Amit Gvaryahu :- Faith

Background

Personally I spend a lot of time listening to Christian Pastors on YouTube.

Like Paul Simon, I come away thinking that the Re-union of a mother and her daughter her only moments away.

Amit Gvaryahu

Writing in the Haaretz, Amit Gvaryahu, seems to think the re-union is not so soon.

Amit Gvaryahu
Jan 27, 2018 8:10 AM
Link

Lucky the Jews Didn’t Understand What Mike Pence Was Really Saying.

Speaking in Israel’s parliament, the U.S. vice president came to praise the Jewish people. But his speech actually repudiated Jewish tradition, echoed tropes used to persecute Jews, and cast us as a mere tools for the salvation of Christians

When Mike Pence addressed Israel’s parliament this week, his speech was liberally seasoned with scripture. His Bible was on his lips when he asked all present to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalms 122:6). He invoked Abraham and the promise that he would be the “father of many nations”, (Genesis 17:4), and he said the establishment of Israel was the fulfillment of a messianic promise (Isaiah 66:8).

Two significant references, however, were lost on the majority of Jews who heard the speech.

Pence explained that, “It was here, in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah, that Abraham offered up his son, Isaac, and was credited with righteousness for his faith in God.”

Rabbinic Jewish and Christian traditions place the binding of Isaac, on a mountain in the Land of Moriah, “the land that I will show you,” in Jerusalem. Genesis 22, which tells the story of this “offering”, has nothing to say about “faith.”

So where did Pence’s framing come from, that this was an act of faith?

In Genesis 15 Abraham is distressed that he still has no children in his old age. God takes him outside and says that he will have as many descendants as the stars in the night sky.

Abraham then “had faith in the Lord, and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

Joshua Blachorsky, a doctoral candidate at New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, has noted that this verse was central to the thought and work of the apostle Paul, who in his letter to the Romans, chapter 4, uses this verse to explain that Abraham was considered “righteous,” worthy of salvation, not because of his observance of the commandments (“works”) or his circumcision, the act by which he entered into a divine covenant, but because of his faith.

In Christian readings of Paul, the Jewish Torah and its commandments “bring wrath” and cannot bring about the promises of inheritance to Abraham. Rather, only faith can bring about salvation – not just to Abraham but to humanity at large.

Paul concludes: “Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

In this reading, Abraham is the father of the faithful, not the father of the circumcised. Paul goes on to explicitly exclude the “carnal” Jews from their Abrahamic descent in Romans 9.

Pence’s emphasis on faith (which he mentioned 13 additional times in his speech) echoes Chapter 11 of the non-Pauline, but canonical, Epistle to the Hebrews, which surveys all the heroes of the Hebrew Bible, including the offering of Isaac (11:17-20). All these deeds and miracles, according to the Epistle, were done by faith.

Hebrews concludes: “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us [Christians] so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” (Heb 11:39-40).

Can present-day Israel, or modern-day Jews, be “made perfect,” if they continue to dissent from Christianity? Pence’s emphasis on faith says, resoundingly, no.

Jews in this story are a tool or a pawn for the triumph of the evangelical Christ, perhaps in some apocalyptic event in the future. The redemption of the Jews is a harbinger for the ever-closer second coming of Jesus.

The acts of Old Testament heroes (and modern Jews by extension) only gain the status of acts of faith in their ‘reincarnation’ as protagonists of Christian faith. As Jews, acting within a Jewish identity, those acts would have no spiritual or redemptive meaning: “They did not receive what was promised.”

Historically, Christians have understood these texts to mean that faith in Christ as savior was the only path to “justification,” or salvation. Since the crucifixion of Jesus, the Church replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. These scriptures justified the persecution and killing of Jews, who refused to accept Christ: think the Crusades and the Inquisition. In more recent centuries, this theology has been especially pronounced in the Evangelical Lutheran tradition.

That tradition had a lasting and significant influence on modern German anti-Semitism, even when it was couched in ‘scientific’ and secular tropes. The Holocaust brought about significant soul-searching about the validity of this theology in many circles. The successes of political Zionism also required some modifications to this theology.

Regardless, per Pence, the tribulations and successes of the Jews are valuable only as pre-figurations and theological models for Christians. But the Jewish state is also necessary for his eschatology. Evangelicals like Pence see the urgent need to literally encourage Jews to return to Zion and to sovereignty as a critical step towards Christ’s second coming.

The U.S. Vice President stood before the assembled delegates of the Jewish state (the Arab MKs had been shamefully expelled from the chamber minutes earlier) and told them, right after talking about the Holocaust, that Abraham was not their father but that Abraham was his father.

Pence, who claims to be righteous on account of his own faith, used texts that insinuated that any redemption that would come to the Jews was but a harbinger of final and real redemption for the world under Christ as king and messiah.

He ignored the staunchly secular and socialist components of political Zionism. He recast what was meant to be a secular democracy acting within history as an agent of divine providence performing the miracles of the end of history. He said, quite simply, that before what he regards as the messianic establishment of the State of Israel, Jews were “fragments of a people.”

The Jews applauded.

Pence surely has the right to interpret scriptures. They are his scriptures too, according to his own religious tradition. Still, it takes a special kind of hutzpah to stand in front of a Jewish audience and explain their own tradition to them using language and texts that historically have rendered actual Jews pathologically redundant to the world, and still today cast us as a tool for the salvation of Christians.

The quiet implications of Pence’s speech take on an even more bizarre character in light of the recent report that large parts of the speech were drafted by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the UK’s chief rabbi emeritus.

That expose suggests that the Pence speech isn’t just a public display of theological impudence but of Jewish subservience, in which a prominent Orthodox rabbi internalizes Christian supercessionism and parrots it back as politically expedient pablum.

And this too is the level to which Israel’s Knesset has stooped. Its overwhelming right-wing and religious majority obsequiously traded the historical Jewish claim to Abraham, the Torah, and redemption according to the Jewish narrative, for the lentil stew of American “recognition” of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the city where, Pence and others hope, Christian dreams may still come true.

Amit Gvaryahu is a PhD candidate in Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Rav Daniel & Mirian Burg – “On Being Found”

Lyrics

Dear Evan Hansen

Even when the dark comes crashing through, you will be found
Like you could fall and no one hear
When you need a friend to carry you
When you are broken on the ground
Let the sun come streaming in
You will be found

 

Sermons

  1. Neighborhoods as Sacred Space (Beth Am & IFO)
    • Profiles
      • Beth Am Synagogue strives to be “In, For and Of” its neighborhood of Reservoir Hill in Baltimore, MD. See how relational work in an historically Jewish and African American neighborhood can soften boundaries, challenge assumptions and lift up positive stories of collaborative being.
    • Videos
      • Video #1
        Channel :- Beth Am Synagogue
        Published On :- 2018-April-15th
        Link
  2. On the Precipice of Violence (Rav Daniel Burg’s 10.27.18 Shabbat sermon)
    • Profiles
      1. Rav Daniel’s sermon Shabbat morning during the Pittsburgh shooting focused on potential and actual violence. At the conclusion of his remarks his wife Rabbi Miriam Burg, just informed of the Tree of Life Shooting, shares the news — which Rav Daniel then shares with the congregation. May the souls of our murdered brethren be bound up in the bonds of eternal of life, and may their memories be for a blessing.
    • Videos
      • Video #1
        Channel :- Beth Am Synagogue
        Published On :- 2018-Oct-27th
        Link

 

Yad Vashem – A Monument and a Name

 

Salvation

Isaiah 56:4-6

…For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, who choose what pleases Me and hold fast to My covenant—

I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than that of sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD to minister to Him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be His servants—all who keep the Sabbath without profaning it and who hold fast to My covenant—…

Created for Glory / Formed and Made

Isaiah 43:7-8

everyone called by My name and created for My glory,

whom I have indeed formed and made.

Bring out a people who have eyes but are blind,

and who have ears but are deaf.

