Why Darwin Matters: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and the Battle for Science and Religion        
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          Sick of Fundamentalism        
A professor who was going to teach a course debunking the “sicence” of Creationism (aka Intelligent Design) has cancelled his plans. No doubt, his words (“fundies”) were poorly chosen. But how does the University President get away with such strong condemnation of this professor’s words, without any condemnation of the repeated insanity preached by Fundamentalists? […]
          Intelligent Design vs Evolution        
Intelligent Design is the theistic answer to mainstream science, while Darwinian evolution is the creation story of atheism. Is there a compromise?
          Intelligent Design vs. Evolution – Bad News for the Culture of Death        
Do all persons, even the smallest ones, have intrinsic value? Are they worthy of protection against threats?
          Intelligent Design vs. Evolution – Bad News for Social Engineers        
What is the bad news for social engineers who view humanity as an intermediary life form in the march to our utopian, transhuman future?
          Intelligent Design vs. Evolution – Bad News for Science        
Are those who believe in Intelligent Design free to follow the phenomena wherever it leads? Or do they need to worry about the consensus view?
          Junk DNA        
What is junk DNA? Does junk DNA provide evidence for evolution? How does the theory of intelligent design account for non-coding DNA?
          RNA world – What is Ribozyme Engineering?        
What is Ribozyme Engineering? Do the procedures used in research on RNA catalyses support the concept of naturalism, or of intelligent design?
          Intelligent Design Video        
Watch this extraordinary video clip of mechanical and biological machines. See the fantastic complexity of life at the molecular level. Does it point to an act of random evolution or design? What do the triple PhD's and experts think about this?
          DNA Double Helix Video        
Watch this awesome video clip of the spinning DNA double helix. Does it point to an act of random evolution or intelligent design? See the process of transcription and translation. You be the judge. What do the experts think?
          Intelligent Design        
An examination of mechanical and biological machines. Spontaneous generation vs. concept and design. The fantastic complexity at the molecular level.
          Why is there such resistance to teaching intelligent design in the public schools?        
Science or superstition? The evidence points to the deliberate influence of a self-aware creator in many aspects of the universe.
          Are there any intelligent design peer-reviewed publications?        
Real science? Objective studies supporting design theory are now more common, appearing more frequently in respected journals and publications.
          How and when did the intelligent design movement begin?        
The compelling case for design, and the background of this scientific and logical approach to origins and the development of life.
          Intelligent Design        
An examination of mechanical and biological machines. Spontaneous generation vs. concept and design. The fantastic complexity at the molecular level.
          Naturalism as Religion        

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]

Thanks to the theory of evolution, naturalism is now the dominant religion of modern society. Less than a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin popularized the credo for this secular religion with his book The Origin of Species. Although most of Darwin's theories about the mechanisms of evolution were discarded long ago, the doctrine of evolution itself has managed to achieve the status of a fundamental article of faith in the popular modern mind. Naturalism has now replaced Christianity as the main religion of the Western world, and evolution has become naturalism's principal dogma.

Naturalism is the view that every law and every force operating in the universe is natural rather than moral, spiritual, or supernatural. Naturalism is inherently anti-theistic, rejecting the very concept of a personal God. Many assume naturalism therefore has nothing to do with religion. In fact, it is a common misconception that naturalism embodies the very essence of scientific objectivity. Naturalists themselves like to portray their system as a philosophy that stands in opposition to all faith-based world-views, pretending that it is scientifically and intellectually superior precisely because of its supposed non-religious character.

Not so. Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism. The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—an a priori rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.

Consider the dogma of evolution, for example. The notion that natural evolutionary processes can account for the origin of all living species has never been and never will be established as fact. Nor is it "scientific" in any true sense of the word. Science deals with what can be observed and reproduced by experimentation. The origin of life can be neither observed nor reproduced in any laboratory. By definition, then, true science can give us no knowledge whatsoever about where we came from or how we got here. Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. And dogmatic belief in any naturalistic theory is no more "scientific" than any other kind of religious faith.

Modern naturalism is often promulgated with a missionary zeal that has powerful religious overtones. The popular fish symbol many Christians put on their cars now has a naturalist counterpart: a fish with feet and the word "Darwin" embossed into its side. The Internet has become naturalism's busiest mission field, where evangelists for the cause aggressively try to deliver benighted souls who still cling to their theistic presuppositions. Judging from the tenor of some of the material I have read seeking to win converts to naturalism, naturalists are often dedicated to their faith with a devout passion that rivals or easily exceeds the fanaticism of any radical religious zealot. Naturalism is clearly as much a religion as any theistic world-view.

The point is further proved by examining the beliefs of those naturalists who claim to be most unfettered by religious beliefs. Take, for example, the case of Carl Sagan, perhaps the best-known scientific celebrity of the past couple of decades. A renowned astronomer and media figure, Sagan was overtly antagonistic to biblical theism. But he became the chief televangelist for the religion of naturalism. He preached a world-view that was based entirely on naturalistic assumptions. Underlying all he taught was the firm conviction that everything in the universe has a natural cause and a natural explanation. That belief—a matter of faith, not a truly scientific observation—governed and shaped every one of his theories about the universe.

Sagan examined the vastness and complexity of the universe and concluded—as he was bound to do, given his starting point—that there is nothing greater than the universe itself. So he borrowed divine attributes such as infinitude, eternality, and omnipotence, and he made them properties of the universe itself.

Sagan's religion was actually a kind of naturalistic pantheism, and his motto sums it up perfectly. He deified the universe and everything in it—insisting that the cosmos itself is that which was, and is, and is to come (cf. Revelation 4:8). Having examined enough of the cosmos to see evidence of the Creator's infinite power and majesty, he imputed that omnipotence and glory to creation itself—precisely the error the apostle Paul describes in Romans 1:20-22:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.

Exactly like the idolaters Paul was describing, Sagan put creation in the Creator's rightful place.

Carl Sagan looked at the universe and saw its greatness and concluded nothing could possibly be greater. His religious presuppositions forced him to deny that the universe was the result of intelligent design. In fact, as a devoted naturalist, he had to deny that it was created at all. Therefore he saw it as eternal and infinite—so it naturally took the place of God in his thinking.

The religious character of the philosophy that shaped Sagan's world-view is evident in much of what he wrote and said. His novel Contact (made into a major motion picture in 1997) is loaded with religious metaphors and imagery. It's about the discovery of extraterrestrial life, which occurs in December 1999, at the dawn of a new millennium, when the world is rife with Messianic expectations and apocalyptic fears. In Sagan's imagination, the discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe becomes the "revelation" that affords a basis for the fusing of science and religion into a world-view that perfectly mirrors Sagan's own belief system—with the cosmos as God and scientists as the new priesthood.

Although not every naturalist is as explicit in their use of religious language, their worldview is inherently the same. If there is no God, the only way to make sense of creation is to turn the natural into the supernatural. While naturalism cannot explain why people would believe in God, God tells us why people would believe in naturalism.

(Adapted from The Battle for the Beginning.)

       

          Faith and Science, Falsely So-Called        

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]

The apostle Paul closed his first epistle to Timothy by urging the young pastor to guard the deposit of truth that had been entrusted to him, “avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). In the King James Version, the text famously speaks of “science falsely so called."

Over the course of human history, all kinds of speculative ideas have been falsely labeled “science” and mistakenly accepted as true and reliable knowledge by otherwise brilliant people. The now-discredited dogmas of older scientific theories are numerous—and in some cases laughable. They include alchemy (the medieval belief that other base metals could be transmuted into gold); phrenology (the Victorian belief that the shape of one’s skull reflects character traits and mental capacity); astrology (the pagan belief that human destiny is determined by the motions of celestial bodies); and abiogenesis (the long-standing belief that living organisms are spontaneously generated by decaying organic substances). All those false beliefs were deemed credible as “science” by the leading minds of their times.

Consider just one of those—abiogenesis. Popularly known as “spontaneous generation,” this idea has long been, and continues to be, one of the archetypal expressions of “science falsely so called.” It is also one of the most persistent of all demonstrably pseudoscientific fictions. The notion that aphids arise naturally from dew on plant leaves, mold is generated automatically by aging bread, and maggots are spontaneously begotten by rotting meat was more or less deemed self-evident by most of humanity’s brightest intellects from the time of Aristotle until 1861, when Louis Pasteur conclusively proved that non-living matter cannot spawn life on its own.

Take for example Alexander Ross, an early seventeenth-century Scottish writer and intellectual who harshly criticized Sir Thomas Browne for questioning the dogma of spontaneous generation. Under the heading “Mice and other vermin bred of putrefaction, even in mens bodies,” he wrote:

He doubts whether mice can be procreated of putrefaction. So he may doubt whether in cheese and timber worms are generated; Or if Betels and wasps in cowes dung; Or if butterflies, locusts, grasshoppers, shel-fish, snails, eeles, and such like, be procreated of putrefied matter, which is apt to receive the form of that creature to which it is by the formative power disposed. To question this, is to question Reason, Sense, and Experience: If he doubts of this, let him go to Egypt, and there he will finde the fields swarming with mice begot of the mud of [the Nile]. [1]Alexander Ross, Arcana Microcosmi, (London: Newcomb, 1652), Book 2, Chapter 10, 156.]

It is one of the great ironies of scientific history that the first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published exactly two years before Pasteur’s famous experiments proved that life cannot arise spontaneously from non-living matter. The publication of Darwin’s book marked the apotheosis of evolutionary theory, and it was rooted in the basic presupposition that under the right circumstances, life can spring on its own from non-living matter. In other words, two years before abiogenesis was scientifically debunked, it was in effect canonized as the central dogma of modern secular belief about the origins of life. The discovery that fleas don’t magically form out of decomposing dander on the backs of dirty dogs did not dissuade most in the scientific world from embracing the theory that all life in the universe arose by itself out of nothing. The belief that life spontaneously came from non-life remains to this day the great unexplained (albeit easily disprovable) assumption underlying the dogma of evolution.

The irony of that is utterly lost on many in the scientific community today, where evolution has become an article of faith—unshakable faith, it turns out.

Evolutionists have conveniently “solved” the problem of abiogenesis by repeatedly moving their estimates of the earth’s age backward toward infinity. Given enough time, it seems, anything is possible. Trying desperately to keep the biblical concept of eternity at bay, evolutionists have thus devised an alternative kind of infinitude. Every time a challenge to current evolutionary theory arises, geologists and astronomers dutifully tack billions and billions of eons onto their theories about the earth’s age, adding however many ancient epochs are deemed necessary for some new impossibility to be explained.

In the introduction to my 2001 book, The Battle for the Beginning, I suggested naturalism had become the dominant religion of contemporary secular society. “Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism,” I wrote. “The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—a rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.” [2] John MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning, (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), 11.

Here, then, is a classic example of what I was talking about: the typical evolutionist’s starting point is this notion that life arose spontaneously from inanimate matter sometime in eternity past. That requires not merely the willful suspension of what we know for certain about the origins of life and the impossibility of abiogenesis—but also enough deliberate gullibility to believe that moving-target estimates of the earth’s antiquity can sufficiently answer all the problems and contradictions sheer naturalism poses.

Meanwhile, in the popular media, evolutionary doctrine and ever-expanding notions of prehistory are being promoted with all the pious zeal of the latest religious sect. Watch the Internet forums, programs on the Discovery Channel, interviews and articles published in the mass media, school textbooks, and books aimed at lay readers—and what you will usually see is raw assertions, demagoguery, intimidation, and ridicule (especially when the subjects of biblical theism and the Genesis account of creation are raised).

But question the dogma that all life evolved from a single spontaneously-generated cell, point out that the universe is full of evidence for intelligent design, or demand the kind of proof for evolutionary origins that would ordinarily pass scientific muster, and the ardent evolutionist will simply dismiss you as a heretic or a bigot of the worst stripe. What they are tacitly acknowledging is that as far as they are concerned, evolution is a doctrine that must be received with implicit faith, not something that can be scientifically demonstrated. After all, the claims of true science can always be investigated, observed, reproduced, tested, and proved in the laboratory. So to insist that evolution and so-called “deep time” doctrines must be accepted without question is really just a tacit admission that these are not scientific ideas at all.

Consider these quotations from typical evolutionist writers:

  • No biologist today would think of submitting a paper entitled “New evidence for evolution;” it simply has not been an issue for a century. [3] Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 2nd ed., (Boston: Sinauer Associates, 1986), 15.
  • It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a fact, not theory. . . . All present forms of life arose from ancestral forms that were different. Birds arose from nonbirds and humans from nonhumans. No person who pretends to any understanding of the natural world can deny these facts. [4] R. C. Lewontin, “Evolution/creation debate: A time for truth,” Bioscience (1981), 31:559.
  • Here is what separates real scientists from the pseudoscientists of the school of intelligent design. . . . One thing all real scientists agree upon is the fact of evolution itself. It is a fact that we are cousins of gorillas, kangaroos, starfish, and bacteria. Evolution is as much a fact as the heat of the sun. It is not a theory, and for pity’s sake, let’s stop confusing the philosophically naive by calling it so. Evolution is a fact. [5] Richard Dawkins, “The Illusion of Design,” Natural History (November 2005), 53.

But as those statements themselves show, evolution is a dogma, not a demonstrable “fact.” I stand by the position I took in The Battle for the Beginning: “Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. [It is] as much a religion as any theistic world-view.” [6] The Battle for the Beginning, 12.

I’ll go even further: science cannot speak with any authority about when the universe began, how it came into being, or how life originated on earth. Science by definition deals with what can be observed, tested, measured, and investigated by empirical means. Scientific data by definition are facts that can be demonstrated by controlled, repeatable experiments that always yield consistent results. The beginning of the universe by its very nature falls outside the realm of scientific investigation.

To state the case plainly: there is no scientific way to explain creation. No one but God actually observed creation. It did not happen by any uniform, predictable, observable, repeatable, fixed, or natural laws. It was not a natural event or a series of natural events. The initial creation of matter was an instantaneous, monumental, inexplicable miracle—the exact opposite of a “natural” phenomenon. And the formation of the universe was a brief series of supernatural events that simply cannot be studied or explained by science. There are no natural processes involved in creation; the act of creation cannot be repeated; it cannot be tested; and therefore naturalistic theories purporting to explain the origin and age of the universe are unverifiable.

In other words, creation is a theological issue, not a scientific one. Scripture is our only credible source of information about creation, because God Himself was the only eyewitness to the event. We can either believe what He says or reject it. But no Christian should ever imagine that what we believe about the origin of the universe is merely a secondary, nonessential, or incidental matter. It is, after all, the very starting point of God’s self-revelation.

In fact, in its profound brevity, Genesis 1:1 is a very simple, clear, and unequivocal account of how the universe, the earth, and everything on the earth came to be: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is not an ambiguous statement.

Christians should not be intimidated by dogmatic naturalism. We do not need to invent a new interpretation of Genesis every time some geologist or astronomer declares that the universe must be older than he previously thought. Nor should we imagine that legitimate science poses any threat to the truth of Scripture. Above all, we must not seek ways to circumvent the clear meaning of God’s Word, compromise our trust in the Creator, or continually yield ground to every new theory of falsely-so-called science. That is precisely what Paul was warning Timothy about.

Sadly, it seems evolutionary thinking and qualms about the Genesis account of creation have reached epidemic levels among professing Christians in recent decades. Too many Christian leaders, evangelical schools, and Bible commentators have been willing to set aside the biblical account of a relatively young earth in order to accommodate the ever-changing estimates of naturalistic geologists and astronomers. They have thrown away sound hermeneutical principles—at least in the early chapters of Genesis—to accommodate the latest theories of evolution.

