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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sunspots 158

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

An amazing case of rapid evolution in lizards.

Wired reports that the South Koreans have cloned dogs for drug-sniffing.

Wired also reports that the US Congress has passed a bill prohibiting discrimination because of genetic makeup. The President is expected to sign the bill. (Perhaps already has)

A news source on stem cells , that seems to be kept up-to-date.

Slate says that the real problem with all those mortgages was very simple: widespread lying.

What CNet calls the 100 top webware applications. These included the Firefox browser, YouTube, and a lot more.

From Christianity Today movies: a suggestion that Prince Caspian, the character, has a lot in common with C. S. Lewis, the author.

In Christianity Today, Charles Colson and Anne Morse warn about Christians being too concerned about pets. (They understand that some concern is appropriate, but question the appropriateness of healing services for pets, for one thing.) Say they:
These are signs of Christians weakening their best defense against activists on what constitutes the distinctiveness of humans.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ursula K. Le Guin on reading, art, and the Web

You can look at pictures or listen to music or read a book on your computer, but these artifacts are made accessible by the Web, not created by it and not intrinsic to it. Ursula K. Le Guin, "Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading," Harper's, January 2008, pp. 33-38. Quote is from p. 37.

Thanks for reading this, which, originally, did not come from the WWW.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ursula K. Le Guin's newest book

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the great authors currently writing in English. She uses words well, without being showy, or long-winded. She is interested in the craft of writing. She creates splendid characters. She imagines "what if?" situations, and writes about important themes. She is responsible for the invention of the concept of a communication device, the ansible, that is now commonly used in science fiction writing.

Le Guin was interviewed on National Public Radio's All Things Considered on April 26. The interview includes a brief reading from her book, Lavinia, by the author. It also describes the book, which is based on work by the ancient poet, Virgil. Le Guin said that the book is, in part, about the dreadfulness of war. The link to the interview goes to a page which includes an excerpt from the book. (Lavinia was published on April 21.)

Although written about the past, I am guessing that the book will be fantastic, in some ways.

Thanks for reading. Listen to Le Guin.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The most sexist verse in the Old Testament?

Here it is, after two verses to give it a little context:

Judges 5:28 “Out of the window she peered,
the mother of Sisera wailed through the lattice:
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariots?’
29 Her wisest princesses answer,
indeed, she answers herself,
30 ‘Have they not found and divided the spoil?—
A womb or two for every man;
spoil of dyed materials for Sisera,
spoil of dyed materials embroidered,
two pieces of dyed work embroidered for the neck as spoil?’ (ESV)

A womb or two for every man? Huh? So I checked the NIV, and the KJV. They don't use "womb." But a check of the original language, courtesy of the Blueletter Bible, indicates that there is a valid reason for the ESV translation.

So, this verse, part of a song celebrating God's help in delivering Israel, speaks of captive women as if they were wombs, not people. Wow!

I must remember the context. Judges 5 is a song of praise to God, attributed to Deborah and Barak, after they jointly led an attack against the army of Jabin of Hazor, which was led by Sisera. Part of what they are celebrating is the killing of Sisera by Jael, wife of one of the descendants of the father-in-law of Moses. So this is hardly the statement of an Old Testament male chauvinist -- it's being said by a woman, who led Israel (Judges 4:4), even in battle, and it includes celebration of a valiant act of war by a woman. It's possible that what Deborah and Barak were saying was that one of the reasons that Jabin's army was evil was the way they treated captive women. I don't know. I'm not sure that the Israelites didn't also treat them that way.

It is also doubtful that Deborah and Barak had any personal knowledge of what Sisera's mother, or her princesses, may have said. They may have made all that part up. However, these verses are part of the Bible, so must have some validity.

I noticed this passage as a consequence of following the ESV on-line Bible reading for a day in April.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Darwin on God's revelation in nature

The works of Charles Darwin have been placed on-line. I decided that I wanted to see an on-line copy of his most famous work, The Origin of Species. The following met my eye, on page ii of the work:

"But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this—we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws."

WHEWELL: Bridgewater Treatise.

"The only distinct meaning of the word 'natural' is stated, fixed or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once."

BUTLER: Analogy of Revealed Religion.

"To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both."

BACON: Advancement of Learning.

The above three quotes form almost all of the second page of the sixth edition of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. (1872)

I can only speculate as to why Darwin began this famous book in this way. I am not so thorough a scholar as to know the original source of any of these statements, or their contexts. But these quotations read as if Darwin:

1) Understood that a God who can establish general laws, which caused His creation to unfold in desired ways, is at least as wonderful as a God who intervenes in His creation over and over. (God could, of course, do both -- the quote doesn't say that, but I am.)

2) Believed that things we take for granted, like, say, photosynthesis or that three states of water can all exist at normal temperatures, are as wonderful as miracles, or more so.

3) Understood that learning about nature can be a way of learning about God.

No doubt I am reading a lot of myself into the above! I am not proposing that Darwin would have been comfortable with the Intelligent Design movement (much of which is not comfortable with Darwin) but that he seemed to understand that there might have been a Designer. I am uncomfortable with much of the Intelligent Design movement myself, but believe that there was and is an Intelligent Designer.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Expelled, the movie: two reviews

I have not seen Expelled, the documentary movie featuring Ben Stein, currently showing in theaters. I have read some reviews of it. Two reviews by Christians seem to be especially thorough.

The title of the movie suggests its purpose, namely to prove that the concept of Intelligent Design has been unfairly excluded from schools and academic discussion.

Higgaion and He Lives, in their reviews, agree on the following:
The Intelligent Design movement is not scientific, in spite of the movie. It has not been clearly defined, and has presented no experiments testing its basic premise.

The common claim, by the Intelligent Design movement, that ID is not religious in nature, is clearly refuted by the movie. (This claim is made to bolster the claim that ID has a place in public school science classes.) It is religious.

Intelligent Design has not been unfairly excluded from academia.

Higgaion refutes the claim, made in the movie, that Darwin's ideas led to Nazism. (I confess -- I used to claim that myself, years and years ago.)

He Lives (whose author is a physicist) concludes that many Christians, upon watching the movie (which seems to have been mostly marketed to Christians) will conclude that science is an enemy of the faith. It isn't.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sunspots 157

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

From The Onion: The U. S. Citizenry has agreed to stop talking about politics.

Slate on "How to really change your kid's behavior."

Slate also asks why we worry so much about relatively unimportant agents that might cause cancer (like cell phone use) rather than the important ones.

And, again from Slate, an essay on how incest is fairly common in nature .

From New Scientist, 24 misconceptions about evolution.

(or something) Wired on how flying still beats driving, in four different ways.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, April 21, 2008

The religious implications of the second law of thermodynamics

I have updated my web page on "the implications of the second law of thermodynamics."

The implications have to do with the resurrection, with human diet, and with a great deal more.

The second law of thermodynamics is one of the most important scientific laws, perhaps the most important one.

I have attempted to write the page indicated in such a way that a reasonably intelligent non-scientist can read it, and understand it. I have also attempted to include views that do not agree with my own.

Thanks for reading this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Christ, cursed by hanging on a tree.

Deuteronomy 21:22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— (both passages ESV)

A couple of thoughts. The most important one is that Christ was cursed for me. (And you.)

The second is that Paul seems to have been a lot looser with his quotation of the Old Testament than I would have expected. (Perhaps the original language is such that his was a more accurate quote. Perhaps not. But I'm not Paul, and I should be more careful.)

I noticed this passage as a consequence of following the ESV on-line Bible reading for a day in April.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 18, 2008

More on how we don't "Support our troops"

Reuters reports that a recent study indicates that about 18% of troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer serious emotional problems, which is bad enough. The really bad part is that about half of these don't receive any care for these problems. That's about 150,000 veterans needing and deserving care, but not getting it.

Once again, "support our troops," is a political slogan (used by persons of more than one political view) rather than a principle or policy. Whatever one thinks of the war, that would seem to be sad, bad, perhaps even hypocritical and cynical, on the part of the politicians.

A bipartisan group of U. S. Senators reacted to allegations that troops with war-related emotional problems have been discharged in such a way that they have been wrongly made ineligible for care by the Defense Department. (More on such charges, from a House member.) I don't know if these charges are true or not. I'm afraid that they are.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just Genes by Carol Isaacson Barash

I recently read a book on genetic technology. It had its flaws, but I found it to be interesting. Here are a couple of quotations from it:

. . . ethical debate, launched by Dolly and encouraged by science-fiction stories, has changed over the past decade. What didn't happen was the birth of a cloned child or widespread public demand for the use of cloning for human reproduction. Instead the debate is far more complex, rooted in the reality of scientific research, including a merging of the debate into the sphere of embryonic stem cell research. Nonetheless, and as is typical with demonstrated technologic advances, many of the questions about whether we should clone surfaced only after the appearance of Dolly, not before. Knowing that we can use cloning clearly raises deep questions about whether we ought to. And ought we at all? Or for some purposes not others? And soon we are immersed in a quagmire of ethical concerns. Science, however, is way in front of moral debate, which raises its own ethical concerns. Should science continue unchecked, because it can demonstrate what is and isn't feasible and thereby clearly frame our ethical concerns? Carol Isaacson Barash, Just Genes: The Ethics of Genetic Technologies. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008, pp. 190-191)

Critics, primarily those who question the validity and utility of the entire genome enterprise (human, vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant), contend that 47 million people in the United States have hardly any access to basic, let-alone sophisticated medical care. This population is unlikely to have access to customized medicine* if health care is delivered in a free market. Carol Isaacson Barash, Just Genes: The Ethics of Genetic Technologies . (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008, p. 129)
*Barash means treatment prescribed depending on the phenotype (expression of genes) of the recipient.

A couple of interesting thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sunspots 156

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

From David Heddle, practicing scientist: "I tell anyone who cares to ask either at the national lab I work at or at my university where I teach physics that I think the universe was intelligently designed by God. In fact, I have had many such discussions." Then, he goes on to indicate why he is unhappy with the Intelligent Design movement. (As am I .)

Carl Zimmer on how a species of clams comes from the sperm, not the egg. (You read that right!)

The film, Expelled, arguing that Intelligent Design should be taught in the public schools as a scientific alternative to evolution (I have not seen it, and probably won't) gets a bad review from Fox News. Variety didn't think much of it, either. New Scientist says: "Ultimately, the Discovery Institute's support may be the film's undoing. The institute has argued long and hard that ID is not about religion, yet in the film the connections are explicit. If challenged on this, the institute may have to distance itself from the film, discrediting Expelled in the process."

Whether you vote for him or not, here's a great story about John McCain and Mo Udall , Arizona politicians, one Republican, one Democrat, from back when McCain wasn't running for President.

Slate on the peculiarities of musical instruments, and also the people who make them, and perform on them.

Wired show us that someone at MIT has figured out how to turn computer virus attacks into works of art.

April 27 is Internet Evangelism Day.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Invisible in plain sight: a recurring theme in the works of Patricia A. McKillip

Patricia A. McKillip is a solid craftswoman of fantastic literature, and has been for over three decades. There's no sense of the occult in her works, and, seldom, great works of wizardry, causing disaster, or the reverse. Her characters usually face situations they don't fully understand, and the reader often feels that way, too. If that's the case, what makes her a great craftswoman? She uses words well, she knows how to create an atmosphere, and she knows how to describe life-changing experiences in her characters.

I have previously argued that rejection of vengeance is an important theme in many of McKillip's works. Another theme that occurs in some of her work is the importance of musical artistry. One of her books is named Harpist in the Wind, another Song for the Basilisk. These titles aren't accidents. Nor is that of "A Matter of Music," the longest story in her collection, Harrowing the Dragon. (New York: Ace, 2005). Another theme that occurs more than once is strange ancestry. In "A Matter of Music," even though the Jazi despise the Daghian people, some of the Jazi are part Daghian. In the Riddle-Master trilogy, Raederle is part Earth-Master. There are other examples of this in McKillip's writing.

It was while I was reading this collection that another of McKillip's themes occurred to me, that of the title. Her characters are often in plain sight, yet invisible to those around them. In "Ash, Wood, Fire," (in Harrowing) a kitchen helper in a castle is so invisible that the other workers in the kitchen have no name for her. Finally she leaves the kitchen. "Cooks, Sauces, Bakers milled bewilderedly, betrayed, calling, "Fire! Fire!" and never seeing her, while beside the door a young woman stood watching . . ." (185) This story is similar to the description of Saro in McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe. In "Transmutations," a wizard's apprentice hasn't seen his female co-apprentice in her other life as a servant at a tavern, even though he goes there all the time.

But it isn't always fellow workers who don't see McKillip's characters. In her "The Snow Queen," also in Harrowing, a man doesn't see his wife, who loves him deeply. He sees another woman: "To his eye she was alone; the importunate young lapdog beside her did not exist." (154) He leaves her, and she blossoms during the separation: "For a moment he did not recognize her; he had never seen her laugh like that." (172)

In another story in the same book, a destructive villain is destroyed and dissuaded because someone sees aspects of him that no one else has ever seen. ("The Stranger")

On reflection, some of McKillip's other works have this same theme. In her Riddle-Master trilogy, some wizards hide in plain sight for centuries. Nun is a pig-herder, Suth a wild animal, Aloil a tree. And the most important character, the High One, masquerades for centuries as harpist for a false High One.

This theme is important, because we have the same problems. Probably all of us have been invisible to someone else, even though we are in plain sight. And, worse, probably all of us have overlooked a co-worker, a spouse, a store clerk, a neighbor, when we should have seen them for what they are. I'm afraid I have.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On realness by Patricia A. McKilllip

The witch shrugged. "I have you now. You conjure firebirds out of your head. I'll have your magic out of you and then I'll change all my hens into firebirds."

"It won't be enough," Gyre told her softly. "It will never be enough. Not once you have heard its true voice and seen the face it hides. All the power I possess could not make out of all the white hens in the world a single feather of the firebird." (Patricia A. McKillip, In the Forests of Serre. New York: Ace Books, 2003, p. 178)

Ah yes. There is real, and there is unreal. The link with the book's title is to a more comprehensive post on the same book. Here's the Wikipedia article on McKillip.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Warfare in a theocracy

Deuteronomy 20:1 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3 and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4 for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’ 5 Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. 6 And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. 7 And is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.’ 8 And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.’ 9 And when the officers have finished speaking to the people, then commanders shall be appointed at the head of the people.

10 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. 11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. (ESV)

One application for today's Christians is that, as long as we are on God's side, we don't need to fear. I'm not saying that the rest of these rules of war apply to anyone now, because I'm not sure that they do. Verse 10 didn't even apply throughout the Old Testament. It seems to have only applied to cities not in the territory of the Israelites -- they were to kill the adults in cities in their territory. I noticed this passage as a consequence of following the ESV on-line Bible reading for a day in April.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Examples of person-to-person evangelism in the New Testament

I have posted a web page, comparing seven different examples of personal evangelism in the New Testament. Since Blogger doesn't seem to allow tables, and a table seemed to be the most sensible way to prepare this, I'm not placing the material on this blog.

I haven't posted this, or the accompanying web page, because I'm a great personal evangelist. I'm not.

My conclusions:
1) There was no set pattern.
2) The evangelists were all spiritually prepared. The Holy Spirit had also clearly prepared at least some of the people they evangelized, as well.
3) Baptism and follow-up were important.
4) None of these conversations started by warning about sin, or by telling of God's love. These approaches may have their place, but weren't used in any of these cases.
5) All of these conversations were with strangers. It's probably important to get to know someone, and win their trust, before leading them into belief, but it wasn't necessary in any of these cases.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On the cost of the Gulf War (Not the current one)

I was amazed to hear a report that stated that the US is paying about $12 billion (that's a thousand million) per month for veterans who became disabled because of the Gulf War, in which Iraq was driven back from Kuwait, by a broad coalition of military from several nations. (This was not the current Gulf War.) So I checked, and found this report, by CNN, that states that, indeed, in January 2003, there were 161,000 veterans receiving disability benefits because of their service in this war. (The report is not on this subject, but the statistic is included.)

A report says that we are paying 4.3 billion a year on personnel disabled in the first Gulf War, and cites the Veterans Benefit Administration as its source.

PRI's The World interviewed (scroll down to "Three trillion dollar war") Joseph Stiglitz, an economist, and he said that the current Iraq war will cost three trillion dollars, based, in large part, on estimates based on that same 4.3 billion a year for the first Gulf War, which, he said, was being spent on 40% of the veterans of that war, those who were disabled. These funds are not generally included in costs of the current war, but in costs of caring for veterans.

The Wikipedia article on the Gulf War states that, as of 2000, there were 183,000 veterans who were suffering from a disability, and that this was one-quarter of the total number of troops. I'm not sure why there is a discrepancy in both the number and the fraction disabled, but, unless both sources are seriously false, there are a lot more people who were disabled from the Gulf War than I had supposed, and the cost must be significant. If there are "only" 150,000 such (lower than either report gives) and the cost of treating each one, including medical personnel, record-keeping, prosthetics, physical therapy, surgery, counseling, facilities, medicine, disability support, etc., is only $2000 per month per person (which must be a low estimate) the cost would be $300 million per month, or 3.6 billion a year.

The current war may or may not have been justified. Continuing it may or may not be justified. But no one, including even politicians who oppose this war, seems to be talking about this aspect of the tremendous monetary cost. (And, of course, we don't seem to be giving our veterans very good care, in some instances. Besides which, none of this says anything about costs for caring for Iraqi civilians, or insurgents, or the Iraqi army.)

Perhaps others realized how many veterans can expect to be disabled, but I had no idea that the projected percentage was so high. War may be necessary some times, but it is a terrible event, at best.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"What Have You Changed Your Mind About?" pt. 7

I continue comments on Edge's "World Question" issue, which question is the same as my title. See the first part of this series, which gives some explanation, the second part, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth.

This page of the issue has short essays by several important authors. They include an amazing piece by one Stanislas Deheane, who says that another scientist has proposed that human brain function can be described by a single powerful mathematical equation, if I understand correctly. There is plenty of room for skepticism about that idea! Brian Goodwin believes that the mechanical approach to biology has serious limitations. Nicholas Carr argues that the Internet can become a means for centralized control, rather than a means of enhancing independence. Helena Cronin says that the reason males dominate the Nobel Prizes, and other such awards, is not because males are more intelligent, but because that the intelligence of males is more widely distributed than that of females. Hmmm.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sunspots 155

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

(or not so funny) Doonesbury on fiscal irresponsibility in the White House.

Diagrams and illustrations of how neurons (nerve cells) work, from the University of Toronto.

From National Geographic (and many others): Fossil human poop/dung/feces shed(s) light on how long humans have lived in North America.

Lets just use the title: "Sex and Financial Risk Linked in Brain," from Wired.

Slate on how the next President should fix US healthcare policy (or actually start us on the road to having one). The article says that up to 100,000 US residents may have died because of poor healthcare, which is a horrible scandal.

. . . the more writing I do, the more reluctant I am to analyse and deconstruct it. There’s a real element of navel-gazing in the way some writers discuss their own work, and I’m quite uncomfortable with that. I think many readers would be surprised at how much of what writers do is instinctive rather than carefully technical – the knack lies in getting the technical elements right without being too conscious of what you’re doing. Good advice for aspiring writers might be: learn the tools of your craft so well you don’t need to think about them, then let your imagination loose. Juliet Marillier, "Talking Heads," Writer Unboxed, April 3, 2008

Trinitarian theologians use the word perichoresis to describe the happy fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Their relationship is often pictured as a tireless and joyful divine dance.) From Christianity Today)

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"What Have You Changed Your Mind About?" pt. 6

I continue, after a long hiatus, comments on Edge's "World Question" issue, which question is the same as my title. See the first part of this series, which gives some explanation. Part 5 is here.

