Et tu, Peanuts?

In the bestselling book, Wheat Belly, William Davis explores the relationship between hybrid wheat and some modern health problems.  His study of the unintended consequences of hybrid wheat consumption causes me some concerns.  Just as a certain cohort of the population seems unable to digest and benefit from some nutrients found in hybrid wheat products, I suspect that other recently studied food allergies can be attributed to changes in crops.

My experience as a child included knowledge of only one child with a food intolerance.  I consider this rather striking because I was raised peripatetic, with childhood experiences ranging across much of the eastern half of the U.S.  I had one friend who was lactose-intolerant.  I have no memories of childhood friends with any other food intolerances at all.  In adulthood I have one friend who has developed allergies to nuts very late in his life, but I know of many children with food intolerances.  Nut allergies have risen in frequency to become a part of the cultural lexicon.

These experiences and other anecdotal observations make me wonder about what has changed over the course of the decades during my lifetime.  The study done by Dr. Davis suggests to me that perhaps nut allergies stem not from changes in the human condition, but from alterations in nut proteins brought on through hybrid selection.  If this is the case, we may also find evidence that hybrid selection has changed the composition of nuts even beyond the more easily identified man-made commercial groves.  Like genetically modified crops, these hybrid trees may have leached changes into areas not purposely exposed to the hybrid traits as the nuts fell further from the tree than our proverbial thinking might presume.  

Whatever the model for the dispersion of the hybrid traits, I am willing to wager that research will eventually uncover similarities between the ill-effects of hybrid wheat on a cohort in the population and the ill-effects of nuts on another cohort of the population.  They each appear to be unintended consequences of our attempts to change crop production by altering genetic design.  By extension, this experience bodes very badly for any attempts at alteration of the human genome, present or to come.  Thus I regard such experiments with the same disdain that I hold for the eugenics considered and attempted in the beginning of social Darwinism.

via The Gentle Reader by Norm Lucas



Many Christians have felt the sting of criticism stemming from a common fallacy.  Specifically, the criticism that faith has no place alongside scientific or intellectual pursuits.  This criticism comes mostly from folks who claim that one cannot prove the existence of God.  These are the same people who claim that no physical location can possibly exist to allow for heaven or hell as described in the Bible.  Some go as far as to deny the traditional claims of the scripture and therefore the resurrection of Jesus.

While most Christians don’t abandon their faith in the face of these criticisms, some young Christians feel compelled to give up the scholarly disciplines sometimes needed for spiritual growth.  Many of them believe that a scholarly pursuit will lead away from faith, rather than reinforcing faith because of the pseudo-intellectual attacks made by misapprehending critics.

I find the work of the best physicists and mathematicians very helpful in dispelling the bases for these pseudo-intellectual attacks.  A bit of study shows that the best scientists, ranging from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking acknowledge God’s existence and even attribute various aspects of our existence to God’s providence.  Some of the cosmological explanations they derive seem a bit heavy, but even Carl Sagan made reference to the almighty in his understanding of the universe.

Einstein’s favorite mathematician, Kurt Godel, wrote a famous  ontological proof of the existence of God using modal logic.  His was an improvement on the work of Anselm and later, Leibniz.  None have found a better proof of God’s existence since Godel.

Lately, astrophysicists have admitted to understanding the form of less than twenty-five percent of the known universe.  This lack of knowledge about the most basic make-up of seventy-five percent of the known universe is accompanied by disagreement as to whether our universe is part of a multi-verse, or not.  Surely these gaps in our knowledge leave plenty of room for the existence of both a heaven and a hell.

So I hope my fellow Christians will join me in inviting the pseudo-intellectuals to let faith answer the questions that start with “why”, just as we trust science to answer the questions about “how”.  Likewise, we invite all students of the sciences to join Christians in enjoying the wonderment of God’s beautiful creation through the unending scrutiny of its myriad and infinite intricacies.

via The Gentle Reader by Norm Lucas

Product Placement

You may have seen products placed in television shows and movies to advertise from within the storyline of the show.  One particular show features Chevrolet automobiles driven by law enforcement agents.  Advertisements from Chevrolet accompany this television show on a regular basis.

Interestingly, one of the plot lines for the show included an alleged perpetrator who drove a Ford vehicle. The plot development brought mention of the Ford vehicle driven by the suspect several times during the show.  As in every other episode of the show the protagonists drove the Chevrolet.

Could this be the opposite of the product placement?  The producers of the show seemed to subtly vilify a competitor to their sponsor.  Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to such things.  Still, the repetition seemed to indicate intent.

via The Gentle Reader by Norm Lucas

Timeshare Scams Enlarged

Timeshare purveyors have a new scam.  Not content to take property management fees from people forever, now they want to take vacation management fees from folks in perpetuity!  Once upon a time the timeshare sellers held 51% of properties as condominiums used to bribe vacationers into a protracted high-pressure sales pitch.  As buyers finally got wise they found fewer willing subjects to lure into the timeshare scam with reduced rate overnight stays.

Now they package those same properties as an alternative to hotel rooms or condominium rentals.  Lest they miss out on the chance to hook you for life, they charge an annual vacation management fee.  Reminiscent of the timeshare maintenance fee, it lasts more than a lifetime.  It can become part of your estate!  Your children and grandchildren could end up paying annually for your contractual obligation long after you have found your eternal vacation spot.

The 51% controlling property interest in the timeshare condominiums has been turned into an enticement in a ploy to tie up your airfare arrangements, cruise packaging and overnight accommodations for your entire family forever.  If you bought into the timeshare scam, now they can get you coming and going, instead of just staying.  Thousands of vacant timeshare units have become the bait for the new takeover ploy to control every dollar you might spend on vacation outside of  restaurants and souvenir shops.  The chutzpah of the timeshare sales force has been turned loose on the whole vacation marketplace.  The $1,300 they want up front will pale when compared to the annual fees which never end.  Let the vacationer beware!

via The Gentle Reader by Norm Lucas

Freedom and the Ninth Amendment

The many constitutional amendments proposed by the extreme right have begun to expose a seeming  lack of knowledge about the document they claim to hold so dear.  In Missouri the right wing has proposed amendments to the state constitution purporting to protect the right to farm, the right to pray in school, the right to raise children and various state laws about the right to do more with guns.  These Republicans show so little understanding of the U.S. constitution that I have to wonder if some of them can recall high school civics class.  Their fear mongering seems to imply that somehow we can’t enjoy these freedoms now.

If some of them did recall the Ninth Amendment, the mistaken notion that more law somehow preserves freedom might not feature in their misguided rhetoric.  Libertarians and Constitutional Party members could inform these right-wing Republicans that in the matter of protected rights, less codification often preserves more freedom.  Almost every time a legislature attempts to define or refine rights protected under the Ninth Amendment, those rights inevitably become inadvertently or intentionally more limited.  For politicians espousing smaller government, these right-wing Republicans should be ashamed of their seeming inability to grasp the obvious.  If one desires less government intrusiveness, one should not write more law. 

While these seemingly obvious observations appear not to have occurred to these radical right-wing Republicans, it seems more likely they have conveniently avoided any scholarly study of the constitution because they prefer to perpetuate more jaded interpretations.  Maliciously misleading  voters in this way would almost seem to require one to disavow the study of political history and the law.  The lawyers among these right-wing conservatives must have private paroxysms over these wild incongruities, or perhaps no consciences.  While no one expects complete honesty from any politician, the right-wing appears especially egregious in their attempts to deceive voters when they invoke needless fears and propose ways to limit our freedoms while claiming to protect our liberty.  

via The Gentle Reader by Norm Lucas

Online dating & family

I have mentioned the ills and perils of online dating to many of my brothers and sisters in the faith.  Many of them understand how God’s will for an individual may not be well expressed even through a Christian dating site.  While the Holy Spirit may guide someone via an algorithm if he so chooses, the algorithm itself cannot divine God’s will for your spousal selection, no matter how devout the mathematician.  Some of my brethren seem not to apprehend the threat to families that I see in online dating.  I characterize that threat as far worse than any threats I can see arising from weddings performed for same-gender couples.

Many dating sites now promote themselves on the basis of marriages originating from their dating guidance.  The data is in, and people have succeeded in finding spouses through the internet.  Correlation of the data by time period shows the recent increase in the number of people getting married directly attributable to the increase in numbers of people gaining internet connection.  Unfortunately the other data just in, shows how many divorces also arise from online socializing.

In a recent article for The Economist, behavioral psychologist Dan Aerialy notes that online dating leads the user to treat potential partners more like commodities. Studies show that online daters tend to separate their dating from the socializing they carry on with other, longer-term friends and family members.  You may recall how women used to decry the dating scene as comparable to a meat market.  We need to recognize the potential of internet dating sites to electronically market us more coldly than the worst bar scene imaginable.  If a dating site enumerates the myriad of potential matches for you in a geographic area, how mundane and unexciting might God’s first choice of a mate for you appear to you by contrast?

The disconnect of ones dating life from the wisdom of family and friends just seems to worsen the problem.  A computer algorithm will not warn about, or even perceive the misgivings about a potential spouse that coworkers, church members, Pastors, family and friends would carefully report if given opportunity.  I contend that this market mentality and social separation tends to decrease the chances for lifelong commitment.  It may also increase chances of finding a victim for psychopaths or other dangerous members of society.  But leaving fear out of it, just the propensity to become commodities should dissuade us from relying on electronic markets for selection of an intimate partner.  What could decrease our capacity to learn to relate, and increase our predilection to replace a partner more efficiently than the internet?  Not much, I think.

via The Gentle Reader by Norm Lucas

Parkland Meetup & work readiness

After the meeting last night Doug McDermott and I agreed that the Parkland Meetup was very interested in education to prepare students for work.  We all recognize the need for students to learn on the latest technology and gain work place abilities.  Most employers at the meeting need applicants who are ready to work, but the schools haven’t traditionally tested for the ability to find information, or for reading, writing and math geared specifically for the workplace.  Fortunately, that is about to change!  Our Missouri Career Center in Park Hills tests for those abilities.  Some of our high schools, UniTech and MAC have also begun testing graduates for these work abilities.  These work-readiness tests are free to applicants through the schools and the Career Center.  If you call Linda Fitzgerald at the Career Center 518-2431, your company can express a preference for these work-certified job applicants.  By expressing a preference for work-ready applicants you will attract candidates who have been tested for workplace reading math and the ability to locate information.  Please help focus our schools on work readiness in the classroom by expressing your company’s preference for work-certified job applicants through the Missouri Career Center.

via The Gentle Reader by Norm Lucas