, or rape, or adultery, or any of a wide range of offenses to human dignity.
Obviously, a cow with a few human genes inserted (‘spliced’) is clearly not human. Drawing a line– “if more than 27.9835% of identified genes are human, you shouldn’t do it” is rather difficult. I would use a rule of thumb that if the goal of creating the organism is to kill it for human parts or to evade rules against killing humans for parts, you’re doing it wrong. Contrast with, say, gene splicing a pig so that a protein that makes a human body reject a pig heart is replaced by a protein that’s recognized as human by a human body.
Another way of looking at it is along the lines of therapy vs enhancement. To go to my pig example, altering the pig with the goal of fixing an existing problem is one thing; altering the pig to get as close to a human as you can get while avoiding non-moral problems (Why animal eggs? Human eggs are expensive and dangerous to get.)
The old question of “what makes a man” is quite popular, so I’ll end with a very long quote that a writer was kind enough to share, taken from The City of God, Chap. 16, Book 8.
Whether Certain Monstrous Races of Men are Derived from the Stock of Adam or Noah’s Sons.
It is also asked whether we are to believe that certain monstrous races of men, spoken of in secular history, have sprung from Noah’s sons, or rather, I should say, from that one man from whom they themselves were descended. For it is reported that some have one eye in the middle of the forehead; some, feet turned backwards from the heel; some, a double sex, the right breast like a man, the left like a woman, and that they alternately beget and bring forth: others are said to have no mouth, and to breathe only through the nostrils; others are but a cubit high, and are therefore called by the Greeks Pigmies: they say that in some places the woman conceive in their fifth year, and do not live beyond their eighth. So, too, they tell of a race who have two feet but only one leg, and are of marvelous swiftness, though they do not bend the knee: they are called Skiopodes, because in the hot weather they lie down on their backs and shade themselves with their feet. Others are said to have no head, and their eyes in their shoulders; and other human or quasi-human races are depicted in mosaic in the harbor esplanade of Carthage, on the faith of histories of rarities. What shall I say of the Cynocephali, whose dog-like head and barking proclaim them beasts rather than men? But we are not bound to believe all we hear of these monstrosities. But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast. We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful.
For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.
It’s a staple of horror movies– there is some invisible thing that will get you, destroy your life, take over your loved ones and drag you to hell. A demon haunts this house!
First, we should probably back up a little– demon and devil are frequently used interchangeably with devil more frequently used for specifically religious or silly uses, and demon for “scary and kind of hopeless to resist.” Religiously, the devil is the chief of the demons, (Diabolus enim et alii daemones, kept popping up while I was trying to find any decent information on this topic) and it’s usually capitalized to indicate the Devil. Originally, demon was more like “supernatural being”– think kami, for those who are into anime and manga, or various location-gods and demigods for those who know their classic mythology. If you’d like to see how you get from δαίμων to “demon,” Dictionary.com is your friend, especially in special uses for various spellings. I’m going to save any further “other powers” geekery for a later article– on to demons!
So, when we talk about a demon, what are we talking about? Besides being the Devil’s henchmen, demons are fallen angels; this means that they are definitely not metaphors, symbols, impulses, or any other way of saying “there are not really demons.” They also are not a synonym for mental illness– any good exorcist is going to check for mental illness as a first step; it doesn’t do anyone any good to avoid treatment in hopes that a ritual will help someone, rather than trying to accurately identify the problem. (I have no idea how frequently mentally ill people are also afflicted by demons–especially when there are so many ways to qualify demonic involvement.) Here’s a longish quote from the Catechism to explain how that works:
II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS
391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”
392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.” The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.
393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”
So, demons are definitionally evil, having chosen to throw in against God, and they cannot change now. That throws out a pretty good chunk of the more dramatic “can the fallen angel un-fall” type movies– now for the horror. I am going to draw heavily from this interview with Fr. Gary Thomas.
What can demons do?
