Monthly Archives: December 2009

Kinda corny execution, but great idea

Health Care: Are we having the same debate?

As the various factions have had their say, what is shaping out in the Senate seems great to me. Now, I’m drafting this both as a report/commentary and as a question. From what I’ve been seeing in the dissatisfaction of liberals about the current stance of health care reform, we’re seeing the beginning of actual reform, as opposed to a government takeover.

According to this Yahoo article,

1. “Public option” is all but dead (good)
2. The bill would require most Americans to purchase insurance (bad but possibly an acceptable compromise)
3. The bill would forbid insurance companies from denying coverage to people (doesn’t say anything about increased premiums, however) for pre-existing conditions, etc. (Fantastic)
4. The bill would provide subsidies to make insurance affordable to lower and middle class families (Fantastic)
5. The bill would apparently put a tax on companies that make medical equipment, supposedly to offset costs and encourage them to reduce fees. (Not sure what I think of that)
6. There is still debate about abortion coverage, and I got lost on who’s who. Apparently, as it stands, abortion would be a separate premium on private insurance. I’d rather not have abortion covered at all, which is I guess where Nelson and the Republicans stand, but at least they’re not forcing pro-life people to pay for abortion.

Honestly, if that’s true, that sounds a lot better. I have no problem with federal regulation and protection of the little guy.

I would just add that they need to do the following three things:

1. Tort reform.
2. Reduce health care costs by increasing the number of health care providers (remove the unnecessary stumbling blocks to enter medical training–increase the number of Nurse Practitioner schools, Physician’s Assistant Schools and osteopath schools, and reduce costs and hurdles to enter medical school).
3. Increase the options for private insurance, as the town hall lady on the Youtube video said: break up the Cigna, BC/BS, Aetna and Humana oligopoly and open up state borders for smaller insurance companies to compete.

Also, the USCCB is to be praised for the strong stand it’s taking in this regard.

Autism and Vaccines

We’ve probably all heard the hypothesis that autism rates in the US are somehow related to vaccinations. Now, there are several factors on both sides of this issue:

1. Mercury used to be used in vaccinations but is no longer used.
2. Mercury poisoning causes brain damage with symptoms similar to autism, but it is not, technically, autism.
3. The reason for increasing “rates” of autism is that autism is being more frequently diagnosed. It was not even recognized in the earliest versions of the DSM. Autism in its severist form used to be considered a form of schizophrenia until the 1960s.
4. Wondering why we have “more” cases of autism would be like people a generation or two now wondering why there were increased cases of Loeys-Deitz Syndrome.
5. The term “autism” was originally coined by Eugen Beuler to describe schizophrenics being focused inwardly: literally “self-ism”. Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner were the first to describe young “schizophrenic” children being “autistic,” around the same time, but it is not known whether they were aware of each other’s research.
6. People generally think autism is supposed to be something rare. In fact, one of Asperger’s points was that in any large school, there were a certain number of students who had these characteristics.

So, the theory that autism is somehow spiking in our society due to some other factor (like vaccinations) is really just a factor of autism being identified.

Now, what about parental wisdom coming into play? One of the most basic flaws of medical ethics is the refusal of doctors to trust patients’ self-knowledge. I spent nearly seven years trying to get someone to listen about my TIAs till an angiogram turned up my brain aneurysm.

So parents say their kids start showing signs of autism when they get vaccinated. Maybe it’s not anything in the vaccine; maybe it’s the vaccine itself.

Autism is, fundamentally, an attachment disorder. I’ve read about studies where autistic patients were given pitocin, and it basically cured their autism. The endorphin-oxytocin cycle of the brain actually explains a great deal of mental health issues.

Oxytocin is the hormone that helps humans form pair bonds, particularly family bonds. It is triggered by several activities, and is the hormone that gives that true feeling of “euphoria” you get from:

1. Having a great conversation
2. Meeting someone you really like/are interested in (whether in terms of romance, friendship or professional relationship).
3. Skin to skin contact
4. Completing a job.
5. Prayer or meditation
6. Lots of exercise
7. Massage
8. Childbirth and breast feeding.

Most people who’ve heard of oxytocin have heard of it because of its role in childbirth and breast feeding. The mother’s body releases a ton of oxytocin when she gives birth, to both loosen her joints and loosen her mind. Her body also releases a ton of it when she breastfeeds, to help bond her with her baby. But oxytocin is triggered by any of the above activities, giving the body a sense of satisfaction and relaxation, and opening the mind to pair-bonding, whether it’s parent/child, husband/wife or friend/friend.

There is a cycle of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain which starts with endorphins and dopamine. These are the body’s “reward” hormones. They give that basic buzz you get when you finish a small pleasant task. The idea is to keep you going for the next “buzz” till the job’s done.

ADHD medicines trigger that part of the brain. So do caffein and cocaine. So does autoeroticism. Most addictive behaviors are addictive because they give the body that dopamine buzz. But the purpose of dopamine is to facilitate production of oxytocin, and too much triggering of dopamine can impede oxytocin.

So a great deal of mental health issues, including autism, are linked in some degree or another to failure of oxytocin in the system. The research I mentioned earlier tried artificial pitocin–the huge dose of artificial oxytocin sometimes given to pregnant woman to induce labor or help in a difficult labor–on autism patients and found them almost cured by it. But the dose was too strong to be healthy, and the implications of a drug that would make people trust one another implicitly were scary.

Now, let’s get back to the vaccination question. Vaccinations don’t cause autism, but do they exacerbate it? Parents think vaccines cause autism because the children’s behavior changes after receiving their shots. Mary says that about our own kids, that she saw marked changes in their behavior after their first sets of shots, not necessarily the first, but definitely the second.

Could the real connection not be a biochemical one, per se, but a psychological one? The infant’s entire sense of safety and trust is bound up in the parent bond. Vaccination takes that relationship of trust and immediately throws it into a challenge. The parent has brought the child to this stranger to be poked with a painful needle.

To a child with the genetic predisposition to autism, could this traumatic experience in infancy lead to a worse or earlier manifestation of autistic symptoms by breaking that crucial bond?

When you’ve won an Internet debate and when the topic is just beaten to death.

Internet discussions get resolved five ways:

1. The two people actually meet some sort of compromise or agreement. I’ve been meaning to blog for some time about the merits of Facebook in this regard. I think part of it is that Facebook is more “real”, forrcing us out of the anonymity we’ve gotten used to, but another is that Facebook combox discussions tend to be more limited.

On blogs and message boards, the discussions go on between lots of people with various voices confusing threads and issues.

Or, on a blog like this one, it’s almost entirely controversial. I’ve once or twice had some fair minded interlocutors pop up here to engage in an open-minded exchange. I’ve more often than not had people from the Left who come here in complete attack mode.

But on Facebook, I’ve found that even contentious discussions often even out in a compromise, each person leaving a bit enlightened by the conversation. I’ve had arguments with people on a mutual friend’s Facebook thread, then those arguments have turned to us friending each other.

Getting back to the three ways:

2. Boredom. Most people may post a comment or two in a combox discussion, but they wander off after that. Most people leave discussions because they’ve trailed on down the line, or gotten bored with the topic.

The question of “victory,” if it applies at all, comes into play with the next two.

3. I will admit that from time to time I find myself facing a worthy adversary. As well-read as I am on most of the subjects I stick to on this blog, dollars to doughnoughts, Satan will find some person who’s just a little better read in some dimension, then that person will come on here and start not only attacking my ideas, but me personally, calling me an idiot and even challenging my academic and professional credentials.