When I encounter people who think evolutionary doctrine trumps the biblical account of creation, I like to ask them where their belief in the Bible kicks in. Is it in chapter 3, where the fall of Adam and original sin are accounted for? In chapters 4-5, where early human history is chronicled? In chapters 6-8, with the record of the flood? In chapter 11, with the Tower of Babel? Because if you bring naturalism and its presuppositions to the early chapters of Genesis, it is just a short step to denying all the miracles of Scripture—including the resurrection of Christ. If we want to make science the test of biblical truth rather than vice versa, why would it not make just as much sense to question the biblical record of the resurrection as it does to reject the Genesis account? But “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! . . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

 

       

          The Afternoon Sound Alternative 09-29-2015 with DJ Girlfawkes        
Playlist:

New Order- Plastic - Music Complete
- voicebreak -
Kraftwerk- Aerodynamik Intelligent Design Mix By Hot Chip - Aerodynamik La Forme Remixes EP
Jamie Xx- Obvs - In Colour
- voicebreak -
Tame Impala- Let It Happen - Currents
Unknown Mortal Orchestra- MultiLove - MultiLove
Ratatat- Cream On Chrome - Magnifique
- voicebreak -
Joywave- Destruction - How Do You Feel Now
Last Dinosaurs- Take Your Time - Wellness
The Royal Concept- Hurricane - Smile EP
Alpine- Foolish - Yuck
Bully- Milkman - Feels Like
Benjamin Booker- Have You Seen My Son - Benjamin Booker
Courtney Barnett- Pedestrian At Best - Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit
- voicebreak -
Born Ruffians- Stupid Dream - RUFF
Born Ruffians- We Made It - RUFF
Eagles Of Death Metal- The Reverend - Zipper Down
Eagles Of Death Metal- Save A Prayer - Zipper Down
- voicebreak -
Nathaniel Rateliff The Night Sweats- SOB - Nathaniel Rateliff The Night Sweats
La Luz- You Disappear - Weirdo Shrine
T Rex- Zip Gun Boogie - Bolans Zip Gun
Leon Bridges- Twistin And Groovin - Coming Home
- voicebreak -
Wolf Alice- Moaning Lisa Smile - My Love Is Cool
The Orwells- Mallrats La La La - Remember When
Bjrk- Violently Happy - Debut
The Dead Weather- I Feel Love Every Million Miles - Dodge And Burn
Wavves- Heavy Metal Detox - V
Wavves- Tarantula - V
Childbirth- Womens Rights - Womens Rights
Childbirth- Nasty Grrls - Womens Rights
Viet Cong- Continental Shelf - Viet Cong
Starlight Mints- Pages - Built On Squares
Big Grams- Lights On - Big Grams
- voicebreak -
Glass Animals- Gooey - Zaba
Kurt Vile- Pretty Pimpin - Blieve Im Goin Down
The Sword- Mist Shadow - High Country
US Girls- Damn That Valley - Half Free
Blackalicious- Ashes To Ashes - Imani Vol 1
Gary Clark Jr- Church - The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim
Sharon Van Etten- I Dont Want To Let You Down - I Dont Want To Let You Down
- voicebreak -
Ryan Adams- Blank Space - 1989


playlist URL: http://www.afterfm.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/playlist.listing/showInstanceID/20/playlistDate/2015-09-29
          Intelligent Design        
Professor James Hitchmough is one of the designers responsible for the planting that will be used at the Olympic Park.  I recently heard him give a talk at the Garden Museum about a planting system he has developed after observing how plants grow successfully alongside one another in the wild. In a nutshell (as I […]
          The Odd Couple        
Download:Audio icon 00398.mp3

In 2006, Jim Henderson, a Christian minister, (1) turned to an unusual source for help with his project to improve churches. He outbid more than a dozen competitors in an eBay auction in which Hemant Mehta, a self-described “friendly atheist,” offered to attend churches and evaluate their services and programs. Thus was born a religious version of the odd couple. (2)

Over the next few months, Mehta visited fifteen Christian churches of differing sizes in four states. (3) So, what did an atheist have to say about them? (4) Here are eight of his major findings and recommendations:

  • One. There are very few female pastors and speakers. Churches need to do more to identify and recruit gifted women for these roles;
  • Two. Some churches overdo music and singing. As a result, many members, by their own admission, show up late or tune out in midstream. Time devoted to music and singing should be reduced; 
  • Three. Common rituals, such as frequent standing and sitting, and scripted group responses, are typically mechanical and meaningless. Some rituals should be phased out; the history, meaning, and value of those that are kept should be fully explained to the congregation;
  • Four. Pastors often quote the Bible without giving any clarification of its relevance to day-to-day life. A greater effort should be made to show a connection between Bible verses and the actual issues and challenges which people face in their lives; (5)
  • Five. Some churches invest significant resources in missionary work in faraway places but do little to help those in need locally. Part of the mission of all churches should be to improve living conditions in their own community for all residents; (6)
  • Six. Some pastors tend to attack virtually everything they oppose as part of a war on Christianity. Examples are evolution, gay marriage, and objections to religious displays on public property. This practice demonizes many good people, closes off the possibility of honest dialogue, and needlessly fosters a bunker mentality. Pastors need to tone down the rhetoric and work harder to understand, tolerate, and respect people with whom they differ; 
  • Seven. Many pastors and other speakers, especially those at mega-churches, are very effective communicators. They give instructive and entertaining talks, they focus on one central theme, and they use humor. By contrast, some pastors are poor communicators who do none of this. They would benefit from a refresher course in public speaking; (7) and 
  • Eight. Many churches need an infusion of energy and excitement. To this end, they should institute programming such as inviting “a compelling speaker”; sponsoring debates on critical issues, featuring opposing viewpoints; (8) holding question-and-answer sessions; organizing volunteers for community service; and donating funds to a charity that helps all people, not just Christians. (9)

As the project drew to a close, Henderson and Mehta learned that Mehta’s reports resonated with many of the congregations that Mehta visited and many others. Thus, the eBay collaboration was a win-win venture for this odd couple. (10)


  1. Henderson is also author of Evangelism Without Additives, WaterBrook Press, 2005, 2007.
  2. Eventually Mehta wrote a book about his project entitled I Sold My Soul on eBay, WaterBrook Press, 2007. The forward is by Rob Bell, a well-known evangelist. WaterBrook Press serves the Christian book market. Subsequently, Mehta published two books: Friendly Atheist, which is available from Amazon in a kindle edition, and The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide, Patheos Press, 2012. Also, see his website - FriendlyAtheist.com. Money was not the reason that Mehta opted for the eBay auction. In fact, he donated his proceeds to a secular organization, the Secular Student Alliance, “an umbrella organization for atheist and agnostic college groups.” I Sold My Soul on eBay, p. 49. His primary motivation was to learn more about Christianity. Although he grew up in Chicago, Mehta’s exposure to Christianity was minimal because his family was part of a “committed Jain community”; his secondary motivation was to promote dialogue between believers and non-believers.
  3. At each site, Mehta looked and listened, used a tape recorder, took notes, and in many cases talked with pastors and church members. 
  4. Mehta submitted his reports online on off-the-map.org.
  5. See p. 146. On scriptural relevance, Mehta writes: “One thing I always found effective in the churches I visited was that certain pastors followed their retelling of a Bible story with a variety of current applications: Here’s how we can be like Joseph at our workplace. Here’s how we can emulate Jesus in our relationships. Are you having trouble handling the amount of your school work? Let me point your to a relevant passage in the Bible.” (p. 147)
  6. Mehta gives high marks in this regard to the Windsor Village United Methodist Church, an African American church, which has brought “social services, commercial enterprises, health services, educational opportunities, job skills assistance, and much more to an underserved area in Houston.” (p. 95) On the other hand, Mehta is critical of churches which establish explicitly “Christian” schools “in parts of town where students are struggling,” allegedly to improve education. He opines that the same goal can be accomplished simply by “pitching in to help improve the work being done at existing (public) schools in the neighborhood.” (p. 142) Overall, Mehta says that “the churches that made a big impact on me were the ones that knew their ‘church’ was not limited to a building. They made it a priority to spread the values of Christianity by serving the real needs of people around them. In this case, actions speak louder than preaching.” (p. 143) 
  7. Mehta has a fascinating suggestion for pastors to gauge their effectiveness as speakers. They should videotape their sermons with the camera directed not at them but at the audience. When they review the tape, they should ask “Are the people attentive? Are they taking notes? Are they smiling? Or are they staring at the same page in the day’s program for extended periods of time?” (pp. 140-141) This technique is likely to work, however, only if the audience does not know about it. 
  8. See pp. 143-144. On the need for speakers who differ with many Christians, Mehta writes: “If the church has the correct stance on, say, Intelligent Design, then there should be no problem with bringing in a credible evolutionary biologist who can explain the scientific view.” “Bring in someone from the gay community when gay marriage issues arise. Bring in a leader from the Muslim community when you’re discussing Islam. Bring in a pacifist when you’re considering issues of war, national defense, and militarism.” (p. 145)
  9. Mehta submitted many other findings and recommendations beyond these eight. Among the others are these two: a) Some pastors urge congregants to seek forgiveness from God when they mistreat people. Pastors should also urge them to seek forgiveness from the people whom they mistreated; b) Some pastors condemn the distribution of condoms to young people despite the fact that they impede the spread of STDs and AIDS and that calls for abstinence don’t work. Pastors need to be more practical and realistic. 
  10. Henderson was so pleased with Mehta’s work that he hired another atheist, Matt Casper, and together they visited and evaluated twelve more churches. This later collaboration resulted in two books: Jim Henderson and Matt Casper, Jim and Casper Go to Church, Tyndale House Publishers, 2007, and Saving Casper, Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.

          Religion in the Public Schools        

Millions of dollars are spent on litigation annually over disputes about religion in the public schools. A great many of these lawsuits could be avoided if school officials and parents had a better understanding of the key laws and court decisions governing this area. Fortunately, a book has just been published which can promote such an understanding and help all parties comply with the law and minimize litigation. It is entitled Religion in the Public Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents' Legal Rights. The author is Anne Marie Lofaso who teaches in the College of Law at West Virginia University. (1)

  • Religion in the Public Schools deals with all the hot button legal issues in our public schools, including prayer, moments of silence, meditation, and invocations,
  • dress codes,
  • Bible study groups,
  • censorship of student publications,
  • use of school facilities by non-curricular and non-school groups,
  • alternatives to evolution such as creation science and intelligent design,
  • courses on religious scriptures or world religions,
  • requests to accommodate religious holidays and religious dietary practices, and
  • the right of students to opt-out of material in classes to which they or their parents object, among others.

Let's focus here on just one of these, prayer in the public schools. Professor Lofaso points out that decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts place strict limits on prayer in school because of the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution which prohibits government entities from endorsing or promoting religion. She writes:Under Supreme Court decisional law, it is unconstitutional for public school officials to write prayers for recitation by students, select prayers for recitation by students, start each day with a reading from the Bible, set aside moments for silent prayer or meditation if the purpose of such a moment is clearly to foster prayer, invite outside clergy to graduation to give a prayer or an invocation, or develop a selection process for students to vote on which students may give a prayer...before high school football games over the school's public address system. (2)Even prayer at school board meetings is unconstitutional. (3) Does any prayer on school property pass constitutional muster? Yes! An individual student may pray on his or her own at any time "before, during, or after the school day." (4) Further, prayer which is initiated by students and which is voluntary, such as early morning prayer meetings around a flagpole or a pre-game prayer, is permissible provided that school officials, including coaches, do not promote or lead it. (5)

Professor Lofaso's book should be required reading for future public school administrators and teachers who are matriculating in the nation's colleges of education. It should also be read and kept for reference by superintendents, principals, members of boards of education, attorneys who practice public school law, teachers, and parents. It is thorough, accessible, clear, and extensively documented. Indeed, Religion in the Public Schools is a model of discipline-related public service for which Anne Marie Lofaso deserves the gratitude of everyone with an interest in public education.


  1. 2009, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. ISBN 978-0-615-31001-5.
  2. Pages 26-27.
  3. Page 33.
  4. Pages 37-38.
  5. Page 38. "Where the conduct is genuinely student-initiated activity and not fostered or supported by public school staff, that conduct is constitutionally permissible." (Page 37) At the same time, though, there is no consensus among the courts whether teachers and other school representatives may legally participate in such student-initiated prayer meetings. See pages 38-39.

© 2009 Tom Shipka


          What Ever Happened to Jefferson and Madison?        

The most recent book of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Garry Wills, is Head and Heart: American Christianities. The chapters on religion during the Revolutionary Era show how far the USA today has drifted from the plan of our founders (1).
Wills explains that the founders believed that to build an enduring republic they would have to minimize the impact of religion on government. They were keenly aware of the blood that was spilled in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of the Jews, and the religious wars in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and they saw first hand religious intolerance in the colonies. They also agreed with British philosopher, John Locke, (2) that human beings have a natural right to form their own beliefs on religion based on reason and conscience, that the duly-constituted government must possess a monopoly of power, that churches are subordinate to the State and its laws, and that churches may use only admonitions and exhortations, and never coercion, in dealing with their members or non-members.
Wills tells us that Jefferson and Madison led the battle to build a lasting new republic based on the separation of government and religion. Jefferson's insistence on this is found in his "Bill to Establish Religious Freedom" in Virginia, his Letter to the Danbury Baptists, and his behavior as President. The Virginia statute disestablished the Anglican Church and ended the practice of taxing Virginians to support it (3). In his Letter to the Danbury Baptists, Jefferson characterized the Virginia statute, and the Constitution, as erecting "a wall of separation between Church and state." During his presidency, he refused to issue prayer day proclamations (4). As for Madison, Father of the Constitution, the Constitution, his essay against compulsory taxation to support churches (5), the "Federalist Papers," and his behavior as President show his agreement with Jefferson. Madison insisted on religious liberty for all and required churches to tolerate one another. He also opposed a religious test for public office and government support for a particular church or for religion in general. Like Jefferson, he opposed prayer day proclamations (6). He also opposed paying chaplains with public funds, tax exemptions for churches, government-endorsement of religious charities, and allowing churches to acquire extensive wealth (7).
Thus, our founders were deeply fearful of sectarianism and they aimed to disentangle religion and government (8). Although contemporary political leaders pay lip service to Jefferson and Madison, few follow their lead. Today most politicians pander to religious groups and their leaders. The White House sends hundreds of millions of dollars to religious charities, the Justice Department hires only applicants who pass an evangelical litmus test, atheists or agnostics are unelectable to high office, pastors openly defy IRS rules about partisan political activity, forty states exempt parents who subscribe to faith-healing from prosecution for denying medical care to their sick children, embryonic stem cell research is halted, and Genesis myths trump science in many classrooms. The list goes on and on (9). Today, religion rules. Whatever happened to Jefferson and Madison?


