Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nature contains a limited number of "odd survivors," including a few phyla with only a handful of living members. Do Intelligent Design proponents have an explanation for such data?

Maybe an INTELLIGENT DESIGN proponent can explain why we need 33-40 phyla when merely 9 of those phyla constitute about 95% of all animal life? The remaining 26-31 phyla have fewer than about 2,000 known members--the rarest with just three members (Cycliophora: odd sacs represented by Symbion pandora), two members (Xenoturbellida: strange flatworm) or one species (Micrognathozoa: tiny jawed animal, and Placozoa, an animal that resembles a multicellular amoeba). Most are simple marine organisms, often referred to as worms or nanoplankton.

Also, how about an INTELLIGENT DESIGN proponent explaining why, among multi-cellular organisms, beetles and mites proliferate so much, producing hundreds of thousands of species, while other phyla produce far fewer? The number of species of mites might even reach 1 million according to some estimates, as more beetles and mites continue being discovered all the time.


13 phyla of multi-cellular animals appear during the Cambrian Explosion.


20 phyla of multi-cellular animals appear AFTER the Cambrian. Neither is the number of phyla into which all the world's species can be divided agreed upon among systematicists. Under the most frequently used classification scheme there are 38 animal phyla, but some systematicists claim there are between 35 and 40 phyla. Three new phyla were discovered in the last century, the most recent in 1993.

See also this post on living fossils... http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2012/01/creationists-love-to-talk-about-living.html

Intelligent Design or Trial and Error? Some Data to Consider

Let's look at the I.D. proposal versus trial and error when it comes to sperm and whether you as an individual were personally designed. It doesn't look like you were. Neither does it look like the species of which you are a part was individually or personally the product of design, since we are merely one of several large-brained mammalian species, and all of them have loads of extinct cousins that we have found in the fossil record.

Here's the data. Many sperm are deformed, i.e., two heads, two tails, squiggly tails, heads that are too large or two small, etc. In the average ejaculate, there are 200 million sperm, talk about a roll of the biological dice that made "you." Only about half of the sperm that are ejaculated make it to the egg (and they don't reach the egg by their own power, but they slide en masse up the fallopian tube via peristaltic waves, so it's not like some sperm are being chosen individually to reach the egg), the rest doodle around in circles. And all but one sperm dies. Some sperm have just the male compliment of genes, some the female compliment. (The male-producing-sperm tend to be faster on average, but the female-producing-sperm tend to be stronger on average, so it's a stalemate in the sperm gender competition to fertilize the egg, again, it's anyone's race.) http://www.yourtango.com/2014208352/sex-sperm-101-10-crazy-facts-you-never-knew-about-his-swimmers-ejaculation-IVF-semen

That raises the question, were you "designed?" personally, individually? Based on a study of sperm it doesn't seem so. You are the result of trivial differences between hundreds of millions of dead sperm, purely statistical odds.

Therefore, it does not seem valid to hold the belief that the whole cosmos was arranged just so that [insert your name here] could arise.

And if not you personally, then what about the species of which you are a member? Was the whole cosmos arranged so that "humans" could arise?

Humans constitute one of a few, very few, extremely large-brained mammalian species which include countless extinct cousin species of cetacea (whales, dolphins), elephants, ancient apes, upright hominids that all died like those hundreds of millions of sperm.

Paleontologists have discovered that before the earliest upright hominids arose, the world was covered with ape species, the majority of which went extinct. Likewise with cetacea. Paleontologists have found some fuller fossils of early cetacea but there's plenty of evidence that the fuller skeletons are a mere drop in the bucket of all the species of cetacea that used to exist. There are many other whale bones in Eocene rocks of Pakistan and India. Mostly they are teeth--the rock surrenders a few skulls as well -- but even teeth clearly show that their owners were not clones of Pakicetus or the other better-known whales, but evidence of countless cousin species that are now extinct.

The current species of humanity known as Homo sapiens is a tremendous latecomer to the cosmic scene, having only recently arisen during the slimmest margin of cosmic time, and we only recently discovered that we live on the quaking surface of a rock flying through space with countless other rocks flying around, and explosive energies, both in space and beneath our feet, energies constantly mixing and swirling around, again, statistically allowing for life to arise in very small regions of the cosmos, and probably only for limited amounts of time due to the explosive swirling nature of the cosmos. And that life continues via death and reproduction. Life does not appear to be a particularly stable phenomena, though some single-celled forms have a better chance of surviving than more complex multi-cellular forms.

It is probable, given the fact that planets with life are so small and energies and matter keep swirling round and filling most of the cosmos, that the human species will become extinct in future.

Can the human species survive for billions of years like the stars, or a hundred billion years like black holes? And if we do, what will those far flung descendants of today's humans be like? Will they still closely resemble our species today? Maybe present day humanity is just another stepping stone to some far flung future species, and no single species was "designed" to be as it is, but the cosmos is always in process, all species are always in process?

Maybe present day humanity will diversify over the billions of years that follow, filling niches on different planets, and that may be followed by extinction events on those separate planets, again a trial and error and whittling process. Who knows what future version of humanity will be the last one standing?

Or imagine our newcomer species dying out tomorrow or merely a million years from now, in which case there will still be stars with billions of years ahead of them in which to shine, and black holes with a hundred billion years ahead of them in which to suck, but there will no longer be any humans to gaze at them. Seems possible, even probable.

Humanity might even might be superseded by some other biological organism or machine we happen to create. Imagine that we invent a sensory apparatus capable of acquiring information via a learning program, then that learns how to upgrade itself faster than humans can upgrade it, so it evolves faster than we can even imagine it evolving, and it surpasses humanity. In that case carbon-based life forms will have been superseded by something we gave birth to, and humanity will simply have been a stepping stone in the process toward newer entities. See also the online essay, "Why We Believe in a Designer" located at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/ce/4/part2.html

So, the "Design" in the above case would be a never ending process of change, including the possibility of extinction at every level of such changes. It looks like trial and error to me.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Quotations from Augustine of Hippo: Proof that you can study "holy scriptures" for a lifetime and pray for guidance and come to conclusions like these

The earliest image of St. Augustine from a 6th century fresco in San Giovanni Lateran, Rome.

AUGUSTINE joined his ego with that of the largest religious movement in the Roman Empire which expanded his ego and gave him more verbal outlets for whatever steam was building up between his ears than ever before, more people to preach to verbally and textually, telling them what to believe and how to act, because otherwise... hell. How big a kick is that? What expands a person's ego more than imagining one has the ability to jangle the keys to eternal life or death in people's ears? One imagines one is preaching and writing for God's sake not your own, that you are giving God a voice via promoting your own understandings of "God's words." You even get to tell your audience that God teaches it is virtuous of them to humble themselves and listen to you and other church leaders you agree with, and God doesn't want them listening to any of those "heretics" with whom you disagree. All the while convincing yourself that it's your divinely appointed job to help preserve the eternal safety and sanctity of your congregation's immortal souls.

Augustine devoted his life to being a cult leader, one of the earliest, loudest and most listened to when it came to arguing that heretics must be compelled/forced to enter or re-enter the fold of the one true Catholic Church. He set forth the principle of Cognite Intrare ("Compel them to enter," based on Luke 14:23). Cognite Intrare would be used throughout the Middle Ages to justify the Church's suppression of dissent and oppression of difference.

