Standing Up For Your Beliefs in Class

At the Regional Convention, at least half of the videos were directed at young people. This is good because they are under more peer pressure than most not to 'go along with the crowd.' All young people experience this pressure, but Jehovah's Witnesses youth more than usual because what they stand for is more specific and the degree to which they stand is more determined. Besides, there are many young people who resolve the pressure not to go along with the crowd by going along with the crowd. Sometimes they go so far as to answer the wise words of their mama, "If everyone jumped off of a cliff, would you jump off, too?" with a "That's what I'm talkin about!"

Such talks at the convention would feature some Bible character doing something that took guts, and then the modern video application have some young person taking a bold stand based upon consideration of it. I don't remember the specific talk, but I do remember the specific video of a high school girl saying how she was really quite shy but got into the habit of, right from the start, at school's opening intro 'show and tell' session, reveal that she was one of Jehovah's Witnesses and thereafter let it be known, when all the kids are quizzing each other as to what they did on the weekend, that she engages in spiritual activity during much of that time. That is all she did.

"People started coming to me with their problems," she relates. Upon establishing herself as a member of something she thinks works better, all she has to do is be nice, cooperative, friendly, and it is easier for her to stand firm when peer pressure to do something she thinks wrong comes her way. People approached her, she said, and to the extent they did, she was ready to discuss what she had and how she found it had worked for her. Let me tell you, it works way better than haranquing people over religious doctrine, which few in the West care much about anyway, and the ones that do are inclined to do nothing but argue over it.

The Watchtower Study Sunday furthered that basic youth-supporting theme, with paragraphs discussing various situations. When another student approaches her teacher, and you know it is a science teacher because of the ascending apelike creatures on the chart in the background, she does not have to convince him to turn the whole troupe around and march them back into the slime from whence they came; he is not going to do that. All she has to do is tell him that she doesn't buy it. It is undermining to her faith and it is not sufficiently logical to be allowed to do that. To overturn the common sense model seen everywhere else that anything made has a maker and the more complicated the made thing is the smarter the maker must be will take proof more conclusive than what is offered.

Even the teacher, though he may mutter a bit, may be able to live with this because Watchtower publications speak of the six days of creation being "epochs" and the period prior to their commencement being "aeons." Jehovah's Witnesses are not young-earth creationists.

When the Watchtower wants to suggest a biology teacher, always the ascending ape chart is in the background; that's how it is done. It probably is done everywhere, not just in the Watchtower, for that one chart instantly conveys the idea as nothing else does. Icons are everywhere. Sometimes they are not even accurate. When a scientist was impressed with a discussion between he and I and wanted to reproduce it on his own blog, he represented himself with a double-helix. I got stuck with a cross! So I told him Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus died on a cross but on an upright stake. "I knew that, actually," he said, "but an upright stake makes a ridiculous looking icon." What could I say? I had to bear my cross.

Several videos (back to the Regional Convention) feature Witness youths being put down, sometimes even by the teacher, and thereafter mustering up boldness to ask to address the whole class, always (in the cases shown) winning respect from students and teachers alike.

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Dr. Wisus Maximus Instructs the Dumbbells

By day I am TrueTomHarley. But by night I am the educated Dr. Wisus Maximus, instructing dumbbells in the ways of science. They don't know as much as me. But it is not their fault How many do?

Hark - here is a letter in my in-box from a plebeian now:

Dear Dr Maximus: You're nuts when you say DNA could happen in 3.5 billion years. It is too complex. If I gave you all the chemicals you needed to build a piece of bamboo and I gave you eternity will you be able to build it? How will you do it?

Dear Mr. Doof: I would simply add a few more zeroes tailing the 3.5 billion years. Surely it could happen in 3.5 trillion years, if billion does not satisfy you. Sheesh! I think billion is enough, but I will go trillion if I have to to placate the skeptics. And because I am "wisus exceptimus" (it is Latin; it means 'smart,' pal- I look it up) I happen to know that there are numbers even bigger than trillion!

All that remains is for the billions of mutations to add on to each other! Piece of cake!

It is like a pile of snow when you put more snow on it. What happens? It gets bigger!!! There's your proof!! Snowpile


Epochs and Aeons

Tack as many zeroes as you want onto Earth's age. Jehovah's Witnesses have no issue with it. A billion years? Ten billion? One hundred billion? More? Not a problem. That's not to say we endorse it, necessarily. But we'll have no issue with it. Let scientists be scientists.

“In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” reads the Bible's first verse. This is before the series of creative days commence, that period during which the earth fills with life. Whether each of those days are 24 hours in length, or 24 millenia, or 24 seconds.....it make no difference to the age of “the heavens and the earth.” They were created before.

However, as to the days themselves, what say Jehovah's Witnesses as to that? Even many JWs themselves may not be up to speed, for it was once thought that each day lasted 7000 years...it seemed to fit some prophetic patterns. But that view has been abandoned. (A flip-flop!! I can hear Tom Barfendogs screaming now.)

Now, however, each day is described as an “epoch.” And the sum total of them: "aeons":

From the Watchtower of Feb 15, 2011 pp 8-9)

“The Bible goes on to describe what God did during a series of creative days. These are not 24 hour days but are epochs…....By means of his holy spirit, during creative days three through six, God created an astounding variety of plants and animals. …....After aeons had passed and God had produced innumerable animate and inanimate works, the earth was no longer “formless and waste.”

This revision of “day” stems from recognition that the Hebrew word need not refer to only the 24 hour variety. Even on the first creative “day,” “God began calling the light Day, but the darkness he called Night,” apparently as the thick clouds enshrouding the earth began to clear, allowing sunlight to reach the surface. So the entire period is a “day,” and also a portion of it is a “day!” Furthermore, after all six creative days are described, the Genesis account refers to all of it as a “day':

This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.    Gen 2:4

Okay? “Day” need not be 24 hours. It can be simply an non specific period of time. Even in English, we've all suffered old-timers carrying on about life “back in my day.” And if scripture doesn't insist otherwise, why squabble when scientists put forth numbers on life's development? We're not anti-science. Science is a powerful tool of discovery. We've nothing against it. To be sure, we don't see it as the be-all and end-all, and when scientists say “jump!” we don't instantly respond “how high?” But we're willing to acquiesce where there's no Biblical conflict. And in the matter of “days”, there is none. Far from being rigid (a frequent criticism), the Witness stand allows for incorporating findings of science.

So it appears with this piece that I might conclude my Sean B Carroll trilogy, the prior two installments of which are here and here. His book impressed me....a book from an evolutionist published post genome mapping. I wonder if our stand on Genesis is good enough for him. Probably not, for he appears to want no trace of God in any evolutionary goings on, whereas we've said  (above) “by means of his holy spirit, during creative days three through six, God created an astounding variety of plants and animals.” But when Sean is muttering about the denyers....yes, yes, I know its a misspelling, but he apparently does it for the silly reasons given here, and I am this close to being equally silly and calling the other guys evolootionists....you know....'loo', the British term for toilet......but I just can't make myself be that juvenile, at least not yet. At any rate, Sean laments the denyers are “those straitjacketed by biblically based interpretations of the age of the Earth.” Like most everyone else, he takes for granted that fundamentalists truly represent the Bible....an assumption that burns me up to no end.

Of course, we're not that way. Straitjacketed, I mean. We're not 24 hour people. We've no problem with epochs and aeons. Ought that not make Sean happy?

