Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finding the Secret Atheist Care of Apple!

Apple offers a new service for the iPhone and iPad called Find My iPhone. This will allow you to track the location of your iPhone or iPad.

So let's say you're suspicious about what a member of your family is up to. Just get them an iPhone and enable Mobile Me. You can then track exactly where they are 24/7.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Joy of Talmudic Minutiae

[Child with Lulav by Isidor Kaufmann]

One of my fellow bloggers wrote an article, in which he comments:

I'm pretty sure I don't have the personality type to find such absurd rules [certain minor Talmudic customs] meaningful even if I did believe in God. ("Does God really care how I tie my shoes?" I asked as a kid when I first learned that rule.)

What he seems to be saying is that if religious rules are not clearly spiritual, relating to belief for example, then they are absurd. Laws about diet, dress, etc. are unnecessary and even sacrilegious. This attitude is a basic part of modern American Protestantism, and therefore it isn’t surprising that someone raised in American society might feel this way.

One could look at this from a different perspective, however.

First of all, all pre-modern religions tended to be legalistic. Muslims have Sharia. The Catholic Church has Canon Law. The Hindus have a caste system.

Judaism, however, may be the most extremely legalistic. We revel in Talmudic law. The greater an expert a young man was in the fine points of almost totally irrelevant Talmudic laws, the greater a hero he was in the Eastern European shtetl and the more prized he was as a husband. This is still true in many ultra-Orthodox circles. Can one imagine even the most law abiding American citizen fanatically pushing his children to become experts in all of American law, even the most rarely, marginally applicable details? I think it could be correct to call traditional Jews not merely legalistic but hyper-legalistic.

The reasoning seems to be as follows. We see each additional law as being an additional sign of God’s love for us. The Mishnah Tractate Makkos 3:16 states “God wished to increase the Jews’ merits, therefore He increased the number of their commandments.” God in His great love for us wants our entire lives to be dedicated to serving Him and increasing His glory. Therefore He has created the huge body of Torah law to make it possible for us to do just that. In the blessings which we say before the Shema each morning and evening, we ecstatically praise God for the great love He has shown us by choosing us and teaching us His laws. We beg Him to help us understand and observe those laws. We see this as the highest honor; the exact opposite of absurdity.This is a life dedicated to the service of God and therefore eternally, cosmically important.

The absurd life is the life of an atheist, unfortunately. He eats so that has strength to work. He works so that he has food to eat. He continues this cycle until his body no long functions, then his remains may be thrown into a dumpster. A life lived like that is truly illogical and nonsensical. Absurd, in other words.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Changing Nature

[are the rules a little shaky?]

There are many cases where the Talmud prescribes a medical treatment however we see today that this treatment is no longer effective. One explanation for this is that "nature has changed" (Tosafos s.v.kavra to Moed Katan 11a for example).

Atheists have long ridiculed such statements because laws of nature were assumed to be universal and invariable facts of the physical world.

Interestingly, scientists are now discovering that certain supposed "constants" of nature may vary from one time and place to another.

Certainly, from a theistic view this is hardly surprising. The laws of nature are merely whatever is most frequently the will of God, however that need not be the same every place and all the time.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Got Water?

The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) or the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) is a hormone system that regulates blood pressure and water (fluid) balance.

When blood volume is low, the kidneys secrete renin. Renin stimulates the production of angiotensin. Angiotensin causes blood vessels to constrict, resulting in increased blood pressure. Angiotensin also stimulates the secretion of the hormone aldosterone from the adrenal cortex. Aldosterone causes the tubules of the kidneys to increase the reabsorption of sodium and water into the blood. This increases the volume of fluid in the body, which also increases blood pressure.

Among other things, angiotensin has a variety of effects on the body including the release of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin -- ADH is made in the hypothalamus and released from the posterior pituitary gland. As its name suggests, it also exhibits vaso-constrictive properties, but its main course of action is to stimulate reabsorption of water in the kidneys. ADH also acts on the central nervous system to increase an individual's appetite for salt, and to stimulate the sensation of thirst.

The above description is only the barest sketch. The complex chemical steps which control the fluid balance in our bodies and make life possible are beyond comprehension. To us, it appears that if "we don't drink enough, we get thirsty" however in fact there is an immense network of divinely designed chemical engineering working in the background which scientists are only now beginning to reveal to us. The next time we feel that need to drink, we have so much to thank God for.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Straight Rights

[Tyler Clementi, committed suicide 9/22/2010]

Thousands of people are mourning the death of Mr Clementi, an 18 year old college student who committed suicide after being taunted about his homosexuality.

I wonder how many people are mourning the deaths of straight people infected with HIV by homosexual men.

Imagine for a moment that you had a twenty eight year old daughter. She is diagnosed with AIDS and tuberculosis and is expected to soon die. Her husband and her two small children, have tested HIV positive. Researching into this, it turns out that when she was 18, your daughter had unprotected sex with an 18 year old boy. That boy unknown to her was HIV positive after having had unprotected anal sex with a man who, unknown to the boy, was HIV positive. Such tragedies can and do happen in America and Europe today.

If we would follow the Torah's commandment to put to death any man who has anal sex with another man, those tradegies could be prevented.