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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Cosmos as Mystery. Intelligent Design? What does a wider study of nature reveal? How much jury-rigging or tinkering might I.D.ists be willing to admit was part of the "design?"

The I.D.ist is like a Catholic theologian who starts out by agreeing with the agnostic that the cosmos is mysterious, but in the next breath tries to convince the agnostic that the cosmos revolves around the "holy mysteries" of one particular interpretation of one particular divine revelation. To the I.D.ist that revelation is "Intelligent Design" which solves all cosmic mysteries in one fell swoop.

But the cosmos remains a mystery, both chaotic and complex, as both the new science of chaos theory, and the new science of complexity theory, have demonstrated.

And we are far from having examined the cosmos beyond earth to see whether it might contain simple forms of replicating molecules perhaps at the core of comets (where water may remain liquid for long periods of time), or on moons in our solar system (those with liquid water), or outside our solar system. The cosmos is like a tremendous laboratory running an experiment involving far with more variables (and far more varying concentrations of molecules under different conditions) than can be found in a merely human laboratory, and it has run for billions of year and has enough energy to run for billions more. Perhaps the Designer is a Tinkerer? But in that case how would we be able to tell the difference between a tinkering Designer and a cosmos that "peoples?" (makes people like an ocean makes waves). Maybe we don't come into the cosmos at birth, but come out of it?

I.D.ists claim that the only options are "design" or "chance," without defining either word very clearly.

What do I.D.ists mean by "design?" How much "design" was involved in a multi-billion year process that brought the first self-replicating chemicals and then cells to life? The earth held nothing but single celled organisms for a couple billion years, before the first multi-cellular organisms ever arose. And what kind of design leaves behind so much death right from the beginning, and so many extinct species, so many cousin-species on evolutionary-like bushes that kept dying off, often the whole bush died off, and long before the first upright primate species ever began to appear. Do I.D.ists believe humanity was "designed" in the sense of being "aimed at" from the beginning, and that evolution has hit its peak with humanity, and our present species has nowhere else to go from here either naturally or artificially? But what about other species? Maybe we can raise some of them to sentience, or even raise silicon-based life forms to sentience, and they may exceed our knowledge (or our compassion) some day? And we may be gone, perhaps we will be gone before we know it, and some other sentient species will arise later, maybe not as sentient as us, maybe more so but involving a different type of societal organization? The cosmos has billions of years yet to shine. There's stellar nurseries where countless stars are still forming, and new planets are forming around such new young stars.

What processes of "design" in particular have I.D.ists proposed? Is the Designer constantly tweaking DNA oh so invisibly, having a sip of tea, then tweaking it some more? Is the Designer popping whole new species into existence, head to toe, every ten thousand years, and still doing so, even after humans have invented cell phone cameras, but keeping it a secret by always doing it out of sight? Why does the Designer favor insects when it comes to designing new species? Is He trying to tell us something by the fact that different species of beetles number in the hundreds of thousands, and that mites, those tiny parasites, are the commonest known multi-cellular species of all, with perhaps a million species of mite on the earth? Does the Designer ever have to watch out for his little darlings once he has tweaked their DNA, keeping predators and natural disasters (and natural mutagenic chemicals and events in the cell, or radiation and cosmic rays from without the cell) from ruining his proposed plans of having such newly tweaked DNA passed to the next generation? If the Designer is watching out for his freshly tweaked darlings, then why mass extinction events? Is that the Designer shaking his Etch-I-Sketch?

Is the common idea of "design" for the average I.D.ist simply anything what "works?"--from the human brain to the malarial parasite to earthquakes. Yes, earthquakes. One prominent Christian apologist named Dinesh, explained in Christianity Today that earthquakes were a consequence of plate tectonics and plate tectonics are necessary in order to bring important minerals to the surface for life to continue, as if he knew for certain that an infinite Designer could not have designed things differently (except for that Designer's promise to design a new heavens and earth, and new heavenly bodies, lacking the horrendously frightening and deadly events found here and now, so I guess Dinesh believes God CAN come up with better designs).

But not everything that "works" was built in a day, so what is "design," really? The human species is currently the most advanced at being able to observe and replicate nature. We are like replicating mechanisms (DNA is also, so I guess "replication" is in our genes, to use a pun, and maybe it even lay in the heart of the cosmos's genes judging by some hypotheses regarding this mysterious cosmos). Humans spot similarities/patterns in nature and can replicate them.

Therefore, replication is something essential for life that takes place on both a molecular level and also inside the human brain-mind. But even when we replicate things in nature it takes us time and failures until we reach success. We are tinkerers. We didn't go from mud huts to the Empire State Building in a day. Neither did nature. Many structures the human mind tries to replicate have flaws and we suffer failures. As observant as he was, Leonardo da Vinci did not produce a human powered flying machine in his lifetime (regardless of what you see in movies or TV). The Wright brothers did not get off the ground in one go, and their successful flight only lasted seconds. Probably the same result was true the first time a feathered bipedal dinosaur glided through the air, it probably only lasted seconds, meanwhile other dinosaurs were evolving in other directions, and they became extinct. The birds survived, so they are the dinosaur's greatest success story, while the vast majority of dinosaur species are now dust. Neither were the earliest known birds in the fossil record well designed for flight. They still had long bony tails that create drag, solid bones rather than lighter hollow ones; and they had unfused finger bones which makes flight less manageable, not more so, especially over longer distance; and they had a triangle-shaped thick skull like those found on reptiles not the smoother skull with thinner bone found in more recent species; and they had teeth, and a small breast bone, not the body-length keel bone of modern day birds to which are attached thick arm flapping muscles, but instead a relatively smaller keel bone in the middle of their chests to which only much smaller muscles could have been attached, allowing them less powerful flight strokes. And all of the earliest known fossil birds were "designed" with similar deficiencies and all are extinct today.
So we see from the fossil record that whatever design there is in nature it works in a tinkering sort of way (even feathers were not necessarily designed for flight, but have been found on a variety of dinosaurs, and it is doubtful that all of them were the direct ancestors of birds). Some I.D.ists infer that perhaps molecular machines inside the cells arose overnight, arranged altogether in irreducible fashion, without any stages of tinkering in between, without trial and error. But looking at the macroscopic world of nature one wonders how they could believe that is so. Birds did not come about overnight in irreducible fashion. They started out on the ground and seem to be jury-rigged together.

Having looked at the idea of "design," let's look at the idea of "chance." I.D.ists often sneer at the word "chance."

But what do scientists mean by chance? Chance" to a scientist often means that no one has yet found a way to detect, measure or calculate all the different things that can and do happen naturally, due to their great multiplicity, unmanageable size, or speed, so in many cases we know neither all the possibilities inherent in nature, nor even the general probabilities. That doesn't mean such things cannot happen. No one has proven much either way about what cosmoses can or can't "do," same for replicating molecules.

Take the famous X-ray experiments done on fruit flies in the 60s, bombarding their gonads with heroic doses of mutation-causing X-rays. That told us as much about evolution as shooting fruit flies with buckshot. The poor critters turned out monstrous. If we wanted to do an experiment illustrating evolution we'd have to keep the mutation level nearer to normal and keep putting each new generation of fruit flies in different environments of slightly differing grades over a long period of time with lots of varieties of food to eat and choose from. Then watch to see how they evolve.

Something like that happened in Hawaii, since that chain of islands began to rise from the sea about 8 million years ago, and the environments on those islands ranges from windswept beaches to green lush valleys to lofty mountainsides. About 500 species of fruit flies are found only on the Hawaiian islands (about 25% of all fruit fly species worldwide!) And concerning the evolution of new fruit fly genera, rather than simply new species...
Reading a book on Drosophilia, I discovered the answer to the question of why no new genera of fruit flies have evolved in Hawaii despite the hundreds of species. It is due simply to the classification approach used by Drosophilia workers. The Hawaiian lineage is apparently descended from within the genus Drosophilia, as presently defined. Based on cladistic terminology, one genus should not give rise to another genus. Rather than reclassifying the 2000 or so "Drosophilia" into multiple genera, fruit fly workers use a variety of subgenera and informal terms to group them. In fact, genus names have been proposed for some of the Hawaiian lineages. [Dr. David Campbell, Biology Department, Saint Mary's College of Maryland]
And in answer to the question, "How to test that all Hawaiian fruit flies descended from one common ancestral population that began with a founder event," the answer is to "Select many characters of Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian fruit flies, and use them to develop a phylogeny, using some related fly as an outgroup." Such characters include the fact that Hawaiian fruit flies are larger and more brightly colored compared with the rest of the fruit flies on earth, and have even evolved a type of "song" that the mainland fruit flies never evolved, which means that some new morphologies and behaviors peculiar to certain species of fruit flies have evolved on the Hawaiian islands.

