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Christian education - Sports, Gender roles

Daughters in sports

Women and men are different, so they should play differently

****

I promised in a previous column that I would address the touchy subject of daughters playing in sports, and so I guess I can't get out of it now. It is all fine and good for sons to be subjected to the discipline and competition of sports, but what about our daughters? Is it healthy for them to be competing? Here is my decided take on it: it all depends. We are not raising our daughters to be "fighters" the same way we are with our sons. At the same time, self-discipline and godly determination are great qualities for women to have. Daughters can learn a lot from sports. They can benefit from learning to push themselves, to work hard, and to be part of a team. Besides, physical activity has benefits for everyone. Women can enjoy the thrill of the race or the game like anyone else. Still, we have to look at sports for our daughters a little differently than we do for our sons. Women shouldn't be men, and vice versa The goal we have in mind in raising sons is to inculcate masculinity. And we want our daughters to embrace a godly femininity, not a worldly feminism. So when parents consider sports for their daughters, they ought to be thinking about whether her participation will help develop or hinder her. Some sports are so completely masculine that young women shouldn't even think about participating. These certainly include football, boxing, baseball, and hockey. And it is just plain pitiful to see a woman force herself onto a male team just to cause a stink and force the boys to play with her. This is just a sad attempt for attention. Once when my son played football for a government high school (while he attended a local Christian school), the other team had a girl suited up and standing on the sidelines. My husband told my son, "If she gets out on the field, don't go near her, and don't tackle her. Just stand out of her way." Tackling is no way to treat a lady, even if she is refusing to act like one. But the next important thing to consider is what kind of program is available. For example, volleyball can be a great sport for girls. But if the program is bent on treating the girls like they are boys, and they are encouraging the girls to act like boys, then I wouldn’t want my daughters participating. But if the coaches are teaching girls to play well and to play like ladies, it can be a great experience. The same is true of basketball, softball, soccer, or track. If the girls are trying to act tough and masculine, it is deadly. But if they are enjoying the game and learning to work as a team, this can be working with the grain, teaching them to be feminine and beautiful as they handle the ball or hit it over the net. When our daughter played basketball for her Christian school, the team all wore blue ribbons in their hair as a feminine statement that they were not trying to act or look or play like boys. And they were good. They didn’t trash talk or play dirty. They were taught to play like Christian women. Positive character traits So if the sport itself is not masculine in nature, and if the program is deliberately striving to promote feminine virtue, then it can be a great blessing to young girls. But there are still pitfalls. Boys need to get hit and learn to take it, but girls need security and love. When insecure girls play sports, they are more susceptible to the temptations to try to become masculine. They may be looking for attention and affirmation from the sport when they really need it from their dads and their moms. They may “feel” unfeminine, so they gravitate to sports where they don’t have to be feminine. This means that wise parents will closely monitor their daughters while they participate in sports. And if they begin to show signs of becoming “macho” or unfeminine, they should consider pulling them out. I have seen the discipline of sports teach girls to be better stewards of their time, thus causing their studies to improve. Some exposure to sports can give our daughters confidence and make them “well-rounded” in their education. My daughter especially recommends volleyball for Christian girls because it is a team sport that can include lots of people, of all ages, and is a great activity for church picnics. And team sports are revealing when it comes to testing a daughter’s character. She has to think fast, look out for others, follow directions, and develop skill. This is all good, and none of this is contrary to a biblical femininity. Uniforms Of course I have to say something about uniforms and modesty. Christians ought to insist on dressing modestly. That means we shouldn’t be wearing tank tops with huge armholes and sports bras underneath. Neither should they be wearing what are called butt-huggers. It doesn’t matter if the other team is wearing skimpy outfits. Christians ought to refuse to participate in a sport where they will have to compromise in this area. A girls’ team can be dressed appropriately and modestly, even if it is no longer “cool” to do so. And this doesn’t mean wearing knee-length culottes,  (or any length culottes for that matter). Volleyball and track teams are now wearing virtual swimsuits as uniforms, and it just isn’t necessary. You can’t tell me that they really can play better or run faster in less clothing. It’s about making the slower women’s sports more interesting to watch. Male volleyball players don’t seem too hampered by actual shorts. Sports are not evil in themselves. But bad coaches can make for a miserable experience. If your daughter is in a sport, know the coaches, be at the games, and know how your daughter is doing. She certainly shouldn’t be forced into playing a sport if she isn’t inclined to do so. But if she wants to play, parents ought not hinder her for the wrong reasons. Questions for discussion Are there sports women shouldn’t play that men can play? Do you agree with the author's list of football, boxing, baseball, and hockey? Why or why not? What is the difference between "godly femininity" and "worldly feminism"? The author gives several examples of how women can be feminine in sports. What do you think of these examples? Can you think of other ways girls can be feminine while playing sports? What is the author’s main point? Do you agree? God has given men and women different roles, but are the genders' different roles something that has implications for the sports field? Do any of our Christian school sport programs encourage girls to act masculine? If so, how so, and what could be changed?

