Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stiglitz, "serious analysis", and "income inequality"

Here's Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair on the 1% and the potential problems of increasing income inequality...

Let’s start by laying down the baseline premise: inequality in America has been widening for dec­ades. We’re all aware of the fact. Yes, there are some on the right who deny this reality, but serious analysts across the political spectrum take it for granted. I won’t run through all the evidence here, except to say that the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent is vast when looked at in terms of annual income, and even vaster when looked at in terms of wealth—that is, in terms of accumulated capital and other assets...
Yes and no. Let's start with clarifying that a big chunk of this is "measured" inequality. Most notably, the tax reforms of the 1980s encouraged compensation for higher-ups in companies to be in the form of wages rather than stock. On top of that, as average compensation rises, average workers have been taking more of their compensation in the form of fringe benefits-- most notably, within the govt-distorted/subsidized market for health insurance. Both of these dramatically alter the calculus on an income-based measure of inequality. A "serious analyst" would mention this-- or even document its impact.

Moreover, a serious analyst would note that income inequality is a static (vs. dynamic) measure-- a snapshot of one year at a time. Finally, serious analysts know that there are many causes of growing income inequality-- most notably, from the demographics of marriage and households to the impact of our lousy K-12 education system on the poor and middle class. (See also: globalization, the decline of unions, welfare reform and measured income.) How could he fail to mention these, at least in passing? (Maybe he does this in his book. Maybe he wants to get his VF audience more excited by the omission? Stiglitz's literary agent says he was born in Kenya. That might explain a few things.)

The debate is over its meaning. From the right, you sometimes hear the argument made that inequality is basically a good thing: as the rich increasingly benefit, so does everyone else. This argument is false: while the rich have been growing richer, most Americans (and not just those at the bottom) have been unable to maintain their standard of living, let alone to keep pace. A typical full-time male worker receives the same income today he did a third of a century ago...

This common argument from the Right is far from the full case, but is general true within a market economy. The counter-claim by Stiglitz is even more simplistic and false: that the poor have gotten poorer repeats the common canard based on lame, static analysis that the poor are the same people year-to-year. And using an income-based measure-- during a time period when compensation for the average worker has moved away from income-- is somewhere between inept and insincere. Is Stiglitz claiming to be a serious analyst?

From there, tongue-partially-in-cheek, Stiglitz turns to the following "selfish" reasons for the Rich to want less inequality.

The Consumption Problem-- poor people won't spend enough money, undermining the economy: This repeats the standard Keynesian over-emphasis on the (relatively obvious) role of consumption in an economy. And it confuses a symptom (low consumption) for its underlying cause (low compensation, caused in large part by the govt's K-12 education, family dysfunction, declining work effort, and a variety of laws that make it unnecessarily difficult for the politically unconnected to earn a living.)

The “Rent Seeking” Problem-- the pursuit of political power by the wealth: This is a valid concern and he does a great job describing political activity as "zero-sum". (This is a tough section for a lefty to absorb.) But he conflates offensive and defensive efforts in political markets. He amusingly critiques this form of govt activism while holding a naive hope in other forms of govt activism. He conflates wealth gained in economic markets with that gained in political markets. The former should be praised; the latter should be condemned (although its often embraced by those who say they're concerned about justice and income inequality). The issue isn't the 1% economically wealthy's use of political markets-- as much as the 1% politically connected use of political markets.

The Fairness Problem: Here, Stiglitz is right on the nose. His focus on opportunity over outcome is spot-on-- and usually ignored or downplayed by those on the Left. But where is economic opportunity squelched the most in our country? In the govt's K-12 education system that is set up as it is for rent-seeking by a powerful interest group! Only statists, racists, and self-interest greed-mongers could applaud the current system.

The Mistrust Problem: Again, Stiglitz is correct in fingering a big problem-- except that he's not focusing enough on political markets as a root cause of the distrust.

Hunger Games resources

I really enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy.

It is relatively dark in tone, violent in action, dystopian and libertarian in outlook. It does not endorse the violence or brutality of the Capitol governance. In fact, it is indirectly critical of both, along with contemporary culture's voyeurism and contemporary politics' willingness to sacrifice the marginal for the connected. It is well-written, a pleasure to read, not especially predictable (for books of this type).

It's a good read for adults-- and for teens and even pre-teens, especially if accompanied by some discussion with an adult. (Not all teens and pre-teens will like it-- and not all of them should read it, particularly if they will be sensitive to or provoked by the violence.) 

