Science and Religion: Escape From The Center of (Robert) Sungenis

geocentrism_350pxw

Geocentrism: adding epicycles.

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers, including Mr. Robert Sungenis and anyone who missed the memo about the sun being the reason they call this the “solar” system.

     I’d like to tell you a story, my fine, young readers. It’s a story that’s over two thousand years in the making, and one that needs to be told. You see, we as a race are nearing a fork in the road of our development, between enlightenment and ignorance. This fork in the road means that those of us who honestly care where we are going, need to be diligent enough to tell these stories repeatedly, so that others don’t forget all that we’ve learned. I tell you this story, because I love each and every one of you. But, I digress…

Claudius Ptolemy: 90 - 168 AD.

Claudius Ptolemy: 90 – 168 AD.

     In the last years of the third century BC, Greek mathematician Appolonius of Perga posited a geometric model that would explain the movements of the planets as they tracked across the sky. Observed from the Earth, planets such as Mars seemed to move in one direction for a while, then stop, move backwards a bit, then return to their original direction of motion. What Appolonius proposed, was that these objects moved in what came to be known as “epicycles” as they tracked across the night sky. Appolonius’s epicycles were subsequently expanded upon and adopted by Claudius Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, and became part of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy. (Ptolemy’s model was even turned into an ancient analog computer of sorts, in what is now known as the “Antikythera Mechanism.”) The Ptolemaic system would hold sway as scientific dogma for the next fifteen hundred years.

Nicholaus Copernicus: 1473 - 1543

Nicolaus Copernicus: 1473 – 1543

     Flash forward, to the year 1542. A man lies dying from apoplexy and paralysis. His name, is Nicolaus Copernicus. For the past few decades, Copernicus had been working on the problem of the Ptolemaic model, trying to answer various questions about its inability to make more accurate predictions of the motions of the planets. At the same time, the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation were spreading throughout Europe, challenging the long-held authority of the Roman Catholic church over what exactly the “truths of existence” were.

     Copernicus wasn’t an idiot. He knew that his observations and conclusions about how the heavenly bodies moved across the sky, would contradict church dogma. So, he waited until just before his death in 1543 to publish his observations in a book, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.” (“On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”) In this daring treatise, Copernicus posited that the sun, not the Earth, was at the center of the planetary system, and that the planets orbited the sun in circular paths.

Tycho Brahe: 1546 - 1601

Tycho Brahe: 1546 – 1601

     Three years later, another pioneer in the field of astronomy was born. Tycho Brahe was a headstrong young man, who even lost part of the bridge of his nose in a sword duel (in the dark!) with a fellow Danish nobleman, over a mathematical formula. Tycho was serious. Even more so, he was all about accuracy. Because of this, Tycho began to make meticulous measurements of the planets’ motions, using a device called a “quadrant.”

Johannes Kepler: 1571 - 1630

Johannes Kepler: 1571 – 1630

     By 1600, Brahe had compiled a massive amount of data. It was at this time, that 29-year-old Johannes Kepler met Brahe near Prague, at Benatky nad Jizerou, and became his assistant. Brahe didn’t entirely trust Kepler with his data. For that matter, he didn’t trust anyone with it, and guarded his data closely. He did, however, set his young protege a task; reckon out the motion of the planet Mars. (“Here, kid. Take these measurements and figure it out.”) Kepler already had his own view of the world around him, and since he wasn’t a Catholic, wasn’t as worried about crossing the “powers-that-be” as Copernicus had been.

     Tycho Brahe died in 1601. Immediately following Brahe’s demise, Kepler purloined his vast collection of observational data, and eventually published his conclusions in the “Astronomia nova” (“New Astronomy”) in 1609. “Astronomia nova” made compelling arguments for heliocentrism, and built on the Copernican model of planetary orbits, positing that instead of circular paths, the planets followed elliptical orbits around the sun.

Galileo Galilei: 1564 - 1642

Galileo Galilei: 1564 – 1642

     In the same year that Kepler published “Astronomia nova”, a 45-year-old Italian mathematician and astronomer, by the name of Galileo Galilei, built a device modeled after the “Dutch spyglass.” This device, which could magnify distant objects to about 3x, was the first practical telescope. Galileo turned his telescope skyward…and Galileo saw. Galileo sketched. Galileo discovered.

     He discovered that Saturn had rings. He discovered that Jupiter had moons of its own. He noted that Venus went through phases, much like the moon. Galileo published his findings in “Sidereus Nuncius” (“Starry Messenger”) in 1610, and in “Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo” (“Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”) in 1632. It was the latter book, which directly challenged established church dogmas, that would result in Galileo being tried for heresy by the Inquisition, and placed under house arrest until his death in 1642. The damage, however, had been done. The great man, Galileo Galilei, had dealt the death blow to the Ptolemaic system of geocentrism…or so it seemed.

Sir Issac Newton: 1642 - 1727

Sir Issac Newton: 1642 – 1727

     In the centuries after Galileo turned his telescope to the sky, science has made advances that Galileo would have found astounding. Issac Newton refined Galileo’s work, developing a new system of mathematics (Calculus) to explain the motions of the planets, as well as the reasons why they move the way that they do. His “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”) was a virtual watershed in the fields of mathematics, physics and astronomy.

