Friday, December 23, 2016

A Skeptic Asks about Christmas

Here is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times interacting with a gracious but unequivocal Tim Keller about the virgin birth.

Pastor, Am I a Christian?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

15 Criminal and Regulatory Referrals

Planned Parenthood/StemExpress congressional investigation updates:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Slave Narrative Describes the 1833 Leonid Meteor Shower

I have been slowly reading through FDR's WPA Federal Writers Project "Slave Narratives" from the 1930's. Today I read the narrative of Abraham Jones of Alabama, in which he describes the Leonid meteor shower on November 13, 1833.

Conditions were such at the time that the 1833 shower was supposedly the most spectacular of the Leonid meteor showers in recorded history. (These showers happen every 33 years, so the next one will be in 2031.)

A word about the slave narratives. All of the slave narratives were transcribed by writers in an attempt to get down on paper for posterity the first hand experiences of former slaves in their own words. Transcriptions and quotes are exact, so these narratives use language commonly used in that time, but which we find abhorrent in our culture. (The Jones narative is not hard to read, however.)

Here's Abraham Jones describing his experience
Here is a little modern article on the 1833 shower from The Richmond News

Monday, December 12, 2016

Kipling on Character

This is one of the most famous of Kipling's works -- and one of my most favorite poems. It explains what character looks like in daily life.

In the concrete, he describes such character traits as humility, cool-headedness, trustworthiness, perseverance, courage and risk, resignation and fortitude.

Poetry Foundation link

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

What Happens When You Make Words Illegal

Interesting thoughts by a Jungian psychologist at the the center of a free speech legal maelstrom in Canada, Dr. Jordan Peterson article. Here he discusses the problem with authoritarian attempts to make certain types of speech illegal.

"This is why free speech is so important. You can struggle to formulate some argument, but when you throw it out into the public, there’s a collective attempt to modify and improve that. So with the hate speech issue – say someone’s a Holocaust denier, because that’s the standard routine – we want those people out there in the public so you can tell them why they’re historically ignorant, and why their views are unfounded and dangerous. If you drive them underground, it’s not like they stop talking to each other, they just don’t talk to anyone who disagrees with them. That’s a really bad idea and that’s what’s happening in the United States right now. Half of the country doesn’t talk to the other half. Do you know what you call people you don’t talk to? Enemies.
If you have enemies, you have war.
If you stop talking to people, you either submit to them, or you go to war with them. Those are your options and those aren’t good options. It’s better to have a talk. If you put restrictions on speech, then you can’t actually talk about the difficult things that need to be talked about....
What happens when that truth actually does contribute to violence against groups?
You pick your poison, and free speech is the right poison. There are groups that advocate for hate, but that’s not the issue. The issue is whether repressing them makes it better or worse. I would say that [repressing them] just makes it worse. There’s [sic] lots of times when you don’t have a good option. People think that if we just don’t let them talk, it’ll go away. It doesn’t work that way at all. In fact, if they’re paranoid, you just justify their paranoia. By pushing them underground, you don’t weaken them. You just give them something compelling to fight against. You make them into heroes in their own eyes."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Castro remembered

Armando Valledares in The Huffington Post on life in Castro's gulags