Thursday, March 29, 2012

Great Thinkers, Great Thoughts, No. 11

1. We can learn even from our enemies. - Ovid

Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC -17/18 AD), commonly known Ovid was a Ancient Roman poet who is best known for his mythological poem, Metamorphoses; his two collections of poems, Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto; and for his three collections of erotic poetry, Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria. Ovid was also the author of several smaller pieces and the long curse-poem, Ibis. He is considered a master of the elegiac couplet and is ranked alongside of Vigil and Horace as one of the three greatest Latin poets. His poetry influenced art and literature particularly during the late Roman Empire and Middle Ages periods.


2. Guilt is a rope that wears thin. - Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand (born: Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum;1905-1982) was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright and screenwriter. . Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926.She is best known for her novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, both of which developed a philosophical system she called Objectivism. Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism. She also rejected all form of ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions.


3. Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepare to see them misunderstood. - H. L. Menken

Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken (1880 -1956) was an American journalist, essayist, editor, culture critic and English language scholar. He is regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the first half of the 20th century. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, and pseudo-experts. He was enthusiastic about scientific progress but skeptical about economic theories. He was critical of anti-intellectualism, bigotry, organized religion, Christian Fundamentalism, creationism and chiropractic medicine. He was also not a proponent of representative democracy which he believed enabled inferior men to dominate their superiors.


4. Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.
- Lao-tzu

The name Lao Tzu means Old Master. No one knows his real name or the dates of his birth or death. However, scholars place his birth between 600 and 300 B.C.E. He is credited with the writing of the Tao-Te Ching (tao means the way of all life, te means the fit use of life by men, and ching means text). Lao Tzu wanted his philosophy to remain a natural way to live life with goodness, serenity and respect. He laid down no rigid code of behavior and believed a person’s conduct should be governed by instinct and conscience. In addition, Lao Tzu believed that human life, like everything else in the universe, is constantly influenced by outside forces. He believed “simplicity” to be the key to truth and freedom and encouraged his followers to observe and seek to understand the laws of nature, to develop intuition and build up personal power, and to use that power to lead life with love, and without force.


5. For God hates utterly
The bray of bragging tongues.
- Sophocles

Sophocles (c. 497/6 BC - 406/5 BC) is one of only three Ancient Greek playwrights whose plays have survived. According to the Suda, a 10th century encyclopedia, Sophocles wrote 123 plays during his lifetime, but only seven have survived. They are Ajax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus. He competed in around 30 competitions, won about 24, and was never judged lower than second place. Sophocles influenced the development of the drama by more fully developing his characters, adding a third character to his works, and reducing the importance of the chorus in plot development.


6. Little by little, one travels far. - J.R.R. Tolkein

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist and Oxford University professor. He was also appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. He is best known as the author of the high fantasy works, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillio (which was published posthumously by his son.) These three works together form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, and invented languages about a fantasy world called Arda and Middle Earth which is within Arda. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the invented term, legendarium, to the most of these writings. In 2009, Forbes magazine maintained that Tolkien was the 5th top-earning dead celebrity.


7. Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not. - Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Gail Winfrey (born:1954) is an American Talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her multi-award-winning talk show which was the highest-rated program of its type in television history. It was televised from 1986 until 2011. She has been ranked the richest African-American of the 20th century and the greatest African-American philanthropist in U.S. history. She was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother, experienced considerable hardship during her childhood, was raped at age nine, and became pregnant at 14.(Her son died in infancy.) She got a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred to the daytime-talk-show arena, and after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company and became internationally famous. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1985 film, The Color Purple,


8. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874 -1963) was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England (6 North-eastern U,S. States) in the early twentieth century. He used the settings to examine complex social and philosophical themes. One of the most popular and critically respected American poets of his generation, Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime and received four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. Among his most famous poems are Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, The Mending Wall, and The Road Not Taken from which the above quote is taken. The text of the poem, The Road Not Taken, appears at the end of this article.


9. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. - Carl Jung

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 -1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and symbolization. While he was a fully involved and practicing clinician, much of his life's work was spent exploring tangential areas, including Eastern and Western philosophy, astrology, sociology, literature, the arts and alchemy. Many psychological concepts were first proposed by Jung, including the archetype, the complex and the collective unconscious.


10. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong. -John Lennon

John Winston Lennon (1940 -1980) was an English musician and singer-songwriter. He a member of The Beatles, one of the most successful and critically acclaimed pop music groups in the history of recorded music. Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, his writing, his drawings, on film, and in interviews. He became a controversial figure because of his political, anti-war and religious views and also because of his peace activism His music reached iconic stature with such songs as Give Peace a Change and Imagine. After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon. He was murdered in New York City three weeks after his final album was released. In 2002, a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted him number eight, and in 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him the fifth-greatest singer of all-time.