     During the 1800′s, the sky was indeed the “greatest show on Earth.” Before the age of motion pictures, radio and television, people found entertainment and wonder in simply gazing up at the sky, identifying the stars and constellations, and acknowledging their place within the wider realm of existence…but then, that all changed.

     It is the year 2014. A recent poll by the National Science Foundation finds that 1 in 4 people in America don’t know that the sun is at the center of the solar system. America ranks 25th in science and math scoring of high-school students worldwide. (China, Finland and South Korea rank in the top three.) This spring, mail-order Ph.D. documentary producer and Holocaust denier, Robert Sungenis, is releasing a film based upon his book, “Galileo Was Wrong The Church Was Right”, titled “The Principle.” Sungenis is an adherent of the Ptolemaic model of geocentrism; the same model that was proven to be wrong almost 500 years ago.

     I can only hope that someone reads this story, and understands. I ache with the desire for someone to digest these words, and to be imbued with a child-like curiosity about science and the sky. Oh, God. If I had the money, I would gladly buy each and every one of you, my fine young readers, a brand new Celestron telescope, so that we could gaze together on the wonders of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, the rings around Saturn and other “awesomesauce” out there in the night sky, if for no other reason than to honor Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and others for their hard work and sacrifices. Sacrifice, they did, all in the name of making our world a better and smarter place to be.

American Rhetoric: Let’s Place A Ban…on Talk of Banning

Sheryl Sandberg wants to "lean in" and ban the word "bossy."

Sheryl Sandberg wants to “lean in” and ban the word “bossy.”

“The power of a word lies not so much in its mere utterance, but in the CONTEXT in which it is given utterance, and how it is received by those hearing it.”
-The Cybersattva

     There are times when the national discourse takes a turn that causes me a fair amount of concern, and this is one of those times. This past week, Facebook COO and author of the women’s empowerment tome, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Sheryl Sandberg, launched a campaign via her book’s namesake “Lean In” organisation, in cooperation with Girl Scouts USA. The campaign’s goal? Ban the word “bossy.”

     According to Sandberg, the schoolyard term and “gender-specific insult” has been used to deter young girls from having the highest of aspirations, and therefore impairing their ability and willingness to succeed upon entering adulthood. Her effort to counter this long-suffered problem has been mapped out and presented via the “banbossy” website, and “#banbossy” hashtags have been cropping up all over the interwebz.

     I wish I knew exactly what Sandberg means when she says that the word should be “banned.” Is she suggesting a change in the language that school-aged children are allowed to use in an educational setting, or the complete disuse and disavowing of the word by society on the whole?

     At this point in the story, I’d like to state that I am very pro-woman. I honestly believe that the “fairer sex” has been getting a bad rap, ever since that whole “Eve and the apple” bit. Even now, women are still being denied an equal share of the wage and advancement opportunities in this country, and something definitely needs to be done about it. I am not confident, however, that the banning of a word or words, is quite the answer that the question requires.

     When we talk of “banning” words, I fear that this may be the first few inches on a steep and slippery slope. Those of us who have kept a weather eye on humanity’s past, know full well that things like this have happened before, and have led to some very dark places. Thought police. Book burnings. The control and limitation of free, unfettered speech. (I’ve been chided for connecting Mrs. Sandberg’s suggested ban with these concepts already, however upon further examination through the prism of history, I feel my concerns remain valid. I’ll expand on this in a bit, but let’s continue…)

     In my own, not-so-humble opinion, we should be discussing context instead. This goes back to my earlier piece on “What Makes Bad Words Bad.” When we say that someone is acting or being “bossy,” what do we mean? If someone is being proactive and assertive, while also taking others’ thoughts, opinions and feelings into consideration, then no, the word “bossy” should not be used to discourage or denigrate them. On the other hand, if someone is simply issuing orders or attempting to “throw their weight around” inconsiderately, then yes, they’re being bossy, and should be called out for it.

     I also have an issue with Sandberg’s “pigeon-holing” of the word “bossy” as a gender-specific insult. Of course, it can certainly be utilised as such, just as much as a kitchen knife can be used as a street weapon. And of course, neither should be acceptable. Just because a word or a kitchen knife can be used as those things, however, does not make them those things ipso facto.

     Instead of all this talk of “banning” words, perhaps it’s time to talk about redefining them. Perhaps we should be discussing how we employ our words, when we employ them, who we employ them with regard to, and how they might be received. At any rate, we as a society should be having this dialogue, instead of simply suggesting that we “ban” something that we don’t necessarily like, regardless of context.

______________________________

“Pleased to meet you,
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah.
But what’s puzzling you,
Is the nature of my game.”
- Rolling Stones, “Sympathy For The Devil” c1968.

