The illusion of purpose

dawkinsingodhelmetWould a watchmaker create a watch that can’t tell time?  What would be the point?

After all, another name for a watch is timepiece. Does a watch have a purpose for existing, if it can’t measure time, in some form or fashion?

Can something be claimed to have a purpose, if that certain person, place, or thing was created by a blind force that has no true purpose in mind?

And why am I (once again) asking myself such ridiculous questions?

Naturally, I’ve been reading the work of Richard Dawkins. (I know, I know — I’m a glutton for punishment. But what else can I say? The ability of clearly intelligent people to say or write remarkably foolish comments never ceases to amaze me.)

While skimming through his book The Blind Watchmaker, I stumbled across this masterpiece of muddled thought, on page 9:

A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future person in his mind’s eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.

Now with that silly little speech fresh in your mind, please watch this brief, fascinating video of a caterpillar allegedly mimicking a snake that a good friend of mine shared on Facebook only this morning. The word ‘allegedly’ was used because it is possible that the source of the video was misleading, and in actuality, the caterpillar is not pretending to be a snake. Because I didn’t film this caterpillar in action, I must decide whether or not the author is a credible source of information.

It certainly looks real. But of course, looks can be deceiving.

Assuming the video is legitimate for a moment, please contemplate the claim that evolution is solely responsible for the existence of that caterpillar, and know this…if evolution is true and no creator was involved in the origin of this creature, then only two possible explanations become apparent.

The first possibility is that the video itself is an illusion…I don’t mean literally faked with computer wizardry (though you can create many convincing illusions with computer software such as Adobe Photoshop),  but an illusion in the sense that the caterpillar doesn’t really look like a snake, and the behavior of the caterpillar is not because it wants to deceive predators by appearing to be a snake, and therefore just a coincidence.

The other possibility is that the caterpillar does intend to look and act like a snake, and it is deliberately using the natural camouflage found on his body to mimic a snake — meaning the caterpillar realizes that it has markings that make it look like a snake and uses that information as a means of self defense.

That would seem to make it one incredibly smart caterpillar — even a conscious one, at that.

Question: how does the caterpillar even know what a snake is, and that the predators that normally prey on caterpillars are afraid of snakes? How did its ancestors come to that same realization?

And how did those ancestors reconfigure their DNA so that the illusion of a snake would be created on its abdomen? It seems that if the theory of evolution could be summed up into one sentence, it probably should be this:

Given enough time, you can believe anything is possible.

The problem is that there isn’t enough time to observe evolution in action, real time.

But we do have enough time to watch a two-minute video of a caterpillar mimicking a snake, and time to wonder whether or not there might be a purpose for its appearance and behavior.

Free speech versus the rise of the cry bullies

My_HeadshotOh. My. God.

I may not be the President of the United States, but nevertheless, here is my state of the union address, like it or not: We are SO screwed.

The current generation has been conditioned to believe that they’re never going to have to grow up. Like pixies, elves, or fairies, they will be able to live in a perpetual child-like fantasy. They will remain on their parent’s health insurance policies until they are in their mid-twenties, and still live at “home” (in the basement) in their forties.

God forbid that these whiny babies should actually learn a trade, or a marketable skill. Instead, they go off to college to obtain useless degrees in queer or gender studies, and then complain they can’t find a job when they graduate.

These children are hyper-sensitive to issues regarding race and what they deem as social injustice, quick to join a demonstration or go on a hunger strike in order to force their will on the masses, or to get someone fired. When Dartmouth students decided that everyone should agree with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, they stormed the library and disrupted people trying to study, getting in the face of people who were trying to work and yelling at the top of their lungs.

Of course black lives matter — all lives matter. Perhaps if fewer people screamed at each other only a few inches apart, there would be fewer violent assaults and murders.

But I’m not sure that I agree with the true goals of the real founders of the “Black Lives Matter” movement — gay men and women hiding their agenda for promoting LBGT “equality” under the pretense of protesting police violence against black people. These were not the people Obama recently invited to the White House.

The easiest way to offend one of these protestors is to reply “white lives matter, too”. Or if you don’t mind risking assault, tell them “blue lives matter.”

But if you do be careful, or you might become the next victim of the Knockout game. Or if you’re a real wimp, you’ll be forced to apologize. Naturally, such evil stupidity and cowardice is not color-blind.

Cowards come in every skin color. Racism is equal opportunity.

The problem isn’t a person’s race, religion, or their lack of education. The problem seems to be a general inability of most people to understand the difference between right and wrong, and failure to grasp that other people have the right to hold an opinion which may not agree with their own.

What happens when these “activist” overgrown children encounter their ideological opposite in the public square? Apoplectic rage. Tears of humiliation. Complete emotional meltdowns. The demand for “safe” spaces. In other words pure gold, in comedic terms.

When Breitbart Tech Editor Milos Yiannopoulos spoke at the University of Pittsburgh, students claimed they were traumatized by his remarks, which included saying feminists hated men and that people who believed in gender wage discrimination were idiots.

People were crying. Literally. They wanted counselors on hand to soothe their hurt feelings. They acted like…well, children.

And now I’m crying, too.

However, my tears are for the future of my country, not the hurt feelings of this next generation of pansies. Our children appear to be poorly prepared for a world deal with real problems like ISIS in it.

To the students at Pitt and elsewhere I say this: suck it up, buttercup. There are no safe spaces in this day and age. Just about everybody has an internet connection.

Plus opinions, and probably an attitude about them.

Generosity of the Bulldog Nation

devon-gales-fundI’m proud to call myself a member of the Bulldog Nation.

There have been a couple of down days for me as a UGA fan since the glory days of Herschel Walker but not many, and especially few since Todd Grantham left Athens for Louisville. The day Mark Richt was fired was something of a downer.

But we look for ways to move forward…

When Devon Gales of Southern University was paralyzed in a game against UGA in Sanford Stadium, Dawg fans donated generously to a fund to help pay his rehabilitation-related expenses. Although Devon has been released from the Shepherd Spinal Center, his rehabilitation efforts are far from over.

