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Friday, 24 June 2011

Are saggy pants really a threat to airline safety?

A dispute that began after a passenger refused to pull up his sagging pants led to his arrest and removal from a plane at San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday, police said.

Deshon Marman, 20, a University of New Mexico football player . . . was being held at San Mateo County Jail on suspicion of trespassing, battery and resisting arrest.

Not to mention all the passengers that were ordered off the plane so he could be arrested in private.

Clearly, the War Against Terror, as it is waged by the TSA, is nothing but a war against individual liberty, with millions of innocent Americans as its victims.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Biographical Fiction and the Snakes of Vietnam

The Land I Lost by Quang Nhuong Huynh has been read by many an elementary teacher to her students. Probably all accept its stories as gospel truth, because the author really did grow up in the mountains of Vietnam.

Likewise, for many decades teachers have read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to their students, assured that what they related must be true because Laura really did grow up where she said she did. Now, however, we know that the Little House books were highly fictionalized, with changes in names, ages, and family relationships of the characters, as well as both lapses and inversions in the chronology. Time compression and composite characters are other typical features of dramatized biography.

We need to recognize The Land I Lost for what it is--novelized dramatized biography. How much of the account is actually based on truth, we can only guess. But we certainly shouldn't go adding the Horse Snake (which can kill by both constriction and venom, and is mesmerised by burning the fat of a certain fish) and the Two Step Snake (which can kill just by breathing on its victim) to our Vietnamese Bestiary, just because both animals play prominent roles in the book. In fact, it appears that almost nothing in the book is zoologically accurate. The book should be filed not under Biography, but Mythology--not that educators have learned anything from The Education of Little Tree.

And yet the ACLU has no problem whatsoever that teachers not only read it as literature during instructional time, but expect their students to actually believe it.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Were the founders of Christianity Jews or not?


"On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost."

Thus decreed Constantine the Great in 321, marking the beginning of the 2-day weekend. It was only later that resting on the Sabbath was prohibited, thus making the practice of Messianic Judaism illegal.

Since the idea of religious freedom and a secular state was first proven in America, it has become possible--if not always practical--for Jews and Christians alike to observe the first day of the weekend as a day of rest.

At [no longer available] Jake has a very provoking blog post on the deprecation of Jewish Christianity, in which he asks the question,
"Is there any other religion that paints its first adherents as people who never “got it,” never understood their own religion?"

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Roman Catholics react to the loss of their New Testament

During the 1970's it was a common misconception that the term "separation of church and state" was enshrined in the US Constitution. In fact, as someone pointed out, the phrase was found in the English version of the Soviet Constitution. It was as if the Communist creed being available in English could somehow overrule our native rights.

We see a similar situation in Roman Catholicism, in which, without any ruling from the college of cardinals or even a bull from the Pontiff himself, the orthodox version of the Latin Bible has been replaced, at least in the New Testament portion, by the Latin translation of a critical Greek text, resulting in the wholesale loss of portions of Scripture formerly held to be divinely inspired and authoritative.

Ron Conte Jr. this summer completed an evaluation of the UBS text and its negative impact on the NV (New Vulgate) Latin edition. He lists several key points online here:

"I was dismayed and appalled by the decisions of the editors of the Nova Vulgata, especially to abandon the Latin scriptural tradition approved by the Council of Trent, and adopt in its place the critical Greek text of Matthew by the (Protestant) United Bible Societies. The UBS text, and the NV as well, omits over one hundred words from the Gospel, found in the Latin Vulgate, includes at least a couple of whole verses."

Problems with the Nova Vulgata (NV):

1. the NV abandons the Latin scriptural tradition

2. the New Testament is simply a representation of the Protestant UBS (United Bible Societies) Greek text

3. the New Testament ignores all Latin and all Greek sources, other than the UBS text, which is mainly the work of Protestant scholars

4. the NV changes the wording in some verses out of political correctness, without any support in any manuscripts for those changes

5. the Latin scriptural tradition is supposed to be used by Bible scholars to settle any uncertain or disputed readings of the text in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. But since the NV does not represent the Latin scriptural tradition, but instead represents the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, it is not useful for that purpose

6. The Council of Trent declared that the Canon of Scripture includes all the parts of each book as found in the old Latin vulgate Bible (the Latin scriptural tradition). But the NV rejects the Latin scriptural tradition, and removes from the Canon very many words and phrases, as well as more than a few entire verses.

7. The NV relies on the Protestant Stuttgart Vulgate for its base text, ignoring the Pope Sixtus V and Pope Clement VIII Vulgate which was used by the Church for several hundred years as the official Latin Bible.

