Fun/Entertainment: September 2006 Archives

Was Steve Irwin a Christian?

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Was Steve Irwin a Christian
steve irwin christian
I've been getting searches like this up to several times an hour (but usually less) since Steve Irwin died, but nothing I said was relevant to this. Maybe those searches will get diverted to this post. I know nothing for sure about Steve Irwin's views on religion. He did, of course, accept current scientific understanding on the process of human origins, which will automatically disqualify him in the eyes of some people who think views on the means and time frame of creation count as the gospel (or, even worse, think evangelism consists of sending creationist tracts to celebrities). But of course plenty of people accept common descent who are genuine Christians.

He did believe in God, or at least he sometimes talked that way, saying, "But I have a gift. God put me on this planet with a mission. My mission is to educate people about conservation." But lots of people believe in God without being Christians, and lots of people speak of God's purpose metaphorically, mostly to suggest that they feel a purpose for their life. Someone in this thread remembers him saying he believed his mom was in heaven and looked forward to joining her, which suggests some sort of Christianlike view of heaven. I can't find any substantiation for him saying this, however. It says it's in the Larry King interview, but I didn't see anything even close to that there.

One piece of evidence against his being a Christian is that they had Buddhist nuns (his term; I don't know the proper term) bless their child in a sort of public baptismal ceremony. I doubt they would have done that in addition to a private Christian service, but it's possible. More likely is that this was all they did in that area, and it's probably not something serious Christians who accept and follow biblical teaching would have done, since this looks strikingly like the kind of pagan temple worship that the early Christians would have considered idolatry.

Update: Snopes.com finally tackles this issue (or at least the issue of the hoax discussed in the comments).

How Nerdy Am I?

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I am nerdier than 92% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

[hat tip: Matthew Mullins]

Little League Ethics

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In little league baseball, there's a rule that every kid on the team needs an at-bat, or your team forfeits the game. What if you realize late in the game that you're going to win on score but lose by forfeit because one kid hasn't been up to bat and won't unless you let the other team score a run? This happened in a recent game between the state champions of Vermont and New Hampshire. The Vermont coach decided to let the other team score so they could then get another chance at bat to avoid the forfeit. The NH coach figured this out and told his players to refuse to score. Did the VT coach violate sports ethics? Did the NH coach? See the Ethics Scoreboard for the arguments in each case. I think I pretty much agree with their analysis. [hat tip: Eugene Volokh]

I think this is actually an interesting case of conflicting rules, because it's not just some abstract set of moral rules. These are actual rules that are explict and written down, and those playing the game have agreed to follow them. One clear commitment is to strive to win, and another is to do your best. But way hat happens when striving to win requires not doing your best at the normal game play? Or is it still doing your best because it's doing your best at winning the game? That does seem to me to be the intent behind doing your best. If a strategy at winning means walking rather than hitting a home run, that's not usually seen as a violation of ethics. So why would allowing the other team a run in order for you to win be a violation of ethics? I'm not actually sure if this is a real moral dilemma in the end for the Vermont coach, because it might turn out that fulfilling one of the principles does fulfill the other one in the end, even if it doesn't seem so at first. I do think the NH coach was violating the motivaiton behind the rules and thus violating the spirit of the rule. I'm not sure I agree with all the reasons given, e.g. the NH coach was trying to win but by making the other team forfeit, so it's not strictly speaking true that he was trying to lose, as #3 in the analysis says. It would be more accurate to say that he was trying to win by forfeit via losing by score. Still, I think the general analysis is correct. The Vermont coach did the right thing, and the NH coach responded in way that can't easily be reconciled with fair play.

[cross-posted at Philosophy et cetera]

Steve Irwin died today in the process of filming a new documentary on marine life. He was stung by a sting ray in the chest, right next to his heart. Doctors have said that such an injury is nearly impossible to survive, even though people survive stings from them all the time in other parts of their bodies. Most of the reporting on this describes it as a freak accident, because the chances of a sting ray doing something like this are very low. My suspicion is that the chances of dying any time you get in your car might even be higher.

Irwin was widely known as the Crocodile Hunter, whose animal documentaries are unfortunately best known for what they are not. He's been viewed as a danger-seeker who liked to show off by treating very dangerous animals cavalierly. The reality is that he really did know what he was doing. Bloggers are already criticizing him for engaging in the sort of life that would bring on this kind of death, but that sort of attitude is at odds with the great care Irwin took to do what he did safely. Contrary to public opinion, he was not motivated by trying to appear foolhardy. He was emphasizing the danger so that others would not try what he was doing without the kind of training he had.

His primary motivation came through in almost all his productions, and that was not entertainment (though he was very talented at doing documentaries in an entertaining way) but education and awareness of environmental and conservation issues. One of the earliest episodes I saw showed his deep concern for whales that had ended up on a shore and were probably going to die. His love for wildlife and preserving ecosystems always struck me as the real reason he did what he did, starting at the very beginning when he filmed himself catching crocodiles to move them to places where they would not be threatened by poachers. I consider Steve Irwin to have contributed a great deal to the world in terms of education about the environment and awakening those who might not care as much to the importance of conservational concerns. His method of promoting environmental issues is not only far more consistent with careful scientific understanding but also much more effective than the traditional means, and for that I really have appreciated his work. He will be missed.

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[Hat tip: Sam]

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