Some resources of interest: Jordan Ballor's blog post and Hank Hanegraaff's interview with Holly Ordway (who penned an article for CRJ on the apologetic use of the books).

Planned Parenthood, abortion, and the War on Women

Lila Rose's group, Live Action, has produced a video, documenting an example of a Planned Parenthood worker being willing to abort a female baby because of her gender. 

Here's an example of criticism from the other side. Their claim is that the charges are "trumped up", implying that they are false. That is false. One might say that the implication that the practice is widespread would be exaggerated. That would be difficult to prove, but I suspect that would be correct-- not necessarily because PP wouldn't be willing to render such "services", but because they would not be requested often in a Christian/post-Christian society. (Of course, there was plenty of exaggeration and "propaganda" in the PP response, but I appreciate their direct, verbal condemnation of sex-selective abortion. Whether that's backed up by action or desire for legislation is, of course, another matter. To note, PP has said that it will not still do sex-selective abortion, so...)

The extent to which this form of eugenics occurs in India and China is relatively well-known. The extent to which it occurs in the U.S. is smaller but significantly presumably growing. Perversely, technological advances have been responsible for this allowing this moral decline to bear "fruit". (The House will soon vote on legislation related to this practice. The effort is symbolic-- both in the sense that it will not even be debated by the Democratic Senate and it would be difficult to enforce in practice.)

You can say that you care about women. You can even be anti-science and hold the position that current adult women are better off with abortion services. But it becomes even more difficult to defend abortion when it is so clearly a war on future women.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Louisville heat-related deaths to grow ten-fold in future decades

As many as 19,000 Louisville residents will die of heat-related causes by the end of the century — topping 40 large American cities, according to a new environmental report.

It's good to see Louisville #1 in something, I guess.

The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group estimates that 39 Louisville residents die per year from problems caused by the heat. That number, it says, will increase to 257 per year by roughly 2050 and 376 per year by the end of the century.! That's quite an increase. Ten-fold growth by the end of the century!

Based on computer modeling, the study assumes government leaders do nothing to stop rising temperatures that many scientists blame on greenhouse gas emissions...
--> OK, they're assuming (rapidly) rising temperatures and that govt can/will do nothing to stop it. 
--> What else are they assuming? Obama-like economic policies that stagnate or sack the economy (vs. growing incomes and improved technology to deal with heat). No changes in response to heat by Louisville's population. The Earth will still be around, despite massive global warming.

Monday, May 21, 2012

science, reductionism, and order

Since the time of Newton, science has advanced by a strategy rightly called “reductionism.” This method, which explains things by analyzing them into smaller and simpler parts, has yielded a rich harvest of discoveries about the natural world. As a means of analysis, then, reductionism has certainly proven its value. But many wonder whether science is reductive in a more radical and disturbing way—by flattening, collapsing, and trivializing the world....

This tendency to downgrade and diminish reflects a metaphysical prejudice that equates explanatory reduction with a grim slide down the ladder of being. Powerful explanatory schemes reveal things to be simpler than they appear. What simpler means in science is much discussed among philosophers—it is not at all a simple question. But to many materialists it seems to mean lower, cruder, and more trivial. By this way of thinking, the further we push toward a more basic understanding of things, the more we are immersed in meaningless, brutish bits of matter....

At first glance, the history of the cosmos seems to bear this out. Early on, the universe was filled with nearly featureless gas and dust, which eventually condensed to form galaxies, stars, and planets. In stars and supernovas, the simplest elements, hydrogen and helium, fused to make heavier ones, gradually building up the whole periodic table. In some primordial soup, or slime, or ooze on the early earth, atoms agglomerated into larger and more intricate molecules until self-replicating ones appeared and life began. From one-celled organisms, ever more complicated living things evolved, until sensation and thought appeared. In cosmic evolution the arrow apparently moves from chaos to order, formlessness to form, triviality to complexity, and matter to mind.

And that is why, according to philosopher Daniel Dennett, religion has it exactly upside down. Believers think that God reached down to bring order and create, whereas in reality the world was built—or rather built itself—from the ground up. In Dennett’s metaphor, the world was constructed not by “skyhooks” reaching down from the heavens but by “cranes” supported by, and reaching up from, the solid ground.

The history to which the atheist points—of matter self-organizing and physical structures growing in complexity—is correct as far as it goes, but it is only part of the story. The lessons the atheist draws are naive. Yes, the world we experience is the result of processes that move upward. But Dennett and others overlook the hidden forces and principles that govern those processes. In short, they are not true reductionists because they don’t go all the way down to the most basic explanations of reality.

