Friday, June 29, 2012

C.S. Lewis on Mythicism, Part 4, Chasing away the shadows.

We conclude Lewis's discussion of the problem of the similarity but incongruity of the story of Jesus with the Pagan stories of dying and rising gods. Again, from chapter 14, "The Grand Miracle," from Miracles; a Preliminary Study.

Now if there is such a God and if He descends to rise again, then we can understand why Christ is at once so like the Corn-king and so silent about him. He is like the Corn-king because the Corn-king is a portrait of Him. The similarity is not in the least unreal or accidental. For the Corn-king is derived (through human imagination) from the facts of Nature, and the facts of Nature from her Creator; the Death and Rebirth pattern is in her because it was first in Him. On the other hand, elements of Nature-religion are strikingly absent from the teaching of Jesus and from the Judaic preparation which led up to it precisely because in them Nature's Original is manifesting itself. In them you have from the very outset got in behind Nature-religion and behind Nature herself. Where the real God is present the shadows of that God do not appear; that which the shadows resembled does. The Hebrews throughout their history were being constantly headed off from the worship of Nature-gods; not because the Nature-gods were in all respect unlike the God of Nature but because, at least, they were merely like, and it was the destiny of that nation to be turned away from the likenesses to the thing itself.

Lewis had much more to say about "the Grand Miracle," both before the passages I quoted and after. And much more to say about miracles, in general. I recommend his book highly.


I thought I had saved a link to an article on Messianism that I wanted to read later, but apparently I published it by mistake. Now that was stupid. Let me add to the anonymous commenter who gave me some advice on the Messianism post: Since I reverted it to a draft, your comment won't show up. Sorry.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

C.S. Lewis on Mythicism, Part 3, Distinguishing between Nature-gods and the God of Nature.

In Part 1 Lewis showed how the Incarnation was a pattern that was repeated throughout Nature. In Part 2 he showed the similarity of the Christian story to other Pagan stories of dying and rising gods, yet noticed how out of place the story of Jesus is among the pagan stories. In Part 3 Lewis will begin to offer an explanation for the incongruity. From chapter 14, "The Grand Miracle," from Miracles; a Preliminary Study:

There is, however, one hypothesis which if accepted, makes everything easy and coherent. The Christians are not claiming that simply 'God' was incarnate in Jesus. They are claiming that the one true God is He whom the Jews worshipped as Jahweh, and that it is He who has descended. Now the double character of Jahweh is this. On the one hand He is the God of Nature, her glad Creator. It is He who sends rain into the furrows till the valleys stand so thick with corn that they laugh and sing. The trees of the wood rejoice before Him and His voice causes the wild deer to bring forth their young. He is the God of wheat and wine and oil. In that respect He is constantly doing all the things that Nature Gods do: He is Bacchus, Venus, Ceres all rolled into one. There is no trace in Judaism of the idea found in some pessimistic and Pantheistic religions that Nature is some kind of illusion or disaster, that finite existence is in itself an evil and that the cure lies in the relapse of all things into God. Compared with such anti-natural conceptions Jahweh might almost be mistaken for a Nature God.

On the other hand, Jahweh is clearly not a Nature-God. He does not die and come to life each year as a true Corn-king should. He may give wine and fertility, but must not be worshipped with Bacchanalian or aphrodisiac rites. He is not the soul of Nature nor of any high and holy place: heaven is His throne, not His vehicle, earth is His footstool, not His vesture. One day He will dismantle both and make a new heaven and earth. He is not to be identified even with the 'divine spark' in man. He is 'God and not man': His thoughts are not our thoughts: all our righteousness is filthy rags....

