Category Archives: Environment/Nature

Tea

Dixie sent me a link to this:

A four-year study has found that tea slows down brain-cell degeneration, and thereby keeps your mind sharp into old age.

Catechins, a natural compound in tea, protect brain cells from damaging protein build-up over the years, maintaining your brain’s cognitive capability.

In addition, the caffeine in tea, unlike that in coffee, contains the natural protein theanine, which counters the normal side effects of caffeine such as raised blood pressure, headaches and tiredness.

Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of over 2,500 Chinese aged 55 and older and gave them memory tests.

While two-thirds of the tea-drinkers maintained their memory test scores two years later, 35 percent of non-tea-drinkers had a decline in their memory test scores, which indicates cognitive decline.

(Link – a certain Dr. Mercola has some follow-up comments about further benefits of tea)

Another reason why tea is awesome.  It’s delicious, nourishing and keeps you mentally sharp.

I bet Jesus is a tea-drinker.

A literal mistake (on creation/evolution)

In the past I’ve posted quite a bit on the whole creation vs. evolution debate, with a particular interest in what reading the opening chapters of Genesis could mean (see, for example, here and here).  I haven’t posted much about it lately, but I happened upon an interesting article when reading through some of the comments at Scot McKnight’s blog.

The article is called “Young-Earth Creationism: A Literal Mistake” (that’s a PDF, here is the less readable html version).  If you get past the somewhat smug and antagonistic tone of the article, it actually asks some pretty good questions of young-earth creationism (YEC).  I like it particularly because it argues from scripture (the author “reveres the Bible”), rather than opposing YEC with science, which is something I’ve attempted in the past.

The author’s conclusion is one which had never occurred to me before:

…perhaps we have mistaken what was a telling of Semitic history (Gen. 2–11) as a narrative of human history.  If that is the case, then YECs are not the only ones to have fallen into that trap. They believe it is true human history, while other Christians consider it a poetic rendition of human history, whereas it may very well be true Jewish history, and can be taken as literally as any other history book. (Link)

The article is food for thought.  Check it out.

Treasures in heaven

So the wisdom of Jesus is that we should “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven”…where forces of nature and human evil cannot harm what we treasure. That is to say, direct your actions toward making a difference in the realm of spiritual substance sustained and governed by God. Invest your life in what God is doing, which cannot be lost. Of course, this means that we will invest in our relationship to Jesus himself, and through him to God. But beyond that, and in close union with it, we will devote ourselves to the good of other people—those around us withing range of our power to affect. These are among God’s treasures. “The Lord’s portion,” we are told, “is his people” (Duet. 32:9). And that certainly includes ourselves, in a unique and fundamental way. We have the care of our own souls and lives in a way no one else does, and in a way we have the care of no one else.

And we also care for this astonishingly rich and beautiful physical realm, the earth itself, of which both we and our neighbors are parts. “You have established the earth and it continues. All things stand this day according to your directions. Far all things are your servants” (Ps. 119:91). God himself loves the earth dearly and never takes his hands off it. And because he loves it and it is good, our care of it is also eternal work and a part of eternal life.

…This is a large part of what the apostle Paul calls “sowing to the spirit.” And, when we do such sowing, “of the spirit we reap what is everlasting.” So “let us not lose heart in doing good,” he continues, “for when the time is right we shall reap, if we don’t quit. Therefore as we have opportunities let us do good to all men, and most of all to the family of faith” (Gal. 6:8-10). This is, precisely, how we deposit treasures in heaven on a daily, hourly basis. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p. 205-6)

The universe

So I’ve put down the Woody Allen book for now and started reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime*.  Something in the text got me thinking about this:

  1. They say the universe is expanding.
  2. This implies that the universe has an outer limit, an edge.
  3. This, in turn, means that if traveling faster than the speed of light, one could in theory reach the edge of the universe.  (Some would argue that gravity and the curvature of time/matter or something like that would prevent you from ever reaching the edge of the universe, regardless of your speed or immortality, for that matter, but let’s ignore them for the moment.)
  4. What would one find at the edge of the universe?  What is beyond the universe?

I might be wrong about this, but it is my understanding that scientists posit that the universe is all there is, that there is nothing other than the universe.  But if the universe is expanding, it must be expanding into something other than itself, which means that there is more than the universe.  But that something wouldn’t be matter, otherwise it would already part of the universe.

And how would one distinguish between the universe and that something else?  That is, how would one traveling faster than the speed of light know when they have left the universe and entered into what is beyond?  There certainly won’t be a sign, will there?

I’m sure quantum mechanics has something to do with this, which means I’ll never find a satisfactory or at least comprehensible answer.

Whether weather wetter

I dare say that sunny, 17-20 degrees C, and a cool breeze at about 15-20km/h is just about perfect weather. But then I’m also a big fan of the season of Autumn.

If I was sitting out on the prairie somewhere or near the ocean and it could hardly get any better, unless I had a good book in one hand and a warm cup of tea in the other.

(In about 10-15 minutes I’m officially on holiday! I’m still at the office, but I’m done work and Dixie’s on her way to pick me up.)

Speaking of bottled water vs. tap water…

Speaking of bottled water vs. tap water (as I did here), there doesn’t appear to be a difference (for those of you who don’t bother clicking on links, Pepsi has admitted that Aquafina is bottled tap water and its labelled source—“P.W.S.”—is “public water source”).  More here.  It seems we’d rather pay 1,000 more for water that is in a nicely labelled, plastic bottle.

