Showing posts from October, 2005

Tijeras, New Mexico (pop. 474) v. ACLU (400,000 members and supporters)

David didn't have such a task. He only faced a Goliath who is believed to be no larger than 10 times bigger than he was at the time (using weight as the measure). The small city of Tijeras, New Mexico is being forced to take on an organization 1000 times larger than itself, and certainly with resources to match. Why? Because of a small cross on the City Logo. U.S. News and World Report editorial writer John Leo, in his essay entitled "Deviled Eggs" opines on the potential suit: The "tiny cross" people at the American Civil Liberties Union are at it again. These are the folks with extra-keen eyes and powerful magnifying glasses, who examine the official seals of towns and counties, looking for miniature crosses that ACLU lawyers like to trumpet as grave threats to separation of church and state. This time around, the folks with the magnifying glasses are leaning on the village of Tijeras, New Mexico, whose seal contains a Conquistador’s helmet and sword, a scrol

Pushity -- the scientific reason that objects fall?

Most people don't realize it, but in the 1920s, physicist E. Barclay Ekoj, Ph.D., posited that Isaac Newton was wrong in his theory that objects fall to the earth as the result of the attraction of gravity. He reasoned that rather than objects pulling at each other, they are pushed to the surface of the earth by an unknown force which he called "pushity" (to contrast it with gravity). I want to explore his thinking and why it may be more valid today than even fifty years ago. When a scientist observes a natural phenomenon, e.g., objects falling to the Earth, it is appropriate for that scientist to develop multiple hypotheses to explain the observed phenomenon. These hypotheses are then tested repeatedly not only to confirm that one is true, but to disprove that others are true. Thus, if a scientist hypothesizes that objects fall to the Earth, he should be willing to test each and every one of his hypothesis by subjecting them to rigorous testing. In the case of Dr. Ekoj,

Ketef Hinnom: The Most Important OT Discovery in 100 Years?

The Discovery of the Burial Chamber Repository In 1979, an archaeological team under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv and led by Gabriel Barkay, Department of Land of Israel Studies with Bar Han University, uncovered a series of nine caves in the "hillside west of the Old City of Jerusalem along the Western slope of the Valley of Hinnom, or Gay ben Hinnom in Hebrew", a.k.a., Gehenna. An exploration of these caves revealed that they were used as burial sites for the Jewish people of Jerusalem dating back to at least as early as the Iron Age (which can date back as far as the tenth century B.C.) The cave designated "Cave 24" was an especially important find. It consisted of a central chamber with a series of branches from the central hall into other smaller burial chambers. These burial chambers had shelves where the bodies of the deceased together with other artifacts (such as burial gifts, vases or jewels) were placed immediately after death.

Add This to the List of Benefits Enjoyed by Church-Goers

A study from MIT has shown that "doubling the frequency of attendance leads to a 9.1 percent increase in household income." The study is being released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in a paper entitled, "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?" Increased church going also correlated "to higher levels of education and income, lower levels of welfare receipt and disability, higher levels of marriage and lower levels of divorce." The abstract of the study is availale at the NBER site. The NBER also offers additional explanation as to the study's conclusions and methods. Sounds good to me, though I doubt my ability to actually double what I am doing now.

Stephen Barr on "The Design of Evolution"

In the October issue of First Things Magazine Professor Stephen Barr takes Christoph Cardinal Schönborn (and other defenders of Intelligent Design) to task for the latter's misunderstanding of much of the terminology in modern science, and how it can be misconstrued and misunderstood by the layman. For this reason, Barr's article, The Design of Evolution (in which Barr draws heavily on the Vatican's document COMMUNION AND STEWARDSHIP: Human Persons Created in the Image of God ) is an important reminder to all engaged in the debate over neo-Darwinianism and Intelligent Design that the language of science must be understood on its own terms. Thus, for example, Barr tells us: By saying that “neo-Darwinism” is “synonymous” with “‘evolution’ as used by mainstream biologists,” Schönborn indicates that he means the term as commonly understood among scientists. As so understood, neo-Darwinism is based on the idea that the mainspring of evolution is natural selection acting on ra

I May Actually Read an Anne Rice Novel: Anne Rice Forsakes Vampires and Embraces Christ

