Sunday, March 29, 2015

Humility, Science, and Accepting Reality

I could be a Christian, following my Lord, if I believed that we live on a flat plate with nothing between us and the cosmic ocean but a sold dome that holds the stars.

But my faith doesn't depend on maintaining ignorance of what we've learned in the last two dozen or so centuries.

Imagery in 1 Samuel 2:8 and Psalms 148:4 is beautiful, poetic, and consistent with Mesopotamian cosmology: hardly surprising, considering where the Hebrews lived. (July 15, 2014; January 3, 2014)

That was then, this is now, and we've learned quite a bit about the universe since the days of Kubaba and Enmerkar. Some details of their lives seem exaggerated, but folks still pad their resumes, and that — isn't another topic.

Accepting Reality

Humility, Catholic style, isn't a psychotic delusion: a morose counterpart to megaolmania. Despondency isn't a virtue, gloominess is not next to Godliness, and I've been over that before. (June 3, 2012; January 8, 2012; May 5, 2011)

Humility is accepting reality.

In my case, it's acknowledging that I've got a broad range of creative talents, including freakishly enhanced language skills.

That's the kit I was issued when God put me together. My contribution has been deciding to do something with the package. (September 1, 2013; April 11, 2012)

I was also born with defective hips that have since been swapped out — a huge improvement — and lived for decades with undiagnosed depression and something on the autism spectrum.

Again, it's part of the kit I was issued. No complaints, particularly since my circumstances helped me learn to see beauty in just about everything. (February 8, 2015; October 5, 2014; February 12, 2011)

Pretending that I'm less than I am is nuts.

Wanting to seem like more than I really am is a bad idea, too. That's what the sin we call pride is about. That sort of pride is as unreasonable as trying to believe I'm stupid.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about boasting, humility and pride, including these bits:
"...The sin of boasting may be considered in two ways. First, with regard to the species of the act, and thus it is opposed to truth; as stated (in the body of the article and Question [110], Article [2]). Secondly, with regard to its cause, from which more frequently though not always it arises: and thus it proceeds from pride as its inwardly moving and impelling cause...."
("The Summa Theologica," Question 112, St. Thomas Aquinas)

"...Humility restrains the appetite from aiming at great things against right reason: while magnanimity urges the mind to great things in accord with right reason. Hence it is clear that magnanimity is not opposed to humility: indeed they concur in this, that each is according to right reason...."
"The Summa Theologica," Question 161, St. Thomas Aquinas)

"...'A man is said to be proud, because he wishes to appear above (super) what he really is'; for he who wishes to overstep beyond what he is, is proud. Now right reason requires that every man's will should tend to that which is proportionate to him. Therefore it is evident that pride denotes something opposed to right reason...."
("The Summa Theologica," Question 162, St. Thomas Aquinas)
(translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947))

Humility, Pride, Sin, and Temperance; Catholic Style — Definitions

As usual, it's a matter of balance and reason:
"HUMILITY: The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good. Humility avoids inordinate ambition or pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer (2559). Voluntary humility can be described as 'poverty of spirit' (2546)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, H)

"PRIDE: One of the seven capital sins. Pride is undue self–esteem or self–love, which seeks attention and honor and sets oneself in competition with God (1866)."
(Catechism, Glossary, P)

"SIN: An offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins (1849, 1853, 1854)."
(Catechism, Glossary, S)

"TEMPERANCE: The cardinal moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasure and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the mastery of the will over instinct, and keeps natural desires within proper limits (1809)."
(Catechism, Glossary, T)

Scientists, Ethics, and Horrors: Imagined and Real

I've said this before, a lot: science and technology, studying this astounding universe and developing new tools, is part of being human.

It's what we do, and necessary for one of our jobs: taking care of this world. (Catechism, 373, 2292-2296, 2415, 2456)

Ethics matter in science, just like everything else we do. (Catechism, 2292-2296)

A scientist occasionally embraces the notion that smart folks are "beyond good and evil." That attitude gives us movies like "The Brain That Wouldn't Die," and real-life horrors like the Willowbrook State School experiments.

No wonder some folks see thinking and science as sinful. (February 27, 2015; August 10, 2014)

I don't: but I'm a Catholic, with a taste for research. I like to find out what the Church actually says: not what I heard some guy say he read somewhere — or what I think should be true.

Being an adult convert, and the child of two librarians, may have something to do with it; and that — is another topic.

Order, Beauty, and Using our Brains

The universe is a place of order and beauty.

It's being created by God: constantly upheld and sustained, in a "state of journeying" toward an ultimate perfection. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 32, 302)

We're rational creatures, created in the image of God, who are "little less than a god:" with the power and frightening responsibilities that come with our nature. (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7; Psalms 8:6; Catechism, 355-373, 2402, 2415-2418, 2456)

What gets us in trouble is forgetting that "little less than a god" isn't "God."

God's God, I'm not, and I'm okay with that. (March 8, 2015; June 10, 2012)

Using reason, we can see God's work in the universe. Studying this world is okay. (Catechism, 35-36, 282-289, 1704, 2292-2295)

Thinking is not a sin. Using the brains God gave us is part of being human. (Wisdom 7:17; Catechism, 35, 159, 1730-1738)

Science and Humility

Folks knew that the universe is vast and ancient when Imhotep designed an Egyptian step pyramid.

That was around the time Lothal was a major port city — give or take a few centuries. The famous Giza complex came a little later, and that's yet another topic.

Learning that the world is bigger and older than some European scholars thought, a few centuries back, doesn't bother me.

At all. (July 15, 2014)

For me, it's an opportunity for "even greater admiration" of God's greatness. (Catechism, 283)
"4 Indeed, before you the whole universe is as a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.

"But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men that they may repent.

"For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.

"And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?"
(Wisdom 11:22-25)
We're created by God, designed with a thirst for truth and for God — made from the stuff of this world — and made "in the image of God," creatures who are matter and spirit. Using our senses and reason, we can observe the world's order and beauty: learning something of God in the process. (Genesis 1:26, 2:7; Catechism, 27, 31-35, 282-289, 355-361)

I think the sensible — and humble — approach to reality is studying God's universe, accepting what we find, and learning more about it. Insisting that God conforms to ideas published in 17th-century Britain: not so much. (January 9, 2015; October 10, 2014)

We wouldn't have science, arguably, if the Church hadn't been insisting that the universe operates under rational, knowable, physical laws. And that's yet again another topic. Topics. (January 9, 2015; November 21, 2014; October 31, 2014)

More reasons why I'm okay with reality:

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Thumb-Brain Connection, and DIY Robots

Scientists learned how using our thumbs changes our brains by collecting data from 26 smartphone users, 11 users of "old-fashioned cellphones," and electroencephalography.

Building your own robot is getting a whole lot easier, now that RoboCORE is around. It's a robotic central nervous system you can program with C++ or Python.
  1. Smart Phones, Thumbs, and a Grain of Salt
  2. RoboCORE, Personal Robots, and Movies
Build-your-own robots reminded me of garage bands, guitars, and why I don't yearn for the days of cholera and famines. That's why this post has an epilogue of sorts:
I've done that before. (August 29, 2014)

Brains and Assumptions

When I was in high school, I learned that adult brains were static, unchanging. Neuroscientists thought, or assumed, that once we get past youth — that our brains don't change: no new neurons, no new connections between neurons.

They were wrong.

Rhesus monkeys keep rewiring their brains through adulthood — and so do we. A five-dollar word for having a brain that changes is Neuroplasticity. Having a capacity for learning, and learning, aren't the same thing: and that's another topic.

We've got new tech for tracking what goes on in our brains, but scientists have known that electrical impulses happen in brains since around 1860.

We've also learned a great deal since the days of Richard Caton, Adolf Beck, and Vladimir Pravdich-Neminsky.

Since tech like Functional neuroimaging and Magnetoencephalography is new(ish), my guess is that we'll learn a very great deal more in the next few generations.