In one of the pages of this issue, Oliver Morton has changed his mind about the scientific importance of human space flight.

George Church's essay is about faith in science, and, which is a rarity in the issue, he also mentions religious faith. This is on the same page.

Two other essays that deal with faith are on the same page. Patrick Bateson's essay is about his "coming out" as an atheist, and Alan Alda's is about how he has not seen any evidence that there isn't a God (or that there is).

Also on the same page, Jonathan Haidt says that he has come to realize that team activities, such as sports, are really beneficial to the participants. Stephen Pinker argues that humans will continue to evolve.

Paul Davies says that he is not satisfied with the idea that the laws of physics just are what they are. He understands that they are extremely well-suited for the existence of life, and wonders why. He doesn't have a full explanation. (See Anthropic Principle.)

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Back to blogging more, perhaps

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been blogging much lately.

Some of you haven't noticed.

And then there is the vast majority of the blogosphere, who aren't aware that Sun and Shield exists . . .

Anyway, I've been working on our Flickr photos. I've been attempting to add family names to all the photos of flowering plants, and identify all the other organisms in the photos as well as possible. There were over 900 photos to check (not all of organisms to identify, though) and it took some time. Anyway, I've been impressed yet again with the diversity of God's creation. We must have one or more photos of at least 40 of the families of flowering plants.

As Psalm 104 puts it:
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. (ESV)

I've also been impressed with the Wikipedia as a way of finding out such information.

I've been reminded of how little I know about identifying mosses, ferns, and lichens. I'm going to work on that, God (and some good books) helping me.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

God's care for the tribes East of Jordan

Numbers 32:16 Then they came near to him and said, “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, 17 but we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place. And our little ones shall live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance. (ESV)

These are spokesmen for the tribe of Reuben, Gad, and part of the tribe of Manasseh, speaking to Joshua. They are volunteering to go and fight on the West side of the Jordan, while leaving their wives, their flocks, their children, and most of their possessions on the East side, in the land they have chosen for themselves, until the rest of the tribes have conquered the peoples inhabiting their inheritances. That's a remarkable statement they have made. God's provision for their wives, children, and flocks is even more remarkable. The wives and children must have done the work of caring for the animals, and God must have protected them from attack by enemies.

In Joshua 22, these fighters finally returned home, after they had helped subdue 31 different kingdoms. This commentary, by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, says that these conquests took seven years! Even allowing for the possibility that some or all of these men from the two and a half tribes may have gone back for brief periods from time to time, that was remarkable commitment on their part, and remarkable provision by God. (The seven years probably comes from Joshua 14, where Caleb, gives Joshua a chronology, in a speech.)

I noticed this passage as a consequence of following the ESV on-line Bible reading for a day in March. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sunspots 154

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

CNN reports that gray wolves are no longer officially endangered.

Henry Neufeld on Expelled, a new movie about Intelligent Design, featuring Ben Stein:
The problem for intelligent design is not that it hasn’t been considered
In fact, it hasn’t even truly been presented yet, and I don’t mean that the meanies in the educational establishment didn’t allow it a hearing. Rather, it simply has never presented a scientific program that could truly be tested. The ID crowd want something for nothing. They want to be regarded as purveyors of a scientific theory without doing the work. Some want their theory to be presented in high school, without going through the process of consensus building.

Wired says that Adobe has released a free version of Photoshop.

Wired interviews a Mozilla leader. Mozilla makes the Firefox browser, which I use, and the Thunderbird e-mail application.

From Office Watch: Word has a built-in calculator. The article tells how to find it.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)