Ecologists believe Hawaii has so many kinds of fruit flies because the islands were isolated for millions of years and when the first fruit flies arrived, they were able to evolve so many different types because there were few rival species of flies present, and there were also a wide variety of environments left open for them to occupy. When people first arrived at the Hawaiian islands centuries ago they also found that there were thousands of unique species of birds, plants, and other life forms on the islands. While it is the fruit flies that are the best known, other insect groups have also diversified. Hawaii boasts the world's only known carnivorous caterpillar (that feasts on, you guessed it, fruit flies, probably because such flies were the commonest most plentiful food flitting around the branches next to them), the happy face spider and a host of fascinating endemic arthropods, many of which are brilliantly illustrated in the book, Hawaiian Insects and Their Kin by Francis Howarth and William Mull. Lush, and also in the book, Remains of a Rainbow; Rare Plants and Animals of Hawai'i by David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton, published by National Geographic. See also Hawaiian Natural History, Ecology, and Evolution by Alan Ziegler, published by University of Hawaii Press which traces the natural history of the Hawaiian Archipelago, as well as plant and animal evolution, flightless birds and their fossil sites.

Sadly, people have over time brought many new species with them to the islands, and the competition is driving most of the native species into extinction. Even the unique Hawaiian fruit flies are disappearing, replaced by flies from other parts of the world. The curse of what are known as invasive species is now worldwide. Surely the Designer must know what happens when species are no longer separated by long distances and they meet and compete on each other's turf? It seems a waste to design so many species that get along with one another in say the Mediterranean Sea, and then some invasive species of algae from another continent on earth gets spilled into the Mediterranean, and starts to out grow all the other plant life there, endangering or even destroying whole ecosystems, loads of other species going down one after the other due to a spill of algae. I guess the Designer couldn't do anything about that. Or won't. Not even after having spent so much time and effort carefully picking which tiny bits of each animal's genomes to edit for millions of years. Those species, all gone overnight, due to some other species he designed that could out compete it. I guess the Designer likes the spectator sport.

Also, the Designer may edit genes just right, but if he does, he doesn't clean up after himself, leaving behind loads of retroviral DNA inside the cell, that's viral DNA that some virus inserted there. That's what happens when a mosquito injects a virus, or a virus is picked up by a scrape or cough or other random contact. The virus begins to inject itself into that animal's cells, sometimes it injects into the germ cells of that animals and the viral genes get carried along inside that animals for many generations. Not much use to the animal, though some cells have found uses for retroviral DNA, not all of it, but some uses have been noted. Fascinating how even a chance encounter with DNA from a virus can be used by the cell in some instances. That sounds suspiciously like evolution, trial and error so to speak, jury-rigged design, a Designer who tinkers round.

Speaking of a common question put forth by anti-evolutionists, one often hears it said that dogs are still dogs, we have St. Bernards, Chihuahuas, Great Danes, poodles, and hundreds of other breeds of dogs. But they are still dogs.

To which one might reply, Then what were the "dog-bear" looking fossils of the Miocene? Dogs or bears? And why can't creationists or I.D.ists agree on which side of the human/ape line these fossils lay on? http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/compare.html

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HOW I.D. SURVIVES, AND WHY THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION DOES TOO (WITH SOME DEGREE OF "NATURAL SELECTION")

Once you have a self-replicating molecule... that's where the fun begins in the living world, because the cosmos keeps moving and changing, shuffling and reshuffling, living and dying. Furthermore, once you get to the point of a self-replicating molecule (even when that molecule is DNA and lay within the largest most complex of eukarotic cells) that DNA is copied IMPERFECTLY, which helps explains why there's so many different forms of living things.

One thing that helps keeps the I.D. movement afloat is that we can't examine the earliest living organisms and see how much trial and error they went through, how many stages and diversifications, extinctions and dead ends took place over the BILLIONS of years on earth when only single celled organisms exited, i.e., before the first multi-cellular species began to arise. But if we had access to a basic outline of the changes in "internal cellular architecture" of major groups of single-celled organisms during those billions of years, most evolutionists bet it would resemble the record we have for the bodily architecture of major groups of macroscopic animals as seen in the fossil record, i.e., with plenty of trial and error, different stages and diversification events, dead ends, etc., which led TO PRESENT DAY INTERNAL CELLULAR ARCHITECTURE.

Evolutionists suggest that we may one day discover some simple replicating chemicals or simple cellular organisms to study in different regions of our solar system or outside it. No laboratory is larger than the cosmos when it comes to all the possible combinations that can take place with various atoms and molecules, minerals and energies mixing over billions of years in other places in the cosmos.

And if we ever develop quantum computers and place inside them the total information of genomes and cellular architecture of every known living species of microorganism on the planet, such computers might be able to reverse engineer the most likely pathways of how life evolved, and even give us a glimpse into what the most likely earliest successful replicators (the ones leading to all of our present day surviving single celled ancestors) looked like.

There are scientists who study complexity, evolutionary algorithms and such, who want to figure out how things work, which is the first step, before proceeding to discover all the analogues of each cellular process throughout cousin species in nature. The final step is to try and discover how such processes might be related over the billions of years of individual organismic death and species extinctions, dead-ends galore.

"Codes" in nature are shorthand for a feedback loop system based on survival of that particular arrangement of atoms and molecules that make more of themselves, or don't. If they do, you wind up with a "code," which is the system itself that can make more of itself. Right now it looks like natural attraction of atoms for atoms and molecules for molecules is what built the most basic of self-replicating molecules. Is there evidence of a "code" in some platonic realm that externally directs such natural attractions between atoms? We have proven in endless experiments that such and such atoms or molecules mixed together will form this and that as expected. And we know of other self-replicating molecules besides RNA and DNA. In fact lone RNA strands will replicate themselves in test tubes to form more RNA strands if the basic building blocks chemicals of RNA are present along with a little of the common mineral like zinc to speed up the process. And if you add a tiny bit of arsenic, that destroys RNA, it will break down many of the strands. But if you add the SURVIVING STRANDS of RNA to another test tube and let them reproduce more RNA strands (they never reproduce exactly the same way, there's always a little difference in the way they put themselves together), adding a bit more arsenic, and repeat the process of saving the surviving strands of RNA, and allow them to make new strands in a new test tube, you will wind up with RNA strands that are increasingly more resistant to being broken down by ever larger quantities of arsenic. I guess there's something to natural selection after all.

FURTHER READING


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Nietzsche the Drama Queen, and Christianity's Failure to Add Much That Was New to the World

According to Nietzsche, "'God on the cross.' Never yet and nowhere has there been an equal boldness in reversal, something so horrible, questioning, and questionable as this formula: it promised a revaluation of all the values of antiquity."

I disagree, and would argue instead that Nietzsche was a drama queen.

Nietzsche's "transvaluation of values" sounds dramatic, but Christianity did not turn values completely upside down, nor did Nietzsche right them again. There have been people who cared for their sick in other lands and cultures, just as there have been dictators in Christian lands. As a trained rhetorician and son of a minister, Nietzsche tended to speak in overblown terms.

In reality the idea of "God on the cross" changed the world very little because basic human needs, insecurities, ignorance and cruelty remained (we are after all, primates who follow alpha male leaders), including the egos of "Christians" which were now super-sized by being joined to the alpha male of alpha males (God).

History demonstrates that the Christian lambs who worshiped the Lamb of God on the cross soon became lions of Judah, killing more fellow lovers of Jesus and persecuting more different people for different reasons than the Romans ever did to the Christians. Christianity also helped fill the western world with the notions of demonic causation/demonization of enemies and thought control, i.e., Christianized Roman emperors decreed in their law books that anyone who doubted the truth of the Trinity was "insane, demented," and were subject to the Emperor's wrath, including Imperial decrees that the books of skeptics like Porphyry and heretics like Arius be burnt. Henceforth anyone daring to question the new Christian status quo was persecuted. [Plenty of historical data to back that up at bottom]

Nietzsche's predecessor and idol, Schopenhauer, noted with less drama the truth about Christianity in this brief dialogue:

CONVERSATION, JERUSALEM, A.D. 33

A: Have you heard the latest?

B: No, what’s happened?

A: The world has been redeemed!

B: You don’t say!

A: Yes, the Dear Lord took on human form and had himself executed in Jerusalem; and with that the world has been redeemed and the devil hoodwinked.

B: Gosh, that’s simply lovely.

------------------------------------------

Would the world be much better or worse off today had the Persians conquered the Greeks at Thermopylae, leaving the Middle East Zoroastrian? Or if the religion of the Roman Empire had become Mithraism rather than Christianity? Humanity would have eventually learned via people other than Jesus, lessons of practical moral philosophy, and the value of tolerance and love. Either way, It takes time for us primates to learn new things. Our own individual lives have extended childhoods and adolescences compared with those of our primate cousins, during which time we learn more.

Neither am I impressed by Jesus' lessons alone. A lot of interpretation has gone into understanding them. See the forthcoming volume from Sheffield Phoenix Press, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics http://www.sheffieldphoenix.com/showbook.asp?bkid=294

Are Christianity's lessons of love also that much more superior and inspiring than those of other cultures?
http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2014/09/on-hinduism-buddhism-and-non-uniqueness.html

The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience (?)
http://infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/experience.html

Furthermore...

Jesus is depicted in the Gospels leading the life of a first century celebrity who, like celebrities today, people either loved or hated. Jesus was either being listened to by crowds of people, invited to dinner and taken care of by his groupies, or he was being denounced and threatened. He never had to endure as most people do, a lifetime of anonymity including such everyday trials as marriage and child-rearing. Talk about a cross to bear. I would have liked to have seen how Jesus could parable-ize his way out of doing the dishes, taking out the trash, getting into a brouhaha with his wife after staying out late nights with his boys, or waiting in line at the check-out counter with a box of much needed diapers or Tampax that he had to get home quickly but the person ahead of him with 100 items in their cart didn't invite Jesus to go on through ahead, and then when Jesus thought that person was about to pay and finally allow him to check-out, he sees them take out their check-book to pay and the cashier doesn't have authority to cash checks and has to call over the manager. At which point Jesus explodes. But not at the Pharisees, just at life in general. Then he has a heart attack following decades of such day to day stressful situations and dies. No. Jesus was a celebrity and died a celebrity's death. So what? Now we have to build churches to honor him, carve statues in his imagined likeness , keep the dust off those statues and light candles for him all year long? As for Jesus' death on a cross, people were scourged and/or died on crosses for any number of reasons, justly or unjustly, and Jesus might have been crucified sooner had he been born thirty or forty years earlier or later, when friction between Israel and Rome was greater.

To quote E. M. Cioran: The ultimate cruelty was that of Jesus 'leaving an inheritance of bloodstains of the cross... Had he lived to be sixty, he would have given us his memoirs instead of the cross... For two thousand years, Jesus has revenged himself on us for not having died on a sofa.'

The famous "sofa" line from Cioran makes me wonder what the apostles would have done had Jesus tripped and accidentally hit his head on a large rock while preaching, or, took a nasty tumble on his final walk toward Jerusalem, and, instead of being executed on a cross wound up having to be cared for by those same apostles for years until he slowly wasted away? Having to care for a crippled or brain damaged friend for a decade or more seems like more of a challenge, and certainly the image of modern day Christians wearing little bed pans around their necks would be different, along with the message that "Our savior slowly wasted away, required 24 hour care, and was only able to repeat certain syllables up till the end without making much sense... for your sins." If you were to present the apostles with such a situation and even gave them the choice of one or the other, I bet they would choose to have Jesus die in a few hours on a cross instead, no matter how bloody, so they could march around triumphantly spreading their beliefs soon afterwards.

Cioran added...

'A human being possessed by a belief and not eager to pass it on to others is a phenomenon alien to the earth... Look around you: everywhere, specters preaching, each institution translates a mission; city halls have their absolute, even as the temples--officialdom, with its rules... Everyone trying to remedy everyone's life: even beggars, even the incurable aspire to it: the sidewalks and hospitals of the world overflow with reformers. The longing to become a source of events affects each man like a mental disorder or a desired malediction. Society--an inferno of saviors!... The compulsion to preach is so rooted in us that it emerges from depths unknown to the instinct for self-preservation. Each of us awaits his moment in order to propose something -- anything. he has a voice: that is enough... all hand out formulas for happiness, all try to give directions... if you fail to meddle in other people's business you are so uneasy about your own that you convert your "self" into a religion, or, apostle in reverse, you deny it altogether; we are victims of the universal game.' (Eric Hoffer agreed with Cioran's assessment that Christianity, Islam, fascism, communism, and other ideological mass movements attract people for similar psychological reasons: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2012/01/eric-hoffer-quotations-on-similar.html

Or as Salman Rushdie put it...

'Love can lead to devotion, but the devotion of the lover is unlike that of the True Believer in that it is not militant. I may be surprised - even shocked - to find that you do not feel as I do about a given book or work of art or even person; I may very well attempt to change your mind; but I will finally accept that your tastes, your loves, are your business and not mine. The True Believer knows no such restraints. The True Believer knows that he is simply right, and you are wrong. He will seek to convert you, even by force, and if he cannot he will, at the very least, despise you for your unbelief.'

Logan Pearsall Smith said something similar about human beings being possessed by their beliefs, but in a funnier fashion:

'How is one to keep free from those mental microbes that worm-eat people's brains--those Theories and Diets and Enthusiasms and infectious Doctrines that we catch from what seem the most innocuous contacts? People go about laden with germs; they breath creeds and convictions on you as soon as they open their mouths. Books and newspapers are simply creeping with them--the monthly Reviews seem to have room for little else. Wherewithal then shall a young man cleanse his way; how shall he keep his mind immune to Theosophical speculations, and novel schemes of Salvation? Can he ever be sure that he won't be suddenly struck down by the fever of Funeral or of Spelling Reform, or take to his bed with a new Sex Theory?'

Returning to Cioran, he went even further, noting...

'In the fervent mind you always find the camouflaged beast of prey; no protection is adequate against the claws of a prophet... Once he raises his voice, whether in the name of heaven, of the city, or some other excuse... he will not forgive your living on the wrong side of his truths and his transports; he wants you to share his hysteria, his fullness, he wants to impose it on you.... The ages of fervor abound in bloody exploits: a Saint Teresa could only be the contemporary of the auto-da-fé, a Luther of the repression of the Peasants’ Revolt. In every mystic outburst, the moans of victims parallel the moans of ecstasy... Scaffolds, dungeons, jails flourish only in the shadow of a faith—of that need to believe... The devil pales beside the man who owns a truth, his truth... The real criminals are men who establish an orthodoxy on the religious or political level, men who distinguish between the faithful and the schismatic.'

'I feel safer with a Pyrrho than with a Saint Paul, for a jesting wisdom is gentler than an unbridled sanctity... Saint Paul—the most considerable vote-canvasser of all time—has made his tours, infesting the clarity of the ancient twilight with his epistles. An epileptic triumphs over five centuries of philosophy! Reason is confiscated by the fathers of the Church! And if I were to look for the most mortifying date for the mind’s pride, if I were to scan the inventory of intolerances, I would find nothing comparable to the year 529, when, following Justinian’s decree, the School of Athens was closed. The right to decadence being officially suppressed, to believe became an obligation... This is the most painful moment in the history of Doubt.'

HISTORICAL DATA

Augustine of Hippo set forth the principle of Cognite Intrare ("Compel them to enter," based on Luke 14:23). Cognite Intrare would be used throughout the Middle Ages to justify the Church's suppression of dissent and oppression of difference. http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2014/08/quotations-from-augustine-of-hippo.html

Christian persecution of pagans--exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians
http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/05/pagans-0-christians-1.html

Christian persecution of fellow Christians--exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians
http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/06/christians-0-christians-0-early-church.html

Reformation Christian persecution of fellow Christians--exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians
http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/07/christians-0-christians-0-from.html

Christian persecution of American Indians--exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians
http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/07/indians-0-christians-1.html

Decrees of Christian Emperors against non-Trinitarians [at bottom of this piece]
http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/08/trinity-three-states-of-water-bill.html

Protestant and Catholic defenses of the necessity of persecuting heretics, blasphemers, infidels, etc.
http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/05/protestant-catholic-defenses-of.html

Monday, November 03, 2014

Is Intelligent Design a Viable Scientific Hypothesis? The Cambrian Explosion, No Help to I.D. (Stephen C. Meyer Signature in the Cell, Darwin's Doubt, Louis Agassiz, Discovery Institute)

If I.D. [Intelligent Design] is simply the assertion that a "mind" did it as Stephen C. Meyer proposes, then any discussion of I.D. will be quite short. How did a "mind" do it? And by "mind" most I.D.ists probably mean "God," another mysterious word.

In contrast, a truly curious scientist should always continue to ask how. Even in heaven an evolutionist would want to ask God how he came to this or that decision, conclusion, or what connections existed inside the divine mind that led to this change instead of that change in particular being made, and what did God do to effect each such change? Did God utilize mutagenic chemicals that already exist inside each cell and move them telekinetically toward the right spots in the DNA chain to effect this or that mutation? Did God bend and focus mutagenic cosmic rays so that they penetrated the germ cells of the organism and effected the right mutations? Did God also have to keep an eye on the DNA chain to make sure no more mutagenic chemicals or cosmic rays touched this or that part of the DNA to reverse such changes? Did God also have to monitor each mutated animal to make sure no diseases or predators or natural disasters crippled or took its life, so it would remain alive at least long enough to pass along such changes. It's the details, the connections, even if they only exist in the mind of God that are fascinating to scientists.
The steps by which curious scientists continue to search for connections in nature, how things are related to one another, are these:

1) How does it work.

2) What are all the known, possible and hypothetical analogues which resemble how that one thing works?

3) Lastly, based on all our knowledge of 1) and 2), how might they be related in an evolutionary sense?
I.D.ists start at 1) like Behe who regurgitated what we found out from other scientists about how the flagellum works, then he simply mocked the idea that a third step was even worth investigating. He did not delve very deeply into either 2) or 3), pools which no one has yet plumbed the depths of (if only because in the case of a flagellum it evolved at a time when bacteria were exchanging DNA both actively and passively for probably over a billion years, and tracing all such possible changes is astronomical. Neither do we have fossils from that early period, certainly nothing like the fossils we possess for the bones of ancient fish, reptiles and mammals that allow us to follow the changes over time from fins to limbs.

THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION, NO HELP TO I.D.

As an I.D. dissenter, I agree that the members of each phyla that first "exploded" onto the scene 500 million years ago look very different from one another... today. But viewed way back then the Cambrian “Explosion” appears like the radiation of bilaterian worms into more complex worms (and this took something like 30 million years just to get to the most primitive forms that are clearly related to one or another living crown “phyla”), and occurred in many stages, instead of all at once. But, the reader gets very little of the actual big picture from Meyer. See Meyer's Hopeless Monster, Part II

In general, the earliest Cambrian relatives of the living phyla tend to be a lot more wormlike or sluglike than most modern representatives of the living phyla. Of course, many of the living phyla are basically still worms, and the more complex living phyla (e.g. molluscs, chordates) have early-diverging representatives or relatives that are rather more wormlike than the better-known modern representatives with more complex bodyplans. Even the earliest “fish” – actually either stem-group craniates, stem-group cephalochordates, or stem-group chordates – are basically filter-feeding worms that happen to swim. They don’t have jaws, scales, limbs, a bone skeleton, or anything else that most readers would associate with the word “fish.”

In fact, the earliest identifiable representatives of Cambrian “phyla” don’t occur until millions of years after the small shelly fauna have been diversifying, and they tend to be taxa on the stem below the crown of living phyla, rather than placeable within the crown. Trilobites are an exception, but what is often missed is that deposits like the Chenjiang have dozens and dozens of trilobite-like and arthropod-like organisms that fall cladistically outside of these respective clades. These are transitional forms! How can this fact not be highlighted!?

Is it really a mystery that the fossil record looks like this, from single-celled organisms up to the little shellies that preceded the Cambrian Explosion?
The sequence of fossils in the geological record:

1. Before 700 mya, maybe well before: Single-celled eukaryotes (acritarchs)

2. Earlier Ediacaran: Multicellular animal eukaryotes, but simple, SPONGE-grade organisms

3. Later Ediacaran: Multicellular animal eukaryotes with more complexity, i.e. cnidarian-grade organisms

4. Very late Ediacaran: Simple SLUG-grade/WORM-grade organisms (at least their tracks and burrows) – the first ones only making surface tracks and lacking burrowing ability. Making tracks suggests that the organisms have at least a front end and a back end, a mouth, anus, and gut connecting them. These are almost certainly bilaterians.

5. Very late Ediacaran: The very first biomineralized “skeletons”, e.g. Cloudina, basically a WORM secreting a tube, as well as the first evidence of predatory boring. Cloudina gets no mention at all in Meyer’s book.

6. At the beginning of the Cambrian, we start to see more complex burrowing – e.g., vertical burrowing through sediment, clearly indicating WORM-grade organization and an internal fluid skeleton, i.e. a coelom. The burrows gradually increase in complexity over 10 my.

7. SMALL SHELLY fauna: The shells, which started very small and very simple, gradually diversify and get more complex, radiating especially in the Tommotian. By the end of the Tommotion, some of the “small shellies” can be identified as parts of larger, “classic” Cambrian animals. The Tommotian is an utterly key period for any serious discussion of the Cambrian Explosion. Unfortunately, the word “Tommotian”, or any equivalent terminology (the detailed stratigraphy of the Cambrian is still being worked out, see Erwin & Valentine 2013 for a review), does not even appear in the book! The Small Shelly Fauna (SSF) gets just one (one!) mention in the book, buried in endnote 27 of Chapter 4, a whole chapter devoted to debunking the idea that the Ediacaran fauna is “ancestral” to bilaterians. (See discussion of the concept of “ancestral” below, which Meyer makes a complete hash of; however, I would tend to agree that the evidence is not good that the classic Ediacarans are within the bilaterian crown, as much because of the late date of #4-6, above, as anything.)
FURTHER QUESTIONS FOR I.D. REGARDING THE KNOWN PHYLA

Maybe an I.D.ist can explain why we need 33-40 phyla when merely 9 of those phyla constitute about 95% of all animal life? The remaining 26-31 phyla have fewer than about 2,000 known members--the rarest with just three members (Cycliophora: odd sacs represented by Symbion pandora), two members (Xenoturbellida: strange flatworm) or one species (Micrognathozoa: tiny jawed animal, and Placozoa, an animal that resembles a multicellular amoeba). Most are simple marine organisms, often referred to as worms or nanoplankton.

Also, how about an I.D.ist explaining why, among multi-cellular organisms, beetles and mites proliferate so much, producing hundreds of thousands of species, while other phyla produce far fewer? The number of species of mites might even reach 1 million according to some estimates, as more beetles and mites continue being discovered all the time. Wow, the Designer or Nature's innate design abilities really seem focused on mites.

ABOUT PHYLA

13 phyla of multi-cellular animals appear during the Cambrian Explosion.

BUT...

20 phyla of multi-cellular animals appear AFTER the Cambrian. Neither is the number of phyla into which all the world's species can be divided agreed upon among systematicists. Under the most frequently used classification scheme there are 38 animal phyla, but some systematicists claim there are between 35 and 40 phyla. Three new phyla were discovered in the last century, the most recent in 1993.

MEYER'S CREATIONIST HERO, LOUIS AGASSIZ

Meyer idolizes Agassiz, a creationist who opposed even the evolutionary idea of common descent. Here is how Agassiz argued for creationism in his day [SOURCE: Agassiz, Evolution and Permanence of Type, The Atlantic Monthly, 1874, pages 92-101]:
"...the earliest known Vertebrates [from the fossil record when Agassiz was writing] ...are Selachians (sharks and their allies) and Ganoids (garpikes and the like), the highest of all living fishes, structurally speaking.

"It shall be answered that these belong to the Silurian and Devonian periods, and that it is believed [by evolutionists] that Vertebrates may have existed before that time. It will also be argued that Myzonts, namely Amphioxus, Myxinoids [Hagfish], and Lamper-eels [Lampreys], have no hard parts and could not have been preserved on that account. I will grant both these points, though the fact is that the Myzonts do possess solid parts, in the jaws, as capable of preservation as any bone, and that these solid parts, if ever found, even singly, would be as significant, for a zoologist, as the whole skeleton.'"
In other words Agassiz was mocking evolutionists for not finding fossil evidence of the earliest jawless eel-life vertebrates in the fossil record prior to the Devonian. He was also mocking them for not finding fossil evidence of Amphioxus-like earlyvertebrates prior to jawless eel-like vertebrates in the fossil record. BUT BOTH WERE FOUND, AND THEY WERE FOUND IN THE PLACES WHERE THE EVOLUTIONISTS EXPECTED THEM TO BE FOUND.

Agassiz also wrote loads that argued in favor of the idea that different races of humanity were each created separately and could be classified on the basis of specific climatic zones (just as he viewed the separate creations of animal and plant species), and that the different races of humanity were accordingly endowed with unequal attributes by their Creator.

Agassiz came from a line of ministers, and during his natural science studies he favored Cuvier the creationist over Lamarck the transformationalist/evolutionist. Does Meyer mention that?

In a recent short radio debate with a specialist in the Cambrian who pointed out developments in the "little shellies" pre-Cambrian, Meyer's even backed away from his claim that the lack of fossils prior to the Cambrian explosion did much if anything to provide evidence for "I.D."

Meyer should be embarrassed concerning how closely his charts of the major phyla resemble the charts creationists used in the 1980s when they tried to argue that each phyla was created independently. He should have used more detailed charts such as these.

Meyer also needs to consider that species have to spread widely in order to increase their chances of even being fossilized. Some species are going to be far more successful at reproducing and invading new environments and they are going to spread widely and have a much greater chance of being fossilized. While branches of those species, their "cousins" so to speak, may go extinct far sooner, with little chance of the remains of such extinct cousins being fossilized at all. To suggest an analogy, the fossil record resembles a car park garage buried sometimes slowly, and sometimes by a catastrophe (that's what today's geologists believe about the fossil record, their view is called Actualism, which leaves room for both Uniformitarianism and local Catastrophic burying events). There are cars on each level of the parking garage, but the cars undergoing transitions are on the ramps between levels and haven't reached the point where their descendants cover a large part of any one level of the car park garage yet. So when the garage is buried the cars on the ramps are naturally less numerous. (And many of those side ramps simply lead off a cliff, leaving little to no remains, i.e., all those cousin species that go extinct for each species that makes it to a different level of the car park garage and expands its brood there, and increases its chances of leaving fossils behind. If you don't know where to look for the ramps, your odds of finding transitional fossils are minimal.