Usually, what happens in such situations is that a) I do whatever level of research I feel is worth the conversation, b) consult some authorities on the matter in question for back-up, and c) after giving up the conversation, I retreat from blogging for a bit because the exchange was so exhausting.

If “debate” is the goal, like a kind of sport, I presume the other person claims victory. Indeed, looking at the website of one such recent interlocutor, I find that he/she/it likes to go to pro-life blogs, attack the blogger on some picayune detail, challenge the blogger’s intelligence, and then go home to his/her/its blog and claim “victory.”

Meanwhile, when dealing with such people, I balance three impulses: making sure I’m not just doing it for pride, making sure there’s an adequate response made so readers will not be influenced by the enemy’s voice, and realizing that the pig-headed adversary probably won’t be moved by anything I say.

Giving up out of fatigue or humility is not ceding ideological victory but merely prioritizing that a blog post should not cost this much.

A blog is like a news column. I write to share my ideas and my insights or to share things I come across that I believe are significant to the purposes of this blog. This is not a scholarly research journal, and I don’t claim it to be. If I am going to take the time and energy to do scholarly research, I am certainly not going to waste the research by posting it here without trying for professional publication first, and I owe no interlocutor the time of day to do that.

I posted a hand-out, made to give my students a general guideline on what to consider when they want to write about controversial issues, and this individual launched into a full-fledged assault, which, having responded to, I am considering deleting from the comments (and closing comments on that thread) to keep the original intent pure. It was not meant to be a dissertation nor a comprehensive list, but merely questions to consider–questions that, if properly considered, would have led to the points this person raised, anyway.

There are two clear remaining possible ends, and those are the ones where some sort of victory or stalemate can properly be claimed on intellectual grounds, rather than simple exhaustion:

4. The question that can’t be answered. This is sort of like situation 3. The main differences are that it often comes early in the discussion, and the discussion may proceed without it, and it has more to do with logic than information.

It’s the question that gets dodged. The opponent’s response is to ignore it, throw out a red herring, or something. For example, I retold the “peas and carrots” last week, and a commentor threw out a red herring about starving children in Africa. Then, when I asked the question why an atheist would care about starving children in Africa, there was no response.

I know how troubling it is for me when I’m presented with a paradox I haven’t considered, or evidence I haven’t considered, and I need to regroup and reorganize it. Therefore, I know when I’ve hit a nerve with my interlocutor because he or she refuses to even address the question. Even a snark, an ad hominem or a half-hearted challenge shows some level of retained confidence. Silence says to me, “I really have no idea how to begin confronting that question.”

That lead, early on, to what I call the “three strikes” rule: I make a point three times, and, if it’s not responded to, I give up on the discussion.

5. True victory is achieved only when you get the other side to admit to the paradox. For example: Getting the pro-abortionist to get beyond all the superficial rhetoric and get to his or her fundamental belief that some people are more worthy of life than others. I phrase this, when I’m trying to be purely Socratic, as the “is it OK to kill blind people” question.
In other words, the unborn baby is lacking in some quality that makes it “less worthy of human rights.” Ultimately, for any pro-abortionist with a brain, this gets to dependence on the mother for survival. So I raise the qusetion if it’s OK for parents to throw their kids outside and abandon them, since the kids are totally dependent upon the parents for survival. Or the question of people with disabilities.

And, of course, for a truly consistent pro-abort, there is some level of disability at which they will deny people the right of human dignity, for the same reason they deny it to unborn children. I once had an interlocutor admit, after a long Socratic exchange, that she believed it was OK to kill anyone on life support.

Such a moment constitutes an impasse but at least gets beyond the other side’s veneer.

Souls with bodies, souls and bodies or just bodies?

When faced with any two propositions, and how they work together, there are only four basic possibilities:

1) A + B
2) A not B
3) B not A
4) Neither A nor B

Now, in regard to the question of the human body and soul, this could be applies as

1) Body and Soul are coequal
2) Body but no spiritual soul
3) Soul but no body
4) Neither soul nor body

If there’s a radical Skeptic who advocates position 4, let me know. We’ll just disregard it.

Similarly, I doubt there are many radical idealists in the mode of Berkeley out there, but there are a great many people who believe that the soul is superior to the body, and that the body is merely a shell. Whether this qualifies as Idealism or Dualism depends upon the exact relationship described, but it is, as Chesterton points out, the predominant heresy of human nature. It is the basis of a great many belief systems including, but not limited to, Platonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, and Manicheeism, as well as the practical attitudes of many Christians.

Given my recent themes, Proposition 2 is the one I would like to focus on in this post as that is the one atheists ostensibly believe in.

Pro-abortionists often fall under proposition 3. They try to say abortion is OK because the soul isn’t there yet, or even that the soul will be reincarnated, or some such argument. Feminists, when they content “It’s my body,” are implying that their souls are separate entities from their bodies, and their bodies are merely material possessions of their souls. Indeed, Idealism is fundamental to radical feminism in general, because feminists ironically create a disjoint with their own womanhood. While they proclaim themselves “feminists,” they do not exalt womanhood, per se, but rather attempt to negate womanhood and achieve a superficial equality with men (there is a difference between equality of respect and equality in fact, which I will address another time).

Whether feminists overtly *think* they believe that, they definitely imply it with their rhetoric of ownership.

This creates an interesting paradox for atheist feminists. If there is no immortal soul, and if the soul as life-principle or consciousness is coterminous with the body, how can a person rightly speak of the body as “property.” The body is not something external to the self. In this respect, atheists should really be more in keeping with Catholic understanding of Natural Law.

Catholicism is one of the only belief systems that teaches proposition 1. Since we believe in the resurrection of the body, we believe that body and soul are equally coterminous with human nature. For a Catholic, like a true atheist, you can’t speak of the soul without speaking of the body.

In The Theology of the Body, John Paul II points out that, while we take the external characteristics of men and women as being what identify them as such, our internal differences are much greater than our external ones (hence, anthropologists and paleontologists can tell a male from a female by the bones). And while the external superficial differences of men and women are primarily associated with sexual attraction and intercourse, the *internal* differences that identify women have to do with motherhood. A woman’s entire body is designed for motherhood.

The atheist feminist cannot say “it’s my body,” because her purported metaphysical beliefs recognize no distinction between herself and her body.

That’s not to say that an atheist cannot be pro-abortion. It’s just to say that the defense of the position is self-contradictory.

The real question, as I keep trying to bring home, is how an atheist can justify *any* moral code without reference to an immortal soul and/or a higher power. C. S. Lewis begins Mere Christianity by arguing that even the most basic moral principles we can agree upon cannot be justified by animal instinct. He uses the example of saving a stranger’s life. It is understandable why we’d want to save the lives of those we love, but there is nothing in biology that really explains why we’d overcome our instinct of self-preservation to jump in the water for another person.

If there is no immortal soul, why does human life matter at all? Atheists have to be either completely pro-life or completely pro-death. They can’t have it both ways. C. S. Lewis makes this case in many ways; so does Flannery O’Connor. Ultimately, “the Misfit” in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is right; Christianity is an absolute proposition, and so is atheism. If this life is all there is, you might as well get as much as you can out of it.

Atheists would try to say that we can develop new moral or ethical codes based upon evolution or biological imperative. This still carries with it several problems:

1. Again, as Lewis argues in Miracles, how can a person claim intelligence and insist that our thoughts are determined by genetics and brain chemistry? Atheists will insist that those who disagree with them are mentally deficient, mentally ill, etc.,. but they don’t consider the possibility that, by their own reasoning, they might be the ones who are out of touch with reality. They profess determinism in terms of genetics but apply it inconsistently: here insisting that homosexuals have no free will because they are compelled by nature; there insisting women need “freedom of choice.” But there really can be no such thing as free will if atheism is true.

