Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Joke

This one's borrowed from Dr. Ben Carson:

A wealthy man liked to give his mother expensive gifts, but was running out of ideas. One day he heard about these trained birds. They could walk and talk and sing and dance. They were spectacular, and he knew he had to get one for his mother.

They were $5000 each, but the man bought two and had them sent to his mother. He couldn't wait to call her up and ask what she thought.

When enough time had passed for her to receive them, he called and said "What did you think of the birds?"

His mother replied "Mmmm they were good!"

In shock he said "You weren't supposed to eat them. Those birds were special. They cost $5000 each! They could sing and dance, they could walk and talk."

His mother replied "Well, you think they'd have said something."

Perhaps you'd rather hear him tell it. In fact, I recommend watching the entire video. A great speech by a great man.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Joke

Schrodinger and Heisenberg are driving down the highway when a cop pulls them over. He walks up to the window and asks "Sir, do you know how fast you were going?"

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Joke

A Texas rancher was driving through Mexico and stopped at the edge of the road to admire the scenery when a beautiful white horse caught his eye. The horse looked healthy, well kept and was in a separate corral. The Texan knew he had to have that horse, and asked one of the workers if the horse was for sale. The worker trying to communicate said “No, no, he no look good.”

The Texan was not satisfied with the answer because he saw that the animal looked beautiful and insisted on buying it. He found the owner of the ranch, who told him the same thing "he no look good." Realizing that the owner probably just wanted to bargain with him, he raised his offer, and  after a few rounds of this the owner arranged for the sale and the Texan took the horse back to his ranch.

He rode the horse through his ranch and galloped to the barn when suddenly the horse ran right into the barn wall. Frustrated the Texan took the horse back to Mexico and complained to the man who sold him the horse and explains what happened. The owner said, “I told you he no look good.”

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rouding out my weekend

I was browsing around the interwebs yesterday when I came across this cool video about the definition of the kilogram. I was aware of the attempt to make a very round sphere of silicon, but didn't know the history behind it. Vive Lavoisier! [Well, requiescant in pace Lavoisier.] As Mr. Spock would say "fascinating."

I also didn't know why they used silicon. Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust (after oxygen), and yet was unknown until the 19th century because it bonds so tightly in chemical compounds. It seems silicon was used for this because we know so much about its crystal structure.

Of course, after watching the video I went to find out more and found this article by the lab that produced the spheres. Interesting, btu I must take offense at their claim:
CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Precision Optics is the only place in the world capable of fabricating round objects with the accuracy required for the Avogadro Project.
The best sphere the ACPO team has ever made had a total out-of-roundness of 35 nanometres. That is, the diameter varies by an average of only 35 millionths of a millimetre, making it probably the roundest object in the world.
Now, as an amateur telescope maker I have to say that's good, but not great. I have made spheres accurate to 5nm, so these are certainly not the roundest objects in the world. Here is a graph of a mirror made by a friend of mine showing the surface error in nm (I'm assuming he doesn't mind me using an image displaying his optical fabrication prowess).

This is a 20" diameter paraboloid that's accurate to within 10nm. Makes the silicon sphere look bumpy! On the other hand, the mirrors we make are not complete spheres, but segments of spheres (or often paraboloids, as the optical design calls for different shapes). I don't think it would be any harder to make a complete sphere than a segment, but I can't say for sure.

I was also curious as to how they tested a convex sphere to that accuracy. It is easy to test a concave sphere, much harder to test a convex sphere. The video indicates that they used a laser spinning around the sphere. But that test would depend on the accuracy of the bearing the laser spun on. I guess that would have to be averaged out over many tests.

Either way, this is a fascinating topic, that bears witness to the beauty and complexity of even the simplest thing in nature.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Evangelical Homosexuality

LifeSiteNews published an article last week, Homosexuality: No Truth without Love, no Love without Truth. The gist of the article is that
The homosexual rights movement understands that the evangelical church is one of the last resistance movements committed to a biblical morality. Because of this, the movement has adopted a strategy of isolating Christian opposition, and forcing change by political action and cultural pressure.

Can we count on evangelicals to remain steadfastly biblical on this issue? Not hardly. Scientific surveys and informal observation reveal that we have experienced a significant loss of conviction among youth and young adults. No moral revolution can succeed without shaping and changing the minds of young people and children.
Now, there's a lot of truth in that. The author blames the erosion of "biblical morality" on a lack of preaching, or catechesis, if you will.

Our churches must teach the basics of biblical morality to Christians who will otherwise never know that the Bible prescribes a model for sexual relationships. Young people must be told the truth about homosexuality–and taught to esteem marriage as God’s intention for human sexual relatedness.
There's only one problem with this, which became apparent in a Facebook discussion. I belong to a Facebook group, "Catholic-Protestant Debate" where the question was raised "is polygamy a sin?"

From a Catholic perspective, it is an open-and-shut case. We know that Jesus said in the synoptic Gospels "But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” St. Paul tells us "Deacons may be married only once and must manage their children and their households well." We know the Church Fathers taught monogamy to be virtuous, and the Church declares this as her teaching. The Catechism says:
2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law." [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive."180 The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children. 