8. The only version of the NV contains hundreds of typographical errors.

9. The New Testament of the NV shows an appalling lack of editorial discretion. The Latin text is forced to conform to the Greek UBS text even when this makes the Latin text awkward or grammatically incorrect. Editorial decisions other than merely changing the Latin to conform lock step with the Greek are rare.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Breastfeeding fathers? The NIV and Numbers 11:12

CounterDon't clic here
"Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?" --KJV

Now, there's a problem with this. Has anyone ever heard of a nursing father? Yet the word is in the masculine gender. This is how the NASB has it:

"Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse [Or foster-father] carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’?" --NASB

Now, by 2010, 'nurse' still carried a female connotation, but much less so than it did 50 or even 25 years earlier, when a man who was a nurse was always referred to as "a male nurse."

So, let's give the CBT credit for making the best of the gender-specificity problem on the first try.

"Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?" --ONIV

But the New and Improved NIV couldn't resist getting rid of that last vestige of sexism, the word "forefathers:"

"Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?" --NNIV

The NLT clearly went too far trying to feminize the entire verse:

"Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors?"

But focusing on gender only obscures a literal understanding of the passage. This is the situation: Moses is complaining to God that the people he gave him are too much to bear. Moses is carrying on a one-sided conversation with God:

Why am I saddled with the impossible job of leading these people? (is it because I deserved it?)
What have I done to deserve it? (is it because I'm their progenitor or something?)
Did I conceive them?
Did I carry them in my womb?
Did I give birth to this people?
(implied answer: No)
Then why are you making me carry them at my breast all the way to the promised land?
How can I possibly feed them all? They are hollering for food.

This is obviously a metaphorical picture Moses is painting, of someone who has never been pregnant, much less given birth--and therefore can't lactate--being handed a baby and told to nurse it. S/he can't! Neither can Moses handle the burden of providing food for six hundred thousand men and their families.

God's answer?

"Okay, so you can't handle the responsibility for all these whiners. Send seventy men up on the mountain and I'll distribute your authority upon them so they can share the load of leading my people."

This is clearly the intended meaning of this passage. Interpreting it literally, as the KJV does, offends the language; we don't have nursing fathers--at least not in the dialects of most English speakers. Interpreting it metaphorically, on the other hand, unpacks the literal meaning: Moses didn't think he could physically handle the job God had given him.

The NIV, more concerned with gender sensitivity than unpacking the meaning, obscures the literal meaning by translating ha-omen as "nurse." For one thing, it's not the usual Hebrew word for wet-nurse; look how the NIV translates its other occurrences in the Bible:

Ruth 4:16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him.

Lamentations 4:5b Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps.

Isaiah 49:23 Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers.

Isaiah 60:4 Your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip.

The word omen signifies, not a breastfeeding relationship, but one of caring for a nursing baby in other ways than breastfeeding. Moses uses it ironically: God is telling him to take a nursing baby, and care for it himself--without breastfeeding--all the way through the wilderness journey to the promised land! Clearly this is impossible, as Moses sees the situation. So let's see how we could allow this meaning, clear in Hebrew, to come across in English:

So Moses said to YHWH, "Why are You doing this to Your servant? What have I done to deserve You putting the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people, or give them birth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom,’ as if I were a father carrying his suckling child all the way to the land which You swore to their forefathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For theirs is a constant whine in mine ears, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’"

Once again, we see the NIV's Committee for Bible Translation  translating a masculine word in such a way as to thrust femininity into a context where it has no business being. Their pink-coloured glasses have blinded them again.

EDIT July 2017

It's been brought to my attention that the word 'nurse' as a verb carries very different connotations in American and British English, respectively.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the primary meaning of 'nurse' is to care for a person or animal that is sick. From that, the verb split into to secondary meanings on either side the Atlantic--and in both cases, these became the most common usages of the verb: In Britain and thus the Commonweath, to 'nurse' a baby simply means to care for it; the term 'baby-sit' is approximately analogous. But in the USA, to 'nurse' a baby clearly means allowing it to suck at the breast (whether natural or artificial).
The ONIV was an attempt to produce an English version free of both Briticisms and Americanisms. To accomplish that, it would have been best to eliminate the word 'nurse' altogether, but a compromise at least was reached in using the word only as a noun, where it carries close to the same meaning in either dialect--someone whose job is to care for sick and injured people--a meaning, however, that simply doesn't apply here.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Can you have an albino child from a white mother and a black father?

This was a question asked by one of my readers. In a word, Yes.

Albinism is an independently arising mutation which renders the body incapable of producing pigment. It is passed on as a recessive gene, so a black parent can have an unpigmented child. In fact, is is the usual state of things that an albino child will have parents who are not themselves albinos.

Now, there is more to the question than this. What if a white woman gives birth to a white child--is there any chance that the father was black? The answer to that question is also Yes, but with qualifications.