2. Evolution, like all scientific data, can tell us many things, depending upon what we want to learn from it, and it has no inherent ethical meaning. Compare to the famous paradox of the alternate Spock in “Mirror, Mirror”: Spock always believed logic made Vulcans good, but his alternate self used perfect logic to justify evil.
A eugenicist can argue from evolution that it’s necessary to reduce the population, while a right to lifer can argue that those who survive are those who produce the most offspring.
If we’re arguing from evolution, why feed starving children in Africa? Why not let the natural course of evolution wipe them out?
Wouldn’t it benefit evolution to let people with genetic defects reproduce, in order to help other traits flourish.

In short, if behavior is all deterministic, and if everything can be traced to evolutionary impulses for survival of the species, then why have a moral code at all? Why judge anyone? Why not just let evolution run its course. If the Duggars are having more children than the Myers’s, so what? Aren’t they engaging in survival?

Why not just let people be what they want to be, and let evolution run its natural course? Why complain when Christians try to influence society, because we’re just following what evolution compels us to do.

Indeed, the way some atheists talk about evolution, it begins to start sounding rather like a god.

Positivism and utilitarianism, as I’ve noted before, beg the question. Pragmatism and utilitarianism base ethics on how something works in practice. “What promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people?” But the response I’d make to that is, “What is the greatest good? Why should that be my standard?’

Atheists want an abstract moral code but they’re unable to make one without referring to some religious principle ultimately.

Positivism bases is morality on the laws as they exist, but why should I follow those laws?

If one chooses to be an atheist, what stops one from becoming a mass murderer? Maybe the evolutionary imperative compels you to wipe out those who are inferior, like Megatron or Sylar?

Why should I obey laws and conventions (positivism) if I can justify my own behaviors?

Atheists gladly apply this principle when it’s convenient to them (abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc.), but they balk at its suggestion when it comes to principles they would like to force on other people (e.g,. “tolerance” or the need to “help the poor”).

Jesuit Jokes

Back in the late 1990s, _Crisis_ did a feature interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, discussing his work as a psychological evaluator for seminarians. He quipped, “I don’t think you’d find a perfectly sane person who wants to be a priest [IIRC, he doubted the existence of a perfectly sane person], but if I found one, I’d tell him to be a Jesuit and increase their mental health index.”

In that vein:

The Jordan turns back on its course

Here’s another one: miracle witnessed every year on the Orthodox/Byzantine feast of Epiphany (Baptism of the Lord):\

While I’m at it:

A moment of humor: Catholic Approaches to the Chicken Question

There’s an old Internet meme, “Great minds on the Chicken Question,” which I received in an email way back when I had my first college e-mail account ca. 1994.  A few years ago, I wrote my own variation on the theme. Updated a bit, here goes:

Discussion of the Chicken Question in Catholic theology class:

 Genesis: The Chicken saw the road, and it was good, so she crossed it.

Exodus: Thus saith the Lord: “Let my chicken go!”

Leviticus: A  chicken shall not cross the road on the Sabbath.

Numbers: How many chickens crossed the road?

Deuteronomy: The chicken will not cross the road, but her children will arrive in a land flowing with milk and honey.

 Judges: The chicken crossed the road to confront the Turkey army, on her own, to prove that God was on her side. 

 Abraham: “The Lord will make of that chicken a great nation.”

Jacob: “If the chicken who crossed the road was pied, she belongs to me.  If  she’s made into a pie, I’d like that, too.”

Joseph: “I dreamt of a chicken who crossed the road.  I believe it means I have a journey ahead.”

 Samuel: There once was a man who had many chickens, and another man who had but one chicken, and the man with many chickens bade the poor man’s chicken to cross the road.

 King David: If I forget you, O chicken, let my right hand wither!

 King Solomon: I can cut the chicken in half, and leave one part on each side of the road!

 Elijah: I bet I can get to the other side of the road before the chicken does.

Jeremiah: “Oh, why did the chicken cross the road!  Why did you allow, it Lord?”

Isaiah: “And the day shall come when the chickens shall cross the road with the cars, and they shall not be harmed.”

Daniel: If the chicken crossed the road to be sacrificed to an idol, I want no part of it.

Ezekiel: The Lord said to me, “Do you see this chicken which crossed the road?  Son of Man, go and eat that chicken whole.”

Jonah: If the chicken does not repent, God will smite  it with fire from heaven!  It must turn back!

Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior: The Kingdom of God might be likened to a chicken crossing the road, and when she crosses the road, there is great celebration, for she has found the goal she seeks.

The Blessed Mother: Jesus told her to.

St. Joseph: I don’t answer questions.  Go ask my wife.

Zechariah: . . .

Peter, James and John: If only we might cross with it, after we take our naps.

Mary of Magdala: She loved much.

Martha of Bethany: to avoid the housework

Mary of Bethany: She was sick of everyone confusing her with the chicken from Magdala.

Lazarus: She had two mouthy sisters, who wouldn’t let her rest in peace.

Zaccheus: To get a better view

Thomas: I’ll believe it when I see the chicken with my own eyes.

Nathaniel: Can anything good come from the other side?

Paul: I, Paul, thank God continually in my thanksgiving prayers that the chicken did not cross the road in vain.  It was by faith that she crossed that road, and God rewarded her faith with safe passage.  I was not there to witness it myself, but my testimony is reliable, for I am myself an Apostle.  Do not be deceived by those who use their ministry for personal gain. 

Herod the Great: Find me that chicken!
Pilate: What is this “road”? 
Herod Antipas: I need to see it for myself!
Pharisees:  Did she do it on the Sabbath? 

Matthew: Peter, James and John were somewhere over on the left.

Luke: Simon Peter and the sons of Zebedee were somewhere over on the right.

Mark: Peter and James and his brother John were in the middle of the road.

John (later): The beloved disciple was there.  He himself witnessed it, and testifies to this, and his testimony is true. 

The “Gospel” of Thomas: The chicken was not really there.  It was an illusion created by Lucifer.

The Jesus Seminar: We cannot be certain of the authenticity of this chicken account, since the four Gospels do not agree on the details. We do not even know the author of the Fourth Gospel.  Therefore, we think the Gospel of Thomas has the most reliable account.

St. Augustine: its heart was restless

Boethius: God knew that the chicken would cross the road, but the chicken still had the free will to do so.

St. Thomas Aquinas: Objection 1: The chicken did not cross the road.
Objection 2: The chicken crossed for no reason.

On the contary, the Philosopher says that the chicken did cross the road, and the Apostle says she had a motive.

I answer that, getting to the other side is predicated of crossing the road.  The motive is to be found in the side itself, either in its genus or its species.

Blaise Pascal: the chicken has its reasons that the chicken does not know.

St. Teresa of Avila: The chicken crossed the road to drink from  the water, by water I mean a metaphor for prayer, but I am just a simple woman and do not know how to explain these things.  Consider that chickens sometimes drink water. . . .

St. John of the Cross: The chicken was detached from the other side of the road.

St. Ignatius of Loyola: Having examined her conscience, the chicken realized her greatest fault was sloth, so she committed herself to cross the road every time she was tempted to sloth.

St. Therese of Lisieux: Little chickens always cross the roads if their loving fathers will it.

St. John Bosco: We cannot have chickens wandering around our roads unsupervised!  Give me land, and I shall build an oratory for the homeless chickens!

 St. Pio: I kicked her out of my confessional, as chickens are incapable of receiving the Sacraments. 

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta: The chicken crossed the road so she could be Christ’s feet!

