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.