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Monday, July 31, 2006

Yet another travel hiatus

We plan to be away for a little over two weeks, and I don't expect to have time to post much, or, perhaps, enough time to read your posts as well as they deserve (if at all). I hope to post Sunspots, and installments of Diary of an Old Soul, during that time.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, July 30 - August 5

30. Thou art the Lord of life, the secret thing.
Thou wilt give endless more than I could find,
Even if without thee I could go and seek;
For thou art one, Christ, with my deepest mind,
Duty alive, self-willed, in me dost speak,
And to a deeper purer being sting:
I come to thee, my life, my causing kind.

31. Nothing is alien in thy world immense--
No look of sky or earth or man or beast;
"In the great hand of God I stand, and thence"
Look out on life, his endless, holy feast.
To try to feel is but to court despair,
To dig for a sun within a garden-fence:
Who does thy will, O God, he lives upon thy air.

AUGUST. 1. So shall abundant entrance me be given
Into the truth, my life's inheritance.
Lo! as the sun shoots straight from out his tomb,
God-floated, casting round a lordly glance
Into the corners of his endless room,
So, through the rent which thou, O Christ, hast riven,
I enter liberty's divine expanse.

2. It will be so--ah, so it is not now!
Who seeks thee for a little lazy peace,
Then, like a man all weary of the plough,
That leaves it standing in the furrow's crease,
Turns from thy presence for a foolish while,
Till comes again the rasp of unrest's file,
From liberty is distant many a mile.

3. Like one that stops, and drinks, and turns, and goes
Into a land where never water flows,
There travels on, the dry and thirsty day,
Until the hot night veils the farther way,
Then turns and finds again the bubbling pool--
Here would I build my house, take up my stay,
Nor ever leave my Sychar's* margin cool.

4. Keep me, Lord, with thee. I call from out the dark--
Hear in thy light, of which I am a spark.
I know not what is mine and what is thine--
Of branch and stem I miss the differing mark--
But if a mere hair's-breadth me separateth,
That hair's-breadth is eternal, infinite death.
For sap thy dead branch calls, O living vine!

5. I have no choice, I must do what I can;
But thou dost me, and all things else as well;
Thou wilt take care thy child shall grow a man.
Rouse thee, my faith; be king; with life be one;
To trust in God is action's highest kind;
Who trusts in God, his heart with life doth swell;
Faith opens all the windows to God's wind.

*Sychar was the city in Samaria where Jesus met the woman at the well (John 4)

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from July 16 - July 22.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Repairing faces (and other parts), 2

I posted recently on a book on the ethics of surgery. I also read a second book, Surgically shaping children: technology, ethics, and the pursuit of normality, edited by Erik Parens. (Johns Hopkins, 2006) This one dealt with surgery for ambiguous genitalia, surgery to make dwarf children taller, and surgery to repair cleft palates and similar conditions, all in children.

This book had a wider range of contributors than the first one I read. They included persons who had the conditions described, parents of such, as well as ethicists and health providers. Partly for that reason, it would probably appeal more to the general public.

A few things stood out. One of them was suggested by the subtitle. Normality. What is it, and why do we pursue it. A particular dilemma was presented several times. That is this: "If diversity is to be affirmed, why would we expect children with facial 'abnormalities' to undergo surgery?" Why not just let them be, as long as health isn't threatened severely (or at all)? How much of such surgery is done for the sake of the parents, or the rest of us, not for the child?

Another aspect that stood out was that it is important to involve the child in decisions about surgery. This is not to say that, say, a nine-year-old is fully competent, but that a she should have an explanation of what is proposed, and how it will affect her, and have influence on the decision whether or not to operate.

I was surprised to find out that at least some persons who have had surgery to "repair" ambiguous or otherwise abnormal genitalia wish that they hadn't had it. It apparently often destroys sexual feeling. Another reason is that such surgery is usally done without involving the patient in the decision, because it is done on babies. Apparently this is not necessary.

Finally, there was a discussion about the training of surgeons. Surgeons are generally people who like to get in there and fix things, so are reluctant to hold off on surgery. They are also often not particularly well trained to work with the whole patient.

This book was certainly food for thought.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Repairing faces (and other parts), 1

I have recently read two books dealing with the ethics of certain types of surgery. One of these was Cutting to the Core : Ethics of Contested Surgeries, edited by David Benatar (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006). This book had many contributors. Besides being glad that at least someone is paying attention to the ethics of surgery, I was struck by three aspects of the book.

One aspect was genital surgery on young girls. Some cultures expect young girls to go through a surgery more or less parallel to male circumcision, or worse. The U. S. Congress was understandably horrified by this practice, and it has been outlawed here. So far, so good? Maybe, maybe not. Some recent immigrants are either going to illegal surgeons, or sending their daughters back to the home country to have the surgery, so that the law hasn't stopped the practice, just made it more expensive, more dangerous, or both. Furthermore, in many cases, a small nick, rather than more drastic surgery, would satisfy the claims of the culture, but attempts to allow this have run up against the law, which forbids any such surgery.

Another aspect of this surgery that I hadn't considered was that there is little regulation of male circumcision in the U. S., but lots of regulation of female equivalent surgery. This doesn't seem quite right.

The second aspect that I wish to mention is surgery designed to enhance attractiveness. No contributor spoke out against breast size enhancement, which surprised me. The contributors who wrote on this topic included a plastic surgeon and a feminist scholar. It seems to me that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society where many women feel that they need to have a "boob job," and where they feel more confident, not merely sexually, but generally, as a result. Can't we, whatever our sex, be content with the way we are, at least if it isn't grossly abnormal and/or life-threatening?

The third aspect is related to the second. That is this. More and more people are having surgery just to alter their appearance. Some of this is being done as art, some as cosmetic, and most of it for shock value. If I live very long, I expect to see someone growing feathers, with an extra eye, or with hair on the palms of their hands, for example. Is this right? If not, why not? Good questions.

I expect to post on the related book soon.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sunspots 66


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

You shouldn't download and install Microsoft updates without checking AskWoody's Patch page.

A splendid tongue in cheek (I think) appreciation of the current troubles in Palestine, Lebanon, and Gaza -- it means the Rapture is nearly upon us, says the poster, and we should be thrilled. He's not alone. I found this post through the Christian Carnival.

The website of Recycling for Charities, which lets you send them your used cell phones, and other equipment, and deals with them, while donating to the charity of your choice.

A man in Japan has supposedly made an "android" self, which sometimes attends meetings for him.

Parableman has a post on Christians and Cremation, which I found thought-provoking.

Speaking of death, Wired has an article on the 10 most deadly poisons.

A report on the missions trip of the women's basketball team from my former University.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here.)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Crops of the Americas stamps

The US Post Office has released Crops of the Americas stamps. (Graphic illustration of the stamps is available from that page.) To quote from the web page, "The crops depicted in the stamps - corn, chili peppers, beans, squashes, and sunflowers - had been cultivated in the Americas for centuries when Europeans first arrived in the New World."

This is true, and, as a former botany teacher, I welcome the release of these stamps. These five crops are very important, not only to those of us who live in the Western Hemisphere, but around the world. (We are certainly also indebted to many Old World plants, as well! Thank God for plants from both hemispheres.)

One aspect of the history of these crops is what the King James version of the Bible (1611 AD, before any significant traffic with the New World) does with the word for one particular crop, namely corn. A search of that version for the word "corn" on the Blueletter Bible site returns 102 occurrences in 94 verses, from Genesis 27:28 through 1 Timothy 5:18. Luke 15:15-16 refers to the prodigal son, who wanted to eat from the husks from the food fed to the pigs. Clearly, these references can't have been to Zea mays, the plant most commonly called corn, and the one pictured on the stamps, since this plant did not exist in Bible lands at that time. The word, corn, has these definitions, from the Free Dictionary:
3. Chiefly British Any of various cereal plants or grains, especially the principal crop cultivated in a particular region, such as wheat in England or oats in Scotland.
4.
a. A single grain of a cereal plant.
b. A seed or fruit of various other plants, such as a peppercorn.

This explains the use of the word in the KJV. The ESV Bible doesn't use the word, corn.

Beans we now use as crops were domesticated in both the New and Old Worlds, some types in one place, some in another. The Sunflower genus of plants are apparently all from the New World. So are the plants usually called chili peppers, and those called squashes, although all three of these plants have Old world relatives, found in the same plant families. (In case you've forgotten, or never knew, a family, such as the pea family, usually contains more than one genus, and a genus usually contains more than one species. The scientific name of an organism, such as Zea mays, consists of its genus and species name. Common names are fine, but since they vary between locations and cultures, to say nothing of between language groups, their use can confuse.)

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 24, 2006

What's really important

A couple of months ago, I got an e-mail message from someone who had found my web pages on uploading souls. Presumably, the correspondent had found this page through a search. He asked me what my name was (I had unintentionally not given my name on the page -- I have corrected that now) because he wanted to refer to it. He also said that he had noticed, from the content of the page, that I must be a Christian, and that he had been pleasantly surprised by my spirit of tolerance toward other views, or words to that effect. He was under the impression that Christians are typically close-minded and intolerant. (Actually, I was just trying to be a good academic, and present various views fairly. Also, I was trying to explore the issue, without having any particular axe to grind.)

There are dangers in being too tolerant. There are some things that are just plain wrong, even monstrous, which should not be tolerated. There are some things that are just plain good, and must be affirmed. But there are also dangers in being intolerant. That seems to have been the problem, or at least one of the problems, of the Pharisees, in Jesus' time.

I have my views on many subjects, including, to name a few, origins, treatment of the poor, Middle East events, health insurance, and stem cell research. Of course, I think all of my views are the correct ones. But I must not forget what is important. (besides, I could be wrong!) The most important thing I can display, in this blog, and in my daily life, is the love of Christ toward others. That will attract others to the Christian life. My position on origins won't. Further, I need to love Christian people who disagree with me about these and other issues. Jesus said that the sign, to non-Christians, that Christianity was the solution to the world's problems would be how Christians loved one another. I could go on and detail how certain Christians have given Christianity a bad name by their strident support of various political, ethical, and even theological positions, and their intolerance for other positions, or their ignorance of science, but I won't. I, personally, need to give Christianity a good name by showing Christ's love to those who claim to be Christians, even if I think they are unenlightened, and by showing that same love to those who have never heard of, or met, Christ. That's what's really important. May God forgive me where I have failed in these endeavors.

I posted resolutions for this blog on January 1, 2006. Those haven't changed. They are partly about the issues of this post. One of my best posts was probably "on Evangelical blogging," which covers some of the same issues. I need to remind myself of these ideas occasionally.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, July 23 - 29

23. In such* God-silence, the soul's nest, so long
As all is still, no flutter and no song,
Is safe. But if my soul begin to act
Without some waking to the eternal fact
That my dear life is hid with Christ in God--
I think and move a creature of earth's clod,
Stand on the finite, act upon the wrong.

24. My soul this sermon hence for itself prepares:--
"Then is there nothing vile thou mayst not do,
Buffeted in a tumult of low cares,
And treacheries of the old man 'gainst the new."--
Lord, in my spirit let thy spirit move,
Warning, that it may not have to reprove:--
In my dead moments, master, stir the prayers.

25. Lord, let my soul o'erburdened then feel thee
Thrilling through all its brain's stupidity.
If I must slumber, heedless of ill harms,
Let it not be but in my Father's arms;
Outside the shelter of his garment's fold,
All is a waste, a terror-haunted wold.--
Lord, keep me. 'Tis thy child that cries. Behold.

26. Some say that thou their endless love hast won
By deeds for them which I may not believe
Thou ever didst, or ever willedst done:
What matter, so they love thee? They receive
Eternal more than the poor loom and wheel
Of their invention ever wove and spun.--
I love thee for I must, thine all from head to heel.

27. The love of thee will set all notions right.
Right save by love no thought can be or may;
Only love's knowledge is the primal light.
Questions keep camp along love's shining coast--
Challenge my love and would my entrance stay:
Across the buzzing, doubting, challenging host,
I rush to thee, and cling, and cry--Thou know'st.

28. Oh, let me live in thy realities,
Nor substitute my notions for thy facts,
Notion with notion making leagues and pacts;
They are to truth but as dream-deeds to acts,
And questioned, make me doubt of everything.--
"O Lord, my God," my heart gets up and cries,
"Come thy own self, and with thee my faith bring."

29. O master, my desires to work, to know,
To be aware that I do live and grow--
All restless wish for anything not thee,
I yield, and on thy altar offer me.
Let me no more from out thy presence go,
But keep me waiting watchful for thy will--
Even while I do it, waiting watchful still.

*I believe MacDonald is continuing the thought of July 22, which may be read here.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from July 23 - July 29.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Moral Stem Cells

An editorial in the May issue of First Things argues that there is a possibility of producing embryonic stem cells without producing (or, hence, destroying) any human embryos, using a technique known as Altered Nuclear Transfer-Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming (ANT-OAR). The technique, if it can be made to work, would involve transferring the nucleus of a cell from an adult human into an altered unfertilized egg cell which had had its nucleus removed. Additional tinkering would ensure that the biochemistry of the host cytoplasm would not turn the nucleus into a totipotent cell (that is, one that could develop into an embryo, as happens in cloning) but into a pluripotent cell (that is, an embryonic stem cell).

The author, a theologian, argues that this would not be equivalent to murder. (Some people, of course, believe that use of fertilized eggs would not necessarily be equivalent to murder, but ANT-OAR is an attempt to satisfy even the many who believe that it would be.)

