Finding God at the Plantation Gardens

When you're done gawking at Ithaca weidos, (see post)should that be your inclination,  then you must scoot over to the Cornell Plantations and take in the gardens. There really is something for everyone in Ithaca.

Stroll around and you‘ll think you‘re in one of those trademark new system paradise pictures straight from the Watchtower magazine. You half expect to see incompatible animals…..a moose, a lion, and so forth, with a young child somewhere cuddling one of them. Readers of Witness publications know exactly such pictures. They are paradise pictures, envisioning the earth as it will benefit by Kingdom rule, when those original Eden boundaries have been pushed globally, and the planet becomes what God meant it to be.

It’s not just the park-like setting of Cornell Plantations (under the umbrella of Cornell University). It’s the carefully tended variety, with every mix of color, form, and texture. Specialty gardens of every plant you can think of. Diverse and beautiful terrain with wetlands, gorges, glens, meadows, bogs, old-growth forests. And waterfalls. No Watchtower paradise picture is complete without a waterfall.

And you might, just might, in such a setting of tranquil beauty, come to wonder at contemporary wisdom which holds that it all sprang up on its own, through accident upon accident upon accident…each against million to one odds, and culled through natural selection. Orangutan armies banging forever at those typewriters.If there’s any chance we may see through such educated nonsense, it will happen while strolling the Cornell Plantations.

Okay, okay, you don’t even have to hold to the Witness view that God created each “according to its kind”….an unspecific word….allowing for “animal husbandry” variations within each kind, but always the boundaries between kinds intact. For purposes of this post only, you can, if you insist, take the milquetoast view that evolution is the tool God built into the first organism. (I mean, if you’re going to acknowledge that God did it, then why not acknowledge he did it the way he said he did?) Still, the milquetoast view does put God as the designer, and that will do for this post.

To think life all sprang into being on its own, however, with no intelligence behind it, no design…..well, maybe in such soothingly beautiful natural surroundings, you just won’t think it. You might easily think it at the mall, or the office, or while watching TV, but at the plantation gardens maybe you won’t think it. Instead, you may be struck by the seemingly obvious logic of Hebrews 3:4

Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.       Heb 3:4

I batted around with Moristotleonce the notion that atheism, so common today, must have been extremely rare in olden times. My noble sparring partner didn’t agree, of course, and threw a boatload of ancient Greek atheists at me, but upon inspection, only two appeared to be genuine atheists, and one of those two was such a sicko that he was subsequently withdrawn from consideration, or should have been. All the rest were more likely agnostics, and agnostics, then as now, are a dime a dozen.

For the thinking reflected in Heb 3:4 above is so self-evident that it must have taken much time to construct the mental gymnastics so as to get around it. Not merely to disagree with it, but to come to think of it as a foolish and naïve sentiment unfit for the modern sophisticated mind. Disbelief in God or gods is not really possible until you get around the seemingly self-evident notion that things showing evidence of design must have a designer. Of course, I’m aware that modern thinkers have learned to do it handily, but it is a relatively recent accomplishment. At the vanguard of scientific thought 300 years ago was Isaac Newton. He was not able to do it. Newton wrote more about religion than math and science combined. Far from seeing any contradiction between those fields, he pursued his scientific discoveries with the aim of explaining how God operates….discovering exactly how he designed this or that. To greater or lesser extent, scientists of that era had, if not a personal god like Newton, at least a "creator" or "first cause" mentality.

As another example, when Kepler worked out the laws governing planetary motions (they move in ellipses, not circles) and published his discoveries, he suddenly let loose with a paean to God, smack dab in the middle of his treatise. If you didn't know better, you'd think it was one of the Bible psalms. Would any scientist be caught dead doing such a thing today?

"The wisdom of the Lord is infinite; so also are His glory and His power. Ye heavens, sing His praises! Sun, moon, and planets glorify Him in your ineffable language! Celestial harmonies, all ye who comprehend His marvelous works, praise Him. And thou, my soul, praise thy Creator! It is by Him and in Him that all exists. that which we know best is comprised in Him, as well as in our vain science. To Him be praise, honor, and glory throughout eternity."

Does Kepler's praise not agree with Rev 4:11, and enable all to see where his heart and head were?
 
"You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created."      Rev 4:11

The wise ones of the past might go so far as agnosticism, but no further, since they were not able to reconcile “design in nature” with “no designer.” Fed up with the hypocrisy of religion, many throughout the years worked toward the goal of explaining life in a manner that diminished God's role. Darwin was by no means the first person ever to propose evolution. His contribution was to suggest a plausible mechanism (natural selection) by which evolution could take place. Finally, a rationally explainable way to pull the rug out from under those abusive, self-righteous sellers of religion, who had for so long self-assumed first place in humanity’s hierarchy!

Yet even Darwin didn't pretend to solve the "first cause" issue. His book is "Origin of the Species," not "Origin of Life." That is, he deals with life’s organization, not its appearing in the first place, and did I not already grant permission to hold his evolution view (this post only) and still qualify for a “God designer” badge? It’s been thinkers subsequent to Darwin that have finally accomplished the atheistic nirvana of shutting God completely out of the picture.

