The Christmas Truce

Christmas_truce_2Evangelists of atheism have often suggested that religion has been responsible for much of the pain and suffering we observe in this world.

That belief is badly mistaken — it is actually the polar opposite of the truth. There is evidence that suggests if Christian spirit were allowed to rule the world, there might truly be peace on earth.

The true story of the 1914 Christmas Truce reminds us that peace IS possible, but only for men of good will. Peace doesn’t come from wishful thinking.

A century ago, all was quiet on the Western front. The first war that involved the whole world had almost ended as quickly as it began. And Christian spirit was largely responsible.

The night was Christmas Eve, 1914.  Only five months after World War I began, British and German soldiers were dug into trenches formed along the Western front, where they watched each other from a relatively safe distance. Bodies littered the barren turf of no-man’s land separating the two armies.

Naturally, the British troops were quite surprised when they heard the Germans begin to sing in the quiet night. They knew the tune, but the words were in a foreign language.

Private Frank Sumter was one of the first to recognize the Christmas carol. Years later, he recalled the occasion, saying, “…and then we heard the Germans singing Silent Night, Holy Night. I said, “C’mon, boys. Let’s join in with the song.”

Soon soldiers from both sides were joyfully singing the same hymn together, but in different languages.Christmas_truce

Then on Christmas morning, a German soldier tentatively emerged from the trenches. He held up a small Christmas tree adorned with lit candles before bravely crossing the open field in front of the readied guns of the British, extending an offering of peace to men that had been his mortal enemy the previous day.

Soon troops from both sides had emerged from their trenches to exchange food and other small gifts. Next, British and German troops began working together as they dug graves and buried their dead.

Joint funeral services were held. Soldiers began to treat each other as human beings, not lambs for slaughter. Men who had been desperately trying to kill “the enemy” days earlier were cooperating with each other. They had lost all desire to maim and kill each other simply for wearing the wrong color uniform.

The truce remained in effect after Christmas. Troops who days earlier exchanged gifts with their “enemy” found it impossible to resume the bloodshed. However, the powers-that-be would have none of that. The officers and generals not dying in the trenches were forced to intervene before fighting resumed. An artillery bombardment was ordered that shattered the peace.

Then a British officer visiting the trenches after Christmas grabbed a rifle and murdered an unarmed German soldier to provoke new hostilities. The war had begrudgingly resumed.

By the following Christmas, millions more of these brave young men were dead. In total, sixteen million people were killed during World War I, manipulated by their respective governments run by politicians far from the front lines so they might blow up each other with bombs, shred the opposing forces with machine gun fire, or poison them with mustard gas.

Christmas_truce_3

Unfortunately, the generals on each side had also learned their lesson from that Christmas truce of 1914. Orders were passed down the following December declaring any informal armistices at Christmas would be considered treason, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Humans have to be taught to hate, and how best to kill their fellow man.

God is the giver of life. But God also gives us free will. We can choose to maim and kill each other.

God allows us to choose evil. Or we can choose Him.

The message we can learn from the Christmas truce of 1914 seems crystal clear: the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

But only if we allow it.

 

A. C. Grayling and The GOD Argument

A. C. Grayling

A. C. Grayling

I’ve enjoyed reading The GOD Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism, in spite of the fact I disagreed with much of what author A. C. Grayling wrote. As I asserted in my earlier blog about the Scopes Monkey Trial, Professor Grayling is an excellent writer.

At times, his book forced me to exercise the little grey cells in my head quite vigorously.

For example, at first I couldn’t figure out why Professor Grayling described the problem as ‘logically impossible’ when he wrote:

Consider the sentence, ‘I can trisect a Euclidean angle using only ruler and compass.’ This is a grammatical and even in one sense an intelligible sentence, but it claims something that is logically impossible to do — and therefore to think.

I must confess that relatively simple sentence initially befuddled me.

After all, I could envision drawing a two-dimensional right angle with a horizontal line  intersecting a vertical line at 90 degrees, and then trisecting it at 30 and 60 degrees rather easily with a compass. However, I sensed that I was missing something that must be obvious and could not be understanding the problem correctly, if what Professor Grayling wrote was true. And my instincts were correct.

It turned out the operative word in that deceptively simple sentence was ‘Euclidean’ — apparently referring to a three-dimensional angle, like what you would find in the corner of a room formed where two walls meet. Then I realized what Grayling must have meant, and he’s right: the task is impossible to perform using only a ruler, pencil and compass. On the other hand, it’s a piece of cake for me to trisect such an angle using only one tool, that being my miter saw, to cut a piece of base moulding or quarter round. Solving a difficult problem merely requires two things: that you understand the real nature of the problem, and you have the ideal tools for the job.

[CORRECTION: a math professor friend has informed me that I was completely wrong about Euclidean meaning a three dimensional angle. However, my right angle example is the exception to the “impossible” rule, according to the link he gave me. Lucky guess on my part.]

But I like books that force me to think.

Professor Grayling divided his book into two parts: the first section is devoted to his argument against religion, and the second half extols the perceived virtues of humanism.

He uses phrases such as “to see the human mind liberated from religion and superstition…” [emphasis added] as he lauds the work of militant antitheists and evangelists for atheism such as Richard DawkinsSam Harris, Dan Barker and Christopher Hitchens.

In a chapter titled “Naming and Describing a ‘God'” Grayling suggested that we could just as easily refer to God as ‘Fred’ or ‘the supreme egg’, obviously mocking the concept of a supernatural creator.

Coincidentally, in my book I suggested that readers with an atheistic worldview like Professor Grayling’s should do exactly that — refer to “supernatural intelligence” with any substitute moniker for God they felt most comfortable using, whether that name be Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Zeus, Thor, the celestial teapot, or even the flying spaghetti monster, for all I care.