Reprinted with permission from Credenda/Agenda, Volume 16/1 published by Canon Press (www.canonpress.com).

Science - Creation/Evolution

"Inferior" design: a proof of evolution?

"Suboptimal" design in nature is supposed to be the result of, and evidence for, evolutionary trial and error

*****

Everybody loves to hear about wonderful living creatures with their amazing talents. It is certainly uplifting to learn about Monarch butterfly's continent-spanning migration, and the toe pads of the gecko that allow it to walk upside down, and the amazing strength of spider silk. Christians enjoy discussing the wonderful designs that we see in nature. And among scientists, these creatures have their fans too. Indeed, there is an entire field in science called biomimicry where scientists try to learn from living creatures in order to produce practical designs for modern application. But not everyone is equally enthusiastic about the implications of these amazing talents. Prominent evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) in 1978 wrote:

"...ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator."

Dr. Gould thus said that everyone should ignore examples of wonderful design and concentrate on phenomena that are below par. He continued:

"Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution – paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce."

Gould was telling us that he knew how God should act if, that is, God really existed. God, according to Gould, would make everything perfect. And since we know that everything is not perfect in nature then, said Gould, this proves there is no God. This kind of argument, based on assumptions of how God should act, continues to be common in science today. There is thus a lot of interest among scientists, in suboptimal (less than perfect) design. Let us look at some examples to see what the implications are. THE PANDA'S THUMB The example Gould discussed in 1978 was the thumb of the Giant Panda. These animals, native to China, eat almost nothing but bamboo shoots. They use their hands to strip off the leaves, leaving the nice tender shoots on which to munch. Their flexible hands are unusual – they have a thumb of sorts, an extra structure produced from an enlarged wrist bone, with associated muscles and nerves. Gould declares that this extra finger is a "somewhat clumsy, but quite workable solution…. A contraption, not a lovely contrivance." Here he was declaring that the panda's thumb was of suboptimal or inferior design, which thus constituted proof that the source of the thumb was evolutionary trial and error rather than from a "divine artificer" (supernatural designer). A major argument employed by many evolutionists, even today, is to point to suboptimal (inferior) design and to declare that this proves that evolution was the source rather than God. However, what makes something "suboptimal" is an open question. Sometimes a phenomenon that appears less than ideal actually displays superior and unexpectedly sophisticated design. Gould might not like the panda's thumb, but there is no denying how wonderfully this thumb gets the job done. INFERIOR EARS? Another example: the inner ear of humans includes a spirally coiled structure called the cochlea. Lining its interior are very fancy hair cells which, by their motion, amplify the sound. The whole cochlea functions as a remarkably sensitive and finely tuned sound detector. However, at the same time, it also distorts the sound. Might these distortions be considered inferior design? A study in 2008 (Nature, Nov 13) demonstrated that the distortions actually contribute to clarity of sound. The distortions come from a particular structure connecting the top of the various hair cells. Mice without this connector in their cochlea became progressively deaf. Who knew distortions were so useful? STABLE vs. MANEUVERABLE A recent article published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (November 4-8) discussed another counter-intuitive (contrary to our expectations) situation. The study was conducted by engineers trying to build efficient robots. This is a large field of research. The designers want systems that are not only stable but maneuverable. The problem is that these are opposite objectives. In general, the more maneuverable a robot is, the less stable it is. If your robot tips over, clearly it is not going anywhere. Alternatively, the more stable a robot is, the less one can fine-tune what it does – the harder it is to make sudden changes of direction. Thus your robot may be able to proceed briskly straight ahead, but what if you need it to turn a corner or climb over an obstruction? Will it be able to turn, or will it instead tip over? Animals obviously have no such problems. That's why engineers have turned their attention to animal locomotion. They ask themselves, how do animals achieve the "impossible" combination of stability and maneuverability? How indeed do actual insects like cockroaches manage their excellent locomotion skills? Biologists may have already observed the solution without recognizing its significance. Why, many biologists have wondered, do animals move in directions that are different from their desired destination? Why, for example, do cockroaches and lizards tilt from side to side