Not long after Augustine's arguments were put forth the Roman Emperors who were at least nominally Christian began to produce laws related to the persecution and even execution of unrepentant heretics who refused to keep their damned mouths shut or their pens out of the ink well. Augustine also taught that children who had not undergone the one true baptism of the Catholic Church remained in Satan's power and were hell bound if they died prior to receiving such baptism, which I am sure added to no one's anguish at all. (Up till the 1970s Catholic seminarians had to learn how to use a syringe filled with holy water to baptize babies in the womb if the birthing process was not going well in order to ensure such babies would wind up in heaven.)

Below are quotations from Augustine:

"In Luke it is written: 'Compel people to come in!' By threats of the wrath of God, the Father draws souls to his Son."

"There is no salvation outside the church."
--City of God

"...there is a righteous persecution, which the Church of Christ inflicts upon the impious."

"...many have found advantage (as we have proved, and are daily proving by actual experiment), in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might afterwards be influenced by teaching."
--Treatise on the Correction of the Donatists

"The king serves God in one way as a man, and in another as a king; as a man, he serves Him by living in fidelity to His law, and since he is also a king, he serves by promulgating just laws, and forbidding the opposite, and by giving them a fitting and strong sanction; just as Zecharias served by destroying the shrines and temples of the idols; just as King Josias served by himself doing like things; just as the King of the Ninevites served by compelling the whole State to appease God; just as Darius served by giving the breaking of the idols into the power of Daniel; just as Nebuchadnezer served by forbidding by a terrible law all those dwelling in his kingdom to blaspheme God." And in the same place he adds: "Who, being in his right mind, will say to kings: 'In your kingdom have no care as to that by which the Church of your Lord is supported or opposed,' 'In your kingdom it is not your affair who wishes to be devout or sacrilegious,' to whom it cannot be said: In your kingdom it is not your affair who wishes to be virtuous or who does not?"

Augustine also wrote about the one non-Christian Emperor who reigned after Constantine (all the rest were at least nominally Christians): "Julian, the betrayer and enemy of Christ, allowed the freedom of perdition to heretics... [also] allow[ing] sacrilegious disputes to be freely indulged in."

Thus Augustine complained about freedom being allowed to heretics to speak their minds or write their works.

St. Augustine, in Epistle 62, "We warn that a heretic is to be avoided, lest he deceive those who are infirm or inexperienced, to such an extent that we have not denied that he should be corrected by any means possible and so on."

Augustine, in Book II of his Retractions, Chapter 5, and in Epistles 48 and 50, retracts what he had once thought, that heretics should not be forced to believe, and proves at length that it is very useful; he always rules out the punishment of death, not because he thought they did not deserve this, but both because he judged that this was unbecoming the gentleness of the Church and also because no imperial law was in existence, by which heretics were sentenced to death; for the Law, "Quicumque, C. de hereticis," was promulgated a little after the death of Augustine.

That, however, Augustine judged it to be just, if heretics were put to death, is beyond question; for, in Book I, in opposition to the letter of Parmenianus, in Chapter 7, he demonstrates that if the Donatists were punished by death, they would be justly so punished. And in tract 11, on John: "They kill souls, he says, and are afflicted in the body, those who bring about eternal deaths complain that they suffer temporal deaths," by which he says they falsely complain that they are killed by Emperors; nevertheless, even if this were true, they would be complaining unjustly. Finally, in his Letter 50, to Boniface, he writes that the Church does not want any heretic to be put to death: nevertheless, as the House of David could not enjoy peace unless Absalom were done away with and David was consoled by the peace of his realm in his grief over the death of his son: so when, from the laws of Emperors against heretics, the deaths of some follow, the sorrow of the maternal heart of the Church is assuaged by the deliverance of a multitude of people.

St. Augustine replies (in Letter 50 to Boniface, and elsewhere) that the Apostles never did that [called upon the secular arm to persecute heretics], because then there was no Christian Ruler they could call upon. For, at that time, the words of the Psalm (II, 2 & 10) were verified: "The kings of the earth, and the princes conspire together against the Lord and against His anointed." (v. 2) And after the time of Constantine, that began to be verified which is written later in the same Psalm: "And now, O kings, give heed; take warning, you rulers of the earth: Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before Him; with trembling pay homage to him..." (vs. 10-12) Soon the Church implored the help of the secular arm.


"Augustine was at his most disagreeably impatient when faced by groups whom he saw as self-regarding enclaves, deaf to the universal message of the Catholic Church. He insensibly presented the Church not only as the true Church, but as potentially the Church of the majority of the inhabitants of the Roman world. He was the first Christian that we know of to think consistently and in a practical manner in terms of making everyone a Christian. This was very different from claiming, as previous Christians had done, that Christianity was a universal religion in the sense that anyone in any place could, in theory at least, become a Christian. Augustine spoke of Christianity in more concrete, social terms: there was no reason why everybody in a given society (the Jews excepted) should not be a Christian. In his old age, he took for granted that the city of Hippo was, in effect, a Christian city. He saw no reason why the normal pressures by which any late Roman local community enforced conformity on its members should not be brought to bear against schismatics and heretics. He justified imperial laws that decreed the closing of temples and the exile and disendowment of rival churches [Donatist and other churches]. Pagans were told simply to 'wake up' to the fact that they were a minority. They should lose no time in joining the Great Majority of the Catholic Church. In fact, the entire world had been declared, more than a millennium before by the prophets of Israel, to belong only to Christ and to his Church, and Augustine quoted the second Psalm as proof: 'Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.' [Psalm 2:6,8,9,12]."

"[Of course not everyone was swayed by Augustine’s arguments.] We have a recently discovered letter that Augustine wrote at the end of his life to Firmus, a notable of Carthage. Firmus had attended afternoon readings of Augustine’s City of God. He had even read as far as book 10. He knew his Christian literature better than did his wife. Yet his wife was baptized, and Firmus was not. Augustine informed him that, compared with her, Firmus, for all his culture, even his sympathy for Christianity, stood on dangerous ground as long as he remained unbaptized."
--Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, 2nd Ed., (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), p.91, 92


On the Necessity of Believing in What the Scriptures Say Without Hesitation

"...in matters that pass beyond the scope of the physical senses, which we have not settled by our own understanding, and cannot--here we must believe, without hesitation, the witness of those men by whom the Scriptures (rightly called divine) were composed, men who were divinely aided in their senses and their minds..."

On the Necessity of Believing that Vast Waters Lie Above the Firmament

Genesis speaks of the firmament (Gen. 1:6-7) as that place that divides the earthly waters from the heavenly waters. Augustine offers a lengthy allegorical interpretation of the firmament in his Confessions (book 13)—seeing it as a symbol of Scripture and its place between the earthly and the heavenly—but the presence of an allegorical interpretation does not mean that he also rejects the literal existence of a firmament.

When some philosophers of Augustine's day argued that the waters would be too heavy to stay in the sky, Augustine replied, “If God ever wished oil to remain under water, it would do so.” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis 2.2).