     What’s puzzling me with regard to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook, and her foundation’s connections, goes right to the heart of my concerns over her suggestion of banning words. Since Facebook went public, it appears that the site has begun a slow transformation from social networking, to social engineering. Case in point, Facebook has started penalising its users for sending “friend requests” to people on the site that users do not know personally:

social_networking

     In addition to this, “The Baffler’s” Susan Faludi revealed in an article penned last year, that Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” organisation has connections to a number of “Platform Partners” with equal opportunity histories that are, shall we say…”impeachable”? The following is an excerpt from the Faludi / Baffler piece from 2013:

“Lean In Platform Partners Mondelez and Nestlé: In 2013, an Oxfam investigation in four countries where the two companies outsourced their cocoa farms found that the women working in the cocoa fields and processing plants that the companies relied on “suffer substantial discrimination and inequality.” When women at a cocoa processing factory demanded equal treatment and pay, the investigation noted, all of the female workers were fired. The same companies that “put women first in their advertisements,” Oxfam concluded, “are doing very little to address poor conditions faced by the women who grow cocoa.””

     So, my question is, what exactly is Sheryl Sandberg playing at? What is the “nature of her game”? Why is it that she talks about banning words and limiting the national dialogue, under the guise of women’s empowerment, while at the very same time, “holding hands with the devil”? Why is her company, Facebook, actively impeding users from advancing this same dialogue, through the process of free and open social networking?

     Something is fishy in Denmark, my fine young readers. We as netizens now require our own bit of “empowerment,” to be able to glean the answers that Susan Faludi was unable to glean.

(Jim) Crowing – An Open Letter To Al Melvin and The Arizona State Government

LISTEN UP, ARIZONA.

LISTEN UP, ARIZONA.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a bone to pick with you. It concerns a bill that has passed the Arizona state legislature, and now sits on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk, awaiting either her affirming “Jane Hancock,” or her veto. You know which bill I’m referring to; SB 1062. It has been referred to in the media as the “Arizona Anti-Gay Bill.”

     Just this morning, I watched a short clip of an interview between CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and state senator Al Melvin. Mr. Melvin, I have a question for you: why could you not answer a simple question regarding discrimination? As Mr. Cooper noted, you have declared your intent to run in that state’s next gubernatorial race, and as he noted, you were unable (or unwilling!) to answer a single question with regards to possible discrimination issues involving people in your state.

     Mr. Melvin, SB 1062 has absolutely nothing to do with religious freedom, and you know it. It pertains to commerce. Commerce, as you are (hopefully) well aware, is a matter of profit and loss. Religious practice, on the other hand, is a matter of espousing and expressing faith in a particular ideology and / or deity. As most church establishments are 501(c)(3) non profit endeavors, there seems to be a marked difference between them, and say, a bakery or florist shop. Apparently, you are confused as to the divisions and restrictions of each type of establishment, and where the two should and shouldn’t be intertwined.

     Mr. Melvin, how exactly does one such as yourself get to be a state senator, with such decidedly bigoted values and views? Navy War College? Were you good at that? Perhaps you should go back to that, because you’re a dismal failure as a representative of the populous. I have little doubt that there are thousands of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual constituents in your state, that are looking at you and shaking their collective heads.

     Let’s leave my apparent angst for Al Melvin to the side for a second, and address this ill-conceived piece of legislation. SB 1067 is problematic in a number of ways. For one, it would require business owners to make a declarative statement with regards to their religious proclivities against serving members of the LGBT community. This harkens back to the days of Jim Crow laws, where businesses would display signs that read, “No Coloreds Allowed,” or “Whites Only.” I’m assuming that any declaration must be posted, as a business license must, in a conspicuous place. I foresee this as being akin to a “scarlet letter,” and here’s why. Let’s say I am a consumer, and I walk in to a store with one of these signs posted near the register. As a supporter of the LGBT community, I am not even going to bother looking for the merchandise that I’m seeking, not in this store. I see the label, I acknowledge it for the bigotry that it is, and I turn and leave. The business loses revenue.

     In addition, the bill is unconstitutional. It is nothing short of state-sanctioned discrimination against an entire group of people, based solely on their sexual preference. Should Governor Brewer sign this piece of legislation into law, it will assuredly result in millions of dollars being spent by the state to defend it against rightful challenges to its constitutionality. In other words, Arizona; this one’s gonna cost ya!

     Speaking of costing ya, I hear that none other than the denizens of One Infinite Loop, Apple, Incorporated, have expressed concern over the bill, and its possible impact on any decision to abandon its Sapphire Glass plant in Mesa. Jan! Hey, Jan? Are you hearing this? Tim Cook and Apple will likely hit your state right in the wallet, should you dare affix your signature to this!

     I guess it all comes down to one question, folks; what’s in your wallet!? At any rate, it’s like the latest memes say. We’ve already had this discussion, and you cannot discriminate against a particular demographic who wish to sit at the lunch counter.

Life and Living: The Commonalities Between Snakes, Knives, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Flirting with death? From l. to r. - Jamie Coots, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cody Coots.

Flirting with death? From l. to r. – Jamie Coots, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cody Coots.

     Now, they say that Blondes have more fun, but personally, I don’t think that’s true. In fact, it appears that some rural Kentuckians are having far more fun than even Blondes do; (ready for it?) indeed, more fun than they can shake a snake at! (Cue sad trombone.) Why else would someone want to risk their life doing something, even after their own father has lost his life in the very same way?

