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Friday, July 31, 2015

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the resurrection!

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the resurrection 
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the resurrection!

The poster above is a graphic portrayal of the slogan used in the title of this post -- "It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the resurrection!" I have also used 1 Corinthians 15:13-14, part of Paul's great essay on the importance of the resurrection -- that's not the only place in the New Testament where it is emphasized.

Thanks for looking, and reading.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Death, Life, and 1 Corinthians 15

Dogwood leaves and flower bud - death and life -going on hiatus 
The graphic above should is an attempt to portray 1 Corinthians 15:53, which says "For this perishable body must become imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality." The leaves were dying when the photo was taken. The flower bud was ready to wait for 5 or 6 months to wake up and open.

In preparing the graphic, I came across a most relevant statement in a public domain dictionary: "Local death is going on at all times, and in all parts of the living body, in which individual cells and elements are being cast off and replaced by new; a process essential to life." Indeed! Even biologists often don't attach enough significance to the work of decomposer organisms, such as fungi.

Paul (and other Biblical sources) teach that there will be a physical resurrection -- believers will have some sort of physical body, superior to the ones we now have. Christ already has such a body. I don't have a clue as to what that will be like, and you don't, either, although your ideas may be better than mine.

The plant was a dogwood tree, growing near Clemson, South Carolina. That's Lake Hartwell in the background.

Thanks for looking, and reading.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sunspots 532

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


Christianity: An essay in Relevant on "What We Get Wrong about Humility." A lot, it seems.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware tells us about a free Windows program to recover deleted files.

Gizmo's also advises on upgrading (or not) to Windows 10.

And Gizmo's points to a treasure trove on YouTube: Over half a million old news clips, of the kind you used to see with movies, if you can remember that far back.

Education: FiveThirtyEight, the statistical site, says that having students evaluate teachers is actually working pretty well.

The New York Times tells us that there aren't really many differences between colleges.

The Environment: FiveThirtyEight (and other outlets) tells us that the first six months of 2015 were the hottest such ever recorded. The report gives details for a number of US cities, some of which experienced some cold weather, too.

Politics: (Or violence) More US residents have been killed, in terror attacks, by white supremacists, than were killed in terror attacks by jihadists, since September 11, 2001. See here and here, for details.

And Relevant gives us some shocking statistics about gun violence in the US.

Benjamin L. Corey asks if my (or your) version of Christianity has become Americanized.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 33

Charity is a paradox, like modesty and courage. Stated baldly, charity certainly means one of two things—pardoning unpardonable acts, or loving unlovable people. But if we ask ourselves (as we did in the case of pride) what a sensible pagan would feel about such a subject, we shall probably be beginning at the bottom of it. A sensible pagan would say that there were some people one could forgive, and some one couldn’t: a slave who stole wine could be laughed at; a slave who betrayed his benefactor could be killed, and cursed even after he was killed. In so far as the act was pardonable, the man was pardonable. That again is rational, and even refreshing; but it is a dilution. It leaves no place for a pure horror of injustice, such as that which is a great beauty in the innocent. And it leaves no place for a mere tenderness for men as men, such as is the whole fascination of the charitable. Christianity came in here as before. It came in startlingly with a sword, and clove one thing from another. It divided the crime from the criminal. The criminal we must forgive unto seventy times seven. The crime we must not forgive at all. It was not enough that slaves who stole wine inspired partly anger and partly kindness. We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Revolutions in genetics - again, part two

A previous post considered new techniques in genetic engineering, and pointed to some discussions of these techniques. This one considers another type of revolution in genetics.

A recent report in Wired indicates that some scientists have figured out how to add additional Nitrogen bases to the standard Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine and Thymine found in the organisms around us, including ourselves. It seems too early to predict what, if any, impact this will have on our lives, but it is possible that this revolution, still in its infancy, will have consequences that are far-reaching.

Adding new bases has the potential of making DNA more efficient at its job, which is carrying hereditary information -- more information in less space. This would be something like adding a few new letters to ordinary English. One question, as with adding letters, is: would someone (or a cell, or an organism) confronted with such understand the message?