John Stackhouse on “creation vs. evolution”

John Stackhouse has written a thoughtful and refreshing post about the creation vs. evolution “debate”:

The sad thing is that so much energy is wasted on what is, mostly, a non-issue: “creation versus evolution” is, in most respects, nonsense.

Belief in creation means simply to believe that a deity, or several deities, brought the cosmos into being. It is a core belief of many religions: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, of course, but also varieties of Hinduism and Buddhism and tribal religions around the world. That God (or the gods) created the world is the belief. How God (or the gods) did so is the open question.

Nowadays, however, many people assume belief in creation means belief that God created the world in six 24-hour days, that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that it appears older because a global flood in Noah’s time laid down the deep layers of sediment that evolutionists think took billions of years to accumulate.

Yet these beliefs are a particular, and recent, variety of Christian thought, properly known as “creation science” or “scientific creationism.”

…This version of creation, however, is but one of four different understandings of creation held by Bible-believing, church-going Christians.

…“creation versus evolution” really amounts to “theism versus atheism.” Put this way, however, we should recognize that we are dealing now with a religious and philosophical issue, not a scientific one. Science cannot, in the nature of the case, rule out God as somehow supervising evolutionary processes.

…let’s all appreciate that human beings don’t know everything about anything. Scientific creationists sometimes sound as if they know exactly what the Bible says, and so they know how science must work out. But no one knows for certain just what Genesis 1 and 2 really say about the origins of the world. We can only give interpretation our best shot, and try to stay open to improving our interpretation in the light of fresh insight or evidence.

Similarly, some scientists sound as if they know exactly what the natural record says, and so they know how religion and philosophy must work out. But no one knows for certain how life really began and developed on our planet: we can only give interpretation our best shot, and try to stay open to improving our interpretation in the light of fresh insight or evidence. This is the way both theology and science have proceeded historically, and this is the way they ought to be conducted and taught today.

Read the whole thing.

Peacock

Last Saturday I took Madeline and Luke with me to Saskatoon to pick up my parents from the airport.  Afterwards we all went to the Forestry Farm Zoo in the city.  There were several peacocks roaming the park freely.  The male peacock’s colour scheme covers all of my favourites: blue, green and brown.  I tried to take some pictures, but could only come so close:

Towards the end of our time at the park, my mom spotted a peacock showing off its tail feathers to the peacock ladies.  I rushed towards the frenzy with the camera.  I would love to have moved closer, but was hesitant because I wasn’t sure what an aroused (or what have you) male peacock would do when another male (not aroused) enters his mating zone.  Perhaps he would peck me or shoot some of his tail feathers at me—whatever the possibilities, I don’t deal well with shows of agression, so I kept my distance.

The male made an effort to always have his plumage facing a female.  As one walked by, he would turn his body with her as she passed, like a radar dish honing in on a particular location.  Did you know that male peacocks not only raise up their plumage in this spectacular way, but also rattle it?  And the plumage acts kind of like a bullhorn to project the rattling sound forward.  Fascinating.

The females all played hard to get.  The most response the male got was one of the females pecking at his rear end, which may be a peacock come-on.  I don’t know.

Are you threatened by scientific explanations of Biblical miracles?

I happened to catch part of The Exodus Decoded on the Discovery Channel at lunch today.  It’s a highly stylized but fascinating look at evidence for the biblical Exodus and an attempt at a geological explanation for the 10 plagues.

In one of my university philosophy classes we discussed some of the explanations for Jesus’ miracles.  For instance, some have posited that when Jesus walked on water he was actually walking on a layer of ice just below the surface.  At the time, I balked at this notion.  I don’t remember the evidence for this argument, but the evidence wasn’t the concern for me.  My concern was the fact that someone thought they could explain a miracle, which in my mind seemed to contradict the very notion of miracle and remove God from the event.

I have since decided that Jesus’ walking on water is no less a miracle if he was walking on a sheet of ice just below the surface than if he was walking on the surface of nothing but water.  Jesus’ casting out of demons was no less a miracle if it wasn’t demons but a psychological problem, a chemical imbalance.  It’s God’s universe, after all, and any moment in which God acts is powerful and miraculous.

Perhaps “miracle” is just a word we’ve made up for God working through nature in ways that we do not comprehend.  An explanation for the “miracle” does not remove the power or divine presence from the event.  Scientific explanation does not remove God from the picture, but peels back a layer of mystery.  I think I’m OK with that.

Bottled water and the environment

Why not to buy bottled water, from Radical Congruency:

1. Bottled water individually wraps the most abundant substance on earth in petroleum-based, single-use packaging…it takes energy to produce each bottle – even those made from completely recyclable and renewable materials…making things takes energy, and the solution is to make fewer things…

2. Bottled water travels in trucks, not pipes.  Guess which produces less pollution – a 16? pipe or a 36? truck? Once it’s installed, a water main has zero carbon footprint. If all of your water is bottled elsewhere and brought to you or your grocery store in trucks, it has an enormous and unnecessary carbon footprint. Water is one of the heavier substances we consume, and thus one of the least efficient to transport by truck, given that it can easily be obtained from a faucet…

3. Bottled water is a ripoff.  Unless you buy it in gallon jugs, bottled water is more expensive than gasoline. Are we crazy? Water is the most abundant substance on earth. You can easily filter tap water using a Brita pitcher, a faucet-mounted filter, or a fridge filter, and get water as good as any you can buy in a bottle. It’s a ripoff both economically and environmentally, because there is no useful difference between water you filter yourself and water you buy in a bottle… (link)

Food for thought and action.