Friday, October 28, 2016

Red Fish, Blue Fish

This is a wake up call to those voters holding their noses and voting for either Clinton or Trump to "block" the other candidate. No, I'm not going to call you names. I'm not even going to think you're a bad person - even if you're going to vote for Clinton. Everyone is entitled to vote their conscience.

But this is my blog, and I am entitled to a political rant every now and then, and today is "now." I'd like to talk to you about how to get out of the mess that we are in now, where we feel we have to "hold our noses" just to vote.

I'll start things off with a quote:
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."
-- Elmer T. Peterson
Peterson was thinking merely in economic terms, but let's think about it in terms of the republic our founding fathers founded.

We have an embarrassing wealth of candidates to vote for who promise to uphold the values we cherish - life, liberty, property. There are (at least, and in no particular order):
Feel free to comment with others if you have a favorite I missed.

Any one of those candidates would be a better choice, in terms of our nation's values, than either Clinton or Trump. But we will not vote for them. Some will not vote because none of these candidates is "proven" in terms of holding a high office in the federal government. Others will find problems with some minor aspect of their platform - economics, or foreign policy. Still others will not vote for them because they don't know enough about them - that's your fault, by the way - the information is out there - if you wait for the main stream media to feed you data you are a pawn.

But many will not vote for them because they "can't win." Think about that...

If you won't vote for the candidate you feel is best, how can you expect to ever get that candidate in office?

We have kicked the ball so far down the road that our "hope" is to elect a single leader who will appoint unelected officials who will then fix the laws made by the people we voted for. Think about that. This is the real fruit of our iniquity, of years of voting for prosperity instead of freedom, of compromise with evil instead of opposition. It's been said, and rightly so, that abortion exists in this country with the approval of Christians. Think about it - if all of the 260 million Americans who say they are Christian voted only for pro-life candidates we would not have one Planned Parenthood in the nation.

But instead we say "well, he kills babies, but look at what he'll do for the economy!" or "he's pro-life but what if he gets us into another Gulf war?" Certain things should be non-negotiable, but we are willing to negotiate if it means higher prices at the pump or maybe the chance to live another 10 years.

This is why we will soon have a dictator. Maybe not Clinton or Trump, but soon. I don't know if it'll be a Red dictator or a Blue dictator, but a dictator he or she will be. Let's hope we get Cincinatus instead of Hitler. I'm not optimistic.

What Would Hillary Do?

Source: Wikipedia
In his interview on EWTN last night Donald Trump criticized Hillary Clinton for her high-level staff members who mocked Catholics and evangelical Christians. “She should apologize. I think she has to do more than apologize. You know, that’s her thinking. That’s her staff.”

Around the Catholic interwebs there are various reactions, with a fair amount of people saying that Trump is lying about the emails or about Clinton's opinion of Catholics and evangelicals. Trump is not "lying" about the emails. You can claim WikiLeaks is lying about them, but I don't see Podesta or the others implicated coming up with evidence to the contrary, and they would be the ones to do so.

As for Clinton's opinion being different from those of her staff, what do you think would happen to a staff member who said disparaging things about blacks, or gays? Yes, it's speculative, but I bet they'd be fired on the spot and Clinton would be quick to distance herself from their position. In this case, her silence (and the lame defense by Tim Kaine) indicate that she doe not disapprove of their remarks.

And perhaps Podesta is right, in an ironic fashion, when he says Catholics "throw around 'Thomistic' thought and subsidiarity' and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they're talking about" - Clinton's views are the antithesis of subsidiarity (emphasis mine):
1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.
But Clinton and her staff can show open disdain for Catholics and evangelicals (and "needy Latinos") with impunity, because she knows they will vote for her no matter what she says about them, no matter what crimes they think she has committed, no matter what abominations she supports, as long as she promises to "help the poor."

As I've said before, there is no grace in forcing other people to do "good works" (assuming you consider the kind of works Clinton would force people to do as "good"). Or, in the words of Penn Jillette:
"Helping poor and suffering people yourself is compassion.  Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness."
Trump famously said "I could shoot somebody and still not lose voters" - and maybe that would be true hypothetically, but it's pretty much literally true that Clinton can kill and not lose voters (think Benghazi and abortion, to name just two instances where her hands are bloodied with the deaths of others).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Cross in the Old Testament

If you ask someone where to find the Crucifixion mentioned in the Old testament, they'll probably go to Zechariah 12:10:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
or maybe Psalm  22, which Jesus quotes from the cross, where it says:
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
or maybe Isaiah 53. But what about the cross itself? The cross has been the symbol of Christians for about as long as there have been Christians. Tertullian, in the second century, wrote "We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross" - and the practice goes back to long before that.