     That’s what Cody Coots, the new pastor of the Middlesboro, Kentucky “Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name” church, says that he’s prepared to do. (1) For those of you, my fine young readers, that aren’t familiar with the story, we’ll climb into the proverbial Chronosphere, and like Jonathan LaPaglia on the late-nineties show, jump back seven days…

     Last Saturday, Middlesboro, Kentucky pastor Jamie Coots lost his life, having been bitten by one of the poisonous snakes that he and fellow attendees of the Full Gospel Tabernacle are so fond of messing with in the “name of Jesus.” (2) They believe that, according to bible passage Mark 16:18, if their faith is strong, that those pesky little snakebites won’t hurt them at all;

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
(Mark 16:18, KJV)

     Now, I’ve suggested in the days since that either the Bible is wrong, that Pastor Coots misinterpreted it, or that he wasn’t “anointed” in the first place. Indeed, during my initial flirtations with this topic on Facebook, one of my friends even suggested that the elder Coots had been “released from his calling,” to which I responded with a reference to Romans 11:29, which basically states that God doesn’t “issue recalls.” The debate, though, isn’t quite about that. The true crux of the issue here, in my own not-so-humble opinion, is once again, where faith meets religion, and religion’s never-ending propensity for the misapplication of faith…or does the “rabbit hole” go even deeper?

     Another friend once told me that the Bible is a “scary” thing. I don’t think so. The Bible, in and of itself, is just a book. This book cannot act of its own volition, can it? No. It requires a human element to use it, whether that be for good or ill. In that discussion, I likened the Bible to a kitchen knife. As everyone knows, a kitchen knife is a tool, designed and purposed to aid in the preparation of food for consumption. We don’t fear kitchen knives, do we? If I take a paring knife out and set it on the counter next to an apple, will that knife jump up, and cut my apple into several neat, little slices for me to eat? Likewise, will it jump up and stab someone? No, but it can be used to those ends! Once again, it requires the interaction of a person. In my opinion, some degree of accountability must be assigned to the person or people who are using the tool.

     Cody Coots has said that if he gets bitten by the snake, then he, like his father, will decline emergency treatment. He states that if he dies, then it must be “God’s will.” (Question: if there is a gun on the table that one knows is loaded and has a round in the chamber, and one picks up that gun, points it at their head and says, “If I die when I pull this trigger, then it’s God’s will,” and then pulls the trigger and dies, whose will was it actually that this person died?)

     Personal accountability. It’s something that, quite honestly, is fading fast in America. In 1968, then-Governor Ronald Reagan mused on this concept during a speech to the Republican National Convention when he stated;

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

     So, at what point do we hold a person or group of people accountable for their actions? In the course of asking this question, I’m reminded of the recent, tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Now, before anyone starts accusing me of trying to “capitalise on the death of a good and decent man,” please read on a bit.

     As a lot of you know, Hoffman was found in his West Village, Manhattan apartment back on the 2nd of this month, dead of a Heroin overdose. Several small bags were found, and Hoffman died with a needle in his vein. (3) Since that day, those following and commenting on the sad story, have done what people often do; play the “blame game,” and attempt to find some kind of meaning in an otherwise meaningless death. They blame the drug. They blame the pusher. They blame the stresses of celebrity life…but does anyone ever place even a smidgen of the blame for Hoffman’s demise…on Hoffman?

     This needle, like any other needle I suspect, would not have been able to simply jump up and enter Hoffman’s arm. His supplier didn’t dose him, nor did any other Tinseltown actor or agent. No, Philip Seymour Hoffman did this to himself, knowing full well the dangers of what he was doing. The sooner we acknowledge this, the better we’ll be at viewing things like this objectively. Of course, there will still be those select few who, like Coots and progeny, will blame their own and others’ ill-fated actions on everyone else, including their God.

 

Faith and Religion: A Flood That Doesn’t Hold Water

Comparison between the Ark and the HMS Titanic. Graphic courtesy of Patheos.com / PZ Myers.

Comparison between the Ark and the RMS Titanic. Graphic courtesy of Patheos.com / PZ Myers.

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers, including Mr. Ray Comfort and our friends at Answers in Genesis.

     It seems like the older I get, the more skeptical I become regarding things that, for the longest time, I held to be unquestionably true. A young Earth, the Genesis story, the story of Jesus, and the Noah’s Ark story. I grew up with things like the flood story, being told by my Sunday School teachers how Noah built this gigundous boat, and brought all of the animals in the world onto the Ark by twos, male and female, because God was going to flood the Earth. God made it rain for forty days and forty nights, they said. God made the rainbow, they said.

     I guess I started questioning things the minute I discovered that I could make rainbows, (a la the prism or a sprinkler!) and the questions only multiplied from there. I learned about dinosaurs in school. When I asked about them in church, I was told that they died in the flood. I took that answer, and ran with it for quite some time…but no longer. You see, the accumulation of knowledge and a greater understanding of things like cause and effect does something funny to a person’s perception of reality. It shatters illusions, and places certainty solidly within the realm of testable theory, evidence, and proofs.

     Look around for evidence of a global flood. There is none, despite the fact that something on that massive of a scale would leave indubitable evidence behind, in the form of sedimentary layers. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami left sedimentary evidence everywhere in its impact area. (1) Evidence of earlier tsunamis has been unearthed in places such as Japan, the Cascadia subduction zone, and elsewhere. No uniform layer of ocean sediments, however, has been unearthed that would support a global flood having happened.