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, 1920

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Science vs. The Bible: The Evolution Debate

The Scopes Trial, also known as Scopes Monkey Trial and as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes was a American legal case in 1925 in which high school science teacher, John Scopes was accused and convicted of violating a State of Tennessee law (The Butler Act) which made it unlawful to teach evolution in any Tennessee state-funded school. The trial attracted national attention and reporters flocked to site of the trial, Dayton, Tennessee. Two big-name lawyers representing each side. William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic Party presidential candidate, argued for the prosecution, and a famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, defended Scopes. The trial pitted modern science against state-endorsed Fundamentalist theology. The Scopes' conviction verdict was overturned on a technicality and he went free. The teaching of evolution expanded, as fundamentalist efforts to use state laws to reverse the trend had failed - until now.

Eight-seven years after the Scopes trial, the Tennessee state Senate passed a bill Monday that protects teachers who allow students to question and criticize so-called "controversial" scientific theories like evolution. The Republican Party and Fundamentalist dominated Senate voted 24 to 8 for bill SB 893, which would allow teachers to "help" students to understand "the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories" like biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning. "The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge scientific thought and theory", Republican state Senator Bo Watson told The Tennessean newspaper. Watson is the bill's sponsor.

Democratic opponents of the bill, however, question whether the motives behind the measure are more political than educational. Democratic Senator Andy Berke said the bill would cast Tennessee in a negative light, referencing the Scopes trial and the state's history in fighting against teaching evolution in the classroom. "We're simply dredging up the problems of our past with this bill that will affect our future," Berke told The Tennessean. "I'm a person of faith. If my children ask, 'How does that mesh with my faith?' I don't want their teacher answering that question."

The measure has also drawn staunch opposition from several groups, including the National Center for Science Education and the American Civil Liberties Union. In a statement to legislators, eight Tennesseans who are members of the National Academy of Science said the bill will likely lead to "scientifically unwarranted criticism of evolution", the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports.Top of Form Bottom of Fo"By undermining the teaching of evolution in Tennessee's public schools, HB368 and SB893 would mis-educate students, harm the state's national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy", the statement read.

The move among Tennessee lawmakers is one of several across the U.S. that seeks to create teaching of the Bible-based notion of "intelligent design" in public schools. Indiana Republican legislators are pushing a bill that would allow school districts to decide whether to include the Bible story of creation alongside teachings of evolution in science curriculum. Republicans in Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Missouri have also considered similar bills designed to encourage critical examination of evolution theory. And, research from two Pennsylvania State University professors revealed last year that the majority of public school biology teachers in the U.S. shy away from teaching evolution because they are unwilling to teach it because some believe in creationism and others are afraid to address the topic for fear of controversy. According to results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (a Federal test known also known as The Nation's Report Card) less than half of U.S. fourth, eighth, and twelfth grade students were considered proficient in science.


Creationism (aka: creation science and intelligent design) is the religious belief that the universe and all life on Earth was created by a supernatural being. Although every faith has its own creation story, the most common belief is that all creation was the work of the God of Abraham. Creationism was a reaction to the evolution findings of Charles Darwin. Since the 1920s, Biblical literalists and creationists in America have contested scientific theories of evolution. Creationists believe that evolution cannot adequately account for life on Earth. Religious Christian fundamentalist creationists usually base their belief on a literal reading of the Biblical account in the first book of The Bible, Genesis creation narrative. When scientific research produces empirical evidence and theoretical conclusions which contradict a literalist creationist interpretation of scripture, creationists often reject the conclusions of the research or its underlying scientific theories or its methodology. The most notable disputes concern the evolution of living organisms, the idea of common descent for all of mankind, the geological Earth history, and the formation of the solar system and the universe.

For Fundamentalist and literalist Christians, the concept of creationism is premised on 3 notions: there is a God, God created man and the universe, and the account of creation by God is contained in The Bible. God may or may not exist. A logical case can be made both for and against the existence of God. People of intelligence and good will fall on both sides of the issue. Obviously, either the believer or the atheist is right. But in the end, whether there is a God or not boils down to a belief. Likewise, the notion that an all-powerful creator God created man and the universe equally is also rooted in belief. However, it is the third notion that we can examine, and based on a careful reading of the text, come to some logical conclusions.

Let us for the moment concede the as the literalists maintain, The Bible is the literal and unerring word of God and that God can do anything. But, how do the literalists respond to this:

· On the first day of creation, God said "Let there be light" and He divided the light from the darkness. Then, the first day ended. But, the Sun was not created until the 4th day of creation. So, what was the source of the light? And, because a day is calculated by what is perceived to be the movements of the Sun overhead in the sky, how were days 1, 2 and 3 created without the Sun? Also, since there were no people and there was no one to record what God said, how would anyone know that God said" Let there be light"?

· On the second day, God divided the waters into 2 parts, those on Earth and those in the sky. But, there is no water above the Earth. But, there are clouds which sometimes release water which falls to the Earth.

· On the 4th day. God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years"…. And "God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also." (The Sun, Moon and stars are not there for the benefit man. It is man who used them to understand seasonal change, create time-telling, navigation by stars, create constellations, create horoscope, create birthdays and remembrances, etc.)

