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Does Science Prove the Catholic Church is Right? Fact Check Part II: Lust and the Family

Jim Schroeder of the Foundation for Evangelization through the Media has declared boldly that “Science Is Proving the Church Is Right and the Culture’s Wrong.” Schroeder elaborates:

“Modern science – which so many assume is the antithesis or even enemy of Catholic teaching – actually bears out the truth and value and relevance of what the Church has taught for 2,000 years. Here are ten examples to illustrate my point.”

In a series of five posts, I’m examining each of Schroeder’s ten scientific proofs of Catholicism. Do they actually make scientific sense? Last week I started with Schroeder’s points on Narcissism (Example 1) and Gluttony (Example 2). Today, we’ll look at lust and the family.

Schroeder’s third example:

“3. The Church teaches that lust involves treating the human body as a physical commodity rather than as an aspect of the whole human person – an inseparable body, mind and soul – who is the masterpiece of God’s creation and who will live forever. Currently, profits from pornography in the United States exceed the combined revenues of CBS, ABC and NBC (Kimmel, 2008).”

What Schroeder writes is not a scientific proof of any kind. The first sentence is a declaration of a cultural value. The second sentence is a declaration of economic impact. Neither involves any scientific testing of a claim. Absolutely no sources are cited. This example fails to meet the standard of scientific evidence.

Schroeder’s fourth example:

“4. The Church teaches that a valid marriage is forever and indissoluble. Science tells us that growing up in an intact family with one’s biological parents who are married to eachother confers the greatest benefit to children and other arrangements result in varying degrees of social, psychological, emotional and academic harm.”

Schroeder’s example does not refer directly to any scientific publication, but rather to two more articles of “Evangelization through the Media” at the Aleteia website. Schroeder’s text implies that these articles have to do not only with marriage but also with living in a familiy containing biological parents. The evangelizing articles to which Schroeder links say absolutely nothing about any benefit of having biological parents in a family. The article from Schroeder’s second link does not, contrary to Schroeder’s contention, have to do with whether “other arrangements” in the plural are harmful — it only concerns one alternative arrangement, that of cohabitation. Jim Schroeder is bearing false witness here, and from what I’ve read the Bible has some issues with such behavior.

The proselytizing authors to whom Schroeder refers pick and choose their scientific studies selectively. Sociologist Paul Amato has repeatedly reviewed the scientific evidence in a wide range of studies on the effect of divorce on children, and although he concludes that overall children of divorce report a lower standard of well-being, the substantive difference is small. Furthermore, Amato found that children of parents who stayed in an unhappy marriage are worse off than children of divorced parents. In addition, Amato found that children of parents who divorced amicably do just as well as children of non-divorced parents. When it comes to the effect of cohabitation on children’s outcomes, Wendy Manning and Susan Brown’s publication in the Journal of Marriage and the Family suggests that the appearance of an effect is different for different cultural groups and that the bulk of the effect is due to differences in parental education. Julie Artis’ research in the same journal finds no difference when socioeconomic status is controlled for.

For these reasons, this example by Schroeder also fails to meet the standard of scientific evidence.

Later this week, we’ll move on to Schroeder’s fifth and sixth examples of scientific proofs of Catholicism. Coming up: birth control and anxiety.

Donald Trump Wants To Run For President On The Basis Of Phony Social Media

Frequently bankrupt real estate tycoon Donald Trump is playing the same publicity game he’s played over the last two presidential election cycles. He’s saying that he’s “thinking” about running for President in 2016.

What does that that mean, that Trump is “thinking” about running for President? I can think of an elephant without being an elephant. I can think of a crystal methane palace on the moon Titan without actually owning one. I can think of volunteering for a vivisection.

Thinking is easy. Doing is difficult. Donald Trump has never actually done anything about running for President, other than talk.

donald trump 40 percent fakeDonald Trump is taking advantage of his announcement about “thinking” as an opportunity to brag about himself. Asked why he might think about running for President in 2016, Trump said, “A lot of people want me to do it. I have millions of Twitter followers!”

