Friday Fun-ness

August 31, 2012

Yeah, I don’t really get it either, but I have to say it was a lot more interesting than the standard boiler plate one hears at political conventions:


Second verse, same as the first

August 26, 2012

Glory be!

CNN has saw fit to point out (during an election season, no less) that the Republican Party began as the anti-slavery Party. The Democratic Party was content to allow African Americans to wallow in bondage and poverty at behest of government sanctioned overlords, while the Republicans sought to allow blacks to seek their own fortunes by being appropriately rewarded for their labors and on the merits of their abilities.

What the article failed to mention is that little has changed with regard to the roles of the two parties in the lives of African Americans in the last 150 years.


Friday Fun-ness

August 17, 2012

Oh yes, some day my grandchildren will have an animatronic version of myself in their musical garden…

Who knew Disney had a high tech research lab? I am so glad they do.


Observations

August 14, 2012

“The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it.”

Blaise Pascal, PenséesSection VIII, The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion


Friday Fun-ness

August 10, 2012

That moment when you realize the hope is gone and the change isn’t coming….


The Myth of Secular Inevitability

August 9, 2012

One of the memes often proffered by secularists is that due to the advances of science and atheism, the inevitable trend of modern nations is to become more secular. Europe is often cited as an example of such a trend given its modern economy, extensive social welfare programs and overt secularism.

The reality however isn’t so simple or even that supportive of such a theory. Anyone who knows something about history (and by history, I mean knowledge of a time previous to the 1980s. Or even the 1880s) knows that religious belief (particularly the advance of Christianity) waxes and wanes, sometimes exploding in great awakenings, sometimes languishing during times of great prosperity and materialism. The idea that secularism is inevitably and irreversibly advancing is based on trends that really only encompass the last few decades and that focus primarily on a few places in the world. Of course this theory also is a wish fulfillment of the New Atheist movement who are trying desperately to demonstrate they are more than a tiny, transient movement fueled primarily by disgruntled and disenfranchised young single men.

Nonetheless, there is of course no little evidence that the belief in the inevitability of secularism is misplaced. One example would be a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor concerning the growth of Christian churches in France:

For years, intellectuals proclaimed the end of Christianity in France, swallowed by the tides of modernity, science, and reason. Protestants were mostly evicted or “invited to leave” during the Counter-Reformation in the 17th century. The use of religious language and symbols was outlawed in public in the years after the French Revolution against the Catholic nobility. “Having faith” or “being spiritual” is often seen as odd, or a form of ignorance, or superstition.

Yet studies show a different story on the ground. Daniel Liechti, vice-president of the French National Evangelical Council, found that since 1970, a new evangelical church has opened in France every 10 days. The number of churches increased from 769 to 2,068 last year.

Evangelicalism has been growing quietly since the 1950s. The number of practitioners has risen from 55,000 to 460,000 today, with another 140,000 believers who identify as faithful. Gypsy Protestants account for roughly 70,000 of evangelicals in France. Half of the country’s Protestants are evangelicals, according to CNRS figures.

Such growth belies many of the polls New Atheists often rely on to advance the idea of secular advancement. Certainly the populations of Christians are smaller than those in the US, but they are growing – and not only in France but in other places presumed to be securely secular like China.

New Atheists will no doubt dismiss this as an anomaly or outlier and continue to assert the future is theirs. Knowledgeable Christians who pay attention to history and societies beyond the West will know differently. The wise in general will know that the best test of such beliefs is the passage of time itself or as a great sage was once said to respond to every supposed turn of events, “We shall see”.


The Reality of Biology

August 8, 2012

I have often contended that the most basic components of a living cell are essentially information driven molecular machinery. In other words there are two primary components on the mechanical level – information which contains sets of instructions and machinery to read those instructions and carry them out. And this isn’t a mere analogy – that is actually what we find in the cell in terms of its processes and mechanics. I was reminded of this again when reading comments by geneticist Craig Venter in an article in New Scientist:

“All living cells that we know of on this planet are ‘DNA software’-driven biological machines comprised of hundreds of thousands of protein robots, coded for by the DNA, that carry out precise functions,” said Venter. “We are now using computer software to design new DNA software.”

Now I have no doubt Venter thinks this software and machinery evolved. Given that he isn’t a theist, he has to believe this. But that fact is irrelevant to the point that he has correctly identified the essential nature of life and how it operates. He has not only identified it, but he has put that knowledge into practice by programing the software and using it to operate the machinery of the cell showing further that cellular systems are not merely analogous to information systems but in fact are information processing systems.

This fact should be the greatest cause of skepticism of materialism and naturalism when we come to understand that there is not a single shred of evidence that such systems can come about through unguided processes. The only known and demonstrable way to develop machinery which processes information is through planning, design and application of the knowledge of such systems. It might have been possible before we ourselves developed such systems to imagine they could originate from natural processes, but now that we have been engineering such sophisticated technology ourselves for decades such a belief is no longer an intellectually valid option. And given that the knowledge gained by our own development is applicable to the technology found in the cell tells us that they share a common original mechanism.

Now one could still imagine that life developed through a series of incidental modifications to these core systems to develop the diversity we see on earth today. One could also look at the similarities contained within the software that operates all of life and imagine that the systems all share a common origin at some point at time. I think there are better explanations, but an intellectually honest person could imagine these things. What one could not claim and be a person of intellectual honesty and or understanding is that the system of software and requisite machinery originated apart from the knowledge necessary to build such systems. To believe such a thing would be to ignore everything we know about information processing, software development and machine engineering

In other words, that one could only believe life originated as the result of unguided mechanical processes is by neccesity a tenet of utterly blind faith.