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hp blogger Rui Dai's Comments

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Women in Science

Women in Science

Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 19:37:53 in Education

“Dear SwiftJonathan,

My intention was not to offend, but to provoke. If I have provoked you by offending you, I'm okay with that.

Besides that, I think the two of us will just have to agree to disagree. You may believe that gender bias no longer exists, but I think a significant portion of women would disagree with you. Attacking me changes nothing about that fact.

If you read many of the reports linked in the article above, you will find that there isn't a short of women who want to become scientist. The bottleneck happens after that, and I think that is a problem.

Rui”
Women in Science

Women in Science

Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 01:00:29 in Education

“Dear JNR,

I sincerely apologize if my words caused you any displeasure. My intention was not to blame anyone, or even to support affirmative action for women in science. I only believe that the culture needs to be changed. I want more strong female leaders to inspire younger girls to pursue dreams. And that does not need to necessarily come from affirmative action.

I congratulate your daughter on her achievements. Many "stereotypical white males" have also been absolutely crucial for my development not only as a student, but also as a person. I don't think I would be here if it weren't them. I only wish that more female students could experience the same.

I hope you understand,

Rui”

SwiftJonathan on Oct 4, 2012 at 11:39:50

“" My intention was not to blame anyone"

Then you are expressing yourself very poorly, which makes you a rather bad role model for girls. But honestly, I doubt you even realize how offending you are.

"I only believe that the culture needs to be changed. "

That sounds very much like a religious belief, though, since the culture has changed, alreay. What you are talking about is the past, not the present. And even then it would be a very distorted view of the past.

"I want more strong female leaders to inspire younger girls to pursue dreams."

Becoming a physicist is not a dream for the overwhelming majority of mankind. Young girls are not dreaming about threading wires through holes in a special magnet arangement any more than young boys do. There are only select few who are deriving joy from these kinds of experiences. It seems to me that you want to force these choices on people without even thinking twice about their own wishes. And what are you hoping to achieve? Some kind of "parity", which is a number? People are not numbers.

"I hope you understand,"

He may. I don't.”

JNR on Oct 4, 2012 at 04:48:30

“Ms. Dai,

It may surprise you that we both want the same thing(s). I too wish to witness the further advancement of women in any fields they choose. What bothered me was the reference to White men in a seemingly negative sense. I wish you well and hope for your continued success.

Best regards,

JNR”
Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 00:32:27 in Religion

“I think I'm causing you angst, which was never my intention. My attempt to joke with the chocolate analogy has unfortunately fallen flat, and you've made many erroneous conclusion about me. I don't rely heavily on religious institutions for support. In another comment, I mentioned that if someone asked me whether religion plays a big part of my life, I would've said no.

Similarly, as someone who's never truly stayed in one place, I've realized that religious institutions do provide something special for people who are new to a community. Yes, such support doesn't need to be a pastor, but few secular organizations have someone who has a similar designated purpose.

In terms of public versus private, I think we might have to agree to disagree. I'm a fairly private person and therefore prefer to keep my nose out of other people's business, just as I hope that they will with mine. Because everyone's beliefs about higher powers are bound to be different, even among Christians, I think that people should be allowed to believe what they choose and be left alone. Yes, "In God We Trust" is the national motto, but "God" doesn't have to reference the Christian God. Atheism also has a "God" in the form of science; even in science there are also leaps of faith and extrapolations.

I realize that you might disagree, and I think that's perfectly okay. I respect your thoughts and I can only hope that you will respect mine. I would not”
Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 10:41:16 in Religion

“There is a flaw in your analogy between government and religion. Religious institutions can exist in isolation (mine does), whereas government by definition impacts everyone under its rule. Similarly, something that is discussed socially and intellectually isn't necessarily public. It's kind of like discussing why I prefer 70% dark chocolate while someone else doesn't like chocolate at all (I know! the heresy!). Discussing it doesn't mean that it isn't necessarily a personal choice.

