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Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some items I found worth reading:


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Every generation of schoolchildren no doubt first assumes homework to be a historically distinct form of punishment, developed expressly to be inflicted on them. But the parents of today’s miserable homework-doers also, of course, had to do homework themselves, as did their parents’ parents. It turns out that you can go back surprisingly far in history and still find examples of the menace of homework, as far back as ancient Egypt, a civilization from which one example of an out-of-classroom assignment will go on display at the British Library’s exhibition Writing: Making Your Mark, which opens this spring.

Sunday’s Sermon

Following God’s Law: the Hard Questions

This item has been circulating in cyberspace:

Laura Schlesinger is a US radio personality, who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. She recently said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination, according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura which was posted on the Internet.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27.  How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend).  He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.  Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them?  Lev.24:10-16.

Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

Homer Simpson-Caldwell

Everyone (else) is a hypocrite

rkWe’re all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind.

Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind’s design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don’t always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves.

This modular, evolutionary psychological view of the mind undermines deeply held intuitions about ourselves, as well as a range of scientific theories that require a “self” with consistent beliefs and preferences. Modularity suggests that there is no “I.” Instead, each of us is a contentious “we”–a collection of discrete but interacting systems whose constant conflicts shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world.

In clear language, full of wit and rich in examples, Kurzban explains the roots and implications of our inconsistent minds, and why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else is a hypocrite.

Watch a video here.

Read a New Yorker piece here.

Remember Mal-U?

Thanks to wayback I can link to these pages thought

to be lost. Nothing on the net is lost!

Malaspina University-College History

Stories of how Malaspina came to be


Chapter One: Early History


Chapter Two: In the Hospital


Chapter Three: A Site to See


Chapter Four: Under One Umbrella


Chapter Five: College and Community


Malaspina’s history is published as an electronic document by the Media Relations & Publications department. The original work was produced as a “Challenge ’93” project and was researched and written by Brian Schmidt.

| Publisher: Marianne van Toor | Editor: Bob Lane |

| Researcher/Writer: Brian Schmidt |

Link to the complete document here.

Declining to Vaccinate

At a recent hospital visit for ongoing tests I was greeted by a masked man – not the Lone Ranger – but a technician who was wearing a mask (sort of) because he refused to have the flu vaccine.

We had a chat. My position, expressed in my usual way, was non-threatening: “People who don’t believe in science should be fired.”

I said this after he had completed the test.

The Brights sent this:

Learn more about vaccines here.

Looking back: Letter from a friend

f_rA few years ago after I had retired I received a phone call from a young woman who wanted to talk with me about doing a second degree in philosophy. She already had a degree in business administration and was looking for a discipline that would help her to deal with the “big” questions. My wife and I met her for a meal at a local White Spot. She turned out to be a sharp, inquisitive, well-centered young woman who had a keen intellect and who was serious about further studies. We talked about the department at Vancouver Island University and about the best way to pursue a second degree with the idea in mind of going on to graduate school. She taught Spanish to English speaking Canadians who wanted a tutor. She worked hard.

She indeed enrolled. She excelled in her studies. She was accepted to graduate school at SFU. Over the years she kept in touch with me. Last night [2012] I received a moving letter from her. She has given me permission to post its contents.

Dear Bob,

I lost my catholic faith. I acknowledge that the unwillingness to give it up was about tradition and the fact that my mother holds a very strong faith in the Christian God; in other words, tradition. But now that I came back to live in Colombia, in my town of Socorro (dominated by a spectacular cathedral in the main park and two more big churches in the other parks) I realized I cannot follow this tradition anymore.

One Sunday around two months ago we went to mass as we usually did on Sunday morning. I don’t remember exactly what the priest was talking about but all of a sudden he started talking about a famous TV host here in Colombia; his nickname is “Pacheco”. He was very popular in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Now he is old and retired. The priest said that because Pacheco was an atheist he had been forgotten and was out of the TV business. That revolted my stomach quite a bit and gave me the excuse I needed to tell my mother I cannot take it anymore, I cannot go to these masses where they utter stupidity. She agreed because for a long time she had felt the same way but never able to take a stand and at least stop going to these gatherings. She had questioned many things from the church before. She also studied a little bit of philosophy! She tells me that when asked by a priest whether the catholic church was absolute or relative (what a question eh?!?) she said “well, it is relative as any other church”. Ouch! The father was not happy and they had to change topic. She also hates every time the priests call other catholic churches “garage churches”. She always questioned (in her mind) the actions and doctrine of the church but only now that I am here she is being strong about it. Her friends are realizing she is not going back to church. They keep calling her. These same friends inundate her email with messages that are supposed to be revelations from god or the virgin Mary to whoever is writing the original message telling them what to do to protect themselves from the devil and “the end of times”. The things to do are, for example, leave a little bit of olive oil with two teaspoons of salt in a little plate, and then place the image of some saint above and the same image hanged behind the doors in your house and some other silly craziness. The devil won’t take you when “the end of times” comes. What a joke. We laugh and that is great.

It is very unfortunate that almost every small town in Colombia (and I say South America) was built in such way that Catholicism dominates and will do so for many years. The town is built around a main plaza which is dominated by a big church. They ring the bells loud and clear every time there is mass (one mass each day at least, not counting the funerals, and 4 masses at least on Sunday in every church. Yes, they have customers all right). They burn firecrackers even at 4 in the morning to announce religious holidays. I wrote a petition that I will deliver this week to ask the priests to stop the practice of burning firecrackers.

But if it took me this long; me, a person who studied philosophy, tried to defend religious faith and lost arguments in class and out of class, how long is it going to be for people who are bombarded by church stuff? The truth is this town needs to get rid of this faith, question its history.

My mother still has her faith in God, Jesus, Virgin Mary. But she does not feel she can be part of the catholic institution anymore. I am proud of her.

I remember when I started philosophy at VIU, religious faith was not a problem for me. I had never given it much thought. Since I was a kid I had thought that it was strange that god had created us knowing we would be sinners and then having to punish us, but I never pursued that question. Well, what a strange thing to have never done so!! I cannot believe it. But it takes someone, a teacher, someone to ask a good question, pursue that question and faith is on the line. Philosophy is a beauty. I am happy for this journey.

I wanted to share this event of my life with you. Every day I look forward to your blog postings.