An open letter to Dr. Abbie Youkilis

Dear Dr. Youkilis,

With my deepest sympathies, I would like to offer my sincere condolences for the horrific, cold-blooded murder of your niece, even though you wrote that you aren’t really interested in hearing them.

As a free society, we have failed both our children and grandchildren, by neglecting to take action after tragic massacres at Columbine and Sandy Hook.  Unfortunately, long after it has become necessary to take action, we continue to disagree about the solution, and what actually needs to be done.

Your letter said:

My family does not want your hopes and prayers. We want your action. Join us in fighting the NRA. Join us in deposing any politician who cares more about campaign contributions than my beautiful Jaime. Join us in supporting leaders who will bravely fight for our children’s lives.

It hasn’t always been this way. During my childhood, I can only remember one mass shooting on a school campus: “Texas Tower Sniper” Charles Whitman. The media attributed his rampage on a brain tumor. Dr. Youkilis, I can certainly understand your heartfelt desire to see action taken so that tragedies like this should never happen again. However, the assumption on which your demand for action is based is not only impossible, it is also terribly misguided. You seem to have assumed that any scenario involving a civilian with a gun  never has a positive outcome. Video evidence clearly demonstrates the opposite is true.

The video below illustrates the importance of private gun ownership, when a civilian uses his personal firearm to save the life of a downed police officer, in the process of being beaten to death by a suspect.

[WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT]

Frankly, you’re demanding action that simply will never be supported by a majority, unless a totalitarian regime successfully overthrows the unique form of government created by our Constitution. Otherwise, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is abundantly clear.

One problem with your idea is that there are already more than 300 million legally owned guns in America. This number will increase because demands for more restrictive gun laws boost gun sales, and that is a statistical fact. We already have existing laws that prohibit carrying guns on campus and against murdering children in school, so passing new ones won’t help.

In other words, threats to take action against gun ownership only exacerbates the problem, because people only go out and buy more guns to hoard. Blaming an organization like the NRA, created to protect the Constitutional rights of millions of responsible gun owners, won’t motivate many people into joining the cause, either. People who believe they need a gun for self-protection or who enjoy hunting won’t willingly give up their guns, just because somebody else used a gun to commit a crime.

When a drunk driver kills or maims someone, we do not blame the car. We don’t argue that statistics don’t matter despite the fact that the vast majority of car owners don’t drink and drive and, but a small percentage do, so car ownership must be banned.

That would be completely irrational. When terrorists rented trucks and used them to murder pedestrians on the streets of London and Paris, there were no calls to ban truck ownership or even truck rentals. And in spite of the fact that each attack was carried out by a middle-aged man shouting “Allahu Akbar!” after the fact, the truck rental agencies probably aren’t even allowed to discriminate against other customers who might fit a similar description.

However, whenever the tragedy involves a school shooting, for some strange reason, a segment of society focuses their blame on the inanimate object that caused death about as much as person responsible. We already know what happens when government attempts to prohibit gun ownership among private citizens: it’s the social experiment known as the city of Chicago.  Yet in spite of the fact that private citizens cannot buy or legally own a gun in Chicago, a four-time felon recently murdered a police officer in cold blood, using an illegal firearm.

The National Rifle Association didn’t create Nikolas Cruz. I’m not even a member of the NRA, and it offends me that you assigned blame to that organization for the death of your niece. They didn’t put the gun in his hand. It is perfectly understandable that you and your family are very upset right now, but blaming the wrong people for this tragedy won’t solve anything.

For this very reason someone coined the cliche that should  guns ever become outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

According to published reports, Nikolas Cruz was legally able to purchase the weapons used to murder your niece. My questions include, how was this person able to legally purchase a gun in the first place? Media reports indicate that over a seven year period, police were called to his house for complaints on 39 separate occasions. How on earth could that statistic fail to raise any red flags? Only last month, the FBI received a tip that a person calling himself Nikolas Cruz had publicly claimed to want to kill people at a school, but agents somehow neglected to investigate the warnings.

How is this even possible? Doesn’t the FBI do anything besides investigate President Trump and Russia? Frankly, it would be impossible to confiscate every gun in America, even if Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure were ignored in the push to overturn the Second Amendment. It simply isn’t a feasible suggestion.

We shouldn’t blame the gun, the school, the police, or even the FBI for the actions of Nikolas Cruz. We can blame him personally, or we should blame ourselves for failing to act sooner.

Tragically, however, the warning signs in this case were somehow ignored.

What can we do that is practical, and would help prevent such a massacre in the future? I read one proposal offering that we hire unemployed military veterans and re-train them to provide armed security in schools, keeping our children safe. That would be the ideal win/win situation because it wouldn’t simply be “action,” it would be meaningful action.

I wish I could take credit for this wonderful idea, but unfortunately I can’t even give proper attribution to where I first read the suggestion. But imagine the next person who wants to be a mass murderer at the local high school finds himself facing three or four well-armed, well-trained security officers wearing body armor ready to stop him in his tracks.

The bottom line is this: truly, the problem isn’t the gun, but that a person exists who wishes to use the gun to kill innocent people. In the wake of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, people insisted that “something must be done,” and that led to Congress creating the TSA.

If you really would like something constructive to be done, let’s form a common cause and support hiring our military veterans to protect our schools. If you insist on demanding some new law to restrict gun ownership or repeal the Second Amendment I’m sorry, but the life of your niece is not more valuable than the life of the child protected by his mother with her gun. Nor was her life more important than the life of an Arizona state trooper, saved by a brave civilian wielding his personal firearm.

Even if the federal government could take away every privately owned gun in America, people who wish to commit mass murder will simply make bombs instead. I am very sorry for your loss, and more than willing to support the right call to action.