 

  1. See "Part Two: Enlightened Religion," Chapters 7-14, pp. 121-249.
  2. Locke's writings had a powerful influence on our founders. The doctrines of natural rights, limited government, government by consent, majority rule, the separation of powers, the legitimacy of revolution or rebellion against an illegitimate government, the separation of church and state, and others, are found in his First Treatise of Government, Second Treatise of Government, and Letter Concerning Toleration.
  3. Jefferson's "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" provides, in part, that "...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, workplace, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall (he) be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall (he) otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; ...all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." (Quoted in Wills, p. 196)
  4. Wills, p. 237.
  5. "Memorial and Remonstrance." See Wills, pp. 207-222.
  6. Madison reluctantly issued a prayer day proclamation during the War of 1812, a decision he later regretted.
  7. Wills, pp. 242-247. On the issue of church wealth, Madison was fearful that wealthy churches would attempt to exert political influence.
  8. Wills shares two "laments" with readers by individuals who recognized, and apparently regretted, the secular origins of our nation.
  9. a. In 1812 Timothy Wright wrote:
  10. "We formed our Constitution without any acknowledgement of God, without any recognition of His mercies to us as a people, of his government, or even of his existence. The Convention by which it was formed never asked, even once, his direction or his blessing upon their labors. Thus we commenced our national existence, under the present system, without God." (Quoted in Wills, p. 223)
  11. b. In 1813 Chancey Lee wrote:
  12. "Can we pause and reflect for a moment, with the mingled emotions of wonder and regret, that that public instrument which guarantees our political rights and freedom and independence - our Constitution of national government, framed by such an august, learned and able body of men, formally adopted by the solemn resolution of each state, and justly admired and celebrated for its consummate political wisdom - has not the impress of religion upon it, not the smallest recognition of the government or the being of God, or the dependence and accountability of men - be astonished, O Earth! - nothing by which a foreigner might certainly decide whether we believe in the one true God, or in any God." (Quoted in Wills, p. 223-224)
  13. Other examples include vouchers and other forms of government support of religious schools, displays of nativity scenes on public property, allowance of Christian proselytizing in the military academies, support of proselytizing by Christian ministries in jails and prisons, prayer breakfasts sponsored by public officials, legislative prayers, office holders and candidates closing speeches with "God bless you and God bless America" or a variation, newly-elected presidents utilizing a Bible during their oath and adding "So help me God" to the presidential oath provided in the Constitution, highly publicized efforts by office-holders to block the disconnection of life support systems from individuals in persistent vegetative states, such as Terri Schiavo, stacking boards of education with evangelicals, evangelical opposition to bills promoting children's rights, state referenda defining marriage as the bond between one man and one women, "In God We Trust" on currency, "One Nation Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, government "sex education" programs promoting abstinence only and ignoring condoms and the pill, the White House and others promoting the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution, opposition to casino gambling by evangelicals and their political patrons in some states, the placing by the State of Utah of 12-feet crosses at the sites of state highway patrol officers who died in the line of duty, a 36-year old "Free Day Away" program at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri where trainees may leave base provided that they participate in a religious program conducted by the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Lebanon, Missouri, incorporation of religion into the health care programs of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, etc.

© 2008 Tom Shipka


          Judge Jones        

John Locke, America's philosophical father, cited as a key objective of government to provide "known and indifferent judge(s) with authority to determine all differences according to the established law..." (1) Locke's ideal of an independent judiciary guided only by the law has not always been realized in practice in the United States. One clear case in which it was involves federal Judge John E. Jones III who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. On December 20, 2005, Judge Jones issued a 139-page ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.
The case involved a challenge by eleven parents to a decision by the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board to introduce the doctrine of intelligent design in ninth grade science classes as a plausible scientific alternative to evolution. The parents alleged that this constituted a violation of the First Amendment prohibition against government endorsement of religion because intelligent design is a religious doctrine and not a scientific one.
To rule on this case competently, Judge Jones was required to know and apply not only the relevant law, including the Constitution of the U.S., the Constitution of Pennsylvania, and dozens of complicated prior rulings, but also to understand the methodology of science, the theory of evolution, and the doctrine of intelligent design. To rule on this case fairly, Judge Jones was required to distance himself from the culture wars in America and from the intense passions which surrounded the case in Dover.
In his ruling Judge Jones found that intelligent design is not a testable scientific hypothesis but "a mere relabeling of creationism" that has no place in a public school science curriculum. His clear and cogent ruling followed weeks of testimony by expert witnesses to whom he obviously listened intently.
As Time magazine observed, "Had (Judge) Jones been a Democrat or an atheist, his judgment might have had less impact." (2) The fact that he was a Republican, a Bush-appointee, and a Lutheran, took a lot of the steam out of the intelligent-design movement nationally. (3)
In the conclusion of his ruling, Judge Jones hit upon a key point. He wrote that the proponents of intelligent design have made a "bedrock assumption which is utterly false," namely, that they must choose between God or science. (4) Drawing on the testimony of expert witnesses in the case, he insisted that evolution and other well-established scientific theories are compatible with "belief in the existence of a supreme being and religion in general." (5)
After Judge Jones issued his ruling, he and his family were put under the protection of federal marshals because of death threats and he was also rebuked by critics, such as Phyllis Schlafly, who said he had "stuck the knife in the backs" of evangelical Christians in Pennsylvania. (6) Judge Jones replied to Schlafly in a speech on February 10, 2006, in which he reminded all of us of that "judges must be impartial and that the independence of the judiciary is premised on a judge's pledge of freedom from partisan influences." (7)
Judge Jones's speech probably did not win over those disappointed by his ruling. Nevertheless, by his knowledge, courage, and devotion to judicial impartiality, he is a model to his peers and a judge who deserves consideration for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court when there is a vacancy.



_______

  1.  The Second Treatise of Government, Chapter IX, Of the Ends of Political Society and Government, 1690.
  2. Matt Ridley, Time, April 30, 2006
  3.  Ibid.
  4.  Case No. 04cv2688, p. 136
  5. Ibid. Two of the expert witnesses in the trial have written books aimed at showing the compatibility of evolution and belief in God. See Kenneth R. Miller, Finding Darwin's God, and John F. Haught, God after Darwin. Miller is a cell biologist at Brown University and Haught is a theologian at Georgetown University. Both are Roman Catholics.
  6.  Phyllis Schlafly, Townhall.com, January 2, 2006
  7.  Speech by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III to the Anti-Defamation League, National Executive Committee Meeting, Palm Beach, Florida, February 10, 2006. See www.adl.org/Civil_Rights/speech_judge_jones.asp

© 2007 Tom Shipka


          Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District        

Next month marks the second anniversary of the landmark ruling by Judge John E. Jones III in the U. S. District Court in Harrisburg in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. (1) Tammy Kitzmiller was one of eleven parents of students in the public schools of Dover, a township about twenty miles south of Harrisburg, who sued the school district after the Board of Education adopted a policy requiring the reading of a statement in ninth-grade biology classes which cast doubt on the scientific adequacy of evolution, said that "Intelligent Design" is a plausible alternative explanation, and referred students to an intelligent-design textbook entitled Of Pandas and People. (2) Intelligent Design, or ID, holds that "living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of a higher force." (3) In their lawsuit, the first challenge to ID in the federal courts, the plaintiffs asked the Court to stop the reading of the pro-ID statement because ID is a religious doctrine, not a scientific theory.
In his 139-page ruling on December 20, 2005, Judge Jones found for the plaintiffs. He said that ID is not science but a thinly veiled form of creationism and that it is unconstitutional to teach it in a public school. (4)
Judge Jones learned a lot during the trial about science and the relation of science to religion, thanks to the testimony of expert witnesses for the plaintiffs, including Kenneth R. Miller, a cell biologist from Brown University, and John F. Haught, a theologian from Georgetown University, both of whom are practicing Roman Catholics. They pointed out that scientists seek natural causes of natural events, a strategy called methodological naturalism, and that ID violates this because it posits non-natural or supernatural causes. For this reason, Dr. Miller said, ID is a "science stopper."
We can illustrate this point with an example. Suppose you visit your doctor to seek relief of pain in your right arm, your doctor examines you and reviews the results of an MRI, and then reports that a herniated disk is the cause, a problem correctible with surgery. Here your doctor followed methodological naturalism. But suppose that instead of doing this, your doctor tells you that your pain has no cause within your body but is due to an evil spirit. By hypothesizing a non-natural or supernatural explanation of a natural condition, your doctor, like the advocates of ID, abandons science.
Judge Jones took no stance on whether the cosmos has an intelligent cause, declaring, properly, that such matters are outside the province of science. His ruling was informed and brave. And who appointed this Republican church-goer to the federal bench? None other than ID enthusiast President George W. Bush in 2002!
You can learn more about this famous case on NOVA on your local PBS station at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 13, when a two-hour film entitled "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" will be aired.
______________________

  1. Case No. 04cv2688.
  2. The vote was 6-3. The three Board members who opposed the ID policy resigned in protest. At the next election, all of the Board members who voted for the ID policy and sought reelection were defeated by candidates opposed to the policy.
  3. MSNBC.com, December 20, 2005.
  4. Judge Jones also lambasted the members of the pro-ID faction of the Dover Board of Education who, he charged, lied under oath "time and again" to camouflage the religious motives behind the ID policy. See page 132 of the ruling. Judge Jones awarded attorneys' fees to the plaintiffs, costing the school district over $1 million. The newly constituted Board declined to appeal Judge Jones's ruling.

© 2007 Tom Shipka


          Garry Wills, A Country Ruled by Faith        

It is no surprise that George W. Bush made campaign promises to his political base - evangelicals. But, as a recent article in The New York Review of Books by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills shows ("A Country Ruled by Faith," Nov. 16, 2006, pp. 8-12), the ambitious scope of the President's evangelical agenda is surprising.

The President began by ridding government of as many holdover liberals as possible and replacing them with evangelicals. To implement this plan, he appointed Kay Coles James head of the White House Office of Personnel. (8) James had worked for Pat Robertson and James Dobson, two evangelical major leaguers. (8) Also, the President picked key advisors and cabinet members, among them Condoleeza Rice, Karen Hughes, John Ashcroft, Andrew Card, and Michael Gerson, who shared his religious worldview. (8) Even appointees to the Iraqi Provisional Government came largely from a pool of evangelicals, Wills says. (11)

Next, President Bush gave evangelical leaders unprecedented access. Either the President or his key staff consulted them routinely on virtually all issues of interest to them.

Further, the President established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to funnel money to them. (8) Grants went to Pat Robertson, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and many others, including selected African-American clergy, such as Bishop Sedgwick Daniels of Milwaukee.

The President also carried the evangelical perspective to scientific and social issues. Saying that the jury is still out on evolution, he proposed teaching intelligent design, a version of creationism, alongside science in science classrooms. (10) Also, his administration ignored objections by scientists to the sale of a book at the Grand Canyon "claiming that the Grand Canyon was formed by Noah's Flood," (10) and it scuttled publication of a draft guide for park employees which pointed out that the canyon was not formed in the alleged time period of the Flood. Additionally, to pacify the religious right, Wills says, the Bush administration
*opposed embryonic stem cell research, in defiance of moderates in his own party,
*ignored scientific warnings about global warming,
*spent $170 million on abstinence-only sex education in the public schools while removing from the web site of The Centers for Disease Control the findings of a panel that abstinence-only programs don't work,
*refused to make the morning-after pill available to women over-the-counter, despite the recommendations of the board of the Food and Drug Administration, *sought a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage,
*forbad the expenditure of U.S. foreign aid to any organization which distributed condoms or provided information to women about abortion, despite the fact that birth control and abortion remain legal in the U.S., and
*protected a controversial general who publicly characterized the war on terrorism as a battle of Christians against Satan. (10-11)

Wills' article shows that he views George W. Bush as a president on a mission to destroy the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Yet Wills overlooks an important fact: the President is not universally loved among evangelicals. Some have protested that he politicized the faith-based initiatives by spending mostly in battleground states to help Republicans and that there remains a huge gap between the billions which Bush promised to evangelicals and the millions which he actually delivered to them. And surely, if exit polls are accurate, many evangelicals deserted him in the recent elections.

Copyright © 2006 by Tom Shipka


          269: Camera Evolution or Intelligent Design?        
Who's been stalking your Facebook photos? Nikon and Sony embrace Android. Getty and Pictage change hands. Vogue bans skinny models. Plus an interview with Sue Bryce.
          Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design        
Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
author: Michael Shermer
name: Lori
average rating: 3.95
book published: 2006
rating: 0
read at:
date added: 2011/04/07
shelves: to-read
review:


          Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial – (creationism vs evolution)        
In this award winning documentary, NOVA captures the turmoil that tore apart the community of Dover, Pennsylvania in one of the latest battles over teaching evolution in public schools. Featuring trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, including expert scientists and Dover parents, teachers, and town officials, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design […]
          Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial – (creationism vs evolution)        
In this award winning documentary, NOVA captures the turmoil that tore apart the community of Dover, Pennsylvania in one of the latest battles over teaching evolution in public schools. Featuring trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, including expert scientists and Dover parents, teachers, and town officials, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design […]
          Intelligent Design Theory: Science or Religion?        
[+81] Discussion by wandeljw on 04/28/05 1:37 PM Replies: 23,161 Views: 782,890
Tags: Evolution, Science, Intelligent Design, Religion, Creationism
Last Post by camlok on 06/07/17 12:11 PM
          Phoenix Bodies - Raise the Bullshit Flag [2006]        



Genre: Screamo / Grindcore
Country:


Tracklist:

- Raise The Bullshit Flag
- Resonance Of The Strom Thurmond Death Rattle
- Hardon For A Hummer
- You've Been Hamburgled
- Striving For Autism
- I Guarantee You're A Pile Of Shit
- Test Of Faith At The Trinity Broadcasting Network
- If Money Is Power...
- Intelligent Designer Sunglasses
- The War On Entropy


[Download]
          Tim_Tyler on Recursive Self-Improvement        

For some odd reason, I run into a lot of people who vigorously deny that this phenomenon is at all novel; they say, "Oh, humanity is already self-improving, humanity is already going through a FOOM, humanity is already in a Singularity" etc. etc.

People like me. I don't see much of a counter-argument in this post - or at least not a coherent one.

The future contains a feedback loop that the past does not.

It seems like a denial of sexual selection to me. Brainpower went into making new brains historically - via sexual selection. Feedback from the previous generation of brains into the next generation has taken place historically.

It's also a denial of cultural evolution - which is even more obvious. The past contains several decades of Moore's law - the product of a self-improving computer industry. It seems impossible to deny that computers help to design the next generation of computers. They are doing more of the work in each passing generation.

Feedback from the current generation of thinking equipment into the next one is an ancient phenomenon. Even directed mutations and intelligent design are quite old news now.

One of the few remaining dramatic future developments will occur when humans drop out of the loop - allowing it to iterate at more like full speed.


          Tim_Tyler on Recursive Self-Improvement        

Of course the brain has developed over the long course of evolution via sexual selection.

This is not obvious - and indeed for a long time it was not even a popular theory. Many people thought tool use - and its resulting survival characteristics was the important factor:

"Most traditional theories, including that of Charles Darwin, suggested some combination of tool use and hunting were the key selective pressures favoring big brains, but increasing evidence of hunting and tool use in other species such as chimpanzees indicates our ancestors were not unique in that regard," Flinn said. "The most exceptional of our mental gifts involves understanding what is going on in other people's minds by using skills such as empathy and self-awareness.

Still today, one viable theory is that the human brain developed as a result of nutritional constraints being lifted - as a result of a diet including meat and seafood providing omega-rich fatty acids in abundance (see "The Driving Force") - and that theory makes little reference to sexual selection.

You might as well argue that the "intelligence explosion" starts with the first prokaryote.

I refer to that as the "technology explosion" (though strictly that began much earlier). The term "intelligence" is usually associated with organisms which have brains - and I do indeed argue that the explosion began with the origin of brains.

You know, cave dwellers used tools to improve their tools. Is that when the "intelligence explosion" began with recursion?

In my view, the intelligence explosion is best though of as beginning with the origin of animal brains - since that is when we have evidence that brain size began increasing exponentially. So the answer to your question is "no": the intelligence explosion did not begin with cave dwellers. It is curious that you would ask such a wrong question if you had read my essay on the subject.

I am not the one using the "recursion" terminology, without saying clearly what is doing the recursing. My point is if what is doing the recursing is "intelligence" then this is not a new trick for evolution - far from it. Intelligence has been intimately involved in the origin of the next generation for millions of years. So it needs to be specified what type of recursion is going on - else the whole point falls flat.

What is going to be new in the future? It's not intelligence - but it is intelligent design. Previously we only really had intelligent selection. Intelligent mutations were there too in principle - but they had to be time-consumingly transferred into the germ-line via the Baldwin effect.


          D P BuZZ - June 30, 2011        

This week, we are looking at the impact of Final Cut Pro X on the developer community… and our future. Join host Larry Jordan and co-host Michael Horton, as they talk with:

Andrew Little, President & Co-founder, Red Giant Software

Red Giant Software was one of three companies that had plugins ready for Final Cut Pro X at launch. This week, we talk with Andrew Little, president and co-founder of Red Giant, to learn about their new products, the challenges of working with Apple’s new plug-in architecture, and how effects work in FCP X.

GenArts was the second of three companies with plugins ready for Final Cut Pro X at launch. This week, we talk with todd Prives, senior business development and marketing manager for GenArts, to learn about their new Sapphire Edge plug-ins and who they are designed for.

