Still Evolving; Selling; Bath-House Prayer; One Textbook; History; God’s Land; Memorial Day and Natalie Holloway

1. Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, page 4.

Once a species becomes well adapted to a stable habitat, evolution often slows down.

An argument that I’ve often heard against evolution—primarily from family and friends—is that evolution is not true because we’re not still evolving.  And the response that I’ve heard to this argument from family and friends is that we’re not evolving because we’re now adapted to our habitat.

I too wonder why we don’t appear to be evolving.  Where are the mutations, the weeding out of people with bad mutations through natural selection, the preservation of people with good mutations, and the consequent advancement of humanity?  Does the weeding out of bad mutations have to entail the deaths of those with those bad mutations?  If a person is mostly fit and has a bad mutation, could he simply not pass that bad mutation on through his genes?

There’s stuff I don’t understand here.  That’s why I’m reading a book that explains evolution. 

2. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land.

I read about a character who is trying to move the subject of a conversation to religion, in an attempt to convert someone.  That reminds me of the movie, The Big Kahuna: the Christian character used the topic of a person’s dead dog as a stepping stone for sharing the Gospel.  But Danny DeVito saw that as manipulation, as “selling” something.  DeVito thought that we should express genuine interest and concern in other people, without a hidden agenda of “selling” them something.

3. Alberdina Houtmann, Mishnah and Tosefta, page 116: 

 Tosefta Barakhot 2:20-21 says that a Jew can pray or say the Shema in a bath-house if people there stand dressed, but not if they stand naked.

How dressed do they have to be?  It is, after all, a bath-house!

4. Michael H. Floyd, “‘Write the Revelation!’ (Hab 2:2): Re-imagining the Cultural History of Prophecy”, in Writings and Speech in Israelites and Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy, pages 136-137:

Floyd said that not everyone in scribal schools had to be literate, for the students may have relied on the teachers to instruct them in wisdom.  The teacher had the only textbook, in short.

Why did they especially get to go to school to learn wisdom?  Were they prepared for any type of vocation, or were they professional students?

5. Baruch Halpern, “The State of Israelite History”, in Reconsidering Israel and Judah, page 542:

Halpern says that, many years ago, when he was a student in a graduate program in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, his program did not allow him to minor in philosophy of history, for it preferred for him to focus on philology, “the centerpiece of the Albrightian tradition”.  Halpern says this after he mentions minimalists, who deny the existence of David and Solomon.  I’m not entirely sure what his point is, at least not yet.  Maybe his point is something that a professor of mine has said: that the maximalist/minimalist debate is misquided because it neglects the crucial question of what history is.  Halpern says that history discusses the past, yet it speaks to the time of the historian.  I’ve heard this lots of times, even at Hebrew Union College, which focuses a lot on language.  Have biblical studies changed since the time that Halpern was a graduate student?

6.  Here’s a good quote from Peter Hass’ review of Roger Brooks’ Support for the Poor in the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: Tractate Peah:

The particular tractate before us considers the farmer’s obligation to leave some portion of his field un-harvested and available to the poor. This obligation, first spelled out in Lev 19:9-10 and Deut 24:19-22, was originally intended, Brooks claims, to insure that all Israelites would share in the bounty of the Land. For Mishnah’s framers, these laws have an added importance in that they demonstrate God’s continued control over the Land, despite the apparent ascendency of Rome.

This reminds me of something I studied in a class on Leviticus Rabbah and Pesikta-de-Rab-Kahana: a Jew is noble when he lets his land rest every seventh year, even though that’s difficult for him because he has to pay taxes to the Romans.  He’s honoring and trusting God, and he’s demonstrating that the land belongs to God, not to the Romans.

7.  Today is Memorial Day.  I still have the same thoughts that I had during the last two Memorial Days: Memorial Day 2008 and Two Memorial Day Reflections

For Memorial Day, I watched shows about veterans and soldiers who died, people who answered their country’s call to service.  The causes for which they fought were not always worth their death or (for those who survived) anguish.  But they still answered their country’s call of duty, and the country—in some capacity—should say thank you.  And it should definitely treat its veterans well!

Yesterday was the anniversary of Natalie Holloway’s disappearance.  When that happened, and Fox News was covering it day-in and day-out, I wished that it would shut up about it!  I was more interested in watching political wrangling between Hannity and Colmes, or O’Reilly and whomever!  I know this is cold.

I became more interested in Natalie Holloway when I watched the Lifetime movie, which starred Tracy Pollan (Michael J. Fox’s wife, and Ellen on Family Ties) as Natalie’s mother.  I then watched a documentary about her shortly thereafter.

I don’t think that the movie was overly fair to Natalie’s dad.  It portrays him (in my estimation) as a self-centered jerk who gave up on the search when the going got tough.  Actually, according to the documentary that I saw, he was the most committed member of the search party.

The movie and the documentary did do a good job in highlighting the tension between the people of Aruba and Natalie’s mother.  The people of Aruba felt quite insulted by Natalie’s mother, especially when the Aruba police was devoting forty per cent of its resources to the search for Natalie.  And yet, was its search a sham?  Because the police asked Natalie’s mother at the outset if Natalie had seizures, some concluded later on that it knew what happened to Natalie from the very beginning: that she had a seizure, and so the boy she was with dropped her into the sea, to dispense with Natalie’s body and avoid murder charges.

The movie also showed Natalie’s mother—after a long and futile search—accepting the boy’s story, even though he had changed it multiple times.  His final story was that Natalie had a seizure, and so he dropped her into the ocean while she was unconscious.  Others disputed this story, saying that the boy was trying to impress a drug dealer, who was actually an undercover cop.  But Natalie’s mom felt that this story made a degree of sense.  After all, the boy wasn’t thoroughly evil—he wouldn’t kill Natalie for no reason at all.  But he was self-serving, and he was trying to cover his own tracks.

The movie was sad because Natalie went into a car with a group of boys, expecting to have the time of her life.  Then, she was never seen again.  Although the movie was quite dramatic and evoked emotion, the documentary’s presentation of the actual news footage did the same.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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