I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it. If you give me credit, thanks. If not, OK.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sunspots 717

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

USA Today reports on what Southern Baptist leaders want done to stop their sexual abuse crisis.

Threads from Henry's Web has a solid post on how Christians should respond to the Pledge of Allegiance, and related matters.

Christianity Today
on how parents should deal with their children's doubts.

Computing: Gizmodo reports that Facebook employees who are supposed to weed out conspiracy theories, violent posts, and the like, are underpaid, and that their jobs affect their mental health adversely. They apparently joke about committing suicide and engage in sexual activity on breaks, as ways of coping.

Education: NPR reports on the large discrepancy between funding of mostly white school districts vs. mostly non-white ones, and explains the reasons for this.

Environment: National Geographic reports that a mammalian species has gone extinct, because of climate change.

Food: A Relevant article says that leftover pizza may make a better breakfast, nutrition-wise, than some cereals. Hmmm.

(And politics) Gizmodo reports that a "soda tax" seems to have worked, in Berkeley, CA. That is, taxing carbonated and sweetened drinks did change people's behavior.

Health: Scientific American reports that listing all the side effects of a drug may actually make it more desirable to listeners, viewers or readers.

WalletHub has studied us, and ranks the most sinful to least sinful states. The methodology is given, too. Nevada is the most sinful. It was the highest state in Greed, 3rd highest in Jealousy, and 6th highest in Lust. Vermont was the least sinful state.

NPR reports that growing up with access to green areas contributes to a healthier life.

Gizmodo reports that the death rate from drug overdoses is considerably higher in the US than in other nations.

Politics: Surprise (or not)! The Trump administration is apparently going to appoint a climate-change denier (who is not trained in climate science) to chair a committee to study global climate change, according to Earther.

Catherine Rampell on President Tariff Man, er, Trump.

Science: NPR reports that an Italian lab is experimenting with a gene drive system that might stamp out African mosquitoes. For more on gene drives, see here.

Gizmodo reports that it is easy to fool people with a disguise.

Gizmodo also reports on the re-discovery of a giant bee, from Indonesia.

NPR reports on locusts, as in plagues of locusts. It turns out that they are common grasshoppers that change appearance and behavior, under stress.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain.
Thanks for looking!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 67

Watson continues his argument for a Christian being contented:

Sect. XII. The twelfth argument to contentation is, Whatever change of trouble a child of God meets with, it is all the hell he shall have.
Whatever eclipse may be upon his name or estate, I may say of it, as Athanasius of his banishment, it is a little cloud that will soon be blown over, and then his gulf is shot his hell is past. Death begins a wicked man’s hell, but it puts an end to a godly man’s hell. Think with thyself, what if I endure this? It is but a temporary hell: indeed if all our hell be here, it is but an easy hell. What is the cup of affliction to the cup of damnation? Lazarus could not get a crumb; he was so diseased that the dogs took pity on him, and as if they had been his physicians, licked his sores: but this was an easy hell, the angels quickly fetched him out of it. If all our hell be in this life, in the midst of this hell we may have the love of God, and then it is no more hell but paradise. If our hell be here, we may see to the bottom of it; it is but skindeep, it cannot touch the soul, and we may see to the end of it; it is an hell that is short-lived; after a wet night of affliction, comes the bright morning of the resurrection; if our lives are short, our trials cannot be long; as our riches take wings and fly, so do our sufferings; then let us be contented.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Thanking God for some classroom experiences as a science professor

It's always a good idea to reflect on what God has done for us. This post, taken from a previous post, December 11, 2006, is such reflection. I was a college science teacher for over 40 years.

The best experiences I had in the classroom all involved (duh!) students. As a biologist, these were often on field trips, where we saw things that the textbooks (or I) could only describe. Sometimes they were in the lab, when something actually worked as they were supposed to(!). Once, an African-American student with sickle-cell anemia saw her own red blood cells sickle under the microscope (I got to see this, too) for the first, and, I suppose, the only time. (Red blood cells are normally circular. The cells of someone with sickle cell anemia assume an elongated shape when they become deprived of Oxygen.) I am sorry to say that this young lady didn't live long after this experience. She died from the complications of this terrible disease.

Often the most memorable experiences are one-time things, and happen when something goes wrong, or at least not according to plan. I will relate two of mine. Once, a few students and I were injecting a rabbit. The rabbit died, for some reason. (Today, I would have insisted on more protection for rabbits, although they might still die of unknown causes, as this one did.) One of the students suggested that we dissect the rabbit, so we did. We had never seen the insides of a just-dead rabbit before, and seeing this was amazing. A rabbit's intestines include an (for a rabbit) enormous caecum, quite different from human anatomy.

Another such experience was when a student came in late for a bioethics class. I knew what had happened, because she had called and told me -- the class and I had been praying. Her father had just gotten a liver transplant. I had her sit on the table in front of the class and talk about it, and the rest of us asked her questions. Organ transplantation, of course, has some important ethical implications.

I have also had experiences where a student asked me a question that changed my way of thinking. One of my students asked me about human cloning, back in the middle 1970's. I hadn't thought much about it before, but decided that I should. Partly because of his question, the U. S. taxpayer supported my attendance at a six week conference on bioethics in 1979 at Indiana University. I was the only person in the group of a dozen or so who was trained as a biologist, and the only one from an evangelical Christian college/university. All of this resulted in a change in direction. I developed a new class at my school, and published a paper (the article is not available on-line, so far as I know -- the link is to a listing) on the subject.

Sometimes a student made a comment that changed my thinking. One once said "the Bible is inerrant, but our interpretation of it isn't." How right he was, and is.

I am glad to say that, sometimes, I could see students learn. Sometimes I could see that they had, when I graded their tests, quizzes, and papers.

Some of the greatest experiences came outside of class, when students came to talk to me about something unrelated to their class work, or I got to interact with, or observe them, in other settings.

I confess -- I married a student. (She came to college after being in the workplace for three years, so I didn't rob the cradle. We have now been married over a half century.)

Thank God for all of this, and so much more! Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Some thoughts on Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis

I have gladly re-read, for the I don't know how manyth time, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, the first two parts of what is referred to as the Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis. I will not attempt to summarize these fine books -- see the links above for the Wikipedia articles on them.

I wish to point out two relatively minor points about these books.

First, Lewis was a fine nature writer, or could have been, judging from his made up Mars and Venus. We now know that Mars doesn't have canals, nor much water, and we have no evidence that there is any kind of intelligent life there. But Lewis took what some early astronomers called as "canals," and made them into great valleys, with scenery, water, vegetation, intelligent life, and animals. He described the effect of lower gravity on the shape of waves and ridges. If Mars was more accessible, and was really like that, it would be a fabulous place to visit, indeed, rivaling the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and any other natural scenic spot you care to mention. Lewis's Venus was mostly a water world, (some astronomers used to believe that) and, again, he clearly loved making up descriptions of animals, floating islands, undersea and cave-dwelling life, and vegetation, including fruit. Again, were Venus really at a temperature compatible with a giant world-wide ocean, and if we could get to it, this would be a fabulous place, for sight-seeing, eating the fruit, surfing, swimming, and spelunking. He knew how to make his made-up nature attractive.

Second, Lewis apparently believed that Venus (and, therefore, Mars and the Earth) were very old. This is a quotation from Perelandra: "Some day, no doubt, it would be peopled by the descendants of the King and Queen. But all its millions of years in the unpeopled past, all its uncounted miles of laughing water in the lonely present . . ." 

Thanks for reading! Read Lewis.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

How to do well in college

How to do well in college 

What professors expect from their students.
Every professor is different. Different classes under the same professor may be different, and different universities, or different departments at the same university, may have different expectations.

Nonetheless, a few hints. They're just common sense, mostly:

Go to class. That's pretty elementary, but it's good advice. Some classes aren't worth going to, or some sessions of a class may be a waste of time, but you should make it your goal to go to all your classes. Most universities don't monitor class attendance as rigidly as most high schools, nor do they usually contact your parents if you don't go, and the temptation to skip classes will be there. Don't do it. I have known some cases where students who could have had a promising academic career have messed it up, just by not going.
Be prompt, if at all possible, and if you can't be, let the professor know why, even if she doesn't seem to care (or even know who you are).
Sit where you won't be distracted, preferably in the front.
Stay awake.

Get enough sleep. You and I can do many things with little or no sleep, such as many types of work, or carrying on a social life, but serious learning often becomes a casualty when you don't get enough sleep.
There is a school of student thought that believes that the best way to study for a big test is to stay up all night before it is scheduled. Wrong! Sleeping on what we have learned helps us to remember it longer. "Cramming" for a test is probably better than no study at all, but it isn't very efficient, and it may mean that we don't function very well in actually taking a test, or in the other things we need to do on the day after a night with little sleep. We tend to forget material learned in a cram session rapidly. Often, we'll need to retain that material for a long time. In college classes, there are often two or three tests during a semester, then a comprehensive final, covering the entire course material. Or, in preparing for some professions, there may be a comprehensive qualifying exam, covering much of everything you are supposed to have learned in college. You will need to retain facts and principles for a long time.

The same holds true for doing projects, papers, and the like. Start early, work steadily, and get them done on time, or early.

Study. The best way to study for a big test is to study as you go along. Read your book. Review what went on in the previous class session before the next one. Ideally, you should know what the class will be about before you go, and be prepared with questions or comments. Study with someone else sometimes. Study should be about what's important. That is, what the professor may ask you, but also, what is important about this chapter, this diagram, this term, this lab experiment. Getting another perspective on this often helps. Even if another student knows a lot less than you, it will often help you to explain the material to someone else.

Look over terms and diagrams, chapter summaries, and questions at the end of a section or chapter, in your textbook. (Some texts won't have some, maybe any, of these things, especially in upper-level courses.)

P. S. Obtain your textbooks. Many textbooks are expensive, and, let's face it, in a few classes, you don't really need them. But, in most classes, not having a text is a serious handicap. It's silly to spend good money for tuition, travel, lodging, and whatever other expenses you may have going to college, and not get textbooks. (There are some free textbooks, but some very expensive ones, too. You may be able to buy used copies, or borrow a text from someone who had the course in a previous semester.)

Most people learn through more than one sense. (Some learn mostly by hearing, some by seeing, some from other senses. In some classes, handling things may be important.) Hear your subject (In class, by recording the class, if that helps, or if you can't be present -- a professors may allow you to record a class, or have someone else record it for you -- they'll be thrilled that you care!) and read about it, so you've got two ways of getting it into your brain.

Turn your assignments in on time. Maybe even early. Give your professor cardiac arrest!
This means planning ahead. Start those papers, book reports, lab reports, and projects before the night before they are due.

Get noticed, for good reasons. Sit near the front, ask good questions, stay awake, occasionally talk to the professor after class, or in her office, or in other settings. Don't be a pest, but act like an adult who is interested in the subject matter.

Be interested in the subject matter.
Sometimes that's difficult. Try, anyway. Never ask "What good is this going to do us?" about a class as a whole. Your professor may not have a good answer (she should) but generally you are stuck with the class, anyway. The university, or your chosen profession, require it. Make the best of it. Sometimes you may get noticed in a good way by asking about the relevance of a particular topic, or by suggesting a relevant topic that the class doesn't seem to be going to cover.
Often, you will be helped by finding material other than the text that deals with the subject matter. The Wikipedia, although not totally inerrant, is a good source on almost any academic subject.

Pray a lot.
Pray for your professor, any teaching assistants she has, your classmates, and, of course, yourself. Ask for God's help in studying, in understanding the material, in getting to class, in staying awake, in taking a test. And, of course, do your part -- you can pray yourself into a failure, if you don't do what you are supposed to.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sunspots 716

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

Christianity: Relevant asks whether Christians should participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Christianity Today
, and other sources, report on a survey as to whether people believe that humans have evolved or not.

Cliff Sims, evangelical Christian and former White House Staffer, was interviewed by Christianity Today. He said that, although he supports the President on many things, he does not believe that Trump is a born-again Christian.

He Lives has a good post on "Christians and gambling."

The Houston Chronicle reports on sexual abuse by Southern Baptist youth pastors. Anything but a pretty picture.

Environment: The much-reported spending bill, recently signed into law, includes establishment of a new US National Park, Indiana Dunes NP, according to USA Today.

Finance: Robert J. Samuelson says that not many retirees live in poverty, or are anxious about their finances.

Health: NPR reports that microbes living in insects may be a source of new germ-fighting drugs.

History: Listverse tells us about the accomplishments of 10 African-American women, most of whom you probably have never heard of.

Humor: (or something) NPR reports on speed dating on a ski resort chairlift. Really.

Politics: NPR reports that the national debt is higher than it has ever been, and will almost certainly rise more.

A report in Scientific American on research that suggests that both left- and right-wing people are susceptible to Fake News.

Catherine Rampell suggests that we abolish Congress, and says why.

Science: Listverse reports on 10 interesting facts about frogs and toads.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain. 

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What science is all about -- some thoughts

What is science all about? 
A. Let's start by defining terms. This is what the Free Dictionary says about science (1st meaning only):
1. a. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.
b. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena.
c. Such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study.

I will restrict myself to meaning 1a, actually. How does science differ from three other honorable enterprises, namely the study of history, performing music, or working as a check-out person in a grocery store?
The study of history usually can't involve experimental investigation. You can't see what would have happened if George Washington hadn't crossed the Delaware, for example. You can guess, and your guess may be right, but you can't know. But you can experiment in science. You can find out what happens if someone takes their medicine every other day, rather than every day.
Music performance doesn't involve much identification (in that you are classifying something, such as rock types or species of grasses) and description, nor theoretical explanation. It may involve experimentation, though.
Grocery checkout persons don't do much identification, either, except what's already done for them in the bar codes on items. They may experiment, however, for example by smiling at some customers and not at others, but the amount of experimentation is limited. If they start only charging for every other container of milk to compare it with customer satisfaction, or giving more change that the customer is supposed to get, they'll get fired.

B. The controlled, replicable experiment, then, is one of the cornerstones of much science. Granted, even scientists can't experiment on everything. Historical geologists can't manipulate history any more than history professors can. Astronomers can't manipulate stars or galaxies. Where direct experiment isn't possible, most scientists may compare experiments, as it were, that nature has already provided. For example, how does the light from different stars, in different regions of the universe, compare?

A controlled experiment is one wherein, ideally, one property, and only one, is varied between groups, and everything else is the same. For example, you might test inbred fruit flies, all in the same environment, giving one a vitamin supplement, and one no such supplement, and compare their fertility. (It is usually impossible to make the environment absolutely identical for every organism, or for different attempts at the same experiment. Even inbred strains may have a little genetic variation.)

Replicable means that someone else can test what you have done, by trying the same experiment.

I understand that there is debate about how science really works, but I'm going to ignore it. See the Wikipedia article on "Science" for an introduction to this.

