Golden RiceA piece of news analysis over the weekend by Amy Harmon, a national correspondent for the New York Times, captures well the dynamics of the current debates about the merits of genetically-modified organisms (GMO’s).

Harmon writes specifically about the case of Golden Rice, which has some attributes that should inoculate it against common concerns about GMO’s. Golden Rice is not monopolized by a corporate entity, and has been developed specifically to address urgent health concerns in the developing world:

Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population. Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive.

Harmon also observes that “beyond the fear of corporate control of agriculture, perhaps the most cited objection to G.M.O.’s is that they may hold risks that may not be understood. The decision to grow or eat them relies, like many other decisions, on a cost-benefit analysis.”

Get_Your_Hands_DirtyAs I argue in my latest book, Get Your Hands Dirty, there is a theological basis for the development of genetically-modified foods. The cost-benefit sorts of reasoning has its place, but as I argue, “The limits of all these arguments about GM food are essentially the same: they argue primarily, if not solely on the basis of pragmatic concerns. While these arguments are attractive, especially to American common sense, they are neither comprehensive nor adequate in and of themselves.”

A Christian examination of GMO’s cannot be limited simply to arguments about expediency. It is necessary to first establish that a moral basis exists for this type of human activity. As I examine the case of GM foods through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, I conclude that such a “biblical-theological framework provides some important general affirmations of the genetic engineering movement with regard to food. This reality is in some respect directly related to the truth of human exceptionalism, the priority of human life over and against that of animals and particularly plants.”

So while expediency cannot be the sole arbiter validating GMO’s, the human cost associated with either acceptance or rejection of such foods are relevant. There are some legitimate concerns about GM foods, at both the level of principle and practice. There are no perfect solutions. But even so, as I put it, our “default position should be in favor of innovations which have a realistic possibility of substantively increasing the fruitfulness of the earth.”

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Court Is ‘One of Most Activist,’ Ginsburg Says, Vowing to Stay
Adam Liptak, New York Times

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, vowed in an interview to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal opposition on what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.”

Catholic Organizations Receive ‘Navigator’ Grants To Promote Pro-Abortion Obamacare
Susan Berry, Breitbart

In addition to Planned Parenthood, Ascension Health, the largest Catholic and nonprofit health system, and Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, have received federal “navigator” grants to enroll Americans in ObamaCare.

The Ascent of Wealth in the Western Roman Empire
Thomas R. Martin, Liberty Law Blog

No scholar is more skilled than Peter Brown at analyzing the copious evidence for the intellectual and religious changes in the western Roman Empire and suggesting, though not prescribing, ways to think about the answers to these questions.

Former Church Council Chief Urges Christianity to Abandon “Exclusivity”
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

Former National Council of Churches chief Joan Brown Campbell, in her sermon at Chautauqua today, urged that Christians reject the “exclusivity” of their own faith.

omondi-68453ad8f598b8de7a754315a0074f83d4cf5f01-s40-c85Why do people live in poverty?

Sometimes the problem is structural, and the cause can be attributed to a corrupt government or economic injustice. Sometimes the problem is individual, and the cause can be attributed to poor work ethic or a dependency on drugs. Sometimes, perhaps even most of the time, the problem is a combination of structural and individual reasons.

Just as there is no one cause of poverty there can be no one solution to poverty. Forgetting this obvious point can lead us to embrace a doomed one-size-fits-all approach or to dismiss workable initiatives because they can’t be applied in all cases. Consider, for example, the idea that since the poor lack resources, the best way to help them get out out of poverty is to give them money directly.

The New York Times recently highlighted a charity, GiveDirectly, that does just what it’s name implies: gives money directly to the needy. The organization gave $1,000 in two lump payments to the various poor villagers living in rural Kenya. The results:


The New Mexico Supreme Court, in a ruling regarding a Christian photographer who declined to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple, stated that this violated the state’s Human Rights Act.

gay-marriage-cake-toppers-485x320In 2006, Elane Huguenin, a professional photographer, was asked to photograph the ceremony of a lesbian couple. Huguenin declined, citing her religious beliefs, and subsequently had a complaint filed against her with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. She was found guilty of discrimination and fined. Justice Richard Bosson, in the court’s unanimous decision wrote:

The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims…

At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” he wrote.

He said the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and following religious teachings, but offered a sobering warning.

“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” the justice wrote. “The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”


Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 26, 2013

abc_lululemon_ceo_wanted_sign_jt_130615_wgPro-market advocates often talk about how markets are self-correcting. But why do businesses in free markets fix their own mistakes? Because if they don’t, customers and other stakeholders will punish them:

Lululemon, which produces yoga and other athletic apparel, provoked outrage from its devoted customer base when it released a flawed product earlier this year: see-through yoga pants. Founded in 1998, the company had built trust and loyalty among its yoga-loving clientele for delivering quality products: In just 15 years, Lululemon had grown to over $1.3 billion in annual revenue. So, it’s no surprise that Lululemon’s fans were upset and disappointed at the failure.

But Lululemon’s response to its mistake demonstrates why government intervention in the marketplace is unnecessary and, often, inferior to that of the free market. To address all the complaints the company received from consumers and stores, Lululemon recalled the pants on March 18, offered refunds, and apologized.

Despite the gesture, the market punished Lululemon for its error: Its stock price plummeted the next day, decreasing the company’s value by $250 million. Several weeks later, the chief product officer resigned. The repercussions for Lululemon’s mistake affect the short term as well as the long term: The damage to consumer confidence will take time to rebuild and revenues will reflect the damage.

The incentives for the company to address this mistake couldn’t be any higher. They will be far more powerful in encouraging better customer service than having the government inspect all clothes manufactured.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 26, 2013

The Christian Vestiges of Post-Christianity
Howard Kainz, Crisis Magazine

The post-Christian has embraced a false yet fashionable version of Christianity compatible with the enlightened opinion of our cultural elites.

Counting the Cost (Accurately)
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

Why tallies of Christian martyrs vary so widely.

Is Anything Private?
James Taranto, Wall Street Journal

Liberal assumptions about “income inequality” have some surprising implications.

Biblical Principles of Law and Regulation
Brian Baugus, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Some would argue that the government does not need to say so much more than God does about how we live. However, we must recognize that there is a biblical case for certain regulations.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, August 23, 2013

bait-switch-jpg_004208When a business advertises a particular product in a particular way but secretly delivers something different, it’s considered fraud. When a government agency advertises a particular product in a particular way but secretly delivers something different, it’s considered . . . what, a necessary evil?

Huffington Post’s Jason Cherkis spent two days at the Kentucky State Fair with workers from Kynect, the state’s health marketplace.

A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare.

The man is impressed. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he mutters to one of the workers.

“Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn’t. If he signs up, it’s a win-win, whether he knows he’s been ensnared by Obamacare or not.

Sarah Kliff, who approves(?) of this bait-and-switch, adds: