A Deepness in the Sky and Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Those two items have absolutely no relation. I just don’t have time to make two posts.


Just finished, again, Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky. It is the only book I’ve read more than once save for Atlas Shrugged. If you are a science fiction fan and you haven’t read Vinge’s book, you are missing out on one of the stellar moments in all of the genre. It contains my favorite science fiction character, probably, of all time. I can’t say the name because you are not supposed to know it until much into the book.

Relatedly, I recommend the first book in this series A Fire Upon the Deep to be read prior to Deepness. Although to call it a series is sort of a misnomer. The two books take part in the same universe but have no correlation as far as plot is concerned. But I think that unnamed character (the character has a name, I am just not giving it out – I hate spoilers and will not deliver one) has more of an impact if Fire is read before A Deepness. Although that unnamed character is not even present in A Fire Upon the Deep.

Just a great, great book. And the plot is so tight, he has numerous threads working all through the story and it is never confusing. If you are more of a prose reader, the tightness of the plot may not thrill you as much. If you are, it is tighter than a snare drum. I myself like it sort of in the middle. But Vinge doesn’t fail to connect you to the characters – in fact he is a subtle genius at it. I was socked when I first read A Fire Upon the Deep when he got me choked up over the death of what was in actuality a sort of intelligent sort of seaweed on wheels.

Yeah, try to relate to that – but Vinge does it. And here, you’d think you couldn’t empathize with spiders that come up to your chest with giant mauls. Well, you think, anyone can anthropomorphize anything if you just make it talk like a people. And that is what your usual science fiction writer will do. It is what Star Trek usually did.

Vernor is no average science fiction writer (yes, his last book Children of the Sky, was a little weak, but not bad if were a stand alone and not meant to follow the “over the top” A Fire Upon the Deep). The spiders are anthropomorphized, but the way Vinge does it is perfect, they are subjectively anthropomorphized, but objectively are not.

I wish my next three books were not already planned out else I’d be reading A Fire Upon the Deep again as soon as I’m done studying.


You can’t pass up the first Pope ever to address a joint session of Congress. I watched it on YouTube and then made the mistake of looking at the comments. Found an interesting one.

Too bad the POPE is wasting His time speaking to the GOP , they are contrary to everything He stands for!! Equality, compassion for fellow man, income equality, climate change, environmental issues, the poor,  the elderly, veterans, women’s rights,  no war, and religious freedom. It is hard to believe some of the GOP are “SO CALLED CAHOLICS”!!! They are a disgrace to humanity!!!

Sorry, dude. See that guy behind Pope Francis’ right shoulder? He’s a self-described devout Catholic and the Vice President, Joe Biden. Joe Biden believes in a woman’s right to abort a baby, and carries that out as a politician. And he also believes life starts at conception. I leave that to the individual person to make of that what conclusion they will…

But there is one thing you can be clear on (if you ever look at Catholic doctrine, notably the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)) abortion is absolutely incompatible with being a Catholic. Nothing is more clear. I have heard some try to steer around the issue by moving around the life/conception timeline and sometimes the ensoulment argument. But when you say life begins at conception, and you claim to be a Catholic, well, you have some gymnastics to perform. Well, here is Biden trying some here:

“Even – I don’t want to start a theological discussion, I’ll get in trouble, it’s above my pay grade, although it’s my avocation, but there’s, you know, there’s even been disagreement in our church, not that – abortion is always wrong, but there’s been debate, and so, there’s, for me, at a point where the church makes a judgment, as we Catholics call fide doctrine, said, this is what our doctrine is,” Biden said in an interview with America published on Monday.

Usually The Daily Show or one other comedy news shows would take a Republican to town for making such a non-commital evasive, load of verbal baloney. This, you will never see done against a Democrat. What did he actually say? Ah, that be a politician talking there, son. There’s disagreement within the Church, but not about whether abortion is always wrong – then, about what?

The nice thing about the Catholic Church is it is pretty clear about a great many issues, and you can look them all up.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm  Articles, 2270 – 2275.

I picked on the abortion thing because if you support abortion, you are, in fact, against everything that Pope Francis stands for. And there is no getting around that. The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, the Church’s doctrine is his doctrine.

That said, I found the Pope’s speech incredibly hard to watch. I realize English is not his first language and he’s 78 and traveling around the world is probably tiring, and he is a man in no hurry. But I am a modern American used to being around women as teenagers who speak 50 words in 4.2 seconds. This man talked so slow (and with a very thick accent) that I couldn’t tell where sentences stopped and another started.

He lacks the precision of the previous Pope who was a lifelong scholar (still is actually). But I liked a lot of what he had to say. I do wish he would have addressed the relativistic, throw away (and I’m not talking about garbage necessarily) society. And I was hoping he’d be more controversial.

It was also interesting to watch which group of people stood up to applause to what and when.

It was also simply surreal to see a Pope addressing Congress.

How is it Wrong with God, but Alright Without?

It seems to me that if there is a God who puts an immortal soul into a human being at the moment of conception, intending the resulting person to be born and live a life in “this world,” then abortion is wrong.

I pilfered this quote from a discussion on abortion over at Strange Notions. I don’t participate over there as my days are only 24 hours long while everyone else seems to have upgraded to the 48 hour day.

Here is what I do not get about such an argument. On the one hand one of its unstated premises is: if doesn’t have a soul, you can kill it. Apparently it loses an innate right once deprived of this soul. If the whole of this creature is mortal, then it is licit to kill it. But, if God made a part of us immortal, then it becomes an evil to end its life.

It is one of those “ironic” positions (at least to me) where if I were a creature from a different realm altogether and I learned of this debate, I would be perplexed that those who deny eternal life propose the ending of lives. But those that believe in eternal life hold the killing of the mortal part of life to be a black crime.

I would, coming from another realm, expect the unbeliever to wail out, “no! you’ll end its life forever, you are wiping it out of existence before it even has a chance!” Surely if this life is it, if there is nothing beyond the cessation of organic processes that start at the moment of conception to death, one would (coming from this other realm) expect the unbelievers to react with horror at such a thing.

Instead you see doctors calmly snipping spinal cords and amputating limbs, you see “mothers” calmly putting Friday night behind them as they would the recycling.

You’d expect, again coming from that other realm, the believers to, perhaps, lament such a thing but not have it cause them too much grief. After all, the victims are immortal children of God, not all is lost. It is a tragedy, but not too much. If you took it far enough, coming from that other realm, you could reason that perhaps these young children were being done a favor – they got to go home to their heavenly father that much sooner. Indeed upon looking at much of this Earth that is strange and frightening, full of pain and evil and tragedy, you can’t say for sure whether or not a favor isn’t being done for them.

But then you see that the believers are actually where you expected the unbelievers to be. They, that believe in the ultimate transitory nature of this life and the eternity of the next, they are the ones bewailing the black evil of this deed.

Now, I did snip this comment out of its entire context, but it does illustrate the base set. No God, no immortal soul – why not? How does it become right sans God and an immortal soul? Where comes the right and dignity of man if it is bestowed on us as a litmus test, a state of function to get to and maintain (by death’s grip lest they pull your plug) and not from our existence in a certain class? Where comes it if it’s bestowed by the State as such an argument must reduce to?

You see, it makes perfect sense to me that it should be twice the evil in an atheist light. But when I say Man, and they say Man, I don’t think we are talking about the same referent. I don’t think the modern atheist (and I am not merely picking on atheists because I think modern man in general is affected by the same mental parasite) means anything more significant than a chicken when he’s having this conversation – perhaps less than a chicken – perhaps an egg – unless, of course, it becomes about his life, then the false abstraction would break.