According to this article in Newsweek, Anne Rice, queen of erotica-vampire novels that have made her millions, has embraced her roots. She has returned to the Catholic Church, which she had left at 18. Recent years have not been easy for her, despite her success and wealth. Her husband of 41 years died recently. Rice herself came near death during surgery in 1998. Now, despite having made her career on writing about dark, sexualized supernatural murderers, she finds herself compelled to write Christ, who she descrpibes as "the ultimate supernatural hero ... the ultimate immortal of them all." Rice has written the first book in a series that will track the life of Christ (inlcuding Jesus' studies with Philo of Alexandria). Obviously fictional, it will follow Jesus' childhood starting in Egypt. Do not expect future books to return to the vampires that made her famous: "[F]rom now on I would write only for the Lord." Fictional stories about Christ mak

The Oral and Written Jesus Tradition Prior to the Gospel of Mark

It is often assumed that there was a long period of time in which the stories about Jesus and the retelling of his teaching was passed along orally. The assumption arises from the notion that the Gospel of Mark, written between 65 and 70 AD, was the first written gospel and until then the Jesus tradition was a perhaps loose oral one. There are several problems with this assumption. Although Jewish Palestine at the time was an oral culture, it was also to a limited degree a literate one. There is evidence that Jews of the time and era took notes of contemporary events on wax tablets. Allan Millard, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus , pages 26-28. According to Jewish scholar Saul Lieberman, it was a “regular practice” for the disciples of rabbis to take notes of their masters’ teachings." Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine , page 203. For example, in the Qumran community it appears that the teachings of the Teacher of Righteousness were written down during his m

Intelligent Design: Where’s the Stink?

I'm told that this was published on the Opinions page of the Santa Fe New Mexican , Sunday, October 16, 2005, (letter written by Joe Renick): The controversy over intelligent design (ID) and its place in public school science education is based largely on misrepresentations and distortions designed to protect an entrenched "evolution-only" policy. This strategy keeps ID out of the science classroom by portraying it as religion, not science. However, a closer look reveals that ID is solidly rooted in scientific evidence, not religious belief. Consider two radically different models of scientific theory…one starting with religious belief, the other starting with scientific observation. Here, "religious" includes secular religions like naturalism as well as theistic religions. The belief-based model starts with a religious belief, builds a theory around that belief, and then seeks evidence in its support. The evidence is tested against the theory (in reality, the

The Apostle Peter responds to the Critics of the Apostle Paul

While I am generally skeptical of modern feminists' railings about "sexist" this and "patriarchal" that, I think their critique applies in spades to the writings of Paul. His blatant sexism, along with his defense of slavery (see Ephesians 6) is one of the main reasons I am not a Christian today. Posted by: Xrlq , February 21, 2005 at 12:00 PM ---------------------------------- Paul, the chief apostle not just of Christianity but of blatant sexism too, used Eve's sin as an excuse to put women into the basement of Christianity, which they have yet to climb out of. Writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is presumably another person in the one "godhead," Paul told women that they were welcome in the churches as long as they kept their mouths shut: "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says" (1 Cor. 14:34). Well, gee, if women are not permit

Shermer's god of the gaps

Tenzin Gyatso (aka the Dalai Lama) has a new book out. A friend was kind enough to forward me a book review from eSkeptic magazine written by Mr. Skeptic himself, Michael Shermer. Chuck Colson also has a Breakpoint essay which references Gyatso's new book. Colson points out that Gyatso's assertion that scientific materialism (i.e. matter is all there is, was, and will be) is completely metaphysical in nature, and his conclusion that materialism is “an invitation to nihilism and spiritual poverty" are both spot on. I agree. Shermer, ever the skeptic of everything but science, disagrees. He calls Gyatso's warning about scientific materialism a straw man. Well, ok. But why? Shermer never says. Moving on. The most interesting piece of Shermer's critique is his conclusion that the Dalai Lama falls back on a Karma of the gaps position. While complimentary of the Dalai Lama's attempts at humbling himself before the supreme ruler (that being scientific knowled

Societal ills, absolute morality and charity

When I initially read an article about the study of Gregory Paul in which he suggests that the societal ills in the United States can be linked to a belief in God, I was quite skeptical. I commented on this study in my post entitled "Does Religion Cause Societal Ills?" My colleague, Layman, then pointed out that the Wall Street Journal in an opinion piece entitled "So That's the Reason: A scientist blames America's problems on religion" had pointed out similar flaws to the ones I had seen in Dr. Paul's study. Part of the Wall Street Journal article noted: Thus not even Mr. Paul would claim that he was more likely to be mugged in America by believers emerging from a Sunday service at a Baptist church than by drug-taking atheists emerging from a crack den, or that the highly religious in America are more prey in general to venereal disease than the irreligious. Nor could he very well deny that criminality in Britain, an extremely law-abiding country whe

Extraterrestials are Christian?

