To exhibit the nature of defection or falling away, on the part of those who conduct themselves carelessly, it will not appear out of place to employ a similitude by way of illustration. Suppose, then, the case of one who had become gradually acquainted with the art or science, say of geometry or medicine, until he had reached perfection, having trained himself for a lengthened time in its principles and practice, so as to attain a complete mastery over the art: to such an one it could never happen, that, when he lay down to sleep in the possession of his skill, he should awake in a state of ignorance. It is not our purpose to adduce or to notice here those accidents which are occasioned by any injury or weakness, for they do not apply to our present illustration. According to our point of view, then, so long as that geometer or physician continues to exercise himself in the study of his art and in the practice of its principles, the knowledge of his profession abides with him; but if he withdraw from its practice, and lay aside his habits of industry, then, by his neglect, at first a few things will gradually escape him, then by and by more and more, until in course of time everything will be forgotten, and be completely effaced from the memory. It is possible, indeed, that when he has first begun to fall away, and to yield to the corrupting influence of a negligence which is small as yet, he may, if he be aroused and return speedily to his senses, repair those losses which up to that time are only recent, and recover that knowledge which hitherto had been only slightly obliterated from his mind. Let us apply this now to the case of those who have devoted themselves to the knowledge and wisdom of God, whose learning and diligence incomparably surpass all other training; and let us contemplate, according to the form of the similitude employed, what is the acquisition of knowledge, or what is its disappearance, especially when we hear from the apostle what is said of those who are perfect, that they shall behold face to face the glory of the Lord in the revelation of His mysteries.
Origen, "On First Principles,", Book 1, Chapter 4.1
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
God the Father bestows upon all, existence; and participation in Christ, in respect of His being the word of reason, renders them rational beings. From which it follows that they are deserving either of praise or blame, because capable of virtue and vice. On this account, therefore, is the grace of the Holy Ghost present, that those beings which are not holy in their essence may be rendered holy by participating in it. Seeing, then, that firstly, they derive their existence from God the Father; secondly, their rational nature from the Word; thirdly, their holiness from the Holy Spirit,—those who have been previously sanctified by the Holy Spirit are again made capable of receiving Christ, in respect that He is the righteousness of God; and those who have earned advancement to this grade by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, will nevertheless obtain the gift of wisdom according to the power and working of the Spirit of God.
Origen, "On First Principles," Book 8, Chapter 3.8
Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists -- that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.
Monday, August 29, 2011
All who perceive, in whatever manner, the existence of Providence, confess that God, who created and disposed all things, is unbegotten, and recognise Him as the parent of the universe. Now, that to Him belongs a Son, is a statement not made by us only; although it may seem a sufficiently marvellous and incredible assertion to those who have a reputation as philosophers among Greeks and Barbarians, by some of whom, however, an idea of His existence seems to have been entertained, in their acknowledging that all things were created by the word or reason of God. We, however, in conformity with our belief in that doctrine, which we assuredly hold to be divinely inspired, believe that it is possible in no other way to explain and bring within the reach of human knowledge this higher and diviner reason as the Son of God, than by means of those Scriptures alone which were inspired by the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Gospels and Epistles, and the law and the prophets, according to the declaration of Christ Himself. Of the existence of the Holy Spirit no one indeed could entertain any suspicion, save those who were familiar with the law and the prophets, or those who profess a belief in Christ. For although no one is able to speak with certainty of God the Father, it is nevertheless possible for some knowledge of Him to be gained by means of the visible creation and the natural feelings of the human mind; and it is possible, moreover, for such knowledge to be confined from the sacred Scriptures. But with respect to the Son of God, although no one knoweth the Son save the Father, yet it is from sacred Scripture also that the human mind is taught how to think of the Son; and that not only from the New, but also from the Old Testament, by means of those things which, although done by the saints, are figuratively referred to Christ, and from which both His divine nature, and that human nature which was assumed by Him, may be discovered.
Origen, "On First Principles," Book 1, Chapter 3.1
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Archaeologists working in the Oxfordshire town of Bicester believe they have discovered a reliquary containing some of the bones of Saint Edburg, a seventh-century saint.
John Moore Heritage Services is conducting the excavations of a site of former apartment buildings (flats) which is being redeveloped. The land once belonged to Bicester Priory, and the archaeological work has uncovered the entire north transept of the Priory Church, After coming across thirteen other skeletons during the dig, the archaeologists found some partial remains of a skeleton wrapped in a lead sheet.
Paul Riccoboni, who is leading the archaeological work for John Moore Heritage Services, told the Bicester Advertiser, “We have found a reliquary which is probably the bones of St Edburg. It is really exciting. A first-class reliquary is actually the bones of a saint and a second-class is the clothes of a saint. It is the first time I am aware of, or come across, others being found. I am assuming they are the bones of Saint Edburg.”
Saint Edburg was the daughter of King Penda of Mercia, and spent most of her life as a nun. She even founded a monastery and died in the year 650. Her relics were kept at Bicester Priory from the twelfth century to 1500, when Pope Alexander VI ordered her remains to be removed and relocated to Belgium. Apparently, some of the bones remained behind and were reburied at the Priory Church.
The other remains found may also date back to the fourteenth century, and probably include monks and prominent local citizens. Mr Riccoboni added, “There is only one other excavation like it to a modern standard. It’s a very rare excavation.”
From The University of Manchester:
An obscure Babylonian document from the world famous Dead Sea Scroll collection was almost certainly a precursor to the Jewish calendar according to University of Manchester research.
Dr Helen Jacobus, a part-time doctoral student who graduated this month, investigated one of the 972 texts found in Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan between 1947 and 1956.
The Babylonian text known as Qumran scroll ‘4Q318’and kept at the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem, is thought to have been written around 2000 years ago.
Shown by Dr Jacobus to be a calendar - it contains predictions based on the moon’s position in the zodiac when the sound of thunder occurs.
The calendar can still be used to find the moon's position in the zodiac on a given date in the Jewish calendar – a calculation no other document in the world is able to achieve.
According to Dr Jacobus, the Aramaic month names used in the scroll are the same as those used in the Hebrew calendar today. They are, she says, Aramaic translations of the Babylonian month names.
Dr Jacobus said: “This ancient tract can be still used a functioning lunar zodiac calendar , which was a precursor to the Jewish calendar of today.
“The calendar is followed by an omen text, which makes predictions based on the moon's sign of the zodiac on the day that thunder is heard.
“The predictions are written in an archaic, anachronistic style, similar to the omen texts of the Akkadians, an ancient Semitic people.”
“In contrast, the poetry in the Dead Sea Scrolls is sublime, sophisticated and are masterpieces of literature, so they definitely didn't write 4Q318 in a way that was contemporary.
