Sunday, December 31, 2006

Time to give thanks to the Lord for His blessings during another year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

In Litigation We Trust: John Edwards for President

"They make many promises,
take false oaths
and make agreements;
therefore lawsuits spring up
like poisonous weeds in a plowed field." - Hosea 10:4

So lets vote for someone who became filthy rich by propagating poison weeds.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What do I remember about Gerald Ford?

Not much. He was a decent president and there wasn't too much criticism of him while he was in office. By today's standards, the lack of criticism would indicate a political genius. He was defeated by Jimmy Carter based on the usual hollow promises. Given what happened in economics and world affairs during Carter's 4 years + the last few decades of senile antics, it was certainly a mistake for America not to have chosen Ford for another 4 years.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I was corrected: The Bible doesn't refer to "3" wise men, but rather an indeterminant number. Perhaps n.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." - Matthew 2:1,2

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Religion causes divsion?

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." - Luke 12:51-53

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why Christian Fundamentalists need Modernists.

This is something that doesn' t get enough attention. Most of the modernists complaints about fundamentalists are true: They are intellectual slackers, they don't check their facts, they are legalistic and bigoted, and they won't hesistate to substitute ritual for worship. The modernist is forever pointing out those problems, wagging his finger and protesting of hypocrisy.

Thanks to the modernist, the fundamentalist can't rest. He must forever be reconsidering things and trying to determine what constitutes meaningless ritual that should be discarded and what are really the fundamentals that need to be held onto. This is an important process and one that allows us to focus on Christ and Him alone.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong: Loose Ends.

The conclusion of the book is basically that fundamentalism isn't going away and modernist tactics have generally strengthened the hand of fundamentalists. With the exception of Europe, this seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb. There was much interesting and informative in the book, but several major questions need to be answered before any generalized model of Fundamentalism would be workable.

1) Why was Christian fundamentalism almost entirely absent from modern Europe?
2) Buddism has experienced all of the recent historical trends that afflicted Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but there has been no similar fundamentalist trend.
3) Why are modernists more comfortable with Buddism?
4) How does Hinduism fit in all of this?
5) Do modernists have any fundamentalist traits?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Paranoid and Bitter.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thesselonians 5:16-18

Another recurring theme in Karen's book about fundamentalism is that they are paranoid and bitter. As the above verse indicates, Christian Fundamentalists certainly aren't fundamental if they spend their time paranoid and bitter. There is a spiritual was going on and man's intellect does not permit any of us to opt out to a position that is above it all. If we are bitter, it is certainly best to reflect again on who Jesus is and His promise that His kingdom will continue growing forever.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Sound of Silence.

I am recalling all of the howling regarding Iraq up to the election. My how things change in a few months. The left has gained considerable power, but the silence I am hearing is the void that was always there: They have no idea what to do about Iraq. They do, however, know that they need more power.
The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong:

One of the themes that Karen used repeatably is that "the old myths no longer satisfied". Using my Christian metaphors, she is basically saying that the sheep tired of eating grass. There is one more possibility which she did not consider: The shepherds substituted poison weeds for grass and/or stuff without much nutrition. Frequently (but certainly not always), it is the more learned shepherds who tire of giving the same old grass from week to week.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong: Fundamentals.

I was excited about this chapter, only to find that she dismisses the notion of Fundamentals. There is the obvious that Fundamentalists are looking back to something from an earlier age. She does break some ground relative to liberals by observing that Christian fundamentalism tended to be about doctrine, but Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism were about traditions and rituals. Islamic fundamentalism tended to demand state based Islam, but Jewish fundamentalism was hostile to the state. Why did this happen? She implies that it was just the historical context that the groups developed in, but ignores the possibility of Fundamentals.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong, Chapter5: 1900-1925.

A key part of this chapter was the Scopes trial between Darrow and Jennings over evolution. An interesting tidbit Karen provides is that although Scopes technically lost the judgement and was required to pay a fine (done by the ACLU), the news media declared the winner to be Darwinism. What doesn't seem to register here is that Darwinism was declared the "scientific" winner on the basis of a lawyer arguing with a populist and the people who made this judgment were journalists. So much for the science. That the liberals considered this to be the basis for settling a dispute between intellectualism and Christianity should be clear enough of the attitudes of the era. Of course, little has changed when Michael Behe provided Darwin's Black Box as a challenge: scoffing and condescension are still considered by the liberal elites to be profound scientific discourse when all else fails.
Advesaria provides a recap of the scholar-bible divide from what is probably a non-Fundamentalist perspective. Nice recap, although I too am aware of the synoptic problem having gone through non-modernist commentaries preparing for Sunday School teaching. The difference being that the term, "synoptic problem", was not one that I was familiar with.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong, Chapter5: 1900-1925.