Quite frankly, your demand to eliminate private gun ownership is both unsupportable and impossible. With regret, I must decline your request that I join your call to surrender not only my freedom, but the freedom of every other American as well.  I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I must side with Ms. Hupp on this issue. People must have the right to defend themselves.

Sincerely,

The part of society that respectfully disagrees with you

Pre-birth memories

Karl Jung once wrote, “Religious experience is absolute. It is indisputable. You can only say that you have not had such an experience, and your opponent will say, “Sorry, I have.” And there your discussion will come to an end.”

Therein lies the problem of dealing with any personal experience. Some people claim that they have seen a genuine extra-terrestrial creature; I have not. We might assume that person was simply mistaken, fooled by some sort of optical illusion. Or we might even assume intentional dishonesty. Perhaps mental illness best explains why this person believes he or she has seen an extraterrestrial.

But what we absolutely cannot do is to claim with any conviction that this other person’s experience was imaginary or a lie, unless we can prove it.

Literally, if we weren’t there to see for ourselves, how can we possibly claim to possess this knowledge? Some people might argue that it’s logical to assume, or common sense to believe that there are no aliens in outer space because there is no evidence they exist. If behavior in the physical world was always logical and common sensical, computer programmers would never have to write code to handle exceptions.

Fortunately, I can understand this phenomena all too well, because I have publicly confessed that I believe that I have personally experienced supernatural phenomena. I specifically referred to paranormal entities that one might describe as a ghost or a demon, depending on one’s personal beliefs as to whether or not ghosts actually exist.

Whatever “it” was, this invisible entity was intelligent and had the ability to manipulate matter. I could describe these personal “ghost stories” for the reader. Critics may honestly confess that nothing remotely similar has ever happened to them, but as Jung explained, what those people cannot say (with any degree of certainty) is that my experiences were not real, simply because they have not had the same experience. That would be a most arrogant assumption expressing unwarranted confidence in the ability to exceed one’s own limits of personal knowledge, unless this person has a unique talent for telepathy, of course.

Recently, I wrote an article titled Blind from birth to share the story of Vicki Noratuk, a young blind woman who allegedly experienced the ability to see briefly during an NDE following an auto accident while she was dead – Vicki claimed to be separated from her physical body as it lay on a table in the emergency room. Someone complained that Vicki Noratuk (now Vicki Blazon) had not actually been born blind because she lost her sight as a newborn child in an incubator, not going blind until a couple of days had passed after her birth. Therefore, this particular critic hypothesized, Vicki had somehow managed to retain memories of being able to see from only a few days old, and did remember what it had been like to see.

I admit scoffing at the suggestion that someone could retain memories practically from the day they were born, especially considering the fact that I sometimes forget what I had for breakfast. Frankly, it seemed impossible that Ms. Noratuk/Blazon could accurately recall memories formed decades previously, especially given that she described things that she could not and would not have seen as a child, but my skeptical friend turned out to have a point after all.

Now I’m not so sure. I believe it might be possible for memories dating back to the moment of birth and beyond may lurk somewhere deep in our subconscious mind. Perhaps we even retain pre-birth memories. Here’s the reason I’ve changed my mind…

Philip Pauli is considered a genius by any measurement of intelligence. At the age of three, the child prodigy studied astronomy.By the time he was four, Philip understood anatomy well enough to ask the curator of the Denver museum of Natural History why the skeleton of a dinosaur was missing several vertebrae (the answer was that it wouldn’t fit in the building otherwise.) By his eleventh birthday, Philip had completed a three year internship at that museum. More recently, he studied both theology and philosophy at Oxford.

(His story can be found at approximately the 36-minute mark in the video below…)

His mother and father are both quite intelligent people, but their DNA alone does not really explain why Philip was born so much smarter than the rest of us. His mother admits that she used to wonder from where her son’s intelligence had come. Philip once told her that heaven had opened before he was born, allowing him to choose her as the one to nurture him.

In other words, Philip claimed to retain memories of events that allegedly occurred even prior to his own conception.

Before anyone assumes this young man suffers from a delusion or mental defect, please remember, he’s one of the smartest human beings alive. Before we assume he was being dishonest, please remember that he would be lying to his own mother. And, whenever it is being assumed that prevarication is involved, always ask the question: cui bono?

Who benefits from this alleged lie?

As Dr. Jung pointed out, just because I have no residual memories of my time in the womb, or even before that, I cannot with any certainty claim that Philip’s claims are false. To even form an opinion about his claims, my own confirmation bias will influence what I ultimately decide. It so happens that Philip’s extraordinary claim fits in nicely with my existing beliefs about eternity. Anyone who refuses to consider their own personal confirmation bias simply isn’t being intellectually honest in his or her approach to the alleged evidence.

I’ve never had a near death experience…well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve nearly killed myself by accident at least a dozen times during the course of my life, and either by luck or the grace of God have lived to tell the tale. Technically, due to sleep apnea, I have even stopped breathing temporarily in my sleep, but there were no bright lights or tunnels, no out-of-body experiences, and yet I believe that near death experiences are probably real, because some of the most well-documented cases involve the phenomena of corroborated, veridical new memories being formed by the mind, while the physical brain has been thoroughly incapacitated.

Hallucinations produced by a dying brain would not be real. Any “information” obtained from a hallucination should neither be previously unknown or verifiable, but that is exactly the sort of information these cases have produced. Those with confirmation bias predisposed to rejecting evidence of supernatural phenomena will tend to dismiss this empirical evidence as “anecdote” or even “unscientific.” However, real-life experiences can be notoriously difficult to reproduce in a laboratory environment, the silly movie “Flatliners” notwithstanding. Expecting  someone currently in the process of dying to follow the scientific method strikes this writer as perhaps just a little bit unreasonable.  I would assume the person going through the process of dying has more important things to worry about.

Because of the scientific evidence produced by the experiences of people like Pam Reynolds and Michaela Roser, I believe in the possibility of life after death.  Why not life before birth?

The problem with believing Philip Pauli is telling the truth is that we have no scientific evidence that might support his claim. It is neither testable nor reproducible, by my estimation. The problem with assuming that Philip is telling a lie is that it is an assumption based on total ignorance, fed by confirmation bias.

Philip Pauli

There is only one defensible philosophical position to take in regard to Philip’s claim: agnosticism. Why should we give him any benefit of our doubt? Well, for one thing, he’s one of the smartest humans on the face of the Earth. When he told his mother this story, he was still a young child, and children tend to be somewhat more innocent and honest than adults.

We simply have no reason to assume that Philip’s memories were false, unless our personal confirmation bias won’t allow hope for life after death, or life before birth.

Cui bono? Who benefits from this lie? Perhaps the better question is, who does not benefit from lying about pre-birth memories in heaven?

Answer: Philip Pauli.

 

 

Blind from birth

Author of the book What Happens When We Die?, Dr. Sam Parnia has conducted extensive research into the near death experience.  Together with Dr. Pim van Lommel and Dr. Peter Fenwick, Parnia has studied patients who suffered from cardiac arrest and experienced clinical death in an attempt to scientifically obtain data about and study NDEs.

Dr. Parnia said, “If you look through science what’s amazing is the things that any group of scientists often believe has been completely black-and-white and completely correct — if you look 50 years later, most if not all of them have been changed.  And I think with this subject [the near death experience] as well, in the future we will find actually mind may be a separate scientific entity and can continue functioning after the end of life when the brain stops working.  That will have huge implications for all of mankind, there’s no doubt about it.  It will revolutionize our old way of thinking and open up a whole new field of science that has as of yet been undiscovered.”

Speaking of “undiscovered” things that science cannot explain…

Vicki Noratuk was scared and confused.  She could see the emergency room doctors working diligently to save their patient, badly injured in a car accident.  She heard them say, “We can’t bring her back” several times.  She watched as the “crash cart” was brought in to try and save the body on the table. Vicki struggled to grasp what was happening. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She couldn’t believe she was seeing.

Vicki explains, “I’ve never seen anything. No light in the shadows, no nothing.  People ask if I see black. No. I do not see black.   I do not see anything at all. And in my dreams, I don’t see any visual impressions…just taste touch sound and smell, but no visual impressions of anything.”

Vicki has no visual memories, no concept of color, no idea how her own reflection would appear in a mirror.  She has been blind since infancy due to excess oxygen given after her premature birth. She was frightened.  Suddenly being able to see confused her.  Slowly she came to the realization the body on the table was hers.  She watched with detached disinterest while doctors scrambled to save her life.

Vicki represents the quintessential case study for the philosophical exercise known as “Mary’s room”, where a subject is placed in a black and white room and only allowed to view the world through a black-and-white monitor. The theoretical question posed by the “experiment” is to ask what will happen when Mary is released from the room or given a color television monitor?  Will her scientific knowledge of color allow her to learn from the new experience?

Vicki’s real-life situation goes one giant step further in that theoretical exercise – she has no ability to view anything.

And she never has.

Yet somehow, when she nearly died in that emergency room at Harbor View Hospital, Vicky claims to have experienced sight for the only time in her life.  When she knew it was her body that was “dead”, Vicki says she left the hospital through the ceiling and floated over the city.

She said, “It was wonderful to be out there and be free, of not being afraid of bumping into anything, and I knew where I was going….as I was approaching this area there were trees and birds and quite a few people, but they were all made out of light.  And I could see.  It was incredibly beautiful and I was overwhelmed by that experience because I couldn’t really imagine what light was like.”

That is the key, the unanswerable question — how could Vicki’s dying brain conjure up false visual images from memories when she had no visual memories from which to draw — not even dreams?

Mocking atheism

I can’t really say that I enjoyed writing this article, but I felt it was necessary, all the same. I don’t want to sound smug or condescending while attacking the personal beliefs of another human being, but there are times when it simply can’t be avoided. Nonfiction often requires a brutal honesty.

The purpose of writing this isn’t to irritate an atheist, but simply to demonstrate that such criticism is fairly easy to produce. Consider it proof of concept, if you will. It seems that too many atheists are convinced their worldview can’t be mocked.

As atheism becomes more popular worldwide and  the internet offers some degree of anonymity, some atheists have become considerably more aggressive, and obnoxious. They are no longer satisfied with their atheism, and now gravitate toward anti-theism. For example, an atheist recently posted this rather inflammatory comment in the discussion group on Facebook associated with the Unbelievable? podcast, where topics about atheism and religion are being constantly discussed:

As god, you get to screw up and theists get to apologize it away

Now, the only apparent reason to post such an inane comment is to provoke an angry response from the theists that read it. The assertion wasn’t particularly clever and didn’t seem to merit a more serious response, but to let the author know that I had noticed his effort, my response employed sarcasm, using a cartoon…

Another atheist then joined our conversation and (somewhat more eloquently than the first atheist) said:

I realize that it is incredibly frustrating to have it demonstrated that your supposedly sophisticated and deeply intellectual religious faith can, in fact, be summarized in a single silly meme. But rather than lash out at the authors of the meme, perhaps you should ask yourself why such a simplistic point can serve to effectively puncture thousands of years of pontificating.

For the record, I was neither frustrated nor particularly offended by the deliberate attempt to provoke people like me, because my religious beliefs cannot be reduced to a single, silly characterization by an atheist I’ve never even met. If anything, I was mildly amused. Even so, I advised this particular atheist that anyone’s personal beliefs can be mocked and ridiculed, if you know what that person believes and what the evidence tells us. Apparently this person didn’t believe me, because he practically dared me to produce an intelligent critique of atheistic beliefs, using logic and good, old-fashioned common sense as my primary tools of analysis.