Now, it occurs to me that if the Biblical days are as long as scientists say they are, well....that allows plenty of time for the evolutionary goings on that Sean Carroll talks about to go on....with the consequence that evolution, in the main, is a battle that we need not fight. Not that we have to endorse it. But much like the age of the “heavens and the earth,” we need not take much exception to it. As that Feb 2011 Watchtower states, “by means of his holy spirit, during creative days three through six, God created an astounding variety of plants and animals.” That's not very specific as to method, is it? Might the method through which holy spirit delivers be the one scientists describe? Dunno if that is the case, or to what extent, but I do know that if God molded each “kind” like a potter molding clay on a potter's wheel....well.....he could do that in a literal 24 hour day. So what's the point of the epochs and aeons? Frankly, life programmed to adapt via accumulation of genetic change strikes me as no less miraculous than potter-created life.

No one's being dogmatic, here. Science is accommodated to the maximum extent without ignoring Scripture, which we ultimately consider the most reliable guide to life. The 2010 brochure Was Life Created? states: (page 27) ImagesCAVUV1FW Were these original “kinds” of plants and animals programmed with the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions? What defines the boundary of a “kind”? The Bible does not say. However, it does state that living creatures “swarmed forth according to their kinds.” (Genesis 1:21) This statement implies that there is a limit to the amount of variation that can occur within a “kind.” [bolded print mine] Thus, our current view allows for what's described as micro-evolution (within a “kind”) but not macro-evolution (outside of a kind). But “implies” is not an ironclad word, is it? The point is, for the Christian, if the time element for developing life is indeed epochs and aeons, you need not squabble much with scientists who describe it. Let scientists be scientists. We'll teach the Bible.

What about this statement immediately preceding the lines quoted above: Does this progressive appearance of plants and animals imply that God used evolution to produce the vast diversity of living things? No. The record clearly states that God created all the basic “kinds” of plant and animal life. (Genesis 1:11, 12, 20-25) “Evolution”, as Sean Carroll and others like to describe it, strictly excludes all hints of “programming,” and they positively choke on any mention of “holy spirit.” But if you go and retrieve those words from the dumpster into which they've been tossed, you'll do just fine. For today we recognize a strong (and unnecessary) anti-God element among the evolutionists. From the same brochure (Was Life Created?  page 22):

Why do many prominent evolutionists insist that macroevolution is a fact? Richard Lewontin, an influential evolutionist, candidly wrote that many scientists are willing to accept unproven scientific claims because they “have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.” Many scientists refuse even to consider the possibility of an intelligent Designer because, as Lewontin writes, “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

 In this regard, sociologist Rodney Stark is quoted in Scientific American as saying: “There’s been 200 years of marketing that if you want to be a scientific person you’ve got to keep your mind free of the fetters of religion.” He further notes that in research universities, “the religious people keep their mouths shut.”  

Now, I admit, I'm a bit fearful of using these quotes lest grousers suppose I'm implying that the above fellows reject evolution. They don't. “Quote mining” is the charge grousers may level, and who wants to be guilty of that? But I've already dealt with the subject here. I don't know what else I can do. You should never play the God/no-God game with atheists according to their rules, since their primary rule is that you can't move any of your pieces.

But with the acceptance of epochs and aeons, vast areas of conflict between the science camp and the JW camp vanish, and others become largely immaterial. Not all, to be sure. The creation of Adam remains a topic on which I don't yet see grounds for agreement. From that same Feb 15th Watchtower: “Yet, Jehovah had not finished using his spirit for creative purposes. He was about to produce his highest earthly creation. Toward the end of the sixth creative day, God created man. How did Jehovah do so? By using his holy spirit and the elements of the earth.”

Yet if the Watchtower has taken to interviewing guys like Michael Behe, who accepts evolution in the main, but acknowledges it has limits, well.....I mean.....they wouldn't do that if the two hated each others' guts. Our people are not being dogmatic here. They recognize where other views can be accommodated, and are not so presumptuous as to try to instruct scientists on their own turf.

I thought I might be the first to blog such a subject, but no! When googled 'Michael Behe' and 'Awake interview', I find there is a discussion some time ago on “is the Watchtower preparing to accept evolution?” I suppose I should link to it, but I'm not going to. It's a sorehead grouser site, largely populated by those who've abandoned spiritual things upon discovery that God is not Santa Claus....that he does more than just give us stuff, that he has requirements, that the Christian course involves sacrifice and self-discipline, and is not just opening presents, and....gasp!....it involves human organization, which may sometimes decide matters contrary to one's individual preference!.....a violation of freedom and independence!!!! These type of guys exasperate me. Find them yourselves if you must.

Plus, they view any such adjustment in JW viewpoint as a slick marketing ploy. For me any modification of view stems from recent scientific ability to read the genome....to grow fast-reproducing goo and slime, and to track each and every gene involved and spot which ones have reproduced faithfully and which ones have not and what are the accumulated effects of those that did not. It's a major tangible advance for science, and while fundamentalists might ignore it, we don't.

Well, if you were impressed with Sean Carroll's book so much, Mr Sheepandgoats, then why don't you let him dictate everything to you....he makes no allowance for programming or God or holy spirit. The answer is that I've chosen the Christian course represented by Jehovah's Witnesses based upon several lines of reason, present scientific opinion being but one of them.

In the main, it becomes apparent that the greater conflict is not between the Bible (and us) and science. It's between the fundamentalists and science. These religious characters do the same with “day” that they do with trinity and hellfire. They take words and phrases literally....words which in any other context they would instantly recognize as metaphor. If they read of someone shedding “crocodile tears” in a novel, they know exactly what that expression means. If they read it in the Bible, they take it as PROOF that the shedder is a crocodile, since the Bible MEANS what is SAYS and SAYS what it MEANS. They exasperate me to no end, since they make the Bible an object of ridicule to anyone deciding to use the brain God gave us.

 

[edit: 1/20/2012,  see interview between New Republic's John McWhorter and Michael Behe. Sean Carroll & his work comes in for mention, around the 11-12, 22-24 minute marks. He's a nice guy, Behe says.]

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Tom Irregardless and Me                     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Sean Carroll and the Den Yers

He's a smart fellow, Sean Carroll is, author of The Making of the Fittest. Nobody here is saying otherwise. I've said kind things about his  book, ImagesCAJLGK1X for the most part, and may in time say more. But.....hang it all.....how come he can't spell deniers? He takes aim in the latter portion of his book at those who deny evolution, and again and again he misspells the word. It's not d-e-n-y-e-r-s! It's d-e-n-i-e-r-s! Any schoolboy knows this. Why doesn't he?

Check it in your shelf dictionary. Check an on-line dictionary. Check a Scrabble dictionary; if anyone can stretch a word for acceptable spelling variations, it will be a Scrabble player. Google the odd spelling, if you like. It doesn't matter where you check. One who denies something is a denier, not a denyer! Let's be honest. You can't read that word without thinking...... “den'-yer? 'What the heck is that?”

Well, maybe denyer is the British spelling of the term (notwithstanding that Carroll hails from Wisconsin).....I admit I'm grasping at straws. We all know Brits can't spell properly, just as they can't pronounce properly. Or maybe, in that rarefied scientific world Sean inhabits, they have dispensed with plebian spellings, in favor of lofty revisions more appropriate to their scientific status. Or maybe it's a deliberate misspelling....his attempt at tweaking the idiots...those, in his view, who do deny evolution. But that seems a bit mean-spirited, and I don't think he's that kind of guy. Plus, it seems an inside joke that even most insiders would miss. Or.....you don't suppose that Carroll's quirky spelling is just an application of his own theory? Has the 'i' mutated into a 'y'?

