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Woman to become NY firefighter despite failing crucial fitness test

 

A note from Al:

Very similar to the article we posted last week about girl scouts allowing boys to join their ranks, here is an article that should make your average unsedated man or woman or even adolescent take notice that something has gone seriously wrong in our national social ethic.

Since we no longer admit to holding universal moral absolutes like you shall not commit adultery (the pornography and a portion of the fashion industry would lose out), you shall not covet your neighbors goods (the advertising and marketing industries would lose out), you shall keep the Lord’s day holy (every retailer would lose out), you shall not covet your neighbors wife (the romance publishing industry and daytime soaps and half Hollywood feature films would lose out) we must replace these former social rules with those of our own devising.

We still have pretty universal detestation of pedophilia and smoking in public but those aren’t really enough to hold a society together so we need something bigger. The new social glue is the vision of complete equality and inclusion. Almost any silly or corrupt act can be justified by an appeal to making things more equal or inclusive. This article shows the ridiculous lengths we are reaching towards.

- Al Kresta

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by Susan Edelman via NYPost.com

 

The FDNY for the first time in its history will allow someone who failed its crucial physical fitness test to join the Bravest, The Post has learned.

Rebecca Wax, 33, is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed.

“They’re going to allow the first person to graduate without passing because this administration has lowered the standard,” said the insider, who is familiar with the training.

Upon graduation, Wax would be assigned to a firehouse and tasked with the full duties of a firefighter.

Some FDNY members are angry.

“We’re being asked to go into a fire with someone who isn’t 100 percent qualified,” the source said. “Our job is a team effort. If there’s a weak link in the chain, either civilians or our members can die.”

Wax’s graduation comes as the city celebrates the FDNY’s 150th anniversary and as the department is under pressure by the de Blasio administration to hire more women.

Only 44 of the FDNY’s 10,500 firefighters are female.

While Wax fell short, two other female probies in the graduating class passed the FST with flying colors.

“They’re kicking butt. They’re doing better than 50 percent of the class,” the insider said. “When they get assigned to a firehouse, they’ll be welcomed with open arms because they’ve done what everyone else has gone through.”

Other female firefighters aren’t pleased about Wax’s treatment, either.

“A lot of the girls in the field are pissed because they feel like they’re getting lumped into the same category of a female getting special treatment and not meeting the same standards as the males,” the insider added. “It devalues what the women in the field have accomplished.”

In the FST exam, probies must breathe through a mask attached to an air tank while carrying up to 50 pounds of gear.

They must climb six flights of stairs, stretch hose lines, raise ladders, perform tasks that simulate breaking doors and pulling down ceilings, and drag dummies through tunnels with no visibility.

They must complete the course in 17 minutes, 50 seconds or less.

Despite many attempts over the Fire Academy’s 18-week training course, Wax completed the test just once — but it took her more than 22 minutes, the source said.

In numerous tries, Wax struggled and was too slow. While fit probies finish with air left in their tanks, she had to stop when hers ran out, the source added.

“She’s in the best shape of her life, and it’s still not good enough,” he said.

Under the FDNY’s new hiring policy, probies must earn at least 75 percent on the combined requirements of academics, hands-on skills and physical fitness.

Wax had a high grade-point average on her academics, which officials determined offset her FST deficiency, the insider said.

Last December, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told a City Council hearing on the FDNY’s efforts to recruit women that he had changed FST requirements to lower obstacles.

“We still grade the people. You can still fail it if you go beyond the time, but you’re not automatically failed from the program,” he said.

He also indicated he wanted to act before a possible sex discrimination lawsuit after the city paid $98 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the FDNY of discriminating against minorities.

“We must no longer wait for a judge’s ruling to tell us what fairness means,” Nigro said.

United Women Firefighters, an organization of FDNY women, objects to the FST test, contending it unfairly bars females.

The FST requires a much higher level of fitness than the Candidate Physical Ability Test, which applicants must pass to enter the academy.

Experts say the FST mirrors the demands of the job, training would-be firefighters to work in stressful environments while conserving their air supply.

Wax had previously received another break to join the FDNY after pleading in June 2011 for a City Council bill that raised the age limit from 29 to 35 for applicants like her who first took the entrance exam in 2007. A hiring freeze imposed by federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis in the discrimination suit put them in limbo.

“I want nothing more than to be a New York City firefighter,” Wax, then 29, had testified at a hearing.

Wax has worked as a civilian FDNY employee since 2009, lately as a community coordinator, making $52,338 last year.

Reached outside her Upper East Side apartment Friday, she would not speak to a reporter.

Nigro, questioned by The Post during an FDNY anniversary celebration at a Midtown firehouse Saturday, refused to comment on Wax’s fitness failure.

“Every one of our 305 probies have passed and will be graduating Tuesday,” he said. “She has met the requirements.”

The probationary class started with 320 recruits, meaning 15 dropped out or must retake the course.

Controversial preacher, writer Timothy Radcliffe given Vatican role

 

This article gives the facts about Timothy Radcliffe and his new Vatican role. To see how Al thinks we, as Catholics, should respond, see his piece here.

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by Michael O’Loughlin via Cruxnow.com

An internationally known preacher and writer known for pushing the boundaries of Catholic orthodoxy and a strong ally of Pope Francis was given a boost by the Holy See Saturday.

In a move sure to raise eyebrows among the Church’s traditional guard, Pope Francis named the Rev. Timothy Radcliffe a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The head of the Dominican Order for nearly a decade in the 1990s who now leads a social justice center at Oxford, the English-born Radcliffe has repeatedly challenged Catholic attitudes toward women, gays and lesbians, and the divorced.

Last year, Radcliffe was at the center of a controversy over his invitation to speak at the International Conference of Divine Mercy, Ireland’s largest Catholic gathering. The American television network EWTN dropped plans to cover the event because of Radcliffe’s participation. A host at the station calledRadcliffe’s views “at sharp variance to Catholic teaching.”

The row was caused by comments Radcliffe made in 2013 about homosexuality, as reported by The Tablet.

“Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual, and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift,” he said. He expressed surprise that his views caused such a stir, stating that they were “deeply in resonance with the teaching of Pope Francis.”

Still, he has publicly supported the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, though for reasons not normally promulgated by Church officials.

For example, in a December 2012 article in The Guardian, Radcliffe wrote, “It is heartening to see the wave of support for gay marriages. It shows a society that aspires to an open tolerance of all sorts of people, a desire for us to live together in mutual acceptance.”

But, he said, a heterosexual notion of marriage should not be imposed on gay couples, though differences should be embraced.

Tolerance, he wrote, “implies an attention to the particularity of the other person, a savoring of how he or she is unlike me, in their faith, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation. A society that flees difference and pretends we are all just the same may have outlawed intolerance in one form, and yet instituted it in other ways.”

As a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Radcliffe is one of 40 or so people from around the globe who help “draw the broad lines of the action of the Counsel, according to their sensitivities and their professional and pastoral commitments,” according to the Vatican.

He is the author of more than a half-dozen books and an internationally sought after speaker. His book “What is the Point of Being a Christian?” won the 2007 Michael Ramsey Prize, which is awarded by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury for the “most promising contemporary theological writing from the global Church.”

Radcliffe, ordained in 1971, is also a proponent of opening up to communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, currently a hot topic among bishops participating in the Synod on the Family.

In a 2013 essay in America magazine, Radcliffe wrote that he held “two profound hopes. That a way will be found to welcome divorced and remarried people back to communion. And, most important, that women will be given real authority and voice in the Church. The pope expresses his desire that this may happen, but what concrete form can it take?”

Regarding the role of women in the Church, Radcliffe is in line with Pope Francis, who has said no to women’s ordination but who nonetheless wants women to hold positions of authority. Radcliffe lamented what he sees as a stronger fusion between ordination and decision-making offices in the Church.

“I think the women’s ordination question has become more acute now because the Church has become more clerical than in my childhood,” Radcliffe said in a 2010 interview with US Catholic.

Radcliffe has pushed for a more open Church, along the lines of Pope Francis’ assertion that the Church be willing to “make a mess of things.”

“Jesus offered a wide hospitality, and ate and drank with all sorts of people. We need to embody his open heart rather than retreat into a Catholic ghetto,” Radcliffe said in a 2013 interview.

Catholic bishops from around the world will gather in Rome in October for the second part of a contentious debate about family issues in the Church.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 18, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 18, 2015


4:00 – Kresta Comments: Pole Dancers, Voyeurism and Pornography

An American rabbi has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for secretly taping women changing and showering at a local cleansing bath. In a world of rampant pornography and immodesty, why is voyeurism considered so shocking and offensive? Don’t strippers and porn stars ultimately encourage acts of voyeurism through their acts of indignity?

4:20 – Health Insurance the Catholic Way

Mike O”Dea and Louis Brown have created a Catholic alternative to Obamacare that does not force participants to violate their religious beliefs. Their initiative, CMF Curo, was launched last fall. They’re back today to talk about how the initiative is doing.

5:00 – ISIS in Garland, Texas and Ramadi, Iraq

ISIS has captured the major Iraqi city of Ramadi. The terrorist organization also claimed responsibility for the failed attack on the Mohammed cartoon festival in Texas early this month. We get the latest from Raymond Ibrahim.


5:20 – Kresta Comments: Pope Francis Appoints Pro-Gay Marriage Dominican to Pontifical Academy…What Are We to Think?

 

5:40 – Kresta Comments: Pope Francis Appointment (Continued) 

Girl Scouts to Allow Boys Who Pretend They’re Girls to Join

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by Russ Hepler via TheFederalistPapers.org

We’ve seen the problems the Boy Scouts have had since allowing homosexuals to join – a huge drop in membership. But now, it seems the Girls Scouts are determined to go one better.

One News Now reports:

A traditional values leader is exposing the Girl Scouts for its continued move toward far-left causes.

The latest announcement, says Linda Harvey of Mission America, is that little boys from kindergarten through high school can join the Girl Scouts, if the boy considers himself a girl.

“In other words, he calls the shots,” Harvey says of young males. “He is the one that determines the rights and privacy of authentic girls.”

Regarding transgender youth, the website for the Scouts states that if a boy is recognized as living as a girl, “then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.”

Yep, that’s right – all a teen-age boy needs to do to get access to teen-age girls in the most intimate of ways is dress up like a girl and claim his “gender identity” is that of a female!

This latest “politically correct” move by the Girl Scouts is designed to drive the organization even further to the left than it even was moving.  One News Now provides further details:

The Girl Scouts began the move by pushing liberal sex education, although some local groups refuse to follow along, and then the Scouts decided the girls could define God as they wish – or deny Him.

OneNewsNow reported last year that the CEO of the Girl Scouts was trying to deflect ties to Planned Parenthood but pro-family watchdog groups, already tracking the association, reported otherwise.

The Girl Scouts were the targets of a “cookie boycott” last year after the group was accused of trumpeing Wendy Davis, the pro-abortion Democrat who ran for Texas governor.

In the latest news, a chapter is being organized for homosexual and lesbian families at the Utah Pride Center.

Feminism, abortion on demand, lesbianism, and now transgender boy/girl scouts – welcome to the “new” Girl Scouts!

Parents may be pulling their hair out over this latest attempt to “sexualize” our children by the forces of the left in this country.  Whatever happened to the virtues both the Boy and Girl Scouts used to promote?  These organizations have been hijacked by those who want no morality in America; those who want access to minor children for nefarious reason; and those who are determined to totally destroy America’s religious and family base.

But, as One News Now reveals, parents of young girls have another option:

Meanwhile, a pro-family rival organization to the Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls, is celebrating 20 years this year.

 

This is somewhat similar to the move to create another organization for boys after the Boy Scouts decided to become “homosexual tolerant.”  Trail Life is a rapidly growing organization for boys that is moral, spiritual, and traditional in building boys into men.

Let us hope many parents of girls will opt for American Heritage Girls instead of exposing their daughters to the abuse that is now bound to come about because of this latest dumb move by the Girl Scouts.

New Report Suggests: The Pill Shrinks Parts of Women’s Brains

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by Mary Rezac via NCRegister.com

The study’s co-author also notes that there is a growing body of evidence indicating that biological differences between men and women are much greater than is commonly posited.

LOS ANGELES — Adding to recent controversies surrounding various forms of birth control, a new study out of UCLA suggests that the birth-control pill may thin areas in a woman’s brain and affect their function.

Published in April in the journal Human Brain Mapping, the study measured cortical thickness in the brains of 90 women — 44 of whom were using oral contraceptives and 46 of whom were naturally cycling.

