Saturday, August 23, 2003

An Update

A few weeks ago I wrote that I am now using an AlphaSmart Dana to do these blog posts. At first the change from the Palm disconcerted me a bit, perhaps that is one reason I haven't done as many posts as I had prior to making this change. One difficulty is that, since the Dana does not have a color screen, at night if the light is not really good it is very hard for me to see anything I try to type. During daylight hours this is no problem whatsoever and I find the Dana an almost perfect tool to write with -- it is light, compact, and the screen is a nice size, even if it is not a color monitor. I have now found a solution to the problem of working at night, I purchased a small, battery powered book light which gives just enough light to make night time typing possible. So, in short, the AlphaSmart is going to be around for a good long time.

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Steven over at Flos Carmeli has been doing a series of posts on Phillip Yancy's book Soul Survior, and is starting another series on another of Yancy's books. I was quite interested in this since Yancy is, I think, a Protestant. The reason I have been following Steven's posts is my own uncertainty about reading Protestant authors. I should explain.

About 6 months or so prior to my reception into the Church, I swore off reading anything Protestant, almost to include C. S. Lewis. This continued until about 3 years after my coming into the Church when I took a philosophy course through Franciscan University at Steubenville. One of the texts was Lewis' The Abolition of Man and also parts of Mere Christianity. I softened and have read some things by a few Protestant authors over the last few years. Then, this summer, the Episcopal Church went through its meltdown, and as I posted a week or two ago, I was reminded of the real problems with Protestantism and thought I should return to strictly Catholic reading and thought.

Then, along comes Steven with his Soul Survivor series. What to make of this? Much of what Steven quoted, and certainly his comments on those passages, was at least interesting, if not thought provoking. My wife made the point, which I think Steven has also made recently, that it is always appropriate to read good writing. So, I went out tonight at bought two Phillip Yancy books -- Soul Survivor and The Jesus I Never Knew. I bought these two because they were the only Yancy books that I could find at our local bookstore. I may offer some comments of my own on these as I read them, not to copy Steven nor to compete with him, but to see if, after reading them, I am convinced one way or the other about the propriety of Catholics reading books by Protestant authors.

Friday, August 22, 2003

It’s Getting Hairy

The headline of an article, apparently supplied by the New York Times, in our local newspaper this week caught my eye, it read: “Hair: It separates us from the apes.” Of course, I found this idea immediately intriguing since I am a kind and optimistic fellow and bear a rather high view of my fellow human beings. I had not thought of hair as being one of the primary factors separating them from apes, in fact, if asked, I would have made a number of other more important distinctions. For example, I don’t know of any blogs published by monkeys. I know of no great works of art produced by apes in the last few centuries, nor have I seen any chimps driving on the Interstate to work each morning (well, maybe one or two but that is beside the point). As for science, I know of no great contributions to the field by apes other than substantial confusion.

In any case, our author very confidently asserts that it is precisely at the point at which we humans started losing our body hair that we parted company with our simian ancestors, this based on a study of the subject done by a group of professors in England. The article is remarkable on a number of different levels. First is the rather blind acceptance of the “fact” of evolution that underlies much of the nonsense in the rest of the article. I’m sure the possibility that the theory of evolution itself might be questionable never crossed the authors mind, judging by the pap found in the rest of the article, perhaps there is good reason for this – personal experience may be at work here.

In any case, it seems that the great question left unanswered by this scholarly study is why humans should have lost their hair as part of the evolutionary process. The article points out that this is “a question that long has been beyond the reach of archeology and paleontology.” Little wonder, judging by the results of this study. Among the possible reasons for hair loss is that we humans, in the process of transitioning from ape to human, went through a semi-aquatic stage (the webbing in our hands provides the evidence for this idea) and shed hair in order to improve speed under water. Have you ever seen an ape go for a swim? Another theory is that loss of hair helped our ancestors keep cool as they “ventured beyond the forest’s shade and across the hot African savannah – though naked skin absorbs more energy during the day and loses more during the night.” Lets see, we left the forest and decided to go bare so we could burn to a crisp in the hot sun and find no relief at night. Ummmm.

Another researcher poses another possible solution – we lost our body hair to free ourselves from external parasites, this trait becoming subject to sexual selection. “Among newly furless humans, bare skin would have served as a signal of fitness. The pains women take to keep their bodies free from hair may be no mere fashion statement but the latest echo of an ancient instinct.” I get it, we decided to go “furless” so we could be sexy and girls would look good in Playboy.

I guess I’d like to know just how our ancient ancestors decided to lose their hair. It seems that no other animal on earth (except for the Cornish Rex which, I believe, is the work of a deranged ape) has gone through the same transformation because there are more advantages to having fur than not having fur. Why would some fool ape have made such a decision? A more important question, though, is how we can reverse the situation. As I grow older that question becomes more critical day by day.