Jahweh is neither the soul of Nature nor her enemy. She is neither His body nor a declension and falling away from Him. She is His creature. He is not a nature-God, but the God of Nature -- her inventor, maker, owner, and controller. To everyone who reads this book the conception has been familiar from childhood, we therefore easily think it is the most ordinary conception in the world. 'If people are going to believe in a God at all,' we ask, 'what other kind would they believe in?' But the answer of history is, 'Almost any other kind.' We mistake our priveleges for our instincts: just as one meets ladies who believe their own refined manners to be natural to them. They don't remember being taught.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

C.S. Lewis on Mythicism, Part 2, Of Disbelieving Sea-serpents

Back when he was an atheist, C.S. Lewis wrote to a friend, "All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name, are merely man’s own invention – Christ as much as Loki." So after he became a theist, when he began to consider Christianity, Lewis had to deal with the question of how much of it was myth and how much was fact. We pick up (from Part 1) his discussion from chapter 14, "The Grand Miracle," from his book, Miracles; a Preliminary Study:

From this point of view the Christian doctrine makes itself so quickly at home amid the deepest appehensions of reality which we have from other sources, that doubt may spring up in a new direction. Is it not fitting in too well? So well that it must have come into men's minds from seeing this pattern elsewhere, particularly in the annual death and resurrection of the corn? For there have, of course, been many religions in which that annual drama (so important for the life of the tribe) was almost admittedly the central theme, and the deity - Adonis, Osiris, or another - almost undisguisedly a personification of the corn, a "corn-king" who died and rose again each year. Is not Christ simply another corn-king?

Now this brings us to the oddest thing about Christianity. In a sense the view which I have just described is actually true. From a certain point of view Christ is 'the same sort of thing' as Adonis or Osiris (always, of course, waiving the fact that they lived nobody knows where or when, while He was executed by a Roman magistrate we know in a year which can be roughly dated). And that is just the puzzle. If Christianity is a religion of that kind why is the analogy of the seed falling into the ground so seldom mentioned (twice only if I mistake not) in the New Testament? Corn-religions are popular and respectable: if that is what the first Christian teachers were putting across, what motive could they have for concealing the fact? The impression they make is that of men who simply don't know how close they are to the corn-religions: men who simply overlook the rich sources of relevant imagery and association which they must have been on the verge of tapping at every moment. If you say they suppressed it because they were Jews, that only raises the puzzle in a new form. Why should the only religion of a 'dying God' which has actually survived and risen to unexampled spiritual heights occur precisely among those people to whom, and to whom almost alone, the whole circle of ides that belong to the 'dying God' was foreign? I myself, who first seriously read the New Testament when I was, imaginatively and poetically, all agog for the Death and Rebirth pattern and anxious to meet a corn-king, was chilled and puzzled by the almost total absence of such ideas in the Christian documents. One moment particularly stood out. A 'dying God' - the only dying God who might possibly be historical - holds bread, that is, corn, in His hand and says, 'This is my body.' Surely here, even if nowhere else - or surely if not here, at least in the earliest comments on this passage and through all later devotional usage in ever swelling volume - the truth must come out; the connection between this and the annual drama of the crops must be made. But it is not. It is there for me. There is no sign that it ws there for the disciples or (humanly speaking) for Christ Himself. It is almost as if He didn't realise what He had said.

The records, in fact, show us a Person who enacts the part of the Dying God, but whose thoughts and words remain outside the circle of religious ideas to which the Dying God belongs. The very thing which the Nature-religions are all about seems to have really happened once, but it happened in a circle where no trace of Nature-religion was present. It is as if you met the sea-serpent and found that it disbelieved in sea-serpents: as if history recorded a man who had done all the things attributed to Sir Launcelot but who had himself never apparently heard of chivalry.

Monday, June 25, 2012

C.S. Lewis on Mythicism, Part 1, The Incarnation as Pattern

One of the arguments that Mythicists - people who do not believe that Jesus existed - use to support their case is that the story of Jesus incarnation, death, and resurrection, is just another dying and rising god story that one finds throughout Paganism, and therefore no more likely true than the other stories. C.S. Lewis had a lot to say about this. I thought I would quote him at length, which will probably take a few posts, all from chapter 14, "The Grand Miracle," from his book, Miracles; a Preliminary Study We'll begin with his description of the doctrine of the Incarnation.