None of these hypotheses make much sense. They're all lame. And don't misunderstand.  It's just spelling. It's not that big of a deal. It really isn't. But....blast it all....IT IS! It's like the pebble in my shoe that doesn't seem big at first, but drives me crazy (is that the purpose?) the more I walk on it. Sean Carroll's been to college. And grad school. And doctorate school. How come he doesn't know to spell? And what about his editors? What good are they if they can't catch something so blatant? The Ministry School guidebook counsel keeps nagging at me: if you are incorrect in some detail, no matter how obscure or irrelevant, invariably someone will pick up on it and say “huh......he doesn't know that?” And from there it's just a tiny hop to “Maybe he doesn't know anything else, either.”

When I go to his web page, I see he introduces himself with the same Michael Ruse snippet with which I introduced him: “Of all the scientists in the world today, there is no one with whom Charles Darwin would rather spend an evening than Sean Carroll.” That means he thinks like me (or I like him). I tell you, I come to like this fellow more and more. And evolution books like his written post genome mapping advance their case in a powerful way. Why mess it up with a spelling blunder that any orangutan would get right? This makes no sense at all.

Ah well, Sheepandgoats, get over it. Figure it's a mystery. Like the Trinity. Just accept it.

Okay, I will. Enough said.

 

But it's hard to just get over it because he repeats the error so many times! Carroll likens his book to a full course meal, served in courses (not unlike how Jehovah's Witnesses are apt to describe their meetings as “spiritual meals,” their assemblies as “spiritual feasts!”). His after-dinner dessert conversation, it turns out, consists of a strategy session on how to counter the denyers, some of whom (gasp!) are to be found within his own ranks: “There are some individuals with scientific credentials who doubt or deny certain elements of evolutionary science that are widely accepted by the scientific community; some may even doubt the entire theory,” he observes. “But getting a doctoral degree and making negative arguments are relatively easy – making new, verifiable discoveries is an altogether different matter. The denyers specialize is rhetoric and the mining of quotes, not in laboratory research.   (pg 218)

I'm not so sure I agree with his premise. Even if making “negative arguments” really is “relatively easy,” that does not mean those arguments are not useful. Must everyone be out turning over rocks and growing stuff in petri dishes? Is there not a place for someone to review the conclusions of the discoverers, much as attorneys review evidence collected by the police? They don't just accept police conclusions. Frankly, whenever folks are running herd-like in any discipline, the arguments of those who oppose are always worth looking at closely. You don't just sneer at them because they are the minority.

I'll bet he's taking aim primarily at Michael Behe, king of all the denyers with scientific background, who was even interviewed by Awake! magazine back in September 2006. Behe certainly has “scientific credentials,” and he “doubt[s] or deny[s] certain elements of evolutionary science that are widely accepted by the scientific community.” Behe doesn't doubt that the mechanics of evolution took place, and are taking place still. He has no problem with mutation and gene duplication and fossilized genes. It's hard to have a problem with these since scientists today can grow goo and slime and algae, life forms which reproduce very quickly, and can track each and every gene. They can spot which ones reproduced faithfully, and which ones did not. They can spot which ones build with successive generations, and which ones do not. They can then compare with the genomes of prior life forms and try to piece together how evolution has progressed through generations.

Michael Behe endorses all of this. ImagesCAWYSASV  2nd He simply maintains it doesn't add up to what Carroll and most others say it adds up to, that there's an edge.....the “Edge of Evolution,” per the title of his 2007 book..... beyond which pure Darwinian randomness cannot carry developing life. Follow along on his own blog as he discusses research of the day. It's interesting stuff.

And...man...is he ever castigated for not holding the party line! His book, critics rail, is a blatant attempt to bypass scientific peer review! He takes his case directly to the unwashed masses, unlearned dolts who are in no way qualified to render an opinion! No such objection is made to Carroll's own books, since his represents the majority view. Now, you know I'm going to be sympathetic to Behe's position, since it is much like Jesus' position. Jesus didn't first present his case to religious leaders of his day to secure their prior approval, since he knew their only interest would be to shoot it down. He went over their heads, directly to the common people. And did he ever catch heat from those leaders! Listen to them grouse (and note their contempt for the regular folk):

"Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees [us] has put faith in him [Jesus], has he? But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people."

Look what happens when one of their number....a first-century Behe counterpart?.....breaks ranks:

Nicodemus, …..who was one of them, said to them: “Our law does not judge a man unless first it has heard from him and come to know what he is doing, does it?” In answer they said to him: “You are not also out of Galilee, are you? [a big-city Jerusalem slur against the stupid bumpkins from the rural hills of Galilee]  John 7:48-52

But there's another point Carroll makes, a point that dovetails very well for Jehovah's Witnesses, though not at all for the fundamentalists (which we are not). I'll lead off with it in a future post.

….....................................

By the way, Sean B Carroll is not to be confused with Sean M Carroll, a scientist atheist to the core, even though he doesn't fly the Atheist Scarlet A on his blog, perhaps out of respect for Nathaniel Hawthorne. I don't know if Sean B is atheist or not. He doesn't say. Although both are accomplished science writers in overlapping fields, a more dissimilar looking pair you've never seen.

 

[edit: 1/20/2012,  interview between National Republic's John McWhorter and Michael Behe. Sean Carroll & his work comes in for mention, around the 11-12, 22-24 minute marks. He's a nice guy, Behe says.]

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Tom Irregardless and Me                   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 


Playing With Dinosaurs

The kid at work thinks I'm old. He addresses me that way. “Hey, old man!” he says. It's all good-natured fun, or at any rate, I may as well let the little snot think I regard it as good-natured fun. I ask him if he's ever seen Fred Flintstone on TV.

“I knew that guy,” I tell him. “Not real well,” I admit. He was pretty old when I was a kid. He lived down the street, and my folks warned me to stay clear because he would barrel along in that foot-motor car of his...he sort of was a public menace as he got older.” [see Yabbadabba man] I used to play with dinosaurs when I was a kid, too. They were great fun. Downright mean as they got older, but not to you if you'd befriended them when they were small and cuddly. So I always did.

Aging's not so bad, because you can remember a lot of things, and can start to put them all into context. Youngsters don't remember anything different from the here and now. Pop says he did some of his best work at 60, an age I haven't touched yet, though I'm pushing it. (pushing it pretty hard, too) And wasn't it Andy Laguna who said he didn't mind getting older, since with each succeeding year, he found more reasons to be grateful to Jehovah? Hangups that you might have once had sort of resolve themselves as you get older. 'You don't really know anything before age 40,' I tell the kid. 'Oh, you can figure out how to use the toilet, and perhaps change the TV stations,' but real smarts don't kick in till later.

I did some calculating once, and figured that, per the Bible's chronology, a youngster who'd met Adam, when the latter was an old guy, might conceivably, when he himself had grown ancient, speak to the adolescent Noah, long before the latter had attained boat-building fame. It's almost as if one could have know Fred Flintstone back then. It may be two links were actually required between Adam and Noah, but it almost seems that it was just one. Of course, most today think those early biblical lifespans of 800-900 years are but nonsense, but didn't I write here and here how it all sort of hangs together?

If you play with this notion for awhile, you begin to appreciate the coherence that might have developed among human society when one might reasonably speak to, not merely his grandparents, but his great grandparents, and great great grandparents, and great great great grandparents, and so forth for several generations out. You'd get deep roots that way. Whatever prior generations had seen or learned, they almost couldn't help but pass it down.