C. Science is clearly important. Think of social media, energy use, and ballistic missiles. The products of science, often called technology, are also important.

The previous sentence mentioned three important topics. None of them is a strictly scientific topic. All of them have legal, political, ethical, economic and even religious implications. That's true of most or all of the technological products of scientific work. If a scientist, for example, says that she is opposed to allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, or that human embryos can ethically be destroyed in the process of stem cell research, what she says on one of those subjects should carry no more weight than what a grocery clerk says, unless she is a legislator, in addition to being a scientist.

Sometimes scientists think that they are making scientific statements, but they aren't. They are merely scientists making statements, not making statements that are backed up by controlled, replicated, experiments. Watson and Crick, for example, claimed that they had discovered the secret of life, when they proposed the double helix. They had made an important contribution, but they hadn't discovered the secret of life. They hadn't explained how DNA came to be so central to living things in the first place. They hadn't given an explanation for how the information in DNA comes to be expressed (we now know a lot more about that, partly because of the work of Crick, himself.) Both of them, apparently, thought that they had ruled out any supernatural explanation for living things. But they hadn't. God could have created life with DNA as its main information carrier. I don't believe any experiment can rule that out (or prove it.) Hebrews 11:3 says "
By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible." God could have somehow written His signature in DNA, or in rock layers or clouds, or in astronomical objects, but He didn't. Or did He? The believer can and does see God's handiwork in all of these. The non-believer doesn't. We can choose to believe, or not to believe.

D. I don't want to leave the impression that science gets a better and better picture of how nature works only by doing experiments. As Thomas S. Kuhn pointed out, scientists get such a changed picture by new ways of looking at the world -- adopting a new paradigm. What experiments scientists do is determined by how they view the natural world. Galileo wouldn't have done any experiments on radio, because he didn't know there was such a thing. Newton didn't discover gravity. But he did (perhaps after watching an apple fall) realize that gravity could be explained as an attractive force. This wasn't because of any experiment that he did. The experiments came later.

This is a re-post, slightly modified, from a post of mine on December 11, 2006. Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Germline gene modification: the issues. (Book by Jennifer Doudna)

"And all long-term exercises of power, especially in breeding, must mean the power of early generations over later ones." - C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man 

I have recently read a book by Jennifer Doudna, entitled A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution. There is a co-author, but it seems clear that most of what is said came from Doudna. As the Wikipedia puts it, "Doudna has been a leading figure in what is referred to as the 'CRISPR revolution' for her fundamental work and leadership in developing CRISPR-mediated genome editing." I would expect that she will be getting a Nobel Prize in the next year or so. (She is also part owner of a company which has, or is expected to commercialize these techniques.)

CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, [and] is a family of DNA sequences found within the genomes of ... organisms such as bacteria ... These sequences are derived from DNA fragments from viruses that have previously infected the [organisms] and are used to detect and destroy DNA from similar viruses during subsequent infections. Hence these sequences play a key role in the antiviral defense system of prokaryotes. (From the Wikipedia article on CRISPR.)

The discoveries of Doudna, and many others, have made it possible to use the CRISPR immune system of bacteria to make targeted changes in DNA. It's a little more complicated than this, but, basically, if you know the nucleotide sequence of the DNA you want to change, you can use CRISPR to delete as little as a single base pair, or to change small sections of DNA. The technique does not require lots of expensive equipment. This has made it possible to alter the genomes of laboratory organisms, domestic animals, crop plants, and even human cells. In a recent case, it may have been used to modify human embryos. A Chinese scientist claims to have modified twin girls so that they could not contract AIDS. The claim has been questioned, and the timing, if the report is correct, has been seriously questioned -- preliminary experiments, at least, should have been done. The Chinese government has acted to punish the scientist. Many people fear that we don't know enough about the safety of the CRISPR system. Could it be that other DNA can be altered, rather than the target, with unforseen consequences?

The book is well written, although there is a lot of name-dropping -- scientists Doudna has worked with. Documentation is good, and it is at the end of the book, where it doesn't interfere with the train of thought.

It is clear that Doudna believes that CRISPR should be used on humans, carefully, and after considerable thought and planning. (Lots of which we haven't done yet.) She even believes that, after considerable more study and experimentation, we (speaking for the majority) may come to accept alteration of germ cells in humans.

What's a germ cell? First, what isn't one? Almost all of our cells are somatic cells. That is, they are cells that do not become sperm or eggs. Somatic cells may be altered -- in fact are altered, all the time, by random mistakes in cell copying, or by agents like Ultraviolet light, or others that cause cancers. Or we remove billions of them when we take out an appendix, or some other part of us. But the offspring of people with changed somatic cells do not inherit these changes. I had a skin cancer removed from my face. If I were to get married, and my wife have a child, the child would not be more likely to have skin cancer than another baby born to a couple who had never had skin cancer. I had my tonsils out when I was a child, but my daughters were born with tonsils.

Germ cell alteration, changing the cells that produce sperm, or egg cells, would mean that an organism's offspring, for the forseeable future, would be different, in subtle or major ways, from what that organism was. And, eventually, that change might spread through an entire population, or an entire species, as more and more descendants of that organism appeared.

