Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hiatus

I know . . . it's a cop-out.

I'm almost at the mile stone of reaching 100 posts and here I go-- I decide to take a break.

I still have a lot to say, but I'm starting to realize that I need to spend less time writing here and more time doing some other things. For now, at least.

But, I'll be back.

I'm attempting to sacrifice some time now, so that I can have more time later to blog to my heart's content. So, this hiatus is for the best; I'm planning for the future, you see.

I'll still answer comments to older posts if anyone should want to comment. I'll still be reading and commenting on the blogs I personally follow. But as for my spot here, I need to take a little time away.

But, I'll be back soon . . .

I promise.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Passion Crimes

A married couple managed a local TV station together in Buffalo, New York, but their marriage appears to have been volatile. The wife filed for divorce after claiming to be abused by her husband.

But before the child custody hearing date arrived, the wife was found dead in the hallway of the local TV station where she worked with her husband.

The husband has turned himself in to police but has not confessed to committing the murder of his wife. No weapon has been found and the children are in the care of one of the husband's colleagues at the time of this blog post.


The wife has a sister who is on her way to New York to see what the courts will do with the children. She hopes she can acquire the two kids. She admits that she always felt that her brother-in-law would do something like this. She may have even heard the murder happen over the phone. While she was talking with her sister, their conversation was abruptly interrupted. She over heard her sister arguing with her husband on the other end. Then, she heard what sounded like a struggle. Her sister never came back on the phone line.

Another horrible case of domestic violence.

Or is there more to this?

The couple: Muzzammi and Aasiya Hassan

They are Muslim Americans.

Aasiya Hassan was brutally assaulted and beheaded. This method of her murder raises suspicion that she died due to Islamic fervor.

And the purpose of the local TV station? To broadcast shows that curbed negative stereotypes of Muslims.

What a dark, horrific irony!

So, is this domestic violence? Or is this an Islamic "Honor Killing"?

Muzzammi Hassan has been divorced before. He has teenage kids from a previous marriage.

I assume his former wife is still alive. No one has said so far in the media.

I am quite tempted to blame this on their religion. But, I hesitate. Often, we've seen parents ruthlessly kill their children; husbands kill their wives. Sometimes wives kill their husbands. Are we being unfair to insist that Islam has fueled this murder?

At what point do we say this is no different from any other member of any other demographic committing the same sort of crime?

Or, does the question even matter?

Regardless of our feelings on the matter, I hope justice prevails. I also hope the children find safety and can begin to heal at the loss of their parents.

Here are two stories to read for yourself:

U.S. Muslim TV boss 'beheaded wife'

'Monster decapitated my sister'

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

You didn't think my wife would let me blog on Valentine's Day, did you?


Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin Misunderstood

Today is the 200th birth anniversary of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the introduction of his theory of Evolution.

Darwin's works are largely misunderstood according to many biologists. And many magazine articles of late have made a huge point of this.

Once I heard an interesting comparison between the Bible and Darwin's works -- they were both the least read books on Earth.

And both are also the most misunderstood.

I think the most powerful misunderstanding that I once held was that evolution had little evidence to support it. I've come to change my mind about this. To me, the evidence is very convincing and plentiful. Another misconception I had was that Darwin's work supported slavery. I have also heard often that Darwin believed in slavery and expressed this in his works.

But this BBC news article says something quite different. Darwin seems to have abhorred slavery and quietly hoped his work would help imply how wrong slavery truly was.

Even if you don't agree with evolution-- Darwin Style, consider making sure you truly understand his works. That way when you agree or disagree with him, you'll really know why for yourself.

That goes for me, too.

I plan to do this by reading through Darwin's works for myself throughout this year. If I find that the BBC article was inaccurate in my reading, I'll try to do a post about it.

As a matter of fact, if I feel I need to retract anything I've written about evolution after reading it -- I'll try to do a post about it.

Nothing takes the place of knowing for yourself.