Think like Paranormal Activity or any other “house has a demon” story. No, you don’t try to fix it by putting a video camera in your bedroom and taunting it, nor do you call “Ghost Hunters,” you see about getting your house blessed; talk to your local parish. Get some holy water. See about getting your hands on a book of prayers, linked below. My mind keeps giving me the image of demonic fleas, but it’s not really funny–here is a quote of signs, from The Rite:
The various kinds of phenomena that can occur in this situation are vast and include unexplained sounds or noises like mysterious footsteps, loud bangs, laughter, screams; the temperature of a room dropping or the feelings of a cold wind with no discernible source; objects disappearing suddenly and materializing in other parts of the house; strange presences felt’ the presence of offensive odors’ interruption of the electric current or the malfunction of electronic devices; pictures that mysteriously bang or fall off the wall; doors and windows that open and close on their own; dishes or other objects levitating and flying about the room.
This cursed activity can be caused by something horrible having happened on the site– crimes, suicides, satanic rituals (yes, including wicca-of-the-month, and probably turn-of-last-century seances, too– it’s a bad idea to invite in unGodly powers, go figure)– or because an infested object is there, or because the demon is there with a human.
Oppression or Obsession:
Two sides of a coin, the former pushed down and the latter wound up; your thoughts are warped in a bad direction; this is when an individual is being attacked by a demon. You can imagine why an exorcist would need to know a lot about psychology– it would be hard to tell mental or emotional attacks by an being with no physical form from a mental disorder. You might think of this as the demon version of a monkey on your back, or maybe being stalked. Instead of a house being “haunted,” it’s you. I don’t want to belittle this– having a demon attack you is obviously bad, even if it’s not as cinematically iconic as the final type of demonic assault, possession.
When a demon can move the victim’s body against their will. (Willingly accepting a demonic possession is integration.) Their soul isn’t controlled by the demon, but everything else…. This is when the exorcist goes to work, although this is incredibly rare and unlikely to involve green pea soup. Some exorcists have reported physical changes that are not scientifically possible. (A note on the limit of science– you’ve got to be there and set up to get really good data, and somehow I don’t think demons would be willing to cooperate.)
So, should we all go hide? Nah. Don’t invite demons in, either actively or by sin, and try to soak your life in spiritually suited everything because that’s a general good idea, but don’t forget that our Boss is massively more powerful. They’re scary but they will not win.
For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.
Through mere glimpses of him, however, demonic accuracy is achieved: Dracula is an Antichrist. He cannot attack unless willingly engaged. He baptizes his victims in his blood even as he drinks theirs in a sacrifice that gives eternal “life” in animated death. He unites captive souls to his existence, thriving on the unhallowed. He twists scripture to his purpose, lusts for worship … and fears Christ. Crisis Magazine, Oct 2013
Over at Father Z’s blog, he made a (joking) post about how sad he was that he didn’t get a vampire hunting kit for Christmas. One comment pointed out that we can’t sell blessed objects. (Technically false; blessed objects can be sold for their intrinsic value, without added price for the blessing, but accurate enough in terms of buying a Vampire hunting kit which would be pretty worthless without blessing.) This got me thinking about the various legends related to vampires, and Catholicism, especially how often they are portrayed wrongly.
The most famous example of bad (horrifying, really) Catholic theology that involves vampires and popular culture is probably the Dracula story. At one point, Van Helsing makes a putty out of consecrated Hosts, and uses it to vampire-proof a room. It’s supposed to be alright, because he has a dispensation. (No, they don’t work that way.)
Needless to say, this isn’t respectful of the Body of Christ, and if the vampire is reacting to the Body of Christ then it isn’t effective, either.
With respect to the presence of Christ, most theologians hold that, although the host externally remains intact for several days, the real presence ceases as soon as the host is fully soaked with water as from that moment the species is no longer exclusively that of bread.