The “term ‘firmament’ does not compel us to imagine a stationary heaven,” says Augustine, “we may understand this name as given to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is a solid and that it constitutes an impassable boundary between the waters above and the waters below” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis 2.10.23). And while he appears later in life to question his confidence in the exact nature of the firmament (Retractions 2.6.2), he continues to hold to its literal existence.
--Brandon Withrow, Augustine, Genesis, and “Removing the Mystical Veil”: Part 2

Augustine mentions that “...[in Genesis 1] the firmament was made between the waters above and beneath, and was called ‘Heaven,’ in which firmament the stars were made on the fourth day.” [City of God chapter 11.5-9] In that same chapter Augustine cites Psalm 148:3-4 that states the "sun, moon, stars and heaven" praise the Lord along with "the waters above the heavens," which assumes waters exist above the stars. Augustine adds, “Whatever the nature of the waters [above the firmament], we must believe in them, for the authority of Scripture is greater than the capacity of man’s mind.”

Augustine’s last phrase above was echoed by Martin Luther as late as the fifteenth century:

“Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which... are the waters... We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding”
--Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 1, Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan (St. Louis, MI: Concordia, 1958), pp. 30, 42, 43].

"Many [of the Church Fathers] repeat the statement of Augustine, that whatever the nature of the waters [above the firmament], we must believe in them, for the authority of Scripture is greater than the capacity of man’s mind.”
--Frank Egleston Robbins, The Hexaemeral Literature: a Study of the Greek and Latin Commentaries on Genesis

On the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World's Past

"They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed [since the creation of Adam and Eve].
--City of God, Book XII, Chapter 10, On the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World's Past

"...those antediluvians lived more than 900 years."
--City of God, Book XV, Chapter 14

On the Absurdity of Believing that Men Exist on the Other Side of the Immense Expanse of Ocean

"As to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth [Augustine is poo pooing the idea that human beings will be found on the opposite side of a spherical earth, not a flat one], where the sun rises when it sets on us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, there is no reason for believing it. Those who affirm it do not claim to possess any actual information; they merely conjecture that, since the earth is suspended within the concavity of the heavens, and there is as much room on the one side of it as on the other, therefore the part which is beneath cannot be void of human inhabitants. They fail to notice that, even should it be believed or demonstrated that the world is round or spherical in form, it does not follow that the part of the earth opposite to us is not completely covered with water, or that any conjectured dry land there should be inhabited by men. For Scripture, which confirms the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, teaches not falsehood; and it is too absurd to say that some men might have set sail from this side and, traversing the immense expanse of ocean, have propagated there a race of human beings descended from that one first man."
--City of God 14:9

On Augustine's Belief in Human Giants Based on Bible Passages Combined with Finding Large Bones in the Ground

"...the size of men’s bodies was larger then than now... the large size of the primitive human body is often proved to the incredulous by the exposure of sepulchres [in this case, buried bones], either through the wear of time or the violence of torrents or some accident, and in which bones of incredible size have been found or have rolled out. I myself, along with some others, saw on the shore at Utica a man’s molar tooth of such a size, that if it were cut down into teeth such as we have, a hundred, I fancy, could have been made out of it. But that, I believe, belonged to some giant."
--City of God, Book 15, Chapter 9

On God's Re-Creation of Animals Directly from the Ground in Distant Lands Right After the Flood

In The City of God (16.7), Augustine discusses Noah's Ark and how it was that animals were present on distant islands so soon after the great flood:

"[I]t is asked how they [various wild animals] could be found in the islands after the deluge ... It might, indeed, be said that they crossed to the islands by swimming, but this could only be true of those very near the mainland; whereas there are some so distant that we fancy no animal could swim to them ... they were produced out of the earth as at their first creation ... this makes it more evident that all kinds of animals were preserved in the ark, not so much for the sake of renewing the stock, as of prefiguring the various nations that were to be saved in the Church."

On The Damnation of Infants That Die Without Having Been Baptized

"Infants, When Unbaptized, are in the Power of the Devil... The Christian faith unfalteringly declares that they who are cleansed in the laver of regeneration (i.e., the baptismal font) are redeemed from the power of the devil, and that those who have not yet been redeemed by such regeneration are still captive in the power of the devil, even if they be infant children of the redeemed... From the power of the devil... infants are delivered when they are baptized; and whosoever denies this, is convicted by the truth of the Church’s very sacraments, which no heretical novelty in the Church of Christ is permitted to destroy or change, so long as the Divine Head rules and helps the entire body which He owns--small as well as great. It is true, then, and in no way false, that the devil’s power is exorcised in infants, and that they renounce him by the hearts and mouths of those who bring them to baptism, being unable to do so by their own; in order that they may be delivered from the power of darkness, and be translated into the kingdom of their Lord."
--On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book 1, Chapter 22

On the Knowledge of the Saints Concerning What Is Going on in the Outer Darkness

"They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness... The saints’... knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted... with the eternal sufferings of the lost."
--The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 22, “What is Meant by the Good Going Out to See the Punishment of the Wicked” & Book 22, Chapter 30, “Of the Eternal Felicity of the City of God, and of the Perpetual Sabbath”

On How Fire Can Burn Forever Yet Not Consume a Body

"I have already sufficiently made out that animals can live in the fire, in burning without being consumed, in pain without dying, by a miracle of the most omnipotent Creator."

On the Location of Hell

"It seems to me that in the twelfth book I ought to have taught that hell is under the earth rather than to give a reason why it is under the earth, since it is believed to or said to be earth, as if it were not so."
--Retractations, written near the end of Augustine's life

On How the Sexual Organs Functioned in Eden

"In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wife's breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wife's virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings."
--The City of God, Book 14, Chapter 26

As evidence in favor of his view that Adam had full control over his member in Eden, Augustine cites the case of people who can "make musical sounds" out of their "behinds"):

"We do in fact find among human beings some individuals with natural abilities very different from the rest of mankind and remarkable by their very rarity. Such people can do some things with their body which are for others utterly impossible and well-nigh incredible when they are reported. Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together. Others without moving the head can bring the whole scalp-all the part covered with hair-down towards the forehead and bring it back again at will. Some can swallow an incredible number of various articles and then with a slight contraction of the diaphragm, can produce, as if out of a bag, any article they please, in perfect condition. There are others who imitate the cries of birds and beasts and the voices of any other men, reproducing them so accurately as to be quite indistinguishable from the originals, unless they are seen. A number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from the region. I know from my own experience of a man who used to sweat whenever he chose; and it is a well-known fact that some people can weep at will and shed floods of tears."
--City of God, Book 14, Chapter 24

On Women

“...the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that that whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one.”
--On the Trinity Book 12 7.10

On Abstinence Being More Important Than the Continuance of the Human Race

"In the first times, it was the duty to use marriage... chiefly for the propagation of the human race. But now, in order to enter upon holy and pure fellowship… they who wish to contract marriage for the sake of children, are to be admonished, that they use rather the larger good of continence. But I am aware of some that murmur, 'What if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist?' Would that all would... Much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened. For what else does the Apostle Paul exhort to, when he says, 'I would that all were as myself;' or in that passage, 'But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains that both they who have wives, be as though not having: and they who weep, as though not weeping: and they who rejoice, as though not rejoicing: and they who buy, as though not buying: and they who use this world as though they use it not. For the form of this world is passing away.'" (1 Cor. 7:7-8, 29-31)
--On the Good of Marriage, Sections 9-10

On His Advocacy of the View that Slaves Ought to Love Their Masters

"...the apostle [in the New Testament] admonishes slaves to be subject to their masters, and to serve them heartily and with good-will, so that, if they cannot be freed by their masters, they may themselves make their slavery in some sort free, by serving not in crafty fear, but in faithful love, until all unrighteousness pass away, and all principality and every human power be brought to nothing, and God be all in all."
--City of God, Book XIX, Chapter 15

On the Wickedness of Giving Presents to Friends

MacMullen notes the joyous pagan festivals, including feasts, dancing, poetry orations and their long persistence despite the opposition of the bishops (Augustine tried to argue that giving friends presents was wicked).
--See, Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

On "Curiosity"

"There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn."
--The Confessions

On curiosity, compare a passage from another early Church Father, Lactantius 250-325 CE., who claimed that God made Adam the last of his creations so that he should not acquire any knowledge of the process of creation.

