Friday, April 27, 2007

Suffer the little children to come unto me.

Limbo, not offically negated, just sort of in...limbo

It's hard to stay away from this...CNS STORY: Vatican commission: Limbo reflects 'restrictive view of salvation'

After several years of study, the Vatican's International Theological Commission said there are good reasons to hope that babies who die without being baptized go to heaven.

Apparently there's a feeling that the traditions that have developed in theology about coming to G*d through Christ and the teachings of the church 'seemed to reflect an "unduly restrictive view of salvation."' Umm, okay.

The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.
It's the ordinary way, but now not the only way. Another good way is to die in childbirth. Or a car accident on the way home from the funeral. That's when God steps in and says, "Original sin? Naah, didn't really mean it. Sure you're tainted, but not tainted tainted."

But there is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and "wants all human beings to be saved," it said. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ's special love for "the little ones," it said.

Now if god wants all human beings to be saved, does that include non-Catholics. With this thought, is The Church becoming the church? Is the Vatican accidentally accepting the validity of other means of salvation, and with that the validity of other religions and their doctrines. Is it a moral relativist organization?

Limbo has never been defined as church dogma and is not mentioned in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states simply that unbaptized infants are entrusted to God's mercy.

But limbo has long been regarded as the common teaching of the church. In the modern age, "people find it increasingly difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes infants, who have no personal sins, from eternal happiness," the new document said.

So this is PR and spin needed to correct old PR and spin.

Parents in particular can experience grief and feelings of guilt when they doubt their unbaptized children are with God, it said.

Or even just a bit of Dr Phil culture.

The church's hope for these infants' salvation reflects a growing awareness of God's mercy, the commission said. But the issue is not simple, because appreciation for divine mercy must be reconciled with fundamental church teachings about original sin and about the necessity of baptism for salvation, it said.

Although this is an argument from personal incredulity, I don't see how these two things can be reconciled. Either God laid down strict, just rules that mean some people go to hell and some don't or he didn't. Unfortunately for the Vatican's case that the Bible can be applied to stem cell research or human cloning or contraceptives, et cetera, in this case they "not[e] that there is "no explicit answer" from Scripture or tradition."

And what else would Scripture and tradition not hold an explicit answer for?

The commission said the new theological approach to the question of unbaptized babies should not be used to "negate the necessity of baptism, nor to delay the conferral of the sacrament."

"Rather, there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable -- to baptize them in the faith of the church and incorporate them visibly into the body of Christ," it said.

The commission said hopefulness was not the same as certainty about the destiny of such infants.

What a hopeful note to end the article on...they still might be burning in the lake of fire, but Christ we hope not.

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The Blame Game

Believe it or not, this isn't about the Bush administration whipping out the blamethrower to deflect criticism from the bollocks up of the week.

This link is keeping track of the blame being thrown around for the Virginia Tech shootings: Cynical-C Blog - » The Blame Game

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This bothers me a lot.

Joji Obara was acquitted in the death of Lucie Blackman almost 7 years ago.

For those who don't remember, and I do as she went missing on my wedding day, Lucie Blackman was a former flight attendant who was working at a hostess club in Tokyo's Roppongi entertainment district.

She was murdered, dismembered and buried in a cave in Kamakura encased in concrete. The police investigated the cave and didn't find her but months later returned and walked far enough in to find the body.

There is no doubt that Obara killed Blackman, but there may be doubt about the level of evidence required for him to be convicted in a court. He has been convicted on several other charges, however. There's no way to know how much or how little satisfaction this result brings to the family.

BBC NEWS | UK | Obara acquitted over Lucie death

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The view from the house at night...

--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Monday, April 23, 2007

More Hovind; more schaudenfreude

An appeal by Pensacola creationist Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo Hovind, seeking acquittal on tax-fraud charges was denied.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers upheld the
Hovinds' November 2006 conviction on 44 counts of bank-structuring --
the withdrawal of bank funds under the $10,000 threshold that triggers
bank reports to the Internal Revenue Service.

Not feeling sorry for him yet.

Still no.

Still not. long can I keep that up?

Local briefs | Local News |

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

This is a pretty good look at the strength of women.