as they run forward? An engineer would most likely eliminate these motions, which seem to waste energy, as they do not obviously contribute to the forward motion. Lately, however, mechanical engineers have begun to research how unexpected, "inefficient" movements may benefit these animals. Insight into this mystery recently came from studies of a tiny fish from the Amazon basin. In order to avoid predators, this fish prefers to hide in various shelters such as tiny tubes. Scientists used slow-motion video to study fin movements of this fish as it finessed its way into its hiding places. At 100 frames per second, a strange situation became apparent. The fish was using one part of the lower body fin to push water forwards, and the other part to push it backwards. This was definitely against common sense since it was like two propellers fighting against each other. When scientists built a fishy robot, they found that the opposing forces actually improved the stability and maneuverability of their model. The assumption of the engineers that it is wasteful or useless to employ forces in directions other than the desired forward motion had now been proven wrong. Apparently, the same principle applies to the motion of many other creatures. The take-home lesson is that what, at first glance, appeared to be inferior design (opposing forces) actually turned out to be superior design! PENGUIN ROCKETS  Another recent robotic study which shows promise is one inspired by the talents of emperor penguins. While these creatures look pretty inept on land, in the water they can accelerate from 0 to 7 meters/second in less than a second (a veritable rocket). One student at Caltech's Aeronautics Department set out to create new propulsion technologies with high maneuverability and improved hydrodynamic efficiency. The new mechanical design is based on the penguin's shoulder and wing system and features a spherical joint with various other technical features. Concerning the promise of the study, the student declared that the manner in which penguins swim is still poorly understood. Nevertheless, by accurately reproducing an actual penguin wing movement, he and his collaborators hope to shed light on the swimming mysteries of these underwater rockets (ScienceDaily.com November 14, 2013). THE FLY EYE There are many other examples of unrecognized excellence in design. For example, the compound eye of insects and other invertebrates is often considered to be less ideal than our own camera eyes. However, a recent study that modeled the compound eye found that it does offer some advantages over the camera style eye (Young Min Song et al. Nature. May 2, 2013). Specifically the compound eye provides for an exceptionally wide field of view, and secondly such an eye has a nearly infinite depth of focus. As an object recedes away from the eye, the object becomes smaller, but it still remains in focus. It is apparent that in the case of eye design, there is no such thing as inferior design. There is instead good design that is more applicable to certain applications than to others. GOD TELLS US TO EXPECT "INFERIOR" DESIGN Obviously however there are many situations in nature that are less than ideal. This is a fallen world and there are many cases where we see distressing phenomena. The secular argument that a good God would never mandate inferior design is simply not valid. God cursed nature as a result of man's sin, so we have no reason to expect wholesale perfection, and the former "very good" creation now displays many inferior design choices. For example in Job 39:13-17 we read: The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,    but are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaves her eggs to the earth    and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them    and that the wild beasts may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;    though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear, because God has made her forget wisdom    and given her no share in understanding. Clearly, the breeding behavior of the ostrich is suboptimal but nevertheless designed by God. Yet "when she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider" (Job 39:18). The strong legs of this bird and her running prowess also come from God. These gifts are a strong contrast to the behavioral deficits of the ostrich. The evolutionists think they have proven that God did not work in nature. However, since their argument depends upon a discussion (however faulty) of the nature of God, this is a religious argument. Since they claim to have ruled out all religious arguments, then how can they use arguments concerning what God would or would not do – arguments touching on the character of God – to prove evolution? They need to make up their minds. If they want to explore the character of God and why He'd allow brokenness in the world, then let's open our Bibles. As for Christians, despite the fallen condition of the world, we can still enjoy and benefit from, and give thanks for, the many wonders of creation as coming from God's divine wisdom.

This article first appeared in the January 2014 issue under the title " Upon further reflection..." Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of “No Christian Silence on Science.”

