May 30, 2012

On the road again.


Psalm 119:25 

English Standard Version (ESV)

  My soul clings to the dust;
  give me life according to your word!

May 28, 2012

Hot-Peppered Moth Evolution

The evolution of the peppered moth over the last two hundred years has been studied in detail. Originally, the vast majority of peppered moths had light colouration, which effectively camouflaged them against the light-coloured trees and lichens which they rested upon. However, because of widespread pollution during the Industrial Revolution in England, many of the lichens died out, and the trees that peppered moths rested on became blackened by soot, causing most of the light-coloured moths, or typica, to die off from predation. At the same time, the dark-coloured, or melanic, moths, carbonaria, flourished because of their ability to hide on the darkened trees.
-from Wikipedia

May 26, 2012

Take a walk on the wild side.

I grew up in large part along the shore of Lake Texoma on the Red River (literally, a stone throw from Oklahoma). Every day, my mother would walk down to the lake in the cool of the morning. It was about a mile-long trek down a dirt road, with a steep hill down to the lake shore. She'd then walk along the shoreline. It was not a car-friendly road (we had a couple of four-wheel-drive trucks when we were in a hurry), so it was almost always very quiet.

I would often walk with her, observing (and discussing) the flora and fauna as we strolled. That was a long time ago, but they are times I will always cherish.

I live in an exurban community now, where cattle grazed just a few short years ago. It's a planned community. 'Seaside-on-the-Prairie', I call it. There is a small lake nearby (a former gravel pit) with a jogging path around it. I've taken to walking around it in the cool of the mornings. The pictures above are from this morning's walk.

What goes around, comes around.

May 21, 2012

Choose sides.

“Oh, I may be on the side of the angels - but don't think for one second that I am one of them.”

-- Stephan Moffatt, screenwriter, as spoken by his characterization of Sherlock Holmes.

May 10, 2012

An opinion piece on the BBC website

Rod Dreher, senior editor of the American Conservative:

I am supposed to be heartened by North Carolina's vote this week against same-sex marriage.
After all, I am a social and religious conservative who lives in a small town in Louisiana, the deepest part of the Deep South. We Southerners have held the line for tradition and moral truth about marriage every time the issue has been put on the ballot here. Given how decisive the North Carolina vote was, and given that gay marriage proponents have lost in every state, even culturally liberal California, it is tempting to think we can stand athwart history yelling, "Stop!" If only. I think ours is a lost cause. And we Southerners know something about lost causes.

When US President Barack Obama announced on ABC News yesterday that he favours same-sex marriage, a journalist friend inside a Manhattan newsroom wrote that every one of his colleagues stood at their desks, staring at the screens "like it was the moon landing". Of course. It is impossible to overstate the depth and breadth of media support for same-sex marriage. In my newsroom experience, it is taken as given that any opposition to gay marriage can only come from rank bigotry. You would no more take a defender of traditional marriage seriously than you would take a segregationist seriously - or so the thinking goes. Trying to explain philosophically why homosexuality is not the same thing as race draws blank stares. This is simply not something to be reasoned about, especially not with my generation of journalists: too young to have seen the black civil rights movement, and who are not about to miss out on their own version. Though I firmly believe there is only a superficial connection between gay marriage and inter-racial marriage, the legacy of the civil rights movement in the South is precisely why I think marriage traditionalists are going to lose in the long run.

I recently moved back to my hometown, a Louisiana country village of 2,000 people, after living away for nearly 30 years. Though my generation was the first to attend racially integrated schools from the beginning of our education, the relative comity that exists here now between the races - half the town is black, the other half white - is, as you would expect, partly a result of familiarity. Integrating state schools would not have happened if elites (I use the term descriptively, not pejoratively) in the 50s and 60s had not held the federal judiciary and imposed their moral views over popular local will.

That is only part of the story, though, and not the most important part. Yes, I went to school with black children. But despite this it was not as hard as you might think to maintain one's prejudices. Nothing in the local culture actively challenged racist beliefs. Churches avoided controversy by ignoring the issue. So, we Southern children of the 70s and beyond were catechised on the wrongness of racism primarily by television and media culture. It was impossible to watch TV back then and not notice that the conventional racial opinions held by local whites were treated as backward and immoral. They were, in fact, precisely that, but my point here has to do with media ecology. Mass media framed the debate over race in America in a way that stigmatised white racism, and made old-fashioned views obsolete and even embarrassing. The rigid old way of thinking, happily, did not survive a single generation.

In my town we have not achieved a Valhalla of tolerance, but social progress on the race question has been breathtaking. Whatever views people may hold privately, only the most truculent racists - the sort one rarely sees in public life these days - would favour laws and policies that were commonplace here as late as the mid-60s. Racism is seen as trashy - as vulgar - even here in a former segregationist stronghold. This tells us something about the future of gay marriage, given the dominance of the "civil rights" narrative in the public square. As is commonly known, polling data show a stark generational divide among Americans on same-sex marriage. The younger the voter, the greater the support. The demographic tidal wave on this issue is undeniable.

Gay marriage opponents like to tell themselves that people get more conservative as they age - true, in general, but unlikely in this case. As long as the traditionalist position on same-sex marriage, almost universally held only 25 years ago, is treated as irrational hatred and nothing but by the media, business, and social elites, there will be powerful social and psychological pressure to shun it. American business culture is increasingly pro-gay. If the US Supreme Court constitutionalises same-sex marriage the cultural, legal and financial pressure (through the tax code) against conservative churches to abandon orthodox Christian teaching will be enormous.

Leaving aside the role of elites in forming mass opinion, it is not sufficiently appreciated why so many younger Americans support same-sex marriage. It fits easily with what they already believe about the nature of marriage, of sex, of liberty, and of human nature. The high level of religiosity shown in US polls is deceiving. More recent, comprehensive research by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, and sociologist Christian Smith, indicates that young Americans are not only abandoning formal religious observance in large numbers (while still claiming to be "spiritual"), but they see religion primarily in therapeutic terms. That is, they believe that God wants us to be nice, happy and self-fulfilled - and that's about it. As the late sociologist Philip Rieff observed in his great 60s work of cultural analysis, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, Western culture had by then abandoned the Christian moral matrix, especially on sexual matters.

Given the haplessness of the churches as a counter-cultural force to the hedonism and individualism celebrated by popular culture, it should surprise no-one that arguments, Christian and otherwise, for traditional marriage are hard for young people to conceptualise. Traditionalists keep winning battles, but we have lost the war at the level of ideas. Our moral and religious claims strike many as illiberal (therefore incorrect) and sociological contentions about the integral importance of traditional family structure to society's health are cold-hearted abstractions. The collapse of Christianity's cultural authority has been profound. Prejudice - either in the bad sense of mindless bigotry, or the good, Burkean sense - is the only thing keeping gay marriage at bay. This will not last, especially as the social, legal, and commercial price for holding fast to tradition increases, as it certainly will, now that same-sex marriage commands the high ground in the US social and cultural hierarchy.

Gay marriage completes the institutionalisation of the sexual revolution, against which the forces of social conservatism and religious tradition have been impotent. As pleasing as ballot box victories are, I see no reason for the long defeat to reverse, at least not in my lifetime. Like it or not, this is what it means to live after the passing of the Christian era.


From the BBC.