· On the 6th day, man (not woman) was created. But, God says something very peculiar when He creates man. He says, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness…. (Who is us? Fundamentalists say it is the angels. But, God's statement is clear Let us make man…. Were the angels or whomever God is addressing co-creator of man? If so, why?)

· Verse 27 of Genesis says, So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them…. But in Genesis2:20-22, Eve was created again later in the Garden of Eden to be Adam's wife. God decides that It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a companion fit for him. And God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (So, which is it? Was Eve created on the 6th day or later? And if one of Adam's ribs was used to create a women, why don't men have one less rib then women?)

But that is only one version of the creation story in Genesis. There is another less-well-known, shorter, and often ignored version immediately following the first story. The story is in Genesis 2:4-15.

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food…. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

In this account of creation, God creates the heavens and the Earth, but there are no shrubs or plants because there had been no rain and because no one has been created to work the ground. Plants a shrubs are produced by seeds. Where did the seeds come from? If they were already in the hard ground, they be destroyed. And, God's stated reason for creating was to "tend the ground". But why? Shrubs and plants will grow just with seeds, sunlight and water. With the creation of rain and the Sun, the garden would be self-sustaining. The garden would not need any "tending" at all. In addition, when God decides to make man, he does not use the same method in this version as in the previous version. Instead, man is not created by "us", but he is created out of Earth's dust by God alone who breathed into his nostrils. So, which version of the creation of man is the correct one? They cannot both be correct because the contradict each other.

The point of both creation stories is that males are the most important of God's creations and are at the center of the universe. Females were created to help men and to provide men with companionship. And, men have dominion over everything on the planet. Even the stars were created to provide signs for men.

As for planet Earth, the concept created by Genesis is of a non-moving flat surface surround by water with water and stars above it. And, there were two objects in the sky to provide light, the greater yellow flat disk during the day and the white changeable flat disk at night.


The major problem with accepting creationism is that we now fully understand that both creation are illogical and seriously flawed. They are myths created by an ancient people who were trying to explain as best they could the origin of this planet and of life on it. The Fundamentalists and creationists believe that every word of The Bible is the unerring word of God and must be taken literally. But, they themselves to not believe every word of it. Who among them believes the Earth is flat, or that there is water above the planet, or the universe of stars are there to benefit man? Most rational people would dismiss such notions as absurd. And they would be right. But, the literalists and creationists tenaciously maintain the idea that The Bible is correct in every detail about the story of the 7 day creation and want to impose their views on others. That is in spite of the many inaccuracies, impossibilities, and contradictions in The Bible and the overwhelming evidence that humans evolved and everyone now on the planet is related to on African tribe of bushman by shared DNA.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

News You May Have Missed, No. 30

1.Two Slovak children were suspected of burning down a large gothic castle in eastern Slovakia when their experimentation with smoking went wrong, police said on Sunday. Police are investigating two boys on suspicion that they set grass at the foot of the Krasna Horka castle on fire on Saturday when they tried to light up cigarettes, said Jana Mesarova, police spokeswoman for the eastern Slovak region of Kosice. Children under the age of 15 cannot be prosecuted in Slovakia. "A unit sent to the site found that two local boys aged 11 and 12 were trying to light up a cigarette and because of careless use of safety matches, they set grass at the castle hill on fire," Mesarova said. The castle subsequently caught fire and emergency services deployed 84 firefighters to the scene. The Slovak National Museum said that damage to the castle was extensive but about 90 percent of historical collections were saved, including contemporary photographs of furnished castle premises from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, oil paintings and various ornaments. However, a new exhibition was destroyed, the castle's roof burned down and three bells melted. The castle dates back to the early 14th century.

2. A 34 year-old father in Massachusetts (U.S.A.), Timothy Forbes, allegedly went berserk when his 6th-grade son's basketball team lost a game. According the newspaper, USA Today, police said he attacked the winning team's coach and bit off part of his ear. The unidentified coach was rushed to the hospital where his ear was surgically reattached. When the game ended at Holy Name School in Springfield, Forbes allegedly barreled through several 10-to-12-year-old children before he attacked the coach. Other parents reportedly tried to pull Forbes off the coach, but the alleged assailant fled before cops arrived. Three days later, Forbes turned himself in at the Springfield courthouse and pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct, assault and battery, felony mayhem and other charges.

3. Almost half of the world's seabirds have populations that are thought to be in decline, according to a new review. The study, published in Bird Conservation International, found that 28% of species are considered to be in the highest categories of risk. Conservationists are particularly concerned by the albatross family.Threats to the birds include commercial fishing and damage to breeding colonies caused by rats and other invasive species. Seabirds make up just a small proportion (3.5%) of the world's bird species. But, researchers say they are an important indicator of the health of the oceans. The review, carried out by BirdLife International, found that of 346 species, 47% are known or suspected to be in decline. The review also found that 17 out of 22 species of the albatross family are threatened with extinction. It says that seabirds are now more threatened than any other group of birds. Conservationists say commercial fishing is one of the key threats to seabirds with large numbers killed as a by birds being caught in fishing nets and on lines. A pilot study is being carried out to look at the feasibility of removing mice from another important breeding site, Gough Island in the South Atlantic.

4. In Lima, Peru, about 300 nude bicyclists rode through the Peruvian capital in order to call attention to safety conditions and to demand measures protecting cyclists. The event organizer Octavio Zegarra said that the protesters took to their bicycles nude to show that "this is our body. With this we go out in the streets. We don't have a car to protect us."

5. A diet high in red meat can shorten life expectancy, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. The study of more than 120,000 people suggested red meat increased the risk of death from cancer and heart problems. Substituting red meat with fish, chicken or nuts lowered the risks, the authors said. The British Heart Foundation said red meat could still be eaten as part of a balanced diet. The researchers analyzed data from 37,698 men between 1986 and 2008 and 83,644 women between 1980 and 2008. They said adding an extra portion of unprocessed red meat to someone's daily diet would increase the risk of death by 13%, of fatal cardiovascular disease by 18% and of cancer mortality by 10%. The figures for processed meat were higher, 20% for overall mortality, 21% for death from heart problems and 16% for cancer mortality. The study said: "We found that a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality. The researchers suggested that saturated fat from red meat may be behind the increased heart risk and the sodium used in processed meats may "increase cardiovascular disease risk through its effect on blood pressure".

6. Since the beginning of March, it has been illegal to die in Falciano del Massico, a village of 3,700 people about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Naples, Italy. Mayor Giulio Cesare Fava issued the decree because the village has no cemetery and it is feuding with a nearby town that has one. The town now has a problem about what to do with the deceased. The mayor told newspapers that villagers are content. "The ordinance has brought happiness," he was quoted Tuesday as saying. "Unfortunately, two elderly citizens disobeyed."

7. Men have an excuse for being wimpy about coughs and colds. Their immune systems are not as strong as women's, research suggests. A Canadian study indicates that the female sex hormone estrogen gives women's immune systems added bite at fighting off infection and diseases. estrogen seems to counter an enzyme which blocks the inflammatory process. The McGill University study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers focused on an enzyme called Caspase-12, which is known to put a brake on the inflammatory process, the body's first line of defense against harmful invaders such as bacteria and viruses. The researchers worked on mice that lacked the Caspase-12 gene, and the mice were extremely resistant to infection. The human Caspase-12 gene was implanted into a group of male and female mice, but only the males became more prone to infection. The researchers concluded that estrogen produced by the female mice blocked the expression of the human Caspase-12 gene. They were also able to locate the precise place where estrogen binds to the gene in order to block its activity. Since the experiments were conducted using a human gene, the researchers are confident their work is applicable to humans. Lead researcher Dr Maya Saleh said: "These results demonstrate that women have a more powerful inflammatory response than men." The researchers believe women may have evolved a more robust immune system because of their key role in producing and nurturing young. Their work raises the possibility of new ways to reinforce the immune system using genetic manipulation. But writing in the journal, the researchers said, "A question remains: will men be amenable to the idea of being treated with an exclusively female hormone?"

8.What's advertised as the smallest town in the United States is scheduled to go up for auction. The town is Buford, Wyoming, USA, and it is famous for having just one inhabitant, Don Sammons. The sole resident plans to retire from managing his businesses at Buford and move. Buford traces its origins to the 1860s and the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad and had as many as 2,000 residents before the railroad was rerouted. Sammons and his family moved from Los Angeles to Buford in 1980. Family members moved away over the years, but Sammons stayed on as sole resident and "mayor" of the unincorporated community. He bought the trading post in 1992 and operated it until last year."It was a great life for me and for my family," he said, adding it would be the same for anyone looking for a unique operation. Buford sits at an elevation of 8,000 feet and is the highest town along Interstate 80 highway between New York and California. The area offers impressive views of the Rocky Mountains but is also prone to extreme winds and frigid temperatures. Assets up for sale will include a gas station and convenience store, a 1905 schoolhouse that has been used as an office, a cabin, a garage, 10 acres of land, and a three-bedroom home, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle newspaper reported.

9. Every six minutes, a child under the age of 5 is treated in the ER for a stair-related injury, new U.S. research shows. The study found that from 1999 to 2008, more than 931,000 children arrived in hospital emergency rooms with such injuries. And, those younger than 1 who are carried on stairs seem especially prone to getting hurt. The study appears online and in the April print issue of the journal Pediatrics. The study used government data from about 100 hospitals to estimate the number of emergency room visits that were due to stair-related injuries. Researchers found that about three-quarters of the injuries were to the head and neck, and almost 3 percent of the kids injured had to be hospitalized. For the study, the researchers decided to take a wider look at stair-related injuries. "We wanted to get some up-to-date information, so we could give information to parents about the hazards and come up with some new strategies", said study co-author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Kids under the age of 5 "have a high center of gravity, up around their chest, not near the waist like in adults," Smith said. "They tend to topple forward and usually don't have the upper body strength to break their fall. They typically injure their face, head and neck." Among injured kids under the age of one, 25 % were hurt while being carried. Overall, kids who were injured while being carried were more than three times as likely as other injured kids to need to be hospitalized. To avoid these injuries, "We're in this multitasking world where we're trying to do a lot of things," Smith said. "Parents need to resist that temptation." If parents needs to carry a child on stairs, they should use one hand to steady themselves on the handrail and never multitask .To prevent children from falling on stairs, it is recommended that parents keep kids away from stairs when possible, keep stairs free of objects, not use a stroller or baby-walker on them, and don't allow kids to play on or around stairs.