     Dinosaurs. According to young-Earth creationists such as the Hovinds, Ray Comfort, Ken Ham and the nice folks at Answers in Genesis, they lived alongside early man, from Adam to Noah. Where did they go? Wasn’t Noah supposed to have taken them aboard the ship as well? Let’s look and see what the ol’ King James says about that in Genesis 6, verses 19-21:

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.

20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.

Elephantitis is a pain! Graphic courtesy of Desktop Nexus / LivePencil.

Elephantitis is a pain! Graphic courtesy of Desktop Nexus / LivePencil.

     So God said every living thing. Of all flesh. (Sounds pretty definitive to me!) This begs the question; was Noah an obedient man? According to the Bible, he was. That’s why God hand-picked him to preserve life on that overblown raft of his. So if that’s true, then again, where are the dinosaurs? I’ve gotten a few different answers from the “answer” folks on this. Either they died in the flood, or they went extinct after. If they went “glug glug,” then that would have to mean that Noah was disobedient to some degree. If they went extinct afterwards, then why didn’t other reptiles, such as crocodiles, snakes, turtles and lizards go extinct? T-rex and Velociraptor were apex predators, for Christ’s sakes! So, I guess we wait for the creationists to come up with a better excuse.

     Where did all of the water go? There’s only a finite amount of the “wet stuff” on this planet, and it’s not nearly enough to have covered the Earth deeper than Mount Everest is high:

19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.

20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
(Genesis 7: 19-20, King James Version.)

     “Ah! But what about all of the frozen water, locked up in polar ice?” you may ask. Here it is; if we melted every glacier, every iceberg and every ice sheet, global ocean levels would only rise about 220 feet. (2) The tippy-top of Everest sits at a whopping 29,029 feet above sea level. Maybe if we added all of the ice cubes out of everyone’s freezers, we’d add a few more inches to that previous 220 feet number.

     I’d like to know something. At what point did Noah stop off in Australia, and drop off the Marsupials? Kangaroos. They’re endemic to just one continent on this, God’s green Earth; the Land Down Under. How did they get there, especially when there’s no land bridge between New Guinea and Queensland? The interesting thing about this one, is that the YEC’ers have pulled a new explanation out of their posteriors; a post-flood ice age. Intriguing…proof, si vous plait? Conversely, why are they only endemic to Australia? If the ark landed in Turkey somewhere, then why don’t we see them in Africa? In South America? In India at least?

     For that matter, how did Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans get across the Torres and Bering Straits? Once again, post-flood ice age. Right, sure. Ya bet’cha.

     Supposedly, the flood happened around 2350 BC, according to the folks at AiG. (3) At Creation Ministries, Dr. John Osgood fixes it at 2304 BC. (4) In 1650, Irish Archbishop James Ussher fixed the date of the flood at 2348 BC. What’s a few (or 40) years, right?

     Centuries of research by the best and brightest scholars, have narrowed the date of the building of Khufu’s pyramid on the Giza plateau to sometime between 2560 BC and 2470 BC. (5) So, what gives? Were the pyramids built pre-flood then? (AiG makes an attempt to answer this question, albeit rather poorly. They fail to offer a date of their own for Khufu’s pyramid being built.) Young-Earth creationists have come up with a theory of their own with regards to the movement of land masses, which they’ve termed, “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics.” (6) If that theory was true, and the pyramids were built before the flood, then they surely would have been destroyed, don’t ya think? Again, YEC’ers can’t answer with a firmer date for the building of the pyramids, so…?

     Come on. We know that the Earth’s plates are drifting at about 2cm/year average speed. If we push “stop” on the global VCR, and then press “rewind,” it would take far longer than a mere 6k years for the landmasses to rejoin. We know about how long it takes for rocks to form. We can measure plate movement via GPS, and can prove subduction via Seismology. Science has yet again jumped in where religion has fumbled the ball, and taken it down the field and toward the end zone of understanding the physical processes that have shaped the planet. (A gratuitous football reference there, in anticipation of Sunday’s big game!)

     To sum all of this up, the global flood story has more holes in it than the colander in my kitchen cabinet. So, what are we disillusioned believers now supposed to believe?

Life and Living: Real, Real, Really Real

     I’m going to start this article off by saying that I haven’t sat down and penned anything in a “really” long time. My last article was published back in late November, and since then I have been pretty much dialed in to taking care of IRL issues during the holiday season. Now that 2014 is here and the holidays are over…well, allons-y!

What is "real"?

What is “real”?

     A friend of mine posted the picture on the right to her Facebook wall, and it duly showed up on my newsfeed. More than anything else, it gave me a few moments of pause, causing me to start thinking about what “reality” is, and how we perceive and relate to it. It occurs to me, that there is not one, but two types of “reality”; subjective reality, and objective reality.

     Take for instance, my opening statement. My application of the term “really” is meant to attach an immenseness to the actual quantity of time that has elapsed since my last article was published. However! What might seem like a “really” long time to me, may not seem so long to another observer. In this case the reality is subjective, based upon the perspective from which it is being observed. Another example would be my observation of say, a rose. While I may see the rose as being red, someone who is color-blind may see it as being a shade of blue. Which color is “real”? To them, the rose is really blue, while to me, it is red. Does this difference in observation render their observation any less valuable than my own?