St. Josemaria Escriva: The chicken crossed the road to offer her work for God.

 G. K. Chesterton: Leaving was the only way the chicken could come home again to the first side.

The Marian Movement: The blessed mother was appearing on the other side daily.  

John Paul II:  To understand why chickens cross roads, we must first look into the phenomenology of chickenness we learn from modern zoology.  Chickens must be indifferent to their own selfish impulses and cross roads only as an act of complete self-donation to the butcher shop across the street. 

Leo XIII: Did the chicken get a just wage?

The Fraternity of St. Peter: The chicken crossed the road to look for a traditional Latin Mass.

The SSPX: The freemasons probably had something to do with it.

The folks at GIA and OCP: [cue guitars and bongoos]  “Chickens, rejoice!  God has made you, and you are good!”

C. S. Lewis: You see, this side of the road is merely a shadow of the reality on that side of the road, and the chicken had a painful desire to get there. 

Karl Adam: to understand the chicken, we must look at both the theological and psychological dimensions of its actions. Theologically, crossing the road has no moral value. Psychologically, the chicken may perceive crossing the road as a personal quest.

Dietrich von Hildebrand: In World War II, I criticized the chickens who crossed too far to the right. Now I criticize the chickens who cross too far to the left.

 Flannery  O’Connor: Did I tell you I once had a chicken that could walk backwards?  I would say the chicken wanted to imitate the spirituality of St. Anthony of the Desert, and crossed the road to try and get into the wilderness.

Attention Atheists: How’s this for Proof?

Dr. Adolfo Orozco says Our Lady of Guadalupe is “completely beyond any scientific explanation.”


1.  The tilma ought to have disintegrated by now, due to the kind of fabric used and the conditions in that part of Mexico City.  Where replicas made with the same material have degraded after less than 10 years, even when preserved under glass, the tilma has survived for nearly 500 years, with much of that time spent totally out in the open.

2.  The image on the tilma, unlike a painting, does not fade, despite the candles burning in front of it all the time.

3.  In 1786, nitric acid was spilled on the tilma, but it didn’t harm it.

4.  In 1921, a bomb blew out windows near the tilma, and twisted a crucifix a few feet away from it, but the tilma itself, and its glass case, were unharmed.

Then there’s this one:

Though the dimensions are microscopic, the iris and the pupils of the image’s eyes have imprinted on them a highly detailed picture of at least 13 people, Tonsmann said. The same people are present in both the left and right eyes, in different proportions, as would happen when human eyes reflect the objects before them. . . .

He insisted that the basic image “has not been painted by human hand.” As early as the 18th century, scientists showed that it was impossible to paint such an image in a fabric of that texture. The “ayate” fibers used by the Indians, in fact, deteriorate after 20 years. Yet, the image and the fabric on which it is imprinted have lasted almost 470 years.

Tonsmann pointed out that Richard Kuhn, the 1938 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, found that the image did not have natural animal or mineral colorings. Given that there were no synthetic colorings in 1531, the image is inexplicable.

No proof?  What are you going to say to that?  Aliens?  Occam’s Razor?  “They’re obviously not real scientists”?  What explanation can atheists come up with to justify their claim that God gives no proof in this case?

Tenth Amendment? Article I Section 8? Health Care? Subsidiarity?

The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This is one of the basic dividing lines of the two basic approaches to American politics.  The Right emphasizes “not delegated to the United States by the Constitution” and “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. 

The Left emphasizes “prohibited byit to the States.”  Therein lies the dilemma.

Article I, Section 8, gives Congress power “To regulate Commerce . . . among the several states.”

OK, so here’s the thing.  I usually praise Medicaid for being subsidiarist, even while I express frustration that one can’t get medical care in another state if one is on Medicaid. 

It occurred to me today, and this is just a little change in thought, as subsidiarity and the question of not trusting federal power in general still come into play, but I’m wondering if the Constitutional argument against government run health care is really valid, since health care is most definitely an interstate commerce issue in our society.

For example, if Medicaid were transferable out of state, I could have taken the girls and gone to Johns Hopkins by now.

Thinking of writing a term paper on abortion?

I strongly discourage my students from writing papers on “big issues” because students don’t understand how to properly narrow a topic . I try to get them to pick something as specific as possible.  To illustrate my point, I’ve composed a hand-out outlining all the issues to be considered under the topic of “abortion,” and, while I’m at it, the issues to be considered when thinking of using the Bible as a reference.

Thought I’d go ahead and put it out here.


Students often want to write about “big issues” like abortion.  I discourage it because these issues are so complicated.  I am providing this hand-out as an example of all the different things you’d need to consider if you wanted to write a paper “on abortion.”  These are just a list of issues that come to mind when thinking of the issue of abortion, as well as common arguments made about it on either side.  The idea here is to demonstrate the real complexity of the issue.  As you examine these questions, you will likely discover how you could easily do a paper on one of the subtopics.  For example, V.a.i.1.a lists a number of Bible verses that frequently come up in the abortion debate: some used by pro-lifers and some used by pro-choice people.  Simply analyzing all the verses I listed could be at least the topic of a research paper, if not a book—some of the specific verses have such a detailed history that one verse could be the topic of a research paper or at least a five paragraph essay.

  1. Topic Basics
    1. Definition of Abortion
    2. History of Abortion Procedures
    3. History of Abortion Laws
    4. Kinds of Abortions

                                                              i.      Chemical

                                                            ii.      Surgical

                                                          iii.      Other

  1. Human Development

                                                              i.      Trimesters

                                                            ii.      What constitutes conception?

                                                          iii.      What is an embryo?  A fetus?  A “pre-embryo”?

                                                          iv.      Viability

                                                            v.      “Quickening”

                                                          vi.      When does “human life” begin?

                                                        vii.      When do “human rights” begin?

  1. How do different cultures and religions today view abortion?
  2. How have different cultures and religions in the past viewed abortion?
  3. Abortion and contraception
  4. Reasons women have abortions
    1. Risks to their Health—what are the risks?  Alternatives?
    2. Possibilities of baby having genetic defect?  Accuracy of prenatal testing?
    3. Financial concerns
    4. Rape or incest
    5. Lack of support from the biological father
    6. Lack of support from parents, husband, family or whomever
    7. Familial and/or social pressure
  5. Risks of abortion
    1. Damage to woman’s reproductive system?
    2. Risks of death?
    3. Long term side effects?
    4. Emotional problems?  Does “post abortion syndrome” exist?
  6. Alternatives and other considerations
    1. Adoption
    2. Abstinence or Chastity?
    3. Does the father have a say?
    4. Counseling?  Charities?
    5. Does abortion after rape really help the woman? 
  7. “Pro-Life”
    1. Different reasons people oppose abortions

                                                              i.      Religious reasons (see also I.f and I.g above and “Arguing from the Bible” below)

  1. Does the Bible condemn abortion?
    1. Verses commonly cited on either side:
      Genesis 2:7, Genesis 25:21-23, Genesis 38:8-10, Genesis 38:24, Exodus 13:1-2, Exodus 20:13, Exodus 21:22-25, Numbers 5:11-31, Deuteronomy 30:19, Judges 11:29-40, 1 Kings 16:34, 2Kings 8:2, 2 Kings 16:3, 2 Kings 15:16, 2 Kings 17:17, 2 Kings 21:6, Isaiah 57:5, Jeremiah 1:5, Jeremiah 7:31, Proverbs 6:16-19, Psalm 127:3, Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Isaiah 66:9, Amos 1:13, Hosea 13:16, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:44, Luke 2:5
    2. Does the Bible also condemn contraception?  If the references to life or motherhood above are “anti-abortion,” then aren’t the references promoting large families also anti-contraception? 
    3. Is the Old Testament consistent about “Thou Shalt Not Kill”?
    4. Is the Old Testament a reliable source for Christian morals?
    5. Should Biblical morals be used as the basis for secular laws in a country with freedom of religion?
    6. What are other reasons Christians condemn abortion?
    7. What are other religions that oppose abortion?  Why?