Both of their posts were attempting to inspire a reaction from theists to the problem of theodicy, perhaps most effectively expressed by the question, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  Why, indeed.  The short answer why bad things happen to good people because humans have free will, and therefore an ability to choose between good and evil. The longer answer goes beyond the scope of this article, at the moment given the constraints of time, and the average attention span.

So let’s get right to the point. If atheism is true, the following assumptions must be true: our universe came to exist from nothing. in spite of the incredible odds against “nothing” producing a universe capable of supporting complex life that includes humans. Sir Roger Penrose calculated that the odds of our universe being created from nothing due to random chance are a ridiculously small fraction of a single percentage point, only 1 in 10 to the 300th power. That’s extraordinarily unlikely, in case you aren’t very good at math. The only alternative to a created universe is an eternal universe. However, scientific evidence (redshift and cosmic background microwave radiation, or CMB) has apparently resolved the question beyond dispute and established that our universe did have an origin.

After that unbelievably improbable anomaly (popularly known as the “Big Bang”) an almost equally improbable event called inflation caused the universe’s rate of expansion to vary with unbelievably precise timing, to the point where Stephen Hawking said that even the slightest variance of even one in a million-million would have caused the universe to collapse. Inflation could not have occurred prior to the Big Bang, and the universe would not exist if inflation hadn’t occurred immediately after it.

Then, abiogenesis had to occur, another anomalous event that chemists believe is virtually impossible to believe has a mathematical probability. All of these contingent, improbable events had to occur before Darwinian evolution could ever become possible.

In other words, before evolution even becomes debatable, several significant milestones of special creation have already been achieved. And then, every modern organism allegedly evolved from that first living cell, meaning that in addition to humans sharing a common ancestor with apes, we must also share a common ancestor with the banana that humans and apes both like to eat.

This assumption is based on the philosophical belief that the theory of evolution has explanatory value for the origin of new species. However, the origin of a truly new morphological form has never been observed in nature or produced by laboratory experiment.

The problem with assuming that every modern organism descended from a single common ancestor (which would be necessary in lieu of a supernatural Creator) is this simple question: if the original form of life only reproduced via asexual reproduction, from where could any new genetic information come? It can’t be viral, because by definition viruses are living organisms, and a virus would contain new genetic information that had to come from somewhere.

So from where did it come? The multiverse? (That was sarcasm, for those who are humor-impaired.)

The universe exists. Life exists. Consciousness exists. These observable facts are essentially inarguable. But science insists that the universe, and life, have not always existed. Therefore, we can safely assume the universe and first living organism were created by something, rather than nothing — our choice is not “God” or “no God” as atheism presumes, but a choice between God versus some remarkably unlikely good luck.

Critics will probably insist that I’ve somehow misrepresented the scientific evidence, or that my argument commits some logical fallacy, but at most I’ve paraphrased the science based on learned from some prominent atheist or skeptic,

Life is too short to waste on silly arguments that ultimately prove futile, because beliefs tend to rely on faith in evidence. If you happen to be an atheist, more than likely you believe that when you die, your consciousness immediately ceases to exist. That doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It probably means that you’re merely ignorant about the nature and volume of evidence that strongly implies that the mind and brain can exist independently of each other. As an atheist, you have even more reason than I do to loathe wasting valuable moments of your life in futile arguments, and if you think you could ever convince me that atheism is true by an argument, you’d have to know a lot more about existential science than I do, and frankly that’s doubtful.

The only point to be made by writing this article is that any beliefs can be mocked, especially when examined from a irreverent perspective of disbelief.

The next time you’re bored and try to elicit a negative reaction from a theist on the internet, please consider reading a book instead. You might be biting off more than you can chew. And beware assuming that every person with religious beliefs will be dumber than you are, because you might find yourself cured by a serious dose of humility.

If you’d like suggestions of quality reading material (that I didn’t write myself, of course), I can recommend An Atheist Defends Religion by Bruce Sheiman, who does an excellent job of explaining the probability problems related to atheism, coming from the perspective of an acknowledged atheist.  I can also highly recommend The Living Cosmos by Chris Impey, another atheist and academic who writes a book that is very easy and entertaining to read, and does an excellent job of using simple to understand and visualize analogies to illustrate the precise and delicate composition of the universe. If you have time to waste, put it to constructive use and try learning something you may not already know.

Perhaps you’ll even learn how to humble yourself.

 

A public service announcement for Dawg fans

I feel like I owe an apology to my fellow Dawg fans. If something I wrote or said in the aftermath of the national championship game caused anyone to think that the Dawgs were cheated out of a victory they deserved, that was my mistake. When I wrote that it was statistically unlikely that the officials at the national championship game would miss several calls that all hurt UGA and helped Alabama, my comment might have created the false impression that the officiating was to blame for Georgia losing the game.

Without a doubt, there were clearly some bad officiating calls in the game, particularly in the 2nd half. However, I do not for a moment believe that the game was fixed or the officials had been bribed or Georgia was cheated out of victory, or any other such nonsense.

Georgia lost the game, fair and square. Alabama outplayed us in the 2nd half, and overtime. Georgia had our chances to win, and simply didn’t execute well enough on either side of the ball. Could the officials have done a better job? Of course they could have.

But surely the officials can’t be blamed for Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith being wide open for a TD on 2nd-and-41 in overtime. The officials didn’t force our offense to call too many running plays in the 4th quarter. Georgia had plenty of chances to win. Alabama executed when it mattered most.

Our Dawgs didn’t. Game over.

After watching numerous replays of the “botched” calls, only one upsets me: the punch thrown by Mekhi Brown. The officials obviously saw the punch because they threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, but inexplicably failed to eject Brown for punching Walter Grant in the head. I still don’t get that. Targeting will get you ejected, but throwing a punch won’t?