The Missing Hippocampus of Henry Molaison

Before today's imaging technologies, opportunities for learning how the brain works were largely limited to studying victims of horrific accidents, like Phineas Gage; or survivors of drastic medical treatments, like Henry Molaison.

Doctors cut out Henry Molaison's hippocampi and other components, in a well-intentioned effort to cure his epilepsy. He lived for decades after the surgery.

Being used as a lab rat and other personal experiences gave me opportunities to learn that doctors aren't always right: but in this case, removing part of the patient's brain worked. Mr. Molaison no longer had epilepsy.

That was the good news. The bad news was that he had serious trouble with memory after the operation. His experiences gave scientists opportunities to study how memory works: by noting how it didn't work for him.

Medical research, even research involving humans, can be a good idea. But 'it's for science' isn't a good excuse for ignoring ethics. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2292-2296)

Balancing the needs and well-being of the subject with our natural curiosity may be frustrating: but it would help us avoid atrocities like Auschwitz, Dachau, Tuskegee, and Willowbrook. (December 5, 2014)

Being curious comes with being human, or should. Part of our job is taking care of this astounding creation: studying it and developing new tools. Science and technology aren't transgressions. They're what we do. (Genesis 1:27-31; Catechism, 31, 355-361, 374-379, 2292-2296, 2301)

God, Clay, and Accepting Arithmetic

Now that we have a better idea of what to look for, scientists have been learning more about how our brains change — how experience gets recorded; how we learn new skills, and improve old ones.

For example: cabbies, folks whose livelihood depends on keeping track of a city's transportation network and planning optimum routes on the fly, generally have oversize hippocampuses. Hippocampi. Whatever.

The hippocampus isn't uniquely human. It's standard-issue for mammals, and most likely developed from the pallium, a structure we share with all vertebrates.

If you're waiting for a rant about the "religion of the Antichrist," evolution — you'll have a long wait. I'm a Christian, and a Catholic.

The idea of being made from the stuff of this world and in the image of God — mind and body, body and soul — is something I must believe. (Genesis 2:7; Catechism, 355, 357, 362-368)

What's changed recently is how much we know about the 'clay' God used. (January 2, 2014; April 4, 2014)

Oddly enough, I have yet to run into denunciations of arithmetic: although the symbols we use for numbers are Hindu-Arabic; and a person can add, subtract, multiply, and divide, without consulting the Bible. (February 5, 2014)

Beware the Robots! — or — Rotwang's Maschinenmensch, H.A.L., and All That

Not all fictional robots are psychotic killers, like "2001: A Space Odyssey's" H.A.L. For that matter, H.A.L.'s behavior was — in Clark's novelization of the movie — a logical consequence of profoundly bad decisions by the mission planners.

Authors have many reasons for writing tales of robots: like discussing human frailties and potential, raising social consciousness through allegory, and paying the bills.

I think (some) speculative fiction is getting more sophisticated in portrayals of robots because more adults are admitting to an interest in the genre — and an increasing number of us have worked with robots and other AI.

I also think that there isn't a technology, real or imagined, from sharpened sticks to Rotwang's maschinenmensch, that can't be misused.

Good grief: string can kill, if we let it tighten around our neck; and after a million years we still have the occasional spot of trouble with fire. (August 15, 2014; May 9, 2014)

1. Smart Phones, Thumbs, and a Grain of Salt

"Smartphone use changing our brain and thumb interaction, say researchers"
Jim Drury, Reuters (March 25, 2015)

"Typing text messages, scrolling web pages, and checking your email on your smartphone could be changing the way your thumbs and brain interacts. That's according to researchers from the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and University of Fribourg.

"Dr Arko Ghosh, of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, led the research which involved using electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the cortical brain activity in 37 right-handed people, 26 of whom were touchscreen Smartphone users and 11 users of old-fashioned cellphones.