News

Saturday Selections - July 13, 2019

Fined $8.2 million for pro-life work, this pastor wouldn't pay Randy Alcorn's name is well known in Christian circles for the many books he's written. Less known is how he worked at a minimum wage for 20 years so he wouldn't have to pay an $8.2 million judgement to an abortion clinic. This is an amazing story of faithfulness! Free e-book: Transgender In this short 80-page book, Vaughan Roberts lays out the biblical understanding of gender and body and shows how to talk lovingly to transgender folk. To get the free e-book you do have to give your email address, and you do have to act quickly because it will only be free for a short while. Parents: 8 tips for a snark-free summer Our kids don't always talk to us the way they should. Here are some practical tips to help them and you. Hell interrupted The eternal punishment of hell is a difficult doctrine for many to accept. But as Greg Koukl and Tim Barnett make clear in this 5-minute read, it is what Scripture teaches. Can China's demographic nightmare be undone? China's four-decade-long one-child policy taught citizens that children were a burden, rather than the blessing God says they are. The country is now facing a demographic nightmare, with siblingless couples the sole working support for their two sets of parents and four sets of grandparents. Not having children has been the real burden – if their parents and grandparents would have had more children then there would have been brothers and sisters and cousins to share the work. And while the government now allows families to have two children, they're finding they can't undo the "children are a curse" outlook they spend 40 years creating. Evolution can't explain the origin of life (7 min) If life originated without design or intent, but by chance, why can't the world's most brilliant minds – with their computers and chemicals and machines helping them and with the blueprints provided by already living cells – make life from scratch? This is a fascinating video, though the Intelligent Design perspective underlying it doesn't explicitly give God His due.

Satire

Ode to hurt...or why my tolerant nature can't stand your opinions

I’m hurting I am, and I want you to know, That the pain I am feeling, isn’t likely to go. I’m hurting I am, it’s your opinions you see, I just can’t accept them, I do not agree. D’you not pay attention, d’you not see the news? This post-modern world has no place for your views. They’re outdated, outmoded, outrageous no doubt, And lots, lots more words beginning with out. Reactionary, Dark Ages, Stone Age repression, And other assorted clichéd expressions. That’s what I think of your bigoted rants, Which contrast so starkly with my own tolerance. You’ve made me so angry, so hurt, even bitter, What can I do, but to go onto Twitter? Hashtag #BigotedIntolerantPhobe, Said something that hurt me, so I’m telling the globe. I’ll put it on Facebook, Instagram too, The world needs to know the pain caused by you. Pain that keeps giving and won’t find relief, For I simply can’t cope with a different belief. But being free-thinking, I’m perfectly fine, That others have thoughts that are different to mine. I must draw the line though, with views such as yours, Against which there really ought to be laws. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100 percent, Committed to free speech and the right to dissent. But it’s Twenty-Nineteen and I can’t understand, Why opinions like yours still haven’t been banned. The law ought to treat them as Hate Crimes, it should, Then you’d have to keep them all up in your head, yes you would. And not only Hate Crimes, but Hurt Speech I say, On account of them really upsetting my day. Enough is enough, I’m really perturbed, My tolerant nature has been greatly disturbed. From now on I beg, keep your views well hid. Did I tell you they hurt me? Yes you hurt me, you did.

Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything.

AA
Politics
Tagged: electoral reform, featured, proportional representation

Reforming Canada’s electoral system?

During the 2015 federal election, the Liberals campaigned on bringing in electoral reform. While they didn’t deliver on that promise, they weren’t the first to propose fundamentally changing the way Canadians vote, and they likely won’t be the last. So what prompted their promise? Why did they think voters wanted a new electoral system? What exactly needs fixing with our current system? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives?

THE CASE AGAINST FPTP

The common complaint with our current First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system is that it doesn’t seem to reflect voters’ wishes. Under it a candidate doesn’t need a majority of the vote to get elected; he only needs one vote more than the second-place finisher. So, for example, in the 2015 Federal election that meant one candidate – the NDP’s Brigette Sansoucy – was able to win a seat in the House of Commons even though she received only 28.7 percent of the vote. In her riding almost three-quarters of voters picked someone else, and yet she is still their elected representative.

In 2015 the FPTP system also allowed the Liberals to win a decided majority of the seats (54.4 percent) even though they had a decided minority of the votes (only 39.5 percent).

Situations like this are why our representative democracy can be criticized for not being all that representative.

THE RANKED BALLOT: FOR

So what sort of electoral reforms have been proposed? The Liberals’ plans never got all that specific, but back in 2014, in an appearance at Ontario’s Western University, Justin Trudeau told students, “I like the idea of a ranked ballot.”