Jujitsu on Bobbies, and the second last sentence in the last paragraph is incredibly good. There is also a link to a history of women in judo.

Women can be forgotten in the history of martial arts and are notable by their absence to the history of karate.

It’s because they have access to witchcraft and stuff at Pandagon

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Creationism vs Evolution in the Economist

I like the Economist. It's a very rational magazine. It makes compelling arguments, even if I don't always agree with its conclusions. Its commentary is informed; its articles are thorough. It's also not completely immune to the little snarky puns that run rampant in all the other British media.

Also it's nice to see a publication that doesn't have any bylines.

This article (Evolution and religion | In the beginning | gives a good run-down of the spread of creationism in the rest of the world.

The article covers Adnan Oktar and his Atlas of Creation. I wonder if it's as bad and incoherent as "The
First Scientific Proof of God: Reveals God's Intelligent Design and a Modern Creation
Theory" (review here). Lord knows Oktar's reputation is of a similar vein:

In the more prosperous parts of the historically Christian world, Mr
Oktar's flamboyant style would be unappealing, even to religious
believers. Among mainstream Catholics and liberal Protestants, clerical
pronouncements on creation and evolution are often couched in
careful—and for many people, almost impenetrable—theological language.
For example, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of
the world's 80m Anglicans, has dismissed literal readings of the
Creation story in Genesis as a “category mistake”. But no such highbrow
reticence holds back the more zealous Christian movements in the
developing world, where the strongest religious medicine seems to go
down best.

(Don't ask why an atheist uses expressions like 'Lord knows;' it's a linguistic hiccup that betray my and my family's East Coast origins rather than any hidden piety.)

The latest from the Vatican can also be a bit worrying as it seems to be a step back from the precipice of reason:

A much more nuanced critique, not of Darwin himself but of secular
world-views based on Darwin's ideas, has been advanced by Pope Benedict
XVI, the conservative Bavarian who assumed the most powerful office in
the Christian world two years ago. The pope marked his 80th birthday
this week by publishing a book on Jesus Christ. But for
Vatican-watchers, an equally important event was the issue in German, a
few days earlier, of a book in which the pontiff and several key
advisers expound their views on the emergence of the universe and life.
While avoiding the cruder arguments that have been used to challenge
Darwin's theories, the pope asserts that evolution cannot be
conclusively proved; and that the manner in which life developed was
indicative of a “divine reason” which could not be discerned by
scientific methods alone.

Although I haven't boned up on everything the Vatican released, it seems that Benedict's latest hedges amount to another case of special pleading.

On another note: The pope is 80? Isn't that the age where you start thinking about revoking someone's driving licence, not giving them the reigns to the largest and most powerful Christian organization in the world. I mean, if he's not likely to make it to Country Kitchen Buffet without hitting a few farmers markets on the way do we really want him giving theological advice and guidance to two billion people?

Ultimately, there is a fundamental lack of self-confidence in people who can't accept that the universe isn't there simply for their benefit, and to revolve around them literally and metaphorically.

Last spring I blogged about problems that Brian Alters from Montreal was having getting funding. Speaking with our extension course lecturer on the ship, there didn't seem to be a lot of traction for evolution-denial in the UK although there are always some little eddies in the cultural current where it survives.

Vigilance.  Constant vigilance.

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A list of stuff the Bush government can't find
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I thought DEL meant archive.

Keith Olbermann has a good outline of the Bush Whitehouse's tendency to lose stuff:
He's trying to shape himself into a new Edward R. Murrow and doing a pretty decent job of if, even appropriating Murrow's "Good Night and Good Luck" line.
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Are you Jucking Foking?

There are some things you can't take early in the morning.
Westboro Baptist is at it again. They're planning on protesting at the Virginia Tech funerals. Apparently there's a whole "Sodom and Gomorrah" aspect to the shootings that the MSM has been overlooking.
And that's another one for the ghoul/vulture list.
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Slamming the Right's Reaction

The Virginia shootings have brought out all sort of despicable whackadoodles. Over at Canadian Cynic there's a nice dissection of the whole "Where were the Real Men<TM>?" meme that's floating around the 'wankersphere.'

