Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yipes! Scary! "This is your brain on GPS"

I was reading "The Last Word" in a recent The Week magazine.
IN JUNE, AL Byrd’s three-bedroom home, built by his father on the western outskirts of Atlanta, was mistakenly torn down by a demolition company. “I said, ‘Don’t you have an address?’” a distraught Byrd later recounted. “He said, ‘Yes, my GPS coordinates led me right to this address here.’” The incident joined a long list of satellite-guided blunders, including one last year in which a driver in Bedford Hills, N.Y., obeyed instructions from his GPS to turn right onto a set of train tracks, where he got stuck and had to abandon his car to a collision with a commuter train. Incredibly, the same thing happened to someone else at exactly the same intersection nine months later. In Britain, an insurance company survey found that 300,000 drivers have either crashed or nearly crashed because of GPS systems.
What's going on? It seems that GPS's conflict with the way our minds work. I know they conflict with the way my mind works!

Instead of permitting us to generate maps in our own minds, they provide directional "recipes" that actually contribute to the decline of spatial function in our brains.

Find the whole sordid story here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Islam: A religion of violence?

The Sonlight forums have had a fairly lengthy discussion that arose when someone posted the following thesis statement and invitation for response:
From the Mouths of American Muslims: Praising the Ft. Hood Shooter . . . Here is evidence that true Islam is a religion of violence (by CNN!):

Your comments?
It took several hours to wade through the entire "conversation" and to think about what it all meant, but I finally came to a conclusion:
As you may recall, back in May and June of '07 I brought up Mark Steyn's book, America Alone. I was very concerned about the problem that [the original poster in this thread] has attempted to bring up here. And I will admit that, at the end of that set of conversations, I was still not settled at all in my mind. Indeed, I was still perplexed that, it seemed, so many of my forum-mates . . . were so "relaxed" about violent Islam.

If you go to , you will find the ice almost melted through. But, obviously, not quite.

Today I think it did melt. The conversation here finally did the trick.

I wrote back then,
Mark Steyn notes in America Alone that too few of us in the West are aware of the different sects of Islam--Wahhabi, Deobandi, Sunni, Shiite, Sufi. . . .

Steyn points out that Saudi Arabia, the great exporter of Islam worldwide at this point in history, exports Wahhabi Islam--the most "radical" and violent version.
What I realized today, here, is that we must, indeed, distinguish these various sects . . . Just as those of us who are "way" on the "inside" of Christianity recognize there are huge differences between Pentecostals and Baptists, Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Eastern Orthodox, Charismatics and United Methodists, Mennonites and Christian Reconstructionists, Old-Earthers and Young-Earthers, Theistic Evolutionists and Six-24-hour-day Creationists, a-millennialists, pre-millennialists and post-millennialists [and so on and so forth] . . . so we who are on the outside of Islam need to recognize the differences between Wahhabis (who are, indeed, the most "radical" and violent) and Sufis (from south Asia, who tend to be way "laid back") and Sunnis and Shias and all the rest. And, yes, even within each sect, and among the members of each sect, we need to recognize that there are going to be individual differences.

I had not thought of that before.

Just as we, if we are of an Old-Earth persuasion, hate to have someone from the "outside" tell us what we "have to" believe about creation, or if we are of a Brethren/Mennonite or even an historical Baptistic perspective on law and politics don't want someone telling us we "must" follow the teachings of Christian Reconstruction, or if we are paedo-baptists (i.e., people who believe in infant baptism) we take issue with those who tell us we are completely ignoring biblical teaching on the subject [and so on and so forth], so, too, we need to be careful about telling Muslims--or speaking of Muslims--as "having" to believe one way or another . . . "because the Q'uran teaches _______."

YES, some Christians are convinced the Bible teaches six-24-hour-day creation about 6,000 years ago. But others among us believe very differently. So, too: YES, some Christians are convinced the Bible teaches that all of civil society should be conformed to the civil law as outlined in the Old Testament. But others among us believe very differently.

So, too, with Muslims.

I see that, now.