There’s a clear reason why the Liberals would. Under a ranked ballot (or preferential) system voters would rank the candidates from first to last (see the picture). If no one got 50 per cent of the vote, then the candidate with the least 1st place votes would be dropped off, and his ballots would be redistributed according to who those voters had marked as their second choice.

The advantage of this system is that the eventual winner can claim the legitimacy of having more than 50% of voters picking him. He may not have been their first pick, but he was at least someone they voted for.

THE RANKED BALLOT: AGAINST

The problem with the ranked ballot is that it gives an advantage to whatever parties are present in the “middle” of the political spectrum. Why? Because when voters on the right or left rank their second choices they aren’t going to pick the parties on the other side of the spectrum. Instead they are going to default to the candidate who is the closest to them.

In Canada that means an NDP voter will likely rank the Liberals second (or third behind the Greens), and rank the Conservative last. Likewise, a Conservative voter is more likely to rank the Liberals second than he is to pick the NDP or Greens. So Liberals can count on getting far more of the second-pick votes than any of their political rivals. There is a systemic bias in their favor.

CBC’s Eric Grenier estimated that under a ranked ballot the Liberals would have picked up an additional 40 seats last election (mostly at the expense of the Conservatives).

No wonder then that the Prime Minister prefers ranked ballots.

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION: FOR

Another alternative often proposed is proportional representation (PR). While there are many forms of PR, the basic premise is that all involve parties getting seats in proportion to their total vote total. Under this arrangement, if we use the 2015 election as our example again, since the Liberals took 39.5% of the popular vote they would have ended up with just 39.5% of the seats in Parliament.

That means that, as Eric Grenier noted, under the most basic form of PR, in the 2015 election the Liberals would have lost 50 seats, while the Conservatives would have gained 10, the Green Party 11, and the NDP 23 more.

Interestingly, it is under the PR system that the Christian Heritage Party (CHP) is most likely to prosper. While the CHP’s 15,284 votes in the 2015 election wouldn’t have been enough to garner them an MP, under a PR system, Christians who had previously wanted to vote for them but thought it a wasted ballot could now cast that vote knowing it would help elect at least an MP or two.

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION: AGAINST

But PR also opens up possibilities for other smaller parties too. The CHP would finally be in the House of Commons but there would also be a representative or from the Marijuana Party. We’d likely see a Communist too, and maybe even a Rhinoceros Party MP (yes, there really is a federal Rhinoceros Party of Canada).

In addition, it would become harder for any one party to win an outright majority. As the Fraser Institute reports in their booklet Electoral Rules and Fiscal Outcomes, from 2000-1015 

In countries with PR election systems…83 percent of elections resulted in coalition governments.

That might not sound like much of a problem – so what if some parties have to work together? Why wouldn’t that be a good thing? The reason its a problem is because when a coalition government is built, each participant does so on the condition that they get something out of it. And that “something” usually requires the outlay of money. In the same booklet, the Fraser Institute noted that PR governments spend an average of 29% of their country’s GDP, whereas other governments elected via means such as ranked ballots or the FPTP spend only 23% of the GDP.

So a downside to any PR type of system is that taxes will likely go up. Coalition governments are costly!

Another downside? It increases party leaders’ power. Proportional Representation most often involves voting for a party, not a candidate. A party puts out a list of their candidates, in an order of their choosing, and if they get enough votes for, say, three MPs, then the three people at the top of their list will get in. Canadian party leaders already have dictatorial powers over their MPs, and the PR system would only increase that power – refuse to pick up your party leader’s drycleaning and he’ll bump you down your party’s list, or take you off it entirely. The last thing we need is to strengthen party leaders’ stranglehold over their party’s MPs.

CONCLUSION

Some countries have adopted a mixture of these different systems, which means there are a limitless number of possibilities. But these three are the core sorts.

So what system should we, as Christians, push for? Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and there isn’t an electoral system free of flaws. Ranked ballots give the centrist Liberals an advantage over the other parties that they don’t deserve, while proportional representation seems likely to expand the size of government and strengthen party leaders’ power. None of these are attractive alternatives. Meanwhile, even as FPTP frequently gives minorities a majority of seats, that bias isn’t specific to one particular party.

So I will say of our present system what Winston Churchill once said about democracy: First-Past-The-Post is the worst form of electoral system…except for all others.

A version of this article first appeared in the September 2016 issue under the title “Canada’s electoral reform.”


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