A child carries genes from both of his parents, which in turn were inherited from the grandparents. A child with one white and one black grandfather, and one white and one black grandmother, can be anything from almost completely white to almost completely black. So, if a white woman gives birth to a white baby, there are three possible reasons (granting, along with the questioner, that the father himself is not an albino):

1) The father was purely white (most common reason).
2) The father was partly white (next common reason).
3) The father and mother carry the albinism gene. If this is the case, the child will have some of its father's physical traits, but without his skin colour.

There is another question to answer: can an albino mother have a black baby? Yes, because the gene for expressing skin colour is dominant. Only if the father also has the recessive gene for albinism, and only if he passes it on to his offspring, will the offspring be albino--unless a mutation arises anew in that generation lacking the genetic capability of producing skin colour.

UPDATE JULY 11, 2011 (and later as needed)

I'm getting a lot of hits on this post, so I'll go into even further detail.

1) Q: What causes a baby to be born albino?
A: There are two basic reasons why a baby could be born albino:
1. The most common reason: Both his mother and his father carry the gene for albinism, and both of them passed that gene on to him. Such parents only have a 25% chance of having an albino child, a 50% chance of having a child who carries the albino gene, and a 25% chance of having a child without the gene for albinism. Such are the statistical chances; I've not seen any studies that show the numbers as actually observed. The odds drop to 1 in 16 for 2 albino children in a row, and 1 in 64 for three; still, better odds than having twins, so it does happen.
2. The original reason: The first albino, way back in the mists of time, was the result of a mutation in his father's line that lost the ability to produce skin pigment, combined with a mutation in his mother's line that did the same thing. This did not need to happen in the same generation; the father could have been born with the defective gene and the mother's egg spontaneously lost its function, resulting in the first fully albino genotype. Or vice versa. This obviously happened in the past, so it could happen again, but because the human genome is designed to detect and correct errors before they are passed on, the chances are minuscule.

2) Q: Do albinos always have albino children?
A: Yes, with qualifications. The children of two albinos will always come out albino. Children of an albino and an albinism carrier have a 50 per cent chance of being albino themselves. A couple in which both carry the albino gene may have all albino children, but that possibility becomes less and less likely the more children they have. If a person without the albino gene has children with an albino, all their children will carry the albino gene, but none will be albinos, except in the case of #2 above.

I know of families who had several albino children, so it can happen. But I don't know of any albinos who married each other--although one would expect that to eventually happen [BUT: see link at the bottom of the page for examples]. It's possible to raise up a whole race of albinos--such as the Albino deer herd on an army base in New York. Or the albino rabbit. Such only happens, though, under special circumstances that make up for the survival advantages that all albinos lack.

3) Can someone be almost albino?

Not exactly; there are various degrees of albinism, but only three possible genetic states:

1. Both genes (one from the father, one from the mother) carry usable information on producing pigmentation (it's actually a bit more complicated, in that there are about a dozen genes in all that have influence on skin colour). The dominant gene will be evidenced in the person's skin colour.

2. One gene contains usable information on producing pigmentation, whilst the other is an albino gene, unable to produce pigment. This person will still have skin colour based on the dominant gene, but will be able to pass on the defective gene. There's no way of telling by looking at a person if he carries the albino gene or not, as it is unexpressed.

3. Both genes (one from each parent) are albino genes, and the person is unable to manufacture any pigment. He has ruddy white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes (the default colours when no pigment is present). All he can pass on to his children are albino genes, so all of his children will be either #2 or #3, depending on the other parent.

Now, some people have genes that are just barely able to produce pigment, so they will resemble an albino in many ways: ruddy white skin, blond hair, blue eyes. But they are capable of producing some melanin, so they will be able to tan slightly (although they will burn very easily, and are likely to freckle rather than tan). But these people are not technically albinos and are usually not referred to as such, except in jest.

4) Can white people be albino?

Albinism is the inability to manufacture melanin, the main pigment in skin, hair, and the iris of the eye. Regardless of what other genetic information may be present for producing a particular colour of skin, hair, or eye, the albino is unable to use it. Thus albinos are all the same in this respect, regardless of whether they would otherwise be considered "black" or "white." This is also why someone with only one albino gene is totally normal in appearance; the gene from the other parent is able to facilitate the production of however much melanin is called for by the rest of the genetic code.

5) If white is the presence of all colors, why do albinos not have pigment?

Pigments are defined by the colour(s) of light they reflect. A green pigment, for example, reflects yellow and blue light equally, absorbing all the rest. A black pigment absorbs all colours of light; the absence of any pigment reflects all colours of light.

6) Can albino children have freckles?