Today, roots are wafer-thin. We've all seen those studies in which the modern child communicates with a parent a mere minutes per day. And where's the rest of the time spent? It used to be TV, usage of which is still pretty heavy, but is now supplemented by no end of other media options. This might not be so bad if these connected one with something of consequence; one might think the internet could greatly expand people, but you know, and I know, that it connects with pop culture and values entirely from the here and now. You can see it in Wikapedia, a source that Winged Migration Man (where is he, by the way?) looked upon without favor; an item of history runs a few paragraphs, whereas review of a pop TV show runs pages and pages per episode. Is it any wonder that young folks readily accept today's conditions today as normal? They've not been exposed to anything else. There's almost no transference from one generation to the next. Didn't I carry on about it here?

Family mealtime was also once a relaxed setting in which perspectives might flow from one generation to the next. Therefore, some years ago the Watchtower began suggesting that family meals ought not be sacrificed to modern life – families ought to strive to eat at least one together. I was surprised, for I hadn't fully realized the custom had fallen by the wayside. In fact, when I first stuck my toe into “evening witnessing,” I didn't want to start too soon after dinnertime, lest I break up such a family meal. But in time I found that only rarely would that happen, no matter when I started. If it did, I would  apologize and withdraw. Common meals are not really that common, today, even in neighborhoods where you might think they would be. And to think that Torre, from the old country, would not call on folks even during the noon hour, a self-prohibition I thought absurd. But he remembered when even that time was sacred, a time reserved for family and friends.

Times have changed.

Not long ago I was riding with Tom Weedsandwheat. He had to swerve and brake hard so as not to hit some kid who had stepped out right in front of him, headphones on, pants hanging down, skull empty as a beach ball. “There can never be another generation,” he muttered to me. 

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Ryan, Sean Carroll, and the Leprechauns

“Of all the scientists in the world today, there is no one with whom Charles Darwin would rather spend an evening than Sean Carroll.” So says Michael Ruse, author of The Evolution-Creation Struggle. Hmmm....well, how does he know? Maybe if Sean met the Great Man, the latter wouldn't be able to stand him. Sort of reminds me of that passage in Up the Down Staircase where the student gets an F for wrongly interpreting a poem. He protests, but the grade stands. It even stands when he brings the poet himself to class, and the poet says yes..that's exactly what he meant when he wrote his poem. Nonetheless, the incident does change school policy. From that point on, only dead poets are the subject of essays. It's much easier to make assertions after someone has died.

But this is just idle chatter to fill up a paragraph. I've nothing against Sean Carroll. No doubt he's a great guy. Probably, Charles Darwin would indeed salivate over the prospect of meeting him. At any rate, a certain blogger named Ryan read Carroll's book The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution and was effusive in his praise. It moved him to marvel how he himself could ever have failed to march to the evolutionist drumbeat. Once, he had believed creation. But that's all history now. Science has simply come so far. Now it's evolution all the way!

See, scientists today have mapped the genome. They can read the DNA in existing creatures, even the “fossil DNA”. This DNA sequence is found here, and here, but not there. These two beings share x percent of their DNA, those two beings y percent. This critter has a certain sequence of DNA, and so does that critter from a faraway time and place! So like a giant game of Clue, evolutionists run numbers, and make deductions about the development of life.

The evolution theory is now firmly proved, Ryan concludes. “People who believe otherwise are no different in any major respect than flat earth proponents or people who believe in leprechauns.” To be sure, he says, “It is possible that a thinking person could have doubted evolution 100 years ago or even 50 years ago but now those days are past.” Sigh....presumably he, as a foremost example of both thinking person and one-time creation adherent, left the creation camp the last day it was possible for a thinking person to still believe it, and switched off the light on his way out.

I wasn't in the mood. I took him up on his “it is possible that a thinking person could have doubted evolution 100 years ago or even 50 years ago...” That point was not conceded 100 years ago or even 50 years ago, I commented. Then, as now, the mantra was “People who believe otherwise are no different in any major respect than flat earth proponents or people who believe in leprechauns.” We all know it. To these guys, evolution was unquestionable fact the day Darwin stepped off the boat. Will DNA analysis prove to be the silver bullet that, once and for all, establishes evolution? Should I lose my cookies when they claim - this time for sure - to have found the ultimate trump card? I'm not ready to bolt just yet. We've heard that claim many times before.

Still, I haven't exactly read anything by evolutionists lately in their own words. Ooh...wait. Yes I did. I read Carl Zimmer's Evolution: the Triumph of an Idea (2001). (and worked it into a post here) But that was a book on CD. Maybe that's not really reading. At any rate, maybe it's time for another book, especially since the evolutionists say they have new ammo.  What have these guys been up to since decoding the DNA? I picked up Sean Carroll's book, since he is Darwin's favorite.

And......upon reading the book, it seems to me that the biologists have made great strides in an aspect of evolution that Jehovah's Witnesses barely had any problems with in the first place, that of micro-evolution. That is, variation within that vague Biblical term “kind.” The stuff of animal husbandry, and selective breeding. The science behind the proliferation of superbugs, now that overuse of antibiotics has eliminated all the wimpy germs. They've found the workings behind such things, the mechanics of it, and.....does it indeed involve glitches in gene duplication culled by natural selection? Apparently, we are to be so awed by these findings, that we readily extrapolate them in macro-evolution (one “kind” emerging from another “kind”), where the footing is much less firm.

First, we begin with a discussion of the icefish, a significant variation within the fish “kind,” to be sure. These creatures live where it's too cold to exist without a form of antifreeze within their blood. The blood itself is not red, lacking hemoglobin. Then some explanation as to just how mutations occur. Breaking the genetic code has enabled scientists to track these things on a much more intricate level than ever before, and....well....you have to respect that. Then other chapters track, for example, the development of color vision. Here's a discussion of “fossil” DNA, remnants of one time functional genes which have deteriorated due to "use it or lose it" syndrome, their possessors entering new surroundings. And much discussion of the forensic record revealed.

But aren't people mistaking tonnage for proof? Like the time I strove to prove a matter of property ownership to the city, and my lawyer opined that submitted materials simply had to “weigh enough?” All this abundant stuff is consistent with evolution. But that's not the same as proving it, for it is equally consistent with creation. Yet these guys carry on as if every gene they discover is the final coup de grace to creation, as if created life would have Bible scriptures in their genes, and not DNA. Look, wheels are common to all vehicles, yet they were all manufactured. You might, by studying changes in design, figure out, in time, the order of the manufacture, the descent and relationships of various automakers, but you have nothing to suggest they were not manufactured.

But repeat anything often enough and forcefully enough and people begin to think there must be something to it. It's just the way we are. Precious little in this book deals with macro-evolution. And there's nothing at all mentioned, so far as I can see, with regard to the third leg of the evolution Trinity: that of origin itself from non-living materials. It's all micro-evolution, variation within a biblical kind. But there's little to suggest any......oh...wait....Sean addresses it here (pg192):

“Much of the resistance to Darwin's theories was or is based on doubts about the validity of such extrapolations (e.g, not accepting the “adding up” of effects over vast periods of time). To this point in the book I, too, have implied a degree of extrapolation.” Whereupon he devotes some pages, but not too many, to describe parallels of development in vastly different life forms, with the footnote that material about macro-evolution is to be found in another book of his....to be fair, one he has already written, not one he has yet to write. Then there follows on page 215 a certain “coaching” section climaxing in how to answer creationists, in which Carroll discouragingly leaves his research to turn political. Ah, well, he's the author, so I guess he can go anywhere he likes. Besides, he does liken this part to the after-dinner conversation, where the learned ones tilt back in their chairs while the less learned tend to the cleaning up or knitting, and say “now what are we going to do about these infernal creationists?”

You know, I will read that other book eventually. I doubt I'll get to it right away. Alas, I must go to work every day. And carry on my normal routine. And do my best to dodge Mrs. Sheepandgoats when she comes around to inform that this or that aspect of the house is falling down. In the meantime, jihad may strike, or WWIII, or the earth itself may fry from any number of always increasing man-made threats. Or the Great Great Depression might commence, since anyone who knows anything says forces which triggered the late financial meltdown are still firmly in place, entirely uncorrected. Moreover, the good news continues to be preached, of which I have a share, since unfolding calamities are all in accord with the Bible's overall message that human rule can end in nothing but chaos. An intense anti-religious air takes hold among the world's movers and shakers, a natural and Revelation-foretold (Rev 17:16) consequence of centuries of outrages in the name of God. Has anyone other than Jehovah's Witnesses pointed to such a occurrence?

So it will come, reading that second book, but in due time. Meantime, and ironically, Ryan has removed his post from the web, along with his entire blog, so far as I can see. You can no longer pull it up. But I remembered key words, and by googling them, and then googling again the results, I was able to reconstruct the original. Yes, I tracked forensic fossilized google snippets! You can do the same using key words like Ryan, evolution, flat earth, and leprechauns. But only if you are an evolutionist. Fossilized google evidence is not something creation people know how to handle and we don't believe in it for a second.

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Tom Irregardless and Me                     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Darwin's Eye

There was great joy in the atheist world during 2010, where they celebrated the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin! Sigh.....that left Jehovah's Witnesses doubly out in the cold: we don't worship Darwin and we don't do birthdays. Nonetheless, it's a Charles Darwin statement that will be used as a starting point for this post. It's taken from Origin of the Species, chapter VI. Call my recognition a belated birthday present, if you must.

Darwin wrote:

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”....

Q: If you quote this line, do you really have to add:  “of course, this is not to suggest that Darwin does not believe in his own theory of evolution by natural selection”?

I would never have thought so. I mean, what do you expect his next words to be? “Thus we can see that my entire theory is a load of horse manure. But I'm in this to win the praise of my peers, who for some reason, eat this stuff up. That, and maybe there's a buck to be made. So I'm putting lipstick on this pig. I'm sticking to my guns, even though you know, and I know, that it's all nonsense.”??

No! He's not going to say that! He's going to say something like: “Still, many now-established truths seemed equally absurd when first proposed. Evidence is scanty with relationship to the eye's development....no one's saying otherwise..... but we can expect future researchers to uncover corroborating material.”

That's my prediction (without peeking). In fact, he says almost exactly that:

“When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei ["the voice of the people = the voice of God "], as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.”

Alright, then. Pretty much what I predicted he would say. Any donkey ought to realize Darwin's not throwing in the towel on his own theory by admitting evolution of the eye sounds ridiculous. If you use his quote to suggest he considers himself a charlatan, that's dishonest. But if you use his quote to show he acknowledges some pretty high hurdles exist in proving his theory.....well, what's wrong with that?

Now, statements like that of Darwin appear all the time in evolutionist literature. And Watchtower publications have been known to pick up and run with them, without appending the “of course, so-and-so still believes in his own theory.” So the whiners and grousers have accused them of deliberate misquoting. But Watchtower hasn't done that at all. They've used all such quotes properly. (Though I won't vouch for non-Witness publications, some of which may well use such quotes in misleading ways)

Regarding quotes, you may have noticed that if you quote someone and don't reach the same conclusion he does, he will invariably say you must consider his context. If you do that, and still don't agree, he will want you to expand the context. If you do that, even to the point of quoting the entire article, and still don't agree, he will call you a fool. That's just the way people are.

Whenever the Watchtower quotes an evolutionist, it's understood that he believes his own theory! You don't have to spell that out.  If he says something that sounds far-fetched, and the Creation book picks it up, do you really think the authors wish to imply that he is gleefully lying through his teeth, willfully advancing a fraudulent notion? Of course not! It's obvious he believes his own belief!  Anybody howls dishonesty when their quotes are used to support a conclusion they themselves have not reached. All you have to do when quoting someone is relay their words accurately, as they were stated, without insertions or deletions. If you can't even do that, then you shouldn't allow cross-examination in jury trials....where an opposing lawyer uses a witness's own words to trip him up. It shouldn't be allowed! Just ask the witness what impression he wishes to make upon the court, and leave it at that.

Nonetheless, to placate the crybabies, Watchtower just released new material geared to defending creation at the 2010 District Conventions, and they've taken to pointing out, whenever quoting an evolutionist discussing some glitch in his theory, that “nonetheless, so-and-so still believes his own idea.” I don't think it's ethically necessary. But I see why they did it.


For example, on page 5 of The Origin of Life: Five Questions Worth Asking, (published by Watchtower, 2010), Prof Robert Shapiro of New York University discusses the famous 1953 experiments of Stanley Miller. He says “Some writers have presumed that all life's building blocks could be formed with ease in Miller-type experiments and were present in meteorites. This is not the case.” Shapiro probably says this because evolution textbooks have implied just that for the past 50 years. He further states that the likelihood of a RNA molecule arising from such a mixture “is so vanishingly small that its happening even once anywhere in the visible universe would count as a piece of exceptional good luck.”

And at this point, there is a footnote, explained at the bottom of the page:

*”Professor Shapiro does not believe that life was created. He believes that life arose by chance in some fashion not yet fully understood.”

There! Happy? Don't ask what congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses he attends. He's not one of ours. He's one of theirs.

On the next page, the booklet mentions “researcher Hubert P Yockey, who supports the teaching of evolution, [and] ….. states 'It is impossible that the origin of life was proteins first'” [an order long insisted upon by evolutionary theory, as proteins are building blocks for RNA].

See? Don't lose your cookies. No one's saying he's one of ours. He supports the teaching of evolution, even though he points out the long supported protein-RNA sequence of events is “impossible.” (quote marks mine) There must be some other sequence that is “possible,” he apparently thinks. All that remains is to discover it.

Apparently, both proteins and RNA molecules have to simultaneously appear at the same place and same time....one cannot precede the other.... for their life-forming cooperation to take place. “'The probability of this happening by chance (given a random mixture of proteins and RNA) seems astronomically low,' says Dr Carol Cleland, [who adds] 'most researchers seem to assume that if they can make sense of the independent production of proteins and RNA under natural primordial conditions, the coordination will somehow take care of itself,'” with all efforts to explain that coordination being not “very satisfying.”

And again a footnote. *”Dr Cleland is not a creationalist. She believes that life arose by chance in some fashion not yet fully understood.”

Okay? Again, Watchtower doesn't suggest she one of us. She's not.

At this point, the booklet observes: “Similarly, if scientists ever did construct a cell, (see eighth paragraph of link) they would accomplish something truly amazing – but would they prove that the cell could be made by accident? If anything, they would prove the very opposite, would they not? …..All scientific evidence to date indicates that life can come only from previously existing life. To believe that even a “simple” living cell arose by chance from  nonliving chemicals requires a huge leap of faith. Given the facts, are you willing to make such a leap?”

And on it goes. Other scientists are quoted: Radu Popa, Richard Feynman, Francis Crick, Eric Bapteste, Michael Rose, David M Raup, Henry Gee, Malcolm S Gordon, Robin Derricourt, Gyula Gyenis, Carl N Stephan, Milford H Wolpoff, and maybe some I missed. Each and every time, the publishers point out, usually in separate footnote, that these folks do not believe in creation. They believe in evolution. It's just that each of them have pointed to separate long-held tenets of the belief to observe that....um....it doesn't....ahh....exactly work the way it has long been supposed to. That's not to say they've thrown in the towel. No! They're merely wrung it out and jumped into the fray afresh. It almost seem silly to include so many footnotes...as if catering to the whiners. Still, there's a lot of whiners, and they make a lot of noise. Maybe this will shut them up for a moment or two.

All of those quoted are respected scientists. None of them believe in creation. They all accept evolution, and they'll continue to accept it, more likely than not. That way they get to remain respected scientists. No, they are not in our camp. They are “hostile witnesses,” every last one of them. They say things we latch onto, even though they don't agree with us. But there's nothing wrong with quoting them. Where would Perry Mason, Bobby Donnel, or the Boston Legal crew be if they couldn't cross-examine hostile witnesses? 

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 ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


Evolutionary Psychology and the Whitepebble Institute

The last thing we expected for 2010 was to be awarded First Prize for Scientific Achievement, owing to our recent research contribution on the evolutionary origin of boisterous flatulence. But, indeed, the prestigious Wonderful Scientist Magazine did so honor us, and now Tom Whitepebble, President of the Whitepebble Research Institute, to which I belong, is looking forward to the honorary dinner and hobnobbing with other eminent contributors to the scientific field.

The odd thing (besides the Whitepebble Research Institute being a Biblical research institute) is that our contribution was sent in as a joke. It was intended for the “Those Wascally Scientists” page. Light humor: that's all it was. But later I checked with Tom Pearlsandswine in the mail room, and discovered that, in the crush of business, he did not specifically address our contribution to that page. Hence, it was taken as a serious item, and against all expectations, won top honors.

They couldn't tell it was a joke? I mean, the idea was, back in stone-age eat-or-be-eaten days, you wanted to evolve everything you possibly could to scare off predators. And boisterous flatulence would scare the bejeebers out of them, quickly clearing the area, just like it does in more modern times. So our ancestors that were able to do that survived and procreated, but our more polite ancestors who would never ever evolve such crude goings-on were all eaten, and died out. The scientific community has gone bonkers over our submission. What insight! Yes, of course that's how loud flatulence came about! What else in evolutionary thought could possibly account for it!

Tom Whitepebble was speechless (for once). He was obviously elated to be honored by such an august group, but also dumbfounded as to how they could be so stupid. So he made us all comb the pages of Wonderful Scientist Magazine, especially exploring the category of “evolutionary psychology,” and the mystery soon cleared up. It turns out that our theory, asinine though it is, is only slightly more asinine than what currently hails for ground-breaking research.

For example, consider the fact that, as a species, we can't reason our way out of a paper bag. Now, this is not good news for evolutionists. It would seem to make buffoons of those who naively chant “Let Reason Prevail!” like those atheists did at the Illinois nativity display. Newsweek's Sharon Begley grapples with this awkward circumstance in that magazine's August 5th, 2010 issue. She writes:

“The fact that humans are subject to all these failures of rational thought seems to make no sense. Reason is supposed to be the highest achievement of the human mind, and the route to knowledge and wise decisions. But as psychologists have been documenting since the 1960s, humans are really, really bad at reasoning. It’s not just that we follow our emotions so often, in contexts from voting to ethics. No, even when we intend to deploy the full force of our rational faculties, we are often as ineffectual as eunuchs at an orgy.”

Needless to say, if you are hosting an orgy, you should never invite eunuchs. They will spoil it. And our poor track record for reasoning would seem to spoil evolution. Instead, it would seem to support the Bible's view that, from a perfect start, we are steadily degenerating as inherited sin takes ever-increasing hold.

Not to be outmaneuvered, evolutionary psychologists have come up with an answer. Faulty reasoning evolved...it is really our friend....and it enabled our ancestors to learn argumentation! See, if there was no faulty reasoning, nobody would have anything to argue about. Throw any issue before the masses, and they'd all instantly agree. Thus, how could “survival of the fittest” take place? Smart people can only evolve if they have idiots to stomp into submission with their clever argumentation! (I swear I'm not making this up....read it all here in the Newsweek article The Limits of Reason: Why Evolution may Favor Irrationality)

As a second example, recall one of the things which proved “too wonderful” for Solomon: “the way of an able-bodied man with a maiden.” What of that “wonderful” attraction between male and female, and the prettier the female, the better?  (Prov 30:18) Not wonderful at all, say the evolutionary psychologists. Guys are drawn to pretty women for purely evolutionary reasons. See, a pretty woman is shapely, and thus has convenient shelves upon which to balance babies. But a less shapely woman lacks those essential shelves, and thus tends to drop all her babies, killing them, which is not good for proliferation of the species. So guys choose shapely babes. It's pure science, and oogling has nothing to do with it. Didn't I write about all of this here?

As a third example, consider the near-universal human urge to worship. A strong indication, the Watchtower (and many others) has long said, that we are designed with need to worship inborn. Not so, counter the evolutionary psychologists, it all evolved! See, in any advancing society, you have to have a means to keep the riffraff, the louts, and the neer-do-wells in check, for the good of everyone else. Trouble is, the riffraff doesn't like being put in check by humans, so they fight back and extract revenge, which retards societal advancement. Better to have a superhuman cop, with whom you can't fight back, but who is ever-ready to cast you into hellfire if you don't shape up! So God and religion evolved through the good old mechanism of evolutionary science, and if you believe there really is a God....well, I guess you're quite the scientific dimwit, aren't you? God did not create us; we created God!

There's more, of course. Did you know the evolutionary basis of depression? It's an adaption so that life's losers may adjust to being beaten out by the fitter ones.

And what of masturbation? Years ago, you could count on the fingers of one hand how many persons thought of science as they were carrying on so. Now, apparently, they all do. Masturbation is hygienic, cleaning out the bad sperm. It's also good advertizing, dazzling potential mates with one's leftover virility. Read it (and weep) here.

Homosexuality? Surely that must be a fly in the ointment of the race to procreate. Not so, say the E.P.s. See, gay men tend to be nurturing, and so they nurture the entire clan, giving everyone a leg up in the fight for survival, including themselves!

 Now, what is striking about this entire field of evolutionary psychology is that it's all pure speculation. Not one shred of the scientific method is to be found. Where are the experiments with which one can test hypotheses, so as to confirm them or devise others? Are there any to be found? It's all guesswork. Evolutionary psychology is entirely analogous to the religious person saying something is proved “because the Bible says so.” In fact, it's not as strong, for one can demonstrate whether the Bible really does say this or that. But, even upon acceptance of an evolutionary foundation for life, one cannot demonstrate whether or not the notions of the psychologists are valid. Yet it parades on the pages of scientific journals as if it were the most learned wisdom, rather than the embarrassment to science that it really is. Speculation is free. But isn't it like the small town circus Huck Finn gushed over?....”It didn't cost nothing, and it was worth it, too!”

But who can resist a tsunami? Not we here at the institute. We've hung our plaque from Wonderful Scientist prominently in the Whitepebble lobby. You can't miss it as you enter. It instantly impresses important persons that come to visit, and we have a lot of them, I can tell you. In fact, I'm going to stop admitting to them that it was a joke. If those donkeys so readily buy into all those other fat-headed notions....well, there's nothing inferior about ours. Where's our proof, you ask? Apparently none is needed in this field. Pearlsandswine might well have learned to “rip one” in exactly the manner our theory describes. Maybe our contribution will be like that of Piltdown man. By the time anyone catches on, we'll be long gone.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Epigenetics and Darwin's Update

"The potential is staggering," gushes Time Magazine (Jan 6, 2010) over the benefits epigenetics might bring humanity.  "For decades, we have stumbled around massive Darwinian roadblocks. DNA, we thought, was an ironclad code that we and our children and their children had to live by. Now we can imagine a world in which we can tinker with DNA, bend it to our will."
 
Yes, they can imagine it, but as ought to be apparent to anyone grounded in reality, it won't work that way. Epigenetics will not be our salvation. However, it just might give insight into today's worsening conditions.
 
Who has not entertained the suspicion that today's folk just aren't made of the same stuff as previous generations...that those old-timers were just plain tougher than we are? Tom Oxgoad, the Bethelite, made that point with me once. "Those old-timers must marvel at how frail we are," he said. "In the old days...say...back in the 1950's or before, one Bethelite might counsel another: 'you've got a rotten attitude and you'd better straighten up!'  And that fellow would straighten up, and he'd say 'thanks for the counsel!'" Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he'd decide "this is not the life for me," and leave. But either way, he wouldn't melt into a puddle of mush, his fragile self-esteem dissolving, as we can so easily picture happening today. Does the newly explored field of epigenetics offer an explanation?
 
The upshot of epigenetics is that heredity works not just through Darwin's mutation and natural selection...a painstakingly slow process. We also pass along traits acquired via environment factors; furthermore, these changes can be dramatic and quick,  manifesting themselves in but a generation or two. Thus, Time says, a "long-standing deal" we've had with biology is now off the table, namely: "whatever choices we make during our lives might ruin our short-term memory or make us fat or hasten death, but they won't change our genes - our actual DNA. Which meant that when we had kids of our own, the genetic slate would be wiped clean."
 
No longer applies. Choices we make do change our genes, and our kids do not start with a slate wiped clean. The very idea is heresy to Darwin True Believers, but scientists are now quite sure of it. To put it more accurately, our genes do not physically change from generation to generation, but whether they are expressed or not changes. The epigenome sits just outside the genome and switches the various genes "on" or "off." It does so by smothering – masking gene portions meant to be “off” and leaving visible gene portions meant to be “on.” The illustration now in vogue is that of hardware (the genome) being manipulated by software (the epigenome). Hardware alteration via the Darwin heredity, as we all learned about in school, comes about slowly. But the new-found software changes happen quickly.
 
Furthermore, life-style and environment factors…..such as stress, such as smoking, such as gluttony, alters the epigenome, which in turn alters the genome, which in turn inflicts adverse results upon one’s children and grandchildren. Dr Lars Bygren studied a rural population of two centuries past, a physically isolated population that literally vacillated between feast and famine, depending upon the harvest. When the harvest was bountiful, youngsters gorged themselves. Their  grandchildren, Bygren discovered, had life expectancies reduced by as much as three decades!
 
In another study, published in 2006, Drs Bygren, Marcus Pembrey, and Jean Golding found the sons of those who began smoking before age 11 were at higher risk for obesity and various other health problems. Time Magazine summed it up: “you can change your epigenetics even when you make a dumb decision at 10 years old. If you start smoking then, you may have made not only a medical mistake but a catastrophic genetic mistake.” And to think I’ve been lectured before by atheists...capitalizing these very words....that, whereas I do what some god TELLS me to do based on a BELIEF, they act upon REASON based upon EVIDENCE. But in this case, as in so many others, you were far better off to quit smoking because God TOLD* you to, trusting he might be AWARE of EVIDENCE as yet UNDISCOVERED by humans.
 
*as inferred from 2 Cor 7:1
 
All this goes to show, BTW, that you need not lose your cookies when evolutionists rule creation absolutely out of the question. Nor should you feel you must wait for them to come on board. Opinions change fast. In 1996, Dr Pembrey, mentioned above, had a hard time getting published. Major scientific journals rejected his paper. Ten years later, it is “considered seminal in epigenetic theory.” Is that not a tidal change in scientific thought? For decades evolutionists carried on as if they knew all there was to be known - the essence of their subject was well-understood, and little remained but to mop up a few relatively insignificant details. With the discovery of epigenetics' role, if history is any guide, they will act as if now they know all there was to be known, save for a few odds and ends. Heaven help you if you choose a course of faith before it has been authorized by them. Yet the mapping of the human epigenome (already underway in Europe) will, when complete, "make the Human Genome project look like homework that 15th century kids did with an abacus," says Time. How immodest to have made grandiose, dogmatic claims, based upon a supposed thorough understanding of the genome, which now turns out to be but the tip of a submerged iceberg.
 
Look, don't think I'm anti-science. I'm not. Whenever scientists say they have discovered this or that I tend to accept it, but I do so tentatively, always with the caveat that these guys are frequently full of themselves, bursting with pride at human accomplishment, and intolerant of any layman who would question their theories, until they themselves revise them. Or - I suspect, its not so much those front line empirical scientists who are the problem, but a second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types, who ram science down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. Me, I tend to side with that famous scientist and ex-Beatle John Lennon, who said "everything they told me as a kid has already been disproved by the same type of 'experts' who made them up in the first place." [quoted in interview with Playboy, so plainly I got this second-hand] As if to confirm Lennon's cynicism, Time writes of an upcoming epigenetics book by David Shenk: The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ is Wrong.
 
You know, the epigenome comes a lot closer to explaining Rom 5:12 than does any Darwinian explanation, since Adam’s sin is obviously an acquired characteristic:
 
"That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned..."
 
Furthermore, back to the present, Time reports Dr. Pembrey speculating: what if the environmental pressures and social changes of the industrial age had become so powerful that evolution had begun to demand that our genes respond faster? What if our DNA now had to react not over many generations and millions of years but, as Pembrey wrote, within “a few, or moderate number, of generations”?

Extrapolating from his statement, could it be that epigenetics in our stressful times sheds light on the outworking of 2 Tim 3:1-5?
 

"But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."

We all know in our heart of hearts that these ugly traits are on display today as never before. Yes, I know, I know....such is human nature and people have always been that way. But it’s a matter of degree; the unrestrained expression of these traits is what's new. After all, Paul's contemporaries might easily have labeled his ‘prophesy’ a yawner: "People will be ugly, Paul? So what's new?” But they didn't say that. They knew what he meant.
 
In seeking to understand these ugly, seemingly accelerated traits, Alan Greenspan's book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, offers insight with regard to the barbarous slaughter that began in 1914. He writes: "World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one?"

Could the barbarism unleashed in 1914, augmented by ever-increasing stressors of modern life, be triggering harmful genetic changes, as Dr Pembrey suggests can occur? The more one ponders the astounding woes that afflict persons today, the more plausible the idea sounds.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Picking Flowers for Heaven’s Garden

Every married man my age, bar none, has seen the film Steel Magnolias. Not one wanted to see it. They were all dragged along by their wives. When it was my turn, I wisely went along without fuss, so as not to be accused of insensitivity toward womenhood. It wasn't a bad film, mind you; it had its moments; it's just not the type of film a guy would ever choose, at least, not of his own free will.
 
I mention Steel Magnolias because it's the first example that comes to mind of that stupid "God is picking flowers" analogy. One SM character loses a son, and another- a recent convert - comforts her by suggesting God is picking flowers for his beautiful garden in heaven! He doesn't want wilted stuff, of course, he wants only the best! That's why he chose that woman's son, implying she should feel privileged to lose a son for so great a Cause.

She doesn’t.

Who would ever think such an analogy could be comforting? It's monstrous! No wonder people go atheist! Take away the most precious thing a person has simply because you have a vacancy, and expect her to be comforted over that? Yet we hear it all the time, and the younger the deceased, the more likely some sappy preacher will use it: God has a garden. He grows pretty flowers, see - absolutely the best. But he needs one more; there's one spot that's just not right. Ah! The missing ingredient is your flower. He'll pick it. Surely, you'll be happy. What's that? You're not? Tough!
 
The "picking flowers" illustration is nowhere found in the Bible. But, just once, the Bible uses an illustration parallel in all respects except the moral, which is exactly opposite from the PF.  It takes place after King David, drooling over Uriah’s knockout wife, takes her as his own. 2 Samuel 12:1-7 tells us:
 
The LORD sent Nathan [a prophet]  to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,  but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.


"Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."  David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"
            
Now, this analogy is just. The man is not expected to be comforted that the king stole his wife! So anyone who’s ever recoiled in disgust at the “picking flowers” analogy is reacting exactly as the Bible says they should! It’s the preacher who is suggesting what is obscene! The flower picker is not to be praised. He deserves death!
 
Since the illustration is slanderous toward God and not found in the Bible, why do preachers routinely use it? The answer is, just as in Mean Things God Doesn’t Do, Part 1, church preachers have bought into unscriptural, unreasonable doctrines that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. You make a god-awful mess trying to escape from these corners, just as you would from a real corner.
 
The unscriptural doctrine here is that, when we die, we don’t really die. There is some component of us, usually called the soul, that lives on. It is immortal. Have you been good? Or are you a cuddly child? Then death is your friend. You get promoted to heaven, and how can anyone not be happy to see good people promoted? It’s a win-win!
 
Trouble is, people don’t behave as if it’s a win-win. People mourn at funerals; they don’t rejoice. They take a long time to readjust. Some never readjust to the death of their child; children are not supposed to die before the parent. Death is unnatural. It is not a friend, as most religions would have us believe. It is an enemy, which is what the Bible says. (1 Cor 15:26)
 
Wasn't it Abraham Lincoln who said he wasn't smart enough to lie? Meaning, of course, that once you've told a lie, you never know when you'll have to make up another fiction to uphold that lie – in this case, a fiction like "picking flowers," to uphold the lie that we have immortal souls that survive our deaths. We don't.
 
The Hebrew word from which soul is translated is nephesh. It occurs in the Old Testament 754 times. Only twice in the KJV is soul translated from any other word. Therefore, find the meaning of nephesh, and you've found the meaning of soul.

The first OT instance of nephesh applied to humans (four prior times in Genesis chapter 1 it is applied to animals) is at Genesis 2:7:
 
"And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul. "
 
Now.... a man who comes to be a plumber is a plumber. He doesn't have a plumber. A man who comes to be an architect is an architect. He doesn't have an architect. A man who comes to be an atheist is an atheist. He doesn't have an atheist. And a man who comes to be a soul is a soul. He doesn't have a soul. Soul, therefore, is the individual himself. In some cases, it represents the life an individual enjoys as such. It never stands for some mystical substance that survives our death. That latter notion is common among ancient peoples, but is nowhere found in the Bible. Attempting to infuse those ancient philosophies into the Bible, various theologians seized upon nephesh as the equivalent of that immortal substance, but thorough consideration of the Hebrew word indicates it means something else entirely.
 
The Bible is unique among religious books in that it does not teach an immortal soul.
 
Here the New World Translation does something so intrinsically honest that its translators ought to be lauded for it, rather than accused of slipping in their own doctrinal bias. Every time nephesh occurs in the Hebrew, the NWT translates it soul. Thus, it's rather easy to look at every instance of soul and discern what the word means by its context. Few Bibles do this. They bury the word amidst multiple renderings so you can't tell what it means.
 
For example, the English Revised Version (1881) translates nephesh as soul 472 times, but in the other 282 places renders it by any of forty-four different words or phrases! What determines how these translators render nephesh? Is it not obvious they have a preconceived idea of soul? They translated nephesh as soul when it fits their preconceived idea; they translate it otherwise when it doesn't! To then claim that the Bible teaches immortal soul is dishonest in the extreme. They have doctored their translation to make sure it does so!
 
Genesis 2:7, quoted above, is one verse that usually doesn’t "make the cut" for nephesh being translated soul. Many modern translations like to render nephesh here as living being or creature, such as the New International Version (1978):
 
"...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."
 
also NASB (1971), NKJV (1982), RSV (1952)
 
It’s a recent development. Older Bibles render this instance of nephesh as soul, just as they do in its other 700 places. For instance:
 
and man became a living soul  (ASV  1901)
and Man became a living soul  (Darby  1890)
and man became a living soul.  (Douay-Rheims 1609)
and man became a living soul.  (KJV  1611)
and the man was a liuing soule  (Geneva Bible 1587)
And so was man made a lyuynge soule (Miles Coverdale Bible 1535)
and man was maad in to a lyuynge soule. (Wycliffe  1395)
 
The innovative modern translators will tell you they’ve chosen being or creature to make their Bibles more readable. Well….maybe. The words surely do no harm to readability. But the inconsistent translating also serves to confound anyone trying to investigate soul (nephesh) as described in the Bible. By rendering nephesh any old way they like, those translators are able to leave the impression that nephesh is the equivalent of the immortal soul beliefs held among the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and others. One wonders if that isn’t the real reason for the selective translating of nephesh.
 
In his early days, Charles Darwin toyed with becoming a church minister. Such a ministry was then a respectable choice for a man of letters who couldn’t decide what else he wanted to do with his life. Darwin had a daughter named Annie, who was, by all accounts, his favorite child. At age 10, Annie contracted scarlet fever, and died after six weeks of agony. Also a casualty was Darwin’s faith in a beneficent Creator. The book Evolution: Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer, tells us that Darwin “lost faith in angels.”
 
Did those sappy preachers tell him that God was picking flowers? that he needed just one more angel to make his garden perfect? I wouldn’t put it past them. Again, you almost have to do it if you want to uphold the ‘immortal soul’ lie. Devastated, Charles Darwin was later to pen the work that would pull the rug of authority out from under all those clergymen. No longer would they be the guardians of Sacred Truth and Wisdom. Instead they'd become the guardians of Childrens' Stories and Nonsense.

One can only wonder how things might have turned out had Darwin been comforted with the Bible’s actual hope of a resurrection (something not possible if one is still living via their ‘immortal soul’). Death is an enemy, not a friend, the Bible realistically tells us. It was never part of God’s plan, it came about only through rebellion early in human history, and it is to be eliminated once God’s purpose reaches fulfillment:
 
That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned—.  (Rom 5:12)
 
Next, the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until [God] has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing   (1 Cor 15:24-26)
 
And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.   (Rev 21:4)

 
False religion leaves a vacuum which is quick to be filled with other reasonings. As discussed here, the pull of evolution is as much emotional as it is scientific. One can only wonder…. how different history might have been had Darwin known the truth about death. Not just Darwin, of course, but everyone of his time, as well as before and after. Instead, fed a diet of phony pieties….junk food, if you will…..he and others of inquisitive mind searched elsewhere in an attempt to make sense of life.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash