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Of Ancestors


Dr. Munson A. Kwok is the definition of a polymath: a leading researcher in high energy lasers with more than 30 published papers and numerous reports; a scholar in studying and sharing the Chinese American history of Southern California; and an activist who founded and/or served on a number of nonprofit organizations devoted to preserving Chinese American heritage. But perhaps his most personal role is exploring and sharing the more than 150-year history of his family in California, a chronicle that began with the arrival of his fisher ancestors in Monterey.




Of Ancestors



Two individuals have a genetic relationship if one is the ancestor of the other or if they share a common ancestor. In evolutionary theory, species which share an evolutionary ancestor are said to be of common descent. However, this concept of ancestry does not apply to some bacteria and other organisms capable of horizontal gene transfer. Some research suggests that the average person has twice as many female ancestors as male ancestors. This might have been due to the past prevalence of polygynous relations and female hypergamy.[3]


Some cultures confer reverence to ancestors, both living and dead; in contrast, some more youth-oriented cultural contexts display less veneration of elders. In other cultural contexts, some people seek providence[further explanation needed] from their deceased ancestors; this practice is sometimes known as ancestor worship or, more accurately, ancestor veneration.[4][5]


Some people identify their ancestry as American. This could be because their ancestors have been in United States for so long or they have such mixed backgrounds that they do not identify with any particular group. Some foreign born or children of the foreign born may report American to show that they are part of American society. There are many reasons people may report their ancestors as American, and the growth in this response has been substantial.


We studied how to obtain a distribution for the number of ancestors in species of sexual reproduction. Present models concentrate on the estimation of distributions repetitions of ancestors in genealogical trees. It has been shown that it is not possible to reconstruct the genealogical history of each species along all its generations by means of a geometric progression. This analysis demonstrates that it is possible to rebuild the tree of progenitors by modeling the problem with a Markov chain. For each generation, the maximum number of possible ancestors is different. This presents huge problems for the resolution. We found a solution through a dilation of the sample space, although the distribution defined there takes smaller values with respect to the initial problem. In order to correct the distribution for each generation, we introduced the invariance under a gauge (local) group of dilations. These ideas can be used to study the interaction of several processes and provide a new approach on the problem of the common ancestor. In the same direction, this model also provides some elements that can be used to improve models of animal reproduction.


Mormons trace their family trees to find the names of ancestors who died without learning about the restored Mormon Gospel so that these relatives from past generations can be baptized by proxy in the temple. For Latter-day Saints, genealogy is a way to save more souls and strengthen the eternal family unit.


The practice has not been without controversy, however. In the mid-1990s, there was a backlash when it was uncovered that the names of about 380,000 Jewish Holocaust victims had been submitted for posthumous baptism by what church historian Marlin Jensen calls "well-intentioned, sometimes slightly overzealous members." In 1995, the church agreed to remove the names of all Holocaust victims and survivors from its archives and to stop baptizing Jews unless they were direct ancestors of a Mormon or unless they had the permission of all the person's living relatives. However, Jewish names have periodically been discovered since the 1995 agreement, including that of Holocaust survivor and Jewish human rights activist Simon Wiesenthal, which was found and removed in 2006. Catholics and members of other faiths have also been upset at the practice.


Ancestor worship is practised practiced in different forms around the world today, even in societies participating in the modern global economy. Ancestral beliefs are deeply dependent on the premise that the souls of the dead may return to the living and influence their lives; that it is possible and acceptable for the living to communicate with the dead and lastly that the living are able to exert an effect on the destiny of deceased ancestors. The following issues are most relevant to ancestor worship: 1) death and the afterlife, 2) possibility of communication between the living and the dead, and 3) the destiny of believers who die. The article looks at these issues from a Biblical perspective, offers Biblical guidelines in assessing ancestor worship and its cosmology and interprets ancestor worship theologically. The conclusion is that ancestor worship is incompatible with Christian faith.


An important clarification needs to be made here, that is the distinction between ancestors and the dead. Although at times the line of division between the two may not be so strict,3 it follows logically that the category of "the dead" is larger than that of "the ancestors". The "dead" is an open category (which includes all people who have died, either recently or long ago), whereas the category of "ancestors" relates to (more narrowly) the founders of a kinship group, of a community and even of a nation.


In most societies where the belief in ancestors is common, a record of people who have lived and died is kept in the memory of the living members of the community. They have moved into the category of ancestors, or the living dead. The concept of ancestral involvement in everyday life is more than a story or a myth. It is lived by millions in many areas in the world.


The living dead who hold influence over their living descendents is a succinct and common way of defining ancestors. Their identity is further explained as transcendental beings representing the religious, ethical and institutional values of society in their community. Their abode and influence range from the physical to the spiritual world.


There are some common threads in the practices of ancestor worship around the world indicating that ancestor worship is essentially based on the relationship between the living and the dead. In countries such as Korea, Japan and Africa, this belief is intrinsic to the cosmology of the people and in turn, informs their ritual practices. In all three cases, there is the underlying belief that the dead will benefit from the actions of the living descendants. This is essentially a symbiotic relationship, since the living descendants are believed to gain protection and blessings in return for their veneration of the ancestors.


This synergy is also based on the underlying beliefs about death and the afterlife. In all three cases, death is not considered to be a barrier between the living and the dead. In Japanese, Korean and African culture, the dead are believed to interact and communicate with the living members of the family. For example, in African culture, all deceased members of the family are believed to become part of the collective ancestor group and have the ability to influence the lives of their descendants for the better or to the detriment of the family. Interestingly enough, the actual physical location of the ancestors is unspecified. It is not clear whether they are considered to be living under the earth, in the sky, beyond the horizon or in the homestead (Nxumalo 1981:66-67; Amanze 2003:44; Chidester 1992:11; Mbiti 1971:133).


According to Watts (1985:126) the Scripture is translated as "Seek out the fathers". This is a clear reference to the practices of ancestor worship in which the living believe that the dead ancestors have a bearing on their current earthly existence. This is a clear condemnation of ancestor worship. Watts (1985:126) says that this Scripture also contains a fairly derogatory reference to the practices of necromancy when it describes the diviners/mediums/spiritist who "chirp and mutter" . This implies a garbled gibberish which the necromancer utters in his/her trancelike state. The text explicitly refers to people who consult the dead and therefore to the belief that the dead have the ability to help the living. This was necessary since the Ancient Near East (including Israel) was drawn to divination as much as any other group of nations in the history of mankind. The context here suggests that Isaiah had to defend his prophetic calling and role against diviners and spiritualists.


However, as verses 19 to -31 shows, this request was not granted. From this account it is evident that there is a clear divide between the righteous and the unrighteous dead and that the dead do not have freedom of movement as suggested by the underlying beliefs of ancestor worship. Clearly then, the dead are not able to exert an influence on the lives of the living. From this passage it is clear that the dead cannot communicate with the living on any matter. The response to the rich man's request was that his brothers needed to believe what God had said to save themselves from torment. Yamaguchi (1985:46) argues that the belief that the ancestors are able to communicate with the living members of the family is meaningless. Therefore, the Bible does not encourage or support a relationship between the living and the dead. Furthermore, these Ss criptures indicate that the fear of the ancestors is unfounded.


However, Lust (1974:134) argues that is often used in the plural which etymologically connects the spirits of the deceased ancestors or the instruments of the ancestral ghosts which are used to represent them. Kim (1996b:26) concurs and argues that Lust's proposal appears to be convincing because in some passages these two terms are closely related to the necromancer and souls of the dead (cf Dt 18:10-11; Is 8:19; 19:3). This will be explored in more detail in the next section. 041b061a72


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