“It is closely related to Greco-Babylonian zodiacal calendars and connected to a tradition of calendrical systems developed in Ptolemaic Egypt and Greece.
“It adds hugely to our understanding of the history of the Jewish calendar, and of ancient calendars, astronomy and astrology.
“It also tells us much tell us about the variety of different calendars in Palestine 2,000 years ago."
Her thesis is to be published as a book next year.
Her paper entitled, “A Jewish Zodiac Calendar at Qumran?” was awarded the tenth Annual Sean W. Dever Memorial Prize 2011 from the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, in Jerusalem, in March.
This month’s international periodical Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) announced her a prize-winning article about the fragmentary calendar in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
She added: “My research reveals this text is an important precursor to the Hebrew calendar used by Jews across the world today.
“However, its method of functioning has been relatively unexplored.
“So it is gratifying that that my research has been recognised by the Sean W. Dever Memorial prize.”
She was supervised by Professor George J. Brooke, at the University’s School of Arts, Histories and Cultures.
Commenting on the Dever prize, Professor Carol Meyers of Duke University, North Carolina, in America, said: “The judges thought highly of Helen’s meticulous scholarship and careful presentation of the data in her discussion of the zodiac and its role in Jewish calendars.”
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
A dull-looking chart projected on the wall of a university office in Jerusalem displayed a revelation that would startle many readers of the Old Testament: the sacred text that people revered in the past was not the same one we study today.
An ancient version of one book has an extra phrase. Another appears to have been revised to retroactively insert a prophecy after the events happened.
Scholars in this out-of-the-way corner of the Hebrew University campus have been quietly at work for 53 years on one of the most ambitious projects attempted in biblical studies -- publishing the authoritative edition of the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible, and tracking every single evolution of the text over centuries and millennia.
And it has evolved, despite deeply held beliefs to the contrary.
For many Jews and Christians, religion dictates that the words of the Bible in the original Hebrew are divine, unaltered and unalterable. For Orthodox Jews, the accuracy is considered so inviolable that if a synagogue's Torah scroll is found to have a minute error in a single letter, the entire scroll is unusable.
But the ongoing work of the academic detectives of the Bible Project, as their undertaking is known, shows that this text at the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was somewhat fluid for long periods of its history, and that its transmission through the ages was messier and more human than most of us imagine.
The project's scholars have been at work on their critical edition of the Hebrew Bible, a version intended mainly for the use of other scholars, since 1958.
"What we're doing here must be of interest for anyone interested in the Bible," said Michael Segal, the scholar who heads the project.
The sheer volume of information makes the Bible Project's version "the most comprehensive critical edition of the Hebrew Bible in existence at the present time," said David Marcus, a Bible scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, who is not involved with the project.
But Segal and his colleagues toil in relative anonymity. Their undertaking is nearly unknown outside a circle of Bible experts numbering several hundred people at most, and a visitor asking directions to the Bible Project's office on the university campus will find that many members of the university's own staff have never heard of it.
This is an endeavor so meticulous, its pace so disconnected from that of the world outside, that in more than five decades of work the scholars have published a grand total of three of the Hebrew Bible's 24 books. (Christians count the same books differently, for a total of 39.) A fourth is due out during the upcoming academic year.
If the pace is maintained, the final product will be complete a little over 200 years from now. This is both a point of pride and a matter of some mild self-deprecation around the office.
Bible Project scholars have spent years combing through manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Greek translations on papyrus from Egypt, a printed Bible from 1525 Venice, parchment books in handwritten Hebrew, the Samaritan Torah, and scrolls in Aramaic and Latin. The last member of the original team died last year at age 90.
The scholars note where the text we have now differs from older versions -- differences that are evidence of the inevitable textual hiccups, scribal errors and other human fingerprints that became part of the Bible as it was passed on, orally and in writing.
A Microsoft Excel chart projected on one wall on a recent Sunday showed variations in a single phrase from the Book of Malachi, a prophet.
The verse in question, from the text we know today, makes reference to "those who swear falsely." The scholars have found that in quotes from rabbinic writings around the 5th century A.D., the phrase was longer: "those who swear falsely in my name."
In another example, this one from the Book of Deuteronomy, a passage referring to commandments given by God "to you" once read "to us," a significant change in meaning.
Other differences are more striking.
The Book of Jeremiah is now one-seventh longer than the one that appears in some of the 2,000-year-old manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some verses, including ones containing a prophecy about the seizure and return of Temple implements by Babylonian soldiers, appear to have been added after the events happened.
The year the Bible Project began, 1958, was the year a priceless Hebrew Bible manuscript arrived in Jerusalem after it was smuggled out of Aleppo, Syria, by a Jewish cheese merchant who hid it in his washing machine. This was the 1,100-year-old Aleppo Codex, considered the oldest and most accurate version of the complete biblical text in Hebrew.
The Bible Project's version of the core text -- the one to which the others are compared -- is based on this manuscript. Other critical editions of the Bible, such as one currently being prepared in Stuttgart, Germany, are based on a slightly newer manuscript held in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Considering that the nature of their work would be considered controversial, if not offensive, by many religious people, it is perhaps surprising that most of the project's scholars are themselves Orthodox Jews.
"A believing Jew claims that the source of the Bible is prophecy," said the project's bearded academic secretary, Rafael Zer. "But as soon as the words are given to human beings -- with God's agreement, and at his initiative -- the holiness of the biblical text remains, even if mistakes are made when the text is passed on."
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Italian police have arrested 20 gladiator impersonators in an undercover sting aimed at ending a violent racket operating around Rome's most famous tourist sites.
Police disguised as rival gladiators, dustbin men and members of the public raided the gang of seven families working with five tourist agencies.
The gladiator gang is accused of attacking and intimidating competitors for a lucrative business in which they collect up to $14 for having their picture taken with tourists in front of attractions.
The police officers disguised as gladiators were beaten up by the alleged criminal gladiators outside the Colosseum before other undercover officers swooped in.
Gladiators are a feature of the Roman landscape for tourists, with men decked out in bright red capes, helmets with plumes of red feathers and sandals while carrying swords and round shields.
They can be found outside the Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo, Piazza Venezia and even in front of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, preying on the millions of tourists who pass through Rome every year.
Criminal gangs had divided up these tourist sights and were defending their territory with violence, the police said.
Five competitors who had been chased away alerted police to the gang's activities, leading to the sting operation.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
From Iran Book News Agency:
Seyyed Abdolhadi Ghazayi said his book deals with the philosophy of Socrates and the backgrounds to the emergence of his philosophy.
Referring to the history of philosophy before Socrates, Ghazayi explained: "Before Socrates philosophy existed in the East and then it travelled to the west. Therefore, we can infer that Socrates is the heir of Eastern philosophies of his time. An analysis of the emergence of Socrates and his remaining works makes another chapter of this volume."
Ghazayi added: "For this book I have used a simple writing style intentionally avoiding difficult expressions. My stress on simple writing even includes philosophical terms of Socrates."
His interest in Socrates began with his interest in classical Greek philosophers and added: "A sage should, first of all, be a theologian and so was Socrates. I consider him a divine prophet. God has not revealed the names of all his prophets to us, and since Socrates was a theologian I have no doubt that he has been a divine messenger."
Ghazayi continued: "Each prophet had a particular mission in his life and the significance of that mission in a historical period made him everlasting in history. Some philosophers do not even regard Socrates as a sage, whereas he was martyred in the path of philosophy and theosophy."
He added: "Philosophy is a kind of knowledge that departs from theology. Islamic philosophers are not pure philosophers. What was translated into Arabic and given to Arabs of that time was pure philosophy, but Farabi, Ibn Roshd and Ibn Sina mingled it with Quranic sciences."
He continued: "Ibn Sina's The Healing is a philosophical text inspired by Islamic tradition and Quran."
Socrates's words could not be understood in his time and that was why he was killed by poison, explained Ghazayi. His manners and ideas were unique among his disciples. They used to drink wine whereas Socrates avoided it. In fact, he was the first person that banned drinking and this proves that he had a relative understanding of Divine law.
Ghazayi emphasized: "The surviving works of Socrates show that he stood beyond the ideas of his contemporaries and taught them what was useful for their minds and bodies. Theology had no meaning for the people of that time, but he instructed people of divine knowledge lake a wise prophet."
Short book review: The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World by Daniel J. Boorstin
What makes this book unique (and an uniquely excellent read) from among the many intellectual histories out there is the perspective from which Boorstin approaches his subjects and the aspect of his various subjects which he focuses on. Rather than looking, as most intellectual histories do, at what the conclusions, ideas, and dogmas of their various subjects are, Boorstin instead examines the act of seeking itself. In the process, he introduces us to the means of seeking answers to life's greatest questions as they have been applied by some of the greatest seekers of history, from biblical figures like Job to Greek philosophers like Plato to modern day scientists like Albert Einstein. Boorstin's work is a masterpiece of appreciation for the amazing capacities of the human mind and the restless nature of the human spirit. His book is a paean to humanity.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of "social technology" that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
From the Toronto Star:
From the espresso-serving waiters to the floor of the Uffizi, Florence residents are hotly debating a suggestion by the mayor that the city should take over where Michelangelo left off five centuries ago and complete a façade for the famous San Lorenzo Basilica.
The great artist was commissioned in 1515 by Pope Leo X to build the front of the ornate church — one of the oldest in Florence — out of white marble from Carrara. But when the financial strain of buying and hauling the huge chunks of rock from northern Tuscany became apparent, the pope abandoned the project and assigned Michelangelo to work on another part of the church.
Construction on the façade was never initiated. A few sketches and a wood model are all that remain of Michelangelo’s 500-year-old plans.
Now, Florence’s mayor, Matteo Renzi, wants to bring Michelangelo’s plans to life as a tribute to the artist and finish the façade by 2015 — a suggestion that has sparked controversy among residents and art historians alike. Some believe the unfinished brick façade should remain as is as a testament to history. Others say the opportunity to complete such a work would be a boon to Italy’s artistic trades and would brighten up the church’s otherwise drab, albeit famous, exterior.
“On the one hand, you don’t really want to change something that’s been like that for centuries,” Waldemar de Boer, a Florence-based historian specializing in Italian Renaissance art, told the Toronto Star from his home in Italy. “On the other hand, Florence has a history of finishing the facades for churches at a much later stage. I think the sentiment among most residents, however, is to just not touch it.”
Construction began on the main structure of the San Lorenzo Basilica in 1419 under the famous Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. He died in 1446, leaving much of the building unfinished, including the façade.
In 1515, Pope Leo X, a member of the powerful Medici family, which assumed financial responsibility for the church in the previous century, commissioned Michelangelo to build the façade.
The artist worked on the plans and readied his materials for three years before the Pope called it off over spiraling costs — the façade alone was projected to cost four times as much as the cost to build an entire church. Plans show that the all-marble façade was to feature 12 monolithic columns, each as high as seven metres, and statues of religious figures in marble and bronze.
During the same period, two members of the Medici clan died, so the Pope decided a better use of the money would be to build a mausoleum for his departed family. Michelangelo was reassigned to build the Basilica’s new sacristy in 1520 instead, and his façade was abandoned.
“It was probably the most disappointing moment in Michelangelo’s career,” said William Wallace, an art history professor at Washington University in St. Louis and author of Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The Genius as Entrepreneur. “This was intended, in his mind and in his patron’s mind, to be his greatest work of art. He said it was going to be the most beautiful thing ever made in Italy.”
Wallace told the Star that despite the fact Michelangelo was notorious for constantly changing his plans, he believes the city should complete the façade, despite the controversy it would cause, at least initially.
“The Italians have been doing this forever. Both the façade of Florence Cathedral and the façade of the Basilica of Santa Croce — two of the major monuments of Renaissance Florence — were completed in the 19th century,” he said. “They’re still considered Renaissance churches and they look better for it. People are happy to see buildings completed.”
But Anna Hudson, an art history professor at York University, said completing the façade would change the church’s relationship with its parishioners and local residents.
“There’s a question of what’s worth preserving and what’s not,” she said. “It would change the building, its legacy, and would result in the erasure of another thing. The existing façade, or lack thereof, has at this point come to represent that church.”
The majority of those who read it take pleasure only in the variety of the events which history relates, without ever thinking of imitating the noble actions, deeming that not only difficult, but impossible; as though heaven, the sun, the elements, and men had changed the order of their motions and power, and were different from what they were in ancient times.
Niccolò Machiavelli, quoted by Daniel J. Boorstin, The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World, pg. 179
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Whence are we to find words enough fully to tell the happiness of that marriage which the Church cements, and the oblation confirms, and the benediction signs and seals; which angels carry back the news of to heaven, which the Father holds for ratified? For even on earth children do not rightly and lawfully wed without their fathers’ consent. What kind of yoke is that of two believers, partakers of one hope, one desire, one discipline, one and the same service? Both are brethren, both fellow servants, no difference of spirit or of flesh; nay, they are truly “two in one flesh.” Where the flesh is one, one is the spirit too. Together they pray, together prostrate themselves, together perform their fasts; mutually teaching, mutually exhorting, mutually sustaining. Equally are they both found in the Church of God; equally at the banquet of God; equally in straits, in persecutions, in refreshments. Neither hides ought from the other; neither shuns the other; neither is troublesome to the other. The sick is visited, the indigent relieved, with freedom. Alms are given without danger of ensuing torment; sacrifices attended without scruple; daily diligence discharged without impediment: there is no stealthy signing, no trembling greeting, no mute benediction. Between the two echo psalms and hymns; and they mutually challenge each other which shall better chant to their Lord. Such things when Christ sees and hears, He joys. To these He sends His own peace. Where two are, there withal is He Himself. Where He is, there the Evil One is not.