In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too.

In this descent and reascent everyone will recognize a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life reascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult. So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent spontaneous desires to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a reascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way - Death and Rebirth - go down to go up - it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.

The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. I am not now referring to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Rebirth: for certainly no seed fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and reascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Please Consider Signing Petition for 9/11 Families

There's a petition sponsored by four 9/11 family members asking President Obama to watch a special DVD on 9/11. I've signed the petition, and I've been asked to ask my readers to consider signing it as well:

9/11 Families ask Obama to watch "9/11: Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out".

Saturday, June 23, 2012

WTC 7 and Jesus

Up until Youtube came into existence in 2005, very few people had heard of the collapse of WTC7. Unless you were one of the lucky ones to see it collapse live on TV the very first day, you probably never saw it. And if something like Youtube hadn't come along, you may never have even heard of it. It would have been known to only a few crank conspiracy theorists. In a few decades, those people would have died out, most of the video copies of #7 would have been lost. The only reference to it would be in a book here or there by some specialist in the early history of the 21st century.

Why is that? Well, we 9/11 Truthers would say that WTC7 was an embarrassment to the power establishment of America. It pointed to a darker truth that they preferred not be seen by the general public. All pressure was brought to bear on the media to make sure that no further film of Building 7's collapse would be seen or talked about. Now maybe we Truthers are wrong about the motives of the media. But the point remains that except for the internet and something called "Youtube," Building #7 would have meant little to most people. (I'm curious how many people have heard of it, even with youtube. I would guess it's still a minority).

So what does this have to do with Jesus? Mythicists -- people who believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist -- like to point to the dearth of testimony regarding Jesus's life. For example, Philo, an Alexandrian Jewish leader and intellectual, and contemporary of Jesus, writes much about Jewish life in first century Palestine*, but never mentions Jesus or his followers. And this is used by mythicists as evidence that Jesus never existed, or that if he existed, he never did anything to attract much attention.

But could there be another reason why Philo never mentioned Jesus? Could it be that Philo had heard all the rumors about Jesus, and his supposed miracles, and his supposed resurrection, and the nascent movement growing around him, and decided not to take any of it seriously? Could it be that Philo decided that it was just another one of those weird religious cults that occassionally pops up, gains some momentary popularity, and then dies off? Why would it be worth mentioning along with the really important things, such as politics and philosophy? Perhaps Jesus was to Philo what Building 7 is to most people today: An odd curiosity, not to be taken seriously.

*To be honest, I haven't read anything by Philo, so I'm not sure how much he did write about Jewish life in first century Palestine. The impression I get is that Philo was more of a philosopher and less of an historian, unlike Josephus, who tried to give many historical details about first century Palestine. But I'm willing to bet that Philo wrote something about it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Keynesian Economics as Criterion for Voting?

Speaking of Paul Krugman, I accept his argument that the way out of our long-term recession is by large increases in government spending. But now, how should I vote? One might think that voting for those tax and spend Democrats would be the obvious answer. And if the Democrats won large, fillerbuster-proof majorities in the House and Senate, and retained the White House, then yes, that would be the way to vote. Because the Democrats would most likely increase spending on things we need, like education and health care, and would raise taxes on the wealthy to help pay for it.

But what if the Democrats don't win large, fillerbuster-proof majorities? What if we continue to have split houses and a Democratic President? Then I think the Republicans in Congress would successfully block large spending increases on education and health care, and they would certainly block any increase in taxes on the wealthy. They would probably allow large increases in military spending, which would help increase employment, but since no tax increases would be allowed, either our deficit would continue to balloon, or we would need to decrease spending in other areas, wiping out any gains in employment we achieved by increasing military spending.

If all we are concerned about is raising government spending, the best way to do that (based on past experience) is to have a Republican president. If Romney is elected, then all talk of the need for fiscal responsibilty will suddenly vanish, just as it always does once a Republican is in the White House, and the federal government will start spending like a drunken sailor again. And Keynesian economics will win the day. Or at least until the burden of federal debt forces cuts in spending or...God forbid, tax increases.