Only women using the combination form of oral contraceptives were used in the study — it did not measure women using progesterone-only or other forms of oral contraceptives. The research found that oral-contraceptive use was significantly associated with a thinning in two areas of the brain: the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex.

The lateral orbitofrontal cortex is involved in emotion regulation and response to rewards, while the posterior cigulate cortex regulates inward-directed thought, such as recalling personal memories or planning for the future.

Although the study only measured brain structure, the findings suggest that there could be possible effects on behavior.

“Some women experience negative emotional side effects from taking oral contraceptive pills, although the scientific findings investigating that have been mixed,” Nicole Petersen, a neuroscientist at UCLA and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “So it’s possible that this change in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex may be related to the emotional changes that some women experience when using birth-control pills.”

Because the study is one of the first of its kind, as far as measuring effects of the birth-control pill on brain structure, it’s difficult for scientists to draw any definite conclusions at this point.

‘Amazing’ Lack of Research

But Larry Cahill, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California at Irvine and a co-author of the study, said while the interest in the link between sex hormones and brain structure has increased in the past few years, he’s amazed at the lack of research, considering how long the pill has been on the market.

“You might think after 50 years and hundreds of millions of women taking various incarnations of the pill, there would be a large, cohesive and impressive body of evidence on it, but there’s next to nothing,” Cahill told CNA. “I honestly find that amazing.”

Although Cahill cautioned against a panic or alarm because of the recent study, he said it raises further questions for research that are important to the millions of women who use oral contraceptives every day. For example, follow-up studies are needed to determine whether the thinning effect is permanent or whether it just occurs if a woman is currently using the pill.

In April 2011, Cahill and three other researchers found that the emotional memory of women using hormonal contraception was more similar to that of men than of women. Combined with the evidence of the most recent study, Cahill said one group that might benefit from the pill’s possible impact on emotional memory could be women in combat or other traumatic situations. If using hormonal contraception, these women could be potentially less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than naturally cycling women in similar situations, though more research is needed.

Sex Differences in the Brain

These studies are part of a growing body of research on sex differences in the brain, which are challenging the long-held assumption that men and women are mostly biologically the same, save for their reproductive organs, Cahill noted.

“We’re all blinded by our assumptions, and there has simply been an assumption … that any differences between [men and women] occur in the bikini zone, and that’s it,” Cahill said. “And, now, we’re realizing, well, no. There’s sex differences all over the place. It’s important that we stop assuming that women are just men with pesky hormones.”

Challenging assumptions has been somewhat of a roadblock for Cahill and fellow researchers trying to publish their findings, because they are often dismissed as being “alarmist,” Cahill said. However, as a scientist, Cahill said he believes it’s important to continue to study the potentially good, bad or neutral effects of a medication that millions of women use for large portions of their lives.

“If I’m a woman on the pill or I know a woman who’s on the pill … or I have a daughter who wants to go on the pill, you want to operate from knowledge, not from complete lack of knowledge,” he said.

“That was the goal: to explore what the pill might be doing, just as we’ve been doing for three or four years.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Gets Death Penalty in Boston Marathon Bombing

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by Katharine Seelye via NYTimes.com

BOSTON — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sat stone-faced in a federal court here on Friday as a jury sentenced him to death for setting off bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds more in the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The jury of seven women and five men, which last month convicted Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, of all 30 charges against him, 17 of which carry the death penalty, took more than 14 hours to reach its decision.

In reaching its decision, the jury found that Mr. Tsarnaev had shown no remorse for his actions, and it rejected the defense argument that his older brother, Tamerlan, had brainwashed him into joining in the bombings.

It was the first time a federal jury had sentenced a terrorist to death in the post-Sept. 11 era, according to Kevin McNally, director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, which coordinates the defense in capital punishment cases.

Prosecutors portrayed Mr. Tsarnaev, who immigrated to Cambridge, Mass., from the Russian Caucasus with his family in 2002, as a coldblooded, unrepentant jihadist who sought to kill innocent Americans in retaliation for the deaths of innocent Muslims in American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bombings transformed the marathon, a cherished rite of spring, from a sunny holiday on Boylston Street to a smoky battlefield scene, with shrapnel flying, bodies dismembered and blood saturating the sidewalks; three people were killed outright, while 17 people lost at least one leg. More than 240 others sustained serious injuries, some of them life-altering.

“After all of the carnage and fear and terror that he has caused, the right decision is clear,” a federal prosecutor, Steven Mellin, said in his closing argument. “The only sentence that will do justice in this case is a sentence of death.”

With death sentences, an appeal is all but inevitable, and the process generally takes years if not decades to play out. Of the 80 federal defendants sentenced to death since 1988, only three, including Timothy J. McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, have been executed. Most cases are still tied up in appeal. In the rest, the sentences were vacated or the defendants died or committed suicide.

The Tsarnaev verdict goes against the grain in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty for state crimes and where polls showed that residents overwhelmingly favored life in prison for Mr. Tsarnaev. Many respondents said that life in prison for one so young would be a fate worse than death, and some worried that execution would make him a martyr.

But the jurors in his case had to be “death qualified” — that is, they all had to be willing to impose the death penalty to serve on the jury. So in that sense, the jury was not representative of the state.

Before they could decide that Mr. Tsarnaev should receive the death penalty, the jurors had to wade through a complicated, 24-page verdict slip. On it, they had to weigh the aggravating factors that would justify his death as well as the mitigating factors, presented by the defense, that would argue for him to live.

Despite that complicated process, Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. of Federal District Court, who presided in the case, told jurors that their final decision should not be based on a numerical comparison of aggravating factors to mitigating factors. Rather, he said, they should use their individual judgment and internal moral compass.

The final words that jurors heard before beginning deliberations on Wednesday were a blistering assessment from William Weinreb, the lead prosecutor, about why Mr. Tsarnaev should be executed and not simply locked up.

“The callousness and indifference that allows you to destroy people’s lives, to ignore their pain, to shrug off their heartbreak — that doesn’t go away just because you’re locked up in a prison cell,” Mr. Weinreb told them. “It’s what enables you to be a terrorist, and it’s what insulates you from feelings of remorse.”

Life imprisonment, he added, is the minimum punishment authorized by law for these deaths — the three at the marathon and the death a few days later of an M.I.T. police officer. It is “a lesser punishment than death,” he said, even though some argue that a lifetime in prison is worse.

“Does he deserve the minimum punishment, or do these crimes, these four deaths, demand something more?” Mr. Weinreb asked the jury. “Please ask yourself that question when you go back to deliberate.”

The verdict is a rare defeat for Judy Clarke, the lead defense lawyer and renowned opponent of the death penalty. Ms. Clarke has represented a number of notorious defendants, including Theodore J. Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber; and Jared L. Loughner, who killed six people in an assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Ms. Clarke’s expertise is in negotiating deals in which her clients plead guilty in exchange for sentences of life in prison. But in this case, the government was determined to get a death sentence and rejected her overtures.

Columbia Students Lay Siege to Themselves

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by Simcha Fisher via NCRegister.com

Psychological triggers are real. People who have endured assaults or abuse may be highly sensitized to external reminders of that trauma, and images, words or even sounds or smells can land like a blow on the psyches of certain victims. It’s a phenomenon related to PTSD, and it is fairly rare.

And it is deeply offensive, says Tom McDonald, to “trivialize the real struggles of those who suffer from psychological problems” by calling everything that startles or alarms us a “trigger,” and to demand that others shield us from exposure to these disturbances.  Yet the “trigger” has become a more and more popular concept, especially in academic circles — and it seems to be gaining more clout even as its definition becomes more nebulous.

In the most recent of a string of stories about triggers in the university, members of something called the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board at Columbia wrote a “more in sorrow than in anger” essay in the student newspaper, calling on teachers to change the way they teach, or even to eliminate certain great works, in the name of inclusion and safety:

Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

As Tom McDonald points out,

They are saying that race and class are themselves implicitly traumatic and need to be approached as one would a true mental illness. They’re saying that being non-white or poor is a kind of disability that requires special accommodations. Am I the only person who sees that as grossly offensive?

The casual appropriation of a serious medical diagnosis is repulsive enough, but what especially caught my eye in the Columbia piece is the assumption that safety trumps every other good.

The MAAB, an extension of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, is an advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that Columbia’s campus is welcoming and safe for students of all backgrounds. This year, we explored possible interventions in Core classrooms, where transgressions concerning student identities are common.

We can all agree that bodily safety in the dorms is important, but how about intellectual safety in the classroom? Must all other goods be sacrificed on the altar of safety? Is safety even desireable?

Let me translate the Columbia article for you: we don’t want to hear anything that we don’t already know. We don’t want to know anything that we haven’t already heard. We don’t want, at any costs, to be made to think, because we can’t think hard and feel safe at the same time.

And they’re right: great literature isn’t safe. Robust conversation isn’t safe. Rigorous intellectual pursuits can bring you to all kinds of alarming places. And this is a good thing.

A few years ago, the New York Times ran a piece called “Can a Playground Be Too Safe?” making the case that play structures that make it impossible for kids to fall, bump, or chafe their precious hides are not only boring, they’re actually bad for kids, who have a developmental need to encounter small amounts of uncertainty, unpredictability, and plain old danger.

Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.

Children do get hurt when their play areas aren’t thoroughly childproofed, but it turns out that getting hurt when they’re younger is actually good for them in the long run: figuring out what they can and cannot handle makes them stronger, braver, and smarter.

[F]alls are the common form of playground injury. But these rarely cause permanent damage, either physically or emotionally. While some psychologists — and many parents — have worried that a child who suffered a bad fall would develop a fear of heights, studies have shown the opposite pattern: A child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.

So here’s what I say to the Columbia students clutching their carefully cultivated pearls as they face down the hot breath of those terrible, wild gods: you’re damn right it’s not safe. You’re not in control here, not on this playground. You may find yourself climbing too high and too fast, and you may reach out for that rung on the monkey bars only to find that you’re grabbing thin air, and down you will plummet, onto the hot asphalt, or maybe further, down into the underworld, where dark Hades glowers over the fluttering dead.

So what? Did you pay the university tens of thousands of dollars to install you in a sorority house and stroke your hand and tell you you’re smart? Why would you do that?  Didn’t you come there to learn? How can you learn, if you won’t let anything in?

Here’s another image from that dreaded Western canon: when an army wants to desolate a city, it puts it under siege. Nothing goes in, nothing comes out. Without launching any violent attacks, without shedding a single drop of blood, without making any breeches in the wall, the invaders simply sit and wait. And it works. The city inside the walls shrinks, shrivels, starves, and dies.

This is what you’re doing to yourself. You’re laying siege to your own identity. It’s safe! No arrows will fly. You’ll be safe and undisturbed. And then you will die.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 14, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 14, 2015


4:00 – Transhumanism: Would you Agree to an Upgrade of your Brain or Body?

There’s a worrisome trend in some areas of medicine. Scientists are pushing the envelope with genetics, nanotechnology and related fields. While there is nothing inherently wrong with using new technologies to improve our health, some scientists are taking the issue to the point where the line between humans and non-human artificial intelligence is blurred. We discuss the state of these sciences with Dr. Eugene Gan.

4:40 – Kresta Comments: Humanity 3.0


5:00 – Kresta Comments: Obama Lectures Christians Again: Pay More Attention to Poverty than Abortion

 

5:20 – What does the Pew Poll mean for Catholics? 
We continue our discussion on the Pew research poll that shows a sharp decline in American Christians. Our guest is Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln.  

 

ABC’s ‘The Real O’Neals’ Tackles Catholicism

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by Kate O’Hare via CatholicVote.org

… through the lens of gay activist and ex-Catholic Dan Savage, who is an executive producer on this midseason comedy based on his life.

It’s hard to describe what goes on in it, except to say that it’s a savage, if you will, caricature of a Catholic family and the Faith, where the parents are divorcing, one son has anorexia, the daughter runs a fake charity and the son pictured in the middle is gay. Oh, and there’s a Virgin Mary statue over the toilet. View a sneak peak here:

At the ABC new-season presentation for advertisers in New York City today, Tuesday, May 12, ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee said the show might be “too real for me” since “I’m married to an Irish Catholic.” He wants to pair it on Tuesdays at midseason with “Fresh Off the Boat.”

By the way, each year, latenight host Jimmy Kimmel comes out at the presentation and comedically savages his own network, and today was no exception. At the end of his monologue, Kimmel brought out his adorable 10-month-old daughter, Jane. He said he thought she might be pooping, and then remarked:

“We could sell that poop to them. They buy that kind of thing.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Click here to give ABC feedback.

Transhumanism: Would You Agree to an Upgrade of Your Brain and Body?

How to talk about transhumanism, H+ (human plus), and post humanism in the light of faith.

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by Eugene Gan via Aleteia.org

We’re falling down a rabbit hole, and we don’t seem to care about the dangers rushing up at us. We’re talking about transhumanism, which at its most basic, is the idea that the human condition can be fundamentally improved through the use of technology (transhumanists want us to become posthumans, but in order to project a more attractive aura to the general public, have chosen the term “human+” or “H+” instead).

Nothing seemingly wrong with that definition, but listen to the way the current rhetoric on transhumanism, H+, and posthumanism takes great pride in extolling human accomplishments: Technology can guide us to a new era. The fields of robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, bionics, and genetics, to name a few, seem to be converging towards the goal of transcending human limitations. We can be better than what nature has done. We can proactively remake ourselves and steer our own evolution. Until recently, we’ve been dramatically reshaping the world around us, but we ourselves are now the objects of our own conscious design. If we’re not reshaping ourselves, then we’ll be overtaken by non-biologicalartificial intelligences. We are at the end of our definition of a human being. Transhumanism will define the new age of an evolved species that will leave mankind behind as a fossil in human history. Biops, the British Institute of Posthuman Studies asserts:

“The fact is, we remain shackled by our primitive Darwinian brains. Humanity for whatever progress we have made, is the result of an unguided, natural, 3.8 billion-year-long experiment of chemistry….[we must] fundamentally revolutionize what it means to be human by way of technological advancements.” The transhumanist FAQ, created and compiled by transhumanists and whose goal is to “provide a reliable source of information about transhumanism” provides insight into their idea of “religion”: “Some of the prospects that used to be the exclusive thunder of the religious institutions, such as very long lifespan, unfading bliss, and godlike intelligence, are being discussed by transhumanists as hypothetical future engineering achievements.”

This comment on the transhumanist site SingularityHUB resonates the public fascination: “Who doesn’t want to be smarter, prettier, healthier? Who doesn’t want to have wings to fly through the air, or gills to breathe under water? Are we stuck just being land dwellers? We spend most of our lives OBTAINING and MAINTAINING health, beauty, intelligence, etc., when we could be spending all this time and money obtaining and maintaining loving relationships with other people (transhumanists!) and going on adventures out to space exploring the universe, rather than stuck at home watching crap movies from Hollywood, going to school half our lives and drowning in debt because of it, and then just paying bills and taxes till you die. That’s no life, that’s SLAVERY.”

Ray Kurzweil, author of the widely recognized pivotal text in the transhumanist ideology The Singularity Is Near, and his outspoken adherents have grand visions for humanity, but the arguments for various transhumanist technologies often confuse the notion of morality. Genetic engineering, a key component in transhumanist thought, is “one of the most moral things we can do,” says Max More, self-proclaimed founder of the modern transhumanist movement. I can and so I should because I want to. My body, my choice.It’s all about me and my wants. These are the attitudes often presented.
If we can mix the genes of animals with the genes of human beings, perhaps with the initial charitable motivation to create organs for transplants, then as the transhumanists propose, we can also be designing custom human-animal hybrids: humans with wings to fly or humans with centaur-like legs, the imagination reels at the permutations, but far from utopic, this free-for-all menagerie demonstrates a failure to appreciate what it means to be human. And it can only get worse if technologically “enhanced” humans see themselves as superior to non-technologically altered human beings. Auschwitz all over again?

If we can design our own bodies, then what’s to stop the genetic design of babies? If this attitude continues, we won’t simply be pro-life. We’ll need to be pro-human! What’s to stop transhumanist artists from selling custom-made genetic designs of bodies that scintillate and mutate? Would you trade-in your current body for a Versaci-inspired one? How will the rich who can afford genetic alterations view the naturals? How will education change with the introduction of genetically enhanced students? Would individuals be compelled to be “enhanced?” Many more questions can certainly be raised. What are your concerns? Post them below.

Super-longevity is another key drive of transhumanism. But let’s be clear: we will not be able to conquer death. We may extend our lifespans, but death is inevitable. Transhumanists reject death as a given and propose that science and technology can one day overcome death. (Are these also the folks who hop around howling that the world is over-populated?) Some even assert that the Roman Catholic Church opposes the very notion of life extensions. This is clearly a myth that stems from another myopic myth that you’re either religious or scientifically minded, but not both. If the Roman Catholic Church were indeed so opposed to extending life, it would want people to die early and concurrently oppose doctors curing diseases and illnesses. Recall that the founder of genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a Catholic priest. By the same token, it would not bother to set up the numerous Catholic hospitals and other related organizations throughout the world which research and promote health and life. The Catholic Church did not proclaim your eye-glasses evil because it is a technology that enhances your eyesight, nor a paraplegic’s use of a prosthetic limb as unfaithful when one uses it for mobility.

Caritas in Veritate asserts: “Technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon. But human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility (article 70).” The Catechism of the Catholic Church also affirms that “morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for it’s sake, to idolize physical perfection” (2289).

If we speak of using technology used to promote health and life, transhumanism and Christianity share a common bond. Jesus Christ himself healed many, not to mention raising Lazarus from the dead, effectively extending Lazarus’ life. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55)? St. Paul can compellingly affirm that because Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection opens the door to heaven for us. Death to earthly life can lead to new life in heaven with Our Lord. Jesus has taught us – and Mother Church reminds us – that death is not the ultimate evil. Rather, the ultimate evil is the loss of heaven, of eternal loving intimacy with God, for What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? (Mark 8:36). The obsession with the search for the fountain of youth lies in the fear of death which is seen as a termination of consciousness, a fear which in turn lies in the rejection of God’s call to live in love with Him. This rejection of God is rooted in pride which manifests itself in an obsessive desire to be gods, an attachment to what will ultimately harm us i.e., sin, and an unwillingness to change our attitudes and behaviors. It’s also often accompanied by a denial of our fallen condition, and a blindness to the ultimate joy that we are called to.

Historically, we’ve done very poorly when seeking the power of a god without responsibility, love, justice, and mercy. The tempter’s words to Adam and Eve still reverberate in our hearts: don’t you want to be like gods? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s also a contradiction in terms to claim that humanity can evolve into God or gods. The fact is that God is God because, among many other qualities, God was, is, and will always be God. There is no such thing as “evolve” when we speak of God because God is already “I AM”. God is infinite and it makes no sense to speak of something more than infinite. One would need to be self-causing and self-existing to even approach “god-hood”. Humanity clearly doesn’t come close to this definition, nor by their own definition of evolution, ever will. And just so that we’re clear too: God isn’t somehow “afraid” that we’ll be “gods” like Him. He did not strike Nimrod and the builders with confused speech because they wanted to build the tower that would reach heaven, but as a lesson in pride. In fact, God loves us so much, He wants us to be like Him – for our own good and joy (Matthew 5:48).

The problem with transhumanism (H+, and posthumanism) isn’t so much the technology itself, as it is the attitude that many transhumanists have. The attitudes within transhumanism seem to boil down to self-guided salvation: a narcissism coupled with the rejection of God. But without God, man fails to understand himself. “Reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence (Caritas in Veritate, article 74).” Worse still, when one rejects God’s existence, it easily leads to rejecting the notion of a human nature created by God. This in turn says that there is no limit to dehumanization in our desire to engineer evolution and design the “perfect” human. Without God, there can be no logical consensus as to what perfection means.

In a sense, Catholics are transhumanists when we allow God’s grace to transform us into images of Christ. Yet, unlike some technologies, grace does not destroy human nature, but perfects it. The completion of that process of transformation of a life of grace is perfected in heaven. If transhumanists genuinely want to be like God and have everlasting life, then they really ought to come experience the love and joy that Jesus Christ offers to all, so that they can truly strive to live as sons and daughters of God (1 John 1:3), be like Jesus Christ, true man and true God, and enjoy life everlasting with Him.

Dr. Eugene Gan is faculty associate of the Veritas Center and Professor of Interactive Media, Communications, and Fine Art at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the United States. His book, Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media is grounded in Scripture and magisterial documents, and is a handbook and practical guide for understanding and engaging media in meaningful and healthy ways in daily life.

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