This is a tricky one, but the answer is "yes." The gene for freckles, which is dominant, overrides the inability to produce melanin in albinos that have it. These freckles can be larger and more numerous than they would be on others. But again, since the gene is dominant, there is no guarantee that just because one or both parents have freckles, that any given one of their children will. Only if one or both of the parents passes on a freckle gene will the child have them.

The changes that a child will be albino are generally 0%, 25%, 50%, and 100% as follows:
0% if one of the parents does not carry an albinism gene.
25% if both parents are carriers, but not albino
50% if one parent is albino and the other a carrier
100% if both parents are albino.

I realise I left one matter hanging: why are newborn babies so light skinned, even if they are born to heavily pigmented parents?  It has nothing to do with being born albino; normally babies don't form melanin in their skin for a while after being born. This, by the way, is also why all light-skinned babies start out with blue eyes, whether or not they have darker eyes later on.

Inasmuch as there are actually four different genes, defects in which result in albinism, there are various combinations and degrees of albinism that I don't go into here. Above is just a general overview.

Inasmuch as this has been, since the day I published it, my most popular post, I've gone back and edited it a bit in the interests of accuracy.

There is another post on the topic here

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The myth of respectability

About one hundred years ago, Bible Institutes began to crop up in the United States of America. The impetus for starting them was to provide pastors with a biblical foundation for ministry, now that the mainline universities had more or less all switched to teaching modernism in their seminaries. There was no thought of accrediting the institutes, their founders having seen all to well what happened when religion became respectable.

Fifty or more years passed, and the federal government began getting involved in education. As more and more federal money flowed into the coffers of Bible Institutes, they came under more and more pressure to obtain certification as bona fide institutions of higher learning. Bigger schools had already long since started on the route of Bible Institute -> Denominational Bible College -> Nondenominational Liberal Arts College -> University. The smaller schools had all folded or been forced to forgo federal funding by 1995.

So here were are, with ministry students once again being forced to choose between a formerly Christian University that teaches evolution and social Darwinism, or a small struggling unaccredited institute run out of a local church. So short has been the turnaround, that most students at the Universities are unaware that their own school may have fit the latter description during the very lifetime of some of their professors.

But there is a lesson to be learned in all of this, and we need look no further than Sweden, where the government has been involved in education as long as there has been a State Church. The Örebro Theological Seminary never aspired to be a University, but did seek accreditation as soon as it became available. So respectable was their curriculum that the public schools sought for teachers of religion from among their graduates.

But all that started to change in 2009.

According to Christianity Today, “The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education reported in June that state-supported schools must favor religious studies over theological education.” The government agency is in charge of inspecting and promoting higher education in the Scandinavian country, evaluates universities and colleges, conducts quality assessments, and takes initiatives in updating teaching methods.

Higher education in Sweden is free of charge as the school system is largely financed by taxes. A result of the policy change is that “students could ultimately lose government allowances, a necessity in the Swedish system of higher education,” according to Christianity Today.

So, the power of the purse always comes in to play. The National Board of Higher Education in Sweden decided that the course of education at the Seminary was--of all things--too religious. No matter how we cut it, true religion just doesn't get respect. In order to keep the kroner coming, the Seminary had to bring in more classes on religious criticism and de-certify practical courses like Homiletics. So we are back full circle: the aspiring preacher must now take an unaccredited class in order to learn his trade. He may as well go to school in a Log Cabin. But he'd better hope it doesn't become the next Princeton University and Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Lisa Miller updates

The following information is from an interview Lisa Miller gave in 2008:

-Janet Jenkins did not think she would be able to bond with Isabella because she was not her own flesh.
-Lisa was a foster parent at the time she became pregnant with Isabella and had to give the child up.
Janet said of Isabella; "I don’t want to have any responsibility for her – she’s not my child but I just want to see her once in a while."
-Janet told Lisa she wanted to kill her. This was when Lisa left the relationship.
-Janet requested that their civil union be dissolved so she could file for bankruptcy.
-Lisa is the only one named on Isabella's birth certificate; there is no mention of Janet Jenkins.

And in further news:
During the last month the US detectives, the US embassy people and the local police have been harassing the Jinotega brethren. (They have also questioned [Timo's parents] and two of Timo’s brothers.) They are constantly watching and trailing the Jinotega brethren and again and again ask them a lot of questions. They have even said that if they do not help them find out where Lisa is, they could deport some of them, or put them in jail or do what the local police do here when they investigate. (And that is not nice. It's a vicious threat!) They are not very nice about the whole thing and almost force people to talk. This has been a very tiring time for the brethren there.

Toward the beginning of all this they had come to the Jinotega school/church house combination to pick Lisa up, but God had sent her away already. Later they brought in a bunch of Special Forces to invade the house she had been living in. But she was gone.