On the other hand, I don’t fault the referee for throwing the flag on Tyler Simmons on the blocked punt because he clearly moved prior to the snap. Only by watching replay does it seem obvious that Simmons didn’t cross the line of scrimmage prior to the snap. Honesty compels me to admit that if I had been the official, I probably would have thrown that flag on Simmons myself, based on what I saw in live action.

There is a huge difference between missing a call and deliberately making the wrong call. We are talking about human beings, and human beings make plenty of honest mistakes. So unless you can produce clear and incontrovertible proof that those Big 10 officials were on Alabama’s payroll, continuing to whine about losing the national championship game just sounds like sour grapes, and you should strongly consider being quiet.

Wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend.

Now is the time to remember what makes Georgia Bulldogs different than other teams: we win with integrity, and lose with dignity.

Hey, I understand, it’s tempting — when even Business Insider jumps on the bandwagon and blames the officiating for Georgia losing the championship, it becomes easier to blame others for our own failure. But that doesn’t make it right. We have an obligation as fans, a responsibility to the team, that we should follow the example of the players, representing our school and our state with pride.

Alabama won. We lost.  They didn’t cheat. It was a great game.

Sucks that we lost, but that’s exactly what happened. There’s no point in arguing otherwise.

We can always look on the bright side — and indeed, the future is incredibly bright. Kirby Smart and his coaching staff are putting the finishing touches on our first ever #1 ranked recruiting class. Elite talent, with depth at every position.

So I say it’s time to suck it up, buttercup. Don’t dwell in the past. Look ahead to the future. Let’s remember we’re adults, and act like it. There’s always a reason to laugh about something.

While no film critic in his or her right mind would ever describe The Gumball Rally as a great movie or a classic, even a bad movie can have a great line in it. I think my fellow Dawgs can take away something from the first rule of Italian driving: What’s behind (us) is not important.

Instead, just look ahead.

In two years or less, our average offensive lineman will be a former 4 or 5-star recruit about 6’5″ tall, who will weigh around 330 pounds, and most of that will be muscle. Zamir White and James Cook will be sharing carries with D’Andre Swift, Herrien and Holyfield.

Jake Fromm or Justin Fields will be taking snaps under center, with plenty of speed to burn at wide receiver, and a savage “Junkyard Dawg” defense on the other side of the ball.

The future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades.

Five Reasons Why Georgia Should Beat Alabama

I don’t bet on college football games. Most of the time it’s hard enough to decide which team will win without trying to factor in the point spread, and it’s easier to enjoy the game without a financial stake in the outcome. However, I usually try to figure out which team will win in advance because I consider it an exercise of the same analytical skills I use to write my detective novels as “Rocky Leonard”, and specifically the ability to apply logic and reason to problem-solving, especially if I care about the outcome of the game.

As a Georgia Bulldog alumnus and football fan, I care about the outcome of the 2018 national championship game, and I’m aware that the bookies in Las Vegas have installed Alabama as a four point favorite. The prognosticators and pundits have also spoken: Colin Cowherd decreed that Georgia has absolutely no chance to beat Alabama, and according to him the Crimson Tide are “best team in football” who only lost a nail-biter to Auburn,  (by “nail-biter”, Cowherd apparently means losing the game by only 12 points as opposed to a 23 point margin.)

UGA fans who have been upset by Cowherd’s prediction that Alabama will thrash our Bulldogs in the National Championship game should note that this same “expert” analyst also predicted Oklahoma would defeat both Georgia and Alabama and win the national championship.

Remember, the “experts” forecast Hillary Clinton would be President today, not Donald Trump. In other words, as my late Dad used to say, opinions are like a-holes. Everybody has one. Almost every writer at Sports Illustrated also picked Alabama to win.

What these experts usually don’t do is explain the rationale for their predictions.

But I will. And I’m picking Georgia.

My gut instinct told me to trust the experts, and accept that Alabama will win the game. My heart won’t ever accept defeat for my Dawgs so easily. So my brain must break the tie. Logic tells me that all things being equal (no uncharacteristic rash of stupid penalties and mistakes similar to those that led to this season’s only loss) for these five reasons:

  1. UGA has proved they have the ability to overcome adversity and make adjustments during the course of the game. In the SEC Championship Game against Auburn, they trailed by 7 and Auburn was within field goal range when the defense forced a turnover and momentum swung. In even more dramatic fashion in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, Georgia trailed by 17 points with six seconds left in the first half, and by a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but won the game in double overtime. Alabama has not had to overcome similar adversity during their season, and if the game remains tight, the advantage goes to Georgia.
  2. Alabama’s defense is probably better than Georgia’s defense, but Georgia’s offense is playing better than their offense, which means special teams could make the difference, and Rodrigo Blankenship has to be pretty confident after making that 55-yard field goal in the Rose Bowl.
  3. Jake Fromm. As much as I love Jacob Eason and respect Jalen Hurts, I can’t help but believe that the intelligence and ability of Jake Fromm will make a huge difference in the game. The reason Sony Michel wasn’t touched by a defender on his final touchdown run was because Jake Fromm sealed the corner with a very effective block on the defensive back. It isn’t the first time this season that Fromm can be seen throwing a key block on a touchdown run.
  4. Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, and Davin Bellamy. Jalen Hurts might be renowned for his ability to scramble in the pocket, but Georgia’s defense just played against Baker Mayfield, which gives them recent experience defending against an elusive quarterback. Furthermore, Baker Mayfield is a much more effective passing quarterback than Jalen Hurts.
  5. Kirby Smart is a very intelligent coach. I strongly suspect he might be spending most of his time planning with Jim Chaney and the offense, rather than helping Mel Tucker with  defensive schemes for the game. Tucker has coordinated defenses in the NFL; surely he knows how to game plan for a defending against a conventional pro-style offense. And who besides Kirby would know the best way to attack a Nick Saban defense?