Which got me wondering - is the sign of the cross in the Old Testament too? If so, it would be a cool foreshadowing of Jesus' Crucifixion - almost as if God knew what was going to happen and gave out hints...

In Genesis, God puts a sign on Cain to mark him as His own, to protect him from being killed.
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
The Bible does not mention what that mark was, but it is speculated it might be the same mark that God puts on His people in Revelation and in Ezekiel. The word used for "mark," in the Old Testament is "Tav", the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the letter corresponding to the Greek letter Tau "T" or Roman letter Tee "T". Tav in Hebrew today looks like this:
but of course alphabets evolve over time. At the time, a "Tav" would have looked like "X" or

Interesting, isn't it? Then we have, not a cross shape, but Abraham's son Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice up Mount Moriah, which just happens to be the same location where Jesus would carry the wood of the cross for His sacrifice.

In Exodus, we have the instruction to smear the blood of the lamb on both the wooden upright door posts and the wooden cross beam, or lintel - another cross reference (pun intended).

Later on in Exodus, Moses has to hold up his hands for Israel to defeat Amelek (who represents sin and death). We're not told exactly how he held his hands, but Aaron and Hur stand on either side of him to help him hold them up. This suggests his posture was one of hands held up to either side, like Jesus on the cross.

In Leviticus, we have the offering of First Fruits, which comes right after Passover, and includes the wave sheaf offering:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the cereal offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, to be offered by fire to the Lord, a pleasing odor; and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
This is an offering of a lamb, but also of bread and wine, and the sheaf of wheat is to be "waved." From other texts, it seems that this wave was up and down and side to side, so... you guessed it, the sign of the cross!

I'm sure there are other instances that I'm not aware of, but I thought it was pretty amazing to see the hints of the New Testament hidden in the Old Testament.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Abbott and Constello meet Bishop Barron

A friend pointed me to Bishop Robert Barron's "Word of Fire" podcast entitled "Why Young People are Leaving the Church." I enjoy listening to Bishop Barron. He is an extremely intelligent man, who is well educated and a great speaker. However, I think he encounters a more erudite group of lapsed Catholics than I do.

In his podcast he says that one of the reasons people give for leaving the church is that science had proved God doesn't exist. He says that when he asks them for an example, they have none to give. That may be true for him, but when I ask the same questions I get answers. Wrong answers, but answers.

Here are some ways people have claimed to me that science has disproved the existence of God.

1) Evolution is true. Most people today, thanks to popular science explanations, have no idea that there is a difference between evolution (the notion that species change over time) and Darwinism (the unprovable claim that the reason behind the change is "random"). This is coupled with the false notion that belief in God depends on the Bible being interpreted as literalistically as possible, so that if there is evidence of the Earth being more than 5,000 years old, God's existence has been "proven." That has never been the position of the Catholic church.

Evidence does point to the Earth being several billion years old, and species changing over time. However, the mechanism for evolution is unknown, and even if it were known, science cannot address the question of "intent" as that is not a scientific question. Darwin's claim was that there was no intent behind the rules and mechanisms governing evolution (in other words, everything is "random"). That is not a claim science can prove or disprove by any means at its disposal.

However, even if Darwinism were true, it would not prove that God does not exist. It would merely mean that the mechanism for evolution was not being actively directed by God. And even if the only possible reading of the Bible were literalistic, an old Earth would not prove that God didn't exist, but merely that the Bible was wrong. Which brings me to point 2.

2) The Bible is wrong. Genesis is the book most often pointed too, but there are other books that have historical or scientific inaccuracies, either real or apparent. I find it ironic that the same people who argue that archaeology disproves the Bible because "X" does not fit current archaeological theories ignore the hundreds of times archaeology winds up confirming a Biblical account.

But even if we take these archaeological discrepancies as gospel (pun intended) the Catholic church doesn't claim that the Bible a science text or a history book. it is a book about the relationship between God and man. Everything else is merely an affirmation that it is not a mere myth, but describes events that actually happened. And even if the Bible were false, it says nothing about whether God exists. There are plenty of people who believe in God but not the Bible. Which brings me to point 3.

3) There are other religions, that make different claims. This is true, but it says nothing about whether the Catholic church's claims are true, or whether God exists. There was a time when light was "proven" to be a wave, and by some big names and very careful experiments. Other, equally careful experiments, by equally big names "proved" light was a particle. Nobody made the claim that because different people claimed different things about light that therefore light did not exist. The existence of light was taken as a given, and it was understood that any discrepancy between experiments meant one or both theories of light were false. Today we have a dualistic theory of light, which may still be wrong, but that doesn't shake our belief in light itself.

Likewise, if different religions make different claims about God it could be that one or both of them are wrong, or that God fulfills even seemingly contradictory claims (as was the case with light).

4) The church is full of sinners. This is also true, but says nothing about whether it's claims are true or whether you should belong to it, or whether God exists. The Catholic church has never claimed that all of its members are sinless (not even the Pope is sinless). In fact, the reason for being in the church and for having a relationship with God is, in part, forgiveness of sins. Would you really want to join a church where you were the only sinner? That would be incredibly awkward. Or, as the old joke goes:
Man: "The reason I don't go to church is that it's full of hypocrites!"
Priest: "Don't let that keep you away, we have room for one more."
The church is full of sinners, as Alcoholics Anonymous is full of alcoholics. But that's not a reason to not join AA, and it's not a reason to not join the church.

But ultimately I think that all these things are an excuse for the real reason most people leave the church, and the reason why none of these reasonable arguments convince them. Sin. If they put in the effort to follow the arguments and research the question, they would have to address the problem of sin in their lives. It is way easier to remain in ignorance and enjoy the way they live now.

It reminds me of an old Abbott and Costello routine about paying the rent. If you can stick with your mathematical ignorance and pay $28 in rent, why would you spend time learning how you were wrong about math just so next time you would have to pay $91?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Count Down

I am blessed with three healthy children, but one of them was (incorrectly) diagnosed with down syndrome. We declined to abort him (of course) and are so glad he is part of our life. In our case it was both a blood test and an ultrasound that "confirmed" the blood test. We did not go for the more accurate (and more expensive, and invasive, and dangerous to the baby) amniocentesis test, mostly because we would not have changed our decision to keep our baby no matter what the results were. And while I have your attention, please check out Reese's Rainbow.

Today I was reading this article that mentioned that 92% of all babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. I know, it's horrible, but I want to talk about something a bit different.

I wondered how many mothers went through all the extra tests, and the accompanying cost and pain and worry and stress of not knowing, and how many said "blood and ultrasound are good enough" and aborted right then. Which got me thinking about false positives.

It's hard to find numbers on false positives (unless maybe you have access to medical documents I don't have). But I did find this article in the Seattle Times which talks about how much more accurate the more extensive, late trimester tests are as compared to the standard first trimester tests (like we had).
cfDNA, tests have a detection rate of 99 percent for Down syndrome, with a false-positive rate of as low as 0.1 percent...That compares with a detection rate of about 79 percent through standard first-trimester screening, and a false-positive rate of 5.4 percent, the study found.
According to the CDC, one in 700 babies is born with Down Syndrome. Taking into account that 92% are aborted that means the rate of Down Syndrome is about 12/700 or 1.7%. That means if you are pregnant and the test comes back positive for Down Syndrome, the chance of the baby actually having Down Syndrome is 20%.**

Here's the math. There are 2 cases where the test will result in a positive:

1. The baby has DS (1.7%) and the test detected it (79%) = 1.7 x 79% = 1.35%

2. The baby does not have DS (98.7%) and the test had a false positive (5.4%) = 5.31%

So a positive will occur 1.35 + 5.31 = 6.66% of the time (I know, right?) but the baby will only actually have DS 1.35% of the time. 1.35 / 6.66 = 20% That means 80% of the time the baby is perfectly healthy and it's the test that's wrong.

This is reassuring if you are a mathematician, but if you are an expectant mother... I wonder how many mothers are frightened or bullied into aborting their "normal" children because of these tests? I would hope that every doctor would counsel a mother to wait for further testing, and even then help her to accept that all babies are imperfect and hers is just as worthy of love as any other baby, regardless of her baby's health or abilities. Sadly, I doubt many doctors do. Ours did not.

But let's say a mother rides out the fear and has the cfDNA test done. Things must be pretty definite then, right? Let's make sure:

1. The baby has DS (1.7%) and the test detects it (99%) = 1.7 x 99% = 1.68%

2. The baby does not have DS (98.7%) and the test has a false positive (0.1%) = 98.7 x 0.1% = 0.1%

A positive will occur 1.69% but the baby will have DS 1.68% of the time. The chance of the baby actually having DS is 99%. Pretty accurate.

Prenatal testing is one of those morally questionable technologies. On the one hand, it's good to allow parents to be prepared for health issues they may have to deal with down the line, and in some cases prenatal testing detects problems which can be treated. However, it tempts parents to treat the problem by eliminating the child rather than the disease.

[** Note to mathematicians out there. I realize that if you take into account the false positives then that 12/700 number is more like 2.4/700, which also affects the final probability, etc. Since I don't have any information on how many mothers abort after the first test and how many have a more accurate test down before aborting, I stuck with the most conservative numbers I could.]