So if all I'm really interested in is obtaining Keynesian policies, then I guess I should vote for...I can't bring myself to say it.

Not voting is looking better and better.

The Euro is Flat

Paul Krugman has an interesting post at his blog today, on the difference of how we see federal aid to states and how Europe sees aid to individual European countries:

So it comes as something of a shock to look at Eurostat data (pdf) on real GDP per capita (or productivity, which look similar). Sure, Greece and Portugal are relatively poor, with GDP per capita of 82 and 77 percent, respectively, of the EU average; this means roughly 76 and 71 percent of the eurozone average, since the euro countries are a bit richer than the EU as a whole. Meanwhile, Germany is at 120 percent of the EU, or 112 percent of the EZ.
But it’s no different, really, than the US situation (look under per capita GDP). Alabama is at 74 percent of the US average, Mississippi at 67, with New England and the Middle Atlantic states at 118 and 116.
In other words, as far as underlying economic inequalities are concerned, the EZ is no worse than the US.
The difference, mainly, is that we think of ourselves as a nation, and blithely accept fiscal measures that routinely transfer large sums to the poorer states without even thinking of it as a regional issue — in fact, the states that are effectively on the dole tend to vote Republican and imagine themselves deeply self-reliant.
The thing is, we didn’t always think of ourselves as a nation, either. Before the Civil War, people talked about “these United States”; it was only after the war that “these” became “the.”.

Being a Democrat, I was especially entertained by, " in fact, the states that are effectively on the dole tend to vote Republican and imagine themselves deeply self-reliant."  I wonder if it's true.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two 9/11 Experiments by Jonathan Cole

Civil engineer and 9/11 Truther Jonathan Cole conducted two important experiments that he recorded on video.  First, "The Mysterious Eutectic Steel" and second, "The Great Thermate Debate", and ends with the question, "Isn't it time we use physical science rather than political science to investigate 9/11?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

For settling those really important questions:

I wonder if I could use it to decide whether or not to vote.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nothing in Biology Geology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution Geosynclinal Theory

Rabbi Klinghoffer's clever title was too good to pass up: Nothing in Biology Geology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution Geosynclinal Theory:

The geosynclinal theory is one of the great unifying principles of geology. In many ways its role in geology is similar to that of evolution that serves to integrate the many branches of biological sciences. The geosynclinal theory is of fundamental importance to sedimentation, petrology, geomorphology, ore deposits, structural geology, geophysics, and practically all the minor branches of geological science. Just as the doctrine of organic evolution is universally accepted among thinking biologists, so also the geosynclinal origin of the major mountain ranges is an established principle in geology. [Thomas Clark and Colin Stearn, The Geological Evolution of North America: A Regional Approach to Historical Geology, p.43 (Ronald Press, 1960)]

The only problem was that the geosynclinal theory was overturned a decade later by the theory of plate tectonics.

The lesson to be drawn is that no scientific theory, no matter how well integrated into all of its sub-disciplines, is ever completely safe. Not even evolution.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Very Good Review of Plantinga's New Book

HT: ex-apologist

The philosopher Paul Draper begins his review of Alvin Plantinga's book, Where the Conflict Really Liews: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, by quoting from the book:

"There is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and religion, in particular theistic religion, and superficial concord but deep conflict between science and [ontological] naturalism." Alvin Plantinga repeats this formulation of his thesis several times in the book. Unfortunately, on the book jacket the last three words are changed from "science and naturalism" to "naturalism and religion," which makes the sub-thesis of deep conflict appear rather easy to defend. I mention this mistake as a service to all those critics of the book who appear to have read little more than the book jacket. (In all seriousness, the fact that some of these irresponsible critics are philosophers is disturbing.)