I can’t guarantee the Dawgs will win, but I can say that I believe the Dawgs should win. Without the uncharacteristic mental mistakes and stupid penalties the team experienced in the first Auburn game and all things being equal, I believe the matchup favors UGA. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. This football team has proved its resiliency on the field, more than once.

Just keep chopping that wood, gentlemen. It’s time to take down the biggest tree in the forest.

Field of Opportunity

I’ve been wrong before,
and I’ll be there again

I don’t have any answers,
my friend —

Just this pile of old questions
that my memory left me here.

In the field of opportunity,
it’s plowing time again.
– Neil Young

If you’ve read articles or books that I’ve written and published, you know that I’m not reticent about expressing my opinion.

For example, I didn’t hesitate to predict Mel Tucker would become Georgia’s defensive coordinator under Kirby Smart, because common sense dictated that Jeremy Pruitt should be retained, unless a better candidate was available.

However, as my late Dad used to say, even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while. Or, more appropriately, I should heed the wisdom that Davin Bellamy imparted to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, and humble myself enough to admit that I was wrong.

It’s easy to brag about being right about Mel Tucker – who doesn’t like admitting when they are right? However, it’s also important to remind myself when I am wrong, and I was definitely wrong about UGA and Mark Richt needing to part company in order for this national championship game to become possible. My love and admiration for coach Richt had blinded me to the reasons why Georgia Bulldog football was not closing the talent gap with Alabama, and many blue chip recruits were leaving the state. Clearly, I was wrong. In spite of several articles here at my blog in which I adamantly insisted UGA had just committed an egregious mistake by parting company with Mark Richt, I now acknowledge that the time for change had come. In the early years of coach Richt’s tenure, UGA always seemed to catch one bad break per season. In spite of winning two SEC titles and twice finishing the season ranked as high as #3, the Bulldogs never competed for the national championship.

Of course, Mark Richt doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the program failing to take that next step during his tenure, because Greg McGarity controlled his budget. McGarity allowed schools like Florida and Alabama to gain a considerable competitive advantage over our program by being one of the very last schools to build an indoor practice facility. I remain committed to the thought that Georgia athletics will only maximize its true potential when the school parts ways with Greg McGarity.

Nevertheless, Coach Richt was responsible for hiring the people working for him. He was thought by his critics of being too loyal to his staff, which was probably true. After all, Willie Martinez kept his job as defensive coordinator for five years, despite the fact the Bulldogs had trailed Alabama by 31 points at halftime in Sanford Stadium, and lost to Florida 49-10 in Jacksonville during Martinez’s fourth year in that role. The problem wasn’t just that we lost, but how we lost.

Not only has Kirby Smart taken Georgia back to a level the program hasn’t achieved since the coaching days of Vince Dooley, he”s also recruiting at a level that is unprecedented for UGA football. And the change has benefited Mark Richt as well.

In two short years, Coach Richt has made Miami football relevant again, competing for conference championships and playing in a major bowl game on New Year’s Day. If anyone still has any doubt that the coaching change happened when it needed to happen, just look at the picture above, where Jake Fromm is wearing Alabama colors and shaking hands with Nick Saban. The quarterback who led Georgia to victory in the Rose Bowl would be on the other sideline in this championship game, if Kirby Smart hadn’t flipped him to UGA.

The Georgia Bulldogs have exceeded expectations for this season already, but as I’ve previously said, it’s time to be greedy.  As Neil Young has sung, in the field of opportunity, it’s plowing time again.

This opportunity for this particular football team will never come again.  Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn, Dominique Sanders, Lorenzo Carter, and Davin Bellamy, and the other seniors will play their final game as a Bulldog next Monday. The future for UGA football looks incredibly bright, but we should seize this opportunity now that this team has earned it.

At halftime, Georgia trailed Oklahoma by 14 points, and the Sooners also received the 2nd half kickoff. The coaches made the necessary adjustments at halftime, and if one word best described the effort of the team from the 3rd quarter through double overtime, it would be relentless. This team showed incredible character and never gave up.

Regardless of whether the analogy is chopping wood or plowing fields, whatever metaphor works best for the team — these Dawgs need to just have fun and play their best football…and in the words of Larry the Cable Guy, get ‘er done.

This field of opportunity has a name. It’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, the very same field on which the SEC championship game was won.

Go Dawgs!

 

Analyzing Atheism & Critiquing Modern Atheist Tactics, by Landon Freeman

Landon Freeman[

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Landon Freeman is a very intelligent young man and talented writer with quite a few interesting things to say on a variety of topics, so I’ve invited him to share some of those thoughts here at my website. I hope you will enjoy reading his articles as much as I normally do.]

I frequently encounter and converse with atheists on my Facebook group, “Evidence for Creation”. I have to say that, unfortunately, most atheists that have been in the group have since been banned.

It is rare for a Christian and an atheist to have a reasonable conversation. If they do, it usually doesn’t last long, turning into a vitriolic shouting match after awhile. Why is that, though? While I do have to deal with troublesome Christians quite often as well, I’m amazed at the attitudes and the anger many atheists display.

There are usually three types of atheists I encounter on Facebook. The first is usually made up of those content with not believing. They may argue with Christians or other theists, though they are usually respectful and present arguments in an attempt to build a strong case for their position. It’s usually rare to encounter an atheist like this, however.

The second group is made up of atheists who may be respectful for the first few comments and/or posts. However, soon after they begin behaving unnecessarily aggressively, usually mocking Christians while presenting no valid argument of their own.

These atheists are quite common.

The third type of atheist is usually a troll from the start, not even attempting to present their position in a reasonable and respectful manner. This type is a little less common than the second type. I also encounter some agnostics who most closely fit the description of the first type mentioned above. I have often pondered why so much of the modern atheism movement has devolved into such a mockery-filled, anti-intellectual tirade against theists (namely Christians) and religion (namely Christianity).

