Friday, December 26, 2008

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem

An eye-opening article from the Times of London about the necessity of Christianinty--from an atheist. Some snipettes:

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good...

...Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

...Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The Pacific Northwest is having a white Christmas this year. To commemorate it, here are a couple of photos I took while going about the day.

On a dog walk:

A trip to the grocery store:

Down a quite road:

Friday, December 19, 2008

If Music be the Food of Love... on, give me excess of it.

A fascinating article in The Economist about the speculative evolutionary roots of music.

Some comments:
Today, people are so surrounded by other people’s music that they take it for granted, but as little as 100 years ago singsongs at home, the choir in the church and fiddlers in the pub were all that most people heard.
My father's family was very musical. Old tintypes of them show them at family reunions looking like a small orchestra. Occasionally, when he was disgusted at popular culture, he would talk about how the entire town of Roff, Oklahoma would meet and everybody was expected to to have something, such as a song or recitation, to entertain the others.

Of course, I find that the hypothosis fails in this regard:

Another reason to believe the food-of-love [evolutionary] hypothesis is that music fulfils the main criterion of a sexually selected feature: it is an honest signal of underlying fitness. Just as unfit peacocks cannot grow splendid tails, so unfit people cannot sing well, dance well (for singing and dancing go together, as it were, like a horse and carriage) or play music well. All of these activities require physical fitness and dexterity. Composing music requires creativity and mental agility. Put all of these things together and you have a desirable mate.
I offer this in rebuttal:

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