Does Donald Trump have millions of Twitter followers? Actually, the most recent Twitter Audit of Donald Trump’s account showed that almost 40 percent of his supposed followers were fake.

Donald Trump appears to have performed the social media equivalent of a comb-over. If Donald Trump wants to campaign for President with 40 percent of his supporters being fake, he’s likely to be disappointed when the day comes for only real voters to be counted.

Sex And Obscenity In the Bible

bible x rated book“Let us introduce you to parts of the Holy Bible which you have not heard about in sermons from the pulpit, that may shock and dismay you and should certainly convince you that the bible ought to be X-rated. Below you will find a pornographic view of sex and women, lewdness, depravity and sexual violence often ordered or countenanced by the biblical deity. Don’t take our word for it — look it up for yourself.”

These are the opening words of An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible.

The mere existence of the book is putting American fundamentalists into a fury – but it’s a scriptural book, based on the Christian Bible.

Before you condemn the book, consider reading it yourself.

Mass Meeting for Mass Action Called in New York City

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has called for a come-one-come-all meeting tomorrow in New York City. The cause: to bring an end to the systematic practices that lead to the discriminatory treatment of Black Americans at the hands of the criminal justice system. Their call to meet and plan an entire week of outrage is below:

Mass Meeting Sunday December 7 to organize a Week of Mass Outrage beginning Monday
Sunday, 3 PM – December 7
West Park Presbyterian Church — 165 W 86th St, New York, NY 10024 — at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue, enter on 86th

“The actions of the people this past week have achieved a great deal.  These actions have forced everyone in this country to confront the reality of this epidemic of police brutality and murder, of mass incarceration, of the criminalization of entire peoples.”

“Now is certainly not the time to retreat or quiet down. Now is not the time to fall for the honeyed words and empty promises of the oppressors, nor to be misled by their slanders. Now is the time to intensify and to spread this movement and the righteous actions taken so far. Still more people must be involved—there are plenty of people who have not come out in struggle yet, who must and should and can be won to come out. And these actions themselves must become more determined in confronting the business-as-usual of this empire.”

“Organizing through Twitter and Facebook has its definite strengths, but people also need to get together in person and decide how to take this higher. Meeting called by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

Pastor Calvin V. French Delivers Political Speech In The US Senate Advocating Theocracy

Calvin V. French, Pastor of the Community of Christ Church, called it a prayer, but it was clearly a political speech, castigating U.S. senators to place themselves under the authority of Christian religious authorities. He lectured, standing on the very center of the United States Senate this week, “Almighty God, we come as children in our Father’s house, asking that we may envision the same spirit of our Founding Fathers – that we are one nation under God! May this oneness of spirit and purpose prevail that our legislation will be seamless… In this Advent season, may we be comforted by the words of Isaiah 9:6, “The government shall be upon His shoulders!”

What would it look like if the U.S. Senate took the advice of Calvin French, and took our country back to the days when it was “One nation under God”? The Senate would have to go back to colonial days, as the independent United States of America has always been a secular nation.

one nation under godBack in colonial times, it was a capital crime for any person to refuse to participate in Christianity. The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts dictated that “If any man after legal conviction shall HAVE OR WORSHIP any other God, but the LORD GOD: he shall be put to death.” Blasphemers were executed as well.

Killing non-Christian Americans: That’s what one nation under God means.

What’s more, if we follow Calvin French’s advice, and take America back to the colonial days of one nation under God, we will have to accept that only certain types of Christianity will be allowed. The laws of colonial Massachusetts stated that any Christian who followed the Anabaptist creed of baptizing people after their infancy would be cast out into the wilderness. What’s more, if a Jesuit was found in Massachusetts, the colonial law dictated that, “upon lawfull tryall and conviction he shall be put to death”.

Banishment or death for forms of Christianity that don’t have the approval of government bureaucrats: That’s what one nation under God means.

