Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This is Scary

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up of American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window:

"While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.

Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself."

I'll say it again: Game Over

Jason Rosenhouse says that ID is dead. Sorry Jason, but as I wrote before, Game Over, ID wins:

"[J. Craig] Venter also points to what the cells–powered by genomes made in a lab from four bottles of chemicals, based on instructions stored on a computer–reveal about what life is. 'This is as much a philosophical as a technological advance,' he says. 'The notion that this is possible means bacterial cells are software-driven biological machines. If you change the software, you build a new machine. I'm still amazed by it.'"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More on Adam and Eve

The question of whether or not there our human species began with just two people has caught my interest. It's not that I think it is essential in order to accept the truth of Christianity. I think there are legitimate ways of understanding the Adam and Eve story, without insisting that it is literally true. And I think there are theologically acceptable ways of understanding the origin of our sinful natures without pinning the blame on the first pair of human beings. I think what first made me interested in the question was a series of posts by Edward Feser, who was looking for a way to harmonize the doctrine of original sin with modern evolutionary theory regarding human origins. Professor Feser is a strict Catholic, who takes Catholic doctrine very seriously. What I didn't know at the time was that Catholic doctrine appears to insist that Adam and Eve were responsible for original sin. Now many traditional Protestant denominations also pin the blame on Adam and Eve. It could be that all these denominations are wrong and that they must revise their doctrines. Or it could be that present science is wrong, and that humanity began with two people. I try to maintain an open mind about these things, so I've been reading arguments by Young Earth Creationists who are attempting to explain the genetic data without abandoning a literal Adam and Eve. Well, it turns out that there are also Old Earth Creationists who also insist on a literal Adam and Eve. A recent attempt is being made by Dr. Patricia Fanning at Reasons to Believe (I added them to my sidebar, I'm afraid to say. "Will his whackoness never end?" I hear you mutter. I'm afraid not):

Assumptions, and Circular Reasoning, and a Literal Adam and Eve".

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lynn Margulis, 9/11 Truther

Just in case you didn't know, one of the many controversial things about Lynn Margulis was that she was 9/11 Truther.

Youtube of her views.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lynn Margulis: March 5,10381938 - November 22, 2011

I just found out that Lynn Margulis has passed away.

As Michael Ruse put it, she was ever controversial. And to me this made her one of the most interesting, refreshing people to read or read about. I'll miss her, as I'm sure many, many others will as well.

WKRP in Cincinnati: "Turkeys Away"

In case you're bored on Thanksgiving, you can always watch "Turkeys Away", a funny episode from a funny sitcom of the 70s.

And have a happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Front-loading with Teneurins

The rather non-whacko (believes in naturalistic evolution, no comments on 9/11 conspiracies, etc.) Mike Gene is back (he had me worried), with more on his front-loaded evolution hypothesis (his only claim to whacko-ness):

Front-loading with Teneurins.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Gospel According to Harry Potter

I've now seen the very last Harry Potter movie. I was impressed. As someone who tries to follow Jesus, I saw an interesting parallel. Harry Potter, it turns out, is an unintended horcrux -- a "dark magical object that holds a piece of a soul." In this case, the evil Lord Voldemort has unwittingly placed a piece of his soul in Harry. In order to destroy this piece of Voldemort's soul, Harry must die. And so he does, near the end of the movie. In case you haven't seen the movie or read the book, I won't tell you what happens next.

But here's the parallel with the traditional Christian view: we are all horcruxes. We all have a dark part of us that needs to be destroyed. How did this dark part come to be in us? The traditional answer is that we inherited it from Adam and Eve, when they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. (Of course, if there were no Adam and Eve, then we need another explanation for the origin of that dark part. C.S. Lewis suggested that natural evil might best be explained by Satanic influence in nature. If so, and if we evolved from nature, then might the origin of our dark part be Satanic influence?)

Anyway, what Christianity does is offer a way for the dark part in us to be destroyed without also destroying us. The Hero of our story is Jesus of Nazareth, in whom the fullness of God dwells, and who takes on our human nature, and is put to death, and so destroys the horcrux of that nature. Then Jesus rose from the dead, with a new nature that He shares with those who want it. By taking His life into ourselves, we take the death that He experienced and begin to put to death the horcrux in us. And we begin to replace it with His new nature. The process is a slow one, that takes a life time. And it shan't be finished until we see Him face to face. But we might as well get started on the process now. No sense putting it off. Harry wouldn't have waited.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Young Faint Sun Paradox

Because I'm such a whacko ("kook" is much too mild a term), I've been reading some Young Earth Creationist arguments. I don't know if they are any good, but they are interesting. For example:

The Young Faint Sun Paradox and the Age of the Solar System:

"According to theory, the Sun derives energy by the thermonuclear conversion of hydrogen into helium, deep inside its core. There is convincing evidence that the Sun is getting at least half of its energy by this method. Such a thermonuclear source could power the Sun for nearly 10 billion years. Most scientists think that the Sun (along with the rest of the solar system) is about 4.6 billion years old, which means it would have exhausted approximately half its ‘life’.

Over the Sun’s lifetime, the thermonuclear reactions would, according to theory, gradually change the composition of the core of the Sun and alter the Sun’s overall physical structure. Because of this process, the Sun would gradually grow brighter with age. Thus, if the Sun is indeed 4.6 billion years old, it should have brightened by nearly 40% over this time.1

Evolutionists maintain that life appeared on the Earth around 3.8 billion years ago. Since then, the Sun would have brightened about 25%,2 though there is some uncertainty in that figure.3 This would appear to present a temperature problem for the evolution of life and the Earth. With the current hand-wringing over global warming, one would expect that such a large difference in the solar output would have greatly increased the Earth’s temperature over billions of years. Yet most biologists and geologists believe that the Earth has experienced a nearly constant average temperature over the past 4.6 billion years, with perhaps warmer conditions prevailing early on.4 The problem of how the Sun could have increased in brightness while the Earth maintained a constant temperature is called the ‘early faint Sun paradox’.

Just how great is the problem? A simple calculation can be made assuming that, over time, there has been no change in the Earth’s reflectivity or the ability of the Earth to radiate heat. While this approach is almost certainly unrealistic, it is useful to illustrate the problem. With these assumptions, we find that a 25% increase in solar luminosity increases the average temperature of the Earth by about 18°C. Since the current average temperature of the Earth is 15°C, the average temperature of the Earth 3.8 billion years ago would have been below freezing (-3°C). Thus when life supposedly was just beginning, much of the Earth would have been frozen."

Sage Advice from Marilyn vos Savant


"...people get freaked out at the notion of being wrong about anything. It makes them feel insecure. If you can be wrong about this or that, what about all the other stuff that you think you know? It’s a bad feeling.

And the more important the subject, the more unnerving the emotion. It’s not too scary to be incorrect about a math concept, but how about the car you bought? Or the doctor you chose?

Your question goes to the heart of much unsound thinking. First, we develop beliefs throughout our childhood and teen years before we learn enough facts and have the experience to process them adequately.

Then, after we leave school, we tend to head down one of two roads: 1) We close our minds to new or different information while becoming more and more sure of ourselves as we get older; or 2) we watch, listen, and continue to learn as we increase in wisdom. The second road has way more bumps and curves."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jesus and the Apostate Jew

Luke 19

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

C.S. Lewis on the Old Testament, pt. 3

"The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not 'the Word of God' in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message.

"To a human mind this working-up (in a sense imperfectly), this sublimation (incomplete) of human material, seems, no doubt, an untidy and leaky vehicle. We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form -- something we could have tabulated and memorized and relied on like the multiplication table. One can respect, and at moments envy, both the Fundamentalist's view of the Bible and the Roman Catholic's view of the Church. But there is one argument which we should beware of using for either position: God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this. For we are mortals and do not know what is best for us, and it is dangerous to prescribe what God must have done -- especially when we cannot, for the life of us, see that He has after all done it." (Reflections on the Psalms, "Scripture," pp. 111-112)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

C.S. Lewis on the Old Testament, pt. 2: The Creation Story

"I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical. We must of course be quite clear what 'derived from' means. Stories do not reproduce their species like mice. They are told by men. Each re-teller either repeats exactly what his predecessor had told him or else changes it. He may change it unknowingly or deliberately. If he changes it deliberately, his invention, his sense of form, his ethics, his ideas of what is fit, or edifying, or merely interesting, all come in. If unknowingly, then his unconscious (which is so largely responsible for our forgettings) has been at work. Thus at every step in what is called -- a little misleadingly -- the 'evolution' of a story, a man, all he is and all his attitudes, are involved. And no good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights. When a series of such re-tellings turns a creation story which at first had almost no religious or metaphysical significance into a story which achieves the idea of true Creation and of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.

"Thus something originally merely natural -- the kind of myth that is found among most nations -- will have been raised by God above itself, qualified by Him and compelled by Him to serve purposes which of itself it would not have served. Generalising this, I take it that the whole Old Testament consists of the same sort of material as any other literature -- chronicle (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not; but all taken into the service of God's word. Not all, I suppose, in the same way. There are prophets who write with the clearest awareness that Divine compulsion is upon them. There are chroniclers whose intention may have been merely to record. There are poets like those in the Song of Songs who probably never dreamed of any but a secular and natural purpose in what they composed. There is (and it is no less important) the work first of the Jewish and then of the Christian Church in preserving and canonising just these books. There is the work of redactors and editors in modifying them. On all of these I suppose a Divine pressure; of which not by any means all need have been conscious. (Reflections on the Psalms, "Scripture," pp. 110-111)

Monday, November 7, 2011

C.S. Lewis on the Old Testament, pt. 1

"For us these writings [the Old Testament] are 'holy', or 'inspired', or, as St. Paul says, 'the Oracles of God'. But this has been understood in more than one way, and I must try to explain how I understand it, at least so far as the Old Testament is concerned. I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous. Some people find the miraculous so hard to believe that they cannot imagine any reason for my acceptance of it other than a prior belief that every sentence of the Old Testament has historical or scientific truth. But this I do not hold, any more than St. Jerome did when he said that Moses described Creation 'after the manner of a popular poet' (as we should say, mythically) or than Calvin did when he doubted whether the story of Job were history or fiction. The real reason why I can accept as historical a story in which a miracle occurs is that I have never found any philosophical grounds for the universal negative proposition that miracles do not happen. I have to decide on quite other grounds (if I decide at all) whether a given narrative is historical or not. The Book of Job appears to me unhistorical because it begins about a man quite unconnected with all history or even legen, with no genealogy, living in a country of which the Bible elsewhere has hardly anything to say; because, in fact, the author quite obviously writes as a story-teller not as a chronicler." (From Reflections on the Psalms, XI "Scripture", p.109-110)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Todd Wood on the Definition of Science

Todd Wood offers his view of what science is here:

"But I can't think of anyone (any thoughtful person anyway) who actually believes that science is about discovering TRUTH. Science is about developing the best explanation for data, until such time as that explanation is falsified. So why would it matter whether a scientist actually believed his argument?"

Intriguing. So I guess Todd wouldn't think Jerry Coyne is a thoughtful person. I'm not sure I disagree with him.

I'm not a Young Earth Creationist, but...

...I'm finding this site interesting, so I'll include it in the sidebar, for now, at least.

I might as well include Todd Wood's blog while I'm at it.

Another Climategate?

It looks like another Climategate is brewing, with the head researcher claiming the case for climate warming is incontrovertible, and his colleague contradicting him. What's a layperson to believe?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One of My Favorite Poems



Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

By John Donne