Writes the author:
An entity is a human embryo only if the organic material is able to be human—if, in the language of Aristotle, it is apt to receive a substantial human form. Not every collection of organic material, even material that includes an oocyte and a diploid nucleus, can be a human being. We know this because we know that teratomas (naturally occurring tumors)—together with hydatidiform moles (disorganized entities that occur in humans and other animals as a result of certain types of defects in fertilization) and even oocytes themselves—are not human embryos, yet they all have as their starting material an oocyte and a diploid nucleus. [links added]

As I understand it, one of the bills recently passed unanimously by the U. S. Senate could authorize support for research of this type.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Quotes on origins, 2

Also notice that, contrary to an apparently impossible to eradicate creationist belief, the theory (in the technical sense) of evolution is most definitely NOT a theory of how life originated. The latter is a matter for biophysics and biochemistry, not evolutionary biology. Evolution (in the neo-Darwinian sense) started after the origin of life on earth, and cannot therefore possibly be invoked to explain such origin. Nor do scientists ever use the theory for that purpose! Massimo Pigliucci, entry, "Creation, Evolution, and the Nature of Science," of Jan 16, 2005, in his (mostly) Rationally Speaking blog, emphasis in original. Pigliucci believes in non-supernatural evolution as the source of the diversity of living things, and is apparently an atheist. In the technical sense, he is correct. Darwin had no explanation of how life originated, and I don't recall that he even discussed the matter. But creationists, of all kinds, would argue against explanations of how life began that invoke purposeless chance processes as the cause. Life is here because God wanted it to be. Atheists, including many scientists, think that that statement is non-scientific. It is. But so is: "Life is an accident -- the result of purposeless chance." Both of these are statements of faith. See the next two quotes.


The origins issue has never been about facts and evidence as such—we all have the same world, the same evidence, the same facts. It is the philosophical framework within which facts are interpreted which differs. And philosophical frameworks are based on axioms (presuppositions, or starting beliefs). The scientific conclusions of Darwinism are squarely based on anti-Biblical (naturalistic) axioms, while those of creation are based on Biblical axioms. "AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement," by Carl Wieland, 30 August 2002. (AiG is Answers in Genesis, an important Young-Earth Creationism organization.)

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (ESV)

"The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." Carl Sagan, Cosmos, p. 4. New York, Random House, 1980. Sagan, an astronomer, was one of the two or three most important popularizers of astronomy of the last century, perhaps the most important. In spite of the fact that he was a scientist, this is not a scientific statement. It's a statement of belief. Sagan had not done an experiment that would rule out (or prove) the existence of a supernatural being who was and is outside the cosmos. How could he have? In other words, Sagan was expressing his faith.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (ESV) I believe it is significant that the very first verse in the Bible doesn't give the where, the how, or the why of creation, but the Who. (It doesn't exactly give us the when, either.)

See here and here for two recent posts with more quotes on origins.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sunspots 65


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

I recently mentioned that the Microsoft system for downloading and installing Windows patches has potential systematic problems. Shavlik Technologies, which was mentioned by Windows Secrets as a solution, has released a free evaluation version of its NetChk Protect, only if you have a business e-mail address. This eliminates yahoo, netzero, earthlink, google, and hotmail and similar addresses, apparently. The company is supposed to release a version for home users in the near future.

From Wired, items about:

>A gadget that tells you whether your breath smells bad, on a scale from 1 to 5. I'm not sure I want to know.
>A human-computer interface for detecting interesting items from a stream of photos. The computer isn't physically hooked to the brain.

Harper's Index is available for June. (Back Indexes are also available through this link.) Sample: There are an estimated 25,000 illegal Irish immigrants in the US.

Nature has published a list of the 50 most popular science blogs.

Correspondence in First Things in response to an article by Stephen M. Barr, and his response to the correspondence. Includes a letter by Charles Colson, with an extensive response. The correspondence is (although rather long) quite instructive on origins.

Stephen Carter has a thoughtful piece on free speech in the public schools, including universities, in Christianity Today.

A splendid article "Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend," on how men should choose a spouse. Thanks to the Evangelical Outpost for the link.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

From the CBC (that's the Canadian Broadcasting Company) an extensive web site on Iran.

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Young Earth Creationism vs. Intelligent Design

Many people believe that all Christians are united in their beliefs about origins, or believe that Young-Earth Creationism (YEC) and Intelligent Design (ID) are two different ways of expressing the same beliefs. (In a previous post, I charted some of the different beliefs about origins.) I include, in this post, quotes from the pillars of ID, and from the most important YEC organizations, indicating that there are important differences between the YEC movement and the ID movement. Sincere Christians do have different beliefs about origins. They do, of course, agree that we are not here as a result of purposeless chance.

Statements by important figures in the ID movement, showing that they do not believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, or that they otherwise reject the main beliefs of YEC:

For the record, I have no particular opinion about the age of the earth and accept for purposes of argument the currently orthodox figure of 4.6 billion years. I guess I would say that the current evidence is most consistent with some continuous or intermittent creation process over a long period of time, with new genetic information appearing from some source unknown to science.
Phillip E. Johnson, in "Should Evolution Be Taught in Schools?," on-line dialogue between Johnson and Philip Kitcher, Slate, August 18, 1999. Johnson is the author of several books on Intelligent Design, and one of its founding architects.
The irreducibly complex biochemical systems that I have discussed in this book did not have to be produced recently. It is entirely possible, based simply on an examination of the systems themselves, that they were designed billions of years ago and that they have been passed down to the present by the normal processes of cellular reproduction. Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: The Free Press, 1996, p. 227. Behe is also one of the founding architects of Intelligent Design.

This is another statement by Behe:
. . . the message "evolution or design, one or the other," is a flawed choice. To the extent that the public has gotten that impression, it is regrettable. There is nothing in the idea of intelligent design that precludes the design being unfolded over time, and I myself judge that scenario to be the most consistent with all of the data we currently have. What's more, I am mostly happy with [Loren Haarsma's] statement, "suppose the laws of nature are fine-tuned not only for the self-assembly of molecules and stars and planets, but also for the self-assembly of biological life and biological complexity." Michael J. Behe, "The Positive Side of Intelligent Design: A Response to Loren Haarsma," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 59:63, March 2007.
 

Although acceptance of intelligent design has now gone international and includes scholars of many different religious faiths and philosophical worldviews, among Christian proponents of intelligent design, the majority hold to a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1. I’m one of them. William Dembski, "Why President Bush Got It Right about Intelligent Design," BeliefNet, Aug 4, 2005. Dembski is perhaps the current leading theoretician of Intelligent Design.

Here's another statement by Dembski: ". . . I accept standard astrophysical and geological dating (12 billion years for the universe, 4.5 billion years for the Earth) . . ."
Note that this is out of context, not even being a complete sentence, but the meaning is clear, namely that he rejects the central claim of YEC. The material in parenthesis is from the original. Dembski does indicate considerable sympathy for the Young-Earth view in this 54-page essay, which is on theodicy. (the quote is found on page 18) If there is any doubt in your mind that Young-Earth creationists are not universally happy with Dembski, read this critique of that essay, here.


*  *  *  *
Note added to the above on October 21, 2010: Yesterday, The Panda's Thumb Blog (Which, although it is no friend to the ID movement, usually seems get its facts right, and in this case, it is using quotations of Dembski and other sources.) reported that Dembski now says that he is a Young-Earth Creationist. This seems to be a recent development. The same post quotes Dembski as believing that the scientific evidence ruled out YEC, as recently as 2009.


