Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm almost disappointed.

Regular readers of the blog may know a great deal about myself and my esteemed co-bloggers, but what you may not know is the amazing amount of work it takes to maintain this "high quality" corner of the interblags. Here at Total Drek we strive to produce new content five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, and have been maintaining this schedule for more than three years now. Needless to say, this represents a considerable investment of man hours and makes me deathly afraid that someday google's servers are going to hiccup and lose the whole damned thing. Then again, if they did it might give me license to stop blogging, so maybe I should be cheering entropy on. Regardless, maintaining this blog does absorb a certain amount of time and energy.

Yet, it does not begin and end with the mere writing of posts, but also extends to various administrative matters. I do, occasionally, receive e-mail from readers who either approve very much of what I do, disapprove even more of the same, or seem to think I may have insight into their personal problems. Let me assure those in the latter category, right here and now, that the advice you get from a blog titled "Total Drek" is likely to be worth considerably less than what you paid for it. Putting it more bluntly, I have little or no insight to grant to anyone. My posts are largely populated by my own lunatic opinions and the products of my feverish imagination- sort of like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," but without all the drugs. As it happens, I don't need pharmaceuticals to be totally batshit crazy. But I digress...

Sometimes even more interesting e-mails come in and, as it happens, this is one of those times. Yesterday I learned that your unfriendly nieghborhood blog, Total Drek, has been contacted in regards to a libel suit. Now, please understand that this is not the sort of "lawsuit" that often plagues Something Awful. They routinely get harassed by idiots who think that they can easily intimidate people they don't like by threatening a lawsuit. Fortunately, SA has the crack legal counsel of Leonard "J." Crabs, and has thus far emerged unscathed. In my case, however, the lawsuit referenced in the e-mail is, in fact, listed in publicly available documents.* Yes, I'm serious: an actual law suit filed by actual lawyers in an actual court that is actually alleging libel. Yippee!

So, have my evil ways caught up with me? Has my flippancy finally bitten me in the ass? As it turns out... no. Believe it or not, the libel charge was related only to a comment, left by an anonymous reader, to a post I wrote** more than a year ago. As the comment had nothing to do with the post, and a judge had indeed ordered that libelous material be removed, I complied with the request of the attorneys, but in a weird way I'm surprised. In three years of blogging, when I have contact with the legal system, it's not even for something I wrote?***

That just cracks me the hell up.

* I'd give you a link BUT I think that might allow a truly enterprising individual to figure out what was originally posted here. While this would not technically be problematic I think it would violate the spirit of the judge's order.

** Don't ask which one, I'm not saying.

*** Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be sued, I just think it's odd that I'm getting contacted about something someone else wrote. As much as some folks dislike me it's kinda nice that nobody has ever claimed libel.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

A new wrinkle to peer review...

Last week I asked whether my readers could successfully distinguish between published work that is purported to be legitimate, and an intentional hoax. Few people made the attempt publicly, though several made guesses to me in person. As it happens, opinions were fairly evenly split between the two passages- one of which was legitimate, one of which was not. Of all those who made the attempt, however, only S.S. Stone correctly identified one of the passages as belonging to the so-called "Sokal Hoax." This leads me to conclude that my audience, at least, finds it as difficult to separate "legitimate" work of this type from illegitimate. This is not a reassuring conclusion.

All that said, I am reminded of something else at this point- the philosophy of Imre Lakatos. I've discussed Lakatos before but, for those who are too lazy to go read the previous post, the essence of my interest in him is that he develops the Popperian idea of falsification, which is often considered to be a defining trait of science. Lakatos takes Popper's initial notion and observes that often research programs are pursued even though they may appear to have been falsified- more importantly, sometimes these "falsified" programs achieve dominance and replace their rivals. As a consequence, Lakatos argues that we should think of research programs as either producing new and useful insights, or as having become "degenerate." A degenerate program, of course, continues to change and evolve as all research programs do, but it does so in a manner that produces no new insights or predictions. In essence, it becomes like the theory of epicycles- each change is meant only to squash bugs in the system, but doesn't tell us anything new about the universe. This is all well and good, but the problem is, how do we tell when a program has become degenerate? Its supporters are liable to see each change as being deeply informative, and outsiders are likely not regarded as qualified to comment. So, unlike falsification, a Lakatosian view seems to be of limited use.

And at this point, I'm reminded of yet something else. In the search for true artificial intelligence there is a major problem: how can we know that a manufactured mind is, indeed, "intelligent"? That is to say: how do we know that it has become sentient and sapient? Think about this problem for a few moments- we see other people and assume that they are sentient and sapient largely because they look and act like we do. Since we believe ourselves to be sentient and sapient* it stands to reason that other humans, by extension, are the same. What happens when we ask the same question about a box the size of a suitcase that communicates via a monitor, however? Will we as readily ascribe the qualities of sentience and sapience to it, or will we be likely to continue to deny it those labels simply because it does not look like us? Given our species' unfortunate history of racism, I think we all know the answer.** So, as a way of producing an answer to this question, Alan Turing proposed the so-called "Turing Test." Described simply, the Turing test works as follows: human participants interact via computer terminals with both several humans, and one or more computers that are candidates for artificial intelligence. These participants then rate each interactant as being either human or a machine. A machine that can consistently trick its raters into concluding that it is human is then assumed to be sentient and sapient. The logic, of course, is that if an observer without prior knowledge of which is which cannot distinguish them from each other, and one of the entities is believed to be sentient and sapient, then we must assume that the other is as well. Obviously, the test would need to be somewhat more challenging than what I have described before we extend civil rights to an intel-based machine, but the logic remains essentially the same.

So what does this have to do with anything? Simple: I wonder if we couldn't extend the logic of the Turing test to identifying degenerate research programs. We present competent researchers in a given field with a series of articles: some legitimate, some written so as to use big words but say next to nothing. To the extent that those researchers cannot tell the difference, we have identified a research program that is collapsing into bitter self-obsessed irrelevance.

Would this be a perfect system? Hell no- as proposed, I doubt it's even workable. But I'll be damned if I don't think the concept is pretty interesting.

* And it'll really put you through the ringer for a moment or three if you challenge Rene Descartes' assertion that cogito ergo sum.

** As a side note, I think the time when humans first develop self-aware AI will be one of the most critical for us ethically. How we treat an essentially manufactured slave-race of beings will tell us a great deal about ourselves.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Makes me feel tingly all over...

An interested reader recently decided to forward me a link to an interesting blog post. The post itself is fairly uninformative and lacking in actual commentary* but it includes passage from a philosophical text. Now, I usually think I'm a reasonably smart guy. I'm no genius, don't get me wrong, but I can usually manage to put on my pants and tie my shoes in the proper order.** I also work really hard to do well in my chosen profession*** and, as such, generally think I'm competent at understanding technical material. The meaning of this passage, however, almost entirely eludes me. At the same time, it reminds me of another piece of work- a fake piece of work that made no sense whatsoever and yet, somehow, managed to be accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal. If I were asked to do so, I think I would have a difficult time distinguishing the "legitimate" scholarship from the hoax. This makes me wonder in turn: can anyone out there distinguish the "real" scholarship from the "fake"?****

Let's find out.

Take a look at the following passages and place your guesses: Which is the real academic work? Is it scrappy passage A? Or is it the heavyweight champion, passage B?

Passage A:
In what follows, I would like to discuss the outlines of a liberatory postmodern science on two levels: first, with regard to general themes and attitudes; and second, with regard to political goals and strategies.

One characteristic of the emerging postmodern science is its stress on nonlinearity and discontinuity: this is evident, for example, in chaos theory and the theory of phase transitions as well as in quantum gravity.81 At the same time, feminist thinkers have pointed out the need for an adequate analysis of fluidity, in particular turbulent fluidity. These two themes are not as contradictory as it might at first appear: turbulence connects with strong nonlinearity, and smoothness/fluidity is sometimes associated with discontinuity (e.g. in catastrophe theory); so a synthesis is by no means out of the question.

Secondly, the postmodern sciences deconstruct and transcend the Cartesian metaphysical distinctions between humankind and Nature, observer and observed, Subject and Object. Already quantum mechanics, earlier in this century, shattered the ingenuous Newtonian faith in an objective, pre-linguistic world of material objects "out there"; no longer could we ask, as Heisenberg put it, whether "particles exist in space and time objectively". But Heisenberg's formulation still presupposes the objective existence of space and time as the neutral, unproblematic arena in which quantized particle-waves interact (albeit indeterministically); and it is precisely this would-be arena that quantum gravity problematizes. Just as quantum mechanics informs us that the position and momentum of a particle are brought into being only by the act of observation, so quantum gravity informs us that space and time themselves are contextual, their meaning defined only relative to the mode of observation.

Thirdly, the postmodern sciences overthrow the static ontological categories and hierarchies characteristic of modernist science. In place of atomism and reductionism, the new sciences stress the dynamic web of relationships between the whole and the part; in place of fixed individual essences (e.g. Newtonian particles), they conceptualize interactions and flows (e.g. quantum fields). Intriguingly, these homologous features arise in numerous seemingly disparate areas of science, from quantum gravity to chaos theory to the biophysics of self-organizing systems. In this way, the postmodern sciences appear to be converging on a new epistemological paradigm, one that may be termed an ecological perspective, broadly understood as "recogniz[ing] the fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and the embeddedness of individuals and societies in the cyclical patterns of nature."

Passage B:
We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on ther author, and this multireferential, multidimensional machinic catalysis. The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discursive character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticised previously. A machinic assemblage, through its diverse components, extracts its consistency by crossing ontological thresholds, non-linear thresholds of irreversibility, ontological and phylogenetic thresholds, creative threshodls of heterogenesis and autopoiesis. The notion of scale needs to be expanded to consider fractal symmetries in ontological terms.

What fractal machines traverse are substantial scales. They traverse them in engendering them. But, and this should be noted, the existential ordinates that they 'invent' were always already there. How can this paradox be sustained? It's because everything becomes possible (including the recessive smoothing of time, evoked by Rene Thom) the moment one allows the assemblage to escape from energetico-spatiotemporal coordinates. And, here again, we need to rediscover a manner of being of Being -- bnefore, after, here adn everywhere else -- without being, however, identical to itself; a processual, polyphonic Being singularisable by infinitely complexifiable textures, according to the infinite speeds with animate its virtual compositions.

The ontological relativity advocated here is inseparable from an enunciative relativity. Knowledge of a Universe (in an astrophysical or axiological sense) is only possible through the mediation of autopoietic machines. A zone of self-belonging needs to exist somewhere for the coming into cognitive existence of any being or any modality of being. Outside of this machine/Universe coupling, beings only have the pure states of a virtual entity. And it is the same for their enunciative coordinates. The biosphere and mecanosphere, coupled on this planet, focus a point of view of space, time and energy. They trace an angle of the constitution of the galaxy. Outside of this particularised point of view, the rest of the Universe esxists (in the sense that we understand existence here below) only through the virtual existence of other autopoietic machines at the heart of other bio-mecanospheres scattered throughout the cosmos. The relativity of points of view of space, time and energy do not, for all that, absorb the real into the dream. The category of Time dissolves into cosmological reflections on the Big Bang even as the category of irreversibility is affirmed. Residual objectivity is what resists scanning by the infinite variation of points of view constituable upon it. Imagine an autopoietic entity whose particles are constructed from galaxies. Or, conversely, a cognitivkity constituted on the scale of quarks. A different panorama, another ontological consistency. The mecanosphere draws out and actualises configurations which exist amongst an infinitiy of others in fields of virtuality. Existential machines are at the same level as being in its intrinsic multiplicity. They are not mediated by transcendent signifiers and subsumed by a univocal ontological foundation. They are to themselves their own material of semiotic expression. Existence, as a process of deterritorialisation, is a specific inter-machinic operation which superimposes itself on the promotion of singularised existential intensities. And, I repeat, there is no generalised syntax for these deterritorialisations. Existence is not dialectic, not representable. It is hardly livable!

Some sort of virtual prize will doubtless be made available to those who guess correctly, though I won't promise the prize will be anything you'll actually want. So, good luck, have fun, and if you need to decompress after reading all that crap... I know just the thing.

* Much like this post, as it happens.

** Let me stress the "usually" in that sentence.

*** Mexican wrestler. I only moonlight as a sociologist.

**** To be honest, I find it quite difficult to refer to either of these passages as "real scholarship" with a straight face.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hidden talents.

Working in academia is a pretty grueling experience- a treadmill of teaching, publishing, researching, grant writing and, occasionally, having some sort of social life. And when you're done with all that, then you're denied tenure. As such, I am always very impressed when I realize that some academics manage to branch out beyond the norm. In fact, some academics manage to do things that are very much out of the ordinary for we crazy scholars. Take John G. Cramer and Harry Turtledove, a physicist and historian, respectively, who are also successful science fiction authors. There's Victor Vroom, an organizational scholar and accomplished jazz musician, and Dan Myers who, judging from his blog, may just play rock guitar. I even seem to recall that a few academics have spent some time as stand-up comedians, though I confess the names elude me right now.

Recently, however, I realized that there's another name I have to add to this list of scholars who have secret other lives. Last night my Sainted Fiancee was blowing off some steam by playing a little Civ III. I happened to glance over at her computer while she was plotting her next technological advancement, and saw a screen that looked like this:

Almost immediately, something about this image caught my eye. Specifically, the little dude in the upper right hand corner caught my attention:

I've circled him in red and, as always, you can click on the picture for a larger version. Something about this "science advisor" reminded me of someone else. But who? Who was I reminded of? And then, ladies and gentlemen, it hit me:

Jeremy Freese is the science advisor in Civ III. The resemblance is simply uncanny and I have no choice but to assume that Jeremy is moonlighting as a model for video game companies.

I tell ya, just when you think you know a guy...

Jeremy's picture is used without permission so, of course, I'll remove it if he wants.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A revelation of sorts.

Lately I've been thinking* about the article by Edgell, Gerteis & Hartmann that appeared last year in the American Sociological Review. For those who don't remember, I've talked about this piece previously over on Tom's blog, and it basically indicates that atheists are the least liked minority group in the United States. I base that on Edgell et al.'s finding that atheists are the group that Americans are most likely to object to their children marrying into, and who are viewed as having the least in common with other Americans. This is a less than heartening finding for atheists like myself but, then again, it doesn't really susprise me all that much. I've been an atheist for a long time and responses to my beliefs, as a general rule, range from tepid on downward.

Beyond just the quantitative findings, however, are the more qualitative results. Edgell et al. find that atheists are viewed as combining two features. First, they are seen as a sort of cultural/intellectual/economic elite. A dominant, high-status group that calls an unusually large portion of the shots. As one of their respondents comments:

These people aren’t very religious, you’ll notice that. There’s a real, “I’m an atheist” attitude among people with major money.


If you’re going all through life, “I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in anything except the almighty dollar,” this is definitely a destructive attitude and the rest of the world sees it.

So, it would seem, at least this one respondent views the wealthy as being unusually likely to be atheists. Obviously, she's not thinking of John Templeton or Rupert Murdoch but that's hardly the point. It seems that atheists are viewed as some sort of elite.

At the same time, however, atheists are also viewed as amoral in the extreme. It is thought that, without the "foundation" of a religion atheists are free to behave however they want and do so on a regular basis.** Or, as a different respondent put it:

...I would say...the prisons aren’t filled with conservative Republican Christians. The prisons are probably filled with people who don’t have any kind of a spiritual or religious core. So I don’t have to worry about..., a conservative Christian, you know, committing a crime against me, chances are.

So, somehow, atheists are both a societal elite and make up a disproportionate number of street criminals. My, my, my, what does this all mean? Well, after thinking about it I think I've finally come to a conclusion. Ladies and gentlemen, based on Edgell et al.'s findings, I think it is clear that the American public believes that atheists are super-villains.

Think about it. Part of a cultural/intellectual elite? No morals? No sense of the common good? What does that remind you of?

Now, we atheists could take this negatively, but I don't think we should. There's a lot to be said for being a super-villain. Interesting locales, nice living conditions, fascinating help... what's not to like? If we're going to really take advantage of this opportunity, however, we're going to need a few things.

(1) Some sort of impressive name. We can just call ourselves "Atheist Man" or something. For the time being, I suggest we raly behind Richard Dawkins and just start calling him... "Dawkins," but in a really dramatic voice. Later, we can try to get him to change his name to something like "Richard von Deathstrike."

(2) A seemingly inexhaustible supply of henchmen. This will be a little harder to come by since, as a general rule, atheists aren't as into the blind obedience thing as some others are.*** That said, I think there is an easy solution: unemployed philosophy graduates. It's not like anyone else wants them and, hey, they're disaffected enough they just might go for it.

(3) A totally pimp hideout. Volcano lairs have been all the rage for years, but I think we know they're too easy to identify on satellite imagery. Fortunately, corrupt casinos also appear to be coming back into vogue.

(4) A right-hand-man with some sort of gimmick. There's "Odd Job" with his razor-sharp bowler hat or "Jaws" with his cybernetic teeth, but that really doesn't do it for me. I think we should take the most competent**** of the above unemployed philosophy students and train him or her in martial arts. Then, we rename our champion "Occam" and teach him or her to use specially manufactured straight-razors in battle. The gimmick writes itself from there.

(5) An attractive but disillusioned female associate who can be seduced by a secret agent. My vote is for Uma Thurman. I know, I know: she's not an atheist as far as we know, but is in fact Buddhist. I'm just saying, maybe she'll be willing to pitch in. Besides, seriously, have you seen what we atheists look like? We can't be too choosy.

(6) Some sort of laughably absurd way to dispose of meddlers. I think my vote is for sharks with lasers on their heads but I'm open to discussion.

Certainly there are hurdles to be overcome, but I think that we can do it as a team. Or, alternatively, maybe we can help people develop a more realistic perspective on atheists?

Nah, you're right. The super-villain thing will be a lot easier to pull off.

* I've been thinking about it, partly, because of an interesting discussion going on in the comments to a post over on Brad Wright's blog. Dr. Wright asks, among other things, whether atheists control a disproportionate amount of publc space.

** As I've discussed previously, I seriously doubt that even religious folks get as much moral guidance as they typically claim.

*** All kidding aside, I'm not calling all Christians idiots here, but I think it's pretty hard to argue that the faith doesn't encourage a certain amount of blind obedience.

**** This is, of course, a clear violation of Super-villain standard operating procedure but we're atheists: we're not known for going along with what everyone else does!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A little emo for the day...