Doing this with the Bible isn't such a bad idea, either.


Happy Darwin Day!

Oh, and I'd also like to give a shout out to ol' Honest Abe. It's his bicentennial birthday, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Green Leafy Slug

Remember high school biology? Plants have chlorophyll-- that stuff that makes their leaves green and helps them make their own food from sunlight. And making food from sunlight is called photosynthesis.

Remember?

Brings back memories, huh?

Well, I personally just learned about a sea slug that eats algae. I read about it in the February 2009 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine.

And . . . ?

The sea slug absorbs the chloroplast and genes from the algae it eats.

Then the slug has the ability to perform photosynthesis for itself.

Just like a plant does.

But, the slug is an animal!

Just imagine if you ate salad for a few weeks. Then afterwards, you could produce your own nutrition for the rest of your life just by standing in the sun!

And your skin would turn green and leafy, too. Kewl!

I wonder if sea slugs will even need to eat algae after a few million years go by. Too bad I won't be around to see that!

When I learn things like this, I have a hard time dismissing the theory of Evolution.

Sea some pictures, read more details:

Wild Things: Life As We Know It: Green Energy

Elysia Chlortica: Wikipedia

The Sea Slug Forum

New Scientist: Solar-powered sea slug

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Murdered?

Be forewarned. This post was hard for me to write. In turn, this post may be hard for you to read.

Before my dad passed away, he "crashed" the night before. He was already in the hospital. We received "the phone call" and rushed to his bedside.

So many of us were there. We circled around his bed and prayed.

He finally woke up and looked around. He wondered why we were all there praying. Why all the hubbub? After all, in his mind he had only fallen off to sleep.

I never noticed it, but my wife says tears started streaming down his cheeks; the reason for our presence finally dawned on him.

He realized now that he had almost died.

The doctors placed an oxygen mask over his face; this was a change from the thin, plastic oxygen tube that was customarily under his nose.

As the night went on, his breathing grew laborious. He developed an unquenchable thirst and wanted to remove the mask to drink some water. The nurse insisted that he didn't do that.

The staff would only allow him quick sips of water, but forbade any prolonged removal of his mask. In fact, they would only push the mask to the side or pull it up in order to insert a straw into his mouth from time to time.

He complained more and more about that mask.

Finally, I approached a nurse in private.

"My dad wants to take his mask off. Why can't he?" I accosted. He's really uncomfortable with it on".

"If your dad takes that mask off, he will die," the nurse tersely replied. Then, she walked away.

What can one say to that?

So, I found myself doing all I could to make sure that mask stayed on his face. But knowing that the mask was a discomfort, I tried to compensate by asking him for anything he might need.

The next day, my dad's situation grew worse. Breathing seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth for him. And he didn't seem coherent any more.

At that point, he was probably already gone. Maybe not. But I just couldn't get through to him any more. He wouldn't speak clearly. He couldn't write anything that made sense. He only motioned and pointed, yet he never seemed to point at anything in particular.

Though oddly, he never stopped fidgeting with his mask.

I sat with him for a while. The I decided I'd go home for just a bit and come back later that on to visit with him. I turned and waved "bye" to him in the doorway. He waved back.

That seemed to be the only coherent connection I made with him that day.

After I left-- when no one was looking-- he took off his mask.


******


Though this was hard for me to write, today will not be a sad day for me. So please, try not to be sad yourself if you actually read through all of that.

I can't help thinking of my dad after hearing that Eluana Englaro, has passed away-- the poor lady in Italy who was preserved in a vegetative state for 17 years.

Sad news, yes, but I'm sure her father can start seeking closure now.
And Eluana can finally rest in peace.

While the Italian government was attempting to pass an emergency measure to block the euthanasia of Eluana, doctors had already removed her feeding tube and administered medicines to keep her comfortable as she passed away.

People are calling her death a murder despite the fact that her vegetative state seemed permanent.