Professor Grayling wrote:

One line of thinking in the theory of knowledge has it that belief is not an all-or-nothing affair, but a matter of degree. The degree in question can be represented as a probability value. [emphasis added.]

We seem to agree that belief is best measured in relationship to probability.

In my book Counterargument for God, I said: “[T]he probability of any form of supernatural intelligence should initially be set very low, like one-half of one percent. Then the probability of good luck would be extremely high: 99.5 percent. Remember, there is a direct, inverse relationship between the two variables.”

We also agreed that the initial probability of God may be set quite low.

Interestingly enough, Grayling also said this, mirroring something I wrote:

The initial probability of there being a deity is not fifty percent, as some try to argue. There is a hidden assumption of agnosticism, which premises the thought that there is insufficient evidence to settle the matter either way.

Keep in mind that the initial probability we assign God isn’t a value of particular importance to me — it’s only the end result that matters.

My counterargument to atheism relies primarily on logic, common sense, and scientific evidence.  If we assume the universe had an origin, there are only two logical alternatives: either the universe came to exist through a series of accidents, or it was created on purpose.

southernprose_cover_CAFG

Grayling also wrote:

But it is not rational to bet on something’s being the case that has a probability of 99.9 percent chance of not being the case, and since acceptance of a belief is exactly comparable to taking a bet, the question ‘is it rational to bet on x’ and ‘is it rational to believe in x’ alike admit of unequivocal yes/no answers.

The problem is that Professor Grayling has expressed the probability problem exactly backwards. He clearly doesn’t understand the relationship between the probability of a creator God versus the probability of good luck being responsible. To suggest that the probability of God is nearly zero would mean the probability that unbelievable good luck explains our existence is virtual certainty, nearly 100 percent.

However, Sir Roger Penrose has calculated the odds that the Big Bang would create this universe were 1 in 10^300th power, which is an infinitessimally small fraction of one percent.

Because of the remarkably low probability that our universe was created in the Big Bang by random chance, multiverse theory exists, mainly to solve the improbability problem of a fine-tuned universe just right for life conveniently existing so that we might also exist.

And the Big Bang is only the first highly improbable event that we must consider in our quest to answer the existential questions.There is also the relative probability that luck also caused inflation, the origin of life, and even the differentiation of primitive life into the diverse forms we see today.

Stephen Hawking has asserted that even the slightest variation in the inflationary period that immediately followed the creation of the universe, even a minor change as small as one in a million-million, would have caused the new universe to collapse. The improbability of inflation is both dependent and independent of the Big Bang event.

What I mean by that is inflation could not have happened without the Big Bang occurring first. Therefore inflation requires the Big Bang.

The Big Bang did not require inflation, however. We cannot simply assume that inflation had no choice but to occur, unless we are prepared to accept the teleological ramifications that arise from it.

In his book the good professor conceded that the ‘Goldilocks enigma’ exists, meaning our universe is extraordinarily, even uniquely apt for life.

But Professor Grayling attempts to counter this scientific observation with an argument based on incredulity — maintaining that no matter how hard it is to believe in good luck, it is even more difficult to believe in a supernatural God. He does this while completely failing to realize that God and incredible good luck are our only two probabilities.

Those probabilities are inversely related to each other. In other words, as the probability that sort of good luck increases, the probability of God decreases in direct proportion.

Unwittingly or not, Grayling has merely attempted to replace the concept of a supernatural deity with Time as the god that solves all of our existential problems.

Frankly, that isn’t exactly a new idea. Not to mention, it’s a very flawed idea.

Nor does Grayling break any new ground with his argument against religion, parroting much of what Dawkins wrote to evangelize his atheism in The God Delusion. 

But Grayling is correct about the importance of relative probability but wrong about its application when he writes:

It is of course the case that it is sometimes uncertain whether something is or is not so, because the evidence pushes both ways, or is insufficient. Then the rational course is either to suspend judgment (this is what agnostics mistakenly think they are doing; see below) or to take a chance, helped by any external considerations that give some inclining help. This typically happens when the probability of something is about 50 percent. But it is not rational to bet on something’s being the case that has a probability of 99.9 percent of not being the case, and since acceptance of a belief is exactly comparable to taking a bet,  the question ‘is it rational to bet on x’ and ‘is it rational to believe in x’ alike admit of unequivocal yes/no answers.

However, Grayling couldn’t have been more wrong…and, of course, there are gradations of wrong — when he wrote:

Depending on your point of view it is just a lucky or unlucky result of how things happen to be. The universe’s parameters are not tuned on purpose for us to exist. It is the other way around: we exist because the laws happen to be as they are.

Academic credentials or not, I can’t simply give Professor Grayling a pass on this one. How could such a baseless assertion be considered any more valid than a religious person invoking a creator God? And who made these ‘laws’ that are being applied?

Grayling also defines the moral argument improperly to say “there can be no morality without a deity.”

But no one really questions whether or not morality exists. The issue is whether morality is relative or objective.

Another reason I liked Grayling’s book is because he delves into another topic of apparent mutual interest — the near death experience.

Unfortunately, Grayling misinterprets the evidence about NDEs at his disposal just as badly as he bungled the probability argument.  He attributes belief that life after death to two possible motives: fear, or a desire to seek justice. I will admit that those are two common reasons why people might want to believe in life after death, but neither is the best reason.

The best reason to believe life after death is possible is this: a phenomena known as corroborated veridical NDE events, which involves a person very near death learning new information that can be investigated and verified, information they should not have known — indicating that the spiritual mind and physical brain were briefly separated, and the mind continued to learn.

Discussing these areas of sharp disagreement with Professor Grayling could prove quite interesting. A written debate could be very challenging, if he were to agree to such a proposition.

One of us would surely be humbled by the experience.

Coaching change

coach Mark Richt

coach Mark Richt

So, you’re a Georgia fan who’s tired of the underachieving football program, huh?

After all, the Georgia coach has been on the job for THIRTEEN whole years and still hasn’t won a national championship, has he?

Enough of this mediocrity!

This is big boy, SEC football. In this conference, it’s always, what have you done for us lately? Don’t believe me? Just ask Gene Chizik

So what if our coach has won a couple of measly SEC championships for Georgia up to this point in his coaching career? That simply isn’t good enough.

Look at the bigger picture — we’ve been in a championship drought for the last few years now.

Our coach has, gasp! a losing bowl record. Can’t win the big game anymore. And we’re talking about big-time college football at a prestigious university. We deserve a championship team.

This sort of incompetence simply cannot be tolerated. We have every right to expect to expect our football team to win at all costs. No matter what.

It shouldn’t matter that we demand more discipline of our players than our competitors.

As alumni, we want to be proud and brag our players are smarter, better people…as long as they win, too. Surely you will concede that our program seems to be headed in the wrong direction. The SEC competition is only getting stronger, while our team seems to be regressing…so enough already!

Just get rid of the guy, okay?

Congratulations!

You just fired Vince Dooley, the greatest coach in Georgia’s history, three years before he led Georgia to the 1980 national championship.

This is exactly why you should never have Greg McGarity’s job.

Ranking SEC football coaches

coach Mark Richt

coach Mark Richt

If I’m ever going to be objective about where Mark Richt stands as a head coach among his peers in the SEC, today would be the day.

My rose-colored glasses may finally be a little dirty after yesterday’s depressing loss to the archrival Yellow Jackets.

Georgia blew its football game against Georgia Tech yesterday in heartbreaking fashion, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory after they seemed to have won the game by scoring a touchdown with only 18 seconds left in regulation. Yesterday’s loss was almost as bad as the infamous Prayer at Jordan-Hare last year.

Inexplicably, coach Richt called for a pooch kick on the subsequent kickoff,  afraid that Georgia Tech might manage a long return for a touchdown if we kicked deep.

The shorter squib kick gave the Yellow Jackets excellent field position, and just enough time to run one play that gained just enough yardage for their kicker to attempt and make the longest field goal of his career, with literally inches to spare.

With that fateful decision, Richt only managed to delay the inevitable winning touchdown, scored by Georgia Tech during their first possession of overtime.

Truthfully, Georgia had no business being in position to win the game at the end. They were thoroughly outplayed by the Yellow Jackets for the entire second half.

Tech managed to take the lead with about five minutes left in the game, and should have iced it after the receiving team failed to field the ensuing kickoff, giving the Yellow Jackets possession deep in the Bulldog territory.

However, they fumbled the ball when they could have run out the clock and gave Georgia QB Hutson Mason the opportunity to drive down the field for what might have been the game-winning score.

When we deliberately kicked the ball short on our final kickoff, it merely cost us a game we never really deserved to win.

Tech gained almost as many yards rushing as Florida had a few weeks earlier. They dominated the time of possession, especially in the second half. When we did have the opportunity to score in the first half, we turned the ball over, twice.

I don’t know what Richt could have done to prevent those turnovers.

One might argue that had our players executed better in the first half, the results would have been different. The game shouldn’t have been tied at halftime. The kicker also could have missed the longest kick of his life. Or, it could have hit the crossbar.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

One could also speculate that Georgia suffered from an emotional letdown after Missouri beat Arkansas to win the SEC East.

That sounds like a pathetic excuse. Georgia Tech was the better team yesterday. And it doesn’t really matter why Tech was the better team yesterday, only that they won the game.

End of story.

However today, some Georgia “fans” have suggested Mark Richt should be fired. These alleged fans have asserted that Georgia will never win a national championship, as long as Mark Richt is our head coach. Such ridiculous statements really annoy me, for several reasons. Well, allow me to retort.

First of all, no offense meant, but unless you are a close personal friend or your name is Greg McGarity, your opinion on whether or not coach Richt deserves to lose his job is not very important to me. I’m not so biased that I would declare Mark Richt currently the best college coach in America, or even the best head football coach in the SEC at the moment. That could change over this next decade, if Georgia’s defense consistently begins to play as well as the offense. Based on this year’s improvements under defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, there’s every reason to believe that could happen. The future looks very bright.

Secondly, it’s always important to look at the Big Picture. Georgia has always had good players and recruited well. But with Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator, recruiting has been taken to another level. Keep in mind, this year’s defense has had flashes of brilliance. We don’t seem far away.

Finally, let’s say Greg McGarity lost his mind and fired Mark Richt in the wake of a 9-3 regular season, because we lost to Florida and Tech. Or let’s make you the AD for a day, so you could fire our coach. Who would you get to replace him?

Here’s how I rank the current SEC head coaches, based on their success on the field.

  1. Nick Saban.
  2. Steve Spurrier.
  3. Les Miles.
  4. Mark Richt.
  5. Gus Malzahn — probably overrated.
  6. Gary Pinkel — who has accomplished more with less?
  7. Hugh Frieze — heck of a recruiter.
  8. Dan Mullins.
  9. Kevin Sumlin. — maybe overrated
  10. Butch Jones.
  11. Bret Bielema — could be one to watch.
  12. Mike Stoops — tough to win at UK.
  13. Derek Mason — tough first season.
  14. Will Muschamp — currently unemployed.

Keep in mind, this is my list. Before you shuffle the order, ask yourself this one question: if Mark Richt were fired or resigned after this season, who might Georgia get to replace him?

Who would you rather have? For me, honestly, nobody on this list impresses me as someone that I’d rather have than coach Richt.