I am usually loathe to spend time on the blog discussing my own personal life. This is not to say that I don't mention it- my personal life is touched on frequently in passing- it's just that I don't want this to turn into some dark blog with poetry and an audio file of Slipknot or some idiocy like that. I am really not an interesting enough individual to warrant an entire blog.

That said, today I am making an exception because I have news. Many of you are aware that I have, for some months now, been dealing with a bizarre medical issue. I mentioned it last about two months ago when I had my most recent surgery. This was surgery that went about as bad as it could without crossing over into BAD, if you get my meaning. It was successful but rather longer and more unpleasant than anticipated. Following that procedure the doctor informed me that the problem was solved... but then, he had told me that before. My particular problem has proven to be quite tenacious despite all expectations.

It was, therefore, with a certain amount of concern that I went back into the hospital recently for the battery of tests* that were intended to determine whether or not the problem had, really and truly, been fixed. Improbably, the answer appears to be yes. For the first time in quite a while my chances of suffering certain sorts of very dangerous medical issues are no greater than anyone else of my sex, age, and fitness level. My sojourn into modern medicine appears, at least for the time being, to be at an end.

And I just wanted to tell y'all about it. Hope you don't mind.

* Seriously, I've had enough radiation shot into me in the last 12 months to grant me super powers.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

A unique flavor of educational game.

When I was a kid I was an enormous fan of computer games* and, as such, was exposed early to that particular strain of video game experience: the educational video game. This is a kind of game that is designed from the bottom up to provide educational value. A very good example of this kind of game is the excellent and ubiquitous title "The Oregon Trail,**" which as you might guess simulates a journey along the Oregon Trail. Sadly, most educational video games were not quite up to the standards of "The Oregon Trail" and were, to put it delicately, ugly weeping pustules on the faces of both gaming and education. I can recall one, in particular, that forced you to solve math problems under a timer to avoid crashing your aircraft. Right. Yeah. Because that's the way it works. During a bad storm in an airliner while you're suffering in coach the pilot and co-pilot are heroically performing long-fucking-division in the cockpit.

In any case, it is with this legacy in mind that I direct your attention to a new, and more interesting, educational videogame. I refer to Chore Wars, the website that turns doing household labor into a way to earn experience points for your online character. For those of you who are addicted to various MMORPGs, this basically means that instead of killing the same low-level monster a kabillion times to reach level four, you would instead get a broom and clean up the fetid hellhole you call an apartment.***

The basic idea is simple: recruit the members of your household into a "party," create characters, and decide how many "points" a particular chore is worth. The site then tracks the accumulation of points, allowing players to level their character up. It's a little unclear what this leveling up accomplishes for you- most likely just bragging rights- but that's hardly different from standard MMORPGs. What interests me about this is, first, it seems like a really fun way to help kids track their contribution to the household. When I was a kid we used a shitty construction-paper chart and Chorewars would have been way cooler. Secondly, however, I wonder if this couldn't be used as a nifty teaching tool.

In sociology we often discuss the work of Arlie Hochschild, who introduced the concept of the "second shift," the domestic labor that women disproportionately engage in following their paid labor (first shift). As the metaphor implies, it is much like having two jobs, only one is unpaid and receives little, if any, social esteem.**** This folds into what is often known as "male privilege," or the advantages that accrue to men solely because we are men. While I have certain reservations about the way that male privilege is discussed, the second shift is an empirical fact for an unfortunately large number of women. So, I am forced to wonder if this "game" might be interesting and non-threatening enough to help men and women communicate about domestic labor- perhaps this is a way to help some husbands realize how much work their wives are doing, or for sons to come to grips with their mothers' efforts. I optimistically hope that, having come to understand it, decency would lead them to try and rectify the situaiton***** but, failing that, I'm sure a reward system could be implemented rather easily. I'll readily acknowledge that there's room for abuse here, but abuse is already taking place. We may as well try what we can to fix the problem, eh?

And who knows? In a break from tradition, maybe this educational game will actually be fun.

* Still am a fan, actually, but that's not the point.

** Which helped an entire generation come to grips with the fact that Susie has typhus.

*** One would expect this to also help with the sock-shitter problem. For those who don't know, "sock shitter" is an expression for folks so addicted to MMORPGs that they shit into conveniently placed socks rather than leave the game. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, these people exist so I suppose it isn't so much an expression as just a plain statement of fact.

**** If you have at least three functional neurons, you should be able to figure out which shift I'm referring to.

***** From time to time I am rather breathtakingly naive.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Accurate predictions...

With the impending release of "Harry Potter and the Money Factory Deathly Hallows" a lot of people are throwing predictions around. This is a problem for those of us who would like to be surprised be the events of the novel. Jeremy Freese has even gone so far as to threaten grievous bodily injury to anyone who goes beyond predictions to confirming our hopes and fears with reference to the actual text. Speaking personally, I am trying to be tranquil about the whole thing- I figure the less of an issue I make of it, the less likely some asshole is to blow the ending for me out of spite. Then again, maybe that's just my version of fatalism kicking in? Eh, either way, I digress...

Predictions are being thrown around and, of course, most of them will prove to be incorrect. Harry may be a horcrux*, but there's no guarantee of that. Luna Lovegood may, indeed, be a Death Eater but probably not. Ginny Weasley may be carrying Harry's child but I doubt that Rowling would go for that. And, in an effort to not ignore the slash fanfic community,** I suppose there's an outside chance that Harry, Ron, and Malfoy may have a gay threesome.

Needless to say, most of these predictions are utter crap and the only way to appropriately honor them is by referring all of you to another set of craptacular predications. Specifically, I refer you to this article that was sent to me, in turn, by my Former Hypothetical Roommate. It (the article) purports to determine your romantic compatibility with another solely by reference to the type of pizza you like. And, since one good turn deserves another, one bad prediction must also demand another bad prediction. So, as you prepare for the next Harry Potter book, please enjoy this equally-valuable set of suggested outcomes:

If your date orders one meat topping…
People who order just pepperoni or sausage on their pie are generally irritable, prone to procrastination, and they often “forget” obligations (like that weekend getaway he or she promised to take with you in the spring).
Compatible with: others who prefer one meat topping

If your date orders multiple meat toppings…
Real meat lovers who pile on the pepperoni, sausage, and ham tend to be dramatic, seductive, sweep-you-off-your-feet extroverts who thrive as the center of attention.
Compatible with: people who prefer one meat topping

If your date orders one veggie topping…
Those who prefer one vegetable topping are empathetic, easygoing romantics.
Compatible with: everybody!

If your date orders multiple veggies…
These dates are trustworthy, loyal, humble, and avoid the spotlight. In fact, they’re so quiet and conflict-averse they tend to be taken for granted in relationships.
Compatible with: people who prefer non-traditional toppings

If your date orders multiple veggies and meats...
Then Hermione dies, Ron becomes an alcoholic, Harry transforms into a giant worm with an infinite understanding of spacetime, and Ginny shaves herself bald*** and starts building a gom jabar.

Remember, you heard it here first.

* The following are really the most pointless links in the history of this blog since, if you're reading this, the probability that you don't know who I'm talking about already is vanishingly small.

** This is, of course, a large deviation from my standard operating procedure in which I go to great lengths to ignore the slash fanfic community.

*** Her HEAD you perverts, her HEAD. UGH!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

A creative approach...

The Scene: Drek is doing dishes while his Sainted Fiancee sits in the living room looking online at various wedding invitations. She periodically reads off the text of one or another either as a genuine suggestion or an invitation to mirth.

SF: You ready for another one?

Drek: Sure.

SF: We believe that God gives life as a chance to give life to love. We
Sainted Fiancee and Drek the Uninteresting together with our parents request the honour of your presence as we celebrate the love we've found and are united for eternity in Christ.

Drek: Yeah. That really says 'us' doesn't it?

SF: Oh! How about this one!

Drek: Hmmm?

SF: We have experienced love . . . in our parents, our families and friends and now a new love in each other. Together with our parents, we Sainted Fiancee and Drek the Uninteresting invite you to share with us a celebration of love.

Drek: It sounds like an admission of pedophilia and incest with a bacchanalia to follow.

SF: That's a no?

Drek: That's a no.

SF: Okay.... how about this:

SF: October Thirtieth, Two Thousand Six Sainted Fiancee and Drek the Uninteresting will be exchanging their wedding vows at Six o'clock in the evening. They therefore extend their warmest greetings to all you Lords and Ladies and proffer an invitation to an evening of music and revels commencing at Seven.

Drek: 'Lords and ladies'? What the fuck? I dunno about you, but I'm descended from riff-raff.

SF: laughs

SF: The harmony of love meets with the melody of life to create our beautiful love song. Sainted Fiancee, daughter of George and Patricia Fiancee, and Drek the Uninteresting, son of Bill and Anne the Uninteresting, request the honor of your presence at their wedding.

Drek: Wow. Just... wow.

SF: Yep.

Drek: Hey! I think I've got one.

SF: Yeah?

Drek: Sure! Now, hear me out, okay?

SF: Okay...

Drek: Please join us as the Red Lion of Drek the Uninteresting...

SF: 'Red lion'?

Drek: The Green Lion of Sainted Fiancee...

Drek: The Blue Lion of the Uninteresting family...

SF: Oh god.

Drek: and the Yellow Lion of the Fiancee family combine to form the Voltron of marriage.

SF: laughing

Drek: And YOU can form the head!

SF: laughing

SF: No. Definitely not.

Drek: Oh, c'mon!

SF: No. But maybe if we change it to Captain Planet?

Drek: Sure. He could officiate. I always wanted to be married by a blue-skinned freak in tights.

For those who are older or younger than I am, here's a little bit more about Voltron.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

8 Random "Facts"

Folks who spend a lot of time on the interblag know that a new meme has been circulating. In this meme you post eight random facts about yourself and then tag eight other people to continue the "fun." I was recently tagged by the always lovely Practicing Idealist and so now am quasi-obligated to participate. Seeing as how I'm a believer in evolution and all, however, I've decided to spice things up with a little bit of random mutation. Instead of posting eight facts about me, I'm going to post several facts and several completely made up pseudo-facts. You can have hours* of fun trying to decipher which is which. Ready? Okay then: let's start!

Eight Random Facts(?) About Drek:

(1) When I was in second grade I did a science fair project on the atomic bomb. For all intents and purposes this meant making a plaster-of-paris model and understanding the theory behind it. Believe you me: the equations are a bitch. I didn't actually manufacture an atomic weapon, so have no fear. I made it as far as regionals** but that was it and the experience gave me both a keen interest in Cold War politics and in nuclear disarmament. It's also why I have so little respect for George "Nukular" Bush. I've been pronouncing the word correctly since I was in second-fucking-grade! C'mon, it's not that hard!

(2) I once dressed up as a woman and danced for an audience. No alcohol, drugs, blackmail or, really, monetary compensation was involved.*** I am, as it turns out, a startlingly ugly woman. My biggest complaint about the experience is that- frankly- they don't really make heels for feet as big as mine. Ladies: I have no doubt those things hurt your feet, and I have extensive sympathy for you about it, but try wearing a pair about six sizes too small.

(3) My grandfather owned a ranch in western Ohio and taught me to ride during a visit when I was young. I haven't really kept up the skill, since I don't have much opportunity to spend time around horses in grad school, but when I was a kid I figured it would be a useful skill in the event of a nuclear apocalypse (see fact #1 above).**** More recently, I just figure it'll be useful in case of zombie apocalypse.

(4) I once met, and had a conversation, with Ed Begley Jr. in a supermarket in California. We discussed a number of topics but the one that stands out in my mind is how he cleaned up after murdering a hooker.***** The man has remarkable composure.

(5) I became an atheist when I was about ten years old. I was stargazing with my father when he was overcome by a heart attack. I might have been able to save him, but his medicine was too far away in the house. If we'd only kept it in the upstairs bathroom, he might be alive now. After he died I just somehow knew that there was no god and have remained an atheist to this day. The incident, while destroying my superstition, did nothing to my love of astronomy- it would take college-level physics class to wreck that.******

(6) I have earned every merit badge for first aid, wilderness aid, and wilderness survival that the Boy Scouts offer. This is mostly because I belonged to the reject patrol******* that the scoutmasters used to dump the tragically inept in and, for some reason, they felt that all we were capable of learning was first aid. This has always amused me since, really, you'd think you'd teach the morons how to make sand art and teach the life saving techniques to the smart kids. I'll readily admit that as an adult I have no idea whatsoever how to carve wood, but I'm pretty sure that I could put in a chest tube with nothing but a pocket knife and an old ballpoint pen.

(7) When I was in college I lived with a guy who kept an 8x10" photograph of a urinating rhinoceros on his dresser. When I asked him about it, he explained that it, "Reminds me of my girlfriend." His favorite hobby was to blow bubbles with his spit and he made extra cash on the side by selling drugs- specifically rohypnol. Sadly, before I could figure out where his stash was and bust him, he got himself moved by claiming I was sexually harassing him.********

(8) As a child I briefly thought that "Pol Pot" was the name of a rice and chicken dish.********* This would have been an amusing eccentricity except for that time when we went to a Cambodian restaurant and I asked, "Do you have Pol Pot?" I don't think my mother has ever been more ashamed of me.**********

I know I'm supposed to tag others at this point, so I suppose I'll hit Tom Volscho, Dan Myers, and S.S. Stone.

Have fun!

* Minutes, at best, but saying "hours" is just more impressive.

** At which point I encountered a judge who remarked, "What? Do you wanna make bombs when you grow up, kid?" gave me shitty marks, and ran off.

*** On the other hand, small children were involved. I leave it to you to decide what the context was.

**** I once read a civil defense manual so that, in the event of a nuclear exchange, I'd be able to do my best to survive the fallout. If you're curious, it's about 80% luck, and 20% training, which more or less meant that in the event of a full-scale nuclear exchange between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. we were all fucked.

***** Well, that's the interpretation I keep coming back to, anyway. For the record, this blog has a substantial amout of humor (see the tag below) and I don't mean this as slander. Please don't sue me.

****** I'll never completely understand the purpose of "weed out" classes. If the material is really that hard, it'll weed people out on its own. You don't need to help it by being the meanest son-of-a-bitch that you can be.

******* I was in it mostly by virtue of being a rather unenthusiastic scout. The religious rhetoric flying around the scouts was a little too much for me. In addition to the first aid, however, my patrol also became champion latrine diggers. At least we learned skills that will always be in demand.

******** Seriously, were I homosexual, I'm pretty sure I'd have better taste than that. Also better shoes, but that's beside the point.

********* It sounds kinda like "pot pie," and I don't speak Cambodian. How the hell am I supposed to distinuish names of people from names of foods by ear?

********** Not true. I think she was more ashamed when my uncle asked me if I'd ever considered the ministry for a career. I answered politely, and concealed the fact that I'm an atheist, but I think she really WOULD have preferred I be a minister.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Total Drek Tips for Publishing Journal Articles...

Folks outside the academy may or may not know that we use a system called "peer review." The basic idea is simple: when you write a scientific article you submit it to a journal for publication. Upon determining that it isn't written in some sort of crazy moon language,* they send this article out to about three other scholars who have some sort of expertise in the same area as the article.** These scholars read your work and try to find any glitches, errors, oversights, typos, pop culture references, split infinitives, or sentences with an insufficient number of polysyllabic words. They then either recommend that the journal accept the paper, ask the author to revise and resubmit (aka an "R&R") or reject it entirely. Editors also have the ability to issue a "conditional accept," meaning that the article is in assuming certain (usually) small changes are made and, increasingly, seem to be issuing "reject and resubmit," which seems to be code for "My reviewers think you're shit, but I'm hoping they're wrong."

Ideally speaking this process increases the quality of published articles by making sure that competent professionals review whatever is going to see print. It's an extra check on our ambitions. In practice it mostly does that but, as scientists are human, the quality of reviews sometimes varies. Every now and then a reviewer turns out to be a total nutball and the process goes a tad awry. By the same token, sometimes it isn't the reviewer but rather the author of the paper who is the issue. Some papers get submitted to journals when, in all honesty, they're not yet ready to be turned in at the end of an undergraduate research course.***

I haven't been a sociologist for all that long and have comparatively little experience with the publications system. I do not have a long vita chock full of publications and haven't reviewed dozens and dozens of papers. As such, you should take my advice with a very large grain of salt. Nevertheless, I have a tip for those who aspire to publish scientific work:

Publishing Tip #1: When the adjective that springs to mind to describe an article's choice of methods is "incomprehensible," it's probably a bad sign.

Thank you.****

* Not always a prerequisite, given some of the articles I've reviewed.

** Hopefully, anyway, Sometimes- given the comments I've received- I wonder if they even found someone in my discipline.

*** No, I'm not being harsh. I don't know who you're reviewing for, but some of the papers I see scare the crap out of me.

**** I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide whether this tip derives from a review I have received or a review I am writing. Either way, I feel it important to note that while I would never actually use the word "incomprehensible" in this sense in a review, I am quite certain that not all reviewers have as much restraint. For that matter, I'm convinced that one or more of my past reviewers wanted to kill me just to watch me die. I do not find this distressing, however, as it resembles nothing so much as my dating life prior to meeting my Sainted Fiancee. Even more amusing, some of you will think I'm joking about that.*****

***** No, really. Ask my Former Hypothetical Roommate- one of my ex-girlfriends is routinely referred to as "the one who hated you."

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Just in case....

Some of you are, like myself and my Sainted Fiancee, awaiting the new installment in the Harry Potter series rather anxiously. It's been a long and gripping series and, in all honesty, I'm looking forward to the conclusion as much as I am not having a conclusion to look forward to any longer. So, it is fortunate that the last book* is supposed to be released (if I'm not mistaken) this Saturday. Doubtless national productivity will plummet until most people have finished, so I wouldn't make any appointments for next week.

At the same time, some folks probably can't wait that long. It has been a long wait, after all, and the last few feet are always the hardest part of the race. But what to do? Well, as it happens, there is a solution. Of sorts. I refer to the little-known quasi-sequel to the Fourth Harry Potter novel (Harry Potter 4.5 if you will), "Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-To-Dragon." Not sure what I'm talking about? Me either, really. I just type what the voices in my head instruct. Nevertheless, it is a real book- released solely in China and detailing the exploits of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all the gang on an adventure that sounds eerily like "The Hobbit." I say "eerily" in this case, but really mean "exactly, save for the first and last chapters, as well as the introduction of names like 'Ron,' 'Harry,' and 'Hermione.'" It's a Chinese knockoff book that uses the works of Tolkien and Rowling to produce an instant commercial success and utter literary clusterfuck. The cover art alone is worth the price of admission:

Riiiight. Yeah. Whatever the hell that is, it sure looks exciting! This is a true masterpiece, as you can see for yourself:

Chapter 1: A Sweet and Sour Rainfall

Harry did not know how long this bath would take, when he would finally scrub off that oily, sticky layer of cake icing. For someone who had grown into a cultured, polite young man, a layer of sticky filth really made him feel sick. He lay in the high quality porcelain tub ceaselessly wiping his face. In his thoughts there was nothing but Dudley's fat face, fat as his Aunt Petunia's fat rear end.

