learn stuff, review stuff, just stuff

The Eucharist: Roman Catholic Mass

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

White cloaked men, carrying a large cross and candles enter, followed by a man and two women in suit and dresses enter the church.  They are then followed by three men in green and gold, one of whom carries a gilded Bible.  This is the highly ritualized Sunday Mass of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is as foreign to the average non-believer as a Hindu or Zoroastrian service may be, and possibly as foreign to a Protestant Christian as well.  Gone are the electric guitars and beating drums of a non-denominational Christian church, the long sermons of ministers and pastors replaced by simple Bible readings and responsive prayers.  Roman Catholics ritualize their beliefs, finding meaning in the repetition while many other denominations attempt to dissect their beliefs to restate to their congregations.  By observing seven different Christian services, the differences between Catholicism and other Christian denominations seem clear.  Catholicism places more emphasis on ritual, has a more literal interpretation of the Eucharist, and is generally more akin to the churches of the days before the Reformation than those of the Protestants. Continue reading

09/18/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , | Leave a comment

Black Death

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

Yersinia Pestis: The Black Death and Religion

            “[S]uch terror was struck into the hearts of men and women by this calamity, that brother abandoned brother . . . the wife her husband.  What is even worse and nearly incredible is that fathers and mothers refused to see and tend their children, as if they had not been theirs. . . .” (Sanders, Nelson, Morillo, & Ellenberger, 2006, p. 398).  As told by Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron, the Black Death was a terror unrivaled by any other that turned life upside down for nearly all inhabitants of Eurasia.  The plague, Yersinia pestis, once called Pasteurella pestis, was caused by ravenous fleas aboard burrowing rodents (McNeill, 1976).  The fleas’ throats would close due to the disease, making it impossible for them to feed from the blood they took from the rodents (McNeill, 1976).  Since they could not swallow, the blood would be spit back into the wound, along with infected blood, and they would continue trying to feed to prevent starvation (McNeill, 1976).  When the rodents, black rats in the case of the Black Death in Europe, would die, the fleas would find new hosts, such as people, and the disease would manifest as massive swellings in the groin and armpit that became dark with internal bleeding (McNeill, 1976).  From the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China and Mamluk dynasty in Egypt, states fell to be replaced by the Ming dynasty and Ottoman Empire, respectively (Bentley, Ziegler & Streets, 2008).  Between sixty and seventy percent of all people afflicted by the disease would die within days of symptoms appearing, and nobody, from doctors to the Church, could stop it (Bentley, et al., 2008).  When natural means could not explain the horrors afflicting the people, they started attributing the plague to God, and even Pope Clement VI referred to “this pestilence with which God is afflicting the Christian people” (Sanders, et al., 2006, p. 392).  In a deeply religious period, the Black Death and its repercussions proved to be a challenge to each of the three major religions in Europe: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

During the Middle Ages, Europe was experiencing something often called the “Dark Ages,” while Islam had something of a “Golden Age.”  There are doubts as to whether either was as good, or bad, as they sound, but the Black Death not only evened the playing field, but actually knocked dar al-Islam out of Europe.  The Prophet, Muhammad, had addressed epidemic disease, providing a guideline for his followers.  “When you learn that epidemic disease exists in a county, do not go there; but if it breaks out in the county where you are, do not leave,” which may have assisted in stemming the spread of disease through the Islamic lands, but many people disregarded this sage advice, particularly those who were not Muslim (McNeill, 1976, p. 198).  Ibn Battuta especially seemed to disregard this suggestion as he traveled extensively during the time of the Black Death, often traveling through cities who were actively suffering the effects of the plague (Sanders, et al., 2006).  In addition to the advice against traveling, Muslims who died of plague were guaranteed entry into the Paradise of afterlife, perhaps as another method to prevent fear and panic, and in fact were thought of as highly as those who had died in jihad (Sanders, et al., 2006).  Like the Christians, Muslims believed the plague was sent from God, or Allah, as a divine punishment, however, they disapproved of attempts to heal the afflicted or otherwise escape Allah’s will, and thus suffered a larger portion of deaths compared to the Christians (McNeill, 1976).  This feeling was documented when an imperial ambassador to Constantinople asked the Ottoman Sultan for permission to change his home since the plague had broken out in the house next to his.  The Sultan replied “Is not the plague in my own palace, yet I do not think of moving?”  (McNeill, 1976, p. 199).  In fact, in the Balkan peninsula, Muslim casualties were so great, that the only way they managed to stay in power was through a steady stream of conversions (McNeill, 1976).  The Muslims in that area constituted a ruling class and often lived in cities, where disease is already more common than in rural areas due to the higher density of people, while the people in the lower classes stayed in their own faith (McNeill, 1976).  McNeill (1976) postulates that the 19th century wars of independence throughout the Balkans by Christians, such as the Greeks, would not have been successful if the Muslim casualty rate was not so high in the 14th century.  In this same land, however, were physicians seeking to explain the plague in natural terms and treat it with natural therapies, using the preserved medical texts of antiquity in well-organized hospitals (Sanders, et al., 2006).  These hospitals were forbidden from turning anyone who wanted treatment away for being unable to pay (Sanders, et al., 2006).  With the losses sustained due to the plague, the Muslims could not hold their tiny remaining piece of western Europe against the return of Christianity.