Interesting. We'll see where this goes, if anywhere.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Revolutions in genetics - again, part one

In 1975, an important conference, called by a scientist, and attended by scientists in a particular research field, and some key non-scientists who were invited, was held at the Asilomar conference center, near the Pacific ocean, in California. The purpose was to consider the safety of work with microorganisms -- could some dangerous genetically engineered superbug escape, and put humanity at risk? The conference resulted in guidelines for research on genetically modified organisms. It was suggested, for example, that laboratories doing certain kinds of work, such as with human cancer-related genes, would take stringent precautions against the accidental release of microorganisms carrying such genes. The most widely used experimental bacterium was, and is, Escherichia coli, which grows naturally in the human intestines. Presumably, an E. coli strain carrying dangerous genes, developed for experimental purposes, and grown in glassware, could become established in humans, if it came in contact with them.

The Asilomar Conference was a landmark in science. It established guidelines, developed by scientists, that, although not having the force of governmental edicts, were generally adhered to. (The guidelines were adhered to by non-US scientists.) It was one of the few times that scientists, as a group, and in conjunction with non-scientists, looked ahead, and tried to envision what might go wrong because of technological break-throughs. Apparently, for example, no one thought much about the tremendous changes in society that would come about as a result of the development of automobiles -- such as auto accidents, the dedication of large portions of real estate to roads and parking, the use of autos as a rendezvous for sexual activity, and the politics of oil distribution. I'm not aware that anyone seriously thought about the effect of cell phones, either.

At about the turn of the century, there were suggestions that something like the Asilomar conference should be held again, in an attempt to prohibit the use of genetic engineering techniques for warfare. Self-replicating weapons are potentially as, or more, dangerous than fission or fusion bombs.

Some have suggested that, within the last three or four years, there has been a sudden leap forward in our ability to move genes from one organism to another. The technique involves what are called CRISPRs. Quoting the Wikipedia article on these:
Since 2013, the CRISPR/Cas system has been used for gene editing (adding, disrupting or changing the sequence of specific genes) and gene regulation in species throughout the tree of life. ... By delivering the Cas9 protein and appropriate guide RNAs into a cell, the organism's genome can be cut at any desired location...

It may be possible to use CRISPR to build RNA-guided gene drives capable of altering the genomes of entire populations.


The scientists most involved in developing these techniques have indicated that they don't think it should be used on humans yet, but a group of Chinese scientists tried them on "non-viable embryos."

There are considerable ethical questions about the possible application of these new techniques, not least the possibility of using human embryos, however derived, as experimental organisms.

The Wikipedia article, referenced above, on the techniques, is a good place to start reading about CRISPRs, although it's not for the faint of heart. There is a recent article in Wired, which introduces the possibilities, and also discusses questions about patenting these techniques (which brings up other ethical questions) and profiles the most important scientists in the field, most of whom are female.

The use of CRISPRs seems to be a truly revolutionary change in how we manipulate DNA, other organisms, and in how we may manipulate ourselves.

Thanks for reading. I have written previous essays on what the Bible says relating to technology, and on what the Bible says about environmental stewardship.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sunspots 531

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

 

Christianity: Relevant warns us against claiming God's favor. Among other things, the article points out that some football kickers point to the sky when they hit a field goal, but not when they miss . . .


Relevant also gives us some warning signs that we might be legalistic.

 

A meditation on how we should love others, as God loved us.

Computing: Christianity Today (surprise!) has an article on ways to spot fake "news." There's so much of it out there, I'm sorry to say.


A robot visited the White House, and the President. Really.


Health: (or something) clothing that makes it easier for autistic children, or demented adults, to dress themselves.
 
Science: (and Food) Wired reports on the microbiology of cheesemaking.

 

National Public Radio reports, here, here and here, on the importance of yogurt, and the history of yogurt use.


Image source (public domain)

Monday, July 20, 2015

The purpose of learning

The purpose of learning 
The graphic above is, as you can see, based on Isaiah 50:4a The Lord Yahweh has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with words him who is weary.

No doubt you can think of some other words that God might want those of us who know a little something to use to sustain the weary, but these 12 were what came to my mind: belonging, comfort, forgiveness, freedom, grace, guidance, hope, joy, love, mercy, peace and purpose.

Two other passages about the importance of a "word" came to mind:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are various kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 8a For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;


The first passage refers to Christ, Himself, as the Word. The second indicates that being able to speak a word of wisdom, or a word of knowledge, are spiritual gifts.