The article indicates that it is possible that Dembski changed his mind on the subject to retain his position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It doesn't strongly put that forth, and offers no evidence for that possibility.


There doesn't have to be any shame in changing one's mind. I've done it myself, on origins, and a lot of other things. It is possible that Dembski has changed his simply because he now believes that the Biblical evidence for YEC is overwhelming. He seems to believe that Biblical evidence is more important than scientific evidence.


* * * *

Jonathan Wells is an important member of the ID movement. (For his relationship to the Discovery Institute, see here.) He is the author of Icons of Evolution. Wells has written:
Many people have been given the impression that the chronology of Genesis is the root of the conflict between Christianity and Darwinism. Surprisingly, however, biblical chronology played almost no role in the initial opposition to Darwin's theory, because most Christians in the nineteenth century accepted geological evidence for the age of the earth. Nor was chronology an issue at the 1925 Scopes trial, because creationist William Jennings Bryan accepted the old-earth view. Historically and theologically speaking, the basic conflict between Christianity and Darwinism is not chronology, but design.

Stephen C. Meyer is an important ID theorist. He is one of the main experts consulted by Lee Strobel, in his Case for a Creator. He is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute. On Jan 29th, the Dallas Morning News published an op-ed piece by Meyer, in which he said, among other things:
The theory [ID] does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it does dispute Darwin's idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected.

From the FAQ of the Center for Science and Culture, a part of the Discovery Institute, an important supporter of ID:
4. Is intelligent design theory the same as creationism?

No. Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Honest critics of intelligent design acknowledge the difference between intelligent design and creationism. University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he "agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID [intelligent design] movement." Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to conflate intelligent design with creationism? According to Dr. Numbers, it is because they think such claims are "the easiest way to discredit intelligent design." In other words, the charge that intelligent design is "creationism" is a rhetorical strategy on the part of Darwinists who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case. For more information read Center Director Stephen Meyer's piece "
Intelligent Design is not Creationism" that appeared in The Daily Telegraph (London) or Center Associate Director's piece "Intelligent Design and Creationism Just Aren't the Same"in Research News & Opportunities.


Numbers (a widely recognized scholar of the history of science) is a critic of Intelligent Design. 

Statements by important YEC organizations, showing that they are deeply critical of the ID approach:
Our concern with the intelligent design approach probably devolves upon two main factors. First, it is ineffective, no more convincing to evolutionists than is young-earth creationism; second, it is not really a new approach, using basically the same evidence and arguments used for years by scientific creationists but made to appear more sophisticated with complex nomenclature and argumentation. . . .
The intelligent design movement has been quite successful in one aspect, however. Many Christians now seem to think that it has freed them from having to confront the Genesis record of a young earth and global flood. All they need to do, they have decided, is to believe in intelligent design. This result was surely not what Dembski and others intended, but that is what's happening.
Our other hesitation to get on this bandwagon is their use of the same arguments and evidences we Biblical creationists have used for years, while simultaneously trying to distance themselves from us. Our adherence to Biblical literalism is ridiculed by evolutionists, and the ID advocates would be embarrassed to be tarred with the same brush. In fact, Dembski goes so far as to say belief in evolution itself is okay, as long as it's not naturalistic.
Henry Morris, "The Design Revelation," review of William Dembski's The Design Revolution. Morris was the co-author of The Genesis Flood, (1960) among many other accomplishments, and founder of the Institute for Creation Research.

Morris also wrote this:
The most serious deficiency in the ID movement, however, is its neglect of the most important of the alleged evidences for evolution—that is, the problem of the fossils. These are the remains of billions and billions of once-living plants and animals now preserved in the sedimentary crust of the earth. These all give abundant evidence of suffering and death during all the supposed geological ages which they are supposed to depict.
Did the Designer do that? If so, just how and why? The only adequate answer is in the Bible, in its record of man's sin, the resulting global Curse and eventual Deluge. But the very purpose of the ID movement is to argue for intelligent design without reference to the Bible and the God of the Bible. Without those factors, however, it would seem that the only alternative would be to assume the Designer to be a sadistic producer of global evil as well as the intelligent producer of irreducible complexity.
The .PDF version of the file gives the copyright date as 2006. (The .HTML version is here.) The entire article is a discussion of ID versus young-earth creationism, and apparently it is meant as the ICR's current word on the subject.

Answers in Genesis (AiG) is another important YEC organization.

See "AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement," by Carl Wieland, 30 August 2002. To summarize, Wieland says that the ID movement has serious philosophical weaknesses.
There is an article posted by Answers in Genesis, which is critical of ID: ". . . the central problem with the ID movement is a divorce of the Creator from creation. The Creator and His creation cannot be separated; they reflect on each other. All other problems within the movement stem from this one."

The Creation Research Society is another important young-earth creationism organization. They do not have as many problems with ID as the ICR does. Their view is that ID is an ally, that, if successful, will make wide acceptance of young-earth creationism possible. See here for an article on the subject, published by this organization in 2000.

Here's a later article in a publication of the Creation Research Society, which calls on the ID movement to publicly embrace a young earth and the importance of Noah's flood. The article states that: "They sometimes say that they hope to discuss such issues in private later on." (emphasis in original)

The Creation Research Society seems to be a society of scientists, loosely organized, and their publications seldom, if ever, have articles that speak officially for the Society. (This is commonly true of other scientific societies.) Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research are more centrally organized, and many of their publications appear to speak officially for the organization.

It is true that at least some of the conflation of ID and young-earth creationism by opponents of both is a strategy to discredit ID. However, it is also true that some of those who wish to require the teaching of ID in public school classrooms have encouraged, and obtained, the support of young-earth creationists. Many people, mostly evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, not well informed, or maybe even deceived, would identify themselves as believing both Intelligent Design and young-earth creationism.

This post was significantly re-worked on August 15, 2007, from the original post date.

In a previous post, I charted some of the different beliefs about origins. There are sincere Christians who believe neither YEC or ID.

I fixed one typo, and edited the last two sentences in the last full paragraph, on October 4, 2007.

On April 18, 2008, I added a link to another post of mine, which summarizes my problems with the Intelligent Design movement, but emphasizes my belief that the universe, and humans, were designed by an Intelligence. I am by no means alone in having such problems, or in believing that there is an Intelligent Designer.

I also added a link to the source of the second quotation of Michael Behe, because the article is now available freely on-line.

On February 3, 2009, I added a quotation from Jonathan Wells.

On August 8, 2009, I am adding a link to a post from the Panda's Thumb, which post claims, without documentation, unfortunately -- I'm not disputing their claim, but can't back it up -- that three new additions to the staff of one of the branches of the Discovery Institute are Young-Earth Creationists.


On September 7, 2009, I made a few editorial corrections in my own writing -- quotations or source citations were not changed.