Christianity offered many advantages to its believers over non-believers that may have actually strengthened the Church and faith during this time of pestilence.  Like the Muslims, they believed that death was not necessarily something to fear or fight, and Pope Clement VI granted forgiveness from penalty to the dying through the confessors, allowing believers to die with less burden on their souls (Sanders, et al., 2006).  Death would allow believers to go on to their eternal life with Christ while their enemies would be sent into Hell (McNeill, 1976).  Like many of the salvational religions, this coping mechanism is very attractive during times of high mortality (McNeill, 1976).  In addition, care for the sick is a religious duty for Christians, and even basic care, such as providing food and water for those who cannot serve themselves, can help reduce the death count (McNeill, 1976).  With this care, survivors are more likely to feel thankful towards their Christian nurses, and thus Christianity strengthened while others sputtered (McNeill, 1976).  Not everything about Christianity was a ring around the rosies.  Due to their increased contact with the sick and dying, many priests and monks also died of the plague, so many that there often were not enough priests to perform sacraments for the dead or dying (Getz, 1991).  Because the replacements for those priests were often less experienced, or less trained, the public became even more upset with the Church, and the anticlericalism that stemmed from it provided Martin Luther with some success later (McNeill, 1976).  In addition, it encouraged the shift from Latin to vernacular tongues, and mysticism and personal relationships with God, which all major branches of Christianity embraced (McNeill, 1976; Osborne, 1996).  Movements like devotio moderna encouraged approaching God through “personal contemplation and an intimate relation with their own spirituality” rather than the bureaucracy of the Church (Osborne, 1996, p. 217).  Unfortunately, there was another, more destructive variant of Christianity in the Flagellants.

The vast majority of information about Judaism during the Black Death comes from accounts of the persecution of Jews by the Flagellants or the peasantry.  The Flagellants were a sect of Christianity, deemed heretical by Pope Clement VI once he heard about it, who gathered in town squares to beat themselves and each other with weighted scourges, often with iron tips that bite into the skin (Sanders, et al., 2006).  They believed that they were “proclaimers of a new time, that of the preparation for the end of the world” (Lerner, 1981, p. 535).  Not only did they inflict punishment upon themselves, but often killed Jews they came across as well as Christians who spoke out against them (Lerner, 1981).  Jews were often seen as the cause of the plague, possibly because they suffered less during the heightened stages of plague.  One explanation for this could be that the Jews had removed all grain from their homes for Passover, during the peak season of plague, which then caused the plague-bearing rat to avoid their homes (McNeil, 2009).  Jews were accused of poisoning wells, streams, and food, and were sentenced to death across Christian Europe (Cohn, 2007; McNeill, 1976).  In Spain, it was the Catalans who took the brunt of persecution (Cohn, 2007).  While popular history states that the Jews were persecuted by peasants and the common rabble, close investigation shows that it was the aristocracy and nobles that created the atmosphere for wholesale murder.  Aristocrats were the most common clients of Jewish usurers, the ones with the power to authorize pogroms (state-sanctioned anti-Semitism), and the ones who forgave debts owed to the now-dead Jews (Cohn, 2007).  Nobles would accuse Jews of spreading or causing the plague, capture them, and torture them until they confessed, and by the end, some two hundred Jewish settlements were utterly destroyed, their people thrown into the fire alive, and their houses demolished (Cohn, 2007).  Jean de Venette reported that to ensure their small children would not be captured and baptized in the Christian faith, Jewish mothers would first throw their children into the flames, then join them in death (Sanders, et al., 2006).  These attacks were most severe in German-speaking lands, and recurred occasionally with recurrences of the plague (Cohn, 2007), possibly fueling the deep-seated anger and hatred that came to a head in the Holocaust of the twentieth century.  These attacks also accelerated the eastward shift of Jewish population, as western Jews were killed and their survivors fled east into places like Poland (McNeill, 1976).  Though some attacks occurred in Poland, the royals there welcomed urban, skilled Jews, and a market-oriented agricultural society rose in the Vistula and Nieman valleys under Jewish management (McNeill, 1976).  While anti-Semitism started well before the Black Death, and continues today, the use of the Jews as a scapegoat for the Black Death highlights the challenges Judaism faced during these times.