So, was Eluana murdered? Was her death a "tragic execution"?

I think murder and execution are strong words.

I'd rather use the words cruel and inhumane.

But that's for wanting to keep her alive until she passed "naturally".

And now I think back to my dad. If I had the power to keep him alive, I certainly would have done so. If I could have kept that mask on his face, I would have.

But that isn't what my dad wanted.

Today, I respect that.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Healed!!!

My son wore glasses since he was three years old because of the early onset of "Lazy eye".

My wife picked up on this as soon as it started happening. You see, "Momma" doesn't let anything get by her watchful eye when it comes to her two precious babies.

But me . . . I thought she was being over protective.

Then I started seeing his eye cross, too.

Mothers are always right about their kids being sick.

Well, almost always. There was the first day we brought our newborn son home from the hospital. I told my wife that we didn't need rush him to the emergency room, but noooooo-- she and my mother wouldn't . . . well, never mind. I digress.

My son is seven years old, now. And while he's usually honest, he's been less than truthful on an occasion or two. So when he told me that he now sees better without his glasses, I was . . . um, what's the word?

S k e p t i c a l.

But, maybe he was telling the truth; Just to be sure, I made an appointment with the optometrist.

In the meanwhile, I ran across an article in the February issue of Scientific American about lazy eye and how the child's brain can adapt with treatment. This same phenomena about brain plasticity may one day be better understood and better applied to adults.

I also read how video games help a child overcome lazy eye.
My son liked that news very much. Momma -- not so much.

Anyhow, many kids with lazy eye wear an eye-patch to correct the problem (Argh, Mateies). The patch covers the good eye, which forces the bad eye to do focus like normal.

Our eye doctor was quite clever, however. He prescribed glasses that accomplished the same goal as the eye-patch. He figured our son would do a better job with glasses, rather than a patch.

He was right.

No wonder that doctor's office stays full.

His schedule is so busy and we've moved farther from his office. So, we took my son to a new doctor.

I explained everything to her and showed her my son's glasses.

After the exam she says that his current glasses are too strong for him. And, she also says that buying him glasses is not worth doing at this time.

Praise be to medical science!

Just so happened, a big family get-together was underway right after my son's eye appointment.

The In-laws noticed that my son wasn't wearing his glasses any more.

I told them that he didn't need them any more. The eye doctor said that the glasses were too strong for him now. His lazy eye condition has been corrected by the glasses he wore.

Everyone that listened gasped with amazement.

I could read their thoughts: God miraculously healed him!

Yeah, my son's eyes were healed alright.

But not for the reasons they all thought.

Maybe they should start reading Scientific American, too.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Train Up a Child

I often wonder what to do about my kids. I want to teach them what I've now learned about the Bible. I want to teach them not to take the Bible so literally.

But at the same time, I do not want to forbid them the opportunity to believe in God if they want to do so. Nor do I want to forbid that they explore church. But, I want them to know up front what I know. I want church and the Bible to have the burden of proof in their minds, rather than they grow up believing in God, church, and Bible unquestioningly. I don't want them to assume that clergy and the Bible in particular are the ultimate authority on all things.

But being in the closet makes this very difficult. My mother and my mother-in-law both pump my oldest son with teachings about God. Yet, this only fills him with questions that I have trouble answering without giving away my non-belief. My daughter is very young -- that's primarily why I don't mention her as much as my son. But, she is going to a Christian based daycare. She gets bombarded, too.

I don't want to totally intervene and plainly tell them God is no different from Santa Clause. Who knows. One day, I may change my own mind about that. However, I don't want them to blindly obey a scripture text without knowing something about what archeology and history revel concerning any given scripture text.

Also, I know my son will start to leak my non-Christian views to my two "moms" and blow my cover should I start plainly sharing my views.

So, what should I do?

I feel like a coward sometimes by avoiding many of my son's questions. I feel selfish, too. I feel selfish for not telling my children what I think is best for them in a plain, outright fashion-- all because I don't want people to know that I've changed.

