An experiment in wealth redistribution

Dan Price

Dan Price

Dan Price apparently had the best of intentions.

He wanted his employees to stop worrying about petty problems like their mortgages and car payments, so Dan one day called a company meeting and announced that going forward, everyone would receive the same pay.

Even his own salary would be slashed from seven figures all the way down to $70,000 — the arbitrary “minimum” (and maximum) wage for every employee of Gravity Payments.

Now everyone should be happy, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Well…everything. First, Dan’s two best employees quit.

“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump,” said former Gravity financial manager Maisey McMaster. When she complained, Price called her selfish and naturally, she resigned.

Web designer Grant Moran observed, “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” and he also quit.

Then Dan’s big brother filed a lawsuit against him that may bankrupt the company. However, “We don’t have the margin of error to pay those legal fees,” Dan told the New York Times.

Well, Shazam! Apparently it never occurred to Mr. Price that there might be some blowback to his plan to redistribute the wealth of the company’s investors by ludicrously increasing their salary expenses.

This story should become the classic case study that illustrates the value of capitalism and a free market system.

It would be easier to feel sorry for Mr. Price — he’s renting out his house, no longer able to afford to live in it himself, after all — except his own liberal arrogance brought about his current misfortune.

Price blamed his Christian upbringing and good intentions when he spoke to the Times for their articlebut God only asks for ten percent of the gross.

Question: the minimum NBA salary for a player with 3 years of experience is just about $1 million — should that be the same salary paid to LeBron James? Of course not.

LeBron James

LeBron James

No disrespect meant toward Anderson Varejao or Joe Harris, but fans aren’t buying Cavalier tickets to watch those guys ride the pines. They are buying tickets and wearing t-shirts with LeBron’s name and number on them. Whether you’re a fan or not, Mr. James draws thousands of fans to the game.

It sounds perfect and wonderful to say everyone should receive the same salary…except for the fact that not everyone deserves the same salary. People should be rewarded according to their efforts and ability.

If everyone is paid the same regardless of how hard they work, what is their incentive to work hard?

The new hire who is basically useless and the CEO of the company shouldn’t receive the exact same pay. That isn’t Christianity, or capitalism. You can’t sugarcoat it…that’s just plain stupid.

And now Mr. Price is paying a steep price for his foolish social experiment. He may even lose his company — due to legal fees. Pretty soon nobody will be making $70,000 per year.

The real minimum wage is zero.

Jon Snow and Game of Thrones

Kit Harington as Jon Snow

Kit Harington as Jon Snow

The HBO series Game of Thrones is famous for brutal, gory sword fights mixed in with dire wolves, dragons, and quite a bit of kinky sex.

Based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels written by George R. R. Martin, the television adaptation has largely remained faithful to the books thus far.

And for the most part, the television shows have been dazzling.

Martin has published five novels. The television series has now run for five complete seasons.

However, the novels and “seasons” of the show haven’t matched up perfectly — events occurred in the most recent novel that have not happened onscreen, and not everything in the books made it onscreen.

In the final episode of season 5,, one of the few remaining heroes in the broad saga, Jon Snow, was murdered,  which (according to my wife and son, who read them) also happened in the most recent novel. Readers of the books will remember that Jon was brought back from the dead in that same novel in which he was killed, because he’s become an essential character in the overall story.

Clearly, the word “ice” in the title for the series refers to Jon Snow, just as “fire” refers to the dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen.

Yet in response to speculation coming from fans of the books, HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo has been quoted by Deadline Hollywood as saying, “Dead is dead as dead as dead. He be (SIC) dead. Yes. From everything I’ve seen, heard, read, Jon Snow is indeed dead.”

The problem is that the show really won’t make any sense or have much of a future without Jon Snow. Therefore, I don’t understand the current marketing strategy. The show is insanely popular already — there’s no need to create additional hype. In fact, this may backfire.

If Mr. Lombardo was deliberately trying to deceive fans (meaning Kit Harington will return next season as Jon Snow) he’s irritated people like me for no reason. If he really doesn’t know the fate of Jon Snow, he just should keep his mouth shut.

Conversely if he’s telling the truth and Jon Snow is gone, I’m done with the show.

If the character Jon Snow is permanently dead, Mr. Lombardo can forget about making three more seasons. I seriously doubt I’ll be the only fan who loses interest in the show after the last remaining truly heroic and noble character left in the story has been killed off.

Furthermore, if Jon Snow is truly gone for good, the storyline for Game of Thrones will no longer be faithful to Martin’s vision for the final resolution of the series, and his devoted fans will not be happy.

The writer in me will want to boycott the show on principle.

Why Atheism?

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I’ve discovered that some of my non virtual friends in the real world believe I’m being sarcastic when I refer to my “atheist friends”, but that isn’t always true.

I am being quite sincere when I say that there are people who call themselves atheists that I honestly consider to be my friends, even though we may have never met in person.

My friend David is a humanist. He and I have respectfully disagreed about many topics of mutual interest, but if I ever visit New Zealand or he ever comes to the U.S. I fully expect to shake his hand, buy him a beer, and for us to finally have a face-to-face conversation after several years of pleasant long-distance correspondence.

Philosophy professor and atheist author George H. Smith likewise has graciously accepted my friendship on Facebook. I’m also sure that he and I could have a friendly conversation over a beer, a single malt scotch, or even a glass of water, should we ever met in person.

Although Professor Smith and I do not appear to agree very often when the topic of conversation is religion, we agree most enthusiastically about the philosophy of Libertarianism.

My favorite book written by an atheist remains An Atheist Defends Religion by Bruce Sherman. It would be difficult to claim another book has supplanted it as my all-time favorite book written by an atheist, because so much of Sheiman’s philosophy echoed my own.

Basically, Sheiman made the same overall point about probability that was hammered home so well that I quoted him in my own book, Counterargument for God, after he wrote:

The propensity for matter and energy to self-organize in novel and unpredictable ways is a conspicuous feature of nature; it goes against the laws of thermodynamics (entropy) and cannot be explained by the known laws of physics. But according to conventional science, it’s all explained by a highly improbable confluence of accidents. And if you take “accidents” out of the life-creation equation, we would be left with nothing.

Of course, the problem with believing in “nothing” is that something, specifically this universe, allegedly came from nothing, which would mean nothing created something out of nothing, literally an incoherent proposition. 

Even more remarkable, that “something” created from absolutely nothing must then have somehow spawned a living organism from inanimate matter — the hypothesis known as abiogenesis.

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When some of my atheist friends say they don’t believe in miracles, I have to wonder if they really know what the word means. The dictionary defines a miracle as an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws, for which a supernatural God or humans may receive credit.

After reading Sheiman’s book, it seemed that about the only point on which he and I disagreed was a supernatural Creator as being the only sensible alternative to unbelievable good luck or nothing. He made the perfect argument in defense of having religious beliefs then strangely proclaimed his preference for atheism, in spite of the brilliant logic he’d just used to support his argument defending theism, and without getting very specific about what that third alternative might be.

The problem of having “accidents” in the life-creation equation is that accidents are random by definition, and seldom are the results of an accident beneficial. Given the grotesque improbabilities associated with the Big Bang, inflation, and abiogenesis, we simply can’t assume any possibility of bad luck occurring between the creation of the universe and the origin of life. Every accident must be serendipitous in nature, because the opposite of “by accident” is “on purpose.”

So I like Sheiman’s book very much. However, it doesn’t really offer much as a defense (or advocacy) of atheism. It’s a book written by an atheist, but it isn’t really about atheism. Bruce Sheiman really does defend religion.

51pwJKNefCL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Now by far the best book written by an atheist that’s actually about atheism that I’ve read to date has been Why Atheism? by George H. Smith.

In my opinion, his book is far superior to comparable books I’ve read that were written by Bertrand Russell, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and their ilk.

What differentiates Smith’s book and makes it special?

For one thing, it was quite informative, packed with actual information about the philosophical development of the atheist movement.  Nor was it written with a smug and condescending tone typical of books written by atheists with an over-inflated estimation of their own personal intellect.

Smith provides clear and concise analysis of views ranging from the origins of atheism in ancient Greece to Kant and Spinoza, Locke, Bacon, Aquinas, Schopenhauer, and virtually every other famous philosopher in between who made important contributions to both atheist and theist schools of thought.

The book is refreshingly free of the tiresome vitriol and thinly-veiled hostility toward Christianity usually found in books of this genre. As a Christian, I didn’t feel like my faith was constantly under assault as Smith presented his information with clear and concise prose.

