Tuesday, April 27, 2010

EPA Scientist Says East Coast Beaches Threatened by Sea Level, But Nobody’s Listening

EPA Scientist Says East Coast Beaches Threatened by Sea Level, But Nobody’s Listening
Wired Science
by Josh Harkinson
April 27, 2010

For most of the 20th century, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, was known for its boardwalk, amusement park and wide, sandy beaches, popular with daytrippers from Washington, D.C. “The bathing beach has a frontage of three miles,” boasted a tourist brochure from about 1900, “and is equal, if not superior, to any beach on the Atlantic Coast.”

Today, on a cloudless spring afternoon, the resort town’s sweeping view of Chesapeake Bay is no less stunning. But there’s no longer any beach in Chesapeake Beach. Where there once was sand, water now laps against a seven-foot-high wall of boulders protecting a strip of pricey homes marked with “No Trespassing” signs.

Surveying the armored shoreline, Jim Titus explains how the natural sinking of the shoreline and slow but steady sea-level rise, mostly due to climate change, have driven the bay’s water more than a foot higher over the past century. Reinforcing the eroding shore with a sea wall held the water back, but it also choked off the natural supply of sand that had replenished the beach. What sand remained gradually sank beneath the rising water.

Titus, the Environmental Protection Agency’s resident expert on sea-level rise, first happened upon Maryland’s disappearing beaches 15 years ago while looking for a place to windsurf. “Having the name beach,” he discovered, “is not a very good predictor of having a beach.” Since then, he’s kept an eye out for other beach towns that have lost their namesakes—Maryland’s Masons Beach and Tolchester Beach, North Carolina’s Pamlico Beach, and many more. (See a map of Maryland’s phantom beach towns here.)

A 54-year old with a thick shock of hair and sturdy build, Titus could pass for a vacationer in his Panama hat, khakis and polo shirt. But as he picks his way over the rocky shore, he’s anything but relaxed.

For nearly 30 years, Titus has been sounding the alarm about our rising oceans. Global warming is melting polar ice, adding to the volume of the oceans, as well as warming up seawater, causing it to expand. Most climatologists expect oceans around the world to rise between 1.5 and 5 feet this century.

Some of the hardest-hit areas could be in our own backyard: Erosion and a shift in ocean currents could cause water to rise 4 feet or more along much of the East Coast. Titus, who contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Nobel Prize-winning 2007 report, has done more than anyone to determine how those rising seas will affect us and what can be done about them.

Like his occasional collaborator, NASA climatologist James Hansen, Titus has decided to speak out. He’s crisscrossed the country to meet with state and local officials in coastal areas, urging them to start planning now for the slow-motion flood. Yet his warnings have mostly fallen on deaf ears. “We were often told by midlevel officials that their bosses did not want to plan for anything past the next election,” he says...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy 4/20? Stoners don’t trust reporters in skinny jeans

Peña: Stoners don’t trust reporters in skinny jeans
By Joseph Peña, SDNN
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Considering the Republican District Attorney will prosecute a chimney, I didn’t think it’d be easy to find smoke shop workers or stoners to talk with me Tuesday (4/20), a day marijuana enthusiasts worldwide celebrate. I sure as hell didn’t think it’d be as hard as it was, though.
San Diego:

Happy 4-20! Or not, depending who you talk with; smoke shop workers and stoners were not eager to shoot the breeze with me Tuesday. The whole day totally cashed me out.

I only wanted to know whether the pot smoker’s holiday is a boon to local smoke shops; or — the way dedicated drinkers regard New Year’s Eve as a junior varsity scrimmage — pot users leave 4/20 to college freshmen, thus having no significant economic impact on businesses...

It doesn't matter what you do, just so you believe

Earning Hope
Chalice Notes
by Kent Doss
April 19, 2010

...In our world view, it’s your actions that make the difference, not just what you believe. We have forsaken original sin and salvation by faith alone...

Most of us have some notion of original sin in the Christian church. That’s the fallen or sinful state of human beings that is passed down generation to generation because of the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden when Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge. Just be being descendents, all of humanity is likewise sinful. It’s a pretty core piece of Christian theology, but it wasn’t so until the early 400s. Augustine of Hippo was the champion of this doctrine and he was one of the most powerful and influential theologians of Christian history.

But at the same time, one of our very important theological predecessors was arguing the opposite. He argued that salvation can be earned and humanity’s natural state is not original sin. Rather than the sin of a mythical predecessor, he focused on free will, and the importance of right action, not just having the right theological faith. His ideas quickly spread, which is one reason the opponents acted so promptly and firmly. In fact they acted so forcefully and so completely that nearly all of his written works have been destroyed. Most of what is known about Pelagius today is recorded in the letters and books of Orthodox theologians who argue against him...

Friday, April 16, 2010

How I learned to stop being a lazy American and pay my part for what matters

Apr 15, 2010 06:01 EDT
Suck it, Tea Party: I love Tax Day
How I learned to stop being a lazy American and pay my part for what matters
By Steve Almond

Like a lot of Americans, I've spent a small but deeply unfortunate fraction of my recent life puzzling over the Tea Party's Tax Day Extravaganza of Irrational Grievance, or whatever they're calling it.

As a longtime resident of the Boston area, it's especially galling to see a bunch of angry old white people -- many of whom, we learned recently, are on the federal dole -- behave as if their democratically elected officials are foreign despots. It would probably behoove the Fourth Estate to draw a thick line between genuine victims of colonialism and sore losers.

Is the Star of David being misused by Jewish extremists?

I recently was surprised to learn (even though it makes perfect sense, doesn't it?) that Palestinians are descended from Jewish farmers and herders of the biblical era. So the story below is not just about religion. It's about that pesky brother versus brother problem that humans everywhere seem to be burdened by.

Apr 15, 2010
Is the Star of David the new swastika?
In a disturbing reversal of symbolism, Israeli extremists are defacing Palestinian property with the Jewish symbol
By Judy Mandelbaum

Time was when Nazis used to slather swastikas on synagogues and Jewish businesses to prepare the local population for expulsion or much worse. It's sad that this sort of behavior persists around the world, as a new study by Tel Aviv University shows. But it's even sadder to see Israelis regularly defacing Palestinian property with Stars of David with equal glee and with what appears to be the same brain-dead mindset.

Your local paper might not have covered it, but in the wee hours of Wednesday morning a gang of Israeli settlers attacked the West Bank village of Hawara. "Palestinians reported two torched cars on the village’s central road early yesterday," Haaretz writes. "A small village mosque, used only on the weekend, had the word 'Muhammad' sprayed in Hebrew and a Star of David. Haaretz also found graffiti with the Jewish prayer 'Praise be onto him for not making me a gentile.'" The attackers also took the opportunity to destroy some three hundred olive trees, a major source of local income...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District (1994): Is Evolution a Religion?

Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District (1994)

Evolution & Creationism: Is Evolution a Religion?
Exploring: Church & State > Court Decisions > Evolution & Creationism

Some of those who object to evolution for religious reasons also argue that evolution itself is a religion or, sometimes, that it is a part of secular humanism which itself is a religion. Therefore, they conclude, teaching evolution in public schools violates the Establishment Clause (because it imposes a religion on students) and the Free Exercise Clause (in particular, of the teachers who are forced to teach it). But are such arguments valid? Is evolution a religion?

Background Information

High school biology teacher John E. Peloza brought action against the Capistrano School District, claiming that the school district's requirement that he teach "evolutionism," as well as a school district order barring him from discussing his religious beliefs with students, were infringements both on his rights to free speech and his rights to free exercise of religion.

According to Peloza, "evolutionism" is a religion and therefore being forced to teach it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In Peloza's view, Evolutionism is an historical, philosophical and religious belief system, but not a valid scientific theory. Evolutionism is one of "two world views on the subject of the origins of life and of the universe." The other is "creationism" which also is a "religious belief system."

The belief system of evolutionism is based on the assumption that life and the universe evolved randomly and by chance and with no Creator involved in the process. The world view and belief system of creationism is based on the assumption that a Creator created all life and the entire universe.

Peloza also claimed that the district conspired to destroy and damage his professional reputation, career and position as a public school teacher. He had been reprimanded in writing for proselytizing to students and teaching religion in the classroom - according to him, they did this because they were hostile towards practicing Christians.

A District Court had dismissed the suit and awarded attorney fees to the school district, but Peloza appealed.

Court Decision

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals completely rejected all of Peloza's arguments. First, they noted that his claims were not entirely consistent - in some places he claimed that it is unconstitutional for the school district to require him to teach, as a valid scientific theory, that higher life forms evolved from lower ones, but at other times he claimed the district was forcing him to teach evolution as fact.

The Court also noted what just about every creationist seems to miss: the fact that evolution is about how life has developed and has nothing to do with the origins or development of the universe itself...

The Case for God

All quiet on the God front

Simon Blackburn discusses the argument that religious experience can't be discussed
Simon Blackburn
The Guardian
4 July 2009

This is an eloquent and interesting book, although you do not quite get what it says on the tin. Karen Armstrong takes the reader through a history of religious practice in many different cultures, arguing that in the good old days and purest forms they all come to much the same thing. They use devices of ritual, mystery, drama, dance and meditation in order to enable us better to cope with the vale of tears in which we find ourselves. Religion is therefore properly a matter of a practice, and may be compared with art or music. These are similarly difficult to create, and even to appreciate. But nobody who has managed either would doubt that something valuable has happened in the process. We come out of the art gallery or concert hall enriched and braced, elevated and tranquil, and may even fancy ourselves better people, though the change may or may not be noticed by those around us.

1. The Case for God
2. : What Religion Really Means
3. by Karen Armstrong
4. 384pp,
5. Bodley Head,
6. £20

1. Buy The Case for God at the Observer bookshop

This is religion as it should be, and, according to Armstrong, as it once was in all the world's best traditions. However, there is a serpent in this paradise, as in others. Or rather, several serpents, but the worst is the folly of intellectualising the practice. This makes it into a matter of belief, argument, and ultimately dogma. It debases religion into a matter of belief in a certain number of propositions, so that if you can recite those sincerely you are an adept, and if you can't you fail. This is Armstrong's principal target. With the scientific triumphs of the 17th century, religion stopped being a practice and started to become a theory - in particular the theory of the divine architect. This is a perversion of anything valuable in religious practice, Armstrong writes, and it is only this perverted view that arouses the scorn of modern "militant" atheists. So Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris have chosen a straw man as a target. Real religion is serenely immune to their discovery that it is silly to talk of a divine architect.

So what should the religious adept actually say by way of expressing his or her faith? Nothing. This is the "apophatic" tradition, in which nothing about God can be put into words. Armstrong firmly recommends silence, having written at least 15 books on the topic. Words such as "God" have to be seen as symbols, not names, but any word falls short of describing what it symbolises, and will always be inadequate, contradictory, metaphorical or allegorical. The mystery at the heart of religious practice is ineffable, unapproachable by reason and by language. Silence is its truest expression. The right kind of silence, of course, not that of the pothead or inebriate. The religious state is exactly that of Alice after hearing the nonsense poem "Jabberwocky": "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas - only I don't exactly know what they are." If Alice puts on a dog collar, she will be at one with the tradition.

Armstrong is not presenting a case for God in the sense most people in our idolatrous world would think of it. The ordinary man or woman in the pew or on the prayer mat probably thinks of God as a kind of large version of themselves with mysterious powers and a rather nasty temper...