As we turn to the fundamental principles of physics, we discover that order does not really emerge from chaos, as we might naively assume; it always emerges from greater and more impressive order already present at a deeper level. It turns out that things are not more coarse or crude or unformed as one goes down into the foundations of the physical world but more subtle, sophisticated, and intricate the deeper one goes.

Barr moves to a "simple but instructive example of how order can appear to emerge spontaneously from mere chaos through the operation of natural forces": a large number of identical marbles rolling around randomly in a shoe box, but then the box is tilted vs. a typical teenager’s bedroom that is tilted by a huge jack

Ehrenreich on political and economic markets that harm the poor

Individually, the poor are not all that tempting to thieves. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month’s rent. Mug a janitor and you’ll be lucky to get bus fare to flee the crime scene. But the poor in aggregate provide a juicy target for anyone depraved enough to make a business of stealing from them.

Great point. Markets will arise to engage in trade with groups of people. In relatively rare cases, consumers will be relatively vulnerable to significant fraud or coercion within markets. In debatable cases, consumers may be "irrational" and could potentially be protected from their own bad decisions.

The trick, however, is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators.
Again, this could happen in markets. It certainly happens in govt policy all the time-- as govt works to help special interest groups and imposes subtle costs on the general public, often disproportionately on the poor. 

Ehrenreich criticizes lenders in the high-risk / high rate-of-return niche of credit markets. The market seems quite competitive, but perhaps the consumers are morons. I'd like to extend a lot more dignity to poor people than Ehrenreich, but maybe she's right. 

She critiques employers who "enrich taking money from their employees...requiring employees to work hours for which they’re not paid, failing to pay minimum wage and refusing to honor overtime pay differentials." This is an interesting critique, since it hits all workers-- and again, she's implicitly assuming few options for the working poor and/or their irrationality. Maybe the poor are hit harder by this, but why do they stand for it?

Ehrenreich points to local govts and the imposition of fines and fees on defendants-- for drivers license problems, polluting with cigarette butts, modest amounts of pot, putting your feet on a subway seat, etc. 

She wraps up with this: "Before we can 'do something' for the poor, there are some things we need to stop doing to them." I've written a book and a half on this-- as well as numerous articles and blog posts. I couldn't agree with her more. Unfortunately, she advocates many policies that hammer the poor. 

nepotism with felonies isn't as bad as a lame joke for which one apologizes

LEO follows in the footsteps of the C-J (LOL!) with twisted preferences on Rand Paul's bad attempt at a joke (for which he has apologized) vs. Barbara Shanklin firing her grandson. (LEO pointed out that this was his 3rd arrest since being hired and 31st in a decade.)

LEO rated the former as -8 (on a scale of -10 to 10), but the latter as only a -3.
The C-J'ers gave Grover Norquist's mere appearance in a movie a "down arrow", along with Paul's joke. And they gave Shanklin an up arrow.
If the C-J editorialists keep any of their crack pipes at work, maybe the police will find one and use asset forfeiture laws to take the paper away from its owners!
Only a partisan hack or a statist could imagine a world in this way.

how should the Church handle so-called "same-sex marriage" vs. divorce?

In response to this video (h/t: SJ)

A few thoughts:
-God defined it that way, as she notes, "in the beginning".
-God continues to define it that way, as an ideal.
-But in a fallen world, God allowed all sorts of things with respect to marriage-- most notably, "levirate marriage", where polygamy was often commanded.
-So-called "same-sex marriage" is more of a violation of Webster's Dictionary.

Two big "policy" questions:
-What should missionaries do when people come to Christ in a polygamous culture?
-Given Kassian's argument, why haven't believers and the Church said more about the institution and practice of divorce in the last few decades, which causes far, far more damage-- both in its frequency and its damage to children?

I Corinthians 5:9-13 indicates that sin in the church is worse than sin in the world. Matthew 18:6 indicates that two adults messing with children is worse than two adults messing with each other. Justice indicates that people forcefully messing with others is worse than people engaging in mutually agreeable but sinful activities. 

I heard a Sunday School lesson on Luke 15 (a few weeks ago at WRBC) that got me thinking about how we deal with sin differently when it relates to "the other". Part of the genius of Lk 15's trio is getting us to think about "sinners" as lost, valuable and personal. Generalizing about the (theologically conservative) Church's response to divorce, abortion, and homosexuality: Seeking to balance grace and truth, perhaps we handle D better than A better than H, since we're more likely to know someone who has D more than A more than H. 