10. In Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China, doctors have reattached a 6 year-old boy’s penis after it was bitten off by his father according to the newspaper, Shanghai Daily. Witnesses said that the 32 year-old father was walking down the street with 4 year-old daughter and his naked son and demanded that the son bite his penis. The boy refused and the man attacked him. Horrified witnesses rushed to the aid of the young boy who was screaming with blood gushing out of his crotch. They also forced the father to spit out his son’s severed appendage They nailed down the father to the ground and picked up the penis that was thrown into the shrubs.The boy’s reattachment surgery was successful, though it’s a little too soon to tell whether or not he’ll have full use of it in the future. The boy is now in safe condition and may need long-term psychological therapy to heal his trauma. The boy’s sister is in the care of relatives. Police detained the father and said that he is most likely mentally ill. The divorced and jobless father who was in debt lived with his children in a rented room. Neighbors said that he treated his children well until this year when he started to act abnormally. The man has been sent to a hospital for medical treatment, Shenzhen police said.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Knowledge Quiz, No. 33

I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.

* * * *

Knowledge Quiz, No. 33

The answers are at the bottom.

1. What is the world's biggest food company?

2. What is the capital of Albania?

3. What is oxidation?

4. What is the Moulin Rouge?

5. Where are the Pampas?

6. What was Marilyn Monroe's real name?

7. Who composed The Moonlight Sonata?

8. Why is the Pope called the Pontiff?

9. Who said, Beauty is truth?

10. Who is the current King of Spain?

11. What is the Miserere?

12. What is the biggest export of The United States?

13. What is a glockenspiel?

14. What is floater in the eye?

15. Who wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's?

16. Who was Sarah Bernhardt?

17. What is a sea-change?

18. What is Basque pelota?

19. What is a dreamcatcher?

20. Who was Rob Roy?



1. The biggest food company in the world is the Swiss-based Nestlé. Founded and headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland, Nestlé originated in a 1905. It is name is derived from Farine Lactée Henri and Henri Nestlé. Along with others, they were founders of a company that eventually was called Nestlé SA. The company grew significantly during the World War I and following the World War II. Today, the company operates in 86 countries around the world, and employs over 280,000 people.

2. The capital of Albania is Tirana. Albania is one of the poorest nations in Europe because of Communist rule which permitted little trade or contact with non-communist countries. A majority Muslim nation, Albania is now a parliamentary republic.

3. Oxidation is defined as the interaction between oxygen molecules and all the different substances they may contact, from metal to living tissue. Technically, however, with the discovery of electrons, oxidation came to be more precisely defined as the loss of at least one electron when two or more substances interact. Those substances may or may not include oxygen. Sometimes oxidation is not bad thing, as in the formation of super-durable anodized aluminum. Other times, oxidation can be destructive, such as in the rusting of metals or the spoiling of fresh fruit. It is oxidation which turns blue blood in vains red when exposed to the air.

4. The Moulin Rouge (French for Red Mill) is a cabaret in Paris. It is famous as birthplace of the modern form of the can-can (dance). It is also famous as the place French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec created many of his masterpieces. It was built in 1889 and is close to Montmartre. It is easily recognized by its red windmill on its roof. The Moulin Rouge is a major tourist attraction in Paris.

5. The Pampas are fertile lowlands which cover more than 289,577 square miles (750,000 km2) of Argentina and Uruguay. The word Pampas comes from the native Andes Mountains language, Quechua, and means plain. The climate is mild and the soil is ideal for agriculture and cattle-grazing. The plains contain unique wildlife including the pampas deer and fox, the rhea and the white-eared opossum. The pampas is also the home of the Argentine cowboy.

6. Film star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) was born Norma Jeane Mortenson but baptized and raised as Norma Jeane Baker.

7. The Moonlight Sonata is the popular name for the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi una fantasia", by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) It was completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi (1782-1856).

8. The word pontiff is derived from the Latin word pontifex. That word comes from the Latin root words pons (bridge) and facere (to do, to make). So, the literal meaning of pontiff is bridge-builder. In a symbolic sense, the Pope is supposed to be a bridge-builder between man and God.