                                                            ii.      Scientific reasons?

                                                          iii.      Ethical reasons without reference to religion?

                                                          iv.      Negative consequences for women?

  1. Different “pro-life” or “anti-Abortion” positions

                                                              i.      Ban all abortions and contraception, no exceptions

                                                            ii.      Ban all abortions, no exceptions

                                                          iii.      Ban abortion after a certain point in pregnancy

                                                          iv.      Exception for Life of mother?

                                                            v.      Exception for rape or incest?

                                                          vi.      Exception for health of mother?

                                                        vii.      Does the desire to overturn Roe v. Wade necessarily mean “anti-abortion?”  Pro-Life versus Pro-Constitution

                                                      viii.      Should abortion be outlawed at the federal level?

                                                          ix.      Should states have the choice free of federal interference?

                                                            x.      Parental notification, informed consent, regulation of abortion clinics, etc.

  1. “Pro-Choice”
    1. Reasons people are pro-choice or pro-abortion

                                                              i.      Greater freedom for women

                                                            ii.      Protection of women from “unsafe” abortions

                                                          iii.      Concerns about health of mother or child

                                                          iv.      Concerns about mental health of mother

                                                            v.      Does a fetus have any rights? What entitles people to basic human rights?

  1. Different “pro-choice” or “pro-abortion” positions

                                                              i.      “Personally opposed to abortion”

                                                            ii.      Freedom to choose

                                                          iii.      Abortion is a right or entitlement

                                                          iv.      Abortion is sometimes necessary

                                                            v.      “Pro-Choice” Libertarians? 

                                                          vi.      Should states decide or federal government?

                                                        vii.      Should government pay for abortions?  Or only in some circumstances?


I’ve touched on this subject above, but I wanted to give a list of considerations regarding “arguing from the Bible,” regardless of the issue is.  There is nothing wrong with using the Bible as a source, but there must be a clear reason for doing so.  This ties into the crucial concepts of audience and purpose.  For example, writing to a general audience and appealing to the Bible is probably not always the best way to go, but a paper addressed to Christians about a debate among Christians may use the Bible.

So, if you want to use the Bible as a source, consider:

  1. Does your audience accept the Bible as an authoritative source?
  2. What are the different ways the passage in question has been interpreted by Jewish and Christian scholars throughout the centuries?
  3. Is your usage or interpretation of the passage consistent with those established interpretations?
  4. What is the context of the passage?
  5. The Bible has many speakers and authors.  Whose opinion is being given in that particular passage?  Who wrote it?  For example, the Bible often quotes Satan.  
  6. Old or New Testament?  If it’s from the Hebrew Scriptures, does it necessarily apply to Christians?  If it’s from the New Testament, why should it apply to non-Christians?
  7. Does the Biblical principle reflect a wider cultural context, or a believe in other cultures?  (For example, “an eye for an eye” is also found in the Code of Hammurabi; the “Golden Rule” is taught by many moral codes, including that of Confucius).
  8. Is there another part of the Bible that offers a different viewpoint?
  9. What was the original application of the passage in question?  Its historical and cultural context?
  10. What translation are you using?  Have you compared other translations? 

The Mark of the Creator

Atheists argue that evolution, and DNA, and the Big Bang, and whatever, are all proofs that God doesn’t exist.  That patterns recur in nature is, for us, the very proof that Nature hints at a Designer, a great Artist who left His unique style on each of His creations.  For atheists, these patterns are somehow proof that the universe is essentially random and uncreated.  Their position makes no logical sense, but they seem insistent that it’s absolute, and we’re the idiots who don’t get it.

Now, I don’t really care what fundamentalists do, but when I go to Catholic blogs, I don’t see lots of discussion of atheists, except in the abstract or except in response to specific people like Dawkins, Hitchens or Myers. 

Go to Myers’ blog, however, and every other post is somehow designed to insult Christians.  Apparently, one of the things the Catholic League pointed out–that his blog, previously hosted by his university–was valid, as his blog is now hosted by something called “science”  Of course, Myers’ blog has nothing to do with science and everything to do with blasting Christians, using profanity, and hosting hundreds of profanity-laden posts by his intellectual readers.  Any time I’ve had the displeasure of browsing it, I’ve seen very few articles actually dealing with science.  Maybe he posts some embedded video or picture her and there, but it’s all about “Christians are stupid.”
Then he points to some example of a person who committed what the Bible clearly condemns as “tempting God” to show how stupid Christians are, in his view.  In one post, he talks about an obese man who never got out of his chair in the hopes that he’d be miraculously cured of obesity (ever hear of the seven deadly sins?); in another, he talks about a woman who never fed her kids because she was waiting for providence to provide food.

Myers makes a whole career out of pointing out stupid people who commit sins in the name of Christianity, and then says that examples of people who’ve done great things because they’re Christian don’t count, because “the real issue is whether you can prove any deity exists.”  Well, if that’s the real issue, why do you take such glee at insulting people?

P.Z. Myers, typical of his ilk, is a very petty, evil man.  While he takes umbrage at Christians’ presumption that atheists are evil, he does everything he can to justify that assumption by showing himself to be nasty and crude. 

As others have suggested, Myers probably has to do his second rate philosophy routine because he isn’t any good at biology.  Otherwise, his “science blog” would actually talk about science.

If this guy were really so confident of science convincing people to be atheists as he claims to be, then why does he need to constantly bash Christians? 

Why not just present the science and let the science speak for itself?

Don’t tell me “Merry Christmas”

Around this time of year, Protestants and many Catholics make a big deal about secularists refusing to say “Merry Christmas.”  Since it’s not Christmas yet, I don’t have a problem with anyone wishing me “Merry Christmas” during Advent.  If I’m actually Christmas gift or decoration shopping, I’ll say, “Have a Merry Christmas” (future tense), and if I’m at an anticipatory party, I’ll say it.  Otherwise, I refrain from wishing anyone a “Merry Christmas” until the day of and after.

I love going shopping on Boxing Day and saying, “Merry Christmas!!”  People grumble, “Christmas is over.”  I say, “No, it’s not!  It just started!  We have two more weeks of it!!”

If you want to be a really hardcore Catholic, go around wishing people “Merry Christmas” on Jan. 3.

Peas and Carrots

Atheists insist the existence of God can’t be verified, then like a Fundamentalist looking at the line of Popes, they deny the blatant evidence of miracles that happen every day.

A while back, my dad told me the vocation story of a priest he’d heard. . . .

One day, when the future priest was in college, he was sitting at lunch, with peas and carrots on his plate.  He happened to notice a young lady staring at him across the cafeteria.

A thought came into his head, “Only eat the peas, not the carrots.”

So he ate the peas, but not the carrots.  The woman got an increasing look of shock on her face.

After he finished, she came over to him.  She said, “I’m an atheist.  I was just over there looking at you, and I said, ‘If you exist, God, tell that guy to eat his peas but not his carrots.”

The woman became a Catholic; the man became a priest.

One of the popular Hollywood Christmas motifs is the story of the guy who doesn’t like Christmas because he didn’t get the present he wanted from “Santa” one year when he was  a kid.

That’s what atheists are.  At some point in their lives, they felt disappointed by the apparent non-answer to a prayer, and they become theological Grinches because their prayers weren’t answered.