"A total of 62 electrodes were placed on an EEG cap worn by subjects to record how the brain processed touch from their thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Brain activity was then compared with the individual commands recorded by each individuals' phone logs...."
Scientists have been tracking electrical activity in brains since the 1870s: and in human brains since 1924. Back then we didn't have smart phones, though: which make this sort of research a whole lot easier.

Since smart phones keep a log of the user's activity, researchers got very exact data on how often folks had touched parts of the smart phone — and could compare that to changes in their brains.

I think this research is interesting, and it may indirectly help designers of next-generation smart phones. It also adds to what we know about how our brains work.

However, I take this bit of the article with a few grains of salt:
"...Ghosh says the results suggest that repetitive movements over the touchscreen surface reshape sensory processing from the hand, with daily updates in the brain's representation of the fingertips. He believes that cortical sensory processing in the contemporary brain is continuously shaped by personal digital technology...."
(Jim Drury, Reuters)
Personal digital tech has an effect on our brains. It'd be odd if it didn't. Anything we do, or experience, affects our brains. If that wasn't so, we'd never remember anything, or learn anything.

What's been changing in recent years is how much we know about the neuromechanics — if that wasn't a word before, it is now — of learning and memory work. We've come a long way since the 'good old days,' when experts thought our brains pretty much just sat there.


2. RoboCORE, Personal Robots, and Movies

(From Geeky Gadgets, used w/o permission.)
(RoboCORE: plug-and-play reaches robotics, a robotic brain in a box.)
"DIY robotics device developed"
Reuters (March20, 2015)

"It's a revolution in robotics that makes building your own personal robot a reality for the masses.

"The new device developed by Polish scientists Dominik Nowak and Radoslaw Jarema of the Husarion Company, acts as a robot's central nervous system and provides people with the hardware and software to build almost any type of robot they can think of....

"...While RoboCORE contains advanced technology, the designers kept the system simple for users. It's compatible with almost any mechanical system; even Lego's Mindstorm, and uses open system cloud-based software to control the finished construction...."
In the movies, robots are right up there with Godzilla as threats:
That's the movies.

I've talked about robots, the Roomba revolution that wasn't, and conventional angst, before. (August 22, 2014; August 15, 2014)

Bottom line? Artificial intelligence has so far been quite obviously "artificial." But even if a robot passes a Turning Test, I don't think humanity will be replaced. Some of our jobs: that's yet another topic. (August 15, 2014; May 10, 2013)

Getting back to RoboCORE and Reuters, whoever wrote — or edited — it apparently likes this kickstarter. The tone is downright enthusiastic.

Maybe it comes from growing up in the '60s, but "for the masses" seems out of place here.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform based in America. 'Obviously, from one point of view, a capitalistic imperialistic plot to enslave the world.

Crowdfunding is "the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet." (Oxford Dictionaries) — which I think it s a really good idea.

One of the problems with capitalism, Victorian style, was that it was a sort of upper-crust club: a game played by and for folks with lots of wealth. My opinion. I've talked about wealth, poverty, and social justice, before. (September 28, 2014; March 8, 2011)

Kerosene Lamps to DIY Robots in Three Generations

(From RoboCORE via Kickstarter, used w/o permission.)
("Build your own robots. Connect them to the Web. Develop and share your passion. Building robots has never been so easy and affordable."

My father remembered when a kerosene lamp was new — and potentially dangerous — tech, I grew up in a world where computers were 'science fiction,' and my kids probably know what that thing with a screen is called.

They had a kerosene lamp — my father's family, not my kids. Come to think of it, one of my ancestors was the first person in his part of the world with a telephone. Technophobia does not run in the family. But we aren't stupid,either. Tech does stuff: and it's best to find out what it does before letting it run unattended.

My father told how his folks cleared ground around a stump before test-lighting the lamp under controlled conditions. And that's not quite another topic.

I'm convinced that folks in the Paleolithic, Old Kingdom, and Renaissance got along without kerosene lamps and Roombas. But I'm also convinced that we're not losing our humanity because some animated doorstop can sweep the floor.