Obviously Professor Draper took the time to read more than the book jacket and gives a very insightful review of it. Since the most talked about part of Plantinga's book is his discussion of ID, I thought I would just quote what Draper had to say about it:

"Plantinga believes that Michael Behe's case for design in Darwin's Black Box, when understood as an attempt to construct a convincing argument for intelligent design, is a failure. His reasons for holding this belief (which are sketched in chapter eight) strike me as extremely strong. He is slightly more optimistic but still skeptical about Behe's case for design in a more recent book, and he argues (in chapter seven) that, while the fine-tuning design argument has more force than its critics are willing to admit, it has much less force than is often attributed to it by its defenders. Clearly, then, the goal here is not to mount a defense of intelligent design theory or even to provide a detailed analysis and evaluation of contemporary design arguments, though Plantinga's critical discussion of these arguments is certainly worth reading."

I found chapter nine of Plantinga's book to be the most significant, and I think Draper agrees:

"Philosophers of religion should find chapter nine ("Deep Concord") to be of considerable interest. Plantinga describes in detail a variety of ways in which our cognitive faculties match the world and shows that the possibility or success of science depends on this match. Further, he argues plausibly for the position that, by appealing to the image of God doctrine, theists can account for this match. Naturalists, on the other hand, lack the resources to explain it (evolution is inadequate if not irrelevant here) and so must regard this multi-faceted match, implausibly, as just blind luck. Plantinga draws the provocative conclusion that theism, not naturalism, deserves to be called the "scientific worldview."

Both Draper's review and Plantinga's book are worth reading, folks.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

To Vote or Not to Vote?

So if, like me, you were a 9/11 Truther in 2008, there's a good chance you voted for Obama, hoping that he would re-open the investigation into 9/11. It's four years later and you, like me, realize that the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series, and the Detroit Lions will win the Superbowl, and the Second Coming will happen before Obama will investigate 9/11. So, do I vote? And if so, for whom? And why? Feel free to offer suggestions.

Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Chess

One of the many reasons why I watch "The Big Bang Theory":

Thursday, June 14, 2012

1700 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth

There are now 1700 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. One could say that this constitutes a small minority of the total number of current architects and engineers, which is true. A more interesting question would be what percentage of architects and engineers are against 9/11 "Truth" ("Truth" in this case would refer to an alternative version of events than the official version). And a still more interesting question would be what percentage of those architects and engineers who are against 9/11 "Truth" have examined the evidence presented by 9/11 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 "Truth?"

But if my criterion for when to challenge the Consensus is accepted (and as yet nobody has challenged my criterion), if even one architect or engineer challenged the official version of 9/11, this would be grounds for us to challenge the official version, also. Given that there are 1,699 additional experts that challenge the official version, so much stronger are the grounds for us to challenge it as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When is it Appropriate to Challenge the Consensus?

I'll try to offering short easy answers, first. If somebody shows me why my answers aren't very good, I'll try harder.

I think the easiest answer to the question, "When is it appropriate to challenge the consensus?" is "When experts challenge the consensus."

But when is it appropriate to reject the consensus?

When no one among the consensus is able to provide adequate answers to the challenges.

Let me add one more:

When is it appropriate to accept the consensus?

When all challenges to it have been adequately answered.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jerry Coyne is Right Again

This is what we could expect.

Atheist is 9/11 Truther: Adam Taylor

So if one 9/11 Truther is a Christian, and one 9/11 Truther is an Atheist (and also a "Mythicist") should we be classified?

Adam Taylor's blog

Since Adam wasn't familiar with the term "Gnu Atheist" I've dropped the "Gnu."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Star Trek Next Generation Episode was about ID

I don't know of a movie that employs Intelligent Design theory as part of its plot. But there was a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode that did: "The Chase":

"After studying the ambiguous number blocks for hours, the discovery is made that these fragments are compatible DNA strands which have been recovered from different worlds all over the galaxy. The crew eventually believe that they have discovered an embedded genetic pattern that is constant throughout many different species, and it is speculated that this was left by an early race that pre-dates all other known civilizations. This would ultimately explain why so many races are humanoid.

