Friday, December 31, 2010

Judgment Inversion

I was reading yet another excellent post over at Pyromaniacs.

It made me think about the odd observations I've had in witnessing to people.

Nonbelievers often talk about "What about all the unsaved people". Usually it is to point out how unjust God is...

Mushy people, who claim to be believers, often act like everyone is going to be saved (or will actually come right out and profess universalism).

I want to be charitable, and say it is because they realize they are unworthy of salvation, and therefore everyone is worthy.

But I think it is because of a misunderstanding of sin (on both sides).

The unbeliever very likely has a better understanding of sin. But he rejects God's justice. To him sin is normative. God has no basis for justice.

The mushy person rejects the notion of sin (or at least, makes light of sin) - sin isn't so bad, justice isn't necessary.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Anthropology at Biologos

Biologos has the first substantive post on their models of anthropology. They are called "Retelling" and "Homo Divinus".

The author, Denis Alexander, tells us "The Retelling Model represents a gradualist protohistorical view". That is, it is a stylized account of what happened to the earliest humans (perhaps 200,000 years ago). This allows a smallish group to be representative of all humans to come.

"the Fall is interpreted as the conscious rejection by humankind of the awareness of God’s presence and calling upon their lives in favor of choosing their own way rather than God’s way."
Now this is interesting. What is the difference between humans of 200,000 YA and 4,000 YA (or today)? What is "choosing their own way" rather than "God's way"? Do animals choose God's way or their own way?

Sadly, Denis does not say.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Evolution and Theodicy

(closing out the papers reviewed at Todd's blog)

The last paper is by John Schneider, entitled (in short) "An 'Aesthetic Supralapsarianism'". As a supralapsarian myself, I was eager to read it (spoiler: I was disappointed).

Once again, I appreciated the forthrightness of the author (page 5):
"the narrative of human evolution makes it very hard, if not impossible, to maintain this position [the Fall] and its approach to theodicy. For it seems, on this science, that not just natural evils, such as animal suffering and violent episodes in nature, but also the disposition for human moral evils, are practically part of God’s original design." (italics in original)
I addressed the problem of evil nearly three years ago. It is a serious matter, one that cannot be dodged (for example, by claiming "mystery").

Schneider makes an interesting claim on page 6:
"Concordists have never been able to resolve this conflict between the Bible and science on the order of nature with their hermeneutics of inerrancy." (he is speaking of Old Earthers here - he intentionally ignores YEC)
If true, this is a useful tidbit. I have been looking for a satisfactory theodicy from Old Earthers, and have yet to find one - it may not exist.

The crux of his argument is on page 10 (although I don't think he realizes it, as he goes into a long mumble about Job later):
"In Domning’s scientific 'theodicy,' these disorders are simply 'inherent in the existence of a physical and moral universe.' The theodicy is that to create a real physical universe, these sorts of sufferings were inevitable, even for God."
To which he adds:
"For now, I choose to ignore the questions that this assertion raises, such as the 'options' that would be available to an omniscient and omnipotent being, and how the 'new heaven and earth,' lacking these sufferings, is eventually possible."
This is a great failure on his part. These are the most important aspects of this argument - if God could not (or would not!) create a world without suffering and death the first time around, why believe the final state will be (or can be) different?

Which brings him to his shocking (and perverse) conclusions (page 12):
"God has 'rightfully,' or 'justly,' and not immorally or amorally, decided to make and to shape the world (and in microcosm, his own life) in this unexpected, undeserved, and painful way, including inexplicably great violence, disorder, suffering, and injustice." (emphasis added)
I don't see how it is inexplicable. God does what is pleasing to Him. So, suffering and violence (at least to animals) must be pleasing.

On page 13, we see his view of the true God of the Bible (commenting on Calvinism):
"God monstrously as creating some human beings for salvation, but all the others deliberately for eternal damnation."
So, a god who creates suffering because it pleases him is not monstrous - but a God who judges sin is?

And (page 13):
"Our experience of God and the world is on the whole exactly what God planned from the beginning." (emphasis in original)
Amen. But is suffering God's response to sin (the signal that all is not as it should be), or does it please God?

These are two pictures of two very different gods.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Fall

I'll interleave one of the papers from Todd Wood's review with the Biologos stuff, because it's all relevant.

I'll state up front that Wood wins the short and sweet summary, "This is basically a summary of standard liberal biblical scholarship".

There's a lot here (page 1):
"Modern science has amply demonstrated that phenomena such as predation, death, and the extinction of species have been intrinsic and even necessary aspects of life on earth for billions of years"
"the biblical Adam and Eve and their early offspring are portrayed as figures living in the Neolithic period, around 9,000 to 7,000 BCE, which is some 30,000 years later than the earliest archaeological evidence for religious behavior and culture among humans."
I appreciate his straightforwardness here. No need to dig up his presuppositions.

He also seems to grasp the nature of sin, which I am often frustrated trying to communicate to TE's (page 2):
"a range of evidence establishes that virtually all of the acts considered 'sinful' in humans are part of the natural repertoire of behavior among animals"
That is, what Christians call "sinful", biologists call "natural". This raises the question of where our nature comes from (and is it good).
  1. Good, (presumably from God) - there is, therefore, no sin (no deviancy)
  2. Evil, from God - God is the author of evil
  3. Evil, altered - this is original sin
I just had to grab this chunk (page 4):
"the characters have symbolic names and act like stock figures; the episodes look prototypical"
This reminds me of the spoof "History Channel Produces bad SciFi".

Also, an oddity (page 4 again):
"nakedness as a symbol of primitive life, clothing of civilized life"
Not sure where he gets this idea. Nakedness was a symbol of right standing before God (who sees everything). Clothing is a symbol of shame (attempting to hide from God).

Ok, skip a lot of mumbling in the middle, lots of juicy stuff near the end!

Page 13:
"we share a transtemporal and universal biological and cultural heritage that predisposes us to sin."
"They [George Murphy] and others have proposed that original sin is a biologically inherited state, a byproduct of billions of years of evolution."
Interesting. So, he is going with #2. God made us be evil. Let the spinning commence! (still page 13):
"Yet selfish behavior did not become sin (culpable wrongdoing) in human beings until the evolution of their self-consciousness (and God-consciousness) allowed our remote ancestors to override their innate tendency to self-assertion by the exercise of their free will."
Sneaky, but fail. He is claiming that stealing, lust, and hatred are only sins because we know it's wrong (else it is good). But which is God's character? That which He creates or that which He commands? Harlow is making God out to be schizophrenic.

And the conclusion, page 14 (I'm thinking I need to start reading these things back to front...):
"To put the issue in these terms is not to blame God
for human sin. As Karl Giberson puts it, 'By these lights, God did not "build" sin into the natural order. Rather, God endowed the natural order with the freedom to "become," and the result was an interesting, morally complex, spiritually rich, but ultimately selfish species we call Homo sapiens.'"
"We must trust that God created the kind of world that he did because an evolutionary process involving selfishness, suffering, and death was the only way to bring about such creaturely values as novelty, complexity, and freedom."
There it is again. God's creative power being limited by man. Ultimately, everything comes down to God-centered vs. man-centered.

Bonus points:
"Once the doctrine of original sin is reformulated [i.e. gutted], the doctrine of the atonement may likewise be deepened [i.e. gutted]. But the new understanding of sin requires that we now favor theories of the atonement like the Christus victor model or the moral influence theory, instead of the theory of a ransom paid to the Devil or a satisfaction paid to God’s honor [nice slam on propitiatory atonement]. Better, to privilege Paul’s soteriology, we must elevate the truth of a new humanity inaugurated in Jesus Christ, whom God sent into the world in suffering solidarity with a groaning creation—to be the vanguard of a new creation full of new creatures destined to be transformed and drawn up into the life and fellowship of the triune God." (emphasis added)
Nice Darwinian reference to the superman there...

And for double bonus points:
"For Christianity to remain intellectually credible and culturally relevant, it must be willing to revise— and thereby enrich—its formulation of classic doctrines"
"The task of Christian theology in every generation is not simply to repeat or paraphrase the tradition"
Yes, syncretism is always the only way forward. Relevance, always relevant. 2 Timothy 2:2 anyone?

Friday, December 17, 2010


(As an aside, I had hoped to intersperse these heavy theological posts with some headlines from Science Daily. Sadly, my newsreader ate 4000 achived posts [about 4 months]. Good news, I'm all caught up! Bad news, no headlines.)

Biologos has launched right into their attempt at anthropology (the study of man).

Some might think anthropology involves digging up skeletons and buried cities, or studying primitive tribes.

Biblical anthropology consists of investigating what the Bible says about man. I'm looking forward to this series...

From this first post:
"address the relationship between the Adam of Genesis and the anthropological and genetic account of a humanity that did not have a single couple as the source of its genetic endowment"
I appreciate this honesty. Many people attempt to merge deep time and special creation for Adam and Eve. I don't see any advantage to such a position. If deep time is true, apply the conditions uniformly.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Adam and Eve

Right on time for my new analysis... I was reading Todd Wood's blog, and initially thought little of this paper. I'm glad I went back and read the paper.

He launches right in (page 2):
"In this study, I aim to show why we should retain a version of the traditional view, in spite of these [Biologos] pressures."
"Now it is true, for example, that the eastern churches do not talk about original sin the way that Augustine did; but it does not follow that they therefore have nothing to say on the subject."
I've lost count of how many times I've heard people claim that Eastern thinking solves the problem. The Eastern Orthodox have a serious problem with denying total depravity, but they still believe in the Fall.

He gets back to this on page 8:
"However, Towner has distorted Irenaeus' actual view. According to Irenaeus, the first humans were created morally innocent, their innocence being more like that of a child than of a full adult. God's goal was for them to mature into moral confirmation, but the Fall interrupted the process." (emphasis in original)
Page 5:
"A story is 'historical' if the author wanted his audience to believe that the events recorded really happened."
This is an important point. It all comes back to who is the author. Is it truly God, or can we dismiss parts of the Bible we dislike by claiming they are due to some human failing in authoring.

Page 6:
"scholars thinking along these lines might suppose that Genesis 3 teaches that 'humans are sinful.' But this is not a timeless truth on its own. Sooner or later someone will want to know, did God create humans with a tendency (or at least an openness) toward sinning, or did he make them good, only for humans to become sinful?" ... "In other words, the supposed timeless truth, once it interacts with actual human experience, demands answers to historical questions." (italics in original, bold added)
That's exactly it. What is sin? If our nature is now supposedly sinful, but our nature has evolved gradually from the animals (which are supposed to be good, day 5), how does sin work? You are forced to reject the Fall. Probably any notion of sin at all.

Page 7:
"Any telling of the biblical story must include the notion of sin. Humans are estranged from God, and Israel is God’s means of bringing light to the world." (emphasis in original)
He's skipping a bit here (I would have edited things differently). No sin, no need for salvation. No atonement (not to mention no explanation for the "wrongness" in the world).

Page 8:
"If we say that being prone to sin is inherent in being human with a free will, then we must say the Bible writers were wrong in describing atonement as they did, and we must also say that Jesus was wrong to describe his own death in these terms."
Yes, we also make God the author/creator of sin and evil (which he gets to later).

Page 9:
"Further, we have now made nonsense of the joyful expectation of Christians to live one day in a glorified world from which sin and death have been banished."
This is a good point. If death is "good", if there is no sin - then the eternal state is just like the current state. I am immediately reminded of Philip Jose Farmer's "Riverworld". An eternity of struggle, war, death and rebirth. If TE's are right, I'm totally making them all my grail slaves! (just kidding ;)

(still page 9):
"At least in the traditional understanding, humans are to blame for the evil they do and the pain they inflict; here, we can only blame God." (emphasis in original)
"Finally, they fail utterly to address one of our deepest intuitions, that there is something wrong with sin and death, and that we need God to help us and to heal us."
The final portion of the paper lays out his theory. Of particular interest is the competing views of what is means to be made "image of God" (page 10).

It's interesting the position he takes, it is unclear to me what he is really gaining compared to the YEC position.

Page 13:
"this particular couple were a fresh start, for whom physical death was not their intended outcome."
Citing John Bloom:
"we can propose that the special creation of man occurred in one of these gaps and that it was not bridged by purely natural means."
Invoking special creation won't win him any favors in the TE/accommodation camp.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What is Evolution?

I am somewhat appreciative of all the drama over at Biologos. In many ways, I believe they are in direct violation of Titus 3:9. At the same time, it is much like an investigation of heresy - it helps to form right doctrine and to determine error.

I've long held that matters of an Old Earth or Young Earth are a matter of conscience. Let everyone be convinced unto himself (and keep it to himself).

However, the more I dig into things in the course of this Biologos dust-up, the more I am convinced that an Old Earth is incompatible with orthodox Christianity.

In that light, I will need to expand out formal arguments and definitions in a series of posts.

First, the Biologos "About Us" page says:
"We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation."
Now evolution means a lot of things, including:
  1. Deep time - geological periods and time spans; the geologic column, and fossil record
  2. Common descent - the belief that all living organisms descended from a single (very simple) organism or possible a common pool of self-replicating organic material
  3. Macroevolution - in the past referred to as "the transmutation of species", or what might be better termed "transmutation of kinds" (to oppose "reproduction within kinds")
  4. Stellar evolution - the belief that all matter started originally as hydrogen (one proton and one electron)
  5. Microevolution - this is the one thing everyone agrees on. This is "descent with modification" which has been readily observed.
I believe #1 is the main problem. Without it, #2 and 3 disappear (similarly, assuming #1 makes arguing against #2 and 3 very hard). #4 is a separate issue altogether (you can have an old universe and a young Earth).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hawking's Grand Design

I found an interesting debate on CNN, through an article at Ignatius Insight.
(the debate is in three parts at Youtube, hopefully in a lasting fashion)

Part 1 - Larry King interviews Hawking
Part 2 - King gets reaction from a Catholic and Deepak Chopra (the panentheist)
Part 3 - has some back and forth (with the co-author standing in for Hawking)

I have a number of responses in different directions. I will have to expand on most of these in later posts.

First, is that any "God of the gaps" type explanation (or "science is how, theology is why" as it is currently phrased) is ultimately doomed to fail. Physicists are going to continue to push at all edges, until you are left with the god of deism (this is largely where Biologos is now). The "how" does not immediately give us the "why", but it does severely constrain it.

Second, is that Hawking is actually a theist. He is arguing on the nature and attributes of his "god", M-theory (it is eternal, and sufficiently powerful to create everything from nothing; it is explicitly not personal, nor just).

In part 3, near 2:30, Spitzer (the Catholic) has a clear shot at giving the Gospel. He blows it, and mumbles something about a "God shaped hole in our hearts" (not his actual words). Too bad.

In part 2, near 13:20, a blogger says "Thank God for Hawking". We can thank God, although we really should pray that God will break through Hawking's hard heart while there is still time for him.

Also, for Larry King. I know he heard the Gospel when he interviewed Kirk Cameron. He is clearly interested in eternal matters, but it has not taken root.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Santa Claus

Internet Monk has an article on "the real Santa Claus".

Reading that, and the comments reminds me that few people know (or behave as if they knew) who the real Santa Claus is.

Most people behave according to the mythology initiated in the early 20th century, and evolving even today.

It's interesting how "godlike" Santa has been made to become:
  1. Omniscient - "he knows when you're sleeping"
  2. Eternal - always an old man, presented as the same man for the last hundred years (or more)
  3. Judge - "he knows if you've been bad or good"
  4. (aspects of) Omnipresent - able to visit every house in one night, present in all malls (although some attribute this to "helpers")
I say junk Santa. Who needs him? (Or encouraging parents to lie to their children)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reenchanting Nature

"The Reenchantment of Nature" (Alister McGrath) - The commenters at Biologos recommended McGrath as a source of theology from an evolutionist point of view. Sadly, this was the only book my library had (perhaps a good sign, as my library specializes in heretics and apostates).

This book was very short - 186 pages. McGrath assumes a lot, and his argument wanders a lot. This leaves me short on understanding his position.