I'm also pretty sure that kids growing up in families where DIY robots are a child's — or mom's — toy won't all grow up to be the next Luigi Taparelli, Mother Teresa, or Bill Gates. But some might: and many more will very likely find new uses for this emerging technology.

More about RoboCORE:

No [Advanced] Programming Skills Needed

The Reuters article says you don't need "programming or engineering skills" to make RoboCORE work. I think Husarion's site is a tad more accurate:
" can build your personal assistants from scratch without high­level programming skills and at an affordable price....

"...Use our C++ or Python programming interface to revive your constructions. If you have everything programmed the Arduino, you can easily handle RoboCORE too....""
My family might have a blast, playing with RoboCORE. But my son is C+ certified; helped my son-in-law design industrial robots; and is developing a digital game, in cooperation with two of my daughters.

This is not a normal family.

We're not the only folks who kept up with some Information Age tech, though. I'm pretty sure that RoboCORE and products like it will be as well-liked and widely-used as guitars and shop tools. Not everybody's a musician or woodworker: but many are.

If DIY robots get popular enough, we'll probably hear warnings against this 'Satanic' snare for sinners.

Don't laugh. Back when "garage band" about music, not music software, a ranting preacher or two denounced guitars — along with commies, Catholicism, and other 'Satanic' plots. I think they were sincere: and set me on my path to becoming a Catholic. And that's another topic.

Or maybe it is vaguely on-topic.

Faith, Famines, and Looking Ahead

I've been asked how I can think that my faith has any relevance in today's world. The question makes sense, since some of the louder Christians apparently feel that being Christian means trying to live in the 1820s: or at least before the Seneca Falls Convention.

Folks were Christians in the 1800s: and some of us have an odd nostalgia for the 'good old days' of cholera pandemics and frequent famines.

But I'm a Christian, a Catholic, and I know my faith's history.

We were 'out of step' with contemporary culture in the 1st and 11th centuries: and almost certainly won't be fervent supporters of whatever's fashionable in the 31st.

That's because there hasn't been a society yet that wholeheartedly embraced the idea that loving neighbors — and seeing everybody as neighbors — makes sense. (Matthew 22:36-40, 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism, 1825)

We keep passing the idea along, though: along with the rest of what our Lord told us. And with every millennium that passes, a few more folks get the message: and act like it matters. (January 18, 2015; December 28, 2014; October 26, 2014)

(From JJasso, used w/o permission.)

Stuff, but not nonsense:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Scrutinies, Options, and "a Great Multitude"

Someone called my father-in-law, asking which set of Bible readings were were using this week.

It's a reasonable question. One set for this fifth Sunday in Lent is Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; and John 11:1-45. The other, labeled "Fifth Sunday of Lent - Year A Scrutinies," is Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 5:7-9; and John 12:20-33.

Having options isn't odd: readings for some Sundays include an abbreviated version — I'm not a big fan of those, since I like hearing Sacred Scripture, and my attention span doesn't time out quite that fast.

Two completely different options isn't usual, though: and "Year A Scrutinies" wasn't a familiar phrase. Turns out, it's part of RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

You'd think I'd know about that, since I'm an adult convert to Catholicism.

I was a bit surprised, back when I talked to a priest about signing up, when he talked with me about a bit of paperwork he'd have to do: and that was it.

My guess is that he knew about me. It's a small town, I married one of the deacon's daughters, and might have had a reputation for being gung-ho about our faith. Also a tad obsessive about research.

Priests, the ones I've been around, don't seem eager to rack up 'covert' numbers, and that's another topic. (June 15, 2011)

Anyway, I bypassed RCIA: which means I occasionally run into something unfamiliar connected with it. For that matter, I run into other new-to-me wrinkles of my faith now and then, too: hardly surprising, since we've been accumulating traditions (lower case "t") for about two millennia.