As Fr. Mitch Pacwa put it, if you pray to win the lottery, God might not give you a winning lottery ticket, but He’ll probably get you a better job, or a raise, or some other help in your financial situation, which is what you’re really praying for.

The origin of the blogger

There are two stories of how my parents met.

According to my mother, who was staying in a room at the home of her boss, her boss/landlord was having a party.  Dad’s band was playing for the party.  Dad was crooning away on his accordion when Mom came downstairs, angry at being unable to sleep, walked up to dad and said, “It’s three o’clock in the morning–would you please shut up?”

Dad insists they had run into each other prior to that, so that wasn’t their first meeting.  Technically, IIRC, their first official date was set up by the mutual friends in question.

So, you could say that there’s some doubt as to how, exactly, my parents’ relationship got started. 

Does that cast into doubt the fact that my parents exist, that their marriage exists, or that I exist as the offspring of that marriage?

Regardless of how they got here, they’re here.  Regardless of how I got here, I’m here.  Would it really have any effect on my parents’ relationship with me if they had met some other way?
What if it turned out, through some freak accident, I was switched as birth (highly unlikely due to genetic testing, let’s just ignore that fact): would I love them less if for some reason they turned out to be not my biological parents? 

Again.  They’re still my parents.  How they got here and how I got here are interesting stories, but they’re not really relevant to the relationship itself.

Nor is the mechanics of how God created me relevant to my relationship with Him.

I don’t believe in the existence of Barack Obama

Barack Obama doesn’t exist.

I have no evidence to prove to me that Barack Obama exists.

The guy on TV might be an actor, after all.  Then there’s the whole birth certificate question.  I’ve never met Barack Obama.  He’s never spoken to me, personally.  He’s never done anything that I can tangibly recognize in my own life.

So how do I have any evidence he actually exists?

Therefore, Barack Obama doesn’t exist, and I’m going to just yell over and over, “Barack Obama doesn’t exist!” and insist I’m right, and if you say otherwise, that’s just “gibberish” that I don’t want to listen to.

Sound irrational?

Of course.

So are the claims of atheists.

More Wisdom from _Bones_

I’ve posted previously about profound comments made on Bones.  The recent Bones episode, “The Gamer in the Grease,” offers an insight apropos to both my post on adultery the other day and my in-depth study of Theology of the Body.  The episode has a subplot (involving a blatant plug for James Cameron’s Avatar) where three of the geeks in a show about geeks–Fisher, Hodgins and Sweets–are taking turns in the line up to see the aforementioned film in its first screening.  Fisher has brought a small tent, a chair and a cooler of snacks and drinks.  They take shifts of approximately 2 hours during the day and come up with excuses for being away from their jobs.

Early in the show, Fisher (one of Dr. Brennan’s rotating grad students) brags that he has fornicated with close to 100 women.  This has the other two guys a bit envious. 

Dr. Sweets is in an immoral but committed relationship with another of Dr. Brennan’s graduate students, named Daisy.  While waiting in line, Sweets is tempted by a rather attractive young woman (who apparently must be on peak day of her fertility cycle), and keeps chanting “I have a girlfriend” to resist her advances.

Eventually, when the grad student shows up to take his shift, Sweets gives her reason to turn her sights to his allegedly polyamorous friend, and the two end up in the tent together.  In the scene I’ve embedded below, Sweets and Hodgins are discussing Fisher’s alleged “conquests” and the feelings of inadequacy Sweets feels about apparently not being so appealing to women.

OK, so here we have the problem in a nutshell: man in his fallen state has been enslaved by baser animal instincts.  He comes to see the ideal of masculinity not in the virtue and self-mastery demonstrated by St. Joseph, but rather in the power and fury of the gorilla. 

This is of course one of the age-old dichotomies of human thought, getting to the origins of the word “virtue” itself, as it comes from the Roman word for “man,” and the Latin word “virtus” can mean “virtue,” “manliness” or “strength.”  For Romans, strength was virtue–both because strength is achieved by hardwork and because might makes right.

Whether he evolved from apes or was molded from clay, primitive man was a hunter.  Biologically, the male impulse is to conquer, to acquire.  The male role is to acquire and to protect. 

The natural instinct to acquire lies at the root of adultery.  First, we all know how time seems to telescope.  So a man spends the first part of his life, and some of life’s most vivid and emotionally charged years, seeking a potential wife.  Certain mental habits are formed during this stage that can be hard to break, even for the happiest of husbands: habits of scoping a room out for pretty girls, etc.

It’s worse when even the natural desire to seek out a wife becomes distorted as a desire to seek women.  Testosterone fuels a man’s desire to hunt, his desire to fight off attackers, his ability to perform difficult challenges for his family, and his desire to make love to woman.

Because this same hormone fuels these different motives, they can become confused.  I think this, in a nutshell, is the biochemical explanation of most bad male behavior, but that’s a different subject.

Woman becomes a conquest, something to be acquired.  Two related impulses can take control.  In most areas where a man acquires, he desires to acquire much: whether he is a hunter or a stockbroker, in whatever manner he provides for his family, he desires to acquire more and more goods for his family.  So the natural instincts that drive him to hunt more deer or kill more enemies on the battlefield, driven by testosterone may lead him to think that he has to acquire multiple women.

Secondly, whether a man is promiscuous before marriage or not, his instincts may, if not properly controlled, lead him to think, “I’ve successfully acquired this one; now I need another,” like a man who, having just purchased a new car, begins researching the next year’s models.

Now here is where, even arguing from the view of fallen man, and leaving out John Paul II’s  confusing language and idealized concept of disinterested love, we can apply a key point of the theology of the body.

This one is unique.  What we get when we try to put the theology of the body into fallen man’s terms is pretty much what is said in the above clip.

If a man has intercourse with 100 women, has he really “acquired” them?

Has he really proven his desirability to women?  Maybe to some degree, but why does that matter?  Somewhere in our psyche, the need to be not alone, the need to be accepted, gets translated into a need to be accepted by everyone, and, sexually, men often think that they need to be attractive to lots of women to feel fully masculine.

Yet the truth is just the opposite.  As Dr. Hodgins says so eloquently, if a man has 100 one night stands, that’s all he has.  He hasn’t really “acquired” or “conquered” these women, even if he wants to use that language.  The soldier may kill multiple enemies.  The hunter may kill multiple deer.  But, in the end, the soldier hasn’t conquered the enemy unless the enemy surrenders in defeat and stops coming on.  The hunter takes home the deer he kills and eats them.

A man who claims “conquest” by philandering is really not conquering anything . He’s certainly not conquering himself, and he is not conquering the women he has sex with.  They go on their ways and never see him again.  Indeed, if they’re truly one-night stands, they may not even say much about his own particular attractiveness: the women may themselves just be, as we put it in regard to animals, “in heat.”  Her libido may just be extra high because she’s in phase 2, and like the poor girl in the Bones episode, she may be desperate to have coitus with any man who will take her.

On the other hand, the instinct to conquer can precisely be channeled for the good in marital fidelity, if the man comes to realize that “this one is mine,” even if objectifying his wife, he sees her as a unique gift for him, as someone who has surrendered her entire self to him, as someone whom he truly has conquered.  He should hardly worry about his attractiveness if he has a woman who has chosen to dedicate her whole life to him, who continues to find him attractive after knowing all his faults and failings and weaknesses, who has seen him at his best and at his worst.

Who’s really looking for “easy answers”?

The basic claim of atheists is that they are superior to believers because, in their view, believers look for easy answers.  In their view, belief in God boils down to an easy explanation for all matters scientific, even though that is the last thing on the mind of most believers.