Harry was a 5th-year student at Hogwartz School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At that heavenly amusement park his grades were the highest of all the students in his class. Because of this, when summer approached he was named the Head Student in his class. But for some reason Harry did not understand, Professor Dumbledore firmly insisted that his summer practice be at his aunt's house at 4 Privet Drive.

His objections to this were overruled by the Headmaster on the last day before leaving school. Because of this Harry had been unhappy the whole day. 4 Privet Drive to him was his childhood heaven, but also his childhood hell.

His first day back, his cousin Dudley also returned home from school. This was his nightmare. From the depths of his heart he was not willing to pass summer vacation with his fat cousin, but there was absolutely no way to change the fact. At the magic school he was a young celebrity, but at Privet Drive he was still a protected object. [?]

During dinner, as always, Dudley had let loose his spoiled personality, and not only yelled abuse at his fool of a father, but also threw a plate of cake at Harry's face just because Harry said something to him that a polite child should not say.

Lying alone in the large tub with the piping hot water flowing over him and his soul calmed, he decided his evening's activity would be to take as long a bath as he wanted. Though usually unwilling to accept anything from the Dursleys, still he had decided to use the adults' bathroom. It was very rare for anyone to enter the crude old man's bathroom. Even his wife and child were not usually allowed in, so the chance of Harry's being disturbed or upset was not very big.

Apparently his uncle let him do this because he was a little embarrassed, Harry thought as he soaked in the tub, repeatedly thinking of how his cousin Dudley had squandered his advantages with his repulsive actions.

Harry had very carefully planned this bath, because before he had gotten up in the middle of the night and run around, and been caught by his Aunt. He could not bear thinking back to the terror of that night, and hoped not to experience it again. The invisibility cloak he naturally could not do without for the purpose of security. Harry also wanted to bring "Introduction to Transformations" so if Dudley blundered into the room he could change into a huge monster and scare Dudley half to death. After thinking for a while he felt pity for the obese pathetic worm, and decided to bring his Marauder's Map instead. The Marauder's Map was scarcely less important than the invisibility cloak. It was the most important tool for Harry to use when he was breaking the school rules. The map would show anyplace Harry thought of, including all the complicated twisting corridors and secret passages from the wars of several decades ago. But the most important thing was that it displayed the names of all the small points representing the locations of all the people in the area. This way, if anyone approached the bathroom Harry could get an early warning.

[skip to the end of the book]

At a crossroads Gandolf said goodbye to them, because he wanted to return to Hogwartz. Just before leaving he told Harry he should return to his uncle's house at number 4, since he had disappeared for a month, and who knew what trouble those moron muggles would get into.

After Gandolf left, the five of them rode their brooms, travelling with the wind. Trees and cars along the roads below receded. Only when they encountered the occasional passenger jet, the pilot and passengers would cry out, "Hey! Flying people!", or "Hey! Aliens!"

Not far from the small town they found an isolated place to land, and walked back according to the school rules.

"Bless me! What's going on?" Harry had hardly walked into his Uncle Vernon's house when he cried out.

In front of Uncle Vernon's front door was a great commotion, and people of all sorts, police and kind-hearted neighbors. On the grass in front of the door police cars were parked with their sirens still going off.

In the distance he saw that fat pig Dudley. He hadn't seen the jerk for more than a month, but there he was, certainly several pounds heavier, happily rubbing his stomach.

"Harry! Harry is over here!" Dudley called.

Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia turned their heads and looked at Harry, so angry they were not even able to think of punishment for an instant.

"You juvenile delinquent, where the hell did you run off to? We thought you were gone without a trace."

"Look, the police are all here! You disobedient child!"

Fat pig Dudley ran over, pointing at his nose and saying loudly, "Harry,why did you go away?"

Harry ignored them all, and along with Ron, Malfoy, Hermione, and Peter, with head high and chest thrown out walked into the house.

The owl hooted a greeting and flew over, stopping on the porch. A pair of owlish eyes stared fixedly at all the Dursleys, and they all nervously shut their mouths.

I don't want to encourage piracy, but this may well be the funniest damned thing I've read all year. So, if you're having those pangs for Potter... this probably won't do shit, but it's the best you're gonna get before Saturday.

Have fun!

* Which should really be titled, "Harry Potter and the Money Factory."

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

IFAQ: Get to know yr (MIA) blogger a little

Very nice of Tom to tag me for this meme, and just in time for the ASA blogger get-together. Just because I haven't blogged in a long time doesn't mean I haven't been reading. I had to dust off the blogger account just to log in, but here goes--eight random things about me:

1. I'm 5'6" tall, which is a couple inches taller than the average American woman. Yet, "regular" jeans are too long for me.

2. My dog's name is Maggie.

3. Magnetix are my favorite toy. Of course, they have killed at least one kid and been recalled, but hey, cool magnets!

4. I am one of the two grad students who invited Edwin Amenta to a pick-up game on a sand lot in NYC, thus setting the stage for Professor Baseball.

5. I just moved into a new house yesterday. Now, not only do I have my own office, but my office has its own deck. Ah, the joys of living somewhere other than one of the cool cities.

6. I am right-handed, and I shoot right-handed in hockey. This is backwards, and it is the fault of an old boyfriend who didn't know what he was talking about, yet felt qualified to teach me how to hold a hockey stick.

7. I think the sociologists in the Sexualities section of the ASA are generally sexier than the average sociologist. I don't think those in the Sex and Gender section are more gendered.

8. I just got LASIK in May, and I now see 20/20 for the first time perhaps ever, or at least since my first pair of glasses at 8 years old.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Graduate School: It's everywhere you don't want to be.

This really has nothing to do with anything, I just felt like sharing:

Getting into Graduate School: One arm.

Completing your Master's Thesis: One leg.

Surviving Comprehensive Examinations: One pound of flesh.

Riding herd on a Dissertation Committee: Every shred of sanity you once possessed.

Revising a scientific paper while listening to George Clinton's "Erotic City": Priceless.

Some things in life are priceless, for everything else, there are extraneous body parts.

All joking aside, I am really glad I came to grad school, and value the time I've spent here. I'm looking forward to being done, true, but I'm not displeased with the experience. I'm just exercising my right to bitch about it anyway, and thought we could all do with something a little lighter after the last two days.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The shutting of arrogant mouths...

In yesterday's installment of my ongoing debate with creationist Paul Cohen we saw him claim that arrogant mouths like mine would soon be shut. I interpreted his statement as meaning that god would somehow show me the error of my ways but, it would now appear, not all creationists have quite the same perspective on the matter.

I refer in this case to threats made against the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at Colorado University- Boulder. As reported in the Denver Post, a religious group has been e-mailing threatening notes to members of the department as well as slipping notes under doors and depositing packages.

The messages included the name of a religious-themed group and addressed the debate between evolution and creationism, CU police Cmdr. Brad Wiesley said. Wiesley would not identify the group named because police are still investigating.

"There were no overt threats to anybody specifically by name," Wiesley said. "It basically said anybody who doesn't believe in our religious belief is wrong and should be taken care of."

The article itself is fairly short and uninformative but Matt Young over on The Panda's Thumb has posted copies of some of the threatening documents. I reproduce them here because, frankly, I think they deserve a wider airing. I have omitted the bolding from the original message because I'm a lazy bastard but, if you want to see it, you can click on the elegant and finely crafted link above. The messages are addressed to Dr. Michael Grant:

Professor Grant,

your sarcastic attitude is not at all becoming to an Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education of a major american university. judging from your response to me, you dont seem very skilled in human relations. i thought universities respected and cultivated a diversity of opinion. in fact that is why it derives from the root word universe.

but apparently you lived in a close[d] mental universe. by denigrating the diversity that the university should represent, you show yourself sadly unable to perceive the grandeur of the universe itself. and maybe that’s why you support the nihilistic concept of Darwinian evolution.

Po-fresser Grant [if you don’t understand the Yiddish pun, i shall be glad to enlighten you: it means “Here is someone who pretends to be a professor of higher knowledge, but actually is no more than an animal”],

concerning what you have written to me here:

Michael Grant … wrote:

Mr. [name deleted]:

Would you please remove my name and Dr. Mitton’s name from all of your e-mail lists? Neither of us has the slightest interest in your perspectives about evolution nor, really, about anything else.