9. Beauty is truth is a quote from the Romantic poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, by Englishman, John Keats (1792-1821). The poem was written in May,1819, and published in January,1820. The quote is contained in final lines of the 50 line poem:

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

10. The current King of Spain is King Juan Carlos I (Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias; born:1938). He is a direct descendant through the male line of Robert of Hesbaye (770-807), founder of the Bourbon royal family, which makes the Spanish Royal line of succession the second longest line in the world, second only to the Japanese. On November 22, 1975, two days after the death of Spanish Fascist dictator Francisco Franco (born: Francisco Franco y Bahamonde; 1892-1975), Juan Carlos was designated king in 1969 according to the law of succession created by Franco. Spain had no monarch for 38 years during the Franco dictatorship. King Juan Carlos successfully oversaw the Spanish transition from dictatorship to parliamentary monarchy.

11. Miserere (full name: Miserere mei, Deus; translation: Have mercy on me, O God) is a chant by the Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652). In the piece, Psalm 50 (or 51 according which type of Bible used) is chanted in Latin. It was composed for use in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel only chanted in services on the Wednesday and on Good Friday of Holy Week. It has been performed at the services since 1514 and it became forbidden to transcribe the music. Writing it down or performing it elsewhere was punishable by excommunication. In 1770, the fourteen-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart while visiting Rome heard the piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down from memory in its entirety entirely and returned to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections. Mozart, a Catholic, was never excommunicated.

12. Though all agricultural products when totaled together are the biggest export item by the U.S., when individually itemized (corn, wheat, etc.), the biggest export of the U.S.A. is oil. The U.S. is the third biggest producer of oil in the world at over 9,000,000 barrels a day. Only Saudi Arabia and Russia produce more. The United States consumes more oil than any other nation, 18,600,000 barrels a day.

13. A glockenspiel (German: glocken meaning bells and spiel meaning play) is a percussion instrument composed of a set of keys arranged in piano-type keyboard fashion. It is similar to a xylophone but the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's bars are metal plates or tubes. The glockenspiel is usually smaller and of a higher pitch than a xylophone. Glockenspiels are popular and appear in almost all genres of music ranging from classical music to hip-hop and jazz.

14. Eye floaters are tiny specks of debris floating through the fluid in the eyeball. They are within the eyeball and are not eliminated by rubbing the front of the eye. They follow the rapid movements of the eye while drifting slowly from one place to another. Under normal circumstances, eye floaters are nothing about which to worry. Almost everyone experiences them and they cause no ill effects.

15. The 1961 film version of Breakfast at Tiffany's was based on a 1958 novella by the same name written by Truman Capote (1924-1984). There was also a musical version of the story in 1966 and a play version in 2009.

16. Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) was a French stage and early film actress who has been called the most famous actress the world has ever known. Bernhardt made her fame on the French stage in the 1870's and was soon well-known and popular elsewhere in Europe and in America. She developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning the nickname "The Divine Sarah". She was also one of the pioneers of the silent film era.

17. Sea-change or seachange is a poetic or informal term meaning a gradual transformation in which the form is retained but the substance is replaced, as with petrifaction. The expression was first used by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in The Tempest (1610-11).

18. Reputed to be the fastest sport in the world, Basque pelota, is popular in Spain, France, and parts of Latin America. The game is also operated as a gaming enterprise called Jai Alai in parts of the U.S. There are several variations of pelota, including using the hand, a bat and a basket. The basic principle is that there are two teams of two players each. The team to serve bounces the ball, then hits it towards the playing area of the narrow front wall, where it has to rebound between a high and low line on the walls. There was a Basque pelota tournament as part of 1900 Paris Olympics.

19. A dreamcatcher (or dream catcher) is Native American cultural item. It is a handmade object created on a willow hoop on which is woven a loose web or net. The dreamcatcher is then decorated with personal and/or sacred items such as feathers and beads. Dreamcatchers originated in the Sioux Nation with relics found dating as far back as 700 AD. Dreamcatchers hung above where a person slept. They were used as a charm to protect sleeping children from nightmares, to catch a person's dreams. The Sioux believe that a dreamcatcher changes a person's dreams and that only good dreams would be allowed to filter through the netting. Bad dreams would stay in the net and disappear in the daylight.

20. Robert Roy MacGregor (baptized:1671- died:1734) is commonly known as Rob Roy. He is a legendary Scottish folk hero who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Sometimes called the Scottish Robin Hood, he was considered an outlaw by the nobles and leaders. Eventually, he was captured, imprisoned, and pardoned in 1727. He died in his house at Inverlochlarig Beg. Rob Roy is English version of Scottish Gaelic Raibeart Ruadh, or Red Robert. This is because Rob Roy had red hair

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jesus: Facts, Fictions, Distortions and Lies

1. Not one writer of the four Gospels every saw or heard Jesus. Yet, they all have accounts of Jesus' death and resurrection. To do this, they all relied on what they heard from others.

In the introduction to Luke's Gospel, the author states that he got his information from interviews. According to most scholars, Luke wrote his Gospel more than 30 years after Jesus died. For normal people, 30 years is a long time. Memories change, fade, get distorted or become total fabrications. In addition, no one wrote down verbatim what Jesus said or the contents of private conversations. Two-thousand years ago, most people could neither read nor write, especially common laborers and fishermen.