My contention, especially when I hear atheists speak, is just the opposite.  When I hear people like P.Z. Myers, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins speak, their attitude is not one of scientific inquiry but one of “closed book”: “I read Darwin, and Darwin had all the answers!  I didn’t have to believe in God anymore!”    They are the ones who have intentionally sought out a reason *not* to believe in God.  Why have they done this, if belief in God is such a simple answer?

God does not answer questions: God opens up a whole new realm of questions.  In reality, the study of science always opens new doors: first the molecule was thought to be the basic unit of matter; then the atom; then the proton, neutron and electron; now we have nuons, quarks, tachyons and other theoretical sub-nuclear particles.  What happened before the Big Bang?

For the theologian, the questions extend far beyond the big bang.

Scientific and philosophic minds ask these questions.  Atheists do not.  They settle on the easiest answers science provides and say, “God does not exist.”

Belief does not answer questions; it creates more.  It also doesn’t provide an easy way of life, since belief requires morality.  Atheists balk at the notion that atheism is inherently amoral, yet there really is no basis for any objective morality without a moral lawgiver.  Atheists can only be positivists, at best, and usually are moral solipsists, at worst.

What is the more challenging belief system?  One that says we evolved from apes, therefore we are little better than apes, therefore we can justify any action that we commit as due to our genetic heritage?

Or a belief system that says a higher being created us with a special dignity that we must live up to, that we are spiritual as well as incarnational beings, that our intellect and spirit should ultimately have control over our body?

This, of course, is why Darwin is so all-fired important to them.  Nevermind that it’s been perfectly obvious from day 1 that there are things in the Bible that are not miracles yet not sensical, either (such as blatant historical errors).  The Fathers taught that, if it comes to the Bible versus science or history in a matter of science or history, you go with science or history.

Whether God made Adam out of clay or out of a primate, it doesn’t really make a difference, but to atheists, who want an easy out, it does.  Darwin is so important to them because, with Darwin, they can discount Genesis, and it’s not the first part of Genesis 1 they really care about; it’s Genesis 2 and 3.

When Darwin becomes your Gospel, then you can discount Original Sin.

Who’s really looking for easy answers?

The Point JPII Misses in _Theology of the Body_.

From what I’ve read of Pope John Paul II/Cardinal Karol Woytyla’s writings–from Love and Responsibility to Familiaris Consortio to Theology of the Body–I always feel that, while he has achieved something fantastic, he’s missing something.  In an interview after her divoce, Bai Macfarlane answered the $1 million question regarding her husband’s frequent promotion of JPII/Vatican II Catholic family ideals, and how they’d so obviously fallen short.  She said that a great danger in the recent emphasis is that JPII tends to create such an ideal of marriage and the family that it is hard to live up to.  I’ve seen others make similar comments, that sometimes it comes off as, “if you’re not doing this just right, you’re bad, bad, bad.”

A recurring theme of all these works is the idea of gift himself.  While commentators like Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft and Chris West draw analogies between Christ/the Paschal Mystery/The Eucharist and marriage–and while JPII himself does it a bit in Familiaris Consortio, the Theology of the Body, at least as far as I’ve read over the past few days, has yet to raise the Eucharistic analogy.

His Holiness repeatedly speaks about how spouses are to engage in a total giving of self–this is the positive reason behind the ban on contraception, that contraception holds back from total self giving (I draw the analogy here to spitting out the Host right after Communion).

However, in his emphasis on sex-as-gift, JPII tends to underemphasize the fact that a gift could be received.   In trying to argue against the mentality of treating the opposite sex as a pleasure object, he still hints at the same attitude expressed by some of the Fathers and early Popes which seems to say it’s wrong to feel pleasure in intercourse at all.  Particularly, in Theology of the Body, he emphasizes the need for disinterestedness, for a disinterested desire to give oneself to the other.

I’m going to be breaking this study down over several posts as I proceed thorugh the book.  However, I just want to start by pointing out that a gift, to be a gift, needs to be received.  He emphasizes that Adam receives Eve as opposed to taking her.  He also emphasizes that one must not “reduce” a the spouse to “merely” an object.  I’ll get more into this later, but something seems missing there, especially in terms of practical experience.

However, in building to understand *what* he’s missing, I found an oversight that underlies several of his arguments.  Starting with Jesus’ response to the Pharissees on divorce, JPII goes back to Gen. 1-4 and philosophically explicates, in great detail, various key versus that point to the nature of man and the nature of marriage.

He spends a great deal of time on what it meant to be “Naked but not ashamed,” and his views on this verse are summed up at the end of his address on February 13, 1980:
“If the man and the woman cease to be a disinterested gift for each other, as they were in the mystery of creation, ten they recognize that ‘they are naked’ (cf. Gn. 3).  Then the shame of that nakedness, which they had not felt in the state of original innocence, will spring up in their hearts.”

Basically, his view is that, prior to the fall, the human person was fully integrated.  The spiritual part had full control over the material part.  Everything was in balance, as Plato would argue in The Republic. 

When I was in high school, I wrote a paper for an ethics class on sexuality, drawing from what I’d read in C. S. Lewis (whom some have argued is a major influence on JPII) and various morality texts.  Not sure if I even knew the term “theology of the body” at that point, and it’s been a while since I’ve reread that paper.  However, I was pondering the same question of original innocence, and argued thusly (again, borrowing largely from Lewis):

Adam recognizes Eve as being uniquely for him. My contention was then, and is now, that, had the fall never happened, no one would even desire another person unless that person was intended for him/her.

Now, let’s get back to JPII.  He says that Adam and Eve, before the fall, were “disinterested.”  Basically, he means they were incapable of lust.  They saw each other as God’s gifts to one another, and their union at that point was unspoiled by lust.

Much of his analysis seems to imply that Adam and Eve felt shame in each other’s presence.  At first, they were naked and not ashamed.  Later, they were naked and ashamed.  This is what he emphasizes.  Yet, after careful analysis of so many verses in these 4 chapters, he overlooks two crucial verses: 3:7, when, right after taking the fruit, they realize that they are naked and make the infamous fig leaf loincloths, and 3:10, when Adam tells God he hid because he was naked (in spite of the loincloth) and ashamed.

At this point, Adam and Eve have no real reason to be ashamed in each other’s presence.  They are already married, and Scripture has already implied marital relations.  

Pope John Paul seems to indicate that they feel this sudden shame because, for the first time, they feel lust for one another; their pure love has been tainted by self-interest.  Perhaps so, but the greater shame only comes into play when God shows up: then they hide in the bushes.

They are embarrassed at being seen by someone else.

Put another way, in the hypothetical “what if there was no fall” scenario, there’d have been a whole race running around naked.  Only one of two things could have resulted from this: monogamy wasn’t required (which Jesus clearly says it was), or else monogamy was enforced, as John Paul repeatedly says, by seeing that one person as being a unique gift of God.

It is interesting that JPII says “disinterested,” because Agape is disinterested love.  It is the love one has for a painting.  In an unfallen world, the beauty of the human body could be appreciated in a distinterested way, they same way we appreciate the beauty of a tree or a painting or a sunset.

OK, thus far, I’m with JPII.  But where I diverge from him is that applies to other people!

I really find it hard to believe that Adam, when he exclaimed, “This at last is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” is totally disinterested, but he is responding to the totality of Eve, not just her body as such.

Barring the kind of hang-ups Christopher West argues against, or barring the question of how to deal with times in marriage where abstinence is required, there is no reason for married couples to feel shame in each other’s presence.

Once the spousal relationship is established, shame comes not from each other but from “What if someone catches us”? 