Also, let’s be realistic. Saban wouldn’t leave Alabama for another SEC school. Besides, I don’t like the way he “cuts” players if they don’t perform. Success shouldn’t come at all costs.

You can forget about Steve Spurrier. He HATES Georgia with a passion. Plus, I can’t imagine he’ll continue coaching much longer.

Is he a “better” coach than Richt right now? Yes, I’d say so. But would I rather have him than Richt?

No. I like that Richt keeps his cool under pressure. Could you imagine him ever throwing a headset, like Spurrier throws his visor?

In my first attempt to order the SEC coaches based on their success, I ranked Les Miles at #4, just below Richt, because his teams haven’t contended in several years. However, Les Miles can claim the one national championship though. So for the time being, I put him just above Richt on my list.

Don’t get me wrong; I like the Mad Hatter, but not better than “my” guy.

Who would you rather have? Urban Meyer? Rich Rodriguez? Please.

If you’re one of these fair-weather Dawg fans calling for the head of Mark Richt today, ask yourself this one question: who would your next coach be?

I believe Gene Chizik is available. Would you rather have him? Ron Zook? Or Paul Johnson?

Don’t even bother suggesting you’d rather have Jimbo Fisher. His program is a train wreck, completely out of control.

Give me a break.

 

A red-faced blue nation

Limbaugh

Recently a friend of mine referred to me as a journalist and a political writer, but I am neither.

Normally I would have been very flattered, if it weren’t for my extremely low opinion of contemporary journalism.

First and foremost, I am a novelist who writes detective fiction. I have also written several nonfiction books, and, of course, I blog here at my website.

The more liberal members of my family seem to think I’m some rabid right-wing Republican who has been brainwashed by Rush Limbaugh.

I do admit that I enjoy listening to Limbaugh’s show occasionally. I think he can be pretty funny, and admire Rush for overcoming some really serious adversity — the total loss of his hearing, and somehow managed to continue his career, with the help of a cochlear implant. I also think he’s very smart, patriotic, and quite entertaining.

But I don’t agree with everything Rush says. Just most of what he says, and practically everything he says about liberal politicians.

I don’t really consider myself a Republican — I’m more of a Libertarian who tends to vote Republican in most major elections, but certainly not someone willing to write checks to help fund the party. Currently, I don’t make enough money that I feel like I can afford to throw any of it away on a political party. After all, my wife and I are about to be hit hard by Obamacare.

I am not a person who refuses to vote for a candidate simply because they are a Democrat. In fact, I’ve voted for more than one common sensical Democrat in my career as a voter. I believe the last one was Zell Miller.

Most of the time, I try to get both sides of an argument  before I form an opinion.

Occasionally, my quest for the alternate perspective on an issue even takes me to liberal outlets such as Blue Nation Re view, where I can get the liberal point of view on subjects ranging from Kaci Hickox to the tragic death of a young girl.

I’m looking for those few opportunities where we can all agree — whether we are liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican or Libertarian.

When I saw that liberal Democrat Sarah Burris wrote this at Blue Nation Review: “We egotistically and selfishly troll Facebook and poke fun at people — or worse, bully them until they snap. We are too often mean. Too often self absorbed.”

Heck yeah! We agreed completely…or so I thought.

I even believed she was right on the money when she added, “[S]o many Americans are extremely fortunate and we don’t even know it.”

Unfortunately, she didn’t stop there. She should have.

Only a few sentences later came this perfect gem of a punch line: “Imagine your child is playing piano one minute and the next day she is dead.  Then you have something really to complain about. Until then, all you teabaggers can shut the f*ck up.”

That insulting, vicious, and arrogant attitude helps me understand why the Democrats were absolutely decimated in the elections two weeks ago, even worse than expected. Ms. Burris should be ashamed of her vile, absurd little tirade.

But she’s a liberal. She’s probably very proud of herself.

The truth about the Scopes Monkey trial

argument_book2

I’ve been reading A. C. Grayling’s most excellent book titled The GOD Argument – after all, I don’t have to agree with the man’s opinions to admire his talent as a writer — and a realization suddenly struck me, sort of like a bolt of lightning.

Another article I’ve been working on and will publish soon discusses the some of the more interesting topics in Grayling’s book, in much greater detail.

For the remainder of this article, I’d like to focus attention on just one particular thing Grayling said in his book that I found to be very questionable.

Then I plan to connect my observations on this comment to my own personal moment of revelation, that “lightning bolt” moment I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Beginning on page 108, Professor Grayling wrote:

Since the humiliating defeat of the literal six-day creationist lobby in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 in Tennessee, religious groups have become increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to promote the idea that the universe and life in it were made by an intelligent agency, just as a carpenter makes a table; except that whereas a carpenter has his planks and nails to hand when he starts, the mega-carpenter did not have any materials ready beforehand, but made them too, from nothing.

When I first read the passage above, I thought, huh?

That paragraph is clearly giving the reader the distinct impression that the Scopes Monkey trial was an overwhelming victory for the Darwinian theory of evolution, and nothing less than a crushing defeat for young earth creationism.

The problem with the impression the paragraph created is that it simply isn’t true.

Scopes lost.

True, the conviction was later overturned on a technicality. But make no mistake about it, John Scopes and Darwin’s theory of natural selection clearly lost that 1925 court case — no matter what Hollywood, and revisionist historians, might have you believe.

The movie Inherit the Wind helped create the popular misconception the courtroom defeat was merely symbolic in nature, but Hollywood was playing fast and loose with the facts. The film was not an accurate portrayal of what actually happened in the aftermath of the trial.

Rather than the “humiliating defeat of the literal six-day creationist lobby” suggested by Grayling, The State of Tennessee versus John Thomas Scopes decision had a chilling effect on critical thinking that lasted for more than three decades.

Publishers removed all references to Darwin from American science textbooks after Scopes was convicted, and kept his theory of natural selection out for the next thirty-three years.

Only creationism was taught in school.

It wasn’t until 1958, when the National Defense Education Act was passed, that Darwin and evolution theory became the accepted curriculum in biology class.

In all fairness to Professor Grayling, his mistake is somewhat understandable.

Just about everybody has heard of the Scopes Monkey Trial and in contrast, virtually no one has ever heard of the NDEA.

However, that doesn’t make his error entirely excusable. It seemed like a pretty important detail for an academic scholar to have gotten completely wrong.

Scopes most certainly did not bring Darwin into the classroom. The NDEA did that, and even then only after the U.S. government became afraid of losing the race to conquer outer space, and ultimately the Cold War, to the Soviet Union.

His conviction via the Butler Act was a travesty of justice — though not because the teaching of evolution was specifically banned by law, but because it set a bad precedent by making critical thought illegal.

This was when a ‘Eureka’ moment temporarily left me thunderstruck.

My reaction to the glaring mistake of Professor Grayling was not unlike the reaction some of my critics of my book have had, as they have objected to my interpretation of Darwinian theory, as it must be defined in order to fit within the context an existential Big Picture.

My critics have vociferously complained about the errors contained in my text as if they affected the overall point being made — for example, when I mistakenly wrote that ‘clade’ was a new term biologists had introduced to replace the word ‘species.’

What I should have said was the term was new to me. The mistake seemed relatively minor, in my opinion. But some of my critics would have you believe that a trivial mistake such as that invalidated everything else I had to say.

And it occurred to me that while Professor Grayling had messed up with some of the details, his overall point remained quite valid.

It is illegal in America to teach anything other than evolution theory in science class today.

Just as creationists succeeded in their opposition to Darwinian theory in the Scopes Monkey Trial, the biology professors of today have also discriminated against creation science and intelligent design, under the pretense that Darwin is science and creation is not.

God and science are not mutually exclusive, however.

We have not been given the luxury of being able to choose between “science” or “nature” over a supernatural God.

As I’ve explained in Counterargument for God, the only true alternative to a creator God is serendipity, or extraordinary good luck. If you think there’s a third choice, you simply don’t have a clear view of the Big Picture that includes life, the universe, and everything.

It’s very important to remember that life cannot evolve until it exists.

By disallowing critical examination of Darwin’s theory through the ruling of a scientifically illiterate judge in the Dover decision, the advocates of neo-Darwinian theory became guilty, and just as successful with discouraging critical thought as the overzealous creationists had been during the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Their fierce opposition to creation science has kept God out of schools, and excluded from science class in particular. If you don’t think it has had a negative effect on society, you should listen to what notorious cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer had to say about evolution theory and creation science.

There have been serious consequences from these secular efforts to use science in trying to convince the masses that God does not exist.

Furthermore, if Darwin’s theory were truly an indisputable fact, it ought to be able to hold up under intense scrutiny.

But if you dare question Darwin, you run the risk of being called a science-denier.

 

 

The Happy Atheist

atheist_1What makes an atheist happy?

In the case of biology professor P. Z. Myers, the answer to that question shouldn’t be all that difficult to discern, especially considering the fact he wrote a book titled The Happy Atheist.

Though I don’t know Professor Myers, should we ever meet, I suspect it is possible we could consider each other a friend, in spite of our vast difference in opinion about certain mutual topics of interest.

One reason I think it’s possible is because it seems that we share a few things in common. Also, I respect his honesty.

For example, I agreed with him completely when he wrote that saying “abiogenesis is not evolution” is a cop-out and commend Professor Myers for his intellectual courage to admit it.

After all, more than once I have asserted that life cannot evolve until it exists myself.

The logical foundation for making the connection between life and its origin would seem to be inarguable — but that doesn’t keep some people from wanting to argue about it.

Several of my atheist friends have tried to rebut the “Big Picture” argument presented in my book Counterargument for God by saying the ability for a living organism to change and the origin of life are two completely separate processes as unrelated as gravity and germ theories, which is just plain silly to even suggest.

The hypothesis called abiogenesis might be an issue for chemistry and the theory of evolution a philosophical interest in biology, but biological organisms are created by chemical reactions forming complex structures. That little fact is undeniable.

Going beyond our agreement about the significance of abiogenesis, it might be interesting to note that Professor Myers and I were both raised Lutheran. Furthermore, we are both writers. He blogs regularly at Pharyngula, and I haphazardly voice my opinion on a very wide range of subjects right here at southernprose.com.

P. Z. Myers

P. Z. Myers

However, I’m afraid that may be the full extent of what P. Z. Myers and I have in common. As an atheist, he believes in neither a supernatural God or an afterlife, and he derives much of his pleasure from looking down rather snobbishly on those who do.

Unfortunately I can’t even score any brownie points with Professor Myers by writing a rave review about his book. Frankly, I’m much more impressed with his blogging.

His book simply wasn’t very good. In fact, The Happy Atheist reads like a cobbled-together collection of lesser material that didn’t merit publication on his blog.

For example, on pages 62 and 63 in an essay titled “Afterlife? What Afterlife?”, Myers wrote:

Look at the stories religious people make up. They know nothing of the deep history of the world, so they create a fable about a humanlike deity as one would construct a house. They know nothing of disease, so they make up imaginary demons and spirits that torment us. They don’t understand geology or the weather, so every natural catastrophe becomes a warning shot from an angry god. They want power, so they pretend that their incantations and rituals will get them the blessings of their god. Most pathetic of all, they fear death, so they’ve invented fabulous heavens to tempt and hells to terrify. They’re all lies. Religious people don’t know what happens after we die–they can only pretend to know. No one has returned from an unambiguous death to tell us what goes on afterward, and the people who do claim to have had visions of an afterlife or ghosts or souls are not consistent with each other. The only reason to invent a story that we have a “spirit” that will “live on” after our death is that it’s what people want to hear. Death is frightening, so it’s easy for people to believe in an afterlife. But there is no evidence at all for an afterlife.

Notice the sweeping generalization containing all these assumptions Professor Myers has made about people with religious beliefs in one paragraph–that we “know nothing” about the deep history of the world, or disease. We don’t understand geology or weather.

Reading Professor Myers, it seems clear that in his opinion, no really logical and smart person could ever believe in God.

However, the most significant problem with his diatribe in the paragraph above is that atheists don’t know what happens when we die, either. Claiming that what others believe is a lie implies that the person making that declaration knows the truth with absolute certainty.

In reality, nobody does. Our best sources for potential information about what happens after we die might be gleaned from interviews with Pam Reynolds or Matthew Botsford.

Regardless of whether it was born of ignorance or denial, Myers’s claim “there is no evidence at all for an afterlife” simply isn’t true.

There are phenomena known as corroborated veridical NDE perceptions that clearly seem to demonstrate that the mind and brain are separable entities and strongly suggest our conscious mind may be able to survive physical death.

On the other hand, in an essay beginning on page 149 titled “Our Brains Are Full of Contradictions,” Myers wrote,

“When we claim that, because so-and-so is a scientist, every thought in his head must be automatically legitimate in the scientific sphere, we’re making a glorified argument from authority — we’re making a logical fallacy. There’s plenty of room for each one of us to be wrong.”

Because I reject arguments attempted using authority on a fairly regular basis, I appreciate the honesty of Professor Myers in conceding that point and agree with his debunking the argument from authority. Unfortunately, he later tries to use a similar argument from authority when on page 160, in an essay titled”Religion Fails as a Source of Knowledge.” Myers wrote:

Science and religion are incompatible in all of the ways that count. Science works. Religion doesn’t.

That is an argument attempting to use his authority as an academic to assert a baseless claim in support of his atheistic beliefs. What does it mean to say “religion doesn’t work?”

Probably the most positive thing I can say about The Happy Atheist is the book is short, a quick read. However, it lacks much in the way of real substance that might serve to validate his atheistic worldview, except to say it makes Professor Myers feel better about himself to feel superior to other people. For him, happiness seems to be found in something other than a normal, well-developed sense of humor.

He claims to derive a schadenfreude-like pleasure from watching people he believes to be foolish acting like fools. In the opening chapter titled “Morning in the Midwest,” Myers describes his neighbors as “good people” and says they aren’t stupid — except about their religious beliefs, of course.

Most of the chapters/essays have pithy titles such as “The Top Ten Reasons Religion Is Like Pornography,” “The Big Pink Guy in the Sky,” and “Laughter as a Strategy for Diminishing Religion.”

The irony of his writing “I’m Not a Spoiled Child Having a Temper Tantrum” is quite delicious, especially considering the fact that in other chapters, Myers brags about his plans to desecrate a communion wafer, and burying Bibles to fertilize his garden.

What Professor Myers fails to explain in his book is how other atheists might become happy without looking down in condescension toward people who believe in a supernatural God. When he proclaims “Science works. Religion doesn’t.” he’s making the tacit admission that he doesn’t really even understand the only two real alternatives from which we must choose, if we seek a glimpse of an existential Big Picture.

We don’t have a choice to make between science and religion. Science is merely a tool we use to help us form answers to our existential questions that conform to our personal worldview.

The existential questions focus on the relative probability of whether or not a creator God exists.

In other words, we must choose between God and virtually impossible, certainly not very plausible good luck.

 

 

Narcissist nurse Kaci Hickox and the Ebola quarantine

Kaci Hkaci_hickoxickox has done her good deed. She went to Africa and helped people suffering from Ebola.

Now she just wants her life to get back to normal.

Immediately. You can forget about a three week quarantine for this modern day Florence Nightingale.

The Clara Barton of the Sierra Leone made it crystal clear that no mere politician is going to tell her what to do.

She lawyer-ed up to avoid spending three weeks in isolation out of concerns for public safety because, as she put it, Governor Chris Christie isn’t a doctor.

Neither is she, but that’s beside the point. She knows what’s best for her. Screw the general public.

We’re completely irrational to be afraid that a contagious disease with a high mortality rate and for which there is no known cure has come inside our borders for the first time in American history.

Right?

I know what my problem must be — obviously, I’m just jealous.

After all, Kaci figured out a way to experience her 15 minutes of fame. The New York TimesMeet the Press. The Huffington Post. Fox News, CNN, ABC, NBC. The BBC.

Even Saturday Night Live got into the act, adding to her claim to fame.

In stark contrast, I’ve written five books that have been published. Three of them even won an award, and still almost nobody knows who I am.

The best I’ve managed to do thus far was a brief interview by the American Thinker people on the Dennis Miller Radio Show and a few one-hour long interviews with Dr. Robert Rose on his web blog radio show. Pathetic, by comparison.

I haven’t even been asked to write an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News.

The irony is that Kaci obviously cares nothing about all this publicity. She just wants to ride her bike.

We’re absolutely stupid to be worried that it was reported her temperature registered 101 degrees at the airport — that was only because her hot temper matches her red hair.

When she was denied the ability to go when she pleased…after coming home from treating Ebola patients, never mind you, Ms. Hickox literally got hot above the collar.

After all, science tells us how and when it can be transmitted, and Ms. Hickox knew that she posed no public health risk.

Don’t worry about those reports her roommate in Africa has been diagnosed with Ebola.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

If you do plan to make something of it, you’re nothing but a fear monger, and Kaci is a hero for confronting you.

Ignore those scientists who are now predicting 130 new cases of Ebola will be detected in the United States by the end of the year.

But I’ll bet Typhoid Mary didn’t like her quarantine, either.

We fools in the general public should just realize that we are not doctors — you know, medical professionals like Dr. Craig Spencer.

Remember him? He’s the genius who began to display Ebola symptoms after arriving in New York City, and yet rode the subway, drove a rental car, ate in a restaurant and even went bowling before checking himself into the hospital, for God’s sake.

And you know what they call the guy who graduates at the very bottom of his class in medical school?

Doctor.

 

The University of Georgia, Todd Gurley, and the NCAA’s growing credibility problem

Todd_Gurley_cropped

Running back Todd Gurley

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I am an alumnus of the University of Georgia, but not affiliated with the university in any official capacity. These comments merely represent my personal opinion and nothing more.]

I need to vent my frustrations, before my head explodes. I need to express my anger, even though I have no idea how demanding the right thing be done will actually help or accomplish anything, except it might make me feel a little bit better.

We can save the argument for another day about whether the NCAA should allow players to be paid. Though I think that players should be allowed to have some sort of income, it’s irrelevant to the point that I intend to focus upon today.

Likewise, for the time being, we can also ignore that the NCAA earns nearly $1 billion dollars per year in revenue, in spite of the fact the organization is treated as a non-profit by the IRS.

Right now I don’t even want to bring up the relevance of the Ed O’Bannon court decision to this suspension, even though the ruling would seem to be quite pertinent. It’s also helpful and important to note that the NCAA lost that case.

However at the moment, I only want to figure out the answer to one question: what is the NCAA going to do about its very serious and growing credibility problem?

And what message did Mark Emmert and the NCAA think they sent the college football world by increasing Todd Gurley’s suspension from two to four games?

I agree with Bill King of the AJC, when he says their message is “honesty doesn’t pay.

While I believe most Georgia fans are proud of their school, their coach, and especially Todd Gurley this morning, we are also  frustrated.

According to the NCAA webpage when they describe themselves in the section “About Us” under their “Fairness and Integrity” policies in what the NCAA claims they do, it says,

No one is above the rules. The consequences for breaking them need to be clearly defined and consistently enforced.

NCAA President Mark Emmert

NCAA President Mark Emmert

Really? What does the word “consistency” mean to you, Mr. Emmert?

It’s pretty easy to see our head football coach has taught his players that honesty, integrity, and doing the right thing are more important than winning or losing.

You even commended Coach Richt for it, right before your organization dropped the hammer on Gurley with a suspension of four total games, with two more to sit out.

coach Mark Richt

coach Mark Richt

Georgia fans are disappointed the NCAA benched the best player in college football for two more games when other programs seem to get away with murder, but we’re proud of the way our team has dealt with this adversity. We’re proud they won two tough SEC road games in spite of the fact Todd was suspended.

And we’re proud to say that Mark Richt, a man with the utmost integrity, is the coach of our football team.

But we are confused when we see that a player accused of domestic violence currently remains eligible to play for FSU tonight, when Todd Gurley won’t play Saturday because he broke a silly rule that a lawsuit seemed to say was illegal.

Even worse, there’s absolutely no reason to believe FSU will ever suffer any consequences for their program losing control, because the NCAA appears powerless to do anything when the people that break the rules don’t report themselves.

Some of us Georgia fans are concerned about the obvious lack of a level playing field. Our guys get suspended. Other guys don’t.

Compared to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity and coach Richt’s handling of the Todd Gurley matter, the situation down in Tallahassee appears a train wreck, but there’s no reason for us to have any confidence that the NCAA will do something about it.

A. J. Green

A. J. Green

Ironically, Todd Gurley has received the exact same punishment that was given to former Georgia wide receiver A. J. Green in 2010 for essentially the same infraction.

Make no mistake — A. J. Green broke the rules. And Todd Gurley broke the rules, whether or not we agree with them. So they both deserved punishment.

But hasn’t Gurley been punished enough, especially compared to how others aren’t being punished? For example, contrast the Gurley situation to the ongoing saga of Jameis Winston down at FSU.

Todd missed the Missouri and Arkansas games so far for signing autographs and then admitting what he did. Jameis missed the game against Clemson for a completely different offense that could not be denied because of multiple witnesses.

But Winston denies signing autographs for money and remains eligible to play, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t get away with it. The precedent has already been established. Remember when Johnny Manziel dug in his heels in spite of the overwhelming circumstantial evidence against him? He got off with a slap on the wrist by simply refusing to tell the truth. Apparently  NCAA investigators have never heard of an invention known as a lie detector, the polygraph machine, which might help them get to real truth when someone appears to be lying through their teeth.

photo from 247sports.com.

Kolton Houston

The NCAA forced Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston to undergo risky elective surgery in order to remedy a doctor’s mistake to gain his eligibility. So why can’t these players who appear to obviously be lying receive a shot of Sodium Pentothal, also known as truth serum, before they get interrogated?

Seeing the pathetic incompetence of the NCAA’s investigation into the Manziel case reminded me of Sergeant Schultz from the old TV show  Hogan’s Heroes:

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel

Manziel does have a rich father, and that seems to have given him just enough plausible deniability to convince the NCAA that $7,500 a broker allegedly paid him to sign could have conceivably come from his daddy.

Nothing to see here. Move along. The NCAA claimed they bought into his story hook, line, and sinker.

In reality, it appears they simply couldn’t prove Manziel took the money.He stonewalled them, in spite of the fact that more than 4,400 signed pieces of memorabilia were found advertised for sale on the internet with his authenticated signature on them.

Yeah, he really suffered the consequences, all the way to New York where he picked up his Heisman Trophy.

Except for the NCAA investigators, a few sadly deluded Texas A&M fans, and possibly Jimbo Fisher, nobody with half a brain believes that Manziel signed thousands of sequentially numbered autographed pieces of merchandise purely out of the goodness of his heart.

And nobody except Jimbo Fisher can believe that Jameis Winston has signed more than 2,000 items of autographed memorabilia without receiving some cash under the table for his time and trouble, either. But Winston says he didn’t do it, and that’s gonna be good enough for ole Jimbo because obviously, in every other respect, Jameis is a paragon of virtue.

Jameis Winston doing something he does best

Jameis Winston doing something he does best

Please. Even Inspector Clouseau could figure out that a really bad smell is coming out of Tallahassee.

It’s called the stench of corruption. When the wind changes direction, it starts blowing in from Chapel Hill.

Come on, this isn’t rocket science. Jimbo has more than half a million reasons to turn a blind eye to Winston’s shenanigans.

He doesn’t think it’s a problem that 2,000 pieces of authenticated memorabilia are currently available for sale on the internet with his quarterback’s name on them, because Winston simply follows the example set by Manziel and claims that he took no money

Todd Gurley told the truth. He admitted breaking NCAA rules.

And his reward will be to sit home for two more weeks and watch while liars get to play.

The REAL war on women — Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

actor Denzel Washington

actor Denzel Washington

Whenever I hear one politician accuse another of participating in some “war on women” by somehow threatening to infringe upon their “reproductive rights”, it makes me want to vomit.

Anyone who says something that stupid obviously does’t have a clue about the real war being waged on women by terrorist thugs like ISIS or Boko Haram, who kidnap, rape, and enslave young children.

Unfortunately, dangerous predators who prey on young girls also lurk within our midst, right here at home in America.

But instead of kidnapping their victims, these domestic predators usually prey on young teens who have run away from home.

So yesterday, my son and I went to see The Equalizer in the plush, gorgeous and brand new AMC Theaters at North Point Mall and it became one of the best experiences in a theater that I’ve had in years. The chairs were very comfortable leather recliners, and the theaters and lobby were impeccably clean.

The bar was even open for business, though it was a little too early for alcohol.

The very best part of my experience was watching the movie itself, though — I really needed to see Denzel Washington wipe out a gang of Russian mobsters getting obscenely rich selling young girls into prostitution.

I will concede that I probably enjoyed the film more than I should have. I’m quite sure that I’ve seen better movies.

However, I chose that particular movie specifically because I anticipated the plot would prove to be cathartic, given the nature of my experience the previous evening, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens

The night before I attended a symposium on domestic minor sex trafficking held at at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Alpharetta that featured Attorney General Sam Olens, as well as Scott Gates of Street Grace Ministry, Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Camilia Wright, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Asst. Special Agent Brian Johnston, and Mary Frances Bowley of Wellspring Living.

This panel of experts presented information about the sexual abuse of children that was enlightening, but also depressing to learn.

Attorney General Olens has worked with state legislators to strengthen Georgia’s laws against sex trafficking, making the potential sentences for conviction among the toughest in the nation. He is quite passionate about prosecuting this heinous crime.

Street Grace is a nonprofit faith-based organization that educates people to increase awareness of this pernicious element hiding within our society, working to help put an end to domestic minor sex trafficking.

Wellspring Living rescues and rehabilitates the young victims of this sordid business, providing them with a safe place to stay while mentoring them while the kids complete their education and prepare them to become self-sufficient, .

Assistant D.A. Wright serves as the head of the Fulton D.A.’s Human Trafficking department. Think about the implications of what that means — in Fulton County, the problem has become so bad that an entire department within the organization has been dedicated to prosecuting one specific crime.

How bad can this problem really be? You might ask…so let me tell you.

Our panel of experts opened more eyes than mine, educating us by sharing some very alarming statistics. For example:

  • 300,000 children are sold into prostitution every year.
  • The child sex-trade industry earns $150 billion dollars per year in the U.S.
  • The average age of recruitment for a child prostitute is between 12-14 years old.
  • The average life expectancy of a child coerced or forced into prostitution is only seven years.
  • Between 70 and 90 percent of the victims were sexually abused at home before running away.
  • Over 90 percent of the victims stay in school, where they often try to recruit other victims at the behest of their pimp.
  • 42 percent of the “buyers” of these children are wealthy or upper middle class white men from the suburbs north of I-285 — in other words, people who could be my neighbors.

The evening’s news wasn’t all depressing — Ms. Wright also told us about a recent prosecution of sex traffickers resulting in a sentence of life without parole for the “recruiter”, and a sentence of 30 years with a minimum of 25 to serve for the person who marketed the young girl.

The buyer paid for the sexual encounter with $79 and a soft drink. For his crime, he received a sentence of ten years with a minimum of five to serve. He is scheduled to be deported upon his release due to his status as a foreign national.

You might be wondering, what can average citizens do to help put an end to this awful business?

Tell our legislators how much we appreciate the new, tougher sentences for the sex traffickers. Let them know we would also appreciate them increasing the penalties available for people who pay to have sex with underage children.

Discourage any potential buyers you suspect. Exert a little peer pressure by making sure your friends understand how sick, despicable, and pathetic you think anyone who pays to have sex with a very young girl must be.

Donate time, money, or both to support Street Grace and Wellspring Living. Both are worthy nonprofit organizations dedicated to an excellent cause, the eradication of childhood prostitution.

Report suspicious activity involving children and especially potential sex crimes to the Georgia Cares hotline at 404-602-0268.

Or, you may also call the National Human Trafficking Resource center hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

The real war on women is happening before they become women, while they are still vulnerable young teens.

I know it’s a shame, but we can’t expect Denzel Washington to kill all the bad guys who exist in the real world.

We must put an end to this evil ourselves.