Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoughts on the Gay Marriage Debate

I know the whole world (or at least the three of you who actually read my ramblings) has been holding their breath, waiting for me to weigh in on this subject, so here you go…

There are two primary aspects of marriage which need to be addressed separately; religious and secular. I will start with religion.

Every religion has its own specific guidelines regarding marriage. For the most part, the religious position is that some deity communed with one or more individuals and provided them with instruction as to how things are done. These instructions are frequently canonized in written form. In the US, roughly 80% of the population is Christian, the next two (marginally) significant religious populations are Jewish, and Islam (How on earth did no prayer in schools get passed? Sorry, off-topic).

I do not have access to a copy of the Torah, so I can’t speak to its entire content. I know a significant portion of it is the same content found in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.
I have a copy of the Qur’an, and have read some portions, but not all. I claim no expertise and am happy to hear from those more knowledgeable in the text and its content.

Of course, the scripture most people drag out with respect to homosexuality is the Sodom and Gomorrah story (Genesis 19). This isn’t really enough to make the case though. Sure, it sounds like they wanted to do inappropriate things with Lot’s guests, but there are a number of things other than specifically homosexuality that could be the “Sin”. It isn't clearly spelled out.

The Qur’an refers to the same event, but it’s wording is rather more precise (S. XXVII. 50-58). The interesting excerpt is here.

55. Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than Women? Nay, ye are A people (grossly) ignorant!
58. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone); And evil was the shower On those who were admonished (But heeded not)!
(S. XXVII. 50-58).

(This is taken from the Translation by Abdulla Yusuf Ali. I know there are other translations with slightly different wording. However the meaning is still very much intact in the others I have seen)

So,  if you are a follower of Islam, it would seem it is fairly clearly spelled out, whereas the Christians and Jews may have a little room for interpretation. On the other hand, Genesis 2:24 states

24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

That seems fairly clear. Man. Wife. Cleave. One flesh. Not sure how else you could interpret that.

Of course, if your faith believes in continued revelation, then you still have room for change.  If your religious views allow for modern prophets to receive revelation from God, then you have the ability to clarify or change position, based on modern direction from your respective Deity. As I understand it most Christian churches do not believe in modern revelation( I am aware of three that do believe in modern prophets: Jehovah's Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I imagine there are a few others I am not acquainted with), so apart from playing it fast and loose with the interpretation thereof, they are stuck. Or insincere.

But ultimately the religious aspect of marriage is of minimal concern. If you don’t like a specific belief system, either you conform to it, because you accept that it is the word and will of a higher power, or you find a different belief system that suits you (or you could just join a social club and skip religion altogether, since perhaps what you  really want is a social system that fits you, rather than a deity to fit yourself to, but I am sliding toward off-topic again).

The more important issue is that of secular marriage. It is what is recognized by the earthly powers that be. It is what defines marriage for a culture. Religions may establish the moral bounds of the faithful, but it is the state that ultimately has the final say regarding temporal validity. Every religion ultimately conforms to the standard set by the state. You might get married in a church, but you still get a marriage license from the state.

So what is the state’s interest in marriage? Why does it even care who you are "gettin’ busy" with?
Since the state is “us”, you could make the case that our religious morals dictate what the state wants. That is likely partially true, though there are some limits in the US due to the 1st amendment. 

But while religious morals of the masses explains some of the laws regarding marital behavior, it doesn’t explain all of it. It certainly doesn’t explain tax breaks and other perks for marriage and child rearing (Which is what we are really interested in, aren’t we? Otherwise, you could claim marriage by deity of choice, and live together sans license from state).

Consider the state as an organism. Whereas we are made up of cells and bacteria and the like, the state is made up of us. The state, like any other organism wants to survive. It wants to thrive. It must therefore grow. It needs more of us; more of us to produce stuff, more of us to think up better ways to produce stuff, more of us to think up new stuff to produce.

The state wants kids (I assume that at some point, in a health or biology class, you learned how that works, so I won’t bore you with the regurgitation of those details). More than that, the state wants responsible, productive kids. Kids who will grow up to contribute the the growth of the Organism. Not kids who will grow up to mooch off the system, or commit crimes which injure the organism. So they come up with tax laws, and other perks to encourage people to get married, and to have children. Ideally, they want those perks to encourage people to stay married, and to raise their children responsibly (clearly the current perk system misses the mark on those points).

From the standpoint of pure biology, given that homosexuality is an evolutionary dead-end, it is not in the states interest to reward it, or encourage it.

