Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Tag

Epistemology is the theory of knowledge. It asks "how do you know" and "what does it mean to say you know".

The "Controversy" tag is getting a lot of use. I will be adding "epistemology" to some of these posts (sort of a sub-tag).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Old Animals

There is an eye catching article at Science Daily. It is a tempting sound bite to grab,
"The longest lived in both species was 2,740 years and 4,270 years, respectively. At more than 4,000 years old, the deep-water black coral is the oldest living skeletal-accreting marine organism known."
But that is granting too much.

This coral doesn't have a birth certificate. There is no "Made in China (C) 731 BC" stamped on the bottom.

The only way to date it is by making measurements, and using assumptions about initial conditions and processes.

This particular study used carbon-14. A carbon atom usually weighs 12 (6 protons and 6 neutrons), but some have two extra neutrons. This carbon is chemically the same, but will eventually degrade into nitrogen. By measuring the amount of nitrogen in molecules which should have carbon (or substances with nitrogen contamination), and comparing it to the amount of carbon-14 remaining, then - assuming we know the starting ratio of carbon 14, and that nothing has caused the nitrogen to escape, or added nitrogen - you can determine the date.

Carbon-14 dating has already had some "adjustments" (called calibration) to its calendar. The amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is assumed to be constant, and similar to current levels. Of course this is not true, so there is a constant process of trying to figure out what the levels were in the past (which relies on other dating mechanisms...).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Texas Heretics Undermine Faith

in Evolution!

An interesting article from Science Daily.
"Among the concerns, the scientists say, is an amendment to the biology standards that attacks one of evolution's key principles: that all living organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor."
The idea of "common descent" is unfalsifiable (it is/would be history - history is not repeatable or observable). It is truly "dogma".
"Downplaying evolution's place in science 'only serves to confuse students,' the scientists say in their letter to the board."
This sounds like a proclamation against heretics - "they will jeopardize the salvation of those weak in the faith".

If evolution is obvious, and true; then there is nothing to fear. No attack can overcome the truth.

I am reminded by the D.M.S. Watson quote:
"The theory of evolution (is) a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible"
Some might say, "this quote is 80 years old". True, since then no easier to believe natural alternative to evolution has been proposed. Many of the "proofs" of evolution have been revealed to be hoaxes. Studies have shown that morphology (vital to analysis of extinct animals) has no correlation to actual genetic code.

Flood geology had no textbook until the 70's.

Evolution has gotten harder to believe, while the alternative gets stronger.

As I have said before, atheism needs evolution. As Christians, we are free to reject it or accept it. I say, reject it. It is junk science, and it makes for bad theology.

I will close with a quote that deserves additional unpacking:
"Moreover, 'fact' does not mean 'absolute certainty.' The final proof of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.'" (Stephen J. Gould, "Hen's Teeth and Horses Toes")
Modernity began when man rejected the absolute truth of God, seeking to replace it with absolute truth without God (especially miracles like special creation).

The failure of modernity has given us post-modernism - where there is no absolute truth.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Know Your Heretics - Sabellius

The heresy of Sabellius is more commonly referred to as "modalism".

Sabellianism, like Arianism, is a perversion of the doctrine of the Trinity - a very hard doctrine. It is understandable that some confusion might arise, and it is good to have these things spelled out very explicitly.

Modalism exists today. It is said T.D. Jakes is a modalist, and that "United Pentecostals" or "Oneness Pentecostals" all teach modalism.

Anyone who emphasizes "God is one" while saying there are three "modes" or "roles" (rather than the key phrase "persons") is likely a modalist, or at least may be muddled in the direction of modalism. It is the idea that God is one, and that the Father was God in the Old Testament, Jesus was God on earth, and the Holy Spirit is God today (not all three eternally).

Modalism is easily shown to be false:
  1. Jesus talks to the Father (John 12:28)
  2. All three persons of God were present at Jesus' baptism (Matt. 3:16-17)
  3. The witness of heaven is three-fold (1 John 5:7)
Additionally, God is love - love is a relationship - a relationship needs more than one person.

Failure to understand the Trinity may lead to worshipping the wrong God (as the Muslims do). It can also damage the marriage relationship (the submission of the woman is related to the submission of Jesus to the Father).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lapsed Catholics

Ignatius Insight has a link to an interesting article. It is sad to see the "seeker sensitive" approach invading the Catholic church (although, it has invaded Islam [citation needed] :), so I shouldn't be surprised)...

The choice bits:
"We have to use tools that respond to the criterion that most people, de facto, use for religion today (whether we like it or not) -- experience."... "'This is what I (want to) feel or think.'"
A lot of ways to go... the most important is that our feelings and thoughts are almost always sinful and broken (rebellious). Coddling people's feeling and sinful thoughts isn't Biblical, and is only going to produce false converts (I know from experience).

Biblical conversion comes from brokenness (Jesus says we must "hunger" and "thirst" for the kingdom). The "door" is "low" and "narrow" (you enter on your knees). The audience at Pentecost was "pricked in their heart".

Preach sin and wrath. Yes, it is not popular. Some people will walk out. Some will call you hateful, intolerant, unloving.

But you will produce genuine repentance.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stem Cells and Diabetes

(I will need to do a post on God and Irony)

Hot on the heels of Obama's announcement of federal funding for ESCR, Science Daily has an article showing the promise of stem cells in curing diabetes.

I'll select the choice part:
"The answer is adult stem cells"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mohler Strikes Again!

Albert Mohler is showing his strength in the "culture war"... This time with some chilling words from Britain.

I will extract the core to set the stage for where I would like to go with this:
"In other words, it is just fine to waste their lives and destroy their human dignity, but it is not fine to 'waste their organs.'

Professor Campbell's moral compass came into clear focus when he quipped: 'I am sure very few of those on the transplant list would rather die than accept an organ from an aborted foetus.'

That may be so, but no morally sane person can deny that the use of some organs would be morally abhorrent. What about the use of organs taken from executed criminals in China? Is it 'a shame to waste their organs?'"
I am (as you should realize by now) only interested in the theology.

Without true theology, people will often resort to pragmatism (all this talk about "waste" - if there is no absolute right or wrong, then "right = efficient / wrong = inefficient").

We see the same arguments in the end of life debate - it is "wasteful" (inefficient) to prolong life, better to kill the old and infirm (life unworthy of life).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Religion Evolves

Found this in the archives...

I will overlook (for now) the notion that "religion evolves", and examine the data of the study:
  • Religious rituals such as prayer and meditation affect the parts of the human brain that are most important for self-regulation and self-control;
  • When people view their goals as "sacred," they put more energy and effort into pursuing those goals, and therefore, are probably more effective at attaining them;
  • The fact that religious people tend to be higher in self-control helps explain why religious people are less likely to misuse drugs and alcohol and experience problems with crime and delinquency.
The first bullet interests me. I have seen studies that show that "mindless" meditation (the kind proposed by eastern mystics) deactivates certain parts of the brain. Biblical meditation is very different (it is reading and contemplating a small section of the Bible) - I have not seen anything about what is going on in the brain for that.

The second seems to apply equally to "secular religions" (environmentalism, animal rights, etc.).

Of course, they can't help but attack religion:
"McCullough's review of the research on religion and self-control contributes to a better understanding of 'how the same social force that motivates acts of charity and generosity can also motivate people to strap bomb belts around their waists and then blow themselves up in crowded city buses,' he explained."
Because atheists never do crazy things (like invade neighboring countries, or shoot people at school, or anything)...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mohler on Obama's Latest

Albert Mohler spells out plainly and boldly the repercussions of President Obama's latest action.

The core of his piece is here:
"President Obama spoke to the moral issues involved when he stated: 'Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view.'

But the President clearly does not share these concerns, and it is unclear what he means by respecting the point of view of those who rightly understand the issue as tax-supported homicide."

I am thoughtful, but my thoughts tend to not be "decent". It is only when I conform my thoughts to those of God, that they are decent...

Mohler also sees a growing "doxology":

"The scientific community increasingly appears to have drawn a line in the sand on this issue. The insistence that embryos must be destroyed is a matter of ideology."

I will close by agreeing with him:

"President Obama is now personally responsible for research that will involve the intentional destruction of human embryos."

Pray that President Obama will repent, and come to love life, rather than death.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Win for Stem Cells

A quick update for those keeping score in ASC vs. ESC:

Stem Cells Replace Stroke-damaged Tissue In Rats

This article is particularly interesting, in that it never mentions whether these are adult or embryonic cells! I would imagine these are adult, since embryonic cells are not compatible with the host, and require additional complications to suppress the immune system (like a transplant). I could be wrong, though...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Atheism's Victory

Two takes on the ARIS poll. Albert Mohler and CNN.

From Mohler:
"Now, these researchers argue that the numbers of Americans represented by those who identify as "Born Again" Christians (34%) and those who reject the existence of any personal God (25-30%) are now almost even"
What we are seeing is a move from "cultural Christians" to atheists (or "non-theistic spiritualists" aka "mushy atheists"). This is not mass de-conversion, but the growing acceptance of atheism allowing people to be more honest.

From a Biblical point of view, this is quite reasonable. It is only post-millennial theology which created the expectation of Christian victory on earth. The Bible consistently talks of God saving "a remnant".

My challenge to atheists is, "how will you defeat Islam?"

(Cultural) Christianity was a pushover. Only the continuation of post-millennialism, and nation-churches allowed for such over-inflated numbers of "Christians". The transition to the "new" atheism has been fairly easy.

But Islam doesn't play the same game.

Mohler didn't comment, but from CNN:
"The percentage of Muslims has doubled since 1990, but remains statistically very small, only 0.3 percent in the original survey and 0.6 percent today."
Two points:

First, the Koran is basically a textbook for conversion of an entire society to Islam. The current numbers alone should reinforce that. With less than 1% of the population, Islam is already starting to have an impact on our culture (look for all the halal stores near you). Islam will continue to grow through population (atheists do not reproduce much), and conversion (especially in the growing prison population).

Second, Islam is not friendly to atheism. Only the freedom allowed by "Christian nations" has permitted atheism to become acceptable. Once in power, atheists will be second class citizens - along with Jews and Christians.

The usual tactics (ridicule of sacred texts, rejection of miracles, appeals to reason and logic) will not work. Islam makes assertions, and any disagreement is simply rejected.

Once in power, conversion by the sword is permitted.

The same people who became "cultural Christians" will become "cultural Muslims".

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Science and Moral Values (cont.)

I was going long on the last post, and kind of off topic - but it's theology, so it's all good...

Let's get back to what Obama said (and did).
"I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research -- and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."
This is curious. I'm not sure what science he is talking about, or what he means by "conscience".

The science clearly says:
  1. A new human life is created at conception (the embryo)
  2. ESCR destroys the embryo
No scientist denies this. They may say it is "life unworthy of life", or not conscious, or unfeeling - but they cannot deny it is a new, unique human life.

What conscience can allow the destruction of human life? Certainly not one guided by God ("thou shall not commit murder"). Perhaps one seared, as by a hot iron (1 Tim 4:2).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Science and Moral Values

A little over a month ago, President Obama overturned former President Bush's ban on government funding of abortion overseas.

In a similar vein, he has now overturned Bush's ban on government funding for embryonic stem cell research. He said:
"In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research -- and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."
A lot to process here. Let's start with the theology, because (I can't repeat often enough), theology determines everything...
"As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering"
I talk a lot about what is "faith". Here Obama gives us some insight into what his faith is. As a Christian, our faith is in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross - to pay the fair and just price for sin (to appease God's wrath). I'm not sure I ever read about the apostles proclaiming to sinners to "care for each other" or "ease human suffering".

We do these things as Christians, because of Galatians 6:2-3 (among others):
"Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."
We recognize ourselves as sinners, same as everyone else. We deserve only God's wrath. When we find ourselves instead receiving God's grace, we turn and bestow that good on others.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More Stem Cells

Science Daily reports another win for the use of stem cells. Just recently, I've counted:
  1. Reversing paralysis in animals
  2. Reversing multiple sclerosis
  3. And now, a treatment for muscular dystrophy in animals

And all uses of ADULT stem cells.