Picard resolves that the answer to the 'puzzle' will be revealed when the remaining DNA samples are obtained, and so the Enterprise travels to a remote, uninhabited planet that Galen had mentioned was his next destination. They encounter Klingon and Cardassian ships that appear to be on the same trail as themselves. These two groups believe, respectively, that the puzzle will yield the design of a formidable weapon and the secret of an unlimited power source.

The Enterprise hosts representatives from the Cardassians and the Klingons, and they all agree to combine the DNA samples that they have found so far, since all three parties have pieces of the puzzle that the others cannot find. Using the shared information, they determine a pattern in how several planets were aligned millions of years ago and extrapolate the position of a final planet....

They locate the final DNA fragment, which completes and runs the program. The program reconfigures the tricorder's emitter to project a holographic message. The recorded image of an alien humanoid (Salome Jens) is projected to the assembled company, and it explains that its race is responsible for the presence of life in the Alpha Quadrant. When the alien race first explored the Alpha Quadrant there had been no humanoid-based life other than themselves, and so they seeded various planets with their DNA to create a legacy of their existence after they had gone. The alien ends its message by saying that it hopes that the knowledge of a common origin will help produce peace.

Here, the ancestral alien race has also bio-engineered the DNA, so that various parts of it are spread throughout the Alpha Quadrant, as pieces of a puzzle, which when finally put together lead to an answer of their origin. I'm willing to bet that most ID critics would admit that this would be a case of Intelligent Design.

However, the Star Trek episode doesn't explain the ultimate origin of DNA. ID proponents argue that it also is best explained as the product of a mind. The jury is still out on this more fundamental question.

More Reflections on Prometheus

Perhaps the movie "Prometheus" is about ID, in a way. One of the main characters is the android David, who has been intelligently designed by human beings. It becomes very clear in the story that David is a rather cold, unfeeling, calculating, soulless, being. And we find out much later in the film that our alien ancestors have also intelligently designed a certain creature. I won't tell you what it is, but "soulless" is certainly a good adjective to describe it.

It seems the filmmakers are suggesting that though we may someday have the ability to create likelike beings, they will lack that certain quality that makes them truly alive; what the ancients referred to as "having souls."

Promethus: Not about ID

I hate scary movies... because they scare me. I still have difficulty watching Dorothy trapped in the castle of the wicked witch, wondering how she'll manage to escape before the hour glass runs empty.

 I hate paying full admission price for movies. Either I wait a couple of months until they get to the second-run movie theater, where I get to watch them for only $4.00 ($6.00 for 3D), or I wait until they come out on DVD, and I can watch them for a buck.

So why would I pay full admission price to watch "Prometheus," which is billed as a very scary movie? Because it's supposed to be about Intelligent Design, of course.  And as an ID proponent I felt an obligation to spend excessively and wet my pants,  just so I can write a review for my millions of loyal readers.

 Luckily, I went to the early morning show and got the discount price -- $10.75 for the 3D version. (I know, why watch a scary movie in 3D, which would only make it scarier? Because if I'm going to scare myself, I might as well go all the way.)

 Anyway, "Promethus" isn't about ID.  It's about what Francis Crick called "directed panspermia." The aliens don't design the cells that they seed Earth with. In fact, they are the cells. In the first scene, we see one of the aliens drink something that makes him dissolve into his various cellular components, including his DNA. Somehow this naked DNA manages to replicate (I'm not a biologist and even I know this isn't good biology) and eventually evolve into us, a smaller version of "them." And then various ancient drawings are found of somebody pointing to the exact same star system.  Some archaeologists are smart enough to figure we're being invited to go there.  But they also think that the invitation has been extended by our "Engineers."  Why would they think they are our engineers?  I dunno. The audience should know that the aliens didn't engineer us. The aliens are us. So why are all the reviewers saying this movie is about ID? I dunno'. I would say that the reviewers know as much about ID as the filmmakers know about the process of cell replication. I would say it, but apparently one of the reviewers is an ID proponent.

 Oh well, even though the film isn't about ID, it is about faith. And I like what it has to say about it. And the ending leaves open the possibility for future sequels that could go in a very interesting direction. So I give it a thumbs up.

 Oh yeah, I wasn't that scared. I guess after you've been scared to death by the first Alien movie,  you can handle the rest.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

C.S. Lewis talks about his Atheism

Victor Reppert already provided one place where C.S. Lewis talked about his atheism (before he became first an Idealist, then Pantheist, Theist, and finally a Christian). Because a commenter asked for others, I thought I would provide one. This is from the Introduction to Lewis's The Problem of Pain, p.13:

"Not many years ago when I was an atheist, if anyone had asked me, 'Why do you not believe in God?' my reply would have run something like this:  'Look at the universe we live in.  By far the greatest part of it consists of empty space, completely dark and unimaginably cold.  The bodies which move in this space are so few and so small in comparison with the space itself that even if every one of them were known to be crowded as full as it could hold with perfectly happy creatures, it would still be difficult to believe that life and happiness were more than a by-product to the power that made the universe.  As it is, however, the scientists think it likely that very few of the suns of space -- perhaps none of them except our own -- have any planets;  and in our own system it is improbable that any planet except the Earth sustains life.  And Earth herself existed without life for millions of years and may exist for millions more when life has left her.  And what is it like while it lasts?  It is so arranged that all the forms of it can live only by preying upon one another.  In the lower forms this process entails only death, but in the higher there appears a new quality called consciousness which enables it to be attended with pain.  The creatures cause pain by being born, and live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die.  In the most complex of all the creatures, Man, yet another quality appears, which we call reason, whereby he is enabled to foresee his own pain which henceforth is preceded with acute mental suffering, and to foresee his own death while keenly desiring permanence.  It also enables men by a hundred ingenious contrivances to inflict a great deal more pain than they otherwise could have done on one another and on the irrational creatures.  This power they have exploited to the full.  Their history is largely a record of crime, war, disease, and terror, with just sufficient happiness interposed to give them, while it lasts, an agonised apprehension of losing it, and when it is lost, the poignant misery of remembering.  Every now and then they improve their condition a little and what we call a civilisation appears.  But all civilisations pass away and, even while they remain, inflict peculiar sufferings of their own probably sufficient to outweigh what alleviations they may have brought to the normal pains of man.  That our own civilisation has done so, no one will dispute; that it will pass away like all its predecessors is surely probable.  Even if it should not, what then?  The race is doomed.  Every race that comes into being in any part of the universe is doomed;  for the universe, they tell us, is running down, and will sometime be a uniform infinity of homogeneous matter at a low temperature.  All stories will come to nothing:  all life will turn out in the end to have been a transitory and senseless contortion upon the idiotic face of infinite matter.  If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction.  Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.'"

What Brings Life?

As my millions of loyal readers know, I have a very strange mixture of religious, scientific, and political beliefs -- I'm a politically liberal, 9/11 Truther, ID proponent, who tries to follow Jesus.

And I'm not always sure if talking about all of those things is helpful or hurtful to people.

Perhaps it isn't helpful.

Probably the only real thing that could help people is talking about Jesus. Whatever life I have comes from him. Whatever life I have to offer to other people is him.

So I don't mind if you disagree with me about 9/11, politics, or science. And I don't mind if you disagree with me about who Jesus was, or even if he was.

But if you want life, I can't give it to you. But Jesus can.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Paul Krugman: Nobody Understands Debt

Until I read Paul Krugman's article, most of which I've copied and pasted down below, I thought that our major problem was the national debt and that we had to find a way to pay it down without completely shutting down our government.  Paul Krugman has changed my mind: 

"Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we’re impoverished by the need to pay back money we’ve been borrowing. They see America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments.
This is, however, a really bad analogy in at least two ways.
First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don’t — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.
Second — and this is the point almost nobody seems to get — an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves.
This was clearly true of the debt incurred to win World War II. Taxpayers were on the hook for a debt that was significantly bigger, as a percentage of G.D.P., than debt today; but that debt was also owned by taxpayers, such as all the people who bought savings bonds. So the debt didn’t make postwar America poorer. In particular, the debt didn’t prevent the postwar generation from experiencing the biggest rise in incomes and living standards in our nation’s history.
But isn’t this time different? Not as much as you think.
It’s true that foreigners now hold large claims on the United States, including a fair amount of government debt. But every dollar’s worth of foreign claims on America is matched by 89 cents’ worth of U.S. claims on foreigners. And because foreigners tend to put their U.S. investments into safe, low-yield assets, America actually earns more from its assets abroad than it pays to foreign investors. If your image is of a nation that’s already deep in hock to the Chinese, you’ve been misinformed. Nor are we heading rapidly in that direction.
Now, the fact that federal debt isn’t at all like a mortgage on America’s future doesn’t mean that the debt is harmless. Taxes must be levied to pay the interest, and you don’t have to be a right-wing ideologue to concede that taxes impose some cost on the economy, if nothing else by causing a diversion of resources away from productive activities into tax avoidance and evasion. But these costs are a lot less dramatic than the analogy with an overindebted family might suggest.
And that’s why nations with stable, responsible governments — that is, governments that are willing to impose modestly higher taxes when the situation warrants it — have historically been able to live with much higher levels of debt than today’s conventional wisdom would lead you to believe. Britain, in particular, has had debt exceeding 100 percent of G.D.P. for 81 of the last 170 years. When Keynes was writing about the need to spend your way out of a depression, Britain was deeper in debt than any advanced nation today, with the exception of Japan.
Of course, America, with its rabidly antitax conservative movement, may not have a government that is responsible in this sense. But in that case the fault lies not in our debt, but in ourselves.
So yes, debt matters. But right now, other things matter more. We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrongheaded, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in the way."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Good Historical Overview of Scientific Creationism

Over at BioLogos Ted Davis, professor of the history of science at Messiah College gives a quick overview of the history of Scientific Creationism. Among the many things he mentions that I didn't know:

"From the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century (roughly 1860 to 1960), most conservative Protestant writers in the United accepted the validity of an old earth and universe. This is reflected in the notes to Genesis One in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), which was very widely used by conservative Protestants in North America and England for decades. I will say more about this in my next column; for the time being, please accept it as a fact.

Many conservative Protestant writers also believed that Noah’s flood had been geographically localized, covering part of the ancient Near East but not the whole globe, an interpretation popularized by the English abolitionist theologian John Pye Smith. Most writers in this period believed that the flood did not have very much geological significance, whether or not it was “local.” In short, they did not believe in Flood Geology.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What Will We Look Like in the Afterlife?

I've mentioned before that C.S. Lewis wrote a story, The Great Divorce, about a bus trip from Hell to Heaven. We pick up the story during the bus trip:

"Hours later there came a change. It began to grow light in the bus. The greyness outside the windows turned from mud-colour to mother of pearl, then to faintest blue, then to a bright blueness that stung the eyes. We seemed to be floating in a pure vacancy. There were no lands, no sun, no stars in sight: only the radiant abyss. I let down the window beside me. Delicious freshness came in for a second, and then --

'What the hell are you doing?' shouted the Intelligent Man, leaning roughly across me and pulling the window sharply up. Want us all to catch our death of cold?'

'Hit him a biff,' said the Big Man.

I glanced round the bus. Though the windows were closed, and soon muffed, the bus was full of light. It was cruel light. I shrank from the faces and forms by which I was surrounded. They were all fixed faces, full not of possibilities but of impossibilities, some gaunt, some bloated, some glaring with idiotic ferocity, some drowned beyond recovery in dreams; but all, in one way or another, distorted and faded. One had a feeling that they might fall to pieces at any moment if the light grew much stronger. Then -- there was a mirror on the end wall of the bus -- I caught sight of my own.

And still the light grew.