Weekly Meanderings, 7 January 2017

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 3.54.19 PMOur first Weekly Meanderings of 2017 begins with a good, old-fashioned breath check.

(NEWSER) – What if detecting cancer was as easy as breathing in and out? According to a study published last week in American Chemical Society Nano, it pretty much is. Scientist Hossam Haick has been working on his “electronic nose” for years, the Outline reports, and this new study shows the impressive things it can do. According to Smithsonian Magazine, scientists used the device to sample the breaths of more than 1,400 people and found it could diagnose 17 different diseases — Parkinson’s, lung cancer, kidney failure, MS, Crohn’s disease, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer, just to name a few — with 86% accuracy.

Judah Friedman about Megyn Kelly:

I don’t begrudge anyone who receives big money from people who are willing to pay them. God bless the Matt Flynns of the world, the Brock Osweilers, and anyone who cashed in on a few moments in time. Of course, I do feel bad for the fans of these franchises. Their teams are sitting with dead money, and those contracts can literally decimate a team for at least half a decade, not to mention getting many front office people fired. Sports and entertainment history is littered with cautionary tales of dead money, money spent on people who had a moment. Again, I don’t begrudge, take what you can earn if someone is willing to pay. Lord knows as a Yankee fan I know about dead money.

How did Joey do without his Friends? How has Katie done without Matt? How did Joanie and Chachi do without The Fonz? How did Elton do without Bernie? The list goes on and I’m sure you can add many instances that I have omitted. Hey, how’s Colbert doing without his Stewart? You can put some people in a grocery aisle, and people will ask them advice on which ketchup to buy or what’s the softest toilet paper. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, to name a few, and some people who you will politely say to, excuse me, your wagon is in my way, Megyn Kelly.

A great rule in life, Megs, is to never overvalue your hand, and never to believe the hype, maybe that’s two rules. You had a moment and good for you, you seized on it. Instead of reporting on a story you became the story. I can’t believe I’m going to compliment Chuck Todd, Anderson Cooper, and Jake Tapper right now, or for that matter Katy Tur, but all of them made the decision to report on “the story” and not become the story. Some of these people were far more knocked and ridiculed than you were, obviously in my opinion fairly. But you seized on it like a fat guy at a buffet.

Strong women don’t scare me, I was raised by an incredibly strong one, that’s not the reason I don’t love you. Maybe I’m just too old, and met too many men and women like you to fall for that crocodile smile. I just don’t see you as anything more than a wagon pusher. But, hey, the brain trust that is NBC obviously knows way more than I do; these news programs and news networks are doing so incredibly well. Andy Lack, I would suggest you Google the names Matt Millen, Omar Minaya, any general manager of the Cleveland Browns, since you just might need a few people to talk to in a year and half or so. And just a heads-up, watch what you say, you don’t want to be “Swifted” in Megyn’s next book.

Murmur, murmur, murmuration — to the tune of “thunder, thunder, thunderation”:

Why do I love this short video so much?

It’s all about science. Just how do the starlings manage to fly in such an amazingly coordinated way?

A few years ago, George F. Young and his colleagues investigated starlings’ “remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” — a nice description of what goes on in a murmuration.

Going in, Young et al. already knew that starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbors in the flock, regardless of flock density — seven, to be exact. Their new contribution was to figure out that “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”

Young et al. analyzed still shots from videos of starlings in flight (flock size ranging from 440 to 2,600), then used a highly mathematical approach and systems theory to reach their conclusion. Focusing on the birds’ ability to manage uncertainty while also maintaining consensus, they discovered that birds accomplish this (with the least effort) when each bird attends to seven neighbors.

Liberals, Progressives, and Democrats — religiously illiterate? Alan Levinovitz.

The idea that liberals and cultural elites suffer from religious illiteracy is now widely accepted, by both the accusers and the accused.New York Timesexecutive editor Dean Baquet confessed to NPR’s Terry Gross that “media powerhouses don’t quite get religion.” Former Obama White House staffer and evangelical Christian Michael Wear went further, arguing that liberals are “disdainful” of religion and that there’s a “religious illiteracy problem in the Democratic Party.” Nicholas Kristof, also of the Times, suggested last May that universities, otherwise bastions of tolerance, are intolerant of religious diversity, choosing “liberal arrogance” over “fairness” to evangelical Christian perspectives.

But that’s only a tiny fraction of religious literacy. True religious literacy requires engagement with the enormous variety of beliefs, practices, and motivations found in different religious traditions, and, for that matter, within a single tradition, or even a single church. Religious literacy requires awareness that religions have changed radically over time, and will continue to do so, often for nontheological reasons. And when it comes to politics, religious literacy requires thinking through the difficulties inherent to disputes over matters of faith in a religiously diverse community, and recognizing how our political system has developed in response to such difficulties.

Once you factor in these other categories of knowledge about religion — and how could you not? — the evidence shows that agnostics and atheists (followed closely by Jews and Mormons), as well as those who self-identify as liberal, are more religiously literate than their Christian and conservative counterparts.

In the 2010 Pew survey of religious knowledge, a battery of questions about the Bible and Christianity, world religions, and religion in public life, scores were appallingly low across the board, with respondents averaging around 50 percent. Only half, for instance, knew that the Quran is the holy book of Islam, or that the Golden Rule isn’t one of the Ten Commandments. Fewer than a third knew that most Indonesians are Muslim, and that public schoolteachers in the United States are allowed to read from the Bible as an example of literature in class. But when broken down by demographic, atheists and agnostics outscored other groups even after controlling for different levels of education.

Heather Digby Parton says much the same:

Postmortems for the 2016 election are ongoing, but the early consensus that Republicans won because they were more attentive to the economic needs of the white working class seems to be holding up. The regions where such people turned out in larger numbers than usual for Donald Trump are also the ones where he took narrow victories in winner-take-all electoral states, so it’s a natural assumption….

Democrats cannot abandon people of color in order to win over this group of voters. But unless they do, their economic appeals will remain tangled up in racial politics. (Even Franklin D. Roosevelt had to give up one to get the other.) Perhaps there are more Barack Obama-style candidates out there who can walk that line and are “lucky” enough to run at a time of such economic turmoil that people are willing to think outside their normal boxes. Barring that, it’s more likely that Democratic politicians will seek to find other ways to appeal to this group in the hope they can lure enough of them to win national elections. …

It’s as ridiculous now as it was then. The Democratic Party is full of religious people, not the least of whom are African-Americans and Latinos who are religious at higher levels than whites. Any urban politician navigates religion all the time. In fact they are far more religiously “literate” than their rural brethren, since they have to be able to speak to members of many different religious denominations: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics and every possible variety of mainline or evangelical Protestant.

In fact, it’s truly insulting that people keep insisting that Democrats are irreligious, particularly since it seems to be the churches attended by liberals where racists and fanatics choose to “express their beliefs” about abortion, God, guns and gays with a hail of bullets.

Beautiful photo essay on the monks of Mt Athos.

This accurate?

I was a Disney child, raised on it all. I fell hook, line, and sinker for “The Little Mermaid,” “Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and even “Toy Story.” When Pixar started making movies, I was even more enthralled.

I even watched all the Disney shows. Many people don’t remember their show in the evening called “Avonlea,” but I do. It caused me to read all the Anne of Green Gables series and cultivated my love of reading.

So I’m always so excited when the next Disney movie pops up. While I’m entranced by the beauty of the gowns and music, my husband is a little more cynical about all this Disney stuff. He was also raised on the Disney movies of the ’90s, yet he’s seen a downward trend that I have just picked up on.

Disney has been trying to push that girls, or rather princesses, can do anything they set their mind to. The “Dream Big Princess” ad campaign is huge on their channels right now. They’ve gotten a huge backlash from the Left saying they don’t want girls dreaming of being princesses and longing for a prince to set them free. They don’t need a man to make them happy.

So, Disney now focuses on having girls “Dream Big.” Pretty good, right? But in their scurry to make girls feel empowered and valued, Disney has left out the other sex: boys.

I have only boys. We watch the Disney Channel. But they have noticed that there is no commercial for them. There is no encouragement for boys to have big goals. Boys are completely left out of the equation. There isn’t even a picture of a boy in any of their videos or ads.

In a world that is pushing gender inclusivity, this seems like a big oversight. It got me miffed and made me look at everything under a microscope. Who are the male role models in the Disney movies? Why do we have to push men to the side in order to encourage women?

Non-Disney movies participate in the same trend. In “Bad Moms” you have the unappreciated man-child, the sex symbol, and the overbearing husband who never wants his wife out of the house. Feminism has produced a hatred and overgeneralization of men. Where are all the John Wayne figures? Gone are the men who can be funny, sensitive, and yet virile and able to save the day. In their place are whiny babies, bumbling idiots, or mean, hurtful men.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.