Friday, March 25, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 121: A grim warning on ideologised social re-engineering of marriage

Dr Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute warns about the grim consequences of the agenda to re-engineer marriage in the image of homosexuality; alluding in passing to the significance of the Bull Guest House case and that of the Johns foster parenting case in the UK:

(HT: ADF.)

Are we listening? Do we understand what is at stake? Do we care?

If so, what then shall we do? END

Friday, March 18, 2011

Capacity Focus, 6: Blender's video sequence editor and video production for all

A key part of the capacity focus series in this blog is about building capacity to use digital and related multimedia technologies to help transform our capabilities as a region. Audio and video are two key technologies for multimedia -- wiki: "a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content forms . . .  -- which is a key to C21 education and capacity building for the region.

Tay Vaughn helps us see why:
Multimedia is any combination of text, graphic art, sound, animation, and video that is delivered by computer. When you allow the user – the viewer of the project – to control what and when these elements are delivered, it is interactive multimedia. When you provide a structure of linked elements through which the user can navigate, interactive multimedia becomes hypermedia. [Vaughan, Tay, 1993, Multimedia: Making It Work (first edition, ISBN 0-07-881869-9), Osborne/McGraw-Hill, Berkeley, pg. 3. (Hypermedia tells us that interactive web-based content with A/v elements is also multimedia, like current posts in this blog.]
Unfortunately, video editing software -- one key to effective multimedia -- tends to be expensive and/or fairly complex, so the challenge is to find an effective open-source approach to video production for all.

Right now, that boils down to ZS4 and Blender's Video Sequence Editor. 

Of these, Blender VSE is the preferred technology because of not only the upcoming version 2.5, but because the suite is a comprehensive, pro grade 3-D modelling, animation and A-V production, open source tool. (That has the side-effect that it is fairly complex, but with appropriate tutoring, that can be worked around. Remember, people have actually used Blender as a 3-D engineering design tool, as well as 3-D computer animations, for movies and for creating interactive games.)

It's worth the pause to link Big Buck Bunny, which showcases what can be done:

This post is therefore an initial, work in progress report, on adventures with Blender.

First, I tried to work with the 2.56 beta test [since an earlier version of the beta has been used to produce a short movie, even before it reached beta stage].

While the program downloaded well, and installed, when I set up the video sequence editor and loaded with movie strips, I could only see a white box in the preview. 

Several days of trying to track it down ended up with the conclusion that there may be a driver problem on the Netbook I am using. I also noticed that FFMPEG capacity for Windows was at least one beta version away, so I reverted to the last "stable" release [with a significantly less polished interface], Blender 2.49b.

Worked like a charm, though of course for this version I had to download and install Python 2.7 first. I used the Windows x86 MSI Installer (2.7.1) (sig) .  (NB: Blender was developed on 2.6, and on startup demanded it, but 2.7 worked well.)

An AVI video strip loaded well, and presto, we have video preview, a necessity for effective non-linear video editing.

Here is an introductory video:

(A useful step by step, illustrated tutorial on basic non-linear editing with transitions is here, with the follow up page on exporting here.  The Blender manual [a fair sized Wiki], as a PDF is here, but that is strictly for reference, it is not a tutorial! I downloaded the June 22, 2010 version, 1561 pp, and the video sequence editor section begins at p. 1416, which can be reached by using the bookmarks for the PDF. [Click on the view menu, then click on "bookmarks."])

There are of course many other videos and tutorials on various aspects of Blender.
This one is on the Blender 2.5 interface and integrating animations, video and audio strips, but the same basic principles apply to 2.49:

So, it looks like we are up and running with Blender as an Open Source [= free for download, and effectively no restrictions on commercial use] video editor, for developing multimedia capacity.

So, it is now over to the techies, and the educators, to develop a full bore Blender Workshop for teachers, trainers, capacity-building activists, church leaders, professionals, youth and community leaders. A component for an envisioned ICTs Productivity as a cyber- and- workshops course.

Work in progress, stay tuned . . . END

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Capacity Focus, 5: Japan -- from earthquakes and tsunamis to nuclear emergencies; significance for us

A few weeks ago, after months of meaning to discuss the matter, I raised the issue in this blog of passive-safe nuclear energy technologies as an option for the Caribbean (based on pebble bed and molten salt Thorium reactors). 

I did not anticipate how timely that first post in this series would be.

