Category Archives: Culture and Society

The Goal of Education

“What are philosophy and theology, and why are they crucial to a young person’s education today?”

From ‘Why Study Philosophy and Theology?‘ by Peter Kreeft:

‎The Goal of Education

Considering the trillions of dollars spent on universities by parents, governments and foundations, it is amazing that most of the people who go there (the students) and most of the people who pay for them (the parents and the government) never even ask, much less answer, this question: What is the purpose of the university? It is the most influential institution in Western civilization, and most of us don’t really know exactly why we entrust our children to them.

The commonest answer is probably to train them for a career. A B.A. looks good on your resume to prospective employers. That is not only a crass, materialistic answer, but also an illogical one. ….a student should study to get high grades to get an impressive resume to get a good job, to finance his family when it sends his kids to college to study, to get high grades, et cetera, et cetera.

This is arguing in a circle. It is like a tiger pacing round and round his cage in a zoo. Is there a better answer? There is if you know some philosophy. Let’s look.

Probably the most commonsensical and influential philosopher of all time was Aristotle. Aristotle says that there are three “whys,” three purposes, ends or reasons for anyone ever to study and learn anything, in school or out of it. Thus there are three kinds of “sciences,” which he called “productive,” “practical” and “theoretical.” (Aristotle used “science” in a much broader way than we do, meaning any ordered body of knowledge through causes and reasons.)

The purpose of the “productive sciences” (which we today call technology) is to produce things, to make, improve or repair material things in the world, and thus to improve our world. Farming, surgery, shipbuilding, carpentry, writing and tailoring were examples in Aristotle’s era as well as ours, while ours also includes many new ones like cybernetics, aviation and electrical engineering.

The purpose of the “practical sciences” (which meant learning how to do or practice anything, how to act) is to improve your own behavior in some area of your own life. The two most important of these areas, Aristotle said, were ethics and politics. (Aristotle saw politics not as a pragmatic, bureaucratic business of running a state’s economy, but as social ethics, the science of the good life for a community.) Other examples of “practical sciences” include economics, athletics, rhetoric and military science.

The third kind of sciences is the “theoretical” or “speculative” (contemplative), i.e., those that seek the truth for its own sake, that seek to know just for the sake of knowing rather than for the sake of action or production (though, of course, they will have important practical application). These sciences include theology, philosophy, physics, astronomy, biology, psychology and math.

Theoretical sciences are more important than practical sciences for the very same reason practical sciences are more important than productive sciences: because their end and goal is more intimate to us. Productive sciences perfect some external thing in the material world that we use; practical sciences perfect our own action, our own lives; and theoretical sciences perfect our very selves, our souls, our minds. They make us bigger persons.

Abortion Harmful to Women’s Mental Health – Study

From Family First (with my emphases):

The study, “Abortion and Mental health: Quantitative Synthesis and Analysis of Research Published 1995-2009” by Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D., took into account 22 studies and over 877,000 participants over the 14-year period. The study also reveals that as many as ten percent of all mental health problems are directly attributable to abortion.

“This confirms and is consistent with previous NZ research which showed that abortion harms women. Abortion harms women but pro-abortion groups refuse to acknowledge this, seeing the right to abortion more paramount than the long-term health and welfare of the women. We believe women have the right to the best independent information and advice before making a decision that could impact them later in life,” says Marina Young, Spokesperson for Family First NZ, who through her own abortion experience formed the Buttons Project.

A University of Otago study in 2008 found that women who had an abortion faced a 30% increase in the risk of developing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Other studies have found a link between abortion and psychiatric disorders ranging from anxiety to depression to substance abuse disorders. And the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK recommended updating abortion information leaflets to include details of the risks of depression. They said that consent could not be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information.

Case against Abortion: Fetal Development

15-week-old Fetus Thumb-Sucking
15-week-old Fetus Thumb-Sucking

In an issue as heated as abortion (or, ‘feticide’, to disrobe the politically-correct label for killing of the fetus), it’s important first to look at the hard cold facts.

Here’s a fetal development chart from the Voice For Life Fact Sheet on the Unborn (Keep in mind in reading this that most abortions [at least in the UK] happen around the 8-9-week period):

1st day the child’s conception takes place
7 day a tiny human implants in the mother’s uterus
10 days the mother’s menses stop
18 days the child’s heart begins to beat

21 days

the heart pumps own blood through separate closed circulatory system with own blood type.

28 days

the child’s eyes, ears and respiratory system begin to form

42 days

the brain waves can be recorded, skeleton is complete, reflexes are present, hiccoughs first occur.

7 weeks

thumbsucking has been photographed, startles first occur from 6-7 1/2 weeks

8 weeks

all body systems are present, isolated arm movements begin about 7 1/4 to 8 1/2 weeks after conception. Breathing movements begin during the eighth week. Stretches first occur during the eighth week.

9 weeks

the child squints, swallows, moves tongue and makes a fist. Rotations of the head also begin from the middle of the seventh week after conception to the middle of the tenth week.

10 weeks

Hand to face contacts first occur 8 to 10 1/2 weeks after conception.

11 weeks

spontaneous breathing movements, the child has fingernails and all body systems are operating. Jaw openings and forward head movement begin during 8 1/2 to 12 1/2 weeks after conception.

12 weeks

the child weighs one ounce

16 weeks

genital organs clearly differentiated, the child grasps with hands, swims, kicks, turns and somersaults (still not felt by the mother)

18 weeks

the vocal cords work and baby can cry

19 weeks

Kenya King’s birth, Florida, June 1985

20 weeks

the child has hair on its head, weighs one pound, 12 inches long

23 weeks

15% of babies survive premature birth

24 weeks

56% of babies survive premature birth

25 weeks

79% of babies survive premature birth

39-40 weeks

normal birth

The Catholic Faith site update

The Catholic Faith project page has been updated, with a new logo and with the addition of several new sections. You are encouraged to download and disseminate the pdf booklets for you evangelical pleasure. From the About page:

The Catholic Faith project aims to assist the lay faithful – the ‘sleeping giant’ of the Church – to know, love, defend and proclaim the Catholic faith.

The greatest commandment given to us as Catholics is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). As such, we must first know our faith, for it reveals God – we cannot love what we do not know.

As we continue to grow in knowledge and love of the faith – which naturally includes living it to the full – the Scriptures also call us to, “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel [euangelos] to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and, “always be prepared to make a defense [apologia] to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). This is the work of evangelisation and apologetics to which we are all called, as part of the volitional faith that saves us and brings salvation to others (James 2:26, Matthew 25:31-46); but we must first know and love our faith – we cannot give what we do not have.

This is a not-for-profit (other than winning souls!), self-propagating (reader-distributed) project aiming to inform and equip the Catholic fathful for this glorious task at hand!

Introduction to Death

This post may be more properly called the Introduction to the Problem of Death.

Death, as we know, is a horrible thing: why would God allow it?

In a debate with an atheist, the objection was raised that it is absurd to think that deaths in cases such as those in the recent Christchurch earthquake could be compatible with a benevolent God who would intervene to save some people.

Part of the difficulty would be the same problems faced from the presuppositions of philosophical materialism and their implications, one of which would be the finite nature of all embodied things. If human existence is limited to the material, of course it would seem that a benevolent God would have to intervene in order to safeguard people from an ultimate demise.

However, often, I would posit, the issue is not so much with the objective case at hand, but with the projections of such a philosophy and world view. Once the material-tinted glasses are put down, it might be seen that the difficulty is somewhat negated. As Socrates (who is, of course, a preeminent and pre-Christian Greek philosopher) states in Phaedo:

And the true philosophers, Simmias, are always occupied in the practice of dying, wherefore also to them least of all men is death terrible.

Although Platonic dualism is, as I understand it, not compatible with Catholicism, such a philosophical insight into the formal aspect of a living entity does touch on the truth of the possibility of life apart from the material part.

I would suggest that, if this is taken into account, the problem of death begins to resolve itself, at least at the philosophical level (psychological is another matter).

Growth and Orthodoxy

To add to the previous post, here’s an article on Liberal Religions in Free Fall:

Beginning with the work of Dean Kelly in the 1970s, it has been empirically obvious that those religions which have experienced the greatest proportionate decline in membership are generally the most progressive or liberal in their teachings; conversely, conservative-oriented religions have fared comparatively well. The latest data from the Yearbook proves this to be true again.

…With the exception of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and to some extent the American Baptist Churches, all the other churches with declining membership hold liberal views on abortion and gay rights. Moreover, the smallest decline among the Baptist churches was registered by the most conservative among them, the Southern Baptist Convention (down .42). By sharp contrast, all the religions that experienced a growth in membership are pro-life and pro-marriage (normatively understood).

Orthodoxy (among the conservatives, in this case) flourishes, because we are made to know and seek the truth.

As the article claims, this is consistent with the past findings, tracked by ad2000: for the Crisis magazine (2007);

The better-known orthodox bishops and dioceses – such as Archbishop Chaput (Denver) and Bishop Bruskewitz (Lincoln) – ranked well, while long-time liberal dioceses, such as Milwaukee, Albany and Rochester, fared very poorly. Not all dioceses fitted this pattern, due to other factors, but there was an evident correlation between success and strongly orthodox leadership.

Catholic World Report (2005);

Ziegler’s analysis took account of factors like the selection processes in different dioceses, the numbers accepted from other dioceses or overseas, the effects of clerical sex abuse scandals and rapid changes in population. However, these did not substantially affect the likely ingredients of success.

Successful seminaries were linked for the most part with strong, orthodox episcopal leadership, the witness of devout, enthusiastic clergy, focus on the indispensable role of the priest, effective programs in schools and parishes, and spiritual practices such as Eucharistic adoration.

and Human Life International;

2. The proportion of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses has remained steady, while the number of diocesan priests in progressive dioceses has been continually declining for four decades. In orthodox dioceses, there were 1,830 diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1956, and 12 percent more (2,057) in 1996….

1. There are currently nearly five times as many ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in orthodox dioceses as there are in progressive dioceses (53 vs. 11); and

2. The rate of ordinations of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses shows a strong upward trend, while the rate in progressive dioceses, relatively low four decades ago, continues to decline. In orthodox dioceses, there were 34 ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1986, and 53 in 1996 – an increase of more than 50 percent. In progressive dioceses, the rate was 16 in 1986, and only 11 in 1996 – a one-third decrease.

This is consistent with the claims in Goodbye Good Men, which notes that the vocation crisis is artificially created by dissenting factions who turn away orthodox candidates as being “rigid”. Such dissenters forget that “liberal” flexibility and open-mindedness are, again, “values” that are relative and limited; by their very nature, they are never, nor can they ever be, absolute as to supersede universal truths.