Sunday, June 14, 2009

Science & Religion: The toilet edition

Yes, nothing is sacred. Sometimes we even have to talk about crap (see earlier posts Ancient toilet may hold clues about the Dead Sea Scrolls and Waste of Crusaders). There is now a controversy over sanitation rules and the refusal of the ultraconservative Swartzentruber Amish sect to modernize their septic tanks (By the way, this group broke off from the larger Old Older Amish Church - because they thought the latter group was becoming too modern. wow!):

The septic fight began in late 2006 when the executive director of the Cambria County Sewage Enforcement Agency, Deborah Sedlmeyer, found that human waste at the schoolhouse, where 18 children were taught, was being collected in a 50-gallon metal drum under an outhouse

“It was overrunning the barrels,” Ms. Sedlmeyer said, and it was being dumped, untreated, onto nearby fields.

The Swartzentrubers agreed to improve the outhouses, adding a larger, 250-gallon holding tank and treating the waste with lime.

But they refused to follow state law, which called for installing a 5,000-gallon precast concrete tank and allowing someone certified by the state to use an electronic meter to test the waste’s chemical content.

The elders had determined that use of a precast tank was too modern — they want to make the vat themselves — as was the electronic meter and the requirement that they obtain certification to do the testing.
This leads to some interesting issues of religious freedom and state laws. If the health risks extend beyond this Amish community, then (perhaps) the decision for state intervention can be easily supported. However, what if this Amish community is the only one affected? Should the state force them to do something that is fundamentally against their religion? What about the kids? I don't know much about the particular legal arrangements with the Amish communities, but do community laws supersede state laws when it comes to kid's education, immunization, etc.?

In any case, read the full article here.

On a different note, here is a bizarre sermon that judges men (or males - you'll have to see the sermon to appreciate the distinction) solely from their peeing preferences. In fact, he also justifies the use of King James version of the Bible from this - and also figures out what's wrong with America today. This is a comprehensive theory, and if you are a guy, you will have a lot to think about when you next visit the loo. I know you are dying to hear this sermon (this clip is only 5 mins long), so without further ado, here it is (tip PsyRel):

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