Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Putting on a Show.

China really put on a show at the Olympics opening ceremony. Obviously it took a lot of practice and hard work. Apparently it took somewhat more than that according to this article on Sports Illustrated's website. I'm not taking about the fake CGI fireworks or the lip-synching 9-year old girl. I'm talking about what the performers were subjected to. The director of the show, Zhang Yimou, had a couple of particularly telling quotes. First he talks about how they work hard.
North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Through hard training and strict discipline.
Then he talks about how difficult it was to work on an opera in the West.
In one week, we could only work four and a half days, we had to have coffee breaks twice a day, couldn't go into overtime and just a little discomfort was not allowed because of human rights ... You could not criticize them either. They all belong to some organizations ... they have all kind of institutions, unions. We do not have that. We can work very hard, can withstand lots of bitterness. We can achieve in one week what they can achieve in two months.
The western opera company could not handle a "little discomfort." By "little discomfort" does he means the heat exhaustion and injuries that were suffered for the Olympic performance? Does he mean they actually wanted food once in a while? What about the "lots of bitterness?" Perhaps it refers to one rehearsal that was 51 hours long with almost no breaks. Perhaps it was the adult diapers that printing press performers had to wear. Perhaps it refers to the practical imprisonment of the performers for three months at a military base. Yep just get rid of those pesky unions and silly human rights and you can put on a real show. Like they do in North Korea. It's so good to know that China aspires to such heights.

Ironic how much human right abuse it took to get us to enjoy the show and overlook China's other human rights abuses. Yep, China really put on a show.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eye Opening

I heard Nonie Darwish speak yesterday at a local Jewish temple. She gave a fascinating talk. She is from Egypt, grew up Muslim and lived on the Gaza strip when her father was sent there to head up fedayeen terror attacks on Israel. Her father was assassinated by Israeli Defense Forces when she was eight because of his position. She personally has seen how Muslim countries oppress the Palestinians and how Muslim jihad ideology is forced upon all members of these countries. She says the idea of conversion by force and lying about such intentions is at the heart of Islam and encourages all of us to stand up against it. You can learn more about her on wikipedia or visit her website. She also has a book Now they Call Me Infidel; Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror.

I like to believe there are moderate Muslims and that the jihadists are in the minority. I do not believe in hating any people. I am sure that Muslims and Arabs, like all people, have a lot of good in them. I have a boss who is also from Egypt and is a practicing Muslim. He is a good guy. I believe some of the measures Ms. Darwish called for at the end of the meeting -- such as changing our constitution to prohibit Sharia Law -- are too extreme and would be unworkable.

However, whenever I receive direct evidence it seems to agree with what Ms. Darwish is saying. If there are Muslim moderates and they are the majority where is their outcry against terror? Is it possible to follow the Qur’an and not believe in violent conversion? Why does the Qur’an have so much to say about killing and violence and so little about love and mercy? Is moderate Islam only a fiction to allow them to infiltrate the West?

I want to believe in peace and moderation and negotiation. I do believe that God is love, that Jesus preached love and that love will eventually win out. But I will not remain willfully ignorant nor sit idly by while a major threat builds against myself, my family, my country and the beliefs I deeply cherish. I will go to war if that's what it takes.

Muslim leaders please show me wrong. Please stand up against terror. Please lead your people away from jihad. Please help the Palestinians and stop blowing up people, especially in Israel.

If not, if what you really want is war, we'll give it to you. You do realize, don't you, that you still exist because of our kindness and restraint? If we really wanted you dead it would only take a small fraction of our nuclear arsenal to send your countries back to the 7th century. Trust me on this: if needed we'll be more than happy to send you to your reward.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Speaking of Ignorance ...

For those of us who know anything at all about computers this falls under the "You've got to be kidding me" category. I hadn't heard about it until I saw the comic. I'm speechless.

Ignorance, Sasquatch and Evolution.

"Your ignorance may be bliss for you but to me it's like fingernails on a chalk board." My thought today as I listened to the radio.

I was listening to the radio as I was driving to the doctor this morning. (I'm OK. Thanks for asking.) The morning show hosts were talking about today's report of finding a Sasquatch body. (It's the first I heard of it.) The hosts were complaining that there's supposed to be a news conference but no one was saying when or where it will be. Then their conversation went something like this:

First host: "Why are we even talking about this? It's not news. I mean if Sasquatch were to stop the war in the Middle East or something ... "

Second host: "Oh yes, it's news. If they find Sasquatch, well, uh, it's like the missing link."

First, what a stupid comment about whether or not finding Sasquatch is news. Of course it is. I personally don't believe Sasquatch really exists. The reports are very sketchy and it seems unlikely a creature like that could remain hidden. However, I'm open to new evidence. Finding such a creature would be very interesting.

The second host's comment is far worse. I just finished a leading a small group at church on the subject of science and the Bible. Basically the Bible tells us what God does, not how things are done. Science is more concerned with how things are done. Unfortunately we Christians have some bad history of reacting negatively to science. Currently there is a huge movement against evolution and the idea that the earth is billions of years old. I used to be part of it. However, I've come to realize that it is full of ignorance and does not look at the facts clearly. I've blogged about related issues before and discussed issues like this in the "Science and the Bible" small group.

One of the areas of ignorance about evolution has to do with missing links. Yes, evolution says that there were species similar to but slightly different from those we see today. It says man and chimpanzees are closely related and that they had a common ancestor about 10 million years ago. At first glance it seems reasonable to assume that we should find the missing or transitional forms between that common ancestor and modern chimps and modern humans. However it is also true that since these ancestors lived in the past the only real way to "find" them is to find fossils. Fossils only can be produced under special conditions and they are rare and hard to find.

What does this all mean? First, there was not just one "missing link". There were many different related species, some of which are our direct ancestors, some cousins, some uncles, etc. To assume we need to find that one, special missing link is very misinformed. Christians make this mistake a lot and apparently we are not alone. Second many "links" have been found. Of course not all have been found. It's unrealistic to expect to find every transitional form.

I suppose it's possible that Sasquatch is a closer relative to human than any other creature. That indeed would be an interesting and mind blowing discovery. But finding such a creature would not automatically prove evolution and change the world. The evidence for evolution is already massive. People who chose to ignore it will probably still find an excuse to ignore Sasquatch evidence as well.

What's grating to me is so many people confidently assert facts that they really don't know. It's especially bad when we Christians (who are supposed to be set free by the truth) do it. I don't mind ignorance as such. If you don't care about science and don't want to spend the time to know about it, no problem. If you don't wish to study your Bible in depth, OK. But don't make huge claims about stuff you don't really know.

So why the picture of the dinosaur? Young earth creationists (YEC) like to point out Job 40:15-18 as referring to dinosaurs. The pictured dinosaur has become part of a YEC museum. Here is Job 40:15-17:
Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit.
They especially point out that what else but a dinosaur could have a tail "like a cedar." However, the word for tail is a euphemism. Stephen Mitchell suggests this translation.
Look now: the Beast I made: he eats grass like a bull. Look: the power in his thighs, the pulsing sinews of his belly. His penis stiffens like a pine; his testicles bulge with vigor.
Not exactly a dinosaur tail! Perhaps not all ignorance is grating. Some is downright amusing.