On July 30, 2010, I am adding a link to an attempt to define ID, by the BioLogos Forum.

On September 17, 2010, I checked most of the links in this post, and corrected some, and made some minor editorial changes.

On October 21, 2010, I inserted material on a change of belief by William Dembski. That material is clearly marked in the above post.

I have indicated some of my own problems with the Intelligent Design movement here, and with Young-Earth Creationism here


On March 3, 2012, I became aware of a post, entitled "Intelligent Design is NOT Anti-Evolution," that covers much of the same ground as the post you are reading.


Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, July 16 - July 22

16. The house is not for me--it is for him.
His royal thoughts require many a stair,
Many a tower, many an outlook fair,
Of which I have no thought, and need no care.
Where I am most perplexed, it may be there
Thou mak'st a secret chamber, holy-dim,
Where thou wilt come to help my deepest prayer.

17. I cannot tell why this day I am ill;
But I am well because it is thy will--
Which is to make me pure and right like thee.
Not yet I need escape--'tis bearable
Because thou knowest. And when harder things
Shall rise and gather, and overshadow me,
I shall have comfort in thy strengthenings.

18. How do I live when thou art far away?--
When I am sunk, and lost, and dead in sleep,
Or in some dream with no sense in its play?
When weary-dull, or drowned in study deep?--
O Lord, I live so utterly on thee,
I live when I forget thee utterly--
Not that thou thinkest of, but thinkest me.

19. Thou far!--that word the holy truth doth blur.
Doth the great ocean from the small fish run
When it sleeps fast in its low weedy bower?
Is the sun far from any smallest flower,
That lives by his dear presence every hour?
Are they not one in oneness without stir--
The flower the flower because the sun the sun?

20. "Dear presence every hour"!--what of the night,
When crumpled daisies shut gold sadness in;
And some do hang the head for lack of light,
Sick almost unto death with absence-blight?--
Thy memory then, warm-lingering in the ground,
Mourned dewy in the air, keeps their hearts sound,
Till fresh with day their lapsed life begin.

21. All things are shadows of the shining true:
Sun, sea, and air--close, potent, hurtless fire--
Flowers from their mother's prison--dove, and dew--
Every thing holds a slender guiding clue
Back to the mighty oneness:--hearts of faith
Know thee than light, than heat, endlessly nigher,
Our life's life, carpenter of Nazareth.

22. Sometimes, perhaps, the spiritual blood runs slow,
And soft along the veins of will doth flow,
Seeking God's arteries from which it came.
Or does the etherial, creative flame
Turn back upon itself, and latent grow?--
It matters not what figure or what name,
If thou art in me, and I am not to blame.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from July 16 - July 22.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

SWU Science alumni reception invite

The Science faculty at SWU only do some things every 100 years or so. We're doing one of them in about three months, and you are invited. It's a drop-in reception for all former students who were connected with science. (This includes math and computing, plus biology, chemistry and the health fields). Please come. It’s free, from 4 to 5 P. M., Saturday, October 28, 2006, around three months away. Another retired science faculty member and I are in charge of organizing and publicizing the event. Since several science alumni have occasionally read this blog, I'm using this means to invite all of you.

Bring anyone you want to with you.

Bring your memories.

Bring old photos and yearbooks.

Bring your camera and record the aging process in your contemporaries. (Also the faculty. In addition to the current faculty, some of whom have accumulated a few years, we are inviting all former full-time faculty, and expect one or more of them -- we hope all -- to be present.)

Come early, and see what God has done on our campus since you left (Even if you graduated in May ’06.). See current science and computer labs, new buildings, and renovations in old buildings. If you want a guide, come to the upstairs Science Building between 3:15 and 3:30. We’ll get you to the reception in time. Stay for the Centennial Homecoming Banquet. Seating begins at 5:00. (That isn’t free – sorry!) There are other events all day Saturday. If you were a member of a choir or music group, come Friday night for rehearsal and sing at 7, right after the Banquet.

The site for the reception is the Mitchell Room, in the Jennings Campus Life Center. The Mitchell Room is on the top floor, in the corner of the building closest to the Rickman Library. There is an elevator, if you need it. The Banquet is in the building right across the street. Light refreshments will be served at the Reception.

This is not an RSVP event. You don't have to let us know if you are coming -- just come. We'd be glad to hear from you, though.

In Christian Love,

Martin LaBar, Professor of Science emeritus

Quotes on origins*, 1

…unfortunately, large numbers of well-intentioned lay Christians have been convinced by popular creationist writers and lecturers that one can in an evening master some obvious commonsense facts that expose the utter silliness of evolution--facts that despite their complete obviousness even to people with no science background at all have allegedly somehow totally eluded those with Ph. D.'s in geology and biology. Del Ratzsch, The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1996, p. 82.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. vol. 1, Ancient Christian Writers., vol. 41. Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J. New York: Paulist Press, 1982. My source was here.

If biology remains only biology, it is not to be feared. Much of the fear that does exist is rooted in the notion that God is in competition with nature, so that the more we attribute to one the less we can attribute to the other. That is false. The greater the powers and potentialities in nature, the more magnificent must be nature’s far-sighted Author, that God whose “ways are unsearchable” and who “reaches from end to end ordering all things mightily.” Richard Dawkins famously called the universe “a blind watchmaker.” If it is, it is miracle enough for anyone; for it is incomparably greater to design a watchmaker than a watch. We need not pit evolution against design, if we recognize that evolution is part of God’s design. Stephen M. Barr, "The Miracle of Evolution," First Things 160 (February 2006): 30-33

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, New York: Warner Books, 1978, pp. 105-106. (Jastrow, apparently not a Christian, was writing about the Big Bang theory, which, when the evidence for it appeared, was a shock to many cosmologists, who believed that the universe had been in a steady state forever. Not so!)

*I use "origins" because "evolution" is generally used by scientists to refer to the results of natural selection. The Big Bang, for example, has nothing to do with natural selection. It does have to do with origins. Some people, usually Christians, mean "atheism" or "materialism" (by which I'm not referring to the desire to accumulate things) when they say "evolution."

You may want to see my flow chart on origins. For more quotes on origins, see this post, and this one.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Origins Flowchart

Origins flowchart
This flowchart isn't exhaustive, but it points out some of the main points of separation between different ideas of origins. Here are some additional questions that might be asked:
Should the 6 days of creation in Genesis 1 be interpreted to mean six consecutive days of approximately 24 hours?
Did non-human animals and plants die before the Fall?
Was the Flood of Noah's time responsible for a significant part of the geological features of the earth, world-wide?
Were there human-like beings, existing before humans appeared, or existing at the same time as Homo sapiens?

The Christianity Today editors, in an article, "Guideposts for the Current Debate Over Origins," published October 8, 1982, listed, if my memory serves, some seventeen different views of origins held by Christians (one belief apiece, generally!). All of the possibilities, save atheism and deism were included in these views.

I have a web page which gives some of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the main views of origins. I have attempted to be fair to all views.

