Sunday, August 28, 2005

Poor Little Rapist?

This is very odd. A commentator at Denver's 5280 blog expresses sympathy for a rapist who has been categorized as a sex offender and got a big town meeting dedicated to informing the locals about his move out of jail and back into the community.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fred Phelps has Made a New Religion?

One Guy's Take on the Westboro "God hates Figs" Baptist Church

Members of WBC generally avoid the name "Christian" when referring to themselves, preferring the mysterious term "Tachmonite." This apparently refers to a servant of King David's, but I'm not sure of the derivation or the intention.

The Tachmonites believe Phelps is "the last prophet," with the power to determine who will be damned and who will be saved. They themselves, as followers of Phelps, also have the power to condemn souls to hell. Most people are destined for hell, but "Good Samaritans" who help the Tachmonites (for example, police officers who prevent counter-protesters from assaulting them) may be offered an indeterminate "reward" for their good conduct. Apparently "sola fide" is not part of the Tachmonites' creed.

via Eve Tushnet

Phelps' acolytes paid a visit to my parish last Easter Sunday, so I did a bit of slumming at their website. There are definitely remnants of old Reformation-Era doctrines, such as a commitment to Calvinistic predestination, but I didn't notice the wackier theology described here. Not that it would be incredibly surprising.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Renaissance-Era Catholic Ban on Dissection Overstated?

The Catholic Encyclopedia's article on Anatomy claims the ban on dissection was hardly so strict as some have alleged:

It is very commonly accepted that there was an interruption in the development of anatomical knowledge about the beginning of the fourteenth century because of a papal decree forbidding dissection. The statement that such a decree was promulgated is to be found in nearly every history of medicine published in English, and has been made much of in books on the supposed opposition of science and religion. There was no such decree, however, and the declaration that the development of anatomy was interfered with by the ecclesiastical authorities is founded on nothing more substantial than a misunderstanding of the purport of a decree of Pope Boniface VIII. In the year 1300 this Pope issued the Bull "De Sepulturis". The title of the Bull runs as follows: "Persons cutting up the bodies of the dead, barbarously cooking them in order that the bones being separated from the flesh may be carried for burial into their own countries are by the very fact excommunicated." The only possible explanation of the misunderstanding that the Bull forbade dissection is that some one read only the first part of the title and considered that as one of the methods of preparing bones for study in anatomy was by boiling them in order to be able to remove the flesh from them easily, that this decree forbade such practices thereafter.

A bit of lazy googling couldn't confirm this, but the only sites I read arguing otherwise were relying on those bad nineteenth-century "war between science and religion" historiographies.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In Public, There is no Beer

via Dappled Things, an argument for allowing supervised underage drinking parties. This paragraph particularly caught my eye:

Not only do such uncompromising approaches do little to make our roads safer, they often make them worse. The data don't lie. High school kids drink, particularly during prom season. We might not be comfortable with that, but it's going to happen. It always has. The question, then, is do we want them drinking in their cars, in parking lots, in vacant lots and in rented motel rooms? Or do we want them drinking at parties with adult supervision, where they're denied access to the roads once they enter?

Oddly enough, this is one of the arguments also used to justify enabling teenage rutting. I think a better argument for supervised drinking must describe the merits of drinking itself. Rather than focus on avoiding all the illnesses and deaths that can accompany overconsumption of spirited beverages, focus on conviviality and building concord among the generations. Typical of late Liberalism, we are only allowed to appeal to the relatively minor public goods of health and safety rather than the good life. And I'd bet "joys of drinking" lectures beat "safe sex" ones anyday.

As for drunk driving concerns, nobody seems conscious that such problems are exacerbated by the strictures of zoning regulations. In much of suburbia, there is no such thing as a neighborhood bar or, better, a pub. To be manipulative, how many people must die before we can walk home drunk?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hank Hill has a News Flash for LifeTeen Groupies

via the tNP forums:
"Can't you see you're not making Christianity better, you're just making rock n' roll worse."

Very sharp take on the jesus market. Somewhat fortunately, I managed to avoid my parish's youth group during my high school years, and thus all the transparent and shallow gimmickry.

One friend who has LifeTeen Groupie friends has commented that the advertising industry spends billions to nail down exactly what buttons to push to get people to commit their dollars to their clients' products. Shoestring Budget youth ministry shouldn't even try to compete in that area. Not that that stops them. Jesus is not our Ad Executive, though often we would like him to be.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Art, She is Not Dead

Back in the late eighties I saw my first computer-generated cartoon. A field trip to the National Renewable Energy Labs, (or was it the National Center for Atmospheric Research?) up near Boulder ended with our class sitting in a small theater watching an exquisitely-crafted CGI cartoon about a love story between a bird and a fish who lived with all their fellows in a large sphere. As any kid would be, I was utterly entranced with the short piece. A few years later, I made a ray-traced picture for a chess club flyer using good old POV-ray, a small freeware program. It looked great, especially since somebody else had built the framework for the chess piece models.

Of course, I quickly forgot about POV, and it never entered my mind until I discovered the POV Hall of Fame and's Choice Gallery. Sci-fi, fantasy, M.C. Escher, and Terry Gilliam's films are obvious influences. But at the moment what particularly strikes me about the medium is its many artists' dedication to realism--even if it is "magical" realism. Supposedly realism in painting declined with the invention of the photographic camera. But now that CGI artists are attempting to make nearly photorealistic portrayals of the images in their mind, it looks like the style might be up for renewal.

In the better art galleries, one comes across students planted in front of some finely-made painting with an easel and a pallette, hoping to learn the techniques of the masters. Likewise, some CG artists try to recreate classic works. There is an admirable attempt at remaking Jan Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, and one talented artist has made a stunning copy of Michaelangelo's Pieta.

A few "magical realist" pieces that caught my eye are Medieval Airport and one called Family, a snapshot of life amid a sea of pipes and machinery.

But perhaps the saddest artwork I have found in this medium is Innocent Shadow, depicting one small space in Nagasaki a few years after the atomic bombing.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A New Era Dawning?

Via Rachel Jurado, I just discovered this plot point in Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons:

The novel begins with frat boy Hoyt Thorpe’s discovery of a sexual encounter between a Republican governor and presidential contender (and Dupont alumnus) and a Dupont co-ed. This episode goes unnoticed by the national media, but it and the ethical complications that grow out of it provide the novel’s backdrop—the absence of absolute moral standards.

At his commencement speech the day after having sex with the co-ed, the governor tells the students, “Over the next hundred years, new sets of values will inevitably replace the skeletons of the old, and it will be up to you to define them.”

Wolfe sure has his finger on the pulse here. Putting such words in the mouth of a Democrat would be too cliched, ignoring the New Men of the GOP.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Science and Islamic Pseudohistory!

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has apparently published a long piece claiming the Christian West got many, many philosophical goodies from Muslim philosophers. This is not quite the case, as
Jonathan David Carson

The historian Christopher Dawson did perceive some Averroism in the thought of certain Italian scientists, even Leonardo da Vinci, as I recall. It's recorded somewhere in my dead tree notebooks. However, Averroism itself, like the Straussian school, deprecates religious belief in favor of purely philosophical life and inquiry.