That aside, Dracula is rather well researched in regards to the folklore of vampires. For example, the crucifix has power in and of itself, since it has a representation of Christ on it, while crosses depend more on the person holding the cross invoking God directly. In various times and places, the formally-blessed cross (or other objects, such as holy medals) was thought to be enough to invoke God. Those objects are called sacramentals, things that recall the sacraments. (Dracula’s mistaken abuse of the Host is indicative of someone who didn’t recognize Transubstantiation, but viewed it as a sort of super-strong symbol.) The most obvious sacramental, which is also used in popular pieties and commonly available for the asking, is holy water– many parishes even have dispensers. It should be kept in mind that the people who really believed in vampires weren’t trying to use holy water or any other sacramental for some kind of a magical effect, but to invoke God’s protection from forces of evil.
Some of the things vampires fear are symbolic, instead of sacramental. Running water calls to mind baptism and the washing away of sins, silver is “white” metal and thus pure, garlic and various plants were believed to be medicines against corruption. Even salt, because of its powers of preservation, was thought in some places to ward off evil, including vampires.
Vampires lack of reflection probably grew out of the folklore of the soulless not having a shadow, and the way that mirrors were once backed with silver. Some more folklore savvy stories had digital cameras work to record vampires, but not silver-based movie cameras, and at least one used silver nitrate in the blood to kill a vampire.
Speaking of souls, this is probably the biggest problem with vampire stories: all too often, authors write “vampires” that by all evidence possess rational souls. To shamelessly steal–er, borrow– from Jimmy Akin’s highly enjoyable Theology of the Living Dead, there are four basic options for any flavor of living dead:
- Animal soul – this is the most traditional, but has more in common with modern zombies as far as behavior goes; modern vampires are generally more intelligent than the average human.
- Non-human rational soul – Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s vampires– they are evil, but the “demons” animating vampires aren’t Satanic, and a lot of the “demons” are just multidimensional travelers. The theology of that television show makes my head hurt….
- Human souls – the ‘vampire’ subculture would be an example of this, or if a story had vampirism as a sort of disease.
- No soul – the body is remote-controlled, either by technology (nanobot vampires) or perhaps demonic possession. (As I understand it, demons are spirits, rather than souls, and couldn’t inhabit a body the way a human soul would. I’d highly advise a lot of mythology research before anybody tried to write this!)
Most vampire stories these days are either humans with a disease or non-human souls animating a body; some of them aren’t even “allergic” to blessed objects. Obviously, if they have rational souls, we have to treat them as people rather than monsters, but then it doesn’t make any sense why holy objects would harm them.
On a practical level, I’d say that anything that smokes on contact with a holy object is to be avoided.
For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.
Or, less pretentiously:
What should a kid learn in kindergarten?
I’m taking a swing at home schooling the Princess*– she’s just a bit too young to go into kindergarten, and I’ve got enough qualifications legally allowed to be a home educator by the state.
I know that I want her to be reading and diving in to self-guided research that I can supplement with what she isn’t interested in, but I really am looking for a realistic expectation in general.
- reading basic words– “Hop on Pop” as a test.
- being able to draw a connection between math problems and real examples– 2+2 is the same as two apples plus two apples
- writing print legibly in military style all-caps, and basic progress in upper-lower case block-print
- trace a standard coloring book– depending on small motor control, color inside of the lines and fill it out
- recognize and match colors and basic shapes, both two and three dimensional; possibly recognizing a pattern and copying it
- recognize basic classes of animal– land mammal, reptile, bird, fish, sea mammal
- recognize basic plant categories
- growth stages of plants and animals
- master the ASDFJKL; of the keyboard, demonstrate ability to both double-click and click-and-drag, plus understand which you should do in a specific instance
- safety related science– germ theory, electronic theory, very basic physics; why you wash your hands, why you don’t touch that wire, and why you don’t jump out in front of a car to yell “boo.”
- basic scientific theory
- basic skepticism– “what’s another way to look at this?” “is this person trying to make me think something that isn’t quite right?”
- memorize basic prayers– Our Father, Hail Mary, possibly how to pray the Rosary
- basic theology; Trinity, angels, life after death, salvation, caritas, the Saints, some of the ideas of expressing love as wishing-another’s-best-interest
So, those expectations: too high? Too low? What am I missing? No idea what kind of metric to put on history– trying to build a basic understanding of our family history, and of world history, but it’s rather tough with someone who doesn’t consistently grasp the difference between “today” and “last week.”
We have a phonics book that both girls love (yes, the two year old knows her letters and is connecting them to “making words.” Yay, older sister leading by example.) and I subscribe to an OK online school called Starfall, plus a lot of concepts are being introduced by Dinosaur Train, My Little Pony, Guess with Jess and Boo!, as well as Good Eats. I don’t have any good specifically Catholic “edutainment,” although the Scriptural Rosary from Rosary Army is rather good for car trips and I try to catch some ETWN radio shows when I can.
After hearing some horror stories of the utter lack of basic control in classrooms, my husband is pretty supportive of home schooling if I can get this year to work… so please, feel free to suggest!
*Please, don’t bother to “correct” me that it’s not homeschooling– yes, parents are responsible for teaching their children. I noticed, my folks did a great job– I learned more science from my mom than from school, and the only thing they didn’t do well on was what they were told they weren’t qualified to teach. (Religious education.) That doesn’t change that there is a difference between getting one’s formal schooling at a gov’t facility and getting it at a private school, or at home. It’s a matter of specifying what formal schooling a kid gets. I get the world-view statement being made, but I value communicating clearly over Making A Statement when it’s a social nicety like “where do your kids go to school.”
mildly edited and cross posted from Catholic Stand, because it seems to be timely
“Quit forcing your religion on me! Your Pope might think that a fertilized egg is alive, that it’s human, but that’s your opinion– I believe in science! It’s no more a person than a skin cell is, and you just think it has a soul. If abortion upsets you, you should get people to use birth control.”
If you’ve been in abortion discussions, you’re probably familiar with this kind of assertion. I’ll admit that I’ve taken some slight liberty with the paraphrase– I combined several variations into one claim. Other than that….
A ‘fertilized egg’ is a somewhat improper way to describe what happens when a sperm and egg (gamete) join; it’s a zygote, the first stage of development in all animals. It is a single celled organism of whatever species the parents were. In cloning the egg is emptied, the insides of a cell from whatever is being cloned are put in, and the result is induced to start growing as if fertilization had just occurred. (Nuclear transfer; I mentioned this in the Frankenstein installment.) Sometimes the phrase is used to mean “pre-embryo” or “pre-fetus,” although in non-abortion situations (such as IVF) a three-day-old organism is called an “embryo.”
While a skin cell can be said to be alive– because it is part of a living organism– a zygote is an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being. If uninterupted, a zygote will develop into a recognizable adult member of the species. A skin cell will remain an skin cell.
When a human egg is fertilized, the organism that results is a member of the human species, distinct from both parents. That is a scientific fact. The Catholic Church teaches that being a living human being means the individual has inherent dignity which we must respect. The question of ensoulment doesn’t arise. (You can find a much more in depth explanation of when human life begins in this PDF of the same name, from the Westchester Institute.)
All of this establishes that, scientifically speaking, the unborn ‘product of conception’ we’re looking at is both alive and of our species.
This is where things get confusing, because science does not speak on who is a “person.” The question of personhood is (in this context) a moral question. As Catholics, we are required to recognize all living humans as people– ironically enough, it is those claiming to be defenders of science who are making a moral judgment, and one that is sadly not that uncommon in the history of humanity. More recently the word “person” has come to be synonymous with “human being,” and is preferred by some to “man” to apply to an individual homo sapiens. It is then easily understandable that most people defending abortion would not want to recognize that their stance means that they are explicitly denying that all humans are “people.” Especially if someone is not carefully choosing their words it is understandable that they would try to claim that a member of our species below a set point of development is not a “human being.”
Pointing out that they are declaring a group of humans to be non-people can be effective, sometimes even on the person arguing for abortion. Please try to be as gentle as possible about it, the shock can be pretty nasty. The author John C. Wright wrote about his instinctive recognition of his son as a person, and laid out the logic rather bluntly. It is worth noting that at the time he was an atheist, though a very classically influenced one.
On a related note, some folks will say that If you don’to like abortions, you should support birth control. This sounds like it should make sense– the logic of “women have abortions because they have an unwanted pregnancy; birth control reduces pregnancy; more birth control would result in less pregnancy.”
