On Gay Marriage

"I have no control over my feelings, or what triggers them. Fortunately though, I also have a brain."
-Mike Rowe
Well, I'd been planning for this week's post to be about the upcoming Marvel reboot. However, in light of recent events, it looks like that topic will have to wait. The SCOTUS decision has opened a floodgate for topics that need to be discussed. I'm going to try to go over a number of them, but for this week, I'll be focusing on gay marriage. There are, however, several things that I need to mention first. One, this is not a political post. Two, I would remind you that disagreements are allowed, and to some extent even encouraged, on two conditions. The first, that you're respectful, and the second, that you have proper logic to back you up. If you disagree and don't say so, then neither of us learns anything. But disagreements based on how you feel about the issue don't mean anything, since everybody has different feelings. Finally, this is not a post about the LGBT community. This is a post about marriage.

Much of what I've seen in the recent media has been based on how people feel about the issue. In particular, Christians have had a wide range of emotions, with many crying that this is an abomination against traditional marriage, while others shout that we should love and tolerate the LGBT community even if we disagree with them. Everybody has emotions. Some emotions are that this is a negative thing, some emotions are that this is a positive thing, some emotions are that if it is negative, we shouldn't talk about it like that, and others are that we should be intolerant of anyone that's intolerant of gay marriage.

Because of this, most articles I've seen have been missing one important point. Marriage is a religious institution. Some animals mate for life. Some animals do not. But they don't need marriage. They either stay together or they don't. If there is no God, then there's no reason for marriage. You stay together, or you don't. We see divorce happening all around us as well. This is directly against the marriage vows, "till death do us part." The Bible says that God hates divorce. Makes sense. If the Bible is true, then He designed us to be one man and one woman, and for them to be married and stay together.

I've seen articles asking why we would expect non-Christians to follow Christian ideals- after all, we've been dealing with extra-marital sex for years now, they say. The answer is that we wouldn't, which is why there should be no gay marriage. With extra-marital sex, they throw the Bible to the wind, as we would expect them to do, since they don't believe in the Bible anyway. But gay marriage is taking something of religious origins and attempting to change it. I haven't yet covered the idea of the line in the sand, but I'll give a basic overview, since it's needed here. If you set a limit, and then move that limit, the limit becomes worthless. This isn't entirely accurate, but it's close enough that it'll work for a summary, which, I hope, is all we need in this situation. The point is, marriage is something specific. There's a limit. Over here is marriage. Over there is not marriage. When we move the line so that more is considered to be "marriage," it makes the line worthless. Because now we can move it again, and again, and again. Each time, there's still somebody who's feeling left out, somebody who wants the limit to change so that they're on the right side of the line. So what is marriage anymore?

Marriage is a religious institution with a set limit. To change that limit makes the idea worthless and attacks the original reason for the limit. As a Christian, I believe that homosexuality is wrong. But that doesn't relate directly to marriage. Many other Christians believe that homosexuality is wrong, but that they should still have the right to marry. I believe otherwise, not because of my emotions or feelings, but because of the logic that I've laid forth. I believe that the recent decision was a poor one, not just because of how I feel on the subject, but because the decision goes against logic. I hope to be going over other related ideas in the future that will give more explanation on the line in the sand, as well as a few other ideas.
"You did not invent marriage. God did."
-Ken Ham

Math, Science, and Logic: The Laws of the Universe

"If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is."
-John von Neumann
Two plus two equals four. I doubt that anybody would disagree on that point. Gravity keeps us from floating off into space. Again, I doubt that anybody would disagree with me here. Math and science are easily accepted. When you make a mathematical or scientific statement, you are either right or wrong. But logic, on the other hand... Logic is often abandoned, and even more often, misunderstood. One misunderstanding is summed up in an incredibly idiotic quotation from fictitious Captain Janeway of the starship Voyager.
"You can use logic to justify almost anything. That's its power - and its flaw."
-Captain Kathryn Janeway
This goes against the very nature of logic, and yet, it seems to be how most people see it. This misrepresentation of logic has two major results. One result is that people try to use logic to prove what they want to believe (as opposed to wanting to believe what logic shows). The other is that people, thinking themselves quite clever for having figured out what logic really is, abandon it entirely. However, I would contend that logic is a law of the universe as much as math and science.

With math, we find one correct answer. Or, if we have an equation with variables, there could be a number of correct answers, depending on what the variable is. But there is still always one correct answer. You can't say that two and two make twenty simply because it's more convenient for you. You can't say that two and two make five, which is "close enough." In fact, you can't even say that two and two make four point one. Two and two make exactly four- no more, no less. When we look at what logic truly is, there is always one right answer. Each piece of the puzzle is like a number in the equation, and each unknown piece of information is a variable. Compared to logic, math is simple.

