Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Memorializing a FB discussion about whether abortion is prohibited in the Bible

I just want to memorialize a discussion that I’m having with a fundamentalist Christian about why the Bible does or does not prohibit abortion.  She cites to me Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1:5

I say:

Abortion is not murder.  That’s your opinion.  The Bible does not say so.

King David, in writing Psalm 139, if he was the author, as you say, did not write verse 13 in a vacuum. It’s part of a longer missive, in which he requests the defeat of his enemies.  He says to God “you covered me in my mother’s womb,” as part of a longer request.  Taking that out of context to relate to US abortion laws runs entirely contrary to the passage.

In Jeremiah 1:5 — God apparently says that the addressee is to be made a prophet and that God knew Jeremiah even before he was conceived. This is not addressed to the general public.  It relates to a particular person and the context was his being appointed prophet.  Certainly the general public is not being appointed prophet.  That would defeat the whole idea of there being special prophets.  Again, expanding the scope of this verse to relate to US abortion laws takes this passage entirely out of context and is contrary to the plain meaning of the passage.

Again, if the Bible intended to prohibit abortion, it would have said so.  It made no bones about kosher dietary laws, for instance. 

She says life begins at conception.  I say

a sweater begins by casting on stitches. That doesn't mean a needle with cast on stitches is a sweater. 

Life may begin at conception, tho the Bible seems to imply before conception, but that doesn't mean an embryo is a human being any more than cast on stitches are a sweater

She says that I’m implying that Jeremiah was more special than any other human being ever born

I say

Yes, he was special.  He was a prophet. God apparently planned for him, according to this story. This doesn't mean that God didn't plan for others.  There were other prophets in the Bible.

It also doesn't mean that abortion is murder. Abortion isn’t mentioned or suggested.  If God planned for the arrival of this particular prophet, presumably He made sure that the guy was going to be born.  There are any number of reasons why a person might or might not be conceived at a particular time.  

At that time, half of all children died before one year of age from disease.  Presumably God planned for that not to happen as well, otherwise the prophet wouldn’t have been able to be a prophet.  

Not all people are fore-ordained to be prophets.  That’s the clear intent of the passage. So, yes, Jeremiah, was special

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

On birthright citizenship and dual nationality

I guess, even though I am a dual national, I don't have to worry about the birthright citizenship problem.  Both my parents were citizens when I was born.

My dad was incredibly lucky, really.  He got into the country on a student visa.  He got into the Manhattan Project.  He got an emergency naturalization in 1943, so that he could work on that project.

That feature of his passport proved troublesome on one occasion when he returned from Mexico, because the officials at the border didn't believe that an enemy alien could have been naturalized in 1943.  Fortunately, he knew people at the FBI who could vouch for him, because of his involvement with the Manhattan Project.

He was imprisoned in Ellis Island when he first arrived. The clerk in the US consulate who did his visa made an error in the date.  Fortunately, he had relatives here, one of whom came and got him out.

My dad wasn't Jewish himself.  He was raised Lutheran.  His father considered himself a Lutheran.  His mother considered herself a Catholic.

His ancestry was Jewish.  He had at least one grandparent who was born Jewish -- and probably all his grandparents were born Jewish or at least were of Jewish ancestry.

Somehow, despite being in Germany for a long time, they were still not considered fully citizens by many people -- and their citizenship was revoked.

I got my citizenship in Germany restored in 2010.  That's why I'm a dual national.

I was born in Madison, Wisconsin.  I haven't been to Germany except for a brief visit when I was 12. I don't speak more than a few words of German -- though I can do a great German accent.

Still, presumably on the census I'll be asked to disclose that I'm a dual national.

I feel threatened.

Throughout the world, lack of birthright citizenship has led to endless human rights violations.  Gypsies traveled through Europe for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years, without ever being able to settle, because they were considered foreigners.  Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria are never considered Lebanese or Syrian.  They are marginalized.  The list goes on and on.

People apparently fear that Mexicans and Central Americans who come here won't become good US citizens.

I live in a school district which is half Hispanic.  I've met these kids who were raised in the USA and went to public schools.  Probably many of their parents or grandparents were illegal.

These are delightful people.  They are fully fluent in English, easy to talk to, hard working -- definitely the sort of people who we want around here.  They run businesses.  They are smart.  I like them.

The idea that Hispanics won't assimilate is a myth.  Maybe Puerto Ricans have been reluctant to assimilate, because they want to retain their cultural identity -- but they are US citizens, not immigrants.

My experience with Chinese people who were raised here is similar.  Probably some of their ancestors were illegal, but, if they were born here and went to public schools, they are fine.

Removing these people would definitely damage our local economy

I am strongly opposed to the proposal that birthright citizenship should be brought into question.  I am strongly opposed to the idea that we should ask people whether they are dual nationals on the census.

 WaPo article on this topic

Monday, October 15, 2018

Responding to climate change deniers (or is it deny-ers?)

I was asked to respond to this article.

I've been wasting a lot of time on it over on FB, so I'm going to document my response.

This website called notrickzone has characterized a bunch of articles as saying that arctic  ice
has stabilized.  I have gone through these articles and find that, in many cases, notrickzone has mischaracterized what the article says.  In any case, none of these articles have concluded that the arctic ice or climate is stabilizing.  Instead, there may have been regions that were cooling -- or parts of years that were cooler.  There is always going to be some variation.  In other cases, notrickzone just completely missed the point of the article or section of the article.

This is my response to what notrickzone said about each article.
  • Just looked at item #1 -- completely mischaracterized. Notrickzone claims that the Lemos article says that ice loss has slowed. That's not what the abtract says at all. It says that the speed of ice movement in the glacier has slowed -- in other words it's under less pressure, possibly due to less ice. The abstract in fact implies just the opposite of what the notrickzone article claims it implies.
  • As to the An et al article, it says that two glaciers have been stable because they have retreated to a position where they are no longer in contact with the warming ocean, which presumably would otherwise be melting them. This describes two glaciers, not a trend.
  • As to the Kelley et al article, the authors completely accept the idea of climate change while explaining why certain individual glaciers remain stable.
  • The Tong et al article again talks about ice velocity slowing. To me that means that there is less ice pressure. To me that does not indicate that there is not warming. Notrickzone does not understand the difference between ice velocity and ice extent.
  • Ding et al totally accepts global warming. They say that a warming slowdown in the early 2000s lagged in reaching this particular arctic region. They don't say that warming has stopped. They say that there was a global slowdown (not stop) for a particular period of time, but warming was faster in this arctic region than in the rest of the world. This article does not support the idea that the arctic has stabilized at all. Notrickzone totally mischaracterizes this article as saying that there is cooling. It absolutely never says that at all.
  • Suvorov and Kitov: this is only an abstract of an article about a tree ring study. I can't see the whole article. The abstract says that summer temperatures have gone down in one region which affects tree growth. However, that does not mean that there is general cooling -- as trees mostly grow in summer. It could perfectly well be warmer in winter and not affect tree rings much.  Moreover an individual region is not dispositive of global warming.
  • With respect to Westergaard-Nielson, they say that the ocean has been warming, but from 2000-2015 there was a cooling away from the coast in Greenland; however, they do not expect that to be permanent. It should be noted that there is a 3 year publication lag here, so we don't know what has happened since.
  • The Kwon et al article again says that there is warming. It's just that there was unexpected cooling during the breeding season for these birds. That doesn't mean that the whole year was cooler -- just certain weeks. Notrickzone is again mischaracterizing the article.
  • Can't look at the Mallory article. It's not letting me in.
  • Levy et al do find cooling in one region. But local cooling does not rebut climate change.
  • Mikkelson et al: It's very hard to understand this article. It does not have an abstract or draw conclusions. It seems to be a research proposal. However, notrickzone adds a horizontal like to Mikkelson's graph to make it look stable, when that might not be the mathematical conclusion at all. 
  • Swart et al: again notrickzone mischaracterizes the article. The article says that the rate of change in the ice may be stable at times. It does not say that ice has stopped declining. Notrickzone does not understand the difference between velocity and position. The velocity of change can stabilize, but that does not mean that position is stabilized.
  • The Ronkainen seems to show that the ice extent of the entire Baltic Sea has decreased, while the thickness of the ice in one bay has been constant. They draw a distinction between extent and thickness. Again this is only one bay. It doesn't relate to the whole Baltic sea. There can always be local variations. Notrickzone is oversimplifying what is said here.
  • Stabeno et al are explaining that they had trouble taking some measurements because of a cooling in the southeast Bering Sea during 2007-2013, with some warming occurring thereafter. They do not conclude that there was not global warming. They are only looking at a small area where they were not able to take measurements.

So my interlocutor, who raised the notrickzone article as a topic, now points out that sea ice extent appears to be stable.  

Resulting in my wasting more time in the middle of the night reading articles on global warming.  Uggh.  Why do I get into this?  Here's my response.

First a handy page where you can find out about sea ice extent measurements:

This page allows you to specify times and locations of sea ice

It appears that Arctic sea ice is decreasing, while Antarctic sea ice is increasing. However, unlike the Arctic, the Antarctic also has land ice. 

Land ice is decreasing, tho apparently there is some controversy as to how to measure this.

 Still the consensus seems to be that total Antarctic ice mass (sea + land) is down. You should realize that the amount of ice in polar areas is not the only factor in sea level rise. Water expands when heated. Sea level rise can occur from heating of water alone. In fact, most predictions of sea level rising come from expansion of the water due to heating, not to melting of polar ice.

There does not appear to be any controversy regarding ocean temperatures rising.


My interlocutor also alleges that slowing of movement of glaciers means cooling -- and therefore notrickzone would be vindicated.

My response was:

With respect to speed of glaciers, this issue only affected some of the flaws in the articles cited by notrickzone — not all of the many points I addressed above. 

I just found an article about glacial movement 

As you will see, there are several factors in glacial movement. Warmer glaciers move faster, but so also do glaciers that are very heavy with new snow. Slowing of a glacier does not necessarily mean cooling. It could also mean less pressure from reduced ice pack.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Updates Summer 2018

This summer I appeared on The Perfect Murder, "Bizarre Love Triangle," on Investigation Discovery. You can stream the episode here

I hope to excerpt my part soon. I'll let you know when I've got that. In the mean time, I'm in the trailer

I also participated in a story slam. Here's my story

I also once again participated in the annual Randolph Mountain Club Charades

This is a live performance event attended by over a hundred people. I believe that this was the 106th annual charades. 

I got new headshots

I have migrated my website, to Google. My home page is now part of my blog. 

I also took a lot of took a lot of time away from the city in Northern New Hampshire. Here are some photos from my biggest hike

A more extensive list of vacation photos can be found here

I've also been doing some art and even sold some. Here are some of my drawings.

I also took CLE courses in Diversity and Ethics in IP law

As always, I keep an ongoing blog of my activities here