Yet, I also feel selfish for wanting to curb their developing faith in God. I want them to be their own persons and decide for themselves. But, I want them to posses the information that I have learned as they make their personal decisions about God.

Funny how the Bible says to train up a child and they will not depart from the path that you teach them. My mother did this with me; it didn't turn out so well thus far. And I secretly hope that fundamentalist Christianity doesn't work for my children, either.

So, what should I do as they grow up?

I suppose all I can do is teach my kids to think for themselves. Let them learn the Bible, but let them learn the faculties of reason and skepticism, too.

Otherwise, I 'm at a loss as to what to do.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Move Over, Anaconda

Many animals that are small in modern times had larger versions of their species millions of years ago.

Here's a great example: Fossil of Monster Snake Found in Colombia

And here's a different, shorter article on the same discovery: Largest snake 'as long as a bus'

Discoveries like these make me even more confident in Darwinian evolution.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Give Me Liberty, Give Me Death: An Update

In a very recent post, I referenced an article about a father in Italy who is trying to allow his daughter to pass away after being in a vegetative state for 17 years.

The father finally received permission for the courts, only to have his wishes for his daughter revoked at the last moment.

Many religious people speak out against the father's desire for euthanasia, calling the act outright murder.

And the courts say that the clinic cannot allow the daughter to die because of the unlawfulness to pull feeding tubes from a patient. Doing so would be refusing food to a patient.

I wonder if church leaders would change their minds about euthanasia should one of their Cardinals or priests fall ill and remain in a vegetative state for the next 17 years.

I also wonder how many religious people can call euthanasia outright murder when they don't even want scientists to learn more about stem cells -- which can prolong and save lives.

I admit, pulling feeding tubes does seem harsh. But can't a peaceful, humane way be found besides starvation?

Can't a more humane solution be found than just keeping her alive as a vegetable? How is keeping this poor woman in this state any more humane than euthanasia?

Oh, that's right . . . her vegetative state is God's will.

Sorry, I forgot about that.

Here's the follow-up article: Italian Right-to-die move blocked

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pushed out of the Picture

Scientific discovery seems to widen the chasm between reason and faith. A scientific mind can remain religious. But, religion must start to make extra room for scientific observations. This often translates into gradually shedding unproven claims about how God governs our universe.

Copernicus and Galileo experienced their difficulties because of the prevailing understanding of nature. The understanding of nature was controlled by religious leaders of their day. As a result, Copernicus and Galileo nudged the hand of God upon publishing their discoveries; they both gently backed God's sovereign hand away from his own creation. And worse, these men also nudged at the self proclaimed infallibility of God's clergy. Why? Because their observations were in conflict with religious thought. These scientists became heretics.

Issac Newton was perhaps the glue that made the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo finally stick. Also, some historians argue that the true discipline of science wasn't born until Newton's papers on Optiks and the Laws of Motion were published. But when Newton introduced his discoveries, he seemed willing to give God credit for whatever he found. Newton mentions God's influence in his primary work, the Principia, and is quoted by sources saying things like:

Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.

So, Newton did not fully abandon his religious mind in the face of great scientific discovery.

But as time went along, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Psychology began to develop into their own stand-alone fields of study. And with more and more scientific discoveries from each filed, reason was making a regular habit of nudging the hand of God and his clergy a little further out of the picture of creation.

So, today, when we hear about a child being born with 12 fingers and 12 toes, should we wonder why God allowed this? Why did God let such a thing to happen? Yet, biology helps us understand better how this happened. Genetics shows us that this child was likely to inherit this physical anomaly because his decedents were known to have a higher incidence of extra fingers and toes. The newborn's father admitted this characteristic was prevalent in his family.

Personally, I don't blame God for this. Would you? Nor would I mock and ostracize this child for being different. All good natured people will accept his differences and hope that he has a relatively normal life.