Smith wrote,

Logical possibility pertains to the internal coherence (emphasis original)  of a proposition. A proposition is logically possible if it is not self-contradictory. Consider, for example, the proposition: “There exists at least one married bachelor.” It is logically impossible for this proposition to be true, because the predicate (“a married man”)  contradicts the subject (“a bachelor”). Moreover. to call this proposition logically impossible is to say that it is incoherent, that it has no meaning. (page 41)

I liked that. By some strange coincidence, that explanation reminded me of the recent article I wrote about so-called Christian atheists.

Admittedly, not everything Smith said about religion made sense to me. For example, he wrote this about doubt:

It is the moralization of doubt–the prohibition of doubt as sinful–that makes the Christian scheme of faith fundamentally dishonest at its core. I say “dishonest” because a Christian, having committed himself, through faith, to the tenets of his religion, is thereafter prohibited from doubting his fundamental beliefs. (page 51)

Now in my total experience, which spans 55 years, during which I have visited multiple Protestant churches and a couple of Catholic ones, I don’t ever recall a pastor claiming that doubt was prohibited. In fact, I’ve always had the distinct impression that some element of doubt was quite natural to have. Thomas doubted. In fact, Jesus himself said that we only needed a kernel of faith as small as a mustard seed.

Considering Jesus died for far worse sins than doubt, I’m not sure that’s a big deal, anyway.

But a simple mistake doesn’t make an excellent book unworthy of reading. Atheists should read Why Atheism? to learn how to argue in defense of their worldview without their rancor for religion becoming so obvious. Theists should also read the book, to learn the best arguments against their beliefs if they hope to compete against the intelligent atheist (in a battle of wits, during a war of words.)

Why Atheism? was extremely informative for any person wanting to understand the philosophical arguments commonly used throughout the history of civilization as justification for atheism.

Interestingly, during his analysis of the philosophy of David Hume, Smith wrote:

Suppose someone tells me he saw a dead person brought back to life. Here I should consider “whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened.” There is no real contest in this case, because the possibility of resurrecting the dead conflicts with all of my personal experience, whereas I know of innumerable instances where people have related falsehoods. I therefore conclude that “no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish…” (page 208)

The obvious problem with Hume’s argument is that many things fall outside the realm of our personal experience — which is anecdotal. Almost all of our “knowledge” has also come from people who have related falsehoods…including our sources of scientific knowledge.

Hume’s mistake is fixating on the resurrection of Jesus as the impossible claim — the resurrection of the dead. The irony is that abiogenesis (which in fairness, Hume probably knew nothing about) is the animation of matter that was never alive — which would you say is harder to believe? Keep in mind we have numerous documented cases of spontaneous resuscitation and revival after a patient has been declared dead using modern medical technology (never mind what didn’t exist two thousand years ago), which Hume also knew nothing about.

Smith implies that he is still open to persuasion when he wrote:

I will therefore demand that the Christian justify his belief in the existence of God with objective reasons, i.e., evidence and arguments that can be evaluated by rational methods. And should the Christian be unable or unwilling to defend his belief, I will urge him to embrace the more reasonable alternative of atheism. And should he remain steadfastly indifferent to the issue of justification–should he say that he believes what he believes and that’s all there is to it–then I will question either his judgment or his sincerity. For I would have never taken the Christian seriously in the first place, I would have never engaged in this dialogue, had he not deceived me into thinking that his belief in God was the belief of a reasonable person. (page 49)

I would like to take Professor Smith at his word and offer him a free electronic copy of my book Counterargument for God in the format of his preference, if he will agree to accept my gift to him.

In that book I endeavored to give the reader objective reasons that I give in the hope they will be evaluated using rational methods in defense of my belief, in my counterargument for God.

I will take Professor Smith at his word, and look forward to hearing from him.

Dishonest skepticism

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer

How would you describe outer space?

Do you think you could draw a picture of deep space that someone else would recognize for what it represented? What would you draw?

I have a confession to make: I usually enjoy the writing of famous skeptic Michael Shermer, and personally think he is an excellent author. In fact, I even bought the hardcover copy of his book Why People Believe Weird Things from the Roswell Public Library.

Literally, I had some difficulty putting that book down when I was actively reading it a few years ago.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I felt compelled to replace the original library copy because I accidentally got ketchup stains on a page and didn’t want to give them back a book that I’d damaged. Otherwise, I probably would have settled for buying the more economically priced paperback copy to add to my book collection.

I’ve admired the work of Mr. Shermer for some time. I even thought his guest appearance on Mr. Deity was hilarious, albeit in a somewhat sacrilegious sort of way.

Probably the most famous skeptic in the world today, Mr. Shermer was the founding publisher of both Skeptic magazine and founder of the Skeptics Society. Interestingly, the word “skeptic” has been defined two different ways in the dictionary:

  1. a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.
    synonyms: cynicdoubterMore

  2. PHILOSOPHY
    an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere.

Using those definitions as my standard, I would think that I should qualify for membership in Mr. Shermer’s club of skeptics, but I doubt that I’ll be welcomed in with open arms.

Personally, I think a certain degree of skepticism is healthy. Imagine my surprise to learn that I’m perhaps even more consistent in my skepticism than Mr. Shermer.

For example, I still have my doubts about “politically incorrect” things like global warming, and that the theory of evolution presents a rational belief explaining how monkeys can shape-shift into men, simply if given enough Deep Time for this amazing metamorphosis to occur. However, Mr. Shermer believes in both global warming and the theory of evolution, with a remarkable lack of curiosity in regard to the evidence allegedly supporting those theories.

It seems Mr. Shermer’s criteria requires that the skeptical person must also be an atheist in order to legitimately be called a skeptic. I’ve discovered over time that atheists seem to be quite eager to challenge my beliefs no matter what evidence is offered, but none of them are willing to equally apply skepticism to his or her own beliefs.

There is no balance. That’s not honest. That’s horribly biased skepticism.

The alternative to true skepticism is gullibility. The more preposterous a claim appears on the surface, the more critical it becomes to remain as skeptical as possible, until the evidence that substantiates the claim simply overwhelms you.

That’s much easier to do when applied to possibilities that you already doubt, and becomes infinitely more difficult to accomplish when applied to things you actually believe to be true.southernprose_cover_CAFG

It isn’t particularly easy for me to admit that my quest for truth has led me to believe some rather incredible scientific evidence exists that suggests reincarnation is actually possible, because that evidence conflicts with my Christian worldview, to at least some extent.

I would be dishonest if I denied that I’ve seen solid scientific evidence for reincarnation, because in fact, I have seen that evidence. Christianity doesn’t even address the issue, so I don’t know what to make of this evidence to which I refer.

I also know that my pastor isn’t exactly comfortable with the idea of reincarnation, but what can I say? It certainly isn’t required for me to like the concept of reincarnation in order to believe the evidence is credible, and it would be intellectually dishonest to ignore the evidence and pretend it doesn’t exist.

My point here is this: once someone makes a claim of possessing evidence, as skeptics we have an epistemic duty to investigate those claims, rather than summarily dismissing them.

In my book Counterargument for God I suggested that everyone consider themselves agnostic because there is tremendous difference between claiming to know something is true and being able to prove it.

I offered that we may characterize ourselves as atheist-agnostic, theist-agnostic, or apathetic-agnostic,depending on our current worldview

Once upon a time, I was an apathetic agnostic, on the brink of becoming an atheist. I considered the concept of supernatural intelligence to be about as preposterous as any other professed atheist would. Because I lacked paranormal experience, I assumed that ghosts were no more real than Casper, the cartoon character. 84620

Then a friend of mine claimed his house was haunted after I witnessed a supernatural phenomena. At first I didn’t believe him, of course.

But then over time, I experienced multiple examples of inexplicable phenomena that were irrational by any stretch of the imagination — phenomena caused by some sort of an invisible force, and not once or twice, but dozens, if not hundreds of times. Light switches would toggle themselves as I watched. Keys would disappear and reappear in the exact place last seen. The motion sensors in the burglar alarms would get triggered by nothing.

It got to the point where further denial would be dishonest, silliness born of cowardice in the fear of what others might say about that admission.

My skepticism was only slightly diminished by the first occurrence, because I was fairly sure what I had seen had to have been a trick, because I believed ghosts was irrational. Also my friend laughed about the incident, making me even more suspicious.

After a while, so many inexplicable occurrences had happened that I got to the point I accepted that ghosts were real. Over time it got to the point where I no longer bothered to investigate strange phenomena, because they had become routine.

Finally one day I was literally touched, in a well lit room, by something I couldn’t see. There wasn’t another human anywhere within arm’s reach. The only other person present never left my sight.

Even forty years later, I vividly remember that particular experience, because that raised the bar to a completely new level. Seeing had become believing, but touching kind of freaked me out, because it hadn’t occurred to me it would be possible to feel what I couldn’t see.

