Examining Deuteronomy 22

I was glancing through Deueronomy 22 and noticed a few odd items. The first is that the dual use of an oxen and a donkey while plowing is prohibited by God (22:10). It displeases him. The second is God’s Sarah Palin-like attitude toward rape victims.

23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

I guess God’s rape kit is a handful of stones and a pocket full of hatred.

Here’s the clear interpretation of this: a man who rapes a woman in a city should be stoned to death. Okay, immoral enough reaction in itself, but there’s more. The woman, because she did not scream for help, should be stoned to death as well.

and people claim God is a source of morality? I wonder if the guy even has a clear idea of what constitutes a moral system. Life is not being black & white (as most conservatives think it is, incidentally). Aside from being a rape victim, the woman could have been afraid, mute, gagged, or threatened. God seems to assume by not screaming that the woman liked it. Illogical fella, no?

But, this deity isn’t all evil. He has some empathy for country rape.

25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.

26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:

27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

Since the woman couldn’t scream out for help, she’s in the clear. What if there was a farmer? Shouldn’t the woman have screamed to him? Simply being in a field does not necessarily change the situation. The principle in 22:23-24 seemed to be that the woman had help available to her yet did not seek it. Given that not all fields are empty and devoid of humans, she should have screamed out, even if it was to no avail. It’s almost as if people who lived in highly rural areas where it would be uncommon – in their personal experience – to see a farmer wrote this. Hey, crazy idea! Maybe people did write this fundamental evil? I’d expect God to cover a few more angles. Like, all of them.

So let’s break down what’s important here. It’s perfectly fine for my point to grant that the coming of Jesus somehow changes the immorality we see here. It’s a common tactic of Christians: the Old Testament should be interpreted through the lenses of the New Testament. Okay, sure, whatever. But there still remains the problem that at some point in time, God was telling people to stone rape victims. Even if it is granted that the New Testament changes how we should interpret these words insofar as how we should act now (i.e., we do not stone rape victims because we recognize that as evil), there still remains the problem that God told people to murder women who were raped. He still did these things. God is still guilty of these crimes, even if he corrected his misbehavior down the line.

Cool Hubble contest

NASA is asking the public to vote on what Hubble should image next.

The U.S. space agency is inviting the public to vote for one of six candidate astronomical objects for Hubble to observe in honor of the International Year of Astronomy, which began this month. The options, which Hubble has not previously photographed, range from far-flung galaxies to dying stars. Votes can be cast until March 1.

Hubble’s camera will take a high-resolution image revealing new details about the object that receives the most votes. The image will be released during the International Year of Astronomy’s “100 Hours of Astronomy” from April 2 to 5.

Everyone who votes also will be entered into a random drawing to receive one of 100 copies of the Hubble photograph made of the winning celestial body.

Voting can be done here. I personally cast my vote for the interacting galaxies. I find it exciting to see two massive, gravity-bound clusters of stars tear each other apart. But maybe I’m too mundane. The spiral galaxy is currently in the lead.

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This image is called “The Antennae Galaxies in Collision” (and is just eye-candy for this post; it doesn’t have anything to do with the voting).

More Stem Cell News

Stem cells have been used to help reverse paralysis in rats.

The study, headed up by Miodrag Stojkovic, deputy director and head of the Cellular Reprogramming Laboratory at Centro de Investigacion Principe Felipe in Spain, involved transplanting so-called progenitor stem cells from the lining of rats’ spinal cords into rodents with serious spinal cord injuries.

The rats recovered significant motor activity one week after injury, Stojkovic and his co-authors wrote in the Jan. 27 early online edition of the journal Stem Cells.

The researchers say the new rat results “open a new window on spinal cord regenerative strategies.”

These are great results, of course. But we all know what’s going to happen now. Those who are motivated by magic will claim this somehow proves embryonic stem cells are not needed. It, obviously, does not, but some people give extra respect to certain blobs of differentiated cells. The reason why is jarbled and arbitrary. On the upside, however, is the fact that the U.S. no longer has an anti-science administration in place, so the cries of the religious aren’t going to be heard quite so well, at least on this subject.

Obama

Oh, right. In every other ceremonial service from inauguration day.

Embyonic stem cells

The FDA has approved a study which will inject embyonic stem cells into humans.

The Geron corporation announce the approval today. The therapy used in the study is designed to treat spinal cord injuries by injecting stem cells — which are able to transform into the many different types of cells we need in our bodies — directly into the patients’ spinal cords.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted clearance of the company’s application for the clinical trial of GRNOPC1 in patients with acute spinal cord injury.

“This marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics – one that reaches beyond pills to a new level of healing: the restoration of organ and tissue function achieved by the injection of healthy replacement cells,” said Geron’s president and CEO. Dr. Thomas B. Okarma.

“The neurosurgical community is very excited by this new approach to treating devastating spinal cord injury,” said Dr. Richard Fessler, a professor of neurological surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

While, according to the article this doesn’t have much to do with the recent shift from hating science and its beauty to embracing truth (the shift from Bush to Obama), it is pretty exciting. Stem cells are wonderful things. If some major theraputic treatment does not arise out of these cells, I’ll be awfully surprised (and the scientific community). I think it may be safe enough to say if many treatments do not come from stem cells, the surprise will be huge around the world. These far-from-conscious cells are the future of medical science.

Charles Darwin and slavery

There’s a new book due out about why abolitionism played an influence in the work of Charles Darwin. It’s written by historians of science Adrian Desmond and James Moorehave.

We are not trying to explain away all of Darwin’s work as being due to his passion for emancipation, but our argument is that his passion for racial unity is what drove him to touch this untouchable and treacherous subject

This sounds like it could be a fairly interesting idea Desmond and Moorehave have here. While it isn’t necessary to show that evolution is not about eugenics and other nonsense as presented by dishonest creationists (sorry about the reduncancy) through something like this, the truth is important.

Darwin, of course, did hold many of the prejudices of his day. But if this book is right, it appears he was of a more modern mindset than previously thought.

In other news, some reporters can be dumb.

The historians wanted sexual selection was responsible for differences in appearance between races of both animals and humans.

In the theory of sexual selection traits seen as desirable but which give no competitive advantage to a species are passed down through generations.

Aside from the first sentence being, um, not a sentence, sexual selection doesn’t seem terribly relevant here. Skin color is first driven by natural selection, and then sexual selection may play a role. That explains the darker skin tones seen in societies living nearer the equator than those living in the colder climate of Europe and other similar latitudes. It isn’t that all people who see snow annually tend to get horniest when seeing light skin tones or that all people who are exposed to the sun year-long get hot and bothered over dark skin tones.

But it doesn’t end there.

‘Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was driven by passion to end slavery’

This is the headline to the story and was probably written by the editor. I’m not sure from where it comes. Perhaps the quote of Desmond as posted above? At any rate, Darwin’s theory was driven by passion for evidence. Perhaps his desire to go into depth on certain details (human evolution, for example) was inspired by his anti-slavery stance, but the theory was not predicated on destroying any particular social institution. It was based upon evidence.

Anyway, the book comes out February 9th.

Hubba hubba

Hubble dubble doo! (Read it as Fred Flintstone and it becomes far wittier.)

Hubble

I googled this one. Anyone know what it specifically is?

Real world results of rule internalization

Rule internalization is a horrible scourge throughout the world. It is utilizing a rule with only the rule itself in mind. Say a mother tells her daughter not to throw toys. Her daughter later throws a ball around while outside. Her mother then punishes her for breaking one of her rules. This is, of course, an absurd scenario. It is clear the reasons for the rule were that throwing toys can result in damage to the toys, hurt people in the process, and cause damage to furniture/items in the house. However, because the rule was stated more broadly than that, it technically applied to all scenarios, even throwing a ball outside. The girl violated the rule, but not the reason for the rule. This brings me to my main point.

This week, prosecutors in Greensburg, Pennsylvania charged six teens ranging in age from 14 to 17 with creating, distributing and possessing child pornography, after three girls were found to have taken photos of themselves in the nude or partially nude and e-mailed them to friends, including three boys who are among the defendants.

These are the real world results of rule internalization. This is what happens when people cease their thinking and become robotic in their ‘reasoning’.

These teenagers are not criminals. They do not deserve prison, probation, or to be designated sex offenders. Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made that they should be grounded from their cell phones, but they are not criminals. The reason for child sex offender laws is to prevent the exploitation of young individuals by older people who have some sort of authority mystique, whether it be through a job (teacher, coach) or through age – or just people who have the physical ability which allows them to act in perversion. The law was not designed to punish horny teenagers who willingly take pictures of themselves.

What’s more, in Pennsylvania “teenagers aged 13, 14 and 15 may legally engage in sexual activity with partners who are less than 4 years older”. Apparently these teenagers are allowed to have sex and, presumably, view each other naked. As soon as their nudity is placed on some sort of media device, whoa! Watch out! That violates a rule!

Authorities argue that bringing child porn charges against teens is designed to educate them about the dangers of creating and distributing such images, which could fall into the hands of commercial pornographers, pedophiles or others who might want to harm or exploit them.

That’s some pretty harsh education. “Why, Sally, I’m just trying to educate you. That’s why I am making you a felon, ruining your chances at a good college or job, and forcing you to be a pariah in society. You’re welcome.”

This argument makes no sense. Plenty of things could fall into the wrong hands. The children themselves could fall into the hands of a predator. I suppose (in the name of education, of course) children should be prosecuted for being children. That’s the only way we can prevent their exploitation.

The really disturbing thing here is that police obtained warrants to view this child pornography. Given the obvious fact that these teenagers were far from running afoul of the reason for the rule, the officers and the judge who issued the warrant should come under some scrutiny. These people went out of their way to find nude 14 and 15 year olds who may legally engage in sexual activity with the two other teenagers involved. They have no worthwhile basis for wanting to see these naked teens. If anything, that’s the most disturbing part of this all.