Ah, but this is the 21st century, we can overcome that limitation, through advanced technology- in-vitro, cloning and what-not. Problem is that adds significant cost to the process of child creation, meaning it is that much harder to achieve a Return On Investment on the resulting human. It would be similar to a human eating nothing but celery. They would burn more calories in the digestive process than they would recover. In time, the state would starve itself for resources if it went down that path. (See Conservation of Humans for more info on this).

What about adoption, or non-technological, consensual fertilization? Those are certainly less expensive than the technological approach, but still more expensive than plain old vanilla heterosexual marriage. To thrive, an organism needs to be efficient.

And then there are the statistics. Numerous studies have concluded that children who are raised by both their biological parents tend to be better adjusted (mentally and socially), and have better overall health. This is compared to single parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, blended families... In all cases, children raised in a traditional nuclear family are better off. Yes, that is a statistic. Yes, there are plenty of examples of well-adjusted children of single parents, blended families, adoptive parents, etc… But, if you have a choice between betting a dollar on a 1 in 6 odds of winning $100, and betting a dollar on 1 in 2 odds of winning $100, you are going to choose the 1 in 2.

That is what the state is doing by rewarding nuclear families; betting on the best odds. It is seeking to improve the efficiency of the organism, and the probability of success. If anything it is in the states interest to adjust the reward system to more strongly favor the nuclear family (i.e. in the case of a divorce, the at-fault spouse loses all benefits, and is possibly penalized. In the case of an “irreconcilable differences” divorce, both are severely penalized. Children out of wedlock don’t qualify for dependent tax break status…). 

The state can’t spend money just because we like something, or want something. The state has to invest on that which ensures the states survival. Otherwise the state will inevitably die. And by the state, I do mean “us”.

So, there you have it, you can breathe now.

A couple of those studies I mentioned, in case you want to see something, but don't want to break out google...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Conservation of Humans

(It might be helpful to read "Conservation: A word or two about tree hugging" first)

From the moment of conception you began consuming. A darling little parasite growing in mommy’s womb, robbing her of nutrients, giving nothing of value in return. When you entered the world you consumed even more resources. Calories from your mother or from formula were directly consumed. Indirectly, more calories were consumed in the form of energy expended by parents to feed you, bathe you, clean you, comfort you, entertain you…

You consumed a portion of your parents’ labor, turned to wages, to supply diapers, bottles, clothes, blankies, toys…

This continued as you grew to childhood. You consumed the resources of others, creating none of your own.

At some point during childhood you may have started to provide some small contribution, in the form of chores, possibly even odd jobs; watering, mowing lawns, and shoveling snow. But these were not nearly sufficient to balance the books. In your teens, you may have actually taken a job in which your contribution balanced your consumption (probably not, but some do, others just become larger, hungrier parasites…). Keep in mind that is no small feat, given the cost of food, shelter, clothing, transportation, education…

Then comes college, where most continue in the red, consuming scholarships, grants, loans, or mommy and daddy funds, to pay for room, board, the time of professors and other university staff. At last, (hopefully) you enter the “real world” and begin your life as a productive member of society. Well, maybe. Many at this point go even deeper in the red, in the form of Home Loans, Car loans, and Consumer Debt for Furniture, Appliances, etc… Yes, this is more of that parasitic consumption. 

You didn’t create any of that stuff. You didn’t create sufficient other resources to trade for that stuff. You consumed that stuff, with the promise that you would someday create sufficient stuff to balance out the books.

Better hurry, because at some point in the not too distant future, you are going to go back to pooping in your pants, and requiring someone else to clean it up for you. You will return to your parasitic ways, consuming more than you create. And that is okay. That is part of the experience.
In the end the question to answer is, in the whole experience, did you create more than you consumed, or did you at least break even?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Adventures in Gardening 2013 part 2 - Insects read blogger!

The day after I posted about how I was getting a great bean crop, with no fertilizers and no pesticides, I went out to inspect my beans and found oodles of grasshoppers, and a couple grundles of little stubby yellow and orange caterpillar-like bugs (don't suppose anybody recognizes them and could tell me what they are?) all over the beans. Apparently bugs follow blogger.

I decided to hold off on spraying though, and the bugs seem to have mostly gone away, ant the beans are still fine. Maybe the spiders, bats and birds are blog readers too. We do have a garden snake, which appears to have made a home under our driveway, so maybe he/she gets the credit. I've done my best to leave the snake alone, hoping I can keep it around. We'll see...

Either no farmers read my blog, or those that do were too nice to make fun of me for bragging about my four pound harvest. Thus far I have done three more harvests, and have put away about 20 pounds of beans.

The mysterious sunflower bloomed. It is a big one! We might be able to harvest seeds from it. Still no idea where it came from.

This is the first year I have planted the tomatoes in regular garden space. In the past I have always had a separate garden for them, usually a big truck tire or the like, to help keep the soil warmer, since tomatoes like it hot. As a result, the tomatoes are getting more water than I usually give them. As a result, my tomato plants look like a jungle...

They seem to be doing okay for tomato production in spite of this. I have to say, I have never really loved the tomatoes I grow though. Not for just straight eating. They are fine in sauces, but for some reason the tomatoes I grow always seem to have a very tough skin, with a sort of unpleasant taste. I don't know if it is the breed I am growing or what. Perhaps I will have to do a a little research on that. Not a high priority though, since I am the only person in the house who will eat tomatoes.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I decided to try propagating our Ardennes hibiscus this year...

Pretty thing isn't it? I saw a couple you-tube videos on propagating from cuttings, and thought I'd give it a try.

Okay, I will confess, I didn't follow the instructions entirely. I selected 10 new branches that I was going to have to prune, and cut the tips off. I put those in a window box filled with leftover paving sand. I didn't use any rooting compound. I haven't spent a dime on this little experiment. It is looking like three of them might actually make it.

Oh (again), I also decided to try growing an avocado tree from a seed I kept. Well, two actually. I had tried one before, and got nuttin'. I set up two more a few months back - Suspended the seed in a glass of water using toothpicks. It took about 2 months before anything happened, but one of them has sprouted. I transplanted it to a pot about a month ago...

Not sure how the petunia marker wound up in there. apparently it is too much work for me to fish it out. Hopefully it doesn't give the avocado an identity crisis...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Adventures in gardening 2013

I figured it was time for a little gardening news...

First, I read somewhere that you could deter ants and aphids naturally by planting marigold around the base of your trees. So I gave it a shot. I cleared a circle out to the drip line of my fruit trees...

and planted marigold seed about half-way out, spacing the seed 1" apart. This picture is three weeks after planting.

The more gardening oriented among you may be thinking "Those look more like dandelions than marigolds.". Well, your observation would be entirely accurate. Out of the few hundred seeds I planted, only one came up. The dandelions did very well though *sigh*. I have heard that marigolds are really easy to grow from seed, that it is pretty hard to fail, so kudo's to me and accomplishing such a difficult task

We had a late cold snap again this year, so only one apricot made it again (on the plus side, the apricot tree has faithfully produced one apricot every year for the past 4 years.

We started an official garden this year for the first time as well. The first row has tomatoes, bell peppers and Brussels sprouts. I had some leftover black plastic which I put down. For veggies that like warmer climes this works well It keeps the soil warmer. It also keeps it more moist, with less water, and blocks weeds, so win win win.

The next two rows were pole beans and peas. I used some left over fence to give them something to climb. The Pole beans in my three sisters garden didn't get over four feet tall, and I have had a few people in the valley tell me that is about as tall as theirs ever got.

After the ple beans hit the top of the fence, I use PVC pipe to create a 7' high frame, and ran string from the fence to the pvc cross bars. It has a tendency to come apart in strong-ish winds (I didn't glue any of it. The cross bars sag a bit under the weight of the beans. Also, the PVC is held upright by being slipped onto 18" rebar, which I hammered into the ground about half-way. I overwatered one eveing during a strong wind, and that did my anchors in, so I had to tie guy wires to keep the frame upright.

At any rate, some of the bean plants are over 8' tall now. Our first harvest weighed in at four pounds. I did not amend the soil. It was not high quality soil. I used no fertilizers and no pesticides. Pretty happy with the results.

(I did use pesticide on the Brussels sprouts though. Those things are aphid magnets. You can't see the plastic under them now for all the aphid poop. I may try surrounding them with marigolds and garlic next year, to see if that helps).

This last row is lettuce and beets.

You may be thinking the beet crop looks a little sparse. You may be right. we had a serious pest problem in this row. A couple of neighbor kids tramped from one end to the other. destructive little critters.

That is it for the official garden this year. There is still room to add tow more rows. Hopefully next year time will permit that.

On the other side of the yard, I put in six grapevines (two red, two green, two black. They are off to a good start. I am using cheap metal fence posts and vinyl clothesline for my vine guides, you can just  make them out.

Oh yeah, somehow we wound up with a random sunflower growing next to the oldest of our Cherry trees. Not sure how it got there, but I figured it wouldn't hurt anything to let it grow. The marigolds you see here are plants we purchased later, since my attempt to grow from seed was so spectacularly unsuccessful.

And that is that for this year. Mostly successful with no chemicals, other than pesticide on the Brussels sprouts. And 1 round of dormant oil on the trees in the spring. Oh, and just s couple weeks ago I had to spray the apple tree for fire blight. Fingers crossed that we don't lose it. It is our oldest fruit tree.