Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's too easy

Choosing plant-based foods over animal-based foods reduces pain in so many ways. It alleviates our bodily pain. It minimizes the pain animals experience by reducing CAFO farming. It also reduces human suffering associated with global poverty and hunger. Given all that, it’s easy to see that investing in programs that promote, distribute, and encourage the growing of whole, plant-based foods in poor countries would be far more economical and effective than reductionist attempts to solve all these problems separately, as if they had nothing to do with one another.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 174

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What about methane?

Robert Goodland, the longtime senior environmental advisor to the president of the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, his colleague at the World Bank Group, have determined that livestock rearing contributes at least 51 percent of total global warming.

The most famous greenhouse gas, the one that gets most of the attention from the media, activists, and policy makers, is CO2. But CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas, and is not in fact the one most sensitive to reduction efforts. Methane (CH4) offers a more promising lever with which to push back global warming. Molecule for molecule, methane is about twenty-five times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. But more important, methane, with an atmospheric half-life of seven years, disappears from the atmosphere far faster than carbon dioxide, which has a half-life of more than a century. So almost as soon as we eliminate sources of methane, its contribution to the greenhouse effect begins to wane significantly. By contrast, even after we stop releasing CO2, the gas that has already been released will contribute to global warming for decades.

When the amount of methane in the atmosphere is considered over ta twenty-year period, its global warming potential is said to be seventy-two times that of CO2. And methane is largely associated with industrial livestock production. This means that reducing meat consumption, the main driver of the livestock industry, may be the most rapid way to affect global warming. It turns out that our present programs, focused on carbon dioxide reduction, are mostly a lot of hot air—in more ways than one.

If this new assessment of the methane contribution is correct, the implications are momentous. I am puzzled as to why more people in the environmental community aren’t paying attention to this. Do they not want to challenge the livestock industry? Maybe we need bioengineers to figure out how to entrap and safely process cow farts. Failing this, maybe we should stop producing and eating the machines that do the farting.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, pages 168–69 (emphasis original)

Monday, July 25, 2016

It just isn't sustainable in the long run...

• Animal protein production requires eight times as much fossil fuel as plant protein. • The livestock population of the Unites States consumes five times as much grain (which is not even their natural diet) as the country’s entire human population. • Every kilogram of beef requires 100,000 liters of water to produce. By comparison, a kilogram of wheat requires just 900 liters, and a kilogram of potatoes just 500 liters. • A United Nations-sponsored workshop of about 200 experts concluded that 80 percent of deforestation in the tropics is attributable to the creation of new farmland, the majority of which is used for livestock grazing and feed.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 166

<idle musing>
And this is where theology intersects life. This lifestyle is just not sustainable. It is bad stewardship of the earth.

Dare I say it is sinful? Well, at least at the level we are doing it, I think I can say that...
</idle musing>

Sunday, July 24, 2016

But I want it to mean this!

In the face of insufficient data, any judgment is weakly founded. Since the Qumran texts are the very epitome of incomplete data, caution is necessary.—Ronald Hendel in Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible, forthcoming from SBL Press

<idle musing>
Wise words! Many have ignored the perils and gone beyond the data...
</idle musing>

Friday, July 22, 2016

One-dimensional thinking

I know many environmentalists whose commitment is manifest and commendable, but stops at their lips. It’s understandable; many of our favorite “foods” (or, more properly, food-like items) are highly addictive. And our relationship with food is far more emotionally fraught than, say, our relationship with incandescent light bulbs or plastic shopping bags. But even these far-seeing and far-thinking activists are wearing reductionist blinders if they cannot see that their personal food choices matter at least as much as—and I would argue considerably more than—recycling and using energy-efficient light bulbs.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 165

<idle musing>
Indeed! What's the greatest source of methane (which is the largest cause of global warming)? Confined feeding operations (CAFOs)!

That's right. Every time you eat a hamburger or steak you are contributing to global warming. Probably more so than using a styrofoam box to wrap the leftovers in...

Whole foods, plant-based diet. Good for the health of the person and the planet!
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The magic bullet that isn't

The danger of our increasing consumption of supplements is more than just the documented negative effects on our health. It’s that our love affair with the magic bullet of supplementation lets us believe we’re “of the hook” when it comes to eating right. Why eat your veggies when you can binge on hot dogs and ice cream and, if you get into trouble, make it all better with a pill?— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 162

<idle musing>
Indeed! I've heard people say it numerous times: "That's OK, I'll just take a calcium pill when I get home." Instead of eating veggies that are loaded with calcium.

Admit it. You're addicted to junk food! Now, take the 6 week challenge: Eat nothing but whole foods on a plant-based, animal-free diet for 6 weeks. I'll bet you feel better. And at the end of 6 weeks, when you try some of the stuff you used to eat, you'll be amazed at how bad it tastes. You will feel the oil coat your tongue and the sugar and salt will jump on your taste buds. You won't like it anymore...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

So where does it come from?

Population studies begun forty to fifty years ago show that when people migrate from one country to another, they acquire the cancer rate of the country to which they move, despite the fact their genes remain the same. This strongly indicates that at least 80 percent to 90 percent—and probably closer to 97 percent to 98 percent—of all cancers are related to diet and lifestyle, not to genes.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 129

<idle musing>
I remember when I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin; I was hitch-hiking to school and a couple of grad students picked me up who were working on this kind of stuff (way back in the 1970s); they were discussing the results of their work with each other. The one guy said to the other, "I'm convinced that cancer is man-made." That's stuck with me—obviously, if I can still remember it 40 years later!
</idle musing>

Monday, July 18, 2016

On manipulating genes

As a research discipline, modern-day genetics addresses the consequences of that small percentage of disease-producing genes that we acquire along the way. It operates from the assumption that one day we will be able to locate and identify damaged genes and use that information to more easily diagnose and treat disease. However, it largely fails to consider how to prevent genes from becoming damaged in the first place. And the field’s presumption that genetic engineering will be able to prevent disease from occurring by repairing or replacing specific genes that cause disease, is the height of hubris, given the unimaginable complexity of DNA.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 127

<idle musing>
Come, let us play God! So far, every time we've tried, it hasn't worked so well. But, hey, maybe this time, right? : (
</idle musing>

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What is text criticism?

Textual criticism aims for a history of readings, extending from the archetype to the extant manuscripts. A historically sophisticated critical edition must present each step of a book’s textual history, to the extent that it is recoverable, and not rest on one step alone.—Ronald Hendel, Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible, forthcoming from SBL Press

Friday, July 15, 2016

Any chance?

I am convinced that most people simply believe what they want to believe about cancer causation and prevention, according to which way the nature–nurture pendulum swings in their minds. In the absence of a reliable answer to the caner prevention question, they fall back on personal nature or nurture biases.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 121


Genes are the starting point for health and disease events; they are the “nature” part of the equation. But it is nutrition and other lifestyle factors, the “nurture” part, that control whether and how these genes are expressed. The influence of nurture (i.e., nutrition) has far more influence on health and disease outcome than nature (i.e., genes) .— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, pages 123–24

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Roll your own

I am convinced that most people simply believe what they want to believe about cancer causation and prevention, according to which way the nature–nurture pendulum swings in their minds. In the absence of a reliable answer to the caner prevention question, they fall back on personal nature or nurture biases.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 121

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The end of the journey

At the end of his journey, Job returns to a place that is strangely similar to his departure point, the point from which his entire drama started. He stands in front of us as the exemplary pious individual who performs sacrifices for others. Just as he was concerned for his children, he now concerns himself with his friends (1:5 // 42:8). Job’s fate is restored (42:10–17)—his possessions and his blessings, his children and his social standing are not merely returned; they are doubled. The end result seems like the beginning. And yet everything is different. No one walks away from an encounter with illness and death and remains unchanged. Once the very foundations of our existence have been shaken, we no longer take things for granted; life appears in a new light. We only learn true human greatness and maturity through the encounter with the dark sides of human existence. The fact that the burden of Job’s journey did not break him is a sign of God’s guidance and merciful care.— Job's Journey, page 101

<idle musing>
And that's the end of our journey through the book. It's a short little book that definitely is worth your time reading. Highly recommended!
</idle musing>

Friday, July 08, 2016


Job has been led on a long path toward conversion; he has realized that he himself was wrong. All of a sudden, however, and in a completely unexpected turn of events, God speaks once more to Job’s friends and confronts Eliphaz with this statement:
My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. (42:7)
This unreservedly positive evaluation of Job as the “servant of God” stands in glaring contradiction to all that has been said before: Job has been judged from all sides— the three friends, Elihu, God, and even by himself—only to have God pronounce him correct in the end? This phenomenon is difficult to comprehend; it is the biggest surprise in the book of Job and demands that the interpreter bring his entire exegetical virtuosity into play.— Job's Journey, page 85

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Everything? Yes, everything!

God forces Job to realize that the horizon within which he acts as creator is much larger than the horizon of human culture. The creative acts of God extend way beyond the human sphere. This becomes clear in the list of animals in 38:39–39:30 as well as in the cosmology of the first speech (38:4–38). God leads Job through the underworld, the uninhabited desert, and the region of the stars and weather. The third speech, finally, deals with Behemoth and Leviathan. Job is told that God made Behemoth, “just as I made you” (40:15), and that God plays with Leviathan (40:29). God thus operates in a world that is also occupied by gigantic forces alien and dangerous to human life. God is the lord over all spheres of creation. Job probably never dreamed of the fact that God also cares for the creatures that symbolize chaos. There is no dualism consisting of God and (human) culture on the one hand and animals and chaos on the other. The first commandment is applied radically to everything: God is lord over everything.— Job's Journey, pages 80–81

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

But it says very plainly...or does it?

It is not surprising that past research has left us with the impression that scholars tend to read more of their own theological opinions into the divine speeches than extract meaning from them.—Job's Journey, page 74

<idle musing>
A continual struggle, isn't it? The most we can hope for is that we remain aware that we bring our own presuppositions and pray that the Holy Spirit will break through them and give us fresh insight. And, of course, hold any opinions lightly, not tightly
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Job doesn't get an answer

Is this complex answer even an answer? Job had asked why God allowed him to suffer so greatly. Why him? Is this not a sign of indiscriminate use of power? Instead of an answer, Job receives two hours of natural history lessons, a little bit of astronomy, a little meteorology—and tons of zoology, as one scholar sarcastically commented. We would expect something utterly different as an explanation for Job’s suffering: information on the wager between God and the satan, for instance; or the description of a larger context of human history that might make Job’s suffering seem meaningful in the end; or at least a plausible reflection on the purpose of Job’s suffering in the course of his own life, as was presented by Elihu is his speeches. Christian readers might expect a statement of God’s com-passion and his solidarity with Job’s suffering. None of this is mentioned. Job’s suffering is not explained in terms of its necessity for the course of human history or even Job’s own psychological journey. There is no sentimental numbing of suffering as an “earthly delight in God”; no word is mentioned of God’s compassion. The mystery of Job’s suffering is not resolved. It seems as if God’s speech is anything but a response to Job. Instead, God pushes aside all of Job’s questions in an arrogant and narcissistic display of superiority. The human world is surprisingly not mentioned at all.— Job's Journey, page 70 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Maddening, isn't it!?
</idle musing>

Monday, July 04, 2016

The use of metaphor

The Old Testament makes use of a host of metaphorical images to describe God’s presence in the world indirectly. The most important of these “anti-anthropomorphisms” are: “Name of God,” “Glory of God,” “Spirit of God,” “Word of God,” and “Angel of God.” The specific power of these theological metaphors lies in their ability to open an imaginative space without setting clear boundaries. This intentional openness when speaking about God reveals and obscures at the same time. It allows us to sense something without knowing it. As a coincidentia oppositorum, it opens a reality to us that transcends logical bipolarity and can only be described in metaphor. The necessity of metaphorical speech—transcending the boundaries of what can be said and still give expression to the unspeakable—is a special sign of the logic of theology. An impressive image for this logic is God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus 33, where God passes him by, but also covers the eyes of the greatest of all prophets until he is gone. Appropriate theological language remains in the realm of faith and does not fall into the illusion of actually seeing.— Job's Journey, pages 55–56 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I like!
</idle musing>