Valley News Forum for Sept. 11, 2023: Jesus — Less Woke than he seems

Published: 09-11-2023 4:01 PM

Jesus: Less Woke than he seems

Charlie Buttrey showed himself to be a clever and effective lawyer in his Aug. 20 Forum contribution (“Jesus sounds pretty Woke to me”). He used the tactic of presenting only the evidence that would prove his case. (Not to worry, I often do, too). The fact is that Jesus wasn’t particularly fond of the lawyers of his day (often known as scribes and Pharisees), as they were always trying to catch him in a contradiction they could condemn as blasphemous of Jewish law and hence worthy of death by stoning. While it is true that Jesus was iconoclastic (He really came to destroy the idols of his day), it is quite erroneous to pigeonhole him as just another do-gooder or social reformer. If, instead of out-of-context proof-texting, we really look at what the Bible says about Jesus, we might find that He’s nowhere near as woke as some would claim.

Instead of government feeding programs, Jesus miraculously multiplied loaves and fish to feed the hungry crowds He taught. Instead of government-subsidized health care, when someone was sick or injured, He supernaturally healed them. He’s quoted as saying, “When God made the world, He made them male and female.” When He said, “Allow the little children to come to me,” He didn’t approve of expediting them to heaven via abortion. On at least three occasions He offered forgiveness to sinful women without condemning them or condoning their behavior. He wore a rich man’s garment and was buried in his grave until He arose. When taxes needed to be paid, He directed Peter to catch a fish with a coin in its mouth. Jesus said that the poor would always be with us, even if by redefinition of income status.

The problem seems to be that there are variants of what passes for Christianity, and Jesus told us how to distinguish counterfeit from real in the passage attorney Buttrey quoted. He was ultimately executed not just by his enemies but to atone for sins of each human being.

Trying to be a Christian with only selected cursory references to the Bible will not succeed.

William A. Wittik


The true trouble with Trump

As a former Republican, I’m interested in Neil Meliment’s comments (“Insight on Trump supporters,” Sept. 3). He agrees Trump is rude, crude, etc. but says supporters like his ideas ... border, energy, Ukraine etc. True, these are important issues both parties are working on and which even bipartisan experts debate about, not just Donald J. Trump.

But Mr. Meliment ignores the elephants in the room — i.e. climate change, gun control, women’s rights. These issues are supremely critical to our survival and are topics which Republicans and Trumpers hardly understand or support. The other elephant Mr. Meliment does not mention is that Mr. Trump is an accused criminal and possible traitor for actions before and after Jan. 6, 2021. (He has already been fined millions for infractions ... university, foundation, sexual abuse and more.) He may go to jail.

Yes, I wish everyone would ignore DJT, but he is too dangerous and conniving to ignore. We must let supporters know he is a con man not a folk hero.

Sally Prince

New London

AI technology is moving fast

We are in the throes of enormous technological change. Americans’ firm belief in the possibilities for innovation and change is on display. Thomas L. Friedman regards this time as a “Promethean moment” when certain new tools, ways of thinking or energy sources are introduced. Witness the following: ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence language model developed by OpenAI, burst onto the technology world in November 2022; by the end of January 2023, it had gained 100 million users. GPT-4, ChatGPT’s latest version, was introduced in mid-March. Two months later Microsoft, OpenAI’s primary investor and partner, integrated ChatGPT into its search engine, Bing. Google’s chatbot, called Bard, was released in March. Google is ready to unveil Gemini, a GPT-4 competitor.

The global race to the AI future has begun — to develop a generative A.I. ... that fuels the chatbots. In OpenAI’s view, humanity benefits if A.I. races ahead as fast as possible.

Most scientists want to enhance the advancement of artificial intelligence. It’s expected that the technology will transform many fields, including science, medicine, and education. Future models are likely to undertake tasks currently done by human beings like email services, online tutors, processing of electronic health records, interpreting or producing diagrams.

While it’s important to know what Chatbots can do, be wary of the results. Large language models have been trained to be humanlike, programmed to hold “authentic” conversations, responding with emotion. While the systems can interact with us through natural language, it’s difficult to distinguish the real from the fake. They are developed largely without oversight or restraint and are a powerful tool for spreading misinformation. Gary Marcus, an NYU emeritus professor, regards ChatGPT as “a kind of cut and paste.” It has “no internal model of something out there in the world; no conception of truth, and no mechanisms for checking the truth of what it says.”

We must remain the agent in determining technology’s use in order to prevent it from escaping our control. Will a superintelligent A.I. be the next logical step in our intellectual evolution? No! The models reflect manmade ‘intelligence,’ not organic intelligence. The models’ actions are based on computer code rather than conviction and on programming rather than principle.

Bob Scobie

West Lebanon