Read it at: Canadian Cynic: The courage of idiots

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Archaeology Woo

I'm not sure if it's the nature of the work or what but there seems to be a bit too much woo in archaeology.

Case in point:

Cambridge historian Paul Daw is brining divining rods to help identify
stone circles in Cumbria. Cambridge Not the worst school on the planet.

[quote]Mr Daw said: “My main purpose will be to try and obtain
verification that the three stone circles I believe I have found on
Bleaberry Haws are in fact stone circles.[/quote]Okay, how is it that
the guy hasn't figured out that there's no there there when it comes to
divining? Somebody send him the link to the forums and anything on
Wikipedia about 'ideomotor.'

[quote]Describing how the mystery of the twitching and moving divining
rods seems to reveal what lies hidden in the ground, Mr Daw said: “My
first attempt at using the divining rods was at the Druids stone circle
on Birkrigg Common.

“My notes record ‘Mild sensation on outer rings, and stronger sensation
on the internal ring (larger upright stones) and at the centre of the

“It is my recollection that the wires crossed four times in walking
towards the centre of the circle, although unfortunately I did not take
any measurements.

“Later that day I visited the Beacon stone circle where the wires
crossed on the outer bank and at the centre, and at the Kirk stone
circle where the wires crossed on the circular bank but not at the

“On my first visit to the Hird Wood stone circle the divining rods
confirmed that there were two concentric circles, the inner circle
paced about 12 metres diameter and the outer circle about 20

I think it might have been more helpful to the technique if he had actually taken some measurements.

[quote]Asked why the experts do not rely on the scientific geophysical
monitoring used on the TV show Time Team, Mr Daw said: “Geophysics is
very good but very expensive to survey a large area.”[/quote]And it's


Whitehaven News

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Video of Bill Maher

This is the video version of Bill Maher's rant against Regent University Law School and other ills of the Bush Administration that I posted a link to the other day.

--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

You find me the pictures, I'll find you the jihad...

I think this is the repugnant little homunculus that P.Zed Myers flagged up the other day in the wake of the shootings in the US.

How do you even make the statements she does? Read Reason's take and debunking here: Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Debbie Does Malice

Ulitmately, the US needs to have a debate over whether the opening phrase of the 2nd Amendment ("a well regulated militia") is a sufficient condition or a necessary condition of the right to bear arms. They need a serious debate over public safety, from each other rather than some updated foreign threat.

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Up from the Station

It's hard to describe the walk up from Okamoto Station to our house.
Basically the hill is varying grades of steep to steeper so we've got a walk of about 15 minutes up and about 8 minutes down, which illustrates the degree of work getting up.
So far I've found it to be good exercise although it's a disincentive to going and picking up one little thing from the store.
I'll show you what I mean...
Coming out of Okamoto Station:

So you turn to the right and walk down the street to the level crossing.

Then the hill starts:

The bridge on the right is where the inoshishi can be seen from time to time. None of this has been the steep bit.
Moving on. This shrine is one-third of the way down the hill, but only one third of the way up:

So here we go into the steeper bit...

Now comes the part that's really difficult. This is where you really earn your beer when you get home.

And there's the dog waiting for me to come back with a bit of kibble.
Keep in mind, I skipped a couple of steps, but you get the idea.
It's a tough slog a few times a day, but it's getting a bit better and I think me legs are getting stronger, but walking down makes me think that my toes are going to be pretty blunt after a couple of years of this.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This is too true

A long time ago, as a student, I worked at National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa for a couple of summers. There was some political controversy or another was kicking around in the atmosphere when I was talking to one of the majors in the section I was working in. At that point the point came around that the government didn't represent the needs of the average person.

Now I've always maintained that people chuck that sort of phrase around to make a divisive point and try to disenfranchise others from the discussion.

I went a little ad absurdum at that point. Who were these average people? Farmers (what 2% of the population)? University educated? University un-educated? Civil Servants? Mechanics? Shitkickers from Kansas?

Everyone is part of a group that isn't average to members of other groups.