But the unfolding tragedy in Japan (cf earlier remarks here) has now put nuclear energy technologies and safety issues into the centre of focus.And, though I am busy with several other issues on and offline and have just got back DSL access overnight after my net access went down on the weekend due to an upgrade by the phone company, I have been approached [as a physicist] to comment on the situation.

I also think nuclear energy sufficiently important in developing a sustainable and desirable future that does not look like a modified version of C19 [which would imply a population collapse of several billions . . . ] that we need some background on it and on the specific concerns and balances of risks and hazards.

Russia Today has a useful round up news video from a couple of days back, that bridges from the earlier quake-tsunami story to the developing nuclear crisis at Fukushima No 1 and other sites that has apparently cost Japan ~ 20% or so of its [CORRECTION: nuclear] electricity generating capacity -- this will have severe economic impact there and globally -- quite well:

It is also worth excerpting the lead to the Wikipedia article on the disaster, as it provides a "crowd-source" news summary that is actually excellent:



>>The 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami (東北地方太平洋沖地震 Tōhoku Chihō Taiheiyō-oki Jishin[8]?, literally "Tōhoku region Pacific Ocean offshore earthquake"[FN 1])a 9.0 MW megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday 11 March 2011.[2][3][5][11][12] The epicenter was reported to be 130 kilometers (81 mi) off the east coast of the Oshika Peninsula, Tōhoku, with the hypocenter at a depth of 32 km (20 mi).[13][14] 

The earthquake triggered tsunami warnings and evacuations along Japan's Pacific coast and in at least 20 countries, including the entire Pacific coast of North America and South America.[15][16][17] The earthquake created extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 10 meters (33 ft) that struck Japan minutes after the quake, in some cases travelling up to 10 km (6 mi) inland,[18] with smaller waves after several hours in many other countries.[12]

The Japanese National Police Agency has officially confirmed 3,373[6][7] deaths, 1,897[6][7] injuries, and 6,746[6][7] people missing across sixteen prefectures, but estimated numbers are far higher, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands dead or missing.[19] 

The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive and severe damage in Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.4 million without water.[20] Many electrical generators were taken down, and at least three nuclear reactors partially melted down,[21][22] which prompted evacuations of the affected areas,[23] and a state of emergency was established. Three reactors believed to have partially melted down have experienced a chemical explosion extensively damaging their buildings, and the integrity of the inner core-containment vessel of one compromised and some dangerously radioactive release from the plant has occurred.[20][24][25] Residents within a 20 km (12 mi) radius of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and a 10 km (6.2 mi) radius of the Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant were evacuated. Early estimates from AIR Worldwide place insured losses from the earthquake and tsunami at US$14.5 to $34.6 billion.[26] Chief economist for Japan at Credit Suisse, Hiromichi Shirakawa, said in a note to clients that the estimated economic loss may be around $171–183 billion[27] just to the region which was hit by the quake and tsunami. The Bank of Japan offered a combined ¥15 trillion (US$183 billion) to the banking system on 14 March 2011[27] to normalize market conditions.

The estimates of the Sendai earthquake's magnitude made it the strongest known earthquake to hit Japan, and the fourth strongest earthquake in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900.[28][29][30] Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that "in the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan."[31] The earthquake moved Honshu 2.4 m (7.9 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by almost 10 cm (3.9 in).[32] [NB: We so often have occasion to criticise the problems at Wikipedia, that when it does a good job like this, it is doubly important to say so, and use that in rating how and where sources like Wikipedia can be useful.]>>

A quake that moves the entire island of Honshu -- comparable to Cuba, say -- bodily by nearly eight feet and shifts the earth's axis of rotation four inches, is not to be underestimated. Neither are telephone-pole high walls of water moving up to six miles inland, at perhaps 30 miles per hour.

However, the nuclear disaster at Fukushima is the emerging focus of global attention, and it is where we need to now turn. 

