Thursday, October 19, 2017

S10E4 Are Ghosts Real?

Ghosts are a popular topic this time of year, but are they real?!?

This week, our forum guest speaker will be Steve Barrell, the director of Haunted North CarolinaHe will explain how his team investigates claims of the paranormal and what scientific evidence they develop.


Biblical Resources: There are several references to ghosts in the Bible
  • God Forbids Speaking with the dead in Deuteronomy 18:9-12.
  • Saul speaks with the ghost of Samuel in 1 Sam 28:3-19.
  • The Disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on water and mistook him for a ghost in Mt 14:23-27 (note that the disciples had already been sent out by Jesus to cast out evil spirits before this time, but a ghost "terrified" them).
  • After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and had to prove He wasn't a ghost to them in Lk 24:36-43
Paranormal Evidence and Investigation
Skeptics of the Paranormal
  • The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry published this argument challenging the seriousness of paranormal research.
  • SAPS (the Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society) was started to challenge TAPS (above). One example of how they explain a ghost caught on video is here.
  • Many ghost effects on video (including the one at Disney's Haunted Mansion) is done using an effect called "Pepper's Ghost". You can see how its done at this link

Thursday, September 21, 2017

S10E3 -- Should We Genetically Modify Crops?

Genetic technologies have advanced to where we can change the DNA of plants to make them produce more and resist diseases and drought.  However, many people fear that this technology is a pandora's box of trouble that could hurt our planet and lead to health problems as it place an increasing role in our food supply.  In this week's forum, we will have a debate between the two sides of this argument.  First, our own Dr. Littlejohn will argue in favor of using genetic modification technologies.  This his son,  David Littlejohn, will argue the case against them.

Assignment:  Please use this link to answer the following questions:
  1. Complete the sentence:  Genetically Modified Crops are ______________________
  2. What's a question or point you have on the topic?
  3. What's another one?

Dr. Littlejohn holds the Ph.D. in Botany with research interests in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry.  He has authored 26 reports of original research in refereed scientific journals (I know my favorite paper of his is Photosynthetic Characteristics of C3-C4 Intermediate Flaveria Species -- a gripping tale of light and darkness -- no, you don't have to read this one) and has participated in research on plant hybridization demonstrating improved photosynthetic production in hybrid plants.  In his book on classical learning, Dr. Littlejohn expresses the view that scientific advancements like genetic engineering are one way that humans can be “agents of redemption” bringing wholeness to the fallen physical world.  He is “for” genetic engineering.

He suggests the following readings:
  • This article from the US National Institute of Health explains the benefits and looks at the risks of GMO.  
  • This excerpt from his book Wisdom and Eloquence (you need only read the highlighted parts that start on the second page). 
David Littlejohn is founder and Chief Creative Director at Humanaut, a brand discovery and promotion agency in Chattanooga, TN. He has spent 15 years working as a copywriter, creative director, and equity partner in several startup ventures. David worked with Crispin, Porter + Bogusky and other top agencies to create integrated ad campaigns for Domino's, Toyota, VW, and Best Buy's Twelpforce, which took home the Cannes Titanium Grand Prix in 2010. He Founded Humanaut in 2013 with the goal of building a brand invention agency that launches its own products.  Recent clients have included Lyft, Soda Stream, and Organic Valley.  David has produced two Super Bowl ads, and had two ads banned from the Super Bowl. In 2016 he was named one of AdWeek’s Creative 100, and Humanaut was named Ad Age’s 2017 Southeast Region small agency of the year.  He is “not so sure” about genetic engineering.

He suggests the following readings:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

S10E2 Would It Be A Good Idea For Everyone To Receive a Basic Income?

Universal Basic Income -- the concept that the Government should give every adult a yearly allowance to pay for their basic needs -- has been proposed and debated for centuries, but is gaining popularity as people fear job loss to automation and technology.

This week we'll be discussing and debating the topic of Universal Basic Income (or UBI) after watching a talk by Rutger Bregman .



After reading through the resources, use this link to submit your answers to the following question:

  1. What is an argument for UBI or some good outcome that could come from it?
  2. What is an argument against UBI or some bad outcome that could come from it?
  3. What is one other question of thought you have on the topic?

Friday, August 25, 2017

S10E1 Can and Should Science Cure Aging?

Medical Science has undergone incredible advances in the past few decades. It took years to sequence the DNA of HIV; sequencing SARS took weeks. If you graph the change in life expectancy, you find that it is not only growing, but accelerating. Many futurists point to a place in the near future where the average life expectancy will increase at a rate of more than one year per year -- meaning that people at that time are actually moving further away from their expected deaths over time, not closer.

Some scientists want to do even better. They want to cure aging. They envision a future where everyone lives for as long as they want with bodies that remain physically in the shape of someone in their mid 20s. Some people would welcome such a future, while others shudder at the thought.

At our forum this week, we will be hearing from Aubrey De Gray, a driving force in the effort to cure aging. We'll be watching the following video presentation from the TED conference.

Assignment:  Read the articles below and come up with:
  1. Imagine how the world would be different if aging was cured and write a creative news headline that starts :  "Cure to Aging results in _____________"
  2. Come up with two questions or observations on the topic for forum and dialog discussion. 
IMPORTANT!  We are using a new system for Forum Question submissions this year.  Please use this link to submit questions.  To see what your classmates have already submitted:
Additional Resources on the issue of Prolongevity
  • In Genesis, God sets a limit to man's days in Genesis 6:3. The psalmist set's mans lifespan at 70 to 80 years in Psalms 90:10.
  • The science website LiveScience has a good introductory interview with Aubrey De Gray here.
  • Aubrey De Gray established the "Methuselah Mouse Prize" which pays cash awards to any scientist making significant breakthroughs on several longevity goals.  You can read about their successes so far here.
  • Another inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil, makes his case for science offering immortality in this essay from the Edge website.
  • A longer article written by author and Yale medical ethicist Sherwin Nuland features a more skeptical interview with De Gray and Nuland's own thoughts on the matter is here.
  • First Things --an excellent journal on faith and culture -- features an essay about prolongevity by Leon R. Kass, a member of the President's council on Bioethics here.
  • Finally, another prolongevity supporter addresses some of the arguments against immortality here. 
When Considering Questions:

Think about the effects of prolongevity on:
  • Economics
  • Morality
  • Evangelism and Faith
  • Class Differences
  • Entertainment
  • Prisons and Crime
  • Marraige and Relationships
Also consider under what circumstances a cure for aging, if discovered, could be stopped. Where would the pressure be to either use or turn down such a cure?

I look forward to our talk.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

S9E16 Season Finale: What Happened at TED

This year's forum season wrapped up with my annual presentation of "What Happened at TED" where I covered ~80 ideas in 50 minutes!

I know I went through my slides quickly so you can use this link to see them again  (hint:  either download the file or view in Google Slides to read the notes that accompany each talk).

I look forward to bringing a fresh new set of topics to you next season!

-Mr. E.

Monday, April 17, 2017

S9E15 Is "Fake News" and Clickbaiting Killing Journalism?

While Fake News is a term that has become a household phrase only since the past presidential election, clickbaiting has been a fixture of social media for many years.  The world spends millions of hours a day reading articles with little if any factual basis while the demand for thoughtful coverage of the challenges of our times dwindles.  This week at forum, we'll be looking at journalism and how digital media is changing it, and we'll discuss what might be done to make it better.


Questions for this week:

By 8pm,  please submit:
  • One fakenews or clickbaiting headline about Trinity Academy
  • One Questions or observation about the topic. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

S9E14 Setting Priorities for Global Problems

Pollution, Wars, Disease, Hunger, Global Warming... there are so many global problems we are trying to solve in the world today, and many different approaches to each one. If we could spend $50 Billion toward solving one of them, what would be the best way to spend the money?

This week's forum deals with this question. Bjorn Lomborg will be speaking (via TED video) about an effort he made to convene some of the world's top economists to evaluate the cost/benefits of many different solutions to different global problems and rank them in terms of what problems would be best to spend money on. 

To prepare for this talk:

  1. Read this article from Reason Magazine describing several proposed solutions to major world problems
  2. Use this Survey to vote which solutions you think are most worthy of support and which you think are least worthy of support. 
  3. When Practical,  ask your parents to do the same exercise (there's a place in the survey where you can indicate you're an adult so I can compare answers). 
NOTE:  Forum will take place at a different time this Wednesday to accommodate the lower school's Poetry and Prose finals.  Details on the time for forum will be posted on the Trinity Academy web page.  
"How do you define personhood and what makes mankind as a species special?"

"What is the role of faith in politics?"

"How can I tell if I'm being truly objective?"

"How much should we trust the science of evolution or global warming?"

These are the kinds of questions that young adults will wrestle with as they try to understand their place in the world. Trinity Academy of Raleigh explores these and similar questions in The Trinity Academy Forum -- a bi-weekly speaker series and dialog for 9th - 12th grade students.

The class seeks to foster Socratic dialog and critical thinking skills by presenting students with thought-provoking and often controversial subjects. When possible, these subjects are presented live by expert guest speakers, but sometimes they may use a video presentation from sources like TED.

The Forums take place on Wednesday mornings. Students from grade 9 through 12 attend the forum. Parents are also invited to attend the forum. Other guests who would like to observe a forum will usually be welcome, but should contact the school for permission.

Parents should note that, because the forum is intended to foster dialog and critical thinking, it may often deal with subjects and viewpoints that may fall outside of (or even be contrary to) a Christian worldview. The views and opinions expressed by speakers and moderators in the forum class are not necessarily those of Trinity Academy or its leadership, but representative of views our students are likely to encounter after they graduate. We believe exposure to these subjects is important to better prepare our students for college and life.