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Interpreting the Hajj

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            Circle the Ka’bah seven times in an anti-clockwise direction, hasten between the hills seven times, and toss pebbles at pillars.  The activities involved in the Muslim pilgrimage, or Hajj, appear to be symbolic of something, yet some Muslim authorities vehemently deny the attribution of meaning (Katz, 2004).  Despite this claim, some other Muslim scholars do believe the actions are more than “blind obedience” to the wishes of their god, Allah, and with the interpretive theory, each aspect of the Hajj will be examined for its importance in the Islamic tradition. Continue reading

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12/12/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , | Leave a comment

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 This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research.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.

References

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

Abortion: Murder or Right?

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!

 

Whether about the murder of an innocent or the right of a woman to decide what to do with her own body, the argument over abortion is long running, full of fallacy, and highly emotional. Logic will help wade through the charged terms and poignant testimony to determine the real issue at hand, and find an answer best suited for compromise and legislation. Using arguments from both sides, this paper will show why abortion, in the third trimester, is immoral and should be illegal.
The argument between “life” and “choice” is full of connotative terms that set up straw man fallacies on both sides. Even the terms the two sides call themselves, “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” insinuate that those in the other camp are “pro-death” or “anti-freedom,” respectively, and as such, this paper will refer to the two sides as “those who oppose” and “those who support” legalized abortion. Some of the most bumper-sticker worthy arguments are based on these straw men, such as “Abortion is murder,” and “My body, my choice.” When referring to the unborn, those who oppose legal abortion will say “unborn child,” “innocent,” and “victim” for empathy while those who support abortion will say “zygote,” “embryo” and “clump of cells” to dehumanize the fetus. This illustrates the great difference between the two camps: they view the potential person very differently. One views any unborn child as a person who is not born yet, but still worthy of the rights of a newborn, while the other views an unwanted fetus as part of the mother’s body, a burden, a parasite, “less than human but more than nothing” (Selley, 2011).

Other fallacies run rampant through the argument over abortion, including a false dichotomy and appeals to pity. The false dichotomy is one that is often seen in politics where each side believes that by giving any ground, the war will be lost. Thus those who oppose abortion argue for personhood at conception, while the those who support it argue for life at birth. Of course, science and reality do not fit either category, which will be explained later. Appeals to pity occur on both sides, though the person to be pitied changes. Those who oppose abortion beg for the life of an innocent victim who has not yet had the opportunity to experience the joy of life, and claim that abortion is selfish, particularly when couples are so willing to adopt who cannot have children of their own. They also mourn the well-being of the mother who kills her unborn child, and the guilt she is sure to bear throughout her life. Those who support abortion, on the other hand, mourn the mother almost exclusively. Her opportunities for education, employment, or even childhood are lost because of one mistake. The victim of rape must look at the evidence of her life’s most horrifying and tragic event growing within her, and the poor woman must endure pain and suffering to bring a child she cannot afford into the world only to give it away. There may be kernels of truth within each of these arguments, but they are not the base issue in the argument. Some, such as the child of rape, may provide contextual exemptions to the eventual legislation, but for the most part, they only muddy the waters as red herrings, rather than focusing on the real issue: when does personhood begin, and is it acceptable to kill an innocent person?

Argument one: “The presence of, or lack of, brain activity is an indicator of life or death. A fetus exhibits brain activity near the point of viability, at 24 weeks. Human beings only produce other human beings. Therefore, at 24 weeks, the fetus is a live human.” In this day of machine-assisted medicine, a body can be kept functioning beyond the point of death (Chiong, 2005). Increasingly, doctors are using the irreversible loss of brain activity as the point of death for their patients (Chiong, 2005). If the loss of brain activity indicates loss of life, it follows that brain activity means life. The scientific definition of life includes the ability to grow and gather or expend energy. At conception, the cell divides, and is scientifically alive. This is not debated. However, the debate usually revolves around what makes humans unique, what determines personhood, our consciousness, usually exhibited in our brain (Krause, 2011). With surgical procedures now being performed on fetuses in utero, doctors are now able to monitor them with EEGs. Surprisingly for some, the brain activity of a fetus in the third trimester is enough to consider it more than simply instinctual with voluntary breathing and the beginning of dreams (Rajeev, 2011). With this new information about the formation of the brain in utero, we can say that scientifically, life begins at conception, but personhood begins just before the third trimester.

Argument two: “A woman is an autonomous person with the moral capacity and the moral right to decide whether a pregnancy will be aborted or brought to term (Kissling, 2005). A woman has the right to choose what happens to her body. A fetus is a part of a woman’s body. Therefore, a woman has a right to terminate an unintended pregnancy.” This is the base argument for those who support abortion. While few would argue that a person should have the right to their own body, the biggest argument comes from the third premise. At conception, the embryo has its own DNA, separate from the mother. When the fetus’ heart starts beating, it pumps blood in its own cardiovascular system entirely separate from the mother. This also follows from a common sense idea of a person never having two brains, four lungs, or a woman never having male genitalia. Judith Thomson provided a thought experiment to assist in the visualization of this argument (Krause, 2011). If a woman wakes up in the hospital with a world-famous violinist attached to her kidneys, and she is told that the violinist cannot survive without her, is she morally or legally obligated to accept this? Of course, this hinges on the woman being completely unaware of the attachment, which only works when referring to victims of rape who become pregnant. Another stipulation was put on the experiment, adding that the woman was attending a party, knowing that someone with her blood type would be chosen to assist this violinist. This is supposed to simulate the knowledge that any sexual activity can result in pregnancy. Does the answer to the question of obligation change if she willingly attended this party with full knowledge that she may be chosen? Finally, the true litmus test is how the woman’s right to choose lines up against the fetus’s right to live. If the fetus is considered a person, such as in argument one, then it has an inalienable right to life, enshrined in our own Declaration of Independence. All rights stem from life, which indicates that the right to life is greater than the right to choose. In addition to this, one single choice wipes an entire lifetime of choices that will not be made by the aborted fetus. Therefore, the right to choose is an insufficient reason to justify killing an unwanted fetus.

Argument three: “The most likely people to have unintended pregnancies are in bad situations such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or poor economical standing. Children born into these situations will suffer as well. Therefore, it is more merciful to terminate unintended pregnancies.” Some people argue that abortion will prevent child abuse, and that an unwanted child is more likely to be abused, however, child abuse has increased since abortion was made legal (U.S. Abortion Statistics, 2011). This must be one of the worst arguments for proponents of abortion. It would be an incredibly cruel person to suggest euthanasia of all children in poor or abusive households, which is why we have social workers and foster care in the first place. Society as a whole would never accept killing children because of a situation they cannot control. If we accept that a fetus in the third trimester is the same as a child, from argument one, then the transitive property states that killing a fetus in the third trimester is cruel and unacceptable as well. This appears to be a case of trying to skew reality to fit a pre-determined world view.

Argument four: “Unintended and unwanted pregnancies occur. If safe and legal abortions are not readily available, women will resort to unsafe “back-alley” abortions. Therefore, to protect women, safe and legal abortions are necessary.” This is one of the more compelling arguments for abortion. There are no compelling and factual estimates for how many illegal abortions were performed in a period of time, or how many women died in the process because these procedures are never reported. However, if the standard of third trimester is adhered to, any woman who claims to “need” an abortion will have plenty of time to arrange one before the third trimester.

After twenty-four weeks, a fetus has brain activity sufficient to consider it a person. Various arguments try to muddy the topic or add complications to what is truly a simple question: Is it moral to kill a human being for what amounts to convenience’s sake? The answer is a resounding “no.” It is immoral to kill an innocent human being. A fetus in the third trimester is a human being. Therefore, it is immoral to perform abortions in the third trimester. Society, as a whole, must work to prevent abortion from being used as birth control. Estimates show that more than half of all women obtaining an abortion were not using birth control when they got pregnant, 47% of women obtaining an abortion have already had one or more, and 84% were performed on unmarried women, suggesting a use of abortion as birth control (U.S. Abortion Statistics, 2011). There are approximately 1.2 million abortions performed each year, and between 88 and 92% are performed in the first trimester, consistent with the current laws to prevent late-term abortions (U.S. Abortion Statistics, 2011). Perhaps if more emphasis was placed on safe sex, less promiscuity, and a sense of responsibility for one’s actions, the argument over abortion would not be so important.

References
Chiong, W. (2005, Nov-Dec). Brain death without definitions. Hastings Center Report 35(6) 20-30. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from Project Muse.
Kissling, F. (2005). Is there life after Roe? How to think about the fetus. Conscience, XXV (3), 10. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from ProQuest.
Krause, K. (2011). Abortion’s still unanswered questions. The Humanist, 71(4), 40-42. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from ProQuest.
Rajeev, L. (2011, September 22). Brain development in fetus. Retrieved November 4, 2011, from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/brain-development-in-fetus.html
Selley, C. (2011, August 31). Less than human, more than nothing. A debate about the selective abortion of twins has exposed the messy ambiguity in pro-choice ranks. National Post, A.15. Retrieved October 21, 2011 from ProQuest.
U.S. Abortion Statistics. (2011, November 5). Retrieved November 10, 2011, from http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/

11/12/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning | , , , , | 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.

Background

            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.

Methods

            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.

Results

Dogma

“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).

Symbiosis

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.

Conclusions

            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.

References

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 the Death Penalty

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!

 

The next few blogs will be about Ethics and Society, where the last few have been about Ethics and Individual Rights. Today’s topic is the Death Penalty, and will be discussed from both sides with a deontological perspective. Deontology basically sets forth rules that should always be followed, the main, basic principle being the Golden Rule. As always, the first few sections will be notes from my textbook, with my additions in green, then under “My Thoughts” will be… you guessed it! My thoughts. The text I am using is:

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

The argument against abolishing the death penalty:

All humans have unalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson said they include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” To murder someone is to deprive them of life, and society must punish the person responsible in a way to show its commitment to that right. If the punishment for murder is not harsh enough, it may seem that the government does not regard murder as a crime serious enough for the harshest penalty. The death penalty is the harshest punishment, and thus fits murder as the harshest crime. The murderer is punished, and the commitment to the right to life is upheld. The death penalty is actually a symbol for society’s respect for life, and of the humanity of both victim and murderer.

How? Because all members of society abide by the rules of that society. A murderer violates those rules, and thus shows he does not belong in that society. Thus, he has forfeited the right to live among others. At one point, the murderer had the same right to life, but by taking another’s, he has given up his right. By acting on the notion that the victim did not deserve to live, society must insist that the murderer forfeits his own right.

The death penalty sends a harsher message to those who may consider murder. It will prevent at least some potential murderers from acting on their desires. It is a deterrent.

-affirms the humanity of the victim and the murderer

-sends a message to the rest of society that by taking one life, you forfeit your own

-what punishment do you give someone who kill another while already in prison?

(I’d like to add that the death penalty, as a whole, is cheaper on tax-payers than keeping convicted killers in prison for life. There would be less over-crowding, less money spent on food, clothing, etc. It may seem harsh to bring the argument down to dollar figures, but let’s face it, once you are convicted of killing another human being, you are no longer afforded the privilege of being treated with dignity.)

The argument for abolishing the death penalty:

The death penalty reflects racial, class, and ethnic bias. It is too expensive. Innocent people have surely been executed. It isn’t effective as a deterrent. It is barbaric, and reflects poorly on the United States. Many religions and religious leaders reject it. But it all comes down to one question: is it morally acceptable to execute a human being?

If Thomas Jefferson is right, the right to life cannot be taken away. A murderer already has, but do two wrongs make a right?

If the state can be justified in taking the murderer’s life, then it is not unalienable. If the right to life is unalienable, then society is violating the murderer’s right. If killing a person is wrong, and the death penalty is intentionally killing a person, isn’t it also wrong? Or is the murderer no longer a human being because he has taken a life? The United States recognizes a murderer cannot be tortured because it violates his constitutional rights. Therefore, he is still a human being.

Instead of the death penalty, the penalty should be life without parole. It removes the murderer from society, protecting its members from threat. Life in prison, without parole, is as effective as the death penalty as a deterrent. It also avoids mistakenly executing an innocent person.

All human life deserves respect and dignity, no matter how evil or horrendous that person’s acts are. Society shows real respect for life by abolishing the death penalty. The death penalty is not required as a tool in the punishment box.

The Theories

Deontologists look at ethics in terms of rules, as opposed to consequences like utilitarians. A utilitarian may argue that the ends justify the means. A deontologist says the means are what matters.

The most famous deontologist was Immanuel Kant. He was a strong advocate of the death penalty. However, using the same logic and ethical view, many deontologists are against the death penalty.

Kant was a believer of retributivism- punishment should fit the crime, eye for an eye, life for a life, etc. By violating another’s right to live, the murderer forfeits his right to live. The act of murder is so fundamentally immoral that the murderer gives up his right to live. Execution, then, is not more murder but the consequence of the crime.

The Golden Rule says I shouldn’t kill someone if I don’t want someone to kill me, so the inverse should also be true. (A utilitarian would say that since the death penalty deters other murderers, it is the greatest good for the greatest number, and thus moral.) Since Kant is a deontologist, the deterrent part of the argument would have no bearing. He is only interested in the rules and means, not the eventual outcomes.

Other deontologists say Kant is correct in saying all humans have dignity that must be respected, but reject retributivism and say that the murderer also has dignity. To treat a person like an object is to treat another human as a means, rather than a person. Capital punishment is a means to an end (justice?), and we do not respect human dignity by killing other humans.

The main difference seems to be determining whether the murderer is still a human being. Kant believes the murderer has forfeited that part of his dignity/humanity by taking another life. The opposition says that murderers are still people.

My Thoughts

So in the last few paragraphs of the text, it mentions my earlier addition about cost-effectiveness. According to the text, it is actually more expensive to execute a person than to imprison them for forty years. I find this hard to believe because of guard salaries, food, over-crowding of the prison system, etc., but if it is true, it takes one of my main arguments away. At this website, the arguments seem to say that the reason the death penalty is so much more expensive is because the court costs are at least doubled, and the method of execution is expensive. If we were to execute by hanging or firing squad, it would be less expensive, but would likely be considered more barbaric.

I’ll admit that when I started reading this section, I was pro-death penalty. Most of that reasoning was because of the “eye for an eye” argument and the fact that (I thought) it is cheaper to take someone out of society permanently via execution than to house them somewhere for the rest of their lives.

It also goes on to compare the United States with other countries. England, France, Germany, and Japan have all abolished the death penalty, and are usually countries we like to associate ourselves with in terms of success. On the other end are states that advocate the death penalty- Iran, Congo, North Korea, and Yemen. Obviously there are many differences among all the countries listed, but it is interesting to point out.

Overall, I find myself newly conflicted. I’d thought about the fact that two wrongs don’t make a right, that we shouldn’t kill because a person has killed, etc. However, I also consider the fact that our prison system is extremely over-crowded. I suppose you could say I am a proponent of retributivism. I think we should find a way to make it less expensive than life imprisonment (and not by raising the cost of imprisonment). I really do find it extremely hard to believe that with all the costs associated, including new prison facilities and guard salaries when prison populations go up, that execution is more expensive.

Also, people who are sentenced to life in prison, without parole, are likely doing nothing for society, whereas society has to take care of them, provide food and shelter, and medical care, for the rest of their lives. They will never be a member of society again. Why delay the inevitable? I suppose I do believe that convicted murderers should no longer be treated with the same dignity of “normal” human beings.

Hello, my name is Jennifer, and I agree with the death penalty.

06/03/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , | 2 Comments

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