The Black Death was a scourge across Eurasia and had no known cause.  Doctors were powerless to stop or even stem the course of the disease, so the deeply religious people of the Middle Ages tended to look towards their gods for reasoning and relief.  Common to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism was the belief that God (or Allah) brought the plague down on the people to punish them for their wicked ways.  Muslims suffered greatly due to their acceptance of “Allah’s will” and refusal to try to avoid the plague, such as the case of the Ottoman Sultan.  Christians also suffered greatly, but their care for the sick and remittances offered by the Pope brought inner strength to the people.  Finally, the Jews did not suffer as much from the plague, possibly because of coincidental timing of Passover, but suffered greatly at the hands of Christians who accused them of poisoning wells.  All these factors led to Western Europe becoming overwhelmingly Christian.  The Spanish would chase the Muslims from their land in Reconquista, and the Jews shifted their population centers to Eastern Europe.  Now that European countries did not need to argue about which God to follow, they would become embroiled in wars and infighting in the coming centuries over how to follow God, whether through Catholicism, Protestantism, Lutheranism, or Calvinism.


Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H.F., & Streets, H.E. (2008). Traditions and encounters: A brief global history. Ashford University edition.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Cohn, S. (2007). The Black Death and the burning of Jews. Past & Present 196, pp. 3-36. Retrieved February 5, 2012 from Project Muse.

Getz, F. M. (1991). Black death and the silver lining: Meaning, continuity, and revolutionary change in histories of medieval plague. Journal of the History of Biology 24(2) pp. 265-289. Retrieved January 22, 2012 from JSTOR.

Lerner, R. E. (1981, June). The Black Death and Western European eschatological mentalities. The American Historical Review 86(3), pp. 533-552. Retrieved February 5, 2012 from JSTOR.

McNeil, D. (2009, September 20). Laying blame for disease; Humans love to find a scapegoat for pandemics- Jews, Mexicans, pigs, storks, and even planets have been singled out- but the truth is that diseases are so complex that pointing blame is useless. Edmonton Journal, E.6. Retrieved February 5, 2012 from ProQuest.

McNeill, W. H.  (1976). Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press.

Osborne, R. (2006). Civilization: A new history of the western world.  New York: Pegasus Books.

Sanders, T., Nelson, S. H., Morillo, S. & Ellenberger, N. (2006).  Encounters in world history: Sources and themes from the global past: Vol. 1. To 1500.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

02/06/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Darwin vs. God

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

Darwin vs. God: The Argument between Intelligent Design and Evolution

            According to Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), creationism is religion, and religion, focusing on nonmaterial reality, has nothing in common with science, which searches for material explanations (Scott, 2004).  Some evolutionists go so far as to say professional scientists are effectively throwing their hands in the air and saying “It must be a miracle!” because they cannot find the answer, but there are many scientists who are finding God in their work, and evidence of His works (Strobel, 2004).  Indeed, Walter Bradley, a former professor at Texas A&M University and co-author of The Mystery of Life’s Origin (1984), said, “I think people who believe that life emerged naturalistically need to have a great deal more faith than people who reasonably infer that there’s an Intelligent Designer” (Strobel, 2004, location 699).  The main argument evolutionists have against creationism and Intelligent Design is that “the most insidious evil of supernatural creationism is that it stifles curiosity and therefore blunts the intellect” (Scott, 2004, p. 253).  This paper does not intend to prove the existence of God or disprove evolution, but aims to show the weakness in evolutionary theory, such as the lack of transitional forms and the various animals that seem to defy evolution, and the evidence pointing toward design, through irreducible complexity and specified complexity, to show that Intelligent Design is not merely a method of intellectual surrender, but a legitimate, scientific theory on par with evolution theory.


            There is quite a bit of confusion that takes place between the different belief systems.  Many people form their arguments against “evolutionists” or “creationists,” but those two terms can mean a great many things to different people.  The first step, then, is to fully define each group of beliefs so arguments over semantics and “word games” can be avoided.  There have been scientists who try to place the different creationism beliefs onto a line showing how literally they follow the Bible and thus, how scientific their beliefs are, but this ignores the large impact the Bible has had on scientists throughout history, including Darwin himself (Ross, 2005).  Since the main argument of this paper deals with universal common ancestry, that will be the dividing line between “evolutionism” and “creationism” for the purposes of this paper.  The term “evolutionist” or “naturalist” refers to all persons who believe all living plants and animals descended from the same single-celled organism, and that all events can be attributed to natural processes.  The term “creationism” or “Intelligent Design” refers to the belief that universal common ancestry is false, and that someone or something, which is unnamed, created several organisms, fully-formed.


            This paper was compiled using secondary sources and books that used both primary and secondary sources for their research.  The books used are either written by prominent scholars in the evolution field, such as Eugenie Scott of the NCSE, or are accounts of interviews with leading scientists in the field.  Lee Strobel’s Case for a Creator is an account of interviews conducted with several leading Intelligent Design scientists at the Discovery Institute, and proved to be incredibly useful as many of the peer-reviewed articles were unavailable through the Ashford Library.  Other sources were obtained through Ashford Online Library’s search engines.  One major difficulty in compiling this paper was the scarcity of articles in scholarly journals defending creationism.  The Discovery Institute has a list of peer-reviewed articles, but few were available through Ashford resources and applicable to the narrow focus of this paper.



“Dogma- an idea held by belief or faith- is anathema to science,” says Eugenie Scott (Scott, 2004, p.8), but creationists argue that the absolute belief in atheism is simply scientific dogma.  One large argument from evolutionists is that science tests hypotheses against nature, and a Creator is outside the ability of science to test because a scientist could not hold a Creator constant, and “any action of an omnipotent Creator is compatible with any and all scientific explanations of the natural world” (Scott, 2004, p. 19).  Therefore, naturalists spurn the idea of a Creator and believe that natural processes are the only options for development of life.  Some creationist scientists, such as Stephen C. Meyer, claim that this refusal to acknowledge the possibility of the supernatural is an atheistic dogma, that “many believe that science must only allow naturalistic explanations, which excludes from consideration the design hypothesis,” and “many scientists put blinders on, refusing to acknowledge that evidence” (Strobel, 2004, location 1474).  In effect, both naturalists and creationists believe the other side is simply reading what they want into the evidence and not following scientific method properly.  Naturalists refuse to believe the supernatural could have had an effect, and creationists refuse to let go of God if they continue to see evidence that fits into their world view.

Macro- versus Micro- evolution

            One of the easiest ways to believe in evolution is to look around at the present world and see how many strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, insects resistant to pesticides, or even people’s average heights increasing over the last several hundred years.  These are examples of “micro-evolution,” or evolution on the species level.  The real argument creationists provide is the argument against “macro-evolution” or evolution between types.  For universal common ancestry to be true, fish would evolve into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles, reptiles into birds and mammals, and mammals back into the water as whales and dolphins.

Darwin himself said “[i]t is a truly wonderful fact . . . that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other . . .” (Darwin, 1859, p. 122).  However, even Darwin knew the fossil record did not support his theory at the time of On the Origin of Species’ publishing.  He mentions the lack of “transitional forms” in Origin, wondering how there can be such distinct forms, rather than variants from one to another (Darwin, 1859).  The biggest dent in evolution theory comes from 540,000,000 years ago: the Cambrian Explosion.  As many as forty new and unique body types appeared “suddenly” in this layer of the Earth, with no discernable transitional forms preceding them (Strobel, 2004).  The argument that previous body types were too soft or too small to leave traces does not hold up under scrutiny considering that several single-celled organisms, which are both soft and small, sponges, worms, and jellyfish had been found in the layers older than the Cambrian (Strobel, 2004).

Injurious Aspects

            “Natural selection will never produce in a being anything injurious to itself, for natural selection acts solely by and for the good of each” (Darwin, 1859, p.183).  If a creature or plant were found to have a part of itself that caused harm, it would go a long way towards disproving evolution.  An example may be found in the honeybee.  The honeybee has a barbed stinger that will stick into a mammal’s skin so forcefully that when it flies away, the stinger, along with some of the bee’s insides, will be ripped from its body, causing the bee to die (Brown, 2010).  The barbs apparently aid in bee-to-bee combat, helping to penetrate the armor of the other insects, but they get stuck in the elastic skin of mammals (Brown, 2010).  The interesting part of this is that the honeybee is the only member of the family to have such large barbs on the stinger, possibly because the other bees and wasps have evolved to smaller or nonexistent barbs, but the honeybee did not for no discernable reason (Brown, 2010).


One pillar of Darwin’s theory was that every trait a creature developed was for the good of that creature alone.  “If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection” (Darwin, 1859, p. 182).  This brings to mind creatures that live symbiotically.  Most symbiotic relationships do not function this way, but one that looks possible is that of the tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesiL. luymesi is entirely dependent on the bacterial symbiont living within its body because the tubeworm itself has no digestive tract (Cordes, Arthur, Shea, Arvidson & Fisher, 2005).  This creature was discovered relatively recently, and more research must be done to determine whether the bacteria gains any benefit from oxidizing the sulfates, or if the tubeworm’s foot provides any benefit to the worm beyond feeding the bacteria that feeds the worm (Cordes, et al., 2005).  Such a circuitous path surely is not within the realm of natural causes.

Irreducible Complexity

One of the cornerstones of Intelligent Design, irreducible complexity describes an animal, cell, or body part that needs each of its pieces to work in order to perform its function.  This seems to be a direct assault on Darwin, as he said “[i]f it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (Darwin, 1859, p. 173).  The example used by Michael Behe is that of a mousetrap.  Each piece, the platform, the spring, the trigger, the hammer, and the connector between trigger and hammer, has a specific job, and without any one of these pieces, the mousetrap would not work (Strobel, 2004).  Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box (1996), says that irreducibly complex biological machines cannot be produced “directly by numerous, successive, slight modifications of a precursor system,” because any precursor, or transitional form, would be missing a piece and thus be unable to function properly (Strobel, 2004, location 3564).  Biological examples of these irreducibly complex machines include the hair-like cilia on the surfaces of cells, blood clotting, and the bacterial flagellum (Strobel, 2004).  The flagellum has a drive shaft, a hook protein, a bushing to allow penetration into the cell without allowing “leakage” in or out of the cell from around the shaft, and a power source that is still unexplained by science, and is made up of at least 40 different proteins (Holmes & Randerson, 2005; Strobel, 2004).  It spins more efficiently, at higher speeds, than any car motor we have ever been able to produce, and can stop and reverse directions within ¼ of a turn (Strobel, 2004).  Blood clotting involves specified coordination between ten different proteins and could not have occurred naturally through slow changes without causing the animal to bleed to death in the meantime (Strobel, 2004; Holmes & Randerson, 2005).