RCIA is a second Vatican Council thing, sort of. It's not a new idea, of course. We've been fine-tuning how to handle adult converts ever since our Lord picked out the original 12. ("Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy - Sacrosanctum Concilium," 64-66, Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963); Catechism, 1232)

I'm pretty sure that some parishes had wacky variations on RCIA committed 'in the spirit of Vatican II:' which let tightly-wound Catholics assume that their little circle of friends was the only 'real' Catholic Church in the whole world. And that's yet another topic.

Or maybe not so much.

The Great Commission, Two Millennia and Counting

Our standing orders, outlined in Matthew 28:19-20, haven't changed in two millennia. What keeps changing is how we carry them out.

At this moment, we're living in the 21st century.

It's not like the first, or 11th, centuries.

We'd be daft, trying to proclaim the Gospel the way we did when Bi Sheng1 invented movable type: or during the year of five emperors. I'm convinced that American elections aren't the best possible way to select leaders: but it could be worse, and that's yet again another topic.

Like I've said before: change happens, and it's often not comfortable.

Folks who got used to rites introduced somewhere between the fall of the Sur Empire and whatever we cobble together to replace the United Nations may be upset about reforms a millennia or so from now.

What got me thinking about that? Change. Porcelain. the Song Dynasty. Got it.

I ran into someone who hadn't gotten over the Council of Trent, when we got a new Catechism and missal. Pope Pius V signed off on that, about five centuries back now.

Getting back to "scrutinies."

"The Elect," Catholic Style

"...The RCIA describes them as 'rites for self-searching and repentance and above all a spiritual purpose. The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong and good. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.'(#141)..."
("Bulletin Article 1," USCCB)
"The elect?!"

I've talked about spiritual snobbery and Holy Willie before. Bottom line, it's a bad idea and we shouldn't do it — Holy Willie is a terrible role model. (July 27, 2014)

In this context, "elect" means "singled out from a number or group as more to one's liking (this elect body of students represents the best that the nation's high schools have to offer)" (

I hope I'm one of the folks who are the "elect" — someone who, at the end, has the good sense to choose God's will.

God knows which choice I'll make, but I don't. Not yet. I've talked about time, knowledge, free will, and getting a grip, before. (July 27, 2014)

More to the point, the Catechism has a bit to say about it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 31, 355-361, 373-379, 386-390, 396-409, 1730-1738, 1778, 2402)

Where was I? "The elect," Holy Willie, free will. Right.

Faith, Works, and Very Bad Ideas

Pop-theology versions of predestination can be comforting — or depressing — both of which are bad ideas. Very bad ideas.

Focus on the notion that we're "predestined" for Heaven, no mater what damned stupid stunts we pull, and we're skidding into presumption.

That's the notion that I can work my way into Heaven: or that God is such a sucker that I'll get in, no matter what. (Catechism, 2092)

"Faith without works is dead" and all that. What I do matters, but I'm entirely dependent on my Lord for forgiveness and salvation. (James 2:14-26; Catechism, 2006-2011)

Going the other direction, assuming that there's no way I could avoid Hell, is daft.

Reality check. Hell is real, but nobody — nobody — is "predestined" to end up there. Hope is a virtue, and despair is strictly against the rules. (Catechism, 600, 1033-1037, 1817-1821, 2091)

Scaring folks silly with tales of hellfire and damnation is part of America's cultural history: which doesn't make it a good idea. (March 15, 2015)

Catholics have our equivalents of Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." One I've heard about is a nifty little story about Saint [whoever] visiting someone in a dream and saying either that only a handful of folks from [wherever] made it to Heaven — or that they're all damned.

As for the notion that Heaven is underpopulated — John described one contingent as:
"...a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue...."
(Revelation 7:9)
I'm savvy enough to realize that Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature, full of symbolic language — wasn't written by an American. Small wonder that folks marketing 'end times Bible prophecies' have a field day with the book.

On the other hand, I have trouble believing that Revelation 7:9 tells us that God doesn't have enough folks in Heaven to play six-hand spades.

And that's still another topic.

More of my take on life, death, and the long view:

1 Gutenberg's big contribution was metal type: and mass-production techniques. (January 27, 2009)

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.