Of course, I naturally expect you to remain skeptical about my personal experiences.

But by the same token, I also expect people to understand why I say without fear of embarrassment that I believe ghosts exist — my own repeated personal experiences (which amounts to empirical evidence to me, when collected in the first person) have left me no choice.

It is prudent to remain skeptical of extraordinary claims such as that ghosts exist, and to demand extraordinary evidence to validate them. In fact, there have been a number of sensationalist, bogus ghost stories told by people apparently looking for free publicity, or for whatever reason.

Because I already believe in ghosts and because I know the history of the prison, I wouldn’t dream of sitting in the gas chamber in the New Mexico State Penitentiary at midnight like actor Scott Patterson did — that’s the very prison where the most brutal riot in American history took place in February 1980. Unspeakable horrors took place there.

However, before skeptics like Michael Shermer completely rule out the possibility ghosts exist, they should be willing to honestly investigate claims, not to summarily dismiss them with little or no investigatory effort.

Unfortunately, there is reason to suspect Mr. Shermer might be somewhat selective in the application of his skepticism. He curiously accepts the politically correct arguments for global warming and the theory of evolution with little or no skepticism, yet offers absurd challenges to phenomena that doesn’t fit into his current worldview.

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Deep Space photo from the Hubble telescope

In regard to alleged supernatural phenomena, it seems Mr. Shermer employs an impossibly high standard when evaluating alleged scientific evidence he deems questionable.

For example in one televised experiment, Mr. Shermer had been invited to observe experiments involving people who claimed to have psychic abilities.

One alleged psychic in particular appeared to be uncannily accurate in his results, so Mr. Shermer asked to personally test the subject.

In the first test, the psychic had drawn a picture that Mr. Shermer conceded had closely resembled the image in the photograph kept in a sealed envelope.

In the second test, however, rather than using a photograph of an object, or a person, animal, airplane, skyscraper — instead of using any image with a definable shape, Mr. Shermer chose the absurd.

He literally could have used a photograph of anything. Think about it.

Shermer could have used a photograph of a palm tree, a sports car, an airplane, an alligator, or the Statue of Liberty. He could have used Piss Christ. Shermer could have chosen an artist’s rendering of a Tyrannosaurus, Archaeopteryx, an ant, an Apple or an apple.

He even could have tried to trick the alleged psychic by reusing the same photograph from the first test, thinking he’d never suspect it.

But instead Shermer used a photograph of…nothing. He chose the photo of Deep Space taken from the Hubble telescope, shown above.

Naturally, with nothing to visualize, the “alleged” psychic simply drew dots on the page. And to no great surprise, Shermer determined that the psychic’s dots on the  paper failed to satisfy his demand for irrefutable proof.

Tough to dispute.

How exactly does one draw a reasonable and accurate picture of outer space? It would appear that Mr. Shermer never had any intention of allowing an alleged psychic to provide evidence which could possibly be construed as legitimate, concocting a ridiculous standard of proof in order to declare the experiment a failure, no matter the result.

Yet when presented with apparently quite credible evidence, rather than seeking to honestly attempt to validate the results, Mr. Sheerer moved the goalposts. Sadly, that makes him worse than just a dishonest skeptic.

Mr. Shermer apparently denies the existence of incredible evidence, no matter how credible it is.

The problem of suffering and death

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Derek Denhard

Perhaps the most difficult question my atheist friends like to ask to challenge my belief in God involves the problem of evil, pain and suffering, and our mortality.

Simply stated, the problem is this: how can a benevolent God allow evil to exist and torment us? Why does God allow us to suffer illness, pain, and eventually, death?

When I debated Ed Buckner, former president of American Atheists, I felt like that was the most difficult challenge he posed in his argument advocating atheism.

It’s a very good question, I must admit. I think part of the answer involves free will.

We are given the ability to choose or reject God by the fact the evidence for His existence is not direct, but mostly circumstantial in nature. However, there’s a little bit more to the answer than simply “free will”, in my opinion.

Derek Denhard was my friend. We graduated from the same high school, Savannah Christian, in 1978.

We weren’t exactly what you’d describe as close friends, but every time I ran into Derek after graduation, we always smiled, shook hands, and promised we’d get together soon for dinner. I can’t recall ever exchanging harsh words with the guy. Nobody disliked Derek.

Sadly, we both took “soon” for granted, I’m afraid.

The reason I am writing about Derek in past tense is because recently and quite unexpectedly, he died from a heart attack, at only 54 years old. Younger than me.

Derek seemed far too young. He was far too healthy and happy with his life, blessed with a beautiful family and great joy for life.

This is typically when my own morbid existential questions are posed to God: Why did Derek die? Why wasn’t it me instead? It is a fact that we’re all going to die, sooner or later.

But why did Derek have to die before me? From what I could ascertain from friends and family at the Atlanta visitation, Derek’s worst vice was an ice-cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Without incriminating myself unnecessarily by giving out all the gory details, I believe that I’ve done considerably worse than that to my own body on my best day.

For many years, I drank a Coke for breakfast.

Derek will never get to see his beautiful grandchildren that will surely come one day. I already have three. Quite frankly, that just doesn’t seem fair.

But as Jesus himself said that life isn’t supposed to be fair, in Matthew 5:45 :

…that you will become the children of your Father who is in Heaven, for his sun rises on the good and upon the evil and his rain descends on the just and on the unjust.

I don’t think anybody in their right mind would claim that Derek deserved to die anymore than any of us can claim that we deserve to live.

As testament to the life Derek lived, more than a thousand people came to the funeral home in Atlanta to pay their respects to his family. A two hour visitation lasted four hours — the employees at the mortuary said they couldn’t remember a larger turnout for a funeral.

Clearly, Derek was well-loved, and he will be sorely missed by family and friends alike.

In spite of their sorrow and mourning, Derek’s family take solace from the joy of his memory, and they find comfort in their firm belief, stated more than once and by more than one family member, that they will see Derek again, when they die.

I believe that, too. Derek was a man with faith. I’ll look forward to seeing him on the other side.

The problem of pain, suffering, and death doesn’t seem to make sense, until we realize that without experiencing pain, we don’t understand the meaning of pleasure — it would have no meaning, in fact.

Everything would be pleasant. Without knowing sorrow, we can’t truly appreciate joy.

Nothing helps us recognize the need to cherish the life we have more than the untimely death of a well-loved friend. Take nothing for granted. Be thankful for every day you have.

And make sure the people you love realize it.

Derek obviously did.

 

The Spiritual Brain and the God helmet

images-4In a very good book written by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, titled The Spiritual Brain, (I would give it five stars, if I rated books with stars at my website) there is a chapter called “The Strange Case of the God Helmet” which describes a physical device that “scientists” place on their head so that low-powered magnets can stimulate the temporal lobes of the test subject.

Seriously. The tin-foil hat crowd now has legitimate competition.

Only a person who doesn’t believe God exists and has apparently become desperate to prove it would deliberately try to artificially simulate the effect that belief in God has on people of faith.

About neuroscientist Michael Persinger (co-inventor of the God helmet) Beauregard wrote:

Echoing Dawkins, Persinger has called religion “an artifact of the brain” and a “cognitive virus.” (page 81)

Speaking of Richard Dawkins, he had to try the helmet dawkinsingodhelmethimself, of course, but he didn’t any of the hallucinations the helmet can allegedly sometimes cause.

Persinger attributed the failure of Dawkins to “experience God” using the helmet was due to his “well below average” score in temporal lobe sensitivity to magnetic fields, whatever that means.

Of course, Persinger had to publish the results of his 2002 “study” in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders. Beauregard (and O’Leary) wrote:

Persinger concluded two things: that the experience of a sensed presence can be manipulated by experiment, and that such an experience “may be the fundamental source for phenomena attributed to visitations by gods, spirits, and other ephemeral phenomena. The first conclusion is a research result that should be able to be replicated if it is valid. The second is, of course, an opinion. (page 84)

Persinger is far from the only atheist looking for the scientific explanation for religious experience.  Though he claims his work is agnostic, Dean Hamer has been looking for God in our genes. Hamer was quoted by Beauregard and O’Leary as saying:

I think we follow our basic law of nature, which is that we’re a bunch of chemical reactions running around in a bag. (page 48)

This is why atheism can be such a hard sell — that’s not exactly a cheery outlook on life, is it?

Probably he best two chapters (my favorites) in The Spiritual Brain were called “Are the Mind and Brain Identical?” and “Toward a Nonmaterialist Science of Mind.”