When America was one nation under God, teenagers who refused to obey their parents were put to death. “If a man have a stubborn or REBELLIOUS SON, of sufficient years & understanding (viz) sixteen years of age, which will not obey the voice of his Father, or the voice of his Mother, and that when they have chastened him will not harken unto them: then shal his Father & Mother being his natural parents, lay hold on him, & bring him to the Magistrates assembled in Court & testifie unto them, that their Son is stubborn & rebellious & will not obey their voice and chastisement, but lives in sundry notorious crimes, such a son shal be put to death,” stated Massachusetts colonial law.

Killing teenagers: That’s what one nation under God means.

In colonial Massachusetts, if any parents neglected to teach their children the government-approved version of Christianity, the law dictated that the children would be seized by the state and placed in foster care.

Big government control of education and breaking up families: That’s what one nation under God means.

When this country was one nation under God, it was the law that anyone caught interrupting a Christian preacher’s sermon more than once would be forced to stand in the public square holding a sign reading, “AN OPEN AND OBSTINATE CONTEMNOR OF GODS HOLY ORDINANCES”.

Humiliation instead of free speech: That’s what one nation under God means.

Given what happened the last time America was one nation under God, would anyone agree to Calvin French’s demands that we return to that awful condition?

Merry Krampusnacht 2014 – And The War On Krampusnacht

krampus 2014Tonight is Krampusnacht, the night when the wild hairy trickster of Yule goes cavorting around in the darkest shadows of the year.

They’re Krampusing in Chicago, and in Bloomington, too. Hell, they’re even putting on horns in Charlotte.

Graveyard Dirt writes, “Krampus is often described as a spirit of Christmas, but in truth, the character of Krampus is deeper than Christmas. Krampus is a part of the ancient Yule holiday that is the true source of Christmas, and has meaning that clearly has nothing to do with Jesus.

In the United States of America, Christmas is increasingly becoming a holiday that isn’t linked to Christianity for most people. There are still many who pretend that the birthday of Jesus was really on December 25, just coincidentally the pagan Roman date of Sol Invictus and the birthday of the Persian savior Mithras. Larger and larger numbers of Americans, though, are contributing to the re-paganization of Christmas, either consciously or unconsciously. They’re bringing back the old customs of the Yule season and casting aside the facade of stories about the baby Jesus.”

Merry Krampusnacht!

But, now that I’ve got the holly jollies out, let me rattle the chains for a bit. There’s something very sad going on in America – a War On Krampusnacht.

Go to any of the big box stores in your town – Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart, Macy’s Victoria’s Secret, Whole Foods, and you know what you’ll hear? “Happy Holidays!” That’s what they’ll say. Oh, and they’ll throw in a “Merry Christmas” too.

But do any of these stores bother to wish you a “Merry Krampusnacht”? No! Do they throw in a “Gruss Vom Krampus” with your receipt? No, they don’t. That’s because these businesses are part of a war on Krampus.

They hate Krampus. They want to rid America of Krampusnacht by just pretending that it doesn’t exist.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but as long as these stores have been refusing to wish their customers a Merry Krampusnacht, there have been murders across the United States. Milk has gone bad in people’s refrigerators. Dogs have died. People’s favorite TV shows have been canceled. Little girls have cried.

Now, I don’t have the fancy statistics to prove to you that there’s a causal relationship between the War On Krampusnacht and these terrible events, but all you need is common sense to see the connection.

So, the next time you go to a store, and the clerk says “Merry Christmas,” put a stern face on and say back to them as you wag your finger, “No, Merry Krampusnacht!” Then, go throw a naughty capitalist in the river.

NPR Compares Protest to Injury in “Bracing” Headlines

“… as New York Braces For More Demonstrations Over Eric Garner…”

These are the words I heard yesterday as I listed to National Public Radio news, in a story regarding the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man choked at the hands of the officers of the New York City Police Department.

“Braces?”

The Random House Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary define the verb “to brace” as a preparation for a blow or impact in a literal sense, or as preparation for negative developments and bad news in a figurative sense.

Protests against police brutality in New York City this week have not been violent. No one has been killed in the protests. No one has been harmed by protesters, although a woman was shoved by the police and a police officer wrapped his hands around a protester’s neck. So why is the city of New York described as if it is preparing for a blow, an impact, an injury, bad news?

The United States Constitution does not consider protest to be an injury, a blow, a negative development, or bad news. Rather, the Constitution considers dissent to be a positive aspect of political activity, an essential element of national activity. In the First Amendment, it protects dissent as one of ten core rights held by the people.

Yet through its choice of words National Public Radio expresses the sentiment that peaceful protest is a nasty and injurious blow that a city should “brace” for. Consider the alternative. What if National Public Radio’s segment had sounded like this?

“… as New York is Buoyed More Demonstrations Over Eric Garner…”

This is not the first time NPR has described protest as an assault that American cities must brace for.

2012: Charlotte Braces for Democratic National Convention

2008: San Francisco Braces for Olympic Torch Protests

2006: Cities, Businesses Brace for Boycotts Monday

2004: New York Braces for Protests at Republican Meet

It’s hard to escape the impression that National Public Radio considers the American people when unharnessed to be a dangerous rabble.

Who Crossed The Aisle In US House Vote On Obama’s Immigration Executive Order

President Barack Obama has the power to adjust the way immigration laws are enforced, and Congress has the power to reign him in.

There is no present border crisis. Illegal border crossings have shrunk dramatically under President Obama. However, there is a lingering problem of an underground society of businesses who deal in exploited human labor, forcing people who have illegally crossed a border into the United States in the past to work in dangerous conditions, without benefits, for wages so low that they are literally criminal.

In order to deal with this problem, President Barack Obama announced a series of executive orders that focus federal law enforcement on these criminal employers working within the United States. Under the executive orders, people who have illegally crossed the border in the past will still be punished – but with a fine that will go toward reducing the federal budget deficit, rather than with deportation. This shift allows these workers to come forward to help federal law enforcement officials crack down on the underground networks of illegal employers.

illegal employersRepublicans in Congress are furious about this, because they want the federal government to focus more on punishing workers, and less on punishing the illegal employers who abuse them. So, yesterday afternoon, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives orchestrated the passage of H.R. 5759. This bill would force President Obama to deport workers rather than to fine them. The legislation would protect networks of illegal employers by forcing their victims back into the shadows.

Republicans have acknowledged that their legislation is a “meaningless show vote”, because the leaders of the U.S. Senate have expressed no interest in accelerating the bill through the committee process in time to come up for a floor vote before the current session of Congress ends. Still, we can expect the Republicans, who will gain control of both houses of Congress in January, to bring up similar legislation next year, so it’s worth paying attention to how this roll call vote played out.

Mostly, the vote took place according to party lines. House Republicans voted for H.R. 5759. Democrats in Congress voted to block the bill, continuing to protect workers from illegal employers.

A few members of Congress passed party lines, however.

Republicans who voted to protect workers, voting against H.R. 5759: Mike Coffman, Jeff Denham, Mario Diaz-Balart, Louie Gohmert, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marlin Stutzman, and David Valadao.

Democrats who voted to protect illegal employers, voting for H.R. 5759: John Barrow, Mike McIntyre, and Collin Peterson.

Fact Check: Does Science Prove the Catholic Church is Right? (Irrationality, Narcissism and Gluttony)

Writing for the Foundation for Evangelization through the Media on the website Aleteia, psychologist Jim Schroeder declares that in a headline that “Science Is Proving the Church Is Right and the Culture’s Wrong.” Schroeder declares that:

“Adult Catholics need to understand and intentionally embrace Catholic teaching with our intellects and reason. We can’t be content to believe and accept the teaching of the Church solely because our parents and teachers ‘said so.'”