Why not encourage germ cell alteration? There are some possible objections:

It's unnatural. But so are lots of things that most of us take for granted, such as eyeglasses, Caesarean sections and other surgery, antibiotics made from fungi, artificial limbs, and much more, which are unnatural -- not the way things would be without deliberate action by humans. Unless there's some safety problem, such as if eyeglasses caused cancer, or the procedure or apparatus is prohibitively expensive, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to object to these types of things.

There was a time when the use of anesthetics was considered to be unnatural, and one when vaccination for smallpox (using material from cows) was so considered. Hardly anyone thinks that way now.

C. S. Lewis, for one, would have thought the idea unnatural -- see the opening quotation.

It might lead to ethical problems. Doudna points out that it might be possible for wealthy or powerful people to have germ cell alteration in the early embryos they have as their offspring, and thus to make class differences of power or money even more pronounced, by having more intelligent, talented, athletic, or disease-resistant descendants, because of genetic changes. (Intelligence is not easy to pinpoint, and is not simply inherited, and it's doubtful that we could modify an embryo to make it more intelligent, even if we badly wanted to, at present. Maybe never. But it's an example of something that might lead to class differentiation by inheritance, in addition to the class disparity problems that already exist.)

An ethical problem that Doudna doesn't consider a lot is the likelihood that human embryos will be produced, and discarded, which would be a serious ethical problem for many people. There are some embryos that are produced during in vitro fertilization that are not able to develop much past fertilization, and these might be used in experiments without cutting off the potential life of an embryo. But, of course, this begs the question of whether in vitro fertilization should be allowed.

There's the question of safety. By this, Doudna means that unforeseen consequences, changes in DNA that weren't planned, might be possible. It seems impossible to know about this possibility without engaging in extensive laboratory experiments.

So why should anyone want to do germ line alteration with CRISPR? It might, in fact has, produced crops and animals that are beneficial to us, cows with more muscle and less fat, for example. But the most important possibility is that an inherited disease might be eliminated, in some people, or in humans as a whole. An acquaintance of mine recently passed away because she had Huntington's disease, which is inherited. If the germ cells of people with this terrible condition could be modified, the disease could theoretically be eliminated, except for persons having it because of a new mutation. Doudna has spoken to people who are parents of children with genetic diseases, and they are much in favor of moving toward use of CRISPR to attack such conditions.

The Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 says "Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets." This could be taken as guidance toward developing the technology, and using it to eliminate genetic diseases. However, on the other hand, it may be taken as guidance toward not doing anything that would harm a human embryo. See here for a discussion of abortion, in light of the Bible, a related topic.

The scientific community, with lots of input from others, has already considered the potential risks and benefits of altering genes, in bacteria and other organisms. One part of such consideration was the Asilomar Conference on recombinant DNA, in 1975. This led to a general consensus as to what kinds of work could be done, and what safety precautions should be used, and there have, to date, been no disasters because of recombinant DNA research.

I'm not aware of any conferences on human cloning, but the scientific community, at large, seems to have decided that such procedures simply shouldn't be done, and it is doubtful that they have been done. If they had, they would have led to an adult human with the same genes as some previous one.

Doudna and others, including some participants in the Asilomar Conference, met a couple of years ago, and collaborated on a document, "A prudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification," in April of 2015. This document has been published elsewhere, including here.

The following recommendations are given at the end of the article:
  1. Strongly discourage, even in those countries with lax jurisdictions where it might be permitted, any attempts at germline genome modification for clinical application in humans, while societal, environmental, and ethical implications of such activity are discussed among scientific and governmental organizations. (In countries with a highly developed bioscience capacity, germline genome modification in humans is currently illegal or tightly regulated.) This will enable pathways to responsible uses of this technology, if any, to be identified.
  2. Create forums in which experts from the scientific and bioethics communities can provide information and education about this new era of human biology, the issues accompanying the risks and rewards of using such powerful technology for a wide variety of applications including the potential to treat or cure human genetic disease, and the attendant ethical, social, and legal implications of genome modification.
  3. Encourage and support transparent research to evaluate the efficacy and specificity of CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering technology in human and nonhuman model systems relevant to its potential applications for germline gene therapy. Such research is essential to inform deliberations about what clinical applications, if any, might in the future be deemed permissible.
  4. Convene a globally representative group of developers and users of genome engineering technology and experts in genetics, law, and bioethics, as well as members of the scientific community, the public, and relevant government agencies and interest groups—to further consider these important issues, and where appropriate, recommend policies.
National Public Radio and other sources report that the World Health Organization has appointed a group to establish "uniform guidelines for editing human DNA in ways that can be passed down to future generations." Doudna is not part of the group. That group seems to fulfill item 4 in the above list. (I checked the WHO web site on February 15, 2019, and was unable to find any reference to this group.)

How CRISPR works:
Vox has published an explanation of how CRISPR works, with graphics, and lists some of the things it might be used for.  Carl Zimmer, noted science writer, wrote another article on CRISPR, which, although a little older than the Vox article, is a fine introduction to how CRISPR was discovered, and how it works. This is the Wikipedia article, which is more technical than the others linked above.