You may want to see my next post, "Quotes on origins, 1," or the following one, which indicates that Young-Earth Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement have some substantial differences. This post gives more quotes on origins, perhaps ones dealing more fundamentally with the issues.

Please feel free to comment on this, including making suggestions. Also, feel free to use this chart, if it is helpful to you. The chart should be larger, and neater, than it appears here, if you download it. (Right-click on the graphic, and save it.) Thanks for reading.

* * * * *

This post, and the flow chart itself, were modified on July 20, 2006, to accomodate a more correct interpretation of deism, which, contrary to the earlier version, does not necessarily include a belief that God no longer "interferes" in the unfolding of the universe. However, both this reference source and this one indicate a relationship between deism and a belief in a god who does not intervene in nature.

* * * * *
The chart was edited a little, to make it better looking, and the meaning clearer, without changing the substance, on September 4, 2009. I did change the substance, clarifying Intelligent Design, and its relationship to other beliefs, on September 19, 2009. A post documenting that Young-Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design are not really compatible is here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Naaman: Paying attention to servants

The story of Naaman gets just one chapter in the Bible (2 Kings 5). But there's an important lesson in that story.

Naaman was an important man. The king of Syria paid attention to him, and was personally concerned about his welfare. Naaman had leprosy. (We don't seem to be sure exactly what that was. Maybe what we now call leprosy, maybe not. It doesn't matter. He was sick, and he needed help.) A little Israeli slave girl told Mrs. Naaman that, if he were in Israel, Elisha the prophet of God could cure her husband's leprosy. Mrs. Naaman didn't have to listen to her slave girls at all. But she did. Then she told Naaman. Naaman didn't have to listen to his wife on this matter, either, especially when he found out the source of this suggestion, but he did. He told the king. The king paid attention to Naaman, too. (I don't know for a fact that Naaman knew where the idea came from, or that the king did, but, if I were in their shoes, I would have asked where it came from, if I weren't told. So they may have known that the slave girl was the source.)

So the king sent Naaman to Israel with a letter of introduction, which flummoxed the Israelite king, until Elisha, at God's prompting, sent a message to the king to send Naaman to him. Elisha didn't do something fancy -- he just told Naaman, through a messenger, perhaps his servant, Gehazi, to go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman wasn't happy about this. Surely he expected to at least see Elisha. He didn't want to wash in the Jordan. He considered his own rivers to be superior. Perhaps they were cleaner. But, again, Naaman had sense enough to listen to his underlings. They told him to go ahead and try it -- what did he have to lose? So he did, and was cured! This, of course, thrilled Naaman. He tried to pay Elisha, but Elisha said he wouldn't take anything.

Now Naaman would never have been cured if he had been too proud to listen to a servant. He must have had some good relationships with them, or the little girl wouldn't have cared if her captor got better or not, and the underlings wouldn't have dared to suggest anything to Naaman. There's a lesson in all this. My wife is not my underling, but, even if she were, I should listen to her suggestions about where to park and what to wear, etc. If I did have subordinates, or co-workers, I should listen to their ideas. Sometimes they might be more right than my ideas.

Gehazi, Elisha's servant, didn't listen to what was right. God must have spoken to him through his conscience. He decided to get something from Naaman, even if Elisha wouldn't take anything, but he tried to do it on the sly. He didn't tell Elijah. If what he did had been right, he wouldn't have had to sneak. He didn't listen, not to a servant, but to God himself. As a result, Gehazi got Naaman's disease. There's a lesson in there, too.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sunspots 64


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

Bonnie on Christian singleness.

An article in Wired on "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary film about global warming. The article indicates that a scientist who is opposed to the conclusions of the film agrees that Al Gore is sincere in his presentation, and has most of the facts right. The article has a link to conclusions that disagree with Gore's.

A method of plotting musical compositions as points in two dimensions has been developed.

From an article by Philip Yancey in Christianity Today: "Several years ago a Muslim man said to me, 'I find no guidance in the Qur'an on how Muslims should live as a minority in a society and no guidance in the New Testament on how Christians should live as a majority.'"

Spritibee posted, over a week ago, on "Evolution and Emissions Debate." She has gotten quite a few responses, (including a couple from me -- one of them a recent post on this blog) and some from a professed agnostic. I found her post through last week's Christian Carnival.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thoughts on Submission and Slavery, pt. 2

The first part of this series, consisting of a definition, and quotations from the Bible, is here.

A lady, who had entered into this life hid with Christ, was confronted by a great prospective trial. Every emotion she had within her rose up in rebellion against it, and had she considered her emotions to be her king, she would have been in utter despair. But she had learned this secret of the will, and knowing that, at the bottom, she herself did really choose the will of God for her portion, she did not pay the slightest attention to her emotions, but persisted in meeting every thought concerning the trial, with the words, repeated over and over, "Thy will be done! Thy will be done!" asserting in the face of all her rebelling feelings, that she did submit her will to God's, that she chose to submit, and that His will should be and was her delight! The result was, that in an incredibly short space of time every thought was brought into captivity; and she began to find even her very emotions rejoicing in the will of God. Hannah Whittal Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, Chapter 7, "Difficulties Concerning the Will." (public domain)


Total depravity describes the desperate condition of fallen sinners apart from the grace of God. Sin has affected every facet of human personality to such an extent that we are incapable of doing good or loving God as we should. Our thinking is distorted, our emotions are deceptive and out of proportion, and our desires are unruly and misdirected. In this condition, we are bent on rebellion and evil and are completely unwilling to submit to God and his perfect will. Consequently, we deserve only God’s wrath and eternal punishment. Sinners in this condition are so utterly helpless that they are accurately described as “dead in [their] transgressions and sins” (Eph 2:1). So pervasive and deadly is the effect of sin that they can no more respond to God or do his will than a corpse could respond if commanded to get up and walk. "Examining Calvinism," By Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell


"Q. 7. What are the fruits or properties of this love? [That described in 1 Corinthians 13]

"A. St. Paul informs us at large, love is long-suffering. It suffers all the weaknesses of the children of God, all the wickedness of the children of the world; and that not for a little' time only, but as long as God pleases. In all, it sees the hand of God, and willingly submits thereto. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection as believed and taught by the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725, to the year 1777, Section 25 (public domain)


Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n.
- "Paradise Lost," by John Milton (public domain) Satan is speaking.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Thoughts on Submission and Slavery, pt. 1

These are the first three meanings of slave from the Free Online Dictionary:

1. One bound in servitude as the property of a person or household. 2. One who is abjectly subservient to a specified person or influence. . . 3. One who works extremely hard.

Exodus 21:2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever. (ESV)

Mark 10:44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. (ESV)

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants [1] of Christ Jesus, . . . (James 1:1 and Jude 1:1 use similar language) (ESV)

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [2] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)

[1] 1:1 Or slaves; Greek bondservants [2] 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus (ESV)

Ephesians 5:16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (ESV)

There is a second part, with a few quotations from non-Biblical literature.

Thanks for reading.