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all." - Galatians 1:6

In this chapter, I was surprised to find Karen writing the reason for the founding of Christian fundamentalism along the lines that I have been saying. The mainline denominations and seminaries had become dominated by liberals and the conservatives were evicted. Her description of the process whereby this came about is weak, but the main elements are there.

Karen gives a clearer explanation of what this meant in her parallel discussion of the roots of Islamic fundamentalism: The western, secularist colonials took over and governed much of the Islamic world. The Islamic faithful viewed this as bigoted, condescending infidels invading their institutions. The Christian fundamentalists equally saw among the liberals a considerable body of deists and universalists who rejected John 3:16, the Apostle's creed and sola fide in favor of a gospel of salvation by social works. Likewise, they saw bigoted, condescending infidels invading their institutions. Even today, I have occasionally met Christians who were saved later in life and testified that the churches they had grown up in never mentioned salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Needless to say, there were a number of Christian leaders who were somewhere between the liberal and fundamentalist camps and were caught up in the cross fire. Woe unto them!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong, Chapters 1-3

" The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:14

The first 3 chapters cover much of the preliminaries. It is breathtaking as she covers so much territory to piece together a mosaic from various bits of historical information. The overall theme she is developing is one of conflict between mythos and logos where rationalism that developed from science lead to the enlightenment and the natural suppression of mythos, which includes all superstition and religion.

First I should acknowledge being compelled to reflect on something: My modern rationalist viewpoint is the one that I employ when I look at the Bible. It is quite a different viewpoint from that of Luther and certainly different from the apostles. My observation is that the Samaritan woman and the Roman Centurion also had different viewpoints as they encountered Jesus. This is not surprising, but it is something to reflect on.

I am somewhat pleased that at the end of chapter 3, she acknowledges the level of hostility of the secularists towards Christianity in the latter 19th century. The spiritual vacuity of rationalism is also discussed briefly, but there are some holes: "Scientific rationalism", which she identifies with the logos, is swimming in its own mythos. The other fact is that much of what was peddled as scientific "Higher Criticism" of the Bible was merely dreaming up something offensive, couching it in "scientific" language, and repeating it with a straight face, while invoking credentials. There is little room for error in her presentation of rationalism much less the malpractice that was rampant.

The other problem with the mythos/logos framework is that it doesn't allow for fundamentals. Yes, the fundamentalist reformers are looking back to an earlier age and hoping to restore what was precious in their religion. But what is their religion all about? I am anxious to see where she goes from here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Regarding the need for the concept of science and scientist.

The concept of "science" lumps together a large number of categories of human intellectual activity. Why is this lumping helpful? Recognizing again that I have been a practitioner of many forms of "science" for 25 years, my main insight is that human intellectual activities come with concepts of reliability, certainty, complexity, competence, creativity, motivaion and talent. These are what drive your decisions as you manage a group of people who are trying to produce some new technological wonder. Moreover, in intellectual activities, things such as ctalent and certainty (i.e. confidence) vary by more than an order-of-magnitude. Lumping everything together in some abstraction doesn't provide us any useful concepts.

As we move into "science", the key characeristics that I have mentioned above are never part of the presentation in highschool or younger. Instead, "science" is presented as a binary concept: Something is science, or it isn't. The question I would like to ask is why "science" is presented this way while the real-word characteristics are dumped. Here, I will propose a hypothesis: A gnostic world view is what really is being presented that exploits some truly impressive aspects of "science" to raise the status of the more dubious ones. Similarly, whereas Newton, Einstein, and Galileo were all incredibly outstanding intellectuals in eras of many intellectuals, we find that the concept of "scientist" lumps everyone together: The mediocre with no talent are just as much scientists as Einstein. The implication, when "scientists" are challenged, is that people are persecuting "us Galileos", while the truth is that there were many intellectuals in Galileos day and their role (think neo-Classicism following the teachings of Aristotle and Ptolemy) is conveniently deleted from the story of his persecution by the church. Think of it as a concept that allows the mediocre to munch off of the famous. Thus, I will claim that the concept of "science" and "scientist" really are harmful as they are presented and unhelpful for technological progress.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The next deduction regarding the Philosophy of Science.

I asserted that scientists a) don't do much design (duh), b) don't have any general theories of design (duh), and c) are pretty much disdainful of their peers who do design (duh). Therefore, they aren't qualified to comment on the subject, including how the designs of life came into being.

The response I got was roughly the doctrines of virtual omniscience, the doctrine of virtual infallibility, and the doctrine of incompetence of those who disagree with Darwinism. For reference, the doctrine of virtual omniscience states "We know so much more than you do that for all effective purposes, you should treat us as omniscient". The doctrine of virtual infallibility is similar: "Of course we make mistakes, but compared to you, we make so few that you should consider us infallible". The last doctrine needs no explaining.

The responses, of course, were Gnosticism 101 and had nothing to do with science. This leads to the next observation: The existence of a scientist is unprovable. Yes, there are biologists, physicists, and otherists, but the ideal concept of a scientist that we learned in school simply doesn't exist.

Monday, December 11, 2006

This week I am in New Jersey. I had a fun time with the New York rush traffic getting to my hotel. The local neighborhoods have plenty of Christmas decorations that are quite elaborate. About 1 out of every 10 or 20 displays actually have a Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. I should tour around some more since the rental car company upgraded me to a Jeep Commander for free. (Always doing their part to help with the green house gases.)
The Mythical Scientist Who Said "So".

Child: How do we know this is true?
Teacher: Because the scientists said "so".

This was what I learned when I was a child. Of course, the presumption is that as a child, there is no way to understand, so you must simply accept. Now that I am an adult having spent 25 years using science to solve problems and working with the best in the world in several industries in many countries, I have learned something profound: The philosophy of science begins and ends with the mythical scientist who said "so". There is nothing more. The children became adults, Ph.Ds and Nobel Prize winners, but they continued to repeat what the teacher said. We all need our myths.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth" - Hebrews 11:13

I went to a funeral today. It was for an 88 year old Taiwanese lady. The service was a mix of Hokkien, Mandarin and English. I spend most of my time in the Chinese community, so this is home - until the pastor starts preaching in Hokkien. The lady was adapted by a poor family in a different era. Her family eventually all emigrated to the US and she followed them when she was in her 70's. Where I deviate from most fundamentalist is that I don't view we have any expectation that the US will be a permanent home for Christianity. It is just one stepping stone in God's plan. Don't get too comfortable.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Cells face enormous problems in growing. We can develop some idea of the situaiton by conidering a totally self-sufficint toolmaking shop. If we provide the shop with coal for energy and crude ores, analogous to a cell's nutrient medium, then a very large collection of machines and tools is necessary merely to manufacture each of the parts present in the shop. Still greater complexity would be added if we required that the shop be totally self-regulating and that each machine be self-assembling. Cells face and solve these types of problems. ..." - Genetics and Molecular Biology, byRobert Schleif.

While publicly criticizing the ID analogies of Creationists, Darwinists employ ID analogies to teach how cells work!
I miss running in the mud. Doppelganger and Smokey, if you make it out to the SF Bay Area, drop me a post and I will be happy to show you some scenery. There is much more to life than arguments over evolution/creation.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Immune System / Evolution analogy.

Note to Doppelganger: This analogy was brought up by Smokey, not me.

As the evolution of the immune system response is considered relevant to understanding the evolution of life, I will consider how drug cocktails are used to stop HIV (per my very limited understanding).

HIV viruses multiply in an individual at a rate of ~1012 per year with a relatively high mutation rate. With a little checking, I think it can be shown that in one year, the amount of HIV multiplication/mutation/evolution will be comparable to that of the mammals with upperbound estimates on the time mammals have been on this planet. The HIV virus has 9 genes, compared with ~25,000 for mammals.

The way drug cocktails work is that they latch on to biochemical keys of the HIV virus. If only one key is latched onto (i.e. one drug), it is possible for the virus to evolve and circumvent the drug after perhaps millions of mutations. By using a drug cocktail, the virus must simultaneously evolve at multiple points, and the odds of this happening are astronomically small. The requirement of simultaneous multi-point effectively precludes evolution on what is otherwise a trivial change.

Going back to design, most significant design changes involve multiple changes at different points in the design simultaneously. I see this every day.

Now keep in mind that GA evolution is order(N*N) for the number of generations (use N as the number of genes) and the variation of one mammal to another is astounding.

Conclusion: The immune system research shows the limitations of genetics to overcome trivial design obstacles quite clearly.
Exhausted. The activity on this blog has suddenly skyrocketed. Yes, it is my own dumb fault. May the Lord help us all to regain our sanity!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The field trip to Stanford Medical Center.

I took the children to visit the heart research group. The children were talking about the methods used to research heart behavior. They asked if monkey hearts were used in the experiments to simulate human hearts. The answer surprised even me: Pigs hearts are preferred. Why? Because they are more like human hearts than monkey hearts.

Of course, believing in intelligent design, this shouldn't surprise me at all. Similarity of design features is due to God's choosing and doesn't necessarily follow the tree of life that Darwinist have speculated.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Why Darwinism remains hopelessly bound to Spontaneous Generation:

Answer: The Miller-Urey experiment.

This was on the recent SAT 2 exam and is thus considered vital knowledge by the Darwinian community. The Miller-Urey experiment showed that by putting a spark through certain gas mixtures, amino acids would form. Amino acids are, however, the building blocks of proteins and cells have lots of proteins. Therefore, it is implied and taught in biology classes across America, life could have occurred.

The problem here is that the gap between amino acids and a simple, standalone life form that can maintain its structure, feed off of the environment, and reproduce itself sufficiently repeatably to begin an evolutionary process is comparable to the gap between silicon crystals on the beach and a computer complete with microsoft windows. Amino acids can float around in a mixture, but like silicon crystals, they don't combine to form structures automatically. Also, proteins formed from amino acids aren't sufficient to form life by themselves either. They need something more, like DNA and RNA. Similarly computers need something more than silicon crystals.

The Miller-Urey experiment is only significant to an ideology that still believes in spontaneous generation. 100% pure spontaneous generation.
I want to thank Doppelganger for introducing me to the Salem Hypothesis. It states that Creationists are much more likely to be engineers than scientists. Yes, this is true, but why? The Darwinist will most likely attribute this to a deficiency in science. As the engineer views his discipline more as Applied Science + Design, we tend to take a dim view of this attitude. The other possibility is that engineers are more likely to have a proper respect for Design than scientists and prefer a unified world view with design near the center. The Darwinist must necessarily have a split world view where Intelligent Design is mandatory in high-tech, but impossible in biology. It is a bit schizophrenic.

Doppelganger also introduced me to the Kruger-Dunning effect. This states that people of lower intelligence have a habit of making ignorant statements about the big things. If I recall correctly, Darwin didn't do too well in school ...

Monday, December 04, 2006

"Genetics and Molecular Biology", by Robert Schleif, 1993

This is a graduate level textbook used at Johns Hopkins University to teach basic concepts of molecular biology that are extended to many other disciplines. It has a considerable Physical Chemistry and Organic Chemistry component which would make it intimidating for the large majority of biologists, but this subject is really foundational to understanding the molecular foundations of genetics. The book also goes a bit into how this relates to proteins and the various other things that drive life.

I bought this book mainly to test the theory that Darwinism was necessary to understanding biology and that it was an obvious deduction based on the structure of DNA. Getting away from the popular literature, I wanted to know to what extent Darwinism was either driving the theory or derived from the theory at the foundational molecular biology level as an actual graduate level molecular biologist would know. The answer was pretty much what I expected: There were a few, rare, single sentence exclamations thrown in (Holy Darwinism, Batman!), but otherwise, the connect was entirely missing. As I suspected, the modern invoking of DNA and molecular biology in support of Darwinism was merely BS. To further support my contention, professor Schleif routinely invokes factories and computer information concepts (intelligently designed all) to help in understanding the basic concepts, whereas Darwinism is entirely absent.

The next question is why would scientists have deliberately made such false statements about the Darwin-molecular biology link? My hypothesis is that the field of molecular biology is simply not understood by the majority of biologists and thus pretty secure from rational debate by laymen. By claiming that this discipline (which they probably don't understand either) proves Darwinism and that Darwinism is vital to understanding molecular biology, the Creationists can be silenced, humiliated and put in their place by simply invoking superior knowledge. More malpractice?
"The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam", by Karen Armstrong

I was wandering through Borders and saw this. Since it was cheap, I decided to pick up a copy and give it a read. It is too early to comment much, but it seems that Karen is attempting to produce a unified world view of "Fundamentalism", although admitting that this is a murky concept.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Regarding criticizing the President.