Or consider what another early Church Father, Jerome, wrote, "Is it not evident that a man who day and night wrestles with the dialectic art, the student of natural science whose gaze pierces the heavens, walks in vanity of understanding and darkness of mind?" Comment. in Ep. ad Ephes. iv, 17

"For centuries Stoic philosophers and Christian theologians struggled to subdue curiosity as one of the most disruptive, intractable and potentially vicious human traits. According to the 12th-century saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the evil angel fell as a result of curiosity. 'He had peered curiously into what was to come and wanted what he was not allowed to have and hoped presumptuous hopes,' Bernard writes, concluding that 'rightly is curiosity considered the first step of pride; it was the beginning of all sin.' Two centuries later, when Petrarch climbed a mountain in Provence and began to enjoy the view from the summit, he nervously opened his copy of Augustine's Confessions and was stunned by words that seemed to him a direct rebuke: 'And men go to admire the high mountains, the vast floods of the sea, the huge streams of the rivers, the circumference of the ocean and the revolutions of the stars--and desert themselves.'

"Yet the great work that checked Petrarch's curious gaze paradoxically contains the seeds that would eventually transform the churchman's vice into the psychoanalyst's virtue. Augustine himself was far too much in the grip of curiosity to endorse unequivocally its condemnation. If he chastised excessive interest in the world, he directed a virtually obsessive attention to the hidden reaches of his innermost self: 'I have become a problem to myself, like land which a farmer works only with difficulty and at the cost of much sweat.' More specifically, he manifested what was, for the pre-modern world, an unusual interest in his adolescence, from his theft of pears to his gaudy nights in Carthage, and a still more unusual interest in his early childhood, from his infantile rages to his first stumbling efforts to speak."
--Stephen Greenblatt, Curiosity Is Destiny: For Adam Phillips, psychoanalysis is about restoring people's appetite for life, New York Time, February 22, 1998

One of the more remarkable transformations in the history of European intellectual life was the removal of curiosity from the table of the vices and its inscription into the table of virtues. From the beginnings of Latin Christianity in the second century (Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine), curiositas was defined as a vice; but by the fifteenth century it had begun to be considered a virtue, and by the eighteenth century it was simply assumed by most European thinkers to be virtuous.

"It is no exaggeration to say that European thought about curiosity is Augustinian from the fifth century to the fifteenth... Curiosity for Augustine is appetite for nothing other than the ownership of new knowledge." It is a kind of concupiscentia, a disordered desire that guarantees its own disappointment. Curious concupiscence engages in close study and investigation of its chosen objects. "But the curious man is always a fornicator: he perverts study and investigation in much the same way that having sex with those to whom you are not married perverts the gift of the sexual appetite." Thus the curious man is distinguished from the studious man.

Curiosity's desire is closed off to its objects relation to God, considered only in isolation, whereas the studious man's interest is open to a knowledge of things including their relatedness to God. The second of Jesus' three temptations in the wilderness (where Jesus is placed on the temple's pinnacle and asked to throw himself down because of the scripture that says God's angels will permit no harm to come to him) is the paridigmatic temptation of curiosity, says Griffiths, because it offers satisfaction of the experimental appetite. Appetite for novelty is another key element in curiosity, an appetite that prevents contemplative rest and also "prevents curiosity's gaze from seeing the vestigium aeternitatis, eternity's trace, in the things at which it looks." Yet again, curiosity is characterized by loquacitas, a garrulity or chattiness involved in becoming known as one who knows.

But the most important element in Augustine's critique of curiosity, according to Griffiths, has to do with the attempt to own knowledge, "to assert proprietas over it, to make it subject to oneself (sibi tribuere)."... Curiositas, then, is an appetite that operates within the constraints of the libido dominandi, the lust for dominance that ownership brings. Its Augustinian contradictory is studiousness, and this is an intellectual appetite that operates within the constraints of a proper appreciation of givenness, or of what Augustine would prefer to call the gift, the donum Dei.
--Paul J. Griffiths, "The Vice of Curiosity," Pro Ecclesia, Vol. XV, No. 1 (Winter, 2006)

I think the point Griffiths, above, was trying to make, is that Augustine wanted everything in one's mind to be related to God, in fact, in relation to the Catholic Church's ideas and beliefs about God. Hence, one must not be too curious. Knowledge for its own sake might derail the faithful from their prayers and single-minded devotion to God/Church and the Church's mission of "saving" the world. This is borne out by much else that the early Church Fathers wrote concerning knowledge, curiosity, and the priority that Catholic beliefs and teachings must take over and above everything else. Concerning the early Church Fathers and science, the historian, Richard Carrier, has produced some youtube videos and podcasts on the topic that one can google and/or find on itunes. His presentations feature further quotations from early Church Fathers that bear out what I have stated.)


On the Contempt Augustine and other Church Fathers had for Ancient Skeptical Thinking

MacMullen points out the contempt prominent Christians such as Tertullian, Augustine, Lactantius, Ambrose and John Chrysostom had for ancient philosophy. They denounced Plato and Aristotle by name, and mocked the idea of skeptical study and the scientific attitude. Nor did they stop there. They told stories about apparitions over the battlefield, miraculous cures, the ever present existence of demons, people raised to life by Christians, and dragons turned to dust by the sign of the cross.
--See, Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

"After Constantine there existed an empire-wide instrument of education: the church. What bishops, even emperors, made plain, and what could be heard in broader terms from every pulpit, was an agreed upon teaching. Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Plato’s books, in Aristotle’s, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings... Another factor that arose specifically out of the ongoing conversion of the empire was the doctrine of demonic causation. The belief in the operation of maleficent forces on a large scale had to await Christianity; and it was of course Christianity that was to form the medieval and Byzantine world... Satanic agents were to be seen as the cause not only of wars and rebellions, persecution and heresy, storms at sea and earthquakes on land, but of a host of minor or major personal afflictions. So, in consequence, Christians were forever crossing themselves, whatever new action they set about, and painted crosses on their foreheads too, responding to their leaders’ urging them to do so. It would protect them against all evil."
--Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The New Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, Episode 1, a Critique / Review of Deep Breath

The new Doctor didn't seem as funny when he was confused after his change as Matt Smith was. I was hoping for a funnier sort of confusion. Instead, his confusion sequences came off as very bland. Perhaps he should also have spoken his lines a bit louder.