Now the Triumph Over Tragedy foundation is raising funds to convert the Gales family home to become handicap-accessible. I’m proud to be one of many who rallied to support this tenacious young man with such a positive attitude in spite of the unfortunate injury that made him a household-name for Bulldog fans. I fully intend to support Triumph Over Tragedy both now and in the future, now that I’ve learned a little about their organization and know about their work.

Another worthy cause that I’m proud to say Bulldog fans support is the Mission Dawgs outreach to Georgia’s homeless. UGA fans have teamed up with the Hope Springs Church in Athens to assemble and distribute what are being called “Goodness Bags” for the homeless.

#Mission Dawgs

#Mission Dawgs

The Goodness bags contain toothbrushes, tooth paste, deodorant, combs, baggies, chap stick, soap, socks, gloves, blankets a McDonald’s gift card for five dollars plus five dollars cash, some crackers, hand sanitizer, soap, hats, hand warmers, books, and something chocolate.

The Mission Dawgs have also been collecting and giving away winter coats, gloves, toiletries, gift cards, and food. What started out as a couple of UGA fans handing out gift bags to homeless people on the streets of Atlanta has mushroomed into a serious endeavor that’s helping hundreds of homeless people ranging from Athens to Atlanta, with several other places in between.

Donations to the Mission Dawgs effort can be made online or sent to:

Mission Dawgs c/o
Hope Springs Christian Fellowship
1025 Baxter St
Athens, Georgia 30606
Phone: (706) 549-0350

One last worthy cause to mention — and this one has a personal connection for me, is the GoFundMe page for my cousin Hank.

Hank is a UGA alumnus, class of ’77. A purebred Dawg, with the papers to prove it.

542541_3623560185365_1621794872_nHank suffers from a rather pernicious form of multiple sclerosis that has kept him confined to a wheelchair.

We’re trying to help him raise money for the robotic exoskeleton he’s shown using in the video, so he can walk again.

Win with integrity. Lose with integrity. That is the Georgia Way.

Give generously. If not of your time, give the money you don’t really need, what you’d otherwise blow on a video game or a twelve pack of Budweiser, the official beer of the Dawg class of ’83.

That’s just the way the Bulldog Nation rolls…we Dawgs might be ferocious between the hedges, but otherwise for the most part, we are generous and kind hearted. We do what we can for those who could use a hand…or a wheelchair accessible house…or a really cool robotic exoskeleton.

Always remember — every little bit helps.

 

The inevitable election of Donald Trump

DonaldTrumpNormally, I try to avoid writing about politics.

In my opinion, I already write enough about controversial topics like atheism, religion, evolution, and existential science to satisfy any subliminal need that I might have to infuriate people I’ve never met.

No matter what impression I’ve given my audience, it has not been my intention to antagonize readers who might disagree with me.

Writers need to attract an audience, not repel them. My goal is NOT to alienate every conceivable demographic in the general public. That sort of defeats the purpose of writing books and having them published.

Besides, it seems that my political instincts are lousy.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I have liked Dr. Ben Carson since first watching his speech at the national prayer breakfast and previously mentioned that I support his candidacy. Admittedly, my second (preferred) choice for the Republican nominee was Scott Walker, who became the first candidate to drop out of the race. Ben Carson’s campaign doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, either.

Unfortunately, it seems that whenever I begin to like a candidate, it’s like the kiss of death for that campaign. Donald Trump continues to dominate the news cycle, and it looks like my choices will eventually boil down to either Trump, Cruz, or Rubio by the time the Georgia primary is held.

Yesterday I read an interesting take on the candidacy of Donald Trump published by American Thinker, which I felt compelled to share with my friends on Facebook.

One friend of mine suggested that Trump’s win in South Carolina cemented his status as the Republican candidate, citing some poll that claimed 94 percent of Trump voters say they won’t change their mind, no matter what the guy says or does. The thought which immediately occurred to me was that even 94 percent of 35 percent (Trump’s current share of the Republican electorate) is not enough to elect the man as our next president. If an alleged 60 percent unfavorable rating (compared to Hillary Clinton’s 52 percent) is true, then Trump has the very difficult task of improving his popularity.

Eventually Trump has got to convince people like me to vote for him, even though half the stuff he says scares the crap out of me. To be brutally honest, I don’t want to argue with my friend, but I still find that 94 percent statistic extremely difficult to believe for this reason: Trump says a lot of things that will eventually alienate true conservatives.

For example, in a recent debate he said that Planned Parenthood “does a lot of good things” for women (except for performing abortions, naturally). With comments like that, he has a better chance of appealing to Democrats than he does of expanding his Republican base, in my opinion.

Not everything about Trump bothers me, though. I like what I’ve heard Trump say about protecting our borders, bringing jobs back home, and making America great again. I even like the idea of someone who isn’t a professional politician — but that’s precisely the reason I’ve been supporting Ben Carson, that plus his accomplishments and personal integrity.

What I haven’t liked about Trump is his hypocrisy. He’s launched blistering attacks on Marco Rubio accusing him of questionable financial transactions, though Trump’s businesses have declared bankruptcy four times since 1991. I wonder — how many companies went out of business because Trump refused to honor his financial obligations to them? He’s a billionaire, so it isn’t like he didn’t have the money to pay his debts. He protected his own personal wealth.

Trump brags that he doesn’t take campaign contributions from special interests, but he IS a special interest. Furthermore, it disturbs me that Trump accused Ted Cruz of being the “worst liar”in American politics … when he’s been cozy with the Clintons in the past. In fact, Politifact awarded Trump the 2015 Lie of the Year for his collective campaign statements (not that that really matters — I’m not a fan of Politifact, either).

Just sayin’.

It bothers me quite a bit to know that Trump has made significant campaign contributions to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in the past. That tells me Donald Trump cares more about promoting his personal business interests than he cares about the future of our country.

