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Making sense of suffering

How does one make sense of large scale suffering, like that of global disasters, Auschwitz, or even cyclical poverty? Is that God’s not-so-fine handiwork?

This TED Talk by Rev. Tom Honey, introduces a different idea about God that is well-known in intellectual theological circles, but not so well known outside of this.

Rev. Honey challenges the traditional conception of God as a “male boss”… a “celestial controller, a rule maker, a policeman in the sky who orders everything, and causes everything to happen.”


Honey poses some interesting questions:

  • Is God “‘The wind and waves obey Him.’ Do they?”  … “Is God in control?” … “if God can or will do these things — intervene to change the flow of events — then surely he could have stopped the tsunami.”???
  • Does God demand loyalty, like any medieval tyrant?  A God who looks after His own, so that Christians are OK, while everyone else perishes? A cosmic us and them, and a God who is guilty of the worst kind of favoritism?… Such a God would be morally inferior to the highest ideals of humanity.”
  • “But what if God doesn’t act? What if God doesn’t do things at all? What if God is in things? The loving soul of the universe. An in-dwelling compassionate presence, underpinning and sustaining all things. What if God is in things? … In presence and in absence. In simplicity and complexity. In change and development and growth.”
  • “Isn’t it ironic that Christians who claim to believe in an infinite, unknowable being then tie God down in closed systems and rigid doctrines?” Could ‘I don’t know’ “be the most profoundly religious statement of all”?

I think this notion of God is sweet like honey 😉

COURSERA: Technology + Education = Peaceful Revolution

On the hunt for a TED Talk for our next “Three Fork” session I came across Stanford Professor Daphne Koller sharing an online education platform set to change the world…

You must visit the page: – so impressive! A massive network of FREE education from 16 of the world’s best universities.


Courses go for 6-10 weeks, include weekly videos to watch, homework, assignments and sometimes exams – but tailored to your needs, and all developed by 16 of the world’s top universities… what a gift to the world:
  • life-long education,
  • development of critical thinking skills,
  • encouraging and inspiring creative solutions to the world’s problems…

There are presently 116 courses, from Calculus to Social Network Analysis to Quantum Mechanics, Astronomy, History, Psychology and Photography.

This Introduction to Philosophy course looks interesting, starting in January 2013:

At the moment there are 16 categories:


While it’s exciting to see this platform it seems there are still many gaps:

1. getting technology (internet, computers/smart phones, etc) into the hands of people who lack access to the education

2. develop a much larger range of courses (language courses, writing courses, basic accounting, business, and others that would open the world market for all)… that will be most useful to those lacking education

3. increasing the interest, time availability and perceived value of these education services to those who might benefit from them

Barriers and pending challenges aside, it’s exciting to imagine how technology + education may lead to the evolution of a more peaceful and sustainable global society 🙂




Getting real: promising population stats & pending challenges

Hans Rosling gives an illuminating TedTalks presentation on one of my greatest ecological concerns: over-population.


Let each box = 1 billion people.

In 1960 it was relatively accurate to divide the world into the “First World” and “Third World”, the “rich” and the “poor”, the “developed world” and “developing world” or the Centre and Periphery.

In 1960 we were 3 billion people. The blue was the 1 billion at the top of the pyramid, dreaming of buying a car and a dishwasher. The green were the 2 billion at the bottom of the pyramid, saving for a pair of shoes and trying to feed their families.

In 50 years much has changed. 3 billion has turned into 7 billion. 4 more boxes have been added to the table.

Brazil, Russia, India, China, (the BRIC nations), are rising up. While the 1 billion blue affluent people now take planes to remote destinations for holidays, another green box of 1 billion people are buying cars, and 3 green boxes equating to 3 billion people are buying bicycles. We still have the 2 billion at the bottom looking for food, and saving for a pair of Havaianas. So an extra 4 billion in the middle mean a wider “gap” but that is filled in with a massive middle-class majority. Maybe we’d think of them as “Second World” or “semi-periphery” nations, or nations within nations seeing as the spread of income within nations also varies greatly.

So comes our familiar (and what I consider to be quite a horrifying) graph:

Now unless we want the whole world to look like the suburbs of Mumbai (no offense to my Indian friends who live there, but it really is a horribly over-populated loud dirty chaotic city), we can’t grow at this exponential rate forever…

Rosling gives a realistic picture:

Only 2 more boxes, 2 billion more people, bringing us up to a grand total of 9 billion. And I guess ideally, eventually, all those boxes are stacked on top of one another at the far right, enjoying their holidays all around the world.

Ho hum, and how is this, pray tell, going to come about?

Many, including Rosling, predict that the formula for a stabilizing population is to decrease poverty. A little family education for women and contraception availability (along with motivating men to wear it and Catholics to allow it) also helps. Apparently this is what the statistics say, loud and clear, so let’s go with it.

With poverty as it stands in 2010, with 2 billion at the bottom, by 2050 this 2 billion will be 4 – hence the 4 boxes on top of one another.

In order to stabilize population at 9 billion, these 4 billion people NEED to be out of absolute poverty – they need to be able to afford food and shoes, and be dreaming of bicycles and cars. If not by 2070 they’ll turn into 8 billion, bringing us up to 17 billion.

Following this line of thinking I see two questions that are imperative for anyone who doesn’t want to share the planet with another 16,999,999,999 people. These are:

  1. How are we going to ensure those 4 billion are in shoes and getting on bicycles by 2050?
  2. What can be done so that the 5 billion humans driving cars and flying planes don’t pollute the planet & exploit the non-renewables so much that all 9 billion don’t end up back at square one, scavenging off the left-overs from today’s greed?

Hm, tough questions, did I hear someone mention mining the moon and moving to Mars?