Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Discussion with a Planetary Scientist

So I've been in the midst of a discussion with a planetary scientist.  Well...there was this morning's discussion with Hubby about "next time will you please take my questions more seriously rather than offering cursory explanations because now I look like an a** online."  Hubby takes blogging less seriously than I do.  He has no idea who Jennifer Fulwiler is.  He asked me why she even was talking about Br. Guy.  And when I told him that there was a conference he asked me which one because he's never heard of her.  Not that kind of conference dear.  I believe his mind is on LPSC. It's being held this month and he's going to it.  So if you plan on attending or live in Texas, I'm sure he'll be around.  Will Bro. Guy be there?  That's up to the Vatican.

Anyways...this is a discussion with a different planetary scientist.  I know quite a few.  Knee's godfather being one and Jesse (who I've mentioned watching his daughter before) is another.  And I could go on about how my life is rapped up in it despite it being a small group of people.  But this particular gentlemen I've never met.  His background is that he's from the UK.

I'm posting this because I want to make sure of two things: Is my apologetics correct?  and Was I nice about it but firm?  Unlike one fellow blogger, who has eight kids, lives in my area, and I'm oh so tempted every time I troll her blog to click on her "e-mail me" link and ask her to lunch but totally feel dumb for doing so (it's that whole socially awkward thing again), I am not in the habit of tackling people's questions particularly live people who work with my husband.  Most of the people who I do speak to are Protestants and it's questions about theology.  But I'm being vague when you should be reading.  Please ignore the typos.  It was nap time. *biting my nails*

Planetary Scientist Dude Who Shall Remain Anon~
First let me say, I appreciate your interest in the subject. Hubby tells me that you are from Great Britain (UK), and it's my understanding, correct me if I'm wrong, that the British have very different views on morality from Americans regardless of faith backgrounds.  Hubby tells me that in Europe violence in movies and on television is more abhorrent than sex.  In the United States we're "backwards".  Sex on television is considered bad and violence okay.  I only bring this up because if this is remotely true, you have to understand that my prospective on American government is different than a Brit or European's feelings about American government.  This is mostly do to with American society at large.

In addition to that, I'm a devout Catholic.  This has it's own set of moral principals and teachings attached to it as well.  I'm sure that you are familiar with them.  I bring this up as well because as an American Catholic my views are very different than other Catholics worldwide and from Americans who have a different faith background.  In other words, I acknowledge that the basis of my beliefs is very narrow and that the vast majority of Americans or Catholics do not necessarily share my feelings.  And if you want to go even further than that I was raised in Mississippi whose largest religious denomination is Southern Baptist.  So throw into the mix that I've been learning how my faith (Catholicism) looks through the eyes of a Protestant and you have me.  I have no understanding or atheists and very little of agnostics (despite living with one).  Until I moved to Arizona, the vast majority of the people that I knew were Conservative Protestants.

I give you all this background knowledge because I don't want you to think that I have all the answers nor do I want you to think that I don't have any respect for you having an opposing view point.  I acknowledge that my background has made me unfamiliar with the "other side" and so if I say something that's wrong, please feel free to correct me.  I consider this dialogue to be one of openness and friendship, an exchange of ideas rather than trying to change another person's mind.

"1. Do you believe that as an objector to the Iraq invasion, I should have been exempt from paying taxes towards the enormous costs of that war?"
You are an objector too!  Nice to meet you.  Catholicism has what's called "Just War Theory."  It's long and complicated and it's better if you googled it then me taking what can be written into a book to explain it.  Basically the jest of it is that Catholics are not conscientious objectors in the Amish or 7th Day Adventist sense.  We believe that war engaged in to protect the innocent and to maintain the freedoms and rights and boundaries of a country is okay if diplomacy has not worked out.  One could say that Just War Theory applies to WWII, but in my opinion (and is the feeling of the previous and current Pope although there is no official Vatican stance) that the Iraq Invasion does not follow Just War Theory.

But you asked about a tax exemption.  Yes, I wish there was one.  The only thing I can do as an American is contact my representatives and try to introduce a bill that would make it a law to have an exemption or ask the President to change federal tax code and the governor to change state tax code.  The American government is a complicated one, and while many objectors and Catholics alike work behind the scenes to shape it, this isn't generally known by the American public because the mainstream media doesn't cover it.

As for you, a British national, living and working in the United States, you haven't much say over American politics with your vote.  I haven't got any say over where my taxes, should I live and work in Britain, go either.  It's just how things are.

"Or as someone who is concerned about the effects of CO2 emmissions on climate change, should I be forced to pay taxes towards subsidising the oil industry (which the government currently does)?"
Again yes, I think you should have an exception.  The problem with exceptions, however, is that at some point all citizens could claim exemption for everything and end up living off the government (taxes pay for road repairs if nothing else) without contributing to the system.  The way government works is that the majority have a say and the rest of us must abide. 

A lot of people bring the notion of "well, where does it end" with the HHS mandate and religious freedom.  The difference between Europe and Canada versus the United States is that we do not guarantee health care and it's not really a part of how the system is designed.  PBS has a good documentary on looking at health care.  If you're interested, I can go dig it up for you.  The United States, however, does guarantee the right to religious freedom.  The Constitution says that government shall not create religion (unlike England's official church) nor shall it inhibit the practice thereof.  This means that you can't force a conscientious objector to fight in a battle simply because they are drafted.  You can't force an underage Amish girl to go to school even if the state says you must until age 18.  You can't force a Jew to serve pork or a Jehovah's witness to receive a blood transfusion.  Nor can you force a Catholic charity or school to provide contraceptive coverage because a large percentage of Catholic charities and schools insure themselves.  That is they are the underwriters of the insurance policy and the faithful who tithe would be paying for someone else's birth control.

Granted there are limitations, polygamy is not allowed.  However, it may interest you to know that a gentlemen is bringing this issue up before the Supreme Court, who ultimately interprets the Constitution.  

"2. Specifically on the condoms issue, I strongly believe that couples SHOULD be encouraged to use condoms, for ethical and moral reasons connected to the dangers of population growth and the spread of Aids."
It's a common misconception that the reason behind population growth has to do with the number of children born.  This is incorrect.  The reason for the population growth is because of the large growing elderly population.  Because of health care, the average life expectancy has made the population increase.  The actual number of births and infant mortality has decreased.  Some populations aren't sustainable in the next 20 or so years simply because they do not have enough children being born.  Germany, for example, is actually paying women to give birth and stay home because the government has concerns that there won't be enough citizens.  Once the aged population passes away, the population will actually decrease.  No one is sure when the population will peek and at what number, but it will.

For more information on the myth,  http://overpopulationisamyth.com/.  For a less biased source, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_rate

As for AIDS protection, condoms do help, but they aren't 100 percent affective.  They have a failure rate which some say is as low as 86 percent.  That and the fact that the reason for wide spread HIV and AIDS these days is due to multiple sex partners and lack of education on how it's spread.  In African nations who have decided to take an abstinence only, wait until marriage stance, the rate of HIV infection has decreased. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_Uganda In places like South African where condom usage is promoted, the rate of HIV infection has actually increased.  

Then of course, Catholics can practice NFP (Natural Family Planning) which doesn't use any kind of prophylactics or pills but rather the woman's natural fertility/infertility cycle.  When using NFP a person discerns whether or not a child in the environment/situation they are in is warranted.  From our view point, God creates life.  To hinder His will by using something unnatural, that He didn't create, is playing God and blasphemous.

"In which case, is it fair that I pay taxes towards supporting the extra number of children that non-condom using families tend to produce?"
I'm not sure how to respond to that statement as I'm not sure what you define as "extra number of children." From a Catholic Christians point of view, children are precious and gifts from God.  They are not burdens nor burdens on society since at some point I expect my children, however many God blesses me with, to be tax paying citizens of the world who seek to help others in need.  Being that we are Americans, we have much to give and I expect then to alleviate the suffering of poverty, not add to it.

 "Why should I pay towards the extra education and health costs incurred by large families when their moral position on contraception is abhorent to me?"
Simple economics, we need people to run the world and take care of the elderly.  If society does not have children, when the aged population can no longer take care of itself, there will be no doctors, no hospital workers, no hospice, no elder care.  There will be no one tilling the fields, or baking food.  There will be no one to produce textiles. etc. etc.  In order for these things to happen, we need to educate our young and keep them healthy so that in turn, one day they will help us when we can no longer do so.  And as I said, the birth rate is decreasing and has been since the 1950s.  Large families, however you may define, then are needed especially if more and more people choose to defer marriage or not to have children at all. 

"3. And if exemptions were made on these (and other issues), how would it work? Should there be "opt-out" boxes that you can tick on your tax return? My bet is that if there were, everyone would tick all of them, the government would be out of pocket and would have to raise taxes, and we'd be back to where we started."

I'll refer you back to my statements about government and the differences between British society and American society. 

"I hope these questions don't sound aggressive in any sort of way: I'd genuinely be interested in hearing what she thinks."
(he had Hubby forward the letter.  Hubby had is own responses if you are interested I will post those, but it's not relevant to my questions.)
*Smiling*  No, they aren't at all aggressive.  I grew up in the Bible Belt South.  I've heard people spout of misconceptions about Catholicism to which I pointed out where wrong, but they refused to believe me.  It was if they thought that I was somehow misinformed about my own belief system.  That frustrates me more than open dialogue.  We are talking about philosophy and politics of which there are no straightforward answers.  The point of dialogue, in my opinion, is to learn and to try to find something that is amenable.  Without such dialogue, we would be looking for society's morality within ourselves, which is no good.  Plus, I've heard and attempted to answer these questions before.  Do I expect you to agree with me?  No, that would be silly.  I certainly hope that you don't expect me to agree with you either.  I do, however, expect that you are now more informed of where I come from and a little bit as to why.  That is better than the those challenging Protestants.  Otherwise the information you're receiving is 2nd hand and liable to be incorrect.  Thank you for taking the time to try to understand.  I appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Me

It wasn't all that bad was it?  I could have drowned him in a wealth of information, spouted off a lot of Catholic doctrine/Biblical references, but I felt I should approach it from a more secular angle where I'm supporting my position rather than a more aggressive tactic.  I don't know this person after all.  

He hasn't responded yet, but said that he would at some point.  I think I gave him much to chew on.

BTW, if Hubby thinks I've violated his privacy.  I assure you most of these bloggers have seen/heard this all before.  He's not asking anything new and he's not divulging anything about himself that's too personal (at this point anyway).

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