Religion in theory shouldn't need to divide people. I agree with you that by making it private, it does somewhat avoid the oppression of conservatives, but more importantly it also doesn't oppress anyone else. I think it is precisely because religious and nonreligious individuals choose to make religion a public opposed to a personal issue that it is such a touchy subject right now. (my posting this kind of negates the statement, but still.)

Yes, communities exist outside of religion. However for strangers, few of those communities have a pastor on call and a group of seemingly selfless people who will do everything in their power to help you get through that transitional period. Let's face it, people are busy nowadays. No one would voluntarily do all those things for you unless you've already known each other for a long time. That is not to say similar communities do not exist outside of religious institutions. I'm positive they do. But among religious institutions, such communities are usually the rule opposed to the exception.”

Dan Jighter on Jun 21, 2012 at 19:27:26

“Note that I am not only saying that religion is in fact public, I am saying religion should be public. We should have public debates about the truth of religion and about our values. Religion should be a touch subject AND we need to talk about touchy subjects. It is intellectually and socially essential to have a public conversation about religion. No religious claim should be privileged above criticism and debate. Keeping religion private keeps religious beliefs from being criticized and debated. If religion is touchy because someone is challenging and criticizing religious beliefs, that's a good thing.

"few of those communities have a pastor on call..."

Why would you need a pastor? I have never ever needed a pastor.

"...a group of seemingly selfless people who will do everything in their power to help you get through that transitional period."

I don't know which specific transitional period you mean. There are atheist groups helping people who deconvert. As for selfless (mostly) people who would do anything to help me, they are called friends and family. I have a good family, friends from high school, good housemates, etc. Even good colleagues. Why would I need a religious community?

I think you are rather used to your religious community supporting you that you fail to recognize how readily available support already is by nonreligious means.”

Dan Jighter on Jun 21, 2012 at 19:27:11

“I wasn't making an analogue between government and religion. I was observing that religion is not private. Moreover, chocolate is a horrible analogy, as which enjoying desserts with friends is a social activity at times (though I do like chocolate by myself), your tastes in desserts are mostly individual, you can eat or not eat whatever you want. If you want a late nice snack, whether you have light chocolate or dark chocolate impacts no one. Finally, who the heck ever talks about chocolate?! Listen, there are specific ways Christianity is privileged in our culture. Christianity is not merely liked as chocolate is enjoyed, Christianity is promoted as noble and essential to a good life. Christians have tried to have their values promoted by the government. "under God" is in our pledge. This is not a private thing. Some of it is in fact explicitly governmental. If you must discuss Christianity, you must discuss this. These are valid concerns I have here.

Oh, and dark chocolate is a preference, not a claim about reality. Christianity makes claims about how the world is.

"Religion in theory shouldn't need to divide people."

In practice it is dividing people. It has been dividing people for centuries, long before Dawkins and company said a word or were even born. I don't care what in theory need not happen, I care about what in practice does happen.”
Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 10:15:35 in Religion

“There are so many different ways of defining salvation. It doesn't have to mean heaven or hell. It could very well be symbolic, which is how I take it. There are also so many different variations of Christianity and so many changes to Christianity in that 2000 years that my definition is probably not all that exceptional. And though I respect Neil deGrasse Tyson greatly, I think he missed the point of religion. People don't believe in Christianity because it represents scientific ignorance (that's why they moving away from it). Religion is important because it provides peace and community (atheism can also do that too, which in my mind is kind of like a religion). Christianity just happens to be my chosen form of obtaining peace.”
Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 01:47:00 in Religion

“Dear Dan,

Thank you for your comments! I agree with you that Christians oppress the freedom of Christianity, but as you mentioned, there's a history to it that is not referenced to in many Christians' cries of victimization.

After reading some of the comments in the thread I realized that I was probably more secular than I realized. But I hope that my beliefs are not too vague and ill-formed.