Paleontologists dig up transitional fossils by traveling to exactly those places on earth where the strata is dated to the time period where such transitions most likely existed, and finding an outcropping there that is exposed and that is also known to contain fossils. That is exactly how the discovery of the first mammal-like reptile fossil was made. Some brave paleontolgists traveled way up north to a particular outcropping that was dated to a particular time period between reptiles and mammals and known to contain fossils, and they found the first mammal-like reptile fossils (with double-jaw joints and other transitional features). Some of those intrepid paleontologists also died as a result of the harsh weather they experienced during their digs up there. A more recent case was the discovery of the amphibian-like fish, Tiktaalik. The paleontologist leader of the expedition knew the geologic record and where such transitions would had taken place and obtained funding to visit particular strata from that period that was exposed and known to be fossiliferous. In other words they trekked to the "ramp of the parking garage" and found on that ramp the remains of Tiktaalik, a fish with an amphibian-like skull, eyes on the top, a distinct neck, finger bones, and other amphibian-like characteristics, but in a fish. They also got lucky in that it was near the time when they would have had to retreat because winter was coming and the ground was beginning to refreeze and would have remained frozen most of the year too.

Does Meyer mention how important it is to look in the right places, geologically speaking, for transitional fossils? Does he mention that that is exactly how transitional species have been successfully discovered? Does he mention that the "Pre-Cambrian" is not really a geologic period at all due to the enormous upheavals that took place during that period? It's simply rock that has no name for a period all its own, other than being "pre"Cambrian, like a heavily erased black board that you hope to discover some scribbles on that nature has not yet erased.

Also, paleontologists realized after more fossils of each species were discovered that if there was a "design" to the way organisms continued to change and spread out on the earth, that design was not straightforward. It began to look more like nature was trying everything, experimenting, trial and error-wise, tinkering, and failing a huge amount of the time. The discovery of an increasing number of ancient horse-like species led to them co-existing at different intervals and most dying out like leaves on a bushy tree when autumn comes, not following a straight path that might imply an intended plan of "design." The fact that most species simply go extinct doesn't exactly cry out "intelligent design." Vast numbers of cousin species simply go extinct, often leaving behind NOTHING BUT A WIDE DIVERSITY OF TEETH (enamel is one of the hardest of natural substances). Meyers in his book mentions such things as the Permian extinction, which was the largest known mass extinction event. Was the Designer shaking his etch-i-sketch?

I read that the most complete T. Rex is only about 85%. Most evidence for T. Rex was quite fragmentary until that special fossil was finally found. That same is true of fossils of other species from horses to hominids to cetacea. Often only the teeth have survived and been discovered that bear silent witness to the existence of endless cousin species that once existed but exist no more.
"It's tempting to build this story like a totem pole, with trotting Pakicetus at the base, Ambulocetus laying its humming jaw on top of it, and Rodhocetus, the earliest whale to swim like a whale, sitting above the two. It seems like such a smooth progression toward today's cetaceans that it must be right. But such a version would only be a vertical slice of the story. Life doesn't proceed from one point to another -- it forks and radiates like the cladograms that represent it. Paleontologists have found many other whale bones in Eocene rocks of Pakistan and India. MOSTLY THEY ARE TEETH -- the rock surrenders A FEW skulls as well -- but even teeth clearly show that their owners were NOT CLONES of Pakicetus or the other better-known whales. Ambulocetus kept to brackish deltas and coastal water, but Thewissen has found whale teeth from about the same age in what at the time was the open ocean. Gingerich has found at least three contemporaries of Rodhocetus a few million years younger than Ambulocetus: Takracetus, with a wide, flat head; Gavinocetus, with a slender skull and loose hips; and Dalanistes, a whale with a head as long and narrows as a heron's set on a long neck, with hips cemented firmly enough to its spine to walk on land. If this is a confusing picture, it should be. As time passed, certain whale species emerged that were more and more adapted to life in the water, but other species simultaneously branched away in many directions. Walking and swimming whales lived side by side, or in some cases traded homes as the buckling birth of the Himalayas shuffled their habitats. Some were only a minor variation on a theme that would carry through to modern whales, but others -- heron-headed Dalamistes, for example -- belonged to strange branches unlike anything alive today. "-- Carl Zimmer, At the Water's Edge
Does Meyers really believe that lamenting that Darwin's views overshadowed those of Louis Agassiz (Meyer's creationist hero), is going to get him or the I.D. movement anywhere? As I said concerning the parking garage analogy, tons of cousin species went extinct, and species that had not succeeded to the point of spreading far and wide have far less chance of being fossilized.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Aldous Huxley Quotations on the Bible, Christianity, sexual mores, philosophies of meaninglessness, and philosophies of meaning

ALDOUS HUXLEY ON THE INFLUENCE OF THE WORST ASPECTS OF THE BIBLE ON THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY
"Examples of reversion to barbarism through mere ignorance are unhappily abundant in the history of Christianity. The early Christians made the enormous mistake of burdening themselves with the Old Testament, which contains, along with much fine poetry and sound morality the history of the cruelties and treacheries of a Bronze-Age people, fighting for a place in the sun under the protection of its anthropomorphic tribal deity... Those whom it suited to be ignorant and, along with them, the innocent and uneducated could find in this treasure-house of barbarous stupidity justifications for every crime and folly. Texts to justify such abominations as religious wars, the persecution of heretics... could be found in the sacred books and were in fact used again and again throughout the whole history of the Christian Church. [Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, p. 328]

"In this remarkable compendium of Bronze-Age literature, God is personal to the point of being almost sub-human. Too often the believer has felt justified in giving way to his worst passions by the reflection that, in doing so, he is basing his conduct on that of a God who feels jealousy and hatred... and behaves in general like a particularly ferocious oriental tyrant. The frequency with which men have identified the prompting of their own passions with the voice of an all too personal God is really appalling." [p. 276-277]

"According to his very inadequate biographers, Jesus of Nazareth was never preoccupied with philosophy, art, music, or science and ignored almost completely the problems of politics, economics and sexual relations. It is also recorded of him that he blasted a fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season, that he scourged the shopkeepers in the temple precincts and caused a herd of swine to drown. Scrupulous devotion to and imitation of the person of Jesus have resulted only too frequently in a fatal tendency, on the part of earnest Christians, to despise artistic creation and philosophic thought; to disparage the inquiring intellect, to evade all long-range, large-scale problems of politics and economics, and to believe themsevles justified in displaying anger, or as they would doubtless prefer to call it, 'righteous indignation.'" [p. 275-276]
ALDOUS HUXLEY ON RELIGIOUS FAITH AND ETHICS
"There are some... who believe that no desirable 'change of heart' can be brought about without supernatural aid. There must be, they say, a return to religion. (Unhappily, they cannot agree on the religion to which the return should be made.)" [Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, p. 2]

"In practice, Christianity, like Hinduism or Buddhism, is not one religion, but several religions, adapted to the needs of different types of human beings. A Christian church in Southern Spain, or Mexico, or Sicily is singularly like a Hindu temple. The eye is delighted by the same gaudy colors, the same tripe-like decorations, the same gesticulating statues; the nose inhales the same intoxicating smells; the ear and, along with it, the understanding, are lulled by the drone of the same incomprehensible incantations [in the old Catholic Latin mass tradition], roused by the same loud, impressive music.

"At the other end of the scale, consider the chapel of a Cistercian monastery and the meditation hall of a community of Zen Buddhists. They are equally bare; aids to devotion (in other words fetters holding back the soul from enlightenment) are conspicuously absent from either building. Here are two distinct religions for two distinct kinds of human beings." [p. 262-263]

"In Christianity bhakti [or, loving devotion] towards a personal being has always been the most popular form of religious practice. Up to the time of the [Catholic] Counter-Reformation, however, the way of knowledge ("mystical knowledge" as it is called in Chrstian language) was accorded an honorable place beside the way of devotion. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards the way of knowledge came to be neglected and even condemned. We are told by Dom John Chapman that "Mercurian, who was general of the society (of Jesus) from 1573 to 1580, forbade the use of the works of Tauler, Ruysbroek, Suso, Harphius, St. Gertrude, and St. Mechtilde." Every effort was made by the [Catholic] Counter-Reformers to heighten the worshipper's devotion to a personal divinity. The literary content of Baroque art is hysterical, almost epileptic, in the violence of its emotionality. It even becomes necessary to call in physiology as an aid to feeling. The ecstasies of the saints are represented by seventeenth-century artists as being frankly sexual. Seventeenth-century drapery writhes like so much tripe. In the equivocal personage of Margaret Mary Alacocque, seventeenth-century piety pours over a bleeding and palpitating heart. From this orgy of emotionalism and sensationalism Catholic Christianity seems never completely to have recovered." [p. 281-282]

"First Shakespeare sonnets seem meaningless; first Bach fugues, a bore; first differential equations, sheer torture. But training changes the nature of our spiritual experiences. In due course, contact with an obscurely beautiful poem, an elaborate piece of [musical] counterpoint or of mathematical reasoning, causes us to feel direct intuitions of beauty and significance. It is the same in the moral world. A man who has trained himself in goodness come to have certain direct intuitions about character, about the relations between human beings, about his own position in the world -- intuitions that are quite different from the intuitions of the average sensual man... [p. 333]
"The ideal of non-attachment has been formulated and systematically preached again and again in the course of the last three thousand years. We find it (along with everything else) in Hinduism. It is at the very heart of the teachings of the Buddha. For Chinese readers the doctrine is formulated by Lao Tsu. A little later, in Greece, the ideal of non-attachment is proclaimed, albeit with a certain, pharisaic priggishness, by the Stoics. The Gospel of Jesus is essentially a gospel of non-attachment to "the things of this world," and of attachment to God. Whatever may have been the aberrations of organized Christianity -- and they range from extravagant asceticism to the most brutally cynical forms of realpolitik -- there has been no lack of Christian philosophers to reaffirm the ideal of non-attachment. Here is John Tauler, for example, telling us that 'freedom is complete purity and detachment which seeketh the Eternal...' Here is the author of "The Imitation of Christ," who bids us 'pass through many cares as though without care; not after the manner of a sluggard, but by a certain prerogative of a free mind, which does not cleave with inordinate affection to any creature.'" [p. 5, 6]

"...as knowledge, sensibility and non-attachment increase, the contents of the judgments of value passed even by men belonging to dissimilar cultures, tend to approximate. The ethical doctrines taught in the Tao Te Ching, by Buddha and his followers, in the Sermon on the Mount, and by the best of the Christian saints, are not dissimilar." [p. 327]
WHAT DID ALDOUS HUXLEY SAY ABOUT "PHILOSOPHIES OF MEANINGLESSNESS?" AND WHAT DID HE BELIEVE?

In his book, Ends and Means, written in 1937 (chapter 14, the chapter on "Beliefs"), he wrote about the rise of "philosophies of meaninglessness" and materialism among the masses after the First World War, the generation of the 1920s-30s. Speaking of that generation, John Derbyshire wrote:
"The second and third decades of the twentieth century were notoriously an age of failed gods and shattered conventions, to which many thoughtful people responded in obvious ways, retreating into nihilism, hedonism, and experimentalism. Literature became subjective, art became abstract, poetry abandoned its traditional forms. In the 'low, dishonest decade' that then followed, much of this negativism curdled into power-worship and escapism of various kinds. Aldous Huxley stood aside from these large general trends. Though no Victorian in habits or beliefs, he never entered whole-heartedly into the spirit of modernism. The evidence is all over the early volumes of these essays. James Joyce's ground breaking novel, Ulysses, he declares in 1925, is 'one of the dullest books ever written,and one of the least significant.' Jazz, he remarks two years later, is 'drearily barbaric.' Writing of Sir Christopher Wren in 1923, he quotes with approval Carlyle's remark that Chelsea Hospital, one of Wren's creations, was 'obviously the work of a gentleman.' Wren, Huxley goes on to say, was indeed a great gentleman, 'one who valued dignity and restraint and who, respecting himself, respected also humanity.' In his thirties, in fact, Huxley comes across as something of a Young Fogey." [John Derbyshire, "What Happened to Aldous Huxley," The New Criterion Vol. 21, No. 6 (February 2003)]
In chapter 15 of Ends and Means on "Ethics," Aldous, the "Young Fogey," abhorred "sexual addictions," or using sex as a means to achieving base ends. And Aldous' chapters on "Religious Practices," "Beliefs," and "Ethics" argued in favor of a meaningful cosmos and a universal spirituality that Aldous said was reflected in the works of certain Eastern mystics as well as some famous Christian mystics. Below is a series of quotations demonstrating what I have said above, all taken from Aldous Huxley's Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed for Their Realization (Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York and London, 1937, fifth edition).

ALDOUS HUXLEY REBUTTS "PHILOSOPHIES OF MEANINGLESSNESS"
"From the world we actually live in, the world that is given by our senses, our intuitions of beauty and goodness, our emotions and impulses, our moods and sentiments, the man of science abstracts a simplified private universe of things possessing only... elements which can be weighed, measured, numbered, or which lend themselves in any other way to mathematical treatment. By using this technique of simplification and abstraction, the scientist has succeeded to an astonishing degree in understanding and dominating the physical environment. The success was intoxicating and, with an illogicality which, in the circmstances, was doubtless pardonable, many scientists and philosophers came to imagine that this useful abstraction from reality was reality itself. Reality as actually experienced contains intuitions of value and significance, contain love, beauty, mystical ecstasy, intimations of godhead. Science did not and still does not possess intellectual instruments with which to deal with thses aspects of reality. Consquently it ignored them and concentrated its attention upon such aspects of the world as it could deal with by mean of arithmetic, geometry and the various branches of higher mathematics. Our conviction that the world is meaningless lend itself very effectively to furthering the ends of erotic or political passion; in part to a genuine intellectual error -- the error of identifying the world of science, a world from which all meaning and value has been deliberately excluded, with ultimate reality.

"[The philosopher, Hume's, erroneous attitude was typical] Hume wrote, 'If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstracts reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact or evidence? No. Commit it then to the flame; for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.' Hume mentions only divinity and school metaphysics; but his argument would apply just as cogently to poetry, music, painting, sculpture and all ethical and religious teaching. Hamlet contains no abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number and no experimental reason concerning evidence; nor does the Hamerklavier Sonata, nor Donatello's David, nor the Tao Te Ching [book of Chinese philosophy and wisdom], nor the Following of Christ. Commit them therefore to the flames: for they can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

"We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning-after... The contents of literature, art, music -- even in some measure of divinity and school metaphysics -- are not sophistry and illusion, but simply those elements of experience which scientists chose to leave out of account, for the good reason that they had no intellectual methods for dealing with them. In the arts, in philosophy, in religion, men are trying -- to describe and explain the non-measureable, purely qualitative aspects of reality...[Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, p. 308-310]

"In recent years, many men of science have come to realize that the scientific picture of the world is a partial one -- the product of their special competence in mathematics and their special incompetence to deal systematically with aesthetic and moral values, religous experiences and intuitions of significance. Unhappily, novel ideas become acceptable to the less intelligent members of society only with a very considerable time-lag. Sixty or seventy years ago the majority of scientists believed -- and the belief caused them considerable distress -- that the product of their special incompetence was identical with reality as a whole. Today this belief has begun to give way, in scientific circles, to a different and obviously truer conception of the relation between science and total experience. The masses on the contrary, have just reached the point where the ancestors of today's scientists were standing two generations back. They are convinced that the scientific picture of an arbitrary abstraction from reality is a picture of reality as a whole and that therefore the world is without meaning or value. But nobody likes living in such a world. To satisfy their hunger for meaning and value, they turn to such doctrines as nationalism, fascism and revolutionary communism. Philosophically and scientifically, these doctrines are absurd; but for the masses in every community, they have this great merit: they atytribute the meaning and value that have been taken away from the world as a whole to the particular part of the world in which the believers happen to be living.

"These last considerations raise an important question, which must now be considered in some detail. Does the world as a whole possess the value and meaning that we constatntly attribute to certain parts of it (such as human beings and their works); and, if so, what is thenature of that value and meaning? This is a question which, a few years ago, I should not even have posed. For, like so many of my contemporaries, I took it for granted that there was no meaning. This was partly due to the fact that I shared the common belief that the scientific picture of an abstraction from reality was a true picture of reality as a whole; partly also to other, non-intellectual reasons. I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.

"Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don't know because we don't want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon what subjects we shall use our intelligence. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless." [p. 311-312]
ALDOUS HUXLEY REBUTS "PHILOSOPHIES OF MEANING" PROPOSED BY ESTABLISHED RELIGIONS LIKE CHRISTIANITY
"No philosophy is completely disinterested. The pure love of truth is always mingle to some extent with the need, consciously or unconsciously felt by even the noblest and the most intelligent philosophers, to justify a given form of personal or social behavior, to rationalize the traditional prejudices of a given class or community. The philosopher who finds meaning in the world is concerned, not only to elucidate that meaning, but also to prove that is it most clearly expressed in some established religion, some accepted code of morals. The philosopher who find no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is not valid reason why her personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. The voluntary, as opposed to the intellectual, reasons for holding the doctrines of materialism, for examples, may be predominantly erotic, as they were in the case of Lamettrie (see his lyrical account of the pleasures of the bed in La Volupte and at the end of L'Homme Machine ['The Human Machine,' a work of materialist philosophy]), or predominantly political, as they were in the case of Karl Marx. The desire to justify a particular form of political organization and, in some cases, of a personal will to power has played an equally large part in the formulation of philosophies postulating the existence of meaning in the world. Christian philosophers have found no difficulty in justifying imperialism, war, the capitalistic system, the use of torture, the censorship of the press, and ecclesiastical tyrannies of every sort from the tyranny of Rome to the tyrannies of [Calvin's] Geneva and [Puritan] New England. In all cases they have shown that the meaning of the world was such as to be compatibel with, or actually most completely expressed by, the iniquities I have mentioned above -- iniquities which happened, of course, to serve the personal or sectarian interests of the philosophiers concerned. In due course, these arose philosophers who denied not only the right of Christian special pleaders to justify iniquity by an appeal to the meaning of the world, but even their right to find any such meaning whatsoever. In the circumstances, the fact was not surprising. One unscrupulous distortion of the truth tends to beget other and opposite distortions. Passions may be satisfied in the process; but the disinterested love of knowledge suffers eclipse. [p. 314-316]

"For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was an admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotic revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever... The men of the new Enlightenment, which occurred in the middle years of the nineteenth century, once again used meaninglessness as a weapon against the [conservative] reactionaries. The Victorian passion for respectability was, however, so great that, during the period when they were formulated, neither Positivism nor Darwinism was used as a justification for sexual indulgence. [p. 316-317]
ALDOUS HUXLEY'S WARNING AGAINST SEXUAL ADDICTION
"It is only when it takes the form of physical addiction that sex is evil. It is also evil when it manifests itself as a way of satisfying the lust for power or the climber's craving for position and social distinction." [Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, p. 358]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Failure of the Search for Evidence of Human Giants Over Ten Feet Tall, The Nephilim, et al. A Creationist Story of Obsession

What creationists (like Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind) "see" below is "photographic evidence" that human giants over ten feet tall existed.

