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More Focus Needed on Academics than on Athletics

The April 27, 2006 issue of The Columbus Dispatch had an article about inner-city children learning to play golf. The instructors deserve credit for their work. But they were incorrect in telling the children: “If you dream big enough, you can be just like Tiger Woods.” 

Too many young Americans already have unrealistic expectations of becoming rich and famous in professional sports. As a result, they neglect the academic studies that are their true avenues to success in life. 

The odds of becoming a professional athlete are sobering. That is shown in a 1988 report by sociologists Wilbert M. Leonard II and Jonathan E. Reyman. 

The report is discussed in Andrew W. Miracle Jr. and C. Roger Rees’s 1994 book Lessons of the Locker Room. They say the report shows that for all sports, only 4 of every 100,000 white males, 2 of every 100,000 black males, and 3 of every million Hispanic males achieve professional status. 

The report further states that in football, just 16 of every million white males, 21 of every million black males, and 4 of every ten million Hispanics attain the pros. For baseball, the report sets the odds per million as 12 for whites, 3 for blacks, and 2 for Hispanics. 

Also according to the report, of every ten million white high school basketball players, only 28 make the pros. The number for blacks is 65 per ten million. 

Miracle and Rees additionally say that for those men who achieve the professional ranks in one of the “big four” sports of football, baseball, basketball, or hockey, the average “career” lasts about five years. Afterwards, the former athletes may want or have to work at jobs outside of sports for 25 or more years. 

Taking baseball, basketball, and football into consideration, sports sociologist Jay Coakley similarly wrote in 1994 that the careers of most professional athletes last no more than three to five years. 

A reason for so many short careers is that the chances of being cut after the first season, or sustaining a career-shortening injury, are not low. For those athletes, professional sports rarely bring fame or fortune. 

No matter how the calculations are done, they all indicate that for males the odds of becoming a professional athlete – with or without a long and financially rewarding career – are extremely remote. And the chances for females are less. 

The odds of becoming one of the best professional golfers in the world have to be even smaller. Winning the lottery seems more likely. 

Rather than focusing on an almost surely unrealistic goal of becoming another Tiger Woods or other professional star athlete, young people need to keep their primary aim on more attainable and important goals in business, government, and the professions. This focus is necessary not only for their own well-being but for the country’s. 

For example, workers trained in engineering and other sciences are essential for American businesses to compete in the global marketplace. They are also needed for government to have the technological ability to provide military defense, homeland security, and other vital services. The jobs pay well in both the private and public sectors.

Business Week reported in December 2005, however, that most surveys of U.S. corporate executives show that this country “is already facing a shortage of engineers in everything from software and chemicals to life sciences, and these shortfalls will worsen in coming years.” The magazine also cited a November 2005 survey of 4,000 engineers, 56% of whom said their companies have a shortage of engineers. 

Because of the importance of scientific education, Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote in a 1997 letter to McGill University: “I don’t think that any job in the entire world – and I include Popes, Presidents and Generals – could possibly be more important than teaching science to secondary school students.” He certainly viewed such teaching as far more important than coaching sports.

For some reason, though, not nearly enough American young people are inspired to pursue careers in scientific fields. And too many of them seem interested in careers in athletics or entertainment.

Other countries apparently recognize the greater importance of increasing the number of technologically skilled and productive workers than the number of athletes and entertainers. In a 2005 study, Harvard economist Richard Freeman stated: “At the college level, statistics show a waning interest among U.S. students in science-related careers; in 2001, only 17 percent of all bachelor degrees in the United States were in natural science and engineering, compared to a world average of 27 percent and a Chinese average of 52 percent.”

For two other major competitors in the global economy – Japan and in South Korea – the percentage of degrees awarded in science, engineering, technology, and math are 64% and 41%, respectively. 

Freeman also said that by 2010, the number of engineering doctorates awarded in China is expected to surpass the number awarded in the U.S. That’s just one of the reasons why some economists expect China to be the world’s leading economic power within the next 30 years.

CNN anchor Lou Dobbs wrote in 2006: “It’s obvious the Chinese are overtaking the United States in manufacturing.” And he added “we now have a trade deficit with China in information and communication technologies, threatening U.S. leadership.” 

The U.S. will be left far behind other countries if its young people concentrate too much on sports and unrealistic athletic dreams. 

Their willingness to train, sacrifice, and prepare for the future are commendable. But in doing so, their main focus needs to be on developing the occupational skills needed for success in a highly competitive global marketplace.


Fundamentalist Christians view the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God. They therefore say people should live according to biblical teachings. Modern analysis of the Bible, however, provides many reasons why the book cannot be considered a reliable guide.
In the first place, the contradictions contained in the Bible prove that numerous assertions in it are false, because two contradictory statements cannot both be true. Examples of the hundreds of biblical contradictions are the conflicting genealogies of Jesus (Mt. 1:1-16 vs. Lk. 3:23-38), the inconsistent stories of Judas’ death (Mt. 27:5 vs. Acts 1:18), and the contradictory accounts of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:7 vs. Acts 22:9).
Moreover, the cruelties that the Bible says God ordered, approved, or committed make the book totally unacceptable to persons applying modern standards of justice and humaneness. Examples of biblical atrocities include Moses telling his soldiers to kill women and children (Num. 31:15-18), God sending two bears that killed 42 children because they were making fun of a prophet’s bald head (2 Kgs. 2:23-24), and the promise that non-Christians will be sent to the eternal fires of hell (e.g., Mt. 25:41; Rev. 21:8).
Additionally, the Bible’s stories of events violating the laws of nature cannot be accepted by scientific persons today. They know it’s much more likely the writers of the Bible either lied or were mistaken than that incidents occurred such as sticks turning into snakes (Exod. 7:10-12), a donkey talking (Num. 22:28), a dead man reviving when his corpse came in contact with the bones of a prophet (2 Kgs. 13:21), and a man living for three days and nights in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17).
Other reasons the Bible is not the word of God include its false ideas about the structure of the physical world (e.g., 1 Sam. 2:8, where the earth is said to rest on pillars); its prophecies that have proved to be false (e.g., Mk. 13:24-30, where the prediction is made that the world would end within the lifetime of persons living in the first century C.E.); and its historical inaccuracies (e.g., Dan. 5:31, where one “Darius the Mede” is said to have captured Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E., whereas historians know it was Cyrus of Persia who did so).
Furthermore, the Bible is an unreliable authority because of its harmful teachings (e.g., Mk. 16:18, where believers are taught to handle snakes, drink poison, and rely on faith healing instead of medical science); its obscene passages; the fact that parts of it were written many years – and in some cases many centuries – after the events it purports to describe; and the fact that we have no idea who wrote most of it.
Findings of modern biblical scholarship support Thomas Paine’s position. The American patriot and proponent of common sense wrote in his book The Age of Reason: “People in general know not what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good. . . . Good heavens! It is quite another thing: it is a book of lies, wickedness and blasphemy.”
The application of reason, observation, and experience – what the great nineteenth-century agnostic Robert Ingersoll called “the holy trinity of science” – reveals that the Bible was written solely by humans who lived in a barbaric and superstitious age.
Those same methods of science, and not a reliance on religious dogma, are needed to expose falsehood and discover truth in all other fields as well.
[For a more detailed discussion of this subject, please see the article titled “Some Reasons Why Humanists Reject the Bible.”]

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