Videos

  1. Portland Men’s Society for Documentaries and Debate-PMSDD
    • PMSDD History Of Judaism Part 1
      Link
    • PMSDD History Of Judaism Part 2
      Link

 

Indepth

History Of Judaism – Part 1

  1. 400-BC
    • Ezra, The Scribe
    • Jerusalem must be rebuilt
    • Believe in one God
    • Voted Religious leader
    • Torah was created
  2. Torah
    • First 5 books of the Bible
    • Began more than 3000 years ago
      • Exodus
      • I have seen the oppression that Pharaoh kept them
  3. Egypt
    • 400 years
  4. History
    • Unit
      • Not Just Individual, but collection of Individuals
    • Freedom
      • Not just Israel but everyone
    • Monotheism
      • No stature, No Image
      • Only 1 God
    • Law
      • Out of bondage
    • Test
      • No enough water or food
      • Each day is a test
  5. Circumcision
    • 8 Days after birth
  6. Exodus
    • Literal Critique
    • Fall of Canaan
      • Long fall and not immediate, and so not war
  7. Torah
    • Regulation
      • 613 injunctions
    •  Reward
      • Security & Strength
  8. Kings
    • Saul
    • David
      • Jerusalem
        • David conquered Jebusite land
        • Renamed Jerusalem
  9.  Temple
    • David
      • David forbade
        • Blood on your hands
    • Solomon
  10. 8th Century
    • El
      • Bull God
    • Ashe-rah
      • God’s wife
  11. Prophets
    • Jeremiah
  12. King
    • Ezekiel
  13. Babylon ( Nebuchadnezzar )
    • 587 BC
    • King
      • Nebuchadnezzar
    • Divided
      • Royalty
        • taken as slaves to Babylon
      •  Simple
        • Stay
        • Migrate to Egypt
    • Songs
      • By waters of Babylon, we sat down and
  14. Persian
    • 539 BC
    • King
      • Cyrus, Persian King
  15. Ezra and the return from Babylon
    • Torah
      1. reinforce
      2. Without King
    • material
      • Only made of living object
      • Sing in honor
      • decorative velvet
    • identity
      • Law
        • Deuteronomy
      • History
        • Ethnic  Boundary
        • 240 BC
  16. 232 BC
    • Greek Conquest
      • Alexander the Great
  17. 178 BC
    • More Greek Activity
  18. 164 BC
    • Macabre
      • Judas
      • 3rd Month of Jewish Calendar
      • For 200 years Macabre ruled
  19. 66 BC
    • Rome conquered Israel
    • Integrated into Syria
    • Rulers
      • Herod the Great
        • Rome client through Charm
        • Nice
          • Floor Heating
          • Painted walls
        • New Temple
        • Herod did get to see the Temple’s dedication
        • Herod died 200 years before Temple’s completion
  20. New Messiah
    • Birth of a new Religion
    • Crucification
    • Early Christians did not blame Rome, but Jews
  21. Flavius Josephus, Jewish Writer
  22. West Walls
  23. Songs
    • Psalm
      • If I forget Jerusalem
  24. Titus
  25. Johannes Ben Josef
    • No more animal sacrifice
    • Synagogue
  26. 135 AD
    • Judea Captured
    • City renamed Syria Palestinian
    • Refugee
      • The last are in every city on this earth
  27. Mishnah, Oral Tradition
    • Oral Torah
      Link
    • Once people of the temple, now people of the writing
  28. Babylonian Torah, Talmud
    • 6000 years
  29. 6000
    • Mohammed
    • Islam
    • 600 CE
    • Empire
      • North Africa
    • Jews
      • Children of Book
      • Can not bear arms
    • Capital
      • Baghdad
  30. 711
    1. Islam reaches Rome
  31. Seppadim, Spain
    • Jews welcome Muslims
    • Hope for help against Christians
    • Moses to Moses
  32. 8th century
    • Mosque
    • Caliph
    • Here with us, Moses will say

 

Christine Hayes, Theologian

Wikipedia

Link

Christine Hayes is the Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, former Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and one of the foremost American academics focusing on talmudic-midrashic studies and Classical Judaica. She is also a specialist in the History and Literature of Judaism in Late Antiquity.

Before her appointment at Yale, she served as the Assistant Professor of Hebrew Studies, Department of Near Eastern Studies, at Princeton University from 1993 to 1996. She has published several books and numerous articles in American and international academic journals, and has received academic accolades. Her class on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was selected for the pilot program of “Yale University Open Courses,” and has subsequently been one of the most watched online courses about Classical Judaica.

Videos

  1. YouTube
    • Shalom Hartman Institute
      • Christine Hayes: Moses at Sinai – God’s Partner or Adversary? (Shavuot 5776)
        Published On :- 2016-June-2nd
        Link
      • Christine Hayes: Forging Jewish Identity: Models and Middles in Jewish Sources
        Published On :- 2017-Jan-19th
        Link
    • Yale Courses
      • Videos
        • Lecture 23. Visions of the End: Daniel and Apocalyptic Literature
          Published By :- Yale Courses
          Published On :- 2012-Dec-3rd
          Link

 

Nabeel Qureshi – These things remain – “Faith, Hope, & Love”

Background

It has been a tough couple of days for me.
On Tuesday I realized the parting of Brother Nabeel Qureshi and I have been down ever since.
Took a mental, psychological Day Off from work yesterday.
Was able to ride the Coastline and I am just so thankful.

Comforting Words

As Ravi Zacharias said on one of his lectures, irrespective of the gifts and words of an Apologist what often wins out is Love.

Amir Yunas

A Tribute to Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeels Life summarized by his true childhood friend. I Don’t promote the teachings of Nabeel whatsoever, however, this is childhood friend, and I feel sad, so I shared my heart.
Link

 

Hear, O Israel : the Lord, our God is one Lord

Reunite me with my children and my family once again
For a guy in a strange place ( earth ) tends to get lonely
And, I have a lot of distress and anxiety over my little children
It feels almost like when I remember them, I melt and dissolve away
However, I have thrown away the reins and leashes controlling my affair
To the One who handle the affairs of our lives in strange and mysterious ways
He is one Compassionately forgiven, Always around me, and my source of Shelter and Refuge
With his will and support, to Him do I humbly supplicate, bessege, and turn in repentance
My God, you know how my situation is
So my master, is there relieve Close By
Oh Rewarder of the Day of Judgement, Relieve!
( Relieve)  My Concerns that keep creeping into my heart.
And, tie my rope to the rope of your pleasure, and look to me, and turn to me, so that I can turn back to you

And, overlook ( shepard) my protection take control of my support
And, strengthen my vulnerabilities when I am exposed to problems
And, inspire me to praise you throughout my life

For indeed, with your remembrance, this worldly life becomes pleasant
And, say to the servant of the most merciful and whoever comes after him
For them, is a share from the valleys of our kindness

Therefore my thoughts regarding you are beautiful
My support and lifeline ( God )

And, the pastures of my sweet tasting hopes and wishes are fertile
And, send blessings upon the prophet and his people for as love as the Nightingale sings on the Arak Tree

 

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Mortal Choice

Link

Basis for True Spirituality

  1. Natural Balava
    • In regards to me two groups of people should be destroyed.  He who loves me too much that love takes him from what is correct; and he who hates me too much that hate takes him from what is correct.
    • In regards to me, it is he who follows the middle course.
      And, so be with him, and be with the great majority of muslims, because Allah’s hand of protection is with the maintenance of unity, you should  beware of division
    • The one isolated from the group is a prey to Satan, just as the one isolated from the flock is a prey to the wolves
  2. Mercy
    • When they found Allah they found him to of great mercy
  3. Benevolence
    • Allah is forgiven. All of them were following a “nair?” which we suppose to be good.
      You can not base a spiritual life on suspiciousness, cursing and allocating blame.
    • If you want uprightness in the world, make sure you do it in yourself.
  4. Community
    • You can not go your own
    • Benefit Inclusiveness

Scriptures

  1. Holy, yet Merciful
    • The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. ( Leviticus 16:2 )
  2. God Entreaty
    • Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.
      The LORD spoke to Gad, David’s seer…
      Now, therefore, consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.”
      David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the LORD ( 1st Chronicles 21 )
  3. God Knows
    • But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The LORD knows those who are his” ( 2nd Timothy 2:19 )
  4. Motives
    • but the Lord weighs the spirit  ( Proverbs 16:2 )
    • For the word of God is living and active … and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ( Hebrews 4:12 )
  5. Moderation
    • He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. ( Proverbs 16:32 )
  6.  Mourning
    • David Mourns for Abner
      …So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the will of the king to put Abner the son of Ner to death.
      Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah are too difficult for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil.”… ( 2nd Samuel 3:37-38 )
  7. Cursing
    • Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter. ( Ecclesiastes 10:10 )
  8. Laying Down Our Departed
    • The Death and Burial of Sarah
      …And Abraham bowed before the people of the land.
      He spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept it from me that I may bury my dead there. ( Genesis 23:13 )
  9.  Offering
    • Cost Nothing
      David Builds an Altar
      …”Everything, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
      However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
      David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the LORD was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.
      ( 2 Samuel 24:23-25 )
    • “But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says the LORD of hosts ( Malachi 1:14 )

In personal expressions

Brother Nabeel, you encouraged and emboldened so many.