Donald Trump apparently supports universal (single payer) healthcare, an expansion rather than a repeal of Obamacare. In other words, Trump is all over the map with his campaign promises. He alternates between pandering to conservative and liberal special interests and seems to check to see which way the political winds are blowing.

Is it possible that I am biased?

Absolutely. I still haven’t completely forgiven Donald Trump for luring Herschel Walker away from the University of Georgia in (our) senior year to play in the ill-fated USFL, even more than thirty years after the fact. I’ve never watched a single episode of The Apprentice, either, because I have no interest in scripted “reality” television.

Pope Francis rubs his face after completing the speaking part of his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Jan. 15, 2014) See POPE-AUDIENCE Jan. 15, 2014.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Jan. 15, 2014)

But I’m even more upset that Pope Francis recently decided to insert himself into the U.S. political arena. The Pope’s suggestion that Donald Trump was not a Christian because he wants to build a wall along the southern border of the United States to stem the flow of illegal immigration was most inappropriate.

That’s one of the few campaign promises Trump has made that I actually want him to keep.

Hey, Pope Francis…if you’re going to criticize someone’s faith, why don’t you start by looking a little bit closer to home? For example, why haven’t you excommunicated Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and the other “Catholics” that support abortion from the church that you lead?

I can’t believe the Pope, of all people, would really care less about the innocent unborn than he does about protecting the “rights” of foreigners violating American immigration laws.

To balance my outrage at this injustice, I have reminded myself that Donald Trump mocked and ridiculed Dr. Carson’s faith as a Seventh Day Adventist. He also suggested that Dr. Carson had lied about a stabbing incident from his childhood, diminishing any sympathy I might have otherwise had for the enigmatic real estate mogul.

Nevertheless, it’s one thing to have Donald Trump challenge your faith, and quite another to have your loudest critic be the leader of the Catholic Church. It made me feel a little bit sorry for Trump. But not too sorry — he is still a billionaire, and he could become the next President.

In summary, I can think of at least one very good reason to vote for Donald Trump — if my only other choice is either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

Then voting for Trump becomes a no-brainer.

Mattie’s Call: Lamar Putnam

lamar-3There are exceptions to every rule.

Normally, when I write about something, I tend to get long-winded. Today my message will be short, and to the point.

The man pictured on the left is Lamar Putnam. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Normally I don’t call attention to or promote someone else’s blog, but this wasn’t really a tough decision to make. It’s not always about me.

All I had to do was to remember the last few months of my grandmother’s life after her stroke, and then to imagine how I would have felt if she’d gone missing when she could no longer remember where she lived. This man is a beloved father and grandfather. His family needs your help.

Mr. Putnam has been missing since January 16th. His family and friends are desperately looking for him, and they need anyone with information on his whereabouts to immediately contact the police.

Please take a few minutes to read this blog to familiarize yourself with the facts of the case. There are reasons to believe Mr. Putnam could still be alive, but with winter weather moving into the area, the importance of finding him becomes more urgent by the minute. It could snow this weekend.

Also please share the information at the link provided above  with all your friends and family, especially if you live in Georgia or Alabama. As more people keep looking for Mr. Putnam, someone will surely find him. By doing so you just might save his life.

Please help Lamar find his way home. His family misses him.

Thanks for your time.

Your inner parakeet

2000px-Budgerigar_diagram-labeled.svgI love reading books written by Richard Dawkins. Quite ironically, he provides some of the very best material I could ever hope to find for use in discussions with my atheist friends about God and His creation, as well as existential science and evolution theory.

It turns out that virtually everything I might ever need for my argument in favor of a supernatural God can be found in his book The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution, simply by following the advice of Dawkins and accepting many of his claims about the theory of evolution on face value.

For example, in his book Richard Dawkins claimed that humans share a now-extinct ancestor with the budgerigar (another name for the common parakeet) that lived approximately 310 million years ago, writing that “Every species is a cousin of every other. Any two species are descended from an ancestral species, which split in two.” (pg. 254)

That would mean every modern living organism must be directly related to every other living organism on earth by descent — with modifications, of course. Not only is your cousin a chimpanzee, but your slightly more distant cousin is allegedly the cucumber.

The most obvious question coming to mind about this idea would seem to be “how?”

Now my atheist friends have frequently suggested that I publish the evidence that disproves my cousinship to fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers and turnips so that I might earn fame, fortune, and even to win a Nobel Prize. However, the Nobel Prize does not honor a category for evolutionary biology, making the goal itself nonsensical, even if one assumes that the purpose of pursuing a career in science is to earn fame, fortune, and win the Nobel Prize.

Not even Charles Darwin would have won the Nobel Prize if the award had existed when he wrote On the Origin of Species. Ernst Mayr never won the Nobel Prize, and also noted that there is no prize for evolutionary biology, presumably to silence his own critics. Besides, by the time I received my PhD in something, I’d only be a few years away from retirement age.

Furthermore, Richard Dawkins hasn’t won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, either. So winning one can’t be that big of a deal.

Ideas matter.southernprose_cover_CAFG Book sales matter. Being able to defend one’s ideas with logic, reason, and the support of available scientific ideas matter. An honest pursuit of existential truth matters. Prizes and book awards, not so much.

In case awards matter to other people and increase book sales, though, I will point out to the reader that the book shown on the right won a gold medal in an international book awards contest, as did collection of animal rescue short stories and the detective novel shown below.

Thus ends my brief foray into shameless self-promotion, which I freely admit only doing to irritate those critics of mine who often accuse me of relentless self promotion and trying to sell them a book that I’ve offered to give away.

This mentality reminds me of the classic line from Joseph Bologna in the movie Blame It on Rio: “Who packs, not to leave?”

DivineEvolutionCover_eBook_finalWho writes a book and manages to get published, but doesn’t want people to buy it?

Not that I’m complaining, but I think my accountant might still tell me today that Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, and Bob Dylan have all made more money off copyright permissions from Divine Evolution, my first book, that I have earned from sales to date. Writing is a labor of love that will eventually pay financial dividends to my estate, if not before.