Also, how could anyone ever know certain incidents and conversations? For instance, who actually knows what was said at Jesus' trials before the High Priest, King Herod and Pontius Pilate? There were no court stenographers at these interrogations. Or, what exactly was said at The Last Supper when no-one present wrote it down. No legitimate historian would accept as fact words uttered between 30 and 100 years earlier totally based on memory. Yet, millions of people accept it as gospel truth.

2. In spite of popular perception, Jesus was not the first Christian. Jesus was a Jew his whole life and died a Jew. Yet, there is historic and ongoing anti-Semitism among many Christians who view Jews as Christ-killers. This notion primarily springs from statements in the Gospels of John which was written about 70 years after Jesus died. In his writings, the author collectively describes the enemies of Jesus as "the Jews". In none of the other gospels do "the Jews" demand the death of Jesus; instead, the plot to put him to death is always presented as coming from a small group of priests and rulers. But, John indicts the Jewish people en masse. For example, in John 7:1-9, Jesus moves around in Galilee but avoids Judea, because "the Jews" were looking for a chance to kill him. And, in several places John's Gospel also associates "the Jews" with darkness and with the devil.

3. The Christian Messiah's name is not Jesus and the name Jesus is actually an invention of man. His actually name was Joshua, or in Hebrew (pronounced) Yahushua. The reason why it is translated as Jesus lies in the Greek and Latin corruption of the original Hebrew name. When the Gentiles tried to transliterate the Hebrew name into Greek, they came up with ihsoun or Iesous. When Iesous was transliterated into Latin, it became Iesus, which was then carried over into English. It became our modern day Jesus when the letter "J" developed.

4. Jesus did not seek to create a new religion. His intention was to be reformer whose goal was to reform Judaism. Jesus said, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17) The separation of the teaching of Jesus and Judaism was not Jesus' intention.

5. Christianity is a man-made invention and started with St. Paul (aka: Saul of Tarsus; c.5AD- c.67AD). Though both Jesus and Paul lived at the same time and roughly in the same area, they never met. But, Paul's writings and many of his attitudes form a considerable portion of The New Testament and influence Christian thinking. He was a Jew who turned his back on Judaism and spread Christian influence and thinking to the Gentiles in the Roman Empire. To accomplish this, he persuaded the other Apostles to turn their backs on Judaism's law, rules and tradition including dietary laws and circumcision. He did this in direct contradiction of Jesus who said, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophet…. Paul said that these religious laws and rituals had either been fulfilled in the life of Christ or were symbolic precursors of Christ. In essence, Paul started a new religion substantially based on his own ideas, teachings, and his own interpretations of Jesus' teaching. There is an humorous adage which says, Christianity could have survived without Jesus but not without Paul.

6. The Catholic Church maintains that Mary remained a virgin until her death. Jesus had several half-brothers and sisters ( Matthew 12:46-47; 13:55-56). At least some of his brothers were named James, Joses, Simon and Judas. His sisters are not named in The Bible. History says that James became the head of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.

7. The Last Supper was in fact the first night of Passover meal. The bread was probably unleavened bread (non-risen bread) because it is traditional for Jews to serve unleavened bread during the 8 days of Passover.

8. It is odd that the commemoration of the day Christ died is called Good Friday. The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some explanations of the origin of the day's name are that it is from God's Friday (from the German: Gottes Freitag), or good in the sense of something being pious and holy, and thus being good. Sometimes the day was or is called Long Friday, Black Friday, Holy Friday and Great Friday.

9. The Roman Governor of Judea was Pontius Pilate. Because the High Priests of The Temple were in great haste to execute Jesus for blasphemy (a religious crime) but could not do it during Passover, they wanted Pilate to do it. Pilate found Jesus guilty of no crime under Roman law. So, the governor devised a scheme to set Jesus free by offering the people a choice between a hated criminal, Barabbas, and Jesus. But, his scheme was thwarted by a crowed bribed by the High priest to demand the death of Jesus. Rather than do the right thing or possibly face confrontation with the High Priest and/or a possible insurrection by people of Judea, he decided to free Barabbas.

10. The story of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus and his leaving a facial imprint on her veil is a total fabrication. Veronica was supposed to be a pious woman who was so moved with pity as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha that she gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering and after using it handed it back to her, the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it. Everything contained in the story is legend, yet Veronica has been made a saint, the incident is one of the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross done on Good Friday, and supposedly-real Veronica's veils with an image of Christ on it periodically surfaced during before and during The Renaissance.

11. Pilate had mocking sign placed on the cross above Jesus' head. It said, ISUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORIUM. It is often abbreviated to INRI. The Bible says that the sign was posted in three languages, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The English translation of the sign is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. (reference: John 19:19-22:) Whether the sign was intended to mock Jesus or mock King Herod Antipas (King of the Jews), the High Priests and/or the Jewish people is an open question.