First a religious or philosophical response: for a Catholic, this is roughly on par with saying “if you don’t like murder, you need to support assault!”
Chemical “birth control” results in death for the small human, in some cases as a primary means, some physical methods (IUDs) also cause death, and even something as basic as a condom inherently deforms the essence of sex. This is religion, or at least philosophy, although obviously some (sometimes very) non-religious people will agree that risking your kid’s life so you can have lower risk of pregnancy is obviously wrong.
Now the practical side.
Birth control does not necessarily reduce the number of pregnancies, it lowers the chance of a pregnancy as a result of intercourse. Failure is usually measured in terms of the percent of female users who have an unintended pregnancy in the first year of typical use. Not listed, of course, is not having sex unless you recognize that the reproductive act may result in a new life.
That is what makes contraception– and the “contraceptive mentality”– a root cause of the heat in the abortion debate. Contraception promises that you will have sex without a chance of needing to be responsible for your resulting children. So, if pregnancy results anyways, it’s very tempting to believe that there’s not really your offspring involved. People you can’t see are so much easier to dehumanize, and the unborn are both really small and not walking around.
A department of feminist studies professor has been accused of going berserk after coming across a campus prolife demonstration that used extremely graphic displays, leading a small mob of students to chant “tear down the sign” before grabbing one of the signs, storming off with it, then allegedly engaging in an altercation with a 16-year-old prolife protestor who had followed the educator to retrieve it.
“Allegedly” for legal purposes, it was caught on video and is serious enough that the cops– who reportedly were going to poo-poo it off– got serious when they saw the video.
Also notable is that, at the bottom of the article, they mention that some students are claiming they feel unsafe. Why? Because there are people protesting the legal, at-will killing of unborn humans, with pictures and facts to back them up. Not because teachers assault teenage girls with whom they disagree and from whom they have taken private property.
to make link quickly visible
I’m sorry I haven’t posted for so long– I’ve been over at Catholic Stand and Ricochet, and trying to help folks on facebook– and I’m sorry to come back with a “Please help” message.
Doing it anyways.
Catholic Answers needs help. They’ve had to let folks go, cut pay and are still falling short.
I don’t know if you’ve been helped by them, but… I got more just from the Catholic.com website than I got from the decade plus of “catholic” education from my local parish. Just last week I was talking to my mom about how much stuff I wouldn’t even know I didn’t know if not for ‘stuff I found online’… which almost always meant “On Catholic Answers.”
More recently, I helped a cousin who was being faced with the “but if you weren’t a nasty evil mean person, you’d support marriage equality” stuff with some of their articles.
I know things are tough. Please help.
Our modern media, driven by image, loves outward signs of humility. The incongruity of a Pope riding the bus and moving out of the palace creates a spectacle that viewers can instantly digest as “good,” even though these are only external acts. Now, I don’t doubt that these acts are spurred by Francis’ genuine virtue, but they should mean less if humility, as Aquinas and Augustine insisted, is only a virtue as an inward movement of the soul.
In Benedict’s pre-papacy book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, he wrote that the Pope should be a “humble servant” to the “Tradition of the faith” — a deliberately inconspicuous goal that a headline cannot capture, and which those unfamiliar with that tradition cannot fully appreciate.
Again, I do not wish to criticize Pope Francis, but rather to suggest that we, as viewers, keep our idea of “humility” in proper perspective. Humility is not the greatest virtue proposed by Christianity — it is just a prerequisite, an interior attitude of other-worldliness, for receiving the rest of the Faith.
Rest of the article is here.
Thought y’all might enjoy it!
a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.
1590–1600; < Middle French ( Old French: derogatory name applied by the French to the Normans), perhaps < Old English bī God by God
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.
A movement to redefine a basic institution of civilization into a novel form, unsupported by traditional practices or even rational justifications for gov’t involvement. Supporters commit acts of vandalism, intimidation/assault (including by law enforcement), and violence up to and including attempted mass murder; those who oppose are met with bullying attempts to silence them and ban their employment.
All of those could also apply to the introduction of laws against blacks and whites marrying.
Actual voting results do not back up claims that the fight is over, and even if they did– Truth is not determined by a majority vote. Forcing people to call a thing by a nice name does not change the thing; as was pointed out in arguments yesterday, forcing kids in a class to call everyone a friend does not actually make them friends.
No, I don’t mean “kids.” They’re really big miracles in little packages. I also don’t mean things where small happenstances have big side-effects– like the time something silly I can’t remember happened, and delayed my car enough that we missed being T-boned or caught in the huge pileup with it from a run-away car. Barely.
I mean things where you are just not having a good time of it, for perfectly normal and predictable reasons…and then something rather odd happens that made you feel better, or fixed a problem unexpectedly.
The “hey, I know you’ve been down, but I also know you like rocks and I found this pretty crystal. Have a nice day!” type stuff.
Got to thinking on it because 1) I am a total sleep wimp, and 2) I’m a month and a half from the next baby being due. That means that, most nights, I can’t sleep. Mental note: next time, make sure that the last trimester is at the END of DST….
A couple of days ago, the girls were having screaming fits over everything. They’re tired, too; they miss their dad, mom isn’t as fun and can’t pick them up anymore, and there have been some minor disasters the last few weeks, from medical to minor injury to very minor vehicle trouble. As an added bonus, I emptied all the odds and ends stuff out of the closets to organize them properly, got a bunch of storage boxes and all… about two months ago, and haven’t managed more than a third of it. I knew that TrueBlue did a lot, but this is ridiculous.
I was unable to sleep, again, and about ready to cry from frustration, so I thought I’d try to find a registration code for a game I had on the old computer. Can’t find it. Try ever odder groupings of the name… and this email forward from a family friend that witnessed for our wedding, but has since died, popped up. It was one of those probably made up tear jerkers about a guy whose car suddenly had problems, and he managed to get to a gas station where he saw a woman in distress. He helped her and her kids out, feels the urge when she asks if he’s an angel to tell her “they were busy, so God sent me” and when he gets back to the car, it of course starts up.
The cry I got from that did more good than two hour’s worth of sleep, and I know it’s been making my days a bit easier. They’re still…trying, but I can deal a bit better, now. I’ve been able to get enough energy to do a couple of the things that I’ve had on my list for far too long, and I KNOW it’s made me a bit less irritable.
I still can’t find anything that should’ve triggered that search to bring up that email. I’m sure there’s something, but… a little, well-timed “accident” of the sort mom always taught us to be grateful for.
Trigger any thoughts anybody would like to share?
I’m fairly sure that anyone here is sufficiently “plugged in” to current politics enough to have heard about House member Gabby Gifford’s recent plea for further gun restrictions. I’m not sure what your local media is like, but there’s a fair chance that there was even a mention of Sarah Palin or at least some sort of “incitement” behind that shooter’s attack. Given the body count, it’s not too surprising.
Also recently mentioned, though only in passing, is that the guy who shot up the Family Research Council in DC was finally in court. Honestly, my main memory of that was being on a family trip and wondering why the heck somebody targeting based on “anti-gay bias” would have bags of Chick-fil-A. I can remember a few commentators suggesting that it was some sort of cartoonish attempt at “blending in”– an indication of just how crazy his view of those who disagree is or was. “Hey, Chick-fil-a is ‘anti-gay’ the same way that the FRC is– they don’t support redefining marriage to fit current pop culture appeals. The Family Research Council even denies a man and woman are functionally identical to two guys or two gals, of all the nerve! They’ll never notice me coming in and killing people if I have suitable fast food bags!” Not someone to take too seriously, even if he did have a gun. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Over at the blog of the author, Sarah Hoyt, there’s a very good post.