     Conversely, there are things that exist that, no matter who observes them, everyone will agree that they are real. Gravity, for example. Regardless of who observes it, gravity still pulls all things down to Earth at a uniform 32 feet per second, squared. (Now, I know that this brings up the argument of our standards of measurement, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that 32′ /sec2 is universally true, where the Earth is concerned.) The point being, that the force of gravity is real, and can be proven across multiple disciplines and (rational) schools of thought.

     I have a ginormous issue. It has to do with the penchant on the part of some, to try applying the term “real” to ideas, institutions and concepts, in order to impose their own beliefs on these things. A “real” American. A “real” Christian. A “real” man. (Word to the wiser amongst you, my fine, young readers! Whenever anyone presents this “No True Scotsman” statement as a representation of fact, it should set off alarm bells in your rational thinking centers!) Take the picture above. According to the creator of the meme, a “real” man is monogamous, devoted and, most importantly, heterosexual. Anything else, and the man is not “real.” So, a man like George Takei, who has devoted his love and life to another man, is not “real” according to the meme’s standards. Likewise, someone who truly loves, and is devoted to two women…a polygamist, (as allowable in Islam) is not “real” according to the meme.

     The idea that I’m attempting to get across to you all, what I’m saying, (if I’m saying anything) is to exercise a modicum of caution when attempting to present your own opinions. Sure, we’re all entitled to possess our own opinions, but that doesn’t necessarily elevate them to the status of being factual. Wikipedia defines “reality” as:

“…the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible.”

     In other words, “id est quod id est.” (“It is what it is.”) Any standards that someone might seek to impose on it, regardless of what “it” may be, are subjective. (Which circles back to my observation on gravity, which we can get into in another article!)

Cybersattva SPECIAL: A Matter of Faith, Hair and Education

l. - Vanessa VanDyke. Photo courtesy of Jezebel Magazine online. r. - An example of 1980's hairstyles.

l. – Vanessa VanDyke. Photo courtesy of Jezebel Magazine online. r. – An example of 1980′s hairstyles.

     The 1980′s was the decade of “big hair.” Young girls and women were in a constant competition, it seemed, to see who could come up with the biggest, best hairstyles. Various products, including hairsprays and mousses, were used in this signature 80′s endeavor. My wife, beginning in 1984, attended school at First Assembly Christian School. She recalled to me just this morning, that there were a few girls who attended there, with hair styles that were typical of the era. My wife doesn’t recall that this was ever an issue with the school administration.

     I tell you this, my fine young readers, to lead in to the following developing news item, coming out of Orlando, Florida. On Monday, a story surfaced in the news regarding young Vanessa VanDyke, a 12-year-old student at Faith Christian Academy, a private Christian school in Orlando. It seems that young Vanessa has been the target of some ridicule from other students, regarding of all things, the natural hairstyle she wears. Concerns over the teasing were brought to the school’s administrators, who then informed Vanessa, according to the family, that she needed to either straighten and tone down her hair style, or face expulsion. When questioned on Monday evening by the media, school staff at FCA Orlando would not answer any questions regarding the matter. (1) (2) (3)

     Now, the fact that Vanessa is African-American, coupled with the school being a religious organisation, has made for some very interesting conversation on the subject since this story broke. The piece has been picked up by not only the local stations, but also national news outlets including CNN, the Huffington Post, Jezebel Online and the International Business Times. Once there, it made the jump into the global awareness, via sites such as Australia’s “News.com.au.” As a result, the school’s Facebook page began to be inundated with comments from concerned people from all over the world, the overwhelming majority of which were highly critical of the school’s actions. Late Tuesday evening, the administrators of the FCA Orlando page commenced a campaign of “page scrubbing,” and have since removed most of the comments from their page threads.

     Enter The Cybersattva. Following last night’s “sanitation” efforts by FCA Orlando page admins, I sent an email blast to several of the school and church’s pastors and administrators, questioning their actions in light of their status as a faith-based institution. This morning, I received a reply from none other than the senior pastor of the church, one Carl Stephens. The following is a screen capture of the actual email exchange, from Outlook:

email_exchange

     Additionally, school administrators informed WKMG-CBS on Tuesday, that they are “…not asking her to put products in her hair or cut her hair. We’re asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook.”

Faith Christian Academy Handbook (2012-2013)

Faith Christian Academy Handbook (2012-2013)

     (After giving this a second glance, there are two “linchpin” questions that need asked; “Okay, how exactly is she supposed to “style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook,” and if that involves shortening or straightening it, how is she supposed to accomplish this without cutting it or using chemical products!?” Quick FCA, claim ignorance!)

     In other words, pastor Stephens now asserts that the media did not get its story straight, and that Miss VanDyke was never in danger of being expelled. (The media is always the easiest one to scapegoat in situations like these, it seems.) Pastor Stephens did note in his reply, that Vanessa is an outstanding student, has “excelled and hopefully will continue to do so.” Having viewed the video footage of Vanessa’s interview on WKMG-CBS, however, something about pastor Stephens’ reply just doesn’t ring true. It wasn’t the media that asserted that Vanessa was facing expulsion over her hair style, it was Vanessa and her family, stating that they were informed of this by the staff of Faith Christian Academy of Orlando.

     Damage control is a tricky piece of business. Every word, every assertion and every insinuation gets parsed, examined and interpreted. In this case, it has become apparent that the “powers-that-be” at Faith Christian Academy are all but tripping over themselves in their efforts to re-spin this in their favor. Of course, they have no desire to either outright, or by nuance, call Vanessa or her mother liars, nor do they wish to admit any wrongdoing themselves. Their story keeps changing, though. On Tuesday, they attempted to clarify their request for Vanessa to change her hairstyle, placing it against the framework of their school handbook, while at the same time making no mention of the consequences that Vanessa would face for not complying with the request. Today, they deny that Vanessa was ever threatened with expulsion to begin with.

     At this point in the tale of “hair and all that is holy,” I have to give pastor Stephens et al. some credit for at least trying to learn how to pedal a bicycle in reverse. It’s not enough, though. In my own, not-so-humble opinion, the school needs to just come clean. They need to admit that they told the VanDyke’s what they did, and that by doing so, they sided with those who were picking on Vanessa in the first place. They need to admit that this unfortunate series of missteps sent the wrong message, and that they will (honestly and sincerely!) do their level best to change the way in which they address these situations, so that this will never happen again within the halls of Faith Christian Academy.

UPDATE – 02 December 2013: THE SCHOOL HAS RELENTED! Apparently, the “powers-that-be” at Faith Christian Academy have come to their senses, welcomed Vanessa back from the Thanksgiving break with open arms, and will not be requiring her to cut or straighten her lovely locks! Vive le coiffure!

Life and Living: All That Glitters…Is Perhaps NOT All That Exists!

brane_world     Ghosts, the soul, paranormal phenomena, such as precognition and auras. Photons, electrons and neutrinos. How could they be related?

     In the course of discussing things like religion and faith versus proof and evidence, I started thinking about existence. What is it? How do we observe and measure it? What are some of the weird, unexplainable phenomena that have been borne out of those observations and measurements? Then, my fine young readers, I started connecting the dots between these questions, and the fledgeling field of “String / M Theory.” It was when I did this, that I came to the realisation that we may exist and interact as part of a universe that is far more amazing, filled with much more “awesome-sauce” than we ever imagined!

     For ages now, we as a species have been attempting to explain our world, and the things that we can observe. We’ve looked into the night sky with ever more accurate devices, in an attempt to decipher the secrets of the very large. Conversely, we’ve dug deeper and deeper into the very small, with ever more powerful devices, in our attempts to unlock the mysteries of what we’re made of…and our efforts have yielded some very strange, counter-intuitive results!

     Take for instance, the “Double Slit Experiment.” In this apparatus, a beam of photons (light) is generated from a coherent light source, passed through two narrow slits, then projected onto a screen. Now, based on what we see in the everyday world, we would assume that what we would see on the screen would be two vertical shafts of light…and we’d be wrong. What we in fact have observed, time and time again, is what is known as an “interference pattern.” or multiple shafts of light! This would seem to indicate not only that these photons are behaving like waves instead of particles, but also that each photon is capable of going through both slits at the same time! (My fine young readers, you can call bullshit on this if you wish, but it’s true! This experiment has been performed several times, in several ways…each time with the same results!) The same experiment can be done with a single slit apparatus, capable of being narrowed manually. As the slit is narrowed, the light beam, instead of narrowing and being eventually cut off, actually spreads out horizontally! Ah, but this is not the only instance of “quantum weirdness” that has been seen.

     In other experiments, we’ve observed such things as neutrinos passing through solid matter, and electrons (and other point particles) that seem to pop in and out of existence. BUT! Are they actually doing so, or are they in fact just passing in and out of our three observable dimensions, from and to other “planes of existence”? This idea might sound pretty “Ghost Hunter-ish” at first blush, but there are in fact, mathematical equations and scientific theorems that back this up. String Theory, and its offspring “M” Theory, postulate the existence of no less than seven other spatial dimensions in addition to our own. If the equations of string theory are an accurate description of our universe, then the behavior of things like electrons and neutrinos becomes like text on a page, coming into focus once we put a pair of glasses on. (See where I’m going with that? Foster Grants…for quantum mechanics!)

     That’s not all, though! Once we begin to consider that the world we live in is far bigger, and contains far more dimensions than what we experience with our five senses, then things like paranormal phenomena might also be explainable, scientifically! Everything from auras, spirits and other things that we have wondered over, scientifically measurable and known.

STTNG_Q_100pxw

“Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. *That* is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities…of existence.”
(“Q”, Star Trek TNG, episode “All Good Things.”)

Domestic Politics, Faith and Religion: Is Militant Christianity Placing Christ in The Crosshairs?

christ_chrosshairs     Once again, it’s Sunday, and a fitting day for another “Dies Solis” post with regards to topics concerning religion and faith. In addition, it has been two days since the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, and I find myself troubled at what I’m seeing in places like Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and even on the news. Please allow me to elaborate, my fine young readers…

     On Friday, an article came across my newsfeed on Facebook, pertaining to the statements of one Everest Wilhelmsen, administrator of the group “Christian American Patriots Militia.” It seems that the head of this group, consisting of over 1,400 members, posted a status update on his Facebook account, (which has since been removed,) advocating for the assassination of our current president, Barack Obama. The following is a screen shot of that post:

Clear and Present Danger - 18 USC § 871 – Threats against President and successors to the Presidency

Clear and Present Danger – 18 USC § 871 – Threats against President and successors to the Presidency

     In addition, in the days surrounding the 50th anniversary of the tragic events at Dealey Plaza, there have been at least two other incidences of threats to the president which have also made headlines. (1) (2) I find myself aghast at the sheer audacity of these and others, who would blatantly flout the law in the process of their IRL and online shenanigans.

Palin takes aim.

Palin takes aim.

     Even more so, however, I stand dismayed at evangelical Christendom’s seeming acquiescence to this type of message. Speaking specifically with regard to the Wilhelmsen / CAPM post, I fail to see how Christendom’s embrace of such notables as the gun-toting, former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, the torture-endorsing, former 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, or anyone like them, can be doing the mission or the message of Christ and Christianity any favors. I don’t see anyone from that camp taking a definitive stand against Wilhelmsen et al., or their brand of evangelistic hatred and vitriol. On the contrary, all of this seems to indeed be placing the revered “Son of Man,” the faith’s savior, right in the crosshairs of the very same guns that these people hold nearer and dearer. In short, these things are killing Biblical Christianity.

     When I was a child, I was told that the “mission directives” that Christ handed to the disciples, consisted of things like rendering love, even to those who you would consider your enemy, and spreading the Gospel message. Contrary to the appending of the word, “Christian” on Mr. Wilhelmsen’s group title, it appears that he hasn’t exactly taken the time to examine and digest what that word is actually supposed to entail. Oh, but Everest Wilhelmsen’s vitriol isn’t limited to just Facebook; I’m ashamed to say that he also hosts a weblog on the very same venue as my own, WordPress. (Mr. Wilhelmsen’s blog features a decidedly “Germany-centric” amount of imagery and content.)

     What gives Mr. Wilhelmsen, or anyone else, the right to threaten the very life of Barack Obama, the man? This is a man with a wife and two growing daughters, who love him dearly. What, may I ask, if anything at all, is “Christian” about wanting to see him killed? It is high time that the church leadership in America, and the rest of the world, takes a more active stance against rhetoric and threats of this kind. Pastors need to stop “politicking” from the pulpit. Christians need to start distancing themselves from those like Palin, Bachmann, Cruz and others, who only reinforce these hateful ends.

     Fifty years ago, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed president Kennedy. Now, militant Christians are calling for the same thing for president Obama. Around 2000 years ago, Christ was crucified by his people. Now, 2k years later, it’s happening all over again.

Life and Living: Existential Epiphanies and Dreamscapes – Reflections of An Only Child

Ripperdan_300pxw“Tuesday’s child is full of grace…”

     I can never go back. I can never relive those days so long ago, when life was much sweeter and simpler, viewed through the prism of the present. Life, such as it is, will press me ever onward, into the uncertain future. I can do nothing else, but try to be the best me that I can be, for myself and those I hold nearer and dearer.

     There were golden, wrapped individual roses, and copies of our eighth-grade yearbook embossed with gold seals. Everyone was there; talking, dancing and reminiscing about days long since passed. It was a reunion. Faces I hadn’t lain eyes on since 1984 appeared vividly in my mind’s eye as I lay in the dark, silently dreaming. I dreamt of dancing with a former girlfriend, I dreamt of the possibility of stealing a kiss from a girl I had longed to steal one from decades ago. Then, in mere seconds, the images faded as I awoke from the dream. Feeling bittersweet, I rose from my bed to greet Tuesday morning.

     What has my life been, up to this point? Have I lived my life honestly, openly to its fullest, while making a positive impact on the world around me? Have I kept the friends I had long ago, as close as I possibly could? These and other questions washed over my mind like waves on the shore as I poured my morning coffee. What is my life? What is my present, when compared with my past, and what does my future hold?

     Sitting at my computer screen, I catch myself looking through my list of friends on Facebook. Social networking, it seems, has become all but a staple of 21st-century life for some. I see the faces and read the names of those I have come to know over the years; few if any, from my childhood days, but conversely more from my adulthood. It occurs to me that many of us have grown to become quite different people than we were in our childhood, and perhaps that’s why there are so few names in my list from those days.

     I too, have changed over the years. As a child, and through my teen years, I often felt that I never quite fit in with the majority. I was the type who kept largely to myself, only interacting with others when pried from my shell through activities such as drama, band and my middle-school’s “GATE” program. Otherwise, I was in school as I was in the home; an only child.

     I am far from alone in my adult life. I have a loving and talented wife, who I have been wedded to for a quarter of a century. I have three wonderful children of my own, two of whom have grown to adulthood and one entering her pre-teen years. These are the prime movers of my existence, my motivation to live and to love.

     So I press on, into whatever the future may hold. Regrets will never do, so I do my best to make my peace with the past…and move gracefully forward.