Is ET a Christian? If ET exists, the Bible appears to say that he is a Christian. At least, this appears to be the conclusion of Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Vatican astronomer. According to the report in an article entitled ET lives . . . and he's Christian by Ruth Gledhill published in the TimesonLine , Brother Consolmagno reaches this conclusion (which admits could be wrong) based on John 10: 14-16. There is probably intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, and there is evidence in the Bible to suggest that it could be Christian, according to the Roman Catholic Church. In a document published by the Catholic Truth Society, the official publisher for the Vatican, a papal astronomer speculates that "sooner or later, the human race will discover that there are other intelligent creatures out there in the Universe". Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit, who is one of the Vatican's leading astronomers, concedes that he could be wrong. Ultimately, he says, "We don&#

The Interrelated Communities of the New Testament World

David Booth, author of the fine Post Tenebras Lux has written a couple of short posts giving some comments on a new collection of essays by Richard Bauckham entitled The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences . Mr. Booth's posts can be found here and here . The Barnes and Noble notes on the book describe the book's thesis as follows: This volume challenges the current consensus in New Testament scholarship that each of the Gospels was written for a specific church or group of churches. These essays argue, from a wide range of evidence, that the Gospels were intended for general circulation throughout all the early churches and, hence, were written for all Christians. Loveday Alexander, Stephen C. Barton, Richard Bauckham, Richard Burridge, Michael B. Thompson, and Francis Watson examine such topics as the extent of communication between early Christian churches, book production and circulation in the Graeco-Roman world, the Gospel genre and its audience,

Thinking Critically About Religious Claims

Last night, I had a short conversation with a student who is taking one of the critical thinking classes that I am teaching. He explained to me that he is taking a class in comparative religions and did not think that the subject would be good for applying the principles of critical thinking because religions are subject to faith. I told him that I thought that religious claims can certainly be subjected to critical analysis as some claims made by some religions strike me as simply illogical or factually wrong. I encouraged him to use the work he was doing in his comparative religion class to apply what he was learning in critical thinking. I also told him that when one critically analyzes religious claims, one must first understand that it may not be possible to evaluate them definitively because some religions rely on faith alone divorced from fact and logic. In these cases if you are able to point to an irrefutable logical argument against a particular religious claim or demonstrate

Piling On

In this post , BK took a paleontologist -- Gregory S. Paul -- to task for blaming society’s ills on too much religion in an article published in the Journal of Religion and Society . Not that BK needed the help, but I thought I would flag a Wall Street Journal op-ed that also points out the follies of this claim.

An interesting critique of evolution from Bertrand Russell

Wait one minute; Bertrand Russell quoted favorably on a Christian blog? Bertrand Russell, one of the lead apologists for atheistic beliefs and author of the favorite book of many atheists, Why I am not a Christian ? Well, believe it or not, except for his forays into the area of religion, Bertrand Russell actually was a pretty good philosopher. As described by the Stanford Encyclopedia, His most influential contributions include his defense of logicism (the view that mathematics is in some important sense reducible to logic), and his theories of definite descriptions and logical atomism. Along with G.E. Moore, Russell is generally recognized as one of the founders of analytic philosophy. Along with Kurt Gödel, he is also regularly credited with being one of the two most important logicians of the twentieth century. Now, while surfing the web today I found the following quote on RedNova , unfortunately without a reference for where he said it: An extra-terrestrial philosopher, who had w

Jewish writings and a change in the Temple at the time of the Death of Jesus

The June 2005 issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society has an interesting article entitled "Something Awry in the Temple? The Rending of the Temple Veil and Early Jewish Sources that Report Unusual Phenomena in the Temple around AD 30" by Robert L. Plummer, Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have not yet been able to find the article available on-line, but older articels from the publication apparently are published on the Internet at find articles . In the article, Dr. Plummer discusses the Gospel of Matthew's mention of the rending of the temple veil in both Luke 32:45 (". . . and the veil of the temple was torn in two") and Matthew 27:51 ("And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom . . . ."). While many people tend to identify this rending of the veil as symbolic of the fact that there is no longer a barrier between man and God as a result