12. In spite of the traditional images of Christ on the cross with a strategically placed loin cloth hiding Jesus' private parts, both Matthew 27:28 and Luke 10:30 state that the Roman soldiers "stripped" Jesus prior to the crucifixion. People who were crucified worn nothing and so Jesus wore nothing. The reason for the loin cloth is to protect people who are prudish or who have tender sensibilities from the truth. (A polychrome wood sculpture possibly finished in 1492 and created by Michelangelo of a naked Jesus on the cross is in the octagonal sacristy of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito in Florence, Italy. During the Renaissance, people were not as prudish as they are today.)

13. Jesus died of loss of blood. According to the Gospel of John 19:31-37, a Roman Centurion guard pierced Jesus in his side and only water came out. The Centurion is unnamed in the Gospel but the name Longinus is the name given to him in medieval period. He is to have also said, In truth this man was son of God. A legend grew over the years about the Centurion to the point that he was said to have converted to Christianity following the Crucifixion. Forget the fact that it would be years before there were any real Christians. Longinus is now venerated as a saint by the Catholic, Orthodox and some other churches.

14. According to the Gospels, there was both a solar eclipse (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:44-45) and an earthquake (Matthew 27:51-54) when Jesus died on the cross. There is some historic evidences that both events occurred but not necessarily on the day that Jesus died.

15. According to the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was the man who donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after his Crucifixion. He is mentioned in all four Gospels. Joseph was apparently a rich man and is called an honorable counselor by Mark (15:43) . Assisted by Nicodemus, Joseph took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped the body in linen, applied myrrh and aloes to the body, and then placed it in the tomb, a man-made cave hewn from rock in the garden of his house nearby. Joseph is venerated as a saint by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Orthodox Churches.

16. The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth that is supposed to be the burial cloth of Jesus. It bears the image of a man face and body. It is kept in the Turin, Italy, Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. In spite of numerous examinations and test results indicating that the cloth is not authentic and of a later date than the time when Jesus was alive, Pope Pius XII approved the image for Catholic devotion.

17. In Bruges, Belgium, The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed) has a venerated relic. It is said to be the blood of Jesus and it was collected by Joseph of Arimathea after Jesus died. Legend has it that after the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea wiped blood from the body of Christ and preserved the cloth. The relic remained in the Holy Land until the Second Crusade, when the King Baldwin III of Jerusalem gave it to his brother-in-law. The count arrived with it in Bruges on April 7, 1150 and placed it in a chapel.

18. Believe or not, the foreskin of Christ survived- at least according to legend. What is called the Holy Prepuce, or Holy Foreskin was created when Jesus was circumcised. At various points in history, a number of churches in Europe have claimed to possess Jesus' foreskin sometimes at the same time. Miraculous powers have been ascribed to it. Most of the Holy Prepuces were lost or destroyed during the Reformation and the French Revolution. But, the Holy Prepuce of Calcutta survived and the reliquary containing the Holy Foreskin was paraded through the streets of this Italian village as recently as January 1, 1983. However, the practice ended when thieves stole the jewel-encrusted case, contents and all. Following this theft, it is unclear whether any of the purported Holy Prepuces still exist.

19. The lance that the Centurion used to pierce Jesus' side while he was on the cross is said to still exist in a monastery in a part of Armenia which is currently a part of Russia, in a museum in Vienna (Austria), in Krakow (Poland) and in the Vatican. It was also said to be in Paris until it was stolen during the French Revolution.

20. There was a giant stone blocking the entrance to the tomb which was in Joseph's garden. The three woman who came three days later to anoint Jesus body worried about who would role the stone back. But, the stone was already rolled back when they got there and an angel was there. Yet, apparently Joseph heard and saw nothing .

21. According to the Gospel of Matthew (28:1-10), the first persons to whom Jesus appeared after the Resurrection was Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala) and another Mary at the cave tomb in which Jesus was buried.

22. Mary, the mother of Christ, was one of only three people who stayed to watch the crucifixion and death of her son. Yet, there is no Gospel account or other story in which Jesus appeared to his own mother when he arose from the dead. But, he did appear to the other two, Mary Magdalene (legend and Christian belief has it that she was a reformed prostitute) and his "beloved disciple", John (to whom he entrusted the care of his mother in spite of the fact that Jesus had other brothers and sisters).

23. Easter and not Christmas is the most important holy day on the Christian calendar. But, ironically, the most important religious holyday for Christians is named after a pagan goddess in English. The German and Anglo-Saxon mythological goddess is Ēostre. Many other Christians except those who speak English or some other Germanic-rooted language use some variation of the Latin word Pascha which is derived from Hebrew Pesach meaning Passover. Other languages use a native language word for Great Day or Resurrection.

24. Easter is a movable feast and has no fixed date. In 325AD, The First Council of Nicaea degreed that the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. That means that Easter can fall on any day between March 22 and April 25. The Orthodox Churches follow a different calendar. For them, the date of Easter falls between April 4 and May 8.