This is a helpful standard for developing a model of the truth (although to intellect and reason we should add empirical observation). But Schroeder continues:

“Modern science – which so many assume is the antithesis or even enemy of Catholic teaching – actually bears out the truth and value and relevance of what the Church has taught for 2,000 years. Here are ten examples to illustrate my point.”

Over the next five days I’ll be examining the ten contentions Jim Schroeder presents as scientific proof that “the Church is Right and the Culture’s Wrong,” looking at two of Schroeder’s ten points each day.  Today, let’s look at irrationality and narcissism on the one hand and gluttony on the other.  When evaluating Schroeder’s contentions, I’ll ask whether Schroeder actually points to scientific study to back up his assertions and, if he does, whether or not those studies actually confirm Schroeder’s assertions about them.

Schroeder’s first assertion of the ten:

“1. The Church teaches that pride is the root of all vices. Research studies in psychology show that narcissism and irrational thinking are on the rise, especially in our younger generation, and are creating a “community” that is disjointed, disenchanted and confused. The traits of narcissists – self-centeredness, inflated self-esteen, lack of empathy, aggressiveness – are harmful to others, to society, and eventually to the narcissists themselves.”

Schroeder does actually link to a piece of published research from the Journal of Personality (2008), and that research’s conclusion regarding a rise in Narcissistic Personal Inventory scores in the U.S. over time is corroborated by studies in the Journal of Research in Personality (also in 2008) and the Social Psychological and Personality Science (2010). None of these papers describe a rise in “irrational” thinking, although the papers do describe narcissism as a form of unrealistic thinking.

For this claim, to give Schroeder a benefit of the doubt, we’ll say his claim is supported.

Schroeder’s second assertion:

“2. The Church teaches that gluttony and sloth undermine the values of food and rest, creating unhealthy conditions that threaten the mind, body and soul. The “Journal of the American Medical Association” reports that almost < href="http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/obesity-in-the-us/">70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, that obesity is a significant threat to mental and physical health and will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of death.

Obesity is certainly an important issue, but the first link provided in that quote actually takes one to a JAMA page in which scientific respondents are writing letters to the journal objecting to methods used to generate the estimate. The second link does not refer us to a scientific source, but rather to the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington DC advocacy organization; the page by FRAC does not mention anything about obesity as a “leading cause of death.”

This paragraph is poorly sourced, but fortunately Schroeder’s contention is supported more broadly by the Centers for Disease Control, which has tracked obesity over time and verifies a percentage rise in the double digits of overweight and obese Americans in the last 50 years — to 68.8% most recently.

Despite the fact that Schroeder’s links do not actually take us to scientific data regarding the trend he describes, his claim here is nevertheless supported.

So far, Schroeder’s doing well in demonstrating that the Catholic Church is saying some things that are borne out in reality. Keep in mind, however, that claims about the extent of the obesity and narcissism in modern-day American society are not a core aspect of the Catholic Church’s distinctly religious teachings; rather, they reflect secular concerns of the Church that do not test the Church’s supernaturalism.

UnKoch Your Campus

The Koch Brothers, who fund Republican candidates for public office, also donate money to colleges and universities. Supporting education is a wonderful thing to do.

According to an organization created by Greenpeace and Forecast The Facts, “There is mounting evidence to suggest that the Kochs are giving this money with strings attached. Their donations influence college research, the professors hired, and the coursework being taught, all in service of advancing their ideologies, building their reputation, and increasing their profits.”

Accordingly, that organization, UnKoch My Campus is urging college students to speak out against programs funded by the Koch Brothers that promote a pro-corporate, anti-environmentalist message. If you want to get active, go to Polluter Watch, which has a list of campuses that accept Koch money.

Special Tax Loopholes Bill Passes House Of Representatives

u.s. capitol buildingYesterday, U.S. the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5771, a bill that provides for:

– the classification of race horses as three-year property for depreciation purposes
– accelerated depreciation of motorsports entertainment complexes
– the expensing allowance for film and television production costs

Only 20 Democrats and 26 Republicans voted against these special tax favors. 378 voted to approve them.