And yet the Protestants in the group have gone on for days debating one another over interpretations of various passages, pitting Old Testament against New Testament, and arguing the authority of one book of the Bible over another.

So, not to get too far afield, assuming Protestant preachers don't shy away from teaching "Biblical morality" about homosexuality, what would they preach? I went looking for Christian resources on Biblical teaching on homosexuality and found some interesting things. For the record, Romans 1:26-27 reads:

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

This is far from the only psssage in the Bible condemning homosexuality, but it is one that at first glance appears to be rather clear cut. However, books don't read themselves. I was prepared for the argument I had heard before, that Paul was not a moral authority, only Jesus, and He didn't speak directly about homosexuality. I was not prepared for the arguments I found.

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance notes the following objections to Paul's writing:

...the persons involved in the orgy were former Christians, and were heterosexual. Romans 1 condemns them because they went against their nature -- their heterosexual orientation -- and engaged in same-gender sexual behavior. By the same reasoning, lesbians and gays who went against their fundamental nature -- their homosexual orientation -- and engaged in opposite-gender sexual behavior would also be sinning.

Wow, so it's a sin for same sex attracted people to have non-homosexual relations? The most ridiculous may be this one

in his book "The Deliverance of God." Campbell suggests that in Romans 1:18-32, Paul was presenting an argument by others that actually oppose his own beliefs.

But wait, there's more! In Pro-gay Arguments about Romans 1, the author notes several more arguments presented to refute the "traditional" reading for Romans 1:
  • Paul is culture-bound, either to his Jewish culture or to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture.
  • Paul borrows a legalistic list for Romans 1 that he as an anti-legalist does not fully support, just for rhetorical effect (Edwards 1984).
  • Paul speaks about perversion (what heterosexually oriented folks do when they commit homosexual acts) instead of true inversion (what homosexually oriented folks do).
  • we today have no reason to treat the Bible's condemnation of homosexual acts any differently than we now treat the Bible's endorsement of certain forms of slavery. "It was fine for then, but we know better now. "
  • sexual acts that homosexuals do are condoned by evangelicals when done in a heterosexual marriage, so obviously it is not the acts that are at issue.
  • arsenokoitai "man-bedding," and malakoi "soft" unclear, words that are usually translated "homosexual."
  • Paul is condemning lust, condemning sex-centered exploitation, but not committed caring emotional same-sex relationships.
So, in other words, it's not necessarily a lack of preaching, but also what is being preached that undermines the moral authority of Protestant preachers. Without an authoritative interpreter, the Bible really can be taken to mean anything. Morality becomes a matter of tradition, not revelation.

I know Protestants like to paint a picture like they are all "one" and that Catholics are the outsiders (perhaps not even Christians at all), but the reality is the only thing any two Protestants are guaranteed to have in common is a rejection of Catholicism.

Monday Joke

One Sunday morning, Satan appeared before a small town congregation during services. Everyone started screaming and running for the front church door, trampling each other in a frantic effort to get away.

Soon, everyone was gone, except for an elderly gentleman who sat calmly. Satan walked up to the man and said, "Don't you know who I am?"

The man replied, "Yep, sure do."

Satan asked, "Aren't you going to run?"

"Nope, sure ain't," said the man.

Perturbed, Satan asked, "Why aren't you afraid of me?"

The man calmly replied, "Been married to your sister for over 48 years."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Scouts consider more policy changes

Irving, Texas (MNN) -- Pot heads hoping to join the Boy Scouts will have to wait until at least May after the organization's executive board put off a vote on lifting its outright ban on openly marijuana smoking scouts and troop leaders.

The board had been expected to vote Wednesday on a proposal to let local groups set their own policies, but said instead that it needs more time to get comment on the issue from its members.
"After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," the board said in a written statement.

The decision will now be made at the organization's annual meeting in May. About 1,400 members of the group's national council will take part during that gathering, the board said.

In the meantime, the organization will "further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns."
The decision disappointed critics who had hoped to see the organization end its ban despite a 2000 Supreme Court ruling saying it had the right to keep it.

"Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails, dude" said Marijuana Rights Champion Bob "Marley" Jones. "Now is the time for action. Young Americans, stoned and straight, are hurt by the inaction associated with today's news. The BSA leadership should end this awful policy once and for all, and open the proud tradition of Scouting to all."

Conservative groups and some religious organizations have argued against making any change, saying it would dilute the Boy Scout message of morality and potentially destroy the organization.

The Boy Scouts announced last month that the organization would consider changing the policy, a sharp reversal of its previous support for excluding openly marijuana smoking members and scout leaders.

The proposal comes more than a decade after a Supreme Court ruling that found the organization has the right to keep marijuana smokers out, but also amid declining participation in the venerable American institution.

Membership in Boy Scouts has declined by about a third since 1999. About 2.7 million people now participate in scouting nationwide, with more than 70% of troops affiliated with a church or religious groups.

The organization has also endured frequent criticism from marijuana rights groups and other critics who say the Boy Scouts should not endorse discrimination.

[A parody of this.]