Thank you,

Michael Grant

your attitude is simply unacceptable for an official of a PUBLIC university:

i happen to be one of the Colorado taxpayers who actually pay your salary, and therefore you should have some level of accountability to me and the rest of the citizens of this state.

therefore, i will be approaching Chanchellor (sic) Peterson to discuss your attitude to me. i spent a lot of my own money to collect SCIENTIFIC evidence debunking the major claims of evolution. statements from such eminent scientists as Francis Crick and Fred Hoyle are included, amongst hundreds of others.

you owe me the minimum level of courtesy of a reasoned response, and not just an arrogant withering insult.


you might laugh and mock at me, as you do to God who reigns above you. but we shall see who will be laughing after i speak with Chanchellor (sic) Peterson.

i also will be approaching the Governor of the State, as well as the State legislature, who pay your salary and authorize your position, as well as the Regents.

i will be speaking with my attorney as well, for i am planning to file legal charges against you, accusing you of child molestation. no, not of me, since although i am a child of God i also am an adult. but the children who attend your “university” and who are entrusted into your care, are being intellectually, morally, and spiritually molested by the bogus darwinian theories of nihilism and death that you teach in the name of “higher education”.

young persons come to your university seeking guidance, direction and focus for their talents and energies. instead they find professors like you who teach them that life is purposeless, pointless, and meaningless.

indeed i charge you and your devilutionist colleagues with being the source of every imaginable evil in our society: drugs, crime, prostitution, corruption, war, abortion, death, for the simple reason that you, the supposed elite of academia, teach our children that life has no higher purpose, value, or meaning.

i charge you with being a murderer of souls.

if you think i am joking, just wait till we meet in court.

“Mr. Big Brains on Biology”:

what a sad joke: the co-discoverer of a candidate for the world’s largest living organism, a grove of aspen clones in Utah, that led to a 1993 Discover magazine article titled “The Trembling Giant” can’t even see the forest for the trees. if you want to delude yourself, that is your tragic prerogative. but you cannot be permitted to defraud and deceive our children.

you will be held accountable for your malicious actions, attitudes, and satanic beliefs.

Sincerely in Christ,
[name deleted]

Cc: Chancellor Bud Peterson”

Speaking personally, I would really enjoy watching a lawyer explain to this individual that it is difficult, at best, to charge someone with child abuse for NOT sexually molesting someone who has reached the age of majority. Likewise, I'm curious how one would go about charging an individual with the crime of "muderer of souls." If nothing else, locating the "corpse" would be a smidge difficult.

In addition to this e-mail, however, there is also this more recent message:

“Pastor Jerry Gibson spoke at Doug Whites New Day Covenant Church in Boulder.

He said that every true Christian should be ready and willing to take up arms to kill the enemies of Christian society.

But I believe it is far more effective to take up a pen to kill the enemies of Truth.

President GW Bush II (sic) is waging a global war on terror. But it seems he has overlooked the terrorists operating in our own backyard!

He likes to say “God Bless America”, and our Pledge of Allegiance says “One Nation Under God”. And of course our Federal Reserve issued money says “In God We Trust”.

But the EBIO [now EEB] Department at CU Boulder denies a Creator God and claims that life evolved from inanimate matter without Divine Direction, Oversight, or Providence.

Many scientists today have denounced Darwinian theories as bogus science. Yet the EBIO department upholds it as the Gospel truth and hides itself in a false cloak of intellectual arrogance.

Academic freedom does not include the right to lie, obfuscate, and prevaricate. Yet this is exactly what these arrogant atheist professors do in the name of “higher education”!

EBIO professors are terrorists against America and against the true spirit of humanity, which consists of created beings beholden to their Creator!

EBIO Professors are also intellectual and spiritual child abusers of their young and impressionable students.

In addition, the New Testament states clearly that Adam and Eve were our original parents and that Noah’s Flood was an historical reality. So the EBIO department not only blasphemes God, who is invisible, but it blasphemes His Only Begotten Son and our Messiah, Jesus Christ, which is more unforgivable given the clear manifestations of His Godliness and Holiness and the confirmation of all He claimed to be through His historic Resurrection from the dead!

For all these reason all God-fearing and Truth-loving persons must say,

They must go!”

Are these messages truly threatening? Well... there are no threats of imminent harm in them. On the other hand, were I to receive messages like this I suspect that I would be very concerned for the safety of my family, my students, and of course myself. So, I'm pleased that the police are at least looking into matters. While I don't know that actual threats are being made, harrassment is clearly taking place. I am also reassured that the individuals making these threats are not typical of religious individuals nor even of creationists.* They are part of a minority of Christians much as Islamic terrorists are part of a small subset of Muslims world-wide.

At the same time, it's a shame that basic human decency sometimes falls to the wayside. Instead of responding to this situation with the compassion that befits a group that complains of discrimination, Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute** prefers to suggest that the biologists are making it all up. Right. Possible, I suppose, but as an academic, I can tell you that we totally have better things to do with our time.

Debates are often useful and productive things but, seriously, can we at least agree not to make threats against each other?


* I hope. I have to admit, every time I think creationists have done every nutty thing possible, they consistently surprise me.

** For those who aren't familiar: the propaganda ministry for Intelligent Design Creationism.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"All foolish, arrogant mouths, including yours, will, in due time, be shut..."

Regular readers of this blog may remember a little while back when I received an e-mail from a gentlemen who was attempting to convince me that life comes from god. As you can no doubt guess, if you didn't read the post on the subject, I found his arguments rather unimpressive and said as much. What you may not know is that, having responded to his argument, I sent my correspondent an e-mail directing him to my response. It seemed only appropriate under the circumstances.

Well, interestingly enough, my correspondent, a Mr. Paul Cohen of The Path of, not only granted me permission to post his identity, he requested that I post his response to my commentary. I'm always willing to publish responses from those I criticize and this is no exception. So, for your reading enjoyment, please welcome Mr. Cohen and his thoughts on my post. My own response to Mr. Cohen is also included below interspersed with his rather lengthy e-mail so as to enhance readability.

From : Paul Cohen
Reply-To : "Paul Cohen"
Sent : Sunday, July 8, 2007 8:42 PM
To : "Drek the Uninteresting"
Subject : Blog Post: Honesty

Drek, I am thankful you took the time to reply to my letter, and, furthermore, that you were willing to share this with your readers. I hope you will do the same with this reply, only please include my name and website this time.

I was pleased to do so and am happy to publish your identity. I would have done so before, but did not think it appropriate to do so without permission.

What needs to be determined or known is whether the vantage point from which you speak takes in the whole picture and gives an accurate rendering of what is happening, or whether it is narrowly focused, as with the anthropologists that hypothesized an “evolutionary missing link” of humankind based on a pig’s tooth. Let’s see what we have here.

You, of course, refer to "Nebraska man," a supposed pre-human primate that was "discovered" in 1922. The original discovery was found to be erroneous in 1925 and a retraction was published in Science in 1927. A five year span from "discovery" to the correction of error isn't too bad, so I would say Nebraska Man is an example of the scientific process working as it should. Nevertheless, let's see if you can show my Nebraska to be, in fact, a swine.

You assumed you know why I corresponded with you. However, not being omniscient or spiritually-minded, you assumed wrongly. I did not write to you to convince you to abandon evolution so that you might believe in God. Things do not work that way. There are plenty of creationists that do not believe in God (despite what they say or think). There are also those who do believe, withholding judgment and exploring (or not) the matter.

You are absolutely correct- I assumed that you were attempting to convert me. That you are not is rather surprising to me, as I have a difficult time then understanding what the point of your correspondence is, but that is irrelevant. I apologize for my evidently incorrect supposition.

Belief in God is not mere human calculation or reckoning of information. It is not taking someone else’s word for it, or being convinced by an argument. It is a supernatural change of direction of the entire being that looks to, and takes direction from, the Creator. It is the working out of the first commandment that says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). When this occurs, the human mind does not determine, but follows, faith. It does not embrace faith so much as faith embraces it.

If you're saying that religious belief is irrational, I'm not exactly inclined to disagree with you.

The change you need is firstly one of heart and soul, which will come in its time by the preaching of the Word of God. The Word of God, contrary to what many think, particularly the religious, is not simply the Bible. It is the living Spirit of God made manifest in the flesh. Having His Spirit, it is my duty and desire to speak the Word of truth.

But, if preaching the word of god will lead me to the change I "need"... how is that different from attempting to convert me?

God, in His perfect wisdom, has made you as you are, and it is He Who owns you. You are not your own, nor can you determine your destiny. If He wills that you labor in foolishness for the time being, not knowing what you say or do, that is His judgment, and I receive it as the highest possible wisdom. I am thankful for your position and have no need or desire whatsoever to strive to change it, because it serves a mighty and wonderful purpose. How can anything be seen and known without the disparity of opposites, Light and darkness?

I find this perspective to be rather interesting, actually. It seems to me that were there to be an omniscient, omnipotent deity then we would, indeed, do nothing save what he/she/it desired us to do. This is either due to direct action on god's part or because, in creating the universe, god designed things in such a way so as to produce the current outcome. Either way, our lives would necessarily be the result of god's dictates. Perhaps more interestingly, however, such a perspective, while logically consistent, throws the concept of "sin" into question. If one dies a sinner then, logically, it was because god willed one to sin. Is it then logical for god to punish that which he intended to happen? Obviously not. Logically, then, a universe with an omnipotent, omniscient creator god is one in which either there is no sin, or god punishes sins that his creations had no choice about committing. If god is perfect and merciful, as is often claimed, then the latter option would appear to be untenable, leaving us with the conclusion that sin is impossible. Then again, as you claim, religion is not necessarily logical so I suppose there may be some highly irrational third option and, in any case, amateur philosophizing will get us nowhere.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and God has chosen the base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not, in order to bring to nothing things that are; so that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 MKJV).

“The wisdom of this world is nonsense in God's sight. That's why Scripture says, ‘God catches the wise in their cleverness.’ Again Scripture says, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are pointless’” (1 Corinthians 3:19-20 GW).

Sadly, judging by their midterm performance, a number of my students agree that the thoughts of the wise are pointless.

When you do change, it will not be a matter of your wisdom affecting that change, because you “accepted” God by virtue of your intellect judging His (See The False and Misleading Gospel of "Accepting" Jesus Christ). You do not have that power. When change comes, it will be by His initiation, beginning here with the Word spoken to you, and it will be one of recognition of His total worthiness and your total unworthiness. You will confess your name, no longer tongue in cheek, but with earnest and thankful recognition that “drek” is indeed what you are, and what you have been.

What makes you think my name is tongue in cheek? I have as little respect for my own opinions as I have for most others'. I tend to think that it's wise to maintain a healthy disrespect for your own views lest you become too bound by them. I doubt I always succeed in that but, hey, it's worth trying. In all fairness, however, this is hardly the first time I have been exposed to "god's word."

When repentance comes you will be turned to a new and higher nature that trumps, not replaces, human intelligence. Presently you no more know His mind and ways than a dog understands your writings, and far less. To come to this understanding in God is something that happens entirely outside of your control, by His grace, when He will give you to see and receive Him in the Person of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior. That will happen when you are humbled to be as a little child in spirit:

“At that time Jesus made answer and said, I give praise to You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have kept these things secret from the wise and the men of learning, and have made them clear to little children” (Matthew 11:25 BBE).

It always makes me nervous when people glorify the wisdom of a group that has to be taught not to eat paste. This is not to insult children, but rather simply to observe that the simple views of children are as often charmingly wrong as they are deeply profound.

Pointing out the foolishness of evolution will not make you a lover of God. If possible, and it is, it will make you resent Him more. However, I also know that the Word of Truth that I speak will accomplish all that He desires. All foolish, arrogant mouths, including yours, will, in due time, be shut, that everyone might learn to reverence God and worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Fair enough. My response to your earlier e-mail was somewhat condescending, so I deserved that. In all seriousness, however, I think it neither foolish nor arrogant to suppose that humans are capable of understanding the world we live in. I'll admit that is a faith position, but it is one that I am comfortable with, and if we are both men of faith, then I suppose that I have faith that humans can while you have faith that humans cannot.

You begin your critique by dividing my statements into three parts. This is another presumption you make, which is wonderfully representative of the problem of evolutionists; they divide what is not divisible. It is not possible, in truth, to talk about disparate parts of creation as though they are functioning in isolation. Life does not work in the way you dissect and analyze it (or as others have done for you). You have taken true elements of creation and have created a fantasy world out of its parts. This fantasy leads to nightmare, because man, disconnected from the wisdom of the whole, is a loose cannon, coming up with insane ideas like GMOs, then congratulating himself on his cleverness while he destroys his environment and himself.

I find your criticism here to be rather odd since, from this point forward, you employ the same tactic on my response. It's really a feature of the English language, if nothing else, as well as rhetoric that arguments be analyzed piece-by-piece. On a related note, modern science has done a fantastic job of showing how everything is interrelated. The deep interactions between chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, sociology, and ecology are increasingly well-known. That we analytically focus on limited domains is, if nothing else, a simple result of our finite ability to learn about multiple fields. It does not mean that scientists genuinely do not think that one branch of science has anything to do with another.

No doubt you will say that I work backwards from an assumption, but the difference between us is that I know the Creator, and base what I say on His Personal Word to me. So I work forwards, if I work at all. It is not necessary for me to prove creation. Creation proves itself.

A perfectly reasonable assertion if one believes in god. I think it rather obvious that creation does not prove itself, however, as quite a few people do not believe in it.

You write:

“Taking your first point, it is incorrect that evolutionary theory cannot account for "information."...basic physical processes are known to produce outcomes that encode considerable volumes of information.”

You didn’t get this right. I said “program,” which is composed of, but is more than, bits and pieces of information. Life is more than the sum of its physical components. For example, more letters are needed to complete this reply, but only those arranged in recognizable and meaningful patterns will serve the purpose. That is what I, as writer, provide. No writer, no reply. No Creator, no life; for life requires the intelligent and purposeful arranging of raw materials that provide the means and information to accomplish every task that is part of, and supports, the greater system, or whole. Saying chance accomplished this is the greatest of folly and insult to intelligence.

Actually, the meaningful arrangement of letters constitutes information, not a program. That said, it is only information in the proper context (e.g. Chinese characters carry no information for me, someone who does not read Chinese), but I digress. I apologize if I reduced your argument to too fundamental a level. If you insist on using the word "program" then nothing changes- in computer science self-modifying code is commonplace and so-called "genetic programming" harnesses the power of variation and selection to produce software solutions to difficult problems. In essence, this means that we humans have already produced software that effectively has no author- it writes itself. That we specify the end state that it optimizes towards is irrelevant- authorless programs are not only possible, they exist. Doubtless you will object that this does not account for the emergence of self-modifying "code" in natural organisms but this falls under the category of "abiogenesis," rather than evolution. Abiogenesis is not a necessary condition for evolution as both theistic evolutionists and advocates of panspermia would agree. Nevertheless, as I indicated in my last post, the evolution of DNA is an ongoing area in biology. I see little reason to believe that we will not develop an understanding of this issue in time.

Hardware, without software, does squat. You must have both.

Actually, we have a term for hardware without obvious software that still performs computations: "clockwork." Specifically, clockwork has no "software" distinct from the hardware- the two are one and the same. As it happens, this is a much more accurate model for the way that the human brain operates with the exception that, unlike traditional clockwork, the human brain is quite adaptable. Again, however, I digress. My point is that in a universe with consistent physical laws- such as our own universe- physical objects often behave in predictable, consistent ways. The hardware, in essence, "does" something despite the lack of internal direction by "software." Whether you want to regard those physical laws as constituting "software" is up to you, but I personally think that does violence to the concept.

There is One Who has done all the purposing and arranging from far beyond what we can sense with our eyes and ears. This is not news to anyone; I state the obvious. This is not something that must be figured out, or which requires a PhD to understand. It is actually known by all, though many have chosen the delusional path of knowledge outside of true godliness:

Given how much energy is devoted both to religious education, and to arguing with those like myself, I don't think even you believe your above points.

Romans 1:18-23 WNT

(18) For God's anger is being revealed from Heaven against all impiety and against the iniquity of men who through iniquity suppress the truth. God is angry:

(19) because what may be known about Him is plain to their inmost consciousness; for He Himself has made it plain to them.

(20) For, from the very creation of the world, His invisible perfections--namely His eternal power and divine nature--have been rendered intelligible and clearly visible by His works, so that these men are without excuse.

(21) For when they had come to know God, they did not give Him glory as God nor render Him thanks, but they became absorbed in useless discussions, and their senseless minds were darkened.

(22) While boasting of their wisdom they became utter fools,

(23) and, instead of worshipping the imperishable God, they worshipped images resembling perishable man or resembling birds or beasts or reptiles.

How can you argue with that? Of course you will because that is the way of those who prefer, and are given over to, useless discussions. The rest of your letter is a good example of that.

I have no intention of arguing with that- if you believe that anyone who disagrees with you is simply closing their eyes to the obvious truth, and must really know the facts, what possible argument could sway you? You are entitled to your religious beliefs, Mr. Cohen, and I respect that.

For example, you write:

“Secondly, your assertion that evolution cannot account for the harnessing of energy to support life is simply ignorant. What you describe falls under the headings of photosynthesis and digestion. Do you seriously mean to imply that we do not understand how animals derive energy from the matter they consume, or that the ability of plants to manufacture food using sunlight is a mystery?”

I never said that photosynthesis or other processes were a mystery. So how could I be implying that we do not understand these things? We are well aware of them, except that men’s understanding is not nearly as deep as they think. (Can you reproduce these processes in working models? Can you even make one cell? Take the smallest or any particle of existence and make a genuine copy. While you have something to copy, still you are at an utter loss, while He created it all in wisdom, knowing what He was (and is) doing. So how is it you presume to know so much about life? Isn’t that ignorance?) What I said had nothing to do with the straw man you just set up and knocked down.

Well, what you originally said was: "Evolution has no answer or explanation for the presence of either [a program and the ability of organisms to store and convert incoming energy to sustain life], the development of which contravenes the second law of thermodynamics." You're right, you never actually said we didn't understand digestion, so I apologize for that misinterpretation. I was most likely misled by your assertion that they are both made impossible by thermodynamics, though I suppose it is unclear from the sentence whether you mean that those two things are impossible, or rather only that their evolution is impossible. Either way not only do we understand both processes, as you concede, but I presented a small sampling of the available research on the evolution of both systems. Simply put: I presented just a small piece of the answer and explanation that researchers have uncovered. It is, therefore, inaccurate to say that "evolution" has no answer. You may not like the answer, but it is an answer all the same. As for your contention about "duplicating" cells- I rather doubt that you are capable of duplicating the computer you are presently working on. You have, after all, a working example; what's so difficult about duplicating an integrated circuit? Does your present inability to duplicate your computer mean that the capability to do so is forever beyond your grasp? Of course not- it simply means you are presently incapable of it. There was a time when a human technician would have been unable to duplicate a steel axle, even given a lifetime to study it. Today, duplicating a steel axle is fully within our abilities. Similarly, we learn more every day about the biological sciences- what we are unable to do now, we may not be unable to do forever. Given advances in biotechnology and even research into artificial photosynthesis it seems likely that all that is necessary for your requested copies is patience.

What I did say was that there is no viable mechanism to explain the evolution of these processes, which cannot be isolated from the two other elements I mentioned, a program and an open system. Neither can these two things be taken for granted. Where does the matter and energy come from? You have no answer, only mythologies to cover your lack of one; which you clothe in scientific jargon with a multitude of words to obfuscate the fact. Now that is ignorance, and of the highest order, because it denies the Highest Order. Furthermore, it is arrogance, because speaking as though you know when you don’t.

I don't see what your point is about isolating evolution from either thermodynamics or the "program." The evolution of DNA (i.e. the "program") is an area of study, as I indicated in my last post. Likewise, thermodynamic processes are taken into account in the study of photosynthesis and organic chemistry. Finally, open systems are not taken for granted but, given the long-term presence of the sun, are known to have existed for a long, long time. Do I propose to know where matter and energy come from? No, I will not claim to know either at the fundamental level you wish me to answer at. At the same time, I am comfortable admitting that I don't know. Do you know where "god" comes from? If he/she/it can be eternal by your fiat, why then cannot physical processes?

As for your implication that I was not honest in quoting Dr. Prigogine’s words, you remain consistent in making wrong assumptions and proceeding to wrong conclusions.

Respectfully, I did not imply that you were dishonest in your quoting of Dr. Prigogine- I said so outright. I continue to say so- your use of the quote is misleading and dishonest.

Whether or not Ilya believes in evolution is not pertinent to the words he spoke. I did not say he was a believer in God or that he acknowledged His creation of life as recorded in the Bible. I did not twist his words, as you accuse, but agreed with their plain meaning. If the author wants to hypothesize beyond that meaning, to justify his belief in evolution, that does not change the truth of what he said.

Mr. Cohen, you are not agreeing with Dr. Prigogine's plain meaning. You employed the quote as part of an argument that evolution is inconsistent with thermodynamics. The article you quoted from was arguing precisely the opposite point. Your actions are colloquially referred to as "quote mining" and I have discussed the practice at length elsewhere. If I might illustrate the problem a bit more vividly, your colleague Victor Hafichuk in his treatise on evolution remarks, "He [a critic of creationism] speaks of 'anxiety' among religious people, and that their sad condition leads to reactions contrary to those things they find a threat. He is right." Were I to quote merely that section of Mr. Hafichuk's work, it would appear that he agrees whole-heartedly with the critic of creationism. I might use this quote to "show" to others that even creationists acknowledge that their faith brings them no joy, and that they strike out at others because of fear. However, your colleague follows his statement with: "But I know in Whom I have believed, and know that He will keep me regardless of the darkness and foolishness of this world. So it is with all those who have not dead religion, but true, living faith." These additional passages are key to understanding Mr. Hafichuk's argument and honesty requires that they be included. Likewise, in order to understand Dr. Prigogine's work you must present the full quote, not simply those sections that appear to agree with your own perspective.

We are in apparent agreement that the formation of ice crystals does not explain the formation of biological structures.

Correct: it simply explains the existence of ice crystals.

That is all I said. I cannot help it if he is right in his statement of documented fact, but wrong in what he speculates beyond that regarding evolution, which is undocumented and unproven. The theories presented to explain away the plain meaning and implications of his statement do nothing to change its validity.

The man received a nobel prize for producing considerable empirical support for his theories. There is no question in the scientific community that evolution is fully consistent with thermodynamics. You are simply cherry picking those portions of his statements that seem to agree with you.

My claim that the second law of thermodynamics does not allow for evolution is in no way consistent with your conclusion that such a position is tantamount to preventing all life from existing. It is precisely your theories that do that, because you deny and discard the Creator, by Whose grace we were made and do exist. You do not acknowledge the Power, Who, because He created and sustains it, transcends the physical realm you think to comprehend. That Power is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is God, the Holy Spirit. You know nothing of Him or the spiritual realm. How can you, then, comprehend His creation?

An interesting argument. Are you suggesting that god sustains all life moment-to-moment? In any case, there is nothing in thermodynamics that makes life impossible- it is only your incorrect interpretation of the theory that would have that result.

“Through faith we understand that the worlds came into being, and still exist, at the command of God, so that what is seen does not owe its existence to that which is visible” (Hebrews 11:3 WNT).

The Bible, written by men of God (and sealed in many cases with the earnestness of their blood (unlike your careless case), long foretold the inevitable outcome of entropy, which we see and experience all around us, even now with the breakdown of life systems and planet earth in exponential overdrive:

So the bible was written by men, not by god? Just checking. I think it inaccurate, by the way, to suggest that men and women have not died for science- they have and continue to do so. I could say that this is because they believe the learning is worth the price but, as likely as not, it's frequently just because scientists are too curious not to poke puzzles with a stick. Every cause has its martyrs, Mr. Cohen, including human learning.

“Before time You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They shall perish, but You shall endure; yea, all of them shall wear out like a garment; You shall change them like clothing, and they shall be changed. But You are the same, and Your years shall not be ended” (Psalms 102:25-27 LITV).

So what is holding things together? From where does the power of life come?

“If He made His Spirit come back to Him, taking His breath into Himself again, All flesh would come to an end together, and man would go back to the dust” (Job 34:14-15 BBE).

The second law of thermodynamics is not greater than God. It is part of the inexorable process of decay that was initiated with sin. But God is above sin; He is Life. He is not subject to thermodynamics. He is the Reason that we and everything else are here, and not only here, but able to do, and doing, whatever it is each of us is engaged in at this precise moment. There is no other explanation.

So, thermodynamics were initiated with sin (We'll ignore for the time being that digestion in the garden of eden presumably demanded the same thermodynamic processes utilized today) but, as we've previously discussed, sin cannot have been anything but a consequence of god. Therefore he isn't above sin. Except he is, because he's perfect. Except that we do whatever it is that god intends for us to do and, therefore, sin because we're meant to. And... yes... the logical inconsistency just made my brain bleed.

God proved that He was greater than the physical world in His coming in the flesh as Jesus Christ. As a man, subject to the same laws that we are, Jesus did miracles transcending those laws, turning water into wine, multiplying food, walking on water, and raising the dead. Finally, He raised His own body from the dead after three days and three nights in the grave. These are all physical impossibilities by the known and observed laws of physics and nature, just as is creation itself. How is this explained then? It is explained by, and in, Jesus Christ:

I explain it the same way you explain Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, the faith of the ancient Greeks and other faiths: the miracles of Jesus are fictitious. Remember, Mr. Cohen, you and I are both atheists: it's simply that I doubt the existence of just one more god than you do. This is not to say that the teachings of Jesus are foolish or useless- some of them are quite wise- but only that I strongly doubt the purported miracles of Jesus in much the same way that you likely doubt the existence of Sasquatch.*

“Who being the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the Word of His power, having made purification of our sins through Himself, He sat down on the right of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:2-3 LITV).

The same power that upholds all living things and the universe itself that contains them is the power by which Jesus Christ raised Himself from the dead. They are one and the same power. You are here, as is everyone and everything else, by virtue of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, Who is God. Your very life depends on Him, even as you deny Him and seek out witty inventions to do so. He owns you:

I generally don't think of myself as witty. Thank you!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, because by Him all things were created, those in the heavens and those on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things are held together” (Colossians 1:15-17 EMTV).

He proved this by the resurrection from the dead:

“Who was declared Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4 EMTV).

This is no theory or hypothesis, but was a documented event that had many eyewitnesses who were willing to, and did, shed their own blood for the honor of being identified with the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was with them, and they testified of His sacrifice and forgiveness of sins, in love, truth, and power.

If I'm not mistaken, you refer obliquely to Paul's account of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 where he states that somewhere in the area of 500 people witnessed the resurrection of Christ. Specifically:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Five hundred eye witnesses might impress me** but what we actually have is one man claiming that 500 people witnessed the resurrection. That's a slightly different story. This, of course, ignores that there is reason to believe that the books of the bible were not composed until considerably after the death of Jesus and that the bible has been subject to a certain amount of revision over the years. In short, the documentation you refer to is, at best, suspect.

Are you willing and able to do the same for your theories? Will your theories do that for you? Of what value are they, then?

Will my theories raise me from the dead? I actually hope not- that's not really what they're intended to do. Leaving aside the issue of whether I'm willing to die in order to advance the "cause" of science, I will simply point out that a number of people were quite willing to sacrifice their lives for their religion with rather tragic results. A willingness to die for one's cause, I am sure you will agree, should not be taken as the ultimate proof of that cause's legitimacy. I am willing to devote my life to the scientific enterprise and I am willing to discuss matters with you in the hope that you, or others, may be swayed to the position that faith and science need not be in conflict. If that isn't enough to satisfy you, it is at present enough for me. If you want to continue using the bible to trump scientific discovery, as others do, then I suppose that is your right, but I have no intention of following your example.


Been good talking to you.

So, dear readers, think about Mr. Cohen's arguments and decide as you will.

* As it happens, I doubt Sasquatch as well, but that isn't the point.

** Actually, I know a little too much about the reliability of testimony and mass behavior to necessarily be swayed by the sheer number of witnesses.

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