The issue with the attitudes of many online atheists is that their position is seemingly built upon emotion. Emotion can be a great thing. However, if not controlled, emotions can get in the way of logic and reason. This goes for everyone, both Christians and atheists alike. For instance, while I completely disagree with the key tenets of both Islam and Hinduism, I see no need to troll Muslim and Hindu pages because I’m confident in my belief system and I believe both the Muslim and Hindu positions to be incorrect. I may argue with one if the event arises, though to convince anyone of my position I should be respectful, courteous, and understanding.

While many Christians definitely aren’t as polite and understanding as the should be, Christian apologists overall take a much more professional and intellectual stance when conversing with atheists and people of other faiths. This is something many atheists have yet to begin doing, besides a few more prominent atheists who have partly argued in a professional manner, such as the late Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.

In the past, a Christian would expect to hear actual semi-reasonable arguments from atheists such as Nietzsche and a variety of others. Today, however, most of my encounters with atheists are anything but reasonable, thought-provoking discussions.

Through my numerous interactions with trolls, most of them atheist, I have concluded that the reasons why they are against Christianity may be more personal, rather than evidential. I know, this will likely anger some atheists, but many atheist arguments are filled with emotion, and are directed more towards God’s morality than the existence of God Himself. Some Christian apologists, in contrast, usually begin by discussing evidence for God’s existence first, and then move on to discuss morality.

Many atheists also mention how they used to be Christians, which is impossible, but I won’t be discussing that right now. It definitely seems possible that many atheists have had bad experiences with Christians, which has led to anger, bitterness, and resentfulness towards Christians, Christianity, and God. Some of the atheists who do present arguments tend to present arguments built upon the hate of, or at least a major dislike of Christianity. I’m not writing this to demean and mock atheists.

Not at all. I’m pointing out the issues with the tactics many modern online atheists use. If you are an atheist reading this, I and many other Christians will be glad to have reasonable discussions with you regarding all aspects of faith and evidence for God’s existence, treating you with love and respect along the way. However, approaching a Christian with preexisting anger in your heart and an us vs. them mentality won’t lead to anything positive (these criticisms do apply to the attitudes of some Christians as well), and you can’t expect Christians to listen to you if you shout them down and mock them at every chance you get.

 

Exceeding expectations

On February 10, 1980, the Russian national hockey team absolutely demolished the U.S. national team in an exhibition game in Madison Square Garden just prior to the Olympics, by a 10-3 score.

Arguably the game hadn’t even been as close as the score. The Russian team looked a lot like the Harlem Globetrotters on ice, and the U.S. team appeared to be significantly less competent than the hockey equivalent of the Washington Generals. They didn’t even look as good as the Mighty Ducks (meaning the team coached by Emilio Estevez, not the NHL version.)

After that brutal and humbling loss, U.S. coach Herb Brooks made a very interesting observation. He said: “Sometimes a real butt-kicking is good for a quality team, or a quality athlete.”

Incredibly, less than a month later the U.S. national team managed the unthinkable and defeated the Russians in the far more-important “Miracle on Ice” rematch in the Olympics.

Do you believe in miracles? I do.

I happened to watch that 1980 hockey game in the SAE fraternity house in Athens, Georgia as it happened, in real time. And yesterday I witnessed a similar sports miracle. Georgia won the SEC Championship by three touchdowns by the same team that had beaten them by more than three touchdowns, only three weeks earlier.

Don’t pinch me. If I’m dreaming, I don’t want to wake up. The University of Georgia Bulldogs are the 2017 SEC Champions.

Say it again, out loud and proud. Go Dawgs! Sic ’em! Woof woof woof woof!

Who could have believed it, before this season started? Heck, who besides our players and coaches believed it was possible, after previously losing to this same team by more than three touchdowns?

After the ugly loss against Auburn on November 11th, I’ll freely admit that I had my doubts. True, Georgia didn’t look like the 9-0 team that pummeled what are normally quality SEC opponents such as Mississippi State, Florida, and Tennessee in that first meeting (where Auburn held home field advantage.) Even so, it was tough to tell whether UGA looked that bad or Auburn looked that much better. Their solid victory in the Iron Bowl two weeks later suggested that Auburn had looked that good. Our defense struggled against the balanced offense of Auburn in that first game, and their defense dominated our offense.

We even made uncharacteristically silly mistakes on special teams that cost us points. While I expected UGA to play better in the SEC Championship Game than they had in the loss at Auburn, I never imagined this team making such a profound turnaround in less than one month. Play better, sure. But to win the game convincingly, by 21 points? To absolutely dominate the team that had done the exact same thing to UGA less than a month ago? No way.

Kirby Smart deserves a lot of credit for yesterday’s victory. And I hope the “fire Jim Chaney” sliver of the Dawg Nation population has been silenced for the foreseeable future, but if fans could award a game ball to the coaches for yesterday’s victory, mine would go to Mel Tucker.

His defensive game plan had accounted for everything Gus Malzahn would try to do in the SEC Championship Game, and shut it down. After their first and only scoring drive of the game, our defense suffocated Auburn’s offense, with a turnover literally turning the tide of momentum in the game.

While it’s true that I write novels (which make excellent Christmas gifts), I could never make up a script like yesterday’s game because I personally ascribe to the theory that a story’s plot line must be not only be plausible, but totally believable. The storyline from yesterday’s championship game is the sort of nonsensical crap that Hollywood often tries to sell. It only works when the story is true.

Even so, a 43-point turnaround is positively surreal.

Okay, so who’s next? The pundits believe it will be the Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Win, or the season will end.

Coach Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs have already exceeded my expectations for the 2017 season. I expected them to win the SEC East, but not to sweep their SEC East opponents and win the SEC. I expected them to play well and have a better season than 2016, but not to flirt with an undefeated season. So my expectations for this year have been met, and exceeded.

This year’s UGA football team has already achieved great things, and only two games remain. They are the 2017 champions of SEC football, which is almost as good as being “champions of life” (with no apologies to Butch Jones.) There’s only one thing left to do…become national champions as well.

Now it’s time to get greedy.

Never Discuss Religion With a Unitarian

I’ve never liked to fight with people. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve thrown a punch in anger since my junior year in high school, more than forty years ago. It isn’t my natural instinct to start an argument.

I’ve only had one formal debate in my entire life, and it wasn’t my idea in the first place. By the same token, I’m not afraid of a challenge, or to defend my personal beliefs.

My opponent on that momentous occasion was a former president of American Atheists, a guy named Ed Buckner. He proposed our debate only a couple of months before my book Counterargument for God was published, so I saw his challenge as an opportunity to test the substance of that argument. Personally, I liked Ed. If he ever wants a rematch, I’d only have two conditions: I don’t want to argue cherrypicked verses from the Bible all night, and a second debate should be held on Ed’s home turf, the normal meeting place for  freethinkers in the Atlanta area. I’ve come to believe there are two kinds of atheists — the kind that hate Christianity and religion in general (anti-theists), versus others who also don’t believe in a supernatural God, but without the latent hostility toward people with religious beliefs.

A handful of my virtual friends on Facebook are the latter variety of atheist, and those are some of the friendships I value the most. Recently one atheist friend took the time to send me this message:

After years of (dogmatically) thinking creationists as ignorant/dogmatic etc. (much like many feel about atheists), you are the one who has taught me otherwise. I’m glad you friended me so that I got a chance to have a better insight of your broader worldview and, importantly, your willingness to challenge your own beliefs and assumptions on complex ideas. You are not what I would’ve assumed and I’m glad to know you. You have broadened my worldview. I just thought you’d like to know that.

My friend was right. I liked, and more importantly needed to hear those words very much. Life is a precious gift, and I’ve often wondered if I’ve been squandering that gift by wasting my time on people who aren’t interested in an honest discussion…which brings us around to my explanation of why you should never discuss religion with a (so-called biblical) Unitarian.

I’m more convinced than ever that I don’t want to spend eternity in Hell, because I’ve already experienced a temporal version: my experience of trying to to have a reasonable conversation with a Unitarian. I happened to be listening to the “Unbelievable” podcast featuring Justin Brierly, as he was interviewing Christian theologian James White as his featured guest that day.

A Unitarian caller managed to get on the air and spent what seemed like an eternity insisting that Jesus was not God, specifically arguing his point, which was the Book of Acts did not explicitly state that the apostles taught Jesus was God. Mr. Brierly and Mr. White were very polite, but after about ten minutes of the conversation going around in circles, they needed to move on to discuss other topics. So they thanked the caller and ended the call. And like a complete idiot, I decided to contact that caller through the Unbelievable Facebook page, to see if I could provide more satisfactory answers to his questions, without the constraints of time that limit what may be accomplished on an internet podcast.

After all, in the Book of Proverbs, the Bible tells us:

Do not give answer to a fool according to his foolishness, lest you also be like him. But speak with a fool according to your wisdom lest he think in his soul that he is wise.

It was possibly the worst mistake I’ve ever made in my entire life. The simple answer is no — it just isn’t possible to answer the questions to that particular caller’s satisfaction, unless you are willing to accept his argument and agree with the Unitarian position that Jesus was not God, and the Trinity is a false doctrine. Naturally, I tried. I even submit that I gave it my best effort. I cited verses like Romans 10:9 and John 14:6, to which my nemesis triumphantly replied, “But the apostles never taught that Jesus was God in the Book of Acts!”

So, I pointed out that the third “person” in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, literally descended on the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, which was revealed in Acts.

To be brutally honest, his reply was so stupid, I’ve forgotten what it was.

But I hadn’t yet thrown in the towel to concede that logic, reason, and scriptural evidence were never going to put a dent in this person’s conviction that Jesus was not God, because the apostles never taught that to the original church in the Book of Acts. It became a childish mantra.

Finally, I argued that I believed what Jesus had said about himself. He told his followers that He and the Father were one. I pointed out that Jesus claimed to have existed before Abraham, and specifically used the exact same phrase that Yahweh used with Moses, saying “I AM.”

I added that the people who witnessed the miracles of Jesus and heard him teach had accused him of claiming to be God on multiple occasions.

What it all boiled down to was this — according to Unitarian teachings, the apostles never explicitly taught that Jesus was God, and Jesus himself never used the exact words “I am God.”

Under normal circumstances, this would create an impasse. My adversary in the debate and I would have to agree to disagree, and move on with our lives.

However, biblical Unitarians are not normal people. At least, this one guy wasn’t.

For almost two months since that fateful exchange, that same Unitarian lunatic has tagged me practically every day, to imply his argument had been victorious because I lost interest in arguing with him. Even though I have asked this person nicely on numerous occasions to find another way to amuse himself without trying to badger me into continuing our exercise in futility…I’m never going to accept Unitarian teachings because I’m not nearly narrow-minded enough, and I no longer care to try correcting this individual’s woefully mistaken interpretations of the Bible.

Perhaps not every Unitarian acts [pun intended] like this person. It is possible that a vast majority of Unitarians are basically nice, normal people you’d be happy to call a friend. Just to be safe, though, when you do call them, make sure to limit the conversation to the weather, cooking, sports, or basically anything but religion.

Quite frankly, I’ve had more meaningful conversations with brick walls, because the wall at least will echo my words, which typically utilize logic and reason.

In summary, if you’d ever like to experience what it feels like to have an ongoing conversation with a Unitarian about Jesus, simply place your hand flat on a counter or table top, and smash it with a hammer as hard as you can.

You’ll probably break a bone or two, but at least you’ll learn never to repeat that same mistake again.