Beauregard gets to the heart of why the famous account of corroborated veridical information learned during the neurosurgery of Pam Reynolds, known as “Operation Standstill.” He writes,

Pam’s case is unique for two reasons. First, she had the experience at a time when she was fully instrumented under medical conditions and known to be clinically dead. Clinical death is the state in which vital signs have ceased: the heart is in ventricular fibrillation, there is a total lack of electrical activity on the cortex of the brain (flat EEG), and brain-stem is abolished (loss of the corneal reflex, fixed and dilated pupils, and loss of the gag reflex.) Second, she was able to recall verifiable facts about her surgery that she could not have known if she were not in some way conscious when these events were taking place. [emphasis added] (page 155)

How can a person be conscious and clinically dead at the same time?

There seems to be only two alternatives: either liars have conspired to perpetrate a fraud for no discernible benefit, or Pam’s experience defied natural law.

Why on earth would anyone strap a helmet on their head designed to alter their brain waves with magnetic forces to force a fake hallucinogenic effect as a false religious experience?

Sincere prayer is a much more effective means of making a real connection with God.

 

Hector Avalos: world’s biggest hypocrite?

4cd86d8eaeca7.imageI used to think that Al Gore was the biggest hypocrite in the world as he flew around in his private jet, and the inconvenient truth that he bought an $8.875 million dollar oceanfront property, after scaring the sellers into believing the oceans are about to rise and drown everyone on the coast.

For Al to really believe his own nonsense, he’d have to understand geography about as well as Congressman Hank Johnson, who once thought the addition of eight thousand Marines to the island of Guam might cause the entire island to capsize.

Surely Al didn’t think the oceans would rise twenty feet on the east coast while sea level remained the same on the west coast.  He couldn’t possibly be that dumb, could he?

Remember, for eight years Gore was only a heartbeat (or impeachment conviction) away from becoming the 43rd President of the United States.

Personally, I think famous hoaxer P. T. Barnum would have been proud to call Al his son, I think, because it would be absolutely stupid to pay millions of dollars for oceanfront property if you really think it will be underwater in a few years. Nobody that stupid has millions of dollars for very long.

But I think Al has nothing on Hector Avalos, an atheist college professor with some really big cohones.

Avalos is (allegedly) a professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. The need for qualifying his professional title should become quite obvious, by the very next sentence.

Almost eight years ago Hector Avalos wrote a book called The End of Religious Studies.

Yet Avalos continues to draw a hefty paycheck from Iowa State for teaching ‘religious studies.’ What irony! Now is this a great country, or what?

On the other hand…if that isn’t hypocrisy, what is?

His most recent published book isn’t available though Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,  or Amazon.  It seems to be exclusively offered through the publisher’s web page, apparently considered an academic work intended for young skulls full of mush. Nothing else could explain to me what would make this “scholarly” book worth a whopping $95 for the hardcover copy of The Bad Jesus. (even $35 just for the paperback?)

Avalos has a long history of cherry-picking verses from the Bible and weaponizing them against Christians as it suits his purposes — for example, to justify his support for gay marriage and suggest the Bible condoned polygamy.

I’m struggling to wrap my mind around this glaring contradiction. Why has this man kept his job? And why does he even want it, considering he’s the guy arguing for evolution theory in a debate about creationism? Does he need the easy paycheck that bad?frontpagecolumbo1

Unless I am misunderstanding something, as many as eight long years ago, Hector Avalos wrote a book effectively arguing that he shouldn’t have his job — that his job shouldn’t exist. I believe him, and wholeheartedly agree that taking his course would be useless.

Therefore Professor Avalos should resign. Immediately.

There isn’t a nice way of putting it — a guy who’s an atheist taking a paycheck to teach religious studies (that he has admitted he doesn’t believe is worthwhile) is committing academic fraud.

Avalos might know something about the Bible, but he obviously knows nothing at all about God.

I almost pity the charlatan.

Truth Be Known

southernprose_cover_CAFG

I’ve been a fan of Neil Young’s music going all the way back to his days with Buffalo Springfield.

Truth Be Known” is one of my favorite songs by Neil  (backed by Pearl Jam minus Eddie Vedder, with Neil on lead vocals), on his CD Mirror Ball.

Pearl Jam fans — please don’t rush out to buy the CD just because Stone Gossard and Mike McCready are playing rhythm and lead guitars behind Neil, and Jeff Ament is on bass. You might be disappointed.

At least, listen to “I’m the Ocean” and “Big Green Country” before you make a purchase decision either way. In fairness, at the very least, you need to be aware that Eddie Vedder only sings a single verse on one song. It’s not a Pearl Jam album, by any stretch of the imagination.

Fans of Neil Young, however,..shame on you if you don’t already own a copy. Neil’s vocals are an acquired taste, but you’ve already acquired it, right? The guys from Pearl Jam certainly seemed to have invigorated Young on the 1995 release. I especially liked the guitar work of Gossard and McCready on “Big Green Country”, and the lyrics from one particular verse in “Truth Be Known” that went:

When the fire that once was your friend
Burns your fingers to the bone
And your song meets a sudden end
Echoing through right and wrong
Truth be known…

There is great wisdom in those words — nothing hurts worse than being betrayed by a friend. Try to imagine what Jesus must have felt like, when Judas kissed his cheek.

Of course, if you’re a conspiracy theorist like D. M. Murdock, you may not even believe Jesus existed. By strange coincidence, a rather famous (in mythicist circles, at least) internet personality, Ms. Murdock (a.k.a. Acharya S.) owns the website provocatively titled Truth Be Known.

Presumably, the idea being conveyed by the name is that Ms. Murdock is some sort of extraordinarily gifted researcher who has learned truths that other people simply don’t know.

Ms. Murdock is perfectly willing to generously impart her wisdom to the masses through an astonishing array of products offered at bargain prices, of course. I certainly don’t fault Ms. Murdock for trying to sell her books, but she might better serve her readers to market her work as fiction, rather than the product of tireless research that may not be everything it’s cracked up to be.

After all, selling a book is sort of the point of writing one. Truth be known, the reason I used the cover photo for my book for this article was twofold: articles look better and catch the readers eye more frequently with at least one image embedded. Visual images tend to catch our eyes more easily than text, especially when a link to the article is posted on Facebook.

The other reason is related to marketing–shameless self promotion, if you will. Someone may actually click on the book cover and follow the link to Amazon to buy Counterargument for God, or perhaps one of my other books.

If you like what I write on my blog, just imagine how much better my work is when my editors cut out all the unnecessary banter. Of course, they’d cut all the stuff about Neil Young to keep me right on point, instead of letting me meander my way there.

However, let’s focus the spotlight back on our “independent scholar” Ms. Murdock, the inspiration for this article who among other things claims to be a polyglot (fluent in multiple languages) and a former trench master on archaeological digs in Corinth, Greece and Connecticut, whatever that means.

The ever-talented Ms. Murdock apparently researches, writes, edits, and publishes her work with very little help. She claims to have read (and translated) thousands of original sources written in multiple languages, even making the extraordinary assertion that she “had to teach herself hieroglyphics and ancient Egyptian on the spot as [she] was going along” in this interview promoting her book Christ in Egypt — The Horus/Jesus Connection

Wow! Really? How did she manage this remarkable feat? I can barely manage to string together a few sentences in English, most of the time. But how did she verify her translation was accurate? By any chance, is there some special version of Rosetta Stone for the actual Rosetta Stone?

Now Ms. Murdock’s most famous contribution to contemporary culture was her key role in development of the cult classic conspiracy theorist film titled Zeitgeist.

Someone needs to remind me…what is the saying my atheist friends parrot so frequently? Oh, yes. I remember now. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And quid est veritas? happens to be one of my favorite questions, one that Pontius Pilate asked Jesus the Christ in response when Jesus said he was “witness to the truth.”

(Translated into English) Pilate simply replied, “What is truth?” Now that’s a really great question that I’m constantly asking myself. What is truth? And conversely, what is B.S.?

So let’s get to the point — how seriously should we take the claims of Ms. Murdock, whose academic credentials consist of a Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts (Classics, Greek civilization) from Franklin and Marshall University? Perhaps we can learn something about her credibility from reputable academic sources. For example, while giving his readers an update on his ongoing feud with Richard Carrier about the historicity of Jesus, professor Bart Ehrman happened to mention “Acharya S.”, writing:

     A case in point of my “carelessness and arrogance” is the first instance of an “Error of Fact” that he [Carrier] cites, which I assume he gives as his first example because he thinks it’s a real killer.   It has to do with a statue in the Vatican library that is of a rooster (a cock) with an erect penis for a nose (really!) which Acharya S, in her book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, indicates is “hidden in the Vatican Treasury” (that damn Vatican: always hiding things that disprove Christianity!) which is a “symbol of Saint Peter” (p. 295).
In her discussion, Acharya S indicates that Jesus’ disciple Peter was not only the “rock” on which Jesus would build his church, but also the “cock.”  Get it?  They rhyme!   Moreover, the word cock is slang for penis (hard as a “rock,” one might think); and what is another slang word for penis?  Peter!   There you have it.  And so when there is a statue of a cock with a rock-hard peter for a nose, this symbolizes Peter, the disciple of Jesus.  No wonder the popes have kept this thing in hiding.
My comment on this entire discussion was simple and direct:  “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.”images-3

Wow. I’m not surprised people buy her garbage posing as nonfiction, but some of them actually believe such nonsense? A secret statue of a rooster with a penis nose, hidden by the Vatican? Even Dan Brown would have a hard time making up a story that absurd. But I’ll admit that I am laughing out loud.

