Category Archives: Events

3 Quarks Daily bans Sabio Lantz

3 Quarks Daily3 Quarks Daily is an excellent e-magazine which offers readers a daily fine selection of readings from around the web which you may otherwise not get a chance to read. Occasionally they also offer space for their own writers to do an article. Today, one of their writers, Fausto Ribeiro, did a post entitled, “A Universe from Nothing? Or: Desperately Seeking Transcendence in a Materialist World.”  Well, the title accurately tells you where that post is going.

It was a sappy, weak post setting up straw-man criticisms of scientists and doing this all digitally while pontificating about the evils of digital entertainment. One commentor succinctly responded with, “Jeez” — a rather generous comment, in my opinion.

But S. Abbas Raza, one of their “moderators”, didn’t think so and vehemently replied:

“I have no idea what that means. In any case, I will say this only once: either leave comments that engage the piece in some substantive (and civil) way, or you will be banned. Understood? Good.

I am very tired of people acting superior and contemptuous toward our writers. You don’t like what we publish? Go somewhere else. Or engage our writers in a polite way, even if you don’t agree with them.

We don’t need people rolling their eyes at us like 13-year-olds.”

Reading this, I also then decided to criticize but the article and Raza’s critical attitude toward disagreeing commentors.

Then, in my e-mail, I see this reply from Raza:

“Three or four of our readers above seem to have liked the article very much. What I fail to understand is why certain people are so sure of their own opinions that they can’t simply move on to something they do like instead of staying and insulting the writer. Not every piece is to everyone’s taste. Why is that so shocking? Can you name any reputable magazine or journal where you like everything they publish?”

When I look back at the site to respond to this, I see that my comment had been deleted. Indeed, even this last comment of Raza was self-deleted. And when I tried to reply again, and I see that I am now banned from the thread.

So in protest to 3 Quarks Daily, I am posting what I would have posted:

(1) I think it is fantastic that folks like the article.
(2) Are you saying, look, on 3 quarks daily we don’t want any negative comments but just compliments? If so, you need a comment policy.
(3) This writer is “so sure of [his] own opinion” and we are responding to his public declaration of it. I would think 3-quarks-daily would encourage open debate.
(4) I can not name another reputable magazine who would like to shut down disagreement like you would.

Interestingly, 3QD is in the middle of a fund raising campaign and Raza just did this post asking for financial support. In his plea for money, Raza tells us that 3DQ offers “intellectual refuge” – sure, if refuge means being able to hide from criticism. He says, “We know you like 3QD (and we are extremely flattered) because you have just told us so.” Sure, and that you censor disagreement.

So, are you considering supporting 3 Quarks Daily? Well, I actually was, until today.

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Filed under Blogging, Events

Faith in the Theory of Evolution

Some update on my son’s science teacher’s classes on Evolution:

1. Faith in the Theory:

When asked how a question about Evolution the teacher prefaced the reply with: “Well, it depends on your faith in the theory.”  Arggghhh.  There is the issue with theory, again.

2. Humans don’t come from Monkeys:

The teacher told the class “they have not discovered any skeletons that link monkeys to humans.”  Ouch — very true but bad teaching.  Humans don’t come from monkeys.  Monkeys, Apes and Humans all shared ancestors.  The rest you know.

 3. Factual and True:

When my friend asked his daughter if she felt evolution as if it were factual and true, the daughter said, “Yes”.  But when he asked if she felt that her teacher thought it was factual and true, she said, “I don’t know”.  Ouch.  But it would be tough if she didn’t believe.  It is these other lines that are getting to us.

Planned Approach:  We have decided to let the teacher finish this section and gather information.  Then we will approach the teacher at the end of the year after our kids are safely out of her class.  I wager she has more information to offer us before then.

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Summer 2012

This an index of the posts I wrote reflecting on my Father-Son trip in Europe in 2012.

 

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Cursed by A Chinese Beggar

An Angry Beggar

An Angry Beggar

Decades ago, when I lived in Japan, I would take long summer holidays to other countries.  This story is from one of my trips to China and starts as I was walking out of my Beijing hotel:  No sooner had I stepped out of the hotel’s front door than one of the beggars camped outside ran up to me begging with a loud, obnoxious voice and gesturing to me demands for money. I ignored him and walked on.  In retaliation, he hurled at me, what seemed to be, curses. It was a surprisingly eerie experience. I had ignored beggars in many countries before, but this guy had something spooky about him.

One week after the cursing I came down with a bad chest cold. It was a stubborn cold that I dragged back to Japan with me. It took two months for the chest-ripping cough to go away but it was replaced by palpitations, anxiety, and weakness. Doctors could not diagnose a cause for my unrelenting suffering.  I tried every sort of doctor I could find: modern medical doctors, herbalists and acupuncturists. My symptoms dragged on and on but I would not let the illness stop my daily life:  I continued teaching at a university during the day and going to acupuncture school at night.   I lost a lot of weight and was usually depressed — I was no longer my ebullient, out-going, invulnerable self.  But finally, a little more than a year after the curse, the illness left me as mysteriously as it appeared — for no apparent reason.  That year had taught me a lot about suffering — memories I don’t enjoy pulling up even now.

