Monthly Archives: April 2009

"The solution to pollution is dilution"

So I have heard it said.  Evidently there are several industries that still take that phrase to heart:

U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water — contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing processes, including drugmaking. For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder; nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives.

Federal and industry officials say they don’t know the extent to which pharmaceuticals are released by U.S. manufacturers because no one tracks them — as drugs. But a close analysis of 20 years of federal records found that, in fact, the government unintentionally keeps data on a few, allowing a glimpse of the pharmaceuticals coming from factories.

As part of its ongoing PharmaWater investigation about trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, the AP identified 22 compounds that show up on two lists: the EPA monitors them as industrial chemicals that are released into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water under federal pollution laws, while the Food and Drug Administration classifies them as active pharmaceutical ingredients.

{Read it all}

Anglican Centrist: Bart Ehrman's New Book – Greg Jones Comments

I appreciate these comments from Fr. Greg Jones at the Anglican Centrist, where he takes professor Bart Ehrman to task for something C.S. Lewis used to call “chronological snobbery,” as well as some cultural bias.  The sad thing about Ehrman is that his academic work is useful (we used some of his work on the New Testament in my history of Christianity class in college, and it was well presented and informative), but it is now being overshadowed by a series of sensationalist books that reproduce the same old schtick about there being contradictions in scripture, Jesus not being considered divine in the earliest Christian community (of course, one has to leave Paul out to demonstrate that, as well as disregard some pretty blatant stuff in the synoptic Gospels–John was not the only Gospel writer to view Jesus as divine, despite what Ehrman claims).
The thing about books like Ehrman’s Jesus Interupted is that they really only have an impact when one assumes that the default Christian position is a fundamentalism that would be challenged by Ehrman’s assertions and ignorant enough of biblical criticism to be left defenseless against his onslaught.  It also assumes a fundamentally modernist paradigm, which of course demonstrates that Ehrman merely rejected one overly rationalistic system (the fundamentalism with which he gre up) for a modernism that is, in many ways, self-absorbed and condescending in the way it looks at our forebearers.  Fr. Jones can elaborate on some of this:
Which gets to Ehrman’s entire problem: he continues to define the meaning of the phrase “understanding the Bible” in terms of the rationalistic, historical-critical, skeptical methods of the modern West — even though the Bible was not written, edited or even now largely read by persons who share that hermeneutic.
Ehrman shows his own flatlander bias when he writes, “scholars of the Bible have made significant progress in understanding the Bible over the past two hundred years, building on archeological discoveries, advances in our knowledge of the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages in which the books of Scripture were originally written, and deep and penetrating historical, literary, and textual analyses.”

Factually speaking, the recent discoveries made by scientists have not been of things never before known.  No, much of what has been done is to restore a degree of familiarity with the languages and contexts of the ancient world which — well — the ancients were totally familiar with by virtue of being alive then.  To put a plain point on it — the knowledge of Scripture that Paul exhibits, for example, when he wrote his own letters (which would become Scripture themselves) is of a degree that I seriously doubt whether Ehrman could even come close.  Paul, after all, is likely to have been versant in biblical Hebrew, as well as Aramaic, Greek and Latin.  As a trained bible scholar — a Pharisee — Paul probably had committed the Scriptures to memory to a large degree, as well as a large oral tradition, and he would have been exposed to manuscripts far more ‘original’ than any Ehrman has ever seen.

Anglican Centrist: Bart Ehrman’s New Book – Greg Jones Comments.

And just in case that wasn’t enough, you can always check out Steven Colbert’s interview with Ehrman below:

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If only this were from "The Onion."

I wonder if Mrs. Berliner-Mauer is related to the woman who jumped into the polar bear pool at the Berlin Zoo during feeding time.

Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer is married to the Berlin Wall. Like any couple, they’ve had their ups and downs, but over the years, they’ve been able to meet each other’s spiritual and emotional needs. “We even made it through the terrible disaster of 9 November 1989, when my husband was subjected to frenzied attacks by a mob. But we are still as much in love as the day we met,” Berliner-Mauer said last year.

Berliner-Mauer (the German name for the Berlin Wall, which she has taken as her last name) has since defined her love under the term “objectum sexual,” or OS—in other words, a person who falls in love with inanimate objects. As an animist, she, along with a growing group of others, believe that inanimate objects are sentient, intelligent beings.

Take Erika Eiffel, who is married to the Eiffel Tower. Eiffel says she recalls being attracted to objects even as a child, and realized she was different only when she saw other people at school dating each other, while she was dating a bridge.

via The End of Divorce? Growing Numbers of People Marrying Inanimate Objects | Discoblog | Discover Magazine.

