Robert Morrison, China’s first Protestant Missionary
Hong Xiuquan, the subject of today’s entry in “The Intellectual Devotional: Biographies,” led his 1851 “Taiping Rebellion” (which killed over 20 million people) in order to install himself as the Emperor of China. Throughout the fourteen-year rebellion, however, Xiuquan claimed that he was the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. It was an unusual sentiment in China at the time, to say the least. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Robert Morrison.
Morrison was the first Protestant missionary to enter China. He worked toward the conversion of China’s one billion inhabitants to Christianity. He managed ten baptisms. Unimpressive as that number may be, Morrison did also manage a translation of the entire Bible into Chinese, with the help of Liang Fa—China’s first Protestant minister, ordained by Morrison.
Fa was converted to Christianity after reading Morrison’s Bible. (Morrison had originally contacted Liang because he owned a printing press, and he needed help printing and distributing his translation in violation of Chinese law.) Morrison’s translation of the New Testament was complete and printed by 1813, and the Old Testament soon followed. He and Liang also published a number of commentaries and summaries of the Biblical texts. Twenty years later, in 1836, Hong Xiuquan would hear a missionary preaching from these texts. He decided, then and there, that things needed to change.
Who could be opposed to a shot that prevents cancer?
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Cervical Cancer” is from the “Sexuality and Reproduction” section of the Health edition.
Gardasil is a vaccine designed to prevent infection with four strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), specifically types 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 are known to cause about 70% of all cervical cancer cases, as well as some vulvar, vaginal, penile and anal cancers, while HPV types 6 and 11 are believed to cause approximately 90% of all genital warts outbreaks. Infection with the HPV virus is extremely common: an estimated six million people are infected each year, and nearly three quarters of the US population between the ages of 15 and 49 have been infected with the virus at some time in their lives. Moreover, condom use is significantly less effective at preventing the transmission of the virus; unlike sexually transmitted infection such as Chlamydia and H.I.V., which are spread through the transmission of bodily fluids, HPV is passed via skin-to-skin contact.
Gardasil is only effective at preventing new HPV infections, so it is strongly advised that the vaccine is administered during adolescence, so that young people are protected before the onset of sexual activity. Some States have attempted to mandate the vaccine for adolescent girls, a move that has elicited a firestorm of controversy amongst some religious and libertarian groups. These groups have exerted considerable pressure on their state representatives to vote against any measure that would make the vaccination mandatory. They have also vocally opposed the appropriation of state funds for vaccinating girls. Conservative groups, such as the Moral Majority and the influential Family Research Council (FRC), argue that the vaccine will encourage adolescent girls to engage in promiscuous behavior and premarital sex. In a letter written to the US government, the FRC made their position crystal clear, stating, “Our primary concern is with the message that would be delivered to nine- to 12-year-olds with the administration of the vaccines. Care must be taken not to communicate that such an intervention makes all sex ‘safe’.”
Thanks to the handiwork of these conservative groups, the Texas legislature overturned an executive order issued by governor Rick Perry, mandating vaccination against HPV for adolescent girls. Proponents of Gardasil argue that moral reservations about the behavioral impact of the drug are significantly outweighed by the fact that the vaccine has the ability to prevent the development of cervical cancer, which claims the lives of 10 women in the US every day. Now that the FDA is cautiously recommending that adolescent boys also receive the vaccine, Gardasil proponents are gearing up for World War II in their war against cervical cancer.
In 1950, a 19-year-old would-be actor named James Dean dropped a quarter into a player piano, danced along to “The Pepsi Bounce,” and launched one of the most remarkable acting career’s in Hollywood. It would, of course, all be over just five years later, when Dean was killed in a car crash. In the meantime, he would star in three major films: “Rebel Without a Cause,” “East of Eden,” and “Giant.”
To see where it all began, check out the clip below of Dean’s first televised appearance. (He’s all the way at the right, dropping the quarter into the piano.)
The first draft of the Declaration of Independence contained a condemnation of slavery that was struck out in order to conciliate representatives from the South. The original wording of the Constitution contained a famous “compromise” that allowed for slaves to be counted as “three-fifths” of a person when determining the number of seats that states would have in Congress, giving each plantation owner the equivalent of hundreds of votes with which to oppress his human chattel. These were horrible stains on the founding documents of the United States, and one man who had no use for the conciliation and compromise that applied them was John Brown.
Brown responded to these imperfections not by dismissing the Declaration and the Constitution, but by rewriting them. He saw that the principles they embodied were noble, despite their stance on the institution of slavery. His revisions lived up to the noble principles and categorically rejected the legality of human property. Brown’s “Declaration of Liberty by the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America” makes this point explicit, when it states that acts which condone slavery “are false, to the words, Spirit, and intention of the Constitution of the United States, and the Declaration of Independence.” His Declaration is a declaration of freedom for men and women held in bondage, and his “Provisional Constitution” began by recognizing slavery as an “unjustifiable war of one portion of its citizens upon another portion,” and setting forth the principles for a new Union that would be, in the words of Brown’s great successor in the battle against slavery, “conceived in liberty.”
In his time, Brown was dismissed as an insane traitor. But the war came, and the new Union that Lincoln created began the process of making Brown’s “Provisional Constitution” permanent.
Read John Brown’s Declaration here. And read his Provisional Constitution here.
Gonorrhea, also colloquially referred to a “the Clap,” is the second most prevalent sexually transmitted bacterial infection (STI) in the United States (exceeded only by chlamydia). The slang term “the Clap” dates as early as 1719, but the definitive etymology of the expression remains in question. It has been dubiously suggested that the term was coined in response to the ‘clapping sensation’ that an infected individual experiences in their genitals when they urinate. Another slightly more plausible, albeit more disgusting explanation, holds that men used to attempt to treat the infection by vigorously clapping on their penis, in an effort discharge all of the puss. The third, most believable theory, links “the Clap” to a French term for brothel, “clapier.”
It is impossible to determine exactly when gonorrhea began wreak havoc on the sexually active, but the first writing that is consistent with a description of the symptoms of the disease occurred in the Acts of the (English) Parliament in 1161, when they attempted to pass a law to curb the spread of “….the perilous infirmity of burning.” Consistent with the rising prevalence of gonorrhea in the Middle Ages, European cities ordered all public health doctors to treat patients infected with the disease, regardless of their moral objections. Moreover, Pope Boniface secularized the practice of medicine, freeing physicians of the stigma of treating patients with ‘immoral’ diseases.
Mercury injections were the first known treatment for gonorrhea, leaving the unfortunate infected to ponder whether the “infirmity of the burning” was preferable to its highly toxic “cure.” Silver nitrate emerged as a slightly less dubious treatment in the 19th Century, and then was replaced by the colloidal silver Protargol until the first antibiotics came into use in the 1940s. Penicillin was the wonder drug of choice in the war against “the Clap” until the 1970s, when some strains of the bacteria began to show resistance. Since then, antibiotic resistance has been managed by treating the infection with a combination of different drugs. However, in response to the emergence of seemingly invincible strains of the disease, the CDC recently added gonorrhea to its list of “super bugs” which are resistant to most common antibiotics.
In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, the book that first alerted readers to the dangers of DDT. Not only did her book lead to the banning of the pesticide in 1972; it is credited with launching the entire modern environmental movement. It was a sensation. But when Carson published it, she was already a best-selling author.
Silent Spring was preceded in 1951 by The Sea Around Us, an exploration of ocean life. Like Carson’s most favorite book, The Sea Around Us began as a series of articles in The New Yorker magazine. Propelled by serialization in one of the leading literary publications of the day, the book was a hit. It’s not hard to see why: the chapter on the Sargasso Sea is particularly good.
These two nature types may be morons, but their mirror neurons work just fine....
Asperger’s syndrome, also known as AS, is a type of autism spectrum disorder, characterized by abnormalities in social interaction, stereotypies (compulsive or ritualistic movements, postures, or utterances), habitual patterns of behavior or interests and clumsiness. Individuals with AS also have trouble decoding the nonverbal behaviors of others, such as body language and facial expressions. However, people with AS can be distinguished from those afflicted with other forms of autism spectrum disorders, because of their comparatively advanced linguistic and cognitive abilities. The syndrome was named after the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who in 1944, began writing down his observations about a number of children he had treated over the years, all of whom demonstrated the same mysterious cluster of symptoms now associated with the syndrome, such as clumsiness, poor communication skills, limited empathy and a marked inability to relate to others.
The exact cause of AS in unknown; however, research strongly supports the theory that there is an underlying genetic cause of the syndrome. One of the most compelling theories to emerge recently is the mirror neuron system (MNS) theory. Mirror neurons are brain cells located in the premotor cortex-first identified in macaque monkeys in the early 1990s-that potentially hold the key to the cause of AS and other autism spectrum disorders in humans. Also known as the “monkey-see, monkey-do cells,” scientists discovered that these neurons fire both when a monkey performs an action itself, and also when it observed another monkey performing the same action.
It has thus far been impossible to directly test how these neurons function in human beings (namely because it would be a wee bit unethical to implant electrodes in the brains of human test subjects). However, scientists have been able to confirm the existence of mirror neurons in humans by utilizing several indirect brain imaging tools, such as EEG’s. Most scientists now believe that the MNS in humans is not only involved with the execution and observation of actions, but that it is also implicated in a host of complex learned cognitive processes, including language, behavioral imitation, emotional intelligence and empathy.
Because autism is typified, in part, by difficulty with exactly these aspects of social interaction and communication skills, some scientists previously theorized that there could be a potential link between the MNS and autism spectrum disorders. The conclusions of a recent EEG study, conducted on ten individuals with autism, lends credence to this hypothesis: the researchers found that the mirror neurons of individuals with AS fired only when they performed an action themselves, but did not fire in response to watching the actions of others. These findings could prove to be crucial to the future detection, treatment and etiology of autism spectrum disorders.