I believe that there are more than one path to God and that evolution is self-sustainable without any involvement from a higher deity. I've had similar conversations with the Chaplain who heads the Episcopal church that I attend and I think our church might therefore be special in our beliefs. I believe that religion, and whatever deity someone chooses to believe in, is personal. I think religion should be a source of comfort than a list of dogmas that someone must follow. Religion should encourage exploration and openness, especially when it goes against preconceived notions. What I consider Christianity's biggest strength are the community and the people, and I hope more than anything that these strength will never be lost.

I hope this clarifies some of your questions and I'd be happy to discuss more,

Rui”

Dan Jighter on Jun 21, 2012 at 07:50:56

“You haven't seemed to answer my question of: What specifically is God?

I reject the notion that religion, including the deity one believes in, is personal. It is public. For many people their religion informs how they live with others. The existence of a God is an important intellectual question about the world around us. Finally, Christianity influences our culture and social interactions and holds great social privilege. When is comes to something social and intellectual like that, it is not private but is public. We do need a discourse and inquiry and some level of agreement as to whether there is a God and which religion is intellectually correct and is to be socially practiced. To say that religion is private strikes me as like saying government is private, as by the very nature of the institution that is false. It also strikes me to be denying the obvious.

Thinking religion is private might get you to avoid the oppression of the conservatives and help you pretend to get along with others, but religion is obviously not private.

I think the biggest strengths of our civilization is our communities and people. Communities and people exist outside of Christianity. The end of Christianity would not lose that strength. It will just free us up to take a more sensible approach to reality and ethics.”

Dan Jighter on Jun 21, 2012 at 07:50:47

“It seems that you're an exception to most young people. You've seemed to have thought about your religion and evolution quite a bit more than most young people I have talked to (mostly my peers).

Regarding evolution, if you accept that evolution is self-sustainable without a deity then that's mostly what the scientists/atheists want. We want people to accept the science for what it says, and for it's philosophical insight into complexity without an intelligent designer, without trying to arbitrarily add their religion in. Such arbitrary additions are not what the science says and denies the philosophical insight. Less than 20% of Americans accept deity-free evolution and many Christians insist on God having some role in the origin of the species. I think once you regard Genesis as metaphorical and deity-free evolution as scientific fact, there's a little more to say about Christianity vs. evolution but that mostly resolves the major conflicts. Of course, there's arguably conflicts between the properties of God and how evolution proceeds via the Problem of Evil and preserving the original sin of Adam and Eve to make sense of Jesus dying for our sins. But I think the atheist case against Christianity goes well beyond evolution and thus if someone is willing to accept deity-evolution this is the point where the atheist is better off moving on to other arguments. The more serious arguments of atheists concern the lack of proper definition and/or evidence of God.”
Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 01:17:51 in Religion

“Dear Mneme,

Thank you for your insightful comments and I apologize that I misinterpreted your first comment. I think we are in agreement more than either of us realize, both in terms of religion and interpretations concerning it.

My claim about the impact of Europe's history on religion is based off of a conversation I had with a resident in Berlin. It was his interpretation of why there are so few practicing Christians in Europe. Though this does not make the conclusion sound, it does provide an interesting perspective into the why Europe is the way it is. Unfortunately, I don't know of any studies or data that could back up the claim further.

Similarly, I appreciate your note about the difference between being identified as Christian and practicing Christianity on a daily basis. I had not distinguished the two, because if someone had asked me if Christianity played a huge part in my daily life, I would have also said no.

I'm glad that we are having this conversation. It's extremely enlightening and I'm glad that we are better able to understand each other. Thank you for your insightful thoughts!

Rui”
Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 15:57:17 in Religion

“Dear Mneme,

I agree with you that religion is correlated with low performance in indicators of societal health. However the statistics are slightly skewed because most countries with high standards of living are on the European continent. The European continent is special because it has had an especially bloody history in the name of Christianity. When you take them out, the correlation is not nearly as high as you would believe.

Of course, the European's continent's bloody history with religion goes to demonstrate Christianity's faults. This I fully admit is sadly true.