Now, think about the reactions that people have when faced with logic that they don't like, and imagine those reactions being given to mathematical equations. "Let's agree to disagree." "That's your opinion." And, one of my personal favorites, "you're not always right."
It is true that logic is more difficult than math, and that, therefore, someone trained in logic is more likely to be logically incorrect than someone trained in mathematics is to be mathematically incorrect. It's also possible that someone untrained in logic could have more information, more pieces to the equation, and thus, an easier time answering the riddle. Nobody is always right. However, to challenge someone logically, you should be prepared to defend your case, as you would be in mathematics. It's also important to keep in mind that if someone seems to be right a lot, it could be that they're manipulating the logic to their advantage, but it could also be that they just know logic well enough to avoid being wrong.

Mathematics are firm and solid. Logic is harder to see, but, if you have all the pieces, also has one answer for each equation. It never ceases to amaze me how some people can think that disagreements are natural when it comes to objective topics. When two people disagree in math, at least one of them is wrong. But when two people disagree in logic, people think that it's okay to "agree to disagree." Hopefully, people will eventually begin to realize that logic cannot be manipulated by human hands any more than math or science can.
"But in my opinion, all things in nature occur mathematically."
-René Descartes

The Importance of Definitions

"The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms."
The idea of needing a definition is one of the most annoying things I have ever encountered. Not the absolute most annoying, but it's pretty high on the list. I was once in a discussion-based class where one student would consistently request definitions. These definitions were seemingly pointless, since everyone clearly knew what we were talking about. She was fine outside of class, but in class, we groaned when she opened her mouth. How unfair we were to her. The next year, she learned her lesson, and didn't ask for any more definitions. At first, we had peaceful bliss. Until, that is, we realized something that we should have seen a lot sooner. She was right, and we needed her. As the weeks went on, it would become apparent that we needed a definition, and slowly the people in class turned to look at her, each of us too scared to make the suggestion. But she'd learned her lesson, and just smiled back at us, enjoying our discomfort which we so clearly deserved. Finally, I couldn't handle it anymore. "I hate to say the D word, but I think we need a definition."

Often, we think we know what something means, but don't actually know well enough for a proper discussion. One example of this is when I was competing with Stoa in Lincoln-Douglas Values Debate. I provided my definition for the word "mitigate" which was essentially to make a situation less harsh or severe. After my opponents had had a chance to respond, I would ask them whether they agreed with my definitions. The most common answer was that yes, they did. At this point, assuming that their case focused on escalation, (which many did,) I had already won the debate. Why is that? Because they didn't pay attention to the definitions.
Let me explain. When we say that we're going to mitigate a conflict, that's often taken to mean that we'll intervene. So many people would make the argument that intervention was bad, and assume that mitigation and intervention were the same thing. But if they had actually payed attention to my definition, they would know what I actually meant when I said that word. Just because mitigation is often interpreted as intervention doesn't mean that that's what the word means. Since they ignored my definition, they were really ignoring my entire case. And since they had ignored my case, I was able to go back and point out that they had agreed to my definition. Therefore, their entire case was irrelevant.

Mismatching definitions are the cause of much confusion in the world. Jane and Harry, for example, both believe in point A. However, Jane uses description A and Harry uses description B. Because their definitions aren't synchronized, they each think that the other believes something different. In another area, Harry believes in point A while Sally believes in point B. But both use description B, so they think that they agree, when actually they're using different meanings of the words.

Obviously, I'm not saying that people should go around defining every word they use. However, when it comes to actual discussion, definitions should be examined, especially if there seems to be some discrepancy. In addition, people should be careful to know their own definitions and what they mean when they speak; in some cases, it may even be necessary to see if there's a better word that they could use. But without definitions, we cannot have understanding. Words are meaningless without a common meaning. And that meaning, as it turns out, is called the definition. There was a total of one student in our class who understood how important definitions are. When you become that one person, you'll be pushing yourself to a higher level.
"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning."
-Maya Angelou

On Grammar and Spelling

"To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as "Thank God its Friday" (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence. The confusion of the possessive "its" (no apostrophe) with the contractive "it's" (with apostrophe) is an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a Pavlovian "kill" response in the average stickler." -Lynne Truss
Imagine the scene: You, peacefully, not harming a fly, on your computer browsing Facebook. In a stroke of genius, you write out a status update and post it to your wall. As you browse Facebook, a notification arrives. Somebody has commented on your post! Finding their comment, you see one word. "*You're." How do you feel? Many people, in such a situation, would be annoyed at their friend, the so-called Grammar Nazi, who would pay such close attention to trivial matters. After all, they've overlooked the entire point of your post! Or have they? While I do believe that a certain amount of tact is required in correcting someone's grammar, there are a few issues to consider. I believe that proper grammar and spelling not only makes communication easier, but also that a lack of it is a sign of disrespect to those with whom you would communicate.

The difference between your and you're is minute, right? Aren't the differences between there, they're, and their irrelevant? Isn't an apostrophe merely a formality? Well, while the English language certainly isn't perfect, there are a few helpful rules that make it easier for us. For example, "your" is possessive, while "you're" is a combination of the words "you are." Some may say that the words sound the same, and therefore it doesn't matter how they're spelled. But I would beg to differ. Knowing the difference allows for ease of reading within a sentence, and also allows for you to get more out of the language. For example, I sometimes type that I couldn't've done something or other. This isn't a common contraction, so the spell checker doesn't recognize it, but the purpose of an apostrophe (in this case) is to replace certain unused letters. Couldn't've would mean "could not have." But it's shorter to type, and more accurately conveys the voice that I would use if I were speaking.

Some of you may not yet be convinced. But there's another reason that it's important; it's important for the sake of those around you. It may be easier for you to type "u" than "you," but only by two letters. When you speak, you have an obligation, out of respect for those listening, to use proper grammar. Similarly, when you type, it is expected that you will at least attempt to make your writing clear. Especially since you have time to look over your writing and make sure that it's clear. Is it annoying to have someone correct your grammar over Facebook? Probably. But was it annoying to them to have to read your grammatical error? Certainly. Could you have avoided all of this by using proper grammar in the first place? Yes. Some people don't care about grammar, and some people do. But nobody will respect you more for using improper grammar. They either won't care, or they'll respect you less.

It is common for people to hate on those who correct improper grammar. For this reason, many grammar pages use the phrase, "I'm silently correcting your grammar in my head," or something similar. Because they've seen that you don't care about learning proper grammar, or because they receive such hatred for their actions, many people have stopped speaking about it. But just because they don't say anything about your terrible grammar doesn't mean that they don't think anything about it either. Maybe they should find another way to go about it, maybe they shouldn't. That's another topic for another time, one that's quite hotly debated among those who do care about grammar. But regardless of their choice, it is still your obligation to do your best when it comes to grammar. And if they do choose to correct you, you can't really get annoyed, since you annoyed them just as much. It's also possible, and even likely, that they're trying to help you learn proper grammar, so you can avoid them embarrassment in the future.
"When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly — with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow. In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard." -Russell Baker

The Value of Talking Competitively

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
-William Shakespeare
This past Saturday, I attended the end-of-year party for my Speech&Debate club, Paradigm. Speech&Debate competitions go on throughout the school year, but now summer is here, and the students get a break until next year. Except, of course, for those extremely competitive students, who are using the summer to prepare for next year. I was forced to compete in Speech&Debate my first year, but afterwards, I chose to return for a second and third year, and after graduating, I returned this past year as a coach, and will hopefully continue to do so on the future. So today, I'll be giving a brief explanation about why Speech&Debate is so important.

One reason is that it desensitizes you to the stage. Surveys and studies commonly show public speaking as the number one fear among humans. Stage fright is something that everybody experiences- even those who are used to it. I played the lead role in our school play, A Christmas Carol, in my senior year. We had practiced for months, and I knew my part. I knew that I could do it right. But I can still remember standing backstage as the audience poured in, feeling nervous about the upcoming show, and remembering that this was only the first night, with only half an audience. Stage fright is normal. But public speaking allows you to handle it without freezing up. When you're in front of a group, everything freezes in your head, and suddenly, you aren't sure if you're making sense. But when you practice it over and over again, even though the nervousness will never leave completely, you will learn to be able to function in that environment.

Another reason is that it helps with analysis skills. When you write a speech, you need to know how to prove your point. This means that you need to not only know why you're right, but you need to also know what people will say against you and how to refute their arguments, before they even speak a word.
In addition, it helps you to think quickly. You need not only to be able to analyze, but to be able to analyze quickly and sort this analysis into words. This type of skill comes up even in day-to-day life, when you're not on a stage.

The final reason that I'll be listing today is that it rounds out your existing skills. Speech&Debate consists of a number of different types of events, and requires a number of skills. Most people already have a few of the skills needed in Speech&Debate. But when they compete, they round out those skills. I've been fairly good with logic for quite a long time. But not only did Speech&Debate help refine that area of my life, it also taught me about performance, organization, and a number of other skills that I wouldn't have otherwise learned.

There are many reasons that Speech&Debate is valuable. I've listed a few of the larger ones here, but there are many more. My hope is that many students would compete in Speech&Debate, and that non-students would work with it in other ways for the sake of being in the environment. It's common for people to say that they're not good at it, or that they don't enjoy that type of thing, so that's all well and good for some people, but not for them. I would encourage people not to look at it in that sense. Why? Because nobody's good at it, and nobody enjoys it. At least, not when they start. This isn't something you're born with. It's something to learn, and it's something for everyone to learn.
"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."