Buy a book and read — it doesn’t have to be one of mine. Broaden your horizons. Try to learn something new. End of commercial.

Now back on point…

It has been frequently said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The assertion that humans might be related even to parakeets and even plants by sex, isolation of genetics, and time certainly would qualify as an extraordinary claim.

Dawkins writes (about the alleged reptilian human/parakeet common ancestor),

“In the unlikely event that a fossil of this ancestral species was ever found, it would need a name. Let’s call it Protamnio darwinii. We don’t know any details about it, and the details don’t matter [emphasis added] at all for the argument, but we won’t go far wrong if we imagine a sprawling lizard-like creature, scurrying about catching insects. Now, here’s the point. When Protamnio darwinii split into two sub-populations, they would have looked just the same as each other, and could have happily interbred with each other; but one lot were destined to give rise to the mammals, and the other lot were destined to give rise to the birds (and dinosaurs and snakes and crocodiles).” (pg. 254-5)

Now in order to reach this allegedly indisputable conclusion that humans and parakeets have ancestors in common, we only need to look at the evidence, according to Mr. Dawkins.

This is excellent advice, in my opinion. Never forget that extraordinary claims always require extraordinary evidence. So what exactly is this evidence, and what does it tell us?

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but birds have beaks, wings, and feathers. Their bones are hollow, yet incredibly strong. Birds lay eggs. Most birds can fly. They have a specially-adapted digestive system. In other words, birds are very, very different than human beings that appear to be engineered specifically for the capability of flight.

Neither birds nor humans are closely related to insect-eating lizards, though. Sure, birds, lizards, and humans have central nervous systems and cardio-vascular systems as well as skeletons, hearts, brains, eyes, and other organs that may be found in virtually every living animal, but this hardly qualifies as evidence for being the product of common descent.southernprose_cover_AANO

Furthermore, Richard Dawkins admits that there is an “overwhelming illusion” of design we may observe in nature, but then dismisses even the possibility of design versus descent because of his personal bias towards atheism. To justify his assumption, he refers to alleged evidence of “bad” design like the routing of the vas deferens through the human body or the laryngeal nerve in giraffes. My dogs are theoretically not only my best friends, they are allegedly my cousins as well.

Does anyone else (besides me, of course) have a problem with the absence of logic being shown here? We are being asked — no, told to believe that humans are related to giraffes and parakeets through common ancestry, conditioned to believe that evolution theory is the only conceivable explanation for the existence of a human being.

We are told to basically ignore all the differences like feathers and wings and emphasize any perceived similarities. If we attempt to ask intelligent questions about the science, we are branded as evolution deniers, as if we know some great existential truth that we stubbornly refuse to admit.

Skepticism about science will not be tolerated. Only skepticism about religion is allowed.

Nevertheless, common ancestry means that the primary factors that cause such incredible diversity are sexual reproduction, isolation of the gene pool (usually due to geography), and time. Both Dawkins and Coyne clearly agree on the importance of those three factors, especially isolation, in the formation of new species. Quite frankly, we are being conditioned to believe that only descent can possibly explain how a lizard, a parakeet, and a human being are allegedly “related” to each other.

Dawkins insists that we should go and look at the evidence — perhaps he should take his own advice and speak with paleontologist Michael Benton. An excellent candidate for Protamnio darwinii might well be a dicynodont named Lystrosaurus, the primary terrestrial animal that survived the Permian extinction of about 250 million years ago, according to Professor Benton. What’s sixty million years in the Big Scheme of things, compared to the life span of a human being?

More time than we have to observe the alleged processes in action, that’s for sure. That is roughly the same amount of geologic time that has elapsed since the Cretaceous extinction killed off the dinosaurs. Most modern animal species we can observe today allegedly “evolved” within the last 65 million years, with a few notable exceptions such as crocodiles and coelacanths.

It would be absurd to deny the possibility that descent alone might explain the existence of both the ant and the anteater, the cotton plant and the boll weevil, because we know that species (or kinds) are perpetuated by sexual reproduction, which is of course, descent. But why should we assume descent must be the only possible contributing factor, when there is overwhelming evidence drawn from inference that suggests manipulation and design might also be involved?

My point is merely this: it is absolutely silly to assume that descent explains the relationship of humans to bananas, while details of the process by which it occurred remain completely unknown. My goal is not to persuade the reader he or she should not believe Darwin’s theory solves all problems — I’m asking for someone to explain how it works to me, so that I might believe, too.

Currently we don’t even seem to know how recent evolution occurred, for example how humans evolved from ape ancestors. The “smoking gun” evidence that advocates of evolution theory love to cite is the commonly believed fusion of human chromosome 2, which biologist Ken Miller has said appears to be so clear that it appears “something” joined two primate chromosomes together as clearly as if a piece of Scotch tape had been used to connect them.

However, when pressed to explain how a fused joining of those chromosomes could occur slowly over many generations, Professor Miller explained that the joining of those two chromosomes had no discernible impact on ape-to-human evolution. But how can an event with no known relationship to human evolution be claimed to provide evidence that it occurred? If the evidence that humans evolved from apes doesn’t explain how it happened, why should we believe that it even happened?

And if human chromosome 2 created by fusion didn’t cause ape-to-human evolution to occur, what did?

It’s very important to note that Richard Dawkins admits that we don’t have the slighted clue about what causes or allows macro evolution to occur, writing: “What actually happened at this epic parting of the ways (divergence from reptiles into species that evolve into both humans and parakeets), nobody knows.” (pg 255) How…inconvenient. Or convenient, depending on your point of view.

Doesn’t that seem like something vitally important to know before it becomes universally accepted to be an indisputable truth? How can we assume something could have only happened one way, if we don’t even have the slightest clue how that way actually works in the real world?

Remember, if evolution as Dawkins describes it really is true, you’re not only a cousin of a chimpanzee, you’re also literally the cousin of a cucumber. All dramatic (and beneficial) mutations only made possible by sex. Plus isolation of two gene pools from the same ancestral creature. And lots and lots of time, of course. Dawkins also wrote in his book that “Biologists use the word ‘speciation’ for the splitting of a species into two daughter species.”

The problem with what biologists call “speciation” is the definition of the word species, originally redefined by Ernst Mayr to mean animals that don’t reproduce for whatever reason, regardless of their kind. Doesn’t this sort of diminish the whole concept of selection? In ring species, is it true that the animals can’t reproduce, or could it be possible they don’t mate by choice? Is a bluebird absolutely unable to mate with a cardinal, or possibly just not attracted to them?

I don’t ask questions because I know all the answers…I’d only like to know them.

According to Dawkins, the cichlids of Lake Victoria have allegedly evolved into hundreds of new species of cichlids. But the cichlids haven’t actually become a truly new kind of organism. Only more diversity in cichlids can be observed, even 400,000 years after the lake formed.

The real question of speciation is this: how long does it take for tilapia to evolve into trout?  Remember that in open ocean waters, a decent fisherman might catch bass, trout, flounder, salmon, mackerel, or they might encounter countless other forms of marine life — or perhaps they might even hook an alleged fossil fish, the coelacanth. Will the cichlids of Lake Victoria ever evolve into something other than a cichlid?

During Richard Lenski’s experiments with e-coli bacteria didn’t evolve into a completely different organism with a new body plan. It didn’t even evolve into a different form of bacteria such as salmonella or listeria. The e-coli merely adapted to changes in its environment. The experiments do demonstrate the remarkable resilience and ability to adapt to a changing environment for a well defined kind of animal, but haven’t shown how truly new organisms emerge.

My atheist friends want to know how I can dismiss evidence of evolution seen in ERVs, meaning the endogenous retroviruses that may become part of the DNA inherited by offspring.

Under what circumstances might an infection from a virus have beneficial results to the host organism? Trying to think of candidates for viruses that may become permanently embedded in the host’s DNA, I’m only coming up with examples such as herpes simplex/Chickenpox thus far — viruses without beneficial effect on the host organism.

New information might get added to the genome, all right, but it’s more than likely detrimental in nature, if it’s viral.

The latest and greatest discovery in evolutionary biology is the identification of the miR-941 gene that allegedly “helps to explain how humans evolved from apes. It appears to have played a crucial role in the development of the human brain and may shed light on our use of tools and language.”

The problem is that the article making this stunning announcement also had this to say:

Scientists say, however, that this gene emerged, in a startlingly brief interval of evolutionary time, fully functional out of non-coding genetic material. This material has been termed “junk DNA.” [emphasis added] Previous to this study, it has been remarkably difficult to see this process in action.

In light of these new clams, perhaps calling Sir Fred Hoyle’s famous tornado-through-a-junkyard analogy a “fallacy” is the truly egregious logical error in this exercise. I just don’t believe that the traits which make humans special formed quickly and naturally came from AREs and junk DNA.

southernprose_cover_SHSIn his book The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins repeatedly encouraged his readers to imagine being private detectives investigating a crime scene. As it just so happens, that is precisely what I do for a living — I write detective novels, published using the pen name Rocky Leonard.

So I’ve had to train my mind to imagine crimes and then to solve them.

It seems intuitively more obvious to me that God, not good luck, has monkeyed around with our DNA.

God doesn’t make junk. Complexity exists for a reason.

Perhaps the most telling comment of all from Dawkins was this: “Once again, I must stress, the details [emphasis original] of my little story are pure fiction [emphasis added].” (pg. 256)

He follows that up with: “Most biologists will tell you that geographical isolation is the normal prelude to speciation, although some, especially entomologists, may chime in with the reservation that sympatric speciation can also be important. Sympatric speciation, too, requires some kind of initial, incidental separation to get the ball rolling, but it is something other than geographic isolation.” (pg. 257)

Given the stated importance of genetic isolation of two breeding populations within species boundary, does this mean that humans, in the age of worldwide travel, can no longer evolve on earth?

That thought seems to beg yet another question: must humans colonize outer space in order to be able to evolve into new species? How else might two different human gene pools get isolated long enough to diverge, in this day and age?

I know this article turned out to be long, but I wanted to cover as much territory as possible and get all of the residual questions off my chest, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t see future books about evolution or religion.

I’ve pretty much said all that needed to be said, and what I wanted to say. Until the announcement of next great evolutionary breakthrough, that is.

Perhaps when they claim to have discovered how gene mir-942 helped turn monkeys into men.

How did I get here?

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The title poses what is known as an existential question — questions that are much easier asked than answered.

Who am I? What happens when we die? Is there a purpose for my life?

Existential questions are the sort that you’re never completely sure that you’ve really solved them, until you die. The answers that you decide are most correct will often determine whether or not you believe in God, which may impact many of the life decisions you make.

So these are not trivial questions…in fact, they are the most important and difficult questions that we may ever contemplate.

How in the hell did I get started writing books that talk about things related to religion and science, when I only received a business degree in college?

That’s also an excellent question, and an easier riddle to solve because the question itself isn’t existential in nature. And this is my answer…

I’ve always loved writing, whether it was source code for computer programs, a short story, or an effort to communicate important thoughts and ideas in concise language through documents I’ve written. I’ve always enjoyed tackling difficult problems and then working diligently to solve them. One of my earliest dreams was to become a professional writer one day.

However, for the longest time, I was too busy working a full-time job and raising my family to write prose on the side, or to worry much about seeking answers to my existential questions. I had things to do, and people to see. I stayed busy.

Then a fateful television interview that was mostly background noise while I worked  completely changed my attitude and my priorities. When I heard Richard Dawkins claim that cars and computers were intelligently designed, but human beings were not, I had to understand the rationale he used to justify his assertion. To this day, I still marvel at that absurd claim, even more so now that I more fully understand his flawed thinking.

I’ve always loved to read detective novels. Now I also enjoy writing them, along with the occasional nonfiction book. Richard Dawkins served as my motivation to become a writer.

Recently I promised a new friend of mine that I’d write something to specifically explain how I came to hold the beliefs I currently hold about science, given my published criticisms of evolution theory.

My new friend wanted to know how I came to write my book Counterargument for God.  The best way to answer his question will be to go back to the very beginning.

Similar to the experience of many atheists, I was inculcated in the beliefs of Christianity by my mother, with strong assistance from the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Also, as many atheists have experienced, I went off to college and promptly lost my faith after being indoctrinated into mainstream secular beliefs. In college I was taught to believe that science and religion were incompatible. I was taught that science was right and religion was wrong, as if they were mutually exclusive.

I’ll never forget my professor who broke the news that God hadn’t created the universe, the Big Bang had. Immediately, a question popped into my mind. So I asked, “From where did the matter for the Big Bang come?”

Of course I realize now is a question a theist would naturally think to ask, which is probably why my professor seemed to get defensive. I could accept the idea that the Big Bang occurred, but not the professor’s flippant response, which was that the origin of matter didn’t matter.

Without matter coming from somewhere, there is no Big Bang. In my opinion, it’s everything that matters. Naturally, I interpreted his reply to actually mean that he didn’t know.

Without a Big Bang, there is no universe, no stars. No complex chemicals that can by some unknown process cause dead matter to become a living organism. I said as much, and our exchange ended. Apparently that professor, whose name escapes me, wasn’t even sharp enough to offer the multiverse as an answer.

So I graduated from college knowing about Darwin and evolution, and knowing about the Big Bang theory, but without understanding how those theories truly help answer our existential questions.

Nowadays when someone tries to tell me that I have to believe something, I like to quote the Buddha, who said: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

Sage advice.

When our children still lived at home, my wife and I both worked at demanding full-time jobs in order to support the family in the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed.

Working full time as a software developer and my parental duties required most of my time.

Writing software in complex computer languages paid very well, and I was pretty good at my job. In the world of computers, I was the intelligent designer.

People actually paid me to go from the United States to Australia, a trip that would have cost thousands of dollars, had it been a vacation. I was Down Under for six months, but only worked eighty hour weeks for the middle four. In my free time, I visited zoos and Australian landmarks. I  saw kangaroos and petted a koala bear. I watched a professional tennis tournament with world class players competing on beautifully manicured grass courts. I went to see an America’s Cup boat race in Fremantle.

And I was getting paid to be there. Is this a great country, or what?

Without a doubt, I’ve been blessed — with intelligence, and then with opportunity. My dreams of writing a book one day and becoming a published author were put on indefinite hold, and practically forgotten as years and decades passed, with the continued success of my career.

Then one fateful day, Richard Dawkins woke up the writer sleeping inside me.

I’ll cut to the chase right here: when Dawkins said what he said, I knew he was wrong, but also knew that I couldn’t explain why. So I began to research.

I sincerely believed in a supernatural God because I believed in the existence of ghosts, due to many personal experiences. My ghost stories have been told before: in my first book Divine Evolution and online here at my website, so for the sake of brevity, I won’t repeat them.

And I understand that my own personal experiences won’t mean much, if anything, to my atheist friends. But I’d sincerely appreciate it if people would not insist my experiences should also mean nothing to me. A single incident can probably be explained away with somewhat plausible rational thought. But not hundreds of them.

Richard Dawkins proclaimed (rather emphatically) that there is no such thing as a supernatural God. He boldly asserted that supernatural entities do not exist: no God, angels, demons or ghosts or anything related to the supernatural are permitted in his worldview. images

When I first heard Dawkins being interviewed on Stephen Colbert’s comedy show, I had forgotten most of what I’d known about the theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory just wasn’t very interesting to me.

I had no need to understand the origin of species in order to write computer software, so the theory was useless, as far as I was concerned.

About all I remembered about the theory of evolution was the famous progression chart showing an Old World monkey evolving into a human being. Good for a laugh, perhaps, but nothing that might help me write code in an object-oriented programming language, or coach my son’s baseball team.

Only years later, when my curiosity had finally been piqued by Dawkins, I began to buy books by him and other prominent atheist authors, devouring just about every book related to science I could find, and began to haunt our local library.

I took copious notes as I read that were eventually edited into my first book, Divine Evolution, released by a small independent “no-fee” publisher who paid royalties.

DivineEvolutionCover_eBook_finalThe focus of Dawkins’s “argument” against God positions the argument for the theory of evolution against the biblical description of creation. This is absurd, for one simple reason:

Life cannot evolve until it exists. The Big Bang, inflation, and abiogenesis are equally or more important as the theory of evolution, because they must occur first.

Before evolution ever becomes possible, this universe (capable of supporting life) must first exist, and lifeless matter must somehow become animated.

My critics will often scoff and suggest that if my science arguments really could effectively challenge Darwin’s theory of natural selection, I should gain fame, fortune, and a Nobel Prize.  However, Richard Dawkins doesn’t have one of those, either, and my initial goal was responding to him.

My science arguments are not even “my” arguments. I stand on the shoulders of giants, merely reinterpret work produced by the experts in their respective fields. I’m a writer, not a scientist, and never pretended otherwise. The question is not whether I offer new evidence that discredits Darwin, but does my philosophical analysis of the scientific evidence explain that evidence as well or better than the theory of evolution? The question boils down to design, or descent.

No one seems to believe me when I say that my goal has never been to “destroy” Darwin or his theory as much as it has been to understand how evolution might produce the incredible diversity of life that we see in our current world. If evolution really does cause the origin of new species, I’d like to fully understand the process by which it happens.

The atheist/naturalist explanation for existence claims that nothing created this universe from nothing, that life itself is nothing more than a few chemical reactions, and that all life itself descended from a common ancestor. Descent with modification not only causes astonishing variety within an existing species, it also creates new ones.

If the universe could come to exist without any help or divine intervention, then there is no reason that ghosts would exist as the displaced spirits of the dead.

The atheist will probably say, “That’s right!”

The problem is that I’m not willing to ignore or worse, insist that hundreds of my own personal experiences were untrustworthy hallucinations and abandon my beliefs because someone else refuses to believe in ghosts.

Invariably, God will be mocked as a somewhat vacuous and superfluous invisible man in the sky, a figment of the imagination for the weak-minded. Talking snakes and donkeys will probably get brought up as well, because there are no new arguments for atheism. It’s all been said before.

But I have to wonder — how much easier it is really to believe in a universe coming from nothing for no reason than it is to believe in ghosts, or a virgin giving birth?

The death of D. M. Murdock, also known as Acharya S

acharyaSooner or later, Death will come for us all.

With sadness and considerable regret, I noticed that notorious Christian mythicist D. M. Murdock (also known by the pseudonym Acharya S.) recently passed away after a battle with cancer.

Now to be completely honest, I’ve never been a big fan of her books or videos, given her very open hostility toward Christianity and Christians.

Earlier this year, I wrote a rather scathing article about her book The Christ/Horus Connection and challenged the veracity of her work. Quite frankly, she and Richard Carrier formed a small minority of “experts” who question the existence of a historical Jesus.

Carrier does hold a PhD, but he doesn’t teach at a university. He offers online courses on his work that panders to the conspiracy theorist crowd and basically does “anything for a buck.”

The credentials of Ms. Murdock may be found here.

My words practically dripped with sarcasm as I aggressively questioned her claim that she learned Egyptian hieroglyphics on the fly. Let’s just say that I remain skeptical, but now regret my harsh words, considering they were delivered while she literally fought for her life.

Now it is my custom, when I “attack” someone like Ms. Murdock for me to attempt communication with that person in order to call their attention to my criticisms. I’d rather be up front and give him or her the opportunity to respond to my criticism as a common courtesy. I can’t say for sure that I emailed her a link to that article, and sincerely hope that I forgot. and that I did not cause her any distress during her final months on earth.

We all will die sooner or later, but people should’t go out of their way to make us miserable when our time comes.

Quite ironically, she died on Christmas Day, which would obviously mean little to someone who didn’t believe Jesus ever existed. It will now be almost impossible to forget the day she died.

Her “research” formed much of the material presented about an alleged conspiracy to create a myth called Jesus Christ seen in the movie Zeitgeist.  She was obviously a very intelligent woman, but she clearly had an agenda to destroy Christianity, which she vigorously pursued.

But Christians should not celebrate her death. Instead, we should pray for her soul, and for the comfort of her loved ones.

May she rest in peace.

Empowered idiots

Harrison-Ford_Early-Years_HD_768x432-16x9I have a confession to make: I’ve enjoyed watching the movies of Harrison Ford as he pretended to be tough-as-nails archeologist Indiana Jones and rogue space smuggler Han Solo. He’s a pretty good actor.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ford has also been known to make headlines by saying words that were not scripted for him by a very talented writer. For example, he was recently quoted as saying the human race would soon become extinct unless some form of collective action wasn’t immediately taken to “combat climate change.”

Please stick to your script in the future, Harrison.

Ford's crashed plane (from USA Today)

Ford’s crashed plane
(from USA Today)

Now I am not the first writer that noticed a man who owns multiple airplanes — a man who is completely unqualified to offer an informed opinion about the potential impact of “climate change” still felt free to lecture those of us who can’t even afford to fly coach. This man is the same actor bragged to a magazine in 2010 that he would “often fly up the coast for a cheeseburger.” Because he could.

Apparently we should all pay higher taxes for energy and drive hybrid vehicles so Mr. Ford won’t feel guilty about flying to Europe on his own private jet.

But if we seriously believed his Chicken Little mentality, why shouldn’t we force people like Mr. Ford to immediately give up their private jets in favor of (gasp) commercial air travel?

This prima donna burns more gas on one flight to get a cheeseburger than I burn in my much more modest form of transportation over an entire year. Please get over yourself, Captain Solo.

150305201713-09-ford-flying--restricted-super-169Sadly, Mr. Ford is hardly alone with his holier-than-thou attitude. The climate alarmist crowd wants to raise billions, possibly even trillions of dollars in new taxes under the guise of doing something about the problem, but how does a massive transfer of wealth affect the “problem?”

What troubles me so much about the climate change alarmist crowd is their hysterical intolerance of dissent — people who merely ask questions are branded as “climate deniers” and attacked as puppets of Big Oil.

Well, I have news for Al Gore and his ilk — Big Oil has never offered me a penny. My objections to climate hysteria are purely based on observation, logic and reason.

An overwhelming majority of the same people who demand that the world’s population forego the use of fossil fuels also oppose the cleaner alternative, which is nuclear energy. We are told that we should drive electric cars, but from where does the electricity come? Power plants that burn oil or coal, or use nuclear energy.

But we aren’t supposed to think about any possible unpleasant consequences that may come from taking drastic measures to transfer wealth from the poor to the obscenely rich, which can only be done by convincing the poor they should remain poor for the good of the rest of the world.

And like a virus, this malady of muddled thinking has spread to the younger generation, inspiring them to go on hunger strikes and “occupy” everything from a public park to the president’s office at the University of Missouri as they demand utter nonsense such as “safe space” zones where free speech is prohibited.

The world is not a safe place. These people are demanding something that simply doesn’t exist.

Suck it up, buttercup.

If you’re old enough to read this article and comprehend the words, you’re probably too old to be sucking your thumb and wearing a diaper.

Piers Morgan also suffered the consequences of foot-in-mouth disease, when he attacked the credentials of Ben Carson as a medical doctor.

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Ouch. Apparently Piers failed to realize there isn’t a safe space on this planet that could protect him from the humorous wrath of Iowa Hawk. Piers Morgan shouldn’t question anyone’s intelligence, except maybe Wolf Blitzer. Maybe.

I should probably admit that I have been accused of being arrogant myself, and I think it’s probably true. Furthermore, I am honest enough to admit that I don’t know everything, and I’m quite honest about admitting the truth when I don’t know something.

I’m also truthful about the things that don’t interest me. Just because something isn’t interesting to me doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the fundamental principles of how it’s supposed to work.

Oh by the way — not only am I a climate denier, I’m an evolution denier, too.

By that I simply mean that I have publicly expressed my doubts and published my questions about the idea that some monkeys became isolated from other monkeys and had sex over a long enough period of time, spanning multiple generations, and slowly “evolved” to become human beings.

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I personally began to experience the same sort of obnoxiously aggressive critics and random attacks by rather boorish people shortly after my first book, Divine Evolution, was published.

It seemed that none of them were content with saying “You’re wrong, and here’s why you’re wrong. You forgot about X.”

After my book was published and I began writing online, people who hadn’t even graduated college yet felt compelled to question my intelligence, simply because I didn’t believe what they believe.

Nor am I afraid to ask anybody difficult questions.

Perhaps the anger of these empowered idiots stems from the fact that no one, not even Dr. Ken Miller, has been able to offer a better explanation than sex, isolation, and time to serve as the primary mechanisms that lead to the origin of new species. Eventually. Naturally, the process takes more time than any observer has to witness this secular miracle.

At first, the degree of vitriol coming from my critics shocked me. Certainly, I had expected my opinions would be vigorously challenged, but not to the degree the insults became personal. I learned to develop a thick skin rather quickly. Of course I had anticipated that my lack of credentials as biologist, chemist, or physicist would create concerns in a skeptical audience for my emerging hypothesis that I’d named iterative creation.

However, I believed that iterative creation might develop into an idea that could actually compete fairly well against Darwin’s theory of evolution simply because the most persuasive argument for believing in evolution is well, everyone else does.

That’s about the dumbest reason a person could have for believing in just about anything. The evidence that evolution causes new species to exist fails close scrutiny.

Ironically, evolution denier may have been the nicest insult hurled my way, once it became public knowledge that I dared to question the theory. Liar, narcissist, and moron were some of the favorite aspersions cast in my direction about my character.

Even so, the aggressive bad manners and hubris gleefully demonstrated in public by so many people in modern society never ceases to amaze me.

The younger generation seems to think they know everything, and that any person who doesn’t agree with them must be wrong.

Dissent simply will not be tolerated.

Berkeley Breathed has figured it out, of course. Thank goodness Bloom County has returned, just in time to preserve my sanity.

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In this foolish age of political correctness, if you don’t agree with the idea that only black lives matter — for example, if you foolishly suggest that all lives matter, you may literally get booed off the stage and forced to apologize, or have your microphone hijacked by a liberal even more radical than a self-professed Socialist.

The problem is that these very same people who pretend to have such extraordinary concern for the sanctity of select human life is that they only care about certain black lives.

What about the lives of black cops? For all cops, the protestors in Minnesota chanted “Pigs in a blanket/Fry ’em like bacon.”

While I support free speech, inflammatory (hate) speech that literally attempts to incite murder is going WAY too far. But some people have become convinced they can literally say anything anytime, to anyone. I can’t think of a more sure-fire way to shorten one’s life expectancy than by getting in the face of the wrong person and starting to make unreasonable demands.

Of course, being an asshole certainly isn’t justification or any excuse for murder, but that won’t change the fact that the asshole will still be dead.

Arrogance and stupidity make a terrible combination.

Georgia’s next defensive coordinator

Sellers_pinkpanther7First of all, let’s get something straight up front. I have no special access to insider knowledge. I don’t have a mole inside the UGA athletic department.

No little bird has been whispering in my ear. Nobody who knows anything has told me anything that no one is supposed to know.

In other words, take my analysis with a grain of salt, if not the whole shaker.

I’ve been blessed with the God-given ability to use my brain to think like a private detective, which coincidentally comes in quite handy because my day “job” is to write detective novels. I use the pseudonym Rocky Leonard to differentiate the novels from my nonfiction writing.southernprose_cover_SHS

Kirby Smart does not have my number on speed dial. Nobody has divulged any Georgia Bulldog secrets to me. I’m a writer, not a sports journalist.

Like Sergeant Schultz from the old television show Hogan’s Heroes, I hear nothing. I know NOTHING!

Sgt_SchultzBut I think I know who Kirby Smart might be planning to hire as his defensive coordinator, given only the fact that he didn’t retain former UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Coach Smart’s hires for the offensive side of the ball seem to be excellent choices, especially considering the overwhelmingly positive reaction that came from the experts in sports journalism and the fact the new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach have experience working together.

Nothing has been said about the defense, though. If we have confidence that the (soon-to-be) former defensive coordinator at Alabama has a clear plan in mind for the Georgia defense, we should assume that Coach Smart has someone in mind already.

If that’s true, then this coach must still be working toward something pretty important (like a national championship, for example) if the deal has been done, but the hire cannot yet be announced for some reason.

Furthermore, this hypothetical new coach would probably be someone with whom Coach Smart is familiar and comfortable, which would be someone he’s worked with before.

Since that person was obviously NOT Jeremy Pruitt, who could it be? Who on Alabama’s current staff might be the next defensive coordinator at Georgia? Who is an outstanding, imminently qualified candidate?

Looking at the rest of Alabama’s current staff for 2015, outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi appears to be too young and inexperienced.  Bo Davis is an excellent and experienced defensive line coach, but so is Tracy Rocker.

Jeremy Pruitt coached the secondary. At Alabama, assistant head coach Mel Tucker currently coaches the secondary.

And who is Mel Tucker, you may ask?images-7

Well, here’s what his coaching biography at Alabama says:

Mel Tucker has coached at LSU and Alabama in the SEC.

Tucker also has served as the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Ohio State Buckeyes in addition to coaching for the Cleveland Browns and Miami (Ohio).

Tucker also went 2-3 as the interim coach in Jacksonville after the Jaguars fired Jack Del Rio.

Let me remind you once more — I’m pulling this all out of thin air. We might not know the true identity of the new UGA defensive coordinator until mid January.

But if my “reasonable” speculation turns out to be right…Wow!