Fukushima No 1, with reactor buildings 4, 3, 2, 1 in the left middle of the picture:

Josef Oehmen has written an excellent summary, now hosted by MIT's Nuclear Engineering Dept. Excerpting:
The plants at Fukushima are Boiling Water Reactors (BWR for short). A BWR produces electricity by boiling water, and spinning a a turbine with that steam. The nuclear fuel heats water, the water boils and creates steam, the steam then drives turbines that create the electricity, and the steam is then cooled and condensed back to water, and the water returns to be heated by the nuclear fuel.
The reactor operates at about 285 °C.
The nuclear fuel is uranium oxide. Uranium oxide is a ceramic with a very high melting point of about 2800 °C. The fuel is manufactured in pellets (cylinders that are about 1 cm tall and 1 com in diameter). These pellets are then put into a long tube made of Zircaloy (an alloy of zirconium) with a failure temperature of 1200 °C (caused by the auto-catalytic oxidation of water), and sealed tight. This tube is called a fuel rod. These fuel rods are then put together to form assemblies, of which several hundred make up the reactor core.
The solid fuel pellet (a ceramic oxide matrix) is the first barrier that retains many of the radioactive fission products produced by the fission process.  The Zircaloy casing is the second barrier to release that separates the radioactive fuel from the rest of the reactor.
The core is then placed in the pressure vessel . . . designed to withstand the high pressures that may occur during an accident. The pressure vessel is the third barrier to radioactive material release.
The entire primary loop of the nuclear reactor – the pressure vessel, pipes, and pumps that contain the coolant (water) – are housed in the containment structure.  This structure is the fourth barrier to radioactive material release . . . The containment structure is a hermetically (air tight) sealed, very thick structure made of steel and concrete. This structure is designed, built and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown . . .
David C. Synnott/Katana0182 at Wikipedia has provided a helpful illustration, under CCA:

Oehmen summarises what went wrong:
The earthquake that hit Japan was [about five] times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for [8.2 vs 8.9]  . . . .

 Within seconds after the earthquake started, the control rods had [automatically] been inserted into the core and the nuclear chain reaction stopped. At this point, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat, about 7% of the full power heat load under normal operating conditions.
The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor . . . For the first hour, the first set of multiple emergency diesel power generators started and provided the electricity that was needed. However, when the tsunami arrived (a very rare and larger than anticipated tsunami) it flooded the diesel generators, causing them to fail . . . . the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power . . . .

After 8 hours, the batteries ran out, and the residual heat could not be carried away any more.  At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a “loss of cooling event” . . . . 
[M]obile generators were transported to the site and some power was restored . . . . more water was boiling off and being vented than was being added to the reactor, thus decreasing the cooling ability of the remaining cooling systems. At some stage during this venting process, the water level may have dropped below the top of the fuel rods.  Regardless, the temperature of some of the fuel rod cladding exceeded 1200 °C, initiating a reaction between the Zircaloy and water. This oxidizing reaction produces hydrogen gas, which mixes with the gas-steam mixture being vented.
Very hot hydrogen gas hitting the atmosphere triggered explosions, and these have done more damage, and as was summarised by Wikipedia, there has apparently been some "meltdown." As a part of all of this, some radioactive materials have been vented, and some have apparently been released by/due to the explosive events. Evacuations have been ordered, and Japan is facing loss of some 20% of its [correction: NUCLEAR] power generation capacity. For the number 2 or 3 economy in the world, as China seems to have just overtaken.

The quickest restoration of some capacity is oil and natural gas fired plants, which will put further pressure on global fossil fuel supplies and refinery capacity. In addition, plans to build more nuke plants all around the world probably just went on hold. That is, blending in the already dangerous instabilities in the Middle East, we can expect sharpish rises in energy prices in coming weeks and months.

All of this immediately implies a further round of price rises in fuels, including gasoline and diesel; further putting pressure on economies. And, since the cost of food is strongly driven by energy prices, food and other prices -- predictably -- are going to go up again. (This, on top of the threatening situation with Iran in the Middle East, and the wave of uprisings and protests across that always turbulent zone.)

None of this is good news for the Caribbean in a time of already harsh economic difficulties.

But, we must brace for it.

In addition, the events underscore the issues of risk/crisis management and disaster mitigation. The Japanese plainly planned for worst reasonable cases, but their defences in depth were overwhelmed by a much bigger disaster than they planned for. They have been reduced to pouring seawater into the reactors and adding boric acid to ensure the nuclear reaction is damped down. I suspect, that is going to add to damages, and will stretch out recovery times for reactors that will be recoverable.

Already, people are reacting to a nuclear accident. But, we must put this in context: global dependence on oil has meant arming radicals and other unstable regimes in the Middle East, it has forced the expenditure of trillions over the years on entire naval fleets, and is tied to all the questions on fossil fuel dependency and environmental as well as economic impacts.  Most renewables are unreliable and not available in relevant quantities on economic terms. The big exception, hydro, is very site dependent, and requires massive dams and inundations of large swaths of land, with their own environmental impacts.

And, in places like Montserrat, Nevis, Dominica, St Lucia etc, where geothermal energy is a possibility, that needs to be explored as economic development priority number one.

For, one thing is certain: oil fuel technology is simply not a long term economically sustainable basis for electrical energy, in an era where stable, reliable, economically affordable electricity is a prime basis for economic survival, much less prosperity.

That means our region -- not just policy wonks, politicians and Electric Utility managers and engineers, EVERYBODY --  needs to think through the options and possibilities, balancing risks of each major energy and development alternative, very carefully. Then, we need to build and act on a sound consensus on ways to a sustainable energy future, with a balance of technologies that we can afford, and that can sustain a viable economic base for a thriving region.

One thing is certain: there are no easy options or magic cures, only intelligent, prudent choices on trade-offs and balances of risks. END


F/N: Daily Mail has an excellent summary here, with pictures and diagrams with explanations. For example:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 120:Implications of "special animosity" to Christians in UK courts, in light of the Johns foster parenting case and other similar rulings

In recent days, this blog has been following the recent Bull Guest House and Johns Foster parenting cases in the UK, drawing out implications and underscoring concerns for law, liberty and freedom of conscience in the Caribbean as radical secularisation and homosexualisation of the state spread ever more widely and deeply in the UK; and more broadly in our civilisation.

Now, the Christian Legal Centre of the UK
informs us further on the Johns foster parenting case:

In a landmark judgment, which will have a serious impact on the future of fostering and adoption in the UK, the High Court has suggested that Christians with traditional views on sexual ethics are unsuitable as foster carers, and that homosexual ‘rights’ trump freedom of conscience in the UK. The Judges stated that Christian beliefs on sexual ethics may be ‘inimical’ to children, and they implicitly upheld an Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) submission that children risk being ‘infected’ by Christian moral beliefs.

Today’s ruling relates to the dispute between married couple Eunice and Owen Johns and Derby City Council. The Johns applied to the Council in 2007 to foster a child but the Council blocked their application because they objected that the Johns were not willing to promote the practise of homosexuality to a young child. In November 2010 both parties jointly asked the Court to rule on whether the Johns were able to foster children, or whether they could be excluded from doing so under equality law because of their Christian beliefs.

Today (28th February) that judgment has been released. The judges declined to make the statement that the Johns, wanting to re-establish their fostering application, had sought. Instead, the judgment strongly affirms homosexual rights over freedom of conscience and leaves the Johns currently unable to foster a child as desired, despite their proven track record as foster parents. There now appears to be nothing to stop the increasing bar on Christians who wish to adopt or foster children but who are not willing to compromise their beliefs by promoting the practise of homosexuality to small children. [HT: WND; cf also Paul Diamond (The Johns' attorney) here.]

Some of the more troubling details of the judgement delivered by the judges are:
• That if children are placed with parents who have traditional Christian views like the Johns “there may well be a conflict with the local authority’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children”, [1]
• That there is a tension between the equality provisions concerning religious discrimination and those concerning sexual orientation. Yet, as regards fostering, “the equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence”, [2]
• That a local authority can require positive attitudes to be demonstrated towards homosexuality, [3]
• That there is no religious discrimination against the Johns because they were being excluded from fostering due to their moral views on sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs (This is incredible and very disingenuous as the Johns moral views cannot be separated from their religious beliefs), [4] and
• That “Article 9 [of the European Human Rights Act] only provides a ‘qualified’ right to manifest religious belief and ... this will be particularly so where a person in whose care a child is placed wishes to manifest a belief that is inimical to the interests of children”. [5]

In responding to the case, Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, observed:
The Johns are a mild mannered, ordinary Christian couple, yet they may never be able to foster children again. They were willing to love a child regardless of sexual orientation, but not willing to tell a young child that practising homosexuality was a positive thing. Now, a child has likely missed out on finding a home, at a time when there is a desperate shortage of willing parents . . . .

The Judges have claimed that there was no discrimination against the Johns as Christians because they were being excluded from fostering due to their sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs. This claim that their moral beliefs on sex have nothing to do with their Christian faith is a clear falsehood made in order to justify their ruling. How can the Judges get away with this?

What has happened to the Johns is part of a wider trend seen in recent years. The law has been increasingly interpreted by Judges in a way which favours homosexual rights over freedom of conscience. Significant areas of public life are now becoming out of bounds to Christians who do not want to compromise their beliefs. If Christian morals are harmful to children and unacceptable to the State, then how many years do we have before natural children start being taken away from Christians?

At the Christian Legal Centre our clients have included, amongst many others, a nurse suspended for offering prayer; a Council worker suspended for talking about God to a client, a teacher suspended for offering prayer; a nurse forced off frontline nursing because she wouldn’t take off her cross. We have dealt with Civil Registrars who have been demoted because they did not want to officiate at civil partnerships, and a Christian counsellor who lost his job for not wanting to give sex therapy to homosexuals. In the last few years, several Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close because they refused to place children with homosexual couples.

There is a great imbalance in the law at the moment, resulting in ordinary people suffering. The situation must be addressed by Parliament as the Judiciary have failed to stand for civil liberties but have capitulated to the agenda of the homosexual rights lobby. We cannot have a society where you are excluded just because you don’t agree with the sexual ethics of the homosexual lobby. Britain is now leading Europe in intolerance against religious belief.

With the recent rulings in the UK, we have reached the sad point in our civilisation where the shameless pornographic portrayal of drug-besotted, manipulated and intimidated women is celebrated as "freedom of expression"; whilst, conscience-based principled questioning of the morality of homosexual habituations and linked homosexualisation of law, state and culture, is viewed as intolerant, infectious -- notice, the connotations of that telling metaphor: a communicable disease to be contained and if possible eradicated -- "prejudice."

Indeed, as bigotry. To be crushed by state-sponsored court actions and rulings under the false colours of allegedly anti-discrimination law;
backed up by ideologised, unsound scientific pretensions. (Cf. here, especially here.)

That is why Mike Judge's
recent plea to pause and think again is so apt:
Discrimination law is meant to act as a shield to protect people from unfair treatment, not to be used as a sword to attack those whose beliefs you disagree with . . .

Something is plainly wrong.

My right to a particular view cannot justly secure the additional right to censor and crush principled, conscience based objections (as opposed to mere spiteful shouting of bullying threats and intimidation). This, especially in regards to behaviour that -- as a matter of observable fact -- is inescapably disordered and damaging.
My right not to be discriminated against cannot justly secure a "right" to discriminate in turn against those who have such principled questions or objections.

Simple consistency, fairness and equality should tell us that.

Nor should one be seeking the backing of the state's human rights departments in turning anti-discrimination law into a sword against people of conscience and principle. And when one then finds oneself not only interfering with the livelihood of others, but also breaking into people's families and homes, claiming that the mere possibility of moral objections to potential cases of homosexual behaviour disqualifies people from continuing as foster parents, that should give pause. For
if such a premise is able to strip people of their status as acceptable foster parents, it automatically implies that they are unacceptable as adoptive and natural parents as well.

Let us boil that down:

Who would rob me of the means of earning my daily bread, would rob me of my life.

Who would rob me of the sanctity of my home, and of my family, would rob me of
my posterity.

Who would rob me of my freedom of conscience, would rob me of
my soul.

And yet, we seem to mainly hear a deafening silence in response to the choking canaries in the mines.

Instead of a roar of public outcry and a demand to fix the  problem, we see and hear but few voices, making the gentlest of remonstrances, only to be met with yawns and studied, pointed silence in the media at large. Or worse, we now often find cynical misrepresentation and caricaturing of issues, people, their concerns and even the basic facts.

Somehow, in our region, most of us have not even heard about and understood that there is a serious problem that we need to think about, discuss and address. (
No thanks to the BBC's, CNN's, etc. . . . )

For those few who have, too often the blatant contradiction fails to move us to urgent action, and some are even quietly consenting:
those hypocritical Holier than Thou Christians are getting a deserved come-uppance . . .

Thus lies revealed the utter bankruptcy of radical secularisation of what was once the ever so inspiring vision of freedom and rights under just law and democratically elected rulers accountable before the people and a free, uncensored, responsible press.

For, as
Plato's parable of the cave long ago foreshadowed, our media and education systems ought not to be allowed to become manipulative shadow-shows serving the interests of powerful and unaccountable manipulators behind the scenes; making cynically calculated plans for  the rest of us behind closed doors.

Beneath the wreckage, we see the exact problem of utter amorality that was also warned of ever so long ago by Plato, in his The Laws, Book X. 

For, those who reduce all to matter and energy evolving blindly and purposelessly under the impact of chance circumstances and undirected natural forces, can have no grounding IS strong enough to be a basis for OUGHT. So, to such, "the highest right is might." Or, as more modern thinkers have put it: might makes right.  

Putting that another way, a priori evolutionary materialism -- even if dressed up in a lab coat and speaking in the name of "science" -- is inescapably amoral, as well as undermining the credibility of the mind to think, decide and act reasonably. It is therefore utterly absurd and irretrievably morally bankrupt. As Law professor and design thinker Philip Johnson aptly summed up:
For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]
Going back to Plato, we may read him speaking in the voice of the Athenian Stranger in his The Laws, Book X:

Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view!] . . . .

[[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [i.e. domineering political ideologies and movements], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [such ideologies lead to tyrannies], and not in legal subjection to them.

As a direct result, of such concerns, it is plainly unsafe to try to restructure our civilisation on an explicit or implicit evolutionary materialistic foundation. Instead, we can see that the only safe worldviews to build law and policy on are those that have in them a foundational IS that can ground both our equality and moral worth, thence the OUGHT that flows from that. In short, a worldview grounded in the good, reasonable and just Creator God. Individuals may be free to dissent from accepting such a God as their personal Lord and pivot for their worldviews, but -- as the events now unfolding in the UK show (as had happened previously in Russia, China, Germany and even C18 France) a civilisation as a whole cannot afford that luxury.

Not if it wants to remain free, just and stable.

For,  equality and justice need to be built on a sound, ably argued and credible worldview level foundation that cannot only stand the test of open, unfettered and free debate in the marketplace of ideas, but also the tests of
adequately grounding, preserving and enhancing liberty and justice for all. The exact test that is now being manifestly failed by radically secularist evolutionary materialism. Yet again.

Nor is this exactly news, for when John Locke set out to ground the principles of liberty in his 1690
Second Treatise on Civil Government, he reached back a hundred years to cite  "the judicious" Canon Richard Hooker, from his classic 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity
. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant. [John Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government, Ch. II, Section 5.]

So, we can see that we need not abandon ourselves to a view of morality that is locked up to the war of ruthless factions vying for power and cynically manipulating and using moral perceptions as a club, to batter down those who dare to question their attitudes and behaviour.

Unfortunately, this is not just an academic exercise, a matter of observing what is going on far to the North, on the other side of our common Atlantic Ocean.

For, like a social and spiritual tidal wave, the same problems are propagating into our region. 

Not only in overseas territories and provinces directly subject to European Union and national laws, but also for countries dependent on aid and therefore subject to "reasonable" terms and conditions driven by "rights" concerns and "anti-discrimination" provisions. To see that, let us recall what the just past Governor of Montserrat, Mr Peter Waterworth (BTW, a lawyer), said in his final Christmas Message (2010) to Montserrat:

. . . Challenge yourselves to find the courage to reject the false prophets and to chart a new and inclusive course for Montserrat. One where individuals take responsibility for their actions, work together for the public good and welcome and acknowledge the assistance that Montserrat has had and continues to receive, both from countries and from individuals who come here to serve Montserrat. Forget about where they come from, or the colour of their skin, their religion or lack of it or sexual preference. Put simply, without those people this island has no future . . . 

The teeth in that is the anti-discrimination provision in the new Constitution pushed through by the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO] (under the implied hint that desperately needed post-disaster aid hinged upon getting though the Draft Constitution much as it stood in May 2010, without further delays), based on the same European Union convention on human rights that has begun to cause so much trouble in the UK:

 16.—(1) Subject  to  subsections  (4)  and  (5),  no  law  shall  make  any  provision  which  is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect . . . . (3) In  this  section,  the  expression discriminatory  means  affording  different  treatment  to different persons on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. [Finalised version, Montserrat Constitution Order, 2010.]

Notice how -- in a territory that has a history rooted in the struggle for equality and justice in the face of slavery and racism -- the list of yardstick cases is led by "sex" and by "sexual orientation." That serves to warn us that this is an agenda-driven external imposition.

Worse, "sexual orientation" is not a properly defined legal term; it is a broad psychological description that takes in a vast array of observably, plainly and inescapably disordered passions, behaviours and habits.

Ranging from -- excuse me, I must give a yardstick -- whips to -- pardon such a reference -- animals, and worse. But, despite warnings, this was ignored and the above was pushed through.

Compounding all, despite a correction conceded on defining marriage as being between the opposite sexes, the vague term "other status" above in such a context of imposition plainly includes room for the establishment of so-called civil unions equivalent to marriages in all but name. And, once such are set up as protected from "discrimination," it will be gradually argued that ideas such as Mother and Father, Husband and Wife, as well as family based on the natural issue of such a union, are discriminatory and should be edited out of schools and government pronouncements and actions. 

Q: How do we know that? 
A: Simple: this is what is happening already, elsewhere.
So, we must now weigh up the implications of the refusal to entertain a balancing provision along the lines of the suggestion for a protective clause made by an opposition representative last September:

(4 [new])  Nothing in this section shall be construed as legitimating the undue infringement of the rights of other persons, individually or collectively, to life, liberty, conscience and religion, expression, association and assembly.

In light of the Johns and Bull cases in the UK (how eerily close that is to the traditional name for the archetypal Englishman, John Bull!), perhaps we should add to this list, "hearth, home, family and means of livelihood," and stress the significance of democratic principles of justice, fairness to all and equality. So, let us further adjust in light of, say, the basic precedent that even a bankrupt must be left in possession of the clothes on his back, and the basic tools and means of his trade or the much older equity provision that the corners of one's field must be left for the gleanings of the poor:

(4 [new])  Nothing in this section shall be construed as legitimating the undue infringement [in a democratic state] of the rights of other persons, individually or collectively, to life, liberty, conscience and religion, expression, association and assembly, [hearth, home, family and means of livelihood].

Such a shield clause would tend to prevent the abuse of anti-discrimination law as a club to batter down those one disagrees with, once the accused can show that s/he was acting within the reasonable ambit of fair, civil conduct and moral principle that are not a direct threat to others. 

For instance, it is most unlikely that the two men who wanted to rent a double-bed room in the Bull Guest House would have perished of exposure in the separate single-bed rooms offered to them. Similarly, if the Johns have been effective foster parents in the past, it is improper that their Christian convictions and associations are now to be used as a disqualification for seeing them as suitable parents, foster or otherwise.  Likewise, the mere holding and expression of contrary opinions -- especially those motivated by reasons of conscience -- should not be made the target for thought police censorship and exclusion.

But, such was blocked for Montserrat, blocked in a context dominated by the UK's FCO. The same UK government where the Human Rights protection agency has been funding anti-Christian, livelihood, home and family-threatening cases before the courts. The same UK government whose duly appointed Governor spoke as cited above. All, without any explanation for why such a potentially dangerous decision was made behind closed doors.

And worse, proposed provisions for a right of petition, law-making initiative, recall and referendum -- similar to those in the Cayman Constitution and to many democratic constitutions around the world -- were also blocked without any explanation.

However, such unaccountable and questionable acts do not block our traditional -- albeit unwritten -- natural right to object, to petition for correction of patently unjust and dangerous law, and to back up such petitions with public pressure and our votes. And in fact the power of legal precedents works both ways. So,
if we succeed in correcting the present unbalanced situation here in our region, it can serve to help correct the same imbalances elsewhere.

Similarly, in independent states, we have every right to insist that if questionable agendas are inserted in development aid terms, there should be shield clauses that prevent the abuse of such aid to impose abusive or questionable consequences.

In short,
to stand up for our rights here in the region is protective of the rights of all people, everywhere.

And so, the Mordecai challenge goes forth to us, once again:
why not now, why not here, why not us? END

ADDED, Mar 17: Some useful references that will give perspective and insight:

1: Spitzer in Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2001, on two orthodoxies regarding homosexuality, in light of his study on possibilities for desired change in same sex attraction.

2: Harren's Homosexuality 101 "what we need to know" primer. 

3: Satinover on the state of scientific evidence vs. official and clinical positions in mental health professions.

4: Austriaco on the status of "gay gene" research and the evidence.

5: Whitehead and Whitehead online book, My Genes Made Me do it. (The discussion on the Sambia of New Guinea is particularly significant. Cf also here.)

6: Gagnon on implications of and agendas behind gender identity hate crime laws.

7: Mohler on the attempted homosexualisation of Christian theology