Diary of an Old Soul, July 9 - July 15

9. The sole way to put flight into the wing,
To preen its feathers, and to make them grow,
Is to heed humbly every smallest thing
With which the Christ in us has aught to do.
So will the Christ from child to manhood go,
Obedient to the father Christ, and so
Sweet holy change will turn all our old things to new.

10. Creation thou dost work by faint degrees,
By shade and shadow from unseen beginning;
Far, far apart, in unthought mysteries
Of thy own dark, unfathomable seas,
Thou will'st thy will; and thence, upon the earth--
Slow travelling, his way through centuries winning--
A child at length arrives at never ending birth.

11. Well mayst thou then work on indocile hearts
By small successes, disappointments small;
By nature, weather, failure, or sore fall;
By shame, anxiety, bitterness, and smarts;
By loneliness, by weary loss of zest:--
The rags, the husks, the swine, the hunger-quest,
Drive home the wanderer to the father's breast.

12. How suddenly some rapid turn of thought
May throw the life-machine all out of gear,
Clouding the windows with the steam of doubt,
Filling the eyes with dust, with noise the ear!
Who knows not then where dwells the engineer,
Rushes aghast into the pathless night,
And wanders in a land of dreary fright.

13. Amazed at sightless whirring of their wheels,
Confounded with the recklessness and strife,
Distract with fears of what may next ensue,
Some break rude exit from the house of life,
And plunge into a silence out of view--
Whence not a cry, no wafture* once reveals
What door they have broke open with the knife.

14. Help me, my Father, in whatever dismay,
Whatever terror in whatever shape,
To hold the faster by thy garment's hem;
When my heart sinks, oh, lift it up, I pray;
Thy child should never fear though hell should gape,
Not blench though all the ills that men affray
Stood round him like the Roman round Jerusalem.

15. Too eager I must not be to understand.
How should the work the master goes about
Fit the vague sketch my compasses have planned?
I am his house--for him to go in and out.
He builds me now--and if I cannot see
At any time what he is doing with me,
'Tis that he makes the house for me too grand.

*wafture has to do with waving.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from July 9 - July 15.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

John 3:16, Donald Knuth, and Hermann Zapf

Donald Knuth has been one of the most important pioneers of computing. He is also a Lutheran Christian. One of the things he decided to do was to study the Bible in a unique way, studying the 3:16 verse in each book. (Some books don't have 3 chapters, and some 3rd chapters don't have a 16th verse.) One of the things he did was to translate each of the verses.

Hermann Zapf has been arguably the most important designer of computer fonts. (His wife is also an excellent font designer.)

Knuth translated John 3:16, and Zapf designed a splendid graphic, using Knuth's translation. The file is freely available in .pdf form. Go here. Scroll down near the bottom, and open the link that says (Also in Acrobat form). It makes a nice poster when printed.

I plan to post more on Knuth at a later time.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 07, 2006

A visit to drdino.com

I commented recently on a blog post by a fellow believer. She claimed that the Bible teaches unequivocally that the earth is only a few thousand years old. I suggested that the Bible isn't that definitive on the matter. In response, she suggested three web sites that advocate young-earth creationism.
I don't question God's creation. I'm not sure that it was only a few thousand years ago.

I visited the sites.

One of the sites she recommended was the Creation Evidence Museum. (The site uses frames, so I can't link to individual exhibits.) Some of the exhibits do, indeed, appear to cast doubt on geology as it is usually taught, such as the apparent discovery of a metal cup in a lump of coal. I am not a geologist, nor a paleontologist, so can't say more than that. One exhibit, supposedly of a sandal footprint on top of a trilobite fossil, was less convincing. I'm not sure that this was a sandal footprint. It could have been just shaped like a sandal.

Another site was "Proof Evolution is Wrong." The first item on the page is this:
Ok.. let me get this straight. The Word of God says we were created with Human bodies that are designed to live forever. Science has recently proven that if we were to learn something new every second, we would take well over 3 millions [sic] years to exhaust the memory capacity of our "post flood" brains. (Pre-flood brains were 3 times larger) On the other hand... Evolutionists say things evolve after there is a need for change.
In the first place, where in the Bible does it say that our human bodies are designed to live forever? Maybe Adam's and Eve's bodies were, maybe not. If they had lived as they should, perhaps God would have translated them, as He did Enoch, rather than having them live forever on earth. But my body is presumably altered as the result of the fall. Glorified bodies, as described in 1 Corinthians 15, are designed to live forever, I believe, but I'm not at all sure that, say, President Bush's is.

Secondly, when and where has science proven that it would take well over 3 million years to exhaust our memory capacity? I'd never heard of such a thing, and it would be difficult or impossible to prove, even if true. Most of us have trouble with forgetfulness without living nearly that long. There was a reference for this, but it was to a Moody Science film, not to any scientific source.

Thirdly, how do we know that pre-flood brains were three times larger?
I wasn't impressed with the quality of the site, nor the evidence for a young earth which was presented.


I also went to Creation Science Evangelism (drdino.com), as suggested. I clicked on the Articles tab. Then I clicked on the Biology link, as I am a biologist by training (There are several categories of articles). Since this is Dr. Kent Hovind's site, I chose an article by Dr. Hovind, "Opossums, Redwood Trees, and Kidney Beans." His first sentence was not a good start: "The theory of evolution teaches that living things are becoming more complex as time progresses." Oh? It is true that many people think that that is what the theory of evolution teaches, including some so-called experts who are atheists. But they are wrong. For example, I went to the Amazon page offering the late Stephen Jay Gould's Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin for sale. Here's part of what this page says that the Library Journal had to say about the book: . . . Harvard paleontologist Gould examines trends in natural variation throughout organic evolution, thereby discrediting the abstract ideas of eternal forms, fixed essences, and intrinsic progress. . . . In light of fossil evidence and overwhelming biodiversity, he concludes that there is no linear pattern or ultimate design to evolution. Instead, life is a spreading web or a branching bush; variation, rather than progression, is nature's expression of excellence.
This summary is accurate, as I recall from reading the book myself, a number of years ago. Gould was one of the most prominent spokesmen for evolutionary biology in the previous century, perhaps the most prominent one. (He did not believe that evolutionary theory disproves the existence of God, by the way.) For an example of non-progression, a parasite, which is so simple that it lacks a digestive system, and has little or no nervous system, may have evolved from an organism that had such systems.

So, Hovind is arguing with a straw man. What else does his article say? Not very much. It shows, and briefly discusses, a table listing the number of chromosomes found in about 30 widely diverse organisms, in order from the greatest (fern, with 480) to least (kidney beans, with 22). His point is that there is no correlation between chromosome number and complexity of the organism. True, certainly, but so what? In the first place, as I said above, his premise is false. Secondly, even if his premise were true, chromosomes are of different sizes, with differing amounts of genetic material. It would be possible for an organism with 22 chromosomes to have more genes than one with 480. He really goes off the deep end with this sentence: "One of our ancestors must have been one of the identical triplets—opossums, redwood trees, and kidney beans—with 22 chromosomes each." Please! Identical triplets? I'm sure Hovind doesn't believe that we descended from any of these three, or that they are identical, and no one else does, either. The most rabid atheistic evolutionist would never say that we did. Hovind's table doesn't include fruit flies or penicillium, yet he refers to them in his brief discussion.
I'm sorry, but if this sample is in any way representative, I would have to dismiss Hovind.