The source of the "photograph" turns out to be an engraving from a book that contains an unsubstantiated story
SOURCE: http://books.google.com/books?id=qb0vAAAAMAAJ&ots=sm5utu2FMw&dq=%22The%20Tongue%20of%20Time%22%20comstock&pg=PA86#v=onepage&q&f=false

One finds endless pages of bunk on "human giants" (over ten feet all) on the web, a hodgepodge of photoshopped images (people neglect to even google the words, "photoshop human giant," or check Snopes and other urban myth tracking sites to see the evidence that such images were photoshopped. Even a video showing you how http://youtu.be/y6t8blQcrFY ). One can also find ancient reports that simply talk about the bones of human giants being found but lack any bones to back up the talk (we don't know if the bones were human, since in the 1700 and 1800s plenty of such misinterpretations existed due to discovering large mammal and dinosaur bones that people supposed might be human). The "solid" evidence for human giants over ten feet tall consists of carved giant human-looking statues. One such statue can be seen leaning up against a train in Great Britain:
SOURCE: http://www.thelivingmoon.com/forum1/index.php?PHPSESSID=b36cdd7b5befc1b12d9cec946143cb2d&topic=463.msg19576#msg19576

The above statue was carved soon after the popular Cardiff Giant, another carving:

Both raked in money for their owners who put them on display. See the full story below.

A Colossal Hoax: The Giant from Cardiff that Fooled America http://www.amazon.com/Colossal-Hoax-Cardiff-Fooled-America/dp/0742560511/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303175434&sr=1-1

The "discovery" of the "petrified Cardiff Giant" in the 1860s directly preceded the "discoveries" of both the "petrified Irish Giant" and even a "petrified Revolutionary War soldier" in the 1890s.

The "discoverer" of the "petrified Irish Giant," Mr. Dyer, said it had been dug up in County Antrim, Ireland, in the 1890s. We'll see below why that claim itself is part of the hoax.Dyer, after showing the "giant" in Dublin, came to England with his find and exhibited it in Liverpool and Manchester at sixpence a head, which was exactly what happened in America in the 1860s with the "Cardiff Giant," the parallel hoax. P.T. Barnum made loads of money displaying the Cardiff Giant, which probably gave Dyer the idea to carve a giant in a similar posture, though with a modest covering for its naughty bits, because after all, Ireland was a Catholic country, though Dyer made his carving two feet taller than the Cardiff giant. (The "petrified Revolutionary War Soldier" apparently was also carved in a somewhat similar position, but was not gigantic, though it didn't need to be, it's draw was its southern heritage.) Note that the county in Ireland where Dyer allegedly "discovered" the "Irish Giant" also was home to the mythologically named "Giant's Causeway," i.e., County Antrim in Ireland.. But the "Giant's Causeway," has as little to do with actual giants as does the carving that Dyer put on display to make a buck. But by making such a claim Dyer set up a mythological connection in the minds of Great Britain's ticket-buying public.

A different mythological connection existed in the U.S., reaching back to claims by prominent Puritan settlers in New England that fossilized mammoth bones belonged to "human giants." Such connections helped feed the Cardiff Giant hoax. See the article, "When Giants Roamed the Earth:In the Golden Age of Hoaxes, Petrified Men Came to Life by Mark Rose, Archaeology, Volume 58 Number 6, Nov./Dec. 2005: http://www.archaeology.org/0511/etc/giants.html

Google: "Cardiff Giant" to see how the posture of the first carved hoax was recreated in the "Irish" Giant, plus a couple feet added in height. The hoax grew, literally. And google some pics of the Giant's Causeway sites below to learn more about the myth that "giants" created it:

Northern Ireland - County Antrim/Giant's Causeway
County Antrim Ireland Tourist Information... The lunar landscape of the Giant's Causeway
http://www.ebookireland.com/antrim.htm

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Ireland
http://www.webshots.com/g/d2006/3-nw/57964.html

Webshots Prints - Giant's Causeway, County Antrim
http://www.webshots.com/g/poster/64/57964_poster.html
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Another "petrified man" claim from the 1890s was that of a "petrified Revolutionary War soldier" on display in South Carolina. It was an easy way to make a buck back then, simply by charging a small amount to allow people to take a peek at your "discovery": http://digital.tcl.sc.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/bro&CISOPTR=6&REC=1
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Another image I often see is based on unsubstantiated tales of Patagonian Giants. The Patagonian giant frenzy died down substantially when some more sober and analytical accounts were published. For instance in 1773 John Hawkesworth published on behalf of the Admiralty a compendium of noted English southern-hemisphere explorers' journals, including that of James Cook and John Byron. In this publication, drawn from their official logs, it became clear that the people Byron's expedition had encountered were no taller than 6-foot-6-inch (1.98 m), tall perhaps but by no means giants. See these pieces:

http://www.lawrence.edu/news/pubs/lt/fall04/giants.shtml

http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/maps/websites/pacific/magellan-strait/patgonian-giants.html
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Speaking of research on human giants, see this piece on Men Over Ten Feet Tall that I wrote years ago: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/ce/3/part2.html

Years after the above piece was composed someone sent me the exact origin of the so-called "photo" of an 11' 6" skeleton. The image was originally an artist's engraving from The Tongue of Time, a book published in 1838 (before the invention of permanent non-fading photos, so books at that time did not even contain photographs). Below is the original artist's engraving:
http://books.google.com/books?id=qb0vAAAAMAAJ&ots=sm5utu2FMw&dq=%22The%20Tongue%20of%20Time%22%20comstock&pg=PA86#v=onepage&q&f=false

A creationist took a blurry photograph of the above engraving and other creationists claimed that the blurry photo of the engraving constituted photographic evidence! But one can see, all the images in the book are engravings created just to accompany the stories.. The story has remained unsubstantiated to this day, and also mentions tales of "cyclops" in ancient Sicily. But archeologists have noted that the ancient Greeks probably confused mammoth leg bones and their skulls for the remains of "human giants." The huge skull of the mammoth has as a large "socket" in the middle which would have been for the mammoth's trunk, but the Greeks probably pictured that "socket" as the eyehole of a human giant, not knowing about ancient mammoths once roaming Europe. Check out this photo: http://matthewjent.blogspot.com/2011/03/memory-monsters.html

And see this book:

The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Ancient Greek and Roman Times by Adrienne Mayor
http://www.amazon.com/First-Fossil-Hunters-Dinosaurs-Mammoths/dp/0691150133/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303182664&sr=1-3

For additional research on the so-called evidence for humans over ten feet tall see

Purported Human Giant Bones Belonged to an Elephant
http://remnantofgiants.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/a-giant-the-size-of-king-og-found-in-belgium/

Gigantology
http://remnantofgiants.wordpress.com/about-gigantology/

Giant Animals in Past and Giant Human Beings Over Ten Feet Tall
The Mt. Blanco Creationist Museum "Giant Femur" Myth
http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/creationism/giants.html
http://etb-creationism.blogspot.com/2012/03/giant-animals-in-past-and-giant-human.html
http://etb-pseudoscience.blogspot.com/2012/03/nephalim-giants-in-old-testament.html

Dinosaur and Human Tracks--key articles, including some on alleged "Giant Human Tracks" (A website featuring articles by the person whose rigorous research made both ICR and AIG drop their claims that they had proof that humans lived alongside dinosaurs) http://paleo.cc/paluxy.htm

The Bible and Science: Are Dinosaurs Mentioned in the Bible?
Includes mention of so-called evidence of human giants
http://www.bibleandscience.com/science/dinosaurs.htm

PaleoFairy Tales Exposed! There is no such thing as a world where dinosaurs and humans coexist in a 6,000 year old universe. http://www.stupiddinosaurlies.org/

On Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and... Addiction to Religious Certainties

Alcohol and drug addictions are very strong. Addiction to religious or philosophical certainty is also strong in its own way. Drug and alcohol addiction can be replaced with other types of addictions, including religious addiction. Kind of like taking a less addictive drug to get past the addiction to a truly terrible drug. There are also examples of people getting off drugs via Scientology if you read testimonies on Scientology websites.

However, unless a person has reached a point where they see no hope in remaining an addict, and unless that person wants to change, no program can help them. For instance, at least one famous Christian faith healer died an alcoholic when his liver and/or heart finally gave out, i.e., Rev. A.A. Allen, yearly Bible Conference speaker at Bob Jones University and president of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship. Allen was addicted equally to spirits from the bottle and to his religious beliefs and died an alcoholic in his hotel room when he should have been at an Evangelistic conference that night.