I'm grateful that the religious outlooks of Newton, Galileo, Kepler and so forth are well documented. Were they not, I've no doubt today’s atheists would endeavor to count them all as blood brothers. They'd like us to believe that all scientists through the years have leaned atheistic, and it isn't so. Until relatively recently, outright atheism (in contrast with agnosticism) seems to have been an aberration.

Go down there to the Plantation Gardens, stroll the grounds, and it will all become clear.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Faraday, Maxwell and the Design of Nature

At first blush, people think scientists experiment and measure and observe and analyze and then experiment some more....working with eyes, ears, and hands. Then they summarize it all with one of those compact scientific laws like f=ma or E=mc².

It doesn't work that way. Instead, from a very few measurements or observations, scientists work with mathematics, deriving equation after equation, confident that such equations will find application in physical reality. And it turns out to be that way. Thus Galileo obtained his laws of motion, Kepler his laws of planetary movement, and Newton his laws of gravitation. The close correlation of math with the physical world greatly impressedthese scientists, as we should be impressed by it today, but largely aren't. Does it not show the design in nature? Galileo summed it up with "God wrote the universe in the language of mathematics."

It's convenient for mathematics to work that way since there is only so much experimenting one can do with objects millions of miles away. Not to mention things very tiny....things we can't even see, let along poke our fat fingers into. One hundred years after Galileo, Kepler & Newton figured out the big things, others focused on the small. Magnetism and the flow of electrons [electricity], for example. At first the two were thought to be unrelated phenomena, buy later they were linked. In 1785, Charles Coulomb published the law of force between two electrically charged bodies, q1 and q2:

F =- k(q1·q2/r²)   where k is a constant and r is the distance between the two bodies.

What even the dumbest person in class must note is the law's identical form to that of gravity, a wholly different phenomena. The gravitational attraction between two masses (m1 and m2) is

F = k(m1·m2/r²)

The only difference is that electrical force can attract or repulse, depending on whether the two bodies have equal or opposite charges; gravity always attracts.

Along came Michael Faraday, who discovered electromagnetic induction. He found that if you rotate a rectangular frame of wire through a magnetic field, you generate electricity in that wire, it's intensity rising and falling as the frame rotates, mathematically described by the sine function.

Furthermore, when Faraday passed current through a coil of wire, a magnetic field was produced which would induce current in a separate coil of wire. But how far apart could the coils be? What if he tried a longer coil or a tighter coil? How would that change things?

Since you can't see any of this, it was left to a mathematical physicist, Robert Maxwell, to figure the results. He worked out through math that current flowing through a coil of wire produced an electrical field in the surrounding space. And that electrical field gave rise to a magnetic field. Which gave rise to an electrical field, which gave rise to a magnetic field, and so on. When "pushed" by current flowing though the originating wire, these electromagnetic waves traveled great distances, and did so, he calculated, at 186,000 mi/sec.

But wait! Light had already been measured as traveling at just that speed. You don't suppose....Yes! Light was part of this electromagnetic spectrum, only at a much different frequency. And how is it generated? By passing electricity through tightly wound tungsten filaments, same as Faraday generated lower frequency waves from coils of different materials and dimensions.

In time, other "slots" of the spectrum were filled in: radio waves, infrared rays, x-rays, gamma rays. We now make endless and routine use of the spectrum, yet nobody knows just "what it is" that travels through space. It is described mathematically. As Alfred North Whitehead put it: "The originality of mathematics consists in the fact that in the mathematical sciences connections between things are exhibited which, apart from the agency of human reason, are extremely unobvious."

Physicist Heinrich Hertz observed: "One cannot escape the feeling that these equations have an existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them." [italics mine]

Yes, we do get a lot out of them. So much so that we've become completely oblivious to what was "put into them" in the first place and who did the "putting." "One cannot escape the feeling," Hertz stated. Yet today's materialistic society has managed to do just that.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse [for ignoring him].   Rom 1:20    NIV

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Many of the particulars here are found in the book Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge, by Morris Kline.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Vioxx, the Scientific Method, and the Atheists

Lots of people, if you levied a $4.9 billion fine on them, might look for a bridge from which to jump. But when Merck, the pharmaceutical company, struck a deal with lawyers to settle 27,000 lawsuits for that amount, legal and financial types were ecstatic. It could have cost so much more. I've heard 25 billion. I've even heard 50 billion. This is how you do it! one market analyst gushed. This is how you come back from a defective product. You fight each case no holds barred for a few years to discourage plaintiffs. Then you offer to settle for a lowball amount. Merck's stock rose 2.3% the day they announced the move, even while the overall market was sharply down.

Medical and ethical folks were less enthused. Like Dr. Eric Topol, for example, the cardiologist who in 2001 co-authored a JAMA paper warning of heart attack risks associated with the drug company's Vioxx. “I think they’ve gotten off quite easily, frankly, for the problems that they’ve engendered,” he said. A large clinical trial that ended in 2000 showed that Vioxx was much riskier than Aleve, an older painkiller. Four more years were to pass before Merck took the drug off the market, pulling the plug on their Young Rascals jingle "It's a Beautiful Morning" when it seemed the morning might not be so beautiful after all.