Which is less consistent with the heart of Jesus: people making less-than-ideal commitments-- or breaking an ideal commitment, backed by an oath to God and promises to others which does harm to the institution of the commitment and often does great harm to children?

Friday, May 18, 2012

please pray for Jason Oller

Please pray for Jason Oller in Louisville, KY...

Pray that God would do what it takes to reach him.

Pray that he would be convicted by God, saved by Jesus, and empowered by Holy Spirit.

A little more than halfway through this sermon (June 2-3, 2012), Kyle talks about the rocks we bring to marriage and ask our spouse to carry. Pray for those who do not recognize they have any rocks and are unable to carry a modest-sized rock more than a few months.  

Pray for those with whom Jason forms relationships-- that they will have an extra measure of discernment, wisdom and courage.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Noah's drunken nakedness and the aftermath

Intro to an oft-overlooked story: brief, ugly, and not understood in its context
--> given the post-Flood law/covenant to Noah, see: Kass (197) on “the founding of civil society, based on rudimentary but explicit notions of law and justice, rooted in the idea that all human beings are created equally in God’s image. Humankind now faces a new prospect, founded on the hope for an enduring human future protected against natural cataclysm, thanks to God’s covenant—and the hope for a peaceful social order protected against the violence of other men, thanks to the Noahide code.”
-so, the story is both domestic and political/social: Will the new order succeed? Is this law and covenant sufficient?

-19b's “scattered” descendants: alludes to flood and foreshadows events to follow (Ch 10's genealogy, Ch. 11's Babel)
--> Kass (201): looking forward “to a time in which the whole earth will be overspread not with water, but with people”
-18-19a's reintroduction to Shem, Japheth and esp. Ham as Noah’s three sons
            -as an aside, 2nd mention of Ham as Canaan’s father (more later)
            -Ham’s name means hot/warm—from a verb meaning “to inflame oneself”
-Shem’s name means “name”—a word used often prior to this; a key to the Babel story; and eventually how he will earn his “name” through his lineage to Abraham
--> Noah's sons and male ark companions—or in particular, our first [prototypical] (parent) father and son(s) story
-in context, the timing is not surprising: post-Law/Covenant, the ability of Noah (or not) to pass this on to his sons—the next generation, tradition
-from Noah’s personal piety to passing along law’s righteousness, covenant’s implied holiness, and most broadly, looking up to God
-Kass (197): “depends decisively on paternal authority and filial piety”
-vs. neither (a mess—individually, and if widescale, socially)
-vs. one or the other (exceptions)
-or hopefully both—see also: mom (!), but the importance of fathers AND the need for fathers to be exhorted (vs. sin of Adam’s silence, seeking esteem outside the home, etc.; Eph 6:4, Col 3:21)
-Kass (199): “because [the father] is capable of inspiring awe as well as security, shame as well as orderliness, distance as well as nearness, emulation as well as confidence, fear as well as hope, [he] is able to do the fatherly work of preparing boys for moral manhood, including, eventually, their own fatherhood.”
-can certainly be abused; difficult to balance encouragement and discipline
--> two clues that something might be unusual here
-8:16’s command vs. 8:18’s different order (followed 6:18’s command on how to enter—the old world’s model!)
-Kass (202): “Noah, a new man rescued from the Heroic Age, nevertheless apparently still holds to a heroic model of family structure: it is only the men who count.” (!)
-see also: little mention of women (Noah’s wife’s name?) until their vital role with the patriarchs
-here, not listed in order; not Biblically unusual to have two siblings reversed, but here…
-Shem as middle son (given 5:32, 7:11, 11:10)—model son, and thus, always mentioned first; virtue trumps birth order
-Ham youngest (9:24)—central character, mentioned in the middle here

-20's vineyard (Ps 104:15, Pr 31:6-7, Dt 14:26, etc. for drink OK)
-follows Cain into agriculture
-moves into wine: here, portrayed as man’s invention vs. divine gift (as in pagan myths)—and thus, a mixed bag
-21's drunk and naked (19:30-35’s Lot with daughters; Pr 23:35)
-a one-time slip or a recurring problem?
-former as not knowing wine’s potence or a mistake / too far
-latter as “PFSD” (post-Flood stress disorder)?! Pre-Flood, flood, seeing desolate landscape littered with animal and human corpses; overwhelmed with his responsibilities
-perhaps related to more idle time for all of them!
-either way, robs him of (some of) his dignity and authority
-Noah's account parallels Adam's account (cont'd)
-20's vineyard vs. God's garden in 2:8
-21’s sin from the fruit of the vine/tree
-21's nakedness of degradation vs. 2:25 for Adam's innocence and 3:_’s recognition of guilt
-Adam sought cover for his shame; Noah not even conscious of his
-in both cases, a pivotal event/revelation