Tertullian, "To His Wife," Book II, Ch. 8
Friday, August 19, 2011
But let her see to the question how she discharges her duties to her husband. To the Lord, at all events, she is unable to give satisfaction according to the requirements of discipline; having at her side a servant of the devil, his lord’s agent for hindering the pursuits and duties of believers: so that if a station is to be kept, the husband at daybreak makes an appointment with his wife to meet him at the baths; if there are fasts to be observed, the husband that same day holds a convivial banquet; if a charitable expedition has to be made, never is family business more urgent. For who would suffer his wife, for the sake of visiting the brethren, to go round from street to street to other men’s, and indeed to all the poorer, cottages? Who will willingly bear her being taken from his side by nocturnal convocations, if need so be? Who, finally, will without anxiety endure her absence all the night long at the paschal solemnities? Who will, without some suspicion of his own, dismiss her to attend that Lord’s Supper which they defame? Who will suffer her to creep into prison to kiss a martyr’s bonds? nay, truly, to meet any one of the brethren to exchange the kiss? to offer water for the saints’ feet? to snatch somewhat for them from her food, from her cup? to yearn after them? to have them in her mind? If a pilgrim brother arrive, what hospitality for him in an alien home? If bounty is to be distributed to any, the granaries, the storehouses, are foreclosed.
“But some husband does endure our practices, and not annoy us.” Here, therefore, there is a sin; in that Gentiles know our practices; in that we are subject to the privity of the unjust; in that it is thanks to them that we do any good work. He who “endures” a thing cannot be ignorant of it; or else, if he is kept in ignorance because he does not endure it, he is feared. But since Scripture commands each of two things—namely, that we work for the Lord without the privity of any second person, and without pressure upon ourselves, it matters not in which quarter you sin; whether in regard to your husband’s privity, if he be tolerant, or else in regard of your own affliction in avoiding his intolerance. “Cast not,” saith He, “your pearls to swine, lest they trample them to pieces, and turn round and overturn you also. “Your pearls” are the distinctive marks of even your daily conversation. The more care you take to conceal them, the more liable to suspicion you will make them, and the more exposed to the grasp of Gentile curiosity. Shall you escape notice when you sign your bed, or your body; when you blow away some impurity; when even by night you rise to pray? Will you not be thought to be engaged in some work of magic? Will not your husband know what it is which you secretly taste before taking any food? and if he knows it to be bread, does he not believe it to be that bread which it is said to be? And will every husband, ignorant of the reason of these things, simply endure them, without murmuring, without suspicion whether it be bread or poison? Some, it is true, do endure them; but it is that they may trample on, that they may make sport of such women; whose secrets they keep in reserve against the danger which they believe in, in case they ever chance to be hurt: they do endure wives, whose dowries, by casting in their teeth their Christian name, they make the wages of silence; while they threaten them, forsooth, with a suit before some spy as arbitrator! which most women, not foreseeing, have been wont to discover either by the extortion of their property, or else by the loss of their faith.
Tertullian, "To His Wife" Book II, Chs. 4-5
In your most recent question to me, you seem to presuppose a great measure of biological determinism. I assume, then, that you'll agree with me in my assertion that a naturalistic worldview eliminates free will and necessitates determinism, at least to a great extent. If this is the case, how can anyone be held accountable for their actions? Moreover, how can we formulate a consistent morality out of biological inclinations which, while some may be held in common by nearly all members of a given species, necessarily differ from individual to individual? What makes the moral inclinations of a sociopath of any more value than the moral inclinations of an altruist? If this biological basis is, as it clearly is, insufficient to the task, upon what philosophical foundation can we build a consistent morality?
There are really two questions here and only one actually pertains to this debate. I can't help but see your question of whether I accept or reject evolution as an attempt to distract from the more central questions at hand in this debate. This is not the first attempt that you've made in this regard. You've also questioned the Old Testament's historical reliability and the nature of God as presented in the Old Testament; these items do not matter to this debate and are, at best, a form of subtle anti-Semitism that I won't indulge. Whether or not I accept the theory of evolution as a viable scientific theory is immaterial here and I will not answer that question, though I have stated my opinion on evolution many times on my website previously.
With that said, I also believe that I have made it very clear from the beginning of this debate that I do not believe that there is no innate moral sense of any kind; clearly, then, I do not accept the theory that human beings are born tabula rasa as you attribute to me. Quite on the contrary, I do believe that, and I believe that both science and philosophy as well as the contents of my own Christian Faith support me here, human beings are born with at least the seeds of some innate morality. I also believe that the Law of God (or Ma'at, or Tao, or Dharma, or whatever else we'd like to call it) is equally accessible to all human beings via the use of their reasoning and spiritual faculties, but that such access is necessarily incomplete without the fullness of the revelation of God as given in Christ.
The problem, then, is not that man does not have some vague but innate "moral sense" but that this is insufficient. Man's moral sense, as we have seen and as you have since admitted, has not been enough throughout most of history to stop him from slaying his own infant children in some often extremely grotesque ways. And, as we saw in the passage I have quoted twice now from Thomas Cahill regarding Malcolm Muggeridge's experiences with Mother Teresa, mere humanity is not enough to take account of those no one loves or whom there is no one to love, the lepers, the orphans, the widows. As has been evidenced throughout the history of Christianity and of the Western Civilization that it molded, it takes more than mere humanity. You yourself admit so in the opening sentences to your question.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
What's the matter with kids today and why doesn't anyone want them around? In June, Malaysia Airlines banned babies from many of their first class cabins, prompting other major airlines to consider similar policies.
Lately, complaints about screaming kids are being taken seriously, not only by airlines, but by hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, and even grocery stores.
Earlier this month, McDain's, a Pittsburgh area restaurant that banned kids under 6 became a mascot for the no-kids-zone movement.
According to a Pittsburgh local news poll, more than half of area residents were in favor of the ban. And now big business is paying attention.
"Brat bans could well be the next frontier in destination and leisure-product marketing," writes Robert Klara in an article on the child-free trend in AdWeek.
Klara points to Leavethembehind.com, a travel website for kid-free vacations, with a massive list of yoga retreats, luxury resorts and bargain hotels around the world that ban children.
"Call me a grinch, a misanthrope, a DINK (dual-income-no-kids), or the anti-cute-police, but I hate (hate a thousand times over) ill-behaved children/infants/screaming banshees in upscale restaurants (ok, anywhere, really, but I don’t want any death threats)," writes Charlotte Savino on Travel and Leisure's blog. She lists a slew of a popular destination restaurants with kid-free areas and policies for travelers looking for quiet vacation dining.
Traveling is one thing, but what about in kids' own hometowns? Should kids been banned from local movie theaters, like they were at a recent adults-only Harry Potter screening? In Texas, one cinema chain has even flipped the model, banning kids under six altogether, except on specified "baby days".
Even running errands with toddlers may be changing. This summer Whole Foods stores in Missouri are offering child-free shopping hours (kids are allowed inside but childcare service is available for parents who want to shop kid-free.) Meanwhile in Florida, a controversy brews over whether kids can be banned from a condominium's outdoor area. That's right, some people don't even want kids outdoors.
When did kids become the equivalent of second-hand smoke? Blame a wave of childless adults with money to spare. "Empty nesters continue to wield a huge swath of discretionary spending dollars, and population dips in first-world countries mean more childless couples than ever," writes AdWeek's Klara.
Catering to the child-free community may be good for business but is it good for parents? It could help narrow choices and make kid-friendly environments even kid-friendlier. And let's be honest, babies won't miss flying first class. They won't even remember it. But their moms and dads will.
Most parents with young children have self-imposed limits on spending and leisure. This new movement imposes limits set by the public. And the public isn't as child-friendly as it used to be. As businesses respond to their new breed of 'first-class' clientele, are parents in danger of becoming second-class citizens?
From Discovery News:
If your heritage is non-African, you are part Neanderthal, according to a new study in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution. Discovery News has been reporting on human/Neanderthal interbreeding for some time now, so this latest research confirms earlier findings.
Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal's Department of Pediatrics and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center conducted the study with his colleagues. They determined some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals, but only in people of non-African heritage.
"This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred," Labuda was quoted as saying in a press release. His team believes most, if not all, of the interbreeding took place in the Middle East, while modern humans were migrating out of Africa and spreading to other regions.
The ancestors of Neanderthals left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago. They evolved over the millennia mostly in what are now France, Spain, Germany and Russia. They went extinct, or were simply absorbed into the modern human population, about 30,000 years ago.
Neanderthals possessed the gene for language and had sophisticated music, art and tool craftsmanship skills, so they must have not been all that unattractive to modern humans at the time.
"In addition, because our methods were totally independent of Neanderthal material, we can also conclude that previous results were not influenced by contaminating artifacts," Labuda said.
This work goes back to nearly a decade ago, when Labuda and his colleagues identified a piece of DNA, called a haplotype, in the human X chromosome that seemed different. They questioned its origins.
Fast forward to 2010, when the Neanderthal genome was sequenced. The researchers could then compare the haplotype to the Neanderthal genome as well as to the DNA of existing humans. The scientists found that the sequence was present in people across all continents, except for sub-Saharan Africa, and including Australia.
"There is little doubt that this haplotype is present because of mating with our ancestors and Neanderthals," said Nick Patterson of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University. Patterson did not participate in the latest research. He added, "This is a very nice result, and further analysis may help determine more details."
David Reich, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, added, "Dr. Labuda and his colleagues were the first to identify a genetic variation in non-Africans that was likely to have come from an archaic population. This was done entirely without the Neanderthal genome sequence, but in light of the Neanderthal sequence, it is now clear that they were absolutely right!"
The modern human/Neanderthal combo likely benefitted our species, enabling it to survive in harsh, cold regions that Neanderthals previously had adapted to.
"Variability is very important for long-term survival of a species," Labuda concluded. "Every addition to the genome can be enriching."
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The tomb of St. Philip, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, was unearthed in a great discovery in the Denizli province of Turkey.
The discovery took place at the Hierapolis (Pamukkale) ancient excavation site of Denizli in western Turkey on Tuesday 26 July 2011. The excavation has been going on in the area for some 32 years led by the Italian Prof. Francesco D’Andria. Prof D’Andria gave the news of the great discovery on Tuesday, saying: “The discovery of the tomb of St Philip, who is a very important figure for Christianity, will make a tremendous impression in the world,” shortly after the great success of his team.
Up till now, people believed that the tomb of St. Philip was in the back hill of Hierapolis, but Italian Archaeologist Francesco D’Andria and his team discovered a new church ruin near 40 meters of the hill and the real tomb of St. Philip the Apostle is in the church.
Anthropological observations of previously isolated bands, as well as historical evidence, suggest that it was rare for infanticide to occur outside of periods of extreme privation, or disputed paternity. A smaller number occurred due to gender preference, which has been for males since the dawn of agriculture, according to our current understanding. (Women seem to have enjoyed status and equality in pre-agricultural societies, due to the differing economics of the hunter-gatherer way of life.) Because for many regions, basic scarcity has been resolved by increased standard of living, gender preference often eclipses survival concern in modern statistics.
More important to note is the drastic effect that modern medicine, increased food supply, and other infrastructural benefits made available to native populations of colonial regions has had on eliminating infanticide, as well as killing of the elderly, whatever other effects of colonization came with them. More important still is that when observed, infanticide is nearly always accompanied with stressful deliberation before the birth. Frequency drops off substantially after the first month, and even after the first few hours. It appears that infanticide, if it is to occur, has to be done before bonding takes place. Otherwise, we would expect to see a resurgence in infanticide in the second or third year of life, since any parent can testify that children become much more difficult to manage during this period. But, we don’t see that. The natural inclination of most parents, in most circumstances, is to love and care for children, if with varying levels of competence.
The key difference between myself and members of earlier societies is not so much in how I care for my children—even in societies with infanticide, caring is the norm—but in my attitude toward other parents committing infanticide. Because I tend toward universalism, I tend to see other people’s children as individuals with unique perspective and “rights,” rather than as the chattel of their parents. In an earlier society, I might have seen children as chattel, including my own, but would probably still have loved “my chattel,” even if I did not extend that love to other people’s children. The difference wasn’t between, say, Jewish parents and Roman parents as individuals (although surely there were differences), but between the two societies as a whole. The Jews simply translated their natural feelings of parental affection to all children in their society. This is laudable, but not magical. It was not necessary for Judaism to transform its adherents into something morally “super-human” to accomplish this. “Respect for human life,” which is hardly a theme of Old Testament religion, is at any rate something that was present in a large number of worldviews. It seems inevitable that some culture would have banned the practice eventually. By the same token, laws mandating infanticide for some circumstances do not necessarily reflect the attitudes of parents toward their own children, so much as a callousness on the part of rulers toward other people’s children.