Great Lord of Hosts, you have given us and always give us your best.  Ever so often  you do ask for our best, as a qualifier of a great pledge on your part.

Though young, yet weaned, as Hannah did centuries before “we turn Nabeel over to you Lord”.

We are accepting that “No one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit.” 

TheAtlantic – How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners ( By Ed Yong )

Introduction

Ed Yong has an interesting article in the Feb 2017 Edition of the Atlantic.

I especially like it as it shows that we can disagree without being disagreeable.

 

Story

Link
It’s a good time to be interested in the brain. Neuroscientists can now turn neurons on or off with just a flash of light, allowing them to manipulate the behavior of animals with exceptional precision. They can turn brains transparent and seed them with glowing molecules to divine their structure. They can record the activity of huge numbers of neurons at once. And those are just the tools that currently exist. In 2013, Barack Obama launched the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative—a $115 million plan to develop even better technologies for understanding the enigmatic gray blobs that sit inside our skulls.

John Krakaeur, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has been asked to BRAIN Initiative meetings before, and describes it like “Maleficent being invited to Sleeping Beauty’s birthday.” That’s because he and four like-minded friends have become increasingly disenchanted by their colleagues’ obsession with their toys. And in a new paper that’s part philosophical treatise and part shot across the bow, they argue that this technological fetish is leading the field astray. “People think technology + big data + machine learning = science,” says Krakauer. “And it’s not.”

He and his fellow curmudgeons argue that brains are special because of the behavior they create—everything from a predator’s pounce to a baby’s cry. But the study of such behavior is being de-prioritized, or studied “almost as an afterthought.” Instead, neuroscientists have been focusing on using their new tools to study individual neurons, or networks of neurons. According to Krakauer, the unspoken assumption is that if we collect enough data about the parts, the workings of the whole will become clear. If we fully understand the molecules that dance across a synapse, or the electrical pulses that zoom along a neuron, or the web of connections formed by many neurons, we will eventually solve the mysteries of learning, memory, emotion, and more. “The fallacy is that more of the same kind of work in the infinitely postponed future will transform into knowing why that mother’s crying or why I’m feeling this way,” says Krakauer. And, as he and his colleagues argue, it will not.

That’s because behavior is an emergent property—it arises from large groups of neurons working together, and isn’t apparent from studying any single one. You can draw parallels with the flocking of birds. Biologists have long wondered how they manage to wheel about the skies in perfect coordination, as if they were a single entity. In the 1980s, computer scientists showed that this can happen if each bird obeys a few simple rules, which dictate their distance and alignment relative to their peers. From these simple individual rules, collective complexity emerges.

But you would never have been able to predict the latter from the former. No matter how thoroughly you understood the physics of feathers, you could never have predicted a murmuration of starlings without first seeing it happen. So it is with the brain. As British neuroscientist David Marr wrote in 1982, “trying to understand perception by understanding neurons is like trying to understand a bird’s flight by studying only feathers. It just cannot be done.”

A landmark study, published last year, beautifully illustrated his point using, of all things, retro video games. Eric Jonas and Konrad Kording examined the MOS 6502 microchip, which ran classics like Donkey Kong and Space Invaders, in the style of neuroscientists. Using the approaches that are common to brain science, they wondered if they could rediscover what they already knew about the chip—how its transistors and logic gates process information, and how they run simple games. And they utterly failed.

“What we extracted was so incredibly superficial,” Jonas told me last year. And “in the real world, this would be a millions-of-dollars data set.” If the kind of neuroscience that
has come to dominate the field couldn’t explain the workings of a simple, dated microchip, how could it hope to explain the brain—reputedly the most complex object in the universe?