Thanks for reading. We have responsibilities to other people, less fortunate than we are. Perhaps, in the near future, we may decide that those responsibilities are best carried out by somatic or germline DNA modification. May God help us.

Thanks for reading! 

Note: on February 20, 2019, I ran across an article that discusses most or all of the ethical issues involved in germline gene modification. It may be read here.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 66

Watson points out that even unbelievers have grasped the idea that contentment does not depend on our possessions and position in society:

But let us descend a little lower, to heathen Zeno, of who Seneca speaks, who had once been very rich, hearing of a shipwreck, and that all his goods were drowned at sea: “Fortune,” saith he, (he spake in a heathen dialect) “hath dealt with me, and would have me now study philosophy.” He was content to change his course of life, to leave off being a merchant, and turn a philosopher. And if a heathen said thus, shall not a Christian much more say, when the world is drained from him, God would have me leave off following the world, and study Christ more, and how to get to heaven? Do I see an heathen contented, and a Christian disquieted? How did heathens vilify those things which Christians did magnify? Though they knew not God, or what true happiness meant; yet, they would speak very sublimely of a numen or deity, and of the life to come, as Aristotle and Plato; and for those elysian delights, which they did but fancy, they undervalued and condemned the things here below! It was the doctrine they taught their scholars, and which some of them practised, that they should strive to be contented with a little; they were willing to make an exchange, and have less gold, and more learning; and shall not we be content then to have less of the world, so we may have more of Christ? May not Christians blush to see the heathens content with a viaticum, so much as would recruit nature; and to see themselves so transported with the love of earthly things, that if they begin a little to abate, and the bill of provision grows short, they murmur, and are like Mich, Have ye taken away my gods, and do you ask me what aileth me? (Ju. 18. 24) Have heathens gone so far in contentation, and is it not sad for us to come short of heaven? These heroes of their time, how did they embrace death itself! Socrates died in prison; Herculus was burnt alive; Cato, who Seneca calls the lively image and portraiture of virtue, thrust through with a sword; but how bravely, and with contentment of spirit did they die? “Shall I (said Seneca) weep for Cato, or Regulus, or the rest of those worthies, that died with so much valour and patience?” Did not cross providence make them to alter their countenance? and do I see a Christian appalled and amazed? Did not death affright them? and doth it distract us? Did the spring-head of nature rise so high? and shall not grace, like the waters of the sanctuary, rise higher; We that pretend to live by faith, may we not go to school to them who had no other pilot but reason to guide them? Nay, let me come a step lower, to creatures void of reason; we see every creature is contented with its allowance; the beasts with their provender, the birds with their nests; they live only upon providence: and shall we make ourselves below them?

Let a Christian go to school to the ox and the ass to learn contentedness; we think we never have enough, and are still laying up: the fowls of the air do not lay up, they reap not, nor gather into barns. (Mat. 6. 26) It is an argument which Christ brings to make Christians contented with their condition; the birds do not lay up, yet they are provided for, and are contented; are ye not, saith Christ, “much better than they?” but if you are discontented, are you not much worse than they? Let these examples quicken us.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Fish in the Sea of Galilee

Fish, and fishing, in the Sea of Galilee (aka the Lake Galilee, and other names) are mentioned a few times in the Gospels.

What is the Sea of Galilee like? What kind of fish live there?

The Wikipedia says that the Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world, that is, that it is further below sea level than any other lake on earth. The reason it is so low is that it is in a rift valley, where two of the earth's tectonic plates, the African and Asian Plates, are pulling apart.

The most ready sources that I found (here and here) say that there have been about 18 species of indigenous fish in the Sea, and that there are three main types of edible fish. These are tilapia (locally called musht), three species of carp, and sardines. A cichlid type of fish has apparently gone extinct, due to habitat loss.

We cannot be sure as to what fish Peter and his companions caught, when Jesus told them to cast in their nets (when they hadn't caught anything all night -- Luke 5:6-9), what kind of fish Jesus was preparing on the shore after His resurrection (John 21:9), or what kind of fish the boy with five loaves and two fish had with him (Matthew 14:17-19).

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sunspots 715

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

Christianity: Unfortunately, there are many allegations of sexual abuse by ministers from the Southern Baptist church.

Environment: NPR tells us what's what about plastic waste and recycling (or not).

Health: NPR reports that many people in metropolitan areas around the Great Lakes can't afford to have water in their homes.

Catherine Rampell tells us that people are taking better care of their hearts than they used to, and that's saving us money.

Politics: Scientific American asks if a woman can sound presidential.

National Public Radio reports that the so-called Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is continuing to remove regulations aimed at protecting people who get loans from payday lenders.

FiveThirtyEight compares former Presidential candidates by previous office (not many mayors have been elected, for example).

Science: Listverse reports on 10 different animals (all but one of them mammals) that humans have tried to domesticate, but failed to do so.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness, by Zinzendorf, translated by John Wesley

This source gives the text of the following hymn, "Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness," written in German by Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, and translated into English by John Wesley, both in 1739:

1 Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
my beauty are, my glorious dress;
'midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head.