I was going to try to use the theme to combine with some conversations from over at Ricochet.com, but then she went and put what I would’ve been pointing at into its own paragraph:
Both of these endeavors will change your perception and you’ll find yourself huffing at sitcoms you used to enjoy. This is good. Most of the politics are snuck into stuff like that (hence the directive that came down for more plots about healthcare in sitcoms and episodic dramas) and if you’re not aware of them they’ll insidiously color the way you see the world. It’s brilliant to sneak them into entertainment because if you complain, you’re a sour puss. But at this point they’re not even subtle, and you’ll start seeing them if you look: cardboard “conservative” characters who are anything but and who can’t defend their positions. “Dangerous” tea partiers. Liberating yourself through having indiscriminate sex and stuff. The government as a fount of goodness. It’s all there. And it’s there on purpose.
There’s more, some general stuff on how the polite refusal to inject politics into everything puts us at a bit of a disadvantage, and it’s quite worth reading. Now, on to my comments:
She’s right. My husband is a lot more easy going than I am, but we both can’t watch some shows because of the obvious agenda involved. Recognizing it isn’t just about paying attention or such– we had a rather long argument with my mother over a TV show that opened with a guy being shot inside his house by a SWAT team called in for a false hostage situation. (Before SWATting got big.) The show, and the woman who taught me to not trust the story that the news presented, held the SWAT team (personified by the leader) responsible. TrueBlue and I held those who certified that it was a hostage situation on an anonymous call from a random number as being responsible– there wasn’t any way for the guys who’d been told they were going in to a known hostage situation to know that the guy charging them with a kitchen knife was righteously defending his house. The guy risking their lives had to be at fault, while the paper-pushers that actually created the entire situation had to be blameless– not even faceless, but as natural a thing as the sun rising, and as unquestioned. Something goes wrong? It’s the fault of those uniformed Authority Figure guys. (Who all incidentally looked military.)
Stories set up the way we see the world.
Folks here probably know about the BMI– and possibly are familiar with my, ahem, “issues” with it as a tool of diagnosis; anything that bases treatment choices on the assumption that bones, fat and muscle all weigh the same, and people are identically proportioned, is going to get me angry. Add in it being changed in 2000 by over 2kg/m2 (so that “overweight” is 25kg/m2; BMI is weight in kg divided by height in meters, squared) to make it easier to calculate and remove the differences between men and women and…well, I’m getting distracted.
Anyways, the BMI is the basis for the “obesity epidemic” we’ve all heard about, and there are calls for action on the following theory that this generation will die earlier than their parents.
Shockingly, some scientist actually decided to do research to see if being over-weight or obese by this BMI standard resulted in dying earlier. It’s clear that if you’re heavy enough, you do die earlier, but that’s diagnosis by examining actual people, not by applying a broad standardized calculation. Everyone knows that if you’re over-weight, then you’re going to have more health problems, so you’re going to die earlier.
There’s a problem: they didn’t confirm what “everyone knows.”
The news will seem heaven sent to those contemplating a new year diet, and contradicts the received wisdom that being fat reduces life expectancy. It is the second time that research studies led by Katherine Flegal, a distinguished epidemiologist from the National Centre for Health Statistics at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Maryland, US, have studied the link between obesity and mortality.
In 2007 the same group caused consternation among public health professionals when they published the results of a similar analysis that also showed being fat does not shorten life. Walter Willett, professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, dismissed the finding as “rubbish”.
Dr Flegal told The Independent she had decided to conduct a second, larger, study on the same theme to counter the sceptics. She and her team examined results from 100 studies from around the world, involving three million people and 270,000 deaths.
Who knew that the art of healing people may not work so well when you try to remove individuals and judgement from the mix?
I really, really wish I were joking about the title, but I’ve actually heard several folks seriously suggest this. (Hugh Hewitt show had a co-host/guest suggest “dropping the abortion issue,” for example—thankfully, Hugh pointed out that was…not a great idea.)
In a campaign where social issues were not focused on, where the SoCon vote was assumed, where the entire point would be “It’s the economy, stupid” and our turnout dropped hugely… we should really ditch these social conservatives entirely and try to peel off some Democrat voters. I was one of the folks that was saying at the beginning that we could not just assume we’d get our own base and that all we needed was to go after other groups, though I—like many others—thought that things were obviously bad enough that maybe the base could be taken for granted.