But if Dr. Topol groused, you should have heard Dr. Katherine Di Angelis. "What people should learn from this is you don't believe anything, not one thing, put out by a pharmaceutical company. Just don't believe it," she said on National Public Radio. "You start from there." She estimated probably 5-10 % of the people who were taking it really should have been taking it. The other 90% raised their risk of a heart attack or stroke with no significant benefits. "When you want to make money by selling products to people who don't need it....then you're going to get into this kind of trouble"

Dr Di Angelis is Editor in Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Now, this sticks in my craw even more than it might normally because I've just been squabblingwith a flock of atheists who worship science. Of course, they would never use that term - I can hear them sputtering now - yet what they do so closely resembles worship that I can't tell the difference.

"You don't believe anything, not one thing, put out by a pharmaceutical company," she advises the public. Okay. Good advice. Did she have counsel more harsh for medical doctors? After all, you could not get this drug over the counter. A doctor had to prescribe it. The general public can be excused for being duped by drug hype. But what of medical doctors, those high priests of the scientific method? The atheists I mentioned positively gush over the scientific method, the ultimate test of truth. Yet here we see that it's foremost representatives in the medical field, doctors, are every bit as susceptible to error as the average Joe. They uncritically swallow any bilge handed down to them.

My skirmish with the atheists was with regard to alternative health treatments: chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy. All hoax, they insist. They know that because they and their scientific allies have subjected such techniques to the Scientific Method - double blind repeatable controlled studies - with very unspectacular results. The fact that more and more people are choosing these therapies over conventional medicine means nothing to them. Those folks have only testimonials to offer, say the atheists, or even worse, anecdotal evidence. Absolutely worthless, they insist rather dogmatically; it only goes to show how gullible people are.

Tell it to the 27,000 plaintiffs who allege injury or even death of their loved ones from Vioxx. If alternative therapies fail, they simply fail. It's very rare for them to do harm.

One alternative that has gone from cult to mainstream within my lifetime is chiropractic. It's every step forward was fought tooth and nail by the American Medical Association, (AMA) which attempted to use its science stature to label the competition quackery. It took a lawsuitwhich ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court to end the iron fist.

As burdensome as the "quackery" namecalling was the financial hit one incurred in seeking chiropractic care. Insurance rarely covered chiropractic. Patients paid out of pocket. Imagine: medical care could be had for free (or with small co-pay); chiropractic care you paid for yourself. People chose chiropractic care. (To this day, a cynical friend swears by the rule: if it works, insurance won't cover it.) It wasn't superstitious dolts choosing the alternative therapy, which I suspect the science camp would love to maintain. No, it was the more educated and well-heeled, the only persons who could ignore the financial implications of seeking chiropractic care.

To this day, devotees of medical science grouse that chiropractic fails their tests of proof. Some grudgingly allow that it can serve a limited purpose in the case of back pain, but nothing more. Meanwhile, one constantly runs across persons crippled for life by disc removal surgery, (I know some of them) the mainstream medical practice that dominated for years. (still does, I think) How did chiropractic become so well accepted? Largely through the avenues my atheists despise: testimonial and anecdotal evidence. Thirty million people in the United States seek chiropractic care. Are they all fools?

Many areas of alternative medicine are more art than science. Didn't we once refer to all medicine as "healing arts"? They draw on the subtle uniqueness of each individual, not on the broad similarities which we all share. But therein lies a problem for scientific verification. If every single patient is different and your health care is attuned to those differences, that's a problem for the scientific method, which is most useful when there are common attributes readily grouped and measured. Alternative medicine is more like your child who does something irresistibly cute, so that you want to show him off. Will he do the same thing for relatives or friends or camera? Not a chance. How do you apply the scientific method to individual attributes, when it is those very attributes that form the basis of this or that treatment? Insisting alternative medicine conform to the scientific method is a bit like playing an away game, on someone else's turf with all their fans booing you. Better to play on your own field.

Then again, it could be that conventional science simply ignores what is too contrary to prevailing wisdom. This apparently happened withthat studyconcluding the placebo effect is overhyped. It made front page news one day in 2001, then it vanished without a trace, like a mafia don with concrete boots. Nobody ever mentioned it again. Might this be the case with alternative treatments, whose supporting evidence is ignored by the AMA people?

Inconceivable, says my science-adoring atheist: "The vast majority of scientists revel in what they don't know because it provides them with an opportunity to find out what's happening and explain it. Prove one wrong and he or she will be ecstatic," he tells me.

No, I don't think so. Science does not purge humans of human nature. Max Planck the physicist offers a more realistic assessment: "People think new truths are accepted when the proponents are able to convince the opponents. Instead, the opponents of the truth gradually die, and a new generation comes along who is familiar with the idea."

I'm not opposed to conventional health care. I'll see a doctor when sick (unlike Pop). But it's not the monopoly on truth that it would like us to believe. Alternatives work too well. I've seen, heard, and experienced it. When testimonials become overwhelming, you don't reject them simply because it's not the type of evidence you would prefer.