Also, Dr. John Vaughn, the new president of the FBFI, sadly announced that Dr. Rod Bell, the outgoing president, had fallen into sin involving the consumption of alcohol.

I know of others who got over drugs via an addiction to religious certainty, then they got over religious certainty. Their testimonies are over at exchristian.net, and I've included some excerpts from them below.

One can be grateful to some born again Christians for helping get one hooked on something other than alcohol or drugs. But even born again Christian converts have gone back to drugs and died from them. Of course they don't publicize such failures.
Like I said, people have to see the futility of simply continuing as addicts of whatever sort they are, and it helps some if they join a program that demands personal responsibility in getting off the addiction. There are also secular programs that I mention in my online piece, "The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience" at the Secular Web, a piece that questions the uniqueness of the Christian Experience from a variety of angles.

I left the fold myself after no longer being satisfied with the explanations of Christian apologists for "believing the Bible." And no matter how many addicts went from booze and drugs to Jesus, that doesn't eliminate such questions.
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David J. from, "Tell me about that hell part again":
'When I believed the Bible was infallible, it felt hopeless, and I drank to drown that out. Now that I see it has mistakes and has been severely altered by men, the constant fear and depression is gone. It is ironic to think back a few years to me quoting scripture to try and stay sober. Now that my beliefs have changed, I have absolutely no desire to drink. I still believe in God and don’t know what to believe about Christianity. I will continue to read about both as I did about the Bible and see where the evidence takes me.'
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from "Scratching Walls":
'I went from one of the top students at my high school to a needle junkie to a real holy roller within the space of about a year... I think it's clear that a drug addict, and most especially a very young one, is not exactly what I would call a “clear-thinking individual”. When we consider the sorts of decisions this person has been making up to the present time-stealing, lying, cheating, slowly killing their bodies…it seems obvious that they are not in a correct frame of mind to make thoughtful decisions... So now this line of thought becomes personal: I was a drug addict, I needed to change my lifestyle, worldview, etc., but I needed help doing it. For me, help came in the form of a sort of religious quasi-boot camp. The name of this loveshack is Appalachian Teen Challenge (ATC). My brief testimony on their webpage (written a while back) was posted by the director, Jim Nickels. At the time I last emailed him (according to my records, summer of 04, since the testimony has this timeframe), I was already at a stage of escape from this darkness that Jim would consider heresy-to him, I was “backslidden”. However, I felt a deep discord at the idea of revealing the depth of my progress to him, (as I see it) and opted instead for a generic report about how god was really helping me and mostly focused on my goals and plans and marriage, see the letter I recently wrote him for more... One of the most interesting things about the Christian culture is their tendency to bury the wounded. What they see as “lost souls” are ripe for evangelism and discipleship, but those who “fall away”, especially those like myself, who spent quite a few years teaching/preaching the faith, are often, as the Bible instructs (Heb. 6:4-6, 1 Jn 2:19), abandoned. Besides giving up hope for a backslider’s salvation, there are also a number of scriptural precedents for booting people who lose faith from the fold (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Thes. 3:6; 2 Cor. 6:14-15; Job 24:13). So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the response I receive(d) from Christian friends and family... I will write more about my deconversion, and edit this accordingly, but suffice it to say that although I am open to new evidence and arguments in favor of god’s existence and in the religion of Christianity, I think I’ve already heard the “best” there is to offer, and I find it, on the whole, unconvincing.'
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from "Fear leads to the dark side":
'I became a Christian as a result of a burnout on drugs (hash,opium) that I had at the ripe old age of 16 while living in Europe. After experiencing a great deal of paranoia and instability, I encountered a pastor of a newly developing church called International Christian Fellowship. Basically this was a spin-off of the Assemblies of God, made for the European market. Being so young and impressionable I believed all this, burned my albums (ouch!) cut my hair (Oh no Delilah!) and basically became a completely brainwashed Evangelical. We would preach to people of all nations, creeds and backgrounds through our church and I became what others considered to be the best at Christian Apologetics. It seemed as if I had an answer for every argument against Christianity at the time. When the church began to indoctrinate us further and require classes for all assistant pastors I complied and became fully immersed in it. I stopped sleeping with my girlfriend who also became a Christian (what was I thinking?), I stopped smoking (not bad I admit), and became the perfect "soldier for Christ" The church used "before and after" photos of me to show the transforming power of Jesus. Heavy rocker to Christian. Whoopee! But all was not well in paradise. As I became more and more involved in learning about the religion and being a defender of it I became aware of...' [read the rest online]
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Daniel M, from "Returning to Sanity" :
'At 16, I had already developed pretty deep doubts about god's existence and attributes. When my father got cancer (a devout Xian) I lost all faith in the idea of a personal god. Unfortunately, I was also quite immature and emotionally unstable, and I started using pretty hard drugs during this time of intense confusion and pain. To get "clean", a court and my parents decided a Xian rehab named "Teen Challenge" was the best answer for me. After 14 months there, this young, confused, hurting person came out a devout Xian again. I had stability in what I believed, and the evidence for god's existence was the "change" that god wrought in me. After all, I was drug free!! Nevermind that I was seriously programmed, and that during that 14 months there was absolutely no way I could've gotten drugs had I wanted to. Nevermind that my problem was a mental and philosophical crisis rooted in confusion and disillusionment, and not the drugs themselves. Nevermind that deep down, I never bought into the creationism because I already knew enough about science and reason to reject a literal reading of Genesis. I was 19, and fresh out of Christian boot-camp/rehab. After slowly regressing over the period of years to a moderate Xian, I found I finally had the courage to acquire books...' [read the rest online]
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x-ray man from "I Tried, I Really Tried...":
'Many of my best friends also fell into serious alcohol addiction. Gary one of my oldest and dearest friends from childhood finally stopped drinking and found God. Almost over night he became a preachy born again Christian. I really wasn't too fond of his ways, yet he did succeed in putting the cork in the jug. I continued to drink heavily. He always said that Jesus was the way to overcome my addiction. At age 27 I was married with a small child when I finally hit a complete rock bottom. My drinking took me as low as a man could go. On a March night in 1991, I was alone in my house shaking uncontrollably in a pool of cold sweat, with the DT's. I had been drunk with a friend for a week straight. When the money ran out and the booze ran dry, I had the worst withdrawals any human ever had. My mind and body were in peril. I decided it was time for me to surrender to Jesus. It was my only hope. This was your typical addict finding God story in the making, and I was the main character. I called the 700 club prayer line, and got on the phone with a prayer counselor and asked Jesus to come into my life. I got down on my knees and prayed with all my heart. I wanted to be saved from the misery so bad. Well, as I was praying and pleading with God, I felt............nothing. Absolutely nothing. No spirit, no uplifting experience. No sense that everything would be OK. Not even a little twinge of evidence that God was with me. I even remember the prayer counselor getting a little short with me, like as in "Hey buddy I've got other calls." Well for the next few days I continued going through the serious withdrawals. I didn't sleep for two nights. It was the worst experience my body had ever endured. The religious experience I had hoped for didn't come close to happening. I have never drank again since that experience, but it wasn't because I was saved by God, it was because I never wanted to feel that way again. Many will say that it was God, but I know better. It was me finally wanting to turn my miserable life around. Years later I tried to find God again. My wife and I decided to join a local church and get the kids baptized...' [read the rest online]
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The life of the late evangelist A.A. Allen is proof that one can preach Christ and drink himself to death at the same time. His last months were living in a drunken state in a run down hotel room making audio evangelistic tapes for his radio broadcasts while in a drunken state:
On June 14, 1970, listeners in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines were hearing a recorded message from A. A. Allen on his radio program saying: "This is Brother Allen in person. Numbers of friends of mine have been inquiring about reports they have heard concerning me that are not true. People as well as some preachers from pulpits are announcing that I am dead. Do I sound like a dead man? My friends, I am not even sick! Only a moment ago I made a reservation to fly into our current campaign. I'll see you there and make the devil a liar." At that moment, at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, police were removing A. A. Allen's body from a room strewn with pills and empty liquor bottles. The man who had once said that "the beer bottle and gin bucket" should have been on his family coat of arms was dead at 59 from what was said to be a heart attack but was in reality liver failure brought about by acute alcoholism. (p.88)

SOURCE: The Faith Healers by James Randi, section on Asa Alonzo Allen (1911-1970). Prominent, flamboyant and controversial Pentecostal "healing evangelist" of the 1940s-1960s. Allen made many outrageous, unsubstantiated claims of miracles.

Harry McCall, ex-fundamentalist seminarian, and son of an alcoholic parent, adds this
If a person can get to a place where alcohol hurts more than it helps, they can quit. Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and any other non-"Jesus" religions can and do put depressed people on a spiritual journey and often apart from any god in the sky.

The fact is, when one is burned out by a section of their life of drugs and alcohol and their body is shutting down, what else can one do but to either change or die.

Call it "god" of self determination...both seem to work and boil down to that if help has a social support context, it's religion; if not, it's self determination.