This criticism misses the mark, says Rafael Yuste from Columbia University, who works on developing new tools for studying the brain. We still don’t understand how the brain works, he says, “because we’re still ignorant about the middle ground between single neurons and behavior, which is the function of groups of neurons—of neural circuits.” And that’s because of “the methodological shackles that have prevented investigators from examining the activity of entire nervous system. This is probably futile, like watching TV by examining a single pixel at a time.” By developing better tools that can watch entire neural circuits in action, programs like the BRAIN Initiative are working against reductionism and will take us closer to capturing the emergent properties of the brain.

But Krakauer says that this viewpoint just swaps “neuron” for “neural circuit” and then makes the same conceptual mistake. “It’ll be interesting to see emergent properties at the level of the circuit, but it’s a fallacy to think that you get closer to the whole organism and understanding will automatically ensue,” he says.

He and his colleagues aren’t dismissing new technologies, either. They’re not neuro-Luddites. “These new tools are amazing; I’m using them right now in my lab,” says Asif Ghazanfar from Princeton University, who studies communication between pairs of marmoset monkeys. “But I spent seven years trying to understand their vocal behavior first. Now, I have some specific ideas about what the neural circuitry behind that might look like, and I’ll design careful experiments to test them. Often it seems that people do the reverse: They look at the cool tech and say, ‘What questions can I ask with that?’ And then you get these results that you can interpret in vague ways.”

This point is crucial. Unlike others who have levied charges of reductionism against neuroscience, Ghazanfar and his peers aren’t dualists—they aren’t saying there’s a mind that sits separate from the brain and resists explanation. They’re saying that explanations exist. It’s just that we’re looking for them in the wrong way. Worse, we’re arriving at the wrong explanations.

Consider mirror neurons. These cells, first discovered in monkeys, fire in the same way when an animal performs an action and when it sees another individual doing the same. To some scientists, these shared firing patterns imply understanding: Since the monkey knows its intentions when it moves its own body, based on the firing of the mirror neurons, it should be able to infer similar intentions upon whomever it watches. And so, these neurons have been mooted as the basis of empathy, language, autism, jazz, and even human civilization—not for nothing have they been called the “most hyped concept in neuroscience.”

Here’s the problem: In the monkey experiments, scientists almost never check the animals’ behavior to confirm that they genuinely actually understand what they’re seeing in their peers. As Krakauer and colleagues write, “An interpretation is being mistaken for a result; namely, that the mirror neurons understand the other individual.” As others have written, there’s little strong evidence for this—or even for the existence of mirror neurons in humans. This is the kind of logical trap that you fall into when you ignore behavior.

By contrast, Krakauer points to his own work on Parkinson’s disease. People with the disease tend to move slowly—a symptom that’s been linked to a lack of dopamine. Increase the levels of that chemical, and you can hasten a person’s movements. That’s could lead to new treatments, which is no small victory. But it doesn’t tell a neuroscientist why or how the loss of dopamine leads to the behavior.

Krakauer found a clue in 2007 by asking Parkinson’s patients to reach for objects at varying speeds. These experiments revealed that they’re just as capable of moving quickly as healthy people; they’re just unconsciously reluctant to do so. They suggested that dopamine-producing neurons that connect two parts of the brain—the substantia nigra and the striatum—determine our motivation to move. Deplete that dopamine, and we opt for less energetic movements for a given task. Hence the slowness. Later experiments in mice, in which modern techniques were used to raise or lower dopamine levels, confirmed this idea.

There are many other examples where behavior led the way. By studying how owls listen out for scurrying prey, neuroscientists discovered how their brains—and later, those of mammals—localize sound. By studying how marmosets call to each other, Ghazanfar has learned more about the rules that govern turn-taking in human conversation. Critically, these cases began with studying behaviors that the animals naturally do, not those that they had been trained to perform. Likewise, bats, sea slugs, and electric fish have all told us a lot about how brains work, because each has its own specialized skills. “If you pick a species that does one or two behaviors super-well, you can identify the underlying circuits more clearly,” Ghazanfar says. “Instead, mice are treated as if they’re this generic mammal that have smaller versions of human brains—and that’s preposterous.”

“I am thrilled to see this paper emphasize the importance of carefully studied behavior,” says Anne Churchland, who studies decision-making at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “I’ve seen in neuroscience that behavior is often an afterthought, studied with insufficient understanding of the animal’s strategy.” But she adds that such studies are hard. It’s difficult to get animals to behave naturally in a lab, because you might need to recreate aspects of their world that aren’t obvious to us.

Ghazanfar agrees. “If your goal is to understand the brain, you have to understand behavior, and that’s not trivial. I think a lot of neuroscientists think it is,” he says. “Perhaps one way forward would be to develop tools to help address the complexity of behavior” suggests Ed Boyden from MIT, who pioneered the breakthrough technique called optogenetics. “Behavioral investigation has a strong tradition in neuroscience and I hope it grows even stronger.”

For the moment, the problem is that it’s getting harder to publish such studies in flagship neuroscience journals. Behavioral studies get rejected for “not having enough neuro”, says Ghazanfar, and “it’s as if every paper needs to be a methodological decathlon in order to be considered important.”

Marina Picciotto from Yale University, who is editor in chief of the Journal of Neuroscience, says it boils down to how studies are framed. If they’re just describing behavior, they’re probably more appropriate for a journal that, say, focuses on psychology. But if behavioral experiments explicitly lead to hypotheses about circuits in the brain, or something of that kind, they’re more relevant for the neuroscience field. But “the line between ‘pure’ behavior and neuroscience is fluid,” she admits, and she’s both appreciative of the new paper and open to discussions about the issues it raises.

To Krakauer, the current line demeans behavioral work, deeming it valuable “as long as it tells us where to stick the electrodes.” But it’s important in itself. “My fear is that people will say: Yes, of course, we should continue to do everything we’ve been doing, but also do better behavior studies. I’m trying to say: You’ve got to do the behavior first. You can’t fly the plane while building it.”

Listening

Wretch 32 ft Jacob Banks – ‘Doing OK’ (Official Video)
Link

NFL Players Trip to Israel

Background

Over the weekend I became aware of a story that tracked a planned visit of NFL players to Israel.

Story

Here is a good take of the story penned by Allison Kaplan Sommer:

Haaretz – Israel News
Link

What was supposed to be a high-profile image-buffing visit by a delegation of 13 NFL players to Israel ended up failing to draw enough players to field a team.
In the end, only five of the players originally slated on the seven-day trip designed to make them “ambassadors of good will” for Israel ended up arriving to tour the Holy Land and seeing the sights, after a public relations fumble caused the majority to pull out.

The players who made the trip were Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

The decision of the other participants not to come on the trip took place after the visit was publicized by Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan on February 5, with a press release describing the trip as being part of an “intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields.” The football players would get “a balanced picture of Israel, the opposite from the false incitement campaign that is being waged against Israel around the world,” he said.

Move follows ‘open letter’ from Walker, Belafonte, Glover

The move was followed by the publishing of an “open letter” urging the players not to go, sponsored by pro-Palestinian activist groups and signed by high-profile activists and celebrities like Alice Walker, Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover. At the very beginning of the letter, Erdan’s words are cited as evidence that Israel was “aiming to use your fame to advance their own agenda: an agenda that comes at the expense of the Palestinian people.”

The decision by the other eight players not to travel to Israel was led by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who signaled he was pulling out of the trip by tweeting a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. and a statement expressing resentment at what he saw as a manipulation by Israel’s government and declaring he wouldn’t “be used in such a manner.”
Since Bennett’s post, the ministry that had unveiled the trip with great fanfare went silent. After promising various updates on the delegation, Revital Yakin-Karkovsky, executive director for communications and strategy in the ministry, told the Associated Press that it would not comment on the visit.

The Tourism Ministry and the nonprofit America’s Voices in Israel organization, which were also involved in the planning, have also distanced themselves.

According to ESPN, the players who canceled their participation include Bennett’s brother Martellus, a tight end for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, along with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde and Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett, along with retired NFL linebacker Kirk Morrison.

The five players’ government-sponsored trip began Tuesday in the north of the country with a visit to Rambam Hospital, where the five players were given a tour and shown a presentation of a device developed by one of Rambam’s researchers that detects concussions in real time. Later, the players were set to include Yad Vashem and the Hebrew Israelite community in the southern city of Dimona.

Two of the visiting players, Jordan and Kendricks, have kept their fans updated on their travels by posting their adventures on social media.

My Take

Personally, my take is that all of us should do good to the extent that we can.

Carry One Another’s Burdens
…Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to the family of faith.
( Galatians 6:9-10)

Other Do Gooders

  1. Obama
    • Governor Bill Richardson
      • Gov. Richardson endorses Obama
        March 21st, 2008
        Link
        He drew laughs with a story about how Obama had bailed him out when a moderator called on him unexpectedly during a Democratic debate.

        “I was about to ask the moderator to repeat the question when Barack whispered to me ‘Katrina, Katrina.’ And I gave my Katrina answer. He could have thrown me under the bus, but he stood behind me.”
        Obama had earlier praised Richardson.
        “Whether it’s fighting to end the Iraq war or stop the genocide in Darfur or prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, Gov. Richardson has been a powerful voice on issues of global security, peace and justice,” Obama said in a statement released before the endorsement.
    • John McCain
      • McCain: Obama not an Arab, crowd boos
        By JONATHAN MARTIN and AMIE PARNES
        Dated :- 2008-Oct-10th
        Link
        McCain passed his wireless microphone to one woman who said, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s not, he’s not uh — he’s an Arab. He’s not — ” before McCain retook the microphone and replied:“No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”
  2. Brad Paisley
    • Flashback: Brad Paisley Salutes President Obama
      Singer visits the White House in 2009 to perform “Welcome to the Future” for Barack and Michelle Obama
      By Stephen L. Betts
      Date :-  2016-Nov-8th
      Link
      Paisley was a supporter of Obama’s candidacy, not an easy road for a performer in the predominantly conservative landscape of country music. But, as he told CNN in 2009, “On November 4th, I felt an emotion like I haven’t felt in my entire life. I think whoever you voted for, you had to be moved.”

      “Welcome to the Future,” penned with Chris DuBois, acknowledged the troubling history that made Obama’s victory even more significant, with Paisley recalling true events such as a classmate having a cross burned on his lawn because he had asked out the homecoming queen and referencing the brave actions of protester Rosa Parks and civil-rights leader Martin Luther King.Paisley, who had broken down in tears while running through the song during soundcheck earlier that afternoon, recalled doing “everything I could do not to lose it. I had to close my eyes, or I would completely break down.” After the performance, he tipped his hat to the president, thanked him and left the stage. Paisley recalled that once he was offstage he “just started bawling,” taking in the enormity of the moment. Paisley would again perform for the President and First Lady Michelle Obama on July 4th, 2012, and in January 2013 at the inauguration concert celebrating his second term.
    • Exclusive: Brad Paisley shares his night at the White House
      Link
      But this time, the phone call was essentially, “We would like to know if Brad would be interested in performing at the White House in the East Room.”
      It was as simple as that. It’s like, “Yes! More than yes. I’m floored. Why?!”
      And I could never get the answer why. They just wanted me to play.

      Ironically, I read this story just last week on CNN about Michelle Obama’s great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson, who was a slave in South Carolina. It’s insane to think about that.

      How the world has changed.On November 4th, I felt an emotion like I haven’t felt in my entire life. I think whoever you voted for, you had to be moved.My grandfather was in the Philippines fighting against the Japanese during World War II — and now I record for Sony and played Japan twice on tour, and loved every minute.If you’d go back in time and tell my grandfather during air raid sirens, “Hang on there. Your grandson — they’re gonna love him,” he never would have believed it.

Conclusion

Times are tough.

We all need help.

Sometimes it comes through friendship and actually working together.

At other times it comes through gracious and symbolic acts.

I am finding out that people sometimes view us different than we view ourselves.

In their lenses, we could have done more than we are doing.

We could have clarified something.

And, when they give us time to do so, and we choose not to do so, they will often move on.

But, that does not mean they forget or worse forgive.

I wish upon each of us “continuance in choosing good leadership“.

A while ago, we had a production problem and I needed help with instructions on how to get the system back operational.

One of seniors in the group explained to me how we got here and I was just staring and wondering if he thought an history is what I needed most of all.

I needed encouragement, access and privilege to the system, and an easy to understand guide.

A good friend shared with me a few years ago something to the effect that “sometimes people think or assume there needs are different than others“.

Closing Scripture

Paul Before the Areopagus ( Council or Court of Justice )
Nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

From one man He made every nation of men, to inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.
God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.…
( Acts 17:25-27 )