And I thank [certain participants in this thread] for pushing the issue far enough . . . and [and certain] others pushing back hard enough . . . that I now see the analogy and think I can understand where I--and, I believe, our society as a whole--needs to go.

My conclusion: Mark Steyn was correct; he is correct: we need to learn far more about Islam . . . 1) so we understand where different people are likely to be coming from and, then, 2) to delve deeper to understand each individual person's perspectives.


Immediately after the above post, I then added the following:
I saw this cartoon in The Week:

I thought it provides a nice hat-tip to what I was trying to say up-thread. Personally, I think there is reason to do some "profiling"; at the same time, there is reason for discernment and caution.

Hope you can enjoy the cartoon!
Oh. And one last comment.

Somehow, what the Muslim guys in the video at the top of this post say reminds me of footage I've seen from (and of) certain demonstrators who claim to be the mouthpieces of the Christian God. Don't they do the same for you?

For example:

If you are reading this post in Facebook, you should know that the original is on my personal blog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Physicists without common sense? Or some of the greatest cons in history?

Large Hadron Collider quadrupole superconductor electromagnets for directing proton beams to interact.Large Hadron Collider quadrupole superconductor electromagnets for directing proton beams to interact. Image via Wikipedia

Pretty astonished at this story about how a piece of bread, supposedly dropped by a bird, has shut down the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator.

The article's source said,
machinery on the surface - the LHC accelerator circuit itself is buried deep beneath the Franco-Swiss border outside Geneva - had suffered a fault caused by "a bit of baguette on the busbars", thought perhaps to have been dropped by a bird.

As a result, temperatures in part of the LHC's circuit climbed to almost 8 Kelvin - significantly higher than the normal operating temperature of 1.9, and close to the temperature at which the LHC's niobium-titanium magnets are likely to "quench", or cease superconducting and become ordinary "warm" magnets - by no means up to the task imposed on them. Dr Tadeusz Kurtyka, a CERN engineer, told [The Register ("Biting the hand that feeds IT")] that this can happen unpredictably at temperatures above 9.6 K.
And so what? What would that mean, if the magnets were unable to fulfill their function?

Well, says the article in The Register . . .
At the moment there are no beams of hadrons barrelling around the huge magnetic doughnut at close to light speed, but when there are, each of the two beams has as much energy in it as an aircraft carrier underway. If the LHC suddenly lost its ability to keep the beam circling around its vacuum pipe, all that energy would have to go somewhere - with results on the same scale as being rammed by an aircraft carrier.
????!!!! "Being rammed by an aircraft carrier"? What would suffer the effects of being rammed by an aircraft carrier? And what kind of "ramming" are we talking about? A head-on collision? A side-long glance?

And at what speed would this "equivalent" aircraft carrier be going when it hit?

According to The Register which, in turn, was relying on information provided by Dr Mike Lamont, "LHC Machine Coordinator" at the CERN control center:
Had this week's feathered baguette-packing saboteur struck . . . with a brace of beams roaring round the LHC's magnetic motorway, the climbing temperatures would have been noted and the beams diverted - rather in the fashion that a runaway truck or train can be - into "dump caverns" lying a little off the main track of the LHC. In these large artificial caves, each beam would power into a "dump core", a massive 7m-long graphite block encased in steel, water cooled and then further wrapped in 750 tonnes of concrete and iron shielding. The dump core would become extremely hot and quite radioactive, but it has massive shielding and scores of metres of solid granite lie between the cavern and the surface. Nobody up top, except the control room staff, would even notice.

This whole process would be over in a trice, well before the birdy bread-bomber's shenanigans could warm the main track up to anywhere near quench temperature. Should the magnets then quench, no carrier-wreck catastrophe would result.

According to Lamont, provided the underlying fault didn't take too long to rectify, the LHC could be up and beaming again "within, say, three days" following such an incident.
Reassuring, wouldn't you say?

Meanwhile, back on the Popular Science blog where I first read about the "birdy bread-bomber," as The Register so humorously described the incident, readers question the entire affair.

Writes one: "I don't understand how a 'section of outdoor machinery' can be so sensitive to something being on it. Isn't this going to happen all the time?? Rain will fall on it, leaves will blow on it, birds will crap on it, etc. Shouldn't it be covered if it is so delicate?"

And another replies, reasonably: "Even if normal precautions are taken against leaves and other normal material found outdoors, a piece of bread may overcome them. First, the bread may be soft enough to mold itself to the grill if enough suction is being applied. Then the air will dry the bread effectively making it into a form fitted block. Less air flow means less cooling effectiveness down the line. Again, a cascade affect could become possible depending on how much other devices rel on that source for cooling - either as a primary source, or secondary or tertiary.

"Since a critical component in a machine does NOT have to be large, it may not require a lot of cooling. In these cases, a piece of bread would indeed be enough to cause a failure such that the entire operation has to be shut down to ensure nothing is damaged, or that a more serious problem is not culpable."

"While your analogy to a radiator is persuasive from an engineering perspective, it does not hold water from a design perspective," writes a third.
The more critical the component the more redundant it must be, period. Even in aircraft, where space and weight are of critical concern, some effort in this regard is made.

But and where space, weight, and apparently money, are no object, double, triple, dodecaduple redundancy should be of paramount concern, especially for mission-critical components exposed to the elements.

Atomic reactor design is a good example here, and I defy you to find a commercial power generation facility with a non-redundant heat regulator, much less one exposed to the elements in a way that a piece of toast can cause mission failure.

And let's not even get started about what this says about the maintenance regime that allowed such a critical component not to be monitored in a way that averted thermal abort.

This whole thing smacks of nothing more or less than old-fashioned incompetence, in design, implementation, and operation. Nothing new, just rendered relevant because of the sums involved.
"Talk about a design flaw!" writes a fourth commenter. "You'd think that the brilliant people in charge of accelerating imperceptible subatomic particles would at least consider bird-proofing the place."

Agreed, suggests a fifth:
You guys may all think it quite implausible that a piece of bread could shut this thing down, but there have been some serious inconsiderations from the designers.

In Aug2009 they found a family of rats inside the tube of the accelerator where it is supposed to be a vacuum void of particles... yet a whole nest of rats?! Come on!

I think this thing is one huge money trap.

Billions spent on a "promise" as so often is the case with scientific research. And they will "produce" false results to support their theory that got them all this government money in the first place just so they can screw around for another year. It would be like an animal exterminator breeding rats and releasing them in the community so he can get more work.

Personally, I LOVE SCIENCE, I LOVE the idea of what we MAY be able to discover, but there comes a point where you must ask yourselves, "is this really financially necessary at all? If you prove even 1/2 your theory, would it have been worth the billions and billions spent and to yet be spent? What results/benefits will we realize within the next, say, 50 years, from our billions spent, should you even find what you're looking for?"
On a more humorous (???) note, however:
Obviously, this bird has been talking to the woodpeckers that attacked the Space Shuttle external tank, or the other woodpeckers that stopped a Lockheed Martin laser test -- perhaps relatives of the vultures that got roasted by STS-114. Clearly, Hitchcock was right, and the birds are retaliating against all high technology!
And, finally:
The bird's briefing:

The approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station.
--Actually, you can find plenty more comments like these--some humorous, some sad, some alarmist, some angry--where these came from. . . .

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Want to invite you to the Strategic Inheritance forums . . .

As you may or may not know, I've been working on a website called, designed to help you maximize your legacy through peer insight, counsel and encouragement.

I've been blogging there for over two years. And I recently added a forum.

I had hoped I might generate some conversations, but so far, everyone seems a bit too shy. I've had a number of visitors, but no one has posted. I'd be thrilled if someone would simply help jump-start a conversation about anything related to the subject matter at hand.

NOTE: as I say in numerous places on the website, "legacy" is about far, far more than money and material goods. It's about family history and values and vision and purpose. It's about passing on who we are as human beings to future generations.

After noodling on this subject matter for going on three years, now, I can assure you: there are "better" ways to do these things, and there are "lesser" ways to do them.