Sometimes it is mind clearing to look at disputes that are outside of our country. The anger at Chen Shui-Bian mirrors much of the anger that is against Bush at the moment. Chen Shui-Bian basically has three issues:

1) Accusations of graft involving enriching himself and those connected to him.
2) Redirecting Taiwan in destablizing directions, especially by deemphasizing Mandarin in favor of Hokkien so that Taiwan loses an important part of its common cultural framework. (It is a bit like the French-English dispute in Canada.)
3) 6 years of economic stagnation.

Comparing the criticism to that of Bush, the main thing I note is that the criticism is focussed. The first involved using bogus receipts to get reimbursements for expenses never incurred along with a number of other illegal transactions. They are specific and prosecutable and don't represent any reinterpretations of laws. The second is a legitimate argument over the direction of the country. The last is opportunistic: Outsourcing to China is more of a problem for Taiwan than for America, but this would impact anyone who took the presidency. The competing KMT doesn't have any alternatives and the KMT is certainly not a credible spokesman for cleaning up graft.

Anyway, what is refreshing is that the criticism isn't of the let's just throw the whole kitchen sink at him type that Bush has received.
A Warning to the Conservative board members of the Episcopal Church.

This being that the ruling Liberals will sue individual board members who follow their conscience to continue with the breakup of the Episcopal Church. Note that this destruction of the Episcopal Church is being led by scholars of the left although blamed on conservatives who probably don't believe anything close to inerrancy. Schori et al, however, believe that they are better qualified to reveal God's word than God himself is via the Bible. May God protect those who stand up to her.
Philosophy of Science?

The physics teacher was lecturing to his first year college physics class when he decided to stop and give some philosophical ideas. "Class, what is the difference between a physicist and an engineer?" One young student raised her hand. The teacher pointed at her. "Starting salary", she replied, which sent the whole class into giggles. The red faced professor suddenly decided that the class was behind and it would be better to continue with the lectures.

I have pondered this subject often but the first question we need to ask about a "Philosophy of Science" is what does it have to do with the price of eggs in America? Is it relevant to anything?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Visiting Dan Shui

My last day, we went to Dan Shui for a quick tour. 5 young girls (16 and 17 years old) spotted me and decided that I was the right Gai Jin to use for their English project. One was the spokesman for the group and asked most of the questions. I had to scold the others to be more bold to speak English. Since we weren't in a hurry, I gave them about 15 minutes to answer their questions in detail and let them take notes. It is always enjoyable working with children.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Does Inerrancy hurt Christianity?

"Hi Jim (Benton),
Thanks so much for your mail and your comments.
You write: "But, for you who are Christians, perhaps the worst consequence of inerrancy is atheism."

Yes, absolutely. I personally think this fact is a real pity as I see it as throwing away the baby with the bathwater. I'll rtry to respond to you via e-mail later." - Chris Tilling

This one is fun. Certainly it is always easy to locate someone who claims to have left a traditionalist Christian sect and blamed it on Fundamentalist abuses. There is, however a big problem here: Inerrancy doesn't really exist in Europe, but there isn't much of a church either. Eurabia is the future. For those who remember the Scopes Trial, the wars have been going for a long time and the anti-Fundamentalists have been on the offensive for most of the last hundred years. You also have a separate simple fact that blind acceptance of the Koran also is linked to a thriving Islam.

Eventually we need to face the facts: Inerrancy does not correlate with church decline, but modernism does.
Visiting Taipei 101 ...

This is Taiwan's entry into the world's greatest monument to materialism competition. The shopping mall inside features all of the high end exotic retailers with prices that are guaranteed to provide a lot of trickle down. We visited this today before heading back to the technical book store district because books on obscure topics like fuzzy topology theory are much more appealing (and cheaper) than Gucci paraphernalia.

Taipei 101 claims to be the tallest building in the world. It is 508 meters tall and has an amazing wind damper system in the top that we were able to check out from the observation deck. One thing that I really appreciated was the traditional Christmas music that played such as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".