I don’t exactly blame Ms. Murdock for writing such silliness. Nobody is putting a gun to the head of people who buy it.

And what else can one do with a liberal arts bachelor’s degree focused on ancient Greek civilization? Flip burgers for minimum wage? I’m guessing that her options are rather limited. I would suggest that her books are all harmless nonsense, except crazed mass murderer Jared Loughner was allegedly obsessed with and his subsequent behavior heavily influenced by the movie Zeitgeist, which prominently featured “information” culled from Murdock’s work.

I also know that Loughner killed several innocent people during his attempt to assassinate Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and close friends blamed the brainwashing effect the film had on him. But that is their opinion on record, the close friends of Loughner, not mine. I have no opinion on the movie’s influence on Loughner’s state of mind. I’ve never even met the guy.

To be brutally honest, I had almost forgotten about that ugly incident. Loughner’s victims probably haven’t, though. Perhaps “harmless” nonsense was a poor choice of words, though.

What drew my attention to the work of D. M. Murdock only this morning was her “analysis” of the evidence regarding the Shroud of Turin, which I also investigated to some degree, reaching far different conclusions than she.

I couldn’t help but notice that for an alleged polyglot, Ms. Murdock seems strangely unable to comprehend her native tongue.

She relies exclusively on the statements of former STURP member John Jackson to challenge the recent claims of a peer-reviewed research paper that asserted the sample material on which the carbon dating tests were performed were taken from a damaged section of the shroud that had undergone “modern” repairs using cotton fabric, alleged to have occurred in the sixteenth century. When I wrote my article, I wasn’t even aware that Jackson had stated his opinion for the record, and since Ray Rogers took point on the effort to debunk the 2000 paper written by Marino and Bedford and actually reviewed the their evidence and the remnants of the original test material and found cotton, I’d be inclined to give the opinion of Rogers more weight than the speculation of his fellow team member.

Most curiously, Ms. Murdock cited a statement from the Associated Press reporting a statement from a dubious organization known as CSICOP, claiming that blood evidence on the shroud “had been definitively proved [emphasis added] to be composed of red ocher and vermilion tempera paint.”

Sorry, but there’s no way to sugarcoat it but to say that is anything other than an outright lie.  Nothing of the sort has been “definitively proved.” The ONLY experts who have been allowed by the Catholic church to scientifically examine the shroud were the scientists involved in STURP.

So who exactly are these “experts” being cited by Ms. Murdock and CSICOP who definitively proved anything scientifically, in regard to the shroud? The official summary from STURP included the following statement:

We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.

That isn’t paint, Ms. Murdock.The scientific opinion of the real STURP experts were stated for the official record in plain English, and they said the substance on the shroud was blood.

Given your history, I don’t know that I’m all that surprised to find out you seem to have a penchant for making things up as you go along. But truth be known, you can’t claim that I burned your fingers to the bone. We have never been friends, and I seriously doubt we will ever be.

I value honesty from my friends.

What makes some atheists so angry?

southernprose_cover_CAFGContrary to popular belief (of my critics), it doesn’t really bother me if people call themselves atheists. I’m not a big fan of anti-theists, though. Life is too short to spend much time in the company of thoroughly unpleasant people.

What annoys me more than anything is when people presume that I’m stupid and try talking down to me merely because I have identified myself as theist-agnostic. Because I believe in a supernatural God, they immediately assume that I’m some sort of idiot, before I can even say another word.

Since we are all agnostic by nature, we can then claim to be either theist, atheist, or apathetic (because you apparently don’t care enough and don’t know enough to even form an opinion).

While describing my beliefs, I usually attempt to justify them using scientific evidence, logic, reason, and common sense. This strategy often upsets my atheist counterpart, because rarely if ever do I refer to the Bible, unless I am forced to defend my Christian beliefs.

I certainly know better than to assert I can prove what I believe to be true beyond any and all doubt. Nor can I claim to know with absolute certainty that I’m right about everything (or anything) that I believe.

Hence the “agnostic” bit was added as a qualifier. This was all explained in my book Counterargument for God, though perhaps not quite this clearly — I meant to say that everyone should consider themselves agnostic.

Nobody knows for sure the true nature of our supernatural Creator, nor even whether or not God actually exists. According to my analysis, however, the probability of God appears to be very high.

On the other hand, I’m very adept at using the available, known scientific evidence available in the public domain to construct a very compelling argument for design over descent.

Once the only two true possible answers to humanity’s existential questions have been identified (an intelligent, supernatural creator God versus very stupid and stupendous good luck), the choice of atheism becomes extraordinarily more difficult to defend.

The atheist never believes me when I say that my counterargument for God and intelligent design will use the same scientific evidence used to argue for common descent — the fossil record, comparative anatomy, and DNA.

Of course, everyone enters into this sort of discussion about science and/or religion believing their opinions and understand of things are correct. Otherwise, we would be arguing for the sake of argument. I would never waste your time, or allow you to waste mine in such fashion. I always assume that any attempt to communicate with me is made with sincere intent, until proven otherwise. My time is valuable to me.

Though in the past I have been accused of being a prophet as well as an evangelist, I claim to be neither. I’m just a writer. If those other accusations really were true, I must be the most conservative prophet in history and the laziest, most apathetic evangelist of all time. I’ve never preached a sermon.

As I’ve said before, if God were to prove His existence beyond all doubt, we would lose our ability to exercise free will. We have no choice but to become slaves to our belief.

Because I believe in free will, I must allow my atheist friends the option to reject the supernatural Creator in whom I believe: Yahweh, the God of Abraham, and Jesus the Christ, whom I have personally accepted as the Messiah promised to the Jews in Isaiah, Chapter 53.

I’m not begging anybody to believe what I believe.

Free will allows us all to make choices about whether and what to believe. I’m not trying to shove my religious or scientific beliefs down anyone’s throat.

However, I do take exception when my beliefs are mocked and ridiculed by people who seem to have no clue about what they are saying. You’re free to try and provoke a reaction from me, but it’s almost never going to be what you expect. My worst sin is pride, I’m afraid.

I know I’m not stupid. I always grant my opponent the benefit of the doubt and assume them to at least be my intellectual equal, until proven otherwise. I never underestimate the other guy.

I’ve had much smarter people than today’s useful idiot try talking down to me before. It never worked out well for them because I am always underestimated, and assumed to be their intellectual inferior. It’s one thing to claim the superiority of your logic, and quite another to demonstrate it.

I wouldn’t have felt the need for writing this article if hadn’t been for a recent exchange with one rather enthusiastic atheist on the internet intent on provoking a reaction from me. We can all learn from his example. The confrontation began when this person wrote (among other things) that “evidence is superior to proof.”

To me, that assertion seemed like an extraordinarily silly thing to say, and so I merely pointed that out, writing this in response:

That statement doesn’t make sense. Evidence leads toward proof, with proof being the goal of improved evidence. For example, you ask me to prove my identification. I produce a Social Security card and show it to you. You say that’s insufficient evidence, because the SS card lacks a photo. So I produce new evidence, a driver’s license. You complain it is from out-of-state. I produce a valid US passport, and finally you concede that I have proved my identity to your satisfaction. (In other words) Evidence leads to proof.

Upset by my temerity to employ logic while justifying my point (presumably he could tell I am a theist), the conversation soon degenerated to the intellectual equivalent of a food fight during lunch in the cafeteria of a middle school.

First this person created a straw man argument (saying I had asserted there is proof in science), pretending it was mine, then he attempted to “educate” me by posting a barrage of links supporting his assertion that is no proof in science, in spite of the fact I never said there was. I merely said proof is superior to evidence.

For scientists, proof does not exist only because it is considered unattainable. It’s the unreachable goal. To say evidence is superior to proof is simply preposterous. Evidence accumulates to approach the level of proof — this is how hypotheses become theories.

I had merely pointed out his faux pas. Rather than conceding the validity of my point, this atheist person became openly hostile.

In a somewhat feeble attempt to bruise my ego, this person suggested I should be embarrassed by my lack of skill as a writer.