The second article (which I chose because the author had more articles listed than anyone else) I looked at was "Widsom [sic] Teeth, Things That Make Evolutionists Look Stupid.*" (Wisdom is spelled correctly in the article, but not the title.) This one made more sense. It claimed that the presence of wisdom teeth, and the problems they give, is proof that humans have degenerated since creation. That seems possible, although I can't see that, even if it were true, it would show much of anything about the age of the earth.
Further, the article suggests that Adam and Eve were Neanderthals, which would probably be denied by many young-earth creationists. It also says that an orthodontist who studied the skulls of ancient humans, or human-like beings, concluded "that the Neanderthals were from a time when human beings had much longer life spans, developed and grew much slower, and were of superior strength, and possibly intelligence, if their larger brain capacities are an indication of this." I doubt that a dentist is very well qualified to draw such conclusions. I would be much more confident in his conclusions about their teeth. I can't see how an examination of skulls could tell much about life expectancy.

I also decided on an article by the author who appeared next most often. His thesis sentence (not his first) says "The idea of vestigial features has been used as evidence for evolution since 1859 when Darwin first proposed that such features were evidence of descent of one organism from a completely different one." This is true, except that, to my knowledge, such features are seldom, if ever, now invoked as evidence for descent of one species from another. In other words, it was true. Many of Darwin's ideas have been refined, further expanded, or dropped all together. This one is in the latter category, I believe. (The second article has the premise that wisdom teeth are proposed as evidence for change with time, and are stated to be vestigial, by evolutionists.)
Here's the last paragraph:
In summary, evolution predicts that there should be leftover features as one organism turns into another. Creation predicts that although some life forms have degenerated and lost use of an original function, every part of an organism was designed to serve some useful primary or backup purpose. As we learn more about the biology of living organisms, including ourselves, it is readily apparent which theory fits the data.
Actually, natural selection would be expected to give organisms in a particular species which had parts that were not useful a disadvantage in the struggle for existence with other members of that species that did not have such parts*, so that evolutionary theory would predict that there aren't many vestigial organs, and that some we might guess would be vestigial aren't, so there is little or no difference between the evolutionary and young-earth models, as I see it, on the question of the existence of vestigial organs. The two models have a different explanation for the data, but these explanations aren't subject to scientific experimentation, as I see it. Hebrews 11:3 suggests, to me, that acceptance of God's creative acts (or rejection of them) is by faith, not scientific evidence.

I'm sorry, but I was not impressed by my visit to the drdino site, and would suggest that, based on my meager sample, it argues with straw men, and misleads.
I don't know everything, and there may, indeed, be a giant conspiracy among mainstream scientists to deny the short history of the earth, but I'm afraid that these three sites are not strong evidence for that.
*I altered this sentence a few hours after the original post by adding the words after "existence."

Added August 10, 2006. Since my original post, in July of 2006, I have learned that Hovind has been charged with various evasions of taxes. A blogger who thinks Hovind's work is the greatest science ever admitted, in her blog, that he was somewhat loony politically, which is related to these charges. Other things I have read suggest that he is more than somewhat loony. Here's a blogger's remembrance of some interactions with "Dr. Dino." (Apparently there are serious questions about the validity of his doctorate.) See the Wikipedia article, which has not been, as of this date, disputed, on Hovind. It certainly does not recommend him as an expert on anything. (Wikipedia articles can be edited and disputed by anyone. If there is a dispute, the article will say that there is one.)

*Note, September 15, 2007. The spelling of "Wisdom" has been corrected.

Thanks for reading.

*  *  *  *  *

Addendum, September 10, 2010.

I have gone back to the Dr. Dino web site, and found it much changed, in appearance, and, I would guess, in coherence. In the post above, I checked three articles, and found all of them wanting, for various reasons. Only one of these, the one about the chromosomes, seems to be still available. I believe that the content is unchanged, but the date is now given as August 3, 2010, and the article is subtitled "A Spoof on Evolution Theory." It didn't seem to be a spoof when I first saw it, but it makes more sense as a spoof than as serious criticism. Kent Hovind is given as the author, which, although I suppose that is true, is misleading. He is in prison for tax fraud as of this date, and would have been on August 3rd. (See Wikipedia article.)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"

We recently saw the documentary film, "An Inconvenient Truth," which is narrated by Al Gore, former U. S. Senator from Tennessee, Vice-President, and Democratic candidate for President in 2000. It appears to be an expanded version of a presentation on global warming which Gore has been presenting all over the world. To summarize, we were impressed. There is an official website for this movie. Here's the Wikipedia article on the movie. The best web site, showing many of the graphics used in the movie, and, more or less, outlining the presentation, is here.

If you can't stand Gore, you won't be able to stand this movie, as he appears in it a lot, and is the narrator, when one is needed. He did take a couple of digs at the Republicans, but I wouldn't classify this as a partisan movie. It is a movie which, in dramatic fashion, sets forth the evidence that there really is such a thing as global warming, and that we need to do something about it. In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence, some politicians insist that there is reasonable doubt as to whether human activity is contributing to global warming. I don't believe that there is, and this movie dramatically confirms that, presenting several kinds of scientific evidence on the subject, and an analysis of scientific articles on the subject, showing that there is consensus among scientists. Gore also shoots down two other myths about global warming, namely that this is merely a cyclical phenomenon, and that cutting down on Carbon Dioxide emission has to mean loss of jobs.

Gore has never been a great orator, but he does well enough here to get his point across. His point is that Carbon Dioxide emissions are going up, that we are the main reason for that, that we need to do something about this, and that there are real and practical things that we can do. He seems to be very well informed on the subject. There is also a book with the same name.

This is not a Christian film. However, at the end, one of the admonitions is, for those who pray, to pray about this matter. Gore also says that dealing with global warming is an ethical matter.

This is not Gore's first book about environmental matters. Here is a quote from the previous one:
If it is possible to steer one's own course -- and I do believe it is -- then I am convinced that the place to start is with faith, which for me is akin to a kind of spiritual gyroscope that spins in its own circumference in a stabilizing harmony with what is inside and what is out. Of course, faith is just a word unless it is invested with personal meaning; my own faith is rooted in the unshakeable belief in God as creator and sustainer, a deeply personal interpretation of and relationship with Christ, and an awareness of a constant and holy spiritual presence in all people, all life, and all things. But I also want to affirm what people of faith from long ago apparently knew and that our civilization has obscured: that there is revelatory power in the world. This is the essence of faith: to make a surrendering decision to invest belief in a spiritual reality larger than ourselves. And I believe that faith is the primary force that enables us to choose meaning and direction and then hold to it despite all the buffeting chaos in life. - Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992, page 367-368.
I recommend this film, and that its message be taken to heart.

Thanks for reading.