Saturday, January 31, 2015

Popular Forensics

Source 1 - Popular Mechanics article, January 2015
Source 2 - Lefty troll rant that cites the January article above but that was pre-dated back to Christmas day, 2014
Popular Mechanics published an article about a project to use forensics to reconstruct what the face of Jesus might have looked like.

The second article linked to above is by a chap trolling Christians on Christmas day on the subject. Presumably the author would dislike that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe looks like an Aztec woman, or that Japanese art depicts the Holy family with Asian features. Well, we have to surmise that; his ire is expressed only for white people - or, as the author put it, right-wing racists.

The Popular Mechanics article remarks that had our Lord looked the way He is popularly depicted in Western art - i.e. taller and leaner and with different hair than His contemporaries - then "surely the authors of the Bible would have mentioned so stark a contrast." This is chicanery: the Bible doesn't go in for descriptions of the physical attributes of individuals unless there was a spiritual significance (e.g. Jacob's limp); an ancient Greek storyteller might have done so, but the old Jews as a rule were sparse in such descriptions. The article later adds, "It is clear that his features were typical of Galilean Semites of his era." Presumably, but saying something is "clear" when it is actually just assumed is not good science, is it?This quote from the Popular Mechanics articles is telling: "our tendency to sinfully appropriate him (Jesus) in the service of our cultural values." It is sinful to alter the record in support of one's preferred outcome - that is a species of prejudice - but how is it sinful to reference a historical event when it does in fact support one's cultural values?The Norton article would have done well to mention the qualifier included at the end of the original Popular Mechanics article: said Richard Neave - the medical artist retired from The University of Manchester in England who performed the forensic exercise that produced the portrait above - this "re-creation is simply that of an adult man who lived in the same place and at the same time as Jesus. As might well be expected, not everyone agrees." The article continued, "Forensic depictions are not an exact science...The details in a face follow the soft tissue above the muscle, and it is here where forensic artists differ widely in technique...some artists pay more attention to the subtle differences in such details as the distance between the bottom of the nose and the mouth. And the most recognizable features of the face—the folds of the eyes, structure of the nose and shape of the mouth—are left to the artist..."

Finally, this forensics reconstruction was done based on three well-preserved skulls from Palestinian men who were contemporaries of our Lord. I think it's an interesting exercise to perform; still no word, however, on the same exercise being done on the remains of people born of only one parent. Would that influence the outcome? Scientifically, we must reserve judgment.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thank God for Large Families

Children being a blessing from God, it's a sad day when one hears misguided souls talk about children being an interruption of their lives. Pope Pius XII offered the following kindly wisdom on the topic.

“Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church; happiness flowers in them and sanctity ripens in favorable soil. Every family group, even the smallest, was meant by God to be an oasis of spiritual peace. But there is a tremendous difference: where the number of children is not much more than one, that serene intimacy that gives value to life has a touch of melancholy or of pallor about it; it does not last as long, it may be more uncertain, it is often clouded by secret fears and remorse...

“It is very different from the serenity of spirit to be found in parents who are surrounded by a rich abundance of young lives. The joy that comes from the plentiful blessings of God breaks out in a thousand different ways and there is no fear that it will end. The brows of these fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness. Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren.

“Their heavy labors multiplied many times over, their redoubled sacrifices and their renunciation of costly amusements are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that dwell in their hearts without ever tiring them or bothering them.

“And the hopes soon become a reality when the eldest daughter begins to help her mother to take care of the baby and on the day the oldest son comes home with his face beaming with the first salary he has earned himself. That day will be a particularly happy one for parents, for it will make the spectre of an old age spent in misery disappear, and they will feel assured of a reward for their sacrifices.

“When there are many children, the youngsters are spared the boredom of loneliness and the discomfort of having to live in the midst of adults all the time. It is true that they may sometimes become so lively as to get on your nerves, and their disagreements may seem like small riots; but even their arguments play an effective role in the formation of character, as long as they are brief and superficial. Children in large families learn almost automatically to be careful of what they do and to assume responsibility for it, to have a respect for each other and help each other, to be open-hearted and generous. For them, the family is a little proving ground, before they move into the world outside, which will be harder on them and more demanding...

"All of these precious benefits will be more solid and permanent, more intense and more fruitful if the large family takes the supernatural spirit of the Gospel, which spiritualizes everything and makes it eternal, as its own particular guiding rule and basis. Experience shows that in these cases, God often goes beyond the ordinary gifts of Providence, such as joy and peace, to bestow on it a special call — a vocation to the priesthood, to the religious life, to the highest sanctity.

“With good reason, it has often been pointed out that large families have been in the forefront as the cradles of saints. We might cite, among others, the family of St. Louis, the King of France, made up of ten children, that of St. Catherine of Siena who came from a family of twenty-five, St. Robert Bellarmine from a family of twelve, and St. Pius X from a family of ten.

“Every vocation is a secret of Providence; but these cases prove that a large number of children does not prevent parents from giving them an outstanding and perfect upbringing; and they show that the number does not work out to the disadvantage of their quality, with regard to either physical or spiritual values.”

- Pope Pius XII, from an address to the Directors of the Associations for Large Families of Rome and Italy, January 20, 1958

Pope Pius XII

Newest Nativity Set

Origami Nativity

Friday, January 16, 2015

Of F-Bombs, N-Words, and G-Ratings

What’s more selfish than the gluttony of Augustus Gloop, more demanding than the tantrums of Veruca Salt, more bovine than the obsessive masticating of Violet Beauregarde, and more vacuous than the glassy stare of Mike Teavee?

Recently I met up with a group of friends, one of whom I’ve known since high school. The next day I phoned her to ask that when we got together next, she not drop any more F-bombs on the proceedings. I was invited to find another circle of friends to spend evenings with; news reached me later through another party that yours truly is now said to be good primarily for G-rated gatherings.

An F-bomb is an ugly and gross word that sours joy and wrecks mirth, one that is favored by ill-mannered people who shabbily seek to be the center of attention. It is the language of ungenerous and dreary souls; repeated or frequent utterance makes a person (whether the speaker or the victim) dull and obtuse. It is a misnomer to call recourse to it an “adult” matter. I say, let’s have only adult conversations - ones characterized by the respect, civility, good humor, and camaraderie beyond the ken of rotten children.

Now, the expression in question describes a loveless sex act. It is a crudity unfortunately attached to a natural and beautiful matter that creates new human life, something to inspire awe and wonder and joy. An F-bomb is a demeaning shout of contempt against life itself that has all the charm and eloquence of a racial epithet.

But should anyone ever ask that it not be used?

If we take the view that one abusive remark should be tolerated, then consider what other vulgar, crude, or objectionable phrases should also be tolerated. Is the N-word all right? How about slang for genitalia? If the granddaddy of repulsive terms is fair game, then it seems the consistent course would be to say that anything is fair game.

In that case, an individual who gave voice to the wish that everyone practice a bit of courtesy in their language would be unwelcome indeed.

Meanwhile, the original Willy Wonka film was rated G.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

St. Vincent of Lerins

Feast of the Epiphany

What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty...

- St. Vincent of Lerins