I show my consistency in this capacity when I oppose attempts to teach children creationism as science; I believe children function as individuals who deserve proper upbringing, rather than seeing parents as individuals who have the right to withhold information from “their” children. I also believe, as is demonstrated in game theory, that cooperation will almost always defeat competition in outcomes over the long term, therefore, I find it always prudent and respectful to be a universalist, extending to all people, ingroup or not, the compass of my empathy.
I also come across as unusually kind-hearted toward imprisoned criminals, because I reject attempts to alienate convicts as monsters or other such retributive nonsense. This is because I am a determinist, which is not so much an esoteric moral philosophy as it is a belief that the universe probably functions with unbroken chains of causality growing into the future. This belief is common among members of the “skeptical movement,” which is to say the forefront of popular atheism, but by no means is it necessary to call oneself an atheist, and in no way should it be construed to suggest that all atheists believe certain things. David has several times referred to certain philosophies as inescapable conclusions from the “premise” of atheism, but not only is the idea of such a thing absurd on its face, the examples he gives are of philosophies that are quite unpopular among atheists, generally. Again, though, this universalist attitude coincides with one taught by Christians, this one by Christ Himself, in the scriptures, no less. (Visit those in prison.) However, Universalism is a broad trend in attitudes, owing to increased global communication over the centuries. The Christian religion does not teach universalism itself very well to its adherents. They are often bigoted to some extent against homosexuals or even other races in ways that are justified partly in religious terms, although in fairness, they are just as often not.
Whether and to what extent, though, Universalism is part of Christ’s message seems unimportant to me, as that would only succeed in demonstrating that some of the New Testament can be read to support universalism. It would not have been a unique idea at the time, and hence not compelling that belief in deities is necessary to make use of it. If David wants me to give credit to the Jews for totally banning a practice that was merely unpopular almost everywhere else, fine. We can really and truly thank the Jews for starting this meme, even if we suspect that someone else eventually would have. It’s funny, though, because David’s argument is, essentially, a religious one, and yet the reason he gives for banning infanticide is that they “regarded human life, all human life, as sacred.” Well, that’s clearly not true. Whatever historical Jews did or felt as individuals, their religion didn’t value “all human life.” Not when it belonged to a human who worked on the Sabbath, provided (in the case of females) insufficient proof of virginity on the wedding night, preached in the name of another god, ate shellfish or pork, wore clothes with more than one type of fabric in them, violated any of a litany of obscure sexual taboos, or were generally in any way foreign. The Old Testament is a saga of xenophobia, misogyny, and other offenses to the very basis of Universalism. That they managed, in the midst of their moral failure, to make one conspicuously good moral insight is not statistically impressive, to me.
Why is Job not punished for questioning God's ways? Nor is he ever told why he had suffered. Was God now rewarding his faith -- or only his independent spirit? Could God have admired Job's courage in challenging his maker? Or was God only reminding Job that God's ways were beyond his understanding? Did God enjoy wrestling with his creatures?
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World, pg. 15
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
From World Bulletin:
Archeologists have unearthed remains of a church in an ancient city in the Mediterranean province of Isparta, head of the team said on Monday.
Associate Professor Mehmet Ozhanli, the head of Suleyman Demirel University's Archeology Department who heads excavations in the ancient city of Pisidian Antioch, said they had discovered remains of a church during their excavations.
"We have found the remains of a three-nave church one and a half meters below the surface," Ozhanli told AA correspondent.
Ozhanli said the building was constructed as a Pagan temple, however it was converted to a church after the spread of Christianity.
"This is the fifth church we have brought to daylight in this ancient city," Ozhanli said.
Ozhanli said this recently found church was also below the Men Temple, and the number of churches in the area rose to six.
"This indicates that this area was an important center for Christianity, and it was the capital of Pisidia," Ozhanli said.
Pisidian Antioch (also called Antioch-of-Pisidia) was a major Roman colony that was visited by St. Paul on his First Missionary Journey. Pisidian Antioch marked an important turning point in Paul's ministry, as the city became the first to have a fully Gentile Christian community.
Situated on the southern foothills of the Sultan Mountains, Pisidian Antioch was spread over seven small hills in a manner reminiscent of Rome. The city was founded in the early 3rd century BC by the Seleucid dynasty.
It was one of 15 different cities named "Antioch" after several members of the family with the name Antiochus. The original settlers of the new Hellenistic city came from Magnesia on the Meander, a town near the Aegean coast.
The inhabitants of Antioch at this time were a mixture of Roman veterans and their families, descendents of the earlier Hellenistic settlers, and people of Phrygian and Pisidian background. Several of the Romans from Antioch became members of the Senate.
Around 50 AD, Paul and Barnabas visited the city and established a Christian community. The city continued to prosper in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and in 295 AD it became the capital of Pisidia, a new province created by Diocletian. The theater was enlarged and anew agora and porticoes were built.
Antioch was the seat of the bishops of Pisidia, including Bishop Optimus who attended the Council of Constantinople in 381. There is no evidence of any churches before the 4th century, and Christians were actively persecuted under the governor of Pisidia in the early 4th century, Valerius Diogenes. But by the end of the 4th century, when persecuted had ceased, Antioch had between one and three church buildings.
Archaeological interest in Pisidian Antioch has been ongoing since its re-discovery in 1833 by British Chaplain F.V.J. Arundell.
This book was more a book on the history of prehistory (that is, a look at how modern scholars' research into prehistory has developed since the discipline began in the 19th century) than a book focused specially on prehistory itself. Although that was not what I expected when I picked the book up and initially began reading, it was exactly what I needed and I'm very grateful for that now. I'm very widely read in history, especially in intellectual history (that is, the history of the human mind and its ideas), but this is the first book that I've read focused specifically on prehistory. I was not, however, in any way overwhelming or confused. Dr. Renfrew is quite clearly writing for the non-expert and does a great job in introducing new subjects and defining specialist terminology. His look at the origins of the human mind and what it is that makes us uniquely human was a very interesting and enjoyable look. My only complaint is that I wish there would have been more!
Monday, August 15, 2011
On that bright September 11th morning almost 10 years ago, Muslim terrorists took down the World Trade Center, and amid all the heartbreak, dust, and rubble two intersecting steel beams stood impossibly in the shape of a cross giving comfort to a confused and bewildered country.
Now, a group of atheists is suing to take down the cross.
On Saturday Father Brian Jordan, a Franciscan Monk who blessed human remains and ministered to Ground Zero workers after 9-11, blessed the cross at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the WTC site.
The lawsuit which aims to have the cross removed from the memorial, names pretty much anyone it can name including the state of New Jersey, the city of New York, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
American Atheists, which filed the lawsuit in state court, argues that keeping the cross at the memorial is “government enshrinement of the cross” and “an impermissible mingling of church and state.”