But what do we say about God when he allows people to develop Multiple Sclerosis, now that scientists are discovering that vitamin D deficiency is correlated with this disease? Can we blame God for the way the MS gene behaves when vitamin D is deficient? MS can possibly be prevented or cured with a better understanding of how vitamin D works in pregnant mothers and in developing children. Did God deliberately keep us ignorant of this new found fact? And why didn't God also let us know that stem cell therapy could improve MS patients?

Or, do we simply start praising God for his benevolence, since he's given us these wonderful new discoveries?

Why praise? I admitted to not blaming God for these things, but not because I accept his "higher" and "mysterious" ways.

Instead, I don't blame God because I see his hand being pushed further out of the picture.

Therefore, I don't have much praise for God, either.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Give Me Liberty, Give Me Death

On matters of abortion, I have mixed feelings. I get uneasy trying to say that we can draw the line between when an embryo becomes a human life as opposed to when it is not.

From a purely biological and genetic view, an embryo seems to only be a cluster of cells during the very early stages of a pregnancy.

But, for someone who believes in God, the soul, and divine purpose -- that embryo is life right then and there. Even if birth control was employed, but failed in some way.

But also consider the drive for reproduction and how it cause people to make poor choices. Some people are not ready for offspring though they engage in sexual activity. And unfortunately, many people will go to dangerous lengths to terminate a pregnancy.

But for all one's trying to avoid pregnancy, you wonder why people allow such to happen if they didn't really want a child.

So, I understand the complexity of the debate on abortion. This is very difficult to solve.


But, sometimes wanting to preserve life only for the sake of preserving life could be a mistake.

But I'm no longer talking about abortion. Now, I'm talking about euthanasia.


I distinguish euthanasia from suicide only in that one who commits euthanasia is in the painful last stages of a terminal illness or is in a vegetative state. Or, arguably, a person has requested not to be resuscitated should they lose consciousness and the capacity to breath on one's own.

Should the religious beliefs of the living block the free will of people in such circumstances?

Consider the story covered in the following article? When it comes to euthanasia, do we even have a right to be the judge?

Italy Woman Sent to Clinic to Die

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Almost Went to Jail for Kissing his Wife

Yep. You read that title right.

Dude in India almost went to jail for kissing his wife in public.
And of course, his wife would be jailed, too; It takes two to tango!

Just sitting there at a subway station . . . young married couple, minding their own business.
Arranged marriage or not, they seemed to truly be in love.

No matter -- apparently the public display of affection is taboo in Delhi, India.

So that's why couples never kiss in Bollywood movies!

But this rigorous standard comes from the culture that produced the Kama Sutra!

C'mon now . . . the Kama Sutra.

Their culture seems to be in desperate need of an Enlightenment movement!


Here's the story to read for yourself: Indian Couple's kiss 'not obscene'

Monday, February 2, 2009

Be Fruitful and Multiply?

God said we should be fruitful and multiply.

But, maybe we don't need to take his command quite so seriously. In reading a science and nature article on overpopulation, these two sentences jumped out at me:

For humanity, this portends a potential cataclysm exceeding anything in our history. Our chance to avert such an outcome depends on our ability to address our numbers before nature reduces them for us.

Some environmentalists are saying that dealing with overpopulation is essential to saving our environment. But, many people want to ignore this problem and refuse to address it.

Read the following article for more information: Population: The elephant in the room

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are known for more than just being pesky. They can spread disease, too.

Mosquitoes spread malaria, West Nile, and all sorts of other nasty stuff.

Scientists have realized now that mosquitoes have antibodies that shred the genetic code of these diseases when they contract them. Yet, they still spread the stuff to their hosts when they feed.

How come they get a better immune system than us? Hey, what gives?!

Did God do that on purpose?

Anyway, scientists might find a way to create antibodies for people because of the mosquitoes immune system.

It's the least those nasty little pests could do for us.