A word (sorry!) of warning: 1 Corinthians 8:Now concerning things sacrificed to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 

Jesus indicated that He, Himself, was the answer for those who are burdened: Matthew 11:28  “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Thanks for reading! Sustain the weary. There are plenty of them. What they really need is examples of Christ-like love.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 32

When one came to think of one’s self, there was vista and void enough for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth. There the realistic gentleman could let himself go—as long as he let himself go at himself. There was an open playground for the happy pessimist. Let him say anything against himself short of blaspheming the original aim of his being; let him call himself a food and even a damned fool (though that is Calvinistic); but he must not say that fools are not worth saving. He must not say that a man, quâ man, can be valueless. Here, again in short, Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. The Church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one’s self. One can hardly think too much of one’s soul.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Genetically Modified foods are safe to eat

Slate has published a thorough study of the opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food, and found that such foods are safe to eat, and, in some cases, safer than crops that haven't been so modified.

There has been at least one unfortunate case where anti-GMO activists have prevented poor people in poor countries from receiving health benefits easily and cheaply.

There are legitimate concerns about who sells GMOs, or herbicides designed to work with them, and about the development of resistant weeds, but neither of these have to do with the safety of GMOs in your morning cereal, etc.

Thanks for reading. Read Slate.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sunspots 530

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


Christianity: Relevant asks whether God really has a special relationship with the USA. Answer: No, and to think that He does is dangerous.
 
Relevant also asks if our bodies make a difference to our spiritual lives.
 

An article in something called Western Journalism, which says that considerably less than 50% of marriages end in divorce, and that the failure rate among churchgoers is significantly less. I can't verify this, but I hope it's true.
 

Ken Schenck believes that the New Testament does not establish any one form of church government, but that there are some features that good church government should have.
 
Computing: The Google URL shortener will shorten URLs for you. (The URL for this is 5 letters and 1 period in length!)
 
Humor: Information on the Clerihew, a humorous poem, named after the first known user of the form, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, where, usually, the first line is someone's name. For example:
    George the Third
    Ought never to have occurred.
    One can only wonder
    At so grotesque a blunder
There are a number of web sites with other examples. I like this one, dedicated to philosophy. Even I know why some of them are funny.


Politics: Cal Thomas, right-wing evangelical, syndicated columnist, and occasional Fox News commentator, argues that evangelical Christians shouldn't have been trying to change the world through politics. It's never worked, and it wasn't the way of Christ or the early church.

Science: Charles Krauthammer, usually a staunchly right-wing commentator, uses his column to explain why the mission to Pluto is important, and inspiring, in some fine writing.


In a 2 minute, 50 second video, a close-up look at some corals.


Some interesting ocean facts. Lots of them.



Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Christians shouldn't be culture's morality police"

There's a fine article from Relevant, by a Cara Joyner, with the title of this post, which is worth reading. Here's a small part of it:

"We were never commissioned to demand that secular culture reflect biblical principles. We were commissioned to reflect biblical principles in the middle of secular culture, pointing to God’s redemptive story."

Thanks for reading. Read this article.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 31

But granted that we have all to keep a balance, the real interest comes in with the question of how that balance can be kept. That was the problem which Paganism tried to solve: that was the problem which I think Christianity solved and solved in a very strange way. Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage, which is a disdain of life.
It separated the two ideas and then exaggerated them both. In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before. In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners. All humility that had meant pessimism, that had meant man taking a vague or mean view of his whole destiny—all that was to go. We were to hear no more the wail of Ecclesiastes that humanity had no preeminence over the brute, or the awful cry of Homer that man was only the saddest of all the beasts of the field. Man was a statue of God walking about the garden. Man had preeminence over all the brutes; man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god. The Greek had spoken of men creeping on the earth, as if clinging to it. Now Man was to tread on the earth as if to subdue it. Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage. Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission, in the gray ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard.


Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Why participate in Communion (or the Eucharist, or the Lord's Supper)?

Communion, why participate? 
The graphic above is an attempt to summarize the reasons for participating in the Lord's Supper, also known as the Eucharist, and Communion.

I don't wish to get into a debate as to the exact meaning of the sacrament, or how it should be celebrated, or what elements should be used. If you are interested, you can, no doubt, find material on these subjects elsewhere, such as in the Wikipedia article on the Eucharist.

Thanks for reading and looking. Stay in fellowship with Christ, and participate in the Lord's Supper.