Weekly Meanderings, June 15, 2013

Diet changes in our ancestors: “High-tech tests on tooth enamel by researchers indicate that prior to about 4 million years ago, Africa’s hominids were eating essentially chimpanzee style, likely dining on fruits and some leaves. Despite the fact that grasses and sedges were readily available back then, the hominids seem to have ignored them for an extended period,” explained Prof Matt Sponheimer from the University of Colorado Boulder, lead author of the study “Diet of Australopithecus afarensis from the Pliocene Hadar Formation, Ethiopia” published online in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We don’t know exactly what happened. But we do know that after about 3.5 million years ago, some of these hominids started to eat things that they did not eat before, and it is quite possible that these changes in diet were an important step in becoming human,” he said.”

We’ll be praying for Jim Wallis’ continued healing.

Why do we remember faces but forget names?

Grouping students by learning levels and abilities: “It was once common for elementary-school teachers to arrange their classrooms by ability, placing the highest-achieving students in one cluster, the lowest in another. But ability grouping and its close cousin, tracking, in which children take different classes based on their proficiency levels, fell out of favor in the late 1980s and the 1990s as critics charged that they perpetuated inequality by trapping poor and minority students in low-level groups. Now ability grouping has re-emerged in classrooms all over the country — a trend that has surprised education experts who believed the outcry had all but ended its use. A new analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a Census-like agency for school statistics, shows that of the fourth-grade teachers surveyed, 71 percent said they had grouped students by reading ability in 2009, up from 28 percent in 1998. In math, 61 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported ability grouping in 2011, up from 40 percent in 1996. “These practices were essentially stigmatized,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who first noted the returning trend in a March report, and who has studied the grouping debate. “It’s kind of gone underground, it’s become less controversial.”

Now that is some bad news about charities. But some good news for Compassion International: “A couple years later, another graduate student, Joanna Chu, became interested in the topic, in part because she was sponsoring a child with Compassion International. Chu put out some feelers with Compassion’s research director, Joel Vanderhart, who decided to risk what no other child-sponsorship organization was willing to risk at that point: to allow its program to be scrutinized. We were able to carry out the study with one major condition: Compassion would remain anonymous. They would be referred to as “a leading child-sponsorship organization” in any academic publication.”

Fun with words.

Women lawyers, what to wear to court? “MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The wardrobe choices of some female attorneys who frequent Rutherford County’s courts have prompted one judge to set some fashion rules. Attorneys in the county have groaned to their colleagues and judges that certain female attorneys are showing up in attire that pricks the sensibilities of a profession long known for its conservative dress code. Some female lawyers, according to many in the local legal community, are appearing in court in revealing blouses, miniskirts and, in at least one instance, sweatpants. The sartorial hubbub has made its way to Circuit Judge Royce Taylor, who said he has received a number of attire complaints from attorneys in the county. He has written a notice reminding female lawyers to keep their suggestive garments out of the courtroom.”

I have often enjoyed reading Wade Burleson, but this article surprised me in simplistic alternatives. Wade, there’s another one, held by many: God’s love for all, always and forever, and the sovereign, divine act of granting humans the capacity of response within the ambit of God’s love. So it’s not just two options (God’s sovereignty and unconditional love vs. no sovereignty and conditional love): “Thankfully,  God is not like us.  His love is like an artesian spring that is not drawn out by our loveliness nor diminished by our ugliness. He is love. His love continues. His love never ends. Love can’t end, because He continues and He never ends. To rightly believe in God’s sovereignty and God’s unconditional love you must either be a Calvinist or a universalist. The only other option is to believe in a God who is not sovereign and a love that is always conditional; I want nothing to do with that kind of religion, for it is has no good news.”

This is some seriously awesome art.

Joel Miller has a helpful post about the ambivalence of Esther in our Bibleand the canon problem. “There are two primary versions of Esther, the Hebrew and the Greek, the latter of which contains several additional sections. Luther favored the Hebrew, as did the other Protestant Reformers. Until Jerome, the Church almost universally favored the Greek, though even he retained the extra material when he translated the Vulgate principally from the Hebrew, as he did with other books Protestant scholars later regarded (and disregarded) as “apocryphal.” In the East, the church never stopped using the Greek Old Testament (including the longer version of Esther and all those other “apocryphal” books). Consequently there was very little controversy over Esther in the Eastern church. Why? It turns out that all the missing “God stuff” in the Hebrew version is present in the Greek, the version quoted approvingly by Clement, Athanasius, and Aphrahat.

Joe Henderson on where Schleiermacher got prayer wrong: “You probably recall that in the Schleiermacher sessions, we spent a good bit of time at the end of class talking about his sermon on prayer. I was surprised to find how sympathetic many of you were to his presentation on prayer. What puzzled and concerned me is that Schleiermacher’s denial that  prayer can have any effect beyond the spiritual improvement of  the of the person praying seems to directly contradict the teaching of Jesus and the teaching and examples elsewhere in the Bible. The Bible teaches that God effects change in the world in response to prayer and that some changes will not occur if we do not pray.”

Take time for some fun: What do you get when you cross a turtle with a hedgehog?

Chemical runoffs into lakes… in Iowa: “DES MOINES, Iowa — For much of last year, Iowa’s most pressing agricultural problem was a drought that baked farm fields and parched crops, turning them brown and crumbly. Then the skies finally opened up, providing one of the soggiest springs on record. But the rain has created a new, unexpected problem: The deluge is washing fertilizer off the farms and into rivers that provide drinking water to much of the state. Public officials say the problem will pass, but others worry about the potential risks of a compound called nitrate, which has reached levels never seen in Iowa.”

Ten e-tools for academics, students, writers and pastors. I have friends who swear by EndNote but the whole thing stopped working for me and so I moved over to Zotero and haven’t looked back. “Compared with how academic research was carried out in the pre-internet era, It seems like technology is really a godsend gift to researchers. From easy and unlimited access to journal articles to web tools that do the referencing and auto-syncing, everything has been digitized making it way easier for todays researchers to add to the body of the human knowledge than any time in history. As a web 2.0 researcher and a graduate student in the faculty of education in Mount Saint Vincent University, I have had the chance to experiment with a wide variety of web tools that can make your academic life much more easier. Below are some of the web tools I have been recommending to undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and PHD students, and professors. Check them out below and make sure you share them with your colleagues, they could be in dire need for them. Enjoy.”

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  • To rightly believe in God’s sovereignty and God’s unconditional
    love you must either be a Calvinist or a universalist. The only other
    option is to believe in a God who is not sovereign and a love that is
    always conditional; I want nothing to do with that kind of religion, for
    it is has no good news.”

    I always think these pronouncements are so silly… Of course those aren’t the only options simply because we can observe that there are sorts of Christians who aren’t Calvinists or universalists. Maybe in his eyes, those are the choices, but to extrapolate his perspective onto everyone, well, it seems a bit short-sighted.