You see, for wacko atheists, simply chronicling the cross as part of the story, which it clearly was, is too much. They literally want history whitewashed of any Christianity (never mind the present and future.)
Dave Silverman, president of the atheist group, says the cross must come down because it’s “become a Christian icon.”
Establishing his mental midgetry for posterity, Silverman argued that it’s “ridiculous” to think that God can exist because people were killed on 9/11. Ah, what scathing logic.
“It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It’s a truly ridiculous assertion.
Here’s the thing -millions of men and women took solace from that cross and if you’re going to memorialize that day in reality, you have to take into account and remember that cross as part of the story. It was a real part of that day that shouldn’t be whitewashed because some happen to not believe in God.
Silverman himself admits that the cross played such an important role in the aftermath that it became a “Christian icon.” For him, that means it must be hidden away even by those who simply seek to remember all the events surrounding 9/11.
Would Silverman have the memorial whitewash the reality that many Christians took comfort in that cross?
The horror of that day is part of the story. The sacrifice and the bravery is part of the story. And yes, the cross is part of the story of that terrible day. And it shouldn’t be ignored because some take or feign offense.
Would Silverman also have us ignore the radical Islamic madness that prompted the attacks because it too touches on religion?
Think about this. If Silverman’s logic is followed we should also make sure that any Star of David or any Jewish symbols are removed from the Holocaust Museum, which receives millions in federal funding.
That, of course, would be ludicrous just as this lawsuit is ludicrous.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Dr Mary Cunningham, an expert on what Christians believe about Mary, the Mother of God, discusses the festival celebrated each year on 15 August which is called the 'Dormition' in the Eastern Churches and the 'Assumption' in some of the Western Churches.
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
Richard Lewontin, "Billions and Billions of Demons," in The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, pp. 28, 31 (quoted in Phillip E. Johnson, "Introduction: Fr. Seraphim Rose and 21st-century Science," in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, pp. 60-1
Saturday, August 13, 2011
By Anna Gottschall
Rosetta: Papers of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, Issue 4 (2008)
Introduction: From ancient to modern times, in Christianity and other world religions, beads have been employed to assist the faithful in prayer. The word ‘bead’ derives from the Old English word ‘ebed’, originally meaning to pray or request, and was used to describe groups of beads which were loosely strung together. During the medieval period these strings of beads were used by Christians as mnemonic aids to physically count their prayers. Initially, this was attributed to the Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer), later the Hail Mary and then the rosary as we know it today. As well as being devotional tools these objects were probably the most common item of jewellery across all classes, and this made them an everyday object frequently accessed by religious orders and the laity.
I propose to evaluate what the evidence reveals about the production and composition of prayer beads and rosaries, to consider the limits of these sources and to discuss the problems that emerge in interpretation of the evidence. In terms of production I aim to address several questions: Who made prayer beads? Where were they produced? How was production organised? And what can be determined about production methods? To do this I will consider evidence from excavation reports from the City of London and Constance in Germany, an artistic representation of a Paternosterer from the Stadtbibliothek in Nurnburg and historical records concerning bead production from Paris, Rome and London.
Click here to read this article from the University of Birmingham...
takes a forest, every Sunday, Los Angeles
draws its water from the Sacramento Valley
the rivers of British Columbia are ours
on lease for 99 years
every large factory is an infringement
of our god-given right to light and air
to clean and flowing rivers stocked with fish
to the very possibility of life
for our children's children, we will have to
look carefully, i.e., do we really want/
electricity and at what cost in natural resource
do we need cars, when petroleum
pumped from the earth poisons the land around
for 100 years, pumped from the car
poisons the hard-pressed cities, or try this
statistic, the USA
has 5% of the world's people uses over
50% of the world's goods, our garbage
holds matter for survival for uncounted
Friday, August 12, 2011
Inspiration and Innovation: Orthodox Art in the Romanian Lands in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
D-Vasilescu, Elena Ene (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK)
21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies Communication (VI.8 Art and Orthodoxy)
One in the series of overlapping Christian discourses which Averil Cameron speaks about in her book Christianity and the Rhetoric of the Empire could be considered the Romanian discourse in Church-painting as a manner of expressing faith, especially taking into account that Orthodox Christians consider that icons in their worship places are ‘written’.
The literature in the field has paid attention to sixteenth-century Romanian achievements in mural and icon-painting, but not to earlier works. This paper attempts to answer the question “What is Byzantine and what is local in icon- and wall- painting in the Romanian lands between fourteenth and fifteenth centuries?” by providing a few examples of frescoes and icons from that time.
Click here to read this article from the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies Communication...
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Turgeon, Wendy C.
ANALYTIC TEACHING Vol. 18 No.2 (1999)
Many commentators on the movement known as Philosophy for Children stress the notion that this movement is not simply a specific curriculum or program. Lipman, Sharp and others invite us to re-examine the role and nature of education within society by exploring the transformation of education by the philosophical community of inquiry from a meaningless artificial activity into a passionate intellectual adventure. Intimately connected with this examination is the proposal that philosophy as a reflective, social and critical human activity offers us both a method and content for educational renewal.
Critiques of education abound in recent times. What is unusual is the suggestion that the inclusion of philosophy within educational curricula may offer some answers to society’s questions and concerns. In fact, the inclusion of philosophy as integral to a college education is relatively rare in the United States now. Despite this contemporary indifference to the presence of philosophy, a history for its centrality exists. When the P4C practitioners and theoreticians point to the invigorating presence of philosophical inquiry in the elementary and secondary classroom and when they argue for the necessity of including philosophy as a central key in educating the young, they unwittingly echo the thoughts and arguments of many a medieval writer.
Click here to read this article from Analytic Teaching...
When I sing this song without accompaniment
I can hear the silence the emptiness
When I sing this song in which the only instrument
is my voice
my voice which comes over the lips
as a man comes out of a desert
just near death then near life
I know why man sang before he talked
Why he sings before he walks
Why he hates to be a slave
Why he is singing in the grave
I know what it is to long for
that which we have never known
I know why man sang before he talked
Why he sings before he walks
Why he hates to be a slave
Why he is singing in the grave
When your voice joins mine, as something coming
to meet the dead
See we then the genius of man? See him strike the first
See him paint paradise a bird son?
See him paint wings on loaves of bread?
I know why man sang before he talked
Why he sings before he walks
Why he hates to be a slave
Why he is singing in the grave
And when we sing together without effort
the stops in the greatest organ are like child's play
When we are singing into each others mouths and
Unison is night changing to day---
I know why man sang before he talked
Why he sings before he walks
Why he hates to be a slave
Why he is singing in the grave
Allen Polite, "Song," in Ann Charters, The Portable Sixties Reader, pp. 485-6
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
By Michele Stopera Freyhauf
Anthropology Journal, Vol.3 (2011)
Introduction: There has not been “an incident in Byzantine history with which the church of St. Sophia is not associated.” Hagia Sophia represents the very essence of the history of Turkey and the continuous transformation it has undergone throughout the ages and even today. Turkey, and especially Istanbul, the former Constantinople, is a country of great importance, transition, and rich cultural history. Hagia Sophia encapsulates all of these traits and stands as a visual testimony to the history of the region. Once a great symbol of Christianity, it demonstrated superiority over pagan religions and political alliance with its use of spolia. Through conquest, it became a representation of dominance and legitimization of Islam to the world. Upon the secularization of the country, Hagia Sophia became a Museum to both Christianity and Islam. As the country and museum try to interpret the balance of religion, both are frozen in time, unable to complete their ultimate goal of balancing these faiths. In Hagia Sophia, the scaffolding stands as a symbol of stalled progress in the restoration of Hagia Sophia. For Turkey, this is represented by the continued passage of laws that restrict the very religious freedom that the country purports to have.
Click here to read this article from Popular Archaeology
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
An archaeologist believes a wall carving in a south Wales cave could be Britain's oldest example of rock art.
The faint scratchings of a speared reindeer are believed to have been carved by a hunter-gatherer in the Ice Age more than 14,000 years ago.
The archaeologist who found the carving on the Gower peninsula, Dr George Nash, called it "very, very exciting."
Experts are working to verify the discovery, although its exact location is being kept secret for now.
Dr Nash, a part-time academic for Bristol University, made the discovery while at the caves in September 2010.
He told BBC Wales: "It was a strange moment of being in the right place at the right time with the right kit.
"For 20-odd years I have been taking students to this cave and talking about what was going on there.
"They went back to their cars and the bus and I decided to have a little snoop around in the cave as I've never had the chance to do it before.
"Within a couple of minutes I was scrubbing at the back of a very strange and awkward recess and there a very faint image bounced in front of me - I couldn't believe my eyes."
He said that although the characteristics of the reindeer drawing match many found in northern Europe around 4,000-5,000 years later, the discovery of flint tools in the cave in the 1950s could hold the key to the carving's true date.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Oxford University is asking for help deciphering ancient Greek texts written on fragments of papyrus found in Egypt.Visit the post over at Rogue Classicism to read more on this awesome project and find out how you can help!
Hundreds of thousands of images have gone on display on a website which encourages armchair archaeologists to help catalogue and translate them.
Researchers hope the collective effort will give them a unique insight into life in Egypt 1,000 years ago.
Project specialist Paul Ellis said: “Online images are a window into ancient lives.”
The collection is made up of papyri recovered in the early 20th Century from the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, the so-called “City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish”.
At the time the city was under Greek rule. Later the Romans settled the area.
The papyri contain literature, letters and even a story about how Jesus Christ cast out demons.
Scholars have been studying the Oxyrhynchus collection for more than 100 years and have already rediscovered many lost works that went missing during medieval times.
They have found masterpieces by the ancient Greek poet Sappho and dramatists Menander and Sophocles.
Many of the documents the public can see on the site have not been read for over 1,000 years.
But although they are written in Greek, visitors to the website do not have to have any knowledge of the language in order to use an online tool to help analyse the fragments.
One letter, written in 127 AD, which has already been translated is from a grandmother called Sarapias asking that her daughter is brought home so that she can be present at the birth of her grandchild.
Project director Dr Dirk Obbink said: “We aim to transcribe as much as possible of the original papyri, and then identify and reconstruct the text.
“No single pair of eyes can see and read everything. From scientists and professors to school students and ancient enthusiasts, everyone has something to contribute – and gain.”
The square Mosque with its single great dome and four slender minarets, dominates the skyline of the former Ottoman capital of Edirne. Sinan, the most famous of Ottoman architects in the 16th century, considered the complex, which includes madrasas (Islamic schools), a covered market, clock house, outer courtyard and library, to be his best work. The interior decoration using Iznik tiles from the peak period of their production testifies to an art form that remains unsurpassed in this material. The complex is considered to be the most harmonious expression ever achieved of the Ottoman külliye, a group of buildings constructed around a mosque and managed as a single institution.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
This is one of the abilities that sets us apart from the animal world. An animal may have mental images and feel emotions, but it cannot catch and observe itself doing this. Thus all its actions -- if they are not simply instinctual -- must ultimately be conditioned by environmental pressures and the images and feelings that these engender. A human being, while still living on an animal level, also acts according to outward conditioning; but still he has the unique ability, if he will use it, to observe his mind and thus rise above his conditioning. In so doing, he ceases to react to environmental pressures, but acts instead according to the inward pressure of his spirit as it is guided by God.
Hieromonk Damascene, Christ the Eternal Tao, pg. 306
Saturday, August 6, 2011
PROBABLY NOT: Did Jews Invent the Question Mark?
The question is asked by Renee Ghert-Zand in The Forward blog The Shmooze. The question mark in, er, question is the punctuation mark found in fifth-century CE (not BCE) Syriac manuscripts as noted recently by Cambridge researcher Dr Chip Coakley. Syriac is the Christian Aramaic dialect spoken in the ancient Anatolian city of Edessa and it became the language of the Aramaic-speaking Eastern Church. If the mark was invented in the fifth century, it is very likely that it was invented by Eastern Christians. Still, we (or at least I) don't know exactly how early the mark was developed, and it is possible that Jews were involved in the translation of Hebrew Bible books into Syriac a few centuries earlier, so the possibility cannot be entirely discounted.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Tiny 2,000-year-old golden bell found in JerusalemAnd now you can hear the bell yourself; the sound that Jewish high priests made as they walked in Jerusalem 2000 years ago:
JERUSALEM — A tiny golden bell which was lost in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago during the Second Temple period has been found among ruins near the Old City, Israel's Antiquities Authority said on Friday.
The bell, which is thought to have been an adornment which was sewn onto the garments of a senior official, was uncovered during excavation work on a drainage channel in the City of David, an area in the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan just south of the Old City walls.
"It seems the bell was sewn on the garment worn by a high official in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period," an IAA statement said.
The bell was found inside the main drainage channel taking rainwater from different parts of the city to the pool of Siloam, which is mentioned several times in the Bible.
"Apparently, the high official was walking in the Jerusalem street in the vicinity of Robinson's Arch and lost the gold bell that fell from his garment into the drainage channel beneath the road," it said, noting that Jewish high priests were known to have bells sewn onto their robes.
"It is impossible to know for certain if the bell did indeed belong to one of the high priests; however, the possibility should not be entirely discounted."