It seems he feels that we (Western culture) have come to see nature as an "adversary" (to be conquered), rather than a "gift" (to be stewarded).

I can't help but think this is the result of his evolutionary thinking.

We see a glimpse of this on page 180:
"The issue of pain and suffering in the world remains something of a puzzle, and at times troubles Christians considerably."
The evolutionist must believe that God created suffering, because it is good - it pleases Him. This is definitely a puzzlement!

It reminds me most of "Ishmael", who takes this thinking to its logical conclusion - that we must allow human death as "most natural". Allow famine, allow the weak to die - to resist is unnatural ("sinful").

McGrath doesn't seem to go this far. But it is like his logic is leading him there, and he knows it is wrong. But he can't figure out why, so he says nothing (or says it is "a puzzle").

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arguing at Ars

Part 4 is up. I'm surprised at the direction they are going... At least there is some interesting talk about "models". Usually, when I refer to models, I mean computer models. Or sometimes, abstract mental models (which will eventually end up as computer models).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Power of the Gospel

I finished repeated reading of the First letter to the Thessalonians.

This book is all about the impact of the Gospel in peoples lives:
  • chapter 1 tells us how the Thessalonians came to believe, even in the face of persecution
  • chapter 2 is on the conduct of Paul, regarding the nature of the Gospel and the preacher
  • chapter 3 demonstrates the lasting power of conversion
  • chapter 4 talks about the effects of the Gospel in people's lives, including our hope against death
  • chapter 5 closes with encouragement to continue to the end

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Islamic Law in America

An intriguing article from CNN.

I want to jump down to the bottom of the article:
"a New Jersey case, in which a judge refused to grant a restraining order against a Muslim man whose wife accused him of raping her repeatedly, made it necessary for Oklahoma to take action to keep Islamic law from being imposed there.

The New Jersey decision, in which the family court judge found the husband was abiding by his Muslim beliefs regarding spousal duties, was overruled by an appellate court."
The good news here is that the appellate court overruled the lower court. It is not clear what happened in the lower court that brought about this ruling.

This particular case is:
"The amendment would require Oklahoma courts to 'rely on federal and state law when deciding cases' and 'forbids courts from considering or using' either international law or Islamic religious law, known as Sharia"
This seems pretty straight forward. Use the law of the land. There is either weird judicial freedom happening, or this is over-zealousness.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Arguing at Ars, pt 3

The third part is fairly interesting. It discusses analogies. The best part was using analogies to counter analogies:
"This process of refuting one analogy with another is called analogical filtering" (emphasis in original)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Biologos and Atonement

I will continue to repeat that the problem of deep time (geological ages, death before the Fall, common descent, transmutation of kinds, etc.) is a theological one and not a scientific one. Our theology shapes our worldview, and our worldview gives us our assumptions. Our assumptions determine how we interpret evidence/facts.

That is why I always look forward to theological articles from Biologos, although I continue to be amazed at how unorthodox they always are.

In the latest, guest author George Murphy denies substitutionary atonement. (Although he says in the comments, "My purpose is not to reject other models of atonement such as penal sub. They can be effective ways of making Christ’s work vividly present to people. But they don’t contribute as well to an understanding of the reorientation of creation. & they don’t picture our role in the cross adequately or give faith a crucial role.")

But how else do you interpret:
"He [Gerhard Forde] focused on what actually brings reconciliation: the event of the cross, not satisfaction of some theoretical requirement." (emphasis added)
If there is no requirement for Jesus to die on the cross, why do so? To build trust? ("The point is that that God brings about faith in himself, something neglected in other views of atonement.")

Substitutionary atonement holds that God creates faith in us (ex nihilo), then we come to believe, and receive the benefits of atonement. It appears Murphy is saying that our witnessing of the events of the cross creates faith - which makes no sense to me. The cross might create a sense of guilt, that I would understand. Tens of thousands of people were crucified, no one trusts them.
"The idols we depended on for life brought death, and in a real sense we die."
That's certainly true. However, what about murder and lust and theft? Are these not also sin? And are they not related to our descent from animals?

And if there is no "theoretical" requirement to pay for sin, why did Christ die? Why can't God simply forgive (as the Muslims believe)?

I will try and read more by Murphy and his mentor Gerhard Forde.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Good and Bad Muslims

For anyone who is doubtful about the reality of the dangers of Islam, a debate, "The Only Good Muslim is a Bad Muslim" (ht: Ignatius Insight).

It wasn't really much of a debate. Kreeft is not as knowledgeable about Islam, and ended up agreeing with Spencer in the end.

Spencer's case is simple:
  1. Islam teaches people to be "bad" (from a Christian/Western point of view)
  2. Those who are faithful are "bad"
  3. Those who are not faithful are "bad Muslims" (not faithful to their Muslim, err, faith)
His proposal is actually quite logical - we must outlaw those portions of Islam which are contrary to our well being. I think there is about 0% chance of that happening...

There is a convicting story around the 40 minute mark. Quite nice.

I think their biggest problems is that the Magesterium has tied their hands. They have to say that Muslims worship the same God, and that by keeping to the light they have, they can earn salvation.

But this (Islam) is a problem that requires conversion. We must preach Christ crucified (a stumbling block to some, foolishness to most, and blasphemy to the Muslims). We must point out the doctrine of demons (as all false religions are) - and say that it is false; not muddled, not half-true. That there is one Way, not many.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jesse Jackson

An interesting post at Ignatius Insight:
"There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of higher order than the right to life. I do not share that view. I believe that life is not private, but rather it is public and universal."
That's Jesse Jackson in 1977. What happened to him?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Arguing at Ars

The second part of the arguments article was not as good. But still useful to run through the examples.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Geocentrism Again

A lot of material all piling up at once on this (since the last post)...

First, Todd Wood (an interesting YEC biologist) has a report from the "First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism" (not that the Church government approves or is really happy with it).

In part 3, Wood references Galileo's letter, which I am reading with interest. Much fisking shall come of this!

I've also been reading up on the Coriolis force, which will make some heavy statements about geocentrism (specifically, the notion of a stationary Earth).

First, from part 2 of Wood's report:
"According to Wyatt, the whole universe 'rotates' around the earth every day, which is 'kinematically exactly the same' as earth rotation."
This is correct, but brings us to the Coriolis force (also the Foucault Pendulum experiment).

The Coriolis force is best visualized by watching water flow down a drain (although Wikipedia claims the Coriolis force in this case is not the primary cause). Regardless, the force is real, and should be explained.

Now, it is correct (true) to say "the Earth is stationary and everything revolves around it". It is also true that "the Earth is rotating and revolving around the Sun". You can argue about which is "more pleasing" or "makes better intuitive sense". The fact is, the two systems are going to have their advantages, depending on circumstances.

However, the geocentrists would say that their system is the "one true frame" (representative of what is physically happening) - which is wrong according to relativity (I need to do a "Relativity, Causality, FTL - pick 2"). Relativity says that no one frame of reference is absolute (they are all "relative" to one another).

Ironically, many of those who want to use geocentric errors against creationists are also wrong! The heliocentric frame is not "the one true frame" either.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Informal Arguments

An educational article from Ars:
"A good debate should first establish that all the arguments are valid, and then spend the rest of the time quibbling about the premises."
I heartily recommend it for anyone who argues online. Always good to firm up your methodology.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Biologos and Marcionism, Again

(in reference to my earlier post)

If Karl Giberson (of Biologos) were a starship, and we were privy to the dialogue on the bridge of that ship, we might hear, "Full power to the forward spin generators!"

Now, while Giberson is spinning, I don't think he is repenting (or perhaps, over repenting?)