Now, part of this may be a question of audience.  As West points out, John Paul is trying to reclaim certain values that have been forgotten by an overly Puritanical viewpoint.  Part of his point is precisely to tell married couples that they have no need to feel shame in each other’s presence.  OK, though he hasn’t explicitly said any such thing to the point I’ve read so far.

He implies that fallen married couples can feel shame because they have the capacity for lust: the wife is worried her husband may take advantage of her in her nakedness; the husband feels compelled towards his wife.  The husband is afraid his wife may be aware of his arousal; the wife is afraid of her husband judging her looks.  So they cover each other with “fig leaves.”

OK, I call follow that, but the greater sense of shame really comes from the worry of being seen by someone other than the spouse, and I think the Biblical text validates that point. 

At first, Adam and Eve are like, “Hey! We just lost control of our self-control!”  But they’re still only covering themselves with strategically placed leaves, and hardly dressing in complete modesty.  So that is consistent with the kinds of insecurities I listed above as occurring between couples.  And even then, they’re not completely alone: remember that the serpent is still around.  It is the awareness of someone else seeing them–in this case, God–that sends them into the bushes.

So, it’s not really a flaw in John Paul’s thought as in his expression of that thought, I think, but something is just missing in his explanation of that scenario.   JPII says that, in the unfallen state, the proper response of a man to *any* woman, including his wife, qua woman, is disinterestedness.  I would contend that that is true of all women except the wife.  An unfallen man would *have* to be specifically interested in his wife’s body as such (along with her personality, spirit, etc.) to choose her from among all women as the unique gift for him that JPII empahsizes so rightly.

Fallen man, as I would phrase it, has developed an “interest” in all women, and thus cannot see the unique appeal of his wife without emphasizing her soul over her body.

Why did Tiger Woods commit adultery?

I don’t like jumping on celebrity “news” bandwagons unless I think there’s a moral in there, especially if it’s someone who’s a particularly overrated celebrity. 

So, the latest, of course, is Tiger Woods’ apparent adulterous affair.

Here we have the richest athlete in the world.  Now, everyone ought to know by now that wealth isn’t necessarily a cure for financial problems; indeed, it creates financial problems of its own.  But at the very least Tiger Woods has money and influence.  He can’t say, “I travel a lot for my job and don’t get to spend as much time with my wife, and I get lonely.” He could afford to take his wife and kids with him whereever he goes.

He’s married to a beautiful woman, at least according to the standards of beauty set by the  homosexuals who run the beauty pageant and modeling industries.

Why would Tiger Woods cheat?  Anyone who knows me well or has read this blog regularly should be able to guess what I’m going to say. . . 

Last year, Shania Twain filed for divorce from her husband and longtime manager (he’d been her manager since she was like 12 or something, like Celine Dion’s husband/manager), the appropriately named Mutt Lange.  When I heard the news on the radio, the DJs commented, “Why would you cheat on Shania Twain?”  Oddly enough, age and beauty can’t be excuses for Mutt–he dumped her for his long time secretary, a fairly ordinary looking middle-aged woman.  Indeed, that case, like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s divorce from Sarah Brightman nearly 20 years ago, may be one of a kind of reverse mid-life crisis: a middle aged man married to a younger, beautiful woman who wanted a more substantial relationship.  That’s one explanation, but it really only hints at the real case.

The Blind’s, I mean, The View‘s Joy Behar says Woods isn’t a hypocrite because he’s “not a right winger” (warning: linked post contains profanity).

One possibility is that his wife is intolerable.  Though the police deny it, rumors are that his wife was engaging in domestic violence when the “accident” occurred, and at least one feminist is praising her for itDomestic abuse of men by their wives needs greater media and social attention.  Abused men tend to seek release in adultery or alcoholism or addiction, which only exacerbates the cycle of abuse.  Elin Nordegren Woods may have been reacting to knowledge of her husband’s infidelity when she allegedly chased  after him with a golf club, but that doesn’t mean this was the first time she ever hit him.  (NOTE: Explanation of motives is never a justification of sin).

Then there’s the whole question of gold-diggers.

Some are suggesting that it’s a case of when a new father feels neglected by his wife, so he seeks solace elsewhere.

Another hypothesis is that he’s a man who has everything, and he’s “bored,” and adultery offers a challenge, a risk, a sense of variety.  

Both those explanations, and any other explanation someone could come up with, would only be a subset of the real answer. 

Celebrity divorces as a whole don’t make sense for some of the reasons highlighted, and the meager explanations offered, while somewhat valid, only point to the real problem: “Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” 

There’s something missing.

This guy dumps his pretty wife for a more homely (in the proper sense) woman: someone who isn’t so high maintenance, as it were, who feels more domestic.

That guy dumps his longtime wife for a younger woman for the opposite reason.

This guy cheats beause his wife won’t have kids; that guy cheats because he’s jealous of his kids. 

This guy cheats because he’s bored with the monotony of his life.  That guy cheats because he says he can’t spend enough time with his wife.

The motives seem contradictory, but they point to the fundamental need reflected in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

I often argue that we can learn a lot about morality from morally questionable fiction.  The iconic villain Roger Thorpe on Guiding Light comes to mind as I write this: a man driven by his quest for perfection in life: power, money, pleasure and family.  A man who, in his early life, was compelled by his appetites and then, in his later life, was torn by the compulsion of those appetites conflicting with a genuine desire to change his ways, but an inability, without Christ’s grace or the sacraments, to really do so.

So he’d  go after one woman for her money and another for her beauty or fertility, or he’d try to be back together with his ex-wife to be a real family with their grown daughter. 

Last night, at adoration, I finally returned to The Theology of the Body, which I started reading several years ago and left off after a couple chapters due to its intimidating length.   John Paul II points out that, in that passage, God uses the Hebrew word “adam,” which is more generic like “human,” rather than “ish,” which is used later to distinguish “man” (“ish”) from “woman” (“ishasha”). 

Based upon this, he suggests four meanings of Adam’s being alone:

1.  Adam, humanity in general, is alone among creatures. 
2.  Adam is alone in facing God.
3.  Adam is alone and needs other people in general.
4. Adam is alone and needs a woman, specifically.

It would be flippant to say, “Tiger Woods is just a jerk,” or “original sin” as the answers for the puzzle.

Often, we might phrase the answer as “contraceptive mentality”.  This gets a lot closer and more specific: adultery (particularly of a homosexual kind) was traditionally a method of birth control.  And, of course, in our modern age, adultery is “facilitated’ by birth control devices which take away some of the superficial “risks” of adultery.

However, even these “Catholic responses” just point to the real answer:
Tiger Woods, Mutt Lange, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, and millions of other men and women need to learn the Theology of the Body.

We could phrase things in the negative, or we could come up with motives that seem like excuses, or we could point to what is missing in all these people, the appreciate of sexuality as a gift, the appreciation that that gift is mutually reflected in the unique gift of self that is this other person.

Sanctified marital love, seen sa a reflection of and participation in our relationship with God, seen as a total giving of self, is difficult to betray.

A gift is more meaningful if it is a treasure.  We don’t give $200 gifts to our coworkers and $5 gifts to our spouses and children.  The more meaningful the relationship is to us, the more value we put in the gifts we give. 

The more meaningful sommething we have is, the more we guard it.  And if we choose to surrender to someone else something we have guarded so dearly, we can show how much they, and the gift, mean to us.

One of the other things highlighted by this case is that prenuptial agreements are not set in stone.  Prenuptial agreements are one of the worst affronts to marriage in our society, since the best way to stay married for life is to presume divorce is not an option: prenups take divorce for granted.