We tried the “shut up about social issues, focus on the financial short-term disaster.” Shock shock, it didn’t work. The “of course” votes didn’t show up, as best we can tell at this early of a time. Of course there was fraud and probably voter suppression, but we knew from the start that we’d have to win so big that they couldn’t cheat.
I know the thinking Libertarians believe that Social Issues hurt us, and if we’d just drop them it would improve—but they ignore that if you let people do all the stupid stuff they immaturely desire, they are going to want to be saved by someone else. (I’m ignoring the sub-group of thinking Libertarians that thinks having children at is a “personal choice” with no serious effect on the future of society, and mostly only something that ‘women want while they leach off men.’ I wish that last part was not a very slight paraphrase.) Of course, thinking Libertarians think social issues hurt because when thinking Libertarians recognize the cause and effect of libertine personal actions in creating demand for a leech-State, they become at least isolationist conservatives, rather than Libertarians. But I’m digressing.
So, we tried assuming that the rah rah Abortion!! stuff on Obama’s side would be enough to 1) get half our base out, and 2) get them to vote for Romney. Clearly, that was wrong.
We focused on the economy. I think we did pretty well on that, considering that Obama and Co could lie their tails off about what we actually said. (It’s a given, sadly.)
That makes me think that we maybe should’ve beat on the military side of things a bit more as well. I have friends who are still active duty who thought I was blowing smoke up their rears when I told them there was never a protest when the Ambassador was killed, when that was known just days after the attack. (Power Line linked an interview in a UK paper that included quotes from the guys who were opening a hospital with the Ambassador; they were on the phone when the attack started, and there was no mention of a protest, which would’ve been a pretty big deal.)
So, we need to actually make our own case, try to win the base before we try to peel folks off, and probably improve our communication networks. I’m going to work even harder on applying this in person—when someone says something incredibly untrue in person, I’m going to politely correct them. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and socially awkward, but that is what the other side’s tactics depend on. At some point, the drunk in the party has to be confronted. We’re there and past.
This is going to be especially hard on religious people. There are a lot of very nice people who…well… voted for Obama because that’s what “nice” people do. It’s never easy to stand up to family, no matter how wrong you know they’re being.
From over at John Wright’s place, I heard mention of a guy who went from being the head of the Secular Free Thought Society (no jokes, please, they write themselvers) to converting to Catholicism, as told in State Press Magazine:
Imagine society’s collective shock if Hillary Clinton were to join the National Rifle Association…
Josh Horn’s friends were hit with a shock wave of that magnitude when Horn, then an ardent atheist, announced his resignation as president of the Secular Free Thought Society, an ASU club known for its skepticism of religion. Horn had committed the ultimate taboo and sealed his self-imposed excommunication with one act: he decided to become a Catholic.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of folks lamenting how modern art (especially Modern Art) doesn’t have anything to compare to, oh, the great cathedrals of Europe—according to some, doesn’t even have a decently sized mural. Usually comes with a lot of talk of how soul-killing Walmart and their sort are, but not always.
Yeah, that old favorite; Mr. Wright enters the fray again over at his blog, in a rather long and detailed post asking if science fiction is inherently opposed to religion.
Because this is the internet, the comments rather quickly head into attacking religion (ours and his, specifically), which he answers by explaining in detail the reasons he’s now Catholic.
I was inspired to post what is mostly a “hey, go read this!” after several great comments by folks other than the author, culminating in this one:
If some earnest scientist did the experiment outlined above, and then said to the nearest Catholic (not even going as high as the Pope) “I have conclusively proven that what you say happens during the celebration of the Eucharist does not, since this sample still has the same qualities of wine after the words of institution were spoken as it did beforehand, and so it has not turned into the blood of an Iron-Age Semitic male from Roman-occupied Galilee, and so all your beliefs are false and God does not exist”, then the Catholic would say “Dude, I *know* that already. We talked about it back in the 13th century, even before they had spectrometers or chromatographs: Tommy A gave a definition of transubstantiation where he puts it in the technical philosophical language of “The accidents remain the same but the essence changes”.