Alex Grossman, president, Active Storage, Inc.

Active Storage is a high-end storage company focused on hardware solutions for media companies. This week, Alex Grossman spoke at the 2011 Creative Storage Conference and shared his thoughts for media storage in the future. However, before that, Alex was the product manager for XSAN, XServe, and other high-end products from Apple. With the release of FCP X, Apple has shifted from workgroup solutions to single-user editing. We want to learn what Alex thinks about the new release -wearing both his old and new hats – and where it fits for the future.

Billy Harrison, Product Manager, Promise Technology

When Apple launched Thunderbolt, earlier this year, one of the companies they featured was Promise Technology. This week, Promise announced Pegasus, their Thunderbolt-attached RAID. Since FCP X requires high-speed, locally-attached storage, this is the perfect time to talk with Billy Harrison, product manager for Promise Technology about this new gear.

Bruce Sharpe, Founder, Singular Software

When Final Cut Pro X was announced, one of the highlighted features was its ability to sync separate audio and video clips — something that PluralEyes from Singular Software has been doing for a while. This week, we talk with Singular Software founder, Bruce Sharpe, to see if this is the death of PluralEyes, or if there is something they can do that Final Cut Pro X can’t.

Patrick Inhofer, Colorist/Finisher/Owner, Fini.TV

With the release of FCP X, Color seems to be discontinued. However, the color tools inside Final Cut Pro X, while beefed up compared to FCP 7, are not as good as those in Color. This week, Patrick Inhofer, colorist, author, and owner of Fini.TV joins us to talk about whether Color is really dead and, if so, how we are going to make our projects look great without it.

Philip Hodgetts, CEO, Intelligent Design

FCP X extensively supports metadata, so its time to bring back our metadata expert – Philip Hodgetts, CEO of Intelligent Assistance – to explain what this means, why its good news, and how we work with it. We also want to ask him about the lack of XML support in Final Cut Pro X and what that means for people that want to get their media out of FCP and into another application.

Plus, we are working to squeeze in a couple more special folks – so consider them as last-minute surprises. This is gonna be an EXCITING show!!


          Know Your Thermomix: The Thermomix Spatula        

The Thermomix spatula is a brilliant example of the intelligent design of the Thermomix TM31. The basics The Thermomix spatula is made from high grade, food quality polypropylene that is

The post Know Your Thermomix: The Thermomix Spatula appeared first on Why is There Air?.


          Questioning the Question        
In Proverbs 26 Solomon tells us that we are not to answer a fool according to his folly, or we’ll make fools of ourselves. On the other hand, Solomon continues, answer a fool according to his folly, or the fool will think he is wise in his own eyes (vv.4–5)—he’ll think he has uncovered some wisdom. We often find this sort of thing with questions that are raised in order to denigrate the notion of an eternal Being, an Intelligent Designer, or an uncaused first Cause.

One of those questions is “Can God create a rock so heavy that he can’t move it?” That question is a classic straw man that has most Christians looking like the proverbial deer in the headlights. At best, the question challenges God’s omnipotence; at worst, it undermines His existence.

At the very outset, however, we should recognize a problem with the premise of the question. While it is true that God can do anything that is consistent with His nature, it’s absurd to suggest that He can do just anything. God can’t lie (Hebrews 6:18). God can’t be tempted (James 1:13). God can’t cease to exist (Psalm 102:25–27).

Furthermore, just as it is impossible to make a one-sided triangle, so it is impossible to make rocks too heavy to be moved. What an all powerful God can create, He can obviously move. Put another way, not even an omnipotent God can do the logically impossible.

A wide variety of similar questions are raised to undermine the Christian view of God. Therefore, it’s crucial that we learn to question the question, rather than simply assume that a question is valid
          Body Painting for Peace!!        
Body Painting for Peace!! The Intelligent Design T-shirt line is proud to present our first series of PeacePaint videos. This is a powerful way to bring your attention to some very important issues effecting our world.

          Can An American Interior Designer In Paris Tie French Culture To Intelligent Design? Cuoco Black's Curio Parlor Lounge Does So As A Metaphor For Life Above And Below Earth        

Miami and New York City based interior designer Cuoco Black traveled to Paris after winning the contract to design a second lounge for his young clients. Under their direction Black is invited to design a two level space embracing a Parisian cultural icon...taxidermied animals. Such design gestures might seem somewhat insensitive to those whose cultural lineage is not linked to France, but the French hold their taxidermy in high esteem. Designer Black's cerebral interior is an elegant and dignified palette which marries architecture, entrepreneurship and history.

(PRWeb August 31, 2012)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/8/prweb9441717.htm


          Liberalology        
Preface:

As some of my readers know, I tried opening a new blog for a while called Ex Posteriori. It never really took off for me. I only posted 23 times in 7 months, and it just wasn't the same, but I WAS ready to blog again, so I decided to reopen the ol' Memento Moron digs. The irony is, the last entry I ever posted at Ex Posteriori was also the longest and, I believe, best effort I made over there. The topic of it was one that has since then come up in further conversation, so I thought I'd repost it here, along with the comments that ensued:


Liberalology

I have an odd little habit... well, ok, I have quite a few odd little habits, but this one in particular: When driving, I tend to actually pay attention to peoples bumper stickers. I like to read them, both for content and style. I almost always have an opinion on them, but I like to give each one a moments consideration before passing judgement.

Take today for instance.

On the way to The Lad's swimming lesson, I noticed a car up ahead sporting a sticker that said "Jesus Is a Liberal". You can imagine my first response. And you'd be wrong. Because my first response was not, "No, He wasn't".

Oh, don't get me wrong. I utterly reject the assertion made by many, particularly amongst Christians of certain old mainline denominations, that the teachings of Christ and the early Church most closely jive with the modern philosophies of the left. But that's an argument to take up in another thread, another post, because despite the fact that I most certainly do assert that no, He wasn't, it wasn't my first response. My first response was, "Pfft. So?"

Let me explain.

It's obvious that the assertion implied by said bumper sticker was "So you should be too". And, given my own beliefs about applying my faith to my life, if I agreed with the first sentence, yes, I'd accept the assertion of the second. In fact, therre was a time when I was a young, impressionable Christian when I did just that. I advocated socialism and the "Justice" movement as being Christ-like. However, as I've said before, I outgrew that line of thinking. I reject the latter assertion because I reject the former.

But I find the whole argument particularly unpalatable coming from the majority of the left, because even if the former were proven to them to NOT be true, they would NOT discard the latter. These are the same people that scream "Separation of Church and State!" anytime Christians oppose abortion, or gay marriage, or sex ed in schools, or try to have a Prayer at the flagpole day or promote the teaching of Intelligent Design or any other of a myriad of issues that happen to be spiritually or religiously informed to one degree or another.

Again, I don't want to misrepresent myself or be misrepresented regarding my OWN stances on such subjects. I'm not saying if I agree or disagree with fellow Christians on such topics. My views tend to get me in trouble equally with both the religious and the secular alike, and those views would take up more time and words than the scope of this blog entry.

My point is that like most such issues with the left, they're really less concerned about the actual principal of the thing and more with the issue of whose ox it is that is being gored. They're quick to tell you that you can't legislate morality, but they're just as quick to tell you that you're immoral if you reject their legislation. They're all for the Separation of Church and State, but they tell you, thinking it should change your politics, that... Jesus is a Liberal.

Which is why my response was "so?" Why should the teachings of a religious leader (no matter how much reverence I personally have for said leader) affect my political positions, if religion has no place in politics? And if it DOES have a place in politics, if individuals have a right to let their personal beliefs inform their public policies, can you PLEASE hold ALL beliefs to that standard, not just your OWN?

Because only then am I willing to move on and discuss with you whether or not Jesus really IS a Liberal.

Ed.: The comments for this entry over at E.P. generated more activity that any other, but below are these which contributed most to the dialogue:

OregonGuy said...
What does it take to define one as a Christian? One needs simply to ask the question, can I fully and in good conscience hold and aver the truth of the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed?

The Apostle's Creed is the more elegant of the two:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed is rather less simple, but covers the main points:

the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his
Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

Jesus, Himself, answered the question in John 3:15, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

These are the creeds and the teachings of Christ. These are the penultimate requirements of being Christian. For the laws of God you need read Matthew.

But nowhere that I can find, does the Lord tell you that taking from your neighbor to make your own life better was ever one of the commandments. Mebbe being a Liberal (Leftist) means you can read the Scripture better than you and I, eh, B.B.?

B.B. said...
Ah, I'd argue it's even easier than that to be defined as Christian: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

But now you're getting into the discussion of whether or not Jesus IS a Liberal, and whether or not Leftists CAN read scripture better than you or I -- something I'd LOVE to discuss in another post, and I'm sure you and I would find common ground. But I'm trying to AVOID that debate in this post. All I am trying to say is that if a Leftist is to make that argument, they have to violate their own vehemently averred aversion to letting an individuals religious beliefs seep over into their political ones. They can't have it one way part of the time and the opposite way the rest of the time, all dependent on whether it suits their ends or not.

I know, I'm asking too much, but akin to Oliver with his empty porridge bowl, I have to ask, "More (intellectual honesty), please, sir..."

Anonymous said...
Your reaction was right but for the wrong reason. Using a 2000 year old myth which has been subject to massive redaction and politically inspired editing as a basis for anything is questionable. Trying to fit it into modern politics is just stupid. Jesus would not recognise your version of reality - he and his followers seemed to believe
that the end was coming. As a result despite apparently being divine he didn't
share much of general use beyond a reasonable, if unoriginal, set of ethics. The
germ theory of disease would, for example, have been a rather more useful
insight than that the meek will inherit the earth. The former is more useful if
everyone is going to be around for 2000 years: the latter is helpful if the
apocalypse is coming. Similiary, I do wonder if he might have said something to
Christians about not perseceuting the Jews.

The research evidence actually suggests that those on the right of Amercian politics are more likely to disregard anything that contradicts their original position and those on the left are more likely to question this. This is probably why the right is so much stronger.

You criticize the bumper sticker owner for a range of imagined prejudices - you have no evidence for these - but seem to have just as many of your own.

Carolynp said...
Nice post B. Dying to have the other argument.
BTW anon: to what research evidence are you referring? To give an
oppositional position, researchers consistently find that while liberals demand
that government take more from the "wealthy" to give to the "poor", liberals
give nearly half as much to charity. Because I can refer to that research and
link it, I think I can succinctly say they are hypocritical in that they are
very generous with someone else's money, but very stingy with their own. Brooks
does a nice composium of this in "Who Really Cares" (how do you underline this?)
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html


          Judgment day [videorecording (DVD)] : intelligent design on trial / produced by Joseph McMaster, Gary Johnstone, Vanessa Tovell ; directed by Gary Johnstone, Joseph McMaster ; written by Joseph McMaster ; a production by NOVA and Vulcan Productions, Inc. in association with The Big Table Film Company        
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          Replay: Assassin's Creed: Revelations        

Make sure you check out Replay: Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood before reading this!

Well, this has been a long time coming. I feel obligated to compare my experience writing this series to how the developers of the Assassin's Creed story, specifically Ezio's saga, must feel developing a new AC game every year. And while I don't feel comfortable claiming that I've managed to keep each post as intriguing as the last, I can say without a doubt that Ubisoft has employed some very intelligent designers over the last several years.

Since this is the final entry in my Replay series of the Assassin's Creed games, I think it's appropriate to take a moment to congratulate Ubisoft on completing a trilogy (sure, there are more games, but AC2, Brotherhood, and Revelations are certainly a trilogy) of games over three years while rarely feeling stale. I'm utterly impressed that I've managed to complete three games, that are undoubtedly similar, over 5 months without feeling bored. With each entrance in the saga, Ubisoft understands the importance of keeping things feeling fresh and interesting if they're going to have an annual release. While other annual series earn many detractors due to a lack of originality, the Assassin's Creed series has held strong whilst sticking to the core mechanics that make AC what it is.

Constantinople is arguably the most gorgeous city that Ezio has visited yet.

For the third entry, Ubisoft took a chance on bringing players to an entirely different city: Constantinople. Constantinople, or Istanbul to us more modern folks, sets forth new challenges for us to overcome by adding a more interactive environment. For me, the most exciting addition to the city came in two parts. The first, and most immediately noticeable, is how vibrant and gorgeous the city looks. I tend to steer away from discussing graphics in my reviews since everything looks dated in just a few short years, but everything about Constantinople is absolutely stunning to look at. Everything, from the open waters to the vibrant colors, is enhanced by an engine that rarely shows it's age. With Assassin's Creed 3, we'll be introduced to a new engine (the AnvilNext engine) that will surely push the boundaries of realism, but it will ultimately be up to the geniuses at Ubisoft to make sure they use it wisely. While Constantinople was a bustling city, full of large buildings and beautiful middle-eastern inspired artwork, the colonial cities of the U.S. will be more barren with buildings going into construction and, if the trailers can be trusted, lots and lots of snow. Yes, I'm very excited at the prospect of playing during this important time period in history, but I have to admit that I am just a little worried that my surroundings could grow too familiar.

The second addition that I found exciting was the inclusion of the hookblade, a brand new weapon for Ezio that makes traversing the cities not only easier, but a ton of fun as well. The hookblade acts as an extension of Ezio's arm, allowing him to get to those hard-to-reach locations. And while this is nothing new to the franchise (in the past there was some silly glove that launched you higher), what you're able to do with the hookblade is. While running along rooftops, you'll immediately notice that there are ropes between certain buildings. If timed correctly, Ezio can use these as a zip line to get around more quickly. Not only that, but the zip lines give Ezio a new perspective on his enemies, allowing him to drop on top of guards and stab them. Furthermore, the hookblade acts as a very useful weapon during combat. Ezio can use it while running past foes to trip them. It's a very simple mechanic, but when a series is four games in, something as simple as this addition feels absolutely exciting.

The hookblade adds variety to a combat system that has begun to grow old.

The hookblade adds variety to a combat system that has begun to grow old.

The hookblade goes to show Ubisoft is interested in advancing the weaponry that our lovable assassin's are able to utilize in combat and traversing the environment. In a few trailers for AC3, we've spotted Conner using several new weapons, including a bow and something that looks like a hook on the end of a rope. I imagine that the hook-rope hybrid will be used to swing between trees as well as (and we've seen this in trailers) hanging soldiers up from branches. I'm more than a little excited to be able to find new, and gruesome, ways in which to assassinate Templars.

One thing that returns from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is the Assassin's Guild. This is something I made the mistake of not discussing in my previous entry, but luckily I'll be able to here. Assassin's Guilds add a bit more strategy and depth to the series by allowing Ezio to recruit citizens into his guild of assassins who will then either a.) complete side missions to bring in more money or b.) assist Ezio in missions. Players are allowed to choose which assassins can do what, and over time assassins will earn experience and level up to become more powerful. It's a very simple RPG-mechanic that adds huge amounts of depth to what would otherwise be a straight up action game. It's important to always keep an eye on this as being able to call in multiple assassins (or later in the game when they can take out all enemy soldiers nearby using arrows) can help Ezio out of some hairy situations. From trailers, I'm getting the feeling that AC3 will feel most similar to AC2, meaning that Conner, like Ezio in that game, will be a relatively new/young assassin. I'm not sure if this exact mechanic would make a lot of sense in AC3, but I've come up with a similar idea that I hope sees the light of day (one day!).

Recruits allow Ezio to do less work.

Instead of recruiting assassins, I believe Conner should be able to utilize the colonial soldiers. Perhaps they won't be trained to be as acrobatic as Conner, but instead will be used to distract Templar/British soldiers. Sure, they should be able to kill the soldiers, but Assassin's Creed is, in many ways, a stealth-based game. Since the very first game, dropping on top of enemies, sneaking behind, and generally catching them off guard, has typically been the best means of assassination. While I don't expect to be able to change clothes (à la Hitman games), it would be interesting to be able to command colonial militia to go one way, while you flank from the other way (or sneak around all together).

Ezio must defend the Assassin&#Array;s Dens around the city in a new tower defense mode.

The most divisive inclusion in Assassin's Creed: Revelations has to be the tower defense segments. When the cities awareness of your presence maxes out, Templar soldiers will attempt to take one of the several assassin dens around the city and it is up to Ezio to defend them by assigning assassin's to take certain positions with various weapons, setting up walls, or by utilizing a cannon. I've heard of certain people not liking this; feeling like it strays too far away from what the series is known for, but I disagree. The last two games have set you up as the leader of the assassins (or at least the ones that are near by). Giving orders happens throughout the game  and in reality, you wouldn't be able to defend a location by stabbing a hundred or so guards in the back. Tower defense games have grown immensely popular over the last several years, and it only makes sense that the game type would begin to infiltrate other styles of games as well.

That said, I don't think we'll find tower defense levels in Assassin's Creed 3. Instead, as has been shown off in various trailers, players will take to the seas in naval warfare. I've got no idea how this will play out, but again, Ubisoft continues to add new and interesting elements to a series that should feel stale by now.

And just like that, Replay: Assassin's Creed is over. Be sure to follow me, share my page, leave a comment below... anything! And check out my review for Assassin's Creed 3 sometime after it's October 30th release.


          Mathematics and metaphysics: Any thoughts on Langan’s CTMU?        

Would like some feedback on Chris Langan and his Theory of Everything (ToE), the CTMU. Although awash with obscure terms that make for some slow reading and could be easily mistaken as pure obscurantism, the basic ideas seem like they warrant some attention.

http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/618

First, the bad:

- Langan himself seems like a pretty terrible ambassador for his idea. Ignore the hype and distraction about his personal story (He has a high IQ…so what? Appeal to authority), as they have no bearing on the central thesis.
- He is apparently embraced by some contingent from the Intelligent Design community, which is strange because his idea seems to describe, if anything, a panpsychic/panentheistic scenario rather than anything explicitly to do with any Abrahamic deity. Would be better to call it “Intelligible Design,” if anything (see below).
- Again, Langan seems to draw unwarranted conclusions from his idea (Monotheism, eugenics, etc. etc). But it’s better not to dwell on the man, but rather his theory itself.

When stripped of its neologisms and meandering verbiage, the theory seems to me to have a number of interesting points:

- That physics in and of itself cannot provide a ToE, but rather implies that it is “nested” (along with all other forms of knowledge) in a comprehensive metaphysics (that also justifies itself, somehow).
- If I understand right, Langan proposes to describe that metaphysics as relationship between the observer/language/subject and the “outside” world/object—a singular relationship that would encompass Cartesian dualism. He proposes to describe this relationship by a specific logical formulation (see above link) which he calls a “supertautology” that undergirds…everything, basically. It is the same relationship that (he says) seems to undergird any type of (intelligible) language or cognitive system, and perhaps evolution itself on some level. This seems to be along the lines of what Lawrence Krauss and Sam were discussing in their recent podcast, so not necessarily a new idea, but Langan proposes that you can characterize it with logic.
- It is in this sense, then, that two seemingly contradictory worldviews could both be “true” (true is a poor word choice—see also Jordan Peterson and Sam’s digression on this. IMO it would be better to say that two systems/language-games/consciousnesses could be “valid,” as true should be reserved for things that are empirically verified). Thus, any religious system could be “valid” in that it draws the correct conclusions from its premises, so long as it does not pretend to extend itself into another sphere of knowledge, for as soon as it introduces the concept of facts—which is the domain of science—science wins. Any system that didn’t draw the obvious conclusions from its given premises would be invalid, and basically madness/incoherence. (It’s this apparent endorsement of relativism/“Separate magisteria” that gets the religious all excited, I reckon, but I think what Langan is saying here is that although a system of thought can be internally consistent, it doesn’t have the same degree of truth of a system supported by observation and facts of “external” reality).
- The whole system—the cosmos—is this process writ large, a system that is selecting for intelligence/intelligibleness (shades of Alan Watts). It’s here where Langan gets into his theistic conceptions.

All of these points, are arguable, and I may have misconstrued them. But at a gut level, the idea that logic is some kind of intrinsic aspect of the universe is appealing (though that doesn’t necessarily make it true).

So why would any of this have value? Well, whereas evolution is a theory that just happens to be supported by mounds and mound of evidence, it seems that Langan’s theory could be used to make predictions that prove either true or false (what form artificial/alien/animal/other intelligence would look like, perhaps, or the dispersal of matter in the known universe (see that recent study about the seeming illusion of dark energy)).

Thoughts? Any “there” there, or just a sham?

Thanks.


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WHERE WE CAME FROM AND WHERE WE'RE GOING

I've been meaning to write something about Intelligent Design for some time. I had been against it all along, but it wasn't until I saw an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! on YouTube that showed me exactly what was wrong about it. Maybe I shouldn't put a lot of stock in what a ponytailed atheist magician and his mute partner have to say (or make gestures about, in Teller's case) regarding an issue almost entirely based on religion. Oh well. I guess this has something to do with my ability to seek the truth of life almost entirely from jaded Jewish comedians, such as Al Franken, David Cross, and the bespectacled rageaholic Lewis Black. It just seems to make a lot of sense.

Anyway, there are many reasons I oppose Intelligent Design, which for purposes of brevity, I will br referring to as I-D. First of all, the episode of Bullshit stated that in Cobb County, Georgia, all science textbooks now carry a message in the inside cover, warning that the book contains information about evolution, that evolution is only a theory, and (one could infer) that it should not taken seriously. Well, it is just a theory. The difference lies almost entirely in semantics. When average people use the word "theory" they're actually talking about something a scientist would call a hypothesis. It's a guess. When scientists talk about theories, they're referring to something that has stood up in the face of several attempts to find fault with it and come out intact.

Fundamentalist Christians want to teach I-D in Science class. This can't possibly work. What kind of laboratory experiments can we do about this? There aren't any, because
I-D is not science. It doesn't rely on the scientific method. Just as a reminder, the scientific method goes like this: You observe something, and ask "Why does that happen the way it does?" You then make a guess as to why, and then find some way to test your guess. If it turns out your guess was wrong, you make a new guess and repeat from there. Or maybe, you might even consider asking a new question.

1. Observation: We exist.
2. Question: Where did we come from?
3. Guess: We evolved from apes.
4. Test: Dig for bones.
5. Result: We found fragments of skeletons that seem to be partway between apes and humans. Maybe we did evolve.

Okay, that's a bit oversimplified. But it shows that the connection has been made.

Now try following the intelligent design line of reasoning.
1. Observation: We exist.
2. Question: Where did we come from?
3. Guess: God created the heavens and the earth and all the living things on it.
4. Test: ...um...

Now at this point the argument breaks down, because there is no possible way to test this. Christian fundamentalists believe there need be no testing, because the whole concept should be accepted on something that has absolutely no place in science--FAITH. (This is what I consider to be the true f-word, because I always start feeling more negative about a person whenever they direct it at me.) It has no place in science because faith by definition is belief in something without proof. And when you throw out the requirement of proof, all other rules break down.

Here's one metaphor I thought up: It's as if you're cooking a soup with a delicate flavor, and some asshole friend of yours thinks the soup would taste better if you added chocolate syrup. Not because he thinks it would improve the soup, but because he likes chocolate syrup. The fundamentalists don't really care about science. They're trying to throw in something that doesn't work because they'd like it to be that way. They want to turn Science class into another place to pick up new converts.

Some day I'm going to be an old man, and if my tax dollars are going to teaching kids that God created everything, I'm going to believe that my tax dollars are better spent paying for my insulin and heart prescription (after all the soda I drink and fast food I eat turns me into a diabetic with heart disease) rather than on our schools. I don't want to take money away from public schools, because they gave me an education that I truly value and plan to use well. I owe it to them.

But this is why I truly hate I-D. I believe that where you come from influences where you're going. It doesn't completely control it, but it plays a major part. Let me give you an example. When I started applying to colleges in January of 2004, These were my 6 choices:

University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA

Why each of these? Each had a great computer science program. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do yet, but I knew computers were involved. Three were in Massachusetts, because I wanted to be close enough to home to occasionally visit, but far enough that I'd have to live on campus. Masachusetts and New York were both very liberal states, and since I had been raised in a liberal state, I wanted to remain in a liberal place. (Kinda like how a lot of Deep Southerners rarely leave the South.) Michigan was an option only because my grandparents on my father's side lived there, and I could stay with them. All of these decisions based on "Where you've been influences where you will go."

What does this have to do with I-D and Evolution? Simple. If evolution is correct that Mankind came from something lesser, it means that in the future we will continue to evolve new features. We can't really say how the homo sapiens will improve, but one of my guesses is that we'll develop psychic powers. Or maybe if humans continue to move into space, we'll evolve in such a way that we can withstand the vacuum of space without suits. Humans are a step above apes. Where you've been influences where you're going. Somehow, few seem to have noticed the possibility that this step is not the last.

If I-D is right, then that means we are as good as we will ever get. God created us, this is how we are, and this is how we will be for-fucking-ever. What would happen if the Rapture occurs, and there are those who don't get in? It's the end of hope. We who are left on Earth missed the last lifeboat off a sinking ship, and sooner or later, we're going to be sucked under, and all because we refused to stop using our sense of reason and accept on blind faith the existence of God. The birth rate will slowly decline to zero, for what point is there to bearing a child destined for Hell anyway? And then we will all die, and maybe God will decide to create something else.

Even if we eliminate the possibility of the Christian prophesy of the apocalypse causing the end of everything, that means that ultimately humanity can't improve its condition. We will eventually discover everything that remains to be discovered in the universe, explain everything that can be perceived with our limited senses, and after processing it all, come up with no answer to the meaning of life, what then?

Maybe the Meaning of Life is something we're not evolved enough to understand as it is.
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          MTS21 - Andrew Knoll - Ancient Life and Evolution        

Dr. Andrew Knoll is the Fisher Professor of Natural History in Harvard University’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, where he studies ancient life, its impacts on the environment, and how the environment, in turn, shaped the evolution of life.  In recognition of the 200th anniversary of Charles’ Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the first printing of his book, “On the Origin of Species”, the American Society for Microbiology has invited Dr. Knoll to deliver the opening lecture, titled “Microbes and Earth History,” at the society’s general meeting in Philadelphia this year.

Before the dinosaurs, before trees and leaves, before trilobites, there were microbes.  Vast, slimy layers of them covered the rocks and peppered the seas of the harsh, alien planet we now call Earth.  Those slimy cells were our ancestors, and they played a defining role in changing that once-barren moonscape into the world we see today: a planet covered with diverse, striving life, topped by an oxygen-rich atmosphere.  Dr. Knoll says he puts on his paleontologist’s hat and studies the fossil record to learn more about this ancient life, then he dons his geochemist’s hat to reconstruct Earth’s environmental history from the chemical signatures he finds in ancient sedimentary rocks.  He weaves these two stories together to figure out how life has transformed the planet and how the planet has influenced the course of evolution.

In this interview, I talk with Dr. Knoll about what early earth must have looked like, his involvement with the Mars rover project, and how intelligent design concepts may well belong in high school curricula, but not in the context of science class.


          Keep creationism out of the science class        
We know that a frightening proportion of US teachers teach creationism and intelligent design in science class. Now, to the dismay of many scientists in the UK, the director of education for the Royal Society, Michael Reiss, has called for creationism to be taught in biology classes in the UK.

Reiss, an evolutionary biologist but also an ordained Church of England priest, says that the increasing Muslim population, as well as growing numbers of Christian fundamentalists, in Britain mean that the issue should be "gently" tackled in science classes.

At the British Association Festival of Science in Liverpool, Reiss said "creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view."

In the US, Republican vice-president nominee Sarah Palin has similar views, arguing that both creationism and evolution should be taught.

How dismaying, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, that we are still treating with kid gloves a religious view that is manifestly unscientific. Sure, talk about creationism in religious education classes, but keep it out of the science class.

It's been a fantastic week for science, with the start of the LHC at Cern allowing us to tackle some of the deepest questions in the universe. Likewise, a festival of science should be about celebrating the explanatory power of science, not making concessions to extreme forms of religion.

Update: the Royal Society has put out a statement affirming that it is opposed to creationism being taught as science.

In a statement Reiss has also clarified his comments. "When young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis."

Well, no-one would argue with that. But it's a bit different from implying that creationism should be taught alongside science, as he did when he said that "in certain classes, it can be appropriate to deal with the issue".

Rowan Hooper, online news editor

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          Evolution Questioned: Creationist Group Challenges Kansas Science Curriculum        
Simon Brown
The Religious Right would rather force its ideas on everyone than take a chance that someone might choose not to agree with them.

Americans United has reported frequently on the slew of Religious Right groups trying to test and redefine the bounds of “religious liberty.” Now it seems yet another organization has joined the fray, claiming that teaching evolution in public schools forces atheism on students and violates the “religious liberty” of some parents.

Kansas, which has had more than its share of church-state separation problems in recent years, actually managed to adopt national science standards for public schools (along with 25 other states) that present evolution as scientific fact. The concept will be taught from kindergarten through 12th grade under the new curriculum, the Associated Press (AP) said.

The standards were adopted earlier this year to replace 2007 standards that were merely “evolution friendly,” and education policy experts think the new guidelines will be better for science education because they focus on hands-on learning, the AP reported.

This is good, unless you’re a Religious Right ideologue who wants to use the public schools to indoctrinate kids. In that case, your “religious liberty” is under attack!

Enter Kansas-based Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), a group that claims “children have the right to be objectively informed about controversial explanations that impact religious beliefs, rather than be indoctrinated to accept a particular explanation.” (How ironic that this group opposes one-sided indoctrination.)

COPE has decided to sue on behalf of 15 Christian parents, most of whom have children in public schools, plus two other taxpayers living in the state. They say evolution is just not as concrete as scientists argue.

“The state’s job is simply to say to students, ‘How life arises continues to be a scientific mystery and there are competing ideas about it,’” John Calvert, a Kansas City-area attorney involved with the case, told the AP.

Sadly this isn’t Calvert’s first anti-science rodeo. The AP said he has questioned evolution before and is a founder of the Intelligent Design Network, which claims the origins of life are just too complicated to be explained by evolution alone.

Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director for the AU-allied National Center for Science Education, said Calvert has played this game for years without much success.

“They're trying to say anything that’s not promoting their religion is promoting some other religion,” Rosenau told the AP. It’s “silly,” he added.

Other experts agreed. Steven Case, director of the science center at the University of Kansas, said this argument has been tried before in court – and it didn’t work.

“This is about as frivolous as lawsuits get,” Case said.

But reason (and the Constitution) certainly isn’t holding Calvert back.

“By the time you get into the third grade, you learn all the essential elements of Darwinian evolution,” Calvert said “By the time you're in middle school, you’re a Darwinist.”

It amazes me that the Religious Right has so little faith in, well, faith. If a parent wants to instruct his or her child about intelligent design or creationism in the home, they have every right to do so. And if the child finds that argument more convincing than the evolutionary biology he or she learned about in class, so be it. The child has the right to make that decision.

But you know who doesn’t have the right to decide evolution can’t be taught in schools? The Religious Right. The U.S. Supreme Court has said creationism/intelligent design can’t be taught as fact in public schools because that amounts to religious promotion. 

Individual teachers, however, are allowed to mention that not everyone believes in evolution and that it’s ok for people to think that way. Some discussion of conflicting ideas is permitted.

Of course that will never be good enough for the Religious Right, which can’t seem to leave its faith to chance. They’d rather force their ideas on everyone than take a chance that someone might choose not to agree with them. It’s sad, it’s wrong, and it’s not going to work this time.

Location: 

          Knuckle-dragging Narrow-minded Creationists (part 1)        

Atheists want to keep creationism out of public schools. They see themselves as the intellectual saviors of the poor dumb college and university students, who don’t have the ability to think for themselves. These creationism censors are the book burners, who do what they do “for the good of society” --their godless society. And they do what they do in the name of “reason” and "science," when their atheistic belief is (in reality) completely unreasonable and absolutely unscientific.

If you think atheism is scientific and reasonable, let me ask you some questions. Do you believe that nothing created everything? If you do, that's not only unscientific, it's unreasonable. This is because your "nothing" isn’t “nothing” at all. It is something because it had the amazing ability to create everything. Perhaps you have changed your mind, and after hearing that you think that you then believe that something created everything, although you are not sure what that something was?

Keeping in mind that the most intelligent of human beings can’t create a grain of sand from nothing--do you think that that "something" that made everything was intelligent? It obviously is; and if you do believe the something that made the flowers, the birds, the trees, the human eye, and the sun, the moon and the stars was intelligent, you then believe that there was an intelligent designer. You believe in “intelligent design.” Congratulations; you have just become an unscientific knuckle-dragger in the narrow-minded eyes of our learning institutions that embrace Darwinism.


Continued tomorrow...



          Endogenous Retroviruses Prove Evolution Beyond a Reasonable Doubt        
I will begin this essay by quoting the intelligent design blog Uncommon Descent:

"Endogenous retroviruses are molecular remnants of a
past parasitic viral infection. Occasionally, copies
of a retrovirus genome are found in its host’s genome,
and these retroviral gene copies are called endogenous
retroviral sequences. Retroviruses (like the AIDS
virus or HTLV1, which causes a form of leukemia) make
a DNA copy of their own viral genome and insert it
into their host’s genome. If this happens to a germ
line cell (i.e. the sperm or egg cells) the retroviral
DNA will be inherited by descendants of the host.
Again, this process is rare and fairly random, so
finding retrogenes in identical chromosomal positions
of two different species indicates common ancestry."


So let's review: On a rare occasion a virus will
insert itself into it's host's genome at random, and
the host's descendants will inherit this and have the
virus in their genome. Our genome is 3 billion base
pairs, so it is extremely unlikely that any creature
would share the exact same virus in the exact same
place in the genome. But yet humans and primates do
have the same viruses in the same places in their
genome.


This article was written by Douglas Theobald, the
assistant professor of biochemistry at Brandis
University.

In order to prove this truly is evidence of evolution,
let me consider the following questions:

(Some of this information was obtained from the Endogenous Retrovirus blog)

1. Is the viral insertion really random?
Yes. Here are two papers creationists use in support
of the nonrandom viral insertion hypothesis:
http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0020234&ct=1
http://www.genetics.org/cgi/content/full/158/2/769

The first paper simply states that some retroviruses
like to insert in genes, some like to insert near
promoters of genes, and some like to insert in the
middle of no where. The specific insertion sites, what
base pairs on on the left, which ones are on the
right, is random. Thats exactly what they looked for
in that papers methods.

In the second paper the researchers found two
independent Viral insertions in deer mice. They could
tell the insertions apart because the virus had
infected two different places, because this event
happened twice.

So Retroviral insertion is indeed random.

2. Do the Viruses serve any good purpose?
No. When ERV's do become functional, they cause
disease:
http://www.arthritis.arizona.edu/HERV.htm
http://www.mylonglife.com/articles/Retroviruses_Aids_Cancer_And_Autoimmune_Diseases.htm

In closing, you can google "endogenous retrovirus" and
pull up plenty of medical, scientific, and educational
websites. If you email the website, they will tell you
the exact same thing I am. You could also visit a
university and contact a geneticist who will provide
you with the same information.
          Intelligent design by the numbers        
A friend of mine, Richard Corbeil, a journalist who writes for the Apopka Chief in Florida, wrote a column a while back that I found fascinating – so much so that I thought I would pass it along to you. I wrote a column containing undeniable evidence that “Intelligent Design” by God is the only [...]
          Episode 372: Prometheus        
We argue over the intelligent design behind Prometheus and discuss the previous Alien movies, plus Leviathan, Wanderlust, White Squall and the Django Unchained trailer.
          Pat Robertson Will Get God to Beat You Up,        
Pat Robertson and God are back and they're pissed off. This past summer, they were calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them on Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.
Oh Pat, you always try to threaten people with your God power. "Oooooorlaaandoooo, you will be destroy by hurricanes, terrorist, and a giant lizard for supporting the gays and the Jews!". Calling down the righteous hand of God is only scary when you can actually do it. I don't recall Pat Robertson ever calling out a place right before it's been wiped off the face of the Earth. Hell, Denny's is still around.

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It's obvious that Pat Robertson is a cry baby asshole. Saying that is like pointing out that I'm awesome. Everyone knows, even the retarded. What about intelligent design? Well, I don't think it's that intelligent. It's pretty much advocated by creationist with a thesaurus. They claim that their theory is based on science, Which is true, as long as that science allows for an omnipotent creator pulling the strings. That might be why the good people of Dover disapprove of this. Faith isn't fact and it should not be chosen over something that has actual scientific evidence. But, what do I know? I'm Agnostic. I also don't have a list of fun quotes designed to inspire and unite the Nation.

Pat Robertson Quotes...

  • "It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-biased media and the homosexuals who want to destroy all Christians"
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2 out of 3! Watch out, Jesus!


  • Many of those people involved in Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many were homosexuals - the two things seem to go together"

  • "I know one man who was impotent who gave AIDS to his wife and the only thing they did was kiss"

  • "That (separation of church and state) was never in the Constitution, however much the liberals laugh at me for saying it, they know good and well it was never in the Constitution! Such language only appeared in the constitution of the communist Sovi"

  • [Planned Parenthood] is teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism -- everything that the Bible condemns.

  • Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.

Poor Christians. He's right. It's just like what happened to the Jews. If only Christians could live their lives outside of attics. If only they could live without the fear of being discovered by the evil gay-liberal women that want to send the Christians to camps to be exterminated. What an atrocity.

  • God's pattern is for men to be the leaders, both in the church and in the family... "Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them."
  • "Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

I got most of these from HERE. It's a good read and there are many more.

For More Pat Robertson Coverage...
Pat Robertson should be assassinated.

Pat Robertson VS Rodan

          When you hear the word "evolution" does "neotony" come to mind?        


How many ways can we make a home?  I remember as a child walking through the corridors of the American Museum of Natural History and gawking at the many dioramas which combined realistic painting with artifacts or copies of natural and prehistoric settings.  I saw homes of our ancestors built from mammoth tusks in Siberia.  I saw tepees with animal skin wrapped around a cone of trimmed saplings.  I saw igloos built from blocks of ice or compact snow.  Outside the museum I saw the swank apartments of those who lived on Central Park West and imagined the view of Central Park they enjoyed.  I contrasted that with our own Brooklyn cold water flat with a coal stove in the kitchen.  In books I saw castles and mansions that housed the privileged and log cabins that Presidential candidates promoted as their identification with the underprivileged voter or common man.
 
In a similar way there are many mechanisms by which evolution occurs.  There is natural selection in which adaptive traits survive, thus providing the genetic basis for them that enters a new generation and this in turn changes the gene frequency of the population.  There is the “founder effect” in which a small number of individuals enter a new niche and reproduces rapidly in large numbers to create a population that differs in appearance from its original source.  There are hybrids that undergo a doubling of chromosome number and thus establish a new self-reproducing species. There are developmental mutations that can multiply body parts or organs like wings, limbs, or eyes.  There are other developmental mutations that place organs in different parts of the body producing new variations in a species.  One of my favorites is a process called neotony in which juvenile or embryonic features are carried into adult stages.  In the 1920s such neotonous species were found in salamanders in caves, the fertile adults sporting gills which are normally absorbed in the related species living outside the caves. 


We humans have a neotonous origin from out primate ancestors because we have prolonged child-raising period compared to other primates which are sexually mature and functionally adult in fewer years.  The most recently studied neotonous organisms are the birds that had a dinosaur-like ancestry.  They miniaturized as they shifted from living on land to living in trees and then to the skies as they developed wings for flight.  Their eyes are larger (like an embryo’s) in proportion to their bodies.  We do not reflect as much as we should on these neotonous traits in the evolutionary process, and most of the debates about Creationism and Intelligent design are waged over natural selection which is only one of many ways evolution works. 

          COMPARING THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGES WITH THE EVOLUTION OF LIFE        

     I enjoyed reading Margolit Fox’s new book, The Riddle of the Labyrinthwhich discusses the decipherment of Linear B in the early 1950s.  The book discusses the major players in the process.  Arthur Evans found the tablets with the unknown script at Knossos in Crete. He tried for 40 years but did not succeed.  Alice Kober figured out what type of language group it was by studying (before computers) the associations and endings of syllables or words.  Michael Ventris finally realized it was an ancient Greek language using a totally different alphabet system.  Each of the contributors was flawed and yet each had some major insight that turned out to be correct. The book raises questions about their personalities and the influence social circumstances had on their careers and personal lives. As I read the book, I thought of the relation to coding, translating languages, and linguistics which does a comparative study of languages including their evolution.  At the same time I thought how this field differs from genetics with its genetic code, role in translating nucleotide sequences into amino acid sequences in proteins, and the evolution of life from a molecular level to an organism and population level. 


     Languages are clearly created by people but they are not intelligently designed by a creator who invented French, Korean, Swahili, or Greek.  Those languages evolved over the years.  When we read 19th century literature, we find it wordy.  When we read Shakespeare, we need a footnoted copy to figure out the meaning of words and idioms of the past.  Reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is easier in translation than in middle English.  Reading Beowulf is virtually impossible without old English dictionaries or footnotes.  In a similar way genes have evolved by mutations over eons.  Just as there is a social selection of which words  survive and which ones get lost, there is a natural selection for mutational expression which leads to extinction (no progeny) or survival (the adaptive conditions won out). We are not troubled that modern languages did not exist some 3000 years ago but have evolved. Yet those who believe in an intelligent designer for the origin of species cannot imagine how humans can be derived from ape-like ancestors or how mammals could be derived from reptiles or reptiles from amphibians, or amphibians from fish working backwards to the origin of early life forms as bacteria-like or virus-like.  

       One major difference is the time scale of evolution.  For languages it is about 4000 years at most for written languages.  They have the advantage that symbols or words written in stone have survived.  In a similar way there are fossils that go back millions or 100s of millions of years.  They are more difficult to interpret than the languages used since humans began writing their transactions and thoughts. But no one would argue that Jesus spoke English or that the Biblical texts handed down were written in English for Moses to read.   Nor should one readily doubt that the life on earth differs in kind and complexity as we examine more ancient rocks.  The human bones in our graveyards are not found in the rock strata that give us dinosaurs.  Whale bones are not found in the ancient seas that teemed with crinoids.  

          Philosophy and Science        


Philosophy and Science


"Is this concept scientific ?"

I have been seeing and hearing this above question ever since I started attending school. This validating has reached such a frenzy that even religious concepts are no exception. In fact, in today’s India, religion is the first thing to be questioned.

We note that it is philosophy that is questioned since it is what makes up a religion. Is this process of validation correct ? Is philosophy below science or above it ? Let us see here.


Science


What is science ? Science is the description of naturally occurring phenomena and of comparing the same with universal laws (like law of gravity, law of motion, etc)


Philosophy


Philosophy is the understanding of life, the relationship between man and the creation, finding the answers to some eternal questions like, “why am I born?” , “why am I made this way ?” “why are people not equally born ?” “ why is there so much pain in this world ?” etc and so on.


Validation:


In the eighteenth century, there arose a movement in Europe, that asked for scientific proof for everything proposed including science. The Industrial Revolution had started and people thought that they had to be scientific in whatever they did. For example, the biblical theory of creation in 4004 BC was put to severe questioning and discarded. This is on the realm of mythology. But philosophy also was put to the same test.

The most suffered concept was of God Himself. Science was throwing postulates after another in the form of Big Bang theory, nebula theory and so on and was denying the concept of a creator God. Added to this was the theory of evolution which said that every organism had the capacity to evolve and suggested the possibility of evolution from a single celled organism.


Science or Philosophy ?


The plight of the common man was understandable. He was driven to despair in knowing that the religion he dearly loved is no longer scientific. He pondered over what may be truth. I was also one of such people. My convictions steadied once I saw through the history of science.

What was consistent in the history is that there have been a spate of theories one criticizing another and superseding it. The atomic concept of Dalton is no longer valid now. Newton’s laws of motion are no longer universal since Einstein proved the theory of relativity and showed that a moving clock indeed runs slower.

What do all the above indicate ? It is, that science is still on its way to finding the secrets of creation and CANNOT be in a position to decide whether a religious concept is correct or not. In other words, science itself is in evolution towards perfection.

In the 18 th century Europe, Micael Faraday loathed the term ‘scientist’ and wanted to be called as ‘natural philosopher’. Why ? The answer is, till that time, science was considered part of philosophy. It was only after that period that the scientist started to look down upon philosophy.

The greatest drawback in scientific enquiry is that it is an utter flop in matters regarding purpose of life on earth ,the reasons for creation, and the intelligent design of life on this universe. These are BIG questions of life and till date science has never even tried to answer them.

And the tragedy was that the Christian led primitive theories were simply not able to stand the scrutiny of scientific enquiry.


Christian Philosophy and science:


Christianity, with its God in heaven theory, cut a sorry figure. Swamy Vivekananda asked, if God is in Heaven , where is it ? If it is somewhere in this Universe , then you must be suggesting that the heaven is occupying space.

Whatever occupies space is matter. Matter is subject to change. It means birth and death. So the Heaven and God must be subject to birth and death. They become limited, which is absurd.

Their satan theory was far worse. The satan meant that there was another force (and in turn energy) independent of God, thus making God limited. Anything limited is not absolute and hence God , according to the semitic theories, becomes limited.

Einstein proved that the sum total of all energies in this universe at any point of time is the same. The semitic religions never could explain what happens when a man dies. They propagate the concept that this man himself is the spirit. When the creation is one man short, what happens to this universal energy balance ? Does this energy go to God ? And their God in Heaven must be so heavy with all the souls’ energy since the time of creation !


Hindu Philosophy:

On the other hand Hinduistic philosophy answered all questions effectively. Sankara’s advaita shines like a brilliant star among the religious postulates of the world. Sankara said ‘there are no two’. It means, creation and creator are not different. The name of ‘sachhidananda’ (sat-chit-ananda) meaning existence- conciousness- bliss for God is so apt. It means there is existence for none other than this trio of existence – consciousness- bliss.

There is a Vedic Hymn which reads

Om

Purnamada: purnamidam purnAt purnamudachyate |

Purnasya purnamAdAya, purnameva avasishyate ||

(Om. That is whole. This is whole. From the whole (this) whole emerges. Even after (this) whole emerges from (that) whole, the whole alone remains.)

There is oneness only. No two. Such is the depth and subtlety of Hindu Philosophy.

Also the theory of reincarnation has fantastically explained why there will be energy balance even after death.


Science or Philosophy- which is superior ?


The God theory has one extraordinary condition. Many thinkers attained a stage from where they claim they have unravelled the secrets about themselves, God and creation in general. But without exception they all declared that that experience is beyond the human faculties of senses, mind and intellect !

But people still harp on science being the ultimate judge even in the realm of spiritual philosophy. Swamy Vivenakanda declared thus

“ When that energy from which al the energies of the universe emanate, is found, then all study in Physics will come to a close”

“When that substance is known, from which every other substance is made, Chemistry attains its completion”

“When the source of all thought is found out, psychology will see its perfection”

“When that knowledge is known, knowing which everything is known, the quest of a Gnani is fulfilled”

(the last two are mine)

That endpoint is what Hindu Philosophy calls the “Godhead” or “Realisation”. Science , with its limited tools of inquiry, can scarcely dream of such things.

So what do we conclude ? That Science is Bigger than Philosophy ? It is just the reverse. Science is just a subset of Philosophy. This gives it a due place. That is also the great Indian tradition.


          QCon London 2015: from hype to trendsetting - Part 1        
Level [C3]

This year I could make it to the QCon London and I felt it might be useful to write up a summary for those who liked to be there but did not make it for any reason. This will also an opportunity to get my head together and summarise a couple of themes, inspired by the conference.

Quality of the talks was varied and initially pretty disappointing on the first day but rose to a real high on the last day. Not surprisingly, Microservices and Docker were the buzzwords of the conference and many of the talks had one or the other in their title. It was as if, the hungry folks were being presented Microservices with ketchup and next it would be with Mayonnaise and yet nothing as good as Docker with Salsa. In fact it is very easy to be skeptic and sarcastic about Microservices or Docker and disregard them as a pure hype.

After listening to the talks, especially ones on the last day, I was convinced that with or without me, this train is set to take the industry forward. Yes, granularity of the Microservices (MS) have not been crisply defined yet, and there is a stampede to download and install Microservices on old systems and fix the world. Industry will abuse it as it reduced SOA to Web Services by adding just a P to the end. Yes, there are very few people talking about the cost of moving to MS and explore the cases where you should stay put. But if your Monolith (even though pays lip service to SOA) has ground the development cycle to a halt and is killing you and your company, there is a thing or two to learn here.

Disclaimer: This post by no means is a comprehensive account of the conference. This is my personal take on QCon London 2015 and topics discussed, peppered with some of my own views, presented as a technical writing.

Microservices

Yeah I know you are fed up with hearing the word - but bear with me for a few minutes. Microservices reminded me of my past life: it is a syndrome. A medical syndrome when it is first being described, does not have to have the Aetiology and Pathophysiology all clear and explained - it is just a syndrome, a collection of signs and symptoms that occur together. In the medical world, there could be years between describing a syndrome and finding what and why.

And this is what we are dealing here within a different discipline: Microservice is an emerging pattern, a solution to a contextual problem that has indeed occurred. It is a phenomenon that we are still trying to figure out - a lot of head scratching is going on. So bear with it and I think we are for a good ride beyond all the hype.

Its two basic benefits are mainly: smaller deployment granularity enabling you to iterate faster and smaller domain to focus, understand and improve. For me the first is the key.

So here are a breakdown of few key aspects of the Microservices.

Conway, Conway, Where Art Thou

A re-occurring theme (and at points, ad nauseum) was that MS is the result of reversing cause and effect in the Conway's law and using it to your advantage: build smaller teams and your software will shape like it. So in essence, turning Conway's law on its head and use it as a tool to naturally result in a more loosely coupled architecture.



This by no means is new, Amazon has been doing this for a decade. Size of the teams are nicely defined by Jeff Bezos as "Two Pizza Teams". But what is the makeup of these teams and how do they operate? As again described by Amazon, they are made up of elements of a small company, a start-up, including developers, testers, BA, business representative and more importantly operations, aka Devops.

Another point stressed by Yoni Goldberg from Gilt and Andy Shoup was that the teams charge other teams for using their services and need to look after their finances. They found that doing this reduced costs of the team by 90% - mainly due to optimising cloud and computing costs.

Granularity: "fits in my head" (does it?)

One of the key challenges of Microservices was to define the granularity of a Microservice differentiating it from the traditional SOA. And it seems we have now up a definition: "its complexity fits one's head".

What? This to me is a non-definition and on any account, it is a poor definition (sorry Dan). After all, there is nothing more subjective than what fits one's head, is it? And whose head by the way? if it is me, I cannot keep track of what I ate for breakfast and lunch at the same time (if you know me personally, you must have noticed my small head) and then we get those giants that can master several disciplines or understand the whole of an uber-domain.

One of the key properties of a good definition is that it is tangible, unambiguous and objectively prescriptive. Jeff Bezos was not necessarily a Pizza lover to use it to define Amazon team sizes.

In the absence of any tangible definition, I am going to bring my own - why not? This is really how I feel like the granularity of a MS should be, having built one or two, and I am using tangible metrics to define it.

Granularity of Microservices - my definition

As it is evident, Cross-cutting concerns of a Microservice are numerous. From security, availability, performance to routing, versioning, discovery, logging and monitoring. For a lot of these concerns, you can rely on the existing platform or common platform-wide guidelines, tools and infrastructure. So the crux of the sizing of the Microservice is its core business functionality, otherwise with regard to non-functional requirements, it would share the same concerns as traditional services.

When not to Microservice

Yoni Goldberg from Gilt covered this subject to some level. He basically said do not start with Microservice, build them when your domain complexity warrants it. He went through his own experience and how they improved upon the ball of mud to nice discreet service and then how they exploded the number of services when their
So takeaways (with some personal salt and pepper) I would say is do NOT consider Microservice if:
  • you do not have the organisation structure (small cross functional teams)
  • you are not practising Devops, automated build and deployment
  • you do not have (or cannot have) an uber monitoring system telling you exactly what is happening
  • you have to carry along a legacy database
  • your domain is not too big

Microservices is an evolutionary process

Randy Shoup explained how the process towards Microservice has been an evolutionary one, usually starting with the Monolith. So he stressed "Evolution, not intelligent design" and how in such an environment, Governance (oh yeah, all ye Enterprise Architects listen up) is not the same as traditional SOA and is decentralised with its adoption purely based on how useful a practice/ is.

Optimised message protocols now a must

Frequented in more than a couple of talks, moving to ProtoBuf, Avro, Thrift or similar seems to be a must in all but trivial Microservice setups. One of the main performance challenges in MS scenarios is network latency and cost of serialisation/deserialisation over and over across multiple hops and JSON simply does not cut it anymore

Source: Thrift vs Protobuf comparison (http://devres.zoomquiet.io/data/20091111011019/index.html)
Be ready to move your APIs to these message protocols - yes you lose some simplicity benefits but trading it off for performance is always a necessary evil to make. Rest assured nothing stops you to use JSON while developing and testing, but if your game is serious, start changing your protocols now - and I am too, item already added to the technical backlog.

What I was hoping to hear about and did not

Microservice registry and versioning best practices was not mentioned at all. I tried to quiz a few speakers on these but did not quite get a good answer. I suppose the space is open for grab.

Need for Composition Services/APIs

As experienced personally, in an MS environment you would end up with two different types of services: Functional Microservice where they own their data and are the authority in their business domain and Composition APIs which do not normally own any data and bring value by composing data from several other services - normally involving some level of business logic affecting the end user. In DDD terms, you could somehow find similarity with Facade services and Yoni used the word "mid-tier services".

Composition services can bring a lot of value when it comes to caching, pagination of data and enriching the information. They practically scatter the requests and gather the results back and compose the result - Fan-out is another term used here.

By inherently depending on many services, they are notoriously susceptible to performance outliers (will be discussed in the second post) and failure scenarios which might warrant a layered cache backed by soft storage with a higher expiry for fallback in case dependent service is down.

In the next post, we will look into topics below. We will discover why Docker in fact is closely related to the Microservices - and it is not what you think! [Do I qualify now to become a BusinessInsider journalist?]
  • Those pesky performance outliers
  • Containers, containers
  • Don't beat the dead Agile
  • Extra large memory computing is now a thing

          161 – Radio Houdi mäter k*ken        

Nytt hest avsnitt av Radio Houdi där vi mäter oss på olika sätt John kraxar sig genom denna podcast. John och Anders pratar om logiken bakom intelligent design gällande virussjukdomar, De första männen på månen,...

The post 161 – Radio Houdi mäter k*ken appeared first on Radio Houdi.


           Developing student model using kohonen network in adaptive hypermedia learning system         
Yusob, Bariah and H. S., Siti Mariyam and Ahmad, Nor Bahiah (2009) Developing student model using kohonen network in adaptive hypermedia learning system. In: 9th International Conference on Intelligent Design and Applications, 2009, Italy.
          Intelligent Design        
eramuslim – Abad ke-19 menyaksikan sebuah kekeliruan terbesar dalam sejarah umat manusia. Ini berawal dengan dikenalkannya filsafat materialis warisan Yunani kuno kepada pemikiran bangsa Eropa. Kekeliruan ini adalah teori evolusi Darwin. Sebelum kemunculan Darwinisme, biologi diterima sebagai cabang ilmu pengetahuan yang membuktikan keberadaan Tuhan. Dalam bukunya Natural Theology, biologiwan terkenal William Paley menyatakan, “Setiap jam […]
          Doubting Darwin        

Darwin's Doubt by Stephen G. Meyer, 498  pages (including notes), HarperOne, New York.

This book challenges  the theory of  Charles Darwin that life evolved  through random mutation and natural selection.  Mutations, or changes in the genetic code, can be caused by radiation, chemicals  or other unidentified factors.  According to the theory, those animals that are  best suited to their environments will survive and breed, so favorable mutations will be passed on to future generations.  By this process, repeated over millions of years,  simple animals  (like  protozoa and bacteria)  have evolved into insects, fish, reptiles, mammals and  mankind.  

Meyer,  a Cambridge University  PhD in the philosophy of science, claims that the  latest scientific discoveries and experiments in paleontology, molecular-biology  and genetics  have cast serious doubt on this scenario for the following reasons:

1. The Missing Links.

 If Darwin was right,  the fossil record would include examples of species at various levels of development, from the simplest to the more complex.  The fact is that there are enormous gaps in the fossil record, especially at the dawn of the Cambrian era, about  543 million years ago.  For example, the  trilobite  was a small three-lobed hard-bodied animal  that was very common in the Cambrian period.  Despite  150  years of  digging all over the world, no fossils have been found of  pre-trilobite animals.  The  creatures that lived before the Cambrian were all soft-bodied  (like sponges and jellyfish), and none resembled the trilobite at all!   Other animals appear suddenly  in the  fossil record fully-formed, rather than as transitional forms.

2. Mutations do NOT improve animals.

The DNA of single-cell organisms contain  between 300,000 and a million pairs of base- pairs, and more complex animals have far more.  It is very improbable that the first such cells could have been formed by chance combinations of chemicals in the primordial sea.  Even  if that did happen,  the information contained in those cells would not have been sufficient to  develop  multi-celled organisms  with highly specialized cells  (such as skin, fins, claws, eyes, etc.)

 A mutation in DNA  is like a typographical error in a sentence or a computer program.If the mutation occurs in a gene that determines the  structure or function of the animal,  the probability that  the mutation will improve the viability of the animal is infinitessimal.  Virtually all such mutations either kill the embryo or  (at best) produce a creature than cannot survive long enough to reproduce.  Some mutations  have no effect on the progeny at all, and others produce harmless changes, such as the wing-colors of flies and moths.  These mutations do not explain the evolution of  one species into another.

Therefore mutations fail to explain  the appearance  over time of new species, with new capabilites such as sight, flight or other survival skills.   Natural selection can indeed lead to the replacement  in a given eco-niche  of one species by another, but it cannot create new species.

Meyer maintains that the best explanation of  the development of  life  is  Intelligent Design  (ID).  He shows that the meticulous planning that would be needed to transform a fertilized egg into a newborn animal  (genes must  catalyze the formation of complex proteins in a specific sequence)  is better explained by  ID  rather than random changes.   His conclusions are butressed by copious quotations from  respected peer-reviewed journals in  genetics and biology.

Can intelligence exist outside a physical body?  Meyer says  "Yes" and the scientific establishment says "No."  Scientists cannot accept an explanation  not based upon a material cause  (matter or energy) that can be  detected  and measured, so they reject ID.  But  these scientists do accept the existence of  Dark Matter (1), super-strings (2) and even mutliple universes, even though none of these are visible and none have ever been detected by a scientific instrument!

The difference between Meyer  (and a few other scientists) and the science establishment is  one of basic philosophy, rather than one of science.  To the establishment, ID  is religion, superstition and myth, not science.   These viewpoints cannot be reconciled, no matter what future research will reveal.

Darwin's Doubt is not an easy read:  knowledge of biology and probability  are necessary for full understanding.  But I recommend this book to anyone who is seriously interested in the origin and development of life on earth.

Gerald S Glazer, M S

---------------------------------

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(1) The gravitational field that holds the universe together is too strong to be attributed to visible  matter, such as stars.  Therefore physicists infer the existence of  Dark Matter, which  bends the space-time continuum, but  does interact with matter. In Jewish philosophy, Darkness (Choshech) is not merely the absence of light, but something that was created, so it could refer to Dark Matter.

(2) String theory holds that sub-atomic particles, such as quarks, are made of  tiny loops of energy, which vibrate at different frequencies.  The strings are too small to detect, even with electron microscopes. 


          Does Science Refute Creation?        

"..The findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world's  traditional religions and cultures---their theories of the orgins of life....are factually mistaken..........The facts of science, by exposing the absence of  purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility....."   "Science is Not Your Enemy" by Steven Pinker in the New Republic, August 19, 2013

The author is a professor of psychology at Harvard University and a contributing editor of the New Republic.  His essay, which extols the accomplishments of modern science  (especially in medicine) apparently represents the position of the magazine. But before we all  donate our tefillin and mezuzos to the Jewish Museum, let us consider  if the claims quoted above are true.

According to the prevalent Big Bang Theory,  until about 15 billion years ago, all  the mass and energy of the universe was concentrated in a single point, much smaller than a proton,  called the space-time  singularity.  Suddenly, the singularity exploded into a  "fireball" of matter and anti-matter full of electro-magnetic energy (light)  and subatomic particles  (quarks, leptons, bosons, et cetera).  This fireball expanded  rapidlly  and coalesced into stars and then planets.  The expansion of the universe that began with the Big Bang continues to this day, and may go on forever.  Residual radiation from the Big Bang was deteted in 1964.

Why did the singularity explode? No one knows.  The gravitational force within the singularity would have been  enormous, so the force needed to blow it up would have to have been even greater.  Yet, with all  the energy of the universe inside the signularity, no external power could have acted on it.  Since time itself did not exist before the Big Bang, it could not have been set to expode at that time by any internal force either. 

Using the language of computer science, we can denote  matter and energy   as  the Hardware of the uiniverse.  But a computer also needs an Operating System, or Software:  a set of rules that govern how the  units of  hardware  (in this case, photons, electrons, protons, quarks, bosons, etc.)  interact with each other.  The Software consists of the laws of physics, such as  E equals m c squared,  Maxwells's equations  (of electromagnetism), the two principles of Relativity (Special and General), Schrodinger's equation,  Newton's law of gravitation, and so on.    The matter and energy that burst forth from the Big Bang began behaving in accordance with these rules (or a primordial set of rules that quickly  morphed into the laws we know today) from the very first instant of their existence!  The laws of physics, some of them very complex,  must have either existed in some  sense before the Big Bang,  or spontaneously arose   at the precise moment that matter and energy began to exist!

 Moreover,  these laws  use a set of constants, such as the speed of light, the charge on an electron and  the constant of gravitation.  To the best of  current scientific knowledge, all of these constants were  determined   forever at the moment of the Big Bang.  The fact that stars and planets exist  proves these  constants were  the ones  that   would allow matter to coalsce into stars and planets.  Even a slight  reduction in   the gravitational constant  would preclude  matter from coalescing at all, let alone enough to ignite  the fusion that powers stars.   The fact that life exists on Earth also proves that the constants were also favorable to the future  existence life  somewhere in the universe, perhaps in several  different places.  Strange that the laws and constants, determined just once at the beginning of time, were exactly the right ones to permit life to develop many billions of years later!

From the atheistic perspective held by Professor Pinker (and  others   like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher), no  intelligence of any kind existed at the time of the Big Bang, so  all of this  "just happened by chance."   Some scientists speculate that many (maybe even infinitely many) other universes   exist  far from our known, each one commencing with its own Big Bang.  But science is based upon observation,and so far  no observation  has ever corroborated  this "multi-verse"  theory.  Our biggest telescopes look back about 13 billion years, and so far only one Big Bang.  (The light from an event far enough away might never get here, so who knows for sure?) 

In my opinion, the discoveries of science support the belief that  the universe was created by Intelligent Design, and that the laws of physics and chemistry do have a purpose:  the existence of  life, and especially human life. but do not prove it.  This principle, first enunciated in the Torah about 3,500 years ago, is shared by the other great monotheistic religions.  I contend that this idea  is more plausible than the countervaling stance that everything is the result of random events.

Gerald S Glazer, MS   

 

 

 


          Comment on “Foo!” to “Are we shortening the Universe’s life by observing it?” by Rupen Savoulian        
Dear Rob This is another typically excellent post. I'm glad that you have (tenatively) returned to science blogging. Your ability to communicate is refreshing. Unfortunately, quantum mechanics is being bastardised by all sorts of mystic-merchants, creationists, Intelligent Designers (read ignoramuses) and other assorted galahs to promote a pseudo-spiritual, faith-based ideology. Keep blogging and Vanderbilt will realise that they have lost a talented scientist. Cheers from Sydney, Australia
          Graphic Design Agency        
It’s important to trust a top graphic design agency to boost the visual appeal of your brand in the digital world. Only an experienced digital and branding agency knows what it takes to driving sales and increasing brand value. A proven graphic design agency is good at creating well-executed and intelligent design so that your brand messages makes the impact on the web. Similarly, good agencies are aware of the role visually appealing designs have in the mind of users and thus, they don’t leave anything unturned. This is how brands are made and helped to achieve success by realizing their true potential.
          House and Land Package The Malvern        
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          Prayers for the Persecuted Church (3/22/2012)        
Banner Image
03/12/2012 China (ChinaAid) Members Detained and Sent to Labor Camp as Chinese House Church Repeatedly Targeted for Persecution -

A house church belonging to the China for Christ denomination has been the target of months of attacks from local authorities in the city of Zhuozhou, Hebei province, with church members being illegally detained, interrogated and sent to labor camps -- simply for attending worship services or other activities.Local authorities have also forcibly confiscated 170,000 yuan ($27,000 USD) of church funds without following any of the required legal procedures.

They have also sent people to labor camps and demolished the home where the church was meeting.A religious affairs bureau official announced that the church's November 8, 2011 meeting, which was attended by over fifty villagers, was an illegal service because it had not been registered with or approved by the government departments supervising religious affairs. Full Story

Pray for the house churches in China as their number is rapidly increasing but is continually targeted by Chinese authorities for persecution. Praise God for watering the planted seeds of the Gospel in China!
Pray for these villagers who have been sent to labor camps for their faith. May their faith remain strong under the intentional oppression by the government.
Pray that the Lord will providentially use these events to bring the Gospel to others in these labor camps and in the government bureaus.
03/12/2012 India (BosNewsLife) India Militants Attack Prayer Meeting, Pastors

Suspected Hindu militants broke up a Christian prayer meeting and forced two women leading the gathering to stop evangelizing in India's southwestern state of Karnataka, as part of several attacks against devoted believers across the country.
As many as twenty Hindu "radicals" and "extremists" raided the March 3 prayer meeting in the Vijayanagar neighborhood of Bangalore, local Christians said.

The mob allegedly insulted worshipers and ordered the two women leading the service, Parimala, 36, and Padmavathi, 35, to stop the prayers immediately. The two women are members of the Mahima Prarthana Mandira - an independent church in the Vijayanagar neighborhood. Both believers, who were Hindus before becoming Christians twelve years ago, also lead a sixty-member congregation which often gathers for prayer services at a rented home. Additionally, they have been distributing evangelical publications with the Gospel. These activities angered the militants and filed complaints of "forceful conversion" and pressured the two to write down that they would halt prayer meetings and no long conduct their evangelistic activities.

Pray for these two women who are specifically being targeted for spreading the Gospel. Jesus said He will build His church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Pray for fruit of their evangelistic efforts.
Pray for these Hindu militants, that like these two women, will see the beauty of Christ and put their faith in the one true God.
Pray for India as they have seen increasing persecution and attacks by Hindu militants.
03/14/2012 Afghanistan (AsiaNews) Christian Fears Grow Worse as Taliban Prepare New Attacks

The recent killing of 16 civilians by a US soldier has left Afghanistan's Christian population increasingly fearful as the Taliban has promised new attacks. Coupled with the recent Qur'an burnings at an American military base, violent protests have erupted across the country leaving more than forty people dead.

"Resentment against the West and Christians is growing stronger, even though no direct threats have been made against individuals," sources say.

International media have shown Afghans protesting by burning crosses and Christian symbols. For most Afghans, the West and Christianity are the same, the sources note. "Sadly, the crazy act of a madman will be paid [for by] Christians." Full Story

Pray that U.S. presence in Afghanistan will be a blessing and not a catalyst for hatred and violence towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Pray for the small population of Christians in Afghanistan who have been continually targeted by Muslim extremists. Pray for their safety and for the faith.
Pray that the church continues to grow in Afghanistan. Pray that the eyes of the people will be opened to the joy and satisfaction that is found in Christ alone.
03/14/2012 Eritrea (International Christian Concern) Imprisoned Head of Eritrean Orthodox Church in Urgent Need of Medical Attention

Patriarch Antonios, who has been imprisoned for his faith, is a diabetic and his situation is deteriorating due to lack of medical attention. He has been detained at an undisclosed location since 2006. The Eritrean government is known for their oppression of Christians. There are over 3000 Christians in prison in the country simply because of their faith.

ICC's Jonathan Racho said, "We are deeply concerned about the health of the Patriarch and urge the international community to pressure Eritrea to release him. Eritrea must end the unlawful detention of Christian prisoners."

Patriarch Antonios was detained for asking the Eritrean government to release members of his church detained for their beliefs and urging the Eritrean officials not to interfere in the affairs of the church. Full Story 

Pray for Patriarch Antonios as his health declines. Pray for the Lord to sustain him during this time.
Pray that those Christians also serving sentences for their faith. Eritrea is notorious for the brutal prison conditions for Christians. Be in prayer for sustained faith, safety, and providential opportunities for the Gospel to be shown and preached.
Pray for the hearts of those in Eritrea to be fertile soil for the Gospel.
03/14/2012 United States (FoxNews) NASA Scientist Claims He Was Harassed, Demoted Over Intelligent Design Beliefs

David Coppedge, a high-level computer systems administrator at the laboratory maintains he was fired nine months after expressing his beliefs in intelligent design to his co-workers. Lawyer William Becker spoke on behalf of Coppedge to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige in trial of the religious discrimination lawsuit his client filed in April 2010.

JPL attorney James Zapp argued that Coppedge was laid off as part of a staff reduction and that Coppedge had trouble getting along with other employees, becoming defensive when a supervisor instructed him on avoiding confrontations with co-workers.

According to his suit, Coppedge was demoted for allegedly "pushing religion" by loaning interested co-workers DVDs supporting intelligent design. Full Story

Pray for this trial as it could have significant repercussions for free speech in the workplace.
Pray for the judge in this trial, that he or she rules objectively.
Pray that this case awakens the U.S. to the plight of the persecuted church.
 03/14/2012 Pakistan (CNN) Petition: Free Pakistani Woman Set for Execution 

In a weird twist of irony, Asia Bibi is facing the death penalty following a false accusation of blasphemy in Pakistan, which is running for a seat on the United Nation's Human Rights Council. However, activists presented a petition Tuesday to the U.N. calling on Pakistan to free the Christian mother of five from being put to death on the charge.
Pakistani courts found Asia Bibi guilty of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during a 2009 argument with Muslim fellow field workers. As a result, Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging. But an investigation by a Pakistani government ministry found the charges stemmed from religious and personal enmity and recommended Bibi's release.

The petition was signed by fifty activists including a former Czech foreign minister, the president of the U.N. General Assembly, a survivor of Tienanmen Square, and a women's rights activist. "With Pakistan now running for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, the government should make an important gesture by releasing Asia Bibi, and repealing its blasphemy law, which is inconsistent with basic human rights," said Hillel Neuer, director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that organized the petition. Full Story

Pray for the nation of Pakistan. With increasing pressure on the government to reverse laws that target Christians and with increasing pressure on maintaining religious freedom, Christians may be able to worship freely someday in this country.
Pray for Asia Bibi who has been in prison for nearly three years. Pray for her safety and strength of faith. Her faith is something to praise God for, as the Lord has been faithful in encouraging her.
Pray for the many needs of her family. One of her five children has special needs and the burden on this family is great, not just because of their size, but coupled with persecution, they have struggled to meet their needs.
3/16/2012 Pakistan (Deccan Herald) Majority of Christian and Hindu Women Face Sexual Harassment in Pakistan

A recent study has shown that the majority of minority women, both Christian and Hindu, are subject to discrimination and harassment.
Out of 1000 women interviewed, 74 percent of them had been sexually harassed in the workplace in 2010 and 2011.

Due to their economic status, these women are "on the margins of social and economic development," says Peter Jacob, executive director for the National Commission for Justice and Peace.

This position makes minority women easy targets for discrimination. Full Story

Pray for Christian and Hindu women of Pakistan, that God will protect his daughters, encourage them and empower them to be victors in their environment.
Pray for the NCJP, that their work will be seen, heard and acted upon.
Pray that Pakistan will safeguard women's rights.
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Thank you for caring and praying for the persecuted.

          NOMA and the Jones decision        
The Jones decision absolutely reeks of NOMA, and it only works as an establishment clause case on the assumption of NOMA. Were questions of design refuted by Darwinian biology, or were they set aside as metaphysical issues outside the purview of science per se? Did the methodological assumptions of science change over time to preclude design inferences? Are there weaknesses in the Darwinian story that are constantly being papered over? Is Darwinian theory being protected by leaders in the scientific community, using the phobia of creationism to silence honest, and secular criticism of the standard theory? The guy from China said that while in China you can criticize Darwin but not the government, over here you can criticize the government but not Darwin. 

If you go by the Jones decision, then biology textbooks are going to have to be checked to make sure they don't have antireligious content in them. Otherwise they violate the establishment clause in just the same way that the Dover statement violated it. How much do you want to bet that you could find lots of violations in many biology textbooks? 

What I believe on the other days of the week is that NOMA is true, biology should be metaphysically neutral, and science textbooks should indicate that questions of intelligent design lie outside the purview of science and cannot be settled one way or the other by science. So, evolution is affirmed because science has to work that way, and you can legitimately ask the question of design, but as an extrascientific question that science, per se, cannot answer.
          Creationism, Evolutionism, Intelligent Design        
When people say that intelligent design is just creationism, it is hard to see what they mean exactly. Meanings of terms like these have a bad habit of sliding around.

Creationism can mean the belief that God created the world, the belief that God created the world in six days, the belief that science can discover that God created the world, or that science can discover that God created the world in seven days.

Evolution can mean that the earth is old, or that there is common ancestry, or that speciation occurred without design, or that life and speciation occurred without design.

Intelligent design means that at least some life on earth was designed (by a nonhuman designer), or that science can discover that life on earth was designed. It typically means at least the second of these things.

All creators are designers, but some designers are not creators. Plato believed in design but not creation. ID advocates say that science can discover design but not creation. But most believe in creation, and hope that those who come to accept design will come to believe in creation. Is this enough to make them creationists, in the perjorative sense?

With respect to the public school controversy, it is true that ID was used by many creationists to bring as much of what they believed into the public school classroom as they could. Insofar as leading ID advocates took an interest in public education, they aroused the ire of the scientific community. But someone could support the idea that, at the higher education and research level,  researchers should be free to pursue design hypotheses, but until those are further developed, they should not attempt to push theories that contradict the consensus of the scientific community in the public school classroom. This is my position, at least on some days of the week.



          Easter persecution show        

“Are Christians Being Persecuted?” on BBC1 tonight posed that ludicrous question. The description on the BBC site started with a contentious intro:

For years now, some town halls have been renaming their Christmas Lights as Winter Lights festivals. More and more Christians are ending up in court, defending themselves against what they see as victimisation for not being allowed to wear a cross to work or to pray for a patient.

It’s doubtful if “Winter Lights Festivals” are anything except an urban myth. But, anything is possible. Rebranding things on a random basis has somehow become compulsory in Britain. (For instance, the Department for Trade and Industry is on its third renaming in as many years. No one suggests that this means that Business is being persecuted.)

Ah ha, the programme has actually found a council that called its Christmas decorations “Winter Lights” one year (not “some town halls” and not “for years” then.) The council has now again rebranded the light switching-on procedure, as “Christmas in Autumn” or something.

Wny is the name given to street lights even remotely newsworthy?

Because of the media that feels no shame in trying to stir up controversy about nothing, maybe.

Or because of the activities of a tiny fringe group of extremists who are being quite successful in rebranding “Christianity” – redefining their religion in terms of items of jewelry and acts of bigotry. (At the same time, bringing into the UK fundy beliefs – like Intelligent Design – that mainstream UK Christians still laugh at.)

This was a truly annoying programme. It gave yet more credibility to the extreme wing of Christians, accepting their self-definition, so confusing the boundaries between them and the mainstream churches.

Although no member of the mainstream churches seems to have got into any dispute over wearing crosses, etc., any act of overzealous-personnel-management-madness directed against these people now gets seen as representing an attack on Christianity as a whole.

If you could bear to sit through the whole dull 60 minutes, the programme finally concluded that UK Christians aren’t actually being persecuted …… well, at least not compared to Christians in the Sudan. That almost defines “damning with faint praise.”


          VIVA LA EVOLUCION        











Click to enlarge image

This year marks two significant moments in the history of science: the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication in 1859, of his "On the Origin of Species."
Arguing that mankind was descended from primates, Darwin's theory has been facing criticism from those who said that he was rejecting God.
On Darwinian topic, we will be posting graphic variations of the iconoclastic theory of evolution, that is said not to be believed by 2/3 of Americans. Indeed, one poll, commissioned by CBS News, revealed that more than half of the US population believes that God created human beings in their present form.
Would these funny visual interpretations do any good to the theory? Doubtful...

Anyhow, these examples of intelligent designs will bring a smile to some faces; at least, we hope it will, while the battle between evolutionists and creationists keeps raging on till date.



          Intelligent design        

A good commentary by law professor/medical ethicist George Annas in this week's NEJM about the various guises in which creationists try to "sneak" their views into the classroom. I hadn't realized that "intelligent design" is just creationism repackaged:
By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in the early drafts is identical to the definition of ID [intelligent design]; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist) which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards.
Quote if from Judge John Jones opinion in the recent Dover, PA case adn Edwards refers to a US Supreme Court decision overturinng a previous law requiring teaching of creationism.
Unfortunately, the creationists are gearing up for a new assault, this one predicated on the idea that students deserve to be exposed to both sides of the "controversy" between ID and evolution:It looks as if this next wave will jettison the creationist and intelligent-design baggage and concentrate exclusively on a "teach the controversy" strategy. That this controversy is one largely manufactured by the proponents of creationism and intelligent design may not matter, and as long as the controversy is taught in classes on current affairs, politics, or religion, and not in science classes, neither scientists nor citizens should be concerned.
I don't see why everyone can't just accept that it was the flying spaghetti monster who created everything.
          I Ponder the Mystery of Physics... And Physicists        
As a species, physicists baffle me. To my meager understanding, Physics - the study of matter, energy and the relationship between them - is the most fundamental of the natural sciences. Physics elucidates the properties of matter at level of the most basic structural units, and therefore, must necessarily underlie our understanding of the other branches of the natural sciences, namely, chemistry and biology. Therefore, I have always assumed - perhaps naïvely - the physicists' understanding of the natural world is firmly rooted in empiricism, in critical analysis of observed data - in other words, in the conscientious application of the Scientific Method.

And there are ample examples of brilliant physicists who embody that notion - who look at the universe and perceive the beauty therein, from the smallest of particles to the largest of planetary bodies, from intra-particular energy transfer to grand cosmological phenomena - all following certain rules, the various Laws of Physics, which are mathematically deductible and empirically verifiable: Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, and amongst the still-living, Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss, Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, Athene Donald, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Sean Carroll - just to randomly name a few (in no particular order). Following is a video of a relatively recent speech by Sean Carroll, in which he took the audience through an amazing journey - explaining the status of our current understanding of the universe.