2 Bold shall I stand in that great day,
for who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

3 Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
which, at the mercy seat of God,
forever doth for sinners plead,
for me, e'en for my soul, was shed.

4 Jesus, be endless praise to Thee,
whose boundless mercy hath for me,
for me a full atonement made,
an everlasting ransom paid.

5 When from the dust of death I rise
to claim my mansion in the skies,
e'en then this shall be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived, hath died, for me.

6 O let the dead now hear Thy voice;
now bid Thy ransomed ones rejoice;
their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness.

Here's a modified version, making the word use more current:

1 Jesus, Your blood and righteousness
my beauty are, my glorious dress;
'midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head.

2 Bold shall I stand in that great day,
for who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

3 Lord, I believe Your precious blood,
which, at the mercy seat of God,
forever does for sinners plead,
for me, e'en for my soul, was shed.

4 Jesus, praise to You I sing,
Your mercy boundless, O my King,
for me a full atonement made,
an everlasting ransom paid.

5 When from the dust of death I rise
to claim my mansion in the skies,
e'en then this shall be all my plea,
Jesus has lived, has died, for me.

6 O let the dead now hear Thy voice;
now bid Your ransomed ones rejoice;
their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Your blood and righteousness.

Thanks to Christ! Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 65

Watson now begins to discuss Bible characters who were contented, beginning with Abraham:

The example of those who have been eminent for contentation. Examples are usually more forcible than precepts. Abraham being called out to hot service, and such as was against flesh and blood, was content. God bid him offer up his son Isaac. This was great work: Isaac was the son of his old age; the son of his love; the son of the promise; Christ the Messiah was to come of his line, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called:” so that to offer up Isaac seemed not only to oppose Abraham’s reason, but his faith too; for, if Isaac die, the world for ought he knew, must be without a Mediator. Besides, if Isaac be sacrificed, was there no other hand to do it but Abraham’s? must the father needs be the executioner? must he that was the instrument of giving Isaac his being, be the instrument of taking it away? Yet Abraham doth not dispute or hesitate, but believes “against hope,” and is content with God’s prescription: so, when God called him to leave his country, he was content. Some would have argued thus: “what! leave my friends, my native soil, my brave situation, and go turn pilgrim?”

Abraham is content. Besides Abraham went blindfolds, “he knew not whither he went.” God held him in suspense; he must go wander he knows not where; and when he doth come to the place God hath laid out for him, he knows not what oppositions he shall meet with there. The world doth seldom cast a favourable aspect upon strangers. Yet he is content, and obeys; “he sojourned in the land of promise.” (He. 11. 9) Behold a little his pilgrimage. First, he goes to Charran, a city in Mesopotamia. When he had sojourned there a while, his father dies. Then he removed to Sichem, then to Bethlehem in Canaan; there a famine ariseth; then he went down to Egypt; after that he returns to Canaan. When he comes there, it is  true he had a promise, but he found nothing to answer expectation; he had not there one foot of land, but was an exile. In this time of his sojourning he buried his wife: and as for his dwellings, he had no sumptuous buildings, but led his life in poor cottages: all this was enough to have broken any man’s heart. Abraham might think thus with himself: “is this the land I must possess? here is no probability of any good; all things are against me.” Well, is he discontented? no; God saith to him, “Abraham, go, leave thy country,” and this word was enough to lead him all the world over; he is presently upon his march. Here was a man that had learned to be content.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Using your DNA to explore your ancestry -- beware

I've recently read a great book entitled A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, by Adam Rutherford. It's about using DNA for anthropological purposes, such as finding the relationship between humans and Neanderthals. (You and I have Neanderthal DNA.) Rutherford says that the companies who tell people that they are 24% Cherokee, or whatever, are on a par with the horoscopes in the newspaper.

There are many reasons for this. One of them is that humans are all related. One evidence for that is  that many pieces of DNA are shared between various ethnic groups.

Another lesson, repeatedly told, is that the concept of race has no genetic basis. Again, we are all related. By this, Rutherford means that two people from different locations in Africa are likely to have less common DNA than either one of them and someone from, say, Belgium, have in common.

It's impossible to do justice to the book in this brief post. It is readable by people without strong backgrounds in science.

Note this passage from the Bible: Acts 17:26 He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Differences in the order of created things, between Genesis 1 and 2

This post was influenced by a previous post by J. Richard Middleton.

Here's part of the creation account from Genesis 1:
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night”. There was evening and there was morning, the first day.
God said, “Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse “sky”. There was evening and there was morning, a second day.
God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land “earth”, and the gathering together of the waters he called “seas”. God saw that it was good. 11 God said, “Let the earth yield grass, herbs yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with their seeds in it, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 The earth yielded grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with their seeds in it, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14 God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of sky to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs to mark seasons, days, and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of sky to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of sky to give light to the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
20 God said, “Let the waters abound with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of sky.” 21 God created the large sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24 God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures after their kind, livestock, creeping things, and animals of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the livestock after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good.
26 God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food. 30 To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food;” and it was so. (World English Bible, public domain. Source is here.)

The order of creation, or of created things being mentioned, is as follows: light, water, land, plants, heavenly bodies, animals, humans (both sexes), with animals before humans.

Here's part of Genesis 2:

This is the history of the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens. No plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for Yahweh God had not caused it to rain on the earth. There was not a man to till the ground, but a mist went up from the earth, and watered the whole surface of the ground. Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Yahweh God planted a garden eastward, in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became the source of four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon: it flows through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good. Bdellium[b] and onyx stone are also there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon. It is the same river that flows through the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel. This is the one which flows in front of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. 16 Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”
18 Yahweh God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature became its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field; but for man there was not found a helper comparable to him. 21 Yahweh God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Yahweh God made a woman from the rib which had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.

Here's the sequence in Genesis 2: land, a man, plants, animals, a woman.

Genesis 2 does not mention light, water in general (although a mist, and rivers, are mentioned), or the heavenly bodies. But the most glaring difference is that humans came before animals in Genesis 1, and animals came after the man, in Genesis 2.

Middleton suggests some reasons for these differences.

This post suggests that it is impossible to comprehend Genesis 1 and 2 (and a lot of other writing, in the Bible and elsewhere) without interpreting it. You can't just take these passages word for word literally, and have them make sense. The above comparison of sequences in Genesis 1 and 2 is one example of this. Some parts of these narratives can't be taken literally as the inerrant word of God, because they do not agree fully. Some interpretations, such as Middleton mentions, do preserve these texts as the inerrant word of God, and explain the differences.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Sunspots 714

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

Christianity: Christianity Today reports on a survey that indicates that regular church attendants are healthier and happier than non-attenders.
He Lives has a thought-provoking post on some words or phrases -- should Christians say them?

(And Politics) Relevant points out that politicians often have a hard time quoting the Bible. Nancy Pelosi thinks she is, but she isn't.

Computing: You probably don't need Gizmodo to report that there were more robocalls than ever in 2018.

Gizmodo also reports that robots can play Jenga well. (See a bit of the videos included, if you don't know Jenga.)

Health: Gizmodo, reporting on a study published in the British Medical Journal, says that eating a good breakfast doesn't seem to help you lose weight.

Gizmodo also tells us about some remedies for the common cold that don't work, and, in some cases, shouldn't be used at all for the disease (like antibiotics), and a few that do help people to feel better.
Politics: FiveThirtyEight considers the questions of whether Iowa, New Hampshire and/or South Carolina will hold Republican primaries or caucuses in 2020.

The Atlantic reports that President Trump tweeted some extreme estimates (or extreme exact figures) on how many illegal immigrants we have, what it is costing us, and how many people voted illegally in Texas.

Relevant reports on the faith of Cory Booker, Democratic candidate for President.

Science: Science Alert explains the relationship between global warming and the polar vortex.

Scientific American reports on the migration of painted turtles

About the amazing eyes of the mantis shrimp, which can see colors, and polarization, that, as far as we know, no other creature can see.
The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain. 

Thanks for looking!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Am I a Soldier of the Cross?

"Am I a Soldier of the Cross," by Isaac Watts, was published in 1724, and is, thus, public domain. The first two lines of it were quoted in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), which is available here and elsewhere, in an audio edition. Tom Sawyer was published in 1884, so that hymn was still remembered approximately 160 years later, and still occurs in some hymnals.

Here's the text, from The Hymnary:

1 Am I a soldier of the cross,
a foll'wer of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause
or blush to speak His Name?

2 Must I be carried to the skies
on flow'ry beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize
and sailed through bloody seas?

3 Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace
to help me on to God?

4 Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord;
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by Thy Word.

5 Thy saints in all this glorious war
shall conquer, though they die;
they see the triumph from afar
by faith's discerning eye.

6 When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all Thine armies shine
in robes of vict'ry through the skies,
the glory shall be Thine.

Verses 1-3 pose six questions, which are answered with an implied, but emphatic, "NO!" They are also answered, especially the first one, that makes up the title, by verse 4.

Watts may have been referring to this passage:
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand 14 Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; 16 above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints:

The passage, and, to some extent, Watt's hymn, seem not to be referring to individual persons, but to movements or ideas, and also to the temptations that come our way. The world of culture, commerce and politics, to use Watt's language, is not a "friend to grace."

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 64

Watson continues to urge his readers to be contented with what they have, and to warn of some dangers of being prosperous:

3. A prosperous condition hath in it a greater reckoning; every man must be responsible for his talents. Thou that hast great possessions in the world, dost thou trade thy estate for God’s glory? art thou rich in good works? Grace makes a private person a common good. Dost thou disburse thy money for public uses? It is lawful, in this sense, to put out our money to use. O let us all remember an estate is a depositum; we are but stewards; and our Lord and Master will ere long say, “give an account of your stewardship:” the greater our estate, the greater our charge, the more our revenues, the more our reckonings. You that have a lesser mill going in the world, be content: God will expect less from you, where He hath sowed more sparingly.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)