Specified Complexity

Another argument Intelligent Design offers is that of specified complexity.  A common analogy for specified complexity involves a million monkeys at a million typewriters.  No matter how long you let them pound away, they will never write a Shakespearean sonnet.  DNA stores information written in a code of four chemicals, adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine (Strobel, 2004).  However, just putting those four letters together in random sequences will not produce life; they must be put in the correct order, thus specified complexity.  Each protein has anywhere between 1,200 and 2,000 letters in its code, meaning that for the specific organization of these letters to form would take a prohibitively long time (Strobel, 2004).  Even if the complex protein evolved from a simpler one, the minimum required complexity for a protein to properly fold from the four chemicals is somewhere in the range of 75 amino acids, and the likelihood of this happening by chance is astronomical- one in the number “ten with 125 zeroes after it” (Strobel, 2004, location 4139).  In Scott’s book, she says that life could not have survived prior to 3.8 billion years ago, while comets and meteors were bombarding the Earth, but “shortly after the bombardment ceased . . . primitive replicating structures appeared” (Scott, 2004, p. 24).  If the chances of specified complexity occurring naturally are astronomical, the chance that it happened in a relatively short amount of time must be even lower.


            Science is about maintaining an open mind and following the evidence, wherever it may lead.  Both sides can be faulted for dogmatic beliefs in the evolution/creation argument.  It is rare to hear an evolutionist even acknowledge a creationist scientist’s findings because they prefer, generally, to dismiss creationism as pseudo-science at best.  Some creationists are guilty of infusing religion into science without any evidence or against contradictory evidence.  As Eugenie Scott herself said, “the willingness to change one’s explanation with more or better data, or a different way of looking at the same data, is one of the great strengths of the scientific method” (Scott, 2004, p. 5).  Perhaps evolutionists should be reminded of this passage when dismissing Intelligent Design’s claims.

Evolution has some strong arguments behind it, but there are still flaws and gaps that have yet to be explained.  The fossil record is far from complete, but points overwhelmingly toward an event called the Cambrian Explosion, in which as many as forty new body types were suddenly introduced to the world (Strobel, 2004).  Evolution does not act quickly, as it requires several small changes through generational change using natural selection as the main tool (Darwin, 1859).  Some of the hypotheses for macro-evolution have held up, while others require as much faith as creationism.  Another flaw is found in body parts that cause harm to the possessor, the most obvious being the honeybee.  If a bee dies when it stings a mammal, the gene that produces the barbed stinger should be selected against, and no longer occur, but it still does.  Finally, more research is required to determine the validity of this particular event, but natural selection would not provide for a creature to function in a way to be exclusively beneficial to another creature.  The newly discovered Lamellibrachia luymesi may have a hand in overturning this pillar of evolution.

Intelligent Design has foundations in astronomy, cosmology, biology, and physics, to name a few, but in this paper, biology and biochemistry were the main focus.  Irreducible Complexity shows that numerous, successive, small changes from a natural phenomenon could not have created complex bio-machines, such as the flagellum, the cilia, and the act of blood clotting.  These pieces must have been created at the same time to have any ability to function correctly, and “created” is the best way to describe the action.  Alone, “irreducible complexity fulfils [sic] the requirements of being science.  It relies on empirical, historical, and experimental evidence to support its stance” (Bateman & Moran-Ellis, 2007, p. 272).  Specified complexity attempts to explain that the time required to randomly generate complex codes to build proteins that actually work to create life would be prohibitively long.

In conclusion, the scientists at Discovery Institute, the leading proponents of Intelligent Design, believe there is real scientific evidence for a Creator without invoking Biblical passages or other revelatory text.  The least science can do is investigate these claims with an open mind and discover the truth.  It would truly be a fault against science if it dismissed the possibility of supernatural events simply because of a dogmatic belief that everything must occur naturally.


Bateman, P.W., & Moran-Ellis, J. (2007). The science in the intelligent design debate: Teach it like it is. South African Journal of Science, 103(7/8) 271-273. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Brown, J. (2010, September 28). Bees, wasps, and stings. The Signal, 15. Retrieved from ProQuest. DOI: 2151091471.

Cordes, E. E., Arthur, M. A., Shea, K., Arvidson, R. S., & Fisher, C. R. (2005, March). Modeling the mutualistic interactions between tubeworms and microbial consortia. PLoS Biology, 3(3), e77. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1044833/ ?tool=pmcentrez#pbio-0030077-b06

Darwin, C. (1859).  On the origin of species [Kindle edition].

Holmes, B. & Randerson, J. (2005, July 9). A sceptic’s [sic] guide to intelligent design. New Scientist 187(2507), 10-12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Ross, M. R. (2005, May).  Who believes what?  Clearing up confusion over intelligent design and Young-Earth Creationism.  Journal of Geoscience Education, 53(3), 319-323.  Retrieved from http://nagt.org/files/nagt/jge/abstracts/Ross_v53n3p319.pdf

Scott, E.C. (2004).  Evolution vs creationism: An introduction [Kindle edition].  London, England: University of California Press, Ltd.

Strobel, L. (2004).  The case for a creator [Kindle edition].

09/04/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ethics and Prayer in Public Schools

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

Day Two of my ethics reading. I’ll present the arguments as they are explained in my textbook, and at the end, I’ll provide my personal thoughts on the matter. Interspersed are green words in parentheses that indicate my words, vice the words of the text. Again, the textbook I am taking notes from is as follows:

Mosser, K. (2010). Ethics and Social Responsibility. (E. Evans, Ed.) Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/

The issue:

Whether organized prayer should be allowed in public schools, and distinguish between allowing prayer and promoting prayer.

The argument for allowing prayer:

For a religious or spiritual person, the relationship between himself and God is “the most precious relationship of all.” To respect that relationship, our First Amendment prohibits any interference with religion. Prohibiting school prayer is prohibiting the free exercise of one’s religion. (First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”) It follows, then, that eliminating prayer from public schools is wrong and unconstitutional.

Many religious values, like honesty, charity, and nonviolent problem solving, are important to society, and public schools should reinforce those virtues. Reinforcing moral lessons can reduce teenage pregnancy, STDs, gang violence, and drug/alcohol use.

The argument is not to force a specific view (which would violate the 1st Amendment and the Establishment Clause), but provide voluntary prayer for those who want to participate. For example, the Golden Rule is found in many religions, in many cultures, and is fundamental to “good” society.

History and current practice are in line with this argument: for 200 years, public schools allowed voluntary prayer. Thomas Jefferson refers to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence (one of my personal, favorite arguments to bring up about whether this country was founded on Christian values). The Senate and the House both maintain a chaplain, who opens sessions with a prayer. Money says “in God we trust”, the Pledge of Allegiance says “one Nation, under God,” and American presidents usually end speeches with “God Bless America.” (Our graduation at boot camp and most major military ceremonies also opened with  “Let us pray,” where even if you were not religious, you were still to bow your head for the duration, due to being in military formation) Most (sane) people don’t see these as violations of the First Amendment.

Preventing prayer in public schools (or any other public place for that matter), is to require people to follow the dictates of the non-religious minority (over 70% of Americans claim to be religious). Short prayers at ceremonies or other large get-togethers (football games and assemblies) remind students of moral values and reflect the wishes of a large part of the student body in most public schools. To prevent it is against their wishes, the wishes of their parents, and the Constitution itself. Denying the opportunity for prayer prevents moral lessons from being reinforced in children who need it, ignores our history, and conflicts with a large majority of the population’s desires.

The argument against prayer in public schools:

The United States is very diverse in many ways, including religion. All Americans have a right to religious expression, or no expression for atheists. To impose prayer on those who do not pray is to violate their rights.

Prayer at a ceremony or game may seem innocent, but if the prayer specifies a particular belief of God, it does not fit all religions. On the other hand, if it is vague and general, it doesn’t really serve a purpose, and will still single out some students who do not share that view. If prayer is included at mandatory events, the prayer is not voluntary. Also, students are very much influenced by peer pressure, and may not bring up alternative views for fear of embarrassment. They would rather “belong” than leave a venue due to prayer, so the prayer is not truly voluntary.

Public schools should not impose specific religious values on students. Schools can teach the history of religion, the differences in religion, and its role in society, but may not endorse one over another. Our public school system is failing, and students are achieving less academically than students in other countries, so the time spent in prayer and specific religious viewpoints would be better spent on the educational mission.

Many parents prefer to leave specific religious and moral education off the curriculum. Many religious parents do not want religion taught in public school so that those ideas do not conflict with what they are teaching their children at home and in the church- where religious teachings are appropriate.

“The Constitution does not allow public schools to promote any specific religion or religious viewpoint.” Any prayer in public school would either violate this ideal, or be so vague it is pointless. No view can encompass all religions as well as atheists, and schools have more important things to spend time on. Many parents do not want their religious views conflicted at school, and prayer in public schools cannot be seen as voluntary. Therefore, prayer in public schools should be prohibited.

Application of Theories:

The utilitarian view is “do the greatest good for the greatest number,” but what is the greatest number?

There is a saying “As long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school.” This says that individuals cannot be prevented from engaging in private prayer. Such prayer is voluntary. The Supreme Court has also ruled that students may organize voluntary religious clubs, which can include prayer and Bible study, at public schools, like any other club.

This is the difference between allowing prayer and promoting prayer.

