Thursday, February 14, 2013

Japanese Valentine's Day

I was discussing comparative holidays with a Japanese student in my "Family Life" class.  She said Valentine's Day is celebrated in Japan - but women give men chocolate.

This struck me as odd, since the norm of courtship is for men to show their capacity for resource provision to women.

She then told me that there is also a counterpart holiday, White Day, one month later, in which men give chocolate to women.  Originally they gave white chocolate (hence the name), but now the browner kinds are also common.

And Wikipedia tells me that on White Day, if a man merely gives as much as he was given, that signals that he wants to end the relationship.  To continue the romance, he gives twice or thrice as much chocolate as he received on Valentine's Day.

The imbalance in the sociobiological universe is made right.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Your Older Self Can Help You Save for the Future

A nifty experiment from Jeremy Bailenson's virtual reality lab:

Ask 20-somethings how much they want to start setting aside for their retirement.

Then show them a picture of their own face, morphed to show what they will look like at 70.

Now they want to set aside twice as much.

This is a great nudge.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

If the World Is Getting Better, Isn't It Simpler to Think That God is Helping?

I believe the world is getting better.  The material evidence is all around us, as I have written before.

I believe that God guides the general direction of the world with a providential hand.

Most of the writers who share my belief that the world is getting better seem to atheists who believe in naturalistic evolution. 

If you are a naturalistic evolutionist who does not believe the world is getting better, then you have no problem - species simply adapt to whatever the environment happens to be at the moment, without direction or meaning.  The world is neither getting better nor getting worse, because there is no naturalistic meaning to those terms when applied to all existence. Evolution is simply change over time.

But naturalistic evolutionists who do believe in progress have to go through some elaborate twists to explain both why our evolutionary practice seems to show a positive design without a designer, and how we keep progressing even though our evolved psychology is pessimistic.

It seems to me that theistic evolution is a simpler account of how a species designed for both hope and fear, designed for pessimistic assumptions but optimistic actions, can in fact achieve such progress.

I don't have an elaborate philosophical argument here.  I just think that people who see that the world is improving through the amazing collective action of creative humans are halfway to seeing that we are meant for this by a Creator.