9:22-23’s sons’ responses
-22's Ham sees—and then, tells brothers
-again identified as "father of Canaan" (9:18), foreshadowing…
-first may have been accidental[1] (although what was he doing in his dad’s tent?); second as purposeful
-both as a breach of family/cultural ethic (see: 24's “done to him")
-vs. Cain: am I my father’s keeper?
-Kass (208): “What sort of human being is Ham? What sort of person delights in rebelling against…law and authority?...Most often, he is the would-be tyrant, a man who seeks self-sufficiency.”[2]
-see also: his grandson Nimrod in 10:8-12
      -a form of patricide (a la Mt 5)
--> had enough faith/respect to get on the ark, but not enough to respect his father here (had Noah gone downhill?)
            --> big picture: Ham implicitly rejects the new law/covenant
--> w app. to how we handle others who have shamed themselves
-see: pop culture and talking about or even delighting in others falling
-public vs. private, mostly hurting self vs. others (drunk in house vs. driving or with grandchildren around)
-23's Japheth and Shem
-surely shocked to hear of the event—or at least, Ham’s account of it
-again, one-time or repetitive? in the past, had probably seen their father as courageous and authoritative (righteous; building/on the ark)
      --> what to do?
-where’s Noah’s wife?
-go and see; disbelieve; ignore/wait or proactive benevolence...
-confront Ham (nothing recorded)
-didn’t look—and covered Noah
-an act of grace (vs. mercy's just don't look—and wait ‘til he wakes up)
-Kass (209): “We readers are touched by this display of loyalty and filial piety…the perfect way they found delicately to correct the problem without participating in it…but they cannot erase the memory of their deed or of what made it necessary for them to perform it.” (and probably made things weird with Dad, from here forward)
-as God covers our shame/nakedness
-again underlines advantage of ears vs. eyes: once you see, it’s burned in your memory; if you hear, you may dismiss it as hearsay
-an interesting reference, again, to (appropriate) “knowledge”
--> big picture: both embrace authority and law/covenant

--> sobering: Cain/Abel’s first sibling story—rivalry; here, first parental story—Dad stumbles, struggles to pass on law/covenant and some conflict
-Kass (198): “fundamental and troublesome aspects of the natural relationship between father and sons…not how things ought to be but rather how they are, absent some additional, corrective teaching [or other intervention]”

9:24-29’s Noah’s response
-28-29’s Noah’s death/age
--> Kass (210) quips: “Noah does not take his shame lying down.”—before observing “for the first time in the biblical narrative, we hear Noah speak…Noah’s anger is surely expected, as rage is the usual response to being shamed.”
-anger seems to stir Noah to rare words (and perhaps action—at least, in dealing with his sons)
--> how did Noah know who did what? some combo of 24’s asked around and reasonable inferences given what he knew of his sons’ character
-25's “curse” for (Ham's son) Canaan and his descendants (fulfilled w/ Gen 14:4; Josh 9:27's Gibeonites, Judg 1, I Kings 9:20-21, etc.)
-“curse” communicates severity of the offense (Gal 1:8-9)
-curses and blessings as analogous to prayer (see: Psalms): supernatural petition—or at the least, what one hopes/wishes for another
-Kass (212): “exercising what he takes to be the magical potency of imprecatory speech, he summons the powers that be to exact vengeance upon Ham by punishing his son (and descendants)”
--> did Noah over-react (kicking the dog and continuing his sin)? why curse Canaan vs. Ham?
-presumably, in context, the last straw
-breach in father's family --> curse on son's family
-Ham sought to be free from parental authority and will be held responsible by his own son
      -as Ham had responded to Noah, so Canaan would respond to Ham
-25, 27’s slavery appropriate—might/right follows naturally without law/authority (what ch. 9’s law/covenant was trying to prevent and what Ham is militating against)
-probably more painful for Ham: for most fathers, worse that a child bears a cost
--> but is it fair/just?
-things don’t turn out too well for Canaan’s descendants
-curses/blessings somehow effective at times within the divine economy, but not in a deterministic sense (see: 26, 27’s “may”)
-Canaan not punished for father's sins (Ez 18:2-4, incl. grapes/wine reference!); instead...
-God’s pre-destination and foreknowledge: a nation He knew would be wicked (vs. their future being actively cursed)
-Ham's nature would be transmitted to his descendants—the practicality of the sins of the fathers
-life as communal/relational vs. individual
-do we count the blessings of family/generations as unfair?
-whatever the justice, it’s almost inevitable that there will be some curse/blessing from one generation to the next (what kind of son would Ham likely raise?)
--> practically, Noah as prophesying more than causing or wishing
--> some of Ham's sons settled Africa, BUT unfortunately this verse has been used incorrectly to argue for the enslavement of blacks
1.) would contradict NT teaching
2.) Canaan didn't settle in Africa
3.) Canaanites were Caucasian
-see also: Moses’ Cushite wife (and God’s defense of their marriage—Num 12:1,9-12) and interracial marriage

-26's indirect blessing for Shem (through God); 27's direct blessing for Japheth
-Shem as father of Shemites/Semites—Jews
-Noah seems to attribute greater righteousness to Shem
-Japheth as father of non-Arab/European Gentiles
-lived on friendly terms with each other
-“tents”: Gentiles share in and sheltered by Jewish people / God’s blessing
-in inheritance terms, Shem receives priesthood/birthright, Japheth receives double blessing (27's "extend territory")[3]
--> Kass argues that Noah’s three sons represent tyrannical man, noble/decent man, and pious man
--> interesting that first post-Flood speech (Noah’s last recorded deed) is meant to divide
-this is Noah’s division not God’s (although God might concur)
-God had divided Noah & Co. from the unrighteous (pre-Flood) and his next division will be with Abraham

--> why this story?
-as the Bible depicts (most) others “heroes of the faith”—with warts (w/ app.)
-sets up choice of Semites as the people with whom God would choose to work with more explicitly
-after the flood, evil reappears in a "godly man"—not a good sign!
      -continuing to point toward the OC—and eventually, the NC
--> what happened to Noah?
-starts off so strong (6:9’s character accolades), an amazing task, but a rough finish
      -3 big actions—builds ark (good), offers sacrifice (mixed), gets drunk (ugly)
--> bad ending or something larger? “the silence of Noah” (as Adam)…
-nothing recorded except (8:22,24 and) post-drunk curse/blessing
-Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (45-47) points back to the flood narrative and is pretty rough on Noah
-what does Noah say to God when it’s time to build the ark and save his family? silent obedience—but maybe obedience is not enough…
-what did Noah say to those around him? unknown, except Heb 11:7’s “by his faith he condemned the world” (how much of that was spoken?)
-the biggie: no intervention with God on behalf of those to be destroyed
--> “God seeks from us something other and greater than obedience, namely responsibility...the hero of faith was not Noah but Abraham”—fought a war for his nephew and prayed for the people of the plain, even challenging God: “What might an Abraham have said when confronted with the possibility of a flood?...Abraham might have saved the world. Noah saved only himself and his family. Abraham might have failed, but Noah—at least on the evidence of the text—did not even try…Noah’s end—drunk, disheveled, an embarrassment to his children—eloquently tells us that if you save yourself while doing nothing to save the world, you do not even save yourself…”
-Soloveitchik draws an analogy here between Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler (p. 13-14)
--> Sacks notes that Noah walked “with God” (6:9) while Abraham walked “before God” (17:1)[4]

[1] Later, the phrase “uncover the nakedness of” became a euphemism for “have sexual relations with”, but there is no sense of that context here. Kass (212-213) wonders whether its repeated use in Lev 18—with child sacrifice in the middle of a long list of sexual prohibitions—is a reference to Noah/Ham here. It’s also interesting that the Canaanites would struggle with sexual perversions.
[2] Kass also wrestles with the philosopher as antinomian. Here, Ham’s deed would be a function of curiosity, willing to look at/into anything. Ultimately, given that he also “tells”, Kass seems this as more tyrannical.
[3] 10:21’s Japheth as prob. older brother of Shem (but NIV text note). Judah/Joseph parallel would argue for Shem as oldest, but favoring oldest would be atypical in God’s economy.
[4] Sacks also points to the pace of the narrative: very quick until the waters recede; would expect Noah to emerge, but little action for 14 verses (ch. 8’s birds sent out); and then, he does not come out until commanded by God (good news earlier; other side of the coin here). Sacks concludes “It takes courage to rebuild a shattered world…When it comes to rebuilding the ruins of catastrophe, you do not wait for permission. You take the risk and walk ahead. Faith is more than obedience. It is the courage to create.”