Quoth Giberson:
"the greatest challenge of the Old Testament is the morality of God’s actions as described by various authors" (emphasis in original)
That is truly interesting and revealing. God defines what is good. Whatever God says and does is good. To suppose otherwise is to create a standard of goodness greater than God.
"My office overlooks a pre-school and there is nothing so innocent as those toddlers running about at recess. I am simply unable to imagine any scenario where God—as I understand him—would rain brimstone down on their heads, or drown them in a flood."
The tsunami in Indonesia killed hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children. The earthquake in Haiti likewise. What is God's involvement in these things? Where is sin, where is judgment? Giberson is stuck because these things must be good (day 5), or God is not in control (as Ken Miller suggests). He doesn't say.
"Do those portrayals faithfully agree with how Jesus himself reveals God in the New Testament?"
Perhaps this is more interesting...
"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day." (Matthew 11:23)
Jesus seems to think the judgment of Sodom was right - and that some will get it worse than Sodom. Does Giberson not believe these verses can be attributed to Jesus?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heart Repair

An interesting article from Science Daily:
"they could find a cocktail that would reprogram fibroblasts into cardiac muscle, without having to revert to a stem cell state in the process."
Direct conversion from support cells into heart muscle cells, in mice.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Know Your Heresies - Docetism

Docetism is accociated with the Gnostics. I like to reserve the label Gnostic (from gnosis or knowledge) for those who promote a notion of "special knowledge" necessary for salvation (like Jehovah's Witnesses, or Oprah's The Secret).

The Gnostics, being a group of people, held many different ideas, many of which interacted or were logically connected.

One of which was material dualism (which may get its own post) - the idea that the physical is evil and the spiritual good. This led to the conclusion that God cannot become physical in Jesus, which is what is referred to as Docetism.

Heresies come and go, and docetism is not very popular today (Modernism has given us the idea that the physical is good and the spiritual evil [well, nonexistent], so there is little attraction).

It is possible a backlash against Modernism may cause the pendulum to swing back.
1 John 4:3b "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God"

Friday, November 12, 2010

ASC and Spinal Cords (again)

Right on the heels of the last post, another from Science Daily:
"Three months after initial treatment, the mice demonstrated significant and persistent recovery of walking ability in two separate tests of motor function when compared to control groups."
This group is from UC Irvine. The previous from Japan.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ASC and Spinal Cord Injury

An interesting article from Science Daily:
"mice with severe spinal cord injury were transplanted with NSCs and administered a drug known as valproic acid... therapy resulted in impressive restoration of hind limb function."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ESC Shutdown

Just got to this from early September... I'm processing all this news in order, so, no spoilers please!

From CNN:
"'Congress has mandated that the public interest is served by preventing taxpayer funding of research that entails the destruction of human embryos,' Lamberth said"
I like the hyperbole on the part of the administration:
"The court's order causes irrevocable harm to the millions of extremely sick or injured people who stand to benefit from continuing research as well as to the taxpayers who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this research"
Really? Irrevocable harm? From research that has little or no useful applications currently?

Is this a victory? Not really. Private funds can still be used (and have been). Not to mention research being done outside the US.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Koran Burning

This is another old one from the queues...

I was hesitant to bring up the Koran burning case. The pastor (Terry Jones) is clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer (there is some indication the church is linked to Westboro Baptist, of Fred Phelps fame).

However, someone (probably Doug Wilson, although James White also made some excellent points - although White is rarely snarky) made an excellent point that sometimes you need a fool to point out the emperor has no clothes.

Here we have someone making a point that Muslims tend to overreact when mocked - to the point of murder and rioting.

Everyone says (out of one side of their mouths), "Shhh! You're going to make them violent!"

Then (from the other side), "You're disrespectful, intolerant, and divisive! You are mischaracterizing Islam! We need to respect Islam!"

When people mock Christianity (often with NEA grants), no one says a word. Maybe there is a quote from an irritated pastor. No one gets murdered, no rioting (maybe a few people holding signs).

And no one suggests Christianity should be respected.

You have to admit, the tactic is working...


I'm really tired of people comparing geocentrism and young earth creationism.
  1. The motion of the planets is observable and repeatable. Anyone can look at them and see for themselves.
  2. Geocentrism (at least certain forms of it) isn't even wrong.
An excellent summary from Michael Flynn:
"Ptolemaic system: geocentric, stationary earth. Worked out in great detail by Ptolemy in his Almagest [title from an Arabic translation]. It was surprisingly accurate, as noted. Relativity theory tells us that the choice of frame of reference is arbitrary, so it is no less true mathematically than any other frame."
The real irony is that Galileo (the guy who pushed the whole controversy into the forefront) wasn't really right - he supported the Copernican model:
"Copernican system [1514]. heliocentric, rotating earth, circular orbits. This system had more epicycles than Ptolemy, and not notably simpler. It produced less accurate results in some cases, partly because it relied on the same inaccurate tables."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Toddler's vs. Atheists

An amusing article from Ars (well, amusing once I put my spin on it :)
"Generally, humans recognize that while animate objects can create order, inanimate objects can only increase disorder"
Unless you're an atheist, who believes mud turns into people...
"There was no difference in the responses of 7-month old children to ordering and disordering events for either the animate or inanimate objects"
That's a good baseline. The first six months, babies focus on interpersonal skills - something most atheists need work on (I'm looking at you, Jerry Coyne).
"However, 12-month old children looked significantly longer when the rolling ball created order than when it caused chaos."
Out of the mouths (or staring patterns) of babes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

ASC and Heart Repair

We've seen a lot of applications of adult stem cells in treating various heart conditions. From Science Daily:
"The cardiogenic cocktail was then used to induce this signature in non-reparative patient stem cells to program their capacity to repair the heart. Mouse models with heart failure, injected with these cells, demonstrated significant heart function recovery along with improved survival rate after a year, compared to those treated with unguided stem cells or saline."
"The pre-clinical data reported in this seminal paper have cleared the way for safety and feasibility trials in humans, which were recently conducted in Europe."
The language here isn't 100% clear, but it seems that this may already be under way in humans (there is significant lag between collecting data and publishing it. So while preparing the paper on mouse results, human tests might have started.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pill Data

In a previous post, I mentioned that the pill can fail to prevent ovulation, and still prevent pregnancy by preventing implantation. This is effectively giving the new embryo a death sentence.

From Science Daily, a little data on how often this might happen:
"Of the 150 women who used the pill consistently, three of the 96 women with normal weight ovulated, as did one of the 54 women with obesity."
Not a huge sample, but 4 in 150 is almost 3%

That's fairly high. At once a month, that is one event every three years.

Friday, November 5, 2010

ASC and Parkinson's

A variant on a story I saw earlier, from Science Daily:
"Researchers in the Zeng lab used human iPSCs that were derived from skin and blood cells and coaxed them to become dopamine-producing neurons." (in rats)
(the earlier results were from a different group, using different starter cells, and mice)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Secular View

(This got hung up in the queue, so it is way old)

It's a lot of fun to watch secular humanists spin.

You have a group of people dedicated to the destruction of everything humanists stand for (equality, freedom, rights). You have other people, who may not be actively participating, but who choose to identify visibly with that group.

Then, a humanists says the second group "makes him nervous" on national television. That's it. Not that he hates them, or wants to do away with them or restrict their rights. People who identify with those who want to eliminate his way of life make him nervous.

The response? Fire him.

Then we have Tavis Smiley (who I normally like).

I want to interpret that in the best way (1 Cor 13:7). I think he is saying Christians (people who call themselves Christians) do all sorts of things. I can see that.

The problem is:
  1. Such people are, in all likelihood, not Christians (it is Christ who decides who is a Christian, not us)
  2. They don't do such things because they are Christians
  3. Other Christians do not approve
The Columbine blurb is just bizarre. Those were atheists (actually a lot of random shooters are...). Evidence is they targeted a couple of Christians, specifically because they were overtly Christian.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Biologos and Marcionism

In my previous post, I (snarkily) summarized the form of posts at Biologos. There is an interesting departure from this in the form of Dr. Karl Giberson's "Straw Men of Atheism" posts.

Giberson is not a fan of presuppositional apologetics. He uses an evidential form, and it is quite insightful (or inciteful?) to see the atheists tear him up in the comment sections.

In the fifth installment, Giberson actually manages to belittle the Bible and open himself to atheist scorn - actually going so far as to embrace Marcionism:
"In The God Delusion Dawkins eloquently skewers the tyrannical anthropomorphic deity of the Old Testament—the God that supposedly commanded the Jews to go on genocidal rampages and who occasionally went on his own rampages, flooding the planet or raining fire and brimstone on wicked cities. But who believes in this deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old? Modern theology has moved past this view of God."
Biologos insists that evolution and Christianity are compatible. I guess it all depends on what you mean by "Christianity". Not Biblical Christianity, but the teachings of (modern) liberal theologians.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Creation as Jazz

Biologos seems to have (at least) three main categories:
  1. Repeat "Evolution is true" mantra
  2. Belittle the Bible
  3. Poetry and art (proclaiming how beautiful the deist god is)
An example of the third is the recent post "Creation and Jazz Music".

It really speaks for itself:
"If God has shaped the world as it was from the beginning, the universe seems reduced to a mere puppet stage where God the Puppet Master pulls all the strings."
That's the treatment of the sovereign God of the Bible.
"Instead, God in his wisdom has provided a system in which creatures can make themselves." (emphasis added)
The important point in the creation debate is: "The creator makes the rules". If God created us, we are subject to His rules. If random chance creates us (or we create ourselves) - we are not subject to God's rules.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Finding Darwin's God

It took me a long time, but I finally waded through it!

I picked up this book after getting involved over at Biologos. Kenneth Miller is one of the writers there.

I am looking for a book that pairs a solid scientific understanding of evolution and an old earth with solid theology - this book is not it.

Miller approaches things from the scientific standpoint (he is a cell biologist and professor). His theology is fairly broad, although not well defended or deep. He adds nothing new to the scientific argument, repeating the "evolution is true" mantra repeatedly.

What interests me most is his theology.

The choice quote (you have to get far in to find it, out of 292 pages):
"He [God] wanted these creatures [us] to be free to choose Him or to reject Him" (page 251)
There are aspects of this earlier (and it is much repeated later), but this really captures the heart of Miller's theology.

He has raised human will to the level of God (hyper-Arminianism).

"Free choice" is so important that Miller is willing to sacrifice everything else - God's omnipotence, omniscience, creation, etc. Even the definition of good is up for grabs (for how is "nature, red in tooth and claw" good?).

It is also not surprising to find elements of Open Theism (which is a common failure mode for hyper-Arminians; although it appears Miller has not yet fallen so far):
"The freedom to act and choose enjoyed by each individual in the Western religious tradition requires that God allow the future of His creation to be left open." (p.238)
"Given evolution's ability to adapt,... sooner or later it would have given the Creator exactly what He was looking for - a creature who, like us, could know Him and love Him" (p.238-239)
This is not the God of the Bible. The God who plans and purposes before acting. This is not the God who is the man Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

Given the course Biologos is taking, I doubt I will see reconciliation on these points. I have another book to try.

Friday, August 6, 2010

DNA Frontloading

One of the interesting results of genomic research is the challenge to evolutionary assumptions. From Science Daily:
"report the draft genome sequence of the sea sponge"

"All living animals are descended from the common ancestor of sponges and humans, which lived more than 600 million years ago"

"essentially all the genomic innovations that we deem necessary for intricate modern animal life have their origins much further back in time that anyone anticipated"
Now the evolutionist will say, "See, we use the same proteins; therefore we have a common ancestor!"

However, there is a much more subtle (and damaging) point.

If the earliest life forms have all the complexity - then deep time (the billion year hammer) buys you nothing. Later forms use multiples of these genes, often with slight modifications.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prehistoric Conditions

One of the most interesting things about uniformitarians is their inconsistency. They insist the present is the key to the past (that current conditions tell us about how things operated in the past).

But the data shows that conditions in the past were unlike anything seen today.

Take this article from Science Daily:
"These elevated [oxygen] concentrations have been linked to gigantism in some animal groups, in particular insects, the dragonfly Meganeura monyi with a wingspan of over two feet epitomizing this." (italics in original)
Insects have an open circulatory system. This system is fairly inefficient, and limits the body size in insects today. In other words insects today could never be so big (they wouldn't get enough oxygen). So, the presence of these insects indicates higher oxygen pressure (either more oxygen or more atmospheric pressure or both).

Current oxygen levels are ~20%, "levels around 30 to 35%, as have been proposed for the Late Paleozoic". High levels of oxygen would also cause large amounts of coal to form.

Things were very different, that much is agreed on. That's what the evidence shows.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ASC Research

An interesting article from Science Daily:
"engineers used human mesenchymal stem cells, which are found in bone marrow and other connective tissues such as fat. The stem cells differentiated into bone when grown on stiffer scaffolds, and into fat when grown on more flexible scaffolds."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ray Bradbury on God

An interesting article at CNN.

For those not familiar with him, Ray Bradbury is a fairly famous science fiction author. I have a certain grudge against him, because the one SF novel I got to read in high school was his "Illustrated Man". It wasn't particularly interesting (I remember it as half the stories being about the last moments of people in exploding rockets).

I had always thought of Bradbury as British, but apparently he was born in Illinois.

His theology is unusual among SF authors (who tend towards atheism), but nothing like Biblical faith:
"He considers Jesus a wise prophet, like Buddha and Confucius."
"'Jesus is a remarkable person,' Bradbury says. 'He was on his way to becoming Christ, and he made it.' " (not sure what that means!)
"We must move into the universe. Mankind must save itself. We must escape the danger of war and politics. We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves."
I guess that last one says it all. Please pray for Mr. Bradbury.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

ASC Supply

An interesting article from Science News:
"The findings 'represent a huge and important progression in the field,'...The new studies accomplished the reprogramming feat by using viruses to deliver a four-gene cocktail that reverts the cells"

Friday, July 30, 2010

ASC Production

An interesting article from Science Daily:
"Now, for the first time, MIT researchers have shown that they can deliver those same reprogramming genes using RNA"

Friday, July 23, 2010

ESC Research

An article at Science Daily on the state of ESC research:
"Dr. Denis Evseenko... placed human embryonic stem cells into culture and, after three or four days, found a small subset of the cells that had lost a key cell surface marker characteristic of the pluripotent state and had gained a new marker that is a hallmark of mesodermal cells"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ASC and Heart Attacks

Encouraging news from Science Daily on combining stem cells (presumably adult) and genetic engineering in rats:
"the researchers observed significant improvements in blood pressure function in the rats implanted with scaffolds seeded with stem cells modified to overproduce Akt1, SDF-1 and HGF"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Glenn Beck on the Atonement

I've started following James White's ministry (Dividing Line). On a recent podcast, he mentioned Glenn Beck giving a presentation on the atonement (on Fox News channel, no less!).

This was too bizarre for words. Here we have a (self-described) Mormon, on a politically slanted news channel, presenting the heart of Christian theology! And doing a better job than many preachers on TBN!

Now Beck's main point is the bad (liberation) theology of James Cone. There's so much bad stuff there, it's easy to find the target.

But Beck nails it in one:
"And when it comes to salvation, how about the concept of grace? Saved by grace. You cannot earn your way into Heaven. There is no deed, no random act of kindness, no amount of money to spread around to others that earns you a trip to heaven. It's by God's grace alone that you are saved. Now, that doesn't mean you aren't supposed to do works and deeds — 'faith without works is dead.' Our work is a demonstration of our faith." (emphasis added)
Odd times indeed.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

ASC Research

An interesting article from Science Daily on using adult stem cells to investigate Parkinson's disease:
"iPS cells provide new and exciting opportunities to grow and study dopamine neurons from patients for the first time"

Friday, July 16, 2010

ASC Supply

An interesting story from Science Daily on growing adult stem cells in hydrogel.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ESC and Tumors

From Science Daily:
"Using small molecule compounds that inhibit this pathway, the scientists were able to dramatically reduce the potential of embryonic stem cells to form teratomas [unusual tumors]."
So, we have scientists using human embryonic stem cells (putting them into mice)- in an attempt to figure out how to deal with problems caused by ESC.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

ASC and Leukemia

Somewhat related to a previous article...
From Science Daily:
"blood stem cells are collected from a donor and then infused into the patient where they travel to the bone marrow and begin to produce new blood cells"
"After treatment with alloSCT, more than 40 percent of participants with this otherwise fatal disease enjoyed long-term freedom from relapse."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


What I like most about Doug Wilson is that he takes his theology seriously. He wants to be totally consistent, and apply Biblical thinking to every aspect of life.

Of course, I disagree strongly with him in certain aspects of theology, most particularly postmillenialism.

There is a really good point here:
"I believe that Christian republics and commonwealths are formed by preaching, baptizing, and discipleship, and not by campaigning, legislating, pundit-blogging, and so on. This gospel work will have political results, but it is not politically established. "

But let's go back to Wilson's question:
"Christians who argue for a secular public square are caught on the horns of a dilemma. Either Jesus wants this or He doesn't. Or maybe He doesn't care."
Let's look at John 18:36
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
That's a pretty strong statement. Of course, this is before the resurrection and Pentecost.
Acts 1:6-7
"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
Wilson is caught on the phrase "disciple the nations" (Matthew 28:19). Interesting, that phrase is not in the other Gospels (Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Luke 24:47 "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.").

The word "nations" is ethnos, which refers to people - not constitutions or laws. Mark uses kosmos ("world").

Saturday, July 3, 2010


A chilling story from Albert Mohler:
"Abortion, which she [Antonia Senior] acknowledges is the killing of a human life, is defined as 'a lesser evil' than the curtailing of abortion rights in the name of liberating women."
I won't repeat the story here (I encourage you to read it at Mohler's site, if you can stomach it), I am interested in the theology of the thing.

I am reminded of the recent story on ultrasound. This great technology has allowed many to literally see that the unborn child really is a child. However, it is not sufficient to turn the tide against abortion (indeed, it is now used for sex selection abortion).

In this story, we hear about how much one's views can be changed by becoming a parent. But not enough to turn from the idol of abortion.

The statement that struck me the most is:
"If you are willing to die for a cause, you must be prepared to kill for it, too"
An odd phraseology, which I can't recall having been put forward as a serious argument before (it does make a nice catch phrase for Duke Nuke'm).

Of course, the underlying feeling many would agree with: the ultimate test of one's values is what you will kill for. In our society, we kill those who are threats - through war or the death penalty (police shooting armed suspects, etc.). To some extent this is necessary, lest society be overrun by barbarians.

But, as Christians (and I think this is a key problem for postmillenials), our ultimate values lie in heaven. We are perfectly capable of having things worth dying for - and not worth killing for (Matthew 10:28).

Friday, July 2, 2010

ASC and Sepsis

An encouraging article from Science Daily:
"Six hours after inducing the infection, approximately half the mice were given an intravenous injection of mouse mesenchymal stem cells, while the other half received a control injection of a salt solution. Both groups of animals also received antibiotics, which is the standard treatment for sepsis in the clinic. After five days, 50 per cent of the animals that received the cells were alive, compared to just 15 per cent of the control animals"
"About a quarter of patients with severe sepsis die... To achieve approximately 70 per cent reduction in mortality is pretty remarkable, even in a mouse model" (quoting two of the researchers there)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ESC and Lungs

An interesting article from Science Daily:
"they seeded mouse embryonic stem cells into 'acellular' rat lungs... The result: empty lung-shaped scaffolds of structural proteins on which the mouse stem cells thrived and differentiated into new cells appropriate to their specific locations."
In the research phase it is easier to work with animal ESCs. There doesn't seem to be any reason this would work with ASCs (probably reprogrammed ISCs).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Solar Music

An interesting take on Psalm 19:1, from Science Daily:
"These giant coronal loops have also been observed to undergo periodic (oscillatory) motion, which can be thought of as someone plucking a guitar string (transversal oscillations) or blowing the wind-pipe instrument (longitudinal oscillations). With the length and thickness of the string fixed, the pitch of the note is determined by the tension of the string and the tone is made up of the harmonics of the modes of oscillation."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Interesting news from Ars Technica and Science News:
"Over the course of just a few days, the flood barreled through limestone-rich bedrock, carving out 1.2km of canyon with an average depth of over seven meters, and as deep as 12m in some spots. Below that region, the gorge opens up into another kilometer that's a bit more like an alluvial valley, with winding channels spread over a wider space. "
"Water rushing through the dam’s emergency spillway carved a 2.2-kilometer-long canyon downstream of the spillway in just three days"
"It is difficult to identify morphologic features in Canyon Lake Gorge that indicate canyon formation during a three day event, versus a longer-lived flood or multiple events"
"It doesn’t take millions of years to create an impressive channel," Howard notes. "Flowing liquid can do a lot of work in a short period of time."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

ASC Risk

A cautionary tale from Science Daily:
"The case involves an adult patient with severe kidney disease, who was treated at a private clinic, by direct injection of her own stem cells into her kidneys"
"underscores a growing risk associated with the increased number of private clinics offering stem cell therapies to patients with little or no oversight from the scientific stem cell community"

Friday, June 18, 2010

ASC Supply

Another potential source of adult stem cells, possibly available for transplant, from Science Daily:
"Analysis of these data demonstrates the promising potential of dental pulp cell collections as a source of cell banks for use in regenerative medicine"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Take America Back

As we approach the elections, the rhetoric is going be be cranked up pretty rapidly. A thought-provoking article from Doug Wilson:
"Once we have taken America back from those guys [liberals and progressives], what do we do with it?"
This is an excellent point (one Wilson makes fairly often). Conservatives understand that the country is moving in the wrong direction, too fast. But, when they are in power, what do they do? Move in the same (or a similar) direction a little more slowly.

I feel like quoting the whole thing, it is really worth reading:
"The assumption is that the underlying America is just fine the way it is unless some progressive has been messing with it. We need to 'save America,' the thinking goes, and so the language of salvation is used all the time. But in our heart of hearts, we are saving an innocent kidnapping victim, and not a skid row bum who became a drunk because of his own stupid choices."
"America gets to be saved without repentance"
"Any attempts to take America back without an explicit call for America to become (again) a Christian nation is an exercise in futility"
"our people as a whole -- must confess that Jesus is Lord"
Now the interesting thing here is that I both agree and disagree with Wilson on these very points.

We must proclaim to all Americans that they must confess Jesus is Lord.

But, Wilson expects that such a proclamation will actually make America a Christian nation (post-millenialism). From my point of view, such a thing will never happen. We must proclaim it, so that our nation's sin will be revealed - the refusal to obey.

Could God surprise us with another great revival? Possibly. But I don't believe America was ever a truly Christian nation (Christian derived or inspired, certainly).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

ASC Research

Popular topic lately... from Science Daily:
"techniques used in these studies to introduce a different version of a single gene or inactivate a particular gene were ineffective in human ESCs"
"They derived human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) ... in cultures containing the growth factor LIF, which is used in the creation of mouse ESCs. The resulting cells visibly resembled mouse ESCs and proved amenable to a standard gene manipulation technique that exchanges matching sequences of DNA"

Friday, June 11, 2010

ASC Research

We've seen the most common use for embryonic stem cells is in pure research. Now, at Science Daily, a case of similar research using adult stem cells:
"The Mount Sinai team took patient skin cells and reprogrammed them to become pluripotent stem cells. Such cells can then develop into almost any type of cell in the human body. The researchers then created heart cells that had characteristics of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

IVF and Abortion

A chilling story from Albert Mohler:
"approximately 80 abortions are performed in the UK each year, terminating pregnancies that came about by IVF treatments."
The numbers aren't overwhelming, but the thinking behind this is. Also, the public response:
"Though there is a sense of outrage on the part of many in the public, it appears that much of the concern is financial, rather than moral."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

ESC Research

Another article from Science Daily on the state of ESC research:
"This discovery has the potential to transform our understanding of the development and evolution of the human neocortex"
"In the current study... using new labeling and tracking techniques to follow individual cells and their progeny over time in cultured tissue slices from fetal cortex tissue that had been donated for research."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ASC and Teeth

An interesting article from Science Daily:
"An animal-model study has shown that by homing stem cells to a scaffold made of natural materials and integrated in surrounding tissue, there is no need to use harvested stem cell lines, or create an environment outside of the body (e.g., a Petri dish) where the tooth is grown and then implanted once it has matured. The tooth instead can be grown "orthotopically," or in the socket where the tooth will integrate with surrounding tissue in ways that are impossible with hard metals or other materials."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Evolution Success Story

An informative article at Science Daily:
"In some regards, this is one of the best demonstrations of evolution ever carried out in a laboratory"
It's always funny how bacteria producing bacteria, or dogs producing dogs is "success for evolution". If I ask to show mud-to-men, I'm told that would take too long.
"Over the three-year study period, the bacterial population remained diverse and appeared to adapt significantly well to the environment"
In three years, one strain of bacteria diversified. So evolution is fast: fast enough to explain all the current species descending from pairs on the Ark - which is not "science". But mud-to-men, which can't be demonstrated, is science.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kagan Again

An interesting report from Ignatius Insight.
"Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat and co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, on Tuesday warned that the next Supreme Court justice must be "unwavering" in support of abortion rights."
I like the irony in her name...

There are two aspects to this. One, if Democrats are sending letters to encourage other Democrats, perhaps there is some doubt. Two, is there really any doubt where these people stand?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

ESC Research

Another post at Science Daily on the details of ESC research.

Choice quotes:
"Mitalipova created six new human ES cell lines -- two male and four female. Half of the cells isolated from each embryo were cultured in 20% oxygen, while the other half were created and maintained at 5% oxygen...female human ES cells exposed to 20% oxygen had one X chromosome permanently inactivated"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


President Obama faces a moment of judgment. He probably doesn't realize it. Up until this point, he has been innocent of the evil of abortion taking place in this nation.

As President there is nothing he can do about it (not that he seems particularly interested in doing anything).

But, when he appoints a Supreme Court justice, now he is liable. If that judge votes in favor of abortion the next time it comes up (and it is always being pressed to test the mood of the Court), then Obama takes on some of the guilt. He knows (or at least, should know) where his candidate stands. If it is not a priority, then that is judgment too.

It is important to know that judgment rarely comes about in a timely fashion. God is working things out in His time, and His greatest priority is not our time lines. Everything is worked out in eternity future.

I haven't seen any documentation of Kagan's stand on abortion. As an academic and litigator, it has little opportunity to show. This CNN article (and other places) describes her as "trailblazing", which is not really encouraging.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ESC Research

Further insight into the state of embryonic stem cell research, from Science Daily.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is Technology Evil?

I like technology. I grew up reading Golden Age Science Fiction. Stories of a future where technology and knowledge are our salvation (yes, there is soteriology in there).

When it came time to work, I wanted to do everything related to computers. I snarfed up everything technology related.

But, now that I am a Christian, I must examine everything Biblically.

There is an interesting account of the fate of Cain (and his descendants) in Genesis 4.
  1. Cain was a farmer (Seth kept sheep, which is a pretty simple task)
  2. Cain built the first city
  3. Jabal started keeping cattle
  4. Jubal started playing the harp and organ
  5. Tubalcain started working in bronze and iron
No innovations are credited to the sons of Seth.

Numbers 3 and 4 are interesting. Cattle are clean animals, used in many of the sacrifices of the old covenant. And David played the harp (and many instruments were prescribed by God for use in temple worship).

Of course, I should have known this before starting this exercise. Technology is not good or evil, it is the heart that counts. We can use technology to serve God, or we can use it to please ourselves - and distract us from God's hold on us.

I think that second part is the big point. Men seek distraction from the reminder of God's judgment on sin. The development and use of technology can play a very big role in that.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Pill

CNN is doing a special on the 50th anniversary of the the pill. They have quotes from thirteen women, and one man. I will group them according to the tone of their response.

  1. Solidly Against - two of the women: Notare, a Catholic; and Matalin, a Republican strategist. Matalin, I think, captures a lot of the anti-sentiment: "And how did they manifest their superiority? Their freedom? Thanks to The Pill, by casual, drive-by sex."

  2. Mixed reaction - only two (I was somewhat surprised): Welch, and Walker. Welch is grasping at the problem, although she cannot truly identify it: "I'm ashamed to admit that I myself have been married four times, and yet I still feel that marriage is the cornerstone of civilization, an essential institution that stabilizes society, provides a sanctuary for children. Strong family-orientated communities save us from anarchy."

  3. Solidly for - the other ten.
Among the ten, it is interesting how much of the focus is on jobs (or "careers"). The key words are all about "control", "freedom", and "planning" (or the converse, "derail"). Sometimes "equality".

The man selected for comment was Hugh Hefner. A choice quote: "I always felt, quite frankly, that the notion that sex was just for procreation was just wrong."

Medically, there are two effects of the pill: to prevent ovulation, and to prevent implantation.

There is nothing wrong with preventing ovulation (although one may question if the cost of side effects of the pill are worth this effect).

The problem is that preventing implantation kills the embryo in cases where ovulation still occurs. I have not seen any numbers on how often this occurs. The medical community is mostly concerned with preventing pregnancy, and the pill is very effective at that.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

ASC and Parkinson's

Interesting article at Science Daily on using adult stem cells to increase dopamine levels in mice.

Friday, May 7, 2010

ESC Research

An interesting article at Science Daily. Again, ESC is primarily used for information gathering.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

ASC and MS

Promising news from Science Daily:
"completed a small trial in patients with MS to begin translating these findings from the laboratory to the clinic."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Star Data

I posted a link to an online star catalog earlier. I haven't had a chance to make use of it.

Science Daily has another (this in infared).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Church

I've been having some good talks with a Presbyterian. On top of that, there is an excellent post at Pyromaniacs which has me thinking...

Presbyterians really "get" church as community. They excel at integrating the family into the church. That can be a real problem for Baptists, who tend to be more individualistic.

Of course, Frank nails it in one:
"The way this approach to 'church' works is to see what God has done for 'me' as the starting point of Christian life and then maybe one tries to extend what God has done for 'me' to include what God has done for 'you' on a provisional basis. When I think God hasn’t done it for you anymore, I can therefore not care about you anymore – at least in the church sense."
And immediately gives the right thinking:
"But the way we are taught to reason by the Bible about our faith is that Christ has died for us, and that Christ sees his bride as an assembly, and that God has a whole people who are purchased as his own possession." (emphasis in original)
The Church is not a building, or an institution. It is first and foremost all the elect throughout time. Individual "called out ones" gather into little, local bodies as a symbol of this time and space spanning body.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Missing Heat

An interesting article from Science Daily:
"Current observational tools cannot account for roughly half of the heat that is believed to have built up on Earth in recent years"
"Either the satellite observations are incorrect, says Trenberth, or, more likely, large amounts of heat are penetrating to regions that are not adequately measured, such as the deepest parts of the oceans. Compounding the problem, Earth's surface temperatures have largely leveled off in recent years."
Wouldn't warming of the deep ocean be good? It is really cold down there...
"any geoengineering plan to artificially alter the world's climate to counter global warming could have inadvertent consequences, which may be difficult to analyze unless scientists can track heat around the globe."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Selective Abortion

A horrifying story from Albert Mohler:
"A doctor in the city [Sarasota] has lost his license because he aborted what is now described as the 'wrong' baby."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

ASC and the heart

Another treatment using ASC progressing into human trials, from Science Daily:
"A few weeks ago, the first patient received progenitor CD133+ stem cells isolated from his bone marrow"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Clothed in Christ

Something Ed Young said on TBN really registered with me - Ed Young is one of the best preachers TBN has, and he is not really good at all (even in the sense that a man can be good, not just in the sense that only God is good). Anyway:

When you look at the story of Jacob, you see that he came from a history of lying. When he presented himself to Isaac (Gen 27), he wore a hairy costume to pretend to be Esau - he had "put on Esau". He told his father his name was Esau.

Later, when Jacob wrestled with God (Gen 32:24), God asked him his name. He had to put off Esau. And God gave him a new name (Israel).

In the same way, we put off the old self, and put on Christ, and God gives us a new name (Rev 2:17).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nationalist Idol

An interesting post by Doug Wilson. Doug is reviewing a book by Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher - Peter is a Christian).

Doug makes the excellent point that nationalism can be wrong if it makes the nation an idol. This is a failing all conservatives are vulnerable to (Postmillenial or Dispensational).

The most interesting point:
"The churches were full before 1914, half-empty after 1919, and three-quarters empty after 1945" (quoting Peter's book)
Now, there are many effects underlying this.

Doug and Peter associate it with the idolization of the nation (confusing God and nation). That defects in the worship of the nation were applied to people's notion of God, causing them to turn against God.

There are two other factors:
  1. Modernism - Modernism began much earlier (Oden says 1789), but it really started to peak in the late 1800's. Prior to the World Wars, the American Civil War (1861-65) could be dismissed as an outlier (even a necessary good, eradicating slavery). However, the World Wars put an end to any thought that mankind could do good on its own (or at least, gave it a sound drubbing).
  2. Postmillennialism - It is well said that the World Wars killed postmillennialism (PM). PM preceded Modernism, and ideologically had little in common.
The common elements of these two is optimism (and that many churches accepted both). When this optimism was shattered, the churches suffered - the Anglican church in England, and the mainline Protestants in America (additionally, Modernism acted as an acid which eroded the authority of the Bible - which is the ultimate cause of any collapse).

Modernism is pretty soundly defeated (having given way to Post-Modernism, which is also making its way into many churches). PM is said to be making a comeback, although I have seen little of it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ESC Research

As I've mentioned before, the primary use of ESC has been in pure research (research for information, not for treatements). From Science Daily.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Michael Spencer, 1956-2010

I am going to bend the arrow of time a bit.

Michael Spencer (aka Internet Monk) has died. For those following his blog, this is not a real surprise. He had been battling cancer for some time.

I didn't always agree with Michael, but I did always enjoy reading his blog. He was always encouraging and insightful.

I will be leaving this post at the top of my blog until I catch up in time...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Conflict Again

Catching up on my Pyromaniacs...

Christians are not supposed to physically oppose our opponents:
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12
The important point here is that the spiritual is greater than the physical.

Our physical life is short and passing. There are no eternal consequences.

But, we should struggle and fight hard for eternal, spiritual things.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Interesting development from Science Daily:
"The therapy involves extracting and purifying blood stem cells from the patient's bone marrow. Antiviral DNA is transferred to the cells in the laboratory, after which the cells are re-injected into the body."

Friday, March 26, 2010

ASC and Surgery

Exciting news from Science Daily:
"They stripped cells from a donated trachea, used it to replace the entire length of the damaged airway, and then used the child's own bone marrow stem cells to seal the airway in the body."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Global Warming

There is an elephant in the room when it comes to global warming. Science Daily has it in one:
"Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today's concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change" (emphasis added)
I should go over the technical details at some point, but he is right. If the models are correct, we are already too late. There is no hope.

Which brings us to the interesting question: if it is already too late, why bother? Why turn our economies upside down, repent and sit in ashes to Mother Earth (that is, drive electric cars and buy carbon credits)?

My personal opinion is that the models are wrong. They are largely based on an old earth, which is all junk data. But, even, if they are right, my hope is not in this life - I was never promised to have it easy, to have everything go my way. It will certainly be interesting.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ASC Supply

Another article on Science Daily about increasing the supply of adult stem cells.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Intolerant Tolerance

An excellent article from Albert Mohler:
"At its heart, [tolerance] is a philosophy and moral commitment to accepting the rights of others to believe or behave differently from ourselves without excluding or penalizing. Don’t expect champions of tolerance to 'tolerate' acts of exclusion or bigotry that represent the very opposite of the principle they hold so dear."
This statement is self-refuting. If you can only be tolerant by accepting others who believe differently, then true tolerance cannot be intolerant of anyone - even those who are intolerant. Being intolerant of intolerance still makes you intolerant (which should then cause you to reject yourself).

The modern "tolerance" movement is not about tolerance at all (as shown by their intolerance). It is an alternative morality - one which rejects the Bible.

Monday, March 22, 2010

ESC Research

As I mentioned, most uses for ESC are in pure research (gaining understanding, not helping people).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

ASC Research

A lot of work going on in adult stem cells:
  1. One of the common uses of ESC is in pure research (finding out how things work), Science Daily has an article on similar research done using ASC.
  2. More work on building blood vessels from ASC

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Brain Optimizations

An interesting article at Science Daily:
"A study shows that it takes less effort for the brain to register predictable as compared to unpredictable images."
The article frames this in the context of the scientific method, however, I see things in terms of micro-architecture (design of microprocessors).

In an advanced microprocessor, there is a lot of what is called "speculation". This includes the branch predictor, caches (which are can be seen as a form of "reuse prediction"), and other structures (load-hit predictor).

When the predictions are correct, everything runs at maximum performance (which often uses max power). When a prediction is wrong, often power consumption goes down as structures get reset.
"If it is wrong, massive responses are required to find out why it is wrong and to come up with better predictions."
It's interesting that there is a nearly opposite effect in the brain. It's possible this is an interface issue. If a processor's caches suddenly stop being effective (due to "mispredicting" the access pattern), the memory bus will go from nearly idle to wildly active.

This property has been used in cryptography. A correct password uses less power to check than a wrong one. It can even take varying amounts of power, depending on how far off the password is.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Atheists in the Pulpit

Over at Albert Mohler's blog, an article that is both depressing and reassuring!

Depressing that there are churches without good leadership.

Reassuring, because this is exactly what the Bible says about such things!

We can start with Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (also, Acts 20:29)

Then, let's fisk the article:
"Darryl is candid about the fact that he remains in the ministry largely for financial reasons."
I encourage you to read the whole article, before this, we saw several examples of pastors straying from orthodox doctrine (disobeying Titus 1:9 "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." and performing verse 10 "For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers"). Then we come to this point, which is verse 11 "Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake."

"Adam ... stays in the ministry because he likes the people and, 'I need the job still.' If he had an alternative source of income, he would take it. He feels hypocritical, but no longer believes that hypocrisy is wrong."

This is a beautiful point. Many atheists complain about how Christians are hypocrites, but why (assuming atheism) is hypocrisy wrong?

"John ... stays in the ministry because of finances."

The blame cannot be wholly placed on these men.
"Many churches and denominations have adopted such fluid and doctrineless identities that determining who is a believer and who is an unbeliever has become difficult ... the churches must muster the integrity to eject them."
Which brings us to 2 Timothy 4:3
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears"
Bad rulers are a form of punishment for bad citizens. Bad pastors are judgment for bad church members.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Healthcare and Abortion

Albert Mohler has uncovered some shocking statements by our politicians:
“If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing,” Stupak says.
I'd like to know who said that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ASC Supply

We have seen there are many sources of adult stem cells.

From Science Daily:
"amniotic fluid skin cells formed stem cell colonies in about half the time and yielded nearly a 200 percent increase in number"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Abortion and Birth Control

A disturbing study from Science Daily:
"women ... were offered free hormonal contraception for a year. The result was that the abortion rate in the trial cities was halved."
Sometimes people argue whether or not abortion is used as birth control, here is some data.

Monday, March 15, 2010

ASC and Blood Vessels

Interesting news from Science Daily:
"The study is an important step in identifying methods to build a tissue-engineered vascular graft."
There is a lot of work on this going on.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

ASC and Stroke

Encouraging news from Science Daily:
"Within two days of suffering ischemic stroke, patients were put on a nine-day treatment course, starting with three once-daily injections of beta-hCG, a hormone that triggers the growth of neural stem cells. They then received three once-daily injections of erythropoietin, a hormone that directs these neural stem cells to become neurons."
"No safety concerns were noted, and a majority of treated patients had minimal or no disability after three months."

Friday, March 12, 2010


An insightful article by Al Mohler:
"Amartya Sen estimated that 100 million baby girls were missing — sacrificed by parents who desired a son."
I've mentioned before that abortion targets women.

The horror of this atrocity is worth considering on its own.

I would also like to bring in the theological and technology aspect:
"even as the spread of ultrasound technology has greatly aided the pro-life movement by making the humanity of the unborn baby visible and undeniable, among those determined to give birth only to baby boys, in millions of cases the same technology has meant a death warrant for a baby girl in the womb."
Technology makes us more powerful (more work per time). It can be used for evil or good. Sometimes, it can shine light on bad idea - other times, the bad ideas are immune to the light.