To my knowledge, the UN, WHO and HDI made no claims that the factors most conducive to highly religious population are ignorance, poverty and low standard of living. In fact, most of the population in many highly developed nations (Canada: 77%, Australia: 70%, Brazil: 88%, Japan: 95% (Buddhism and Shintoism), etc.) practice some form of organized religion.

Though science has exposed the incongruence of religion, many people still choose to believe in organized religion. I choose to believe not because of Christianity's promises of paradise (I do not believe that there is a heaven, or hell for that matter), but because it gives me peace. I do not live or act in the name of a higher being, but believing that the world and human nature are good, grounds me.

This may seem, and probably is, irrational. But then again, humans are irrational beings.

I hope you respect this,

Rui”

Mneme on Jun 20, 2012 at 22:01:28

“Hi Rui Dai, I had to post my reply to your comment as a reply to my original comment, due to lack of space. I hope I have been able to express my intention more clearly.”
Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Why Young People Are Becoming Secular

Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 10:21:57 in Religion

“Dear dwdp1,

I agree with you that it is perfectly possible to be a good and moral person without Christianity. I also agree that there are aspects of Christianity that don't make sense. I don't believe that there is a heaven or a hell, or an almighty being will strike down anyone who is immoral.

At the same time, I believe that there is a greater power at work. Whether it is the laws of science or in the form of religion, to me, they are all the same. On many levels, this belief is a choice, because there is little empirical evidence to support it, but it is a choice that I have come to terms with and have accepted as part of myself.

I don't believe that Christianity should impose itself on other people, but I also don't believe religion is obsolete as a result of science. There are flaws to both religion and science, but those flaws do not negate the good that either has done for the world.

I hope you understand,

Rui”

LA RAM on Jun 20, 2012 at 17:12:27

“Rui Dai,

Beautifully said. And your journey is still just beginning. Would be interested to see how you view things 40 years from now. God bless you.”

dschiff on Jun 20, 2012 at 14:37:20

“That's a very progressive position for a Christian - a great sign of progress.

Of course, we can disagree about whether the leap-of-faith over gaps of non-evidence that you said you take is reasonable or irrational, but this is secondary to our moral systems and the way we treat each other.”

rngofpower on Jun 20, 2012 at 12:26:59

“"I don't believe that there is a heaven or a hell, or an almighty being will strike down anyone who is immoral.

At the same time, I believe that there is a greater power at work. Whether it is the laws of science or in the form of religion, to me, they are all the same. On many levels, this belief is a choice, because there is little empirical evidence to support it, but it is a choice that I have come to terms with and have accepted as part of myself."

Unless you accept the most basic of Christian tenets; the premise that Jesus Christ is the son of God, the Lord and Savior of humanity, and our only means of salvation, then you aren't a Christian. Based on what you've stated above you sound like either a Deist or a Pantheist. You can call yourself a Christian all you want and live by Christian morals (heck I'm an atheist and I live by some Christian morals) but that doesn't make it true. You can't simply redefine 2000 years a what it means to be a Christian to suit your worldview. It's funny enough that Christianity is constantly backtracking on it's own doctrine (apparently "God's infallible word") to suit the modern world. As Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that's getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time goes on."”

MoeB on Jun 20, 2012 at 11:59:26

“Well said, and after I graduated college in 2001, I felt pretty much the same as yourself (I went to a private catholic college that actually did a quite impressive job of intertwining religious beliefs and science).

Since then, however, I've moved more into the atheist camp. Maybe there's a "god", maybe not. Maybe there's some sort of higher power responsible for gravity, the seasons, etc...maybe not. I don't believe in a deity and certainly wouldn't worship a religious one. None of them seem worthy of worship, IMO.

That said, we all "believe" in something...for some it's a higher power, for others, it's science.

While I dislike any organized religion, it is true that they have done some good for the world (and lots of not-so-good stuff as well), so not sure I'd want to do away with it. I'd rather people come to the realization that it's not necessary THEMSELVES, as I did.

But great piece!”
huffingtonpost entry

Our Misunderstanding of Stem Cells

Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 01:52:26 in Science

“Dear Paul,

Thank you for your note! I'm glad that you found the article interesting.

I completely agree with you about the possibility for using iPS cells for treating heart disease and perhaps even transplantations.

I think there might have been some miscommunication. I don't believe that I ever stated iPS cells will never be used to treat heart disease. I only wrote that transplanting heart cells directly onto the heart cannot be achieved in 10 to 15 years.

Similarly, I agree with you that the one study UCSD does not condemn the entire field of iPS transplantation. I think I stated so in the article. It might have just been lost in translation.

I hope there's no misunderstanding. I tried to include as many qualifiers to my statements in the article as I could. I whole-heartedly agree with you that there is a lot of potential to stem cells (I hope to study it as a career!), even in spite of the challenges that have arisen in the past couple of years.

I hope this this clears up any misunderstanding,

Rui”

pknoepfler on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:44:39

“I'm very impressed with your writing and thinking on these complex topics. Keep thinking about these concepts as well as new ones as the field continues to evolve and keep challenging conventional thinking!”
Modernize the Constitution, But Do it Through an Amendment

Modernize the Constitution, But Do it Through an Amendment

Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 02:45:01 in College

“Dear hhl482,

To my knowledge, you are correct in describing the two possible ways to make an amendment.

What I am concerned about isn't necessarily that a change to the Constitution could be sneaked past the amendment process, but that people should try. The political climate in the US is already very tense because of polarizing issues such as abortion, ObamaCare, gay rights, etc. I believe that the Constitution need to be modernized, but bringing up a topic about changing something so sacred, without emphasizing the qualifiers, would further polarize the environment. I think that is scarier than someone actually managing to change the Constitution without going through the Amendment process (because if the change is unpopular enough, it will be changed back).”
Modernize the Constitution, But Do it Through an Amendment

Modernize the Constitution, But Do it Through an Amendment

Commented May 31, 2012 at 22:39:55 in College

“Dear LEFTIsRIGHT,

Thank you for your note, I always welcome more discussion and would love to understand opinions and thoughts that differ from mine.

I am not a Constitutional scholar and would never be bold enough to claim that I know the solutions to the problems we see concerning the US Constitution. I wanted to help draw what little attention I can to the discussion, with a word of precaution about not going too overboard.

To that end, I don't think that inflexibility and loop-holes contradict each other. I like to think that they are two separate characteristics, kind of like the characteristics of Swiss cheese. The form of Swiss cheese isn't really malleable, but there are still holes in it. It's hard to change the Constitution (inflexibility), but that doesn't mean that there aren't loop-holes.”

LEFTisRIGHT ironic on Jun 1, 2012 at 00:21:16

“I figured that was your purpose in this article; that is, to bring attention to the claim that the constitution should be changed (a very sensitive subject) while leaving room for discussion.

Also, solid analogy by using Swiss cheese as the basis of your explanation, lol. Thank you for the explanation as well as your bold blog, despite the inevitable scrutiny.”
Modernize the Constitution, But Do it Through an Amendment

Modernize the Constitution, But Do it Through an Amendment

Commented May 31, 2012 at 19:29:41 in College

“I did not mean to criticize anyone in this post. I wanted to support what Kevin Bleyer is doing, with the emphasis of the amendment process. Bleyer's campaign could be easily sensationalized and I wanted to emphasize that it doesn't happen. I apologize if I gave off the wrong impression.”
Should the Super Rich Be Richer?

Should the Super Rich Be Richer?

Commented May 18, 2012 at 12:55:35 in Politics

“The problem unfortunately isn't necessarily income tax (which is essentially tax on someone's salary). Instead it's effective tax rate, which has a lot of loopholes. For example, it is currently possible to pay no taxes whatsoever on dividends, despite the fact that it can comprise a large portion of someone's income.”

George Picard on May 18, 2012 at 20:38:47

“ANy idea how many loopholes we had in the system in the 50's.  And according to many that is why the USA was so great in the 50's.”