Monthly Archives: April 2015

Natural vs Supernatural Concepts in Ancient Hebrew

Another drive-by post. There’s too many great bits of information on here to call one out, so I would just read the entire piece.

In the context of this particular quote, I don’t find the debate about evolution vs. creation very relevant. Most of the debate originates between pushy scientists who really want to disprove something with faulty epistemology, and overreacting Christians with a chip on their shoulder trying their darndest to make scripture say something it really doesn’t.

If the Bible does not insist that God bypassed scientifically describable processes in the material creation of human beings (since its authors and its intended audience had no such categories), it should not be used to rule out scientific explanations for material human origins (such as evolution). Both the Bible and theology agree that God is pervasively involved in his world no matter what level of scientifically describable cause and effect we can detect. So it is not inconsistent with the biblical text to suggest that God created human beings over a long period of time through processes that operate according to recognizable cause and effect patterns. As such, evolutionary creationism would be a perfectly acceptable view for Christians who take both the Bible and science seriously. God’s activity is not limited to what scientifically describable cause and effect processes fail to explain; he is engaged in working through all processes.

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Switched to WordPress 2011 Theme

After a bunch of plugin and theme updates, and a WordPress update, the WordPress 2015 theme I was using wasn’t playing well. That is, if you consider not showing any posts at all as “not playing well.” So I switched to the 2011 theme, which always seemed a little more stable to me than other ones.

If you didn’t hear, there was emergency patches released for a lot of WordPress plugins a few days ago, because of a long-standing XSS bug. This is longhand for “update your WordPress plugins.”

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Images. And Words. Part 3 – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #8

Friends! It’s been a while. Things are progressing as planned with the actual book.

Short email this time around. I wanted to show the last two quote images. See them below.

More emails coming soon!



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Catholicism’s Social Teaching

Dropping in quickly again to mention Just Thomism’s post on the Catholic Church’s socio-economic policy, as stated in its catechism:

The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.

In other words, it rejects both Adam Smith and Karl Marx; both individualism and collectivism. In explaining this to the class, it became clear that this was, in effect, to reject the ideals of the left, right and center. The class ended with no one in the room having any idea what the Church thought a just regime would look like.

I’ll ignore the glaring error of separating “human labor” from market forces (it’s not…even non-free market economists know labor is lumped in with market forces, because it’s, uh, a market force).

The problem here is JT’s—and possibly the Church’s—presumption that a regime could be just in the first place. It’s my contention that there cannot be a just regime by definition of what the state is: an entity that reserves the exclusive right of the use of force as its defining characteristic should not be supported by any Christian. At least, not supported any more than one of the various forms of the mafia worldwide that we could find—or, to put it in a more microcosmic context: a crazed man walking around, door to door, pointing a gun at people and demanding money.

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Two Books of Note

Dropping in here for a moment between writing PBS and living a normal work-family life.

Upon a recent visit to amazon.com I saw one of their “recommended books”: Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. Despite something of an embarrassing cover featuring a photo of that Nazi treasure hunter from Raiders of the Lost Ark, I stuck it in my wishlist within seconds.

There was another recommendation in the “people who bought this book also bought” section on that book’s page: The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation. After clearing my head at the accuracy of Amazon’s book recommendation logarithm, I wishlisted that book as well.

I did some quick searches on the latter book and came upon this article. I have no commentary on it—just presenting a section here for the intellectually curious.

The main question in the controversy is this: Is Christianity a force that supports or opposes the efforts of the right to defend the European-American way of life? Christians on the right argue that their religious commitments are central to Western civilization, while pagans and secularists on the right (especially in Europe) argue, with Spengler, that Christianity undermines the West by pushing a universalism that rejects race, class, family, and even nation.

Mr. Russell, who holds a doctorate in historical theology from Fordham University and teaches at Saint Peter’s College, does not quite answer the question, but his immensely learned and closely reasoned book does suggest an answer. His thesis is that early Christianity flourished in the decadent, deracinated, and alienated world of late antiquity precisely because it was able to appeal to various oppressed or dissatisfied sectors of the population—slaves, urbanized proletarians, women, intellectuals, frustrated aristocrats, and the odd idealist repelled by the pathological materialism, brutality, and banality of the age.