Bill Maher has a rant that is a wonderful defense of the elites, or maybe mere competence. Read it here: Say it loud: I'm elite and proud! |

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Without Fark I wouldn't have a much of a laugh in a day

Here's the Fark headline: Almost half of Baby Boomers believe in
creationism, while nearly two-thirds of GenNexters embrace evolution.
Which, if you think about it, is proof that evolution actually works

The next level link is a portrait of Gen Next (who are they? Y? Gen Zed? Do we cycle back to A soon?)

63% - Gen Nexters Embrace Evolution - Yahoo! News

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Monday, April 16, 2007

More annoying animals

Just like raccoons in Canada and foxes in southern London we have an annoying animal in Kobe. Inoshishi
Wild Boars.

You can't get away from them. And you can't do anything about them (They're protected.)
In the area we've got about 5 adults and 7 kids, although the numbers are in some dispute. And they're as ill tempered as they are ugly.
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Hanami winds down but here's a video of it anyway

--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

The View from Up Here.

The new house has a great view, about 270 degrees from Kobe over to the edge of Osaka with a view out to Wakayama when it's clear.

I'll post a night view when I get a chance. And get one recorded.
--  From:  The Eternal Gaijin  Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan  "Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

I've been banging on about this for a while.

Let's face it, the UK is the ultimate surveillance society at the moment. Personal freedom and privacy is in the past.

Phil Plait noted the irony of the number of CCTV cameras near George Orwell's house. (Link: Bad Astronomy Blog » Irony: 1984 - 2007)

At the risk of just 'Me too'-ing this, I've been banging that drum for a while, although I've only had a couple of posts on it. However, if you've been standing next to me for the last few years you've heard more than you want to about this.

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Rivals of Jesus

There were several different messiahs around the time of Jesus. Leave aside the questions of the historical Jesus for the time being.
This is a good doc from National Geographic talking about several of them. Hooray for YouTube.

On a related note, Mr Deity is not available through iTunes as a video podcast. Hooray.
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

I'm going with "Pretty Much" as an answer to this question.

Maclean's magazine (the Canadian Newsweek) asks the question "Is God Poison?" (link: | Is God poison?). And the only real answer is "Basically."

In the problems of the world there is a lot of evidence that problems credited with religious origins would have been there without religion (Northern Ireland anyone?) but that the religious overtones exacerbated the whole deal.

On the other hand, there are Christians, Jews and Hindus in the Middle East subject to the same socio-economic pressures as the Arabs, yet they are not the terrorists. Religion seems to be the mystery ingredient.

Clearly it takes more than religion to make big problems in the world, but with religion it's easier to take a problem and grow it.

Face it, if religion just up and died tomorrow the problems of the world wouldn't go away. But they might be made a bit more manageable. It might be possible to open the door on actual solutions.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

So it's not all bad after all.

Stephen Pinker has an article at the following link: Edge 206 outlining how the world is actually less violent today than in times gone by.

Although there may be short upticks here and there the fact will remain that since the start of the 20th Century the world has become safer. (Not everywhere, not all the time, just generally)

It's a drum I bang a lot but it is a good point to remember when you're checking out the mugging section of your local paper.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Raining, but pouring

So what to say about this. Along about a year ago, I posted a bit of info on Brian Alters and his struggles for grant money in Canada as he hadn't proven evolution. (Ever consider showing these critics a fossil, saying "Fossil," and hitting them in the forehead with it?)

Looks like it's still going on...check out the link - Life - Creationism debate continues to evolve

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Yeah, I'm catching up on old articles and I'm just posting this in a 'Me Too' vein, but still

Dude, WTF?,798,n,n
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

More Catching Up

Managed to catch 2 friends on the phone this weekend.
First is Friend MDC and former co-worker Friend GD. Both are still in Tokyo on very different life paths. Friend MDC is a bit flaky at times; a good soul buffeted by the complexities of navigating life. Friend GD has reluctantly been promoted and is now gaining further responsibility (and money). I f I'd stuck around that would have been me 4 years ago, I like to think.
There's an uneasy comfort that comes from knowing that certain friends will continue a cycle and others will continue a trajectory.
All this comes as the wife and I are preparing for some guests this weekend. Friend HB is coming down with his wife from Yokohama and Friend KP is dropping by from Ol' Blighty. Should be a raucous weekend.
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."