Vincent McCabe's book Let Like Cure Like (1997) discusses principles underlying most alternative therapies (homeopathy in his particular case): These philosophies, both thousands of years old, have yet to be proved scientifically because of the limitations of science, not because they are not true. p 17

Awake!, on the other hand, the JW publication, stays above the fray. Often it discusses matters of health. Invariably it states it does not endorse any specific treatment, but discusses what it does for informational purposes only. In other words, let's not have anyone take my views and think it represents all of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Winged Migration and the Evolutionists

The bird newscaster was on the scene, microphone in hand....um....wing. Somberly, he related the details of the grisly crash. And it was grisly. Behind him you could see the downed airplane, broken and aflame. “Details are still sketchy,” he reported, “but it appears that the name of the bird sucked into the engines in Harold Kruntz.”

Such is the imagination of Gary Larsen, creator of the Far Side, who imagines the bird’s point of view.

That’s what the 2003 film Winged Migration does as well. It relates migration from the bird’s point of view. There you are, soaring shoulder to shoulder with big birds, small birds, ugly birds, pretty birds as they wing past and over fields, cities, factories, and ocean. There go the twin towers zipping past. (yep, it was filmed before 911) Does the camera stop to linger? Not for a moment; this is the bird’s point of view. Here is a frigate plying the waters, the birds land on deck. They strut to and fro, on short break from their journey. One or two catch a quick nap on the heat grates. Off yonder we hear some garbled voices on the shortwave. Do we track the source? Nope, this is the bird’s story. Off they fly and you go with them. We never see a person; do birds not care about us as much as we ourselves do?

Same story flying over the Grand Canyon and a few dozen other breathless terrains. No time to sightsee. It’s ‘keep on flying.’ Even a duck hunt is shown from the duck‘s point of view. There you are, flying with your duck buddies when there is a loud pop and one of them goes down!

“How in the world did they get that shot?” you say to yourself over and over again, as you and your birds wing around the world.

They did itwith the help of balloons, gliders, helicopters, and planes. They did it by exposing eggs of some of the birds to the sounds of people and film cameras so that the birds would be unafraid of them later. They did it with patience; French director Jacques Perrin with teams of filmmakers took three years to travel 40 countries and all seven continents, tracking birds of all types - birds on the go.

Narration is sparse, consisting mostly of terse remarks like “it is a matter of life and death.” We follow the arctic tern, a bird that migrates from the summer North Pole to the summer South Pole, and back again. At each endpoint, there are rich food sources. The narrator tells us of the never-ending search for food. You almost wish he’d say more.

Like how did that tern ever discover that such food bonanzas existed 11,000 miles apart? Does anyone have the answer? Do evolutionists? Did one tern just happen to “wander” that distance, and hit pay dirt to such an extent that all terns started doing it? What of the lazy terns that flew lesser distances? Did they all die out?

When fall arrives, Blackpoll Warblers gather on the New England coast. They've flown in from Alaska. By the sea they await the right weather conditions, a strong cold front, to begin their 2400 mile flight to South America. It finally comes and they take off, flying non-stop past Bermuda, heading straight…..for Africa! Approaching Antigua, they climb higher and higher, absurdly high, up to 21,000 feet. It's cold up there and there‘s not much oxygen. What are the stupid birds doing up there, for crying out loud?

They catch a prevailing wind that blows them to South America! Energy expended is less than if the warblers headed directly for that continent! Who’s stupid now? Can the evolutionists explain how that came about?

Come summer’s end, Manx shearwaters begin their migration from Wales. leaving behind their chicks. Once the latter can fly, they follow the adults and reunite in Brazil. One Manx shearwater was taken from Wales to Boston, (by scientists?…..did they blindfold it?) 3200 miles away. It returned to Wales in 13 days. Scientists did it to Adelie penguins, too, stranding them 1200 miles from their rookeries. Apparently unexasperated, (as I would be) they headed straight to the open sea to chow down for the trip ahead, and then returned to the rookeries.

Tom Pearlsenswine can get lost heading to the corner store.

In Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin wrote “Many instincts are so wonderful that their development will probably appear to the reader a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.” To my knowledge, just how such instincts developed has still not been solved. Instead, it is taken off the table. Evolutionists rely on the scientific method, and the scientific method is too narrow to deal with such questions. Where are the repeatable experiments with which you can test this or that hypothesis? So they simply dismiss the whole matter as irrelevant. Thus,  when you come along to discuss the subject, you find you’re playing a board game, the rules of which are that you can’t move your pieces!

Some of Gary Larsen’s birds have reached the ultimate in evolutionary prowess, providing rich fodder for scientific research. Thus, one of his cartoons has a duck approaching in the hallway. The wife says to her husband: “Here he comes. Remember, be kind, but firm. We are not driving him south again this winter!” Evolution being what it is, the duck will no doubt talk them into it.

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Kepler, Newton, Galileo, and God

"God wrote the universe in the language of mathematics"....Galileo

That about sums up [HA! pun intended] how early scientists felt about mathematics. They cherished it, they advanced it, they found in it an essential tool in revealing just how God worked. And that was their motive: to uncover the design of God and thereby give him praise. We've all seen those math formulas in which gravity, force, acceleration and everything else can be expressed with just a few variables. Why should that be? Why should things not be a hopeless mishmash, like our sock drawer? The answer is what Galileo said...God wrote the universe, and he used mathematics as a language.

Scientists commonly thought that way back then, much to the exasperation of today's atheists. When Kepler worked out the laws governing planetary motions [they move in ellipses, not circles] and published the results, he suddenly let loose with a paean to God, smack dab in the middle of his treatise. If you didn't know better, you'd think it was one of the Bible psalms. Would any scientist be caught dead doing such a thing today?

"The wisdom of the Lord is infinite; so also are His glory and His power. Ye heavens, sing His praises! Sun, moon, and planets glorify Him in your ineffable language! Celestial harmonies, all ye who comprehend His marvelous works, praise Him. And thou, my soul, praise thy Creator! It is by Him and in Him that all exists. that which we know best is comprised in Him, as well as in our vain science. To Him be praise, honor, and glory throughout eternity."

It's not bad. I'd put it with the Psalms, if it were my call. But nobody asked me.

Does it not dovetail with this one, which is in the Bible?

"You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created."   Rev 4:11

Contrary to popular belief, those early scientists really didn't experiment much. Instead, they worked out the math, since they were convinced that was how God designed things. When they made experiments it was mostly to confirm results, or as Newton once said, to convince the "vulgar," [He also told how he made up the story of the falling apple to dispose of "stupid" people who asked him how he discovered laws of gravitation.] And Galileo, when describing an experiment of dropping two different masses from the top of a ship's mast, has his fictional creation, a fellow named Simplicio, [!] ask whether he actually made such an experiment. "No, and I do not need it, as without any experience I can confirm that it is so because it cannot be otherwise," was his reply. He worked mostly with mathematics.

Accordingly, Isaac Newton played with the notion of firing a giant cannonball from a mountaintop with just enough velocity, not too much and not too little, that it's ordinary straight line path would be continually offset by the earth's pull so that it would orbit the planet indefinitely. Of course, he didn't actually perform such an experiment, it was all in his head. Working from a few known quantities (radius of the earth, distance a body falls in the first second) he deduced laws of universal gravitation, and, like Kepler, gave God all the glory:

"This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being...This Being governs all things, not as the soul of world, but Lord over all."   Mathematical Principles, 2nd edition

Oddly, though mathematics has proven so astoundingly successful at describing the universe we live in, it's success lies in giving up on a greater goal. Long before Galileo, Aristotle and his contemporaries wanted to know what things were. They didn't bother much with description, since that seemed of secondary importance. Only when scientists reversed priorities did they discover mathematics served as an amazing tool of description, though not explanation. This lack of explanation was a sore point for some of Newton's contemporaries, steeped in the tradition of Aristotle. Leibniz, who independently of Newton, discovered calculus, groused that Newton's gravitational laws were merely rules of computation, not worthy of being called a law of nature. Huygens labeled the idea of gravitation "absurd" for the same reason: it described effects but did not explain how gravity worked.

Newton agreed. In a letter to a Richard Bentley he wrote: "That one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed form one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that, I believe, no man who has in philosophic matters a competent faculty of thinking could ever fall into it."

Describing how things work through mathematics has led to scientific triumphs that knock the socks off all of us, and contemporary scientists have gone far beyond Newton. Yet impressive as they are, are they anything more than cheap card tricks when compared to the goal of explaining why things work? Is the latter reserved for the mind of God?

O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments [are] and past tracing out his ways [are]! For “who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?” Or, “Who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?” Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen        Rom 11:33-36

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Many of the particulars here are found in the book Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge, by Morris Kline.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Isaac Asimov and Ignaz Semmelweis

I once worked with a girl named Casey who positively loved science fiction. In the context of other things, I mentioned the film I, Robot.

Oh, that was terrible! she said.

But as we kept talking, it turned out she had never seen it. Um...Casey, how do know it's terrible if you've never seen it? I asked. The answer was that she was a purist. She knew the movie did not follow Isaac Asimov's storyline, and that was enough for her!

For an Asimov purist, the movie would indeed be blasphemy. Asimov, who wrote literally almost all the time, having 500 books (written or edited) and 90,000 letters to his credit, with works in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal system, penned the Foundation trilogy and the I, Robot series, both pillars among science fiction. His plotting was ingenious, and had he been able to empathetically sketch people as well as ideas, he might have gone down as one of literature's true greats. Alas, his characters are cardboard, like those TV characters who are freely interchangeable save for one or two superficial features: this one is mean, this one likes to eat, that one is a geek, etc. Too bad - for every other aspect of Asimov's writing is extraordinary.

Asimov was an atheist, but I always imagine that, if current atheists had been taught the Bible by Jehovah's Witnesses instead of the churches, they may not have turned atheist. It's probably not so but I dream it anyway. For example, in his last autobiographical book, Asimov observes that hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term.  [Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov] Yeah! Man, I wish he had heard first from Jehovah's Witnesses! Virtually alone among Christian faiths at the turn of the last century, Jehovah's Witnesses exposed hellfire for the vicious rubbish that it is. JW "founder" C. T. Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire!"

At any rate, had he been a Witness, it would have benefited him personally. He died in 1992, of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion nine years prior.

Still, I am grateful to Dr. Asimov, not only for the hours of intriguing science fiction he laid upon me, but also for his non-fiction works. Asimov's Guide to Science probably was my springboard to individual branches of science. If Asimov lacked in sketching fictional characters, he was gifted in sketching real ones. Not only the pillars, but also the buffoons, he succeeded in portraying the humanity of scientists. It is from him (Asimov's guide to Biology) that I first read of Ignaz Semmelweis, early advocate of antiseptic surgical practices and forerunner of germ theory.

In the mid 1800's, Semmelweis got it in his head that fever and death following doctor-assisted childbirth could be curtailed by washing hands and equipment frequently. Doctors back then would deliver a baby, having just emerged from an autopsy, only wiping their hands on their smocks! There were some sort of tiny "particles" contaminating the women, Semmelweis proposed. Doctors howled with laughter at such nonsense. Asimov's book vividly portrays Semmelweis' presenting his ideas at seminars, with his esteemed audience mocking him, hurling catcalls! Doctors argued that, even if Semmeweis' findings were correct, washing one's hands each time before treating a pregnant woman would be too much work. Semmelweis enforced strict antiseptic practices at the hospital under his supervision, cutting deaths to under 1%, and it made no difference in their attitude! Colleagues ridiculed him his entire life, he suffered a nervous breakdown and, says Asimov, died in an insane asylum tormented by memories of women screaming in their death-agonies following hospital-acquired infections. With Semmelweis out of the way, his own hospital went back to familiar practices and the mortality rate climbed to 35%.

You can read the bare facts in many places, but Asimov's account is the most vivid I have come across, remarkable in a book that purports only to be an outline, a "guide."

Whenever those atheists start prattling on about how scientists graciously change their views at the first hint they may be off-base, whereas it's only the pig-headed religionists who "stay the course" come hell or high water, I play the 'Semmelweis' card.

Athiest or not, I miss Isaac Asimov.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Monkeys, Typewriters, and Shakespeare

The driver behind evolutionary change, we are told, is mutation. Genes foul up in replicating, the theory goes, and the result is a slight tweak on life. Add up enough tweaks, millions upon millions, and look! an amoeba has become an orangutan.

Most mutations, though, are bad news.  And so, natural selection emerges as the determinant of which ones die out and which ones are preserved, to be passed on to the next generation. Only a beneficial mutation is preserved, since only that variety gives one an advantage in the "fight for survival."

Gene replication is amazingly accurate. "Typically, mistakes are made at a rate of only 1 in every ten billion bases incorporated," states the textbook Microbiology. (Tortora, Funke, Case, 2004, pg 217) That's not many, and, remember, only the tiniest fraction of those mutations are said to be any good.

Since gene mutations rarely happen, and almost all that do are neutral or negative, and thus not enshrined by natural selection,  a student might reasonably wonder if he is not being sold a bill of goods by evolutionists. Can benevolent mutations possibly account for all they are said to account for?

Enter Thomas Huxley, a 19th-century scientist who supported Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. Huxley came up with the pithy slogan: "If you give an infinite number of monkeys and infinite number of typewriters, one of them will eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare." Surely you can understand that!

Nevertheless, his assertion had never been tested. Until 4 years ago, that is.  Evolutionists at England's Plymouth University rounded up six monkeys, supplied them with a computer, placed them on display at Paighton Zoo, and then hid behind trees and trash cans, with notebooks, breathlessly awaiting what would happen! They were disappointed.Four weeks produced page after page of mostly s's. Not a single word emerged. Not even a two letter word. Not even a one letter word. Researcher Mike Phillips gave details.

At first, he said, “the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it.

“Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard,” added Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies.

They didn't write any Shakespeare! They shit all over the computer!

Alright, alright, so it wasn't a real science experiment. It was more pop art. And they didn't have an infinite number of monkey or computers (due to budgetary constraints). Surely, if you had a infinite number, groused the guardians of evolution, then you would end up with Shakespeare.

Hmmmm. Well, maybe. But wouldn't you also need an infinite number of shovels to dig through an infinite pile of you know what?

University and zoo personnel defended their monkeys. Clearly, they didn't want them held responsible for sabotaging science. Geoff Cox, from the university, pointed out that "the monkeys aren't reducible to a random process. They get bored and they shit on the keyboard rather than type." And Vicky Melfi, a biologist at Paignton zoo, added "they are very intentional, deliberate and very dexterous, so they do want to interact with stuff you give them," she said. "They would sit on the computer and some of the younger ones would press the keys." Ultimately the monkeys may have fallen victim to the distractions which plague many budding novelists.

It's true. I often get distracted working on my book and when that happens I will sometimes shi......no, no.....some secrets are too dark to reveal!

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

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Common Sense and the Trinity

Every Witness has, in his ministry, run across the person who will speak of only one thing: the Trinity, and whose capacity to speak of it is inexhaustible. Think we're tenacious? We can't hold a candle to these guys, at least not on their favorite topic.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity; that is, they don't believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all actually the same person. A mere doctrinal difference? Hardly. The really fundamentalist churches refuse Jehovah's Witnesses Christian status on that account! When Isaac Newton, a staunch believer in God, began to refute the Trinity, he risked absolute ruin of his career and even his physical freedom. Prison was a real possibility. So he learned to be discreet in his comments.

Yet the Trinity defies the power of reason God gave us. If you have three persons described in different terms, who speak with each other, who are contrasted with each other, who occupy different places at the same time, common sense dictates that they are different persons, not the same. (One of them, in fact, turns out not even to be a person) God speaks to Jesus. Jesus prays to God, for example, when being put to death. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." And we're to believe they are the same person? Has common sense absolutely died?

Does this "common sense" argument prove that the Trinity is untrue? No. Sometimes unintuitive things turn out to be true. However, it does show that the burden of proof lies, not with me to prove what reason would indicate is obvious, but with you to prove that the seemingly absurd is, in fact, the way matters really are.

And reasonable people will require solid proof. They won't accept things that, in any other context, would instantly be recognized as a metaphor, figure of speech, or personification, since any good book makes liberal use of all these devices. No. They will want solid proof, otherwise, they are simply being gullible.

Since Jesus and his Father speak with one another, occupy different places at the same time, and are said to have different abilities, will anyone not instantly recognize their "being one" as a literary device to convey their close harmony? And if, say, you run across a scripture which says they are "equal," what does that prove? Aren't there myriad situations today in which different persons are said to be "equals"? Does anyone for one second take that to mean they are physically the same person? No! People immediately realize the expression refers to equality of stature, rank, responsibility, and so forth. With regard to the Father and Son, there are hundreds of such literary expressions. You don't plow through each one individually because the same argument applies to them all: a figure of speech in any other context is not enough to override common sense.

What do you do with a person who, when you say "don't beat around the bush," insists on looking for the bush, who will not acknowledge that the "bush" is not literal, since he "reasons" that you say what you mean and mean what you say? What do you do with such a person? I wish I knew.

Jesus has the key role in fulfilling God's purpose toward His creation. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ." (2 Cor 1:20   NIV)

They've always worked very closely together, even before the Son came to earth. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.   Col 1: 15, 16 [A good analogy. When you see your image in the mirror, you see something which looks just like you. Nobody, however, supposes that it actually is you in the mirror.]

Following Christ's death and resurrection, the closeness with his Father continues and his authority grows: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," he told his disciples upon his resurrection."  (Matt 28:18)

These scriptures are more than enough to account for the many places in which the Son and Father are shown to fulfill the same role/do the same things. There is no reason to think they would override the obvious: that persons who speak with each other are actually different persons.

Of course, you can always say, and Trinity people do, that the reason you can't figure it out is that "God's ways are higher than your ways." (Isa 55:9) Well, maybe. But can't you use the God's higher ways argument to sell any bill of goods that otherwise makes no sense at all? What's wrong with Galileo's point of view? "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

Galileo, of course, is the fellow who dropped two masses of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (which leaned less at the time) and took note that they landed simultaneously. Thus, he demonstrated acceleration was independent of mass. He also got into a scrap with the Church for announcing that the earth revolved around the sun, contradicting the latter's decree that just the opposite happened. But Galileo was not an anti-God heretic. Like all scientists of his time, he viewed his work as uncovering God's modus operandi, thus glorifying Him as Creator.

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More here

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Unit 731 and the Angel of Death

That Sam Harris keeps coming around, either he or his buddies, preaching that all would be ecstasy if only we could ban religion and devote the world to atheists and science. I'm not buying it and neither should you. The vilest deeds in human history have been carried out by atheists and scientists.

Admittedly, it's a challenge to rank vile deeds. There are many excellent contenders, for example Iraq, Darfor, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Malawi,  and northern  Ireland. But in our task or ranking bloodbaths we must keep in mind several contributing factors, and how their presence or absence can aid us in our ranking task. It is just as homicides can be ranked for vileness....premeditated at the top and manslaughter at the bottom.... the latter partly determined by permanent or temporary insanity, depression, post traumatic stress, medication side effects, etc, etc. And so with most slaughters worldwide we may allow for mob action hot tempers, civil war, desperation from poverty, miscommunication, ignorance, reaction to oppression, and so forth. Doesn't excuse the mayhem, of course, but it does help explain it.

There have been genocidal campaigns in which none of these softening factors are present, thus taking evil to a higher level. You might argue that the Pol Pot Cambodian [atheists] slaughter is in that camp. Certainly the German Holocaust of World War II, and its even more hideous escalation, the "medical" experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele (the Angel of Death) and associates. These are sickening to read of. Google the topic if you must.

A parallel WWII Japanese program existed, experiments with the added aim of  develping biological weapons, under the depraved oversight of Dr. Shiro Ishii. Known as Unit 731, the program was based in Mongolia. Ethnic Chinese were the primary victims, but also Koreans, Russians, ethnic Japanese and even some American POWs. In the quest for weapons, bubonic plague, typhoid, anthrax and cholera was cultivated and released on the populace, and it is thought that hundreds of thousands perished from such exposure. Hundreds more suffered unspeakably from dehydration, starvation, frostbite, air pressure, animal blood transfusion, and amputation experiments, similar to Mengele's medical experiments. Enthusiasts billed it as "science untethered to morality."

Such campaigns take barbarity to a new level. Poverty plays no part, nor miscommunication, nor emotions boiling over from civil war. There is no mob action. To be sure, World War plays a part, yet these crimes take place far from the front. Quiet moments abound, during which one might stop, reflect, and turn back. Instead, with calm deliberation, perpetrators pushed ahead to commit the most ghastly deeds of all time.

Everyone knows about Nazi atrocities, but few know of the parallel Japanese deeds.  There is a reason. At the end of the war, Japanese scientists offered their knowledge and data to American victors in return for complete immunity. Americans thought it a good deal, lest such data fall into the hands of the Russians, supposedly eager to compensate for not yet having the bomb. Remember, the cold war was just beginning. While many of the German doctors were brought to justice, (excluding Mengele himself) Japanese counterparts were not. Many went on to prosperous and prestigious careers.

Daniel Barenblatt may be the world's foremost expert on Unit 731. His 2003 work A plague Upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program, published by HarperCollins, offers an unflinching account of that evil time, exhaustive yet never sensational. Reading the book requires a strong stomach. Imagine researching and writing it. Mr. Barenblatt devoted himself to doing so when he realized that, some 70 years after the war, the sordid history was still largely unknown, a result of the immunity deal. He describes himself as an extremely sensitive person who thinks something is fundamentally wrong with the world. He says ferreting out the truth put him in non-stop emotional pain.

He comes from an interesting family... one with a conscience. His father, Lloyd Barenblatt, is known to legal historians from the McCarthy era. Barenblatt v United States, (1959) argued before the Supreme Court, tested the powers of Congressional investigation in the light of the First Amendment.  By standing his ground and upholding his conscience, he substantially derailed his academic career.

Others of the family are Jehovah's Witnesses. It is through them that I first learned of the Barenblatt book, and of Unit 731.

Should these inhuman deeds be used as an indictment of science? Obviously, they should not. Science was merely the venue in this history, just as politics and religion are in others. Still, I will keep these examples up my sleeve for the next time that smug Sam Harris comes around. The most vicious offences in history have been in the name of science.

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Psst! Hey...Buddy! Wanna Buy a Scientific Endorsement?

Time was when any yahoo of a preacher could trump any debate by yelling “the Bible says….” It sufficed. Nobody dared say another word. Nor did it make any difference whether the Bible really did say it. Anyone with a clergy collar could say it did and that was enough.

Is that the case now with science? Several recent reports suggest that the  best way to get scientific endorsement for any pet product is to fund a study. That way you can get learned scientists to intone that your stuff is the way to go. The fact that you bought them is not noticed, or if it is, is not deemed relevant.

The online science journal PLoS Medicine published the results of, not just a study, but a study of studies [!] published between 1999 and 2003 on nutrition. Harvard researchers and analysts from the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that if the food industry sponsors the study, results are up to 8 times more likely to be favorable for them than if someone else sponsors the study. It is bias, they suggest, not deliberate lying. Just how do you ask the questions? Exactly which questions do you ask? How do you interpret the data? Such factors that will influence your conclusion and are built into the study by researchers who hope to arrive at a desired result.

“This is yet another attack on industry by activists who demonstrate their own biases in their review by looking only at the funding source and not judging the research on its merits,” fumes Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, as if they'd shot her dog. “The science is what matters-nothing else!” But I suspect she is merely recalling who signs her paycheck.

Then there is mold. The Institute of Medicine is a federally funded (mostly) nonprofit organization. Reviewing 2004 research, it said “studies have demonstrated adverse effects - including immunologic, neurologic, respiratory and dermal responses - after exposure to specific toxins, bacteria, molds or their products.” In 2001 a Texas jury awarded $32 million [!] to a family whose home was mold-infested. But don’t try to pull such a stunt yourself. Colin and Pamela Fraser did, more recently, and their medical expert wasn’t allowed to testify. The judge blew away their concerns, declaring them “unsupported by the scientific literature.” She was swayed by what the American College on Occupational and Envirernmental Medicine wrote: “Scientific evidence does not support the proposition that human health has been adversely affected by inhaled mycotoxins [from mold] in the home, school, or office environment” Defendants in mold lawsuits now routinely and with considerable success rely on this paper.

What they don’t tell you is significant. The defense paper is authored by scientists who are paid experts for the defense in mold litigation. They don't work cheap either. Depending on which expert the defense summons, they'll pay $375 to $720 an hour!

Which organization has the truth: the Institute of Medicine or the American College on Occupational and Environmental Medicine? I have no idea. Likely the truth lies somewhere in between. The point, though, is that when we’re solemnly informed science says this or that, we’re likely being flimflammed. It may not be science at all. It might be politics, self-interest and business, with some science “toppings.”

When it comes to drug studies, we all know the pattern. The study that tells us Healthexa is wonderful stuff invariably is funded by Healthexa corporation. We hear it repeated....um....repeatedly..... through advertising: it's safe! it's safe! it's perfectly safe! Ask your doctor!

Then people drop of heart failure, cancer, or stroke.

Oh...........sorry...... Healthexa says, and gets their lawyers cracking to deny any blame.

And don’t get me started on that study that declared violent entertainment produces angels. Tom Fishandchips is still steamed over that one.

Better we should leave science out of it. Just say who paid how much to make what point.

"It's impossible to make a man understand something when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it." -Upton Sinclair

[Mold information from WSJ 1/9/07 article, written by David Armstrong]

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