During that very difficult year, that Chinese beggar haunted my illness. For while I searched for reasons as to why I was ill, and why doctor after doctor failed to help me, I had a nagging suspicion that I had been cursed by that Chinese beggar.  His image and our encounter haunted my mind.  As medicine did not work to take away my pain, I wondered if perhaps it was a curse that had damaged me.

Until my illness, curses were not something I had ever considered to be real.  I had not been a superstitious guy and I had not been raised in a culture that even talked about curses. But in my despair, I wondered if indeed I had been cursed.

Years later, after ‘the curse’ has lifted, I look back on my thinking as pure silliness. But back then, amidst my suffering, the possibility of a curse echoed in my mind for months and months.

Memories of this time in my life were recently aroused after I watched two mediocre films based on the theme of a curse: Season of the Witch (with Nicholas Cage) and Steven King’s Bag of Bones. I normally don’t watch horror films, but my son asked to watch Season of the Witch and Bag of Bones was a free NetFlix film that tempted me the next evening when I was too tired to read.   Oddly, these two films both were based on a curse.  This curse theme then reminded me of the angry Chinese beggar that had cursed my life into fragility.

Before my illness I had thought of myself as rather invulnerable (as I mentioned yesterday), but after my slow recovery, I developed a much greater sympathy for those with illness. I realized the obvious truth that all of us sit on the edge of terrible suffering — we are all vulnerable. The Chinese beggar will never know that he left me with a valuable gift which would help me in my relations with others and in my profession.

Questions for readers:

  • Have you ever had haunting thoughts that you now think are silly?
  • What are your experiences with curses.
This is part of  My (shameless) Autobiography  series
(click here for more)

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Motorcyle Sorrow

Two days ago I was telling a colleague how, until I was about 35 years-old, I felt fairly invulnerable and was a chance big chance taker.   It wasn’t until I had children that I gave up motorcycles.  Bikes are so fun and they seemed worth the risk when I was child-free, but the risk to my children tipped the balance.

Yesterday morning I cared for a patient who shattered his pelvis, ruptured his spleen and broke his leg in a motorcycle accident. We discussed how pleasant, yet how deadly motorcycles are.  I shared how I have had several bad accidents on bikes but always walked away with only bad bruises or burns.  I always looked back amazed at how lucky I have been my whole life.  I sold my bike thinking I did not want to tempt chance.

Yesterday afternoon I heard that a friend was killed on his motorcycle during a day trip this weekend when he slipped on wet road. He was a physician I have worked with for four years. He had done Aikido like myself, brewed beer, ground his own coffee and loved playing music. We shared much in common. He was a very relaxed, jovial, and naturally friendly man — a joy in the hospital. I was greatly saddened and felt weak-kneed for about 2 hours after hearing the news. My friend leaves behind 4 children and a wife.  Life can turn on a dime.

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John Rabe: A movie

I use to work in the medical field in China and Japan and my first foreign language was German. I am now refreshing my German for a month trip this summer to German with my son. Thus, the 2009 film “John Rabe” was at treat for me. Not only was it another film with a great redemptive theme, but I also got to listen to Chinese, German and Japanese in the same film.

More than this, the film taught me a part of the 1937 history of the rape of Nanjing that I never knew. In the 1980s I had many conversations with older Japanese business men who swore that the Nanjing massacre was a total myth. This continues: in May 1994, the Japanese Justice Minister, Shigeto Nagano, called the Nanjing Massacre a “fabrication”. And in February 2012 Takashi Kawamura, mayor of Nagoya, and Tokyo Governor Takashi Kawamura said the Rape of Nanjing “probably never happened”!

As always, reading a few articles while watching (and sometimes pausing) the film makes the experience incredibly deeper.

Some links:

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Filed under Philosophy & Religion, Politics

More Honky than You

Having lived in Asia for about a dozen years, I returned to the USA to go back to school in North Carolina. My childhood hometown had been all white and the inner city where I worked for ten years in my youth was largely black. Thus I grew up really only knowing Black and White — I had never really met East Asians, until I lived amongst them in Asia.

On just arriving back in the States, I was invited to a party held by fellow students.  There I met an Asian woman — she was adopted from Korea by West Virginia parents. I was excited to meet an Asian living in my North Carolina world. A group of us were talking and I tried to share with her common thoughts about Asia. But she asked me to step outside and join her away from the crowd for a minute.  I thought we were going to share more stories.

But when she got me alone she said, “Look Sabio, I was adopted at one-year old. All my friends have been West Virginian whites. I don’t know or care anything about Korea. I am far more honky than you. So stop all the ‘Asian’ shit, will ya?”

She put me in my place.

This is a memory marker illustrating my continued stupidity through life.

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Evolution cost me my job

The following is one of my many biography posts. I am recording them in part for my kids in the distant future. But I try to make them relevant to my blog. This one discusses my commitment to the teaching of Evolution and how some aspects of religion have a stranglehold on America.

I am a huge, non-apologetic, evangelical evolutionist and have paid the price for my outspoken nature. I use to be a professor in a graduate school Physician Assistant program where evolution helped me loose my job.

One day I was called into the program director’s office. He said, “Sabio, we have some complaints about you teaching evolution.” “Wow,” I thought, “that was an abrupt opening. I wonder what he is talking about.” So I responded, “Sorry, who complained and what was their complaint?”

Continue reading

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Children of Heaven

My kids loved this award-winning 1997 Iranian film.  They were very hesitant to watch another sub-titled foreign film but I told them to try the first 10 minutes and then we can stop if they don’t like it.  My son is 11-years-old and my daughter is 9-years-old and the film’s stars are a young brother and sister.

You can read Wiki for the details.  Here is a quick bullet-list of the things my kids and I talked about during the film (pausing a few times).

  • Children around the world often work from a very young age
  • School is a privilege
  • The submissive role of women in Islamic nations
  • Their Government hates us but not all the people hate us
  • They have the same emotions as us but very different customs
  • Brother and sister caring for each other all over the world
  • Family needs to stick together
  • What is Islam
  • They believe just what their parents tell them
  • Father is strict but stressed and loving

My kids loved it and thought deeply.   It is one way for them to visit other countries and learn about other beliefs both critically and sympathetically.  The trick is, to make their journey fun.

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Zen Tree Prayer

My ex-wife, kids and I had been attending an American Zen temple near our home for a few months.  On Sunday we arrive for the morning meditation service.  When we arrived, we notices that an old, beautiful tree outside the temple had been destroyed by the recent strong windstorm.  Indeed, large branches from other trees littered the yard

After that morning’s mediation instead of proceeding to the normal temple cleaning ritual, the priest unexpectedly led everyone outside in a very slow, meditative walk around the temple grounds.  She start the walk with a Zen chant using ancient Japanese (unintelligible to all of us).   As we walked the chant sped up until we arrived at and encircled the shattered, dead tree. “Ah, this is were we were going,” I thought, “now what”?

We stood there in silence facing the mangled tree. The teacher had a stick of slow-burning incense in her hand which she seemed to be offering to the tree. We had never done this before and most of us had no idea why we were there. We stood there in silence for a rather puzzling long time. My kids, with snickers, were sneaking looks at all the adults who were somberly looking at a dead tree.  I had to give them a firm look mean “Not now guys”.  It reminded me of how I was scolded in church for playing with my brothers during long prayers when everyone was suppose to have their eyes closed.

Finally the teacher spoke up in a gentle voice asking us to raise our arms and join our palms toward the tree.  Then she spoke to the tree thanking it for its years of beauty and wisdom.  She finally expressed our sorrow for its death and then wished it well in its next incarnation — as if it were listening.   Everyone stayed facing the tree in silence a bit longer and then we walked back into the temple to do our daily cleaning in mindful silence.

But I had several questions.

  • Why weren’t we told what was going to happen?  OK, she is the priest, but really, a little explanation would have been appreciated instead of the blanket of mystery and blind following.  Didn’t the priest imagine we would wonder and feel awkward in the ceremony?
  • Why were we talking to a tree?  Was she serious about thinking this tree was going to reincarnate?
  • Did everyone in this group who used chainsaws or ripped weeds out of their gardens perform a ceremony like this ushering each of their ruthlessly slaughtered trees or plants into its next life?
  • Did any of the other folks here have similar questions?

But I never asked these questions. No one in the Zendo ever talked about the ritual except for a few people who went up to the priest complimenting her on how beautiful the ceremony was.  But I guess my family are irreparable heathens.  For as soon as we got in our car we all agreed that the Zen-tree-prayer was wierd.  My kids started asking tons of questions but I had no answers that I myself could believe in.  Sure, I know the possible answers: We are one with the Universe; Every sentient being is precious;  We should show thankfulness for everything in our life.  I am sure I could have spun lots of other explanations.   But I don’t do that to my kids. So it seemed my wife and I were discovering we weren’t  very Zenny.  I think the most bothersome aspect of the ceremony (as in much of Zen) was all the seriousness — it was so Japanese.  But the Americans practicing there probably thought it was very Buddhist and they were trying their very best to be Japanese.

Yes, I know, many cultures have myths of trees and many cultures worship trees.  Oddly enough, had this ceremony occurred in India or Japan I might have overlooked it as quaint. Don’t get me wrong — I value trees.  Heck I value the chickens that make our eggs and fill our freezer with good meat.  You could think that I am incurable modernist but perhaps I am simply not a nature worshiper.

Fortunately there are versions of Buddhism growing to accommodate our likes:  they don’t require their practitioners to embrace both sentimental animistic beliefs nor the worship of foreign cultures.  But to find such a group is hard.  Indeed in all religious traditions, to find a balance between ancient or foreign cultures that your tradition came wrapped in and your own modern culture, is a constant tension.

The Zen Temple is very close to our house.  My wife and I both value silent meditation.  We are definitely not Christian but had  hoped we could find a contemplative community to join. Yet this is one of many stories which made it difficult for our family to feel comfortable joining the Zen Center.

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