But when Christian missionaries tried to appeal to the Germanic invaders by invoking the universalism, pacifism, and egalitarianism that had attracted the alienated inhabitants of the empire, they failed. That was because the Germans practiced a folk religion that reflected ethnic homogeneity, social hierarchy, military glory and heroism, and “standards of ethical conduct … derived from a sociobiological drive for group survival through ingroup altruism.” Germanic religion and society were “world-accepting,” while Hellenic Christianity was “world-rejecting,” reflecting the influence of Oriental religions and ethics. By “Germans,” it should be noted, Mr. Russell does not mean modern residents of Germany but rather “the Gothic, Frankish, Saxon, Burgundian, Alamannic, Suevic, and Vandal peoples, but also… the Viking peoples of Scandinavia and the Anglo-Saxon peoples of Britain.” With the exception of the Celts and the Slavs, “Germans” thus means almost the same thing as “European” itself.

Given the contradictions between the Christian ethics and world-view and those of the Indo-European culture of the Germanic peoples, the only tactic Christians could use was one of appearing to adopt Germanic values and claiming that Christian values were really compatible with them. The bulk of Mr. Russell’s scholarship shows how this process of accommodation took place in the course of about four centuries. The saints and Christ Himself were depicted as Germanic warrior heroes; both festivals and locations sacred in ancient Germanic cults were quietly taken over by the Christians as their own; and words and concepts with religious meanings and connotations were subtly redefined in terms of the new religion. Yet the final result was not that the Germans were converted to the Christianity they had originally encountered, but rather that that form of Christianity was “Germanized,” coming to adopt many of the same Indo-European folk values that the old pagan religion had celebrated.

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About Sleep and Light – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #7

“At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”
-Willa Cather

Have you ever gone camping overnight? There’s an astounding lack of electricity in the wild, unless you bring batteries with you. But that’s where this illustration point ends since I wanted to talk about how people slept before electricity…and those convenient batteries.

The world of Pale Blue Scratch is at a pre-electric level; or rather, electricity is really at the intermediate experimental stage. Light comes from candles, lanterns, and the sun. The artificial providers of light could be costly, so people tended to go to sleep not long after sundown, and didn’t start their day until dawn.

That leaves a rather long stretch of time for sleeping—a few hours more than the eight or so most people need or can tolerate. How did people “get through the night?” They may have slept twice:

[Historian Roger Ekirch’s] arguments are based on 16 years of research during which he studied hundreds of historical documents from ancient to modern times, including diaries, court records, medical books and literature. He identified countless references to ‘first’ and ‘second’ sleeps in English. Other languages also describe this pattern, for example, premier sommeil in French, primo sonno in Italian and primo somno in Latin. It was the ordinariness of the allusions to segmented sleeping that led Ekirch to conclude this pattern was once common, an everyday cycle of sleeping and waking.


For those who indulged [in segmented sleep], however, night-waking was used for activities such as reading, praying and writing, untangling dreams, talking to sleeping partners or making love. As Ekirch points out, after a hard day of labouring, people were often too tired for amorous activities at ‘first’ bedtime (which might strike a chord with many busy people today) but, when they woke in the night, our ancestors were refreshed and ready for action. After various nocturnal activities, people became drowsy again and slipped into their second sleep cycle (also for three or four hours) before rising to a new day. We too can imagine, for example, going to bed at 9pm on a winter night, waking at midnight, reading and chatting until around 2am, then sleeping again until 6am.

For those of us who are creative types, like some quiet time, or just have trouble sleeping in general, segmented sleep not only sounds like a good idea, but may be completely natural.

Further reading/watching:
The myth of the eight-hour sleep
Sleep Patterns Before Electricity were Very different
Busting the 8-Hour Sleep Myth: Why You Should Wake Up in the Night

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