I decided to exit the forum before the temptation to embarrass this person grew too strong. I have nothing to gain by defeating a defenseless person in a battle of wits.

However, none of this changes the fact the very first definition of the word “proof” found in the dictionary reads as follows:

evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.

Therefore, the moral of the story appears to be this: before you argue about the meaning of a word with someone, you might want to make sure the other guy isn’t a professional writer. Writers, assuming they want to be good at what they do, usually make sure they know what words mean and how to use them properly in a sentence.

Perhaps next time, you should check the dictionary to make absolutely sure that you’re one hundred percent correct in what you are saying before calling people names or trying to insult them. Assuming you don’t want to end up looking like a complete idiot, of course.

You should probably also keep in mind t51VqubTGmyL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_hose of us who write novels for a living are constantly needing good names for characters — in fact, the next time I need to name a gay transvestite axe-murderer character, I’ll already have a name to use in mind. Thanks for the inspiration!

All seriousness aside, I still wonder: whatever made this critic of mine assume that I have feelings, anyway? Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids.

Perhaps, had someone written a review that said Wow, who knew you wrote so much sheer drivel. I would be shamed if I were you immediately following publication of Divine Evolution, it might have crushed my ego, that many years ago.

Nowadays I realize that’s almost a compliment when coming from an atheist of obviously lesser intellect and more than likely the smartest thing they could think of saying, so the insult slides off me like water off a duck’s back.

Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got? I’ve been called a moron, narcissist, idiot, know-it-all, buffoon…and those were the nice things people were saying. At this stage of my writing career, I’ve been called just about every name in the book (at least twice.) Most of them aren’t repeatable, not fit for public consumption. Suffice it to say that I’m used to criticism. Heck, even my own wife told me I’m arrogant.

I prefer to think of it as confidence born of the fact the criticisms of my arguments by atheists never seem to get appreciably smarter.

The only thing this somewhat pathetic attempt to annoy me succeeded in doing was to make me ponder this question: what makes people like this guy so angry, simply because of something I happen to believe? Why can’t atheists simply be happy with their atheism?

I can only think of two possible reasons: either this guy’s jealous of me, or he’s insecure about what he believes himself.

Jealousy can’t be ruled out as a possibility.

Though I’m hardly what you might call a commercial success, I write a pretty good novel, according to most of my reviews. My audience slowly grows by the day. Lack of exposure seems to be my biggest current obstacle to success.

Word-of-mouth recommendations from readers to their friends seems to be gradually building my audience over time. Three novels have been published thus far. By the time that number has doubled, we’ll probably be ready to spend money on advertising. Life is good.

The most important thing to a writer is having lots of readers. Though jealousy is a possible motive, even at this fledgling stage of my career, I don’t think it’s the most likely one.

It’s far more likely this person is simply insecure about his atheism, troubled by my confidence in theism. Perhaps this vociferous critic of mine noticed that over 700 people have shared my recent article about carbon dating and the Shroud of Turin with their friends on Facebook.

southernprose_cover_SHSThe fact that quite a few people apparently appreciate what I have written might have unnerved him, shaken his confidence in his atheistic beliefs, and his own intellect.

On the other hand, he could be nothing more than an immature jerk with the mentality of my eleven-year-old grandson.

Or, he might be a gay transvestite axe-murderer.

 

Evolution and the origin of life: analysis by C. W. Bobbitt, PhD

southernprose_cover_CAFGThis article written by (retired) Professor Charles W. Bobbitt explains his interpretations of the evidence that may explain the origin of life and the origin of species currently available to the scientific community. Only minor formatting changes have been made to improve its readability.

Professor Bobbitt’s thoughts regarding the origin of the universe and the Big Bang theory were published earlier here at southernprose.com.

Since my book inspired the beginning of our conversation, I am taking the opportunity for shameless self promotion, perhaps even to sell a couple of books in the process.

The original plan was to publish a photo of Professor Bobbitt with a short biography describing his background and academic credentials, but apparently our wires have gotten crossed, and the article has been ready to be published for several days.

As always, reader comments are welcomed.

[Special thanks to Joel Washburn for his expert assistance resolving a rather puzzling and difficult technical problem that prohibited earlier publication of this piece.]

A FRESH LOOK AT THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE ON EARTH

C.W. Bobbitt, PhD

© Copyright 2014, C.W. Bobbitt

In a sense, both Darwin and Wickramasinghe/Hoyle were right in their suggestions as to how life on earth began, as will be shown in this hypothesis; but first, let us make a few remarks to serve as a framework for this presentation, in order to avoid unnecessary and unproductive conflict.

Mortal man has been endowed with an insatiable curiosity. He wants to know things simply because they are presently unknown to him; he is driven by a need to ask questions and to energetically, even relentlessly, seek answers which sometimes come to his own dismay.

Man is of two natures, mortal and spiritual. His mortal world is bounded by his intelligence, his understanding, and his comprehension, which things direct his curiosity toward scientific inquiry. His spiritual nature leads him to look with awe upon the universe he lives in and to yearn for a faith relationship with the Power that made his world and himself.

With regard to the universe, the earth and life— their presence in our awareness— the mortal man asks “how did these things come to be?” while the spiritual man asks “why did these things come to be, to what purpose?” For this latter man, the man of faith, the answer is straightforward: the Lord God made all that is, made it for his own purposes, and there is no need for one to be overly concerned with the how of it.

But God is mysterious, His ways are mysterious, and it is not for man to know the mind of God; and while our relationship with God is spiritual, our curiosity is human, and even for those of great faith this aspect of our nature will move us inexorably in the direction of scientific inquiry because that is where we must go to find the answers we seek.

We should always be aware that our understanding of the relationship of the universe to God, and the relationship of the universe to science are two entirely separate matters, and each legitimately can be, and properly should be, studied without consideration of the other. With this understanding, then, let us first take a scientific view of the subject at hand; that is, the origin and development of life on earth.

In this day there are two major theses put forth to explain the origin of life on earth. Spontaneous generation presents the idea that first life appeared through a series of fortuitous interactions between various inanimate materials of the earth, over a long period of time. This approach is commonly associated with the name of Charles Darwin and, to some extent, Darwinian Theory.

The second notion of how life appeared on earth is given by a process known as panspermia, which holds that “seeds of life” exist throughout the universe and will provide the initiation of life whenever and wherever they encounter life-favorable conditions. This idea has been promoted in recent times by Wickramasinghe and Hoyle.

Both of these explanations are alive and well with enthusiastic followings; scientific laboratory activity has increased with the aim of creating life and possibly duplicating spontaneous generation, while the interest in panspermia has contributed to the formation of the new discipline of Astrobiology.   But we must ask the question “are these two the only options we may consider with regard to the origin of life on earth?” A little reflection will show that we actually have three options:

  1. Living matter arose spontaneously from non-living matter of the earth.
  2. The potential for life (spore-like) blew in from outer space.
  3. The potential for life was present in the material which formed the earth.

Since the hypotheses are well established for the first two options, let us look to developing a hypothesis for the third.

The process of forming the solar system, hence the earth, took place over a period of perhaps several hundred million years. Artists’ depictions of this period usually show the developing earth as a fiery ball of molten matter, thus apparently indoctrinating the entire world community to the notion that the potential for life on earth could not exist until the earth cooled and became a mature planet in the sense of having life- favorable regions. It is just this notion that we wish to examine more closely, in relation to the third option mentioned above.

A digression is necessary here to say more about the “seeds of life” referred to in the discussion of panspermia. Accepting the nebula hypothesis as the method of solar system formation, which states that the solar system was formed from a large gaseous cloud, we postulate that a significant number of the dust particles in the source molecular cloud were in fact seeds of life, which here require some explanation.

Throughout the time and space of the universe there have always been discrete pieces of matter ranging in size from hydrogen atoms (and smaller) to supergiant stars. Atoms, molecules and microscopic aggregates of molecules called dust particles collect into large gaseous clouds between stars, perhaps 5 to 10 trillion miles across—some more, some less—and provide an environment for atomic/molecular bonding to build a variety of complex molecular structures. Some of these gaseous regions have an abundance of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen; and lesser amounts of other elements. These elemental particles in their random motions will strike each other repeatedly, as gas particles do, and eventually form chemical bonds according to the appropriate laws of combination to produce molecules such as amino acids, water, ammonia and methane. Over time additional bonding will take place leading to large aggregates of a variety of atoms and molecules; perhaps even proteins will be formed in an early stage.

We are now in a position to express a hypothesis with regard to the seeds of life: by some means presently unknown to us these aggregates of atoms acquire a sturdy sheath which serves the purpose of providing both a boundary that defines a system, and a means of survival in the harsh environment of cold outer space. The system contained within a sheath comprises a very large number of atoms which can assume a very large number of configurations, each with some degree of stability. Certain ones of these enclosed systems contain proper proportions of essential atoms such that the systems can eventually attain one or more configurations that match that of a living cell ; these are the systems we will refer to as “seeds of life”, or, more conveniently, protocells, since they are precursors of living cells. Protocells are not living systems, but will develop into such under favorable conditions of environment and time.

As a prelude to our consideration of life on earth, let us briefly consider how our solar system was formed from a very large gaseous cloud in the Milky Way galaxy: some perturbation gave rise to a center of gravitational attraction (a larger mass) in the interior of the cloud which drew in the surrounding gas particles, thus causing the mass to grow even larger and increasing its gravitational pull. This action was in fact the birth of a new star which would become our sun. The gas cloud around this protostar would succumb to its gravitational pull for a distance of perhaps a light year or more, and would contain in its roughly spherical region of influence (a globule) all the mass which would eventually make up our solar system. This gaseous mass field was held to the protostar by gravity and had a rotational component about it derived from the rotational motion of the galaxy and perhaps some other more local influences. These two effects caused the globule to assume the shape of a flattened disc with a large central mass.  The tangential velocity component of the individual mass particles about this central mass would cause them to orbit the protostar at appropriate radii thereby placing it (the protostar) at the center of an accretion disc, so-called because of the way the planets were formed: the small particles would bump and sometimes stick together, gradually building a body of significant gravitational force such that the mass in a wide swath on either side of the growing planet-to-be would be drawn in to add to the protoplanet’s mass and clear the annular space about its orbit of most of the matter in that space. Each of the future planets would be built in a similar fashion; the rocky inner planets and the gaseous outer ones.

Going back now to the proposition that protocells were a significant fraction of the cloud region that produced our solar system, we can readily see that the protocells were ubiquitous in the accretion disc, and although most of the mass would go into forming the sun, there were plenty of protocells to be a part of the planets over their long period of development from states of hot to cool. At some point in the development of the earth the accretion process ended, the planet became largely habitable to elementary life forms, and the viable protocells which were locked in the earth’s crust had, because of the warm environment, reconfigured themselves (or were still in the process of reconfiguration) to now contain the essential ingredients of living cells (i.e., RNA, DNA, proteins, enzymes, lipids, etc.), and when freed from their constraints into a life-favorable environment would become living cells and produce distinct species of life. (It has been reported that some organisms, archaea, have become living species even while locked in granite.)

Eventually a time would be reached at which we would consider the earth fully formed, a time (t0) at which we would start counting the age of the earth, a time when it had cooled and viable protocells were more than plentiful throughout its crust, waiting to be freed for development. Actually, for those protocells whose contents had metamorphosed to the configuration of healthy living cells, it is now appropriate to refer to them as dormant living cells, where “dormant” implies that they can exist indefinitely within their constraints, continually metamorphosing until such time as they are freed by some external action to develop into their prescribed life forms.

As time passed, the earth would develop oceans and atmosphere favorable to life, so that any cell awake from its dormancy, and being now a normal living cell, would grow to establish its own unique species. First life would probably be bacteria, archaea and other extremophiles. As a point of interest, we note a close parallel between survivability patterns of the dormant cell and the bacteria spores reported by Cano and Borucki at California Polytechnic State University, where “they were able to reactivate spores from the digestive tracts of bees that had been entombed in amber for 25 to 40 million years.” This gives some encouragement that dormant cells could survive for several billion years.

With the continuing passage of time, more cells are released from their constraints and develop lives governed by their genetic codes and their surroundings. Each step forward would enhance the food chain and provide increasing diversity of matter for metabolism.

It was postulated earlier that a protocell—now a dormant cell—must have the ability to metamorphose internally; that is, to experience changes in its genetic makeup as time goes by, with no interaction with its environment. All dormant cells will follow this propensity to change—a process which is properly termed internal evolution. It hardly seems appropriate to think of this change as transmutation of species since all the action has been contained within the cell. When the cell produces its corresponding mature organism, it will be a unique species with specific defining attributes, and any changes it experiences will be variations.

Over the mega years, dormant cells were released to favorable living conditions as they occurred, by some physical action such as erosion or catastrophe, and having evolved continuously from the beginning, yielded progressively advanced life forms. We can readily imagine a global cataclysm which gives rise to a profusion of cells, perhaps in an earth-girdling cloud, and when conditions return to a state of life-favorable, produces a veritable “explosion” of new life forms. The fossil record indicates that one such event took place more than a half-billion years ago in what is referred to as the “Cambrian” explosion.

In view of the rate at which catastrophic events are taking place in the present age, it cannot be doubted that such events have been taking place since the birth of the planet. We would expect most of these events to have been regional or local in nature, with relatively few being of global proportions, but even for these largest events, leading to mass extinctions, we would expect some few species to survive the catastrophe and continue on for an extended period of time. For those events which led to the release of healthy dormant cells producing new species, there would follow a period of coexistence of primitive and advanced life forms, relatively speaking. By this irregular cycle of progression, life moved on and distinct new species appeared. Thus we see how the variety and abundance of flora and fauna existing on earth today came to be.

As an aside, it is not unreasonable to assume that the appearance of new species can be represented by an erratic, discontinuous variation superposed on a smooth curve of exponential decay, on the premise that the rate of appearance of new species is proportional to the number of dormant cells remaining in the earth.

It is interesting to note how this model of the origin of life on earth relates to what has gone before:

  1. The model was founded on a form of panspermia (called pseudo-panspermia).
  2. It displays somewhat the appearance of spontaneous generation.
  3. It fits smoothly the theory of punctuated equilibria of Gould and Eldredge.
  4. It tacitly denies transmutation of species.

Considerations of testability

The obvious test of the preceding hypothesis is a search for evidence of cells still locked in the material of the earth, cells which did not survive to grow but have maintained their identity. This search should start with an examination of pre-Cambrian rock that has not been altered with the passage of time, but should include later rock as well. If specimens can be found in a sequence of progressively younger rock, there is a possibility of verifying the concept of internal evolution.

Additionally, tests can be made on promising rock samples to determine if viable dormant cells exist in this present time. By way of example, a crushed and powdered sample from a region that is known to have produced much life in the past (as judged from the fossil record) might be suspended in some life-friendly solution and checked periodically for signs of life. Preposterous as this test might seem, it should have, at any rate, a somewhat better chance of success than experimental efforts which seek to create life in the laboratory.

From one point of view, this attempt to discover viable dormant cells might not be as far-fetched as it appears. Consider this: from the beginning of recorded history there have been stories, commonly relegated to folklore, of strange never-before-seen creatures whose sudden appearance would shock and often terrorize local populations. Typically, there would be many sightings reported, but little if any credible evidence forthcoming. In this present day, numerous such creatures are being investigated by various means, the most prominent and compelling of which are the Loch Ness monster and Sasquatch (Bigfoot). Whether they are real or imaginary, both of these apparitions have counterparts of world-wide distribution. It is noted that this hypothesis of origins allows for the reality of these creatures.

A final test is suggested as the examination of the fossil record in the light of this hy­pothesis. There will be, of course, some direct correspondence between the two since the hypothesis was formulated in part by the author’s more or less casual acquaintance with the fossil record, but the tremendous store of knowledge possessed by the paleontological community will allow a detailed evaluation leading to a clear demonstration of the compatibility of hypothesis and record, or lack thereof.

A systematic look at the development of life in conformity with the internal evolution hy­pothesis

Let us begin by noting that as the solar system developed, there was a time at which the earth is deemed to have been completely formed. From that point, designated as t0, we start counting the age of the earth. We expect that the protocells have adjusted to become the dormant living cells which will ultimately give rise to all life on earth.

Since both the protocells and the earth are of finite size, it follows that the cells which are bound in the earth are finite in number. We will designate this number by the letter N. We allow that there is a variety of cells of different kinds which we group according to kind: a number of like cells n1 in group G1, a number of like cells n2 in group G2, and so on. We will indicate the total number of groups by the letter r, which will have a value between 1 (all cells alike) and N (all cells different).

To get an understanding of how life develops on earth, let us, for simplicity, look at just one group and follow its action as the earth ages. All other groups will behave in a similar manner. Consider, then, the group G1 which initially contains n1 dormant cells, scattered haphazardly throughout the earth (as are the cells of all the other groups). Due to some disturbance such as an earthquake, the first of these cells in the number n1 will be freed of their constraints to develop normally. If the environment is hostile, the cells will die, but if it is favorable, the cells will mature into the first species of their group. The time in the age of the earth at which this favorable event takes place will be designated as t1, and marks the time of the first appearance of a species from group G1.

At some later time t2 another earth disturbing event will take place and release more cells from group G1 to a life-friendly environment in which they will grow into mature organisms. If the time from t1 to t2 is sufficiently long (perhaps several million years) so that internal transmutation has occurred, a new species will be produced; otherwise, the organism will be the same as at time t1. In this fashion, the cells of group G1 will continue to produce new species, even up to the present time, or until the supply of cells is depleted, whichever comes first.

As mentioned before, all the groups Gi (i=1,2,…r) will develop in a similar way. For some earth disturbing events, many species will be produced at the same time; for other events, more local, species may appear singly, or in small numbers.

The groups Gi may be ordered on the basis of differences in the cells of the several groups. While we do not know specifically what these differences are, we can make some general observations which will be useful.

Of two cell groups Gi and Gj (i,j=1,2,…r), one group will be superior to the other according to some criterion or criteria, which might include internal complexity, internal evolution rate, potential for brain development, and other. Let us imagine the cell groups to be arranged in successive columns in order of increasing “superiority” of the groups under the headings Gi in the following way:

G1             G2             .                 .                 Gr

Under each heading will be the elements of that column, and these elements will represent the species which derive from that particular set of cells. The elements of all the columns will form rows and thereby yield a matrix of species of life forms. By choosing the downward axis to be time measured from t0, the time of earth formation, we can establish each row as the time at which one or more species appears on earth. If we identify a species by the letter S, and use subscripts i and j to designate its time of appearance and its group, respectively, we obtain a matrix which displays all the species Sij ever to have appeared from the cells locked in the earth, and even shows their times of appearance, at least in a relative way. The all inclusive species matrix will look like this:

 

G1       G2        .           .           Gr

t1       (  S11        S12           .                 .                 S1r   ) 

t2     (  S21       S22           .                 .                 S2r  ) 

.       (    .           .           .           .           .      .      )

.       (    .           .           .           .           .       .     )

tk     (  Sk1         Sk2           .                 .                Skr   )

 

Note that these matrix elements ij represent species which emerged at the corresponding time ti; the matrix does not indicate the overlapping of two species from a given group which might coexist at a particular time. Note also that some (indeed, probably many) of the matrix element positions can be empty, indicating that at any specific time there might be species arising from some but not all the groups. The last row of the matrix, tk, shows the most recent species to have appeared on the earth. In the absence of additional panspermia, and disallowing spontaneous generation (in the Darwinian sense), the elements Sij of this matrix display all the life which ever existed on earth, including that presently active.

Let us now fix our attention on the highest ordered group, Gr, the group which we deem “superior” to all the others. At any time, the organisms arising from this group will be “superior” to those of all the other existing groups, with perhaps rare exceptions. Looking back into time from the present, we can see the characteristics which make this group superior: the appearance of mammalia, opposed thumb, bipedal locomotion, erect posture, large brain, and others. Some of these characteristics might be found in a few groups immediately below this highest one, e.g.; G(r-1), but the group Gr remains unquestionably above all the others.

At some recent time (relative to the age of the earth), there emerged from group Gr a creature that we regard to be the most advanced organism on the planet. This is the creature that H. G. Wells, in his book The Outline of History (Vol. 1), described as “true man”, of the species Homo sapiens, and in most respects, including all outward appearances, indistinguishable from man of today.

A small digression is in order at this point. It may have occurred to the reader that the things we have been talking about—the development of life on earth, its flora and fauna, its catastrophes, and, by implication, its beauty and grandeur—all can be summed up in the one word nature. From species development to weather and terrain, everything has followed a cause and effect progression. For this reason, it is proper to refer to all living creatures as animals, especially the mammalia, and in particular, the recently mentioned H. sapiens. (See philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality for an excellent description of this “natural” man.)

Returning now to our main theme, we note that after hundreds of millions of years, nature has produced an animal which is far superior in many respects to its nearest “competitor”. We also note that this creature, like all other animals, is amoral, a condition which makes him significantly different from man of today. Let us consider the question: what is this difference, and how did it come to be?

Man’s spiritual view of his origin

At some point in the development of life on earth (or as we might say, “in the fullness of time”), there appeared on the scene a creature which was different from all others.   He looked like H. sapiens and had the physical senses of most animals—sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste— but in addition, he had many other non-physical senses that were mostly absent in the animals, and especially in the first H. sapiens. These additional senses included morality, responsibility, conscience, compassion, justice, mercy, love, grace and many others.   As we asked before, how did this come to be?

As we consider this question, our discussion becomes almost overpowering. We notice immediately that the additional senses of this newly-arrived creature are in fact attributes of God as we understand them, and we have little choice but to acknowledge that they were instilled in it by God. Thus this creature is a new creation, made in the image of God. This is created man.

We now find ourselves faced with the necessity of considering two “men”, both of the species H. sapiens and reproductively compatible; one amoral, one moral (hence, capable of being immoral); one evolved, one created; one animal, one human. Because of this duality of man, Wells’ designation of “true man” applied to the evolved creature seems inappropriate; we will do better to refer to this creature as a “natural” man, and refer to created man as simply “man” (or human being).

Our human curiosity leads us to wonder just how God created this man. The evolutionist would probably prefer to think that man (human) is simply the culmination of the evolutionary process up to this time, and that aspect of man which we call “Godly attributes” merely represents the most recent advance of the group Gr. If one concedes that these attributes were programmed by God in the cell, the seed of life, since its beginning, then it should be easy enough for the creationist to accept that the resulting organism, man, is a special creation of God. While some creationists might be satisfied to accept this view, some others might insist upon an explanation which more closely fits the biblical story of the creation of man, the part that says “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Recognizing that man, unlike the animals, has a soul, one might very well interpret this verse as a definition of the soul: the breath of God in man.)

The question of which view to take, like the many other questions with indeterminate answers that man is faced with, boils down to a matter of personal preference: one chooses the belief he will hold on a certain question. (Further consideration of this somewhat provocative statement is not within the scope of this presentation.) One who opts for the first view likely sees the advent of man as just one more step in the unfolding story of life on earth; but he who chooses the second has positioned himself for a significant addition to his understanding of the Bible, from beginning to end.

Granting that God created the world and everything in it, one can confidently take the creation and early life of man presented in the first eleven chapters of Genesis as an accurate portrayal, when “properly” interpreted.

The author will close this section with a discussion of some early events described in the first six chapters of Genesis and some conclusions resulting from the notion of two forms of H. sapiens coexisting on the earth.

When Cain was banished from the Lord’s presence, he went to the land of Nod, east of Eden, where he “lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch.” Considering that Adam was 130 years old when his third-mentioned child, Seth, was born, the suggestion that Cain married one of his sisters or nieces is at best a tenuous one; the author contends that Cain’s wife was a “natural” woman, not a created one. The descendants of Cain are listed in Genesis 4; the first and last mention of them.   However, these descendants, the progeny of a murdering man and an amoral woman, did not go away, but had a presence in the world right up to the time of the flood.

On the other hand, the listing of Adam’s descendants, the subject of Genesis 5, is presented as starting with Seth and makes no mention of Cain and Abel, so that certain chronology cannot be determined (Was Seth born after Cain’s family was established?). The chapter ends with Noah, at 500 years old, becoming the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Finally, Genesis 6 expresses God’s disappointment over the wickedness of man. The “sons of God”, which the author takes to be natural men, took for wives any (created) women they chose; so “the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” [KJV] This passage reinforces the idea that the population of the earth at that time was made up of H. sapiens who were a mixture of created man and natural man; in addition to, one would suspect, a pure line of created man and a pure line of natural man. Indeed, Noah was a righteous man, so presumably he and his family were of the created line; whereas natural man, identified as animal, would have been taken into the ark under that category. In this way, the amoral character of H. sapiens would make it through the curtain of the flood.

After the flood, man lived for a long time in immorality, amorality, and sin until God chose to redeem him. There was, of course, also Godliness and morality during this interval: Abram believed in the Lord, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness; from this condition the story of God’s chosen people unfolds.

 

SOURCES

Darling, David. THE EXTRATERRESRIAL ENCYCLOPEDIA. Three Rivers Press, NY, NY.

This book provided most of the technical and scientific information in the essay.

Sunderland, Luther D. DARWIN’S ENIGMA: Fossils and Other Problems. Master Book Publishers, Santee, California

This book presents various surmises about evolution and gives data from the fossil record.

Wells, H. G. THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY, VOL. 1. Garden City Books, copyright 1949, by Doubleday & Company, Inc,

Of interest to this present effort are the first two books of this eight-book “OUTLINE’:

  1. THE WORLD BEFORE MAN
  2. THE MAKING OF MAN

 

 

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