Act Utilitarianism

In a given school, district, or community, it is likely that a majority of its members belong to a specific faith. The greatest good for the greatest number, then, would be to allow that majority to pray how they wish. To prevent this is to hold the majority hostage to the will of the minority. It is clear that the greatest good for the greatest number means allowing the majority to practice their faith the way they choose.

Rule Utilitarianism

Not only are the minority’s views being ignored, but many in the majority will be upset with the fact that the minority are not being accounted for. This brings down maximum happiness (or utility), so the greatest good for the greatest number would prevent organized prayer.

Some (Textbook) Conclusions:

Religion is very personal. It is often a cornerstone of a person’s understanding of himself. Because a person can define himself by his religion, that person may feel his rights are restricted when he is not free to express his beliefs when he desires to. It is unlikely, however, that all people, of all faiths, and non-faiths, will be happy with any outcome.

Thinking about the issue legally and generally, people are paying more attention to the “voluntary” part of prayer. Individuals cannot be prevented from praying in public schools. Religious clubs cannot be denied. These are both voluntary acts. However, school-sanctioned events, like football games and graduation, are usually seen as “inappropriate locations” for prayer, because it automatically means the school is endorsing that view. Insisting on general prayers tends to make the prayer pointless to those who feel strongly about their beliefs.

There is no answer that will please everyone, but the two words to really learn from this debate are “sensitivity” and “tolerance.”

What Would You Do?

“You are a high school principal, and some students want to organize a school club devoted to studying and discussing atheism. You are concerned that they may spend some of their time mocking the beliefs of other students. Some of the students in your school have already expressed to you their concern that such an officially recognized student group represents a view that many find offensive.

“Do you allow the students to organize the atheist club? What restrictions, if any, do you impose on what they can do and say? What do you say to parents who call to protest the existence of such a club?”

My thoughts:

When I was in school, we had thirty seconds of silence after the Pledge of Allegiance. You could pray, you could study, you could do whatever you wanted, as long as you were quiet. It was a time for reflection, and a pause in the beginning of a hectic day. There was a guy in my first period class who used to say the Pledge with “under Gods.” I think he did it as a joke, but I didn’t take offense to it. There were some who would refuse to say that line altogether. Now, there are some kids who don’t even want to stand or put their hands over their hearts. That’s a different issue for a different day though.

Of course, especially growing up, I didn’t consider myself religious. I knew the thirty seconds was “supposed” to be for prayer, but that didn’t mean I had to pray. I didn’t take offense to it either. Everybody, whether Christian, Muslim, or atheist, can take thirty seconds out of their day to think. I think this is a perfect way to satisfy most people.

I know the text is specifically talking about during ceremonies and such, but why can’t any prayer be replaced by a moment of silence? Those who wish to pray, can. Those who don’t, can just wait. It is respectful to those who wish to pray to stay silent. I think respect is a big piece of the puzzle that seems to be missing in our society today.

If everybody treated everybody else with the respect they expect, I think there would be fewer issues in this world. Christians, or more generally, religious people, are the majority, and for a reason. I am not saying that the rights of minorities should be ignored, but I do not believe that ninety-nine people should be denied their wishes because the one doesn’t like it. I don’t like the minority taking the majority hostage.

In this particular instance, I think a moment of silence is the “right” thing to do.

As for the atheist club, I don’t think it would be appropriate to prevent the club. As far as I am aware, all school-sanctioned clubs had to have a teacher present, though. If they had an instructor, they’d be allowed to have a club, just as a Christian group would, and that is exactly what I’d tell concerned parents. The instructor would be expected to maintain civility and respect in the club, just as any other club would be expected to do. I wouldn’t allow another group to be disrespectful of any other, so this group would be the same. Respect and civility towards all.

05/27/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mother’s Day

Where did Mother’s Day come from? Why are carnations the “official flower” of the holiday?

Humans have honored motherhood in ceremony, ritual, and celebration since ancient times.  Typically, though, those celebrations were in honor of goddesses and symbols, not actual human mothers.

Egypt: The ancient Egyptians were among the first, that we know of, to celebrate motherhood. Every year, they would hold a festival to honor Isis, the goddess of motherhood, magic, and fertility. She was worshiped as the ideal mother and wife, as well as mother of the pharaohs. One of her stories says that her brother, Seth, murdered her husband/brother, Osiris, so she reassembled her husband and used his body to impregnate herself. She gave birth to Horus (sky god, god of war and protection), and hid him from Seth among the reeds. Horus grew up and defeated Seth to become the first ruler of a unified Egypt. This festival was held at the beginning of winter.

Greece: The Greeks celebrated a number of mother goddesses, depending on the region. Some worshiped Gaia, the Earth Goddess, or Mother Earth. Some worshiped Meteroreie, the Mountain Mother, and some celebrated Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, and mother of Zeus. These celebrations took place near mid-March, likely just as nature was starting to bloom, and usually involved games, parades, and arts and crafts displays.

