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Friday, October 31, 2008

Green Bible released

A Green Bible, highlighting passages relating to environmental stewardship, and with essays on the topic, has been published, according to ABC News. The version is the New Revised Standard Version. Here's the website for the book.

Interesting. I haven't seen one yet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunspots 183

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

(or something, perhaps art?) Wired has a gallery of Star Wars-themed carved pumpkins.

Wired reports that it is possible to see black printed numbers in color, under hypnosis.

Wired also reports that Harvard scientists, using records made by Henry David Thoreau, have discovered that some of the plants that were around Walden Pond are no longer there, probably because of the warmer temperatures.

(with a little politics) Henry Neufeld on religion and politics. Sample: "Then there is the little slogan 'In God we Trust' on our money. Some think it’s a national motto. Actually it’s a national joke. We don’t actually trust in God. In financial affairs we trust least of all."

He Lives on giving your possessions to the poor.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog seminar on evolution and original sin

The blog, "An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution," is hosting a blog seminar (a new concept, so far as I know) on an article by George L. Murphy.

The article, which is 10 pages long, including references, in easily readable type, and in language which should be easily understood by a reasonably intelligent person (such as you) is freely available on-line. Murphy raises some fundamental questions about original sin and the Fall.

Thanks for reading. Read Murphy, and check out the seminar.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A good man

A former colleague of mine, Herbert Dongell, is to be buried today. The Greenville News obituary gives some of his academic accomplishments, and lists churches that he pastored, along with other details of his life.

Herb didn't leave a large on-line footprint. He didn't have a radio or TV ministry. He never got rich. But he was a good man. I suppose that his family, who knew him best, were sometimes annoyed by habits and characteristics that the rest of us knew nothing about. Perhaps his students saw weaknesses or tendencies that I never did. I did know that there were some aspects of his job, or of being a pastor, or on a committee, that he liked, and did well at, and others that he didn't like so much. But, to me, and, I think, to most of us who saw him as a colleague and friend, or as a pastor, or teacher, he was a humble, good, godly, holy man, who happened to also be intelligent and articulate. I think of Romans 2:7, which says that some people seek a heavenly reward by "patience in well-doing" (ESV). That was Herbert Dongell. He showed us that it is possible to live a godly life.

Did he achieve an eternal reward because he was good? Of course not. The passage doesn't say that people get an eternal reward because they patiently do well. It says that they show evidence of seeking it by behaving that way. Herbert Dongell's reward is because he believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as paying for his sins. Christ paid for that reward. Herbert Dongell couldn't.

God's best to his family and friends, now and in the days to come.

Thanks for reading.

Paul on what caused the current financial crisis

1 Timothy 6:9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (ESV)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barack Obama is the antichrist?

Twice, in the last week, I've received digital communications claiming that Barack Obama, the current Democratic candidate for President in the U.S., is the antichrist (or anti-Christ, or however you spell it).

I have already posted on the dangers, even sinfulness, of passing on some of the political rumors making the rounds at this time of the political year. I'll repeat. The Bible says that slander is a sin. Some of the stuff being put forth, and not all against Obama, and not all in nationwide politics, is slander.

But Obama as the anti-Christ? In one of the two cases I mentioned, it's worse than slander.

Here's a quote from a forwarded e-mail message I got a few days ago:
How long is the beast allowed to have authority in Revelations?

Revelations Chapter 13 tells us it is 42 months, and you
know what that is. Almost a four-year term of a Presidency.

All I can say is "Lord, Have mercy on us!"

According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is:
The anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive
the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything.

Well, I agree with one thing. "Lord, have mercy on us!"

The word, antichrist, does not occur in the book of Revelation at all. Evil entities that are found there include one or more beasts, and false prophets. But use of an on-line Bible search shows that "antichrist" is found only four times in the Bible, and only in 1 John and 2 John. Here are the relevant texts, from a more modern version, the ESV:
1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
1John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Note that this is John writing, probably the same John who wrote Revelation, so he could have used that word, if he wanted to, but he didn't.

As to the antichrist being in his 40s? Where does it say that? I cannot find that in Revelation.

Promising peace? Where is that found? The word, "peace" does not occur in Revelation after 6:4, which is talking about the four horsemen, who are taking away the world's peace. There's no promise of a false peace in the entire book.

Of Muslim descent? Where is that found? There were no Muslims until Mohammed came along, over 500 years after Christ's death, which, of course, was long after Revelation was written, too.

And what does forty-two months have to do with being President? To say nothing of the fact that Obama may not be elected such, anyway.

(The rest of the quoted paragraph may agree with Revelation 13, which is talking about one or two beasts. I would point out, however, that not only Obama, but many other politicians, such as Sarah Palin, for one, have massive appeal and use persuasive language.)

The book of Revelation does say this:
22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

I wouldn't want to have begun, or circulated, an e-mail that seems to do exactly what John warned about, namely add to the prophecy of the book.

There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about Senator Obama, such as disagreeing with his stated policies, not trusting his judgment, questioning his experience, wondering about his past associations, doubting the sincerity of his Christian faith, or being afraid of what he might do if he becomes President. Even being a loyal Republican is a legitimate reason to oppose his candidacy. (Similar reasons exist for being concerned about McCain.) It is possible that one of the two of them might be the antichrist, I guess. But to claim that Barack Obama is the antichrist, and, worse, to falsely claim that Revelation says he is, is illegitimate, and seriously dangerous.

I'm old enough to remember when Hitler, Stalin, and Henry Kissinger were accused of being the antichrist. Napoleon, and one or more popes, were accused of that before my lifetime. A little Google searching shows that modern figures, including George W. Bush, John McCain, and even Sarah Palin have been so accused. My guess is that there will be other proposed candidates, from time to time, if Christ doesn't return soon.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sunspots 182

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

The October newsletter from James Dobson, of Focus on the Family. Whatever you may think of Dr. Dobson, and whether or not you agree with his politics, it's strange that, at the end of eight pages telling readers why they should vote against Obama-Biden, and for McCain-Palin, the newsletter closes with "This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for noncomercial and nonpolitical purposes without prior permisson from Focus on the Family Action." (color emphasis added) There seems to be no reason, other than political, why one would reproduce the newsletter. Nor do I understand why, in a newsletter that is otherwise well-produced, there are two words in the quoted sentence that are spelled incorrectly.

CNet on security problems with various methods of voting.

(sort of) The Bad Haiku site.

The editor of Christianity Today believes that there will be animals in heaven, and that we should treat animals better than we often do.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tolkien and George MacDonald, from Clyde S. Kilby

From Tolkien & The Silmarillion, by Clyde S. Kilby. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1976.

In order to comment on this story [Tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major] it is necessary for me to remark once again that while I was with him Tolkien frequently fired verbal cannonades at George MacDonald. Someone had asked Tolkien to consider writing an introduction to a book on MacDonald and he had for that reason gone back to read again some of his works. He said that he had found MacDonald terrible and his broadside criticism of him implied that nothing he had written was worthwhile. I asked Tolkien if Smith of Wootton Major referred to MacDonald. No, he said, his aversion had only been the "explosion" that started him off on the story, no more. (pp. 36-7) Kilby believed that Tolkien had meant Nokes, the unimaginative baker, was meant to be MacDonald.

There is no doubt in my mind that, whatever this story may satirically say of MacDonald, and in spite of Tolkien's several severe attacks on him in my presence, Tolkien was as I have already said, clearly indebted to MacDonald. For instance, there are at least a dozen places in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings that are reminiscent of The Princess and Curdie. The most striking of them is the parallel rehabilitation of the king of Gwyntystorm and King Theoden in The Two Towers after a close "friend" in the palace had almost destroyed him. (p. 39)

Kilby, who was a professor of literature at Wheaton College, spent some time with J. R. R. Tolkien in the 1960s (before Tolkien's son, Christopher, brought The Silmarillion to publication).

For more on George MacDonald, see here. On Tolkien, here.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Quintessence of Dust on Behe's _Edge of Evolution_

Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box was an important book. Behe, a practicing scientist, proposed that some cellular mechanisms are too complex to have been brought about by unassisted natural selection. This book was the most important scientific work put forth by the Intelligent Design movement. Since publication, Behe's claims have been mostly, or entirely refuted -- there are reasonable explanations for each of his examples, involving only natural selection.

Quintessence of Dust has posted a few times on Michael Behe's more recent The Edge of Evolution, and he hasn't been very kind to Behe. He claims that Behe's science has been sloppy, at best. However, QofD, in his most recent post, proposes that Behe's hypothesis, namely that not only natural selection, but some occasional intelligent intervention, in the historical development of organisms, is a legitimate one, and can be tests. QofD outlines how such testing might be done. It would be a major research undertaking. Laboratory research, that is. QofD's author, in fact, offers to help in such a project.

Although QofD's analysis concludes that The Edge of Evolution does put forth a legitimate hypothesis, he says that Behe has scarcely touched on it in the book.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Figs in the Bible

figs on tree
Figs on a fig tree, one green, one dead ripe

It recently occurred to me that figs are mentioned in the Bible in a number of places, and in a number of ways. I am listing some of them, with annotation, in this post.

The first mention, of course, is that Adam and Eve are said to have made themselves garments of fig leaves, after the Fall, in Genesis 3:7.

In Numbers 13:23, the twelve spies, including Caleb and Joshua, brought back figs as part of their evidence that the land of Israel was fruitful.

Abigail pacified David's righteous anger with a gift of food, including figs.

I Kings 4:25 uses the idea of people sitting under their vine and fig tree as a way to describe peace. So do other passages. Jeremiah uses the loss of the fig harvest as a way to emphasize what enemies would do. In another passage, he uses a lack of a fig harvest as a way to describe spiritual poverty. Jeremiah, in chapter 24, uses spoiled versus good figs as a way to describe God's salvation, and also punishment, of the Israelites.

Isaiah used a cake of dried figs as a cure for a medical problem to heal someone. Isaiah also used leaves falling from a fig tree as a way of describing the end times.

Hosea uses the first harvest of figs from a planting to describe the former spiritual loyalty of the people of Israel.

In his prophecy of the locusts coming on Israel, Joel mentions damage to the figs as one of the kinds of destruction that is coming on them.

In Habakkuk 3, one of the great chapters in the Bible, the prophet says:
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19a God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.

In Matthew 7:16, Jesus says that we shall know people's loyalty to Him by the fruit they produce. Thistles, he says, don't give us figs. Later, James presents the same idea.

In Matthew 21, Jesus demonstrates his authority and God-hood by causing a fig tree to wither and die.

In Matthew 24, Jesus tells the disciples about the end times, and uses the sequence of events in fig tree seasonal growth to illustrate that there will be signs of these events.

One of the parables in Luke 13 tells about how God gives people a chance to follow Him, but, if they don't, they will be destroyed like an unfruitful fig tree would be.

In John 1, Jesus tells Nathanael that he saw him before they met, when Nathanael was under his fig tree.

Lastly, in Revelation, the stars are said to fall, like ripe figs fall from tree in the wind.

So figs are mentioned quite a bit in the Bible. So are grapes, and other crops. Maybe I'll consider them later.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008


figs on tree
Figs on a tree

The Wikipedia says that there are about 850 species of figs. However, in another article, it also says that the plant that we use is the common fig, Ficus carica. Most of my knowledge of this plant comes from that article.

Figs have been cultivated by humans since about 9,000 B. C., and may have been the earliest cultivated plants. The first evidence for this comes from the Gilgal archaeological site, which is near Jericho.

Figs may be eaten as they are, or made into jam or preserves, or dried. They don't keep well for transport, so are often sold as dried figs. One form of dried figs is fig newtons.

The fruit is sweet, all right. Nearly 48% of a fig's weight is carbohydrate. The good news is that less than 1% is fat. The fruit is almost 10% fiber, by weight. They are a good source of Calcium and flavonols. As some of you probably know, they have a laxative effect.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of fig life is the way in which fig flowers are fertilized. In the first place, what we think of as a fig fruit hides the flowers, which were, presumably, inside the green fig shown above in the photo. So how are they fertilized? There are wasps, fig wasps, which live inside these fruit/flowers, and move from one to another, pollinating as they goes. In fact, the Wikipedia on fig wasps says that we may be eating wasps when we eat figs. Apparently the wasps are very small. For more on this topic, including photos, see here.

There are videos, from PBS, available here, and here (several segments of an originally longer video). I am not clear as to whether the fig shown in these videos are the figs we grow and eat.

This post is on many of the times figs are mentioned in the Bible.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

All things to all people?

Nobody thinks exactly like anyone else. If they do, one of them is redundant. Nonetheless, of course, there are similarities in people's ways of thinking, be the people grouped as "conservative," "professional," "Hispanic," "retired," "college students," or in some other grouping.

Paul, the Apostle, challenged us to reach all sorts of people. As he said:
1 Corinthians 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (ESV)

Paul was right. I need to reach out to people who aren't a lot like me.

But I think Paul may have been exaggerating. All things to all people? Not quite. Paul had probably never had the care of one or more little children. To state the obvious, he had never been a woman. He had not yet been aged and infirm. And, possibly most important, he had never been ignorant. I suppose that he could understand these types of people fairly well, but he had never truly walked in their shoes. Could he reach them? I'm sure he did.

I can't truly become someone I'm not. I'll never be African-American, or a woman, or Hispanic, for example. I hope I'll never be addicted to some drug, medicinal or otherwise. But I can do my best to understand people who are women, who are of an ethnic background different than mine, or who are or have been drug addicts, and love them for Christ.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sunspots 181

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

Wired has a report on virgin birth (really!) in sharks.

Also from Wired: an ecosystem consisting of a single species.

A man who has had a new hand transplanted onto his arm has some feeling in it!

This is really about science -- psychology, to be exact -- not politics: Slate on why Senator McCain got booed at his own rally, for saying that Senator Obama was a decent person who disagreed with him.

Jan has written a few haiku, describing the nationally televised political debates, and invites readers to add their own.

A Reasonable Imagination says that the use of hyperlinks can contribute to stupidity. The post is here. Sorry!

He Lives on the significance of the Tree of Life.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's all about winning

Clemson University, which is the big-time sports school closest to where I live, fired its head football coach, Tommy Bowden, today. (Or, possibly, he resigned.)

Why do most major colleges have a football program? There are several possible benefits. A football program can attract students, including non-athletes. A football program can provide a way to experience higher education for students who might not have such a privilege otherwise. It provides visibility with the public. It enhances alumni and community interest and loyalty. It generates revenue.

All of these, however, are usually subservient to winning. Clemson was ranked in the top ten in the country before the season started. Whatever that means! One thing it means is that there are high expectations. The expectations were not meant. If you, by chance, are a Clemson football fan, you know all about the current record. If you aren't, you probably don't care about this topic at all, or at least you don't care about the details. Suffice it to say that Clemson is 3-3 on the season, with two of those victories against much weaker opponents. That wasn't enough winning. Bowden announced, a couple of days ago, that his starting quarterback would not start the next game. That wasn't enough change, apparently.

Tommy Bowden is said to be a Christian, and there is good evidence that he is, even though he made at least one decision that Christians might question. (See under Sports, in this previous post.) Can a Christian participate, as a player, trainer, cheerleader, coach, or official, in big-time sports? Of course. But, as in all endeavors, even church, we must be careful to put the first things first. Winning isn't everything. Following Christ is. Sometimes that means games won, sometimes not. Sometimes it means more people in church, bigger buildings, fancier worship programs, sometimes not.

Tommy Bowden couldn't go out there and block for his team. He couldn't catch some of the balls that were dropped. He has now been dropped himself. God's best, whatever it is, to him and his team. I have never attended a game he coached, but have watched several of them. (Having at least $4,000,000 in severance pay will help to cushion the blow, I'm sure.)

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Wrath of the Lamb

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (ESV)

There are a lot of things about Revelation that aren't clear to me. They aren't clear to a lot of other people, either, although some of them understand more than I do. One thing that is clear is that the Lamb is Jesus Christ, Messiah and Son of God.

The passage says that the Lamb has wrath. (The KJV and NIV agree on that phrase.) How is it that the meek, mild teacher of Galilee can have wrath?

I don't have all of the answers, but I shall muse about this.

What is wrath? The Free Dictionary says this:
wrath . . . n.
1. Forceful, often vindictive anger. See Synonyms at anger.
2. a. Punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger.
b. Divine retribution for sin.

Anger is defined thus: "A strong feeling of displeasure or hostility."

Wrath, then, is strong anger acted out.

The word, wrath, is found over 200 times in the Bible. It seldom indicates that it is specifically the Son who is wrathful, but sometimes it does. The first clear indication of God's wrath, although the word is not used, and the role of the Lamb is not made clear, is in Genesis 2:16-17, where Adam (Eve hasn't appeared yet) is warned that he will die if he eats the fruit of the Tree of Life. It is possible that God's wrath was responsible for the state of the earth in Genesis 1:2, but there is disagreement about that. Eventually, Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, punished by God's wrath for their disobedience.

God was displeased with mankind in the time of Noah, and sent a flood to destroy all of the humans except Noah's family. God was angry with Pharaoh, in the time of Moses, and sent disaster after disaster upon Egypt, finally drowning Pharaoh and his army. God was displeased, over and over, with the protracted deliberate disobedience of the Israelites, and sent occupying powers to their country, over and over again, and finally allowed them to be taken into a 70-year exile.

Jesus asked the crowds that came to hear him, particular the Jewish religious leaders, "Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come." (Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:7)

He was angry at the commerce conducted in the Temple, according to Matthew 21 and Mark 11. Both passages also tell about Jesus not finding figs on a fig tree, and commanding it to wither and die, which it soon did. Mark says that it was not even fig season. Why did Jesus do this? Probably as a sign of His authority.

The word, "wrath," is used about God's wrath ten times in Revelation, with 6:16 the only place where it is the wrath of the Lamb, specifically, but presumably God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all angry about human disobedience.

In Revelation 20, the writer describes final judgment, carried out by God. His ultimate wrath. I don't want to experience that. Commentaries by John Wesley, Matthew Henry, and Robert Jamieson agree that the judge will be Christ. More important, so does Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (See also 2 Thessalonians 1.)

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Bible and the Global Warming petition

I saw a brief excerpt from a political rally, featuring Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, on a TV news program a few days ago. When global warming was mentioned, at least some people in the crowd booed loudly. Palin apparently expected this reaction. I sometimes get e-mails or other indications from fellow Christians, questioning global warming, which usually means that they doubt that humans have, or can, influence climate. Sometimes, they even doubt that global temperatures are increasing.

Perhaps the most obvious questioning of the validity of human effects on climate is the Global Warming Petition Project, which claims that there:
". . . is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the forseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." (All web sources in this document were consulted on October 9th, 2008. I expect that there will be additional signatures on the Global Warming Petition, and other changes in the information given below, as time passes.)

The Project says that 31,072 American scientists have signed the petition. Less than one-third of these have an earned doctorate, according to the petition's own web site. There doesn't seem to be a breakdown by academic field. There is a breakdown by state. There are 351 signers who are from South Carolina. I am from South Carolina, so I am especially interested in that state. The SC State Climatology Office has five persons on its staff. None of them have signed. The Natural Science Faculty of Bob Jones University, a conservative Christian institution which is in South Carolina, has sixteen faculty listed, apparently none with degrees in climate or weather studies. Of these, the chair (who has a doctorate in analytical chemistry) and other faculty have signed, including a microbiologist with a Ph. D., a field biologist with a Ph. D, and a person whose highest degree is a bachelor's in broadcast engineering from BJU*, making 25% of the listed faculty. Is petition-signing a religious right conspiracy of some sort? If so, it's not very effective. I checked Liberty University. That school has no weather-related department, but there are 22 faculty in the combined biology-chemistry unit. Of these, none have signed the petition. I also checked a Southern Baptist college from South Carolina. 2 of their 19 faculty had signed the petition. Both had a Ph. D. in chemistry.

Neither Clemson University (in South Carolina) or the University of South Carolina have a department of climate or weather studies, so far as I can determine, and I didn't check their faculties against the list. Nor does Georgia or the University of North Carolina. So I looked at Florida. 1502 persons from Florida signed the petition. Florida State University has a meteorology department, with 16 faculty. None of them have signed the petition.

There aren't many scientists with advanced degrees in meteorology, and not many academic departments in that subject, at all. Apparently few, if any, academics with credentials in climate and weather studies have signed the petition. Scientists with degrees in other types of science, including many without advanced degrees, and a few whose academic credentials in the sciences are suspect, probably make up the vast majority of signers.

From the Wikipedia article:
The text of the petition is often misrepresented: for example, until recently the petition's website stated that the petition's signatories "declare that global warming is a lie with no scientific basis whatsoever."[4] The two-paragraph petition used the terms catastrophic heating and disruption , not "global warming." The original article associated with the petition . . . defined "global warming" as "severe increases in Earth's atmospheric and surface temperatures, with disastrous environmental consequences".[5] This differs from both scientific usage and dictionary definitions, in which "global warming" is an increase in the global mean atmospheric temperature[6][7] without implying that the increase is "severe" or will have "disastrous environmental consequences." (emphasis and links in the original)

The McCain-Palin campaign page does not explicitly say that humans contribute to climate change, but it assumes it. The page has a plan for mitigating emission of greenhouse gases. The GOP platform says explicitly that climate change is caused by human activity ("The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.") Sarah Palin is on record as doubting, or denying, that humans are responsible, for climate change. This, of course, is not the first time that a national candidate has disagreed with a running mate, or with the party platform, on all sorts of issues.

Why is there such widespread doubt of the conclusions of scientific experts, who say that humans have and are contributing to climate change? I am not sure of all of the reasons. One reason, I suspect, is the involvement of Al Gore, who was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2000, in this field. (He won a Nobel Prize for his involvement.) A lot of Republicans, and others, don't much like Mr. Gore. (Many people do, of course!) Ideally, it doesn't matter who is responsible for bringing a message, but what should matter is whether the message is valid, but it doesn't always work that way.

Another reason, of course, is that we usually don't want to hear bad news, if that news means that we will have to change our habits and thinking. Doing something about global warming would also mean changes in many industries.

What does the Bible have to do with all this?
Well, in the first place, some Christians believe that Revelation 16:8-9 may refer to global warming. Maybe. It's difficult to know what just about any particular passage in Revelation means.

Second, some Christians invoke Genesis 8:22, part of God's promise to Noah, that day and night, and the seasons, would continue, as meaning that there can be no global warming. But that verse doesn't say that the seasons will always be identical. There is considerable evidence of an ice age, although perhaps that was before the time of Noah. There was apparently a Little Ice Age since the time of Christ. There have been times in the past, in various parts of the world, when the climate was significantly warmer than usual for that area, or colder, or drier, or wetter. The passage doesn't rule out times when it will get warmer than we are used to.

Third, and, I believe, most important, some Christians reject science in general, as anti-God. Although the charge is not without some foundation, it is an oversimplification, at best, and short-sighted and unbiblical.

Why an oversimplification? Because many important scientists, from, say, Copernicus through Francis Collins, head of the US human genome project, have been believers.

Why short-sighted? Because rejecting scientific findings unnecessarily alienates potential followers of Christ. "If they are so wrong about the science, why should they be right about salvation?"

Why unbiblical? Because God reveals Himself in more than one way, according the the Bible. Psalm 19:1-4 tells us that God is revealed through nature, which means that scientific findings can tell us something of God's nature and power. Romans 1 says: "20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (ESV, which version allows quotation for uses such as this, if properly cited.) Does that mean that scientists are always right? Of course not. There was a time, in the previous century, when the scientific consensus was that genes were made of protein, not DNA. That was wrong. Scientists have made other mistakes, and will continue to make some. But that doesn't mean that consensus science should be rejected out of hand. It's usually right, and its findings are part of God's revelation to us. Mistakes have been made, and will be made, in the interpretation of the Bible, too. That doesn't mean that we should ignore it. The Bible is always right, and our understanding of it usually is.

Am I absolutely certain that there is real global warming, and that humans are partly or entirely causing it? No. But the overwhelming consensus of scientists in the field, around the world, is that there is, and that we are acting such as to accelerate it. Christians, and others, should take the warnings about global warming seriously. We have responsibility, under God, for the world around us, and for the well-being of our own offspring.

*This statement, based on Bob Jones University's own web site, is not meant to disparage that institution, or this particular faculty member. I have no advanced degree in physics, but taught that subject at two accredited institutions of higher education, as justified by my experience in the field. This experience was accepted by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting agency,for both of these institutions. Probably this faculty member is a similar situation, and has significant experience not indicated by his degree. Or it is possible that BJU has included broadcast engineering in their science department. But I should not be taken as seriously as an expert on physics. Or at least not as seriously as a person with an advanced degree in the field would be. It wouldn't seem that a person with a bachelor's in broadcast engineering as his highest degree would have anything very authoritative to say about climate change, either.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sunspots 180

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

A hilarious video (non-political, in any sense I can think of) of a Southern pastor, telling a PG or G rated story about a husband and wife with some zipper problems.

Carl Zimmer on the genetics of human intelligence, published in Scientific American. Bottom line: no genes with major effects on intelligence have been discovered yet.

Christianity Today on why pastors shouldn't dabble (or major) in politics.

Newsweek poses 21 moral questions that the writer thinks presidential and vice-presidential candidates should answer.

I have discovered a new blog. One of Mr. Velarde's posts is on how C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien disagreed about the meaning and significance of marriage.

Image source (public domain)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Perhaps you are a liberal, and don't know it . . .

''. . . if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a liberal, then I'm proud to say that I'm a liberal.” John F. Kennedy, speaking before the New York State Liberal Party, Sept 14, 1960.

This seems quite compatible with the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Why was there a Garden of Eden?

He Lives has raised a question that, I confess, is new to me. It shouldn't have been. That's why I read his blog.

The question is this. If there was no death, even of animals, before the Fall, was that true over the entire earth, or just in the Garden of Eden?

If your answer is "over the whole earth," then what, if anything, was special about the Garden of Eden? Why was there such a place, and what else was special about it?

That's a good question. Heddle's answer is that there was, indeed, death of animals before the Fall, but that the Garden of Eden was a place that was protected from that.

I'm not sure that I buy this answer, but I don't have a better one. One reason I'm not fully convinced is that David Snoke has argued that, when Adam was warned about eating from the Tree of Life, Adam had seen animal death. If he hadn't seen it, it would have been difficult for him to understand the warning. I'm not sure that that is true, either, of course. But if He Lives is correct, then presumably Adam wouldn't have seen death before the warning in Genesis 2.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Carl Zimmer muses on parasitism

Spontaneous generation was the best explanation for parasites, given the evidence at hand. But, it was also a profound heresy. The Bible taught that life was created by God in the first week of creation, and every creature was a reflection of His design and His beneficence. Everything that lived today must descend from those primordial creatures, in an unbroken chain of parents and children -- nothing could later come squirting into existence thanks to some vital, untamed force. If our own blood could spontaneously generate life, what help did it need from God back in the days of Genesis?
The mysterious nature of parasites created a strange, disturbing catechism of its own. Why did God create parasites? To keep us from being too proud, by reminding us that we were merely dust. How did parasites get into us? They must have been put there by God, since there was no apparent way for them to get in by themselves. Perhaps they were passed down through generations within our bodies to the bodies of our children. Did that mean that Adam, who was created in purest innocence, came into being already loaded with parasites? Maybe the parasites were created in him after his fall. But wouldn't this be a second creation, an eighth day added on to the first week. . . Well, then, maybe Adam was created with parasites after all, but in Eden parasites were his helpmates. They ate the food he couldn't fully digest and licked his wounds clean from within. But why should Adam, created not only in innocence but in perfection, need any help at all? Here the catechism seems to have finally fallen apart. Carl Zimmer, Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures (New York: Free Press, 2000, p. 5)

See here for Zimmer's blog.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Not a Shock

Congratulations (grudgingly -- I didn't much admire Bill Laimbeer, their coach, when he played for the NBA Detroit Pistons) to the Detroit Shock of the Women's National Basketball Association, who won the league championship today.

The Shock played hard. Laimbeer and his staff are good coaches. With one starter injured, and unable to play, and another one who probably shouldn't have because of an injury, the team swept the San Antonio Silver Stars in three games. Katie Smith, who has more career points than any other U. S. women's pro player, was a brilliant shooter, and was great on defense, too. Deanna Nolan was also splendid at both ends. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who was acquired to fill in the gaps caused by injury, and will soon be 38 years old, played effectively on offense and defense. At the end of the game, she honored her husband, who, she said, has supported her through a career that hadn't included a championship, and has included playing for some pretty discouraging teams.

Thanks for reading.

Isaiah: some thoughts on origins, 2

Isaiah 45:18a 18 For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!) (ESV)

Here God indicates, through the prophet Isaiah, that He purposefully made the earth as a habitation for creatures, including, humans, or maybe He is speaking just of humans here.. This relates to what is called the anthropic principle.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Parasitism, again

Indian pipe flowers

This is a photo of Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora.

Indian Pipe is a flowering plant, and there are flowers on the plant in this photo. Almost all flowering plants have chlorophyll, a green pigment. This plant does not, and it does not carry out photosynthesis. Hence, it needs to get its energy some way. The Wikipedia article on the plant says that it is a parasite, living on underground fungi, which surprised me. Fungi are often parasites on flowering plants. Well, why not the reverse, once in a while?

We found this along a hiking trail in the Beaverhead National Forest, in Montana, USA.

Thanks for reading, and looking.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Is Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion a Christian novel?

Lois McMaster Bujold is an important author of fantastic literature. She has won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. She has written both science fiction and fantasy literature. I recently read her The Curse of Chalion (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) a fantasy novel. There are miracles, there are no spaceships, the weapons are swords and spears, and there is no explicit real location in the book. In this post, I attempted to summarize the novel. See here for the Wikipedia article on it.

The title of this post asks whether The Curse of Chalion is a Christian novel. In order to answer that question, I need to know what makes a novel Christian. Over three years ago -- a long time in blog years -- in a fit of near-hubris, I attempted to answer that question. My answer was complex, and not completely satisfying, even to me. Others certainly might have good reason to disagree with me. There are several insightful comments, some of them from practicing Christian authors. (Of books, that is, not blogs.)

All that being said, I apply my own flawed instrument to the question. I proposed these criteria, in the characters and/or plot:
1) A Christ-figure.
2) Belief in important Christian doctrine.
3) Praying to a monotheistic divine being.
4) Expressing a relationship with God.
5) Consciousness of supernatural guidance.
6) Explicit rejection of personified evil.

1) Is there a Christ-figure in Curse? It depends, of course, on what is meant by a Christ-figure. I believe that Cazaril is such a figure. He willing offers himself to die to keep Iselle, the young lady he tutors and is responsible for, from marriage to an evil man. He also willingly sacrifices himself to keep a young man, a fellow galley slave, from being punished or killed. Cazaril could have died in both of these situations, and, in fact, he appears to have been saved from death in both of these cases by divine intervention. Or, actually, in both these cases, and another one, Cazaril is resurrected.
2) Is there belief in important Christian doctrine? (Such as, for example, the trinity, or substitutionary atonement) I didn't see such.
3) There is prayer, by several characters, including Cazaril. These characters clearly believe that their prayers could be answered. In some cases, they are answered. However, there's a problem. The prayers are not to a single God. As this Wikipedia article details, there are five deities in Bujold's sub-creation. That's four too many.
4) With the same caveat as for the previous item, there are characters who know that they have some sort of relationship with one of the deities. There are at least five such characters, including Cazaril.
5) Cazaril is conscious of supernatural guidance. In fact, this may be said to be the main theme of the book -- does Cazaril have the capacity to choose to disobey that guidance? He does not seem to have ever disobeyed it, and the question of whether he could have is not clearly answered, at least to me. There are discussions about the matter between the characters.
6) Cazaril, and other characters, reject evil, as personified especially in the dy Jironal brothers. Cazaril is presented with important moral choices. He rejects lucrative offers to betray Iselle, his pupil and ward. He tries to help people he doesn't have to help. He cares for others, and loves them unselfishly.

So, in summary, is The Curse of Chalion a Christian novel? Not quite, I'm afraid. The five-fold god theology makes that impossible. But it's a good book, and it gives an example of a main character, and some others, who seem to be wholly unselfish, without being preachy or unreal. I'm glad I read it, and I expect to read it again. There are two more books written about the same setting, and I expect to read them, too. Thank you, Ms. Bujold!

I have also written posts on specific works of fantastic literature, including novels by Patricia McKillip, Elizabeth Moon (here and here), J. K. Rowling and Juliet Marillier, attempting to ask the same question about them. For these works, at least, I have not come to a firm conclusion, but I believe that the attempt was of use, at least to me. I found important Christian elements in works by all of these writers, including Marillier, who is a self-confessed Druid.

An on-line listing of important authors of fantastic fiction, giving information about their religious affilation, does not list Marillier, McKillip, Moon, or even Rowling. In my opinion, all of these are important enough to be added, but it's not my web page. The author does list Bujold, but is not aware of information on her religious affiliation. I have none, either.

Thanks for reading.

On October 5th, I corrected some ambiguity in point 5 of my discussion of the novel.

* * * * *

On April 2, 2009, E Stephen Burnett wrote an essay, asking questions about how far a Christian author could go in writing fiction which has a God who is significantly different from the Christian God, and whether a Christian could legitimately create a fictional character who is in defiance of God. I posted tentative answers to these questions, which are related to the subject of the post above, on April 13, 2009.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sunspots 179

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

(Sort of) An artist has built a temple for science, sort of, says Wired (with some photos).

A Wired article claims, with good reason, that the water availability crisis is what the next President really should be thinking about.

Wired reports that two physicists say that sliding into a base head-first is faster than feet first.

Henry Neufeld distinguishes between presuppositions and assumptions, among other things.

Scott on taking communion -- how's our attitude?

Bonnie on what the Kingdom of God is really about.

Image source (public domain)