After the new Doctor's head cleared he seemed to emulate Matt Smith a little and then seemed to be finding his way toward his own unique persona. So the first half of the show was pretty weak in my opinion, including the exchanges between Clara, the Doctor's companion, and Madame Vastra, the lizard lady, which were confused and dragged on too long. They were trying to show that Vastra was challenging Clara to be strong for the Doctor, but they came off as insults aimed at Clara for no apparent reason and not all of the insults seemed geared toward making Clara stronger. Clara has already proven her strength many times in the past. They should have rewritten the first half of the show. (I would like to have had a crack at that myself.)

The rest of the program and plot were well done and no doubt tie into the season as a whole.

Overall, I recall Strax's lines more than anyone else's. He stole the show.

It's wonderful how much money they save by having actors act like clockwork robots without any special robot costumes required. Brilliant. Kind of like the Who episode where a group of tourists were locked inside a bus on some distant world and then possessed by an alien without having to undergo any physical transformation, just a personality transformation, or, like the Who episode where the humans all wore gas masks. Inexpensive yet effective means to convey otherworldly weirdness. And it allows the actors to stretch themselves instead of stretching plastic all over their faces.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams on God, the Bible, and the Psychic Network

Williams’ father was Episcopalian which he describes as “Catholic light: half the religion, half the guilt.” And his mother was a devout Christian Scientist. Though Williams is not very religious today, he considers the possibility that his mother’s faith and its idea of “mind over matter” helped him kick his drug and alcohol addictions.

Williams' Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color-coded.

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.

2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Reality, what a concept!

Reality is just a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs.

If it's the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?

What he would like to hear God say when he [Robin] arrives at the pearly gates:

"There's seating near the front. The concert begins at 5. It'll be Mozart, Elvis, and you know, anyone of your choosing. Or just, nice if heaven exists to know that there's laughter. That would be a great thing ... just to hear God go, 'two Jews just walked into a bar.'"

Remember the movie The Last Temptation of Christ? There were people outside with signs that said, “This movie’s not real.” Come here, Sparky. No movie’s real. And they had other signs that said, “You will not get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” I looked at these people and said, “Are you going to be there? If so, then I’m not going.”

Once on Leno, Williams pretended to be playing a game where the pedophile is hidden under a cup. He said, “Here we go. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Here you go right now. Move ‘em around, move ‘em around. Oh, you found the pedophile.”

Williams later put his hand over his groin, saying, “You have to realize that if you are a Catholic priest, you have retired this. That’s it—no more sex, but they are going to put you in a small dark box [a confessional] and people are going to tell you the nastiest sexual stuff they have done.”

God gave men both a penis and a brain, but unfortunately not enough blood supply to run both at the same time.

When in doubt, go for the dick joke.

Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'

Cocaine is God's way of telling you you're making too much money.

You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.


Friday, August 01, 2014

Seven Reasons Not to Deny Global Warming

1) The average temperatures of the earth were hotter in June 2014 than at any other June since humans started keeping track--including the hottest ocean temperatures since recordkeeping began more than 130 years ago. http://www.climatecentral.org/news/global-june-temperature-record-17796

2) A vast expanse of permafrost in Siberia and Alaska continues to thaw to a greater extent each summer. The upper layer of permafrost, or the active layer, sometimes thaws in the summer. Recently, the active layer of permafrost has been observed to be getting larger with time, which means more permafrost is melting each summer. http://www.wunderground.com/resources/climate/melting_permafrost.asp?MR=1
AND http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/4/045009/article

3) The extent of Arctic Ocean sea ice should be measured in decades not "since 2011." And SEA ice is not a permanent feature, in fact, "During the second half of June 2014, the rate of sea ice loss in the Arctic was the second fastest in the satellite data record... In general there has been a trend over the satellite data record towards earlier melt onset in the Arctic." http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ In fact the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean at the end of the summer season 2014 likely won’t surpass the record low of 2012, but 2014 will still likely rank as one of the lowest minimum extents (or areas) in the record books--the fifth lowest since 1978.
AND http://www.ibtimes.com/unfrozen-polar-ice-sheet-retreats-again-1567906

4) Meanwhile down in Antarctica, SEA ice surrounding Antarctica is just as ephemeral and vanishes as annually as it appears--it melts to nearly nothing from November to March, see http://youtu.be/MLCfF7BLii4 Stronger average winds have arisen which probably drive the increase in ephemeral annual sea ice by creating more open areas for ice to form, combined with changing salinity (salt content) from the ice melting on land. Melting ice shelves from land may also help shield the surface from warmer water moving into that area.

5) LAND ice in glaciers and permafrost are what climatologists are most concerned with. The LAND ice in glaciers and permafrost continues to decline in the Antarctica, Greenland and Northern Siberia. http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/sea-ice-melt-ice-sheet-loss/18457535

6) Arctic ocean waves are at record heights, which helps ENSURE the break up of sea ice annually, not that SEA ice gains are anything but ephemeral to begin with, as noted in 4) above.

7) Stronger winds continue to drive an ocean circulation pattern that brings up warm water, which is nibbling away at the base of glaciers along the shorelines: http://www.livescience.com/45571-antarctic-melting-myths.html

So, when you get a chance, consider this 2014 info...

Warming Oceans, Alaskan Fisheries in Danger of Economic Collapse

“What we are seeing in the Northwest Territories this year is an indicator of what to expect with climate change,” Deadly combination of drought and summer lightning strikes have led to a particularly severe fire season in eastern Washington and Oregon, some of the West’s biggest blazes are in Canada's Northwest Territories, where the total acreage burned so far this year is six times the 25-year average. In recent years, twice as much Canadian forest has been burning annually as in the 1970s, says University of Alberta wildland fire professor Mike Flannigan, and the northwestern part of the country is experiencing its hottest, driest summer in half a century. https://www.hcn.org/blogs/goat/canadas-boreal-forests-are-burning-and-releasing-loads-of-carbon/view cc Dave Armstrong



cc Dave Armstrong

Thursday, May 29, 2014

YOUNG-COSMOS CREATIONISTS with higher degrees in the sciences admit the evidence generally does favor an old-cosmos and evolution (and that less highly educated young-earthers are prone to speaking ignorantly on the topic)

But regardless of the general evidence not favoring their side, the more highly educated creationists invoke various ingenious explanations to explain away the evidence for an old earth and evolution. Such explanations may include the idea of "virtual history," or, "creation with appearance of age," and lastly, "the deliberate rejection of God's word" [that does not allow secular scientists to understand and accept the true age of the cosmos]:


Young-cosmos creationist, Aardsma (Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of Toronto) believes that his "virtual history" hypothesis is less problematic than the usual creationist excuse of "creation with apparent age." Aardsma even admits at one point below that "I think there is enormous evidence of biological evolution (meaning extensive changes to flaura and fauna)---again, in virtual history." But not in real history. Read his explanation of virtual history below and see if you are convinced:

'To one thinking consistently in a virtual history framework, the phrase "creation with appearance of age" seems at best a redundancy, at worst a heresy, and in the middle (just to cover all the ground) an absurdity. So there are, obviously, some differences. I haven't had to articulate these differences to many people to the present time, so it is still not easy to explain what I can "see". In addition, it gets harder to think in the Creation with Appearance of Age paradigm the longer you think in the Virtual History paradigm --- kind of like trying to make yourself play the piano wrong after years of training to play right. So consider the following comments to be a rough draft.

'The two ideas share some similarity, but differ at a basic level both philosophically and theologically. Creation with Appearance of Age gives the impression that God arbitrarily painted a facade of age over the creation --- that He could have chosen to leave everything looking its "real" created age (i.e., roughly 7000 years, by my best Bible chronology reckoning) if He had wanted to, but He chose instead to make things look much older. This immediately raises theological objections: "But why would God do such a thing? Isn't it fundamentally dishonest to make something look like it isn't? Isn't God being deceitful?" (This is where the "heresy" mentioned above comes from.)

'The virtual history view never encounters this problem. It says that the people who are saying "creation with appearance of age" don't understand properly what the word/idea "creation" means. The virtual history view goes to the analogy of human creations to try to show what "creation" means. It takes the creation of a story by a human author as (probably its best) analogy. It observes that in all such stories one always has a virtual history present---grown characters wearing sewn garments and living in already built houses... right from page one of the story. What is implied from page one of the story is a cause-and-effect virtual history to the story, stretching back into the indefinite past. This virtual history in no way contradicts the actual date (in the story characters' time) of creation of the story. (That "date" we would fix at page one of the book, since that is when, in the story frame of reference, the story world comes into existence.) We find by such analogies that an "appearance of age" is inherent in what "creation" means. (This is where the "redundancy" mentioned above comes from.)

'But this "appearance of age" is not an add-on and is not arbitrary. Try to imagine writing a story which does not have an "appearance of age". After you have completed that exercise, try to imagine writing a fiction story which has a false "appearance of age". I find that it is intrinsically impossible to create such stories. I.e., you cannot have a "creation with an appearance of age" if you mean by that anything other than a creation with its inherent virtual history. To ask for a creation with a false appearance of age (which includes the case of a creation having no appearance of age), is to ask for the impossible/ridiculous. (This is where the "absurdity" mentioned above comes from.)

'We are living in a "story" God created. God is both author and reader of this story (e.g., "For in Him we both live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28.) (Note how this works. A story-world has no existence in the book; its existence is in the mind of the author and readers.) Page one opens about 7000 years ago our time, (the only time frame we have access to). This "story" has a virtual history stretching back billions of years. We find this to be the case by computing the time it would take light to travel from remote galaxies we see in the sky, or by computing the time it would take radioactive elements, such as uranium dug from the earth in natural ores, to decay as much as they have. These great ages in no way negate the fact that page one opens 7000 years ago. Nor does our virtual history, with all its dinosaurs etc. negate the fact that we are created. All stories have virtual histories and no story yet has ever created itself---all have had an author/creator. And the fact that our (fallen) virtual history shows eons of death and savagery and futility merely says "amen" to what Romans teaches, that the whole creation has been subjected to futility by God as a consequence of the entrance of sin, in hopes of its eventual redemption (Romans 8:20). [And, if I may stray from the point a bit, the "story" is still being written/read, and God allows us to take a real part in its unfolding by our prayers and actions---so the Bible shows.]

'This raises one more major point of difference, the handling of the Fall. Briefly, Creation with Appearance of Age runs into a theological snag with things like fossils of fish with other smaller fish in their stomachs: "Do you mean that God chose to paint, of all things, a facade of SUFFERING and DEATH onto the creation when He gave it this arbitrary appearance of age at the time of creation?" The virtual history paradigm recognizes simply that all creation type miracles entail a virtual history, so the Fall, with its creation type miracles (by which the nature of the creation was changed --- "subjected to futility") carried with it its own (fallen) virtual history, which is the virtual history we now see. We do not see the original utopian pre-Fall creation with its (presumably utopian) virtual history. ... Yes, I believe there was an "ice-age". Actually, there were several ice-ages. They were all in virtual history. The last one ended about 10,000 years ago. So it doesn't enter into real history, since Creation happened just over 7,000 years ago. Since my work is designed to defend the historical truth of the Bible against charges that what it reports as history is in fact fiction, I have not had much cause to talk about the ice-ages so far. (In my understanding of virtual history and the past, one can just accept what the scientists specializing in these fields are telling everyone is their best understanding/reconstruction of these past events. These reconstructions do not attack the historical integrity of the Bible in any way once one understands the concept of virtual history.)

'Actually, I think there is enormous evidence of biological evolution (meaning extensive changes to flaura and fauna)---again, in virtual history. Note that the Bible does not say that biological evolution CAN NOT happen; it says that biological evolution DID NOT happen. That is, the Bible clearly teaches that we got here by CREATION, not by EVOLUTION. "In the beginning God CREATED the heavens and the earth", not "In the beginning God EVOLVED the heavens and the earth." But none of this excludes the possibility of biological evolution in virtual history. In fact, the teaching in Romans 8:20, that the creation was subjected to futility at the time of the Fall, meshes rather well with evolution being the thing seen in the virtual history data, for the hallmark of evolution is not purpose, but random chance and meaninglessness.

'The Grand Canyon should also be understood just as the standard scientists describe its formation. It too is a virtual history phenomenon.

'Virtual history is not a hard idea. Just think about what it means to actually CREATE something. Creating a story is a helpful analogy. Take "The Hobbit" as an example of a created entity. Now step into the book with Bilbo on page one and begin to examine the world around you. Everything you see and examine around you has already, on page one, an extensive built-in virtual history. Bilbo is in his 50's as I recall. So he has a virtual history. His house has been dug back into the hill, implying someone did some digging. If you examine the tunnels you can no doubt find tool marks left by the workmen. His front door is made of wood, implying trees grown, sawn into planks, planed, and fastened together by craftsmen, all before the story begins. And on and on it goes...Bilbo's clothing with all those stitches, and the soil in his yard and garden with humus from long-dead leaves, ...

'We are living in a CREATION. The creation we are living in is a story of God's making. It opens on page one 5176+/-26 B.C. (by my best reckoning so far). The story moves from Creation to Fall to Flood to Exodus to Birth of Christ to Crucifixion to Redemption to ultimate Restoration of all things. This story is our reality, but it is not ultimate reality. (God is ultimate reality---He transcends the story just as any author transcends their created story.) And like any story, it has, necessarily, a virtual history built in from page one onward.

'The big take-home point is that evidence of virtual history---of even millions or billions of years of this or that process operating in the past---does not and cannot falsify the fact of creation in a created entity. So we can let the virtual history data about the Grand Canyon or the ice ages or whatever else speak for itself and say whatever it seems to say. We do not have to resort to foolishness (e.g., denying the validity of tree-ring calibrated radiocarbon dates) to try to wipe out every trace of any natural process prior to the biblical date of Creation. We understand virtual history to be part and parcel of any created thing, so evidences of such processes do not threaten our faith or falsify the Bible's claim that we got here by supernatural creation just over 7000 years ago.'



'Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well... I say these things not because I'm crazy or because I've "converted" to evolution. I say these things because they are true. I'm motivated this morning by reading yet another clueless, well-meaning person pompously declaring that evolution is a failure... Creationist students, listen to me very carefully: There is evidence for evolution, and evolution is an extremely successful scientific theory. That doesn't make it ultimately true, and it doesn't mean that there could not possibly be viable alternatives. It is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution. I am motivated to understand God's creation from what I believe to be a biblical, creationist perspective. Evolution itself is not flawed or without evidence. Please don't be duped into thinking that somehow evolution itself is a failure. Please don't idolize your own ability to reason. Faith is enough. If God said it, that should settle it. Maybe that's not enough for your scoffing professor or your non-Christian friends, but it should be enough for you.'

And see this post in which some of Todd's fellow creationists wonder if he's not a closet evolutionist for admitting there's evidence for evolution, http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/2012/06/im-for-real.html

On the other hand, see this post in which Todd discusses his view of creationism and why he doesn't think it is a pseudoscience but a genuine alternative to evolution that needs to develop its own hypotheses and theories related to "baraminology." http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/2009/11/truth-about-creationism.html

As for Todd's credentials, he has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, 1999). His Ph.D. advisor was Dr. William Pearson, the original developer of the widely popular FASTA suite of computer programs used for DNA analyses. When providing a reference for Todd in his subsequent academic position application, Dr. Pearson stated "he was the best graduate student I ever had". Immediately following his Ph.D. work at Virginia, Dr. Wood accepted a position as the Director of Bioinformatics at the Clemson University Genomics Institute (Clemson, SC) which at that time, was directed by Dr. Rod Wing, a world famous scientist in the field of plant genomics. After working for about two years at Clemson University, Dr. Wood accepted a faculty position at Bryan College (Dayton, TN) in 2002 where he now serves as the Director of the Center for Origins Research and Associate Professor of Science. He helped start the Baraminology Study Group (for creationists who are trying to scientifically determine what a biblical "kind" is). Todd has organized two conferences on baraminology. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the Center for Origins Research and Education at Bryan College and is also active at church, singing in the choir and teaching Sunday school.

KURT WISE, ANOTHER YEC WITH A PH.D. ADMITS SOME EVIDENCE "fits the evolutionary prediction quite well.” And "could turn against creationism."

Segment from a NYT article (Rock of Ages, Ages of Rock by Hanna Rosin) in which Wise admits the fossil transitions seen throughout time in the geologic record "fits the evolutionary prediction quite well":

The heads of all the leading scientific creationist institutes from several countries showed up for the Cedarville event, along with the movement’s other stars: John Baumgardner, a geophysicist who worked for 20 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory; Kurt Wise, who got his Ph.D. in paleontology from Harvard in the ’80s as a student of Stephen Jay Gould, the nation’s most famous opponent of creationism; and Marcus Ross, 31, the latest inductee into the movement, who got his Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Rhode Island last summer.

Like any group of elites, they were snobs about their superior degrees. During lunch breaks or car rides, they traded jokes about the “vulgar creationists” and the “uneducated masses,” and, in their least Christian moments, the “idiots on the Web.” One leader of a creationist institute complained about all the cranks who call on the phone claiming to have seen dinosaurs or to have had a vision of Noah’s ark. (How Noah fit the entire animal kingdom onto the ark is a perennial obsession.)

Because they have been exposed to so much standard science, the educated creationists like Kurt Wise try not to allow themselves the blind spots of their less sophisticated relations. Some years ago, for instance, fellow creationists claimed to have found fossils of human bones in Pennsylvania coal deposits, which scientists date to millions of years before humans appeared. After examining them, Wise concluded that they were “not fossil material at all” but “inorganically precipitated iron siderite nodules.” Wise later pushed to get himself appointed as scientific adviser to the new creationist museum so he could “keep out the scientific garbage.”

In a presentation at the conference, Wise showed a slide of a fossil sequence that moved from reptile to mammal, with some transitional fossils in between. He veered suddenly from his usual hyperactive mode to contemplative. “It’s a pain in the neck,” he said. “It fits the evolutionary prediction quite well.” Wise and others have come up with various theories explaining how the flood could have produced such perfect order. Wise is refining a theory, for example, that the order reflects how far the animals lived from the shore, so those living farthest from the water show up last in the record. But they haven’t settled on anything yet.

“We have nothing to fear from data,” Ross told me. “If we’re afraid, it means we don’t trust God’s word.” The older generation of creationists “would come up with an explanation or a model and say, ‘This solves it!’ I’m a bit more cautious and at the same time more rigorous. We have lines of possibility that we continue to advance but at the same time we recognize that this is science, so the explanations are subject to change with new discoveries.”

In a 1995 article by creationist paleontologist Kurt Wise he admitted the following:

In various macroevolutionary models, stratomorphic intermediates might be expected to be any one or more of several different forms: – ... It is a Very Good Evolutionary Argument... Of Darwinism’s four stratomorphic intermediate expectations, that of the commonness of inter-specific stratomorphic intermediates has been the most disappointing for classical Darwinists. The current lack of any certain inter-specific stratomorphic intermediates has, of course, led to the development and increased acceptance of punctuated equilibrium theory. Evidences for Darwin’s second expectation - of stratomorphic intermediate species - include such species as Baragwanathia27 (between rhyniophytes and lycopods), Pikaia28 (between echinoderms and chordates), Purgatorius29 (between the tree shrews and the primates), and Proconsul30 (between the non-hominoid primates and the hominoids). Darwin’s third expectation - of higher-taxon stratomorphic intermediates - has been confirmed by such examples as the mammal-like reptile groups31 between the reptiles and the mammals, and the phenacdontids32 between the horses and their presumed ancestors. Darwin’s fourth expectation - of stratomorphic series - has been confirmed by such examples as the early bird series,33 the tetrapod series,34,35 the whale series,36 the various mammal series of the Cenozoic37 (for example, the horse series, the camel series, the elephant series, the pig series, the titanothere series, etc.), the Cantius and [p. 219]

Plesiadapus primate series,38 and the hominid series.39 Evidence for not just one but for all three of the species level and above types of stratomorphic intermediates expected by macroevolutionary theory is surely strong evidence for macroevolutionary theory. Creationists therefore need to accept this fact. It certainly CANNOT said that traditional creation theory expected (predicted) any of these fossil finds. [p. 221]

In fairness, Wise goes on to claim that this evidence is “explainable” under the creation model, postulating as an alternative the scientific model that “God created organisms according to His nature” (p. 219), which apparently leads to the expectation of “high homoplasy” – because God, I assume, likes homoplasy. http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/01/honest-creation.html

...creationists still struggle with defining the baramin [the biblical "kind"] and justifying baraminology methodology, and evolutionists have found ample opportunity for criticism.
-- Todd Charles Wood, Kurt P. Wise, Roger Sanders, N. Doran, "A Refined Baramin Concept," Occasional Papers of the Baraminology Study Group, July 25, 2003 Number Three [To be fair the creationist authors do wind up convincing themselves by the end of their paper that they have come up with a new refined concept of "baramin" that can spark loads of convincing new creation research]

Wise sums up his view this way:

"Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand."

And in his book, Faith, Form, and Time, Wise wrote:

A face-value reading of the Bible indicates that the creation is thousands of years old. A face-value examination of the creation suggests it is millions or billions of years old. A reconciliation of these two observations is one of the most significant challenges to creation research. Much more research must be devoted to this question to produce an acceptable resolution.

Wise acknowledges that he embraces a minority view in scientific and academic circles, including Christian educators. At the most recent national conference of geologists, the creationists numbered a handful of the 8,000 attending; even in an Association of Christian Geologists meeting, Wise was in the minority. The overwhelming sway of evolution in public education doesn't bother him. But he sees little support among Christian educators for the theory he embraces. "I don't see a day in my lifetime when young-earth creationism will become accepted in the church," Wise said. "I have no idea how to convince believers [the earth is young]. People who have a particular position on this issue aren't at all convinced by evidence." Adding, "When I talk to an unbeliever, I don't want to talk about whether scientific evidence is consistent with a flood or a young earth," Wise said. "The most important issue to speak about with unbelievers is their status before God and their eternity. [Otherwise], you're not talking about the most important issue."

Wise also mentions the problems that evolution poses for a creationist biblical world view in his review of a book by Gould:

As [Stephen J.] Gould [one of Wise's professors at Harvard] explains so well, however, a scientifically orthodox understanding of earth history includes many facts that are at odds with the idea that man was a purposeful product of the evolution. Why is it, for example, that for two thirds of the history of the earth, life proceeded no further than bacteria? Why is it that for half of the remaining one third of earth history, life remained one-celled? What is to be made of the possibility that two unsuccessful attempts at multicellularity preceded the one that finally initiated the line to humans? Why was the evolution of mammals delayed for 100 million years by the parenthetical note of the development, domination, and demise of the 'terrible lizards'? Why is it that it took 99,999 out of the 100,000 units of time in the history of this universe for man to come about? And finally, if man is in God's image, does God look like the ape who bore us? Although not expressly designed as a polemic against theological theories of accommodation, Gould's arguments nonetheless bear upon them. The very nature of God comes into question if He chose evolution as a means to form man. The literal reading of the macroevolutionary history of the earth is that man is an accident--at best an afterthought of nature's process.


A SIMILAR AD HOC IDEA WAS SUGGESTED BY WILLIAM DEMBSKI, OLD-EARTHER and I.D.ist, who suggests in his book, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World, that "at the heart of this [Dembski's] theodicy is the idea that [Adam and Eve were real and lived in a paradisical creation, but...] the effects of the Fall [i.e., death, carnage in the world of living organisms] can be retroactive as well as proactive (much as the saving effects of the cross stretch not only forward in time but also backward, saving, for instance, the Old Testament saints)... An omnipotent God unbound by time can make natural evil predate the Fall and yet make the Fall the reason for natural evil." Dembski adds that an evolutionist, supposedly a theistic one, can also employ his theodicy.

Which brings us back to the statements above by Aardsma, Wood and Wise, who claim that one can be a young-earth creationist and accept all of the data for an old-earth. To them It's merely a matter of the young-earther having a different interpretation of the data.

ANDREW SNELLING “The Creation Model: It’s Past, Present and Necessary Future,” at the 6th International Creation Conference, finds the problem not to be scientific so much as "spiritual, a deliberate rejection of God's word":

"What if there was absolutely no evidence that the universe was young? No scientific evidence the universe was young. Would you still believe that it was young? Why? Because God's word teaches it. That's the only reason you need to have to believe the universe is young. God's word says it, therefore I believe it. That's not to say the evidences are not important. Of course they are. Because we're commanded to have a reason for the hope, and to give reasoned answers for what we believe and why we believe it. But we must always remember our Biblical foundations.

"So often we fight over the scientific evidence, but are we winning by leaving out our Biblical foundations? Too much of our creation apologetics has therefore been based on the evidence alone. We need to keep arguing from the level of world views. Because ultimately the problem that people have is spiritual, the deliberate rejection of God's word."

Monday, May 05, 2014

The God Question and the Richest Man in the World, Bill Gates

Bill Gates has still not replied to the question of "Do you believe in God" with either the words, "Yes," or "I believe in God."

The closest he has come was to say, "I think it makes sense to believe in God," and immediately added, "but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know." IN OTHER WORDS Gates was not speaking in the first-person, though one can conclude from his statement that he does not think believers in God like his wife are deluded or unintelligent. "It makes sense to believe in God," was all he said. What exactly does Gates believe? How firmly? How many questions does he have? Gates added that the view that the world was "generated by random numbers... seemed... sort of an uncharitable view." "Seemed?" "Sort of?" Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it goes well with his statement that believers in God are not deluded or unintelligent.

Gates also used the phrase, "women who are doing God's work" in the following context:

"The disease [polio] is still endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and killing it off altogether has been likened to squeezing jelly to death. There is another, sinister obstacle: the propagation by Islamist groups of the belief that polio vaccination is a front for covert sterilisation and other western evils. Health workers in Pakistan have paid with their lives for involvement in the programme. “It’s not going to stop us succeeding,” says Gates. “It does force us to sit down with the Pakistan government to renew their commitments, see what they’re going to do in security and make changes to protect the women who are doing God’s work and getting out to these children and delivering the vaccine.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/bill-gates/9812672/Bill-Gates-interview-I-have-no-use-for-money.-This-is-Gods-work.html

Gate's use of the phrase, "WOMEN doing God's work" is not equivalent to saying, "I believe in God," since it could easily be an acknowledgment by Gates of how the women view their own work, and because he wishes the Islamists to view the women's work as "God's" in order to help "protect the women," so they can "deliver the vaccine" rather than "paying with their lives," i.e., executed as infidels working for a western infidel organization.

Do you believe in God?

I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view [laughs]. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know.

This story is from the March 27th, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/bill-gates-the-rolling-stone-interview-20140313#ixzz30tiSlAmH

THE CHRISTIAN POST edited Gates' reply above, putting Gates' words in this order:

When asked if he believed in God, he responded, "I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know."

At the same time, he said he agrees with "people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths."

"Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill," he said. "But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view [laughs]."


Gates, interviewed November 1995 on PBS by David Frost, transcript with minor edits:

Frost: Do you believe in the Sermon on the Mount?

Gates: I don't. I'm not somebody who goes to church on a regular basis. The specific elements of Christianity are not something I'm a huge believer in. There's a lot of merit in the moral aspects of religion. I think it can have a very very positive impact.

Frost: I sometimes say to people, do you believe there is a god, or do you know there is a god? And, you'd say you don't know?

Gates: In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don't know if there's a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.

Gates was profiled in a January 13, 1996 TIME magazine cover story. Here are some excerpts compiled by the Drudge Report:

"Isn't there something special, perhaps even divine, about the human soul?" interviewer Walter Isaacson asks Gates "His face suddenly becomes expressionless," writes Isaacson, "his squeaky voice turns toneless, and he folds his arms across his belly and vigorously rocks back and forth in a mannerism that has become so mimicked at MICROSOFT that a meeting there can resemble a round table of ecstatic rabbis."

"I don't have any evidence on that," answers Gates. "I don't have any evidence of that."

"Melinda [my wife] is Catholic, goes to church and wants to raise Jennifer that way. But she offered me a deal,” Gates says. “If I start going to church — my family was Congregationalist — then Jennifer could be raised in whatever religion I choose.” Gates admits that he is tempted, because he would prefer she have a religion that “has less theology and all” than Catholicism, but he has not yet taken up the offer. “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient,” he explains. “There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”