Rome: The Romans celebrated the festival of Isis, but commemorated an important battle and the beginning of winter with it. The link to Mother’s Day is seen more in the celebration of Cybele, the Earth Goddess, or Magna Mater (Great Mother). Cybele is the Roman interpretation of the Greek Rhea (the Romans were very unoriginal when it came to religion), and this celebration took place near the Vernal Equinox.

Europe: Early Christians celebrated a holiday on the fourth Sunday of Lent to celebrate the church where they were baptized, or their “Mother Church.” These Christians would decorate their Mother Church with jewels, flowers, and offerings.

Including human mothers: In the 1600s, England broadened the celebration to include human mothers, calling it “Mothering Day.” Working classes especially benefited from this holiday, with servants and trade workers having the opportunity to travel back to their home towns to visit family. Families were also given a one-day “cheat day” during Lent to have a large feast to celebrate Mother, as well as the Virgin Mary.

America: When settlers came to America, Mothering Day was left on the shores of England. However, in 1870, Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was so distressed by the Civil War, that she wrote for mothers to come together to protest such a futile war. Her idea was to have an international Mother’s Day to celebrate peace and motherhood, and to stop American boys from killing each other. She even wanted the celebration to take place on July 4th, to dedicate the United States to peace. It was eventually designated for June 2nd.

In 1873, eighteen North American cities observed Mother’s Day for the first time. Initially, Howe herself funded the celebrations, and many died out once she no longer paid for them. Boston, however, continued to celebrate for another decade.

In West Virginia, Anna Reeves Jarvis started an adaptation of Howe’s Mother’s Day. Her Mother’s Friendship Day was an opportunity for families and neighbors divided by the Civil War to be reunited. After Anna Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter, Anna M. Jarvis, petitioned her mother’s church for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother, and in honor of peace. May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day was held at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, and a church in Philadelphia. Jarvis’ event drew 407 members, and white carnations (her mother’s favorite) were passed to the celebrants. Two carnations were given to every mother. Today, white carnations are used to celebrate the mothers who have passed on, while pink or red carnations are used to celebrate mothers who still live. Andrew’s was incorporated into the International Mother’s Day Shrine in 1962.

In 1908, a Senator from Nebraska, Elmer Burkett, proposed making a national Mother’s Day, as requested by the YMCA. The proposal was defeated, but by the next year, 46 states were holding Mother’s Day services, as well as in parts of Mexico and Canada. Anna Jarvis quit her job and started campaigning for a national Mother’s Day full-time. Finally, in 1912, West Virginia was the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to be Mother’s Day.

Jarvis would later try to copyright “Mother’s Day” and stop celebrations because she felt the commercialization was ruining her vision. In 1948, Anna Jarvis passed away, blind, poor, and childless, never knowing that it was The Florist’s Exchange, one company she fought against, that had anonymously paid for her care.


Argentina celebrates Dia de la madre on the second Sunday in October, though most of South America celebrates it in May, presumably because in the southern hemisphere, spring comes at that time of year.

France was inspired by American Doughboys of World War I, and celebrated the first Mother’s Day in 1918. Their La Fete de Meres was made official for December 19, 1920. Upon their repopulation attempts, mothers with four or five children were given a bronze medal. Mothers of six or seven would receive a silver medal, and mothers, like Octo-Mom, with eight children or more would receive a gold medal. This tradition was abandoned in 1945 with the institution of the National Day of Mothers.

India has a westernized Mother’s Day on May 10, but Hindus have long celebrated an October festival called Durga Puja to praise the divine mother, Durga.

Japanese Christians were celebrating an American-style Mother’s Day since 1913, but during World War II, all western customs were banned. After the war, haha no hi was started to comfort Mothers who had lost their children in the war. By 1949, Mother’s Day was back in force, with celebrations occurring on the second Sunday of May.

Mexicans celebrate Dia de las madres on May 10th, when mothers are treated to serenades.

In the United Kingdom, Mothering Day fell by the wayside in the early 1900s, but inspired by Americans, Mother’s Day took its place after World War II.

In Yugoslavia, three Sundays before Christmas is Children’s Day (Dechiyi Dan). The following Sunday is Mother’s Day (Materitse) and the Sunday after that is Father’s Day (Ochichi). On Children’s Day, children are tied up and not released until they promise to be good. (Maybe we should incorporate this into our celebrations… every day.) On Mother’s Day, mom is tied up until she gives the family treats. Father must promise more lavish gifts, which are usually the family’s Christmas gifts.

Australia (Mother’s Day), Bahrain (Ruz-e Madar), Belgium (Moederdag), Canada (Mother’s Day), China, Denmark (Mors Dag), Ethiopia (Antrosht), Finland (aidipayiva), Hong Kong (mu quin jie), Italy (La Festa della Mamma), Norway (Morsdag), Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (Yaum ul-umm), Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, and Turkey all celebrate their own versions of Mother’s Day as well.

To all the mothers in the world, Happy Mother’s Day, and to my own mom, I love you!

05/06/2011 Posted by | Learning | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment