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Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Plague, the Spanish Flu, and the Coronavirus: Equivalence and Progress in Infectious Diseases

History forgotten is history to be repeated, for evolution occurs over such vast oceans of time that for our purposes, human biological nature is fixed. Yet history kept fresh can permit progress such that the species is better equipped to combat problems such as pandemics. At the time of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, serious comparisons to the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the Black Death of the fourteenth century were lacking in the American media, including by public health officials and government officials even as claims of vague equivalence were made. Such claims, I submit, were erroneous. In fact, they did more harm than good by instilling excessive fear in the population.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Comparing Religions

The subfield of comparative religions can be exciting because the beliefs, values, symbols, myths, and rituals can introduce a person to such different ideas that the rush of making a discovery can even be felt. Jaroslav Pelikan, a twentieth-century historian of Christianity, once said that he had learned so many languages just so he could have access to ideas that were not as of yet available in English. Such ideas could be very different than the historian’s extant knowledge. It is perhaps like the early European explorers in America finding plants and cultures that were so unlike those of Europe because the distance had not allowed for cross-pollination and the influence of cultural exchanges. I contend that one reason why religions can be very difficult to compare is that elements of them in a given topic can be so different in kind as to not be comparable. Religions may even be based on variables that cannot be directly compared because they are so different in kind. The related paradigms also may not be comparable. Therefore, it may be that religious comparison is more fitting to comparing sects (e.g., denominations) within a given religion. Even when continuity exists between an established religion and a new one in the same context, the foundational variables may be so different in kind that they are not comparable. I will look at cosmology (e.g., Creation), ritual (e.g., sacrifices) and divine attributes (e.g., truth and love) below to support my claim.

The full essay is at "Comparing Religions."

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Post-Pandemic Plans in the U.S. through the Lenses of Federalism

I take it as a basic maxim of federalism that problems infecting the entire federal geography uniformly are best tackled by the federal government, with the involvement of the polities (governments) within the federation being in sync with the federal mandates. Problems that plague some polities while barely leaving a scratch on other polities within the federation are best solved by the individual polities because their situations differ appreciably. The federal government’s role would be more about coordination than setting one size that fits all. Federalism is especially beneficial at the empire-scale, which the U.S.S.R., Russia, India, China, the United States andthe European Union have, because the large geographical size tends to be diverse, or heterogeneous, within, whereas the smaller republics, provinces, or states within tend not to be so large as to have such striking differences. Hence, the cultural differences between Bavaria and Bremen are dwarfed by the differences between Germany and Greece, and the differences between Northern and Southern Illinois are dwarfed by the differences between Illinois and Texas. So it is only natural, I submit, that U.S. and E.U. state governments took the lead in combating the coronavirus pandemic because it was a much more serious problem in some states than others.[1]

1. I don’t feel the need to look smart by using the particular scientific name, covid-19, especially when coronavirus is sufficient for readers to understand which virus to which I am referring. As this is not a scientific writing, but is instead a piece oriented to the general educated reader, using a scientific term not only does not fit the genre, but also is less widely known and thus understood.  

Sunday, April 12, 2020

On Believing in Jesus Christ as the Preeminent Focus of Christianity

Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is salient in the four canonical gospels, as well as in Paul’s letters. Hence, christology has been an important field of theology. While the benefits to the Christian have been touted so much in historical and contemporary theological writings, the costs and vulnerabilities of the nearly monopolistic focus have largely gone unnoticed. The realization of them would allow Christians (including extant theologians) to gain a fuller (i.e., holistic) perception and understanding of the religion, and even a better practice thereof.  I will begin with the theology then provide a practical example of the problems involved in having a willowed-down focus at the expense of the drawbacks.

The full essay is at "Jesus' Identity and Teachings."