I would hope for all of my readers that they--you--will follow the "better" ways! Please, come join the conversation-to-be.

The fall of the Berlin wall--November 9, 1989

My dad sent me a link to a series of New York Times articles about the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I happened to go first to this 4:43 video: The Man Who Opened the Gate. Rather chilling, first, to realize the momentous nature of the occasion . . . and the implications of one man's actions.

Be stunned yourself at this visual and auditory slice of history centered on the actions of an almost-forgotten East German border guard named Harald Jaeger.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Postmodern confusion . . .

I have to confess: I have not kept up on the details of postmodernism.

Yesterday, in church, I saw a young man handing out some fliers. I asked him what they were.

"They're for the youth," he said.

"Could I have one?" I asked.


And he handed me a couple of sheets of paper with two article on them. One was titled, "Postmodern Kids in the New Millennium . . . Reaching teens who find truth elusive." It's by Steve Schall, president of K-Life, Inc..

He launched his article with a quote from a 1998 news article about a cross-dressing boy in a small private school in Georgia.

Patrick Nelson, a classmate, had heard about this cross-dresser, but couldn't figure out who it was.
One day he was talking about the mystery to a friend, who smiled and pointed to the pretty blonde at the desk next to his.

“I said, 'No way, that's too weird!’” Patrick recalled. "Then I thought about it, and I said, 'So what's so weird about that?’”
Schall comments:
Did you hear the tension in Patrick's remarks? His initial response went one direction. But his next, "think about it" response was 180° in the other direction.

On the one hand, he instinctively reacted to something that was outside of God's natural, created order. But almost before the words got out, he was processing the situation with the skills that his postmodern culture had given him. To each his own. It may not be what I would choose personally, but who am I to impose my values on someone else? It's not what I’m about, but hey - it's a free country!

Imagine living in a world with no real rules, no real boundaries, and certainly no absolutes. No one, single idea is any better, necessarily, than any other. Historical accounts that were once undisputed and widely accepted are now open to revisionist interpretation. Everything centers around one's feelings and personal experience.

What you've just imagined is the very real world of today's adolescent.
I have written in the past (see also this) about some of my concerns with respect to transgenderism and s*xual identity.

[And, in the midst of writing this, I discovered that, though I had drafted the better part of a third article on this subject back in April of '05--along with the second article I reference in the preceding paragraph, I never finished nor published the third article. Considering what I want to say here, I went back and did the best I could to at least summarize (more or less) what I had intended to publish in that third article, and so you can find it here.]

If you pay attention to these stories I've referenced, you may guess what bothers me about Schall's article: While I am deeply concerned about the need to acknowledge and pursue absolute truth, I'm concerned that Schall confuses a potential willingness to acknowledge and affirm unchosen, possibly unwanted, and very real (though disturbing) differences-from-the-expected-- . . . he confuses those things with postmodern relativism.

Indeed, he states, unequivocally, that the story about Matthew Alex McLendon, the "cross-dressing" student, has to do with something "outside of God's natural, created order."

But, I think: What if McLendon is not so much a "cross-dresser" as an hermaphrodite--someone who is inters*xed or inters*xual? Is it appropriate and legitimate for us to think, speak and act as Steve Schall does, equating people's desire to recognize and/or acknowledge unusual but potentially (and sometimes very) real and clear biological distinctions . . . --Is it appropriate and legitimate for us to think, speak and act as Schall does, and equate these things with postmodern philosophical commitments to "no real rules, no real boundaries, and certainly no absolutes"?

If McLendon (by way of example) is, indeed, inters*xed, is it really just "one's feelings and personal experience"--not to mention a commitment to "no real rules, no real boundaries, and . . . no absolutes"--that would lead someone like Patrick Nelson, McLendon's classmate, to acknowledge the difficulties a McLendon faces and, perhaps, to afford him/her the opportunity to express him/herself as s/he feels most comfortable?

I could give you a slew of URL links to consider what others, far more deeply concerned about and involved in the discussion of inters*xuality have had to think and say on the subject.

Consider the basic question of marriage: If you know you are hermaphrodite (or "inters*xed" or "transs*xual" or "transgendered" or suffer from a "disorder of s*xual development"), are you permitted to marry? If so, to whom are you permitted to marry? And on what grounds are you permitted to make that choice? External g*nitalia? Internal? Hormonal levels? . . .

Here's something really strange: When I first thought I should write this article, I hadn't even thought about the issue I have raised above. I was actually more intrigued by a story Schall referenced from a book by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, Legislating Morality: Is It Wise? Is It Legal? Is It Possible?

The modern penchant for "tolerance" has struck me, often, as strange (to put it mildly), but I often find myself without tools to respond.

Geisler and Turek's story, retold here in Schall's words, provides a powerful and highly memorable parable for our time, I think:
[A] professor . . . was teaching a class in ethics at a university in Indiana. He assigned a term paper to his students, allowing them to write on any topic, as long as they had proper research and documented sources. One student who no longer believed in absolute values wrote convincingly on the merits of moral relativism. The student argued, "All morals are relative; it's all a matter of opinion; I like chocolate, you like vanilla."

His paper was well written, properly documented, the right length, on time, and stylishly presented in a handsome blue folder. The professor read the entire paper and then wrote on the front cover, "F. I don't like blue folders!"

When the student got the paper back he was enraged. He stormed into the professor's office and declared, “‘F. I don't like blue folders!’ That's not fair! You didn't grade the paper on its merits!"

Raising his hand to quiet the bombastic student, the professor calmly retorted, "Wait a minute. What's this talk about being fair? Didn't your paper argue that it's all a matter of taste? You like chocolate, I like vanilla?"

The student replied, "Yes, that's my view."

The professor responded, "Fine, then. I don't like blue. You get an F!"

Suddenly a light bulb went on in the student's head, as he finally got the message. He really did believe in absolutes, at least in terms of expecting his professor to be fair. In charging [his professor] with injustice, he was in fact appealing to an objective, "fair" standard of justice. That simple fact defeated his entire case for relativism.

The problem of transgendered identity

I wrote most of the following article back in April 2005. I intended to post it soon after I posted the article titled Coming to a restroom near you.

I never posted it because I had wanted to reference an article--or series of articles--I had read at least a year before.

In April of 2005, I couldn't locate the article(s), so I wrote to some people I thought might know about the author so I could locate what I was looking for. I never received an answer that I could follow up on. And I soon forgot that I had ever even begun the article below.

So you have some idea of what I had read back in 2004, let me quote what I wrote to my hoped-for source:
Last year, when I first came across the subject of transsexuality, I read at least one (and, I think, it was probably several) article(s) by a guy--I believe he was Polynesian or, at least, Pacific Islander--who was born with some chromosomal variant that left him in a very seriously vulnerable position, indeed. What I appreciated about his story (especially for the [Christian] audience I am trying to address) was, as I recall, his religious/faith perspective [he was Christian] and his emotionally open communication. One line, in particular (though I don’t recall the specific words he used) struck me with special force. He said something about feeling as if the world around him said that, because he was neither male nor female, he, more or less, didn’t have a right to live.
It was as if his very existence was an obscenity, an offense against God, a mistake.

Those "messages"--whether spoken or not, whether imagined or real--permeated his psyche. He didn't want to be what he was. But he was born that way.

So what could he do?

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female (not "intersexed" or "transsexual" or "transgendered") created he them." --Genesis 1:27

The issue of transgenderism came up again for me just yesterday. As I was working on a post I intend to make about what occurred yesterday, I found this article and realized I want it as part of the "public record" in anticipation of what I hope to publish later this evening or tomorrow.

So . . .

Written in April 2005

In preparing Coming to a restroom near you, I found the following article about Pauline Park: "Parking rights: Pauline Park is fighting for transgender rights," from the New York Blade.

I've always been a bit of a softie when it comes to people who are "different" and who are rejected by "normal" members of society. That may be, partially, because I grew up asthmatic and was, therefore, unable at the beginning of 5th grade even to throw a basketball as high as a hoop. I expect you can imagine: I was not well-accepted by the majority of more "normal" boys in school.

But for whatever reason I may empathize, I think we need to recognize that,
  1. Though there are those, like Pauline Park, who really and truly do feel more at home "identifying" as women, though they are "trapped," as it were, in male bodies,

  2. There are others--heterosexual men--who dress in women's clothing for the s*xual thrill it provides.
One could wish that all derision, all discrimination, all humiliation could be done away with. But I wonder: How can benevolent members of society protect themselves and others from those who are truly sociopathic?

I grieve for Park. As the Blade article recounts Park's story,
“When I was a young child, I use[d] to have constant dreams, always with the same premise,” she says laughing. “I was alone at night in a big department store in the women’s section. And I got to try on all the clothing that I wanted to.” . . . An adopted son of Christian fundamentalists in Milwaukee, she hid from the world behind stacks of books in libraries
. . . and lived a life of "quiet desperation."

It was in the early 1950s that transsexualism first made headlines in the United States when the press discovered that George Jorgensen, Jr., a 98-pound ex-GI, had undergone surgeries in order to become Christine Jorgensen. Since Jorgensen's time, transsexualism has become relatively commonplace. And those who undergo the surgery and the hormones are at least minimally accepted by a fair portion of the population.

Pauline Park, however, has no interest in undergoing surgery or taking hormones. So as the Blade article puts it, Park "inhabits" a male body but "embraces" a female identity.

This creates some interesting problems for many people.
Side Note

While I'm on the topic of difficulties, let me address one I face right now as a writer.

I am not used to dealing with people like Park. Park wants to be known as a woman. But is it appropriate for me to refer to a person like Park--someone who has a fully male body--as a "she"?

That's how Park wants to be referred to. That's how the Blade article refers to . . . her.

Now that I have confronted the issue, let me say that Park has had years and years to work these matters through in . . . her . . . mind. I have not. But for the sake of consistency in language throughout the remainder of this article, I have decided to refer to people by their self-identified gender classifications, without ellipses or other indications of the personal discomfort and internal hesitation that I feel.

But now let us return to some of the broader issues. . . .
First, I would like to address the issue of sexuality v. gender.

Many months ago, when I was working on my 20th Century World History study, I felt I needed to look into the case of George/Christine Jorgensen. As a result, I discovered some things of which I had been only the least bit conscious before.

So let me begin with the matter of which I had been aware.

There was a furor over one of the female competitors at the 1968 Olympics. I remember this because I was in junior high school, in 8th grade. And we discussed her case in our social studies class. It seemed so odd to us: a woman who wasn't quite exactly a woman. She had the general anatomy of a woman. Though, as I recall, she was described as having a very different muscle-to-fat ratio than most of the other contestants . . . because, unlike 99-point-some-odd percent of women, she had an extra Y chromosome. Most women are XX; men are XY; she was XXY. "Should she be permitted to compete against XX women?" [November 2009 addendum: Of course, this same issue has come up in just the last couple of months as the South African runner Caster Semenya of South Africa has been found to have both male and female characteristics--having external genital expressions of a woman, but lacking ovaries and benefiting (for sports purposes, anyway!) from the presence of internal testes which produce way more testosterone in her body than in any "normal" female.]

This article became of particular interest to me because, as a number of my classmates and I observed, our social studies teacher herself, Miss Drumond (name changed), seemed to have the exact same kind of sinewy, muscular body that the Olympic contestant had. "Might Miss Drumond be XXY?" several of us whispered among ourselves.

But now, as I began my study of George/Christine Jorgensen, I discovered there are other rare genetic combinations and some that maybe aren’t quite as rare as most of us imagine.

Jamison Green, an FTM (female-to-male) transsexual, in the opening pages of his book, Becoming a Visible Man, tells how he often begins a presentation on transsexuality and transgender:
Did you know that 1 in 20,000 men have two X-chromosomes, rather than one X- and one Y-chromosome? They don’t find this out until their female partner can’t get pregnant and doctors eliminate her infertility as the reason. . . . One in 20,000 men is a 46-chromosome, XX male; ten percent of those have no Y-chromosome material. . . . That statistic is from Chapter 41 in the 13th edition of Smith’s General Urology, a standard urology textbook. And what does that tell us about the Y-chromosome? Not that you need a Y to be male, but that you may need a Y to make viable sperm. Maybe! Because there are two species of small rodent-type mammals, called mole voles, in which there is no Y chromosome, yet they are still reproducing both males and females, still procreating just as other mammals [Graves, 2001]. So if you can be a man with two X-chromosomes, and at least 1 in 20,000 men is, what makes you a man? . . . (p. 2)
Besides genetic differences, some studies seem to indicate that there are other biological bases for what practitioners call the transsexuals' "gender dysphoria." Lynn Conway (a MTF transsexual), on her website, references a study published in the May 2000 The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: "Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus" by Frank P. M. Kruijver, Jiang-Ning Zhou, Chris W. Pool, Michel A. Hofman, Louis J. G. Gooren, and Dick F. Swaab:
Transsexuals experience themselves as being of the opposite sex, despite having the biological characteristics of one sex. A crucial question resulting from a previous brain study in male-to-female transsexuals was whether the reported difference according to gender identity in the central part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc) was based on a neuronal difference in the BSTc itself. . . . Therefore, we determined in 42 subjects the number of somatostatin-expressing neurons in the BSTc in relation to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and past or present hormonal status. Regardless of sexual orientation, men had almost twice as many somatostatin neurons as women (P < 0.006). The number of neurons in the BSTc of male-to-female transsexuals was similar to that of the females (P =3D 0.83). In contrast, the neuron number of a female-to-male transsexual was found to be in the male range. Hormone treatment or sex hormone level variations in adulthood did not seem to have influenced BSTc neuron numbers. The present findings . . . clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder.
--End of material written in April 2005--
--Beginning of Material written in November 2009--

As a matter of education, I would like to present some of the best information I've found on the matter of hermaphroditism or intersexuality.

The AboutKidsHealth website "article" (actually, an entire series of mildly animated graphic web pages) about children's sexual development provides excellent information about how sexual differentiation can "go wrong." Very matter-of-fact and scientific, but written not only for professional, but lay consumption as well.

For deeper information, however, you may want to study the Consortium on the Management of Disorders of Sex Development's Handbook for Parents.

Then there is the Clinical Guidelines for Management of Disorders of Sex Development in Childhood, a book described by its publishers as meant for professional service providers, "but may be of interest to patients and families as well. You may want to share this book with your doctors."

Then there is the Consensus Statement on Management of Intersex Disorders published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Or the undergraduate-level Teaching Packet on Intersex Issues.

--More later

Chance . . . or Providence?

Strange the things that will grab one's mind!

In my reading through the Bible this morning, I came upon the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. And in my ESV (English Standard Version) Bible, Jesus talks about the man who is going down the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho in the plain below. The man is beaten, stripped of all his goods (and clothes?) and left for dead.

"Now by chance," the narrative continues, "a priest was going down that road. . . ."

"'By chance'!?!" I exclaimed within my mind. "'By chance'!?! Jesus said 'by chance'?!?"

As someone who spent many years among Reformed/Calvinist theologians; as someone who believes in the sovereignty of God; as someone who has been tempted, many times, to take up the practice of the hyper-Calvinists always to add the modifier "DV" (deo volente) or "God willing" after any statement concerning the future--"after all, isn't that what we are taught in Scripture? James 4:13-15: 'Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."' . . ."

But here is Jesus speaking like an uneducated heathen! "By chance"!

It's like talking about "pot luck" instead of "pot providence." How unseemly!

Or maybe not.

Maybe I've been tempted too much to fall into the hyper-religiosity and hyper-spirituality and hyper-purity of which the Scriptures also seem to warn us. Ecclesiastes 7:16: "Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?"

Is there a balancing point?