The Knights Templar and the Shroud of Turin

SINDONE
The Shroud of Turin

A conspiracy theorist couldn’t ask for anything more: evidence that links the Shroud of Turin to the Knights Templar.  Readers of this blog will recall that the Vatican released documents a while ago that showed the Templars had actually been exonerated of the charges of heresy that were used as the justification to bring the order down–evidently, in a reversal of today, they had gotten too big and too successful not to fail.  Now we have evidence that the disembodied head/idol the Templars were said to worship was actually the image on the Shroud of Turin.  Very interesting stuff:

Medieval knights hid and secretly venerated The Holy Shroud of Turin for more than 100 years after the Crusades, the Vatican said yesterday in an announcement that appeared to solve the mystery of the relic’s missing years.

The Knights Templar, an order which was suppressed and disbanded for alleged heresy, took care of the linen cloth, which bears the image of a man with a beard, long hair and the wounds of crucifixion, according to Vatican researchers.

The Shroud, which is kept in the royal chapel of Turin Cathedral, has long been revered as the shroud in which Jesus was buried, although the image only appeared clearly in 1898 when a photographer developed a negative.

Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives, said the Shroud had disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and did not surface again until the middle of the fourteenth century. Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Dr Frale said its fate in those years had always puzzled historians.

However her study of the trial of the Knights Templar had brought to light a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.

Dr Frale said that among other alleged offences such as sodomy, the Knights Templar had been accused of worshipping idols, in particular a “bearded figure”. In reality however the object they had secretly venerated was the Shroud.

They had rescued it to ensure that it did not fall into the hands of heretical groups such as the Cathars, who claimed that Christ did not have a true human body, only the appearance of a man, and could therefore not have died on the Cross and been resurrected. She said her discovery vindicated a theory first put forward by the British historian Ian Wilson in 1978.

The Knights Templar were founded at the time of the First Crusade in the eleventh century to protect Christians making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Order was endorsed by the Pope, but when Acre fell in 1291 and the Crusaders lost their hold on the Holy Land their support faded, amid growing envy of their fortune in property and banking.Templar Seal

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Go Heels!

I enjoyed watching the game last night, not because it was the most hard fought match, but because of how clear it was that Carolina had peaked at the right time.

Congratulations to Michigan State for making it to the final game, and I’m sure there are more good things in store for that program.

But, in the end, all I can say is GO HEELS!

north_carolina

I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred.
And when I die, I’m a Tar Heel dead.
So it’s rah-rah, Car’lina-‘lina!
Rah-rah, Car’lina-‘lina!
Rah-rah, Car’lina

Cleaning ourselves to death…

This is interesting.  I recall reading articles not long ago that talked about a treatment for crone’s disease (an autoimmune disease that affects the bowel), that included giving a person pig worms–a parasite much like those that naturally attack human beings, but will automatically die after a while (since we aren’t their natural habitat).  The thing is, the doctors/scientists believe that Crone’s and possibly other autoimmune diseases could be caused by an immune system having nothing there to attack but itself.  So, ironically, while cleanliness is important at combating certain diseases, it seems that too much of a good thing can be bad.  As my Dad used to tell me when I was a kid, “a little dirt is good for you!”

William Parker is an assistant professor of experimental surgery at Duke Medical Center. Over the past few years he has been collecting wild rats not far from his office in Durham, North Carolina. Duke Medical Center is a serious, high-profile sort of place, and collecting wild rats is, at this point in history, just a wee bit taboo. But Parker went out and found rat colonies, living among boxes and urban realities. He gave them food, to get them used to taking food and then, slowly, he put out traps. He could be seen for a while, moving along darkened streets, carrying his quarry — their bald tails dangling — one in each arm. He took them back to the lab and there, among the civilized, domesticated, rats, studied them. He examined their immune systems. He predicted that the wild rats, because they are exposed to a slew of parasites (like our wild ancestors), would have fewer problems associated with autoimmune diseases and that they would be, despite their plagues of pathogens, more healthy. The lab rats, Parker hypothesized, like us, had immune systems with “basically nothing to do.” The wild rats had immune systems primed by and focused on the worms of the wild world.

Parker has begun comparing wild and lab rat immune systems and it is clear they are different. Some antibodies, particularly IgE, are far more abundant in wild rats than in lab rats. A separate study has shown the same is true in the comparison between wolves and domestic dogs. One’s first reaction to noticing that the immune systems of lab rats behave differently from those of wild (and natural) rats might be to say that we should stop studying lab rats. Domestication has rendered them strange and no longer representative of a wild mammal. Fortunately, our own lifestyles have rendered us strange, too. The “strange” response of the lab rats more closely resembles that of our immune system than do the wilder responses of wild rats, wolves, or for that matter any of the other mammals that have been studied to date.

The lives of lab rats and wild rats differ in many ways, and so there are many factors that might explain the differences in their immune systems. But the feature that stands out most is that lab rats have no parasites and, for quite a few generations, no history of parasites. In addition (and here both I and the researchers themselves struggle to find the right words), the wild rat immune system seems more “balanced” than that of the lab rats. Anecdotally, it appears as though mammal immune systems are tuned up with parasites in mind. When parasites are absent, the tuning is wrong. The immunological orchestra is too far off-key, far enough in fact that it attacks pollen (hence allergies) and even the body itself (in the case of autoimmune diseases).

via I Am a Rat and So Are You § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM.